October 31, 2015

"Just when you thought the Republican Party was destined to take a turn toward the ugly..."

"... two boyishly handsome young stars have emerged."

"He played the beginning on the piano, then stopped and said, 'And this is where the opera section comes in!' Then we went out to eat dinner."

He = Freddie Mercury. He was talking about "Bohemian Rhapsody," which was released 40 years ago today.

Marking the occasion in the news:

1. NPR: "8 things you didn’t know about ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’" The most interesting thing is: "Mercury was listening to the soundtrack for 'Cabaret'... while he worked on the song’s musical composition in 1975." And: "In his London home, where he did most of the work, Mercury slept in front of a piano, which doubled as his bed headboard."

2. The UK Telegraph: "Why we still can't get enough of Queen": "Resolutely uncool, their music heaved with pretensions, and their lyrics were often pure nonsense... they seldom if ever tried to 'say' anything..."

3. Entertainment Weekly: "How well do you know Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody'?" A quiz. 

4. The Mirror: "On 40th anniversary of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody enjoy 40 fascinating facts about Freddie Mercury hit": "The 120 overdubbed tracks in Bohemian Rhapsody took more than 70 hours to complete. The tape had almost disintegrated by the time they were perfected.... It was knocked off the top spot by Abba’s Mamma Mia – a song which echoed the famous line 'mamma mia let me go' from ­Bohemian Rhapsody’s chorus.... Some think 'Galileo' is a reference to Brian May, who holds a PhD in astrophysics...."

5. BBC: "Brian May on 40 years of Bohemian Rhapsody: 'I still listen to it in the car'": "There's a layer of humour in Queen songs - and Mike Myers [in 'Wayne's World'] managed to find it in Bohemian Rhapsody. It made it into a different kind of classic, and propelled it to a second life in the States. There's a huge irony there - because there was a time when we completely owned America and we would tour there every year. It seemed like we couldn't go wrong - and then we lost America for various reasons....  Freddie had a very dark sense of humour. And he used to say: 'I suppose I'll have to die before we get America back.' And, in a sense, that was what happened. And it was Wayne's World - which came completely out of nowhere - that made it happen."

6. Rolling Stone: "Party On: Queen's Brian May Remembers 'Bohemian Rhapsody' on 40th Anniversary": "We had an unwritten law that whoever brought the song in would have the final say in how it turned out... Probably the most unusual thing was, John [Deacon] said to him, 'What are you going to call it then, is it called "Mama?"' And Freddie went, 'No, I think we'll call it 'Bohemian Rhapsody.' And there was a little silence, everybody thought, 'Okaaay…' I don't think anybody said, 'Why?' but there it was. How strange to call a song 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' but it just suits it down to the ground and it became a milestone. But nobody knew."

At the Tumbling Pumpkin Café...


... roll out your random ramblings.

"For the second time in three weeks, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination wiped millions of dollars off the value of an industry."

Clinton tweeted: "We need to end private prisons. Protecting public safety...should never be outsourced or left to unaccountable corporations."
Corrections Corp. of America fell more than 6 percent, lopping off approximately $200 million in value, while GEO Group Inc. dropped 4.2 percent, losing about $100 million.

"I get stomachaches from fear of what is going to happen — not just here but in the whole of Germany."

Said Dirk Hammer, a Sumte resident, quoted in a NYT article, "German Village of 102 Braces for 750 Asylum Seekers."

[He] said that he felt sympathy for the refugees, but that he feared the sheer number of people dumped with little warning in places like this could offer “an ideal platform for the far right.”.
Also quoted in the article is Holger Niemann, "32, an admirer of Hitler and the lone neo-Nazi on the elected district council": “It is bad for the people, but politically it is good for me.”

"An era of seaweed eating can start to seem inevitable—penance for the golden days of corn and cars and cows."

"Paul Greenberg, who has written extensively about the collapse of fish stocks, told Business Insider last year, 'If I could buy kelp futures, I would.' Given the exigencies of feeding the planet, it might be preferable to other available alternatives. 'It’s not worms and it’s not bugs, so that’s positive, right?' he said to me. 'I don’t think anyone is going to stick their finger down their throat and say, "Blech, kelp—I don’t want to eat it."' Cheryl Dahle, the founder of Future of Fish, says, 'We eat things now we never would have imagined eating twenty years ago. We eat dogfish. It’s called dogfish, for crying out loud! If we can develop a market for snakehead fish—an exotic, invasive aquarium species—out of the Chesapeake, we can create a market for kelp.'"

I was reading — listening to the podcast of — this New Yorker article — "A New Leaf/Seaweed could be a miracle food—if we can figure out how to make it taste good" — as I was walking into the kitchen this morning, reencountering my exotic, invasive husband Meade.

ME: "What do you know about kelp?"

MEADE: "Does any Bob Dylan song have the word 'kelp'?"

ME: "Does any Jerry Lewis movie have him named 'Kelp'?"

Meade says he doesn't follow Jerry Lewis, but I don't think you need to follow Jerry Lewis to know this one. "Professor Kelp?" I say, stalling for time, because I don't know the answer to the Bob Dylan question. I say that "kelp" is good if you need a rhyme for "help," and then, doing my search at bobdylan.com, I see I'm right. It's "Sara":
Now the beach is deserted except for some kelp
And a piece of an old ship that lies on the shore
You always responded when I needed your help
You gimme a map and a key to your door
Jerry played Professor Julius Kelp in more movies than just "The Nutty Professor." Here's a compilation:

When Jeb — giving a sword to Rubio — talked about a made-up Chinese character he called "Chang" — a "mystical warrior" who "has never let me down."

From a WaPo article — by Sean Sullivan, Manuel Roig-Franzia and David A. Fahrenthold — called "The 17-year story behind Marco Rubio’s cut-down of Jeb Bush":
By 2005, the two men were close enough that when Rubio gave an emotional speech after winning the race to be Florida’s House speaker... [Jeb] honored Rubio with a gift: a sword, which he said belonged to a great “conservative warrior” named Chang.

“Chang is somebody who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society... Chang, this mystical warrior, has never let me down.”

This gesture was even stranger than it sounds. It appears that “Chang” was not a real person but something from a Bush family in-joke about Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek (“Unleash Chiang!”). Now, Jeb — whose ­father was once the U.S. envoy to Beijing — had garbled the story into something about a mystical warrior with a sword.

The sword “really meant something to Jeb,” a longtime friend and colleague of both men said. “He thought it was Marco who would continue his legacy.”
So Jeb gave Rubio a sword and later Rubio performed a (metaphorical) "cut-down." With 3 writers on that WaPo story, couldn't they at least have figured out where Jeb got the sword?

I suspect re-gifting. Somebody gave somebody in the Bush family a sword. H.W. Bush served as an envoy in China. I suppose that over the years, the Bushes have gotten many gifts they don't love or need. Stuck with a sword... until you can stick somebody else with it.

What went into the decision to give the new speaker of the Florida house a sword? Normally, the speaker wields a gavel, a symbol of calling a diverse, noisy group to order, so that the many can proceed with the business of the whole. Why supplant the gavel with a sword, a symbol of violence and divisiveness. You literally divide with a sword. But in Jeb's mind, that seemed like the right message.

Now add to that the invention of a Chinese character. Nothing Chinese was going on. It was about the Florida legislature. And Chinese culture was appropriated for the occasion... why? Some stereotype about warriors? About "mysticism"? Or is it just something internal to the Bush family, within which it's (apparently) a running joke to say "Unleash Chiang!" Did Jeb imagine that the sword ritual was initiating young Marco into the Bush family secret society?

That question made me look up Skull and Bones, the Yale secret society to which George H.W. and George W. Bush belonged. But Jeb Bush didn't go to Yale. He went to the University of Texas, and he didn't even join a fraternity. He'd met his future wife during a trip to Mexico when he was 17, and that affected his approach to college:
When his friends decided to rush fraternities, Bush stayed behind — he wasn’t interested in dates or parties, [best friend Rob] Kerr said. It took him less than three years to graduate magna cum laude with a degree in Latin American studies.

“He had a very good ability to study really intently while other people were goofing off,” Kerr said. “He was probably more studious than the rest of us.”

After a few years of constant phone calls and occasional visits, Jeb, 21, married Columba, 20, at the UT-Austin University Catholic Center in 1974.
Those 3 WaPo writers — Sean Sullivan, Manuel Roig-Franzia and David A. Fahrenthold — offered to explain the 17-year story of Jeb and Marco, but they never say anything deep about the human personality. I just want to make up a coherent story of the man who made up a fake story about the mystical Chinese warrior as he gave a sword to Marco Rubio:

The warrior Chang stands in for the elder Bush who fought in the war and went to China. The younger man, Rubio, stands in for the younger brother, George W. Bush, who, like the father, went to Yale and performed whatever those secret rituals were, while the studious older brother buried himself in books at the state university, earnestly striving to marry the girl he fell in love with when he was 17. The callow brother surged past him and acquired the mystical power over the American soul that is the presidency, and now another man is surging ahead.

The sword was passed.
CORRECTION: This post originally had George as the younger brother and Jeb as the older brother. Jeb may have seemed more mature, but he is, of course, younger.

AND: Reading this post, Meade inferred that the 3 WaPo writers got this story from Rubio, who has a motive to make Jeb sound bad. Did Jeb really "garble" the Bush family story? Was it an "in-joke" or meaningful references to Chiang Kai-shek? Did Bush, handing over the sword, really talk about an invented character named "Chang," or was he saying "Chiang"? Chiang Kai-shek was a warrior, and Chiang Kai-shek could be said to be "conservative" and even "mystical." The Wikipedia article on Chiang Kai-shek identifies him with The New Life Movement, which "was based upon Confucianism, mixed with Christianity, nationalism and authoritarianism":
Chiang Kai-shek used the Confucian and Methodist notion of self-cultivation and correct living for the Movement; to this end it prescribed proper etiquette on every aspect of daily lives. Some of its many measures included: opposition to littering and spitting on the floor; opposition to opium use; opposition to conspicuous consumption; rejection of vice entertainments in favor of artistic and athletic pursuits; promotion of courteous behavior; and promotion of flag salutes. Among its more unusual campaigns was its promotion of bathing with cold water: Chiang Kai-shek pointed out the (supposed) Japanese habit of washing their faces with cold water as a sign of their military strength, and expected the Chinese to be able to do the same if not better.

"I knew this experiment wouldn’t make a profound difference for conservation, but I felt I should do it because I had no excuse not to...."

"I had to get creative. When a restaurant furnished a napkin-wrapped fork and knife, I asked the server to exchange them for cutlery without the napkin. I’d remember to say 'No straw!' after asking for water and to make sure the veggie burger I ordered didn’t come with a wooden pick holding it together. I tried to think ahead. I carried a fork, a spoon, a plate and a bowl everywhere I went, just in case a student event served food but provided only plastic to eat with. I did what I had to, and sometimes it was awkward. At a house party (where the red Solo cup is king), I’d saunter into the kitchen, use a glass from the cupboard, and then rinse it and put it back when I was done. Five months into the experiment, after some initial reservations, I gave up toilet paper. Now I do things the way hundreds of millions (including my extended family) in India do — with water and my left hand."

From "All my trash for a year fit into two plastic bags. Here’s how I did it./Giving up plastic forks, new clothes and even toilet paper for an exercise in conservation." By Darshan Karwat, "an AAAS science and technology policy fellow at the Department of Energy and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan." In The Washington Post.

I don't know what bothers me more, the idea of a man (it can't be a woman) out and about, using various bathrooms and somehow managing to wield water with his left hand or the idea of going into someone else's house, enjoying their hospitality, and when they're serving drinks in disposable cups, sneaking off into their kitchen, opening up their cupboards, choosing one of the glasses that were never offered to him, using it, and then cleaning it only by rinsing and putting it back in the cupboard (apparently) wet. Did he touch it only with his right hand?

Man gets on a plane, sits down, sees that sitting next to him is a man who looks just like him.

No, it wasn't his long-lost twin. It was just a man who happened to look hilariously identical.

"Franz Kafka in Footie Pajamas."

A great column title. Subtitle: "My consignment company for secondhand children’s clothes has somehow run afoul of federal regulators." (That's in the Wall Street Journal, so Google some text to get your own link if that doesn't work.)
In January 2013 the Labor Department audited our employment practices. Four months later the bureaucracy concluded that our volunteers are actually “employees.” As such, we were told that we were in violation of Sections 6 and 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act regarding minimum wages and overtime pay. I was told this during a face-to-face meeting, without any accompanying written complaint or advance notice of allegations....

The department is ordering me to conduct business to my detriment, and threatening hundreds of thousands of dollars in civil penalties if I fail to comply. Yet a federal court has ruled that I lack any meaningful recourse until the agency files an official complaint, which it has not done....

October 30, 2015

"Nixon and John F. Kennedy clandestinely filled their medicine cabinets with psychotropic drugs..."

"... recently uncovered documents reveal. In fact, Kennedy aide and historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. suggested in his journals that several modern presidents were mentally unbalanced; he recorded top aides arguing whether President Lyndon Johnson was clinically paranoid or a manic-depressive, and fretted that there was no constitutional 'procedure for dealing with nuts.'"

From a Politico article titled "Could America Elect a Mentally Ill President?/Yes. In fact, we probably already did."

"If you refuse to have more children, we will artificially inseminate your whole village!"

Chinese snark, after the government ends the one-child policy.

"I’m amazed he made it out, given the void he was in and the amount of debris above him. He’s very lucky."

"We were able to bring doctors in very close and give him an IV to control the pain... We brought world-class medicine right to his side in that hole."

In NYC, a worker was pinned for 3 hours inside a building that collapsed in the process of demolition.

"They said the chemistry teacher was demonstrating how the color of fire can change when something suddenly went wrong."

"They said several students near the experiment were engulfed in flames...."
Experiments involving fire have been known to cause injuries in high school chemistry classrooms. In 2014, two students at an elite public school in Manhattan were burned when a teacher used methanol to ignite different kinds of metal salts to create colored flames. Another chemistry class demonstration burned five students at a Denver high school in 2014, according to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.
Teachers need to stop showing off. Colored flames. Pathetic.

"Moscow Suspicious of Hillary."

A NYT headline:

Will a giant pumpkin play in Peoria?

"Giant, inflatable pumpkin terrorizes Peoria."


"Will it play in Peoria?" is an old expression, important enough to have a Wikipedia entry.
The question derives from a theme repeated by characters in Horatio Alger, Jr.'s novel Five Hundred Dollars; or, Jacob Marlowe's Secret, which was first published in 1890... In the book, a group of actors play in Peoria, occasioning utterances such as "We shall be playing in Peoria" and "We shall play at Peoria"....

The phrase originated during the vaudeville era and was popularized in movies by Groucho Marx. The belief was that if a new show was successful in Peoria, a main Midwestern stop for vaudeville acts, it would be successful anywhere...

The phrase subsequently was adopted by politicians, pollsters, and promoters to question the potential mainstream acceptance of anything new. Currently, the stereotype of non-humorous people has been around for many decades. Although vaudeville left Peoria many years ago, the slogan was revived in 1969 when John D. Ehrlichman said to a newsman, "Don't worry, it'll play in Peoria," in reference to a decision by President Richard M. Nixon that seemed calculated to upset Easterners.

"My older sister once told me about 'Finals Friends With Benefits,' people you had sex with only during finals week to deal with the stress of exams."

"I never thought I would be the type until I asked Kam over on the last day of winter classes, and soon 'Want to take a study break?' became the sexiest of booty calls. Kam asked me if I wanted to watch a TED talk he had been assigned as homework...."

The ellipsis marks the place in a NYT "Modern Love" column where I had to stop and laugh. Something about the combination of "sexiest" and watching a TED talk. And it gets even unsexier. The TED talk is Malcolm Gladwell on the topic of marketing. If you do continue reading, you'll find that the author Sophie Dillon — "a junior at Yale" — uses Malcolm Gladwell's TED talk on marketing to explain different labels for sexual relationships. There's a "wide spectrum" that goes from "single, talking, friends with benefits, hookup buddies (all physical, no friendship), cuff (a temporary, reliable cuddle buddy for wintertime, when it’s too cold to go out and meet people, a special favorite of Northeasterners), exclusively hooking up (all physical with the same partner), dating, and then the finish line: 'in a relationship.'"

In the end, the young woman wants "a relationship" with Kam (a male), and after a drunk friend calls Kam "a coward" for not being willing to call what they have "a relationship" and she realizes she's "scared" to confront him about it, she finally confronts him with "Are we going to do this thing? Or does he want to chicken out?" Notice all the fear words.

Anyway, they end up at the so-called "finish line," "in a relationship."

Now, why doesn't this NYT column have a comments section? Young Sophie must be protected from the mean things people might say. Speaking of fear. But what is there to say about this? I have 6 things:

"Standoff in Boulder, Colo.: Prairie dogs hold Buddhist college at bay."

Headline in the L.A. Times.

"If you replaced the 'dog' in prairie dog with 'rat,' would they elicit the same emotion?...I wonder," asked Bill Rigler, spokesman for Naropa University, in what the L.A. Times suggests is sort of kind of a Zen koan.
For years, Naropa has battled some 150 persistent prairie dogs over 2.5 acres of prime real estate on its Nalanda campus.... The struggle is especially poignant in this famously liberal college town, where Buddhists and prairie dogs occupy exalted positions within the local ecosystem....

"We bought this land in 2004 to expand on and the first prairie dogs showed up two years later," Rigler said.
The Buddhists got there first, and — on Buddhist principles — did nothing. The doing of nothing was a nice ecosystem for the "dogs" (which I originally typo'd "gods"):
The industrious rodents swiftly built a prairie dog town of some 200 burrows extending from the campus parking lot to busy Arapahoe Avenue to almost the front door. Plans to expand classroom space stalled, and in 2011, Naropa began searching for ways to relocate the animals.

Four years and $100,000 later, little has changed. Trapping and moving the rodents is easy enough; finding someone who wants them is not. 
I think a lot of people who set "have a heart" traps would be surprised to know that it's illegal to move the animals elsewhere and just set them free, without permission. (And I hope you won't hate me — have a heart! — for burdening you with the knowledge of which you were once free. Who can free you from the trap that is knowledge? Even with the door left open — you're free to seek to believe what is not true — you find it hard to scamper out and run wild in the landscape/parking lot that's just inches away.)

The Buddhists seemed to have decided to kill the "dogs" — I typo'd "gods" again! — inciting protest. On Facebook: "Mommy, I heard that Naropa University is going to have all of us killed" and:

As Rigler put it, quoted in the above-linked L.A. Times article:
"All of sudden it was, 'The Buddhists want to kill the prairie dogs,' but we had no intention of killing them," said Rigler, who isn't a Buddhist. "The very act of applying for a [lethal control] permit triggers an open comment period, which gives everyone the opportunity to say, 'I have a site for relocation,' or put forward other ideas."
This sounds like the doctrine of double effect. Your desire or intention is not to kill the animals... but they may end up dead as you pursue what you do want and intend. The college wants to relocate the prairie dogs and the threat of killing them is a way to get somebody to step up and accept them onto their property. Another way to think of it is like this:

It's a threat. Let us use your land or we'll kill these "dogs."

"I am a prince and I do what I want! You are nobody!"

Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud allegedly yelled at 3 female servants in his mansion near Beverly Hills.
“Perpetrators of abuse often use humiliation, shame and fear to induce silence,” the women’s attorney Van Frish said. “It’s unfortunate that Mr. Al-Saud’s criminal defense attorney publicly accused our clients of a “shakedown” and fabricating their horrifying experience.  Our clients refuse to allow Mr. Al-Saud or his attorneys to humiliate them and publicly shame them into silence.”

"Yet not one of the more than 700 sex offenders who have been civilly committed in Minnesota over the past two decades has actually gone home."

"And only a few men have been provisionally discharged to live outside of state facilities under strict supervision."
“You knew you were going to die here,” said Craig Bolte, a sex offender who has been held here nine years and who says he would rather be sent to prison, where “there is still hope.”

But now Minnesota’s civil commitment program — which detains more people per capita than any other state — is facing an overhaul. Earlier this year, a federal judge found it unconstitutional, calling it “a punitive system that segregates and indefinitely detains a class of potentially dangerous individuals without the safeguards of the criminal justice system.”

"My little girl stood up to this entitled young man. She stood up to the entitled culture at St. Paul’s School."

"She stood up to the rape culture that exists in our society and allows ‘boys to be boys.’"

Said the father of sexual assault victim. The victim herself said: "What he did to me made me feel like I didn’t belong on this planet and that I would be better off dead.... Without just and right punishment, I really don’t know how I’ll put one foot in front of the other. I don’t want to feel imprisoned for the rest of my life. I want to be safe again. And I want justice."

The judge sentenced Owen Labrie to 1 year in prison, 5 years of probation, and a lifetime of registering as a sex offender.
The trial jury’s acquittal of Mr. Labrie on the main rape charges, three counts of felony aggravated sexual assault, led his lawyer, J. W. Carney Jr., to refer during Thursday’s hearing to what his client and the girl had engaged in as “a consensual encounter between two teenagers.”
Labrie was also convicted of the felony of using a computer to lure a minor, and for that, he received a 7-year suspended sentence.
The hearing closed a dramatic trial that illuminated the clubby sexual culture among some students at St. Paul’s School... the existence of secret keys, passed among boys, to private spaces on campus, as well as a list of girls Mr. Labrie had compiled, with the victim’s name in capital letters.

Both sides agreed that Mr. Labrie, then 18, had invited the girl, then 15, to join him for a “senior salute,” a practice in which younger students met seniors for a romantic encounter before graduation....
The linked article, in the NYT, used the word "girl" to refer to the victim 10 times. The word "boy" only appears twice in the article, in that quote from the father about our "rape culture" that "allows 'boys to be boys.'"

The word "man" also only appears in the article in a quote from the father, who calls him "this entitled young man."

But he was 18, and he did operate within a culture of entitlement that included preying on young women — girls. It appears that there were many other boys... young men... around him who did much the same thing and left their prey too hurt or embarrassed to come forward.

But how many poor boys have analogous stories of getting involved in gang behavior? Do we ask why the one boy who gets caught should go to prison and have his life ruined? I think we do not. We want the risk of the criminal behavior to be there, hanging over everyone, caught and uncaught, especially when so few are caught.
In her statement, the girl spoke of the isolating, suicidal thoughts and panic attacks that followed the assault. The trial itself, she said, traumatized her further.

“It’s terrible to say, but I know why people don’t come forward,” said the girl, who described feeling “physically and verbally violated” by Mr. Carney’s cross-examination.

October 29, 2015

At the Thursday Night Café...


... go ahead and talk about whatever you want.

"A child sex offender working as a volunteer monster at a charity haunted house was uncovered..."

"... when he removed his mask to calm frightened children and an alert dad recognized him, according to a criminal complaint."

"A Running Skirt That Empowers You to Pee Standing Up."

"The Gotta Go Running Skirt... has 5.5-inch shorts underneath and a Velcro-secured flap that reveals a 'relief hatch' so you can pee when there's no bathroom...."

"You" = a woman.

"I feel like Louie’s always just kinda like that."

"Anytime I go to touch Chris, he’s like, no, I want to be pet."

A little relief from the GOP debate — Bad Lip Reading does the Democratic debate.

"The Six Worst Moments From CNBC's Very Bad Debate Night."

This may say it all (if you click the speaker button on)...

"What is... Jeff?"

"Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin was elected the 62nd speaker of the House on Thursday..."

"... taking the gavel that he never sought to wield from John A. Boehner, who relinquished it under fire," says the NYT.
Mr. Ryan received 236 votes, a comfortable margin that included several of the hardline conservatives who had worked to oust Mr. Boehner.

Paint me skeptical.

"An art exhibit in Italy has been restored after it was mistakenly binned by a cleaner. The artwork, named 'Where shall we go dancing tonight?'...  consisted of cigarette butts, empty champagne bottles and confetti. The museum has now re-installed the artwork after getting the artists' approval. The installation at the Museion Bozen-Bolzano was created by two artists from Milan to represent the hedonism and political corruption of the 1980s...."

That's from the BBC.

Sorry, I just don't believe this was an accident. This kind of thing has happened before, the cleanup is way too performance-y — photo caption: "The cleaner separated the glass, plastic and paper into individual bags" — and it works as it has before as a big publicity generator. I don't really like giving it publicity myself, but the BBC bought it, so who am I? I'm blogging to say I'm skeptical. Hedonism and political corruption of the 1980s, indeed.

"All but Rubio, Cruz, Trump and Carson should drop out."

Said Bob Schrum, one of 14 pundits asked by Politico after last night's debate to say who should drop out. Schrum's a Democratic strategist, but that doesn't necessarily make him wrong. I think 4 is cutting it too close, especially since one of them is Carson, and he hasn't taken much heat yet. I think 6 is the better number, and I'd definitely leave in Christie, who's been in the background lately but really stepped forward last night. I liked his former-prosecutor parries.

Ah, I see from the transcript, it was Fake Louis CK (Jim Cramer) who brought up the former prosecutor business.

"Seething GOP candidates escalate their CNBC grievances."

"The Republican presidential candidates are not letting up on CNBC," says that other cable network, CNN.
"We thought CNBC did a horrendous job and a disservice, and we agree with the RNC that they should be ashamed of themselves," Sergio Gor, a spokesman for Senator Rand Paul, told CNNMoney early Thursday morning...
Senator Ted Cruz accused the moderators of trying to instigate a cage match. Donald Trump slammed the "ridiculous questions," and Christie grew visibly irate at the moderators' decision to discuss fantasy football instead of other issues.

"Wait a second, we have $19 trillion in debt, we have people out of work, we have ISIS and al-Qaeda attacking us and we're talking about fantasy football?" Christie shouted. "Can we stop?"
Linked from Drudge under the headline "Shame of the Nation."

ADDED: "CNBC Debate Moderators, Ranked." (#1 is "Fake Louis CK," AKA Jim Cramer.)

"Are you a comic-book version of a moderator?"

From my son John's live-blog of last night's debate:
8:26 — Moderator John Harwood lists what he apparently considers to be some of Trump's more ridiculous proposals, including that he'd "make Americans better off because your greatness would replace the stupidity and incompetence of others." Trump agrees with that last point: "Right!" Then Harwood asks if this is "a comic-book version of a presidential campaign." Trump says: "It's not a comic book, and it's not a very nicely asked question." [VIDEO.]...

9:39 — Rubio is asked about an analysis by the (conservative) Tax Foundation, which said his tax plan saves twice as much for people at the high end than the low end. Rubio denies it and says the opposite. [Added later:] On Twitter, Harwood had said he was "CORRECTING" his "earlier tweet" about the Tax Foundation's analysis of Rubio's tax plan. Harwood's correction said: "Tax Foundation says Rubio benefits lowest 10% proportionally more (55.9) than top 1% (27.9%)." Then Harwood asked Rubio a question that said the opposite of that correction, and when Rubio correctly pointed out that Harwood's incorrect post had to be corrected, Harwood flatly denied it! I asked Harwood on Twitter:
Are you a comic-book version of a moderator?
I took a screen shot:

ADDED: Here's the relevant material from the debate transcript:

Did you hear Ted Cruz enthuse about marijuana?

In last night's debate, Cruz said he might not be the guy you'd pick "to grab a beer with," though he'd be good at driving you home safely. Later, giving Cruz a few more seconds for something, the moderator Carl Quinanilla wove in the beer reference — "Before we go to break, we're clearly not having that beer you mentioned..." — and Cruz said, "Then I'll buy you a tequila... Or, even some famous Colorado brownies."

What is Ted Cruz's position on marijuana anyway?
At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland [Feb. 26, 2015], Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) endorsed marijuana federalism during an exchange with Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity. "Look," Cruz said. "I actually think this is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called 'the laboratories of democracy.' If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that's their prerogative. I personally don't agree with it, but that's their right."
But, about a year before that, at a Texas Public Policy Foundation conference, Cruz had criticized Obama for announcing that his administration wouldn't prosecute certain crimes. His criticism seemed to be mostly about not enforcing the laws that remain on the books:
You can go to Congress. You can get a conversation. You could get Democrats and Republicans who would say, "We ought to change our drug policy in some way," and you could have a real conversation. You could have hearings. You could look at the problem. You could discuss commonsense changes that maybe should happen or shouldn't happen. This president didn't do that. He just said, "The laws say one thing"—and mind you, these are criminal laws; these are laws that say if you do X, Y, and Z, you will go to prison. The president announced, "No, you won't."
That's not inconsistent with saying the states can serve as laboratories, experimenting with different approaches to decriminalizing and regulating marijuana. I do see a problem with saying that citizens of a state, like Colorado, if they want to do this kind of policy experiment, have the "prerogative." A "prerogative" is "A prior, exclusive, or peculiar right or privilege." (OED definition.)

The federal law is the supreme law. Even though the President may decide to refrain from enforcing it, he's the one with the prerogative. It's a word used to refer to the power of kings. It speaks of priority. The states do not have that as long as the Controlled Substances Act outlaws marijuana. They're proceeding at the forbearance of the federal government.

Now, Cruz might be saying that, as President, he too would forbear, but would he work to change the federal law so that we can overcome the disorder of having the people in some of the states deeply involved in the commission of federal crimes?

ADDED: "Sanders proposes nixing marijuana from federal list of dangerous drugs."

China ends the one-child policy.

But maybe it's too late. The Chinese government had already started allowing 2 children to couples where the father or mother had been an only child, but many of them declined, "citing the expense and pressures of raising children in a highly competitive society."

A professor of demography at Peking University, Mu Guangzong, explained:
“I don’t think a lot of parents would act on [the new policy] because the economic pressure of raising children is very high in China. The birth rate in China is low and its population is aging quickly, so from the policy point of view, it’s a good thing as it will help combat a shortage of labor force in the future. But many parents simply don’t have the economic conditions to raise more children.”

And now, it's really too late for Jeb Bush.

On October 22, I said "It's time for Jeb Bush to withdraw and endorse Marco Rubio":
You may think it's a little early for this, but... somebody needs to emerge as the political mainstream candidate, and I think that person will be Rubio, sooner or later. Jeb Bush should figure that out and do something to help now, when it would be most helpful. Jeb's candidacy has failed. Not completely, not yet, but he hasn't built his poll numbers, he's lost ground, and his self-presentation has been weak. I like his mild manner, but it's "low energy," as Trump puts it, and, as I'd put it, just not competitive and forceful enough to gain ground in this field. Rubio, by contrast, has some combative heft....

Jeb can...  embrace and throw his full support to Rubio when Rubio needs it to get traction for the hard climb to the nomination. Do it now, Jeb, when it matters so much. 
The next day, after when the news came out that Jeb had to drastically cut back his campaign spending, I repeated my plea:
Hey, I said it yesterday: "It's time for Jeb Bush to withdraw and endorse Marco Rubio." Don't fight him. Help him. It's too late and too dire for anything else. Now's your chance to help the moderate GOP cause. Fighting Rubio is not the answer! Be practical and realistic.
It's too late and too dire for anything else... and now, after last night, it's too late even for that.

Jeb blew his chance to embrace Rubio, to be central to Rubio's emergence as the serious mainstream frontrunner. I couldn't believe it. Jeb, who knew he needed to do something to stand out, chose to butt in — it was not even his turn — and pile onto Rubio over a pointless question from the CNBC moderator Carl Quintanilla, who brought up the Sun-Sentinel editorial telling Rubio he "should resign, not rip us off... Floridians sent you to Washington to do a job...you act like you hate your job, do you?" (Everyone running for office who holds a current position is avoiding doing that job. I don't know why it's accepted, but I don't really care to see one individual lambasted about what has been the norm for as long as I can remember.)

Rubio answered very effectively and got a big, positive response from the crowd:
RUBIO: Let me say, I read that editorial today with a great amusement. It's actually evidence of the bias that exists in the American media today.
Quintanilla lamely tried to repose his question: "Well, do you hate your job?" How does that deserve an answer?

Rubio, obviously prepared, gives a great answer, detailing Democrats who've run for President while Senator, the percentage of votes they missed, and the absence of calls for their resignation — Bob Graham, John Kerry, and, finally, Barack Obama. The Sun-Sentinel endorsed them all.
RUBIO: So this is another example of the double standard that exists in this country between the mainstream media and the conservative movement.
Great answer. Perfect answer. This man is doing exactly what he needs to do, showing what it's like to speak forcibly, directly on point, not defensively, but persuasively. And this is when Jeb decides to butt in:
BUSH: Could I -- could I bring something up here, because I'm a constituent of the senator and I helped him and I expected that he would do constituent service, which means that he shows up to work. He got endorsed by the Sun-Sentinel because he was the most talented guy in the field. He's a gifted politician. But Marco, when you signed up for this, this was a six-year term, and you should be showing up to work. I mean, literally, the Senate -- what is it, like a French work week? 
That must be a scripted joke. French work week?
You get, like, three days where you have to show up? You can campaign, or just resign and let someone else take the job. There are a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck in Florida as well, they're looking for a senator that will fight for them each and every day.
You say you "helped him" and now you take an unforced shot at him... over a dumb, made-up issue?! Where is the judgment? I guess getting behind Rubio and helping him again is not one of the really cool things you can do instead of running for President.

And now, since Bush attacked Rubio, Rubio has a right to respond. Seeing that his erstwhile friend has decided to try to wreck him with that "French work week" joke, he takes a clean, fact-based shot:
RUBIO: Well, it's interesting. Over the last few weeks, I've listened to Jeb as he walked around the country and said that you're modeling your campaign after John McCain, that you're going to launch a furious comeback the way he did, by fighting hard in New Hampshire and places like that, carrying your own bag at the airport. You know how many votes John McCain missed when he was carrying out that furious comeback that you're now modeling after?
Jeb says, "He wasn't my senator." As if we took it seriously when Bush said he needed to insert himself into this (non)controvery because "I'm a constituent of the senator." Rubio ignores that and continues:
RUBIO: No Jeb, I don't remember -- well, let me tell you. I don't remember you ever complaining about John McCain's vote record. The only reason why you're doing it now is because we're running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.
Jeb should have realized that he should already be helping his old friend, but "someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you." It's not going to help him, and what's really sad is that it's closed the door to his helping Rubio.

Bush blithers "Well, I've been..." and Rubio says "Here's the bottom line," which gets big applause, and...
I'm not -- my campaign is going to be about the future of America, it's not going to be about attacking anyone else on this stage. 
.... leaving his old friend in the dust.
RUBIO: I will continue to have tremendous admiration and respect for Governor Bush. I'm not running against Governor Bush, I'm not running against anyone on this stage. I'm running for president because there is no way we can elect Hillary Clinton to continue the policies of Barack Obama.
And so ends the sad tale of Jeb Bush, the man with cooler things to do than to help the man with the best hope of returning the Presidency to his party.

October 28, 2015

Live-blogging the big GOP debate.

1. Watch along with me. Comment. I'll just be expanding this numbered list of insights. What do we expect? Fireworks? Boredom? Somebody — Kasich?? — making a showy play for attention?

2. My son John is live-blogging too. I recommend that.

3. These CNBC commentators are horrible. Do they even know they're on television? Talking over each other, desperate, contentless. Ugh! They talk like they're drunk.

4. Biggest weakness? Kasich leads off by not answering the question at all, forthrightly refusing. Huckabee denies having weakness, or... he plays by the rules. Jeb says he's impatient. Rubio says he's not sure it's a weakness, but he's optimistic. Trump says he's "too trusting" and if people let him down, he never forgives. Carson says his weakness is not seeing himself in the position of President (until people convinced him). Fiorina says she was told she doesn't smile enough (and she smiles). Cruz says his biggest weakness is he's passionate, he's a fighter, and he's not the guy you want to have a beer with, but he's the one to drive you home. Christie points out the weaknesses of the Democrats. And Rand Paul complains about the budget deal, and he's beginning tomorrow to filibuster it.

5. Trump is asked if his campaign is a cartoon, and he says that's not a very nice question.

6. Carly wants the tax code reduced to 3 pages (from 73,000). The moderators are interrupting and arguing way too much.

7. Big cheer for Rubio's criticism of the Sun Sentinel for being biased in favor of Democrats. Jeb gets on Rubio for missing Senate votes, and Rubio catches him for hypocrisy.

8. Cruz launches into a criticism of the questions the moderators have asked so far. It's a vivid indictment and it gets a big cheer. This interchange ends in near chaos. Cruz really tried to intimidate the moderators.

9. This debate is so stressful and ugly. The moderators are so disrespectful and the candidates are all yelling. Almost all. Carson will never yell.

10. The audience (at the University of Colorado in Boulder) showed tremendous support for Ben Carson. It cheered wildly when he attacked the questioners for criticizing his "vetting process" because he didn't prevent a webpage from using a photograph of him.

11. Trump goes on about those terrible super PACs. And Rubio says: "The Democrats have the greatest super PAC. It's called the mainstream media." That gets a big cheer from the audience.

12. Subsidies are "a bunch of crap," says Carson.

13. Christie is highly critical of the moderators: "Even in New Jersey, what you're doing is rude."

14. Rand Paul wants "a government so small you can barely see it."

15. "In your heart of hearts, you can't wait to hear a debate between Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina," says Carly Fiorina.

16. Ben Carson thanks the audience for being so attentive.

17. Trump will make good deals for America because he made the deal that got the debate reduced from 3 hours to 2.

18. Who did best? Maybe Christie. Maybe Cruz.

19. Did anyone even mention Ronald Reagan tonight? What happened? That was weird. 

"Readers say they were 'shocked' to find a mistake on page 72 of my book, 'Between You and Me.' "

"Shouldn’t 'younger than me' be 'younger than I'?"

Mary Norris defends her position declaring that in her book, "than" works as a preposition." (And, in case you don't watch the video, she does understand the argument that "than" is a conjunction)

I bought the book, "Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen." The passage on page 72 — which she isn't going to change — is:
Nothing makes it clearer how intimately and deeply pronouns are embedded in our lives than having to alter them to refer to someone you’ve known all your life. Just when I was mounting an assault on the Italian language, sorting the nouns that ended in a (mostly feminine) from the nouns that ended in o (mostly masculine), struggling to make sense of the ones that ended in e, the difference between sex and gender leaped out of the textbook and into my real life: my younger brother announced that he was transgender. Dee was two years younger than me, and we had been close— or at least I thought we were close. We grew up together in Cleveland and we both escaped to New York, where we were friends, sometimes neighbors, often confidantes, collaborators, drinking buddies....

"Campaigns erupt over greenrooms at third GOP debate."

"Trump was granted a spacious room, complete with plush chairs and a flat-screen TV. Marco Rubio got a theater-type room, packed with leather seats for him and his team of aides. Carly Fiorina’s room had a Jacuzzi."
Then there was Chris Christie, whose small space was dominated by a toilet... “This is ridiculous,” fumed Christie’s campaign manager, Ken McKay. “We’re in a restroom.”

"'Wrapping Paper' is the most appalling piece of shit I've ever heard in my life! I was totally against it, right from the start... Eric and I didn't like it."

Said Ginger Baker.

Listen. That's Jack Bruce, composer of the music (not the lyrics), singing the lead vocals and playing bass guitar, piano, cello.

Justice Kennedy — substituting his idea of a "fair" question — stumbles through the problem of a government official faced with abiding by a Supreme Court decision she believes is morally wrong.

Justice Anthony Kennedy was taking questions from Harvard Law students last week, when one student asked a somewhat garbled question about whether government officials can act on their own understanding of the meaning of life. Scroll to 50:44 to begin at the student's question:

Kennedy says that he'll "refaze" the question "in a fair way," which seemed both disrespectful to the student and, like not bothering to enunciate all the letters in "rephrase," a bit lazy. But the crowd of students chuckled its support for the most powerful person in the room as he diminished their peer.

The "fair" rephrasing was:
Uh what what what is the duty of the public official if he or she cannot, in good conscience and consistent with her own personal and religious beliefs, enforce a law that they think is morally corrupt? 
The student had talked about "rational norms" and "judgment of the truth of new insights" and the "truth" and never used any words that connoted religion, morality, or corruption.

So, basically, Kennedy plugged in a question that the student's question reminded him of and that he had a good shot at answering in a predictable, conventional way. This is a strategy that is very commonly used by law students answering exam questions, and that I always warn my students against: I'll notice and you can't get credit for that. You must face the difficulties of answering the question in the form it is asked.

But Justice Kennedy was not writing an exam; he was talking to a friendly crowd that had just warmly chuckled its approval of his rejection of the question that was asked.

Did anyone really understand the question? I've listened to it a few times, and it is pretty hard to absorb and figure out how to approach answering. Why did the student ask it that way? Was it unfair? I'd have loved to have heard a more spontaneous dialogue between Kennedy and the student that began, perhaps, with Kennedy's saying: "Here's why I think your question is unfair: You're using words like 'rational norms' as if the official is looking, scientifically, at the facts, but I think you're really talking about religious beliefs and moral compulsions imposed not by reason and facts but by God."

But Kennedy plugged in the conventional answer, phrased — fazed — in the most noncommittal way:
"Great respect, it seems to me, has to be given to people who resign rather than do something they think is morally wrong, in order to make a point. Uh, however, uh, the rule of law is that, as a public official in performing your legal duties, you are bound to to enforce enforce the law. Um and it's it's it's difficult sometimes to see whether or not what you're doing is transgressing your own personal philosophy. This requires considerable introspection. Um and it's it's it's a fair question that officials can and should should ask ask themselves. Um but um certainly, in an offhand comment, it would be difficult for me to say that people are free to ignore decisions of the Supreme Court. Lincoln went through this in the Dred Scott case. Um and uh these are difficult moral questions."
It's the theater of thoughtfulness studded with ums and repetitions and expressions like "considerable introspection" and assertions about how "difficult" it all is, until you've either forgotten the question —  not just the original question but the substituted "fair" question, even as he reminds us "it's it's it's a fair question" — or you decide he's just said what you feel he must have said — what you want him to have said — and you go off and write a little article about it:

You know, if you're going to be mealy-mouthed, people can use you however they want.

Marco Rubio answers questions.

WATCH: 15 questions I won't be asked at tomorrow's debate.

Posted by Marco Rubio on Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Most appealing answer: "It's not a vegetable, but I don't like mushrooms."

"An hour before the start of Game 1 of the World Series, the first report about the death of Royals starting pitcher Edinson Volquez’s father Daniel began circulating."

"It came courtesy of a radio station sports director in Volquez’s native Dominican Republic. Shortly afterwards it was confirmed by two ESPN Deportes reporters. But as Volquez threw the first pitch of the game, it was still unclear whether or not he actually knew about his father’s death...."

"Right. So if you get sick again, you want to stay home. But you know that probably means you will go to heaven, right?"

One line from the mother in a dialogue with a 5-year old who hates going to the hospital, especially the naso-tracheal suction. The mother has determined that the child has made an end-of-life decision worthy of honoring.

"BuzzFeed plans to withdraw its participation from the South by Southwest Interactive festival after organizers decided to cancel two gaming and online harassment panels..."

"... after receiving 'numerous threats of on-site violence.'... 'We will feel compelled to withdraw … if the conference can’t find a way to do what those other targets of harassment do every day — to carry on important conversations in the face of harassment.'"

"Now, what could possibly be wrong with the description 'hard worker'?"

Asks Greta Van Susteren before playing video of Melissa Harris-Perry calling out a guest for saying that Paul Ryan is a "hard worker."

This is Harris-Perry's stern warning:  "I want us to be super-careful when we use the language 'hard worker,' because I actually keep an image of folks working in cotton fields on my office wall, because it is a reminder about what hard work looks like."

Oh, so the slave is the idealized "hard worker"? Then why, just a couple weeks ago did a textbook publisher, McGraw-Hill, have to apologize and agree to change a geography textbook that referred to slaves as "workers"?
On reading a caption in his geography textbook that described slaves as “workers”, Coby Burren sent a photo and an annoyed message to his mother. "We was real hard workers wasn’t we," he wrote.

Roni Dean-Burren was also disturbed by the language, and posted about the book online. Her comments went viral and the publisher swiftly decided to rewrite the section....
"We are deeply sorry,"  said the publisher's chief executive for a map of "Patterns of Immigration" that had a notation: "The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations."

Even assuming you want to follow the instruction to "be super-careful," it's hard — if I may use the word — to figure out which way to go.

The McGraw-Hill incident teaches that you should never refer to slavery without framing it in somber moral terms. It can't be mixed in with other matters as if it were not a unique evil.

The "Paul Ryan is a 'hard worker'" incident teaches that slavery must be mixed into discussions of, well, perhaps anything. If someone complains about the heat, maybe you should get on their case for not acknowledging how much more slaves suffered from the heat. If somebody comments that the food isn't very good, you should lay into them about how poorly fed the slaves were? (That sounds like the opposite of "super-careful.")

October 27, 2015

"Chelsea Ake-Salvacion felt she was on health care’s cutting edge, working at a cryotherapy center in this Las Vegas suburb..."

"... that promised to help clients burn calories, reduce pain, strengthen immune systems and halt aging by embedding them in freezing tanks for a few minutes at a time."
In her off hours, she engaged in the practice... But last week, Ms. Ake-Salvacion, 24, was found dead in one of the tank...  Ms. Ake-Salvacion’s uncle said the coroner had told him his niece’s body was found “rock-hard solid.”...
The death raised questions about safety in the growing industry of cryotherapy, which is practiced by star athletes and celebrities but is rarely studied and not regulated by any one body. Today, there are cryotherapy centers in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere, though doctors do not agree on its benefits....
The top rated-comment (at the NYT) quotes "though doctors do not agree on its benefits" and says: "This suggests that some doctors agree, some do not. How about New York Times, you be more forthright and clarify that no doctors, no peer reviewed research, no science, supports the benefits of this? And how dare these snake oil sellers argue 'its definitely safe' but do not do it alone"

"People think nothing of spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars building a tiny house, but very few people have been inside a tiny house."

Says an owner of a tiny house hotel in Portland. She and her partner, a WaPo travel writer tells us, "seem more at ease as small-living activists and educators than hoteliers, regularly open the tiny houses for tours..."
The owners promote the resort as a learning center and place to “try before you buy”; they also have a dealership for purchasing blueprints or finished houses....

Guests either leave Caravan thinking “No way,” or their visit fortifies their dream. “Some are really here investigating and measuring,” Delman said, “or, they never thought about living in one, but staying here, they realize they can downsize.”
The writer of the article emerges from the experience "feeling wistful, a tiny house fan wanting just a little more."

"The FBI has issued an alert to law enforcement about a possible 'Halloween Revolt' by a dangerous anarchist group..."

"[A] group known as the National Liberation Militia may be planning to dress in costume, cause a disturbance, and then ambush police who come to help."

"For me, pregnancy is the worst experience of my life. I’m not sure why I don’t like the experience like others do."

"Maybe it’s the swelling, the backaches or just the complete mindf-k of how your body expands and nothing fits. I don’t feel sexy, either — I feel insecure and most of the time I just feel gross."

Wrote Kim Kardashian, who nevertheless arrived last night, in her 8th month of pregnancy, at the InStyle Awards in Los Angeles wearing a very tight and white Valentino gown. What I don't understand is how something that white and tight does not reveal the shape of her navel and — speaking of mindf-ks — the fetal feet and elbows sliding and poking around. I can only imagine that there is an undergarment, similar to the padded bras that keep nipples from making an outwardly visible impression, but how thick would it need to be to hide the activities the unborn Easton West?

"If you look at cartoons depicting individuals of lesser intelligence, they are often drawn with big, protruding ears."

"By the age of six, the child is old enough to understand they are being bullied and can participate in the decision for surgery."

Said Steven J. Pearlman, MD, a facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon.

But Karen Caraballo, a Bilingual-Spanish Child and Family Psychologist, said "It is concerning to use plastic surgery to stop bullying. There should be zero tolerance for bullying. Bullying can threaten students' physical and emotional safety at school and can negatively impact their ability to learn, socialize and deeply impact their mental health."

At the link, you can see before and after photos of a 6-year-old boy whose classmates called him "elf ears."

Should a 6-year-old get plastic surgery to pin back big, protruding ears?

pollcode.com free polls

ADDED: Results:

"If you could take a pill that would help you study and get better grades, would you?"

"The stress of competing for top grades has led to a rise in students’ off-label use of so-called 'smart drugs' like Adderall, Ritalin, and modafinil, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. But is this a negative development? Is the use of smart drugs cheating? Should their use as cognitive enhancers be approved by the FDA, the medical community, and society at large?"

From an announcement of a debate that will take place at George Washington University and be available later as a podcast.

When I was a young person, it was often a subject of conversation: Why don't they invent a smart pill? I think we imagined getting the knowledge uploaded in pill form, not that anyone said "uploaded" back then.

I'd be interested in hearing this debate, but just offhand, my thoughts are:

1. It might not be cheating, but it does put pressure on everyone to acquire the same advantage (like  performance-enhancing drugs in sports), especially if, as in sports, the performance of others affects your result (such as, in law school, where grades are curved),

2. If the idea is that there is an individual right to make your own choices about what to do with your mind, then the argument that you should be free to take a "smart drug" would apply at least as much to the idea that you should be able to take the psychedelic drugs that transform emotional, spiritual, sexual, and aesthetic experiences.

"Ben Carson has taken a narrow lead nationally in the Republican presidential campaign, dislodging Donald J. Trump from the top spot for the first time in months..."

"... according to a New York Times/CBS News survey released on Tuesday."

Carson has 26%, Trump 22%. The very quiet man is beating the very noisy man.

The distant third is Rubio with 8%, and Bush and Fiorina are dragging closely after him, each with 7%. Paul, Cruz, Huckabee, Kasich slog along in a dreary pack under the embarrassing number 4.

Did you realize there's another debate tomorrow? What's the best thing that could happen, I wonder. After Hillary Clinton's big week, last week, powered by the weakness of Republicans, what can these characters do this week to give nonGOP fans a sense that anything should or could change the trajectory toward Hillary Clinton's seemingly inevitable victory a year from now?

I'm picturing Trump blustering, Carson murmuring, and everyone else boring the pants off us. Will they — should they — attack each other or is it time to demonstrate that they have what it takes to stop Hillary? If the latter, what can they do that won't remind us of how ineffectual the Benghazi committee was in revealing her to be undeserving of the public's trust?

IN THE COMMENTS: People are accusing me of having somehow suddenly become a Hillary supporter. I respond:
Those who think I'm dedicated to Hillary are seriously deluded. Your delusion is part of a syndrome that is going to help her win. You are in a dream world in which the practicalities of winning don't matter. I'm trying to wake you up. If you are going to just say things like Wow, Althouse is in the tank for Hillary, then you are part of the problem you are blithering about.
After some defense of my use of the word "blithering" and more push back about my supposed in-the-tankedness for Hillary, I say:
I think Hillary is and should be beatable. I just don't see the Republicans getting it together to do that. I think that's what Jeb realizes and why he's blithering that he's got "a lot of really cool things" he could do other than run for President. With the normal candidates crumpling, you're left with a weird party that normal voters won't be able to take seriously. That's what I see down the road, and nobody who's complaining about my telling you that is saying anything that makes me think the situation is going to get better for Republicans.

"I am convinced... that the way the Drive-Bys and the Democrat Party and the left are attempting to reconstitute their media monopoly is via Twitter and Facebook."

"In a way, the sewer of Twitter and Facebook is the left attempting to corral everyone into their playground, their way of thinking, and create a new legacy media to replace what the big three networks had back in 1988. You populate Twitter and Facebook with enough political activists disguised as citizens in their underwear in their basements just tapping out comments and posting left-wing news stories from AP, Reuters, Washington Post, New York Times, and that's how you reconstitute your monopoly.  You don't constitute a network media monopoly, but you constitute a mode-of-thinking monopoly by transferring your polluted, perverted way of thinking to social media to infect as many minds as possible who are incapable of critical thinking anymore, because it isn't taught."

Said Rush Limbaugh on his show yesterday, in a monologue his website titles "The GOP Establishment Comes Undone: Romney Pines for the Days Before Rush, the Alternative Media, and Conservative 'Insurgents.'"

It's interesting when Rush turns on new media, because often he presents himself as the original new media person, leading the way. The line "citizens in their underwear in their basements just tapping out comments" jumped out at me as I was listening to the podcast last night. That's the classic image used to diminish bloggers and other self-publishers of the internet. But, reading the text this morning, I see he's accusing people on Twitter and Facebook of fakery, only pretending to be citizens in their underwear in their basements. He's diminishing them by saying they're not just citizens in their underwear in their basements tapping out comments.

Well, that's funny, because Rush likes to act like he's just some guy thinking out loud into a microphone. He's just the "little fuzzball," alone in his little room somewhere in Florida, shuffling papers around, sharing snippets from from AP, Reuters, Washington Post, New York Times, and reacting, telling you what he thinks. He's "disguised" as your extra-smart, chatty friend, watching the news with you and sounding off. He knows all about "transferring your his polluted, perverted way of thinking to social media radio to infect as many minds as possible who are incapable of critical thinking anymore, because it isn't taught."

I'm quoting him. I wouldn't say "polluted, perverted way of thinking." It's just political ideology. You locate yourself at the extreme if you look across the spectrum and see the other guy as "polluted" and "perverted." It would be nice, wouldn't it, to live in the imagined golden age when people were capable of critical thinking, because people were taught critical thinking? But in the real world, ideas and attitudes have always spread through intuitive responses to other people expressing ideas. That's the core experience of human life. One of the standard expressions that works in transferring the ideas is to convey the feeling that your ideas are sober and reasonable and the product of critical thinking and those other people are oozing some horrible disease. Ugh! Toxic! That's how Rush haters would like you to react to Rush. Don't even listen, you might catch it. And that's what Rush is saying about the foul, unwholesome liberals. 

The official Hillary Clinton website does viral media with a collection of how-to tips on how to make DIY Hillary costumes for Halloween.

The page is titled "Texts from Hillary and 4 other DIY Hillary Clinton costumes for Halloween/What’s in Hillary’s closet? A lifetime of looks," and there are 5 photos of Hillary from various stages of her life, each with a photo of a woman emulating her. We're given a list of items, for example, to be "Hipster Hillary," from 1969, you need a white blouse, glasses, striped pants, "leather shoes" (why stress "leather" rather than sandals?), and long, loose hair. The campaign promo is there: Hillary was "Wellesley College’s first-ever student commencement speaker."

I got there via Ed Driscoll at Instapundit, that is, I caught the virus through someone who loathes Hillary and prompts readers to laugh contemptuously ("Not The Onion"). I was initially surprised that the campaign would portray Hillary as a subject for Halloween (traditionally the realm of monsters and the dead), but reading the page, I saw the value. The bio is there, the young women modeling the costumes all look like they're having fun with it. And the Hillary haters who propagate the link, layering on their contempt and astonishment, give it spin that is useful for those who'd love to scream with horror at that old reflexive misogyny, risen from the grave once again.

By the way, back in 1969, college kids didn't refer to each other as "hipsters." A "hipster" would have been a man from the past, more of a 1950s beatnik in some smoky urban jazz club. The word the Hillary campaign has apparently forgotten is: "hippie."

Hippie, oddly enough, has become a go-to Halloween costume in recent years, perhaps because it's easy to put together from crap you might have around the house, like the old-standbys of the 1950s and 60s: bum and gypsy.

October 26, 2015

"Yeah, last week was the week Hillary won the presidency," I said.

Meade said, "Where are you reading that?" I said, "I'm just saying it."

The Grand-Prix-level show-jumping horse had been led out of his stall during the night and "filleted": "The slices were so deliberate..."

"... and so well done that the moment you saw it: This was a professional.”
Phedras’s carcass was found lying partially against the fence and ground. The head and neck were intact, but the legs were gone from the shoulders and cuts in the torso were smooth and deliberate.

“They literally filleted his shoulders,” she said.

Monuments and nonmonuments.

I feel like there's a theme today on the blog:

The Ukrainian Darth Vader Lenin

The big bronze head of Karl Marx 

"The monumental task of building California's bullet train will require punching 36 miles of tunnels..." (This quote looks so phallic — so rape-y —in the retrospect of late morning. And now the Karl Marx head on a plinth seems especially penile. And I guess everyone has already noticed that Darth Vader's helmet resembles the head of a penis.)
As president: a comedian

The fruitless "bare branches" of China — millions of men who, without women, can produce no offspring

Gloria Steinem expresses her love for the nonhierarchical "talking circles" (outside of mud huts in India and amongst the Native Americans) and her distaste for "our monotheistic patriarchies and their ‘pyramid’ structures of authority from the top."

Ukraine sculptor transforms a statue of Lenin into Darth Vader.

"I wish to save the monuments of history. I’m trying to clean up the operating system and keep them on the hard drive of memory."

Said Alexander Milov, who shouldn't be considered a vandal, since his transformation preserves the statute, which was slated to be removed after the Ukrainian parliament passed a "de-Communisation" law.
"We are gathering all these statues – like Lenin – and we would like to make a park of forlorn heroes of the epoch,” says Milov. “I want to take the statues out of the central squares of cities and put them in a different place like Disneyland, where they can be visited. It seems to me that if these statues are destroyed, people coming after us will have no possibility to make conclusions for themselves as to whether people needed them or not."
That would be like Grutas Park in Lithuania, which we talked about here and here last winter. But Milov prefers to keep the statues where they are and to "turn them into characters from Soviet cartoons."

As for the Darth Vader Lenin: "I wanted to make a symbol of American pop culture which appears to be more durable than the Soviet ideal." Interestingly, aptly, he put a Wi-Fi router in its head.

By the way, in the second of the 2 linked posts from last winter, we talked about the controversy about whether some aesthetically pleasing statues on The Green Bridge (in Vilnius, Lithuania) should be relocated to Grutas Park. I expressed concern about moving high-quality sculpture that "was designed for a particular site" because it "is partly destroyed when it is moved, even though it is otherwise preserved," and I asked: "If something is artistically good, but a remnant of an earlier time that the people who control the place now wish to reject completely, what should they do?"

The bridge sculptures were removed this past July, to be replaced by flowers.

Comedian wins the presidential election by a landslide...

... in Guatemala.

Cue the ready-made jokes about American elections won by comedians. 

ADDED: My son's take:
A celebrity who's a "household name" in Guatemala and used to have a TV show, but has never held office, and was initially considered a long-shot contender who didn't offer enough policy specifics to back up his conservative platform, went on to shock many people by winning the presidential election in the face of "widespread discontent with Guatemala's political class." Fortunately, that could never happen here . . .

"No one is forcing anyone to accept 'one wife, many husbands!'" said the Chinese economics professor, proposing a solution...

... to the problem of too few women in China to meet the demand of Chinese men who want wives.

The professor, Xie Zuoshi, blogged his idea. He has a lot of readers — 2.6 million followers for one of his 3 blogs — and this idea went viral — though the post itself has "been removed."
By 2020, China will have an estimated 30 million bachelors — called guanggun, or “bare branches.”...
One answer is: Stop aborting girls. But Xie's solution takes the current situation as it is.
Many men, especially poor ones, he noted, are unable to find a wife and have children, and are subsequently condemned to living and dying alone without offspring to support them in old age, as children are required to do by law in China. But he says he believes there is a solution.
Old-age pensions from the government? No:
“The guanggun problem is actually a problem of income. High-income men can find a woman because they can pay a higher price. What about low-income men? One solution is to have several take a wife together. That’s not just my weird idea. In some remote, poor places, brothers already marry the same woman, and they have a full and happy life.”

Polyandry has been practiced before in China, particularly in impoverished areas, as a way to pool resources and avoid the breakup of property. And apparently, there are Chinese who think polyandry may already be legal....

"There are no depths of irony, or bad taste, to which capitalists won’t sink if they think they can make money out of it."

A young political activist finds it "disgusting" that he should have to pay £4 (≈ $6) to visit the popular tourist attraction in London's Highgate Cemetery, the grave of Karl Marx. But Highgate Cemetery is private property, it's not making money burying new bodies (it's full), and the place had gone into decline. It was "a favorite hangout of occultists" and there was vandalism, "including two attempts to blow.. up" the giant bronze head of Marx that tops his tomb.
Not even all Marxists are against the fee. That includes Alex Gordon, chair of the trustees of the Marx Memorial Library & Workers’ School, a charity that helps look after the grave.

“Marx believed that labor should be rewarded, he didn’t believe that you could achieve a classless society simply by refusing to pay for things,” he said. “He wasn’t a hippie, let’s put it like that.”

"The monumental task of building California's bullet train will require punching 36 miles of tunnels through the geologically complex mountains north of Los Angeles."

"Crews will have to cross the tectonic boundary that separates the North American and Pacific plates, boring through a jumble of fractured rock formations and a maze of earthquake faults, some of which are not mapped. It will be the most ambitious tunneling project in the nation's history...."
"If it were one single mass of granite, it would be easy to drill through and provide structural support," said [Caltech geologist Leon] Silver, who trained the Apollo astronauts in lunar geology and pioneered the dating of the San Gabriel Mountains. "But everything in the arc has been bent, shoved, stretched, compressed and metamorphosed."

The mountain range lies in a giant crescent between two major faults, the San Gabriel and the San Andreas, which separates the Mojave Desert on the North American tectonic plate from the Los Angeles Basin on the Pacific plate. Between the two major faults are many secondary faults. Some are vertical strike-slip faults that move laterally, and some are thrust faults that move vertically. Some are horizontal, traveling through the ground at various depths....

The longest possible tunnel, described as one alternative in state documents, would stretch 13.8 miles under the Angeles National Forest. Assuming TBMs started at both ends and advanced at 20 feet a day for 261 days a year, the tunnel would take seven years to complete — finishing in 2026. At an advance rate of 10 feet a day, the time would double to 14 years....

"Nobody can sit here and tell you what something like this is going to cost over a 20-year period," [said Jeff Morales, the rail authority chief executive]. "Any big program like this is loaded with challenges. The day you hear me say I am comfortable is the day I am not telling you the truth or the day I have deluded myself."
That's at the L.A. Times, where the top-rated comments are: "Why is it that when we predicted this, we were callled [sic] flat Earth declinists, when were the right the whole time?" and "No one with a single brain cell ever thought this was rational. It is and has been a political boondoggle from day one. It's stunning to think environmentalists in CA would allow such a dangerous construction project."

Flashback to April 2009: "Obama unveils high-speed passenger rail plan... The president's plan identifies 10 potential high-speed intercity corridors for federal funding, including California, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, the Southeast, the Gulf Coast, Pennsylvania, Florida, New York and New England.... His plan would be funded in part through the recently passed $787 billion stimulus plan, which includes a total of $8 billion for improvements in rail service.... The city of Chicago, Illinois, would be the hub of the proposed Midwest Regional Rail System, which would stretch to Madison, Wisconsin, in the Northwest; St. Louis, Missouri, in the South; and Detroit, Michigan, in the East."

Wisconsin said no to that money. It was the single issue that caused me to vote for Scott Walker in 2010. Local media whined that we lost  $810 million, while California was "the big winner, with up to $624 million." California is now in the process of giving up hope that it can meet a $68 billion budget. The rail authority chief executive says it would be delusional even to believe you can project the ultimate cost.

"The original languages didn't even have he and she. They didn't have concepts of masculine and feminine."

"People were people. And the whole idea was that we were in a circle together, not in a hierarchy together."

Said Gloria Steinem, in an Esquire interview. That quote struck me, having just read an article by Jane Kramer in The New Yorker called "Road Warrior/After fifty years, Gloria Steinem is still at the forefront of the feminist cause," which shows how central this idiosyncratic anthropology has been to Steinem. Steinem went to India for a 2-year fellowship after college and says she did her "first organizing there." She returned to India in 1974 and:
She had trekked to villages cordoned off by the government because of caste riots, and watched, at night, as the villagers emerged from mud huts to sit in circles, lit by kerosene lamps, and tell their stories of burnings, murders, thefts, and rapes, “with fear and trauma that needed no translation” but with the relief that came from talking and being heard. In her road book, she calls it “the first time I witnessed the ancient and modern magic of talking circles, those groups in which anyone may speak in turn, everyone must listen, and consensus is more important than time.”
[Wilma] Mankiller had been the first elected chief of the Cherokee Nation, and she and Steinem had been close ever since she joined the board of the Ms. Foundation. Over the years, Mankiller had become, for Steinem, a kind of spiritual guide.... It was Mankiller, she says, who continued her education in the “deep history” of matrilineality, and the communal talking circles that expressed it. “We have always started our ‘history’ with when hierarchy, patriarchy, and nationalism started,” Steinem told me. “But democracy did not come from Greece. It is much, much older, and it came from women and men together.” She added, “The Iroquois Confederacy had circles of consensus—it was matrilineal.”
Before Mankiller died in 2010, she was working on a writing a book with Steinem, and Steinem wants to continue the project:
“I want to contribute our idea that most of human history was very different from what we have today, with our monotheistic patriarchies and their ‘pyramid’ structures of authority from the top,” [Steinem] said. “Many peoples were—and some still are—not gender-based in their languages. And there was rarely a single chief. There was always a chief for peace, and a different one for war. Their societies were not polarized, and not violence-based.” The jury is out on that. Many archeologists and anthropologists would disagree. But, as an organizing principle for Steinem, and for the feminists she has brought together, the evocation of an ancient tradition of talking circles for sharing stories, bridging differences, and coming to acceptable common solutions has been a remarkably effective tool.
Many archeologists and anthropologists would disagree.... but it's not science, is it? It's mythology. Mythology is a different process. When Steinem says she "witnessed the ancient and modern magic of talking circles," we're witnessing the ancient and modern magic of mythology.

By the way, this fascination with the imagined better world of India and the Cherokee and the Iroquois is stereotypical of the 1960s. The hippies had the same dream. Steinem is not a hippie. Her cultural stream diverged from the hippie philosophy. I remember when that divergence occurred. At the time I thought the Ms. Magazine people were retro, missing the zeitgeist, the counterculture. If we were shedding "concepts of masculine and feminine," getting together and loving one another, why heighten the sense of the differentness of women, why talk about the oppression of the kinds of families our parents lived in — we were already free — and why go on and on about careers — when the point was to drop out?

ADDED: That line "the villagers emerged from mud huts to sit in circles" made me think of the old Camille Paglia lines: "If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts" and "Trying to build a sex theory without studying Freud, women have made nothing but mud pies."

October 25, 2015

On Picnic Point...


... near sunset, with lovely foliage.


You can write about anything you want in the comments.