January 31, 2015

"It was acceptable in those days to pass a woman on the street and say, 'Great hat.'"

Writes the New Yorker's Nick Paumgarten, speaking of a bygone era in New York City.

Is it really true that you can no longer say to a woman in a great hat "Great hat"? I think people do still do that, even in New York City. Am I delusional? Is it just something women can do to other women? Or is the real truth that women just don't wear great hats anymore?

"[T]ake what’s happening now and imagine what would happen if it kept on happening. That’s what satirists do."

"Jonathan Swift saw that the English were treating the Irish as animals; what if they took the next natural step and ate their babies? Orwell, with less humor, imagined what would happen if life in Britain remained, for forty years, at the depressed level of the BBC cafeteria as it was in 1948, and added some Stalinist accessories. Huxley, in 'Brave New World,' took the logic of a hedonistic and scientific society to its farthest outcome, a place where pleasure would be all and passion unknown...."

Writes Adam Gopnik (dealing mostly with Michel Houellebecq’s "Soumission," a satire about Muslims getting elected in France and imposing Sharia law, with the collaboration of the French élite).
Like most satirists worth reading, Houellebecq is a conservative. “I show the disasters produced by the liberalization of values,” he has said. Satire depends on comparing the crazy place we’re going to with the implicitly sane place we left behind. That’s why satirists are often nostalgists, like Tom Wolfe, who longs for the wild and crazy American past, or Evelyn Waugh, with his ascendant American vulgarians and his idealized lost Catholic aristocracy....
The next thing is just never likely to be the same thing. The fun of satire is to think what would happen if nothing happens to stop what is happening. But that’s not what happens.

"Obama administration officials and other supporters of the Affordable Care Act say they worry that the tax-filing season will generate new anger..."

"... as uninsured consumers learn that they must pay tax penalties and as many people struggle with complex forms needed to justify tax credits they received in 2014 to pay for health insurance.... The penalties, approaching 1 percent of income for some households, are supposed to be paid with income taxes due April 15. In addition, officials said, many people with subsidized coverage purchased through the new public insurance exchanges will need to repay some of the subsidies because they received more than they were entitled to. More than 6.5 million people had insurance through the exchanges at some point last year, and 85 percent of them qualified for financial assistance, in the form of tax credits, to lower their premiums. Most people chose to have the subsidies paid in advance, based on projected income for 2014. If their actual income was higher — because they got a raise or found a new job — they will be entitled to a smaller subsidy and must repay the difference, subject to certain limits."

The NYT reports.


Rating you, the customer.

"Companies are rating their customers, shunning those who do not make the grade...."
[T]he new platforms let reviews go both ways, and vary in their transparency about the process. Yelp is straightforward: Businesses can post replies to critical customers. On Lyft, the second-biggest of the new cab companies, passengers are vaguely warned that “a low star rating” means requests for rides may not be accepted. Uber does not mention passenger ratings at all in its user agreement but noted in a blog post that “an Uber trip should be a good experience for drivers too.”

It does not seem to take much to annoy some Uber drivers. On one online forum, an anonymous driver said he gave poor reviews to “people who are generally negative and would tend to bring down my mood (or anyone around them).” Another was cavalier about the process: “1 star for passengers does not do them any harm. Sensible drivers won’t pick them up, but so what?” 
Ha! I think this is great. I put effort and ethics into being a good customer, don't you? It's just a bonus to get better service long term because of something I feel bound to do anyway. Who is hurt? Only the people who were relying on the size and complexity of the modern world as camouflage for their jerkiness and lack of empathy for those who perform services for them. In a simpler, more localized economy, this kind of information would always already be known.

The culture finds one way or another to get us to behave well.

In the arb today, a spectrum...

... from white...


... to brown...


... to green...



A panorama in the arb.

Arb panorama by Meade

Click to enlarge. Photo by Meade. I am the tiny figure on the left. Note the "futuristic" vehicle dead center.

Old Pictures: Mudd Clubb/Hurrah.

Mudd Clubb Hurrah

This is the second in a series of photographs of walls from late 1980 or early 1981, right after I'd bought my first SLR camera and before my first child was born. This was somewhere in the Village/SoHo area of NYC, where I was quite taken with the overlapping and shredded posters and graffiti.

The Mudd Club was around from 1978 to 1983, and Hurrah lasted from 1976 to 1980. There's also CBGB, which began in 1973 and lasted a lot longer.

(Feel free to talk about anything in the comments, including which long-ago rock clubs you frequented.)

The tromp/tramp distinction

I don't use the word "tromp" very often, but some instinct made me say it in that post 2 posts down about shaming the upper-middle class into giving up their tax breaks. I thought guilt-tripping was "tromping about in the darker parts of our psyche."

Meade asked why I said "tromp," instead of "tramp," and I said "tromp" — which has a whiff of "stomp" — seems to suggest a heavier, clumsier stepping about in a more localized place, perhaps inside, and "tramp" seems more like a journey somewhere — maybe off into a landscape. Also, with "tramp," you might feel the leakage of slutty women and hobo men.

In the (unlinkable) OED, I discovered that "tromp" is a "variant... of tramp" that's mostly American dialect. Some notable examples make the Americanness really pop:
1895 S. Crane Red Badge of Courage x. 105 Yeh wanta go trompin' off.

1902 Dial. Notes 2 248 He tromped my toe.

1931 W. Faulkner Sanctuary vi. 54 You'll tromp on a loose boa'd and find yoself downstairs befo you know hit....

1952 E. Ferber Giant xx. 334 You want to look out, Bick, she don't get tromped the way they're milling around today....

1962 J. Steinbeck Trav. with Charlie i. 12 About that time hurricane Donna was reported tromping her way out of the Caribbean.

1974 J. Irving 158-Pound Marriage v. 117 Edith heard Frau Reiner and the Chetniks whispering and tromping about in the living room....
I like how most of those examples confirm my sense that tromping happens in a more localized space — like your brain, when the guilt-trippers get there.

"So Pee Wee had the least ridiculous suit among the contestants?"

Comment at YouTube on a 1979 episode of "The Dating Game," where Pee Wee Herman was one of the unseen, possibly datable men. And speaking of unseen, I wish I could unsee that Pam-Dawberesque lady's hot pants.

"What can we do to break the stranglehold of the upper middle class?"

"I have no idea," says Reihan Salam (writing for Slate and including himself in the category "conservative"):
Having spent so much time around upper-middle-class Americans, and having entered their ranks in my own ambivalent way, I’ve come to understand their power. The upper middle class controls the media we consume. They run our big bureaucracies, our universities, and our hospitals. Their voices drown out those of other people at almost every turn. I fear that the only way we can check the tendency of upper-middle-class people to look out for their own interests at the expense of others is to make them feel at least a little guilty about it. It’s not much, but it’s a start. 
Shaming, eh? Salam imagines guilt-tripping families that make $200,000 a year or so into sacrificing their mortgage interest and college savings tax breaks for the greater good. If we could only get the people who have gained some decent economic security to stop paying attention to their own self interest, we could avert the destruction of America — that's Salam's idea. I'm not exaggerating: the article accuses the upper-middle class of "ruining America."

Meanwhile, liberals are always fretting about the way less-than-upper-middle-class Americans are failing to pay attention to their own self interest. That's "What's the Matter with Kansas."

Exactly how selfish are we supposed to be? Promoting unselfishness is a strange business, but I don't trust the big shamers and guilt-trippers of this world. They have their own self-interests, and they're choosing to promote them by tromping about in the darker parts of our psyche.

The cruelty that is Jeb Bush.

I'm just trying to absorb the horrible details set out in The Boston Globe's game-changing expose "Jeb Bush shaped by troubled Phillips Academy years/Possible presidential candidate had tumultuous four years at Andover school."
Classmates said he...  sometimes bullied smaller students.... [Peter] Tibbetts, who was eventually forced to leave Andover in the spring of 1970 after school officials accused him of using drugs, said his one regret about his relationship with Bush is that he agreed to participate with him in the bullying of a student in the dormitory. Their target was a short classmate whom they taunted, and then sewed his pajama bottoms so that they were impossible to put on. The act was particularly embarrassing, said Tibbetts, who said he felt remorse for joining in with “kids being cruel.”...
So... there was a prank where you (presumably) sew the bottom of the leg openings together, so that when the unsuspecting target leaps into his pajama bottoms, he gets his legs almost all the way through and is surprised when his feet hit the dead end instead of popping out where he's expecting his leg momentum to end, sturdily planted on the floor. He probably topples over ridiculously, and anyone who's around to see it laughs. It's like the old short-sheeting prank.

Oh! The cruelty! What kind of person would do such a thing! Imagine the remorse Peter Tibbetts had carried with him all these years for what they did to the classmate of shortness, who, let's not forget, was also "taunted."

No taunts are quoted, so I have no way to assess the cruelty of any particular taunts that were aimed at the schoolmate whose only known characteristic is shortness. (Hey, shrimp!?) I have no way to know if this short person took his own shots or if every kid in that rich-boy academy went back and forth doing whatever it is that underlies the Globe's term taunt.

And, by the way, does Peter Tibbetts have a political affiliation? Is he supporting any candidates who are not Jeb? Or am I just supposed to accept his characterization of Bush as cruel because he claims to feel remorse?
Other students remember Bush as intimidating, if not exactly a bully. 
So... the Globe's effort to smoke out lots of reports of bullying got exactly one thing, the dumb pajama bottoms prank!
David Cuthell, who thinks well of Bush today, remembers that Bush approached him one day in the school cafeteria, angry and ready to do some damage. “He sort of lifted me up in the air and I think was going to squash a grapefruit in my face,” said Cuthell, who said he was around 115 pounds at the time. Then a friend who was even stronger than Bush came to the rescue, lifting Bush away from Cuthell.
Cuthell likes Bush, so Cuthell's quote matters, but compare the quote to the paraphrasing surrounds it. It's the Globe that made up "ready to do some damage" to sum up what Cuthell may have to read in Bush's mind. But Cuthell said "I think was going to squash a grapefruit in my face," which is patently not literally what he imagined to be Bush's intent. Cuthell is being comical... and dragging in a reference to the famous scene in the Jimmy Cagney movie "Public Enemy":

In the end, another guy lifted Bush away from Cuthell, and one can only guess what life at the prep school was like. Boys lifting up other boys. Not even tackling them. Lifting them. So what?! What I'm reading here is an absence of cruelty and a damned modest amount of rowdy fun. This is all you've got, Globe? It's just dumb.

But, now, I do want to take this part seriously. Again, the informant is Tibbets:
The first time Tibbetts smoked marijuana, he said, was with Bush and a few other classmates in the woods near Pemberton Cottage. Then, a few weeks later, Tibbetts said he smoked hashish — a cannabis product typically stronger than pot — in Jeb’s dormitory room.

“The first time I really got stoned was in Jeb’s room,” Tibbetts said. “He had a portable stereo with removable speakers. He put on Steppenwolf for me.” As the rock group’s signature song, Magic Carpet Ride, blared from the speakers, Tibbetts said he smoked hash with Bush. He said he once bought hashish from Bush but stressed, in a follow-up e-mail, “Please bear in mind that I was seeking the hash, it wasn’t as if he was a dealer; though he did suggest I take up cigarettes so that I could hold my hits better, after that 1st joint.”
Globe is really screwing up the facts here. Steppenwolf's signature song is "Born to Be Wild":

But, okay, let's throw out that "drug dealer" shit. No reason not to muddy the campaign waters, eh, Globe? But you should have dug deeper, like I did. I found some actual film footage of Jeb smoking pot:

You know, this used to be a hell of a good country. I can't understand what's going on with it....

January 30, 2015

"Walker touted a Wisconsin-centric, meat-and-potatoes, small-government conservatism garnished with a heaping portion of scorn for Washington, D.C."

Writes Joshua Green at Bloomberg, quoting Scott Walker saying:
“As much as I love coming here, I love going home even more,” Walker said, calling Washington “68 square miles surrounded by reality.”
And it's just so laughably obvious that Green doesn't know the old line about Madison, Wisconsin: 30 square miles surrounded by reality. The hometown news reports Walker's wisecrack with better grounding in... reality:
"For a lot of folks here in our nation's capital in Washington it's kind of a dome," Walker said. "In fact, I like to call it 68 square miles surrounded by reality.... What I see in the states and from people in this country outside of Washington is a craving for something new, something fresh, something dynamic, instead of the top-down, government-knows-best approach that we’ve seen in Washington,” Walker said.

The line Walker used harkens back to a now notorious quote from former Republican Gov. Lee Sherman Dreyfus, who declared Madison "30 square miles surrounded by reality" while running for governor in 1978. Since then, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin proposed to make the updated geographical area version, "77 square miles surrounded by reality" the city's motto, which failed to be approved by the Madison Common Council in 2013.
ADDED: "People need to get hip to the Wisconsin references," I say, and Meade says: "Yeah. Wisconsin is cool. Wisconsin is happening. Get with it."

AND: I mock Meade for using that 60s lingo. I'm all "It's what's happening, baby. Who said that? Murray the K!"

70 years ago today: 9,400 human beings perished in the sinking of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff.

"The MV Wilhelm Gustloff was a German passenger ship... sunk... by a Soviet submarine in the Baltic Sea while evacuating German civilians, officials and military personnel from Gdynia (Gotenhafen) as the Red Army advanced."

Never before or since have so many people died in the sinking of a single ship.

The novelist Günter Grass gave an interview to the NYT in 2003:
In ''Crabwalk,'' Mr. Grass addresses... the sinking by a Soviet submarine of a German ship carrying thousands of German refugees....  ''After the war, it was a taboo subject in East Germany because it was a taboo in the Soviet Union,'' Mr. Grass said. ''In West Germany, it was possible to speak of it and some documentary work was done, but not in a literary form. In general, it was the first responsibility of Germans to speak about German crimes. The question of German suffering was of secondary importance. No one really wanted to speak about it.''

No one, that is, except extreme rightist groups... ''One of the many reasons I wrote this book was to take the subject away from the extreme right,'' Mr. Grass said, lighting his ever-present pipe. ''They said the tragedy of the Gustloff was a war crime. It wasn't. It was terrible, but it was a result of war, a terrible result of war. It was not a planned act.''...

Dogs and skating on the Wingra Lagoon.

Meade texts me a video from the skating rink on the lagoon that is an offshoot of the lake where we paddleboard in the summer. You can see it's a cool skating rink. Last week, a pond hockey tournament had taken it over, and we couldn't skate. But they resurfaced it super-slick, and we got in a nice round of skating there earlier in the day. Then Meade went back out, accompanied by the dog instead of me, and kept in touch with texts, like that video... and this click-to-enlarge panorama:

"The message has already been received: If you cross the administration with perfectly accurate reporting that they don’t like, you will be attacked and punished."

"You and your sources may be subjected to the kind of surveillance devised for enemies of the state," said Sharyl Attkisson testifying yesterday before Senate Judiciary Committee about the nomination of Loretta Lynch for Attorney General.
Attkisson, who said the federal government has bullied and threatened journalists, recommended to Lynch that if confirmed she should “chart a new path and reject the damaging policies and practices that have been used by others in the past.”

"[A]n enduring, solidly constructed bridge between the Beat generation and New Age sensibilities."

That was, the NYT would have us believe, Rod McKuen, who has died at the age of 81.
“There was a time not long ago when every enlightened suburban split-level home had its share of Rod McKuen,” The San Francisco Chronicle wrote in a 2002 profile. “His mellow poetry was on the end table (‘Listen to the Warm’), his lovestruck music and spoken-word recordings were on the hi-fi and his kindly face was on the set, on ‘The Tonight Show’ and Dinah Shore’s variety hour.”
"Listen to the Warm" came out in 1967. I don't know about every enlightened suburban split-level, but the first time I ever heard about that book — and I would have been 16 at the time — it was getting sneered at as tripe. People always mocked Rod McKuen. Where does the San Francisco Chronicle get its information about "enlightened suburban" folk? Who are they talking about?!

But that's poetry. Snobsville. Let's talk about song lyrics! Here's Billboard's article "Rod McKuen's Surprising Chart History: From Frank Sinatra to Madonna":

I'm a complete sucker for "Jean":

Roses are red!

So goodbye to Rod McKuen... Goodbye, my friend, it's hard to die/When all the birds are singing in the sky/Now that the spring is in the air/Pretty girls are everywhere...

ADDED: I'm playing that song at the last link, and Meade hears the line "[we] skinned our hearts and skinned our knees," and says: "Ooh! Skinned our hearts! That really hurts when you skin your heart. I didn't even know that hearts had skin." And that reaction kind of summarizes the problem a lot of people had with Rod McKuen, which might be paraphrased: What is this bullshit? Meade continues, taking issue with the line "Goodbye to you, my trusted friend/We've known each other since we were nine or ten" — "Such a trusted friend he can't even remember what year it was." And I say: "Give him a break, he's dying" — meaning the character in the song is dying. And now the lyricist is dead. Give him a break!

IN THE COMMENTS: Joanne Jacobs writes:
Jacques Brel wrote a sardonic song about a dying man saying farewell to his adulterous wife and her lover/his best friend. Rod McKuen kitschified that into "Seasons in the Sun."
"Seasons in the Sun" is the song discussed — without saying the title — at the end of the post — the one with the skinned hearts. I went looking for the Jacques Brel song, which is called called "Le Moribond," and I found this nice, sharp performance, complete with English subtitles:

Mitt Romney announces he has "decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee."

"Mr. Romney said he believed he could win the nomination, but he expressed concern about harming the party’s chances to retake the White House. "
“I did not want to make it more difficult for someone else to emerge who may have a better chance of becoming the president,” he said. He added that it was “unlikely” that he would change his mind....

In a more than four-hour meeting last week, Mr. Romney’s top staff members and trusted advisers from 2012 relayed a sobering reality — they supported Mr. Romney and thought he would be the best president, but they did not necessarily encourage a third run.
I've been more or less positive about Romney's running again, and I just put up a post earlier this morning looking at the factors he was supposedly weighing, but even though I do like him, I was concerned that he was becoming the front-runner mostly on name recognition, and that was not good for the overall competition within the GOP. I'd like to see the plausible candidates go through a process of presenting themselves to us — especially in debates — and giving us a chance to scrutinize them and maybe warm up to them, and it's appropriate for Romney to stand back and allow that to happen.

If various seemingly plausible candidates fail to get traction or crash for some reason, there's the elder statesman Romney, prepared to serve if needed. I like him there. It fits with the idea that he was going to use as his pitch: That he's a dutiful, modest man, a humble servant, who responds to a calling.

So: Don't call us, we'll call you.

"We are confident that once the investigation is completed, he will be totally exonerated."

"Looks like he drove backwards and struck the victims and drove forwards and struck them again."

"Those who have been helping Romney make up his mind say there are three factors in favor of a run, and two factors against."

Explains Mark Halperin at Bloomberg:
The main rationale on the “go” side is Mitt and Ann Romney’s strongly held conviction that no one in the current field would make a better president. 
I scoff at that view.
Critics in both parties and the press may scoff at this view, but the Romneys believe it to their core and thus feel Mitt has an obligation to his country to once again shoulder the mantle....
Well, of course, they believe it. Don't all candidates get themselves into that frame of mind — on top of the vanity and the desire for power? Oh, maybe some candidates don't look ahead to the actual presidency and only consider whether they'd be best at getting elected (and competent enough at doing the job to which they'll be elected). But I doubt they admit that's what they're doing. For example, Obama excels at running for office, and famously falls back on his candidate persona to get through rough times as he serves out his terms, but I doubt that he ever says to his confidante's: I was such a wonderful candidate, but I've got to admit that Hillary would have made a better President.

(Does one really "shoulder" a "mantle"? A "mantle" is some kind of cloak or robe. Figuratively, it's "Anything which enfolds, enwraps, or encloses as a mantle; an immaterial thing likened to or described as a covering" or "A duty or position of responsibility, authority, leadership, etc., esp. one assumed or inherited by one person from another." (OED.) Assume the mantle is a more apt expression. "Shoulder" creates the image of carrying something something heavy. Not that the candidacy isn't heavy, just that the imagery of shouldering the mantle is incoherent. End of language rant! Sorry, but I feel I have an obligation to the internet to poke at the corpses of dead metaphors.)
The second factor... is a host of emphatically encouraging poll results....
I've always heard that early polls mostly register name recognition. If Romney doesn't get out of the way, the others don't get to build their name recognition. But let me be clear: I'm not against Romney's running. I wrote about the idea of Mitt running last April, when there was a rumor that Romney would run IF Jeb Bush did not. And I was pretty encouraging: "If the donors get behind Mitt Romney, why wouldn't Mitt Romney be a creditable candidate? Why couldn't he win if he ran not because he was a sore loser and felt entitled or ambitious, but because he's a modest, dutiful man, called into service in a time of need?" Ha ha. That's the "main rationale" cited by Halperin.

Halperin says the third factor is Romney's "sense that he can perform better in 2016 than he did in 2008 and 2012" — mainly by showing "that he 'cares about people' like them" by not being so "modest about his decades of work as a lay minister in the Mormon Church."

As for those 2 negative factors: 1. It's tough on the family, and 2. The GOP candidate will have to spend money and sustain attacks through the primaries and then face Hillary Clinton, who will have been saving all her money and sitting back, getting flattered by the press and her party-mates.

The family is the ever-convenient reason for not doing whatever it is you've decided you can't do. As for bulling through the GOP field and still having what it takes to fight the well-rested and untested wife of the ex-President who only ever won an election in New York state and served a rather lackluster term as Secretary of State, I think he's up for that fight.


AND: New post here.

Did you know how alarming it is for the baby when you drive the car through a tunnel?

Via Metafilter:

The reactions are so strong and so similar. Why? Because they have no idea what is happening... or because their trip through the birth canal is so recent? Am I going to be emerging into a completely different life?

January 29, 2015

"Israeli city told to pay women damages after failing to remove 'modesty signs.'"

"Billboards in ultra-orthodox community bar women from certain buildings and pavements and warn against 'slutty clothing worn in a religious style.'"
Judge David Gidoni...  ruled that the “hurtful, degrading and discriminatory” signs put up by ultra-orthodox radicals “delivered a mortal blow to the rights of women in the city” and instructed Beit Shemesh to compensate the women for their “mental anguish”...

The signs include... “Dire warning: It is forbidden to walk on our streets in immodest dress, including slutty clothing worn in a religious style.” Another sign – posted near a synagogue – instructs women to walk on the opposite pavement....

In Belgium, doctors — following the law — kill depressed patients who want to die.

(Via Live Action News, which says: "A new PBS documentary glowingly features euthanasia in Belgium [and] will send chills down the spine of any sane person who watches it.")

IN THE COMMENTS: Richard Dolan said:
So, this is what life-and-death looks like when it's reduced to bureaucratic, form-shuffling banality. Not pretty.

"The obvious thing to say about Jonathan Chait’s battle against the left is that we’re rooting for casualties."

"Which we suppose calls for an explanation of why we’re not simply on Chait’s side."

James Taranto takes on Jonathan Chait's "political correctness" rant.

(And I'm not just linking because it links to me. ("Blogress Ann Althouse, a law professor whose politics are heterodox and centrist, elaborates pointedly...."))

170 years ago, this evening (dreary)... "while I pondered, weak and weary/Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore..."

Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven" is first published — January 29, 1845 — in the New York Evening Mirror.
Poe claimed to have written the poem very logically and methodically, intending to create a poem that would appeal to both critical and popular tastes, as he explained in his 1846 follow-up essay "The Philosophy of Composition.".... Poe chose a raven as the central symbol in the story because he wanted a "non-reasoning" creature capable of speech....
The poem inspired illustrators. I chose the one by John Tenniel (whose "Alice in Wonderland" illustrations are so familiar) to begin the post, but the Gustave Doré approach seems to fit the tone better.

That goes with the last lines about the Raven forever sitting above the door, as "the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor/And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor/Shall be lifted—nevermore!"  which — as I read it tonight, 170 years later — feels like the inspiration for Neil Young's "Big birds flying across the sky/Throwing shadows on our eyes... The chains are locked and tied across the door... Helpless, helpless, helpless."

"Get outta here, you low-life scum."

John McCain to Code Pink protesters who held signs and chanted "Arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes" right next to the 91-year-old Kissinger as he sat at the witness table before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Old Pictures: "A New Picture."

Scan 34

In late 1980, I bought my first SLR camera. I was living in Greenwich Village, in my last year of law school, and pregnant. I wanted a camera for all the many baby pictures that would need to be taken, but in the interim, I took photographs of things that interested me, especially the messed up walls in the Village and SoHo. I ran across a bunch of them as I was tidying up my office yesterday, so I'll scan them for a series of posts beginning with this one.

I am disappointed with the way the photo service printed the pictures. I was bitterly disappointed by the way they did not include the entire shot that I had carefully framed. So, for example, I did not cut off the words "A New Picture" at the bottom or fail to include all the edges of the man's hat. I'm still annoyed about that! As if no one cares about the edges and corners of a shot!

"You sit on what is essentially a mini-throne... and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al."

"It is an energetic release—not just a steam douche—that balances female hormone levels. If you’re in LA, you have to do it."

Do Americans get the Midwest? Can a candidate with a midwestern accent and demeanor ever get elected?

When's the last time we elected a Midwesterner President? Ford doesn't count. He wasn't elected. You have to go back to Eisenhower and by the time we elected him, he wasn't just from Kansas anymore. He was from The World — The World War. And Kansas isn't even really the Midwest I think of as the Midwest. It's too far south. When's the last time we had a President from the North that is not the East?

Here's a list the home states of all the Presidents. I was surprised to see that I could have said we have a President right now from the Midwest! It never occurred to me — even as I rewatched that Bloggingheads segment — to think of Barack Obama as a Midwesterner, despite his connection to Illinois. His demeanor and his accent don't come across as midwestern. I think of him as coming from Hawaii.

I think we've never had a President from the North that is not the East. We've had a lot of Presidents from Ohio, and in that video clip, where I'm talking about Scott Walker's chances as a midwestern-style person, Bob Wright gets fixated on Ohio Governor Kasich, but Ohio isn't what I mean when I say Midwest. Note that I have lived in Wisconsin for the last 30 years, so I have an idea of the Midwest (and the North), but I consider myself from the "mid-Atlantic region," born and mostly raised in Delaware — just about exactly at the place where the Mason-Dixon line would cross if the mapmakers hadn't switched to using a compass when drawing the head on the little man called Delaware....

I am an insider/outsider in the Midwest. I think I get the cultural style that one sees in people like Tim Pawlenty and Scott Walker who seem too bland for outsiders. I mean that I also get The Not Getting of It. It might help that my mother and her family were from Michigan. Bob is from Texas, which is a big place, so maybe that's why he blithely groups Wisconsin with Ohio. He also sneered at the notion that Delaware is the South. I forgot to ply him with the question whether Texas is the South, but we were running out of time.

This post has become a grab bag of issues, so I'll load in one more, because news broke as I was writing this: "Lindsey Graham officially launches presidential exploratory committee." In the Bloggingheads clip embedded above, I talked about the problem of a Southern accent for a Republican candidate and say I think Americans have trouble with Lindsey Graham because of his accent. But the discussion of Midwesterners is not so much about the accent — though it is a problem if it's too exaggerated (as in the movie "Fargo") — it's the modest, low-key, seemingly bland style. But that problem could be an advantage. People might be in the mood for modest blandness. Of course, Scott Walker's opponents won't accept that picture of the man. They demonize him. How do you demonize modest blandness? Oh, it's an old game here intra-Wisconsin.

"We often encountered Professor Yin’s frisky and playful cats, peering curiously around a corner or darting by at top speed or jumping into our laps."

"Those cats got more attention and care and love than most pets."

From the the UW School of Public Health Department of Neuroscience letter defending the professor who experimented on cats and was reviled by PETA. The full text of the letter appears at the end of my January 25th post titled "PETA's campaign and the intense public pressure it brought to bear on UW-Madison have ended this horrendous laboratory's legacy of cruelty at last." The post title isn't my statement, but a quote from a PETA press release.

(Please note that my use of the tag "animal cruelty" doesn't mean I think there has been cruelty to animals, only that the topic of animal cruelty is under discussion. I could say something similar about many of my tags, most notably "torture.")

At some point, it's got to end.

I think, after adding an update to yesterday's post about Andrew Sullivan's quitting blogging. I've been going for 11 years — less than Sullivan's 15 — but I know that blogging only works because the spirit is there. You have to thrive on the intrinsic energy of the writing itself. When the magic is gone, you can't do it, if you really know what blogging is. If you bring other people in to do it for you, then it's not your blog anymore. Maybe those other people — and Sullivan had brought in other people — can take off and become real bloggers in their own right, but if they're keeping "your" blog going and your spirit of blogging is depleted, it's over, and in the name of The Spirit of True Blogging, you should face that fact, stop, and move on into a life that does have intrinsic meaning for you.

Now, obviously, there are other things in the form of the blog that people are using to make money or to affect politics. Commerce and propaganda. Fine. That's something that can be done too, but it's not true blogging. When you have those other motives, you can proceed without the spirit. You have your incentives. You don't need the intrinsic value.

"Russia’s bizarre proposal to condemn West Germany’s 1989 ‘annexation’ of East Germany."

Is it bizarre?
[W]hile the events it concerns may be long in the past, the motivation is likely the present. The plan was originally put forward by Nikolay Ivanov, a Communist Party lawmaker, who has argued that the reunification of Germany was insufficiently democratic. "Unlike Crimea, a referendum was not conducted in the German Democratic Republic," Ivanov was quoted as saying, referring to the region of Ukraine that broke away to join Russia last year after a disputed referendum.

Russia and Germany have an important, if complicated, relationship. Chancellor Angela Merkel is perhaps the closest Western leader to Putin – she grew up in East Germany, and – like Putin, who served with the KGB in Dresden – can speak both German and Russian. However, Merkel has been a prominent voice supporting sanctions on Russia after actions in Ukraine, and the relationship has been strained. Merkel famously told President Obama that the Russian leader was living "in another world."

January 28, 2015

Andrew Sullivan announces that — after 15 years — he's stopping blogging.

He gives 2 reasons:

1. 15 years is "long enough to do any single job." You've got to do "new things, shake your world up, or recognize before you crash that burn-out does happen." He's talking about everyone, but one can extract that he feels burnt out.

2. He wants to get out of "digital life" and back "to the actual world again." He wants the slower, truer world of reading "difficult" books and writing "long essays" that go more deeply into the topics he's been blogging over the years. He wants a less stressful life and time with his friends and family.

There's some hint of the disappointment in blogging as a business:
In just two years, you built a million dollar revenue company, with 30,000 subscribers, a million monthly readers, and revenue growth of 17 percent over the first year. You made us unique in this media world – and we were able to avoid the sirens of clickbait and sponsored content. We will never forget it.
You limit your audience, and you only get 30,000. They're not paying that much. What is it, $20 a year or $2 a month — or did the price go up a bit? It's hard to see how that gets up to a million and hard to know how well a million dollars covers the expenses and justifies cutting out the bigger audience you'd get without a paywall. It's gratifying to have 30,000 subscribers, but I suspect the limitations are part of that stress he's talking about.

I know I moved away from Sullivan's blog after it put up the paywall, but back in the old days when it was one of the few real blogs — years before I started blogging — I read it all the time. It played a major role in my own idea of what blogging is, and so it has had a big effect on my life, and it will continue to have that effect until the day comes when I decide I've burned out and need to get back to the slow absorption of difficult books, the brooding over deep thoughts, and the mining of the immense blog archive for all the things that could have coalesced into long essays deserving of binding into tomes.

Until then, it's all spontaneity, wisecracks, and shreds of insight — not fully cooked and never burned out.

ADDED: The Washington Post has some details on the business side of Sullivan's blog:
According to Sullivan’s frequent self-disclosures, he had 30,478 paying customers as of two weeks ago, down from more than 34,000 last year. Revenue was just less than $1 million — about 10 percent more than a year ago. The site is approaching its annual renewal period, in which it loses and gains thousands of subscribers....
So the subscriber numbers had a downward trend, and the decision to stop means he won't have to see what the next data point in that trend. If he took the subscriptions, he'd have to deliver the product. That would be a drag if the numbers were down.
Although the revenue figure grew in the two years that the Dish asked for subscriptions, it apparently has been barely enough to cover expenses. Sullivan has said he does not take a salary. However, there were no outward indications that the site was in financial trouble.
He didn't even make any money?! I guess he must have hoped that as an owner, he'd ultimately make a lot of money. But slogging away on no money would be awful. What were the expenses? The sidebar lists 7 editors (not counting Sullivan, the "blogger-in-chief"). That's not much money to spread around, especially if there was any kind of office space. I preferred the blog when it was just Sullivan, producing his own material, but that's a lot for one person to do.

"Americans think Pats cheated, rooting for Seahawks."

Public Policy Polling finds. Also:
The Packers remain the most popular team in the country. They have a +36 net favorability rating with 54% of Americans viewing them favorably to 18% with a negative opinion. The only other teams above +20 are the Seahawks (+25 at 45/20) and the Broncos (+24 at 44/20). The Packers also win out when voters are asked to name their single favorite team — 15% pick the Packers to 13% for the Cowboys, 10% for the Seahawks, and 9% each for the Broncos, Patriots, and Steelers.

"Why Your Workout Should Be High-Intensity."

A NYT article by Jane E. Brody that you might enjoy reading and talking about. I'm not one for high-intensity workouts, and nothing that could possibly be said on the subject is ever going to change me. I'm linking because I love the illustration by James O'Brien. Nice work!

Did Saudi television blur Michelle Obama out of the broadcast of Obama's meeting with new Saudi king in Riyadh?

"Several videos posted on Saudis' Facebook pages obscured Michelle Obama's face. They were removed shortly after they were posted," writes Josh Rogin at Bloomberg View.

Well, who knows? Saudi officials say it didn't happen. If it did happen, why did it happen? Was it to erase her presence as a woman or was it because she was wearing somewhat festively patterned blue baggy fabric coverage (instead of plain black baggy fabric coverage) and no headscarf?

"I first ran into the term 'Politically correct' in '67 in San Francisco. It was a leftist term then as now."

Writes John Henry in the comments to "Why Jonathan Chait thinks political correctness 'went into a long remission' and now has returned." Henry continues:
For example: "It is not politically correct to mention that the Viet Cong are murdering villagers who take US medical aid." It may have been factually correct, but since it harmed the cause, it was not "politically" correct to mention it.

I later, reading Lenin, found that he used something very like the term. For example: "It is not correct to say that people are dying of starvation in Moscow." He admitted that it was factually true but it should not be said because it made the party look bad.

When something is "politically incorrect", it generally is also factually correct.

I did not realize that the term ever went out of fashion.The concept certainly never has.
And then there was the time the U.S. Supreme Court Justice James Wilson said "This is not politically correct" back in 1793:
The states, rather than the people, for whose sakes the states exist, are frequently the objects which attract and arrest our principal attention.... Sentiments and expressions of this inaccurate kind prevail in our common, even in our convivial, language. Is a toast asked? "The United states," instead of the "People of the United states," is the toast given. This is not politically correct. The toast is meant to present to view the first great object in the Union: it presents only the second. It presents only the artificial person, instead of the natural persons who spoke it into existence. A state I cheerfully fully  admit, is the noblest work of Man. But, Man himself, free and honest, is, I speak as to this world, the noblest work of God.

You may call it "Brutalism," but "the government center was conceived with lofty social aspirations" — a vision "of energetic governance as a democratic ideal."

Michael Kimmelman champions a frighteningly ugly government building, Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center.

He seems to especially like the ideas that underlie the design, as if beautiful abstractions can transform how the tangible thing looks and feels. Actually, I don't get the aesthetic grandeur of the abstraction of "energetic governance," so even if I was sure the building embodied the ideal, it wouldn't make me see the building as beautiful.

Kimmelman stresses that the building is on the "global watch list" of the World Monuments Fund "alongside landmarks like Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China." But it's on the endangered monuments list because it's endangered, not because it's of equal distinction.

Maybe it should be preserved because it's a distinctive example of a style of architecture that seemed good at the time but most of us happen to hate right now. That swooping arc of taste tells us to be careful. I remember in the 1970s when modern buildings were loved with a doctrinaire certainty and overdecorated buildings reviled. I used to look at Grand Central Station every day, back then, and think that it was a monument to the misguided taste of the past.

Would I have torn it down? No. I have a conservative streak, and I don't trust transitory judgment. I would, however, if given the power, have ripped out that damned Pan Am building that filled the visual space above it.

Why Jonathan Chait thinks political correctness "went into a long remission" and now has returned.

My post about Chait's NY Magazine polemic — "Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say/How the language police are perverting liberalism" — blithely puzzled over Chait's assertion that political correctness was a late-80s/early-90s phenomenon that "burst onto the academic scene" and "went into a long remission" and now "has returned."

All I said was "I missed that remission... or Chait missed the nonremission." In case you couldn't tell, that's my way of saying there was no remission, but I didn't delve into why Chait experienced a remission, why the late-80s/early-90s political correctness affected Chait and he's affected again. I did say that Chait is reacting now because he and people like him are getting attacked from the left — "women and [people of color] are getting really cranked up and free-speaking and it's making him feel threatened." In this light, Chait is not so much a proponent of free speech at all, but a silencer of critics.

Liberals present themselves as the good people, and lefties — if they choose to attack liberals — puncture that smugness. But the left attack on liberals that burst onto the academic scene in late-80s/early-90s — I was there to see it — was a pre-internet, anti-free speech movement. Chait mentions "the theories of Catharine MacKinnon, a law professor at the university" — the "radical feminist critique of the First Amendment as a tool of male privilege" — and the "pro-p.c. activists" who pushed campus speech codes "purporting to restrict all manner of discriminatory speech." The left critique at the time said that free speech empowered those who were already powerful and that repression of speech was needed in support of true, substantive freedom and equality.

But that's not the left-wing of today. Alex Pareene does a nice job of explaining the difference:
Chait, like many liberal commentators with his background, is used to writing off left-wing critics and reserving his real writerly firepower for (frequently deserving) right-wingers. That was, for years, how things worked at the center-left opinion journalism shops, because it was simply assumed that no one important—no one who really matters—took the opinions of people to the left of the center-left opinion shop seriously. That was a safe and largely correct assumption. But the destruction of the magazine industry and the growth of the open-forum internet have amplified formerly marginal voices. Now, in other words, writers of color can be just as condescending and dismissive of Chait as he always was toward the left. And he hates it.... Now, not only is it harder to avoid reading negative feedback from people with different perspectives than you, especially if you engage online at all, but there are actually important people—people with status, who've won awards and hold positions of authority—who listen to those people with different perspectives. Ta-Nehisi Coates is at The Atlantic, for godssake, not In These Times.
That is, today's left attacks on liberals don't rely on the old shut-up-you're-silencing-me demands. The left is getting its speech out there. Lefties are employing the good old-fashioned "more speech" remedy that liberals recommended back in the late-80s/early-90s to the lefties who complained that they were being silenced by the overpowering speech of affluent white males.

It is, ironically, Chait who's feeling silenced and flummoxed by all this new speech.

Maybe that recommendation of more speech was in bad faith back in the late-80s/early-90, when the dominating white male liberals had reason to believe their speech would always be far louder and more widely distributed. Now, with the internet, everybody's talking and jostling for position.

A Facebook billionaire took over The New Republic, which had been Chait's lofty platform of liberalism, and Chait wrote "A Eulogy for The New Republic." He's in mourning! He's in mourning for the death of the cultural dominance of elite liberal media. Shhhh!

How perfectly amusing! Liberals are force-fed their own "more speech" remedy, and they don't like it. Another twist in the glorious history of American free speech.

January 27, 2015

"Nearly every time I have mentioned the subject of p.c. to a female writer I know, she has told me about Binders Full of Women Writers..."

"... an invitation-only Facebook group started last year for women authors," writes Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine.
The name came from Mitt Romney’s awkwardly phrased debate boast that as Massachusetts governor he had solicited names of female candidates for high-level posts, and became a form of viral mockery. Binders was created to give women writers a “laid-back” and “no-pressure” environment for conversation and professional networking. It was an attempt to alleviate the systemic under­representation of women in just about every aspect of American journalism and literature, and many members initially greeted the group as a welcome and even exhilarating source of social comfort and professional opportunity. “Suddenly you had the most powerful women in journalism and media all on the same page,” one former member, a liberal journalist in her 30s, recalls.

Binders, however, soon found itself frequently distracted by bitter identity-­politics recriminations, endlessly litigating the fraught requirements of p.c. discourse....

"White House Drone Crash Is Tied to Drinking by Intelligence Worker."

"A man who says he operated a drone that crashed on the White House grounds early Monday is an employee of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, according to law enforcement officials. He told Secret Service investigators that he had been drinking at an apartment nearby before he lost control of the craft, the officials said."

The NYT reports.

"Scott Walker forms committee in preparation for 2016 presidential bid."

Title for the committee: "Our American Revival."
"Our American Revival encompasses the shared values that make our country great; limiting the powers of the federal government to those defined in the Constitution while creating a leaner, more efficient, more effective and more accountable government to the American people,” Walker said in a statement in the release announcing the committee.
To parse that statement, giving significance to the semicolon, I see 2 items, one much more important than the other:

1. "Shared values." This speaks to the "values voters" and social conservatives. You are acknowledged, but this won't be the emphasis, because only what is shared widely will be part of the revival.

2.  Improving the federal government. This is the real emphasis of the campaign. It has 2 parts, the second of which is more important: 1. Constitutional (limited, enumerated powers), and 2. Practical (lean, efficient, effective, and accountable).

That's my analysis, admittedly seen through the lens of my own preference.

ADDED: If that semicolon were a colon, the text would be quite different, suggesting that our only shared values relate to limited, workable government. Forget those social issues.

"Is it really worth it to accumulate debt for such an epistemically poor education?"

I thought it would be helpful to isolate the last question in the last paragraph of an op-ed in The Daily Californian titled "Occupy the syllabus":
So, if you have taken classes in the social sciences and humanities, we challenge you: Count the readings authored by white males and those authored by the majority of humanity. Then ask yourself: Are your identities and the identities of people you love reflected on these syllabi? Whose perspectives and life experiences are excluded? Is it really worth it to accumulate debt for such an epistemically poor education?
I got there via Instapundit, who wrote:
U.C. Berkeley Students Complain About Having To Read Aristotle, Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Weber and Foucault. In course on classic social theory. And if that makes it hard for you to focus on the course material, cupcakes, you don’t belong in college"
And I must add 2 things:

1. What a bad line drawing at the first link. I especially love the flatness of the disapprobation on the face of this lady:


2. What's this comfortably left-wing enclave known as Berkeley coming to when a professor can't get to the end of a lecture on Marx without tripping up trying to joke his way out of a challenge about the exclusion of underincluded identities?
For example, when lecturing on Marx’s idea of the “natural division of labor between men and women,” the professor attributed some intellectual merit to this idea because men and women are biologically distinct from each other, because women give birth while men do not. One student asked, “What about trans* people?” to which the professor retorted, “There will always be exceptions.” Then, laughing, the professor teased, “We may all be transgender in the future.” Although one might be tempted to dismiss these remarks as a harmless attempt at humor, mocking trans* people and calling them “exceptions” is unacceptable.

"The Mormon Church today announced that it will support national and local anti-discrimination laws for gays and lesbians..."

"... provided such laws also respect the rights of religious groups. Church leaders called the offer a new 'way forward' to balance religious freedom and legal protection for people in the LGBT community."

Says breaking news email from CNN.

At the CNN website: "Mormon church backs LGBT rights -- with one condition."

"SCENE: Murdoch sitting with Valerie Jarrett gushing over Jeb, immigration..."

Drudge teaser, linking the NYT "As in 2012, Romney Can Do No Right in Murdoch’s Eyes."

This scene is most helpful to the reputation of...
pollcode.com free polls

This scene is least helpful to the reputation of...
pollcode.com free polls

The NYT was well aware of whose reputation was hurt and helped by its description of this scene.
pollcode.com free polls

"They are calling this storm 'historic' which…. Well I didn’t know you could call a thing historic if it hasn’t happened yet."

"But I’m not one to defy future historic events. And I have to be respectful of the responsibility I have to the 15,000 people who are holding tickets to the show and could be stranded somewhere historically trying to get to or from my show. I think it’s clearly better that I alter history in the name of safety and cancel. Besides, if you’ve ever tried to get your deposit back when you rent a banquet hall for a wedding that gets snowed out, you don’t want to even know what the deposit is on Madison Square Jesus Christing Garden is. So. No show. I will be on Letterman tonight, though. So you can yell boo right at my stupid and very handsome face on your tv screen or on your paper towel or your watch or whatever you view Letterman on."

Wrote Louis C.K.

"It may seem ironic that Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's extreme right Front National, rooted for the extreme left Syriza in yesterday's Greek election and rejoiced at its landslide victory."

"Yet there's nothing unusual about it: Syriza, Front National and other European anti-establishment parties are partners in a political revolution that appears to be about to sweep the continent, giving back the original meaning to political terms such as 'left' and 'right' — and helping Russian President Vladimir Putin in the process."

So begins a column at Bloomberg by Leonid Bershidsky titled "Syriza, Le Pen and the Power of Big Ideas."

"Please stop using our music in any way .. . we literally hate you !!!"

"Love, Dropkick Murphys."

"You" = Scott Walker.

That asteroid...

... had its own moon.

"A uni-moon is one of those terrible modern trends of taking individual honeymoons attached to work trips."

"So she took hers in the Dominican Republic, and I took mine in Paris because we couldn't coordinate our honeymoons together because of over-scheduling."

Just admit that you travel separately and leave the moon out of this.

(Feel free to use that as the title of your next novel: Leave the Moon Out of This. Background reference: "Don't Mention the Moon.")

"When I went to Oberlin, I had a Facebook group called ‘Political Correctness is Totally Gay.'"

Says Lena Dunham, adding:
"In hindsight, it’s not something I would have done, and I loved Oberlin, but when I got to school I was so distressed by the level of censorship. I thought, 'We all share politics here, we’re all people who are trying to urge the world forward with our liberal ideas, but there’s a thought police element here that makes me really uncomfortable.'"
"In hindsight, it’s not something I would have done..." — that's a tellingly awkward locution. In hindsight, it is something that you did, so how does the "would" function? She could mean: With hindsight, I see it's something I should not have done. Or: If I could have known then what I know now, I would not have done that.

And let's take apart this summary of her college-age thinking: "We all share politics here, we’re all people who are trying to urge the world forward with our liberal ideas, but there’s a thought police element here that makes me really uncomfortable." What I question about that — what makes me sad and reminds me of my law school days, circa 1980s — is the unexamined assumption that, of course, we are all liberals, we must be liberals, that's the common ground, and you would never want to get off that common ground.

Notice that Dunham still needs that assumed premise: We're all liberals here. We're all moving the world forward. We are all the good people, the liberals, and as I find out what the liberal position is on whatever we proceed to talk about, you can rest assured that I will be there, standing with all of you, on this common ground.

And then the one dissonant observation that blips through is: I'm stultified!

All that internalized restriction is stultifying... and yet, to go any deeper, to escape from that uncomfortableness is to risk losing the comfort of the common ground, the place you share with everyone you know.

Isn't it sad to look back on your school days, when you could have had all these exciting debates about everything, and to see that you missed out on all that, because everyone wanted to be good, everyone wanted to be lovable?

Oh, but you did have that Facebook group — "Political Correctness is Totally Gay" — you did let out a peep about the stultification, and instead of now saying I should have done much more, you're saying I shouldn't even have done that.

"That's not the observation of some wingnut in search of an idol..."

"... it's from a story by John Dickerson, political reporter for Slate, a publication that not too long ago held a navel-gazing session on the topic of 'Is Slate Too Liberal?'"

Writes Steve Elbow, a reporter for the Madison newspaper the Capital Times, in a piece titled "Scott Walker's Iowa triumph: Is this really getting serious?" Here's what he quoted from Dickerson's "Best in Show/Wisconsin’s Scott Walker outshines the competition in Iowa.":
"Before the Iowa Freedom Summit on Saturday, one Republican activist summed up Gov. Scott Walker’s challenge this way: 'He doesn’t make the flashbulbs go off.' But at the end of the marathon day of speeches before conservatives, the Wisconsin governor emerged as the leading light."
It's weird for people in Wisconsin — or at least in Madison — to see our governor — who's been hounded and belittled for the last 4 years — bursting out onto the national stage and suddenly seeming like the strongest candidate for President.

Elbow mentions some things Rush Limbaugh said about Walker yesterday, but he leaves out the part where Rush rejects the suddenly-last-Saturday template:

When he met with Obama, Indian Prime Minister Modi was wearing a suit that looked like it had gold pinstripes...

... but those stripes were his name, embroidered over and over, in tiny letters.

And that's not all:
When he met the president at the airport – a break from tradition – Modi was clad in a cream-colored outfit with a bright orange shawl with paisley at the ends draped over his shoulder. He donned a green safa with a large, red, circular plume and an orange scarf attached at the back to Monday’s Republic Day parade.

... During a reception in the lavish garden of the presidential palace Monday afternoon, Modi wore a bright orange shirt and a cream-colored shawl draped over both shoulders. He wore another orange piece at the India-U.S. CEO forum later that day – what appeared to be a vest with a neutral shirt underneath.
ADDED: For comparison: The "Fuck You" tie.

Question asked of a mother who breastfed her son until he was 3: "At this point, don’t you think it’s more about your needs than his needs?"

And her answer was to laugh, "because they wouldn’t have said that if they’d ever seen my son ask to breastfeed."
He would catapult himself into my bed every morning, smush himself up against me, and gleefully ask, “Can I have some mama’s milks?” If it had really been about all my needs, I would have kicked him out of my room so that I could get more sleep.
So they wouldn't have said "At this point, don’t you think it’s more about your needs than his needs?"? I sort of think they would, because they were the kind of people who say things like that and see things that way. Also — and sorry if I'm a big stickler about rhetoric (perhaps because I didn't get enough (i.e., any) breastfeeding as a baby)) — but the meanies were asking about the balance of interests — more about you than about him — and you've switched it to whether it's all about you. I noted the more/all distinction.

And I think the bed scene described — complete with the sleep sacrificing — does reveal the mother's pleasure in the relationship. I must say that I read it 3 or 4 times before I realized that she did not — after giving the child what he wanted — proceed to kick him out of the room so she could get some more sleep. She sounds proud of her maternal ministrations, even as she downplays the benefit to her. Is there some reason why women are supposed to not enjoy their side of the relationship with their children?

Wouldn't you prefer to think your mother loved doing the things she did for you? Or would you value her more to know that she did them in a spirit of service or necessity and, if it had been "about her," would have chosen entirely different activities.

Tommy Edison, who often answers questions about what it's like to be blind, offers his questions for sighted people.

That's one of many highly entertaining videos from Edison, whom I encountered for the first time through BBC.com:
Blind since birth, Edison set up a YouTube channel to review films from a blind person's perspective. The comments section was quickly filled with sighted people fascinated about what it's like to be blind. Edison then launched a second channel to answer questions like "can blind people draw?" and "how do blind people dream?"
I've watched a lot of the videos, including the film reviews, and recommend them all, but the questions for sighted people made the biggest impression on me. Not only does he wonder at the sense of sight — what's it like to go into a room and know where everything is? — but he wonders at the failure of sighted people to see what's right in front of them. If you can see, how can you sometimes not see, like if someone is handing you something. He's always listening, and if you call his name, he always hears. How can you not see?

(I've used italics to represent remembered quotes, possibly but not necessarily verbatim.)

January 26, 2015

"I don't think that's a problem," Bob Wright says about Scott Walker's lack of a college degree.

I say, "That's the #1 thing people say: Scott Walker? But he didn't finish college!" and Bob says, "That's ridiculous!" and "Who cares?"

Much more about Scott Walker... and Deflategate and "Selma" and "Serial" in the hour-long Bloggingheads show, here:

But I thought that reaction to the lack of a college degree was especially striking.

"I’m criticized as flamboyant, arrogant and melodramatic... I try to live my life touching extremes."

Said Toller Cranston — "the Rudolf Nureyev of figure skating" — who has died of a heart attack at the age of 65.

Here's his free skate at the 1976 Olympics:

"An Italian father who forced his teenage daughters to ski competitively and eat a macrobiotic diet because he was concerned they were too fat..."

"... has been found guilty of abuse and sentenced to nine months in prison."
The 53-year-old father... a wealthy individual... said he encouraged them to ski and to eat a macrobiotic diet, avoiding processed and otherwise refined foods, out of a normal level of parental concern. But the mother of the teenagers and the prosecutor in the case painted a different picture, of constant pressure and taunting by the father of his daughters.

"Beauty and Ugliness Identification Method."

From China: the "finger trap" test.

"Despite their superficial attachment to multiculturalism, our elites don’t really want to think of other cultures as, you know, thinking differently, for fear that it might somehow be racist to take that into account."

Writes Glenn Reynolds, commenting on an "American Interest" piece by Jakum Grygiel on the "folly" of the "modern Western penchant for trusting in the equal rationality of all."

Glenn's remark has an unexamined premise: that "our elites" think that the people in our culture think rationally. I don't accept that premise. Just speaking for myself — and as a law professor, I cop to elitism — I certainly believe that we have an emotional attachment to our belief that we are rational but that all our thinking is inextricably intertwined with emotion. We can only think within our nervous system — brain, etc. — and that's guided by twinges and intuitions of mystifying subtlety.

We love the idea that we are rational, but how are our thoughts deranged by this love? Why did Glenn go toward reacting to "elites" and the imputation of "fear" and racism? Whatever basis he has for that remark, his decision to go exactly there was not determined by facts and logic.

And look at how our elites behave toward us. Look at any political campaign — the "war or women," for example. I'm not seeing trust in the rationality of the people. It's emotion all the way down. I don't think the elites are afraid of looking racist if they portray people in other cultures as irrational. I think they consider their fellow Americans irrational. That's "What's the Matter with Kansas." That's why the elites believe they should rig economic incentives to "Improv[e our] Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness."

The mysterious twinges and intuitions within the elite nervous system create the feeling that none of us think straight. That's one kind of "equal rationality of all" — slim to none.

"A small aerial drone was found on the grounds of the White House but poses no threat...."

The NYT reports.
While drones are commonly thought of in the context of missile-firing, unmanned vehicles used against terrorists, there is a wide variety of devices that would qualify. Many small flying drones are available on the commercial market and are used as toys.

Mr. Obama and the first lady, Michelle Obama, are on a three-day visit to India, but their daughters, Malia and Sasha, are in Washington....
Yes, this drone might just be some toy, and yes, the President wasn't there, but this shows it can be done.

Is Mitt Romney running again because his feels called by his Mormon faith?

The NYT isn't just floating a theory. It has sources:
A prominent Republican delivered a direct request to Mitt Romney not long ago: He should make a third run for the presidency, not for vanity or redemption, but to answer a higher calling from his faith.

Believing that Mr. Romney, a former Mormon pastor, would be most receptive on these grounds, the Republican made the case that Mr. Romney had a duty to serve, and said Mr. Romney seemed to take his appeal under consideration....

But now as Mr. Romney mulls a new run for the White House, friends and allies said, his abiding Mormon faith is inextricably tied to his sense of service and patriotism, and a facet of his life that he is determined to embrace more openly in a possible third campaign.
So there are 2 issues here: 1. Whether Romney's religious beliefs might impel him to run a third time, and 2. Whether Romney, running for the third time, will present himself in a new way, as a man motivated by faith to serve.

We'll never really know how much Romney's decision to run (or not to run) truly rests on religious beliefs, so the second issue is actually more interesting. In 2012, the Democrats successfully painted Romney as an out-of-touch rich guy. Many Americans interpreted his demeanor and mannerisms and statements in that light. Perhaps we'd understand all the same things in a different way if he were an out-and-proud Mormon.

He'd also be a "diversity" candidate — a potential "first" — first Mormon President. I wonder what Mormonism would allow him to say. Would he claim to be a member of a persecuted minority group? He could! But would that work? Would Mormon values permit him to decide what to say based on whether it would work? If he purports to run based on Mormon values, will we the people need to study Mormon values so that we can call him on any hypocrisy?

"So Charlie Hebdo was nothing like the Onion, eh? Did the New Yorker writer see..."

"... the Onion's article 'No One Murdered Because Of This Image' — with an illustration showing several religious figures, including Jesus, in an orgy, with genitals and breasts on display?," asks John Althouse Cohen (challenging Adam Gopnik). Jaltcoh continues:
While it may be ironic to imbue Charlie Hebdo with too much nobility or piety — attitudes that would seem to be the opposite of what the publication stands for — I actually think it's important to revere the irreverent. We've certainly been doing that with the Marx Brothers for 80 years, for instance. It's a strength, not a weakness, for a society to be able to not take itself too seriously.

Now, I don't find Charlie Hebdo particularly funny (what little I've seen of it), and maybe they haven't always exercised the best judgment about how to walk the fine line humorists often need to walk between being outrageously funny and causing pointless outrage. But there's no way to make sure that all comedians always show the most sensitive judgment; by their very nature, they're sometimes going to slip up and land on the wrong side of the line. This will occasionally cause offense. But that's just the price of living in a world with humor and satire — which serve a vital role in puncturing pretense, deflating pomposity, giving us permission to laugh at authority figures.

Humorists are like the child in "The Emperor's New Clothes," who points out what everyone else is thinking but no one else has the nerve to say: the emperor isn't wearing any clothes. And if anything in the world is ripe for this kind of treatment, it's religion!
My question: If there's a "price of living in a world with humor and satire," what do you say to those who see the price as too high? That is a price that varies from person to person, depending on how much they hold sacred, how strongly they feel the offense, and whether they believe that God calls upon them to take action. For some of us, the price is dirt cheap, nothing at all. For others, it's everything — it's their eternal soul.

In case it's not obvious, I don't think that murder should be seen as a way to save your soul, but what do you say to people who believe they are not murderers, but soldiers in a just war? As John puts it: "the enemy has been revealed by its decision to carry out summary mass executions, and to arrogate worldwide jurisdiction." Yes, this is why we need to see that we are looking at a military enemy. They are invaders. But if these terrorists instead held the power of government in France — or wherever they conduct these killings — then they would have jurisdiction, and they might, through law, criminalize blasphemy and punish it with the death penalty. You may think that's despicable, but it's part of our tradition too:

("'An Act against Atheism and Blasphemy' as enacted in 1697 in 'His Majesty's PROVINCE of the MASSACHUSETTS-BAY in NEW-ENGLAND' (1759 printing).)

The Times of India catches Obama in "an ungainly sight" — chewing gum during the Republic Day parade in New Delhi.

He was also seen taking the gum out of his mouth while Prim Minister Modi was "trying to explain something." Was Modi trying to explain why you shouldn't chew gum during the Republic Day parade?

The Times of India includes some Twitter commentary:
[A]uthor Shobhaa De...  said, "Barack bhai working his jaws overtime and chewing gum! At least it isn't gutka. But seriously - gum during a formal parade?".

"Glad to see @BarackObama is so human. Like most Americans, he chews gum. Anyone know what brand?," was how noted film-maker Shekhar Kapur reacted.
"Barack bhai" — what does that mean? Yahoo Answers says it means "brother," but:
'Bhai' exactly means brother. But in Mumbai this term is used for gangster....
Now, what is "gutka"?
Gutka or Gutkha... is a preparation of crushed areca nut (also called betel nut), tobacco, catechu, paraffin, slaked lime and sweet or savory flavorings.... A mild stimulant, it is sold across India in small, individual-sized packets that cost between 2 and 10 rupees per packet. Gutka is consumed by placing a pinch of it between the gum and cheek and gently sucking and chewing... Many states of India have banned the sale, manufacture, distribution and storage of gutka and all its variants...
I guess Shobhaa De knew it wasn't gutka because the mouth action didn't include gentle sucking. As for Shekhar Kapur's question: "Anyone know what brand?" I, like most Americans, know that the brand is Nicorette.

January 25, 2015

Movies streamed in January...

... by readers using the Althouse Amazon portal: "American Hustle," "Born On the Fourth of July," "Bride And Prejudice," "Coda," "Consumed," "Crossed," "Guys and Dolls," "The Book of Life," "Uprising."

Thanks to all who support this blog by using the Amazon portal. And, no, I can't see who's buying what, so feel free to buy whatever you want and watch whatever you want.

ADDED: Why so many movies with 1-word titles beginning with the letter C? I wondered in the comments and said:
Made me wanted to suggest "Compulsion" and "Contempt." I'm sure there are many others. "Carrie." "Cops." Is "Cops" the name of a movie?
I knew "Cops" was a TV show, but it seems that such an obvious name should be the name of a movie too. I look it up on IMDB and end up with this fantastic movie-poster image:

Plot summary:
Police officer Benny is obsessed with American police cliches and livens up his own boring everyday life with dreams of duels with bad guys. But poor Benny and his colleagues doesn't have much to do in the small town of Högboträsk. Most of their days are spent drinking coffee, eating sausage waffles and chasing down stray cows. Peace and quiet is the dream of every politician, but for the Swedish authorities, the lack of crooks is reason to close the local police station. When the cops investigate a suspected act of vandalism, they realise that they themselves may be able to raise the crime statistics high enough to stay in business.
Great! But you can't buy that in the U.S. (unless you've got a "region 2" DVD player).  There's some chance of an American version, presumably to be called "Cops." Adam Sandler bought the rights a decade ago.

"The verdict is clear: We will bring an end to the vicious circle of austerity."

"Greece will now move ahead with hope, and reach out to Europe, and Europe is going to change."

Said Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the left-wing Syriza party, which just won "a decisive victory" in the elections in Greece.
“Tsipras won because those who imposed austerity never thought about the effects of such drastic policies that impoverished millions of people,” said Paul De Grauwe, a professor at the London School of Economics and a former adviser to the European Commission. “In a world where people are so hit, they just don’t remain passive. Their reaction is to turn to the politicians who will change the process.”