June 15, 2019

At the Central Park Café...


... with your very best friends.

I told you about my "imaginary movie project."


And I even watched the first movie, from the first year, 1960, and wrote a post about it, here.

Since then, I've watched the next 2 movies. Remember, the idea is to rewatch a movie that I originally saw in the theater in the year that it came out, one movie for each year. I'm choosing movies that I think will be fun to watch now and to see how my present-day reaction compares to what I thought and felt at the time. And I want to be inspired to blog about it.

But I didn't blog about the 1961 movie when I watched it a week ago, and now that I've watched the 1962 movie, I have a backlog — a blog backlog. That's uncharacteristic of me, so maybe I'm telling myself: Don't do it! Or maybe I just need you to encourage me. You saw what I did with the 1960 movie, "Please Don't Eat the Daisies."

I'll reveal the titles of the 1961 and the 1962 movies, in case you want to take that into account in encouraging me: "The Absent-Minded Professor" and "The Music Man." And I'll just say that these movies are both, in my 2019 view, essentially entirely about overcoming sexual inhibition. There will be more sex than you could possibly imagine, or, I mean, there was more sex than I could possibly imagine when I was 10 and 11, as I was in 1961 and 1962.

Next up, for 1963: "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World."

"I like the concept of red, white and blue. The baby blue doesn’t fit with us."

Said President Trump about his choice of a new color scheme for the Air Force One planes (that will be delivered in 2024, after he's gone from office (unless he does that thing some people furiously ideate about and stays though his term is up)).

I'm reading the quote in the NYT, which adds:
The current plane’s design is closely associated with John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, who chose the colors in consultation with the famed French designer Raymond Loewy.

The Kennedys both disliked the look of the plane under President Eisenhower, changing the paint scheme from orange to a lighter blue. They took care with the design because they wanted to present a less militaristic image to the rest of the world.

In their reimagining, “The United States of America” was emblazoned on the side of the plane, the font a close match to one used in the printing of the United States Constitution. The plane’s new look was unveiled in 1962....

And here's some classic Trump provocation:
“People get used to something,” Mr. Trump said, “and it was Jackie O.,” referring to Onassis, the last name Mrs. Kennedy took during her second marriage. “And that’s good,” Mr. Trump continued, “but we have our own Jackie O. today. It’s called Melania. We’ll call it Melania T.”

"Friendship these days is more like polyamory. We start aligning with people in early childhood, and our collections only grow."

"As we move through life we make friends for every occasion — college friends, work friends, mom friends, climbing-gym friends, divorce friends. We are told to nurture old relationships even — maybe especially — when new ones are formed, to 'be there,' no matter how busy, or uninterested, we find ourselves... There are scandalous transgressions or betrayals that can kill a friendship. But more often, there’s no accounting for a friendship’s demise. The atmosphere changes; a sense of duty creeps in. Conversations that were once freewheeling shift into that less than enjoyable territory of 'catching up.'... My old friend eventually reached out to me, several months after she’d disappeared. She said she didn’t know why she needed space, but she did, and she was sorry. I told her that it had been painful but I understood. We saw each other a few times after that, but it was different; we’d come apart. Out of respect for friendship’s sanctity, when the magic dims, the best thing to do is let go...."

Writes Lauren Mechling in "How to End a Friendship/The rules governing romantic love are clearer. But few relationships are meant to last forever" (NYT).

A comment at the NYT:
The loss of a friendship, whether it ends abruptly or just fades away, is always disappointing and disconcerting. It inevitably leads to feelings of self-doubt and alienation. I have suffered through this condition, as we all have, my share and have found neither a cure nor a prophylactic. My only advice is this: avoid if possible the desire to force-maintain a dying friendship, or to imagine that you can mount some kind of argument for the relationship. Nothing will add to your misery more than grasping after something which you can no longer possess. If you can simply let the friendship go, it sometimes returns in surprising and often quite meaningful ways. Some friendships do really die. Others are just in a coma.

"Germany Joins Chorus Casting Doubt on Trump Administration Claim that Iran Was Behind Attack on Oil Tankers."

Newsweek headline.
"The video is not enough. We can understand what is being shown, sure, but to make a final assessment, this is not enough for me," [Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko] Maas told reporters during a press conference on Friday. The boat's Japanese owner also cast doubt on the theory that a mine had been used to attack the ship, telling journalists that members of his crew had witnessed a flying object.

Iran has denied any role in the event, and some observers have raised questions about whether the intelligence was being used as a pretext for the U.S. to escalate conflict with the country.

"But now my students watch as senators hold their tongues, terrified of being ridiculed on the president’s Twitter feed or angering Trump’s base."

Writes polisci prof David Lay Williams "Trump has made my political science students skeptical — of the Constitution/They used to love the Federalist Papers. Now they see holes in the essays’ arguments" (WaPo).

The sentence quoted above follows this: "The authors of 'The Federalist' also thought that Congress — particularly the Senate — would tamp down the passionate excesses of the people, should they be stimulated by 'artful misrepresentations' from any source (Federalist 63)."

Are Senators really self-censoring more than they used to and is it from a terror of being ridiculed* by the President or angering his fans? If the Senators are so sensitive to popular passions and terrified of voters, it's because they worry about reelection, and that's not a problem with the Federalist Papers, which discuss a constitutional plan in which the Senators were chosen by state legislatures.

Williams asserts that "Trump is eroding" the "'veneration' that successful constitutions require" and that if "people lose faith in the constitutional order, politics can... spiral out of control." What to do? Impeachment!



June 14, 2019

At the Beribboned Café...


... you can talk all night.

The Democratic candidates have been divided up into 2 groups, for debates on successive nights.

NBC has announced.

June 26th:
... Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), former Rep. John Delaney (D-MD), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), former HUD Sec. Julian Castro, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA).
June 27th:
... former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), author Marianne Williamson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), entrepreneur Andrew Yang, and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper...
The second debate seems to have the stronger set of candidates, but that might not hurt the candidates in the first debate. People will be excited about the first debate, just because it's first, and without Biden and Sanders to draw attention, they have a chance to shine. I expect Elizabeth Warren to dominate, but everyone has a chance to stick out. On day 2, I expect Gillibrand and Harris to suffer in contrast to Sanders, Biden, and Buttigieg. I think those 2 women are bland.

That's just my guess.

"You might assume that someone would have thought of this perfect Venn diagram of social media, beauty pageant, puppy adoration, grinning female empowerment, and Gilded Age excess by now."

"But in fact, this was the first ever Miss Dog Mom USA pageant....  The dogs, it would be fair to say, had no real agenda for the evening. But the women were there to win, to walk away with $1,000 and the sateen sash and a yearlong contract to wave from parade floats and officiate at canine weddings (yes, they exist) as Miss Dog Mom 2019.... Desh Valcin, 31, a tall, elegant woman with close-cropped hair and nerd-chic black plastic glasses, first came up with the idea for Miss Dog Mom a few years ago, when she was telling a friend how happy she was when she was 16 and competing in Miss Teen USA. From that moment, Ms. Valcin fixated on how to fuse her love of beauty pageants with her passion for her pets. Then, last summer, while strolling with her two dogs, it hit her: all you needed to turn a routine dog walk into a glamorous catwalk is a ball gown and an audience... Ms. Riddle, first up, was asked if pageants are degrading to women. 'How can this be degrading when we are raising money for all these great animals?' she asked, to cheers from the crowd. Then, a little flustered, she added, 'Nothing’s degrading, right?' before handing the microphone back the judges. One contestant fielded a question about pit bull discrimination (her take: pit bulls deserve equal rights)."

From "The Real Dog Moms of New York City/Inside the chaos, glitter and absolute furry cuteness of a puppy pageant" (NYT).

"Countless workout fads have come along since the heyday of Jazzercise: Tae Bo, Pilates, Zumba, boxing, spinning, pole dancing."

"And yet Jazzercise persists: today, according to the company, there are more than seven thousand franchises, serving roughly two hundred and fifty thousand customers in twenty-five countries and grossing somewhere between ninety-five million and a hundred million dollars per year.... Back in 1969, [Judi Sheppard] Missett was a twenty-five-year-old jazz dancer living in Evanston, Illinois, with her husband, who was working as a TV-news reporter, and her one-year-old daughter. A dancer since girlhood—in Iowa, in 1961, she’d been crowned America’s Most Beautiful Majorette, after impressing the judges by twirling a baton festooned with corn cobs—she had studied at Northwestern University, helping to pay her way through college by dancing at industrial theatre shows for Admiral appliances and Philco TV sets. She continued dancing with Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago and planned to pursue a career on the stage. At Giordano’s studios, she taught a morning class called Jazz Dance for Adult Beginners. But her students, mostly stay-at-home mothers, kept dropping out. 'It bugged me,' she recalled. 'I said, "How come you didn’t come back? How can I improve?" And they said, "Well, you’re teaching the class like we’re going to go on and become professional dancers, when in fact we don’t want to be professional dancers. We want to look like one."'... She retitled her class Jazz Dance for Fun and Fitness, teaching simple routines to jazz and Top Forty hits... She turned Jazzercise classes into commercial franchises... As the fitness craze grew, Missett faced new competitors, such as Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons. But, unlike them, she didn’t market herself as a celebrity trainer. The brand was the star...."

From "Born Before the Fitness Industry, Jazzercise Turns Fifty" (The New Yorker).

"Snatched from their families at a young and vulnerable age, these [Yazidi] children now must undergo the trauma of new separations and new adjustments..."

"... after spending some of the most formative years of their lives with the militants.... [One kidnapped Yazidi girl, speaking about Umm Ali, the woman she had lived with, said"] 'I love her more than my own mother.... She treated me better than my original mother. My mother and father divorced and they didn’t care about me. Umm Ali really cared for me, as if I were her own daughter.'... [A 15-year-old Yazidi boy said this about going back to his people:] 'Maybe there’s a lot of things I won’t like... The women where I am going don’t cover their hair. It will be very hard for me if someone comes to my house and sees my mother and my sister not covered. Or if I go to my uncle’s house and see the faces of his daughters. I can’t force them to do something they don’t want. But when I get married I will not allow anyone to see the face of my wife.' The 14-year-old girl nodded and said...  'Dressed like this now, I’m not comfortable. I feel naked... If I am pretty, men will look at me and it will cause strife... I’m confused. There they tell you to do one thing. Here they tell you another. When I was there I was told to wear abaya and cover my face. Here they tell me not to cover. In my mind it’s chaos.'"

From "The kidnapped Yazidi children who don’t want to be rescued from ISIS" (WaPo).

"Look, George, you’re being a little wise guy, okay, which is typical for you. Just so you understand, very simple, it is very simple, there was no crime."

Said Trump to George Stephanopoulos.

Stephanopoulos is 5'5", so I take "little wise guy" as a personal insult.

Here's the clip:

"You can hear a pin drop in the WaPo editorial room this evening, as eight people try hard not to think about '8-digit punitive damages for libel.'"

So says the highest-rated comment on "Market awarded $44M in racism dispute with Oberlin College" an AP story that ran in The Washington Post, and the only WaPo story about the jury's award of punitive damages. The same AP story is also the only coverage of the news in the NYT.

I wanted to post on this news and just wanted something factual and journalistic, and I was disappointed that the 2 main newspapers I read just put up this rather thin AP story:
A jury in Lorain County awarded David Gibson, son Allyn Gibson and Gibson’s Bakery, of Oberlin, $33 million in punitive damages Thursday. That comes on top of an award a day earlier of $11 million in compensatory damages.
Problems between the Gibsons, their once-beloved bakery and the college began in November 2016 after Allyn Gibson, who is white, confronted a black Oberlin student who had shoplifted wine. Two other black students joined in and assaulted Gibson, police said.

The day after the arrests, hundreds of students protested outside the bakery .
The extra space between "bakery" and the period is present at both the WaPo and the NYT. That's how little attention they paid to this story — not even rudimentary copy editing.
Members of Oberlin College’s student senate published a resolution saying Gibson’s had “a history of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment.”

When news of the protests spread online, bikers and counterprotesters soon converged on the town to jeer students and make purchases from Gibson’s. Conservatives derided the students on social media as coddled “snowflakes” with a mob mentality, while students attacked the store as a symbol of systemic racism....
A direct quote — "snowflakes" — for those "conservatives." Which conservatives? Who? Did they all say the word "snowflakes"? Were they all taking a derisive tone? This is a story about the seriousness of damage caused by free-swinging attacks, so you might want to rein it in. Notice the students were concerned about "systemic racism" and their tone isn't characterized nastily, but they were involved in causing harm that the jury soberly examined and found deserving of a $33 million punitive damages award. And conservatives are casually smeared, made to look like they get on social media and jeer and name-call.

The AP article ends with a grab-bag of factoids:
Oberlin has long been a bastion of liberalism. During the 1830s, it became one of the first colleges to admit blacks and women. During the 1850s, it became a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Today, about 15% of Oberlin’s 8,300 residents are black.

More recently, news articles quoted students decrying the school dining hall’s sushi and Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches as cultural appropriation.

The Gibsons’ attorneys said the college, which charges $70,000 a year for tuition and room and board, has an $887 million endowment and can easily afford to pay the family what they are owed.

Oberlin’s tree-lined campus is roughly 35 miles (56 kilometers) southwest of downtown Cleveland.
And there's your NYT and WaPo coverage of this story. Thin, undigested AP material. And you won't find it on the home page. I had to do a search to find it.

IN THE COMMENTS: wendybar said:
The best coverage anywhere was from Professor William A. Jacobson @ Legal Insurrection!! The Main Stream Media is the propaganda arm of the Democrats so of course this doesn't fit the agenda.
Here's the Legal Insurrection post about the punitive damages verdict. Excerpt:
“We never wanted any of this to go to court and have to spend all this time in litigation,” David Gibson said exclusively to the Legal Insurrection. David Gibson is the lead plaintiff in the case and is the principal owner of the business.

“People have no idea on how much stress this has had on our family and business for almost three years. But from the beginning, we just didn’t understand why they were punishing us for something we had nothing to do with.”

“We appreciate that the jury understood what we had gone through, and I think they were saying to the entire country that we can’t allow this to happen to hard-working, small business people whose lives are defined by their business, their family, and their community,” he said.” What the college was doing was trying to take away all those things from us, and we fought hard against that.”
Left Bank of the Charles said:
Here’s some better reporting. The college seems to have thought that claims of poverty would work in its defense against the punitive damages.
He links to "Gibson's Bakery v. Oberlin College: Plaintiffs rest in second day of punitive phase (UPDATED)" (Houston Chronicle):
With its endowment as it is now," [Oberlin President Carmen Twillie Ambar] said the college can survive, but “survival isn’t sustainability”.... Of that $1.4 billion, the college has an $887 million endowment — more than two-thirds of which can’t be spent by the college because of the wishes of the donors who provided it... The largest check the college could write if it had to would be for $49.1 million from its unrestricted endowment funds....

[Lee Plakas, the lead attorney for the Gibsons] told jurors that “defamatory words in our country have become weapons as damaging as guns that shoot bullets”... “More damaging than bullets once you’re defamed... There is no procedure to remove those words.”...

He recalled for jurors how Oberlin College administrators labeled the Gibsons and their supporters “idiots,” discussed in internal texts and emails how they wanted to “unleash the students” or “rain fire and brimstone” on Gibson’s and how Meredith Raimondo, the college’s vice president and dean of students, referred to the college’s business with Gibson’s as the “stupid bakery order.”...

“Let’s teach the institution not to put gas on the fires,” Plakas told the jury, also asking them to consider recommending Miraldi award the Gibsons money to cover attorney fees. “They’re not above the law. They can’t make up their own rules.”...

"As Trump told Stephanopoulos, there is nothing wrong with listening to information that anyone, foreign or domestic, might have that is relevant to a presidential candidate."

"But what is blindingly obvious, yet absent from every Democratic Party news account feigning horror at the ABC interview, is that the Hillary Clinton campaign didn’t just receive 'foreign dirt' on the Trump campaign. It paid for foreign sources to fabricate lies about Trump, which it then disseminated to the press. Listen to 'foreign dirt'? The Clinton [campaign] paid for it!"

Writes John Hinderaker (at Power Line).

June 13, 2019

At the Fearless/Honest/Able Café...


... you can talk all night.

The photo is a detail from the "America Today" mural at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"Sanders’s Speech About Socialism Was Deeply Unserious/In the senator’s view, the threat of autocracy comes exclusively from the right."

Writes Yascha Mounk in The Atlantic:
If Sanders was coy about the details of a “socialist” economy, he was downright disdainful of the notion that a speech on socialism and authoritarianism should seriously grapple with the long history of socialist movements that have ended in dictatorship. In his view, the threat of autocracy comes exclusively from the right. Just as in the 1930s, “America and the world are once again moving towards authoritarianism.” This danger is driven by “right-wing forces of oligarchy, corporatism, nationalism, racism, and xenophobia.” The only answer that will stave off fascism is, you guessed it, “democratic socialism.”

Thus Sanders name-checked Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini but remained silent about Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. And while he rightly decried the autocratic tendencies of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, he neglected to mention leftist autocrats such as Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, Cuba’s Raúl Castro, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa, or North Korea’s Kim Jung Un. Indeed, the only connection between socialism and autocracy that Sanders was willing to acknowledge is the one that exists in the feverish imagination of the ignorant right: He decried the “red-baiting” in which Republicans have long engaged.

The implication was obvious. Anybody who was hoping for a clear account of the differences between Sanders’s political ambitions and those of autocratic socialist regimes is a fellow traveler of Richard Nixon, Newt Gingrich, John Boehner, Donald Trump, and the Heritage Foundation....

The speech Sanders gave was not serious.
It's enough (and it's better) to say "not serious." The headline writer came up with "deeply unserious," and you may know I have a thing about the word "deeply" (click the tag). The headline writer must have felt pressure to bump it up to "deeply unserious," which seems snazzy and contemporary and (ironically) less serious. "Deeply" especially annoys when it modifies something that lacks depth — unless humor is intended, but this isn't a subject for humor. We're talking about the oppression and murder of millions. To deploy humor would be... deeply shallow. See what I mean?

"The summer begins with a new crop of sexually explicit, mostly European movies set off from Cannes to the festival circuit and eventually to brief art-house runs..."

"... while Hollywood churns out its chief export of gun-happy escapism and wholesome kid stuff. Between those two channels the classic sex scene — once a staple of high-gloss, adult-oriented, mainstream movies — has been largely forgotten and ignored, recommitted to very esoteric margins it sprang from generations ago.... Today, whether it’s in 'Long Shot' or 'Rocketman,' the sex scene has been reduced to a shorthand, an instantly recognizable grammar that begins with some jokey or flirtatious foreplay, cuts to some flesh (tasteful enough to honor the actors’ no-nudity clauses), then discreetly cuts away....  [A]udiences are now far more attuned to how life and art can’t be separated: Stories of Maria Schneider feeling manipulated and misused on the set of 'Last Tango,' or [Abdellatif] Kechiche’s actresses expressing similar misgivings about how they were treated in 'Blue Is the Warmest Color,' force the discomfiting realization that, all too often, our visual pleasure has been generated by means of an exploitative and dehumanizing production process.... To be sure, there’s precious little to mourn in the death of the kind of ogling soft-core wish-fulfillment fantasies that male directors foisted on viewers for nearly a century. But is abstinence really our only option?"

Asks Ann Hornaday in "Sex is disappearing from the big screen, and it’s making movies less pleasurable" (WaPo).

The top-rated comment: "Could not disagree more. What is implied is always more erotic than what is shown. It is the same with horror movies these days. Every gory act is shown in excruciating detail. With both sex and horror in film, audiences are too rarely given the chance to use the imagination."

I don't go to movies anymore, but I'd say the problem is a lack of adult material but I don't mean the extended, graphic sex scenes. I mean the stories and the emotions. I don't see enough of what's there to really know, but it seems to me there are a lot of flashy spectacles with quick cutting and loud noises and sudden surprises. It's boring unless you're a child or feeling childish.

I'm catching up with the news about President Trump's not-actually-blank sheet of paper.

Oh, the things you let slip by when you're blogging under travel conditions!

I'm back at my comfortable desktop Mac in my familiar place in the Meadhouse treehouse, and I see the remains of news stories that I didn't bother to make into posts as I was blogging on the fly from my laptop at the Arthouse in New York City.

I saw the stuff on Trump's sheet of paper that he waved about as representing the deal with Mexico. It was a prop, so nothing seemed really to hang on whether that sheet of paper had any words on it, but for those looking for whatever can be used against Trump, it was their prop too, and so symbolic — blank, like Trump himself.

Now, I'm seeing the news about the sheet of paper is that at one point Trump held it up and you could see that it was folded up and — because of the sunlight — that it wasn't blank.
“You were able to read it through the sunlight,” Mr. Trump told reporters at a press conference a bit sheepishly. “That was not anticipated.”
Sheepishly? Or is he playing us? I don't know that he didn't "anticipate" that his antagonists would go nuts over a seemingly blank sheet of paper and then get caught when close examination of the photograph revealed that there was text in there.
“I just give you my word, inside here … is the agreement,” he said at [on Tuesday]. “That’s the agreement that everybody says I don’t have.”
That was showmanship. Who know how deep the showmanship went? Obviously, having a piece of paper doesn't mean you have a deal, regardless of what words are on the paper. And you could have a deal without a piece of paper. But props are effective.
The president said he would “love” to show the actual text of the agreement to journalists, “but you will freeze action it, you will stop it, you will analyze it…”
And then it turned out that the text could be read, through the reverse side of the paper. It said:
“The Government of Mexico will take all necessary steps under domestic law to bring the agreement into force with a view to ensuring that the agreement will enter into force within 45 days.”
Once the press went through its routine of mocking the lack of text and then the discernment of the text...
The president marveled to reporters on Wednesday, “It was closed, and you were able to read it through the sunlight. I did not do that on purpose.”
Marveled, theatrically.  Oh, you reporters got the better of me! Really? I think he got the better of them. They performed his little story, showing their fake-newiness, then peeking into his private paper and doing a big reveal on the text, then having the benefit of showing it without being responsibility of showing it, and giving us the feeling that we now have really seen the agreement. And yet we haven't!

It's just an agreement about "the agreement."

Whatever is in that unseen text.

And the titillation goes on.

"President Trump has resumed talks with Major League Baseball owners after his administration blocked a historic agreement that would have allowed Cuban baseball players to join MLB teams without having to defect."

"But the White House made clear that in exchange for revisiting that decision, it wants MLB, like other groups with ties to the island, to urge Cuba to reduce its long-standing cooperation with Venezuela's socialist government," NPR reports.

Cory Booker: "@RuPaul stole my look."

I saw that because I went to the Cory Booker Twitter feed looking for something that Sarah Hoyt at Instapundit called "too stupid for words." But she linked to a Washington Examiner article about it and though that article displayed the tweet, the video in the tweet didn't play and I wanted to hear it. Is it stupid? Watch the whole video before reacting:

June 12, 2019

At the Tiny Lawn Café...


... you can run free.

I made it back home from New York City, where I stayed at the Arthouse Hotel... not Althouse, Arthouse.

"The US women's soccer team has defended itself after being slammed for wildly celebrating every goal in their 13-0 defeat of Thailand."

"The Women's World Cup favorites thrashed the minnows in Riems, France, on Tuesday night leaving their opponents in tears and were then criticized by commentators and soccer fans for reacting to each goal as if it were their first," The Daily Mail reports.

What's the defense? It's hardly worth typing about. It's something like... they had dreams. And this bullshit feminism in the form of a question: "If this is 10-0 in a men's World Cup are we getting the same questions?"

Here's a poll that makes the point it was constructed to make.


The big "Russiagate" question: Why... did Bruce Ohr admit to the FBI that his wife worked for opposition researchers Fusion GPS while failing to disclose it to the DoJ?"

Asked by Eric Felton at Real Clear Investigations. From his answer:
The average opposition researcher would be hard-pressed to get the attention of an associate deputy attorney general, let alone his cooperation. But the Fusion GPS crowd had the right connections. Steele and Ohr are close enough that Steele could sign an email to his old friend with “Love and Best Wishes to you, Nellie and all the family.” Simpson is an acquaintance of long standing. Nellie is, well, Ohr’s wife....

Bruce Ohr's Justice Department disclosure.... was not forthcoming about his wife's "independent contractor" work. The work turned out to be for Clinton-hired oppo research firm Fusion GPS.

Bruce Ohr states of his wife’s work that she is an “Independent contractor.” But look high and low on the form, you won’t find any information describing who Nellie Ohr did her contract work for, or how much she was paid. The Office of Government Ethics explicitly requires those details. When it comes to a spouse’s income, the filer is instructed to: “Provide the name of the source and, for privately held companies, the nature of the business.” Not only should Bruce Ohr have listed Fusion GPS as the source of his wife’s income, he should have revealed her income and included a description of the Fusion enterprise....

Why, if Ohr was willing to tell the FBI about his conflict of interest, had he done his best to hide it on his annual ethics filing? Why didn't he correct his filing to make it consistent with what he was telling the bureau? Perhaps because he counted on the FBI to keep his role in the affair secret. Ohr encouraged the FBI to listen to Steele’s stories. When Steele broke the bureau’s rules and lost his privileged (and paid) status, Ohr stepped in to keep the stories flowing. He would talk to Christopher Steele and then report the conversation to an FBI handler who would write up the discussion in a classified form 302....

The dossier, a bundle of wild accusations that might never have gotten past a junior G-man, was whisked to the bureau’s seventh floor on the strength of Ohr’s relationship with Andrew McCabe and Lisa Page. Ohr exploited one set of powerful connections on behalf of a separate, more personal set of connections.

"The slower is faster (SIF) effect occurs when a system performs worse as its components try to do better."

"Thus, a moderate individual efficiency actually leads to a better systemic performance. The SIF effect takes place in a variety of phenomena. We review studies and examples of the SIF effect in pedestrian dynamics, vehicle traffic, traffic light control, logistics, public transport, social dynamics, ecological systems, and adaptation. Drawing on these examples, we generalize common features of the SIF effect and suggest possible future lines of research."

The abstract for "When slower is faster" by Carlos Gershenson and Dirk Helbing, which I found after saying and looking up the phrase "slower is faster." I didn't think I could be the first person to use that phrase, but I did arrive at it on my own, after having a great experience getting something done incredibly quickly by setting out to do it quite slowly.

It's like "less is more." There must be a hundred phrases in that pattern, and I don't mean phrases that are supposed to be understood as a bad — like Orwell's “War is peace" and "Freedom is slavery." I mean phrases that express a good and insightful concept.

America has gotten so weird that I thought this Drudge display...

... meant that Elizabeth Warren was considering naming Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as her VP choice.

The link goes to "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dangles 2020 endorsement: Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren?" That is, the "her" is AOC, and AOC might endorse Warren. That still strongly demonstrates the power of AOC. It didn't work on me, but Drudge assumed we'd look at that picture and those words and see AOC as the active participant, the "her" who might do something important. I assumed the dominance of Warren — she's the "her" — but I was imagining AOC, a freshman Congresswoman, as a potential VP choice.

So weird!

"We’re becoming more persona-dominated. We all put on an act about how people want to see and hear us. We do it all the time on social media."

"Human beings evolved in small hunter-gatherer groups where everyone knew one another. We aren’t necessarily adapted to be interacting with strangers all the time. People find it incredibly tiring. At least in a taxi, you have an opportunity to sit and be quiet."

Said the clinical psychologist Paul Gilbert, quoted in "Hit the mute button: why everyone is trying to silence the outside world/Uber is trialling a feature that allows customers to stop their drivers from talking. But there’s growing evidence that cutting ourselves off like this isn’t healthy" (The Guardian).

One Uber driver quoted in the article says that even without that Uber shush feature, he can tell who wants chitchat. There are outward signs: "Most people have their earphones on anyway. I usually have my Bluetooth earphone in too." And he wants to listen to "audiobooks, lectures, radio, podcasts, educational stuff."

The author of the article, Richard Godwin, observes that headphones — "retreat into our own discrete sound worlds" — are essentially a mute button. He looks around in his office and sees half of his colleagues isolating their heads under headphones. There's a term for this, "the privatization of auditory space." A lecturer in sonic anthropology observes that we have eyelids but not earlids, and "We don’t have any control over what drips into our ears and collects in them. Earphones are the closest we have to that."

A neuroscientist explains another sight-versus-hearing distinction: "When you look at an object, it appears to be out there in the world. But sounds, for most of us, feel like they’re emanating from within our heads. It makes them more intimate and more intrusive." But sound from headphones is even more intimate and feels even more like it's coming from within your head.

There's so much isolation from your surroundings, so many chance encounters averted, so much commitment to the belief that what's in your personal presence is negative or at least dull and unworthy of attention. You've got to replace it with substance from elsewhere.

This subject made me think of Bob Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man":
Well, you walk into the room
Like a camel and then you frown
You put your eyes in your pocket
And your nose on the ground
There ought to be a law
Against you comin’ around
You should be made
To wear earphones
Dylan had the idea of forcing  the thin man ("Mr. Jones") to go under the earphones, but today all the Mr. Joneses put their earphones in voluntarily. The Guardian article characterizes them as muting the world around them, but from the Dylan perspective, they are muting themselves and ridding him of their unwanted existence. Who's muting whom?

"The president is literally an existential threat to America," said Joe Biden.

Quoted in "Biden and Trump exchange fire in Iowa, ignoring others in the field" (WaPo), teased on the front page as "In Iowa, the feud between Trump and Biden gains strength/President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden ridiculed one another in the harshest terms they’ve used so far."

Trump's response isn't specific to Biden's "literally... existential" barb, just the idea that "Joe is weak mentally":

Years ago, Trump insults, Biden was nothing, polling at 1%, until Obama picked him "off the trash heap." Now, Biden is doing well in the polls, but "he's a different guy. He looks different than he used to. He acts different than he used to. He’s even slower than he used to be.... Joe Biden is a dummy."

By the way, Trump was speaking before going to Iowa, so the teaser headline — with "in Iowa" — is factually wrong. It's got to be like with roaches. If you see one, there are a thousand more that you're not seeing.

What, if anything, do you think Biden is trying to say when he calls Trump an "existential threat"? Underscored with "literally," it should mean that, with Trump, there's a danger that America will cease to exist. I think he's trying to say the America we know and love is threatened by Trump. But to find that meaning, we can't take "literally" literally.

I don't know if I want to make a tag for "Biden rhetoric." Biden's use of language is not very snappy. I don't know if I want to get into a pedantic critique of the use of multisyllabic confusing words like "literally" and "existential."

Do you think some people see Biden gesturing at the philosophy of existentialism? The OED says "existential" can mean, "Of, relating to, or concerned with individual human existence, esp. as seen from the point of view of existentialism; of, relating to, or characteristic of existentialism; having, or prompted by, a keen awareness of individual freedom and responsibility."

ADDED: Maybe what I need is a tag, "Existential Biden." Using those words, I found, "Why Is Joe Biden the Only Democrat Who Wants to Talk About Donald Trump?," by Susan B. Glasser in The New Yorker, April 26, 2019:
Given the almost numbing predictability of the President and the ever-increasing difficulty his critics have mustering outrage toward him at this point, it came as a jolt to see Joe Biden go directly at Trump in a video announcing his Presidential campaign, on Thursday. The seventy-six-year-old former Vice-President unabashedly took the Trump-bashing course that most of the eighteen other declared Democratic candidates for 2020 have eschewed. In his launch video, which is three minutes and thirty seconds of Biden mostly talking into the camera, he calls Trump a “threat to this nation . . . unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime” and an existential challenge to the very idea of American democracy. The election of 2020 is “the battle for the soul of the nation,” Biden says, and, if Trump is reëlected, “he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of” the country. In short, Biden adds, “Everything that has made America America is at stake.”
So this "existentialism" is Biden's theme. It shouldn't be confusing!

The Ranch Fire — California's biggest wildfire — was started by a man who hammered a metal stake into a wasp's nest.

The NYT reports.
During a morning of chores on his ranch three hours north of San Francisco, he had spotted an underground wasp nest. He grabbed a metal stake and pounded it into the hole to try to seal it off.... He was judged responsible for the fire, but not negligent.... He seemed more bewildered than remorseful about starting such a vast fire. “Mother Nature,” he said, “you have no control.”

He said at first he tried to stop the fire by throwing a nearby trampoline and an old carpet on it; he shoveled dirt on the flames and then tried to douse them with water from a hose that melted and would not unkink....

Then... “he unhooked his trailer and tried to put the fire out by ‘kicking up dirt’ ahead of it with his four-wheeler.” Moments later, “He lost control of his four-wheeler, which rolled downhill and lodged between the water tanks and the cut bank.” Finally, when nothing worked, he ran down the hill and dialed 911.

June 11, 2019

At the Shadowy Café...


... take a pose.

"Mary Max, the wife of celebrated artist Peter Max, killed herself in her apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side over the weekend."

The Daily Mail reports, and I'm blogging this because 2 weeks ago, I blogged "Several household employees also made allegations of neglect, including that Ms. [Peter] Max withheld food from her husband and sometimes put 'large Brazil nuts' in his smoothies, on which he might choke," quoting "Dementia Stopped a Major Artist From Painting. For Some, That Spelled a Lucrative Opportunity/Now Peter Max’s associates are trading lurid allegations of kidnapping, hired goons, attempted murder by Brazil nut and art fraud on the high seas" (NYT).

"I do stand behind white people needing to talk to other white people on how to undo whiteness."

"Can I keep refining it and doing it differently and better? Yeah, and I will forever and ever. But I believe in this space as one tool."

Said Laura Humpf, quoted in "Seattle yoga teacher’s ‘Undoing Whiteness’ class: Founded on deep purpose, it’s triggered outrage" (Seattle Times).
“I was seeing white people show up in yoga spaces in racist ways,” says Humpf.... Humpf opened Rainier Beach Yoga in 2014. She says the practice coupled with reflecting on white supremacy’s role in society helped her understand how racism manifests itself internally, including defensiveness, perfectionism and the “white savior complex.” It’s these attitudes, among others, the class seeks to neutralize.

The evening workshops feature Humpf and co-facilitator RW Alves sounding off words such as “oppression” and “liberation” to about a dozen students. The paired participants then physically interpret them, posing to form human sculptures. The exercise is one of many intended to highlight how both body and mind can absorb “the conditioning of whiteness.”...

People attracted to the class are mostly racial-justice-minded white people looking to go beyond an “intellectualized” view of how racism harms everyone, according to student Anne Althauser.

“When this ‘Undoing Whiteness’ yoga class came up, I felt like it answered two cravings of mine — to work through racism and how I hold whiteness in my body, and to bring an anti-racist lens to an appropriated practice that so many of us white folks participate in. If I’m only “woke” in mind but not body, I will only continue playing out harmful, subliminal racist actions unintentionally,” says Althauser, a longtime yoga practitioner....
That name is strangely similar to my own.  And the image of self-purifiers inventing their own pose as the word "oppression" is shouted out at them and worrying about the racism lurking inside their body while proclaiming their conscious mind "woke"... it's just too silly to worry about.

And isn't yoga cultural appropriation?

The song playing over the hotel lobby speaker while I'm trying to write this is "Play That Funky Music, White Boy."

IN THE COMMENTS: This story made me think of Jules Feiffer, so I was happy to see tcrosse had the same feeling and found the perfect cartoon for the occasion. ADDED: Here's the link to the great cartoon! Sorry, I'd forgotten it.

"I hate elephants. Two simple reasons: They have widowed me, and they have left me without a harvest."

Said Lumba Nderiki, quoted in "I hate elephants’: Behind the backlash against Botswana’s giants" (WaPo).
Nderiki and her husband had been married 65 years before he was killed by an elephant in 2014. Like nearly everyone else in this cluster of villages, it has been years since her fields weren’t trampled and eaten up by what she calls “the giants.” She used to grow more than 100 bags of sorghum in a season. Last harvest, she salvaged three.

June 10, 2019

At the Let's-Get-Outta-Here Café...


... you can join the crowd or strike out on your own.

"The diet industry is a virus, and viruses are smart. It has survived all these decades by adapting..."

"...but it’s as dangerous as ever. In 2019, dieting presents itself as wellness and clean eating, duping modern feminists to participate under the guise of health.... The wellness industry is the diet industry, and the diet industry is a function of the patriarchal beauty standard under which women either punish themselves to become smaller or are punished for failing to comply, and the stress of this hurts our health too. I am a thin white woman, and the shame and derision I have experienced for failing to be even thinner is nothing compared with what women in less compliant bodies bear. Wellness is a largely white, privileged enterprise catering to largely white, privileged, already thin and able-bodied women, promoting exercise only they have the time to do and Tuscan kale only they have the resources to buy. Finally, wellness also contributes to the insulting cultural subtext that women cannot be trusted to make decisions when it comes to our own bodies, even when it comes to nourishing them. We must adhere to some sort of 'program' or we will go off the rails. We cannot push to eradicate the harassment, abuse and oppression of women while continuing to serve a system that demands we hurt ourselves to be more attractive and less threatening to men."

From "Smash the Wellness Industry/Why are so many smart women falling for its harmful, pseudoscientific claims?" by Jessica Knoll (NYT).

In the part of the column that I didn't quote, Knoll complains about the way the women she knows are always talking about their bodies and their diet. She wishes they'd talk about something else — something (my words) more delicious and nourishing. I don't know why it's the fault of an "industry" or of men if women are boring conversationalists. Do men blame women when they are boring each other?

"You flew? Aren't you going to blog the experience? Did you have to go thru Security? Did you take your shoes off? They search your laptop and purse/wallet."

Asks Nice in the comments to last night's "Hello From New York City."

1. I finally had a flight experience in which I was not chosen to be felt up by a TSA official. I believe this is because I changed how I dressed. Instead of a long flowing skirt, I wore non-baggy pants.

2. I did have to take off my shoes, and I had to stand in that plastic cylinder with my feet apart and my hands raised over my head which I presume allowed somebody somewhere to look through my clothes.

3. I paid an extra $100 per flight to get first class on the kind of plane that has 3 seats per row in first class and 4 seats per row in coach. I had the middle seat, with a completely non-annoying person right next to me. Across the aisle, there was a man in shorts with very hairy legs, and the socks that he wore with his sneakers had images of lobsters on them.

4. I did not commit the intrusion of snapping a photograph of these socks, even though I did, later on in the day, as you can see in "The Imp Café," snap a picture of a woman in a tie-dye t-shirt that had an image of Donald Trump with the word "impeach" stamped on his face. I liked how the green bottle hid part of the word revealing the little-noticed component "imp." Usually the included word "peach" gets your attention and keeps you from seeing the option of putting the "p" with the "im" to release the little devil inside the word.

5. Some people think Trump is a full-scale devil but an "imp" is (according to the OED) "A little devil" or "A mischievous child (having a little of ‘the devil’ in him); a young urchin: often used playfully." Jonathan Swift used the word in "Gulliver's Travels": "I once caught a young Male [Yahoo] of three Years old,..but the little Imp fell a squalling, and scratching, and biting."

6. "Yahoo" is "A name invented by Swift in Gulliver's Travels for an imaginary race of brutes having the form of men; hence transferred and allusively, a human being of a degraded or bestial type... Frequently in modern use, a person lacking cultivation or sensibility, a philistine; a lout, a hooligan." And that sounds like the way people think of Trump too.

7. I'm here in NYC on my own, staying in a hotel that has a name that's interesting for a reason that I'll reveal after I've checked out.

8. I took a cab from LaGuardia to Manhattan, and you might think that because it was Sunday, the traffic would be easy, but the Puerto Rican Day Parade was going on. The cabbie informed me that the Puerto Rican Day Parade was the worst parade of the year. Second worst was St. Patrick's Day. Wanting to soothe any incipient ethnic animosity — the cabbie was maybe Filipino — I said, "Maybe because of drinking?" He seemed to confirm that theory, then expressed approval of the 2 ethnic groups associated with those parades because unlike other drinkers, they don't vomit in the cab. He didn't use the word "vomit," but I did, to make sure I had the story straight. He spoke of "messing up" the cab.

9. Remember the old episode of "Seinfeld," "The Puerto Rican Day Parade"?

Did "Warren, Booker stand out on chaotic Iowa stage"...

... as the Politico headline has it?
... 19 Democratic presidential candidates converged for the first time in one venue to make their five-minute pitch to the party faithful. The gathering, designed to honor Iowa Democrats in a Hall of Fame dinner, offered the first glimpse of a sprawling Democratic primary field — and the organizational strength and enthusiasm each campaign could muster.
Reading on, I see the "standing out" had to do with crowd reaction, which had to do with the presence of supporters in the audience. Warren and Booker had their people in the audience to stand up and cheer. There's no evidence in the article that they "stood out on the stage."

Biden and Sanders were no-shows, and they did their non-showing in a message-y way. Sanders participated in a march for $15-an-hour minimum wage in the same town as the dinner (Cedar Rapids). That demonstrates values, but doesn't show he can't do a second event in the evening of the same day. Biden's "campaign said the former vice president missed the dinner due to his granddaughter‘s high school graduation." Again, shows values, but it's a daytime event offered as an excuse for avoiding an evening event.

The 2 very old candidates ought to prove they have gumption and can stay up late.

June 9, 2019

Hello from New York City.

From the Met's "Camp" show

Yes, your travel-averse blogger got on a plane and went to New York. Sometimes you've got to get into the metal tube and hurl yourself across the country, and here I am. That photo is from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I'll have you know.

At the Imp Café...


... be an imp, each of you.

Unconvincing transcendentalism.

"For Democrats, Trump impeachment question is a personal struggle transcending politics" — headline at The Washington Post this morning.

(Article not read. I don't believe the article really exists. It's just ballast for a free-floating headline. No?)

The things you have to do to get elected... how do you do them when everybody's always watching and has access to Twitter?

Kamala Harris seems to have invented a stock nonanswer for any question... and I think you can tell she doesn't believe she can get away with it.