November 16, 2019

"Hannah Rose Blakeley, 26 years old, says listening to stories about her late uncle led her to appreciate her family's resourcefulness in the face of adversity."

"A Vietnam veteran who once worked as a roughneck in rattlesnake-infested oil fields, her uncle donned thick leather work boots, wrapped them in burlap, tromped through the grass and captured any rattlers that thrust their fangs into his protective gear. Then he sold them to laboratories, where their venom was harvested for medicine."

From "The Secret Benefits of Retelling Family Stories/Children learn about family history and identity through stories told by older generations" (WSJ).

It's time once again for the annual fear-of-Thanksgiving stories, and I was glad to see a really positive one.
Intergenerational stories anchor youngsters as part of a larger group, helping them develop a sense of identity. In a 2008 study, researchers at Emory quizzed 40 youngsters ages 10 to 14 on 20 family-history questions, such as how their parents met or where their grandparents grew up. Those who answered more questions correctly showed, on separate assessments, less anxiety and fewer behavior problems. Parents who include in their stories descriptions of feelings they experienced at the time, such as distress, anger or sadness, and tell how they coped with those emotions by venting, reframing or calming them, help children learn to regulate their own emotions....
For those of us who are older, it's too late to hear our parents' stories. You may regret that the younger generation doesn't want to understand what makes you the person they encounter, but at least they've still got time to notice how much they don't know and to listen and even ask. I'm amazed at all the things I never thought to ask my parents that seem so glaringly obvious now. I'm almost tempted to write stories to invent detailed answers.

Politico chooses a head-on-a-platter photograph of Adam Schiff...

... for its "What Was Truly Unprecedented in This Week’s Impeachment Hearings?" article:

The head on a platter is a classic artistic theme....
According to the Synoptic Gospels, Herod, who was tetrarch, or sub-king, of Galilee under the Roman Empire, had imprisoned John the Baptist because he reproved Herod for divorcing his wife... and unlawfully taking Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip I. On Herod's birthday, Herodias' daughter... danced before the king and his guests. Her dancing pleased Herod so much that in his drunkenness he promised to give her anything she desired, up to half of his kingdom. When Salome asked her mother what she should request, she was told to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter....

The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also relates... that Herod killed John... "lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his [John's] power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise), [so Herod] thought it best [to put] him to death."
So did Politico (or the photographer) intend to liken Schiff to John the Baptist or just to a generic disembodied head?

ADDED: Speaking of disembodied heads, this is how my blog looked just after I published this post:

Can control.

This graffiti artist’s can control from r/oddlysatisfying

(Click on any of the words in that image to put you through to a full-screen view of the action. It's, as they say, "oddly satisfying.")

Something about baseball I saw because I follow Aaron Rodgers, who liked this.


And: A new article in the L.A. Times: "Yu Darvish is conflicted over Astros sign-stealing allegations."
Darvish was surprised by the allegations that surfaced this week in a story by the Athletic ["The Astros stole signs electronically in 2017 — part of a much broader issue for Major League Baseball"]."Four people who were with the Astros in 2017, including pitcher Mike Fiers, said the team used a camera in the outfield to steal signs at home games....

“What’s been reported up to this point is that they used cameras at their home field, so I don’t know if there was anything like that,” Darvish said. “But what they were doing was so high-level that I can’t honestly say there’s no chance they were also doing it on the road.... If you ask me if I got hit in Game 7 because they stole signs, I don’t think so,” he said. “The Astros have great players who don’t have to do that. So I think that whether or not they stole signs, the results wouldn’t have changed.”

Pardon Roger Stone?

ADDED: After yesterday's tweet, defending himself as Yovanovich was testifying against him, Trump attracted accusations that he was intimidating future witnesses. Wouldn't pardoning Stone be the other side of that coin — demonstrating to all potential witnesses against him that good things lie ahead if you stick to Trump's side?

WaPo acknowledges the rise of a new GOP star: "Elise Stefanik emerges in impeachment hearings as key Trump defender — and GOP celebrity."

The piece — by Mike DeBonis — begins with Stefanik's record as a "maverick" — voting against the 2017 tax bill and supporting LGBT rights and DACA. But at the impeachment hearings, we're told she's "a complete team player."
Early in Friday’s hearing with former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, Stefanik sought to make a point by speaking up during a period of questioning reserved only for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and his counsel under rules that passed the House on a party-line vote last month.

“The gentlewoman will suspend,” Schiff said. “You are not recognized.”

“What is the interruption for this time?” she shot back in an exchange calculated to underscore Republican objections to a process controlled by Democrats. “This is the fifth time you have interrupted members of Congress, duly elected members of Congress.”...

“This is a matter of constitutional importance, and I’m asking substantive, fact-based questions to the witnesses,” she said [later, in an interview]. “I have one of the top 10 percent most bipartisan records in this House and one of the most independent records. But when it comes to constitutional matters, we should focus on the facts. We should not let this be a partisan attack the way Adam Schiff is conducting himself.”
A woman was testifying, and Stefanik is the only GOP woman on the committee. She's also the youngest GOP woman in the House. (She's 35.) WaPo has a quote from a Democratic woman on the committee, insinuating that Stefanik is being used because she's a woman: "When they are badgering a female witness who is a career Foreign Service officer with an impeccable record, and they want to badger her, I think it’s a better look when a woman is taking the lead on that." And then there's Matthew Dowd who tweeted that Stefanik is "a perfect example of why just electing someone because they are a woman or a millennial doesn’t necessarily get you the leaders we need." That was stupid to say out loud, and he deleted it.

WaPo recognizes a tweet from the Daily Caller that "compared the performance to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s 2017 move to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — an exchange that went viral among Democrats":


Sunrise with contrails.


Photo time, 7:01. Actual sunrise time, 6:52.

"How a CIA analyst, triggered by Trump's shadow foreign policy, alarmed an impeachment inquiry " — a misread headline.

Misread by Meade, looking at the WaPo headline, "How a CIA analyst, alarmed by Trump's shadow foreign policy, triggered an impeachment inquiry."

Meade says, "I think it's more accurate my way."

"The reason bribery is now the Democratic impeachment word of choice has less to do with the law than with politics."

"The Washington Post reports that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently conducted focus groups in key House battleground districts to test 'messages related to impeachment.' Voters were asked whether 'quid pro quo,' 'extortion' or 'bribery' were more compelling.'The focus groups found "bribery" to be most damning,' according to the Post. Democrats got the message because last weekend they began using 'bribery' almost in unison to describe Mr. Trump's conduct. Mr. Schiff's NPR riff is an attempt to make the noncrime fit the political spin."

From "Adam Schiff, Founding Father," a Wall Street Journal editorial.

If the focus group found "bribery" the strongest word, I suspect it was because the definition they had in their head was a narrow one, in which some private citizen hands the accused politician X amount of dollars in exchange for a specific act of government power. If you change the definition of the word so that the accused politician is the one paying the money — and the money is the government's money — and the recipient is another government — which is supposed to do something with its governmental power — then you're not talking about the same thing the people were thinking about when they were asked about the word.

People may continue to think bribery is terrible, but the central question becomes is this bribery? The risk is, once you've said it's a question of bribery, you're focusing us on the definition of bribery, and when it looks like you're trying to stretch the definition so it fits whatever it is Trump did, it seems dishonest. I mean, look at Schiff, selling his expansive definition of "bribery":
"Well, bribery, first of all, as the Founders understood bribery, it was not as we understand it in law today. It was much broader. It connoted the breach of the public trust in a way where you're offering official acts for some personal or political reason, not in the nation's interest...."
Seen in that light, is there anything politicians do that is not bribery?

ADDED: Trump does a similar thing with the word "treason."

"The business model of social media companies, of pure advertising, is problematic. It turns out the huge winner is low-quality content."

Said Jimmy Wales, quoted in "Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales launches Twitter and Facebook rival/Wikipedia co-founder says WT:Social is effort to combat ‘clickbait’" (Financial Times).
While Facebook and Twitter’s algorithms ensure that the posts with the most comments or likes rise to the top, WT:Social puts the newest links first. However, WT:Social hopes to add an “upvote” button that will allow users to recommend quality stories....

Several well-meaning alternatives to Facebook have come and gone over the years, from Ello to Diaspora.... But Mr Wales said he believes the time is now right for a new venue that is free from what he calls “clickbait nonsense”.

“People are feeling fed up with all the junk that’s around,” Mr Wales said. “News organisations are doing the best they can in this difficult environment but it’s actually a problem with the distribution.”
From the site:
We will empower you to make your own choices about what content you are served, and to directly edit misleading headlines, or flag problem posts.

We will foster an environment where bad actors are removed because it is right, not because it suddenly affects our bottom-line.

"German newborns produce more cries that fall from a higher to a lower pitch, mimicking the falling intonation of the German language..."

"... while French infants tend to cry with the rising intonation of French.... Newborns whose mothers speak tonal languages, such as Mandarin, tend to produce more complex cry melodies. Swedish newborns, whose native language has what linguists call a 'pitch accent,' produce more sing-songy cries.... Hearing and imitating are fundamental to language development. By the third trimester, a fetus can hear the rhythm and melody of its mother’s voice — known as 'prosody.' Since individual words are muffled by tissue and amniotic fluid, prosody becomes the defining characteristic of language for the fetus. After they are born, young babies mimic many different sounds. But they are especially shaped by the prosody they heard in the womb, which becomes a handy guide to the strange sounds coming from the people around them. Through stress, pauses and other cues, prosody cuts up the stream of sound into words and phrases – that is, into speech."

From "Do Babies Cry in Different Languages?/A pioneering German researcher decodes newborns’ cries. Here’s what they reveal" (NYT).

"Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision we also have to be rooted in reality. The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it."

Said Barack Obama, "speaking before a room of wealthy liberal donors," quoted in the NYT, which calls his speech "an extraordinary entrance into the primary contest by the former president." It's "extraordinary," because, until now, he "has been careful to avoid even the appearance of influencing the direction of the race." So bland as his advice may sound, he must think it's awfully important.

He didn't specify that he meant to dampen enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but you can figure it out.
“I don’t think we should be deluded into thinking that the resistance to certain approaches to things is simply because voters haven’t heard a bold enough proposal and if they hear something as bold as possible then immediately that’s going to activate them,” he said.
Ha ha. In other words, Elizabeth, you're not the first one to "have a plan" for everything. We all can do that. But we've got enough sense not to say it out loud, and we also know we've got to get elected. We were able to toy with the idea that an explicit left-wing plan might generate some enthusiasm in some quarters, but we didn't fall into the delusion that we could win an election that way.

"In no other show this year will you see an elderly character wearing a wig of pubic hair at her crotch while playing air guitar or a younger one spider-walking topless while growling demonically."

From the NYT article, "Make Way for the Carnal Clowns of Stand-Up/Three rising comics share an aesthetic that marries crass physical humor with disarmingly sexual themes. They’re unsettling and hilarious."

Good use of the verb "marries."

The first 2 "clowns" discussed in the article are female, so I was cynically thinking gender was a big part of why the NYT was giving such an enthusiastic write-up. But the third "clown" — discussed very briefly — is male.

Cynical Me rears her ugly head to say they only threw him in so it would look as though the new trend was crass physical humor with harshly sexual themes and not specifically women getting into the old male terrain of physical humor and sexual themes.

Cynical Me points out that that there are only 3 sentences about the male, and the third one is, "He is a familiar type: The comic with infinite confidence and no skill." Old, not new. Does he really belong in this article?

The article ends:
As artists searching for originality often are, they borrow from a variety of sources.... And perhaps what makes them seem so thrillingly unpredictable is that they don’t seem to be reacting against a tradition as struggling to forge their own.
But the guy — whose comic persona is a bad standup comedian — doesn't sound "thrillingly unpredictable." That is "reacting against a tradition." And we were just told "He is a familiar type."

November 15, 2019

At the Invisible Sunrise Café...


... you can talk all night.

The photo was taken at 6:53 this morning. The actual sunrise time was 6:51.

"[Biden] bereft of elementary appearance as a human being, much less a politician, again reeled off a string of rubbish against the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK."

"A crow is never whiter for often washing. Baiden [sic], still going reckless, not coming to his senses though he was censured and rejected by all people, must be a rabid dog only keen on getting at others' throats. Such rabid dogs are second to none in their craftiness in seeking their own interests... Such a profiteer who ran for the two failed presidential elections has now gone zealous in another presidential election campaign, wandering about like a starving field dog."

A message from North Korea. It seems funny at first, but if you keep reading, it's a death threat: "It seems time has come for him to depart his life.... Anyone who dare slanders the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK, can never spare the DPRK's merciless punishment whoever and wherever. And he will be made to see even in a grave what horrible consequences will be brought about by his thoughtless utterances. Rabid dogs like Baiden can hurt lots of people if they are allowed to run about. They must be beaten to death with a stick, before it is too late."

Here's an Axios article about that message. Excerpt: "On the 2020 trail, Biden has levied attacks against President Trump's North Korea policy and frequently called the country's leader Kim Jong-un a 'murderous dictator.'... A South Korean news agency speculated that North Korea's insults toward Biden were actually an appeal to Trump, who often claims to have positive relations with Kim despite little progress in nuclear talks...."

"When I owned Miss Universe, they always had great people. Ukraine was always well represented."

From Trump's first call to Zelensky, quoted in "Trump bragged about Miss Universe pageant — and didn’t mention corruption — in perfunctory first call to Ukraine president" (Daily News).

I did a double take at this freeze frame of Adam Schiff — that arm!


Looks like he's clawing his way into that chair. What's going on?... oh.

"It's actually in the rulebook, where it says that you cannot take a player's helmet off and use it as a weapon."

ADDED: Oh! I see it's the top story at Drudge:

I'm glad people are talking about treating this as a crime and not simply a violation of the rules.

"The ratings contradict claims from some of the president's allies, including one of his sons, Eric Trump, who said on Fox News that 'no one was watching it. No one cares.'"

Reports Brian Stelter at CNN Business, in "Ratings for first impeachment hearing show healthy interest and a serious partisan divide."

So people are watching — or at least were watching on Day 1. That shows interest and undercuts the boredom theory. But who was watching — pro- or anti-Trumpers?

Fox News had the biggest audience: "2.9 million viewers at any given time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Wednesday." The typical day for them at that time would be 1.5 million. MSNBC had 2.7 million and a typical day would 1 million, so the elevation was greater for the anti-Trumpers. Fox had 1.4 million more in number and almost twice as many viewers than usual, and MSNBC had 1.7 more in number and more like 3 times as many viewers.

CNN had 1.85 million, and presumably these leaned anti-Trump. There was also ABC, CBS and NBC, PBS, and C-SPAN and all the live streaming on line and video clips.

The hearings are about to begin again. (Why was there a break yesterday?) So we proponents of the boredom theory can shift to Day 2. Sure, there was the novelty and excitement of Day 1, but boredom will set in now. We'll see about that.

ADDED: I'm reading "‘Is this an impeachment hearing or an episode of ‘Dance Moms?’’: Media roasted for saying event lacks ‘pizazz’" (WaPo). This is a good way to attack the boredom theory. You say it's supposed to be boring. It's a sober, serious, meticulous search for the truth. If it was exciting and interesting, that would be bad.

"Well, Linda Tripp — remember, Clinton was impeached because of Linda Tripp’s testimony, which was complete hearsay!"/"Well, she was not under the desk with Monica. Let’s put it that way. So that’s hearsay."

Discussion of the hearsay rule on "The View."

"A student opposed a YA novel for mandatory college reading. The backlash from famous authors was fierce."

A WaPo article about a Northern State University student who opposed selecting a young-adult novel for the school's "common read." The student was quoted in a local newspaper, saying "definitely not up to the level of Common Read." The author, Sarah Dessen, noticed.

WaPo says "It’s unclear how Dessen, who lives in North Carolina, spotted the article in South Dakota," but I presume Dessen has a Google alert on her own name. It's completely easy these days to keep track of whether you're ever mentioned anywhere, even in small local papers (unless they aren't on line).

Dessen tweeted: "Authors are real people. We put our heart and soul into the stories we write often because it is literally how we survive in this world. I’m having a really hard time right now and this is just mean and cruel. I hope it made you feel good."
By Friday morning, the post had how many 731 and 2,500 replies [sic]. Many piled onto the 2017 college graduate, as other well-known authors joined the fray.

“F--- that f-----g b----” fellow author Siobhan Vivian replied to Dessen’s tweet....

Soon other prominent authors with hundreds of thousands of followers piled on, including Gay, Picoult, Jennifer Weiner, Jenny Han, and Angie Thomas. Even Penguin Teen, an imprint of Penguin Books USA, shared Dessen’s complaint, encouraging people to respond to it.

At the heart of the anger is a persistent feeling that young adult literature, and particularly YA books aimed at teenage girls, is treated less seriously than other genres. Many of the upset authors interpreted [the student's] dismissal of Dessen’s work as a commentary on all authors who write for teen girls.
Naturally, predictably, what followed was a backlash against Dessen and the authors who joined forces with her to attack a completely obscure young woman.

Perhaps the worst aspect of this story is that Dessen got apologies from the University and from the reporter who put the student's quote in the newspaper story.


"A lot of people study the last 2.5 billion years, but we will emphasize the first 2 billion. This is the earliest, most exciting era, mainly because there are no known rocks."

From "Professor’s study of ancient crystals sheds light on earth’s early years" (at studying zircons with "melt inclusions").

"His name — quickly forgotten, obviously — Michael Avenatti."

"[T]he sociologist Erving Goffman made the distinction between our 'front stage' behaviors — in which we’re performing for a particular audience, always conscious of being observed — and our backstage ones..."

"... when we peel off the mask. Today, we’re front-stage in so many ways and across so many platforms that it’s utterly exhausting. We perform the just-right kind of politics. (See my latest tweet about the latest outrage!) We perform our perfect vacations and Tuesday night cocktails. (Look at my Instagram, and note that you, dear follower, were not invited to those cocktails!) We perform our brilliant professional identities, networking and hustling during hours once devoted to relaxation. Built into any front-stage setting is the expectation that we’ll project happiness, confidence, success. Depression is, by definition, a backstage emotion. It’s private, idiosyncratic, isolating. Those comedians who’ve elected to discuss it are still giving performances, ultimately, working off careful scripts and landing their punch lines; they aren’t climbing onstage and actually being depressed for us.... 'I think people are sick of everyone promoting their best selves,' Gulman, 49, told me... 'I mean, comedians were always self-deprecating, but even Rodney Dangerfield’s self-deprecation was so clearly a lie. He’s saying he doesn’t get any respect, but he’s hosting an HBO show. Everyone admired him, was in awe of him.'"

From "Comedian Hospitalized for Depression. Hilarity Ensues./Gary Gulman is showing us how to bring our inner selves out into the open" by Jennifer Senior (NYT).

From the comments over there:
Gulman says that Rodney Dangerfield's self-deprecating "no respect" act was "so clearly a lie," because he was so successful. Really? I wrote some jokes for Rodney, and knew him a bit. Rodney's self-deprecation was anything but a lie. He felt lousy about himself, and was clinically depressed his entire life. Should he have talked about his deep depression onstage? Perhaps, but it was a different time. Or perhaps his "no respect" act was a bit too subtle for Mr. Gulman. Because despite his public success, that's the way Rodney really saw himself, and in his way, worked it out onstage and turned it into making millions of people happy. RIP, Rodney. We miss you.

November 14, 2019

At the Sunrise Ice Café...


... warm up the conversation.

"Do I again go in search of lost time with Marcel Proust, or am I to attempt yet another rereading of Alice Walker’s stirring denunciation of all males, black and white?"

"My former students, many of them now stars of the School of Resentment, proclaim that they teach social selflessness, which begins in learning how to read selflessly. The author has no self, the literary character has no self, and the reader has no self. Shall we gather at the river with these generous ghosts, free of the guilt of past self-assertions, and be baptized in the waters of Lethe? What shall we do to be saved? The study of literature, however it is conducted, will not save any individual, any more than it will improve any society. Shakespeare will not make us better, and he will not make us worse, but he may teach us how to overhear ourselves when we talk to ourselves."

Wrote Harold Bloom, in "The Western Canon."

That jumped out at me this morning, because I've been thinking about the idea of forgetting oneself.

Last night, I was reading the story, "Kleist in Thun" (from this collection by Robert Walser), and I was struck by this passage:

Your blogger, gazing contemplatively at the invisible sunrise.


Photo time, 6:56. Actual sunrise time, 6:50.

"That might be a strategy. But I’ll leave that up to others. I’m just a lowly worker."

Said Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, invited to give a quote for the Washington Post to use in its scintillating think-piece, "Republicans discuss a longer Senate impeachment trial to scramble Democratic primaries," scraped together by Robert Costa, Michael Scherer, and Seung Min Kim.

That's the first quote they have, and isn't it a shame, because they have this theory of what's going on in the heads of the various GOP Senators and they can't get the Senators to cough it up.

We're told Ron Johnson had a "coy smile" when he said that.

The article notes that the GOP Senators (if the House impeaches) will be able to choose whether to do a "lengthy trial" or to entertain a motion to dismiss and get dismissal and get it over very quickly.
The Democratic senators who remain in the presidential race have all said publicly that the impeachment proceedings are more important than political concerns...
Ha ha. They won't cough up their inner thoughts either!

Here are 2 GOP Senators who talk about the 2 options (trial or motion to dismiss) and speak, of course, only in terms of what is the right procedure:
“This is going to require a great deal of work, and I don’t think it should be rushed through,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is up for reelection in 2020. Collins said any attempt to dismiss impeachment at the outset of a trial would be met with vocal opposition by a “lot of senators, who’d have misgivings and reservations about treating articles of impeachment that way.”...

“The sooner we’re done with this, the better,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). “Why just have people sitting around for this partisan sham? As soon as we possibly can dismiss this or vote along party lines, especially if the Democrats in the House limit the witnesses, I’ll move to do that.”

"You might think that [Deval] Patrick’s logical path is to compete with Biden for black voters, and with Warren and Sanders for New Hampshire voters..."

"... And sure, it would help Patrick if he can peel off some of Warren’s well-educated liberal voters, particularly in New Hampshire. And to win the nomination, he will probably have to close the big lead that Biden has with African-Americans. But I think the real opening for Patrick is essentially to replace Pete Buttigieg as the candidate for voters who want a charismatic, optimistic, left-but-not-that-left candidate. Patrick, I think, is betting that there’s a 'Goldilocks' opportunity for him — 'Buttigieg but older,' or 'Biden but younger' — a candidate who is viewed as both safe on policy and safe on electability grounds by Democratic establishment types and voters who just want a somewhat generic Democratic candidate that they are confident will win the general election.... On paper, Patrick seems fairly similar to Cory Booker and Kamala Harris — charismatic, black, left-but-not-that-left. But... Patrick has a last-mover advantage — he’s seen how the other candidates have ran and can begin his candidacy to take advantage of perceived weaknesses.... [M]ore importantly, Booker and Harris both spent the first half of the year trying to win some of the more liberal voters, who are likely now with Warren and Sanders. That may have made Harris, in particular, appear as though she was trying to be all things to all people. Patrick can now enter the race knowing that he is trying to win Democrats who self-identify as 'moderate' and 'somewhat liberal,' basically conceding the most liberal voters to Warren and Sanders."

From "Why Deval Patrick Is Making A Late Bid For The Democratic Nomination" by Perry Bacon Jr. (at FiveThirtyEight).

It's not that late. I think it's smart to hold back, observe, and then enter when you see the negative space created by all the other candidates. Step right into it.

"Ambassador Taylor was correct that what the U.S. had been doing in Ukraine comported with the Trump National Security Strategy of resisting persistent aggressions by Russia and China."

"In early 2019, that included helping Ukraine’s newly elected government and its young president, Volodymyr Zelensky, stand up to Mr. Putin’s murderous little green men in eastern Ukraine. Mr. Taylor’s substantive point was that the Trump-Giuliani channel undercut a sound U.S. policy course when suddenly military assistance to Ukraine got caught up in Mr. Trump’s desire, or need, to have the Ukrainians investigate the Bidens. So what else is new? Internal policy battles of this intensity are a constant of government life. Other than dragging in the Bidens, this is hardly different from a host of similar Trumpian foreign-policy interventions.... All these decisions, and not least the events with Ukraine, are absolutely valid voting issues for the next election.... It would have been valid as well if the Democrats had chosen to conduct normal oversight hearings.... But why are Americans being forced to endure the elevation of the Ukraine saga into the current impeachment melodrama? Presumably the Democratic left and its allies believe the faux gravity of 'impeachment' will grind down Mr. Trump’s support at the margin and jack up anti-Trump turnout.... Once the Adam Schiff show closes, undecided voters will have about 10 months to decide if his politics of pursuit and retribution has been worth the trouble."

From "The Take Down Trump Project" by Daniel Henninger ( link, originally in the WSJ). Henninger suspects voters will blame Democrats for wasting a congressional term pursuing Trump instead of legislating in some beneficial way.

ADDED: Henninger doesn't talk about this, but I think voters may see the Democrats as doing something close to what they're accusing Trump of doing — using governmental power for personal political gain. If they succeed in making us anxious and outraged about Trump, we'll also feel anxious and outraged about them. What do you do with that feeling? Turn away from politics? Take note of human nature, shrug it off, and keep playing, at least enough to cast a vote?

"[S]ome student journalist... said they found themselves struggling to meet two dueling goals: responding to the changing expectations of the students they cover, particularly from those on the political left, while upholding widely accepted standards of journalism...."

"'Everybody’s trying to figure out a solution and still be good journalists along the way,' said Olivia Olander, a sophomore video journalist at Northwestern who covered the protest over the Sessions speech. At a time when some say heightened sensitivities have become the norm on American campuses, it is not uncommon for college newspaper editors to be confronted by students who are upset at being photographed in a public place without being asked for their permission; who view receiving a text message or phone call from a reporter as an invasion of their privacy; and who expect journalists to help assuage their concerns that graphic images in a newspaper could cause trauma to readers....  'There was definitely a lot of panic,' [said the student who deleted his photograph of a protester.] 'There was me being worried that I’m hurting people with my coverage.'... [The dean of the journalism school wrote,] 'I have also offered that it is naïve, not to mention wrongheaded, to declare, as many of our student activists have, that The Daily staff and other student journalists had somehow violated the personal space of the protesters by reporting on the proceedings, which were conducted in the open and were designed, ostensibly, to garner attention,' he said."

From "News or ‘Trauma Porn’? Student Journalists Face Blowback on Campus" (NYT).

I agree with the dean, and I've followed that idea about publishing photographs of people who don't give their consent. I say they've chosen to make a spectacle of themselves and thereby given up the entitlement to say don't look at me or only look at me the way I want to be seen.

But that's just how I talk. If I were dean of a journalism school I might say their actions "designed, ostensibly, to garner attention." Garner! That word! But he used it in public, he chose it, ostensibly to garner admiration, so it's just fine for me to make fun of it.

As for those students, well, I guess they learned something. And don't tell me that seasoned journalists aren't pulling their punches when they get close to people they don't want to hurt. What is the example these students see? It's not be tough and neutral and show us what really happened.

November 13, 2019

At the Paintbrush Café...


... pick your topic.

"You start off with a grey. And then you add a little concrete colour, so every paving stone is slightly different. And the cracks have to have some black chalk... and then you add a little bit of rubbish in the gutters, you add a little bit of rust here and there."

Said Rod Stewart, quoted in "I am railing: Sir Rod Stewart reveals his epic model railway city" (BBC). Some pretty nice photos at the link.

"London-based artist Laura Melissa Williams woke up one morning last week to find thousands of messages for her on social media — all from Malaysia...."

"[O]ne of the English comprehension questions [on the teenaged schoolchildren's standardized exam] was about a fictional paraglider called Melissa. The question described the fictional Melissa hitting a storm-cloud - like 'being tossed around in a washing machine' - and having to be rescued from the roof of a farm by villagers. Following the exam, a student looked up the question on the internet, found Ms Williams (whose middle name is Melissa), realised from her social media she was a paraglider - and the hashtag 'The real Melissa' was born... 'I checked with some Malay-speaking friends as I started worrying, I got a bit concerned about any threats - they just said it was mainly immature,' [Williams] said. And then overnight in UK time, Ms Williams found herself the subject of another hashtag: 'Stop cyber-bullying Melissa.'... [F]rom then on, Ms Williams said, apologies had flooded in.... She has since received invitations to go to dinner in Malaysia, offers of gifts, and apologies from school teachers, influencers and the media.... In total, she has now received 210,000 Instagram messages, 30,000 tweets, countless direct messages and she has also acquired 5,000 new followers. 'I now have an army of people as my protectors and standing up for what is right and moral,' she said."

BBC reports.

"Tourists floated suitcases through St. Mark’s Square, where officials removed walkways to prevent them from floating away."

"The water was so high that nothing less than thigh-high boots afforded protection. Water poured through wooden boards that shop and hotel owners have placed in front of doors during previous floods to hold back water. Tourists on the ground floor of hotels were forced to move to upper floors overnight. One man was filmed swimming bare-chested in St. Mark’s Square at what appeared to be the height of the flood. 'I have often seen St. Mark’s Square covered with water,' Venice’s patriarch, Monsignor Francesco Moraglia, told reporters. 'Yesterday there were waves that seemed to be the seashore.'"

From "Venice ‘on its knees’ after second-worst flood ever recorded" (AP).

Dan Drezner tells Mickey Kaus he's out of his depth.

You be the judge. Pick the option closest to your reaction. free polls

"Looking around lately, I am reminded less often of Gibson’s cyberpunk future than of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantastical past, less of technology and cybernetics than of magic and apocalypse."

"The internet doesn’t seem to be turning us into sophisticated cyborgs so much as crude medieval peasants entranced by an ever-present realm of spirits and captive to distant autocratic landlords. What if we aren’t being accelerated into a cyberpunk future so much as thrown into some fantastical premodern past? In my own daily life, I already engage constantly with magical forces both sinister and benevolent. I scry through crystal my enemies’ movements from afar. (That is, I hate-follow people on Instagram.) I read stories about cursed symbols so powerful they render incommunicative anyone who gazes upon them. (That is, Unicode glyphs that crash your iPhone.) I refuse to write the names of mythical foes for fear of bidding them to my presence, the way proto-Germanic tribespeople used the euphemistic term brown for 'bear' to avoid summoning one. (That is, I intentionally obfuscate words like Gamergate when writing them on Twitter.) I perform superstitious rituals to win the approval of demons. (That is, well, daemons, the autonomous background programs on which modern computing is built.)... Stuck in a preliterate fugue, ruled by simonists and nepotists, captive to feudal lords, surrounded by magic and ritual — is it any wonder we turn to a teenage visionary [Greta Thunberg] to save us from the coming apocalypse?"

From "In 2029, the Internet Will Make Us Act Like Medieval Peasants" by Max Read (in New York Magazine).

Simonists, eh? Hint: They're in the 8th Circle of Hell. Looks like this:

"Castor is asking Taylor to essentially speak to Trump’s mindset. Taylor resists doing so, saying, 'I don’t know' more than once."

"It’s subtle right now, Maggie, but this is a key to the Republican defense. Taylor cannot speak to his mindset because he is not a first-hand witness to the president’s statements or actions, per se"/"And Maggie, asking about Trump’s mindset after Republicans have pointed out, accurately, that Taylor never actually spoke with Trump"/... "Taylor looks bewildered every time Castor asks a question. For folks not watching this, it loses something to describe what’s taking place. Part of understanding the interactions is seeing Taylor’s pauses after Castor asks questions as he seems to be trying to understand what Castor is asking."

From the NYT live commentary running next to the live video feed from the impeachment hearing, where William Taylor, "the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine," is the first witness.

Castor is Steve Castor, House Intelligence Committee Counsel for the minority, who is asking questions on behalf of the GOP. See "Meet Steve Castor, the attorney handling questioning for GOP during impeachment hearings."

UPDATE: From one of the NYT commentators, Kenneth Vogel: "A small victory for Republicans: George Kent testifies that Ukrainian prosecutors 'should' investigate the oligarch owner of Burisma, the gas company that paid Hunter Biden, for possibly paying a bribe to kill an investigation in 2015."

It's a "small" victory because it's "for Republicans." If it were "for Democrats," it would be a mind-blowing bombshell.

AND: Again, from the NYT commentators: White House correspondent Annie Karni says, "Jordan is, at least, a more energetic questioner than the lawyer Castor." I'm not following this enough to get the "at least." Then White House correspondent Peter Baker responds with, "This aggressive, prosecutorial style by Jordan is just what Trump wants to see in his defenders." Seems like Baker is puffing for Jordan, and it's hilarious that he knows "just what" is in Trump's head. So much of this whole enterprise is about figuring out what's in Trump's head. Why do some people assume they know? I instinctively mistrust these people who purport to know and (obviously) won't acknowledge if they are self-aware enough to know that they're talking about something they cannot know.

MORE: I get the "at least" now. Jordan is a Republican. So Baker isn't "puffing for Jordan," he is putting him down. I didn't understand that before. I stumbled into understanding because I follow Matt Gaetz on Twitter. You can see Jordan's "aggressive, prosecutorial style" here:

If anyone thinks I'm watching the impeachment hearing and is waiting for me to comment on it, don't. I'm not interested.

We've been out running....


That's how it looked at 7:01. (The official sunrise time was 6:48.) The temperature was 13° with a "feels like" of 6°, and it felt just fine, because we were running. Running! In snow!

And we've been working on a big house repair project. Spent time this morning on a "walk through" with various subcontractors. It's nearly all very functional, structural stuff, so it's time spent for a good reason, but nothing to blog about.

I do want to blog, but as always, it's about what interests me and has intrinsic energy for me, and that is not these impeachment hearings. I feel that the best I can do is snub them.

You know what would draw me in? If there were evidence of a pattern of Trump using his position for personal gain, not just collaterally, as he strives to do his job, but in a way that showed failure to understand what his job is or a deliberate misappropriation of the power we've entrusted him with. It's not enough that he's innovating with his own management style and it that makes ordinary people working with him feel anxious about chaos.

By the way, if you'd like to encourage my continued blogging — not that you can get me to blog about anything other than what interests me — you can make purchases through the Althouse portal to Amazon. That link is always at the top of the sidebar. I can make a few good recommendations, based on my new running-at-sunrise way of life. First, if you're running in snow and ice, these are the right thing to wear over your shoes. Second, I've been eating low-carb, and 2 things that have really helped me are this miso chicken bone broth and these expensive but fantastic crackers.

Don't worry, I'm not signing off for the day. I'm still in search of things to blog about, but all the articles seem to be about the impeachment hearings and I'm resistant to show-offy theater of the political kind.

Aw, come on, now I want to know what the parody account is. I couldn't find it! I assume Bloomberg... Can someone point to it?

"It feels like people are getting a little exhausted from all the impeachment coverage and the hearings haven't even begun," the NYT podcast begins today.

"But I actually found someone this week who was excited to hear more," says the show's producer in a cute, coy way.

The show's host, Michael Barbaro, says "Really?" (with comical suspicion).

The coy producer offers to play a phone call with this presumably very interesting person. We hear the phone ring, so wait for it... then.... it's a kid. A third grader. They found a kid who's still interested, and I guess that's why they think we the listeners are ready to put up with another episode about the impeachment. There's a kid. Isn't that sweet? They get him to write out his 10 questions — see the photo of his handwriting with cute misspellings like "presidient" and "ceniters" — and they take him to the NYT office to get answers from NYT reporter Michael S. Schmidt.

It's a nice move, in terms of entertainment, but it's a clear demonstration of the problem anti-Trumpers have with the impeachment. They're only now getting around to the public hearings, and it should be an exciting threshold, but it all feels like very old news, and we're too bored to pay attention. I think there are millions of Americans who'd like to imagine an eject-the-President button Congress could push, but I don't think there are many who want to sit through hours of questioning low-profile characters about how they felt and what they thought about a telephone call for which we have a transcript.

How many people will tune in and watch these hearings? We'll have ratings soon, tangible evidence of how interested people are. I suspect most of us will wait and see what parts are clipped for our delectation. The most interesting thing about watching for me — and I'm not saying I will watch — would be to monitor the congresspeople to detect when they're trying to make a tweetable sound bite happen. Or maybe I could find something idiosyncratic and bloggable — something that no one else will clip because it doesn't serve either partisan interest.

Or maybe I could find a cute little kid to watch along with me and appropriate his adorable mutterings for our entertainment. That's the level the NYT is reduced to.

But they have to cover the impeachment. Me, I do what interests me, within the limits of my sense of morality, which excludes using children in politics. There's a link on that phrase because it's one of my tags. This is my 98th post with that tag.

ADDED: Meade reads the post out loud. When he gets to "Or maybe I could find a cute little kid to watch along with me and appropriate his adorable mutterings for our entertainment," he says, "Me!"

November 12, 2019

Fire circle.


"Those eggs richly deserve to be crushed."

And here's the NYT article on today's oral argument, by Adam Liptak, "Supreme Court Appears Ready to Let Trump End DACA Program/The justices are considering whether the Trump administration can shut down a program that shields about 700,000 young immigrants from deportation." Excerpt:

"You have said before that you haven’t seen any of the 'Star Wars' films. Do you feel that affected your performance in any way?"

Variety asks Werner Herzog in "Werner Herzog on Why He Didn’t Need to See ‘Star Wars’ Films for ‘The Mandalorian’ Role" (The "The Mandalorian" is Disney’s live-action “Star Wars” series.)

No, it doesn’t really matter. You see, it was a very lively exchange, man-to-man so to speak, between Jon Favreau and myself. I was not tossed into unknown territory. I was very well briefed. I knew what was expected of me — I knew the interior landscape of the character and I knew the exterior landscape. You shouldn’t feel upset that I haven’t seen the “Star Wars” films; I hardly see any films. I read. I see two, three, maybe four films per year.
Asked if he watches television, he says:
I do, I watch the news from different sources. Sometimes I see things that are completely against my cultural nature. I was raised with Latin and Ancient Greek and poetry from Greek antiquity, but sometimes, just to see the world I live in, I watch “WrestleMania.”... You have to know what a good amount of the population is watching. Do not underestimate the Kardashians. As vulgar as they may be, it doesn’t matter that much, but you have to find some sort of orientation. As I always say, the poet must not close his eyes, must not avert them.
I like that — "The poet must not close his eyes, must not avert them." It's an idea I associate with another film director, Akira Kurosawa. Perhaps Herzog read the same obituary I read in 1998. I blogged about it in February 2004:
"To be an artist means never to avert one's eyes." On this topic of disgust and shock... let me share a passage from the obituary, written by Rick Lyman, for Akira Kurosawa, which is one of the most influential things I've read in my life....

"I tried to divert myself... from pondering what it would be like if my father died while I was sitting next to his bed, in a sleeper chair, wearing drawstring pajama bottoms and an 'Illmatic' T-shirt..."

"... with my stocking feet up on the extendable footrest and my iPad, in its keyboard case, open in my lap, writing a short film about Mr. Spock’s first day on the job. I wondered if I would see or otherwise sense the instant when the hundred billion neurons in my father’s brain abandoned the eighty-year feat of electrochemical legerdemain known as Robert Chabon, and the father I had loved so imperfectly, and by whom I had been so imperfectly loved, pulled off one last vanishing act. I can give you the exact date of the first time I ever saw Mr. Spock on TV, I said. September 15, 1967. Hmm, I had just started my fellowship at Albert Einstein. We were living in Flushing. So you would have been . . . ? Four. I must have sneaked out of bed, or come to ask for a glass of water. I didn’t know that it was Mr. Spock, or that you were watching 'Star Trek.' There was just this scary-looking guy with the ears and the eyebrows. A pointy-eared woman, too, with enormous hair. Super-scary music, two guys fighting in a place made out of rocks. One of them got his shirt slashed open... 'Amok Time' might not be the best, but I think it’s the most important, I said. How so? My father endured my disquisition with unusual forbearance. Like all our conversations from then on, this one was doomed to take place on my terms...."

From "The Final Frontier/I love Mr. Spock because he reminds me of you, I told my father. For the first time that night, I considered the possibility that he was going to survive it" by Michael Chabon (in The New Yorker).

"Michael Bloomberg is so wealthy he couldn’t fritter away his fortune, even if he tried. But he’ll make a good start if he spends $100 million or more..."

"... to win the Democratic presidential nomination. It’s a fruitless quest. He must be smart enough to know it... Still, the glittering prize of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. dazzles even the shrewdest eyes, and it may have dazzled Bloomberg’s. Running would be a rare mistake in a career that led him to vast riches and the mayoralty of America’s largest city.... The problem is that Bloomberg made the city safer by cracking down on petty criminals... and frisking lots of people to lessen gun violence. Those policies, begun under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and continued under Bloomberg, worked well—but... [b]eing strong on crime is the surest way to alienate today’s Democratic primary voters.... Bloomberg’s second problem is... that he is not embarrassed by his riches, that he made them in the financial sector, and that he opposes the activists’ anti-growth policies, such as the Green New Deal...  Bloomberg faces other problems, too. He is the opposite of charismatic.... a dull campaigner who opposes the left’s most ambitious programs. He has little support among minorities or public-sector unions. In today’s Democratic Party, that’s an awkward spot from which to seek the nomination."

That's from "Bloomberg Will Hit an Iceberg" by Charles Lipson, an emeritus polisci professor at the University of Chicago.

Isn't this the kind of naysaying the other billionaire attracted 4 years ago? I don't care what's in "today’s Democratic Party." I care about what will work for the people, and many of us don't feel like insiders to either party. Trump saw how to go straight to the people, barging right past the party regulars. Why can't Bloomberg do that too?

I see the black-people-hate-him argument is being used against Bloomberg. Just last week, the black-people-hate-him argument was used against Buttigieg.

Bloomberg could spend a billion dollars on his mission... and why not?! What else can he do in the few years he's got left on the planet? What else can he buy?  I'm not saying he's a big old narcissist, and I don't even think that about Trump. I think that, like Trump, he believes he has some answers and people have gone woefully astray. Bloomberg, with all that money, may think he can instruct us and get us back on a good, sensible track, away from all that left-wing craziness and out of the little hands of Donald Trump.

Why is this article — "New mothers who took leave in California were less likely to work a decade later than those who didn’t" —  illustrated with a photo of a father?

And why is this "A Surprising Finding"? It seems completely unsurprising.

The title on the article page is "A Surprising Finding on Paid Leave: 'This Is Not the Way We Teach This.'" It's surprising mainly because other studies had shown that paid leave would improve the chances that women would return to work. I guess logically you might think that not every parent takes leave and that the ones who would take unpaid leave are those who don't need money so much and might be likely to drop out of the working-for-money way of life. If there's paid leave, you'll get some people who need the money, so paid leave should swell the ranks of the parents-on-leave with people who need to work for money, and they'd be going back to work when the paid leave runs out.

The research looked at California women who took leave before the state required payment during leave and those who took leave after that point. In this large set of cases, women who got paid during parental leave were less likely to return to work.
The new paper is solid and the results plausible, said Maya Rossin-Slater, an economist at Stanford who has researched California’s program extensively. “They have fantastic data and large sample sizes relative to the prior papers, and that’s a big advance,” she said. “This paper cautions us that paid leave is not a silver bullet. There are other policy tools we need to implement.”
A silver bullet?!! Is the woman who chooses to stay home with her children a werewolf?!
[T]he researchers concluded, something about taking paid leave seems to have encouraged mothers to scale back at work and spend more time with their children.

Mothers who took the leave spent more time than those who didn’t reading to children, sharing meals with them and taking them on outings, the researchers found. They also had fewer children, consistent with the style of intensive parenting that entails investing lots of time and money in each child....
Maybe rational women, who respond to the incentive of paid leave, also analyze other aspects of life in economic terms and figure out the value of the work done in the home, the costs of going to work, and the good reasons to institute division of labor within the family, with only one parent engaged in  money-earning outside the home.  Maybe you get some perspective on life and economics when you've got the time to reflect and plan. When you're outside of the workplace, you may develop a sense of the meaning of life that isn't workplace-based? Does the government want that not to happen?!

In the end of the article, we get around to dad:
If the mother — but not the father — is out of work and doing most of the child care at the beginning, the division of labor could get locked in.... Just 15 percent of bonding leave claims in California in 2014 were by men, and the average man took just two or three days off. Men’s employment and earnings did not decline after they had a child.
I guess this is the place where we are not supposed to talk about gender. But if we really believe in gender, why isn't gender the explanation for why women are much more likely to take the home-based role in the division of labor? I've known men — cis-gender men — who've taken the home-based role, and these are men I greatly respect. I'm just saying that if gender has real meaning, then maternal nurturing is the ultimate in things that are not surprising.

Bacchanalia... Saturnalia... a theme begins to form on the blog this morning.

Like the ice on the lake as the temperature drops to 6°, there's a light crystallization of a theme. I like that, themes, forming early in the morning on the surface of the blog.

I said "Bacchanalia," referring to the traditional drunken rowdiness of a University of Wisconsin football game, writing at 6:32, in the second post of the day.

Meanwhile, in the previous post — the one where Matthew Dowd testily queried Scott Walker ("You do know that trees were stolen from a pagan holiday? And Christ wasn’t actually born on December 25th? It was a day celebrated by Roman pagans and taken over by the church in the fourth century. And that many faiths put up trees that aren’t Christians") — the commenter Michael P retorted:
Does Matthew Dowd know that Saturnalia was never on December 25th? It was on the 17th, later extended to be through the 23rd. The 25th was chosen for Christmas as allowing an easy excuse that they were merely extending Saturnalia. Does Matthew Dowd know that the people who prefer "Christmas" to "holiday season" are going to [be] spectacularly unreceptive to the argument that Christianity culturally appropriated a pagan Roman holiday?
Bacchanalia... Saturnalia... what's the difference? Well, obviously, there's Bacchus and there's Saturn. They were originally different festivals. You can use either word figuratively. Since the 1600s, "Saturnalia" (with or without the upper-case S) has meant "A bout or period of unrestrained revelry, overindulgence, licentiousness, or the like; an orgy; an orgiastic or extravagant display or celebration of something (cf. orgy n. 3b). In early use also: †a situation or period in which conventional norms are suspended or inverted (obsolete)" (OED). "Bacchanalia" has meant "Drunken revelry; a tippling bout, an orgy" since the 1600s.

Here's the Wikipedia article, "Bacchanalia." And here's the Wikipedia article "Saturnalia":
Saturnalia was the Roman equivalent to the earlier Greek holiday of Kronia...
The Romans stole it!
It held theological importance for some Romans, who saw it as a restoration of the ancient Golden Age, when the world was ruled by Saturn. The Neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry interpreted the freedom associated with Saturnalia as symbolizing the "freeing of souls into immortality". Saturnalia may have influenced some of the customs associated with later celebrations in western Europe occurring in midwinter, particularly traditions associated with Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, and Epiphany. In particular, the historical western European Christmas custom of electing a "Lord of Misrule" may have its roots in Saturnalia celebrations.
Lord of Misrule! I click on that link:

When Meade sent me this headline — "More than 75 fans ejected from Camp Randall Stadium during football game against Iowa"...

...  I glanced at it and moved on. Nothing to see there. Isn't that what always happens at University of Wisconsin football games? I've been living near the stadium for 3+ decades, and I've always regarded it as a place where revelers go and get rowdy. Bacchanalia!

Glancing at the headline again this morning, I'm thinking, oh, I don't know, maybe 75 fans ejected should alarm me (though the only thing that interests me here is how uninteresting it felt to me on first look). reports:
Seventy-six fans were ejected from the stadium and 13 were arrested during the game....
76? The headline says 75... oh... "More than 75..." OK... so... not fake news. 76 is, indeed, more than 75. As I'm puzzling over these numbers out loud, Meade is adding a level of difficulty to my blogging by singing — loudly — "More than 75 trombones led the big parade/With more than a hundred & nine cornets close at hand...."

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker re-named the state capitol "holiday tree" the "Christrmas tree," and the new governor, Tony Evers, renamed it back to "holiday tree"... and declared that it would "celebrate... science."

Students are always invited to make ornaments for this tree, and this year, the invitation — from the Governor — was "to make holiday ornaments that celebrate what science means to them, their families and their communities" — HuffPo reports.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called it “‘PC’ garbage,” while Assembly Speaker Robin Vos tweeted: “We all know it’s a Christmas tree no matter what @GovEvers calls it.”

But Walker had the biggest reaction, firing off multiple tweets, including these...
You'd expect something really harshly judgmental to follow, but it's just a photo of a very conventional Christmas tree in a private residence and the line "This is a Christmas Tree that is used by people celebrating Christmas 🎄 / This is not a holiday tree." There's a second tweet: "Type this word on your iPhone and look what emoji comes up: Christmas 🎄" — which seems to be a new form of the kind of quip that goes if you look X up in the dictionary, you'll see a picture of Y.

The HuffPo article proceeds to embed 12 tweets reacting to Scott Walker. 11 are from "blue check mark" people. The best one is the one that's not a blue check marker: "Oh, is it War on Christmas season again? Already? It seems to start earlier every year... 🙄"

I'll just feature the blue check mark person Matthew Dowd — because I have a tag for him and because he's using that asshole tactic of being informative:
You do know that trees were stolen from a pagan holiday? And Christ wasn’t actually born on December 25th? It was a day celebrated by Roman pagans and taken over by the church in the fourth century. And that many faiths put up trees that aren’t Christians.
Stolen! Does Matthew Dowd know that stollen is a traditional German fruit and nut cake that is popular in Wisconsin during the Christmas season? Does Matthew Dowd understand that all culture and tradition is handed down and borrowed and adapted and that it sounds very mean to say "stolen" and it's triggering when the homophone "stollen" is the very cake we share amongst ourselves at Christmastime in the hinterlands of Wisconsin?

CC-Ulrich van Stipriaan

HuffPo has nothing about the science theme given to — imposed on — the children this year. The tree becomes a free-speech forum for the children, and it would violate free speech to have viewpoint discrimination, so how can there be a science limitation on the ornaments? Presumably, the ornaments will be accepted even if they express the idea that "what science means to them" is that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so you could believe in him and have everlasting life.

Has the Tony Evers science tree attracted any litigation? I haven't looked. I hope not. Can't we all be generous and kind during the dark cold weeks that are so well stocked with holidays... like raisins in stollen?

November 11, 2019

"Everlasting love" to every veteran.

All of the money...

I don't think that's how "money" works, but OK, Bloomberg.

"For the current study, researchers created a list of 821 words to describe feelings and had these translated into other languages to download images across multiple cultures."

"With 7.2 million images of facial expressions from 31 countries, scientists used computer algorithms to discover that the human face can combine different muscles in different ways to express itself in 16,384 unique ways. When they sorted all these thousands of expressions into categories, the study authors expected to find several hundred variations of emotions. Instead, they were surprised to find only 35.... They concluded that most facial expressions are understood by all, and about half of these expressions are used to express joyfulness. The study found that happiness, whether expressed in a contented smile, glowing cheeks or crinkly eyes, is the face other humans find most recognizable. Researchers note that there are three expressions for fear, four for surprise and five each for sadness and anger. Disgust has only one expression."

From "Reason To Smile: Happiness Is The Most Dominant Human Expression, Study Finds" (in Study Finds).

"A key to Mr. Biden’s relevance as vice president was his willingness to take jobs nobody else wanted."

"In early 2014, as others on Mr. Obama’s team raced to finish big-splash deals with Cuba and Iran, Mr. Biden told the president he wanted to take on three of the most unappetizing foreign-policy tasks left undone: containing the Islamic State, curbing immigration from Central America and keeping Russia from devouring Ukraine.... Mr. Biden applied his Amtrak charm to local players like Ukraine’s embattled president, Viktor Yanukovych, with limited effect. Former White House aides recall watching an agitated Mr. Biden ducking in and out of a secure phone booth outside the situation room in early 2014, trying to reach Mr. Yanukovych on his cellphone. 'Where the hell is this guy?' he kept asking, before learning that Mr. Yanukovych had fled Kiev, ultimately for Russia, as huge street protests erupted against his regime’s corruption and his pivot away from Europe and toward Moscow. Mr. Putin then rushed in, annexing Crimea and backing paramilitaries who invaded the country’s east.... Things seemed to be looking up in May 2014 with the election of Mr. Poroshenko, an oligarch who billed himself as a reformer. At first, the vice president’s hard-edged messages to him on corruption were coated with kibbitz — demands accompanied by Bidenesque inquiries like whether the puffy-eyed president was getting enough sleep, aides recalled. Within months, though, the State Department began suspecting that the office of Mr. Poroshenko’s first prosecutor general was accepting bribes to protect Mykola Zlochevsky, the oligarch owner of Burisma Holdings, the gas company where Hunter Biden was a board member.... The prosecutor general was fired soon after. But it wasn’t long before the new prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was drawing allegations of corruption, including from State Department officials who suspected he was shaking down targets and intentionally slow-walking investigations to protect allies. Mr. Giuliani has claimed, without evidence, that Mr. Biden’s push to oust Mr. Shokin was an attempt to block scrutiny of his son’s actions...."

From "What Joe Biden Actually Did in Ukraine" by Glenn Thrush and Kenneth P. Vogel (at and originally in the NYT).

That "without evidence" — in "Mr. Giuliani has claimed, without evidence..." — would make more sense to me if the same words were used when people are imagining Trump's intentions based on something that we know he did.

We know what Trump said in his Ukraine phone call, but we continually hear that's strong evidence that he was using U.S. monetary aid to bribe Ukraine into manufacturing dirt on his political opponent to serve his personal interests.

Why don't they say people only claim that without evidence? We have evidence of Biden's statements and activities, but we don't know what was in his head, but he could have been motivated by a desire to cover for his son. That's an inference you could make from the evidence, and it's always hard to prove what's inside somebody's head.

I'd just like to see a consistent approach to talking about other people's thoughts. You could say "without evidence" whenever you're making an inference about thought from the evidence that we do have. Or you could make inferences from the evidence and just speak about them as if the inferences are evidence.

Both of those approaches are bad, and I know damned well that nobody understanding the choice and wanting to be consistent and neutral would pick either option. What I want is clear speech about what evidence there is, the need to make inferences from the evidence, which inferences are stronger, and what we should do when there are different possible inferences.

"Humans have something of a built-in anti-persuasion radar, what psychologists call reactants...."

"When someone tries to persuade us, we sometimes push back because we don’t want to be persuaded. We can tell from the words being used, the context and other cues that someone is trying to influence us. 'An incoming appeal comes in, someone tries to persuade us, we put up our radar to knock down the projectile' [said said Jonah Berger, an associate professor of marketing at Wharton]. 'We turn off the ad, we hang up on the salesperson, we counterargue against what someone is saying.' However, we tend to look at speakers who vary their volume as more confident, which translates into an increase in their persuasiveness, according to the study.... The core issue here is the influence — both conscious and nonconscious — that paralanguage, or how we say things, has on our perception of others....  'There’s work that shows people seem more human when we hear their voice,' Mr. Berger said. 'We give them more sense of mind, we think of them more as real people when they use their voice. Our research also suggests it can make people more persuasive.... Sometimes we think crafting the perfect email will be the best way to persuade people... But what we find in our work is the voice can be quite impactful.'"

From "How to — Literally — Sound More Confident and Persuasive/Speak up, it’ll help" (NYT).

I like that people are instinctively resistant to persuasion, and I don't know why the professor is interested in helping the persuaders — the incoming projectiles. But it's easy enough to reverse engineer his advice. If it's true that people can get in under your radar by talking louder and by appearing in person, improve your defenses. Hey, he's talking loud, so I need to be more consciously alert and not let that sneak past my defenses. And: So he shows up in person to influence me? I don't have time to talk. Put it in writing.

Donald Trump Jr. — talking about his book "Triggered" at UCLA — was heckled offstage by "diehard Make America Great Again conservatives."

The Guardian reports.
The audience was angry that Trump Jr and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, would not take questions. The loud shouts of “USA! USA!” that greeted Trump when he first appeared on the stage of a university lecture hall to promote his book Triggered: How The Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us quickly morphed into even louder, openly hostile chants of “Q and A! Q and A!”...

When the shouting would not subside, Trump Jr tried – and failed – to argue that taking questions from the floor risked creating soundbites that leftwing social media posters would abuse and distort. Nobody was buying that....

The fiasco pointed to a factional rift on the Trump-supporting conservative right that has been growing rapidly in recent weeks, particularly among “zoomers” – student-age activists....

Two [supporters of Nick Fuentes, a 21-year-old activist with a podcast called America First, said that] the pro-Trump movement was being infected with “fake conservatism” and that the president himself was at the mercy of a cabal of deep state operatives who wouldn’t let him do many of the things he campaigned on.... “We wanted to ask questions about immigration and about Christianity, but they didn’t want to face those questions.”
I'm creating a new tag, "Trump attacked from the right." I had a comparable tag for Obama, "Obama attacked from the left." We'll see where the hard-core right attack on Trump (and son) goes. The tag is here to collect the stories. It's very interesting that Trump Jr. went to UCLA with his book "Triggered," perhaps as some sort of demonstration of his own courage and to cause liberals to act triggered and prove his point. That's not what happened!

That's the story as told by The Guardian. The Washington Post has "Donald Trump Jr. went to UCLA to decry ‘triggered’ liberals. He was heckled offstage by the far right." If you get far enough into the WaPo article, there's an indication that the protesters were not against Trump Jr. but against Turning Point USA:

"What's the chaos?," I say, reading the headline "Bloomberg Injects New Uncertainty Into Chaotic Dem Race."

At Real Clear Politics (where the link goes through to The Hill and the headline is "Democrats on edge as Iowa points to chaotic race").

Meade answers my question: "Apparently, you're not Democratic enough to feel the chaos. Remember, Jeb Bush called Donald Trump 'the chaos candidate.' Oh, Jeb, that hurts so bad calling me the chaos candidate."

Okay, now what do I want to read first — The Hill's angsting about chaos now or Jeb's old warning? I go with Jeb:

I blog from a perspective I call "cruel neutrality," and much as I love calm and order — perhaps because I love calm and order — I don't take the cue to see a "chaos!" narrative. You know, it's only when you have the luxury of living without chaos that you can indulge yourself imagining chaos. When real chaos comes, no one will be writing "Chaos!!!" essays.

All right. Here's Jonathan Easley at The Hill with his "Chaos!!!" essay:
Democrats are on edge less than three months out from the Iowa caucuses...
Oh! It's only 3 months... Panic time!
... as a four-candidate pile-up...
4!!! 4... all piled up! What a massive tangle of barely distinguishable humanity!
... and Michael Bloomberg’s potential candidacy injects a new level of uncertainty into an already chaotic race....
Oh, no!! There could be 5!! Not merely 4, but 5!!!! Have you ever seen such a complicated crowd?
It appeared for a while that Warren might run away with the nomination, but her national poll numbers have dipped in recent weeks amid sustained attacks from Biden and Buttigieg and new scrutiny of her "Medicare for All" plan.
This isn't chaos. This is just people not particularly liking any of the candidates. The "chaos" — fake news chaos — is only the prospect of more Trump, more "chaos President" — to quote Jeb again — because none of the Democrats are shaping up into good enough competition for Trump. Maybe it seems as though people don't particularly like Trump either, but he will be the candidate — although we're being nudged to think he'll go away via impeachment though we pretty much know he won't. And we pretty much anticipate that — whether we vote for him or just stand back and let others cast the votes — he's going to win a second term. This doesn't feel chaotic to me. It's very ordinary. Trump himself is not ordinary, but the old idea that he's just too weird to be President is part of what's normal in America now. Don't normalize him! Too late for that.

In the dim sunrise: snow, coots, and — on the opposite shore — the faint shapes of buildings.


The photo — the last in the set I took this morning — shows how things looked at 6:59. The official sunrise time was 6:46. Here's 6:48:


The color shift from 6:48 to 6:59 is real, not the result of any manipulation. Though the eye doesn't detect it, from the camera's objective point of view, the light shifted from blue to gray in those 11 minutes. I would say get out there and see it, but did I see it? I couldn't have said, it was really blue and then it went gray, but on some level I did see it in real life and then saw it again — with new revelations — in the photographs.

"I’ve been thinking about aging a lot lately because of Keanu Reeves and his rumored girlfriend, who is 46 and has gray hair."

"She’s gorgeous, of course, but the fact that she doesn’t dye her hair has caused an absolute cataclysm online. Everyone’s been congratulating Keanu on his age-appropriate date, — only nine years younger than him! So different from Leonardo DiCaprio! Some people have also confused her for Helen Mirren, which is somewhat reasonable because they do look alike, but also horrifying because Helen Mirren is 74. This supports my long-standing theory, developed the minute I turned 35, that people under the age of 35 think of all people over the age of 35 as 'old.' Once someone has crossed that barrier, it doesn’t matter if she’s 46 or 74 — the point is that she is not young.... I wish this were not the case, but I’m a little freaked out about turning 39. I liked being 35, right in the middle. Because let’s be honest — what we’re talking about, when we’re talking about women and aging, is losing status. Just by staying alive over the next decades, just by not dying, my value is going to drop. What a raw deal! It’s going to happen to me, and if you’re a woman, it’s going to happen to you, and it already happened to Alexandra Grant, which is why we’re all so proud of Keanu, a man with so much status, for allegedly dating her anyway."

From "Keanu Reeves’s Lady Friend Has Given Me the Courage to Turn 40" by Izzy Ginspan — which is a fantastic name for a humorist — in New York Magazine.

In a far less comic mode but on the same subject enough to keep me from making a separate post, here's Francine Prose, the 72-year-old novelist, in "Cruel jokes about the old are everywhere. When will we face our ageism epidemic?/We tolerate mockery of the elderly that we’d never allow if it targeted another group. But we’ll all be old one day" (at The Guardian):
It’s unsurprising that animosity toward the elderly has been profitably commodified... [T]he phrase “OK Boomer” is “Generations Z’s ... retort to the problem of older people who just don’t get it.” OK Boomer now appears on phone cases, stickers, pins, and sweatshirts and on a range of products that say, “OK boomer, have a terrible day.” “‘If they do take it personally’,” according to one 17-year-old quoted in the piece, “‘it just further proves that they take everything we do as offensive.’” And yet one wonders if the public would be quite so amused by a logo that said: “OK Jews, have a terrible day.” Given the losses and infirmities that so often accompany age, don’t the elderly have enough bad days without being told to have more?

The accepted explanation and justification for all this is that the old have ruined things for the young... [but] I think that the animosity toward the old is less economic than existential, less political than primal, less about student debt than about fear of one’s own ageing.... What’s striking is that the prejudice against the elderly is the only bigotry directed at the inevitable future of the bigot. Few misogynists, I imagine, fear that they eventually will turn into women, nor do racists worry that the passing decades will radically alter their ethnicity and the color of their skin. But the young will get old, if they’re lucky....
Maybe we can talk the young out of their mockery and aversion by telling them they're attacking their own future selves and magnifying their own fear of aging. I would add that we Boomers in our youth were very cruel to those who were older. We had the slogan "Never trust anyone over 30." Confront the young of today with the idea that they're acting like we did in our time. If you don't like what we are, you'd better work on being something else. And that goes right along with the cancel-culture fastidiousness about any mockery or aversion to any traditionally discriminated against group. Be that, kids, and manifest nothing but the celebration of diversity that includes the old people. OK, Zoomer?