November 30, 2015

"In a speech interrupted by repeated beeps warning that he had exceeded his time limit, Mr. Obama said..."

"... in Le Bourget that the climate conference represented an important turning point in world history because the leaders attending the meeting now recognize the urgency of the problem. 'No nation — large or small, wealthy or poor — is immune,' he said."

The same standards apply to everyone — big or small — except that thing about the time limits as applied to me. 

At the Trail Marker Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want (though you'll have to wait for me to do the moderation, which may take minutes or sometimes, hours (but I'm thinking the stopping and the flowing, in alternation, is having a good effect on conversation)).

And please, if you have some shopping to do, consider showing your support for this blog by entering Amazon through The Althouse Portal.

"Deep inside Facebook’s massive new headquarters, the largest open-office workspace in the world, a rough-hewn building that feels like the idea economy’s take on the industrial factory floor..."

"Even chief executive Mark Zuckerberg sits out in the open at one of those simple white desks..."
Need privacy? Small meeting rooms are scattered all over. Or slip on headphones....

What Facebook implemented goes a step further and, for now, remains rare: No walls inside an entire building engineered to facilitate a new way of doing work....  It is set up to encourage collaboration and speed. Natural light pours in through skylights and massive windows as if to point out the passing of time. Building 20’s unfinished look – exposed steel girders, concrete floors and wires dangling from the soaring ceiling to desks below -- recalls a fledgling startup instead of the world’s largest online social network....

The lack of offices for Zuckerberg and the rest of his management team is seen by many Facebook employees as proof of the company's openness. They don't even occupy the best office real estate, such as near the soaring windows with stunning views of nearby salt marshes....
It's impossible to imagine what working in that environment would feel like. I would need to experience how cheery or harsh the sunlight is, how brittle or white-noisy the aural ambiance, how irritating or comfortable the voices. And how "stunning" are views of salt marshes?

One of the commenters at the link says:
I work in an environment much like this. It actually creates barriers between people. Everyone wears headphones to allow them to focus. It is extremely inconvenient whenever you want to make a personal phone call or receive one which creates resentment of all the prying ears. And if you need to take a break from your work and look at something else on the internet - you better be prepared for anyone who walks by to be looking over your shoulder as you do so.
That made me wonder how private the bathrooms are. 

"Kevorkian's ghoulish reputation is belied by the videotaped consultations in the archive."

"They show Kevorkian turning down many people seeking assistance and only signed on after he spoke to them and their family members and was assured of their terminal state. That can be seen in interviews with Poenisch's mother, Merian Fredericks, and an unidentified woman suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments. The 1994 interview shows the woman from the neck down, in a wheelchair, with her legs amputated and one eye removed. She says that Kevorkian had 'counseled me a couple years ago' and suggested that she should keep trying other remedies. Now, she tells him, 'I am really full of despair because the pain can't be controlled. And I'd really like an out.'"

From "Kevorkian archive opens as physician-assisted deaths rise."

Nothing in the article about the privacy interests of the patients. I'm amazed that these videos are available — at Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan, donated by Ava Janus, Kevorkian's niece and sole heir.

"Smoking high potency 'skunk-like' cannabis can damage a crucial part of the brain responsible for communication between the two brain hemispheres..."

"... according to a new study by scientists from King’s College London and Sapienza University of Rome."
The researchers specifically examined the corpus callosum, the largest white matter structure in the brain, which is responsible for communication between the left and right hemispheres.... The corpus callosum is particularly rich in cannabinoid receptors, on which the THC content of cannabis acts.

Would Jeb Bush — as he has pledged — support Donald Trump as the nominee?

He was asked that question by John Dickerson on "Face the Nation" yesterday:
BUSH: Look, I have said -- I -- because anybody is better than Hillary Clinton. Let me just be clear about that. But I have great doubts about Donald Trump's ability to be commander in chief. I really do. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt to see how the campaign unfolded. But if you listen to him talk, it's kind of scary, to be honest with you, because he's not a serious candidate. He doesn't talk about the issues at hand that are of national security importance for our country. To keep us safe is the first priority of the president. And he's all over the map, misinformed at best, and preying on people's fear at worst.
Dickerson asked the apt question: "How would any of that specifically be better than Hillary Clinton?" What was Jeb supposed to say?
BUSH: Well, I will let voters decide about Donald Trump. I'm pretty confident that, the more they hear of him, the less likely it is he's going to get the Republican nomination.
Later, on the pundit panel, WaPo's David Ignatius effused:
IGNATIUS: I thought [Jeb] was powerful in taking out, calling out Donald Trump. I thought that this was moment in which he went to the heart of the matter, that Trump is playing on people's fears. This is -- it's getting toward Bush's last chance.
AND: Ignatius also summed up the whole show like this (addressing the host, John Dickerson):
You know, John, I heard one thing today on your show that really surprised me. I heard from John McCain talk about candidates bloviating in this race. I heard from Ben Carson talk about hateful rhetoric that was hurting the country. And I heard from Jeb Bush how Donald Trump was preying on people's fears. It's the first time I can remember hearing on one show three candidates speak out against the tone in the Republican race.
There's a real effort, in the elite mainstream media, to portray the GOP as ugly and aggressive and fear-mongering. And this is morphing into a focus on Trump: He, specifically, contains what normally is seen as permeating the GOP. The elite media are cheering on the GOP characters who are trying to take out Trump by adopting this rhetoric, but if Trump is taken out, it won't be long before mild-mannered Jeb and gentle Ben are accused of ugly aggressiveness and fear-mongering.

What if ISIS hit us here in the homeland: What would all the presidential candidates be saying we should do?

From yesterday's "Face the Nation" transcript. Peggy Noonan threw something forth as an idea — or as the transcript has it "fourthism (ph) idea":
[S]uppose ISIS hit the United States, as everybody fears. What would we all be thinking the next day was absolutely the right, urgent, strong thing to do?... What would that look like to us? And what would be the proper response at this point?
WaPo's David Ignatius gave this answer:
I -- certainly if we're hit directly, the public will support and even demand retaliation. I think there -- there are two roots [SHOULD READ: routes] that -- that we would follow in that case and should think about following now. One is to augment the direct action strikes that our special forces are already making every day inside Syria and Iraq. We are killing dozens of people who get back in touch with would-be attackers in the United States, who come in on -- on social media. And if you call -- if you get a call back, if you're one of those people who's trying to direct an operation, we'll try to kill you. And so -- you know, that's already going on. It should -- it should be augmented. The second, harder question is, whether to add ground troops. I mean from all the talk from McCain and Graham [who were on the show earlier], there is not an Arab ground force that can clear Raqqa or any of these places reliably. Are we going to provide that? Will we do that with NATO, with the -- with air -- a coalition of Arabs? Those are the kinds of questions that we would ask the next day and we should ask now.
In short, what we'd do then is what we should do now.

"One evening early this summer, I opened a book and found myself reading the same paragraph over and over, a half dozen times before concluding that it was hopeless to continue."

"I simply couldn’t marshal the necessary focus. I was horrified. All my life, reading books has been a deep and consistent source of pleasure, learning and solace. Now the books I regularly purchased were piling up ever higher on my bedside table, staring at me in silent rebuke. Instead of reading them, I was spending too many hours online...."

So begins "Addicted to Distraction."

What? Are we supposed to keep reading? Why? And more important, how?

"But before he replaced the 'bone flap'—the section of skull that is removed to allow access to the brain—he soaked it for an hour in a solution teeming with Enterobacter aerogenes, a common fecal bacterium."

"Then he reattached it to Egan’s skull, using tiny metal plates and screws. Muizelaar hoped that inside Egan’s brain an infection was brewing.... The surgeons had no data to suggest what might constitute a therapeutic dose of Enterobacter, or a safe delivery method. The procedure was heretical in principle: deliberately exposing a patient to bacteria in the operating room violated a basic tenet of modern surgery.... For four weeks, Egan lay in intensive care, most of the time in a coma. Then, on the afternoon of November 10th, Muizelaar learned that a scan of Egan’s brain had failed to pick up the distinctive signature of glioblastoma. The pattern on the scan suggested that the tumor had been replaced by an abscess—an infection—precisely as the surgeons had intended...."

From "Bacteria on the Brain/A brilliant surgeon offered an untested treatment to dying patients. Was it innovation or overreach?"

What if the NYT put up a fawning acknowledgment of Kobe Bryant's retirement announcement, replete with his “Dear Basketball” poem...

... and all the commenters wanted to do was trash him for that rape he was never convicted of?

Highest-rated comment:
A vile, horrible man. I never fail to marvel over how the rape accusation simply disappeared into thin air--once the alleged victim (who received numerous death threats, and, it's rumored, cash from Kobe) withdrew her charges. It was never again mentioned by the Times or any other media outlet, in what seemed an Orwellian silence. Apparently his ability to shoot balls through a hoop is far more important than his treatment of women. I hope he burns in hell, along with all those who think that making money is more important than stopping rapists.
The Kobe Bryant arrest predates this blog, so I have nothing in the archive about it. Most of what I know about Bryant comes from this excellent New Yorker article from March 2014, "The Fourth Quarter/Kobe Bryant confronts a long—and possibly painful—goodbye":
“I was stubborn as a fucking mule,” he said.... He was the Black Mamba, a nickname he gave himself after watching Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill,” in which the snake, known for its agility and aggressiveness, was used as a code name for a deadly assassin....

The adoption of an alter ego was a way of coping, Bryant now admits, with the fallout from his arrest for sexual assault, in a Colorado hotel room, in the summer of 2003. The charges were later dismissed, and a civil settlement was reached with the alleged victim, but Bryant struggled with the perception that he was damaged goods. “After the Colorado incident, I had every major sponsor drop me, except for Nike,” he told me. “So I’m sitting there thinking, What am I going to do now? My vision was to build a brand and do all these things.” (Bryant was born a brand, named after the Kobe beef at a Japanese steak house in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.) “Now everybody’s telling me I can’t do it,” he went on. “The name just evokes such a negative emotion. I said, ‘If I create this alter ego, so now when I play this is what’s coming out of your mouth, it separates the personal stuff, right?’ You’re not watching David Banner—you’re watching the Hulk.”

"How to Live an Alternative-Comedy Life Style."

I loved this quite a bit more than the usual New Yorker humor piece. It's the last day of the month, so maybe you don't have any free looks left, in which case, try it tomorrow. Or subscribe, like I do.

This is by Mike O'Brien, who doesn't seem to have published in The New Yorker before. Excerpt:
Identify the least cool secretary in your joke workplace and ask her to have lunch with you every day. Make a genuine attempt to get her into hip-hop. Pick a terrible local rapper and take her to every one of his shows. If you can trick a loser secretary into loving hip-hop while convincing a crappy rapper that he’s actually got fans, that’s a two-for-one alt-comedy joke. Andy Kaufman would be jealous!

Marry the secretary—the ultimate goof. But, to make sure that she doesn’t suspect anything, really fall in love and give her your whole heart. Make up nicknames for each other. Have silly traditions. The whole deal. Trust me, if you can manage the little mental trick whereby you actually love her so much that you’ll do anything for her, she’ll be none the wiser.

To heighten the joke, have kids. Raise them as if they aren’t a gag. Love them and tell them that they can accomplish anything, all the while kind of winking to yourself, thinking, I can’t believe they’re buying this crap....
I looked up Mike O'Brien. Here's a Mike O'Brien Wikipedia page. He's been an SNL writer, and "In 2011, O'Brien introduced 7 Minutes in Heaven with Mike O'Brien, a comedy routine in which he interviews celebrities in a closet and closes by trying to kiss the celebrity."  Mike O'Brien is a pretty generic name. I have no idea if these 2 Mikes are the same. I'm thinking no, because I found the SNL/7 Minutes Mike's Twitter page and there's no tweeting of The New Yorker piece. Nothing but retweets since 5 days ago, when he had...

... which amuses enough to think he is the same Mike.

At the wedding reception: "bowls and bowls filled with cigarettes, and everyone smoked the whole night."

The ever-childlike Mary-Kate Olsen, 29, married the 46-year-old French banker Olivier Sarkozy (the half-brother of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy). 

ADDED: Maybe it was a tribute to France... to France and survival... survival, French style.

"After lighting a fire, the male homeowner heard screams coming from somewhere inside the house."

"When the resident realized a person was in the chimney, he extinguished the fire."

Firefighters smashed through the fireplace brick to retrieve 19-year-old Cody Caldwell, dead of smoke inhalation and burns, they say.

The top-rated comment at the link is: "Stop making excuses for this ignorant criminal! He got what he deserved, and the planet is better off with one less piece of dung on it!"

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 that... 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....