September 4, 2010

"18 Signs That America Is Rotting Right In Front Of Our Eyes."

Pravda headline, a little too close to the truth to be funny.
Once upon a time, the American people worked feverishly to construct beautiful, shining communities from coast to coast. But now we get to watch those communities literally crumble and decay in slow motion. Nothing lasts forever...
Also in Pravda:
A restaurant in Germany has been conducting an advertising campaign for people to donate body parts which will be transformed into delicious dishes at a new restaurant called Flime.... [T]he donors will be considered “members” of a new dining cult. The “members” will declare themselves willing to donate “any part of their body” while the resulting hospital costs will be borne by the restaurant which is looking for “an open-minded surgeon.”

Campus Mantis: Non Compos Mentis.

It's Saturday night, and the praying mantis at the University of Wisconsin is restless and reckless. We try to help, but he seems lacking in rationality. (WARNING: 1 bad word.)

A Saturday ride on the Military Ridge Trail.

We began in Blue Mounds:


We got all the way to Ridgeway, 10 miles down:


And headed back:


To make a 20-mile ride...


... which seemed about right.

What made it especially nice? Llamas...


... and, on return home, pizza, Meade-made:


So beautiful!

At the Cool Reflection Café...


... you may coolly reflect (or spout off passionately). It's another open thread. That's all.

"I have no definitive definition of a masterpiece but, in my view, it is a work that permits diverse interpretations, indeed contradictions."

Ha ha. Get it? He (Laurent Le Bon, director of the Centre Pompidou-Metz) has to avoid tripping over his own concept. You can't have a "definitive definition" that is about diversity and contradictions. If you're into diversity and contradictions, how can you answer any of the questions that are asked?

And... "definitive definition" — isn't that a funny term? It should be a redundancy. If it's a definition at all, it should necessarily be definitive. If he can't give a definitive definition, he's not giving a definition at all, one would think. He's eschewing definition. He wants people to give diverse and contradictory meanings to the term used to name the show at his museum.

So... do you care what works of art get labeled "masterpiece"? If so, why and what would you put the label on?

"The older I get, the fewer books I finish, and the more I read highly selectively — fast forward set on high."

Writes Kenneth Anderson:
This is either the getting of wisdom — or the gradual shutting down of (what to call it?) one’s social and engagement functions as one gets closer to in-turnedness of dying, the inability of the aging to take in new stuff because we are too occupied trying to process the accumulation of the previous decades.
Do older people read differently? If so, why?

If older people are less likely to read straight through a whole book, it's probably because:
The closer you are to death, the less reason there is to add more content to your brain.
The more you've put into your brain over the years the harder it is to jam in new material.
You've already read the things that have most influenced you, so the new things are less valuable.
You're so experienced that you don't need all the background and explaining that pads out most books.
You have less time left to live and more wisdom about when you are wasting it. free polls

Do blogging lawprofs wield too much power?

Orin Kerr reports:
On August 19th, Justice Kennedy gave an address that included an interesting passing remark about the role of blogs. Justice Kennedy was talking about how law review case comments generally come out too late to be of use to the Court (especially in the context of deciding whether to grant certiorari in a case). As a result, when Justice Kennedy asks his clerks to look to see what the law reviews have said about a particular case, there isn’t any commentary yet. Justice Kennedy adds: “I’ve found, what my clerks do now, when they have interesting cases — They read blogs.”
This means that the lawprofs who keep up high-profile blogs have disproportionate influence. You have traditional lawprofs laboring over law review articles, but these articles come out too late to discuss a case that's pending in the Supreme Court. One answer — I'm not the first to say this* — is that law review articles should properly be about something other than the latest pending or just-decided cases, something more timeless and profound. But I think that most law professors would like to be involved in the legal developments of the day. It must be irritating to see that the lawprof bloggers have a special line to the Court.

This may stir up an old question that I know nags at some law professors: Will I be required to blog? Very soon after I started blogging, I heard the question is it acceptable for lawprofs to blog? and then, right after that, the question will I be required to blog? jumped up. In the minds of some non-blogging lawprofs, it preceded the question is it good for lawprofs to blog? — which seemed like a more appropriate question to me. But I can see why someone with a legal mind would ask will I be required to blog? before is it good for lawprofs to blog? It's the same reason lawyers think what do I want the answer to be? before they try to figure out what the answer is.

Anyway, Justice Kennedy's remark shows why it's good for lawprofs to blog, but it would be ridiculous to require lawprofs to blog. Wouldn't it? Or is it ridiculous to require lawprofs to write law review articles?


*And I'm writing this too quickly to figure out who else has said this.

September 3, 2010

At the Water Garden Café...


... refresh yourself.

Bonus pic: Meade in the herb garden.

Bemoaning the loss of blue laws in the NYT.

"Sunday Shopping Linked With Less Happiness."

Good lord.

Sarah Palin versus the "impotent, limp and gutless."

Talking about reporters, thinking about dicks.

"At what point should you give up on your dream of becoming a lawyer?"

"It’s a question on many people’s minds lately. Whether they were laid off during the recession and haven’t been able to get back in, or if they’ve just graduated law school to the triumphant sounds of crickets, people are wondering when it’s time to stop throwing good money (and effort) after bad."

Above the Law, via Instapundit.

"What is that? It makes me angry, and I don't even know why."

That's what I said, as I overhead this video (which Meade was playing over there). "It's a Hillary for President ad," he said. It doesn't make me feel angry while looking at the video...

... but that was a weird experience. The music is the most heavy-handed kind of movie music, the stuff you hear in trailers for very big-budget sci-fi. Perhaps Hillary is a big-budget sci-fi project. Ever thought of it/her that way?

In any case, it's not Hillary presenting herself as a candidate, of course. Not overtly anyway. But she is a 2012 candidate, isn't she?

Hillary in 2012?
Pure fantasy, and it's going nowhere.
Hillary wants it, she'll jump in if she can, and I hope she does.
Hillary may want it, but there's no hope for her, and I'm glad.
Hillary is already running against Obama, and this ad is one sign of that.
She and Obama made a deal. He'll back out of the 2012 race, then run again in 2016 or 2020 perhaps. free polls

Emily Dickinson meets...

... Grand Theft Auto.

"Don't Be Evil?"

Nice — evil? — viral video for getting people to promote the cause of "Do Not Track Me" legislation. Via Wired:
It’s not the first anti-Google antic from the group, which is largely funded by legal fees, the Rose Foundation, Streisand Foundation, Tides Foundation and others. Last month the group announced it had parked outside lawmakers’ Washington-area residences to determine whether they had unsecured Wi-Fi networks that might have been sniffed by Google as part of the internet giant’s Street View and Google Maps program.
UPDATE, 9/4/10: Google just updated its privacy policy.

"A group of Radiohead fans went to a recent show in Prague 'on a mission to capture the band playing using as many different angles as possible.'"

"Radiohead found out about this and provided the audio so that the fans could piece everything together into proper videos."

Beautiful! I love when artists respond to the work of their fans like this.

"U.S. Lost Jobs in August, but Fewer Than Expected."

A NYT headline. 

What will it take for the media to notice how pathetically laughable it is to say the bad news is better than what was expected? How long will this go on? It's getting surreal!

UPDATE: Obama reacts:
“This morning, new figures show the economy produced 67,000 private sector jobs in August, the eighth consecutive month of private job growth. Additionally, the numbers for July were revised upward to 107,000. Now that's positive news, and it reflects the steps we've already taken to break the back of this recession.”

50% of NYC residents oppose the mosque near Ground Zero, and only 35% support it.

This NYT poll undermines the belief that the attitude toward the mosque is quite different in New York City and those of us who don't live there don't understand. Here, for example, is a comment written in an August 2d thread on this blog:
Do you live there Ann? No. So its actually none of your business. So you should just shut up about it.

I however, DO vote in that district. I own property in that district. That is MY community board. And I wholeheartedly support that mosque. The vast majority of those in that district support the mosque. And there is another mosque just one block away.

And it is not the Ground Zero Mosque. You can't even see the mosque from Ground Zero.

There was zero controversy about this mosque until the bigots made a stink about this. And yes, you're siding with the bigots now.

Obviously you no zilch about New York City. You have no connections to New York City. You are not a voter in New York City.

This mosque is trying to build bridges with the community. That means community board #1, who support this.

It certain does not mean YOU or Sarah Palin's "fake America".

So the bigots should just mind their own business.

Muslims in Community Board #1 have the right to pray in their neighborhood.
On the other hand, this commenter (downtownlad) can say the poll supports his position. If you break out Manhattan, 51% support the mosque and 41% oppose it.


And while we're on the subject of the mosque, did you hear Mark Steyn on the subject (as he was guest-hosting on the Rush Limbaugh show yesterday)? I can't find a transcript or long enough audio clip. He doesn't so much care about building the mosque. He's more concerned with the failure to rebuild on the WTC site and where Imam Rauf gets his money. Perhaps opposition to the mosque is displaced disappointment with America's failure to demonstrate its strength and its values with a dramatic, finished, brilliant architectural achievement that dominates lower Manhattan. It's been 10 years.

"RUSS FEINGOLD IS dodging Obama in Wisconsin."

Instapundit interprets the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's bland report: "A Labor Day schedule released by the staff of U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) indicates that while Feingold will be in Milwaukee for a Laborfest pre-parade on Monday morning, he will not be in town when Obama is expected to arrive."

September 2, 2010

In the Purple Garden...


... you can exaggerate all you want.

"[C]ovetousness, schadenfreude, anxiety, dread, and on and on."

"It’s the frequent fruitlessness of such feelings that the Buddha is said to have pondered after he unplugged from the social grid of his day — that is, the people he lived around — and wandered off to reckon with the human predicament. Maybe his time off the grid gave him enough critical distance from these emotions to discover his formula for liberation from them. In any event, it’s because the underlying emotions haven’t changed, and because the grid conveys and elicits them with such power, that his formula holds appeal for many people even, and perhaps especially, today."

Robert Wright, writing in the NYT, on a theme that has been big in the NYT: how technology is hurting our brains.

"You know what the greatest city in the world is?" asked NY Mayor Bloomberg.

"Scottsdale, Arizona. It's clean, it's not too big, it's got a couple streets with shops and restaurants, and the people there aren't fucking insane. This place is fucking insane. And by the way, that's not a reason to like it. Anyone who says that is a delusional dirtbag."

Downtown Indianapolis.





Architectural details, photographed last Saturday.

"Vibrating strings... point particles, 2-dimensional membranes, 3-dimensional blobs and other objects that are more difficult to picture and occupy even more dimensions of space."

Not God... vibrating strings... point particles, 2-dimensional membranes, 3 -dimensional blobs and other objects that are more difficult to picture and occupy even more dimensions of space.

M-theory, Stephen Hawking says, explains how the universe came to exist.

"Dodge Charger owner upset vehicle crushed by suicidal fall."

Here's a classic 15-minutes-of-fame:
A New Jersey woman is devastated that her precious sports car -- just repaired and fully gassed up -- was wrecked by a suicidal man's 40-story attempted death leap on the Upper West Side.

"I miss it. It's my baby," moaned Maria McCormack, who regrets lending her husband the 2008 Dodge Charger Tuesday for work. "I want to meet [Tom Magill] and say, 'Why? Why my car out of all the cars in the city?' "
It's not that she thinks he has an answer, like he picked her car, she just wants to say "Why? Why?" at him.
"I wonder how he feels now that he made it. Does he feel like an idiot?" said Maria. "I hope he's OK. But I just want to know why."
Well, Magill is in the hospital after having rods inserted in his legs and some operation to "relieve the clotting" in his groin, so maybe you could go over there and interrogate him about whether he feels like an idiot.

If you think this sounds like an episode of "Seinfeld," it's "The Bris":
"Well, I just got the estimate. It's going to cost more to fix that roof than the car's worth... Someone's paying for that damage and it's not gonna be me.... swan dives from twenty floors, lands right on to it. What do I have a bulls eye on there? He couldn't move over two feet? Land on the sidewalk. That's city property. What are the chances, what are the odds? He couldn't do it again if his life depended on it..."
Maria, how does it feel to be George Costanza

Governor Jan Brewer in her prepared opening statement in the gubernatorial debate...

... or... uh... unprepared statement...

Seriously, what is wrong with this woman? That is scary.

(Via Memeorandum.)

"Megan McArdle Really Hates Sex at Dawn"...

... is a funny title for an article, written by the author of "Sex at Dawn," which book title he declines to put in italics or quotes in his article title. I thought it would be interesting to discuss sex at dawn, in the literal sense, but I find myself confronted with an author who's miffed at a blogger who's dissing his book:
Her comments begin strangely, with the admission that she's "in the middle" of the book. Note the urgency to condemn it publicly, even before reading the damned thing! 
Oh, blah! I hate this criticism. McArdle is blogging, not doing the official book review for the Atlantic. A rule against criticizing books you haven't finished would overprotect authors, since you shouldn't finish a bad book, and it would also underprotect authors, since the critics wouldn't disclose that they hadn't read the whole thing.

But bloggers... bloggers can open a book to a random page, read one sentence, cogitate furiously, then open up their laptops — maybe right there at Borders, where they picked up the book they didn't buy — and tap out a free-association blog post saying anything that occurs to them and publish — using the WiFi they didn't pay for either. It's not the slightest bit strange. And it's not unfair either. It is what it is, and we know what it is. It's blogging.
And boy, does she lash out:

•    "It reads like horsefeathers . . . like an undergraduate thesis,"
•    "breathless rather than scientific"
•    "cherry-picked evidence stretched far out of shape to support their theory,"
•    "they don't even attempt to paper over the enormous holes in their theory."
Ouch! And that's just the first paragraph. 
Eh! There are only 4 paragraphs. By the way, "their theory" — if I can trust McArdle — is that "people are naturally polyamorous." The dispute continues with McArdle and the author (Christopher Ryan) throwing shit at each other in a fight about whether people are like bonobos. I'm just saying "throwing shit at each other" because that's how bonobos fight, and people are like bonobos, right? Not right? Advantage McArdle!!!!!

Anyway, as you've probably figured out by now, the book is not about sex at dawn — the practice of having sex upon first awakening in the morning — but sex and evolution — "dawn" in the sense of "the dawn of man."

So where am I going with this? It's a blog post. I'm a blogger. I'll go where I want, which is where I always go when this subject comes up, and I don't feel safe in this conversation no more...

Christina Romer, mystified.

Saying her good-byes.
When she and her colleagues [on the Council of Economic Advisers] began work, she acknowledged, they did not realize "how quickly and strongly the financial crisis would affect the economy." They "failed to anticipate just how violent the recession would be."

Even now, Romer said, mystery persists. "To this day, economists don't fully understand why firms cut production as much as they did or why they cut labor so much more than they normally would." Her defense was that "almost all analysts were surprised by the violent reaction."
Yes, we've noticed that every damned thing that happens is declared "unexpected."
That miscalculation, in turn...
What miscalculation?
... led to her miscalculation that the stimulus package would be enough to keep the unemployment rate from exceeding 8 percent. Without the policy, she had predicted, unemployment would soar to 9.5 percent. The plan passed, and unemployment went to 10 percent.
Unexpectedly and mystifyingly, it was quite a surprise.
No wonder most Americans think the effort failed. But Romer argued, a bit too defensively, against the majority perception. "As the Council of Economic Advisers has documented in a series of reports to Congress, there is widespread agreement that the act is broadly on track," she declared. 
The act is broadly on track is a helpful thing to believe if you want to experience every bit of bad news as a surprise.
Further, she argued, "I will never regret trying to put analysis and quantitative estimates behind our policy recommendations."
What?! I guess Romer, writing her speech, didn't predict the embarrassing ways those words would could be read. Surprise! Among the negative interpretations available for those words are: 1. They started with the policy preferences, then rustled up the numbers to support it, and 2. They had to choose what to put first, policy choices or professional analysis, and they chose policy choices.
But the problem is not that Romer did a quantitative analysis; the problem is that the quantitative analysis was wrong.
Well, if you did the quantitative analysis in order to support the policy preference you put first, then it's not... surprising that that your quantitative analysis was second-rate.

"Red meat, white meat, blue meat, meat-o-f**king-rama. You will eat it. Because not eating meat is a decision."

"Eating meat is an instinct! Yeah! And I know what it’s about. 'I don’t want to eat the meat because I love the animals. I love the animals.' Hey, I love the animals too. I love my doggy. He’s so cute. My fluffy little dog... He’s so cute — There’s the problem. We only want to save the cute animals, don’t we? Yeah. Why don’t we just have animal auditions. Line ‘em up one by one and interview them individually. 'What are you?' 'I’m an otter.' 'And what do you do?' 'I swim around on my back and do cute little human things with my hands.' 'You’re free to go.' 'And what are you?' 'I’m a cow.' 'Get in the f**king truck, ok pal!' 'But I’m an animal.' 'You’re a baseball glove! Get on that truck!'"

Denis Leary, quoted a propos of the James Lee, the now-dead manifesto guy.

"In a rather curious and confused way, some white people are starting almost to think like a minority, even like a persecuted one."

"... Saturday's rally was quite largely confined to expressions of pathos and insecurity, voiced in a sickly and pious tone. The emotions that underlay it, however, may not be uttered that way indefinitely."

September 1, 2010

At the Robin Tavern...


... you can try to blend in.

ADDED: The long view:

Pond shadows.


Late summer. Early evening.

The University of Wisconsin must include the Badger Catholic, a student group, in the distribution of student activity fees.

Says the 7th Circuit, in an opinion written by Judge Easterbrook.

Yay! Skeptoid takes on my favorite target for debunking: The Myers-Briggs Personality Test.

You can listen and also read an episode transcript here. Excerpt:
It's been found that 50% of test takers who retake it score differently the second time. This is because nobody is strictly an E or an I, for example, but somewhere in between. Many people are right on the border for some of the four dichotomies, and depending on their mood that day or other factors, may answer enough questions differently to push them over. Yet the results inaccurately pigeonhole them all the way over to one side or the other. This makes it possible for two people who are very similar to actually end up with completely opposite scores....

From the perspective of statistical analysis, the MBTI's fundamental premise is flawed. According to Myers & Briggs, each person is either an introvert or an extravert. Within each group we would expect to see a bell curve showing the distribution of extraversion within the extraverts group, and introversion within the introverts. If the MBTI approach is valid, we should expect to see two separate bell curves along the introversion/extraversion spectrum, making it valid for Myers & Briggs to decide there are two groups into which people fit. But data have shown that people do not clump into two separately identifiable curves; they clump into a single bell curve, with extreme introverts and extreme extraverts forming the long tails of the curve, and most people gathered somewhere in the middle. Jung himself said "There is no such thing as a pure extravert or a pure introvert. Such a man would be in the lunatic asylum." This does not support the MBTI assumption that people naturally separate into two groups. MBTI takes a knife and cuts the bell curve right down the center, through the meatiest part, and right through most people's horizontal error bars. Moreover, this forced error is compounded four times, with each of the four dichotomies.

Speaking of politics and phallic symbols...

... which I just was... check out the cover of Meghan McCain's new memoir:

What's dirty and sexy in this book? Nothing, I bet.

"All programs on Discovery Health-TLC must stop encouraging the birth of any more parasitic human infants and the false heroics behind those actions."

"In those programs' places, programs encouraging human sterilization and infertility must be pushed. All former pro-birth programs must now push in the direction of stopping human birth, not encouraging it."

The hostage-takers manifesto.

ADDED: The guy seems pretty clearly crazy, and I hope no one dies and he gets the help he needs, because this manifesto — PDF —  is hilarious, but if anyone dies, it might be wrong to laugh.
Saving the environment and the remaning species diversity of the planet is now your mindset. Nothing is more important than saving them. The Lions, Tigers, Giraffes, Elephants, Froggies, Turtles, Apes, Raccoons, Beetles, Ants, Sharks, Bears, and, of course, the Squirrels.
Of course, the Squirrels. That's such a childish list of animals, and not just because of "Froggies." These are the animals in a children's picture book or Noah's Ark toy.
The humans? The planet does not need humans. You MUST KNOW the human population is behind all the pollution and problems in the world....
I disagree. Around my city, geese are crapping everything up. I notice that no birds got on Lee's list of favored creatures.
These are the demands and sayings of Lee.
How religion-y, and yet he hates religion:
Civilization must be exposed for the filth it is. That, and all its disgusting religious-cultural roots and greed. Broadcast this message until the pollution in the planet is reversed and the human population goes down! 
He hates everything that human beings have produced. It's all filth. Even the ideas. He gets his ideas from a gorilla:
The Discovery Channel and it's affiliate channels MUST have daily television programs at prime time slots based on Daniel Quinn's "My Ishmael" pages 207-212 where solutions to save the planet would be done in the same way as the Industrial Revolution was done, by people building on each other's inventive ideas.
Here's the book. A gorilla tells us what to do. Example from the pages cited:
We could pension off our teachers, close schools, and open up the city to our children. Let them learn anything they want. We could take that risk....
Quinn has been hyped by Oprah Winfrey: Here's an Oprah interview with  Quinn:
WINFREY: You say that y--hundreds of years from now, children will look back on our society and call us monsters. Why?

Mr. QUINN: I think so. Yeah, because we're g--we're--we continue to take and take and take and consume and consume and consume everything in sight. And in 100 years, if--if there are still people around to think about it, we're going to look back and say, `My God, these were terribly greedy people. What kind of people were they? They were hard to understand, who had no thought for us, for the future of--of the human race.'

WINFREY: How are we monsters? In what ways are we devouring the world?...
ADDED: The man was killed. The hostages all survived.
[T]he suspect had "metalic canisters" strapped to his chest and back. When Lee was struck by police bullets, one of the canisters "popped." Police have not confirmed if the canisters were a bomb, but Manger said the "device may have gone off" when he was shot.

I just scrolled through all 81 of these Emmy photos so you don't have to.

Lots of people have voted on what looks best, and to my eye, it's clear. For color, people want to see white or off-white. Definitely not purple. For style, they like simple. A strapless sheath, with beading for interest, is best. This ranks #1, and the rest of the voting plays out in accordance with how close you get to exactly that. So don't do this. Or this. Or this. And especially not this.

"A conscious decision was made by certain groups to destroy this presidency the minute it started."

"People say it was the health care bill – no, it wasn’t. I go to every county every year and hold a town meeting. Within days of the president being sworn in, I had people showing up at my town meeting with hats on, with tea bags coming out, saying this is going to be socialism.”

That's Russ Feingold, answering one of 10 questions posed by Jeff Zelenzy in  the NYT. Feingold is, as you probably know, struggling to keep his place representing my state, Wisconsin, in the U.S. Senate. The question was "What explains the difficult political climate for Democrats, considering that President Obama has implemented many policies he campaigned on?" The quote above was the second of 2 explanations Feingold offered. The first was the economy and the tendency people have to blame whoever is in power when the economy is bad.

But it's not the health care bill? Some people think "it’s pretty obvious that the Democrats’ electoral woes are directly tied to the passage of the health care bill." Ironically, that link goes to Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake, who is criticizing the health care bill from the left, that is, hoping for socialism.

Another NYT question for Feingold is: "Are there a lot of undecided voters out there on issues like health care?" He says:
Here in Wisconsin, there’s 40 percent who are locked in on one side, 40 percent on the other and roughly 20 percent independents, they’re not locked in at all. They are holding back and as you calmly and rationally explain, most people say, "No, we don’t really want to repeal that."

Caught in a rainstorm, ducking into a small-town libraray, I read the Utne Reader yesterday.

I used to subscribe back in the 80s, when I loved it. But what is it now? I found the cover pretty amusing:

I can't find a bigger picture of that at the site. Too bad! They should show it off. It's funny — Obama biting into a sloppy cheeseburger and cringing as the angry Michelle waves a bunch of carrots much like wives in old comic strips used to wield rolling pins. And you know what it means when a First Lady gets after the President to eat carrots.

Of course, the article inside isn't critical of Michelle Obama and her eat-your-vegetables shtick. It's critical of Obama, but not because he eats cheeseburgers, because he "loves up industrial agriculture." We're supposed to identify with the angry woman swinging her lo-cal phallic symbols at her man. (At least they aren't cut up phallic symbols like the ones Hillary famously foisted on Bill.) The cheeseburger Obama prefers — like the onion rings Bill Clinton preferred — is a symbol, a symbol of what he loves. In Obama's case, according to the article, it's agribusiness. He "loves up" agribusiness, that big sloppy, gooey cheeseburger.

It's Utne Reader, that magazine for aging lefties, and the article assumes you're into the anti-business agenda. The magazine assumes you'll identify with Michelle and her vegetables and is oblivious to the possible revulsion you might feel to the angry face they've given her. You're supposed to think:  Yes, Obama, come back to your lefty roots. (Note: Carrots are roots.) Your policies need to kick big business in the ass and embrace the local and sustainable and holistic.

But I didn't get that far into the magazine. The library was closing and the rainstorm was ending, and we needed to get back to the Glacial Drumlin Trail. I only had time to read: 1.  a letter from the editor by a subscriber who was sending back an issue of the magazine because it had Sarah Palin on the cover and she didn't want to look at that ever ever ever (though presumably the articles inside assailed the Alaskan), 2. "On Being Fat and Running: Abandoning insecurity for a full life," by Brenton Dickieson, from Geez, and "Sentenced to Life: A man ages in prison and outlives society’s fears," by Kenneth E. Hartman, from Notre Dame. But none of those things are accessible on line, so I can't send Utne Reader some traffic and set up some discussion about that here.

The Hartman article is a reprint, and — unlike the Geez reprint about running while fat — the original is on line, so you can read it.
Prison is a young man’s world, a world of physical violence and posturing, a world of brute strength and primal, unfocused rage. It is not a place to grow old, although more and more of us are doing just that: growing old in prison.
But Utne Reader is not a young man's world — or a young woman's world. It feels like an old person's place. I felt too young for it... and I'm old. Or it's for those other aging Americans... the lefties.  I see these people in Madison all the time. Do they feel left behind? Do you think the day will come when "lefty" will seem to mean left behind?

IN THE COMMENTS: lemondog has a way to get to an enlargement of the cover. Here's a closeup screen grab that shows Michelle's face:

The artist is Jason Seiler. Nice work. I notice the cigarette over the ear now. Ha.

Using lemondog's method, I can get to that letter about Sarah Palin. If you page forward in the magazine, you'll find it. You can see the cover that upset the poor woman so. She complains:
When the media gives air space, page space, and cover space (albeit in jest or irony) to crazies such as Palin, they are complicit in her plan to lend credence to the climate of ignorance, sensationalism, and just downright muddled thinking that is passed off as a national discourse these days — and which she is one of the most visible muddlers.
Jeez, the mere image of Sarah Palin unleashes hysteria.

AND: The image of Michelle Obama drives other people nuts. Women's faces. They're so provocative.

Things you get to read about yourself in the newspaper after you survive a 39-story jump from a building in Manhattan.

From today's Daily News, the story of a failed suicide:

1. The headline says the man — Thomas Magill — "lives to tell tale," but the "tale" he's told so far is "My leg! My leg!"

2. A construction worker who witnessed the fall has opined that the man survived not because he landed on a red 2008 Dodge Charger, but because the car contained a set of rosary beads.

3. He landed feet first, "twisted like a pretzel," in the backseat of the car. The car seat! That, not God, accounts for the soft landing, as shown in this reenactment:

4. The man's Facebook page shows that he regarded his interests as "being mean" and "making fun of people." Does that make you less likely to scold me for being mean and making fun of him? I am making fun of him, but I deny that I'm being mean. This post is part of my ongoing effort to deter people from committing suicide. I believe stories about suicide are full of the kind of sympathy that creates a romantic aura around suicide. I want to give suicide the kind of awful image that will make less easy to embrace than facing up to your problems in the material world.

"What Is Moderate Islam?" — a symposium.

In the Wall Street Journal. Excerpts from the 6 participants:

Anwar Ibrahim ("The Ball Is in Our Court"):
... Muslims must do more than just talk about their great intellectual and cultural heritage. We must be at the forefront of those who reject violence and terrorism. And our activism must not end there. The tyrants and oppressive regimes that have been the real impediment to peace and progress in the Muslim world must hear our unanimous condemnation.
Bernard Lewis ("A History of Tolerance"):
For the moment, there does not seem to be much prospect of a moderate Islam in the Muslim world. This is partly because in the prevailing atmosphere the expression of moderate ideas can be dangerous—even life-threatening....

But for Muslims who seek it, the roots are there, both in the theory and practice of their faith and in their early sacred history.
Ed Husain ("Don't Call Me Moderate, Call Me Normal"):
Normative Islam, from its early history to the present, is defined by its commitment to protecting religion, life, progeny, wealth and the human mind. In the religious language of Muslim scholars, this is known as maqasid, or aims. This is the heart of Islam.

I am fully Muslim and fully Western. Don't call me moderate—call me a normal Muslim.
Reuel Marc Gerecht ("Putting Up With Infidels Like Me"):
Tolerance among traditional Muslims is defined as Christian Europe first defined the idea: A superior creed agrees not to harass an inferior creed, so long as the practitioners of the latter don't become too uppity. Tolerance emphatically does not mean equality of belief, as it now does in the West.
Tawfik Hamid ("Don't Gloss Over The Violent Texts"):
Radical Islam is not limited to the act of terrorism; it also includes the embrace of teachings within the religion that promote hatred and ultimately breed terrorism. Those who limit the definition of radical Islam to terrorism are ignoring—and indirectly approving of—the Shariah teachings that permit killing apostates, violence against women and gays, and anti-Semitism.

Moderate Islam should be defined as a form of Islam that rejects these violent and discriminatory edicts....
Moderate Islam must not be passive. It needs to actively reinterpret the violent parts of the religious text rather than simply cherry-picking the peaceful ones....
Akbar Ahmed ("Mystics, Modernists and Literalists"):
Having studied the practices of Muslims around the world today, I've come up with three broad categories: mystic, modernist and literalist....

Muslims in the mystic category reflect universal humanism, believing in "peace with all."...

The second category is the modernist Muslim who believes in trying to balance tradition and modernity....
The literalists believe that Muslim behavior must approximate that of the Prophet in seventh-century Arabia. Their belief that Islam is under attack forces many of them to adopt a defensive posture. And while not all literalists advocate violence, many do. Movements like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and the Taliban belong to this category.
Ahmed says he wants accurate categories and indicates that "moderate" isn't such a category. I'd need to hear more about that to understand, because it seems to me that there are ways of being moderate or extreme in all 3 categories. Do you really want to say that it's taking texts literally that is the problem? Would that extend to other religions (and to other texts, such as, for example, Constitutions)? And aren't there also ways of being "modernist" that can lead to trouble? Didn't history's worst fascists meld tradition and some concept of modernity? I don't mean to say that there's no insight to be gained in Ahmed's 3 categories, only that their existence doesn't convince me to stop caring about moderation.

August 31, 2010

On the Glacial Drumlin Trail...

... east of Madison, beginning in Cottage Grove, we biked for about 18 miles today.


I like an overcast sky with photographable clouds.


But I don't want to hear thunder. This is how it looked just before a big downpour.


We sought shelter in the library in Deerfield. I read the Utne Reader (after Meade handed it to me) and Meade read the Mayo Clinic Newsletter until the librarian said she was closing in a minute. The worst of the rain was over, and we pedaled back over the trail, dodging chipmunks and frogs and one dark brown rabbit.

Obama on Iraq: Mission Accomplished.

And now he would like you to pay attention to domestic issues. Okay?

ADDED: "The war is over"... remember Phil Ochs singing that?

AND: "What Obama said about the surge when it mattered."

At the Zaha Hadid Café...



... you can talk about the "urban carpet" effect of architecture in a "somewhat declining downtown"... or anything else that might amuse you.

AND: Speaking of questionable interior space, you might what to weigh in on the redecoration of the Oval Office.

ALSO: Here's how LBJ had it:


I took that picture at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas.

Poison gas used on schoolgirls in Afghanistan.

"There are some people who are always intimidating girls from going to school."

"What Audrey does in 'Breakfast at Tiffany’s' is not uninteresting, but it is far from the modern woman..."

"...  even the one introduced to American audiences in the persons of Bette Davis, Irene Dunne, Margaret Sullavan, the other Hepburn (though she could talk herself into a self-centered corner, too), Carole Lombard, Rosalind Russell, Jean Arthur, as well as Barbara Stanwyck. Instead Audrey rather resembles her physical antithesis Marilyn Monroe (who wanted to play Holly) in that they have very distinctive voices, but not voices that are good for talking to people."

Questioning "the chilly yet unlived-in gamine glamour of Audrey Hepburn."

"Did Lomborg genuinely have a change of heart?"

"Or is he just trying to figure out a new way to sell books? After all, now that the prospects for a global effort to tackle climate change look dim, the green position is ripe ground for self-styled contrarians."

"Man, those sleeping-inside-a-giant-yam years are the worst."

"But it's all worth it when you can finally relax and listen to your huge infant-headed son's butt through a tin can on a string."

A Metafilter comment on a series of drawings by Ruth Gwily.

I'm not thrilled with the drawing itself, but the images give you something to talk about — is this The Life of a Woman? — and I love the simple website design that lets you scroll across a long series of drawings. That's so much better than a lot of thumbnails that you have to click to enlarge or do as a "slideshow."

Seriously? The GOP has a 10-point lead on the generic ballot? Actually, it's more like a 14-point lead.

After trying to minimize the 10-point lead — "probably an outlier of sorts"— Nate Silver delivers the bad news to NYT readers:
... Gallup’s survey — and some other generic ballot polls — are still polling registered rather than likely voters, whereas its polls of likely voters are generally more reliable in midterm elections. At FiveThirtyEight, we’ve found that the gap between registered and likely voter polls this year is about 4 points in the Republicans’ favor — so a 10-point lead in a registered voter poll is the equivalent of about 14 points on a likely-voter basis.

"Every week, I get in a taxi, ask the driver to take me to his or her favorite restaurant."

A good idea? But:
I wish I didn't feel this way -- I wish I were not so cynical a person -- but unfortunately, the very first thing I thought before actually clicking through and looking at the site was this: "If I did this, the cabbies would just drive me as far as they possibly could in order to get the biggest possible fare."

What kind of person are you?
The kind who thinks it's a cool idea.
The kind who thinks I'd get ripped off. free polls

"Americans are too damn polite..."

"... so that a conversation between them consists of each person trying to say what the other person would have said had it been their turn to speak. And that isn’t a real conversation at all."

A British professor, quoted by an American lawprof (Einer Elhauge) in an article (published last October) called "Is 1L one hell? Survival tips from a law professor." There are 10 survival tips, and the Britprof's quote is from #9: "Don't be boring." That's a good tip for everyone, but as applied to first year law students:
Don’t be afraid to disagree or be provocative, or even to try on positions you aren’t quite sure about. And don’t close your minds to those who disagree with you. You may find that they are more convincing than you thought, or that discussion with them deepens your understanding of just why they are so wrong.
Students (and others) are afraid to say something wrong or — horrors! — frowned upon by their peers 'n' profs. We need the fear of being boring as a counterweight. Oh, I'm kidding. You don't need to be afraid of being boring. You just need to succumb to seductive and intense pleasures of not being boring.


Professor Elhauge's #1 tip is something I've been saying to students for a quarter century:
1. Realize the Difference Between Being Confused and Understanding the Confusion
Often students have the following the experience. They read the materials and thought the law seemed pretty clear. Then they went to class. And now the issues seem confusing. So they wrongly conclude that class is actually lessening their understanding. What this reaction misses is that often the correct understanding is that the laws and issues are unclear. There is conflict about what the doctrine means, when it applies, when it trumps other doctrines, and what justifies it, and the same set of issues can be framed in multiple ways. Realizing this doesn’t mean you are confused; it means you understand the confusion.
It's a gift to delight in understanding that comes in the form of confusion. Most lawprofs have this gift, I think. Which makes it all the more annoying for the law students who resist the realization that their confusion is in fact an understanding of confusion. See? It's annoying. We're annoying, we lawprofs.

"Ivy, when she wasn't repeating whatever Gretchen said, told us that this collection was so awe-inspiring and soul-wrenching that it felt like giving birth. Well, Ivy?"

"You made yourself one ugly baby."

"Brooklyn College said it was 'regrettable that Mr. Bruce Kesler misunderstands the intentions of the Common Reader experience and the broader context of this selection.'"

Reports The Daily News, picking up the story that we were talking about here yesterday.

Hey, now we get to check out the Daily News comments. Continuum says:
I guess if you can't physically burn the books yourself, you can burn the school financially where they're allowed to be read. 
"Allowed to be read"? (Yes, ’n’ how many books can exist in a school/Before they’re allowed to be read?) It's an assigned text, one book for all. It's the book we want in your head, the school says to the incoming freshman, who, presumably, were chosen for their diversity.

Continuum continues:
It's his money, so he can do with it as he chooses. This won't be the first, nor will it be the last time, that some rightwinger will try to prevent an opposing view using his money or lack thereof . . . . . 
Prevent an opposing view?

Joezoo says:
The gentleman misunderstands the purpose of a college education - to be exposed to a wide variety of ideas, and learn how to be critical of them. 
Yet, ironically, Kesler is being critical of a book — and teaching a lesson in criticism.
I wonder what books he read while at Brookly College were high on the list of books-to-be-burned by donors at that time.
Where did this "burned" concept come from? Kesler never said the book shouldn't be available in the library and assigned in some courses where it has some relevance. He objected to its being chosen as the one book to give to freshmen to create a sense of "common experience." That's a much stronger statement by the school of how it sees itself. And the book is assigned in the required freshman English course. Imagine a set of transcribed interviews with young people as the text to be studied in an English class. Think of the rich pool of English literature... and weep.

StoutKraut says:
Its about time someone has the 'pair' to stand up and be counted. With freedom comes responsibility and NOT radicalism. Besides its his money and he can do whatever he wants with him.
Alumni provide an important check. Look at what happened at Harvard Law School:
In 1987, our last year as students at Harvard Law School, we formed a group called NOPE. No matter how rich we became, even if we could credit Harvard for our careers, we vowed to never contribute anything of financial value to its endowment: Not One Penny Ever. NOPE...
That's a long side track that I won't travel down today, but Elena Kagan is in that story. In the 80s, I worked at a Wall Street law firm (Sullivan & Cromwell), hearing Harvard alumni partners fretting over what was happening to their law school. Suffice it to say that radical politics were a big problem... and the alumni were not powerless.

It's a marketplace of ideas, and there are powerful buyers and sellers in that marketplace. The professors have market power, but they aren't the only ones.
You’ve been with the professors
And they’ve all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have
Discussed lepers and crooks
You’ve been through all of
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books
You’re very well read
It’s well known
Ah! There was a time when the professors at least saw fit, when imposing a book, to impose an exemplar of great writing.


"Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss."

August 30, 2010

"Who else thinks Beck is more of a tent revivalist than a political pitchman, and that his ultimate goal is to win souls for the L.D.S. Church?"

That's a question from Reihan Salam, which Ross Douthat answers in the most absurdly equivocal way:
I don’t know if the Fox News host actually has any soul-winning ambitions. But you could, if you were so inclined, regard him as a kind of ecumenical outreach coordinator, working to burnish Mormonism’s image among conservative evangelicals.

"This looks good," I said...

... and iChatted Meade this link... and it's for dinner tonight!





The war monument.


This is the "War" side of the State Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Indianapolis. This closeup shows one soldier using a dead soldier to place to perch his gun...


... and pigeons, in turn, using that gun.

Things that didn't meet the Huffington Post standards.

"$100,000 For Glenn Beck's Sex Tape" gets attention via Memeorandum,  but HuffPo has deleted it.

Newsbusters calls attention to the writer's bio:
Beau Friedlander is a writer living in Brooklyn. He was the editor-in-chief of Air America until it closed in 2010...
And yet people wonder why Air America didn't cut it.

Liberal fascism.

Last night, I posted a picture of Union Terminal in Cincinnati that made Dead Julius say:
Nice American flag drapped just like a big Nazi flag...

In a train station too... You know who liked trains? Nazis! Therefore...

Althouse is a FASCIST! Q.E.D.  (Meade has too much connection to the earth to be called a fascist... he's just a FASCIST-LOVER!)

That station is amazing. So were the fountain sculptures. I wanna visit the city now. One thing on my to-see-in-Cincinnati list is the sculpture of the great Cincinnatus returning the fasces and returning to the plow... the fasces resembles an Uzi.
The link goes to a photo that I didn't take.

Palladian comes in with:
Cincinnati has a replica of the Capitoline She-wolf in Eden Park, presented to the city by none other than Benito Mussolini himself!
And that link does go to an old blog post of mine — with a photo by... well, that's not by me either. By Meade:


Hey! Look at those teats, Tits! This vindicates Alan Simpson. And Jonah Goldberg.

"We have the nirvana that people are looking for."

Says Rick Stengel, the managing editor of Time Magazine.

Eh... I think I'll look for the nirvana that you can't look for. That seems more nirvana-y. 

"I’m sure there are some residents that are like, 'Wait a minute, why is my road closed down?'" said Lance Armstrong.

In Madison, yesterday.

As long as we're talking about Presidents and their bikes...

Some photos...

Yeah, "Please Do Not Touch or Take Photos." I didn't take these photos. I've never even been to Kennebunkport where you can touch see these things.

Drudge is giving Obama a hard time this morning.

There's this at the top:

Drudge dogged him back in the spring of '08 for looking dorky on a bicycle. You'd think his people would at least get him a non-unisex bike that's the right size for him. Anyway, here's Drudge juxtaposing him to Putin holding a giant weapon. But it's not as though you can't look cool with a bike. Be like this:

(Miss him yet?)

Right under the Obama-on-a-bike/Putin-with-a-gun juxtaposition today, Drudge has this picture:

(Saving the image, I called this "dumbrella." Imagine if Bush had made an error of that kind?)

Drudge uses that picture to link to an AP story about Obama's commitment to Katrina victims: "Five years after Hurricane Katrina's wrath, President Barack Obama sought to reassure disaster-weary Gulf Coast residents Sunday that he would not abandon their cause." The AP story has Obama "[s]tanding in front of a large American flag with students arrayed behind him," so why does Drudge show Obama and his elegantly dressed wife entering (or leaving) a fancily gated establishment and mishandling an umbrella? That picture says so much: Obama is distracted by the trivial problems of taking his wife out somewhere expensive while the poor people of the Gulf are waiting and waiting for help. The disapproving glance of his wife gets more attention than the appeals of the hurricane victims. He's fortunate enough to have the kind of weather problem that can be solved by a simple umbrella, which wouldn't be any help at all in a hurricane. And yet his handling of an umbrella in a drizzle is incompetent, so how could he deal with a hurricane? The picture says: How can Obama understand/care/do anything about Katrina?

ADDED: There's also this way for a (future) President to look good with a bike.

A baby's first word was "Obama."

Something I overheard the other day.

"I just updated my will and trust and, with heavy heart, cut out what was a significant bequest to my alma mater, Brooklyn College."

Says Bruce Kesler. The reason: The school chose one book to give to all incoming freshman to read to give a sense of a "common experience," and the book is "How Does It Feel To Be A Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America," written by "a radical pro-Palestinian professor" who happens to teach at Brooklyn College.
[The book contains] interviews with seven Arab-Americans in their 20s about their experiences and difficulties in the US. There’s appreciation of freedoms in the US, and deep resentment at feeling or being discriminated against post-9/11....
The title of the book is drawn from communist WEB DuBois’ same question in 1903 in his treatise The Souls of Black Folk. The current book consciously draws a parallel, ridiculous on its face, between the horrible and pervasive discrimination and injustices that Blacks were subjected to a century ago and Arab-Americans today.

The author asserts “The core issue [of Middle East turbulence] remains the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” that the post-1967 history of the entire area is essentially that of “imperialism American-style,” and that the US government “limits the speech of Arab Americans in order to cement United States policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Again, preposterous....

Online I found two professors who protested to the college president. One, retired from Brooklyn College, said: "This is wholly inappropriate.  It smacks of indoctrination. It will intimidate incoming students who have a different point of view (or have formed no point of view), sending the message that only one side will be approved on this College campus. It can certainly intimidate untenured faculty as well."
I can't imagine wanting freshman to get the message that they are about to be indoctrinated. On the up side, for freshman: If the school makes it clear right in the first week, you may still be in a position to quit and get your tuition back. If they're subtle about it — and it's so easy to be subtle about it — you're drawn into it. Clear efforts at indoctrination are repugnant. One recoils. It's like evil-tasting poison. The evil taste is a great benefit. You reflexively spit it out.

So now I'm picturing the Brooklyn College freshman, hurling "How Does It Feel" against the wall. In the movie I'm inventing in my head, the soundtrack is Bob Dylan — how does it feel — as The Freshman stomps out of Brooklyn and into a life without higher education indoctrination...
Teachers teach that knowledge waits...
Ah, but where does The Freshman go?
For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be Do what they do just to be*
Nothing more than something they invest in
We were talking last night: Why are you doing what you are doing? Do you need death staring you in the face to take that question seriously?

Maybe you don't need death staring you in the face to ask whether you have the courage to be true to yourself and not just to do what others expect you to do. And how much courage does it take when those who expect you to do what they want are so crude about it? But if you don't do what they want, what will you do? Where else is there to go?

What would I do if I were there where you are, dear Freshman? Because I'm old, and I've already made a lot of choices, I don't want to tell you what to do.  This post began with the old man's point of view: Bruce Kesler saying he's got lots of money and he's cutting Brooklyn College out of his will to express himself. But what should a young person do? I'm still an old person answering that question, but I was driving through the bohemian section of an American city the other day and thinking... oh, just about what I was thinking in the early 1970s: I want to live the artist's life. That doesn't mean you need to be an artist, but there is an art to living, and you are more a work of art than a thing you invest in. Yet even if the main thing you want — in this awful economy — is to be something you invest in, a radical left-wing indoctrination is a godawful investment decision.


And I still haven't said that I got to Kesler via D.G. Meyers via Instapundit. Meyers says:
In my experience, few if any of the Brooklyn Collge freshmen will even bother to open the book. I can remember the title of the book that was assigned to all incoming freshmen at U.C. Santa Cruz the year I went up there (it was Arthur Koestler’s Act of Creation), but that’s the sum of what I remember about the book. I bought a copy, but never heard it discussed anywhere on campus. Same for the various books that were assigned to incoming freshmen at Texas A&M University over the years. After the English department made a fuss over choosing them, they were never mentioned again.
Yes, but it's not that easy: Brooklyn College also assigns its book in a required English course. I remember the book that was assigned for orientation week to freshmen at the Residential College (at the University of Michigan) in 1969: Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle." 40 years later, I can't think of a book I'd rather read. In fact, it happens I was rereading it yesterday.
All of the true things that I am about to tell you are shameless lies.
It's nice to be told that right at the outset so you know what you're getting into. Very nice.


* I've corrected that line in "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" after cutting and pasting the lyrics from the official Bob Dylan site. I was surprised to see the line "cultivate their flowers to be." It didn't have the right number of syllables, and it didn't lead properly into the next line, and I didn't remember ever hearing it. Meade questioned it too and played the original recording to get to the very familiar line (which also makes a lot more sense). It was weird seeing "cultivate their flowers" — which I took as an allusion to Voltaire's "we must cultivate our garden" — because Meade, with whom I share a love of Dylan, has made a life out of cultivating flowers, and cultivating flowers is something you're more likely to do if you've chosen to defy disrespected authority and see yourself as much more than something you invest in. Not that you can't build up great wealth by starting a gardening business.