January 27, 2015

"Nearly every time I have mentioned the subject of p.c. to a female writer I know, she has told me about Binders Full of Women Writers..."

"... an invitation-only Facebook group started last year for women authors," writes Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine.
The name came from Mitt Romney’s awkwardly phrased debate boast that as Massachusetts governor he had solicited names of female candidates for high-level posts, and became a form of viral mockery. Binders was created to give women writers a “laid-back” and “no-pressure” environment for conversation and professional networking. It was an attempt to alleviate the systemic under­representation of women in just about every aspect of American journalism and literature, and many members initially greeted the group as a welcome and even exhilarating source of social comfort and professional opportunity. “Suddenly you had the most powerful women in journalism and media all on the same page,” one former member, a liberal journalist in her 30s, recalls.

Binders, however, soon found itself frequently distracted by bitter identity-­politics recriminations, endlessly litigating the fraught requirements of p.c. discourse....

"White House Drone Crash Is Tied to Drinking by Intelligence Worker."

"A man who says he operated a drone that crashed on the White House grounds early Monday is an employee of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, according to law enforcement officials. He told Secret Service investigators that he had been drinking at an apartment nearby before he lost control of the craft, the officials said."

The NYT reports.

"Scott Walker forms committee in preparation for 2016 presidential bid."

Title for the committee: "Our American Revival."
"Our American Revival encompasses the shared values that make our country great; limiting the powers of the federal government to those defined in the Constitution while creating a leaner, more efficient, more effective and more accountable government to the American people,” Walker said in a statement in the release announcing the committee.
To parse that statement, giving significance to the semicolon, I see 2 items, one much more important than the other:

1. "Shared values." This speaks to the "values voters" and social conservatives. You are acknowledged, but this won't be the emphasis, because only what is shared widely will be part of the revival.

2.  Improving the federal government. This is the real emphasis of the campaign. It has 2 parts, the second of which is more important: 1. Constitutional (limited, enumerated powers), and 2. Practical (lean, efficient, effective, and accountable).

That's my analysis, admittedly seen through the lens of my own preference.

ADDED: If that semi-colon were a colon, the text be quite different, suggesting that our only shared values relate to limited, workable government. Forget those social issues.

"Is it really worth it to accumulate debt for such an epistemically poor education?"

I thought it would be helpful to isolate the last question in the last paragraph of an op-ed in The Daily Californian titled "Occupy the syllabus":
So, if you have taken classes in the social sciences and humanities, we challenge you: Count the readings authored by white males and those authored by the majority of humanity. Then ask yourself: Are your identities and the identities of people you love reflected on these syllabi? Whose perspectives and life experiences are excluded? Is it really worth it to accumulate debt for such an epistemically poor education?
I got there via Instapundit, who wrote:
U.C. Berkeley Students Complain About Having To Read Aristotle, Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Weber and Foucault. In course on classic social theory. And if that makes it hard for you to focus on the course material, cupcakes, you don’t belong in college"
And I must add 2 things:

1. What a bad line drawing at the first link. I especially love the flatness of the disapprobation on the face of this lady:


2. What's this comfortably left-wing enclave known as Berkeley coming to when a professor can't get to the end of a lecture on Marx without tripping up trying to joke his way out of a challenge about the exclusion of underincluded identities?
For example, when lecturing on Marx’s idea of the “natural division of labor between men and women,” the professor attributed some intellectual merit to this idea because men and women are biologically distinct from each other, because women give birth while men do not. One student asked, “What about trans* people?” to which the professor retorted, “There will always be exceptions.” Then, laughing, the professor teased, “We may all be transgender in the future.” Although one might be tempted to dismiss these remarks as a harmless attempt at humor, mocking trans* people and calling them “exceptions” is unacceptable.

"The Mormon Church today announced that it will support national and local anti-discrimination laws for gays and lesbians..."

"... provided such laws also respect the rights of religious groups. Church leaders called the offer a new 'way forward' to balance religious freedom and legal protection for people in the LGBT community."

Says breaking news email from CNN.

At the CNN website: "Mormon church backs LGBT rights -- with one condition."

"SCENE: Murdoch sitting with Valerie Jarrett gushing over Jeb, immigration..."

Drudge teaser, linking the NYT "As in 2012, Romney Can Do No Right in Murdoch’s Eyes."

This scene is most helpful to the reputation of...
pollcode.com free polls

This scene is least helpful to the reputation of...
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The NYT was well aware of whose reputation was hurt and helped by its description of this scene.
pollcode.com free polls

"They are calling this storm 'historic' which…. Well I didn’t know you could call a thing historic if it hasn’t happened yet."

"But I’m not one to defy future historic events. And I have to be respectful of the responsibility I have to the 15,000 people who are holding tickets to the show and could be stranded somewhere historically trying to get to or from my show. I think it’s clearly better that I alter history in the name of safety and cancel. Besides, if you’ve ever tried to get your deposit back when you rent a banquet hall for a wedding that gets snowed out, you don’t want to even know what the deposit is on Madison Square Jesus Christing Garden is. So. No show. I will be on Letterman tonight, though. So you can yell boo right at my stupid and very handsome face on your tv screen or on your paper towel or your watch or whatever you view Letterman on."

Wrote Louis C.K.

"It may seem ironic that Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's extreme right Front National, rooted for the extreme left Syriza in yesterday's Greek election and rejoiced at its landslide victory."

"Yet there's nothing unusual about it: Syriza, Front National and other European anti-establishment parties are partners in a political revolution that appears to be about to sweep the continent, giving back the original meaning to political terms such as 'left' and 'right' — and helping Russian President Vladimir Putin in the process."

So begins a column at Bloomberg by Leonid Bershidsky titled "Syriza, Le Pen and the Power of Big Ideas."

"Please stop using our music in any way .. . we literally hate you !!!"

"Love, Dropkick Murphys."

"You" = Scott Walker.

That asteroid...

... had its own moon.

"A uni-moon is one of those terrible modern trends of taking individual honeymoons attached to work trips."

"So she took hers in the Dominican Republic, and I took mine in Paris because we couldn't coordinate our honeymoons together because of over-scheduling."

Just admit that you travel separately and leave the moon out of this.

(Feel free to use that as the title of your next novel: Leave the Moon Out of This. Background reference: "Don't Mention the Moon.")

"When I went to Oberlin, I had a Facebook group called ‘Political Correctness is Totally Gay.'"

Says Lena Dunham, adding:
"In hindsight, it’s not something I would have done, and I loved Oberlin, but when I got to school I was so distressed by the level of censorship. I thought, 'We all share politics here, we’re all people who are trying to urge the world forward with our liberal ideas, but there’s a thought police element here that makes me really uncomfortable.'"
"In hindsight, it’s not something I would have done..." — that's a tellingly awkward locution. In hindsight, it is something that you did, so how does the "would" function? She could mean: With hindsight, I see it's something I should not have done. Or: If I could have known then what I know now, I would not have done that.

And let's take apart this summary of her college-age thinking: "We all share politics here, we’re all people who are trying to urge the world forward with our liberal ideas, but there’s a thought police element here that makes me really uncomfortable." What I question about that — what makes me sad and reminds me of my law school days, circa 1980s — is the unexamined assumption that, of course, we are all liberals, we must be liberals, that's the common ground, and you would never want to get off that common ground.

Notice that Dunham still needs that assumed premise: We're all liberals here. We're all moving the world forward. We are all the good people, the liberals, and as I find out what the liberal position is on whatever we proceed to talk about, you can rest assured that I will be there, standing with all of you, on this common ground.

And then the one dissonant observation that blips through is: I'm stultified!

All that internalized restriction is stultifying... and yet, to go any deeper, to escape from that uncomfortableness is to risk losing the comfort of the common ground, the place you share with everyone you know.

Isn't it sad to look back on your school days, when you could have had all these exciting debates about everything, and to see that you missed out on all that, because everyone wanted to be good, everyone wanted to be lovable?

Oh, but you did have that Facebook group — "Political Correctness is Totally Gay" — you did let out a peep about the stultification, and instead of now saying I should have done much more, you're saying I shouldn't even have done that.

"That's not the observation of some wingnut in search of an idol..."

"... it's from a story by John Dickerson, political reporter for Slate, a publication that not too long ago held a navel-gazing session on the topic of 'Is Slate Too Liberal?'"

Writes Steve Elbow, a reporter for the Madison newspaper the Capital Times, in a piece titled "Scott Walker's Iowa triumph: Is this really getting serious?" Here's what he quoted from Dickerson's "Best in Show/Wisconsin’s Scott Walker outshines the competition in Iowa.":
"Before the Iowa Freedom Summit on Saturday, one Republican activist summed up Gov. Scott Walker’s challenge this way: 'He doesn’t make the flashbulbs go off.' But at the end of the marathon day of speeches before conservatives, the Wisconsin governor emerged as the leading light."
It's weird for people in Wisconsin — or at least in Madison — to see our governor — who's been hounded and belittled for the last 4 years — bursting out onto the national stage and suddenly seeming like the strongest candidate for President.

Elbow mentions some things Rush Limbaugh said about Walker yesterday, but he leaves out the part where Rush rejects the suddenly-last-Saturday template:

When he met with Obama, Indian Prime Minister Modi was wearing a suit that looked like it had gold pinstripes...

... but those stripes were his name, embroidered over and over, in tiny letters.

And that's not all:
When he met the president at the airport – a break from tradition – Modi was clad in a cream-colored outfit with a bright orange shawl with paisley at the ends draped over his shoulder. He donned a green safa with a large, red, circular plume and an orange scarf attached at the back to Monday’s Republic Day parade.

... During a reception in the lavish garden of the presidential palace Monday afternoon, Modi wore a bright orange shirt and a cream-colored shawl draped over both shoulders. He wore another orange piece at the India-U.S. CEO forum later that day – what appeared to be a vest with a neutral shirt underneath.
ADDED: For comparison: The "Fuck You" tie.

Question asked of a mother who breastfed her son until he was 3: "At this point, don’t you think it’s more about your needs than his needs?"

And her answer was to laugh, "because they wouldn’t have said that if they’d ever seen my son ask to breastfeed."
He would catapult himself into my bed every morning, smush himself up against me, and gleefully ask, “Can I have some mama’s milks?” If it had really been about all my needs, I would have kicked him out of my room so that I could get more sleep.
So they wouldn't have said "At this point, don’t you think it’s more about your needs than his needs?"? I sort of think they would, because they were the kind of people who say things like that and see things that way. Also — and sorry if I'm a big stickler about rhetoric (perhaps because I didn't get enough (i.e., any) breastfeeding as a baby)) — but the meanies were asking about the balance of interests — more about you than about him — and you've switched it to whether it's all about you. I noted the more/all distinction.

And I think the bed scene described — complete with the sleep sacrificing — does reveal the mother's pleasure in the relationship. I must say that I read it 3 or 4 times before I realized that she did not — after giving the child what he wanted — proceed to kick him out of the room so she could get some more sleep. She sounds proud of her maternal ministrations, even as she downplays the benefit to her. Is there some reason why women are supposed to not enjoy their side of the relationship with their children?

Wouldn't you prefer to think your mother loved doing the things she did for you? Or would you value her more to know that she did them in a spirit of service or necessity and, if it had been "about her," would have chosen entirely different activities.

Tommy Edison, who often answers questions about what it's like to be blind, offers his questions for sighted people.

That's one of many highly entertaining videos from Edison, whom I encountered for the first time through BBC.com:
Blind since birth, Edison set up a YouTube channel to review films from a blind person's perspective. The comments section was quickly filled with sighted people fascinated about what it's like to be blind. Edison then launched a second channel to answer questions like "can blind people draw?" and "how do blind people dream?"
I've watched a lot of the videos, including the film reviews, and recommend them all, but the questions for sighted people made the biggest impression on me. Not only does he wonder at the sense of sight — what's it like to go into a room and know where everything is? — but he wonders at the failure of sighted people to see what's right in front of them. If you can see, how can you sometimes not see, like if someone is handing you something. He's always listening, and if you call his name, he always hears. How can you not see?

(I've used italics to represent remembered quotes, possibly but not necessarily verbatim.)

January 26, 2015

"I don't think that's a problem," Bob Wright says about Scott Walker's lack of a college degree.

I say, "That's the #1 thing people say: Scott Walker? But he didn't finish college!" and Bob says, "That's ridiculous!" and "Who cares?"

Much more about Scott Walker... and Deflategate and "Selma" and "Serial" in the hour-long Bloggingheads show, here:

But I thought that reaction to the lack of a college degree was especially striking.

"I’m criticized as flamboyant, arrogant and melodramatic... I try to live my life touching extremes."

Said Toller Cranston — "the Rudolf Nureyev of figure skating" — who has died of a heart attack at the age of 65.

Here's his free skate at the 1976 Olympics:

"An Italian father who forced his teenage daughters to ski competitively and eat a macrobiotic diet because he was concerned they were too fat..."

"... has been found guilty of abuse and sentenced to nine months in prison."
The 53-year-old father... a wealthy individual... said he encouraged them to ski and to eat a macrobiotic diet, avoiding processed and otherwise refined foods, out of a normal level of parental concern. But the mother of the teenagers and the prosecutor in the case painted a different picture, of constant pressure and taunting by the father of his daughters.

"Beauty and Ugliness Identification Method."

From China: the "finger trap" test.