October 7, 2009

What the hell???

Jon Stewart tells Barack Obama something he apparently needs to be told.

"You're the President of America!"

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A darling sleep aid, from Japan in the 1960s.

Artificial breasts with a heartbeat. Aw.

What is your writing implement of choice?

It might depend on what you're writing. For example, this morning, when I was about to use a checkbook that makes carbon copies, I was handed a felt-tip pen. That's not happening. And then yesterday, a lawyer arguing before the Supreme Court offered this kooky advice to Congress:
"I think at some level Congress has a job to write with a scalpel and not a buzz saw in the First Amendment area."
Well, it's true, a scalpel is a better writing implement than a buzz saw, but it's still pretty bad. I recommend — for free-speech-threatening purposes — the Uniball Vision Needle. Or, better yet, put down all your implements.

Bill Ayers "admits" he wrote "Dreams From My Father."

I'm putting "admits" in quotes, because I think he's toying with the conservative blogger who accosted him in a Washington airport. And yet, even though I think he's joking, I also think he's playing with the whole idea of lying.

This, you realize, is especially clever and post-modern.

Get it? Let's say he did write it. Well, he's not really admitting that. He's making fun of the way some conservative bloggers think they've found evidence that he wrote it. He knows most sensible people believe their evidence is bullshit, and this has been amusing to him because he — in this scenario of mine — knows that, actually, they are right.

Now, confronted in the airport, he's handed an opportunity to stir them up into a frenzy — create a vortex around himself — ah, that feels so good! — by telling one of these conservative bloggers that he really did write it. Ah, ha ha ha.

And — he anticipates — that they will ultimately be beaten over the head with how stupid they were to have believed him when obviously he was just jerking their chain.

And this will be especially funny, because he'll know that these people, his enemies, who look like complete idiots, were actually right. And what better way is there to throw everyone off the track?

Brilliant!

After 10 years on death row, freed.

After 30 days of freedom, dead.

Healthful foods are also the foods most likely to make you sick.

Hmmm.

Obligatory film reference:
Dr. Melik: This morning for breakfast he requested something called "wheat germ, organic honey and tiger's milk." 
Dr. Aragon: [chuckling] Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties. 
Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or... hot fudge? 
Dr. Aragon: Those were thought to be unhealthy... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true. 
Dr. Melik: Incredible.
But don't laugh. Watch the clip at the first link to the end. This is all about priming us for a big increase in the power of the FDA.

Instant Karma.

Instant Doorma:
"Yeah, my name is Stacy and I am driving toward Ontario, when a car went off into the median at mile marker 22"...
From a very credible-sounding 911 call. (2-minute audio at the link.)
Stacy is actually Melissa Farris, 35, of Caldwell, according to Caldwell Police Chief Chris Allgood. He says Farris made the call to 911, waited for paramedics to leave, then tried to slip under the closing bay door.

That attempt failed, and instead she got trapped and died.

Farris was a former worker at the paramedics station where she died Thursday. Her call appeared to be perfectly crafted to call paramedics away from the station.
The paramedics drove off looking for the nonexistent accident — as Farris — who, for whatever reason really wanted to get inside — lay dying under their door.

The artwork Obama has chosen for the White House.

What does it say about him?
While Jacqueline Kennedy was known for her love of Cézanne and Hillary Rodham Clinton for living with paintings by Kandinsky and de Kooning as well as glass by Dale Chihuly, the Obamas have made a wider selection.

While there are only a few women represented — Louise Nevelson, Susan Rothenberg and [Alma Thomas, the African-American Expressionist painter.] — there are several contemporary African-American painters like William H. Johnson and Glenn Ligon, whose “Black Like Me No. 2,” a paint-stick-on-canvas work from 1992, was among the works chosen.
Which object do you think most represents him? It's so easy to pick this:



But on subtle contemplation, I'm going with this:


"I don't know how much 4 different weddings would have cost me but I know doing it all at once saved money."

"For example I only needed one tent, I needed to hire one caterer and one photographer for the entire ceremony," said South African businessman Milton Mbele who married 4 women on the same day.

This guy is very organized:
"I prefer polygamy to having many girlfriends which is what some married men do," he says.

"If I love more than one woman, I would rather make it known to the other women in my life and make it official.
"If I feel like taking another wife this is something that will be in the open and my wives would know," he says....
There are seven days in a week and I have four wives. I will take turns visiting them and use the remaining three days to rest.
He's pacing himself. If he's committed to giving each woman sex once a week, then he's got room to add 3 more wives, but then he's going to have to build up his vigor and cut down on that rest time.

Should bloggers who review books have to make a point of saying that they got them free?

Scott Stein writes:
The FTC recently announced that bloggers who review books that they received for free from publishers should make readers aware that the books were provided for free....

Newspapers and print magazines don’t provide disclaimers or tell readers that reviewers get the books for free. Newspapers and print magazines don’t announce that their reviewers often keep the free books or sell them on eBay. There is no presumption on the part of the FTC or readers that a newspaper book review is dishonest just because the reviewer was given the book for free....

[T]he government has no place weighing in on the battle between traditional and alternative media and conveying legitimacy on some and denying it to others....

Readers should base their opinion of the honesty of a review on the quality of the review and the track record of the reviewer — the body of work — and should not assume that a “professional” is somehow more honest or less likely to be bribed than an “amateur.” (And with what little money major publications usually pay book reviewers, really, we might as well all be amateurs anyway. I got free books when I reviewed books for the Philadelphia Inquirer. I didn’t suddenly become more honest because the Inquirer also sent me a small check for my work. ).
I've written book reviews for The New York Times and The New York Sun, and I didn't do it for the money. It's not enough money for all the work it takes. In fact, once the NYT had me review a book, paid me, and then never published it. That irked me no end, because I would never have done that much work for the amount it paid. (Maybe $700.) So I certainly wouldn't read a book and write about it just for a free book. Think about it. It's like when people give you a book for a gift. Don't you think, oh, great, now I have to read it. It's way easier to buy somebody a book than for them to read it. Imagine if when you got a book for a gift, you had to write about what you thought about it. You'd be saying to anyone who threatened to send you gifts, please, no gifts!

Now, some of these other gifts are more potentially corrupting. If companies were sending me steaks or cases of wine or .... hey, remember the time I tried to get Chevrolet to send me a Corvette?

Letterman's "stance is that of the proverbial court jester, a clownish figure with a mandate to prick the powerful -- not set himself up as a model of virtue."

Says Tom Shales. Via Instapundit ("transparent weasels").

But the question is sexual harassment, so: Ask not whether he has a mandate to prick the powerful, ask whether he has a prick to mandate the powerless.

October 6, 2009

At the Floating Bubble Restaurant...



... linger as long as you can.

Andrew Sullivan is still obsessing over Sarah Palin's pregnant belly.

I've got to give the man credit for his amazing resistance to shame.

UPDATE: There is a controversy over the comments to this post, which I write about here.

"It’s very strange. We’ve had months of sturm and drang, and massive attention focused on the question, Whither health care reform?"

"It’s just quietly turned into a fait accompli."

How will the story of America and race be written 100 years from now?

How will the chapters on Barack Obama read?

Save the incandescent bulb!

It's important!

"Cash for clunkers had two objectives: help the environment by increasing fuel efficiency, and boost car sales to help Detroit and the economy. It achieved neither."

Says the WSJ:
According to Hudson Institute economist Irwin Stelzer, at best "the reduction in gasoline consumption will cut our oil consumption by 0.2 percent per year, or less than a single day's gasoline use." Burton Abrams and George Parsons of the University of Delaware added up the total benefits from reduced gas consumption, environmental improvements and the benefit to car buyers and companies, minus the overall cost of cash for clunkers, and found a net cost of roughly $2,000 per vehicle. Rather than stimulating the economy, the program made the nation as a whole $1.4 billion poorer.

The basic fallacy of cash for clunkers is that you can somehow create wealth by destroying existing assets that are still productive, in this case cars that still work. Under the program, auto dealers were required to destroy the car engines of trade-ins with a sodium silicate solution, then smash them and send them to the junk yard. As the journalist Henry Hazlitt wrote in his classic, "Economics in One Lesson," you can't raise living standards by breaking windows so some people can get jobs repairing them.
You can't? It worked for Chaplin:

"Mameshibas are talking beans with puppy-dog faces..."

"... and here is where you can overdose on their quirky cuteness!"

(Via Drawn!)

"Jesus had 12 disciples, so there'd be a hot dog for each of them."

The great hot dog/bun disparity, solved at last.



"W00t, sir, we do agree with that."

"God bless you. And God bless America's wieners."

Letterman's new, improved apology.

He gets off some pretty good jokes in the process of doing what circumstances have forced him to do:
"There's a possibility that I'll be the first talk show host impeached," he continued. "It's fall here in New York City, and I spent the whole weekend raking my hate mail. It's cold, too—chilly outside, chilly inside my house."

Letterman then mock-started making cracks about Bill Clinton, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Eliot Spitzer (apparently they all have something in common), stopping himself every time.

"This is only phase one of the scandal," he reminded the audience. "Phase two, next week I go on Oprah and sob."...

"Also," he added, "what can it hurt? Once again I'd like to apologize to the former governor of Alaska. Sarah Palin, I'm terribly, terribly sorry.
Video at the link.

Heidi Klum, married to Seal, for more than 4 years, finally decides to change her last name to Seal's last name.

But nobody even knows what Seal's last name is!

The FTC going after bloggers and social media is like "sending a government goon into Denny’s to listen to the conversations in the corner booth and demand that you disclose that your Uncle Vinnie owns the pizzeria whose product you just endorsed."

Says Jeff Jarvis, because most people who blog and use Facebook and the like "don’t think they are doing anything remotely connected to journalism."

The most absurd part of it is the way the FTC is trying to make it okay by assuring us that they will be selective in deciding which writers on the internet to pursue. That is, they've deliberately made a grotesquely overbroad rule, enough to sweep so many of us into technical violations, but we're supposed to feel soothed by the knowledge that government agents will decide who among us gets fined. No, no, no. Overbreath itself is a problem. And so is selective enforcement.

"My Parents Were Awesome."

"Wow. Very rarely does the horrid internet do something that is both earnest and yet sentimental."

Are you happy with your new seats?

Some of the Justices of the Supreme Court had new seats as the new Term opened yesterday. That's because seniority dictates the arrangement, and we've got a new Justice:
Thomas chatted frequently with new seatmate Scalia, and he and Justice Stephen G. Breyer spent time looking from their new vantage points at something on the ceiling.

Likewise, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg frequently talked to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, as she now sits to his immediate left.
Nice to know that Clarence loves Nino and Ruth loves Tony, but who are they not talking to — other than Thomas not talking to Breyer? Ginsburg's other seatmate is Samuel Alito, and I'm too lazy to figure out who Thomas was stuck sitting next to before the move.

Do I like to see them happy with their seating positions? Not really. I think there should be more turnover of the seats, so they shouldn't be too comfortable. Whether they are comfortable or not, I think the seating will reshuffle again soon enough.

The Supreme Court opened its new Term yesterday, and the big question, of course, is...

... how much did Sonia Sotomayor speak up?
... an inquisitive new justice... displayed no reticence.... she asked as many questions and made as many comments as...  was far more active Monday than in her first hearing as a justice...was part of an animated bench... Sotomayor's active questioning...
I guess it can't be helped. Everyone's hungry for something about the new Justice.

The case — Maryland v. Shatzer —was about when police may question of a person who has asked for a lawyer.  The basic rule is that the police must stop asking questions until the lawyer is brought in. But the problem here is whether there's ever an end to the proscription against more questions. What if years have passed? What if there is new evidence and a new investigation?
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. posed this hypothetical: What if someone was arrested for joy riding in Maryland, invoked his Fifth Amendment protection, and was never convicted? Could police in Montana question him as a murder suspect in Montana 10 years later?

When Davis said no, Alito replied: "And you don't think that's a ridiculous application of the rule?"

When Alito raised the hypothetical ante to a crime committed 40 years later, Sotomayor joined in.

"He is arrested for joy riding, he is let go, and you are saying that for 20, 40 years he is now immunized from being re-approached by the police?" Sotomayor asked.
So Alito asked a great question and Sotomayor repeated it.

Can we infer, then, that she didn't ask any interesting questions?

IN THE COMMENTS: Scott said:
Can we infer, then, that she is a parrot?
MadisonMan said:
Can we infer, then, that she is a parrot?

Obama's photo-op with the doctors gets reported as... a photo-op with doctors.

A sea of health-care-reform-supporting doctors was assembled to be photographed listening to Obama tell them what a sea of health-care-reform-supporting doctors they are, and they were supposed to all be wearing white lab coats — so they'd look like a sea of health-care-reform-supporting doctors.

But some of them — despite getting the memo to wear their lab coats — came dressed, well, appropriately. They wore business suits/dresses for their audience with a President.  Oh, no!

White House staff had to scramble to get a bunch of lab coats, and the photo-op of the staffers passing out lab coats to the doctors was much more amusing than the a sea of health-care-reform-supporting doctors the White House wanted.

Come on, people! Obama's in trouble. You need to help.

October 5, 2009

Obama snubs the Dalai Lama.

To keep China happy.

"Struggling Museum Now Allowing Patrons To Touch Paintings."

"Though it contains more than two million pieces and represents a profound legacy of artistic achievement, most people remain completely indifferent to our museum... So we decided to try something a little different and give visitors a chance to experience our timeless works of art up close and personal."

Scalia "worr[ies] that we are devoting too many of our very best minds to [law]."

You're a smart kid. Do you really want to be a lawyer?
I mean lawyers, after all, don’t produce anything. They enable other people to produce and to go on with their lives efficiently and in an atmosphere of freedom. That’s important, but it doesn’t put food on the table and there have to be other people who are doing that....

And they appear here in the Court, I mean, even the ones who will only argue here once and will never come again. I’m usually impressed with how good they are. Sometimes you get one who’s not so good. But, no, by and large I don’t have any complaint about the quality of counsel, except maybe we’re wasting some of our best minds.
Scalia wonders why you aren't out "inventing the automobile or, you know, doing something productive for this society?"

FTC is regulating blogger endorsements.

Disclosure requirements. Blech.
These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other "word-of-mouth" marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.
Much more at the link. I think this is all stuff that I wouldn't be doing in the first place. If anything, I'd blog about getting the stuff and not review it.

Marty Peretz on the President's narcissism.

"What I suspect is that the president is probably a clinical narcissist. This is not necessarily a bad condition if one maintains for oneself what the psychiatrists call an 'optimal margin of illusion,' that is, the margin of hope that allows you to work. But what if his narcissism blinds him to the issues and problems in the world and the inveterate foes of the nation that are not susceptible to his charms?"

Poor Obama! All his life people projected their hopes onto him and he learned how to step up and be a bright clear screen for these projections. What looks like narcissism is, perhaps, the realism that develops when you are immersed in an environment that is so persistently and consistently distorted to give you the feedback that you are magnificently and magically effective through your sheer presence.

The man who voted present and became President is tragically — touchingly — flawed.

ADDED (after an emailed suggestion): We're Always Touched by Your Presence, Dear President.

Best country to live in: Norway.

Mainly because of a lot of extra wealth from oil.

(The U.S. is listed 13th.)

Sheikh Mohamed Tantawi, the highest Muslim authority in Egypt, will issue an edict saying that full-face veiling has nothing to do with Islam.

It's "merely a tradition, with no connection to religion or the Koran."

"People from the village come up to me and tease me, 'We hear you've started drawing on your telephone.'"

"And I tell them, 'Well, no, actually, it's just that occasionally I speak on my sketch pad.'"

David Hockney and his iPhone.

... Hockney limits his contact with the screen exclusively to the pad of his thumb. "The thing is," Hockney explains, "if you are using your pointer or other fingers, you actually have to be working from your elbow. Only the thumb has the opposable joint which allows you to move over the screen with maximum speed and agility, and the screen is exactly the right size, you can easily reach every corner with your thumb." He goes on to note how people used to worry that computers would one day render us "all thumbs," but it's incredible the dexterity, the expressive range, lodged in "these not-so-simple thumbs of ours."

Are long novels still worth reading?

Sonia Sotomayor has collected 2 severed heads.

Nice work, Sonia!

"I was a brilliant math guy on Wall Street and I got out partly because of the 'math abuse'..."

"... I recognized that the mathematical complexity and sophistication of the models was completely wasted because of the stupidity of the underlying assumptions about economic behavior and the unreliability of the input data."

A comment by JoeShipman from yesterday's "Capitalism: A Love Story" post.

***

Several commenters knocked me for saying: "My favorite thing in the movie was the trashing of young math and science graduates who, instead of applying their talents to the benefit of humanity, went to Wall Street to design the complicated derivative securities that almost destroyed the economy. The closeup on an incomprehensible math equation was, for me, the most shocking image in the movie."

I wish I could get a screen shot of the equation shown in the movie. It's far more complicated that my critics are imagining. (More complicated than this.)

Why were people with such depth of mathematical skill using it this way? I guess the question answers itself. For the money. I agree with Michael Moore's disgust over the misapplication of intellectual work.

Now, Moore operates through cinematic technique not conventional rational argument. He's an entertainer and a polemicist, and complicated math can't be funny for long. It's interesting to see how he presents the stuff about the financial crisis. At one point, we see him sitting on a park bench next to a guy who tries to explain derivatives, and what's funny is the expression on Moore's face — we see in him what nearly all of us are thinking — I can't understand. And that generates a further emotional/political reaction: If I can't understand it, I'm worried that it's an evil scheme. Moore's cinematic "argument" works like that.

"As you get older you laugh less, because you’ve heard most of the jokes before."

Says John Cleese. I don't think that's true, perhaps because I've never seen jokes as the main source of laughs.

"President Barack Obama's failed bid to bring the 2016 Olympic Games to Chicago cost more than a bruised ego."

"Taxpayers shelled out probably $1 million or more for the president, his wife and others to fly to Copenhagen and back to woo members of the International Olympic Committee. A 2006 congressional study pegged the cost of flying Air Force One at $56,518 an hour. The Pentagon recently said it cost $100,219 an hour to fly the huge, reconfigured Boeing 747 without Obama aboard.... [P]residential travel requires additional spending, especially for security personnel and equipment. Also, first lady Michelle Obama and some administration officials traveled to Copenhagen at public expense ahead of the president."

And please calculate the "carbon footprint" too while you're at it.

***

Maybe the President should never travel anywhere. We've got him set up to work at home. Let him stay there. Let people visit him. Maybe the occasional truly momentous summit, but basically, work from home, President.

"People aren't sure whether McChrystal is being naïve or an upstart."

"To my mind he doesn't seem ready for this Washington hard-ball and is just speaking his mind too plainly."

Said "adviser to the administration."

Mc Chrystal "flatly rejected proposals to switch to a strategy more reliant on drone missile strikes and special forces operations against al-Qaeda":
He told the Institute of International and Strategic Studies that the formula, which is favoured by Vice-President Joe Biden, would lead to "Chaos-istan".

When asked whether he would support it, he said: "The short answer is: No."
He went on to say: "Waiting does not prolong a favorable outcome. This effort will not remain winnable indefinitely, and nor will public support."

3 Americans win the Nobel Prize in Medicine, and I don't suppose that creates an occasion to talk about how our health care system might not be so terrible.

Does it?

"Uncooked, organic foods such as raw sauerkraut, flaxseed and searingly hot habanero peppers."

What Imus "subsists mainly on."

It's the influence of his wife. He's been a vegetarian for 10 years, but his original idea of being a vegetarian was something I can really identify with. (I was a vegetarian for about 5 years a while back.) He thought: root beer and potato chips.

Yes, you know there are so many things you can eat and still be vegetarian. Most of the great snacks: ice cream, chips, candy, cookies. And all the great drinks: soda, fruit juice, beer, wine. It's only healthy if you make it healthy, which you may be less inclined to do if you're being gnawed at by that deep innate hunger for meat.

But if you can get a highly motivated, food-smart spouse to take care of you and control what food and drink arrives at your table, vegetarianism might work well. And you'll just have to take her/his word for it that sauerkraut is important or whatever crazy food theory she/he believes is true.

October 4, 2009

Some thoughts on seeing "Capitalism: A Love Story."

Here's the scene in the lobby at the Sundance Theater as we arrived for the 4:35 showing of Michael Moore's new movie:

IMG_0216

"Dump ¢apitali$m/Join the Socialists." And, indeed, the movie was a big promotion of socialism. Capitalism is "evil" — Capitalism is a "sin" — we were told over and over. And if only all the downtrodden masses would see this truth and join together we could have socialism.

***

Amusingly, Barack Obama is presented — outright — as a socialist. We see a roomful of people exulting over the election night announcement that Obama has won and, in context, we're made to think that it's the downtrodden people celebrating that socialism has arrived. I don't think Obama really wants Michael Moore's help.

***

My biggest problem with the movie was that it was such an incoherent mishmash, and it wasn't edgy and funny enough to make up for that. There were whole segments that had nothing to do with problems with capitalism and that Moore seemed to use because he had footage with sympathetic talking heads.

There were some teenagers in Wilkes Barre, PA who had suffered a terrible abuse of their due process rights, and the fact that a for-profit detention institution was involved didn't transform what was a criminal scheme into a broader indictment of our economic system.

And there were the life insurance policies that companies take out on their [low level] employees. Maybe these shouldn't be permitted — and calling them "Dead Peasant" policies was kind of outrageous — but if they are wrong, we can make legislation banning them. We have plenty of regulation in this country that keeps us away from a completely free market, and we can procure that legislation if that's what we want. I was disgusted by the camera trained on the face of a boy who cried over the death of his young mother. The real villain there was asthma. It said nothing significant about capitalism, which made it grotesque exploitation to use that boy in the movie.

***

My favorite thing in the movie was the trashing of young math and science graduates who, instead of applying their talents to the benefit of humanity, went to Wall Street to design the complicated derivative securities that almost destroyed the economy. The closeup on an incomprehensible math equation was, for me, the most shocking image in the movie.

***

Moore shamelessly and repeatedly advocated the violent overthrow of the economic system. It was somewhat humorously or moderately presented — such as through the mouth of a cranky old man who was being evicted from his home — but it came across that Moore wants a revolution. He kept advising the workers — and the evictees — of the world to unite and shake off their chains.

***

The most striking thing in the movie was the religion. I think Moore is seriously motivated by Christianity. He says he is (and has been since he was a boy). And he presented various priests, Biblical quotations, and movie footage from "Jesus of Nazareth" to make the argument that Christianity requires socialism. With this theme, I found it unsettling that in attacking the banking system, Moore presented quite a parade of Jewish names and faces. He never says the word "Jewish," but I think the anti-Semitic theme is there. We receive long lectures about how capitalism is inconsistent with Christianity, followed a heavy-handed array of — it's up to you to see that they are — Jewish villains.

Am I wrong to see Moore as an anti-Semite? I don't know, but the movie worked as anti-Semitic propaganda. I had to struggle to fight off the idea the movie seemed to want to plant in my head.

Nikki Fincke "witnessed how The New Yorker really bent over for Hollywood."

"NYC power publicist Steven Rubenstein succeeded in deleting every reference to Paramount's Brad Grey. Warner Bros and Universal and DreamWorks and William Morris/Endeavor and Summit Entertainment execs and flacks and consultants also had their way with the mag. (They were even laughing about it. When I asked one PR person what it took to convince Tad to take out whole portions of the article, the response was, 'I swallowed.') At Harvey Weinstein's personal behest, his description of me as a 'cunt' became 'jerk'. (Then the article would have contained two references to me as a 'cunt' in addition to its four uses of 'fuck'. Si Newhouse must be so proud...) And so on. Now remember, readers: you, too, can make The New Yorker your buttboy. Just act like a cunt and treat Remnick like a putz and don't give a fuck."

See, Nikki Fincke does not like The New Yorker. That's because, in her words, she's "too superficial" and "it's so unrelentingly boring." There are different writing styles. To each his/her own. I chose to quote Nikki, because it wasn't boring. It was hilarious.

Information at your fingertips: It's the Internet!

This cracked me up — not as much as something else that I just read (which made me laugh so hard I had to wipe off the screen) — but really hard:



(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

ADDED: That was in olden times. Today: Eel slap.

What movie are we seeing?


Hey, I love that poster, but:
....I am looking forward to Capitalism: A Love Story. But I think he’s sort of an idiot positioning the film as anti-capitalist. Capitalism has its problems, but when a title lack that and posters like this, no one but fans are going to take him seriously, and everyone else will immediately dismiss him as an actual communist, which I don’t believe he is.

Yes, it gives the film a nice visual style with the “propaganda theme,” but I think it could have been better handled and less alienating.
I can deal with the alienation. My big question is: Is it funny? Moore is a funnyman, in my book. The trailer won me over, as I said back here. Come back later for an opinion of the actual movie.

Their first anniversary as President and First Lady... and they look awfully glum as they emerge from the Blue Duck Tavern after eating — perhaps — the braised wreckfish ($26).

I know you can take 1,000 photos and pick out the 2 with the most negativity, but still.... these are the photos in the article, and... well, I'll leave it to you to imagine the dialogue.

By contrast, look how sweet he is out with his daughter:



And here is the haloed Michelle clasping hands with a true goddess, Nadia Comaneci:


Exceptionally strong promotion of traditional gender roles on the Rush Limbaugh show.

This phone call on the Friday show really struck me. I didn't expect Rush to go along with this as much as he did:
RUSH: Tina in Oklahoma City Oklahoma, great to have you on the program.  Hi.

CALLER:  Hi, Rush great to be on the program and mega dittos from my husband David and our 11 homeschooled Rush Babies.

RUSH:  Thank you.  Eleven?

CALLER:  Eleven yes, every day we listen to you.

RUSH:  Mama.  Mama.  Well, I figure that took, let's see, 11 kids, five minutes, 55 minutes, 11 kids.
So Rush is on a comic track. With 11 kids, she has had sex for at least 55 minutes. Maybe her husband is still not a 60-minute man.
CALLER:  Something like that.

RUSH:  Couple cigarettes in between.

CALLER:  No, not in this house.

RUSH:  (laughing)  Yeah.  I hear you.
He's still going with the funny and she brings him up short. No, not in this house. Righteously puritanical.
CALLER:  Well, I am changing the subject.  You had been discussing recently about why women are unhappy?

RUSH:  Well, I've been reporting that there are people in the media studying why women are unhappy.
(Link added by me.)
CALLER:  Yes.

RUSH:  Yes.

CALLER:  Yes.  And I have been listening to that, and since the first time I heard you mention that, I knew the answer.  I was in the car with my 18-year-old son on Tuesday when you were talking about that again, and I looked at him, and I said, "I know why women are unhappy.  Do you?"  And without skipping a beat, he said, "Yes, because they're stepping outside of their God-given roles."  And I think he hit the nail on the head.  And in saying that I'm not saying it's a lesser role, it's a different role, and I think that women were designed and created to nurture babies, to love them, to educate them, to teach them to achieve their full academic potential, to love their fellow man, to become entrepreneurs, and I think that they're stepping outside of that and pursuing roles and stuff that just leaves them empty.

RUSH:  I have a hard time disagreeing with this.  Look at Hillary Clinton.
Now, I'm looking at the podcast, and this came at the very end of the 2d hour of the show. He needed to go, but he let her finish. Unable to articulate an opinion separate from hers, he made the slightly hedging "hard time disagreeing" statement then jumped for the cheap Hillary Clinton joke as he ran smack out of time.

But there it was. The old-time gender roles ideology, straightforward, unapologetic and unopposed. Served up hot. By a woman with 11 kids.

Is it really so terrible that David Letterman has a bachelor pad in the building where he tapes his show?

Why should we mind if the TV star has an apartment in the building to retreat to before and after the show? He has to commute into town. He has to be fresh and energetic to do the show, which depends largely on his performance. He should be able to easily get away from the workplace to nap, watch TV, eat, and, yes, have sex.
An ex-"Late Show" intern unmasked herself Saturday as one of David Letterman's former flings - and sources revealed the randy funnyman keeps a bachelor pad atop the Ed Sullivan Theater.

"I was madly in love with him at the time," said Holly Hester. "I would have married him. He was hilarious."...

[There was a] year-long, secret romance... she said, until the funnyman called it off because of their age difference.

Outside what is believed to be Hester's country home in Sebastopol, Calif. - in ritzy Sonoma County - a middle-aged man lashed out at a Daily News reporter last night. "Get the f--- out of here. We're being offered a lot of money for this s---," he said.
Ha ha. I love that quote. Get the fuck out of here. We're being offered a lot of money for this shit. Reporters! Trying to get the story for free!
An ex-"Late Show" staffer said Letterman kept a room insiders dubbed "the bunker" that was open only to his favorite young female underlings....

A woman identified as a former paramour, Stephanie Birkitt, 34, remained in hiding Saturday. She was, until recently, dating Joe Halderman, who was arrested Thursday for allegedly threatening to go public with Letterman's dalliances unless he was paid $2 million.

A "Late Show" office worker in 1997, Birkitt quickly developed a role as Letterman's Girl Friday. She went on to appear in several skits as his comic foil. Behind the scenes, their relationship became intimate, sources said.

"The creepy relationship that Letterman maintained with Stephanie was obvious and not normal," an insider said. "She was able to do anything and everything ... It was pretty well known that Stephanie was the one that Letterman was having fun with."
And there you see why we speak of "sexual harassment" even when the employee getting the sex is eager to receive it. It hurts the rest of the employees. It skews the work assignments in a way that feels unfair.

But perhaps an exception should be made for a great late night talk show host. The funnyman's mood and ego need boosting. Just as he must have an office full of people who can write jokes and comic routines — who must share a lot of not-that-businesslike comraderie — he needs pretty ladies to keep his senses well-honed. It's part of the structure of a business that revolves around a performer. The funnyman needs his supply of sex, and the paying career positions on the staff can be used to create a pool of potential sexual partners who will keep the old man bolstered up.

Perhaps, I said. Perhaps. Please discuss. And take into account the other examples we've seen lately of great men to whom the rules arguably do not apply: Roman Polanski (movie director might be allowed to rape), Harvard students (elite collegians might be allowed to stalk), Richard Prince (important artist might be allowed to display child pornography), Brian David Mitchell (man of God might be allowed to rape). And not so recently: Bill Clinton (Presidents of the United States might be allowed to have sex with subordinate employees).

October 3, 2009

At the Red Hotel...

DSC04480

... it's very hot.

Optics.

This only worked for me the second time, when I got really close to the screen. It's really cool, so get close. You have to stare for a couple minutes, but it's fun afterwards:



(Via Cartago Delenda Est.)

Why haven't we heard from Mia Farrow about Roman Polanski?

I'd like to hear what she has to say. She worked closely with him on "Rosemary's Baby" and she had her experience with Woody Allen (who has made a show of supporting Polanski). Without any current statement, I looked for what she had to say about Polanski in her memoir, "What Falls Away."

This passage follows a paragraph about the difference between the filmmaking methods of Roman Polanski and John Cassavetes. Cassavetes was a great director, and also an actor. He played Mia/Rosemary's husband in "Rosemary's Baby." Polanski shot 30 or 40 takes, which bugged Cassavetes, who thought it "killed all the life in a scene."
One workday, while we were waiting to shoot, Roman was discoursing about the impossibility of long-term monogamy given the brevity of a man's sexual attraction to any woman. An impassioned John Cassavetes responded that Roman knew nothing about women, or relationships, and that he, John, was more attracted than ever to his wife, Gena Rowlands. Roman stared at him and blinked a few times, and for once had no reply.
"Rosemary's Baby" was made in 1968, the year Polanski married Sharon Tate (who was murdered the following year).

Here's a picture of Gena Rowlands and John Cassavetes in 1968:



And here's a picture of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate, that same year:



Clearly, it was Cassavetes who understood marriage. It reminds me of the last thing Andre Gregory says in "My Dinner With Andre":

South Asian men who marry British women... and are abused by them.

BBC reports:
"All they wanted was someone to earn money for them. I was being treated like an animal. All my dignity and self-respect had been taken away and I was also worried about the threats to my sister. I was powerless to do anything to stop it."

Due to feelings of shame Mahmood decided not to tell his family back in Pakistan.

"My wife would wake me up in the middle of the night and beat me, demanding money, and when I did not have any, my brother-in-laws would come and punch me and beat my back with iron bars. It was a living hell."...

Karma Nirvana, a group which helps abused Asian men and women, believes most men do not seek help as many victims marry cousins and can share the same uncles, aunts and even grandparents. Project team leader Shazia Qayum said: "Men would feel embarrassed to admit that they were having problems and choose to suffer in silence for the sake of respect."

"If the Reich-wing's glee over America losing the Olympic bid doesn't blow up in their faces then there really isn't much hope left for the future of this country."

The layers of emotion pile up unattractively.

Perhaps Obama would have won the Olympics for Chicago, if he had "had time for a personal lubricant."

Hans Bonde, professor of sport history at the University of Copenhagen, speaks the strange English:
"Here come the more favor Obama just before the deadline and made showoff. He clearly won the battle in the media, but it turned out indeed to be indifferent. IOC members did not feel important, and they were indeed reduced to spectators and not players. So if he had come, he would have had time for a personal lubricant."
Ouch!

ADDED: Obama went 9 minutes. Come on!



AND: Actually, it's an automatic translation, and — at the link — Don Surber speculates that Bonde meant something like "buttering up." Is that an improvement? I've seen "Last Tango in Paris."

How crazy must a person be to get this warning?

"A blog may have at most 2000 labels."

"Nobody has ever loaned me money. I mean, I was going to die on a few occasions. Johnny Depp gave me CPR on one."

"That’s as close as I ever got. I was watching that movie where he plays Dillinger, and I was like ‘Motherf***er, I never had myself any JD except CPR."

Yeah, Depp's adorable.

"The first film I worked on was Mommie Dearest. I used to measure people nipple to nipple. The first line I heard from Miss Dunaway was: 'Who is that fat girl in my eyeline?' I was terrified."

I don't really know what "I used to measure people nipple to nipple" means but that seems like an amusing thing to say. To do.

Anyway, the speaker is Courtney Love. Here she is reminiscing about her daughter, Kurt Cobain's daughter, Frances:

"[W]hen Frances was about nine, there was an awards ceremony that Michael Stipe, her godfather, was singing at, and Bono was picking up an award. “Frances was holding Stipe’s and Bono’s hands and she goes, ‘You guys are jealous of each other, aren’t you?’ It was the craziest moment. It was so brilliant. Genius. I was so proud of my child at that moment.”

"If you came here tonight for sex with a talk show host, you've got the wrong studio."

Leno. Funny at last, taking a jab at Letterman.

"When DeMille saw Junior’s publicity stills, he stated, 'Junior Coghlan is the perfect example of a homeless waif."



"Frank Coghlan Jr., a freckle-faced child actor of silent movies who in the sound era thrilled Saturday matinee audiences by shouting 'Shazam!' and mutating into the superhero Captain Marvel, died on Sept. 7 at his home in Saugus, Calif. He was 93."

"Parakeets cull is racist..."

According to Matthew Frith, Deputy Chief Executive of the London Wildlife Trust":
"Parakeets are birds from the Indian sub-continent that came here is the last century and are doing very well. Just like curry... There are concerns that species from other parts of the world are scapegoated but we have been bringing different animals here like rabbits and hares since Roman times. The biodiversity in our country is a mix of native and non-native just like the social make-up of this country."
What a terrible analogy! Especially for an anti-racist.

Top 10 species are: 1. Earthworms, 2. Algae, 3. Cyanobacteria...

What's so great about earthworms?
4. Rhizobia
5. Lactobacillus
6. Homo sapiens
7. Stony corals
8. Yeast
9. Influenza
10. Penicillium
Aw, come on. If we'd started with anything else — with the possible exception of stony corals — you wouldn't have paid any attention.

At the Princess Café...

DSC04456

... hurry up!

Ahmadinejad is...

... Jewish!

Cheering over Obama's failure to snag the Olympics and censorious head-shaking over the cheering.

I'm see a lot of that this morning. It's all about failure, excusing failure, relishing failure, and pretending that it's too mean to relish failure. (Like Dems wouldn't have hooted with glee if Bush had gone all out trying to get the Olympics to come to Texas and gotten his comeuppance in the first round of voting.)

Here's what I would like to talk about in all this: The First Lady and her husband made terrible presentations to the IOC! In retrospect, it makes complete sense that they got the boot in Round 1.

Here's Michelle Obama, patronizingly slow-talking, using the phony "crying voice," whining about the very special poverty and discrimination that is Chicago, trying to guilt-trip the IOC into being charitable to the downtrodden Americans who have suffered so much:



What's with these Americans and their endless fretting about their own self-esteem? If we're going to boost egos, why the hell would we boost American egos? They are scarily hungry for inspiration, for their inspiration. Why should the athletes of the world be enlisted in that effort? And, good lord, the woman's husband is the President of the United States — isn't that enough? She still needs us to make her feel good at long last? This insatiable lust for encouragement — enough!

Now, here's the husband that she introduced as if it was roundly well-understood that everyone adores him:



I got impatient with the emphatic, pause-laden slow speech and had to switch to text. Toward the end:
Nearly one year ago, on a clear November night, people from every corner of the world gathered in the city of Chicago or in front of their televisions to watch the results of the U.S. Presidential election. Their interest wasn't about me as an individual.
Can't you just see the eyes rolling? Somehow he's President of the whole world. And he's bigger than himself as an individual.
Rather, it was rooted in the belief that America's experiment in democracy still speaks to a set of universal aspirations and ideals....
Actually, it's kind of cool to hear him reciting the ideology of "American exceptionalism" he's usually accused of not believing in. But isn't this exactly the wrong place to do it?  Is he about Chicago or America or the whole world or does he somehow think it all becomes one... in him?
At the beginning of this new century, the nation that has been shaped by people from around the world wants a chance to inspire it once more...
That is, not only was the world inspired when he won the Presidency, the world can be inspired by — what? — the sheer greatness of Chicago?
And so I urge you to choose Chicago. I urge you to choose America. And if you do; if we walk this path together; then I promise you this: the city of Chicago and the United States of America will make the world proud. 
I'm picturing them thinking: What is this pride? Why would we be proud of you? Why should we give you the Olympics so that you can — what? — boost our self-esteem? Because — why? — we, the world, contain Chicago? Get your nutty American inspirationalism off me. We're talking about where to site the Olympic games, not who's the dreamiest city in the world. Why do the games belong in Chicago? What was the argument? It's Obama's adopted hometown and it has ethnic neighborhoods, where all the colorful peoples live in peace and harmony?

Nobody yelled out "You lie," but what a lie!

The NYT compares the cost of being an unmarried homosexual couple to a married heterosexual couple.

Obviously, it's immensely important in the debate about same-sex marriage to make the comparison between the costs to a couple of living single and living married.
[W]e set out to determine what they were and to come up with a round number — a couple’s lifetime cost of being gay.
But, also obviously, the economic difference is between married and unmarried, not gay and straight, since a straight couple can choose to remain single. It's interesting to all couples to know the financial effect of marrying. I got married recently — to a person of the opposite sex — and it mattered to us. Now, also obviously, when a same-sex couple is denied the right to marry, they don't get to use the economic analysis in a choice of how they want to structure their lives. But it should be clear that the economic difference is useful to both heterosexual and homosexual couples. And, again, the comparison plays an important role in thinking about legalizing gay marriage.

I've always supported gay marriage myself, and I would even if the economic difference was minimal or great or infinitely complicated. But I can suspect that the NYT's exercise is aimed at convincing people that denying the right to marry is a great injustice, so I'm looking at this economic analysis with some skepticism.

There is an unintended effect to portraying marriage as such a great financial benefit: People who already have the right to marry may decide they ought to marry to rake in all those great benefits.

One thing is that the model they used had a couple with an income of "$140,000, which is about the average income in [New York, California, and Florida] for unmarried same-sex partners who are college-educated, 30 to 40 years old and raising children under the age of 18." $140,000? That's awfully high! There's an old stereotype about gay couples being wealthier than heterosexuals, and I'm surprised to see the NYT stoking it. But I suspect they tried various incomes and hit upon this number because it produced impressive results. Given that the median household income in the U.S. is about $50,000, I don't think you're going to persuade too many same-sex marriage opponents to cry over families that make $140,000.
Here is what we came up with. In our worst case, the couple’s lifetime cost of being gay was $467,562. But the number fell to $41,196 in the best case for a couple with significantly better health insurance, plus lower taxes and other costs.
Most of the analysis involves taxes and pensions and the like — things that vary according to whether the couple is married, but the article also includes the costs of acquiring children: artificial insemination and adoption. These costs are simply the costs of infertility — which can afflict heterosexuals too —and nothing that can be cured by legalizing gay marriage. But there are also costs to marriage that are not included, and that ought to caution people against assuming there are great financial benefits to marrying. First, and the article notes this, your taxes can increase — there's the marriage penalty. Second, there's the risk of needing a divorce, and that can be tremendously expensive, especially if children are involved. There is nothing in the article about divorce.

So, try to make the best decision you can about whether to marry, if you have the right to marry. Money isn't the only thing, but it's worth taking into account. I think there is a dollar amount for each of us which, if we had to sacrifice it in order to marry, we'd choose to live together as an unmarried couple. And maybe there is also a dollar amount for every couple that if they could save it by marrying, they'd go ahead and marry. When I was unmarried, I used to think that I would marry a male friend in a certain scenario: He needed expensive medical treatment, and I had the health insurance coverage to share.

And, again, as for gay people, I think they should be able to look at the same factors that heterosexual couples look at.

October 2, 2009

"What's a girl to do?"

"My heart grows colder with each day..."

Rio!

It's Rio!

Chicago eliminated in the first round!

BBC reports! "A very very loud gasp here."

Live stream at the link.

AND: Tokyo out too.

The Obama magic has truly fizzled. All that glamorous traveling.... and the backlash against it.

Should Chicago get the 2016 Olympics?

Is it possible to analyze this without thinking about wanting Obama to have a success/failure?

What the cryogenics lab people did with Ted Williams's frozen, severed head.

"In 'Frozen,' Larry Johnson, a former exec at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz., ... writes that in July 2002, shortly after the Red Sox slugger died at age 83, technicians with no medical certification gleefully photographed and used crude equipment to decapitate the majors' last .400 hitter.... Johnson writes that holes were drilled in Williams' severed head for the insertion of microphones, then frozen in liquid nitrogen while Alcor employees recorded the sounds of Williams' brain cracking 16 times as temperatures dropped to -321 degrees Fahrenheit. Johnson writes that the head was balanced on an empty can of Bumble Bee tuna to keep it from sticking to the bottom of its case. Johnson describes watching as another Alcor employee removed Williams' head from the freezer with a stick, and tried to dislodge the tuna can by swinging at it with a monkey wrench. The technician... missed the can with several swings of the wrench and smacked Williams' head directly, spraying 'tiny pieces of frozen head' around the room...."

May your dreams of immortality be non-corporeal.

I'll be on 2 radio shows this morning.

At 8 Central Time, I'll do the "Week In Review" show with Joy Cardin on Wisconsin Public Radio. That's the call-in show where they have a liberal and me as the conservative bantering about the news of the week. You can listen stream on line live or, later, listen from the archive. [Stream the "Ideas Network" (not classical music) here.]

At 11 Central Time, I'll be on Gary Eichten's "Midday" show on Minnesota Public Radio talking about the Supreme Court, previewing the new term (which begins on Monday). You'll be able to stream that show live too.

"Is Conservatism Brain-Dead?"

Eh. The question should be: Is it any more brain-dead than everything else? It's not as if the liberals running the government have a coherent and compelling intellectual foundation under them.

I thought she was dying.

How terribly inconvenient for poor John.

Helen Thomas wants Robert Gibbs's conscience to bother him.

"Has the president given up on the public option?"



"Wow! Giggly giggle giggle," says Gibbs.

Oops, Letterman really is the lecher he seems to goofily pretend to be.

Letterman has to admit it, because he needed to testify about an attempt to blackmail him over his secret sexual affairs with women who have worked with him. D'oh! And now it is revealed. How does that undermine his sweet, inept, self-mocking lecher he's been on the show all these years.

Here's video of the confession he did on the show last night. "I had to tell them how I was disturbed by this I was worried for myself, I was worried for my family, I felt menaced by this, and I had to tell them all of the creepy things that I have done that were going to be exposed. [Laughter.] Now why is that funny?"

He did a good job of damage control, I think. He made it sound as if it was just sex — which implies that you're a prude if you don't give him a pass. But sex with the women who work on his staff? This is the atmosphere of sexual harassment. What are the details that made the blackmailer think he could extort $2 million? Did some women get jobs and promotions because they were sexually available while men and other women lost out? 

***

Meanwhile, here he is with Madonna, in a cute bit where they go out for a slice of pizza in the Italian restaurant next door to the theater. Madonna, it turns out, has never had New York pizza-by-the-slice and she's quite fussy about cheese... and not fussy at all about touching hands all down the aisle of the theater and in the crowd outside and then eating with her hands. What a dame!



Earlier in the show, Madonna talked about her famous 1994 appearance and attributes her strange behavior to marijuana smoking. I'm not sure if that counts as promoting marijuana or warning against it, but it bothered me to hear the icon admit to doing it (even 15 years ago).

"I don't even know if I really savored every menage a trois I had. I don't want to do it all over again."

Savor.

October 1, 2009

At the Crabapple Hotel...

DSC04545

... don't be cranky! Settle in and enjoy the conversation.

"I'm in a board meeting. Having a miscarriage. Thank goodness, because there's a fucked-up 3-week hoop-jump to have an abortion in Wisconsin."

Twittered the Brazen Careerist blogger Penelope Trunk. She got the attention she wanted:
The Wisconsin resident said that her attempts to schedule an abortion in that state turned into a bureaucratic nightmare when she attempted to go through her insurance provider. She subsequently made an appointment to have one in three weeks in Illinois. But within three days of the appointment, she miscarried, she said.

"I thought a lot of people would be responding about having to cross state lines to get an abortion, but a lot of it has also been [about] whether you should be sad about miscarriage," Trunk told ABCNews.com. "I think the issue surrounding the three-week wait is controversial, but not the relief."...

"If the public at large had to face up to the fact that not every miscarriage is met with a vale of tears, that could have a dramatic impact on how we regard pregnancy, abortion, and women's diverse experiences with our reproductive functions," wrote Amanda Marcotte in the women's issue blog, "XX Factor."
Oh, Amanda Marcotte is there with the commentary. I've had my issues with Marcotte over the years, but did you know that Penelope Trunk once interviewed me, then blogged that her attempt at interviewing me was a "bust" and proceeded to explain what she thought I said and got it completely wrong? When I blogged about that, she showed up in the comments and it didn't go too well.

As for Marcotte and Trunk's attitude toward abortion, it does not help the cause of abortion rights. Abortion rights are most firmly grounded in the recognition of the pregnant woman's serious search for meaning. As Justice O'Connor wrote in Planned Parenthood v. Casey:
Our cases recognize "the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child."... Our precedents "have respected the private realm of family life which the state cannot enter."... These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.
If this process of finding meaning excludes respect for the potential life of the unborn, it becomes much harder to accept the woman's right to freely choose. Should Trunk (and Marcotte) pretend to care? It would be a good strategy for preserving abortion rights, I think. But shouldn't we want to hear the truth?

"We will be Live-Tweetin' the game and possibly stalking Emma Watson, so keep your eyes peeled for that, too!"

The actress/Brown student is stalked by Harvard students.
A succession of tweets posted on the [Harvard] Voice's Twitter account during the game followed, including, "Let's go Hermione! Lolz," a reference to Watson's character in "Harry Potter." It went on, "In enemy territory. Lookin for a certain witch," and, "WATSON FOUND. i repeat WATSON FOUND....

The Voice eventually attached an editor's note to its post of Watson's photo, saying, "There seems to be much ado about nothing over this photo and liveblog. Understand that these live tweets were made to be intentionally outrageous and overblown."
The Harvard students are almost surely not great artists, nor are they — I don't think — religionists, and yet they too feel a sense of privilege that lifts them up above the common people to whom the rules apply. It is the privilege that comes from being so much cleverer than the ordinary person. Clever with a famous stamp of cleverness — and good fortune — on you.

"Which living person do you most admire? Barack Obama... Who are your favorite writers? Ayn Rand..."

The infinite complexity of Ralph Lauren.

Brian David Mitchell — "evil, wicked, manipulative, stinky, slimy, selfish, not spiritual, not religious, not close to God" — raped Elizabeth Smart every day, repeatedly.

"She was 14 when she was abducted from her Salt Lake City home at knifepoint in the middle of the night. Shortly after her abduction, Smart said Mitchell took her to a mountain camp and performed a ceremony she said was intended to marry the two. 'After that, he proceeded to rape me,' Smart said. She said he held her captive with a cable attached to her leg that had a 10-foot reach. That line was attached to another cable strung between two trees. Smart said Mitchell plied her with alcohol and drugs to lower her resistance.... Smart was poised and composed while testifying for just under two hours."

Twice, in state court, Mitchell has been found incompetent to stand trial. Now, the question arises in federal court (where the charges are kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor).

Mitchell did not present art as his privilege to do what society criminalizes. He tapped into that other most grand and lofty source of transcendence: religion:
"Any time that I showed resistance or hesitation he turned to me and said, 'The Lord says you have to do this, you have to experience the lowest form of humanity to experience the highest,' " said Smart....

Meet Ardi.

Our 4.4-million-year-old (possibly direct) ancestor.

"Hollywood's defense of Polanski is no different than the Catholic Bishops' shifting of child predators from parish to parish."

Marci Hamilton comes on strong:
This society is so sick, that even Polanski's first known victim now takes his side. I don't even want to imagine how many from his circle have worked, over the years, to persuade her to abandon her own interest and that of other likely victims. What child sex abuse victim has a chance, in a society where the largest church and the titans of Hollywood side with the perpetrators and publicly say, "Let it go"? To the millions of child sex abuse survivors in the United States, I apologize for the heartless and self-serving adults who thought when you were young – and continue to think now — that your issues are not their own....

Let us be absolutely clear: Those shielding Polanski are choosing the sex abusers over children. It is an either-or choice.

Althouse goes to Washington.

An upcoming event.

"[Artist Richard] Prince wasn't inviting us to ogle [10-year-old Brooke Shields naked], but to see exploitation as symptomatic of what was happening in America in the mink-coated Reagan years."

Prince is an artist, excoriating "Spiritual America," and what is bad is not his display of a naked child, but... Reagan!

More on the Tate Museum controversy and British pornography laws, here:
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "Officers from the Obscene Publications Unit met with staff at the Tate Modern regarding an image. The officers have specialist experience in this field and are keen to work with gallery management to ensure that they do not inadvertently break the law or cause any offence to their visitors."

Prince's work is a photograph of a photograph. The original was taken by Garry Gross, a US photographer, in 1975. It was commissioned by Shields' mother, who was intent on turning her little girl into a child star and signed away the rights. The picture was later featured in a Playboy Press publication, and Gross planned to turn it into a poster....

In 1981, Shields made an unsuccessful attempt to buy back the negatives. A judge ruled that she was a "hapless victim of a contract... to which two grasping adults bound her". The legal battle caught the eye of Prince, and he describes Spiritual America as a commentary on Shields as an "abstract entity."
An abstract entity.

See? We have another morally superior artist man, claiming a privilege to use a young girl, because his use is injected with artistic sensibility. We should defer to the artist, who is here to critique us, the common people. Our attempts to do the same things he does would deserve punishment, because we would do them in our commonness, and that would be vulgar. Can't you see that's what Prince is revealing to you? Bow down, prole!

"The emerging belief among many establishment Republicans that Pawlenty is becoming the sole viable alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney..."

Disrespecting Sarah.

In a violent emergency, who will step up? The men?

This was a topic of conversation here at Meadhouse last night, as we were watching "Day After Disaster" on the History Channel:
Against a morning sky, a mushroom cloud spirals heavenward. A nuclear bomb has detonated in the heart of Washington D.C., incinerating 15,000 residents in just 15 seconds. More than 50% of the population living within a 1/2 mile radius of the explosion is either dead or severely injured. The next 24 hours will determine whether the rest of the city lives or dies. To survive this horrific ordeal they will need a plan. And lucky for us--there is one. But will it work? For the first time on television, the Department of Homeland Security reveals the most detailed and comprehensive plan to save America should terrorists go nuclear. This chilling two-hour special delves into the complex and highly secretive world of disaster planning.
Okay. Cool TV show. A nice alternative to that godawful Ken Burns swill about the National Parks. (If you don't stop tinkling that piano, I'm going to advocate painting mustaches on Mount Rushmore.) We're only halfway through the nuclear aftermath, up to the part when there are suffering survivors in the radioactive wreckage and nothing like enough emergency workers. It made me flash back to 9/11, the image of so many men converging on NYC, propelled by a drive to save people. Who will step up? Men. But it's not always and only men. 

I thought of that conversation this morning, as I read this news story about a 21-year-old Pakistani woman, whose family's house was invaded by terrorists. She had been hiding under the bed, and they were beating her father (who had resisted their demands for food and lodging).
[S]he ran towards her father’s attacker and struck him with an axe. As he collapsed, she snatched his AK47 and shot him dead.

She also shot and wounded another militant as he made his escape.

Miss Kausar said she had never fired an assault rifle before but had seen it in films and could not stand by while her father was being hurt. “I couldn’t bear my father’s humiliation. If I’d failed to kill him, they would have killed us,” she said.
Rukhsana Kausar, setting a good example!


"Rape is - or should be - an art... And, as such, the privilege of committing it should be reserved for those few who are really superior individuals."

That's a quote from Hitchcock's movie "Rope" — with one word substitution: "rape" for "murder."
The few who are privileged to commit [rape] ... are those men of such intellectual and cultural superiority that they're above the traditional "moral" concepts. Good and evil, right and wrong, were invented for the ordinary, average man — the inferior man, because he needs them.
The scene, 9 minutes long, is embedded at Jac's blog, with commentary on Roman Polanski.

"Johanna wants to make communal vegetarian meals and keep chickens. Mariel Berger hopes for social, artistic and political collaborations. Harmony Hazard is into hula hooping, book groups and anarchism."

Look out, the NYT has a new style piece. It's very Stuff-White-People-Like. Very women-reader-pleasing. But I actually really love that first paragraph quoted above. Not that I'm not a woman reader. I am.

The writer is Penelope Green, and the subject is the new urban communal living. Actually, one of my favorite subjects is evolved hippiedom. So, I'm going to read all this:
... Ms. Berger and others seem to share the ideals of the old-fashioned communes of yore, except that their groups are tiny, urban-centric and linked to outside interests like fixing bikes or, here in New York City, membership in the Park Slope food co-op. And like communes, many collectives give themselves names: The House of Tiny Egos (a name that’s decidedly more evocative than, say, Findhorn, that of the hoary Scottish commune) is a five-person collective in a century-old brick bungalow in Bed-Stuy. Not only do they aim to remain of the world, they hope for a convenient location, one that’s near all the major subway stops....

Ms. Berger met Ms. Hazard, who had been living in the East Village in her mother’s town house and looking for work in “social justice”...
Looking for work in social justice... Why does that strike me as so funny? And another thing I like about Penelope Green is: She put "social justice" in quotes.
... she said, at a permaculture conference in Vermont last summer. Permaculture is big with the collective-living crowd...
Permaculture?
... it’s a model for sustainable living that extrapolates principles from natural ecologies — like how different plants grow together for their mutual benefit — and applies them to other systems like, well, group housing.
Culture... as if it grows. Permanent... when even plants are not permanent. But why not have an ugly and silly word to denote your dreams?

I've had enough Hazard-Berger. On to the next exemplary communalists:
[I]n Philadelphia,... three roommates... needed five more.

Their advertisement on Craigslist [included:]

“You will probably not feel at home here unless anti-ableism, anti-ageism, anti-classism, anti-racism, consent, trans-positivity and queer-positivity, etc., are very important to you,” the ad read.
Very important? Not just important. I love the way they didn't reject the non-like-minded. They just threatened to make them feel uncomfortable. Appropriate, for folks so in love with the prefix "anti-."

One of the housemates is "Gauge, 30, who is transitioning from he to she and works in an S&M store, and also declined to give a last name. ('My family has no idea where I am — or if I’m even alive — and I’d like to keep it that way,' she said.)" No last name, but her first name is Gauge. They'll never suspect it's their Gauge.
Ms. Feigelson explained that they were being “super-selective,” because an activist house, which is what she hopes theirs will be, she said, “can create tension.”
Yeesh. And ha ha. Penelope Green is, I think, totally trashing them... and the whole "activist" self-image.

At this point in the article, Green consults Helen Fisher," a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University and a relationship expert (she is the scientific adviser to Chemistry.com, a spinoff of the dating site Match.com)." Fisher reads these ridiculous Craigslist ads and says, not what I would say — i.e., these people seem way too annoying to try to live with — but:
The idealized, small-scale communities they described reminded her of the hunting and gathering bands of pre-history. So she was a bit concerned that their creators didn’t seem to be searching for individuals with different skill sets. Dr. Fisher, whose new book, “Why Him? Why Her?” explores the neurochemistry of gender differences, concluded that the ad writers were by and large “estrogen-expressives, or what I call Negotiators,” which she defined as “compassionate, verbal and emotive,” as well as “Explorers, meaning those expressive of the dopamine system, or people who are energetic, creative, politically liberal.”
Negotiators? Compassionate? The hell! Could you please squirt a little more buy-my-book juice into your analysis, Dr. Fisher? Do people who are politically liberal really deserve to be brought down in this queasy sea of estrogen?

I think most people — most people I'd be at all interested in living with — would read this article and dream only of a solitary cell to live and be left alone in.

And, I should add, I never wanted to live in a hippie commune either, back in the old days.

"Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis B. Butler was nominated by President Barack Obama Wednesday for a federal judgeship."

Congratulations to our alumnus and colleague!