February 23, 2019

At the Saturday Café...


... it could keep you up all night.

"... a fresh human turd — yes, a turd! — her own, one hoped..."

For the new installment of the "Bonfire" project — where we're reading passages from Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities" — I offer this, from Kindle Location 3222:
Nick Stopping said he had dinner the other night at the home of Stropp, the investment banker, on Park Avenue, and Stropp’s four-year-old daughter, by his second wife, came into the dining room pulling a toy wagon, upon which was a fresh human turd — yes, a turd! — her own, one hoped, and she circled the table three times, and neither Stropp nor his wife did a thing but shake their heads and smile. This required no extended comment, since the Yanks’ treacly indulgence of their children was well known, and Fallow ordered another vodka Southside and toasted the absent Asher Herzfeld, and they ordered drinks all around.
That's from the point of view of Peter Fallow, a British journalist who works in NYC, writing for a trashy tabloid, and who disapproves of "Yanks." It's a running joke that Fallow orders a "vodka Southside" because of Asher Herzfeld, a rich American, who, according to Kindle location 3195, "had always driven the waiters and the bartenders crazy by ordering the noxious American drink, the vodka Southside, which was made with mint, and then complaining that the mint wasn’t fresh."

I'm intrigued by the issue of freshness — first in the mint that the rich American insisted upon and then in the turd that the American child gave a ride in her wagon. The Brits feel superior, but do they care about freshness? I'm looking up recipes for the vodka Southside, and it's quite clear that fresh mint is crucial. And as for the child, well, the turd was fresh too.

The turd was also "human." It's funny to regard the turd as human. I'm inclined to say that "human turd" is jocose and not a proper usage of "human." As for "turd," the word, I was just opining 2 days ago that "turd" is an uglier word than "shit." I hope you'll believe me that it's just by chance that I'm wheeling "turd" around again, so that makes it  fresh turd.

It's interesting to see, so close to "turd," the idea of "treacly indulgence" of children. Not only does the turd circle the table where people are eating, but "treacle" is a food. "Treacle" is syrup, literally, and figuratively, it's "Something sweet or clogging; esp. complimentary laudation, blandishment." The earliest figurative usage, according to the OED, comes from a 1771 novel that I've read, "Humphry Clinker" by Tobias Smollett: "He began to sweeten the natural acidity of his discourse with the treacle of compliment and commendation." It's just by chance that I'm blandishing the name Smollett.

Smollett doesn't look too fresh in that painting, and it was done when he was 45! I don't know what he thought of the Americans. He died the same year "Humphry Clinker" was published, 5 years before the revolution that shook off those censorious Brits.

"They had it all planned out for me... I’d ask, 'When do I sing?' and they’d say, 'Shut up and have a drink.'"

"'You should sit like this and look like that and play the game of bed partners.' You really had to do things that go against your grain for gain. I wouldn’t.... I want to do it my way. I have no regrets."

Said Ethel Ennis — who "eschewed national celebrity for a quieter life in her hometown," Baltimore, where she was "a beloved performer and jazz advocate" — quoted (from 1979) in "Ethel Ennis, Singer Who Walked Away From Fame, Is Dead at 86" (NYT).

AND: Here she is singing a beautiful rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the second inauguration of Richard Nixon.

ALSO: "I've Got a Right to Sing the Blues":

Dianne Feinstein has the guts to stand up to the children. That's not easy!

"Low-level employees were asked to perform duties they described as demeaning, like washing her dishes or other cleaning — a possible violation of Senate ethics rules, according to veterans of the chamber."

I'm afraid I must do a third post on the NYT article "How Amy Klobuchar Treats Her Staff."

I just want to focus on the subject of a U.S. Senator asking low-level staff to do cleaning and the journalism of calling it "a possible violation of Senate ethics rules, according to veterans of the chamber."

Why can't we have better reporting? Who are these unnamed people who make vague statements about ethics rules? Is this good journalistic ethics? What makes someone a "veteran of the chamber"? Could you be more specific?! Did you find out how little cleaning tasks like collecting coffee cups and rinsing them out are handled by other Senators?

It strikes me as unfair to waft "a possible violation of Senate ethics rule" without telling us what the rule is or committing to exposing and casting aspersions on all the Senators who ask staff to clean things.

If low-level staff think this kind of work is demeaning, let's talk about that. If there's no specific rule against assigning them cleaning tasks and there should be, then make a rule. Don't mobilize a fake rule for the purpose of taking down a candidate that you want out of the way.

For a while, I've had a tag "NYT pushes Kamala," where I've been collecting evidence of my hypothesis, and this post gets the tag. Does Kamala Harris have staff who are asked to do things like clear away coffee cups? Please check that for me and apply the same standard of newsworthiness and sneering at her if she does, because I think you're trying to clear away Amy to help Kamala.

And by the way, that's not going to help Kamala. Quit acting like she needs help, and quit pre-destroying her competition. Kamala could fail, and Kamala fans might need Amy.

And, NYT, you'd better make sure none of this coverage is sexist. Why am I hearing about the woman who expects her staff to clean up after her? Is it because the male Senators never do such things or is it because — on some level of consciousness — you expect a woman to do the cleaning?

Horny/hungry, f**kless and losing patience...

In the comments to this morning's post about Robert Kraft's arrest for paying for hand jobs, Meade wrote:
Robert Kraft was horny, f**kless and losing patience.

An aide, joining him on a trip to Florida, had googled and found a high-priced escort service for his boss while hauling their bags through an airport terminal. But once onboard, he delivered the grim news: He had lost his cell phone before reaching the gate, and with it, the contact information for the escort service.

What happened next was typical: Mr. Kraft berated his aide instantly for the slip-up. What happened after that was not: He pulled into a strip mall featuring a day spa massage parlor.

When Mr. Kraft returned to the car, he handed something to his staff member with a directive: Clean it.
That's a riff on something we talked about last night, a New York Times article that began:
Senator Amy Klobuchar was hungry, forkless and losing patience.

An aide, joining her on a trip to South Carolina in 2008, had procured a salad for his boss while hauling their bags through an airport terminal. But once onboard, he delivered the grim news: He had fumbled the plastic eating utensils before reaching the gate, and the crew did not have any forks on such a short flight.

What happened next was typical: Ms. Klobuchar berated her aide instantly for the slip-up. What happened after that was not: She pulled a comb from her bag and began eating the salad with it, according to four people familiar with the episode.

Then she handed the comb to her staff member with a directive: Clean it.

Why is the white album the Beatles album that has sold the most copies?

It's the double album, so it's the most expensive, and yet it's sold 24 million copies, while "Abbey Road" has sold only 12 million. They don't multiply by 2 because it's a double album, I don't think.

The white album (officially called "The Beatles") is by far the highest-selling multiple-disc album, and it's also the fourth highest-selling album of all time. Ahead of it, in addition to "Thriller," are 2 Eagles albums.

My question is, why the white album? It's more of a grab bag of songs. I like it, but I would have thought that as we returned over the years to the buying of singles, the attraction of the album would rest in the more coherent albums, like "Abbey Road" and "Sgt. Pepper." The white album was always beset with skippable songs, including the worst Beatles song ("Don't Pass Me By") and an annoying thing that isn't even a song ("Revolution 9").

So what's up? But I don't get the appetite for The Eagles either.

ADDED: Commenters are telling me that each copy of a double album counts as 2 copies sold in the RIAA count. So my question is annihilated, except to the extent that the white album is AS big-selling as "Abbey Road."

"It’s really simple, people: don’t fat shame. You can shame Trump for a million other things. Being fat isn’t a character flaw."

"I hate Trump but why is it OK to fat shame anyone?"/"I am the most ardent human being against Trump, however, as a former very obese person as a young kid, this just isn’t necessary... Attack his policy, his demeanor, his callous nature, the fact that he is empty inside... Please stop."

From "Advocates want critics to stop fat-shaming Trump" (NY Post).

ADDED: Trump is an extremely successful, dominating person, and yet somehow his enemies make me feel that he's a bullied outsider in need of a friend. Stop making the President of the United States into the underdog, you fools! If anyone wonders why I seem to take Trump's side here, it's because you idiots make me feel sorry for him.

"The immediate reaction is born of pure emotion, prompting phrases such as 'Oh my God!' and 'He did what?' to escape your lips without thinking, to cause the breath to catch in your throat and the eyes to pop in your head."

"Friday’s news stops you in your tracks, immediately flooding your mind with more questions than you know can be answered, sending your thoughts into a spiral of tangled emotions. Anger, disgust, disappointment, shock, denial, disdain . . . all of them with the right to course through your veins, even as you await the avalanche of detail that is sure to follow the initial revelations. Sadness, too."

From "Troubling charges against Robert Kraft leave us wondering what to think" — Tara Sullivan is emoting up a storm at The Boston Globe.

In that "spiral of tangled emotions" that have "the right to course through your veins," isn't there something that makes you just want to laugh derisively? This guy had everything. Who has as much?! He had a lot more than Jussie Smollett, and he exposed himself to ruination — not for a fantasy porn star like Stormy Daniels — but for a strip mall hand job? This is stupider than what Smollett did — if he did it — so crudely staging that attack and paying for it with a check — get cash, man — which had Charles Barkley laughing at him on television and modeling the spiraling, tangled emotion called hilarity:

ADDED: Maybe hilarity is an emotion that doesn't have "the right to course through your veins." It is — as I've said — The Era of That's Not Funny. Maybe we feel we don't have the right to laugh anymore. I can see that much of the reaction to the Smollett has been that he himself committed a hate crime — a hate crime against MAGA people — and we must take umbrage and express outrage and keep a stern, grim face. Then, thank God for Charles Barkley for transgressing and inviting us into the emotion we might think doesn't have "the right to course through your veins."

And I mean to laugh at the idea of emotions with rights. People have rights, and you have a right to feel whatever you feel... including ashamed of yourself for feeling something that you disapprove of.

ALSO: Laughing at Kraft for getting a hand job in a strip mall is like laughing at Trump for eating a McDonald's cheeseburger. Why doesn't the billionaire use his money to buy the fancy version of every damned little thing that he wants? Asks the nonbillionaire.

February 22, 2019

At the Light Gray Café...

... you can stay up all night.

And you can shop at Amazon through the Althouse Portal.

"Accommodations that would seem unusual at another office seem perfectly reasonable to the employees at Auticon."

"At the Culver City office, overhead lights bothered one or two colleagues so much that everyone agreed to work without artificial lights, so that often, by the end of the day, they are all working in pitch darkness, rectangles of soft, bright light from their computers illuminating their faces. Absences, in general, are not encouraged, but they are accepted as a cost of doing business with a population that often experiences depression. Managers adjust, within reason, to their employees’ boundaries, rather than the other way around, such as when employees suffering from gastrointestinal problems — a little-understood but common issue for some people on the spectrum — call in to explain, in great detail, why they won’t be coming in that day.... Some Auticon employees have skills that would likely earn them higher pay were they employed at a big company in the United States. But Auticon invests heavily in their training and offers the kind of bespoke workplace systems that allow for their success...."

From "Open Office/What happens when people who have trouble fitting into a traditional workplace get one designed just for them?" (NYT).

"Senator Amy Klobuchar was hungry, forkless and losing patience.... She pulled a comb from her bag and began eating the salad with it.... Then she handed the comb to her staff member with a directive: Clean it."

She = Amy Klobuchar, as described, based on 4 witnesses, in "How Amy Klobuchar Treats Her Staff" (NYT).

Grossest use of a comb since Paul Wolfowitz....

"Not capable of or liable to sin; exempt from the possibility of sinning or doing wrong."

I'm looking up "impeccable" because I'm reading the statement released by lawyers for Jussie Smollett:
"Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing."
The quote in the post title is the OED's definition of that very strong word "impeccable." I wonder how much the lawyers thought about the selection of that adjective and what alternatives were considered. It's so intense and absolute that it's self-defeating. Who is exempt from the possibility of doing wrong?! It seems to shout: We're lying.

If they'd asked me, I'd have suggested "good character." Maybe "fine character."

"What trips up Kamala Harris is an evident desire to please her audience. She wants no enemies to her left, no identity politics left untouched."

"She can't run as a prosecutor—crime fighting is so 1990s—but she can run as brash, bold, and woke. Her verbal miscues are possible evidence that this latest political fashion doesn't quite fit," writes Matthew Continetti at Free Beacon.

He describes 3 recent incidents. One is something we discussed a few days ago, here, her inability to handle a predictable question about Jussie Smollett. Another, as Continetti sees it, was that on her televised town hall, she didn't seem ready to handle questions about her own health insurance proposals. The third is that joke about legalizing marijuana — "Half my family is from Jamaica, are you kidding me?" — which provoked pompous pushback from her own father...
"My dear departed grandmothers (whose extraordinary legacy I described in a recent essay on this website), as well as my deceased parents, must be turning in their grave right now to their family's name, reputation, and proud Jamaican identity being connected, in any way, jokingly or not with the fraudulent stereotype of a pot-smoking joy seeker and in the pursuit of identity politics. Speaking for myself and my immediate Jamaican family, we wish to categorically dissociate ourselves from this controversy." 
I'd been thinking Kamala Harris just isn't practiced or adept enough. She's not comfortably glib, that's for sure. But Continetti detects deceit. He thinks she's trying to look more left-wing than she is.

I'll do a poll. Pick the best of the 4 explanations I'm offering. If you have a better idea, explain it in the comments, but don't tell me the poll is wrong because it doesn't have your idea. The question is phrased to resist that criticism.

Which of these options is the best explanation for this sort of slip-up by Kamala Harris?
pollcode.com free polls

In "feminist circles today," is it "taboo" to oppose prostitution and pornography?

In "Not the Fun Kind of Feminist/How Trump helped make Andrea Dworkin relevant again" (NYT)— which I've already written about today, here — Michelle Goldberg writes something about prostitution and pornography that I need to break out into a separate post:
[T]he resurrection of Dworkin’s work and reputation is in some ways quite strange, because her contemporary admirers tend to reject her central political commitments. Dworkin, who’d turned tricks as a broke, bohemian young woman, wanted to outlaw prostitution and pornography, and in the 1980s she made an alliance with the religious right to push anti-pornography legislation. There is no sympathy for such a bargain in feminist circles today, where it’s mostly taboo to treat sex work as distinct from any other kind of labor.
In the comments at the NYT, some readers take issue with her. Among the most-liked comments is this, from a reader named Liz:
This article is false in that it’s “mostly taboo” for feminists to view “sex work” as different from work. Do your research — there are many of us (again, not the fun kind of feminists) who oppose prostitution as the exploitative, misogynistic, and violent system that it is. Pro tip: if your feminism aligns perfectly with what pimps, traffickers, and johns desire, it’s not so feminist after all. Dworkin is getting the resurgence she deserves.
And this, from a reader named Lisa:
Back in the 90s, as a young feminist, I thought Dworkin’s anti-porn stance was a ridiculous dismissal of women’s agency. Now, having worked with teenagers for 25 years, I see the damage pornography has done to young people’s sense of themselves as sexual people and to their ability to build sexual relationships. It’s so much worse with the internet normalizing the extreme.

Kids —boys and girls— are seeing hard core, brutal pornography long before they’ve even had a first kiss. Teenage girls seek to be aesthetically pleasing and fulfill porn-derived expectations without regard for their own desires or even comfort. Dworkin may have been a frizzy caricature in overalls, but she wasn’t wrong.
And this, from ML:

"Burberry Apologizes After Sending Model Down Runway in a Hoodie with a Noose Around the Neck."

Here's what the "noose around the neck" looked like:

I guess "around the neck" means in the general vicinity of the neck. I note that it's not really a hangman's knot. And the model's neck isn't inside the "noose." It's not even inside either loop (because the rope goes up onto the top of her head). Is it an intentional display of a noose?

The quoted headline is for the article in People:
In the apology issued to CNN, Burberry’s Chief Executive Officer Marco Gobbetti said... “Though the design was inspired by the marine theme that ran throughout the collection, it was insensitive and we made a mistake.”
Liz Kennedy, the model who initially called attention to this fashion item, wrote:
Suicide is not fashion. It is not glamorous nor edgy... Riccardo Tisci and everyone at Burberry it is beyond me how you could let a look resembling a noose hanging from a neck out on the runway. How could anyone overlook this and think it would be okay to do this especially in a line dedicated to young girls and youth. The impressionable youth. Not to mention the rising suicide rates world wide. Let’s not forget about the horrifying history of lynching either. There are hundreds of ways to tie a rope and they chose to tie it like a noose completely ignoring the fact that it was hanging around a neck....
I'm impressed that she wrote "resembling a noose" and "like a noose." It isn't a noose. But it looks like a noose. The journalists at People got it wrong, but the model got it right.

Anyway, fashion tries to be edgy in the special commercial sense. Look at the picture as a whole, beyond the "noose." It's presenting depression as desirable. You're supposed to feel that you are in the know if you get why that's good.

"Federal prosecutors,... broke the law when they concealed a plea agreement from more than 30 underage victims who had been sexually abused by wealthy New York hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein..."

"... a federal judge ruled Thursday," The Miami Herald Reports:
“The government aligned themselves with Epstein, working against his victims, for 11 years,’’ [said Brad Edwards, who represents Courtney Wild — Jane Doe No. 1 in the case]. “Yes, this is a huge victory, but to make his victims suffer for 11 years, this should not have happened. Instead of admitting what they did, and doing the right thing, they spent 11 years fighting these girls.’’
[Judge Kenneth A.] Marra, in a 33-page opinion, said prosecutors not only violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by not informing the victims, they also misled the girls into believing that the FBI’s sex trafficking case against Epstein was still ongoing — when in fact, prosecutors had secretly closed it after sealing the plea bargain from the public record.
You can read the judge's opinion at the link. He states as a fact that Epstein "sexually abused more than 30 minor girls" and "directed other persons to abuse the girls sexually."

"So what it is in [Andrea] Dworkin’s long-neglected oeuvre that has suddenly become resonant?"

"Perhaps it’s simply because we’re in a moment of crisis, when people seeking solutions are dusting off all sorts of radical ideas. But I think it’s more than that... Dworkin was unapologetically angry, as so many women today are. Even before 2016, you could see this anger building in the emergence of new words to describe maddening male behaviors that had once gone unnamed — manspreading, mansplaining. Then came the obscene insult of Donald Trump’s victory. It seems like something sprung from Dworkin’s cataclysmic imagination, that America’s most overtly fascistic president would also be the first, as far as we know, to have appeared in soft-core porn films. I think Trump’s victory marked a shift in feminism’s relationship to sexual liberation; as long as he’s in power, it’s hard to associate libertinism with progress. And so Dworkin, so profoundly out of fashion just a few years ago, suddenly seems prophetic."

Suddenly, suddenly.

The assertions of suddenness come from Michelle Goldberg, writing at the NYT in "Not the Fun Kind of Feminist/How Trump helped make Andrea Dworkin relevant again."

For the record, I read Andrea Dworkin when she was alive and kicking and her books were relevant the first time around. I read "Intercourse," "Pornography: Men Possessing Women," "Right Wing Women," "Woman Hating," and even "Mercy: A Novel."

So I don't need "Last Days at Hot Slit: The Radical Feminism of Andrea Dworkin," the new collection of Dworkin writings that seems to prompt Goldberg.

Now, why exactly was Dworkin "so profoundly out of fashion"? I think the answer is that women want to be sex-positive. They didn't want to have to give up sex to be feminists. Dworkin's analysis was very unsettling and provocative, and it was always easier to leave her book shut and not have to deal with the arguments she raised. I'm not impressed by the women who go into these books now because they seem to synchronize with hating Trump. To impress me, you have to put feminism first, and that means you should have cared about this stuff when Bill Clinton ruled the roost.

Goldberg quotes one of the editors of the newly published collection of Dworkin writings:
“Me and my peers, we believed in this sort of fairy tale, that there was a line of demarcation that was very clear between rape and nonconsensual acts, and consent,” said Fateman. “We knew where the line was, and everything on the side of consent was great, and it was an expression of our freedom. But that’s not the experience of sex that a lot of people are having.”
Is that even true? You and your friends all believed there was a clear line and everything on one side was great and on the other side was rape? So all that "great sex" you were having, you never had any qualms about how bad it might actually be? In the interest of giving you credit for having something of an intellect, I've got to say I don't believe you.

From my 2005 post, "Andrea Dworkin has died":
Feminism was only a means to an end for a lot of people who positioned themselves as the voices of feminism. Their abjectly partisan goals came to light when they supported Clinton and (especially) smeared Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky. It was an appalling spectacle. I care a lot about feminism, but I have not trusted the self-appointed voices of feminism since then. Dworkin, for all her overstatements and wackiness, was truly devoted to feminism as an end. She didn't care enough about free speech and she was over-the-top in her aversion to heterosexual sex, but I mean to honor her with this post.
Criticized for that post, I responded in "Have I been too kind to the late Andrea Dworkin?"

"[Mark] Harris had a 905-vote lead over his Democratic opponent, Dan McCready, but his success in Bladen County — where he won 61 percent of absentee ballots..."

"... even though Republicans there accounted for just 19 percent of them — alarmed regulators. When he finally took the stand Thursday morning, Mr. Harris denied knowing of any wrongdoing in the voter-turnout effort led by L. McCrae Dowless Jr., a veteran political operative known as a local 'guru of elections.' But in a series of questions, Mr. Harris stumbled and appeared to mislead the board. When he returned to the crowded courtroom after a lunch recess, he asked whether he could read a statement. He apologized to the board and explained that recent medical issues, including two strokes, had impaired his abilities and recall. And then he asked for a new election. 'It’s become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the Ninth District’s general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted,' Mr. Harris said to audible gasps."

From "New Election Ordered in North Carolina Race at Center of Fraud Inquiry" (NYT).

Apparently, the most devastating testimony came from Harris's  a 29-year-old son John, who is a Justice Department lawyer:

Sometimes I feel I must make a note of articles I saw and didn't read.

Just this morning, before 5 a.m., I saw, but did not read, in New York Magazine:
And this, in Slate:
There are plenty of things I see and don't read. But sometimes my non-reading feels like active resistance, and I need to tell you about it.

Aerial photographs of Madison, Wisconsin in winter — all from the "blue hour."

By Jeff Miller at the UW website.

Details about "blue hour photography" here.
Also known as twilight, the Blue Hour happens every day just before sunrise and just after sunset. It’s like an extra reward for photographers who stay later or arrive early for the Golden Hour. Unlike the Golden Hour, though, the Blue Hour is typically much shorter than one hour. In some places, it’s over within 15 minutes–or barely happens at all....

Generally, the best Blue Hour shots have sources of artificial light, such as street lamps or city lights. This warm light contrasts the dark blue, giving your photos a wider range of color. Without this light, your images could end up looking too blue or colorless....

"It’s certainly embarrassing for those who expressed concern or solidarity with Smollett to consider that we’ve likely been misled, our empathy for the actor misplaced."

"But don’t confuse your very reasonable embarrassment and anger in the wake of having been duped for a more permanent kind of harm. No one who invokes the name of Jussie Smollett to cast doubt on real victims would have believed them, but for this. Homophobes who regularly link gays to pedophilia or believe that same-sex marriage is a sign of civilization’s downfall weren’t on the brink of a change of heart, but for this. Neither were racists like U.S. Rep. Steve King, who believe that America won’t be America unless the majority of her population is white. People who believe these ugly things, and the much larger group who don’t believe anything except that it’s not their business to care, don’t seize on hoaxes because an isolated case proves they are right. They do it because they will use anything and everything to distract from the fact that they are wrong.... [T]here’s no larger message here, and we’re not all victims of his crime. Haters, proverbially, are going to hate. They did it before, and they won’t miss a step after this sad, weird story is done. We may get sick of hearing Jussie Smollett’s name repeated in lieu of an actual argument. But those of us who understand that one hoax doesn’t invalidate countless true stories of homophobic or race-based violence will not be deterred."

From "Why Jussie Smollett’s Alleged Hoax Won’t Change How Anyone Feels About Hate Crimes" by Evan Urquhart at Slate. The commenters at Slate are not buying Urquhart's spin. From the most up-voted comment:

February 21, 2019

At Little Tiny's Café...

... there's room enough for you.

"Zion Williamson’s foot exploded through the side of his sneaker in the opening minute of Duke’s game against North Carolina, causing a knee injury that ended his night — and potentially the rest of his college basketball season."

"What shoe was it, anyway? It was the Nike PG 2.5.," says SB Nation.
“The PG 2.5 is designed for the game’s most versatile players. It’s light yet strong, with a supportive strap and comfortable cushioning that responds to every fast, focused step,” reads a description on Nike’s website....

Are the PG 2.5 built for a player like Williamson? Not really. The simple answer is that they’re built for Paul George, a slimmer, lighter athlete who is nearly as tall as Williamson, but weighs 65 fewer pounds... The players who have worn the shoe this season have similar body types to George....

None of those players are built like Williamson, who is a tank with high-flying features.... Williamson’s frame is so unique that not even the new LeBron 16s are perfect for him. How does one find a sneaker that can support a 6’7, 280-pound frame leaping, running, and cutting 30 to 35 minutes a night?... There might not be anything for him because there isn’t anyone like him.
If I understand it correctly (based on this video, which shows the failure of the shoe), the school's (lucrative) deal with Nike forces the players to wear a particular model of Nike shoe, and Williamson had no choice but to wear a shoe that was known to be inadequate for him:

ADDED: I can see in the first link that Williamson wore different models of Nike shoes while playing for Duke, so that suggests that the commentator in the video is wrong that he was forced to wear that particular model of shoe.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson speaks about the Jussie Smollett case.


"The [Mueller] report is unlikely to be a dictionary-thick tome, which will disappoint some observers. But such brevity is not necessarily good news for the president."

"In fact, quite the opposite," writes Neal K. Katyal (who was Obama's acting solicitor) in the NYT.
A concise Mueller report might act as a “road map” to investigation for the Democratic House of Representatives — and it might also lead to further criminal investigation by other prosecutors. A short Mueller report would mark the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end.

The report is unlikely to be lengthy by design: The special counsel regulations, which I had the privilege of drafting in 1999, envision a report that is concise, “a summary” of what he found. And Mr. Mueller’s mandate is limited: to look into criminal activity and counterintelligence matters surrounding Russia and the 2016 election, as well as any obstruction of justice relating to those investigations.....

For 19 months, Mr. Trump and his team have had one target to shoot at, and that target has had limited jurisdiction. But now the investigation resembles the architecture of the internet, with many different nodes, and some of those nodes possess potentially unlimited jurisdiction....

The overlapping investigations by different entities, housed in different branches of government, spanning geography and even different governments (such as the New York attorney general’s investigation into the Trump Foundation), make it difficult for anyone, even Attorney General Barr, to end the inquiries.
I imagine the will of the people could end it, if we are basically satisfied that Mueller completed his task. All those "nodes" won't be energized if we the people aren't excited about their taking off with all their "potentially unlimited jurisdiction." The election is coming up, and the Trump opponents better concentrate on getting that right.

"Have you read Sophocles’s 'Ajax' ever?... You have a neurotic hero who cannot get over the fact that he was by all standards the successor to Achilles and deserves Achilles’s armor..."

"... and yet he was outsmarted by this wily, lesser Odysseus, who rigged the contest and got the armor. All he does is say, 'This wasn’t fair. I’m better. Doesn’t anybody know this?' It’s true, but you want to say to Ajax, 'Shut up and just take it.' Achilles has elements of a tragic hero. He says, at the beginning of the Iliad, 'I do all the work. I kill all the Trojans. But when it comes to assigning booty, you always give it to mediocrities—deep-state, administrative nothings.' So he stalks off. And the gods tell him, 'If you come back in, you will win fame, but you are going to end up dead.' So he makes a tragic, heroic decision that he is going to do that. I think Trump really did think that there were certain problems and he had particular skills that he could solve. Maybe in a naïve fashion. But I think he understood, for all the emoluments-clause hysteria, that he wasn’t going to make a lot of money from it or be liked for it."

Said Victor Davis Hanson, quoted in "The Classicist Who Sees Donald Trump as a Tragic Hero" (an interview in The New Yorker). Hanson is promoting his book, "The Case for Trump."

"A car powered by compressed natural gas was traveling through a bazaar in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, when the cylinder stored in the back exploded..."

"The blast flipped the car. It then ignited several other cylinders that were being used at a street-side restaurant.... A wall of fire surged across the street, engulfing bicycles, rickshaws, cars, people, everything in its path. The inferno claimed at least 110 lives in one of the most historic neighborhoods in Bangladesh.... 'This isn’t about poverty, it’s about greed,' said Nizamuddin Ahmed, an architect in Dhaka. 'The people storing these chemicals in residential buildings are rich — they have cars, nice homes, children studying abroad.'"

The NYT reports.

"The more conservative students receive greater opportunities — opportunities to consider more ideas, because they know what they hear/read plus what’s in their heads!"

"After graduation, who’s going to be better-equipped to go out in the world and interact with intellectually diverse groups of people?"

Writes my son John (on his blog), commenting on a WSJ collection of essays about whether there's a free-speech crisis on college campuses.

"Taron Egerton Dazzles as Elton John (and Does His Own Singing)."

I had to to look up whether the actor was doing his own singing. He is.

I watched the trailer without being sure. I thought it was different from EJ, but also that it was too good....

It's a little bit cliché and sentimental, but even as I thought that, I was getting chills, and I was trying to fight it.

Goodbye to Peter Tork.

The Monkee who was the sweet, quiet one of the group was 77.

A look at the polls....


Especially the very exciting world of Twitter.

Trump on Twitter this morning:
I want 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible. It is far more powerful, faster, and smarter than the current standard. American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind. There is no reason that we should be lagging behind on.......

......something that is so obviously the future. I want the United States to win through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies. We must always be the leader in everything we do, especially when it comes to the very exciting world of technology!

"There is some profanity, and I apologize for that. On the other hand, it was genuinely heartfelt, and I meant it with total sincerity."

Said Tucker Carlson, about an interview he did with Rutger Bregman:
The tape in which Carlson lambasted Bregman exploded on social media Wednesday. The tape, filmed by Bregman, was of an interview intended for Carlson’s show, but it was spiked.

“You are a millionaire funded by billionaires, that’s what you are.... You’re part of the problem,” Bregman tells Carlson in the video. Carlson can then be heard saying, “Moron... I want to say to you, why don’t you go fuck yourself ― you tiny brain. And I hope this gets picked up because you’re a moron,” the host yells. “I tried to give you a hearing, but you were too fucking annoying.”

Isn't the evidence a little too good?

ADDED: In case you don't know what's going on here — from "Jussie Smollett arrested and faces a felony charge for allegedly filing false police report" (CNN):
While [police] did not provide specifics on the developments, surveillance video from January 28 obtained from a Chicago-area beauty supply store appears to show the men connected to the incident purchasing a ski mask, sunglasses, a red hat and other items the day before the alleged assault. They paid for the items in cash, according to the owner, who did not want to be identified.

The two men questioned by police -- identified as brothers Olabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo -- were initially arrested February 13 but released without charges after police cited the discovery of "new evidence." They've met with police and prosecutors at a Chicago courthouse, police spokesman Tom Ahern said. The two are no longer suspects at this time, Chicago police have said...

In a joint statement issued to CNN affiliate WBBM, the men said: "We are not racist. We are not homophobic, and we are not anti-Trump. We were born and raised in Chicago and are American citizens."

"I just want to remind you that that mildly nauseous feeling you have is because for the last two years, Donald Trump has been spinning you in a tumble-dryer full of turd."

That is the level of joke told on a network late-night talk show and selected by the NYT for its "Best of Late Night" summary.

I guess the network taste level is you have to say "turd" for "shit." Personally, I think "turd" is a nastier word. "Shit" is crisper, jauntier. "Turd" has that ugly "urd" sound that we find in "murder," "burden," and "absurd." And "turd," unlike "shit," calls attention to the shape of particular lumps of excrement (which makes it the less apt word for what's going on in that tumble-dryer the joke requires us to imagine).

Anyway, the quote comes from Stephen Colbert.

And here's another joke from Colbert last night, the one that supports the NYT headline ("Stephen Colbert Wants to Remind You: Trump Isn’t Normal"):
The president attacking his Justice Department, trusting Putin over his own intelligence community, calling the F.B.I. a bunch of corrupt, deep-state coup plotters is not normal. It is strange. It’s like how Jack in the Box sells tacos for some reason? It may not be illegal, but it certainly violates something sacred.
What I see there is Colbert climbing down from the hope that Donald Trump committed treason and assorted other impeachable offenses. Now, what he did is just icky, like turds and those fast food restaurants people like us would never think of patronizing.

Which brings us to the third Colbert joke the NYT selects for quotation:
Speaking of the Russia investigation, Donald Trump would prefer that we not speak of it. In fact, he has tried very hard to make all investigations of him vanish faster than a cheeseburger at bedtime.
Again, it's snobbery about fast food. Message to Colbert: Cheeseburgers are America's favorite food. To say that Trump likes cheeseburgers is to say he's — gasp! — normal.

If this is a news story, why can I detect a point of view just looking at the headline and the photograph?

I'm looking at this in the NYT:

The artful photograph looks like a Madonna and Child. The woman is beautiful, serene, and intensely and spiritually maternal.

The headline tells us she's an Alabaman and she's being excluded from "Home."

Now, I'll read the text. I'm beginning at the beginning and will put an ellipsis when I make a cut:
President Trump said Wednesday the United States would not re-admit an American-born woman who traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State and now wants to come home. The woman, Hoda Muthana, does not qualify for citizenship and has no legal basis to return to the country, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

In 2014, Ms. Muthana, then a 20-year-old student in Alabama, traveled to Turkey, hiding her plans from her family....
Is she a citizen of Alabama or was she simply a student, temporarily in Alabama?
In fact she was smuggled into Syria, where she met up with the Islamic State and began urging attacks in the West. Now, with the militant group driven out of Syria, Ms. Muthana says she is deeply sorry, but American officials appeared intent on closing the door to her return.
She joined our military enemy, so is she asking to be prosecuted? I don't get how "deeply sorry" can work, especially coming only after the group's military defeat.
Mr. Trump said in a post on Twitter that he had directed the secretary of state “not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!” Mr. Pompeo issued a statement declaring that she “is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States.” Mr. Pompeo said Ms. Muthana did not have “any legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States.” Ms. Muthana says she applied for and received a United States passport before leaving for Turkey. And she was born in the United States — ordinarily a guarantee of citizenship....
She was born in the United States, but her father was here as a diplomat (from Yemen), and diplomats' children are an exception to the rule that those born here are citizens. Her lawyer, the article says, argues that she's not within the exception because she was born after her father lost his job as a diplomat. She was issued a U.S. passport:
After she joined the Islamic State, [her family's lawyer says], Ms. Muthana’s family received a letter indicating that her passport had been revoked. Her father sent the government evidence of his nondiplomatic status at the time of his daughter’s birth, but did not receive a response. 
After she joined the Islamic State... but was it because she joined the Islamic State? Was it that the issuing of the passport was a mistake, because she was never a U.S. citizen, or was it a consequence of her action, joining our military enemy?

Another lawyer who is advising the family says that she "is trying to turn herself in to federal authorities and face consequences for her actions."

And a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, David Leopold, says that if her passport is "legitimate," she has an "irrebuttable presumption of citizenship in this country." He says the government can revoke citizenship — a conviction for treason would be enough — but (in the words of the NYT) "taking an oath of allegiance to a terrorist group or committing a crime like providing one with material support would not be enough."

So, the article quotes 3 legal experts who are taking Muthana's side but no one who argues the other side. It does link to Secretary of State Pompeo's statement, which says:
Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States. She does not have any legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States. We continue to strongly advise all U.S. citizens not to travel to Syria.
Based on the last sentence, I'm inclined to understand the U.S. government's position to be that Muthana was a citizen but lost her citizenship. So I'm simply guessing that the key question is when the government can revoke your citizenship, the point discussed by Leopold, above. Did the NYT seek out legal opinion from an expert who might take a different view?

February 20, 2019

At the Frisky Wild Café...

... you can do your own interpretation.

"Could we have our first four-party election in 2020 — with candidates from the Donald Trump far right, the old G.O.P. center right, the Joe Biden center left and the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez far left all squaring off, as the deepening divides within our two big parties simply can’t be papered over any longer?"

Asks Thomas Friedman (NYT).

It's a good question in terms of attention-getting, but substantively, it's silly. Parties have often had wings, and it's not that special that the wings are pretty far apart. I'm thinking of the 1960s, for example.

Everyone's such a drama queen these days.

"Jussie Smollett has officially been named a suspect in the criminal investigation into his attack, Chicago police have announced."

"He is suspected of filing a false police report, which carries a felony charge.... According to the Chicago PD, detectives are currently presenting evidence before a Cook County grand jury, which could lead to Smollett’s indictment. Two brothers, Ola and Abel Osundairo, were eventually arrested and brought in for questioning in the attack..... The brothers reportedly said all three men 'rehearsed' the attack days prior to it happening.... CBS reported that Smollett allegedly plotted the attack after being upset that a threatening letter containing a white powder that he received a week prior to the attack did not elicit a more serious response from 20th Century Fox, the studio behind Empire. A magazine potentially used to create the letter was seized from the brothers’ home; that letter is currently being investigated by the FBI."

That's how the story is reported in New York Magazine's "Vulture."

UPDATE: Jussie Smollett is charged with felony disorderly conduct.

This is so bad I probably shouldn't give it any attention, but it was published in Out.

"Trump’s Plan to Decriminalize Homosexuality Is an Old Racist Tactic." That's by Mathew Rodriguez, and all I can think is that he went to college.
The Trump administration is set to launch a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality in dozens of nations where anti-gay laws are still on the books, NBC News reported Monday. While on its surface, the move looks like an atypically benevolent decision by the Trump administration, the details of the campaign belie a different story. Rather than actually being about helping queer people around the world, the campaign looks more like another instance of the right using queer people as a pawn to amass power and enact its own agenda....

The truth is, this is part of an old colonialist handbook. In her essay, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” postcolonial theorist Gayatri Spivak coined the term “White men saving brown women from brown men” to describe the racist, paternalistic process by which colonizing powers would decry the way men in power treated oppressed groups, like women, to justify attacking them. Spivak was referencing the British colonial agenda in India. But Grennell’s attack might be a case of white men trying to save brown gay men from brown straight men, to the same end....
I looked up that Spivak essay and found this description a book of essays about the essay:
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's original essay "Can the Subaltern Speak?" transformed the analysis of colonialism through an eloquent and uncompromising argument that affirmed the contemporary relevance of Marxism while using deconstructionist methods to explore the international division of labor and capitalism's "worlding" of the world.

"... interpretation! — a frisky wild animal..."

Some of you are reading Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities" along with me. In the "Bonfire" project, here on the blog, I select a few consecutive sentences as I go along and offer them up for discussion. Please concentrate on the text. It's fine to bring in the context of the book, but give a spoiler alert if you're going beyond the chapter under discussion.

So let me give you this, from Kindle Location 1624:
Do you tell the police that Mrs. Arthur Ruskin of Fifth Avenue and Mr. Sherman McCoy of Park Avenue happened to be having a nocturnal tête-à-tête when they missed the Manhattan off-ramp from the Triborough Bridge and got into a little scrape in the Bronx? He ran that through his mind. Well, he could just tell Judy—no, there was no way he could just tell Judy about a little ride with a woman named Maria. But if they—if Maria had hit the boy, then it was better to grit his teeth and just tell what happened. Which was what? Well…two boys had tried to rob them. They blocked the roadway. They approached him. They said…A little shock went through his solar plexus. Yo! You need some help? That was all the big one had said. He hadn’t produced a weapon. Neither of them had made a threatening gesture until after he had thrown the tire. Could it be—now, wait a minute. That’s crazy. What else were they doing out on a ramp to an expressway beside a blockade, in the dark—except to—Maria would back up his interpretation—interpretation!—a frisky wild animal—all of a sudden he realized that he barely knew her.
To me, the most interesting part is "interpretation!—a frisky wild animal." And I've got to admit that I am not positive that interpretation is the frisky wild animal. Maybe Maria is the frisky wild animal.

It reminds me of the problem I had with the last "Bonfire" passage I discussed. Remember? Sherman was "holding a violently lurching animal in his arms, staring, bug-eyed, and talking to himself," and at first glance, it seemed to be the "violently lurching animal" (his dachshund) that was "staring, bug-eyed," and it was only when I got to "talking to himself" that I knew it was Sherman staring bug-eyed.

I do think a writer should be more careful. Wolfe seems to assume the reader will follow the wild pathways he intends to lay down. It's exciting and should be fast, but when multiple pathways open up, we're slowed down, or we just get sloppy and hurtle along. That's what Wolfe wants from us, isn't it? But like Maria behind the wheel of Sherman's Mercedes, we should watch where we're going or we're going to get in trouble.

But I like to think that interpretation is the frisky wild animal. And Wolfe's prose is a frisky wild animal (and a violently lurching animal). Look what's going on in that sentence. We're in McCoy's mind, and he's been going over his story as he might recount it to the police or to his wife (Judy), and he sees what his problem is. The sentence begins with an attempt to fill in what was missing — how the 2 black youths were going to attack him — and he knows that's an interpretation he wants to impose to serve his interests, so he shifts to thinking about how he could get away with that, and he locks onto Maria. She'll back him up. It's all interpretation. With interpretation you can do... what you want, but what about that other person. She could back him up, but he doesn't know that she will. And the sentence ends with his realization that this woman — his lover — is someone he barely knows.

Sad for Sherman! But that's what you get when you cheat on your wife who's not sexy to you anymore because she is so familiar. You get someone you don't know, and the liberty you took is a horrible entanglement, all bound up with someone you never learned you could trust. 

Camille Paglia has a new column.

But it's all about "A Star Is Born," and I really don't care. I haven't seen even one of the 4 "Star Is Born" movies that have come out over the years, and I've read enough descriptions to know the differences, but I just don't care. Excerpts:
Unsparingly presenting [the male lead] as arrogant with male privilege, the script [of the 1954 version] prepares the way for the tragic intensity of the love story. In contrast, [the 2018 version] upgrades [the male lead] to lovable stumbling klutz, merely drawing a few hard glances from fellow musicians. He thus defeats the entire redemptive pattern of the three earlier films....

A harrowing highlight of the series is the ritual humiliation of the leading man. The [1937 version] and [the 1954 version] are gut-wrenching in showing the cold contempt of other men for a wounded alpha male as he tumbles down to become a mere adjunct to a more successful woman.....

[I]n [the new] film, the tipsy [male lead]... ends in infantile passivity: [he] pisses his pants in full view of the audience. This ugly scene, which reduces a triumphant career woman to a gal pal awkwardly hiding a urine spill with a flap of her gown, is a misogynous disgrace.
So there's something there of general interest — how to do male humiliation the right way? Maybe that's separable from the focus on that particular movie plot. A woman rises as a man falls — How that is shown tells us something about our time?

ADDED: Paglia objects to the importance of the male character in relation to the female character and seems to think the movie is misogynist because it makes him more important than her. But why isn't that a fresh idea? I'm not going to watch all these movies to try to find the answer, but it seems to me that Paglia adores the various females, especially Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand and seems to think it's wrong for Lady Gaga to be given smaller role — a supporting role to the man. But I don't see that as misogynist, and Lady Gaga isn't an experienced movie star. It may have been appropriate not to give her many big scenes, and why shouldn't the big movie star Bradley Cooper have more for himself? He's an established star and the director.

Japanese fireworks.

IN THE COMMENTS: Unknown said:
I think it's actually computer generated. No, I'm not kidding. I don't see smoke - it's low res, the sound is exactly synced (they could have altered it afterward, but...). As a software developer with a lot of experience in computer generated images, it looks totally fake to me.
Aw, too bad! I looked it up and found, at Hoax-Slayer, "'Japan’s Fireworks Best in the World' Video is A Digital Simulation."

That was my question too.

"Dow, Bitcoin Price Wobble While Trump Gives Ridiculous Stock Market Analysis."

That's the headline at CCN.

CCN? Crypto Currency News.

What was Trump's "Ridiculous Stock Market Analysis"? He tweeted:
Had the opposition party (no, not the Media) won the election, the Stock Market would be down at least 10,000 points by now. We are heading up, up, up!
Is that really "analysis"?

If it's not analysis, what is it? Theater? Lying? Taunting? Why would the President of the United States act silly about the stock market?

One answer is he's crazy and incompetent, but I think he's in control and choosing to express himself like that, so the question is why. First, obviously, he's been successful, so it's more of something that works. But why is it successful (I don't think he's successful in spite of his strange way of talking)? I think it's the virality of being weird and (to some) very annoying. The economic news is good — I guess — so he wants people to notice and give him credit. That's something the media won't do on their own, so he has to appeal to their desire to write only negative stories. If it didn't have the material needed to go negative — the made-up alternate reality of "down at least 10,000 points" and the irrational exuberance of "up, up, up!" — they wouldn't report it at all.

"Smollett—if he really did stage the attack—would have been acting out the black-American component in this eschatological configuration, the role of victim as a form of status."

"We are, within this hierarchy, persecuted prophets, ever attesting to the harm that white racism does to us and pointing to a future context in which our persecutors will be redeemed of the sin of having leveled that harm upon us. We are noble in our suffering."

Writes John McWhorter in "What the Jussie Smollett Story Reveals/It shows a peculiar aspect of 21st-century America: victimhood chic" (The Atlantic).

What is "this eschatological configuration"? The antecedent sentence is:
Racial politics today have become a kind of religion in which whites grapple with the original sin of privilege, converts tar questioners of the orthodoxy as “problematic” blasphemers, and everyone looks forward to a Judgment Day when America “comes to terms” with race.
Eschatology is — in my dictionary, the OED — "The department of theological science concerned with ‘the four last things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell'" or "In recent theological writing, esp. as ‘realized eschatology’ (see quot. 1957), the sense of this word has been modified to connote the present ‘realization’ and significance of the ‘last things’ in the Christian life." The etymology has roots for last + discourse. McWhorter is talking about "Judgment Day," so the word (the metaphor) is apt.

And here's the Wikipedia article "Immanentize the eschaton":
In political theory and theology, to immanentize the eschaton means trying to bring about the eschaton (the final, heaven-like stage of history) in the immanent world. In all these contexts it means "trying to make that which belongs to the afterlife happen here and now (on Earth)."...

Modern usage of the phrase started with Eric Voegelin in The New Science of Politics in 1952. Conservative spokesman William F. Buckley popularized Voegelin's phrase as "Don't immanentize the eschaton!" Buckley's version became a political slogan of Young Americans for Freedom during the 1960s and 1970s.

Voegelin identified a number of similarities between ancient Gnosticism and the beliefs held by a number of modern political theories, particularly Communism and Nazism....
Back to McWhorter. I'm skipping ahead now:
Notable in smollett’s [sic] account is that he sought to come off as an especially fierce kind of victim—the victim as hero, as cool. “I fought the fuck back,” he told ABC’s Robin Roberts in an interview. Smollett has long displayed a hankering for preacher status. His Twitter stream is replete with counsel about matters of spirit, skepticism, and persistence that sounds a tad self-satisfied from someone in his 30s. His mother associated with the Black Panthers and is friends with the activist Angela Davis, and in interviews Smollett has identified proudly with the activist tradition.

The problem is that amid the complexities of 2019 as opposed to 1969, keeping the Struggle [sic] going is more abstract, less dramatic, than it once was....
It is and should be a mistake to switch to fakery and overdramatizing to keep the Struggle going. There's no reason why we can't be empathetic and attentive to subtle things. Let's talk about what's really true and what matters. It may be hard to believe that anyone will care about less dramatic problems, but if you wreck your credibility, you'll have no way to talk to people anymore.

"The suit alleges that The Post 'targeted and bullied' 16-year-old Nicholas Sandmann in order to embarrass President Trump."

I'm reading about the lawsuit against The Washington Post in The Washington Post.
“In a span of three days in January of this year commencing on January 19, the Post engaged in a modern-day form of McCarthyism by competing with CNN and NBC, among others, to claim leadership of a mainstream and social media mob of bullies which attacked, vilified, and threatened Nicholas Sandmann, an innocent secondary school child,” reads the complaint.

It added, “The Post ignored basic journalist standards because it wanted to advance its well-known and easily documented, biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump by impugning individuals perceived to be supporters of the President.”

The suit was filed by Sandmann’s parents, Ted and Julie, on Nicholas’s behalf in U.S. District Court in Covington. It seeks $250 million because Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos paid that amount for the newspaper when he bought it in 2013....
An interesting basis for the claim of damages. When I just saw the headlines I guessed that $250 million was the estimated value of the life Sandmann would have had if the media hadn't ruined his reputation.
The Sandmanns’ lead attorney is L. Lin Wood, who represented Richard Jewell, the security guard falsely accused in the bombing of Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta in 1996. He also represented John and Patsy Ramsey in pursuing defamation claims against media outlets in connection with reports on the death of their young daughter, JonBenet....
Did Richard Jewell win his lawsuits? According to Wikipedia, it looks like there were 5 lawsuits, 4 of which were settled (with the amount of the settlement only known for the one against NBC ($500,000)). The Atlanta-Journal Constitution fought and won — with the court saying, "because the articles in their entirety were substantially true at the time they were published—even though the investigators' suspicions were ultimately deemed unfounded—they cannot form the basis of a defamation action."

Back to the new WaPo article. Here's an interesting juxtaposition of paragraphs:
The Sandmanns’ suit asserts that the newspaper “bullied” Sandmann in its reporting “because he was the white, Catholic student wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again’ souvenir cap.”

It calls Phillips “a phony war hero [who] was too intimidated by the unruly Hebrew Israelites to approach them, the true troublemakers, and instead chose to focus on a group of innocent children.”
I read between the lines: If we're going to be sensitive about "bullying," this lawsuit is bullying the Native American man ("phony war hero") and the black men ("unruly"). WaPo's argument might be that there are a lot of colorful characterizations that get expressed, but they're not really falsehoods in the sense that ought to matter. That is, it shouldn't be so hard to report the news with vivid prose, and courts should refrain from delving into the motivations of the various speakers and judging who's got a "bullying" mentality. I'm not choosing sides at the moment, just trying to picture how the lawsuit might play out.

The WaPo article ends with the assertion that "A plaintiff must show that a defendant acted with 'reckless disregard' to sustain a defamation action." I don't think that's right. Sandmann was a private citizen. You on have to show "reckless disregard" ("actual malice") when you're suing a public figure. That's the First Amendment standard dating back to New York Times v. Sullivan.

Interestingly enough, it was just yesterday that Clarence Thomas wrote an opinion (concurring in the denial of certiorari) arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court ought to reconsider New York Times v. Sullivan. This was a defamation case brought against Bill Cosby by a woman who accused him of rape. The court below had decided that the woman, Kathrine McKee, was a "limited person public figure" who would have to show that Cosby had "reckless disregard" for the truth when he said defamatory things about her. She "thrust" herself into the public debate by talking about Cosby.
McKee asks us to review her classification as a limited-purpose public figure. I agree with the Court’s decision not to take up that factbound question. I write to explain why, in an appropriate case, we should reconsider the precedents that require courts to ask it in the first place.
Thomas wants to take up the entire question of the higher standard rather than to tinker with the scope of what it takes to trigger the standard, what it means to be a "public figure."
We should not continue to reflexively apply this policy-driven approach to the Constitution. Instead, we should carefully examine the original meaning of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. If the Constitution does not require public figures to satisfy an actual-malice standard in state-law defamation suits, then neither should we.
Well, that's a big deal! But it's only Clarence Thomas. And yet, who knows? President Trump, who's been appointing Justices lately, has said he wants it to be easy to sue for defamation. Maybe things are moving in that direction.

But in any case, Nick Sandmann wasn't a public figure when the media jumped on him and mauled him!

"Paul Soglin, Satia Rhodes-Conway advance to general election for Madison mayor."

The Wisconsin State Journal reports.
Mayor Paul Soglin and former Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway advanced from an energetic, expensive six-way Madison mayoral primary Tuesday, setting up a battle between the city's longest-serving executive and a facilitator for a UW-Madison think tank who would be the first openly gay mayor in city history.
Nice photographs of the 2 winners at the link.

AND: In the school board primary: "Madison School Board: Blaska and Muldrow, Mertz and Mirilli advance to spring election."
[Ali] Muldrow, the co-executive director of GSAFE, held a commanding lead in a four-way primary for Seat 4 at nearly 56 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting, more than twice the number of votes for second-place finisher Blaska, a former Dane County Board member and conservative blogger....

"We thought we could survive simply because no one else is saying what I'm saying," Blaska, 69, said of the primary results.
For more of what Blaska has been saying, click on my "Blaska" tag.

"Ms. Warren’s plan, the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act, would create a network of government-funded care centers based partly on the existing Head Start network..."

"... with employees paid comparably to public-school teachers. Families earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level would be able to send their children to these centers for free. Families earning more than that would be charged on a sliding scale, up to a maximum of 7 percent of their income. The plan would be funded by Ms. Warren’s proposed wealth tax on households with more than $50 million in assets, her campaign said. 'The guarantee is about what each of our children is entitled to,' Ms. Warren said at a campaign rally in Los Angeles on Monday, announcing her plans to introduce the bill. 'Not just the children of the wealthy, not just the children of the well-connected, but every one of our children is entitled to good child care.'"

The NYT reports.

Of course, "the children of the wealthy" and "the well-connected" won't be in the government-funded care centers, but you get the rhetoric. The money is supposed to come from the rich — and only the rich — so in the abstract, it sounds logical.
Mark Zandi and Sophia Koropeckyj, economists at Moody’s Analytics, estimated that the plan would cost the federal government $70 billion per year more than it currently spends on child care programs, but would be fully covered by revenue from Ms. Warren’s wealth tax. Their cost estimate was based on the assumption that the plan would produce economic growth by giving lower- and middle-class families more spending money, allowing parents to work longer hours, and creating more and higher-paying jobs for child care workers....

Ms. Warren framed the issue... as a means to promote economic growth and address gender inequality in the work force.....  In a post on Medium on Tuesday, Ms. Warren repeated a personal story she has often told before: that if it hadn’t been for her Aunt Bee, who helped care for her children, she would have had to quit her job as a law school instructor.
A "law school instructor" can't afford to pay for childcare? I'm a tad wary of oft-told "personal stories" from Elizabeth Warren. And much as I do think finding and affording childcare is serious problem, I don't trust the federal government to take over the whole thing, and I don't believe that federal wealth tax is ever going to happen. (Doesn't it violate the Constitution?) And yet, I'm open to the argument that Head Start has been a good program, and it sounds like the expansion of Head Start to bring in more and more people. Warren has reason to make it sound innovative, but maybe it's just more money for the same old program.
Katie Hamm, vice president for early childhood policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a liberal think tank, said that framing was significant. “It reflects the fact that the issue has clearly grown into the public policy sphere and the economic policy sphere, where before it had been relegated to a family policy issue or an education issue,” she said.
So...  more money for the same old program, but let's talk about it in a new way. Let's do framing.

A hiker in Zion National Park gets trapped in quicksand — and stays trapped for hours in freezing cold water.

WaPo reports.
“Quicksand is not normally a problem at Zion, but it does happen if conditions are right,” said Alyssa Baltrus, a spokeswoman for the park. “We have been unusually wet here this winter. The weather was most likely a contributing factor.”

Despite what Hollywood would have you think, a 2005 study by researchers at the University of Amsterdam showed that it is not possible for a person to sink entirely into quicksand, because they are too buoyant.....

“The water was so cold I thought for sure I’d lose my leg because there was no way she was going to be able to get there fast enough to have people come get me out,” [Ryan] Osmun told ABC News.
Osmun was hiking the "Subway" trail and his companion, Jessika McNeill "tripped, landing in quicksand." I'm inferring that the quicksand wasn't part of the trail. This is the Park Service's photograph of where Osmun was rescued, where he got stuck rescuing her:

They had no cell phone service, and as WaPo puts it:
It was like a scene out of an old-fashioned horror movie: two hikers, alone in the frigid wilderness with no cell reception, suddenly stumbled into a pool of quicksand.
No. In old horror movies, the issue of "no cell reception" doesn't come up.

Anyway, the woman hiked for hours to get to the point where she could call for help, and it was hours more until the search-and-rescue team found him, and longer still to complete the rescue.

I'm reading about the Subway Trail here (from the bottom) here (top-down route), and it looks challenging and watery. You need a wilderness pass. For the easier of the 2 hikes, it says, "Strenuous non-technical day hike in a wet canyon with many obstacles."

February 19, 2019

At the Chartreuse Café,,,

... you can stay up talking.

And you can buy things through the Althouse Portal to Amazon.

Trying to answer the question "How small a hole can a mouse get through?"

"The Trump administration is launching a global campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality in dozens of nations where it's still illegal to be gay...."

NBC reports:
U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest-profile openly gay person in the Trump administration, is leading the effort, which kicks off Tuesday evening in Berlin. The U.S. embassy is flying in LGBT activists from across Europe for a strategy dinner to plan to push for decriminalization in places that still outlaw homosexuality — mostly concentrated in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.

“It is concerning that, in the 21st century, some 70 countries continue to have laws that criminalize LGBTI status or conduct,” said a U.S. official involved in organizing the event....

Narrowly focused on criminalization, rather than broader LGBT issues like same-sex marriage, the campaign was conceived partly in response to the recent reported execution by hanging of a young gay man in Iran, the Trump administration’s top geopolitical foe....

“This is not the first time the Iranian regime has put a gay man to death with the usual outrageous claims of prostitution, kidnapping, or even pedophilia. And it sadly won’t be the last time,” Grenell wrote. “Barbaric public executions are all too common in a country where consensual homosexual relationships are criminalized and punishable by flogging and death.”

Can we get something like this for Trump?

"Suddenly, the writer, very close to his public, is tempted to work hard and fast to please immediately, superficially..."

"... in order to have immediate gratification for himself in return. Curiously, the apparent freedom of e-mail and the Internet makes us more and more conformist as we talk to each other unceasingly."

Writes Tim Parks in "Do We Write Differently on a Screen?" in The New Yorker. And I wonder — even if you are hooked on the immediate response from readers, why are they responding to what is conformist? What makes anybody want to read anything? If it's the same as everything else, not reading it is the same as reading it. Why bother?

I had to look up how old Tim Parks is, because that talk of "conformity" sounds so 1950s/1960s to me. And, indeed, Tim Parks was born in 1954. He's in my cohort. I remember blogging a while back... oh, here it is:
It's funny, I was just saying to Meade that people don't rant against "conformity" anymore — not like they did in the 50s and 60s.... [I was thinking] about the way liberals, including liberal media folk, talk to each other and feel emotional rewards for saying what they all say back and forth to each other. They become so immersed in this feeling of belonging that they don't even hear the things that are not the things that they've been saying back and forth to each other. And my question is: Why does that feel so good? Why doesn't that immersion feel like drowning? Why don't you want to surface into the air and be free — to think about everything, from any perspective, and to find out for yourself what is true and what is good? You are a human individual: Don't you want that?

"I voted for Bernie Sanders in the New York primary in 2016. I do not intend to do so in 2020."

"My vote for Sanders in 2016 was a protest against the lack of adequate competition. That doesn’t seem like it will be a problem this time."

Writes my son John on his blog today. He also includes some of the things he wrote while live-blogging Bernie in the 2016 campaign debates. Example:
A member of the audience begins his question by pointing out that opportunities often go disproportionately to "older Caucasian men and women." Sanders interrupts him with a self-effacing joke: "You're not talking about me, are ya?!"

Calling Trump on telephone — "He just picks up."

WaPo article about how Trump actually answers the phone. It's so weird when people do that.
The chatterbox in chief has eschewed the traditional way that presidents communicate with members of Congress, calling lawmakers at all hours of the day without warning and sometimes with no real agenda. Congressional Republicans reciprocate in kind, increasingly dialing up the president directly to gauge his thinking after coming to terms with the fact that ultimately, no one speaks for Trump but Trump himself.

“I never called President Bush or President Obama,” said [Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)], who has served in the Senate since 2007. “I just feel comfort in calling President Trump. He calls me regularly to talk about issues. He’s always helpful for both of us.”

Longtime senators who have served through multiple administrations say they have never seen a president so easily accessible to lawmakers. The calls are part of what occupies the wide swaths of “executive time” on Trump’s schedule — an unstructured stretch of the day he uses to call allies and hold meetings that are otherwise not publicly announced.
Oh, no. They were so hoping he was watching Fox News in the "executive time."
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said one GOP senator who occasionally calls Trump, chuckling....

Trump regularly calls senators if he sees news about their states. Other times, he talks about what he just saw on television or asks about golf.....

Lawmakers rarely have to wait for Trump to return their calls — if they have to wait at all. “The vast majority, he just picks up,” said another GOP senator, who regularly calls Trump and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. “If he doesn’t . . . he’ll return them within an hour.”
Under Obama, calls with lawmakers were usually planned in advance.... “I cannot recall Obama phone bombing people for anything substantive,” the senior official said.
ADDED: I looked up "phone bombing" and got this recommended definition at Urban Dictionary:
When you, along with a few of your best bros, get together and decide to multilaterally mass text spam the fuck out of someone's phone to the point where their phone can no longer take it and just freezes. Sometimes done out of hate, but more often than not simply out of sheer enjoyment.