August 28, 2010

A photograph taken for a very specific reason.

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"With Paterson, the Simple Facts Can Get Complicated."

Okay, who wrote that NYT headline? I read it, and my brain plays (the greatest single of all time) The Who's "Substitute":
But I'm a substitute for another guy
I look pretty tall but my heels are high
The simple things you see are all complicated...
But they couldn't write "With Paterson, the simple things you see are all complicated"... because Governor Paterson is blind.

"Simpson is not only a misogynistic old geezer, he's a plagiarizing old geezer."

My dear, it's called an allusion. The error isn't stealing, it's assuming people get it.

A superior expanse of roadway.

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... somewhere in Cincinnati. This is the kind of thing you know isn't pretty and you'd hate to have in your neighborhood but you have the feeling that if it were a photograph, it would take on a strange, evocative grandeur. Is it wrong to feel that way? Should I be ashamed of myself to find this scene beautiful... but only because I'm not there?

Liberty Tire.

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... a building we rolled by ... as we left Cincinnati yesterday.

IN THE COMMENTS: Pogo said:
Classic racist American building.

No doubt the tires had smallpox.
Noting the "Liberty" clue, I interpret the Indian character as a Tea Party protester (of the original Boston Tea Party ilk).

Meade says:
Tired of getting rolled? Assert your naturally endowed rights to Life, Liberty, and Freedom From Being Trod Upon!

The manly mosaic men of Union Terminal.

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"German-born artist Winold Reiss was commissioned in 1932 to design murals for the Cincinnati’s railroad station, called Union Terminal.... The 12-foot foreground figures illustrate the workings of people in the developing country.... Winold Reiss drew the portraits from life, and many of his subjects were Cincinnatians."

Lovely Cincinnatians!

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"How could a bunch of people who ran such a brilliant campaign be doing such a lousy job at the politics of governing?"

6 theories are presented. Rank them.

The theories are smart, but the columnist, Michael Tomasky, has laughable ideas about what Obama should have done:
Send the president out to rural white areas to talk about his national broadband policy....
White areas... This from a British paper, but still, Tomasky is purporting to have the line on how America works. He imagines the man in the "white area" saying:
"Well, Martha..."
... hicks have wives named Martha...
"... they say he's a socialist, but I don't know, if he's out here in our little town in central Nebraska where we voted 80% McCain and he's promoting rural internet, that doesn't seem too socialist to me."
What?! Is that a socialist joke? The rubes say they hate something with the label "socialist," but when you given them something they like they don't even understand how the label applies (because they really don't hate socialism at all, they're just dumb) — is that a socialist joke?

And, out here in my little city in the middle of the midwest, I think when a man writes dialogue like that, I have a hard time taking anything he says seriously.

Peter Berkowitz collects quotes from 2008 saying conservatism in America is over forever.

And:
The credit for galvanizing ordinary people and placing individual freedom and limited government back on the national agenda principally belongs to President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Their heedless pursuit of progressive transformation reinvigorated a moribund conservative spirit, just as in 1993 and 1994 the Clintons' overreaching on health care sparked a popular uprising resulting in a Republican takeover of Congress.
So it wasn't that conservative principles caught hold of America. It was that the progressives scared the hell out of us.

August 27, 2010

"They have a right to rally. But what they don't have the right [to] do is distort what Dr. King's dream was about."

Said Al Sharpton, narrowly defining rights. It's so close to the time when everyone was talking about the mosque near Ground Zero and even the staunch opponents assured us that there was a right to build the mosque, but that didn't mean it was a good thing to do.

I haven't been following this controversy, and I don't really know what Glenn Beck and his cohort are doing that could be construed as "distort[ing] what Dr. King's dream was about." But it's quite obvious that we all do have a right to distort King's ideas or any other ideas as much as we damned well please. And Sharpton and the rest of us also have a right to say that there is no such right, but it's not good to say that. Because it's not true. And it's anti-freedom. Ironically.

Boys and their water animals.

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From the base of a fountain in downtown Cincinnati.

Let's take a closer look at those 310 million tits.

I love the Simpson "tit" flap. Even as the "Ground Zero Mosque" saved us from having to talk about the economy, that giant udder with 310 million tits has saved us from further discussion of that damned mosque. This is good, from Jacob Sullum:
The mention of outraged feminists suggests that Simpson stands accused of sexist vulgarity. I have to admit that I was shocked the first time I saw my mother use tit in a Scrabble game, but I was about 12 at the time, and she explained that the word is a perfectly acceptable variation of teat. Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary backs her up, saying tit is deemed "vulgar" only when it refers to a woman's breast. The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary likewise lists "teat" as the first definition for tit, although it notes that the usage is "now obscure" except in certain dialects (such as Alan Simpson's, evidently). So even by the arbitrary standards that make certain words unacceptable in polite company, in  family newspapers, and on broadcast television between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m (though that last rule may be a thing of of the past), Simpson need not apologize for his use of tit.
Ha. That reminds me of this part of one of George Carlin's "7 Dirty Words" routines:
Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, and Tits, wow. Tits doesn't even belong on the list, you know. It's such a friendly sounding word. It sounds like a nickname. 'Hey, Tits, come here. Tits, meet Toots, Toots, Tits, Tits, Toots.' It sounds like a snack doesn't it? Yes, I know, it is, right. But I don't mean the sexist snack, I mean, New Nabisco Tits. The new Cheese Tits, and Corn Tits and Pizza Tits, Sesame Tits Onion Tits, Tater Tits, Yeah. Betcha can't eat just one. That's true I usually switch off. But I mean that word does not belong on the list.
Or this — not about "tits," but conceptually more apt:
[C]ocksucker is a compound word and neither half of that is really dirty. The word - the half suckercock is a half-way dirty word, 50% dirty - dirty half the time, depending on what you mean by it. Uh, remember when you first heard it, like in 6th grade, you used to giggle. And the cock crowed three times, heh, the cock - three times. It's in the Bible, cock in the Bible. ...
Now the word twat is an interesting word. Twat! Yeh, right in the twat. Twat is an interesting word because it's the only one I know of, the only slang word applying to the, a part of the sexual anatomy that doesn't have another meaning to it. Like, ah, snatch, box and pussy all have other meanings, man. Even in a Walt Disney movie, you can say, We're going to snatch that pussy and put him in a box and bring him on the airplane.
AND: Could someone digitally alter this scene and replace Woody Allen with Alan Simpson?

Timothy Egan's NYT column "Building a Nation of Know-Nothings" requires fisking...

... and I'm relieved to see that John Hinderaker has already done the grisly task.

"Alan Simpson Didn't Need to Apologize."

Says Professor Bainbridge, via Instapundit ... and, as you know, I agree.

Well, you know, now, there is a solution for your apology mistakes. Levi Johnston is leading the way. Take back your apology.

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade writes:
Un-apology for Non-apology Tips for Teens of All Ages:

1. Take responsibility for having non-apologized.
2. Acknowledge that, no, you really did mean to insult, hurt, damage the other person.
3. Determine the frivolousness of the offense for which you mistakenly non-apologized.
4. Decide the best time to un-apologize for your non-apology.
5. Choose a method of un-apology.
6. Equivocate with sincere insincerity.
7. Remember this un-apology is about you and your charming dysfunctional non-apology, not the other person.
8. Go beyond "I'm sorry if my non-apology failed to fully offend you," to make the un-apology as personal and humiliating as possible.

The 33 Chilean miners, who know they will be trapped below ground for months, display their living conditions to the world...

... and sing the national anthem to express their appreciation that people have the courage to go to all the trouble of rescuing them.

Think of all the miners in the past who have been trapped and were not rescued. Imagine knowing even one human being was buried alive and not making the effort — whatever the expense — to get them out.

ADDED:
"This is our casino," the miner says at one point, showing a table where the miners, he says, had made some makeshift dominoes.
It is the best thing to do, under the circumstances. In the above-ground world casinos are deliberately constructed without windows.

August 26, 2010

Transparencies.

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Lunching alone.

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Roy Edroso imagines that Leslie Savan had the courage to "dispute Muslim articles of faith."

He's presenting something I wrote to his readers, who follow his direction and call me an idiot, but he's got it wrong. I blogged (and agreed with much of) Savan's piece in The Nation and tweaked her by asking if she was "paying enough attention the the way she is expressing contempt for Muslim beliefs?" I also snarked that "I didn't know you could do that in The Nation."

Roy Edroso pretends to laugh at my joke ("Tee hee") and lobs the sarcasm: "Because libs are so cowardly they cannot dispute Muslim articles of faith. Which Savan proves by just having done so."

But Savan did NOT do so in the paragraph that precedes my joke. Savan savaged Americans. First, she said:
Regardless of what the Muslim world may or may not believe, this whole seed fixation is profoundly un-American. 
In other words: Put the beliefs of Muslims to the side; I want to talk about American values. Then:
It says that genealogy is destiny, that a man is Muslim regardless of what he espouses or believes. It’s all about descent—and nauseatingly close to the “one drop rule” of the post-Reconstruction South. That rule held that if a person had any African or Indian ancestry whatsoever, he or she was classified as “colored” and subject to anti-miscegenation laws, voter disenfranchisement, and segregation at large. At least eighteen states adopted some form of the rule; Virginia’s 1924 law, for instance, was called the Racial Integrity Act.
Having purported to limit herself to American values (as opposed to universal truths), she goes through a litany of historical wrongs, committed by Americans, a comfortable and familiar place for readers of The Nation. This is the point at which I asked my question whether she's "paying enough attention the the way she is expressing contempt for Muslim beliefs."

I think she thought that she'd limited her inquiry at that point to American values and American racism. Although some Muslims are Americans and could presumably be swept up into an inquiry about American values, Savan has specifically set aside what Muslims believe. Plus, she's switched to talking about race. What interested me is something I don't think she meant to do but only unwittingly implied.

Did Edroso even understand my point? I deliberately write in an elliptical style sometimes. You have to think a minute to get it, and I don't think Edroso did. The writing may look simple, but there is a challenge in that simplicity that you'd better be sure you see and meet before you decide you've done the easy reading and are now in a fine position to call me stupid.

I'll be heavy-handed so he can rethink his insolent attitude toward me. I think that Savan didn't mean to say that the Muslims are repellent if they believe that a person is a Muslim because his father is a Muslim. She only meant that Americans violate American values if they perceive someone — such as Obama — as Muslim because his father is a Muslim. I would guess that she subscribes to the cultural relativism that accepts Muslims (even American Muslims) viewing their religion as a genetic matter. I don't think she wanted to deal in higher level philosophy about individual freedom and autonomy (which is the subject that I went on to talk about, quoting James Madison).

So, Roy, imagine that an editor at The Nation had responded to Savan's draft with these direct questions: Did you mean to imply that you are disgusted by a Muslim's belief that religion is inborn? Did you mean to say that that Muslim belief is like racism, because it looks like you may have implied that? I think you probably meant to say that Muslims should be judged by Muslim values and that you are leaving that judgment for other Muslims, and that you only mean to say that Americans are judged by American values and that you are all about being very critical of Americans who say that Obama was a Muslim — right?

Do you think Savan would have answered yes or no to those questions? If she answered yes, don't you think the editor would be likely to say: Could you rewrite this to make that really clear? And if she said no and wanted to make that absolutely clear, don't you think that the editor would have killed the piece?

A Democratic member of the House joked that Nancy Pelosi might die and got a laugh from his audience and how does the NYT report the incident?

"Conservative Democrat Jokes That Pelosi Might Die."

Those terrible conservatives!

At the Mystery Photo Café...

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... what are you puzzling over?

"I'm desperate to go back to normal. I'm downgrading and going a little smaller, to a D or a double D."

The ever-changing definition of "normal."
Though it's been more than nine months since she went under the knife, [Heidi] Montag says she is still in severe pain and her body has not acclimated to the over-the-top breast augmentation.

"I have major anxiety about it," she confides. "I was taking painkillers but they weren't working, so I stopped. It hurt either way," 

In addition to the physical pain, the busty blond reality star's new assets have prevented her from properly hugging her four dogs or wearing anything that isn't a custom-made design.

"I'm obsessed with fitness but it's impossible to work out with these boobs," Montag says. "It's heartbreaking. I can't live an everyday life." 
Yet, on the plus side, there is all the publicity and reality show material entailed in this "realization" and subsequent additional surgery — and surgery is her only real basis for fame.
With the passing of her confidant Dr. Ryan, Montag fears that she will be stuck living in her cartoon-like figure forever.

"I feel trapped in my own body," she confesses. "There's just no fixing it. Dr. Ryan knows the work he did, he knows everything."
Because how could another doctor ever locate those implants?
... Montag was quick to squash the rumors....
Oh! The imagery!

Find a doctor to (find and) remove your implants, and find the decency to remove your "downgraded" self from the public stage.

Fake outrage over Alan Simpson's twist on the phrase "sucking on the government tit."

It's a standard expression. Simpson came up with a brilliantly memorable variation to describe social security: "a milk cow with 310 million tits." Then he let himself get pushed back by people who spewed faux outrage to keep anyone from using the powerful phrase ever again.

And by the way, shouldn't the word Simpson used be spelled "teat"? The "tit" pronunciation of "teat" is seared in my memory, because once, years ago, I read the phrase "colder than a witch's teat" and pronounced it "teet." Apparently, at least in some sectors — possibly including Wyoming — you sound like a fool if you say "teet." It's "tit." "Tit" for "teat."

Discuss!

IN THE COMMENTS: Charlie Martin said:
You're correct about the pronunciation. /tit/ is the common pronunciation for most country folks and is listed as the preferred pronunciation in some dictionaries, and is the technical term in dairy farming for the place where the milk comes outta.

/teet/ is the preferred pronunciation for the sort of little old ladies that say the table has "limbs" and city folks who think what the milk comes outta is a cardboard box.
Anne B. said:
I'm pretty sure Mencken used it first, or at least used it earlier. "A milch cow with 125,000,000 teats" was his description of the second FDR administration.

Still fits, of course.
She's right!

Why did Simpson retreat? He could have made his critics look dumb and elitist by pointing out a literary reference they didn't get and a country-style pronunciation they weren't in touch with.

CORRECTIONS: I made 2 little corrections: adding a "d" to "pronounce" is paragraph 2 and deleting the stray word "embarrassed" after "look" in the last paragraph. I don't always note superficial tidying up like that, but I'm doing it this time because I just have the feeling that Althouse-haters are quoting the "embarrassed" mistake and saying I should be "embarrassed." I'm not trying to hide that I'm capable of typing and editing mishaps, only trying to make things as readable as possible.

ADDED: Simpson's comment was made by email, so he chose the spelling "tit."

Ken Mehlman comes out.

To me, this is non-news. For one thing, I thought everyone knew he was gay. For another thing, who cares about Ken Mehlman anymore?
Mehlman arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently, he said in an interview.
He's 43. It's 2010. In other words: I don't believe him. He just "arrived at this conclusion"? I think he's trying to attract publicity to himself right now for whatever reason.
He agreed to answer a reporter's questions, he said, because, now in private life, he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage and anticipated that questions would arise about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California's ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8.
Okay. So there's the reason. He wants to be politically active now and needs some leverage. But why would admitting that you are gay — arriving at the conclusion that you are gay — when you are an American in 2010 and 43 years old bring you any credit? It's pretty lame.
"It's taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life," said Mehlman, now an executive vice-president with the New York City-based private equity firm, KKR. 
See? It's lame.
"Everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey, and for me, over the past few months, I've told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they've been wonderful and supportive. The process has been something that's made me a happier and better person. It's something I wish I had done years ago."
Journey? Oh, I hear the dog-whistle. He's calling the Oprah crowd. Family, friends... supportive... he wants Democrats, women, etc., to care about him. Don't hate me because I'm/I've been a Republican. Love me, because I'm gay, and oh! how I've anguished in the company of Republicans.

August 25, 2010

At the Cincinnati Café...

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... eat the rich.

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" I was ten years old back in 1970 and clearly remember the loud boom that traveled across Lake Monona and awakened me in the middle of the night."

Another memory of the Sterling Hall bombing, which took place 40 years ago yesterday, from an emailer who would like to keep her name private:
I remember hearing all of my relatives talk about never shopping downtown again because people were being dragged out of their cars, windows were being broken, and tear gas deployed. I believe that East Town Mall also opened that year or soon after so between those two events, Madison's downtown shopping district was obliterated. I don't remember any fiery speeches about how wrong the students or administration was, just a general sense of fear.

"How Lisa Murkowski (might have) lost."

Explaining Joe Miller.

Don't go trespassing in abandoned buildings at night!


Blackout--The Scene of the Crime from Justin Warren on Vimeo.

***

(Disclosure: My son Chris worked on this project.)

(Facebook link.)

"Coordinated Attacks Strike 13 Towns and Cities in Iraq."

Obama's war.

"The False and 'Seedy' Claim That Obama Is Muslim."

Get it? "Seedy"? The Nation quotes Franklin Graham:
“I think the president's problem is that he was born a Muslim. His father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother. He was born a Muslim. His father gave him an Islamic name. Now it's obvious that the president has renounced the Prophet Muhammad and he has renounced Islam and he has accepted Jesus Christ. That's what he says he has done. I cannot say that he hasn't. So I just have to believe that the president is what he has said.”
When religionists talk about semen...
Personally, I’m stuck on the word seed. Graham meant it in the Biblical (or Koranical) sense, but when I hear about a “seed passing through” in the context of an American president, I can’t help but see Monica Lewinsky and her “semen-stained blue dress.”

Regardless of what the Muslim world may or may not believe, this whole seed fixation is profoundly un-American. It says that genealogy is destiny, that a man is Muslim regardless of what he espouses or believes. It’s all about descent—and nauseatingly close to the “one drop rule” of the post-Reconstruction South. That rule held that if a person had any African or Indian ancestry whatsoever, he or she was classified as “colored” and subject to anti-miscegenation laws, voter disenfranchisement, and segregation at large. At least eighteen states adopted some form of the rule; Virginia’s 1924 law, for instance, was called the Racial Integrity Act.
Is the author of this piece — Leslie Savan —paying enough attention the the way she is expressing contempt for Muslim beliefs? I didn't know you could do that in The Nation. I mean, I agree that religion originates within the mind of a human being (and not in some guy's testicles!). I agree with James Madison:
... "... religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction..." The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man...
This is one of several arguments for freedom of religion and the separation of church and state that were influential in the development of rights in America.  It isn't the way everyone in the world thinks about religion, but it is presented by Madison as "a fundamental and undeniable truth." Of course, under that truth, you are free to believe that religion arrived via semen. And we're also free to laugh at such a ridiculous belief.

***

Another point. Graham didn't "claim that Obama is a Muslim." So ironically, it's false to say that he did. If you want to write an article lambasting people for making false claims, be careful that you don't make any false claims. (Savan has a grievance against whoever wrote that headline.)

And I'm wondering who did say Obama's a Muslim? But no one has to say it for people to come to think it. So it's fair to say that statements like Graham's have a causal relation to what people will answer when a pollster asks them "What is Obama's religion?"

So... is anyone doing anything bad? I think so, but you talk now. I'll come back to this discussion later.

99-cent TV show rentals from iTunes.

That would be nice.

"Kim Jong Il, the supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, deeply concerned over the soldiers’ diet."

The title of a painting from an exhibit called "“Flowers for Kim Il Sung: Art and Architecture from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.... in Vienna.
By presenting it uncritically, the Vienna museum is subtly legitimizing the world’s cruelest regime....

Like most socialist realism, this “art” is devoid of complexity. Whatever talents the North Korean painters may possess are tragically subordinated to Stalinist politics and stultifying adulation of the Dear Leader. The descriptions of the artwork underline its utterly bland, primitive, and unenlightening character: “The leaders’ closeness to the people is repeatedly emphasized,” reads the press release. “Red, internationally recognized as being symbolic of socialism, is employed most frequently.” My tour guide’s attempt to distinguish the works from those produced in other Communist societies by labeling it “Idealistic Realism” only underscored the lengths to which the MAK has had to go in order to justify the exhibition....


Could one imagine, in the 1930s, an English gallery featuring Nazi art in such undiscerning fashion?...
What about a Viennese gallery? You'd think Austria would be more sensitive.... about its own reputation.

The article, by James Kirchick, ends with this great George Orwell quote: "All art is propaganda. On the other hand, not all propaganda is art." (By the way, Orwell is calling himself a propagandist there, is he not?)

"Mommy, where is your boo-boo?"

The 3-year-old could see that mother was hurting.

August 24, 2010

"I was there when it happened, asleep in an apartment about eight blocks east of Sterling Hall."

Michael Haz writes about the bombing that took place here in Madison 40 years ago today:
The blast threw me out of bed. I scrambled into the dark hallway and ran into others; we all thought that a bomb had been detonated in the basement of our building. We ran apartment-to-apartment making certain everyone was awake and okay. Then we helped the grad students get their notes, manuscript drafts, computer data cards, etc. out of their apartments in into cars for safe keeping.

We heard the approaching sirens of emergency vehicles, and were astonished when they went past rather than stopping. It slowly dawned that the explosion hadn't been in our building, but was somewhere on campus.

More and more emergency vehicles raced past. They were heading in the direction of the (old) University Hospital. A neighbor said "My God, did a boiler at the hospital explode?" We got dressed and ran toward the hospital, partly from curiosity, and partly to offer help evacuating patients from the hospital.

The street was filled with glass three blocks away. We got to Sterling Hall, which was across a narrow street from the hospital, and saw that it's front had been blown off. One side of the hospital had been severely damaged; its windows were gone. Nearby buildings were heavily damaged and buildings several blocks away lost their windows. There was a crater where the explosion had occurred.

My roommate asked a fireman "What happened?" He answered "It was a bomb." That answer was shocking. How could it have been a bomb? You mean someone did this on purpose? How can that be? the peace movement isn't about bombs, it's about peace?!

A cordon was set up and we were pushed back. Standing near a fire truck so I could hear its radio I heard a fireman report finding one body in Sterling Hall. Stunned, I stood for a few more minutes than walked back to my apartment.

Two days later I cut my shoulder length hair and notified my landlord that I wouldn't remain as a tenant for the fall term.

I was done with UW and Madison, except for completing my studies. I rented and apartment west of Middleton and commuted, spending as little time on campus as possible. I didn't attend my graduation.

The anti-war movement was a sham; a cover for violent anarchists. It wasn't actually anti-war; it was mostly anti-draft, and nothing more. It was over-indulged white males who didn't want to be conscripted. It would never have happened if there hadn't been a draft.

I don't have a romantic version of the late 60s in my head. I lived through it, it was horrible. Sure, the music was good, the weed was abundant, "liberated" coeds eschewed underwear, and contraceptive sex had no risk. It was still an awful time.

Karleton Armstrong was lucky. He should still be rotting in prison.

At the Mushroom Café...

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... can you feel it?

"Three years of intense protest activity at the University of Wisconsin reached terrible superlatives on August 24th of this year."

The year was 1970.
An explosion so powerful it broke windows six blocks away, and so loud it woke up citizens over six miles from campus reduced the side of the new addition to Sterling Hall to a shambles. The wall disappeared, and steel-reinforced concrete dangled as if it were limp spaghetti.

Across Lathrop Drive, the Old Chemistry building sat windowless, and up the hill, Birge Hall was a mass of shattered lab equipment and glass. Days later, the dislodged ceiling in B-10 Commerce fell in on a group of bankers attending a seminar.

The blast killed UW research assistant Robert Fassnacht, leaving a wife and three children without their father....

Years of research were destroyed in the blast. Though the bomb was aimed at the Math research Center, it takes up only three floors of the building. The physics department occupied the basement and other offices in the new wing, and the astronomy department used the top floor and roof. The explosion reduced to tiny fragments the carefully ground mirrors in the two telescopes on the roof of Sterling Hall.

Heavily damaged was a particle accelerator operated by the Physics Department in the basement of the building. Only about 15 labs in the United States possess the kind of accelerator and associated computer system as the one that was in Sterling Hall.

Ironically, while physics and astronomy research was set back as much as 12 or 15 years in some cases, the Math research Center was back in operation the day after the blast.

Serious doubts have entered into the minds of many scientists working at the University of Wisconsin. The despair which accompanies seeing decades of work go up in smoke runs deep now, especially since there is every reason to believe that it could just as easily happen again.

“Clearly, you can’t just let the rubble lie, because then they’ve won hands down. But on the other hand if you get all blown up again in a year, it’s really futile,” said Professor Robert Borchers, as he surveyed the bombed-out shell of what used to be his nuclear physics laboratory.

Will the effect of such despair be severe? It could well be. According to Borchers, “lots of people have simply talked about getting out of academic life. I think that’s a very real possibility.”

"Avastin prolongs life but drug is too expensive for NHS patients."

We've talked about the limitations on Avastin in the United States. It's much worse in the UK.

Sherrod...

... deflected.

"But if comedy has an Obama problem, it doesn't have much to do with ideology. The guy is just difficult to mock."

Claims the American Prospect:
Politicians who make good targets for humor tend to have a personality feature or physical characteristic, like a particular accent or a distinctive set of gestures, that are easily identifiable and thus can be exaggerated to make the politician look foolish, because exaggeration is what impressions and satire are built on....

The trouble with Obama is that he doesn't easily lend himself to mockery. He's famously cool -- never too hot, never too cold. And coolness itself is nothing if not a concerted effort to avoid being mocked.
Obama's the Teflon of comedy, right? Because that's got to be the only reason comedians don't seem to be able to mock him.

Talk about a camera "capture."

This one captured a thief. 

(And hey, it's in Madison.)

"I realized how people end up in the grave."

"Because that one moment [snaps her fingers] of just breaking or feeling like I can't, I can't go on, it's too heavy. That was somewhere I don't ever want to go again."

"The bogusity of the New York Times' story about how technology leads more park visitors into trouble."

Nice takedown by Jack Shafer. (But isn't the correct spelling "bogosity"? Try saying it. I know the adjective is "bogus," but people don't say "bogusity." They might say "bogusness," but not "bogusity.")

Anyway, the problem is something that's common to journalism about trends (including that ridiculous Daily Caller piece about blog payola). A headline declaring a trend gets readers' attention, but then you need a lot of examples of the things that constitute the trend. The writer has some things that look like a trend, but he's got to beef up the article with more examples or it's not a trend. But he's itching to get to trend!!!! so he includes things that don't really fit, and then the whole thing looks stupid.

It's really annoying for the reader, because the trend!!!! declaration worked, and you've already read it and rewarded the website with traffic before you realize it's not quite a trend. What can you do? Resolve not to read trend pieces anymore? But then you still see the headline and it makes the impression that there is a trend!!!! and now you're been deprived of the evidence that there isn't a trend.

Now, I'm reading the comments at the Shafer piece and see that some of his readers are pouncing on the "bogusity/bogosity" spelling issue. I'm glad to see that others share my priorities. There's also this from one "nerdnam":
Well, what's her name's plastic surgeon just died after driving off a cliff immediately after twittering a picture of his dog at the beach. The dog survived, luckily. So I see a trend here.
Oh?! "Heidi Montag Mourns Death of Her Plastic Surgeon." Oh, lord, look at the expression on her face! Isn't it ironic? You plastic-surgerize — what's the verb for "surgery"? — somebody's face and then you die and her face is incapable of looking convincingly sad. Her gigantic breasts don't look sad either, but they make it into the People Magazine photograph, and because they stand as monuments to your work, that's not ironic at all.

Hmm. That People article no longer contains the information about tweeting that is referred to here:
According to People, Dr. Frank Ryan's jeep Wrangler careened off of the Pacific Coast Highway on Monday....

People later reported that Ryan's former girlfriend confirmed that his accident was caused by texting and driving. He had posted a Twitter message about hiking with his dog just before the accident. The dog survived the crash.
One more dubiously technology-related death. Maybe confirmations from former girlfriends don't cut it anymore.

"But tolerance is one of the first and most awkward questions raised by any examination of Islamism."

Writes Christopher Hitchens, noting the naivete of the talk of religious tolerance in defense of the mosque near Ground Zero:
As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind. Sometimes it will be calls for censorship of anything "offensive" to Islam. Sometimes it will be demands for sexual segregation in schools and swimming pools. The script is becoming a very familiar one. And those who make such demands are of course usually quite careful to avoid any association with violence. They merely hint that, if their demands are not taken seriously, there just might be a teeny smidgeon of violence from some other unnamed quarter …

As for the gorgeous mosaic of religious pluralism, it's easy enough to find mosque Web sites and DVDs that peddle the most disgusting attacks on Jews, Hindus, Christians, unbelievers, and other Muslims—to say nothing of insane diatribes about women and homosexuals. This is why the fake term Islamophobia is so dangerous: It insinuates that any reservations about Islam must ipso facto be "phobic." A phobia is an irrational fear or dislike. Islamic preaching very often manifests precisely this feature, which is why suspicion of it is by no means irrational.
In this view, it's good to frame the debate in terms of tolerance, but don't wimp out halfway through. Keep going, and insist on tolerance all around. I think that's a better position than meeting intolerance with intolerance. It's more enlightened, it puts us on the path to liberty, and it requires quite a bit more courage.

August 23, 2010

"Recording booth will capture memories of Sterling Hall bombing."

"The booth will be located in the Memorial Library, 728 State St., from Monday, Aug. 23-Sunday, Aug. 29, and is open to the public. Representatives of both the UW-Madison Oral History Program and Wisconsin Story Project will be on hand to assist community members with sharing and recording their stories."

"I really believed that the revolution was coming."

"And then, when that happened, we just said, 'Oh no. Oh, no no no.' Everything came to a grinding halt. No one could do anything for a while. It was just the end."

"The terror is right here in our state, in our city, and on our campus. The terror is not something that happens elsewhere to others."

The Wisconsin State Journal republishes the editorial it ran on August 25, 1970. Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Sterling Hall, here at the University of Wisconsin.
[I]t isn't just the radicals who set the bomb in a lighted, occupied building who are guilty. The blood is on the hands of anyone who has encouraged them, anyone who has talked recklessly of "revolution," anyone who had chided with mild disparagement the violence of extremists while hinting that the cause is right all the same.

Lose weight...

Drink 2 glasses of water before each meal.

My faith in humanity is restored.

Someone who dialed the wrong number just said "I'm sorry."

The other day, this guy said "no problem," as if I'd caused him trouble.

About that Daily Caller article claiming a lot bloggers "on the Republican side" are "secretly feeding on cash from political campaigns."

The first paragraph of this attention-getting article by Jonathan Strong says there's "a form of partisan payola that erases the line between journalism and paid endorsement." What's the evidence?

First, there's the assertion of of an unnamed "Republican campaign operative" who says "It’s standard operating procedure" to pay bloggers in some way other than simply buying the ads that you see on the blogs.

Second, there's one blogger — Aaron Park, writing for Red County — who turned out to be a paid consultant for a particular candidate. Park got kicked off the blog for that, which indicates it's not the norm. Now Red County was also getting a lot of ad money from the candidate's opponent, and the article indicates that it was way more money than the blog's traffic seems to justify. But is that the "partisan payola" we're supposed to worry about, the way strategically placed blogs can command big ad rates from candidates?
Florida political blog Shark-Tank.net, which reaches about 15,000 viewers per month, is asking campaigns for $3,200 a month for a large banner ad. For that same price, an advertiser could purchase similar space on political blogs reaching over 1 million readers each week.
They're asking. Are they getting? But anyway, there's nothing wrong with a publishing project that is targeted to readers that particular advertisers will want to reach. What's wrong with a political blog getting into a lucrative niche? It will need to draw readers too or it won't get the advertising, and no one can make people read. It's a built-in safeguard. Really, what is the problem?!

It's so annoying to read an article like this. The headline and first paragraph make you think it's a big exposé and the rest is a lukewarm mishmash.

ADDED: I skipped the stuff about Dan Riehl because it seemed to trivial to warrant lengthening the post, but obviously it's upsetting to Riehl and he's fighting back.

AND: Ace confesses:
Twice I had conversations with people in DC in which the notion of a pushing a story for pay was floated. The first time was years and years ago and was vague, more of a "You know this sort of thing happens some time" more than an offer, and I could have gotten in touch about it if I decided in favor of it. I decided it was unethical and never did.

The second time was about a year ago, more specific this time. And I did entertain doing it. I thought about it, and was tempted -- I did believe the basic storyline I was being asked to push -- and, frankly, everyone else in DC was getting paid (including fundraisers, consultants, strategists, mistresses...), why shouldn't I?

But I couldn't. I decided it was unethical again, and didn't do it, and also said I wouldn't do it in the future.
In case you're wondering, no one has ever even offered me money to blog something. I wouldn't do it, of course, but it never comes up — perhaps because I don't live in Washington, perhaps because (as a law professor) I don't look easy to tempt, and perhaps because it's just not something that happens.

"Harmony, gee I really love you, and I want to love you forever, and dream of the never, never, never leaving harmony."

Today's theme song.

IN THE COMMENTS: c3 said:
Professor: Your age is showing. 70's Elton John. Now I have to know which of his early albums did you most like. (This is not a trick question.)
Frankly, Elton John is after my time. I thought when "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" came out that he was actually leaving — going back to his plow or whatever (hmmm) — and the career trajectory had arced and landed. Ha. But I did have a job back then — reading magazines! — where we played the radio, and I found some of his songs quite catchy. I liked the 3 albums I had: "Madman Across the Water," "Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player," and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." I still recommend these. They're great fun. And if you buy any of that music using those links, you will be painlessly contributing to the Althouse blog. My favorite Elton John song is "Daniel."

Two.

DSC_0021
(Enlarge.)

One.

Protest and counterprotest in NYC — 1,000 against the mosque near Ground Zero and 200 for it.

They were mostly peaceful, and they didn't really disagree at a high level of abstract principle. All — or mostly all — believe in freedom of religion, respect for the WTC victims, and opposition to those who attacked us on 9/11.

Off the abstract level, we have our troubles... but can you feel the harmony... now and then?

33 men, trapped 2300 feet underground, must wait 4 months for rescue.

A mine in Chile. For 17 days, there was no contact with the men. Now, there is communication — such as the note from the miners: "All 33 of us are fine in the shelter." There is hope and jubilation and food and water.
"It will take months to get them out," [said Chilean President Sebastian Pinera]. "They'll come out thin and dirty, but whole and strong."

Mr Pinera also saw images of the miners taken by a camera that was lowered down the borehole....

"Many of them approached the camera and put their faces right up against it, like children, and we could see happiness and hope in their eyes," Mr Pinera said.
It's hard to begin to imagine the emotions of the men and the people above ground who love them. First, the shock of the cave-in, with the uncertainty — both underground and above — about survival. Then the 17-day wait, with hope and suffering changing all the time. Then, the immense joy of contact, the families above ground all learning their men are alive and well and the men knowing their loved ones know they haven't died. All the basics of getting food and water. The comfort of notes back and forth. The window to the outside world that is the camera. What a relief to know that rescue is coming. But the wait is so long.

Think what it must be like to be trapped in a group that size, for that long. What do you think they are doing, with all that time? I assume that, since they were miners, they have mental resources for dealing with the fears of confinement and danger that far exceed ours, so maybe it is a bit presumptuous to try to put ourselves in their place, but let's try. I think I would devote myself, above all, to preserving a calm attitude for everyone. You couldn't have any fighting or craziness.

Then, what would you do about the boredom? You would talk, but perhaps you'd get sick of the men who talk too much, and you can't have talk that is upsetting or arguments about what's okay to talk about and what isn't. There would be much prayer, maybe too much for some people. But there are 33 of you, you'd break into small groups or pairs. Some would be religious, others would play games or tell stories. Some would keep to themselves. Would you make sure that no one was despairing or lonely?

There are some ways in which the terrible limitations would intensify the richness of life. And, upon rescue, the true richness of ordinary life will be brilliantly obvious to them. The love, the light, the air — why do we not see that overwhelming beauty all the time?

August 22, 2010

Hibiscus.

DSC_0049

Butterfly.

DSC_0055

It's not a hummingbird.

At the botanical garden today, 2 women were staring at a little beastie that was going at the butterfly bush. It was not a butterfly.

DSC_0051
(Enlarge.)

"Do you think that's a hummingbird or an insect?" asked one of the women, who seemed quite involved in the identification process. It wasn't easy, because it was small and darted around. The wings were nearly invisible.

I said: "To me, it looks like a miniature flying lobster, so I'm going to guess insect."

She said, "Yes, I think you're probably right, because it keeps hanging around, and hummingbirds are shy."

Instinctively recoiling at sentimentality and remembering this, I said, "Oh? I've seen some very aggressive hummingbirds. I've seen some hummingbirds who were real jerks."

DSC_0052

Hey! Look at the tongue. Maybe it is some kind of crazy butterfly.

IN THE COMMENTS: Irene says it's a hummingbird clearwing moth.

AND: Peter Hoh thinks it's a snowberry clearwing, and that looks right to me.

AND: Rick Lee said:
I just posted one of those also... I asked my friend the entomologist if it was a hummingbird moth and she said it was a close relative, the bumblebee moth.
Hey, he got his to hold still... plus he's a professional photographer. No fair!

At the Water Lily Café...

DSC_0006

... it's all so clear now.

"Robot suits to aid elderly Japanese farmers with toiling in the fields."

"People aged 65 and older are a key pillar of the agricultural work force, accounting for about 60 percent of the agricultural population in Japan. Development of the robot suit may come as welcome news to such elderly farmers."

Key word: "may."

"The government is pushing these food poisoning events because they want to over-regulate."

Writes commenter SWWBO in  yesterday's egg thread:
You should look into some of the regulations currently being considered by the FDA and USDA. These regs are going to increase the price of food considerably, if they are put into place - and they are doing it all under the guise of food safety.

These regs will also likely put small producers like myself out of business. I'll still raise chickens for our eggs, but I'll be disallowed from selling the eggs to anyone else unless I take some draconian steps and agree to paperwork for each individual chicken from hatching until death - if a skunk, opossum, raccoon, coyote or hawk kills a chicken, I'd have to report that to the government.
Ironically, the reason a skunk, opossum, raccoon, coyote or hawk could kill one of SWWBO's chickens is that "they are true free-rangers, they wander around the yard, the pastures and the woods." That makes the eggs taste especially good, those eggs that you won't be able to buy.

Maureen Dowd says "Rush Limbaugh... mocks 'Imam Obama' as 'America’s first Muslim president'" but what did he actually say?

Here's Dowd's column. You can search the radio show's transcripts here. It was a joke:
"If it was laudatory to call Bill Clinton America's first black president, why can't we call Imam Obama America's first Muslim president?"
To be fair, Dowd's use of "mocks" could be said to acknowledge it as a joke. But come on. She says:
Many people still have a confused view of Muslims, and the president seems unable to help navigate the country through its Islamophobia. It is a prejudice stoked by Rush Limbaugh....
If you're going to worry that comments plant the wrong ideas in people's heads, you should be more careful about the ideas you plant. Dowd took a Limbaugh phrase out of context. (Hey! Remember last month, when we were hyper-sensitive about the problem of taking quotes out of context?) In context, it was, first, a question, and second, always only a comparison to the famous Toni Morrison characterization of Bill Clinton as the first black president:
Years ago, in the middle of the Whitewater investigation, one heard the first murmurs: white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.
 "Trope" — I love that. AKA stereotype.
And when virtually all the African-American Clinton appointees began, one by one, to disappear, when the President's body, his privacy, his unpoliced sexuality became the focus of the persecution, when he was metaphorically seized and bodysearched, who could gainsay these black men who knew whereof they spoke?
 Ha. You know how I feel about "gainsay." It's the red flag of bullshit.
The message was clear "No matter how smart you are, how hard you work, how much coin you earn for us, we will put you in your place or put you out of the place you have somehow, albeit with our permission, achieved. You will be fired from your job, sent away in disgrace, and--who knows?--maybe sentenced and jailed to boot. In short, unless you do as we say (i.e., assimilate at once), your expletives belong to us."
(Shouldn't that be "all your expletives are belong to us"?)

Now, we all know that Bill Clinton is not actually black, so to say Obama is the first Muslim president in the way that Bill Clinton is the first black president actually implies that Obama is not a Muslim. As in: Christian faith notwithstanding, this is our first Muslim President. More Muslim than any actual Muslim person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime.

In context, please!

And answer the question: If it was laudatory to call Bill Clinton America's first black president, why doesn't the phrase "first Muslim president" work the same way?

There are some good answers to that question:

1. Back in 1998, when Morrison wrote her essay, Americans — or at least the Americans she was writing for — really did think it would be a fine thing to have a black president, but today, when Rush Limbaugh said that, Americans have a big problem with the idea of a Muslim president and Rush knows that.

2. Since we know Bill Clinton isn't black, calling him black creates no confusion. Calling Obama a Muslim, even as a trope, plays with — stokes — the doubts people have.

Bottom line: Am I criticizing Dowd? Only a little. She's stoking the misunderstandings of Rush Limbaugh that she knows NYT readers have. She doesn't care about giving him his due. But that's okay. He feeds on the things like this. I'm sure he'll have his fun on tomorrow's show. And it will give him license to spend a few more minutes massaging Obama-Muslim, Obama-Muslim, Obama-Muslim... into the listeners' confused mushy heads.

Tweets are so terribly transitory...

... unless... unless.... 

No. They are. Let it go.

"I hate where we are today. I hate the Internet. I hate the instant-news cycle," says National Enquirer editor Barry Levine.

"I yearn for the days when we could pass off a reporter as a waiter at Liz Taylor and Larry Fortensky’s wedding and get the inside scoop. They were the best days, no question about it. These days, the Lindsay Lohans and the reality stars? They’re flies on the wall, specks, not real celebrities."

You've got to have the glamour and grandeur before it's any fun snooping and toppling.

Obama's approval numbers in the swing states.

Where it really counts.

Whatever happened to Darfur?

Have you noticed that we don't notice it anymore?

IN THE COMMENTS: mesquito says:
Darfur has contracted herpes and is hiding from the ozone layer in the Amazon rain forest.

Obama is more like Reagan than Carter, says Mark Schmitt.

But he needs the economy to recover so we can perceive it.
Reagan recovered... in time for the "Morning in America" election of 1984. And so we naturally forget those days when he seemed doomed to be the fifth consecutive president to leave office a failure, rather than the first since Eisenhower to complete two terms and leave more or less respected. (I was kind of shocked to learn of the magnitude of Reagan's slump myself, although I was alive and politically aware at the time.) He recovered not because of his message or his political operation... but because the economy recovered.

"It seems an unusual time to embark on a career of multiple rape."

"He certainly didn't come across as a violent man, not in the least. Julian [Assange] was clearly preparing to release more sensitive documents."

Steal me once, shame on you; steal me twice, shame on me.

This Van Gogh painting should be ashamed of itself.

And... they can't even produce a clear photo of the painting? Double shame.