November 21, 2014

I missed the speech last night, and I'd actually wanted to watch it.

I was sitting in a chair right in front of the TV, and the TV was on (with the sound off), and we were ready to unmute it when the President appeared. We were reading iPads and not sure when the speech was supposed to happen, and then we realized it already did.

It wasn't that we were looking at one of the broadcast networks and we didn't know that they'd decided not to let the President cut into their prime-time shows:
The White House asked the networks for time at 8 p.m. on Thursday night, and were greeted with little more than a "Mmm, no thanks." ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS knew that their customers would not be happy if the President ate into time reserved for some of the most popular shows on television, including "The Big Bang Theory" and "Bones."
That's the first I'm seeing that the speech was on at 7 (our time). Anyway, we were tuned to CNN, and yet somehow we missed it. These presidential prime-time appearances don't mean what they used to. There are always other channels, other distractions, and if we actually want to see the speech, there will be streaming video. I originally wrote "read" for "see," because the truth is, I want to read the speech. I prefer the transcript. Even in the old days, the transcript was in the paper — in the paper I read, the NYT — and — speaking of reading — even when the President could take over every channel, we could turn off the TV and read.

You know, I still haven't watched or read last night's speech. I'm interested in seeing how the legal argument was put together, and I wonder how many of those who've already written about the speech have understood and made a reasoned assessment of the argument for presidential power. Or does everyone accept or reject it based on the political/policy preference they had in the first place? It's hard to expect more from people who probably — by now — believe that's what Supreme Court justices do.

Now, I'm going to read that transcript and give an assessment of it as if I had no policy preference about how to resolve the immigration problem. It happens to be true that I have no policy preference (because I'm not an ideologue and I don't understand the realities and practical problems deeply enough). But I have no illusion that anyone is interested in reading something that approximates an unbiased, legal assessment of the argument.

No, Althouse, shut up if you aren't going to say it's obviously soooo unconstitutional. 

Did I just hear you yell that?

Obama looked so presidential, he looked just like Reagan.

Here's the NYT right now:

ADDED: The story at the top left, by Michael D. Shear, is "Obama, Daring Congress, Acts to Overhaul Immigration." That headline stresses the political interplay with Congress, not the reason for independent presidential action or the legal argument for it. The first words of the article are: "President Obama chose confrontation...."

The story that goes with the picture of Reagan is "Obama’s Immigration Action Has Precedents, but May Set a New One," by Julie Hirshfield Davis. This article addresses the legal argument, which looks at past presidential actions:
Although Mr. Obama is not breaking new ground by using executive powers to carve out a quasi-legal status for certain categories of unauthorized immigrants — the Republican Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush all did so — his decision will affect as many as five million immigrants, far more than the actions of those presidents.
At that link, the photo of Reagan is uncropped, and the figure standing right behind Reagan is George H.W. Bush.

November 20, 2014

"How, my students wondered, was it possible for such incendiary material to be both public and simultaneously hidden from view..."

"... 'something walled off from our collective understanding of Bill Cosby'?" asks Rebecca Traister at The New Republic.
White people loved “The Cosby Show,” especially liberal white people. They loved it ...  because it offered a warm vision of a world in which shared experience might help Americans of all colors to see past racial divisions and instead focus on the places where they connected...

Any suggestion that white people were culpable in the history of racism that the show addressed mostly through reference to mid-twentieth-century activism. White audiences were never made to feel bad about themselves....

[A] decade after “The Cosby Show” went off the air... the comedian embarked on a speaking tour in which he told black audiences that the kinds of hardships they faced were of their own making.... Here was the white blamelessness that made his television such a balm to white audiences, writ all too real. It was an approach that earned him sharp criticism from some black critics like Dyson and Coates....
By the way, I never watched "The Cosby Show." I just didn't watch network sitcoms in that period of my life. I did, however, watch "The Bill Cosby Show"  — which was on around 1969, when I did watch plenty of sitcoms. It predictably hit a note of sentimentality that made me cry. Cosby played a phys-ed teacher in L.A., and something about the way he helped kids always tear-jerked me. Maybe I saw Episode 5, "Rules Is Rules": "Chet goes to great lengths to obtain a valve needle which he needs in order to inflate basketballs for his gym class." I'm sure I saw Episode 4, "A Girl Named Punkin." Here, this is the sort of thing that really got to me when I was 18:

ADDED: You know, Rush Limbaugh, who is exactly the same age as I am, had a beloved cat named Punkin. Perhaps, like me, he was moved by that episode about a painfully withdrawn girl who learns about love from Bill Cosby.

"As I walk this land of broken dreams/I have visions of many things/But happiness is just an illusion..."

"... filled with sadness and confusion/What becomes of the broken hearted/Who had love that's now departed?"

Now, departed: Jimmy Ruffin
What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted is one of the most perfect records ever made, a nugget of starkly articulated loss and longing made palatable by the strident piano and drum rhythm, anthemic melody, lush denseness of the strings and ethereal uplift of soaring backing vocals. It is the essence of bittersweetness, the quality that empowered Motown's most soulful recordings, a ballad that physically moves rather than gathering in a maudlin puddle of self-pity, its terrible sadness stirring into a kind of majestic defiance, utterly bereft and yet still reaching out for the silver-lining of hope.
Ruffin died yesterday at the age of 78.

"Dressing up was my mother’s way of taking control, and making sure that she felt her best going into a situation that..."

"... though she didn’t betray it at the time, left her shaken and scared....  Now that I live in San Francisco, land of the billionaire hoodie, I never see anyone who looks like my mother. It’s clear that in Silicon Valley, there’s a strong relationship between informality and innovation, and I wonder how my mother would feel about that..."

From a NYT op-ed by Anna Nordberg with the title "Dressing Like My Mother."

"He would say when you observe this type of act, you need to increase the force of good in the world."

"Do something good you wouldn't have done otherwise.... It's the only way we'll defeat the forces of evil."

"4:45 Wake up and have a bowl of quinoa cereal. I do an hour or so of 3rd or 4th series ashtanga yoga."

"6am My little ladies wake up and I make their breakfast—green milk (almond milk with coconut water, banana and steamed baby spinach) and either whole wheat French toast or pancakes. I usually run downstairs to get dressed while they eat and then I get them dressed and do their hair...."

From a Forbes article titled "The Morning Routines of 12 Women Leaders."

Nice to see Forbes covering the achievements of women.

"Rather than a complete reinvention to become a monarch in the mould of his mother..."

"... [when he is king, Prince Charles will] try and continue with his heartfelt interventions, albeit checking each for tone and content to ensure it does not damage the monarchy. Speeches will have to pass the following test: would it seem odd because the Queen wouldn’t have said it or would it seem dangerous?"

I love the "Would it seem odd?" test. What a standard!

Quote above is from an unnamed "well-placed" source, but the linked article (in The Guardian) also quotes Paul Flynn, a Labour member of the Commons political and constitutional reform select committee:
"We know Prince Charles has deep-seated, passionate views, some of which are sensible, some eccentric and some barmy.... If he continues to be a controversial figure on issues like complementary medicine and country sports he could precipitate a constitutional crisis if he comes up against a government which is bent on some course of action and he disagrees and refuses to sign the act of parliament."

Flynn said the Queen’s silence on controversial issues had secured the monarchy and made it acceptable in a democracy.
Barmy views on country sports, eh?

"Nevertheless, the Justice Department suggests that the choice schools discriminate because they do not do something they do not have the resources to do."

"That is, they do not offer the panoply of services that public schools, with ample state and federal funding, offer to children with special needs. With sanctimony commensurate with their hypocrisy, school choice opponents borrow language from the era of Brown v. Board of Education to accuse Wisconsin of sanctioning a 'dual school system.' The federal government is attempting to order the state to require the choice schools to choose between the impossible and the fatal — between offering services they cannot afford or leaving the voucher program. Closing the voucher program is the obvious objective of the teachers unions and hence of the Obama administration. Herding children from the choice schools back into government schools would swell the ranks of unionized teachers, whose union dues fund the Democratic Party as it professes devotion to 'diversity' and the downtrodden."

Writes George Will in "The Justice Department becomes a schoolyard bully in Wisconsin."

"The Obama administration is adamant that the president is acting within his powers to implement laws already passed by Congress..."

"... and to prioritize resources but officials won't reveal the legal reasoning until tonight's speech. Other Obama supporters were reluctant to speak publicly about the potential legal arguments ahead of the address."

"By pulling Cosby’s already completed and widely consumed work, TV Land kicked off an effort to scour Cosby from pop-culture history..."

"... as though, with every re-air, the public would be reminded it had been duped, and was once again guilty of putting too much trust in an individual now thought undeserving of it. It’s the closest thing to retroactively reprobating Cosby, reminiscent of the NCAA vacating Joe Paterno’s wins and Penn State removing his statue after the coach was deemed culpable of covering up Jerry Sandusky’s sex abuse of young boys."

Writes WaPo's Soraya Nadia McDonald at "Cleansing popular culture of all things Cosby."

Interesting application of the word "guilty."

ADDED: "So Netflix, don't air that Cosby post-Thanksgiving special, even though you have already paid for and shot it; NBC, cancel that Cosby sitcom. And if that doesn’t happen, then shame on anyone who watches them."

Children at St. Edmund's Academy in Pittsburgh pass the doll test.

They resist societal pressure and indoctrination....

... or do they?

(For comparison: The doll test that figured in the Brown v. Board of Education case.)

ADDED: My Barbie:


"VERSION 1.0: Original release. Heavens, Earth, formless void."

"1.1 Improved visuals with 'Light' expansion pack. Replaces 'darkness.'..."

"New Wisconsin School of Business Study Uncovers Risks and Rewards of Touching Shoppers."

Headline on a press release.

Goodbye to Mike Nichols.

"Mike Nichols, who won an Oscar for directing the 1967 film The Graduate, has died aged 83."

AND: There will be longer obituaries soon. I'm looking at YouTube, all the old Nichols and May comedy routines. Nichols was never married to Elaine May, but he did have 3 other wives before his marriage to Diane Sawyer, whom he remained with for 26 years. The glamorous newswoman is now his widow. I'm looking at Wikipedia and see that he was born in Berlin, Germany in 1931. His original name was Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky.
His father was born in Vienna, Austria, to a Russian Jewish immigrant family. Nichols' father's family had been wealthy and lived in Siberia, leaving after the Russian Revolution, and settling in Germany around 1920. Nichols' mother's family were German Jews. His maternal grandparents were anarchist Gustav Landauer and author Hedwig Lachmann. Nichols is a third cousin twice removed of scientist Albert Einstein, through Nichols' mother.
The relocation to the United States — escaping the Nazis — took place in 1938. What a life!

ADDED: Here's a picture of Gustav Landauer:

"You don’t know what order with freedom means! You only know what revolt against oppression is! You don’t know that the rod, discipline, violence, the state and government can only be sustained because of you and because of your lack of socially creative powers that develop order within liberty!"

AND: Here's the long NYT obituary. Excerpt:
Mr. Nichols said in interviews that though he did not know it at the time, his work with Ms. May was his directorial training. Asked by Ms. Ephron in 1968 if improvisation was good training for an actor, he replied that it was because it accommodates the performer to the idea of taking care of an audience.

“But what I really thought it was useful for was directing,” he said, “because it also teaches you what a scene is made of — you know, what needs to happen. See, I think the audience asks the question, ‘Why are you telling me this?’ And improvisation teaches you that you must answer it. There must be a specific answer. It also teaches you when the beginning is over and it’s time for the middle, and when you’ve had enough middle and it’s time already for the end. And those are all very useful things in directing.”

That song about going to Mexico to commit suicide.

You remember, that Ariel Pink song we were talking about yesterday — "Picture Me Gone" — the one where the father was singing about "going down to Mexico to die," and I connected it to that Reddit tale about a guy who supposedly went to Mexico to kill himself but then did some drugs, had sex with prostitutes, and thereby determined that life was worth living. Given all the social media references in the song — selfies, iCloud, Find My iPhone — I theorized that the Reddit story was viral marketing for the song.

Anyway, that song reminded both Meade and me of some other song we knew — something in the phrasing and cadence of the melody in the first few lines — but we couldn't figure out what it was. I emailed my son John and got the answer back immediately: "Just Because," covered by John Lennon on his "Rock 'n' Roll" album. Yes! That's the song.

"That must be one of the best breakup songs," says Meade. "Just because you left and said goodbye/Do you think that I will sit and cry?/Even if my heart should tell me so/Darling, I would rather let you go." Maybe that song has helped a lot of people.

The original version is by Lloyd Price. Let's play the 78:

November 19, 2014

When the marmoset is happy, we're all happy.

("Ninita, our orphaned baby pygmy marmoset, gets a much loved toothbrush massage from her keeper. Ninita was born deaf, and abandoned by her parents. [Rare Species Conservatory Foundation] staff hand-reared her, and she is now doing well in an enclosure of her own with a handsome boyfriend.")

"I had a strong religious upbringing and the first word on my first LP is Jesus."

Says Patti Smith, responding to people who don't get why Pope Francis invited her to sing at the Vatican Christmas concert.
"I did a lot of thinking. I’m not against Jesus, but I was 20 and I wanted to make my own mistakes. And I didn’t want anyone dying for me."
The line was: "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine."
"I stand behind that 20 year old girl, but I have evolved. I’ll sing to my enemy! I don’t like being pinned down and I’ll say what the fuck I want — especially at my age."
She's 67.

"I spent parts of 2006 and 2007 following Bill Cosby around the country. He was then in the midst of giving a series of 'call-outs'..."

"... in which he upbraided the decline of morality in the black community.... I published a reported essay in 2008, in this magazine, on these call-outs. In that essay, there is a brief and limp mention of the accusations against Cosby..... And should I have decided to state what I believed about Cosby, I would have had to write a much different piece.... At the time I wrote the piece... I believed that Bill Cosby was a rapist.... The Bill Cosby piece was my first shot writing for a big national magazine. I had been writing for 12 financially insecure years.... A voice in my head was, indeed, pushing me to do something more expansive and broader in its implication, something that did not just question Cosby's moralizing, but weighed it against the acts which I believed he committed. But Cosby was such a big target that I thought it was only a matter of time before someone published a hard-hitting, investigative piece. And besides, I had in my hand the longest, best, and most personally challenging piece I'd ever written.... I have often thought about how those women would have felt had they read my piece.... I regret not saying what I thought of the accusations, and then pursuing those thoughts. I regret it because the lack of pursuit puts me in league with people who either looked away, or did not look hard enough...."

Writes Ta-Nehisi Coates in "The Cosby Show/Declining to seriously reckon with the rape allegations against him is reckless. And I was once reckless."

So... he did what was in his interest then, and he's doing what's in his interest now. Noted.

"At a moment when students who have been sexually assaulted are finding new ways to make their voices heard..."

"... and as college officials across the country are rushing to meet new government standards, a specialized class of lawyers is raising its voice, too. They are speaking out on behalf of the students they describe as most vulnerable: not those who might be subjected to sexual assault, but those who have been accused of it. To do so, they have appropriated the legal tools most commonly used to fight sexual misconduct and turned them against the prosecution, confronting higher education’s whole approach to the issue, which they describe as a civil rights disaster."

From a NYT piece titled "New Factor in Campus Sexual Assault Cases: Counsel for the Accused."

Interesting usage of the word "appropriated"....