Friday, March 29, 2019

Has Elvis Left the Building?

I'm wondering if we're reaching the end of the days where Elvis is a relevant cultural landmark?

Las Vegas, for example, still has Elvis impersonators and Elvis wedding chapels. But is he a meaningful figure for the next generation? Even kids of my era knew Elvis -- through our parents, yes, but many of us grew up listening to the "oldies" station and so knew all the songs of that era pretty well by heart. Today? I'm dubious. I'm sure kids these days know who Elvis is, and probably can do a good "thankyouverymuch" impression. But he's probably fading as a phenomenon. Even to me, he already feels pretty quaint.

Some of this, of course, is the inexorable march of time. But it is interesting to see which songs from that era have staying power and which don't. The obvious place to look is which songs show up in advertisements. "Happy Together" by The Turtles is a great example -- a solid but not transcendent hit which nonetheless seems destined to stay a part of our cultural life for years to come. Which of Elvis' songs fall in the same boat? I don't have one jumping to the forefront of my mind.

And looking ahead: how long before we're wondering the same thing about The Beatles? And then Michael Jackson?

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Quebec Set To Ban Public Employees from Wearing Religious Garb

The ban would apply to, among other apparel, hijabs and kippot.

The frenzy of concern regarding various head-coverings -- going way beyond objecting to making them mandatory (as they are in some Muslim-majority states), and instead casting them as inherently antithetical to the values of the liberal state -- leads precisely to this. And it should surprise nobody with a sense of history that this sort of illiberalism-disguised-as-liberalism is taking Jews and Muslims down together.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Jackie Walker Expelled from Labour

In one of the highest-profile disciplinary actions pending before the party, former Momentum leader Jackie Walker has been expelled from Labour after a multitude of antisemitism allegations.

Walker's defense was a standard-Livingstone -- "I'm just criticizing Israel" -- so let's review what the core offenses were:

  • Saying Jews were "chief financiers" of the slave trade;
  • Complaining that Holocaust Memorial Day is biased towards Jews because it doesn't commemorate other genocides (it does, actually);
  • Questioning the need for heightened security at Jewish schools and institutions because Jewish concerns about potential targeting were exaggerated or embellished.

You might note that none of these actually have anything to do with "criticizing Israel". Indeed, that's a characteristic she shares with the original Livingstone case, where the antisemitism charge also had nothing to do with Israel at all.

Walker had been a major standard-bearer for "Labour Against the Witchhunt", which insists that the bulk of the controversy over antisemitism in the party is falsified or made up, the plot of Zionists or even the Israeli government to damage the prospects of Jeremy Corbyn.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Well That's One Way To Put It

Mississippi is currently engaged in litigation over whether its State Senate district boundaries diluted the voting power of Black residents. Shocking, I know. A district court found that Mississippi had acted illegally, and the Fifth Circuit refused to stay the decision pending appeal.

Judge Edith Clement dissented from that decision. And she chose an interesting descriptor for the panel majority, whose opinion she believed was out-of-step with what the majority of active Fifth Circuit judges would have decided:
This case presents several extraordinary issues. Unfortunately, this court’s usual procedures do not appear to permit en banc review of this denial of a stay even if a majority of the active judges would otherwise grant it. I am afraid defendants have simply had the poor luck of drawing a majority-minority panel.
Now, to be clear, all three judges on the panel were White. Judge Clement is literally referring to the fact that the majority on the panel on the issue of a stay would have likely been a minority on this issue were it to go to the full court (while she doesn't say so directly, the logic is almost certainly that the case would break down on partisan lines and the Fifth Circuit currently has a GOP-appointed majority).

Nonetheless: this is certainly a striking phrase to use in a race discrimination/voting rights case. "Majority-minority" is not an esoteric term in this context; Judge Clement is well aware that it is almost exclusively used to refer to districts whose population is predominantly made up of racial minorities (literally: it is majority-minority). That is the evocation that any reader -- certainly any reader familiar with voting rights cases -- will hear.

And so its use here -- as part of a dissent where Judge Clement thinks the panel majority is being too solicitous towards minority voters in Mississippi -- does not feel accidental. It feels much more dog-whistle-y, and those whistles have been getting much more audible as of late.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Honeymoon Highlights

Greetings from Berkeley!

We're back from our honeymoon, feeling relaxed, refreshed, and (thanks to the miracle of time zones) actually waking up at a reasonable hour of the morning. Here are some of the highlights:

Hot dogs eaten: 5 (each). One of the selling points for this particular resort (the Sheraton Maui) was that there was a poolside hot dog stand. Even as we booked it, I remember thinking to myself "sure, a poolside hot dog stand sounds awesome in concept, but how much of a role will it really play in a honeymoon?" Answer: a massive one. Eating hot dogs and fries in a poolside cabana while watching March Madness on the iPad was the best way I can think of to spend an afternoon.

Fish eaten: 2. Jill and I don't really like fish, but we were on an island and figured why not try something a bit new? The Mahi Mahi tacos weren't really to our taste, but the Ahi Poke bowl was absolutely delicious -- I'd totally eat that again.

Fish seen: countless. We went snorkling! This is actually a big deal, as Jill has for as long as I've known her been deathly afraid of fish (this is independent of her not liking the taste of fish). But she was a very brave girl, and we actually both had a really nice time! The beach by the hotel was amazing for this, incidentally -- ten feet from the shore, and suddenly there are fish everywhere in all the colors of the rainbow.

Sunglasses purchased: 1. I should be wearing sunglasses all the time -- I have an eye condition that makes me very sensitive to sunlight -- but I've never really gotten into the habit. But our poolside cabana came with a free trial pair of Maui Jims and whoa. It was like I was seeing colors for the first time. It was actually almost unnerving how much more vibrant the world was. So I bought a pair, furthering the inevitable convergence of my own sartorial style into my father's.

Waters submersed in: 4. Ocean, pool/lazy river, hot tub, and spa bath ritual. The last one might have sold me on baths, where those baths are in jacuzzis with perfect temperature regulation and some sort of magic passionfruit powder that made my skin super soft and not at all wrinkly.

Private dinners: 1. The most classically "romantic" thing we did -- other than perhaps the spa bath ritual -- was a private dinner on the lawn for just the two of us, looking out over the beach and cliff rocks. It was a really nice experience. They had four menus to choose from, and we kind of had to hack all four of them together to come up with a four-course meal that didn't include pork or shellfish, but it all worked out -- and that's what got us to try the Poke bowl.

New breakfast sensations: 1. Loco Moco! I'd heard of it before -- it's a ground beef patty over eggs and fried rice, with onion gravy -- but I hadn't tried it or even seen it served anywhere until we got to the hotel. But it is so good. And it doesn't seem like it requires any particular ingredients local to Hawaii, so how has this not made the jump to the mainland yet?

Bird alarm clocks: 1. There are many birds fluttering around Maui, singing their sweet little songs. There was also one particular bird who, from roughly 6:00 AM to 6:30 AM each morning, would just start shrieking at the top of its lungs like it just stumbled across the murder room in a horror movie. Thankfully, 6:00 AM Hawaii is 9:00 AM Pacific, so this was about the time we were getting up anyway. But still -- somebody get that bird to therapy. It's clearly seen some stuff.

Lizards in room: 1. Girls like swarms of lizards, right?

Hours spent off the resort: 0. We kept thinking about it. "Maybe we'll do an ATV tour of a neighboring island" (they never got back to us). "Maybe we'll go shopping in town" (we're spending enough here, thank you). "Maybe we'll go whalewatching" (the booking hut seems awfully far away when we're nice and comfy in our cabana). Ultimately, I'm content with our choice here.