August 13, 2016

"The Mashco had a ritual greeting: they hugged visitors, put their heads on their shoulders, and then felt inside their clothing, as if to ascertain their sex."

"For perhaps forty minutes, the two groups mingled: the Mashco touching and probing, and the Nomole team acquiescing, mostly in good humor. The Mashco women approached Flores and, as she giggled, touched her breasts and stomach... When I asked Flores about the women, she put a hand to her mouth in embarrassment. 'They felt my breasts and stomach and said to me, 'You’re pregnant, aren’t you?' When I said, ‘No, I’m not,’ they said, ‘Tell us the truth! Don’t you have milk?’ When I said no, Knoygonro squirted her milk in my face, to say, ‘I do.’ ”

From "AN ISOLATED TRIBE EMERGES FROM THE RAIN FOREST/In Peru, an unsolved killing has brought the Mashco Piro into contact with the outside world," by Jon Lee Anderson in The New Yorker.

Point: "I'm getting a little tired of people explaining how the stupid shit Trump says is somehow genius if you think about it."

Counterpoint: "Actually, making you tired of it is part of the genius. Keep complaining: It racks up more support for Trump in his brilliant jujitsu."

Obscure Olympic moment of the day.


Something I photographed today from the TV, after a track bike event. The Chinese athletes — unlike everyone else — have faces painted on the tops of their helmet, and I caught a moment of repose after a race, a rider with her coach (I assume it's the coach).

Here's an article in Weibo about the helmets:
Besides serving as safety gear, the helmets promoted China by portraying typically Chinese Peking Opera masks that, according to state media, conveyed China’s “national essence” and, in this way, could “show the world” this image of China – as China Daily wrote. The female cycling helmets portrayed the Peking Opera facial masks of Hua Mulan (花木兰) and Mu Guiying (穆桂英), two legendary Chinese war heroines....

3 views of Lake Mendota,11:48 to 11:49, this morning.




"She’s 71 years old, still punk af and hanging out with Grandmaster Flash in her pedal-pushers and pink patent Candie stilettos."

"No biggie. Style? She makes her own, bitches."

"New Study Reveals That the Washington Post Is Eager to Dismiss Economic Explanations for Trump’s Rise."

Headline for a New York Magazine piece by Eric Levitz, who begins:
Donald Trump’s supporters tend to live in economically depressed areas where white residents experience exceptionally high rates of mortality — and exceptionally low rates of social mobility — according to a new study from Gallup.

Some might view these findings as evidence that “economic anxiety” among the white working-class has contributed to Donald Trump’s rise. The Washington Post, however, sees them as evidence of the opposite. Or, more precisely, one of their headline writers does.

The paper titled its write-up of Gallup’s analysis thusly: A massive new study debunks a widespread theory for Donald Trump’s success. The article defines that theory as the idea that “economic distress and anxiety across working-class white America” is a valid explanation for Trump’s political appeal. But, as the actual copy of the piece makes clear, Gallup’s analysis does not “debunk” that idea; the study merely complicates it...

At the 11-Years-Ago Café...


... you can talk about anything you like. Have a good Saturday! I'm posting an old photo that I noticed because somebody at Flickr just "liked" it and I can't seem to get Flickr to accept something else that I'm trying to upload. It's that kind of day, perhaps. It's overcast and cool, in a pre-rain sort of way, but the forecast says no rain.

"An army of lawyers working under Mr. Obama’s authority.... has imposed billions of dollars in new costs on businesses and consumers."

"Many of the new rules are little known, even as they affect the way Americans eat, love and die. People can dine on genetically engineered salmon. Women can buy emergency contraceptive pills without prescriptions. Military veterans can design their own headstones."

From "Once Skeptical of Executive Power, Obama Has Come to Embrace It/Mr. Obama will leave the White House as one of the most prolific authors of major regulations in presidential history" (in the NYT).

"After Hillary Clinton earlier this week mocked Donald Trump’s team of economic advisers as including 'six guys named Steve'..."

"... the Republican presidential nominee expanded his stable of advisers Thursday by nine people, eight of them women."

"For most politicians, a call-it-as-you-see-it approach has limits: Candidates who offend too many voters, or look overly impulsive or intemperate, generally lose."

"But Mr. Trump believes that voters who have seen hard times in their communities will embrace him as a truth teller."

Paragraph 25 of a 28 paragraph NYT article titled "Donald Trump’s Missteps Risk Putting a Ceiling Over His Support in Swing States."

I singled that one paragraph out because it's different from everything else in the article, which I read because I wondered what evidence the author — Patrick Healy — had for the (hedged) proposition in the headline. I was imagining an alternative article that could have been written premised on the idea that Trump is choosing the best path for himself, that it's worrying Clinton people, and that they hope to enlist the media in an effort to lure/scare Trump into doing something else — toning down his attacks, being less exciting, ruining the ratings-based relationship he's got with television. 

August 12, 2016

Lake Mendota, today.



Talk about anything you want in the comments.

"Brendan Dassey, who was convicted along with his uncle, Steven Avery, in the murder of Teresa Halbach, had that conviction overturned Friday..."

"... by a federal magistrate judge in Milwaukee."
The shocking ruling, in a case made famous in the Netflix series "Making A Murderer," could result in Dassey getting a new trial or being freed from prison. It gives prosecutors 90 days to decide whether to retry Dassey, although an appeal could extend the proceedings....

"These repeated false promises, when considered in conjunction with all relevant factors, most especially Dassey’s age, intellectual deficits, and the absence of a supportive adult, rendered Dassey’s confession involuntary under the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments," [wrote U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin].
Much more at the link, which goes to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"Someone offered this man a preferred seat for elderly people..."

"... so he did this."

"Libtard" is a portmanteau word, but of what? Liberal + ???

This topic arose in the comments to my post last night that took The New Yorker to task for publishing the sentence: "In India, Hindu supremacists have adopted Rush Limbaugh’s favorite epithet 'libtard' to channel righteous fury against liberal and secular élites." In fact, Rush Limbaugh never says "libtard."

I added: "'Libtard' is an offensive word, unnecessarily dragging in disrespect for the mentally challenged." I have always heard the word as a combination of "liberal" and "retard." But in the comments, MadisonMan asked: "Does the 'tard' come from retard, or bastard?" I think it's obvious: 1. "Retard" is often shortened to just "'tard" and no one ever says "'tard" to mean "bastard," and 2. The contempt expressed in the use of the word seems to be about stupidity and not orneriness.

Urban Dictionary confirms my understanding, in the top-voted definition and in all the competing definitions.

But here's an op-ed in the NYT (from 2014), "Testing the Ideas of India." See? It's India again.
The [the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party's] dominance during this election campaign has had unexpected benefits, including reviving the belief that secularism is a value — even if it’s a value that needs reviving, and redefining. In rambunctious Twitter arguments, “sickular” is often used as a pejorative term, along with “libtard,” a composite for “liberal bastard.” This language, however extreme, is a sign that between the small but noisy groups of Hindu supremacists and the small but equally vociferous groups of committed left-liberals lies a vast middle ground.
I don't know if that columnist got it right, and who knows how the word "libtard" came into being in India? It didn't come from Rush Limbaugh, but did it come from other Americans? If so, was the "tard" misunderstood as connected to "bastard" or was the NYT op-ed writer — Nilanjana S. Roy — just innocent of the American word "tard" and making her own assumption? Roy is a novelist born, educated, and living in India. She's not a good source of the origin of the American epithet "libtard," which seems to have a life of its own in India.


Faking your own death. How to do it — 3 steps. There's a book about it: "Playing Dead: A Journey Through The World of Death Fraud."
Greenwood started thinking, hypothetically, about pseudocide when she was staring down a six-figure student loan debt....
She concludes it's not worth it.
For me, it was really when I met family members who had been involved in a parent's or loved one's pseudocide where that message of the darkness of this plan really hit home to me. ...
But she got a book out of that. She's not going to write a book about it if she's actively pseudo-dead. As for the real fake dead people — naturally they're not talking. Not everyone has family and friends to protect, and some people want to hurt others... and are super-averse to confrontation.

Have you ever heard of a death and suffered a lot and later come around to wondering how you really know that person died? I have!

We were watching Olympic race walking on TV this afternoon, and I got to wondering how that got started.

Why would you have a race with some restriction on how you could move? Got to keep your toe of your back foot in contact with the ground until the heel of your front foot touches the ground. Why?!

I got drawn into the history of race walking. From Wikipedia:
Racewalking developed as one of the original track and field events of the first meeting of the English Amateur Athletics Association in 1880. The first racewalking codes came from an attempt to regulate rules for popular 19th century long distance competitive walking events, called Pedestrianism. 
Let's click through to Pedestrianism
During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, pedestrianism, like running or horse racing (equestrianism) was a popular spectator sport in the British Isles. Pedestrianism became a fixture at fairs – much like horse racing – developing from wagers on footraces, rambling, and 17th century footman wagering. Sources from the late 17th and early 18th century in England describe aristocrats pitting their carriage footmen, constrained to walk by the speed of their masters' carriages, against one another....
Racing their footmen as they'd race horses

Democrats think: "Regardless of how poorly Democrats perform on inequality matters, they will never be as awful as those crazy Republicans."

But, according to Thomas Frank in "Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?":
People do find other places to go, of course — they stay home, they join the Tea Party, whatever. But my purpose here is to scrutinize the tacit Democratic boast about always being better than those crazy Republicans. In truth, what Bill Clinton accomplished were things that no Republican could have done....

That a Democrat might be the one to pick apart the safety net is a violation of this basic brand identity, but by the very structure of the system it is extremely difficult to hold the party accountable for such a deed. This, in turn, is why only a Democrat was able to do that job and get away with it. Only a Democrat was capable of getting bank deregulation passed; only a Democrat could have rammed NAFTA through Congress; and only a Democrat would be capable of privatizing Social Security, as George W. Bush found out in 2005....

To judge by what he actually accomplished, Bill Clinton was not the lesser of two evils, as people on the left always say about Democrats at election time; he was the greater of the two. What he did as president was beyond the reach of even the most diabolical Republican....
Those crazy Republicans.... This is another post that gets my tag: the mental illness meme. Watch out for that crazy guy over there. Watch out for who's getting called crazy.

"At her Brooklyn concert last night, Barbra Streisand was accompanied by an elastic band."

Emails an old friend, linking to The New York Times. And sure enough, here's what got past the NYT copy editors:
Backed by an elastic band and aided by teleprompters, she spent a lot of her more than two hours onstage explaining the stories behind songs and performances and album covers.

Gary Johnson agrees with Trump that Obama and Hillary are the co-founders of ISIS... unintentionally.

Is playing dumb — pretending not to understand what Trump means — a good tactic?

I'm really tired of it, but then I pay excessive attention to the jabber of the day. I find it hard to bother to talk about Trump's saying Obama is "the founder of ISIS" and Hillary Clinton is "the co-founder." Really, does anyone want to own up to being so deficient in language skill that they don't get it? Apparently they do. Here's Allegra Kirkland at Talking Points Memo: "Trump Now Says Claim That Obama Was ‘Founder Of ISIS’ Was ‘Sarcasm.'"

I remember when liberals liked to present themselves as the smart people. But these are not normal times.

OH: Are these times when I must say that my "these are not normal times" is sarcasm?

ADDED: I think Trump's comment is easily understood, so the tactic of focusing on it gets it more widely heard and contemplated.

Does anyone think Trump is actually confused and just getting something wrong? He's making an attack and getting it spread virally. It's memorable and (darkly) funny. I could see thinking that a President shouldn't indulge in figures of speech that can be misunderstood, but the current criticism is mostly trying to deprive Trump of the power to say things in a vivid, effective way. Trump knows that, as his dialogue with Hugh Hewitt shows:
DT: No, it’s no mistake. Everyone’s liking it. I think they’re liking it.... do you not like that?

HH: I don’t. I think I would say they created, they lost the peace. They created the Libyan vacuum, they created the vacuum into which ISIS came, but they didn’t create ISIS. That’s what I would say.

DT: Well, I disagree.... I mean, with his bad policies, that’s why ISIS came about.... If he would have done things properly, you wouldn’t have had ISIS.... Therefore, he was the founder of ISIS.

HH: And that’s, I’d just use different language to communicate it...

DT: But they wouldn’t talk about your language, and they do talk about my language, right?
Yes, they do, so it's effective... until it's not effective. And that's what Trump's antagonists would like to take away from  him. They would like us to hear his speech as evidence that this man is mentally unbalanced. That is, they want to unbalance our minds, so we no longer hear him and understand but hear him and are triggered to think he's mentally unbalanced. 

"a) The Faller, b) The Spiller, c) The Hitter, d) Dog, and e) The Stander."

You've seen it:

Now, analyze it. Minutely.
... at some point, the attractive forces of Wanting To Pet The Nice Doggy overcome... The Stander. He gets up to say hey to Dog, and in doing so, unbalances the bench he was sharing with The Faller... As the bench clatters into the pan, The Spiller ... spills the water all over The Hitter.... The Faller, who's made a desperate attempt for stability and pulled down The Spiller's shorts. This last point raises an interesting question, as, in a bid to keep his shorts up, The Spiller seemingly abandons his grip on the pan. Could he have kept hold of it if The Faller hadn't pantsed him? Or was he destined to spill this water, over and over, in every alternate Universe and every timeline? (Yes.)...

The Daily Beast took down its article on the sexual activity of gay male athletes at the Olympics.

But why, exactly? One answer is that the identities of the (unnamed) gay men could be figured out and some of them are from countries that — as the NYT puts it — are not "gay-friendly." But another reason is that the article got lambasted for the way the reporter — Nico Hines, a non-gay man — used Grindr to find gay men. Grindr is an app that lets gay men find other gay men (for sexual purposes), so Hines was using it for other than its ostensible purpose.

Is it a violation of journalistic ethics to pose as something you are not in order to gain newsworthy information? (I'm not assuming what Hines found — gay athletes having sex — is newsworthy, just trying to isolate an ethical point.) The NYT doesn't fill me in on that gap in my knowledge. It does that thing of calling on an expert to give a quote. They got Robert Drechsel, a just-retired professor here at my university, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was the James E. Burgess Chair in Journalism Ethics and director of the Center for Journalism Ethics, so he must know the answer to my question, but his quote is only that the article is "thoughtless, insensitive and unethical."

Exactly what aspect of what Hines did is "unethical"? I want to hear the general proposition so I can think about it apart from the other problems (endangering the subjects, the frivolity of the material, the offending of sensibilities, the interest in maintaining the functionality of Grindr).

Dreschel is also quoted as saying: “It’s hard to find the words to describe. Why in the world — why in the world of journalism — would anyone do this?”

But, in fact, it's easy to understand why a journalist would do that — to get a story that people would want to read. Why pretend not to understand that? Can I just get a clearly stated ethical principle that will apply when the target group for trickery doesn't inspire our empathy?

ADDED: Here's a 2010 piece in Columbia Journalism Review, "The Ethics of Undercover Journalism/Why journalists get squeamish over James O'Keefe's tactics":
The field’s squeamishness with “lying to get the truth,” as the headline of a 2007 American Journalism Review article put it, is well-documented. In the 1970s, the Chicago Sun-Times set up an elaborate sting operation at the Mirage Tavern to document routine corruption in city agencies; the sting worked, but the paper’s Pulitzer hopes were dashed, reportedly because Ben Bradlee and Eugene Patterson disapproved of its methods. PrimeTime Live’s decision to have producers falsify resumes and smuggle hidden cameras into a Food Lion grocery store sparked contentious litigation (an initial $5.5 million jury verdict against ABC was reduced on appeal to $2) and drew two articles in CJR (not online).

Most recently, Ken Silverstein, the acclaimed Washington editor of Harper’s, posed as a foreign businessman to expose lobbyists’ willingness to represent unsavory clients. Silverstein came back with a gripping story and had plenty of defenders, but institutions like the Center for Public Integrity sided with The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz in criticizing his methods....

There are practical reasons for that wariness. As other observers have noted, while the use of deception in reporting can yield sensational results, it also lends the subject a weapon to wield against the journalist. The ready-made complaint: If the reporter has forfeited the high ground of transparency and honesty, how can his conclusions be trusted by the public?....

To mitigate this concern, undercover reporters are urged take care to situate what they’ve gleaned through deception in a structure of traditional reporting—to show that, unlike, say, Punk’d or Candid Camera or even “To Catch a Predator,” the gimmick is not all there is. Wherever one comes down on Silverstein’s work, one of the more effective criticisms of it was that his original story never gave the lobbying firms he targeted an opportunity to comment....

That’s not the only guideline for going undercover. While there are, appropriately, no hard-and-fast rules or central authorities for journalism, a checklist drawn up by Poynter’s Bob Steele in 1995 is often cited for guidance on this issue. A few points on the list are probably too vague to be of much use, but the first two are valuable. They state that deception and hidden cameras may be appropriate:
When the information obtained is of profound importance. It must be of vital public interest, such as revealing great “system failure” at the top levels, or it must prevent profound harm to individuals.

When all other alternatives for obtaining the same information have been exhausted....
ALSO: Hillary did it: "How Hillary Clinton Went Undercover to Examine Race in Education."

August 11, 2016

Whatever happened to The New Yorker's pride in meticulous fact-checking?!

Here's an example of a strongly stated assertion — in the first paragraph of an article — that is easily fact-checked in a few seconds on line and that is plainly, embarrassingly wrong and a glaring reflection of bias.

This was an article I cared about reading, "How Rousseau Predicted Trump/The Enlightenment philosopher’s attack on cosmopolitan élites now seems prophetic." I cared, because I've been thinking about Trump's recent Second Amendment remark in terms of the right of revolution, and I'm the kind of educated, elite reader The New Yorker is aimed at. I like to think I can relate present-day politics to classic works of philosophy — get the lofty long view of things. So I jump in:
"I love the poorly educated,” Donald Trump said during a victory speech in February, and he has repeatedly taken aim at America’s élites and their “false song of globalism.” Voters in Britain, heeding Brexit campaigners’ calls to “take back control” of a country ostensibly threatened by uncontrolled immigration, “unelected élites,” and “experts,” have reversed fifty years of European integration. Other countries across Western Europe, as well as Israel, Russia, Poland, and Hungary, seethe with demagogic assertions of ethnic, religious, and national identity. In India, Hindu supremacists have adopted Rush Limbaugh’s favorite epithet “libtard” to channel righteous fury against liberal and secular élites.
Rush Limbaugh’s favorite epithet “libtard”? I read The New Yorker, but I also keep up with Rush Limbaugh, and I don't feel as though I have ever heard him say "libtard." It's certainly not his favorite epithet. I know that without even checking. When Rush Limbaugh talks about liberals — which is probably his favorite subject — he says "liberals." That's epithet enough.

Has he ever said "libtard"? Rush Limbaugh puts the entire transcript of his shows up on his website. As a subscriber, I can search the entire archive. And there isn't even one instance of him saying "libtard"!

"Libtard" is an offensive word, unnecessarily dragging in disrespect for the mentally challenged. Yet The New Yorker assumes Rush Limbaugh uses it and — precisely when it's showing off the most elite approach to political analysis — purveys utter misinformation to its readers. Will those readers check? I had a basis for doubting, because I actually monitor what's on the Rush Limbaugh show. But I suspect most readers will rely on their existing bad opinion of Rush, a bad opinion that is stoked by this highly respected magazine with its longstanding reputation for stellar fact-checking — a reputation it seems to think nothing of throwing away. 

UPDATE: The New Yorker acknowledges and corrects its error.

"At the end, it’s either going to work or I’m going to, you know, I’m going to have a very, very nice long vacation."

Said Donald Trump, quoted in the NYT in "Donald Trump, Insisting He Won’t Change His Style, Repeats Claim Obama Founded ISIS."

Loving Trump... no matter what he says.

Eric (the commenter) pointed that out.

Wouldn't conversations between Hillary Clinton supporters sound the same way? I'm thinking yes, but the Trump voters love him. Hillary voters don't love her.

"While European hooligans are fully conscious of what it means to mimic monkey sounds when pestering a player born in Cameroon..."

"... Mexican soccer fans might not necessarily mean the chant as a homophobic slur. As a lifelong Mexican soccer fan who has heard and spewed his share of insults, I am not sure whether the crowd’s behavior is truly driven by a desire to dispute the opposing goalkeeper’s sexual orientation. Still, the hypothetically harmless nature of the mob’s motives is not enough to defend the chant...."

From "Mexican soccer fans need to stop this homophobic chant/Why Univision is broadcasting a statement denouncing the 'Eeeh, puto!' cheer" by Mexican journalist León Krauze in The Washington Post.

Krauze says "puto" has lots of meanings and is hard to translate, but Google acts like it's easy:

I can see wanting to get the rowdy crowd to shut up, but I'm skeptical of the "homophobic" feint. There is so much repression these days coming in the form of playing on people's fear of even the possibility of being considered racist/sexist/homophobic.

Just yesterday, retired Gen. Michael Hayden was on CNN telling us: "You're not just responsible for what you say. You are responsible for what people hear." That's scary stuff, but you're not supposed to hear it as scary because Trump is racist/ sexist/ homophobic/ xenophobic/ murderous/ insane and he needs to be stopped.

Or so I hear it.

And I expect General Hayden to take responsibility for what I hear.

"Been waiting to drop this: summer playlist, the encore. What's everybody listening to?"

ADDED: Are these songs more enjoyable if we smoke marijuana? Malia looked like she was smoking marijuana when she went to a Lollapalooza concert.

The Obama administration has denied a bid by two Democratic governors to reconsider how it treats marijuana under federal drug control laws, keeping the drug for now, at least, in the most restrictive category for U.S. law enforcement purposes.

Drug Enforcement Administration chief Chuck Rosenberg says the decision is rooted in science. Rosenberg gave "enormous weight" to conclusions by the Food and Drug Administration that marijuana has "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States," and by some measures, it remains highly vulnerable to abuse as the most commonly used illicit drug across the nation.

"Clinton spoke of change the way other politicians would talk about God or Providence..."

"... we could succeed economically, he once announced, 'if we make change our friend.' Change was fickle and inscrutable, an unmoved mover doing this or that as only it saw fit. Our task — or, more accurately, your task, middle-class citizen — was to conform to its wishes, to 'adjust to change,' as the president put it when talking about NAFTA. Worship of 'change' was standard stuff in the business literature of that period, but Clinton brought it into the public sphere. For him, this was how politics worked: Every deal was always a done deal. Every legislative program was a way of reckoning with some irresistible onrushing historical force that he and his advisers had divined. The role of Congress was to figure out how to bow to the new reality as Clinton’s cohort perceived it.... [I]t wasn’t reason that sold NAFTA; it was a simulacrum of reason, by which I mean the great god inevitability, invoked in the language of professional-class self-assurance. 'We cannot stop global change,' Clinton said in his signing speech. The phrase that best expressed the feeling was this: 'It’s a no-brainer.' Lee Iacocca uttered it in a pro-NAFTA TV commercial, and before long everyone was saying it. The phrase struck exactly the right notes of simplicity combined with utter obviousness. Globalization was irresistible, the argument went, and free trade was always and in all situations a good thing. So good, it didn’t even really need to be explained. Everyone knew this. Everyone agreed."

From "Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?" by Thomas Frank. (Boldface added.)

"Finally, do not discount the electorate’s ability to be mischievous or underestimate how [m]any millions fancy themselves as closet anarchists once they draw the curtain and are all alone in the voting booth."

"It’s one of the few places left in society where there are no security cameras, no listening devices, no spouses, no kids, no boss, no cops, there’s not even a friggin’ time limit. You can take as long as you need in there and no one can make you do anything. You can push the button and vote a straight party line, or you can write in Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. There are no rules. And because of that, and the anger that so many have toward a broken political system, millions are going to vote for Trump not because they agree with him, not because they like his bigotry or ego, but just because they can. Just because it will upset the apple cart and make mommy and daddy mad. And in the same way like when you’re standing on the edge of Niagara Falls and your mind wonders for a moment what would that feel like to go over that thing, a lot of people are going to love being in the position of puppetmaster and plunking down for Trump just to see what that might look like. Remember back in the ‘90s when the people of Minnesota elected a professional wrestler as their governor? They didn’t do this because they’re stupid or thought that Jesse Ventura was some sort of statesman or political intellectual. They did so just because they could. Minnesota is one of the smartest states in the country. It is also filled with people who have a dark sense of humor — and voting for Ventura was their version of a good practical joke on a sick political system. This is going to happen again with Trump."

From "5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win," by Michael Moore. This was published a week and a half ago, so maybe it's obsolete by now, what with Hillary being so up in the polls. But I only got around to reading the whole thing a few days ago, and it keeps coming to mind, so I wanted to share it. Whether you agree with all the points or not and whether you love or loathe Michael Moore, it's very entertainingly written. In fact, Moore is compelling in a very similar way to Trump, and when you see that, you'll realize that The Jesse Ventura Effect is alive and kicking... in your crazy American pop-culture heart.

"Doris Day, who I know a little bit, once said to me, 'Age is an illusion.'"

"I reminded her of it recently – I was wishing her a happy birthday. People say age is a number. It's a big number the older you get. But if it doesn't interfere, I'm not bothered. You can ignore it. That's what I do."

Said Paul McCartney.

Doris day is 92.

ADDED: At Drudge right now:

The link goes to: "More Old Than Young: A Population Plague Spreads Around the Globe/By 2030, 56 countries will have more people aged 65 and over than children under 15."

The dog is obviously the people who hate him, so how is he the whistler?

"Trump puts out the dog whistle knowing that some dog will hear it, even though he doesn't know which dog."

"A Madison Area Technical College professor promoted religion in class and encouraged a student to have 'a personal relationship with a living God'..."

... according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
After one student wrote about rejecting religion for a class assignment, [Hiep] Van Dong wrote in an email that the unidentified student should take care of his or her “spiritual health.” Van Dong then told the student “not to forsake your faith and spirituality because of ineffective spiritual leaders in your life,” according to the foundation.
Here's a PDF of the letter sent to the school, which has more extensive details and may shift your opinion.

Freedom From Religion demands "an immediate investigation" and "written assurances that Prof. Dong will not promote religion in his classroom in the future."

August 10, 2016

Where does the NYT put the most important presidential election news story of the day?

I think the story is "Emails Renew Questions About Clinton Foundation and State Dept. Overlap":
A new batch of State Department emails released Tuesday showed the close and sometimes overlapping interests between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department when Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state.

The documents raised new questions about whether the charitable foundation worked to reward its donors with access and influence at the State Department, a charge that Mrs. Clinton has faced in the past and has always denied.

In one email exchange, for instance, an executive at the Clinton Foundation in 2009 sought to put a billionaire donor in touch with the United States ambassador to Lebanon because of the donor’s interests there....
I knew this story was up, because I'd seen it at Memeorandum, my go-to source for trending news. I expected to find it on the front page at the NYT, but I ended up have to go back to Memeorandum to get the link. So let's examine the front page of the NYT and see what other presidential election news is there. I'll list them in the order that they are conspicuous on the front page. I'm not going to put links on them all.

1. Unsurprisingly, the story presented as the most important one is that Trump said something that can be understood as very bad: "Trump Suggests Gun Owners Could Stop Clinton Agenda." Trump is always saying something, so there's always another story on the worst thing Trump recently said.

2. "Trump’s Support Among Republican Women Is Faltering." There's always another poll, so you can always point out some specific detail in that poll.

3. "Stress Over Money Pushed Clinton Into Corporate World." Finally, we get to something about Clinton, and it relates to the distant past and is not even actually negative, though the second half of the subheading tells us "But she has been accused of going against her principles." The first half of the subheading has already primed us to think of those accusers as jerks: "In an aspirational life on the edges of power, Mrs. Clinton shouldered her family’s financial burdens."

4. "Modest to Majestic: A Look at the Clintons’ Homes." Again, nothing that just happened. Is this mostly a real estate article or some digging down into finances? Okay, I clicked through. It's just the houses they've owned over the years — not including the White House and the Arkansas governor's mansion. But thrown in at the end is something I don't think they own (and that I'd never heard of): "Perched atop the Clinton library... is a tastefully decorated private residence where the Clintons stay when they’re in Little Rock." A penthouse was built on top of Bill's library?!

5. "New Election Podcast: A Landslide Win for Clinton?" Imagining the future.

6. "New Emails Renew Questions About Clinton Foundation." Oh! I finally found it. It is on the front page, just very inconspicuous.

Assange — seemingly bound by the Wikileaks rule against revealing sources — seems to say that the murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich was a source.

"Whistle-blowers go to significant efforts to get us material and often very significant risks... As a 27-year-old, works for the DNC, was shot in the back, murdered just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington."

ADDED: Slate's Jeremy Stahl has this "WikiLeaks Is Fanning a Conspiracy Theory That Hillary Murdered a DNC Staffer":
There is of course absolutely zero evidence for this and Snopes has issued a comprehensive debunking of the premise itself (Rich is only 27 and has only worked at the DNC since 2014 so is unlikely to be in possession of information that might take down Clinton, he was on the phone with his girlfriend at the time of the shooting and she hasn’t reported any FBI meeting, there have been a string of robberies in the area, an FBI rendezvous at 4 a.m. only happens in movies, the whole thing is batshit crazy, etc.).
Why does Stahl flaunt his non-neutrality? You can't say "absolutely zero evidence" (unless you don't know the meaning of the word evidence). Assange's statement is evidence. And the leaking and Rich's place of employment are evidence. Even if you think that's not much, it is something. Why fall back on statements like "the whole thing is batshit crazy." People complain about Trump's style of speaking, but it seems to me that an awful lot of people have moved to that level or worse.

Would you want to live in an apartment in a wooden skyscraper?

It would be the second tallest building in London — 80 stories — with over 1,000 residential units.
'if london is going to survive it needs to increasingly densify,’ says dr michael ramage, director of cambridge’s centre for natural material innovation. ‘one way is taller buildings. we believe people have a greater affinity for taller buildings in natural materials rather than steel and concrete towers.’...

the proposed 40-storey scheme has been conceived using cross laminated timber, with a pattern of numbers applied to the structure’s distinctive façades. externally, floors can be understood by simply reading the number on the building — similar to the concept of a parking garage...
Here's how that looks from the outside:

Are you picturing the inside?

You like? free polls

Elizabeth Warren tweets Donald Trump "makes death threats because he's a pathetic coward who can't handle the fact that he's losing to a girl."

I hate what Trump said. It was bad. He shouldn't have said it, and he should find some way to undo the damage and to stop blurting out things that occur to him on the fly, things that might be interpreted as a call to any sort of violence. If he can't control that tendency, how could he possibly serve as President?

But I want to talk about Elizabeth Warren's tweet. It has 4 aspects worth talking about: 1. The characterization of Trump's statement as a "death threat," 2. The assertion that Trump is "a pathetic coward," 3. Warren's use of the word "girl" to refer to Hillary, and 4. The assertion that Trump is motivated by a threat to his masculinity.

1. What Trump said was: "Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know." That's not literally a threat. I know Warren was tweeting and that pushes people to compress language, but if you're going to criticize other people's blunt speech and crude language, you shouldn't do the same thing yourself. Trump said that the Supreme Court can change the interpretation of the Second Amendment (which it could easily do, switching to what had been the dissenting Justices' position, finding no individual right to bear arms) and then there would be "nothing" you could do. That was a reason to vote for him. Let him appoint the Justices. If Hillary gets the appointment power, it will be too late. At that point, Trump seems to have observed — as one might do in casual conversation — that "nothing" is not strictly true. There is something. It wouldn't be to assassinate Hillary Clinton. The way I heard it, before reading anyone else's opinion, was as a reference to the right of revolution, which is why some "Second Amendment people" think the government should not be able to disarm them. I don't think it's even talking about killing Hillary Clinton. But it is bad, nonetheless, because it floats an idea of violence that some deranged person might process into a call for assassination. If Elizabeth Warren wants to call that a "death threat," then she's using cruder language than Trump used, and she's adding energy to assassination ideation. The problem is delusional people who hear things and get ideas. Don't touch them off. If you believe that, act like you believe it!

2. What is the basis for calling Trump "a pathetic coward"? He's got a lot of nerve. That's why there's so much problem with him. Why did Warren use these words? The only idea I can come up with — connecting it to the next phrase — is that she wants to take a nasty swipe at his masculinity and "pathetic" and "coward" seem well-suited to that purpose.

3. Meade called this tweet to my attention, asking how Warren could get away with using the word "girl." Is this some female privilege — she can say "girl" but a man can't? I think that what's going on is that Warren is purporting to read Trump's mind, so it's not her saying "girl." That's what's in there in his mind. He's the one denigrating Hillary, thinking of her as a girl. Or: He's reliving a childhood psychodrama, in which boys feel humiliated if they can't even beat a girl. Warren uses vivid speech that's fascinatingly similar to Trump's. She blurts out the language of a childhood taunt: Hah! You're losing to a girl! And she seems to think she can talk like the playground bully because it's not really her speaking, it's just her doing the voice of somebody else, somebody who hurt little Donald many years ago and who still lives inside his head, taunting him after all these decades.

4. I think Trump believes he's doing damned well. He had to fight through 16 Republicans to get the nomination. He had to defeat his party's establishment, just like Bernie Sanders tried to fight his party's establishment. Does Bernie feel humiliated for "losing to a girl"? That "girl" had her party's whole establishment pushing her along. She's promoted and held aloft by a former President of the United States. I think Trump feels he's in a valiant battle and it's still going on, not that he's losing. He hates losing, he loves to tell us, but his style is to keep trying to win, not to succumb to low self esteem and view himself as a loser. But even if he were upset about losing, I doubt if it would be about the fact that Hillary is female, that any decent man should be able to beat any female. Why does Warren think she can ascribe such thoughts to him? I don't think she's correctly reading Trump's mind, but I also don't think she believes she is. I think she's trying to stir up excitement for Hillary, and the most exciting thing about this candidate few voters actually like as an individual, is that she's a woman. Warren encourages us to focus on the excitement of the first woman President. Don't pay attention to the individual, Hillary. Think of voting for a woman. And think of voting against that terrible man, Donald Trump, who is fighting a woman — not because she's his political opponent in the election — but because he's a man, with screwed up man-thoughts, and she's a woman, so he needs to destroy her. Plunge into the psychodrama, people!

August 9, 2016

"This is simple — what Trump is saying is dangerous. A person seeking to... be president of the United States should not suggest violence in any way."

The Clinton campaign's reaction. This is what Trump said today:
"Hillary wants to abolish -- essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know," Trump said.
Trump blurted that out, in his typical style. An idea occurred to him, so he said it.

Now, there's so much talk about it that I'm concerned about all the unbalanced people out there. I wish everyone would just stop talking about it, but winning the election is put above the more nebulous concern that some distorted, delusional person will decide to act.

Trump has also been on the receiving end of suggestions of assassination. For example, here's a cartoon that appeared in The New Yorker recently:

“I know we strictly bust ghosts, but I feel this is a shot we need to take.”

And here's Scott Adams, writing last March:
[W]e see the media priming the public to try to kill Trump, or at least create some photogenic mayhem at a public event. Again, no one is sitting in a room plotting Trump’s death, but – let’s be honest – at least half of the media believes Trump is the next Hitler, and a Hitler assassination would be morally justified. Also great for ratings. The media would not be charged with any crime for triggering some nut to act. There would be no smoking gun. No guilt. No repercussions. Just better ratings and bonuses all around.

It's primary day in Wisconsin.

I wish I had a PDF of the ballot they handed out here in Dane County — packed with fine print, and you were not only expected to understand that you could only vote within one of the 4 or so parties, but you had to figure out where each party began and ended within the various columns on the 2-sided sheet of cardboard. It was hard just to see, and not much light was provided at my polling place (the First Congregational Church (I vote in a church)). Worst ballot I ever got. [ADDED: You can see it in PDF here.]

But I only wanted to vote in one race, the one for Dane County District Attorney. The winner will be unopposed in the fall, so if you want to have a vote for that position, you have to choose to vote in the Democratic Party primary, which I therefore did. It's an open primary, and it would be absurd to keep non-Democrats out of voting, because the primary determines who wins that position.

I've watched the candidates debate, here. The incumbent faces a challenger who is currently working in the office as an assistant district attorney and who says things like: "I’m just astonished at the things he does and the things he doesn’t do. It’s as though he likes the title of district attorney but he doesn’t like the job of district attorney." The incumbent, who is African American, says his opponent, by calling him lazy, is engaging in racism. The opponent, who is white, says that's "offensive," and points out...
... that he and his wife were foster parents for 25 children, many of them African-American, and adopted one of those children. “But I think there’s a history there, that he characterizes every problem that’s confronting this office in those terms, and those are not the problems facing this office.”
The real problems, the challenger says, are that the office is "profoundly demoralized, profoundly dysfunctional and exceedingly disorganized."

UPDATE: The incumbent DA won. And Paul Ryan won his primary too.

"It should not surprise us that the liberal class regards the university as the greatest and most necessary social institution of all..."

"... or that members of this cohort reflexively propose more education as the answer to just about anything you care to bring up. College can conquer unemployment as well as racism, they say; urban decay as well as inequality. Education will make us more tolerant, it will dissolve our doubts about globalization and climate change, it will give us the STEM skills we need as a society to compete. The liberal class knows, as a matter of deepest conviction, that there is no social or political problem that cannot be solved with more education and job training... To the liberal class, every big economic problem is really an education problem, a failure by the losers to learn the right skills and get the credentials everyone knows you’ll need in the society of the future.... To the liberal class this is a fixed idea, as open to evidence-based refutation as creationism is to fundamentalists: if poor people want to stop being poor, poor people must go to college. But of course this isn’t really an answer at all; it’s a moral judgment, handed down by the successful from the vantage of their own success. The professional class is defined by its educational attainment, and every time they tell the country that what it needs is more schooling, they are saying: Inequality is not a failure of the system; it is a failure of you."

That's from "Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?" by Thomas Frank.

"… every douchebag in an ’80s teen movie. It’s like they took James Spader and turned him into clothing."

"Ralph Lauren needs to have this commission forcibly yanked out of his hands. It’s time for Michael Kors to have a shot at the U.S. team uniforms."

Going to a hell of a lot of trouble to get inside a woman.

"[T]housands of predominantly older heterosexual men... don full-body silicone suits, prosthetic breasts, doll-like masks, and elaborate costumes... The community is active online and meets up in special female masking forums.... On this episode of VICE INTL, we head to Amsterdam and Germany to meet a few European men who shed their masculinity and transform into feminine latex dolls..."

You've got to watch the video to appreciate how much trouble this is. Heterosexual sex can be spoken of in terms of the man getting inside the woman, so this could be thought of as a variation on that. It may be less trouble to get inside these tight masks and latex garments than to form a real relationship with a woman, and — to be fair to Hank, et al. — you're only troubling your rubber-y possessions, not some real person, and these things don't suffer if you pack them away in piled up corrugated Chiquita banana boxes in your spare room when you're not needing them.

Will Hillary Clinton skip the debates?

That's a question I have, but when I Google it — to see if others are asking this question — what I get is:

Why would Trump skip the debates?! These articles were, it seems, mostly prompted by Trump's own statements — statements about the chosen dates (conflicting with football games). But it seems to me that Hillary is the one with the motivation to skip the debates. She's the one who's been avoiding exposure to challenging questions from the press by holding no press conferences. She did allow questions from the National Association of Black and Hispanic Journalists, presumably an unusually friendly group, and that event yielded up her "short-circuited" remark that's dogged her ever since.

If Hillary can maintain her lead in the polls, why would she want to subject herself to the kind of treatment we've seen Trump deliver in debates? He's been free-wheeling and brutal, even when he was fighting for the nomination and still had everything at stake. If she's on a clear path to victory, what would he do to her when he's got nothing left to lose? She might think that just standing there solidly allowing him to be offensive in her presence would make a powerful implicit argument in her favor — a reprise of the old Lazio debate. But it's still risky. There are now attacks on her physical and neurological fitness, and any flubbing of lines or seeming shakiness will be used against her.

How could she bow out? Don't the American people expect a debate — demand a debate — from our presidential candidates? Won't an attempt to avoid the debate be used against her as more of evidence/"evidence" of her physical and neurological unfitness?

She would have to handle the bowing out carefully. Get proxies to float the idea. Smoke out the arguments against it, see who picks up the idea and expands upon it. Choose some things Trump says and act like these things are the last straw making it inappropriate for her to stand beside him on the stage. He's the one that essentially forfeited the debate. And so on.

Whatever hits she may take for bowing out, they're a known risk, and they pale in comparison to the unknowns of the debate. She might make blunders. She might falter in her stamina. Trump may get off some brilliant hits that leave her reeling. Her verbose, flat, evasive style of speech might seem especially awful next to the pithy, entertaining Trump. His presence on the stage with her may catapult him into a newly presidential appearance. And how can she prepare? He likes to surprise. He might take any number of approaches, while she has only her usual, boring presentation. People may think: Is that what we want to look at and listen to for the next 4 years? Why give Trump that opening?

Does it mean anything that the father of Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, showed up at Hillary's Orlando rally?

Drudge thinks it's the #1 news story:

The man, Seddique Mateen, tried to avoid being noticed. Hillary, of course, had words of sympathy for the families of the victims. A reporter noticed him, and he just said "We've been cooperating with the federal government, and that's about it. Thank you." Later, elsewhere, another reporter got a few more words from him: "Hillary Clinton is good for United States versus Donald Trump, who has no solutions," and "I... wish that my son joined the Army and fought ISIS. That would be much better." He dodged a question about whether the Clinton campaign knew he was attending the rally: "It's a Democratic party, so everyone can join."

"In everyday life, acting virtuously means such boring things as being kind, honest and dutiful."

"For moral prodigies, such pedestrian examples are beneath notice. Rousseau, 'drunk with virtue' as he put it in his 'Confessions,' nonetheless shipped off to a foundlings home all five of the children he had with his semi-literate mistress. She protested, but Rousseau cared not for he had 'never felt the least glimmering of love for her.' Robespierre floated aloft upon a similarly callous intoxication. The Republic, he said, was founded on 'virtue and its emanation, terror.' Hence the work of the Committee of Public Safety, whose chief handmaiden was the guillotine and whose activities depended critically on anonymous reports about those whose commitment to virtue was less than wholehearted. Yale, though sitting on a tax-exempt endowment of $24 billion, does not have the guillotine...."

From "The College Formerly Known as Yale/Any renaming push on the Ivy campus should start at the top—with Elihu Yale, slave trader extraordinaire," by Roger Kimball, on the occasion of the creation of Yale's "Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming." It's in the Wall Street Journal, so you may have to Google some text to get a link that will work for you.

August 8, 2016

At the 7-O'Clock Café...


... you can keep talking all night.

And Tim Kaine should get Hillary to withdraw.

That's my response to "Mike Pence Should Get Donald Trump to Withdraw" (a NYT op-ed).

What if the presidential candidates suddenly were — by some mutual political deescalation — Mike Pence and Tim Kaine. free polls

"A relatively small amount of peat is mined to burn as fuel, to improve backyard gardens or to add smokiness to Scotch."

"But most of it stays where it is, and because it accumulates carbon over such a long time, it contains more carbon than is in all the world’s trees and plants, and nearly as much as the atmosphere does."

The problem is if it burns, which can happen, especially if it dries out, which might happen through global warming.
The world has already had vast releases of carbon from peat, in Indonesia. Last year, bogs that had been drained for agriculture, and were drier because of El Niño-related warmth, burned for months, creating a haze visible from space and causing widespread health problems. At their peak in September and October, the fires released more carbon per day than was emitted by the European Union.
But most of the peatlands — which are "about 3 percent of the earth’s land surface" — are in "northern latitudes in Canada, Alaska, Europe and Russia."

If you've ever dreamed of returning to the suburban lifestyles of the 1950s...

... take a look at Dallas, where — in some parts, at least — they've gone back to the old practice of letting the family dog run free:
On Thursday, the Boston Consulting Group, hired by the city, released a report that estimated there were 8,700 loose dogs in the area....

The biggest increase in dog bites came from dogs that were owned but not on a leash, the report said, and the groups involved in the issue agreed that educating dog owners was an important part of the solution....

In Dallas, the difference between the poverty-stricken south and the more affluent north is stark....
So it's those poor people, with their poor people ways. I remember when it was the middle class norm to let your dog out to roam around.

(Here's the Bob Dylan song.)

"Bride Is Walked Down Aisle by the Man Who Got Her Father’s Donated Heart."

"'One of my first thoughts in that following week was, "Who will walk me down the aisle?"... I was thinking, "Oh, my gosh, it would be so incredible to have a physical piece of my father there."'..."
“I felt wonderful about bringing her dad’s heart to Pittsburgh,” Mr. Thomas said. “If I had to, I would’ve walked.”

Who needs norms when Trump is not normal?

I'm reading "Trump Is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism," by Jim Rutenberg. He's examining a topic I've been following for some time, the idea that Trump is not normal and the consequences of believing that idea. These are not normal times, some people are saying, and therefore the normal rules do not apply to me. That is, in my view, a dangerous, despicable turn of mind, but let's see what Rutenberg has to say:
If you ["you," the "working journalist"] view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, nonopinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable.
Key word: normal.
But the question that everyone is grappling with is: Do normal standards apply? And if they don’t, what should take their place?
Boldface added. 
Covering Mr. Trump as an abnormal and potentially dangerous candidate is more than just a shock to the journalistic system. It threatens to throw the advantage to his news conference-averse opponent, Hillary Clinton, who should draw plenty more tough-minded coverage herself. 
Yes, yes, I know. Journalists already routinely threw the advantage to Democratic Party candidates. It's not some new threat. It is the norm. So what's he talking about? What's this new threshold the journalists are crossing? Why talk about this now? To excuse the failure to cover stories about Hillary? Rutenberg worries about the journalistic value called "balance," then tries to discount it:
But let’s face it: Balance has been on vacation since Mr. Trump stepped onto his golden Trump Tower escalator last year to announce his candidacy. For the primaries and caucuses, the imbalance played to his advantage, captured by the killer statistic of the season: His nearly $2 billion in free media was more than six times as much as that of his closest Republican rival.
But he had 16 rivals, and they were all, in sequence, attacking him. Even if he got 6 times as much as his closest rival (presumably Ted Cruz), what was the total amount his 16 rivals got as they all chose the strategy of hitting him? And what about the Democrats who got free media to attack him? I don't have enough numbers to do the math, but it sounds as though more free media was used attacking him than he himself received. I'm not convinced "Balance has been on vacation"! The balance has gone against Trump from Day 1. How the hell did he fight through all of that?

Rutenberg (and the journalists he's talking to and about) must be dumbfounded by the power of this man to survive the months of brutal beating he got in the media. What if journalists don't have the power to destroy? What if Trump gains power from their opposition?

It must be terrifying to stand naked. But there is cover if Hillary can only be carried to the finish line. They won't cover her, but she can cover them.

"I want to jump-start America and it can be done and it won't even be that hard."

Said Donald Trump, offering up his economic plan in Detroit today.

I chose to link to after rejecting the NYT article that ran under the headline "Donald Trump, Hoping to Change Subjects, Says He Will Bring Prosperity." How does the NYT know what hope lurks in the dark heart of Donald Trump? This is the NYT, which is also running an article today called "Trump Is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism." I'm going to deal with that in a separate post, but I just want to say that I'm finding most of the articles about the election completely unclickable these days. I realize there has always been plenty of bias, but I'd try to read through it. Now, the headlines are tawdry clickbait... clickbait for somebody else.

"There’s a global push to remove 'gender identity disorder' from the list of mental illnesses."

"But many transgender people in Japan aren’t on board with the idea...."
While calling something a “disorder” can make someone embarrassed or ashamed in many parts of the world, in Japan it can do the opposite: It makes behavior acceptable that would be shameful if seen as a personal eccentricity, said Junko Mitsuhashi, the historian.

GID was part of a pattern of pathologization in Japan — in the early 2000s, officials also gave a name to teenagers and young adults who were withdrawing from school and becoming hermits in their room: “hikikomori.” The Ministry of Health first defined the term in 2003, leading to a flood of coverage of the phenomenon; by 2010, the country was estimated to be home to 700,000 people with the condition and there were NGOs dedicated to helping them out of isolation.

“Anything that is kind of deviating from what is considered the general flow of society can be diagnosed as something, [like] children who don’t want to go to school… If they put a medical name to the symptom, people will feel relieved,” Mitsuhashi said. “What really pushed the conviction to allow [the GID Law] to pass was the argument that this was an illness, a medical symptom.”...

At the Lunchtime Café...


... get the conversation going.

"3 Human Chimeras That Already Exist."

"A chimera is essentially a single organism that's made up of cells from two or more 'individuals'—that is, it contains two sets of DNA, with the code to make two separate organisms."
One way that chimeras can happen naturally in humans is that a fetus can absorb its twin...

A person can also be a chimera if they undergo a bone marrow transplant. During such transplants, which can be used for example to treat leukemia, a person will have their own bone marrow destroyed and replaced with bone marrow from another person...

More commonly, people may exhibit so-called microchimerism—when a small fraction of their cells are from someone else. This can happen when a woman becomes pregnant, and a small number of cells from the fetus migrate into her blood and travel to different organs.

A 2015 study suggested that this happens in almost all pregnant women, at least temporarily.... In some cases, fetal cells may stay in a woman's body for years. In a 2012 study, researchers analyzed the brains of 59 women ages 32 to 101, after they had died. They found 63 percent of these women had traces of male DNA from fetal cells in their brains....
Wow. That last one is kind of disturbing!

"We were wrong: Ending stop and frisk did not end stopping crime."

Say the editors of The Daily News.
The NYPD under Commissioner Ray Kelly used the lawful tactic of questioning suspicious individuals to deter crime before it happened. Many cops believed, for example, that the fear of getting stopped for questioning prompted would-be gun-toters to stop carrying their weapons.

As many readers will know, the Daily News Editorial Board supported the NYPD’s strategy as essential to public safety.  
But, since a federal judge ended the stop-and-frisk program, the shootings have dropped in NYC. The editors don't even attempt to guess why leaving people alone, perhaps to carry guns, would lead to fewer shootings.

At least consider the possibility that "An armed society is a polite society."

"Last month, two boys used a sharp object to outline a 5,000-year-old historical carving in Norway thought to be among the earliest depictions of skiing anywhere in the world...."

"They apparently intended to 'fix' it to make it more visible, but permanently defaced the carving, on the island of Tro...."

Just one of the incidents of ordinary people damaging artworks collected in a NYT article (rather sloppily) titled "Whoops! When Museum Visitors Get Touchy-Feely With the Exhibits and Unleash Mayhem." (The headline fits the first-described incident, involving an art-clock displayed uncased and with pull cords that seem to invite experimentation to get the thing moving.)

The Giant Verrückt Water Slide — at Schlitterbahn Kansas City — that killed a boy.

Here's a rider's eye view on a normal run:

Verrückt means "insane" in German, we're told in the article "‘Insane’ tragedy: Kansas boy dies on world’s tallest waterslide."
The boy was 10-year-old Caleb Schwab, the son of a state legislator. Police said the death appeared to be an accident. Park officials confirmed Schwab died while riding the Verruckt but did not say how....

Before it opened two years ago, the Verruckt had to be partially torn down and redesigned. According to USA Today, the changes were made after rafts flew off the slide at high speeds during test rides.

“It’s dangerous, but it’s a safe dangerous now,” ride co-creator and Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry told the newspaper in July 2014. “Schlitterbahn is a family water park, but this isn’t a family ride. It’s for the thrill seekers of the world, people into extreme adventure.”

It's not "I may have short-circuited." It's "I may have short-circuited it." But what difference does it make?

Glenn Kessler's Fact Checker column in The Washington Post deals with the presence — subtle but real — of the word "it" at the end of Hillary Clinton's new famous quote "I may have short-circuited." He detects the word "it" — and you'll hear it too once you know to listen for it. Here's the quote:
“So I may have short-circuited it and for that I, you know, will try to clarify because I think — you know, Chris Wallace and I, we’re probably talking past each other be — because, of course, he could only talk to what I had told the FBI and I appreciated that.” — Hillary Clinton, remarks to joint convention of black and Hispanic journalists, Aug. 5, 2016
Trump and others — including me — have been joking and faux-fretting about Hillary's seeming to portray herself as a robot, so there might seem to be a significant difference between her presenting herself as an electrical entity capable of short-circuiting and portraying herself as the agent of short-circuiting. If the latter — and the evidence undoubtedly establishes the latter — then the question is what was the thing — the "it" — that she was acting upon and causing to short-circuit?

It would have to be the set of ideas that arose in her head as Chris Wallace asked her the question. She connected the ideas up in the wrong way and thus produced an answer that wasn't right. Belatedly noticing the "it" in her remark forces me to think about the way in which a person's mental processes are different from the person. But how are they different?! And this is a metaphor, so the question is: How are they different in a way that relates to whether we should trust this person to make the momentous decisions that fall to the President of the United States?

If "short-circuited" means confused, it's the difference between saying I got confused and I confused my thoughts. Is there a difference that matters here? In the second form, the "I" is an active agent, doing things — but these things are bad, so there's no particular merit in being the one who does things rather than the one to whom things simply happen.

The main difference is: If you continue to joke about Hillary as a robot, you are wrong, so stop doing that. Hillary did not metaphorically portray herself as a robot. She portrayed herself as the miswirer of electrical connections inside her head.

August 7, 2016

"The American Psychiatric Association issues a warning: No psychoanalyzing Donald Trump."

That's the WaPo headline. Here's an excerpt. See if you notice what I notice:
Back in 1964, a whole bunch of psychiatrists decided they would like to psychoanalyze Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. The result was what's known as the "Goldwater Rule."...

The American Psychiatric Association first began to follow the rule in 1973, but given recent events, it saw fit Wednesday to remind psychiatrists across the United States that the rule exists and must be followed.

"The unique atmosphere of this year’s election cycle may lead some to want to psychoanalyze the candidates," Maria A. Oquendo, president of the APA, wrote, "but to do so would not only be unethical, it would be irresponsible."

It's not clear whether Oquendo's post was a direct response to Flier's tweet or Scarborough's comments ["We’re asking ourselves — I didn’t say this, but this is what everybody is saying: Is Donald Trump a sociopath?"], but the timing certainly seems to fit. She did not respond to a request for comment....
Flier is Jeffrey Flier, the former dean of Harvard Medical School. His tweet was "Narcissistic personality disorder. Trump doesn't just have it, he defines it."

Do you know what I'm about to say? WaPo is highlighting the things people are saying about Trump, but the APA warning came out Wednesday and is more closely synchronized with attacks on Hillary Clinton. WaPo doesn't even mention the spate of analysis of Hillary Clinton that followed her "short-circuited" remark. The "timing certainly seems to fit" — if anything — a desire to protect Hillary from attacks. The analysis of Trump's mental health has been going on for a while.

And here's my post from this morning observing that discussion of Trump in terms of mental illness has unleashed a corresponding approach to attacking Hillary Clinton. I'm against this kind of cheap, phony medicalizing of political discussion, whether it's done by psychiatrists or amateurs — or WaPo columnists like Kathleen Parker who thinks her own experience with brain injury puts her in a "unique position" to talk about Trump's brain.

Not the insects for which you planted that flower.

The butterfly weed was not an invitation to the butterless fly...


And then there's the fly and the thing I call the false lightning bug:


Beyond our home garden, the beloved (beeloved) bee must share with the non-bee hymenopterans:


"He stood out by the things he didn’t do — which was spend all of his time trying to impress you somewhat desperately..."

"... which is a characteristic of the majority of the people who graduate from Harvard Law School.... That’s one of the things that made him likable and genuine."

From the class of 1983....

"So Long, Marianne."

"Leonard Cohen penned a poignant final letter to his dying muse Marianne Ihlen, a longtime friend of hers revealed on Canadian radio...."
Her close friend Jan Christian Mollestad got in touch with Cohen to tell him Ihlen was dying [at the age of 81].... Mollestad, a documentary maker, read Cohen’s letter to her before she died.

“It said well Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”
From Sylvie Simmons, author of I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen:
"The first time I met Marianne, she was in her seventies and yet she seemed ageless, almost childlike in her openness and curiosity. The last time we met, she cooked my favourite meal and we read the I-Ching into the night. Marianne came from a time when women were raised to be muses and helpmates, which she was; she loved creative men and she was creative herself. Her life was not the easiest, but nothing seemed to dent her generosity and kindness. A truly beautiful soul."
ADDED: Did you ever want to be a muse (or to have one)? Here are "The 30 Most Famous Muses in Art." One of my favorite movies is about the woman who is #11 on that list.

Just as the Democratic commentator is saying Republicans can only win through voter suppression, she's radically undercut by the crawl at the bottom of the screen.

A commentator on "State of the Union" this morning — Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings — asserts that voter suppression is "the only way Republicans win" just as the crawl across the bottom of the screen says: "Federal appeals court reinstates lawsuit against IRS says agency needs to prove it's no longer discriminating conservative groups. Court rules conservative groups who brought 2013 lawsuit were 'subjected to extended delay' when applying for tax-exempt status with IRS. Court says 'it is absurd' to suggest unlawful delays by IRS have completely ended, considering two of the plaintiff groups still have tax-exempt applications pending...."

"Sen. Marco Rubio said Saturday that he doesn’t believe a pregnant woman infected with the Zika virus should have the right to an abortion..."

"... even if she had reason to believe the child would be born with severe microcephaly."
"I understand a lot of people disagree with my view – but I believe that all human life is worthy of protection of our laws. And when you present it in the context of Zika or any prenatal condition, it’s a difficult question and a hard one," Rubio told POLITICO.

"But if I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of life."
If I’m going to err...

That "I" suggests the better answer: Do your own moral reasoning. It's a difficult decision. How do you make it? Erring on the side of life is one idea, and when it is your decision to make, you can embrace it. But to decide for someone else's family that they must continue in a pregnancy that they know will produce a child with severe microencephaly, rather than to have a chance to begin again and produce a different child... that is mind-bending intrusion into their suffering. I find it hard to believe Rubio actually wants a law that imposes his answer on those who face this decision. I assume he simply finds himself committed to a political position that requires purity at the abstract level, and he's trying to say that as nicely as possible.

I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of life.

That can be understood in different ways, one of which is: If I’m going to err politically, I’m going to err on the side of the pro-life politically forces, because that's way I've leveraged my career. 

You know, some real human beings actually do suffer from mental illness. It's offensive to degrade these people...

... in a clumsy rush to attack the political candidate you want to defeat. It's too late to expect either side to step back from this disgusting level of discourse. It would be grandiose — though not in a mentally ill way — to think I could persuade many people to cut it out.

And I understand the instinctive resistance — not that I think it's mentally ill — to unilateral disarmament. If Hillary people are going to say Trump is mentally ill, Trump and his supporters are going to think that Trump would be a sucker to restrict himself to earnestly endeavoring to prove he's mentally healthy.

How can he prove he's perfectly sane? He'd have to tone down his personal style and avoid everything that could be called bragging or self-promotion. His opponents would benefit from that. And, even if he tried, he'd never be able to squelch every single thing that could be seized upon and portrayed as evidence of mental illness. Confirmation bias kicks in. Once the theory is known, any damned thing that seems to support it gets noticed and flogged.

So now we have the Trump side promoting the theory that Hillary Clinton is mentally deranged. Every time she misspeaks or mugs or jerks her head around, that's material for videos like this...

... which comes from the Trump campaign itself. And there are less slick viral things like this...

... and this....

If you think that's all in good fun or that we really do need to protect ourselves from the psychos among us, consider whether you would use the Trump/Hillary-is-mentally-ill meme in the presence of someone who you knew has personally struggled with mental illness.

"Journalists Keep Applauding Hillary Clinton's Answers."

A montage posted by National Review.