April 23, 2016

"You know, being presidential's easy — much easier than what I have to do. Here, I have to rant and rave."

"I have to keep you people going. Otherwise you're going to fall asleep on me, right?... When I'm out here talking to you people, I've got to be different."

Redbud, bluebell.


Photos by Meade, yesterday and today.


I'd like to hear Ben Carson talk about Harriet Tubman's brain surgery.

I see that the brain surgeon was asked about whether Harriet Tubman belongs on the $20 bill and he said something that got him criticized about how Andrew Jackson was "a tremendous present" so maybe Tubman — whom he loves — could go on the $2 bill. (Thomas Jefferson would have to be ousted for that, but whatever.)

I'd like to hear him talk about Harriet Tubman's brain surgery:
Early in life, she suffered a traumatic head wound when an irate slave owner threw a heavy metal weight intending to hit another slave and hit her instead. [She later explained her belief that her hair – which "had never been combed and ... stood out like a bushel basket" – might have saved her life.] The injury caused dizziness, pain, and spells of hypersomnia, which occurred throughout her life. She was a devout Christian and experienced strange visions and vivid dreams, which she ascribed to premonitions from God....

As Tubman aged, the seizures, headaches, and suffering from her childhood head trauma continued to plague her. At some point in the late 1890s, she underwent brain surgery at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital. Unable to sleep because of pains and "buzzing" in her head, she asked a doctor if he could operate. He agreed and, in her words, "sawed open my skull, and raised it up, and now it feels more comfortable." She had received no anesthesia for the procedure and reportedly chose instead to bite down on a bullet, as she had seen Civil War soldiers do when their limbs were amputated.
What could brain surgery have been like at that time? I see that Harvey Williams Cushing (April 8, 1869 – October 7, 1939), the "father of modern neurosurgery," did his internship at Massachusetts General Hospital after graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1895.

I wonder how sophisticated the surgery could have been in the late 1890s. Here we have this wonderful brain surgeon, Ben Carson, on a show to talk about Harriet Tubman, and there was a fascinating subject squarely within his expertise. I would have loved to hear what he might have said about the history of brain surgery!

"Why, what is pomp, rule, reign, but earth and dust?"

"And, live we how we can, yet die we must."

ADDED: Shakespeare died 400 years ago today, as noted above, but so did Cervantes.

"The Rangers were officially caught in the first 9-3-2-6-2-5 triple play in major league history."

"But you'll have to watch it a few times to figure out what actually happened in all this madness."

I'm razzed for defending Prince's intellectual property and then embedding a Lonnie Mack video imprinted with the words "For Preview Only."

Madison Man says:
I'm appreciating that this post — complete with pirated video 'For Preview Only' — sits atop one complaining about appropriating Prince's name/symbol for any cause.
I react:
I assume that Lonnie Mack wanted the media getting his reputation out there (and so did the estate of Stevie Ray Vaughn). They could get it taken down. It's up, so I think the spread of the music is wanted, and if I heard otherwise I'd take it down. I assume I'm doing Lonnie Mack's reputation a... favor. If I'm wrong about that, I would want to take it down. I know, with respect to Prince, that he did not want it. He had a different approach to his reputation, closely guarded. So I'm not being incoherent or inconsistent.
And then:
Anyway, what does "preview only" mean? We're previewing it... whatever that means. How do you "preview" something? When you're viewing it, you're viewing it. How are you somehow viewing it before viewing it?

I know. There's a George Carlin routine about this. Wish we could preview it.
Ah! Yes (language warning):

"Mr Obama's catchphrase is 'Yes, you can!' - so why is he telling us Brits 'No, you can't'?"

A headline for a column over at the UK Telegraph.
Mr Obama’s most famous electoral message was “Yes, we can”. His electoral message to the British people is “No, you can’t”.

If we want influence, security, free trade, democracy and the rule of law, we can get these things only by staying in the European Union, he informs us. We cannot contemplate living – as his own country so proudly does – as a wholly independent state....
I've got nothing to say about Brexit. I just want to say that Obama's "Yes, we can" never meant you can do whatever you set out to do, the old can-do spirit. "Yes, we can" was a campaign slogan, and I believe it meant, yes, we can elect Barack Obama. I haven't heard it much in the years since the 2008 election, and in the thousands of messages I've gotten from Obama in the that time, there's been a mix of what we can do and what we can't do — with plenty of can't... plenty of can't in the cant.

I still love the old "Yes, We Can" campaign video. Beautifully done. And it was revealed (by David Axelrod, over a year ago) that Obama thought the "Yes, we can" slogan was corny and needed to be talked into it:
During his campaign for the U.S. Senate, Obama thought that your famous “Yes we can” line was corny. How did you convince him?

Michelle just happened to come by for the first ad shoot, and that was the ad that closed with the line “Yes we can.” He read through the script once, and after the first take he said, “Gee, is that too corny?” I explained why I thought it was a great tagline, and he turned to Michelle and said, “What do you think?” She just slowly shook her head from side to side and said, “Not corny.” Thank God she was there that day.
It shouldn't be pinned on Obama as his general philosophy. So, don't feel singled out, Britain, if he tells you you can't. We can't do a lot of things too.

"Guitarist and vocalist Lonnie Mack, known as one of rock’s first true guitar heroes..."

"... died Thursday, April 21, of natural causes at Centennial Medical Center near his home in Smithville, Tennessee. He was 74."
His early instrumental recordings—including "Wham!" and "Memphis"—influenced many of rock's greatest players, including [Stevie Ray] Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, Keith Richards and Jimmy Page...

Stop honoring Prince by appropriating his name and intellectual property for your cause.

I'm seeing things like:

That's his trademark. You don't get to use it. Even if you imagine his departed soul agrees with your cause — which it very well may not — you don't honor him by appropriating his trademark, his identity. It's especially bad to use him in what is for you a fight. The one cause I remember him fighting for was his own intellectual property rights.

As for your social issues... he was opaque. From 2008:
Prince is reportedly "very angry" after the New Yorker accused him of making anti-gay marriage comments, with the Purple One alleging that the magazine misquoted him in a recent interview. According to the article, "When asked about his perspective on social issues — gay marriage, abortion — Prince tapped his Bible and said, 'God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out.'" However, a Prince source tells Perez Hilton, "What His Purpleness actually did was gesture to the Bible and said he follows what it teaches, referring mainly to the parts about loving everyone and refraining from judgment." "We're very angry he was misquoted," says the insider.
I think the best interpretation is that he did not want to be part of your politics.

ADDED: According to Van Jones, Prince engaged in extensive charitable activities and had a religious scruple against getting any publicity for it. One of his endeavors was #YesWeCode — "a national initiative to help 100,000 young women and men from low-opportunity backgrounds find success in the tech sector."

"nytimes cant have it both ways: an advertorial worthy of a travel magazine, and superficial social commentary."

Just the newest comment — the first one I read — on an article titled "In an Age of Privilege, NotEveryone Is in the Same Boat/Companies are becoming adept at identifying wealthy customers and marketing to them, creating a money-based caste system." It features a big photo of an atrocious, humongous cruise ship and begins:
Behind a locked door aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship is a world most of the vessel’s 4,200 passengers will never see. And that is exactly the point.

In the Haven, as this ship within a ship is called, about 275 elite guests enjoy not only a concierge and 24-hour butler service, but also a private pool, sun deck and restaurant, creating an oasis free from the crowds elsewhere on the Norwegian Escape.

If Haven passengers venture out of their aerie to see a show, a flash of their gold key card gets them the best seats in the house. When the ship returns to port, they disembark before everyone else.

“It was always the intention to make the Haven somewhat obscure so it wasn’t in the face of the masses,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s former chief executive, who helped design the Escape with the hope of attracting a richer clientele. “That segment of the population wants to be surrounded by people with similar characteristics.”
After creating — in some readers — a longing for a product I don't give a damn about whether some people choose to shell out money for, the NYT steps back for some tsking:
With disparities in wealth greater than at any time since the Gilded Age, the gap is widening between the highly affluent — who find themselves behind the velvet ropes of today’s economy — and everyone else.
Right under that are a couple pictures of some pool areas on the ship, and I'm not sure if only one is supposed to be "the Haven." Neither looks particularly bad or good.
It represents a degree of economic and social stratification unseen in America since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, J. P. Morgan and the rigidly separated classes on the Titanic a century ago.
Do they just cut and paste text like this from one article to another? Who cares if there are different travel classes? This isn't about living in a class-based society. It's about different price points and different products. These products may be sold by playing on emotions about accessing some high-class status, but they are just commercial products for you to be gulled or lulled into buying with whatever segment of your wealth — whatever it is — you set aside for throwing into transitory experiences.

I force myself to slog through the mush of what Chelsea Clinton said about the Second Amendment.

I posted that clip yesterday and said "the words scarcely matter. The vibe is all there is. She wants people to feel that Hillary Clinton will dispel the illusion of Second Amendment rights."

I got the clip from an article that stopped the transcription after a couple sentences. I was going to try to finish the transcription myself, but I immediately hit a mush of syllables that — despite repeated rewinding — I could not decipher. (I now see it was "Moms Demand Action.")

I was going to put "undecipherable" in brackets and keep going, but the sentences I heard did not hang together in what I thought could be readable, analyzable text, so I got the post done the way I did.

Now, I've found a little more transcription and took the trouble to complete it myself, so I wanted to hold myself accountable and check my cruel assessments of the meaninglessness of Chelsea's words.

She begins:
It matters to me that my mom also recognizes the role the Supreme Court has when it comes to gun control. With Justice Scalia on the bench, one of the few areas where the Court actually had an inconsistent record relates to gun control. 
I'm surprised at the implied statement that the Supreme Court has been mostly consistent.  Did she mean to say that, and why would she say that? But it's just plain wrong to say that the Supreme Court has been inconsistent about the Second Amendment during the period of Scalia's service. There have been 3 Second Amendment cases, and all 3 have supported the right. (The cases are the familiar Heller and McDonald and something minor that happened last month.)
Sometimes the court upheld local and state gun control measures as being compliant with the Second Amendment and sometimes the court struck them down. 
That's just flat-out false. Chelsea has this pedantic, lecturing style but the facts are patently wrong.
So if you listen to Moms Demand Action and the Brady Campaign and the major efforts pushing for smart, sensible and enforceable gun control across our country — in disclosure, have endorsed my mom — they say they believe the next time the Court rules on gun control, it will make a definitive ruling. 
She's saying the cases are in disarray and the time is ripe for clearing up the confusion, getting to something "definitive," but that's not true. She's really promoting changing the law that got settled in 2 very high profile, extensively briefed and argued cases that produced carefully thought out opinions. The Second Amendment does require application in particular cases (such as the case from last month, Caetano v. Massachusetts, which said the right included stun guns). So there are details to work out, but things have not been left in a state of confusion or in need of "a definitive ruling."

I can see a way to weasel out of her misstatement. She could say she was only telling us what you'll hear "if you listen to Moms Demand Action and the Brady Campaign," and she never purported to know anything about the case law from any other source. That, at best, gets her to the ignorant passing on of bad information.
So it matters to me that my mom's the only person running for President who not only makes that connection...
What connection? Maybe she referred to a connection earlier, before this clip began. I am just guessing that the "connection" is between Scalia's death and an opportunity to get the needed (actually, unneeded) definitive ruling.
... but also has a strong record on gun control and standing up to the NRA. 
So, she's implying that her mother would appoint a Justice who would flip what had been a 5-4 balance in Second Amendment cases. That's the vibe within the words and why I said the particular words don't really matter. I guess it matters that she's leaving weasel room. There's nothing specific — nothing like a statement that Hillary Clinton is committed to nominating Justices who think the Supreme Court's Second Amendment cases were wrongly decided.
This is one of those issues I didn’t know I could care more about until I became a mother. And I think every day about the Sandy Hook families whose children every day, don’t come home from school. And I can’t even imagine that living horror and tragedy.
And there it's devolved into emotive political theater. She cares. She has special status to care (being a mother). And murder is horrible. Fear. Care.

April 22, 2016

Earth Day in the founder's park — Gaylord Nelson State Park.

We were there today. Not because it was the namesake's day, but because we knew the early spring wildflowers would be pretty. Dutchman's breeches...


... and trout lilies....


... and it's not only about flowers. There are also these great — really great — sticks to fetch...


Chelsea Clinton babbles robotically about the Second Amendment and what her mother can do to it now that Scalia has died.

Maybe you can make sense of that. I was going to copy out the text, but the words scarcely matter. The vibe is all there is. She wants people to feel that Hillary Clinton will dispel the illusion of Second Amendment rights.

UPDATE: I manage to work out a transcription and check whether the words might matter here.

"Donald Trump (black version), maybe that’s what you need."

"A man that fulfills your every wish, your every dream/Donald Trump (black version), come on take a chance/A 1990s love affair, the real romance....Honey baby, you are the finest I have seen/And your disposition's so kind you're never mean/Girl, you're too good to be true/But last night when you were asleep, you slipped big time/I heard you. You said your favorite color was green...."

A Prince song. (Audio at the link.)

Joni had to go out for the flowers to put in the vase that she bought, so Graham got a chance at the piano.

Cruz reacts to Trump's acceptance of transgender persons making their own choice of bathrooms: "Let me ask you. Have we gone stark raving nuts?"

"This is not political correctness. This is basic common sense... I'm the father of two little girls, this is basic common sense. Grown adult men, strangers, should not be alone in a bathroom with little girls...."

"A few months ago Donald told us he could be the most politically correct person on Earth. And I guess he's showing us what that looks like. I am waiting with anticipation for the new baseball caps -- 'Make PC Great Again.'"

Cruz seems to be trying to appropriate Trump's anti-PC brand.

ADDED: In the NYT: "Donald Trump’s More Accepting Views on Gay Issues Set Him Apart in G.O.P."

"The thing is... when you're called, you're called. And I hear things in my sleep..."

"... I walk around, I go in the bathroom and try to brush my teeth, and all of a sudden, the toothbrush'll start vibrating. And that's a groove, you know? And you gotta go with that. And that means drop the toothbrush and get down to the studio, or get to a bass guitar quick, you know? And I don't know, my best things just come out like that. To me, making a song is like a new girl walking in the room. You never know what's going to happen until all the things come together. And there she stands. And she says hi. You know, you want to take a bite of this orange? You bite it, it's cool, and I send it to you."

(Image originally posted here.)

The argument that Harriet Tubman wouldn't want to be on the $20 and that it disrespects her and appropriates her to use her that way.

I had not thought of this argument until I read Steven Hayward at Power Line making fun of it:
After years of complaining that America’s paper money featured only dead white guys, a lot of folks on the Left are in a snit that Harriet Tubman is going to replace Andrew Jackson on the face of the twenty-dollar bill.... If these people were any whinier they would be kicked out of pre-school....
Hayward links to Feminista Jones (a mental health social worker). I'll excerpt a different quote:
[I]t’s clear that putting [Tubman's] face on America’s currency would undermine her legacy. By escaping slavery and helping many others do the same, Tubman became historic for essentially stealing “property.” Her legacy is rooted in resisting the foundation of American capitalism. Tubman didn’t respect America’s economic system, so making her a symbol of it would be insulting....

Harriet Tubman did not fight for capitalism, free trade, or competitive markets. She repeatedly put herself in the line of fire to free people who were treated as currency themselves. She risked her life to ensure that enslaved black people would know they were worth more than the blood money that exchanged hands to buy and sell them. I do not believe Tubman, who died impoverished in 1913, would accept the “honor,” were it actually bestowed upon her, of having her face on America’s money.
It's such a huge honor to get your face put on money that we may lose sight of the fact that the government is taking a private individual's identity and using it for the government's interest in branding its currency. With a U.S. President, we can infer that the honor would be appreciated and the use of his face granted freely. But with someone who didn't voluntarily assume a position within government, it's harder to make that inference. Why does the government high-handedly assume the woman would give herself to the government's enterprise of merging its cash with lofty values and moral weight?

Power Line's Hayward also links to Steven W. Thrasher at The Guardian, who makes a somewhat different argument:
[T]here’s something frank and honest about [Andrew Jackson] occupying the 20 dollar bill. I mean, who better to represent what the US treasury has bought, and for whom it has amassed its tremendous wealth, than Andrew “trail of tears” Jackson?...

As historian Greg Grandin recently wrote: “Banks capitalized the slave trade and insurance companies underwrote it.”... This is the shit Tubman was escaping: the enslaved exploitation of black bodies for white profit. And it still happens today....

I am getting tired of the whitewashing of racial exploitation with brown faces. Enough with bullshit like McDonald’s slapping MLK’s face on their predatory and poverty creating labor practices.... Putting Tubman’s face on the $20 would only obfuscate how much exploitation there is still left to fight in America....
Thrasher's idea there is not so much Tubman's self-ownership and the importance of figuring out whether she, personally, would agree to play a role in the U.S. government's currency-branding project. Thrasher isn't talking about how Tubman herself would feel, but how he — and the people like him — feel. He's here now, concretely — on the pavement, thinking about the government — and he doesn't like it. He himself appropriates Tubman: her image and identity should be preserved for use on the things he supports. She belongs to him and the people he thinks he speaks for, and he wants to decide where she goes.

When you've got a "Because women matter..." bumper sticker and you park like that...



April 21, 2016

Prince has died!

"Prince's body was discovered at his Paisley Park compound in Minnesota early Thursday morning. Multiple sources connected to the singer confirmed he had passed. The singer -- full name Prince Rogers Nelson -- had a medical emergency on April 15th that forced his private jet to make an emergency landing in Illinois. But he appeared at a concert the next day to assure his fans he was okay. His people told TMZ he was battling the flu."

Oh, my God. So shocking. So sad. I knew he'd had the flu. Such a great, talented star. He was 57. What a terrible loss.

I'd embed something, but I know he didn't like people putting his things up on YouTube.

ADDED: John collects some video and quotes Rolling Stone:
He played arguably the greatest power-ballad guitar solo in history ("Purple Rain"), and his solo on an all-star performance of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" during George Harrison's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2004 had jaws on the floor. But he can also bring the nasty funk like Jimmy Nolen and Nile Rodgers (listen to the groove magic of "Kiss") or shred like the fiercest metalhead ("When Doves Cry").... Prince gets a lot of Hendrix comparisons, but he sees it differently: "If they really listened to my stuff, they'd hear more of a Santana influence than Jimi Hendrix," he once told Rolling Stone. "Hendrix played more blues, Santana played prettier." To Miles Davis, who collaborated with the Purple One toward the end of his life, Prince was a combination of "James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye... and Charlie Chaplin. How can you miss with that?"
AND: Just last month — when we heard Prince had signed a deal to write his memoirs — Meade and I were discussing the meaning of "Just look for the purple banana 'til they put us in the truck":
I say it was what was a typical Prince message: Live it up because you're going to die. The banana is obviously the man's penis and the truck is the hearse that takes you away. Meade says the truck is the vagina. He agreed about the banana.
The song was "Let's Go Crazy" — the one that begins like a funeral:
Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life
Prince sang about "the after world/A world of never ending happiness/You can always see the sun, day or night." And "instead of asking... how much of your time is left," you should ask "how much of your mind" you've got left. That's the song where he said "if the elevator tries to bring you down/Go crazy, punch a higher floor."

He punched a higher floor.

AND: I wrote that before seeing that Prince was found dead in at his home in the elevator.

PLUS: I blogged about the elevator lyric and the afterlife back in 2011, in a post titled "'And if the elevator tries to bring you down/Go crazy (Punch a higher floor!)'":
Prince lyric, which just occurred to me in the context of the feminist-in-the-elevator-at-the-atheist-convention incident. Prince was telling us to live now, because we're all going to die, which he sometimes said clearly — "You better live now/Before the grim reaper come knocking on your door" — and sometimes said absurdly — "Let's look for the purple banana/Until they put us in the truck." He also expressed a clear belief in the afterlife. ("In this life/Things are much harder than in the afterworld/In this life/You're on your own.") He's no atheist. How he behaves in an actual in-this-life elevator, as opposed to a metaphorical elevator, I have no idea. I bet he silently occupies his corner and avoids eye contact, in classic elevator etiquette, and waits for his floor.

Trump gives a direct, strong answer on transgender people and bathrooms.

I like the way he focused on the role of law. North Carolina enacted a law, and now "they're paying a big price, and there's a lot of problems." Law wasn't needed, because: "There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate, there has been so little trouble." There was already a social adjustment that accommodated people who needed to be accommodated.
Asked whether he would let Caitlyn Jenner, a trans woman, use the bathroom of her choice at Trump Tower, he said he would. He added, "There's a big move to create new bathrooms. Problem with that is … first of all, I think that would be discriminatory in a certain way. It would be unbelievably expensive for businesses and for the country. Leave it the way it is."
He was clear, practical, and sensible. He didn't go into impugning anyone on either side but saw it in terms of economics and law — and by law, I mean the limits of law, where it should end and where social etiquette works.

"ESPN is an inclusive company. Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated."

Says ESPN, firing Schilling for sharing something on Facebook that mocked a man masquerading as transgender in the context of calling out for more tolerance of different opinions on the subject of sex-segregated bathroom:
The post showed an overweight man wearing a wig and women’s clothing with parts of the T-shirt cut out to expose his breasts. It says: “LET HIM IN! to the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow-minded, judgmental, unloving racist bigot who needs to die.”
Schilling didn't write that. He wrote this response to it:
“A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic."
Here's Schilling's blog post on the controversy.
You frauds out there ranting and screaming about my ‘opinions’ (even if it isn’t) and comments are screaming for “tolerance” and “acceptance” while you refuse to do and be either....

"My tentative theory is that Hillary may have sporadic flare-ups of goiter, worsened under stress."

"Coughing is a symptom. High collars mask a swollen throat. In serious cases, an operation may be necessary. Is this chronic thyroid condition disqualifying in a presidential candidate? Certainly not in my view, but I don’t like being lied to — by candidates, campaign staffs, or their media sycophants."

Says Camille Paglia, who is perhaps suffering from some medical disorder. Who knows exactly what? And we're not — most of us — doctors, but why shouldn't we collect things that could be symptoms and tag it with some gruesome name.

Goiter! Is there an uglier funny word in the English language?

"What's the trouble? Are you alright?... It's my goiter, isn't it?"/"Did you say goiter? What goiter?"/"This football-shaped lump jutting out the side of my neck."/"Oh, that goiter. Hey... Heh heh heh... Whaddya know... It's nothing. It's nothin', it's um, in fact, it's um, it's very distinctive, y'know? Um, I mean you
want to know something? I, I wish I had one. Really...."

The perfect problem — when everything big and small and up-to-date and retrospective and cool and puritanical collides in one crowded intersection.

"Snapchat's new Bob Marley lens sparks 'blackface' outrage."
To acknowledge 4/20, known as "Weed Day," Snapchat created a special "lens" that morphed people's faces into Bob Marley, the late reggae icon. The lens added dreadlocks, a crochet slouch cap, changed the shape of eyes and noses, and darkened skin color.

People flooded Twitter with accusations that Snapchat had created a blackface filter....
And this is why we need marijuana.

If that last remark is hard to understand, I refer you to my March 24, 2015 post, where I revealed that "In the last couple days, my position on the legalization of marijuana has changed."
Oddly enough, it's because of something I read about Ibsen! I don't have the time right now to explain my train of thought, but I can give you the passage — from Paul Johnson's "Intellectuals" — that got me started on it:
There was one aspect of Ibsen’s vanity which verged on the ludicrous... He had a lifelong passion for medals and orders. In fact, he went to embarrassing lengths to get them...

[T]here is ample evidence for Ibsen’s passion since he insisted on displaying his growing galaxy of stars on every possible occasion. As early as 1878 he is reported to have worn all of them, including one like a dog-collar round his neck, at a club dinner. The Swedish painter Georg Pauli came across Ibsen sporting his medals (not the ribbons alone but the actual stars) in a Rome street. At times he seems to have put them on virtually every evening. He defended his practice by saying that, in the presence of ‘younger friends’, it ‘reminds me that I need to keep within certain limits.’ All the same, people who had invited him to dinner were always relieved when he arrived without them, as they attracted smiles and even open laughter as the wine circulated....
What struck me and changed my mind on the subject was the realization — as I put it in the comments — that "freedom and democracy depend on our disinhibition; we need to be able to laugh at authority."

What is the NYT doing now that in 50 years will look as bad as what the NYT did then?

A question I had, rereading that second post of the day.

You'll be surprised how deep this thing goes.

"How hipster is your musical taste?"

Via Via Metafilter.

50 years ago today (and 3 years before Stonewall): The gay-rights activism called the "Sip-In" (like "sit-in," but sipping a drink in a bar).

The NYT details the history of a time when NYC required bars to refuse to serve "disorderly" persons and — according to Dick Leitsch, 81, who was there to experience it said — "being homosexual was, in itself, seen as disorderly."

The activists failed to encounter discrimination at Howard Johnson’s (where the manager said "I don’t think the government has any right to question a man’s sex life") and at Waikiki ("a Mafia-owned Tiki bar," where the manager said "How do I know you’re homosexuals? Give these guys a drink on us.") They continued to Julius’, the West 10th Street where they knew that "the night before, a man who had been served there had later been entrapped by an officer for 'gay activity,' meaning the bar was in jeopardy of having its liquor license revoked":
As they entered, the men spied a sign that read “Patrons Must Face the Bar While Drinking,” an instruction used to thwart cruising. As soon as Mr. Leitsch approached, the bartender put a glass in front of him. When the men announced they were gay, the bartender put his hand over the glass; it was captured in a photograph by Fred McDarrah for The Village Voice.
Photo at the link.
According to Mr. Wicker and Mr. Leitsch, their battle to be served was a subset of a larger issue: the ritualized police entrapment of gay men for intent to have sex. “With this action, we were entrapping them into obeying the law,” Mr. Wicker said.

The next day’s New York Times featured an article about the event with the headline “3 Deviates Invite Exclusion by Bars.”...
Later, there was the Stonewall uprising, and Leitsch "said he felt instantly overshadowed by a younger, louder generation," but, as the NYT puts it today, long after slurring Leitsch as a "deviate":
His pioneering efforts, which included showing his full face to TV cameras, instead of cloaking his identity in shadow, a common practice at the time, became old news overnight. “The day before Stonewall, I was the only gay person,” Mr. Leitsch said. “The day after, everybody was gay.”

"What gives you the right to trample over democracy like this?"

"More than 124,000 people voted to ensure that the boat would be named Boaty McBoatface. Yes, admittedly, almost every single one of these people was a tedious wet-mouthed ninny who found themselves stuck in the self-administered clutches of pathetic arrested development. Yes, admittedly, the name would have turned a multimillion-pound research vessel into a jumped-up Innocent smoothie carton, a vehicle so infuriatingly twee that it might as well grow an ironic moustache, learn to play the ukulele and get cast in a match.com commercial for all the poxy good it did. And, yes, calling such an esteemed ship something like Boaty McBoatface would have destroyed its crew’s morale so comprehensively that they would have almost certainly driven the bloody thing headfirst into an iceberg on its maiden voyage, leaping overboard at the very last minute to spell out 'YOU DID THIS, INTERNET DICKHEADS' against the ice with their shattered corpses as a permanent warning against irresponsible ship-naming. But, still, Boaty McBoatface is what the people wanted. Johnson can’t just march in after the fact and enforce his might, willy-nilly. That’s what dictators do. That’s the sort of thing that happens in broken states. So, it’s a bad idea. So what? People vote for bad ideas all the time...."

Writes Stuart Heritage in The Guardian.

April 20, 2016

It's not Hamilton who's getting ousted. It's Jackson.

This is the progression:

Norwegian trial court finds that the conditions of confinement violate the rights of Anders Behring Breivik — who killed 77 persons in a politically-motivated rampage.

He's kept in a surprisingly lovely 3-room suite that has windows, a treadmill, a refrigerator, a TV, and a PlayStation. But he's alone there, and he argued that is torture. The judge agreed.
Mr. Breivik claimed that he had been on a “martyr operation” to stop a Muslim invasion of Europe.... He was sentenced to 21 years in prison, the maximum, though he could serve longer if he is deemed a threat to society....

[At trial, Breivik] complained about his microwave dinners and cold coffee. He gave a Nazi-style salute and said he had renounced his faith in Christ in favor of the Norse god Odin. He demanded the right to publish a political tract every third year, in print or online, and said he had written two books already, “The Breivik Diaries” and “The Nordic State,” but was not allowed to seek publication of them....

Cato Hemmingby, a scholar at the Norwegian Police University College who co-wrote a book on Mr. Breivik, said in an interview that it was “especially the lack of access to the Internet and the communication control” that had angered Mr. Breivik....

University of Wisconsin officials struggle to respond to the picture of racism created by a hashtag — #TheRealUW.

Here's a long piece on the subject in the Capital Times: "#TheRealUW: A social media movement is forcing UW-Madison to confront its race problems."

That headline conflates a few things. The hashtag collects many individual tweets about thoughts and reports of incidents and perceived microaggressions and creates a picture that there is a big problem of racism on the UW–Madison campus.
Over a few days, messages using #TheRealUW were tweeted and retweeted thousands of times.

“#TheRealUW where the same kids who spend their entire college careers drunk, high, and failing will question if *you* ‘deserve’ to be there” posted @bradinn.

“No one on my floor would use the same toilet, sink, or shower stall I used #TheRealUW,” said @RuffinMcMuffin.

“#TheRealUW is wanting the same tuition from all students, yet expecting minorities to teach impromptu crash courses on racism free of charge,” said @betty_nen....
That picture is a problem for the officials, quite aside from the real scope and depth of the racism here. The picture is real and alarming. The reality is something else, something harder to know about and easy to lose track of in the alarm about the picture the hashtag creates.

The real racism problem includes how the people who are using the hashtag actually feel, even if their perceptions are inaccurate. It's a big problem if some students feel they are hated, and the hashtag may cause or exacerbate that feeling even as it facilitates expression of the feeling and finding others who sympathize with you, which might make you feel better, either because you can see you are not alone or because you've vented or because you think those with some power might help you or at least have to feel bad about the way you feel bad.

What can the University do? It tries to use Twitter and, we're told, "is considered an adept user of Twitter":
As students of color told stories of discrimination on campus, UW-Madison used its Twitter accounts to express concern and willingness to listen. “We're listening to our students - please share your experiences with climate at UW-Madison to help us explore needed changes. #TheRealUW,” [Patrick Sims, UW-Madison chief diversity officer] posted on March 15....
But, as one UW journalism student said:
“The way UW tweets really bothers me. One time they put on Twitter, ‘We hear you, we live this experience with you’... No you don’t. You’re lying to my face now. I live it.”...
Invoking UW-Madison’s mascot, Bucky Badger, as campus officials have done repeatedly, is a classic example of tailoring communications to boosters and legacy families, [said Karma Chavez, an associate professor in UW-Madison’s department of communication arts]. “That kind of rhetoric is scary to students of color,” because they know that the zeal of alcohol-fueled sports fans can set the stage for incidents of racial and sexual assault....
There's no pat answer to any of this. Obviously, the school wants to preserve and improve its brand and anguishes over the harm done by the hashtag. This is life in social media, and it's part of life in the real world which is always only experienced subjectively by individuals inside their own minds where they try to understand what is happening to them and what other people are thinking about them and doing to them.

"Interesting that Trump actually lost in Manhattan to Kasich. He should've saved yesterday's Ab Fab impression until after the NY primary."

My son Chris said, after Trump accidentally referred to 9/11 as 7/11:
"It's very close to my heart because I was down there and I watched our police and our firemen down on 7/11, down at the World Trade Center, right after it came down, and I saw the greatest people I've ever seen in action...."
Chris pointed me to the "Absolutely Fabulous" clip in which Eddie calls 9/11 7/11:

And doesn't Patsy look like Ivana Trump? From a 1992 AbFab episode:
Eddie: I'm opening a shop, Pats.
Patsy: Ooh, what are you going to sell?
Eddie: Oh, just gorgeous things, you know.
Patsy: Ooh, lovely.
Eddie: Gorgeous, tasteful, little stylish little gorgeous things.
Patsy: Expensive...
Eddie: Obviously, yes. They'll be present-y Anoushka Hempel-y sorts of things everywhere.
Patsy: Chocolates?
Eddie: Garden implements, that sort of thing.
[flicking through a magazine]
Eddie: I can't find anyone I want to look like... Oh! Oh, she's not bad. Who's that?
Patsy: That's Ivana Trump.
Eddie: She's good, isn't she?
Bubble: Do you think so? She looks like a classic bimbo to me. All that terrible blonde hair piled on top of her head. False tan. She's far too thin. Always pouting. Absolutely no character. The skirt's too short. I mean, it's pathetic these older women struggling to look twenty five... Sorry.
Patsy: I think she's tremendous.

"It's interesting to think about domestic violence as a female privilege."

"In that view — domestic violence as a female privilege — the problem with men hitting women is that they are appropriating the female role."

Something I wrote in the comments to a post from a few days ago that I wanted to front-page à propos of the last line in the post I just published. In the new post, talking about a New Yorker cartoon that visualized women shooting Donald Trump, I said: "Somehow violence by women doesn't count as real violence?... Or do we in some strange, unexamined way believe that women have a violence privilege?" In the older post, I'd quoted the author Mary Beard, who recommended mocking sexist men — like Donald Trump — and used the phrase, "Go back home to mummy. She’ll smack your bottom."

I'm not advocating a female violence privilege. I'm inviting examination of the idea that we are, without thinking, accepting this female privilege. It occurred to me that the strong social disapproval of male violence against women is not only because of the big difference in upper body strength (on average) but because the man is acting like a woman.

"What in the hell are you trying to do?"

                "What in the hell are you trying to do?"

A New Yorker cartoon, published in the April 25, 2016 issue, by the brilliant William Hamilton, who drew cartoons for more than 50 years. He died in a car crash on April 8th. Driving in Kentucky, near his horse farm, he ran a stop sign and got hit by a truck. His cartoons showed people of a particular class — "the preppy world, the world of Ralph Lauren, the Protestant WASP establishment that was on their way out, holding on to their diminishing privileges."
“He took a rarefied world and broke it down into terms that would seem familiar to any socially insecure high school student anywhere,” [his daughter and son-in-law] wrote.

As Mr. Hamilton himself once put it: “I see a lot of the people I draw. They’re my friends.”...

Mr. Hamilton’s fascination with high society came from “being near money, but far enough away that I couldn’t quite get my fingers around it,” he told The New York Times in 1988.... “We lived on one of those dwindling trust funds,” he once said, “with a hint of money in the past, but not much in the present.”
I found the "What in the hell..." cartoon when I clicked to The New Yorker's new set of cartoons looking for one I'm seeing people sharing on Facebook. Ah! All the cartoons about about Trump. Click here and scroll through. For example, people playing bridge and one says: "One no-trump. Oh, please, God, no Trump." The one that I'd seen on Facebook has Trump taking the oath of office — Bible omitted, intentionally or unintentionally? — and saying: “... and will to the best of my ability, which is terrific ability, by the way. Everyone agrees, I have fantastic ability. So there’s no problem with my ability, believe me....”

Some are a lot funnier that others. One should not have been published.

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

I can't get my mind around why The New Yorker thought assassination ideation was justifiable. Was it because the assassins — the "Ghostbusters" characters — are women? Somehow violence by women doesn't count as real violence? It's only a joke — a Squeaky Fromme joke. It's funny until it's not funny. Or do we in some strange, unexamined way believe that women have a violence privilege?

April 19, 2016

The New York primary.

What will happen?

"I'll be 90 years old soon. Soon I'll be like all the others. The time will come for all of us..."

"... but the ideas of the Cuban Communists will remain as proof on this planet that if they are worked at with fervor and dignity, they can produce the material and cultural goods that human beings need, and we need to fight without a truce to obtain them."

Said Fidel Castro.

"The history of our country is that nothing happens until people start putting their bodies on the line and risk getting arrested."

Said Ben of Ben & Jerry, who got arrested today, protesting, along with Jerry.

What were they protesting? I'm actually not sure! I read the material at their website, and I actually don't know:
Earlier today, our cofounders, Jerry Greenfield and Ben Cohen, along with hundreds of other activists, were arrested as part of Democracy Awakening’s direct action on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building.
They want more democracy? And they violated some law? Too vague. This isn't like sitting in at a lunch counter that's telling you they won't serve you because of race. If you're going to all the trouble to get arrested, could you also take the trouble to make sense and speak clearly?

"Are You Planning A Cake Hoax? These 5 Tips Will Make Sure It’s A Success"

"#1 Pick A Believable Villain...."

So... not Whole Foods in Austin, Texas... not for an anti-gay cake message. Come on!

"We agree that it has indeed been commonplace and widely accepted to separate public restrooms, locker rooms, and shower facilities on the basis of sex."

"It is not apparent to us, however, that the truth of these propositions undermines the conclusion we reach regarding the level of deference due to the [U.S. Department of Education's] interpretation of its own regulations."

Said the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, finding that the Gloucester County School Board's policy violates Title IX.
[Gavin] Grimm was born female but identifies as male. He was allowed to use the boys' restrooms at the school for several weeks in 2014. But after some parents complained, the school board adopted a policy requiring students to use either the restroom that corresponds with their biological gender or a private, single-stall restroom.

"Do you have a medical marijuana card?"

"Anderson Cooper of CNN says he probably won’t vote in the coming election."

"He says voting would bias him when he covers political news. I agree," says Scott Adams.
I call it the joiner problem. The minute you take a side, you start acquiring confirmation bias to bolster your sense of rightness. Objectivity is nearly impossible once you commit to a team....
Wait. You can vote without ever taking a side or joining the team. That's what I do. For me, voting is a ritual, something I always do and have done for a long time. I'm not very committed to the candidates I vote for. No one ever embodies everything I want. I'm just picking the one that seems best when election day rolls around.

But if I thought it would make my writing on the blog better, I would give up voting. I notice that comments on my post often include statements like: Oh, we all know you'll vote for X in the end. If I didn't vote, you couldn't say that.

You know, I also don't like having opinions on legal questions that I teach about. I like opening up the discussion from all sides, taking them all seriously. Sometimes people think when I'm explaining a judge's opinion, I'm agreeing with it. For example, the other day we had a panel at the law school about the late Justice Scalia, and I spoke about his opinions on substantive due process. I explained his position and never said one word about whether I agreed or disagreed with any of it, and I was treated as if I were defending him and advocating for him. I found that very annoying, especially since there are a few Scalia-haters in the vicinity and I did not intend to offer myself as a proxy punching bag.

IN THE COMMENTS: JPS said: "The originator of the quip 'It's hard to talk when you're tea bagging' is concerned about maintaining his objectivity? That's nice."

Can you see what this is a drawing of?

I think you can either see it or you can't. I looked and looked and could not see. I asked Meade, and he took one look, said — in one word — what it was and then I immediately saw what it was — quite clearly — and now find it hard to relive my mystification.

Via Metafilter, where some people are making some good jokes like "Seriously people? It's BLUE" and "Who is this Rorschach guy and why does he draw so many pictures of my parents having sex?"

"Hi, sir. Bye, sir. Your kind are not welcome here. Read the sign. Out!"

Says Hermie (Colin Quinn's character) on the "I Love You Baby" episode of "Girls" that aired on HBO this week. The sign — in Ray's Coffeehouse — says no "man buns." And Hermie is blatantly, vocally enforcing the shop's new "hipster hate" theme. Shoshanna (the Zosia Mamet character) has very enthusiastically devised this theme and put up the signage and gotten the NYT interested doing a style-section piece on the place: "They love the hipster-hate angle." Hermie's interpretation of the theme is overt refusal of service. Shoshanna reacts:
"Hermie, Hermie, we cannot actually turn people away. That's discrimination. We just have to, like, you know, glare at them and make them super-uncomfortable and bully them until they leave of their own volition."
Hermie reacts:
"From now on, anybody walks through that door with a bun on top of their head or tattoos that were not acquired on a naval adventure on the South Pacific, we treat 'em like a hippie at Disneyland in '68. This is a haven for normal people — working men and ladies... We're taking back the night. You're either with me or against me."
Shoshanna seems to have come up with the hipster-hate theme as a marketing gimmick to counter the competition from the extremely hip coffeeshop across the street (Helvetica). She's following the "lean in" advice Hermie found in that book by Sheryl Sandberg. Later, Hermie tells her he needs her to "lean out" a bit, because she's too intense. But he likes the money that's been coming in under the hipster-hate branding, which the NYT and some of the customers might think of as ironic, but Hermie is an older guy — the actor who plays him (who I remember from the old MTV quiz show "Remote Control") is 58. Hermie seems to be getting excited by the theme unironically.

The interplay between these 2 characters is wonderful. Is Hermie some kind of stand-in for Zosia Mamet's father David? In the final scene, closing the coffeehouse for the night, Hermie and Shoshanna dance to the evocative old voice of Frankie Valli singing "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." I had to puzzle over whether that counted as sexual harassment in the workplace, but I backed off — influence by retro-ishness and my idea that Hermie and Shosh were like David and Zosia — into the view that they were like a father and daughter at a wedding. Isn't "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" an iconic wedding song?

As for those hippies in Disneyland in '68... like many of the things we remember from the 60s, it happened in the early 70s:
August 06, 1970. A bizarre occurence takes place at Disneyland when 750 "Hippies" and "Radical Yippies" infiltrate the park, and take over the Wilderness Fort. They raise the Vietcong flag and pass reefers out to passersbys. Later, they march in a Main Street parade, and sing their own lyrics to "Zipadee Doo Dah" ("Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Mihn is going to win..."). More conservative park guests try to drown them out by singing "America the Beautiful." Before the confrontation can heat up, a platoon of Anaheim Police officers in full riot gear pour into the park from backstage areas! A riot is adverted and Disneyland vice president of Operations Dick Nunis orders the park closed at 7:10 PM. For many years afterward Disneyland will selectively enforced a "dress code" at the park, occasionally refusing admission to "long-haired hippies."
Look at the ads in the NYT next to the story about the great hippie invasion:

What a fabulous moment in movies: You've got the iconic hippie movie, "Easy Rider," the iconic racial comedy "Watermelon Man," the iconic military movie "Patton," and — tucked in there cozily in the corner — "Rosemary's Baby" (7 years before Roman Polanski committed rape) and "Tales for Males" (2 decades before Hollywood began making its movies about gay men).

"Flying (especially on short flights) is among the least sustainable ways to travel, according to groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund."

"Some airlines allow you to try to compensate for the carbon footprint you create when flying, however, by buying what are known as carbon offsets, or various ways to reduce greenhouse gases. Passengers on airlines like Delta and United can calculate their carbon footprint on the airline websites, which equate the size of a trip’s carbon footprint with a dollar figure. They can then donate their money or miles to a carbon reduction project such as forest conservation or renewable energy. Airlines are not the only ones offering offsets, though...."

#1 on "10 Ways to Be a Greener Traveler, Even if You Love to Fly."

Just pay for the absolution of your sins. Someone is available to receive your payments.

Image credit: Lucas Cranach the Elder.

"I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing. But she was so beautiful, [I] should have been first. What a waste"

Said Rodrigo 'Digong' Duterte, a front-running candidate for president of the Philippines.

He was referring to an incident that took place in 1989 in the jail in the city — Davao City — where he was mayor. A 36-year-old Australian woman was taken hostage, raped, had her throat slashed, and died in the gunfire as troops ended the incident. This is the translated text of what Duterte said about it recently:
All the women were raped so during the first assault, because they retreated, the bodies they used as a cover, one of them was the corpse of the Australian woman layminister. Tsk, this is a problem. When the bodies were brought out, they were wrapped. I looked at her face, son of a bitch, she looks like a beautiful American actress. Son of a bitch, what a waste. What came to mind was, they raped her, they lined up. I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste.
The linked Washington Post article quotes 2 critics of Duterte, who drag in the name Donald Trump. Julio C. Teehankee of De La Salle University and Mark R. Thompson, of the City University of Hong Kong wrote this before the rape remark came out:
Duterte poses a grave challenge to the country’s fragile democratic institutions. He has promised to ‘clean up the country’ within six months and has threatened to abolish Congress or tame the courts if they try to stand in his way. The rapid rise of voter support for Duterte, despite his late entry into the race, highlights the pent-up anger among the lower-middle class at the deterioration of public order and concerns about growing drug abuse.

Duterte’s neo-authoritarian style, alongside ‘anti-Imperial Manila’ sentiments, has fueled his popularity, particularly in his birthplace of southern Mindanao. Duterte does not deny his poor human rights record — instead he brags about extrajudicial killings that he claims were necessary to pacify Davao.... Along with his bombastic style and rough language — which is typical of a many local politicians but unusual in national politics — this cavalier attitude makes him a kind of Philippine version of Donald Trump.

The "perfectly symbiotic relationship between the Trumpian right and the illiberal left."

"The energy they draw by organizing against the radical target on the opposite end allows them to rally people who would ordinarily be hesitant to endorse them," explains Jonathan Chait.

Chait points to this report by Benjy Sarlin: "How an army of pro-Donald Trump trolls are taking over Reddit." Excerpt:
Longtime users said Trump taps into an anti-PC counterculture within Reddit that feasts on spreading offensive material... and then reveling in the response. Certain corners of Reddit have long served as an assembly line for posts mocking “SJWs,” slang for “social justice warriors,” whom they view as a humorless cabal of left-wing oppressors. It just took the right users to recognize the crossover appeal with Trump.

In interviews with MSNBC, r/The_Donald’s moderators declined to provide their real names, but credited the subreddit’s rapid growth to CisWhiteMaelstrom, who took the lead promoting it earlier this year after messaging its creators with a master plan....
I can't summarize Sarlin's explanation of what CisWhiteMaelstrom did and the interplay with the mechanisms and mentalities of Reddit. As Chait puts it:
... CisWhiteMaelstrom identified opposition to political correctness as an issue he could use to broaden Trump’s appeal. By provoking opponents to protest against his right to express himself, he attracted to his side people who were not originally inclined to support the substance of his opinion. The point is not that pro-Trump Redditors were actual victims of repression (there’s no reason to believe they were) or that there is anything attractive about their beliefs or their methods....

[Some] people like the idea of rebelliousness and standing up against censorship, and the more convincingly any movement can depict itself as the victim of censorship, the more successfully it will recruit those attracted to this form of rebellion. In the 1950s, McCarthyist repression lent American communists the allure of the forbidden. Rather than being seen as pawns of a murderous dictatorship, communist sympathizers acquired the glamour of rebellious independent thought, and pride of place on the front lines of a cultural struggle on behalf of Americans aghast at McCarthy.
So I guess the lesson is: If you don't like Trump, stop repressing his supporters.

That calls to mind this passage from Justice Douglas's opinion in Dennis v. United States, which we happened to be reading in my conlaw2 class yesterday:
Communists in this country have never made a respectable or serious showing in any election. I would doubt that there is a village, let alone a city or county or state, which the Communists could carry. Communism in the world scene is no bogeyman; but Communism as a political faction or party in this country plainly is. Communism has been so thoroughly exposed in this country that it has been crippled as a political force. Free speech has destroyed it as an effective political party. It is inconceivable that those who went up and down this country preaching the doctrine of revolution which petitioners espouse would have any success. In days of trouble and confusion, when bread lines were long, when the unemployed walked the streets, when people were starving, the advocates of a short-cut by revolution might have a chance to gain adherents. But today there are no such conditions. The country is not in despair; the people know Soviet Communism; the doctrine of Soviet revolution is exposed in all of its ugliness, and the American people want none of it.
Douglas was dissenting, the year was 1951, and the repression Chait calls glamorizing was just gearing up.

"SNL's trailer, titled 'God is a Boob Man,' spoofs the just-released 'God's Not Dead 2'...."

WaPo explains... and I needed that explanation. I'd never even heard of "God's Not Dead 1." So... now I'm prompted to blog that SNL spoof, which you may have seen:

And here's the "God's Not Dead 2" trailer:

WaPo's columnist, Amber Phillips, says:
"God's Not Dead 2" is a sequel to the hit 2014 movie where a Christian college student defends his faith against a liberal philosophy professor. The wildly successful movie made $62 million off just a $2 million budget.

Reaction to SNL's skit was pretty much what you'd expect it to be — either positive or negative, with hardly anything in between. Religious protections vs. gay rights is the social battle of the moment right now as lawmakers grapple with how to govern around a changing definition of marriage and family — against some people's wishes. And as such, there is hardly any gray area for either side to find common ground.
My wistful dream is that the common ground would be arrived at through an understanding the law of the First Amendment — Free Speech, Free Exercise, and the Establishment Clause — and the various controversies that courts and legislatures have worked through over the years. I get a hopeless, sick feeling seeing pop culture material like the 2 videos I've embedded, which I think have a great effect on how people think about legal issues, which I do sometimes take the time to try to explain here. The "SNL" thing mocks what "God's Not Dead 2" presents with melodramatic seriousness. Both are funny in their own way but also annoying if you actually care about the problems of religious freedom, which involve coordinating a lot of conflicting interests and could benefit from more open-minded, educated thinking from the citizenry. But the entertainment industry takes advantage of the existing conflicts and ignorance and, for its own benefit, further hardens minds and separates people.

And I'd just like to add that I can't believe writers of a courtroom drama stoop to the level of having a judge tell a lawyer that he's holding him "in contempt" and the lawyer accepting the charge because he, in fact, feels contempt. I guess there's always somebody hearing that hoary riposte for the first time.

April 18, 2016

"There’s a lot of fuzz" on Hillary's record, says Eric Trump.

And his father is "going to go after her in a way that no one has gone after her before."

"Men locked in their cultural ghetto hear the siren song of Trump. He speaks to the eternal adolescent..."

"... and awakens in him his secret envy of the high-school punk who always seemed to get the girl. Pajama Boy is appalled, and the angry man smiles at his discomfort. But the angry man needs to grow up, to put away childish things, and to see that every moment that Trump commands the national stage is another contribution to feminism’s ultimate triumph. The answer to feminism is and always has been manhood properly defined. It is not — and never will be — the toxic masculinity of the arrogant. The answer to the predator is the protector. One of the great tragedies of this year’s Republican primaries is that for months the predator prowled and his opponents were too timid and too calculating to act as protectors. For want of a sheepdog, the wolf will devour the flock."

From "Trump’s Counterfeit Masculinity" by David French in The National Review.

I'm not agreeing with this, just putting it up for discussion. I don't accept the hand-wringing over "feminism’s ultimate triumph." French doesn't speak of the defeat or suppression of feminism, only the "answer to feminism," but his answer is, apparently, male supremacy, understood as rightful dominance. And I don't accept the alarmism or even really understand the metaphor. Who's the flock here that Trump is about to devour? And who's the sheepdog — men "properly defined"? What's so manly about proper definitions? And, ironically, French is himself trying to sing a "siren song" to men. Come my way, and you'll be a proper man. It all sounds like a load of trash to me. And by the way, a "siren song" is a song sung by a woman. In your hodge-podge of metaphor about manliness, could you at least control the outbursts of femininity?

"The Siren," by Edward Armitage.

The Supreme Court is hearing oral argument this morning on Obama's power over immigration policy.

From the NYT report:
Donald B. Verrilli Jr., the government’s top appellate lawyer... was sharply challenged by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and several of the court’s other members.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy questioned whether the president can defer deportations for millions of people without specific congressional authorization, saying “that is a legislative task, not an executive task.” “It’s as if the president is defining the policy and the Congress is executing it,” Justice Kennedy said. “That’s just upside down.”...

[Roberts] pressed Mr. Verrilli on whether the president could simply deem all illegal immigrants to be legally present under the new policy. Mr. Verrilli, the solicitor general, said there are statutory constraints that would prevent the president from doing so....
The government lost below, so a 4-4 split would leave in place an injunction barring the policy. There had been some speculation that Justice Roberts might give a 5th vote to the pro-government side using a standing doctrine ground, but he said something that made that seem unlikely:
... Mr. Verrilli asserted that the state of Texas should not be allowed to challenge the president’s actions by claiming it would cost the state money to give driver’s licenses to the millions of immigrants affected by the federal policy. Mr. Verrilli argued that Texas could simply change its law to deny driver’s licenses to the immigrants.

“You would sue them instantly,” Chief Justice Roberts said as he repeatedly questioned the government’s arguments.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard abase themselves — on video — to appease the Australian authorities.

"Australia is a wonderful island..."/"and Australians are just as unique, both warm and direct. When you disrespect Australian law, they will tell you firmly."/"I am truly sorry that Pistol and Boo were not declared... Protecting Australia is important."

I don't know exactly why, but every line in this video — as delivered by Johnny and Amber — made me laugh out loud.

Amber got off the hook, without jail time, for failing to declare 2 dogs — Yorkies — when she swooped into the country to visit her pirate-imitating husband.

"We’re really happy that UW-Madison is hosting an event like this to celebrate cultural differences."


"I covered the confirmation hearings in 1991. HBO’s movie heavily edits history to favor Anita Hill."

Writes Stuart Taylor Jr.
Despite a surface appearance of fairness, “Confirmation” makes clear how it wants the hearings to be remembered: Ms. Hill told the whole truth and Mr. Thomas was thus a desperate, if compelling, liar. Her supporters were noble; his Republican backers were scheming character assassins.

This is consistent with how the media conveyed the story at the time and, especially, in the years hence. Yet immediately after millions of people witnessed the hours of televised testimony, polls showed that Americans by a margin of more than 2 to 1 found Judge Thomas more believable than Ms. Hill. Viewers of “Confirmation” were deprived of several aspects of the story that might have made them, too, skeptical of Ms. Hill. The most-salient of many examples....
Go to the link for the details.

I haven't watched the show. I'd have to force myself. I remember the original quite clearly and don't feel any urge to watch actors endeavoring to seem like the real people or to worry about how HBO is trying to manipulate us in the direction I would assume they'd manipulate us. For me, there's no entertainment value and no educational value. I'd rather see a documentary about sexual harassment and the American public mind in the 1990s, beginning with the you-just-don't-get-it scolding that was delivered over the high-tech-lynched body of Clarence Thomas followed by the it's-just-sex championing of the Democratic Party hero Bill Clinton. That was one hell of a transition.

"Have you noticed something different about the Trump campaign?"

"It's been more than two weeks since the last really outrageous thing the Republican front-runner has said or done," writes Byron York.
It's not an accident. When it comes to outrageousness, Donald Trump has dialed it back, on purpose. And indications from Trump world are that the new pattern will continue....

Why the change? Ask people knowledgeable about the campaign, and they'll say the addition of new staff has had a quick effect. Pushed by his children, Trump has expanded his super-tight circle of advisers with the addition of Paul Manafort, and now others, too. The sense is that Trump actually can listen, both to advice on what to say and not to say. The message has evolved; he is a better candidate than than [sic] the man who messed up right and left just a few weeks ago. And with his latest crusade against "voterless victory," Trump is scoring points again, not so much against Ted Cruz directly but against the Republican establishment — always Trump's most comfortable target. For Trump, Cruz's vulnerability is not that he is part of the establishment but that he has gotten in bed with the establishment as the only way to win. So the belief is that Trump's fight against the Republican National Committee and insider campaign rules pays off everywhere — especially if Trump is not making critical unforced errors at the same time....

April 17, 2016

"I hope it doesn't involve violence. I hope it doesn’t. I'm not suggesting that. I hope it doesn’t involve violence..."

"... and I don’t think it will. But I will say this, it’s a rigged system, it’s a crooked system. It’s 100 percent corrupt."

Said Donald Trump today. Does he sound like he's encouraging violence even when he's saying he hopes there won't be violence? If so, it's because he doesn't say "I don't want violence" or "I urge my supporters to refrain from violence." There's something oddly passive about "I hope it doesn't involve violence" — as if he holds no sway with his supporters, as if he's suggesting it's up to the other side to resist doing the things that will necessitate violence from my people. So I hear a vague, deniable threat. And this too contains a vague, deniable threat:
The process of courting delegates, Trump said, is "rigged" because "you're basically buying people." He said he is not interested in "playing the rules game."

"Nobody has better toys than I do. I can put them on the best planes and bring them to the best resorts anywhere in the world," Trump said. “You’re basically saying, ‘Delegate, listen, we’re going to send you to Mar-a-Lago on a Boeing 757, you’re going to use the spa, you’re going to do this, you’re going to do that, we want your vote. That’s a corrupt system."
It's implied: I could do this — and I'd beat you at it — if you say this is the system and this is what we are doing.

NBC just did a poll that showed that 62% of Republican voters believe that the candidate who gets the most votes in the primaries should be the party's nominee. Chuck Todd confronted Reince Priebus with that number on "Meet the Press" today and Priebus gave the sort of answer that I think a lot of people will find irritating:
"If he was winning the majority of votes, he'd likely have the majority of delegates."
Only likely, not for sure, because of the delegate selection process.
"But that's not actually what's happening. He's winning a plurality of votes, and he has a plurality of delegates."
But he doesn't have a plurality of delegates that's proportional to his plurality of votes.
"And under the rules and under the concept of this country, a majority rules on everything."
Which doesn't mean the one with the most votes wins, only that if you get a majority you win, but not even a majority of votes, because you could get a majority of votes but not a majority of delegates, and in the end — after the funny business — a majority of delegates will decide. Does he really think the people will see that as the good old majority-wins concept?
Just 38 percent of Republicans say it's acceptable if Trump goes into the Republican convention with the most delegates but does not become the nominee, versus 54 percent who say that outcome is unacceptable.

And only 20 percent say it's acceptable if Republican delegates choose a nominee who has not run in the primaries, versus 71 percent who think that's unacceptable.
To be fair, the poll was taken before Priebus went on all the Sunday shows and put his spin on the business that Trump is calling "rigged" and "100% corrupt."

"I was surprised Bernie’s campaign would have done that. He didn’t seem to be the type of candidate, the type of guy, who would do something like this."

Said Daniel McCall, whose company makes "Bernie is my comrade" T-shirts and things, after getting a cease-and-desist letter from Sanders campaign lawyers. The campaign is trying to enforce intellectual property rights, and the company, Liberty Maniacs, is trying to portray Bernie Sanders as a communist.

McCall's lawyer says that the asserted trademark right depends on whether "an ordinary and reasonably prudent consumer would tend to be confused about whether it is the Sanders campaign that is promoting Sanders’ candidacy by associated him with the 19th Century theoreticians of the communist movement as well as with three ruthless Communist Party dictators."

Here's the image:

Text from the company website: "With the lovable personality of a drowsy badger and the voice of a bullfrog, Bernie is your comrade in fighting the good fight against oligarchical imperialism, exploitative corporatism, economic logic, electoral probability, male pattern baldness, Clintonian coronation, and whatever other Sisyphean task you can shake your fist at. This shirt includes a pantheon of socialist paladins just to confuse, fascinate, and cause the finger-wagging nitpicking partisan to hilariously instruct upon the proper definition of socialism while everyone within a five foot radius rolls their eyes in aversion."

I note that the lawyer framed the issue as whether the consumer would be confused and the web site states an intent "to confuse" — albeit not to confuse the consumer. The consumer is in on the intent to cause confusion.

An artist named Gore made a painting of Donald Trump as a naked man with a small penis and now someone is anonymously threatening to sue her if she tries to sell it.

The only ground I can see for a lawsuit would be from a photographer who claims to have made an image — either of the face or the body — that may have been used to make the painting (as Shepard Fairey was sued over his "Hope" poster). But why would such a person issue an anonymous threat to sue? I'm dubious. I'm dubious about a lot of what I'm reading here. There have been bids of over £100,000? Where would you want to put this thing? Or is it an investment? If it's an investment, the value is leveraged by all the publicity surrounding it, which makes the painting a prop in what one might call performance art. We're also told that the painting was shown at the Maddox Gallery "after galleries in the US refused to host the piece due to security concerns following threats of violence from Trump’s supporters." Really? Have police reports been filed? Or is this just the usual speculation about the violent tendencies of Trump supporters?
[Illma] Gore said: “The reaction, especially in the UK, has been incredibly supportive. Everywhere apart from America has been great. Who knew it would be such a big deal?”
Big... small... what's the difference?

But I'd just like to say that in 2004, The Daily Show's Jon Stewart put out a book called "America (The Book)," that used photoshopping to present the 9 Justices of the Supreme Court completely naked.

And as Bob Dylan sang: "But even the president of the United States/Sometimes must have to stand naked." That's from "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)." Bob was bleeding out of his wherever.

I don't feel no-ways tarred.

Sorry, I'm just reacting to this Guardian piece: "Monica Lewinsky: ‘The shame sticks to you like tar.'"

A sticky substance that's hard to remove... and she's the one who kept the semen-encrusted dress. It could have been washed. That did not have to stick. Similarly, shame exists inside the person who feels it. It's a feeling arising from thoughts about what other people think of you, but those other people aren't emitting it and smearing it on you. They may have said things long ago that expressed some of what they thought of you, but the stickiness is generated by your own mind.

"Crazy" the way we've forgotten Ross Perot.

Here's Nick Corasaniti, writing in the NYT "Ad of the Week" column:
The ad is titled “Crazy.” It opens with a picture of Senator Ted Cruz looking mischievous and Mr. Trump with mouth agape, seemingly mid-rant. But leveling the actual “crazy” accusation is not the role of the narrator in this ad from New Day for America, the “super PAC” supporting Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. That falls to Patsy Cline, whose 1961 recording of Willy Nelson’s “Crazy” provides the ad’s soundtrack. The rest of the lyric: “I’m crazy for trying, and crazy for crying. And I’m crazy for loving you,” is barely audible under the narrator’s voice.
How can a prominent analyzer of political promotions write about the use of the song "Crazy" in a political ad and not mention that — back in 1992 — the song was the theme song of the Ross Perot campaign?
Ross Perot promised an unconventional campaign. He certainly delivered. In an oddly listless final day of campaigning, Perot addressed a disappointingly small rally in his hometown of Dallas, bought two final hours of prime-time television exposure, then retreated to the comfortable seclusion of his high-rise offices.

While his Democratic and Republican rivals were exhausting themselves in a frenzy of last-minute politicking, Perot seemed serene as he appeared before perhaps 3,500 followers in the 17,000-seat Reunion Arena in downtown Dallas. He thanked his supporters and summarized his roller-coaster candidacy this way: "What we've been through hasn't been pretty, but by golly you're taking your country back."

While again predicting victory in all 50 states in today's balloting, Perot also announced that he had adopted the Patsy Cline classic "Crazy" as the official theme song of his quixotic candidacy. President Bush last week said that Perot's allegations that Republican dirty tricksters had plotted to smear his daughter and disrupt her wedding were "crazy."

"There are millions of crazy people in this country," Perot told the crowd as he urged them to round up all their crazy friends and get them to vote. "And I'll say tomorrow I bet it'll be a crazy day at the polls."...

As he had at the weekend rallies, Perot characterized both President Bush and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton as unfit to lead the country out of its economic morass. He said that of the three candidates, only he is qualified to address fundamental economic problems because of his business acumen.
Ah! The resonance!

I wish I could embed this: Ross Perot telling his supporters the buses are ready to take them back to the asylum but first: his theme song. "Crazy" begins playing and he dances happily, in turn, with his 4 daughters and his wife.