January 19, 2019

At the Deep Snow Café...


... you can talk all night.

"BuzzFeed's report... as written, was as clean as it gets: Trump directed Cohen to lie about the Trump Tower in Moscow project, and there’s tons of evidence to support that."

"Very rarely has a story been so unequivocal — usually there are more hedges and acknowledgments of what isn't known. And unlike most other reportage in this saga, this accused the president of a felony — a very different bar. Democrats read the story and began immediately dreaming up articles of impeachment. Even some conservatives joined the 'If true' chorus...."

Writes Axios in "A reckoning for political journalism" (also reporting that BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith is standing by his story, saying "We literally don't know what the special counsel is referring to" and "This is a line of reporting that has been repeatedly vindicated").

Badgers beat Michigan.

That was amusing.

"President Trump plans to use remarks from the Diplomatic Reception Room on Saturday afternoon to propose a notable immigration compromise, according to sources familiar with the speech."

"The offer is expected to include Trump’s $5.7 billion demand for wall money in exchange for the BRIDGE Act — which would extend protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — and also legislation to extend the legal status of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, according to a source with direct knowledge.... Advocates for the plan argue that by offering the new proposal, Trump is showing he’s willing to negotiate while Pelosi remains unmoved. But even some top Republicans are skeptical Trump's overture will be enough to break the logjam."

Says Axios.

Even if its not "enough to break the logjam," it's enough to allow him to say I offered a specific compromise and you didn't... unless and until they do make a specific counteroffer.

"[Kamala] Harris is not, of course, alone in possessing 'baggage' that will attract criticism from within her own party and intense media scrutiny."

"Joe Biden famously has enough baggage to derail a train’s luggage car. Critics of Bernie Sanders always suspected that conservatives built a massive oppo research file on the Vermont socialist that they would have pushed with hundreds of millions of dollars of negative 'stories' and ads had he won the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, matching or exceeding the damage they did to Hillary Clinton. Elizabeth Warren has struggled to overcome the stupid but pervasive 'Pocohontas' taunt, along with persistent (if probably sexist) doubts about her 'likability.' Cory Booker’s past links with Wall Street and support for private school vouchers will be a problem for him. Both Beto O’Rourke and Kirsten Gillibrand are vulnerable to the kind of 'flip-flopper' charges that tend to undermine voter trust. And Amy Klobuchar’s history of high staff turnover has spurred rumors about her personality and temperament.... [I]t’s best for Democrats to deal with the baggage now rather than later...."

Writes Ed Kilgore in "2020 Candidates Carry Heavy Baggage, and Trump Will Everything He Can to Exploit That" (which begins with the NYT op-ed about Kamala Harris that we talked about here 2 days ago).

"Video footage showed dozens of people in an almost festive atmosphere gathered in a field where a duct had been breached by fuel thieves. Footage then showed..."

"... flames shooting high into the air against a night sky and the pipeline ablaze. Screaming people ran from the explosion, some themselves burning and waving their arms.... Lost shoes were scattered around the scorched field, as were plastic jugs and jerry cans that the victims had carried to gather spilling fuel. 'Ay, no, where is my son?' wailed Hugo Olvera Estrada, whose 13-year-old son, Hugo Olvera Bautista, was at the spot where the fire erupted. Wrapped in a blanket outside a clinic, the man had already gone to six local hospitals looking for his child...."

From "At least 66 dead in massive Mexico gas pipeline blast; 85 still missing" (AP).

People are criticizing Gladys Knight for accepting the invitation to sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl.

CNN reports.

My reaction is, in this order: 1. Don't criticize Gladys Knight, 2. Don't make singing the National Anthem into a bad thing, 3. The question of protesting the National Anthem is separate, and if you want to defend the players who have been protesting, you're making a big leap if you go from arguing that the protest is respectful, respectable, and permissible to saying that protest is required and anyone not protesting is to be disrespected, 4. Those who are making that big leap are confirming the fears of the kind of people who worry that once something is permitted we're on a slippery slope to its being required.

The Daily Beast calls this — from Bill Maher — a "sexual harassment meltdown."

I'm reading "UNBELIEVABLE/Bill Maher Has Sexual-Harassment Meltdown Over Bernie Sanders Story on ‘Real Time’/The HBO host appeared to minimize the allegations of sexual harassment in Bernie Sanders’ campaign, saying, 'It didn’t seem like it was the worst kind of sexual harassment'" — about this segment on last night's show:

I hate the overuse of the term "meltdown," which I believe used to be more common. I don't like the implication that a person speaking with passion is becoming mentally incompetent. In fact, I'd prefer to promote a counter-theory — that a person speaking in a flat, emotionless manner is lacking full mental competence. (He's not engaged, he's not expressing something that he really thinks, he's mechanically mouthing rote nothings.)

A lot goes on in that short sequence. Maher says Democrats are hurting themselves too much by attacking their own over things that aren't really all that bad. He says things like: "If the Democrats are going to keep killing their own—Al Franken, Eliot Spitzer, Gore didn’t support Clinton from the blowjob horror—I don’t know where it ends."

He gets a lot of pushback from Catherine Rampell (a WaPo columnist). And Barney Frank is there and quite amusing taking Maher to task for saying that the Sanders campaign worker may have misread "signals." The idea that women are "signalling" deserves examination and gets it.

Meanwhile, at HuffPo, they're attacking Bill Maher over something else: "Bill Maher Jokes About Penetration Between Donald Trump And Vladimir Putin":
"He did nothing when they told him Russia was meddling in our elections, he fired Comey when he was looking into that shit, he wants to get out of NATO, he met Putin five times," Maher said. “That’s a lot of times in just a couple of years, always with nobody around. Nobody can know what they’re doing. Forget collusion, I want to know if there’s penetration”...

Joe Rogan rants about the Gillette "toxic masculinity" commercial...

... and — within 3 minutes — gets on to the topic of southern accents and the fact that — because of the internet — there are now "cool people everywhere":

IN THE COMMENTS: Tim in Vermont says:
“Toxic masculinity” is either sloppy language, or a slur against all men.
I've been meaning to write a post about the phrase. There is a big problem with it, because there are basically 2 ways to understand it and one is so offensive that it should probably be avoided, because if you mean the one that I think is okay, you're still likely to be misunderstood and you are — even if only unwittingly — emitting some hate vibes.

The okay meaning sees the adjective "toxic" in "toxic masculinity" like the adjective "red" in "red shoes." It identifies a subcategory — the shoes that are red (as opposed to all the many other shoes) and the masculinity that is toxic (as opposed to all the other masculinity).

The hateful meaning sees the adjective "toxic" in "toxic masculinity" like the adjective "beloved" in "beloved country." You're referring to one thing — one country or masculinity as a single concept — and you're branding it as "beloved" or "toxic."

Let me use a survey to try to understand how you have been reading the term. I have not found the Gillette commercial hateful, and a lot of you have disagreed with me, and I suspect it's because I'm hearing the okay meaning and you're hearing the hateful meaning. (You can watch the commercial at that link.)

When you hear "toxic masculinity" in the Gillette commercial, what meaning do you hear?
pollcode.com free polls

I will ignore... and resist...

It's sentence-diagramming time at Althouse. Today's sentence comes from Roger Cohen in a NYT column titled "The Strange Persistent Troubling Russian Hang-Up of Donald Trump":
I will ignore the hermetic sealing of Trump’s personality against decency, and resist the temptation to riff on Abraham Lincoln’s brooding portrait in the White House dining room above the buffoon in chief with his burgers, to ask a simple question: If President Donald Trump is a Russian asset, what would he be working to achieve?
I'm just into examining that as a sentence because, as the post title reveals, I am exasperated with the get-Trump enterprise.

But let me say something about punctuation. The commas after "decency" and "burgers" are not right, especially if you're going to be as comma-averse as to write "The Strange Persistent Troubling Russian Hang-Up of Donald Trump."

And my resistance is not strong enough to keep me from saying if you're going to pontificate about strange persistent troubling hang-ups of Donald Trump, you need to pause now and then and consider  strange persistent troubling hang-ups about Donald Trump.

By the way, I wonder whether some people — ordinary people who don't really want to have to follow politics too much — are going to be influenced in the 2020 election to vote against Trump just to help all the strangely persistently troublingly hung-up people.

"CNN anchor John King asked on Friday if it matters that taxpayer dollars are being used to pay for Karen Pence's housing and Secret Service protection if the vice president's wife is teaching at a private school that seeks to exclude LGBTQ students and staff members."

Sometimes I read something that gives me an instant headache. A literal headache. This was one of those times. The article is in The Hill.

"But on Friday, Trump and Pence spoke again. And again, some said they were unhappy to associate the antiabortion movement with a president they dislike."

I'm reading the Washington Post article about yesterday's March for Life, "Trump and Pence give surprise addresses at antiabortion March for Life."
[L]last year, when Trump addressed the crowd, some complained that the polarizing president distanced those who aren’t fans of Trump from the antiabortion movement. In this shifting environment, the march leaders picked science as their theme this year — under the headline, “Unique from Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science.”

March for Life president Jeanne Mancini and other leaders of the movement said before the march that they wanted to include a politically diverse audience of anyone who opposes abortion — which, according to polling, includes at least a quarter of Democratic voters, although antiabortion Democrats in Congress are a rapidly dwindling group. ...

“I think the most dangerous thing we ever did is make this a partisan issue. It’s a human rights issue,” said Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, 35, president of a group called New Wave Feminists that brought about 50 marchers to the event....
How many marchers were there? The first sentence of the article gives the only clue: "President Trump and Vice President Pence surprised thousands of protesters demonstrating against abortion on the Mall in Washington...." Thousands? That surprised me because I searched for a news story on the 2019 March for Life after I happened across this aerial video of a mindbogglingly huge crowd.

How many people am I seeing in that video? I googled "how many people at March For Life 2019," looking for another news report. First, I clicked on USA Today:
Thousands of anti-abortion activists, including many young people bundled up against the cold weather gripping the nation's capital, gathered at a stage on the National Mall Friday for their annual march in the long-contentious debate over abortion.

CNN: "Crowds of people packed the National Mall on Friday for the March for Life, an annual march against abortion." Crowds!

Is the video I looked at fake news?

Anyway, here's the video and text of Trump's address (which, unlike Pence's, was presented on video at the event). Excerpt:
This is a movement founded on love and grounded in the nobility and dignity of every human life. When we look into the eyes of a newborn child, we see the beauty and the human soul and the majesty of God’s creation. We know that every life has meaning and that every life is worth protecting, As president, I will always defend the first right in our Declaration of Independence -- the right to life.
Did he mention the science theme — "Unique from Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science"? That's debatable. He said: "Every child is a sacred gift from God. As this year's March For Life theme says, each person is unique from Day One." He said "unique from Day One," which is the proposition some of the speakers discussed in scientific terms. But he doesn't say "science," and his stated support for the proposition is religious: "Every child is a sacred gift from God."

January 18, 2019

At the Red Eye Café...

... you can stay up all night.

(And remember that you can use the Althouse Portal for your Amazon shopping.)

"Mueller Statement Disputes Report That Trump Directed Cohen to Lie."

The NYT reports.
The rare public statement by a spokesman for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, challenged the facts of an article published by BuzzFeed News on Thursday evening saying that Mr. Cohen had told prosecutors about being pressured by the president before his congressional testimony.

BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,” said the spokesman, Peter Carr.

The Buzzfeed report led to a flurry of statements by senior members of Congress before Mr. Carr’s statement who said that the allegations, if true, could be grounds for initiating impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump....
Never mind. How embarrassing for the Trump haters. I didn't even write about the Buzzfeed story myself. I'm so jaded about the latest impeachment bait.

"When Keizer and the nurse who was to assist him arrived, they found around 35 people gathered around the dying man’s bed."

"'They were drinking and guffawing and crying,' Keizer told me when I met him in Amsterdam recently. 'It was boisterous. And I thought: "How am I going to cleave the waters?" But the man knew exactly what to do. Suddenly he said, "OK, guys!" and everyone understood. Everyone fell silent. The very small children were taken out of the room and I gave him his injection. I could have kissed him, because I wouldn’t have known how to break up the party.' Keizer is one of around 60 physicians on the books of the Levenseindekliniek, or End of Life Clinic, which matches doctors willing to perform euthanasia with patients seeking an end to their lives, and which was responsible for the euthanasia of some 750 people in 2017. For Keizer, who was a philosopher before studying medicine, the advent of widespread access to euthanasia represents a new era. 'For the first time in history,' he told me, 'we have developed a space where people move towards death while we are touching them and they are in our midst. That’s completely different from killing yourself when your wife’s out shopping and the kids are at school and you hang yourself in the library – which is the most horrible way of doing it, because the wound never heals. The fact that you are a person means that you are linked to other people. And we have found a bearable way of severing that link, not by a natural death, but by a self-willed ending. It’s a very special thing.'"

From "Death on demand: has euthanasia gone too far?/Countries around the world are making it easier to choose the time and manner of your death. But doctors in the world’s euthanasia capital are starting to worry about the consequences" (The Guardian).

Some weary sighers and defeated shruggers are telling The Atlantic that only a shocking disaster can end the shutdown.

I'm reading "Waiting for a Shutdown to End in Disaster/Aides on Capitol Hill fear that a dramatic government failure may be the only thing to force President Trump and the Democrats back to the table", from McKay Coppins:
The basic theory—explained to me between weary sighs and defeated shrugs—goes like this: Washington is at an impasse that looks increasingly unbreakable.... For a deal to shake loose in this environment, it may require a failure of government so dramatic, so shocking, as to galvanize public outrage and force the two parties back to the negotiating table.

[T]he one theme that ran through every conversation was a sense that the current political dynamics won’t change until voters get a lot angrier.... [O]ne congressional staffer who wondered aloud whether it might take a stressed-out air-traffic controller causing a plane crash to bring an end to the shutdown. And several aides worried that some kind of terrorist incident would end up serving as the catalyst to get the government up and running again....

If one thing unites most Republicans and Democrats on the Hill these days, it’s that there is little use in trying to negotiate in good faith with the Trump White House. The president is simply too volatile, too prone to change his mind in a fit of pique, too apt to reverse course after watching Fox News....
ADDED: I'm trying to understand "little use in trying to negotiate in good faith." I realize the author must want to say that Trump is in bad faith. But being "volatile" — or, redundantly, "prone to change" and  "apt to reverse course" — is not in itself in bad faith. It's a style of negotiating, and I suppose it's annoying and hard to match and beat, but "bad faith" entails deception and fraud. Perhaps the author means that Trump's negotiating style is so effective that those on the other side of the deal feel that if they "negotiate in good faith," they'll lose, and that's why there's "little use in trying" their usual techniques. 

Harry Truman said "If you can't stand the heat you better get out of the kitchen." Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says...

"It’s not the kitchen that’s popular, or the cooking that’s popular, it’s that I’m engaging people doing something I’m already doing." She was instructing her colleagues on how to do social media.

Here's the background on the Truman quote, from the Truman Library (where, if you click, you'll get a message that the site isn't being updated regularly because of the federal government shutdown, so this might not be the latest on Harry Truman):
One of the results of this system is that it gives the President a good many hot potatoes to handle--but the President gets a lot of hot potatoes from every direction anyhow, and a man who can't handle them has no business in that job. That makes me think of a saying that I used to hear from my old friend and colleague on the Jackson County Court. He said, "Harry, if you can't stand the heat you better get out of the kitchen." I'll say that is absolutely true.
For Truman, "the kitchen" was metaphorical. It meant the hard, complicated, stressful work of politics. For Ocasio-Cortez, it's literally the kitchen. She's talking about her highly successful Instagramming of herself in her kitchen:

And she's comparing herself favorable to Elizabeth Warren, whose stilted get-me-a-beer kitchen performance was so awkwardly wrong:

But AOC does pull out the old Harry Truman metaphor when cornered:

In my previous post, which is also about AOC's advice on doing social media, I focused on her word of wisdom: "If you’re an older woman, talk like an older woman talks." I wonder if she accepts the corollary: "If you’re a younger woman, talk like a younger woman talks." Because "If you can't stand the heat you better get out of the kitchen" is the way an old man talks.

"If you’re an older woman, talk like an older woman talks" — instructs Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez...

... in her lesson to Congresspeople on how to do Twitter.

Oh! Was that failing to talk like the generic "older woman" while being the specific older woman I readily admit I am?

Goodness gracious! I ought to withdraw from the fray and make toast and tea.

To be fair to AOC, she also said, "Don’t try to be anybody who you’re not" and "The top tip, I think, is really to be yourself and to really write your own tweets so that people know it’s you talking."

I agree with that advice, but I observe that it can only be followed by people who have a real self that anyone wants to hear talking.

And by the way, the proposition extends beyond social media. It applies to in-person talking — interviews and rallies. I want to feel that the words come from the brain of the person I'm seeing talking. It's something we expect from people we know in our ordinary life, and we have a well-tuned sense of who's being genuine and who's a phony. That's why we hate politicians instinctively.

Roll over, Beto, ven vill you go away?

Just a second post on the same topic as the last one because I thought of an alternative title.

Making Beto go away.

They know they have to do it. Here's what the early-stage ousting looks like on Drudge:

Reading the links (in order):

1. "MEDIA TURNING AGAINST 'BABBLING' BETO..." = "Preseason is over for Beto O'Rourke" (Carter Eskew in WaPo, reprinted at CT):
The nation's best and toughest reporters have his number and want nothing more than to take his measure and knock him down.... The love bubble surrounding O'Rourke is leaking. To his would-be Democratic rivals, he's no longer the scrappy, truth-telling, unifying underdog. He is now an upstart who threatens what they have spent years coveting. He is coming after what they think they deserve and he hasn't earned. And right now, there are smart operatives with deep media contacts from several campaigns who are talking smack to anyone who will listen.
2. "CNN: DRIPS WHITE MALE PRIVILEGE..." = "Beto's excellent adventure drips with white male privilege" (Nia-Malika Henderson, at CNN):
Imagine this: A 46-year-old former congresswoman and mother of three, who just lost a Senate bid to one of the most despised incumbents, sets off on a road trip adventure to clear her head. She instagrams part of her trip to the dentist. She gives a two-hour interview to The Washington Post where she shows no real knowledge of policy. Like a first-year college student, she pontificates on whether the Constitution is still a thing that matters after all these many years. And then she writes a stream of consciousness diary entry, where she is all in her sad and confused feelings, over ... something...

And Jack Kerouac-style, he roams around, jobless (does he not need a job?) to find himself and figure out if he wants to lead the free world. This is a luxury no woman or even minority in politics could ever have. But O'Rourke, tall, handsome, white and male, has this latitude, to be and do anything. His privilege even allows him to turn a loss to the most despised candidate of the cycle into a launching pad for a White House run. Stacey Abrams, a Yale-trained lawyer, couldn't do this.....
3. "'Draft' Video Hits Web..." = "Group aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video" (The Hill).

I watched this video before absorbing the message that it's not an ad by Beto himself but by "Draft Beto, a group of Democratic activists urging former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) to run for president." My reaction? I love the song ("Baba O'Riley"), but I doubt if the group got The Who's permission to use it, and it comes across as very "white male," so maybe it's subversively trying to wreck his chances. See #2, above.

The hot messiness of white-woman ass.

Phrases jump out at me as I try to read Rebecca Traister's "Don’t Give Up on the Women’s March" (New York Magazine):
[T]he fact that millions of women and men have turned out for mass protests for two years in a row, not despite tensions over racial, religious, ideological, and economic differences — but in the midst of them, some engaging them head-on — has been one of the most defining and electrifying features of this iteration of a women’s movement. The hot messiness has been one of contemporary feminism’s surest signs of life and of a willingness to work toward being better than it has been in the past.

At the Women’s March convention in 2017, the session on confronting white womanhood was the most oversubscribed of the weekend.... In the two years since, there has been vivid, if insufficient, acknowledgment of white patriarchy, not just within the nation but within the women’s movement.....

There was too little sense that a march of resistance to Donald Trump — organized and primarily attended by white women, co-opting a renewed culture of public protest pioneered within movements for racial justice (BLM) and leftist policy (Occupy), held in the wake of an election in which exit polls showed the majority of white women voting for Donald Trump and 94 percent of black women voting for Hillary Clinton — would have been disastrous. Such an event would have ensured that a contemporary revivification of a woman’s movement was bound to replicate the mistakes of the past, rather than to address and correct them. In other words, Mallory, Perez, and Sarsour wound up covering a lot of white-woman ass in 2017....
The reporting on Mallory, on Farrakhan, on the Women’s March, has taught me so much: about the history and role of the Nation of Islam, about the history of anti-Semitism in some black communities, and of racism within some Jewish communities. Is this not the ideal future for a movement of women, in which we must expose and examine the twisted histories of our own resentments?....
ADDED: It's almost as if Traister is calling on white women — especially Jewish women — to patronize women of color?

January 17, 2019

At the Night Snow Cafe...

... you can talk all night.

"I have so many more part-related questions, but I’ll limit it to just a few for the sake of my word count (and your time)..."

"Do you think about where you part your hair, or do you just allow your hair to fall where it may, willy nilly? Do you agree with my mom that middle parts are 'less flattering'?..."

From "How, When and Why Did Middle Parts Become Cool?" by Harling Ross (at Man Repeller).

For the record, her mom's position was: "I’m just saying, I’ve always heard the philosophy that wearing your part in the middle emphasizes the asymmetries of your face, which is why side parts are more flattering. And I believe that’s true."

I was reading Man Repeller because I'd clicked through to "Menocore is the New Normcore, and It’s a Lot More Comfortable" while reading a NYT article, "The New Mom Uniform of Park Slope/It involves clompy ol’ clogs and a mysterious strap." "Menocore" is, according to the NYT, "a hateful takeoff on normcore, celebrated mostly by women in their 20s on Instagram who haven’t even started going through perimenopause yet."

"We are not going to stop even one minute. Nobody in the rescue team is putting in doubt that we will bring him out, and we all remain confident that he will be alive."

Said a government official quoted in "Crews Race To Save 2-Year-Old Spanish Boy Who Fell Down 300-Foot Hole."
Members of a Swedish company that helped locate the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground in 2010 arrived on Tuesday, Spanish police told Reuters.

Julen was playing with his 1 1/2-year-old cousin when he fell down the hole.... The hole may have been drilled by someone in an attempt to find water, El País reports. "There are hundreds more like that one, covered with rocks, and nobody thinks that anyone could slip down one," an officer with the Civil Guard's nature protection service told the newspaper.
Julen had an older brother, Oliver, who died when he was 3 of cardiac arrest.

Trump strikes back.

AND: Politico characterizes Pelosi's disinvitation of Trump for the State of the Union as "a carefully crafted, old-school letter," in which she "played the political game on her terms and accomplished three important things."

But Scott Adams calls it a strategic blunder (because the House setting for the SOTU is boring and now Trump can give his speech somewhere else):

"Weather permitting, we would sit on the Truman Balcony, enjoying the weather and a martini (or two), with delicious hors d'oeuvres prepared by their extraordinary chefs; they used to make the most delicious, mini open-faced BLTs with a hit of sugar."

Writes Valerie Jarrett in her new memoir, quoted at The Daily Mail.
Jarrett says she loved the movie theaters at the White House and Camp David with their 'very comfortable chairs' that came with a blanket, pillow and a footrest in the front row. Obama's favorite movies had complicated plot lines that involved suffering and ended with everyone dying. 'I think the contrast to real life made him feel better', she writes....

In Saudi Arabia, they stayed at King Abdullah's ranch where she found a large gift box in her villa that contained a huge, green leather briefcase made from reptile skin and filled with emeralds and diamonds, a necklace, earrings, a ring, two watches, a bejeweled pen....

A whirlwind trip to four countries in five days and sleeping all but two nights on Air Force One that wasn't as plush as Valerie had imagined....

Jarrett said on the night of the 2016 elections, she was with the Obamas watching the Marvel superhero movie Doctor Strange. When exit polls started to come in and the outlook did not seem good for Hillary, Michelle went to bed. Valerie decided to leave Barack alone. The next morning, 'the election outcome was soul crushing. We were all clearly shattered.'
The diamonds and emeralds were handed over to the State Department. Gifts like that are accepted but not kept.

Kids eat school lunches from all the decades, beginning with 1900.

"Kamala Harris Was Not a ‘Progressive Prosecutor’/The senator was often on the wrong side of history when she served as California’s attorney general."

Writes lawprof Lara Bazelon in a NYT op-ed.
Time after time, when progressives urged her to embrace criminal justice reforms as a district attorney and then the state’s attorney general, Ms. Harris opposed them or stayed silent. 
Most troubling, Ms. Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors....

In “The Truths We Hold,” Ms. Harris’s recently published memoir, she writes: “America has a deep and dark history of people using the power of the prosecutor as an instrument of injustice.... I know this history well — of innocent men framed, of charges brought against people without sufficient evidence, of prosecutors hiding information that would exonerate defendants, of the disproportionate application of the law.”

All too often, she was on the wrong side of that history....
I'm giving this my "NYT pushes Kamala" tag, though it counts against the proposition for which I created the tag.

It would be interesting to see Kamala Harris as the Democratic Party nominee, up against Trump, with Trump able to claim a more progressive record on criminal justice reform.

"When Did SJW Culture Start?" — "There are 6 different causal threads...."

"Both the book and the film work hard to adjust the notion that [Fred] Rogers was... 'a two-dimensional milquetoast who spoke in warm bromides.'"

"In this endeavor [Maxwell King, in "The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers,"] seems obsessed with Rogers’s sexuality—though to be fair, a lot of people are, with the apparent exception of his wife, Joanne, to whom he was married for fifty years. King seems to almost reluctantly settle on 'androgynous' when he might have just left it with what Rogers told a friend: 'Well, you know, I must be right smack in the middle. Because I have found women attractive, and I have found men attractive.' This would satisfy a preschooler but is too loose for King, who treats his subject’s sex life as if he were conducting a police investigation: 'There was no double life. And without exception, close associates concluded that Fred Rogers was absolutely faithful to his marriage vows.'...  [In the film 'Won't You Be My Neighbor'], François Clemmons, the opera singer who played Officer Clemmons on the show, testifies that, as a gay man, he would have known if Fred Rogers was gay: 'I spent enough time with him that if there was a gay vibe I would have picked it up.' This statement turns out to be complicated by the fact that Rogers initially asked Clemmons to hide his sexuality for fear of scaring sponsors, and encouraged him to marry (which he did).... 'I’m thinking about many different ways of saying I love you,' Rogers tells Clemmons in [one] episode. 'You’ll find many ways to understand what love is,' Clemmons sings. Rogers then notes the way memories are called up by actions, like being in a pool. At the show’s close, Clemmons returns to sing a spiritual, with Rogers beaming. 'I’m so proud of you, François!' Rogers says at one point. It’s hard not to see it as an apology."

From "The Ministry of Mr. Rogers" (The New York Review of Books).

"By the time I got readmitted to the school district, I was 14 but looked pretty much as I do now: six feet tall, full beard, lean, hairy."

"But something miraculous was happening; my peers were catching up to me. Other kids in my grade had started shaving, developing muscles, and thinking about sex as obsessively as I had been since age 4. Plus I was going to a public high school in Los Angeles with 3,000 students. Suddenly, I was just another skinny white kid who smoked too much pot. I stopped sticking out. Most important, after more than a decade, puberty was finally done with me. The hormonal roller coaster leveled out. I calmed down. I could see beyond the immediate moment. Indeed, for the first time, I could see my future, and it scared the shit out of me. My past was stained with expulsions and arrests and violations. College seemed out of the question. It was this vision of personal apocalypse that spurred me to action. I pulled away from my friends, many of whom were getting into hard drugs and would soon end up in rehab or prison. I stopped smoking cigarettes and started playing sports. I read. I took honors classes. I had a long-term relationship with a girl who was smart and kind and ambitious. I got into Dartmouth and earned a fellowship to attend graduate school in Ireland. Along the way, I met Meredith, the woman I would marry, who went on to become an obstetrician/gynecologist and then a female-infertility specialist. Proving the gods do have a sense of humor, infertility medicine is a subspecialty of endocrinology — the field that also studies familial male-limited precocious puberty."

From "A 4-Year-Old Trapped in a Teenager’s Body 'I was all of the things people are when they’re 14 or 15' — except a decade younger" (New York Magazine)(about a man with a gene called the luteinizing hormone/choriogonadotropin receptor (LHCGR), which caused him to enter puberty at age 2).

"The 'spiritual but not religious' of now is not the old New Age."

"What I have been seeing is that this version has much more depth. It has a lot of substance. The conversation I have on the show is really intelligent — we value the life of the mind. It’s not something that is in a category of "This is where my emotions and my spiritual life are" — it shows up in how people do their jobs or the workplaces they want to create or how they think about their life trajectory.... I grew up in an immersive southern world that had all the answers. I do love deep religious conviction, and I really honor that, but I like the idea that we can hold that in a creative tension with a real humility before mystery."

From a long New York Magazine article, "On 'On Being' Krista Tippett tends to her flock in the Church of the Spiritual (but not necessarily religious)" — which is teased on the front page with a phrase that caught my attention: "has made NPR the center of a new New Age":

The phrase "NPR the center of a new New Age" isn't in the article, but there's this:
Th[e] decline in religiosity, particularly among the more educated, urban classes, has meant less community, less ritual gathering, less time for quiet contemplation; that, in turn, has meant more yoga classes with earnest cooldown dharma talks, more meditation studios and acupuncture. It’s meant that SoulCycle and CrossFit and Tough Mudder all have begun to fulfill roles previously occupied by churches and synagogues and mosques.

It has also meant boom times for Krista Tippett and her gentle, quiet, Sunday-morning voice piping through NPR, suggesting a version of spirituality for the cultural one percent, a population fried out on bad news and dire predictions. “On Being” is not about naming the world’s many ills, but it is not about escapism, either — not premium television, or sports, or luxury ecotourism. It’s about imagining a more beautiful, thoughtful, generous way of existing that is neither hopeless nor instrumental but is instead thoughtful and questioning and open.....
ADDED: Phrase in the teaser that I only noticed after publishing this post: "Krista Tippet Is a Religion." Ack!

AND: I notice that NY Mag has 2 different spellings of the name of the person they published a very long article about. Editing!

"The idea that the #10YearChallenge might be a shady astroturfed meme intended to capture innocent user data isn’t so extraordinary, as far as social-media folklore goes."

"There’s a widely held conspiracy theory that Facebook is eavesdropping on conversations through our smartphones — how else, the idea goes, could Facebook serve up advertisements about things I was literally just talking about?...  Facebook doesn’t need to eavesdrop on you: The data it already has and is able to extract continuously... is more than enough....  The breathtaking scope of contemporary surveillance and data-extraction processes doesn’t just make conspiracy theories about astroturfed memes and bugged smartphones seem almost pathetic in comparison. It also reveals how little our own choices are able to control the flow of our data, and how little our knowledge really matters. I might be aware that photos of myself in 2009 could be misused, and choose not to participate in that meme. But simply by living a fairly regular life on and offline — by clicking on links and writing posts; by opening Instagram and scrolling through it, hovering over some photos and flicking past others; by using credit cards at chain stores; by letting photographs of myself be taken and uploaded to the internet — I’m generating data that’s probably more valuable to the companies involved than those photographs would be. There’s something tragic about the fact that the purely recreational activity of participating in a meme is the subject of conspiratorial paranoia, while the multitude of chore-like activities we do daily, from which data is also being extracted for hoarding or sale, go mostly ignored."

From "Facebook Doesn’t Need to Fool You" (New York Magazine)(reacting to "Facebook's '10 Year Challenge' Is Just a Harmless Meme — Right?," which I blogged here yesterday).

"Robots Ruin Robot Hotel."

Gizmodo reports.

First, there was the robot in the room that gets activated when it hears you snore and says “Sorry, I couldn’t catch that. Could you repeat your request?” and wakes you up. And: "The robot in our room is irritating. It speaks when we are in a conversation, but it could not help us when when we needed it.

Then there was the "puppy robot dancers in the lobby," the "humanoid concierge robots," and the "dinosaur robots at check-in," and the robot bellhops...
... but they apparently only work for a small percentage of the total rooms, can only move along flat surfaces, and are prone to wonking out if they get wet on trips outside. “They were really slow and noisy, and would get stuck trying to go past each other”....
Oh, no. Is this the best they could offer?

ADDED: In other robot news, "These Googly-Eyed Robots Could Be Coming to a Grocery Aisle Near You. Here's What They Do" (Fortune):
Marty himself won’t do any of the cleaning—that job will still be handled by human employees. Instead, he’ll page employees when he detects an issue. While he’s rolling through the aisles, he’ll also be on the lookout for out-of-stock items.

January 16, 2019

The best thing about this mural is the way the cigarette smoke...


... continues beyond the door onto the wall and around the corner.

I framed the image from a Google street view in Alicante, Spain.

Wow! Burger King made fun of Trump. (Who does Burger King think eats at Burger King?)

In case you don't get the reference, Trump recently tweeted "Because of the Shutdown I served them massive amounts of Fast Food (I paid), over 1000 hamberders etc" (reported in "Trump’s ‘Hamberders’ Tweet Becomes Fodder for Late-Night Laughs" (NYT)).

ADDED: Maybe Burger King's tweet is affectionate. I shouldn't accept the George Conway spin.

"My goal is to turn 50 in some of the best shape of my life. It has nothing to do with any other plans."

Said Cory Booker, quoted in "The 2020 Field Is Growing. Some Waistlines Are Shrinking" (NYT).

And Kristen Gillibrand wants you to see this:

"But as John Stuart Mill argued, those who have never 'thrown themselves into the mental position of those who think differently … do not, in any proper sense of the word, know the doctrine which they themselves profess.' "

"It seems natural to conclude that the social role of philosophers is to help people think things through by confronting them with counterarguments to their current views. But since there’s no way to do that in a non-philosophical context without coming off as an arsehole, there’s no way for a philosopher to be a good citizen without having the courage to look like a bad one. Which brings us, with inexorable familiarity, to the figure of Socrates, who injected philosophical reason into the Athenian body politic and got sentenced to death for his troubles. 'The modes of trolling are many,' writes Rachel Barney in her wonderful mock-Aristotelian treatise, 'On Trolling.' Characteristic techniques include treating small problems as if they were large ones, disputing what everyone knows to be true, criticizing what everyone knows to be admirable and masking hostility with claims of friendship. If that sounds like the kind of thing Socrates got up to, this is no accident—for like Socrates, the troll claims 'that he is a gadfly and beneficial, and without him to "stir up" the thread it would become dull and unintelligent.' The difference, says Barney, is that while Socrates may have annoyed people, that was never his goal; he simply wanted to convince his fellow Athenians that they lacked wisdom and needed to care for their souls. The troll, by contrast, intentionally aims to generate 'confusion and strife among a community who really agree,' whether for amusement or for profit or for partisan gain. Socrates was a philosopher, in other words; the troll is just an arsehole. Yet there is surely a sense in which Socrates was trying to generate confusion and strife among Athenians (and hence, from a certain perspective, to 'corrupt the youth')...."

From "On Being an Arsehole: A defense" by Jonny Thakkar (The Point).

"These strong claims—cultural Marxism! SJW jackals! Leftist social priorities!—should strike anyone who actually watches the ad as fairly ridiculous."

Writes Robby Soave in "The Gillette Ad Tells Men Not to Hurt People. Why Is This Offensive?/'Toxic masculinity' is sometimes a scapegoat for the left, but this particular commercial makes no grand anti-male claims" (Reason).

I agree. The ad is full of men stopping other men from doing bad things. That's one of the best things men do, and it's what the ad highlights. The ad ends with shots of beautiful boys and — in the logic of the sequence of images — they are learning — from men — how to be good men.

"Facebook's '10 Year Challenge' Is Just a Harmless Meme — Right?"

Writes Kate O'Neil in Wired.
Imagine that you wanted to train a facial recognition algorithm on age-related characteristics, and, more specifically, on age progression (e.g. how people are likely to look as they get older). Ideally, you'd want a broad and rigorous data set with lots of people's pictures. It would help if you knew they were taken a fixed number of years apart—say, 10 years.

Sure, you could mine Facebook for profile pictures and look at posting dates or EXIF data. But that whole set of profile pictures could end up generating a lot of useless noise. People don’t reliably upload pictures in chronological order, and it’s not uncommon for users to post pictures of something other than themselves as a profile picture.....

In other words, thanks to this meme, there’s now a very large data set of carefully curated photos of people from roughly 10 years ago and now....


That's the word of the day at the Oxford English Dictionary. It's marked as "rare," so I think the OED is trying to say, Come on, use it! Make it less rare.

It is useful. It means "A person who complains, a complainer." You could write a blog and call it "The Querulist."

The best of the OED quotes for "querulist" is this one:
1736 J. A. Purves Law-visions 45 To pacify the female Querulists, they were promis'd they should..then be indulg'd with a patient Hearing.

Here's the clip from Colbert's talk show last night, where Gillibrand announced that she was forming an exploratory committee.

Colbert asked her the classic question (the one Ted Kennedy famously flubbed), "Why do you want to be President of the United States?" The question was, it appears rather obviously, planned, and even if it wasn't, it was utterly predictable. Ever since Ted's screw-up, presidential candidates have known they must nail this question.

Here's what she said:
Well, I'm going to run for President of the United States, because as a young mom, I'm going to fight for other people's kids as hard as I would fight for my own...
As a young mom? She's 52.
... which is why I believe that health care should be a right, not a privilege [audience cheers], it's why I believe we should have better public schools for our kids because it shouldn't matter what block you grow up on, and I believe that anybody who wants to work hard enough should be able to get whatever job training they need to earn their way into the middle class, but you are never going to accomplish any of these things if you don't take on the system of power that make all of that impossible...
There's an unnatural break between "take" and "on" that makes me think this answer was scripted and memorized and is now coming out robotically. And then there's the grammatical error "the system of power that make all of that impossible." How does a mistake like that happen? I'm just going to guess that she got the idea, as she rambled along, that "things" was the subject. It can't be, of course, because "things" referred to the accomplishments that she wants to have, not what is making them impossible to reach.
... which is taking on institutional racism, it's taking on the corruption and greed in Washington, taking on the special interests that write legislation in the dead of night, and I know [chokes up] that I have the compassion [holds up finger], the courage, and the fearless determination to get that done.
I'm not terribly hopeful that KEG will be able to reach people with that kind of rhetoric. She seems both over-prepped and under-prepped. I'd like to feel that the words a candidate speaks are really coming from their brain as they speak. But if you're going to deliver scripted remarks, have some well-shaped sentences, a memorable phrase or two, and get to the point and stop.

IN THE COMMENTS: Ralph L said:
Did she grope Colbert's hands at the beginning, or was that faked for the camera?
I noticed that she did presume she could swoop down on his hand with her 2 hands, without asking for permission.

Or do you want to say his hand was right there, asking for it?

As Kirsten Gillibrand enters the presidential race, Nate Silver seems to push for the NYT to use its "agenda-setting power" to keep Al Franken out of the "conversation" of "normal people."

You can peruse the current tweets about Gillibrand and Franken here. Two examples:

"Holding Gillibrand accountable for her statements and actions IS NOT the same as 'blaming her for Franken’s problems.' Using the #metoo movement to grab some spotlight, her instinct to govern through political theater are legitimate points of debate and criticism" (link).

"Lukewarm on Gillibrand atm, but credit must be given for alienating Clintonworld by saying Bill should've resigned, and standing her ground on Al Franken" (link).

Anyway, I'm very interested in Silver's out-and-proud encouragement of mainstream-media "agenda-setting" and his resistance to the notion that Twitter is "an exogenous measure of what normal people care about." I love that phrase! It's so weird and revelatory of anxiety.

Exogenous — it makes you think! The oldest usage of "exogenous" is in botany. It means "Growing by additions on the outside" (OED). Can that be the metaphor Silver wants? In pathology and psychiatry, it means "having a cause outside the body." What is the relevant body that Twitter could be outside of and measuring? In geology, it means "Formed or occurring outside some structure or mass of rock."

So... Twitter is on the outside... of what?... doing what? I think "exogenous" should at least have to do with something growing or forming on the outside of something, but Silver is talking about Twitter measuring, so it can't be the right word, and I'm still questioning what Twitter would be exogenous to.

The best I can do to save Silver from the conclusion that he's just tossing out a fancy word without thinking it through is that some people imagine that the normal public mind expresses itself through Twitter, and since "Twitter isn't an exogenous measure of what normal people care about," those people are wrong.

IN THE COMMENTS: rehajm said:
Nate is quantitative and is using exogenous in the quantitative, statistical sense...

Exogenous Variable

A factor in a causal model or causal system whose value is independent from the states of other variables in the system; a factor whose value is determined by factors or variables outside the causal system under study.

They are discussing the meaning of why Franken tweets are trending in NY, and his point is twitter trending is not an independent variable from which we can draw conclusions since much of what trends is a result of what NYT and 538 and others choose to promote.
He didn't say "exogenous variable" or "exogenous factor." He said "exogenous measure." A factor is causal. A measure isn't a cause. I get that it's a jargon word for a statistician, but I still don't understand how it works in his statement.

January 15, 2019

At the Tuesday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about anything.

"Former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto took a $100 million bribe from international drug traffickers..."

"... according to a witness at the trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the infamous crime lord known as El Chapo," the NYT reports.

ADDED: Remember Trump's (leaked) conversation with Peña Nieto, back in August 2017?
You have some pretty tough hombres in Mexico that you may need help with, and we are willing to help you with that big-league. But they have to be knocked out and you have not done a good job of knocking them out. We have a massive drug problem where kids are becoming addicted to drugs because drugs are being sold for less money than candy because there is so much of it. So we have to work together to knock that out. And I know this is a tough group of people, and maybe your military is afraid of them, but our military is not afraid of them, and we will help you with that 100 percent because it is out of control – totally out of control.

"... your clearest signal for fake new[s]."

"Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday suffered a humiliating defeat over her plan to withdraw Britain from the European Union..."

"... thrusting the country further into political chaos with only 10 weeks to go until it is scheduled to leave the bloc. The 432-to-202 vote to reject her plan was one of the biggest defeats in the House of Commons for a prime minister in recent British history.... Now factions in Parliament will seek to seize the initiative, an unpredictable new stage in the process of withdrawing from Europe, known as Brexit.... With no consensus behind any one pathway, and a vanishing window for further negotiation, more radical solutions are rising to the fore. One group of lawmakers is campaigning for a repeat referendum, which could overturn the mandate to leave, and another favors leaving the European Union on March 29 without a withdrawal agreement, a move that experts warn could lead to shortages of some foods and an economic downturn."

From "Theresa May’s Brexit Deal Is Crushed by Parliament, Sending Britain Into Uncharted Waters" (NYT).

UPDATE: A poll. Haven't done a poll in a while....

A revote is...
pollcode.com free polls

"The shutdown has in some ways underscored [some conservatives'] view that government can function with fewer employees."

"'There’s a moment when people say, "Did you notice what percentage of this agency was viewed as nonessential?"' said anti-tax activist Grover Norquist. Former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon called shutdowns 'blunt-force measures that certainly show what’s essential and what’s not.'...  The shutdown follows two years of contraction of the federal workforce under Trump. During his first 18 months in office, the government shrank by 17,000 employees...."

From "The shutdown is giving some Trump advisers what they’ve long wanted: A smaller government" (WaPo).

"High school student Rachel Zegler has been cast in the starring role of Maria in Steven Spielberg's planned 'West Side Story' remake."

"If Zegler, 17, looks familiar, it's because she's already been a bit of a viral sensation for video of her singing the Lady Gaga hit 'Shallow' from 'A Star Is Born' in an empty auditorium," CNN reports. Here's the viral tweet:

"They’re required to work without being paid — that is the essence of involuntary servitude. The government has absolutely violated famous constitutional rights."

Said Michael Kator, an attorney for the plaintiffs who are working without pay during the shutdown, quoted in "'The essence of involuntary servitude': Federal unions sue the Trump administration to get paid for shutdown work" (WaPo).

The judge just ruled from the bench, denying a temporary restraining order:
U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon said it would be “profoundly irresponsible" to issue an order that would result in thousands of employees staying home from work. "At best it would create chaos and confusion,” Leon said. “At worst it could be catastrophic . . . I’m not going to put people’s lives at risk.”...

The union was seeking a temporary restraining order against the federal government for allegedly violating controllers’ constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment. Those working without pay must show up because their positions are considered vital for “life and safety.” More than 17,000 others are furloughed....

"There is no doubt that real hardship is being felt,” Leon said. But “the judiciary is not and cannot be another source of leverage” in resolving political “squabbles."
There also doesn't seem to be any doubt that the workers will all in the end be paid for the work they are doing now.

"I am not a drug smuggler. I came to China as a tourist."

Said Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, quoted in "Canadian's death sentence in China 'horrific', family says" (BBC).
Following Schellenberg's death sentence, Canada has updated its travel advice for China, urging citizens to "exercise a high degree of caution due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws"....

"It is of extreme concern to us as a government, as it should be to all our international friends and allies, that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply the death penalty," [said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau]....

The Canadian, who is believed to be 36, was arrested in 2014 and accused of planning to smuggle almost 500lb (227kg) of methamphetamine from China to Australia.
So that's enough meth to kill — what? — close to a million human beings. I'm just trying to understand the proportionality (if he, in fact, committed the crime).

"garbage food served by a garbage president. this is not funny, its just pathetic"/"A junk food feast from a junk president. How fitting is that? Talk about a nothing burger."

Highly rated comments on the WaPo article "President Trump’s extravagant, $3,000, 300-sandwich celebration of Clemson University" (by Philip Bump).

Here's Trump talking about the food — which he paid for himself because of the shutdown — just before the champion football team comes in.

ADDED: The Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence declares, "It was awesome... We had McDonalds and everything. It was good!"
Another fan asked Lawrence how many times he plans on returning to the White House -- to which he replied, "Hopefully, a few more!"

"The Extraction of the Stone of Madness."

That's a painting by Hieronymus Bosch (c.1488–1516). I'm seeing it this morning because I'm hearing about a friend's surgery and thinking about how (and when) human beings got the idea that cutting (or drilling) into the interior of the human body might improve person's medical condition. You'd think the idea "first, do no harm" is so strong and obvious that no one would dare intrude into a living human body.

The title of Bosch's painting suggests that the daring arises out of the belief that something alien has already broken in and is causing damage and needs extracting. I found the painting at the Wikipedia page "Trepanning." I knew that drilling into the human cranium is a very old practice, seen in prehistoric skulls, and I knew the distinctive term:
Trepanning... or making a burr hole... is a surgical intervention in which a hole is drilled or scraped into the human skull... At one burial site in France dated to 6500 BCE, 40 out of 120 prehistoric skulls found had trepanation holes... Hippocrates gave specific directions on the procedure.... During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, trepanation was practiced as a cure for various ailments...

The practice of trepanning also continues today....  One of the most prominent advocates of trepanning was Dutch librarian Bart Huges. In 1965, Huges drilled a hole in his own head with a dentist drill.... Huges contend[ed] that children have a higher state of consciousness and since children's skulls are not fully closed, one can return to an earlier, childlike state of consciousness by self-trepanation....

[In] a book called Bore Hole... Joey Mellen.... describes his third attempt at self-trepanation:
After some time there was an ominous sounding schlurp and the sound of bubbling. I drew the trepan out and the gurgling continued. It sounded like air bubbles running under the skull as they were pressed out. I looked at the trepan and there was a bit of bone in it. At last!
Not just slurp... schlurp.

"When she was forced to hide under the bed, Jayme told detectives, Mr. Patterson would box her in with totes and laundry bins that he secured with barbell weights."

"He would turn on music to prevent guests from hearing any noise she made. And one time, when Mr. Patterson believed she had tried to escape, Jayme said he struck her and threatened worse consequences if she tried again. But last Thursday, after Mr. Patterson told Jayme he was leaving for a few hours, she managed to force her way out from under the bed, she said. She grabbed a pair of men’s shoes — apparently Mr. Patterson’s — and ran to a nearby road, shoes ill fitting and on the wrong feet, crying out for help.... Mr. Patterson, who had apparently been out looking for Jayme, told the deputies he knew why they had stopped him, investigators said. 'I did it,' he said."

From "Jayme Closs, Kidnapped by a Stranger, Endured Horror, Police Say" (NYT).

Goodbye, Dolly.

Carol Channing has died. The exuberant star of "Hello, Dolly!" lived to the grand age of 97.

From the NYT obit:
“Performing is the only excuse for my existence,” she said during her last Broadway appearance, in the 1995 revival of “Hello, Dolly!” “What can be better than this?”

AND: Channing had a style that invited impersonation, and here you can see her personally thank Bob the Drag Queen:

"House Republican leaders removed Representative Steve King of Iowa from the Judiciary and Agriculture Committees on Monday night as party officials scrambled to appear tough on racism and..."

"... contain damage from comments Mr. King made to The New York Times questioning why white supremacy is considered offensive. The punishment came on a day when Mr. King was denounced by an array of Republican leaders, though not President Trump. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, suggested Mr. King find 'another line of work' and Senator Mitt Romney said he should quit. And the House Republicans, in an attempt to be proactive, stripped him of the committee seats in the face of multiple Democratic resolutions to censure Mr. King that are being introduced this week.... Mr. King, who has been an ally of President Trump on the border wall and other issues, has a long history of making racist remarks and insults about immigrants.... [I]n an interview with The Times published last week, Mr. King said: 'White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?'... 'This is not the first time we’ve heard these comments,' [said the minority leader Kevin McCarthy]. 'That is not the party of Lincoln and it’s definitely not American.'"

The NYT reports.

Trump should say something.

Keep your chin up.

"They got caught spying on my campaign and then called it an investigation" is a great line.

Does Wisconsin law require a "wedding barn" to have a license if it serves liquor?

The Cap Times reports on a new lawsuit brought by The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which we're told in the first line of the article is a conservative legal group. That's convenient for most Cap Times readers — they can know right off the bat that they want those wedding barns to get liquor licenses. Me, I'm still wondering, what are wedding barns?
The lawsuit, filed in Dunn County Circuit Court, is the latest development in a longstanding dispute between conservative advocacy groups, Republican legislators and alcohol businesses over how the state's alcohol laws should be interpreted and applied. Most lawmakers and business owners agree that the state's alcohol laws are unclear and disjointed but disagree on what to do about it.
It's like the state alcohol laws have been drinking and are staggering around and mumbling "Where am I?"
Lucas Vebber, an attorney for the Wisconsin Institute for Law Liberty, who is working on the lawsuit, said it was prompted by an opinion issued by former Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel. Just before leaving office after he lost his re-election bid, Schimel in December wrote in a letter to a legislator that he considers wedding barns to be public spaces under the law....

Schimel's interpretation was a departure from how the state has understood the law in the past and caused an uproar among conservative groups and wedding barn owners, who say that they could be forced out of business if required to get liquor licenses.
So it's a conservative group that's bringing the lawsuit, but it's challenging an interpretation made by a Republican (the former attorney general).
Some wedding barns have opted to get a state liquor license, but many others say they should not have to because they do not sell, manufacture or distribute liquor on their premises.
I don't like the way that sentence is written. There's a legal argument that the licensing law doesn't apply because there is no sale, manufacture, or distribution of liquor. Taking the precaution of getting the license doesn't mean you don't agree with the argument.
The Tavern League of Wisconsin has advocated for licensing wedding barns in Wisconsin, arguing that because alcohol is consumed at the venues, which draw large numbers of people, it constitutes a public space and should be regulated like other public places where people consume alcohol....

The suit alleges that both businesses will be "significantly and negatively impacted by the continued uncertainty in the law," according to the suit. It is also calling for clarity in existing laws and a commitment to how the state will interpret them to "bring an end to the back-and-forth that has cast a dark shadow over the future of the plaintiffs' business." Both venues have contracts in place for events into 2020, according to the suit.
Let the legislature amend the law — if it can — and specifically cover wedding barns. Otherwise leave these people alone. Don't bully them into submission by threatening them with the possibility that an unclear law will be applied. The new Democratic Attorney General, Josh Kaul, has an opportunity to distinguish himself from the bad old Republican.

I had to independently research what a wedding barn is. Here: "The Best Barn Wedding Venues Madison, Wisconsin Has to Offer" ("There are plenty of barn wedding venues near Madison, Wisconsin that evoke a charming aesthetic for Midwestern weddings"). Lots of photographs to show you what these venues are like. The Octagon Barn looks pretty cool.

January 14, 2019

At the Fading Fast Cafe...

... hang on just a few moments more.

"All in all... I prefer a campfire-roasted porcupine that I killed and butchered... slathered with highbush cranberry ketchup..."

"... foraged chickweed salad with mushrooms on the side, a hot cup of stinging nettle tea to wash it down and a handful of wild blueberries for dessert. Bugs, sticks, sand and assorted forest floor debris sometimes makes it into my vittles but... 'It’s clean dirt.'.... My toilet is a hollow cottonwood stump and I bathe with a kettle of hot creek water. Some places along the highway offer showers but they cost money and contribute to ecocide, so I clean my crotch in the creek occasionally. But personal hygiene is not a priority.... Instead of washing my clothing – layers come cheap from thrift shops – I air it out, hanging it on a tree branch for a snowstorm or two, then turn it inside out and put it back into rotation.....  My presence on this planet leaves little trace, which is how I feel it should be. While that’s pleasing to me, I also understand my withdrawal is meaningless in the grand scheme. The world needs systemic change. In my solitude and self-imposed isolation on the side of a mountain in an undisclosed location, I find it all mildly amusing."

From "Houseless in Alaska: why I opted for mountain views and porcupine dinners/Homeless implies a moral failure while being houseless – lacking a permanent three-dimensional structure – is less stress on the planet and on my brain." Just something I noticed in The Guardian this morning. It feels like something Brits want to read about America. And for some reason it makes me want to embed this video I happened to watch yesterday:

I can see that this is a whole genre. Women go on camera and list 50 things they don't buy anymore. I'm interested in frugality as an active avocation.

A Gillette ad, titled “We Believe,” speaks of #MeToo movement,"toxic masculinity," and question whether "boys will be boys" is "the best a man can get."

The Wall Street Journal reports (in "P&G Challenges Men to Shave Their ‘Toxic Masculinity’ in Gillette Ad"):
“This is an important conversation happening, and as a company that encourages men to be their best, we feel compelled to both address it and take action of our own,” said Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette brand director for North America in an emailed statement....

Gillette needs to appeal to millennials who care about what companies stand for, he said. “There’s a demand for this, for purpose, for brands to be tackling tough issues in the moment.”

But the ad could backfire and alienate Gillette’s base, [said said Dean Crutchfield, CEO of branding firm Crutchfield + Partners]. “Does the customer want to be told they’re a naughty boy? Are you asking too much of your consumer to be having this conversation with them?”
Here's the ad:

Full disclosure: The shots of the little boys in the end made me cry.

By the way, women buy a lot of Gillette products too.

"'Well, well, well,' went the general line in the Russian media, 'look what we have here.'"

I guess that's a pretty rough translation, printed in "Fake News as ‘Moral Imperative’? Democrats’ Alabama Move Hints at Ugly 2020" by Jim Rutenberg in the NYT.  The Russian media, we're told, "were downright gleeful over new reports that a group of Democrats had used online disinformation in the campaign against Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama in 2017."
Their reaction was understandable, given the news that American political operatives had tried the same kind of troll operations that United States intelligence officials believe the Russian government used in an attempt to swing the 2016 presidential election to Donald J. Trump.

The Russian news outlet Sputnik jumped on the news, saying last week that the Alabama operation “seems to cast Democrats’ Russiagate accusations into further doubt.”

Okay. Let me know when you find credible evidence.

"Everybody has beliefs about how men should behave... We found incredible evidence that the extent to which men strongly endorse those beliefs, it’s strongly associated with negative outcomes."

Said Ronald Levant, former president of the American Psychological Association, quoted in "How ‘traditional masculinity’ hurts the men who believe in it most" (by Monica Hesse in WaPo).

"The president of the United States has many faults, but let’s not ignore this one: He cannot write sentences."

"If a tree falls in a forrest and no one is there to hear it … wait: Pretty much all of you noticed that mistake, right? Yet Wednesday morning, the president did not; he released a tweet referring to 'forrest fires' twice, as if these fires were set by Mr. Gump. Trump’s serial misuse of public language is one of many shortcomings that betray his lack of fitness for the presidency. Trump’s writing suggests not just inadequate manners or polish—not all of us need be dainty—but inadequate thought. Nearly every time he puts thumb to keypad, he exposes that he has never progressed beyond the mentality of the precollegiate, trash-talking teen."

Writes John McWhorter in "Trump’s Typos Reveal His Lack of Fitness for the Presidency/They suggest not just inadequate manners or polish, but inadequate thought."

I got there via "A Letter to Professor John McWhorter" by Seth Barrett Tillman, who writes:
We (Americans) have had many talented wordsmiths in the White House. I see no connection between such talents, and adopting & putting into effect substantively sound policies. Woodrow Wilson—a university academic—comes to mind. But very few can explain precisely why the U.S. entered WWI or offer any justification for Wilson's allowing the federal civil service to be (re)segregated by race. He was good with words.

Your article amounts to a non-instrumental claim that elites who share your specific skill set should have power and those who do not share that skill set should not.... It is certainly better for the President to spell "forest" with a single R rather than two Rs. But ... it is probably more important that better policies be put in place to stop similar future disasters....
That was linked by Glenn Reynolds, who writes:
Good writing, like good shooting, is a valuable skill. Neither has a moral component. The Supreme Court’s best writer was Oliver Wendell Holmes, who told us — eloquently — that it was okay to sterilize people society didn’t like.
Let me add that there's a big difference between good writing and good spelling! Some great writers have had bad spelling — notably William Faulkner:
One of Faulkner's editors at Random House, Albert Erskine, said, "I know that he did not wish to have carried through from typescript to printed book his typing mistakes, misspellings (as opposed to coinages), faulty punctuation and accidental repetition. He depended on my predecessors, and later on me, to point out such errors and correct them; and though we never achieved anything like a perfect performance, we tried."...
And Ernest Hemingway:
Whenever his newspaper editors complained about it, he'd retort, "Well, that's what you're hired to correct!"
And John Keats:
In a letter to his great love Fanny Brawne, Keats spelled the color purple, purplue. This generated a longer conversation between the two, as Keats tried to save face by suggesting he'd meant to coin a new portmanteaux [sic] - a cross between purple and blue.
And Jane Austen:
She once misspelled one of her teenage works as "Love and Freindship" and is infamously known to have spelt scissors as scissars.
And F. Scott Fitzgerald:
The original draft of The Great Gatsby contained literally hundreds of spelling mistakes, some of which are still confounding editors. These include “yatch” (instead of “yacht”) and “apon” (instead of “upon”). One of his most famous gaffes, which occurs toward the end of the novel, inspires debate to this day.
Here's that gaffe:
After Fitzgerald’s death, Edmund Wilson changed the spelling from “orgastic” to “orgiastic” in the famous closing line: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.”
So many great writers were bad spellers that I've got to wonder whether bad spelling goes along with great writing. Maybe there's something about the brain of a bad speller. Have many Spelling Bee winners gone on to write great books?

John McWhorter thinks bad spelling is evidence of "inadequate thought," but — ironically — he needs to give that thought a little more thought.

ADDED: John Irving, the author of "The World According to Garp," was called "stupid" and "lazy" when he was a child and later found out he had dyslexia. I'm reading his "How to Spell." Excerpt:
You must remember that it is permissible for spelling to drive you crazy. Spelling had this effect on Andrew Jackson, who once blew his stack while trying to write a Presidential paper. “It’s a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word!” the President cried.

When you have trouble, think of poor Andrew Jackson and know that you’re not alone.

And remember what’s really important about good writing is not good spelling. If you spell badly but write well, you should hold your head up. As the poet T.S. Eliot recommended, “Write for as large and miscellaneous an audience as possible”--and don’t be overly concerned if you can’t spell “miscellaneous.” Also remember that you can spell correctly and write well and still be misunderstood. Hold your head up about that, too.