May 29, 2017

I'm averting my eyes from the mugshot.

I feel some respect for the man's privacy, and it's painful to see him exposed and brought low like that, a human icon of our time.

At the Peony Café...

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... you can talk about anything you like.

(And please consider shopping through The Althouse Amazon Portal.)

"I just want to say thank you to the people who put their life on the line for me."

"Because they didn't even know me and they lost their lives because of me and my friend and the way we look."

"I’ll watch ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ with you if you’ll watch Sean Hannity with me."

Caption on The New Yorker's "Cartoon of the Day."

I think you can see that without a subscription, but if not, it's just a man and a woman sitting side by side on a sofa, looking forward at the TV. The woman has the remote control and is vaguely smiling. The man has his mouth open, signifying that he's the one delivering the remark we're to see as a zinger.

It's funny because:
 
pollcode.com free polls

"Here on land, the seasteaders propose, ideas about how to govern societies have stagnated. Politics is too entrenched..."

"... societal change comes slowly, if at all.... Seasteads would upset [the] dynamic, since each floating city would be small enough and modular enough that individuals could come and go freely, shopping for governments and social structures. If residents didn’t like one utopia, they could simply sail off to a new one.... [T]he Seasteading Institute makes clear that it will not be operating the cities itself. The particulars of each seastead’s political system should be determined by its inhabitants—or an oligarch, if that’s the way it turns out. 'Any set of rules is OK,' the organization’s FAQ page emphasizes, 'as long as the residents consent to it voluntarily and can leave whenever they choose.'"

From "Libertarians Seek a Home on the High Seas/The unlikely rise—and anti-democratic impulses—of seasteading," by Rachel Riederer in The New Republic, who observes that the seasteads represent "a very particular set of politics," politics based on the free market," and:
When [government] works, it protects the vulnerable and guards the commons—essential tasks at which the free market so often fails. Ocean dwellers will also need those protections. Much as we might like to, we can’t escape the political, even by walking into the sea.

Memorial Day.

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"Trump is not an atheist, confident yet humble in the search for a God-free morality. He is not an agnostic..."

"... genuinely doubtful as to the meaning of existence but always open to revelation should it arrive. He is not even a wayward Christian, as he sometimes claims to be, beset by doubt and failing to live up to ideals he nonetheless holds. The ideals he holds are, in fact, the antithesis of Christianity — and his life proves it. He is neither religious nor irreligious. He is pre-religious. He is a pagan. He makes much more sense as a character in Game of Thrones, a medieval world bereft of the legacy of Jesus of Nazareth, than as a president of a modern, Western country...."

Okay, that's where I draw the line, Andrew Sullivan. Imagine what you like about the interior of Donald Trump's soulknock body-slam yourself out — but I've had it with opinion pieces that assume familiarity with Game of Thrones. I don't watch it, and less than 10% of Americans watch it. I don't really mind being confronted with pop culture references I don't get. Why, only yesterday, I got stuck on a pop culture name I didn't remember seeing before, and I looked it up, watched a video, was a little offended but also amused and entertained, and I made the post better with a quote and a link. But Game of Thrones comes up again and again. It's dull, always the same reference. I gather that it has to do with vicious, hard core politics — killing your rivals? — and I'm picturing seething Trump haters staring at it, muttering: Trump!!! 

But one more thing: Pagans are pre-religious? That's awfully ethnocentric and arrogant. From  Owen Davies, "Paganism: A Very Short Introduction" (at Wikipedia):
It is crucial to stress right from the start that until the 20th century people did not call themselves pagans to describe the religion they practised. The notion of paganism, as it is generally understood today, was created by the early Christian Church. It was a label that Christians applied to others, one of the antitheses that were central to the process of Christian self-definition. As such, throughout history it was generally used in a derogatory sense.
So otherizing, Andrew. Bereft of the legacy of Jesus... that's how you accept insulting people these days? I stopped reading.

Kittens.

"For the first time since 1973, panther kittens were spotted north of the Caloosahatchee River, which had formed the northern boundary of the panther’s habitat. In March, a pair of panther kittens tripped an automatic wildlife camera in the Babcock Ranch Preserve, a forested expanse thirty-five miles west of Lake Okeechobee. That means that a female panther swam across the Caloosahatchee and recently mated with a male panther on the other side. (Male panthers, which are larger and have a bigger range than females, have been spotted north of the Caloosahatchee River for many years.) The news cheered scientists and state environmental officials, who have been trying to coax a female panther across the Caloosahatchee for more than two decades."

From "The Return of the Florida Panther," by Dexter Filkins (in The New Yorker).

Some feminist logic.

After quoting something I said about body-slamgate, Instapundit says: "But personally, I’m now sufficiently woke to praise Gianforte for body-slamming rapist Ben Jacobs":



And: "Thanks to male feminist Jordan Hoffman for enlightening me."

Note: Hoffman's post is about the exclusion of men from a movie theater's showing of "Wonder Woman" (which is the topic of my last 2 posts).

"Strange to see Althouse on-board with AnCaps/libertarians about the right of businesses to discriminate as much as they like."

Writes James in the comments to yesterday's post about the female-only showings of "Wonder Woman," which I'd discussed in terms of PR for a movie I find mind-crushingly boring. I'd quoted a writer at Wear Your Voice/Intersectional Feminist Media who made hyperbolic fun of the "cishet men" who are acting (feeling?) outraged over the exclusion.

In blogging the controversy, I quite consciously chose to ignore the legal issue. Not everything has to be approached from a legal perspective. There are many paths into a subject, and opting for law talk can foreclose other interesting insights. Teaching law school classes, I would often begin a discussion of a case with the question whether we (or anybody) should want a particular matter controlled by a legal restriction, monitored by the government. It can be more enlightening to open up that inquiry before you get to a discussion of whether what was done in fact violated a statute and whether a constitutional right trumps the statute. It can help you think about how broadly to interpret that statute and that constitutional right.

I didn't want to talk about the law yet. Other bloggers have announced flatly that what the theaters are doing is against the law, and I acknowledge that those laws exist and should be taken seriously. The theaters are exposing themselves to legal proceedings. I can see some plausible defenses. We could talk about freedom of association cases like Boy Scouts v. Dale. This isn't like a restaurant wanting to exclude a particular type of person. The exclusion has to do with the expression of ideas. But I'm not the movie theater's lawyer, and I haven't worked out the argument. 

In any case, there's a such thing as civil disobedience. I don't know if the freedom of women to assemble in a public space and watch a super-hero movie without men in the room is the sort of thing that's worth risking the consequences that are part of civil disobedience, but it's one way to behave in this world and sometimes good things ensue. For example — to get back to the aspect of the controversy I forefronted — PR.

Anyway, thanks for the challenge, James. I had to look up "AnCaps."
Anarcho-capitalists hold that, in the absence of statute (law by centralized decrees and legislation), society tends to contractually self-regulate and civilize through the discipline of the free market (in what its proponents describe as a "voluntary society").
You know, I'm not the type.

Romper pride.

"12 Babes Show Us That Rompers Are For All Shapes And Sizes."

May 28, 2017

"Art should challenge us...."/"Why is that?... Are we 'challenged' by Constable and Turner? The Chartres Cathedral? The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?"/"Absolutely!"

From the comments to the post about the dismantled "Scaffold" at the Walker Art Center. The one in the middle is Michael. The first and third comments are from me. I'm the one who loudly proclaims "Absolutely!," even as Michael says:
Where was this cliche [that art should challenge us] born? Marcel Duchamp?... This idea of art is a modern thing and a concept that has as its fruit an unlimited amount of crap produced for people paying up to be "challenged."
A few notes and pictures:

1. The Chartres Cathedral. It represents the challenge to be a Christian. What greater challenge is there? Here's a modern public art display animating the old cathedral:



2. Turner.
"Turner... was a sharp critic of the industrial and commercial change sweeping mid-19th-century Britain. Casting a locomotive as a dark, sinister beast carving a pitiless path through the landscape in Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway (1844), he drew attention to the threat posed to the natural beauty of the English countryside by the industrial revolution...."


3. The Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Michelangelo worked at Schumacher pace. Adam's famous little penis was captured with a single brushstroke: a flick of the wrist, and the first man had his manhood. I also enjoyed his sense of humour, which, from close up, turned out to be refreshingly puerile. If you look closely at the angels who attend the scary prophetess on the Sistine ceiling known as the Cumaean Sibyl, you will see that one of them has stuck his thumb between his fingers in that mysteriously obscene gesture that visiting fans are still treated to today at Italian football matches...

The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis will dismantle "Scaffold," a sculpture "partly inspired by the gallows where 38 Dakota Indians were hanged in Mankato in 1862."

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
"I regret the pain that this artwork has brought to the Dakota community and others," [said Walker Executive Director Olga Viso]. "This is the first step in a long process of healing." She said that [L.A.-based artist Sam Durant] told her he was open to seeing his work dismantled because "it's just wood and metal — nothing compared to the lives and histories of the Dakota people."...

For the second day in a row, protesters gathered Saturday afternoon outside the fenced outdoor exhibit, holding signs with messages such as "Not your story" and "Hate crime." Earlier in the day, messages that had been placed on the fence Friday were removed, exacerbating tensions....

Rory Wakemup, a Minneapolis gallery director who specializes in contemporary native art, initially thought "Scaffold" was a ruse. He was shocked to hear that community leaders had not been consulted about it.

"Anything this heavy needs to have approval from a wide range of the community. There's no singular voice that can just do this," he said. "It's opened a wound and sets [Indian relations] back years."
We're told that the artist, Durant, "intended to raise awareness about capital punishment and address America's violent past." That's a comfortably safe political position for an artist in present-day America. Art should challenge us, and this artist chose to challenge the people who support the death penalty and the people who don't think enough about the violence done to Native Americans. But a work of art, left standing in public, cannot fine-tune its message. It can't say think only of it in these terms and not other terms.

Durant and the art museum obviously didn't intend to inflict pain on the Dakota people. Apparently, they assumed the Dakota would feel good about the amplification of their story in the public space, but they assumed wrong.

What an embarrassing show of elitist obliviousness! They assumed their well-meaning presentation of a painful story — a blunt replica of the gallows — would work as they intended, to inflict pain on the the right people, the sort of white people who voted for Trump, who'd think it makes sense to say Make America Great Again, when all the good people know America was not great.

And they didn't think about the possible impact on the very people whose story they wanted to beat the ignorant folk over the head with.

Why didn't they think to ask?! Wakemup — great name — got it right. You should have consulted with some people in the Dakota community. Show some respect for the people you want to show yourself off respecting.

I found this story because the commenter dustbunny brought it up in the comments here. She said: "Looks like censorship to me." It's not censorship in my book. The museum and the artist spoke first. Some people spoke second in response, and the response made the museum and the artist decide to change what they would say going forward. It's just like a conversation whether X makes a remark, Y says that's a terrible thing to say, and X then says, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. I call that persuasion.

You know, public sculptures are big intrusions on a city. They just sit there. It's a lot worse than a book that was published and now sits where you don't have to read it. These sculptures are big, and they are in our space. A great deal of thought should be given to what belongs as a permanent fixture in our shared public places. A 2-story gallows is an awfully bad idea.

What were the mental processes of the elite arts people who decided this was a good idea? Now, they have to backtrack, because their mistake was so bad and they want to salvage their reputation. They're dismantling the thing they should never have put up. That's not censorship. That's belated shame.

At the Armor-and Ambivalence Café...

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... you can, in writing, appropriate anything you want.

(Photo taken on my iPhone yesterday at "Samurai: The Way of the Warrior" at the Chazen Museum ("a selection of more than ninety objects from one of the most important collections of Japanese arms and armor outside of Japan... armor, lacquered objects, helmets, swords, sword guards, saddles, stirrups, arrows, quivers, and bows from the Museo Stibbert in Florence, Italy").

Balance bike racing.

"Male fragility has been breaking all over the basements of social media and the stench of unwashed boxer shorts and toxic masculinity is wafting upwards gaining our attention..."

"... simply because certain theaters are hosting screenings exclusively for folks who identify as women and femmes. On Thursday, a theater franchise called the Alamo Drafthouse announced* that they would be hosting woman-identified only screenings for the release of the film... Now, of course, this made cishet men angry, because when everything has always belonged to you and entitlement happens to be one of your defining characteristics, it must be really hard to be excluded from a few screenings of a film centered around a female-lead. Of course you’re upset at not being invited to see Wonder Woman, that’s totally discrimination. Keep crying those salty tears.... I am no stranger to the wrath of white man-babies and it is clear that the more space women make for themselves – especially women and femmes of color – the more misogyny and racism we will be met with. The only thing we can do is keep carving out safe spaces for ourselves to heal and flourish."

Writes Laura Witt at Wear Your Voice/Intersectional Feminist Media.

ADDED: This is some great PR jujitsu.** Men are squealing to body-slam their way into a movie they'd have distanced themselves from. The woman-superhero purveyors have learned something since the lady Ghostbusters flop of 2016. The new idea is to act like you don't want men to see the movie. Suddenly, it's desirable. This movie is playing hard to get. Such a delightfully old-fashioned way to lure men.
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* The announcement read:
“The most iconic superheroine in comic book history finally has her own movie, and what better way to celebrate than with an all-female screening? Apologies, gentlemen, but we’re embracing our girl power and saying “No Guys Allowed” for one special night at the Alamo Ritz. And when we say “People Who Identify As Women Only,” we mean it. Everyone working at this screening — venue staff, projectionist, and culinary team — will be female.”
** Sorry for the culturally appropriative metaphor.

"Brown and black skin and indicators of non-whiteness have been newly weaponized since the Trump regime was installed..."

"... and many of us are managing our Otherness more than ever as a matter of survival. And along comes a white woman by the name of Stacy Jacobs, whose gimmick is wearing saris in protest of Trump’s reign. She hashtags her fashion activism #BordersAreForSarees and #ProtestSarees. Her Instagram feed is filled with pictures of her in a sari every time Trump does something awful.... [T]here is a growing and disturbing trend of supposedly progressive and liberal feminists who seem to think that their political wokeness gives them free license to appropriate other people’s cultures. Under the guise of globalistic rhetoric, these so-called progressives justify and defend their cultural appropriation as the natural course of our globalized society — a post-racial society in which differences can be erased because they have decided so — veritably denying that cultural appropriation exists at all. To these fauxgressives, everything belongs to everybody and they have the right to transform these cultural and spiritual practices as they see fit. Like metal yoga, 'fuck you' yoga and beer yoga, not only has an ancient Indian spiritual practice been culturally appropriated, it has been mutilated and Frankensteined together into a monstrous shadow of itself."

From "This White Woman's 'Protest Saris' Are Peak Appropriation," by Sezin Koehler in Wear Your Voice/Intersectional Feminist Media.

"Some say 90 minutes is simply how long it takes to pace through all the sacred asanas, and that we shouldn’t tamper with tradition."

"But there is nothing traditional about most of today’s yoga studios, which are more about monetizing relaxation than they are about honoring whomever yoga is supposed to honor. I recently went to one class, supposedly a hybrid dance-yoga endeavor, in which the instructor shimmied around a stage to Jason Derulo. We’re not exactly meditating in the Indus Valley anymore...."

From "Yoga Classes Should Be Shorter/The light in me honors the light in you, but it is also extremely busy," by Olga Khazan (in The Atlantic), who got what she was asking for, comments denouncing her for "#whiteproblems" and bumbling through the puzzle of "cultural appropriation." (Is it better or worse to take less of the culture?)

ADDED: "Been around the world, don't speak the language/But your booty don't need explaining...."

Understanding the creepiness of wholesomeness.

Here's a piece by Amanda Petrusich in The New Yorker: "Miley Cyrus's Creepy Return to Wholesome." Do we think that a young woman is pure until she're not, and after that, if she presents herself as healthy and good, it's a disgusting fraud, and we've got to point fingers at her and call her out, so that no one is deceived into allying with this loathsome slut? That seems awfully retrograde for The New Yorker. Perhaps they never liked wholesomeness in the first place. Okay, now, I'll read the thing.

1. At the Billboard Music Awards, Miley Cyrus was introduced by her younger sister Noah with the (obviously scripted) line: "For the first time in years with pants on, my big sis, Miley Cyrus." Here's how that looked. The "pants" are very short white cut-off jeans. She also had the kind of off-the-shoulder blouse that we were just talking about in the Michelle Obama context. Instead of dancing about, Cyrus stood planted at the microphone, in the take-my-voice-seriously style of singers like Adele.

2. Cyrus has a video in which she "pets a dog, runs with balloons, and flashes her gold engagement ring." The song, we're told, "is a mix of Laurel Canyon and Nashville, equal parts bohemian and smarmy." Which doesn't sound wholesome. Petrusich says it's "lifeless." Lifeless isn't wholesome. Wholesomeness relates to goodness and health. Lifelessness is death. But Petrusich happens to prefer Cyrus's more vigorous demeanor in her song "Wrecking Ball" (which is about celebrating body-slamming ("I came in like a wrecking ball/I never hit so hard in love/All I wanted was to break your walls")).

3. Cyrus had a period a couple years ago in which she indulged in the white privilege of "trying-on and discarding of black culture," and now she's "essentially scrubbed her music and image of any hints of the hip-hop and R. & B.," and that might be "sinister."

4. Now, she seems to be doing a "good-girl routine," and it might be "a sendup" of — among other things — "our racially polarized political climate." Pop music is full of "artifice," we all know, and part of the "charade" is a cycle of "reinvention." Cyrus already reinvented herself from "Hannah Montana" to game sex object. To go back to "guileless, fresh-faced ingénue" is to pendulum swing between the 2 most obvious options for a female pop star.

5. Cyrus is getting married, we're told, and that seems to mean she needs to "find[] a new way to be (or act) virtuous." But what she's doing now is so "banal": "pretty, tamed, straight, still, white." Why is the "path forward" for young women so "narrow"? She can "become less selfish and wayward only by embracing antiquated notions of femininity and propriety."

Is that "creepy"? "Creepiness" is the headline-writer's word. Perhaps Petrusich's point is more that the reinvention is just banal and boring. A girl veers into badness for thrills and excitement. What comes next should be a better form of emotional satisfaction, not retreat to the starting point. But is retreat "creepy"?

Being boring and uncreative isn't really creepy. The creeping sensation — to get back to origins — is a feeling in the flesh, a "chill shuddering feeling, caused by horror or repugnance" (OED). If that's your point here, New Yorker, you've got to take this to the next level, to what I said in the first paragraph of this post and say that the pose is gross because what looks wholesome is actually unwholesome, and you feel revulsion.

But that wouldn't fit with the conclusion you chose, which was itself banal and boring, that after the innocence and debauchery, there's a new third stage, something less "less selfish and wayward" but not just "femininity and propriety." I guess that's supposed to sound like feminism, but I'm a bit creeped out by the statement that "femininity" is an "antiquated notion" and "white" is "banal."

Who's really creepy here?

By the way, if you declare "femininity" a "notion" — even without the "antiquated" —  how can you be trans-friendly?

"Wisconsin is the nation’s leading producer of sand used in hydraulic fracturing...."

"Wisconsin sand, prized by frackers for its grains’ ideal size, shape and durability, is shipped to drilling sites including Texas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Canada...."
“This resurrection of the sand boom is important because it’s happening at a time when some communities are suffering because agricultural prices are low,” [said industry consultant Kent Syverson, chairman of UW-Eau Claire’s geology department]....

While the northern white sand found in the Midwest remains the highest quality and generates the highest yields for fracking, it costs $60 to $70 per ton to ship it to Texas, and more companies are exploring the possibility of using [lower-quality] Texas sand instead to save on transportation costs....
The article — "Sand industry back in business in western Wisconsin" — doesn't explain why this great sand is in Wisconsin. Ah, here, from the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences Arts & Letters:
Frac sand is defined by its purity, shape, and toughness. It is more than 99% quartz, the grains are highly spherical, and it is extremely hard to crush....

Quartz is comprised of silicon and oxygen. A silicon atom in quartz has four positive charges, and to each of those is bonded a negatively charged oxygen atom. It balances nicely, four negatives bonded to four positives. Many minerals contain silicon bonded to oxygen, but the special attribute of quartz is that its silicon atoms share oxygen amongst themselves: Each oxygen atom in quartz is completing the charge balance for not one but two silicon atoms. That means the atomic scaffolding in that tiny grain of rock is so inter-bonded that a billion years of weathering can’t break it down....

The quartz-rich crystalline rock of the Precambrian era is very old. According to [Wisconsin’s State Geologist James] Robertson, these sands spent nearly a billion years near Earth’s surface, relatively free of overlying rock, where they underwent a cycle of repeated weathering, re-working, and rounding before being swept into the Cambrian sea that eventually deposited them in today’s Wisconsin....

After a billion years, all that was left was the most resistant of all minerals: quartz. And even the quartz started weathering after a while with the hard edges of the sand grains getting chipped away, leaving more spherical bits of quartz.

These well-sorted, atomically fortified grains fit the frac sand bill. This sand, Robertson says, has a crush resistance of 4,000- 6,000 pounds per square inch (psi). That means each grain has the ability to maintain its shape while thousands of pounds bears down on it. Together, the grains can and do bear even more pressure from overlying rock thousands of feet deep.

“You can’t have a bunch of wussy sand that falls apart when you squeeze it,” Robertson says.
ALSO: Recently, in The New Yorker: "The World Is Running Out of Sand/It’s one of our most widely used natural resources, but it’s scarcer than you think."

May 27, 2017

"The visceral instinct to physically attack a person who has just attacked you is strong; the surge of adrenal hormones makes it feel possible and necessary."

"That circuitry is increasingly vestigial, but overriding it and playing the longer game requires an active decision," writes James Hamblin — in "How a Man Takes a Body Slam/In an assault in Montana, two very different ideas of masculinity" (The Atlantic) — praising the Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs for his "judicious, prescient reaction" to the body-slamming he seems to have received from Greg Gianforte.

Hamblin likes the idea of "redefining strength" by accepting, in the moment, that one has been "physically overpowered" and not getting caught up in "the idea of masculinity as an amalgam of dominance and violence." Instead, Jacobs, speaking "as if narrating for the audio recorder," said “You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses." He also "started asking for names of witnesses to the assault who will be assets to his case as it plays out in courts of law and public opinion," and reported the incident to the police.

Of course, Jacobs's choices were not merely a matter of overcoming physical impulses and meritoriously eschewing violence. I don't know how much of an impulse to retaliate on the spot he may have felt. I don't really know how violently he was hit. I don't even know if he did something first toward Gianforte and Gianforte was doing the old tit for tat retaliation. But narrating the audio, dropping it on line, going to the police, and taking names for litigation purposes is also a form of dominance. Some people would even call it violence. Why, here's an article in The Atlantic from just last June: "Enforcing the Law Is Inherently Violent/A Yale law professor suggests that oft-ignored truth should inform debates about what statutes and regulations to codify."

You know, if somehow I were given the choice between getting body slammed and getting charged with a crime and the question were How hard would the body slam need to be before you'd prefer to get charged with a crime?, I'd say pretty damned hard. And I'm just a little old lady. I'd rather be body-slammed than get sued in tort. If you body-slammed me, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't hit you back.* But I'll tell you one thing: If you sue me, I will defend to the hilt, and —  where ethically appropriate — there will be counterclaims.

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* And I have been body-slammed, at rock concerts, when I was trying to stand out of the range of a mosh pit and some young man came flying out obliviously. And sometimes it was intentional, an effort to provoke non-moshers to listen to the music the properly physical way. But I didn't call the cops or take names or file lawsuits.

IN THE COMMENTS: EDH says:
A "body-slam" is lifting someone completely of the ground and then driving their body to the ground.

It's not the same as "slam-dancing" on the periphery of a mosh pit, where one person slams his body into someone else's.
Wait. Let's get some shared understanding here. Does anybody think Jacobs intended to refer to the professional wrestling move? Here's a careful, precise demonstration of what that is:

Goodbye to Gregg Allman.



The rock star — who "struggled with many health issues over the past several years" — died today at the age of 69.

Let others stress the music. I remember his relationship with Cher. This detail is stuck forever in my mind:
They had a disastrous first date; Allman sucked on her fingers and tried to kiss her, and Cher fled. Against her better judgment, she agreed to a second date. Allman took her dancing, and they started to connect. "Pulling words out of Gregg Allman is like . . . forget it," she told Playboy that year. "Things started to mellow when he found out that I was a person — that a chick was not just a dummy. For him up till then, they'd had only two uses: make the bed and make it in the bed."
And then:

Maybe people don't want to relate to real human beings anymore, and we're consuming these movies to help us adjust to the "uncanny valley," so we can settle down there someday soon.

I'm reading "Male Stars Are Too Buff Now," by E. Alex Jung (in New York Magazine).
... Zac Efron’s body displays a muscularity I can only describe as “deeply uncomfortable.” The actor told Men’s Fitness that he wanted to “drop the last bit of body fat” for Baywatch and he seems to have meant that literally... Zac Efron does not look like a swimmer. His action-figure physique is much bulkier than you’d see at an Olympic pool...

In 2011’s Crazy Stupid Love, Emma Stone’s character said that Ryan Gosling’s body looked like it had been “photoshopped.” The joke seems practically quaint now.... Stars like Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman have simply been forced to go even further to separate themselves from the pack, to the point where their bodies look truly unreal. We’ve entered a reverse uncanny valley where the real looks unreal: Flesh and blood human celebrities now sport the vein-popping, skintight muscles comic-book artists could once only conjure in their imaginations....
Everything is so fake now. It's not just male actors, it's "female actors" too. Maybe we like fake. That's a lateral thinking explanation that makes sense, being simple. Maybe people don't want to relate to real human beings anymore, and we're consuming these movies to help us adjust to the "uncanny valley" as we move ever closer to the time when we'll be happy to satisfy our sexual and emotional needs with robots.

Here's the above-mentioned scene. (Warning, Emma Stone will shout "Fuck!" before "It's like you're photoshopped.")

"Wise-cracking funnyman Al Franken yesterday body-slammed a demonstrator to the ground after the man tried to shout down Gov. Howard Dean."

"The tussle left Franken’s trademark thick-rim glasses broken, but he said he was not injured.... 'I got down low and took his legs out,' said Franken afterwards.... "I’m for freedom of speech, which means people should be able to assemble and speak without being shouted down.'"

"Yesterday" = January 26, 2004.

The "Simpsons" take on Trump.

"I don't find the idea of wearing a romper that weird. I grew up around motorcycles and cars, and we called what we wore overalls..."

"... but it's the same single piece idea as a romper. I also wear a one-piece when I do competitive road cycling.... It feels easy, and you're not messing around with it every time you sit down. It lays how it lays, and that's it."

Said Shom, one of "5 Real Guys" who test-wore the male romper for Esquire. Shom recommended it: "One hundred percent. Especially the one I'm wearing—I would seek this one out. Actually, where did you get it?"

Guy #2 said: "Damn! This isn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Actually... this is a solid look. A classic mechanic's suit...."

Guy #3 said also compared it to "a mechanic's jumpsuit," but didn't like the "dropped crotch"* and didn't recommend it: "Absolutely not. Under no circumstance could I, in good conscience, recommend anybody wear a romper at any point."

Guy #4, who was the only one given a pink romper, didn't mention the pinkness, but said: "It's an interesting feel because there's nothing on your waist. You feel a little naked, actually. I understand why women would enjoy it—it feels pretty good and breezy. Outside of the breeziness, the really low crotch is not great."

Guy #5, the only one who got a print (and it was a loud, fruity** print), liked it: "I felt like a little kid. It really brings out a lot of playful attitude." But he liked looking like a child — "I'd also recommend a regular onesie. I'd also recommend Crocs. Why not? And pinwheel hats." — so he's exactly what I've been talking about all these years about men in shorts: It makes them look like little boys. If that's the look you want, you've got it.
________________

* Technically — and this is my observation — the crotch has to be really low because the entire thing is pulled up by the shoulders. If you lift your arms up or bend your torso forward, the whole thing is going to go up. Men's clothing is normally broken up at the waist, so the parts operate independently. If you make it one continuous piece, you're going to need to account for all the movement of the upper body. This is why dresses make more sense as a one-piece garment: The crotch is out of the action.

** Pineapples.

________________

ADDED: The word "romper" to refer to the child's garment goes back as far as 1902, according to the OED.  The word is used for an adult garment, beginning in 1922, and not always for something worn by women. The OED has a definition: "(a) a fashionable, loose-fitting woman's garment combining esp. a short-sleeved or sleeveless top and wide-legged shorts; (b) (U.S.) a style of loose-fitting men's breeches or knickerbockers (now rare); (c) (Brit. Services' slang) any of several styles of military uniform; (d) a light one-piece garment allowing easy movement of the limbs, worn as sports clothing." Many of the historical quotes relate to men (but always with an "s"):
1941 Amer. Speech 16 186/2 [British Army slang] Rompers, battle dress.
1943 ‘T. Dudley-Gordon’ Coastal Command 85 Sipping hot coffee as he took off his rompers (combined parachute harness and Mae West life-jacket) he told us of his first night raid.
1954 H. Macmillan Diary 24 Aug. (2003) 346, I left the F.O. at noon and arrived for luncheon at Chartwell just after 1pm. P.M. was in bed—so I had to wait 20 minutes till he had got up and put on his ‘rompers’....
1990 D. Jablonsky Churchill, Great Game & Total War 145 In 15 minutes, Churchill, dressed in his ‘rompers’ was in the Intelligence Operations Room outlining his intelligence requirements.
Churchill

"Don’t Judge Montana for a Single Body Slam."

A NYT op-ed by Sarah Vowell. I like Sarah Vowell, but this grated on me.

She's talking about all the diversity there is in Montana — "farmers; ranchers; miners; artists, including folk singers, though let’s not underestimate our potters; the inhabitants of two lefty college towns, Missoula and Bozeman, where I grew up; and the coastal refugees such as Mr. Gianforte...."

She goes on:
So what’s the tally — at least 14 varieties of Montanan? Fifteen if we include the summer roofers-winter ski bums affectionately known in my home valley as “dirt bags.” The dirt bags might look like a bunch of Hillary-voting hippies, but based on my five winters during the Reagan-Bush era tending bar at the local ski area, Bridger Bowl, they’re stingy tippers and therefore, I suspect, secret Republicans.
Has it ever been established that conservatives are worse tippers than liberals? Is that even a stereotype? I'm offended that this is offered up as a laugh line, as if, of course, NYT readers will get this. Presumably, it has more to do with the idea that Republicans don't support generous governmental spending, but that assumes that Democrats, who are generous with the taxpayers' money, won't be stingy with their own money.

Research shows that conservatives give more to charity than liberals give.

The liberal vanity about personal generosity, empathy, and goodness, is on display in Vowell's op-ed. I guess I could say it's funny, even if you don't believe the stereotype that Republicans are stingy, because you can laugh at the stereotype that Vowell embodies by saying that. And she keeps it personal. She says "I suspect." And we can picture her as the young bartender, noticing the tip is bad, and getting some solace out of thinking: must be a Republican.

She put him in her tip jar of deplorables. 

"If anything seemed to unite the sartorial choices the first lady made, at least during the day, it was a certain rigidity of line, monochrome palette and militaristic mien."

"She favored sharp power shoulders, single-breasted jackets with wide cinched belts and big square buckles, straight skirts and a lot of buttons. Mostly buttoned up.... For what battle, exactly, is she preparing? Theories have been floated: her husband’s critics; the prying eyes of the outside world; even her own marriage. Maybe it’s the much vaunted revolution the president was fond of saying he led; maybe she, too, is fighting for his agenda. Or maybe it’s just a signal that she is prepared to take her place on the home front."

That's from "Melania Trump on Display, Dressed in Ambivalence and Armor," by Vanessa Friedman in the NYT, trying to understand why Melania Trump wore what she wore on the big foreign trip. (Nice 14-photo slide show at the link.)

By the way, was Trump fond of saying he led a "revolution"? I blogged the whole campaign, meticulously inspecting the rhetoric, and when I search my archive for Trump and revolution, all the references I see to revolution are connected to Bernie Sanders, except where I myself am saying but isn't what Trump is doing a revolution? And I see that when Trump won the New Hampshire primary, he walked out on stage to the tune of "Revolution."

Googling, I see that Trump used the word "revolution" right after the 2012 election. He tweeted: "He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!" But I don't think "revolution" was his word in 2016.

Please correct me if I'm missing references to "revolution" by Trump in 2016, but I think "the much vaunted revolution the president was fond of saying he led" is off.

As for Friedman's opinion of Melania, it reminded me of Robin Givhan's piece the other day, saying that Melania was dressed for "control and containment." Givhan didn't say "armor," but I used the word in my reaction to Givhan:
I'm not sure where the "control and containment" is supposed to be — maybe in the constricting leather skirt or maybe it's something she's extracting from the President who scampers at her heel — but from the waist up, I'm seeing a more freewheeling style, an eschewing of a fully controlled structure. I'm not criticizing this choice, I'm just saying this isn't the Jackie Kennedy choice of clothing as armor, but a stretchy sweater over something less than the most rigid undergarments. I see an amusing combo of loose and tight.
I was talking about one particular outfit, which you can see at that last link. Friedman, as noted above, has 14 photos of things Melania wore. Some of them indeed have a squared-off look with tight cinching that could be called rigid and militaristic, but other things were loose and flowing, including and especially #5, which was worn during the day. I guess whatever isn't "armor" gets tossed into the "ambivalence" pile, especially that $51,000 flower-encrusted coat she's wearing over her shoulders in photo 14.

Trump antagonists fail to see the comic fakeness of a comic artist's comic fake letter from Trump.

On Facebook, Berkeley Breathed — who does the comic strip "Bloom County" — put up a letter purporting to be from Donald Trump's lawyer. Here's the image of the letter, replete with law-firm letterhead and lawyerly bluster about Trump's supposed legal right over the "commercial" use of his image and threatening to sue for an injunction in federal court (specifically the Eastern District of New York).

The prediction that the "lawyer" will win the lawsuit is (pun intended) cheeky: "To use language that you might understand (per my client's wishes) we will have your ass in a sling before lunch." (The word "ass" is redacted in the posted image.)

Breathed followed that with an image of his own letter, typed on his letterhead (and I mean typed, because there's Wite Out.) He says he's "really, very sincerely sorry" and has taken down all the images that are "upsetting the President."

Is that fake-funny enough for everyone to get it? The NYT reports:
The letters rocketed around the internet. By Friday afternoon, CrowdTangle, which tracks social media activity, showed that the original Facebook post was seen by three million newsfeeds and generated 78,000 interactions — people sharing, commenting or otherwise reacting to it. Many of the people who shared the post on social media seemed to take it seriously.
Fake news. People fall for it, especially when it confirms their suspicions. But this wasn't even news. This was a Facebook post from a comics artist.
[The] website Uproxx, wrote about the letter as if it were real — “Trump Is Threatening the Creator of ‘Bloom County’ Over a Facebook Meme [UPDATED],” the headline now reads. That update at the bottom? A tweet from a BuzzFeed reporter who had confirmed with Marc Kasowitz, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, that the letter was not real.

“This is a fraud, not true,” Mr. Kasowitz, who did not reply to an email seeking comment on Friday, told BuzzFeed.
Fraud! Now, poor Breathed is accused of "fraud." He should sue. (I'm kidding!!!)

"Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin..."

"... using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports," The Washington Post reports.
The White House disclosed the meeting only in March, playing down its significance. But people familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest.

[Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who attended the meeting,[ reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.

Neither the meeting nor the communications of Americans involved were under U.S. surveillance, officials said.
So... Kushner expressed interest in doing something that was never done. It was a bad idea — WaPo stresses — and if a bad idea was floated and then rejected, what is the story? WaPo says the White House disclosed this meeting back in March and "play[ed] down its significance," but is WaPo playing up its significance? What is the significance?
The FBI closely monitors the communications of Russian officials in the United States, and it maintains a nearly constant surveillance of its diplomatic facilities. The National Security Agency monitors the communications of Russian officials overseas.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that although Russian diplomats have secure means of communicating with Moscow, Kushner’s apparent request for access to such channels was extraordinary.

“How would he trust that the Russians wouldn’t leak it on their side?” said one former senior intelligence official. The FBI would know that a Trump transition official was going in and out of the embassy, which would cause “a great deal” of concern, he added. The entire idea, he said, “seems extremely naive or absolutely crazy.”
But the "extremely naive or absolutely crazy" idea was rejected, so what is the significance? The meeting, we're told, took place on December 1st or 2d, and WaPo says it's part of "a broader pattern of efforts by Trump’s closest advisers to obscure their contacts with Russian counterparts." And yet, WaPo tells us, "It is common for senior advisers of a newly elected president to be in contact with foreign leaders and officials" and "The State Department, the White House National Security Council and U.S. intelligence agencies all have the ability to set up secure communications channels with foreign leaders, though doing so for a transition team would be unusual."  

Unusual? That means it has happened before. And it ultimately wasn't done with the Trump team, so when was it done? Which President's transition team set up secure communications and was it "extremely naive or absolutely crazy"?

I know Trump has been concerned that the Obama administration was "wiretapping" him. How does that fit with this story? Is it that the Trump team was trying to avoid being monitored by the Obama administration, and, if so, is there something wrong with talking about how it might be arranged so that the President elect could interact with foreign leaders without sharing everything with with Obama administration?

May 26, 2017

"To be sure, Trump got plenty of negative coverage in the press as well, but, during the campaign at least, the negative stories didn’t seem to stick to him with the same adhesion."

"And even now, as investigations of his administration’s connections to Russia splash across front pages, the Times has launched a new feature, a weekly call to readers to 'Say something nice' about him. I ask Clinton if she’s seen it. 'I did!' she says with a wide smile, taking a beat. 'I never saw them do that for me.'"

From "Hillary Clinton Is Furious. And Resigned. And Funny. And Worried./The surreal post-election life of the woman who would have been president," by Rebecca Traister.

AND: Here's the transcript of the graduation speech Hillary just gave at Wellesley:
You may have heard that things didn't exactly go the way I planned. But you know what? I'm doing okay. I've gotten to spend time with my family, especially my amazing grandchildren. I was going to give the entire commencement speech about them but was talked out of it.

Long walks in the woods. Organizing my closets, right? I won't lie. Chardonnay helped a little too. Here's what helped most of all. Remembering who I am, where I come from, and what I believe...
Too bad she didn't remember during the campaign. If she'd seemed at least a bit to be someone who believed in a few things, maybe the negative stories wouldn't have stuck to her with the same adhesion.

Evergreen State College biology professor Bret Weinstein is swarmed and cursed and hounded by students who are scarily deluded about their own righteousness.



The man is condemned for objecting to a "Day of Absence" demonstration that took the form of asking white students to stay off campus for one day.
In the past, the Day of Absence has been a day where black and Latino students leave campus to highlight their significance on campus. This year students wanted to change the format. Instead of leaving campus themselves, they wanted white students and professors to leave campus, thereby creating a safe space for the students left behind. Professor Weinstein objected to that format and wrote and email saying he would not be leaving campus and encouraged others not to do so. 
The students are now calling him a racist and demanding that he resign.

He's also been warned by by the Chief of Police that he's not safe on campus, and he obliged (ironically) by staying off campus. He appears very calm and courageous in the video as he's confronted by a horrible mob, so I'm not sure why he didn't stand his ground and teach his class in the usual place (especially considering his position on the Day of Absence).

There's something in the video that I really like. Professor Weinstein says:
"There’s a difference between debate and dialectic. Debate means you are trying to win. Dialectic means you are using disagreement to discover what is true. I am not interested in debate. I am only interested in dialectic, which does mean I listen to you, and you listen to me."
That's so well put. I've been saying for years I won't debate. Students at the law school would often set up events as debates and ask me to speak on one side of the debate. It was usually a side I wasn't even on, but that's beside the point. I resist the human interaction that is debate. I'd love to think the students would respond to the calmly stated, crisp debate/dialectic distinction, but it got this aggravated comeback:
"We don’t care what terms you want to speak on. This is not about you. We are not speaking on terms — on terms of white privilege. This is not a discussion. You have lost that one."
ADDED: "You have lost that one" is an interesting declaration. It's so arrogant in its faux authoritativeness but if there's "one," there's also another. In this case, the next "one" is this public airing of the video, and it's pitifully obvious that the students have lost this one.

ALSO: This story disturbed me so much, but it took me longer than usual to come over and blog it, because I wanted to research the subject of students attacking teachers. It's a big subject, but I took the time to read "Student Attacks Against Teachers: The Revolution of 1966," by Youqin Wang. If you're wondering how bad things can get, read that.

At the Iris Bud Café...

DSC_0007

... finally, you are free to talk about anything you want.

(And please consider doing your shopping through The Althouse Amazon Portal.)

Dating apps "tempt you to keep swiping, and as you whiz through tens, hundreds or even thousands of profiles... there’s got to be someone better than the person I’m seeing right now."

"Which means that monogamy requires more sacrifice than ever. If offered free travel, why would anyone settle for one place when it’s possible to tour the entire world?"

Well, I, for one, would not settle for someone who's that bad with analogies.

You can travel the world and still have a home town, and the town lets you live there, no matter how often you go elsewhere and how long you stay away, and the town doesn't get jealous and betray you when you're gone. You can have a home town — even 2 or 3 home towns — and come back to them whenever you want homey comforts and familiarity.

But you can't have a husband or wife unless you get married. If you want a good analogy, you'd have have to think about whether you'd want to live on the road forever if the alternative were to have one home and never travel. Make sure to think about what it will be like if you get sick or when you get old, if you're fortunate enough to grow old in this world that might get ugly as you're out there traveling through its entirety.

"It’s good to normalize evil, in the sense of showing how otherwise 'normal' people and institutions can perpetrate evil acts..."

"... and every attempt should be made to do so. That’s how you prevent more evil from happening in the future."

Ah! I chose to blog this before I noticed the author, Jesse Singal. He's good!

He's writing about the reaction to that Atlantic article "My Family's Slave" (by Alex Tizon). Some people said that article shouldn't have been published. Example of the objection: "I am filled with nothing but anger and hatred at the vileness of the attempt by Alex Tizon to whitewash a slaveholder. No. FUCK! NO!"

Singal says:
In fact, it’s a common reaction just about any time a journalistic account of evil people or evil acts includes nuance and texture. Back in 2013, for example, some people were furious at Rolling Stone for running a cover image of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in which the Boston Marathon bomber looked like… well, a normal kid. A handsome one, even. Some of the critics accused Rolling Stone of giving him the “rock star” treatment.

This “you’re normalizing evil!” critique didn’t make sense then, and it doesn’t make sense now.

What I found when I was looking for what Jake Tapper said about that "He just body-slammed me" story.

Jake Tapper wrote a book called "Body Slam: The Jesse Ventura Story."



Okay. Try again. Here:
The editorial board of the Billings Gazette, a CNN affiliate, retracted its endorsement of Gianforte, stating, "We believe that you cannot love America, love the Constitution, talk about the importance of a free press and then pummel a reporter."

Tapper echoed the newspaper's stance.

"Let us add that those public officials finding it difficult these days to muster the courage to strongly condemn a politician committing assault on a reporter, maybe you need to reexamine how much you truly love the Constitution beyond just saying the words," he said.
The Constitution protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press not just for reporters, but for everyone. And the Constitution guarantees due process for the criminally accused. Someone who would "strongly condemn a politician committing assault on a reporter" might also demonstrate a love of constitutional values by refraining from assuming that a particular individual accused of committing a crime is guilty. The hesitation to condemn Gianforte — I believe, even though I averted my eyes from yesterday's swarming and feasting — had to do with a fear that an audiotape was being exploited and possibly distorted to raise a sudden frenzy just as an election was occurring.

You talk about courage, but jumping into a frenzied mob isn't a mark of courage. Show me everyone who without hesitation condemned Gianforte, and I'd like to know whether he or she either: 1. Wanted the Republican to lose the election, or 2. Was afraid of getting attacked for endorsing violence. Is there anyone left? Show me the man or woman of true courage.

Mixed metaphor of the day.

"Trump's Budget Guts The Safety Net, And Other Myths." ("Spending on entitlement programs isn't being cut. At least not in the traditional sense of spending less next year than you spend this year. Trump's budget doesn't touch Social Security or Medicare, and only slows the growth of the remaining 'safety net' programs.")

You can talk about the policy angles. I want to talk about the mixed metaphor of gutting a net. It seems interestingly fish-related, no?

The verb "to gut" means, of course, to take out the guts, notably of fish.
1599 H. Buttes Dyets Dry Dinner sig. L7v, Carpe..Lay it scaled and gutted sixe houres in salt.
That's from the OED. The most common figurative use, historically, is in reference to buildings.
1688 N. Luttrell Diary in Brief Hist. Relation State Affairs (1857) I. 486 The 11th, in the evening, the mobile gott together, and went to the popish chappel in Lincolns Inn Feilds, and perfectly gutted the same.
I think of "net" in connection with fish — a fishing net — but a "safety net" is not a fishing net. The phrase "safety net" — "An extensive net suspended or held above the ground to prevent injury in the event of a fall or jump from a height" — goes back to at least 1840:

"John Glenn’s remains were disrespected at the military's mortuary, Pentagon documents allege."

"A senior mortuary employee at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware twice offered horrified inspectors a peek at American icon John Glenn's dead body while the famed astronaut awaited burial earlier this year, according to an internal memo obtained by Military Times."

What if Dusko Markovic had shoved Donald Trump back and Trump had yelled "You just body-slammed me" and we had the whole thing not on video, but only audio?

Here's Trump getting physical with the Prime Minister of Montenegro.



I don't know if you've ever been videotaped moving through a packed, stopped crowd, with the camera zoomed in on you and the video rendered in slow-mo at the point at which you made the most physical contact and the most forward progress. But that happened to Trump. And even in that clipped-down snippet, we see Dusko Markovic smile, which reassures fair-minded people that it wasn't a big deal, but even so, it gave the anti-Trump folks something to cry "thug" about and psychoanalyze — "You tiny, tiny, tiny little man," tweeted J.K. Rowlingand mock. Everything that can be used will be used.

But what if the camera weren't there? I assume Trump would have behaved differently, perhaps he'd have been more brusque and brutal, perhaps less. He might have barged through more carelessly if he knew there were no visual record. But he might have been more patient and meek, because he wouldn't have had to worry about looking comically ineffectual. And the situation he faced might have been different if the people in front of him had had no concern that they might look disrespected and unimportant.

It's even possible that the blockage Trump faced was a deliberate closing of ranks by the European leaders assigned to the back row, so the cameras would capture thousands of images of poor Trump, stuck behind the feisty Europeans, unable to make his way forward. Imagine the headlines the newspapers could plop on top of the funniest, most symbolic-seeming picture of trapped Trump.

But what if the cameras weren't there and instead we had audio? Men moving for position within a crowd, each with his own agenda, each wanting power and high respect. They're jostling around and past each other. And let's imagine that Dusko Markovic, without the camera, reacted to Trump by pushing back, just a little bit harder. Picture it: Trump barged past, a little physical, and then Markovic took a you-push-me-I-push-you attitude and deliberately knocked Trump back. Remember, there's no video. But there's audio, and Trump yells "You just body-slammed me."

You see my point. All we'd have would be Trump's "You just body-slammed me." We wouldn't know that Trump did some modest manhandling that Markovic experienced as degrading and that Markovic was doing the old manly tit-for-tat.

You can do things with audio. I have no idea what really happened in the audio involving Greg Gianforte that was all over the news yesterday, but Gianforte has won the special election in Montana — with something like a 7 point margin of victory — and he's made a careful apology: "I should not have responded the way I did, for that I'm sorry. I should not have treated that reporter that way, and for that I'm sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs."

I say "careful," because he doesn't say what, exactly, "the way I did" was or why — there are many reasons — he "should not have responded" like that. Of course, he's sorry. He wisely refrains from adding nonapology baggage after "I'm sorry." (People often add words like "if anyone was offended," but they never add "that I got into so much trouble.")

Speaking of "careful," going forward, politicians need to be careful. I'm worried about things that can be done with audio. The "body-slamming" vocalization may have been entirely justified by whatever happened out there in Montana, but it also points the way to endless dirty tricks. You can say anything, and you can say it with feeling: Hit hit me! He grabbed me! How dare you! You choked me!

You can lie with video too. Dusko Markovic could have hammily stumbled off to the side and fallen on the floor. But lying with speech is the normal, daily behavior of the human being. It comes so naturally and easily to us. Fortunately, sorting through lies and deceit is also something we do every day. It's hard to keep up. But we still care about trying.

"Gunmen opened fire on vehicles carrying Coptic Christians in southern Egypt early Friday, killing at least 20 people..."

"... according to state news agencies," the NYT reports.
A Christian official in Minya province, south of Cairo, said the attackers opened fire on a pickup truck carrying workmen and a bus carrying worshipers as they traveled in convoy to St. Samuel’s monastery. Many of the worshipers were children.

“We are having a very hard time reaching the monastery because it is in the desert. It’s very confusing. But we know that children were killed,” said the official, Ibram Samir....

The Islamic State bombed the main Coptic cathedral in Cairo on Dec. 11 and attacked a church in Alexandria and a church in Tanta on Palm Sunday, April 9, killing at least 78 people. A small Christian community in northern Sinai fled the town of El Arish after a series of gun attacks on homes and businesses....

After the Palm Sunday attack, Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, declared a state of emergency....
ADDED: Just last month, the Pope visited Egypt. The NYT wrote:
The pope also spoke at a peace conference hosted by Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al Azhar mosque, and met with the Coptic patriarch, Pope Tawadros II....

In a decentralized Muslim world, the pope’s speech and his continuation of a dialogue with Sheikh Tayeb provided Muslims with a high-profile counterpoint to the radical language coming from extremists. Al Azhar forms many of the Sunni world’s imams and oversees the education of millions of Egyptian children and college students....

May 25, 2017

"The pain was... I can’t explain the pain except to say if you’ve ever put your finger in a light socket as a kid, multiply that feeling by a gazillion throughout your entire body."

“And I saw a white light surrounding my body—it was like I was in a bubble. Everything was slow motion. I felt like I was in a bubble for ever."

From "What It's Like to Be Struck by Lightning/There’s a good chance you’ll survive. But the effects can be lasting."

The best light in Meade's garden just now...

DSC_0017

... fell on the columbine.

(That's shot — by me, just now — with the Micro-NIKKOR 105mm lens.)

Body-slammed in Bozeman.

The news from Montana.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals refuses to reinstate Trump's revised travel ban.

Adam Liptak reports in the NYT.
The case is now likely to go to the Supreme Court.

France censors a public-service ad that shows children with Down syndrome growing up happily.

Here's the ad:



Here's Sohrab Ahmari in The Wall Street Journal.
In France three TV networks agreed to carry [the "Dear Future Mom" ad] as a public service. The feedback was glowing -- until that summer, when the government's High Audiovisual Council, or CSA, issued a pair of regulatory bulletins interdicting the ad. The regulator said it was reacting to audience complaints.
The Jerome Lejeune Foundation, which sponsors the ad in France, eventually learned that only 2 complaints had been filed. One objected to the foundation, because it is anti-abortion. The other came from a woman who'd had an abortion when she was told her unborn child had Down syndrome. Because she mourned the child, she said, she experienced the ad as "violent."
The foundation appealed [the ban], and the case eventually came before the Council of State, France's highest administrative court. The council in November affirmed the ban, holding that the ad could "disturb the conscience" of women who had had abortions after a Down syndrome diagnosis....

For the foundation, the claim that the ad evokes feelings of guilt only attests to its moral truth. Says spokeswoman Stephanie Billot: "When you show a video of DS kids who say, 'Well, I won't be normal, but I will still be able to love you,' the guilt becomes so unbearable that society rejects it. It's a common, unconscious guilt for all who said nothing about the effort to systematically eliminate DS." Guilt can be salutary.

The foundation this month lodged an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights, asserting free-speech violations as well as genetic discrimination....

"This week the Harvard campus served as a reunion of sorts for several former Obama administration officials."

"Former vice president Joe Biden spoke to college graduates, and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates addressed the graduating class at Harvard Law school," and former secretary of state John F. Kerry spoke to the graduates at the Kennedy School of Government.
“And the truth is – no, this is not a normal time,” Kerry said. “It’s not normal to see a president of the United States decrying ‘so-called judges.’ It’s not normal for the leader of the country that invented the First Amendment to routinely degrade and even threaten journalists. And no, it’s not normal to see the head of the FBI fired summarily because he was investigating connections between Russia and the presidential campaign of the very man who fired him. And it’s not normal that when you close your eyes and listen to the news, too often the political back and forth in America sounds too much like it does in the kinds of countries that the State Department warns Americans not to travel to."
ADDED: This makes me think of the novel I've been reading, "The Mosquito Coast" (by Paul Theroux). The narrator describes his father, a genius who dropped out of Harvard:
Father [was] talking the whole way about... the awfulness of America— how it got turned into a dope-taking, door-locking, ulcerated danger zone of rabid scavengers and criminal millionaires and moral sneaks. And look at the schools. And look at the politicians. And there wasn’t a Harvard graduate who could change a flat tire or do ten pushups....

[Father] boasted that he had dropped out of Harvard in order to get a good education. He was prouder of his first job as a janitor than his Harvard scholarship....

“Strictly speaking,” Father said, “there is no such thing as invention. It’s not creation, I mean. It’s just magnifying what already exists. Making ends meet. They could teach it in school— Edison wanted to make invention a school subject, like civics or French. But the schools went for fingerpainting, when they could have been teaching kids to read. They encouraged back talk. School is play! Harvard is play!”

"I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind," said Ben Carson.

"You take somebody that has the right mind-set, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they’ll be right back up there...."
You take somebody with the wrong mind-set, you can give them everything in the world — they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom....

If everybody had a mother like mine, nobody would be in poverty. She was a person who absolutely would not accept the status of victim.

"More than five dozen Middlebury College students were disciplined for their roles in shutting down a speech by the author Charles Murray in March..."

"... the college announced this week. But the students were spared the most serious penalties in the episode, which left a faculty member injured and came to symbolize a lack of tolerance for conservative ideas on some campuses," the NYT reports.
Mr. Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, [said] "The sanctions are a farce,... They will not deter anyone. They’re a statement to students that if you shut down a lecture, nothing will happen to you.”...

Matthew Dickinson, a political science professor at Middlebury, said he believed that while the penalties might satisfy some members of the faculty and the community... [But] “[The students] don’t understand the value of free speech at a college and what free speech really means... I think some people are going to say we should be looking more broadly at the institution and whether we taught these students properly.”

Devon Arthurs shot 2 of his roommates to death and said they were neo-Nazis and so was he, before he converted to Islam.

He said they were anti-Muslim (which, of course, doesn't justify murder). There's also a 4th roommate, Brandon Russell, and the murder investigation uncovered,  we're told, a picture of Timothy McVeigh or his dresser and what are said to be bomb-making ingredients, the NYT reports.
Mr. Russell, who was arrested on Sunday in Key Largo, confirmed to law enforcement officials that he was member of Atomwaffen, a neo-Nazi group, and that he had manufactured the “white-cake-like substance,” the authorities said. He told the F.B.I. that he had been planning to use the substance to “boost homemade rockets and to send balloons into the atmosphere for testing.” The F.B.I. agent who wrote the affidavit on which the complaint was based, Timothy A. Swanson, expressed skepticism about Mr. Russell’s explanation, given the volatility of the substance.

I agree: It was implicit.

"I thought it was implicit."

Maybe India, not China, is the most populous country in the world.

According to Yi Fuxiang, a Chinese medical expert and population researcher based here at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, quoted in the NYT.
China’s real population may be 1.29 billion people, 90 million fewer than the government’s estimate of 1.38 billion in 2016, Mr. Yi told a meeting at Peking University on Monday, citing what he said were telltale inconsistencies among birthrate, hospital and school statistics. India’s population, on the other hand, had grown to 1.33 billion in 2016, according to the United Nations.

“I want people to pay attention, because this is such a big issue for China,” Mr. Yi said. He has long criticized China’s family planning policies that emerged in the 1970s and took a draconian hold in the 1980s... “Even if family planning stopped, habits die hard,” he said. “Overall, our structure is where Japan was in 1992, and our economic waning will be a long-term trend.”

What "three separate occasions" was Trump referring to when he said that Comey had told him that he was not under investigation?

Here's Comey's friend Benjamin Witte explaining why he finds it "simply inconceivable to me that Comey would tell the President that." That is, he doesn't know, but he tries to imagine what Comey could have done, and he just can't.



Witte says "it would have been lunacy for Comey to assure the President that his conduct was not ultimately a matter of scrutiny in at least some of the investigative threads the FBI had—and has—ongoing." Lunacy? But perhaps Comey is a lunatic? Witte — conceding that Trump has said Comey is "a nut job" — assures us: "Comey is not, in fact, a lunatic."

Witte says it would be "completely inappropriate and irresponsible" for Comey to have assured the President he's not under investigation, and Comey is a man of dedication and integrity. Therefore, he couldn't have done it.

Finally, Witte says that Comey cared about the independence of the FBI, and therefore it's "inconceivable" that Comey would do anything other than resisting encroachments by the President.

Now, Witte concedes that something must have been said that makes Trump think he can make his "three times" statement. But what? Witte concedes that "there’s actually nothing unusual about a person who is wrapped up in a white collar investigation inquiring about his status within it." Often, Witte tells us, the Justice Department will tell people whether they are “witness,” a “subject,” or a “target.” Witte "wouldn’t be surprised at all" if Trump asked about his status and got an answer from Comey. So that's completely conceivable, and Witte's complaint dwindles down into an argument about what it means to be "under investigation."

Witte concedes that Trump might have asked "Am I under investigation?" and Comey might have answered "You are not currently the target of any investigation." Trump might have inaccurately paraphrased that statement to "not under investigation." It's not that different from the way Witte paraphrases "not under investigation" as "not ultimately a matter of scrutiny in at least some of the investigative threads the FBI had."

"White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is nervous about what could be in store for him if the former FBI director reveals more details of his secret memos."

Write Betsy Woodruff, Lachlan Markay, and Asawin Suebsaeng at The Daily Beast.

How do they know he's "nervous"?
Three White House officials told The Daily Beast that Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has privately expressed worry about a possible Comey memo specifically involving one of their reported chats, and how it might play in the press and to investigators.

“Nervous laughter,” one official succinctly characterized Priebus’ demeanor in the midst of recent revelations.
So... he's "nervous" because he laughed at something — we're not told what — and one unnamed person characterized the laughter as nervous. And, in the opinion of the reporters, Priebus should be nervous — "Any anxiety on Priebus’ part, however, would appear to be well-justified" — because Comey wrote memos — which the reporters characterize as "judicious" — about conversations and
"Priebus’ private conversation with Comey could have violated longstanding FBI policy barring officials from discussing its cases with the White House."

Maybe Comey should be nervous, but Comey wrote a memo, and perhaps Priebus should be worried that any Comey memo in this situation would protect Comey's interest in not being seen as violating FBI policy.

I've noticed what I think may be a significant trend in reporting in the Trump era: reporting it as news that somebody is — perhaps only by slanted inference — nervous. Here's last Sunday's post, "Nervous." I'm making a new tag for this trend: nervous.

"Here are the 66 programs eliminated in Trump's budget."

At The Hill.

May 24, 2017

Iris gets ready to overtake the allium...

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... in Meade's garden.

This Washington Post article — "How a dubious Russian document influenced the FBI’s handling of the Clinton probe" — is extremely hard to read.

I needed to read it out loud with Meade and discuss it sentence-by-sentence and almost word-by-word. It took me at least 10 minutes to get past the first 2 sentences.

So I don't have the time or patience to parse through this entire thing, and I encourage you to read it carefully and try to figure out what the Washington Post is trying to pump up or minimize, who's lying or stretching the truth, and whether the underlying story in the document has any element of truth to it. Why did 3 of the 4 key characters named in the document flatly deny everything and one refused to speak?*

If everyone always thought the document was unreliable,** why is it being held up now as having had an effect on Comey's decision to go public in July? There's an idea that he was afraid that the Russians would be able to dump this story after Lynch took a position, undercutting her authority. But why did it help for Comey to go public first? The story could still have been dumped on him, undercutting his authority (though it wasn't).

It seems that Comey just knew about a (fake?) story that the Russians could dump if and when they wanted. What exactly was he afraid of and why are we hearing about it now? And how do I know the story wasn't true? It sounds like something that could have happened... in which case, why tell us about it? What's the motivation to leak a story about a fake story if everyone always thought it was fake? Is it that the story is true and they're trying to get out ahead of it with some sort of reason why we should perceive it as fake?

We're told that several of the "people familiar with the Russian document" — anonymous people who aren't supposed to talk about it — are — in the words of the Washington Post — "concerned that revealing details now about the document could be perceived as an effort to justify Trump’s decision to fire Comey." So, there's a document that might help Trump, but they want to make sure that it's only used to — to what? — help Comey? Why are they revealing it when they're not supposed to? We're told these people support Comey, but then shouldn't it be clear how this document explains why Comey did what he did last July? It's certainly not clear. It seems to have had more to do with protecting Loretta Lynch and helping the Clinton campaign, and I don't know who it helps now. If it doesn't help the people you want to help, why are you leaking?

The more labyrinthine it feels, the more I lean toward accepting the story that Debbie Wasserman Shultz really did write that email. And in the current manner of doing political analysis — when it's aimed against Trump — I could say let Wasserman Shultz prove she didn't do that.

And this really puzzled me:
While it was conducting the Clinton email investigation, the FBI did not interview anyone mentioned in the Russian document about its claims. 
Why not?! We're supposed to believe that the document had a big effect and 3 of the 4 people named in it would flatly deny what it said, but they were never asked? Why not? Either it's just a crap document that no one ever believed or it needed to be checked out. The only other option seems to be that they didn't want to know whether it was true. Why not?

I feel as though I have to try to unravel the WaPo report because I cannot trust WaPo to do anything other than to try to hurt Donald Trump.*** I have to take it apart and put it back together in some guess at what might be a straight story.
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* The document says that there is email from Debbie Wasserman Schultz (then DNC chair) to Leonard Benardo (of George Soros's Open Society Foundations) saying that Loretta Lynch had assured Amanda Renteria (a senior Clinton campaign staffer) that — as WaPo puts it — "the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter." Wasserman Schultz, Leonard Benardo, Amanda Renteria all deny, and Loretta Lynch won't talk about it. And yet we are told that Lynch did meet with FBI officials, and that she told them — in what was not a formal interview — "I don’t know this person [Renteria] and have never communicated with her." If that is correct, why wouldn't she acknowledge as much when WaPo tried to talk to her for this article?

** I'm assuming that there is a document and that it's from the Russians, but that's just what the Washington Post tells me its unnamed sources are telling them.

*** I'm thinking about what I heard Bob Woodward say this morning on C-SPAN:
“There is this kind of sense of too many people writing things like—when is the impeachment coming, how long will it last, will he make it through the summer, and so forth. No, there may be stuff that comes out, but it has to be hard evidence. I worry for the business and I worry for the perception of the business by people, not to just Trump supporters, but people that see that kind of smugness that they are talking about.”

"Demanding that women smile is akin to suggesting that women are not entitled to be in charge of their own emotional life."

"But for women who live the greater part of their lives in the public eye, smiling is a kind of code for being not only engaged, but also being engaging. For a woman who was once a model, who ostensibly is practiced in the art of nonverbal communication, the willingness to forgo a grin seems less like an accident and more like the tiniest declaration of personal control and rebellion. She is here for you, but she is not going to perform for you."

Writes Robin Givhan, about Melania Trump, under a headline that struck me as comical juxtaposed with the photograph:



I'm not sure where the "control and containment" is supposed to be — maybe in the constricting leather skirt or maybe it's something she's extracting from the President who scampers at her heel — but from the waist up, I'm seeing a more freewheeling style, an eschewing of a fully controlled structure. I'm not criticizing this choice, I'm just saying this isn't the Jackie Kennedy choice of clothing as armor, but a stretchy sweater over something less than the most rigid undergarments. I see an amusing combo of loose and tight.

The headline is probably not written by Givhan. I'm just poking fun at WaPo there. I mainly wanted to show you that part about women smiling, which is a long-term feminist issue. It's sexist to tell women to smile,* so what do you do when you want to comment on Melania's unsmiling face? Givhan reads it as "the tiniest declaration of personal control and rebellion," which sounds as though she — in her own little way — is part of the female resistance against Trump.
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* See "The Sexism of Telling Women to Smile: Your Stories," "Why you shouldn't tell a woman to smile," "Telling a woman to smile may seem like an innocent request, but there's a darker undertone," "It’s Important For Men to Understand That They Need To Stop Telling Women to Smile," "The Sexism Behind Telling Women to Smile," "Why We Should Stop Telling Women to Smile," "'Stop Telling Women To Smile' Goes National," "'Stop telling women to smile.'"

At the Allium Café...

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... you can talk about whatever you want.

(And please consider supporting this blog by using The Althouse Amazon Portal.)

"Michelle Obama proves there is a grown-up way to do the cold shoulder trend."

No, this is not an article about how — unlike Melania Trump* — Michelle Obama has a good way to keep her husband from touching her, it's about that not-dead-quite-yet fashion trend of wacky necklines that expose the shoulder.

And I have no idea why this particular blouse of Michelle's is supposed to look "grown-up" — or why children are getting blamed for what has always looked to me like just a last-ditch effort to find a new approach to baring female flesh. Okay, we did midriffs, we did lower back, we did ass cheeks, so... how about shoulders? Yes, let's break out the shoulders! Most women want to wear bras and most bras have shoulder straps, so it's at least a challenge of some sort, even if no one's too fixated on shoulders, but maybe they once were.

There was a 1931 movie "White Shoulders":



And not long after that, Evyan introduced White Shoulders perfume:
Actually it is probably the iconic American fragrance. Classified as a Floral Aldehyde, it is: beautiful, sweet, sexy, powdery, radiant, maternal, refined, approachable, fresh, gracious and warm but at [its] core — very "night"...



Anyway, sorry to veer over into all that whiteness. The correct answer — I think — to why the UK Telegraph article characterizes Michelle Obama as "proving" that the bared shoulder look can be worn in a "grown-up way" is simply that Michelle Obama is doing it. In syllogistic form: Whatever Michelle Obama does is grown up, Michelle Obama is wearing a "cold shoulder" garment, therefore it is possible to wear the "cold shoulder" look in a grown-up way.
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* Twice, Melania has been shown on video seemingly rejecting Trump's effort to hold hands with her. She doesn't just let him (to coin a phrase — have you ever heard that phrase? I just came up with it!). And speaking of Melania, did you see that she (and Ivanka) wore a black veil on her head to meet the Pope? She didn't cover her head for the Muslims, but she covered her head for the Catholics? I'd say, she didn't cover her head for the political leaders in Saudi Arabia, but she did cover her head for the religious leader in the Vatican. As for the flicking away of her husband's hand, I'd defend her this way: He has expressive hands and instinctive affection, but she is a model, more concerned with appearances and focused on walking with professional elegance in high heels and not getting thrown off balance. There's a bit of a conflict there, and the subtle flick of the wrist would normally go unnoticed, and it would work just fine. But a million eyes are scanning each microsecond of video, and the tiniest gestures will be detected and magnified. And if they want to use you to show that your husband is hateful, they will find whatever they can. Just as anything Michelle Obama does can count as how to be a "grown up" — or whatever the hell — anything Melania does might count as evidence that Trump is loathsome.