January 7, 2012




I mostly missed tonight's debate, but who didn't?

It's Saturday night, and there was that football game. But supposedly...
A relaxed and self-assured Mitt Romney sailed above the fray at a crucial debate on Saturday night as his Republican rivals engaged in a spirited fight to determine which of them would emerge as his most formidable opponent when the party’s nominating contest moves past New Hampshire.

"Headphones-wearing man walks into side of moving train."

Milestones in modern stupidity.

Charles Addams... born 100 years ago today.

I noticed the Google doodle, and then found this.

At the White Shirt Café...


... you will be a bust in the Hall of Fame.

"A Long History of Political Brawling for Santorum."

The NYT sets out to characterize Santorum as a bully.
“He would attack people in a smug way that was harder-edged and more insulting than was necessary, said Mark Salter, the former chief of staff to Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican, adding that lawmakers in both parties shared this view. “He was a bully who was not a potent enough force to be a bully.”
So they got this McCain guy to call him a bully. Then they set out the hypothesis in a big old generality:
From the start of a legislative career that included two terms in the House and two in the Senate, Mr. Santorum earned a reputation for throwing haymakers with no regard for custom, sacred cows or his own newcomer status.
If you look past the manipulative words, all you've got is that Santorum fights hard for what he believes. I'm sure the NYT would prefer if the GOP didn't confront President Obama with a tough fighter.

By the way, I'm seeing a hardcore effort to portray Santorum as an anti-gay bigot. In that context, the notion that he's a bully resonates with the campaign against bullying kids who are (or seem) gay. But there are really 2 different uses of the word "bully." Being a tough fighter in the political arena is quite different from harassing and assaulting kids. And a traditional-values political position — which includes opposition to same-sex marriage — is quite different from feeling hatred or antagonism toward individuals who have a homosexual orientation.

The liberal media conflates things, but fair-minded people think clearly and see the distinctions as well as the similarities.

"McCain mistakenly refers to Romney as Obama."

Oops. Just slur your words and say "Obamney" and maybe people won't notice.

Hey, am I the only one who thinks Rick Santorum looks like Jerry Seinfeld... especially when he's brightly lit from above and standing in front of a wall so that his head casts a shadow that makes it look like he's got his hair in a mullet?

And was Meade the only one who looked at this picture the NYT chose to illustrate its article about that new book about Barack-and-Michelle and thought the shadows made it look — especially with that black bow tie — like he had an Abe Lincoln hat-and-beard?

And remember 3 years ago, when Obama took office and all these commentators were comparing him to Lincoln? What the hell was that about? Before he did anything, he was like Lincoln... and then he won the Nobel Prize.

But you know who's not all there? McCain. That old guy must be senile. He said Obama when he meant Romney.

January 6, 2012

The Walker recall will cost $9 million.

More if there needs to be a primary to select the opponent.

Maybe we taxpayers will get lucky and there won't be enough signatures.

ADDED: $9 million? That's more than it cost to get the tape gunk off the marble.

Other rotundas.

We've devoted many hours to the rotunda of the Wisconsin state capitol. Today, we explored another state's capitol — a place of mystery...


... professionalism...


... nonpartisan unicamerality...


... and impressive masculinity....


"Microsoft has been granted a patent for its 'avoid ghetto' feature for GPS devices."

"A GPS device is used to find shortcuts and avoid traffic, but Microsoft’s patent states that a route can be plotted for pedestrians to avoid an 'unsafe neighborhood or being in an open area that is subject to harsh temperatures.'"

Why does Gingrich keep calling Mitt Romney "timid"?

He even uses the word "timid" as a noun.
It seems like the creators of the ad decided to play around with the name "Mitt," so they flipped it over to get "tiM," flopped it back so it's "Mitt" again, then put them side by side to get "tiM-Mitt," which sounds like "timid."
It some kind of palindrome!

And then what would happen if Mitt picked Tim Pawlenty as his VP? The brains of poets will explode. But what kind of an ear for poetry do we average Americans have? Perhaps it doesn't matter whether you notice. It's harder to defend against the subliminal effects. The words seep directly into your emotions. You get these uneasy feelings about the candidate, and you don't know why.

And then again, we do hear poetry in the language of politics: I like Ike... tricky Dick.... Even when you hear it and you can defend against it, you're hooked. You do like Ike. And Dick Nixon is tricky.

"Michelle Obama is the real politician in the family in the sense she is more effusive, better at connecting instantly with people."

"A good source of mine once said to me, 'Here’s what you have to remember: She is Bill Clinton, and he is Hillary.'"

"Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few."

"If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing to [requests for just a few minutes of your time], they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time — and squawk for more!"

ADDED: That quote — from Robert Heinlein (via Instapundit) — contains an atrocious mixed metaphor. First, time is analogized to money — "your total capital" — and then demands for it "snowball" — and here we've got an image not just of snow, but of getting larger and larger by rolling downhill. This increasingly large ball of snow somehow reaches a point where suddenly it's parasites — some sort of bacteria or fungi? — and they're consuming... well, I guess all that money. Having eaten all your money, these parasites "squawk for more" — they have powers of speech. What kind of parasites squawk? Maybe some animation in a TV commercial for an athlete's foot remedy. It's possible! But what happened to all the snow?

See, this is why I can't read science fiction.

Ludicrous excuse for Chelsea Clinton's failure as a journalist.

"Some sources believe Chelsea was 'set up for a fall'..."
Our source said NBC “created unrealistic expectations....”
If you accept a job that you're not capable of doing, you're setting yourself up. If the expectations were unrealistic, you should have said no. Don't compound your failure as a journalist with a display of character failure. You're a Clinton, and that brings some advantages, but there's also the disadvantage that whatever you do may resonate with the wrong Clinton characteristics.

Speaking of bullshit. Here's the NBC response to the rumors that Chelsea's on the outs:
“100 percent false. You will see more pieces from Chelsea. She has been warmly welcomed into this news division, and we can’t be more pleased with her work. We hope she will be with us for a long time. There was no over-hyping of her role.”
So... they're not even trying to look credible. Great branding, NBC News!

Guess who rakes Obama over the coals for the abuse of executive power?

John Yoo.
Some think me a zealous advocate of executive power, and often I am when it comes to national security issues. But I think President Obama has exceeded his powers by making a recess appointment for Richard Cordray (whom I respect and have no problems with as a nominee) to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Yoo's key point is that it's up to the Senate to decide whether it's in recess:
Even with my broad view of executive power, I’ve always thought that each branch has control over its own functions and has the right — if not the duty — to exclude the others as best it can from its own decisions....
Yoo says that the Senate needs to defend itself from encroachments by the President, and that here it can refuse to support the agency in any way. But, more important, anyone who is affected by the new agency challenge could challenge the constitutionality of all of the agency's work.

However the courts would ultimately resolve the issue, the questionable appointment casts a pall over all the agency's work and, in an election year, tells us something about the way Obama understands the role of the President. So a third remedy for this power grasp — in addition to Senate resistance and court challenges — is for the GOP candidates to assail Obama for overreaching.

Let's see what those candidates do, because a big question — as the GOP chooses its candidate — is: Who is best at attacking Obama?

"Newt Gingrich... cloaked himself in churlishness and accessorized with self-pity."

My favorite phrase from Robin Givhan's fashion report on the Iowa Caucuses.

I like the literary device that characterizes emotion and facial expression as clothing. I wish I could think of a lot of examples, but what springs to mind is "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile."

There's also "Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella." Somehow, I'm only thinking of old "smile" songs. Both of those examples put the singer in a position of advising somebody else to smile. Thanks a lot. It's not really too empathetic. You want a big, old phony smile on a man who's hurting? Hurting. Where is the song that acknowledges — maybe even celebrates — the display of churlishness and self-pity by presenting it as a fabulous cloak?

And can you picture such a cloak?

IN THE COMMENTS: MikeR quotes Psalms 109:18: "He wore cursing as his garment; it entered into his body like water, into his bones like oil."

AND: Here's the King James version:
As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment,
so let it come into his bowels like water,
and like oil into his bones.
Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him,
and for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually.

January 5, 2012

"Instead of offering a quick answer and moving on to another subject, Mr. Santorum began a Socratic lecture..."

"... repeatedly asking the students questions."

A Socratic dialogue?! Oh, no. It's like he actually cares about educating students! The very idea! When he could have offered a quick answer and moved on to another subject...

Judge rules in favor of Gov. Walker and requires Government Accountability Board to check for duplicate/fake signatures on recall petitions.

The Journal Sentinel reports:
Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the board... testified that entering signatures into a database to look for duplicates could take eight extra weeks for his staff, and could cost $94,000 for software and outside help.
But the judge said they must make "reasonable" efforts. I think making a searchable database is crucial. You've got to at least check for duplicates. And I think people — like me — who didn't sign should be given the ability to ensure that our names were not appropriated.

Abstract Expressionism meets concrete expressionism.

"A Colorado woman dropped her pants at a museum and rubbed her rear end all over a painting valued at $30 million..."
Clyfford Still's "1957-J no.2"... was spared additional damage when the woman tried to urinate on it but apparently missed.
She was drunk, but still... one wonders what it was about that painting that brought out such hostility.

"Students Laugh When Obama Tells Them 'You Inspire Me.'"

Hey, those students inspire me! They know how to detect bullshit.

"A crusty loaf of whole-grain bread is both ferociously lesbian and wildly heterosexual."

A quote from Simon Doonan, the author of "Gay Men Don't Get Fat." Interesting to lump lesbians and heterosexuals together and put gay men in the separate category, isn't it? Of course, Doonan is purveying broad stereotypes — for comic effect and, undoubtedly, to make the money that is to be made in books about how to get/stay thin — but it makes some sense.

"High school students who don't feel like walking to school in the cold are causing a spike in car thefts on the north side of Milwaukee..."

... say police.
"What we see probably more than anything, generally around this time of year, is around high schools... Kids that have to walk to school, they'll walk through the alleys. They'll find somebody that's got their car running left unattended. It's just a quick, easy way to get to school. They'll leave the car within a block or two of school."
It's just a quick, easy way to get to school.

Florida's “Stand Your Ground” law saves a 15-year-old from prosecution for 2d-degree murder.

Jorge Saavedra stabbed 16-year-old Dylan Nuno 12 times with a pocket knife.
[Collier County Circuit Judge Lauren] Brodie... stated that by getting off the bus several stops before the location where the fight was to happen, Saavedra “demonstrated that, with or without a knife, (he) had no desire to fight with Dylan Nuno.”

Accompanied by several students, Dylan Nuno, a junior, followed Saavedra, a freshman, off the bus. He then punched him in the back of the head...

[T]he judge said Saavedra had “no duty to retreat” and was “legally entitled to meet force with force, even deadly force.”

“The defendant was in a place where he had a right to be and was not acting unlawfully. He had more than enough reason to believe he was in danger of death or great bodily harm ... (He) was under attack from the first punch to the back of his head until he stabbed Dylan Nuno.”

"Cleveland Sues Ohio to Keep Its Trans Fat Ban."

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson says:
"The health and well-being of Cleveland is the responsibility of the City of Cleveland, and we are taking proactive steps to help make everyone in Cleveland healthier...

"The state's subsequent amendment to the Ohio Revised Code taking away our ability to enforce this important health regulation is yet another attempt by the state to erode the Home Rule Authority that we have a constitutional right to"...
Is this an issue for decentralized decisionmaking or not? Whatever you think of this kind of nanny-state — nanny city? — law, the issue here is what level of government should make the decision. Why can't Cleveland be a laboratory of democracy? Why shouldn't "a single courageous state city... if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country state?"

You may think it's a stupid idea, but the effect of the stupidity is visited on the people of the city who have voted for the elected officials who chose it. If you oppose paternalism, shouldn't you oppose the paternalism of Ohio officials telling the locals what stupid ideas they can impose on themselves? And what if we're wrong about the stupidity of the law? We may learn from the experiment Cleveland has chosen to perform on itself.

"Here are those hairy chested deep sea crabs you were asking about."

"We have named them 'Hasselhoff Crabs' after David Hasselhof, because he is also known for his hairy chest."

Aidan Dwyer, the 13-year-old, celebrated as a genius for discovering something people loved to think was true.

But then it turned out he measured the wrong thing, and the genius bubble burst.

It all started when "Aidan, then 11, stared at the tree branches denuded of leaves and noticed they looked alike...."
Perhaps, Aidan postulated, trees arranged their branches to improve the collection of sunlight. If he used the Fibonacci sequence to imitate that design with solar panels replacing leaves, maybe the structure could fit his family's limited space, look pretty — and power the house....
Wouldn't it be satisfying — in some deep poetic way — if arranging solar panels like leaves instead of all flat produced more power? Maybe. But if you want to measure power, you don't measure voltage.
Dr. Kleissl praised Aidan's work, but added that even if Aidan had measured the right variables, "I'm certain that he will not find that his arrangement is better," he said. "I think it's a romantic ideal that nature has many lessons for us, and there are a few cases where this is true, but in the majority of cases we could teach nature, in a way, how to be better, faster."
Oh! Dr. Kleissl! You're breaking our hearts!

"An American state senator in Indiana has proposed a new law punishing anybody who changes the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner."

"Vaneta Becker wants to impose a fine of $25...  on singers who dare to improvise, extemporise or undermine the United States' national anthem."

I've never heard of this person before, but congratulations to Vaneta Becker for stepping into the limelight with such a ludicrously misguided attempt at upholding American values, which — hello?! — include free speech.

Can you think of any similar cases of American politicians stepping onto the public stage and immediately falling flat on their face?

By the way, would you slap a fine on these kids?

Clue to Becker: "The Star-Spangled Banner" is itself a re-write of another song.

Teens who argue with their parents are learning how to stand up to their peers.

Thus, parents should value the fighting spirit of their teenagers:
"The teens who learned to be calm and confident and persuasive with their parents acted the same way when they were with their peers," [said psychologist Joseph P. Allen.] "They were able to confidently disagree, saying 'no' when offered alcohol or drugs. In fact, they were 40 percent more likely to say 'no' than kids who didn't argue with their parents.

For other kids, it was an entirely different story. "They would back down right away," says Allen, saying they felt it pointless to argue with their parents. This kind of passivity was taken directly into peer groups, where these teens were more likely to acquiesce when offered drugs or alcohol. "These were the teens we worried about," he says.

"Occupy protesters offered lesson in free speech."

Is that headline supposed to mean the protesters are giving a lesson or getting a lesson? Surprisingly, it's the latter:
"Many Occupy L.A. protesters arrested during demonstrations in recent months are being offered a unique chance to avoid court trials: pay $355 to a private company for a lesson in free speech...."
Naturally, part of my surprise was due to the prospect of citizens being required to fork over money to a private business, which would teach them about the limits to their constitutional rights, in exchange for a reprieve from the legal repercussions of civil disobedience. But I was also surprised to find that, contrary to my breezy reading of the headline in which I'd parsed the phrase Occupy protesters as the subject of the verb offered in the active voice, I should have read offered as being in the passive voice, with the protesters being the recipients of free-speech lessons rather than the purveyors of those lessons.

"It's personal, it's my privates, it's not necessary. It's a very expensive procedure which I can't afford..."

"... and it's got complications. I'm not sexually active. If I was 21 and I could afford it, yeah, but I'm 59."

Says Joann Prinzivalli, who has male genitalia but would like to require the state of New York to amend her/his birth certificate to identify her/him as female. New York already complies with requests to amend birth certificates to change a person's sex if there has been "convertive surgery" on the genitals. If you think Prinzivalli's demands sound extreme, you should know that the transgender rights movement has already achieved successes that you may not have factored into the scheme of your traditional/antiquated thinking:
The US government and many US states, as well as the UK and Australia, have done away with the requirement for surgery to convert the genitals. That is partly in response to transgender activists who say the requirement was based on an obsolete understanding of sexual identity.

In 2011 the Transgender Law Center successfully pushed for passage of legislation ending surgery as a requirement to obtain a new birth certificate in California....

Under the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, the UK does not require genital surgery before allowing individuals to obtain official recognition of their new gender.

And in 2010, the US State Department issued new guidelines requiring only "appropriate clinical treatment" to obtain a new passport or a birth certificate for US citizens born outside the country.

Pepsi say Mountain Dew would turn a mouse into a "jelly-like substance."

Oh, the things you have to say in order to win a lawsuit!
Ronald Ball of Wisconsin claimed that he purchased a can of the bright green, supercaffeinated citrus-flavored soda only to discover mid-sip that there was a dead rodent inside....

"It's common for people to fear death, and I’m no exception."

"But when I heard that Dr. McKinnon had decided to come back to Vietnam one more time to give me a new life, I became more hopeful."

If you've signed the Walker recall petition, you won't be hired for the work of checking signatures on the petition.

Some applicants for this temp job are sad to find out.
That might seem like it's stacking the deck in favor of Walker supporters, but [Reid Magney, spokesman for the Government Accountability Board] says the decision makes sense because recall supporters could theoretically spot something that looks improper and simply "let it go," while Walker supporters can do no more harm than finding possible irregularities, which would then be reviewed by GAB staff and the GAB board.
What excellent logic!

January 4, 2012

Did you watch the TV coverage of the Iowa Caucuses all the way to the end?

I didn't, but Chris (my son) did. Here's our IM dialogue (with me in italics):
i went to bed early

was extremely long

were some amusing parts though


like this http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/politics/2012/01/04/bts-iowa-caucus-edith-carolyn-highlights.cnn

I heard them say "It's too close to call" about 100 times, then I lost my mind, then I went to bed

"Everyday Graces: Child's Book Of Good Manners," by Karen Santorum, Foreword by Joe Paterno.


I was going to read Santorum's "Letters to Gabriel," which deals with the same subject — the death of a baby — that Alan Colmes crudely mocked the other day. But not only is there no Kindle version, it's only available as a $130 hardcover book or a $192 audiobook. By the way, it has a Foreword by Mother Teresa.

Looking on to other works by Karen Santorum, I saw that "Good Manners" book, which sells for a reasonable $16.50, but unfortunately is not available for Kindle. I love the idea of teaching children manners. (Maybe if Rick Santorum wins the presidency, Karen — as First Lady — would make teaching manners her special issue. Michelle Obama gets away with insinuating that our kids are fat, so it would be fine, I'm thinking, for Karen Santorum to insinuate that are kids are rude. Or would that be rude?)

But what's with Joe Paterno writing the foreword? I know, Pennsylvania. It just seems so bizarre now.

"If your average homeless person spent 30 to 40 dollars a month on a gym membership, they could shave and shower..."

"... keep warm for most of the day, maybe stay fit and like they'd have a good opportunity to look at jobs," said a law student, who chose to go homeless to make life more challenging. Turns out it made life better in some ways: "It saves time... You know, all the little ways we waste time in our homes, watching TV or cleaning. I feel like there's a substantial amount of time I'm saving by not having a place."

Consider the possibility that a gym membership is more useful than an apartment, and quite a bargain. If you join a 24-hour gym, you could be safe and warm indoors — getting fit and cleaning and grooming — during the dark hours, and you can get your sleep — as this law student did — in libraries during the day or evening.

It's interesting to think of strategies for living without a home. It's a predicament that is so bad for many people that it might seem a bit insensitive to imagine doing it in a positive way or to experiment with it as a temporary challenge. But let's overcome our reticence — if any — and talk about it. How would you carry out your own personal adventure in homelessness? Picture yourself doing it well. What would you do?

"Every time we were struggling in kicking, coach tells me to think about girls on a beach or brunette girls."

"So that's what we did. Made the kick."

Said University of Michigan's Brendan Gibbons, hero of the Sugar Bowl.

"Poisoned cat stew 'killed tycoon.'"

Strange headline ranks second on the "Most Popular" list at BBC.com.

"And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State... Here we come South Carolina!!!"

Perry hangs in.

"Last night, the people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice, and so I have decided to stand aside."

Michele Bachmann.
“I will continue to fight to defeat the president’s agenda of socialism,” she said. She made no endorsement of another candidate.

"This is not a joke" = the subject line of email from Barack Obama's campaign manager...

... received just after the email from Rick Santorum, blogged in the previous post. Where Santorum addressed me "Patriot," Obama's guy (Jim Messina) addresses me "Friend." (How much does that say about the difference between conservatives and liberals?) Excerpts:
The extremist Tea Party agenda won a clear victory [in Iowa]. No matter who the Republicans nominate, we'll be running against someone who has embraced that agenda in order to win -- vowing to let Wall Street write its own rules, end Medicare as we know it, roll back gay rights, leave the troops in Iraq indefinitely, restrict a woman's right to choose, and gut Social Security to pay for more tax cuts for millionaires and corporations....
Vowing all these things? The Democrats' campaign — or perhaps only its scheme to extract money from those who might yield money — is to scare us about how terribly right-wing the Republican candidate is.
[T]he path ahead for Romney -- or whichever of the Republican candidates is going to emerge from this process -- is sadly and starkly very clear: to run even further to the extreme right, and make even more dangerous promises that threaten not only the progress we've made but the fundamental fabric of American society.
Extreme! Extreme! Dangerous!!!
Watching the circus on TV, it's tempting to think it's almost funny -- but this is not a joke.
Funny? Who writes this stuff? I'm picturing clowns — they're familiar with the circus — who really have a lot of ironic distance and have the instinct to laugh at Republicans. Think of Alan Colmes, who thought he could be funny mocking Rick Santorum for "playing" with his dead baby. I imagine that Colmes mostly talks with smart, cheeky guys whose natural habitat is distanced observation and edgy humor, and he just didn't realize that ordinary people are more closely interwoven with what some ironist trying to get serious might call the fundamental fabric of American society.

These distanced observers, who see the world in terms of humor and tell ordinary people to get serious... how do they push us to seriousness? Not with rational arguments and accurate information, but by making extreme overstatements about extremism and urging us to feel afraid. And yet they call me "Friend."

Friend... before you came, Barack Obama, I was all alone...

The full text of the email...

"Dear Patriot: It's Now or Never for Conservative voters."

I get email from Rick Santorum, who ran even with Mitt Romney in last night's Iowa Caucuses (or do you want to say he lost, when he "lost" by 8 votes?):
It's Now or Never for Conservative voters. We can either unite now behind one candidate and have a conservative standard bearer in 2012, or have the GOP establishment choose another moderate Republican who will have a difficult time defeating Barack Obama in November.

I don't think that's what you want. Neither do I. My name is Rick Santorum, and I am the only authentic, passionate conservative who can unite the GOP.

January 3, 2012

Roadside memorials...

... for animals.
"There have been numerous incidences of road traffic accidents involving animal fatalities and these innocent victims deserve to be remembered"...

At the Iowa Caucuses.

Photo sent in from a reader in Waukee, Iowa.

ADDED: My Waukee reader says: "Here is the line to register in Waukee Iowa (point of grace church) at 714pm. That's 14 mins after the doors closed. Rick Perry is here. No way we start before 745."

And a few minutes later: "Perry's talking. Says he'll take a 'Sharpie pen' to Obama care. Obviously well received. Romney's wife is talking now. Praising his exec abilities..."

"The US has agreed in principle to release high-ranking Taliban officials from Guantánamo Bay..."

"... in return for the Afghan insurgents' agreement to open a political office for peace negotiations in Qatar, the Guardian has learned."

Althouse Caucuses Open Now.

(I stole this idea from Drudge.)

Your vote for Republican presidential candidate:
Michele Bachmann
Herman Cain
Newt Gingrich
Jon Huntsman
Ron Paul
Rick Perry
Mitt Romney
Rick Santorum
pollcode.com free polls 

Feel free to talk about the Iowa Caucuses in the comments. Also, a lot of us are doing the USA Today "Candidate Match Game" — suggested by Freeman Hunt over in the "Shhh" thread, where quite a few of us — including me and Meade —have revealed our results on the test.


I'm reading. You can talk all you want but keep it down in there.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman declines to update us on the number of Recall Walker signatures gathered.

Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said during a Tuesday conference call that the petitions will be turned in to state election officials on Jan. 17. They need 540,208 for both [Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch] to trigger recall elections.

Recall organizers said on Dec. 15 that they had 507,000 signatures for Walker but would not give a number for Kleefisch. Tate is still refusing to say how many signatures they have for her, but he says enough will be turned in to force a recall.

Tate says they are on track to get 720,000 signatures for Walker.
Why not tell us the numbers? Why did they previously announce the number they had for Walker but clam up about Kleefisch? Could they be reserving the option to say they failed to get enough signatures?

Why would they do that? I can think of a few reasons: 1. Their polling might show that Walker (and Kleefisch) would probably win; 2. Their fundraising is (I'm guessing) way behind Walker's, and Walker has already gone ahead with some excellent advertising, putting them at a serious disadvantage; 3. They don't have a candidate to run or they only have multiple candidates who'll have to beat each other up in a primary; and/or 4. They're worried that a recall election will have a negative effect on other elections that will be taking place in 2012.

ADDED: Another issue might be the prevalence of bad signatures on the petitions. Let's say they have more than the needed 540,208 signatures, but they know they've got a lot of questionable signatures in there. They don't want signature gatherers to slack off, thinking they've got it made. And the proportion of bad signatures isn't an issue they want to talk about.

AND: John Hinderaker says:
I was with Walker at a lunch event a few weeks ago, and he observed–correctly, I think–that the recall campaign has repercussions far beyond Wisconsin. If Walker, having carried out the promises on which he campaigned, can be evicted from office by the overwhelming force of left-wing money, reformers everywhere would be given pause. Likewise, if Wisconsin’s voters repudiate the Left’s vindictive campaign, it will give added impetus to reform efforts in other states.

So how is Walker doing? He has raised a fair amount of money to defend the recall, although he probably will be outspent two or three to one....

"If you woke up this morning thinking, 'What I need is a clip of Snoop Dogg hanging out on The Price Is Right helping a lady win at Plinko'..."

"...  then you are in luck."

"Double-Blind Violin Test: Can You Pick The Strad?"

The experts can't.
In fact, the only statistically obvious trend in the choices was that one of the Stradivarius violins was the least favorite, and one of the modern instruments was slightly favored.

"One of the issues that [Thurgood] Marshall enjoyed arguing with his clerks was the question of what was obscene."

Write Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong in "The Brethren":
He loved to take conservative positions with them, maintaining that anything hard-core could be and should be totally banned. What was so important about it? First Amendment principles are not at stake in this case, he would bellow. Dirty pictures are.

What about his liberal opinion for the Court in Stanley? his clerks would ask.

He had meant only to protect people’s privacy in their own homes, he would claim with a grin. Publishers, distributors, sellers could be stopped.

But, a clerk once pointed out, “You said that the right to privacy must go further than the home.” “No,” Marshall retorted. He had never said that.

Yes, the clerk insisted.

No, never, Marshall was sure. “Show me.”

The clerk brought the bound opinions.

Marshall read the relevant section. 
“That’s not my opinion, that’s the opinion of [a clerk from the prior term],” he declared. Opening the volume flat, he tore the page out. “There. It’s not there now, is it?”

30 lawyers each pick a book that every lawyer should read, and Dr. Kevorkian's lawyer, Geoffrey Fieger, picks...

... "The Little Prince"!
The Little Prince connects you with your own being so you’re looking inward rather than outward. When you really get down to trial work there isn’t a mechanism where you learn tricks for convincing people of something you really don’t believe. It all has to come from inside you and requires self-examination. I don’t think it has relevance for lawyers doing transactions or mergers and acquisitions. It does have relevance for those who seek to do what I do, which is trial law.”
A somewhat similar perspective comes from Sam Adam Jr. (who represented Governor Blagojevich at trial):
Respect For Acting [by Uta Hagen] taught me how to look inside yourself and bring out those things that other people see, or want to see, to take a look at a character and understand who that character is in order to become that person. That’s what a whole lot of trials are about—preconceived notions about who you are, and who your client is. You can quickly sum up who the audience wants you to be.”
There are a lot of different ways to look inside yourself. Interesting to think about the lawyerly ways.

Perhaps you'd like to try the diet of the first celebrity dieter.

It's the Lord Byron diet:
... a thin slice of bread and a cup of tea for breakfast and a light vegetable dinner with a bottle or two of seltzer water tinged with Vin de Grave.
Other 19th century dieters:
Nietzsche tried a traditional restricted calorie diet and [Henry] James went in for Fletcherism, an elaborate system of chewing each morsel of food several hundred times.
Fletcherism, eh? Horace Fletcher, "The Great Masticator" said we should only eat when "Good and Hungry" and never while angry or sad.

Seeing — at the linked Wikipedia article — that Mark Twain visited Fletcher, I decided to find some searchable text and happened upon this collection of 300+ Mark Twain works in the Kindle format for $1.99. I was hoping to find something about Fletcher. I didn't. But that's a side issue. I'm absolutely delighted to have a single searchable text of 300+ Mark Twain works. For 2 dollars. What a world we live in! What would Mark Twain have thought of it? Anyway, nothing about Fletcher, but what about chewing? Any morbid fascination with chewing? There's this dialogue:
"Do you love rats?"

"I hate them!"

"Well, I do, too--LIVE ones. But I mean dead ones, to swing round your head with a string."

"No, I don't care for rats much, anyway. What I like is chewing-gum."

"Oh, I should say so! I wish I had some now."

"Do you? I've got some. I'll let you chew it awhile, but you must give it back to me."

That was agreeable, so they chewed it turn about, and dangled their legs against the bench in excess of contentment.
ADDED: The 1919 NYT obituary for Fletcher:
The theory is, in brief, that everybody eats too much and that the cure is to be found in thorough mastication of food....

During [WWI] Dr. Fletcher... was given the full opportunity... to demonstrate the worth of "Fletcherism" though which he taught the 8,000,000 starving Belgians to get the full nourishment from their food. Early in 1912 he had himself subsisted on a diet of potatoes for fifty-eight days.
AND: There's also the first scene in Tennessee Williams's "Glass Menagerie," where our first glimpse of Tom's problems with his mother play out in the context of her admonitions about chewing:

"It felt like I was living in a coffin... It was going to be a coffin for both of us, and I saw him crushed."

Sinead O'Connor describes her 16-day marriage.

What the Recall Walker effort is up against.

Here's Scott Walker's newest ad, which I'm not embedding because it's so good.

Styles of the prospective First Ladies.

A nice array of the wives of all the GOP candidates who have wives.

I'll just say I like the Ann Romney short coat/long jacket look, Mary Kaye Huntsman has a lovely figure, Callista is bizarre in her conservatism, Anita Perry needs a little more coverage, Karen Santorum looks most like the women I see around town in Madison, Wisconsin, and Carol Paul looks like the women you see everywhere in America.

What if Alan Colmes — calling Santorum crazy for "playing" with his dead baby — secretly intended to boost Santorum?

This is a conspiracy theory. I'm not saying I believe it. I'm just going to spin it out for your consideration. Everybody's talking about what Alan Colmes said about Rick Santorum, and... ah! Looking for a link, I see that Allahpundit has already articulated the conspiracy theory:
You’d think liberals would want to pull their punches against Santorum until he’s built up enough momentum nationally to complicate life for Romney, yet here’s Colmesy throwing an uppercut straight to the groin.
Uppercut to the groin? How short is Colmes?
Pure instinctual ideological bloodlust? Or … is this actually a sly bit of jujitsu in which AC, through a calculated display of jerkiness, forces the viewer to sympathize with Santorum, thus giving him another little boost before tomorrow night? It’s good cop/bad cop co-starring Rich Lowry. Fiendishly clever!
More here from Allahpundit, demonstrating how effectively Santorum and his wife Karen — the neonatal nurse! — have been able to parlay the Colmes attack into some incredibly positive media that goes straight to the hearts of the Christian conservatives of Iowa.

But Allahpundit, at that first link, says "No, I kid. Obviously, it’s bloodlust." Is the conspiracy theory obviously too far-fetched? I think boosting Santorum really is some a devious hardcore liberal would want. Promote somebody who can slow down Romney and keep the Republicans fighting each other. You might think it hurt Colmes too much to appear so callous, but did it? He's got us saying his name and associating it with lively talking-heads TV.

Did Colmes secretly intend to help Santorum?
Yes. It probably was a devious plot to hurt the Republicans.
No. It's too evil and too weird a combination of smart and stupid to be believed.
pollcode.com free polls 

High hopes for the new year...

... translated into things you can buy at Amazon.

That assumes buying stuff falls within your approach to living better in the new year. Perhaps you've chosen "Don't Buy Anything" as your motto — I did that once — or otherwise to take the path of anti-materialism. But I'm sure there are products even for that.

"Study of Fish Suggests the Value of Uninformed Voters."

Scientists trained some golden shiners to associate a blue target with food and a smaller group of shiners to associate food with a yellow target, yellow being the color shiners "more naturally prefer."

When all these trained fish were put together, "most fish pursued yellow targets, suggesting the smaller group’s more intense desire for yellow overwhelmed the larger group’s numerical advantage... But as fish without any training were added, the group increasingly favored the blue target..." said Iain D. Couzin, a Princeton professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

The research team theorized that "A strongly opinionated minority can dictate group choice... But the presence of uninformed individuals spontaneously inhibits this process, returning control to the numerical majority."
The behavior of golden shiners demonstrates “the role of uninformed individuals in achieving democratic consensus amid internal group conflict and informational constraints...”
And thus: “ignorance can promote democracy.” Or so these biology experts observe. Obviously, fish aren't people, and the color target training isn't much the same as learning about the world and then forming judgments on political issues and candidates.
Human civilization, said Larry J. Sabato, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, “is better off when more of its members are well informed and think carefully about the choices facing the society.”
Sure, we're better off educated and thinking consciously and carefully, but most of our political judgments are made reflexively in response to largely unexamined emotional responses, and it's possible that the uninformed masses are doing something valuable in correcting for the intense opinions of radical individuals.

Anyway... the Iowa caucuses take place today. Caucuses — more than primaries — resemble fish tanks. Individuals see what the others are doing and decide which way they want to swim.

ADDED: Here's another problem relating that study of fish to human beings. Let's say that among those who've gotten educated about an issue 60% choose X and 40% choose Y, but the informed citizens are themselves only a small minority of the people, only 20%. Why is this 20% getting super-informed about an issue that 80% of the people are ignoring? These are unusual people. We shouldn't assume that the majority within that small percentage would be the majority if everyone were informed. The uninformed 80%, we're told, would tend to go along with the 60% of the 20%, but that doesn't necessarily correspond to what would be the true preference of the majority if all were informed. Of course, it doesn't make sense to posit a true preference for the majority on this hypothetical issue that only 20% of the people were willing to get educated about, since the people are defined by their lack of interest in that issue, and if they were to be transformed into people who are engaged and educated, they'd be different people, with different preferences.

January 2, 2012

"It's extremely offensive because it's pretty much saying..."

"... the only way you can be a woman is to get your period."

At the Fingerling Café...

... talk about whatever you want. Football... anything.

"The Many Accidents That Produced Romney's 'Inevitable' Nomination."

That's a typical desperate article title by one of the many panicking political reporters who are getting slapped in the face with the reality that the primary season that was supposed to be only just beginning is damned near over. What will they do with their stored up vats of ink and sharpened quills?

Here's an idea: Investigative reporting into the massive failures of the Obama administration.


"My love of footnotes as art form, as commentary, as the place to embed sneaky and wry asides..."

"... that do not belong in the text, only grew and grew through childhood, until I reached college."

A woman who loves footnotes so much she had "n.b." tattooed... on her foot. The woman, s.e. smith, links to Wikipedia to help people understand "n.b." — nota bene — and Wikipedia just gives us the literal and semi-literal translation: "note well" or "pay attention"/"take notice."

Now, I've listened the the audiobook of David Foster Wallace reading "Consider the Lobster" about a thousand times — n.b. David Foster Wallace gluttonously indulged in footnotes — and he does an aside:
n.b. - which means "nota bene," which the audio commandant wants me to tell you means "note well," but actually really means "by the way"...
Here's a reddit discussion of that Wallace aside. They seem to think he's joking. But what's the joke? Is it that people use "n.b." when there's no reason to pay any more note to the thing after the "n.b." than to anything else in the text? Or is it not a joke, and Wallace is giving the abbreviation the meaning it has genuinely acquired in use over the years, which is to designate an aside?

At this point, you might wonder whether Wallace is a prescriptivist or a descriptivist when it comes to word usage, and the cool thing about that is there's an essay in the "Consider the Lobster" essay collection* — it's not all about lobsters! — that has about a million things to say on that subject, but since it's not one of the essays in the audiobook — which is an abridgment — his resolution of that issue is not lodged in my brain. The essay is "Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage." Key passage:
Garner's A Dictionary of Modern American Usage is thus both a collection of information and a piece of Democratic rhetoric.49 Its goal is to recast the Prescriptivist's persona: The author presents himself as an authority not in an autocratic sense but in a technocratic sense. And the technocrat is not only a thoroughly modern and palatable image of Authority but also immune to the charges of elitism/classism that have hobbled traditional Prescriptivism.


49(meaning literally Democratic — it Wants Your Vote)
Thus, I take it, Wallace wasn't joking. He was seeking votes for assigning the meaning "by the way" to "n.b."


*Even though I have the audiobook of "Consider the Lobster" and the paperback of the unabridged text, I bought the Kindle version just now so I could cut and paste text for blogging purposes. But when I made my first attempt at copying, I got a pop-up window — the first I've ever seen in a Kindle book — "Due to publisher restrictions, copy is not allowed for this title." That was pretty annoying. I found a few key words — hypereducated snoot egghead — Googled and found copyable text here. Feel free to read it free. N.b., it has 52 footnotes [at the free link; 124 footnotes in the Kindle text].

"Unless there's some new celebration by transference thing I don't know about..."

"... Ndamukong Suh mocking Aaron Rodgers' championship belt move after a sack in Sunday's Detroit Lions-Green Bay Packers game was the dumbest thing that happened during the early games in Week 17...."
For, you see, Aaron Rodgers wasn't playing on Sunday. He was resting for the playoffs. His backup, Matt Flynn, started in his place. So Suh celebrated a sack of Flynn by derisively performing Rodgers' signature move. That's like sticking out your tongue while posterizing John Paxson.

"We don't know how many people are buried under that mud."

Typhoon Washi.

"Taxidermist's obituary was too problematic to write."

But an article about not writing the obituary was not too much of a problem.

January 1, 2012

"Ron Paul Flips Out Over Accusation That He Believed 9/11 Conspiracy Theories."

Says Laura Bassett in HuffPo.

I despise that sort of overstatement. Go ahead and listen to the video at the link. Ron Paul got testy and aggressive, but he didn't "flip out," that is, he didn't seem crazy or out of control. Bassett hypocritically indulges in exaggerated speech to describe exaggerated speech.

A New Year's walk in the arb with Althouse and Meade.

The reason why every not-Romney candidate but Bachmann has had a surge.

We're experiencing the Santorum surge now, and it seems that the conservatives looking for a way to stop Romney have simply converged on him after the sequential failure of their efforts to converge on Perry, Cain, and Gingrich. But why not Bachmann? She won the Iowa straw poll back in August. If she was that strong then, why was she denied her turn for a surge?

There was her blunder talking about the HPV vaccine causing mental retardation, but that was a single incidence of loose talk, relaying an anecdote, and I doubt if most people even remember that.

I think what has held her back is her husband. A candidate's spouse matters. It was recently reported that when Newt Gingrich was divorcing his first wife, he (supposedly) said to a close friend: "You know and I know that she’s not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of a president." Now, Gingrich is on his third wife, and she's relatively young and pretty (though she strikes many people as weird). But Gingrich's decline coincided with some intense focus on Callista. I'm not saying his decline was all about Callista. He had his surge, and that drew all sorts of scrutiny and criticism, and there was plenty to bring him back down. Yet the wife — and the wives — have mattered.

My question is: Why did Michele Bachmann get passed over in the sequence of surges? And my answer is that once people saw what her husband Marcus was like, they excluded her from consideration. For a female candidate, the spousal question is quite complicated. We expect the candidate herself to live up to some of the expectations we have — consciously or unconsciously — of the wives of male candidates. But what of the husband? Who will be the first First Gentleman in history? What's he supposed to be like? The role needs to be invented. And it couldn't be invented with the raw material that is Marcus Bachmann. Once people noticed him and tried to imagine him as the first First Gentleman, they ceased to conceive of her as a possible President.

If you don't remember how Marcus Bachmann burst into the national consciousness, refresh your recollection:

Matt Flynn: "He’ll be a very rich man very soon."

With Aaron Rodgers resting, Matt Flynn passes for 6 touchdowns and 480 yards, setting 2 records for the Green Bay Packers.

Watch his 5th touchdown here.

ADDED: I'm thinking that Flynn's performance in that one game will translate into more dollars than any other single-game performance, in any sport, ever. Can you think of a counter-example?

A midday outing on New Year's.

Kind of gloomy. But the worst of it was the ice. Hard to walk at all.

Wikipedia Article of the Day: "Exploding Cigar."

"The customary intended purpose of exploding cigars is as a form of hostile practical joke, rather than to cause lasting physical harm to the butt of the joke."
Although far rarer than their prank cousins, exploding cigars used as a means to kill or attempt to kill targets in real life has been claimed, and is well represented as a fictional plot device. The most infamous case concerning the intentionally deadly variety was an alleged plot by the CIA of the US in the 1960s to assassinate Fidel Castro. Notable real life incidents involving the non-lethal ilk include an exploding cigar purportedly given by Ulysses S. Grant to an acquaintance and a dust-up between Turkish military officers and Ernest Hemingway after he pranked one of them with an exploding cigar....

A well known use of the exploding cigar in literature, for example, appears in Thomas Pynchon's 1973 novel, Gravity's Rainbow....  Other book examples include Robert Coover's 1977 novel, The Public Burning, where a fictionalized Richard Nixon hands an exploding cigar to Uncle Sam...

Film examples include... in The Beatles' 1968 animated feature film, Yellow Submarine, where an exploding cigar is used to rebuff a psychedelic boxing monster... Appearance of exploding cigars in the Warner Bros. cartoon franchises, Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes was fairly common, often coupled with the explosion resulting in the pranked character appearing in blackface. Some examples include: Bacall to Arms (1942), wherein an animated Humphrey Bogart gets zapped by an exploding cigar leaving him in blackface...
Let's look that up.... oh, my....

ADDED: I like this scientific demonstration:

"It's just a hug. You'll enjoy it."/"You're like some sort of oxytocin drug dealer."

Nina and Ed do New Year's Eve in Seville — in Spain.

Obama's position on the Guantanamo detainees will forever be to have no position.

Obviously, the man is trying to get reelected, but it's so absurd to pose as if standing on principle, when you're not willing to say or do anything at all. Here's the news story about Obama — from his vacation outpost in Hawaii — signing a military spending bill and saying "I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.”
The White House had said that the legislation could lead to an improper military role in overseeing detention and court proceedings and could infringe on the president’s authority in dealing with terrorism suspects. But it said that Mr. Obama could interpret the statute in a way that would preserve his authority.

The president, for example, said that he would never authorize the indefinite military detention of American citizens, because “doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation.” 
But isn't that what he's been doing with his authority — holding the detainees indefinitely? Or is he somehow not authorizing it. It's just happening, because he's not affirmatively acting to end the indefinite detention. Is passivity and wishy-washiness consistent with "our most important traditions and values as a nation"? Or is emitting pompous blather like "our most important traditions and values as a nation" the really important tradition he's upholding?
He also said he would reject a “rigid across-the-board requirement” that suspects be tried in military courts rather than civilian courts.
So, you don't seem to have a plan to try the detainees, and you won't reject the notion of military courts or embrace the lofty but impractical idea of civilian courts. You just reject a "rigid across-the-board requirement" of military courts. It's fine to want to preserve the presidential discretion here, but it's another example of Obama's policy of no policy. He does not want to be pinned down about having to do anything at all, which makes it look like he's going to hold the detainees without trial indefinitely — i.e., until the end of his presidency — and he wants to be able to do that without admitting that it's an actual policy of his. Because it's not. It "would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation." So he can't be doing that. But he is, but he's not authorizing doing that. So he won't defend it. In fact, he wants to be in a position to rail against the very policy that he is... not authorizing... just following.

You mean "leading from behind," as they say?

No, no, that would be too bold. Leading from behind! Oh, no, not me. I'm just biding my time, out here on my island, waiting for my limited term to expire, while you folks over there on your island bide your time, indefinitely....

ADDED: Let's go back to January 27, 2009, one week into the Obama presidency. I'm talking with Slate's Emily Bazelon, and she's certain Obama is about to close Guantanamo, and I feel that I can detect in his statements that he's giving a sop to people like her and he's not going to do anything:

Now, it's 3 years later. Obama's first and probably only presidential term is rolling to a close, and he hasn't done anything with the detainees. (And if you're about to slam me in the comments, once again, for voting for Obama, let me say: Imagine if John McCain had become President and Guantanamo were still open, how thoroughly steamed Emily and her ilk would be now.)

There now.

I've started the new year on the blog with an old potato and its attendant quandaries.

Let that be a sign of things to come.

"It's a potato. Unless you are dying of malnourishment with zombies at your door and no options for other food don't eat it."

The hive mind hovers around a single baked potato, "stupidly left.... in a cold oven for a few days."