July 13, 2019

At the Sunbath Café...


... feel free to sprawl out here.

Freckles, the manta ray, asks for help...

Don't let it be forgot/That once — in 1967 — there was a spot/For one brief shining moment/That was known as that ridiculous movie I saw back then and rewatched now, "Camelot."

Camelot! Camelot!/I know it sounds a bit bizarre/But in Camelot — Camelot! — King Arthur is a clueless hippie and Guenevere is Vanessa Redgrave, a groupie in search of a rock star — That's how conditions are.

Well, I learned my lesson rewatching "Dr. Zhivago" (the 1965 entry in my "imaginary movie project"): A beauteous movie-star woman in a dramatic geographic location is just necessarily going to have hot sex with the best-looking man.

It doesn't matter that Guenevere is married to the king, and he's pretty nice and means well and all and he's not horrible looking (though what's up with the eyeliner?)...

Franco Nero comes to town...

... and sex must be had with that guy. Not just flirting and teasing, as you might think as things crank up in the first hour of this 3-hour monstrosity, when hordes of extras are cavorting and frolicking about how it's "the lusty month of May... when everyone goes blissfully astray" and "tons of wicked little thoughts merrily appear" and "When every maiden prays that her lad will be a cad"...

Old-lady road rage... "Sorry, darling."

Nicest roadrage ever; it helps to be older and clearer about whats really important in life from r/PublicFreakout

You have to click the title to get through for the audio. It's worth it!

"It's somebody with a vendetta, someone who has something against we assume mountain bikers or riders - but the things they're putting out do not discriminate. It's an incredibly dangerous and reckless thing to do."

From "Peak District cycle paths sabotaged with 'dangerous' traps" (BBC).

Also: "Hidden nail trap found at Blorenge mountain in Abergavenny" (BBC)("It's about a metre long, has 200 nails in it it's pretty heavy... It's also got legs on it, so if you rode over it would not tip up but would stay in the ground. Someone has gone to a lot of work").

"If I say I want to sail a small boat all the way around the world and it will take me two years, everyone says, 'Oh how exciting!' If I say I want to go and sit in my house..."

"... and not talk to anyone for two years, they say 'Have you got mental health issues?' or 'Why are you so selfish?'... I joke that wanting to be solitary is bad, sad and mad. It's immoral because it's selfish. It's sad because it'll make you miserable and it's mad because you must be a nutcase.... Silence is a place in which I can find ecstasy. I only get it in silence and most people I know only get it in silence. It is just a fabulous feeling. You know, you're walking along and quite suddenly you just say, 'Yes!' It's an extraordinarily intense response. Totally joyful.... I'm trying to position myself so the gift of mystical prayer is available to me, because actually the presence of God is a terrifically nice experience. I think it's heaven! Literally. I think that is what it will be like in heaven, that extraordinary sense of fulfilled intimacy - that feeling that one desires from sex, which is of both being completely yourself and completely with another person, is I think, what prayer does for me. It's a very particular form of intimate conversation with another, and it just so happens the other is God.... Food just tasted fabulous. But it wasn't it tasted particularly fabulous in any mysterious sense it just tasted MORE. So porridge tasted of PORRIDGE. But it also affected things like how strongly you experience physical things, like baths. Baths were fabulous - they weren't just some warm water, they became a completely luxurious experience. When you got cold, you got incredibly incredibly cold, or incredibly wet and just FELT it."

Said Sarah Maitland, quoted in "Why this man became a hermit at 20" (BBC). For some reason, the article's headline only refers to Christopher Knight, whose story is told in "The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit." Maitland's book is "A Book Of Silence."

"It’s gotten to be a party-like atmosphere. The party’s over. Illegal behavior will not be tolerated.... We’re seeing a myriad of issues converging in a geography."

Said Madison's new mayor, Satya Rhodes-Conway, speaking of the spot where State Street meets the Capitol Square, quoted in The Wisconsin State Journal.
[Sometimes] groups of people hang out for hours, some drink in public, aggressively panhandle, fight, urinate and defecate in nearby doorways and alleys, deal and use drugs — especially crack cocaine and heroin — and engage in prostitution....

Rhodes-Conway is supporting modest environmental changes to the space, such as temporary removal of several benches, adding fencing around a larger planter near Ian’s Pizza, 100 State St., lighting changes, and limiting the electricity from outlets used by people to charge cell phones or power other devices.

“The spaces allow for a larger number of people to congregate,” the mayor said. “We want to encourage people to be in the space, but not to be there for hours and hours.”...

The city, Rhodes-Conway stressed, will continue to focus on helping the homeless through the creation of housing, outreach and other means. But it will also take new measures to improve quality of life on the upper State Street area, including adding more portable toilets in discreet locations and extending the mall concourse services to include Central Library so city employees can do cleaning and tag belongings left there with warnings that they must be removed or they will be taken away and stored for pick up at another location.

The mayor is also supporting the efforts of the volunteer homeless outreach group Friends of State Street Family to locate small clusters of lockers for temporary storage in the area.
A kindly crackdown.

ADDED: I have a little video showing this area of Madison. It's one of my favorites, only 10 seconds. Watch:

The man is saying "All the assholes are over on the other side." This was back in 2011, and he was referring the anti-Scott-Walker protesters, who were doing a protest that involved camping on the street (and calling it "Walkerville"). I think there was some sort of concept that this side of the Capitol Square (the part Satya Rhodes-Conway is concerned about) was a place for non-political loitering and the people who were living on the street to express opposition to the governor were somewhere else.

"In the mid-1970s... [a]t the Dalton School on the Upper East Side, some students saw Mr. Epstein as an unusual and unsettling figure, willing to violate the norms..."

"... in his encounters with girls.... The school, which had been a progressive haven for the children of artists and writers, was undergoing a shift under a new headmaster. Donald Barr, the father of Attorney General William Barr, came in as a disciplinarian focused on beefing up the academics of the school, and on enforcing a strict code of conduct.... While Mr. Barr was strict on the school culture, he made it a point to hire teachers from unconventional backgrounds.... Mr. Epstein, from Brooklyn, was just 21 when he joined the faculty at Dalton, arriving without a college degree.... ... Leslie Kitziger, who graduated from Dalton in 1978... remembered him as a flamboyant dresser and lively jokester. 'He was goofy and like a kid himself,' she recalled.... 'He listened,' Ms. Kitziger recalled. 'I was a 14-year-old and he helped me through a time when there wasn’t anybody else to talk to. I felt like he really cared that I was having a rough go.' She stressed that Mr. Epstein was always professional with her. But other students, including Millicent Young, a graduate of the school’s 1976 class, saw things differently.... She recalled observing Mr. Epstein flirting with the girls at the school.... 'There was a real clarity of the inappropriateness of the behavior — that this isn’t how adult male teachers conduct themselves,' Ms. Young said.... [Another] student who graduated the same year, said he had a clear recollection of disliking Mr. Epstein because he was spending so much time with girls in the school...."

From "Jeffrey Epstein Taught at Dalton. His Behavior Was Noticed/Some students at the esteemed Manhattan prep school recall that Mr. Epstein, now charged with sex trafficking, was willing to violate norms in his encounters with girls" (NYT).

There are no photographs of Leslie Kitziger and Millicent Young as they looked when they were Dalton students, so I am left to hypothesize that Kitziger was pretty in a way that Young was not.

There are plenty of photographs of Epstein in his schoolteacher days. Here's the 1976 yearbook photo:

Did "Welcome Back" start playing in your head? It's like "Welcome Back, Kotter," but the teacher is John Travolta. Or does he remind you of — what was his name? — Epstein!!

ADDED: Why would an elite private school hire a 21 year old guy who didn't finish college to teach math and science?

I assume he got the job because of his looks, style, and charm.

And this was under a headmaster who was supposedly "focused on beefing up the academics of the school." Wouldn't the school's PR include statements about the credentials of the teachers?!

Who were the people who boosted Epstein in his early life? What the hell was going on? It's not just about Epstein's harmful expression of his own sexuality, it's the other men who gave him not just passes but boosts.

July 12, 2019

At the Back-to-the-Garden Café...

Olbrich Garden

... you can partake of whatever strikes you as delectable.

What is the history of science fiction?

That's Aubrey Beardsley's illustration Lucian's 2nd-century satire "True History," which I'm reading about in the Wikipedia article "History of Science Fiction."
Typical science fiction themes and topoi in True History include: travel to outer space, encounter with alien life-forms (including the experience of a first encounter event), interplanetary warfare and planetary imperialism, motif of giganticism, creatures as products of human technology, worlds working by a set of alternative physical laws, and an explicit desire of the protagonist for exploration and adventure. In witnessing one interplanetary battle between the People of the Moon and the People of the Sun as the fight for the right to colonize the Morning Star, Lucian describes giant space spiders who were "appointed to spin a web in the air between the Moon and the Morning Star, which was done in an instant, and made a plain campaign upon which the foot forces were planted..." L. Sprague de Camp and a number of other authors argue this to be one of the earliest if not the earliest example of science fiction or proto-science fiction. However, since the text was intended to be explicitly satirical and hyperbolic, other critics are ambivalent about its rightful place as a science fiction precursor.... Lucian translator Bryan Reardon is more explicit, describing the work as "an account of a fantastic journey - to the moon, the underworld, the belly of a whale, and so forth. It is not really science fiction, although it has sometimes been called that; there is no 'science' in it."
There are many other precursors to science fiction at the linked article, which I am reading this morning after blogging about "War with the Newts." I only singled out Lucian's "True History" because I like Aubrey Beardsley (who drew his pictures in the late 19th century).

Told ya.

"Acosta Resigns as Labor Secretary over Epstein Plea Deal" (NYT)("Mr. Trump made the announcement as he left the White House for travel to Milwaukee and Cleveland").

ADDED: Where did I tell you? On July 10th, with lots of pushback in the comments, I said:
... I do think Acosta should resign. When it mattered most, the cries of a wealthy man overwhelmed those of ordinary people. That's not what belongs in the Labor Department.
That was early in the morning of the 10th. Later that afternoon, Acosta did a press conference (reportedly because Trump "instructed" him to), and I wrote:
If Trump forced Acosta to do this press conference, presumably Trump is watching and judging. If you're watching, how do you think Acosta is doing? I tend to accept a calm explanation, so I'm not a good test of how well Acosta is doing. Trying to look at him the way I think other people do, I suspect he sounds too flat and matter-of-fact. Too mechanical. Not enough empathy. So I'm going to guess Trump isn't seeing what he wants.
So I told you so. It's because of all the pushback in the comments that I have to gloat.

IN THE COMMENTS: Annie C. says:
Good. Now get Scott Walker in there.
Annie C. was also there in the first July 10th thread (and, unlike most commenters, agreeing with me):
And yes, Althouse, these attempts to get Acosta off the hook don't work for me either. Just reporting what I read.

Personally, I think he should resign and Trump should appoint Scott Walker as Labor Secretary.

"If you think about why Kentuckians voted for Trump, they wanted to drain the swamp, and Trump said that he was going to do that... Who stops them along the way? Who stops the president from doing these things? Mitch McConnell."

"And I think that that’s very important, and that’s going to be my message—the things that Kentuckians voted for Trump for are not being done," said Amy McGrath, quoted in "Could a Democrat Really Unseat Mitch McConnell?/Amy McGrath will try to do what Beto O’Rourke couldn’t: Remove a high-profile Republican from a deep-red state" (The Atlantic).

That is, the Democrats, who are struggling to control and use their charismatic left-wing upstarts, now have action on their right. Amy McGrath is the pro-Trump Democrat!

Is she just conning Kentuckians? The Atlantic makes it seem that way:
Most important, though, she’ll have to persuade a sizable number of Trump voters in Kentucky’s redder regions to fill in the bubble beside her name next November. And parroting Trump’s catchphrases while avoiding endorsing his policies puts the Democrat in a slippery situation. “She has to be very careful in playing that angle,” [said Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth]. “She cannot give the impression that she’s supporting the Trump agenda.” 
Well, she already gave that impression! She said she'll help Trump more than McConnell does.
[Scott Jennings, a GOP strategist who has worked on McConnell’s previous reelection campaigns] cited a Wednesday interview where McGrath [said] she “probably” would have voted to confirm Trump’s second’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, last fall. “There was nothing in his record that I think would disqualify him in any way,” she said. But later that night, McGrath changed her mind, tweeting: “I was asked earlier today about Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and I answered based upon his qualifications to be on the Supreme Court,” she wrote. “But upon further reflection and further understanding of his record, I would have voted no.”
What was that further "reflection"? Consultation with Democrats? She gazed into the swamp and a swamp isn't the best place to look for reflection. McGrath seems to have sought to build confidence in her independence and courage, but then she went soft under pressure. The swamp sucks you in.

AND: The swamp in action:


Last night, I discovered the "animoji" function on my iPhone...

My Animoji says "Hey!"

"Odd as it may appear, a gardener does not grow from seed, shoot, bulb, rhizome, or cutting, but from experience, surroundings, and natural conditions."

"When I was a little boy I had towards my father’s garden a rebellious and even a vindictive attitude, because I was not allowed to tread on the beds and pick the unripe fruit. Just in the same way Adam was not allowed to tread on the beds and pick the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden, because it was not yet ripe; but Adam—just like us children—picked the unripe fruit, and therefore was expelled from the Garden of Eden; since then the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge has always been unripe."

From "The Gardener's Year" by Karel Capek, which I'm reading this morning because Meade began exclaiming about it when he read the first post of the day, the one about the robot umpire, where I mentioned a play by Karel Capek, "R.U.R.," the origin of the term "robot."

Capek's brother Josef suggested the word, which is based on the Czech word "robota," which meant the forced labor of serfs and is based on the word "rab," which means "slave." In the play, from 1920, the robots carry out a revolution.

"The Gardener's Year" has great illustrations that are by the brother, Josef....

That was originally published in 1931.

If you think the drawing style is derivative of James Thurber, here's how Thurber was drawing in 1927...

... and in 1931:

Drawings captured from "James Thurber: Writings & Drawings."

Anyway... Meade says he read "The Gardener's Year" in the 1980s. He got very enthusiastic about it this morning. I said, that's so weird because I just put a Karel Capek book in the Kindle a couple weeks ago — "War with the Newts."

From the Wikipedia article on "War with the Newts":
On August 27, 1935, Čapek wrote, "Today I completed the last chapter of my utopian novel. The protagonist of this chapter is nationalism. The content is quite simple: the destruction of the world and its people. It is a disgusting chapter, based solely on logic. Yet it had to end this way. What destroys us will not be a cosmic catastrophe but mere reasons of state, economics, prestige, etc."

"If you ask a baseball purist, they’ll hate it. They love the manager coming out of the dugout and yelling at the home plate umpire. They love the hitter telling the umpire he’s wrong after he strikes out."

"This system will completely change all that," said home plate umpire Brian deBrauwere, quoted in "Baseball history made: Inside the debut of robot umpires" USA Today.

The automated ball-strike system (ABS) is not what I think of when I hear "robot." The human umpire is still standing there behind the plate and announces the balls and strikes, but he's not making his own calls, he's hearing the call made by "a large Doppler radar screen high above home plate." It's nothing that looks like a human being. The word "robot" has grown over the years to include what we used to just call "automation." "Automated" is the word used in the official name of the product,  automated ball-strike system, but "robot" is a more exciting word. It comes from the 1920 play "R.U.R." by the Czech writer, Karel Čapek...

R.U.R. = Rossum's Universal Robots. This play comes up in crossword puzzles all the time, you may know.

Anyway... in automated ball-strike system, the plate umpire still has independent work. As deBrauwere put it:
"Yeah, it takes something out of the umpire’s hands, but it places additional focus on other things we’re responsible for. Every other decision we have to make will now be magnified. Every check swing, every fair-foul, every safe or out will be even more important now."
And if the system malfunctions, he's got to go back to calling the balls and strikes.

The catcher bemoaned his loss of influence: "As a catcher, I don’t really like it too much because it takes away from my skill at receiving the ball. But if it helps the game, obviously at the big league level, that’s what we’re all here for." That is, there are ways of tricking a human umpire that will be of no use with the radar.

There are benefits for the pitcher: "Some of the pitches they call strikes (now) don’t look like strikes. It looks like a ball and TrackMan calls it a strike. It’s just different. Every pitch I've thrown (high in the strike zone) has been a ball my whole career, since I was 6 years old until now. It's different to see them called a strike." That is, some strikes trick the batter and the human umpire. The pitcher will get a new advantage.

July 11, 2019

At the 10 O’Clock Cafe...

... talk all you like.

"He thinks he’s making a movie. He’s just trying to put together the perfect cast and it’s not working. It’s not a movie. He is impossible to work with...."

"[One of the lawyers] wants to do everything in the courtroom and that’s the opposite of Weinstein, who wants the case tried in the court of public opinion and not a court of law.... Weinstein’s strategy is still to try this case in the public domain.... It’s pointless. It’s counterintuitive.... He thinks he is producing a movie. It’s pathetic and comical all in one.... He thinks it makes him look less creepy to have a female lawyer represent him. I think he needs the best lawyer not window dressing.... I give him a great chance of getting off.... The charges are flimsy. It’s a weak, weak case. The only way he will lose this case is if the lawyers fall on their head and forget where the courthouse is."

Said an unnamed person quoted in "Weinstein’s Legal Team Falls Apart Again: ‘He’s Impossible to Work With’/Lawyer Jose Baez, who once represented Casey Anthony, was granted permission to withdraw from the disgraced movie mogul’s sexual-assault case" (The Daily Beast).

"Because you can’t get your way and because you’re getting pushback you resort to using the race card? Unbelievable. Unbelievable to me."

Said Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.)(who's in the Black Caucus and the Progressive Caucus), quoted in "Dems rush to support Pelosi amid fight with Ocasio-Cortez" (The Hill).

The answer to Clay's question — "... you resort to using the race card?" — is hell, yes.
“When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood,” Ocasio-Cortez told the [Washington] Post. “But the persistent singling out . . . it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful . . . the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.” 
And Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said:
“I can tell you that it happens all the time. It isn't usually from just one person. The system is geared in that way,” Jayapal said. “It's just a constant thing we deal with as women of color. It's always harder when it's perceived as coming from your own side, whether that was how it was intended or not.” 
Can you unplay the race card?
Ocasio-Cortez maintained in an interview with CNN on Thursday that she thinks the progressive freshmen are being singled out but rejected the notion that Pelosi has racial animus....

"Some of you are extraordinary. I can't say everybody. No, but some of you are extraordinary. The crap you think of is unbelievable."

Said President Trump speaking (and getting laughs) at the Presidential Social Media Summit.

"President Trump on Thursday abandoned his battle to place a question about citizenship on the 2020 census..."

".... and instructed the government to compile citizenship data from existing federal records, a significant retreat in the president’s wider crackdown on undocumented immigration.... The new approach, which appears to have been available to the Trump administration all along, could provide a clearer picture of how many people living in the United States are citizens without distorting census participation. But some Democrats complained on Thursday that the public debate itself might have sown fear among immigrants in the country and could taint their view of the census, even if it does not include the question about citizenship."

The NYT reports.

"Your 2020 campaign slogan is: Your last name + 2020 + the last text you sent."

A Twitter meme that produced some wonderfully absurd slogans.

I had to look at my texts to see what mine would be, and it was wonderfully absurd:

Althouse 2020
elephants in the garden

IN THE COMMENTS: No one asked me why I'd texted "elephants in the garden." It was my reply to Meade, when he texted me an untitled video from our garden:


Knowing the plant is called "elephant ears," I texted back my idea of a title.

"The relationship between the slack in the economy or unemployment and inflation was a strong one fifty years ago ... and has gone away."

"At least twenty years ago, that period was over and the relationship between unemployment and inflation became weak. And it’s become weaker and weaker and weaker...[W]e are learning that the neutral interest rate is lower than we had thought and... the natural rate of unemployment rate is lower than we thought. So monetary policy hasn’t been as accommondative as we had thought.... At the end of the day, there has to be a connection because low employment will drive wages up and ultimately higher wages will drive inflation, but we haven’t reached that point. In many cases, that connection between the two is quote small these days," said Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, testifying to the Senate Banking Committee today, reported by CNBC.

And then, "Dow jumps more than 100 points to break above 27,000 for the first time ever."

This is totally effective to anyone with a right-wing orientation, but if you're a person of the left, it's spooky propaganda.

That's my assessment, from my cruelly neutral perspective:

I don't know why I — of all people — can stand back and observe. I experienced physical chills at 0:23 — "I am honored to call him President Trump" — even as I know, intellectually, it makes no sense. From there on, I looked at that face in front of a brick wall — The Wall!! — and thought this is exactly what propaganda is. I admired Voight's delivery and the weird but simple text, even as I thought about how bizarre it is that human beings drink this up. Once it's over, I wonder, what the hell was that?! What did I just hear? It slipped in below the conscious level. I had to go back to find the place where I'd felt the chill, and I'm struck by its emptiness. What is the rest of it? Something about God. God... Trump... God... ???!!!

"We know that the lake is toxic"... but it's turquoise and so Instagrammable.

It's turquoise because "It's a highly toxic artificial pond used to dump ash from a nearby coal plant, and, warns the company that runs the plant, unsafe for swimming in" — CNN reports.
"In the last week, our ash dump of the Novosibirsk TEZ-5 has become the star of social networks," [said the Siberian Generating Company]. "But you CANNOT swim in the ash dump. Its water has high alkaline environment. This is due to the fact that calcium salts and other metal oxides are dissolved in it. Skin contact with such water may cause an allergic reaction!"
Oh, that doesn't sound so bad. And it's turquoise. And they're in Siberia.
The water gets its spectacular color from its depth and the various metal oxides dissolved in it, the company said. It is also extremely alkaline, with a pH of more than 8.
My poking around on the internet says that 8 is moderately alkaline — not "extremely alkaline" — and it's in the traditional range recommended for swimming pools in Denmark. In the U.S., it's 7.2 and 7.8 (with the problem being that a higher PH may make chlorine less effective in killing bacteria).

I think the American media are taking a cheap shot here because the story fits a popular frame: Social media is making people stupid and blind to the dangers of the real world. But the Russians in the article are clear that they know the lake isn't for swimming, they're not swimming it — just posing by it as if they would swim in it — and I don't think what makes it bad for swimming makes it a problem to stand next to. We often stand next to water we wouldn't bathe in! The only complaint here is that it's phony to pose as if you're at a great swimming location when you are not.

In social media photography — as in professional fashion photography — the models try to look as though they're having a magnificently pleasurable time and that's disaggregated from the reality of whether it's any fun at all for them. Mainstream media is hot to cover social media — they want to look youthful and trending — but their posing is FAR more of a problem. It's fake news!

IN THE COMMENTS: Howard said:
Drinking moderately alkaline water (9.2-pH) is all the rage with hipsters.
I did not know that, but he's right! Here's a NYT article from last year, "Is Alkaline Water Really Better for You?":

"That book changed my life"/"I can tell ya as a kid at a Catholic Grade School it was the best book I read and certainly the talk of the playground"/"Not only one the most enjoyable books I ever read (in 9th grade)..."

"... but one of the most valuable, as an education in life. I hope its still passed from hand-to-hand by young teenagers across the country"/"Like all those who were in their adolescent years when this book came out, the snickers it encouraged, and the stories swapped in dugouts on little league fields were priceless gems in the trove of memories. I re-read it again a few years ago, and still got tears from the laughter at the tales both remembered and forgotten over the years. This book had ripple effects all across the journalistic spectrum. It inspired a generation of truth-seekers and truth-tellers everywhere. Plus, it was something that p*ssed off the powers that be in those days, and what's not to like about that?"/"I think I was about twelve and I thought it was hysterical and excitingly profane. I had a good eye and ear for the language (because of that reading of everything) and knew it was rather well-written, too. Thanks Jim Bouton, I'm sure you're up there somewhere, for keeping it real about baseball for us."

Just the top few of the comments at "Jim Bouton, baseball pitcher whose ‘Ball Four’ gave irreverent peek inside the game, dies at 80" (WaPo). That is one hell of a beloved book! That's a torrent of vivid memories about a book published half a century ago.

One more:
It was a great book. I remember my younger brother calling me a "SOB" for some time before it clicked on me that "S.O.B." featured prominently in the book. (ha ha). But, it opened my eyes and those of millions to the reality of what had been before pure BS about how pure and great every professional athlete was. In the end, the main reason it was so great is because it was just so well written.

“You see,” he wrote in “Ball Four,” “you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”

Doesn't get much better than that.
To this day, I remember and often use the final words of Ball Four (about gripping the ball and finally realizing it was the other way all along).

The book was often profane, but also profound. For both the great read and the human insight, I am forever grateful.

RIP Mr. Bouton.
One more:
I was 13 years old when I read "Ball Four" over the course of several unbearably hot summer nights in 1971. It tore the cover off my illusions of life as a major league baseball player. And it made me realize early on that heroes aren't always golden boys. They're often just horny, drunk guys who know how to throw or hit a baseball better than most workingmen. I've re-read the book at least five times since...and I'll read it again, starting tonight. Thanks, Bulldog.
I've re-read the book at least five times since...and I'll read it again, starting tonight.

ADDED: From the Library of Congress blog:
The New York Public Library named it as one of their Books of the Century, the only sports title named. Jim thus stands shoulder to shoulder with such world figures as Anton Chekhov, Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka, James Joyce, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. “Ball Four,” the library’s editors noted, “was the first ripple of a tidal wave of ‘tell-all’ books that have become commonplace not only in sports, but also in politics, entertainment, and other realms of contemporary life.” (Jim, with typical diffidence and humor, has termed his book a “tell-some.”)

July 10, 2019

At the Wednesday Night Cafe...

... you can talk all night.

Acosta press conference.

Streaming now, here.

ADDED: CNN reports:
During a phone call Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump instructed his labor secretary to hold the press availability, two people familiar tell CNN....

Trump said on Tuesday he would look into the matter, but insisted Acosta had served him well as labor secretary. He has privately said he has confidence in Acosta, according to people familiar with his remarks.... However, Trump's associates believe that confidence could disappear quickly....
If Trump forced Acosta to do this press conference, presumably Trump is watching and judging. If you're watching, how do you think Acosta is doing? I tend to accept a calm explanation, so I'm not a good test of how well Acosta is doing. Trying to look at him the way I think other people do, I suspect he sounds too flat and matter-of-fact. Too mechanical. Not enough empathy. So I'm going to guess Trump isn't seeing what he wants.

Trump wins the emoluments case.


Here's the NYT report:
A three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., found that the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia had no legal standing to sue Mr. Trump. The judges roundly rejected the premise of the case, which claimed that the Trump International Hotel, located blocks from the White House, is unfairly siphoning off business from hotels owned by the local jurisdictions. The lawsuit, which alleges violations of the Constitution’s anti-corruption or “emoluments” clauses, was about to enter the evidence-gathering phase....

“Even if government officials were patronizing the hotel to curry the President’s favor, there is no reason to conclude that they would cease doing so were the president enjoined from receiving income from the hotel,” the 36-page opinion said. “The hotel would still be publicly associated with the president, would still bear his name and would still financially benefit members of his family.”...

“Neither [emoluments] clause expressly confers any rights on any person, nor does either clause specify any remedy for a violation,” they wrote....
Trump's tweeted response to the decision:
Word just out that I won a big part of the Deep State and Democrat induced Witch Hunt. Unanimous decision in my favor from The United States Court of Appeals For The Fourth Circuit on the ridiculous Emoluments Case. I don’t make money, but lose a fortune for the honor of..... serving and doing a great job as your President (including accepting Zero salary!).
ADDED: To explain my reaction, "Good," here's what I wrote when I first heard about this litigation, in January 2017:
Quite apart from the substantive merits of the claim, it's hard to see how there are plaintiffs with standing to sue. How does the money paid in rent and hotel bills to the Trump organization cause concrete and particularized injury to anyone? You could say we are all injured by the possibility that commercial activities could influence the President's decisions, but that's the sort of generalized grievance that isn't enough.

But the filing of the lawsuit brings attention to the legal argument, which bolsters the political argument that the risk of influence is bad and should be eliminated. And in the end, almost certainly, the matter will be resolved in the political sphere and not the courts.

"Ocasio-Cortez faces lawsuits for blocking Twitter critics after appeals court ruling on Trump."

WaPo reports. That's the way case law works.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is facing two federal lawsuits for blocking Twitter users who were critical of her or her policies. Republican congressional candidate Joseph Saladino and former New York assemblyman Dov Hikind sued the freshman congresswoman Tuesday, shortly after a New York appellate court upheld an earlier decision affirming that President Trump violated the First Amendment for doing the same....

The First Amendment limits government action and bars it from discriminating against viewpoints. Public officials, the court said Tuesday, cannot exclude members of the public “from an otherwise open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees.”
Even when the public official is using his personal account on a privately-owned social media site.
“Since he took office, the President has consistently used the Account as an important tool of governance and executive outreach,” Judge Barrington D. Parker wrote in the 29-page opinion. “Because the President, as we have seen, acts in an official capacity when he tweets, we conclude that he acts in the same capacity when he blocks those who disagree with him.”
You can try to say the President of the United States is unique or the way Trump has used Twitter as President of the United States is unique, but I don't think that should work. You need a neutral rule here.

Because he's afraid of clowns?

From the sidebar at NY Magazine:
"Why Trump Fears the Secret British Memo Calling Him a Clown" — a column by Jonathan Chait — is a big disappointment to me because it does not discuss the fear of clowns — "coulrophobia" — or even have anything at all in it about clowns or the word "clown."

The story of the British ambassador calling Trump "inept" had been too boring to blog, as far as I was concerned, even when I saw the potential to say that the ambassador himself was, ironically, inept, since he's the one who lost his job. But the notion of Trump suffering from the cliché phobia of clowns amused me. Didn't happen though. Fake news! "Clown" is just a standard media epithet for Trump, inserted by the headline writer for cheap titillation. Worked on me. How irksome!

Here's the NYT article on the ambassador's fate:

"A 'delusional' YouTube software engineer attacked four friends — including one he stabbed with a pencil — and rammed a stolen truck into pedestrians in an LSD-fueled rampage..."

"... that left eight people injured in California, authorities said. Suspect Betai Koffi, 32, of San Francisco was listed in critical condition at a hospital after he was shot at least three times by a sheriff’s deputy in Bodega Bay during his frenzied Fourth of July acid trip, authorities said. Koffi... took two doses of LSD... Koffi 'became delusional'... prompting his friends to try to keep him calm... But then he took two more doses hours later.... Authorities said Koffi escaped the residence after attacking his friends inside... He then allegedly hopped into his rented blue Hyundai but crashed into the garage of the home as he drove toward another pal trying to stop him from leaving.... Koffi got out of the sedan and ran to a nearby home, where he was confronted by a neighborhood security guard, whom he stabbed with the metal stake of a landscape light... Koffi then allegedly stole the guy’s pickup truck, which was unlocked and running at the time. 'As Koffi fled, he drove straight towards an unrelated man and woman walking on the road.... Koffi drove straight towards the pair and violently hit the woman with the truck, causing significant injuries.'"

The NY Post reports.

LSD? Does that sound like LSD? Wikipedia:
The most common immediate psychological effects of LSD are visual hallucinations and illusions.... Negative experiences, referred to as "bad trips", produce intense negative emotions, such as irrational fears and anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia, rapid mood swings, intrusive thoughts of hopelessness, wanting to harm others, and suicidal ideation. It is impossible to predict when a bad trip will occur. Good trips are stimulating and pleasurable, and typically involve feeling as if one is floating, disconnected from reality, feelings of joy or euphoria (sometimes called a "rush"), decreased inhibitions, and the belief that one has extreme mental clarity or superpowers.

"[A] woman in her 20s approached her outside her high school... and chatted her up about her upbringing, her family and their finances. 'I was kind of a lost kid and she sensed it'..."

"Soon, the woman introduced [the 14-year-old Jennifer Araoz] to [Jeffrey] Epstein at his East 71st Street townhouse, where she opened up to the much older financier about wanting to become a Broadway actress and how her dad had died of AIDS when she was 12. Epstein told her that the teen 'very lucky to have met somebody like him' and 'that he could really help me,' she recalled.... For a year, Araoz said, she was brainwashed into giving Epstein massages while wearing only her underwear. He would masturbate until he finished — and then leave her $300. But in 2002, Araoz claimed, Epstein told her to remove her underwear because he wanted to 'try something a little bit different.' 'Why don’t you do the massage on top of me?' he asked, before raping her. 'It was very aggressive, it was forceful,' she recalled. 'I was terrified, and I was telling him to stop. "Please stop."' She said she never returned to his home after that day... She dropped out of school...  'I kind of hated myself for it,' Araoz said. 'I was like, "I’m stupid, I should have known better. I’m a bad kid.... I was so young that I was worried that somehow I would get in trouble... I was really frightened of Epstein. He knew a lot of powerful people and I didn’t know what he could do to me, and I wasn’t sure that anyone could protect me.'"'

From "Jeffrey Epstein’s latest accuser says he raped her at 15" (NY Post).

"Had they seen that same issue in a woman who was not a woman of color, they would not have felt empowered to take me off the plane."

"In pop culture, especially black women with a body like mine, they’re often portrayed as video vixens. So I’ve had to deal with those stereotypes my whole life"/"We are policed for being black... I’ve seen white women with much shorter shorts board a plane without a blink of an eye. I guess if it’s a ‘nice ass’ vs. a Serena Booty it’s O.K."

Wrote Tisha Rowe — on Twitter and Facebook — quoted in "Woman Required to Cover Up on American Airlines Flight Says Race Was a Factor/Dr. Tisha Rowe was about to fly from Jamaica to Miami when a flight attendant briefly removed her from the plane because of her romper, she said" (NYT).
Dr. Rowe said she was walking to her seat when a male flight attendant, whom she described as black, asked her to return to the front of the plane. Another flight attendant, who was also black, then spoke to her about her appearance while she stood on the jet bridge, Dr. Rowe said.

“She poses the question to me, ‘Do you have a jacket?’” Dr. Rowe said. “I said, ‘No, I do not.’ I’ve been given no explanation as to why I was taken off the plane. So finally she says, ‘You’re not boarding the plane dressed like that.’ Then they started to give me a lecture about how when I got on the plane, I better not make a scene or be loud.”

The airline’s conditions of carriage, which are posted on its website, make a brief reference to a dress code: “Dress appropriately; bare feet or offensive clothing aren’t allowed.”
So... the airline has a dress code with improper grammar. How's a person to know what's "appropriate" in this world? The airline is specific about one thing: bare feet. I take that to mean it's okay to wear flip flops. Or does it depend on whether the feet you expose are hairy and gnarly?

That's the trouble with the "offensiveness" standard! It doesn't address the clothing, but the way other people react to YOU in the clothing. But the airline doesn't want to get specific and say no bared shoulders or clothing must cover your legs at least to mid-thigh — even though your seatmates have an obvious interest in not having to be in contact with your bare flesh.

With that subjective standard, any enforcement is going to feel personal, and inevitably that will mean that people will feel that race and gender and age and level of attractiveness are going to be part of the judgment — whether they are or not. I doubt if the employees enforcing the rule can even know whether they're using inappropriate factors in applying their standard of appropriateness. It's a paradox of propriety.

"Certainly, Trump found Pence a bit alien: the way he was always praying; the way he referred to his wife, Karen, as 'Mother'..."

"... and the way the couple was constantly holding hands. ('Look at them!' Trump would tease. 'They’re so in love!') But he appreciated the earnestness with which Pence seemed to believe, as so few in the party did, that Trump was a decent person. Trump had worked hard to earn that faith.... [A]fter the Access Hollywood bombshell dropped, Pence... called Trump from the road, checking in as he did daily, sounding upset. He advised Trump to offer a sincere apology. That was the last anyone had heard from the VP nominee. Pence had gone back to Indiana and bunkered down, cutting himself off from the outside world, praying with his wife about what to do next and telling his advisers that he wasn’t sure he could continue with the campaign. To the extent Trump felt regret, it was over disappointing the Pences. 'Oh boy,' he said Friday afternoon after hanging up with his running mate. 'Mother is not going to like this.'"

From "'Mother Is Not Going to Like This': The 48 Hours That Almost Brought Down Trump/The exclusive story of how Trump survived the Access Hollywood tape" by Tim Alberta (Politico). Why the return to the Access Hollywood story? Alberta has a new book, "AMERICAN CARNAGE: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump." That might explain it. But I think Trump antagonists are scrambling for bad news and there's not enough new bad news, so they play oldies but goodies. At any rate, I thought "Mother is not going to like this" was an absolutely hilarious nugget of Trump rhetoric.

You may not want to read the whole article — the article saves you from reading the book you weren't going to read — but you should click through if only to see the big melodramatic, hokey illustration. It's really good, and I hear it screaming We hate Trump, but we love hating Trump, it's all so lurid and thrilling.

"I was floating in a cloud. I had no sensation of up or down. I didn’t have any sensation in my stomach like you might have on a roller coaster... that moment when your stomach is in your throat."

Said Roger Woodward, who was 7 years old when he became the first person ever to survive going over Niagara Falls falls without being inside any sort of barrel or other enclosure. He was wearing a life jacket however. He's quoted in "A man was swept over the largest waterfall at Niagara Falls, police say. He survived" (WaPo), about a new case of survival, by an unnamed man:
With no protective covering and facing a roughly 188-foot drop into a roiling pool of water filled with large rocks, history suggested that the man’s survival was unlikely. Scores have died taking the plunge either by accident or, in most cases, intentionally. According to the Buffalo News, it is estimated that 25 people annually commit suicide by going over the falls.

But as authorities scoured the lower Niagara River for the man Tuesday morning, they came across an unusual sight. The man was sitting on rocks near the edge of the river — and he was alive. He was found with non-life-threatening injuries and transported to the hospital for further care, police said.

"There’s little question that Acosta was out-lawyered, but perhaps he was also disarmed by the attentions of these celebrity attorneys."

"[Alan] Dershowitz, then a Harvard law professor, had famously defended O.J. Simpson. [Ken] Starr, of course, was the independent counsel who investigated the Clinton Whitewater case, leading into the Monica Lewinsky cliffhanger. In a 2011 letter trying to defend himself after the cushy plea deal, Acosta wrote that he faced 'year-long assault on the prosecution and the prosecutors' by 'an army of legal superstars.' He also asserted that defense lawyers 'investigated individual prosecutors and their families, looking for personal peccadilloes that may provide a basis for disqualification.'... Pending further revelations, one thing is clear: Acosta should step down from his Cabinet position for dereliction of duty in his prior role — and because he has the spine of a mollusk. In deciding not to fully prosecute Epstein in 2007 — and then agreeing to bury the proceedings without advising the victims — he violated the law, betrayed the victims’ trust and displayed rare cowardice before justice. Finally, nobody likes a whiner."

From "One thing is clear from the Jeffrey Epstein revelations: Acosta must step down" by Kathleen Parker (WaPo).

I don't like the ugliness of "dereliction of duty" and "spine of a mollusk" and "whiner," but I do think Acosta should resign. When it mattered most, the cries of a wealthy man overwhelmed those of ordinary people. That's not what belongs in the Labor Department.

July 9, 2019

At the Poppy Café...

Poppies at Olbrich

... you can talk about anything.

Poppies at Olbrich

(Photographs taken at Olbrich Gardens in Madison).

"Forbes ranked Perot's self-made quotient as a full-fledged 10. That's because he started his empire on his 32nd birthday as a one-man operation financed with $1,000 borrowed from Margot."

"Perot came up with the name Electronic Data Systems while attending Sunday service at Highland Park Presbyterian Church, where he and Margot have been members since moving to Dallas in 1957. He scribbled it down on the back of a pledge envelope. Perot became a multimillionaire when he took EDS public in 1968. In a 2018 interview, Perot Jr. described the family's dinner the night before the company's IPO. 'Dad said, "Now tomorrow, we're going to take EDS public, and a lot of people are going to write about the money that we have. But remember, none of this is important. The only thing that's important is our family and how we take care and respect our family. That's the first time we ever had a money conversation in the family. Then we watched Dad become the Bill Gates of the '60s. As I tell the children, Fortune said he was "the fastest, richest Texan ever."'"

From "Ross Perot, self-made billionaire, patriot and philanthropist, dies at 89" (Dallas News).

"Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta on Tuesday faced fresh calls to resign — and rising pressure from inside the Trump administration — over his role in brokering a lenient plea deal..."

"... over sex crimes for the New York financier Jeffrey E. Epstein when he was a federal prosecutor in Miami more than a decade ago. Mr. Acosta, 50, told a friend this week that the plea agreement, in which Mr. Epstein served 13 months after being accused of sexually abusing dozens of young women and underage girls, was the 'toughest deal' available in a complex and difficult case.... For the moment, President Trump supports Mr. Acosta, although two senior administration officials said that could quickly change if more damaging details emerged about the plea agreement. Mr. Trump said on Tuesday that he felt 'badly' for Mr. Acosta and praised him as 'an excellent secretary of labor'... But he said the White House would look into the matter 'very carefully.'... The evidence against Mr. Epstein a decade ago in Florida was 'overwhelming,' said [Jack Scarola, lawyer for some of the accusers], calling the terms of the nonprosecution agreement signed in secret by Mr. Acosta’s team 'totally unjustifiable. Even more egregious was the fact that Epstein was not only given personal immunity, his named and unnamed co-conspirators were also immunized for all of their unspecified crimes...That kind of get-out-of-jail-free card is unprecedented and a patent abuse of prosecutorial discretion.'"

From "Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta Faces Calls to Resign Over Epstein Plea Deal" (NYT).

I think Acosta should resign. And I think Trump ought to make that happen.

I get totally sidetracked by the figure of speech in "Republicans are eating our lunch. I want a 2020 Democrat tough enough to eat theirs."

That's a headline at USA Today for a column by Jill Lawrence that I'm not interested in. What new could it say? I don't care. But the headline caught my attention because of the silly expression "eating our lunch" (which isn't used in the column itself).

"Eat your lunch" should not be confused with "have your lunch handed to you." If you "have your lunch handed to you" you are getting your lunch. With "eat your lunch," you're losing your lunch. Ha ha, no. "Losing your lunch" means vomiting. But you know what I mean. If someone eats your lunch, you don't have lunch. You are lunchless. If you "have your lunch handed to you," it means you're shown the door, which means you have to leave. Or did you think that when you are "shown the door," you can stand your ground with pleasantries like, "That is indeed a lovely door"?

Looking up "eat your lunch," I stumbled into this fascinating question that is (supposedly) from the GMAT. Reading it made me remember how much these things are really a test of how well you can control your emotions.
An old Russian proverb says you should "Eat your breakfast alone, eat your lunch with your friend, give your dinner to your enemy." A new school of dietitians would have it, therefore, that missing dinner twice a week actually contributes not only to the patients' weight loss, but also to their general health.

The new school of dietitians' argument is based on which of the following assumptions?

A. While the Russian proverb argues that dinner is a problematic meal, it does not promote forsaking it altogether.
B. Eating dinner with enemies is a sign of reconciliation, which may improve one's health.
C. While eating solids is to be encouraged at breakfast and is permissible during lunch, Dinner should contain only fluids.
D. The Russian proverb states that one should give his dinner to his enemy, so that one never has dinner.
E. Russian metabolism works differently from western metabolism, and therefore while for the Russian the evening meal is merely problematic, the westerner should actually do without it.
Who can do that without the static of distracting thoughts like...
A. They are sadistically posing impossible questions.
B. When do we get to eat lunch?
C. Do I need to go on a diet... maybe this diet?
D. Russians, yes, the Russians are interesting and strange....
E. There are other people who love this sort of puzzle and I'm different, maybe because I'm worse but maybe because I'm better... I'm more of an artist, more like the Russians... Who am I?... Am I fat?...

FiveThirtyEight wonks debate whether Joe Biden is still the front runner.

"OK … that’s two votes in favor of Biden as the front-runner and one vote against him...."

This is the most interesting statement in the whole thing:
Over time, I think Democratic voters will perceive Warren and Harris as more electable. I also think some Democratic voters will come to understand that they should not say out loud (or tell pollsters) that they view women running for president as unelectable, even if they act on that belief. And the comparisons between Obama and Harris should be viewed with extreme caution. Democrats view Trump as a threat in a way they did not view the potential GOP nominee in 2008 — and they had not just watched a black person lose in 2004. In other words, I think the number of Democrats spooked by Clinton’s defeat in 2016 and are wary of women for that reason may be understated.
That's a very compressed statement, and it struck me at first as full of contradictions. So let me open it up.

There's a prediction that Democratic voters will see Warren and Harris as more electable, then a prediction that they — some of them — will learn to shut up about the view that they're not electable. I guess you can connect those 2 statements with the idea that if people stop fussing about their unelectability, the perception will change. But Democrats need to worry about who actually can beat Trump, not about what they, subjectively, perceive. Still, the FiveThirtyEight discussion is about who's on the pathway to getting the nomination, and perception about who can win the general election affects who wins the nomination. It doesn't matter whether the perception is badly distorted.

How does the second part of the statement, about comparing Harris to Obama, relate to perceptions about electability? I think the point is supposed to be that Democratic voters gave Obama the nomination in 2008, and that might predict what they'll do in 2020. But Democrats are more desperate just to win this time, and they were more open to risk in 2008 (because Trump is so much more awful than any of the Republicans who were vying for the nomination in 2008). Also, in 2008, when Democrats sprang for a nominee who isn't a white male, they'd never had the experience of taking that leap and losing. But now, they're "spooked." They saw a woman lose, and that might make them think a woman candidate is too risky. That's not something they will openly talk about it, but if that's what's going on, Biden's front-runner position should hold.

Michelle Carter — convicted of manslaughter for texting encouragement to a young man who was killing himself — petitions the U.S. Supreme Court to take her case, based on her right to freedom of speech.

WaPo reports. Also happening at the same time: a new HBO documentary, "I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter." And click my "Michelle Carter" tag. I opposed prosecuting Carter from the beginning.

From the WaPo article:
The two teenagers barely interacted in person. They led separate lives, both beset by difficulty, in separate Massachusetts towns. But they developed an intense online bond after meeting in Naples, Fla., in 2012, when each was visiting relatives. They traded stories of their anguish, and Carter recommended that Roy seek treatment for his depression. Soon, however, she began suggesting ways for her interlocutor to die by suicide, which he had previously attempted...

The day before he was found lifeless in his truck, she had pressed him to follow through on his plans. “If you want it as bad as you say you do, its time to do it today,” she said in a text message the day before his death. “I love you,” she told him repeatedly, and he returned the words. As his truck filled with fumes and he stepped outside, apparently having second thoughts, she instructed him to return to the vehicle, according to the juvenile court judge who convicted her of involuntary manslaughter in a nonjury trial in 2017. The judge, Lawrence Moniz of Bristol County, reasoned that her “virtual presence” made her responsible for her boyfriend’s death. He later handed her a 15-month jail term.

Her conviction was upheld in February by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which said it “rejected the defendant’s claim that her words to the victim, without any physical act on her part and even without her physical presence at the scene, could not constitute wanton or reckless conduct sufficient to support a charge of manslaughter.”
Here's something I wrote back in June 2017:
In recent decades, there has been some evolution toward making it legal to assist in a suicide, but in the U.S., this is only for medical professionals helping somebody who's dying. But I've seen cases outside of the United States where physicians have performed euthanasia on individuals who are severely depressed and want to die. That is, they are suicidal. In Belgium, this might be considered enlightened and respectful of individual autonomy. I don't like that, but what if a person is close to a someone who is suicidal and comes to believe that they genuinely want to die and is convinced it's their choice and offers moral support and encouragement? You don't need to agree with the autonomy idea to want to refrain from criminally punishing somebody like Michelle Carter who speaks in accordance with that idea.

There's too much danger of selective prosecution, going after the people who seem awful, and too much power put in the hands of suicidal people to wreak harm on others, finally going through with a suicide after someone who's making them angry lets slip with some text daring them to stop talking about it and do it already.

"In her 2014 memoir... Gillibrand described her childhood self as 'a massive kiss-ass [who] lived for positive reinforcement.' When I ask if that little kiss-ass lives on inside of her, Gillibrand tells me, 'Yeah, she’s still there.'"

"Perhaps it’s that instinct to people-please that’s led to accusations of corelessness. During Gillibrand’s tenure in the House of Representatives, she catered to the primarily white, Republican towns and farming communities that made up New York’s 20th Congressional District.... Gillibrand frames her leftward tilt with appealing, party-neutral language. Our children should be safe. We should be able to afford to live....  Gillibrand may have drastically changed positions on guns and immigration, but from the beginning, she’s bolstered women.... At the apex of the Me Too reckoning in November 2017, then-Sen. Al Franken was accused of sexual misconduct by radio host Leeann Tweeden; subsequently, a photograph of Franken pretending to grab Tweeden’s breasts was released, and seven other women came forward, including a congressional staffer, saying Franken kissed or touched them inappropriately. Other future 2020 candidates encouraged Franken to resign — Harris, Sanders, Warren, Gillibrand’s friend Cory Booker — but Gillibrand was, by 16 minutes, the first to publicly say he should step down. Consequently, much of the coverage focused on her.... Gillibrand has been accused — by what has turned out to be a vocal lobby of forced-kissing apologists — of overreacting to the mostly pre-governmental behavior of a popular senator, of enforcing standards of behavior that Republicans would never agree to follow, of hurting her political chances and, of course, of capitalizing on a cultural moment for publicity."

From "The Ignoring of Kirsten Gillibrand/In 2019, it’s unforgivable for a presidential candidate to be boring. Maybe that’s our loss" by Anna Peele (WaPo).

When the self-proclaimed kiss-ass met the self-satisfied forced-kisser...

So true.

July 8, 2019

At the Monday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law Monday that would allow the state to release President Trump’s tax returns with Congress."

"The law gives key chairmen on Capitol Hill the ability to request public officials’ state returns — though all sides acknowledge the chief target of the law is Mr. Trump, who has refused to make his returns public.... 'Tax secrecy is paramount - the exception being for bonafide investigative and law enforcement purposes,' [said Cuomo's statement]. ''By amending the law enforcement exception in New York State tax code to include Congressional tax-related committees, this bill gives Congress the ability to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities, strengthen our democratic system and ensure that no one is above the law.'"

The Washington Times reports.

I was going to riff on "bonafide," based on the meaning of the term — which is "In good faith, with sincerity; genuinely," and I don't believe we've got good faith here. But I'm distracted by the spelling. I believe Cuomo expressed himself in a written statement, and only the NYT seems to have inserted the space between "bona" and "fide." Compare:

... with:

... so I think Cuomo's people are responsible for the low-quality text. Looking up the problem of closing up the gap between "bona" and "fide," I stumbled into a problem worse than "bonafide": "bonafied." It's in the OED, marked as a "nonstandard" form of "bona fide" (not to be confused with the past participle of "bonify," which means to make good). Examples of the nonstandard "bonify" go back to 1841:

"Mueller is...likely to be grumpy when you question him. And who can blame him? You would be grumpy too if you were being subjected to hours of unwanted hectoring by your colleagues, many of whom are not very bright..."

"... will not have done their homework, and will want to yell at the man and ask him things that would be wildly inappropriate for him to answer. But you are that rare thing: a diligent member of Congress who wants to use your time with Mueller to bring out important findings and nuances of the Mueller report. What do you do?"

Writes Benjamin Wittes in "If I Had Five Minutes to Question Robert Mueller." From the advice:
[A]sk him questions to which you know the answer. This is not an investigative hearing. It is an exercise in political and legal theater, and you are trying to provide a compelling elucidation of Mueller’s work and findings. Ask only questions you know he can answer and whose answers you know will reasonably contribute to the thread you are developing.
Wittes has a series of yes-or-no questions that end with:
So, to summarize, I take your report to state that you found substantial evidence of presidential obstruction of justice, which you chose not to analyze, because you were deferring to Congress on questions of impeachment and to federal prosecutors after President Trump leaves office on questions of criminality. Is that a fair reading?

"Dear Producers at RT, This is what happened the one and only time I will ever appear on your network...."

"Does watching television make people stupid? Are stupid people more likely to vote for populist parties?"

Asks Yascha Mounk in "The More You Watch, the More You Vote Populist/A new study ties consumption of entertainment television in Italy to support for Silvio Berlusconi" (The Atlantic).
In the study, three economists, Ruben Durante, Paolo Pinotti, and Andrea Tesei, were able to provide strong evidence for a shocking set of conclusions: Watching a lot of entertainment TV does seem to have an adverse impact on your intelligence. And it also makes you more likely to vote for populist parties...

Analyzing Berlusconi’s television appearances, Durante, Pinotti, and Tesei found that he consistently “adopted a much simpler communication style than other parties and leaders.” As a result, he performed much better among less educated citizens. Taken together, this suggests that “early exposure to entertainment TV influenced political preferences through an impoverishment of cognitive skills.”

(It would be tempting to think that the causation runs the other way around: Perhaps people with poor cognitive skills are more likely to watch a lot of television? Once again, the authors of the study were able to exclude this possibility by focusing on random geographic variation: Places with earlier access to Mediaset contained a greater proportion of people with poor cognitive skills.)...
Mounk ends with a clever expression of doubt: "Only someone whose brain has been turned into mush by watching too much entertainment television would immediately accept an argument that fits elite ideological priors quite as neatly as this one."

"It is quite likely that some of our faves are implicated..."

"Kavanaugh had been deluged with advice until the end. His Bush friends, by and large, told him ... not to show too much emotion. But he received calls from a few senators encouraging him to show his righteous indignation."

Fox News reports on what's in the forthcoming book "Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court" (by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino). Most of what's in that link is material I knew from following the hearings. There's a bit of behind-the-scenes about Kavanaugh's preparation for the hearing.

The Daily Caller has "New Book On Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Has Incendiary Allegations About Christine Blasey Ford," which seems to offer something more revealing, but I'm so dubious about Daily Caller headlines. I'll read this, though (and it can be a test of whether The Daily Caller is as bad as I think it is). Incendiary Allegations?
In “Justice on Trial” authors Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino say unnamed peers accused Ford of drinking to excess and accosting boys with some regularity as a student at the Holton-Arms School, a contrast with press accounts that cast her as innocent and naive during that period.
Press accounts cast her as innocent and naive during that period?
“Female classmates and friends at area schools recalled a heavy drinker who was much more aggressive with boys than they were,” Hemingway and Severino write of Ford. “‘If she only had one beer’ on the night of the alleged assault, a high school friend said, ‘then it must have been early in the evening.’ Her contemporaries all reported the same nickname for Ford, a riff on her maiden name and a sexual act.”
I'm supposed to think of sex words that rhyme with "Blasey"?!

Do models have special powers to see the meaning in other women's faces?

I'm reading...
MELANIA WAS A MODEL. SHE’S WORKED WITH A LOT OF WOMEN. ‘You know that woman is lying, don’t you?’: Melania Trump reportedly did not believe Blasey Ford.
... at Instapundit.

1. Does working with people make you an expert on whether they are lying? Does working with a particular type of person make you an expert on whether somebody else in that category is lying? If so, would a model mainly be good at telling whether other models were lying?

2. Models are always putting on phony faces. It's their job. Maybe a model has special expertise in knowing when another person — maybe especially another person of the same sex — is putting on a facial expression or doing physical gesturing that is an effort at displaying an emotion she is not really feeling.

3. Do female fashion models work mostly with women? I'm seeing that 89 to 96 percent of fashion photographers are male.

4. If you work with people in a particular field, you might form an opinion about how likely they are to lie. My opinion of whether law professors tend to lie is probably different from the views of people who have not spent decades among law professors, but am I really good at looking at a law professor — especially a woman law professor — and detecting lies? When I'm watching the Democratic presidential candidates debate, do I have special expertise in telling whether Elizabeth Warren is lying?

5. I suspect Instapundit is just horsing about, titillating readers with the idea that women are dishonest and that beautiful women have the jump on lesser women. (Is my suspicion more accurate because I'm a law professor looking at another law professor?)

6. If it's true that Melania said to Donald, "You know that woman is lying, don't you?" and also true that Melania has a special power to see that another woman is lying, it's still possible that Melania wasn't telling it straight. She had a motive to dissemble — to support and soothe her husband.

July 7, 2019



An open thread.

"He'll be able to pick up 10,000,000 sappy people votes when he promises a white house wedding a few months before the election."

A comment on the WaPo article, "Cory Booker and his ‘boo,’ Rosario Dawson, take their relationship on the campaign trail."

"And the rule on a bespoke suit is you do not clean it. You do not touch it. You let the dirt dry and you brush it off."

"Basically, in life, rule of thumb: if you don’t absolutely have to clean anything, don’t clean it. I wouldn’t change my bra every day and I don’t just chuck stuff into a washing machine because it’s been worn. I am incredibly hygienic myself, but I’m not a fan of dry cleaning or any cleaning, really."

Said Stella McCartney, quoted in "Stella McCartney: ‘It’s not like I’m here for an easy life’/The fashion designer talks about her latest collection, the creative frustrations of eco sequins – and why she’s not a fan of washing her bra" (The Guardian).

"Aided by a strong economy and perceptions that he has dealt with it effectively, President Trump’s approval rating has risen to the highest point of his presidency...."

"... though a slight majority of Americans continue to say they disapprove of his performance in office, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.... [M]ore than 6 in 10 Americans say he has acted in ways that are unpresidential since he was sworn into office. Still, roughly one-fifth of those who say he is not presidential say they approve of the job he is doing, and he runs even against four possible Democratic nominees in hypothetical ­general-election matchups. He trails decisively only to former vice president Joe Biden. Trump’s approval rating among voting-age Americans stands at 44 percent, edging up from 39 percent in April, with 53 percent saying they disapprove of him. Among registered voters, 47 percent say they approve of Trump while 50 percent disapprove. In April, 42 percent of registered voters said they approved while 54 percent said they disapproved."

WaPo reports.

Top-rated comment: "After all he has done, the embarrassment he has brought to the US, his lying and losing and lawlessness, nevertheless his approval numbers are going up.... Maybe there is no hope for this country."

"The trim speaker, wearing white pants and a purple cardigan to match her purple Manolo heels, stabbed her fork into one of my home fries...."

"[M]any Democrats see Pelosi as the thin blue line — albeit in fiery orange and hot pink hues — standing between them and a lawless Trump...."

From "It’s Nancy Pelosi’s Parade/'If the left doesn’t think I’m left enough, so be it,' she told me" by Maureen Dowd (NYT). I'm just highlighting the colors... because they jumped out at me. Much more at the link.

Also, I think it's funny to talk about Pelosi as the line between order and chaos just as she's breaching the line between my plate and yours — and so agressively: stabbing the potatoes.

"Billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein was arrested for allegedly sex trafficking dozens of minors in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005...."

"Saturday's arrest by the FBI-NYPD Crimes Against Children Task Force comes about 12 years after the 66-year-old financier essentially got a slap on the wrist for allegedly molesting dozens of underage girls in Florida.... 'It’s been a long time coming—it’s been too long coming,' said attorney David Boies, who represents Epstein accusers Virginia Roberts Giuffre and Sarah Ransome.... 'We hope that prosecutors will not stop with Mr. Epstein because there were many other people who participated with him and made the sex trafficking possible'.... Over the years, Epstein billed himself as a renowned philanthropist and pledged $30 million for Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. He’s palled around with a host of famous faces including Donald Trump and Bill Clinton; the latter traveled with Epstein to Africa to address issues like economic development and AIDS. In a 2002 profile in New York, one fellow Wall Streeter described Epstein as a 'mysterious, Gatsbyesque figure' who 'likes people to think that he is very rich' and 'cultivates this air of aloofness.' Another prominent investor added: 'He once told me he had 300 people working for him, and I’ve also heard that he manages Rockefeller money. But one never knows. It’s like looking at the Wizard of Oz—there may be less there than meets the eye.'"

From "Jeffrey Epstein Arrested for Sex Trafficking of Minors/Jeffrey Epstein was arrested on Saturday and will appear in New York court on Monday to be charged with sex trafficking, according to multiple law enforcement sources" (Daily Beast).