February 6, 2016

"Worried that a shortage of male teachers has produced a generation of timid, self-centered and effeminate boys..."

"... Chinese educators are working to reinforce traditional gender roles and values in the classroom."
Lin Wei, 27, one of a handful of male sixth-grade teachers at a primary school here, has made a habit of telling stories about warlords who threw witches into rivers and soldiers who outsmarted Japanese troops. “Men have special duties,” he said. “They have to be brave, protect women and take responsibility for wrongdoing.”

n Zhengzhou, a city on the Yellow River, schools have asked boys to sign petitions pledging to act like “real men.” In Shanghai, principals are trying boys-only classes with courses like martial arts, computer repair and physics. In Hangzhou, in eastern China, educators have started a summer camp called “West Point Boys,” complete with taekwondo classes and the motto, “We bring out the men in boys.”
Sounds a lot like my old law-class hypothetical about Gendertopia:
In a place I call Gendertopia, where policy is based on scientific research indicating that there are male and female gendered learning styles, there's a plan for 2 high schools, both of which will receive equal resources. The male-style school will have labs, contests, aggressive sports, and strict discipline from the teachers. Music class is all about using Apple Logic Pro 9. The female model school has group projects and mutual tutoring, positive reinforcement and self-esteem, yoga and dance classes, and — for music — a strings program. Violins, violas, and cellos are distributed....

Whither "the man in the street" and "John Q. Public"?

The other day, talking to Meade, I made the stray observation: "Nobody says 'the man in the street' anymore."

It was a common colloquialism in news reports years ago. It's hard to take note of when something stops getting said. Decades could pass before you notice that something has disappeared from the language. Maybe the death of "the man in the street" began in the 1970s, with the success of the women's movement, as it became less and less possible for mainstream folks to convince themselves that "man" includes woman. Perhaps there was a transitional period in which reporters — perhaps literally in the street with their microphones seeking random comments from passersby — said "the man — or woman — in the street," before that got old and sounded corny and then nobody ever said it again.

Yesterday, Meade and I were watching "Jeopardy!" It's "College Championship" time and all the players are college students. The board full of answers in need of questions is stocked with things that younger people know — pop singers, movie superheroes, school-level math, history, and science and so forth. The kids buzz in and get many questions right. But yesterday, they had an answer that drew absolutely vacant stares and even puzzlement when Alex Trebek revealed the question. The answer was: The middle initial of John Public. The question: What is Q? I laughed a lot, because I could see that from the kids' perspective, that was just some weird nonsense.

Nobody says "John Q. Public" anymore. Like "man in the street," the term embodies the general  public in a single person. This time, that person has a name, John Q. Public. I'm going to assume, it's gone away because we won't accept the idea that the public can be personified as a male, and that also means the whole idea of the general public as one person just doesn't work anymore. If there was ever a period when people adapted to changing times by saying, cutesily,  "John Q. — and Jane Q. — Public," I missed it.

Now, it just seems goofy, I suppose, to people who don't remember the common usage, to hear that John Public has a middle initial and it's Q. What's the Q for? From the OED:
1937   N. & Q. 6 Mar. 177/2   ‘John Citizen’..is not so frequent in American usage as ‘John Q. Public’... It is probably a play on the name of an early president, John Q(uincy) Adams.
I think it's more like Jesus H. Christ. An initial just seems funny. And if you want funny, there's no funnier letter than Q.

As for Jesus H. Christ, well, what's that about? Hilariously, there's a Wikipedia entry for Jesus H. Christ — which, you may realize, is "a vulgarism" that "is not used in the context of Christian worship." Mark Twain referred to it in his autobiography as typical of "the common swearers of the region," so the usage goes way back. Some people attribute it to "the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus (Ἰησοῦς)... transliterated iota-eta-sigma, which can look like IHS." There's also an idea that the H is for Harold — from mishearing "hallowed be thy name" the Lord's Prayer as Harold be thy name.

IN THE COMMENTS: Paddy O said "Monty Python had man in the street segments":

"I will look into it," said Hillary Clinton at Thursday's debate, when asked if she'd release the transcripts of all her paid speeches.

What's to "look into"? Why not a straightforward "yes"? She said "I'll look into it," and the, opaquely, "I don't know the status, but I will certainly look into it." What "status"? Who even has an idea what that means? Does she not own the rights to her speeches? Perhaps some promise of privacy was made to other participants, but one could cover up their names or edit out their statements. To my ear, the line about "status" sounds like meaningless distancing from the question at hand as she cues up lines she's prepared about how her speeches had nothing to do with anything those who were paying might have wanted from her in exchange for the money.

The example she gives of the sort of thing she said to these big-money folks is "how stressful it was advising the President about going after bin Laden." Stressful! As if Hillary's internal emotional life is what these characters were interested in. Hillary has a way of retreating into the story of her feelings. I was reminded of her move in the 2008 campaign, after she'd lost the Iowa caucuses, assembling a group of women around her in a coffee shop and emoting: "It's hard to get up every day and get ready and get out of the house in the morning."

I'm willing to put up with a little emotional padding. It is hard to seek power and exercise it. It's nothing I want to do, and I appreciate that some not completely evil Americans step up to the work. But we've got to wonder what's their motivation. We've got to be able to look at the evidence, and in this case that means the transcripts of those speeches. What is the meaning of the money that supports her campaign and that — supposedly entirely aside from campaign finance — has made her and her husband very wealthy? She wants to say, they just offered the money, and all she did was show up and say some words, words of her choice, words, for example, about the experience of stress in saying we need to kill bin Laden.

Who can believe that? Without the transcripts, we should — for our own protection and because it's most likely — infer that what is in the transcripts would be harmful to the argument she's making to the great masses of Americans. We should infer that she told a different story to the elite insiders. It was the most reasonable interpretation even before she resisted releasing the transcripts. The inference is stronger now that she's resisted giving us the transcripts. She needs to release the transcripts to refute the interpretation that we are otherwise compelled to make.

Now, let me look at what's in The NYT and The Washington Post. The NYT has "Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Resists Releasing Transcripts From Goldman Speeches," by Katharine Q. Seelye, who says that though Hillary Clinton said she would “look into” releasing the transcripts, "by Friday morning, it did not appear that much looking was underway":
Joel Benenson, Mrs. Clinton’s pollster, gave little indication at a Wall Street Journal breakfast with reporters that the transcripts would be forthcoming. “I don’t think voters are interested in the transcripts of her speeches,” he said....

On Friday, Brian Fallon, Mrs. Clinton’s press secretary...  said that “Bernie Sanders, like Karl Rove before him, is trying to impugn Hillary Clinton’s integrity without any basis in fact.” He labeled this “character assassination by insinuation” and said Mr. Sanders should either show his evidence that the money has influenced her or drop the subject.
Insinuation? It's inference. The absence of evidence is a basis for inference. To withhold the evidence and then demand that we not make an inference is a tricky move, and — ironically — the trick is to impugn the integrity of anyone who makes the inference. Your integrity is impugned for impugning her integrity. Fallon played the Rove!!!! card.

The Washington Post has "Hillary Clinton’s Goldman Sachs speech transcripts are now a campaign issue. Why weren’t they before?" by Callum Borchers:
The only time this question has come up before, as far as I can tell, was when a reporter for the Intercept raised it on the rope line after a Clinton campaign event in Manchester, N.H., last month.
Video at the link. Hillary's response, in case you're wondering, was to guffaw in the man's face and turn to people to whom she could just keep saying "nice to see you."

Since the debate, however, the issue is "getting plenty of attention," Borchers writes, collecting coverage from various MSM outlets. And it's up to the media to push it, he says, because Sanders — who really is pulling his punches — will not pursue it. His advisor Tad Devine said "No, we’re not going to push on that." We'll see how far the media push it, but I note that Borchers doesn't mention the GOP candidates. Bernie may have decided, for whatever reason, that attacking Clinton is not the best approach for him, but the GOP candidates can use it, if not now, then later.

If I were Clinton, I wouldn't rest easy if the media drop the matter. It will be there to be used this fall, assuming she gets the nomination. Release the transcripts! There's so much reason to do that now... unless what's in the transcripts is much worse than the negative, albeit vague, inference we must make from the withholding.

The tendency of men in groups, in bars, to take to singing...

IN THE COMMENTS: Laslo Spatula said, "Dear God your headline made me think of this":

I laughed a lot, and — can you believe it?! — I have never watched that scene. Never saw the movie "Top Gun" or even vaguely wanted to. Never saw "An Officer and A Gentleman" either, and I get the 2 movies mixed up.

February 5, 2016

James Taylor loves his echo chamber.

It's literally an echo chamber. "Echo chamber" is usually figurative. Here are some examples from the NYT archive which I've bunched up, without links:
Americans Attracted to ISIS Find an ‘Echo Chamber’ on Social Media... the bars, restaurants and other haunts of entrepreneurs can be an echo chamber... The Trouble With the Echo Chamber Online... “We’ve seen too many Republicans who live in the echo chamber of the mainstream media bubble,” Mr. Cruz said.... [Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia] confessed—not in so many words—to living in a conservative echo chamber... With his us vs. them invective and his refusal to denounce hate-filled speech from some of his supporters, Mr. Trump is an echo chamber for certain corners of the far right, as evinced by his popularity with white nationalists and the so-called alt-right movement of mostly online activists.... But CNN may be setting up an echo chamber as it covers bloggers who are blogging about what they are watching on CNN....
Also in the NYT, I ran across a piece about an art project by Harry Shearer called "The Silent Echo Chamber" — "video of celebrities and politicians sitting silently in the minutes before appearing live on television."
Video loops run on nine flat-screen monitors that are hung like portraits along three walls. There is a disquieting sense of being at the wrong end of the telescope: the stars you have watched silently for years are silently watching you.... Confronted with silence, whether from a Pinteresque pause or an unreturned “good morning” from that smoldering Irene in sales, we tend to invent an explanation, and it’s no different here. Why, one wonders in the glow of the screens, aren’t these pundits pontificating?
That was back in December 2008. There were 4 examples, including this, of Hillary Clinton.

"At 9:30am, I drink 16 ounces of unsweetened, strong green juice, which is my alkalizer, hydrator, energizer, source of protein and calcium, and overall mood balancer."

"It's also my easy, 'lazy,' and delicious skin regime. I also take three tablespoons of bee pollen. I love Moon Juice's soft and chewy bee pollen—it's a creamy, candy-like treat that gives me my daily B-vitamin blast, and also helps feed my skin and aids hormone production. I'll also grab a handful of activated cashews. I try to get these in every day for their brain chemistry magic. I chase this with a shot of pressed turmeric root in freshly squeezed grapefruit juice."

From Elle Magazine's "How Hollywood's Favorite Juice Bar Owner Eats Every Day/Amanda Chantal Bacon, founder of Moon Juice, has a diet full of ingredients we've never even heard of."

Start with a woman named Bacon, then stir in the brain magic and activated bullshit.

Is there a "sexist double standard behind why millennials love Bernie Sanders"?

WaPo's Catherine Rampell says there is.
It is precisely Sanders’s au-naturel-ness that endears him to his young fans: his unkempt hair, his ill-fitting suits, his unpolished Brooklyn accent, his propensity to yell and wave his hands maniacally. Sanders, it appears, woke up like this.

These qualities are what make him seem “authentic,” “sincere” even — especially when contrasted with Clinton’s hyper-scriptedness. Sanders, unlike Clinton, doesn’t give a damn if he’s camera-ready.

This is, of course, a form of authenticity that is off-limits to any female politician, not just one with Clinton’s baggage. Female politicians — at least if they want to be taken seriously on a national stage — cannot be unkempt and unfiltered, hair mussed and voice raised. They have to be carefully coifed and scripted at all times, because they have to hew as closely as possible to the bounds of propriety available to both their sex and their occupation. They can’t be too quiet or too loud, too emotional or too cold, too meek or too aggressive, and so on.

But they also can’t appear to be trying too hard, either. At least if they want the kind of enthusiastic millennial support that Sanders enjoys.
I have 10 problems with this:

1. Bernie's hair is actually not unkempt. It's neatly trimmed. It may look misshapen in the balding areas, but it's thick around the bottom and looks very carefully cut. It's also very clean and combed in place. He doesn't rub it with his hands or muss it up. He's not Doc from "Back to the Future." He's not Einstein.

2. Bernie doesn't wave his hands maniacally. He makes rather large hand gestures, but they are slow and deliberately coordinated with his speech, as if he's placing the words in the air in front of him. That's why it worked so well in "Bad Lip Reading" when they had Bernie reciting a poem.

3. Bernie is able to put himself out there in a form that seems to be something close to what he really is — a politician of many decades, repeating his old lines like "The American economy is rigged." It's an old habit, and it's not that hard. I don't think he's even been trying to win, so it's a pretty simple task. It's straightforward expression, and people do indeed respond to that, especially while it remains in the expressive category and they're not (yet) squarely facing up to the reality of this man as President.

4. So compare him to a woman who's in the same position, someone entering the race to say the things that are not being said and not carrying the burden of all the expectations — that she's supposed to win and that everyone else has gotten out of her way and that now she'd better be able to make good on what she led them all to think she could do. I could imagine such a woman. Elizabeth Warren could have played that role, and I think people would have loved it. Why didn't she jump in? Maybe because she would have wanted to win, and that's a much more complex task.

5. Bernie's clothes are indeed very ordinary. Just a generic man's suit. An everyman's uniform. Could a woman come up with something equivalent? Hillary hasn't tried to do that, so show me a woman who says that's what I'm going to do and see what they say. Only then would you get a fair reading of whether there's a double standard. Have a woman candidate wear a plain white blouse under a dark gray blazer and a dark gray straight mid-knee-length skirt — wear the same thing every day — and see if there is criticism or celebration. My bet is that people would love it.

6. As for the woman's hair, maybe it can't be dirty or badly cut, but it doesn't need to be an ultra-controlled helmet. I think people would be quite happy to see the hair fall naturally and move like real hair, and a well-cut feminine hairstyle is supposed to be mussable. Talk to a good hair dresser. I'll bet he or she would be horrified to be asked to fix a woman's hair like Hillary's and would much rather cut something short and choppy that you're supposed to muss to get the right look. Think: Helen Mirren. Don't tell me that won't work. Hillary's helmet hair does not prove that Hillary's helmet hair is required because she's a woman. Sometimes it's hard to be a woman... the old Tammy Wynette song begins. But it's not that hard.

7. Do men have more freedom in the tone of their voice? Maybe. I'm inclined to think that volume and stress in a woman's voice is offputting to many people. There's a trigger point where they'll use words like "strident," "nagging," and "sounds like my ex-wife." But I'm not willing to believe people would reject a woman who came out and talked something like Bernie Sanders. Listen to Bella Abzug (from 1977):

I think we'd love to embrace a presidential candidate who looked and talked like that. (By the way, the hat is another answer to what to do about your hair.)

8. I don't believe that a female candidate has "to hew as closely as possible to the bounds of propriety available to both their sex and their occupation." How do we know? Where is the woman in the race who is challenging this idea and getting rejected because of it? Looking excessively bound to "propriety" isn't much of a recommendation, but in fact, all the candidates are expected to behave. Trump transgresses. We'll see how that works out for him in the end. It is hard to imagine a female Trump. I'll grant you that. Perhaps liberals would celebrate such a woman (assuming her politics were liberal).

9. "They can’t be too quiet or too loud, too emotional or too cold, too meek or too aggressive, and so on." Maybe so, but what's the midrange that's permissible? How narrow is it? I think a lot depends on the individual, and if you are trying too hard to calibrate it, you're going to seem phony and unnatural. That "can't be too" list doesn't include "they can't be too phony or too natural." Be natural! Let us see who you really are. If we don't like you, we don't like you. When we see fake, we're on guard that you are putting something over on us. We're right to be sensitive to that.

10. "But they also can’t appear to be trying too hard...." That sounds like it means poor Hillary has to try hard not to look as though she's trying too hard. That's a hell of a lot of trying. An alternative is to let your natural self shine through. If you've got one.

"It’s one thing to say you won’t accept a beheading video on a site... But once you get beyond something that clear, how do you define terrorist content?"

Said Faiza Patel of the Liberty and National Security Program at NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, quoted in the NYT article "Twitter Steps Up Efforts to Thwart Terrorists’ Tweets" (which reports that Twitter has closed down 125,000 Twitter accounts since mid-2015).

Let's talk about the new Quinnipiac poll.

It's an argument for the GOP to pick Rubio, no?

Click to enlarge.

By the way, watching last night's Democratic debate, I thought: So much anger! Everyone's annoyingly angry. This indirectly works as an argument against Trump and (to a lesser degree) Cruz. Everyone's yelling. Everyone's turning red and seething. I need relief from this aggression and stress. Rubio can win support by being the normal-seeming, non-angry person.


A long NYT obituary for a woman whose only claim to fame was shouting "Anthony!" out the window in a 1969 spaghetti commercial (the one that planted the definition of Wednesday in our head: Prince spaghetti day).

"He's trying to be Dennis Hopper... and failing miserably."/"Or Sam Shepard. Especially the shot with the finger to his brow."

"Immediately I thought, 'Please Unicorn Jesus, don't let this man make a remake of Easy Rider.'"

That's set-of-comments #1 about the Rolling Stone pictures of Owen Wilson, featured at Tom & Lorenzo (who say: "Owen, Sue them. Sue them all. Make everyone who did this to you pay in blood, money and tears of regret").

Set-of-comments #2 is: "Yikes! It's like the photographer was doing everything he could in order for you to see David Spade's version of Owen's nose."/"There should be a censor bar across that thing."/"That's ALL I can see."

I do not need to Google what did David Spade say about Owen's nose to know what they are talking about. I Googled it anyway, and I see it's not something he said, it's a prosthesis he wore on his own nose. I also found this:

Hesitating before hitting "publish," I wonder if this post would fall within Lena Dunham's definition of the kind of threat that the corporate gatekeepers should filter out of the internet.

If a 15-year-old boy masturbates, is he a pedophile?

That's a question that occurred to me, reading "Male Teen Takes Nude Photo of Himself, Charged with Making Child Porn/The kid, 15, could be placed on the sex offender registry."

When you broaden the meaning of a word, Lena Dunham, can we hold you to that meaning... at least until the end of a sentence?

Calling for "new codes of conduct" on Twitter and drawing us in with the assertion that she is "experiencing violent bullying in the internet," she said:
“I think it’s important to remember that threats are more than someone saying I’m going to come to your house and I’m going to hurt you... Insulting someone’s appearance, insulting someone’s religion, or their race, you know, all of that to me constitutes a threat and I think we can make changes to how we control that dialogue on the internet without threatening our First Amendment rights.”
So, you want a broad definition for "threat," going beyond what you called "violent bullying." (I'm going to guess that "violent bullying" refers to words of violence — like "kill" and "rape" — directed at a particular individual and not restricted to a context where the target is going to need to worry that the the violence will occur.) You want "threat" to cover insults of all kinds, including the banal remarks about how somebody looks and the politically important critiques of religion. Then you want to avoid "threatening our First Amendment rights." But if I accept your meaning of the word "threat," then you are already threatening our First Amendment rights.

This word game works both ways. 

I don't know if Dunham was thinking in terms of the actual law, but she did say "First Amendment." "First Amendment" understood narrowly only refers to what the government might do to us. Since Twitter is a private company, no control of the dialogue by Twitter can threaten First Amendment rights, if we stick to the narrow idea. Therefore, we can even adopt Dunham's definition of "threat" and say there can never be a threat to First Amendment rights, no matter how restrictive of speech Twitter becomes, because our oppressor is a private corporation.

"First Amendment" is already too narrow a term for the threat under discussion. We need to say "freedom of speech." This is a topic I've discussed at length elsewhere on this blog — notably here — so I'll stop this post now.

ADDED: Here I am in March 2011 fighting hard for my position that we need to care about what private enterprises can do to our freedom of speech:

February 4, 2016

People keep asking: Am I watching the debate?

The answer is: Yes, I am. Not up for old-time live-blogging. My son, John Althouse Cohen is carrying on the old live-blogging tradition, here.

I'll just say I'm very put off by the anger and the yelling. It's so stressful!

ADDED: What are they yelling about? It seems to be the theater of showing fire. I am scarcely able to follow the substance. I'm puzzling over the weirdness of the variations of angry face. Bernie seems to be doing his usual thing. Hillary seems on the edge of losing her temper. I'm seeing faces that I interpret as sheer hate.

Seen from my desk this morning...


... a hawk!


"College students wear shaggy white 'Bernie' wigs on campus..."

"... carry iPhones with his image as their screen saver, and flock to his events by the thousands."
“It seems like he is at the point in his life when he is really saying what he is thinking,” said Olivia Sauer, 18, a college freshman who returned to her hometown, Ames, Iowa, to caucus for Mr. Sanders. “With Hillary,” she said, “sometimes you get this feeling that all of her sentences are owned by someone.”

Beware the hair tourniquet.

"Scott Walker said his daughter, Molly, was cranky, screaming and began to overheat, so his wife took off her socks. That’s when they saw a hair wrapped tightly around her toe...."

That's Scott Walker, some man in Kansas, not the Wisconsin governor. But governors and nongovernors alike are warned to be on guard for stray hairs inside socks that can get wrapped around a baby's toe and tightened into something gruesome.

“Are you happy with the two sisters I brought you?”/“I’m very, very happy. But I’ll be even happier when you give me five more.”

What President Obama asked and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — according to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, quoted in a short New Yorker piece by Ian Frazier, "Sonia From the Bronx."

If the quote is accurate, it means that Justice Ginsburg dreams of a Supreme Court with 8 female justices. Either the math is off or one male Justice is is ideal for some reason... a recognition of Justice Breyer perhaps.

ADDED: Have you noticed the meme The next President will appoint as many as 4 Supreme Court Justices?

It seems hard to believe that there could be 4 vacancies to fill within one 4-year presidential term, and we have not seen more than 2 per term unless we go back as far as Richard Nixon. Nixon had 4 appointments, all within his first term. Consider the age of the current Justices: Justices Scalia and Kennedy will turn 80 in the next few months. Justice Ginsburg will be 83 next month, and Justice Breyer turns 78 in August.

If only Donald Trump had a British accent...

... he wouldn't just sound different, the meaning would change... to a freakish extent.

(Via Language Log.)

The first clothed Playboy centerfold.

Not NSFW anymore.

Here's the NYT article about it:
The centerfold... Dree Hemingway, a great-granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway — cavorts in the buff. But this is the Garden of Eden after a bite of the apple, and our Eve, while amused, seems a bit embarrassed. In one shot, it’s as if someone has just stolen her clothing, leaving her to hide as much of herself as she can with both hands.

Ms. Hemingway and other featured women in the issue are unretouched.... Some images in the March issue are grainy, and all feel more impromptu than posed. The magazine has adopted the unadorned, point-and-shoot aesthetic made famous by American Apparel ads and fashion photographers like Terry Richardson.
It's like they're testing out the theory that my parents' generation propounded half a century ago: It's sexier to leave something to the imagination.

And by "my parents' generation," I don't mean my parents. My parents had Playboy out and proud on the coffee table in the living room in the 1950s and 60s.