October 22, 2014

Rush Limbaugh calls my name... and calls out Obama for woman-kissing and other possible sexism.

Here's the transcript of a segment of today's show, where there was discussion of 2 related incidents: 1. The "don't touch my girlfriend" scene in Chicago where Obama, demonstrating how to vote, ordered a woman to kiss him, and 2. Obama's description of an ebola-related appearance at Emory University hospital: "I shook hands with, hugged, and kissed, not the doctors, but a couple of the nurses at Emory because of the valiant work that they did in treating one of the patients."

A woman had called in about that ebola incident, and — as Rush put it:
"[W]hat she thought was that since he made a big deal out of not kissing the doctors, that he wanted to make everybody aware that he wasn't gay. And her point was, what's wrong with being gay? 
My point would be that he used the stereotype that doctors are male and nurses are female. But, yeah, on top of that, what's wrong — within his world view — with men kissing men?
Well, he is married. If he was gay, that would be a problem....
Wait! If he's distinguishing kissing males and females, he's specifying that kissing is sexual, and kissing the women should be a problem for a man married to a woman. If it's not sexual, he should kiss both sexes indiscriminately (which would work to deny the sexuality of kissing unless he's bisexual).
... so he's going out of his way to say he's not gay. That's her interpretation. 
If that's correct, then Obama made a homophobia faux pas.  Rush connects that incident to the "don't touch my girlfriend" scene that I wrote about — here — yesterday. Rush describes what happened and says that some people think the scene was scripted. His theory — which is nothing like mine — is that it was supposed to make Obama seem attractive and supportive to women, to counteract Tina Brown's recent statement: "I don't think [Obama] makes [women] feel safe." Whether the Chicago incident was scripted or not, I didn't read it as a demonstration of making women feel safe. I thought it was an intrusion on the woman. But Rush proceeds to quote me:
Like Ann Althouse on her blog said, "Wait a second, I thought men weren't supposed to --" You know, you have to get consent to do this now on every college campus. You can't just kiss a woman without her permission, and you can't approach her and put your arm around without her permission, without her consent. Obama just forced his way on that woman. And she looked like she wanted it, by the way. She looked like she didn't mind, honored to be given a hug and a smooch by the president, cocksman A. 
In my book, it doesn't matter how she acted. He didn't know in advance how she would feel. Even if she loved it, he assumed he was welcome to impose on her body. And her reaction doesn't convince me that she loved it. She was on camera, overwhelmed by the most powerful man in the world, and forced to think quickly about what might be in her interest. How was rejecting him or acting offended even an option?

Rush continues:
So that happens, and everybody's laughing and Obama walks out around her and he's looking like he's pulled off some major score here. Talks about this guy, why would a brother want to embarrass me like this and so forth. So people are wondering if the whole thing was scripted since it followed, by one day, Tina Brown saying that Obama makes women feel unsafe.

Clearly this woman was not feeling unsafe. She's laughing. She's all excited. 
I don't think that's clear. She was put on the spot... by the President of the United States. She might be laughing out of sheer emotional overload, confusion, and the weirdness of it all. Are you allowed to fight off the advances of The Leader? Droit du seigneur?? Is there some core of personal autonomy and rectitude that I can voice right now? The safe bet is to let it all roll over you. Pretend you're into it. Safe bet. Women want to be safe. Tina says. Safety is one way to play the game of life. But the other players should not assume that your silence means consent. If they do, they don't really care about women. Yes mean yes. Silence does not mean yes. Silence may mean: I am subordinated.

Rush finishing the segment, trying — I think — to pick up on what I'd said:
But it's very clear that she did not sign a consent form before he embraced her. It wasn't an embrace. He put his arm around her shoulder. But there was no consent form. She didn't sign a consent form before he embraced her and kissed her. And that's illegal in many places in America now and on college campi. Just did it.

At the Boardwalk Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"That is not even like lying or something, if someone throws out a ballot..."

"... like if you want to fill it out you should do it."

The healthiest diet...

"... isn't a specific diet at all. It's the absence of a diet."

"In my opinion, Obama has governed as a moderate conservative — essentially as what used to be called a liberal Republican..."

"... before all such people disappeared from the GOP. He has been conservative to exactly the same degree that Richard Nixon basically governed as a moderate liberal, something no conservative would deny today."

Writes Bruce Barlett in The American Conservative.

Whatever you think of all that — and Barlett lays out his evidence at length — it will be interesting to see what Obama does when he has to work with a GOP-dominated Congress after the election.

Why aren't the Democratic Party's Senate candidates talking about Ferguson?

The Christian Science Monitor's Francine Kiefer wants to know.
In the Senate races in Iowa and elsewhere, where Democrats must have high African-American turnout if they want to retain control of that chamber, the candidate silence on Ferguson is deafening....

Only once, an electronic search shows, has a question about Ferguson come up in Senate debates in the four tossup states where African-Americans make up a large percentage of eligible voters: Georgia and Louisiana (more than 30 percent of voters in each state are black), North Carolina (22 percent), and Arkansas (15 percent). The black vote is essential to Democratic victories in all those states, though to a lesser extent in Arkansas, according to political analysts.
Meanwhile, news of the Michael Brown autopsy leaks:
Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson's account of the confrontation in which Michael Brown was fatally shot has reportedly been leaked, with an independent medical examiner's report backing up his version of events.

Brown had marijuana in his system and was shot at close range in the hand, backing up claims by a police officer that that there was a violent struggle between the Ferguson, Mo. teen and the cop, an independent medical examiner told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
So, one reason Democratic candidates might not want to talk about it is that once you make it an issue, you have to field complicated questions, and new information, like this autopsy, can undercut your message. Other reasons: 1. Whatever message they rely on to reach out to black voters will be heard by other voters too, and there is no one message that will work better than saying nothing at all, and 2. The Democrats assume they own the black vote, so they don't think they have to offer anything, and yet they puzzle — or purport to puzzle — over the lack of turnout.

ADDED: As I said a week ago: "Abstaining from voting is a kind of vote.... It's notable that the nonvoters are generally presumed to represent votes that would be cast for the Democratic Party's candidate, but that presumption shows how the abstention means something. The nonvoter doesn't want to give affirmation to the Democratic Party's candidate... I say all the votes — cast and uncast — count and have meaning."

"A lot of computing pioneers — the people who programmed the first digital computers — were women."

"And for decades, the number of women studying computer science was growing faster than the number of men. But in 1984, something changed. The percentage of women in computer science flattened, and then plunged, even as the share of women in other technical and professional fields kept rising. What happened?"

Reversing paralysis with a transplant of cells from inside the nose.

"The treatment used olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) — specialist cells that form part of the sense of smell."
OECs act as pathway cells that enable nerve fibres in the olfactory system to be continually renewed. In the first of two operations, surgeons removed one of the patient's olfactory bulbs and grew the cells in culture. Two weeks later they transplanted the OECs into the spinal cord, which had been cut through in the knife attack apart from a thin strip of scar tissue on the right. They had just a drop of material to work with - about 500,000 cells....

Six months after surgery, Mr Fidyka was able to take his first tentative steps along parallel bars, using leg braces and the support of a physiotherapist.

Insect news.

1. Cashier uses bug spray on a would-be robber. From the comments: "We had a security expert come to our office for a personal safety lecture and demonstration, and they told us BUG SPRAY is much more effective than mace or pepper spray. It lasts longer and won't evaporate in the canister like the other two." And "It's not just bug spray, it's the Hornet and Wasp killer. This stuff can shoot 20 to 30 feet and won't blow back at you with a little wind like mace. It also only cost $3 a can."

2. Viral video of a man with a live moth in his ear. Hang on for the moment when the moth flies out. Don't miss the tick they just happen to find in there too. Sorry to inflict this on you. I wouldn't have mentioned it if I hadn't run into that other insect news story.

Pushing back against George Clooney and his new wife — a lawyer who is working for the Greek government, trying to get Britain to return the Elgin marbles.

"[I]t is time to put aside the wilful misinformation and cheap innuendo that masks the genuine debt that everyone — most especially Greece — owes to Lord Elgin," writes Dominic Selwood.
Should all museums give back everything that does not come from a randomly circumscribed geographic radius around each museum? Should the Louvre return the Mona Lisa to Florence, even though it was purchased lawfully by the French royal family? Should the J Paul Getty Museum in New York hand back all its Greek, Roman, medieval, and European art and sculpture, including many of the world’s most famous pieces? What about France returning the Bayeux Tapestry to England? Or Japanese museums sending back American rock memorabilia? Maybe Venice should give back the Horses of St Mark if we are now only allowed to see things where they were made?

These are facile arguments. Looting and criminality should be deplored and punished. But antiquities, like everything else, can be legitimately purchased or gifted, and we should celebrate museums that have quite properly acquired collections that educate and inform the visiting public.

Overarching this whole debate, the romantic notion that the marbles could simply be tacked back onto the Parthenon is deeply misguided....

Does it bother you that Renee Zellweger doesn't look like Renee Zellweger anymore?

She's done something that has caused the most radical change in personal appearance since Jennifer Grey's nose job, and Jennifer Grey's nose job was clearly a nose job, so the puzzle was only about how much the nose affects the overall look of the face, not — as with Zellweger — about what was changed that caused such a radical overall change. But my question is in the post title. Possible answers:

1. No. You don't care. You don't care because you don't know this actress much or at all, and women in the business of making money through their faces are always doing one thing or another to their faces, and it really doesn't matter in the great scheme of things. What about Benghazi? What about ebola?

2. No. You don't care because Renee Zellweger made her mark as a young woman, edging out older women for the parts she got, and now the time has come for her to pay the price, to be edged out by someone younger. She's entering an entirely predictable phase, doing the various things that women do as they dig in their heels — their high heels — as time drags them over the finish line.

3. Yes. The woman always had a weird face, and I could always recognize her, which is not the way most actresses are in the movies these days. I can't enjoy movies too much when I can't tell the characters apart. Is that the same person that was in that other scene? I barely know. It's all so meaningless and generic. But Renee! Renee was somebody specific. Unmistakable. Now, she looks like every woman or maybe like that actress who used to be in a lot of things, maybe mostly as the main character's best friend, I can almost think of the name... damn... it's driving me crazy....

4. Yes. It's just terrible that women don't believe in the beauty of women as they age through the decades. Embrace the changes that come with age. Show us how that's done, if you have any character at all. Zellweger joins the chorus of celebrities who blare the message that only the young part of life has value and only unlined, unlived-in faces are worth our attention. And it doesn't even work, this plastic surgery and what-all. "There's nothing tragic about being fifty. Not unless you're trying to be twenty-five."

Ebola robots.

Can robots take the place of human beings?
Some tasks done by health workers — decontaminating rooms and moving supplies — could be taken over by delivery robots, decreasing contact between healthy people and those affected by the virus. Also, telepresence robots make people affected by the disease feel less alone, connecting quarantined people or infected patients with those they love.
AND: "My weekend as a telepresence robot."

October 21, 2014

"Don't touch me"... "Don't touch my girlfriend."

Who says "Don't touch me"? Most famously: Jesus. He said it — "Noli me tangere" — to Mary Magdalene, in a scene depicted many times in art:

That had something to do with the fragility of the fleshly body in the immediate aftermath of resurrection. A very special case. In modern times, I think we tend to think of a woman saying "Don't touch me." But Howie Mandel wrote a book called "Don't Touch Me":

He was writing about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Maybe you remember pre-"2001" Keir Dullea as David in "David and Lisa" with his mentally disordered fear of touching:

"You touched me! You want to kill me! Touch can kill!... You coarse, clumsy, stupid FOOL!"

The truth is that we all have a right to sovereignty over our own bodies. It's not just something for women to demand from men. It's something we are all entitled to as human beings. We are now encountering the defense of female integrity embodied in the rather muddled campus policy known as "Yes means yes," but it applies to men too. Women care about our bodily integrity, but too many of us believe that our sexual favors are so universally desirable that a "yes" from a man can be presumed, that a woman can impose upon a man. But that's wrong.

And now, today, we see this story of the President of the United States, Barack Obama, making the kind of assumption that is more typical of the female — the assumption that the person he chooses to touch must necessarily want to be touched. Obama is caught in a relationship with a man who postures as the woman's boyfriend and says to the President: "Don't touch my girlfriend." The President proceeds to grasp at his own dignity by demonstrating to that man that he most certainly can touch that woman, but what of the woman, that woman possessed by two men? It was her choice whether to be touched by the President, and her choice whether to be owned by the man who said to the President "Don't touch my girlfriend," and yet both men assumed ownership over her autonomy — the boyfriend because he had a past with her and the President because, like too many woman, he thought of himself as so universally desirable that a "yes" from any woman can be presumed.

In the history of the world, has there ever been a woman as uniquely subordinated as Aia Cooper? My heart breaks to see how she saw her best hope in coming to the aid of both men, both men who, within seconds, claim sovereignty over the territory of her body. What history lies behind this instinct to protect these 2 men, these 2 exemplars of male power — the boyfriend and the President of the United States? Cooper didn't even want to stand next to the President: "I was like, 'do I have to stand there? I don't really want to stand there.'" And after the incident in which Cooper defended her boyfriend and acceded to the Commander-in-Chief's command "You're gonna kiss me," Ms. Cooper reached out to the President's wife:  "I wanna meet Michelle... Hopefully she doesn't think anything about me, but I really want to meet her."

"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth," Jesus said.

I thought only "yes" means yes: Did Obama get true, verbalized consent from that woman before he kissed her?

No. He did not. People are focusing on Obama's interplay with a man who said "Don't touch my girlfriend" as Obama was voting in Chicago, demonstrating how to vote.

But let's talk about the woman. Obama orders her to kiss him: "You're gonna kiss me. Give him something to talk about. Now, he's really jealous." As you see in the video, he makes that declarative statement and immediately grabs her and kisses and hugs her.

Why is that acceptable? He's using her in an effort to regain dignity and to humiliate the man who humiliated him. It might all be dismissed as play humiliation and play counter-humiliation. But the woman's body was used as an object of that play, a means of communication between men.

"[Bell] Hooks had just come from a seminar entitled 'Transgression: Whose Booty Is This?'"

"She said, 'Pussies are out. It’s bootylicious all the way.' [Laverne] Cox agreed. 'It is the age of the ass,' she said. 'Booty as cultural metaphor is really interesting. J. Lo made the ass a thing fifteen years ago, and now we have issues of ass appropriation.'"

From a New Yorker piece about a conversation between Bell Hooks, the longtime activist feminist, who's currently a Distinguished Professor in Residence of Appalachian Studies at Berea College, and Laverne Cox, the LGBT advocate and actress who's in the TV show "Orange Is the New Black."

Hooks proceeds to declare that she has "had an ironing-board butt all my life," and Cox responds with an observation about astrology, but maybe Hooks is not "into astrology," and Hooks says: "Oh, I’m into psychics, telepathics, you name it... All the paranormal world is very interesting to me." And both of them speak retrogressively about aging: "This aging thing is a bitch" (Hooks, 62 years old) and "I do not [reveal my age]. My official age is 'over twenty-one'" (Cox).


1. Ageism is certainly one of the "-isms" that people still seem to feel safe about openly displaying. Maybe some day we will look back with shame at what bigotry we spouted.

2. It utterly amazes me that people who want to present themselves as intelligent and sophisticated nevertheless openly profess belief in astrology and other "paranormal" nonsense, including people like Hooks and Cox who are activists purporting to push the rest of the world forward into enlightenment. How can you get any footing to push when you're standing in blatant idiocy?

3. Asses. When will they be out?

"Ruth Bader Ginsburg owns a surprisingly large number of ‘Notorious RBG’ t-shirts."

And she is aware of people talking about her on the internet and that opera about her and Scalia. And there won't be "enough" women on the Supreme Court until there are 9. (Note to people who have trouble processing language: That doesn't mean we ought to be hoping for or trying to get 9 women on the Supreme Court. That means that there is no point at which anyone ought to say there are now "enough" women on the Supreme Court and another would be too many.)

Email from James Lileks.

How cool is it to get email from James Lileks? Subject line: "Knew this would come in handy some day."

Body of the message:

Get it?

The Oscars, Pistorius and de la Renta.

1. It was handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance: Oscar Pistorius got a 5-year sentence.

2. Oscar de la Renta, who dressed First Ladies and movie stars, has died at the age of 82: "With French lace and delicate embroidery, he helped women subdue their insecurities. And with his eye for a gentle flounce and a keen understanding of line and silhouette, he helped them build a powerfully stylish wardrobe that never denied their femininity nor apologized for it.... Today, there are designers in New York who are more adept at capturing the sexuality of the modern era.... But de la Renta represented a kind of old-school fashion with its emphasis on propriety, elegance and good taste."

October 20, 2014

At the October Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"I love the law, intellectually. I love nutting out these problems, wrestling with these arguments."

"I love teaching. I miss the classroom and engaging with students. But I think being a Justice is a little bit too monastic for me. Particularly after having spent six years and what will be eight years in this bubble, I think I need to get outside a little bit more."

Barack Obama, quoted at the end of Jeffrey Toobin's mostly routine New Yorker piece about Obama's "judicial legacy."

ADDED: What's up with the verbal phrase "to nut out"? The (unlinkable) Oxford English Dictionary designates the relevant meaning — "to work out through careful thought; to puzzle out" — as "slang" that is "chiefly Austral. and N.Z." Example: " If you have trouble nutting this maths problem out, the Australian Mathematics Competition is not for you." There are no other meanings for "nut out," though "nut" without "out" is a verb that can mean: 1. "To look for or gather nuts" (rare), 2. "To curry favour with" (obsolete), 3. "To fix, fit, or fasten by means of nuts," 4. "To castrate" or "Of a man: to have sexual intercourse with (a woman)" (U.S. slang), 5. "To butt with the head" (British slang), 6. "To kill" (Irish English slang).