May 18, 2019

At the Saturday Night Cafe...

... keep up the conversation.

Did Elizabeth Warren suddenly transform the abortion debate?

I'm about to read Andrew Sullivan's new column, "Elizabeth Warren Just Transformed the Abortion Debate."

Warren, as you might have noticed, has come out in favor of what isn't a new idea but simply a seemingly newly urgent idea: protect the right to abortion with a federal statute. The idea is that it won't matter if the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade if there's a federal statutory right. So, Congress, just pass that statute, if you can, and as long as there's no successful constitutional challenge to the new statute, there will be a right to have an abortion... subject to repeal by Congress.

Abortion politics intensifies. First, members of Congress will be pressured to take a position, even now, just because Warren has proposed it. Later, there may be a bill to vote on, and if it passes, there will be endless political efforts to repeal it, and, if it is repealed, to enact it again. And we'll still fight about who gets on the Supreme Court, because we will still care about the constitutional rights, even if they are replicated in statutes, because statutes can be repealed and because the statute will be challenged as beyond Congress's legislative powers.

When Congress passed a statute banning "partial-birth" abortion, the Supreme Court upheld it, but Justice Thomas, joined by Antonin Scalia, wrote a concurring opinion, to "note that whether the Act constitutes a permissible exercise of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause is not before the Court." The pro-choice parties who challenged that law were not the sort of people who argue for a limited interpretation of the commerce power issue, but you can bet that if Congress passed a law protecting access to abortion, it would be challenged by people who don't mind making that argument.

Now, let me get on with my reading. What does Sullivan have to say?
Elizabeth Warren is... right. Congress can legislate on abortion; the matter can be settled through politics, rather than through a strained parsing of the Constitution by the courts. Political arguments can be made, and countered. Voters can go to the polls to support candidates who will vote for such a law, which will make any previous Supreme Court ruling irrelevant.
This is the process called politics. And America, for 46 years, has tried to keep abortion out of it. It’s encouraging to see Warren jump into the fray to bring legislative politics back to the subject — and to call the right’s bluff on taking that approach. It’s amazing it has taken this long.
It's not amazing to me. Sullivan is missing the complexity of the law and politics. Does he think Warren came up with a new idea here, that a statute could be passed and would remain intact and isn't subject to a challenge in court, and that there wouldn't be a threat to repeal the statute?

The idea of a federal statute is an old one, so the question should be, why don't we already have it? I think if the Court already had overruled Roe v. Wade, we would already have seen this statutory effort (and if in the future it does, we will). The failure of Congress to provide the statutory right to abortion isn't a mere oversight. It's a political choice.

Will Elizabeth Warren's prominent call for this statute change anything (any more than things are already changed by new state statutes restricting abortion and by new Justices on the Supreme Court)?

I do not think Warren's call will get that statute passed any time soon, but it will create the occasion for questioning abortion rights proponents in Congress about why they are not using their legislative power right now to secure the right. They are in default! Opponents of abortion who are running for Congress will be able to stir up pro-lifers with the argument that overruling Roe v. Wade — the long-sought goal — won't matter if the Democrats win the 2020 elections. So which side is helped by talking about this statute? See why it hasn't been talked about much?

The second-to-last sentence in Sullivan's column is: "What we desperately need to do is take this issue out of the polarizing abstractions and into the nitty and the gritty of democratic give and take."

I think we've had "polarizing abstractions" and "the nitty and the gritty of democratic give and take" all along, and we can highlight the possibility of a federal pro-abortion-rights statute but we'll still have polarizing abstractions and nitty-gritty democratic give and take.

"I don’t even walk my dog without putting my lipstick on."

The geriatric possessive appears in "Vanity Is Not a Deadly Sin. It’s One of Life’s Last Vital Signs/For these senior citizens, keeping up appearances is simply part of good health" (NYT).

The NYT is talking up older women who care about fashion and makeup and looking good, but the quoted woman had that geriatric tic that we were talking about the other day — here — of saying "my" where a younger adult would not use a possessive. It's idiomatic to say "I don’t even walk the dog without putting on lipstick." What made this woman (in her 80s) say "my dog" and "my lipstick"?

And now, I'm going back to continue reading the article, and the next thing the woman says is: "I’m going to my dermatologist right after this visit... What? You think I’m going to be sitting around waiting for my liver spots to come in?”

Not "I’m going to the dermatologist right after this visit... You think I’m going to be sitting around waiting for liver spots to come in?"

And at the very end of the article, she's quoted again saying, "But now that I’ve started to age, I march to my own drummer. I wear my sneakers, I wear my tights. I don’t want to look absurd, but I do want to try different identities."

My sneakers, my tights... my drummer.

Harbinger of a 2020 Trump victory?

"Scott Morrison, Australia’s conservative prime minister, scored a surprise victory in federal elections on Saturday, propelled by a populist wave — the 'quiet Australians,' he termed it — resembling the force that has upended politics in the United States, Britain and beyond. The win stunned Australian election analysts — polls had pointed to a loss for Mr. Morrison’s coalition for months. But in the end, the prime minister confounded expectations suggesting that the country was ready for a change in course after six years of tumultuous leadership under the conservative political coalition.... The election had presented Australia, a vital American ally in the Asia-Pacific, with a crucial question: Would it remain on a rightward path and stick with a political coalition that promised economic stability, jobs and cuts to immigration or choose greater action on climate change and income inequality? By granting Mr. Morrison his first full term, Australians signaled their reluctance to bet on a new leader, choosing to stay the course with a hardworking rugby lover at a time when the economy has not suffered a recession in nearly 28 years."

The NYT reports.

"Everyone's too... everyone's too too too too..."

Said Bill Maher on his "Overtime" show, receiving a lightweight apology from Fran Lebowitz, who'd just said something on Maher's "Real Time" that the producers told her they were getting "blowback" about on Twitter:

Deadline gives the background on what led to that.
Asked whether Trump should be impeached, Lebowitz insisted “Impeachment would be just the beginning of what he deserves.” That’s when she suggested we turn him over to “the Saudis, his buddies – the same Saudis who got rid of” WaPo columnist Jamal Khashoggi. “Maybe they could do the same for him,” she had said....
What's interesting about the apology scene is that it's not even an effort to appear sincere. Lebowitz is mocking the producers for watching Twitter and telling her to apologize and Maher immediately takes over to criticize people in general — "everyone" — for being too sensitive. Good. There are too many bullshit apologies, too much fear of offending, and not enough tough comedy.

I wonder exactly what the producers said. I'm imagining You saw what happened to Kathy Griffin.

"In this sex-positive version of reality, we have been unleashed from the bonds of church and religion, and suffocating family expectation; we are free, and we’re enjoying being easy."

"And society’s greater liberalism is matched by better scientific understanding of sex and the body parts that we use for it....  Our sexual landscape may look like the promised land, but not everyone wants to travel there...."

From "The truth about sex: we are not getting enough" (The Guardian)(groping over the evidence that people are having less sex).

"Pornography was too easy to blame, and in fact a US study showed that declines in sexual frequency were greatest among those who didn’t watch it. If we are in a state of anxious disconnect between public sex and our private activities, then it is to be expected: we’re knackered... [N]ow that sex is primetime and ubiquitous, we feel more able to be honest about how much – or how little – we’re actually getting...."

This morning, I'm googling I hate that head exploding gesture because...

... I saw a TV commercial last night in which 2 characters did the gesture over and over and I realized that it has really gone too far and I really hate it. I wish I could find the commercial for you (maybe it's somewhere in the hours of Milwaukee-related sports events that I saw out of the corner of my eye last night and conceivably could scroll through on the DVR).

You know the gesture I'm talking about? If you google for it, the first thing you'll find is probably this:

Now that is clipped from this...

... which I found through the wonderfully helpful Know Your Meme site. It has an article "Mind = Blown."
The phrase “mind blown” has been used to express shock and bewilderment since as early as 1996 with the inclusion of a song titled "mind blown" in N.W.A rapper MC Ren's second solo album The Villain in Black. By 1997, the phrase had found its way into online vernacular, as evidently used in the title of a post on the Usenet group to describe the poster’s reaction to seeing David Bowie perform live.
Of course, people were saying that blew my mind and so forth for decades. It was already so widely in use by 1969 that The Rolling Stones could use it in a joke (in "Honky Tonk Women").

And, yes, I know that 50 years later, Mick is still dancing...

But back to the subject. "Mind = blown" became a stock form of expression on the internet, but what about the gesture?
On April 19th, 2010, the /r/MindBlown subreddit was created to share awe-inspiring images and videos. As of August 2013, it has accrued more than 430 readers. On July 9th, 2010, a thread for "mind blowing" images thread was created on the New Schoolers forums, where it accrued nearly 70 pages over three years. As early as May 2011, the phrase became associated with a reaction GIF of a clip from the Adult Swim series Tim and Eric's Awesome Show (shown [above])....

Additional images, including both reaction GIFs and those meant to evoke a "mind blown" response, can be found with the hashtag #mindblown on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr.
Is it enough of a cliché yet? It's used profusely in an ad. Doesn't that mean it's time to stop?

I don't mind people writing "mind blown" or "mind = blown." I'm just annoyed by the gesture, which I'm seeing in completely nonhip advertisements. Maybe you can do it ironically, acknowledging its overuse and abject squareness, and maybe I'm giving it new power — the power to annoy — by writing this.

Here are lots of GIFs doing the gesture, in case you want access to the cool trend of annoying me.


ADDED: The OED traces the underlying idea — blowing a mind — back to 1966, but in a way that strongly suggests the expression was already current:
24. j. to blow (a person's) mind, to induce hallucinatory experiences (in a person) by means of drugs, esp. LSD; hence transferred, to produce (in a person) a pleasurable (or shocking) sensation.

[1966 San Francisco Examiner & Chron. 12 June 33/3 The Barry Goldberg Blues Band..does an LP called ‘Blowin' My Mind’.]
1967 San Francisco Examiner 12 Sept. 26/3 On a hip acid (LSD) trip you can blow your mind sky-high.
1967 San Francisco Chron. 2 Oct. 49/3 Because when the Red Sox rallied to beat the Minneapolis Twins..Boston fans blew their minds....
This is blowing my mind:

Here, you can buy the album "Blowing My Mind" at Amazon, where one reviewer says:
The best track is "Blowing My Mind," with catchy chord changes and decent lyrics, but Goldberg sings it like he's soaping his pits in the shower.

"Yeah, we can practice in my parents' garage, but we got to play the songs I want to play. OK? So who knows 96 Tears by Question Mark and the Mysterians? Anybody? No? Anybody know She's About A Mover by the Sir Douglas Quintet? Alright, Hang On Sloopy it is. Ah 1, ah 2...."

"Under current case law, he has no case. Under New York law, you better put your blinds down. He’s lucky he wasn’t standing there buck naked."

Said a lawyer quoted in "Alex Rodriguez may have a tough time pursuing legal action over viral toilet pic" (NY Post). The photograph — taken of the retired baseball star when he was sitting on the toilet (which the NYT Post calls "turd base") was taken from the window of a Park Avenue office building that has a view into his apartment (where he lives with Jennifer Lopez).

I remember blogging about the case the lawyer is referring to. There was an art photographer who'd caught images of people through windows. Ah, yes, here's the old post, from 2013:
"But maybe he should have asked before the gallery opens. Everybody’s talking about it."

Well, if "everybody's talking about it," then the artist made a great decision.
[T]he residents of a glass-walled luxury residential building across the street had no idea they were being photographed and never consented to being subjects for the works of art that are now on display — and for sale — in a Manhattan gallery.
Key word: luxury.

A middle-class value — privacy — is challenged. But it's built into the scheme that only the rich have had their privacy invaded. The artist — Arne Svenson — gets his publicity in the major media. And to top it all off:
Svenson’s apartment is directly across the street, just to the south, giving him a clear view of his neighbors by simply looking out his window.
Easiest art project ever.
“For my subjects there is no question of privacy; they are performing behind a transparent scrim on a stage of their own creation with the curtain raised high,” Svenson says in the gallery notes.  “The Neighbors don’t know they are being photographed; I carefully shoot from the shadows of my home into theirs.”
Here, you can see the kinds of images Swenson chose. And here's Denver Post art critic Mark Rinaldi, writing in 2016, after Swenson won a lawsuit with a First Amendment defense:
Like a lot of people, I find Arne Svenson’s photographs deeply offensive.... Maybe it’s because enough time has passed to really consider the psychological damage to the folks whose privacy was stolen. You can’t, for the most part, recognize Svenson’s subjects as individuals, but you understand they’re actual humans and their sense of personal concealment has been wrecked....

Or maybe it’s because two dozen Svenson photos are now staring us in the face at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, which has taken the controversial step of legitimizing them as high art....
Is the A-Rod photographer less able to claim First Amendment protection because: 1. The person is identifiable (so the privacy stake is greater), and 2. The photographer probably did not have any high-art aspirations? Or is the A-Rod photographer more deserving of First Amendment protection because: 1. This wasn't commercial photography, 2. A-Rod is a public figure, 3. A-Rod seems to have used the toilet in a bathroom with the blinds open on a window that looked out on lots of windows?

How many people who didn't even want to see a baseball star on the toilet were subjected to that view? At some point, wouldn't office workers be exclaiming I can't believe he uses the toilet right in front of us like that! The viewers might feel offended (or amused) and are they not allowed to memorialize their experience with an iPhone photo that they text around?

ADDED: There's a 2013 New Yorker article about Swenson (the art photographer):

May 17, 2019

At the Apple Blossom Café...


... you can talk all night.

"A market where extremely rich people pay too much for mediocre art and shut out the not-quite-as rich may not be the biggest issue in a wildly polarized economy."

"But art is the record of culture we leave for future generations, and it too is being warped by our unequal economy," writes economist Allison Schrager in "Even the Rich Aren’t Rich Enough for Jeff Koons/As billionaires compete for art in an overheated market, the merely affluent are giving up" (NYT).

I really don't know why I'm supposed to be bothered that Steve Mnuchin's dad paid $91 million for a shiny metal rabbit.

Schrager invites us to care about the psychology of art collectors who might see that an artwork sells for tens of millions and "assume the $50,000 work they can afford is not worth buying, especially if they can’t flip it for a quick profit at auction." You need people of "middle tier" wealth to buy product in the middle-tier market to keep the art market doing what it's supposed to do to cause art to come into being and leave a record that we existed.

I don't know. You've got that rabbit. That's the record. Future generations will look back on us and think we were that rabbit.


"How to set up your desk ergonomically."

Don't worry, stand-up desk haters. There's nothing in there about that.


"It's just all feeling, like, really intense...."

I'm reading "James Charles, Tati Westbrook, and the feud that’s ripping apart YouTube’s beauty community/The feud between two giant stars, explained (for people who don’t follow the YouTube beauty community)" (Vox), and I cannot understand it because I was born before 1995. So I just took that 25-seconds out of that 43-minute video — a 43-minute video with over 47 million views — because it conveys the drama and my mystification. Something very big or very small appears to have happened.

"I wish you guys could just be inside my head and understand, like, really, truly, like, what YouTube means to me."

"Donald Trump said all AR-15 rifles that are sold in America should be 'made in America.' Progressives were aghast at Trump’s toxic nationalism."

"I’m sorry, did I say Donald Trump? I meant Kamala Harris. Kamala Harris proposed a ban on imported AR-15 rifles. Progressives praised Harris for her bold stand against gun violence."

John jibes.

I'd make a "Kamala is like Trump" tag if I thought this was going to keep happening.

"It now seems the General Flynn was under investigation long before was common knowledge. It would have been impossible for me to know this but..."

"... if that was the case, and with me being one of two people who would become president, why was I not told so that I could make a change?"

Tweeted Trump this morning.

Earlier this morning, in a less sober tone:
My Campaign for President was conclusively spied on. Nothing like this has ever happened in American Politics. A really bad situation. TREASON means long jail sentences, and this was TREASON!

It's the Era of That's Not Funny, and you should be ashamed to have fun with something that is serious to somebody else.

Is it then also time to cancel "RuPaul's Drag Race"?

By the way, what's wrong with costumes? Or... oh... is this like the blackface problem?

The famous architect I.M. Pei has died at the age of 102.

I'm reading "Six of I.M. Pei’s Most Important Buildings/The architect’s legacy includes some of the world’s most recognizable buildings, including the Louvre Pyramid" (NYT).

First on the list is National Center for Atmospheric Research, which we walked around just a few weeks ago. Here's a photograph of it that I took in 2014.


The NYT has a close up photo of the building, but I liked the distant view, which showed how it fit with the rocks in the landscape in Boulder, Colorado.

Fifth on the list is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Here's my photograph of that, taken in 2009. Again the NYT photo is more close up, and I like to show the setting to see how the object fits the place. In this case, it's Cleveland, right on the shore of Lake Erie:


The other buildings on the NYT list are the Everson Museum of Art (in Syracuse, NY), the East Building of the National Gallery of Art (in Washington, D.C.), the Museum of Islamic Art (in Doha, Qatar), and, of course, that glass pyramid that's part of the Louvre in Paris and about which Pei said — presumably because of all the criticism — "If there’s one thing I know I didn’t do wrong, it’s the Louvre."

And here's the NYT obituary. Excerpt:

"I think it’s absolutely fine. I think that’s something that perhaps some people will have a problem with. I have no problem with it whatsoever. I think it’s good."

Said Donald Trump, when asked — in an interview, by Fox News’ Steve Hilton — what he thought about Pete Buttigieg's running for President while being openly gay and standing on stages with his husband onstage.

When does social media star of the nonhuman kind get a mainstream media obituary?

Grumpy Cat.
Though her real name is Tardar Sauce, she earned the notorious moniker in 2012 when a photo of her scowl was posted to Reddit. (Her small size and frown were likely due to feline dwarfism, her family later revealed.)

Endless memes—and success—followed. In addition to nabbing MSNBC's Most Influential Cat Award, she also scored campaigns with Purina and Cheerios. She had guest spots on Today, Good Morning America, American Idol, Sesame Street and even The Bachelorette.... And in 2014, she starred in Lifetime's Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever.
Grumpy Cat was 7.

May 16, 2019

At the Thursday Night Cafe...

... you can write about whatever you want.

"Boston Accent Ranked Second Sexiest in America, Survey Says."

Boston 10 reports.

Texas is #1, in case you're wondering. My favorite part of the ranking is "14. Yooper."

And I learned a new term "Hoi Toider." (At #35.) I thought it might be a joke, but:
High Tider or Hoi Toider is a dialect of American English spoken in very limited communities of the South Atlantic United States—particularly, several small island and coastal townships in the rural North Carolina "Down East" that encompasses the Outer Banks and Pamlico Sound (specifically including Atlantic, Sea Level, and Harkers Island in eastern Carteret County, the village of Wanchese and also Ocracoke) as well as in the Chesapeake Bay (such as Tangier and Smith Island). The term is also a local nickname for any native resident of these regions....

I know what a Yooper is, but what exactly is the accent? You can learn that and more here:

"Democrats are badly blowing it against Trump. A brutal new TV ad shows how."

Headline for a Greg Sargent column at WaPo. Here's the video he's talking about:

The ad has ordinary-looking people pissed off and saying things like:
Now you tell us to wait for the next election? Really? Really? Really? This is why we volunteered. Raised money. Went door to door. And voted in the last election. Our founding fathers expected you — Congress — to hold a lawless president accountable. And you’re doing nothing. Nothing. Nothing. He broke his oath of office. He’s defying you. Laughing at you. And he’s getting away with it.
Sargent comments:
Of course, Democrats aren’t doing “nothing.” But there is the risk that if their oversight is neutered and they don’t act, this picture of fecklessness will be the reigning one.

Is there a better way to handle this? Perhaps not. Because, at bottom, the core question is whether it is acceptable for Democrats to refrain from an impeachment inquiry in the face of corruption and misconduct they plainly believe merits one....
Plainly believe? It's not clear what they believe, even if they plainly say an impeachment inquiry is warranted. I think they most likely believe in winning elections. I judge what people really believe based on what they actually do.

I assume the Democrats believe in using the idea of impeachment without actually conducting impeachment proceedings and one reason they stop where they do is that they don't really believe what they are saying, that what Trump did warrants impeachment.

"Kamala Harris used humor to swat aside the chatter about her becoming Joe Biden’s running mate: Maybe it should be the other way around..."

"... she said Wednesday, given Biden’s experience in the No. 2 job. But inside her campaign and among allies, such talk is not a laughing matter. They're rankled by the suggestion, privately venting that it’s demeaning to a woman of color and perpetuates an unfair critique that she’s somehow not prepared for the job she’s actually seeking. 'It's infuriating,' a Harris confidant fumed several days before the idea began taking hold in the media.... Anticipating questions from news media on Wednesday, Harris and her advisers settled on the humorous one-liner, according to an aide...." (Politico).

Is Kamala Harris able to use humor to swat aside the chatter? Humor was used, but only after anticipating questions and conferring with advisers until she had something that could be settled on.

I'm not expecting spontaneity or personal style in anything in the humor department. Nothing that can be called a swat amid chatter... which is, of course, what Trump excels at.

I think Trump actually feels the humor. It arises from within. It's really part of him. Harris — brainstorming with others because a response was needed — came up with something in the form of humor but it seems only to be that humor was the best idea and a way to cover up what was really felt — insult and anger. We're not having fun with her. We're getting suppressed anger and humor as a means to an end. And frankly, it's not too humorous. What was the joke even?

ADDED: I had to go back and search the article to find the "humorous one-liner." I didn't have any "humorous one-liner" in quotes in this post. I found it in the 5th paragraph: "As vice president, he’s proven that he knows how to do the job."

"Thank you Joe and remember, the BRAIN is much sharper also!" tweeted Trump...

... in response to something Joe Scarborough, who'd said that Trump "looks like he’s about 20 years younger than a lot of Democratic candidates" (reported at Politico).

ADDED: Notice that Trump said "the BRAIN is much sharper," not "my BRAIN is much sharper." Remember, yesterday we were talking about "the geriatric possessive," how old people tend to say "I’m going to take my bath" and "take my walk" and "take my nap" rather than referring to baths and walks and naps and so on generally, without using a pronoun to highlight that the thing in question is theirs, which is what younger people do. Look at Trump — old but not seeming old — he doesn't even say "my brain." He says "the brain."

AND: Speaking of Trump's looks, here's something from the new Howard Stern book, from an April 2004 interview:
Caller: In a hypothetical situation—I mean, saying you’re not involved with Melania and there was no ethical backgrounds for business and whatnot—how many of those bitches [on "The Apprentice"] do you think you could’ve banged?

Howard: Good question.

Donald: Boy, I’ll tell ya. I love the thought, I’ll tell you that. ’Cause they were attractive. Do you agree with that?

Howard: I mean, some of the bodies on them while they were sitting there . . .

Donald: They were amazing.

Howard: Which is more important: talent or looking great?

Donald: Looking great.

Howard: I agree.

Donald: I’ve had both, and I’ll take looking great.
PLUS: Meade corrects my interpretation of "I’ve had both, and I’ll take looking great." He says Trump was talking about the women. I completely believed he'd switched over to talking about himself and he was looking back on the time when he was beautiful. I read the interview last night and saw it that way and went looking for it this morning because I saw it that way, and I published the quote without even seeing the ambiguity, I was so attached to that interpretation. I now believe that he meant the women — he's "had" women — and I find that so much less interesting.

SO: Now, I'm thinking about the word "had." You have your own brain, whether you call it "my brain" or not. You can use "had" to talk about the sexual partners you've had without needing to say "sex." Just say "had." To say "I've been had" means you've been tricked, and a sexual partner can be called a "trick." Of course, I look up "had" in the OED, and talk about ridiculously long entries. Try reading "have, v." It's long! I begin to laugh at myself for even trying, but then it jumps out at me:
13. transitive. a. To gain sexual possession of (esp. a woman); to have sexual intercourse with....
It goes back to Old English: "Þa het he feccan him to þa abbedessan on Leomynstre & hæfde hi þa while þe him geliste." Of course, there is Shakespeare: "Was euer woman in this humor woed, Was euer woman in this humor wonne: Ile haue her, but I will not keepe her long" ("Richard III"). Henry Fielding: "'None of your Coquet Airs, therefore, with me, Madam,’ said he, ‘for I am resolved to have you this Night.'" Keats: "I should have had her when I was in health, and I should have remained well." And — we need a woman — Judith Krantz in "Scruples" (1978): "They cherished not having had each other because it created a current of continual warmth which... was more important to them than sex." Ha, the woman is about not having.

"'Madam Speaker,' Mr. Barr said, approaching Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California for a handshake. 'Did you bring your handcuffs?'"

"Ms. Pelosi, whose Democratic caucus is preparing to hold Mr. Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over Robert S. Mueller III’s full report, had joked last week that the House still had 'a little jail' it could put to use, if necessary."

Reports the NYT in "Pelosi and Barr Share a Gag About Jail and Handcuffs." So the humor is shared. According to the headline. In the text, paragraph #2, it's called a "gag — or was it a taunt?" — which doesn't sound "shared"... or even necessarily humor... other than very dark humor. One might say gallows humor... handcuff humor.

How did Pelosi respond? That's an indicator of whether it was humor and whether it was shared. We're told she smiled. A smile is not a laugh, though, of course. One might smile through adversity, smile to let your adversary know he hasn't gotten to you. We're told — without a direct quote — that she "replied that the House sergeant-at-arms was on hand for the ceremony, should his services be necessary." I guess that means, I could have you handcuffed and imprisoned in my congressional basement if I wanted to but I just don't want to yet.

We're told that Barr "chuckled." I guess that's sharing. He joked, she joked, she smiled, he chuckled. And here I'd thought we were living in The Era of That's Not Funny. Maybe it's the Dawning of the Age of Dark Humor. I see the rays of darkness shining, glinting off the veneers of ancient teeth.

May 15, 2019

At the Clouds-in-the-Coffee Café...


... it's a timeless place.

Hey, think about using the Althouse Portal to Amazon. Here's something I just bought — a NutriBullet. Love it. Why not put frozen spinach and kale in your mango/banana/blueberry smoothies? It's so much less boring than eating salad.

50 years ago today — Robert Rayford died, perhaps the earliest known victim of the disease that would become known as AIDS.

From "A mystery illness killed a boy in 1969. Years later, doctors learned what it was: AIDS/Robert Rayford challenged the narrative about the epidemic" (WaPo):
The 16-year-old boy had the kind of illness that wouldn’t be familiar to doctors for years: He was weak and emaciated, rife with stubborn infections and riddled with rare cancerous lesions known as Kaposi’s sarcoma, a skin disease found in elderly men of Mediterranean descent. The boy, Robert Rayford, died on May 15, 1969, in St. Louis... With a sense that something important could someday be learned, two doctors collected tissue samples after his death and froze them for almost 20 years....

In 1985, when a test became available that could detect HIV antibodies, Elvin-Lewis packed some of her long-held samples in dry ice and shipped them to Witte, who had them tested by Robert Garry, a Tulane virologist. Garry tested for nine distinct HIV proteins. Rayford’s blood showed evidence of all nine.

“Case Shakes Theories of AIDS Origin,” read a Chicago Tribune story that broke news of the results in October 1987. “Area Teen May Have Died from AIDS—In 1969,” said a banner headline in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The tests on Rayford’s tissues astonished researchers. The finding wouldn’t change how the disease was treated, but it challenged the conventional wisdom of how it arrived.....

"A friend who is still creative in his eighties points out what he calls the geriatric possessive: people past eighty, he says, are expected to say, 'I’m going to take my bath,' 'I’m going to take my walk.'"

"We can counterpoise that to the pediatric possessive: 'You’re going to take your bath,' 'It’s time for your nap.' Only in midlife do we feel secure enough to enumerate actions as existing individually outside our possession of them: 'I’m going to take a bath,' 'I’m going to take a nap.' A bath and a nap exist, briefly, outside our possession of them—they’re just around for the taking, we suppose, and always will be."

From "Can We Live Longer but Stay Younger?/With greater longevity, the quest to avoid the infirmities of aging is more urgent than ever" by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker.

"Telling Carly Simon how hot she was for a half-hour or spewing sex questions to Wilmer Valderrama—this ultimately led to nothing. It wasn’t good radio."

"It was meaningless. It was just me being self-absorbed and compulsive about asking something that would provoke and antagonize. Those weren’t really interviews. They were monologues. Instead of a conversation, it was just me blurting out ridiculous things. I had some real issues. Then I started going to a psychotherapist. This was in the late nineties. I had no idea how therapy worked. The only thing I knew about it was what I saw in movies and on television, where people would just sit there and tell stories. So that’s what I did. My first session, I sat down in the chair and began telling the therapist anecdotes as if I was on the radio. I hit him with all my favorite routines. I did a thorough and involved set on the Stern family tree, complete with impressions of my family. I put together a few minutes on marriage, then moved into the pressures of the radio business, and closed with the trials and tribulations of raising a family. After I was finished with my stand-up, the therapist instead of applauding said, 'There’s nothing funny going on here. Quite frankly, some of this stuff sounds pretty sad.'"

From "Howard Stern Comes Again" (which I am reading).

"Harvard Betrays a Law Professor — and Itself/Misguided students believe that defending Harvey Weinstein makes Ronald Sullivan unfit to be their dean. Apparently the university agrees."

An op-ed by Harvard lawprof Randall Kennedy (in the NYT).
In addition to his work as a professor and a lawyer, [Ronald] Sullivan, with his wife, Stephanie Robinson, has served for a decade as the faculty dean of Winthrop House, an undergraduate dormitory where some 400 students live.

As a faculty dean, Mr. Sullivan is responsible for creating a safe, fun, supportive environment in which students can pursue their collegiate ambitions. Winthrop House is meant to be a home away from home; faculty deans are in loco parentis. Mr. Sullivan and Ms. Robinson are expected to attend to the students as counselors, cheerleaders, impresarios and guardians....
Let's be clear what we're talking about: Sullivan is a law professor, but nothing is changing in his role as a law professor, and the students are not law students. These are undergraduates who were offered a special, welcoming, comforting living environment with Sullivan and his wife as their substitute parents. This wasn't about having their ideas challenged in class. This was about their home life. This was the university's idea of offering something like love and support to teenagers leaving their parents for the first time.

Students responded to this lure, and some of them got a man who has made it his work to construct legal arguments to further the ends of someone who they have reason to see as a human monster. Of course, in our system, the monsters get legal representation and their lawyers are doing difficult and ethical work, but meanwhile, these kids had a promise of a home, and Sullivan and his wife must have represented themselves as lovingly parental or they wouldn't have been given this position — or at least that's what Harvard entitled the students to think.
On Saturday, [dean of Harvard College, Rakesh Khurana] announced that Mr. Sullivan and [his wife Stephanie] Robinson would no longer be deans of the college, citing their “ineffective” efforts to improve “the climate” at Winthrop....

The upshot is that Harvard College appears to have ratified the proposition that it is inappropriate for a faculty dean to defend a person reviled by a substantial number of students — a position that would disqualify a long list of stalwart defenders of civil liberties and civil rights, including Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall.
It doesn't appear that way to me. I'd say it just appears that the special parental role of the faculty dean requires some fact-specific analysis. Kennedy sets up the category "a person reviled by a substantial number of students" as what is disqualifying (and then names 2 great men who fit his category). [CLARIFICATION: By "fit his category," I meant to say that, like Sullivan, they defended  persons in the category.]

But what is the fact-specific analysis? Did the college cater to doctrinaire snowflakes? Or were the students justified in objecting to Sullivan as their counselor and substitute father? I'm just relying on the details as Kennedy presents them — that students said "they would not feel safe confiding in Mr. Sullivan about matters having to do with sexual harassment." Kennedy says he wishes the college would push the students to think hard about why they feel afraid and whether there's any indication that Sullivan has failed in performing his duties.

"One would hope, in short, that Harvard would seek to educate its students and not simply defer to vague apprehensions or pander to the imperatives of misguided rage," Kennedy writes.

The phrasing of that sentence is cagey. Kennedy doesn't and probably can't say that Harvard failed to try to educate its students or that it simply deferred or pandered to imperatives. And he doesn't say that the students' apprehensions were vague or that their dissatisfaction rose to the level of rage and that the rage was misguided. You see the intro "One would hope," and if you go to the op-ed, you'll see that this sentence is in a paragraph with hypotheticals, and the hypotheticals are not even about sexual violence. (He asks about atheist students objecting to a Christian faculty dean and conservative students objecting to a big leftist.)

Kennedy asserts that "Harvard officials are certainly capable of withstanding student pressure," but they just "don’t want to" because they think — or at least "have an affinity for the belief" — "that Mr. Sullivan’s representation of Mr. Weinstein constituted a betrayal of enlightened judgment." I think it's fair to characterize that as an accusation that the Harvard officials were being politically correct. Kennedy adds the very insulting, "Others have simply been willing to be mau-maued."

I'm not taking a position on the outcome here. I don't know enough about it. I think the "faculty dean" system is interesting. What does Harvard tell incoming students they'll get from it? Do the students arrive with an inappropriately inflated sense of entitlement or did Harvard give them this entitlement? If Harvard gave it, if the students accepted an offer to feel extra-safe and enfolded in the loving arms of a father figure, Harvard needs to follow through somehow.

But I don't know all the details. I'm not surprised to see professors championing their colleagues, and it's too easy to scoff at the students and their expectations. I'd like to get to the origins of the expectations and the role of faculty in creating those expectations.

ADDED: After writing this, I checked to see if I was consistent with what I wrote when a similar matter arose at Yale:

"The rhythm specified in the six-week abortion bans... 'is a group of cells with electrical activity. That’s what the heartbeat is at that stage of gestation… We are in no way talking about any kind of cardiovascular system.'"

"In part because that rhythm is a sign of the health of the developing embryo, scientists have worked to push backward the moment in pregnancy they can detect it. In 1984 they were pretty psyched to pick up fetal cardiac activity at between 41 and 43 days of gestation—six weeks. The researchers described it as a 'tiny blinking, flashing, and/or rocking echo with a regular rhythm... What’s really happening at that point is that our ultrasound technology has gotten good enough to be able to detect electrical activity in a rudimentary group of cells,' [said Sarah Horvath, an ob-gyn with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists]. But if you’re thinking about this as something that looks roughly like a person with something that looks roughly like a chest, inside which something that looks roughly like a valentine is going pitter-pat (or lubdub-lubdub), you’re picturing the wrong thing. As the ob-gyn Jen Gunter wrote three years ago, this is, more technically, 'fetal pole cardiac activity.' It’s a cluster of pulsing cells. 'In the mouse embryo, for example, there is a definite cardiac rhythm in the tiny, little, immature heart at 8.5 days of development, but it is certainly not enough to support viability,' says Janet Rossant, senior scientist and chief of research emeritus at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. 'It is just helping to encourage the development of an organized vasculature and circulatory system—a prerequisite for future viability but not sufficient alone.' That’s the other wobbly term of art here: 'viability.' In common parlance, people sometimes use that word to describe a baby far enough along in gestation to survive outside a woman’s womb. In humans, that takes about 24 weeks, give or take (every pregnancy is different, and so are the skill sets of every hospital and every neonatal intensive care unit). But that’s not what clinicians mean. 'It means a pregnancy that, at that point in time, looks like it’s normal to continue,' [says Jennifer Kerns, an ob-gyn at UC San Francisco]."

From "'Heartbeat' Bills Get the Science of Fetal Heartbeats All Wrong" (Wired).

Quite aside from the meaning of "heartbeat," there's the meaning of "viability"? "Heartbeat" hasn't been a significant term in the constitutional analysis of abortion restrictions, but "viability" is one of the most important concepts, and it hasn't been what Kerns says clinicians means — that a pregnancy looks like it’s normal to continue.

What the article calls "common parlance" — using the word to refer to the ability to survive outside a woman’s womb — is also the definition in the legal cases. It's the point at which the woman's right to choose not to be pregnant ends, and the state may choose to override her freedom. It's hard to understand why that sort of viability became the legal line, because denying the abortion means that the unborn remains inside the womb. But that was a line that was identified by the Court long ago, and maybe some day the Court will look at that idea of capacity to survive outside the womb and say that it's not where the line should be.

"Heartbeat" is another concept, and it could be embraced as the right place to draw the line, and I wonder if the argument for doing that is enhanced by the fact that clinicians are using the word "viability" to refer to that point. It seems that the clinicians are using the word that way because it makes for good doctor-patient relations. For a woman who is hoping for a child, it's reassuring and encouraging. The same thing is true of the word "heartbeat."

But it's quite another thing to take this science — detecting early cellular rhythm and forming a belief that normal development is happening — and to use it to make a statute that restricts the freedom of women who do not want to be pregnant.

"He made particularly disparaging comments about President Obama. And as the Republican nominee for president, I just couldn't subscribe to that in a federal judge. This was not a matter of qualifications or politics. This was something specifically to that issue as a former nominee of our party."

Said the U.S. Senator who refers to himself as "the Republican nominee for President" because, I guess, there's some idea of forefronting your highest or most elite accomplishment, and Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee for President. He's a Senator now, elected by the people of a state, but he was a nominee for a higher office, and that's apparently more important, even though he didn't win, and he's not even the party's "standard bearer" (not the most recent nominee). But Romney is apparently proud of his distinction, and there's only one other person on the face of the earth whose highest level was Republican nominee for President (and he's 95 years old). Maybe the idea is that Trump is illegitimate, so exclude him, and that leaves Romney as the leader of his party.

But he didn't beat Obama. He showed he could beat Obama if he wanted. He came on strong in the first debate. But he stood down in the second debate, and his party lost. Now, he's voted against one of Trump's judicial nominees, and he was the only Republican Senator who voted no, and he voted no because the person, Michael Truncale, once called Obama an "un-American impostor." Truncale testified that he was "merely expressing frustration by what I perceived as a lack of overt patriotism on behalf of President Obama" and did not mean to suggest that Obama was not a natural born citizen.

I'm reading about this in Politico, where the text is he "believed Obama was born in Hawaii and did not subscribe to 'birtherism,' a racist theory that the president was not an American citizen." The Politico text is shocking for 2 reasons. First, the question under the Constitution wasn't whether Obama was an American citizen. Citizenship isn't enough to qualify a person to be President. He must be born a citizen. Big difference. Second, a news organization shouldn't casually toss in the opinion that this suspicion about Obama is a "racist theory." That's not decent journalism. I accept the use of the term "birtherism" because I think Truncale used it in testifying. If Truncale himself called birtherism "a racist theory," it would be good journalism to quote him, but you can see that it's not in quotes.

I actually don't have a problem with Romney's voting against Truncale. But Romney's stated reason — if this is all he said — is inarticulate. He could have said that he lacked sufficient confidence in Truncale's judicial temperament. There were other things about Truncale that were disturbing, and not just the one thing Romney is quoted as citing — "disparaging comments about President Obama." I'm seeing in The Salt Lake Tribune that Truncale was quoted as saying "With regard to immigration, we must not continue to have the maggots coming in" and later that the word was not "maggots" but "magnets." I can see not bringing that up, because of confusion over whether Truncale said "maggots" (though I note that in immigration discussions, the word "magnet" is applied not to the immigrants but to the United States (for example, candidate Trump said he wanted to "turn off the jobs and benefits magnet")).

By citing only the "disparaging comments about President Obama" and stressing his own status as the one-time Republican Party nominee, Romney elevated himself. He's special.

ADDED: On rereading, I question my assertion that "Romney's stated reason... is inarticulate." I was assuming that Romney looked at everything about Truncale and formed the opinion that he didn't have what it takes to be a judge — that he was too political and intemperate. There are clearer ways to say that. But the statement Romney did make was, I think, rather revealing of his psychology and his plans for himself as a Senator. It's more revealing perhaps, than he intended to be. I wouldn't call that inarticulate, because "inarticulate" connotes that he meant to say something and couldn't come up with the right words, and I don't think Romney meant to reveal that much. What then is the right word? Maybe — ironically — it's "intemperate."

IN THE COMMENTS: Nobody points to a Slate article correcting the FALSE assertion that Truncale  said "maggots." The video there — at 1:25 — shows him saying "we've got to stop the magnet that draws people over." Not only is it clear that he's saying "magnet" not "maggots," he's using the word "magnet" in the standard context, referring to government benefits. He's not calling the immigrants "magnets." He's saying they are drawn to the metaphorical magnet that is welfare benefits. The "maggots" slur is truly evil. Shame on The Salt Lake Tribune.

ALSO: I wrote this in the comments but I want to frontpage it:
Making up racial hatred is truly evil.

I was careful to write, in the original post, " I'm seeing in The Salt Lake Tribune that Truncale was quoted as saying..." Was quoted. I avoided saying that he said it, because how do I know? I only said what I knew, that the SL Tribute presented that statement as a quote.

But with the video there and available for weeks, there's no excuse for passing along the "maggots" quote.

It reminds me of the continued reporting that Trump said Nazis were "fine people." The corrective material is available and plain, and there are some horrible journalists and politicians who want to make people feel that there's some deep ugliness out there -- want people to feel hurt and diminished and afraid. It's disgusting to have a personal stake in doing that to people.

May 14, 2019

At the Wednesday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about what you like.

"She had a heart of gold and was a very funny lady who I shared many laughs with."

View this post on Instagram

Paul remembers Doris Day: 'So sad to hear of Doris Day passing away. She was a true star in more ways than one. I had the privilege of hanging out with her on a few occasions. Visiting her in her Californian home was like going to an animal sanctuary where her many dogs were taken care of in splendid style. She had a heart of gold and was a very funny lady who I shared many laughs with. Her films like 'Calamity Jane', 'Move Over, Darling' and many others were all incredible and her acting and singing always hit the mark. I will miss her but will always remember her twinkling smile and infectious laugh as well as the many great songs and movies she gave us. God bless Doris.’ #DorisDay #PaulMcCartney

A post shared by Paul McCartney (@paulmccartney) on

It's not doing Kamala Harris any favors to go easy on her. She needs to be tested and challenged if she's to be the nominee.

I'm reading "Kamala Harris’s claim that Medicare-for-all ‘doesn’t get rid of all insurance’" from Glenn Kessler, the WaPo "fact checker" who normally has a system of ratings that gives out "Pinocchios." He concludes:
Call us skeptical, but Section 107 looks like a loophole for single-payer supporters to claim that private insurance is not being eliminated, even as the main sponsor says he wants to put health insurance companies out of the business. There is virtually nothing left on the table but a few crumbs. Harris called it “supplemental insurance,” which sounds a lot like Medigap policies, but the reality is likely far different than that.

Given the back-and-forth between Harris and Tapper, we can’t quite award Pinocchios. But her language is slippery. She could more forthrightly admit that the health plan she supports envisions virtually no role for the private insurance now used by nearly 220 million Americans.
Is this special kid-gloves treatment for Kamala Harris? Here's the explanation of the Pinocchio system.

One Pinocchio means: "Some shading of the facts. Selective telling of the truth. Some omissions and exaggerations, but no outright falsehoods. (You could view this as 'mostly true.')" She doesn't even get one?

Two means: "Significant omissions and/or exaggerations. Some factual error may be involved but not necessarily. A politician can create a false, misleading impression by playing with words and using legalistic language that means little to ordinary people. (Similar to 'half true.')" I think the fact check sounds more like a 2 Pinocchio rating.

Three means: "Significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions. This gets into the realm of 'mostly false.' But it could include statements which are technically correct (such as based on official government data) but are so taken out of context as to be very misleading. The line between Two and Three can be bit fuzzy and we do not award half-Pinocchios. So we strive to explain the factors that tipped us toward a Three." If Trump were equally unforthcoming and truth-suppressing, would he not get 3 Pinocchios?

I think Kamala Harris is going to become irrelevant if she isn't confronted and forced to improve. I wonder if she finds the polls mystifying.

"As far as JD taking a cart — well, I walked with a broken leg. So…"

Background here (a the NY Post). The PGA granted John Daly a waver under the Americans with Disabilities Act for this week’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. Daly, who has a bad knee, qualifies to play because he won this particular tournament back in 1991. Tiger Woods played with a stress fracture once (back in 2008 when he won the U.S. Open).

I'm giving this my "insults" tag even though the insult is delivered only subtly and indirectly. That's a masterly insult.

For the first time, I am inspired by space propaganda... Jeff Bezos inspires outright hilarity.

You can watch the whole thing, but I'm jumping to the part with the ludicrous illustrations:

Bezos on a big empty stage — with his slow talking and long pauses and assurances that accommodations in a tube in space will be like a beautiful city from which you and your million fellow citizens can take day trips to earth — is positivity eerie. If the 2 1/2 minutes I've clipped out above were a scene in a movie, everyone in the audience would know that tube would turn into some hellscape.

At 16:11, Bezos says "These are really pleasant places to live." He leans on the "really," as if an acting coach tried to teach him how to sound encouraging and sincere... and failed horridly. Or... failed just right. I'm imagining a hero acting coach trying to save us from the hellscape. All normal humans will hear that "really" and instinctively know it's a con.

This is what we see on screen when he says that:

"They might pick historical cities and mimic them in some way. There will be whole new kinds of architecture. These are ideal climates. These are shirt-sleeve climates. This is Maui on its best day, all year long, no rain, no storms, no earthquakes. What does the architecture even look like when it no longer has its primary purpose of shelter? We'll find out. But these are beautiful. People are going to want to live here."

My favorite part of that is "We'll find out" — especially paired with "People are going to want to live here." Are they going to "want to live here" after they "find out" what architecture even looks like when it no longer has its primary purpose of shelter? We'll find out!

"To get out of this, I’m gonna go like down and to the right. And we’ll come back up over the top and try to take a look at it"/"I have a feeling the balls will have dissipated by then."

Just what I always wanted to read, the complete transcript of cockpit video recording system in the sky penis plan incident, quoted in "The Navy’s probe into sky penis" (Navy Times)("the inside story of how an EA-18G Growler jet crew drew a penis across the clear blue skies of Washington state in 2017").
“Balls are going to be a little lopsided,” the pilot advised.

“Balls are complete,” he reported moments later. “I just gotta navigate a little bit over here for the shaft.”

“Which way is the shaft going?” the EWO asked.

“The shaft will go to the left,” the pilot answered.

“It’s gonna be a wide shaft,” the EWO noted.

“I don’t wanna make it just like 3 balls,” the pilot said....

"Mayor Bill de Blasio grew hoarse shouting over the cranked-up crooning of Frank Sinatra tunes playing in the Trump Tower lobby as he tried to promote his 'Green New Deal.'"

"The mayor had planned a press conference outside the tower that houses president’s Manhattan residence, but Mother Nature forced him to relocate the event into some very unfriendly territory—the gilded building’s public lobby. 'Had the weather cooperated we would have been outside,' the mayor admitted. The atrium is one of several privately-owned, public spaces in the city that are created in exchange for loosening height restrictions. Trump Tower staff turned up the dial on the PA system just moments before the mayor entered the 5th Avenue building. Tony Bennet[t]’s 'Stranger in Paradise' and Frank Sinatra’s 'I’ve Got You Under My Skin' blasted through the speakers during the event. Trump supporters joined in the noise heckling the mayor with a steady stream of 'Boos' and 'You s—ks' as he tried to shout over the din."

The NY Post reports.

Very funny.

I love "Had the weather cooperated...." You know the weather is not enough. We need the whole climate to cooperate.

And I love that the mayor could move his event into Trump Tower because the city had extracted this access and Trump gave it to get more height to his building. Then the mayor moves his event inside and music — a kind of indoor weather — is rained down upon him, and it's somebody's idea of what sounds Trumpian — Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra.

By the way, the character who sings "Stranger in Paradise" — in the musical "Kismet" — is the Caliph. In the movie, that's Vic Damone:

ADDED: Video of de Blasio's non-paradise:

"Things people say when you get divorced that they really should say when you get engaged."

A list (at McSweeney's).

Maybe you're too nice to find this amusing.

"When's the last time the Brewers had a no-hitter?"

I ask when Meade tries to interest me in the fact that Mike Fiers had a no-hitter: He used to be a Milwaukee Brewer.

Researching the answer to my question, I discover, where I learn that the Brewers have had only one no-hitter in their entire history, and it was way back in 1987. And this is in the sidebar (click to enlarge and clarify):
That is, the Padres are about to beat the all-time record currently held by the Mets, who went 8,019 games without a no-hitter. The Padres have gone their entire history — 50 years, 1 month, 6 days — without a no-hitter. Good luck, Padres!

"Does this dress make me look guilty?"

The linked article isn't just about Sorokin but about various celebrities making questionable courtroom fashion choices. Excerpt:
And in 2011, during her trial for felony grand theft in Los Angeles, Lindsay Lohan garnered more attention for what she wore on her way to court — very short, clingy dresses, often in white or beige — than for the reasons she was in court, which may not have helped with her legal troubles, but made a different kind of case for her own fame in the public eye. “She walks into court like a movie star,” the lawyer Gloria Allred told The Times during the trial. “Apparently she hopes to be one.”

Ms. Allred also said then that her own general approach was to advise clients to dress for court as though they were dressing for church.
Some people get attention, some grab attention, and some — these are the ones you need to look out for — garner attention. It's not enough for them to have the attention right there in the moment. They need to amass it — to pile it up as if in a storehouse or granary.

ADDED: My all-time favorite celebrity courtroom look was Anna Nicole:

She won — in the Supreme Court, on a jurisdiction issue — and then she died and then she lost.

AND: To my eye, the look Anna Sorokin conjures up is the persecuted innocent:

"China will be pumping money into their system and probably reducing interest rates, as always, in order to make up for the business they are, and will be, losing."

"If the Federal Reserve ever did a 'match,' it would be game over, we win! In any event, China wants a deal!"

Trump tweets.

Other Trump tweeting on the China deal earlier this morning:

"What 'constitutional crisis? It seems to me the Constitution is in place, working as usual. There are some legal issues in play, but what's constitutional..."

"... other than that some of the various actors in the drama have positions defined in the Constitution and obtained by normal constitutional procedures? It was assumed that I would excitedly spring into action because of this assumed 'constitutional crisis,' but my response was that I felt distanced from all the ugly divisions, though I thought some good might ultimately come from the crumbling of the 2 political parties. They were 'getting what they deserve,' I said darkly, adding, 'We all are.' That brought the conversation in for a landing, and as I walked on, I thought, What constitutional crisis? It isn't a constitutional crisis. It's emotional politics, a national nervous breakdown."

That's just something I wrote in August 2018. I'm seeing it this morning because the first post of the day has some discussion of tags, because I created a new tag "origins of Russia investigation," because longstanding tag for the Russia investigation was "Trump troubles," and I imagined trouble for me if I labeled that post as if it were trouble for Trump rather than his antagonists.

DavidD asked if there's a tag for "Althouse troubles," and I said:
I don't blog about my troubles, any actual personal difficulties. What a different blog this would be if I did! Sorry, but I'm protecting my privacy enough that anything that would deserve that tag would not make it to the blog.

The closest thing I have is emotional Althouse.
So I looked to see what had gone up recently under that tag. How personal do I get? There's my annoyance at the badness of residential architecture, the time a man in a motorized wheelchair plowed into me, and someone was mean to me on Facebook.

And then there's the one I'm quoting at the top of this post, "Am I not all excited about the 'constitutional crisis' — me, a former constitutional law professor?" The question was something a "lawyer friend" of mine asked when he ran into me as I was walking along the shore of Lake Mendota, minding my own business.

The phrase "the constitutional crisis" must have been what everyone was talking about — what exactly was it back then?

And these days we're hearing "constitutional crisis" and what exactly is it now? The emotion of Emotional Althouse last August was cool and distanced, and it is now.

"Attorney General William P. Barr has assigned the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut to examine the origins of the Russia investigation..."

"... according to two people familiar with the matter, a move that President Trump has long called for but that could anger law enforcement officials who insist that scrutiny of the Trump campaign was lawful. John H. Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut, has a history of serving as a special prosecutor investigating potential wrongdoing among national security officials, including the F.B.I.’s ties to a crime boss in Boston and accusations of C.I.A. abuses of detainees. His inquiry is the third known investigation focused on the opening of an F.B.I. counterintelligence investigation during the 2016 presidential campaign into possible ties between Russia’s election interference and Trump associates. The department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, is separately examining investigators’ use of wiretap applications and informants and whether any political bias against Mr. Trump influenced investigative decisions. And John W. Huber, the United States attorney in Utah, has been reviewing aspects of the Russia investigation. His findings have not been announced."

The NYT reports.

I'm finally making a new tag for this. My longstanding tag for the Russia investigation has been "Trump troubles," and I would be having Althouse troubles if I used it on this post.

(The tag "I am making a new tag for this" is not new.)

ADDED: The last time I made a new tag and commemorated the occasion with "I am making a new tag for this" it was "Zuckerberg rhetoric." That was back in June 2017: "I only make a special 'rhetoric' tag for a person when I'm seriously following a run for President and I expect a lot of material."

The second-to-last time I used the "I am making a new tag for this" tag was for "nervous": "I've noticed what I think may be a significant trend in reporting in the Trump era: reporting it as news that somebody is — perhaps only by slanted inference — nervous." That reporting trend was detected in May 2017. But, like the Zuckerberg candidacy, it didn't take off.

Or did I just stop noticing? Unlike a Zuckerberg candidacy, it's the kind of thing you could adjust to and accept as normal.

AND: There are only 2 other uses of the "I am making a new tag for this tag": "furry" and "artisans." Maybe some day all these tags will arise in the same post. Who knows where the origins-of-Russia-investigation investigation may lead?

IN THE COMMENTS: Nobody said:
Comey publicly stated that there was no crime. Obviously he was using his position as a former prosecutor with corrupt intent to undermine this investigation and obstruct justice. He sent Martha Stewart to prison for protesting her innocence publicly, after all, so enjoy your time on the business end of the political weapon you built, Comey! Be sure not to say or do anything in response that could conceivably be interpreted as interfering in any way with the “justice” of this investigation!

Remember too that it’s obstruction even if there really is no crime!
But don't expect a MSM report that Comey is nervous. By the way, the post where I first made the nervous tag was about Comey. The Daily Beast had reported that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was "nervous" about "a possible Comey memo," and I said: "Maybe Comey should be nervous...."

It's what you call poetic justice, and there's no obstructing that. It flows quite freely on its own.

May 13, 2019

At the Sunset Café...

... you can talk all night.

And here's the Althouse Portal to Amazon, in case you need to do some shopping.

"I understand that judges, including Justices of this Court, may decide cases wrongly. I also understand that later-appointed judges may come to believe..."

"... that earlier-appointed judges made just such an error. And I understand that, because opportunities to correct old errors are rare, judges may be tempted to seize every opportunity to overrule cases they believe to have been wrongly decided. But the law can retain the necessary stability only if this Court resists that temptation, overruling prior precedent only when the circumstances demand it. It is one thing to overrule a case when it 'def[ies] practical workability,' when 'related principles of law have so far developed as to have left the old rule no more than a remnant of abandoned doctrine,' or when facts have so changed, or come to be seen so differently, as to have robbed the old rule of significant application or justification.' [Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833, 854–855 (1992).] It is far more dangerous to overrule a decision only because five Members of a later Court come to agree with earlier dissenters on a difficult legal question. The majority has surrendered to the temptation to overrule Hall even though it is a well-reasoned decision that has caused no serious practical problems in the four decades since we decided it."

Writes Justice Breyer, dissenting in Franchise Tax Board v. Hyatt, in which a 5-man majority overruled Nevada v. Hall, 440 U. S. 410 (1979). Under Hall, a state could permit a private citizen to use its courts to bring a lawsuit against another state without the consent of that state. Today's decision interprets the Constitution to mean that the states retain sovereign immunity from these suits.

Both the majority and the dissent analyzed the question of overruling precedent following the factors laid out in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 case that reconfigured Roe v. Wade, restating it in terms of its "essence," but declined to overrule it. Breyer's dissenting opinion today gestures at future abortion cases. He writes: "To overrule a sound decision like Hall is to encourage litigants to seek to overrule other cases...." and "Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next."

"Many people have become captivated by the idea of using stem cells to fix their damaged joints, and some claim to have been helped."

"But there is no clear evidence that these treatments work, and their safety has yet to be established. Most researchers, including those at the National Institutes of Health, think that efforts to sell therapies involving adult stem cells, which can develop into different types of cells to replenish tissue, have gotten way ahead of the science. Even so, hundreds of clinics have popped up around the country to meet the demand. Some of the clinics also inject joints with platelet-rich plasma, a solution of platelets extracted from the patient’s own blood.... There is almost no regulatory oversight of orthopedic procedures using bone-marrow extracts or platelets, which are regarded as low risk.... 'I believe strongly that it isn’t ethical to charge patients for unproven therapies like these and raise what are likely to be false hopes,' said Paul S. Knoepfler, a stem cell researcher at the University of California, Davis. He said that some properly conducted studies on platelet-rich plasma suggested it might help, but others did not. As for stem cells extracted from bone marrow, Dr. Knoepfler said well-controlled studies were even scarcer, also with mixed results.... [P]atients rely on testimonials and other informal evidence.... 'The power of anecdotes is just amazing when it just catches on,' said Donna Messner, the president of the Center for Medical Technology Policy, a nonprofit research group. 'This is how snake oil has been sold for generations.'"

From "Stem Cell Treatments Flourish With Little Evidence That They Work/The F.D.A. has taken an industry-friendly approach toward companies using unproven cell cocktails to treat people desperate for relief from aging or damaged joints" (NYT).

Google thinks it knows me.

The ad it serves up:

"I may be a part of the LGBTQ community but being a gay man doesn't even tell me what it's like to be a trans woman of color in that same community, let alone an undocumented mother of four or a disabled veteran or displaced autoworker."

Said Pete Buttigieg at Las Vegas Human Rights Campaign Gala at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas the other day. I got the quote from the full transcript here, via "Pete Buttigieg on the problem with 'identity politics'" at my son John's blog. John asks "Could this be Pete Buttigieg's Sister Souljah moment?"

"My sister caused a scene at Mother’s Day brunch because we didn’t honor her as a 'cat mom.'"

A man seeks relationship advice on Reddit:
Hi guys. I am a man, 32M and I have two sisters - Carly (38F) and Melinda (26F). We went out to a family style restaurant for brunch and just returned home.

Melinda and I are happily married, each with three children. My older sister Carly never married. She had a fiancé that she cheated on and he left her. That was 10 years ago and she hasn’t been in a relationships longer a few months ever since. She has 4 indoor cats and also feeds a few stray cats that han[g] around her neighborhood.

My mom was very ecstatic because in the last year, my younger sister and I both gave her an additional grandchild. So she gave a speech....
Yes, you are a man. I didn't have to read any further. At least he's seeking help.

It's Reddit, so the highest rated comment is the one that tells him the phrase "Melinda and I are happily married" makes it sound like he's married to his sister.

Is Kamala Harris up for the challenge?

Here's the full interview she did with Jake Tapper on his "State of the Union" yesterday:

The transcript is here, and we already talked about what she said about the need for the government to break up Facebook. There's other substance — the "constitutional crisis," foreign trade deals, the idea of a federal gun license, Medicare for all (including those in the country illegally), prosecuting parents for their kids' truancy, Biden's treatment of Anita Hill, "Why should you be the nominee?" — and you can talk about any of that — but I'm interested in the overall impression she makes on camera for 10 minutes.

I really don't understand why she doesn't have people helping her make a better impression.

First, why did she (they?) accept a set up with Jake Tapper sitting much higher than her so that it looks like he's intimidating her and she's pleading with him. It looks like he's on a platform, but I can see that he is 11 inches taller than her (6'1" versus 5'2"), but their eye level should have been equalized. The many camera shots from behind his back look absurd.

Second, she looks anxious and insecure. She seems as if she's seeking approval from Jake, and he is absolutely not giving it. I ended up thinking, jeez, he hates her, but on reflection, I think he was maintaining a professional demeanor and she was using a technique that might work on underlings — nodding and shaking her head almost continually — and he had to maintain a steely demeanor. She never adapted, but kept lamely trying to extract approval from him. Sometimes she breaks out into a big smile and laughs, and that could be appealing, but with the head-nodding and approval-seeking, it seems subordinate and not presidential.

Third, she stumbles through her answers and is not prepared with strong material to handle predictable questions. For example:
TAPPER: Cory Booker has called for creating federal gun licenses, which would require fingerprints, an interview and a gun safety course. Opponents of this say it would essentially create a way for the government to -- to track gun owners. Would you support a federal gun license?

HARRIS: I like the idea. But, you know Jake, I'm going to tell you, on this issue of the need for gun safety laws, we're not at any loss for good ideas. People have been having good ideas for decades on this issue. What we're at a loss is for people in Congress to have the courage to do something. We -- and, you know, I'm going to tell you, on this subject, we're not waiting for the worst tragedy, because we've seen the worst of tragedies, including what just happened this week, and and and seeing the heroism of a child, who we now mourn his loss, his parents' only child.
She needed a yes or no answer about federal gun licenses, with an explanation why. It's insane to think you can get by — on the presidential level — just saying "I like the idea" and immediately pivoting to generic material about "courage" and how sad it is when a child dies! And that's just the transcript. The impression in the video is much worse. Here, I've clipped that section out. Note the evasive language and the continual head nodding. Also I've got a bit more than what's quoted above (and you'll see she's very eager to impose gun control — something, anything, including by executive order):

ADDED: The pivot — "But, you know Jake, I'm going to tell you, on this issue of the need for gun safety laws" — is infuriating. Booker's proposal raises privacy interests, and Tapper pointed her right at the problem — it's "a way for the government to track gun owners" — and she swapped in "gun safety." Yes, we all care about gun safety, but we're concerned about privacy, and you just showed yourself to be someone who doesn't even notice privacy (or pretends not to notice).