November 21, 2015

At the New Snow Café...

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... stop here.

Comment about whatever you'd like. Be aware that you have to wait for your comment to get moderated through. It's the way it's got to be now. Sorry. Really sorry.

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"For women the punishment was being burnt at the stake, for a bloke it was being hung, drawn and quartered.

"It would have been a lot to have been caught with": The Toenail Hoard.

500 silver clippings, shavings from metal coins dating back to 1560, found by a man with a metal detector in the Forest of Dean.

Looking for that article I'd read earlier today, my keyword "toenail" got me to "Toenails stashed in Harvard basement could hold clues about cancer":
Deep in the basement of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health sit more than a hundred vault-like freezers. Inside them... the toenail clippings from more than 100,000 people.... Because your toenails grow at different speeds, each one represents a different period in time. A clipping from your little toe captures substances that have been in your body for roughly a month. A clipping from your big toe gives a snapshot of a year’s worth of exposure.“When you take the edge of the nail of all five toes, you have a measure that stretches over the past year,” Tworoger said.....

"I think you’ll be pleased to know that it was a unanimous vote against using the Lord Jeff."

"I said to my staff, ‘We’re moving on here; the Lord Jeff is done.'"

Here's an article from the Amherst College website about Sir Jeffery Amherst, including the key sticking point:

5 videos I watched, none of which seem capable of supporting a free-standing blog post.

1. On Facebook, somebody got me watching this parody video of Hillary Clinton singing "I Will Survive." Amusing enough that I looked up the YouTube page of Maximum Suffrage. Lots of stuff there, as yet unwatched by me.

2. I didn't know "Convos with my..." got a second child (like the first, amusingly played by an adult). I watched "Asking Nicely."

3. Charles Grodin, in 1995, as a talk show host, riffs for 6 minutes surrealistically introducing Jerry Lewis. (I started watching Jerry Lewis interview videos on YouTube a while back, for reasons I don't remember, and YouTube keeps suggesting more Jerry Lewis videos, and this is never going to end, because I keep watching them, and I'm not going to stop, because they are all so weird, including some where Lewis is the host, like here, interviewing Cassius Clay.)

4. The Grateful Dead in a live performance of "It Takes a Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry." I got there as a result of a conversation that was mostly about "Ballad of Thin Man," prompted by reading this old 1965 interview in which Nora Ephron tried to get him to identify Mr. Jones and Dylan said: "He's actually a person. Like I saw him come into the room one night and he looked like a camel. He proceeded to put his eyes in his pocket. I asked this guy who he was and he said, 'That's Mr. Jones.' Then I asked this cat, 'Doesn't he do anything but put his eyes in his pocket?' And he told me, 'He puts his nose on the ground.' It's all there, it's a true story." Meade seemed to believe that Mr. Jones was Leonard Bernstein, but "That Party at Lenny’s" that Tom Wolfe described in "Radical Chic" took place in 1966. The word "camel" does appear in that greatest-of-all-time article, in this sentence: "Forty years ago firms flogging things like Hardman pianos, Ponds cold cream, Simmons metal beds and Camel cigarettes found that matrons in the clans Harriman, Longworth, Belmont, Fish, Lowell, Iselin and Carnegie were only too glad to switch to their products and be photographed with them in their homes, mainly for the sheer social glory of the publicity."

5. "Yeah, I'd like to see a video of a young person singing 'Eve of Destruction,'" I said after commenting in yesterday's post about the death of P.F. Sloan, who wrote the lyrics. The hit single was by Barry McGuire, who was 30ish, and I watched the video of a TV performance I remembered from 1965. I wrote: "Watching it again, I'm struck by the inappropriateness of McGuire's age. The lyrics are ridiculous coming from an adult. They're a perfect expression of teenage confusion about the world. Coming from an adult, it's mental or stupid." I found this, by Bishop Allen. It becomes noticeably "Eve of Destruction" at 3:44, but only the chorus is used, in the changed form: "And I tell you over and over and over again, my friend/That I'm down with you, even on the eve of destruction." I'd like to see a video of a teenager singing the original lyrics earnestly and sincerely.

"That's a plant? Thought it was Meade's bed head?"

Out loud, I read a comment by BarrySanders20 on that post with a photo of a spiky plant in front of the window through which we see the first snowfall.

I say: "Yeah, Meade wears his hair like The Little Prince."

Meade says: "Meade wears his hair like Butters."

I have a realization: "Maybe Butters is The Little Prince."




ADDED: Meade says: "Butters' hair is like one of the stars." And stars are crucially important in "The Little Prince." The Little Prince, before disappearing from Earth, says:
“You - you alone will have the stars as no one else has them... In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night... You - only you - will have stars that can laugh.”

If I didn't kale...

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... it's too late now.

Song reference:



Don't miss the high note from 3:27 to 3:33.

"For the more mortal among us, there is cold comfort in the idea that even Nabokov could not coax two entire vocabularies out of reckless passion."

Writes Stacy Schiff in a biography of Vladimir Nabokov's wife Véra. The quote appears in a New Yorker piece by Judith Thurman titled "Silent Partner/What do Nabokov’s letters conceal?" Nabokov and his wife had a long, extremely close relationship, and he wrote many letters to her, praising her in terms that, as Thurman puts it, are "hard to distinguish from self-infatuation ('It’s as if in your soul there is a prepared spot for every one of my thoughts')." But he cheated on her and, at one point, "Nabokov is enjoying torrid sex with his worshipful mistress while lying to his wife about ending the affair," and:
He suffers not a little shame, yet tells Irina he can’t live without her. He even hints that he will leave Véra—given time. And, in letters that might have made a fascinating appendix, he extolls his and Irina’s uncanny compatibility in suspiciously familiar prose. “For the more mortal among us,” Schiff observes, “there is cold comfort in the idea that even Nabokov could not coax two entire vocabularies out of reckless passion.”

"Trump doesn’t look fastidiously tailored, which is probably one of the many reasons why the average voter can listen to him pound his chest and still relate."

"Trump may have his name plastered on assorted buildings, but he looks more like an ordinary, angry middle-management guy," writes Robin Givhan, criticizing Donald Trump's looks after criticizing Donald Trump for criticizing somebody else's looks.

The somebody else is an unnamed "guy" who "went crazy" about something Trump said about food stamps. Said guy was "seriously overweight." Givhan takes Trump to task for "fat-shaming" this man:
[M]ocking someone’s weight cuts at the core of personal appearance, societal prejudices and a fraught sense of insecurity that by all rights should not exist but stubbornly does. 
By all rights? Really? Isn't there at least a smidgen of justification for observing that the federal government spends our money on a program that feeds people who are, demonstrably, eating too much? Trump used a fairly respectful expression. He said:
You know, it’s amazing. I mentioned food stamps and that guy who is seriously overweight went crazy. He went crazy. . .  That’s an amazing sight.
It's not like he said I mentioned food stamps and that fat pig — huuuge pig — went crazy....

Givhan says "It is a fashion insult — of the pettiest sort," before proceeding to criticize the fit of Trump's suits, the color and length of his tie, and the strategy of the combover. She's not taking a 2-wrongs-make-a-right/tit-for-tat position. Trump's insult of the "seriously overweight" "guy" was "a visceral, intimate insult.... So Trump’s fat-shaming of a protester begs one to consider Trump’s own appearance." He was asking for it.

But does Givhan really need justification to launch into an analysis of how some politician looks? That's her beat as a columnist and has been for years. Since when does she need to build a foundation for her fashion critiques by demonstrating that her target has done fashion insults that cut to the core?

I had to think for a few seconds about that, and what I came up with was that she wanted to criticize Trump for talking about how a guy looks, but that risked hypocrisy, since she continually writes about how people look, and she's criticized for that. How to attack Trump without exposing herself to the same attack? And I think her first reaction to Trump's pointing out that some guy is fat was probably that Trump himself is fat. But it's not her taste level to write that somebody's fat.

So Givhan processed the temptation to say that Trump is fat into the assertion Trump worries about whether he looks fat. There's this anecdote from 1999, in which Trump comically exclaimed that some photo made him look "like I weighed 500 pounds!" But I think that little story displays Trump as openly expressive, feeling free to talk about weight, and not a shame-oriented kind of person.

But Givhan places a sound bet that Washington Post readers are shame-oriented and ready to loathe Trump for prodding them where it hurts and where liberals are telling them they're entitled not to hurt. And of course they're entitled to food stamps even if they're fat. That's not even an issue to discuss. But it's what Trump was discussing.

Waking up to the first snow of the season.

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Pre-dawn view.

UPDATE AT 7:09: A coyote just trotted through the backyard. Almost got a pic.

November 20, 2015

"I’ve seen my share of nasty, bizarre, and over-the-top political ads. But this may be the first that I can honestly say is just plain stupid."

Says Mediaite about this Democratic National Committee ad. I happen to think it's a great ad:



At 0:23, I was all my man.

ADDED: It's interesting to see the Democrats honoring George W. Bush, the man they impugned and reviled for so many years. Bush does deserve honor for what this ad shows, not that the Democrats honored him when it wasn't part of achieving some political goal of their own as it is now. The current GOP candidates have been pushed by the GOP base to say the word "Islamist," and that empowers their opponents to remind the more moderate among us that we should not alienate or disrespect the vast numbers of Muslims who are not violent extremists.

"Woodrow Wilson was extremely racist — even by the standards of his time."

Vox explains, supporting the Princeton students who are protesting the use of Wilson's name on various programs and buildings around the university.
Easily the worst part of Wilson's record as president was his overseeing of the resegregation of multiple agencies of the federal government, which had been surprisingly integrated as a result of Reconstruction decades earlier....

Outright dismissals were also common. Upon taking office, Wilson himself fired 15 out of 17 black supervisors in the federal service and replaced them with white people....

In 1914, a group of black professionals led by newspaper editor and Harvard alumnus Monroe Trotter met with Wilson to protest the segregation. Wilson informed Trotter, "Segregation is not humiliating, but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen."
Much more at the link.

"A crew member from 'The Hunting Ground,' a one-sided film about campus sexual assault..."

"... has been editing Wikipedia articles to make facts conform with the inaccurate representations in the film."

"It’s still a capital crime, and I would give him the death sentence, and I would prefer to see him hanged by the neck until he’s dead, rather than merely electrocuted."

Said former former CIA director James Woolsey about Edward Snowden.

"I think the blood of a lot of these French young people is on his hands."

ADDED: Who appointed Woolsey? Bill Clinton. Oddly:
Never once in his two-year tenure did CIA director James Woolsey ever have a one-on-one meeting with Clinton. Even semi-private meetings were rare. They only happened twice. Woolsey told me: "It wasn't that I had a bad relationship with the president. It just didn't exist."
Woolsey once made this joke: "Remember the guy who in 1994 crashed his plane onto the White House lawn? That was me trying to get an appointment to see President Clinton."

About 2 dozen Harvard Law School students barged into Dean Martha Minow's Constitutional Law class and demanded that their issue be talked about immediately.

The NYT reports in an article about the aftermath of finding black tape on the glass of framed photographs of black law professors at the law school. It's not known who put the tape on the photographs or why, but the incident brought — as the Times puts it —"a new sense of urgency to discussions about race and racial discrimination that have spread across this campus as well as universities and graduate schools around the country."

Was it "a pretty clear act of intolerance, racism," as the student government president said, or was it an effort to create a new sense of urgency to discussions about race? Does anyone want to know the truth or is the idea to not let a sense of urgency go to waste? I suppose the student activists would say the source of the tape is a side issue, a distraction, and the general questions of racism are worthy of discussion even if the tape was some anti-racism activist's trick to ramp up the agitation.

Would a real racist just put gaffer's tape on the glass? Gaffer's tape "leaves little or no residue and will generally not damage most surfaces when it is removed." Wouldn't someone who really hated those black professors do something more destructive, like break the glass or try to get at the photographs?

Ah, but the tape has a history. The NYT reveals that black tape was used earlier by anti-racism activists a few weeks ago to cover up the Harvard Law School crest on various mats. (As blogged on November 4th, the crest was protested because of its connection to a slave-owning family.) Maybe someone who didn't like the tape on the mats felt motivated to protest the protest by moving the tape from the crest to the portraits, perhaps more of a lightweight tit for tat than deep-seated racism.

Anyway, it troubles me that students would disrupt and end a class that other students have prepared for and have put the time into attending. It troubles me that students would disrespect a professor and dean who has no connection to racism other than her position of leadership in an institution that (they think) has not done enough. Minow did respond, it seems, immediately:
Shortly after noon, hundreds of students — as well as faculty members and administrators, including Ms. Minow — gathered for what the law school called a community meeting, filling one large room and much of another. Ms. Minow acknowledged that racism was an issue at Harvard as it was around the country. “Racism exists in America and in the United States and in Harvard and in Harvard Law School,” said Ms. Minow, who has written extensively on topics like school desegregation.

But some students said the administration had not done enough to make the school fully inclusive of minority students and faculty members and voiced an array of concerns that ranged from the relatively low number of black professors — there are 12 black permanent full-time faculty members out of 125 — to the way the school taught law.
I'd like to see more detail about what the "array of concerns" was (other than the ratio of black to nonblack professors). As to the way law is taught, that's a perennial subject of complaints among law students, but the argument that it's a racial problem needs some explication. The Times quotes a student claiming that Harvard lawprofs have "just forced [students] to regurgitate" the cases, but I find that extremely hard to believe.

"A 1,111 carat gem-quality diamond, second in size only to the Cullinan diamond cut into the British Crown jewels, has been unearthed by Lucara Diamond Corp. in Botswana."

"The Type-IIa stone, just smaller than a tennis ball, is the largest diamond discovery for more than 100 years.... It was recovered by machines at the south lobe of Karowe mine in central Botswana...."

I like the "recovered by machines" part, because I don't have to picture a miner making the discovery of something he cannot keep.

At the Remontant Café...

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... there's one last burst of flowering as the big storm approaches our little town.

Please consider encouraging me by shopping through my Amazon Portal. (It costs you no extra, and it contributes to the project of writing this blog.)

We've put the comments on moderation, so be a little patient waiting to see your comment published. If you've been shy about commenting, perhaps fearing weirdness or abuse, now's a good time to consider sharing your thoughts with us. I'm especially interested in providing a forum for a wider range of commenters with differing points of view, not just on this post, but on all posts. And let me send out a special invitation to liberals and lefties and anyone else who can add to the balance, including apolitical types with unusual things to say.

Did Princeton's president cave to the demands of the Woodrow-Wilson-reviling protesters or did the protesters get played?

John Fund at National Review writes: "It took only 20 protesting students from the Black Justice League just 32 hours to hold a sit-in in his office for Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber to cave to their demands,"

He quotes the article in The Daily Princetonian
University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 agreed to the modified demands of student protestors on Thursday evening.... The final list addressed all three initial demands of the protestors, which included cultural competency training for faculty and staff and a diversity distribution requirement, a special space for black students, and the removal of the name of Woodrow Wilson, Class of 1879, from the Wilson School and Wilson College. According to the agreement, Eisgruber will write to chair of the University Board of Trustees Katie Hall ’80 to initiate conversations on removing Wilson’s name from campus buildings. He will also write to Head of Wilson College Eduardo Cadava to request that he consider removing Wilson’s mural from Wilcox dining hall.
Whoa! The protesters (I'm spelling the word right) got played. Just 2 days ago, The Daily Princetonian had this:
Asanni York ’17, one of the organizers of the protest, explained the group would not leave until Eisgruber signed the document listing the demands.

“We are tired of talking to people. It’s conversation, conversation, conversation. We try and protest; we meet with the administration every other week,” York said. “We’re done talking. We’re going to be here until he signs this paper. We’re going to be here until things are met.”
You didn't want more conversation. He had to sign the paper, but the paper he signed was about how there would be more conversation. It’s conversation, conversation, conversation. Conversation all the way down at Princeton. Well played, Eisgruber!

You may leave here after 70 years in this place/And after you're gone it's the same old space.

Did you notice the departure of P.F. Sloan?

Mickey Kaus makes 11 points about that passing of the man who left more footprints on Earth than that one big song, "Eve of Destruction."

Kaus gets bogged down around #5, which is the sad old topic of whether a singer could be better than — or almost like or the X version of — Bob Dylan. Kaus takes a swipe at Bob: "Dylan famously dissed him during a concert in LA. (Then again, didn’t Dylan diss his own son?)"

By the time Mickey gets to #11 — and I want a moratorium on goes-up-to-11 jokes —  he's talking about a party in L.A. that he attended: "As I’m leaving I learn that P.F. Sloan had been there, but I’d missed him. Left behind on the gift table was a signed copy of the sheet music for 'Eve of Destruction.'" I think the point is that for all the blowhardiness of "Eve of Destruction," P.F. was an L.A. man.

Think of all the hate there is in Los Angeles/Then take look around, it's pretty unscrupulous...

Anyway, what did Bob Dylan say about P.F. Sloan? I'm seeing:
"There are no more escapes. If you want to find out anything that’s happening now, you have to listen to the music. I don’t mean the words. Though Eve of Destruction will tell you something about it."
I don't think that's the quote Mickey was talking about. Interesting concept though, that you could find out what's happening now by listening to the sound of the instruments — not the words — of the music of today. Dylan said that in 1965, interviewed by Nora Ephron. I went looking for the completion of the concept. It's:
The words are not really gonna tell it, not really. You gotta listen to the Staples Singers, Smokey and the Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas. That's scary to a lot of people. It's sex that's involved. it's not hidden. It's real. You can overdo it. It's not only sex, it's a whole beautiful feeling.
But when did Bob Dylan insult his son?

"A quarter of British men believe that they experience a monthly 'man period'..."

Putting the "men" in "menstruation":
As part of a study of 2,412 people (50pc men and 50pc women), male participants were asked if they frequently suffered the same common side effects of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that women experience during their menstrual cycle, including tiredness, cramps and increased sensitivity.
Did the female partners of men who think they have man periods believe their man? 58% said yes, and 43% said they tried to help. How? 44% of the believers said they tried to "cheer him up" and 39% said they "walk around on egg shells." How about the women who did not believe their male partner got his period? 33% told him to "man up."

Now men don't bleed — for the special problem of transmen bleeding, read this — so what are they experiencing that accounts for their notion that they're getting their period?
[C]onstant hunger... general irritability. Increased cravings, tiredness and a "bloated" feeling were also reported, with 12 pc confessing that they were "more sensitive about personal weight". 5pc of respondents even reported suffering from "menstrual cramps".
That last link — on the "read this," about the transmen — goes to Forbes, but I'm afraid it might be sponsored content. You know, the ads are getting smarter, reacting to human efforts at ad blocking, and we're getting perilously close to the point when humans will not be able to discern what is editorial content and what is an ad. I mean, look:

The worm that helps women get pregnant.

"A study of 986 indigenous women in Bolivia indicated a lifetime of Ascaris lumbricoides, a type of roundworm, infection led to an extra two children...."
Nine children is the average family size for Tsimane women in Bolivia. And about 70% of the population has a parasitic worm infection. Up to a third of the world's population also lives with such infections....


Professor Allan Pacey, a fertility scientist, said: "Whilst I wouldn't want to suggest that women try and become infected with roundworms as a way of increasing their fertility, further studies of the immunology of women who do have the parasite could ultimately lead to new and novel fertility enhancing drugs."

"Malian special forces have entered the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali's capital, Bamako, to end a siege by gunmen...."

"The hotel says 138 people remain inside. The gunmen stormed the US-owned hotel, which is popular with foreign businesses and airline crews, shooting and shouting 'God is great!' in Arabic."

"It starts with a claim that’s ambiguous at best, fabricated at worst, and then interpreted in the most invidious possible light."

"The claim is reported in one outlet and amplified on Twitter. Other outlets then report on the report, repeating the claim over and over again. Talk radio picks it up. Maybe Fox News follows. Eventually the story achieves a sort of ubiquity in the right-wing media ecosystem, which makes it seem like it’s been confirmed. Soon it becomes received truth among conservatives, and sometimes it even crosses into the mainstream media. If you watched the way the Clintons were covered in the 1990s, you know the basics of this process. If you didn’t, you’re going to spend the next year—and maybe the next nine years—learning all about it."

Michelle Goldberg, on the Laugh Factory controversy. For the record, I was skeptical yesterday, when the story broke.

Goldberg talked to Jamie Masada, the owner of the Laugh Factory:
Masada told me that on Nov. 11, he got a call from a man named John—he doesn’t remember the last name—who sounded “distinguished, like an attorney.” John said he represented the Clinton campaign. He asked Masada “who had put him up” to posting the video. In a menacing voice, he told Masada, “This is not good for your business.” John then asked for the email or phone numbers of the five comedians who were featured in the video. “I told him, ‘Eff you,’ and I hung up,” says Masada.

How does Masada know that John was actually from the Clinton camp? He doesn’t. “I’m glad I’m not in politics or any of that stuff; you might know more than I do,” he says. “Maybe it was a prank, I have no idea. Was it real? Not real? I have no idea. He didn’t call back, that’s all I can say.”
This answers the main question I had. Was there a real threat? The words were not a threat and could be understood as an attempt to persuade. And, on the substance, it is persuasive: Don't brand Laugh Factory with a montage that seems put together to attack one political candidate whom a lot of potential customers like and, especially, don't attack a female with low-aiming jokes about how she's not a proper women within a sexist template that denigrates women who are not young, feminine, chaste, and heterosexual.

Ah, but it was said in "a menacing voice." A sophisticated threatener — "like an attorney" — would refrain from using words that state a threat, as in the classic "Nice family you got there"-type statement. So it's something. It is what it is. Maybe Masada can get the call traced. Who knows who this "John" character is. Let's try to keep our wits about us, eh?

November 19, 2015

At the Sunset Café...

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... you can talk about whatever you want.

Man adopts a dog from an animal shelter...

... and 3 hours later the dog mauls him to death.

"Amy Schumer Throws ‘Massive Fit’ In NYC Gym."

"The trouble began when the actress forgot her membership card. An employee turned her away, reminding her she needed a card for entrance — which left the 34-year-old in a rage."

I don't really care. I just wanted to tell you something that once you see it, you won't be able to unsee it: She looks just like Rush Limbaugh.

"So you have to go back to issue No. 1. How much control is too much control?"

Guess the context. Answer here.

Did you know the Ghostbusters logo and the "If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog" National Lampoon cover were designed by the same person?

It was Michael C. Gross, something I learned reading, unfortunately, the obituaries.

"Black tape was found covering the faces of black Harvard Law School professors on framed photographs outside a lecture hall on Thursday..."

"... a day after students there held a rally in solidarity with other campuses protesting racism across the country...."

I hope they have surveillance cameras to identify the malefactors. Who benefits?

Meanwhile, at Princeton:
Students staged a protest Wednesday inside the office of Princeton University's president, demanding the school remove the name of former school president and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson from programs and buildings over what they said was his racist legacy....

Wilson was president of Princeton from 1902 to 1910 and served as New Jersey's governor from 1911 to 1913, when he entered the White House. The Democrat was a leading progressive but supported segregation, including appointing Cabinet members who segregated federal departments....

"Having to walk by buildings that (have Wilson's name), having to walk by his mural, having to live in residential colleges that didn't want our presence on campus, that's marginalizing," said Asanni York, a black junior who is majoring in public policy. "People are hurt by that. All this matters because, at the end of the day, black people's feelings matter just as much as any other people's feelings matter."
This is an intra-liberal dispute. Hating Woodrow Wilson used be a conservative thing. Here's a Slate article from 2011: "Hating Woodrow Wilson/The new and confused attacks on progressivism."

Over at the NYT, published today at 12:47 PM ET but quickly banished from the front page, there's "One Slogan, Many Methods: Black Lives Matter Enters Politics," which I'd noticed earlier was getting slammed in the comments. Here's the highest-rated comment (highest rated by NYT readers):

Trump catches up to Althouse, objects to calling Abdelhamid Abaaoud a "mastermind."

Trump said it today:
“This so-called leader of ISIS – he’s not a mastermind, he’s a punk.... They ought to call him what he is... He’s garbage. The press should not be referring to these guys as masterminds... Then they wonder how all these kids are going and joining ISIS. They’re building these people up so much [and] we have to tear them down. These are not masterminds. These people are animals."
I said it 3 days ago:
It troubles me to see press reports that inflate the ingeniousness of terrorist attacks.... Today, I'm seeing a NYT banner headline: "FRANCE SEEKS BELGIAN MILITANT AS MASTERMIND OF PARIS ATTACKS." Whoever participated in the attacks is despicable. Why glorify him as a "mastermind"? A "mastermind" is — I'm quoting the OED — "An outstanding or commanding mind or intellect; a person with such a mind" or — and this is most relevant here — "A person who plans and directs a complex and ingenious enterprise."

I don't see complexity and ingeniousness. The attackers didn't invent the communications systems or the modes of encryption that must have made it possible to say today's the day. They didn't assemble the crowds in the restaurants or concert hall or stadium. And they didn't figure out how to get anywhere near President François Hollande.

Why inflate the reputation of these people? Even if you respect the value of propaganda, how does it serve our interests more than theirs?

Some guy in the Clinton campaign leaned on the owner of a significant comedy club for putting up a 3-minute montage of comedians joking about Hillary Clinton.

The website Judicial Watch tells us.

The club is Laugh Factory (where Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, and many others have performed). The owner is Jamie Masada, who's run the place for decades. He says: "They threatened me. I have received complains before but never a call like this, threatening to put me out of business if I don’t cut the video." The campaign person isn't identified, but is called "prominent," and a masculine pronoun is used (so it's not Huma Abedin). What was the threat? The unnamed person also "said the video was disgusting and asked who put me up to this," and wanted to know the names and numbers of the comedians.

How could the campaign put him out of business? By what method, exactly? I'd like to know. What could the campaign do? Was violence suggested? Was there some notion of getting law enforcement after him somehow? Or was it more like a threat to use speech against him or to persuade comics not to perform there? I'd like to know. If it's only a threat of more speech, that's part of the free-speech regime we know and (some of us) love. Within that regime, Masada is taking his remedy, talking to Judicial Watch and getting this story out. It hurts.

The video clip is titled "Hillary vs. The First Amendment." Whether anything here is a First Amendment violation or not, it's fine to cite the amendment in what is now a criticism of the campaign for being repressive toward the freedom of speech.

Now, let's watch the video:



We see 4 comedians:

1. Dom Irrera says: "That woman should be President of the United States, because she knows what it's like to like men and love women."

2. Tiffany Haddish says "I would love if you become President, then you divorce Bill and you marry a bitch. Oh, shit! That would fuck the world up!" Haddish also likes the way Hillary didn't "trip off Bill and Monica Lewinsky," theorizing that Hillary was "hitting that too on the side," that if Bill liked "fat bitches," she'd get herself a "skinny bitch."

3. Greg Fitzsimmons says sarcastically that there's "nothing like" the "skirt suits" Hillary wears to say "I'm all woman." (He says "skirt suits" twice, but I've never seen Hillary in a skirt suit. I guess it's his attempt to say "pant suits.") "Who wore it better," he asks, "Caitlin Jenner or Hillary Clinton?" And he jokes that we don't have to worry about her getting her period, because she's 69 years old and "hasn't had a period since the 20th century."

4. Brian Holtzman refers to Hillary's mother's ethnicity — English, Welsh, French, etc. — and says that to get all that in one person, "You'd have to work in a whorehouse for quite some time."

So, it's very low humor, mostly based on the idea that Hillary isn't a real woman. She's a lesbian, she's unfeminine, she's unchaste, she's old. I can see someone in the campaign thinking it shouldn't be that difficult to persuade Masada that this kind of material is too low to belong on the internet representing Laugh Factory, that storied institution. But Masada took it in a different direction, and the Hillary campaign is getting lambasted for "threatening" Masada.

I'd like to hear from the campaign. What was said in that phone call? Does it deserve to be called a threat?

"How can something American law requires be 'not American'?"

That question — intended as a rhetorical question — is asked in a National Review article by Andrew C. McCarthy titled "Refugee ‘Religious Test’ Is ‘Shameful’ and ‘Not American’ … Except that Federal Law Requires It."

McCarthy makes good points in that article: Under U.S. statutory law, religious persecution is one of the grounds for granting asylum.
There is no right to emigrate to the United States. And the fact that one comes from a country or territory ravaged by war does not, by itself, make one an asylum candidate. War, regrettably, is a staple of the human condition. Civil wars are generally about power. That often makes them violent and, for many, tragic; but it does not necessarily make them wars in which one side is persecuting the other side. In the case of this war, the Islamic State is undeniably persecuting Christians. It is doing so, moreover, as a matter of doctrine. Even those Christians the Islamic State does not kill, it otherwise persecutes as called for by its construction of sharia (observe, for example, the ongoing rape jihad and sexual slavery). To the contrary, the Islamic State seeks to rule Muslims, not kill or persecute them.... While there is no question that ISIS will kill and persecute Muslims whom it regards as apostates for refusing to adhere to its construction of Islam, it is abject idiocy to suggest that Muslims are facing the same ubiquity and intensity of persecution as Christians....
So, there is a basis for making the process different for Christians and Muslims: They are differently situated with respect to their exposure to persecution. There is still, however, a serious question about whether the U.S. government should openly adopt a policy of sorting the refugees into Christian and Muslim and treating them radically differently. Obama has articulated his position in terms of what it means to be an American:
When I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted … that’s shameful…. That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.
Obama calls us to what he portrays as a higher standard of compassion and nondiscrimination. We are — perhaps you've noticed — always in the middle of a debate about what America means. McCarthy's side of the debate reminds us of a statutory choice to provide refuge for those who face religious persecution and of the factual differences in the persecution experienced by the Christians and Muslims who are fleeing Syria. 

We don't have to answer immigration questions by deciding which approach is most American, but the culture here in America is to be endlessly immersed in a process of defining American values. We don't hear any serious politicians saying: I don't care what America supposedly means or what American values theoretically are, I only care about protecting the lives of American people. They might think that, but they don't speak in those terms. We wouldn't accept that.

Does McCarthy, with his rhetorical question — "How can something American law requires be 'not American'?" — really mean to suggest that once something happens to make it into the United States Code it is immune from arguments that it is inconsistent with American values? I'll bet there are many American statutes that conflict with McCarthy's idea of what is American.

So, let's move forward and look closely at what kind of discrimination based on religion we want to support. It's one thing to say we want to offer asylum to those whose lives are in danger because of religious persecution. It's quite another to propose that when thousands of people are fleeing from one place and all are exposed to religion-fueled violence, that we will, at the outset, crudely sort them into 2 groups, depending on which religion they espouse.

Is that who we are?

Break out the champagne! Yesterday's raid did, as intended, get man believed to have led the Paris attacks.

"Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Belgian militant suspected of orchestrating the Paris terrorist attacks, was killed in a police raid in the northern Paris suburb of St.-Denis early Wednesday, the French authorities announced on Thursday. The confirmation of Mr. Abaaoud’s death followed forensic tests, the Paris prosecutor, François Molins, said in a statement."

"A woman must abide by an agreement with her ex-husband to destroy five frozen embryos if they got a divorce..."

"... despite her contention that they represent her last chance to have children, a California judge ruled Wednesday."
"Decisions about family and children often are difficult, and can be wrenching when they become disputes," the judge wrote. "The policy best suited to ensuring that these disputes are resolved in a clear-eyed manner ... is to give effect to the intentions of the parties at the time of the decision at issue."...

The embryos were being held at the University of California, San Francisco, which in accordance with state law gave Lee and Findley a consent agreement before fertility treatments in which both said they would like the embryos thawed and discarded in case they divorced, according to court documents.
Choice.

November 18, 2015

"I can't go to my brother and ask him to bring back the shoes he got as inheritance."

"I was presumed dead, so my family has the right to have my property."

Said Joseph Burule Robi, rescued after 41 days in a collapsed gold mine in Tanzania.

Dusk, 4 pm....

... crossing Bascom Mall...

IMG_0870

... and stopping for a look out over Lake Mendota.

IMG_0874

"But when the researchers crunched the numbers to find out if there's an upper limit to improving well-being through sex..."

"... they found that the happiness maxed out at sex about once a week."
"This showed a linear association between sex and happiness up to a frequency of once a week, but at higher frequencies there is no longer an association," Amy Muise, a social psychologist at the University of Toronto Mississauga who led the research, said in an email. "Therefore it is not necessary, on average, for couples to aim to engage in sex as frequently as possible."
I find the word "necessary" funny.

"Along about the time I became a great-grandmother I dyed my white hair blue. Not a wussy 'blue-rinse' blue..."

"... but eye-stabbing, punk-kid blue. At the time, I didn't do any soul-searching. I just thought, What the hell, why not?"

Says Anne Bernays, the 85-year-old writer, who still teaches a writing class at Harvard and who was quite beautiful as a young woman.



(Her husband took that picture in 1957.)

"I want to encourage you, Mr. President, come back and insult me to my face."

"Let’s have a debate on Syrian refugees right now. We can do it anywhere you want. I prefer it in the United States and not overseas where you’re making insults. It’s easy to toss a cheap insult when no one can respond, but let’s have a debate."

Ted Cruz has a way with words.

What was Obama's insult? "Apparently, they are scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America. At first they were too scared of the press being too tough on them in the debates. Now they are scared of three-year-old orphans. That doesn't seem so tough to me."

"The world's most random good Samaritan."

It's about hubcaps.

Via Reddit, where the most up-voted comment is a misreading joke.

"The G20 summit in Turkey.... a group of cats took the main stage moments before leaders of the world’s major economies were due to make an appearance...."



"... The curious felines ran across the stage, sniffed at flowers on display and then scampered off."

"Because of the beautiful meaning and dignity communicated by our bodies — which communicate our very selves — our bodies should be treated with the greatest respect."

"We, and therefore our bodies, are not meant to be used but loved. As Karol Wojtyła (St. John Paul II) taught, the opposite of love is not hate but rather using a person, as if he or she were an object. To love others is to recognize them as the gift they are, to seek what is truly good and best for them, and never to use them and thereby objectify them as something less than persons. The body, then, is not raw, biological matter open to manipulation but is rather inseparable from who we are.... Deliberately viewing pornography is a grave sin against chastity. Sexual intimacy and the pleasure that derives from it are gifts from God and should remain personal and private, enjoyed within the sacred bond of marriage alone. Such intimacy should not be put on display or be watched by any other person, even if that person is one’s own spouse. Nor should the human body be unveiled or treated in a way that objectifies it sexually and reduces it to an erotic stimulant.... Regardless of the relationship between the parties, looking at another person with lust — as only a sexual object to enjoy, control, and use — is a sin. It is a disordered view of the person, because it is ordered toward use, as of a thing, rather than love, which pertains to persons...."

I'm reading "Create in Me a Clean Heart/A Pastoral Response to Pornography" issued by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops yesterday.

The bomb that brought down a jet?



"The Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai Peninsula last month, released an image that purports to show the improvised explosive device used to kill all 224 people aboard the flight from Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt."

What does this new Charlie Hebdo cover really mean?



The text translates: "They have weapons. Fuck them. We have champagne!"

One interpretation is: The French are resilient. They retain joie de vivre through all adversity. The champagne flows in and right out of the bullet-riddle body but life goes on. There's more champagne. They can never stop us.

But there's an alternate interpretation: We are oblivious. We party on as if we are not dying. We're in the last steps of a dance that cannot continue. The intake of champagne can't possibly match the outflow of champagne/blood. Stop playing and get serious.

New York's longest-serving inmate — 50 years in prison on a 20-to-life term — denied parole for the 18th time.

It's the man who killed Kitty Genovese, the symbol of the callousness of bystanders.

Winston Moseley said: "I know that I did some terrible things, and I've tried very hard to atone for those things in prison... I think almost 50 years of paying for those crimes is enough." Moseley is 80.

The parole board said: "You still minimize the gravity of your behavior and did not exhibit much insight."

The murder was in 1964. Here's an op-ed by Winston Moseley — dateline Attica, NY — published in 1977, "Today I'm a Man Who Wants to Be an Asset":



"I've been imprisoned many years now..." Many years, but now he's been there 5 times as long.
My perpetual torment will not resurrect her.... Prison as it presently stands is an inherently evil place that insidiously and systematically works to destroy imprisoned persons.... The '71 Attica rebellion profoundly affected me... Now I have earned a B.A. degree in sociology.... I've made reasonable suggestions to state officials about prison reform.... I tried and succeeded in doing something good.... The man who killed Kitty Genovese is no more.... Another vastly different individual has emerged, a Winston Moseley intent and determined to do constructive, not destructive things....
UPDATE: Moseley died in prison on March 28, 2016.

Are you a feminist? "Yes. What else is there to be? Everything else is being an asshole. These are your choices."

"I have three sisters, and no brothers. In my family it is all women, and they are very strong, opinionated, professional women, and the idea that they would be in some way disadvantaged by comparison to men was just ludicrous, and if you had tried to suggest it to them you’d have got hit. So I learned it early."

Said Salman Rushdie, one of 15 famous men asked the question. Don't know if I like the hitting. But equality is achieved in negative and positive ways, and domestic violence is another field of human activity.

I like this answer: "Yes. Absolutely, of course. It’s a stupid question. Sorry." That's by Darren Aronofsky, whoever he is.

I checked. He's a movie director. Directed the movie Meade and I saw the day we met. That damned movie nearly kept us apart! Here's the blog post I wrote about it: "10 thoughts about 'The Wrestler.'" You'd never know I'd just met the man I'd marry 7 months later. The post begins, "To be fair to Marisa Tomei, it should have been titled 'Meat.'" Meat... almost a homophone for Meade, but there's zero mention of Meade in that post.

How would Meade answer the question asked of the 15 famous men? I say the question in exactly the words used by the magazine at the link: "Are you a feminist?" Pause. He says:  "Do I believe that women are people? Yes." Good answer. The problem with the question, what irks Aronofsky, I suppose, is that the question contains an abstract term that you might not want to adopt. Your head floods with thoughts about the people who define the term and why they might want to pin you down. What do they want from you? But you can muse too long about the meaning of the term. You need to jump to yes as fast as you can.* If you don't say "yes" right away, as Salman Rushdie revealed, you'll be considered an asshole. Meade had a better answer than the 15 famous men, I think, because he got his definition in quickly and elegantly and got to that "yes" easily. And his definition evoked the great old saying: "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people."
________________________________
* Or Salman Rushdie's mother might hit you.

McCain vs. Cruz on the question whether the U.S. should give priority to Christian refugees.

Cruz: "There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror... If there were a group of radical Christians pledging to murder anyone who had a different religious view than they, we would have a different national security situation."

McCain:  "I don’t think any child, whether they are Christian or whether they are atheist or whether they are Buddhist, that we should make a distinction. My belief is that all children are God’s children."

I'll say 10 things:

1. If seeming to be a Christian puts you on a fast track, wouldn't the most devious people pose as Christian?

2. What test would you perform to determine who is Christian... and do you like the idea of the United States government administering religious tests?

3. Yes, there's a "religious test" clause in the Constitution.  It says "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." Immigrants are not qualifying for an office or public trust. The religion clauses of the First Amendment are more apt.

4. But quite aside from the constitutional provisions, there is a strong and worthy culture in America that rejects discrimination based on religion. Don't screw it up! Yes, you'd like to filter out the people who would like to screw up that culture for us, but don't become the very thing you rightly hate.

5. McCain's statement is hedged. Maybe I don't have his complete statement here, but if he's only talking about young children, then, sure, they're children. It's easy to say let the children come to us, especially if, by children, you mean very young children.

6. Young children can be assimilated and taught anything, but should a child be raised in a religion that was not his parents' religion? Your answer to that question is religious, and his parents' might have (or have had) a different answer.

7. McCain said that atheist children are God's children. That makes perfect sense. It's not something that an atheist could believe — unless you've got a free-wheeling atheist who uses expressions like "God's children" figuratively — but it's a coherent thing for McCain to believe.

8. Does McCain think we are all God's children or only that all children are God's children? If we are all God's children, does McCain want no distinctions based on religion for anyone seeking access to the United States?

9. McCain puts his opinion in the form of a religious statement, referring to his "belief" and mentioning God. You might think that legal or political ideas should predominate here, but if religion is what guides the policy choice, then what is the best religious answer?

10. Is Cruz proposing anything more than that religion be considered as one of the factors as we look at the whole person and make a decision? If not, this is a lot of political posturing and I'm not convinced there's any real disagreement at bottom.

November 17, 2015

"Although theoretically [male pregnancy] would be possible, it would be a huge surgical and endocrinologic undertaking..."

"...and involve not just the creation of a vagina but also surgical reconstruction of the whole pelvis by someone skilled in transgender surgery. After this procedure and the grafting of a donor uterus, a complex hormone regimen would be required to support a pregnancy prior to and after embryo transfer (although this could be done, as we provide similar hormone regimens to menopausal women to support a pregnancy). The interesting thing is that these embryos would be created using the patient’s sperm (rather than eggs as in our protocol) and a partner or donor’s eggs. This sperm would have had to be frozen prior to their transgender surgery, which people are doing more routinely now."

Said Rebecca Flyckt, who is one of the doctors working on a uterus transplant, which we talked about here a few days ago.

Boy in a Barbie ad.



"Fashions followers will notice the young boy in the video has been intentionally styled to resemble Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott, with a voluminous blond faux-hawk hairstyle matching the designer’s. Scott has called Barbie a muse, telling Style.com: 'Like every girl and gay boy, I loved Barbie.'"
The ad is already resonating with other male Barbie fans. One of the top comments on Moschino Barbie’s YouTube video comes from RuPaul’s Drag Race star Pandora Boxx, who wrote: “This almost made me cry! I used to play with my sister’s Barbies and felt such shame afterward. I’m so glad we can just let kids be kids. Thank you for this! Boys like dolls too!”
Here's what Jeremy Scott looks like, in case you don't know, which I think is a good bet.

Are Cruz and Trump pals?

Trump, yesterday: "If he catches on, I guess we’ll have to go to war.... We’ll see what happens but so far we haven’t... He’s been very supportive [and] we have a lot of the same ideas.... Well, he’s been very nice and supportive of everything I’ve said, more than anybody else."

Cruz, last July: "I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to address illegal immigration... I like Donald Trump... He is bold, he is brash. He has a colorful way of speaking, and it’s not my way of speaking, but I salute him."

Salute now. War later.

Where all the governors stand on resettling Syrian refugees in their state.

AP has an extensive run down. I'll focus on some governors that I would expect to be relatively supportive of the President's agenda. The number in parentheses is the number of refugees who have already arrived in the state. Boldface is mine:
CALIFORNIA (218): Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown says he'll work closely with President Barack Obama to ensure any Syrian refugees coming to California are "fully vetted in a sophisticated and utterly reliable way." He says the state can help uphold America's traditional role as a place of asylum while also protecting California residents.

COLORADO (5): Colorado's governor isn't ruling out Syrian refugees. But Gov. John Hickenlooper says the federal government needs to make sure the verification process for refugees is "as stringent as possible."

Modesty and traditional feminity.

It's the latest thing.

"Charlie Sheen Says He Has H.I.V. and Has Paid Millions to Keep Diagnosis Secret."

"Asked whether he faced lawsuits, Mr. Sheen said it was more 'shakedowns' from people demanding money."

Is he still paying people? “Not after today, I’m not.” And:  “I think that I release myself from this prison today.”

Sheen pictured himself as a hero of coming out: “Hopefully, with what we are doing today, others may come forward and say, ‘Thanks, Charlie, for kicking the door open.’”

"On 13 May 1939, more than 900 Jews fled Germany aboard a luxury cruise liner, the SS St Louis."

"They hoped to reach Cuba and then travel to the US - but were turned away in Havana and forced to return to Europe, where more than 250 were killed by the Nazis...."



ADDED: "What Americans thought of Jewish refugees on the eve of World War II."

"In one scene, viewers witness 'children being taught how to kill people, how to behead, and how to become suicide bombers.'"

"Even for a journalist who has covered war close-up since 2001, Naj told me that what he saw in the course of recording this documentary shook him. 'That was a shocking moment to see those children learning jihad; it was the most horrible moment I felt ever in my journalism life.' That moment, he said, gave him a glimpse into the future, a look at a new generation of warriors who would have no concept of living in peace. 'I cannot see any bright future for Afghanistan,' he said."



PBS is broadcasting "ISIS in Afghanistan" tonight.
Set your DVR. Another excerpt, "Teenagers in Training as ISIS Suicide Bombers":



IN THE COMMENTS: The consensus seems to be fake, fake, fake.

"Billing itself as 'the first restaurant of its kind attempting to unite food with multi-sensorial technologies in order to create a fully immersive dining experience'..."

"... [Ultraviolet] opened in Shanghai, in May of 2012, to tremendous buzz. It is a spectacular-sounding place: 'Mr. Pairet’s play on fish and chips (a single, battered caper berry stuffed with anchovy paste and paired with a Scottish beer),' the Times wrote, 'emerges in a dreary storm with images of raindrops on the walls and the sounds of thunder, before a British flag is illuminated on the table and the Beatles’ "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" begins to play.' The caper berry is one of twenty courses."

From a New Yorker article — "Who’s to Judge?/How the World’s 50 Best Restaurants are chosen" — about the methodological weaknesses of a powerful restaurant rating institution. In the case of Ultraviolet, which is rated #24 in the world:
The restaurant serves dinner five days a week to a single table of ten diners. In eighteen months, then, it has entertained at most thirty-six hundred people. In order to appear on the list at No. 24, Ultraviolet would have to have garnered at least seventy-five votes, meaning that a 50 Best judge would have had to eat there practically one night out of every five.
The "multi-sensorial technology" may sound ridiculous to you, but it means a lot to me. I have almost no sense of smell, and therefore, in real effect, I have almost none of what normal people regard as taste. And here's another article, "Accounting for Taste/How packaging can make food more flavorful," which describes some studies that show how other senses enhance the experience of taste, which is, of course, in your mind:
[Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University] asked people to sample a dark Welsh ale: one sip while listening to a light, tinkling xylophone composition, and the second to the sound of a deep, mellifluous organ. When the second piece of music stopped, the audience had fallen silent.

“Wow,” a girl near me in a vintage houndstooth dress said. I knew this particular trick of Spence’s—I had watched him perform it multiple times—but it still worked on me. With only a change in the background music, the deep-brown beer had gone from creamy and sweet to mouth-dryingly bitter....
Maybe I could regain my experience of a sense of taste and smell if I set up some strategic music and visual "pairings."

 
(Photo source.)

"Many readers wanted to know the arrangements behind David Brooks’s participation on part of a $120,000 luxury trip..."

"... which he wrote about for T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Many on Twitter and elsewhere charged that this must be a junket — a free trip for a journalist, which is, of course, an ethical no-no. (Others objected in strong terms to the article’s concept, its tone, and the The Times’s relative wisdom of spending a large sum of money for this purpose.) The Times’s standards editor, Philip B. Corbett, assured me late Friday that the company had paid for the portion of that trip for which Mr. Brooks was present. (Yes, that covered both bottles of champagne.) A sentence in the article making the arrangement clear to readers would have been a good idea."

Writes the NYT "public editor" Margaret Sullivan. I was one of the "others" who "objected in strong terms to the article’s concept, its tone." Here's my post: "It's not the most poorly timed NYT article ever, but...." I was just seeing a new comment on it from DANIELBLOOM:
Was Brooks shilling for the travel firm, and, did he accept offer of free trip for 6 days or did he pay his own way for the 25 percent of the trip fare? Like US$30,000 Fact checkers? Or was this a paid junket by the travel firm and therefore unethical for NYT reporter to accept this? Can anyone answer?
I hadn't thought of that question because I assumed the NYT paid for it, which was correct. I'm more interested in knowing whether he was able to hide his identity as an important reviewer, like a NYT restaurant reviewer. I remember NYT restaraunt reviewer Ruth Reichl talking about that:
"I have a really strong belief that I am there to be your eyes and ears when you're at the restaurant. I'm supposed to tell you what's going to happen to you, not what happens to the restaurant critic of The New York Times who is getting the best table and the chef is cooking the food specially and the portions are getting bigger and so forth. I think it's really important for you to know what's going to happen to you. And you can't do that if you're sashaying in as someone who's going to have a big economic impact on the restaurant."
But when you travel around the world in a small chartered plane with a group of people, you are having a much more intimate relationship with them than when you eat in a restaurant and the other people are at other tables. So I also wonder whether the people Brooks traveled with and wrote about (wrote about disparagingly!) knew they were under observation by a NYT writer. If they knew, did they consent? These people had shelled out $125,000 apiece for what, I assume, was, for them, their dream vacation. Were they put into the position of needing to account for what this powerful man might think and say about them? Was that fair? Or did they not know who he was, in which case the Four Seasons allowed them to be used as specimens from what Brooks ended up sniffing at as the "lower end of the upper class"?

November 16, 2015

"A fast-growing group of Republican governors on Monday revolted against President Barack Obama’s existing plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees next year..."

"... saying the Paris terrorist attacks show that it’s too risky to provide a safe haven for those displaced by Syria’s bloody civil war...."
By Monday afternoon, governors from Texas, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, Louisiana, Arkansas, New Jersey, Idaho, Kansas, New Hampshire and Montana had joined Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who on Sunday led the charge in refusing to accept refugees from Syria. Kentucky Governor-elect Matt Bevin, who won't take his oath of office until next month, also said on Monday that he is opposed.
ADDED: New Hampshire and Montana have Democratic governors.

"She’s often confused."

Said Huma Abedin about Hillary Clinton.

"'Not in my name' - Muslims speak out against Paris attacks conducted in the name of Islam."

"Muslims have taken to Twitter to say '#IAmAMuslim and I condemn the Paris attacks' in order to show solidarity with France and that Islam is a religion of peace."

"The hacktivist group Anonymous, engaged in electronic warfare against Islamic State, has declared ‘total war’ on the terror group following the deadly attacks in France..."

"... while pledging to hunt down every single supporter of the jihadist group online... The combat mission to root out terrorism propaganda and recruitment networks from the internet was announced via a YouTube video, where a spokesman wearing the group’s symbol – the iconic Guy Fawkes mask – promised to 'launch the biggest operation ever' against Islamic State...."

"Being a good citizen, being an activist, involves hearing the other side and making sure that you are engaging in a dialogue because that’s also how change happens."

"The civil rights movement happened because there was civil disobedience, because people were willing to go to jail, because there were events like Bloody Sunday, but it was also because the leadership of the movement consistently stayed open to the possibility of reconciliation and sought to understand the views, even views that were appalling to them, of the other side.... I tell [my daughters], I want you also to be able to listen. I don’t want you to think that a display of your strength is simply shutting other people up, and that part of your ability to bring about change is going to be by engagement and understanding the viewpoints and the arguments of the other side... And so when I hear, for example, folks on college campuses saying, ‘We’re not going to allow somebody to speak on our campus because we disagree with their ideas or we feel threatened by their ideas,’ I think that’s a recipe for dogmatism and I think you’re not going to be as effective.... [We] have these values of free speech. And it’s not free speech in the abstract. The purpose of that kind of free speech is to make sure that we are forced to use argument and reason and words in making our democracy work. And, you know, you don’t have to be fearful of somebody spouting bad ideas. Just out-argue them. Beat ’em. Make the case as to why they’re wrong. Win over adherents. That’s how things work in a democracy"

Said President Barack Obama.

Was there a "mastermind" of the Paris attacks?

It troubles me to see press reports that inflate the ingeniousness of terrorist attacks. In a post yesterday, I was critical of reports that called the attacks "well-coordinated" when it seemed to me that the attacks were "sloppily done and mostly unsuccessful."

Today, I'm seeing a NYT banner headline: "FRANCE SEEKS BELGIAN MILITANT AS MASTERMIND OF PARIS ATTACKS." Whoever participated in the attacks is despicable. Why glorify him as a "mastermind"? A "mastermind" is — I'm quoting the OED — "An outstanding or commanding mind or intellect; a person with such a mind" or — and this is most relevant here — "A person who plans and directs a complex and ingenious enterprise."

I don't see complexity and ingeniousness. The attackers didn't invent the communications systems or the modes of encryption that must have made it possible to say today's the day. They didn't assemble the crowds in the restaurants or concert hall or stadium. And they didn't figure out how to get anywhere near President François Hollande.

Why inflate the reputation of these people? Even if you respect the value of propaganda, how does it serve our interests more than theirs?

Politician utters a great phrase: "Most likely the best thing for me to do is shut up."

It's almost enough to make you start liking him... after he tweeted: "ISIS isn't necessarily evil. It is made up of people doing what they think is best for their community. Violence is not the answer, though."

After the pushback he (of course) got, he said:
"[My tweet] was poorly worded and did not convey my intent... I am very sorry for ‘spreading ick’ on other candidates and the DFL party. I will do everything I can to help resolve the issue: most likely the best thing for me to do is shut up. The tweet was stupid. I’m sorry."
(The DFL Party is the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party: "It is affiliated with the United States Democratic Party. [It was f]ormed by a merger of the Minnesota Democratic Party and the social democratic Minnesota Farmer–Labor Party in 1944...")

The original tweet is actually a good conversation opener, in the right context. It's just not anything a politician can say. Compare how Hillary Clinton responded when she was asked, in Saturday's debate, about something she'd said a while back about how we should show "respect even for one's enemy" and even "in so far as psychologically possible empathize with their perspective and point of view." She said:
I think with this kind of barbarism and nihilism-- it's very hard to understand other than the lust for power, the rejection of (UNINTEL), the total disregard for human life-- freedom or any other value that we know and-- respect. Historically it is important to try to understand your adversary in order to figure out how they are thinking, what they will be doing, how they will react. I-- I plead (?)-- that it's very difficult when you deal with-- ISIS and organizations like that whose-- whose behavior is so barbaric and so vicious-- that it doesn't seem to have any purpose other than lust for killing and power. And that's very difficult to put ourselves in other shoes.
She would never say that from their perspective they're "doing what they think is best for their community." And she will never say "Most likely the best thing for me to do is shut up." And she will never do what that Minnesota DFL candidate did: Up and drop out of the race because she said something wrong. 

5 reasons why Jeb's people think he just might win.

Enumerated by Byron York:
1) A large majority of [focus] group members were undecided and felt no rush to decide anything....

2) After all that has happened, the New Hampshire voters still had a positive, or mostly positive, impression of Bush. They see him as smart, mature and dull.

3) They like Donald Trump, think he’s fun, but are concerned about giving Trump the vast powers of the presidency.

4) They love Ben Carson as a non-politician with a gentle bedside manner, but are a little discomfited by his offbeat views on a number of topics.

5) They see Marco Rubio as a perfect vice president and wonder if he is too young, and has too few accomplishments, for the top job.
I'll sum that up: If Jeb can just keep standing there, smart, mature and dull, he may be the last man standing as all the others collapse on their own.

By the way, Jeb Bush was on "Meet the Press" yesterday, and we thought he was excellent (and, yes, too, he was smart, mature, and dull). Transcript. Excerpt:

Behind the scenes at CBS, as John Dickerson reframed the Democratic debate in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks.

Nice reporting by The L.A. Times.
Sitting in the presidential suite at the Des Lux Hotel earlier Friday, Dickerson's eyes were fixed on his binder of queries, looking up to ask whether a change in wording or a well-crafted follow-up would work to push the candidates off their stump speeches and away from the answers that had become pat over a number of interviews....

As Dickerson took in the news from Paris, he had an expression that indicated he knew that there would be a long night ahead and a different tone Saturday. "It's going to be heavier — and a lot more complicated," he said....

Not everyone was happy about the course change for the evening. Isham called the campaigns Saturday morning to alert them that foreign policy was moving to the front burner. A representative for the Sanders camp "went nuts," he said. Naturally, the reaction was leaked to the press by one of Sanders' rivals.
I was tempted to say that Sanders isn't ready for his 3 a.m. phone call in the White House, but that's what whoever leaked that reaction to the press wants you to think, "went nuts" is a characterization that's practically meaningless, and it wasn't Sanders himself doing the nuts-going, but one of his people.

Speaking of meaninglessness, I'm reading this article because Drudge linked to it for some near-meaningless tidbit stuck in the middle of the article: Caitlyn Jenner tried and failed to get a ticket to the event, a request that "went all the way up to CBS News President David Rhodes." But there were no tickets left. I wonder if Jenner said, Don't you know who I am?

Anyway, I'm impressed by Dickerson. He handled the debate extremely well, something I'd have thought even without knowing that they had to scrap a lot of painstakingly crafted questions, questions designed to make plugging in rote material look obviously nonresponsive. Dickerson had to fly home after the debate and get up the next day and do his Sunday show, "Face the Nation." I watched the show, and he mentioned at one point that he got little sleep, but I'm reading just now that the flight began at 2:30 a.m.  and he "Got to bed at 4 and up at 5:45."

"I think it’s important to do things like [the moment of silence]. We’re a connected world, you know — six degrees of separation."

"I must admit, though, I was very disappointed with whoever the fan was who made a comment that I thought was really inappropriate, during the moment of silence. It’s that kind of prejudicial ideology that I think puts us in the position that we’re in today, as a world."

Said Aaron Rodgers, about a fan who shouted "Muslims suck!" during the moment of silence at yesterday's football game.

"Hardison’s kids were scared. 'They didn’t understand why he’d take the chance'..."

"'They loved him as he was. To them, he was normal.' The younger son had a nightmare that surgeons turned his father into a monster. But Hardison had already reached the point of all or none. 'Kids ran screaming and crying when they saw me,' he said. 'There are things worse than dying.'"

From an excellent, long piece in New York Magazine about a face transplant.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg gives Gloria Steinem her rap name and Gloria doesn't like it.

From a NYT interview of the 2 women (who are sitting together in RBG's chambers):
Philip Galanes: Let’s start with a glaring inequity. Only one of you has a rap name.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: I like the way mine began. A second-year law student at N.Y.U. was outraged by the court’s decision in the voting rights case. But instead of just venting her anger, she took up my dissent.

PG: Happily, there are rap-name generators online.

Gloria Steinem: They have those?

PG: Yours, if you want it, is GlowStick.

GS: We may need to work on that.
Imagine getting your rap name from Ruth Bader Ginsburg and not laughing or saying something positive. What goes on in Gloria Steinem's mind? Nothing with "stick" or anything that could be construed as phallic? Or, just, nobody's going to be assigning names to me — I and I alone define myself?

Anyway, the results are in: Ruth Bader Ginsburg is more fun than Gloria Steinem.

November 15, 2015

At the Sunlight Café...

P1330360

... find a bright, warm spot.

"Greeley, Colorado, circa 1950 was the last place one might think to look for signs of American decadence."

"Its wide streets were dotted with churches, and there wasn’t a bar in the whole temperate town. But the courtly Qutb (COO-tub) saw things that others did not. He seethed at the brutishness of the people around him: the way they salted their watermelon and drank their tea unsweetened and watered their lawns. He found the muscular football players appalling and despaired of finding a barber who could give a proper haircut. As for the music: 'The American’s enjoyment of jazz does not fully begin until he couples it with singing like crude screaming,' Qutb wrote when he returned to Egypt. 'It is this music that the savage bushmen created to satisfy their primitive desires.'"

From "A Lesson In Hate/How an Egyptian student came to study 1950s America and left determined to wage holy war," a 2006 article in Smithsonian, which I'm reading this morning as a result of the conversation we were having about "You Hate Leaf Blowers, Your Neighbor Uses Them: How One Town Seeks Middle Ground." I won't bother you with the logical links that connected these subjects.

"I'm struck by how Clinton went straight for the hawkish view of ISIS (they're just a bunch of nihilistic, backward people who crave power)..."

"... and passed up the opportunity to urge us to have a greater understanding of the 'root causes"' of terrorism," writes my son John, after last night's debate. Clinton was asked whether we need to "understand" ISIS:
This is a politically tricky question, but she gives a clever response: she first says it's "very difficult to put ourselves in their shoes," but then proceeds to do just that by describing ISIS's worldview as one of "nihilism," "a lust for power," and "rejection of modernity and human rights"....

Clinton sounded much like the conservative Charles Krauthammer, writing in the month after the September 11 attacks:
It turns out that the enemy does have recognizable analogues in the Western experience. He is, as President Bush averred in his address to the nation, heir to the malignant ideologies of the 20th century. In its nihilism [the same word used by Clinton], its will to power [similar to the "lust for power" mentioned by Clinton], its celebration of blood and death, its craving for the cleansing purity that comes only from eradicating life and culture, radical Islam is heir, above all, to Nazism. The destruction of the World Trade Center was meant not only to wreak terror. Like the smashing of the Bamiyan Buddhas [in Afghanistan earlier in 2001], it was meant to obliterate greatness and beauty, elegance and grace. These artifacts represented civilization embodied in stone or steel. They had to be destroyed [that would be an example of the "rejection of modernity," as Clinton put it].

The Gulp.

Click the speaker icon in the lower right corner:



ADDED: 10 minutes after putting up this post, quite by chance, I ran across this old post of mine, "Bolus":
Some readers enjoyed my use of the word "bolus" 2 posts down. (A "feminist blog is committed to chewing things into a bolus of feminism....  When the evidence is flimsy, lubricate the bolus with the notion of the subtlety of the oppression. It might be swallowable.") That's not a word that would have come naturally to me if I hadn't read Mary Roach's cool book "Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal," so let me provide you with a reading:

Did CBS end the debate early?

Politico said: "CBS ends Democratic debate with seven minutes to spare" ("CBS brought in the second Democratic debate seven minutes under time... The candidates began their closing statements with more than 10 minutes to go until the scheduled 11 p.m. conclusion"). And various more incendiary sites said things like "Democrat debate so boring CBS ended it seven minutes early."

But I think it was planned. Look at the transcript. The moderator, John Dickerson, was doing commercial breaks like clockwork throughout the 2 hours. He even said "We've got to take a break or the machine breaks down." After that, he set up the "final segment," which wasn't "closing statements" (as Politico put it), but a focused question that precluded a canned statement: "What crisis have you experienced in your life that suggests you've been tested and can face that inevitable challenge?" When that was done, Dickerson didn't say good-night or act as though they'd ended early. He said, "All right, back with some final thoughts in a moment."

What followed was very weird, but obviously planned. With the candidates still on stage but the debate now "in the books," Dickerson brought out Major Garrett to report on the CBS "partnership with Twitter," which made it possible to identify "the most-talked-about moments for each of the three candidates." What got the most tweets?

It was Hillary Clinton, "when she defended her integrity on campaign contributions and mentioned 60% of her donors are women." I imagine there were lots of tweets of the ooh-Hillary's-mad variety or "Ouch!" Bernie Sanders's moment was "I'm not a socialist compared to Eisenhower." And Martin O'Malley's height of tweetability was also taking a shot at someone not on the stage, the phrase "immigrant bashing carnival barker Donald Trump." The candidates stood there smiling as the Major delivered the results. O'Malley, who seemed boyish throughout the debate, smirked and gave a thumbs-up. Yeah, I'd like to see him cop that attitude when Trump is there to punch back.

For some reason, CBS decided it would be cool to do a partnership-with-Twitter dance and that Major Garrett was the guy to twirl with Twitter. The candidates didn't opt to leave the stage. They put up with the absurd theater of saying who won.

And by the way, when I heard Major Garrett say that Hillary "defended her integrity on campaign contributions," my immediate outburst was "Assumes a fact not in evidence!"

"The well-coordinated series of terror attacks on Paris left more than 129 people dead..."

That's from a CBS News article, "ISIS claims 'blessed invasion' of Paris." Obviously, "blessed invasion" is inflated propaganda from ISIS, but I want to question the characterizations we're seeing from our own politicians and journalists. I keep seeing expressions of respect for the sophistication of the Paris attacks, and I want to question it, because there is a temptation to say, when attacked, that the enemy must be very smart and strong and determined.

But was it really so difficult to send a bunch of men out all on the same day to hit soft targets — 4 restaurants, a concert hall, and a stadium? There are so many restaurants, completely unguarded and accessible, predictably full of people. Men with guns/explosives hit 4 restaurants in one city, not 100, not 1000.

The concert venue was another soft target, and the scene was chaotic. Many escaped. If the building were sealed up before anyone knew they were under attack, it would have been sophisticated, or if the entire building were demolished, killing everyone. But it was only men with guns rushing in, causing what damage they could, with (apparently) absolutely no plan for their own escape.

The stadium was the big target. The president, François Hollande, was in attendance. The attackers got nowhere near him. In fact, the attackers apparently scuttled whatever big plan they might have had, blowing themselves up at the gates. The huge crowd didn't even know there was an attack. Hollande slipped out and the crowd watched the game to the end.

What's scary isn't that the attacks are sophisticated, but how easy it is to hit a bunch of soft targets in one city, and how big a deal it is even when it's sloppily done and mostly unsuccessful. That's how it looks to me.

It's not too hard to follow the political sleight of hand when it's Bernie Sanders prestidigitating.

From the transcript of last night's debate:
JOHN DICKERSON: Senator Sanders, you said you wanna rid the planet of ISIS. In the previous debate you said the greatest threat to national security was climate change. Do you still believe that?

BERNIE SANDERS: Absolutely. In fact, climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism. And if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say you're gonna see countries all over the world-- this is what the C.I.A. says, they're gonna be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops. And you're gonna see all kinds of international conflict. But of course international terrorism is a major issue that we've got to address today. And I agree with much of what-- the secretary and-- and the governor have said. Only have one area of-- of disagreement with the secretary. I think she said something like, "The bulk of the responsibility is not ours." Well, in fact, I would argue that the disastrous invasion of Iraq, something that I strongly opposed, has unraveled the region completely. And led to the rise of Al Qaeda-- and to-- ISIS. Now, in fact, what we have got to do-- and I think there is widespread agreement here-- 'cause the United States cannot do it alone. What we need to do is lead an international coalition which includes-- very significantly-- (UNINTEL) nations in that region are gonna have to fight and defend their way of life.
Okay, let's look at that in slow motion. Stand by your former statement boldly and clearly"
Absolutely.
Open an escape path:
In fact, climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism.
The former statement, which now sounds wrong, is that X is the most important thing, but now people have reason to feel, very urgently, that Y is the most important thing. Create a springboard for yourself. Invite the audience to think that X and Y are really the same thing. That's tantalizing. They're looking to see this fascinating connection, so begin to create the feeling that X and Y are connected:
And if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say you're gonna see countries all over the world-- this is what the C.I.A. says, they're gonna be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops. And you're gonna see all kinds of international conflict. 
Climate change isn't just about what the climate does but how people react to it, and there will be struggle and conflict, and that at least vaguely reminds us of the bloodshed associated with ISIS, but ISIS isn't fighting over the temperature. You can't get to that escape path, climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism.

So just act as though you've already arrived where you've said you'd go, and who cares if X or Y is more important? You've said X is important, so plunge right ahead and say Y is important:
But of course international terrorism is a major issue that we've got to address today. 
And then collapse into drivel. You agree with Clinton and you don't agree. What was the part that you disagreed with, that "The bulk of the responsibility is not ours"?
Well, in fact, I would argue that the disastrous invasion of Iraq, something that I strongly opposed, has unraveled the region completely. 
So you think bulk of the responsibility is ours?!
And led to the rise of Al Qaeda-- and to-- ISIS. 
The invasion of Iraq led to the rise of al Qaeda?! You're faltering badly, but you know there are magic words — 2 words that if only you can just get to them you've done your trick. Come on, Bernie:
Now, in fact, what we have got to do-- and I think there is widespread agreement here-- 'cause the United States cannot do it alone. What we need to do is lead an international coalition...
APPLAUSE!!!!