December 16, 2017

"In Estonia, we don’t have Big Brother; we have Little Brother. You can tell him what to do and maybe also beat him up."

Says "a local" to Nathan Heller, author of "Estonia, the Digital Republic/Its government is virtual, borderless, blockchained, and secure. Has this tiny post-Soviet nation found the way of the future?" by Nathan Heller (in The New Yorker).

Today, in Estonia, the weekly e-residency application rate exceeds the birth rate. “We tried to make more babies, but it’s not that easy,” [Siim Sikkut, Estonia’s current C.I.O.] explained.
Polling-place intimidation is a non-issue if people can vote—and then change their votes, up to the deadline—at home, online.
Vote and change your vote... That's an interesting innovation. We assume that early voters are locked in and therefore unaffected by late-breaking news.

Please read the whole article. I kept puzzling over whether this is the approach to life and government would spread all over the world and whether I should think it's very cool or how we ruin everything and can never get back out again.

In Estonia, we don’t have Big Brother; we have Little Brother....

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a fluffy slipper smooshing a human face — forever.

"This isn't an argument about policy, it's just a dumb attempt to personalize the issue."

Says Glenn Reynolds:
Brookings fellow rips Trump: I entered through lottery system. It’s like the people who defend affirmative action by saying “I’m a product of affirmative action!” as if that should silence any critics.
I loathe these personalized arguments. They are not consistent with progressive politics, because they amplify the voice of the privileged and treat those who have been excluded as if they don't exist. So there's a de-personalization going on that you're encouraged not to notice. If a lottery were not the system, there would be some other system. Who are the people who would have got in under that system? They're not here to clamor for your attention to their personal story.

There's a second form of silencing that goes on: Those who benefitted from the existing system are supposed to support it. This particular "Brookings fellow" is saying it helped me, so I'm for it and you should be too. But what about people who got the benefit but don't like the policy? They'll be told they need to shut up, because they took the advantage. I'm thinking of Clarence Thomas, who people assume got the advantage of affirmative action and who gets called a hypocrite for opposing it.

"At the end of 2016, our country had swung in the direction of gold leaf, an ecstatic celebration of unfeeling billionaire-dom that kept me up at night."

"I couldn’t settle down to read or write, and in my anxiety I found myself mindlessly scrolling through two particular shopping websites, numbing my fears with pictures of shoes, clothes, purses and jewelry. I was trying to distract myself, but the distraction left me feeling worse, the way a late night in a bar smoking Winstons and drinking gin leaves you feeling worse. The unspoken question of shopping is 'What do I need?' What I needed was less."

From "My Year of No Shopping" by Ann Patchett, who gave up shopping for a year and lived to tell the tale (in the NYT). She didn't give up food shopping — or anything-in-the-grocery-store shopping — or shopping for anything she had but ran out of — like shampoo, batteries, and toner cartridges. And she didn't give up buying books, because... books!

I once did something like this, but it wasn't out of some politically motivated desire for psychological renewal. It was the challenge of sending 2 sons through college. My incantation was: Don't buy anything. I found that surprisingly easy to follow. When you reach a certain age, you probably don't need anything (putting aside the things you regularly consume, like food, toiletries, and cleaning supplies). Most of what you're buying is just things you're taking the trouble to think about wanting. You go into a clothing store and look around to find something to want or to feel that you need.

I like that Patchett's last paragraph calls attention to something particularly stupid about what's on the racks in the stores this year: Clothes with the shoulders cut out. It really is best not to go to the insane mental place where you feel you want that. Just project yourself forward into next year when, it's easy to see, you'll think you were crazy to have believed that was even wearable.

"FBI officials’ text message about Hillary Clinton said to be a cover story for romantic affair."

What a crazy story, dropped last night in The Washington Post. Excerpt:
“So look,” the text from Page to Strzok reads, “you say we text on that phone when we talk about Hillary because it can’t be traced, you were just venting [because] you feel bad that you’re gone so much but it can’t be helped right now.”...

People familiar with the matter said that, although Page’s message may appear to suggest that she and Strzok used a separate communications channel for discussing the Clinton case, the point of her text was to advise Strzok how to explain to his wife why the two of them had been texting each other.

Page and Strzok used their work on the Clinton case as a cover story for the affair, these people said, adding that there was not a separate set of phones for untraceable discussions of the Clinton case. The text had nothing to do with the Clinton investigation, these people said.
We're talking about a senior FBI lawyer and a senior counterintelligence agent.
“What people are forgetting is the human foible of a having an affair — they forget that the system itself will betray you and your texts,” said David Gomez, a former FBI counterterrorism official. “Using language like that is something a lot of people who have affairs do, but it does create problems with people who are conspiracy minded.’’
We're asked to believe sex made them this stupid. And we're asked not to look too hard because it must have been about sex, and we're "conspiracy minded" if we see anything but their getting stupid because of sex. But their sexual desire — however profound and stupid-making it may have been — doesn't make us stupid. Keep looking.

And Washington Post, come on. You need to do better. The second-to-last paragraph of this story is an embarrassment:
The issue has come up before. In 2014, an FBI agent was caught texting on the witness stand at a trial and then lied under oath about it. She killed herself hours after the incident. Law enforcement officials said her texts were innocuous messages exchanged with her husband while passing time in court.
I'm not saying you ought to kill yourself over that, and I'm sorry for family of the woman who killed herself over lying on the witness stand about texting in 2014, but that's a cheap, lame, overreaching effort to make us lay off Strzok and Page. "The issue has come up before" — what issue?

Nevertheless, he persisted.

From "Nine more women say judge subjected them to inappropriate behavior, including four who say he touched or kissed them" in The Washington Post:
Christine O.C. Miller, 73, a retired U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge, said that around early 1986 — shortly after Kozinski was appointed to his seat in the 9th Circuit — he invited her to attend a legal community function in the Baltimore area.

As the two drove back together, Miller said, Kozinski asked if she wanted to stop at a motel and have sex.

Miller, then in her early 40s and married, said she had considered Kozinski, who had served as chief of the Claims Court, “an ally and a professional friend” but harbored no romantic feelings for him.

“I told him, no, I wasn’t interested and didn’t want to be involved in anything like that,” she said. Kozinski, she said, persisted.

“He said if you won’t sleep with me, I want to touch you, and then he reached over, and — this was the most antiseptic — he grabbed each of my breasts and squeezed them,” Miller said. She said she stared straight ahead, and he soon dropped her off at her home.
Nevertheless, he persisted....

December 15, 2017

At the Littering Café...


... you can drop (or pick up) whatever you like.

That's just a shred of litter I saw on the ground and felt moved to stoop over and photograph.

Is that too profound to preclude my reminding you to shop at Amazon through the Althouse portal?

I searched for God at Amazon and found "God: A Human History," "God and Donald Trump," and Zeus Greek God Holding Thunderbolt Statue with Eagle.

Mira Sorvino cries over confirmed suspicion.

ADDED: Here's the underlying story. Excerpt:
"I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women [Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino] - and as a direct result their names were removed from our casting list " [said Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson].... "My experience, when Miramax controlled the Lord of the Rings... was of Weinstein and his brother behaving like second-rate Mafia bullies. They weren't the type of guys I wanted to work with - so I haven't," he said.

"The woman said that she does not recall how long the unwanted contact lasted, and that she felt unable to do anything to stop it. 'There were people there'..."

"... she said. 'What are they going to think of me, that I’m a whore, if a say something? What would I say? He’s Dustin Hoffman.' According to the woman, the car dropped her near her apartment, but Hoffman put $20 in her hand and instructed her to go to the San Remo, where he lived. 'I didn’t know what to do, the woman said, describing herself as being in 'a kind of fugue state' triggered by her encounter with Hoffman and related to abuse that she suffered as a child. She hailed a cab and asked the driver to 'drive around' for a few minutes, then asked him to take her to the San Remo. There she said, Hoffman was waiting outside the building. She accompanied him upstairs, where, she claimed, he performed oral sex on her and they had intercourse. Asked if she would describe the encounter in the station wagon as non-consensual, she said 'yes.' Asked if she would describe the encounter at the San Remo as such, she said, 'I don’t know.'"

From "Dustin Hoffman Accused of Exposing Himself to a Minor, Assaulting Two Women," at Variety.

A "fugue state" is "a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by reversible amnesia for personal identity, including the memories, personality, and other identifying characteristics of individuality." It "usually involves unplanned travel or wandering" — perhaps to the San Remo — "and is sometimes accompanied by the establishment of a new identity."

"[H]ow many of the men who were able to clerk for Judge Kozinski without having to worry about their own safety... concluded that their female colleagues fell behind because they just didn’t have what it takes..."

"... not because they had been effectively cut off from certain opportunities? I have heard countless people, over the years, conclude that women don’t occupy as many senior positions because they just don’t 'try as hard' as men, or have the 'ambition' to reach the highest-level jobs, or because they care too much about 'work-life balance.' Maybe sometimes. But these accusations should remind us that some doors that look like they’re open to everyone are really closed to some. And that the consequences of that reach far beyond the individual victims."

Writes Amanda Taub at "The #MeToo Moment: How One Harasser Can Rob a Generation of Women" (NYT).

"A maid stole some rings, then returned them. A jury convicted her, then paid her fine. Was that right?"

At WaPo:
[The jury] felt bad for the young woman, pregnant with her second child, and agreed that she had made a dumb, youthful mistake....

“The general sentiment was she was a victim, too,” said the jury foreman, Jeffery Memmott. “Two of the women [jurors] were crying because of how bad they felt. One lady pulled out a $20 bill, and just about everybody chipped in.” Memmott then contacted the public defender in the case, and went to the home of Sandra Mendez Ortega. He gave her the jury’s collection, which totaled $80.

“Justice had to be done,” said another juror, Janice Woolridge, explaining why the panel imposed a felony conviction. “But there’s also got be some compassion somewhere. Young people make bad decisions. We just couldn’t pile on any more.”

"Charge upgraded to first-degree murder for driver accused of ramming Charlottesville crowd."

WaPo reports.
Unlike second-degree murder, first-degree murder requires the element of premeditation. Authorities said video showing the Dodge backing up rapidly before it accelerated forward toward the crowd is evidence that the crash was intentional, prompting them to upgrade the main charge against [James Alex Fields Jr.].

Another video, taken by a surveillance camera mounted on a building, did not show the collision but offered a close-up view of the Dodge. At the moment it sped forward, almost in a blur as it moved toward the crowd off camera, there were gasps in the courtroom from friends of [the victim Heather D.] Heyer and supporters of her family. Several were in tears....

"Kansas Dem Andrea Ramsey, accused of sexual harassment, will drop out of US House race."

The Kansas City Star reports:
She was running with the endorsement of Emily’s List, a liberal women’s group that has raised more than a half-million dollars to help female candidates who support abortion rights...

“In its rush to claim the high ground in our roiling national conversation about harassment, the Democratic Party has implemented a zero tolerance standard,” Ramsey said in a statement Friday. “For me, that means a vindictive, terminated employee’s false allegations are enough for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to decide not to support our promising campaign. We are in a national moment where rough justice stands in place of careful analysis, nuance and due process.”...

“After I told her I was not interested in having a sexual relationship with her, she stopped talking to me,” [the male subordinate, Gary Funkhouser] wrote. “In the office she completely ignored me and avoided having any contact with me.”...

Don't make personal remarks.

Were you ever taught, Don't make personal remarks? Not just don't make negative personal remarks, but don't make personal remarks. I seem to remember this as a widely shared social understanding, but perhaps it was something very localized — like to Delaware or my own family — or perhaps I am misremembering.

When I google the phrase, the first thing that comes up is a Wikipedia page titled "Wikipedia:Avoid personal remarks" about the civility policy for Wikipedia contributors: "If you have opinions about the contributions others have made, feel free to discuss those contributions on any relevant talk page. But if you have opinions about other contributors as people, they don't belong there – or frankly, anywhere on Wikipedia...."

The next thing of any value is from the Mad Tea Party scene in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland":
"Your hair wants cutting," said the Hatter. He had been looking at Alice for some time with great curiosity, and this was his first speech.

"You should learn not to make personal remarks," Alice said with some severity; "it's very rude."
Aha! Alice knows proper etiquette. Isn't that more or less the point of Alice in Wonderland? She brings her social conventions to a place where no one else follows them, and she sticks to them and gives voice to them, even as no one pays attention to what was so important on the other end of the rabbit hole.

The Hatter's response to "It's very rude" is (of course), "Why is a raven like a writing-desk?"

By the way, there are many answers to that riddle. I always assumed, reading that book, that there was no answer, that it was nonsense, but one very good answer is: "Poe wrote on both."

"What if you couldn't access this page?"

ADDED: Here's the underlying NYT article, which I (with my NYT subscription) am seeing as "What if You Couldn’t See This Page?" It's an op-ed by Nick Frisch, with the update: "The F.C.C. voted on Thursday to repeal net neutrality rules."
Without net neutrality, American firms will have no obligation to provide equal access for content, and minimal statutory requirement to explain why one piece of content might arrive more slowly than another.

In the future, if the article you’re reading loads slowly, or not at all, you might not know the reason. But you can guess.

"An excerpt from the video of Mr. Wu’s last moments shows him on top of the building, clad in black with his hair pulled back from his face, meticulously and repeatedly wiping the ledge."

"He swung his legs over the edge and partially hung there, clutching it with the full length of his arms, before pulling himself up and sitting down to wipe the edge again. Then he swung his legs over one by one for a final time. He did two pull-ups into the void, gripping the ledge. Attempting a third, he appeared to struggle, trying to find a hold with one foot after the other. A small sound resembling a human voice, perhaps a whimper, can be heard on the recording. Then he dropped...."

I can read the text — from "Death of Man in Skyscraper Fall in China Puts a Spotlight on 'Rooftopping'" (NYT)— but I will not watch the video.

This is another one for you to distance yourself from death by saying "Darwin effect" or "He died doing what he loved," but it's still terrible. RIP Wu Yongning.

Anyway... rooftopping....
“There are different flavors — those who are doing it for the pure purpose of cityscape photography and those who are doing it for the thrill to post on Instagram and YouTube,” [said Daniel Cheong, 55, a professional cityscape photographer].... “The goal is to capture the cityscape...The attraction really has nothing to do with the fact that you go to the 100th floor. It is purely for composition.”
Then there are those who sneak without permission onto buildings — and even pry or cut their way through locks. Some of these people are into the dare-deviltry and concentrate on photographing not the cityscape, but themselves... taking risks.

"When asked if Mueller has a conflict of interest 'as the former head of the FBI and a friend of James Comey,' 54 percent responded..."

"... that the 'relationship' between the two amounts to a conflict of interest, including 70 percent of Republicans, 53 percent of independents and 40 percent of Democrats," The Hill reports.

Shouldn't this have come up back when he was appointed? Yes, but the problem now is perception, and...
“The special counsel has serious perception issues as a clear majority now see him as having a conflict of interest,” said Mark Penn, co-director of the Harvard CAPS-Harris survey.

"But would we have grown this close if we hadn’t experienced the medical emergency that pushed us into marriage? I doubt it."

"Lupus woke me up and forced me to take a leap of faith with Chris. And it taught me this: Being married to someone you love is a lot better than being married to your own cynicism."

The last few lines of a NYT "Modern Love" essay by a woman who considered herself "way too progressive for such a conventional arrangement" but suddenly married her boyfriend when she had an acute health crisis and wanted to get on his insurance. She needed to go straight to the hospital, but they detoured to city hall first and got married.

You might remember that back in July 2008, when I was single and had been single for many years, I did a Bloggingheads in which I talked about having health insurance through work that would cover a spouse, making my pay package less valuable than it would be if I were married. I added, "I've often thought I should just charitably marry someone... I'd just marry them to be nice..."

For the connection between that diavlog and my marriage to Meade (which began in August 2009), read "Flashback '08: The Audacity Althousity of Hope." Excerpt (quoting Meade):
Gee, I'm single now, happily single, and thought I'd just remain that way.

But considering all the benefits, I guess I'd really be a fool not to take a close look if Althouse were to, just out of niceness, propose to pity-marry me.

What could I offer in return? Let's see - I could prune those redbuds, take out the garbage, trap squirrels. 
That's a lot of trapped rodents ago.

"He said, 'What were you arrested for, kid?' And I said, 'Littering.'"

A line from an old song crosses my mind as I read this story in the Naperville Sun:
William V. Winnie, 67, of the 1100 block of Greensfield Drive, was charged Dec. 2 with obscenity, disorderly conduct and littering after he was arrested earlier this month in Pratt’s Wayne Woods near the village of Wayne, according to court and DuPage County Forest Preserve District police reports....

Police say they had received reports dating back to October from people who had noted seeing the underwear... near a bridge along the path in the preserve....

According to the report, Winnie said he would routinely find underwear hanging from the trees along the Prairie Path, which he would take home, place in the plastic bags and then leave them at the bridge. Winnie reported leaving 15 to 20 pairs over the previous year.

“He described his actions as an experiment and said he wanted to see where it would go,” the report said....
Sounds like an art project. He keeps finding underpants. Somebody else is hanging up underpants on various trees. He seems to be reframing the situation in a more orderly way, bagging the evidence and putting it all in the same place. I'm as concerned about littering as the next person, but does this old man really deserve to have his photo, name, and (approximate) address printed in the paper?

We're told that some of panties were "accompanied by salacious photos," but that Winnie said he didn't know how that got in the bag.

You may be thinking his explanation makes no sense: What "experiment"? Where could it "go"?

I don't get it. 

Like the Underpants Gnomes, he did Phase 1, Collect underpants. Unlike the gnomes — whose Phase 2 was just "?" — Winnie's Phase 2 was: Package and redistribute underpants. But that doesn't get you to Phase 3: Profit. Winnie had "?" as Phase 3, and the police answered the question. Get arrested for littering.

A top aide to the Texas Attorney General had to resign after sharing (on Facebook) that much-shared "Can We Be Honest About Women?" piece in The Federalist.

The NYT reports.

You know the Federalist piece? I didn't share it, but I certainly noticed that it was hitting a sweet spot for some people. Maybe it said what you wanted to say:
We can’t always assume women are hapless damsels in distress horrified by how they’re objectified.

Here’s a little secret we have to say out loud: Women love the sexual interplay they experience with men, and they relish men desiring their beauty. Why? Because it is part of their nature....

Women have their natures and their sin. Part of their sexuality, their feminine nature is beauty and the allure of sex. Their sin is exploiting it to abuse and take advantage of men, to reduce themselves to objects instead of cultivating their minds and souls, and to focus so much on the outward parts that they forget the value of inner virtues....
And it was written by a woman, D.C. McAllister, so that might make a man feel empowered to express an opinion he suspects he probably shouldn't say directly.

Now, the man who lost his job, Associate Deputy Attorney General Andrew D. Leonie, didn't merely share the article and allow McAllister's relatively elevated statement to speak for him. He spiked it with his own blunt words:
“Aren’t you also tired of all the pathetic ‘me too’ victim claims? If every woman is a ‘victim,’ so is every man. If everyone is a victim, no one is. Victim means nothing anymore.”
That was posted in the middle of the night, and by the end of the next day he was out.

The NYT notes that Leonie describes himself on Twitter as "Deplorable & Irredeemable Texas Christian Tea Party Republican Constitutionalist Conservative Libertarian." He doesn't seem to have tweeted since his resignation.

The official statement from the attorney general's office was: "The views he expressed on social media do not reflect our values. The O.A.G. is committed to promoting and maintaining a workplace that is free from discrimination and harassment."

December 14, 2017

"For 20 years, I’ve felt it was too early to speak up about Judge Alex Kozinski. Now I fear it’s too late."

"He Made Us All Victims and Accomplices," by Dahlia Lithwick (at Slate).
I have seen Judge Kozinski dozens of times in the past two decades, moderated his panels, sat next to him at high-powered, high-status events and dinners. My husband will tell you he once fielded a call from the judge to my home, in which Kozinski described himself as my “paramour.” I have, on every single such occasion, been aware that part of his open flouting of empathy or care around gender was a show of juvenile, formulaic bad-assery designed to co-opt you into the bargain. We all ended up colluding to pretend that this was all funny or benign, and that, since everyone knew about it, it must be OK. It never was....

But now it’s 2017....
You don't want to be thought of as a cog in a complicity machine.

Get out!