May 14, 2016

"Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill to hand out hectares of land free of charge in Russia's Far East in a bid to attract people to the vast region."

"Under the law, Russian citizens can receive a one-hectare land plot owned by state or municipal authorities in such regions of the Far East as Sakha-Yakutia, Kamchatka, Primorye, Khabarovsk, Amur, Magadan, Sakhalin, the Jewish Autonomous Region, and Chukotka."

"They are quite small and tasty, but they come in large numbers and they are aiming for world domination."

Or... in the words of Donald Trump, "You like your candy."

Moose enjoys wind chimes.

I hate wind chimes... but this is a moose.

"Look, we don’t like positioning ourselves as the guys opining that some lady should wear more makeup, but..."

... not that kind of dress with "that head," say Tom and Lorenzo.

But I think she knows what she's doing and means to do it and to prove that she can.

"I feel as though I’ve never been so happy, so lucky, so brilliant. I am the very best version of myself."

"I have a deep sense of compassion for every person in the room. I can reveal any part of myself, say anything, no matter how personal or banal."

From "My secret life as a high-functioning drug user" (in The Guardian). The drugs used to reach that state of consciousness were: "a gram of cocaine and another of MDMA... some weed and... three to four glasses of good red wine."

"'All she could do all day was clean. It was impossible for her to maintain a relationship. Her whole development had stalled.' The patient wanted to die in the evening..."

"... at 11 minutes past eight, in her own home. (She chose the very precise time for reasons she kept to herself.) She had already prepared the invitation cards for her memorial and had bought champagne for the four women who would watch her death. The quartet were psychiatrist Ms Casteelen who would kill her, an assisting nurse from the End Of Life clinic, the patient's GP and a close friend. Ms Casteelen recalls that the patient was wearing grey pyjamas and says she was happy and relaxed. 'At eight o'clock, I said: 'We have to start preparing things now. She replied: 'No. I would like another glass of champagne.' We asked her if she still wanted to die. She told us how she had been looking forward to this moment; how she was going to be free.'"

From "The woman killed by doctors because she was obsessed with cleaning: Just one of growing numbers of Dutch people given the right to euthanasia because of mental, not terminal, illness" in The Daily Mail. The highest-rated comments over there approve of what the Dutch are doing: "The Dutch are a thoughtful and civilised people who recognise that we all have the right to die if that is what we wish." "It was HER life. Her decision. And sometimes mental illness IS terminal. Why don't people but [sic] out of other people's lives?" "Whats wrong with that? At least she's going to a clinic rather than throwing herself off a bridge onto a busy road! I have always said if you want to kill yourself (suicide) then fine, go ahead, just don't take others with you as that is selfish! Those who are in that dark place, fair enough, but why should train drivers or car drivers etc have to suffer too?"

ADDED: Key phrase: "No. I would like another glass of champagne." Does "no" mean "no" when you've gathered 3 medical personnel to perform a specific procedure at a precise time? Interesting that someone who supposedly obsessed about cleaning put champagne ahead of precision at the last moment. How do you call it off once such an occasion has been made of it? And yet, without the occasion, there would have been no cause for champagne.

At the 3 Cranes Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

(See the baby! We got a long, close look at this crane family as we were out biking the Capital City Trail yesterday. Today, it's 37°. It looks like a beautiful spring day from my window, but I'll need to put on my winter coat to venture out. )

The NYT does 50+ interviews with women who've worked with Donald Trump — in real estate, modeling and pageants — and who've dated or socialized with him...

... and the NYT finds "unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct, according to the interviews, as well as court records and written recollections."
What emerges from the interviews is a complex, at times contradictory portrait of a wealthy, well-known and provocative man and the women around him, one that defies simple categorization. Some women found him gracious and encouraging. He promoted several to the loftiest heights of his company, a daring move for a major real estate developer at the time.
He simultaneously nurtured women’s careers and mocked their physical appearance. “You like your candy,” he told an overweight female executive who oversaw the construction of his headquarters in Midtown Manhattan. He could be lewd one moment and gentlemanly the next. 
"You like your candy" is the best quote they have for the proposition that Trump "mocked" women's personal appearance. Is that even mocking (as opposed to a gentle, indirect observation of weight gain)?

I read the whole article and think that, for all the slanting, what it shows is a dearth of bad material. The article begins with the story of him offering a bathing suit to a woman — a model — who arrived at a pool party without a bathing suit. When she put the bathing suit on, he said "wow." Would he have been mocking her if he'd failed to say "wow"?

"Our 21 month old is fascinated by the photos of parents and babies in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding."

"It got me thinking that although he's got over 50 story and picture books, they nearly all feature animals as protagonists. Can you recommend some books featuring realistic everyday life with toddlers as the main characters?... Bonus points for any depiction of breastfeeding!"

"By the way Ann, is the 'ludicrous distraction' part of your cruel neutrality schtick?"

Asks walter in the comments to last night's post "Are you following the ludicrous distraction of 'John Miller' and 'John Barron'?"

First, that word: "schtick." I would have chosen the spelling "shtick." But I'm looking at the OED, which gives the main spelling as "shtik," validates both walter's and my spelling, and also accepts "schtik." So basically, you can do anything you want with "c"s in that word.

According to the OED, "shtick" (which is U.S. slang with a Yiddish origin (meaning "piece" or "play")) has 2 meanings. The first is "An act or stage routine; a joke, a ‘gag’" or "a patter, a ‘line’; a gimmick or characteristic style." Example: Saul Bellow, "Herzog" 1964, "‘Let's cut out all the shtick,’ said Gersbach. ‘Let's say you're a crumb.’"

The second meaning is less derogatory and surprisingly bland: "A particular area of activity or interest, a sphere or ‘scene.’" (Hey, nobody says "that's my scene" anymore.) Example: 1976   Publishers Weekly 15 Mar. 55/2: "A husband trying to puzzle out his woman, women-God-bless-them in general, and the whole female shtick."

So I accept "cruel neutrality schtick." It's my scene. I have to check the material under the tag to remember everything I've done with it. Here's the best recent examination of the phenomenon, from last January: "Why I quit watching the debate halfway through and woke up the next morning identifying strongly with Cruel Neutrality."

That explains a lot more than I'm in the mood to spell out now. I'll just say that those of us in the Cruel Neutrality scene are not forswearing all opinion. And it's certainly not abstention from cutting attacks. How else could it be cruel? The neutrality part is my instinctive, lifelong point of view — distanced and averse to everything political.

And yet I keep looking. I'm a rubbernecker. And part of what I'm cruelly neutral toward is the press, and my opinion of the story about the 25-year-old "John Miller" phone call was, indeed, that it was a ludicrous distraction. It takes us back to a much younger Donald Trump, prankishly putting on a reporter who figured out it was him and published her story under the title "Trump Says Goodbye Marla, Hello Carla . . . And a Mysterious PR Man Who Sounds Just Like Donald Calls to Spread the Story." The reporter, Sue Carswell first thought "It’s so weird that Donald hired someone who sounds just like him," and then she consulted the big gossip columnist of the day, Cindy Adams, who said, "Oh, that’s Donald."

These days, Carswell says: "This was so farcical, that he pretended to be his own publicist. Here was this so-called billion-dollar real estate mogul, and he can’t hire his own publicist. It also said something about the control he wanted to keep of the news cycle flowing with this story, and I can’t believe he thought he’d get away with it." But he did get away with it! He got away with it the way Andy Kaufman got away with Tony Clifton. We knew it was him but he kept doing it, and continuing, with commitment, when everyone already knows, is part of the... shtik.

From the comments at that YouTube, from 2 months ago: "Donal Triump is Tony Clifton!!!" Yeah, I know. Spelling. Back to the spelling topic. But you see my point. There is a lot of comedy happening through Donald Trump. He's been an entertainer for a long time. The extent to which the entertainment is interwoven with the love life, the real estate moguling, and the politics is a big, crazy, unfathomable mystery. The most ludicrous thing about the WaPo story is that it seems to think it's getting the better of Trump, bringing him down, but it's inflating him, blowing him up, as he's sending us up.

I mean, read the transcript. It's hilarious:
John Miller:  He was so set up with that.  You know, Madonna called and what happened -- I mean, I don’t know if you want to listen to this.

Interviewer:  No, I do.

John Miller:  Do you?  Do you have a second?

Interviewer:  Yeah, obviously.
To my ear, that's prodding the interviewer to laugh and say "Come on, Mr. Trump, I know it's you." She didn't do that, I suspect, because she was seriously interested in extracting the story, the gossip about Madonna that would serve her interest. And WaPo is telling the story to serve its interest. But the whole damned thing, going back to the 1980s, has served Donald Trump's interest. 

If Bezos were really out to use WaPo to get Trump...

... he'd take down the subscription wall.

Here's Trump's accusation (which we talked about yesterday):
Every hour we're getting calls from reporters from The Washington Post asking ridiculous questions. And I will tell you, this is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos ... Amazon is getting away with murder, tax-wise. He's using The Washington Post for power so that the politicians in Washington don't tax Amazon like they should be taxed.... He thinks I'll go after him for antitrust... Because he's got a huge antitrust problem because he's controlling so much, Amazon is controlling so much of what they are doing. He's using The Washington Post, which is peanuts, he's using that for political purposes to save Amazon in terms of taxes and in terms of antitrust.
If WaPo were just Bezos's toy (or political tool) and his moneymaking all happened over at Amazon, why would he limit the reach of his voice with a pay wall?

May 13, 2016

Are you following the ludicrous distraction of "John Miller" and "John Barron"?

Is this Trump's voice? If it is, does it matter? If it doesn't matter, is it because: 1. It's from 25 years ago, 2. It's got nothing to do with any relevant political issue, or 3. A man trickily defended himself to somebody who probably understood what he was doing.

And while we're talking about men and their relationships with women, there's this new material about Bill Clinton: 1. "Flight logs show Bill Clinton flew on sex offender's jet much more than previously known," 2. "Clinton charity arranged $2M pledge to firm owned by Bill’s ‘friend.'"

Ralph Nader has some good (and bad) to say about Trump.

"He's questioned the trade agreements. He's done some challenging of Wall Street – I don't know how authentic that is. He said he's against the carried interest racket, for hedge funds. He's funded himself and therefore attacked special interest money, which is very important. But he's lowered the level of political debate to unheard-of depths of salacious, slanderous and vacuousness, garnished with massive self-boosterism and repetition."


A visual/aural depiction of smell.

Much appreciated by me, an anosmiac:

Great ad!

I ended up looking at that because a reader sent me to this other recent, lovely Chanel thing, the complete 20-minute fashion show in the Paseo del Prado in Cuba:

"This is one of the biggest campaign errors you will ever see. It is a Clinton tweet that accidentally looks pro-Trump."

Says Scott Adams, displaying this:

I'll womansplain: Look at that mean face! We, the women, using women's ways of knowing, know that the mean face means that when he says "as good a job," he means as judged by mean men like him who are systematically incapable of seeing what women do as equal and who have a big stake in believing that things are already equal because women are not equally good.

Did the Biden-Warren feeler get enough of a reaction to support putting Plan B into effect?

A rough picture of the effect:

Tops on that list is "OMG Joe Biden Wanted Elizabeth Warren to Be His Hypothetical Running Mate" by Ben Mathis-Lilley at Slate. It begins:
You guys! I have been telling friends, colleagues, Chipotle cashiers, and random people on the street for months that Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren would make a great "unity ticket" in the event that the Democratic primary ended up in a stalemate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Biden is a well-liked "establishment" Democrat with foreign policy experience, Warren is a tough-talking progressive who'd appeal to the left wing but isn't so radical that she'd alienate moderates ... it just works. Hillary is going to win, of course, so this is all moot, but who cares, because it turns out that JOE BIDEN AGREES WITH ME....
The link goes to the Politico story — which I'm characterizing as a feeler — "Biden wanted Warren as his VP/The Massachusetts senator was 'noncommittal,' but warned of a backlash against his pro-Wall Street votes in Senate."

That is a feeler, isn't it? I'm assuming that was put out there to see how much excitement it would generate, how many influential people would jump and start promoting that escape from what could be portrayed as the sinking ship that is Hillary. The FBI investigation is out there, in position to have a major or meager effect. You guys!

"Every hour we're getting calls from reporters from The Washington Post asking ridiculous questions."

"And I will tell you, this is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos ... Amazon is getting away with murder, tax-wise. He's using The Washington Post for power so that the politicians in Washington don't tax Amazon like they should be taxed.... He thinks I'll go after him for antitrust... Because he's got a huge antitrust problem because he's controlling so much, Amazon is controlling so much of what they are doing. He's using The Washington Post, which is peanuts, he's using that for political purposes to save Amazon in terms of taxes and in terms of antitrust."

Said Donald Trump.

"Hormones don't make me cry any more or less, but now my emotions feel normal -- unmuted, not suppressed."

"My health insurance covers the cost of hormones and sex reassignment surgery, if I choose that. It doesn't cover facial feminization surgery, which some say is even more important to mental health, and even physical safety. I avoid using the restroom in public, when I can.... Many parents are concerned about their girls using the same restroom with an adult trans woman in public. I understand the source of the fear. We want children to be safe from danger, perceived or real, but I know of no trans woman who has ever attacked anyone in a restroom. Sadly, transgender folks get attacked, plenty."

From "One transgender woman's long road to finding herself" at

I'm interested in that argument about health insurance. The writer is saying, directly or implicitly, that "facial feminization surgery" should be covered in order to allay the (unjustified) fears of others and because of the transgender person's vulnerability to attack.

But I was most interested in the quote that I put in the post title: "Hormones don't make me cry any more or less, but now my emotions feel normal — unmuted, not suppressed." Are complex emotions abnormal? I can see preferring free-flowing, stronger emotion, but is it necessary to disparage the original feeling as abnormal? I know, the phrase was "feel normal." But I'm questioning the centrality of this idea of the normal. But I suspect this is the language of drug prescription generally. You can get a psychotropic drug from a doctor to only to get you to "normal," not to get you high or as an escape from life's complexity. Is this all too medical? Why isn't there more talk of personal freedom and self-definition and creativity and invention? Because the ethics of doctors are central? Because insurance coverage is desired?

I looked up the word "normal" (in the OED). The first definition is: "Constituting or conforming to a type or standard; regular, usual, typical; ordinary, conventional." Is that what we want to be these days? It used to be what we wanted to get beyond — conformity. And, funnily enough, the third definition is: "Heterosexual." With these 3 examples:
1914   E. M. Forster Maurice (1971) xxii. 106   Against my will I have become normal. I cannot help it.
1972   T. Keneally Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith v. 38   Of course, Jimmie knew, Farrell was not normal and had once begun to caress him.
1990   Lesbian & Gay Pride 11/4   Back west in a long standing ‘normal’ society like old Blighty, many lesbian or gay teachers go in fear of exposure.
Andrew Sullivan called his 1995 book "Virtually Normal." Here he is, back in 1995, explaining why he used those words: Half the people will object to the word "virtually" and half will object to the word "normal." And I observe that there are 2 completely different reasons to object to "normal."

And here's Bob Dylan, because Bob Dylan lyrics from half a century ago pop up unbidden in my possibly not too oversimplified mind:
I’m just average, common too
I’m just like him, the same as you
I’m everybody’s brother and son
I ain’t different from anyone
It ain’t no use a-talking to me
It’s just the same as talking to you
Hey, I have a tag for "normal." Cool.

"Unknown animals die unmourned all the time, so it shouldn’t matter. But storied wolverines… they are rare..."

"... and they hint to us of all the wild and unseen and amazing lives that go on beyond our awareness... That’s something worth thinking about."

A tribute to M56 written by Rebecca Watters of the Wolverine Blog, quoted in a HuffPo article titled: "North Dakota’s First Wolverine In 150 Years Is Immediately Shot And Killed By Rancher/It was reportedly shot for threatening livestock."

I wanted a good picture of a wolverine for this post. Do you have any idea how many photos of the movie character Wolverine you have to scroll past, if you do a Google image search for "wolverine," before you get to a picture of the animal? About 300.

A good time to look to see if the fox is running across the backyard.

6:55 a.m.

Headline at The Daily Beast: "Hillary-Hating Fan Fiction Feeds Trump."

Subtitle: "Donald Trump has hinted he has a lot of dirt on Hillary Clinton. But where is he getting his information from? Some of the best, worst Hillary fan fiction money can buy."

The article isn't really about Trump at all — or the actual genre called fan fiction — just a collection of junk from books that say mean things about Hillary and don't seem too well-sourced.

I started reading thinking these books really were fiction using Hillary as a central character... which wouldn't be properly termed "fan faction" either, though, since Hillary is not a fictional character, though you could write a work of fiction in which it turns out that Hillary Clinton is a fictional character.

"The Obama administration is planning to issue a sweeping directive telling every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity."

The NYT reports.
It does not have the force of law, but it contains an implicit threat: Schools that do not abide by the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid....

“A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so,” according to the letter, a copy of which was provided to The New York Times....

As soon as a child’s parent or legal guardian asserts a gender identity for the student that “differs from previous representations or records,” the letter says, the child is to be treated accordingly — without any requirement for a medical diagnosis or birth certificate to be produced.
IN THE COMMENTS: tim maguire asks:
And how long do we think that "parent or legal guardian" part will stay in there?
Yes, you are right. That's key. That's why I extracted that part for this post. I'm not going to answer your question. I'm going to ask you whether this is not an important safeguard that may answer the most serious concern posed by strict segregationists.

Oh, but I do feel the pull now to answer your question. I think that limitation will give way, because there will be young people whose parents object to their child's assertion of transgenderism. I see a parallel to abortion laws that required minors to obtain parental consent. These were held to be unconstitutional without a "judicial bypass."

"The reason I care so much about this is that it gets to the core of everything Facebook is and everything I want it to be."

Writes Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, on Facebook, responding to charges that Facebook's "Trending Topics" discriminates against the conservative viewpoint.
Trending Topics is designed to surface the most newsworthy and popular conversations on Facebook.  We have rigorous guidelines that do not permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or the suppression of political perspectives.

This week, there was a report suggesting that Facebook contractors working on Trending Topics suppressed stories with conservative viewpoints. We take this report very seriously and are conducting a full investigation to ensure our teams upheld the integrity of this product.

We have found no evidence that this report is true. If we find anything against our principles, you have my commitment that we will take additional steps to address it.

In the coming weeks, I'll also be inviting leading conservatives and people from across the political spectrum to talk with me about this and share their points of view. I want to have a direct conversation about what Facebook stands for and how we can be sure our platform stays as open as possible.

The reason I care so much about this is that it gets to the core of everything Facebook is and everything I want it to be. Every tool we build is designed to give more people a voice and bring our global community together. For as long as I'm leading this company this will always be our mission.
When I first read that, I thought it was banal propaganda for the company, but sitting down to write about it, I really can't find anything to complain about.

He's at least acting as though he feels the pressure to subject his private company to free-speech values and wants to be judged by whether he meets a commitment to viewpoint neutrality as if Facebook were the government and capable of violating our free-speech rights.

Even if he secretly hopes to insinuate political liberalism to the extent that he can, he knows he's being watched carefully, he's invited more scrutiny, and he's asked to be judged by the standards of neutrality. That's all very good.

He could have said Facebook is a private company and, as such, we, like our users, have free speech rights and we choose to express our viewpoint through the subtle, wise, and beneficial curation of our Trending Topics feature.

May 12, 2016

"It is true that everything we can see now, out to 13.8 billion years of light-travel time, was once the size of a grapefruit, buzzing with hideous energies..."

"... but that grapefruit was already part of an infinite ensemble with no edge, except one made up of time. When we look out, we look into the past, the farther we look, the more deeply into the past we see. At the center is the present. Alas there is no direction in which we can look to see the future — except perhaps into our own hearts and dreams. All we know is right now."

From "Don’t Let Them Tell You You’re Not at the Center of the Universe."

The man who started the talk of the "magic bullet” and the "grassy knoll"...

... Mark Lane — author of "Rush to Judgment" — has died at the age of 89.

In the movie "Slacker" — which I was just talking about in the previous post — there's a scene where a young woman browsing in a bookstore is accosted by a JFK-assassination-theory buff whose opening line is "Hey, I see you're reading Rush to Judgment":

"Oh, that's an excellent book.... You know, you're reading one of the greatest books on the subject; it's great. Rush to Judgement has all that testimony from all the witnesses that were never called before the Warren Commission. Like Mrs. Aquilla Clemmons, who was that maid who lived on Patton Street who saw the Tippet shooting... and it wasn't Oswald that did it — of course you know it WAS Jack Ruby... This is also the book that's got the testimony of Sam Holland, you know the Prince of the Puff of Smoke. Yeah, he was up there on the overpass over Dealy Plaza and he was able to see just everything...."

"And here is where Uber and Lyft made their first mistake" that turned Austin against them.

"We are obsessed with our city’s identity and sense of community, and we are particularly wary of outsiders who come in promising to change us.... A collision of communitarian social activism with Ayn Rand-style technology disruption was probably inevitable. 'Wrong fight. Wrong time. Wrong town,' said Ron Marks, an alum of the old punk rock scene who had a role in 'Slacker.' To be clear: The city never told Uber and Lyft to leave. But it did insist that they play by our rules and have drivers be fingerprinted, just like cabbies — particularly after the police investigated at least seven alleged sexual assaults by ride-share drivers in 2015. Instead, the companies responded by helping to put Proposition 1 on the ballot: They would be absolutely exempt from fingerprinting by the city. Period. That was the second mistake. They arrogantly confused a convenience for a few as a necessity for the many.... Uber and Lyft have claimed they will reduce the nation’s traffic, but in Austin they just added to the aggravation...."

From "How Austin Beat Uber" by Richard Parker, who I thought was the tiger in "The Life of Pi," but who is actually the author of "Lone Star Nation: How Texas Will Transform America."

Well, not only is "The Life of Pi" one of my all-time favorite books, but "Slacker" is one of my all-time favorite movies. So my first question is, which one was Ron Marks? He played the role of the Bush Basher, who's just a guy we see in one little scene, ranting about Bush:

Anyway, obviously, Austin thinks it's special. It is special! And one thing about it is the traffic is horrible — not just way overcrowded, but aggressive as hell. The other drivers want you the hell out of there. I am not surprised these people voted against Uber drivers crowding them in their fiercely guarded car space. I know all about the highway version of the "sense of community" they have down there.

"Identity politics, of a different brand from Trump’s, is also gaining strength among progressives."

"In some cases, it comes with an aversion toward, even contempt for, their fellow-Americans who are white and sinking. Abstract sympathy with the working class as an economic entity is easy, but the feeling can vanish on contact with actual members of the group, who often arrive with disturbing beliefs and powerful resentments—who might not sound or look like people urban progressives want to know. White male privilege remains alive in America, but the phrase would seem odd, if not infuriating, to a sixty-year-old man working as a Walmart greeter in southern Ohio. The growing strain of identity politics on the left is pushing working-class whites, chastised for various types of bigotry (and sometimes justifiably), all the more decisively toward Trump."

From "Head of the Class/How Donald Trump is winning over the white working class" by George Packer in The New Yorker.

That reminded me of the wonderful old passage from "The Brothers Karamazov":
"I love mankind... but I am amazed at myself: the more I love mankind in general, the less I love people in particular, that is, individually, as separate persons.  In my dreams... I often went so far as to think passionately of serving mankind, and, it may be, would really have gone to the cross for people if it were somehow suddenly necessary, and yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone even for two days, this I know from experience.  As soon as someone is there, close to me, his personality oppresses my self-esteem and restricts my freedom.  In twenty-four hours I can begin to hate even the best of men: one because he takes too long eating his dinner, another because he has a cold and keeps blowing his nose. I become the enemy of people the moment they touch me.... On the other hand, it has always happened that the more I hate people individually, the more ardent becomes my love for humanity as a whole."

At the Mid-May Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Federal judge rules Obamacare is being funded unconstitutionally."

"The Constitution says 'No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law,' said Judge Rosemary Collyer, yet the administration has continued to pay billions to insurers for their extra cost of providing coverage for low-income Americans. 'Paying out Sec. 1402 reimbursements without an appropriation thus violates the Constitution... Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one.'"

I'm catching up on the podcast "Topics."

May I recommend "The Little Things":
In Episode 1 of Season 3, Michael and Michael are back in the saddle to discuss “The Little Things.” Their conversation covers everything from butter on toast, to taking a drive and listening to some classical music, to apple picking in Autumn with your family.

When Trump met Ryan...

"The two men met at the Republican National Committee first thing on Thursday morning, with Reince Priebus, the committee’s chairman, as a chaperone."
Mr. Ryan gave no public signal that he was poised to back Mr. Trump, and two people briefed on their private meeting said they did not discuss a possible endorsement. But... [a]t a news conference, Mr. Ryan said he had found the meeting encouraging and pleasant... [and that] he and Mr. Trump had discussed the constitutional separation of powers, Supreme Court justices and abortion, among other subjects.

Mr. Ryan said he had found Mr. Trump a “very warm and genuine person.” “Donald Trump and I have had our differences — we talked about those differences today,” Mr. Ryan said, adding, “I do believe that we are now planting the seeds to get ourselves unified.”
Sounds as though they stress constitutional law for some reason — perhaps because Trump has given off some signs that he doesn't much care about or understand the role of law in the United States. 

And, just now, the 2 men issued this joint statement:
The United States cannot afford another four years of the Obama White House, which is what Hillary Clinton represents. That is why it’s critical that Republicans unite around our shared principles, advance a conservative agenda, and do all we can to win this fall. With that focus, we had a great conversation this morning. While we were honest about our few differences, we recognize that there are also many important areas of common ground. We will be having additional discussions, but remain confident there’s a great opportunity to unify our party and win this fall, and we are totally committed to working together to achieve that goal. We are extremely proud of the fact that many millions of new voters have entered the primary system, far more than ever before in the Republican Party's history. This was our first meeting, but it was a very positive step toward unification.
They are there already, no? This is just padding, for the sake of pride, maybe, or for the comfort of the neverTrumper crowd.

"The road to scientific study of psilocybin... The dark side of psilocybin use..."

"Spiritual experience is difficult to define—or miss... Flavors of unity and sacredness... Using psilocybin to give up smoking...."

"Dozens of Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, including at least 15 medal winners, were part of a state-run doping program..."

"... meticulously planned for years to ensure dominance at the Games, according to the director of the country’s antidoping laboratory at the time."

Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner, "staring at each other for what may be the longest and most painful onscreen marital silence this side of an Ingmar Bergman film."

From a NYT article about the documentary film "Weiner."

I think this is the reference point:

"It is disqualifying for a modern-day presidential nominee to refuse to release tax returns to the voters..."

Writes Mitt Romney at Facebook.

Have you noticed the overuse of the notion of "qualification" in this election cycle? It irritates me. It sounds so high-handed to declare the other person "disqualified."

Bernie Sanders asserted that Hillary had said that he's "not qualified to be president," and he took off on her:
"I don't believe that she is qualified if she is, through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds. I don't think that you are qualified if you get $15 million from Wall Street through your Super PAC. I don't think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don't think you are qualified if you've supported virtually every disastrous trade agreement, which has cost us millions of decent-paying jobs." 
In fact, Bernie's assertion about Hillary was rated "mostly false" by Politifact. She avoided — even when pushed — using that word against him. She was cagey enough to respond to "Is he qualified?" with a list of his supposed shortcomings and "that does raise a lot of questions." Bernie's assertion that Hillary is unqualified brought out the indignant supporters:
Prominent surrogates for Mrs. Clinton such as Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York and Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri vouched for her qualifications and warned that Mr. Sanders was crossing the line.

“Calling Hillary Clinton not qualified is like fingernails on a black board to many women across this country, and I think Bernie probably knows that,” Ms. McCaskill told MSNBC on Thursday.
Having lived through the Bernie-and-Hillary back-and-forth over who's "qualified," I was annoyed by Romney's approach. We already knew how much Romney opposes Trump. It might be desirable that presidential candidates release their tax returns, but it's not on the level of being 35 years old and a natural-born citizen.

Spare me the q-word.

"Do you hold Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. responsible for the ascendancy of Donald Trump?"

"The thought never crossed your mind? Then you probably haven’t been reading the conservative blogosphere...."

Customers don't like the no-tipping policy at Joe's Crab Shack.

The restaurant chain raised prices by 12 - 15% and put the servers' wages at $14 an hour:
"We got negative customer counts between 8 percent to 10 percent on average among the 18 restaurants, and we tried it for quite a while, tried communicating it different ways," [CEO Bob] Merritt explained, adding that customers didn't like not being able to incentivize good service, and also didn't trust management to pay employees the higher wages.
Did they take steps to ensure the service was first rate? I would think that the new policy — presumably touted to the customers — pushes customers to notice what the service is like and to think about how they've lost control.  Were customers supposed to think of the place as benevolent in some special new way or just to enjoy the convenience of not having to figure out and add the tip? The scheme will obviously fail if the service isn't at least as good as it would be in a tipping situation. It might need to be better, because people may notice and be more irritated by whatever lapses there are. With tips, you get to work through whatever negative opinions you might have as you determine the final tally. Without tips, you take your bad attitude out the door like an unwanted doggy bag.

May 11, 2016

Donald Trump took credit for Budweiser's renaming its beer "America."

But let's be fair. Don't immediately call him arrogant.

1. He was asked if the name-change was about him (asked because of his slogan "Make America Great Again"), so he was only responding to a question, not pushing the subject himself.

2. He said: "I think so. They're so impressed with what our country will become, they decided to do this before the fact." There's a lightness to that. A humor. Optimism.

3. I, myself, when I read the story of the name change yesterday, connected it to Trump: "Seems consistent with an electorate trending toward Trump." Either beer named "America" objectively relates to Trump, or we need to worry not about whether he's deranged and thinks it's all about him, but whether he's rearranged our subjective experience so that we perceive his involvement in way too many things.

"The Rich Spend More Time With Friends, the Poor Spend More Time With Family."

The rich also spend more time alone.

The kinder, gentler Trump.

"It's a temporary ban. It hasn't been called for yet. This is just a suggestion until we find out what's going on."

Just a suggestion. Just an idea he's throwing out there.

I suspect all of his policy notions are subject to softening like that. If softening is called for. Hardening... he can do that too. As circumstances call for it.

Between him and Hillary, it's going to be quite a dance.

News that literally made me cry (with pleasure).

"The Memorial Union Terrace will open May 12 - 15 for a Terrace Preview weekend and will officially open for the season May 20."

"You’ve shot so many of your films here in Europe and yet in the U.S. you haven’t even been convicted of rape."

Rape joke cracked at the expense of Woody Allen (and Roman Polanski) at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

"Save Freedom/Stop Hillary" — bumper sticker seen in Madison, Wisconsin.


In the Whole Foods parking lot, no less.

ADDED: Just looked at Drudge. He's got a theme going. Click to enlarge:

The little headlines read:
FBI CHIEF: 'Pressure' to Finish Clinton Probe...
Investigation NOT 'Security Inquiry'...
Chelsea's Husband to Close Greek Hedge Fund After Losing 90%...
2016: Justice's reputation hangs in balance of Clinton probe...
1996: Versions of Hillary Clinton Whitewater Draft Indictment, 451 Pages, Withheld By National Archives...

Jesse Jackson dines with Jean-Marie Le Pen... and then acts as though he didn't know who he was.

Come on! Is this believable?

"But the world is real. And you can’t really be a black writer in this country, take certain positions, and not think about your personal safety."

"That’s just the history. And you can’t really be a human being and not want some place to retreat into yourself, some place to collapse, some place to be at peace. That’s just neurology. One shouldn’t get in the habit of crying about having a best-selling book. But you can’t really sell enough books to become superhuman, to salve that longing for home. I want you to know that I have been struggling, these past few months, to write about politics. I feel people, all around me, uninterested in questions and enthralled with prophecy... If the world wants a 'Writer Moves to Brooklyn Brownstone' story, it’s going to have one, no matter your thoughts.... Within a day of seeing these articles, my wife and I knew that we could never live in Prospect-Lefferts Garden, that we could never go back home. If anything happened to either of us, if anything happened to our son, we’d never forgive ourselves..."

Writes Ta-Nehisi Coates, saying he's backing out of moving into the $2.1 million brownstone he bought because The New York Post put up an article revealing the address and showing 5 photographs of it.

"It was a hedge fund portfolio pitched by Hillary Clinton’s son-in-law, Marc Mezvinsky, as an opportunity to bet on a Greek economic revival."

"Now, two years later, the Greece-focused fund is shutting down, after losing nearly 90 percent of its value...."

"The notion of Congress looking into or investigating how a medium of communication decides what to say threatens on its face First Amendment rights."

Said Floyd Abrams, the big First Amendment lawyer, after John Thune, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, called on Facebook to respond to claims that it discriminates against conservatives as it determines which news articles to feature on the "trending" list that appears on users' Facebook pages.

Thune said:  "If there’s any level of subjectivity associated with it, or if, as reports have suggested that there might have been, an attempt to suppress conservative stories or keep them from trending and get other stories out there, I think it’s important for people to know that. That’s just a matter of transparency and honesty, and there shouldn’t be any attempt to mislead the American public.”

Yeah, but it's none of the Senate's business! Thune should be embarrassed.

Bernie Sanders finally gets a Trump nickname.

"Crazy Bernie."
"Big wins in West Virginia and Nebraska. Get ready for November - Crooked Hillary, who is looking very bad against Crazy Bernie, will lose!...

“I don't want to hit Crazy Bernie Sanders too hard yet because I love watching what he is doing to Crooked Hillary,” Trump wrote. “His time will come!"
Meanwhile: "Nate Silver rips Trump-Clinton polls in 8-part Twitter rant." (In other words, Silver got so exercised, he slammed helplessly into the 140-character limit 7 times.)

Getting high on Imodium.

The poor man’s methadone.
The active ingredient, loperamide, offers a cheap high if it is consumed in extraordinary amounts. But in addition to being uncomfortably constipating, it can be toxic, even deadly, to the heart.
That reminds me of something I read long ago:
William Burroughs said he would never have been a heroin addict if he had realized how badly constipated it would make him when he got to be an old man.

"Some faculty bodies ... appear more interested in protecting outdated ‘job for life’ tenure than about helping students get the best education possible."

"The university should not be about protecting the interests of the faculty, but about delivering value and excellence to Wisconsin."

Said Scott Walker.

"Seven-year-old Vinny Desautels grew out his hair for two years so he could donate it to kids with cancer."

"Then he was diagnosed with the disease himself.

"But Madison’s response was like hitting a gnat with a sledgehammer. It was so aggressive..."

"... that only one other major municipality in the United States has followed its approach so far. It’s also why some people now call Madison the anti-Flint, a place where water problems linked to the toxic substance simply couldn’t happen today. Madison residents and businesses dug out and replaced their lead pipes — 8,000 of them. All because lead in their water had been measured at 16 parts per billion — one part per billion over the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard.... The Madison Water Utility dismissed the easy fix recommended by the EPA regulations, which entailed treating pipes with phosphates to lower corrosion that releases trace metals. The company instead ripped out every lead line it owned. Then it made some 5,500 of its customers do the same. Dozens of streets were torn up for a decade of digging and copper-pipe replacement at a cost of nearly $20 million. It was noisy, messy and disruptive, but successful...."

From "One city’s solution to drinking water contamination? Get rid of every lead pipe." in The Washington Post.

"Can a law, written in the heat of the civil rights movement generations ago, apply to people the drafters never intended to cover?"

"The word sex made it into the [Civil Rights Act of 1964] at the last minute, almost accidentally. It was inserted only after the drafting and congressional hearings, when the bill went to the House floor. Representative Howard W. Smith, a Virginia Democrat who opposed the bill, introduced an amendment adding sex discrimination, prompting laughter from his colleagues, who mockingly offered other suggested additions. Despite speculation that Mr. Smith meant to weaken support for the bill — he said his concern for women was sincere — his amendment passed, and so did the act. The rights of transgender people never came up."

From "Transgender Fight in North Carolina May Hinge On 1964 Law" (in the NYT).

"Safe spaces! Now!" chant Harvard women, protesting Harvard's rejection of single-sex clubs (which was, of course, intended to benefit women). reports:
The protests came just days after the Harvard administration set new policies that would ban members of single-sex social groups from holding leadership positions and from being nominated for scholarship awards. The restrictions, which would apply to next year’s freshmen, were announced after months of pressure on the exclusive all-male final clubs to accept female members.
By the way, I find this chant — "What do we want? Safe spaces! When do we want them? Now!" — a bit hate speech-y. They're saying — if I understand this correctly — we need to be able to exclude all men in order to be safe — men as a group threaten us. And isn't it weird — in a milieu where it's  unacceptable for a woman to voice fears that she is unsafe when a physically male person uses the women's bathroom and locker room — that women in groups march about shouting that they are unsafe if a man is in their social club?

Is Bernie Sanders "prolonging" the primary season or fighting to win?

He says he's fighting to win, but the NYT headline is "Bernie Sanders Wins West Virginia, Prolonging Race With Hillary Clinton." First paragraph of the story:
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont captured the West Virginia primary on Tuesday, forcing Hillary Clinton to continue a costly and distracting two-front battle: to lock down the Democratic nomination and to take on Donald J. Trump in the general election. 
That's so blatantly reporting the news from Hillary's point of view. Sanders won again. He has a path to victory. If Cruz were still hanging on and had beaten Trump in a primary, I'm pretty sure the headline would stress Cruz's valiant fight and his path to victory. But here's Sanders, with all his astounding success, and he's treated like a pest. And I doubt if it even does Hillary any good. Does it make anyone like her more to portray her as distracted by Bernie and annoyed at having to spend money because of him? We're supposed to see her raring to "take on" Trump when she can't begin to shake off Sanders?
Mrs. Clinton has a nearly insurmountable lead in delegates, which Mr. Sanders’s victory, one week after he won Indiana, did little to narrow.... In Oregon, which votes next week, Mr. Sanders appealed to unpledged superdelegates, who can cast votes as they please at the convention, to rally behind him as the stronger opponent to Mr. Trump.
Wait a minute. The lead is only "nearly insurmountable" because of the superdelegates, and those people can shift around, as they did in '08. Sanders isn't limited to winning over the ones who are currently "unpledged." The "pledged" superdelegates can switch if they want and are influenced by what happens in the primaries and caucuses.

Here's a CNN news report from exactly 8 years ago, May 11, 2008, "Obama narrows Clinton superdelegate lead to 1":
Sen. Hillary Clinton's superdelegate lead over Sen. Barack Obama was narrowed even more Saturday, according to CNN's latest delegate estimate. Obama closed to within one superdelegate of Clinton, picking up the support of four party leaders after a flurry of new endorsements over the past two days. Clinton, meanwhile, picked up the votes of two superdelegates but lost one to Obama. That brings Clinton's superdelegate total to 273 and Obama's to 272. At the beginning of the year, Clinton led the superdelegate race by more than 100....
Given the fluidity of the superdelegates, their responsiveness to democratic results, and this recent history of shifting sides, why does the NYT forefront Hillary's "a nearly insurmountable lead in delegates," merging the superdelegates with the delegates she's won democratically and segmenting off the so-called "unpledged superdelegates"? Why is Sanders diminished as if he is only selfishly messing up the Democratic Party's winning game?

May 10, 2016

What's the "it" in Trump's "women get it better than we do"?

I've been trying to understand what it means, and I'm glad to see that Emily Crockett (at Vox) is trying to figure it out. The "it" has no obvious antecedent. Trump says:
If [Clinton] didn't play the women's card, she would have no chance, I mean zero, of winning. She's playing the women's card. She's going "Did you hear that Donald Trump raised his voice while speaking to a woman?" Oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I mean: All of the men, we're petrified to speak to women anymore. We may raise our voice. You know what? The women get it better than we do, folks. All right? They get it better than we do. If she didn't play that card, she has nothing.
Crockett observes that the "it" in "women get it better than we do" could mean at least 2 completely different things:

"Budweiser, the beer brand owned by a Belgian company, will soon appear on shelves with a new name: America."

"The redesigned can will replace... beer’s slogan, 'King of Beers'... with 'E Pluribus Unum... Instead of a description of the brewing process at the top of the can, there will be lyrics to 'The Star-Spangled Banner.'"

This crazy scheme will go on from May 24 though Election Day. Seems like it should be a joke, but it's not. Works as viral advertising, obviously.

Seems consistent with an electorate trending toward Trump... even though Trump never drinks and Hillary has often swigged beer right on camera:

"There are numerous photos of naked young men bending over after an apparent paddling. Please accept this as notice to not destroy [or] otherwise dispose of this paddle."

Said the letter from the state commission to the Arkansas judge, informing him that they'd found — in the judge's computer —  thousands of pictures of "young men, many naked who are in various poses inside the judge's home and outside in his yard."
[T]he commission detailed the allegations of several men — including one under 18 — who described appearing in [Joseph] Boeckmann's court for minor violations. The judge would often give defendants his hand-written phone number and have them serve what he described as "community service" at his home.
Boeckmann has resigned.

"The Citadel announced on Tuesday that it had denied an incoming student permission to wear a hijab with her uniform..."

"... ending a nearly monthlong period of considering what would have been the first change to the 174-year-old institution’s uniforms."
“As the Military College of South Carolina, the Citadel has relied upon a highly effective educational model requiring all cadets to adopt a common uniform,” General Rosa said. “Uniformity is the cornerstone of this four-year leader development model.”

"Why a South Carolina man got bail after he shot, buried and ‘slow-cooked’ two people."

Something to do with stand-your-ground law.
“He’s a human being,” defense attorney Stephen Harris said... “He freaked out and thought he was going to prison, so he tried to hide the bodies. Nobody knows how you’re going to react when you kill two people.”

"Chemsex" — "Taking GHB, mephedrone and crystal meth together is meant to 'induce a feeling of instant rapport with sexual partners'..."

"The ultimate goal is better sex — for long periods of time, frequently and with multiple partners," WaPo reports in a piece titled "The ‘chemsex’ scene: An increasingly popular and sometimes lethal public-health problem."
According to the handful of studies that exist, men may take chemsex drugs to “manage negative feelings, such as a lack of confidence and self esteem, internalised homophobia, and stigma about their HIV status,” McCall and her colleagues wrote in the BMJ [British Medical Journal]. Others argue marginalized men use chemsex as a bonding mechanism — or simply because chemsex feels good.
[BBC Radio 4 journalist Mobeen Azhar said:] “Even those who told me sex on chems made them feel ‘like a don’ would follow up such celebratory statements with tales of rejection, regret, loneliness and longing for intimacy.... These became reoccurring themes among every chem user I spoke to.”
Tinged with sadness. It's very sad. What makes people think they should have "instant rapport with sexual partners"?

"The number of Americans seeking Irish passports since Donald Trump entered the US presidential race has jumped by 14%."

"The island of Inishturk off the coast of County Mayo is already advertising itself as an ideal spot for those wishing to come."
"I've heard there are quite a few people in America looking to move to Ireland and to other countries if Donald Trump becomes president," Inishturk Development Officer Mary Heanue told IrishCentral. "I'd like them to know that we would love to see them consider moving over here."
Okay. I looked at it on Google maps. Saw this:

And I just want to say: Nice lambscape. Nice wall.

"Men, you’re faced these days with a dilemma—sometimes you actually do have to explain something, but how do you avoid being one of those annoying mansplainers?"

 "These sample scripts provide some phrases that should help...."

The admiration of handwriting...

... on line, here, at HuffPo, with lots of examples and linking to the Reddit page r/penmanshipporn.

"For liberals, the question now is how to deal with the losers in the culture wars. That’s mostly a question of tactics."

Writes Mark Tushnet, in part of a 6-point plan for "abandoning defensive-crouch liberalism" (energized, prematurely, by the 4-4 balance on the Supreme Court):
The culture wars are over; they lost, we won. Remember, they were the ones who characterized constitutional disputes as culture wars (see Justice Scalia in Romer v. Evans, and the Wikipedia entry for culture wars, which describes conservative activists, not liberals, using the term.)
Professor Tushnet doesn't bother to put in links. I found the Wikipedia entry for "culture wars," and it traced the term to "Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America" by the sociologist James Davison Hunter. That was published in 1991, 5 years before Scalia, in Romer, wrote of the "Kulturkampf" ("culture war").

Does the war metaphor matter? Is there some idea that whoever called it a "war" first is — after the war ends — properly treated like a conquered enemy?

"Among voters with a favorable opinion of Trump... 65% think President Obama is a Muslim, only 13% think he's a Christian."

"59% think President Obama was not born in the United States, only 23% think that he was. 7% think vaccines cause autism, 45% don't think they do, another 29% are not sure. 24% think Antonin Scalia was murdered, just 42% think he died naturally, another 34% are unsure. 7% think Ted Cruz's father was involved in the assassination of JFK, 55% think he was not involved, another 38% are unsure. And closing the loop on the greatest conspiracy theory of this election- a rare one that Trump didn't embrace- 5% of voters nationally think Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer, 18% are unsure, and 77% find Cruz not guilty...."

That's from the latest PPP poll, which also asked people if they had a higher opinion of Trump or hemorrhoids/cockroaches/Nickelback/used car salesmen/traffic jams/hipsters/DMV/root canals/jury duty/lice.

I guess there are people in the mood for campaign-related humor, but PPP is supposed to be a serious operation, and you'd think they wouldn't want to associate their brand with that kind of junk. Maybe the idea is to make light of the part of the poll that is actual news:
Clinton leads Trump 78-9 among Democrats in the full field at this point, while Trump leads Clinton 78-7 among Republicans. Although much has been made of disunity in the GOP, it is actually just as unified behind Trump as the Democrats are behind Clinton. 72% of Republicans now say they're comfortable with Trump as their nominee to only 21% who they aren't. Those numbers are little different from the ones among Democrats that find 75% of them would be comfortable with Clinton as their nominee to 21% who say they would not be....
I had to go to the full results page to find out how Hillary does against Trump. It's 42 to 38% (with Jill Stein and Gary Johnson included) and 47 to 41% (with just Hillary and Trump).

"Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are effectively tied in the swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania..."

"... according to the results of a Quinnipiac University survey released Tuesday."

AND: "Although much has been made of disunity in the GOP, it is actually just as unified behind Trump as the Democrats are behind Clinton," PPP discovers.

"Hipster" walks into cemetery monuments shop, orders a tombstone for Donald Trump with the epitaph "Made America Hate Again."

Carts the 420-pound object over to Central Park and surreptitiously installs it where it becomes the subject of numerous Instagram pics.

Police track the man down but don't arrest him. Stone is removed.

New York Times does an article about him, does an interview with a man "who declined to give his name" (though the police gave a name, Brian A. Whiteley).

He's quoted saying that he was "trying to remind Donald what type of legacy he’s leaving behind. And also leaving the date of the death open, alluding to the fact that there’s still time to change who he is."

That last part is, I take it, an effort to deflect any opprobrium that might attach if the tombstone is perceived as a wish to see Donald Trump dead or, worse, a threat to his life. Ironically — and hipsters love irony — the allusion to the fact there’s still time to change who he is is the "or else" that puts it in the form of a threat.

I don't think it's a "true threat" in the sense of First Amendment doctrine and I think the speech is fully protected under American law, but I can't believe New York law doesn't make it a crime to leave an unattended 420-pound object in Central Park. Let's imagine an equivalent stunt/art project aimed at Hillary Clinton. Why shouldn't political campaigns of all sorts take up the practice of setting up monuments in Central Park and sparking Instagram virality?

Earlier this morning I linked to a (possibly insanely lame) NYT column titled "Three Ways to Think About ‘Is It Worth It?’" in which the author spelled out his cogitation over whether to buy a $5,000 bike. $5,000 seems to be about the cost of getting a tombstone made and transported to Central Park. Is it worth it? According to the "Three Ways" column, it's a personal decision based on cost, enjoyment, and utility. If there's no legal consequence, I'd say it would be worth it to enough people to keep the Sheep Meadow looking like a graveyard.

IN THE COMMENTS: Laslo Spatula said...
He tried to get it written on a cake but the baker refused him.

Because bakers can do that.


A 28-year-old man in Scotland was arrested for posting a video that showed his pug watching video of Hiltler and making a Nazi salute.

He was charged with "improper use of electronic communications under the Communications Act 2003":
DI David Cockburn said: “Posting offensive material online or in any other capacity will not be tolerated and police will act swiftly to tackle hate crimes that are motivated by malice or ill-will because of faith, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability. This clip has been shared and viewed online, which ultimately has caused offence and hurt to many people in our community. There is no place for hate crime in Scotland and police take all reports of incidents seriously.”
Here's a Daily Mail article from before the arrest (where you can see the video):
[Markus] Meechan, 28 - who has now apologised - taught Buddha the pug, owned by his girlfriend Suzanne Kelly, to raise a paw whenever he said 'sieg heil' and to perk up at the word 'Jews'.

The video opens with him saying: 'My girlfriend is always ranting and raving about how cute and adorable her wee dog is. So I thought I would turn him into the least cute thing I could think of - which is a Nazi.' He also filmed the dog watching a video of Hitler making a fiery speech at a Nazi rally, but insisted: 'I'm not a racist, I just really wanted to p*** her off.'
And: "I didn't intend for this to go viral, it was a private joke between friends and it ended up everywhere after someone posted onto Reddit. My friends know my sense of humour which is very, very based on shock comedy, but the internet doesn't. I just want everyone to know that I don't wish any ill-will on any race or anything, it's just how shock comedy works. I am so sorry to the Jewish community for any offence I have caused them. This was never my intention and I apologise."

He was already punished by social forces. Why arrest him?

"In the end, however, your answer is the only one that will count."

"And the next time you are about to ask someone else, 'Is it worth it?' don’t."

ADDED: I couldn't understand how the author could say that a bike he bought last year had lasted "far more than twice as long" as "some comparable models." How short a life span do those other bikes have — like 3 months?

It's very easy to imagine that you're doing — as he puts it — "a little mental math" as you look at something expensive and decide it will last a long time and provide more enjoyment. You can spend a lot of money after you liberate yourself to think in those terms.

OH: The mystery of the long-lasting-1-year-old bike is solved if — and only if — you click through to his earlier article, which begins "Eleven years ago, I needed a new bike...." The article I read just says "Last year, I wrote about a $5,000 road bike that I bought." There's something about those 2 verbs in sequence — I wrote... I bought — that makes it look like the same time period. The reader shouldn't have to generate questions and research them to get through the reasoning of the essay at hand.

The older article contains the assertion "It replaces five other bikes." I still wonder what's wrong with those other bikes that they only last 2 years, but it seems he's comparing his bike to the "plastic bikes (carbon fiber)" used by the "guys I ride with." So the other guys have unusually transitory bikes, which is what makes them comparable, presumably. Not those aluminum bikes ordinary people buy. Actually, it's not that the other guys' "plastic" bikes are wearing out. It's just that they're the kind of guys who spring for a new model of bike every 2 years.

So it's the psychology of the mind that doesn't buy the $5,000 bike that causes the "comparable" bike not last: "[W]hen you buy cheap stuff, you get bored with it. I do not get bored with this bike, and that is why it is saving me money."

Do you get bored with cheap stuff? The newer article refutes that assertion, since it goes on to talk about a $9 ice cream scoop that works really well and that gives pleasure in part because of it was so cheap: "what makes it memorable to me is that it feels like a steal."

May 9, 2016

"I am endorsing Hillary, and all her lies and all her empty promises," said P.J. O'Rourke.

"It's the second-worst thing that can happen to this country, but she's way behind in second place. She's wrong about absolutely everything, but she's wrong within normal parameters."

"I think what's happened is that the mainstream left is scared to death of all these Millennial leftist kids off the reservation for Bernie..."

"... and what is being learned about them -- what they don't know, what they believe. Now, you might find it strange for me to say that mainstream leftists can think other leftists are too far to the left.  That's not exactly what I'm saying.  What I'm saying is they're a little concerned. They think they're the smartest people in the world, don't forget.  And they're looking at the Bernie supporters as illogical. It makes no sense. Bernie's an oddball. He's a kook. He's not going anywhere. They look at the average Bernie Sanders supporter or your Black Lives Matter person and they think they're dealing with dumbed-down idiots which are tough to control, because the dumped [sic] down idiots think they are hyper-super educated."

Said Rush Limbaugh today, attempting to explain the recent pieces in liberal media fretting over the suppression of the conservative viewpoint on campus. So the idea is that the liberals are splitting apart, with more moderate liberals — such as Hillary supporters — beginning to regret the left-wing indoctrination of college students. The young people weren't supposed to lurch all the way left. They were only supposed to loathe conservatives, not soften to the charms of Bernie Sanders.

ADDED: Interesting to see Rush using the phrase "off the reservation" after the trouble Hillary had with it so recently.

BUT: I think Rush intentionally invoked Hillary's "off the reservation" remark, because he's talked about it so much, so recently. Here ("she's used to men -- she's got a lot of experience with men -- 'going off the reservation,' insulting Native Americans, by the way, on that, at the same time") and here ("Yeah, she's had to deal with men who go off the reservation.... And Bill never has been off the reservation regarding her career advancement. Now, being off the bedroom reservation? Yeah, constantly"). And here:

"Given Trump’s reputation for not apologizing, he can create an unusual amount of attention if he ever breaks pattern."

"A sincere Trump apology – about anything – would control the news cycle for a week. So he can save that magic bullet until needed," says Scott Adams, speculating on how Trump might come out with an apology for all the offensive things he's ever said about women. He's imagining Trump saying:
I apologize to women for all the offensive things I’ve said in the past. I’m an equal-opportunity offender, but I understand the sensitivity when it crosses gender, and I apologize to women for that. No one respects women more than Donald Trump.... And I call on Hillary Clinton to do the same, and apologize for her mistreatment of the women her husband abused.
I don't like the nonspecific, blanket apology. "All the offensive things"? Which ones? We'll need an enumeration or it will sound weak. It can't be: Oh, whatever it was that anyone was offended by. That spills into nonapology territory, the ultra-lame sorry to whoever was offended.

And the idea of switching immediately to a demand that someone else apologize for something — that's too self-interested. He won't be allowed to pivot that quickly. We're not going to experience it as a significant apology unless he submits to an ordeal of examining individual offenses and gives us some foundation for a belief that he's not going to do it again.

The most interesting part of Adams's idea is that Trump profess understanding of sensitivity to offenses that "cross gender" — which sounds distractingly odd and will require an explanation that's likely to come across as psycho-babble or (worse) sociology. I am not picturing Trump talking like that.

I don't even think he'd say "equal-opportunity offender." That's more like something someone else would say about Trump, someone with more of a cornball humor style. Ah, here, Raheel Raza, President of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow. She said (last month on "Real Time" with Bill Maher): "There are two things I want to say about Donald Trump. One, that he’s an equal opportunity offender. And, secondly, this is supposed to be the First World, the civilized world, but he is really fudging that line about civility."

"I had no idea I needed to see photos of Kevin Spacey in giant pants on a scooter..."

"... but I really did need it."

"A 2001 statue of a kneeling Adolf Hitler sold for a record $17.2 million at a Christie's auction in New York."

"'Him,' a wax statue of a child-like Hitler by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, fetched a record for one of the sculptor's works.... Cattelan's work, which features real human hair, is from an edition of three depicting Hitler praying."

(Photo: here.)

"Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential 'trending' news section..."

"... according to a former journalist who worked on the project," Gizmodo reports.
This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users.

Several former Facebook “news curators,” as they were known internally, also told Gizmodo that they were instructed to artificially “inject” selected stories into the trending news module, even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion—or in some cases weren’t trending at all....

These new allegations emerged after Gizmodo last week revealed details about the inner workings of Facebook’s trending news team—a small group of young journalists, primarily educated at Ivy League or private East Coast universities, who curate the “trending” module on the upper-right-hand corner of the site....

"I may take a swipe at you myself," says the teacher, Mr. Pomfritt, walking into the classroom....

... just as Milton Armitage (Warren Beatty) is telling Dobie "I'll kill ya":

From my all-time favorite TV show "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis." What kind of teacher could insult the kids like that. Oh, I loved Mr. Pomfritt — along with Maynard and Thalia and Dobie and the rest. And I'm sad to see that the actor who played him, William Schallert, has died (at the age of 93). He was also Patty Duke's father, and "Star Trek" fans know him as Nilz Baris, the under secretary in charge of agricultural affairs for the United Federation of Planets in “The Trouble With Tribbles.”

So much for the transit of Mercury.

Clouds are more powerful than the sun...


... from our point of view which did not include, as we had hoped, a safe glimpse of the tiny speck that's making its journey right now.


Germans take over our coffee and doughnuts.

JAB Holding Company — after buying up Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Caribou Coffee, and Keurig Green Mountain (not to mention Einstein Brothers Bagels) — takes over Krispy Kreme.

ADDED: Speaking of Germans and doughnuts:
There is a misconception that [President John F.] Kennedy made a risible error by saying Ich bin ein Berliner. By using the indefinite article "ein," he supposedly changed the meaning of the sentence from "I am a citizen of Berlin" to "I am a jelly doughnut."

The indefinite article is omitted in German when speaking of an individual's profession or residence but is still used when speaking in a figurative sense. Since the President was not literally from Berlin but declaring his solidarity with its citizens, "Ich bin ein Berliner" was the only way to express what he wanted to say.

"North Carolina has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department to defend House Bill 2, a law that bans individuals from using public bathrooms that do not correspond with their biological sex..."

"The move is in response to a letter the Justice Department sent last week warning Gov. Pat McCrory that the law is in violation of the Civil Rights Act and giving him until Monday to 'remedy the situation.'"
The state's lawsuit calls the Justice Department's position a "radical reinterpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act" and "a baseless and blatant overreach."... North Carolina could lose a lot of federal money for failing to comply with the Justice Department -- potentially hundreds of millions of dollars for its universities alone.

"I’m Voting Trump, Warts and all."

Writes Bobby Jindal.

My question: What is the original of the phrase "warts and all"? It's quite literal, based on Oliver Cromwell's instructions to his portrait painter in 1660:
[Sir Peter] Lely's painting style was, as was usual at the time, intended to flatter the sitter. Royalty in particular expected portraits to show them in the best possible light, if not to be outright fanciful. Lely's painting of Charles II shows what was expected of a painting of a head of state in the 17th century. It emphasizes the shapely royal calves - a prized fashion feature at that time.

Cromwell did have a preference for being portrayed as a gentleman of military bearing, but was well-known as being opposed to all forms of personal vanity. This 'puritan Roundhead' versus 'dashing Cavalier' shorthand is often used to denote the differences in style of the two opposing camps in the English Commonwealth and subsequent Restoration. It is entirely plausible that he would have issued a 'warts and all' instruction when being painted and it is unlikely that Lely would have modified his style and produced the 'warts and all' portrait of Cromwell unless someone told him to.
As Horace Walpole wrote in "Anecdotes of Painting in England" in 1764 — a century later —  Cromwell was reported to have said: "Mr Lely, I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts and everything as you see me, otherwise I will never pay a farthing for it."

No one knows how close that is to whatever instructions Cromwell gave to Lely, but Walpole's version inevitably got shortened, and by 1824, it had become: "Paint me as I am, warts and all!"

There's something beautiful about a person saying show me how I really am, warts and all that's missing when the phrase is aimed at someone else, as is the case with Bobby Jindal. To say "warts and all" about yourself is to liberate the other person to see and to tell what is true. The way Jindal used it, it means: He's ugly in many ways, but I still accept him. I guess there's a touch of liberation in that. It's saying: Come on, we can support Trump, even though he is, in many ways, ugly. It invites others into realism, into seeing the world as it is.

And here's the idealized Lely portrait of Charles II.

The funniest thing about it is: He's still ugly, even with his face back there in the shadows. But: nice gams!

By the way, "gams" originally referred to thin, unlovely legs. One of the earliest examples from 1789 (G. Parker Life's Painter): "If a man has bow legs, he has queer gams, gams being cant for legs." "Gams" has the etymon in Italia "gamba," which we know from viola da gamba.

"Harvard wants secretive male clubs to go co-ed. All-female groups are being punished in their wake."

WaPo observes.
The unexpected consequence of the penalties, then, is to prevent women from associating under their gender as well...
Why would that be an "unexpected consequence"? How dumb could Harvard possibly be? Obviously, it was expected. The usual adjective is "unintended."
... prompting all-female groups to ask the administration to consider them in a different vein from their all-male counterparts.
So, once Harvard has made the big change and set up incentives to pressure private institutions to abandon their single-sex tradition, it's now supposed to adopt sex discrimination itself and remove the pressure on the all-female institutions?
“Basking in the praise of the national press for its efforts to make all-male final clubs go co-ed, Harvard has left out an important piece of the story: female final clubs,” three female students wrote in an op-ed for the Harvard Crimson. They argued that while women would remain disenfranchised within the hierarchies of historically male clubs, the act of making historically female clubs go co-ed would effectively cause them to “die out,” as they lack the resources to compete.

The students further accused Harvard of pushing for “hasty, symbolic victories” as a “form of damage control” following negative media attention on final clubs. “The support systems, safe spaces, and alumnae networks the women’s clubs have been striving to build will disappear,” they wrote. “That strikes us as a tremendous waste, and an ironic one, given Harvard’s stated goals.”...

What Trump has taught us.

Via Power Line, here's the venerable historian Paul Johnson talking up Donald Trump. Some of this is disturbingly extreme...
No one could be a bigger contrast to the spineless, pusillanimous and underdeserving Barack Obama, who has never done a thing for himself and is entirely the creation of reverse discrimination. The fact that he was elected President–not once, but twice–shows how deep-set the rot is and how far along the road to national impotence the country has traveled.
... but Johnson has been putting strong opinions in stark language since long before Donald Trump gave us all a stunning lesson in clear, impudent speech. Maybe Johnson loves Trump because Johnson sees himself in Trump.

Johnson's key point — the part that I agree with — is that it is heartening, in view of the dangers of political correctness that someone has succeeded by being "vulgar, abusive, nasty, rude, boorish and outrageous," and "saying what he thinks and, more important, teaching Americans how to think for themselves again."

I especially like the idea that Trump is teaching us that it works to speak forthrightly about what we think. That might not be true. It might work only for Trump — maybe he has some weird communication genius — but I hope people can absorb and process the lesson and make it work for themselves.

I had a dream about Trump a while back. It may have been part of this dream I told you about on August 3, 2015. This part of the dream isn't in that description, but it's the part I've remembered and thought about over these past 8 months: I thanked him, effusively, for teaching us to have the courage to speak freely.

This is a lesson that works for everyone, whether they share Trump's positions or not. And yet I can see that Trump is teaching the opposite lesson as well — that you can be hated for what you say and that if you say anything that can be called racist/sexist/xeonophobic and people decide to box you into that characterization, that's how they will think of you from then on, and they will spread the word that you are toxic and you require exclusion. But that is why political correctness is so dangerous and why punching through it would be such a benefit. 

"On Monday, May 9, the planet Mercury will make a rare transit of the sun..."

"... and... the University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Astronomy will open Washburn Observatory to the public for safe viewing of the event."
A telescope is necessary to see Mercury’s small disk against the large backdrop of the sun. It would take about 150 Mercury disks to span a solar diameter, [says Jim Lattis, director of UW Space Place]...
“Aiming a telescope or binoculars at the sun is a dangerous operation, requiring special equipment and techniques, and therefore best left to skilled observers. A full-aperture solar filter properly fitted to the front of the telescope is a good way to observe this event, but make sure no finder telescopes or other devices are exposed to the direct sunlight. It is possible to project the image of the sun formed by a telescope or binoculars onto a screen, and the image projected on the screen is safe to observe. However, there is still a serious hazard in the intense beam of sunlight, which can cause instantaneous eye damage and even start fires. Moreover, many telescopes and binoculars will be damaged by the intense heat, while finder telescopes and sights present further dangers. Do not look directly at the sun without appropriate filters, and do not point optical equipment at the sun unless you know exactly what you are doing.”
Washburn Observatory is at 1401 Observatory Drive, here in Madison, and it's open now and until2 p.m. today.

University of Wisconsin

That's a picture I took of the observatory a while back, on a cloudy day. But today's not cloudy, or there would be no viewing of the transit.

May 8, 2016

At the Sunday café...

... just a few pictures from yesterday in the Arboretum...


That one's from Meade, as I was walking away. Later, we got caught together in a reflection...


I took that one — of an odd spike of the artificial in what was mostly trees...


... and flowers...


... at their prettiest.