November 7, 2015

A view of Madison, from the north.


It looks near wintry, but it was 70° (2 days ago).

Talk about anything you want in the comments.

Some Yale students are hopping mad at 2 faculty members who didn't see the exquisite importance of repressing Halloween costumery.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education explains the multilayered outrage.

This email from Associate Master of Silliman College Erika Christakis is the main source of irritation. She had the nerve to address Yale students as intellectuals, drawing on her expertise — she teaches a class on "The Concept of the Problem Child" — and saying things like:
At the first link there's video of Yale students yelling at Erika Christakis's husband Nicholas:
“As your position as master, it is your job to create a place of comfort and home for the students that live in Silliman,” one student says. “You have not done that. By sending out that email, that goes against your position as master. Do you understand that?”

When Christakis disagreed, the student proceeded to yell at him. “Who the fuck hired you?” she asked, arguing that Christakis should “step down” because being master is “not about creating an intellectual space,” but rather “creating a home.”
To be fair, I'd like to know more about what representations Yale made to the students it lured into matriculating. Was a "safe space" promised? Part of the "marketplace of ideas" that the Christakises champion is the marketplace of colleges where students get their choice. What did the Yale packaging say? I can't really judge the anger and the urgency of these students without knowing what other offers they had and what they were led to think they were buying when they picked Yale. A vibrant "intellectual space" sounds exciting to me, but is that what they were told they'd get if they came to Yale? Maybe some other schools offered a challenging intellectual environment and they passed on it, preferring a caring, nurturing setting. Were they deceived?

There's a lot that could be said here, but I'll just say one more thing. Halloween is childish fun. If you're grimly serious about it, you've aged out. Maybe some of your classmates are still playing around, vacationing from their daily worries, indulging in this annual childishness. If you're too adult to join them, then do the adult thing and stay home and read. Complaining to the authorities is another form of indulgence in childishness — not childish fun but childish whining and tattling.

"At least 100 students at a high school in Cañon City traded naked pictures of themselves... part of a large sexting ring."

"The revelation has left parents outraged, administrators searching for missed clues, and the police and the district attorney’s office debating whether to file child pornography charges... against some of the participants...."
Because it is a felony to possess or distribute child pornography, the charges could be serious. But because most of the people at fault are themselves minors and, in some cases, took pictures of themselves and sent them to others, law enforcement officials are at a loss as to how to proceed. “Consenting adults can do this to their hearts’ content,” said Thom LeDoux, the district attorney, but “if the subject is under the age of 18, that’s a problem.”
There are so many questions and issues here. But let me just ask: Are we talking about anything other than nudity? If you take a picture of yourself naked, have you manufactured pornography? Maybe a little sanity could be injected into this perplexity by asking that question.

Here's something else that deserves scrutiny: The authorities are trying to divide the students into predators and victims. Students collected each other's photographs (using apps called "vaults"), "with boys and girls involved in seemingly equal numbers." But there's a focus on the football team:
Members of the high school football team, the Cañon City Tigers, were at the center of the sexting ring, [George Welsh, the superintendent of the Cañon City school system] said. On Thursday night, separate community meetings were held for parents of football players and parents of other students to address the scandal, which has shocked this quiet, semirural community of 16,000. The team was forced to forfeit its final game of the season.
Separate meetings?! Why?
Mr. Welsh, the superintendent, said in a statement that “because a large number of our high school football players were implicated in this behavior, the coaching staff and administration, after careful thought and consideration, decided that stepping on the field to play this weekend to represent the Cañon City community is just not an option.”...
I don't understand treating the football team differently. They're the "the center of the sexting ring"? It sounds like a huge group of students — female and male — were communicating, sending selfies voluntarily. It's obvious that the authorities won't accuse them all of felonies. I can't see any justification for treating the boys differently from the girls or for demonizing the football team.

I don't know what we should do about the problem of kids texting naked pictures of themselves, but it's such a widespread practice at this point that I'd lean toward educating students about why it's not a good idea. That assumes the adults really know why it's so terrible and are capable of communicating.

"In the admittedly brief time that I have had this coloring book, it has filled a particular activity niche for me..."

"... which is 'something to do with my hands while I watch Netflix.' Other activities in this niche include: knitting, painting my nails, texting, putting candy in my mouth. End of list."

Writes Julie Beck in "The Zen of Adult Coloring Books/I get it now."
Why do I need to do two things at once? Why can’t I just sit quietly and enjoy a TV show? In part, it’s because I feel a little less lazy if I’m making something while I wile away the hours with Friday Night Lights. But also, I’m watching TV in the first place to relax, to quiet my mind, and often my mind is loud enough that it shouts over Coach Taylor. I really do think that a lifetime of multitasking has left me occasionally incapable of subduing the entirety of my mind with one activity. If the front of my mind is occupied by the show, and the back is focused on picking colors and staying in the lines, there’s not room for much else. It’s a sort of mindfulness that’s more like mind-fullness....
Now, I actually understand this.

I was excited about another Democratic candidates debate, but then I saw it was just a "forum," that is, a series of individual interviews.

Why is that called a forum? Candidates sit for interviews all the time, so what's interesting about a sequence of interviews? That it was in an auditorium full of people rather than a closed up studio? Voices reverberated. Applause interrupted.

I sat through the whole thing, not that I wasn't reading or doing crosswords on my iPad most of the time. I figured there'd be a transcript in the morning, and I could cherry pick a few things I'd remembered. When I woke up this morning, before I went searching for the transcript — never to find one — I pushed myself to remember something from last night. Come on, Althouse, think. I thought of one thing: Bernie Sanders is annoyed by the sounds high-tech devices make. It's somewhere in here...

... along with "How many pair of underwear do I have?" and "Am I really Larry David?" (which is a reference to this, on SNL). Ah, yes, the noisy tech at 1:30. He also says "People think I'm grumpy."

Now, why did I watch all that? I do not know. I also remember that Martin O'Malley said he owns a kilt, but only because somebody gave it to him, and that Hillary Clinton regards "hush puppies" as both a food and a type of shoes. I can't believe I spent my Friday night on that, but I did go out for a late lunch...

... and I sometimes wonder if anything makes sense anymore. I can only hope that Bad Lip Reading doesn't pass up this "forum" because it's not a debate. I really do look there for meaning. Meade and I have watched the last debate on BLR dozens of times...

... Can I help you?!

"Incanting 'Black Lives Matter' rather than 'All Lives Matter' hardly constitutes advocating 'racial justice,' in my view."

"Indeed, I see the making of such verbal concessions as a kind of cheap grace. These genuflections ask very little of the (white) politicians or their (white) voters. But endorsing universal early childhood education, scattered site public housing, massively increased spending on mental health care for the indigent, revamped criminal justice policies, a guaranteed minimum income for all American families, public jobs as employer-of-last-resort, higher per capita expenditures on the education of those from the least advantaged home environments — all of these things, and more, enacted via comprehensive legislative initiatives DO ask a great deal from politicians and WOULD be a massive step in the direction of 'social justice' in America. And, given their disproportionately beneficial impact on black communities, enacting such a comprehensive progressive agenda would constitute achieving the only kind of 'racial justice' worth fighting for in my view."

Writes Glenn Loury.

I added the boldface.

"The swastika appeared overnight, drawn with human feces on a college dorm’s brand new white wall...."

"Now a graduate student says he is on a hunger strike and is willing to die unless the school’s president steps down."
“I already feel like campus is an unlivable space,” said [University of Missouri student Jonathan L. Butler, 25], who is African American. “So it’s worth sacrificing something of this grave amount, because I’m already not wanted here. I’m already not treated like I’m a human.... It’s just gotten to the point on campus where it’s really not safe for black students or really all marginalized students. Me personally, I won’t feel safe on campus until there is an urgency that things need to change and be taken seriously. It’s just a very hostile environment for black students... We are facing a lot of negativity and oppression on a daily basis... And then you students go to a diversity forums, you see them write letters, you see them write e-mails and send tweets and do all these things, we bare our souls and tell very painful stories but … our lives are still not valued. At some point, after spending all that energy telling people that I deserve to be recognized as a human, like my existence matters, at a certain point you are putting people in a corner and you keep poking them with a stick, things escalate until people feel like they are hurt."
The linked article, in The Washington Post, describes some other incidents. The scrawler of the swastika is unknown. 

"Judge reopens ‘Serial’ case, allowing Adnan Syed to introduce new evidence."

WaPo reports.
Now, the court will consider a 2015 affidavit from Syed’s alibi witness, Asia McClain, in which she said she remembered talking with Syed in the library at the time prosecutors said the then-teenager killed his former girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. McClain said she reached out to Syed about helping with his defense, but his former lawyer never contacted her....

The court will also take up the reliability of cellphone evidence that helped the state place Syed at one of the scenes of the crime. Welch wrote that the court will also take up Syed’s former attorney’s “alleged failure to cross-examine” the state’s cellphone expert and “potential prosecutorial misconduct during trial.” In a sworn affidavit submitted last month, former AT&T engineer Abraham Waranowitz said he wasn’t given a disclaimer about the reliability of such data that he considered “critical” and “would have affected my testimony.”

The Supreme Court takes 7 cases seeking Religious Freedom Accommodation Act exemptions from Obamacare.

Explained, at SCOTUSblog, by Lyle Denniston. These cases all involve non-profit religious organizations, which the federal government has tried to accommodate. You may remember the Hobby Lobby case. That had to do with for-profit corporations, which the government argued (unsuccessfully) had no right to accommodations under RFRA. In the new cases, non-profit organizations say that the accommodations they've been offered do not go far enough:
[The government's] accommodation requires the institution to notify the government of its objection; that, the government argues, is enough to excuse that institution from any direct role in providing contraceptives to their female employees. From then on, it is the government, working with the institution’s health insurer, that actually provides the free access to contraceptives for those employees....

The religious institutions have countered that, because the plans that will provide for the access are those institutions’ own heath insurance systems, the government will “hijack” those to provide the contraceptives. The mere act of notifying the government of a religious objection, those institutions have contended, works as a “trigger” to the government to go forward with contraceptive coverage through their plans. That, the institutions have said, confronts them with the choice of violating their religious beliefs or paying the heavy fines.
The organizations argue that their exercise of religion is substantially burdened by this level of involvement in the process. If this need to avoid even direct participation counts as a substantial burden on religion, then the government must have a compelling interest and it must meet that interest with the "least restrictive means."

In Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court didn't decide but assumed that "the interest in guaranteeing cost-free access" contraception was compelling. It said that the government had certainly not used the least-restrictive means, because it didn't even give the accommodation that it worked out for not-for-profit organizations.

In these new cases, the question is whether even that accommodation is the least restrictive, a question Hobby Lobby left open. As the Court wrote in that case, the "most straightforward" accommodation "would be for the Government to assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives at issue to any women who are unable to obtain them under their health-insurance policies due to their employers’ religious objections."

There's a vast robot conspiracy against Hillary.

Look what they did to her retweet of some sweet puff piece at NBC with the headline "Hillary Clinton's Campaign Is Powered By Pizza, Analysis Shows":

"Probably the most unfortunate dot dot dot in any political retweet, ever...."

November 6, 2015

Commenting dispairingly and disparagingly...

... on the students at the University of Missouri Law School.

At the Trees and Weeds Café...


... it's all in the point of view.

"Why only two very similar voices for this issue. Where are the 5 or 6 perspectives that normally appear in these 'Room For Discussion' segments."

"Did the Times previous editorial advocacy result in excluding women (or men) who have a differing perspective? Surely there are more than two (almost identical) perspectives regarding the treatment of transgender persons and others with reasonable and informed but differing perspectives can easily be found. This is not a 'Room For Discussion;' this is an 'Echo Chamber' for one perspective."

Says the 4th-highest-rated comment on the NYT forum: "Transgender Students in High School Locker Rooms/Can transgender students' rights be protected while recognizing other students' concerns about privacy in a locker room?" The "debates" are from the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy and from the National Center for Transgender Equality.

What are the 3 higher-rated comments?
1. "Call yourself Tarzan. Call yourself Jane. I don't care. I don't know you from Adam. But I know a man when I see one. I had better not see one in my locker room."

2. "Only a 'rights' crusader would force male bodies on females in locker rooms. It takes a reasonable person to understand why this is a problem for young females. Unfortunately, crusaders are neither reasonable nor interested in compromise."

3. "Trouble is, nearly all of these 'transgendered' kids are not transgendered in any commonsense rendering of that term. 'Presenting' as female is by definition superficial; long hair and a dress. Strip down and you still have a young man. And therein lies the problem."
Remember, this is The New York Times, which, just yesterday, ran an editorial vilifying the people of Texas who voted down an equal-rights law seemingly out of resistance to male bodies in the girls' bathroom and locker room.

Sitting in a booth in a diner, Ben Carson explains his campaign's new urban radio ad to Jorge Ramos.

You hear only the beginning of the ad in that video — as Ramos, after asking Carson about the ad, starts playing it on a mobile phone. You can play the whole ad here. And here's the discussion at Metafilter. Excerpt:
I was hoping for more of the "I'm Ben Carson and I'm here to say..." style rap popular among conservatives and corporate team-building consultants everywhere.

" your grain the Egyptian way."

"Thirteen Republican presidential campaigns had started the week in a kind of solidarity, brainstorming ideas to make the cable news debates more fair."

"They ended the week in pathos and disarray, after Fox Business announced that two candidates would be shunted from prime time to an 'undercard' debate, and two mainstays of the undercard debate would not make it to the Nov. 10 forum at all."

Writes WaPo's David Weigel, after the news that Christie and Huckabee got reseated at the kids table and Graham and Pataki are excluded altogether.

"Here’s why Marco Rubio’s corporate card saga isn’t really a scandal."

Says WaPo's fact checker.
Rubio’s carefully worded explanation doesn’t quite rise to the level of a Geppetto Checkmark, but it is accurate enough that it does not warrant even a single Pinocchio. Perhaps the release of the 2005-2006 card statements will change the outcome. We’ll be keeping an eye on this issue but based on the information released so far, a mountain’s been made out of molehill,  by the media and Rubio’s opponents.

"My brother is a big boy. His administration was shaped by his thinking, his reaction to the attack on 9/11."

"I think my dad, like a lot of people that love George, want to try to create a different narrative, perhaps, just because that’s natural to do."

Said Jeb Bush, who's trying to run for President and has to deal with his very elderly father saying some awkwardly critical things relating to his older brother.

"The Carson story is either a total fabrication or, if true, even worse — trying to hit mother over the head with a hammer or stabbing friend!"

Trump, tweeting, attacks Carson, and sharply reveals the weirdness of this particular accusation of dishonesty. The stories Carson has told about himself are not the usual resume padding. They're negative. You could say they're inherently believable, because why would a candidate tell tales against himself?

But the context of telling those stories was an autobiography written a quarter century ago. The tales of a violent temper lend drama to the narrative of impoverished childhood and salvation through religion. I'd like to know more about how this book was written and why. It was co-written by Cecil (Cec) Murphey, who's worked on other inspirational books, including "90 Minutes in Heaven," which doesn't sound as though it's rigorously framed in factual accuracy.

Salvation isn't very interesting if you are not a sinner. In the history of dishonest memoirs, what is more likely to be exaggerated and faked — the positive or the negative?

November 5, 2015

The ginkgo in late afternoon.


Seen behind the law school yesterday. I wasn't the only one stopping to take a photograph.


"As they see that robot in the hallways, that's Peyton," said the principal of Poolesville Elementary School.

"She's here, she's with us and she's going to engage in the school day, just like the rest of them."

"The Many Noises of Donald Trump."

I'm guessing this works — albeit in different ways — for those who love Trump and for those who hate him:

"Stoner Jesus Bible Study is the creation of Deb Button, a 40-something mother of two who had never considered smoking pot until last year..."

"... when Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana for adults over 21. 'I was majorly conservative,' said Button, who was wearing a navy cardigan and jeans cuffed at the calf. Earlier this year, while going through a divorce, she’d tried an edible on a friend’s advice. This had proved a revelation. 'I expected to see unicorns,' Button said. 'But when I started smoking I just got so connected to God.' Joye was the only person to show up when Button posted a listing on Craigslist for Stoner Jesus Bible Study; she arrived to find Button 'so baked out of her head she forgot that she’d invited me over.' They talked for four hours."

From a New York Magazine article titled "Ambling Through America’s Most Stoned Suburbs."

"Given what we know in 2015, the question is whether anybody is really 'playing' football."

"Are high schoolers risking their lives for a chance out of poverty or a sense of elevated status really 'playing'? Are those who take the field in the NCAA, exploited for billions of dollars in television revenue while working in a state of indentured servitude, 'playing'? Are the NFL athletes who have to treat every single play as a potential threat to their brains, and get an average of three and a half years on the field, 'playing'? The only people 'playing' in this scenario are egomaniacal coaches and parents, craven NCAA thought leaders, and NFL executives, all preaching intensity and sacrifice, but really just playing with the lives of others. They are the sports equivalent of the Bush-era chickenhawks. Note how many big-time basketball coaches have kids who play hoops and note how few football coaches can say the same."

That's Dave Zirin in The Nation: "Why Does Anybody Play Football Anymore?/Football has never been more popular. And it has never felt less like a game."

Yes, that's a bit extreme and over-politicized, but I'm interested in the precedence given to "play," the different meanings of "play," and the work/play distinction.

There seems to be an assumption that if something is a game, it should be play and not work. You should be having fun, not striving and struggling, not using it as a way to get money. But what's bad about having a serious, hard-working mindset in sports? There's no corresponding assumption that those of us who are doing jobs that are not games shouldn't feel that we are at play, having fun, feeling joy that's disconnected from the money we're making.

"Sometime in the near future, a transgender teenager in Texas will attempt suicide — and maybe succeed — because vilifying people for their gender identity remains politically acceptable in America."

The first sentence of a NYT editorial titled "In Houston, Hate Trumped Fairness."

The language is so extreme — "vilifying," "hate." It seems to me that the focus on access to women's bathrooms wasn't aimed at the transgender at all, but on males who might take advantage of a new opportunity to engage in voyeurism and sexual assault.

Elsewhere in the NYT, I see empathy for women who are sensitive and perhaps over-sensitive to matters involving their bodily privacy and safety and encouragement to men to become more sensitive.

Is this sensitivity supposed to shut off when a more treasured/trendy interest appears on the other side of the balance?

"Donald Trump will protect Israel, and brutally and quickly cut the head off of ISIS."

From Donald Trump's new radio ad.

Dogs protecting penguins from foxes.

On Middle Island, in Australia:
Maremma dogs are self-reliant; they can be left to defend a patch of land for long periods of time with a supply of food and water that they know not to wolf down right away. During the summer, when foxes pose the greatest danger to Middle Island’s penguins because of tidal patterns that form sandbars, the dogs can stay on the island for several days in a row, watching over the birds from a raised walkway.

Training them for the job involves introducing them to the penguin’s distinct odor. “Penguins don’t smell particularly nice,” said Peter Abbott, manager of tourism services for the Warrnambool City Council. “They look cute and cuddly, but they smell like dead fish.” Gradually, the dogs are taught to treat the penguins like any other kind of livestock, to be defended and not harmed....

George H.W. Bush, writing in his diary in 1988, called Michael Dukakis "midget nerd."

I'm looking for things in the the NYT article "Elder Bush Says His Son Was Served Badly by Aide" that you may not have already noticed.

After defeating the "midget nerd" in 1988, Bush wound up a one-term President, losing to Bill Clinton. I don't know what 2-word epithets he may have aimed at Clinton, but I see that, instead of going on to fight for the second term, he considered — over a year and a half before the election — announcing that he was not going to run for a second term:
He would “call a press conference in about November and just turn it loose,” he said in the audio diary. “You need someone in this job” who could give his “total last ounce of energy, and I’ve had” that “up until now, but now I don’t seem to have the drive.”
Energy. That's Trump's favorite buzzword, used most notably against Elder Bush's son Jeb.

More from the diary, making the job of President sound horrible:
“Maybe it’s the letdown after the day-to-day” 5 a.m. calls “to the Situation Room; conferences every single day with Defense and State; moving things, nudging things, worrying about things, phone calls to foreign leaders, trying to keep things moving forward, managing a massive project.... Now it’s different, sniping, carping, bitching, predictable editorial complaints.”
As for the criticism of Cheney and Rumsfeld, I'll briefly note Elder Bush's tendency to call everyone "iron-ass":
"[Dick Cheney] just became very hard-line.... Just iron-ass...."

“I’ve concluded that Lynne Cheney is a lot of the eminence grise here – iron-ass, tough as nails, driving,” he said...

“I think [Rumsfeld] served the president badly... I don’t like what he did, and I think it hurt the president having his iron-ass view of everything...."

November 4, 2015

"From coast to coast, conservatives score huge victories in off-year elections."

A WaPo headline.

Did that much really happen? There's Matt Bevin, elected governor in Kentucky, and there's the failure of the Houston Equal Right Ordinance, but what else? Ohio's rejection of the weird marijuana legalization scheme wasn't necessarily a conservative matter, because of the odd way it would have empowered an elite group of growers. Democrats in Virginia couldn't pick up even one seat to get to a majority in the state Senate, and San Francisco voted out the sheriff who stood for the "sanctuary city" policy.

Is that so huge? The linked article offers "eight takeaways" from the Bevin victory, which I'll summarize as briefly as I can: 1. outsider, 2. Kim Davis, 3. The South!, 4. Rand Paul, 5. Right to Work, 6. maybe not that radical, 7. pollsters wrong, 8. low turnout. 

That 8th point seems to explain why a bunch of liberal victories are tucked away down at the bottom of the article. Readers are supposed to panic.

Looking for something to be offended by? Check out Harvard Law School's logo.

"These symbols set the tone for the rest of the school and the fact that we hold up the Harvard crest as something to be proud of when it represents something so ugly is a profound disappointment and should be a source of shame for the whole school," said one law student.

At the 4 Chairs Café...


... have a seat. Talk about anything.

"Racism? By whom? This video of Texas cops stopping a black professor is a racial 'Rorschach test.'"

University of North Texas professor Dorothy Bland: "Walking while black is a crime in many jurisdictions... May God have mercy on our nation."

Police chief: "If we didn’t have the video, these officers would have serious allegations against them... Every white officer that stops an African American does not constitute racial profiling."

Trump: "Anybody that hits me, we're gonna hit them ten times harder."

"As an example, if Bush or Rubio or any of them come out, we're gonna just, dollar for dollar, go after them. We have more money than anybody else by a factor of about a thousand... We're gonna start spending a little bit of money over the next three or four weeks."

Remember the kinder, gentler days of "If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard"?

"Ariana Grande Is Not Here for Your Sexist Interview Questions."

I'm only posting about this because I already have an Ariana Grande tag. That tag only has one other post and it's a post that contains the phrase "I'm only posting because...."

The other post is "Thanks for licking the doughnut, Ariana Grande." She's the celebrity who licked a doughnut that was on a tray left unsupervised in a doughnut shop where anyone could just come up and lick it.

I appreciated her calling our attention to unattended doughnuts, and now she's applying her celebrity power to the problem of radio show hosts asking female celebrities questions like "If you had to choose between your phone and makeup, which would you give up?"

As for the doughnuts tag, which this post also gets, it's not languishing so unused I wish I'd never created it. It's rolling along. This is its 33rd appearance.

I wanted to illustrate this post with an image of a rolling doughnut. (Yeah, here's a good one.) But searching for "rolling doughnut" turned up "15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Said Better Than Anyone Else Ever Has Or Will," and one of them is: "Why don't you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut? Why don't you take a flying fuck at the mooooooooooooon?"

#1 on that list is "I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'" I read that out loud to Meade without identifying the context and he thought I was reading something I'd written. His reaction was: "I think it's below your normal writing."

And that's it for the second Ariana Grande blog post.

The world's largest cat painting sells at auction for $826,000.

It's titled "My Wife's Lovers."

"Essena O'Neill was a social media celebrity, with over half a million followers on instagram and deals with brands to advertise their products. She was 16. Then she decided to stop."

"She is in the process of editing the captions on her old instagram posts to reflect the reality of what she was experiencing in the moment (like loneliness or insecurity) or to talk about the artifice behind them."
and yet another photo taken purely to promote my 16 year old body. This was my whole identity. That was so limiting. Made me incredibly insecure. You have no idea.

Just the first sentence of this comment contains so much. When you're an attractive young woman, it's easy to feel like you're playing the game and winning - only to realize much later you were never even considered a player, just the trophy. O'Neill is wise to realize this at such a young age.

"We hang over each other’s heads, more and more heavily, self-appointed swords of Damocles waiting with baited breath to strike."

I'm trying to read "The Decay of Twitter" — an article in The Atlantic critical of the way people write on Twitter — but what about the way people write in The Atlantic? That sentence, quoted above, may be the worst sentence I've read in the last 10 years.

First, what the hell is "baited breath"? Avoid clichés and you won't have this problem, but FYI, it's "bated breath." No one uses the verb "bate" anymore, but it's like "abate." If you have "bated breath," you're holding your breath. If you have "baited breath," maybe you've been eating fish, but it has little to do with acting like a sword hanging over everyone's head.

But a sword of Damocles can't be waiting and looking for things to strike at. The sword of Damocles hangs over the one person who's sitting under it. (So don't sit there!)

The sword has no mind and makes no decision about when to strike. It hangs by a hair and will, when the hair breaks, fall only on the person who's under it. The sword doesn't become progressively heavier, nor does it "appoint' itself.

You shouldn't be using these clichés in the first place, but using them without thinking about what they mean and what images you're creating is atrocious — especially in an article that purports to critique writing.

"I am being forced to go before a court run by a religion I no longer believe in."

"How could that happen?"

The answer, of course, is that you entered into a contract in which you agreed to resolve disputes by that method.

"How Bathroom Fears Conquered Transgender Rights in Houston."

The headline in The Atlantic after Houston voted — 61 to 39 percent — against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or Proposition 1, which would ban discrimination based on gender identity (and 14 other factors, including sexual orientation). The "startlingly simple" opposition message was "No men in women’s bathrooms."
"No one is exempt," intoned a narrator in one TV ad that featured a young girl in a restroom. "Even registered sex offenders could follow women or young girls into the bathroom. And if a business tried to stop them, they’d be fined. Protect women’s privacy. Prevent danger. Vote no on the Proposition 1 bathroom ordinance."...

Supporters pointed out that it was already against the law in Houston to enter a bathroom with the intent to harass someone....
That response doesn't address the problem faced by a business that would like to intervene but can't know the intent of the person following a woman. Also, people frequently want additional protection. I'm thinking specifically of gun control, which tends to be supported by the same people who would like to open up access to women's bathrooms. These people aren't satisfied by the argument that it's already against the law to commit murder and other gun violence.

November 3, 2015

Ohio votes against legalizing marijuana.

The ballot measure fails, CNN reports.

Yesterday, we talked about the unusual approach that was proposed: "Is there something quite different about the Ohio experiment in marijuana legalization — something wrong?"

AND: Also on this obscure election day, Kentucky elects a Republican governor for only the second time in four decades.

"How would you feel if your 10-year prison sentence depended on a dangling modifier?"

"That's the situation for Avondale Lockhart, whose case was heard Tuesday by the U.S. Supreme Court...."
According to federal law, Lockhart gets a mandatory 10-year minimum sentence for the child pornography if he had a prior state conviction “relating to aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, or abusive sexual conduct involving a minor.” The crucial words here are “involving a minor.” Lockhart says they apply to the whole sentence. Because his prior conviction was for attempted rape of a woman, not a minor, the law doesn't apply to him. The government says “involving a minor” just refers to the last part of the sentence, “abusive sexual conduct,” not to what came before. It thinks Lockhart should get the 10 years.
Reading that description, it's quite clear that Lockhart should win and that Professor Noah Feldman doesn't know the meaning of "dangling modifier." A "dangling modifier" is what I put at the beginning of the previous sentence. The modifier in that federal statute isn't dangling. It's attached to something it modifies, but there's ambiguity about how much else it modifies.

On really long hikes — the Appalachian Trail and beyond — women may do better than men at setting speed records.

At some point, the female body has an advantage:
Robert Deaner of Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., has spent the past 10 years studying the psychological differences in distance running between the sexes...  Men “begin at a pace that could lead to a superb performance, given their own talent and training, but one that also increases their chance of crashing or hitting the wall. The longer the race, the more crucial it is to be conservative with pacing, since fatigue in longer races reflects slowly cumulating processes, such as glycogen depletion and tissue damage.” Although data on longer distances is lacking, Deaner acknowledges, “since males generally have trouble making conservative decisions, they might be less likely to perform well in an ultrarun or hike.”...

“Women appear to be better suited for walking long distances because it doesn’t seem to take the same physical toll on their bodies,” [said record-setting hiker Heather Anderson]. “The women I see at the end of a long-distance hike look fit and badass, but the guys look emaciated.... I believe that endurance is most likely genderless... As a species we evolved by traveling long distances and carrying what we needed. It’s a human trait.”

Samuel Cheuvront, a research physiologist for the United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, agreed. “I can’t think of any reason why men would have an advantage over women at these lengths,” he said. “At distances over 2,000 miles, you are negating the benefit that males have due to increased muscle mass and aerobic capacity.”...

"Imagine creating the best work of your life, some of the best music of its day, and no one cares."

"Now imagine playing those songs 47 years later to a screaming and loving bunch of fans and getting what seems like a hero's welcome. That's part of the story of The Zombies, who played the classic 1968 album Odessey and Oracle, along with a set of other hits and brand new songs, live in Washington, D.C. last month. Now we have their nearly note-for-note live reproduction of Odessey and Oracle for you here."

"Why is US death rate rising for white, middle-aged?"

"National data sets from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention... show that middle-aged whites are committing suicide at an unrivalled rate... But why are whites so much more likely to commit suicide than other demographic groups?"
... [R]esearchers found increased numbers of declining self-reported health, mental health and ability to work. Middle-aged whites reported problems with walking a quarter of a mile, climbing 10 steps, standing or sitting for two hours, shopping and socialising — some of which are risk factors for suicide."

"I’ve also never Googled myself. It wouldn’t occur to me to do so. It’s the same reason I don’t watch pornography."

"It’s not that I occupy some moral high ground. I just think: Down that road lies madness."

Says the memoirist Mary Karr, who also says "Narcissism is the bacterium infecting all bad writing."

A vision of more wondrously beautiful air travel... the windowless passenger compartment.

Fabulous... or hellish? To me, it's hellish.

"Sometimes, on the internet, text and images get mixed up."

Email from Meade, with this attachment:

That came up on some news site that aggregates automatically. It's not a conscious human mind joking. (Meade touched up the photo to eliminate the images that appeared in the top left and bottom right corners.)

ADDED: This was the news site, ZergNet.

"Ben Carson Vaults to Lead in Latest Journal/NBC Poll."

"The result marks the first time since June that the Journal/NBC News poll has found a Republican other than Mr. Trump to be leading the GOP field. Some 29% of GOP primary voters rank Mr. Carson as their top choice, while 23% favor Mr. Trump. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz rank third and fourth as the top pick of 11% and 10% of Republican primary voters, respectively. Some 8% prefer former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. No other Republican garners more than 3% support."

The WSJ reports. Since the poll was both before and after last week's debate, we can't really tell what the effect of the debate was. But what surprises me — looking at the charts at the link — is that Marco Rubio declined a percentage point. And Bush stayed in the same place.

It's the way Justice Kennedy expressed his hate for the term "swing vote" that's so revealing.

"I hate that term... I get this visual image of spatial gyrations. The cases swing; I don’t."

The most revealing thing is not that he hates the term "swing vote." That's not surprising. He wants to be thought of as serious and consistent. The term impugns.

The most revealing thing is that in thinking about an abstraction, he gets a visual image and his thinking about an abstraction is, it seems, influenced by the way that abstraction-made-concrete looks in his mind.

This is useful for lawyers who are trying to figure out how to tip Kennedy one way or the other. Did "tip" just give you a visual image? If not, then you don't have the kind of mind that Kennedy seems to have.

Personally, I have this kind of mind, and I know very well how thought is influenced by language that generates images. The word "swing" makes Justice Kennedy picture a swing — picture himself as a swing, suspended, ungrounded, susceptible to pushes — and he hates (strong word!) how he looks in that image. Perhaps he sees himself as a child on a swing. Perhaps he sees himself as the bad guy in a western who's going to swing in a hangman's noose.

Stressing the vividness of the image as it appears in his mind, he indulges — even as he's speaking with notable concision — in a redundancy, adding the unnecessary adjective "visual" to "images."

So it seems that Justice Kennedy is one of these people for whom the metaphors within words feel alive. George Orwell wrote about dying metaphors in "Politics and the English Language":
A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically "dead" (e.g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles' heel, swan song, hotbed...
What Orwell didn't say was that the effect of language varies from person to person. There is no objectivity to the perception whether a metaphor is fully alive, totally dead, or somewhere in the gray area between life and death.

The life of a metaphor is a subtle matter that belongs within the realm of the individual mind, including the mind of the man who (co)wrote: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."

Did he get a visual image of a heart, a beating heart of liberty? Did he see, within that heart, the universe? Did the image of the universe inside a heart blur into a mystery as he compared the universe inside a heart with the unborn baby inside a womb — two bodily organs containing — who's to say? — everything?

You may think the life of that baby is undeniably, concretely real, but do you understand how real liberty might look in the mind of a man who gets visual images?

ADDED: The Orwell quote contains the very phrase I marked as a redundancy: "A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image..."

November 2, 2015

"Federal education authorities found on Monday that an Illinois school district had violated anti-discrimination laws..."

"... when it did not allow a transgender student who identifies as a girl and participates in athletics to change and shower in the girls’ locker room without restrictions."
“All students deserve the opportunity to participate equally in school programs and activities — this is a basic civil right,” Catherine Lhamon, the Education Department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Township High School District 211 is not following the law because the district continues to deny a female student the right to use the girls’ locker room.”

"Some speculate that this adaptability to city life is because coywolves’ dog DNA has made them more tolerant of people and noise..."

"... perhaps counteracting the genetic material from wolves—an animal that dislikes humans. And interbreeding may have helped coywolves urbanise in another way, too, by broadening the animals’ diet. Having versatile tastes is handy for city living. Coywolves eat pumpkins, watermelons and other garden produce, as well as discarded food. They also eat rodents and other smallish mammals. Many lawns and parks are kept clear of thick underbrush, so catching squirrels and pets is easy. Cats are typically eaten skull and all, with clues left only in the droppings."

From an Economist article, "Greater than the sum of its parts/It is rare for a new animal species to emerge in front of scientists’ eyes. But this seems to be happening in eastern North America."

Is there something quite different about the Ohio experiment in marijuana legalization — something wrong?

If the ballot initiative wins:
Issue 3 expressly states that commercial cultivation of marijuana in Ohio will be limited to 10 separate properties, whose addresses have already been determined. And just who owns the land that will be granted exclusive rights to what is projected to be a billion dollar industry? The same investment groups, organized by James, that are financing the ResponsibleOhio campaign to legalize marijuana in the state....

ResponsibleOhio projects that there will be an estimated 300 employees per facility, which is astronomical when compared with Colorado commercial growers like Medicine Man, which operates one of the state’s largest cultivation centers—40,000 square feet—and needs only 32 employees to run it. James says that Ohio’s cultivation centers will be up to 300,000 square feet. The imagery of Smithsonian-size grow-houses and multibillion-dollar sales plays into the Big Cannabis narrative that marijuana prohibitionists (and now some legalizers) have rallied around....
No matter what happens, with recreational marijuana having already proved itself as an endeavor worthy of Big Business attention, it’s certain that we’re going to see large influxes of cash into future campaigns by investors looking for a stake in the coming green rush.
Promoting a business but only if it's small makes little sense. But is there something wrong with designating the 10 properties? If producing marijuana is to be legal, the state will have to control it, and limiting the production to 10 big places instead of allowing lots of little places to operate is perhaps a creditable idea about how to keep tabs on this business. Doesn't it make sense to want fewer bigger grow houses? I'm just asking questions. I don't have a policy position here.

"Good. You just can't run for president based on a fantasy that there's only one issue that matters."

"In the real world, there's no way around the fact that the president has to deal with multiple issues every day, and the people won't accept a president who doesn't take the whole job seriously."

Says my son John, commenting on the news that Lawrence Lessig has dropped out of the presidential race. The reason Lessig gives is not, however, that people won't accept a candidate with a single-issue campaign, but that he never became well-known enough, and he blames the Democratic Party for excluding him from the debates.

But I wouldn't criticize the Party for failing to open up the debates for the purpose of helping advocates of single issues. And my reason is precisely what John is talking about: I don't take this person seriously as a real candidate.

"The Slow-Motion Implosion of ObamaCare."

"I see firsthand in my company why not enough people are signing up and premiums are rising."

"We love the land, but the land doesn’t love us."

Christians in Iraq.
More than a year after IS swept across northern Iraq, capturing the historic heartland of Iraq’s Assyrian Christians and driving out more than 100,000, many of the displaced say they no longer see a future for Christians here. Thousands have already emigrated, and many others are planning or hoping to follow....

50 years ago today: "War Critic Burns Himself To Death Outside Pentagon."

The NYT reported on the shocking protest by Norman Morrison:

Here's the Wikipedia article on Norman Morrison:
Filmmaker Errol Morris interviewed Secretary McNamara at length on camera in his documentary film, The Fog of War, in which McNamara says, "[Morrison] came to the Pentagon, doused himself with gasoline. Burned himself to death below my office ... his wife issued a very moving statement - 'human beings must stop killing other human beings' - and that's a belief that I shared, I shared it then, I believe it even more strongly today". McNamara then posits, "How much evil must we do in order to do good? We have certain ideals, certain responsibilities. Recognize that at times you will have to engage in evil, but minimize it."

"On Tuesday, Achan, joined by Aicheria Bell, another African-style hair braider, and the Institute for Justice, filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Iowa Board of Cosmetology Arts & Sciences."

"Their complaint asserts that the state’s licensing laws are 'burdensome and arbitrary…causing great and irreparable harm' and violate their rights as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."
... Iowa’s cosmetologist license is more burdensome than the training requirements for dental assistants, bus drivers, emergency medical technicians, animal control officers, child care workers, security guards, pest control applicators and animal breeders—combined

"Everyone else can barbeque but us - and we're a barbecue restaurant."

"Our business model is based on BBQ, and [they're] constraining my business."
The Plan Commission will decide the smoker's fate at a Monday night meeting - but many in the Monroe-Vilas community... say a smoker would impact their quality of living. The Vilas Neighborhood Association declined an interview but said in a statement it opposed a conditional use permit "for numerous reasons that are incongruent with the neighborhood and the close proximity... to the surrounding residential neighborhood."

"Fred Dalton Thompson, the former Republican senator from Tennessee and veteran character actor, died Sunday at age 73."

"POLITICO takes a look back at Thompson's political and personal maneuvers, from Watergate and the campaign trail, to his performances on 'Law & Order' and 'Persecuted.'"

"At Timothy Foster's trial in Rome, Ga., the prosecutor used four of his nine peremptory strikes to knock out all the qualified black jurors in the jury pool."

"The defense cried foul, but the trial judge and every appellate court after that, including the Georgia Supreme Court, accepted the non-racial reasons. The prosecutors gave as many as a dozen reasons for striking each black prospective juror. These justifications included things like 'failure to make eye contact,' looking 'bored,' being 'divorced,' or 'a social worker,' and so on."

From Nina Totenberg's report on a case that's up for oral argument in the Supreme Court today.

"I’m sure he’s a nice man and I know he has a family and I think he deserves closure and to be allowed to put this behind him.”

Said Samantha Geimer after a Polish judge declined to extradite Roman Polanski.

Geimer was 13 in 1977 was she was the victim of Polanski's admitted sexual predation.
“He said he did it; he pled guilty; he went to jail. I don’t know what people want from him,” she said....

Polanski apologized to Geimer in a 2011 documentary — and Geimer says she thinks he is sincere. She even sees herself as one of his supporters.

“We somehow ended up on the same side,” she explained. “Things have to go pretty wrong for them to end up this way.”

"No one saw it happen, but a crack 50' wide and 6 football fields long has opened in Wyoming..."

WaPo quotes some "experts" "allay[ing the] fears" of social media folk who are speculating about volcanoes and earthquakes.

"The break-up of a Russian passenger jet in mid-flight over the Sinai peninsula was not caused by malfunction or pilot error..."

"... the airline said Monday, deepening the mystery over the disaster but leaving open probes into some kind of plot or attack."
... Alexander Smirnov, deputy general director of the airline, insisted the tragedy could only be the result of some “mechanical impact on the aircraft.”... He declined to elaborate on the theory of an “impact.”

Did you know Thomas Paine was a corsetmaker?

"In London, Paine's revolutionary writings were dismissed as the work of 'Tom the Bodicemaker'..."

Great cartoon fodder, wonderfully deployed:

I'd never noticed this historical fact before. I learned it from a NYT crossword from 2012 that came up in my crossword app last night. Paine wasn't much of a corsetmaker though:
Young Tom's formal schooling ended at twelve, when his father took him on as an apprentice to learn the family trade. Yet an uncertain economy made for a bad climate for a new tradesman, and Paine's efforts as a staymaker (and in several other subsequent careers) failed. After he sailed for America in 1774, he never practiced the staymaking trade again....
So metaphorical!

"So a glorious run of a Mets season, a trip deeper into the terra incognita of the postseason than anyone had reason to expect in midsummer, ended in an improbable string of sorrows."

"It was as if the Kansas City Royals made a margin call on the joy and luck the Mets experienced this autumn, and not just in that endless and deadening 12th-inning denouement."

The New York point of view. It's very sentimental:
Manager Terry Collins, who was on a golden postseason roll, went with sentiment and let Harvey pitch the ninth inning. “He said, ‘I want this game in the worst way,’ ” Collins said. “So obviously I let my heart get in the way of my gut. I love my players. It was,” he added, “my fault.”
The heart/gut dilemma. Reminds me of the old baseball song "You Gotta Have Heart":

There's always next year. Next year, with possibly more gut.

(Note: At Meadhouse, we were rooting for the Royals. Something about the trajectory of the playoffs made that happen. We love the National League Central Division and would have supported the Cubs, and we were rooting for the Royals in the American League all along.)

November 1, 2015

"Look, I know that I got to get better at doing the debate. I'm a grinder."

Said Jeb Bush, grinding out an answer to the question — on "Meet the Press" — how he's going to become a better debater.
I mean, when I see that I'm not doing something well then I reset and I get better. And I'm... going to be better.... Well, I'm going to do what you have to do. This is not debating. I mean... whatever it's called, it's certainly not debating. Because I can complete a sentence in the English language pretty well, and I have ideas that will lift people up....

David Brooks made what might be the stupidest joke I have ever heard a serious person make publicly.

On "Meet the Press" today, there was a panel discussion of President Obama's decision to put "boots on the ground" in Syria, a change from what Obama had been saying. We see tape of Obama on 3 separate occasions: 1. "In no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground," 2. "I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria," 3. "The notion that the United States should be putting boots on the ground I think would be a profound mistake. And I want to be very clear and very explicit about that."

When it was Brooks's turn to speak, he began: "Yeah, first of all they should wear sneakers so we can get out of the boots thing."

That is so poor, given the context of death and despair for the Syrian people and Obama's dire predicament. Maybe somewhere behind the scenes — where gallows humor is needed — that joke might be okay, worded less awkwardly. I could imagine political comedian saying something like: Obama said he wanted to very clear and very explicit that he would not put boots on the ground in Syria. Absolutely no boots on the ground. How do you get around that? Sneakers! They're going to be wearing sneakers. Sneakers on the ground!

I'm hearing the comedian in my head and I'm ready to boo him. But David Brooks on "Meet the Press"? How could he possibly have believed that joke was appropriate?

ALSO: Brooks had this advice for Jeb:
If I were him I'd lead with his strengths. And just say, "I'm boring. I'm boring. Is our problem in Washington we don't have enough boringness? No. We've got too much craziness. And so I'm going to be a sedative. I'm going to be a laxative, I guess. You know, I'm going to calm you down."
That's sort of good advice — I, myself, want boring politicians — and Jeb pretty much already is doing this. But laxative? Something is very wrong with the mind of Brooks. Maybe he worked on his material when he had more time to drag out the image. "I'm going to be a sedative... I'm going to calm you down" — that makes sense. But why stop in the middle of saying that to bring in "laxative"? Washington is full of shit? The legislative process is constipated?

"You're kind of a health nut. How are you going to get the smell of smoke out of the speaker's office?"

Chuck Todd asked Paul Ryan on "Meet the Press" today. (Boehner was " John Boehner is a well-known chain smoker.")

Ryan said: "That's a really good question. We've been talking about that, they have these ozone machines, apparently, that you can detoxify the environment. But I'm going to have to work on the carpeting in here. You know when you ever go to a hotel room or get a rental car that has been smoked? That's what this smells like."

It's especially a problem for Ryan because he lives in Janesville, Wisconsin, and doesn't keep a separate living space in Washington. He goes home every weekend, but during the week, he's in his office all day and also sleeps there: "I start my day at 6:00 in the morning. I end at about 11:30 at night. It's just become a really efficient way for me to do the people's business by just staying right here."

Imagine! The "perfect jewel"!

That's an ad from page 67 of the September 18, 1960 issue of The New York Times — an issue I was reading yesterday, for my "Moscow Suspicious of Hillary" post.

I love paging through all the old ads. There's one in that issue for "Fantastic, magical: typewriter correction tape — "Type-Out" —  to "save hours of costly re-typing." And there's one for "Daylight Blue" TV that "Adds a Tint of Blue" to improve the clarity of black-and-white TV. The TV is "big... like a movie screen" when it's only 23". And I love that the elimination of glare is attributed to something called "Ultra-Vision Glarejector."

What got me thinking back the transistor radio I'd seen was this Tech Times article Meade just texted me:
Electrical engineers from the University of Wisconsin have developed a flexible silicon phototransistor, which to date is the fastest and most responsive ever created... Just like mammalian eyes, phototransistors collect light and then transform this into an electrical impulse. In mammals, this pulse is transported by the brain's nerves but in digital devices, the electrical charge becomes a binary code that software converts into a digital image. Many phototransistors are flat because they are fabricated on rigid surface but the new phototransistor is flexible so it can easily mimic the behavior of the eyes of mammals....

"This is the just fourth game in pro football history between two clubs with at least six wins, no losses and no ties."

Tonight's Packers-Broncos game is a "monumental showdown."

"I'm here trying to clear her name and let them know I consented to that, I just didn't finish the job as you could say."

"Everyone wants to do something spontaneous. I'm not being disrespectful to you. Have you ever done anything spontaneous?"

A man defends his woman, who was arrested for after having sex with squatting on top of him when he was unconscious...  on a parking lot... in broad daylight.

ADDED: The way the article (in The Daily News) is written, I pictured them on the surface of the parking lot, but — after I said they both should have been arrested — Meade says, "They were in a car!" Public lewdness is a crime, but when do the police actually arrest people for it? How exposed to other people were they? Have you ever done anything spontaneous? If so where? Perhaps in a car. Probably not on the surface of a parking lot.

Now, I've clicked through the link within the link, and I can clearly see that they were on the surface of the parking lot. They were also fully clothed. And the woman was charged not with anything in the realm of sexual assault, but only public drunkenness.

UPDATE: I've been pointed to the Daily Mail article and, as a result, crossed out "They were also fully clothed."

Ivana Trump said "Yes, but the problem is, what is he going to do with his third wife?"

The "yes" was a response to someone telling Ivana that she would have made a great First Lady. The "third wife" is Melania Trump. According to Ivana, "She can’t talk, she can’t give a speech, she doesn’t go to events, she doesn’t (seem to) want to be involved." Ivana nevertheless thinks Donald will be "a great President": "He’ll surround himself with the right people. He was always meant to be a politician."

Ivana said that she "suggested to Donald that he should run for President in the ’80s... Then he got involved with Marla Maples and America hated him."  Maples was the second wife, the one who made him need to wait 30 years to do that run for President and to need to have to do it with a wife who can't even talk and doesn't want to be involved instead of the wife who would have been a first wife and would have made a great First Lady.

And that's the way the first wife tells it.

(Photo source.)

"As much as Poppy Bush scoffs at 'the D-word,' as he calls any reference to dynasty, the Bushes do consider themselves an American royal family."

"They have always pretty much divided the world into Bushes and the help. The patriarch once sent me a funny satire referring to himself and Barbara as the Old King and Queen, W. as King George of Crawford and Jeb as the Earl of Tallahassee. At 91, 41 is living to see Jebbie become president. He is mystified by a world in which Trump, whom he considers a clown, could dethrone the crown prince."

Writes Maureen Dowd, who's been looking closely at the Bushes for a long time. ("In 1993, I went on the road to watch Jeb run for governor in Florida and W. run for governor in Texas.... It was soon clear to me that the Good Son was not as scintillating a campaigner as the Prodigal Son... This was going to be the year that settled sibling scores. Jeb would get what his parents considered his birthright....")

I was interested in the phrase "divided the world into Bushes and the help." The help. That reminds me of a discussion here on the blog the other day. I'd written "Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud allegedly yelled at 3 female servants in his mansion near Beverly Hills," and a commenter, Carol, said: "I had no idea they were still called 'servants' in this country." And SOJO said: "Servants"? Wtf? Employees." I scrambled to defend myself against what I see as a charge of political incorrectness. I posted 4 comments in quick succession.

1. I took responsibility:
That was my word choice. The LA Times called them "workers."
2. I defended myself:
What's wrong with "servants"? If something is wrong with it, then we shouldn't have switched to calling waiters and waitresses "servers."
3. I re-defended myself:
"Servants" seems like the right word for people who occupy the servants' quarters within a house, especially when the reference is to a big estate with a lot of personnel serving a rich person, a person who might say things like this prince did. ["I am a prince and I do what I want! You are nobody!"]
4. I retreated into scholarship and distanced humility:
From the OED, there's this historical context that might explain an aversion to the word: "b. In the North American colonies in the 17–18th c., and subsequently in the United States, servant was the usual designation for a slave.... 1852 H. B. Stowe Uncle Tom's Cabin II. xxii. 67 Why don't we teach our servants to read?"
The idea that "employees" was the right word struck me as wrong. Particular jobs have names, and "employee" isn't the name of a job. What's the name for employees who live in someone else's house and do all sorts of work that might be required within the household? Is it the word Dowd used, "help"? Or did Dowd use "help" because it's amusing to deploy somebody else's euphemism? Is "servant" insulting?

Oddly enough, Jeb Bush likes to call himself a "servant":
"There are a lot of talkers in politics," Bush said. "Trust me, I was on the debate stage, I see it; some really good people that are really good talkers. I hope you want someone with a servant's heart, that acts on principles — that does things rather than just talks about them."

Halloween baseball pain.

That chicken suit man, a favorite fun face in the Mets crowd, is the face of New York suffering when this happens.

ADDED: When things go bad for the home team in baseball, the fans often look like they are praying.