March 2, 2019

Love.

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"Do you remember when we used to live in the Village, the way I used to go off to work... The way I used to give you the raised left fist when I left the apartment, the Black Power salute?"

I revealed that I've finished Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities," which some of you have been reading along with me, and maybe you've finished it too. I have a few more quotes I want to serve up, first this bit from 94% of the way through the book (which is something that connects to the ending). Here, Sherman McCoy makes a desperate attempt to reconnect with his wife, Judy:
“Do you remember when we used to live in the Village, the way I used to go off to work?”

“The way you used to go off to work?”

“When I first started working for Pierce & Pierce? The way I used to give you the raised left fist when I left the apartment, the Black Power salute?

“Yes, I remember.”

“You remember why?”

“I guess so.”

“It was supposed to say that yes, I was going to work on Wall Street, but my heart and soul would never belong to it. I would use it and rebel and break with it. You remember all that?”

Judy said nothing.

“I know it didn’t work out that way,” he went on, “but I remember what a lovely feeling it was. Don’t you?”
In the very end of the book, the Epilogue, we get a fictional article in The New York Times, telling us what's happened to McCoy in the year since the events we've been reading about, and here we see a recurrence of the Black Power salute:
Mrs. McCoy and her daughter reportedly have moved to the Midwest, but Mrs. McCoy was in the spectator section of the courtroom yesterday, apparently unrecognized by the noisy group of demonstrators, black and white, who occupied most of the seats. At one point, Mr. McCoy looked toward his wife, smiled slightly, and raised his left hand in a clenched-fist salute. The meaning of this gesture was unclear. Mrs. McCoy refused to speak to reporters.
A few thoughts:

"In the alternate reality of this novel... humanity hibernates four months out of every year, like bears, gorging on calories in preparation for the long, severe winter."

"Those who have the means to afford a drug called Morphenox can ensure that their slumber is dreamless and peaceful. Why would they want to do this? Because dreams, it is believed, are wasteful, an unnecessary expenditure of calories during a precarious and vulnerable time, putting dreamers at risk of using up all of their stored fats. Worst-case scenario: The dreamer becomes Dead in Sleep. Thus the need for the requisite Governmental Agency to oversee hibernation. The Winter Consuls are those brave and foolhardy individuals tasked with ensuring the safety and well-being of the other 99 percent of humanity."

From "A Brilliantly Funny and Slightly Bonkers New Novel From Jasper Fforde" — a NYT review of "Early Riser."

I'm casting around for the next book to read. I finished "Bonfire of the Vanities" — and have a few more quotes from it I want to share — which I decided to read, showing my reasoning here.

In the view from my window right now: How many cardinals?

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Did you find them all? Don't miss the females!

It's the trailer for the new Kathy Griffin movie — and I might be in it!


If that's the Chicago show, I'm in the frame at 0:54. (In the audience.)

"That's great! Love the butterflies. More butterflies. You can't have too many butterflies, that's for sure. You don't see as many butterflies in hotel rooms as you should."

That's the third-most-down-rated comment at "Artist Damien Hirst unveils the most expensive hotel suite ever at $200,000 for TWO nights...." (Daily Mail). The most up-voted comment is, "It's hideous." Yes, but that's such a flat-footed response. It really is hilariously horrible. Click for the photographs.
... Hirst's personal touch appears in nearly every aspect of the villa [i.e., the hotel suite]: from specially designed furniture and textiles that incorporate Hirst's signature spin designs, butterfly and pharmacy motifs, to large scale works of art, including a large pill cabinet filled with diamonds.
It's a place to take drugs, right? Which drugs? Maybe you can tell me. I'm just saying I can tell you don't want to be there on normal.

ADDED: The "two bull sharks suspended in formaldehyde in a white tank set into the wall of the suite" got me picturing it as a place where Donald Trump could watch television with Stormy Daniels. (Background: "Here’s the Shark Week Show Donald Trump Allegedly Watched Instead of Making a Pass at Stormy Daniels.")

City seizes a family's dog and sells it on eBay.

They owed the city money, including the "dog tax," and the dog, being a purebred pug, seemed like a valuable asset, with a resale value estimated at $850, NPR reports.

This happened in Germany — and don't you think the interest in purebred animals is racist?

The sale happened last November, and the reason we're hearing about it now is that the new owner is trying to get $2,000 from the city because the dog, advertised as healthy, had an expensive medical problem. The new owner wants the $850 purchase price back too.

"Mark Penn, Ex-Clinton Loyalist, Visits Trump, and Democrats Are Not Pleased."

That's the headline for a column by Annie Karni in the NYT. Excerpt:
As Democrats have moved to the left, Mr. Penn, with his centrist politics, has become alienated from a party in which he once reigned as a winning pollster and is a frequent guest on Fox News and the author of op-ed articles criticizing the special counsel’s investigation as a “partisan, open-ended inquisition.” He has even adopted the president’s term “deep state” to describe people he views as Democratic operatives sabotaging the Trump administration from within the government....

In an email, Mr. Penn played down the significance of the visit.... “Despite my misgivings about the Mueller investigation, let me be clear as a lifelong Democrat under no circumstances would I work paid or unpaid for President Trump nor was this meeting about that in any way.”...

In an interview with Politico Magazine last year, Mr. Penn said that as a White House adviser during Ken Starr’s investigation into Mr. Clinton, he saw up close the emotional damage that a special counsel can wreak on a president and on a functional White House. And he said he saw little difference in how the investigation affected Mr. Clinton then and Mr. Trump now — even though Mr. Clinton never tweeted the words “Witch Hunt!”

“The Clintons didn’t put their emotions on Twitter, but trust me, they had them, and they weren’t particularly different from Trump’s,” he said....

"Ultimately... religions, including Judaism, can only hope to thrive if they serve a purpose that is not met elsewhere in society."

"It is all well and good to perform good deeds, but if religions do not make themselves indispensable to families, their future could be bleak. As we already see in Europe, churches and synagogues could become ever more like pagan temples, vestiges of the past and attractions for the curious, profoundly clueless about the passion and commitment that created them."

From "Why Social Justice Is Killing Synagogues and Churches/Data suggests that the more a religious movement is concerned with progressive causes, the more likely it is to rapidly lose members" (Tablet).

"Behind Illicit Massage Parlors Lie a Vast Crime Network and Modern Indentured Servitude."

That's the headline in the NYT.
The frequently middle-aged women who work in parlors with names like Orchids of Asia and Rainbow Spa are often struggling to pay off high debts to family members, loan sharks, labor traffickers and lawyers who help them file phony asylum claims. In some cases, their passports are taken and their illegal immigration status keeps them further in the shadows, with some of them rotated every 10 days to two weeks between spas operated by the same owners. Forced to pay for their own supplies and even their own condoms, many women must sleep on the same massage tables where they service customers and cook on hot plates in cramped kitchens or on back steps.

“We stopped thinking about just cages, bars and chains as the means of coercion,” said John Richmond, the State Department’s top anti-trafficking official. “They are using nonviolent forms of coercion.”...
So it is the coercion that is interwoven with illegal immigration.
One reason the Asian massage parlors remain so poorly understood is the extreme reluctance of the women to speak with the police and even with their own lawyers.

“Even though I’ve represented many, many women arrested in unlicensed massage parlors, because of the level of distrust of people working, almost all immigrants, almost all undocumented, they don’t trust even their attorneys enough to let them know what’s happened to them,” Ms. Latimer said.
There are slaves, kept among us, invisibly.

IN THE COMMENTS: Rob said:
Phony asylum claims, you say? Please, NYT, tell us more. We didn’t know such an animal existed.

"What The Washington Post put out is barely worth comment. WaPo committed gross journalistic malpractice and cannot undo its deeds..."

"... with an editor's note that purports to correct the record over a month after it led a frenzied mob in trashing a minor's reputation. The Sandmanns would never accept half of a half-measure from an organization that still refuses to own up to its error."

Said Todd McMurtry, an attorney for the Covington Catholic schoolboy Nick Sandmann, quoted in Reason.

I read WaPo's statement as basically a defense of its own coverage, as it took place in real time. It reads:

March 1, 2019

At the Mouse-in-the-Headlights Café...



... where do you think you're going?

"There is something that I really do find problematic about the idea of wrestling with a girl, and a part of that does come from my faith and my belief. And a part of that does come from how I was raised to treat women as well as maybe from different experiences and things."

Said Brendan Johnson, quoted in "Rather than wrestle a girl in the state championship, this high schooler forfeited" (WaPo).
Johnston, who has never wrestled a girl since he picked up the sport in seventh grade, has said that the physical aggression required in wrestling isn’t something he’s comfortable showing toward a girl, on or off the mat....

"I don’t think that I am looking at them as not equal...I am saying that they are women and that is different than being men, because I do believe that men and women are different and we are made differently. But I still believe that women are of equal value to men....”
Jaslynn Gallegos, the girl to whom he forfeited, said, "My whole thing is that I’m not a girl wrestler; I’m just a wrestler. So it kind of doesn’t hurt my feelings, but I do kind of take it to heart."

The most-up-voted comment is: "I will disagree with him all day long and still have MAD PROPS for his conviction and dedication to his personal beliefs. He handled the situation with dignity and so did the young lady involved. Perhaps there is hope for a congenial society."

"Mexican officials are carrying out the Trump administration’s immigration agenda across broad stretches of the border..."

"... undercutting the Mexican government’s promises to defend migrants and support their search for a better life. The Mexican authorities are blocking groups of migrants at border towns, refusing to allow them onto international bridges to apply for asylum in the United States, intercepting unaccompanied minors before they can reach American soil, and helping to manage lists of asylum seekers on behalf of the American authorities to limit the number of people crossing the border. Breaking with decades of asylum practice, the Mexican government has also allowed the Trump administration to send more than 120 men, women and children to Tijuana while they await decisions on their asylum applications in the United States. The program could be expanded to other border crossings as soon as next week. Officials inside the administration of Mexico’s new president, AndrĂ©s Manuel LĂłpez Obrador, have called his stance on migrants a strategic decision not to anger President Trump.... [LĂłpez Obrador] has not wanted to jeopardize other aspects of the deeply interconnected relationship between the two countries, ranging from elaborate regional trading arrangements to information sharing on border security, transnational crime and terrorism...."

From "Mexico Is Carrying Out Trump’s Agenda Along Much of the Border" (NYT).

The tone of this article is negative toward Trump (as I expect from the NYT), but the most-up-voted comment is: "This is excellent news. Over 90 percent of asylum claims at the Southern border are rejected. Meanwhile, the American taxpayer is forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to process these (illegitimate) claims: housing, courts, extra border agents, judges, medical care, food, etc. In addition to the cost, the chaos at the border creates massive political division in the country. From now on, claims should be processed at the American embassy in the claimants home country."

"I try not to get too New Age-y. I don’t talk about things being 'for a reason.' But I do think the more unexpected something is..."

"... the more there is to learn from it. In my case, what was it that made me skip down the hallway to the kitchen thinking I was fine when I’d been in a wheelchair six months earlier? It’s because I had certain optimistic expectations of myself, and I’d had results to bear out those expectations, but I’d had failures too. And I hadn’t given the failures equal weight."

Said Michael J. Fox, about breaking his arm, quoted in "Michael J. Fox on acting with Parkinson’s, taking the wrong roles and staying positive: ‘Until it’s not funny anymore, it is funny’" (NYT).

I also learned that Fox's brother-in-law is the writer Michael Pollan. Pollan's latest book is about psychedelic drugs, so the interviewer asks Fox if he's used any psychedelics. He says:
No. But one of the things that happened when I got my spinal surgery was, when I came out of the anesthetic, I was hallucinating like crazy. I thought the coat slumped on the floor against a chair was a gorilla; the floor was a miasma of swirling proteins. Really weird. So I certainly related to parts of that book. I liked the idea in the book that it’s possible that powerful psychedelic experiences are basically brain farts, but that doesn’t mean we have to devalue their importance....

"For weeks, President Trump has been criticized for exaggerating the brutality experienced by migrant women on the border as he makes his case for a wall."

"A Rose Garden address in January was only one of the times when Mr. Trump has made the claim: 'Women are tied up. They’re bound. Duct tape put around their faces, around their mouths. In many cases, they can’t even breathe. They’re put in the backs of cars or vans or trucks.' If the president was suggesting that such savagery occurs daily on America’s southern border, then he was indeed exaggerating.... But there is some truth to the president’s descriptions of the threat of sexual assault and of women who have been duct-taped and bound. Undocumented women have been duct-taped and tied up before, during and after their migration to the United States, The Times discovered while reporting a story that will soon be published. Maybe not frequently, but it has happened. 'Because I didn’t want to let them, they tied my feet together and my hands behind my back,' a 45-year-old Honduran woman told us in an interview. She said she was raped after her smugglers forced her into prostitution shortly after she illegally crossed the border in Texas.... In one trailer home in Carrizo Springs, Tex., smugglers raped a Salvadoran woman and tortured two men — covering the men’s hands with plastic bags, putting their hands on a stool and pounding their fingers with a hammer — all because their relatives failed to pay the fees...."

From "Yes, There Was Duct Tape: The Harrowing Journeys of Migrants Across the Border" (NYT).

"Art wins over propaganda. Why?"/"All the time, yeah. Nothing wins over art."

"Nothing is powerful enough to stand in the way of art. Whatever artistic merit the [Soviet 'realist'] canvases have stays as a permanent part of them, and the propagandistic aspect disappears as the context — the political context — disappears. All that’s left, in some sense, is the pure art and the craftsmanship. At some point, some of the paintings I have are just very realistic renditions of working-class people. All the propaganda is disappearing, so it’s very interesting to have those artifacts around.... I have studied totalitarianism for a very long time, and... I’ve always tried to read history as a perpetrator rather than as a hero or a victim. And I’m very interested in trying to understand why these ideas have such a grip on people...."

Said Jordan Peterson, interviewed by Tyler Cowan, about his big collection of high-quality Soviet-era propaganda art. When asked about his relationship with his wife, one of the things Peterson says — along with "Well, I really like my wife" — is:
I think she has to put up with a lot because my life has always been strange, I would say. First of all, she had to put up with the fact that I bought 300 pieces of Soviet-era art. People were calling her and saying, “What’s up with Jordan? It’s like he’s bought 300 pieces of Soviet art. There’s something that’s a bit off about that.” Which was definitely true, but she’s willing to take the risks and she trusts what I’m doing....

"... as if the press were a rapacious beast, a tiger. I think they’d like to be thought of as bloodthirsty...."

I hope you're with me, 84% of the way into Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities." Here's a snippet from conversation at a party Sherman McCoy attends after his ignominious arrest. What's amusing for the reader is that the snooty arty guests, who wanted nothing to do with him at an earlier party, now find him quite fascinating. My selection begins with dialogue from a novelist — emptily named Nunnally Voyd:
"I must tell you, I’ve thought about you more than once over the past few days. Welcome to the legion of the damned…now that you’ve been properly devoured by the fruit flies.... The press. I’m amused by all the soul-searching these…insects do. 'Are we too aggressive, too cold-blooded, too heartless?'—as if the press were a rapacious beast, a tiger. I think they’d like to be thought of as bloodthirsty. That’s what I call praise by faint damnation. They’ve got the wrong animal. In fact, they’re fruit flies. Once they get the scent, they hover, they swarm. If you swing your hand at them, they don’t bite it, they dart for cover, and as soon as your head is turned, they’re back again. They’re fruit flies. But I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that."

Despite the fact that this grand literatus was using his predicament as a pedestal upon which to place this entomological conceit, this set piece that came out a bit shopworn in the delivery, Sherman was grateful. In some way Voyd was, indeed, a brother, a fellow legionnaire. He seemed to recall—he had never paid much attention to literary gossip—that Voyd had been stigmatized as homosexual or bisexual. There had been some sort of highly publicized squabble…How very unjust! How dare these…insects pester this man who, while perhaps a bit affected, had such largeness of spirit, such sensitivity to the human condition? What if he was…gay? The very word gay popped into Sherman’s head spontaneously. (Yes, it is true. A liberal is a conservative who has been arrested.)
I'll give you 6 thoughts...

1. Sherman finds himself suddenly using the word "gay" — it's the mid-80s — and he realizes he's become a liberal.

2. I think Tom Wolfe invented the adage "A liberal is a conservative who has been arrested." It's a twist on the old adage, "A conservative is a liberal who has been mugged." Looking to see how old that adage is, I find — on one of those famous-quotes sites — "If a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged, a liberal is a conservative who's been arrested," and that's attributed to Tom Wolfe! They're just misquoting "Bonfire," where the new adage appears and the reader is supposed to recognize the twist on the old adage. The misquote spells out what Wolfe trusts you to get. (Or am I wrong? Maybe on some other occasion Tom Wolfe said it the pedestrian way. I like to think he did not.)

3. This passage caught my attention because it had animals — insects and, also (fleetingly), a tiger. Nunnally Voyd, the character, was trying to get attention, and it worked on me. The mere arrival of insects is interesting, novels being so relentlessly about people people people. Wolfe — he's named after an animal — must see into The Voyd and know his tricks and tendencies. Voyd loves expounding within a metaphor and indulges himself into the face of the suffering McCoy.

4. McCoy is needy, so he enjoys the performance even as he knows what's awful about it — the "set piece" is "shopworn." At the earlier party, his problem was that, as a financier, he was just boring to the arty people. Now, as a criminal, he excites them, and he responds by feeling a sense of brotherhood — fellow feeling for a man he has really has nothing in common with. But as an outsider to the larger society, McCoy is interesting to the artists, who get energy from him, now that he's — if you believe the insect press — a near-murderer.

5. Is the press like fruit flies? Voyd wields his conceit with the novelist's confidence. And Wolfe writes of the novelist's confidence with his own novelist confidence. Wolfe's confidence is sublimely secure because he uses a character to spout ideas that are interesting but might be wrong. In fact, the wrongness of the idea might be the point of having Voyd express them. The press is killing McCoy.

6. Did Wolfe intend for us to think about the Sartre play, "The Flies"? I don't know, but Wolfe said this in a 1988 interview: "You know, Sartre was famous for the statement, in the play, No Exit, 'Hell is other people.' To which Claude Levi-Strauss said, 'No. Hell is ourselves.' And the inferno that I try to present in The Bonfire of the Vanities is internal...."

"Wow, just revealed that Michael Cohen wrote a 'love letter to Trump' manuscript for a new book that he was pushing."

"Written and submitted long after Charlottesville and Helsinki, his phony reasons for going rogue. Book is exact opposite of his fake testimony, which now is a lie! Congress must demand the transcript of Michael Cohen’s new book, given to publishers a short time ago. Your heads will spin when you see the lies, misrepresentations and contradictions against his Thursday testimony. Like a different person! He is totally discredited!"

Donald Trump on Twitter, just now, here and here.

"In 2016-17, women accounted for more than two-thirds of American students studying abroad, a proportion that has remained constant for more than a decade."

"Colleges have long blamed the gender disparity on the simple fact that women outnumber men on campuses and tend to major in disciplines that historically have accounted for a large share of overseas programs, such as the humanities, social sciences, and foreign languages. Meanwhile, fields dominated by men, mostly STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines, have a reputation for being less hospitable to overseas study because of demanding degree requirements....  [M]en seem to study abroad only if they find the time in college, while many women arrive on campus with a plan to do so. As a result of all this, colleges can make more programs that cater to these patterns, but for now the outcome is that many men are missing out on what for many is one of college's most gratifying and memorable experiences...."

From "Why Are So Few Male Students Studying Abroad?/More than 300,000 college students went overseas in 2016–17. Just a third of them were men" (The Atlantic).

The outcome is that many men are missing out on what for many is one of college's most gratifying and memorable experiences...

That's a strange use of the word "outcome." And who decides what is "gratifying" and "memorable"? Everything that you do takes the place of something else, so you're always "missing out" on something. It seems that the female perspective is offered as the one that counts.

You could just as well say, The outcome is that many women are missing out on what for many is one of college's most gratifying and memorable experiences... because they're not devoting themselves to a demanding STEM program.

This is another manifestation of something that I've often noted in journalistic reports of gender difference: Whatever is true of the female will be presented as good.

February 28, 2019

At the Manhole Rat Café...



... what does it take to get out of here?

(Please consider using the Althouse Portal to Amazon.)

"... the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself..."

Time to roll out another passage from Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities," which some of you are reading along with me. Here's a little something from 66% of the way through the book, in a scene where our main character Sherman McCoy is revealing his impending arrest to his father:
And in that moment Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later. For the first time he realized that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of a sense of duty and, perhaps, love, adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life. And now that boy, that good actor, had grown old and fragile and tired, wearier than ever at the thought of trying to hoist the Protector’s armor back onto his shoulders again, now, so far down the line.

"While few would describe any of the blogs as 'freewheeling,' there is a stronger culture of risk-taking in blogs than in more traditional venues for publishing scholarship."

"Several of the faculty members use the blogs as a teaching tool, and students often contribute substantive analytical posts. Students learn from the feedback they get not just from their classmates and professor, but from outside readers as well. While the arguments in blogs may start out less formed than those in a journal article or op-ed, the ensuing discussion can help sharpen salient points, advance conversation and open up alternative points of view."

From "Harvard Law Faculty Use Blogs To Expand Their Influence: 'The Audience And Impact Per Word Are Large Compared To Traditional Academic Work'" — in the Harvard Law Bulletin (Winter 2019). It's funny reading that now, because it sounds like all the talk about blogs we heard 15 years ago. I hope blogs are coming back! And I say that as a lawprof (emerita) whose blog has always been freewheeling.

"President Trump and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, abruptly ended their second summit meeting on Thursday after talks collapsed with the two leaders failing to agree on any steps..."

"... toward nuclear disarmament or measures to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula. 'Sometimes you have to walk,' Mr. Trump said at an afternoon news conference in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. He said Mr. Kim had offered to dismantle the North’s most important nuclear facility if the United States lifted the harsh sanctions imposed on his nation — but would not commit to do the same for other elements of its weapons program. That, Mr. Trump said, was a dealbreaker. 'It was about the sanctions,' Mr. Trump said. 'Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that.' The premature end to the negotiations leaves the unusual rapprochement between the United States and North Korea that has unfolded for most of a year at a deadlock.... It also represents a major setback at a difficult political moment for Mr. Trump, who has long presented himself as a tough negotiator capable of bringing adversaries into a deal and had made North Korea the signature diplomatic initiative of his presidency."

Writes Edward Wong in the NYT.

A Trumpist would say this is what tough negotiation looks like. Looking unsuccessful is what makes it tough.

I'll just say what I regard as a Trumpism: We'll see what happens.

"It is time to decriminalize marijuana, expunge past marijuana convictions and end the failed war on drugs."

"Democrats, GOP find rare unity on Cohen: They see a liar who proves their point"/"Mr. Cohen’s testimony may push each party further into its corner...."

The Washington Post and The New York Times have the same takeaway. Here's how it looks on the front page (just under the news that Trump's Vietnam visit with Kim Jong-Un ended early).

WaPo:



NYT:



Click image to clarify and enlarge.

I'm interested in the similarities and differences between these presentations, but the headlines I put in the post title are especially similar and sum up yesterday's drama in a way that appeals to me, as one of the Americans who have distanced ourselves from the day-to-day agonies of the Trump administration.

Let's click into the 2 columns. "Democrats, GOP find rare unity on Cohen: They see a liar who proves their point" was on the WaPo front page (but isn't anymore). Clicked on, it becomes, "As a Trump insider describes a ‘con man’ president, both sides see a liar — who proves their point." I guess unity is so rare that it evanesced out of the headline. "Rare unity" couldn't survive even as a wisp of humor within the rancor.

The NYT front-page headline is gone now too. "Mr. Cohen’s testimony may push each party further into its corner" was a link that led to "Cohen’s Testimony Is a Test for Both Parties in the Year Ahead." The active role for "Mr. Cohen" is neutralized. On the front page I saw an hour ago, he was pushing — pushing both parties. Now, he's not there at all. His testimony remains and it's just sitting there, not pushing, just a test that the parties might need to take sometime maybe next year.

February 27, 2019

At the Wednesday Night Café...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Ann has taken note of our travails here in the Madison school district because it resonates nationally."

"Madison is by no means the only town in thrall to identity politics and its culture of victimhood. But we’ve got an especially toxic case," writes David Blaska (who's running for the school board here in Madison).
As of this writing 24 hours later, Ann’s post had generated 149 comments. We excerpt from that commentary here....
Go to the link to see which Althouse commenters got front-paged chez Dave.

"It will not only put Murdoch’s Fox sale in a whole new light, but may also raise questions about the future viability of Hulu, plus any platform enjoying what’s pejoratively known as 'Hollywood accounting.'"

I'm reading "Fox Rocked by $179M 'Bones' Ruling: Lying, Cheating and 'Reprehensible' Studio Fraud" (Hollywood Reporter). Lots of detail at the link.

Books with talking animals as characters that are written for adults.

I went looking for this because, in the comments to a post about Meade saying he found Kirsten Gillibrand "rabbity," Bob Boyd said, "Meade's right and it occurs to me, if Gillibrand gets the nomination, Althouse may finally be forced to read 'Watership Down.'"

I reacted, "When's the last time I read a book with animals for characters? I did contemplate rereading 'Animal Farm,' but that aside, unless I was reading with a child, I can't picture it happening.... And I mean talking animals that are the main characters, not stuff like a guy goes looking for his lost cat (which I did read recently — 'The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle')."

So I easily found this list of 11 quite respectable books written for adults and featuring talking animals. #1 is the one I thought of on my own, "Animal Farm."

There's also Mikhail Bulgakov's "Master and Margarita" — with a "hog-sized talking cat... who sneers and snickers and entertains the Devil, pistol in paw, as they wreak havoc in Bulgakov’s Moscow." "Maus," which I have read. And "Kafka on the Shore," by the author of "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle," Haruki Murakami:
It’s not that the cats in this novel can talk to just anyone; it’s that Nakata can talk to them—though that’s not to say they always entertain him, or that he can always understand them, not when they’re telling him things like “it’s a tuna, to the very end” and “Kawara’s shouting tied.” Or, let’s put it this way: some cats are more intelligible than others. 
"Kafka on the Shore" has been on my list of books I'm going to read soon, so I have to withdraw my snooty response to Bob Boyd. But I'm no more ashamed of being snooty than a cat is, and I'm never going to read that "Watership Down" thing.

"I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience."

"I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat. He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails."

From the PDF of Michael Cohen's opening statement to the House Oversight Committee.

You can watch the action live here.

"Distraction."

"She makes me nervous and I'm not even listening to what she's saying. I'm just hearing her rabbityness."

Says Meade, from the next room, as I'm playing this video:



Kirsten Gillibrand was struggling with or awkwardly evading a question from Chris Wallace about whether she would go through with a fundraiser hosted by a Pfizer executive — with tickets at $1,000 to $2,700 — now that Elizabeth Warren has announced today that she won't do any fundraisers with high-priced tickets.

I'm watching that after JRoberts, in the comments to an earlier post today, mentioned it, and said:
My wife and I were laughing at her most of the time. She seemed unable to present her ideas coherently and settled for filibustering Wallace. I've not taken her too seriously for 2020, but in my mind she has even less creditability as a result of that interview.
Gillibrand tries so hard and so unconvincingly to act as if Wallace is preventing her from answering. How many times did she say "let me finish"? I need the transcript:

"The influence of negative expectation — of fear — on our health is known as the nocebo effect."

"Walter Kennedy, a British doctor and drug expert, first used the term in 1961, to describe the opposite of the better-known, more benign 'placebo.' ('Placebo' means 'I will please,' in Latin; 'nocebo' means 'I will harm.') Most researchers agree that the way we react to spurious worrying information is not dissimilar to how we respond to a sugar pill. The nocebo effect is most often observed in connection with the side effects of drugs, cases in which self-fulfilling prophecies are common. During a 2003 trial of beta-blockers, one group of male patients was told that a drug could cause erectile dysfunction, while another group was not. After three months, thirty-two per cent of those in the first group complained of erectile problems, compared with three per cent in the second. In 2007, the maker of Eltroxin, a thyroid-replacement drug distributed in New Zealand, moved its manufacture from Canada to Germany. The active ingredients in the drug remained the same, but the new pills were larger and a different color. After the media reported that the new drug was cheaper to make, reports of side effects rose by a factor of two thousand. Whether a nocebo can kill is an open question. In the seventies, oncologists in Australia and the U.S. reported cases of patients dying before their cancers were sufficiently advanced to end their lives."

From "The Psychiatrist Who Believed People Could Tell the Future/After a national disaster, a British doctor began collecting foreboding visions. Soon, they closed in on him" by Sam Knight in The New Yorker.

"The music keeps you healthy?"/"Yes, very much. Music and cats. They have helped me a lot."

"How many cats do you have?"/"None at all. I go jogging around my house every morning and I regularly see three or four cats—they are friends of mine. I stop and say hello to them and they come to me; we know each other very well."

Ha ha. From a New Yorker interview with the great writer Haruki Murakami, published a couple week ago, noticed today as I'm putting my Murakami tags in order.

I like that cats quote, but there's a lot of interesting stuff about writing in that interview:

"The painting is based on a copy of the motif on a ceramic vase from Yuan Dynasty China, and it took me 15 or so years..."

"... to input the content of the motif, the nuance of the brushstrokes, and the historical context into my brain and digest them in my own way. But it is finally done!"

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" Qinghua" I presented a drawing of this work, among others, to Larry in person when I was moving from another gallery to be represented by Gagosian. He liked my proposal and asked me many times over the subsequent years, “When will the fish painting be completed?” But, perhaps having given up on it, he stopped asking me about the work in the past few years. The painting is based on a copy of the motif on a ceramic vase from Yuan Dynasty China, and it took me 15 or so years to input the content of the motif, the nuance of the brushstrokes, and the historical context into my brain and digest them in my own way. But it is finally done! I’m so relieved to have delivered on something I had promised to Larry. Each of the works in my current show, GYATEI², comes with a certain drama for me. I felt deeply emotional about opening this show.

A post shared by Takashi Murakami (@takashipom) on

"The Overdue Death of Democratic 'Pragmatism'/Centrism in disguise is the wrong strategy for stopping Trump."

A headline that makes me sad.

The article, at The New Republic, is by Alex Shephard.

Substantively, it's another one of these Amy-Klobuchar-must-be-destroyed articles.
[T]he press has cemented her identity as a pragmatist because she fills a key narrative role in the 2020 race: serving as a contrast to the supposed idealists who are driving most of the conversation (and most of the voter excitement) in the Democratic primary. This is shaping up to be the defining conflict of the race...

This is not a new conflict among Democrats, of course. To some extent, it has defined the party for the past half-century. The party’s rightward drift began in the mid-1970s, when the so-called “Watergate Babies” began to replace New Deal Democrats, but proceeded in earnest in the 1980s due to Ronald Reagan’s two landslide victories. The Democratic Leadership Council, formed in the wake of Walter Mondale’s defeat in 1984, pushed Democrats to embrace balanced budgets, welfare reform, and other centrist policies. The argument was that the Democratic Party must meet American voters where they were....

From a policy perspective, this shift has been an unqualified failure.... All four of the Democratic nominees who have lost elections since 1988—Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton—sold themselves as pragmatists rather than idealists. The two who won, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, wrapped their pragmatism in an idealistic narrative about the need for radical change....

And yet, amid the party’s [recent] decisive shift leftward, pragmatism threatens once again to smother ambitious new policies in the crib....
It's a bad day for baby-killing metaphors. Senate Democrats just blocked the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. And Trump tweeted, " The Democrat position on abortion is now so extreme that they don’t mind executing babies AFTER birth."

But let's get back to The New Republic's explanation of why Democrats ought not to flaunt their pragmatism. Ironically, it's for pragmatic reasons that they need to look idealistic:
It’s possible, for instance, that Klobuchar’s hypothetical smaller-scale health care push could hold on to more Democratic votes than Medicare for All—but there is no sense that it would win any more votes from Republicans. Despite the label, there’s nothing really that pragmatic about these policies, at least in this hyper-partisan moment....
Got that? Pragmatism isn't pragmatic.

IN THE COMMENTS: Bob Boyd said:
Thanks for combing through that word salad for us, Professor.

How to act presidential in Hanoi.

February 26, 2019

At the Tuesday Night Café...

... you can talk about anything you want.

"As activists chanted, the Madison School Board left its usual meeting place in the auditorium of the Doyle Administration Building Monday night and finished the rest of its session in a conference room down the hall..."

"... and away from the public and reporters. The rest of the meeting was broadcast via live-stream video in the auditorium of the Doyle Administration Building. Security guards blocked entry into the conference room until the meeting ended and School Board members left the building.... Protests were led by Freedom Inc., the local social justice advocacy group that has been calling on the Madison Metropolitan School District to not renew its contract to have police officers in the city’s four main high schools.... The public comment period during Monday’s meeting was dominated by speakers responding to an incident at Whitehorse Middle School where a staff member allegedly pushed an 11-year-old girl and pulled her braids out.... Rob Mueller-Owens, the staff member facing accusations in the Whitehorse incident, is a positive behavior support coach.... Tensions rose during Monday's public comment period as School Board candidate David Blaska took to the lectern urging the audience to not rush to judgment before the police report was released. 'I think we should see what the situation is,' Blaska said as several members of the audience attempted to shout him down by yelling 'this is white supremacy,' as he spoke.... 'A black baby was brutalized,' said Brandi Grayson, co-founder of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition...."

From "Madison School Board finishes meeting in private room, broadcasts video, after disruptions," by Negassi Tesfamichael in The Capital Times.

Here's Blaska's blog post, "Madison school board takes cover." Writing about himself in the third person:
... Blaska was speaking heresy to the apostles of the Cult of Victimhood who have indicted an entire school district, its elected school board and its teaching staff of racism most foul here in liberal-progressive-socialist Madison....

Blaska agreed with the idea of accountability and ran with it when it was his three minutes to address the school board. He further suggested that parents and students should also be held accountable. This drew loud opprobrium from the masses behind me, to the effect that such a sentiment evinced white supremacism.

Richard Cohen (the WaPo) columnist doesn't "quite know what a handbasket is, but the Democratic Party is heading in one to electoral hell with its talk of socialism and reparations."

He's got an image, but he can't picture it. I picture something like this:



But damn, I find it annoying, starting off a column so lazily.
I don't quite know what a handbasket is, but the Democratic Party is heading in one to electoral hell with its talk of socialism and reparations. Given a Republican incumbent who has never exceeded 50 percent in Gallup's approval ratings poll and who won the presidency thanks to a dysfunctional electoral college, the party is nevertheless determined to give Donald Trump a fair shot at re-election by sabotaging itself....
Yes, yes, I know, it's perfectly predictable, the point you're going to make. But you waste my time with a clichĂ©, and you don't know how to use it. It pops in your head and you just start jabbering, padding out your column with the tedious news that you don't understand your own unfresh metaphor. How do you head anywhere in a basket? Is someone carrying the basket? Is it a basket with some automotive power? Is it a basket placed for some reason — by whom? — at the top of a slippery slope?

I'm so glad I stopped to ask, rather than to continue to read the scribblings of Richard Cohen (who is not, I hasten to add, the Richard Cohen to whom I once said, as quoted in the previous post, "Maybe it's not right to bring children into this world"). I presume the column continues to point out the obvious, which you're free to expound on in the comments. I want to talk about going to hell in a handbasket.

First, here's the fantastic Hieronymus Bosch painting, "The Haywain Triptych" (click to enlarge):



Wikipedia explains the painting:
The central panel features a large wagon of hay surrounded by a multitude of fools engaged in a variety of sins... An angel on top of the wagon looks to the sky, praying, but none of the other figures see Christ [in the cloud] looking down on the world. The rightward bow of the figures around the wagon provides the force for the viewer’s eye to move with them on their journey and the cart is drawn by infernal beings which drag everyone to Hell, depicted on the right panel.
So it's a hay wagon, and the movement toward Hell is generated by some nasty characters:



I found that through the Wikipedia article "To hell in a handbasket," but a hay wagon is not a handbasket. A wagon has wheels. So how does a handbasket — which doesn't sound like something with wheels — work as a coveyance to hell?
"Going to hell in a handbasket", "going to hell in a handcart", "going to hell in a handbag", "go to hell in a bucket", "sending something to hell in a handbasket" and "something being like hell in a handbasket" are variations on an American allegorical locution of unclear origin, which describes a situation headed for disaster inescapably or precipitately.
So apparently, not only doesn't Richard Cohen know, Wikipedia doesn't know! But it does offer this:
I. Windslow Ayer's 1865 polemic alleges, "Judge Morris of the Circuit Court of Illinois at an August meeting of Order of the Sons of Liberty said: "Thousands of our best men were prisoners in Camp Douglas, and if once at liberty would 'send abolitionists to hell in a hand basket.'"
That's the idea of sending and not simply going. Notice that in Cohen's locution, getting into a handbasket is a quick way to go to Hell. But why? If someone else puts you in a basket — Mrs. Gulch or the Sons of Liberty — then they've got themselves in good position to take you wherever they want, the nasty demons....



But Cohen imagines the Democrats getting into a handbasket on their own. Won't it just sit there, going nowhere?



Cohen hasn't thought this through, so I will. Once they get in the basket, they've made it easy for their antagonists to pick up the basket and throw it wherever they like. And it won't be the White House.



Oh! There's Trump, building his wall!

When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked "Is it OK to still have children?," what did she mean and was she saying something new?

I'm watching this little video snippet:
"There’s a scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult, and it does lead, I think, young people, to have a legitimate question: Is it OK to still have children?" Ocasio-Cortez said. "Not just financially because people are graduating with 20, 30, $100,000 worth of student loan debt, and so they can’t even afford to have kids and a house, but also just this basic moral question, like, ‘what do we do?’" she continued. "And even if you don’t have kids, there are still children here in the world and we have a moral obligation to leave a better world for them."
I'm seeing reactions around the web — mockery, contempt, even some stupid exultation (the kind that says: Ha ha great so the lefties won't have children!). But my questions are:

What did she mean? 

There are 2 completely different ideas. One is that the world is going to be so bad that a good person would not choose to cause a new individual to suffer the predicament of having to live in it, that it might be so bad that you should visualize your future child yelling I wish I had never been born and really meaning it. The other idea is that human beings are the cause of climate change, so it's wrong to add to the mass of humanity that is wrecking the world.

I don't think she's clear. She's just throwing her thoughts out there, disorganized, and maybe it's up to the listener to complete the logic. But which way are we supposed to complete AOC's thoughts? She talks about morality but — unless there's more to this video — she doesn't face the difficulty of thinking about whether what she means is that it's bad that there are so many people on this earth or whether life isn't worth living.

There's also a third idea mixed in there, and it's not a moral choice for the would-be parent. It's just personal economics. It's expensive to have children, and a lot of young people, including perhaps herself, realize that the most effective way to economize is not to have children. That could be seen as a moral choice for the country as a whole: It's morally wrong to maintain a system that tends to make young people feel that they can't afford to have children, that it's a big economic sacrifice. It's morally wrong not to welcome and support those who are willing to do the hard work of bearing and rearing children.

Was she saying something new? 

Some people are acting as though AOC blurted out some weird new notion, but in fact it's an idea I have heard my whole life. In my head, it plays as a Bob Dylan lyric:
You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood
That runs in your veins
That's from the early 60s. Dylan isn't inventing the idea. He's citing it as if we're all familiar with it. The great fear at the time was nuclear war, and I remember growing up with that fear and being taught it at school to the point where it caused me, a child, to fear the sound of ordinary planes flying overhead because they could be the bomber and this could be the last minute of life. As a college student, I remember expressing the idea myself. Asked about whether I pictured myself having children some day, I came out with what I knew was a cliché: Maybe it's not right to bring children into this world.

ADDED: There's a fantastic version of Dylan's song — "Masters of War" — by The Staples Singers (in 1964), and it should be familiar to many younger people these days because it was used in this Sony video game commercial in 2010:

A new template for Trump-haters: "Trump Is Epic."

That's the headline for a conversation at the NYT between Gail Collins and Bret Stephens. The pull quote under the photo of Trump is: "'Which horrible things the president has done lately seem most appalling to you?' Gail Collins asks."

I'm thinking this is a real turning point in Trump-hating, a recognition that the portrayal of Trump as small isn't working anymore. The man with the tiny hands and tiny penis, the child of man, who bumbled into the White House and is throwing tantrums, watching TV, writing the teeny-tiny missives called tweets, eating kid's food, and ordering befuddled adults into acting out his random impulses — this template won't do anymore. The new template is: He's HUGE!

That's my hypothesis. I'll follow it with a new tag, "Trump Is Epic." And let me give you some highlights from the Collins-and-Stephens dialogue. The first observation isn't that Trump is epic, but that Trump is tiny:
Gail Collins: [G]iven the man’s general disorganization, I find it hard to imagine the [Muller] report picking him out as the sinister, canny leader who was orchestrating everything behind the scenes.
That's the familiar little child-man. The old template.

Anticipating a fizzle of a Muller report, Collins searches her feelings to find something that could be big: "Still feeling that the real disaster for Trump is going to come with the investigations into his business practices in New York." Stephens says that his "guess" too. He expresses concern about Trump's inauguration committee and campaign-finance violations, but he thinks they won't amount to much if the Russian collusion story doesn't stick. So instead of concentrating on "what Trump might have done behind people’s backs," we should shift our concern to "what he does every day in plain sight."

So Collins poses the question, "Which horrible things the president has done lately seem most appalling to you?" Stephens indicates he's ready to go — "Well, that list is long" — but then he chooses to "start by praising Trump on a couple of fronts":
I think he’s shown moral leadership on Venezuela, by getting much of the world to recognize Juan GuaidĂł as the legitimate president and drawing attention to the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding under the Maduro regime. And I’m also glad he’s partially reversed course and will keep at least some troops in Syria....
That's all big and presidential, and so is the first appalling thing Stephens comes up with —the declaration of a national emergency over border security. Second is calling the NYT "a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE" (the caps are Trump's). And then "hankering for a deal" with North Korea, the "desire to start another trade war with Europe," and "lies and exaggerations and demagoguery about the purported evils of illegal immigration." And then there's just his "overall comportment" — you mean like this? — "his overall comportment continues to be a foul stain on the office of the presidency."

Collins joins in with reproductive rights, domestic violence, and guns, and it seems obvious that the main problem is what I've thought it's been all along for Trump haters — they wanted the other candidate to win the last election. And they get around to (almost) admitting it:
Gail: When he was running against Hillary Clinton I thought he was terrible, but not nearly as terrible as he turned out to be. Kind of amazing. Did you foresee all of this?

Bret: Partly. I wrote more than a dozen columns for The Wall Street Journal during the last presidential campaign, denouncing his bigotry, lawlessness, ignorance and demagoguery. He vindicates my first impression with his every foul tweet.... 
They never declare "Trump Is Epic." That's just in the headline, so it's a bit of a puzzle. I'll leave my hypothesis as it is. Trump-haters are pivoting. Trump is now presidential — mega-presidential. But it's bad horrible terrible presidential.

ADDED: Bret Stephens reveals his propensity for disgust with his repetition of the word "foul": "his overall comportment continues to be a foul stain on the office of the presidency" and "He vindicates my first impression with his every foul tweet." The one I would edit out is "foul tweet." It's not just the repetition but also the accidentally funny homophone, "fowl tweet." You've got that bird image already there with "tweet."

Stephens uses an old-fashioned locution for some reason. He sounds like the straight man in a 1930s comedy. Your overall comportment continues to be a foul stain on the office of the presidency sounds like a line that would have been delivered to the President of Freedonia in "Duck Soup." Hey, there's that fowl again!

February 25, 2019

At the Monday Night Café...

... you can talk about whatever you like.

"No one quite knows why Pyongyang slowed its public and overt testing, nor why Donald Trump’s bluntness and boasting that his nuclear button was bigger seems to have worked."

"But consider this: Trump largely inherited practices initiated in the Obama years, military moves that were meant to threaten and coerce North Korea in light of its diplomatic failures.... Into this near autonomous skid towards conflict blundered Mr. Trump. It did look grim for a few months, the two threatening strikes on each other, missiles flying, and speculation even emerging that the United States might move nuclear weapons back onto South Korean soil.... Say what you will about Trump, but after some very bad years of active nuclear testing and missile shooting, disarmament on the Korean peninsula has already occurred. Things are quieter and two leaders who previously weren’t talking – ever – now are. Sure the United States should remain vigilant, but much of the penis-wagging and button-pushing is over. To say no success has occurred is factually incorrect. Just getting rid of the war cry is enough to cheer over."

Writes William M Arkin in The Guardian.

I'm enjoying this genre of awkward acknowledgement of Trump success. Notice how carefully it steers around any potential criticism of Obama. On quick first read, I thought "much of the penis-wagging and button-pushing is over" referred to Obama, but that wouldn't happen. For Obama, the penis metaphor will be actively avoided. For Trump, they'll use it whenever they can.

"What is the reason of this phenomenon? The solution of this question belongs to the domain of pathology rather than that of aesthetics."

"A physician, whose speciality is female diseases, and whom I asked to explain the magic our Liszt exerted upon the public, smiled in the strangest manner, and at the same time said all sorts of things about magnetism, galvanism, electricity, of the contagion of the close hall filled with countless wax lights and several hundred perfumed and perspiring human beings, of historical epilepsy, of the phenomenon of tickling, of musical cantherides, and other scabrous things, which, I believe have reference to the mysteries of the bona dea. Perhaps the solution of the question is not buried in such adventurous depths, but floats on a very prosaic surface. It seems to me at times that all this sorcery may be explained by the fact that no one on earth knows so well how to organize his successes, or rather their mise en scene, as our Franz Liszt."

Wrote Heinrich Heine, in 1844, quoted in the Wikipedia article "Lisztomania," which I'm reading because I was looking for the movie with that title. "Lisztomania," the 1974 Ken Russell film, which Roger Ebert called "a berserk exercise of demented genius" that "Most people will probably despise it." According to WaPo's Gary Arnold:
A boudoir-farce approach to the life and legend of Liszt would have been trivial-minded, but harmlessly trivial-minded compared to the collection of obscene fantasies and gassy porofundities Russell resorts to after his muse runs out of comic ideas.
No, "porofundities isn't a word." It's just supposed to be "profundities," even though it's hard to picture profundities being gassy. How do gassy things stay deep? Wouldn't they float upward?

Anyway... things said in 1974. Why am I reading that today? I saw a link at Facebook (from my son) to "Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody Is Now the Biggest Music Biopic Ever. It’s Also Total Bullshit/The classic rock band has always been savvy about its own branding and legacy, but their Oscar-nominated film takes things too far."

I realize that doesn't quite say "Bohemian Rhapsody" is the biggest bullshit. It's "biggest" in terms of gross worldwide ticket sales. And it's total bullshit — which is itself bullshit — but I don't believe you can multiply the dollar amount by 1.00 (to represent the assertion of 100% bullshit) and get to a number to compare to other music biopics and discover which one is the biggest bullshit.

I think the factual inaccuracies of "Bohemian Rhapsody" bother the people who are bothered because the movie is relatively conventional and sincere. I think it's unfair to the concept of bullshit to rank something like that first. I say go deeper — explore the porofundities! — before you make the final call. Consider the berserk obscene fantasies of the demented genius Ken Russell from back in the 70s when bullshit was bullshit!

"He and I had our differences, but no one ever questioned his patriotism. Our battles were strictly political battles."

"There's no question in my mind that George Bush would be Babe Ruth in this league that he's in with Donald Trump in the league. Donald Trump wouldn't make the team."

Said Harry Reid, who is dying but still talking, still striving for the flourish of an analogy.

Quoted at CNN.

ADDED: Donald Trump always hits back, even at a dying man who's only trying to get in his last licks.

Angry Black Lady leads the Twitter reaction to the "Green Book" Oscar win.


More from the thread under that tweet:
Green Book would have voted for Obama a third time if it could.

GREEN BOOK’s best friends are Black movies.

I don't see color, I only see it as "Book".

we are all books and we all have pages on the inside

Green Book's fav movie is Crash.

Green Book wore corn rows for a month in college

Green Book agrees with you, you know that, but thinks there’s a better way to make your point than protesting.

Green Book tells me its kids' school is very diverse and that that's just so great.

Green book thinks All Books Matter.

"I think Wisconsin is very winnable. But it has to be someone that speaks to the issues but also is viewed as rational."

Said Tony Evers, the new Democratic Governor of Wisconsin, quoted in "Rust Belt, Sun Belt or Both?/Democrats Seek the Best Route to the White House" (NYT).
The more serious risk to backing away from the Midwest... is that the party could endanger its newly won House majority and all but concede a long-term Republican majority in the Senate....

“If you can’t make the case to — and you don’t show up for — rural voters, you’re never going to have the Senate, so you’re never going to be able to govern,” said the former agriculture secretary and Iowa governor Tom Vilsack....

[Sherrod] Brown... quick to point out that no Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio.... [said] “I don’t want to wake up the day after the election in 2020 and win the popular vote by 4.5 million and lose the Electoral College.”
ADDED: What, exactly, did Evers mean by "rational"? I think — and I've been living in Wisconsin and watching the politics here for 30+ years — he means reality-based and not caught up in left-wing ideology. And notice that the key is not to be rational but to be "viewed as rational."

A good response to Evers is then how the hell did Trump win Wisconsin? He couldn't have been viewed as rational... or could he??? It's a valuable thought experiment for Democrats: What if Trump won Wisconsin because the people there viewed him as rational? Is that something you can get inside and really imagine?

It's so much easier to think that the people of Wisconsin (and other midwestern places) are just dumb or uneducated or bigoted, and when you think that lazily it's no wonder you're tempted to write off the Midwest and go looking for votes in the south (not that you think the people there are so sharp, just that their dullness slides in your direction).

But if you could get your mind around why Tony is right — and you ought to presume in his favor, because he beat Scott Walker — you might figure out how to reach the minds of the people who live here. Perhaps such mental labors are too tedious for you. Go back to sleep. Here, Scott Walker has a pillow for you....

Did you watch the Oscars?

I did — in bits, popping forward to skip all the commercials and all the swanning out onto the stage and the introductions and clips and most of the song-singing and all of the kissy-face and walking up to the stage except the many parts where females in thick, inflexible upholstery struggled to hoist themselves up the stairs — up the stares — to the swirly vertiginous stage. I wasn't really interested in anything or rooting for anyone. I found myself merely mischievously hoping for upsets, and I got some good jolts — "Green Book" for Best Picture, Olivia Colman for Best Actress.

Oh, I see Spike Lee showed his disturbance at the "Green Book" upset. Deadline Hollywood reports:
Our Pete Hammond reported from the Dolby Theatre that Lee clearly was furious, got up and walked toward the back of the auditorium in a huff. He then turned back and appeared to get into an intense conversation with Jordan Peele, who was behind him. Lee paced the aisle and stormed to the back of the auditorium. When he came back, he turned his back to the stage during the speech....

Asked backstage at the Dolby Theatre if his Adapted Screenplay win makes up for Do the Right Thing loss at the 1990 Oscars and the Academy overlooking it for a Best Picture nomination, Lee quipped in reference to that year’s Driving Miss Daisy Best Picture win and this year’s Greek Book [sic] Oscar in the top category: “I’m snake bit. Every time somebody is driving somebody, I lose – but they changed the seating arrangement!”
I'm afraid he's jinxing himself. The voting is secret, so the you owe me! message is unlikely to work.

ADDED: I did watch the "In Memoriam" montage. I'll confess that when it ended, I said out loud, "It was a slow year for death."

February 24, 2019

At the Oscar Night Café...

... you don't have to talk about the Oscars. You can talk about anything you want.

"People who are all the time crossing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, from this side of the law to the other side, from this side to the other side."

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 4,662:
“But you don’t live in that jungle, Sherman, and you never have. You know what’s in that jungle? People who are all the time crossing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, from this side of the law to the other side, from this side to the other side. You don’t know what that’s like. You had a good upbringing. Laws weren’t any kind of a threat to you. They were your laws, Sherman, people like you and your family’s. Well, I didn’t grow up that way. We were always staggering back and forth across the line, like a buncha drunks, and so I know and it doesn’t frighten me. And let me tell you something else. Right there on the line everybody’s an animal—the police, the judges, the criminals, everybody.”
Our main character Sherman is getting lectured by his mistress and accidental partner in crime Maria.

"Danes are building a controversial barrier along the border with Germany."

The Economist reports.
At the behest of the Danish government, a five-foot steel fence is being built along the 70 km (40-mile) border to prevent an influx of immigrants from the rest of Europe. Mr Ellermann thinks it an aesthetic affront that violates the European ethos of invisible borders.

The immigrants in question are wild boar, which can carry African Swine Fever (asf)... There is no cure and no vaccine, so the Danes have opted for a radical solution: shoot all the boar in Denmark and keep out foreign ones....

"The decline of traditional faith in America has coincided with an explosion of new atheisms."

"Some people worship beauty, some worship political identities, and others worship their children. But everybody worships something. And workism is among the most potent of the new religions.... It is the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose.... [E]lite American men have transformed themselves into the world’s premier workaholics, toiling longer hours than both poorer men in the U.S. and rich men in similarly rich countries. This shift defies economic logic.... It’s emotional—even spiritual.... In the past century, the American conception of work has shifted from jobs to careers to callings—from necessity to status to meaning.... The problem with this gospel—Your dream job is out there, so never stop hustling—is that it’s a blueprint for spiritual and physical exhaustion. Long hours don’t make anybody more productive or creative; they make people stressed, tired and bitter. But the overwork myths survive 'because they justify the extreme wealth created for a small group of elite techies'.... On a deeper level, Americans have forgotten an old-fashioned goal of working: It’s about buying free time.... [T]he same perspective that inspired the economist John Maynard Keynes to predict in 1930 that Americans would eventually have five-day weekends, rather than five-day weeks. It is the belief—the faith, even—that work is not life’s product, but its currency. What we choose to buy with it is the ultimate project of living."

From "Workism Is Making Americans Miserable/For the college-educated elite, work has morphed into a religious identity—promising identity, transcendence, and community, but failing to deliver" by Derek Thompson (in The Atlantic).

I'm just trying to understand why David Crosby liked it.

I'm only seeing this because I follow David Crosby and he liked this:

I can't not look at a tweet involving David Crosby, Dan Rather, and Samuel Beckett. But let me get back to my reading....

"He's not a victim. I am a victim."

Says the woman who assaulted a MAGA-hat-wearing man:



Based on the video, I think this looks like a sense of female privilege. She's an attractive woman in a bar, and she seems to think that she can take physical liberties with a man who's just sitting there — that she can wrap her arms around him and grab at his hat. Watch the video. Note that she did the same thing again in front of the police.

"A federal judge has ruled that a men-only draft is unconstitutional...."

Military.com reports.
"This case balances on the tension between the constitutionally enshrined power of Congress to raise armies and the constitutional mandate that no person be denied the equal protection of the law," wrote U.S. District Judge Gray Miller of the Southern District of Texas.

The lawsuit was filed in 2013 against the Selective Service System by Texas resident James Lesmeister, who later added San Diego resident Anthony Davis and the San Diego-based National Coalition for Men as additional plaintiffs....

"Forcing only males to register is an aspect of socially institutionalized male disposability and helps reinforce the stereotypes that support discrimination against men in other areas" such as divorce, child custody and domestic violence services, [Coalition attorney Marc] Angelucci said. "Women are now allowed in combat, so this decision is long overdue," he added. "After decades of sex discrimination against men in the Selective Service, the courts have finally found it unconstitutional to force only men to register."...

The judge... disagreed with the government's position that drafting women would be an administrative burden and that far more women than men will be found physically unfit for service after being drafted. Congress has expressed few concerns about female physical ability, but did focus more on societal consequences of drafting young mothers to go off to war, Miller said.
This goes against the Supreme Court case Rostker v. Goldberg, which I taught many times in Conlaw class. I've often thought about the specific, important physical difference between men and women — that only women can bear children. In an existential military predicament, we might care very much about maintaining the population. Quite aside from that, I think it would be hard to institute a draft if it meant forcing women into military service. But it would be hard to institute a draft and to give all women and no men the right to say yes or no about what happens to their bodies.

But the fact is we don't have the draft. We just have this registration for the draft — the theater of the potential draft. And what's showing in the government's theater matters not because of the reality of military service but because of the message. That's why the lawyer spoke in terms of reinforcing stereotypes.

Full disclosure: My mother was one of the first WACs, and my parents met in the Army, and I know for a fact that I only exist because of women in the military.

"The kids whom Feinstein was talking to are going to be dealing with climate chaos for the rest of their lives.... This means that youth carry the moral authority here..."

"... and, at the very least, should be treated with the solicitousness due a generation that older ones have managed to screw over. Feinstein’s condescension, though it’s less jarring in the video of the full encounter, which also shows gracious moments—including one when she offers a young person an internship—echoed that of Nancy Pelosi, from earlier this month, when the Speaker of the House talked about 'the green dream, or whatever they call it. Nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?'... The irony is that, when Feinstein said she’s been 'doing this for thirty years,' she described the precise time period during which we could have acted... If we’d moved thirty years ago, moderate steps of the kind that Feinstein proposes would have been enough to change our trajectory.... Given the failure of old-style politics on this issue, it is no surprise that youth are taking the initiative. Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest congresswoman in American history. The Green New Deal was hatched by the Sunrise Movement, which is composed of recent college graduates. And they are ancient compared with the sixteen-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who was in Paris last week to watch thousands of French youths join her in spreading the Friday for Future strikes, in which students skip school to demonstrate for climate action."

From "The Hard Lessons of Dianne Feinstein’s Encounter with the Young Green New Deal Activists" by Bill McKibben (in The New Yorker).

"In 'Seven Days in May,' a popular novel from the early nineteen-sixties that became a movie, a cabal of military officers conspire to overthrow the President of the United States..."

"... whom they regard as unduly sympathetic to the Soviet Union. The story, along with such other Cold War fantasies as 'Fail Safe' and 'Dr. Strangelove,' belongs to a genre that shares certain assumptions and plot points. The President is a reasonable fellow, doing his best to insure the survival of the planet, and the villains are the defenders of the permanent bureaucracy, usually the military. Things don’t always end well in these sagas—to wit, the destruction of New York City, in 'Fail Safe,' and of civilization, in 'Strangelove'—but the underlying message is that the President always has the interests of the American people at heart. The genre received a nonfiction update last week, when Andrew McCabe published 'The Threat"... [about] eight days in May of 2017.... McCabe’s tale is like a photo negative of the Cold War stories. Now the contest pits a despotic and, at times, seemingly deranged President against shocked and horrified bureaucrats scrambling to safeguard the basic principles of our democracy."

Writes Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker.

I don't think Toobin meant to imply that "The Threat" is a work of fiction — and a cheesy one at that — a mere "popular novel," in the genre of "Cold War fantasies."

"One of the worst things to happen in America in the last two years is, surely, the birth and spread of the phrase 'nothing burger.'"

"It is used by President Trump’s supporters whenever Robert Mueller issues anything, including the many times he’s issued things that are, quite clearly, something burgers, with lots of shocking and damaging information that implicates people close to the President in something that seems like potential collusion with Russia or other possibly related crimes. [The Paul Manafort sentencing memo], Mueller’s longest, can be seen, by avid followers of his investigation, as not only an exquisitely built nothing burger but a commentary on our age and our expectations—at least, as it relates to the question of collusion during the 2016 election. Andy Kaufman could have hardly done so good a job at tweaking our deepest hunger."

Writes Adam Davidson in The New Yorker in "Robert Mueller’s Nothing-Burger Sentencing Memo on Paul Manafort."

Help me understand what Davidson was picturing when he wrote "Andy Kaufman could have hardly done so good a job at tweaking our deepest hunger." Presumably, he thinks Andy Kaufman did a really good job of tweaking our deep hungers, but which hungers? When? Can you dig up any clips of Kaufman that show him excelling at tweaking deep hungers? Outstripping Andy Kaufman — in Davidson's idea is Robert Mueller — right? — not the "avid followers" of the investigation. The "avid followers" are the audience for Mueller, and Mueller, like Kaufman, is seen as putting on a show for aficionados.

We, the audience, sit expectantly, wanting something from the showman, but he  withholds, even as he maintains our rapt attention. We keep watching, because he's captured our attention, but Mueller has captured our attention because we hope/fear he's got something devastating on Trump. The "deepest hunger" Davidson is thinking about is for the destruction of Trump. How is that like what Andy Kaufman did when — to name 2 examples of Kaufman playing with audience expectations — he did a show that consisted of nothing but singing all the verses of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" or he stood on stage and read the entire text of "The Great Gatsby"?

There was no "deep hunger" that Kaufman was tweaking. He was tweaking the shallow hunger — borne of ticket-buying and seat-sitting — that there will be a show. When will this get funny? The joke is that it will never get funny. It will just go on like this. It's the nothing. The joke's on you for expecting something conventional and the only way to squirm out of your predicament is to realize it before the other people sitting around you not understanding that I'm never going to give you what you're dumb enough to want.

Am I approaching the enigma of the Mueller/Kaufman comparison?



ADDED: Davidson is surely wrong that the term "nothingburger" was born in the last 2 years! The OED traces the term all the way back to 1953. The official definition is: "A person or thing of no importance, value, or substance. Now esp.: something which, contrary to expectations, turns out to be insignificant or unremarkable."

Maybe Davidson — a fan of Kaufman's? — really is doing comedy. I must admit I laughed a lot while reading it out loud last night. He can't really mean that the phrase "nothing burger" is "One of the worst things to happen in America," so that's the tip-off, right? I'm overthinking this. I know!

But he could be serious. Aside from the mistake of believing the term got born during the Trump administration, he could genuinely believe it's one of the worst things to happen in America in the last 2 years. All he'd need is a long "worst things" list. You could have a list of "The 1 Million Worst Things to Happen in the Last 2 Years," and then some irritating word could be on it.