May 22, 2018

Philip Roth has died.

The New Yorker reports.

Obstructing injustice.

A Twitter dialogue between Max Boot and Scott Adams:

Boot:
The White House is the one that’s doing the stonewalling. As I write today, Trump is imitating a tried and true authoritarian tactic—investigate the investigators—to escape accountability: https://wapo.st/2IUWtlb
Adams:
What was the alternative?
Boot:
The alternative is pretty simple: don’t obstruct justice. Let the lawful investigation proceed unimpeded. Uphold the oath of office. Defend the Constituon [sic].
Adams:
Obstructing justice would be bad. Obstructing INJUSTICE is why voters hired him. It's his job to know the difference, and he's showing his work. I appreciate his transparency on this. Presidents have freedom of speech too.
Ah! Now, I'm seeing that Adams is in the middle of a live Periscope. I'll just put this post up and watch this later when I can start at the beginning. I like this term "obstructing injustice," so let's see where Adams goes with it:


ADDED: I'm going to read Boot's WaPo column, linked in the first tweet, because I really don't understand that investigating the investigators is "a tried and true authoritarian tactic." It seems to me that in an authoritarian governmental system, the leader controls the investigators, so how can they be investigated by any governmental authority that is in a position to impose consequences? You've only got private citizens — notably, journalists — trying to do investigations. The ability to investigate the investigators seems to me to be an attribute of a free and open society.

So, Boot's column begins:
Remember that old adage that a frog will jump out of a boiling pot but won’t notice if the temperature is slowly raised until it’s boiled alive? 
Well, that's not an "adage," but I know the analogy you're talking about. Thanks for letting me know up front that attention to accurate language isn't important to you. It would make more sense to call it a "fable," which is the term used at the Wikipedia article, "Boiling frog." I love Wikipedia. I'm abandoning the project of reading Boot's blather so I can dive into a delightful hot bath of Wikipedia:
The boiling frog is a fable describing a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of threats that arise gradually.

While some 19th-century experiments suggested that the underlying premise is true if the heating is sufficiently gradual, according to contemporary biologists the premise is false: a frog that is gradually heated will jump out. Indeed, thermoregulation by changing location is a fundamentally necessary survival strategy for frogs and other ectotherms.
As part of advancing science, several experiments observing the reaction of frogs to slowly heated water took place in the 19th century. In 1869, while doing experiments searching for the location of the soul, German physiologist Friedrich Goltz demonstrated that a frog that has had its brain removed will remain in slowly heated water, but an intact frog attempted to escape the water when it reached 25 °C.
I see good potential for metaphor, because it is kind of like America has had its brain removed. When did that happen? Pop culture, fake news, too much fixation on screens, drugs — sorry, I can't pursue that brain(ha ha)storm right now. But you see the idea. If we're the frog that doesn't jump out of the boiling water that means we've had our brain removed — the soul-search Friedrich Goltz ghoulishly figured that out for us. What would we do without German physiologists?

Anyway, there's more science detail at that Wikipedia article, and when I get back to Boot, I see he knows his "adage" about frogs is wrong:
It turns out that it just isn’t true. In fact, frogs will hop out when the temperature turns uncomfortable.
Then why start a column with that bullshit?
Which suggests that we may not be as smart as slimy green amphibians. 
Only if we don't jump out of slowly heating water.
President Trump is throwing one democratic norm after another into a big pot and rapidly raising the heat, and we’re too busy watching the royal wedding to notice. 
This metaphor is annoying me. Are the "democratic norms" supposed to be the frogs that won't jump out? They sound like ingredients being added to a soup, but what's bad about soup? Something that could be killed and that has the power to save itself needs to be in the pot. Are we in the pot, and are democratic norms being put in there with us? I think a metaphor should be abandoned if you can't get the moving parts right!

Boot proceeds to enumerate Trump's transgressions on "significant norms." The headings are: "Revealing intelligence sources," "Politically motivated prosecutions," "Mixing private and government business," "Foreign interference in U.S. elections," "Undermining the First Amendment."

Boot's point is that we're not getting upset enough. We should be jumping at these early transgressions, like the nonexistent frog.
Republicans approve of, or pretend not to notice, his flagrant misconduct, while Democrats are inured to it. The sheer number of outrages makes it hard to give each one the attention it deserves. But we must never – ever! – accept the unacceptable. Otherwise our democracy will be boiled alive.
But in real life, the frog does jump out when it gets too hot. The slow heating does not interfere with that capacity. Using the real-life analogy, we're not getting terribly upset yet because we don't think it's too hot yet, and we will be able to jump when we decide that it is. That last sentence forgets the science and screams at us to jump now because otherwise we'll be boiled alive. But that's alarmism. Frogs don't live like that, so why should we?

Boot wrote "we may not be as smart as slimy green amphibians," but maybe we are, and we don't fritter away our life's energy by abandoning one acceptably warm pool on the theory if it turns out to be a fatal boiling pot we will die.

By the way, here's another Wikipedia article about a reaction-to-heat metaphor, "Out of the frying pan into the fire."

"Proud mom orders ‘Summa Cum Laude’ cake online. Publix censors it: Summa … Laude."

WaPo headline.

Publix has a computer system where the customer types in the words they want on a cake, and some bad words — including "cum" — are simply automatically censored. So this is just a hilarious screw-up by a company with a convenient but unsophisticated automatic system for getting writing onto cakes.

But what happens next? I think we should all laugh, and Publix should give the family some free cake and tweak its computer program so that "cum" is okay when it's followed by "laude" (though I'm capable of thinking of ways to get to the sexual use of "cum" in a phrase that follows "cum" with "laude").

But no. This is America, and there must be outrage.
Jacob was “absolutely humiliated,” [his mother Cara] Koscinski said to The Post. “It was unbelievable. I ordered the special graduation edition cake. I can’t believe I’m the first one to ever write 'Summa Cum Laude' on a cake." Koscinski said she then had to explain why the grocery store censored “cum” from Jacob’s cake to her 70-year-old mother.

Jacob didn’t eat much of the cake after that but his mother says the chocolate and vanilla cake was delicious.

Koscinski called Publix on Monday and explained the situation to the assistant manager. She said she doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else in the future. Publix offered to remake the cake. She declined.

“No,” she said, “you only graduate once.”
 If the boy is so "humiliated," why go to the media and connect his name forever to sensitivity to "cum"?

ADDED: I've got to front-page something I wrote in the comments:
Maybe the mother should have thought twice about putting "cum" on a cake....

Publix should say: You know, Ms. Koscinski, a cake really is better without cum on it. We really believe that here at Publix. What if some wag at your party thought to make a joke out of cutting a slice of cake so that just the word "cum" was on one piece? What if he'd served that to your 70-year-old mother and everyone was laughing and she didn't understand why and you had to explain that? Really, we protected you from some consequences you might not have considered.

The NYT reports on a Tibetan businessman who was sentenced, in China, to 5 years in prison for interviews that he gave to the NYT.

"Tibetan Activist Who Promoted His Native Language Is Sentenced to Prison":
The businessman, Tashi Wangchuk... was arrested in early 2016, two months after he was featured in a New York Times video and article about Tibetan language education. He stood trial in January this year, charged with “inciting separatism” for comments he had made to The Times....

The Chinese Communist Party for decades maintained policies intended to keep ethnic minorities, especially Tibetans and Uighurs, under political control while giving them some space to preserve their own languages and cultures. But under Xi Jinping, the staunch Communist Party leader who came to power in 2012, China has adopted more assimilationist policies, designed to absorb these minorities into the fold of one Chinese nation.

At his trial in January, Mr. Tashi, speaking in Chinese, rejected the idea that his efforts to rejuvenate the Tibetan language were a crime. He has said that he does not advocate independence for Tibet, but wants the rights for ethnic minorities that are promised by Chinese law, including the right to use their own language....
Here's the NYT video from 2016:



Tashi, in the video: “In politics, it’s said that if one nation wants to eliminate another nation, first they need to eliminate their spoken and written language.... In effect, there is a systematic slaughter of our culture.”

Starbucks in Japan

So inspiring! Beautiful!

Meanwhile, in the United States, Starbucks struggles to blend in. Via Reddit:
Starbucks on Monday emphasized in communications with The Wall Street Journal that employees have detailed instructions on what to do if someone is behaving in a disruptive manner. It said disruptive behaviors include smoking, drug or alcohol use, improper use of restrooms and sleeping.

The company's latest message shows the challenges companies face when they address socially sensitive policies in an era of social media when every corporate move can be immediately telegraphed. Some people tweeted and posted supportive comments about Starbucks's policy of inclusiveness, demonstrating the tightrope the company must walk in trying to cater to all customers....

Managers and baristas, Starbucks said, should first ask a fellow employee to verify that a certain behavior is disruptive and if it is, respectfully request that the customer stop. Starbucks says employees only should call 911 if a situation becomes unsafe.

Other examples of disruptive behavior include talking too loud, playing loud music and viewing inappropriate content. The company provided employees with examples of when they should call 911, which includes when a customer is using or selling drugs.
I can only gesture at the question whether differences between Japanese and American culture account for the differences in handling these 2 problems of one corporation interfacing with a culture. It is easier to blend in architecturally than socially and politically. Architecturally, you know what to look at: the surrounding buildings. You can observe concrete elements and attempt to copy them. But socially and politically, what do you do? You've been criticized in a sudden spate and you're suddenly sticking out because one incident hit media virally. Any solution brings new problems, leading to new incidents and, perhaps, the silent draining away of your old patrons.

May 21, 2018

At the Redbud Café...

P1170314

... you can talk about whatever you want.

And please consider using the Althouse Portal to Amazon.

"How a girl disposes her legs when seated can instantly signal your most effective approach."

"Of the prevalent leg positions displayed on these pages, pay particular attention to the Schemer and the Philanthropist...."

From "The Language of Legs" in the April 1969 issue of Playboy (click to enlarge):



I'm just flipping through this issue of Playboy because it contains the interview with Allen Ginsberg that I'd read at the time and wanted so much to be able to reread again that I subscribed to Playboy. I chose 1-month of unlimited access to the archive, which cost $8.

Sample from the Ginsburg interview:

"God made you like this and loves you like this and I don’t care. The pope loves you like this. You have to be happy with who you are."

Pope Francis says it's fine to be gay.

Why I subscribed to Playboy.

For the interviews!

Specifically, I wanted to read the interview with Allen Ginsberg in the April 1969 issue, and that's something I'm doing right now. But I also loved the idea of getting access to all of the back issues, including all the issues that were available to me to read (or otherwise gaze upon) when I was growing up in Delaware and New Jersey in the 1950s and 60s.

I love the old ads too:

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court upholds employer-employee arbitration agreements that provide for individual proceedings.

In an opinion by Justice Gorsuch, it says the text of the federal Arbitration Act is clear and the National Labor Relations Board wrongly found a way to avoid it. Justice Ginsburg writes for the dissenters (joined by Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan). As SCOTUSblog excerpts from the dissenting opinion:
"It is the result," she says, "of take-it-or-leave-it labor contracts harking back to the type called 'yellow dog,' and of the readiness of this Court to enforce those unbargained-for agreements. The [Federal Arbitration Act] demands no such suppression for the right of workers to take concerted action for their 'mutual aid or protection.'"

Concern of dissent is that individual claims tend to be small, so that it's not necessarily worth the expense to pursue individually, but now they can't pursue together either.

Justice Ginsburg is now reading from her dissenting opinion. This is a relatively rare and significant move.
This is a big win for management — Epic Systems, Inc. v. Lewis.

ADDED: I'll excerpt this from the majority opinion:
[The employees] don’t suggest that their arbitration agreements were extracted, say, by an act of fraud or duress or in some other unconscionable way that would render any contract unenforceable. Instead, they object to their agreements precisely because they require individualized arbitration proceedings instead of class or collective ones. And by attacking (only) the individualized nature of the arbitration proceedings, the employees’ argument seeks to interfere with one of arbitration’s fundamental attributes.

I guess Exley is — what? — her dog?



Here's the "pustule" thing she retweeted (with the comment "I knew he was rotten but I thought it was on the inside"):

Maddie Poppe sings Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide"...



... on the "American Idol" finale last night. The results are revealed tonight, in a show that will include, among other things, Maddie Poppe singing her audition song, "Rainbow Connection," with Kermit the Frog. I don't know what you like to watch on TV but Maddie Poppe singing "Rainbow Connection" with Kermit the Frog sounds like the best thing that's been on TV in years.

Here's the audition version of "Rainbow Connection" (one of my all-time favorite songs):



ADDED: "If not for american idol i may have never heard her artistry.she is so cute.when i hear her sing it makes me want to ride a merry go round at the county fair" — a comment on this video from last year, before the TV-show competition began:

"Political correctness: a force for good?"



A debate with Michael Eric Dyson and Michelle Goldberg for the proposition and Stephen Fry and Jordan Peterson against.

"New York City is rife with scents that make it a diverse 'smellscape'..."

According to "New York Today: Smelling Your Way to Work" (NYT).
On one recent work-bound walk to the F train, I was puzzled to meet a half dozen separate smells along just one block. Garbage, which seemed peculiar on a decently clean sidewalk; skunk, which left me wondering how prevalent the animals are in the city; cookies, which nearly caused me to detour; and burned rubber, then grass, then dish soap.

The scents may come from miles away, according to Kate McLean, a Ph.D. candidate at the Royal College of Art in London, whose research has focused on mapping urban “smellscapes.”...

She noted... subway stations and pretzel stands... [and] a composite of fried garlic, wheat grass and tarmac.... “The smell from the sidewalk, and the reflective qualities of the tarmac, and garlic — it’s very, very New York. It’s healthy living alongside the traffic alongside the heat.”
McClean conducts "smellwalks" for tourists. And here's one of her "smellmaps."

"Socialism Is on a Winning Streak."

It's John Nichols, at The Nation.
From the 1910s through the 1940s, Socialist Party members served as state legislators, mayors, city councilors and school board members. The Pennsylvania party, with its deep roots in Reading, produced national Socialist leaders, including candidates for president and vice president....

But the dry spell is over. Socialists have been on an electoral winning streak in some parts of the country for a number of years—Socialist Alternative’s Kshama Sawant made her electoral breakthrough in 2013, winning a major race for the Seattle City Council—but the results from western Pennsylvania in the past two years have been particularly striking. And, now, national observers are starting to take note. “Democratic Socialists scores big wins in Pennsylvania,” declared CNN this week, while The New Yorker announced: “A Democratic-Socialist Landslide in Pennsylvania.”

... “We’re turning the state the right shade of red tonight,” declared Arielle Cohen, the co-chair of the Pittsburgh chapter of DSA....

Official logo of the Democratic Socialists of America via Wikipedia.

ADDED: About that official logo. I presume the white and black outlines for the shaking hands are intended to represent white and black people coming together in socialism. Why then is white the color for the outlining of the rose? It seems to convey the dominance of white. You might try to defend the design by saying the socialists want to say that there is white supremacy and it needs to be recognized in order to be fought, but portraying white supremacy as a rose would suggest that it's good. And, in any event, the red rose (according to the above-linked Wikipedia article) is a traditional symbol of socialism. The logo infuses the symbol of socialism with whiteness, the whiteness that is the white hand that shakes the black hand. It seems to say that white people welcome black people into what is a white enclave.

"In no way would a fourth-hand report from a Maltese professor justify wholesale targeting of four or five members of the Trump campaign."

"It took Christopher Steele, with his funding concealed through false campaign filings, to be incredibly successful at creating a vast echo chamber around his unverified, fanciful dossier, bouncing it back and forth between the press and the FBI so it appeared that there were multiple sources all coming to the same conclusion. Time and time again, investigators came up empty. Even several sting operations with an FBI spy we just learned about failed to produce a Delorean-like video with cash on the table. But rather than close the probe, the deep state just expanded it. All they had were a few isolated contacts with Russians and absolutely nothing related to Trump himself, yet they pressed forward. Egged on by Steele, they simply believed Trump and his team must be dirty. They just needed to dig deep enough...."

From "Stopping Robert Mueller to protect us all" by Mark Penn (The Hill).

"Right now we’re living through a full-fledged crisis in our democracy. No, there are not tanks in the streets, but what’s happening right now goes to the heart of who we are as a nation..."

"... and I say this not as a Democrat who lost an election but as an American afraid of losing a country. There are certain things that are so essential they should transcend politics. Waging a war on the rule of law and a free press, de-legitimizing elections, perpetrating shameless corruption and rejecting the idea that our leaders should be public servants undermines our national unity. And attacking truth and reason, evidence and facts should alarm us all."

Who knows whether all or some or none among the graduating class at Yale were alarmed when Hillary Clinton intoned those words? But I do note that somebody was sitting right there in the front row wearing a witch's hat...



So if we're doing witch hunts, I found one. I mean, I know there's a hat thing going on at Yale. the linked article (in the New Haven Register) does talk about it:
It is Class Day tradition for the seniors to wear silly, imaginative headgear and Clinton held up a Russian fur cap, saying, “I brought a hat too — a Russian hat. Look, I mean, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!”
Join the Russians.

Meanwhile, at the other hyper-elite school: "Hillary Clinton will receive Harvard’s prestigious Radcliffe Medal for her 'transformative impact on society.'"

May 20, 2018

At the Flower Tree Café...

P1170285

... you can talk about anything.

And remember the Althouse Portal to Amazon.

"I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes - and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!"

The newest Donald Trump tweet.

Also this morning — in order from oldest to newest:
Things are really getting ridiculous. The Failing and Crooked (but not as Crooked as Hillary Clinton) @nytimes has done a long & boring story indicating that the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt has found nothing on Russia & me so now they are looking at the rest of the World!

....At what point does this soon to be $20,000,000 Witch Hunt, composed of 13 Angry and Heavily Conflicted Democrats and two people who have worked for Obama for 8 years, STOP! They have found no Collussion with Russia, No Obstruction, but they aren’t looking at the corruption...

...in the Hillary Clinton Campaign where she deleted 33,000 Emails, got $145,000,000 while Secretary of State, paid McCabes wife $700,000 (and got off the FBI hook along with Terry M) and so much more. Republicans and real Americans should start getting tough on this Scam.

Now that the Witch Hunt has given up on Russia and is looking at the rest of the World, they should easily be able to take it into the Mid-Term Elections where they can put some hurt on the Republican Party. Don’t worry about Dems FISA Abuse, missing Emails or Fraudulent Dossier!

What ever happened to the Server, at the center of so much Corruption, that the Democratic National Committee REFUSED to hand over to the hard charging (except in the case of Democrats) FBI? They broke into homes & offices early in the morning, but were afraid to take the Server?

....and why hasn’t the Podesta brother been charged and arrested, like others, after being forced to close down his very large and successful firm? Is it because he is a VERY well connected Democrat working in the Swamp of Washington, D.C.?

The Witch Hunt finds no Collusion with Russia - so now they’re looking at the rest of the World. Oh’ great!

"Will it soon be possible... to simulate the feeling of a spirit not attached to any particular physical form using virtual or augmented reality?"

"If so, a good place to start would be to figure out the minimal amount of body we need to feel a sense of self, especially in digital environments where more and more people may find themselves for work or play. It might be as little as a pair of hands and feet...."

From "In Virtual Reality, How Much Body Do You Need?/It might be as little as a pair of hands and feet, researchers in Japan found after recording subjects who wore an Oculus Rift headset." (NYT).