December 14, 2013

At the Full Moon Café...

Untitled

… you can howl all night.

Niceness.

Just noticed I have 2 posts in a row calling something "nice."

I have a "nice" tag, you know.

My favorite one is "My 2 favorite 'nice' songs." [ADDED: I redid the poll.]

And "When you're nice to someone else... that someone else is nice back to you, and suddenly two people feel good about themselves and each other, and spread their feelings."

"Nice" is an interesting word. As the (unlinkable) OED puts it:

Nice hair-and-feminism ad from the Philippines.

A nice "WWYD" about racial harmony.

Avoiding cat bites.

"When a cat throws itself on its side and shows its belly, most people misinterpret this behaviour and think that it wants its belly rubbed but will get grabbed by their hand and the cat will bite them."
What the cat is actually doing is showing a greeting behaviour and showing trust. It is actually an abuse of that trust to stroke its belly. What the cat would rather you do is to give it a slight head rub.
Useful! That can not only help you avoid cat bites, it can help you avoid concluding that cats are evil.

Sylvester Stallone's union troubles.

Just another anecdote from "The Andy Warhol Diaries." This is from the entry for February 22, 1980:
Stallone is so cute, so adorable. I guess he’s lost sixty pounds. He’s sexy. All the stars usually think they should have their portraits done free, though. He’s intelligent, he’s taken over directorship of the movie and now he’s in trouble because the union has a film of him saying, “Lights, action!” It’s going before a board. Stallone was telling stories about how much trouble he’s had with the union, how there’s this little Irish guy that he just wants to beat up so badly. He said he had this one shot all set up, everybody was in costume and makeup with blood and everything for a fight scene and it was snowing, just perfectly and they said, “Okay, stop, everybody break for dinner,” and he said he practically got down on his knees pleading, “Please, just let’s get this one shot, please, I’m a fellow worker, please, I’m Rocky!” and they wouldn’t let him. They broke for dinner and then he had to start all over again.
Please, I’m Rocky! I love that. The workers should view the director as a proletarian because he played one in a movie. And meanwhile, he imagines he's so elite that the artist should provide him with portraiture gratis. But what kind of elite is that? Royalty patronizes the arts.

It wasn't a Rocky movie they were filming. Don't be confused. It was "Nighthawks."

Given the shocking lack of security at the Mandela memorial, why did the Secret Service allow the President to appear?

"The stadium's main entrance was 'completely unattended... There were no workers performing bag checks or pat-downs — there were no magnetometers to walk through, no metal detector wands being used — anywhere.'"
When South African security officials did perform security checks, they were often trying to restrain the bodyguards and entourage members of visiting dignitaries and celebrities. But conflicts seem to have been resolved by letting everybody in...

"He wasn't a violent person, he was just verbally aggressive."

Said of the latest school shooter.

And here's news of his Facebook postings:
"I was wondering to all the neoclassicals and neoliberals, why isn't the market correcting itself?" he wrote. "If the invisible hand is so strong, shouldn't it be able to overpower regulations?"

Pierson also appears to mock Republicans on another Facebook post, writing "you republicans are so cute" and posting an image that reads: "The Republican Party: Health Care: Let 'em Die, Climate Change: Let 'em Die, Gun Violence: Let 'em Die, Women's Rights: Let 'em Die, More War: Let 'em Die. Is this really the side you want to be on?"

"Adultery, including adulterous cohabitation, is not prosecuted. Religious cohabitation, however..."

"... is subject to prosecution at the limitless discretion of local and State prosecutors, despite a general policy not to prosecute religiously motivated polygamy. The court finds no rational basis to distinguish between the two, not least with regard to the State interest in protecting the institution of marriage."

Says federal judge Clark Waddoups in Brown v. Buhman, a case about the Utah anti-bigamy statute, which makes it a felony "when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person." From the first time I noticed this issue, I've thought the answer was obvious. You can't punish people for the ideas they happen to have about why they are living in a household with multiple sexual partners. Call it a marriage or call it a sandwich. Imagine that God blesses your relationship or imagine that your kitty cats brought you together. It's no proper concern of the government's.

Now, if you want to legally register your marriage and qualify for various marriage-connected benefits and privileges, it's a different matter, and Judge Waddoups makes that clear. This case was not about that. It was about people who live together and perform private marriage rituals and call themselves married. Prosecuting these people, while other married people are left alone when they commit adultery, is criminalizing their speech and beliefs. If you understand the issue, I think you'll see this must be the answer.

This does not lay the groundwork for finding a right to marry multiple spouses any more than it compels the government to prosecute adulterers.

Megyn Kelly says lighten up.

And not in a race-bait-y way:

"#NARRATIVEFAIL: Five Years Ago Today: Al Gore Predicted the North Pole Will Be Ice Free in 5 Years."

"Today Cairo had its first snowfall in 100 years."

Poor Al Gore. He almost — or must feel that he almost — got us panicked enough to quickly adopt new rules, and if we had, he could point to those reforms and express gratefulness that we'd heeded his warning and expect adulation for all the good that he'd done. But the very elements of his story that were needed for panic and quick action are exactly what exposes him as so terribly wrong.

He can retrench and say things like: The snow in Egypt is evidence of the truer, overarching narrative which was not so much global warming, but climate chaos. Or: The prediction was about the odds of something cataclysmic happening, the odds were high enough to justify immediate action, and we are lucky that we beat the odds, but we won't be lucky forever.

Andy Warhol hated Frank Zappa.

From "The Andy Warhol Diaries," Thursday, June 16, 1983:
Frank Zappa came to be interviewed for our TV show and I think that after the interview I hated Zappa even more than when it started. I remember when he was so mean to us when the Mothers of Invention played with the Velvet Underground— I think both at the Trip, in L.A., and at the Fillmore in San Francisco. I hated him then and I still don’t like him. And he was awfully strange about Moon. I said how great she was, and he said, “Listen, I created her. I invented her.” Like, “She’s nothing, it’s all me.” And I mean, if it were my daughter I would be saying, “Gee, she’s so smart,” but he’s taking all the credit. It was peculiar.
Here's Moon performing the old 1982 song "Valley Girl." Listening to that today is a completely different experience because back then talking like that was really weird and unbelievably stupid. Today, that kind of speech is so common, perplexingly common. I hear it all the time from people who completely intend to be taken seriously — mainstream journalists, law professors — female and male.

"Starting early next year, any adult with a craving or curiosity will be able to stroll into a strip mall or downtown shop in Colorado or Washington State and do what has long been forbidden..."

"... buy a zip-lock bag of legal marijuana."

No, not any adult. Only adults who think federal law that isn't being enforced still counts as law and who feel bound to follow the law. And, I, for one, feel that this discrimination against us rule-followers is unfair. Why are we — of all people — the last to be free?

I am the person who — when the fences were torn down at Woodstock and the hippies were declaring "It's a free concert now" — would have respected the rights of the landowners and the concert promoters.

If something is to be legal, make it truly legal, or explain to me why there is some special reason to fence out those who still believe in order.

"Two years ago, Richmond, Va., installed 17 markers delineating a slave trail, running past the sites of slave markets and a slave jail."

"A national slavery museum is being planned, said Delores McQuinn, a state legislator, who has led the slave trail project. Charleston, S.C., has moved away from its traditionally genteel approach to antebellum history to one that acknowledges the central role of slavery in the city’s development. An International African-American Museum is planned there as well and is seen as good business."

"Tourism audiences are changing," said Mary Battle, a public historian with the Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture at the College of Charleston.

"iPad baby seat inspires campaign to stop the parenting apocalypse."

Check out the Fisher-Price the Apptivity Seat. Link goes to an article in the L.A. Times, not to Amazon, as you might suspect, but if you want to buy one, here's the Amazon link. The L.A. Times article includes some snark from comments at Amazon, stuff like:
"This product is great. Exactly what I was looking for. Everyone should own one of these. Fisher-Price does it again. Hail Satan."
But let's be fair-minded. Let's compare this product (with the iPad inserted) to the usual distract-a-baby devices. There's television and there are those horrible mobiles people hang over cribs. Here, for example, is the Fisher-Price Discover 'n Grow Twinkling Lights Projector Mobile. Why would we think that is better than an iPad? First, you need to ask, what are the iPad apps for babies?

"A day after the Associated Press dropped the bombshell news..."

"... that Robert Levinson, officially America’s longest-held hostage, was working for the CIA when he went missing in Iran in 2007, the reverberations were being felt across political and intelligence circles."

"He began revealing his true colours, thinking that it was just the time for him to realise his wild ambition..."

"... in the period of historic turn when the generation of the revolution was replaced."

"And for those of you who've been emailing me asking me why I didn't do more with the Screwtape Letters, more like Gatsby..."

"... my answer to that is that the lack of interest in the question asked in this post shows why that project doesn't fly. The Gatsby project flew. It turned on minds that accepted the turn-on and took off."

The last line of my comment explaining why I have yet to fulfill what may seem to be a promise to complete an assignment I really only gave myself.

And this post gets not only a Gatsby project tag, but also a written strangely early in the morning tag.

It's okay if you don't volunteer to sit for my outside-of-law-school exams. I have plenty of exams written by nonvolunteers that I am duty-bound to read. This post is about a duty I felt I had to write the answer to my own exam, which I only gave because I wanted to write that answer. But if the question inspired no one else, then I tend to think that my answer would only have seemed weird or annoying or — the worst — unreadable.

Or is that the worst? The devil nags me to ask. The devil says: Wouldn't it be a fascinating new project to write a blog called "Unreadable Things"?

December 13, 2013

Amazon.

You can show your support for this blog by doing your Amazon shopping through The Althouse Amazon Portal. Thanks to everyone — for using that portal and also just for reading... and commenting. It means a lot.

"Hire me. You know, I'm a rather brilliant sign linguist. Perhaps I can explain Obamacare to the deaf."

Says Meade:
☝ IF YOU
☺ LIKE YOUR DOCTOR,
♺ YOU CAN KEEP
☃☮♬✈ YOUR DOCTOR.

PERIOD.

"Many in New York’s professional and cultural elite have long supported President Obama’s health care plan."

"But now, to their surprise, thousands of writers, opera singers, music teachers, photographers, doctors, lawyers and others are learning that their health insurance plans are being canceled and they may have to pay more to get comparable coverage, if they can find it."
It is an uncomfortable position for many members of the creative classes to be in. “We are the Obama people,” said Camille Sweeney, a New York writer and member of the Authors Guild. Her insurance is being canceled, and she is dismayed that neither her pediatrician nor her general practitioner appears to be on the exchange plans. What to do has become a hot topic on Facebook and at dinner parties frequented by her fellow writers and artists.

“I’m for it,” she said. “But what is the reality of it?”
Isn't that cute? For it, but what is it? Dear, sweet, oh-so-creative Camille the Writer, seemingly flipping the old Groucho Marx lyric:

"A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery."

No, but it might have something to do with gem-encrusted gold statues.

China National Radio says: "When the gold flashes, it captures the intense interest of the public."

"When it comes to writing about anorexia, the only truly radical move, as far as I can tell, would be to show clearly just how profoundly boring it is..."

"... not sad or prurient or overdetermined," writes Alice Gregory in "Anorexia, the Impossible Subject," in The New Yorker (reviewing "How to Disappear Completely: On Modern Anorexia").
The very premise is an unappealing one: we’d like to believe that such unhinged myopia would have psychological roots in trauma or in some sinister personal history, but usually it doesn’t.... [A] voluntarily isolated person choosing not to eat until she’s addicted to not eating doesn’t make for a very good story....

If we really wanted to protect our supposedly susceptible youth, we’d paint anorexics as they are: slowly suicidal obsessives who avoid other people and expend ninety-five per cent of their mental energy counting the calories in green vegetables. We wouldn’t see them as worth reading about at all.
But readers choose books because they are interesting, and so whatever is written about well enough to attract readers is going to make the subject absorbing, exciting, glamorous. What things other than anorexia are actually quite boring but written about in books as if they were not boring? When else do we worry that readers will be tricked into doing things they should not do because the book failed to depict the activity as boring?

And yet... isn't Gregory is falling prey to the imitative fallacy?

The fake sign language interpreter from the Mandela memorial had faced charges of murder, rape, theft, breaking and entering, malicious damage to property, and kidnapping.

How was he hired? Was it sheer incompetence or something more sinister?
A government official said the Xhosa-speaking Jantjie also did not speak English well enough to interpret effectively and that the firm that hired him had “vanished into thin air.”
Thanks for the info, government official. Vanished into thin air. That's incisive. Personally, I choose thick air for my vanishing tricks.

Enclothed cognition.

A term for "the mental changes that we undergo when we wear certain clothing."
"It’s all about the symbolic meaning that you associate with a particular item of clothing," [Northwestern researcher Hajo] Adam said. And he thinks the study’s results can be applied to many more fields, including activewear and fitness. "I think it would make sense that when you wear athletic clothing, you become more active and more likely to go to the gym and work out."
The linked article is almost entirely about athletic clothing, and there's almost nothing about the researchers' study and the term "enclothed cognition" which amused me enough to start this post. The insight seems so obvious — dressing the part will help you play the part — that it seems funny to have a term for it.

What I think would be fun to talk about is articles of clothing that you have used to alter your perceptions. And have you rejected items of clothing that you thought would skew your perceptions in ways you didn't like? Remember to exclude the idea of how others perceive you and how their response to you will affect you. It's just you. You and that item of clothing. Like this:



ADDED: Here's an Amazon link to a page where you can buy a nice porkpie hat, like the one Walter White uses to achieve enclothed cognition in "Breaking Bad." I searched only for "porkpie hat" and did not mention anything more "Breaking Bad"-related than that, but the Amazon page showed not only other elements for a Walter White costume (jacket, glasses, yellow coveralls) but also packets of blue raspberry rock candy.

Taking a ridiculous racial issue and making it more ridiculous.

For some reason — ratings? — Megyn Kelly was on Fox News arguing with some lady who thought Santa Claus should no longer be depicted as a white man. Sorry, I'm not going to figure out the whole context of that proposal, but at some point Kelly emitted the following quote:
"Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change," Kelly said. "Jesus was a white man, too. It's like we have, he's a historical figure that's a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?"
Well, that's silly, perhaps, but she's got a guest on the show who needs to be prodded with questions. And the assertion that Santa is a historical figure is jocose for adults, a sop for the kids. The question is simply the usual conservative appeal to tradition: Why change anything? There's a reference to the reason for the change: It makes some people "uncomfortable." Is that a good enough reason for changing something we've done for a long time? This is the same way you could bandy about the question whether the Washington Redskins ought to change their name. It's standard fare for the Fox News crowd.

So here comes Jonathan Merritt in The Atlantic, turning that nugget o' Fox into something that Atlantic readers might find tasty. Hey, everybody, some idiot on Fox News said something stupid.

Let's see, whose artwork merits a slideshow in the New York Times...

The hell!

"The U.S. government lobotomized roughly 2,000 mentally ill veterans—and likely hundreds more—during and after World War II..."

"... according to a cache of forgotten memos, letters and government reports unearthed by The Wall Street Journal."
The U.S. government lobotomized roughly 2,000 mentally ill veterans—and likely hundreds more—during and after World War II, according to a cache of forgotten memos, letters and government reports unearthed by The Wall Street Journal. Besieged by psychologically damaged troops returning from the battlefields of North Africa, Europe and the Pacific, the Veterans Administration performed the brain-altering operation on former servicemen it diagnosed as depressives, psychotics and schizophrenics, and occasionally on people identified as homosexuals....

“Realistically looking back, the diagnosis didn’t really matter—it was the behaviors,” says psychiatrist Max Fink, 90, who ran a ward in a Kentucky Army hospital in the mid-1940s. He says veterans who couldn’t be controlled through any other technique would sometimes be referred for a lobotomy. I didn’t think we knew enough to pick people for lobotomies or not.... It’s just that we didn’t have anything else to do for them.”
In a standard lobotomy, the surgeon opens the skull and severs the prefrontal part of the brain from the rest of the brain.

December 12, 2013

The Moon Museum.

A tiny little tile that might be on the moon.
There are six artworks located on the ceramic tile, each one in black and white only... [T]he last drawing in the upper left is by Andy Warhol. He created a stylized version of his initials which, when viewed at certain angles, can appear as a rocket ship or a crudely drawn penis. "He was being the terrible bad boy." says Myers. Warhol's work is covered by a thumb in the image often associated with Moon Museum, but other images with the drawing visible can be found.
Forrest "Frosty" Myers, who came up with the idea to get six great artists together and make a tiny little museum that would be on the moon." I find it very amusing that a little tile — it's 3/4" X 1/2" of  — should be called a "museum." For some reason, for the longest time, I've had a special love of humor that plays with or flips the largeness and smallness of things.

The discovery of The Moon Museum by chance today — why hadn't I heard of it before? — got me searching for "moon" in Andy Warhol's diaries, and I found this about some party in Aspen in 1982:
Buzz Aldrin came, from the moon. The astronaut. Took a lot of photographs of him. He’s aged but he was cute and glad to meet us. We decided to start lying that night— Chris told people he had a twelve-month-old baby and that he was watching it while his wife was back in New York and they all believed him. And I told them I was a deep-sea fisherman, and this lady invited me to Boca Raton. I haven’t been drinking at all.

"Embrace the suck."

This looks so wrong — over at Drudge:



But she said it:
“Embrace the suck,” House minority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi told fellow Democrats Thursday morning... “We need to get this off the table so we can go forward,” she added. It’s a way of telling her colleagues the budget deal negotiated with Republicans is the best they can get.

"Without any training or experience, this guy applied for the job, got the job and fooled people for years by just putting on an elaborate show.."

"The fact that he was standing on stage next to a lot of important people put him beyond question in the minds of most people. Those who really understood that what he was saying actually made no sense were ignored. And now we have this South African interpreter doing the same thing."

ADDED: Also about the interpreter, from the same commenter (Bob Boyd):
He wasn't perfect, but his intentions were the very best.
His signs, though meaningless, were nuanced and brilliantly delivered.
He's obviously super smart, he has a palpable emotional connection with the common people and a true understanding of their struggle.
And:
Certainly this man wasn't what we have come to expect, but perhaps its our expectations that we need to examine.
Rather than yield to the demands of convention, this unknown agent of wonder has jarred us out of our complacency and showed us possibilities that only yesterday did not exist. This is the hallmark of a truly great interpreter. We have only to recognize him for what he is.
Do we really need to see things done the way they have always been done? Can we really not move beyond the comfortable, the familiar?
We could ask ourselves.
"What the fuck?"
Or we could ask a question that may bring true understanding.
Let not our efforts on behalf of the deaf make us blind.

"For someone who has had such an impact on just the aesthetic of improvised music and guitar, as a total guitar hero, there was such a degree of humility..."

"... that — it wasn't that he downplayed what he did — he had this sense that it was part of something way bigger."

Jim Hall died Tuesday at the age of 83.

(Many video clips and quotes at the link.)

ADDED: "He said he would occasionally retune the strings of the guitar randomly, not even necessarily to exact pitches, just to force himself to be creative in a different way, without depending on his usual crutches."

"There he was, back in high school, a fresh-faced member of the volleyball team and a student leader in Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution..."

"... ordering teachers to line up in the auditorium, dunce caps on their bowed heads. He stood there, excited and proud, as thousands of students howled abuse at the teachers."
Then, suddenly, a posse stormed the stage and beat them until they crumpled to the floor, blood oozing from their heads. He did not object. He simply fled. “I was too scared,” he recalled recently in one of several interviews at a restaurant near Tiananmen Square, not far from his alma mater, No. 8 Middle School, which catered to the children of the Mao elite. “I couldn’t stop it. I was afraid of being called a counterrevolutionary, of having to wear a dunce’s hat.”

"After bitching about and resisting nudging to watch the show, especially in the week leading up to the finale, I started watching one episode at a time."

I blogged on October 22. Last night, we finished it, the entire series, 61 episodes of "Breaking Bad." We were on a tear. We've been immersed in that world for the last 7 weeks.

ADDED: In the comments some people are asking if we liked it. Obviously, we liked it, or we wouldn't have marathon-watched it like that. Now, I'm interested to go back and see what I'd written when I first tried to watch it. Someone had prodded me in the comments about why the main character, Walter White, a school teacher who must have had good health insurance benefits, needed to become a criminal to pay for cancer treatments. I said:

Lithopedion.

Stone baby.

"Queen furious about police stealing bowls of nuts and nibbles left out for her in apartments in the BP/Queen's corridor."

"She has a very savoury tooth and staff leave out cashews, Bombay Mix, almonds etc. Prob is that police on patrol eat the lot."

Nudging etiquette, French-style.

"A blackboard outside the cafe advertises advertises 'Un cafe' for seven euros (£5.90; $9.6) - but 'Bonjour, un cafe, s'il vous plait' costs just 1.40 euros."

I predict we'll all — most of us — go to Helle.

You think she's off the norm — the gleeful, man-magnetizing Prime Minister of Denmark Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who took the famous funeral selfie with Barack Obama and David Cameron leaning into the shot.

But I think this is where we are going. Years ago, we scoffed or cried out in horror at the man who walked down the street talking on a cell phone. Why, he seemed like those crazy people who walk and talk to phantoms. Doesn't he know how ridiculous and presumptuous and into himself he looks? Can we even remember how intensely we experienced that disapproval of walking cell-phone talkers?

Helle Thorning-Schmidt — love the name! — assures us the mood in the stadium was "festive," and it was not wrong to take a selfie, and, indeed, she thinks all the fuss is "funny."

Thorning-Schmidt declined to talk about the way Michelle Obama looked. Me, when I look at the famous photo of the photographing — the second one down at the link — I see Michelle existing in the old world — where most of us are — and the other 3 having entered the next stage. Some day, we'll look back and think we're all relaxed and free to quickly record the occasion, even if it's a funeral. After all, lots of people come together at funerals. They are great reunions and celebrations of the life that has ended. We see the life in ourselves and in each other on these occasions, and perhaps this is the last time we will be here together like this. Take the selfie!

Picture yourself in the casket and: 1. Take a selfie now before it's too late, and 2. Ask yourself if you'd like the people who showed up for your funeral to feel they need to sit stiff and grim like poor last-century Michelle or if you prefer Helle?

"Are the questions too hard? Are they too easy? Did I make all the studying worthwhile for them?"

The professor too is nervous about the exam.

On multiple choice exams:
“I have to make sure that the wrong answers are wrong in interesting ways, not in ‘duh’ ways... And that the right ones are really right.”

"Mandela Interpreter Says He Was Hallucinating/Says He Entered Altered State As He Took His Place on Stage."

That might excuse him, but it does not excuse whoever did the security check.
Thamsanqa Jantjie said... that as he took the stage within arms' length of Mr. Obama and other leaders at a memorial in a Johannesburg soccer stadium on Tuesday, he slipped into an altered state. He said he saw angels coming into the stadium.

"I don't know the attack of this problem, how will it come... Sometimes I get violent on that place. Sometimes I will see things chasing me."

"Microaggression" — the word that died.

I've been working on the theory that the term "microaggression" briefly spiked to prominence and then utterly crashed with the story of the professor who was accused of "microaggression" for correcting spelling and grammar errors. I picked apart some details in the way that story was told here, and then I began to Google "microaggression" every day or so to see what was surfacing in the world of microaggression. It's an interesting label, possibly useful, clearly abusable, and I wanted to see where it would get put. But all that came up, again and again, was that spelling-and-grammar-correcting professor. Hence the theory that the word died.

But today's search turned up something new over at Buzzfeed: "21 Racial Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis." A photographer named Kiyun got her friends to "write down an instance of racial microaggression they have faced," so this is a series of people racially microaggressed against, holding signs. This is a pretty good-humored project, and the young people who went along with the photographer's idea object mostly to dumb remarks ("What do you guys speak in Japan? Asian??"), excessively personal remarks, ("What does your hair look like today?") and — here's something to hearten the John Roberts' fans — lack of color-blindness ("What are you?").

You know there's a color-blind way to fight against microaggression: Etiquette!

About that 6-year-old boy accused of "sexual harassment" for kissing his schoolmate's hand.

I heard Rush Limbaugh talking about this yesterday, and I see this morning that Glenn Reynolds — calling the boy "the littlest casualty in the war on men"  — is linking to James Taranto — who's blaming Obama (because of a requirement that schools protect students from sexual harassment).

I agree that someone that young should not be labeled with an offense that contains the word "sexual." (The school district, barraged with criticism, has relabeled his offense "misconduct.") And I would locate the issue of suspending him within the larger problem of the "zero tolerance" approach.

But I do think that the school is right to forbid kissing. The boy's mother, who naturally wants to defend her child, tells us that the children were "boyfriend and girlfriend" and that the girl "was fine with it." That may make the misbehavior less severe, but it does not take it out of the range of what a school should forbid.

By the boy's report, it happened "during class, yeah": "We were doing reading group and I leaned over and kissed her on the hand." That isn't acceptable in-class behavior! The school should forbid that. I don't understand saying it's fine for boys and girls who like each other to freely express that affection with hand kissing during class. How about a little support for the school teachers who expect discipline during their lessons? You're not allowed to whisper back and forth or pass notes either. This is basic classroom respect. Have we all forgotten?

I was a casualty in the War on Christmas.

'Twas last night at the checkout counter at Whole Foods. As is our wont — or Meade's wont, anyway — we'd brought back Whole Foods shopping bags for refilling. One of the bags — probably reused 3 or 4 times — a handle had torn lose.

I said, "Foiled in our effort at recycling." Then — because I'm always looking for the positive side of things and noticing the red-and-green image of a string of Christmas lights on the new bag — "At least the new one is a Christmas bag."

The cashier said: "Holiday bag."

Winter dawn.

Untitled

Just now. Indoors. Temperature prediction for today: "Much Warmer."

"Why should we continue to care about Guantánamo?"

A student asked Linda Greenhouse on the last day of the law school course she taught on the sole topic of Guantánamo. She doesn't mention that the law school is Yale, which is the most difficult law school to gain admission to and therefore the one with the most elite set of students. Odd to think that someone who got into Yale and elected to take a course dealing solely with Guantánamo — it can't possibly be a required course — endured the experience to the last day and still asked why should I care?

I wasn't there, so I don't know the tone of the question. Greenhouse gives the context the student presented — "the Guantánamo population has shrunk even as urgent human rights crises that place many more people at risk have erupted in other parts of the world" —  and characterizes the question as "deliberately provocative and not entirely rhetorical." Greenhouse informs us that the class was provoked to "lively" "conversation" that "quickly" produced "consensus."

Of course, the intense activity of devoting a law school semester to one legal problem needs to make sense in the end. Simple human defensiveness could explain the quick trip to consensus. Why did we take this course instead of Information Privacy Law or Law and Regulation of Banks and Other Financial Intermediaries or whatever else might have captured our hearts on Yale Law School's rich menu of course offerings?

Here's how Greenhouse, in her NYT column, phrases the consensus:
We care because the Guantánamo saga isn’t only about the 162 men still held there, or the hundreds who have come and gone. It’s about the health of our own institutions, our own commitments. We look in the mirror of Guantánamo and see ourselves.
From "isn’t only about the 162 men" I gather that the students got weary of caring about those 162 men. If they are the 162 who are left, they are there for a reason. Bush put them there, but Obama has kept them there. Must we really go over and over the question of whether it all was done precisely right? And then you see it: the place of refuge from this nagging doubt about whether these 162 men deserved all this elite law study.

And that place is: ME! This is about ME! This is US! This is WHO. WE. ARE. Ah, relief. So I haven't been staring for months into the dismal stories of 162 shady-but-perhaps-procedurally-abused characters. I've been staring into a mirror at myself. Ah! The relief! It was about me!

That was where the elite students quickly found relief from provocation. I suspect that practically any particular legal problem can support the claim that it's really about the legitimacy and principle of the entire legal system, so the quick consensus position — to me, seen from a distance — feels more like evidence of the students' desire to free themselves from the anxiety of having paid a semester's worth of attention to something they believed they would care about, because they liked the idea of being the sort of people who do care when others do not care, but then they saw that they did not really care at least not quite that much.

And then the relief comes, and it has sufficient resonance with the original choice of what to study: I am studying myself caring about the people I wanted to believe I cared about. I've been looking into the mirror to see if I care, and I must now see that I care, or it doesn't make sense to have chosen to stare for months into a mirror to see if I care. I do care. I care about me caring.

"The assignment on this blog exam (written early in the morning of the day I plan to compose another law school exam) is..."

"... Using only that passage, discuss whether Mitch H. or Althouse's response accords with the ideas of the devil."

Scroll up for what Mitch H. said, then down for my response, and then the next 2 comments are a passage from "The Screwtape Letters."

December 11, 2013

"Aboard Air Force One, former President Bush shows photos of his paintings to... First Lady Michelle Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton..."

"... Valerie Jarrett, National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice, Attorney General Eric Holder and former First Lady Laura Bush, Dec. 9, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)"

"From a narrative perspective the most perplexing problem with these sex scenes is that they mute and obscure the actresses..."

"... who otherwise, in many other parts of the film, offer their intelligent faces and voices to the screen in subtle and moving ways. In visual media the body is often deeply inexpressive compared to the heart’s great canvas—the face. The sex between these characters, as is true of most carnality, causes the interesting parts of these women’s personalities to recede. The actresses for long stretches of time become action heroes, and the portrait of them that the film has ostensibly been working on grinds, so to speak, to a halt."

The novelist Lorrie Moore, writing about that new movie with the very long lesbian sex scene, "Blue Is the Warmest Color." Let me also excerpt what Moore says about the main actress's mouth:
In general Adèle’s soft wide mouth hangs open throughout the film, revealing an attractive overbite long associated with French actresses. She pulls her hair up, lets it fall again, ties it back up—continually. Between the slack mouth and the unstable hair, we see quickly that Adèle does not quite know who she is. But she is a creature of appetites, and much time is spent watching her pliable mouth chew—pasta, candy, oysters.
I so much prefer watching those words to watching whatever that looked like in the darned movie.

Presumably, the mouth, being part of "heart’s great canvas—the face," has more to say to us moviegoers than those nether lips that are so dull in the tedious sex scenes, and yet Moore makes all that mouth action sound boring too (even as Moore's prose is not boring). Which is why we read. And that's a message that one must assume that a novelist writing about movies would like to convey.

ADDED: Moore says that "most long sex scenes" are "emotionally uninformative, almost comedically ungainly and dull to watch" and adds the parenthetical: "Did we learn nothing from Vivien Leigh’s little morning-after smile in Gone With the Wind?" How could genitalia compete with that mouth? Vaginal lips have nothing to say.

The interpreter for the deaf during the speeches at the Mandela memorial wasn't signing at all but just "flapping his arms around."

The national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa said the man was "moving his hands around, but there was no meaning in what he used his hands for."
It was not immediately clear how the bogus interpreter slipped onto the stage during the memorial service, where nearly 100 heads of state attended....

Experts agreed that the imposter interpreter was not signing American sign languages or any of South Africa's 11 official languages.
It seems funny for about 5 seconds, and then you realize that this marred a funeral and that it reveals a lack of security. 

(In the comments at the link: "I knew something was wrong when I saw him make the clipping sign and then the first down sign immediately after.")

Why American whiskey is better than Scotch.

"[M]any [Scotch] whiskies are... matured in Spanish barrels that used to hold sherry, which have often been treated with sulphur candles... Another suggested reason for the reduction in quality is the addition of caramel, a colouring agent. Bourbon, by contrast, is matured in virgin oak casks, which do not require sulphur treatment, and the industry is banned from using caramel."

According to the author of "Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible."

"My Tumblr was once a collection of evidence, convincing the world that something very strange actually existed, but now everyone believes..."

"... and everyone has seen, and Thorning-Schmidt has the evidence on her phone. So it was time to do the only sensible thing: It was time to declare victory, to revel in drawing a line from the bottom to the top."

The creator of the blog Selfies at Funerals declares victory and ends the project after Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt gets British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama to pose alongside her in the selfie she made at the Nelson Mandela memorial service.

AND: There's a strange amount of talk about Michelle Obama's look of seeming disapproval (caught not in the selfie but in the photograph of the selfie getting taken). At Salon, Roxane Gay collects and reacts to the reactions to the First Lady's reaction.
More than anything, the response to these latest images of Michelle Obama speaks volumes about the expectations placed on black women in the public eye and how a black women’s default emotional state is perceived as angry. The black woman is ever at the ready to aggressively defend her territory. She is making her disapproval known. She never gets to simply be...
But none of the responses Gay quotes refer to race or talk about Michelle Obama as anything other than one individual reacting to one particular thing on one occasion. But Gay seems so sure that it's those other people who are failing to perceive Michelle Obama as an individual: "On and on the punditry goes, ascribing very specific, historically racialized narratives to what Michelle Obama is thinking and feeling in one candid moment."

Now, it's not just the selfie. At The Daily News, there's a whole string of photos showing Michelle looking grouchy while Obama seems to be enjoying his interactions with the pretty Danish Prime Minister. But still, there is no reference to race. The closest reference to race is at the rather scurrilous website Gawker:
[T]here is a new sexy spy prime minister in town... and she is maybe kind of pretty if you are into “tall” and “blonde” and “pretty.” You know who does not seem to be that into “tall” and “blonde” and “pretty”? Michelle Obama, that is who! That is some side-eye not seen since the one time John Boehner grabbed her ass at lunch and slurred something about shayna tushies before falling face-first into his organic grassfed triple martini lobster bisque.
I had to go to the "that one time" link to see what that John Boehner incident was and was highly amused to see that Michelle Obama reacted to John Boehner with exactly the look look I described in the previous post as the best response to someone who makes a sexist remark in a social situation.

Supposedly, "The best comebacks to sexist comments."

In The Guardian, via Metafilter, where people seem way more impressed than makes any sense. It seems to me, if the "sexist comments" are actually harassment — especially on the street — any response functions as a reward. If you banter, you're downgrading it to banter, and as banter, this stuff just isn't funny enough.

Examples at The Guardian:
Managed to stop white van full of men mid-catcall by shoving a big powdery donut into my mouth then smiling with mouth full.

Guy on train after I asked him to move his bag off seat: "Why don't you grab my cock?" Me: "I didn't bring any tweezers."

A friend heard a guy shout 'Sit on my face!' at a girl who replied 'Why, is your nose bigger than your dick?' AMAZING!
In my view, the best response to anything involving a stranger on the street is to absolutely ignore it, and in most social situations it's a look of pity or a glance upward with the half shake of the head that means I'm going to pretend you didn't say that.

"Fresh questions about Steve Jobs’ liver transplant have been raised..."

",,, after it emerged that the doctor who performed the surgery spent two years in the Memphis, Tenn., house Jobs bought for his recovery."
Shortly after it emerged that Jobs had the surgery in 2009, [Dr. James] Eason issued a statement saying that Jobs received the transplant “because he was … the sickest patient on the waiting list at the time a donor organ became available,” based on a scoring system known as the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease, or MELD.

"Their father kept them alive and well" — sheltered under an overturned Jeep for 48 hours in temperatures as low as -16.

"Everybody is in good shape. There was no frostbite. They are stable. They suffered a little exposure and dehydration, but that is all."
"They stayed together and that was the key that allowed them to live through this experience. You don’t see that that often in search and rescue," said Paul Burke, search-and-rescue coordinator for the state. "They did some pretty inventive things, heating up rocks and things. Staying together, that was a big deal."
The 6 survivors consisted of a man and his girlfriend, their 2 children, and the woman's niece and nephew. The children were aged 3 to 10. I'd like to know what the man and woman thought and talked about and how the children responded. I await a new episode of "I Shouldn't Be Alive."

"The Idea of 'Art School Stole My Virginity' came around when I was Sixteen..."

"... when all my peers at school were losing their Virginity it was incredibly hard for me to ask why I was still a Virgin and why it meant so much to the people all around me."
My piece isnt a statement as much as it is a question. The whole aspect of Virginity was incredibly emotional for me and has been ever since. It became a thought process that turned into the performance piece that I wish to create for the public on January the 25th. The London Art Scene has slowed down recently and whilst London is in its prime and is constantly changing the contemporary artists are the same and they aren’t so contemporary anymore. I want my piece to inject some speed into the arts, a performance of the people if you will. I feel like now is the time for the new scene. To lose my Virginity with the new age is the Avant Garde that London has been unintentionally waiting for.
I got there via a Time Magazine blog post by Laura Stampler that has the subtitle "So cliché!" Stampler links to a HuffPo piece titled "Student... To Lose Virginity In Live Gay Sex Show For Art Project," which includes a poll with 3 options: 1. "It's art," 2. "It cheapens sex," and 3. "I'm undecided." I know from my experience composing polls here on this blog that people are always going to say "You left out the option I wanted," but they obviously left out a few options.

What's the most important option HuffPo omitted from its poll?
  
pollcode.com free polls 

"Homosexuality became illegal again in India Wednesday after the Indian Supreme Court ruled that a colonial-era law banning gay sex was improperly struck down."

Reports the NYT:
The ruling reverses a landmark judgment by a lower court, which in 2009 decided that an 1861 law that forbids “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with man, woman or animal” was unconstitutional. The law, passed by the British, makes homosexuality punishable by 10 years in prison. Only Parliament can change that law, the Supreme Court ruled.

There is almost no chance that Parliament will act where the Supreme Court did not, advocates and opponents of the law agreed. And with the Bharatiya Janata Party, a conservative Hindu nationalist group, appearing in ascendancy before national elections in the spring, the prospect of any legislative change in the next few years is highly unlikely, analysts said.
The NYT quote I've put in the headline is a bit inaccurate — probably willfully so — in saying that "homosexuality" is illegal. It's homosexual intercourse that is banned, not the status of having a homosexual orientation. But those who want equality for gay people frequently elide this connection. In the American case dealing with homosexual conduct, Justice O'Connor, concurring, made the connection openly:
Texas argues... that the sodomy law does not discriminate against homosexual persons. Instead, the State maintains that the law discriminates only against homosexual conduct. While it is true that the law applies only to conduct, the conduct targeted by this law is conduct that is closely correlated with being homosexual. Under such circumstances, Texas’ sodomy law is targeted at more than conduct. It is instead directed toward gay persons as a class. “After all, there can hardly be more palpable discrimination against a class than making the conduct that defines the class criminal.” [Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S.] at 641 (Scalia, J., dissenting) (internal quotation marks omitted). When a State makes homosexual conduct criminal, and not “deviate sexual intercourse” committed by persons of different sexes, “that declaration in and of itself is an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination both in the public and in the private spheres.”

A woman-boosting NYT headline gets paraphased to cause more pain in Time Magazine (or perhaps to boost a different set of women).

The NYT headline was "Wall Street Mothers, Stay-Home Fathers As Husbands Do Domestic Duty, These Women Are Free to Achieve." (We discussed that article on this blog here and here.)

The Time article (via Paul Caron) that bounces off that NYT piece has the arresting headline: "When Stay-at-Home Husbands Are Embarrassing to Their Wives/We simply haven't evolved to the point where a househusband is considered desirable." Whoa! I don't remember anything in the NYT article about these hard-charging female bankers getting embarrassed over their home-front husbands.

The author at Time is Vivia Chen, and — before reading what she has to say — I hypothesize that she's going to skew left of the New York Times and promote policies about flex-time and childcare for all women in the workplace, based on the premise that the role-reversed single-earner family is only available to the rich. So don't see those women profiled in the NYT as a model for women's equality.

"Pope Francis, The People’s Pope" is Time's Person of the Year.

"He took the name of a humble saint and then called for a church of healing. The first non-European pope in 1,200 years is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century."

Here's the post where I analyzed Time's 10 finalist and concluded that the person would be Edith Windsor. My runner-up was Edward Snowden.

But my rejection of the Pope had an "unless" clause: "Popes have won, but I think it's a bit early to go with another Pope yet, unless the Time folk are itching to play Obama's recently attempted income inequality theme. I think that would be shabby, so I say no."

A number of commenters here thought the Pope would win, and I want to single out Pat:
I think it goes to the Pope and not because he's said some "leftist" things. In a very short term, he has sparked new life into a very large religion. I am a crotchety grumpy conservative, and I love everything about the guy.
I haven't read the whole article yet and probably never will. Here's a key passage that connects to American political themes:
[B]ehind his self-effacing facade, he is a very canny operator. He makes masterly use of 21st century tools to perform his 1st century office. He is photographed washing the feet of female convicts, posing for selfies with young visitors to the Vatican, embracing a man with a deformed face. He is quoted saying of women who consider abortion because of poverty or rape, “Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?” Of gay people: “If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge.” To divorced and remarried Catholics who are, by rule, forbidden from taking Communion, he says that this crucial rite “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”
And:
He can barely contain his outrage when he writes, “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” Elsewhere in his exhortation, he goes directly after capitalism and globalization: “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This ­opinion … has never been confirmed by the facts.” He says the church must work “to eliminate the structural causes of poverty” and adds that while “the Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike … he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor.”
ADDED: Is that last sentence miswritten or does the Pope talk about himself in the third person like that? I looked it up. The answer is the latter, or really neither. It's more of an opinion about the role of whoever occupies the position of Pope.

December 10, 2013

"Romans not only had sex with the lamps on..."

"... they had sex in the flickering light of lamps that had images of them having sex by lamplight on them!"

At the Blue Eye Café...

P1010388

... you can talk about whatever you want.

And if you have some shopping you need to do, I would appreciate your kind gesture of entering Amazon through The Althouse Portal (which lets you make a contribution to this blog without paying any extra for your items). And thanks to all who've been shopping this way. I notice and feel encouraged!

"What would Machiavelli have thought when President Obama apologized for the fiasco of his health care rollout?"

"Far from earning respect, he would say, all he received was contempt. As one of Machiavelli’s favorite exemplars, Cesare Borgia, grasped, heads must sometimes roll. (Though in Borgia’s case, he meant it quite literally, though he preferred slicing bodies in half and leaving them in a public square.)"

A paragraph from the op-ed titled "Why Machiavelli Still Matters," published in the NYT, marking the 500th anniversary of Machiavelli's letter announcing the existence of his work, "The Prince."

The authors, John Scott and Robert Zaretsky, professors of political science and history, respectively, tweak Americans for their moralistic demands for virtues like honesty and generosity.
The proper aim of a leader is to maintain his state (and, not incidentally, his job)... [even] pursuing what appears to be vice [to achieve] security and well-being.
Even in a constitutional republic? And did Obama receive only contempt because he was honest or because he was dishonest? It seems to me that the contempt arises from our discovery of the dishonesty, not from his punctilious pursuit of virtue. Also, you have to take into account that Obama was elected — he did not seize power — and he was elected because people saw him as a repository of virtue. How does someone who was given power because of his perceived virtue retain power when a lack of virtue becomes apparent? How can he shore up his power by looking even less like the person people thought they had elected?

What would Machiavelli have thought? He'd have to do quite a bit of rethinking to make that Cesare Borgia stuff into advice for an American President.

"I’m just a university faculty member who expresses his own opinions, thoughts and proposals, which is absolutely my right. This is an out-and-out witch hunt."

Said Zhang Xuezhong, fired from his job at the East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai.
Professor Zhang, 47, has had run-ins with school administrators over his writings, but their unhappiness with him deepened last May after he publicized the contents of a secret document, produced by the central government, detailing seven subjects that are not allowed to be discussed in Chinese classrooms. The banned topics included democracy, freedom of speech and past mistakes of the Communist Party....

Professor Zhang’s undoing appears to be an article he published online in June titled “The Origin and the Perils of the Anti-Constitutionalism Campaign in 2013.”

"We at the ACLU are chipping in to help 5 same-sex couples have a Big, Gay, (Il)legal Wedding..."

"...to highlight the unfair patchwork of state marriage laws and why it's so important for everyone to have the freedom to marry."
We're giving $5,000 to couples with the best ideas for how they'll cross state lines to tie the knot. Do you and your special someone have a great idea? Enter for your chance to win or vote for your favorite couple!

"Yes, Men Should Do More Housework."

Writes Derek Thompson in The Atlantic. Key paragraph:
So, yes, we could all do with slightly dirtier houses, and nobody ever died saying their only regret was they didn't buy enough ceramic tile cleaner. But maybe, now that women are out-earning us in bachelor's degrees and (often) in marriages as well, we could stand to do oh-just-slightly more than 35 percent of the dishes.
I don't see why one spouse making more money than the other should matter (the way one working longer or harder hours in a job should matter). But if the reason for the man to step up and do half of the housework is that the woman earns more, then that's implicitly saying the reason women have been doing more housework is subservience to her man because of the money he has brought to the relationship.

All couples are in some kind of an exchange — like the man in the earlier post who seems to have been buying a lady shoes as a way to earn his place in the relationship. We idealize relationships that are mostly or entirely love for love. And how lucky you are if you're in a 100% love-for-love relationship. It's highly rewarding to feel the love, and the feeling is much better if you're in a position to give it, and you never run out. And you get love too.

But there are all sorts of exchanges among couples, from the stark clarity of the money-for-sex exchange that is prostitution on up to the pure ideal of love-for-love.

Where are you on that continuum?

"[S]omeone had to be the last person on Earth to contract smallpox, and Ali Maow Maalin went into the history books..."

"... as the last man on earth to catch wild smallpox. He died this year of malaria, after years of working to eradicate polio."

"He told her she already had enough shoes, more shoes than she could wear in a lifetime and it was pointless buying any more."

"She started shouting at him accusing him of being a skinflint and of spoiling Christmas, it was a really heated argument."

Man jumps to his death over the 7th floor railing in a mall in China, in the midst of an argument with his girlfriend. I'm reading the comments at that link and others, and I'd like to note the absence — or near absence — of post-suicide observations about bullying. Why no attacks on the girlfriend? Where's the sympathy of the poor bullied man who lost his life? I'm not even seeing the usual sentimentality about suicide. I'm seeing snark in the form of This is why I don't go shopping with my husband.

Note that the couple were not married, and I wonder what kind of Christmas shopping has one person simply buying presents for herself? I know there's that thing of shopping for others and then not resisting buying something for yourself too, but this is not that. And I know there's the very common practice of a couple shopping together to buy each other presents, perhaps to wrap and exchange in front of the rest of the family. Again, this isn't that. I suspect this has little to do with Christmas and more to do with a man who was in the process of buying sexual access to a woman who was upping the price and putting him into debt.

At the memorial, Obama compared Mandela to Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln.

"In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness, persistence and faith. He tells us what's possible not just in the pages of dusty history books, but in our own lives as well."

Obama shakes hands with Raul Castro.

At the Mandela memorial.

"State of Deception: Why won’t the President rein in the intelligence community?"

Ryan Lizza in The New Yorker. Excerpt:
In recent years, Americans have become accustomed to the idea of advertisers gathering wide swaths of information about their private transactions. The N.S.A.’s collecting of data looks a lot like what Facebook does, but it is fundamentally different. It inverts the crucial legal principle of probable cause: the government may not seize or inspect private property or information without evidence of a crime. The N.S.A. contends that it needs haystacks in order to find the terrorist needle. Its definition of a haystack is expanding; there are indications that, under the auspices of the “business records” provision of the Patriot Act, the intelligence community is now trying to assemble databases of financial transactions and cell-phone location information. [Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Senate Select Committee on Intelligence] maintains that data collection is not surveillance. But it is no longer clear if there is a distinction.

December 9, 2013

"On December 10, 1513, Niccolò Machiavelli wrote a letter—called the most celebrated in all Italian literature..."

"... to his friend Francesco Vettori announcing that he has just completed 'a little work, On Principalities.'  It later acquired the title The Prince, under which it became the most famous, and infamous, book on politics ever written."

500 years ago tomorrow. How should we celebrate?

"It’s safe to assume that few people in the White House or the defense agencies would be happy to see Time pick Snowden as Person of the Year."

"But that’s just another reason why he deserves the honor," writes John Cassidy in The New Yorker.
Often with the best of intentions—protecting us from terrorists and potential terrorists—governments of both parties have overseen an unprecedented expansion of the surveillance state that bent America’s laws and violated some of its most cherished values. (Ryan’s piece recounts some of the relevant history.) Even now, after all of this year’s revelations, there is no assurance that anything very meaningful will be done to roll back the incursions and to protect the zone of privacy in which all (or most) of us would like to interact, and live.
ADDED: Here's the Ryan Lizza article cited in that parenthetical: "State of Deception/Why won’t the President rein in the intelligence community?"

The singer Susan Boyle, 52, always a little strange, has been diagnosed with Asperger’s.

"Now I have a clearer understanding of what’s wrong and I feel relieved and a bit more relaxed about myself," she says. "I have always known that I have had an unfair label put upon me."

"When I was being questioned by police I felt very intimidated," says George Zimmerman's lady friend.

"I believe that the police misinterpreted me and that I may have misspoken about certain facts in my statement to police."

Samantha Scheibe now says "I do not want George Zimmerman charged" and Zimmerman "never pointed a gun at or toward my face in a threatening manner" and "I want to be with George."

At the Green Ball Café...

Bentley

... you can talk about whatever you want (but the comments need to be moderated at least for a while, so be a little patient and wait for approval).

The 10 finalists for Time's Person of the Year.

I know. I hate getting suckered into this annual nonsense, but the list presents some interesting options"
Bashar Assad, President of Syria
Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder
Ted Cruz, Texas Senator
Miley Cyrus, Singer
Pope Francis, Leader of the Catholic Church
Barack Obama, President of the United States
Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Edward Snowden, N.S.A. Leaker
Edith Windsor, Gay rights activist
It's not going to be Assad. If we were going to do Bad Guy persons of the year, somebody more dramatically bad would have won recently, like Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein. It would be pathetic to reward Assad with that kind of attention. What about Vladimir Putin? He's not even on the list of finalists, probably because he's already won, back in 2007.

Scratch Hassan Rouhani. He hassan done enough yet.

The desperation would be laughable, but it's not funny to write "How Adam Lanza Wrecked Obama's Second Term."

20 children were murdered, and 6 adults. Leave it alone. Conduct your pathetic search for someone or something to blame somewhere else, Alex Seitz-Wald. Have some decency. Find another grave upon which to dance the Dance of Obama Exculpation. 

"Didn’t I find, like Paul Theroux, 'the quest for manliness essentially rightwing, puritanical, cowardly, neurotic, and fueled largely by a fear of women'?"

"Yes, absolutely, and this belief did nothing to change the fact that I have wanted and sometimes tried in life to feel more manly. In fact, I was trying as I rendered judgment on the Wilderness Collective video, because one of the easiest ways to feel manly is to feel superior to other men’s efforts to feel manly."

From Ben Crair's TNR piece titled "Bro Fall/I lost my masculinity in Brooklyn, so I climbed a mountain to get it back." The Paul Theroux piece he quotes is "The Male Myth." I'm going to concentrate on the Theroux article, a NYT op-ed from 1983. What I love about it being 30 years old is that it's (presumably) underblogged. So let me begin the catching up on blogging "The Male Myth."

"I'm in a two-point race with the Koch brothers' favorite Governor — Wisconsin's Scott Walker."

"By contributing today, you'll put another nail in the coffin of the Tea Party movement that's propping up Scott Walker's failed administration."

So writes Mary Burke in her first fundraising letter as a Democratic Party challenger to Walker, and I'm just wondering why it's okay to say "put another nail in the coffin." Whatever happened to civility? Remember when Sarah Palin was attacked for using a target image and tweeting "Don't retreat — RELOAD."

To be fair to Burke, targeting and reloading are metaphors of killing, but the metaphor of nailing down a coffin lid implies that one's victim is already dead. On the other hand, why bother to fight the Tea Party if it's already dead? I'm afraid the implication might be execution by burial, which is quite a disturbing topic. Excerpt from Wikipedia:
During the reign of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huangdi it is said that approximately 400 to 700 scholars were buried alive near the capital. They were condemned for saving books from destruction after an imperial ban on the classics....

Tacitus, in his work Germania, records that German tribes practiced two forms of capital punishment; the first where the victim was hanged on trees, and another, where the victim was tied to a wicker frame, pushed face down into mud and buried. The first was used to make an example of traitors, the second was used for punishment of dishonourable or shameful crimes, such as cowardice or sodomy....

In medieval Italy, unrepentant murderers were buried alive, head down, feet in the air, a practice referred to in passing in Canto XIX of Dante's Inferno....

"Anna Gunn, my wife on 'Breaking Bad,' gave me a beautiful hardcover of 'The Dangerous Book for Boys.'"

"A perfect book to flip through to get back in touch with the little boy within. It inspired me to create a concept for a TV show. . . . Stay tuned," says Bryan Cranston, answering questions about books in the NYT Sunday Book Review.

As Meade and I approach the last few episodes of the series — which we've been catching up on at a rate of about 1 episode a day — I'm glad to see Bryan Cranston has a new show in the works. Here's the whole series on Blu-Ray and here's "The Dangerous Book for Boys." I wonder how the "Dangerous Book for Boys" idea became a new TV show. Is it a show for boys (and girls) or is it for adults finding their inner little boy?

Juan Williams thinks he's defending Obamacare by observing that it has no effect on him and the other members of the Sunday talk show pundit panel.

This is the sort of thing that a Republican would be pilloried for saying. It was yesterday's "Fox News Sunday," and the moderator Chris Wallace had just read a question tweeted by some guy named Skip. The question was "other than hope, what substantive argument do the ACA, Affordable Care Act, supporters have that the law will work as intended?" Juan Williams threw out a big word storm, but one line jumped out at me, and I will boldface it:

"Lonnie is a good hugger. We lie down on the bed (above sheets) in a sort of couple-watching-a-movie pose."

"His arm is around me and I'm cozy but faced forward. We chat lazily for a while, then Lonnie's breath slows down, and I attempt to follow suit, meditation-style."
It's relaxing, no doubt. Between the calming music, the presence of a warm body, and Lonnie's superhuman lung power -- his breaths seem to take a minute apiece -- I find myself easing into a half-asleep state. After about 20 or 30 minutes he says, "If you're comfortable, you can put your head on my chest."
A description of a visit to Madison's Snuggle House, which — as we discussed 2 days ago — is now permanently closed.

"To celebrate the holidays in his public high school science lab, Stuart Ross Rosenthal decided he would make a 'chemist-tree.'"

"He pieced together a colorful branching array of test tubes and Erlenmeyer flasks, and a few antique chemical stock bottles, filled them with various salt and mineral solutions, and then stacked them on a stand of porcelain rings. After encircling the base with a wintry-white towel, he placed a few glistening rock 'presents' under the tree and surrounded them with Bunsen burner 'candles.'"

And to celebrate the holidays in my public internet creative writing class, continue the story. What happens next?

In the actual case of the high school chemistry teacher — Stuart Ross Rosenthal — there was no discord and divisiveness and certainly no — to use James Madison's phrasetorrents of blood. Rosenthal (who's Jewish) is able to affably quip:
"If people say, 'Oh, I like your Christmas tree,' I say, 'It's a chemist-tree – nondenominational... People can argue about religion, and they can even argue with science – but you can't argue with scientific glassware."
Oh, yeah? If you are working on the creative writing exercise in my class, I'll bet you can concoct — or decoct...



... a vicious fight over the the scientific glassware. Rosenthal has substituted an exaltation of science for the celebration of Christ! This is the government's insidious effort to establish a religion of secularism!

December 8, 2013

Michelle and Barack Obama, Hillary and Bill Clinton, and Laura and George W. Bush will all fly together on Air Force One.

To the Nelson Mandela funeral.

(Jimmy Carter too.)

"Corgi on a Carousel."



Via Metafilter.

And here's Buzzfeed's "40 Most Important Corgis Of 2013."

"Men, to the best of my knowledge, don’t even read."

"When’s the last time you heard a man say, 'I’ve been reading this great book, you’d really like it’? My girlfriend always tells me about these books she’s reading, and I don’t even see her reading the book! Where does this book live?"

A quote from Bryan Goldberg, the founder of the website Bustle, quoted in this New Yorker article titled "FROM MARS/A young man’s adventures in women’s publishing." I enjoyed the whole article — Goldberg raised $6.5 million to start up a website for women, though he knew he knew nothing about what women want to read. He just knew there was money to be made from advertising if he could deliver big numbers of young female readers, and he hired a whole lot of young women to work for $50 or $100 a day writing blog posts about whatever interests them (because what interests them will kinda sorta already be what interests young women). His goal is 50 million readers a month, and as of the publication of that article (last September), he'd gotten the traffic up to 14,000 a day — i.e., about half the traffic I get here, with just my own self writing, albeit not to the demographic most loved by advertisers, even though I am sure that some of you do get excited by the newest innovation in eyeliner.

"The notion that your manhood depends on The Man giving you a job with a paycheck is some weird modern-day delusion."

"Those of you inside that delusion seem uncreative and impractical and, frankly, afraid of strong women."

Part of a comment of mine in the thread from yesterday about the NYT article "Wall Street Mothers, Stay-Home Fathers/As Husbands Do Domestic Duty, These Women Are Free to Achieve."

At Aussiedoodle Café...



... enjoy Meade's slides of Josie and take note that all comments are under moderation now. I'll be approving things expeditiously. Sorry for the slight delays, but it's one of those days when a stronger filter is needed.

While you wait, consider doing some on-line shopping at Amazon through the Althouse Amazon Portal.

How polluted does it have to be before "choking smog" makes the headlines in China?

The photo illustrating the article has the caption: "Heavy smog seeps into Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport." It's a photo of the inside of the airport! And good luck getting out of there. Flights get cancelled, and everyone's stranded.

"The federal health care exchange is incorrectly determining that some people are eligible for Medicaid when they clearly are not..."

"... leaving them with little chance to get the subsidized insurance they are entitled to as the Dec. 23 deadline for enrollment approaches."

"As hardy perennials go, there is little to beat that science hacks' favourite: the hard-wiring of male and female brains."

Writes Guardian science editor Robin McKie (who's a male, if that matters to you)"
For more than 30 years, I have seen a stream of tales about gender differences in brain structure under headlines that assure me that from birth men are innately more rational and better at map-reading than women, who are emotional, empathetic multi-taskers, useless at telling jokes...

And there are no signs that this flow is drying up...
McKie, being male, slips in a menopause joke.

"A popular, new trend in the United States is vaginal steaming and it is being offered through spas and holistic health centers from southern California to New York..."

"While it is technically not new as it has been used in ancient medicine for centuries, it is a re-emerging trend to those in the United States and is also known as 'chai-yok' in Korea and 'bajos' in Central and South America. For those not familiar with what vaginal steaming is, think of it like a medicinal, herbal, steam facial for the vagina...."
After you have determined the best herbs to use for your personal health needs and are ready for the vaginal steam, you can boil as little or as much filtered water as you like...
So, basically, whatever the hell you want...

"I screamed, 'The bird!'" and the cop said "'F--- the bird,' and he, like, stepped on it."

'I was shocked... It was a blue and green bird. It was really pretty."

The cop, the parakeet, and — the bone of contention — the traffic cone (the cone of contention).

The uproar over "gay" Christmas lights in Rome.

"A rainbow-flag theme has been selected for the traditional lights along the city's main shopping street, the Via del Corso. The lights run for almost a mile long."
The right-wing Fratelli d'Italia (Italian Brothers) party labelled the decision "provocative and ideological."

They called for the lights to be replaced with ones showing the three colors of the Italian flag, red, white and green.
Does the expression of Italian national patriotism have anything more to do with Christmas than celebrating the multiplicity of sexual orientations?

In the French food store: 5 porcupines, 15 gazelles, 20 bats, and lots of caterpillars.

The police raided the place and — as the UK Telegraph puts it — "carted off 200 lbs of bush meat belonging to the unfortunate animals stored in three freezers in the unnamed shop situated in a run-down part of Paris’ 18th arrondissement."

Unfortunate animals? This was meat, frozen meat. The animals were dead, as dead as the animals that yield all the meat that is sold in stores that are not raided by the police. The only unfortunate animals in this scenario are the human beings who might get sick if this meat is tainted in some way. It's silly — perhaps intentionally so — to refer to a caterpillar as "unfortunate."

And what's the big deal — if you're going to eat animal — with eating odd things like porcupines? It's actually quite the thing in France:
Exotic animals have been legally making their way onto French plates of late in upscale restaurants. In Montmartre — just down the road from the shop police raided - Le Festin Nu (The Naked Lunch) bistro gives customers the chance to select from a variety of insects. Specials include palm weevils with beetroot and oil of truffle; water scorpion with preserved peppers and black garlic; or grasshopper with quail’s eggs. In Nice, Michelin-starred chef David Faure offers an “Alternative Food” menu at his Aphrodite restaurant. Mealworm and crickets share the billing with pate de foie gras.

The government can "imagine some people may be upset" but also that some "will be comforted and relieved at getting the help they need to navigate a confusing process."

The quotes are from Peter Lee, the executive director of California health exchange, about sending private insurance companies the contact information for individuals who started an application on  the website but did not complete the process.  They also did not agree to be contacted by insurance agents. This release of information was no accident, but a new program designed to get people signed up.

Some are upset by invasions of privacy, but others are comforted.