October 24, 2016

At the Icee Café...


1. You can talk in the comments about anything you want. That's what "Café" in the post title means.

2. Please consider doing your shopping through the Althouse Amazon Portal (which you can always find in the banner to this blog) or the Amazon search box in the sidebar. The Amazon Associates program is the main way this blog is monetized, and your support for the writing I do here is noticed and appreciated.

3. Why did I take a picture of an Icee truck? I'm fascinated by the brand name "Icee," which I'd only ever noticed before in crossword puzzles, where it is one of those words — like aloe and oreo and aria — that have convenient letters and are used way too much. And I liked the graphic design — the way the product flows splashily indicating forward motion of the truck (even when the truck is parked).

"Last night’s episode of Saturday Night Live exposed the harsh truth of Halloween as an adult..."

"... and it was frankly a little too real."

ADDED: In case you don't have the patience to watch the clip: It shows 3 young women being cutesy about getting ready for Halloween, intercut with scenes from much later in the night where they are falling-down drunk.

I've observed the transition of Halloween into an adult holiday, including some really high-quality manifestations of the trend — most notably the parades in Greenwich Village in the 1970s. And I'm fine with the street parties like Madison's Freakfest. But the adult enthusiasm for Halloween strikes me as just dumb. Why isn't the popular culture more interesting?

As for drinking too much: Don't do that. Actually, I'm surprised that SNL is getting away with doing humor that is basically just showing women getting very drunk. That used to be a staple of TV comedy... Foster Brooks, Dean Martin...

... but I'd thought that had fallen out of favor — what with alcoholism being a disease.

Tom Hayden died yesterday.

He was 76. Here's the NYT obituary:
In 1961, Mr. Hayden joined the Freedom Riders on interstate buses in the South, challenging authorities who refused to enforce the Supreme Court’s rulings banning segregation on public buses. His jailhouse draft of what became the 25,000-word S.D.S. manifesto was debated, revised and formally adopted at the organization’s first convention, in Port Huron, Mich., in 1962.

“We are people of this generation,” it began, “bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.” It did not recommend specific programs but attacked the arms race, racial discrimination, bureaucracy and apathy in the face of poverty, and it called for “participatory democracy” and a society based on “fraternity,” “honesty” and “brotherhood.”...
Much more at the link, including this, about the part of his life he shared with Jane Fonda:
Although Ms. Fonda was a wealthy movie star and financially supported Mr. Hayden’s early political career, she and Mr. Hayden lived for years in a modest home in Santa Monica, near but not on the ocean. They did their own shopping and laundry, cooked meals in a tiny kitchen with an old stove and shared child-care duties for Troy and Vanessa....

"In reality, there is no such thing as not voting..."

"If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don't bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don't bullshit yourself that you're not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard's vote."

A quote from David Foster Wallace, stumbled into while looking for a list of people famous for not voting.

I'm still looking for a good list of famous people who don't vote. I found a list of 10 from 2012 (in Mental Floss). It includes Zachary Taylor:
Before “Old Rough and Ready” was elected president in 1848, he had never voted. This can partly be explained by Taylor’s constant relocation as a soldier; he never established residency and never registered to vote. But our 12th president also reportedly claimed that he would never want to vote against a potential commander-in-chief—even when his name was on the ballot.
There was this "Don't Vote" hipsterism in 2008, which I can't put up with long enough to figure out how it turns into a pitch to vote for Obama...

... but it does make me think that we are not getting the kind of celebrity videos for Hillary that we got for Obama in '08. But we must be getting some, because there's this:

Okay. Working backwards from that I got to this.

How did that escape me?

Bob Kerrey says Trump is putting out "the geezer cynic" message that you shouldn't get involved because the voting is rigged.

Former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey was on CNN's "State of the Union" yesterday. The host Jake Tapper had asked him whether election rigging was "something you worried about... except from the other side of the aisle." I think that translates to: Did you ever worry about Democrats rigging elections?
KERREY: I mean, the big thing you always worry about whether people will register and get out to vote. No, never worried about rigging of any election I've ever been a part of.
Another guest, Dana Loesch (of The Blaze) observed that if a candidate (like Trump) says the vote is rigged, it might make your own supporters feel that they shouldn't bother voting. This prompts Kerrey to say something that made me want to write this blog post:
KERREY: There's also sort of a tendency of older people, and I can speak on behalf of older people in this town.... There's a tendency as you go through life to become bitter. The one thing I don't like is when you listen to old people telling young people, don't get involved. Don't participate. The whole system is rigged. It isn't rigged. It's terrific to get involved. There's great opportunity to be involved. Both Republican and Democrat. I've rarely talked to anybody that got involved in politics who said it was (INAUDIBLE). So the central message [Trump]'s putting out there is sort of the geezer cynic don't get involved because the whole thing does work. It does work.
1. I'd put a hyphen between "geezer" and "cynic" because (I think) it's used as an adjective. Trump is putting out a geezer-cynic message.

2. Is "it's all rigged" the kind of belief that should be associated with old and cynical people? It is something Bernie Sanders has also said this year, and though he himself is an old man, his message was appealing to young people.

3. Should young people turn away from a message because it is the sort of thing that older people come to believe? Does that make it toxic or, at least, dubious? Or can the young look upon older people as experienced and possibly a good source of information and wisdom?

4. Is prejudice against the old pernicious and something to be ashamed of or is it okay for Bob Kerrey to use the term "geezer" in mockery? Kerry identifies himself as one of the old people, so perhaps he's claiming a privilege to put old people down because he's one of them. But he's not embracing the ideas he's ascribing to the "geezer cynic." He expresses optimism, and he never refers to himself as a "geezer optimist."

5. Is there a natural process in aging that causes a person to distance himself from the affairs of the world and to begin to cede the decisions to younger people? If that is what is happening, why see it as cynicism if old people withdraw?

"A climate scientist who studied glaciers died in Antarctica on Saturday when the snowmobile he was riding went into a 100-foot-deep crevasse..."

"... according to the National Science Foundation, which was funding his research."
The researcher, Gordon Hamilton, died on White Island in the continent’s Ross Archipelago, according to the University of Maine, where he was an associate research professor in the glaciology group at the Climate Change Institute. He was 50....

Dr. Hamilton was camped out with his research team on what is known as the Shear Zone, an area about 3 miles by 125 miles where two ice shelves meet. While parts of the Shear Zone can be up to 650 feet thick, the area is “intensely crevassed,” according to the National Science Foundation.

At the time of the accident, Dr. Hamilton’s team was working with an operations team to identify crevasses in the area, some of which were found and filled earlier in the week. Both teams included experts familiar with the area and with glacial safety.
Here's a video from 2013, showing Gordon Hamilton explaining his work:

"I can’t think of a better job or another job I would rather be doing."

Is SNL's "Black Jeopardy" racist?

It's very funny and has a significant point to make — that lower class black and white people are more alike than different — but that doesn't make it not racist:

This is from last Saturday's show, with Tom Hanks, and — looking for commentary on it — I am reminded that the "Black Jeopardy" idea has been used before, but, in earlier variations, the third contestant — the one who doesn't fit the stereotype of a lower class black person — was unable to understand the questions in the stereotypically lower-class-black-person way that was easy for the other 2 contestants. There was Drake, the Canadian black person, and Louis C.K. as a white African-American studies professor. This past week, the contestant who seemed not to belong (because he was white), was, in fact, able to get all the answers.

Tom Hanks's lower-class white man wore a "Make America Great Again" hat, and this led one commentator, Daniel Barna at Complex to say:
There may not be as big a difference between Trump supporters and the black community after all. That was the clever premise behind Saturday Night Live's "Black Jeopardy" sketch, which saw last night's host Tom Hanks don a red “Make America Great Again” cap as Doug, a pretty docile Trumpeteer who gives all other Trumpeteers a good name.
Docile. Well, I guess the point is that SNL viewers were invited to perceive the disaffected white people who turn to Trump as sympathetic because they remind us of black people — even though the black people he's like — the other "Black Jeopardy" contestants — have clownishly rude and ignorant ideas. I wouldn't call them docile. They are angry, suspicious, and proud of themselves — in a manner similar to the stereotypical Trumpster.

Here's Daniel Politi at Slate:
[T]his episode of “Black Jeopardy” looked to be an easy setup to mercilessly mock Trump supporters at every turn. Instead, it revealed that conspiracy theorist Doug had a lot more in common with the other contestants—Leslie Jones as Shanice and Sasheer Zamata as Keeley—than most people would have likely expected....
Oh! I thought I was going to get some serious analysis here. Actually, this goes nowhere. I had the feeling that people were talking about this sketch, but I'm not finding any depth to the analysis.

To me, the sketch is too racist to just point at and call funny. It relies on a stereotype of black people.

It's also too serious not to want to talk seriously about. The serious point is something I've heard — mostly from left-wing people — for decades: That what really matters is not race but class. This orientation is important going forward out of the 2016 election, because the Trumpsters have peeled away from the establishment Republican Party. Where will they go after Trump loses the election? (I know, I'm assuming, but come on.) Shouldn't the people who coalesced around Bernie Sanders be looking to embrace the disaffected, working-class white people who turned to Trump? I could see the 2 parties flipping and re-composing themselves, with half of each party connecting with half of the other. Maybe nobody wants to talk about this until after the election is over. But no: I do.  want to talk about it.

ADDED: Meade wanted me to address the "punchline" of the sketch. The "final Jeopardy" category is announced: "Lives that matter." The black host and contestants turn and stare at Hanks. This happens after Hanks had won their enthusiastic approval and inclusiveness. The host then laughs and says: "Well, it was good while it lasted." The audience laughs a lot. Hanks's Doug mutters that he has a lot to say about that, and the host (Keenan Thompson) brushes him off.

This could be taken to mean that the idea that had been developed — that working-class people should see what they have in common and get together — was all just a fantasy that everyone entertained for a while and now we're getting back to the reality of hostility and deep-seated suspicion.

But I saw the ending as similar to the ending of the great old "Theodoric of York" SNL sketch from 1978. In that sketch, Steve Martin plays a "medieval barber" who, in the end, gets the idea of using the scientific method to understand disease and discover treatments. Then there's a pause and the sketch ends with him saying: "Nah!"

That doesn't mean that the "nah" was the right answer. It's patently wrong, but Theodoric made progress toward the right answer before he threw it away. Thus, the last line isn't necessarily the insight the writers want you to take with you. That line could be the funny-sad experience of the characters losing an insight that you have received and should not forget. Indeed, the characters' loss of the insight could reinforce its value as you feel the poignancy of their losing it.

Why does The New Yorker's endorsement of Hillary Clinton praise something it recently published a piece rejecting?

John Althouse Cohen writes:
The New Yorker's endorsement of Hillary Clinton praises her for planning to "increase the tax rate on short-term capital gains for high earners, with lower rates for longer-term holdings." Why wasn't the New Yorker convinced by its own article against this plan?
Here's the editorial endorsing Hillary Clinton. This is all there is on the topic, with the proposal lumped together with a handful of things:
Clinton’s tax plans are also designed to promote broader-based affluence. She would increase the tax rate on short-term capital gains for high earners, with lower rates for longer-term holdings; close the “carried-interest” tax loophole that favors hedge-fund managers; and levy fees on banks with high debt levels....
Here's the James Surowiecki article — published by The New Yorker in August 2015 — "The Short-Termism Myth":
The political appeal of [Hillary Clinton's] plan is clear. It targets wealthy investors, is friendly to executives, and is aimed at getting companies to spend more money. Unfortunately, it almost certainly won’t work. The simplest reason for this is that the plan would affect only a small slice of the market. Len Burman, a tax expert at the Urban Institute, told me, “The plan’s unlikely to have a major impact on stock prices, since most of the money in the market is controlled by institutions that don’t pay capital-gains taxes, like endowments and pension funds.” Burman also made the point that pushing people to hold stocks they would rather sell is hardly conducive to productive investment. “Even if short-termism is the problem, locking people into unprofitable transactions for long periods of time doesn’t really seem like a great solution,” he said.

Aside from these practical problems, the plan rests on two common but ultimately questionable assumptions. The first is that corporate decision-makers care only about the short term. The second is that it’s the stock market that makes them think this way. These assumptions are widely shared and long-standing, in both business and academe...
I'm just putting this problem out there, not expressing an opinion. Who am I to disagree with "assumptions... widely shared and long-standing, in both business and academe"?

October 23, 2016

Robby Mook's sleight of hand about the Democratic operatives who manufactured violence at Trump rallies.

On CNN's "State of the Union" this morning, Jake Tapper confronted Robby Mook (Clinton's campaign manager) about Robert Creamer and Scott Foval, the 2 Democratic operatives who "were caught on tape talking about instigating violence at a Trump rally."
TAPPER: Have you looked into whether or not Democratic operatives paid by the Democratic National Committee were actually instigating these horrific actions, these violent actions we saw at Trump rallies? That's -- I'm sure you would agree, if that's true, that's really offensive.

MOOK: Well, violence is unacceptable. These individuals no longer have a relationship with the DNC. They have never had a relationship with the Clinton campaign. And my understanding is that the events that are referenced happened, I think, in February of last year. They didn't have a contract with the DNC until June. 
That doesn't get the DNC off the hook. Why were these people hired? They did something, and then they were hired. Were they hired because they'd shown what kind of dirty tricks they were capable of?
MOOK: But, putting that all aside, this was, again, a video that was leaked out for the purpose of damaging the campaign. It's edited, so we don't know what the full context is. And there is -- there's no evidence whatsoever that we have been able to find that anyone ever did anything like this when they were working for the DNC. 
Mook sounds so guilty there. He's mad that any video exists (because it hurts his candidate), and he's also telling us not to make any inferences about anything that isn't proved by video. Again, I'm thinking: They did something bad before they were agents of the DNC, so why did the DNC hire them and what did they do?

Lake Mendota, today.


"[B]illions of ordinary web-connected devices — many of them highly insecure — can be turned to vicious purposes."

"And the threats will continue long after Election Day for a nation that increasingly keeps its data in the cloud and has oftentimes kept its head in the sand...."
[H]undreds of thousands, and maybe millions, of... security cameras and other devices have been infected with a fairly simple program that guessed at their factory-set passwords — often “admin” or “12345” or even, yes, “password” — and, once inside, turned them into an army of simple robots. Each one was commanded, at a coordinated time, to bombard a small company in Manchester, N.H., called Dyn DNS with messages that overloaded its circuits....

[I]t is not clear in the United States who is supposed to be protecting [the Internet]. The network does not belong to the government — or really to anyone...

The Department of Homeland Security is supposed to provide the baseline of internet defense for the United States.... The F.B.I. investigates breaches, but that takes time....

Most of the devices have been hooked up to the web over the past few years with little concern for security. Cheap parts, some coming from Chinese suppliers, have weak or no password protections, and it is not obvious how to change those passwords....
But "the internet of things" sounds so cute. All the cute stuff will be rallied by... whoever it is out there issuing commands.

Maybe President Hillary will fix it. She's got years of experience in this area.

"Fish fraud, misrepresenting a fish as a more expensive one, costs Americans $25 billion a year."

"And because less than 100 inspectors check for fraud in the US and everyone from wholesalers to sushi restaurants are free to rip off their customers."

That's a Stuff You Should Know podcast, and I feel that half of you are thinking: I don't have time to listen to a podcast, and if I did, I wouldn't listen to something science-related from people who use "less" where it's supposed to be "fewer."

But: I love the Stuff You Should Know podcast guys. They're very pleasant and relaxing to listen to. So the podcast method of acquiring information is exactly what's best under certain circumstances. (I listen to audiobooks when I'm walking and can give my full attention but I like podcasts when I'm getting dressed in the morning and making my toast and coffee.)

And: There are 5 links at the link, so even if you don't listen to the podcast, you can look into the subject, which made a big impression on me. If you spend money on fish, you should know — as they say in the podcast titled — about this problem.

"One reason it took paleontologists so long to classify Wade as a new species had to do with where it was found."

"Most of Wade’s remains were trapped in a boulder. Even with the help of hundreds of volunteer fossil enthusiasts, about a decade passed before Wade was finally extracted."

The new species is: Titanosaur.

How Penn State beat Ohio State.

Here's a great highlight summary of the game:

October 22, 2016

On Picnic Point, this afternoon.

So many people were out enjoying the beautiful colors and light:


A view over the water, back at the Capitol:


Trump's Gettysburg Address — did you get the feeling you were listening to his concession speech...

... or does it feel more as though he's trying to seem as though he's a new candidate just starting out? Let me do a poll....

What are you hearing?
pollcode.com free polls

"If [Trump] gets in, good luck to him. That's what the people wanted...."

"He's an entertainer.... I doubt he thought about becoming president a year ago, and it's like a joke that got out of hand.... It's like [a 1980s comedy movie that] would start with two old billionaires going, 'I bet I can choose the worst person and make him president within a year.' And then someone goes, 'You're on!' and that's how the film starts."

Said Ricky Gervais, very aptly.

Yes, this is a democracy, and if Trump becomes President, there's no blaming Trump. It's something the people made happen. The same goes for Hillary and for our awful predicament having Hillary and Trump as the candidates. That's us. It's like America got up one morning, looked in the mirror, saw it was ugly and had to decide what to do about it. America could put on a big hat, pulled down low over the eyes, dark glasses, and a big scarf around the neck and a big heavy coat before going out into the world. Or America could say, I'm going to be out and proud. I'm going to rock the ugly. Those are the options. What are you going to do?

"Bob Dylan's failure to acknowledge his Nobel Prize in literature is 'impolite and arrogant,' according to a member of the body that awards it."

Well, it's impolite and arrogant to say that too, isn't it?
Academy member Per Wastberg told Swedish television: "He is who he is," adding that there was little surprise Dylan had ignored the news. "We were aware that he can be difficult and that he does not like appearances when he stands alone on the stage"...

Mr Wastberg called the snub "unprecedented", but... Jean-Paul Sartre in 1964 [rejected the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964].
And here's the very cool video of Doris Lessing climbing out of a cab and getting confronted with the news that she just won the Prize:

I especially love the artichokes.

And why did Sartre refuse the Nobel Prize? Here's his explanation, translated and published in The New York Review of Books in 1964:
[M]y refusal is not an impulsive gesture, I have always declined official honors...

This attitude is based on my conception of the writer’s enterprise. A writer who adopts political, social, or literary positions must act only with the means that are his own—that is, the written word. All the honors he may receive expose his readers to a pressure I do not consider desirable. If I sign myself Jean-Paul Sartre it is not the same thing as if I sign myself Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prizewinner....

The writer must therefore refuse to let himself be transformed into an institution....
That is the "personal" reason for refusing. There are also what he calls the "objective" reasons:
The only battle possible today on the cultural front is the battle for the peaceful coexistence of the two cultures, that of the East and that of the West.... I myself am deeply affected by the contradiction between the two cultures: I am made up of such contradictions. My sympathies undeniably go to socialism and to what is called the Eastern bloc, but I was born and brought up in a bourgeois family and a bourgeois culture. This permits me to collaborate with all those who seek to bring the two cultures closer together. I nonetheless hope, of course, that “the best man wins.” That is, socialism.

This is why I cannot accept an honor awarded by cultural authorities, those of the West any more than those of the East, even if I am sympathetic to their existence....
I love the illustration, by the great NYRB caricaturist, David Levine. 

And suddenly, I want to link to this article that I just saw on the front-page of the NYT website: "Campaign Aims to Help Pepe the Frog Shed Its Image as Hate Symbol."

ADDED: Making a Doris Lessing tag and applying it retroactively, I discover that I commented on that Doris Lessing video clip back in 2007 in a post called "Why did Doris Lessing say 'Oh, Christ' on hearing that she won the Nobel Prize?" At the time I said:
I think she was annoyed that this was going to be the video clip that everyone would watch forever. She'll always have her hair like that, her face like that — however she happened to end up after she'd been dragging herself around town all morning. And now she has to say something, and it better be good, because everyone will quote it. Oh, Christ, I have to go through this whole thing right now.

And it worked out for her. Everyone thinks "Oh, Christ" means so much. It's profound. But, really, it's not as if she could have squealed like an actress winning the Oscar. You don't think she was thrilled, inside?

Or maybe she was kind of pissed, and said "Oh, Christ" in the sense of: So, now, finally they get around to me... after all those second-rate hacks who got the prize all those years when I was ready with my hair done and my makeup on and a nice quote ready to go.

Question: Does Cher still go on television and sing "I Got You Babe"?

Answer: Yes.

That's painful. Or so I thought for most of the performance... which has her singing with the Late Late Show's James Corden, who's sort of in the Sonny role, but also looking and acting like Cher. The joke is that the song is modernized to refer to swiping on an iPhone and "Netflix and chill" and sexting and deleting porn history and calling your relationship "offish" (which is better than the word it's treated as rhyming with — "marriage"). I was cringing in the pain but as it went on — with both Cher and Corden totally committed to making a joke out of the song — I stopped feeling bad for Cher and I finally realized that this actually is exactly the kind of comedy Cher did with Sonny on her old TV show. She's a great comedienne and not just a movie actress comedienne, but a TV comedienne, which means selling some half-assed sketches. It's not easy. It takes real skill and nerve.

"Something very positive has come out of Trump's run for the Presidency. Women have come out of the shadows..."

".... refusing to feel shame about some of the terrible things that have happened to them, and they have shared their stories. Shared them [publicly] and in print. Some have spoken about sexual assault and how that has affected them going forward. Some have shared stories about their abortions. There is such power when we come together as a group. The plots of the stories may differ but many of the feelings are the same. What you did for precious Lev is motherhood in its highest form. You protected him. You protected him from trauma, pain and suffering. And then you turned this dreadful experience into something positive. The experience didn't harden you, it softened you. Bless you for openly sharing your story. I know you have touched many people. Thank you."

The top-rated comment on a NYT op-ed titled "Late-Term Abortion Was the Right Choice for Me."

By the way, I need to elaborate on something I was writing about yesterday in the post "Who — Trump or Hillary — was confused or dishonest about abortion at the last debate?" I was looking very closely at a something written by the obstetrician/gynecologist Jen Gunter, who had mostly attacked what Donald Trump said about abortion in the last debate, but who also said that Hillary Clinton was "confused." Gunter wrote:
Talking about abortion from a medical perspective is challenging when you are not a health care provider. Even someone familiar with the laws can get confused. For example, Mrs. Clinton made an error speaking about late-term abortion when she said it was a health of the mother issue. Typically it is not (it’s almost always fetal anomalies).... I don’t know where Mrs. Clinton got this “bad news at the end” of the pregnancy being about maternal health.... [N]o one is performing health of the mother abortions at 38 or 39 weeks we just do deliveries. It’s called obstetrics.
Gunter proceeds to talk about "deliveries" that are designed to kill the unborn — a procedure she speaks of approvingly because "After 24 weeks birth defects that lead to abortion are very severe and typically considered incompatible with life." Now, 24 weeks is generally considered the point of viability, and under the case law, a woman has a right to choose to have an abortion for any reason prior to viability. But after viability, laws may protect the life of the unborn, but the woman has a right to get an abortion to protect her own life or health.

That, I assume, is the reason why Hillary Clinton spoke of late-term abortion as a matter of the woman's health. In other words, it wasn't "an error." The person "with the laws" was not "confused." She was framing her position carefully to fit the law. Gunter is a person familiar with the medical practice. From her point of view, Hillary seemed "confused" because Hillary's position is out of line with the real-life facts as Gunter has experienced them. So it seems that Gunter stumbled into what can be understood as devastating to Hillary Clinton's position. I don't know how many people will notice this, however. I didn't notice it when I wrote the post yesterday.

Here's something else I noticed only after writing the post.