January 29, 2015

"Israeli city told to pay women damages after failing to remove 'modesty signs.'"

"Billboards in ultra-orthodox community bar women from certain buildings and pavements and warn against 'slutty clothing worn in a religious style.'"
Judge David Gidoni...  ruled that the “hurtful, degrading and discriminatory” signs put up by ultra-orthodox radicals “delivered a mortal blow to the rights of women in the city” and instructed Beit Shemesh to compensate the women for their “mental anguish”...

The signs include... “Dire warning: It is forbidden to walk on our streets in immodest dress, including slutty clothing worn in a religious style.” Another sign – posted near a synagogue – instructs women to walk on the opposite pavement....

In Belgium, doctors — following the law — kill depressed patients who want to die.

(Via Live Action News, which says: "A new PBS documentary glowingly features euthanasia in Belgium [and] will send chills down the spine of any sane person who watches it.")

"The obvious thing to say about Jonathan Chait’s battle against the left is that we’re rooting for casualties."

"Which we suppose calls for an explanation of why we’re not simply on Chait’s side."

James Taranto takes on Jonathan Chait's "political correctness" rant.

(And I'm not just linking because it links to me. ("Blogress Ann Althouse, a law professor whose politics are heterodox and centrist, elaborates pointedly...."))

170 years ago, this evening (dreary)... "while I pondered, weak and weary/Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore..."

Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven" is first published — January 29, 1845 — in the New York Evening Mirror.
Poe claimed to have written the poem very logically and methodically, intending to create a poem that would appeal to both critical and popular tastes, as he explained in his 1846 follow-up essay "The Philosophy of Composition.".... Poe chose a raven as the central symbol in the story because he wanted a "non-reasoning" creature capable of speech....
The poem inspired illustrators. I chose the one by John Tenniel (whose "Alice in Wonderland" illustrations are so familiar) to begin the post, but the Gustave Doré approach seems to fit the tone better.

That goes with the last lines about the Raven forever sitting above the door, as "the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor/And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor/Shall be lifted—nevermore!"  which — as I read it tonight, 170 years later — feels like the inspiration for Neil Young's "Big birds flying across the sky/Throwing shadows on our eyes... The chains are locked and tied across the door... Helpless, helpless, helpless."

"Get outta here, you low-life scum."

John McCain to Code Pink protesters who held signs and chanted "Arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes" right next to the 91-year-old Kissinger as he sat at the witness table before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Old Pictures: "A New Picture."

Scan 34

In late 1980, I bought my first SLR camera. I was living in Greenwich Village, in my last year of law school, and pregnant. I wanted a camera for all the many baby pictures that would need to be taken, but in the interim, I took photographs of things that interested me, especially the messed up walls in the Village and SoHo. I ran across a bunch of them as I was tidying up my office yesterday, so I'll scan them for a series of posts beginning with this one.

I am disappointed with the way the photo service printed the pictures. I was bitterly disappointed by the way they did not include the entire shot that I had carefully framed. So, for example, I did not cut off the words "A New Picture" at the bottom or fail to include all the edges of the man's hat. I'm still annoyed about that! As if no one cares about the edges and corners of a shot!

"You sit on what is essentially a mini-throne... and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al."

"It is an energetic release—not just a steam douche—that balances female hormone levels. If you’re in LA, you have to do it."

Do Americans get the Midwest? Can a candidate with a midwestern accent and demeanor ever get elected?

When's the last time we elected a Midwesterner President? Ford doesn't count. He wasn't elected. You have to go back to Eisenhower and by the time we elected him, he wasn't just from Kansas anymore. He was from The World — The World War. And Kansas isn't even really the Midwest I think of as the Midwest. It's too far south. When's the last time we had a President from the North that is not the East?

Here's a list the home states of all the Presidents. I was surprised to see that I could have said we have a President right now from the Midwest! It never occurred to me — even as I rewatched that Bloggingheads segment — to think of Barack Obama as a Midwesterner, despite his connection to Illinois. His demeanor and his accent don't come across as midwestern. I think of him as coming from Hawaii.

I think we've never had a President from the North that is not the East. We've had a lot of Presidents from Ohio, and in that video clip, where I'm talking about Scott Walker's chances as a midwestern-style person, Bob Wright gets fixated on Ohio Governor Kasich, but Ohio isn't what I mean when I say Midwest. Note that I have lived in Wisconsin for the last 30 years, so I have an idea of the Midwest (and the North), but I consider myself from the "mid-Atlantic region," born and mostly raised in Delaware — just about exactly at the place where the Mason-Dixon line would cross if the mapmakers hadn't switched to using a compass when drawing the head on the little man called Delaware....

I am an insider/outsider in the Midwest. I think I get the cultural style that one sees in people like Tim Pawlenty and Scott Walker who seem too bland for outsiders. I mean that I also get The Not Getting of It. It might help that my mother and her family were from Michigan. Bob is from Texas, which is a big place, so maybe that's why he blithely groups Wisconsin with Ohio. He also sneered at the notion that Delaware is the South. I forgot to ply him with the question whether Texas is the South, but we were running out of time.

This post has become a grab bag of issues, so I'll load in one more, because news broke as I was writing this: "Lindsey Graham officially launches presidential exploratory committee." In the Bloggingheads clip embedded above, I talked about the problem of a Southern accent for a Republican candidate and say I think Americans have trouble with Lindsey Graham because of his accent. But the discussion of Midwesterners is not so much about the accent — though it is a problem if it's too exaggerated (as in the movie "Fargo") — it's the modest, low-key, seemingly bland style. But that problem could be an advantage. People might be in the mood for modest blandness. Of course, Scott Walker's opponents won't accept that picture of the man. They demonize him. How do you demonize modest blandness? Oh, it's an old game here intra-Wisconsin.

"We often encountered Professor Yin’s frisky and playful cats, peering curiously around a corner or darting by at top speed or jumping into our laps."

"Those cats got more attention and care and love than most pets."

From the the UW School of Public Health Department of Neuroscience letter defending the professor who experimented on cats and was reviled by PETA. The full text of the letter appears at the end of my January 25th post titled "PETA's campaign and the intense public pressure it brought to bear on UW-Madison have ended this horrendous laboratory's legacy of cruelty at last." The post title isn't my statement, but a quote from a PETA press release.

(Please note that my use of the tag "animal cruelty" doesn't mean I think there has been cruelty to animals, only that the topic of animal cruelty is under discussion. I could say something similar about many of my tags, most notably "torture.")

At some point, it's got to end.

I think, after adding an update to yesterday's post about Andrew Sullivan's quitting blogging. I've been going for 11 years — less than Sullivan's 15 — but I know that blogging only works because the spirit is there. You have to thrive on the intrinsic energy of the writing itself. When the magic is gone, you can't do it, if you really know what blogging is. If you bring other people in to do it for you, then it's not your blog anymore. Maybe those other people — and Sullivan had brought in other people — can take off and become real bloggers in their own right, but if they're keeping "your" blog going and your spirit of blogging is depleted, it's over, and in the name of The Spirit of True Blogging, you should face that fact, stop, and move on into a life that does have intrinsic meaning for you.

Now, obviously, there are other things in the form of the blog that people are using to make money or to affect politics. Commerce and propaganda. Fine. That's something that can be done too, but it's not true blogging. When you have those other motives, you can proceed without the spirit. You have your incentives. You don't need the intrinsic value.

"Russia’s bizarre proposal to condemn West Germany’s 1989 ‘annexation’ of East Germany."

Is it bizarre?
[W]hile the events it concerns may be long in the past, the motivation is likely the present. The plan was originally put forward by Nikolay Ivanov, a Communist Party lawmaker, who has argued that the reunification of Germany was insufficiently democratic. "Unlike Crimea, a referendum was not conducted in the German Democratic Republic," Ivanov was quoted as saying, referring to the region of Ukraine that broke away to join Russia last year after a disputed referendum.

Russia and Germany have an important, if complicated, relationship. Chancellor Angela Merkel is perhaps the closest Western leader to Putin – she grew up in East Germany, and – like Putin, who served with the KGB in Dresden – can speak both German and Russian. However, Merkel has been a prominent voice supporting sanctions on Russia after actions in Ukraine, and the relationship has been strained. Merkel famously told President Obama that the Russian leader was living "in another world."

January 28, 2015

Andrew Sullivan announces that — after 15 years — he's stopping blogging.

He gives 2 reasons:

1. 15 years is "long enough to do any single job." You've got to do "new things, shake your world up, or recognize before you crash that burn-out does happen." He's talking about everyone, but one can extract that he feels burnt out.

2. He wants to get out of "digital life" and back "to the actual world again." He wants the slower, truer world of reading "difficult" books and writing "long essays" that go more deeply into the topics he's been blogging over the years. He wants a less stressful life and time with his friends and family.

There's some hint of the disappointment in blogging as a business:
In just two years, you built a million dollar revenue company, with 30,000 subscribers, a million monthly readers, and revenue growth of 17 percent over the first year. You made us unique in this media world – and we were able to avoid the sirens of clickbait and sponsored content. We will never forget it.
You limit your audience, and you only get 30,000. They're not paying that much. What is it, $20 a year or $2 a month — or did the price go up a bit? It's hard to see how that gets up to a million and hard to know how well a million dollars covers the expenses and justifies cutting out the bigger audience you'd get without a paywall. It's gratifying to have 30,000 subscribers, but I suspect the limitations are part of that stress he's talking about.

I know I moved away from Sullivan's blog after it put up the paywall, but back in the old days when it was one of the few real blogs — years before I started blogging — I read it all the time. It played a major role in my own idea of what blogging is, and so it has had a big effect on my life, and it will continue to have that effect until the day comes when I decide I've burned out and need to get back to the slow absorption of difficult books, the brooding over deep thoughts, and the mining of the immense blog archive for all the things that could have coalesced into long essays deserving of binding into tomes.

Until then, it's all spontaneity, wisecracks, and shreds of insight — not fully cooked and never burned out.

ADDED: The Washington Post has some details on the business side of Sullivan's blog:
According to Sullivan’s frequent self-disclosures, he had 30,478 paying customers as of two weeks ago, down from more than 34,000 last year. Revenue was just less than $1 million — about 10 percent more than a year ago. The site is approaching its annual renewal period, in which it loses and gains thousands of subscribers....
So the subscriber numbers had a downward trend, and the decision to stop means he won't have to see what the next data point in that trend. If he took the subscriptions, he'd have to deliver the product. That would be a drag if the numbers were down.
Although the revenue figure grew in the two years that the Dish asked for subscriptions, it apparently has been barely enough to cover expenses. Sullivan has said he does not take a salary. However, there were no outward indications that the site was in financial trouble.
He didn't even make any money?! I guess he must have hoped that as an owner, he'd ultimately make a lot of money. But slogging away on no money would be awful. What were the expenses? The sidebar lists 7 editors (not counting Sullivan, the "blogger-in-chief"). That's not much money to spread around, especially if there was any kind of office space. I preferred the blog when it was just Sullivan, producing his own material, but that's a lot for one person to do.

"Americans think Pats cheated, rooting for Seahawks."

Public Policy Polling finds. Also:
The Packers remain the most popular team in the country. They have a +36 net favorability rating with 54% of Americans viewing them favorably to 18% with a negative opinion. The only other teams above +20 are the Seahawks (+25 at 45/20) and the Broncos (+24 at 44/20). The Packers also win out when voters are asked to name their single favorite team — 15% pick the Packers to 13% for the Cowboys, 10% for the Seahawks, and 9% each for the Broncos, Patriots, and Steelers.

"Why Your Workout Should Be High-Intensity."

A NYT article by Jane E. Brody that you might enjoy reading and talking about. I'm not one for high-intensity workouts, and nothing that could possibly be said on the subject is ever going to change me. I'm linking because I love the illustration by James O'Brien. Nice work!

Did Saudi television blur Michelle Obama out of the broadcast of Obama's meeting with new Saudi king in Riyadh?

"Several videos posted on Saudis' Facebook pages obscured Michelle Obama's face. They were removed shortly after they were posted," writes Josh Rogin at Bloomberg View.

Well, who knows? Saudi officials say it didn't happen. If it did happen, why did it happen? Was it to erase her presence as a woman or was it because she was wearing somewhat festively patterned blue baggy fabric coverage (instead of plain black baggy fabric coverage) and no headscarf?

"I first ran into the term 'Politically correct' in '67 in San Francisco. It was a leftist term then as now."

Writes John Henry in the comments to "Why Jonathan Chait thinks political correctness 'went into a long remission' and now has returned." Henry continues:
For example: "It is not politically correct to mention that the Viet Cong are murdering villagers who take US medical aid." It may have been factually correct, but since it harmed the cause, it was not "politically" correct to mention it.

I later, reading Lenin, found that he used something very like the term. For example: "It is not correct to say that people are dying of starvation in Moscow." He admitted that it was factually true but it should not be said because it made the party look bad.

When something is "politically incorrect", it generally is also factually correct.

I did not realize that the term ever went out of fashion.The concept certainly never has.
And then there was the time the U.S. Supreme Court Justice James Wilson said "This is not politically correct" back in 1793:
The states, rather than the people, for whose sakes the states exist, are frequently the objects which attract and arrest our principal attention.... Sentiments and expressions of this inaccurate kind prevail in our common, even in our convivial, language. Is a toast asked? "The United states," instead of the "People of the United states," is the toast given. This is not politically correct. The toast is meant to present to view the first great object in the Union: it presents only the second. It presents only the artificial person, instead of the natural persons who spoke it into existence. A state I cheerfully fully  admit, is the noblest work of Man. But, Man himself, free and honest, is, I speak as to this world, the noblest work of God.

You may call it "Brutalism," but "the government center was conceived with lofty social aspirations" — a vision "of energetic governance as a democratic ideal."

Michael Kimmelman champions a frighteningly ugly government building, Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center.

He seems to especially like the ideas that underlie the design, as if beautiful abstractions can transform how the tangible thing looks and feels. Actually, I don't get the aesthetic grandeur of the abstraction of "energetic governance," so even if I was sure the building embodied the ideal, it wouldn't make me see the building as beautiful.

Kimmelman stresses that the building is on the "global watch list" of the World Monuments Fund "alongside landmarks like Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China." But it's on the endangered monuments list because it's endangered, not because it's of equal distinction.

Maybe it should be preserved because it's a distinctive example of a style of architecture that seemed good at the time but most of us happen to hate right now. That swooping arc of taste tells us to be careful. I remember in the 1970s when modern buildings were loved with a doctrinaire certainty and overdecorated buildings reviled. I used to look at Grand Central Station every day, back then, and think that it was a monument to the misguided taste of the past.

Would I have torn it down? No. I have a conservative streak, and I don't trust transitory judgment. I would, however, if given the power, have ripped out that damned Pan Am building that filled the visual space above it.

Why Jonathan Chait thinks political correctness "went into a long remission" and now has returned.

My post about Chait's NY Magazine polemic — "Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say/How the language police are perverting liberalism" — blithely puzzled over Chait's assertion that political correctness was a late-80s/early-90s phenomenon that "burst onto the academic scene" and "went into a long remission" and now "has returned."

All I said was "I missed that remission... or Chait missed the nonremission." In case you couldn't tell, that's my way of saying there was no remission, but I didn't delve into why Chait experienced a remission, why the late-80s/early-90s political correctness affected Chait and he's affected again. I did say that Chait is reacting now because he and people like him are getting attacked from the left — "women and [people of color] are getting really cranked up and free-speaking and it's making him feel threatened." In this light, Chait is not so much a proponent of free speech at all, but a silencer of critics.

Liberals present themselves as the good people, and lefties — if they choose to attack liberals — puncture that smugness. But the left attack on liberals that burst onto the academic scene in late-80s/early-90s — I was there to see it — was a pre-internet, anti-free speech movement. Chait mentions "the theories of Catharine MacKinnon, a law professor at the university" — the "radical feminist critique of the First Amendment as a tool of male privilege" — and the "pro-p.c. activists" who pushed campus speech codes "purporting to restrict all manner of discriminatory speech." The left critique at the time said that free speech empowered those who were already powerful and that repression of speech was needed in support of true, substantive freedom and equality.

But that's not the left-wing of today. Alex Pareene does a nice job of explaining the difference:
Chait, like many liberal commentators with his background, is used to writing off left-wing critics and reserving his real writerly firepower for (frequently deserving) right-wingers. That was, for years, how things worked at the center-left opinion journalism shops, because it was simply assumed that no one important—no one who really matters—took the opinions of people to the left of the center-left opinion shop seriously. That was a safe and largely correct assumption. But the destruction of the magazine industry and the growth of the open-forum internet have amplified formerly marginal voices. Now, in other words, writers of color can be just as condescending and dismissive of Chait as he always was toward the left. And he hates it.... Now, not only is it harder to avoid reading negative feedback from people with different perspectives than you, especially if you engage online at all, but there are actually important people—people with status, who've won awards and hold positions of authority—who listen to those people with different perspectives. Ta-Nehisi Coates is at The Atlantic, for godssake, not In These Times.
That is, today's left attacks on liberals don't rely on the old shut-up-you're-silencing-me demands. The left is getting its speech out there. Lefties are employing the good old-fashioned "more speech" remedy that liberals recommended back in the late-80s/early-90s to the lefties who complained that they were being silenced by the overpowering speech of affluent white males.

It is, ironically, Chait who's feeling silenced and flummoxed by all this new speech.

Maybe that recommendation of more speech was in bad faith back in the late-80s/early-90, when the dominating white male liberals had reason to believe their speech would always be far louder and more widely distributed. Now, with the internet, everybody's talking and jostling for position.

A Facebook billionaire took over The New Republic, which had been Chait's lofty platform of liberalism, and Chait wrote "A Eulogy for The New Republic." He's in mourning! He's in mourning for the death of the cultural dominance of elite liberal media. Shhhh!

How perfectly amusing! Liberals are force-fed their own "more speech" remedy, and they don't like it. Another twist in the glorious history of American free speech.

January 27, 2015

"Nearly every time I have mentioned the subject of p.c. to a female writer I know, she has told me about Binders Full of Women Writers..."

"... an invitation-only Facebook group started last year for women authors," writes Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine.
The name came from Mitt Romney’s awkwardly phrased debate boast that as Massachusetts governor he had solicited names of female candidates for high-level posts, and became a form of viral mockery. Binders was created to give women writers a “laid-back” and “no-pressure” environment for conversation and professional networking. It was an attempt to alleviate the systemic under­representation of women in just about every aspect of American journalism and literature, and many members initially greeted the group as a welcome and even exhilarating source of social comfort and professional opportunity. “Suddenly you had the most powerful women in journalism and media all on the same page,” one former member, a liberal journalist in her 30s, recalls.

Binders, however, soon found itself frequently distracted by bitter identity-­politics recriminations, endlessly litigating the fraught requirements of p.c. discourse....

"White House Drone Crash Is Tied to Drinking by Intelligence Worker."

"A man who says he operated a drone that crashed on the White House grounds early Monday is an employee of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, according to law enforcement officials. He told Secret Service investigators that he had been drinking at an apartment nearby before he lost control of the craft, the officials said."

The NYT reports.