March 22, 2017

Utah color.


Talk about anything.

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I've been watching a lot of the Gorsuch hearings.

Don't have anything I want to say other than that it's going well for him and everything's under control, and — maybe this is a significant observation — he's successfully distancing himself from Trump. Trump's over there, the man who nominated him, but Gorsuch is his own man, thinking for himself (which means, for him, assiduously following the judicial method and not infusing his work with anything personal or political (but you should know he has DAUGHTERS! and a WIFE! and he's experienced END OF LIFE TRAUMA!)).

"In... Scottsbluff [Nebraska], which will experience 1 minute and 42 seconds of totality, the 81-room Hampton Inn & Suites is about 90% booked at a premium rate of roughly $300 a night..."

"... said Clarence Gealy, managing member. 'Some of the first people to book were from Europe... We’ve talked about having a steak fry or something like that for our eclipse guests to help make it an enjoyable adventure for them.'"

"Designs for 'The Big Bend,' a slender tower that would transform Manhattan’s skyline have been unveiled."

"Described as the 'longest building in the world,' the project's concept drawings reveal a skyscraper reaching an apex then curving back down. And featuring an elevator system that can travel in curves, horizontally and in loops."

"A knife-wielding assailant driving a sport utility vehicle mowed down panicked pedestrians and stabbed a police officer outside Parliament on Wednesday in a deadly assault..."

"... prompting the hasty evacuation of the prime minister and punctuating the threat of terrorism in Europe. At least five people, including the assailant, were killed and 40 others injured in the confusing swirl of violence, which the police said they assumed had been 'inspired by international terrorism.' It appeared to be the most serious such assault in London since the deadly subway bombings more than a decade ago.... For more than two hours, astonished lawmakers inside the House of Commons, some of whom had ducked for cover, were told to stay in place as officers searched the premises office by office."

The NYT reports.

"There's nothing worse for the credibility of all of Washington than an intel 'leak off' — entering a potentially destructive phase."

ADDED: "President Donald Trump said he felt 'somewhat' vindicated on his wiretapping claims against former President Barack Obama after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said he had seen evidence that members of the Trump transition teams were surveilled following November’s election."

At the Desert Morning Café...


... talk about whatever you want.


The photos are from Arches National Park, March 11th.

Only 1% of Trump voters now wish they'd voted for Hillary Clinton (and another 2% wish they'd voted for some other candidate).

According to a new McCourtney Institute of Democracy poll conducted by YouGov and reported by WaPo.

"I think on my tombstone it’s just going to say, ‘Gonged at last,’ and I’m stuck with that."

Said Chuck Barris, who has died at the age of 87.

Barris was not only the hilarious, ridiculous host of "The Gong Show," he also invented "The Dating Game" and "The Newlywed Game." And before all that he wrote the old Freddy Cannon song "Palisades Park." Wrote some books too, including that one that claimed he was an assassin for the CIA, which the CIA denies, which of course it would.

There was no bigger fan of "The Gong Show" than me, but I've already told you that, here.

Last night I took a walk after dark
A swingin' place called Palisades Park
To have some fun and see what I could see
That's where the girls are
I took a ride on a shoot-the-chute
That girl I sat beside was awful cute
And after while she was holdin' hands with me
My heart was flyin'
Up like a rocket ship
Down like a roller coaster
Back like a loop-the-loop
And around like a merry-go-round
We ate and ate at a hot dog stand
We danced around to a rockin' band
And when I could, I gave that girl a hug
In the tunnel of love
You'll never know how great a kiss can feel
When you stop at the top of a Ferris wheel
When I fell in love down at Palisades Park

"That even the disfigured corpse of a child was not sufficient to move the white gaze from its habitual cold calculation is evident daily and in a myriad of ways..."

"... not least the fact that this painting exists at all."

From the petition to remove the painting of Emmett Till from the 2017 Whitney Biennial.

There's also the tweet that says that the artist — a white woman, Dana Schutz — "should have read Saidiya Hartman before she turned Emmett Till into a bad Francis Bacon painting."

That's quoted here, at the NYT. You can see the painting at both links. The "bad Francis Bacon painting" description is apt (and would be funny if it were not the case that nothing about Emmett Till is funny). Here's what Francis Bacon paintings look like (in case you don't know). And here's a Wikipedia page for Saidya Hartman.

Why did the Whitney include this painting? They're in a position to be awfully choosy, so why pick this?

Schutz is certainly free to make bad paintings in bad taste. She can also use words to speak freely defending herself with dumb banality:
“I don’t know what it is like to be black in America but I do know what it is like to be a mother. Emmett was Mamie Till’s only son. The thought of anything happening to your child is beyond comprehension. Their pain is your pain. My engagement with this image was through empathy with his mother.... Art can be a space for empathy, a vehicle for connection. I don’t believe that people can ever really know what it is like to be someone else (I will never know the fear that black parents may have) but neither are we all completely unknowable.”
But why would the Whitney choose this for its vaunted biennial? You could say that the Whitney should want art that challenges us, but this is simply bad. The historical photograph speaks for itself. What did Schutz contribute with her simplified and smeared paint job?

Unless you view the painting as step 1 in a performance art project that includes the protests, it's just bad.

I watched some, but nothing close to all, of the Gorsuch hearing.

I mostly watched the Al Franken excoriation, but also, merely by chance, some of Hatch and Cruz softball interludes.

It is, of course, what I expected (as briefly outlined in "Can we expect the Gorsuch hearings to be anything but bland blather?").

Gorsuch is doing the usual routine as well as it can be done. He looks great. Wonderful voice. Not only unflappable but never giving rise even to the slightest anxiety/hope that he could become less than rock-solid unflappable.

The Democrats on the committee know there's no stopping him, so what are they doing? Each one gets so much time to labor through their questions, which — if I can judge from Franken — all seem to be paraphrasable as: Aren't you a big meanie who, like all Republicans, hates the little guy and wouldn't shed a tear if he froze to death before your very eyes?

The Democrats need to do some theater, enough to skirt criticism from their base. It's a little tricky. If they bear down, they look like they're politicizing the judiciary, and every damn time Gorsuch will deploy one of his 10 elegant ways to inform them — as if they're the slowest learners on the planet — that it is not the role of the judiciary to engage in politics.

I can only take so much, but I did watch Franken. You can watch the clip and hear him go on and on about a man who got fired for driving a truck — despite its malfunctioning brakes — because he was freezing and the truck would warm him up. [NOTE: That's not quite right, as explained under  "ADDED," below.] There was a statute that protected truck drivers from getting fired for refusing to drive a malfunctioning truck, but this was the opposite. His employer wanted him not to drive the malfunctioning truck, and he did it anyway, to save himself from freezing (or so we are told).

The legal question was only whether the statute applied, not whether we feel sorry for the man or whether we would have fired him. Judge Gorsuch used the plain meaning of the statute. But judges might depart from the plain meaning of the text when it is necessary to avoid giving the language an absurd meaning, but it's obvious that the statute had a non-absurd meaning (which was to protect drivers who decline to drive defective trucks). But Franken, blatantly twisting the meaning of "absurd" — and reminding us that he was once a comedian — said:
“It is absurd to say this company is in its rights to fire him because he made the choice of possibly dying from freezing to death or causing other people to die possibly by driving an unsafe vehicle. That’s absurd. Now, I had a career in identifying absurdity. And I know it when I see it. And it makes me question your judgment.”
If that's what counts as "absurd," then judges could take any statute and twist it to mean whatever it would need to mean to allow them to bestow victory on any party the judge feels empathy with. That's a terrible idea for statutory interpretation. But Franken was into his own cuteness, chuckling at the wittiness of "I had a career in identifying absurdity." But the absurdity is in thinking that the ways of comedy would transfer to legal analysis.

And did Franken even hear himself? He said it was absurd to fire a man who chose his own life over the lives of others: "the choice of possibly dying from freezing to death or caus[ing] other people to die possible by driving an unsafe vehicle." What's absurd about saying we don't want you driving for us if you'd choose to warm yourself up by driving a truck with defective brakes? The truck driver risked freezing to death if he didn't drive the truck, but driving the truck risked the death of himself and others. It's not absurd to say, he was wrong to drive the truck.

But even if you think it would be absurd not to drive the truck, the truck driver could only win if the statute that protected drivers who refused to drive defective trucks has only an absurd meaning if it's not stretched to protect drivers who don't refuse to drive defective trucks.

Gorsuch put up with the nonsense and didn't let all that taunting exasperate him. He knew that any show of irritation with Franken, any patronizing tone, might look like that lack of empathy Franken wanted to dramatize.

In Franken's heat about cold, Gorsuch kept his cool.

ADDED: I've got something really wrong about the case. The brakes on the trailer had locked, but the tractor unit could drive. Somehow the heat in the tractor unit was also broken. The man decided to unhitch the trailer and drive the tractor unit. The tractor unit itself was not defective, and he wasn't endangering others by driving that tractor unit in an effort to get somewhere to warm himself. But he disobeyed directions to stay with the trailer, and that's what got him fired. But the problem remains: He wasn't refusing to drive something that was defective. He was choosing to drive. We may agree that he made a good decision and think the company was cruel to fire him, but the legal question was whether he had a right to keep his job for doing something the company thought was a firing offense — abandoning the trailer.

Here's a detailed discussion of the legal question that brings out the issues much better than Franken did. I'm sorry I relied too much on Franken's emotive presentation of the case. There may have been some room to stretch the statute to give the man credit for refusing to pull the trailer (as he proceeded to drive the unhitched tractor unit). In fact, as you can see at that link, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had interpreted the statute that way. This gets to the important subject of deferring to the agency's interpretation (Chevron deference), which is what the majority did in the case. Gorsuch was dissenting.

ALSO: While empathy has been central to the Democrats' idea of judging and this case gave Franken material to push that theme dramatically, it's the Chevron deference question that is most important from a legal perspective. Here's lawprof Philip Hamburger in "Gorsuch’s Collision Course With the Administrative State." Hamburger concludes:
Chevron is a widely cited precedent, and precedents should never be casually overturned. But Chevron deprives Americans of their right to have judges who exercise their own independent judgment without systematic bias. Chevron is thus grossly unconstitutional — not least, a persistent denial of the due process of law.

Judges have a duty to reject Chevron with candor and clarity. Judge Gorsuch has done this. Rather than be berated for it, he should be congratulated.

March 21, 2017

The Landscape Arch...


... in Arches National Park, March 11th.


Talk about whatever you'd like in the comments.

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"But as unsatisfying as the show was as a mystery, it was fascinating as a study of what we ask of public figures — of what we feel entitled to ask of them."

"If there's one thing that the podcast showed, and in fact if there's one thing on which Taberski rested his thesis that Simmons' withdrawal was worthy of further investigation, it's that Richard Simmons gave a preposterous amount of himself away to the people who bought his products, came to his classes, went on his cruises, and simply told him how much pain they were in because they thought he would understand. The thesis of the show is largely that a man who was so close to people and loved being close to people would never just stop doing it.... The sad thing about Missing Richard Simmons is that if Richard Simmons finally decided to drop all of those rocks and rest — whatever state he was in when he did — then nothing makes it clearer how he got to that point than someone making a hit out of demanding over and over some kind of explanation. Perhaps he finally drew a boundary."

Writes Linda Holmes at NPR now that "Missing Richard Simmons" has released its 6th a final episode.

You can listen to all 6 episodes here. The first 3 episodes are excellent, setting up the mystery. The last 3 are less good, because Taberski is too wedded to his own ideas of why it's a mystery... and that it is a mystery. How can he just come out and say actually it's not a mystery? If it's not, what's the point of the podcast? If Richard Simmons doesn't need help, then why are you pestering him?

I think Richard Simmons put immense energy and emotion into playing the character he inhabited in public. He decided the show was over for whatever personal reasons he had, and he's gone private. That's his point: He's private now, and his reasons are private. Accept it!

Viewpoint neutral — a sign in the UW Memorial Union seeking art for a show about Trump's "First 100 Days."


Here's the website. You don't have to be a student (but you do have to be in the Madison area) to be in this show. Quite properly, the group putting on the show — The Wisconsin Union Directorate Art Committee — is not dictating a viewpoint. It says:
Are you angry, satisfied, scared, ashamed, proud, disturbed, or something else entirely? What has Trump accomplished within his first 100 days and how will you evaluate his time in the White House?... Artists from all political backgrounds are welcomed and encouraged to submit a work for consideration.....
The "first 100 days" limitation seems to exclude the idea of just painting Trump's face (and hair). You can do that and express either pride and satisfaction or fear and rage, but that wouldn't be sufficiently specific to the first 100 days. But I think it you just really George-W-Bushed the hell out of a colorful painting of Trump's head, you'd get in — first 100 days be damned.

But I'm not part of the The Wisconsin Union Directorate Art Committee and have no idea how they will judge this thing. The Wisconsin Union Directorate is "the student programming and leadership board for the Wisconsin Union." And its student-run art committee is "dedicated to bringing novel and challenging exhibitions to the Wisconsin Union."

I sure hope there is some pro-Trump material in the show, because that would be challenging.

"In reaction to the growing globalization of the Roman Empire, elite corruption, the banality of bread-and-circuses, and the end of the agrarian Italian Republic, the Stoics opted out..."

"... choosing instead a reasoned detachment from contemporary life. Some, like the worldly court philosopher Seneca, seemed hypocritical; others, such as the later emperor Marcus Aurelius, lived a double life of imperial engagement and mental detachment. Classical impassiveness established the foundations for the later monastic Christians, who in more dangerous times increasingly saw the world around them as incompatible with the world to come — and therefore they saw engagement as an impediment to their own Christian belief. More and more Americans today are becoming Stoic dropouts. They are not illiberal, and certainly not reactionaries, racists, xenophobes, or homophobes. They’re simply exhausted by our frenzied culture.... Monastics are tuning out the media.... When everything is politicized, everything is monotonous; nothing is interesting... For millions of Americans, their music, their movies, their sports, and their media are not current fare. Instead, they have mentally moved to mountaintops or inaccessible valleys, where they can live in the past or dream of the future, but certainly not dwell in the here and now...."

Writes Victor Davis Hanson in "Monasteries of the Mind," which I'm reading because because it was recommended in the comments to a post I'd put up earlier today. The commenter, Jeff Kuebler, said:
Standing off, interesting--I clicked here right after reading Victor D Hanson's column on people tuning out.
What I'd written was:
Speaking of very, very ugly,* I feel myself drifting away from politics. In the early years of this blog, I had a subheading under the blog title "Althouse" that read: "Politics and the aversion to politics, law and law school, high and low culture, and the way things look from Madison, Wisconsin." The aversion to politics had kind of been the story of my life, and blogging had me just dabbling in actual political opinion. The opinion has always been tinged with the aversion. I'm standing off at some distance observing how other people are political.

* The post began with a quote from Joe Biden imagining the world turning very ugly, very, very ugly.

"Curiosity provoked me to lay a lot of our country stuff on our predominantly black audience and some of our black audience began whispering 'who is that black hillbilly at the Cosmo?'"

"After they laughed at me a few times they began requesting the hillbilly stuff and enjoyed dancing to it."

Wrote Chuck Berry in his autobiography.

That's a quote I heard on the radio a couple days ago that came to mind as I was blogging that NYT essay that said "Try to picture Barack Obama do-si-do-ing at a square dance...."

Cozying up to George W. Bush because he's not Trump painting.

Here's Mimi Swartz in the NYT with "'W.’ and the Art of Redemption," reacting to Bush's new book of paintings:
[N]o less than The New Yorker’s art critic, Peter Schjeldahl, can barely hide his surprise when describing the quality as astonishingly high, the portraits “honestly observed and persuasively alive.”

Why the shock and awe? Because Mr. Bush’s artistic talent goes against the stereotype we have of him. (Try to picture Barack Obama do-si-do-ing at a square dance or, for that matter, clearing brush at a ranch.) Until last November, at any rate, the president known as W. was the embodiment of the smart-set philistine. Despite his years at Yale and Harvard, he always remained the West Texas rich kid who would be proud to confuse Picasso with Pizarro [sic, now corrected at the site] (You’d get whupped in Midland if you didn’t.)

It was fine for Mr. Bush’s mother and his wife to promote the reading of books. But Mr. Bush himself worked overtime to make sure no one could mistake him for a pointy-headed intellectual. He painted himself into a corner....
What? Bush made a big deal out of reading a lot of books. He had an open and running competition with Karl Rove over who read the most books in a year.  In 2008, Rove wrote:

"Every time you talk, you take a little of this, and a little of that, and you never settle on anything."

"You’ve spoken for seven minutes, and I have no idea what you said. You haven’t said anything."

Said Marine Le Pen at a French presidential debate to her chief opponent Emmanuel Macron.

"You're talking a lot, but you're not saying anything." That was said, long ago, by Psycho Killer... which, interestingly enough, is half in French...

Je me lance, vers la gloire, okay?

"Biden’s biggest worry is that Trump, for all his bluster, could be a global bystander, unwilling to engage a messy world with anything more than chest-thumping."

"'The question I get everywhere is: ‘Is American leadership going to continue?'" he told me on Air Force Two. If Trump 'just stays behind the lines — hands off — it could be very ugly. Very, very ugly.'"

Writes Jonathan Alter in "Joe Biden: 'I Wish to Hell I’d Just Kept Saying the Exact Same Thing' The vice president looks back — and forward" — a NYT article that sounds really dull but is worth clicking through for the excellent photograph.

The photograph is by Erik Madigan Heck. You can see a lot more of his photographs here. Mostly fashion photography. Some beautiful, colorful stuff there. Try starting here and clicking on the arrows.

Speaking of very, very ugly, I feel myself drifting away from politics. In the early years of this blog, I had a subheading under the blog title "Althouse" that read: "Politics and the aversion to politics, law and law school, high and low culture, and the way things look from Madison, Wisconsin." The aversion to politics had kind of been the story of my life, and blogging had me just dabbling in actual political opinion. The opinion has always been tinged with the aversion. I'm standing off at some distance observing how other people are political.

But of all the things to observe, why observe that? It's very ugly, very, very ugly, Joe Biden said. 

I'm fed up with headlines like "FBI’s Trump-Russia probe knocks White House on its heels."

That's at Politico. The article, by Shane Goldmacher and Matthew Nussbaum, does not seem to have any sources inside the White House feeding information about how people working there are feeling. We're just told...
The White House was knocked on the defensive ahead of its biggest week yet on Capitol Hill after FBI Director James Comey confirmed the existence of an active investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election, including whether there was any coordination with now-President Donald Trump’s team.
That's the standard news of the day yesterday — Comey testified — puffed up with some annoying prompting to think that something he said is a significant new revelation. 
In another blow to Trump, Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers also publicly refuted his unsubstantiated claims on Twitter that President Barack Obama had ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower phones.... “I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said. 
"Refuted" is the wrong word. Trump said he heard X is true. For Comey to refute that, he would need to say he knows X is not true. But whatever. It is what it is. The FBI looked and couldn't discover that Obama wiretapped Trump, and the FBI has an ongoing investigation into Russia's activities in relation to the American election. That's the story yesterday about hearings that were out in the open for all of us to see and quote.

What is there about the behind-the-scenes reaction? First, we're told that Trump himself was out in Louisville, Kentucky doing one of his rallies. That doesn't sound knocked on his heels. That sounds like Trump barreling forward, sanguine as ever. We're told Trump completely ignored the Comey business. Where's the knocking back on the heels?

To be fair to Goldmacher and Nussbaum and whoever typed out the headline, it wasn't Trump specifically who was supposedly knocked back on his heels. It was the White House. So maybe Trump was just fine out in Kentucky, but the White House — sans Trump — got knocked back on its heels. Here's the relevant text for that theory:
Meanwhile, the White House scrambled to contain the fallout, deploying two simultaneous war rooms, according to two people familiar with the arrangement, one in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to monitor the Comey hearing and another in the Senate offices to keep tabs on Gorsuch.
It sounds as though they were geared up and ready to deal with everything as it happened. That's the OPPOSITE of being knocked back on your heels.

Finally, the article tells us Spicer had his usual encounter with the press and got asked some questions about the Comey testimony. Of course Spicer wasn't knocked back on his heels. He gave the predictable press-secretary answers: there's nothing new, there was no collusion, other issues are more important, etc.

I'm sick of the phony emotionalism. Maybe some Trump haters and media people and establishment politicians are hysterical, but don't project that emotion onto Trump. If you have actual information that Trump and his people are breaking down emotionally, tell me about it in strictly factual terms: What do you know and how do you know it? But don't take a story and imagine how Trump must feel or make up how you WISH Trump would feel and then report it as if it is news. It's fake news!

March 20, 2017

At the Polygamy Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want. That's a bottle of porter bought at the Valhalla Café in Bryce Canyon National Park on March 8th. We were eating pizza after a long pre-dusk walk on the Navajo Trail, where I took this picture.


I encourage you to talk all night. Thanks for all your contributions to this blog in comment form and just by reading. If you feel inspired to help keep this enterprise going, remember to click on the Amazon link in the banner when you have some shopping to do.


"A person who begins to learn or study late in life" — OED.
1808   Gentleman’s Mag. June 480/2   From the dissipation and idleness of his earlier years, Mr. Fox in Greek and Roman Literature was necessarily an Opsimath....
1968   T. M. Disch Camp Concentration (1969) i. 58   ‘Opsi?’ I asked Mordecai. ‘Short for opsimath—one who begins to learn late in life. We're all opsimaths here.’
1992   W. F. Buckley WindFall xvii. 268   They took me thirty years to learn, opsimath that I am in so many matters....
This is a word I learned only because it came up in a NYT acrostic — "Late learner, like Grandma Moses." I searched the entire archive of the NYT and found not a single appearance of this word. Surely, it's a bit useful.

1. It's funny, like oopsy-daisy.

2. You might be a polysyllabic show-off like William F. Buckley.

3. You could be Thomas M. Disch, writing "Camp Concentration." I read that book (almost half a century ago (it came out in 1968)).

"Of all the versions of my recorded songs, the Johnny Rivers one was my favorite. It was obvious that we were from the same side of town..."

"... had been read the same citations, came from the same musical family and were cut from the same cloth. When I listened to Johnny’s version of 'Positively 4th Street,' I liked his version better than mine. I listened to it over and over again. Most of the cover versions of my songs seemed to take them out into left field somewhere, but Rivers’s version had the mandate down— the attitude and melodic sense to complete and surpass even the feeling that I had put into it. It shouldn’t have surprised me, though. He had done the same thing with 'Maybellene' and 'Memphis,' two Chuck Berry songs. When I heard Johnny sing my song, it was obvious that life had the same external grip on him as it did on me."

Wrote Bob Dylan, at pages 60-61 of "Chronicles: Volume One," in a passage I found looking to see what he might have written about Chuck Berry. That's the only place in Bob's book where he mentions Berry. As for Rivers, here's that version of "Positively 4th Street," and here's Johnny singing "Poor Side of Town"...

... which I think Bob had in mind when he wrote "we were from the same side of town."

Do-doo-doo-wah, shoo-be-doo-be...

"We have no information to support those tweets. All I can tell you is that we have no information that supports them."

Said F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, testifying today before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, about Trump's assertion that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.

"The Korean People’s Army will reduce the bases of aggression and provocation to ashes with its invincible Hwasong rockets tipped with nuclear warheads..."

"... and reliably defend the security of the country and its people’s happiness in case the US and the South Korean puppet forces fire even a single bullet at the territory of the DPRK."

In Kintampo, Ghana, 18 persons, mostly high school students, were killed when one tree fell.

It happened at a popular "triple-step" waterfall, which is "surrounded by lush vegetation and large overhanging trees," the BBC reports, without telling us the name of the species of tree.

I tried — unsuccessfully — to find the largest number of persons killed by a single falling tree.

I became interested in the subject of trees killing human beings and found the Wikipedia article "Man-eating tree":
Man-eating tree can refer to any of the various legendary carnivorous plants large enough to kill and consume a person or other large animal....
Legendary. These things are not real. The largest carnivorous plant might kill a rat, but not a person. But there was a time when people could believe wild stories like this from 1874 about a human sacrifice in Madigascar:
The slender delicate palpi, with the fury of starved serpents, quivered a moment over her head, then as if instinct with demoniac intelligence fastened upon her in sudden coils round and round her neck and arms; then while her awful screams and yet more awful laughter rose wildly to be instantly strangled down again into a gurgling moan, the tendrils one after another, like great green serpents, with brutal energy and infernal rapidity, rose, retracted themselves, and wrapped her about in fold after fold, ever tightening with cruel swiftness and savage tenacity of anacondas fastening upon their prey.
More stories at the link — along with a sensationalistic illustration. 

"Once you've gazed upon and contemplated 150 million years of mostly Mesozoic-aged sedimentation, uplift, and subsequent erosion, it's hard to take seriously the self-important emotional expressions on the faces of Jake Tapper and guests."

Says Meade, commenting on my post "I think I've been cured of my interest in watching the Sunday morning talk shows/Was it just that after skipping them for 3 weeks — when I was off on a road trip — I'd lost the momentum of routine...."

You try it. Gaze. Stare into the face...

Rocks at Titus Canyon in Death Valley National Park

Obama had a "tendency... to micromanage issues better left to military commanders."

According to the NYT, which recognizes Trump's return to what is the better approach.
The change is at the heart of a re-engineering of the National Security Council’s role under its new leader, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, and reflects Mr. Trump’s belief that the N.S.C. should focus less on military operations and tactics and more on strategic issues. A guiding precept for the president and his team is that the balance of power in the world has shifted against American interests, and that General McMaster should focus on developing foreign and economic policy options in concert with the Pentagon, State Department and other agencies to respond to that challenge....

“In defense of the Obama administration, every single time we went to the president and asked for something more, we eventually got it, though we often had to jump through a lot of hoops,” said Andrew Exum, a former Army Ranger who held a senior position at the Defense Department under Mr. Obama. “The episode that took the cake was toward the end of the administration, when we literally had cabinet secretaries debating the movement of three helicopters from Iraq to Syria.”

Can we expect the Gorsuch hearings to be anything but bland blather?

I could link to things like "Want to Know Where Supreme Court Nominees Stand? Don’t Bother Asking" (in the NYT), but it's tiresome.
A rhetorical version of dodge ball is a favored tactic for nominees regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum. It has been employed successfully by a liberal like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and by a conservative like Clarence Thomas. John G. Roberts Jr., at the 2005 Senate hearing on his nomination as chief justice, famously likened his role to that of an umpire calling balls and strikes, a disinterested neutral force....
Maybe this is news to someone, but Supreme Court nominees have learned to say the same stock things and to reveal nothing. The only interest is whether the nominee looks the part, sounds intelligent (while saying basically nothing), seems earnest but relaxed, and shows a little humor or personality. But not too much!

And whatever you do, don't reveal that you'd enjoy yourself by saying "I think it would be an intellectual feast" or some such thing. Don't be Bork. Be like everyone since Bork. We went from Borking to boring, and now no one is fool enough to think it's worth it to be anything but boring.

I've set C-SPAN to record, but don't expect me to simulblog the thing. I remember being so excited to live-blog the Roberts hearings, but that was after going more than a decade without a new Justice. I've blogged 4 confirmations now — Roberts, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kagan. It has been 7 years since Kagan's confirmation. And yet, the Gorsuch hearings present a very dull prospect. (By design.)

I think I've been cured of my interest in watching the Sunday morning talk shows.

Was it just that after skipping them for 3 weeks — when I was off on a road trip — I'd lost the momentum of routine, there wasn't enough independent reason to watch, and I couldn't restart?

Or have the shows really gotten worse because they just haven't figured out a way to cover the Trump administration?

Or maybe I just don't want to hear analysis of what Trump is doing!

What's Althouse's problem with the Sunday shows? free polls

March 19, 2017

At the Life-Goes-On Café...



... keep the conversation going.

The photo is just before dark at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley on March 6th.

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Goodbye to Jimmy Breslin.

"Jimmy Breslin, Legendary New York City Newspaper Columnist, Dies at 88," the NYT reports.
With prose that was savagely funny, deceptively simple and poorly imitated, Mr. Breslin created his own distinct rhythm in the hurly-burly music of newspapers. Here, for example, is how he described Clifton Pollard, the man who dug President John F. Kennedy’s grave, in a celebrated Herald Tribune column from 1963 that sent legions of journalists to find their “gravedigger”:

“Pollard is forty-two. He is a slim man with a mustache who was born in Pittsburgh and served as a private in the 352nd Engineers battalion in Burma in World War II. He is an equipment operator, grade 10, which means he gets $3.01 an hour. One of the last to serve John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was the thirty-fifth President of this country, was a working man who earns $3.01 an hour and said it was an honor to dig the grave.”

And here is how he described what motivated Breslin the writer: “Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers.”
This is me, in 1970, sitting under a Mailer/Breslin poster:

Althouse in 1970, age 19
PHOTO CREDIT: Stephen Cohen.

The NYT obit makes no mention of the political frolic with Mailer, but here's an earlier article, from when Mailer died (2007), "Mailer’s Nonfiction Legacy: His 1969 Race for Mayor":
His running mate for City Council president was the columnist Jimmy Breslin, who suspected the worst from the very beginning: that Mr. Mailer was serious....

Mr. Breslin recently recalled Mr. Mailer’s arguing brilliantly at Brooklyn College that the minds of white and black children would grow best if they were together in the same classrooms. One student interrupted: “We had a lot of snow in Queens last year and it didn’t get removed,” he said. “What would you do about it?” To which Mr. Mailer, abruptly dislodged from his lofty oratorical perch, replied that he would melt the snow by urinating on it.

Mr. Mailer’s political nadir was a campaign rally at the Village Gate nightclub where he vilified his own supporters as “spoiled pigs.” Mr. Breslin left the rally early. He later told a friend, “I found out I was running with Ezra Pound.” Mr. Breslin was referring not to Pound’s poetry, but to his insanity.

Mr. Mailer’s “left-conservative” platform called for a monorail, a ban on private cars in Manhattan and a monthly “Sweet Sunday” on which vehicles would be barred from city streets, rails or airspace altogether. He championed self-determination — the city itself would secede and become the 51st state. Individual neighborhoods would be empowered to govern according to their own prerogatives, which could range from compulsory free love to mandatory church attendance. 
I love the random resonances of blogging: Ezra Pound just came up 2 days ago. Poets. Poetry. I love it all. Even the "lofty oratorical perch." Reminds me of that famous Samuel Johnson line: "Sir, a fish's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

And I love that poster.

New York City — the 51st State. Makes me think of that old song:
As easy it was to tell black from white
It was all that easy to tell wrong from right....
How many a year has passed and gone
And many a gamble has been lost and won
And many a road taken by many a friend
And each one I’ve never seen again
I wish, I wish, I wish in vain
That we could sit simply in that room again....
But it's all lost to the distant past. I'm not 19 anymore. Norman's gone. Jimmy's gone. The is-he-insane blustery assemblage of masculinity isn't a satirical mayoral candidate but President of the United States. And there's no newspaper columnist to give a damn about.

The blue landscape.




Zabriskie Point, March 6th.

Let's talk about Chuck Berry lyrics — they were really good...

... and they were really good in a rock way. Someone on Facebook prompted me to think about Chuck Berry specifically in terms of the lyrics, and the first song I always think of is "Maybellene," the first song of his I knew, which came out in 1955 when I was 4. Wikipedia says:
Rolling Stone magazine wrote, "Rock & roll guitar starts here." The record is an early instance of the complete rock-and-roll package: youthful subject matter; a small, guitar-driven combo; clear diction; and an atmosphere of unrelenting excitement. The lyrics describe a man driving a V8 Ford chasing his unfaithful girlfriend in her Cadillac Coupe DeVille. 
What's more rock-and-roll than clear diction? I think if you have great lyrics, you'll do clear diction. That's something about Bob Dylan too: You could always understand the words (maybe not what they really meant, but you could hear the words). If you have lyrics like "On the ship, I dream she there/I smell the rose that's in her hair," you might prefer to mush them into unintelligibility.

I'll offer "Maybellene" for the lyrics: "As I was motivatin' over the hill/I saw Mabellene in a Coupe de Ville/A Cadillac a-rollin' on the open road/Nothin' will outrun my V8 Ford." And Chuck Berry's V8 Ford does in fact overtake that other guy's Cadillac. We never hear about the scene at the top of the hill when Chuck gets to Maybellene, but it doesn't matter. There were 2 cars — representing 2 men — and one was richer but the other was stronger and lasted longer, so we don't need to hear anything more.

Now, you talk about some Chuck Berry lyrics. I will just list a few of the news reports that stress lyrics:

1. Rolling Stone: "Chuck Berry: 20 Essential Songs." This transcribes the Maybellene line as "I was motorvatin' over the hill" and informs us that the woman's name was chosen because of the Maybelline mascara that was lying around in the studio.

2. KL.Fm: "Tributes as 'father of rock and roll' Chuck Berry dies." Quoting Mick Jagger: "His lyrics shone above others & threw a strange light on the American dream."

3. City Pages: "RIP Chuck Berry, inventor of the rock lyric, interpreter of teenage dreams."
“Nadine (Is That You?)” is the Technicolor remake of “Maybelline,” another chase after another woman, but with a cawing saxophone and super-charged language. “I was campaign shouting like a Southern diplomat”? You have the rest of your life -- write one phrase that damn good. There’s probably no better musical advertisement for marriage than the footloose “You Never Can Tell,” about two dumb, wedded New Orleans kids who live happily ever after, shimming and canoodling and subsisting on “TV dinners and ginger ale” (kept in their “coolerator,” Berry will have you know). But best of all, there’s “Promised Land,” in which Chuck skedaddles from Norfolk to L.A. in 2:24 and along the way seems to address every promise of American life and how to get by after it’s broken.
 4. NYT: "15 Essential Chuck Berry Songs." Spotify playlist. One song is “Too Much Monkey Business” (1956):
No one before Mr. Berry thought to write a pop song about the headaches of paying bills or losing your change in a pay phone. In his 1987 autobiography, he wrote that the lyrics were “meant to describe most of the kinds of hassles a person encounters in everyday life.” The chugging, rapid-fire vocal delivery would inspire Mr. Dylan’s breakthrough word salad “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” and when Mr. Berry won the first PEN New England Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award in 2012, Mr. Dylan sent a congratulatory note saying, “That’s what too much monkey business will get ya.”
5. Heavy: "Chuck Berry Top Hits: Best Songs to Remember Him By."
In 1963’s “Memphis, Tennessee,” the lyrics describe a man speaking to an operator trying to get in contact with a girl, Marie, who lives in “Memphis, Tennessee.”

It tells a surprisingly complex tale, with the audience being lead to believe that Marie is the man’s girlfriend, only for it to be revealed that she is actually his daughter, with it being implied that the man’s ex-wife took Marie away.
6. Billboard: "Chuck Berry Didn't Invent Rock n' Roll, But He Turned It Into an Attitude That Changed the World."
As for his songwriting, Berry eschewed generic emotional confessions and instead focused on crafting short stories with his lyrics. His songwriting style -- economical, vivid and enveloping -- influenced everyone from Paul McCartney to Ray Davies to Brian Wilson and set the course for rock to favor the short and sweet instead of the poetic and verbose. That's just not something his contemporaries were pioneering -- Little Richard's lyrics were brilliant nonsense, Bo Diddley's were stream of consciousness poetry, and Elvis Presley didn't write his own material. So Berry's introduction of storytelling into rock can't be overstated, particularly since that's what helped the genre stand out from straight pop in its first few decades.
7. Campus News: "Giants of pop owe it all to Chuck Berry."
John Lennon once said, “In the’50s, when people were just singing virtually about nothing, he was writing social-comment songs; he was writing all kinds of songs with incredible meter to the lyrics, which influenced Dylan and me and many other people.”...

Berry... sued Lennon for pilfering his lyrics for The Beatles’ “Come Together”… and won that case, too. (It was settled out of court.)

"Don’t you all push your strollers through airports in stiletto heels, Gucci, and the possibility of a nip-slip?"

"No? Clearly, you’re doing it wrong."

"Going to law school was one of my biggest regrets, ranking right up there with the time I accidentally bought low-fat Brie."

Writes Akilah Green ("a writer for Netflix’s 'Chelsea'") in a NYT op-ed I read mostly because I was tempted by the desire to understand the illustration of a piece of cheese trying to tempt a graduation-gowned woman. Green's thesis is that it's bad that some law schools are now accepting applicants who haven't taken the LSAT but have a GRE score instead.

Accepting the proposition that many people go to law school who won't, in the end, enjoy being a lawyer, I don't see the connection to the recent policy change. We've had unhappy lawyers for a long time, when the LSAT was required. Why assume reaching out to the GRE-takers will bring in people who are even less likely to be happy?

I myself was not happy to be a lawyer, but my law degree got me to a great non-lawyer job — law professor. So there's that. I don't know if Green got her Netflix writing job in part because of her law degree, but I just want to nail down the point that law school is not just for those who picture themselves as transmogrifying into Atticus Finch or whatever. But the main thing I want to say about my having been a law professor is that over the years as I witnessed young people struggling to understand law, I often thought that the wrong people are going to law school. Many people have an inaccurate idea of what law will be and that they will learn specific rules and doctrines and gain authority in a system of order. But the law is a much more complex struggle with language and policy. Maybe it would be more suitable for the very people who are thinking it's not their sort of thing.

So why not open admissions up to the smart, industrious career-seekers who have opted to take the GRE? Green — a TV comedy writer — may only be trying to get funny words into print but she says:
See, the LSAT is a speed bump.... The LSAT was rough. The logic games that make up its most infamous section are real killers... Studying was grueling, repetitive and at times mind-numbingly boring, adjectives that happen to have quite a bit of overlap with the way some lawyers would describe their jobs.
As if law schools should set up a barrier so that only the grinds get in! That's not the diverse and exciting classroom experience we're looking for. And if being a lawyer is so terrible, what does it matter what kind of a barrier to entry we set up?
And remember, studying for the LSAT creates a lot of angst — but so will being a lawyer, if being a lawyer isn’t for you.
But that's the question: Who is it for? Green seems to be saying that being a lawyer is for people who put up with a lot of grueling, boring angst and that taking the LSAT is evidence that you do. But Green is talking about studying for the LSAT, not merely taking it — studying and studying hard. That may be something that boring, grind-y strivers do, but it's not necessary. I don't remember studying hard for the LSAT, and I scored in the top percentile. I know other people who can say that too. So the LSAT doesn't really measure for this quality Green assumes is key to being a happy lawyer. And I'm sure that many people who concentrated on taking the GRE are also capable of knuckling down to some hard work.

Why exclude them? Let them throw applications at law schools if they like. At least with law school, you are done in 3 years, and there are lots of well-paying jobs in the end. Compare that to the grad schools that are reaching out to the GRE-takers. What's the happiness percentage coming out of PhD programs?

"I thought I was doing something right. It wasn’t to hurt somebody, or the state, or the government... I voted like a U.S. citizen. The only thing is, I didn’t know I couldn’t vote."

Said Rosa Maria Ortega, a green-card holder who was convicted of voting illegally in 2012 and 2014 and sentenced to 8 years in prison. She's quoted in a NYT article "A Texas Woman ‘Voted Like a U.S. Citizen.’ Only She Wasn’t."

Is it really true that she didn't know she couldn't vote? Wouldn't everyone caught and facing that punishment make that assertion? Aren't people who get a green card told very clearly that they cannot vote? How did she register to vote without being forced to assert that she was a citizen, which she knew was not true? Ah, yes:
While living in neighboring Dallas County, she registered to vote before the 2012 election, checking a box on the registration form that certified that she was a United States citizen. After voting in 2012 and 2014, she moved to Fort Worth’s Tarrant County in 2015, where she registered to vote again — this time, ticking the box that indicated she was not a citizen.
When she told the truth, she was not able to register. 
When her registration was rejected, she called elections officials, telling them that she had voted in Dallas. Told that people who checked the noncitizen box were ineligible to vote, she reapplied, this time indicating that she was a citizen
Finally, the authorities took notice and she was prosecuted. It took all those steps for her to trigger a consequence. That is, if she'd just checked the "citizen" box all along, she'd have gotten away with it. (Like so many others?) And we're invited to feel sorry for her because she's facing punishment:
Her punishment may be unprecedented for an offense that often draws a minimal sentence or probation.... The case resonates in a polarized political environment where some are convinced that immigrants threaten to upend the nation’s shared values more than they continue its long history of accepting and assimilating outsiders. Ms. Ortega’s lawyers say they believe the severity of the sentence stems from the furor over immigration and false claims about voter fraud raised by Donald J. Trump’s nationalistic presidential campaign.....

Ms. Ortega’s lawyers are casting her as a scapegoat. The case, they say, was manufactured to prop up Mr. Trump’s baseless voter-fraud claims....
Baseless? If you believe that, you'd have to think that all noncitizens should just be told to go ahead and vote by simply checking the "citizen" box when they register. How is Ortega a scapegoat? She made herself conspicuous. Her only argument is that she'd have gotten away with it if she'd kept a lower profile.