February 17, 2018

At the Demand-Superior-Walls Café...

Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 2.26.40 PM

... you can talk about whatever you want. These walls have ears. No one says that anymore. All the trite phrases that have gone away. Occasionally you notice one. Remember when people said Let's run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes?

Anyway, that image is a screenshot from Meade's computer the other day. I don't know if some algorithm picked up his interest in Trump's wall or what. It was last Tuesday, the day of the Fat Tuesday Café — pictured in the screen grab. You may remember that, in the comments, FIDO said:
I hadn't noticed it before, but the blog has an Ashley Madison ad on it. It is that google has determined that I am a pig, a random placement, or has Ms. Althouse become open minded on infidelity?
And I said:
Yeah, it's a sophisticated algorithm. If you're getting Ashley Madison ads, it says something about what Google knows about you.

Me, I'm getting an ad for a $1900 Chloe handbag.
And Meade said:
The only ad I'm seeing now is for something called "Superior Walls." No, I'm not a white supremacist. Yes, I want Trump to build the wall. Waiting for my head to spin.
You may remember that Trump said "That wall will go up so fast, your head will spin."

Talk about anything though. This is a café.

That means I need to add a reminder to use the Althouse Portal to Amazon. I couldn't find the $1900 Chloe handbag there. But you can buy the movie "The Wall" ("A deadly psychological thriller that follows two soldiers pinned down by an Iraqi sniper, with nothing but a crumbling wall between them"), Wall Control 30-P-3232GV Galvanized Steel Pegboard Pack, an iRobot Virtual Wall Barrier (to control your Roomba), and Pink Floyd's "The Wall."

"Is There an Obstruction Case against President Trump?"

If anyone can analyze the hell out of that question, it's Andrew McCarthy. Let me express my awe and thanks.

And let me point also to this column of his from a couple days ago, "What Did Comey Tell President Trump about the Steele Dossier?," which he links to in the new column with this mind-bending summary:
In a column on Thursday, I argued that the Obama administration saw the Russia probe as an opportunity to paralyze President Trump. As I noted in the column, the motivation for this could have been sinister or public-spirited — how you see it probably depends on what you think of Obama and Trump. President Trump’s political opponents would have seen the Russia probe as a chance to strangle his capacity to govern and pursue his agenda; some investigators who suspected that the disturbing allegations in the Steele dossier were true, even if they had not and probably could not be proved, may have harbored good-faith concern that Trump could be blackmailed by Russia.

Regardless of the motivation, the scheme to sustain the Russia investigation even after Obama left office and Trump was in a position to end it had three parts: (1) important information about the investigation needed to be withheld from the new president; (2) Trump had to be led to believe he was not under investigation (even though he was central to the investigation) so that he would not feel threatened by the investigation; and (3) Trump had to be admonished about respecting the independence of law-enforcement, to instill the fear that if he invoked his constitutional authority to shut down the investigation, he would be accused of obstruction.

This audacious strategy worked for four months, but it was done in by its core contradiction: It called for informing the president that he was not a suspect when he clearly was....
Keep reading.

"In that 25th hour, I’m pretty sure I heard certain words — 'god,' 'money,' 'demons,''warships' — but I’m entirely confident that I was hearing an unknowable prayer..."

"... the kind that makes the forward-march of time go greasy and slack, the kind that lifts us out of the real world and plunges us into a place we’ve never been, together. 'Y’all know what I’m saying?' [Sir] E.U asked near the end, and even if you didn’t, you absolutely did."

From "This D.C. rapper just performed a 25-hour concert. Near the finish, things got surreal" (WaPo). We're told "Sir E.U was filibustering in the subbasement of his own brain," and I would like to point out that he went on more than 3 times as long as Nancy Pelosi did the other day when she set the record for longest speech in the House of Representatives, though to give Nancy her due, it must be said that she never went to the bathroom. E.U., we're told, did go to the bathroom and just wore his wireless microphone right in there.

But was Nancy filibustering in the subbasement of her own brain? Did Nancy devolve into unknowable prayer and make the forward-march of time go greasy and slack and lift us out of the real world and plunge us into a place we’ve never been?

Moderation woes.

We've been having trouble with moderating comments for a few days. As you may know, if you comment on a post more than 2 days old, it doesn't go up until we approve it. But we haven't been able to get to the moderation page, so whatever is there is just helplessly waiting. Sorry, but I can't do anything about that, at least for now. If this continues, it will mean that on older posts, comments are essentially closed.

We're also unable to get to the spam page, so that means that we can't liberate comments that don't belong there. I know there is at least one regular commenter who has been singled out by the spam filter, and I'm especially sorry about that problem. It's not that we don't care and are not trying to get proper comments out of the spam filter. It's that we can't.

"There were very drawn out versions of songs where Manson mostly rambled on about our lack of love and other bizarre things. After an hour and fifteen minutes of this, he threw his microphone and left the stage."

From "Marilyn Manson Cuts Concert Short After Meltdown Onstage/The rocker rambled a freestyle jam and repeated demands for applause, while performing at the Paramount in New York on Thursday night."

I'm fascinated by that phrase "our lack of love and other bizarre things."

"In the past, Mr. Trump said, when dealing with a dishonest rival 'there was nothing you can do other than sue. Which I’ve done... But it’s a long process.'"

"Now, he simply tweets. Caustically, colorfully and repeatedly. Suddenly, he said of his foes, 'I have more power than they do. I can let people know that they were a fraud... I can let people know that they have no talent, that they didn’t know what they’re doing. You have a voice.'... Mr. Trump... is an improbable virtuoso of the tweet...."

From "Pithy, Mean and Powerful: How Donald Trump Mastered Twitter for 2016" in — of all places — the New York Times. Back in October 2015.
... Mr. Trump has mastered Twitter in a way no candidate for president ever has, unleashing and redefining its power as a tool of political promotion, distraction, score-settling and attack — and turning a 140-character task that other candidates farm out to young staff members into a centerpiece of his campaign.
"Farm out" to their troll farm.
In the process, he has managed to fulfill a vision, long predicted but slow to materialize, sketched out a decade ago by a handful of digital campaign strategists: a White House candidacy that forgoes costly, conventional methods of political communication and relies instead on the free, urgent and visceral platforms of social media.
The writer is Michael Barbaro, whom you might know from "The Daily" podcast (at the NYT), which I listen to every weekday. It's great, and I am enjoying happening upon this old article of his, which has special resonance today as we're called upon to fear the national security threat posed by the Russian troll farm. Not only did (and does) Trump do his own tweets, he understands Americans enough to say things that reach us in places Russians don't know about.

What got me to that old article? I clicked on a tag on the previous post, which took me to my old posts containing the name Robert Barnes, including an October '15 post linking to "Pithy, Mean and Powerful...."

"Mueller’s unprecedented prosecution raises three novel arguments: first, that speaking out about American politics requires a foreign citizen to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act..."

"... second, that speaking out about American politics requires a foreign citizen list their source and expenditure of funding to the Federal Election Commission; and third, that mistakes on visa applications constitute 'fraud' on the State Department. All appear to borrow from the now-discredited 'honest services' theories Mueller’s team previously used in corporate and bribery cases, cases the Supreme Court overturned for their unconstitutional vagueness. The indictment raises serious issues under the free speech clause of the First Amendment and due process rights under the Fifth Amendment."

From "Does Mueller Indictment Mean Clinton Campaign Can Be Indicted for Chris Steele?" by Robert Barnes, who observes that Mueller chose targets who will never be brought to trial and therefore knew he was using a legal theory that would not be tested in court.

"Michigan is one of more than 40 states where prisoners can be forced to pay for the cost of their incarceration..."

"Laws that allow the government to charge prisoners 'room and board' or 'cost of care' fees have proliferated in recent decades, as states charge inmates and parolees for everything from medical care, clothing and meals to police transport, public defense fees, drug testing and electronic monitoring.... During the last fiscal year, Michigan collected some $3.7 million from 294 prisoners, who account for just a fraction of the state’s nearly 40,000 inmates. Around the country, some 10 million people owe $50 billion in fees stemming from their arrest or imprisonment.... H. Bruce Franklin, author of 'Prison Literature in America,' said that if prisoners who publish books are forced to forfeit their advances and royalties to the state, it could dissuade aspiring writers who are incarcerated from seeking to publish at all."

From "A Prisoner Got a Book Deal. Now the State Wants Him to Pay for His Imprisonment" (NYT).

The article is about Curtis Dawkins, whom I blogged about here, last July.

"For the past year, Donald Trump has repeatedly denied the existence of a profound national security threat..."

... write the editors of the NYT in "Stop Letting the Russians Get Away With It, Mr. Trump." They're pointing at the new indictment as if it makes it obvious that the Russians already did something that amounts to a profound national security threat. But it's far from obvious. In fact, I can't see it at all.
On Friday, Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election, filed criminal charges of fraud and identity theft against 13 Russian citizens and three Russian organizations, all alleged to have operated a sophisticated influence campaign intended to “sow discord in the U.S. political system.”
So... they engaged in speech and they meant to "sow discord." I can't see that as a profound national security threat. If we were to adopt that view and act upon it, there would be a profound threat to freedom of speech.
["Specialists" at the Internet Research Agency] posed as Americans and created false identities to set up social media pages and groups aimed at attracting American audiences. 
Another day on the internet — people pretended to be what they are not. If you're going to assume that readers of the internet are so naive as to take the crap that pops up on line at face value, you're making the argument that we can't even have a democracy at all. People are too stupid to vote. But we're on the alert — even when we read the New York Times — that somebody's always trying to con us.
The broad outlines of this interference have been known publicly for a while, but the sheer scope of the deception detailed in Friday’s indictments is breathtaking.
Eh. I'm still breathing.
By the spring of 2016, the operation had zeroed in on supporting Mr. Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton. 
Because it was more chaos-y. So what?
The Internet Research Agency alone had a staff of 80 and a monthly budget of $1.25 million. On the advice of a real, unnamed grass-roots activist from Texas, it had focused its efforts on swing states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida.

Staffers bought ads with messages like “Hillary is a Satan,” “Ohio Wants Hillary 4 Prison” and “Vote Republican, Vote Trump, and support the Second Amendment!”
So these geniuses produced more of the same junk that you see all the time on the internet. It was like having 80 more deplorables chattering. How can that be "a profound national security threat"?!
They created hundreds of social media accounts on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other sites to confuse and anger people about sensitive issues like immigration, religion and the Black Lives Matter movement — in some cases gaining hundreds of thousands of followers.
Hundreds! Thousands! Who the hell cares? Is this column written for readers who have never spent any time on the internet? This editorial is doing the very thing it decries, trying to "confuse and anger people about sensitive issues."
They staged rallies while pretending to be American grass-roots organizations.
Another day at a protest. So what? We have our rallies in America, and if you go to one, as a competent citizen, you should wonder, who are these people really? If you went to a Vietnam War rally back in the day, and it turned out it was staged by communists and not loyal Americans, you'd be an anti-free-speech villain if you wanted those identity-hiding communists arrested for threatening national security.
A poster at one “pro-Clinton” rally in July 2016 read “Support Hillary. Save American Muslims,” along with a fabricated quote attributed to Mrs. Clinton: “I think Sharia Law will be a powerful new direction of freedom.”
Sneaky, yes, but profound threat to national security? It's just a stupid lie, and if people aren't smart enough to figure that out, then how can we be trusted with the vote?
As the election drew nearer, they tried to suppress minority turnout and promoted false allegations of Democratic voter fraud. The specialist running one of the organization’s Facebook accounts, called “Secured Borders,” was criticized for not publishing enough posts and was told that “it is imperative to intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton.”
What's the point here? That in the future these people might actually accomplish their nefarious plan to publish more posts?? That's the profound threat to national security?
After the election, they continued to spread confusion and chaos, staging rallies both for and against Mr. Trump, in one case on the same day and in the same city.
This column is continuing to spread confusion and chaos, but I nevertheless persist in keeping my wits about me. I'm not buying it. Just as I don't believe that Hillary Clinton said "Sharia Law will be a powerful new direction of freedom," I don't believe these piddling social media posts and real-world rallies are a profound thread to national security.
All along, they took steps to cover their tracks by stealing the identities of real Americans, opening accounts on American-based servers and lying about what their money was being used for... [A] specialist named Irina Kaverzina emailed a family member: “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity (not a joke). So, I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with the colleagues.” Ms. Kaverzina continued, “I created all these pictures and posts, and the Americans believed that it was written by their people.”

Fake news, indeed.
Yes, fake news, indeed. "For the past year, Donald Trump has repeatedly denied the existence of a profound national security threat" and based on the indictment — as laid out in this editorial meant to show how wrong he was — I'd say he was right. And I'm disturbed at how stupid the NYT editors seem to think its readers are. It's almost forgivable that they think people could be so easily confused by some Russian rallies and social media posts. Forgivable, but still deserving of the Trump taunt: fake news.

"To the extent that there is a generational divide, it may have to do with the fact that many older women are still wary about the internet, which leads them to not only miss the context of a longstanding feminist internet tradition of ironic misandry..."

"... but also to overlook the more nuanced chatter happening among younger women on social media and digital sites.... And yet most of the disagreement has to do with age-old ideas about sex, power and the function of social movements...

Writes Nona Willis Aronowitz in "The Feminist Pursuit of Good Sex" (NYT). Aronowitz is the daughter of Ellen Willis, "who in a 1981 essay in The Village Voice asked a question that now looms over #MeToo 40 years later: 'Is the Women’s Movement Pro-Sex?'"

Aronowitz says:
My connection to this complex intellectual heritage is at the heart of why I find the prevailing narrative about #MeToo’s generational split baffling and harmful. Here’s how the story goes: Older critics, flattened into “Second Wave feminist has-beens,” are accusing the movement of becoming increasingly anti-sex, anti-agency and anti-nuance. Younger women, also known as “Twitter feminists,” are accusing these critics of being bitter establishmentarians, unable to cede ground to new ideas. They’re both wrong, but so is this tired mothers-and-daughters framing, which threatens to derail substantive debate in favor of a catfight narrative.
I note the assertion that both sides are missing nuance. The older women think the younger ones are "increasingly anti-sex, anti-agency and anti-nuance." And the younger ones think the older ones don't follow "the more nuanced chatter" of the internet so they don't grok "the feminist internet tradition of ironic misandry."

If only we could be more nuanced, maybe we could meet in the middle. But everybody's always only seeing the lack of nuance on the other side. You get the self-flatterer imperiously telling other people to compromise. But Aronowitz seems to be more of an onlooker, trying to mediate. I look at  Memorandum's River and see there's no significant internet talk about her column. I look at the NYT's own "most-emailed," "most viewed," and even "recommended for you" lists and don't find it. Even with "Good Sex" in the title, it's not getting traction.

From the Wikipedia article on Ellen Willis:
Willis was known for her feminist politics and was a member of New York Radical Women and subsequently co-founder in early 1969 with Shulamith Firestone of the radical feminist group Redstockings.... Starting in 1979, Willis wrote a number of essays that were highly critical of anti-pornography feminism, criticizing it for what she saw as its sexual puritanism and moral authoritarianism, as well as its threat to free speech. These essays were among the earliest expressions of feminist opposition to the anti-pornography movement in what became known as the feminist sex wars. Her 1981 essay, Lust Horizons: Is the Women's Movement Pro-Sex? is the origin of the term, "pro-sex feminism."

Willis was the first popular music critic for The New Yorker, between 1968 and 1975... In 2011, the first collection of Willis’s music reviews and essays, Out of the Vinyl Deeps (University of Minnesota Press), arrived. It was edited by her daughter Nona Willis-Aronowitz. Ellen Willis "celebrated the seriousness of pleasure and relished the pleasure of thinking seriously," a review in The New York Times said.
Is anyone celebrating the seriousness of pleasure anymore? Even Nona Willis-Aronowitz — seemingly dedicated to her mother's legacy — left off the "Lust Horizons" part of the title of that 1981 essay. She calls it simply "Is the Women’s Movement Pro-Sex?" — perhaps because few readers get the reference to "Lost Horizon" these days...
... but I think it's because "lust" — a popular and positive word in the 1970s — has become ugly again — returned to its stature as one of "The 7 Deadly Sins"....

The question are feminists pro-sex? becomes — with nuance —are feminists pro-good-sex? The easy answer then is yes, but we're left with the difficult question is how to find good sex when her own daughter edits out Ellen Willis's word "lust"?

ADDED: To be fair, Aronowitz does, in her first paragraph, call herself "lusty," but she's speaking of herself in the past and "before I’d learned much about feminism." She was, she says, "fascinated by what we now call the 1970s 'golden era' of pornography... Being a lusty, modern woman, I was enthralled."

But "lusty" doesn't mean "lustful." It means merry and cheerful or hearty and vigorous. "The Turk... gave him two or three lusty kicks on the seat of honour," wrote Edmund Burke in his memoir.

The word that means "Full of, imbued with, or characterized by, lust or unlawful desires; pertaining to, marked by, or manifesting sensual desire; libidinous" (OED) is "lustful."

February 16, 2018

At the Friday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"The indictment is odd, to say the least."

"Its very first paragraph recites that it is against the law for foreign nationals to spend money to influence US elections, or for agents of foreign countries to engage in political activities without registering. But no one is charged with these crimes. Instead, the indictment is devoted mostly to charging a 'conspiracy to defraud the United States.' Normally, that would refer to defrauding the U.S. out of, say, $10,000 in Medicare benefits. Its application to the 2016 election seems dubious. Beyond that, the indictment charges relatively minor offenses: bank fraud (opening accounts in false names) and identity theft.... The indictment says nothing about how effective the Russians’ efforts were, but their magnitude was rather small. At the height of the campaign in September 2016, the campaign’s budget was only $1,250,000 per month. Compare that with the $100 million that Jeb Bush spent, or the $1.2 billion that Hillary Clinton reportedly ran through."

Writes John Hinderaker.

I note that the indictment speaks of the "ORGANIZATION" with its different departments including a graphics department and that "Defendants and their co-conspirators issued or received guidance on: ratios of text, graphics, and video to use in posts...." Could someone point to examples of these graphics? I'm interested in graphics and how graphics might leap over our defenses and hit us in some mysterious emotional place, but what graphics did the Russians come up with? Wasn't it just crap like this:

"The F.B.I.’s admission that it did not act on a tip that Mr. Cruz had a 'desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts,' could open up a new avenue of attack for political opponents seeking to discredit the bureau’s work...."

"After the shooting, conservative news media said that the F.B.I. could have prevented the attack if it had not been spending so much time looking into Russian election interference.... This is not the first time that the F.B.I. has come under fire for being aware of a threat and failing to stop an attack. Congress criticized the bureau for failing to stop the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood in Texas, where the shooter was known to the F.B.I. The F.B.I. also knew of one of the brothers who carried out the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, but did not stop that attack. After those fumbles, F.B.I. investigators compared themselves to hockey goalies, who are fielding a relentless barrage of pucks. Sometimes, they said, they cannot keep things from making the net."

From "F.B.I. Was Warned of Florida Suspect’s Desire to Kill but Did Not Act" (NYT).

ADDED: Here's the FBI's statement. Excerpt:
The caller provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting. Under established protocols, the information provided by the caller should have been assessed as a potential threat to life. The information then should have been forwarded to the FBI Miami Field Office, where appropriate investigative steps would have been taken. We have determined that these protocols were not followed for the information received by the PAL on January 5. The information was not provided to the Miami Field Office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time.

"The special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations on Friday with illegally using social media platforms to sow political discord..."

The NYT reports, as I'm sure you already know. Sorry to take so long putting up a post, but I sense that you've begun the conversation in another thread. We were out running errands and walking on Picnic Point, but we listened to the news on the car radio [tuned to Fox News TV]. The newswoman exclaimed "Wow! Wow! Wow!" but I did not see the big wow. So there were some Russians trolling social media. Or is the "wow" that nobody on the Trump team is said to have done anything wrong?
“The nature of the scheme was the defendants took extraordinary steps to make it appear that they were ordinary American political activists,” Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing Mr. Mueller’s inquiry, said in a brief news conference on Friday afternoon at the Justice Department....

All were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Three defendants were also charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants with aggravated identity theft....

The goal of the Russian operation, which was dubbed the “translator project” and began in 2014 with a monthly budget of $1.25 million, was “information warfare against the United States,” the indictment alleges.
"Information warfare." In other words: speech.
Some of the Russians, posing as Americans and seeking a coordinated effort, “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign and other political activists.” They communicated with members of the campaign, volunteers, supporters and grass-roots workers, court papers show.
"Unwitting" — none of the Trump people knew.
Individuals involved in the conspiracy traveled to and around the United States, visiting at least eight states, court papers show, and worked with an unidentified American. That person advised them to focus their efforts on what they viewed as “purple” election battleground states, including Colorado, Virginia and Florida, the indictment said.
Ha! The "person" forgot Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan — just like the Clinton campaign.
The indictment cites a series of political advertisements paid for by the Russians, all of them against Mrs. Clinton and in favor of Mr. Trump. “Hillary is a Satan, and her crimes and lies had proved just how evil she is,” one advertisement created by the Russians stated.
That's ludicrously unsophisticated. Doesn't even sound American. Who says "a Satan"? Either you are Satan — the one character — or you're one of his minions — and the word would be "demon" or "devil." Why did these people bother, and why should we care?
While the indictment does not directly accuse the Russian government of running the operation, American intelligence agencies have said that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin authorized a multipronged campaign to boost Mr. Trump’s political chances and damage Mrs. Clinton.
In other words, Putin is off the hook, according to the indictment, and the Times has to go back to "American intelligence agencies have said" to breathe life into the Putin monster.

When Donald Trump wrote "I've read John Updike, I've read Orhan Pamuk, I've read Philip Roth."

An AP writer has dug up a letter Trump wrote to the NYT in 2005 in response to a review of a collection of New Yorker profiles written by Mark Singer. The review said:
The only instance in which Singer throws and lands a sucker punch is in a 1997 profile of the pre-"Apprentice" Donald Trump, in which his tone becomes a little arch. That Trump is already a caricature of a caricature makes him too easy a target, with neither the foot speed nor the wit to defend himself. A harder thing to do, perhaps impossible, would have been to find the one lonely component of Trump's character that wasn't manufactured as a brand strategy. It is a small quibble, certainly, as most New Yorkers, including me, would readily climb the arch in Washington Square to drop a flowerpot filled with nasturtiums on Trump's astonishing head if given half a chance to do so.
Trump wrote (or had someone write over his signature):
I can remember when Tina Brown was in charge of The New Yorker and a writer named Mark Singer interviewed me for a profile. He was depressed. I was thinking, O.K., expect the worst. Not only was Tina Brown dragging The New Yorker to a new low, this writer was drowning in his own misery, which could only put me in a skeptical mood regarding the outcome of their combined interest in me. Misery begets misery, and they were a perfect example of this credo.

"In January, 2017, [Karen] McDougal had her breast implants removed, citing declining health that she believed to be connected to the implants."

"McDougal said that confronting illness, and embracing a cause she wanted to speak about, made her feel increasingly conflicted about the moral compromises of silence. 'As I was sick and feeling like I was dying and bedridden, all I could do was pray to live. But now I pray to live right, and make right with the wrongs that I have done,' she told me. McDougal also cited the actions of women who have come forward in recent months to describe abuses by high-profile men. 'I know it’s a different circumstance,' she said, 'but I just think I feel braver.' McDougal told me that she hoped speaking out might convince others to wait before signing agreements like hers. 'Every girl who speaks,' she said, 'is paving the way for another.'"

The last paragraph of "Donald Trump, a Playboy Model, and a System for Concealing Infidelity/One woman’s account of clandestine meetings, financial transactions, and legal pacts designed to hide an extramarital affair," by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker.

Trump's spokesperson says he did not have sexual relations with that woman, Karen McDougal.

Are we supposed to care about all the extramarital affairs of politicians again? Is that what #MeToo is turning into? Why?! Because there was a "system for concealing" it? Should we ruin the professional life of everyone who's committed adultery or everyone who's committed adultery and been good at hiding it? Do we really want to limit the pool of potential elected officials to individuals who have never been unfaithful to a spouse? Or is this just some special huff we're supposed to get into because of Trump?

I haven't read every word of Farrow's article, so please let me know if there's some accusation of physical abuse. I see the word "abuses" in the paragraph I quoted: "McDougal also cited the actions of women who have come forward in recent months to describe abuses by high-profile men." But on skimming, I don't see anything here other than a married man cheating on his wife and covering it up. Trump has never sold himself to us as an icon of chastity, so why am I supposed to care other than that I'm supposed to hate Trump?

If there is one thing that draws me into liking Trump, it's the pressure to hate him.

"If there are three sculptures that would define sculpture in the 20th century, this has to be one of the three."

Said the dealer who brokered the sale of Marcel Duchamp's "Bottle Rack" to the Art Institute of Chicago.
The Art Institute was set to announce Tuesday that it beat out other top museums to purchase Bottle Rack, the first of Duchamp’s “readymades,” a series for which the artist would go on to beatify other ordinary objects including a snow shovel and a urinal. Bottle Rack, visitors Tuesday will be able to read on the museum’s newest wall card, “upended tradition and artistic convention by revolutionizing the way we think about what an artwork is.”
What are the other 2? I would have thought the urinal...

... but I'm thinking the bottle rack beats the urinal because it was the first of the readymades.

Then there's the question of how to display the bottle rack. Display is key, because the whole idea is that an ordinary object is presented as if it is art and, because of that, it really is art. But Duchamp isn't around to perform the magic. The museum must do it. A decision was made not to put it with the Dadaist and surrealist things because it seemed too "didactic" to make it another example of a genre. So it will appear in a Modern Wing gallery to express its "broader place in art history."
“The appearance of this work should be provocative,” said [deputy director and chair of the modern art department Ann] Goldstein. “To me, every inch means something.”
Shockingly, this much-vaunted item isn't even Duchamp's original bottle rack! It looked like junk and his sister threw it out. Many years later, in 1935, he bought another bottle rack that was exhibited and that one too got lost, and — for another show, in 1959 — he had to get a third one and asked Man Ray to go get him another one. This one, which was sold to Robert Rauschenberg, is the one in Chicago:
It is this lineage — from the original Bottle Rack, through a famous surrealist [Man Ray], to a renowned American modernist influenced by Duchamp [Robert Rauschenberg] — that makes the museum and the art dealer sure of the specialness of this particular version of the five surviving iterations of the sculpture that is interpreted as Duchamp’s original readymade. (He also later produced an edition of 10 bottle racks.)
Ha ha. So many bottle racks! But this is the one bought by Man Ray and sold to Robert Rauschenberg.
“Of the number of Bottle Racks that are out and about this is the most important,” said David White, senior curator of the Rauschenberg Foundation.
Salesmanship! The art of the deal.
“If you take a Campbell soup can and repeat it 50 times, you are not interested in the retinal image,” Duchamp said in 1964, according to an essay on the artist from a 2003 exhibition on the readymade. “What interests you is the concept that wants to put 50 Campbell soup cans on a canvas.”
The concept is free, but there is still something to sell.

Does it matter if the artist who's said to have painted Barack Obama's portrait had assistants who did much of the work?

Richard Johnson at Page Six writes:
Sources say artist Kehinde Wiley — who painted the former president before a background of greenery and flowers — has studios in China and produces most of his work there. "It’s his base of operation," said art critic Charlie Finch, who has known Wiley and appreciated his talent since they were students at Yale. "He has dozens of assistants working for him.... Normally, Wiley sketches out the important parts, and assistants fill out the rest."
I went there because I heard Rush Limbaugh was going on about it:
This portrait, this artist outsources portions of every painting. I mean, actual brush strokes are made by outsourced painters? And the guy admits it! He admits it! So I’m wondering who paints the sperm in this guy’s pictures. But it’s true. Obama’s picture, his portrait, was outsourced. Kehinde Wiley outsourced it. I’ve never heard of that. Is nothing real anymore? Does nobody actually do their job? Does everybody have somebody behind the scenes actually doing the work while other people are taking credit for it? It boggles my mind how often I run into this. I can’t keep of any other examples here, but it boggles my mind. Well, news anchors on TV. Somebody else is writing every word they say, and probably making one-twenty-fifth (if that much) of the salary they make.
If you don't know what "the sperm" refers to, read this. I want to talk about the practice of artists using assistants. Is it something to get worked up about or perfectly normal? I see that I missed all the discussion of this subject back in 2013 when an assistant to David Hockney died and "Suddenly Hockney's unremarkable seaside house seemed to be an art world Tardis concealing a hitherto ignored workshop of assistants, like Andy Warhol's Factory...." That's from The Guardian, which expanded on the topic:
'It was hard labour by any measure," says Jake Chapman, recalling his and brother Dinos's apprenticeship as assistants to Gilbert and George. "There was absolutely no creative input at all. They were very polite and it was interesting to hear them talking – as we did our daily penance.... We coloured in Gilbert and George's penises for eight hours a day." At least you didn't have to pay, as Rembrandt's assistants did, for the privilege of working in the master's studio. "Oh, we paid," retorts Chapman. "We paid in dignity."

The relationship between artist and artist's assistant is vexed, ripe for oedipal tensions, mutual resentments, or at least spitting in the great master's lapsang souchong. How tired, one suspects, Lucian Freud's assistant (and painter in his own right) David Dawson, got of being called "Dave the Slave" by his late master.*...

Behind every great artist might well be a highly skilled team of assistants, but that truth is suppressed for fear of shattering our illusions: the lone-genius myth helps sales, and is partly what gives an artwork its mystique.... "The idea of the genius struggling in solitude in a cockroached and frozen garret with only a crust of bread and syphilis for company is an historically specific vision no longer, if ever, of relevance," argued Stephen Bayley this week writing about Hockney's studio. "Artists are not solitary. They rely on human support systems, often of a very sophisticated sort."...

What about all those poor saps who paid Rembrandt and then wound up helping him to crank out paintings for which he got the kudos? Chapman is unsentimental: "Does the person who makes the hubcaps or whatever they're called these days – low-profile sports rims – point at a passing Mercedes SLK or whatever it's called, saying, 'I did that?' No. So why should assistants claim possession for their work? It's a job."
The work that you recognize as the work of this artist is work that is done with lots of technical help. He's the face of the operation, and if he did the whole thing himself, it would be very different work. There wouldn't be all those fussy leaves all over the background. It's like the way if the judges didn't have law clerks there wouldn't be all those citations and footnotes and reexplaining of everything over and over again. The badness would be easier to find, but is that what you want? I do, but I think a lot of people prefer slickness and glossy overproduction.
"I find cigarette packets folded up under table legs more monumental than a Henry Moore,**" [said Richard Wentworth, professor of sculpture at the Royal College of Art, who worked as Henry Moore's assistant in 1967]. "Five reasons. Firstly, the scale. Secondly, the fingertip manipulation. Thirdly, modesty of both gesture and material. Fourth, its absurdity and fifth, the fact that it works."

* Take a moment to note the actual slave called Dave the Slave, a much-admired 19th century American potter.

** Henry Moore was huge in the 1960s, when people enthused over things like this:

IN THE COMMENTS: narayanan said:
President (you did not build that) has Portrait "painted" by Artist (I did not paint that)

"Salt Bae lives for weeks at a time at the Plaza Hotel. He commutes to his restaurant using a self-balancing board."

Caption — at "How Salt Bae, Restaurateur, Spends His Sundays/Nusret Gokce has moved into the Plaza Hotel in order to be close to his new restaurant, Nusr-Et, where he spends most of the day" (NYT) — on a photograph that shows Nusret Gokce (AKA Salt Bae) walking down the steps at the Plaza. There are 6 photographs at the article. We also see him working out at the gym, posing with steaks, serving steaks doing his signature salt-throwing move, posing with a baby, posing with 2 women, and lighting a cigar. But we do not see that "balancing board," let alone get any explanation about what it is and how you can commute to work on it.

I have an item I'd call a balancing board — it's this thing — and you cannot travel anywhere on it. I see that mine is rated #1 at "10 Best Balance Boards Reviewed." None of these boards are designed to take you anywhere. You just teeter back and forth on it. Is there a different item called a "balancing board"? After much googling, I arrive at the conclusion that the NYT must be talking about a hoverboard, like the SWAGTRON T580 Bluetooth Hoverboard w/ Speaker Smart Self-Balancing Wheel. I'm seeing hoverboards with the term "self-balancing." I guess "self" is key. My understanding of English says that means the board balances itself, but maybe the rider is the self. Who knows?

Anyway, with 6 photographs, including a pointless shot of Salt Bae holding up a baby that isn't even cute, I can't imagine why there's no picture of him on the damned hoverboard tooling around in Manhattan traffic. Actually, I do see the point of the baby picture, and the non-cuteness of the baby is part of the point. Salt Bae displays his his slab-o-meat attractiveness in a restaurant full of unglamorous people. Lots of kids (that shot with the baby has, in the background, a not-that-young kid with a pacifier in his mouth). A man in a teal-colored hoodie staring into his cellphone. The baby's dad in schlumpy bluejeans and mom beaming and wielding her cellphone camera. The more I stare at this photo, the more details I see — grease stains along the back of mom's chair — and I'm now sure the message is: People of New York, stay away from this tourist trap.

February 15, 2018

At the Pink Cake Café...


... the late-night conversation is sweet.

And show some love for the Althouse blog by using this link — which is always in the sidebar — when you shop at Amazon. Here's something we bought, loved, and just bought more of: Tiny But Mighty Heirloom Popcorn.

"Deeper even than the gun problem is this: boys are broken."

From Michael Ian Black (whom I follow on Twitter)(click to enlarge and read):

The last line there is: "Even talking about this topic invites ridicule because it’s so scary for most men (and women). Men are adrift and nobody is talking about it and nobody’s doing anything about it and it’s killing us."

And in fact people are ridiculing him.

I found MIB's tweets via The Washington Examiner, "When it comes to boys, Michael Ian Black is kind of right, but mostly wrong."

"It’s striking to me how many of the architects of [libertarianism] seem to be on the autism spectrum — you know, people who don’t feel solidarity or empathy with others, and who have difficult human relationships sometimes."

Said Duke history professor Nancy MacLean, quoted in "Duke students rebuke prof for saying libertarians are autistic" at Campus Reform. MacLean, who has written a book on the libertarian economist James Buchanan, was giving a long lecture when she was asked if she thought Buchanan was motivated by “personal greed” or “malevolence.” She gave what might have sounded, in context, like an empathetic understanding of his sort of mind — that he, like other libertarians she's observed — seems to be somewhere on the autism spectrum.

“My initial response was that I wanted her to be punished,” said Hunter Michielson, president of the school’s Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter. Michielson realized that punishing the professor was "hypocritical for him as a libertarian," but he decided to do something else that I'll call hypocritical, petition the university to put out an official statement:
“I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the university stand with conservative, libertarian, and autistic students and community members and say that just because you are a libertarian doesn’t mean you are autistic and just because you are autistic doesn’t mean you lack empathy,” Michielson remarked. “College should be a place where you confront difficult opinions,” he added, saying that despite experiencing classroom discrimination for his views, having liberal-leaning professors has been a welcome component of his education given his conservative background.
I'd say, forget the petitions and the official statements and set up a debate or a panel discussion on politics and empathy or human psychology and political preferences. Let's get deep and scientific on what's really going on, rather than take offense and try to scare the person into shutting up.

It seems to me that MacLean is contributing to the marketplace of ideas. It's awkward to drag people with autism in as if you are disrespecting them, but some of that disrespect is coming from Michielson, who says: “I struggle to accept that she actually believes libertarianism or conservatism is the result of autism."

First, MacLean said "seem to be on the autism spectrum." A lot of people — including people we encounter in everyday life who are not overwhelmingly disabled — seem to be on the autism spectrum. It may be a bit offensive to say that, mostly because it sounds disparaging toward people with autism. But MacLean was not "speculating that support for individual liberty might actually be the result of a mental disorder" — as Campus Reform puts it. She was trying to understand Buchanan, after somebody else speculated that he was afflicted by “personal greed” or “malevolence.”

And, frankly, I suspect that libertarians are reacting out of recognition that — however possibly offensively MacLean put it — there is some truth to her observation.

Note: I've incurred the wrath of libertarians for daring to talk about their psychology. Here's a good starting point if you want to examine my motivations.

"The ultrasound shows no cysts, no free fluid, and certainly no baby. But that doesn’t help the fact that it hurts so bad that the human voices around me have become a sort of nonsense Teletubbies singsong."

"With pain like this, I will never be able to be anyone’s mother. Even if I could get pregnant, there’s nothing I can offer.... From August to November I try desperately to manage this new level of pain. I try so hard it becomes a second job. I go to pelvic-floor therapy, massage therapy, pain therapy, color therapy, acupuncture, yoga, and a brief yet horrifying foray into vaginal massage from a stranger.... Finally I ask my doctor if my uterus needs to come out. She says, 'Let’s wait and see.' Two days later (which has always been my definition of 'wait and see'; I am not a patient girl) I check myself into the hospital and announce I am not leaving until they stop this pain or take my uterus. No, really, take her."

From "In Her Own Words: Lena Dunham on Her Decision to Have a Hysterectomy at 31" (Vogue).

"We gave a rubber band and a helmet to the woman"/"I do not know the quality of the rubber band and the helmet given to my wife."

"My wife and I were enjoying the ride on the go-kart. Suddenly, my wife's hair got loose and I heard her scream."

From "India woman dies after hair caught in go-kart wheel" (BBC).

ADDED: This makes me think of the poem "Amelia," by Charles Reznikoff, which is based on the facts of a real legal case:
Amelia was just fourteen and out of the orphan asylum; at her first job—
in the bindery, and yes sir, yes ma’am, oh, so anxious to please.
She stood at the table, her blonde hair hanging about her shoulders,
“knocking up” for Mary and Sadie, the stitchers....
Continue reading here.

"So while filing an appeal [in the DACA case] to the Ninth Circuit, the administration’s lawyers also went to the Supreme Court with a 'petition for a writ of certiorari before judgment'..."

"... a request to the justices to hear the case this spring without waiting. The Supreme Court’s rules reserve this court-jumping procedure for cases of 'imperative public importance.' Only a handful of cases has cleared that bar, including the Nixon tapes case, which effectively forced the president’s resignation and the 1981 case that ratified the agreement that ended the Iran hostage crisis. Invoking those cases, Solicitor General Francisco insists to the court that “that standard has been met here,” an assertion the plaintiffs vigorously dispute...."

Writes Linda Greenhouse in the NYT. She ends with this point, which might cut the other way:
Even if the justices find Judge Alsup’s analysis questionable and the case surpassingly important, there is an obvious reason for the court to stay its hand: the possibility, however remote, of congressional action during the months it would surely take the court to issue a decision. Recruited to a walk-on role in the other branches’ drama, the justices could well find themselves exposed on an empty stage. At least this is how it looks to me, from the outside. Will it look that way from inside the justices’ private conference? I don’t know, but I’m sure of this: The future of more than the Dreamers is at stake.
I don't see the problem of taking a case and then getting superseded by legislative action. Solving this problem with new legislation is the best solution, and the Court's expedited attention to the case might pressure Congress to get its work done more quickly. If it did, would the Justices suffer some loss of prestige — finding themselves exposed on an empty stage?

I don't see the problem. The Court wouldn't be grabbing the case because it wants to glory in the spotlight, but because the case is of "imperative public importance." If it ceases to be a case, because the dispute is resolved by actions taken in political branches, the Court would bow out.

It would not be that the Court embarrassed itself by seeing a matter of imperative public importance when there wasn't one, but that the Congress  — also concerned with matters of imperative public importance  — exercised its own power. At that point, the judicial power would play out in a normal way, applying the law to the changed facts and acknowledging whatever power Congress has.

The Solicitor General, seeking to skip over the intermediate appellate court, is perhaps overdramatizing the need for quick action, but Greenhouse is overdramatizing the consequence for the Court if the supposedly big-deal case turns into nothing.

I think she knows this, as she asks: "Will it look that way from inside the justices’ private conference?" She says she doesn't know, but I think it's pretty clear the answer is no. She purports to be sure that "The future of more than the Dreamers is at stake." That's the last line of the column. It's clear that she means that the future of the Court is at stake, but in what way?

In some utterly banal way, the future for everyone and everything is always at stake. But I guess she's warning the Court that she and the rest of the Court-following mainstream media stand ready to criticize. That shouldn't affect anyone on the Court, but it could.

"A lot of people were saying that it would be him. They would say he would be the one to shoot up the school. Everyone predicted it."

Said one of the students of Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students were shot to death yesterday, about the suspect, Nikolas Cruz (NYT.)

Is Trump's "Harvest Box" program serious or is he trolling us?

I can't believe this! Look, it's Glenn Thrush — remember him?1at the NYT:
Under a proposal in the president’s budget many participants in the program would be given half their benefits in the form of a “Harvest Box” full of food preselected for nutritional value and economic benefit to American farmers. The cache of cheaper peanut butter, canned goods, pasta, cereal, “shelf stable” milk and other products would now be selected by the federal government, not by the people actually eating it.
Peanut butter?! Isn't that the tell? If there's one thing some people can't eat, it's peanuts. But Thrush isn't quoting from the proposal. He may have come up with the idea of leading the list with peanut butter — cheaper peanut butter — as a way to nudge us to think the idea is — figuratively and literally — nuts.2
Democrats claimed the plan shackled the poor while business groups, led by big food retailers, would stand to lose billions of dollars in lost SNAP business. ...

In reality, administration officials on Tuesday admitted that the food-box plan — which the president’s budget director Mick Mulvaney compared to the Blue Apron grocery delivery service — had virtually no chance of being implemented anytime soon....
You've got to give them some credit for thinking outside the box and coming up with the idea of a box. There's something charming about that.

And I kind of love the optimism in thinking you could solve all the logistical problems: who's allergic to what, who's on a weight-loss diet, who's lactose intolerant, who's incapable of cooking, what to do when people are away from home (or homeless), how to teach people to go through the steps of cooking oatmeal or beans.

Can't computers be programmed to know what everyone needs and wants? Can people be programmed to want and need what the government puts in boxes? Will the Russians hack the computers? Who needs the Russians when our own government is this creepy?

Creepy?! No! It's wholesome as hell! It's like some 19th century charity mission, like: Beth quietly... filled her basket with odds and ends for the poor children, and went out into the chilly air with a heavy head and a grieved look in her patient eyes....
“I don’t think there’s really any support for their box plan. And, I worry that it’s a distraction from the budget’s proposal to cut SNAP by some 30 percent. That’s the real battle,” said Stacy Dean, vice president for food assistance policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive Washington think tank. “The dangers are these other proposals to cut benefits. But all anyone is talking about today are the boxes.”
It is distracting! He knows how to flummox with a box...

1 As The Hill reported last month: "Former New York Times White House correspondent Glenn Thrush on Tuesday will return to the newspaper after a two-month suspension... to cover 'the social safety net in the age of Trump'.... Thrush, 50, was suspended as the Times investigated allegations of sexual misconduct by four women as young as 23, including claims of groping and kissing."

2 Yeah, I know. Legumes. So, what do you want — to ding me for misusing "literally"? You annoying pedant. You belong in Footnote 2.

February 14, 2018

At the Cherry Heart Café...


... it's a nice place for Valentines.

Too late to buy any Valentine a Valentine's Day gift, but it's nice to get things for no special occasion and to show a little love for the Althouse blog by using the Althouse Portal to Amazon.

"Republicans have erased the Democratic advantage on the generic congressional ballot in a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll..."

"Fully 39 percent of registered voters say they would support the GOP candidate for Congress in their district, while 38 percent would back the Democratic candidate.... And while House Democrats have pledged to yoke GOP candidates to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the poll suggests that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will be a more effective foil for Republicans than Ryan will be for Democrats.Voters are split on their perceptions of Ryan: 36 percent view him favorably, and 40 percent have an unfavorable opinion. But Pelosi’s numbers are more negative: Only 28 percent of voters have a favorable impression of her, while nearly half, 49 percent, view her unfavorably."

Politico reports.

"Stormy Daniels, the porn star whom President Donald Trump’s personal attorney acknowledged paying $130,000 just before Election Day, believes she is now free to discuss her alleged sexual encounter with Trump...."

AP reports.
[Her manager Gina] Rodriguez Rodriguez said her client will soon announce how and when she will tell her story publicly.
How and when, eh? I guess a deal needs to be made... artfully.

"But [Susan] Rice did not write her email to cover Barack Obama’s rear end."

"If she or anyone else had wanted to document the claim that Obama said to proceed 'by the book,' the appropriate course would have been an official memo that copied others who were present and would have gone into the file... [S]he was C’ing her own A. Rice was nervous about the fact that, at the president’s direction, she had failed to 'share information fully as it relates to Russia' with President Trump’s incoming national security team. This violated longstanding American tradition. Outgoing administrations have always cooperated in the transition to a new administration, whether of the same or the opposing party, especially on matters relating to national security....  CYA memos are rarely a good idea. Most often, they reveal what the author was trying to conceal...."

From "Why Susan Rice Wrote and Email to Herself" by John Hinderaker at Power Line.

"The mostly male, mostly white, mostly straight world of technology and digital-culture journalism is in the midst of a cultural realignment about how it views the sort of 'ironic' political incorrectness..."

"... (and outright Nazism) prevalent in online spaces like 4chan and its orbit. What was once permissible among hacktivists and their observers and hangers-on — hobnobbing with white supremacists, even if you disagreed — no longer is in an America where white supremacists are particularly emboldened, and when that movement has literally been stoked on 4chan. A decade ago, it was much easier to shrug off explicit invocations of Nazism and white supremacy online. For a certain type of reporter hanging out in transgressive parts of the internet, putting up with these shenanigans was par for the course. But that attitude — that it’s just trolling, that it’s ironic, that you don’t know the context — has provided cover for hundreds of acts of genuine hate and violence over the last two years. The idea that because a person leans left in their politics, they can comfortably associate with white supremacists and not be guilty by association is outdated for a lot of people, and the Times apparently heard from enough of them."

From "The Saga of Quinn Norton’s 7-Hour Times Career, Explained" by Brian Feldman in New York Magazine.

"But not all ugliness is created equal, Donald Trump is not Kim Jong-un, the United States is nothing like North Korea..."

"... and to come anywhere near that suggestion is nuts. Be outraged about what’s going on in America. Don’t be ridiculous. In doing her father’s bidding, Ivanka Trump is trying to tell the world that a sexist really wants to empower women, that a racist really cares about equal opportunity and that a narcissistic plutocrat is acting in the high-minded interests of the little people. She’s willfully delusional, totally complicit and compiling one hell of an Instagram feed, which is what she’s ultimately all about. In doing her brother’s bidding, Kim Yo-jong is airbrushing a dictator who authorizes public executions that, according to defectors, must be watched by all adult citizens, so that they can savor the wages of disobedience. She is diverting attention from his roles in the murders of his half brother, who was smeared with a fatal toxin while walking through an airport, and of many senior government officials, slaughtered in grotesque ways. Is it any wonder that she’s making the effort? The alternative, apparently, is being drawn and quartered."

From "The Ivanka Trump of North Korea? Oh, Please" by Frank Bruni in the NYT.

The top-rated comment at the NYT, with 586 up-votes, is:
Trump is as evil as Kim, he just hasn't had as much opportunity to exercise it. But every opportunity he has to show his evil, he has enthusiastically embraced. No doubt he would execute his perceived enemies if he thought he could get away with it. I'm sure he's jealous of Kim's military parades and complete control over his citizens. It's perfectly fair to compare the two. Ivanka and Yo-jong have nothing to do with it.
ADDED: What's unusual about "trying to tell the world that a sexist really wants to empower women, that a racist really cares about equal opportunity and that a narcissistic plutocrat is acting in the high-minded interests of the little people"? Let me propose that exactly that could be said about virtually every American politician. I think it's to the credit of all the sexist, racist, narcissistic plutocrats in government that they can occasionally manage to do something that helps women, minorities, and the little people. It's normal to expect the champions of these politicians to point out these positive efforts. That the doers of these good deeds were hampered by their deeply embedded and not-pretty human impulses could be pointed out as a reason to be impressed by their accomplishments, but their champions choose to keep quiet about such things. That's also not surprising.

"A woman stabbed and left for dead named her killers in her last moments, police say."

WaPo reports.
“Her internal fortitude, to stay alive and to fight, is pretty remarkable,” Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office told the San Francisco Chronicle. “This young woman clung to life when she was left for dead and was able to live for another couple hours and get us that information. Ultimately that led us to these arrests.”...

Lizette Andrea Cuesta of Tracy, Calif.... had crawled nearly 100 yards... to get to the road, where she had some chance of being seen by people in passing cars....

“You could tell it was so bad to where you just had to give her comfort,” Richard Loadholt, one of the UPS employees who had been riding with three other men on Tesla Road in Livermore around 2 a.m., told Sacramento Fox affiliate KTXL. Initially, he said he and his workmates thought she was missing an arm. “She fought like a soldier. Like a warrior.”...
"Dying declaration" is a technical term in law. It's an exception to the rule against hearsay. In the California code:
Evidence of a statement made by a dying person respecting the cause and circumstances of his death is not made inadmissible by the hearsay rule if the statement was made upon his personal knowledge and under a sense of immediately impending death.

Cattily titled WaPo article about the wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is deflated by an embarrassing correction.

Emily Heil* writes "8 times Louise Linton tried to be relatable in her Elle interview." The correction is: "An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the magazine Louise Linton spoke with. It was Elle, not Vanity Fair."

I understand the urge to take a shot at Louise Linton....
“I’m just a regular girl, and I’m not perfect, but I’m trying my best,” insists Linton, a sorta-actress who grew up in a castle in Scotland and who has heretofore crafted a public persona that has been likened to definitely-not-average figures like Marie Antoinette and Cruella de Vil. (Her sins of public excess include tagging an Instagram picture of herself with an array of designer-label hashtags, then lashing out against a critic in a condescending rant. In another iconic photo op, she posed in designer duds alongside Mnuchin at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, flaunting a newly printed sheet of dollar bills with his name on them.)

So in this interview, Linton was clearly trying verrry hard to course-correct and convince people she is much more down-to-earth than she has previously indicated....
...  but you've got to make it look as though you're reading carefully and not just flailing impulsively.

* I had to squint at the third letter of the last name to make sure it wasn't an "L," which would have been funny. And it's not entirely impossible. I think it would be cool for an opinionated journalist to be named Emily Hell. And don't tell me "Hell" can't be a last name. There's Richard Hell.

"George Graham Vest served in the United States Senate for twenty-four years, from 1879 to 1903, but the act for which he is best remembered...

"... is a speech delivered in an insignificant court case while he was still a lawyer in rural Missouri."
The lawsuit that brought him immortality concerned the shooting of "Old Drum," the best hunting dog of a local farmer. A neighbor who suspected that Old Drum was moonlighting by killing his sheep gave orders to shoot the dog if it appeared on the property again. When Old Drum was found dead near the neighbor's house, the farmer filed suit, seeking damages of fifty dollars. After a jury awarded twenty-five dollars, the neighbor successfully appealed the ruling. The dog's owner, however, succeeded in his motion for a new trial and hired two skilled lawyers, one of them George G. Vest.... Rather than discussing the details of the case, he eloquently praised the loyalty of a dog to his owner in terms that brought tears to the eyes of the jury....
Bringing tears to the eyes of the "Death Valley Days" actors playing the jury listening to the Old Drum speech, here's Ronald Reagan:

"Teacher who called military 'lowest of our low' explains himself — with little success."

"On Tuesday night, [Gregory] Salcido... sat for an hour as an overflow crowd of veterans, former students and others berated him at a council meeting, calling for his resignation, denouncing him as a disgrace to the town," WaPo reports.
While offering to apologize if he had offended anyone, he stood by his words,* and tried to say what he really meant. Salcido said he was a pacifist, “with a capital P.” He remembers, he said, looking at pictures of relatives who had gone to war on his great-grandmother’s wall and wondering “for what.”...

“My goal as it relates to my students is to get them to do everything to get through college,” he said. “It’s not just the military. I wouldn’t want them to work at a fast-food restaurant either... I don’t think it’s at all a revelation to anybody that those who aren’t stellar students usually find the military a better option. That’s as plain as that it’s Tuesday night.”
The highest-rated comment at WaPo is:
This teacher abused his position and actually seems slightly off balance. He should definitely be fired. However, I am always surprised at how many people take things so personally. “Love it or leave it” is just ridiculous. One can kneel during the National Anthem, protest a war or military actions, disagree with adding tens of millions to military defense, etc., and still love and appreciate this country and support our vets.
"Love it or leave it" is a Vietnam Era slogan. I don't hear it said these days. I hear critics of America threatening to leave it as if they'd adopted the old taunt. That commenter seems slightly off balance. The man wasn't protesting a war. He was insulting the people who choose to enlist in the military.

* There are, he'd said (reacting to a teen in a Marine Corps sweatshirt), "a bunch of dumbs–––s over there... Think about the people who you know who are over there. Your freaking stupid Uncle Louie or whatever. They’re dumbs–––s. They’re not like high-level thinkers, they’re not academic people, they’re not intellectual people. They’re the lowest of our low."

"I can’t technically take maternity leave. Because if I take maternity leave, then I won’t be allowed to sponsor legislation or vote during that time period."

Says Tammy Duckworth, the pregnant Senator.

Key word, "technically." When Senators want personal time, don't they just take it? I can understand a politician wanting to purport to exemplify problems that everyday people have, but Duckworth doesn't have the problem of needing authorization to take time off from work to deal with childbirth and the care of a newborn.

There's also the breastfeeding question:
“You are not allowed to bring children onto the floor of the Senate at all,” Duckworth pointed out. “If I have to vote, and I’m breastfeeding my child, especially during my maternity leave period, what do I do? Leave her sitting outside?”
Obviously, you bring the baby onto the Senate floor and everyone loves it (or acts like they do). It's about like the way they'd deal with the no-dogs-on-the Senate floor rule if there were a blind Senator with a seeing-eye dog. Everyone would instantly and automatically understand that there was an implicit exception to the rule. This is like the first-year law-school problem of the sign that says "No motor vehicles in the park" and the question whether a paraplegic in an electric wheelchair can go in.

But I'd love to see a Senator try to bring an emotional support animal— perhaps a bichon frise — onto the Senate floor.

"Democrats are looking to embrace the #MeToo moment and rally women to push back on President Donald Trump in the midterms—and they don’t want Bill Clinton anywhere near it."

Says Edward-Isaac Dovere at Politico.

Bill Clinton “just brings up a lot of issues that will be very tough for Democrats. And I think we all have to be clear about what the #MeToo movement was," says Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), vice chair of the House Progressive Caucus.

"I value the assets of what the Clintons can bring. He did a lot for Georgia when he was president. He carried Georgia. The personal side that is now being highlighted, we’ll have to measure," says Georgia Democratic Chair DuBose Porter.

I get it. You just want to do what works best as a means to the end of Democratic power. That's what you did when Bill Clinton was President, and that's what you did when you had his wife as your presidential candidate. I am completely cynical about your commitment to gender issues.

Like a sexual harasser, you're only using women.

You'd like to hide BC in '18 because it's not expedient. But you're not calling him to account, denouncing him, excoriating him, ruining him. You want to keep him safe, so you can use him later, when something other than "the personal side" will be "highlighted" and it's okay once again to be vague and fuzzy "about what the #MeToo movement was."

Was! Pramila Jayapal is already visualizing this pesky #MeToo thing in the past.

February 13, 2018

Lion's Roar, How to Survive Anything, Chicken, Mindfulness.

Those were the 4 magazines staring me in the face at Whole Foods today. I didn't buy any of these, but I did entertain myself with the fantasy that it was a multiple choice test, and I decided: Chicken.

"The full-beat face has become the ubiquitous face of the Internet, a strange mirror of Kim Kardashian’s visage but also somehow just like Internet influencer Huda Kattan’s and Kylie Jenner’s, too."

"Instagram is awash in full-beat glory.... Save for variations in skin color and precise shade of shimmering eye shadow, the women all look uncannily the same. It’s the 'Instagram look'... 'When you take a picture, you lose the dimension on your face. The light will wash it away.' Over time, savvy ’Grammers realized that with a small mountain of makeup...  you could replace the shadows and the light... [You need] 'an elongated eye, lashes, contouring, bronzing, highlighting, and sculpting'... A theatrical set of drawn-on brows. And finally... a matte lip so overdrawn that it can look like an allergic reaction.... [T]he goal is to give yourself features you don’t actually possess: brighter, bigger eyes, a narrower, daintier nose, eyes so fringed in false lashes that they look as if they can’t possibly bear the weight. 'We’re a walking painting'..."

From "Brows, contour, lips, lashes: How the ‘full-beat face’ took over the Internet" (WaPo).

These things go in cycles. I can't believe that young people won't come to associate heavy makeup with the older generation and to rediscover the special attraction of looking natural while you have the gift of youth. As for older women, I can't believe they don't see themselves as garish and clownlike in heavy makeup. Yet if people don't live in the real world but only in photographs and video, then maybe stage makeup is where we will end up. In that case, the argument shouldn't be give up the horridly heavy makeup but: Return to living in the natural world.

I have a vague hope that the new generation will acquire an aversion to photography.

Or... here's an idea for one of my unwritten books. It's science fiction: It turns out actually to be true — as some seemingly ill-informed people have long believed — that photography steals a person's soul. These poor people who have been doing those ever more exaggerated "full-beat" faces in fact lost their souls a while back, perhaps somewhere around the 1,000th selfie.

At the Fat Tuesday Café...


... eat all you want and talk about what you want.

"Take your heartthrob to a small-plates place, because fasting in the Catholic Church doesn’t mean that you go without, or with just water."

Advice from Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, the archbishop of Newark, on how to deal with the coincidence of Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day.

But today is Fat Tuesday, so pre-eat as much as possible.

"Ruling that graffiti... was of sufficient stature to be protected by the law, a federal judge in Brooklyn awarded a judgment of $6.7 million on Monday to 21 graffiti artists..."

"... whose works were destroyed in 2013 at the 5Pointz complex in Long Island City, Queens. In November, a landmark trial came to a close in Federal District Court in Brooklyn when a civil jury decided that Jerry Wolkoff, a real estate developer who owned 5Pointz, broke the law when he whitewashed dozens of swirling murals at the complex, obliterating what a lawyer for the artists had called 'the world’s largest open-air aerosol museum.' Though Mr. Wolkoff’s lawyers had argued that the buildings were his to treat as he pleased, the jury found he violated the Visual Artists Rights Act, or V.A.R.A., which has been used to protect public art of 'recognized stature' created on someone’s else property."

The NYT reports.

Previously blogged on December 3, 2013 and April 10, 2017:
How can the artists can win this? Relying on Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, they claim entitlement to notice in writing 90 days before the destruction of the art, which, they say, would have given them the opportunity to remove or photograph the work. The artists are not arguing that the owner can't tear down his building.
Here's the text of the statute, which limits the act to "a work of recognized stature." That — along with the $6.7 million amount — was the important finding here: The graffiti at 5Pointz was "a work of recognized stature."

New word: "masstige."

Seeing it for the first time today as a new entry in the OED. It's a portmanteau of "mass" and "prestige," and it means "A class of mass-produced, relatively inexpensive goods which are marketed as luxurious or prestigious." Examples:
2005 Fashion (Canada) Oct. 70/1 It bags were templates for a hot new category, called affordable luxury or ‘masstige’, fusing mass and prestige.

2006 Time Out N.Y. 14 Sept. 51/1 Luxury designers Sophia Kokosalaki, Thakoon Panichgul and Vivienne Westwood each created a limited-edition line for masstige footwear label Nine West.
I thought "It bags" was a typo at first, but I assume it's "it" as in "It girl," which actually has its own OED entry. It means "A woman who is very famous, fashionable, or successful at a particular time, esp. (chiefly U.S.) a glamorous, vivacious, or sexually attractive actress, model, etc., or (chiefly Brit.) a young, rich woman who has achieved celebrity because of her socialite lifestyle." Interesting. Didn't know "it girls" in Britain were different from "it girls" in the U.S. The original "it girl" was Clara Bow, who starred in a movie called "It."

And here, in the unlinkable OED, I see "it," the adjective, identified as coming from "it girl" and "Designating a person who or thing which is exceptionally fashionable, successful, or prominent at a particular time, as it bag, it couple, it gadget, etc." and the oldest example is an "it bag":
1997 Sunday Times 2 Nov. x. 12 Her range of It Bags are attracting a loyal following, especially among supermodels.
And, by the way, in very old speech or regional dialect, "it" was used as a possessive adjective the way we use "its." Shakespeare's "King Lear" has the line "It had it head bit off beit young." And the King James Version of the Bible had "That which groweth of it owne accord..thou shalt not reape." In 1986, there were at least some Scots who'd say things like "It had a mouse in it paw."

"Anyone who thinks that the value of 2,000 hogs transcends that of a human soul made in the image of God himself... is so obtuse that likely no argument would be effective in unscrambling the discombobulation within his skull."

The use of the plural pronoun "they" — by the non-gender-binary performance artist Emma Sulkowicz — reminds me (writing in the comments to this post of mine) of the Biblical story of the man who said "My name is Legion... for we are many." Jesus, we're told — in a passage I quote in full — speaks with demons who request and are given permission to relocate into some nearby pigs — 2,000 of them — and the pigs suddenly run into the lake where they drown.

I ask some questions, get few answers, restate questions and get accused of mockery and called stupid by one of the regular commenters. So I look for and find a serious effort at answering some of my questions, which ends with the kiss-off I've used as the post title.

I'm stunned by the horribleness of that statement. For one thing, animal cruelty does matter, and driving 2,000 hogs into a suicidal frenzy is not explained by saying that human beings are more important than animals. For another thing, if you think human beings are so precious, why do you rush to conclude that they are not worth talking to? Human beings are made in the image of God... with scrambled skull contents.

Ugh! What an image. Scrambled brains. Everyone knows you're supposed to fry brains.

Trump is "a numbers guy."

I need to show you a second quote from Omarosa on "Big Brother": "Don't get me wrong, Obama's administration was aggressive about deportation too... I've seen the plan. The roundup plan is getting more and more aggressive... He's a numbers guy. He wants to outdo his predecessors."

I have an old post about Trump the numbers guy, and this post would be a better post if I could dig it out of the archive. Since I can't, I'll just leave this post in "stub" form.

Why would anyone say "I’m Christian, I love Jesus, but he thinks Jesus tells him to say things"?

The speaker is Omarosa  (talking to her "Big Brother" housemates), and the "he" is Mike Pence.

The full quote is: "As bad as you think Trump is, you would be worried about Pence... We would be begging for days of Trump back if Pence became President. He’s extreme. I’m Christian, I love Jesus, but he thinks Jesus tells him to say things that are not —— and like, Jesus ain't sayin' that. Scary."

The video, with a truncated transcription, appears at Entertainment Weekly. EW ends at "he thinks Jesus tells him to say things," which made me write the post title — which I will leave in its original form — and I was going to do a poll. But the left-off "things that are not —— and like, Jesus ain't sayin' that" completely changes the meaning from a religious perspective, as I see it. And the poll I had wanted to do is not appropriate.

In the truncated form, Omarosa seems to be mocking all the people who believe that Jesus speaks to them. What kind of person claims to be a Christian but doesn't even tolerate the belief that some Christians have that. in some way, Jesus is communicating with them and guiding them toward saying the right thing? But in the completed quote, you can see that her problem with Pence is that the things he is saying, which he attributes to Jesus, are not what Jesus would say. That is, Pence is wrong in believing that Jesus is speaking to him because Pence conveys messages purportedly from Jesus that are — in Omarosa's opinion — obviously not things Jesus would say.

Her mockery comes in the line EW left off: "Jesus ain't sayin' that." I'd say that EW doesn't understand Omarosa's religious perspective and has hurt Omarosa by portraying her doing something that maybe the people at EW do: mocking the common religious belief that prayer is a 2-way communication. She's not denying that belief. She's just saying what Pence understands as the message from Jesus can't be the real message, because it's not the Christian message.

I don't know what specific words Omarosa feels she knows can't be from Jesus, and really I don't know whether the entire riff is reality-show bullshit. She's playing a game, so she has a motive to con the other contestants, and she has other plans for the future — notably a book to sell. She's thinking about potential audiences. Pence — whatever he may have said on this subject — may also have been lying, exaggerating, taking poetic license, or simplifying — conning the contestants in the game of winning the next election.

But Omarosa's main point — and it's a good point whatever you think of Omarosa — is that a person who believes he didn't think up his own ideas but had them handed to him by God is dangerous. He's impervious to reason and evidence and advice from experts and pleas for mercy and his own urges toward empathy and self-preservation.

February 12, 2018

Gently filtered afternoon light on a freshly groomed cross-country ski trail.


We are so enjoying the February snows. There had been no occasion to ski until the last few days, so we've been getting out on this familiar trail every day. I'm determined to maintain my skill, which is only at the level called "easy." I don't expect ever to get better at skiing, but am proud of the accomplishment of plateauing, which is something you can do — you should do — when you are old.

Feel free to use this post as a "café" (i.e., an open thread), and remember the old Althouse Portal when you're going to Amazon.

"Sulkowicz wants to change behavior, too, but thinks that punishment is more efficacious than tweaks to campus life."

"When Columbia settled the lawsuit filed by the man Sulkowicz accused of rape, it put out a statement, noting that his 'remaining time at Columbia became very difficult for him and not what Columbia would want any of its students to experience.' But Sulkowicz believes that what he went through had a salutary effect. 'He’s been scared shitless,' they said.*... 'It’s about finding a way to make your institution, and the people who run it, more human.'"

From "Is There a Smarter Way to Think About Sexual Assault on Campus?/A team of researchers at Columbia believes that small changes to college life could make campuses safer" by Jia Tolentino in The New Yorker.

I'm interested in the enthusiasm for harsh punishment and for deterring bad behavior by scaring people shitless. That's the common stereotype of a right-wing mindset. Most of that New Yorker article is about understanding the behavior of college students and tracking them away from bad sex, that is, looking for root causes, which is the classic mindset of the liberal. Torentino asked Sulkowicz about that approach (which led to a program at Columbia called "SHIFT"):
Sulkowicz had not heard about SHIFT before, and was politely resistant to the idea: “My view in this whole thing is that, the more that Columbia can retreat behind ‘Here’s a program, here’s a study, here’s a process,’ the less that any human that finds themselves in this machine will ever be incentivized to act based on their moral compass.”

What if, I asked, the idea behind the study was tinkering with the machine, figuring out how to reorient that moral compass?

“That makes me think of asking someone to wash the dishes, and they tell you, ‘I’ll try,’” Sulkowicz said. “I think that’s the difference between spending two million dollars to try to understand the conditions that create a community that’s conducive to sexual assault versus just doing the right thing—expelling people who sexually assault other students.”
 That's an attitude I've always heard called right-wing.**

* I was confused at "they said," even though I'd read, earlier in the article (and had not forgotten) that Sulkowicz "identifies as non-binary, and uses the gender-neutral pronouns 'they' and 'them,'" and I had already struggled with confusion when I read "in the midst of sex, the student anally penetrated and choked them while they struggled and told him to stop" and "carrying a fifty-pound, twin XL mattress around campus... was a performance project: they would stop carrying it, they said, when the student who had raped them was expelled."

** The new thing is to care passionately and be right-wing.

"So when a male art instructor asked London-based artist Alex Bertulis-Fernandes to 'dial down the feminism,'in her work, she took some time for self-reflection..."

... and came back with this:

Chris Cillizza accidentally (I think) insults Michelle Obama.

"Our film should not have made light of Peter Rabbit’s archnemesis, Mr. McGregor, being allergic to blackberries, even in a cartoonish, slapstick way."

Apology of the day, from "Sony Apologizes After ‘Peter Rabbit’ Movie Exploits a Food Allergy, Upsetting Parents" (NYT). The rabbits attack a man by slingshooting a blackberry into a man's mouth.
When the rabbits fire a blackberry into Mr. McGregor’s mouth, [said Kenneth Mendez, president and chief executive of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America], “there’s a close-up of his face, and it’s him holding his neck like he’s choking.” When Mr. McGregor collapses and appears to be dead for a moment, the rabbits cheer.... “Making light of this condition hurts our members because it encourages the public not to take the risk of allergic reactions seriously, and this cavalier attitude may make them act in ways that could put an allergic person in danger.” 
Maybe it's time to take all the violence in cartoon/cartoony shows seriously.

But some people think there's something special about violence that makes use of a pre-existing health condition. The TNT in Looney Tunes could blow up anybody, but a blackberry is only dangerous to those who are already struggling with a disability. It's hard to think of other examples of children's stories like that. I thought of Captain Hook, so cruelly tormented by Peter Pan, who took advantage of the disabled man's fear of the crocodile, and yet we're all susceptible to the depredations of the crocodile.