April 24, 2015

Scorched earth.

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In Governor Nelson State Park today.

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"I am not a traveler. I hate it.... Also I cannot go on airlines because people stare at me, you have to be touched by people. I hate that...I hate bespoke because I hate to be touched by strangers."

From "A Comprehensive List Of Everything Karl Lagerfeld Hates."

"I hate intellectual conversation with intellectuals because I only care about my opinion, but I like to read very abstract constructions of the mind.... I hate rich people when they try to be communists or socialists. I think it’s obscene.... I hate sloppy footwear. What I hate most is flip-flops. I am physically allergic to flip-flops.... And I hate to wear suspenders. I have the feeling I'm wearing a bra...."

To me, the list makes the argument for allowing yourself to use that terrible word "hate." Did your mom teach you not to say "hate"? Do you have friends/relatives in your life who stand ready to meet your deployment of the word with some fussy chiding like "Oh, 'hate' is a very strong word" or "Hate?! Do you really mean hate?"? I hate that.

"Jenner’s interview will be so widely watched it could prove a tipping point, further normalizing Americans' perceptions of the nation's transgender population."

"But there are risks for the community in so much attention going to a celebrity whose early 21st century notoriety came with his comical role as the befuddled husband on 'Keeping Up with the Kardashians.' Many worry that perceptions will be dragged back into the sensational. As history suggests, it’s a slippery slope."

"To single out the Clintons for having wealthy friends who might want favors later, especially in the political context brought to us by the destruction of campaign finance regulations..."

"... is a particularly laughable application of the Clinton Rules which, like the Voting Rights Act and McCain-Feingold, have been rendered irrelevant by Citizens United and its unholy progeny."

Writes Charles Pierce at Esquire in a piece titled "The Return To Mena Airport: It Begins Again/In which we learn that rich people like the Clintons have lots of money."

I copied that sentence because it's such a mess of a sentence, almost as much of a jumble as that title. (Do you remember Mena Airport? Mena-ither.) I don't know how disordered the mind of Charles Pierce really is. I'm sure his style amuses the people it amuses, and I assume those people are people who respond to Citizens United!!!!

But Pierce's invocation of the much-invoked case name comes in a context of very specific misrepresentation of the meaning of that case. Citizens United and its "unholy progeny" involve judges doing judicial work — saying what rights are and putting constitutional law in its proper place in the hierarchy of law, above statutes.

We could talk about whether we agree with the interpretation of the First Amendment in those cases, in which the Supreme Court has invalidated some statutory restrictions on spending money to propagate political speech, but that's not what Pierce is talking about. He's not talking about how statutes and constitutional law are sorted out by judges in court cases. He's talking about the political debate among us, The People. A candidate's wealth and how it was acquired and whether he might be beholden to some interests or even corrupt are going to be issues as we decide whether we want to vote for that candidate. Citizens United and its "unholy progeny" don't say we voters shouldn't concern ourselves with such things. In fact, Citizens United makes a point of upholding disclosure requirements, so that voters get more information about where money is coming from:

"What happens in Las Vegas typically doesn’t last for very long, but Mrs. Willis’s fluorescent sign proclaiming 'Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada' ..."

"... designed by her and installed by Clark County, Nev., in 1959 in a $4,000 splurge of civic boosterism, became a beloved and surprisingly enduring symbol of the casino capital’s extravagance."

From the obituary of Betty Willis, who died Sunday at the age of 91.
“We thought the town was fabulous, so we added the word,” Mrs. Willis said in a 2005 interview with The New York Times. “There was no other word to use.”

She never copyrighted the logo or profited from the sign directly. “It’s my gift to the city,” she said, although she later acknowledged: “I should make a buck out of it. Everybody else is.”

The image was freely reproduced on souvenir tchotchkes ranging from snow globes to Las Vegas centennial license plates.
If the image hadn't been freely reproduced, would it have lasted all these years and would we be reading her obituary today?

Have you heard about "full service" schools?

"A $300,000 grant paid over the next three years from the Madison Community Foundation will begin the process of developing 'full-service' community schools in the Madison School District."

"New computer-driven research suggests that Supreme Court justices are getting grumpier, according to a new study by scholars at Dartmouth and the University of Virginia."

"This analysis was based on the percentage of positive words versus negative words. In addition, modern justices tend to produce more words and have a lower grade level than their predecessors."

Oh, jeez. Here we go again: If you use more periods and fewer semicolons, the computer will conclude that you are writing at a lower grade level. That's garbage. See how I just wrote a sentence on a dramatically lower grade level than the previous sentence? "Computer-driven" doesn't mean sophisticated. It just means that lots of data was crunched. Things that could be counted and that the researchers wanted to count were counted on a grand scale.
The authors included 107 justices through 2008 and ranked them based on negative words (“two-faced,” “problematic”) and positive words (“adventurous,” “pre-eminent”). The high court’s first chief justice, John Jay, ranked number one with a score of 1.55 percent friendliness rating. Numbers 103 through 106 are current members of the court, including Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, and Samuel Alito. Antonin Scalia earned the number 98 spot with a score of -0.69 percent friendliness.
Quite aside from whether we should assess a judge's friendliness/grumpiness based on which words he puts in the formal justification of his legal decision that we call an opinion, who determined which words should count as positive and which as negative? Why is "adventurous" considered positive — especially as you look at material that was written over a period of 200+ years? Some of the older meanings of the word are negative: "Full of risk or peril; hazardous, perilous, dangerous... Prone to incur risk; excessively venturesome; rashly daring" (OED). If a justice in 1800 called an argument "adventurous," was he saying something nice?

I suspect that negative words proliferate when justices indulge in writing long dissenting opinions. That doesn't necessarily mean they are grumpy or unfriendly. It might have more to do with feeling free to express oneself in somewhat emotive language, and that may have become more the style as the years wore on. If we feel free to express emotion, we give the language analysts more emotive words to count, and then they can calculate a ratio of positive to negative. But how can we compare that to what was written long ago, when judges may have favored concealed or processed emotion? There will not only be less to count but also a kind of caginess and subtle sarcasm and irony that the computer can't recognize. To take an example from a famous old case, what would a computer do with "the judges of the State courts are, and always will be, of as much learning, integrity, and wisdom as those of the courts of the United States (which we very cheerfully admit)"?  "Cheerfully" is such a positive word, but, in context, it's no, and there's certainly no reason to think that the Justice who wrote it was exuding any sort of friendliness.

But this is the kind of study that gets reported, the kind of is-Scalia-mean stuff the public loves.

"Former 'Everybody Loves Raymond' child actor Sawyer Sweeten died Thursday at the age of 19..."

"At this sensitive time, our family requests privacy and we beg of you to reach out to the ones you love."/"At this time I would like to encourage everyone to reach out to the ones you love. Let them have no doubt of what they mean to you."

A mother who opts her kid out of standardized testing is condemning him to a life of dismal underachievement.

I'm "reading" the photograph that accompanies a NYT article, "Only Alternative for Some Students Sitting Out Standardized Tests: Do Nothing." The article is ostensibly about the "sit and stare" policy at some schools, which makes kids who opt out sit at their desks with nothing at all to do. You can see the point of the policy: to create pressure not to opt out. That policy seems to be failing because the opters-out were able to make an issue out of the "sit and stare" policy. The idea was to undercut them, not empower them. Unintended consequences. Time for a new policy. The new policy is: Let the kids who don't take the tests leave the classroom and go to the library to do other things.
“They’re being snarky,” Mr. Burns said of some students who refused the test. Saying, ‘Ha-ha, I don’t have to take the test!’ as they’re leaving the room. Or ‘Good luck on the test!’ in that derogatory tone.
Oh, no! The new policy also creates opportunities for those whose power was supposed to be undercut. How can we get the non-test-takers to leave the room without expressing any indication that they're pleased to get out? You can't, of course. How dare they manifest snark? Mr. Burns is, presumably, hoping to iron out any flashes of emotion in the rebel kids. The kids who stay in the room and take the tests must not see that the alternative is desirable.

Anyway, I'm fascinated by the picture they chose to put at the top of the article. It has the caption: "Angie Carnright made shirts for her son Blake, a fifth grader in upstate New York, to wear on test days. They say: 'I refuse NYS Tests. Score Me 999,' the code indicating a student opted out." I'm sure there were many alternative photographs in which the boy showed off the T-shirt, but in this one, he's sitting on the porch step, leaned over, arms crossed, hiding the words on the shirt. I thought that was odd, and it drew me into all the details in the photograph and how it was framed. The mother is sitting next to him, with a complacently smug look on her face. I'll refrain from commenting on her clothes, her hair, and her lack of makeup. The picture seems deliberately framed to draw our eyes to the dilapidated wood of the porch and the mishmash of junk — a trash can, a snow shovel, a pair of boots (not upright or aligned), and...



... what is that? Poop on a scoop?! That's right at the edge of the photograph, and as a framer and cropper of photographs myself, I am virtually certain that edge was chosen. As a reader of journalism, including journalistic photographs, I'm going to opine that the picture expresses an editorial opinion: A mother who opts her kid out of standardized testing is condemning him to a life of dismal underachievement.

IN THE COMMENTS: sydney said:
My favorite New York Times photo editorializing. The photos completely undercut the premise of the whole article which was from the point of view of the rich woman who was buying the baby, er, renting the womb.
Amazing. Porches loom large there too.

April 23, 2015

"Commissioner Rob Manfred says Pete Rose will be allowed to participate in activities surrounding this summer's All-Star Game in his hometown of Cincinnati."

"Rose, baseball's career hits leader and a former Reds star player and manager, agreed to a lifetime ban from the sport in 1989 after a Major League Baseball investigation concluded he bet on his team to win while he was managing the club."

Reaction?
 
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"The 23-year-old Australian bullshitted the entire world about having terminal brain cancer..."

"... and profited from her completely fictional story via her 'natural wellness' app, The Whole Pantry."
On her blog, she claims she cured her terminal brain cancer by avoiding gluten and sugar. Shocking, I know, but: this is not how cancer works. You know what stopped the progression of my cancer? Chemo (derived from exotic plants and fungi, for real!), surgery, drugs, and a shitload of all-natural radiation, delivered via a linear particle accelerator that is even more powerful than my beloved kale juicer....

"Mary Doyle Keefe, who modeled for Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter painting and became a true figure of 20th century Americana in the process..."

"... died on Tuesday in Simsbury, Connecticut. She was 92 years old and succumbed to a brief illness, the Associated Press reported."



Goodbye to an icon.

"You seem okay, it's just getting a little Diane Sawyer."

Robert Downey Jr., promoting his new super-hero type film, puts up with questions from Channel 4 Newsman Krishnan Guru-Murthy, up to a point. I love this clip, because Downey is so calm and pretty thoughtful, but when the questions get to his dark past, he shifts to a different, steelier version of calm, and there's just a wonderful subtle anger in his face as he uses his eyes to try to unnerve Guru-Murthy and get him to stop. But Guru-Murthy forces himself to babble into one more question about Downey's dissolute past, and Downey gets up and walks away, with that parting shot — politely and calmly delivered — that I've put in the post title.

At the Close-Up Café...

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... take a closer look at whatever you like.

"How do I wear bright shorts and maintain a masculine look so the guys I hang out with won’t make fun or me if I wear them to a baseball game, for example."

A question asked of the Wall Street Journal fashion adviser, who tells him stuff like: "Start by pairing your orange shorts with a button-down, short-sleeve shirt in madras plaid and a woven leather belt." That's wackily specific. I'd just tell him it's not masculine to worry in advance about how his guy friends might mock him about what he's wearing. Seems to me, if he fusses with that woven leather belt and button-down madras shirt, they'll make fun of him for that. The best way to come across as masculine is to laugh along with the mockery and make fun of what they're wearing.

Or... do I have to say it? Don't wear shorts!

"The only witness was an 86-year-old roommate, Polly Schoneman, who was on the other side of the curtain..."

"... and who agitatedly told nursing home staff members that she had heard noises that made her uncomfortable. Ms. Schoneman testified that she was not certain the noises had been sexual."
Mr. Rayhons testified that he recalled brief instructions to limit “sexual activity” with his wife made during a conference at the nursing home on May 15. At the trial, Mr. Rayhons testified that he considered “sexual activity” to be intercourse.
Henry Rayhons is the 78-year-old man who was acquitted of sexually assaulting his wife — who had Alzheimer's disease but was always happy to see him and would initiate sexual play — "She would reach in my pants and fondle me sometimes.”
He told the prosecutor, “I always assumed that if somebody asks for something, they have the capacity” to consent.
The link goes to the NYT. One of the comments:
People should choose very carefully who they want as their health proxies or legal guardians. It seems that the husband in this case had very little control regarding his wife's care. It's disturbing to read that even the nursing home had more control and could mandate where the husband could take his wife outside of the nursing home.
The woman had chosen one of her daughters as her health proxy.

"As president and as Commander-in-Chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations including the one that inadvertently took the lives of Warren and Giovanni."

Said President Obama this morning.
Al Qaeda leader Ahmed Farouq, who was an American citizen, was also killed in the operation that killed the two innocent hostages....

American officials at the time had "no reason to believe either hostage was present" when the operation was launched on a compound in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. U.S. officials also did not know that Farouq or Gadahn were present at the targeted sites and "neither was specifically targeted," Earnest said.

Kurt Cobain, who said "I like the Beatles, but I hate Paul McCartney"...

... sang "And I Love Her" his way, in a newly revealed recording, you can listen to here. Compare Kurt's darkness to the the Beatles original which you can listen to here.

"A Bay Ridge couple is having the loudest sex in the city..."

"... and the carnal cacophony is driving their neighbors bonkers, records show."
“I’m not a prude but there are kids in the building, and it was just a ridiculously loud amount of noise being made that the first time another woman yelled out her window, ‘Shut your f--ing windows you whore!’” the complainant added.

Bus ads in NYC: "'Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah.' That’s His Jihad. What’s yours?"

"On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John Koeltl ruled that New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) cannot stop the controversial ad from running on scores of subway cars and buses."
The MTA has argued that the ad could incite violence against Jews, but Koeltl rejected that idea.

MTA officials “underestimate the tolerant quality of New Yorkers and overestimate the potential impact of these fleeting advertisements,” he ruled. “Moreover, there is no evidence that seeing one of these advertisements on the back of a bus would be sufficient to trigger a violent reaction. Therefore, these ads — offensive as they may be — are still entitled to First Amendment protection.”
The MTA's argument was premised on the idea that people would misunderstand the ad, which is intended to be pro-Israel. The ad comes from Pamela Geller's American Freedom Defense Initiative.
“What matters is not AFDI’s intent, but how the ad would be interpreted,” [said MTA Security Director Raymond Diaz]. The line “What is yours?” could be considered a “call to violence,” particularly because the CAIR posters it was mocking never appeared in New York....