May 11, 2019

At the Circular Café...

IMG_1712

... you can frame your observations carefully.

The photo is by Meade, from a couple weeks ago when we were at Arches National Park. And, since this is a café (i.e., an open thread), it's an occasion to remind you that you can show your support for this blog by using the Althouse Portal when you shop at Amazon. The "Althouse Portal" link is always in the banner.

"No place tries like California, a mind-set as much as a place. California always leans toward reinvention. It is closer to the future than anywhere else."

"Nothing feels permanent, even without earthquakes and fires. So it is with the Warriors. It is so California to come up with something cool and coveted, and at its peak try to lift it to something bigger and better, risking all that made it cool in the first place. It is why In-N-Out Burger expanded to Texas, why Levi’s made Dockers, why skateboarding is joining the Olympics. Will Apple, with origins in a suburban garage, ever be as loved as it was before it grew big enough to build a $5 billion headquarters that looks like a spaceship? Will the San Francisco skyline ever be as beautiful as it was before the Salesforce Tower rose like a middle finger to the city’s low-slung aesthetic, amid a rising fist of preening (and leaning) towers? The Warriors did not need to leave the grit of Oakland for the gloss of San Francisco. They chose to do so...."

From "The End of the Warriors as We Know Them/No matter how they finish in the playoffs, the Warriors will leave Oakland in a move that is quintessentially California, where reinvention has long been a state of mind and a force of nature" by John Branch in the NYT.

This gets my "coolness" tag. There's not as much discussion of coolness as there used to be. I think we're losing our grip on coolness... or maybe we don't care anymore or the culture doesn't give us room to care.

ADDED: The Wikipedia article on coolness — "Cool (aesthetic)" — breaks it down into 5 parts: 1. a behavioral characteristic ("defiance behind a wall of ironic detachment, distancing itself from the source of authority rather than directly confronting it"), 2. a state of being ("composure and absence of excitement"), 3. aesthetic appeal ("widely adopted by artists and intellectuals... a shield against racial oppression or political persecution and source of constant cultural innovation"), 4. fashion ("deviation away from the standard uniformity of dress and mass-production of dress, created by the totalitarian system... disengagement [limiting] thoughts of worthlessness"), and 5. epithet ("a general positive epithet or interjection").

Lots more at that Wikipedia article, including the history of the concept. Excerpt:
"Aristocratic cool", known as sprezzatura, has existed in Europe for centuries, particularly when relating to frank amorality and love or illicit pleasures behind closed doors; Raphael's "Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione" and Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" are classic examples of sprezzatura....



Sprezzatura means, literally, disdain and detachment. It is the art of refraining from the appearance of trying to present oneself in a particular way. In reality, of course, tremendous exertion went into pretending not to bother or care.

English poet and playwright William Shakespeare used cool in several of his works to describe composure and absence of emotion. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, written sometime in the late-16th century, he contrasts the shaping fantasies of lovers and madmen with "cool reason," in Hamlet he wrote "O gentle son, upon the heat and flame of thy distemper, sprinkle cool patience," and the antagonist Iago in Othello is musing about "reason to cool our raging motions, our carnal stings, our unbitted lusts."

The cool "Anatolian smile" of Turkey is used to mask emotions. A similar "mask" of coolness is worn in both times of stress and pleasure in American and African communities....
AND: On reflection, "maybe we don't care anymore" reveals the paradox. It isn't cool to care. And how can you have "grip on coolness"?! It's a paradox. Try and it will be gone.

"Facing withering attacks accusing him of seeking foreign assistance for President Trump’s re-election campaign, Rudolph W. Giuliani announced on Friday night that he had canceled a trip to Kiev..."

"... in which he planned to push the incoming Ukrainian government to press ahead with investigations that he hoped would benefit Mr. Trump. Mr. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, explained that he felt like he was being 'set up,' and he blamed Democrats for trying to 'spin' the trip. 'They say I was meddling in the election — ridiculous — but that’s their spin,' he said."

The NYT reports.

Please stop saying Kamala Harris would be "the first black woman President."

This is a very common phrase in the news, and it should stop.

If Kamala Harris wins in 2020, she will be the first woman President, which is a big first. She will also be the second black President, which is worth saying but not as big a deal. If there had already been a woman President and she were the second woman President and the second black President, it would be a good idea to call her "the first black woman President."

The term "the first black woman President" puts her in a smaller category, making the first a smaller step. If you say Kamala Harris would be "the first black woman President," you're implying that later some candidate would have the distinction of being "the first white woman President." But we are not going to say that. The accomplishment in the offing is first woman President. First black President already happened.

"First black woman President" should only be the stock phrase if that's the largest category in which a first is still possible. It made sense to talk about Stacey Abrams as potentially "the first black woman governor" in America because there have been black governors and there have been female governors, but never yet a black female governor.

I anticipate that many of you are about to comment that you wish people would stop talking about race and gender and just see people as individuals. But my argument above suggests why that's a bad idea for the comments on this post. We've already had that discussion, and this is a new topic. See the value of the specific thing that is new.

Trump taunted — "Alfred E. Neuman cannot become president of the United States" — and Buttigieg responded.



"I’ll be honest. I had to Google that. I guess it’s just a generational thing. I didn’t get the reference. It's kind of funny, I guess. But he’s also the president of the United States and I’m surprised he’s not spending more time trying to salvage this China deal." (Politico.)

This is a great and complex answer:

1. Buttigieg implicitly taunted Trump for being old, and Trump is pretty old, but maybe not as too old as Buttigieg is too young.

2. The intro "I'll be honest" can be used to lie, and I'm not sure if he was honest. Now, I'm really consciously thinking something about Buttigieg that had only bubbled below the surface: He's saying some things only for effect, not sincerely. Now, I'm looking back to try to see when have I felt this way before. Something about religion?

3. How removed from popular culture must you be not to know the Mad Magazine icon Alfred E. Neuman? Buttigieg seems to want to portray himself as in the know, because he's in the younger generation, but it comes across as unaware of pop culture generally. Mad Magazine has been around since 1952 and it's still going. It's an American institution, and the image of Alfred E. Neuman is continually used in political cartoons. I know Buttigieg is into high culture. Is he a snob who shuns pop culture? Or back to #2, is he just faking it about needing to Google?

4. It's a common foible only to know the things that happened within your own lifetime, but a President should have a grasp of earlier times. He needs to understand history, and he needs to understand the culture. Mad Magazine is part of the culture.

5. He went out of his way to read a novel that was only available in Norwegian. He learned Norwegian. That's looked great to me, but it takes on a different character paired with an avoidance of American things.

6. How will he understand Trump if he doesn't get American pop culture? Trump is a phenomenon of American pop culture. How will you fight what you don't quickly and instinctively grasp?

7. It makes perfect sense to say, essentially, the President should be working harder at his presidential duties, and I like how Buttigieg singled out one particular job that needs to get done. That's re-tracking us onto a serious issue.

8. I like that Buttigieg did not — like so many other Trump antagonists — say that Trump shouldn't tweet at all or that Trump should never be funny. Buttigieg says it was funny ("I guess") and displays nice acceptance of jokes at his expense. He doesn't look fazed or irritable at all. (Of course, neither does Alfred E. Neuman, whose tag line is "What? Me worry?")

9. Buttigieg leaves it to others to say more peevish things. He refrains from making the most obvious criticism, that it's wrong to mock a person's looks, especially aspects of looks that he cannot control. That's causing me to think about the widespread belief that Trump made fun of the appearance of a reporter who had a medical condition that deformed and immobilized his right arm and hand. I don't believe that's what Trump was doing, but many people do, and additional mocking of unchangeable conditions reinforces one of the most damaging beliefs about Trump.

10. Refraining from chiding Trump about talking about how somebody looks preserves space to make fun of how Trump looks, and that is a rich source of political dialogue. Why cut that off? Even if Buttigieg himself doesn't plan to use insults about looks, some of his supports surely will, and if he'd said, don't mock looks, he'd be called a hypocrite if he does not tell them to stop.

May 10, 2019

At the Friday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about what you like.

"Meghan showed the world something that many of her royal predecessors have covered up: what a woman’s body looks like a mere 48 hours after birth."

"Her simple and understated white dress did not hide what her body had gone through. A simple belt tied high above her waist, in fact, seemed to be an intentional signal. It was as if she was saying to the world, 'Hey, I told you you’d have to wait a couple of days before you could see me, and this is what I look like. This is what happens to a woman’s body...' It was the first thing I noticed about the photos, actually, and in our office chat about this important breaking news, one of my colleagues, who is also a mother, was the first person I heard really put to words the power of the image. It felt refreshing and validating, to both of us, to see a high-profile woman reflect the reality of a postpartum body."

From "The subtle but important message Duchess Meghan is sending new moms about giving birth" by By Madhulika Sikka (in WaPo).

Yes, it really was surprising and daring. I wonder how many people who haven't given birth have any idea this is the reality: You still look pregnant after you have a baby. I didn't know that until I had a baby myself. There's an immense coverup, and thanks to the Duchess for being out and proud. That was nice and helpful!

It was 50 years ago today — do you remember? — The Zip to Zap.

Wikipedia preserves the details of one of the classic hippie moments in American history:
The Zip to Zap was an idea of Chuck Stroup, a student at North Dakota State University in Fargo. Stroup could not afford to attend the more traditional spring break festivities held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Therefore, he came up with the idea of what was to become known as the "Zip to Zap a Grand Festival of Light and Love". Stroup placed an advertisement in the student newspaper at NDSU, The Spectrum. His idea was soon embraced by college students throughout the upper midwest of the United States and states as far away as Texas and Florida, thanks to extensive publicity in various college newspapers and in newspapers throughout the nation over the Associated Press wires....
Kind of an early flash mob, accomplished without social media. The Spectrum ran an article:
"Located in the valley of the scenic Knife River, Zap (Zip 58580) has thrown open its arms to students. The beautiful burg's 250 residents welcome us to their shores. Shall we say no to this truly fine gesture of western hospitality? Of course not. On May 10, we and students like us from all over the Midwest will flock to Zap, the Lauderdale of the North (where do you get your suntan, Miami? No, Knife River.)."
The article comically spoke of "a full program of orgies, brawls, freakouts, and arrests."

Zap was a tiny place. I don't know the population in 1969, but it's something like 200 today. But the people who lived there seemed to like the idea:
The two local bars stockpiled a supply of beer and local diners began marketing "Zapburgers" in anticipation of the event. "We thought, well, we'll put ourselves on the map here," remembered Norman Fuchs, the mayor of Zap in 1969....
But the reality was way too many people:
Students... quickly filled the town's two taverns. The demand for beer was such that the tavern owners decided to double the price. This action upset the students, but in the long run it did not matter since all the beer was rapidly consumed. Drunken students took to the streets of the small town. Vomiting and urinating on the streets by the students caused great concern among the locals, who quickly began to fear for their safety. The temperatures fell below freezing and the drunken college students started a bonfire in the center of town, using wood that was left over from a recent demolition project.

The townspeople, led by Mayor Fuchs, asked the students to leave: most complied but some did not. What had started out as a spring break get-together quickly turned into the only riot in North Dakota's history. Local security forces were overwhelmed and the cafe and one of the bars were completely destroyed.

Governor William Guy called in 500 troops from the North Dakota National Guard to quell the riot. Over 1,000 partiers were still in Zap when the guard arrived on the scene at 6:30 am, although just 200 of them were still awake. The guardsmen with fixed bayonets roused the hungover students.....
The media were there to titillate Americans with more of the kids-are-going-crazy news that cluttered the airwaves of the time:



It was just spring break in the north.

I don't know why they picked Zap, but "Zap" had hippie panache. There was Zappa and Zap Comix:

"1994 was a great year for music, and May 10 was one of the better days that year."

"Three bands, all categorized as alt rock but all significantly different from each other, put out great albums 25 years ago today," writes my son John on his blog, with 3 clips from Weezer ("Weezer"), 3 from Sonic Youth ("Experimental Jet Set, Trash, and No Star"), and only one from the band you're least likely to remember.



If you want to destroy my sweater/Hold this thread as I walk away/Watch me unravel I'll soon be naked...

"After a brief moment of silence, a child in the audience exclaimed, ‘Wow!’. The awe in his voice made the whole audience and ensemble erupt into laughter and applause..."

"... with the orchestra’s CEO David Snead describing it as 'one of the most wonderful moments I’ve experienced in the concert hall."



"After the concert, the orchestra began looking for the child – and now, the boy’s grandfather has got in touch. Nine-year-old Ronan is a huge music fan, says his grandfather, Stephen Mattin. Mattin, who took his grandson to the concert, said he 'talked about nothing else for weeks.' Ronan didn’t mean to be disruptive, he told WGBH, explaining that his grandson is on the autism spectrum, and expresses himself in a different way to other people. 'I can count on one hand the number of times that [he’s] spontaneously ever come out with some expression of how he’s feeling,' Mattin said. Mattin reached out to the orchestra after his sister-in-law saw on television that the Handel and Haydn Society was looking for the 'wow kid.'... 'You know, everybody’s different. Everybody has different ways of expressing themselves,' he said. 'I think people in general, society’s becoming more tolerant or understanding of the differences between people.'"

"Who knows about cocaine? Anyone ever seen cocaine?... Who here smokes?" — Bernie Sanders talks to little kids.

30 years ago, when he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont and did a public-access TV show.

Hilarious footage in here. Watch the whole thing. I like when he says to a kid "I think you're dumb" and when a kid says to him, "Okay, well, I better get going."

“We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do. There’s nothing illegal about it," said Giuliani.

"Somebody could say it’s improper. And this isn’t foreign policy — I’m asking [Ukraine] to do an investigation that they’re doing already and that other people are telling them to stop. And I’m going to give them reasons why they shouldn’t stop it because that information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government."

From "Rudy Giuliani Plans Ukraine Trip to Push for Inquiries That Could Help Trump" (NYT).

What is Ukraine currently investigating that Giuliani wants to encourage? According to the NYT, it's "the origin of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election" and "the involvement of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch."

I haven't had anybody "You, a lawyer!" me in a long time.

But here's Otto this morning, commenting on a post of mine that found resonance in reptile rhetoric (the idea that Democrats were "slithering around" and a description of the jail in Congress's basement as "like the den of some foul reptile"):
I am constantly amazed at how unprofessional Ann covers the Russian collusion and obstruction investigation. She constantly cites unprofessional and partisan analysis and coverage by the usual hacks-NYT and WP. She never cites an in-depth judicial analysis from legal professionals like Andrew McCarthy or give an in-depth analysis herself. You would never know she is a career lawyer and was a law professor. As she would love to say, that's weird.
Commenter Carol reacts succinctly:
A professional gets paid for her analysis.
Yes, you could say I do this for love and you'd have to pay me to do what would not amaze Otto. But I think I deserve to be paid for amazing Otto and the Ottocrats. I do what I do and I'm entirely proud of it, even though I only do what I like.

Having been a lawyer — having lawyering in your past — can be a foundation for something else you go on to do. Who are the contributors to the human experience who have legal training and experience in their life story but went on to do something else? I'll snag a few from this list (and I'll exclude all the political figures, because there are so many):
Charles Perrault. Perrault, better known to some as the author of Tales of Mother Goose in 1697, practiced law for a few years...

John Cleese. One of the funniest men in the history of comedy has a law degree from no less than Cambridge...

Ben Stein.... He was the valedictorian of his Yale Law School class in 1970...

"Watch. It'll be headlines tomorrow...."

"Loving someone with whom you disagree or whom you do not admire holds the potential for transforming that person for the better."

"But even if it appears to have no effect on the other person, loving transforms and frees the person who loves. It allows one to set down the exhausting weight of hatred, anger and disappointment. It is a proactive act. It means taking control of the situation. The reaction of President Trump and his supporters to love is inconsequential. By loving them—whether they accept, or reject, or mock the sentiment—the president’s opponents can move toward an agenda that they set, hopefully one that seeks to unite and serve all Americans. The Dalai Lama says that '[w]orld peace can only be based on inner peace. If we ask what destroys our inner peace, it’s not weapons and external threats, but our own inner flaws like anger. This is one of the reasons why love and compassion are important, because they strengthen us. This is a source of hope.' I write all this with significant trepidation. Several people have counseled me against publishing this, saying it is too risky in this unpredictable environment. As a result, I have sat on it for several months after completing it. I also recognize that my situation is very different from that of many others who have suffered under the president much more than I have. I was not at Charlottesville, I am not Muslim and I have not been separated from my children at the border. But I did hold a high-ranking position at the FBI—an organization that I love—and I have seen colleagues mistreated. And the president of the United States has made negative public comments about both the bureau and me. Notwithstanding all that, I am refusing to choose hate as a response. I am choosing love, even if I don’t fully understand what I mean by that right now. I am choosing that path because I think that is what is best for America."

From "Why I Do Not Hate Donald Trump" (at Lawfare) by Jim Baker, who is a contributing editor at Lawfare, the Director of the National Security and Cybersecurity Program at the R Street Institute, and the former general counsel of the FBI (and is not to be confused with the 89-year-old man who was Secretary of State under President George H. W. Bush or the 79-year-old fallen televangelist or any of the many other people named Jim Baker).

I agree about love. I love love...



All you need is love...



Love, love is the answer....



But along with your love, just give me some truth...



And that Charlottesville thing is a hoax.

"Sexual violence is a national crisis that requires a national solution. We miss that point if we end the discussion at whether I should forgive Mr. Biden."

"This crisis calls for all leaders to step up and say: 'The healing from sexual violence must begin now. I will take up that challenge.'"

I'm trying to understand why Anita Hill has another op-ed in the New York Times. Or, I guess it wasn't an op-ed. There was this interview with her, back on April 26th, which begins with the news that Biden apologized to her, and it was more or less clear that she didn't accept the apology:
But I cannot be satisfied by simply saying, “I’m sorry for what happened to you.” I will be satisfied when I know that there is real change and real accountability and real purpose to correct the issues that are still there.
The new op-ed just repeats what was already clear: She doesn't want to be the Accepter of Apologies. To put her in that position is to suggest a ritual of absolution. It doesn't and shouldn't work that way.

But we heard all that 2 weeks ago. Why revive it now? I'm trying to perceive the NYT agenda. I see this political analysis (from Lisa Lerer) in the NYT on May 6th: "Some Look at Joe Biden’s Campaign and See Hillary Clinton’s." Excerpt:

"If it’s an impeachment proceeding, then somebody should call it that. If you don’t call their bluff now, they’ll just keep slithering around for four, five, six months."

Said Rudolph W. Giuliani, quoted in "A Strategy Emerges to Counter House Democrats: Dare Them to Impeach" (NYT).

Slithering around.

Meanwhile, at the Washington Post, I'm reading "Pelosi joked about a jail in the Capitol’s basement. Is there a House slammer?"
According to the office of the Architect of the Capitol, which preserves and maintains the buildings and grounds of the Capitol, no jail or detention area has existed on the campus since 1877. That’s when, according to a description in the Congressional Record, two Louisiana election officials were jailed in “a little room in the basement of the Capitol, with but two windows, opening upon no sunlight, but upon a narrow confined court into which no gleam of sunshine can ever enter.” (Not even a gleam!) It gets worse. The room was so dark and foul that, according to the Congressional Record, the room smelled “like the den of some foul reptile, a room where thieves arrested around the Capitol are kept.”
The second-highest-rated comment:
"The room was so dark and foul that, according to the Congressional Record, the room smelled “like the den of some foul reptile, a room where thieves arrested around the Capitol are kept."

Sounds like a perfect place to put Barr and Mnuchin.

"Mayor Pete blindsides Kamala Harris in California."

Headline at Politico.

The "blindside" isn't anything he said or any startling new policy that brilliantly goes to the left (or to the right) of Kamala.

By the way — complete sidetrack — is it disrespectful to write "Kamala" (without the "Harris")? It seems we're getting awfully close to using just first names for all the candidates — Joe, Bernie, Pete. But do we hold back for the women? And if we do, is that bad for the women? I think we do hold back — though clearly we called Hillary "Hillary" — and that holding back expresses the idea that women are more sensitive and need protection. That perversely reinforces a sense that women are not tough enough to be President. Kamala Harris has the most distinctive first name of the entire group, and she has the most boring, generic last name.

I had to hit the down button 20+ times to get to the end of the Wikipedia list of famous people with the last name Harris. There are a lot of them, but it's actually hard to think of an interesting character with the surname Harris...



There's some risk going with the first name, but the men in the race are on a first-name basis, and haven't we been calling our Presidents by their first names? Oh, maybe not. Trump is Trump (and he used to be "The Donald"). Obama was Obama (and Barack is a very interesting name). I guess we called Carter "Jimmy," but that's not the example to copy.

What about Ike? That's the ultimate presidential nickname, but was that supposed to represent his first name or his last name? I realized I did not know and could not figure it out on the sounds. There's no "k" sound in Dwight or Eisenhower. I had to look it up:
Dwight David Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas, the third of seven sons. His mother originally named him David Dwight but reversed the two names after his birth to avoid the confusion of having two Davids in the family. All of the boys were called "Ike", such as "Big Ike" (Edgar) and "Little Ike" (Dwight); the nickname was intended as an abbreviation of their last name.
Ha. Like the old Dr. Seuss story...
Have I ever told you that Mrs. McCave
Had twenty-three sons and she named them all Dave?...
She often wishes that, when they were born,
She had named one fo them Bodkin Van Horn...
And one of them Sneepy. And one Weepy Weed
And one Paris Garters/And one Harris Tweed...
Harris Tweed. Harris is interesting as a first name. Can you even think of anyone famous with Harris as a first name?



I've reached a deadend to my sidetrack, so I must proceed to the "blindside" and get out of here. The "blindside" is just that Buttigieg — Pete — is getting support in Kamala's home state California:
Democratic strategist Garry South says the growing buzz about Buttigieg’s success in wedging his way into California’s lucrative fundraising base has shocked many longtime politics watchers in the state.

“I think the amazing thing is that nobody is ceding California to Kamala Harris ... no one is abandoning California to the native daughter — which tells you something,’’ he says. “Why would he come out here and spend four days if he thought she had California locked up?“
Fundraising. Rich people in California. They're just fundraising now, not — like Trump — getting out there in rallies and stirring up crowds. If I were a rich Democrat looking to fund a candidate, I'd be watching Trump — look at the Panama City rally he just blew through in his spare time — and wondering who can match that intense, exciting campaigning?

Are the Democrats even doing rallies? I can't find full-scale rally with Kamala Harris on YouTube (not since her announcement rally from back in January). I see her at a fundraising dinner with the NAACP, but only a little clip, interrupted by an announcer saying that Kamala gave a "fiery campaign speech," but nothing actually fiery. I want to see the equivalent of what Trump repeatedly does, throws himself out there before a big crowd and really inspires them. Here's 2 minutes of Harris before a crowd from a few weeks ago. Where's a full-scale and recent campaign event? Why isn't this material out there? Is it being withheld?

Back at the Political "blindside" article:
Buttigieg’s May fundraising schedule includes four events alone Thursday in the L.A. area, including at the home of Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband, Brad Falchuk. Co-hosts include actor Bradley Whitford and John Gile, who has been in LGBT leadership on the Democratic National Committee and served on the Obama and Clinton presidential campaigns.

“[Buttigieg] does interest me, because he’s so multifaceted,’’ says Melissa Rivers — the former star of the cult favorite show “Fashion Police” and Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” with her mother, the late Joan Rivers.

A Joe Biden supporter, Rivers notes that many of her Hollywood friends who have long expected to back Harris are feeling torn these days over their growing attraction to the newcomer mayor.

“It’s going to be very hard. If you don’t like that he’s gay, you’ll like that he’s a military guy,’’ says Rivers, who says she’s been deluged with fundraising invites. “If you don’t like that he’s a military guy, you’re going to like that he’s a mayor. It backs people into a corner because there’s nothing to attack him on.’’
Well, Politico got Melissa Rivers to chatter, but she's a Joe Biden supporter. What's she up to?



ADDED: Speaking of nicknames:

May 9, 2019

At the Open Mic Café...

DSC05539

... it's your turn.

"A tiny vial no larger than the palm of his hand, he told the group, contains roughly ten million live stem cells, harvested from the placenta, amniotic fluid, umbilical cord, or amnion, the membrane that surrounds the fetus in the womb."

"Injected into a joint or spine, or delivered intravenously into the bloodstream, [retired orthopedic surgeon David] Greene told his listeners, those cells could ease whatever ailed them. On a screen behind him, Greene displayed a densely printed slide with a 'small list' of conditions his stem-cell product could treat: arthritis, tendinitis, psoriasis, lupus, hair loss, facial wrinkles, scarring, erectile dysfunction, heart failure, cardiomyopathy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, emphysema, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, ALS, neuropathy, pelvic pain, diabetes, dry eye, macular degeneration, kidney failure.... Greene said that amniotic stem cells derive their healing power from an ability to develop into any kind of tissue, but he failed to mention that mainstream science does not support his claims... [A]n industry has sprung up in which specialized clinics offer miracle remedies from poorly understood stem-cell products.... [M]anufacturers harvest the cells from tissues donated by women who have recently given birth, and the cells are then frozen and shipped to clinics.... Greene acknowledged that most patients don’t understand the difference between embryonic and other types of stem cells, and that the language he uses in his seminars is largely guided by market research. 'When you look at what people are typing on the Web, "stem cell" is the No. 1 key phrase,' he told me. 'That is the key word that the public in America understands.'"

From "The Birth-Tissue Profiteers/How well-meaning donations end up fuelling an unproven, virtually unregulated two-billion-dollar stem-cell industry" (The New Yorker).

"One of the Democrats today — it's a he — sleepy person — said that he heard from a lot of foreign leaders, and they want him to be President. Of course, they do..."

"... so they can continue to rip off the United States. Of course, they do. Of course. I think if I heard that, I'd never vote for him. And then you have Bernie. Bernie. Then you have Bernie. You got some real beauties. Crazy Bernie. You got a choice between Sleepy Joe and Crazy Bernie. And I'll take any of 'em. Pick somebody, please. Let's start this thing. Let's start it. Pick somebody! We have a young man, Boot-edge-edge. Boot. Edge. Edge. They say: edge, edge. He's got a great chance, doesn't he? He'll be great. He'll be great. Representing us against President Xi of China. That'll be great. That'll be great. I wanna be in that room. I wanna watch that one."

Here, I clipped that part out for you:



I liked that. I like the colloquialism and the quick suggestion of ideas that are quite effective:

1. Biden argued against himself when he attempted to boast about all the world leaders who want him to win. They want him so they can get back to taking advantage of the United States and ripping us off.

2. There are a lot of Democratic candidates but they're all pathetic. It's the choice of no choice — "a choice between Sleepy Joe and Crazy Bernie."

3. Picture any one of them, in a room negotiating with President Xi, and it's obvious you need to keep Trump.

4. The fact that Democrats are considering the absurdly young Buttigieg shows how little they've got.

5. Trump will have no trouble with any of them. It hardly matters. Identify the candidate — come on, quit stalling — and he'll take whoever it is down.

It's funny, it seems like he's rambling and just gesturing at passing thoughts, but the argument against his opponents is very clear and very well thought out. You can see what's coming when the Democrats finally make their choice and he has his target and he can finally "start this thing."

"Mark [Zuckerberg]’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of almost anyone else in the private sector or in government."

"Because Mr. Zuckerberg controls most of the company’s voting shares, Facebook’s board 'works more like an advisory committee,' and he alone can decide how to configure the algorithms of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, determining who sees what. It’s a power that could be used to make or break rival companies or political candidates."

From "5 Takeaways From Chris Hughes’s Call to Break Up Facebook/A co-founder is alarmed by Mark Zuckerberg’s power and wants to rein in the company" by the NYT Editorial Board.

The editorial ends: "Mr. Hughes’s call for breaking up Facebook may have greater resonance given the political moment. The Democratic senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has called explicitly for the breakup of tech giants including Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook. Another Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, has echoed Ms. Warren’s call, saying the country has a 'monopoly problem.'"

The political moment? Isn't Facebook trying to help the Democrats?

"You're the best-looking people, that's for sure. You ever see?... They call themselves 'the elite.' You ever see 'the elite'?... I always laugh when I hear 'the elite,' and then you see this guy. He's not elite."

I think Trump just said — in so many words — that his antagonists are bad looking. Listen to this clip from last night's rally in Panama Beach, Florida:



Trump to the crowd: You were "the invisible people." And then:
You're the smartest... the hardest working... great talent. You're the best-looking people, that's for sure. You ever see? I joke about this, but it's really not joking. They call themselves 'the elite.' You ever see 'the elite'? This is 'the elite.' They're not elite. You're elite.... Let's let them be elite, but we're the super-elite. There's not even a contest. Not even a contest. I always laugh when I hear 'the elite,' and then you see this guy. He's not elite. Not in my book, he's not.
ADDED: Makes me think of the old saying: "Washington is Hollywood for ugly people."

"Denver first in U.S. to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms."

The Denver Post reports.

"Psilocybin possession would remain illegal but would become police’s 'lowest law-enforcement priority.'"

So... it's not like marijuana. You won't be able to go to Denver and buy these mushrooms at the mushroom store. It's just that if you have them, they want you to know they'll leave you alone. It's not mushroom tourism time. Yet.
Supporters extolled emerging research showing potential health benefits with psychedelic mushrooms.... Last fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted psilocybin “breakthrough therapy” designation for its potential to help with treatment-resistant depression, a status that speeds up the development and review process for a medicine containing the substance.
It might work! Come on, Denver, give us a chance. I know you've got marmots too. I have seen the tourists toying with them in Rocky Mountain National Park. I'm thinking of Denver restaurants with marmot-kidney-and-psilocybin sushi. At least let us try!

"Slip-ups of the day: 1. Australian currency misspells the word 'responsibility.' 2. Kirk Hammett slipped and fell on his wah pedal at a rainy outdoor Metallica concert...."

Jaltcoh.

"I’ve not been in a restaurant that has an attendant in a long time. The bathroom attendant is a thankless, antiquated job."

"You’re paying an employee to do something no one understands. This is very genteel. I can’t believe they have one," said a patron of the "21" Club, quoted in "Bye-Bye, Bathroom Attendants?/A profession affected by gender neutrality, changing mores and the cashless economy" (NYT).

The attendant encountered by that patron was Pat Velasquez, who says: "It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. I’m a people person and you get to meet everyone — tourists and regulars... The bathroom is the main part of everything. People cry in here. They lean on my shoulder. I’m like a psychiatrist. Sometimes they’re drunk and throw up. Or they come in and make private calls. Or they want to smoke and are disappointed that I’m here, so they can’t."

Another "21" patron is quoted: "I’ve known Pat as long as she’s worked here.... I love seeing her. We have a good relationship. I know about her personal life, we have a little chat. You need to have the right personality to do this job. Most attendants are rude. They just want their money, and that makes it uncomfortable. But not here."

So that reveals the basic problem that was always there with bathroom attendants. They stand around looking like their job is to intimidate or guilt you into giving them money. You see them and think, Oh, no, I have to deal with this. And these days, who even has a ready supply of quarters and one-dollar bills? Is that what you should give — a dollar? 50¢? Does that seem chintzy? I'm just trying to go to the bathroom, and I have to think about this? Does she take Apple Pay?!

By the way, remember pay toilets? They were everywhere once — one stall would require a dime to get in, when the other stalls were free. That was a mystery to us kids, and of course, we never got to see what was so special (which was, apparently, just that it was only used by people who paid a dime). Why did that go away? From Wikipedia:
In the United States, pay toilets became much less common from the 1970s, when they came under attack from feminists as well as from the plumbing industry. California legislator March Fong Eu argued that they discriminated against females because men and boys could use urinals for free whereas women and girls always had to pay a dime for a toilet "stall" (i.e. cubicle) in places where payment was mandatory. The American Restroom Association was a proponent of an amendment to the National Model Building Code to allow pay toilets only where there were also free toilets. A campaign by the Committee to End Pay Toilets in America (CEPTIA) resulted in laws prohibiting pay toilets in some cities and states.....
Feminists!

Isn't there also a feminist argument against bathroom attendants? I'm sure many women using the toilet in bathrooms with attendants and wondering if they're supposed to tip and whether they have the cash found that to be an occasion to think up feminist arguments.

Oh, no, now I'm reading "You Marxist, I Clean Toilet/Racism, Labor, and the Bathroom attendant" in FRAME: a journal of visual and material culture. Excerpt:
By performing the figure of the racialized female immigrant bathroom attendant in academic space, I gesture to the ironies of canons of postcolonial feminist scholarship in the context of racist and sexist labor inequality. The bathroom attendant is also a figure through which one can discern how racist ideologies bleed into contemporary practices of xenophobia and citizenship, which racialize female immigrant labor in visceral ways.
I wonder if the NYT, before murmuring sentimentally about the fading institution of bathroom attendant even considered the politics. It's writing about the "21" Club, quoting patrons who enthuse over an employee with a Hispanic name. Whatever happened to wokeness?

Feel free to use that as a title for a style piece someday, NYT. Whatever happened to wokeness?

John Nevil MaskelyneEnglish stage magician and inventor of the pay toilet.

"I always had a steady job, always worked for 'the man' from 8 to 5. So did my dad and most everybody I knew."

Said Juergen Holzhauer, a 77-year-old German immigrant and the father of the great "Jeopardy!" champion James Holzhauer, quoted in a NYT article, which highlights how James has avoided the steady-job, working-for-the-man approach to life.
[He has] spent much of his life trying to escape a “normal” adulthood, fleeing the prospect of working a dull desk job in Chicago to gamble in Las Vegas....

“It’s just a regular slacker story,” said his 36-year-old brother, Ian Holzhauer. “Except it’s somebody who has a lot of really exceptional gifts.”...

[As a schoolchild, h]e consistently got A’s on math tests... But he was a C student — even in math — because he often skipped doing his homework or going to class, reasoning he could use the time more productively. "There were times in school where I would say, ‘I should go to class,'" Holzhauer said in an interview. “But I could make $100 playing online poker if I didn’t go.”...

After graduating from the University of Illinois with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, Holzhauer said, he spent a year applying for jobs as an actuary, even though it was the exact sort of desk job he loathed. He played online poker to pay the bills, but as legal restrictions tightened around the game, it began to lose its allure, he said. He decided to focus on sports betting....
James's father was an immigrant from Germany, and his grandmother — his maternal grandmother? — was, we're told, an immigrant from Japan.

Anyway, I'm interested in Americans who have stellar intellectual gifts but choose what their siblings might call a "slacker" lifestyle. It's one thing to miss out conventional career achievement because you're lazy or lost, something else to actively pursue freedom. It's usually hard even to see the people who are in that second category, and it's also hard to see inside the head of the many people who, like Juergen Holzhauer, can say, "I always had a steady job, always worked for 'the man' from 8 to 5," but wish they'd found another way. It takes nerve to be the one your family sees as a slacker, to have all these gifts and to squander them.

May 8, 2019

At the Cloud-Over-Flatiron Café...

Cloud coming over the Flatirons

... creep on in here.

I'm not interested in Trump's tax returns because I don't trust anyone to understand and explain them accurately.

I don't have the expertise (or time) to do this work myself, and I don't think anyone who is doing it will play it straight. And that's Trump's reason for not releasing them, isn't it?

ADDED: "New York Times story on Trump's billion-dollar tax write off was told by Trump 15 years ago on 'The Apprentice'":



Yes, and I remember this story from back in the early 90s. I remember thinking, good, we won't have to hear from that incredibly annoying creature of the 80s anymore.

"... Kendrick Castillo, a gentle teenager fascinated by cars and engineering, lunged to stop the gunman, and was shot dead...."

"... Mr. Castillo’s split-second decision to lunge for the gunman gave the other students a precious few seconds of cover to dive under their desks or rush the gunman. [One student] said a cluster of boys then tackled the gunman, allowing her and others to flee the classroom.... 'I don’t have enough words... They didn’t have to risk their lives to save the 15 of us who were left.'... 'He cared about his faith and his family and friends more than himself or anything,' said [another student]. 'He was always the first to help when anyone needed it; if it was a friend to talk to, someone to hold the door, or carry something, he would always help no matter what.'... 'He was one of the nicest people at the school,” [another] said. 'He was always smiling. I would always see him around the engineering area with those teachers, working on stuff, building."

From "Colorado School Shooting Victim Died Trying to Stop Gunman" (NYT).

ADDED: The Daily Beast quotes Kendrick Castillo's father John:
“He was the best kid in the world,” Castillo said through tears on Wednesday. “One of the kids told me: ‘Like a flash he jumped up.’ She said, ‘You know he’s a hero, he saved me, he jumped up and he ran,’” Castillo told CNN. When asked if they were surprised by that, both of Castillo’s parents immediately responded “no.” “Because we raised him that way, we raised him to be good,” Castillo said. “I know that because of what he did others are alive and thank God for that, I love him... but there’s another part of you that wishes he would have just turned and ran... We know Kendrick, we’re able to tell you that it’s no surprise that if danger was facing him he would approach it and take it on... I’d like the world to know that this wasn’t your average kid... he was extraordinary.”

"I'd sit there at these dinner parties and go, 'Not that you asked, but I don't think you're seeing this the right way... Donald is communicating. He's talking like a dude.'"

"That's very powerful — take it from someone who knows," said Howard Stern, quoted in "All I'm Thinking Is, 'I'm Going to Die': Howard Stern Reveals Cancer Scare, Trump Regrets and Details of a Dishy New Book" (Hollywood Reporter).
Early on [in the 2016 presidential race], Stern was still fielding [Trump's] calls from the campaign trail and spending time at Mar-a-Lago. Sure, he considered Trump among his greatest all-time radio guests — raw and unfiltered — but leader of the free world? He insists in those days, he never imagined Trump would get anywhere near that far, and he's convinced Trump didn't either. Save a brief congratulatory exchange when Trump won, the two haven't had any interaction since Stern declined his request to speak at the Republican National Convention. "It was a difficult thing because there's a part of me that really likes Donald, but I just don't agree politically," he says. Still, he jokes: "A more self-serving person would have gone all in on Donald because I'd probably be the FCC commissioner or a Supreme Court justice by now."

"Cessario's 'straight edge' contemporaries were looking for a water brand that spoke to them, instead of to 'Whole Foods yoga moms'..."

"Straight-edge punks are sober, Cessario said, but still otherwise all in on the punk lifestyle. 'Red Bull blurs the lines — are they an energy-drinks company or action-sports brand?' Cessario said. 'You just don't see that in the health space and with the healthy brands. I don't drink soda or energy drinks, and neither do most of my friends.... Initially some of our thinking was, we wanted to take more inspiration from the beer category because one thing we know in marketing is if you want younger people to want something, you have to market to people in their 20s because teens want the thing they can't have... At first we knew the easiest crowd for us is anyone into heavy metal, punk rock, and that kind of world because they immediately get the joke and get the humor and have never seen anything like it. What makes this appealing for such a large group is that it feels like a niche thing."

From "A former Netflix creative director just got $1.6 million from big names in tech for Liquid Death, which is water in a tallboy can" (Business Insider).

Well, he's getting the publicity, and you're watching this ad:



Maybe you're not buying the water, but people buy bottled water. It doesn't make sense to buy any of it, when tap water is just fine, so you're just picking a label. Why not "death"? It's not as if death hasn't been used as a brand before. There's Death's Door gin (and Bob Dylan's Heaven's Door whiskey). There are all of the "death by chocolate" desserts. And Tombstone pizza.

Is water death? It can be. Sure. Sure as raw marmot innards.

And if you're wondering about straight-edge punks — "Straight edge: How one 46-second song started a 35-year movement/No drugs, no booze…just 'positive mental attitude' and lots of testosterone."

"People, generally white ones, always think the answer to things like racism is to do away with race — to, as the saying goes, never see color."

People, generally white ones, always think you're never supposed to split infinitives, especially with a really long phrase like "as the saying goes."

But I'm just trying to get my straight-haired head around "The Royal Baby and Blackness as a Badge of Honor/Whether he 'looks' black or not, I’ll be glad to claim him" by Lizzie Skurnick, who — being black — can wonder out loud in the NYT, "Will he have kinky hair?" That sounds like an awful question to me, a white person.

I remember when I had my first baby — with a Jewish father — somebody asked me, "Does he have a big nose?" I'm still taking offense, and it's nearly 40 years later.

From the top-rated comment at the NYT:
I’m a black man and I’m rather annoyed that people are already trying to draw life’s lines and boundaries around the boy, who at this moment, is nameless. I don’t care what he looks like. His parents love him to pieces. Shouldn’t that be enough?

How to talk when what you need to say is that what's in our political interest is to look like we'll do everything without regard to political interest.


And this will sound political but...

"Look at this beautiful tree. An oak, Quercus robur. It’s yelling at us, 'Helloooo!'"

"... says Wim Hof, the doyen of cold endurance stunts, as we head across Hampstead Heath, north London, for a swim in one of the ponds. Soon he’s catapulting himself into a gaping hole in its trunk, peeping out excitedly like a child. 'Here I am, talking to the tree,' he beams. 'I see the tree has personality. I go in. We are one. It’s alive. We are alive. Is that crazy? Bloody crazy! Yes I am.' Best known for trying to scale Mount Everest in only a pair of shorts and hiking boots, Hof has broken more world records than even he can count. His feats include a near-fatal 57-metre swim under ice during which he went temporarily blind, and a barefoot half-marathon in the Arctic. He’s also immersed himself in a tub of ice for almost two hours. Scientists have begun studying his methods to evaluate if they can offer universal benefits to people. 'Live your body, stimulate your body,” he implores. 'Arthritis, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, depression – all of those diseases are a result of our neglected biochemistry. We need to be stimulated to help fight disease. Cold is a great stimulator.'"

Like marmots and marijuana, it just might work. By the way, I'm giving this guy a free pass to wear shorts any time, anywhere. He is the Man in Shorts.

The article, in The Guardian is "A cold-water cure? My weekend with the ‘Ice Man’/Wim Hof does the ‘horse stance’ on a tree on Hampstead Heath. Photograph: Jonny Weeks/The Guardian/Wim Hof claims cold-water immersion can help fight modern diseases. As outdoor swimming becomes ever more popular in the UK, photojournalist Jonny Weeks joined him for a weekend to experience it firsthand."

Like the unfortunate couple who ate raw marmot organs and died of the plague and Willie Nelson inhaling/scarfing down marijuana, there's a thing that can be done and a human mind to imagine that it could work. It could work and it could cause a lot of damage, so... do it!

"This is to advise you that the president has asserted executive privilege over the entirety of the subpoenaed materials."

Said a Justice Department official, referring to the Mueller report and the underlying evidence, the NYT reports just now.
Mr. Barr released a redacted version of the special counsel’s 448-page report voluntarily last month. But Democrats say that is not good enough, and they have accused the attorney general of stonewalling a legitimate request for material they need to carry out an investigation into possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by Mr. Trump....

The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, released a blistering statement: "The American people see through Chairman Nadler’s desperate ploy to distract from the President’s historically successful agenda and our booming economy. Neither the White House nor Attorney General Barr will comply with Chairman Nadler’s unlawful and reckless demands... Faced with Chairman Nadler’s blatant abuse of power, and at the Attorney General’s request, the President has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege.”

You're not helping Joe Biden by yelling "You can hug and kiss me anytime, Joe."



This woman sounds like she's genuinely a Joe Biden fan and she's offering fun-loving, enthusiastic support.

NBC news reports:
Biden laughed nervously as the crowd roared in approval, before making the sign of the cross to suggest a prayer of forgiveness. "That's very nice, thank you," Biden eventually responded....

Biden’s wife, Jill, discussed that episode Tuesday in an interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie. "There used to be a time when it was acceptable for people to, I don't know, connect with one another with a touch on the arm. But now things have changed, you know?" 
The message from Joe and Jill is: Please, don't try to help us like that. And they are right. It's not helpful. He doesn't and shouldn't want to be branded as the handsy, boundary-challenged man. He's adjusted and updated himself, and he doesn't need people saying they actually like the old approach he's moved beyond.

That woman is calling attention to the old Joe that new Joe has left behind. Even if she thinks she's saying old Joe was just fine, it's blurring the message.

In fact, it's so bad that people who don't support Joe could mess with him by yelling things like "You can hug and kiss me anytime." It completely works as heckling, and I don't know why Joe antagonists wouldn't yell hold-me-thrill-me-kiss-me things from the crowd wherever he goes. It does not work as crowd participation, and the way it doesn't work is so bad that he's entirely vulnerable to dirty tricksters. And I mean "dirty" metaphorically and literally. I'm imagining scuzzy-looking men calling out "Smell my hair!"

It just might work.

Headline at Rolling Stone: "The High Life/Sixty-five years after he smoked his first joint, Willie Nelson is America’s most legendary stoner and a walking testament to the power of weed. It may have even saved his life."

Seventh sentence in the article: "He turns 86 this spring and has a history of emphysema, so Annie, who’s been with Willie for 33 years, tries to get him to look out for his lungs, especially on show days."

In Mongolia, it's raw marmot organs. In America, it's marijuana. You have problems you'd like to solve, and here's this substance that might help. In Mongolia, plague. In America, emphysema.
[Willie] pauses for a second, before telling a joke he’s told a thousand times. “I don’t know anybody that’s ever died from smoking pot. Had a friend of mine that said a bale fell on him and hurt him pretty bad, though.”
But Willie has emphysema... and he also has an economic interest in marijuana commerce:
The idea for a weed business started a few years ago; Nelson had bronchitis and he couldn’t smoke, so Annie started making him weed chocolates... She lent some to a friend, and big business came knocking....

Nelson’s official title is “CTO: chief tasting officer.” The company even had business cards made up. He explains: “If I find something that’s really good, I say, ‘This is really good.’ ” Despite 65 years of pot use, Nelson is not a connoisseur; he shrugs when asked for his favorite Willie’s Reserve strains.....
Branding. He's selling his name and he's being the face of the business to the press. He's a very old man with emphysema, but the product is edibles. Problem solved, no?

How did pot save his life? He switched to it from cigarettes and whiskey, 40 years ago, and those other things would have killed him.
"I wouldn’t have lived 85 years if I’d have kept drinking and smoking like I was when I was 30, 40 years old. I think that weed kept me from wanting to kill people. And probably kept a lot of people from wanting to kill me, too — out there drunk, running around.”

Nelson uses the phrase “delete and fast-forward” a lot. It’s the title of a recent song of his, and it means forgive, forget and move on — a way to get through painful times. Weed, he says, helps him delete and fast-forward. “You don’t dwell on shit a lot. The short-term thing they talk about is probably true, but it’s probably good for you.... They say people who smoke pot have a short-term memory. Maybe that’s good, you know?... Because [otherwise] you start remembering a lot of negative things that you’re not supposed to remember. And the next thing you know, you’re back drinking whiskey. So weed helps you forget about stuff you don’t wanna think about."
Great branding. Wreck your memory. You'll live longer.

Outrageously inaccurate headline at The Washington Post: "'It’s embarrassing to the kids': Students who owe lunch money will only get a cold jelly sandwich, district says."

I talked about this headline with Meade for about 10 minutes before I read the text of the article. I was saying things like... What do you think a school should do about kids who are not qualified for free lunch but just don't have any money to pay for lunch? They  show up and say they're hungry. What if you just give them a jelly sandwich? After much talk, I took the position that it needs to be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Just a jelly sandwich is kind of mean — though it's not that bad if they also get milk — so make it peanut butter and jelly and it's fine. Meade considered letting them go hungry — they'll learn something — and I was proposing that schools just give free lunch to everyone — that's how we skew here at Meadhouse — but we both agreed that a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would be an unassailable solution.

Now, I'm reading the actual text of the article:
When students in Warwick, R.I., line up in the cafeteria next week, they’ll have no shortage of lunch options. Do they want a chicken Parmesan melt? Hummus and fresh vegetables with tortilla crisps? Pizza? Sweet potato tater tots? A burger? Something from the deli bar? Or, in the popular all-day-breakfast category, pancakes with a cheese omelet and a side of bacon?

But for some, making a decision won’t be necessary. Starting on Monday, any student with unpaid lunch debt will be automatically given a sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwich instead of hot food, the city’s school district announced on Sunday. Officials told the Providence Journal that the policy is necessary because the district is owed tens of thousands of dollars in lunch money, on top of contending with a budget deficit in the millions.
What?!! A sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwich instead of hot food! It was never a jelly sandwich at all. It was one-up on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich: a sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwich! Well, what is the problem??!
But critics argue that since children have no control over their parents’ finances, they shouldn’t be penalized or potentially subjected to public humiliation because of their inability to pay.

“I just don’t think it’s fair to hold the kids responsible,” Heather Vale, who has two children attending a middle school in the district, told WLNE. “I think it’s embarrassing to the kids because now everyone’s going to know why these children are receiving the lunch that they are.”
It's not that it's a bad lunch, it's that it's a stigmatizing lunch. Having a sandwich for lunch is humiliating, embarrassing? A sandwich is the classic American lunch. A sandwich is what I had for lunch at school every day throughout childhood. I brought it from home, like nearly every kid in the school. But in the framework of Heather Vale, it's embarrassing because the child is deprived of choices that were available to other kids. It seems to me, every kid is eating one lunch and the lunch a child is seen eating doesn't scream out this child is eating this lunch because he had no other choice. So how can it be embarrassing?

Here's an idea for the deep empaths of the Vale variety. Make a nut butter and jelly sandwich for your child, wrap it up and put it in a bag, and send the little darling to school with it. If the kids with conscientious parents are eating sandwiches too, they'll provide camouflage for the the kids with school-imposed sandwiches. And here's another idea for you empathetic parents: Pool the money that you're saving by not buying school lunch, and see if you can accumulate the amount that will eliminate the tens of thousands of dollars in shortfall, and then donate it to your lovely city of Warwick, which has been patient with your deadbeat neighbors so long and has been charitably handing free lunches to kids who are not even low-income enough to get in the free-lunch program.

Anyway, I'm irked about the headline. I spent a lot of time thinking about how bad it was to offer a child a mere jelly sandwich as a lunch, but that was not the case at all. There's so much difference between a jelly sandwich and a sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwich. Fake news!

ALSO: It's funny to say "cold jelly sandwich." No one wants a hot jelly sandwich. There's just this idea of "hot lunch." You see that in the phrase "a sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwich instead of hot food." But what is important about hot food for lunch — or for any meal, really? This is a separate issue, the emotional meaning of hot food. I'll just gesture at it for now.

IN THE COMMENTS: I am informed that I am out of step with the times: You can't have peanut butter in school anymore. Of course, that's why it's sunflower seed butter. And note that I did say, "Make a nut butter and jelly sandwich." Make a nut butter sandwich that's not the dreaded peanut.

"The town of Tsagaannuur... was recently sealed off following the deaths of a local couple who contracted the plague from eating the raw meat and organs of an infected marmot..."

"... Some Mongolians believe eating the rodent’s uncooked innards to be 'very good for health,'... The husband and wife reportedly ate the kidney, gall bladder and stomach of the creature.... The 38-year-old man, who worked as a border agent, and his wife, 37, died of multiple organ failure caused by septicemic plague....  Deaths caused by the plague — a disease carried by small rodents that was responsible for wiping out a third of Europe’s population nearly 700 years ago and killing millions in China, Hong Kong and nearby port cities in the 1800s — are much more rare in modern times because of antibiotics, according to the CDC. But reports of people getting infected have continued to pop up around the world, including in the United States, William L. Gosnell, a program director with the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s department of tropical medicine, medical microbiology and pharmacology, told The Post. 'The bacteria maintains itself out in the wild in these animal populations,' said Gosnell, who is affiliated with the university’s John A. Burns School of Medicine. The plague is most commonly transmitted to humans by fleas that become infected from biting rodents carrying the yersinia pestis bacteria, which causes the disease..... Gosnell said he has never heard of a person getting the plague from eating raw rodent meat, but added that 'it wouldn’t be surprising. Any time you eat something raw, there’s always a chance for picking up all sorts of different pathogens,' he said. 'There are so many other zoonotic infections they could have picked up, unfortunately due to the locale, it just happened to be plague.... If you cook it, the bacteria is dead, you don’t got a problem,' he said. 'Some things you don’t eat raw.'"

WaPo reports.

Sometimes the precise thing you think you need to do for a particular desired goal is an easily avoided thing that is precisely what takes you as far as possible from that goal. In this case, the thing was eating raw marmot organs and the goal was good health. It's completely easy to cook the organs before eating them and cooking them would have destroyed the plague bacteria that killed them, but they seem to have thought that the rawness of the organs was the key to good health, the extreme opposite of death.

I hope it's not disrespectful to the couple who died — I'm sorry they died — to offer their story as a pattern of human decisionmaking. You're hopeful about an exciting idea — like eating raw marmot organs is good for your health — and you do it because you want what the idea says you'll get, so you do it, changing your good-enough condition into something much worse. It's the difference between do something and first do no harm. You might never consider eating raw marmot organs, but I bet that, many times, you've eaten the metaphorical raw marmot organs or voted for somebody who promised he'd make us all eat metaphorical raw marmot organs.

May 7, 2019

At the Tiny Sunset Café...

IMG_1819

... things might not be exactly what you think.

IMG_1821

(And remember to use the Althouse portal to Amazon. Thanks!)

"For 40 years, [NPR's 'Morning Edition' has] basically had the same theme song..."

"... though it has gone through many changes... Since then, the news has been different every day. But the song has stayed the same until now. Can you hear it? The classic melody is intact, but the feel - the whole vibe - has been given an update."

Listen to the old and the new in this 2-minute clip:

"Don’t tell anybody I told you this: Trump is goading us to impeach him. That’s what he’s doing. Every single day, he’s just like, taunting and taunting and taunting."

Said Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi argued Trump is daring them to impeach him because he believes it would help him “solidify his base” ahead of his 2020 re-election. Pelosi said that puts Democrats in a dilemma.

“We can’t impeach him for political reasons, and we can’t not impeach him for political reasons,” Pelosi said. “We have to see where the facts take us."
There's also "The nightmare scenario for Democrats on Trump’s corruption" by Greg Sargent (at WaPo). Sargent is recommending impeachment proceedings in order to generate a legitimate purpose for the House to get Trump's tax returns. Without impeachment proceedings, there's a good chance that a court would reject "just rummaging through Trump’s returns to embarrass him and not for a legitimate legislative purpose." And that loss would make Democrats look bad right before the 2020 elections. Sargent says:
This would constitute an epic, disastrous failure. Not getting Trump’s returns would allow him to get away with one of his most blatant acts of contempt for transparency, for the separation of powers and for the notion that basic accountability should apply to him at all.
That's histrionic. If the courts took the position Sargent is afraid of, it would be because the court was enforcing separation of powers, limiting Congress to the legislative role and protecting the Executive power from encroachment. Trump isn't showing "contempt" for separation of powers. He's taking a position on separation of powers. That position would either win or lose in court, and the court would give the final answer on the meaning of separation of powers.

Sargent says that "if Democrats were to initiate an impeachment inquiry, it would create a legislative purpose for compelling release of the returns that is basically unassailable — that legislative purpose being impeachment." Sargent quotes a legal expert who says “I don’t see how any information can be withheld — the Mueller report, tax returns, anything. This would make it airtight.” The expert suggests that even without impeachment, Democrats could just say their legitimate legislative purpose for getting anything they want from Trump is to figure out whether to start impeachment proceedings. It seems to me that any of that would lead to the same resistance from Trump and need to resort to the courts, with the same potential for the "nightmare scenario" outcome for Democrats.

Sargent doesn't say that that Democrats "must launch an inquiry right this second." But they need to put it "on the table clearly as a point toward which they are converging out of necessity" and "more forthrightly engage with the argument that the failure to do this could end up with Democratic oversight mostly being neutered, with no remaining options." So... forthrightly admit that they are cornered?

I think Pelosi is taking another path. She knows they are cornered, and she's not going to admit that. Her idea is to shift attention to Trump: Look, he's trying to make us impeach him! She's trying to get Democrats to adjust to what she knows must happen. There won't be an impeachment. Start thinking that impeachment is what Trump wants.

"The chief said no one was shot after Riley body-slammed him."

Said Natalie Henry-Howell, the mother of Riley Howell. She's quoted in "Riley Howell’s Parents Say He Was Shot 3 Times While Tackling the U.N.C. Charlotte Gunman" (NYT).
A bullet to the torso did not stop Riley Howell. A second bullet to the body did not prevent him from reaching his goal and hurling himself at the gunman who opened fire last week inside a classroom at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The third bullet came as Mr. Howell was inches from the gunman, who fired at point-blank range into his head.

Mr. Howell’s parents said their 21-year-old son, who is being heralded for his bravery, was shot at least three times. He tackled the gunman so forcefully that the suspect complained to first responders after his arrest of internal injuries, the parents said the authorities told them.

Thomas Howell, 48, who works as a trauma nurse, said he saw his son’s body and viewed evidence suggesting that the gun muzzle was pressed against his son’s skin when he was shot for the third time, either as he and the gunman fell or were on the ground.

“This was burned,” Mr. Howell said, pointing to a spot along the jawbone near his right ear. “That bullet went up into his brain and killed him.”
The article goes into some other incidences of people stopping an active shooter and there is also much more about Riley Howell. Excerpt:

"President Trump is right: There is a crisis at the southern border. Just not the one he rants about."

"There is no pressing national security threat — no invasion of murderers, drug cartels or terrorists. No matter how often Mr. Trump delivers such warnings, they bear little resemblance to the truth. But as record numbers of Central American families flee violence and poverty in their homelands, they are overwhelming United States border systems, fueling a humanitarian crisis of overcrowding, disease and chaos. The Border Patrol is now averaging 1,200 daily arrests, with many migrants arriving exhausted and sick. Last week, a teenage boy from Guatemala died in government custody, the third death of a minor since December. As resources are strained and the system buckles, the misery grows. Something needs to be done. Soon. Unfortunately, political gamesmanship once again threatens to hold up desperately needed resources.... Both sides need to dial back the fighting words, resist the temptation to finger-point and find a creative way through this minefield."

From "Congress, Give Trump His Border Money/No, it’s not for building the wall," by the Editorial Board of the New York Times.

"whiffling."

The hardest word to remember when memorizing (and retaining the memorization of) "Jabberwocky."

Your experience may vary. Indeed,  you may have chosen to memorize some other poem. But if, like me, you chose "Jabberwocky," as you go back and check to see if you still have the memorization down, isn't "whiffling" the hardest word to remember?

Interestingly enough, "whiffle," unlike some other words in "Jabberwocky," is a real English word — and not just a word that became a word because of "Jabberwocky."*

It means (according to the OED), "To blow in puffs or slight gusts; hence, to veer or shift about... To vacillate, to be variable or evasive.... To move lightly as if blown by a puff of air; to flicker or flutter as if stirred by the wind."

There's writing of "wyffling windes" way back in 1568. And The Nation wrote (in 1881), "Who like a manly man, will not whiffle, or quibble, or evade."

And the OED takes note of "Whiffle ball," "n. (a proprietary name for) a light, hollow, perforated ball used to play a variety of baseball." Example from 1970, a caption in Time: "[David Eisenhower] passing the afternoon playing wiffle ball on the south lawn of his father-in-law's White House." In happier times.**

David Eisenhower was 22 and he was the "Fortunate Son" of the Creedence Clearwater recording that played on the radio as he whiffled on the lawn.


_____________________

* The prime example is "chortle," the word I saw just now, which prompted me to check once again to see if my memorization had deteriorated. I saw the word in the comments this morning, in "The 'Elizabeth Warren can't get any traction' conversation at Meadhouse," when Nobody said:
I think she lost because she chortled while telling miners to learn to code.
Other words with OED entries that originated in "Jabberwocky":

"Bandersnatch" — "A fleet, furious, fuming, fabulous creature, of dangerous propensities, immune to bribery and too fast to flee from; later, used vaguely to suggest any creature with such qualities." Used by C.S. Lewis: "Always, at the critical moment, a strange knight, a swift ship, a bandersnatch or a boojum, breaks in."

"Galumph" — "Originally: to march on exultingly with irregular bounding movements. Now usually: to gallop heavily; to bound or move clumsily or noisily." Later example: "In the hall was a galumphing lass with a lot of jerseys and a po face," from "Friends in Low Places," a 1965 novel by Simon Raven. And I thought Garth Brooks thought up the bon mot "friends in low places." That's a riff on "friends in high places," which has been a stock phrase since the 17th century.

"Mimsy" — that's defined as "Unhappy" and appearing "Only in Carroll and later allusions," so it doesn't really belong on the list. It's no "chortle," that's for sure. But I'd like to suggest "Mimsy" as a name for Harry and Meghan's new baby. I heard they wanted something unusual. I know, Mimsy seems like a girl's name, but I heard they were looking for something gender neutral. So... just an idea for the Prince who can be President! Prince Mimsy! President Mimsy W. Windsor!

** Less mimsy times.

I've looked through 100+ photos of fashions at the Met Gala so you don't have to.

You can if you want, here.

I'm just going to show you Janelle Monáe — my choice for the best:



There was a theme, you have to understand. The theme was the old Susan Sontag essay "Notes on Camp" — which you can read in full here. Or here's the explanation in the NYT:
In 1964, Susan Sontag defined camp as an aesthetic “sensibility” that is plain to see but hard for most of us to explain: an intentional over-the-top-ness, a slightly (or extremely) “off” quality, bad taste as a vehicle for good art.

“Notes on ‘Camp,’” her 58-point ur-listicle, builds on that inherent sense of something being “too much,” and also fences it in. Camp is artificial, passionate, serious, Sontag writes. Camp is Art Nouveau objects, Greta Garbo, Warner Brothers musicals and Mae West. It is not premeditated — except when it is extremely premeditated....
The NYT goes on to discuss whether various present-day things are camp. The most interesting part of this is the question whether President Trump is camp. The answer (the NYT answer, written by its fashion writer Vanessa Friedman):

"That's a problem with awards that purport to honor a person's 'lifetime.'"

"They'd better check out the whole life before they give something like that. Rescinding shames the organization. By the way — for legal folks — did they rescind the offer before he accepted? Also, it's stupid to give a 'lifetime' award for someone who's associated with ONE song. I know there's at least one other Don McLean song, the one about Van Gogh (an artist who limited his domestic violence to his own body), but McLean isn't a 'lifetime' sort of achiever."

A comment I made over on Facebook, where my son John posted a link to "Lifetime Achievement Award Announced Then Rescinded For Don McLean" ("A lifetime achievement award has been offered — and rescinded — for 'American Pie' singer Don McLean.... McLean pleaded guilty to domestic violence assault, which was dismissed after he met the terms of a plea agreement").

"Which post had that comment?" I ask after checking for the comment in last night's café...

... which begins with a photograph of flowers.

The line has become a running joke around here at Meadhouse: "The world is falling apart, and YOU'RE GARDENING?!?"

Where was that if not in the post that shows Meade's garden?

But it wasn't a comment, Meade tells me. In just one day, I'd lost track of the source and imagined we were talking about one of my trolls. And that demonstrates the perfection of this cartoon (in The New Yorker) by the great Roz Chast:



IN THE COMMENTS: Ignorance is Bliss said:
I made an on-topic comment about the garden, noting that any real gardener could tell how bad a gardener Trump is.
Then the zinnia started obsessively attacking me.
I sent you a private email requesting that you rip out all the zinnia, but of course you did not.
Your new weeding policy is a joke...

The "Elizabeth Warren can't get any traction" conversation at Meadhouse.

"Elizabeth Warren can't get any traction."

"She's doing better than Kamala Harris. She's the top lady."

"You're the top lady."

"I think Elizabeth Warren is moving. It's a one-step-forward-one-step back motion. I think she's doing a lot, saying things like free college, and that gets some people, but it loses other people, so it looks like no motion, but it is a lot of motion. With Kamala Harris, there's just no motion. She's immobile, nothing's happening. Inert. Stagnant."

"Well, you're not stagnant. You're always going out, walking around, going to Whole Foods."

"Kamala Harris might be going shopping, walking around."

"But I don't see her going shopping. I don't see her on her e-bike. When's the last time she hopped in her car and drove all the way out to Arches?"

Here's a snapshot of the polls (captured at Real Clear Politics)(click to enlarge and clarify):

May 6, 2019

At the Checkerboard Café...

Fritillaria

... it's your move.

"Steven Mnuchin Refuses to Release Trump’s Tax Returns to Congress."

The NYT reports.
Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, wrote in a letter to Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, that Mr. Neal’s request for the tax returns “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose” and that he was not authorized to disclose them.... "As you have recognized, the committee’s request is unprecedented, and it presents serious constitutional questions, the resolution of which may have lasting consequences for all taxpayers,” Mr. Mnuchin wrote in the one-page letter. He added that “the department may not lawfully fulfill the committee’s request.”...

Mr. Neal’s next move is not clear. He could file a lawsuit against the Treasury Department, accusing Mr. Mnuchin of not following the law, or he could try to access Mr. Trump’s returns with a subpoena. Both options would likely lead to a protracted fight through the court system....
To whose political advantage is a protracted fight through the court system? I would guess the President's and therefore that there will be no lawsuit, just loud and pesky argument against the President.

"[C]onversations that people not engaged in sex work have about it tend to involve a stew of unspoken anxieties about not just sex but migration, disease, race, class, and the roles of women."

"The living, human sex worker gets blotted out by the cultural figure that journalist Melissa Gira Grant has dubbed the 'prostitute imaginary.' This mythological creature is both corruptrix and release valve for male corruption. She is the temptress locked away to toil in the Magdalene Laundries, the disease spreader, the frivolous blonde with her Louboutin shoe collection, the soul broken by too much sex. And for many feminists, she is the ultimate example of female victimhood—in activist Dorchen Leidholdt’s words, a 'de-individualized, de-humanized' proxy for 'generic woman…. She stands in for all of us, and she takes the abuse that we are beginning to resist.' Once a sex worker becomes a metaphor, her material conditions cease to matter. She is an object for study, ministration, and control.... Perhaps no prostitute archetype raises so much lucrative concern as the trafficked girls.... Crusaders against trafficking can blur easily into persecutors of immigrants...."

A small snippet of "It’s Not About Sex" from the New York Review of Books.

The things that went wrong on TV last night were better than anything that went right.

There was a Starbucks cup of coffee on "Game of Thrones":



I don't give a damn about "Game of Thrones," and I don't even want to hear about why I should. But I do like the screwup of including a Starbucks cup.

Meanwhile, over on "American Idol" — which I do watch, and I don't need to hear about why I shouldn't — Katy Perry picked her butt:



They eliminated my favorite contestant, Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon. The voters didn't want him, and the judges — faced with two losers and with only one "save" to give — chose the other loser. It was obvious her performances were worse, but to save the boy and send home the girl and leave a final 5 with 4 males and only one female was apparently intolerable. And I think the show's effort to portray Jeremiah as rejected by his conservative parents because he's gay kind of backfired. His parents weren't public figures who deserved public scorn even if they were awful, but they were a lot nicer to him than the show wanted to make it look, as Jeremiah himself pointed out back when he was soaring in the competition (in early April):