September 7, 2013

"So I see the genius of our Constitution, and of our society, is how much more embracive we have become than we were at the beginning."

Said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, embracing a word I can't remember ever noticing before and a constitutional theory I've seen 1,000s of times.

"Embracive" is listed in the OED. It means, first, "Given to or fond of embracing; embracing demonstratively," but this is a "nonce-use." The quote, from 1855, from Thackeray, is "Not less kind..though less expansive and embracive, was Madame de Montcontour to my wife." The second meaning, going back to 1897, is "Embracing or tending to embrace all." Examples:
1897 Academy 18 Sept. (Fiction Suppl.) 70/1 ‘George Du Maurier in three volumes’ would be a fair embracive title....

1902 Edinb. Rev. Oct. 357 Important deities have been omitted from this brief catalogue, which is much more representative than embracive....
I take it Ginsburg is deploying the word to mean inclusive, perhaps with more love/empathy/enthusiasm.

A divorcing woman seeks "$20,000 to cover her egg-freezing procedure, medication costs and several years of egg storage."

She put the last 8 years into a marriage, within which she expected to have babies and did not. Now, she's 38, and her window of fertility is almost closed.

Actually, in this particular case, the couple had used in vitro fertilization to attempt pregnancy, so there's some of this argument that she should be maintained in the style she'd become accustomed to. It's not just a matter of a man taking up the best fertility years of a woman's life and somehow owing her the nearest thing to giving back her youth.

ADDED: Robert Stacy McCain takes issue with my use of the phrase "best fertility years":
Professor Althouse, “the best fertility years of a woman’s life,” from a strictly scientific view, are ages 18-24. After age 27, fertility begins to decline and, in your 30s, that decline accelerates. So by the time Lieberman’s client married at 30, she was past her prime.
So, I should have said her last good fertility years. When a woman marries at age 30, she's right if she thinks she's comfortably on track for childbearing. But if she turns out to have difficulty getting pregnant, as this woman did, what seemed like plenty of time can turn into an anxious struggle. I don't know what led to this particular divorce, but needing fertility treatments and enduring them without success must create pressure that some people don't handle very well. There's something very sad about a woman's desire to continue her struggle by extracting support from the husband who failed to make her pregnant. I recommend handling divorce with grace and realism, but a lot of economic advantage-taking can ensue, and you rarely know the whole story of who did what to whom and why a stepped-up legal attack seemed like a good idea. This is, above all, a failed relationship, and you can never see the ground level of that failure.

"What are you pretending not to know?"

The first of Jason Nazar's "35 Questions That Will Change Your Life."

That's a great question. Nazar is 35 years old, and I remember becoming aware, when I was about that age, that I had many perceptions that felt as as if they belonged to another person. This other entity had a different vantage point, seemingly from above, looking on at everything, including at me, and the me that felt like me, the character who participated in life, somehow did not know all these things.

That sounds absurd (if not crazy), but once you become aware of this absurdity, you can integrate yourself and become as wise and knowing as you really are and stop playing the somewhat naive character you've allowed yourself to be in your various decisions and interactions.

"The Dung Beetle Is a Climate Change Hero."

Hail, dung beetle.

"To Be or Not to Be."

RLC emails to say that the great old Jack Benny/Carole Lombard movie (directed by Ernst Lubitsch) — which we loved in the 1970s — is out in a Criterion Collection edition. He notes the 97% positive rating by the critics collected at Rotten Tomatoes, and I see that the 3% negativity is accounted for entirely by the one review that comes from 1942, when the movie was released. It's Bosley Crowther in the NYT:
Perhaps there are plenty of persons who can overlook the locale, who can still laugh at Nazi generals with pop-eyes and bungle-some wits. Perhaps they can fancy Jack Benny, disguised be-hind goggles and beard, figuratively tweaking the noses of the best Gestapo sleuths.
Carole Lombard is, Crowther tells us, "very beautiful and comically adroit." Twice, in this short review, he informs us that this is her last movie. He writes the strange phrase "the feelings which one might imagine her presence would impose are never sensed." She's beautiful and dead, so he thought he was going to have feelings, but he's forced to see her there with that big old ham, the "radio comedian," Jack Benny:
Too often does he pout or grow indignant or pull a double-take. Of course, the script en-courages the old Benny legend of "ham." Once a German officer comments, laughing loudy, "What he did to Shakespeare we are doing now to Poland." That gives you a couple of ideas about this film.
How dare Jack Benny get the last of the beautiful and adroit Carole Lombard!

Anti-adoption activists.

"This coalition makes bedfellows of people who would ordinarily have nothing to do with each other..."
Mormon and fundamentalist women who feel they were pressured by their churches, progressives who believe adoption is a classist institution that takes the children of the young and poor and gives them to the wealthier and better-educated, and adoptive parents who have had traumatic experiences with corrupt adoption agencies.

"The fact is that Obama is the only president we have."

"We can’t abdicate our position in the world for the next three years. So Republicans will have to resist the temptation to weaken him when the cost is weakening the country. A party that for at least two generations has held high the banner of American leadership and strength should not cast a vote that obviously risks a damaging erosion of this country’s stature and credibility abroad."

 From Bill Kristol's explanation of why "yes" is the correct answer for Republicans.

Are you living a wholesome life?

The video here makes the best argument for living a wholesome life that I've seen in a long time.

"14 Principled Anti-War Celebrities We Fear May Have Been Kidnapped."

"Our government is yet again marching us towards a war of choice in the Middle East and our non-partisan, peace-loving celebrities have gone missing since late 2008. We fear the worst."

ADDED: We were just talking about this 2 days ago: "Where's Bruce Springsteen? He helped Obama get elected. Shouldn't he weigh in on the Syria question?"

"Ok, maybe your grandparents probably slept like you. And your great, great-grandparents."

"But once you go back before the 1800s, sleep starts to look a lot different. Your ancestors slept in a way that modern sleepers would find bizarre – they slept twice. And so can you."

We've talked about the subject of 2 sleeps before on this blog. (That's why a reader sent me that link.)

The new article cites a book called "Evening's Empire: A History of the Night in Early Modern Europe." From a review at that last link:
[Craig] Koslofsky's epic history of the night reveals a revolution: how stage lights remade theater, how Lutheran mystics penetrated the night, how witch hunters fought the devil on his own nocturnal turf, how racism mirrored the presumed iniquity of blackness, and how street lights pacified cities....
That book doesn't refer to Bob Dylan, who was not afoot in early modern Europe, but "Evening's Empire" takes me to:
Though I know that evenin’s empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping...
The thing about first and second sleep is that — here in mid-modern America — if you accept the opportunity of the wakeful time after a first sleep, you need to believe there's a second sleep in the offing. But who has that kind of confidence? Back in the 18th century, they didn't have electric lights. They didn't have computer monitors. After an hour or 2 of whatever they did in the dark — we're told they reflected, prayed, talked, had sex, and smoked — they'd be in the right condition to slip back to sleep. But reading the news of the world on a lit up screen and writing about it, I can't think of second sleep as anything more than a vague hope. What was supposed to be an interval becomes the entire next day.

The intersleep has mission creep.

"I mean really, besides my grandparents, who are both dead, who is watching the nightly news?"

Said Glenn Beck, when challenged about his boast that The Blaze would put traditional news out of business.

I've given some thought over the years — it's one of my long-time thought experiments — to the idea of an afterlife that consisted only of being able to watch the TV news, showing what was going on back in the world of the living.

***

And here's an article about Glenn Beck's "Man in the Moon" show:
Part Tea Party rally, part Cirque du Soleil (my characterization, which Beck objected to), the show is a window into Beck’s mind — which he admits is riddled with attention-deficit disorder and a busy, buzzing energy — that is possibly more revealing than his famous chalkboard rants.
Strange!

Conservatives usually like to present themselves as appealing to the rational mind. This is not that.

"It is a very strange moment for Mr. Obama..."

The NYT editorial on Obama's Syrian difficulties. It's against a military strike, I think, but in the most invisible possible way.

Let me paraphrase the 10 paragraphs:

September 6, 2013

"President Barack Obama was greeted by women in aristocratic dress at the party..."

"... which seemed to have the questionable theme of decadence while the summit's key topic are poverty and war...."

"Iran foreign minister Zarif tweets happy Jewish new year."

Reports BBC.com:
He then had a response from Christine Pelosi, the daughter of Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the US House of Representatives, who said: "Thanks. The new year would be even sweeter if you would end Iran's Holocaust denial, sir."

He replied: "Iran never denied it. The man who was perceived to be denying it is now gone. Happy New Year."
BUT: "Iran Plots Revenge, U.S. Says/Officials Say Intercepted Message to Militants Orders Reprisals in Iraq if Syria Hit."

"Ambiguous genitals? You may have wrinkly genes."

"If nothing goes wrong, an XX individual develops as a girl, whereas an XY individual develops as a boy...."

"Ciao Michele, it's Pope Francis."

The new Pope makes personal phone calls.
Last month he reportedly rang an Italian man, Michele Ferri, who had written to him after his brother was murdered....

"He told me he had cried when he read the letter I had written him," Ferri said.
More recently he called a woman who'd written a letter saying "she feared no priest would baptise her illegitimate child," and "the Pope told her that if she had any trouble he would personally hold the baptism."
"The Pope told me I was very brave and strong to decide to keep my baby," she said.
Nice. Really nice. But what a foundation for prank calls.

"Speaking crudely, football and sport are 'important'; the worship of fashion, the buying of clothes 'trivial.'"

Wrote Virginia Woolf — "it is the masculine values that prevail."

An old quote, echoed here by fashion writer Robin Givhan:
I always compare fashion to sports, and when you think about some of the issues that have come up in sports, particularly in baseball, with steroid use and all of that, you wonder, “Why is Congress having hearings and calling Barry Bonds? What does that have to do with anything?” And you realize it’s because we as a culture, or at least some people in our culture, take sports really seriously, and they believe that it represents something about who we are, about our belief in fair play, and they recognize that that has an impact on younger people. I don’t think that fashion will really change until that same sort of recognition happens. 
I agree with the proposition that sports and fashion are exactly equally important and that it's helpful to keep that in mind even as you personally feel more drawn to one than the other. I hate to think that the essence of being taken seriously is that Congress holds hearings, but I don't think Givhan is saying she wants congressional hearings into the problems of the fashion industry. The baseball hearings are evidence that sports are taken seriously, too seriously maybe.

Keep the equation of sports and fashion in mind and use it to test whether we're taking something more seriously or less seriously than we should. This is similar to the way we analyze reactions to Obama by asking what if Bush had done the same thing.

ADDED: Sports are as related to maleness as fashion is related to femaleness, and the 2 things are equally important. You can get by with 0% of your interest in sports as you do your sports/fashion allocation, but you can't get by with 0% of your interest in fashion, since you must wear clothes. Set your percents however you want other than that.

The total amount of time that is your 100% varies from person to person. I'll bet my 100% fashion/sports time is less than yours!

"Optimism: trend alert?"

NY Daily News caption from its Fashion Week coverage under a photograph of a Kate Spade bag that — I am not kidding — looks like this:



That may represent a trend, but it is not optimism. It's painful sarcasm and hopelessness about a lost past that wasn't even any good anyway.

That bag, with the burlap fabric and "homemade" childish embroidery, references the early 1960s. (I remember those idiotically cheerful bags ladies carried on the boardwalk.) Perhaps the Kate Spade operation is alluding to the 50-year retrospective on the ultimate crushing of hope that is descending upon us this fall, the Kennedy assassination.

If you're medicated, you might look at that bag and see optimism. Do you complete the sentence to make lemonade? Those words don't appear on the bag (not on that side anyway). Face it: This burlap monstrosity is intended to make you feel bad. Life sucks. Suck a lemon.

Is it sexist to call a female politician an "empty dress"?

The insult "empty dress" brought the unsurprising return insult "sexist."

I'd say, given the long-time insult "empty suit," "empty dress" gets us to equality.

Denver trounces Baltimore, after Baltimore thwarted Baltimore.

The Baltimore Orioles kept the Baltimore Ravens from having what they'd earned: a home game for the opener. 
The N.F.L. hung a banner of Ravens quarterback Joey Flacco above Denver’s stadium...
But it wasn't quite the same.

"Obama's strategic languidness has put lawmakers in a position such that many of them will be unable to vote either 'yes' or 'no' in good conscience."

"And with his failure to develop even a political strategy for approaching Congress on this matter, he has managed the dubious achievement of leading the U.S. into a foreign-policy quagmire without firing a shot."

ADDED: When we look back at Barack Obama, what will we say? I think it will have to do with the way we wanted to believe that the old parental "use words" admonition was the best advice and we conned ourselves into seeing him as the embodiment of that fantasy, and he tried to be our dream.

But the world isn't that pretty, and the dream doesn't make much sense unless enough people to play along. Giving him the Nobel Peace Prize in advance was part of the shared dream: Come on, everyone into the delusion.

But the "use words" approach gave way to using bombs, which were supposed to be enough like words that we wouldn't wake from the dream. Bombs express our disapproval of the worse things done on the ground, the ground which our "boots" never touch.

"This is exactly the kind of photo you shouldn't post of your child."

That is: the kid's face.

Paranoia (of facial recognition) strikes deep.

September 5, 2013

Mystery photograph of the day.

IMG

"America wants to help the extremists to control Syria, but they are wrong because we will defend our sect."

"They will commit a big mistake if they think it will be easy to strike Syria and change everything. We all have faith that God is on our side, and we will show them that the Shiites in all the world are able to fight their proxies from Al Qaeda and Nusra and the hated Free Syrian Army."

A quote that reflects what the NYT says is the view of the Shiite majority in Iraq.

"Where's Bruce Springsteen? He helped Obama get elected. Shouldn't he weigh in on the Syria question?"

Asks Meade, after he sings along awhile with the song I'm playing on my iTunes as a consequence of that "Oh" discussion in the previous post.

I say: "Yeah, what are all the celebrities saying about Syria? Are any of them talking now?" They loved to love Obama on the issues they loved to love him about. They helped America love him, and they looked so lovable loving him like that. But they won't look so pretty talking up a war, so I think they're off somewhere else. La la.

The good liberals of Madison struggling with the "good" homeless and the "bad" homeless.

On Tuesday, the city council anguished over one block of our Capitol Square:
"(P)eople are scared to death to go there," said Maria Milsted, who runs a property management company with her husband at 106 W. Mifflin St. "We are frightened to go into our own place of work."

In her speech, Milsted distinguished between the "good homeless," — those who are seeking jobs and a place to live — and "the takers" who she believes are seeking handouts and have no intention of behaving civilly....
The mayor, Paul Soglin, the longtime Madison lefty and former UW student radical blamed the world beyond Madison for dumping its undesirables here:
"Statements that some of us have made about Madison being a drop-off point (of homeless people) for other units of government is now getting fairly well-documented," Soglin said.

He also alleged that other cities are driving homeless people into the city of Madison, and vowed that Madison would "drive them right back!"
So xenophobic. Whatever happened to empathy and compassion? We're ready now to see the downtrodden as "takers" and reprobates... when they congregate in a prime residential area and freak out the real estate folk?

You know, one of the nicest condo buildings I've ever seen is on that block. It's terrible if the bad homeless people are hurting real estate values. But if you're not freaked out by a few street people, it might be a good time to put in an offer on one of the places currently on the market. Like that 2-bedroom penthouse, priced at $2,200,000, now down to $1,995,000.

Oh!

What songs do you have in your iTunes that begin with "Oh"? Don't add or subtract anything. I'll go first:

The "quasi-Christian" sect — the Twelve Tribes — that proselytizes at Dylan concerts.

Are Dylan disciples ripe picking for a group that "requires forsaking all material goods, living communally, and working without pay in one of the group’s cafés, stores, farms, or construction companies scattered across the United States"?

They travel around in a cute "two-tone, double-decker bus called the Peacemaker" and hand out a brochure titled "Dylan: What Are You Thinking?" which leverages lyrics from old Dylan songs to make a pitch that I would think close attention to Dylan lyrics would inoculate you against.

You’re gonna have to serve somebody... so why not serve lattes at our café?

"Republicans and Democrats alike feel the Syria resolution would not pass today, even after party leaders endorsed it."

Says Politico, "[b]ased on talking to the smartest members and aides we know."
House Republican staffers tell us that several key members are unsatisfied so far by the classified briefings from the administration. A top aide said the administration has failed to make a compelling case “beyond spasmodic moral outrage.”

"Nobody has really heard how this is going to either improve the situation on the ground in Syria, improve the situation for pro-democracy groups, not play into al-Qaeda’s hands, not play into Russia’s hands, not play into China’s hands,” the aide said. “Members felt the administration hasn’t made a case about how this is going to stop it from happening again. They’re putting a lot of chips on: ‘We have to do this for Israel,’ or, ‘We have to do this because it’s unacceptable.’”

"I am not a huge fan of abortion, but we both had sports careers, plus we could not financially handle a baby."

Said Udonis Haslem, who is now a professional basketball player (for the Miami Heat). At the time, he was a senior in college, training for the N.B.A. draft.  We're told he had "struggled with supporting Kedonis, the son he had in high school, who is now 14 and who lives with his mother." (That link goes to Life News, a Pro-Life site, and it's decrying this NYT wedding story for "celebrating" an abortion.)

Haslem's fiancee, Faith Rein said:
"Udonis appreciated that I was willing to have an abortion.... I found him caring, supportive, nurturing and all over me to be sure I was O.K. I saw another side of him during that difficult time and fell deeply in love. He had a big heart and was the whole package."
We've had some heated discussions on this blog in the last couple of months about the problem of the purported lack of equality arising from the woman's right to have an abortion and the man's inability to extricate himself from financial responsibility for the child he doesn't want and lacks the option to abort.

In that light, let's look at Udonis Haslem. Perhaps he wanted little Kedonis, perhaps he would have aborted him. In any case, his high school liaison did not abort, Kedonis was born, and Udonis has paid child support. Later, it happens again. A woman becomes pregnant with his child. Let's call him Xdonis. Udonis cannot force Faith to have an abortion. You can cry with outrage over the man's lack of equality here, but it's the woman's body — as I said in last summer's arguments over men's reproductive rights — and she gets to decide whether to submit her body to the forces of nature that have found purchase within. 

But Haslem reads the playing field and applies his skills to the situation at hand. You fight for your rights with the law you have, not the law you might want or wish to have at a later time. A man who would like to exercise the right to choose to abort must exercise his powers of persuasion upon the mind of the woman. She controls the womb inside her body, her mind must make a decision. He may not act upon the womb. He must act upon the mind.

What did Udonis Haslem say to Faith Rein? We can only infer from her report of how it felt to her: He appreciated her willingness to have an abortion. Men who want to exercise a right to choose, operating with the law we have, can dilate and extract some ideas. Don't say: I want you to have an abortion. Admire her mind (that mind that will make the decision). Aren't willing women beautiful? Pro-life people speak of willingness to bear the child. There's a corresponding willingness to have an abortion. A baby seems much more lovely than an abortion, so it's tricky. We don't know exactly how Haslem made Rein feel that way. But I infer that he adored her beautiful mind.

She "found him caring, supportive, nurturing and all over me to be sure I was O.K." It's all about her. Men who want a right to choose, take note! Don't make it about you, even if that's what you're really thinking. It is about her, because she will make the decision. Don't talk about the baby and how much trouble it will be for you. Stay away from the womb. That's her domain. Don't look down there. Her mind is up here. Care for her, support her, nurture her, and be all over her. Make sure she is okay.

I saw another side of him during that difficult time and fell deeply in love. He had a big heart and was the whole package. What would it take to make her feel like that? You're all about love and caring. And she has the abortion!

"We swear to the Lord of the Throne, that this is our oath: We will take revenge."

The brutality of the Syrian rebels.

September 4, 2013

"Jury Nullification vs. The Drug War: NJ Weedman on His Unlikely Marijuana Acquittal."



"I should be 10 months into a 10-year prison sentence," says Ed Forchion aka NJ Weedman. 'The only reason I'm standing here is because I happened to know about jury nullification. And I used it.'"

"They love my beautiful mind... I am ugly, but they’re attracted to the brains. I’m a rock star among geeks, wonks and nerds."

Said the economist, noting that his parties are great because of "fun people and beautiful girls" and "I look for 10 girls to one guy."

But you need to be more careful about your bragging, apparently, because now the Department of Buildings is coming after his giant rooftop hot tub, which he's ordered to remove, because he didn't seek approval.

Lesson: First, seek approval from the government. Then, seek approval from fun people and beautiful girls.

Paraphrase of the lesson: The government wants to be your beautiful girl.

ADDED: "10 girls to one guy" = "Surf City" x 5. 

IN THE COMMENTS: Crunchy Frog improves on my bad math:
10 girls for every guy = Surf City in binary.

"Republicans... are a bunch of dead white people. Or dying white people."

Said the college professor, secretly videoed by a student in the back row, now playing on YouTube, linked by Twitchy.

And I say: Look out all you professors. Anything you say may be taken out of context and posted on YouTube. Your hyperbole and casual humor and reenactments of the arguments of others will look quite different as the world looks over the shoulders of the captive audience you think you're talking at. The back row is no longer the back row. There are a million more rows behind that, full of people with no motive to act like they respect you.

"Speaking of urban agony... if folks on the right were truly Macchiavellian, they’d be joining the critics of stop-and-frisk."

"The big Blue enclaves are where the crime and racial strife mostly are; letting those get worse would probably benefit folks on the right. Luckily for the hipsters, righties are too principled for that sort of 'heightening the contradictions' thing."

Written strangely early in the morning...

What am I doing writing 7 posts between the hours of 1 and 3?

Maybe I should switch to blogging only in the middle of the night.

"When the advertising gods cast my soul into hell as punishment for writing negative reviews..."

"... I'll probably be forced to watch a witless, artsy perfume commercial like this Dior Homme spot on an endless loop for all eternity."



"Moody monochrome images of Rob Pattinson's 'smoldering stares' will sear my eyes forever, while the clip's soundtrack — Led Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta Love' — scalds my ears like the screams of the damned."

Way, way down inside... the fiery pit of hell.

Did Kerry say we won't put "boots on the ground" in Syria?

It's complicated.

I think he just wanted to stop Congress from putting a limitation in the authorization, because the President never wants to be limited, but the President limited himself by going to Congress and asking for authorization, which he seems also to maintain that he doesn't need:
Later, Kerry returned to the question, saying “I don’t want anyone misinterpreting this from me earlier” and specifying that in the authorization of force proposed by the administration “there’s zero capacity” for ground troops. Kerry reiterated that he was “hypothesizing” about potential future scenarios, “but not in this authorization.”
Why is he using the word "authorization"? Shouldn't the secret argument be that if they suddenly need to react to a fluid situation by putting boots on the ground, the President has the power to do that, just as the President believes he can launch the air attack on his own, but is simply choosing to ask Congress to approve? What he doesn't want — I would think — is for this approval to contain any disapproval.

The President is strongest when he acts in accordance with Congress's expressed approval. The middle level of power is acting alone, where Congress is silent. He's got the least power when he's acting against the position taken by Congress. He doesn't want his effort to get into category 1 with respect to the air attack to deprive him of the category 2 level of power with respect to other actions he might want to take in the future. He doesn't want to get stuck in category 3.

"Marijuana grower killed — and nearly decapitated — by booby trap he set to protect plants."

"Police say Daniel Rickett was drunkenly riding a quad bike when he ran into his own piano wire trap. Hikers found the 50-year-old's body lying near four large plants."

All that to protect 4 plants?!

Here's a recent segment of "This American Life" about the extent of marijuana growing in Mendocino County, California:
A few years ago, Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman was trying to find a way to deal with the proliferation of marijuana in his county. Allman wanted to spend less time dealing with growers who were growing small, legal amounts, so he could focus on other problems — including criminals who run massive marijuana farms in the Mendocino National Forest....
By "legal amounts," they mean not illegal under state law. The "legal amount" is 20 plants. The giant operations consume many acres of federal land (complete with irrigation systems and pesticides). Why don't the feds police their own land?

ADDED: Some answers to that last questions here. For the millions of acres of national forests, the federal government is regarded as a property owner:

"Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping, in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table."

Then hanged himself in prison.

"Scandal! Caught playing iPhone game at 3+ hour Senate hearing - worst of all I lost!"

Tweets John McCain, who was photographed playing video poker during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the proposed military attack on Syria.

Is it okay to play games to deal with tedium when the subject is war? If caught in the act, is it better to apologize and stress the seriousness of the hearing or to crack a joke? Worst of all I lost.... worst of all, you are taking us to war!

To be honest, if I needed to pay attention to John Kerry's talking, it would help to play video solitaire. I wouldn't want to be seen doing it, though, if I were a decisionmaker, but I do understand how this minimal, partial diversion of attention keeps you mind from drifting into thoughts that would interfere with listening.

Speaking of hurricanes...

... now, some scientists have a theory that global warming mitigates hurricanes.

ADDED: Meanwhile...  "Al Gore’s Incredible Shrinking Climate Change Footprint."

Sympathy for the euthanists.

Sherri Fink's "5 Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital" looks like a great book, based on the description in this NYT review. It appears to be an exciting and subtle account of what happened in an ICU at a hospital after Hurricane Katrina knocked out the power and delayed evacuation for 5 days. A doctor and 2 nurses were arrested for murder, based on the high levels of morphine and other drugs in the bodies of 20 of the 45 patients who died, but the grand jury did not indict them. 
Dr. Fink maintains a reporter’s detachment.... In following the machinations of a central witness — Dr. Frank Minyard, the city coroner, a colorful politician.... Dr. Fink shifts her focus from the horrific conditions in Memorial to considerations of justice. She gives proportional weight to Virginia Rider, a state investigator of Medicare fraud tasked with gathering evidence on the hospital deaths.

“Growing up in a state where politicians exploited every opportunity for corruption, she had deposited her faith in the burnished version of the American justice system her teachers had described in school,” Dr. Fink writes of Ms. Rider. “She believed, even to her ripe old early 40s, that good would prevail over evil. She had given so much of herself to this ideal.”

Ms. Rider’s passion may suggest a naïveté about the gray area in moral dynamics when things fall apart, but her confrontation with Dr. Minyard, after the grand jury refuses to indict, is a stunning scene. Dr. Fink does not condemn those Ms. Rider deemed guilty. But by reporting the depth of those gruesome hours in Memorial before the helicopters came, and giving weight to medical ethics as grounded in the law, Sheri Fink has written an unforgettable story.
Dr. Fink may "maintain a reporter’s detachment," but the reviewer, Jason Berry (author of "Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church") gives off a whiff of enthusiasm for euthanasia. Do you notice? Or is it just me? I'm looking for early symptoms of acceptance of euthanasia, which I believe will creep in as we Baby Boomers become more and more of a burden. Berry stresses Fink's evenhandedness, which makes me want to read the book but makes me suspect he'd prefer more opinion. It's fairly mild to say "may suggest a naïveté about the gray area in moral dynamics when things fall apart," but to my perhaps oversensitive perception, it suggests the opinion that sophisticated minds see — in all that complexity and nuance — a place for euthanasia.

September 3, 2013

"What we are watching when we watch élite sports, then, is a contest among wildly disparate groups of people..."

"... who approach the starting line with an uneven set of genetic endowments and natural advantages," writes Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker, which is so elite it puts an accent on the "e" in "elite." But don't let that stop you from reading this! It shifts from talking about the legs of Kenyan runners — who are genetically adapted to a particular environment and have thus lucked into an advantage — and the drug users in baseball and bicycling. That's some sleight of hand.

"Smooth, Europhile Democrats would win over the world, ushering in an era of peace and good feeling."

That was the promise back in 2008. It seems so stupid now. And speaking of stupid, remember how stupid Bush was?
Say what you will about George W. Bush's diplomacy, but he nurtured relationships with our most important allies -- like Britain -- and managed to put together a huge multinational coalition for his own foray against an Arab dictator suspected of having chemical weapons. Obama's diplomatic efforts -- championed by Hillary Clinton and, now, John Kerry -- are looking more and more inept by comparison: So far, our only ally in the proposed Syria venture is France, maybe.
Let's give Hillary some credit for ducking out at the right moment.... hitting her own reset button... leaving Obama in the... shall we say?... lurch.

"This fight is not over. We will continue to stand strong. Your Religious Freedom is becoming not Free anymore."

"This is ridiculous that we can not practice our faith. The LORD is good and we will continue to serve Him with all our heart. ♥"

Sign on the door of the Sweet Cakes bakery, which is closing to avoid having to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples, which the state Bureau of Labor said violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Is cake decorating a place where freedom of expression should be able to trump anti-discrimination laws? In this regard, is religious expression different from other expression? (I'm assuming there's a big difference between a shop that refuses to serve gay people and a shop that refuses make a product that contains an expressive message supportive of gay relationships.)

"A Texas father who discovered a man raping his five-year-old daughter and beat him to death with his bare hands will not be charged with homicide under state law."

"Under Texas state law, deadly force is authorized and indeed, justified in order to stop an aggravated sexual assault and coupled with the fact that the harrowing 911 calls made by the father back claims he even tried to save the pedophile's life led to the grand jury's decision."

"How the U.S. Left is Failing Over Syria."

Interested in how consistent the anti-war left has been about Obama's military adventures, I ran across this Counterpunch piece by Shamus Cooke:
It’s now painfully clear that Obama’s war on Syria is a replay of Bush’s march to war in Iraq, both built on lies. Zero evidence has been put forth that proves the Syrian government used chemical weapons. On the contrary, evidence has been collected that suggests the U.S.-backed Syrian rebels are responsible for the attack.

If Obama wages an aggressive attack on Syria — especially without UN authorization — he’ll be committing a major international crime that will, by any standard, make him a war criminal, just like Bush before him.

And because Obama’s attack on Syria followed Bush’s logic, you’d assume that liberal, progressive, and other Left groups would do what they did when Bush went to war: denounce it unconditionally and organize against it.
Of course, this isn't happening.

ADDED: Cooke says: "Every head of state that is targeted by the U.S. government must be portrayed as an inspiring 'Hitler,' since attacking a nation led by 'Hitler' is, of course, a 'good' thing to do."

And sure enough, here's John Kerry today, doubling down on Assad is Hitler: "Secretary of State John Kerry told House Democrats that the United States faced a 'Munich moment' in deciding whether to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government."

I trust Senator Kerry, and I think he’s genuine. And I met him five times." Assad said.

In 2010:

"U.S.-Russian Ties Still Fall Short of 'Reset' Goal."

NYT headline that seems like it must have been written as a joke and left on unintentionally, in the "Mush From the Wimp" tradition.

From the text of the article, there's a fascinating revelation:
Just days before Vladimir V. Putin reassumed the presidency of Russia last year, President Obama dispatched his national security adviser to Moscow... [Putin] opened the meeting with...:

“When... are you going to start bombing Syria?”

Perseverating about shoes before 7 a.m.

Woken by a phone call from the demonic "Blocked," I make coffee at 6 a.m. and sit down to approve the comments that collected in my "awaiting moderation" folder overnight. Somehow that sets me off to writing 5 comments in the thread about shoes. The coffee kicked in spiked by the false sunrise and the poetry it inspired and I got myself retracked onto the front page, where, looking back now, I feel like the blog has a theme today. It's something like: We're always only seeing things from our own point of view. (Dylan lyric: "We always did feel the same/We just saw it from a different point of view.")

So what did I say — about shoes?? — before sanity kicked in at 7? Highlights from the comments:
... there are things you feel you need to do in NYC that you look almost foolish doing around here. I see some young women around campus mincing about on heels when no one else is. There isn't one man around who is dressed to go with that. It's as if she's on her way to a party that exists only in her mind....

Take a good look at yourself in the mirror when you've got your shorts on. Ask yourself if I were a woman, would I fuck me? (The question, put that way, assumes you are not a gay man. If you are a gay man, you don't need advice from me on how you look to other men.)....

I'm vulnerable to the criticism that I've promoted women's shoes that are like little girl shoes and that's inconsistent with saying shorts infantilize men. I'm treading -- in Mary Janes -- on dangerous ground!
Those shoe comments reveal that...
  
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"It's these automatic thoughts that cling to the brain like parasites that destroy thinking and reason...."

"Liberals, I think, are especially prone to this, for a bunch of reasons...."

Opines Ace, noting my Ann Althouse post "A new 'Dictionary of Received Ideas'" and giving me an idea for a new entry for my new 'Dictionary of Received Ideas.'"

Received ideas. More prevalent amongst those on the other side.

Related: "All the assholes are over on the other side."

"Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?/Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?"

"To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil and be called by no name except deportees?"

"A student, if he is on scholarship or has an ambitious mother, may actually try to earn all these merit badges."

"But if he has any spirit, he’ll murmur a well-chosen four-letter word and go out and get stoned. Or if he is exceptionally thoughtful, he may explore the contradictions embedded in these commandments...."

Writes Richard Lanham (in 1974, quoted by Mark Liberman, at Language Log) protesting the "commandments" laid down (purportedly) in books about writing style.

I detect some snobbery, as if it's low class to take the basics of writing style seriously. Those in the know can bypass that cant about clarity and... what?

ADDED: I've corrected this to show that Liberman was quoting Lanham. I knew Liberman was mostly quoting Lanham, but there are so many ins and outs of blocking and indenting that my eye lost track of where one author ended and the other began. I should have paid more attention to the reek of snobbery, because it's something people today are more fastidious about.

NYC builds a newsstand designed to be run by blind workers, then decides to scrap it because it's not theft resistant.

Now they're going to build an new one.
“As part of a major and vital rehabilitation of the Kings County Criminal Court, we are adding a new newsstand and investing to make it accessible,” said a spokesman for the city Department of Design and Construction. The Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator ordered the DDC to build the stand as part of a $38 million courthouse renovation. City courthouse newsstands are operated by blind workers through a program run by the state Commission for the Blind.
Blind people have traditionally run newsstands, but the safeguard against theft —  a problem at any newsstand — is the heightened sense of morality people feel about cheating the blind.
Said one court source, “Let’s face it. It’s in the lobby of a courtroom, so you might get a few criminals walking by who wouldn’t think twice about stealing from a blind guy.”
You might think NYC should just use the new place and not employ a blind worker, but consider that there is a pre-existing but run-down newsstand in the lobby, run by a 61-year-old blind man who's worked there for 10 years, the design of the new shelves really does facilitate shoplifting, and there are other aspects of the design that aren't suitable for a blind person. The area behind the counter is said to be too small to use a cane or seeing-eye dog.

It sounds almost as though the designer had a secret agenda of ousting the blind. That's a premise I'd explore if I were suing. Things less cheap than lawsuits: 1. building another new newsstand, and 2. eating the cost of shoplifting.

Quite aside from potential litigation, there's the political problem. Here you've got: 1. wasting the taxpayers' money, 2. looking stupid, 3. showing lack of concern for the blind, 4. the embarrassment of a ridiculous crime paradise in the lobby of a criminal courthouse, breeding more and more disrespect for the law among those with the least reason to feel respect.

"It's more of a placebo, I think... There was not like, 'Oh my God; I'm a rocket right now!'"

Said a purchaser of an over-the-counter "male enhancement" drug.
Bodega clerks said their sky-high sales suggest otherwise.

"People come in and buy them all the time," said a lower East Side bodega worker, who refused to give his name. "I think they work because people keep coming in for them."
That deserves my tag "charming bad logic."

The bodega clerk's logic is fine, but the Daily News reporter and editor — whoever wrote "suggest otherwise" — are missing an element: Placebos work.

Rolling Stone has the strength to take another shot at answering the most famous question it ever asked about Bob Dylan.

"What is this shit?"
Now, 43 years later, Rolling Stone is revisiting the time period around Self [Portrait] — and some of Dylan's most misunderstood music ever — with a cover story by Mikal Gilmore probing why Dylan burned down his career at the peak of his fame to save himself.
With the help of Dylan's new box set Another Self Portrait — which presents raw, unvarnished tapes from the Self Portrait sessions....

Madison's "Philosopher’s Grove" attracts crime.

For the annals of unintended consequences:
[T]he city is rethinking the physical design of the public space [at the State Street and of the Capitol Square], especially the “Philosopher’s Grove” next to the Wisconsin Historical Museum and the 100 block of West Mifflin Street that connects with the Central Library and Overture Center.
The problem:
The area, benign much of the time, has become a magnet for chronic alcoholics and others who use doorways and alleys as toilets, argue and fight, deal and use drugs, steal and cause other problems.

Although many who hang out at the junction are homeless, the area more recently has attracted an element who might be involved in gangs, engaged in the drug trade and more violent....
This "Philosopher’s Grove" appears at the vbeginning of one of our favorite videos from the 2011, with the memorable line "All the assholes are over on the other side," spoken by one of the "homeless" types. (I put quotes and "types" there because I don't know whether any given individual has a home.) The "assholes" in his locution were the protesters who were crowding the square, impinging on their environment.



It's all a matter of point of view. You may see the "chronic alcoholics" and drug dealers as the problem, but to them, you could be the problem.

Consider the likelihood that whoever you are — wherever you are — you're going to think all the assholes are over on the other side.

"It's a good metaphor. Go write a poem on it. I haven't got time."

I said, on witnessing this sunrise, just now:

Untitled

That's looking westward, and there is no visible sun in the east. Scientifically, it's just a reflection, but metaphorically, it's gold.

September 2, 2013

Thanks...

... to all who've used the Althouse Amazon Portal for your shopping.

May I recommend some shoes? Ladies shoes. I like these, which are similar to these, which I bought yesterday when I was out walking, downtown, and the sole of my shoe broke in half, right outside a shoe store. I was the ultimate captive audience. I had to buy new shoes, and I did. The shoe that broke was one of these — expensive... but they lasted almost 20 years.

For a men's shoe, try these.

In search of war protest.

Today at the Wisconsin Capitol Square. The protest singers are there, doing their version of "O Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn/O Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn/Pharaoh's army got drowned/O Mary, don't you weep...."

"Nyad 1st to Swim to Florida From Cuba Without Cage."

Finally!
It was Nyad's fifth try to complete the approximately 110-mile swim. She tried three times in 2011 and 2012. Her first attempt was in 1978....

This time, she wore a full bodysuit, gloves, booties and a mask at night, when jellyfish rise to the surface.... She stopped from time to time for nourishment, but she never left the water.

The support team accompanying her had equipment that generated a faint electrical field around her, which was designed to keep sharks at bay. A boat also dragged a line in the water to help keep her on course.

"It would be obscene to pine for the urban agony that fomented [Norman] Mailer’s run [for Mayor of NYC]."

"But imagine if the present-day city, so bright and neatly quantified on the surface, so excluding and unequal just underneath, were to produce even one candidate with his brio and originality."

Writes Lee Siegel, in a NYT op-ed titled "When City Elections Were Fun."

I'm blogging this in part so I can show you (once again) one of my favorite old pictures:

Althouse in 1970, age 19

That's the 4th time I've put that picture on the blog. (Previously: "The 51st State," "Norman Mailer died," and "Althouse in 1970.")

IN THE COMMENTS: EDH says: "Althouse looks like a member of the Manson Family in that 1970 photo." And I say "That’s exactly what I thought when I was putting the picture up!" Also, discussion of where I am, what color was may hair, and what was I holding in my hands 43 years ago. 

"That ledge was just asking for it."

From my response — in the "Wreckage" post — to those who'd blame the University for not providing more trashcans.

Did "Free to Be You & Me" imply getting a lot of work done to one's once perky face?

When did you first encounter Marlo Thomas? Did she look like this?



That is indeed her, in 1960, on an episode of "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," but you're more likely to know her from the late-60s show, which was infectiously popular when I was in high school, "That Girl":

"She was a carhop at the A & W root beer stand... That was in 1938... She gave me 75 years of her life...."



That's Fred Stobaugh. He's 96 years old. And you can cry 96 tears if you watch that video.

The list of the adultress, the unfair headline, the "orgasm of life," the twice-seen movie, the arcane logo, and the corporate cult.

I'm no fan of adultery, but "Google mistress more into sex than 'love' and kids," trashing 26-year-old Amanda Rosenberg (who's linked to Google co-founder Sergey Brin), is an awfully unfair headline.

The NY Post has gathered its information about what Ms. Rosenberg is "into" from a lightweight blog post of hers titled "The 10 Least Inspiring Sentences on This Lululemon Tote." Here's the blog post, which has a picture of the begging-to-be-mocked tote bag. #1 on the list is "1. Children are the orgasm of life." Calling that sentence "uninspiring" — I'd call it a lot worse — is not taking the position that one is not "into" kids. The blog post ends with Rosenberg identifying herself as "a misanthropic Brit who lives in San Francisco and works in Silicon Valley," and "She's currently struggling to come to terms with Californian optimism and cannot believe someone actually wrote the sentence 'children are the orgasm of life.'"

Sounds about right to me.

Are we Americans supposed to be having a national conversation about Syria?

Could we go back to the national conversation about race? Because there we're at least talking about something we've been observing, sometimes even first hand, for decades. Yes, we say a lot of foolish things, and we can annoy each other, but that's within the realm of recognizable human conversation.

How are we supposed to talk about Syria? Here, read this WaPo piece: "9 questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask." That's the most basic primer, but it's loaded with complexities and will not — I predict — make you feel that you can participate in a debate about what we ought to do. It will only make you feel hopeless, not only about what the U.S. could do to help, but even about what you could contribute to the thinking on the subject.

This is what causes Americans to decide to trust the President, and in this case the man we're pressured to trust has asked for a consultation from Congress. (He hasn't asked for authorization. That I can see.) As this process of congressional decision-checking gets under way in the next week or so, what are you going to do?

What are you going to do about Syria?
  
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September 1, 2013

Wreckage.

Post-game:

Untitled

This was the scene at the base of the pedestrian bridge crossing University Avenue near the football stadium yesterday, here in Madison. Alternate view:

"The word 'slam-dunk' should be retired from the American national security issues."

Said John Kerry on "Meet the Press" today, when David Gregory asked him: "This is a sarin gas attack, perpetrated by the Assad regime, this is a slam-dunk case that he did it?"

The term "slam-dunk" figured large in the run-up to the Iraq War. Hence the resistance. It should connote certainty, but the meaning got flipped. To use it now is to seem to say: How do we know you're not conning us? And I'm going to assume David Gregory meant the insinuation, because everyone's been making the comparison to the selling of the Iraq War.

"How do you ask John Kerry to be the fall guy, go on all the Sunday morning talk shows, and try to cover up for your own leadership mistake?"

Asks Meade, in the comments to "How do you ask a man to be the [first] man to die for a mistake?" — which was yesterday's post, titled after Meade's rewrite of Kerry's famous question, " How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

So, we watched the talk shows today, and in addition to Kerry, on "Meet the Press," there was Rand Paul, and just about the first thing he said was:
... I think it's a mistake to get involved in the Syrian civil war. And what I want would ask John Kerry is, he's famous for saying, "How can you ask a man to be the last one to die for a mistake?" I would ask John Kerry, "How can you ask a man to be the first one to die from a mistake?"
I'm not saying Rand reads the Althouse blog, but hi, Rand. Rand was remarkable — or seemed remarkable in contrast to Kerry, who preceded him — because he listened to the questions and appeared to think in real time and then verbalize actual answers.

Kerry filibustered, evading David Gregory's questions, such as "If Congress says no [to an attack on Syria], the president will act regardless of what Congress says?" Nonanswer: "I said that the president has the authority to act, but the Congress is going to do what's right here." Note the "I said," like he's already answered and now he's forced to repeat himself.

Somehow I started feeling sorry for Kerry, having to be the one to go around to all the talk shows. And he looked so weary. He looked awful, weirdly different from usual, like something wasn't right. His hair was fine. (It's a wig, right?) But his eyes were mismatched, and he kept sticking out his tongue like this:

Untitled

Is there some tongue-out disease going around this week, some virulence of chapped lips? (Cf. "21 Obnoxious Photos of Miley’s Tongue.") That particular shot was taken immediately after he said the words "the American people," which annoyed Meade so much that he backtracked to pause it so I could photograph it.

What I really want to do, now that I have the transcript, is go through and find all the ways Kerry managed to say that the President needs to go to Congress and doesn't need to go to Congress. I'll update this post and show you soon.

ADDED: Here's how Kerry avoided saying the President needed authority from Congress:

"In 2011, a team of scientific researchers concluded that the song was the catchiest song in the history of pop music."

"Dr. Daniel Mullensiefen said of the study, 'Every musical hit is reliant on maths, science, engineering and technology; from the physics and frequencies of sound that determine pitch and harmony, to the hi-tech digital processors and synthesisers which can add effects to make a song more catchy. We’ve discovered that there’s a science behind the sing-along and a special combination of neuroscience, maths and cognitive psychology can produce the elusive elixir of the perfect sing-along song.'"

Yeah, some Brit said it, with British spellings in his speech balloons, but nevertheless maybe he's right. Before clicking — here — guess what song he was talking about.

Speaking of speech balloons and things learned while clicking around in Wikipedia, here's an early precursor to the speech balloon:

Thanks for buying those headphones...

... through the Althouse Amazon portal. And by "those headphones," I mean these headphones. Those must be some amazing headphones!

And thanks for all the little things bought through the portal too, like "Walt Whitman's Civil War" and black currant lozenges.

The gesture of going into your shopping through my portal is noticed and much appreciated.

"The initial inspiration for the song 'London Calling' wasn't British politics."

"It was our fear of drowning."
In 1979 we saw a headline on the front of the London Evening Standard warning that the North Sea might rise and push up the Thames, flooding the city. We flipped. To us, the headline was just another example of how everything was coming undone.
The ice age is coming, the sun's of an end/Meltdown expected, the wheat is growing thin/Engines stop running but I have no fear/Cos London is drownin' and I live by the river.../London calling to the zombies of death/Quit holding out and draw another breath...

Goodbye to David Frost.

Dead of a heart attack, which happened last night on board the Queen Elizabeth. He was 74.

You might think first of his interviews with Richard Nixon...



... but I remember him from the early 60s comedy show — a precursor to "The Daily Show" — "That Was the Week That Was."

"It may sound funny..."

A Balkan variation on "Ya Ya" (the old Lee Dorsey song discussed in this morning's first post). This is Goran Bregović and "Ringe Ringe Raja":


Wisconsin outdoes Broadway.

Terry Teachout in the Wall Street Journal reviewing the current production of "All My Sons" (in Spring Green, Wisconsin:
Do it naturalistically and straightforwardly and you can't miss. Add a pinch of understated imagination and the results will be even better. William Brown's American Players Theatre production scores big on both counts....

The last revival of "All My Sons" that I saw was Simon McBurney's 2008 Broadway production, a criminally excessive exercise in postmodern stage prestidigitation in which Katie Holmes, John Lithgow and Dianne Wiest all sank beneath the roiling waves of Mr. McBurney's trickery. 

"I know you're trying to subtly rope me in to the issues of the day. I refuse to be roped in."

Said George W. Bush, handling questions about Syria in precisely the style that befits a former President, speaking publicly.

But what if President Obama were to privately consult with George Bush? This is something I've fantasized about. I imagine Obama talking about how much he understands now what Bush went through and how Bush is the one person in the world who understands what he's going through. I picture Bush supporting the younger man in a completely empathetic and patriotic way.

So you want to get started working in the TV news business?

Prepared to be required to do things like this:



Via Adam at ALOTT2MO, who somehow thinks the women are being "objectified" in a manner that the men are not.

ADDED: Am I the only one who hears "Blurred Lines" and thinks of "Working in the Coal Mine"? Here it is by Lee Dorsey (doing a strange promo for the Brits):



And here's the later Devo version.

Lee Dorsey is best known for the great oldie "Ya Ya." Here's Petula Clark in 1962 updating the song by singing it in French and dancing the twist:



Everything is always recycling: Those newsfolk in that "Blurred News" promo do the twist at least some of the time.