December 16, 2006

Faked mortar attack on the Humanities Building.

These aren't offered as decent photographs, but just as a record of what seems to be a sort of art (or film) project worked out on the Humanities Building, here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Faked mortar attack on the humanities building

Faked mortar attack on the humanities building

At the area at the top, where there is a pedestrian walkway, there are fake sandbags piled up. Behind the "sandbags" is some sort of (fake) mortar firing device. In front of them, on the sloping wall, is a fake mortar sort of thing, given the appearance of penetrating into the building. There are various chalk markings on the wall to make it look as if there had been an attack. I have no idea what the point of this is. I just saw it and photographed it. As you make your interpretations, take into account that there have been various fool-the-eye chalk drawings on this building, which houses the art school.

IN THE COMMENTS: Is that a mortar or a rocket? Those who seem to know say rocket. I realize I don't know the difference. And I did try to figure it out before posting, so it just goes to show that you can't get all your answers from the internet. But I did find this book, a fun book for kids, which contains instructions for making a "tennis ball mortar," which involves PVC tubing and lighter fluid in a tennis ball. I love the instructions, which tells you to be very careful, be sure to have adult supervision, and know that there is absolutely no way you can sue the author or publisher.

One bland, sandy-haired Senator out, another bland, sandy-haired Senator in.

Bayh, Edwards... what's the difference?

''I just peed my pants, and I'm not even wearing any!''

EW hands out the best quote of this season award to Parvati, describes this week's strangely skeezy episode, and ranks this season of "Survivor," in the grand scheme of all "Survivors," as No. 5.

Here's the useful ranking of all the seasons for those of you who are, like me, catching up with old shows on DVD:
Borneo, Amazon, Pearl Islands, Palau, Cook Islands, Marquesas, Panama, Australian Outback, All-Stars, Guatemala, Vanuatu, Africa, Thailand.
Don't spoil old seasons in the comments, please.

The (really) big stuff.

The author of "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" dies.

How your mind looks on the web, part 2.

In a recent post, I asked: "What do you think is the single most important question about this blog?" Ricardo offered this answer:
At some deep visceral core level, blogging (like most other creative endeavors) is about "actualization" (as Mazlow might say). Writers write because they can't not write. Painters paint because they can't not paint. Photographers photograph because they can't not photograph. Bloggers blog because they can't not blog. This is what they have to do in order to see the world through the right prism. This is how they learn the lessons they are meant to learn, find the answers they are meant to find, complete their mission in life that they are meant to complete. So the most important question here is not some surface issue, but the deeper issue of "Is this blog actualizing Althouse in the way that her heart and soul are crying out to be actualized?"
That makes me think back to that old slogan about blogging "How your mind looks on the web." I wrote about that back here, just 10 days into the life of blogging. (I was really into being terse and enigmatic back then.)

Why am I making a post out of Ricardo's comment? For one thing, it struck me to read the word "soul" right after doing the previous post with the quote from the conference....

But I need to dash off and relocate myself... so I'll finish this post in a few minutes. How my mind/soul/heart look on the web will have to be subordinated -- for the moment -- to where my body is situated on the face of the Earth.

ADDED: I seem to have stumbled into a "conservative soul" theme that makes it seems as though I ought to read Andrew Sullivan's book. Too bad he annoyed me so much the other week! (The soul of Althouse is riddled with spite and pique! Is that liberal or conservative... or somehow ineffably centrist?)

MORE: Hey, whatever happened to I'll finish this post in a few minutes? Sorry, I had to relocate to my office to do office hours and students actually came to them. I wasn't expecting that! So, anyway, where was I going with this, before the nonvirtual world grabbed hold of me? Let's see... Is this blog actualizing Althouse? Hmmm.... The opposite of "actualizing" might be virtualizing. This blog has definitely done something to me. I'm afraid it has completely restructured my brain! Whether that's the real me or not... is just more material for another blog post.

Notes from the conference.

Just a page, with a quote I felt moved to jot down:

notes at a conference

(Enlarge.)

"A young man, a newlywed, thought his role was to be responsible for all the decision-making for the couple."

"However, the couple had never discussed those issues, and his assumptions came as a surprise to her."

People keep getting married without finding out first what each other's ground rules are. But it's a touchy thing actually go through a checklist about all the things you might be forgetting to talk about. People don't want to hear the information that might knock them off the course they've got their heart set on. But maybe you really ought to clarify a few things in advance:
A commitment to fidelity, for example, is a crucial issue, but one that is rarely addressed, said Robert Scuka, the executive director of the National Institute of Relationship Enhancement in Bethesda, Md. “It’s important to make those implicit assumptions about fidelity explicit,” he said. “Once the commitment to faithfulness is made explicit, it becomes more difficult psychologically to engage rationalizations.”
Ah, you can imagine all those dreadful post-marriage conversations! Spouse #1: But we're married! That means you must be faithful to me! Spouse #2: So I'm supposed to go the rest of my life without ever having sex with another person? When did I ever agree to that? You crazy control freak!

IN THE COMMENTS: Internet Ronin starts things off -- as I anticipated someone would: "I thought the standard wedding vow to forsake all others was pretty explicit. Or maybe no one says that these days." Oh, I think they still say it. But here's my imagined post-wedding conversation for that:
Spouse #1: But you took a vow to forsake all others!

Spouse #2: When did I ever give you the slightest indication that I took vows seriously. Vows?! You continually amaze me with your repressive Puritanical mindset. Vows! It's like you're from the 18th century. Vow wow wow. I'm married to an insane control-freak dog. From the 18th century.

"I only had two beers" -- it's the "two-beer" defense to drunk driving.

Are you going to believe that or the breathalyzer? It's a serious question in Canada.

December 15, 2006

"I remember thinking to myself, 'What's the worst thing a gingerbread man can do?'"

Who hasn't wondered?
"The Secret Lives of Gingerbread Men" depicts a small gathering at a Nazi rally. Keith McGuckin set up the display in this northeastern Ohio city Thursday night, a day before the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins at sundown Friday....

"I remember thinking to myself, 'What's the worst thing a gingerbread man can do?'" he said. "They're just copying things that people have done. There are no hidden messages here."

IN THE COMMENTS: I'm not sure why, but we're talking about "The Addams Family."

Where I was when I was out of my milieu.

You know me, I'm usually here in my remote outpost in Madison, Wisconsin, and I'm glad to be back home again. As my previous post hints, I was severely out of my milieu in Chicago. I was participating in a Liberty Fund conference that involved six hour-and-a-half discussion sessions, all focused on readings by or about the writings of Frank S. Meyer, who wrote a book called "In Defense of Freedom," which is an attempt to fuse libertarianism and traditionalism. I might write more about what was in these readings, but let's just say it took the extreme position about limiting government as much as possible.

Sitting around a big table, with no audience, there were 16 of us, including Meyer's son, Eugene S. Meyer (the President of the Federalist Society), several journalists (two from Reason magazine and Jonah Goldberg from the National Review), and various academics all of whom seemed to feel well at home in the libertarian/conservative environment. Would you have imagined that your humble blogger felt cozy and comfortable there? Oh, no, no, no, no. Virtually every word out of my mouth was an observation about something no one was talking about and that would -- back in Madison, Wisconsin -- have been said at the earliest possible moment. So there I was, the resident liberal.

I am struck -- you may think it is absurd for me to be suddenly struck by this -- but I am struck by how deeply and seriously libertarians and conservatives believe in their ideas. I'm used to the way lefties and liberals take themselves seriously and how deeply they believe. Me, I find true believers strange and -- if they have power -- frightening. And my first reaction is to doubt that they really do truly believe.

One of the reasons 9/11 had such a big impact on me is that it was such a profound demonstration of the fact that these people are serious. They really believe.

I need to be more vigilant.

Finally, an answer to the single most important question about this blog!

What do you think is the single most important question about this blog? I think it's: If Althouse is a moderate -- as she claims -- then why is she almost almost always picking on liberals and almost never on conservatives? If there's some other question -- not that I necessarily have the answer to it -- let me know. But the point of this post is to answer what I think is the single most important question about this blog: If Althouse is a liberal -- as she claims -- then why is she almost always picking on liberals and almost never on conservatives?

My standard -- inadequate -- response to this question has been something like: My way of blogging is to write about whatever gets my attention, and these are just the things that happened to strike me.

But I now know the answer to the question (and knowing the answer is likely to change what I notice in the future and what I will write about). The key thing about me is that I am -- usually -- writing from my remote outpost in Madison, Wisconsin. My milieu is thoroughly liberal and even leftist and has been for more than two decades. Things in the news catch my attention because they resonate with my observations in my real world life. I know the way people talk about things around here. I have a sense of how liberal and lefty folks react to things, and I am used to reacting to them. I take them seriously. They are quite real to me. They irritate, amuse, and confound me on a daily basis. I feel the urge to push back.

Conservatives? I don't know them. I know a few, but they are very amiable, moderate souls who -- maybe because they are the ones who choose to live in Madison -- don't say things that resonate with the news stories I read and, consequently, I don't have as vivid a response to the thing I read about conservatives. I don't take them so seriously. They do not irritate, amuse, and confound me in that immediate and real way that would make me feel the urge to push back.

To say to me, why do you write about liberals is like saying why do you write about Americans.

So, you may wonder: Why do I have this insight now? I'll have to answer that later. I've got a writing project that I simply must finish, but those who have been reading the blog the last couple of days have the material to discern the answer.

"I wonder if historians will see the era that started in the mid-'90s as The Long Freakout."

So says Peggy Noonan at the end of her meditation on what Barack Obama is all about.
First the Clinton era left more than half the country appalled--deeply appalled, and ashamed--by its series of political, financial and personal scandals. I doubt the Democratic Party will ever fully understand the damage done in those days. In reaction the Republican Party lurched in its presidential decision toward a relatively untested (five years in the governor's office, before that very little) man whom party professionals chose, essentially, because "He can win" and the base endorsed because he seemed the opposite of Bill Clinton. The 2000 election was a national trauma, and I'm not sure Republicans fully understand what it did to half the Democrats in the country to think the election was stolen, or finagled, or arranged by unseen powers. Then 9/11. Now we have had six years of high drama and deep division, and again a new savior seems to beckon, one who is so clearly Not Bush.

We'll see what Sen. Obama has, what he is, what he becomes. But right now he seems part of a pattern of lurches and swerves--the man from nowhere, of whom little is known, who will bring us out of the mess. His sudden rise and wild popularity seem more symptom than solution. And I wonder if historians will call this chapter in their future histories of the modern era not "A Decision Is Made" but "The Freakout Continues."
Somehow I doubt that historians will adopt Noonan's name for the era or even the notion that the Clinton Era and the Bush Era are the same era.

Meanwhile, speaking of Obama, I am putting you on notice about Eargate. And the main thing I'd like to say about Eargate is: somebody doesn't have a very good ear for humor on this one. Too bad they don't have a cochlear implant for that.

"Even though Mr Dylan's name is not used, the portrayal remains both defamatory and a violation of Mr Dylan's right of publicity."

Bob Dylan is suing to block the release of a movie -- "Factory Girl" -- that depicts the life and suicide of Edie Sedgwick:
The Californian heiress was the troubled muse of artist Andy Warhol, whom she met in 1965, and starred in many of his films.

The character that Dylan has issues with is called Danny Quinn and the part is reportedly a mix of him, Jim Morrison and Mick Jagger.

"You appear to be labouring under the misunderstanding that merely changing the name of a character or making him a purported fictional composite will immunise you from suit," Orin Snyder, Dylan's lawyer, wrote to the filmmaker.
The lawsuit is in Britain, so I have no opinion about the legal merit of the claim, but I certainly find it rather absurd that a public figure like Bob Dylan even cares that a fictional composite character is based in part on him. And if he's really so sensitive about how he's portrayed, why isn't he sensitive about portraying himself so damned sensitive that he'd sue to block the release of a film. It's not even a Borat film.

December 14, 2006

Oh, and...

I know we adopt a casual, conversational tone in the blogosphere, but can we please stop beginning sentences with the words "Oh, and"? It's like some kind of disease lately. Stop, already!

Chicago sunrise, sunset.

Chicago sunrise

Chicago sunset

"There isn't a thing that's changed."

Said Harry Reid, asked about the Tim Johnson.
Reid refused to comment on Johnson's medical condition, declining to even answer a question on whether the senator was conscious. "To me he looked very good," Reid said....

"The senator is recovering without complication," said Adm. John Eisold, the Capitol physician. "It is premature to determine whether further surgery will be required or to assess any long-term prognosis."...

A brain specialist not involved with Johnson's care said there's no way to know until Johnson is awake and able to answer questions how much lingering damage, if any, the bleeding may have caused. Still, while he'll remain in intensive care for a while, "he has every chance of recovery," said Dr. William Bank, who treats AVM and other neurovascular disorders at Washington Hospital Center.
All decent people wish Johnson the best of recoveries.

Golden Globes.

I'm in too big a rush to provide opinions, but here are the nominations.

The tallest man in the world saves dolphins...

... by reaching down into their stomachs with his extra long arms and pulling out the shards of plastic they'd swallowed:
The mammals had lost their appetite and were suffering depression, aquarium officials said.

The heads of the dolphins were held back and towels wrapped around their teeth so [Bao Xishun] could not be bitten.
So he's saved -- and cheered up -- the dolphins. Thanks, world's tallest man. How tall is he? He's 7 foot 8.95, just 2 mm taller than the guy who -- before Bao grew -- was the world's tallest man. That's got to be annoying for Mr. Second Tallest. I'll bet from day to day your height varies a millimeter or so. He must brood about remeasuring. He could save the dolphins too. Does Bao really have the world's longest arms?

"She gave a loose, flinging shrug that tersely conveyed disbelief, fury and sadness. It was an editorial in itself."

Virginia Heffernan approves of Amanda Congdon's style newsreading -- or, I guess, news pantomiming.

"Will Hillzilla Crush Obambi?"

What is it about the '08 presidential season that is making Maureen Dowd's nicknames seem funny -- instead of annoying -- all of a sudden? (TimesSelect link.)

And then there's that verb -- "crush" -- a word that, around here, launched a thousand hissy fits... and reminds me to remind you to toss another vote into the roiling cauldron of spite that is the "Best Centrist Blog" contest.

But enough about me, back to Maureen. Sorry if you can't get to the column. Basically, she notes that everyone's asking "Which would be a greater handicap in a presidential bid, gender or race?" and that the standard quipsters response is that it will depend "on how manly the woman, and how white the black." But:
Hillary hasn’t waited this long and market-tested this assiduously for nothing. Obambi’s message may be mushy communitarianism — we’re a crazy quilt and why can’t we all get along? — but her message is simply the Divine Right of Clintons
So the real question is "whether he’s tough and she’s genuine."

December 13, 2006

Chicago.

DSC00979.JPG

I'm here at a conference... the theme is political.

It might be in bad taste... but the Washington Post is talking about it so....

I may as well bring it up:
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) suffered a "possible stroke" today, and the prognosis for his recovery remains unknown, according to his office....

Should Johnson be unable to serve when the 110th Congress convenes in January, it could mean a 50-50 split in the Senate. Gov. Mike Rounds (R) would be tasked with appointing a successor to Johnson -- presumably a Republican. That could effectively put the Senate, which is slated to switch to Democratic control in January, in Republican hands because Vice President Cheney would cast the tie-breaking vote.

However, in modern history the Senate has never declared a seat vacant as a result of a senator's physical condition.
That last sentence is key.

Actually, I have ventured away from my outpost in Madison, Wisconsin.

DSC00977.JPG

Please...

.... vote.

That's it? "Please vote?" Althouse, throw your enemies a crumb -- a crumb of antagonism or pique -- they want to feast upon it. A crumb is a feast in this virtual sphere!

Nah.

Oppressed by the label "Republican"?

Dr. Helen is showing solidarity.
How many times do you hear someone apologizing for having right leaning views -- "Oh, no, I am not really a Republican, I have other views etc." My question is, what if one is a Republican or right leaning. So what? Is that a crime?
She's also disagreeing with me disagreeing with Tom DeLay who said that the blogosphere needs more right-wing attack dogs. (I'm paraphrasing!)
Sadly, I used to agree with views like Althouse's but I am beginning to see that while it is admirable to hold facts and substance above attacking one's opponents views, it doesn't work.
My view, you remember from yesterday, is that vicious and nasty lefty bloggers should be bested with better substance and smarter rhetoric. But Dr. Helen has a point. For example, I've noticed that arch ambiguities, terse sarcasm, and mischievous fun-poking confuses a lot of people. But I'm not going to change. I'm not in this to persuade people to agree with me. I write for the sake of writing and observe because I am alive... up here in my lonely outpost in Madison, Wisconsin.

One of the things that I observe, by the way, is how this attitude I take -- whatever it is -- drives the left blogosphere up the wall. I wonder why it takes so little? And why this special obsession with me? Some blogger wrote about me -- I linked to him yesterday... he's not getting another -- "She makes Ann Coulter look like Cicero." Ann Coulter makes outrageous statements intended to taunt people into attacking her. That's her game. I make some throwaway, half-humorous remark in the middle of a comments thread and touch off multi-blog fireworks that go on for days. What's that all about?

The "litigious Orthodox rabbi" and the "overzealous, politically correct officials terrified" of everything religion-related.

The Seattle Christmas tree incident. It's an American holiday tradition: arguing about religion and threatening litigation. What would the season be without it?

"I'd never been there... It's just a metaphor. I like division."

Said Lou Reed, talking about Berlin.

December 12, 2006

NYT permalinks.

Thanks for pointing that out. I hadn't noticed. But I did notice that they've started linking to (at least some) webpages they write about. It's good to play nice with the bloggers.

"Two Borat-inspired British animal rights activists clad in lettuce bikinis braved the winter chill in the Kazakh commercial capital Almaty..."

The message: Stop eating horses!
"The Borat film is ridiculing Kazakhstan, but we come with a positive message: how to live a healthier, longer life" said Yvonne Taylor, one of the two Lettuce Ladies, her teeth chattering as they stood in Almaty's main square in freezing temperatures....

"This is disgrace," said 74-year-old Orazbek Ziyakhanov of the activists' outfits. "Don't we have enough of our own spoiled girls? This is not Europe, this is Asia."

As for becoming a vegetarian, Ziyakhanov said: "How can we stop eating meat? All the vitamins are in meat."

"Judge makes benefit for Borat."

High five!

"If we do hear from my great-uncle, I'll be sure to let you know."

"Until then, though, I'll be working under the assumption that the Holocaust happened."

AND: Consider this, from Anne Applebaum:
Unfortunately, Iran is serious—or at least Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is deadly serious. Holocaust denial is his personal passion, not just a way of taunting Israel, and it's based in his personal interpretation of history. Earlier this year, in a distinctly eerie open letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he lauded the great achievements of German culture and assaulted "the propaganda machinery after World War II that has been so colossal that [it] has caused some people to believe that they are the guilty party." Such views hearken back to the 1930s, when the then-Shah of Iran was an admirer of Hitler's notion of the "Aryan master race," to which Persians were meant to belong. Ahmadinejad himself counts as a mentor an early revolutionary who was heavily influenced by wartime Nazi propaganda. It shows.

Pretty please.

Yellow flowers

Please, don't forget to vote today. There's some vicious negative campaigning on the other side, you may have noticed, so it's become especially important to show your support each day.

Tom DeLay talks about his new blog.

Over at Right Wing News:
Now, tell us about why you decided to create a blog.

I think conservatives have to compete in every media that's out there. There are some good conservative blogs, yours included, that are very good and helpful. But, there are not enough of them. We are sorely outnumbered by the left in the blogosphere and I think we've got to compete and I'm trying to be a role model for leadership around the country. They ought to be involved. They ought to have a blog so they can be more personable in communicating our philosophy to the American people. This medium allows us to bypass the liberal media and make a more direct appeal and we ought to be using it. We ought to be involved in movies, we ought to be involved in documentaries, we shouldn't just (let the left have those mediums to themselves). Any time the New York Times writes something outrageous, all of us ought to jump on it and chastise them for it. The left does that to us and if you look at the comments made on my blog in less than 24 hours, they're going to try to shut me down by attacking me. When was the last time the Republicans or conservatives attacked the left for their outrageous comments or outrageous activities? We don't attack. It's time to start attacking and be aggressive about what you believe and fighting for your beliefs.
Hmmm.... I thought he was going to say that those nasty lefty comments show a lack of character, brainpower, and substance, but he ended up saying the righties should go on the attack. Yeah, more nastiness, that's what we need.

Well, personally, I'm already "one of the more loathsome participants in the blogosphere." So I'm going to assume I'm already doing my part. But... I can step it up if necessary!

"Siberia in that case will become the world's granary and Russia will be a clear winner."

Some folks are rooting for global warming.

What's really bugging the Hillary doubters.

Per E.J. Dionne:
In public, the doubts are dressed up as substantive concerns -- she's too cautious, she didn't stand up against the war in Iraq, she mishandled that health care reform in the 1990s, she's perceived as too liberal or she's not progressive enough.

The doubters are ashamed to say what really worries them: that Americans don't want to relive the supposed psychodramas of the Bill Clinton years; that her association with her husband will mobilize his enemies more than it will energize his friends; that their relationship is just too complex for those critical swing voters to understand or accept.
He goes on to natter about how Barack Obama is good for Hillary because he'll keep the race from being all about Hillary, theorizes that somehow Obama will turn us toward the future, and ends with the starry-eyed hope of helping "Democrats recover the best, most forward-looking aspects of Bill Clinton's legacy."

"I talk to those who've lost their lives, and they have that sense of duty and mission."

Funniest political quotes of the year. Oh, there are so many. How to pick?

Any sympathy for the gay evangelicals?

The NYT has a front-page article today about gay evangelical Christians
[A] as gay men and lesbians grapple with their sexuality and an evangelical upbringing they cherish, some have come to accept both. And like other Christians who are trying to broaden the definition of evangelical to include other, though less charged, concerns like the environment and AIDS, gay evangelicals are trying to expand the understanding of evangelical to include them, too.

“A lot of people are freaked out because their only exposure to evangelicalism was a bad one, and a lot ask, ‘Why would you want to be part of a group that doesn’t like you very much?’ ” [Justin] Lee said. “But it’s not about membership in groups. It’s about what I believe. Just because some people who believe the same things I do aren’t very loving doesn’t mean I stop believing what I do.”....

But even when they accept themselves, gay evangelicals often have difficulty finding a community. They are too Christian for many gay people, with the evangelical rock they listen to and their talk of loving God. [Justin] Lee plans to remain sexually abstinent until he is in a long-term, religiously blessed relationship, which would make him a curiosity in straight and gay circles alike.

Gay evangelicals seldom find churches that fit. Congregations and denominations that are open to gay people are often too liberal theologically for evangelicals. Yet those congregations whose preaching is familiar do not welcome gay members, those evangelicals said.
Meanwhile, over on Firedoglake, TRex has this:
You know, I have been spending my time since the election attempting to hone my knowledge of the Radical Gay Agenda in hopes of infiltrating the Christianist chuch [sic] and bringing it down from within. But it looks like the sad, sick, repressed faggots that run the place are saving me the trouble.
He notes the two evangelical leaders who have recently stepped down after allegations that they had engaged in homosexual behavior. In contrast to the sympathy the NYT showed for gay men who need to find a way to understand themselves in the context of their religious beliefs, TRex has nothing but contempt:
[N]ow we're supposed to sit still without giggling while they unspool their angst and beg us to forgive them.
"I have struggled with homosexuality since I was a 5-year-old boy,"
Funny, you know? So have I. Except I didn't feel the need to lie and lie and lie about it. I didn't marry some poor overweight alto from the church choir and then proceed to run around behind her back with other men. I didn't present myself as any kind of moral arbiter to a bunch of weak-minded, easily duped Christianist Sheeple, either.

In a way, I guess I can sort of understand where these guys are coming from, though. Jesus Christ is the Elemental Boyfriend. Sensitive Jewish guy, big brown eyes, rich dad, and he loves you no matter what you do. He would die for you. And there he is, hanging (*cough*) out naked at the front of the church every week. You are encouraged to fasten your eyes upon his lithe, nude body and think about luuurrrrrve. Big lurrrrve. A lurrrrrrve that transcends time and even the bonds of death itself. It's got to send some pretty confusing messages to those poor men's limbic brains.

I know it caused me no end of cognitive dissonance to sit there in church each Sunday and gaze in rapture at the Holy Hipbones and Inner Thighs of Jesus Christ, My Personal Lord and Savior™. But then, you know, I turned 14, kissed my first boy, and never looked back.
That is sort of funny... if you can tolerate the mockery of religion. As for the "cognitive dissonance" between religion and sex, you don't have to be gay to experience it. There are many ways to struggle with sex and religion, and to turn your back on religion entirely is not necessarily to take the most difficult path. It may be the best choice though, and it certainly is an independent wrong for a man who knows he's gay to marry a woman (unless she's completely informed and means to do it). TRex focuses on the evangelical leaders, caught in their ludicrous hypocrisy, and it is easy to lampoon those guys, but what about the sincere young men in the NYT article, who really are trying to find a way within their own religious tradition? They've chosen a more difficult path. Are they just fools?

ADDED: In a second NYT article, Jason Lee, one of the gay men discussed in the first article, is asked about the resignations of Paul Barnes the Ted Haggard.
Justin Lee, a self-described gay evangelical, said many men had written messages to his Web site, gaychristian.net, telling of anguish similar to what Mr. Barnes described.

“The church has created a double standard that all of us are sinful and have temptations and need to be open about that — unless you’re gay,” Mr. Lee said.
(Hey, the NYT is providing hyperlinks now!)

MORE: For an alternate description of finding a depiction of Jesus sexually attractive, listen to track 11 on disc 2 of the CD version of "God Said Ha!" Julia Sweeney describes her mother's enthusiasm about the "new Jesus" she picked out for her church. (The old one was "so depressing.") I don't think this part is in the movie version (which is also good). [ADDED: A commenter says it is in the movie. There are things on the CD that aren't in the movie. I should say I have both versions and have listened to/watched them many times, so I've lost track.]

A new phase in the university-legislature relationship.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that that Rep. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, will be the new head of the Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee. Nass was the most conspicuous critic of the UW's decision to hire (and not fire) 9/11 conspiracy theorist Kevin Barrett. Nass admits he's been critical of the University:
"But when I go to the taxpayers who are funding the university to the tune of a billion dollars a year . . . with issues of accountability, double-dipping, backup jobs, felons in the classroom - these are all legitimate issues that taxpayers expect me to deal with."

Still, Nass said, he was hopeful the Legislature and the university could work together....

The System's Board of Regents delayed action last week on a proposal that would change admissions policy to give greater emphasis to nonacademic factors such as race and income. Nass had asked for the delay, threatening a constitutional amendment to ban race from being considered in the admissions process without changes to the policy. The issue could be the first test of the relationship.
I hope we can get along!

ADDED: Nass has also talked about amending the Wisconsin constitution to ban affirmative action, and today's Cap Times has an opinion piece on the subject by UW emeritus econ prof W. Lee Hansen:
A statewide poll several years ago showed 84 percent of respondents opposed "the use of race and ethnic preferences in determining who should be admitted to the University of Wisconsin." The opposition ran deep, with 77 percent of minority respondents and 76 percent of Democrats opposing race and ethnic preferences....

Increasingly desperate actions have fueled public skepticism of efforts to increase diversity here in Wisconsin. The latest include adopting a "holistic" approach to campus admissions decisions for the avowed purpose of increasing minority enrollment and launching the Orwellian Think Respect program at UW-Madison to make the campus climate more welcoming to minorities.
Hansen ends on what I consider an ugly note, and perhaps the Cap Times published this precisely because it might be offputting enough to increase support for affirmative action. My main point with this post is to flag the fact that Nass is in and the amendment may be in the offing.

So who was the 7 millionth visitor?

The Site Meter clicked over to 7 million during the night. The visitor was someone in Lisle, Illinois who Googled "feynman secular fundamentalism," clicked to this post, and left without going to any other pages here. I had not written anything about Richard Feynman. His name was brought up by Jim Hu in the comments. Here's Jim's blog, by the way.

Anyway, thanks to all for visiting. Thanks to the faithful readers and the drop-by Googlers and everyone in between, even those nutty bloggers who lurk around waiting for me to write a sentence that they can take out of context and mock and the people I drive straight up the wall for some crazy reason. Everything counts in the Site Meter game. And we are keeping score.

(And remember to vote for me!)

December 11, 2006

Dennis Kucinich!

He's running for President!

"United 93."

Named best film of the year by the NY Film Critics Circle.

"Borat," the unused footage.

Another lawsuit:
The man, who is identified as “John Doe,” says he was eating at the restaurant with a friend in October 2005 when someone approached his table and said a film crew was in the restaurant filming a documentary of tourism in South Carolina.

The man didn’t see a film crew in the restaurant, according to a complaint that was filed in Richland County on Dec. 1. When he went to the bathroom, he saw what he thought was an attendant, who turned out to be [Sacha Baron] Cohen....

According to the lawsuit, Cohen repeatedly approached the man, climbed over the stall, watched him using a urinal and made comments about this [sic] genitals.

The footage wasn’t included in the movie, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” but was shown on Comedy Central during a special promoting the movie...

“It’s humiliating,” said Jonathan Milling, a Columbia attorney representing the plaintiff. “This is clearly something that hits very close to home, and that’s the reason for us bringing his action so that it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Everybody's looking for payday.

IN THE COMMENTS: A lot of sympathy for "John Doe" and antipathy toward Cohen. Cohen's behavior sounds really bad. The complaint alleges that he "repeatedly approached the man, climbed over the stall, watched him using a urinal and made comments about this [sic] genitals." We are told that the man was approached at the outset and informed that a film was being made. We are not told whether the man signed a contract. I think it's pretty obvious that he must have. We shall see.

Reality show guilty excess.

There should be a word for it. You fall for a reality show that's been around for a while. And there are many old seasons available on DVD. So you keep watching the current season, but you start tapping into old seasons on DVD. You can watch the show every night and every week. The supply is amazing. Oh, my friends: that's me and "Survivor." I don't really watch that much TV. Really, it's only an hour a night. But, I confess, it is "Survivor."

So the new head of the Intelligence Committee doesn't know the first thing about al Qaeda.

Democratic Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas:
When asked by CQ National Security Editor Jeff Stein whether al Qaeda is one or the other of the two major branches of Islam -- Sunni or Shiite -- Reyes answered "they are probably both," then ventured "Predominantly -- probably Shiite."

Here's the whole harrowing interview. Remember how the Democrats ran on the competence issue?

IN THE COMMENTS: Our dear Reader_Iam says:
When I first heard this story, it instantly struck me that the only thing absolutely shocking about it, to me, was how profoundly unsurprising it is.

My 1993 view of the internet.

I was just noticing this old letter to the editor that I got published in the NYT, back on September 14, 1993. (TimesSelect archive link.) I think it's kind of a funny look back:
Chatting with unseen acquaintances nationwide on a computer network can make for an energizing experience for kids, as you describe (front page, Aug. 31). It's exciting to discover who's out there, to engage in verbal thrusts and parries, to win a stranger's interest in you.

But before you declare this activity within the reach of anyone with a computer and a modem, I'd suggest you do a little basic arithmetic.

You say kids may stay on the line as long as three hours -- anyone who has seen kids play video games and watch television should be suspicious. People stay on as long as 10 hours, addictively, endlessly searching the virtual rooms and trying to find out something about who's in them.

But let's take your conservative three-hour ceiling and multiply by 30 (days in a month). That's 90 hours. You quote America Online's reasonable-sounding monthly fee of $9.95, which includes five free hours. That leaves us with 85 unfree hours at the price (which you don't give) of $3.50 an hour. That's $9.95 plus $297.50, or $3,689.40 year! And that's assuming the kids knock off after three hours, that you have only one child and that you yourself don't go "savvy" and start hanging out electronically.

And it's all so convenient: to sign up for the service, you program your credit card number into the software, so you don't really know how much you've spent until the bill arrives. A few months of this "digital age" entertainment, and you may find yourself rediscovering the old-fashioned virtues of hanging out on street corners.

ANN ALTHOUSE Madison, Wis., Sept. 3, 1993

"I think to some degree I’ve become a shorthand or symbol or stand-in for a spirit..."

It's appealing to concede that, isn't it? Though eventually Barack Obama will have to be something specific, won't he? Wouldn't it be funny if he didn't?

ON FURTHER THOUGHT: It's actually rather embarrassing for him to campaign for the Presidency openly admitting that he's doing well because he's a blank screen upon which people project their hopes. Even purely for the sake of appearances, he needs to get some substance.

Supermax.

Described by Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph:
"It is a closed-off world designed to isolate inmates from social and environmental stimuli, with the ultimate purpose of causing mental illness and chronic physical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis," he wrote in one letter to The Gazette of Colorado Springs.

Rudolph wrote that he spends 23 hours a day in his 7-by-12-foot cell, his only exercise confined to an enclosed area he described as a "large empty swimming pool" divided into "dog-kennel style cages."

"Using solitary confinement, Supermax is designed to inflict as much misery and pain as is constitutionally permissible," he wrote in a letter.
Interesting that he (very nearly) concedes it's constitutional.

Where you pay $2,637 for your seat and see the tenor storm off when he hears boos and the understudy, wearing jeans, thrust onto the set of "Aida."

La Scala.

"Man to file U.S. Supreme Court appeal."

Stop the presses!

Now, more than ever!

Vote! Remember, it's completely legit to vote every day. That is the process. It would be immoderate to assert otherwise. Know what I mean?

ADDED: Note the official rules:
  • You may vote once every 24 hours in each poll.
  • After voting in an individual poll you will be locked out from voting again in that poll (on the computer you voted from) for 24 hours.
It is absolutely legit to vote every day. Don't let any pseudo-moderates make you think otherwise. Can you say "sore loser"?

"It is my honour to burn for the sake of the nation's ideals and defend the system."

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responds to hecklers at Tehran University upon seeing them set fire to a picture of him. So he's good with the comeback to hecklers. May he move on to a career as a standup comedian.

"Given the lack of holdings from this Court regarding the potentially prejudicial effect of spectators’ courtroom conduct..."

The Supreme Court issued its opinion today in Carey v. Musladin, the case about spectators at a murder trial who wore buttons showing the photograph of the victim. Here's our discussion of the case from back at the time of the cert grant. Many of the commenters thought the defendant's rights were violated, but I said that under the standard applicable on habeas -- whether the state court's decision was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States" -- the Supreme Court would have to leave the state court's decision intact.

Justice Thomas writes the unsurprising opinion:
In contrast to state-sponsored courtroom practices, the effect on a defendant’s fair-trial rights of the spectator conduct to which Musladin objects is an open question in our jurisprudence. This Court has never addressed a claim that such private-actor courtroom conduct was so inherently prejudicial that it deprived a defendant of a fair trial. And although the Court articulated the test for inherent prejudice that applies to state conduct in Williams and Flynn, we have never applied that test to spectators’ conduct. Indeed, part of the legal test of Williams and Flynn—asking whether the practices furthered an essential state interest—suggests that those cases apply only to state-sponsored practices....

Given the lack of holdings from this Court regarding the potentially prejudicial effect of spectators’ courtroom conduct of the kind involved here, it cannot be said that the state court “unreasonabl[y] appli[ed] clearly established Federal law.” §2254(d)(1). No holding of this Court required the California Court of Appeal to apply the test of Williams and Flynn to the spectators’ conduct here. Therefore, the state court’s decision was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.
There are no dissenting opinions, but there are three concurrences, from Stevens, Kennedy, and Souter. From Souter's opinion:
[O]ne could not seriously deny that allowing spectators at a criminal trial to wear visible buttons with the victim’s photo can raise a risk of improper considerations. The display is no part of the evidence going to guilt or innocence, and the buttons are at once an appeal for sympathy for the victim (and perhaps for those who wear the buttons) and a call for some response from those who see them. On the jurors’ part, that expected response could well seem to be a verdict of guilty, and a sympathetic urge to assuage the grief or rage of survivors with a conviction would be the paradigm of improper consideration.

The only debatable question is whether the risk in a given case reaches the “unacceptable” level. While there is a fair argument that any level of risk from wearing buttons in a courtroom is unacceptable, two considerations keep me from concluding that the state court acted unreasonably in failing to see the issue this way and reverse the conviction. First, of the several courts that have considered the influence of spectators’ buttons, the majority have left convictions standing. See, e.g., State v. Speed, 265 Kan. 26, 47–48, 961 P. 2d 13, 29–30 (1998); State v. Braxton, 344 N. C. 702, 709–710, 477 S. E. 2d 172, 176–177 (1996); State v. Lord, 128 Wash. App. 216, 219–223, 114 P. 3d 1241, 1243–1245 (2005); Nguyen v. State, 977 S. W. 2d 450, 457 (Tex. App. 1998). I am wary of assuming that every trial and reviewing judge in those cases was unreasonable as well as mistaken in failing to embrace a no-risk standard, and so I would find it hard to say the state judges were unreasonable in this case, given the lack of detail about the buttons’ display. Second, an interest in protected expression on the part of the spectators wearing mourners’ buttons has been raised, but not given focus or careful attention in this or any other case that has come to our notice. Although I do not find such a First Amendment interest intuitively strong here, in the absence of developed argument it would be preferable not to decide whether protection of speech could require acceptance of some risk raised by spectators’ buttons.
Does this mean the case might have been better litigated? The First Amendment argument could have been developed. (Justice Stevens makes a point of saying that argument is obviously meritless.) And there could have been more concrete information about what these buttons were like. Justice Thomas had something to say about that too:
The record contains little concrete information about the buttons. The buttons were apparently two to four inches in diameter and displayed only a photograph of [the victim] Studer. It is not clear how many family members wore the buttons or how many days of the trial they wore them.
But perhaps the buttons were small and rarely worn, in which case, it wasn't a bad decision to leave out the details.

"Did blogger Ann Althouse encounter disinhibition effect from another blogger or was it just plain old passive-aggressive behavior?"

Apparently, Glenn and Helen talk about me in their new podcast, the one where they answer questions from their readers/listeners. What's that all about? Andrew Sullivan? (More later!)

AFTER LISTENING: Here's the link Helen offers for "the disinhibition effect." (I'll read some of that later.) Glenn and Helen talk about my encounter with TRex at the CNN party. The post of mine that Helen reads from is this. Key excerpt:
...TRex... wrote about me on his blog -- Firedoglake -- after I blogged a ... picture of him last night. He said:
Ann Althouse came by a few minutes ago and took photos of me and John Amato. Amato was nice to her. I just growled under my breath and kept typing.
Ha ha. That's what I expected from half the bloggers: just growling and keeping on typing. It was actually surprising how un-socially-awkward most bloggers are. But thanks to TRex for embodying the stereotype I'd had in mind....

[A COMMENTER: I think he showed admirable restraint in not insulting you out loud, as some might have done.]

Actually, you're quite wrong. Passive aggression is not admirable. If he had confronted me, I would have explained things and defended myself. He's afraid of that. That's not at all admirable. You think it's easier to sit there and growl and throw stink bombs from a distance or to engage with me and have to defend your arguments?
Glenn and Helen have a lot to say about nasty bloggers and blog commenters. Helen reads an absurdly nasty comment some fool left on her site, and Glenn is clear about not wanting comments on Instapundit. Another topic in the podcast is what can a blogger do to get more traffic, and one of the things they don't mention is: have comments. But that idea is tied to something Glenn does say: keep adding new material. Comments are new material, and people come by to see how a comments thread is developing. But I can just imagine what would happen if there were comments on Instapundit. Without monitoring, they would devolve into craziness instantly -- instacrazy. Glenn would have to hire someone to watch the comments for him (or sink a ridiculous amount of time into the task). Actually, he probably has readers who would take the job for a small fee and do it well. But comments would change the whole feeling of the blog -- the sharp, clean look we know and love.

BELATED OBSERVATION: TRex is a funny name for a passive aggressive type.

Qutb's bad hair day.

Qutb in America (Via A&L Daily):
With the global rise of political Islamism, many pundits have recently begun paying closer attention to the writings of Egyptian scholar and Muslim Brotherhood publicist Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), whose radical Milestones and 30-volume In the Shade of the Koran are said to be masterpieces of jihadist thought and persuasion....

In these classic jihadist works, Qutb is never all that specific about how and where he went about assembling his presumed expertise on American culture, but biographers note that he spent a majority of his 1948-50 U.S. sojourn as a scholarship student at Colorado State College of Education, in the high-plains town of Greeley. Moreover, not long after his return to Egypt from the United States, Qutb attempted to sum up his expatriate experience in "The America I Have Seen," a short travel memoir that appeared in the November 1951 issue of Egypt's Al-Risala magazine.

As travel reportage, "The America I Have Seen" doesn't exactly provide the reader with a vicarious window into living in the United States. Structured as a series of short, thematic arguments, Qutb's essay primarily attempts to prove that America -- despite its great wealth and scientific genius -- suffers from a corrosive moral and spiritual primitiveness. This thesis might have carried some rhetorical weight had Qutb backed it up with evidence from his own experiences, but -- oddly -- the Egyptian traveler didn't have many direct encounters worth sharing. Of the 54 brief sections in "The America I Have Seen," only seven allude to specific real-life observations; the other sections consist of broad generalizations and secondhand anecdotes. Perhaps his most memorable direct recollection is described as follows:
In summary, anything that requires a touch of elegance is not for the American, even haircuts! For there was not one instance in which I had a haircut when I did not return home to even with my own hands what the barber had wrought, and fix what the barber had ruined with his awful taste.
Qutb's exasperation with American barbers humanizes him in an unexpected way: In spite of his relentless didacticism, we realize that our skeptical Egyptian exchange student was really just a querulous sojourner in an unfamiliar land, compulsively judging everything he saw through the rosy, idealized lens of his home culture.
"Humanizes"... meaning you can see in him a certain recognizable character type... that of a person you wouldn't like at all.

"Banning cupcakes is almost like an assault on the national identity."

Another school ban, another aggressive health measure. This time they came for the cupcakes. And parents and kids are really mad about it:
The cupcake-as-symbol-of-childhood is powerful: It's wrapped in the cultural definition of what it means to be a good mother, something that's a moving target in this society, said Kathryn Oths, an anthropologist at the University of Alabama who studies food and culture.

"I don't have children. But I guarantee that if I did, I'd make them cupcakes for their birthdays," she said. "It's just ingrained in us as the proper thing to do."

So when that cultural norm is threatened by cupcake bans, she argued, people feel compelled to rally to its defense.

"Think about it. Banning cupcakes is almost like an assault on the national identity," Oths said. "It comes at a time when there are fears of terrorism and the immigration brouhaha that they're 'watering down' our traditional American culture -- meaning middle-class white America -- that's slipping out of our grasp."
White? There's a racial angle to this?
Every day, we're told: More children are dangerously overweight. More children are diabetic. More children have life-threatening allergies to everything from peanuts to wheat to milk. More children sit around watching TV and playing video games. And, as many schools know, every classroom is divided between the cupcake-haves, the ones whose mothers dutifully lug in trays of them, and the cupcake-have-nots, whose mothers can't afford to or don't know that it's expected.

Epperson used to tutor a child from an immigrant family who was saving every penny she could find in order to buy her own cupcake mix. She wanted her mom to bring the treat so she could fit in. "That broke my heart," Epperson said.
Mothers? How about fathers?

You know what? I say ban the cupcakes.

"We have overcrowding in our school... Purses were banging into people in our hallways."

Banning purses in school:
"We allow students, both female and male, to carry a small bag," Assistant Principal Tindyl Rund says. "It can hold pencils, a calculator, ChapStick — we showed the students several examples. We have termed them 'hand-size.' "
It seems to me there are things a girl needs to have with her.

Annoying... is that a bad thing?

John Hawkins has the "5th Annual Warblogger Awards." I'm just going to highlight my favorite part:
Most Annoying Left-Of-Center Blogger

2) Unclaimed Territory/Glenn Greenwald (6)
2) Andrew Sullivan (6)
1) Daily Kos/Kos (18)

Most Annoying Right-Of-Center Blogger

3) Michelle Malkin (3)
2) Stop the ACLU4)
1) Andrew Sullivan (11)
Actually, if I were Andrew Sullivan, I'd be damned pleased with that.

December 10, 2006

Audible Althouse #74.

It's time for another podcast.

Topics: Too busy to podcast but doing it anyway. I saw the movie "Borat." The trouble with political blogging. Banning trans fat, the sin of gluttony, and "empty stomach intelligence." My possibly thick skin. And finally: crotchgate!

Stream it right through your computer here. But go ahead and succumb to your gluttonous appetite for podcasty pleasure. Subscribe on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

Wingra in winter.

Lake Wingra today. You could play basketball:

The park in winter

But it was a perfect day for iceboating:

The park in winter

The frozen custard stand is open.

Frozen custard stand in winter

Well, just get the BBQ pork rib sandwich with french fries and soda for $4.99, then. See, we're not food nannies here in Madison, Wisconsin. Where even the manhole covers glow with comforting warmth:

Madison manhole cover

"Are you concerned that you are rehabilitating outdated gender stereotypes that portray women as chatterboxes ruled by female hormones?"

Deborah Solomon asks Louann Brizendine -- the "Female Brain" author. Answer:
A stereotype always has an aspect of truth to it, or it wouldn’t be a stereotype. I am talking about the biological basis behind behaviors that we all know about.

Were there any research findings you were reluctant to include in your book because they could be used to bolster sexist thinking?

Any of this could be taken badly. I worried, for instance, that stuff about pregnancy and the mommy brain could be taken to mean that mothers shouldn’t go to work. The brain shrinks 8 percent during pregnancy and does not return to its former size until six months postpartum....

If women have superior verbal skills, why have they been subservient to men in almost all societies?

Because of pregnancy. Before birth control, in the 1700s and 1800s, middle-class women were pregnant between 17 and 22 times in their lifetimes. All these eons upon eons, while Socrates and all these guys were sitting around thinking up solutions to problems, women were feeding hungry mouths and wiping smelly behinds.
It's not the shrunken brain, you know, it's the childcare. But you will have a shrunken brain.

ADDED: Linguist Mark Liberman has been very critical of Ms. Brizendine.

Krakow.

Nina's there, with pictures and insights.

And...

Please vote for me again today! You know which not-so-moderate blog needs to be soundly defeated.

AND: Utterly humorless blog pitches a hissy fit!
Congrats Ann: you you have now undermined if not destroyed the relevance of the Weblog Awards as a contest by readers about content and are, as such, have [sic] done a dissservice [sic] to the organizers of the Weblog Awards who have put a lot of time and energy into organizing this contest and you are forever corrupting this contest.
Ooh, the great and somber Weblog Awards! Corrupted! Disserved! Or should I say disssssssssserved? What a snake I am! Ooh, organizers put time and energy into creating such a lofty institution and here I am, fooling around. Oh, noooo!

And I love the way you perceived all that after it became painfully obvious that you were losing abysmally to the the "lady" blogger your blog attacked in demeaning and dishonest terms. And now you're all about indignant righteousness? What a laugh!

Ideas, ideas, ideas.

It's time for the annual "Year in Ideas" issue of the NYT Magazine. It's always fun to page through this to see which things catch my eye. Here they are:

The Ambient Walkman. I would love to have one of these, at least if the sound was pleasing enough, if it would work to mellow out distracting room noise in a café or office or waiting room. Currently, I have to play music when I don't want to listen to music, and I don't want to be cut off from the feeling of the room.

The Beer Gut Flask.
It's just so wrong. See it here -- where the models almost make it look attractive.

Bicycle helmets put you at risk. But save your cheers, libertarians. It's not because the biker takes more responsibility without a helmet. It's about the drivers.

Cohabitation is bad for women's health. Oh, it's just about food. I thought it was going to be more interesting!

Empty Stomach Intelligence. Wow! You shouldn't have a good breakfast before that exam? Stay hungry! You need that ghrelin to get ahead.

The eyes of honesty. Amazing that it's this easy to manipulate minds!

Hyperopia. This is "an excess of farsightedness." Just do it! “In the long run... we inevitably regret being virtuous and wish we’d been bigger hedonists.” Dangerous info!

Oh! I can't make it through the whole list right now. Suddenly, it seems hyperopic. I'll get back to the rest of the list later. If I feel like it.

More fat.

That post on NYC's trans fat ban got a lot of attention yesterday, and I've added a big update to respond to a key question that was raised:
I should add that I do realize that trans fats and the fats that will substitute for them are equally caloric, and presumably equally fattening. Saletan's piece is clear on this point, and I assumed readers would take the linked article as background and assume that I understood it. But I see from the comments that some readers think I didn't. Nevertheless, it's fair to ask why I think people are really alarmed about appearances, not health, when they back a regulation like this, considering that it's rather unlikely to make anyone thinner.

I'm talking about the emotions here, not reason. I think people are buying into the theory that the food industry is nefarious and must be controlled because they see a problem and they want a villain. People support ineffective regulation all the time: they want to see something done. Look at all the people fretting about "high fructose corn syrup," with assertions that it's making everyone fat, even though, if it were banned, other, equally caloric sugars would be substituted. Yet people think there's some special problem with the stuff. They want to blame the food industry.

One thing I didn't think about, however, and wish I'd put in the original post, is that plenty of fat people themselves support regulation like this. It's not just a matter of feeling alarmed about what is happening to other people. Some of this is alarm about one's own body. People cannot control their own weight, so it must be some outside force making them fat. This failure to take personal responsibility is a downward spiral. There will never be enough regulation to make people thin. After every ban, people will wolf down whatever is still legal, and then cry for more help. If you keep an honest tally of how many calories you consume, you'll see it's your own fault if you're fat. It may be a terrible fault to overcome, but it is still your fault. If you think it isn't, it will only become harder to overcome.

Which may be why people are getting so fat. They've been lured into thinking that their bodies are not their own responsibility.
I also want to say that I do accept government regulation of dangerous substances. I only object to bad regulation, and I'm suspicious of this one.

I'm sure there's a big emotional component to my thinking too. Growing up, we almost always made pie crusts and Toll House cookies with Crisco. We tried butter too, but we thought the final product was better made with Crisco. It was lighter and less greasy. I find it hard to believe the mothers of America were serving their kids a toxic chemical all that time.

But I accept the scientific evidence for whatever it is worth. I'm a little concerned that the oil substitutes won't hold up to high heat frying and there will be a lot of food cooked in rancid oil. But if the proof is strong enough, I would be willing to support a ban, it may surprise you to know. And I'd be quite likely to support a labeling requirement.

"Parents could be forced to go to special classes to learn to sing their children nursery rhymes."

That's the idea of UK Children's Minister Beverley Hughes -- who looks remarkably like Ross Perot in a wig:
Those who fail to read stories or sing to their youngsters threaten their children's future and the state must put them right, Children's Minister Beverley Hughes said.

Their children's well-being is at risk 'unless we act', she declared.

And Mrs Hughes said the state would train a new 'parenting workforce' to ensure parents who fail to do their duty with nursery rhymes are found and 'supported'.
Amusing quotes on "supported."
The call for state intervention in the minute details of family life followed a series of Labour efforts to reduce anti-social behaviour and improve educational standards by imposing rigorous controls on the lives of the youngest children.

Mrs Hughes has established a national curriculum to set down how babies are taught to speak in childcare from the age of three months.

Her efforts have gone alongside a push by other ministers to determine exactly how parents treat their children down to how they should brush their teeth.

Tony Blair has backed the idea of 'fasbos' - efforts to identify and correct the lives of children who are likely to fail even before they are born - and new laws to compel parents to attend parenting classes are on the way.
Fasbos? Apparently, these are "Foetal Anti-Social Behaviour Orders."
This autumn is likely to see an extension of parenting orders that can force parents to attend parenting classes so that they can be used on the say so of local councils against parents.

For the first time, parenting orders are likely to be directed against parents whose children have committed no criminal offence.

The threat of action against parents who fail to sing nursery rhymes was unveiled by Mrs Hughes as she gave the first details of Mr Blair's 'national parenting academy', a body that will train teachers, psychologists and social workers to intervene in the lives of families and become the 'parenting workforce'.
How utterly alien! That could never happen here, right?

I refrained from singing to my kids because I believed that I sang off key and that I would cause them to have a poor sense of pitch. Was I right or wrong? I don't know. But I used my judgment. I also refrained from playing children's songs after I got the idea that rock and roll songs from the 50s and 60s were kind of like children's songs but were much more appealing. I can just imagine how I would have flipped out if some government functionary had tried to instruct me that I was wrong.

Of course, the government agent would have no intellectual depth about what was good and bad and no ability to discuss it. She -- it would be a she, don't you think? -- would only insist that I follow the instructions. And if the day comes when the experts decide that children need to learn how to think for themselves, will there be anyone around who even knows how to do it?