‘Is the current American understanding of deadly force the only option?’

How countries with a less, shall we say, truculent national guns right organization handle criminal violence. This story doesn’t condescend in the usual ways. A criminology professor:

ThinkProgress asked Newburn how British cops handle suspects who, for example, were carrying a knife like Powell. “There are a number of things that might happen,” he said. For one thing, he acknowledged that sometimes police who fear particular danger from a suspect might call in back-up officers with guns to provide increased protection. But that’s the exception rather than the rule. “In the main I think they would generally seek to deal with that circumstance in a different way,” he said. Two first-level options might be negotiation or attempt to disarm the person. In the instance of Powell’s shooting, officers started shooting seconds after exiting the car, on the rationale that a person with a knife can lunge at you in even less time than that.

Singles 8/29

The freshest track on Future’s Honest gets an airing, as does a Stevie Nicks composition written during the Rumours salad days. Also: the continued decline of T.I., better suited these days as a label scion. Romeo Santos’ “Eres Mia” isn’t as crisp as last year’s “Propuesta Indecente” but as sun-kissed romantic pop — Sade for pools and BBQs — it’s ideal. Have a gin and tonic on me. Singles 8/29

Click on links for full reviews.

Future – T-Shirt (7)
Hello Saferide – I Was Jesus (6)
Stevie Nicks – The Dealer (6)
Jacob Latimore ft. T-Pain – Heartbreak Heard Around the World (6)
Boys Republic – Dress Up (6)
Romeo Santos – Eres Mia (6)
M.O – Dance On My Own (5)
Rae Sremmurd – No Flex Zone (5)
FEMM – Fxxk Boyz Get Money (5)
Big K.R.I.T. ft. Rico Love – Pay Attention (3)
Mary Lambert – Secrets (4)
T.I. ft. Iggy Azalea – No Mediocre (2)
Sam Hunt – Leave the Night On (2)

Mary Beard: “still a major current of misogyny in Western culture”

A historian whose popular pedigree is impeccable in England, Mary Beard has made it a practice of fighting received notions about female discourse in academe. She responds to trolling students on Twitter. By all accounts she deflates them with politeness: listening to complaints, answering them in measured tones. A lively profile explains:

The targeting of Beard is hardly a singular instance of online misogyny, and she is quick to note that there are differences of degree. A comment about one’s teeth is rude; a rape threat is criminal. After Caroline Criado-Perez, a thirty-year-old activist, launched a campaign last spring to have an accomplished woman represented on the British ten-pound note, she was subjected to multiple threats of rape and murder via Twitter. (Her effort succeeded nonetheless: Jane Austen will soon appear on the currency.) Stella Creasy, a Member of Parliament, received similar threats after expressing support for Criado-Perez. Last summer, Caitlin Moran, the newspaper columnist, mobilized a day of “Twitter silence” to protest the site’s slow response to threats of violence against women; Beard intended to participate, but broke her silence when she received a tweeted bomb threat, which she reported to the police as well as to her followers. When the hour of the threatened explosion had passed, she tweeted, with sang-froid, “We are still here. So unless the trolling bomber’s timekeeping is rotten . . . all is well.”

In another highly publicized incident, Beard retweeted a message that she had received from a twenty-year-old university student: “You filthy old slut. I bet your vagina is disgusting.” One of Beard’s followers offered to inform the student’s mother of his online behavior; meanwhile, he apologized. Beard’s object is not simply to embarrass offenders; it is to educate women. Before social media, she argues, it was possible for young women like those she teaches at Cambridge to enjoy the benefits of feminist advances without even being aware of the battles fought on their behalf, and to imagine that such attitudes are a thing of the past. Beard says, “Most of my students would have denied, I think, that there was still a major current of misogyny in Western culture.”

Beard even wrote a letter of recommendation for the troller — true decency.

The state of health care, Florida edition

In Florida, where Governor Rick Scott repeats “jobs, jobs, jobs” often enough to wonder if it was the first and last English word he learned, the state-run website dedicated to sign the uninsured with crapulent health care has shown splendid results:

Six months after the launch of the state’s effort, called Florida Health Choices, just 30 people have signed up. Another seven plans were canceled either because consumers changed their minds or didn’t pay for services.

These numbers are dwarfed by the nearly 764,000 Floridians who are too poor to afford subsidized plans, yet can’t qualify for Medicaid under Florida’s stringent standards. They are supposed to be the target market for Health Choices.

But Health Choices doesn’t sell comprehensive health insurance to protect consumers from big-ticket medical costs such as hospitalization. Instead, it has limited benefit options and discount plans for items like dentist visits, prescription drugs and eyeglasses.

The plan’s biggest backer in the Legislature blames the lack of business on the federal Affordable Care Act, which feature comprehensive plans with varying subsidies for those who qualify.

“Obviously we wanted more (business), but the competition is giving it away for free,” said state Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach.

Florida Health Choices administrators acknowledge they are off to a slow start. Their strategy is to seek new products and partners, and find out more about what consumers want. They’re even open to selling insurance for pets if it lures customers.

“We’re going to continue to grow and learn about our users and enhance the platform,” said chief executive officer Rose Naff.

No doubt. Let’s wander north to Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania has struck a deal with the Obama administration to expand its Medicaid program to more than 300,000 poor residents, the state announced Thursday.

Pennsylvania would be the 27th state (not including the District of Columbia) to participate in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, and Gov. Tom Corbett would be the ninth Republican governor to sign on.

Corbett is among a handful of Republicans who have used the Medicaid expansion as a moment to petition the federal government for more flexibility in how they run the public program.

The acceptance of federal dough is precisely what Rick Scott doesn’t want — it’s a matter of principle. Many human beings have died for the sake of principle.

Autumnal bliss: Le Week-end

Visiting Mom’s this weekend, you’ll find a Redbox copy of Le Week-end on the table. With Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan as a philosophy professor and teacher, respectively, who celebrate their thirtieth anniversary in Paris, it looks like a sop to the The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel matinee crowd. Don’t skip it. Although marred by florid passages by screenwriter Hanif Kureishi of the oh-dire-autumnal-years variety, it also sports moments of clarity and chilling candor. For most of its length Broadbent and Duncan do the best work of their screen careers.

The kids out of the house, Nick and Meg Burrows have to relearn — or perhaps learn — the mechanics of getting on with each other. The preemptory step is to spend money: on a hotel close to the Eiffel Tower, on exquisite cuisine, on alcohol. What a relief to watch a movie in which actors guzzle white, red, sparkling, and dessert wine without the camera’s freezing the actors in mortified revels. At lunch Nick shares a secret he has kept: the university has fired him for a demeaning remark he made about a student’s hair; the student defended herself by citing the historical and ethnographic of her coif. A flaccid joke, apt maybe in the PC-obsessed nineties. But Kureishi and director Roger Michell prepare the audience for more revelations. The next one is Meg’s: she wants “space.” You know, she says, to learn Italian and things. Nick deflates. The timing is suspicious — on the very night of their anniversary. Yet the Burrows’ instinct is to shirk the funereal. They run out on the check. Michell lingers on Meg’s ridiculous perambulations through the catacombs of the restaurant as if to telegraph the extent to which the couple will embrace frivolity to get them out of a mess. What Le Week-end advances is unusual: presenting a couple whose years of living off shared humor has consequences; our instinct is to praise couples and friendships which do. But they call a truce, embracing madly and making out to the kudos and disgust of Parisians.

While Le Week-end settles into the pattern of breakups-to-makeups, the actors don’t slacken. Duncan plays a woman who likes her husband so much that she confuses it for love; unshackled from her children, she seeks a consuming lust, prepared to realize the sixties dream of reconfiguring couplehood that her husband can only understand by dancing in his undies, in one poignant scene, to “Like a Rolling Stone” blasting on his iPhone. Ah, boomers. As a man whose intellectual gifts surpass the ambition to realize them, Broadbent hits notes of self-recrimination he hasn’t sounded before. Late in the picture, Meg dares him to get angry over her decision to grab a drink with an interested party. The way he says the line, “No. Don’t do that. Please don’t do that” is the most shattering delivery of the year.

The last twenty minutes of Le Week-end are unworthy of what preceded it, but it has one bauble: an old friend of Nick’s named Morgan who’s made a fortune of a book compiling his insights spots them on the street making out. It’s impossible to imagine Jeff Goldblum and Jim Broadbent discussing their perfervid youth, but Kureishi instead writes a character whose shows of humility unveil his egomania. At a party (in his honor) to which he’s invited the Burrows in a fit of lèse-majesté, he introduces them to every second-rate novelist and French pundit and forgets Meg — a reminder that liberated men of the sixties didn’t much cop to their wives and girlfriends’ liberation. Worse, he’s one of those guys who praises friends for possessing the morals that’s kept them impoverished and obscure. “Have you ever said anything slight?” he says to Nick in mock awe. Slight observations have made Morgan a millionaire. Stuffing his mouth with appetizers while babbling about the surprise success of his book, he delights in his venality; he’s the weekly glossy editor of The Big Chill thirty-two years later, amazed at what he can get away with. Michell, realizing what he’s got in Goldblum, ends Le Week-end with a Godard nod: the three stars dancing in a cafe like the felons in Band of Outsiders — it’s hard to tell who’s more swinish.

Le Week-end is out on DVD.

Bodies, rest, and motion: Whit Stillman

To praise Whit Stillman as “a cinematic master of bodies at rest” is as cute as praising David Crosby as the rock and roll chronicler of sixties excess, but otherwise Richard Brody’s review of the writer-director’s pilot for “The Cosmopolitans” is accurate about the strengths:

For Stillman, parties are laboratories where possibilities arise suddenly from the close and quickly ricocheting contacts of social atoms—and where social rules, hidden beneath the murky surface of daily life, emerge more clearly, in ritualized isolation. The second is something that happens at the party: a dance, but a formally patterned one where the rules are the very subject….it’s as if he sees dance (the kind that has any value to him, the kind that has rules) as the physical counterpart to his socially sensitive characters’ dashing dialogue.

Until Damsels in Distress I made allowances for the clumsy juxtapositions, awkward cuts, and halfhearted staging in the earlier films because their verbal surfaces so beguiled me; if what I’ve read about “The Cosmopolitans” is true, then TV might prove the most congenial medium; and I hold out hope that the title refers to the cocktail.

It’s Charlie

Here we go!

Heading into Tuesday’s primary election, Charlie Crist’s win over longtime Democrat Nan Rich was never in doubt. Only the size of his double-digit win — about 50 percentage points — was in question.

The general election pitting Crist against Gov. Rick Scott is far less certain. It’s close to a tie race. And it’s brutal.

Amid his cakewalk of a primary, Crist has had to deal with the bitter reality of Scott’s multi-million campaign juggernaut, which has spent nearly $28 million since November, trashing the Democrat on the airwaves from the moment he officially entered the race.

Crist thanked Rich in his acceptance speech and assailed Scott for everything from immigration policy to voting rights to abortion opposition.

“The only time my opponent isn’t looking out for the special interests is when he’s looking out for those who share his extreme out-of-touch tea-party ideology,” said Crist, pledging that “in 70 days, we want to make Florida Scott-free.”

No surprise – look at Crist’s margin of victory over Nan Rich. But I’m astounded by the quickness with which top Florida Democratic donors opened their wallets. Rich never had a chance. It underscores the extent to which Florida is a one-party state, always has and will be. Until the late nineties the Democrats held it.

What will take place is a Grover Cleveland election: Crist hoping to return to power but as Benjamin Harrison or something.

‘I’ve grown beyond using my own experiences’

Sinead O’Connor, promoting the sold I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss, discusses the sources of her craft.

Does that change the way you sing some of your older material? Do you see a younger version of yourself as a character to play?

The way I’ve been trained as a singer is a method called bel canto, where you don’t use notes or scales. You use the emotion of the characters. The rule of bel canto is that you don’t sing a song you can’t emotionally identify with. If as a method singer I cease to find anything inside myself that I can use in a song, then I don’t perform that song anymore. But that hasn’t happened very often. For example, I’ve been singing “Nothing Compares 2 U” for 25 years, and I’m always able to find something every night. I’ve grown beyond using my own experiences. Now I imagine I’m other people talking to other people. I know I sound mental, but that’s what I have to do. It will vary from night to night, but I usually have a plan in my head as to who I’m imagining I am and who I’m talking to.

Does that approach present difficulties when you’re working on an album and you can’t find the emotional hook for a particular song?

You would find it with new songs because they’re always exciting and fresh. If you came across a difficulty, it would be with older songs, which aren’t really character songs. I didn’t actually get around to writing character songs until that last album. Up until that point, all the songs I wrote were extremely autobiographical, so there was always something I could identify with. They might mean something slightly different to me now that I’ve matured a bit, but it’s still me. On my first album there are a couple of songs that I can’t do anymore. One is called “Drink Before the War” and the other is “Never Get Old.” I love those songs, but I wrote them when I was 15 and pissed off at my headmaster. I can’t identify with them anymore. Also, “Troy.” I don’t perform that song because I don’t feel that anger anymore. I can’t act it. I wrote those songs when I was a teenager and can’t identify with them at the age of 47.

Make it rain: Ariana Grande, Brad Paisley

Ariana Grande – My Everything

She can sing, possessing a voice with a sweet high end and dark chalky tones at the bottom like a hot cup of Earl Grey, but she hasn’t evinced much shrewdness for collaborators or hook writers. If “Problem” sounded OK after the hundredth time, credit the disparate pieces that the ear can isolate. On Grande’s second album, there’s a desperation to the choices: the samples, guests, the decision to make Grande’s role recessive in these clotted arrangements. The album’s not desperate in the mercenary let’s-make-a-single-for-every-market sense; it plays like an album assembled by people who commissioned second rate market research on what her strengths are. It’s as if the Christina Aguilera of 1999 made Back to Basics in 1999. She’s best when she stops being merely recessive and disappears into the beats completely: on the thickly textured Guetta production “One Last Time,” (reminding me of the Mariah Carey from the 1999 Jay Z track “Things That U Do”), the Robyn-esque anxiety of The Weeknd co-write “Love Me Harder.” The exception: “Break Your Heart Right Back,” about a woman learning her boyfriend hooked up with a guy. Shouting over and over “My baby loves men” and persuading no one including herself, riding a sample of Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out” whose ironic potential just sits there like a senior citizen in kindergarten, Grande can’t will herself to disappear. But still. To get away with such masochism takes panache.

Brad Paisley – Moonshine in the Trunk

With Wheelhouse accounted a failure thanks to a misbegotten negro-amigo paean, the scuttlebutt is that the savior of country music for white urban liberals needed to restore his commercial luster. But even if Wheelhouse had sold as much as Time Well Wasted or Fifth Gear or boasted album tracks as fine as “If Love Was a Plane,” “Time Well Wasted,” and “Easy Money,” it bore the misfortune of a release coinciding with changes to chart methodology that have shaken his once formidable hold on the top; even “Beat This Summer,” a surefire hit had it been released in 2006, only managed to peak at #9. Moonshine in the Trunk takes no risks; few Paisley albums have. The title track and “You Shouldn’t Have To” coast on charm and a band as intuitive about their leader’s strengths as Merle Haggard’s Strangers. Alarmingly, though, his former exquisite knack for writing Songs About Stuff has abandoned him: “Limes” is the lamest inversion of a cliche I’ve heard all year. The bro country contribution “Crushin’ It” gets hopped up over nothing at all. “Perfect Storm” is the first love song attached to his name without a single hot lick or memorable line. Like Ariana Grande, he records a song whose unintentional laffs spring from a sensibility immune to irony: a self-composition called “Shattered Glass” a prayer for a fictional infant daughter whom he hopes does greater things than he. Graced with one of his most emphatic, empathetic vocals on a ballad, it’s also hobbled by icky angel metaphors and the lines “C’mon, make it raaaiiiin/down on me,” surely the year’s oddest enjambment, unless Paisley thought hookers get all the glory.

Michael Brown and the ‘angelic standard’

I think of some of my students’ stories and of incidents in my own life and wonder how many readers use Michael Brown’s biography as a mirror:

I had my first drink when I was 11. I once brawled in the cafeteria after getting hit in the head with a steel trash can. In my junior year I failed five out of seven classes. By the time I graduated from high school, I had been arrested for assaulting a teacher and been kicked out of school (twice.) And yet no one who knew me thought I had the least bit of thug in me. That is because I also read a lot of books, loved my Commodore 64, and ghostwrote love notes for my friends. In other words, I was a human being. A large number of American teenagers live exactly like Michael Brown. Very few of them are shot in the head and left to bake on the pavement.

Ta-Nehisi Coates links to Toure, who wrote a column touching on similar matters that is the most trenchant piece to which he’s lent his name in months.

The piece of this story from which scoffers on my Facebook page refuse to learn a jot consists in accepting that no matter what crimes Brown is alleged to have committed his parents did not deserve to see his lifeless body on the street ignored for hours. Even if he shoved a clerk for the sake of a pilfered box of cigars he didn’t deserve treatment meted out to opponents of the regime in El Salvador in the early eighties.

Abuse of Weakness

In a career spent playing self-contained women with a touch of sullenness, Isabelle Huppert chose a role that I might expect if she’d agreed to be the subject of a celebrity roast. As Maud Schoenberg, a director paralyzed on the left side after a sudden stroke in Abuse of Wakness, Huppert yields not an inch of sympathy; with a left arm erect like a flag post and fingers in a claw like Dr. Strangelove, Huppert’s playing the role straight for laughs might’ve been the most delicious temptation. Maud has superficial resemblances to Emma Bovary, whom Huppert played for Claude Chabrol more than twenty years ago: she throws money away on a loser. As played by French rapper Kool Shen, Vilko is as unsentimental as she but shows a feral side that, the movie suggests, may attract women less cool than Maud. In their inappositeness they’re made for each other. I’d like to have been in the preview audience when Huppert said “What I’d really like is to laugh.”

Writer-director Catherine Breillat adapted her own memoir, and she has kept its essential strangeness. Maud’s children, with whom she has a polite but distant relationship, don’t receive the phone call for help that you or they would expect. She wants to return to work. Maud doesn’t stop being a director; she’s most animated during these sessions and watching rushes. “The handicap needs an S&M look,” she remarks about one unfortunate possibility, and Breillat lingers long enough to get a quiet laugh out of remembering Huppert in I ::heart:: Huckabees. During casting sessions she meets Vilko, released from prison after serving time for check fraud. Do his graceful movements arouse her? Or do comments like “My master is Nietzsche”? Before long she is writing him check after check; in return he serves as dinner companion, occasional crutch, and object of derision. They even share a bed, sexlessly. It’s during these moments when Huppert and Shen act like snapping turtles that Abuse of Weakness turns into one of the odder movies of 2014. Lit in refrigerator white tones, it imposes the sterility of a sick room. It’s as if Maud’s using herself as a test model for a theory about relationships.

By the time Vilko has borrowed close to 800,000 € — part of which was intended to buy a restaurant that he’d hoped to turn around and give the profits to Maud — and the bank is serving her notices, Maud remains obdurate. She hasn’t mastered her disability either. She falls often, must watch as others cut her food, and sniff but not touch the excellent red wine that Vilko buys on her dime. She looks disturbed only when awakened by her ringing cellphone: a recurring joke that gets a laugh every time. Confronted by creditors and her children, she can’t explain her motives. “It was me, but it wasn’t me.” Breillat stages the actors as if the explanation for Norman Bates’ behavior is coming — another touch of devilry, another expectation thwarted. Huppert’s lack of vanity as an actor means the role is a minor triumph. The surlier these characters act, the droller Abuse of Weakness is. And Vilko gets the cruelest line: “Nothing moves you, you upper class bitch.”