August 26, 2016

"France’s top administrative court overturns burkini ban."

"After a month of intense national scandal and heightened international outrage, France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’État, on Friday overturned the so-called burkini bans in 26 of the country’s coastal towns and cities. Imposed in the name of secularism, perhaps France’s most sacred ideal, the bans had prohibited Muslim women from wearing the 'burkini' — a full-body bathing suit designed to respect traditional codes of modesty — on the beach.... The argument... was — and remains — that Muslim modesty somehow impedes the rights of women in the historic French Republic of liberty, equality and fraternity. This is why, for instance, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls expressed his opposition to the bathing suit in nothing less than the language of human rights: the burkini, he said, was a means of 'enslavement.'... The court struck down both arguments for the bans: It ruled that the burkini is neither an insult to the equality of women nor a harbinger of terrorism. The attempts to ban it, the judges maintained, insulted 'fundamental freedoms' such as the 'freedom to come and go, the freedom of conscience and personal liberty.'"

WaPo reports.

I agree with the court. It's not for the government to tell people what they need to wear — for religious reasons or other reasons. It's legitimate to worry that some women are being coerced into hyper-modest bathing suits, but coercing them into skimpy suits is not the answer.

And religion isn't the only reason you might want to cover up on the beach. I've been noticing these UV-protection swim tights, which can be worn with a long-sleeved UV-protection shirt by those of us who want to avoid sunburn. And I like the swim capris — and not just for sun-protection, but for fashion and — yes! — modesty. Have you got a problem with that? Fine. Just don't ask the government to help you with that problem.

Meet Kevin, the boy who is excited about 4th grade.

(Via Reddit.)

ADDED: Did you notice the part where he said "I want to be a creator, like inventing stuff, and I need to learn a lot of math to do it"? He's absorbed that "creator" talk that has infected the discussion of business and technology. Everyone who's not getting left behind in the new economy is now in the "creative class." It has nothing to do with art anymore.

Hillary introduces America to the term "alt-right" — the "emerging racist ideology" — and Trump calls Hillary a "bigot."

Do you want to talk about race or do you want to talk about words?

Because we could talk about what "bigot" means. It could mean only those who consciously embrace the idea that some group is despicable, or it could also cover those with unwanted feelings of hate that they are struggling with, or it could include everyone who has even unacknowledged feelings of only slight disgust toward some other group, or it could extend even to people who don't care enough about groups other than their own and have failed to go very far out of their way to do something to help the when they experience misfortune and suffer economic hardship. It's that last thing that Donald Trump is saying about Hillary, so he's making a good point, wrapped within a complicated linguistic issue that might — if people get caught up in it — ultimately work out in his favor. It's the same point as: "What have you got to lose?" Who cares about the tenderness of the hearts of the white people who want black people to vote for them? Shouldn't you vote for the candidate who will help you and your community? Isn't the real bigotry — the bigotry that matters — the bigotry that comes in the form of relegating your community to disorder and depression? We could talk about that.

And we could talk about the political value of saying "alt-right," all right? I mean, who even knew that word until Hillary said it yesterday? Even when you know the word and hear the definition — which she had to provide in the speech since people don't know the term — do you know that this is a real social phenomenon that we need to worry about? Or should we wonder if Hillary is trying to scare us with a bogeyman?

David Brooks thinks the woman candidate should be more "gracious" and "relinquish control" and assures her that "in surrender you’ll actually gain more strength."

Why didn't he or the NYT editors notice the sexism?

I guess he was distracted by the point he was intent on making, which is that having a lot of experience — Hillary's strong point — isn't that good if you haven't gained the virtues that we like to think experience brings. Within Brooks's way of telling it, whatever we don't like about Hillary would then be what she should have gotten from all that experience. What is it Brooks doesn't like about her? "[T]here’s often a whiff of inhumanity about her campaign that inspires distrust." She hasn't — like "[t]he people in public life we really admire" — arrived at "graciousness."

Now, right there, anyone versed in feminism should get suspicious. The woman is being criticized for not being warm enough and not being gracious.  Would a male candidate at her level of warmth and graciousness be called out for this shortcoming? Brooks could have gone straight for the distrust: We distrust her because of specific things she's done and the lies and half-lies she's told. But instead he smells some inhumanity about her that "inspires distrust."

Why contort yourself like that? It could be that Brooks got enthralled by his own cogitation about experience. She's got experience, so let's think about experience and the reasons why we value it and how that relates to why Hillary isn't all that she should be by now.

Brooks drifts into reverie — replete with names like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. — about how in the best people experience creates humility which transforms into graciousness. Based on that, he faults Hillary for the continuity in her manner over a long period of time:
Her posture is still brittle, stonewalling and dissembling. Clinton scandals are all the same. There’s an act of unseemly but not felonious behavior, then the futile drawn-out withholding of information, and forever after the unwillingness to ever come clean.
He's identifying the bad character trait of dishonesty. Fine. But in bullshitting it up, he lets out whiffs — I'll use his word — of sexism: She's "brittle." She should be more pliable. She should find her strength in "surrender." She should be gracious.

"Totally selfishly, [sex] is so much better for me being jacked because you feel so much more confident and you see yourself as this much more sexual person, which is really fun."

Said the actor John Krasinski, who is married to Emily Blunt:
“The truth is, she really is that person who would like me anyway. But I don’t think she’s going to kick the eight-pack abs out of bed,” he said.
But it's for him, he's doing it "totally selfishly," he says, to make himself "feel so much more confident" and to see himself "as this much more sexual person, which is really fun." He's talking like a woman in a TV commercial for hair dye... in the 1970s.

So weird! And look at him. He's hypermasculinized — more muscular definition than any manly labor or team sport would ever produce. But he's delivering the kind of lines that were — for propagandistic purposes — traditionally assigned to women. Who talks about becoming a "much more sexual person"? It sounds so silly next to "being jacked," which sounds silly anyway.

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to discourage men from working out, looking good, and having abs, and I guess it's good to believe that you do it for yourself and not for your wife and that she'd "like [you] anyway." Something about talking about it though. The potential for sounding inane is high. Hearing a man say it helps see why it's also inane for a woman to say it.

I do it for me.

IN THE COMMENTS: I'm getting challenged. I'm told to Google "best NFL abs," so: here. Now, I don't know if Steve Weatherford got that way from playing football or whether he did targeted ab exercises. And I don't know how much Photoshopping went into that photograph. But, nice going, Steve.

A woman selling crickets and worms in the NYC subway "suddenly threw them all over the crowded car" — and it was so crazy...

... that some fool did the one thing you might think to do — because it is an emergency — but you absolutely should not do if you want to get to the next station as quickly as possible: He pulled the emergency brake!
The air conditioning shut off and the screaming passengers were all stuck inside the sweltering car with the woman, who then treated them to antics for half an hour as the crickets jumped on passengers. The worms just wriggled on the floor.

“She was banging on the doors and trying to climb out the windows. Everyone had crickets on their arms. My girlfriend was crying,” said Calabrese. “Then some men were trying to hold her down and she started trying to throw up on them.”
It could have been worse. It could have been underground. Luckily, the train was crossing the Manhattan Bridge, so there was light and a view of the real, noncrazy world. And you could tweet. E.g.: "There are crickets in subway rn and they won't stop being loud af." 

By the way, did you know that crickets stink? I learned that from the David Sedaris story "April in Paris" (April is a spider):
April hadn’t eaten in more than a week when, just by chance, I happened upon a pet store and learned that it sold live crickets, blunt little black ones that looked like bolts with legs. I bought a chirping boxful and felt very proud of myself until the next morning, when I learned something that no nature show ever told me: crickets stink. They reek. Rather than dirty diapers or spoiled meat—something definite you can put your finger on—they smell like an inclination: cruelty, maybe, or hatred.
“Then some men were trying to hold her down and she started trying to throw up on them.”

We need an "Insect Politics" tag over here!
I like to use my insect politics tag whenever I can, but I didn't see how to make the stretch here. EDH provides the video that clinches it:

"This case inspires terror in some artists who fear they could end up in court for denying that a work they did not do isn't theirs."

The artist who got sued for saying he didn't paint that — has won his case.
The evidence, the judge said, showed this was a case of imperfect memories, coincidences and mistaken identity. He said it was a different Peter Doige, who spelled his name with an "e," who created the artwork. Feinerman rejected the idea that Doig, the renowned artist, and Doige were the same person.

[Robert] Fletcher, 62, testified that he bought the painting of a desert landscape [for $100] while Doig was serving prison time in Canada's Thunder Bay Correctional Center. But Feinerman said it was Doige — who was several years older and painted at the time — who was briefly in prison.
2 Doig[e]s, painting in the same prison. That's odd! The plaintiff still thinks he's got a real Doig, and who knows how much  money he can get for what he at least once believed was good for $10 million.

ADDED: The quote in the headline is from a law professor, and you might be disinclined to pull it apart enough to see that it's got too many negatives, as the first 2 commenters simultaneously point out:
I think there's an extra negative in that sentence. — campy at 6:53 AM

I hesitate to say that I don't disagree with you. — rhhardin at 6:53 AM

The federal government is about to end the tourist fun of swimming with dolphins...

... at least with Hawaiian spinner dolphins.
Dolphins typically forage offshore in the night for fish, shrimp and squid, then return toward land during the day to relax. They swim even when they are sleeping. But officials say the presence of boats and swimmers is disrupting their habits, causing “a departure from natural behavioral patterns that support the animal’s health and fitness,” according to the proposed guidelines....
The rule would require people to stay at least 50 yards away.
“It would be the end of legitimate dolphin swimming,” said Kevin Merrill, an owner of Dolphin Discoveries in Kona, on the island of Hawaii. “We couldn’t offer the people the quality interaction that they expect.”...

Roberta Goodman, the owner of Wild Dolphin Swims Hawaii in Holualoa... said she did not see signs that they were disturbed by the tour groups. “We watch them nurse, and make love, and play, and travel and sleep,” she said. “They continue with their natural behaviors while they’re in the water with us. They’ve accepted us into their environment with them.”
Yeah, I'm sure they love you. They're still smiling, right?
“You don’t swim with the dolphins,” [Merrill] said. “The dolphins choose to swim with us.”
And the humans choose to soak in narcissistic self-deception.

"The weird thing is, people don’t care why. They only care if you’re on their side. So it actually made most of the problems go away. Almost instantly, people stopped calling me Joseph Goebbels."

"In terms of my safety, it absolutely worked, exactly as I imagined it would work. . . . I’m actually safer because I’ve endorsed Hillary Clinton."

Said Scott Adams, explaining to the Wall Street Journal why he endorsed Hillary Clinton even though "he doesn’t vote, disagrees with both candidates on policy, and thinks both are too old."

Was Adams actually unsafe when people were inferring that he supported Trump? "I don’t go out much, and when I do, people don’t recognize me," so he'd had no scary encounters. The danger was merely inferred — perhaps to spice up observations about the comparison of Trump to Hitler. He says that calling Trump Hitler is "a call for assassination": "There’s no other way you can [expletive] interpret that."

And if Trump is Hitler and he's perceived as "Hitler"'s propagandist, then he is "Goebbels":
"A few dozen times, people referred to me publicly as [Nazi propagandist] Joseph Goebbels, just because I was talking about Trump’s persuasion skills, not his policies or anything."

"To me that was a call to violence. It’s an indirect call, but it’s saying if you kill Joseph Goebbels, you’re doing the country a favor."
If Adams were really afraid he'd get killed, he wouldn't contribute to stirring up the Hitler-Goebbels-assassination ideation. But it's interesting banter, all of it — including (and especially) the notion that people are professing support for Hillary Clinton because other Hillary supporters are making it feel dangerous not to support her. And that seems like some insidious (pro-Trump) persuasion move, doesn't it?

I believe Adams isn't for either candidate, but he's doing what he likes to do: writing about what's interesting to him. I could be wrong, because I am biased: It looks to me as though he does what I do. And I understand how people construe writing about Trump without contempt as support for Trump.

You must assure the good people that you are for Hillary, and Adams makes a game out of giving people the assurance they demand. That exposes the coercion involved, and most people don't like to be coerced. So the expression of support for Hillary cues people to think it would be transgressive and liberating to vote for Trump. Safe too, since the vote is secret.

By the way, I read Scott Adams's book, and "How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life," and it corroborates the assertion that people don't recognize him:
For over a decade I’ve been semifamous for creating Dilbert, but I’m still generally unrecognized in public. When I meet people for the first time without the benefit of a full introduction, I’m treated like any other stranger. But if the topic of my job comes up, people immediately become friendlier, as if we had been friends forever.
Did you know that book is about 1/4 diet book? His advice is summed up as: "I eat as much as I want, of anything I want, whenever I want." The trick is in the "want," and if you think of yourself as a robot, there is a way to want what you need to want.

August 25, 2016


The documentary about Anthony Weiner is available now. We watched it last night. I think it's a bit overpraised. Check out the blurbs:

But we enjoyed it quite a bit. The filmmakers did well with the material they had, which was the implosion of Weiner's mayoral campaign. It was interesting to be a fly on the wall for some painful moments for Anthony Weiner, but you're not really a fly on the wall. As Weiner himself says to the filmmaker at one point: Why is the fly talking? 

Oh... that sounds wrong. The fly. Seems like the fly on his trousers! Poor Weiner! He means the documentarians are supposed to be a fly on the wall but they nevertheless prompted him sometimes, obviously trying to get better material. You'd like to know what he's thinking.

And as for those scenes with Huma Abedin, she clearly doesn't want to reveal her thoughts. She rarely says anything. She's just appearing as the long-suffering wife, but you know very well that she's got plenty to say when the cameras aren't around. At one key point, we see the camera shut down because she needs to have an argument with him.

There's no getting to the real Huma. I mean, we paused it many times and speculated about what she must be thinking and the nature of their relationship. Does she love him? He seems to be heavily infused with testosterone — is that working out well for her on some level? Were they always just a fake couple, put together for show and for the acquisition of political power?

You can't tell from the movie. Did Weiner do that sexting because it seemed like trivial fun and he probably won't get caught or was he trying to bust loose from the stifling grip of the ravenous political ambition of Huma Abedin?

Who knows?! I have an odd soft spot for Anthony Weiner. He's a human being. And she's Huma Abedin.

"To members of the liberal class, the Democratic Party offers constant reminders that the technocratic order whose upper ranks they inhabit is rational and fair..."

"... that whether they work in software or derivative securities they are a deserving elite; creative, tolerant, enlightened. Though it is less tangible, the moral absolution in which Democrats deal is just as important. It seems to put their favorite constituents on the right side of every question, the right side of progress itself. It allows them to understand the war of our two parties as a kind of cosmic struggle between good and evil— a struggle in which they are on the side of light and justice, of course.... And what is rightest and most inspiring about it is the Democrats’ prime directive: to defeat the Republicans, that unthinkable brutish Other. There are no complexities to make this mission morally difficult; to the liberal class, it is simple. The Democratic Party is all that stands between the Oval Office and whomever the radicalized GOP ultimately chooses to nominate for the presidency. Compared to that sacred duty, all other issues fade into insignificance.... The Democrats posture as the 'party of the people' even as they dedicate themselves ever more resolutely to serving and glorifying the professional class. Worse: they combine self-righteousness and class privilege in a way that Americans find stomach-turning. And every two years, they simply assume that being non-Republican is sufficient to rally the voters of the nation to their standard...."

This calls to mind something I just read in Thomas Frank's book  "Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?"

"Let's stay on the Democratic Party plantation, recommends Donna Brazile..."

Writes Glenn Loury.
Unfortunately, Ms. Brazile -- the veteran Democratic strategist, who personifies the enduring legacy within the Party of Jesse Jackson's presidential aspirations from the 1980s -- makes no reference in her piece to the substantive policy issues -- jobs and education -- where her party's establishment has repeatedly failed to foster the interests of poor urban blacks....

By sweeping such difficult issues under the rug, Ms. Brazile misses the key point: it's a "Negotiation 101"-level observation to note that a credible threat to withhold our votes from the Democrats gives black people more leverage WITHIN the party, as it endeavors to manage what are the necessarily conflicting interests of its varied constituencies...

This commonsense observation is not a plug for Donald Trump (though Democratic party leaders will hope blacks construe it that way, the better to avoid accountability and to silence dissenting voices like my own...)....


The first minute of this is very funny:

The rest is too long and too damned jaunty, but it might work for you if you are strongly inclined to find young women as cute as they seem to think they are.

The topic of "hanger" — the word and the phenomenon — was explored on this blog 11 years ago, so for me, it's not a new word, it's an old word that tried and failed to go big and if you watch the whole video you'll probably see why that happened. Or let me just quote from my old post:
[A]bout this new social trend of adults excusing themselves for the babyish weakness of losing control when hungry... Oh, lord, these people sound annoying. Do you have a cute slang term for getting cranky when people impose too much information about their private physical needs on you?...
In general men do not seem to suffer hunger-related moods as frequently as women do, or at least they are not as likely to admit it....

[Blogger] Cherie Millns [writes] "My mother told my husband before we got married to make sure he always carried a banana with him, in case of a sudden cranky-pants emergency," Ms. Millns wrote. "It might just save his life."
"Cranky-pants"? Banana?... [W]hat's wrong with these people? It's one thing to get hungry and to deal with it by eating something, but it's quite another to make a conspicuous production out of it or, worse, to let it become a major issue in your love relationships. And to have your mother tell your husband how to care for you in the very way you'd care for a toddler? Is this really what's going on around America in 2005?

Why do you text and drive?

ADDED: This video is very affecting and has an important message, which I don't mean to diminish, but I'm just going to appropriate it for a couple seconds to make a nonverbal argument about what is surely a less important matter, but it is something I've been talking about for a long time: men in shorts:

"If there are guns in your bags, there will be dildos in mine. If you pack heat, we’re packing meat! We’re going to make you as uncomfortable as we are."

So shouted a University of Texas student, rallying a crowd protesting what is, in Texas, a right (when licensed) to carry a gun into the classroom.

What interests me most here is how the protesters have suddenly forgotten the interest all students have in being free from sexual harassment. They are making a big in-your-race display of the graphic sculptural depiction of the erect penis.
Event organizer Ana López said protesters are fighting absurdity with absurdity, and she placed blame for the campus carry law on “reluctant legislators,” the National Rifle Association and others.

“I have a huge dildo strapped to my backpack because these people believe it is their God-given right to carry a weapon into my classroom,” she said. “Let me tell you something. I don’t think that those who drafted the Bill of Rights thought that a well-regulated militia started in my organic chemistry classroom.”
Putting the organ in organic. 

When a deaf person has an encounter with the police.

On Facebook, my son John links to "Deaf man fatally shot by North Carolina cop was ‘afraid’ of police, devastated brother says."

That made me wonder about how deaf people think ahead about what they will do if they have to interact with the police, something I discuss in the comments at John's post. And I found this useful Marlee Matlin video that I want to post here.

"Here are REAL COMMENTS students have made to me about their exams. What I say to them is in quotations, and what I’m thinking is in italics."

"I’m not so proud of my thoughts in these times.  I very clearly need to work on practicing my patience."

That's from "Lawprofblog" who, I guess, is a real law professor, writing at Above the Law. I'm assuming it's a real law professor based on the reputation of Above the Law, not because I as a law professor identify with the experience, which I actually don't.

The University of Chicago picks vibrant free speech over insulating sensitivities.

It's getting celebrated on the internet for this letter it sent new students:
Welcome and congratulations on your acceptance to the college at the University of Chicago. Earning a place in our community of scholars is no small achievement and we are delighted that you selected Chicago to continue your intellectual journey.

Once here you will discover that one of the University of Chicago’s defining characteristics is our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression. … Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn, without fear of censorship. Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us, and freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others. You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort....

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.
Nice branding, University of Chicago!

"Inside Facebook’s (Totally Insane, Unintentionally Gigantic, Hyperpartisan) Political-Media Machine/How a strange new class of media outlet has arisen to take over our news feeds."

That's the headline at the New York Times. Think about why the NYT wants to alarm us about that terrible money-making company, Facebook.

My hypothesis is that the NYT is losing readers and advertising money to the "strange new class of media outlet" and would like its readers to cling to old media, where it's not strange and insane, but safe, gigantic by design, and subtle in its partisanship.

The article — written by John Herrman — is especially concerned about "political news and advocacy pages made specifically for Facebook... like Occupy Democrats; The Angry Patriot; US Chronicle; Addicting Info; RightAlerts; Being Liberal; Opposing Views; Fed-Up Americans; American News; and hundreds more"*:
Individually, these pages have meaningful audiences, but cumulatively, their audience is gigantic: tens of millions of people. On Facebook, they rival the reach of their better-funded counterparts in the political media, whether corporate giants like CNN or The New York Times, or openly ideological web operations like Breitbart or Mic. And unlike traditional media organizations, which have spent years trying to figure out how to lure readers out of the Facebook ecosystem and onto their sites, these new publishers are happy to live inside the world that Facebook has created. Their pages are accommodated but not actively courted by the company and are not a major part of its public messaging about media. But they are, perhaps, the purest expression of Facebook’s design and of the incentives coded into its algorithm — a system that has already reshaped the web and has now inherited, for better or for worse, a great deal of America’s political discourse.

*Just when the NYT is looking to reassure me of its comfortable normality, it unleashes a fistful of inexplicable semi-colons.

"A case can be filed against men who stare at women for more than 14 seconds."

Said Rishiraj Singh, an "excise commissioner" in Kerala, India.

ADDED: 14 seconds is a long time to look at someone.  Singh sounds ridiculous mostly because he specified a number and it's not a more normal-seeming number like 10. (I checked the Wikipedia article on the number 14 to see if 14 might be special in India, but the closest I'm seeing is the number of years of Rama's exile in the forests.)

If you look at articles on making eye contact with people, you'll see that even a quarter second can make the difference in moving a glance to an expression of interest. Example:
My man tells me that construction workers in Canada are told to obey the "3 second rule" by their employers... So basically it's one second to look at the girl, another second to study her and decide if she is pretty, and another second to enjoy the view, before returning eyes to the task at hand.  Anything beyond that is creepy and likely dangerous in some way.  I would agree....

Subway staring is a big problem where I live (Toronto). It is often the result of "DeathFace", which is a common syndrome out here affecting the overworked, causing them to forget they are in a subway and stare off blankly into what they mistakenly think is space, but usually is people.... I am often the victim of these types but have learned to ignore them. I pity them, actually....
AND: "Staring into someone’s eyes for as little as 10 seconds can be an intense experience of connection, or one of discomfort.  So what happens when you look into a person’s eyes for 10 minutes?... A new Italian study finds that when people look into each other’s eyes for a long period of time, they often experience symptoms of dissociation — including feelings of detachment from one’s body and from reality — and full-on hallucinations."