January 26, 2019

At the Rationality Café...

... don't think too hard.

And don't forget to use the Althouse Portal — which you can always find in the sidebar — if you've got something you need to buy at Amazon. I've taken down all the ads on this blog, so please think of me when you're doing your Amazon shopping.

I went to the White House because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach...

"Not only the fact that this president is not qualified to be the president, but the fact that both parties are consistently not doing what’s necessary on behalf of the American people and are engaged, every single day, in revenge politics..."

Said Howard Schultz, quoted in "Ex–Starbucks CEO Could Get Trump Re-elected/Howard Schultz thinks politics are broken, and may run for president as an independent. Democrats think that’s a terrible idea" (The Atlantic), which begins: "Before there was Jill Stein, there was Ralph Nader. Before there was Nader, there was Ross Perot. None won. All argued that the Republican Party and the Democratic Party were basically the same, and the only way to make real change was to ditch them both. Each was blamed for siphoning off enough votes to throw the presidential elections."

"This week, as a long-predicted collapse seemed to hit digital media..."

"... we saw a few of the tried-and-true ways managers use to explain to employees why they’re laying them off. BuzzFeed chose the language of corporation-as-family, with founder Jonah Peretti telling staff that making the decision was 'upsetting and disappointing.' Verizon [HuffPost and Yahoo News] went with meaningless corporate-speak. 'Today marks a strategic step toward better execution of our plans for growth and innovation into the future,' a spokesperson said... As always, journalists’ Twitter timelines filled up with the names of the newly unemployed—wow, they let him go? the whole opinion team?—and the usual ominous comments on the precarity of the industry....  What became clear this week is that if the digital natives do survive, it might not have much to do with newsgathering, which both investors and advertisers have recently discovered an allergy to.... The tech platforms, with their advertising duopoly, can 'demonetize' videos that make people sad, and give brands the ability, which they increasingly take advantage of, to prevent their ads from appearing anywhere near political news. The old arrangement, where if you wanted your ads to reach Rolling Stone‘s prosperous young readers you had no choice but to subsidize Hunter Thompson calling the White House a den of thieves, did not survive the digital revolution...."

From "The digital winter turns apocalyptic" at Columbia Journalism Review, by Alex Pareene.
Alex Pareene is the politics editor of Splinter and the former editor of Gawker, Racket Teen, and Wonkette. He has been a columnist for Salon and written for publications including The Baffler and the (Minneapolis) Southside Pride.
Splinter? What is Splinter? I remember Alex Pareene from Wonkette. I took a photograph of him in another age, at this absurd CNN thing, putting bloggers in a place where we could be used as a visual on election night, 2006. Blogged here in "What happened last night?" Those were the days! Pareene seemed to be soaring. Blogging was so glamorous and almost dangerous that CNN wanted to consort with us and thought we made them look cool.

Man who clung to the hood of a car as it drove for miles up to 70 mph says, "He kept going fast, slow, fast, slow, to get me to slide off."

Video at NBC News, where you can see the man looking straight into the window at the driver and yelling, "Stop the car, stop the car."
Police told NBC Boston that Richard Kamrowski, 65, jumped onto the hood of a white Infiniti SUV that belonged to Mark Fitzgerald, 37, after a verbal altercation over a minor traffic accident on Interstate 90 about 20 miles west of Boston.

Fitzgerald apparently had enough of the two men’s confrontation at some point after their collision and attempted to drive away, but Kamrowski then jumped onto his hood and held on while Fitzgerald drove for “a very significant distance,” police said....

The driver was eventually stopped by others on the roadway, one going so far as to point a gun at the SUV to convince him to stop the car....
Both men were arrested.

ADDED: Pointing a gun at the driver was an interesting idea about how to rescue the hood-clinger. If you were the guy on the hood, would you rather take your chances with the driver as he was or the driver as he would be shot in the head?

"The National Trust should stop emphasising the role of families in the history of stately homes because it 'privileges heterosexual lives'..."

"... one of its most senior curators has said. Rachael Lennon, the Trust’s national public programmes curator, said that 'inherited and partial' narratives about family estates meant that 'same-sex desire and gender diversity have generally been given little space.'"

The UK Telegraph reports.

ADDED: "A soap impression of his wife which he ate and donated to the National Trust...."

"Mrs Trump’s father was not a fearsome presence and did not control the family. Mrs Trump did not leave her Design and Architecture course at University relating to the completion of an exam..."

"... as alleged in the article, but rather because she wanted to pursue a successful career as a professional model. Mrs Trump was not struggling in her modelling career before she met Mr Trump, and she did not advance in her career due to the assistance of Mr Trump. We accept that Mrs Trump was a successful professional model in her own right before she met her husband and obtained her own modelling work without his assistance. Mrs Trump met Mr Trump in 1998, not in 1996 as stated in the article. The article also wrongly claimed that Mrs Trump’s mother, father and sister relocated to New York in 2005 to live in buildings owned by Mr Trump. They did not. The claim that Mrs Trump cried on election night is also false."

From the apology by The UK Telegraph.

"Cheap labor isn't so bad for me... My landscaping is beautiful. There's not a bit of slime on my pool. It's good for me, but I care about my fellow Americans," says Ann Coulter.

And then hearing some muttered snark from Bill Maher about the pool, she rises to the comic occasion, leans forward, and confides, "He doesn't come to my pool."

The part I'm quoting begins around 6:00. Bill Maher's effort at a retort is, "I'm sorry, I'll make it up to you in bed tonight." What? She got off a good punchline, so he's the one who's suffered the conversational damage? He should have let his guest have the glory of a good joke.

And by the way, can a man go sexual with a woman like that, in the era of #MeToo? The knee-jerk answer is that when it's left against right, it's still just fine, but I don't buy that. And Maher's audience gives him a much bigger laugh for his line — his sexist line.

Her joke was fantastic — "He doesn't come to my pool." She had been delivering some great substantive material about cheap labor and how it benefits the rich, but she repositions to take advantage of the "slime on my pool" imagery that Maher called attention to, and she takes a shot at Trump. She's flexible enough to do that. I don't like Maher going for a cheap sex joke to top her.

Talk about slime on the pool. That's some toxic masculinity.

ADDED: In the comments, rhhardin says, "I didn't get the joke or the rejoinder. Does pool mean vagina? Is it a wetback joke? Mexican in pool leaves scum? And why wouldn't the Mexican come to the pool. You need to skim off leaves and so forth."

I don't normally interfere with rh's musings, but I had to say:
The first meaning related to the ordinary algae that forms in a pool.

The second meaning referred to Donald Trump.

A third meaning — never intended or explored — would be to characterize immigrants as slimy. The potential for seeing that meaning made the original use of the word "slime" inadvisable. It's possible that Maher was pushing that meaning onto her to get her in trouble, but Coulter's joke was to accept the Trump-hater's idea of Trump as slimy.
Let's all reread "Being and Nothingness"...
AND: A fourth meaning, offered by AZ Bob in the comments, has Maher as the "he" in "He doesn't come to my pool." If that's the meaning — and I don't think it is — then Maher's riposte is less sexist. She called him slimy, and somehow to bring his sliminess to a sexual encounter would pay her back.

"Trump Caves!"

So said the headlines — of left-wing media and right-wing media. But some righties are working on the "Genius!" theory.

I'm reading "‘Trump caves’ or ‘Genius’: Right wing splits after Trump ends shutdown with no wall funding" in the "Internet Culture" section of The Washington Post.

What exactly is the Genius! interpretation here? I know there will be one, and I was trying to sketch it out in my head, but I decided what the hell!, I have better things to do and so many people are going to work on this theory that what do you need me for on this project?
Fox News host Sean Hannity [said] “Anyone out there thinking President Trump caved today, you don’t know the Donald Trump I know.... He right now holds all the cards — he will secure the border one way or another.”

On pro-Trump subreddit r/The_Donald, users rallied to justify Trump’s announcement. A top post on the forum on Friday afternoon declared: “What President Trump did today was show that Democrats would rather starve government employees and watch our airlines crash to the ground rather than have meaningful border security. 3 Weeks. The Wall Is Coming!”
WaPo doesn't link to r/The_Donald, so I will. I see they have a rule — Rule #6 — "Trump Supporters Only. No Cucks or Leftists."

Here's the vibe there:

"Julen Roselló, the two-year-old boy who fell into a borehole in Totalán, Málaga, on Sunday January 13, was located dead on Saturday at 1.25am, after an intense 13-day search mission."

"The emergency services began the judicial process to remove the corpse in the early hours of Saturday, after the family of the young boy were informed of the grim discovery.... The rescue efforts were constantly delayed over the last 13 days by the difficulty of the terrain where the borehole – which had been dug in search of water, but apparently not properly covered up – was located.... The work of the brigade, which began on Thursday afternoon, was long and arduous. To reach Julen’s body they had to cope with a number of obstacles and take huge security measures. They even had to resort to small explosive charges in order to get through the rock. They also had to wait for a range of issues to be solved before the rescue tunnel could be properly shored up. In the end, their rescue efforts were in vain."

So reads the English translation from El País.

"Over the past few years, many women’s social media feeds have morphed from photos of kids and pets into endless posts by friends peddling everything under the sun..."

"... makeup, skin care, candles, essential oils, hormone gel patches, leggings, tote bags, juice powders, nontoxic cleaning products, whitening toothpaste, vitamins, nail decals, nutritional shakes and gardening towers. Women and multilevel marketing (MLM) companies have gone together since Tupperware and Mary Kay launched in the middle of the 20th century as ways for housewives to make money and get products to women in rural areas. Now, with social media, women who sell for MLMs have a whole new way.... The structure of MLMs is to blame for many of those 'Let’s catch up!'... 'I thought I had made a genuine connection with a mom I met online in a mom group,' said Erin Heger of Kansas. But after Heger declined this mom’s offer to become a Beachbody coach, the woman stopped talking to her. 'It really hurt,' Heger said. 'I even invited her and her kiddo to my son’s first birthday party. I felt like an idiot for thinking we were actually friends.'"

From "How MLMs are hurting female friendships" (WaPo).

The top-rated comment is a real kick in the head for WaPo (how did they miss this?):
No reference to current Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whose husband Dick DeVos is the son of Richard DeVos, founder of Amway, the greatest MLM scam of all time, and to which fortune Betsy and Dick enjoy a life of ease and privilege?

"Down at the base, the dome of the endless sky is its own prison. To look up at it is to see just how far away from God one can be."

"It's not quite hell, a place in which God has a unique, almost competitive interest. It's just a place he would never think to look — a place he ignores, a place where, left to our own devices, we become exactly who we are."

The novelist Gary Shteyngart imagined how it really unfolded, down in Antarctica, where a Russian scientist, Sergey Savitsky, stabbed a co-worker, the welder Oleg Beloguzov, purportedly because Beloguzov was spoiling the ending to the novels Savitsky was reading.

I strongly recommend that you listen to the audio reading (by Shteyngart, who is Russian). It's one of the best things I've ever heard on "The American Life." Transcript here.

I listened once, then listened again, then went to Amazon and bought the Kindle and Audiobook versions of his Shteyngart's novel "Lake Success."

For a journalistic version of the real-life story Shteyngart imagined, here's "Antarctica scientist stabbed colleague for spoiling book endings" (from last October in the NY Post).

January 25, 2019

At the Staggering Mouse Café...

... don't give up.

For the annals of Bob Dylan and advertising...

"It just beggars belief that the same liberals who fret about 'micro-aggressions' for 20-somethings were able to see 16-year-olds absorbing the worst racist garbage from religious bigots..."

"… and then express the desire to punch the kids in the face. How did this grotesque inversion of the truth become the central narrative for what seemed to be the entire class of elite journalists on Twitter? That’s the somewhat terrifying question. Ruth Graham on Slate saw a 16-year-old she’d seen on a tape for a couple of minutes and immediately knew that he was indistinguishable from the 'white young men crowding around a single black man at a lunch counter sit-in in Virginia in the 1960s' or other white 'high school boys flashing Nazi salutes.' Even after the full context was clear, Graham refused to apologize to the kid, or retract her condemnation.... Across most of the national media, led by the New York Times and the Washington Post, the narrative had been set. 'I’m willing to bet that fifty years from now, a defining image of this political era will be that smug white MAGA teen disrespecting a Native elder and veteran. It just captures so much,' Jessica Valenti tweeted. 'And let’s please not forget that this group of teens … were there for the March for Life: There is an inextricable link between control over women’s bodies, white supremacy & young white male entitlement.' This is the orthodoxy of elite media, and it is increasingly the job of journalists to fit the facts to the narrative and to avoid any facts that undermine it.... Liberal democracy is being dismantled before our eyes — by all of us."

From "The Abyss of Hate Versus Hate" by Andrew Sullivan (New York Magazine).

Trump's speech just now....

As reported in the NYT (boldface mine):
President Trump agreed Friday to reopen the federal government for three weeks while negotiations proceeded over how to secure the nation’s southwestern border, backing down after a monthlong standoff failed to force Democrats to give him billions of dollars for his long-promised wall.

The decision paved the way for Congress to quickly pass spending bills that Mr. Trump will sign to restore normal operations at a series of federal agencies until Feb. 15 and begin paying again the 800,000 federal workers who have been furloughed or forced to work for free for 35 days....

The surprise announcement was a remarkable comedown for a president who made the wall his nonnegotiable condition for reopening the government. But Mr. Trump relented as the effects of the shutdown rippled across the Northeast, with effects far beyond paychecks, such as air traffic slowing Friday because of a shortage of air traffic controllers, who called in sick...

The Turtle House.

That's The Turtle house by Kurt Völtzke at El Gouna (Red Sea, Egypt), which I'm seeing this morning at the Wikipedia article "Cultural depictions of turtles." I got there because, after blogging about the Green Reaper, I went looking for other government-designed mascots. I'd thought of Smokey the Bear on my own, but that's the one that seems to make us think that the government should be in the mascot-designing business. I found a WaPo article from 2014, "It’s (almost) Smokey Bear’s birthday. Here are some other decidedly less iconic government mascots." There I discovered a Federal Trade Commission atrocity called Dewie the E-Turtle, which was supposed to teach us about protecting our privacy on the internet. That got my attention because I believed the green thing in this photograph was Dewey:

I was wrong about that. The green thing is actually BAC, a creation of the Department of Agriculture. He's a bacterium, which explains the other mascot, which is Thermy, who's there to bully you into overcooking your meat. But I'm only figuring that out now, after I've become entranced by "The Cultural Depiction of Turtles." I love Wikipedia.

Kirsten Gillibrand — earnestly enacting passion — stumbles over "breastplate" and "sword."

I put some effort into looking for the text of the MLK speech I think she was quoting, but it is easy to find the Biblical passages that King must have been preaching:

1. Isaiah 59:
The Lord looked and was displeased
that there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no one,
he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him,
and his own righteousness sustained him.
17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
and the helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on the garments of vengeance
and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.
18 According to what they have done,
so will he repay
wrath to his enemies
and retribution to his foes;
he will repay the islands their due.
2. Ephesians 6:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a minister, and he was — or believed or pretended to believe he was — channeling the word of God. Beautiful for him. But I'm wary of politicians adopting rhetoric like "the breastplate of righteousness," and maybe Kristen Gillibrand was too. Honestly, I don't know how you can stand up in front of everyone and pompously intone the syllable "breast" if you're not sure you can say it crisply.

It wouldn't work as fiction.

The Green Reaper mascot the Department of Energy created is not merely ludicrous, it's evil, because the idea was to scare children.

From Hit & Run:
Thanks to a FOIA request from journalist Emma Best... we now know... the Green Reaper... was designed in 2012, was intended to be used in "community outreach presentations to local elementary school children" and in internal memos reminding government workers to conserve energy and carpool when possible....

The Green Reaper costume cost about $5,000 to manufacture, but the documents... don't give a full accounting of how much time public employees spent brainstorming and designing it. Regardless, the government liked the design so much that Dawn Starett, the program manager who invented the Green Reaper, won a 2013 Environmental Stewardship Award from the NNSA for it.... [S]queezing that much existential terror out of a mere $5,000 is pretty damn efficient for government work.
I found that through my son John's Facebook post, and here's what I wrote there:
Wow! It was designed to scare children! I remember being scared through my entire childhood by the threat of nuclear bombs. And for thousands of years people have scared children about Hell. The fact that you're sure a threat is real doesn't justify scaring children. I laughed at this mascot at first, but it really shows how evil people are toward children.
I'm giving this post my "using children in politics" tag, because I am inferring that the Department of Energy wanted to enlist children in amping up political pressure on adults and to shape future adults at an undefended emotional level.

And, yes, this is from the Obama Era.

This also needs the "religion substitutes" tag.

ADDED: Would this propaganda work? The Grim Reaper is Death. He's scary. You don't want him coming for you. You try to avoid Death as long as you can. The Green Reaper is an environmentalist. He's scary. You don't want him coming for you. Isn't this teaching the kids to avoid environmentalists?

"As soon as the new view of Sandmann emerged, I said (ask Meade), people need to resist trashing Phillips."

"Both Phillips and Sandmann were ordinary people living private lives in obscurity. They each did something that got them into the spotlight, but neither really asked or was at all prepared to be inspected and judged by millions. We should be charitable toward both of them. Ideally, they would never have been a news story at all. It is the media — mainstream and social — that deserve criticism."

I'm just front-paging something I wrote in "The Green Rat Café."

This made me want to read "The Principle of Charity" (Wikipedia):
In philosophy and rhetoric, the principle of charity or charitable interpretation requires interpreting a speaker's statements in the most rational way possible and, in the case of any argument, considering its best, strongest possible interpretation....

[Donald] Davidson sometimes referred to it as the principle of rational accommodation. He summarized it: We make maximum sense of the words and thoughts of others when we interpret in a way that optimises agreement. The principle may be invoked to make sense of a speaker's utterances when one is unsure of their meaning...

[There are] at least four versions of the principle of charity...
  1. The other uses words in the ordinary way;
  2. The other makes true statements;
  3. The other makes valid arguments;
  4. The other says something interesting.
A related principle is the principle of humanity, which states that we must assume that another speaker's beliefs and desires are connected to each other and to reality in some way, and attribute to him or her "the propositional attitudes one supposes one would have oneself in those circumstances"...
I'm making a tag "the principle of charity/humanity," because I think it might help me (and you!) remember to do something I very much believe in doing. You might say it's too similar to calling for civility (which I'm known for calling "civility bullshit"), but it's not the same thing. It's not about tone. It's about interpretation and understanding.

"[Roger] Stone, a self-described dirty trickster who began his career as a campaign aide for Richard M. Nixon and has a tattoo of Nixon on his back..."

"... has long maintained that he had no connection to Russia’s attempts to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. He sometimes seemed to taunt American law enforcement agencies, daring them to find hard evidence to link him to the Russian meddling campaign. His brash behavior made him less of a subject of news media scrutiny than other current and former aides to President Trump — like the character in a whodunit who readers immediately dismiss as too obvious to have committed the crime. But the special counsel’s investigators spent months encircling Mr. Stone...."

From "Roger Stone, Adviser to Trump, Is Indicted in Mueller Investigation" (NYT).

I looked back in my archive to see if I'd ever written about Roger Stone. I see I wrote about Donald Trump firing him, which happened all the way back in August of 2015. The Trump campaign's statement about the firing was:
"We have a tremendously successful campaign and Roger wanted to use the campaign for his own personal publicity. He has had a number of articles about him recently and Mr. Trump wants to keep the focus of the campaign on how to Make America Great Again."
At the time, I wrote:
So "Roger wanted to use the campaign for his own personal publicity," that's the kick in the ass the campaign wants to give to a man who sought a somewhat graceful exit? Well, then, give it to us Roger. Use your moment in the sun and dish the dirt on Donald.

Or... perhaps one of the better candidates is reaching out for Stone.  There are so many candidates, and perhaps Stone is good enough to feel the demand. I don't remember his name, but I see he's been around a while. Here's a Politico article from just before the debate: "Donald Trump’s debate ‘dirty trickster’/Roger Stone is just one of many behind-the-scenes figures to influence the GOP debate." That does have a whiff of Roger-is-using-the-campaign-for-his-own-personal-publicity about it.
Whether game-changing moments emerge on camera and how they play online will depend on a cast of lesser-known characters who have shaped the rules of the forum, worked to influence what the moderators and debaters say on stage, prepped the candidates and have their finger on the button of the social media conversation.
Stone is perhaps the most important of them. He got his start in big-time politics as a college student on Nixon’s Committee to Re-elect the President, and he publicly embraces his image as a dirty trickster, including cooperating with a 2008 New Yorker profile by Jeffrey Toobin titled, “the Dirty Trickster.”

In the profile, Trump calls his once and future adviser a “stone-cold loser” and suggests Eliot Spitzer should have sued Stone for a stunt in which the operative allegedly called Spitzer’s aged father, claimed the elder Spitzer was being investigated for loans made to his son’s political campaigns, and threatened him with arrest if he refused to cooperate with an imaginary subpoena. He has a tattoo of Nixon’s face on his back.

Is Stone taking my 3-year-old advice and finding a new moment in the sun where he can dish the dirt on Donald?

ADDED: I see that a few days before the 2016 election, in a post titled "Did Donald Trump become a candidate for President because his friend Bill Clinton urged him to do it?", I quoted this from Maureen Dowd:
Roger Stone, author of “The Clintons’ War on Women” and a longtime confidant of Trump’s, claims that Bill urged Trump to get in the race and told him he thought he could get the nomination. “That’s why the people with the tinfoil hats are convinced the whole thing is a setup,” Stone says. “Bill can’t help himself from giving advice. He loves the game. He’s the great kibitzer.”

"What does it mean to grieve someone who is alive, but who walks, talks, thinks, acts and looks different from before?"

"The experts call this kind of loss 'ambiguous grief' or 'unconventional grief.' People with loved ones who fall prey to Alzheimer’s may experience this, as may parents whose children become alcoholics or drug addicts. Naming my grief is helpful because it invites me to engage in rituals of grieving. When I lost my old husband, there was no funeral, no burial, no going through his items to decide what to keep or discard. No questions about when I might consider dating again. I never removed my wedding ring and gazed at my bare finger. I simply carried on, missing my husband and occasionally crying among strangers. My new husband isn’t the same person I married, but he has his beauty. I admire so much about him.... Every morning he sits on the porch with a cup of coffee, chatting with neighbors. Lacking a crisp memory of the past and unable to plan for the future as he once did, he lives in the moment. He meditates regularly on the couch with closed eyes. He rarely complains about anything...."

From a NYT "Modern Love" column called "Are You My Husband?" It's by Megan Horst, whose husband Christian, 18 months after she married him, had a bicycle accident that caused "obvious damage to his left temporal lobe" and probably also "shearing, or micro-tears." She is an urban planner in Portland, Oregon, and he was too, until the accident left him unable to "do professional work" or to "keep pace with carpenters or handymen, jobs he had excelled at previously."

January 24, 2019

At the Green Rat Café...

... it's nice to see you here.


"Why Are British Soft Boys Taking Over Netflix?"

Asks Jackson McHenry at Vulture. This is a question I don't even have the background understanding to think of asking, but I'm intrigued. McHenry writes:
On Netflix right now, you can watch a TV series about an awkward, adolescent British boy who keeps trying to do the right thing, but ends up torturing himself internally when things go wrong. He’s slim, pale, preternaturally intelligent, but fumbles when talking to other people, especially girls. He’s supposed to be high-school-aged, but played by an older actor, though unlike his American cousins on the CW, he doesn’t look like a walking ad for protein powder high-intensity interval training....

Like the Lady of the Lake of Arthurian legend, Netflix’s ever-mysterious, somewhat algorithmic decision-making process seems to have landed on a new kind of hero to lead its TV shows: the British Soft Boy. It’s a character type that has existed before in many other forms, but has risen to prominence at the intersection of many trends, including the rise of the twink, and streaming’s Americanization of British TV. He’s often coded as queer, but in a way that associates queerness with approachability to both straight women and gay men; he’s also usually white, in a way that connects whiteness to imagined British qualities like politeness and delicacy. The British Soft Boy will be sweet. The British Soft Boy will not hurt you. He is made to be streamed; you will enjoy spending several hours with him and his soft British life....

Is the Kamala Harris logo "the worst political graphic design job in a generation"?

Jonathan Last says it just might be.

So... is there anything worse? Or... what's so awful about it?

The question whether "For the People" is a good slogan is separate. Feel free to talk about that. But I'd like to encourage the discussion of the visual — the shape and placement of the letters, the colors, etc.

Last says:
It could be that Harris’s design team looked at the AOC poster and saw the earth-tones, heavy-text, and adjacent colors and thought that that was the secret of their success. And about those earth tones—they’re straight out of the 1970s and they’re a bad idea.

Pantone describes the ’70s palette consisting of “Harvest Gold” and “Rust.” In the 1970s, designers used these colors because they wanted to take viewers “back down to earth—solid, earthy colors to ground us during shakey economic times.”
Here's the AOC poster he's referring to (alongside another poster he compares it to):

ADDED: On the Kamala Harris logo, vertically down the center, it says "LIE."

"At the time of Jesus... striking with the back of the hand a person, who was deemed to be of a lower socioeconomic class, was used as a means to assert authority and dominance."

"If the persecuted person 'turned the other cheek,' the discipliner was faced with a dilemma: The left hand was used for unclean purposes, so a back-hand strike on the opposite cheek would not be performed. An alternative would be a slap with the open hand as a challenge or to punch the person, but this was seen as a statement of equality. Thus, by turning the other cheek, the persecuted was demanding equality. [Walter Wink, in Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination] continues with an interpretation of handing over one's cloak in addition to one's tunic. The debtor has given the shirt off his back, a situation forbidden by Hebrew law as stated in Deuteronomy (24:10–13). By giving the lender the cloak as well, the debtor was reduced to nakedness. Wink notes, that public nudity was viewed as bringing shame on the viewer, and not just the naked, as seen in Noah's case (Genesis 9:20–23). Wink interprets the succeeding verse from the Sermon on the Mount as a method for making the oppressor break the law. The commonly invoked Roman law of Angaria allowed the Roman authorities to demand that inhabitants of occupied territories carry messages and equipment the distance of one mile post, but prohibited forcing an individual to go further than a single mile, at the risk of suffering disciplinary actions. In this example, the nonviolent interpretation sees Jesus as placing criticism on an unjust and hated Roman law, as well as clarifying the teaching to extend beyond Jewish law."

From the Wikipedia article "Turning the other cheek," which I'm reading this morning after seeing a comment from Char Char Binks said...in last night's Sly Rat Café:
What was Nick Sandmann supposed to do when approached by the snuggle-toothed Elder? Run away? Give him money? Offer to suck his dick? Seriously, we need to know in case it happens again.
My first-pass answer, written over there in the comments, was:
As Sandmann himself said to Savannah Guthrie, it would have been better to turn and walk away.
Then I wanted to read about turning the other cheek. I was surprised by Wink's interpretations, and I wonder if one's whole life and manner of thinking is affected by having a name that denotes a facial expression.

Trump won't do the SOTU anywhere other than in the House Chamber.

Trump tweets.
As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative - I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over. I am not looking for an....

....alternative venue for the SOTU Address because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber. I look forward to giving a “great” State of the Union Address in the near future!
The NYT's Sheryl Gay Stolberg calls this "seeming capitulation":
The president’s seeming capitulation came even as House Democratic leaders said they were prepared to give him a substantial sum of money for border security — perhaps even the $5.7 billion he has requested — but not for a wall and not until he agreed to reopen the government. That figure is roughly double what Democrats had previously approved.
Is it "capitulation" or maintaining pressure?

January 23, 2019

At the Sly Rat Café...

... what are you so smug about?

"All over the country, particularly in bright blue states like California, people are swapping the words 'boyfriend' and 'girlfriend' — and even 'husband' and 'wife' — for the word 'partner.'"

"According to data compiled by Google Trends, the search term 'my partner' has been steadily gaining traction...  After the term 'domestic partnership' gained significant legal and popular recognition, 'partner' became the default word for much of the LGBT community until gay marriage was legalized in the United States in 2015. More recently, straight couples have started saying 'partner,' with the term gaining most traction among young people in highly-educated, liberal enclaves. On certain college campuses, several students said, it would come across as strange, even rude, to use the terms 'boyfriend' or 'girlfriend' in lieu of the more inclusive, gender-neutral 'partner.' 'At Harvard, everyone is very polite and liberal,' said [Michael Bronski, a professor of women and gender studies at Harvard]. 'Everyone has partners now. Even if that person is someone you hooked up with the night before or your spouse of 40 years.'... The word “partner,” she said, gives couples the power to publicly announce a lasting adult commitment, without an engagement or a wedding. If the couple does decide to get married, the ceremony itself serves not to solidify the relationship, but to celebrate it, surrounded by family and friends.... But some members of the LGBT community are skeptical. 'It’s a joke we all know,' said Sean Drohan, a college consultant based in New York City who identifies as gay. 'If I was making a movie for a gay audience, and a straight couple introduced themselves as partners, that would definitely get a laugh.'... He is especially dubious of people who use the term as what he calls a 'performance of wokeness,' an attempt to publicly showcase their progressive worldview."

"Boyfriend and girlfriend are out. 'Partners' are in. Here’s why more millennials are changing how they define their relationships. The growing preference for 'partner' could suggest a shift that goes beyond labels and language" (at "The Lily" at WaPo).

Ha ha. I am encouraged to see the term "performance of wokeness" and to know that it's laughed at by more woke people. You're less woke if you perform it? I like that development.

And it makes me think of Jesus:  "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.... [W]hen you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others.... And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others."

But Jesus's point was that the show-offs got their reward from other people and do not get rewarded by God. But Drohan is saying that the show-offs — the performers of wokeness — are not getting rewarded by other people, at least not by the really woke people whose approval they want.

How then will we know who's woke? We won't and we shouldn't and we can't. All expressions are mysterious and even when you think you're following the precepts of your religion/religion substitute, you can be seen as the opposite of what you think you are. Just ask that smiling boy over there.

"The choice is made."

Pete Buttigieg — "whose name is of Maltese origin and pronounced 'boot-edge-edge'" — is 37, gay, and running for President.

He's the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and he has a husband named Chasten:

Trump plans to walk right up into Nancy Pelosi's space — Will she smirk and block his way?

"Trump says he’ll deliver State of the Union at the Capitol despite Pelosi’s request to postpone" (WaPo).

I'm picturing him entering banging a drum and walking straight up to her and standing there beating the drum right in her face. Because that is the state of the union.

ADDED: A more "serious" view:

UPDATE: Nancy says no.

UPDATE 2: Trump reacts:

"Being cold and wishing for summer is an essential part of winter. It’s what makes summer so sweet. It’s helps make life feel lived."

"If you never curse the painful sting of winter’s cold kiss, can you really tolerate the annoying burn of summer’s hot sun?... The cold is nice. You get to wear so many of your clothes. You get to come in from the cold and feel the warm air of indoors sooth your frozen skin. You get to take a deep breath and feel the fresh air in your lungs. You get to smell exhaust from a car, a good smell that smells best in cold air. You get to say 'omggg it’s so cold!!,' and isn’t that fun? You get to have a very cold day. Please don’t wish the cold away unthinkingly. Soon it will be very hot, and then, sometime after that, we will be dead."

That's Kelly Conaboy in "Embrace Your Friend, the Freezing Cold Temperature"(at The Cut). That gave me the nice just-what-I-was-thinking feeling.

And she also linked to "Bad Winter Is Good" by Jo Livingstone (at Jezebel), who examines the "good winter"/"bad winter" distinction (with "good winter" being the part with the holidays, and "bad winter" what comes after the manufactured, imposed cheer). As the essay title shows, she flips the narrative:
During so-called “bad winter” you can spend as much time in total solitude as you like, and it is still the “correct” behavior for the season. What this means in practice is that the months of January through March are the only time of year you can be both misanthropic and live free from guilt. With the year’s greatest obligations to others behind you, the cold indoor months are a time to separate from society, to turn inwards, and to act selfishly.

How often does the world say—now, it is time to be away from other people? Never. We never hear that said out loud. The only thing that big-name annual events do (birthdays, “summer”) is demand your presence, your time, your company, your giving. It’s only in the unnamed slivers of the year that you can snatch the time you really need to understand who you are, away from the crowd....
Livingstone leans more toward indoor solitude, so it needed the extension of Conaboy's celebration of the feeling of outdoor cold, though Conaboy doesn't go far enough. I'd like to see some enthusiastic revelry in the feeling of cold. As I was saying the other day: "Finally, some relief from the heat."

Elizabeth Warren's 2004 book "The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents Are Going Broke" might hurt her with feminists...

... Ezra Klein muses at Vox.
The “two-income trap,” as described by Warren, really consists of three partially separate phenomena that have arisen as families have come to rely on two working adults to make ends meet:
  • The addition of a second earner means, in practice, a big increase in household fixed expenses for things like child care and commuting.
  • Much of the money that American second earners bring in has been gobbled up, in practice, by zero-sum competition for educational opportunities expressed as either skyrocketed prices for houses in good school districts or escalating tuition at public universities.
  • Last, while the addition of the second earner has not brought in much gain, it has created an increase in downside risk by eliminating an implicit insurance policy that families used to rely on....
A certain strand of the American right has long expressed quiet admiration for the book, since its thesis can on some level be boiled down to the idea that feminists were too optimistic about the implications of women’s mass entry into the workforce....

[The book is] a realistic portrayal of the fact that most people have jobs rather than careers and that for most modern mothers, working is less a choice than a practical economic necessity....

[The book suggests] a version of Warren that could be more broadly electorally appealing... Two-Income Trap...  speaks to the questions... as to whether unfettered capitalism is undermining the traditional family....
I'm very interested to see this. It gets my "single-earner household" tag, and you can click on that and see it's a subject that's been important to me for years.

I have 62 posts on that tag, beginning with an April 2012 post, "The Hilary Rosen flap shows the way to a new bipartisanship premised on the value of single-earner households" (Hilary Rosen had mocked Ann Romney for never having "worked a day in her life"). I said:

"And if they had been Black...."

I'm putting this up to show you that it's being said. I don't agree with the perception — I'm certain I would not say "thug," so I know it's not the "only word" — but I understand that many people have this perception and are choosing to encourage it in others, and I find it terribly sad.

"But isn't a virtual mob much less damaging than a real one? I've suggested as much myself, most recently in a column titled 'If you think another civil war is imminent, get off Twitter.'"

"Yet more and more the venom has been bleeding into the real world, with boycotts, doxings, firings, death threats, and groveling apologies offered to placate mobs wielding digital pitchforks. It increasingly feels like it's just a matter of time before real-world violence breaks out in response to an online conflagration. But that's not the only, or even the most far-reaching, threat that Twitter poses to our civic life. As Andrew Sullivan noted nearly three years ago in an important essay on America's slow drift toward tyranny, Plato believed that political regimes and the souls of their citizens mirror each other. A change in political form can lead to a change in the character of citizens, and vice versa. Tyrannies emerge in many ways, but sometimes they arise when the citizens of a democratic political community develop tyrannical souls. What Twitter shows us is a real-time ultrasound of the souls of America's cultural and intellectual elite and its most committed activists — the people in charge of disseminating knowledge and who take the lead in organizing political action in our society...."

From "How Twitter could be the death of liberal democracy" by Damon Linker at The Week.

The Covington Catholic schoolboy's interview with NBC.

Nick Sandmann looks very different — much younger — in this video:

Via Real Clear Politics:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC 'TODAY' HOST: Do you feel that you owe anybody an apology? Do you see your own faults in any way?

NICK SANDMANN, COVINGTON CATHOLIC STUDENT: As far as standing there, I had every right to do so. My position is that I was not disrespectful to Mr. Phillips. I respect him. I'd like to talk to him. I mean, in hindsight I wished we could have walked away and avoided the whole thing.

"Last time I went to Davos, the Fake News said I should not go there. This year, because of the Shutdown, I decided not to go..."

"... and the Fake News said I should be there. The fact is that the people understand the media better than the media understands them!"

Tweeted Trump, quoted in "John Kerry, in Davos, says Trump should 'resign'" (WaPo).

Kerry, speaking on a panel at the World Economic Forum at Davos, also said Trump "doesn’t take any of this seriously,” and (as paraphrased by WaPo) and doesn't have "the 'ability' to have deep conversations."

"Are you really trying to write one of your pretend-evenhanded, both-sides-do-it, 'let’s all get together and learn something' columns about this incident?'"

Said Ross Douthat's conscience, as told by Ross Douthat in "The Covington Scissor/Welcome to another controversy algorithmically designed to tear America apart."

The term "scissor" refers to "a statement, an idea or a scenario that’s somehow perfectly calibrated to tear people apart — not just by generating disagreement, but by generating total incredulity that somebody could possibly disagree with your interpretation of the controversy, followed by escalating fury and paranoia and polarization, until the debate seems like a completely existential, win-or-perish fight."

Got that? The idea comes from a short story that identified a few "scissors":
... the “ground zero mosque,” the N.F.L. and the national anthem, the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings... that baker who wouldn’t make a cake for a gay wedding....
We used to just say "wedge issues," but I guess "scissors" connotes greater precision on the part of the cutter and greater flimsiness on the part of the people getting divided.

Douthat has conversation with his conscience. Here's how it ends (with the "conscience" (?) in italics):
I still don’t know what really happened with Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, and neither do you.


O.K., I think we’re done here.

Done? We’re just getting started. This was only the 40th worst Scissor, you said it yourself. Wait till we get to No. 20, or No. 5. You don’t agree with me yet, but you’ll get there. You’ll get there.

I don’t think so. I’m not as vulnerable as you think.

Oh, are you planning to delete your Twitter account?

What? No. I mean, I need it for my job.
The top-voted comment — by a lot — isn't about Douthat's struggle against divisiveness. It's the left side's digging in:
Remind me where in the Bible does Jesus condone mocking an elderly man — with offensive tomahawk gestures, wearing smug smirks and provocative political hats? Those weren't inclusive, friendly cheers, they were jeers. Seems to me the only person following the example of Jesus was Mr. Phillips, trying to diffuse the situation. If there were chaperones accompanying the boys, they stood back and let it happen. The children of Covington Catholic are not pious innocents in this incident, though the press release carefully crafted by a PR firm hired by the parents would have you believe otherwise — ridiculous and even more offensive, privileged whitewashing.

"If you smile at me, I will understand/'Cause that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language...."

There's an old hippie lyric about understanding that — ironically — can't be understood anymore.

CORRECTION: I had the lyric in the post title miswritten — now corrected — because I'd copied and pasted it from this old post:
"[I]n countries like Germany, Switzerland, China, and Malaysia, smiling faces were rated as significantly more intelligent than non-smiling people."

"But in Japan, India, Iran, South Korea, and... Russia, the smiling faces were considered significantly less intelligent.... In countries such as India, Argentina, and the Maldives, meanwhile, smiling was associated with dishonesty...."

At the link — to "Why Some Cultures Frown on Smiling/Finally, an explanation for Bitchy Resting Face Nation" in The Atlantic — there are some charts arraying the countries from one extreme to the other.

I was explaining this out loud to Meade, and he sang: "If you smile at me, I will understand/'Cause that is something everybody everywhere except India does in the same language...."

January 22, 2019

At the Smirking Rat Café...

... you're in my space.

"Trump gets just 41 or 42% in head to head match ups against 7 likely Democratic candidates for President."

"He trails Joe Biden 53-41, Bernie Sanders 51-41, Kamala Harris 48-41, Beto O’Rourke 47-41, Elizabeth Warren 48-42, and Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand each 47-42."

PPP polls. (Full results here.)

Also in the poll: 45% think "members of Donald Trump’s campaign team worked in association with Russia to help Trump win the election for President." 43% say no. And 45% "think that Donald Trump has committed any crimes since he began running for President." 41% say no.

There's also a series of "Who do you trust more: X or Donald Trump?" where X is an MSM outlet. Trump loses every matchup, even against Fox News.

"The Senate will vote Thursday on two separate bills that would bring an immediate end to the partial government shutdown..."

"... one backed by President Trump that includes $5.7 billion for his border wall and another that would simply extend funding for shuttered agencies through Feb. 8. The plan, a compromise between Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, and Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, offers the first hint of a path out of the partial shutdown, which is now in its fifth week and has left 800,000 federal workers without pay. The two announced it Tuesday afternoon on the Senate floor."

The NYT reports.

Most ridiculous Google intrusion ever.

I was Googling that after reading the comments on "Podcaster Joe Rogan and NYT writer Bari Weiss talk about the Covington Catholic school boys." Walter wrote:
Oh look: A Saturday Night Live comedy writer responded to the media’s false story about the Covington High kids by offering oral sex to anyone who punches them in the face.

“I will blow whoever manages to punch that MAGA kid in the face,” tweeted Sarah Beattie.
I wanted to check to see if she really wrote that. But I'm distracted from any outrage I might have experienced because I am overwhelmed by the utter silliness of Google.

1. Anyone writing something that crude isn't likely to think about whether "whoever" or "whomever" is correct.

2. When you're writing in such crude sex-and-violence terms, you shouldn't want to use "whomever" even when it is correct.

3. "Whomever" is not correct!

Damn, Google, if you're going to be a busybody grammar nerd, at least get the grammar rules right.

Erstwhile idiot becomes genius.

I just ran across this cartoon from the March 19, 1949 issue of The New Yorker:

That caption is: "Wouldn't you think they'd have a place for withdrawals, too?"

At the time, she was laughed at as a fool, but from our point of view, she's envisioning the ATM machine. Genius!

Why am I reading the March 19, 1949 issue of The New Yorker?, you ask.

I wanted to see the old J.D. Salinger story "The Laughing Man," because I was talking about it in the comments to yesterday's post, "With a gun against my belly, I always smile." That post was about the criticism of the Covington Catholic schoolboy's smile, which was not a natural smile, but a forced smile, and I had got to thinking about our sensitivity to smiles that don't arise out of relaxed happiness.

That moved the commenter Nonapod to say, "One of the more tragic smiles is from the silent film 'The Man Who Laughs'" and to link to this:

I said:
Thanks, Nonapod. I had never seen that before. Fantastically melodramatic and completely effective.

It made me think of the J.D. Salinger story "The Laughing Man," and I see from Wikipedia:

"The Laughing Man" is a short story by J. D. Salinger, published originally in The New Yorker on March 19, 1949; and also in Salinger’s short story collection Nine Stories. It largely takes the structure of a story within a story and is thematically occupied with the relationship between narrative and narrator, and the end of youth. The story is inspired by the Victor Hugo novel of the same name: The Man Who Laughs (L'homme qui rit)."
From Salinger's story (click to enlarge and clarify):
In Hugo's story...
In late 17th-century England, a homeless boy named Gwynplaine rescues an infant girl during a snowstorm, her mother having frozen to death whilst feeding her. They meet an itinerant carnival vendor who calls himself Ursus, and his pet wolf, Homo. Gwynplaine's mouth has been mutilated into a perpetual grin; Ursus is initially horrified, then moved to pity, and he takes them in. Fifteen years later, Gwynplaine has grown into a strong young man, attractive except for his distorted visage. The girl, now named Dea, is blind, and has grown into a beautiful and innocent young woman. By touching his face, Dea concludes that Gwynplaine is perpetually happy. They fall in love. Ursus and his surrogate children earn a meagre living in the fairs of southern England. Gwynplaine keeps the lower half of his face concealed. In each town, Gwynplaine gives a stage performance in which the crowds are provoked to laughter when Gwynplaine reveals his grotesque face....
Since I'm talking about the Catholic schoolboy's face again and looking into literature, I wanted to link to my son John's blog post, "Why are adults freaking out about a smiling kid?" which begins:
In the novel 1984, George Orwell wrote about a dystopian future where “to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for instance) was itself a punishable offense.” It was called a "facecrime."
From "1984":
It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself—anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called. The girl had turned her back on him again.

It sounds like a bad joke, but the "Bikini Hiker" seems to have died of exposure.

BBC reports.
A Taiwanese hiker known for posting bikini clad photos from mountain summits has died after falling into a ravine during a solo trek. Gigi Wu managed to contact emergency services but bad weather delayed rescue operations, local media reports say. The 36-year-old is thought to have died of hypothermia.... While she was famous for posting pictures of herself in bikinis from summits, she was an experienced hiker, appearing to use proper equipment and precautions during her expeditions. According to Taiwan News, bad weather had prevented a rescue helicopter from reaching her three times. A rescue mission was eventually sent out on foot.... Her last Facebook post to her more than 18,000 followers is dated 18 January and shows the view from a mountain above the clouds.

Podcaster Joe Rogan and NYT writer Bari Weiss talk about the Covington Catholic school boys.

Rogan wonders how "a hat with white letters" has become "so repulsive to half the country." His guest — Bari Weiss (a NYT columnist) — says "some people see it as the equivalent of a white hood." Rogan counters: "Kanye wears it."

Weiss: "It was this perfect encapsulation of our outrage culture." The little clip was "like a Rorschach test." On her first look, she saw the boys as bullying. But "The challenge of what it means as a journalist is to not see people as signifiers, as stand-ins, based on their identity." Weiss finds it "horrifying" that blue-check-mark Twitter adults were saying "This is the face of white patriarchy — the 16-year-old kid.... Reza Aslan said have you ever seen a more punchable face... Kathy Griffin was saying I need names, shame him, dox him. How do these people not see the implications of that?... The fact that adults who should know better are fomenting this and don't see how thin... the veneer of civilization is — like they're taking a pickax to it."

Rogan agrees with all that. He decries the "lack of nuance" and "people taking one side versus the other and sticking with it" and "not confronting their own personal biases" and "looking at these things through the eyes of This is the enemy/I'm on the good side/They're on the bad side/Let's get them."

Rogan shifts to the subject of his childhood. His parents were hippies and he grew up "living in the middle of the hippie world." And he thought of people on the left as "well-read, kind, compassionate people." And now, it seems to him — just in the last few years — "people on the left are calling for violence." He's missing something here, but it's nice to know that his parents were kind, and he's an interesting example of a person whose initial affiliation is with the left, so that he's inclined to think what the people on the left think of themselves, that they are the good people. So now he finds it "very confusing."

I had to pause to look up how old he is. He's 51. He's working on a theory that social media is making the difference, causing people to say "punch Nazis," etc., when they would not say that in person. Social media is having an effect, but I don't see why Rogan is ignoring/forgetting the left-wing violence that went on before Twitter arrived in our world. The hippie aura is powerful.

Rogan and Weiss talk about how the word "Nazi" has been expanded so that it covers a 16-year-old in a MAGA hat and irrationally justifies violence against him. Weiss says: "That's what a lot of people in very high positions of power in this country — at least in the culture — actually believe, and they don't understand the implications of hollowing out words like that." She works at The New York Times. "I know this personally, because I'm called alt-right, I'm called an apologist for rape culture, I've been called everything. I'm a centrist. I'm a Jewish, center-left-on-most-things-person who lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and is super-socially-liberal on pretty much any issue you want to choose. If I'm alt-right, what words do we have left for people who actually are that?" And if you use "Nazi" for a kid in a MAGA hat, what word is there for a hard-core white nationalist?

Rogan says he gets called "alt-right adjacent," even though he goes left on everything ("except guns").

Weiss says that when she first saw the still of the smiling boy, she had a visceral reaction, calling up memories of her schoolgirl days when teenage boys said cruel things to her, but she knows, and other adults ought to know, that you don't stop there. And if you're calling yourself a journalist, "your job is to figure out the facts of the case, not to make this into a kind of identitarian morality play." But that's what so many journalists did, and when more evidence came out, they only dug in.

"Former FBI top lawyer James Baker just admitted involvement in FISA Warrant and further admitted there were IRREGULARITIES in the way the Russia probe was handled."

"They relied heavily on the unverified Trump 'Dossier' paid for by the DNC & Clinton Campaign, & funded through a big Crooked Hillary law firm, represented by her lawyer Michael Sussmann (do you believe this?) who worked Baker hard & gave him Oppo Research for 'a Russia probe.' This meeting, now exposed, is the subject of Senate inquiries and much more. An Unconstitutional Hoax."

Trump tweets this morning — here and here.

Here's the news as reported by Fox, "Former top FBI lawyer personally involved in FISA warrant for Trump aide, other Russia probe irregularities, transcript shows."

"The Supreme Court on Tuesday revived the Trump administration’s policy of barring most transgender people from serving in the military."

"In a brief, unsigned order, the justices temporarily allowed the ban to go into effect while the case moves forward. The vote was 5 to 4. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented. The policy, announced on Twitter by President Trump and refined by the defense secretary at the time, Jim Mattis, generally prohibits people identifying with a gender different from their biological sex from military service. It makes exceptions for several hundred transgender people already serving openly and for those willing to serve 'in their biological sex.'"

The NYT reports.

"Twitter suspends account behind video of Native American’s standoff with teens."

The NYT Post reports.
The account, with the username @2020fight, was set up in December 2016 and supposedly belonged to a California schoolteacher named Talia — but the actual owner was by a blogger based in Brazil...

“This MAGA loser gleefully bothering a Native American protester at the Indigenous Peoples March,” read a caption with the video....
The official basis for the suspension isn't that the caption told us to view a video in a way people were stupid to go along with. It's that "misleading account information is a violation of the Twitter Rules." So Twitter is not purporting to take control of deceptive narratives imposed on video that trick people into thinking that they're seeing something directly when they're being slipped an interpretation. We're still challenged to wise up and know propaganda when we see it. Twitter can't, won't, and shouldn't help us with that.

Did Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez "crack" and reveal that she believes the world will end in 12 years?

Drudge would like to tease you into thinking so:

But no... even if you only click through to the Grabien News story and read the excerpt from her interview (with Ta-Nehisi Coates), you'll see that she's only colorfully presenting the anxiety that young people are feeling about climate change:
“And I think the part of it that is generational is that millennials and people, in Gen Z, and all these folks that come after us are looking up and we’re like, the world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change."
The phrase "we're like" is used to switch into the voice of the millennials and the succeeding generations who are freaking out about their future. This allows her to speak in a comically dramatic voice and say "the world is gonna end in 12 years."

But if you enjoy thinking of her as a nut or an idiot, good luck. Sleep well.

Another apology — "apology"? — from Scott Adams — this time about who's entitled to have/express an opinion about whether abortion should be legal.

I've heard him express his opinion about who should determine whether women have access to abortion. He's been saying that the answer should be what women decide is the right answer, because only women get pregnant. So he'll defer to women and he recommended that all men and all children shut up about it and, in any case, he's not interested in what anyone other than adult women think.

I've always had a problem with his idea because he jumps to saying that the majority of women should make the decision that should then bind all women. But why? I'm not even sure he's recognized that he's making a big jump there. Under the current law, where there is a right to have an abortion, no woman is required to have an abortion, and all women get to choose for themselves.  100% of women get decision-making power over their own bodies.

Under a majority-of-women approach, abortion could be outlawed, 50% + 1 get to make the choice for everyone, and presumably that group includes mostly people who would not choose an abortion for themselves, so nearly 100% of the women who want to have the power to make the decision with respect to their body (and only their body) would have their preference overridden by outsiders to their body.

But today, with his "apology," he seems to have forgotten his own reasoning. He's not talking anymore about who is most interested in the question of the legality of abortion and giving the power to women because only women can get pregnant, he's switched to who's smart and who's dumb. Let the smartest people decide. In the comments to his own tweet he adds — responding to "At what age would you allow opinions on the important issues of the day?" — "Apparently it doesn't matter. I have learned today that voters don't get smarter over time."

I know he's being funny, sort of. But abortion is completely unfunny. Adams has had a work-around to having an opinion, and he hasn't even seriously examined his work-around. I understand the fun and the freedom of exiting into comedy whenever you like. But we are talking about a profound matter of life and death, and many people believes abortion is murder, and many people (sometimes the same people!) believe that access to abortion is crucial to the equality of women.

By the way, the very next thing in my Twitter feed was an ad for a horror movie that plays on the primal fear of the intrusion of the baby into to the life of a woman:

I watched the announcement of the Oscar nominations....

... and you can too:

Did any of you watch that? I'm sure you can easily find the list of nominees somewhere. Feel free to comment about the specifics and try to resist simply saying you don't care about Oscars or you don't like Hollywood generally. I know!

I'll just say:

1. I've only seen 2 of the movies under discussion — "The Isle of Dogs" (nominated for best animated movie) and "RBG" (nominated for best documentary and for some song that I don't remember). The only one I saw in the theater was "RBG," and that's also the only one I saw in its entirety.  I'm still only 2/3 of the way through "The Isle of Dogs" on Amazon Prime, and weeks have past since I paused it and realized I didn't much care exactly how the dogs completed their mission, and now I forget what the mission was. Anyway — dogs on an island in Japan, having a hard time but being feisty, as visualized by the ever-quirky Wes Anderson.

2. Viggo Mortenson got a best actor nomination! I think that was unexpected. I'll have to look up who was "snubbed" to give him recognition. I haven't seen his movie "Green Book," and I doubt I'll go to the movie theater to see it when I'm just a few weeks from getting cataract surgery and am no good at seeing anything right now, but I just happen to love Viggo Mortenson because I loved him in "Captain Fantastic." I'm better with TV — and frankly, better with things I've already seen before (or with new episodes of the old TV series "Friends" because it's easy to recognize the 6 recurring characters and to get the hang of what they're up to) — so maybe I'll just watch "Captain Fantastic" again.

January 21, 2019

At the Purple Eyes Café...

... you can talk all night.

Sometimes I feel The New Yorker is written especially for me.

Right now, the center of the home page looks like this....

... featuring 2 of my favorite writers. (In terms of pages written that I've read in the last 10 years, these 2 writers rank first and second.)

From "The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives/On a Presidential paper trail," by my hero, Robert A. Caro:
There are certain moments in your life when you suddenly understand something about yourself. I loved going through those files, making them yield their secrets to me. And here was a particular and fascinating secret: that corporate executives were persuading a government agency to save them some driving time at the expense of a poor kid getting an education and a better chance in life. Each discovery I made that helped to prove that was a thrill. I don’t know why raw files affect me that way. In part, perhaps, it’s because they are closer to reality, to genuineness—not filtered, cleaned up, through press releases or, years later, in books. I worked all night, but I didn’t notice the passing of time. When I finished and left the building on Sunday, the sun was coming up, and that was a surprise. I went back to the office, and before driving home I wrote a memo on what I had found....
From "Cream" by Haruki Murakami (and I've read 6 of his books in the last year):
The old man spoke again. “Listen, you’ve got to imagine it with your own power. Use all the wisdom you have and picture it. A circle that has many centers but no circumference. If you put in such an intense effort that it’s as if you were sweating blood—that’s when it gradually becomes clear what the circle is.”

“It sounds difficult,” I said.

“Of course it is,” the old man said, sounding as if he were spitting out something hard. “There’s nothing worth getting in this world that you can get easily.” Then, as if starting a new paragraph, he briefly cleared his throat. “But, when you put in that much time and effort, if you do achieve that difficult thing it becomes the cream of your life.”


"With a gun against my belly, I always smile."

Linked by Meade in the comments to "An affected or simpering smile; a silly, conceited, smiling look," which is a post about the criticism of the smile — the "smirk" — on the face of the Covington Catholic schoolboy Nick Sandmann.

Sandmann is smiling, but it's not a natural, happy smile, because — as he wrote in his statement — he was anxious and trying to express that he "was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation." So that's just about exactly the the position of Gary Cooper's interlocutor. Cooper ("The Virginian") says, "If you want to call me that, smile." And Walter Huston ("Trampas") smiles non-naturally and anxiously, as he says, "With a gun against my belly, I always smile."

When I think of a person who is smiling when he is not in a condition of relaxed happiness, I think of the beautiful Charlie Chaplin song "Smile" — sung with unearthly warmth by Nat King Cole:

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it's breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
You'll get by...
ADDED: I think Bob Dylan was influenced by "The Virginian" when he wrote "The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest":
“Eternity?” said Frankie Lee
With a voice as cold as ice
“That’s right,” said Judas Priest, “Eternity
Though you might call it ‘Paradise’”
“I don’t call it anything”
Said Frankie Lee with a smile
“All right,” said Judas Priest
“I’ll see you after a while”