November 29, 2015

Chuck Todd was heavily pushing the politicization of the Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting.

It permeated "Meet the Press" today. The worst part was in this segment of the interview with Ben Carson:
CHUCK TODD: There was this shooting in Colorado Springs. And overnight, there's now been reports that the shooter was yelling about baby parts. 
Yelling? I thought "no more baby parts" only appeared somewhere in the shooter's rambling, unfocused interview with the police. Todd is making it seem like an Allahu-Akbar-type battle cry.
CHUCK TODD: Planned Parenthood put out this statement, "We've seen an alarming increase in hateful rhetoric and smear campaigns against abortion providers and patients over the last few months. That environment breeds acts of violence. Americans reject the hatred and vitriol that fueled this tragedy." That was, again, from a Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountain spokesperson. Do you believe that the rhetoric got too heated on Planned Parenthood? And are you concerned that it may have motivated a mentally disturbed individual?
Carson handled the question by going utterly generic —  rejecting "any hateful rhetoric directed at anyone from any source" and recommending that we "stop trying to destroy each other" and "work constructively."

Earlier, Todd asked a similar question of Donald Trump, albeit without the inappropriate reference to "yelling."
CHUCK TODD: Now, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood is concerned that the heated rhetoric around the Planned Parenthood debate could've had an adverse effect, basically, on this mentally disturbed individual. Do you think the rhetoric got out of hand on Planned Parenthood?
Trump stuck to his idea that the man (Robert Lewis Dear) is mentally ill. And that's when Todd brought up that "he was talking about baby parts and things like... during his interview." Todd seemed to be trying to get Trump to back off on the political headway that anti-abortion forces have made with the undercover Planned Parenthood videos. Trump did not give him that (though he took a sideswipe at Republicans):

Dear in the headlights.

I look at the mugshots of Robert Lewis Dear — those eyes — and I think: mentally ill. A quote from a neighbor: "He was a very weird individual. It's hard to explain, but he had a weird look in his eye most of the time."

Another neighbor: "He complained about everything. He said he worked with the government, and everybody was out to get him, and he knew the secrets of the U.S.A. He said, 'Nobody touch me, because I've got enough information to put the whole U.S. of A in danger.' It was very crazy."

He'd been arrested 9 times, including twice for "personal intrusion" and twice for animal cruelty.

He had 2 homes, "a white trailer 'with a forest-green four-wheeler by the front door and a modest black cross painted on one end'" — photo here — and something in Black Mountain, N.C., that the neighbors said looked like a "moonshine shack" and the Washington Post called a "little yellow wooden hut, with overgrown weeds and no indoor plumbing, banged together" — photo here. In happier circumstances, the media might call a place like this a "tiny house."

Did those undercover Planned Parenthood videos inspire him, push him over the edge? The NYT quotes a law "senior law enforcement official," who's anonymous, because he shouldn't be speaking to the press. He says Dear "said a lot of things" including "no more baby parts." The NYT characterizes Dear's interview with the police as "rambling" and says it was "difficult for the authorities to pinpoint a specific motivation."

Those mean Republicans at the state level of Wisconsin government won't give women free tampons, but...

... the kindly Democrats at the local level here in Dane County (i.e., Madison) are ready to serve:
The move follows an effort by state Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, to require all publicly funded school and state buildings to supply those products on the state’s tab. After circulating the measure for co-sponsorship, Sargent said the bill has been turned in with only Democratic support. Though Sargent is not hopeful the bill will pass this session, she sees the debate that it has stirred as a success.

“It has started a wave of conversation of why is it that women and girls don’t have all their basic public health needs in bathrooms in the same way that men do,” Sargent said. 
What do men get in bathrooms? What are we talking about here?
“There are a number of bills being produced now in regards to who uses what bathroom,” she said. “If people are concerned about bathroom equity, they should also back this.”
Since we're talking about bathrooms for one reason, let's try to come up with all the other bathroom-related ideas for spending tax money and driving a partisan wedge into the citizenry.
“I strongly support it and I haven’t heard any opposition,” said Carousel Bayrd, the board’s first vice-chair....
So Carousel Bayrd has not heard any opposition. This is an occasion to analyze the meaning of silence. If you haven't heard anything, what does it really mean?

People fighting for their places just get in my way....

ADDED: What about the environment? Should we be subsidizing the use of disposables?

AND: Speaking of starting "a wave of conversation" made me think about the wave that is the red tide of menstruation, so let's listen to this Laurie Anderson performance of "Beautiful Red Dress":
Well, they say women shouldn't be the president
Cause we go crazy from time to time
Well, push my button, baby
Here I come
Yeah, look out, baby
I'm at high tide
I've got a beautiful red dress and you'd look really good standing beside it...
The government needs to buy us all a red dress of freedom.

"Jon Dovey writes about how reality-TV programming affects the way we understand the very concepts of truth and authenticity."

"With the rise and dominance of reality television over the last twenty-five years comes the concomitant belief that humanity is knowable via the investigative camera, the first-person essay, and the webcam confessional. Dovey writes, 'Statements about the world no longer have any purchase unless they are embodied, relative and particular rather than totalizing, general and unified.' Indeed, MTV traffics in the self—it rolls out a seemingly endless list of personal stories, unique identities, which are, nonetheless, ultimately generic and universalized."

From Amanda Ann Klein's "Thirty Seasons of 'The Real World'" in The New Yorker, which doesn't identify Dovey or link to his writing. I'll guess that he's this professor of screen media. I couldn't Google to more context for that quote.

I was interested in those ideas because they meshed with something I just read, the old Tom Wolfe essay,  "The 'Me' Decade and the Third Great Awakening" (linked yesterday in this post). That was written in 1976, which was 16 years before "The Real World" even got started (in 1992, the year of the first Clinton presidential campaign). That Wolfe essay is about the vitality of American individualism and ends quite profoundly:
In Democracy in America, Tocqueville (the inevitable and ubiquitous Tocqueville) saw the American sense of equality itself as disrupting the stream, which he called “time’s pattern”: “Not only does democracy make each man forget his ancestors, it hides his descendants from him, and divides him from his contemporaries; it continually turns him back into himself, and threatens, at last, to enclose him entirely in the solitude of his own heart.” A grim prospect to the good Alexis de T.—but what did he know about . . . Let’s talk about Me!

Tocqueville’s idea of modern man lost “in the solitude of his own heart” has been brought forward into our time in such terminology as alienation (Marx), anomie (Durkheim), the mass man (Ortega y Gasset), and the lonely crowd (Riesman). The picture is always of a creature uprooted by industrialism, packed together in cities with people he doesn’t know, helpless against massive economic and political shifts—in short, a creature like Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, a helpless, bewildered, and dispirited slave to the machinery. This victim of modern times has always been a most appealing figure to intellectuals, artists, and architects. The poor devil so obviously needs us to be his Engineers of the Soul, to use a term popular in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. We will pygmalionize this sad lump of clay into a homo novus, a New Man, with a new philosophy, a new aesthetics, not to mention new Bauhaus housing and furniture.

But once the dreary little bastards started getting money in the 1940s, they did an astonishing thing—they took their money and ran. They did something only aristocrats (and intellectuals and artists) were supposed to do—they discovered and started doting on Me! They’ve created the greatest age of individualism in American history! All rules are broken! The prophets are out of business! Where the Third Great Awakening will lead—who can presume to say? One only knows that the great religious waves have a momentum all their own. Neither arguments nor policies nor acts of the legislature have been any match for them in the past. And this one has the mightiest, holiest roll of all, the beat that goes... Me... Me... Me... Me....
ADDED: Isn't it funny for The New Yorker to be brooding about the effects of reality TV on the American mind and not to mention the most dominant reality TV character of our time: Donald Trump?

WaPo recirculates the old lie that Trump mocked Krauthammer's disability.

I'm only seeing the updated version, which has this correction: "This story has been updated to clarify to whom Trump directed his comment about the 'guy that can’t buy a pair of pants.'" WaPo's reporter Jose A. DelReal was hot to characterize Trump — under fire for supposedly imitating the disability of Serge Kovaleski — as somebody who's a serial mocker of the disabled. As the report now reads:
This is not the first time Trump has been accused of mocking a person’s physical appearance. In a July interview with NBC news, Trump lashed out at columnists Jonah Goldberg and Charles Krauthammer after the latter called the candidate a "rodeo clown."

“I get called by a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants, I get called names?” Trump said at the time.

Critics speculated that Trump had intentionally mocked Krauthammer, who is paralyzed from the waist down, while others said the comments were about Goldberg. Krauthammer contacted The Washington Post on Thursday to say that Trump's comments were about Goldberg, not himself.
I tried to find the original, but Google cache and Wayback Machine take me to a dead end. What's going on there?

Here's my post from last July "Whose pants is Donald Trump talking about?": "Here's the clip. He's obviously talking about Goldberg, not Krauthammer, when he gets to the pair-of-pants hyperbole." Media jumped on Trump back then and got it wrong. The slavering shows. I think it's a good bet that this new WaPo article successfully propagated the meme that Trump is a serial mocker of disabled people.

ADDED: Here's Washington Monthly's contribution to the meme:
Donald Trump mocked New York Times investigative reporter Serge Kovaleski’s disability on a stage in front of thousands of supporters. There’s no denying that he did it or what he meant by it. At another point, Trump said that conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer, who is partially paralyzed, “couldn’t buy a pair of pants.” That was also captured on camera. So, even if there isn’t as much difference between George W. Bush and Donald Trump as people might think, there’s a lot more ammo to use against Trump.
That, written by one Martin Longman, remains uncorrected. There are lots of comments there too, and no one has flagged the error.

AND: At Mashable, the uncorrected meme is repeated by Liza Hearon:
It is not the first time Trump has been criticized for appearing to mock someone's handicap. In July, Trump said, “I get called by a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants, I get called names?” referring to the columnist Charles Krauthammer who is paralyzed from the waist down.

"Another danger of climate change: Giant flying boulders?"

A WaPo headline. Excerpt:
The idea is that Earth’s climate went through a warming period just over 100,000 years ago that was similar in many ways to the warming now attributed to the actions of man. And the changes during that period were so catastrophic, they spawned massively powerful superstorms, causing violent ocean waves that simply lifted the boulders from below and deposited them atop this cliff.

If this is true, the effort kicking off in Paris this week to hold the world’s nations to strict climate targets may be even more urgent than most people realize....

November 28, 2015

"Wisconsin school nixes reading of book about transgender kid."

For some reason that's the most-read article at WaPo right now. As a citizen of Wisconsin, I felt I needed to take note.
The Mount Horeb Area School District released a statement Wednesday saying it will not proceed with its planned reading of the book “I am Jazz”.... Last week, the principal of Mount Horeb Primary Center sent a letter to parents saying the book would be read and discussed because the school has a student who identifies as a girl but was born with male anatomy. “We believe all students deserve respect and support regardless of their gender identity and expression, and the best way to foster that respect and support is through educating students about the issue of being transgender,” the letter said. The Florida-based Liberty Counsel group threatened to sue....

"Serge Kovaleski must think a lot of himself if he thinks I remember him from decades ago — if I ever met him at all, which I doubt I did."

"He should stop using his disability to grandstand and get back to reporting for a paper that is rapidly going down the tubes."

Said Trump, quoted by James Taranto, who sides with Kovaleski, because: 1. It's believable that Kovaleski really can't remember why he wrote what he wrote about cheering in Jersey City on 9/11, and 2. The video makes it "far likelier" than not that Trump's "gesticulations" were deliberate mockery of Kovaleski's physical disability.

I've already said what I have to say about the Trump/Kovaleski matter, so I'll just move on down Taranto column and quote this:
Hypothesis and Proof...
  • “American Turks Anxious About Dukakis Presidency”—headline, Times-News (Hendersonville, N.C.), Aug. 7 1988
  • “Michael Dukakis Would Very Much Like Your Turkey Carcass”—headline, Boston Globe, Nov. 25, 2015

Walking the Overlode Trail.

In Blue Mound State Park today:



Is it deer season? Yes. Did we hear a gunshot? Yes. One.

Here's how it looks mountain biking that trail.

Race is a "broad and protean" matter, presenting "rich, difficult questions," and "Any insistence otherwise is religious."

John McWhorter writes, in a WSJ piece, "Closed Minds on Campus":
The idea that only the naive or the immoral would question issues connected to something as broad and protean as race and racism is hasty at best and anti-intellectual at worst. What qualifies as discrimination? As cultural appropriation? As aggression? What is an ethnicity? What does racial courtesy consist of, and for what reasons? These are rich, difficult questions with no hard-and-fast answers.

Any insistence otherwise is religious. The term is unavoidable here. When intelligent people openly declare that logic applies only to the extent that it corresponds to doctrine and shoot down serious questions with buzzwords and disdain, we are dealing with a faith. As modern as these protests seem, in their way, they return the American university to its original state as a divinity school—where exegesis of sacred texts was sincerely thought of as intellection, with skepticism treated as heresy.

Did you buy anything on Black Friday?

I didn't. Meade went to Whole Foods and bought some cheese curds and other normal items. I did contemplate buying a ping pong table. How much space at either end do you really need? I'm seeing 5 feet, which means you need a 19 foot room. But we'll also wheel it outdoors, where there's plenty of room, but maybe that will make indoor limitations more aggravating. Any advice? Would we need more room if we called it table tennis? That's a serious question!

Anyway, if you've got some shopping to do, please considering doing it in a way that supports this blog by going into Amazon through The Althouse Portal.

"If you’re going to be a leader, you’re going to have to have a very loose relationship with this thing you call 'I' or 'me.'"

"Maybe that whole thing in me around which the universe revolves isn’t so central!... Maybe life is not about the self but about self-transcendence! You got a problem with that?"

Said Werner Erhard, a character from the 1970s, who's got a big NYT article about his new training sessions, "Creating Class Leaders," which sounds a lot like his old sessions, which were called EST, except that he doesn't curse at the audience and keep them from going to the bathroom.
“I am committed to the opposite of that idea [that 'there are no second acts in American lives'],” Mr. Erhard said a few weeks after the leadership class in Toronto. “I don’t think there’s a person who walked out of that room who isn’t a second act.” To say nothing of their instructor, who, at age 80, may be more of a third or fourth act.
There was a time, boys and girls — the Me Decade, Tom Wolfe called it — when Mom and Dad wore mood rings, attended encounter groups and in general engaged in a tireless amount of navel gazing... Aspiring “ESTies” flocked to hotel ballrooms across the country for combative training sessions during which they forwent meal and bathroom breaks to take responsibility for their lives and “get it” by discovering there was nothing to get. Diana Ross, Joe Namath, Yoko Ono, Jerry Rubin and several hundred thousand other seekers got it...

Sitting in front of a bank of computers in his hotel room, he read excerpts from the 1,000-page textbook he is working on, such as: “As linguistic abstractions, leader and leadership create leader and leadership as realms of possibility in which, when you are being a leader, all possible ways of being are available to you.” Briefly, the course, which owes ideological debts to the Forum and to the German philosopher Martin Heidegger... Students master principles like integrity and authenticity....
I added the internal links. The "no second acts" line comes from F. Scott Fitzgerald. As the NYT puts it: "Pound another nail into the coffin for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s notion that there are no second acts in American lives." But Fitzgerald shouldn't be pegged down as believing that. My link goes to an NPR interview with the vice president of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society, Kirk Curnutt:
CURNUTT: [The line] shows up in an essay called "My Lost City," which is a beautiful sort of testament to New York and was actually very popular in the aftermath of 9/11. The line he says here is: I once thought that there were no second acts in American lives, but there was certainly to be a second act to New York's boom days. Clearly he's sort of saying, well, I once believed this but I've been proved wrong. And I think that's what really gets most of us who are Fitzgerald fans is that line is always quoted as saying, well, how naive was Fitzgerald to have said there are no second acts in American lives, when he himself was only a couple of years away from what many people consider the greatest second act in American literary history.... Of all the beautiful lines that I adore that F. Scott Fitzgerald ever wrote, this is the one I really hate. I wince when I hear it, partly because it's used as a way of saying how sort of naive and shortsighted he was. But also, because for those of us who really adore Fitzgerald, the problem with that is we don't like our man to be cynical. Fitzgerald was an optimist. For all that he went through in life and for sort of how low he was at the end of his life, he really did - like Jay Gatsby - believe in the green light. And he was trying to be optimistic to the core.
I added the link to "My Lost City." Now, onto that other link to that other great essay, Tom Wolfe's "The 'Me' Decade and the Third Great Awakening." That article, like EST, broke big into the culture at the point in my life when, pre-law school, I worked analyzing magazines in a marketing research firm. I read and coded scores of magazines every month and engaged in the proto-blogging of blabbing with my co-coders about whatever struck us as interesting, which, of course, included EST and the concept of "The 'Me' Decade."
The old alchemical dream was changing base metals into gold. The new alchemical dream is: changing one’s personality—remaking, remodeling, elevating, and polishing one’s very self . . . and observing, studying, and doting on it. (Me!) This had always been an aristocratic luxury, confined throughout most of history to the life of the courts, since only the very wealthiest classes had the free time and the surplus income to dwell upon this sweetest and vainest of pastimes. It smacked so much of vanity, in fact, that the noble folk involved in it always took care to call it quite something else....

By the mid-1960s this service, this luxury, had become available for one and all, i.e., the middle classes... They were encouraged to bare their own souls and to strip away one another’s defensive facades. Everyone was to face his own emotions squarely for the first time....

"We don’t yet know the full circumstances and motives behind this criminal action, and we don’t yet know if Planned Parenthood was in fact the target of this attack."

"We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country. We will never back away from providing care in a safe, supportive environment that millions of people rely on and trust."

Said the president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, quoted in "3 Are Dead in Colorado Springs Shootout at Planned Parenthood Center."

"Some women just do it for a cheese pie, or a sandwich they need to eat because they are hungry."

Dire prostitution in Greece.
When the economic crisis began in Greece, the going rate for sex with a prostitute was 50 euros ($53).... Now, it’s fallen to as low as two euros ($2.12) for a 30-minute session.
Meanwhile, in NYC, women have been successful using dating sites to find men who will take them out to dinner, even when the women are honest that there is no hope of having sex with them and they were are in it for the free food.

"The blind woman who switched personalities and could suddenly see."

The Washington Post recounts the case history of a woman who was "diagnosed her with cortical blindness, caused by damage to the visual processing centers in her brain," got used to living as a blind person, but supposedly had "more than 10 wildly different personalities that competed for control of her body."
Then, four years into psychotherapy... while in one of her adolescent male states, B.T. saw a word on the cover of a magazine. It was the first word she had read visually in 17 years. At first, B.T.’s renewed sight was restricted to recognizing whole words in that one identity. If asked, she couldn’t even see the individual letters that made up the words, just the words themselves. But it gradually expanded, first to higher-order visual processes (like reading), then to lower-level ones (like recognizing patterns) until most of her personalities were able to see most of the time. When B.T. alternated between sighted and sightless personalities, her vision switched as well....
If you're like me, you're thinking didn't we learn a while back that this multiple personality business is fake? The key evidence this article presents is the EEG test: "When B.T. was in her two blind states, her brain showed none of the electrical responses to visual stimuli that sighted people would display — even though B.T.’s eyes were open and she was looking right at them."
Though DID [dissociative identity disorder] has been listed in... the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, since 1994 (and was recognized as “multiple personality disorder” for a decade and a half before that), there is still a large amount of skepticism about the diagnosis among experts and patients alike... The case study shows that DID “is a legitimate psycho-physiologically based syndrome of psychological distress,” Dr. Richard P. Kluft, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Temple University School of Medicine not associated with the study, told Brain Decoder. The condition is not just a product of culture and psychiatrists’ suggestions, he said; as in B.T.’s case, it “represents the mind’s attempt to compartmentalize its pain.”

November 27, 2015

One of the black Harvard lawprofs whose photos were covered with black tape writes a thoughtful op-ed in the NYT.

There's a lot of detail to this, by Randall Kennedy, so read the whole thing. I'll just excerpt his reaction to the tape:
The identity and motives of the person or people behind the taping have not been determined. Perhaps the defacer is part of the law school community. But maybe not. Perhaps the defacer is white. But maybe not. Perhaps the taping is meant to convey anti-black contempt or hatred for the African-American professors. But maybe it was meant to protest the perceived marginalization of black professors, or was a hoax meant to look like a racial insult in order to provoke a crisis, or was a rebuke to those who have recently been taping over the law school’s seal, which memorializes a family of slaveholders from colonial times. Some observers, bristling with certainty, insist that the message conveyed by the taping of the photographs is obvious. To me it is puzzling.

Assuming that it was a racist gesture, there is a need to calibrate carefully its significance....
And one more sentence from the last paragraph: "In the long run, though, reformers harm themselves by nurturing an inflated sense of victimization."

"Our brothers will come and kill those like you, infidels. They'll cut heads with knives. And you know, my heart won't miss a beat."

"I looked at her and I could no longer see my child. She was simply a shell of my daughter, no soul, no thoughts, no heart."

Said the mother of this beautiful girl:

11,950 gallstones.

Found in one woman.

It took 50 minutes to remove them and 4 hours to count them.

Trump outdoes himself with this mocking/not mocking of a disabled reporter.

My take on this story?

Trump — seeming free and wild — somehow hits an absolutely precise line. It's so precise that I want to credit him with knowing exactly what he's doing, even as I am willing to let him off the hook, because that's the line he's hitting — making us think something and preserving deniablity.

He sure got media covering him, here on this holiday weekend when other candidates are lying low. And they're covering him on a story that had almost played out: his assertion that he saw "thousands and thousands" of people cheering in Jersey City on September 11th.

The media is doing his work, keeping that story alive, making repeated references to an article that was in The Washington Post a few days after 9/11 that said "authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river." That article has to be pointed out to set up this new controversy about its author Serge Kovaleski. Kovaleski has a condition, (arthrogryposis) that curls his hand into a distinctively distorted position that Trump may have been imitating as he ridiculed Kovaleski's efforts to get out of taking responsibility for that article he wrote.
“Now, the poor guy — you’ve got to see this guy, ‘Ah, I don’t know what I said! I don’t remember!’"  Trump said as he jerked his arms in front of his body.
The media have picked out the single still that most resembles the reporter's deformity. If you watch the video, you get a much milder impression of what Trump may or may not have been doing. The deniability is there. Maybe Trump was only enacting the weaseling and waffling statements of the reporter and not his physical appearance. If you want to say Trump didn't really mock a disabled person, you certainly can. But if you want to say he did, have at him! If you love Trump, you can defend him, and if you hate him, you've just got to talk about it. What a vortex! All that attention, all that energy.

Quite aside from that, there's the very politically incorrect pleasure of imitating the physical disabilities. Trump is taking some Americans back to the good old days when absolutely beloved pop culture characters made people guffaw with abandon by affecting the movements of persons with physical disabilities. There was, of course, Jerry Lewis.* But he was not the only one. Here's that old "Imagine" guy John Lennon:

That was, in the minds of many still living, a perfectly harmless way to have fun. I suspect Trump knows there's a sizable, long-starved audience out there who would love to be free to laugh at that sort of thing again, and they can feel that Trump is reaching out to them and it's a secret but enticing part of the offer to "Make America Great Again."

* From "Enfant Terrible!: Jerry Lewis in American Film":
ADDED: How retrograde is this silent America? Think about it: Just last week, "South Park" had its disabled character Jimmy saying "S-s-s-suck my dick, PC Principal":

It's Black Friday.

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