February 6, 2016

Another GOP debate — are you watching?

I'm watching. Not live-blogging, though I'll weigh in if something strikes me. My son, John Althouse Cohen, is doing his distinctive, excellent brand of live-blogging, so check that out!

Was that a meteor?!

Did you see that?

Most spectacular sight in the sky we've ever seen.

ADDED: Aside from the sun and the moon, that was by far the brightest thing we've seen in the sky. We were watching TV together, in a room with big windows, and we both were immediately drawn to the sight, streaking in the north from east to west.

AND: It happened at 6:45 CT.

"Worried that a shortage of male teachers has produced a generation of timid, self-centered and effeminate boys..."

"... Chinese educators are working to reinforce traditional gender roles and values in the classroom."
Lin Wei, 27, one of a handful of male sixth-grade teachers at a primary school here, has made a habit of telling stories about warlords who threw witches into rivers and soldiers who outsmarted Japanese troops. “Men have special duties,” he said. “They have to be brave, protect women and take responsibility for wrongdoing.”

n Zhengzhou, a city on the Yellow River, schools have asked boys to sign petitions pledging to act like “real men.” In Shanghai, principals are trying boys-only classes with courses like martial arts, computer repair and physics. In Hangzhou, in eastern China, educators have started a summer camp called “West Point Boys,” complete with taekwondo classes and the motto, “We bring out the men in boys.”
Sounds a lot like my old law-class hypothetical about Gendertopia:
In a place I call Gendertopia, where policy is based on scientific research indicating that there are male and female gendered learning styles, there's a plan for 2 high schools, both of which will receive equal resources. The male-style school will have labs, contests, aggressive sports, and strict discipline from the teachers. Music class is all about using Apple Logic Pro 9. The female model school has group projects and mutual tutoring, positive reinforcement and self-esteem, yoga and dance classes, and — for music — a strings program. Violins, violas, and cellos are distributed....

Whither "the man in the street" and "John Q. Public"?

The other day, talking to Meade, I made the stray observation: "Nobody says 'the man in the street' anymore."

It was a common colloquialism in news reports years ago. It's hard to take note of when something stops getting said. Decades could pass before you notice that something has disappeared from the language. Maybe the death of "the man in the street" began in the 1970s, with the success of the women's movement, as it became less and less possible for mainstream folks to convince themselves that "man" includes woman. Perhaps there was a transitional period in which reporters — perhaps literally in the street with their microphones seeking random comments from passersby — said "the man — or woman — in the street," before that got old and sounded corny and then nobody ever said it again.

Yesterday, Meade and I were watching "Jeopardy!" It's "College Championship" time and all the players are college students. The board full of answers in need of questions is stocked with things that younger people know — pop singers, movie superheroes, school-level math, history, and science and so forth. The kids buzz in and get many questions right. But yesterday, they had an answer that drew absolutely vacant stares and even puzzlement when Alex Trebek revealed the question. The answer was: The middle initial of John Public. The question: What is Q? I laughed a lot, because I could see that from the kids' perspective, that was just some weird nonsense.

Nobody says "John Q. Public" anymore. Like "man in the street," the term embodies the general  public in a single person. This time, that person has a name, John Q. Public. I'm going to assume, it's gone away because we won't accept the idea that the public can be personified as a male, and that also means the whole idea of the general public as one person just doesn't work anymore. If there was ever a period when people adapted to changing times by saying, cutesily,  "John Q. — and Jane Q. — Public," I missed it.

Now, it just seems goofy, I suppose, to people who don't remember the common usage, to hear that John Public has a middle initial and it's Q. What's the Q for? From the OED:
1937   N. & Q. 6 Mar. 177/2   ‘John Citizen’..is not so frequent in American usage as ‘John Q. Public’... It is probably a play on the name of an early president, John Q(uincy) Adams.
I think it's more like Jesus H. Christ. An initial just seems funny. And if you want funny, there's no funnier letter than Q.

As for Jesus H. Christ, well, what's that about? Hilariously, there's a Wikipedia entry for Jesus H. Christ — which, you may realize, is "a vulgarism" that "is not used in the context of Christian worship." Mark Twain referred to it in his autobiography as typical of "the common swearers of the region," so the usage goes way back. Some people attribute it to "the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus (Ἰησοῦς)... transliterated iota-eta-sigma, which can look like IHS." There's also an idea that the H is for Harold — from mishearing "hallowed be thy name" the Lord's Prayer as Harold be thy name.

IN THE COMMENTS: Paddy O said "Monty Python had man in the street segments":

"I will look into it," said Hillary Clinton at Thursday's debate, when asked if she'd release the transcripts of all her paid speeches.

What's to "look into"? Why not a straightforward "yes"? She said "I'll look into it," and the, opaquely, "I don't know the status, but I will certainly look into it." What "status"? Who even has an idea what that means? Does she not own the rights to her speeches? Perhaps some promise of privacy was made to other participants, but one could cover up their names or edit out their statements. To my ear, the line about "status" sounds like meaningless distancing from the question at hand as she cues up lines she's prepared about how her speeches had nothing to do with anything those who were paying might have wanted from her in exchange for the money.

The example she gives of the sort of thing she said to these big-money folks is "how stressful it was advising the President about going after bin Laden." Stressful! As if Hillary's internal emotional life is what these characters were interested in. Hillary has a way of retreating into the story of her feelings. I was reminded of her move in the 2008 campaign, after she'd lost the Iowa caucuses, assembling a group of women around her in a coffee shop and emoting: "It's hard to get up every day and get ready and get out of the house in the morning."

I'm willing to put up with a little emotional padding. It is hard to seek power and exercise it. It's nothing I want to do, and I appreciate that some not completely evil Americans step up to the work. But we've got to wonder what's their motivation. We've got to be able to look at the evidence, and in this case that means the transcripts of those speeches. What is the meaning of the money that supports her campaign and that — supposedly entirely aside from campaign finance — has made her and her husband very wealthy? She wants to say, they just offered the money, and all she did was show up and say some words, words of her choice, words, for example, about the experience of stress in saying we need to kill bin Laden.

Who can believe that? Without the transcripts, we should — for our own protection and because it's most likely — infer that what is in the transcripts would be harmful to the argument she's making to the great masses of Americans. We should infer that she told a different story to the elite insiders. It was the most reasonable interpretation even before she resisted releasing the transcripts. The inference is stronger now that she's resisted giving us the transcripts. She needs to release the transcripts to refute the interpretation that we are otherwise compelled to make.

Now, let me look at what's in The NYT and The Washington Post. The NYT has "Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Resists Releasing Transcripts From Goldman Speeches," by Katharine Q. Seelye, who says that though Hillary Clinton said she would “look into” releasing the transcripts, "by Friday morning, it did not appear that much looking was underway":
Joel Benenson, Mrs. Clinton’s pollster, gave little indication at a Wall Street Journal breakfast with reporters that the transcripts would be forthcoming. “I don’t think voters are interested in the transcripts of her speeches,” he said....

On Friday, Brian Fallon, Mrs. Clinton’s press secretary...  said that “Bernie Sanders, like Karl Rove before him, is trying to impugn Hillary Clinton’s integrity without any basis in fact.” He labeled this “character assassination by insinuation” and said Mr. Sanders should either show his evidence that the money has influenced her or drop the subject.
Insinuation? It's inference. The absence of evidence is a basis for inference. To withhold the evidence and then demand that we not make an inference is a tricky move, and — ironically — the trick is to impugn the integrity of anyone who makes the inference. Your integrity is impugned for impugning her integrity. Fallon played the Rove!!!! card.

The Washington Post has "Hillary Clinton’s Goldman Sachs speech transcripts are now a campaign issue. Why weren’t they before?" by Callum Borchers:
The only time this question has come up before, as far as I can tell, was when a reporter for the Intercept raised it on the rope line after a Clinton campaign event in Manchester, N.H., last month.
Video at the link. Hillary's response, in case you're wondering, was to guffaw in the man's face and turn to people to whom she could just keep saying "nice to see you."

Since the debate, however, the issue is "getting plenty of attention," Borchers writes, collecting coverage from various MSM outlets. And it's up to the media to push it, he says, because Sanders — who really is pulling his punches — will not pursue it. His advisor Tad Devine said "No, we’re not going to push on that." We'll see how far the media push it, but I note that Borchers doesn't mention the GOP candidates. Bernie may have decided, for whatever reason, that attacking Clinton is not the best approach for him, but the GOP candidates can use it, if not now, then later.

If I were Clinton, I wouldn't rest easy if the media drop the matter. It will be there to be used this fall, assuming she gets the nomination. Release the transcripts! There's so much reason to do that now... unless what's in the transcripts is much worse than the negative, albeit vague, inference we must make from the withholding.

The tendency of men in groups, in bars, to take to singing...

IN THE COMMENTS: Laslo Spatula said, "Dear God your headline made me think of this":

I laughed a lot, and — can you believe it?! — I have never watched that scene. Never saw the movie "Top Gun" or even vaguely wanted to. Never saw "An Officer and A Gentleman" either, and I get the 2 movies mixed up.

February 5, 2016

James Taylor loves his echo chamber.

It's literally an echo chamber. "Echo chamber" is usually figurative. Here are some examples from the NYT archive which I've bunched up, without links:
Americans Attracted to ISIS Find an ‘Echo Chamber’ on Social Media... the bars, restaurants and other haunts of entrepreneurs can be an echo chamber... The Trouble With the Echo Chamber Online... “We’ve seen too many Republicans who live in the echo chamber of the mainstream media bubble,” Mr. Cruz said.... [Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia] confessed—not in so many words—to living in a conservative echo chamber... With his us vs. them invective and his refusal to denounce hate-filled speech from some of his supporters, Mr. Trump is an echo chamber for certain corners of the far right, as evinced by his popularity with white nationalists and the so-called alt-right movement of mostly online activists.... But CNN may be setting up an echo chamber as it covers bloggers who are blogging about what they are watching on CNN....
Also in the NYT, I ran across a piece about an art project by Harry Shearer called "The Silent Echo Chamber" — "video of celebrities and politicians sitting silently in the minutes before appearing live on television."
Video loops run on nine flat-screen monitors that are hung like portraits along three walls. There is a disquieting sense of being at the wrong end of the telescope: the stars you have watched silently for years are silently watching you.... Confronted with silence, whether from a Pinteresque pause or an unreturned “good morning” from that smoldering Irene in sales, we tend to invent an explanation, and it’s no different here. Why, one wonders in the glow of the screens, aren’t these pundits pontificating?
That was back in December 2008. There were 4 examples, including this, of Hillary Clinton.

"At 9:30am, I drink 16 ounces of unsweetened, strong green juice, which is my alkalizer, hydrator, energizer, source of protein and calcium, and overall mood balancer."

"It's also my easy, 'lazy,' and delicious skin regime. I also take three tablespoons of bee pollen. I love Moon Juice's soft and chewy bee pollen—it's a creamy, candy-like treat that gives me my daily B-vitamin blast, and also helps feed my skin and aids hormone production. I'll also grab a handful of activated cashews. I try to get these in every day for their brain chemistry magic. I chase this with a shot of pressed turmeric root in freshly squeezed grapefruit juice."

From Elle Magazine's "How Hollywood's Favorite Juice Bar Owner Eats Every Day/Amanda Chantal Bacon, founder of Moon Juice, has a diet full of ingredients we've never even heard of."

Start with a woman named Bacon, then stir in the brain magic and activated bullshit.

Is there a "sexist double standard behind why millennials love Bernie Sanders"?

WaPo's Catherine Rampell says there is.
It is precisely Sanders’s au-naturel-ness that endears him to his young fans: his unkempt hair, his ill-fitting suits, his unpolished Brooklyn accent, his propensity to yell and wave his hands maniacally. Sanders, it appears, woke up like this.

These qualities are what make him seem “authentic,” “sincere” even — especially when contrasted with Clinton’s hyper-scriptedness. Sanders, unlike Clinton, doesn’t give a damn if he’s camera-ready.

This is, of course, a form of authenticity that is off-limits to any female politician, not just one with Clinton’s baggage. Female politicians — at least if they want to be taken seriously on a national stage — cannot be unkempt and unfiltered, hair mussed and voice raised. They have to be carefully coifed and scripted at all times, because they have to hew as closely as possible to the bounds of propriety available to both their sex and their occupation. They can’t be too quiet or too loud, too emotional or too cold, too meek or too aggressive, and so on.

But they also can’t appear to be trying too hard, either. At least if they want the kind of enthusiastic millennial support that Sanders enjoys.
I have 10 problems with this:

1. Bernie's hair is actually not unkempt. It's neatly trimmed. It may look misshapen in the balding areas, but it's thick around the bottom and looks very carefully cut. It's also very clean and combed in place. He doesn't rub it with his hands or muss it up. He's not Doc from "Back to the Future." He's not Einstein.

2. Bernie doesn't wave his hands maniacally. He makes rather large hand gestures, but they are slow and deliberately coordinated with his speech, as if he's placing the words in the air in front of him. That's why it worked so well in "Bad Lip Reading" when they had Bernie reciting a poem.

3. Bernie is able to put himself out there in a form that seems to be something close to what he really is — a politician of many decades, repeating his old lines like "The American economy is rigged." It's an old habit, and it's not that hard. I don't think he's even been trying to win, so it's a pretty simple task. It's straightforward expression, and people do indeed respond to that, especially while it remains in the expressive category and they're not (yet) squarely facing up to the reality of this man as President.

4. So compare him to a woman who's in the same position, someone entering the race to say the things that are not being said and not carrying the burden of all the expectations — that she's supposed to win and that everyone else has gotten out of her way and that now she'd better be able to make good on what she led them all to think she could do. I could imagine such a woman. Elizabeth Warren could have played that role, and I think people would have loved it. Why didn't she jump in? Maybe because she would have wanted to win, and that's a much more complex task.

5. Bernie's clothes are indeed very ordinary. Just a generic man's suit. An everyman's uniform. Could a woman come up with something equivalent? Hillary hasn't tried to do that, so show me a woman who says that's what I'm going to do and see what they say. Only then would you get a fair reading of whether there's a double standard. Have a woman candidate wear a plain white blouse under a dark gray blazer and a dark gray straight mid-knee-length skirt — wear the same thing every day — and see if there is criticism or celebration. My bet is that people would love it.

6. As for the woman's hair, maybe it can't be dirty or badly cut, but it doesn't need to be an ultra-controlled helmet. I think people would be quite happy to see the hair fall naturally and move like real hair, and a well-cut feminine hairstyle is supposed to be mussable. Talk to a good hair dresser. I'll bet he or she would be horrified to be asked to fix a woman's hair like Hillary's and would much rather cut something short and choppy that you're supposed to muss to get the right look. Think: Helen Mirren. Don't tell me that won't work. Hillary's helmet hair does not prove that Hillary's helmet hair is required because she's a woman. Sometimes it's hard to be a woman... the old Tammy Wynette song begins. But it's not that hard.

7. Do men have more freedom in the tone of their voice? Maybe. I'm inclined to think that volume and stress in a woman's voice is offputting to many people. There's a trigger point where they'll use words like "strident," "nagging," and "sounds like my ex-wife." But I'm not willing to believe people would reject a woman who came out and talked something like Bernie Sanders. Listen to Bella Abzug (from 1977):

I think we'd love to embrace a presidential candidate who looked and talked like that. (By the way, the hat is another answer to what to do about your hair.)

8. I don't believe that a female candidate has "to hew as closely as possible to the bounds of propriety available to both their sex and their occupation." How do we know? Where is the woman in the race who is challenging this idea and getting rejected because of it? Looking excessively bound to "propriety" isn't much of a recommendation, but in fact, all the candidates are expected to behave. Trump transgresses. We'll see how that works out for him in the end. It is hard to imagine a female Trump. I'll grant you that. Perhaps liberals would celebrate such a woman (assuming her politics were liberal).

9. "They can’t be too quiet or too loud, too emotional or too cold, too meek or too aggressive, and so on." Maybe so, but what's the midrange that's permissible? How narrow is it? I think a lot depends on the individual, and if you are trying too hard to calibrate it, you're going to seem phony and unnatural. That "can't be too" list doesn't include "they can't be too phony or too natural." Be natural! Let us see who you really are. If we don't like you, we don't like you. When we see fake, we're on guard that you are putting something over on us. We're right to be sensitive to that.

10. "But they also can’t appear to be trying too hard...." That sounds like it means poor Hillary has to try hard not to look as though she's trying too hard. That's a hell of a lot of trying. An alternative is to let your natural self shine through. If you've got one.

"It’s one thing to say you won’t accept a beheading video on a site... But once you get beyond something that clear, how do you define terrorist content?"

Said Faiza Patel of the Liberty and National Security Program at NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, quoted in the NYT article "Twitter Steps Up Efforts to Thwart Terrorists’ Tweets" (which reports that Twitter has closed down 125,000 Twitter accounts since mid-2015).

Let's talk about the new Quinnipiac poll.

It's an argument for the GOP to pick Rubio, no?

Click to enlarge.

By the way, watching last night's Democratic debate, I thought: So much anger! Everyone's annoyingly angry. This indirectly works as an argument against Trump and (to a lesser degree) Cruz. Everyone's yelling. Everyone's turning red and seething. I need relief from this aggression and stress. Rubio can win support by being the normal-seeming, non-angry person.


A long NYT obituary for a woman whose only claim to fame was shouting "Anthony!" out the window in a 1969 spaghetti commercial (the one that planted the definition of Wednesday in our head: Prince spaghetti day).

"He's trying to be Dennis Hopper... and failing miserably."/"Or Sam Shepard. Especially the shot with the finger to his brow."

"Immediately I thought, 'Please Unicorn Jesus, don't let this man make a remake of Easy Rider.'"

That's set-of-comments #1 about the Rolling Stone pictures of Owen Wilson, featured at Tom & Lorenzo (who say: "Owen, Sue them. Sue them all. Make everyone who did this to you pay in blood, money and tears of regret").

Set-of-comments #2 is: "Yikes! It's like the photographer was doing everything he could in order for you to see David Spade's version of Owen's nose."/"There should be a censor bar across that thing."/"That's ALL I can see."

I do not need to Google what did David Spade say about Owen's nose to know what they are talking about. I Googled it anyway, and I see it's not something he said, it's a prosthesis he wore on his own nose. I also found this:

Hesitating before hitting "publish," I wonder if this post would fall within Lena Dunham's definition of the kind of threat that the corporate gatekeepers should filter out of the internet.

If a 15-year-old boy masturbates, is he a pedophile?

That's a question that occurred to me, reading "Male Teen Takes Nude Photo of Himself, Charged with Making Child Porn/The kid, 15, could be placed on the sex offender registry."

When you broaden the meaning of a word, Lena Dunham, can we hold you to that meaning... at least until the end of a sentence?

Calling for "new codes of conduct" on Twitter and drawing us in with the assertion that she is "experiencing violent bullying in the internet," she said:
“I think it’s important to remember that threats are more than someone saying I’m going to come to your house and I’m going to hurt you... Insulting someone’s appearance, insulting someone’s religion, or their race, you know, all of that to me constitutes a threat and I think we can make changes to how we control that dialogue on the internet without threatening our First Amendment rights.”
So, you want a broad definition for "threat," going beyond what you called "violent bullying." (I'm going to guess that "violent bullying" refers to words of violence — like "kill" and "rape" — directed at a particular individual and not restricted to a context where the target is going to need to worry that the the violence will occur.) You want "threat" to cover insults of all kinds, including the banal remarks about how somebody looks and the politically important critiques of religion. Then you want to avoid "threatening our First Amendment rights." But if I accept your meaning of the word "threat," then you are already threatening our First Amendment rights.

This word game works both ways. 

I don't know if Dunham was thinking in terms of the actual law, but she did say "First Amendment." "First Amendment" understood narrowly only refers to what the government might do to us. Since Twitter is a private company, no control of the dialogue by Twitter can threaten First Amendment rights, if we stick to the narrow idea. Therefore, we can even adopt Dunham's definition of "threat" and say there can never be a threat to First Amendment rights, no matter how restrictive of speech Twitter becomes, because our oppressor is a private corporation.

"First Amendment" is already too narrow a term for the threat under discussion. We need to say "freedom of speech." This is a topic I've discussed at length elsewhere on this blog — notably here — so I'll stop this post now.

ADDED: Here I am in March 2011 fighting hard for my position that we need to care about what private enterprises can do to our freedom of speech:

February 4, 2016

People keep asking: Am I watching the debate?

The answer is: Yes, I am. Not up for old-time live-blogging. My son, John Althouse Cohen is carrying on the old live-blogging tradition, here.

I'll just say I'm very put off by the anger and the yelling. It's so stressful!

ADDED: What are they yelling about? It seems to be the theater of showing fire. I am scarcely able to follow the substance. I'm puzzling over the weirdness of the variations of angry face. Bernie seems to be doing his usual thing. Hillary seems on the edge of losing her temper. I'm seeing faces that I interpret as sheer hate.

Seen from my desk this morning...


... a hawk!


"College students wear shaggy white 'Bernie' wigs on campus..."

"... carry iPhones with his image as their screen saver, and flock to his events by the thousands."
“It seems like he is at the point in his life when he is really saying what he is thinking,” said Olivia Sauer, 18, a college freshman who returned to her hometown, Ames, Iowa, to caucus for Mr. Sanders. “With Hillary,” she said, “sometimes you get this feeling that all of her sentences are owned by someone.”

Beware the hair tourniquet.

"Scott Walker said his daughter, Molly, was cranky, screaming and began to overheat, so his wife took off her socks. That’s when they saw a hair wrapped tightly around her toe...."

That's Scott Walker, some man in Kansas, not the Wisconsin governor. But governors and nongovernors alike are warned to be on guard for stray hairs inside socks that can get wrapped around a baby's toe and tightened into something gruesome.

“Are you happy with the two sisters I brought you?”/“I’m very, very happy. But I’ll be even happier when you give me five more.”

What President Obama asked and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — according to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, quoted in a short New Yorker piece by Ian Frazier, "Sonia From the Bronx."

If the quote is accurate, it means that Justice Ginsburg dreams of a Supreme Court with 8 female justices. Either the math is off or one male Justice is is ideal for some reason... a recognition of Justice Breyer perhaps.

ADDED: Have you noticed the meme The next President will appoint as many as 4 Supreme Court Justices?

It seems hard to believe that there could be 4 vacancies to fill within one 4-year presidential term, and we have not seen more than 2 per term unless we go back as far as Richard Nixon. Nixon had 4 appointments, all within his first term. Consider the age of the current Justices: Justices Scalia and Kennedy will turn 80 in the next few months. Justice Ginsburg will be 83 next month, and Justice Breyer turns 78 in August.

If only Donald Trump had a British accent...

... he wouldn't just sound different, the meaning would change... to a freakish extent.

(Via Language Log.)

The first clothed Playboy centerfold.

Not NSFW anymore.

Here's the NYT article about it:
The centerfold... Dree Hemingway, a great-granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway — cavorts in the buff. But this is the Garden of Eden after a bite of the apple, and our Eve, while amused, seems a bit embarrassed. In one shot, it’s as if someone has just stolen her clothing, leaving her to hide as much of herself as she can with both hands.

Ms. Hemingway and other featured women in the issue are unretouched.... Some images in the March issue are grainy, and all feel more impromptu than posed. The magazine has adopted the unadorned, point-and-shoot aesthetic made famous by American Apparel ads and fashion photographers like Terry Richardson.
It's like they're testing out the theory that my parents' generation propounded half a century ago: It's sexier to leave something to the imagination.

And by "my parents' generation," I don't mean my parents. My parents had Playboy out and proud on the coffee table in the living room in the 1950s and 60s.

"It is breathtaking how fearlessly – almost recklessly – she throws herself between he and I."

Writes Melissa Harris-Perry, which I'm reading because Glenn Reynolds blogged:
NOTHING AT ALL HAPPENS TO MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY EXCEPT THAT, IN A CROWDED HOTEL LOBBY, SHE MEETS SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T LIKE HER WORK. Naturally, she concocts tremendous “what if he’s here to kill me” drama out of thin air. As always, everything is about her, and her dramatic struggle against people of the wrong race and gender.
I'm going to back away from that drama. There is something genuinely creepy about a strange man saying to a woman "I just want you to know why I am doing this" when she has no idea what "this" refers to. The fear instinct belongs there and she's right to assume she needs to protect herself. After it's over, the question is, what, if any, kind of essay do you write about it?

I'll just confine myself to recommending avoidance of the phrase "between he and I."

"When Noel Santillan typed the word Laugarvegur instead of Laugavegur into his rental car’s GPS..."

"... the New Jersey resident couldn’t have imagined that the extra 'r' would make him something of a celebrity in Iceland."

Laugavegur is a significant street in Reykjavik, 45 minutes from the airport. Laugarvegur happens to be the name of a road  in a fishing village called Siglufjordur, and Santillan drove 6 hours and got there.
“I was very tired after the flight and wanted to get to the hotel as soon as possible,” Mr. Santillan was quoted as saying by Visir. “That’s why I kept driving. I did enjoy the scenery on the way. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. And the horses!”
Informed of his mistake, he spent the night at the Hotel Siglo in Siglufjordur. In the morning, the hotel receptionist told him "he was famous in Iceland now."

"Top Democrats aren’t worried about Bernie Sanders beating Hillary Clinton in the primaries."

"They’re worried about what the popular response to Sanders shows them about Clinton’s vulnerabilities in November," Edward-Isaac Dovere and Gabriel Debenedetti write in Politico.
It’s the quiet chatter among operatives in New York, Washington and beyond—if Clinton’s got so much trouble connecting with people that she’s stuck in a long primary slog against an upstart socialist senator from Vermont with a beyond-parody Brooklyn Jewish accent, that’s because at least some of those voters are more driven by being anti-Hillary than pro-Bernie....

"I went to law school. I'm a recovering lawyer. Sorry. And we had a study group...."

Chris Christie talks about how it feels to be a first-year law student in a video clip that becomes a story of another student's descent into drug addiction.

At the Morning Blog Café...


... the view from here.

A conversation with James Obergefell, the man whose name is on the Supreme Court case that established the right of persons of the same sex to marry.

At Indiana University Maurer School of Law (with Professor Steve Sanders).

The news from 57 years ago today: Why was this on page 66?!

Click to enlarge.

It's so far back that you don't even have to ask what else was happening that was so important. It was page 66. Anything else was more important. There was this on page 3:

The front few pages are loaded with stories relating to the Soviet Union. The biggest front page story is about an airplane crash, not a small plane with popular singers, but an American Airlines plane that crashed in New York City, into the East River, with some survivors swimming for their lives in the "icy," fast-moving water. "Cries pierced the fog...."

Also worthy of the front page, news of hearings on housing discrimination:

That's Jackie Robinson on the left.

"There is not a thing wrong with wanting comfortable, low drama clothes that provide coverage."

"But when a wealthy reality TV star is on the public appearance trail wearing ill-fitting, unflattering cheap catalogue clothes with crappy wigs, an intervention is called for. No one’s expecting her to sport the high-drag of her daughters and step-daughters, but some polish and elegance isn’t an unreasonable expectation."

Tom & Lorenzo get severe with Caitlyn Jenner.

"Over the past 48 hours, Mr. Christie has mocked Mr. Rubio as a cosseted 'boy in the bubble,' derided him as 'constantly scripted,' likened him to 'the king of England'..."

"... and, perhaps most creatively, compared his Senate career to that of a helpless fourth grader who is told which chair to sit in at school...."
At Londonderry High School, he found a fourth-grader named Matthew in the audience and posed a series of questions to him about his daily routine.

Did he have a set time when he had to be at school? Yes, the boy said.

An assigned desk to sit in? The boy nodded.

A list of questions to answer each day — and a summer break? Matthew answered affirmatively.

Mr. Christie pounced: “They do that in the United States Senate, too!” The audience roared.

The Senate, he said, was a foolhardy place from which to pick a president.

“What we are all wondering is: How does that train you to be president?” Mr. Christie said. “Because that’s not the way the presidency works, and it is certainly not the way the governorship works.”
That's from a NYT article titled "Chris Christie and Jeb Bush Team Up on a Mutual Target: Marco RubioChris Christie and Jeb Bush Team Up on a Mutual Target: Marco Rubio" ("Members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt Mr. Rubio’s rise in the polls, according to Republican operatives familiar with the conversations").

My position, stated the morning after the Iowa caucus, is: "Time for every GOP candidate who is not Cruz or Trump to endorse Rubio. It's that simple." But that's not what Jeb and Christie are doing. They're trying to tear down Rubio, so that one of them can get to the front of the mainstream lane and run alongside Cruz and Trump. I can't picture that happening, but Rubio needs to be able to stand up to the criticism that we don't need another Senator to become President. Jeb and Christie both have the experience of being state governors, and it did seem — a year ago! — as if it was obvious that the next President will be a state governor. There were so many of them! But all the governors have gone down or are going down, and we're looking at a race led by Senators and a businessman and a surgeon. Somehow we just haven't loved our governors enough. Isn't that strange?

"[R]omcoms that feature men engaging in stalker-like behaviour can make women more likely to tolerate obsessiveness from prospective romantic partners."

According to "I Did It Because I Never Stopped Loving You/The Effects of Media Portrayals of Persistent Pursuit on Beliefs About Stalking" by Julia R. Lippman. Lippman's subjects watched films that romanticized stalking ("There’s Something About Mary" and "Management") or films that depicted male aggression or neutral films and then answered some questions about the seriousness of stalking behavior.

Here's The Guardian's report on the study.

"When this twisted barbarism is thought of as a compromise..."

"... it’s way past time western governments stopped dealing with this pervert regime."

Said Irvine Welsh, commenting on the Saudi judicial decision to quash the death sentence for Ashraf Fayadh and instead put him in prison for 8 years, give him 800 lashes, and require him to renounce his poetry. Fayadh was convicted of apostasy. His poems were said to promote atheism.

Who is Irvine Welsh? He is the author of the novel "Trainspotting," and he has a new book "A Decent Ride":
A Decent Ride follows "Juice" Terry Lawson... an ex-porn star, a cab driver, drug dealer, and misogynist. Yet despite his unrestrained hedonism, he's surprisingly a somewhat decent person...

Welsh's newest work fits comfortably into his oeuvre, tackling such taboos as necrophilia, incest, and near-constant "shagging." As usual, they're presented in bald-faced fashion. Take, for example, the arrangement of words on one page in particular, set out to resemble an ejaculating penis. If you can stomach the overt vulgarity, A Decent Ride delivers real comedic power....

February 3, 2016

Bernie sets the terms: "you cannot be a moderate and a progressive."

Sad, if true, I think, but it's really just defining the terms. Progressive = immoderate. I note that's Bernie's definition. If I were personally attached to the word "progressive," I'd fight to define it, but I'm not, so I'll keep my distance.

Bernie's been tweeting a lot about these words. It's between him and Hillary. There's also this:

ADDED: Whatever happened to the word "socialist"? If Bernie has replaced "socialist" — in referring to his own politics — with "progressive," then he's appropriated "progressive" as a euphemism, and it's a slick move to say that other people can't use this euphemism for whatever it is they need to cover. If I remember correctly, Hillary adopted the word "progressive" in order to avoid "liberal," because somehow the fine word "liberal" had become pejorative in our supposedly center-left American political culture. "Liberal" connoted left-wing, and Hillary sought a more moderate image with the label "progressive."  I can see Bernie calling her on that, but she could turn around and pin "socialist" on him. That should be a powerful move.

AND: Meade dug up this Isthmus piece written by Madison's ex-mayor Dave Cieslewicz last December:
Americans cringe at the word “socialism,” and no mainstream politician except Sanders identifies himself as such. Sanders could have run from the label and tried to recast himself the way most liberals do these days as a “progressive.” Instead he essentially said, “Damn right I’m a socialist. I’m proud of it. Here’s what it means to me, and here’s why I believe my views are in keeping with mainstream American values going back to Franklin Roosevelt.”...

... I wish we would hear this kind of sterling defense from [Hillary Clinton] for a word that she should embrace: liberal. Sanders’ reason and courage is something liberal Democrats should take to heart....
Ha ha. Both of them have sought refuge in "progressive."

"The full ranking of states, from the fastest-talking to the slowest..."

"1. Oregon 2. Minnesota 3. Massachusetts 4. Kansas 5. Iowa 6. Vermont 7. Alaska 8. South Dakota 9. New Hampshire 10. Nebraska 11. Connecticut 12. North Dakota 13. Washington 14. Wisconsin..."

How far down the list do you need to go to get to a southern state? To #17, Florida. But you have to go to #28 to get to another southern state (Virginia), and a lot of northerners relocate to Florida.

How far up from the bottom of the list do you need to go to get to a northern state? To #41, Ohio.

Rand Paul drops out of the race.

This is very interesting as it happens before the primary in New Hampshire, a somewhat libertarian place, where he could expect to get the most votes.

It must be that he wants to throw his support to one of the other candidates. Which one?

As I said yesterday: "Time for every GOP candidate who is not Cruz or Trump to endorse Rubio. It's that simple."

ADDED: Santorum is dropping out. 

How the NYT presents the "session on diversity" that the University of Missouri requires for its new students.

The article, by John Eligon, is called "University of Missouri Struggles to Bridge Its Racial Divide." I was able to tell I was reading about a required "session on diversity" from the caption on the photo at the top of the page: "New students at the University of Missouri must now attend a session on diversity." I would have had a very hard time figuring out those basic facts from the text of the article, which begins:
Scott N. Brooks, draped in a dapper shawl-collar sweater, looked out on the auditorium of mostly white students in puffy coats and sweats as they silently squirmed at his question. 
Did they literally squirm? If they did squirm, how would you know it was at a particular question, rather than at the banal restraint of another required session?
Why, he had asked, does Maria Sharapova, a white Russian tennis player, earn nearly twice as much in endorsements as Serena Williams, an African-American with a much better win-loss record?

“We like to think it’s all about merit,” said Dr. Brooks, a sociology professor at the University of Missouri, speaking in the casual cadence of his days as a nightclub D.J. “It’s sport. Simply, the best should earn the most money.”
It depends on what the meaning of "it" is. We're comparing money made not in the playing of tennis but in the endorsing of products. What does it mean to be better at endorsing a product? But the students have no motivation to needle Dr. Brooks. They can see what they are expected to do, the coercion and pressure. They know they're supposed to say: It must be racist.
Maybe tennis is not as popular here as overseas, one student offered. Dr. Brooks countered: Ms. Williams is a global figure. As the room fell silent, the elephant settled in. Most sat still, eyes transfixed on the stage. None of the participants — roughly 70 students new to the University of Missouri — dared to offer the reason for the disparity that seemed most obvious. Race.
Why is it daring to say what it's obvious the teacher wants you to say? The class was imposed on the students. They're required to sit through it. What might be daring would be to push the teacher back with the kind of statements that have been upvoted in the NYT comments section: "Sharapova looks like a Victorias secret model while Williams looks more like a NCAA football linebacker and that has NOTHING whatsoever to do with race, so don't make it about race" or "However, Serena IS muscular and she is not built with the long-legged model body of Maria. It's a fact that most women would prefer to be tall and thin. It's not a racist fact, it's simply a fact." It would be daring to say that from the classroom (as opposed to the comments section), because you'd risk becoming the lesson, as the teacher uses his superior power and experience to demonstrate why what you just said really is racist, including the part where you engaged in denial that it was racist.

The article continues:
The new frontier in the university’s eternal struggle with race starts here, with blunt conversations that seek to bridge a stark campus divide. 
But it's not a conversation. It's a leader with a lesson in front of a group that did not choose to engage over this topic. The text of the article — unlike the photo caption — has still not revealed that these students are submitting to a required session. Finally:
Yet what was evident in this pregnant moment during a new diversity session that the university is requiring of all new students was this: People just don’t want to discuss it.
Human nature exists. Ironically, in an effort to elucidate the human nature that has to do with race, the university and the NYT act as if they are utterly naive about that human nature involved in the teacher-student power relationship and the resistance to coerced speech.

Jimmy Kimmel gets Kate Winslet to admit that Leonardo DiCaprio "could have actually fit on that bit of door."

Thus, the actress who played Rose in "Titanic" throws her weight with the segment of internet that has long taken the position that Rose let Jack die by not sharing her raft. Here's a much-viewed depiction of the theory:

Some comments at that image suggest the argument on the other side: "Um, yeah they fit, but it would have sank...PHYSICS PEOPLE!" "Force buoyancy = Volume of fluid displaced*density of water - weight of buoyant body.... chances are the door wouldnt have even held rose." "Wt per cu ft of sea water = 64.08lbs; red oak = 44lbs; est disp of door = 8.4cu ft; wt supported by door = 168lbs. Ergo, Jack's fucked." "May I just say, to all of you that understand the buoyancy and physics involved in this, I love you. There's hope for our future."

ADDED: Mythbusters analyzed the problem:

Searching for news that there's been an official decision that Ted Cruz is a "natural born" citizen...

... my favorite result is: "Kitchen gadgets review: Looseleaf kale stripper – not a natural born kaler/Unless you work in an LA smoothie bar, you probably don’t need this gadget... It’s a great green stripper – but not a natural born kaler."

More on point is: "Ted Cruz Is A 'Natural Born Citizen,' [Illinois] Board Of Election Finds":
Two objectors... had challenged Cruz's presidential bid with the board, contending that his name should not appear on the March 15 ballot because his candidacy did not comply with Article II of the Constitution....

"The Candidate is a natural born citizen by virtue of being born in Canada to his mother who was a U.S. citizen at the time of his birth," the board said, reasoning that Cruz met the criteria because he "did not have to take any steps or go through a naturalization process at some point after birth."...
The Washington Post just put up an article, "What would it take to find out for sure if Ted Cruz (or others like him) is eligible for the presidency?" The main point is that the best way for there to be a case that could be litigated in federal court would be if a state were to exclude Cruz from its ballot, because that would give Cruz the kind of concrete injury needed to satisfy the requirement of standing.

There's also some potential for someone to sue in a state court, where standing requirements can be more lenient  (and then if Cruz were to lose in state court, he'd have the kind of injury from the state court judgment that would give him standing in the U.S. Supreme Court, which could choose to take the case).

"It is not a sign of strength"... Jeb Bush challenges Donald Trump's "strength" image.

And here's where I would embed a video that I saw on Facebook. Facebook is programmed to keep you on Facebook. It doesn't give you the code to embed video that users display there. You have to go searching somewhere else, such as YouTube. I did that, couldn't find the video, and now I can't even get back to the place where I saw it on Facebook. So I'll just say that I don't think Jeb's campaign is playing the social media game too well. I would have propagated a pro-Jeb video, gratis, and I couldn't.

And here's Trump yesterday, saying, loudly, "Wouldn't you rather have Trump as President if we're attacked? We'll beat the shit out of them!"

Is that what works these days as showing strength? Is that where we are?

The glorious acting career of Bernie Sanders.

Here he is in "My X-Girlfriend’s Wedding Reception" — a 1999 romantic comedy:

He plays a rabbi named Manny Shevitz, and from that name I think you can infer the level of cleverness in the comedy.

Sanders is basically giving a speech, so you might think not much acting is involved, but in fact he doesn't milk the comedy material enough to fit the mugging from the actors playing the guests at the wedding.

But you don't need to be a great actor by movie standards to do the kind of acting needed in the presidency. Ronald Reagan was not that fine of an actor, but he played the role of President brilliantly.

Various politicians have done cameos playing themselves in a TV show or movie, and it took a little acting. For example, Condoleezza Rice had to say "'Mars Attacks' is awesome," in this montage. Watch for Michael Bloomberg — he's considering running for President — he's quite good, maybe at the Reagan level.

February 2, 2016

If the population of the entire world lived in one city, how large would that city be?

It depends upon the density of that city, but here's a graphic depiction:

That's just about fitting everyone in a space, not supplying them with water, food, and everything else they'd need.

I ran across that graphic as the result of a search I did after reading the comments to an NPR article, "How China's One-Child Policy Led To Forced Abortions, 30 Million Bachelors." Someone in the comments had said: "The entire world population could theoretically live in Texas. Underpopulation in industrialized nations is the real problem." I thought the necessary space was quite a bit less than Texas. And somebody else said: "No, it 'theoretically' could not. The reason for that is that you have to be able to actually move. And you have to be able to move to the LAND that you are FARMING to grow food. The argument that you could pack people like sardines someplace is completely without any kind of logical merit."

"My wife says if I thought about a fourth term, she'd slit my throat."

Said Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Donald Trump tweets that it's "not worth it."

"I don't believe I have been given any credit by the voters for self-funding my campaign, the only one. I will keep doing, but not worth it!"

What, exactly, is "not worth it"?
pollcode.com free polls

ADDED: I guess a second poll is needed:

What does "I will keep doing" mean?
pollcode.com free polls

"Having felled the brash Mr. Trump, who unceasingly predicted victory and dominated the race up until the first voting..."

"... Mr. Cruz can credibly portray himself, to conservatives who have yearned to unite behind a strong champion, as a giant-killer."

The presentation in the NYT.

The startling wrongness of an undeniable truth: "A win is a win."

Spoken by former senator Tom Harkin from Hillary Clinton's stage in Iowa last night, quoted in "How Iowa went wrong for Hillary Clinton/Her vaunted field organization performed as expected. But she didn't."

Scott Adams eats crow over his heavily pro-Trump predictions.

"Nom-nom-nom. Gulp. Mmmmm… That’s good crow."

Of course, the big "gold standard" poll got it wrong. Not only did Cruz and Trump switch positions, but Marco Rubio shot way up, from 15% to 23%.

Adams has been fun to read because he's been so confident in his smarter-than-you pronouncements. What can he do now? Analyzing why he was wrong isn't consistent with his brand, which has included the pretension of access to a "third dimension" (a dimension where Trump is doing everything right).

Okay, here's what Adams does. He says "the result coincidentally matched what I would expect from a rigged election." He's "not saying the election was rigged," but:
If you had the power to rig the vote in Iowa – either to hurt Trump, or help Rubio – what election result would do the best job?

A Rubio first-place win would raise too many questions. Even a second-place finish would raise questions. But how about a strong third? Yes, that’s the ticket. You would engineer the vote so Rubio got the strongest possible third-place showing without overtaking Trump....

Now consider motive and opportunity. Lots of people in both of the major parties want to stop Trump. And the GOP establishment is probably betting on Rubio as their best hope. Suspects are everywhere.....
Adams's back up move is that he said all along that Trump could win by not winning, that losing could also count as winning, and that Trump was masterminding things, setting it up so that losing is winning.

AND really, Adams is trying to win within the game that he is playing, and he's always got the argument — which he deploys today — that this is all for entertainment purposes only. That opens up a space for him to spin wild theories imaginatively. It can't lose. 

Time for every GOP candidate who is not Cruz or Trump to endorse Rubio.

It's that simple.

ADDED: I said it back on June 10th:

The problem of money is not what it used to be.

"Jeb Spends $2,884 Per Iowa Vote."

Where is Aaron Rodgers when you really need him? Hillary wins a delegate with a coin flip.

Watch it happen: #IowaCaucus delegate awarded to Clinton based on coin flip in tied precinct. w/ MoveOn.org's Benjamin O'Keefe
Posted by Ben Wikler on Monday, February 1, 2016

Via my son John Althouse Cohen, who says:
My friend Ben Wikler, the Washington Director of Moveon.org (which is supporting Bernie Sanders), describes how one of the Iowa caucus precincts was decided:
[T]he first vote was roughly evenly split between Bernie and Hillary. (Nobody for O'Malley.) There are five delegates at stake, divided between the candidates in proportionate to their votes in the room. So it'll be two and two, with one delegate at stake.

The four undecideds go into a corner to hear pitches from supporters of either side. The rest of the crowd mills around; a few go to the bathroom; one or two don't come back.

Three people make up their mind for Bernie; one for Hillary. Back to seats.

Final vote. 61 for Bernie. For Hillary it's 59... 60... 61. Tie!

Recount. Slower this time. Still 61-61. Whoa.

So how do you break a tie? At this precinct, the answer is apparently: COIN FLIP.

Bernie's people call it: heads. Up goes the coin. Back down. Everyone clusters around to look.


Cheers go up on the Hillary side, frustration on Bernie side, and boom, that's it: three delegates for Hillary, two for Bernie, a bajillion fail points awarded to the people who left in the middle of the caucus, and we're off the Bernie victory party.
ADDED: There were 6 precincts where a delegate was awarded by coin flip. Somehow, Clinton won them all!

Was anyone keeping an eye on those flips, Aaron Rodgers style?

Peter Clinkscales, the sticker kid... "I was just a kid wearing a Hillary sticker..."

Getting our attention in the background behind Hillary Clinton as she gave her nonvictory speech....
Clinkscales, who is studying vocal performance at Drake, claims that he tried to sneak a saxophone into the rally for former President Bill Clinton to play, but was turned away.

He returned and snagged a seat behind the stage, a section he says was reserved for VIP guests.

“No one questioned me,” Clinkscales added.

The student made it on live television over Clinton’s right shoulder; sneezing, dancing, bobbing his head and gawking at cameras while sporting a pair of the Democratic frontrunner stickers on his cheeks. He also tried eating the stickers stuck to his face.
Well, he was obviously a kid horsing around. What I found more distracting in the background was the man with Ted Cruz, as Cruz gave his victory speech. He was directly behind Cruz's right shoulder and kept mugging and pointing at people in the audience. Oh, that was Congressman Steve King, R-Ia., the man Sarah Palin accused of "huffing ethanol."

And to get back to Hillary, Bill was standing right behind her and he wasn't being a very good stage-mate. His mouth hung open and his tongue lolled about. I wondered if there was something wrong with him. I think he was mouthing her words as she spoke. It made me think of a struggling reader.

February 1, 2016

Iowa caucus!

At long last. The time is here....

ADDED, 5:54 the next morning: Thanks for keeping up the comments. I'm up and watching all the speeches. Rubio, Trump, Cruz, Hillary, Bernie... I've watched them all.

"Like most gay and equality campaigners, I initially condemned the Christian-run Ashers Bakery in Belfast over its refusal to produce a cake..."

"... with a pro-gay marriage slogan for a gay customer, Gareth Lee. I supported his legal claim against Ashers and the subsequent verdict – the bakery was found guilty of discrimination last year. Now, two days before the case goes to appeal, I have changed my mind. Much as I wish to defend the gay community, I also want to defend freedom of conscience, expression and religion... In my view, it is an infringement of freedom to require businesses to aid the promotion of ideas to which they conscientiously object. Discrimination against people should be unlawful, but not against ideas."

Writes Peter Tatchell in The Guardian.

At the Ham Sandwich Café...


... you can emote about whatever you want.

ADDED: In case you are wondering where you can get a sandwich like that, the restaurant is Estrellón.

That time in 1977 when Elvis Presley got out of his limo on East Washington in Madison to break up a fist fight.

"'[T]he fight ended 'as soon as [the youths] realized who they were up against'... Still decked out in a blue jumpsuit worn during a Thursday concert in Des Moines, Ia., Presley didn't leave the service station until tempers had cooled. 'Elvis asked: "Is everything settled now?"'... [T]he rock star was later amused at his role in the episode. 'Did you see those guys' faces?'"

There's a plaque there now, marking the spot: Elvis Madison Karate Fight Memorial Plaque.

ADDED: Note that I got Iowa in there. That's all the Iowa I'm doing until caucus time. Don't want to max out on Iowa. 

"Bryson without Bryson's voice doesn't work for me... his unique voice is essential in conveying the tone of his work."

Says one commenter at Audible about Bill Bryson's new book "The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain," which — as I've already complained about — is not read by Bill Bryson.

Most of the other commenters have the same problem:

"I feel a heavy responsibility to be named number one," said the chef whose restaurant had just been named the best in the world.

"This ranking is a recognition of seriousness, of delivering the same fidelity and level of excellence from the beginning of January to the end of December... It’s a great tribute to the team.”

Said Benoît Violier of Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville, last December. Yesterday, they found him dead, apparently a suicide. He was 44.
The precise circumstances of Mr. Violier’s death remained unclear, but other top chefs have been pushed to suicide, buffeted by a high-pressure world that demands perfection and where culinary demigods can be demoted with the stroke of a pen.

"Hands-down, the best look of the night. This is flawless from head to toe."

"That dress is so gorgeous we can’t stop looking at it. And isn’t that what you want people saying about your red carpet dress? Darlings, it is."

Perfection, at the SAG awards.

In men's fashion news, Cam Newton wore some amazing pants.

"The diagnosis [of microcephaly] usually comes halfway through pregnancy, if at all...."

"Families have very little time to have the necessary studies, get the results, process their thoughts and make a decision before they reach the legal limits of termination...."
Melissa and Peter Therrien, of Brewster, Mass., faced that choice when they learned that their daughter had a very small skull, after an ultrasound during Mrs. Therrien’s 24th week of pregnancy.

“I felt heartbroken,” Mrs. Therrien, 21, said. “The doctor gave me the option to terminate the pregnancy.” But, she said, “I couldn’t do that.”

Their daughter, Alainah, is now 15 months old, but her development is uncertain. She can walk, although doctors said she might not, and she is given to peals of laughter, Mrs. Therrien said. Yet Alainah speaks just three words: Mama, Papa and “aba,” which she uses to describe various objects. ... Doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital will not know the extent of damage to her brain for nine months or so. She may still have seizures and profound disability.

“It’s just tough,” said Peter Therrien, 26. “There’s nothing we can do to fix it. We’ll pretty much be walking on eggshells for the rest of our lives.”
Here is a diagnosis that comes right around the point of "viability," the point where the constitutional right to have an abortion changes from free choice to an option available only where there is danger to the woman's own life or health. If the statutory law is as restrictive of abortion as the constitution permits, the parents are given virtually no time to absorb the terrible news before they must decide whether to reject a child they had wanted. I would think some parents would rush to have an abortion before the time window closes and then, perhaps, suffer horrible guilt for what they did so rashly. Other parents will feel called to step up to the moral challenge of continuing to love the child despite its imperfection and then, perhaps, later, too late, wish they had ended this ordeal and begun again, and in a life of what Peter Therrien called "walking on eggshells," they may long for that other child that never came into being. 

"It’s the same painting, and all of a sudden you see it with more affection."

"It’s like your child who just won the Nobel Prize. You love your child just as much, but you’re bragging more about it to your cousins and friends," said Julián Zugazagoitia, director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, the location of a small oil painting previously considered to be from the workshop or a follower of Hieronymus Bosch, has just been identified — based underdrawings, motifs, microscopic details, and brushwork  — as the work of Hieronymus Bosch.
“The Temptation of St. Anthony,” which is about 15 inches tall and 10 inches wide, had been cut down on all sides... and was probably part of a much larger panel that was once a wing of a triptych that was dismantled at some point in the last 500 years. It had been heavily retouched and painted over, and many details were murky and indistinct. The Nelson-Atkins bought the work from a dealer in New York in 1935....

“It’s everybody’s dream as a museum director that something as positive as this happens,” Mr. Zugazagoitia said. “And it is on the one side fortunate to be in this lucky situation, in which it goes from a workshop attribution to an original. But the work has not changed. What’s interesting is that the way we look at it will change.”
Isn't it interesting is that what's interesting to us is what happens inside our own head?

January 31, 2016

At the Madison Rooftop Café...


...you can talk about anything.

"Among those unlikables consistently repeated to me by women who are conflicted about her: not authentic; can’t trust her; she lies; she’s establishment; she’s a hawk."

Writes Gail Sheehy in a NYT op-ed "The Women Who Should Love Hillary Clinton."
Over the past several months, I have had some 50 conversations with Democratic women of boomer age. A female editor at a prestigious national magazine confided: “I should be jumping up and down with enthusiasm for Hillary’s candidacy, but I’m not.” I asked if she would vote for Hillary in the end. “I am waiting to see if Bernie wins Iowa,” she whispered. “If so, I’m right there!”

I can wait here forever...

Via Jaltcoh.

Why there are so many things with titles like "Why I still believe Donald Trump will never be president."

It's a hard-to-resist link for the many people who are clinging to the belief — rampant last summer but fading ever since — that Donald Trump cannot become president. Clicking on the link won't make his ascendancy any less likely, but it's like clapping for Tinkerbell. You want to believe what you want to believe and the only thing you need to believe — Peter Pan/the link tells you — is that a simple hand gesture from you now as you gape at a screen will make that thing true that you so dearly want to be true. So you click and the thing you help happen is not the thing you want to be true but the increase in the number of things with titles like "Why I still believe Donald Trump will never be president."

That goes to an article at Vox by David Roberts that I have yet to read and that I'll take at its word. Maybe Roberts is lying and just trying to earn clicks for his site, but I'll assume it's really the reasons he scrapes together as he seeks to assure himself that it just cannot happen, Trump cannot become President.

It turns out to be a long article, broken up into parts, the first heading of which is: "Trump has one mode: dominance." To me, that's on its face wrong, because I've seen Trump in a mellow mode, like when he says that he's an educated, nice man who could be politically correct but it would be boring. It wouldn't work at this talk-to-the-base phase of campaigning, especially where a big strategy is to generate social media. I expect Trump's tone to evolve, just as all candidates pivot to the center after they get the nomination. Trump has spent his life working with people, mostly in a private communicative mode. It's absurd to think he doesn't know how to do more subtle things than what we've seen from the podium, aimed at crowds. The amazing thing is that as a novice politician he's done so well at campaign orations. I wouldn't conclude that's the only thing he can do. I'd infer he's good at whatever form of communication is called for under the circumstances.

But let's read what Roberts says:
One of the best things I've read this year about Trump's appeal is by Josh Marshall. It hearkens back to his (legendary in some circles) 2004 post about "bitch-slap politics."
I must inject a side issue: "hearkens back" (or "harkens back") is wrong (though common): “An old sense of the verb hark (which mainly means to listen) was used in hunting with hounds, where the phrase hark back denoted the act of returning along the course taken to recover a lost scent." We're not talking about listening back. Sound, unlike smell, doesn't remain on the trail and can't be traced. So please say hark back or just use normal English like it reminds me of.

Back to Roberts:
Marshall has wisely abandoned that term...
Roberts doesn't go down the rathole of why it was wise, and I'm not going to do his links for him. I'll just guess "bitch-slap" has been deemed offensive to bitches. The dogs are on the loose in this post.
... but the concept behind it has never been more relevant. It's about dominance displays, about showing, rather than arguing, that one's opponent is weak.

It's done not through critique but through attack — personal attack — demonstrating that the target will not or can not defend him or herself. The attack doesn't make the point, it is the point....

Though it makes pundits somewhat uncomfortable to admit it, most voters.... don't know much about "issues" and don't have well-defined political philosophies.... They are reading the subtext, attuned to who's aggressive and who's defensive, who's strong and who's weak, who seems like a leader and who doesn't.

Trump instinctively gets this. His innovation, if you can call it that, is to abandon the text altogether, bringing the subtext to the surface. "Toughness" is no longer a side dish, it's the main dish, the only dish. Trump will win because Trump wins. It's a post-truth, post-substance campaign, affect from top to bottom.
That's overstatement, but even if it were true, it wouldn't mean Trump is permanently stuck in that mode. It would mean that he has correctly discerned what works at this stage. If more policy particularity is what will work at a different stage, I would expect him to figure that out and get some policies. Do you think it's hard to elaborate policies at whatever level of particularity is needed? He's in a better position to do that if he hasn't nailed himself down.

Speaking of particularity, I'm going to be writing this post all day if I continue at this level of particularity. And the Sunday shows are on now. Let me just tell you the rest of the headings: "Trump's shtick is a wild success ... among a certain subset of voters," "But the road to an election is too long to have only one gear," and "Trump's approach is not an act that he can turn on and off at will." I haven't read the details, but I feel that I've already essentially already responded to them in discussing "Trump has one mode." It seems our Vox writer has one mode, saying Trump has one mode.

What if Roberts's project had been to soothe readers who wanted to believe that Hillary Clinton will never be President? That could be done too. And yet somebody's going to have to be President. Roberts has a footnote at the end of his article. I have to go searching for the text with the asterisk. It's in the second paragraph: "Absent extreme and unlikely circumstances*, Trump will never be president." The footnote is:
* I can think of two scenarios that would fit the bill. One, Trump faces Clinton and, late in the race, something happens to render Clinton unelectable. Two, Trump faces Sanders and Bloomberg jumps in, splitting the left vote and throwing the election to Trump.

Both seem highly unlikely to me, the first because Clinton is already the most intensely vetted figure in US politics, the second because Sanders is unlikely to win the primary.
And if that's reassuring enough to the readers who are sweetly clinging to their belief that Donald Trump can never ever ever be President, then, here, you need a lullaby:

Corgis in the snow.

IN THE COMMENTS: EDH hears an old melody:
Corgis in the snow
Corgis in the snow
Into this house we're born
Into this world we're thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone

...Corgis in the snow

"Accusing citizens of Iowa of a ‘voting violation’ based on Iowa caucus participation, or lack thereof, is false representation of an official act."

"There is no such thing as an election violation related to frequency of voting. Any insinuation or statement to the contrary is wrong and I believe it is not in keeping in the spirit of the Iowa caucuses."

Said Iowa Secretary of State Paul D. Pate, criticizing Ted Cruz's "voting violation" mailer (which I criticized yesterday here).
Mr. Pate added that his office never “grades” voters, nor does it maintain records of caucus participation. He said that the office also did not “distribute” voter records, but they were available “for purchase for political purposes only, under Iowa Code.”...

Speaking to reporters on Saturday evening in Sioux City, Mr. Cruz said he would “apologize to nobody for using every tool we can to encourage Iowa voters to come out and vote.”
Every tool? That, from a man extolled for his way with words.

"Donald Trump has muscled ahead in Iowa, regaining his lead on the brink of the first votes being cast in the 2016 presidential race."

The Des Moines Register selects a very masculine verb as it reports its last poll before the caucus that will finally release us from the clutches of Iowa.
Trump stands at 28 percent, while rival Ted Cruz has slid to 23 percent. But there’s still a strong case for Cruz in this race — he’s more popular and respected than Trump, the final Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll shows.

“The drill-down shows, if anything, stronger alignment with Cruz than Trump, except for the horse race,” said J. Ann Selzer, the pollster for the Iowa Poll.
And that's the wan encouragement for anti-Trumpions from J. Ann Selzer...

Kate Winslet, who did not win a SAG award last night, touches...

... Susan Sarandon's breast.

Back up to the previous photo to get some idea of what inspired Kate, the I'll-just-wear-a-black-bra-with-my-white-tuxedo look Susan chose from the SAG Awards.

Don't stoop to the obvious "sag" joke. You're better than that. And Susan is better than that. Feel free to marvel at Susan's amazing daughter, Eva Amurri.