January 11, 2014

"I think this is the first time I ever held a dog on my lap."

I said last Tuesday, posting pictures of me with Mr. Pepper, the Yorkie, here. Irene wrote to remind me that I had in fact held her cute poodle Poppy on my lap, and then I went back over to Irene's to hold Poppy on my lap again and get good photographic proof. Here:

At the Warm-Feet Café..



... let's get cozy.

"On Friday a Wisconsin judge struck a major blow for free political speech when he quashed subpoenas to conservative groups..."

"... and ordered the return of property to the targets of a so-called John Doe campaign-finance probe," write the editors of The Wall Street Journal, who got access to the judge's secret opinion. Judge Gregory A. Peterson wrote that the subpoenas "do not show probable cause" that the targeted conservative groups —  Friends of Scott Walker, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Inc., the Wisconsin Club for Growth, and Citizens for a Strong America — "committed any violations of the campaign finance laws." The judge, as the WSJ puts it, "bluntly rejects the prosecutor's theory of illegal coordination between the groups and the Walker campaign."

"Most Influential Person of China," "China Earthquake Rescue Hero," "Most Well-known and Beloved Chinese Role Model," "Most Charismatic Philanthropist of China," and "China’s Foremost Environmental Preservation Demolition Expert."

Phrases that appear on the business card of the billionaire Chen Guangbiao, the rich man who's trying to buy The New York Times. This isn't on the card, but he said in an interview, "I'm very good at working with Jews."

My main reason for blogging about this is his use of the word "Foremost" — "China’s Foremost Environmental Preservation Demolition Expert." "Foremost" was the word of the day on this blog 2 days ago, and Chen's usage underscores my point that there's something comical about that word.

By chance, I was just listening to a passage in an audiobook where the word turned up. The book is one of my favorites, Bill Bryson's memoir of childhood, "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid."
In 1957, the movie Peyton Place, the steamiest motion picture in years, or so the trailers candidly invited us to suppose, was released to a waiting nation and my sister decided that she and I were going to go....

On the way there my sister told me that many of the characters in the movie—probably most of them—would be having sex. My sister at this time was the world’s foremost authority on sexual matters, at least as far as I was concerned...

“Do you know what sex is?” she asked...

“No, I don’t believe I do,” I said or words to that effect.

So she told me, in a grave tone and with the kind of careful phrasing that made it clear that this was privileged information, all there was to know about sex, though as she was only eleven at this time her knowledge was perhaps slightly less encyclopedic than it seemed to me. Anyway, the essence of the business, as I understood it, was that the man put his thing inside her thing, left it there for a bit, and then they had a baby. I remember wondering vaguely what these unspecified things were—his finger in her ear? his hat in her hatbox? Who could say? Anyway, they did this private thing, naked, and the next thing you knew they were parents.
So I'm making a tag for "foremost," and with this, I declare that I have become The World's Foremost Philosopher of Foremost.

ADDED: I'm not going to retrospectively add the tag to every post on this blog — The World's Wisconsin's Foremost 10-year-old Blog — but I did go back and look at them all. There are perhaps 20, and I think there's only one that's not inside a quote.

Of the quotes, by far the most common usage is in the phrase "first and foremost," which I'd recommend avoiding, since it's a cliché and a redundancy. For example, "I would like to be a person remembered as a person who, first and foremost, did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the political process." (Click here to see who said that.)

The second most common usage is to avoid 2-word expressions like "most common" and "most important." For example, from an article about manboobs: "The foremost reason is the rise in obesity...."

The best usage of the word — to my ear — is to get a concrete image of something being in front of other things, which is what I did the one time it felt like the right word to me:
The 2008 election cannot be read as a mandate for health care reform, especially not for the aspect of it that is challenged in the current lawsuits: the  individual mandate to buy health insurance. That could not possibly have been foremost in the voters' minds. First, during the campaign, Obama spoke emphatically against it. And second, even after a year of talk about the reform, people don't really understand what the individual mandate is going to be.

"His legacy is dissipating away because people don’t know how to deal with this. They suppress it as if he’s not there."

And now, he is no longer there. Ariel Sharon has died.

January 10, 2014

"Members of the Satanic Temple have unveiled their design for a 7-foot-tall statue of the devil they want to locate at the Capitol building in Oklahoma..."

"... right next to a monument of the Ten Commandments that has stood since 2012."



Here's the Supreme Court case that thwarts a claim that the Constitution requires that Oklahoma accept the monument, so don't hyperventilate. The question is whether Oklahoma should choose to add this work of art to its monument collection. Or, really, to me, the truly compelling question is whether this group deliberately designed an atrocious monument for the purpose of challenging and aggravating the people of Oklahoma. I assume they did, based on the daft expression on the young boy's face.

Robert Gates writes in his memoir that he was offended that Obama thought people might be writing memoirs.

"I was put off by the way the president closed the meeting. To his very closest advisers, he said, 'For the record, and for those of you writing your memoirs, I am not making any decisions about Israel or Iran. Joe, you be my witness.' I was offended by his suspicion that any of us would ever write about such sensitive matters."

Quoted here.

"Playing in Traffic" — a Barry Blitt cover for the New Yorker.


(Link.)

"After years of talk, 2013 marked a watershed moment in the government’s Cool Japan campaign."

"Which begs the question: Is Japan cool?"
“Cool Japan” means different things to different people. If you’re a fan of manga or anime or “Godzilla” flicks, you might reasonably assume that the moniker covers your interests, which it does. But the Japanese government is using Cool Japan as a catch-all to fund all sorts of cultural endeavors — not just the “usual suspects” of anime and manga, but also fashion, music, food and even traditional arts and crafts. With such a broad focus, it’s all too easy to imagine Cool Japan policies being spread too thin to effect real change in the anime industry, which arguably jump-started the entire Cool Japan phenomenon in the first place.
Isn't government the antithesis of coolness? Getting government on anything makes in uncool. And that's the way it ought to be.

I had never heard the term "Cool Japan," but I see there's a Wikipedia article on the topic. 
The concept of Cool Japan (クールジャパン Kūru Japan?), along with that of "Gross National Cool," was coined in 2002 as an expression of Japan's emergent status as a cultural superpower. Gaining broad exposure in the media and academia, the brand of "Cool Japan" has been adopted by the Japanese government as well as trade bodies seeking to exploit the commercial capital of the country's culture industry. It has been described as a form of soft power, "the ability to indirectly influence behaviour or interests through cultural or ideological means."

"This should play at JFK for every small town gay man who arrives in NYC."

Says the first comment at the Film Experience article "Let It Go... (In More Ways Than One)" about this sequence from the Disney flick "Frozen":



I got there via this Atlantic article, "Does Prince Charming Really Need to Be Reinvented?," which is partly about the effect of the movie on the minds of young girls — "Does Prince Charming Really Need to Be Reinvented?" — but also says:
Providing girls with this fantasy is arguably important to their psycho-sexual development. ... Indeed, Disney has often appealed to gay boys as much as girls: Pinocchio thinks traditionally masculine activities like drinking, smoking, and swearing will make him a real boy and help him earn his father’s love; in The Little Mermaid, Ariel’s father doesn’t understand her and she wants to be part of another world; and now even Frozen is being credited with a queer subtext with Queen Elsa’s song as a drag anthem.

"I literally was spacing out because I’m in such a rage spiral about that guy."

"I was just looking at him looking at him and going into this rage [over] this idea that you would talk to a woman like that and accuse a woman of showing her body too much. The idea it just makes me sort of sick."

"Anyway, when I am out there running, I am such a Dude, I can't help loving myself just a little bit."

"A I feel strong, sure-footed, erect, graceful, alert and confident. When I burst into the kitchen, I tell my boyfriend, 'I'm magic! I'm monstrous! I'm a cougar (in the old-fashioned sense)!' But for the rest of the day, I am a doddery old lady. I walk with uncertainty. Steps cause me anxiety. A grocery store parking lot fills me with dread. It's so far to walk! It makes me dizzy. I have to hold onto my boyfriend's arm because I feel as if I could fall down at any moment. It reminds me of people who can sing, but when they try to speak, they have a terrible stutter."

The second-most-favored comment on a NYT piece titled "Is Jogging Bad for Older People?" (The first-most-favored comment objects to the definition of "old" as "over 45.")

Did Chris Christie's 2-hour press conference save him or doom him?

The Christian Science Monitor has a piece titled "Chris Christie bridge scandal: Did press conference save his future?" With video. Did anyone watch all of that? Whatever you think of the controversy itself and the sincerity of the apology, don't you think that going on for almost 2 hours was kind of mental?

"Furniture brother."

The "Word of the Day" over at Urban Dictionary. (Guess the meaning before clicking.)

"You look like you live in New Jersey with your parents and are trying to grow a beard. That's what. You look like you've been reading Chinese poetry."

Says a beautiful white female character to a black male character in "The Dutchman," a 1964 play by LeRoi Jones, who died yesterday at the age of 79.
[Critics said "The Dutchman"] expressed deep hostility towards women — a charge that followed the playwright for much of his life. After the murder of Malcolm X, he left his white wife and two daughters to live by radical black nationalist ideals.... "In the '60s, after Malcolm's death, black artists met and decided we were gonna move into Harlem and bring our art, the most advanced art by black artists, into the community."

The Black Arts movement was a basically a counterpart [sic] to Black Power, and Baraka wrote a number of books now seen as foundational for a certain kind of black aesthetic and cultural identity. He converted to Islam, changed his name [to Amiri Baraka] and in the 1970s, turned towards Marxism. His work would always emphasize social and political issues: "The people's struggle influences art, and the most sensitive artists pick that up and reflect that," he said.
He became the Poet Laureate of New Jersey, which is what he was at the time of the 9/11 attacks, and his poem on the subject, "Somebody Blew Up America," was not appreciated. I suspect that most younger people, if they remember him at all, remember him as a man who was disgraced by a single poem. But there's much more to the story of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, much more grace and disgrace.

ADDED: Here's the full text of "Somebody Blew Up America." Excerpt:
Who do Tom Ass Clarence Work for
Who doo doo come out the Colon's mouth
Who know what kind of Skeeza is a Condoleeza
Who pay Connelly to be a wooden negro
Who give Genius Awards to Homo Locus
Subsidere....

Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away?
ALSO: State-level poets laureate might seem like it shouldn't be a thing, but it is. The states that have no such position are: Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and (post-Baraka) New Jersey. ("Because of Baraka's defiant refusals to apologize or resign as poet laureate and that there was no mechanism within the law to remove him, the position was abolished by the legislature and Governor James E. McGreevey in 2003.")

My state's poet laureate is Max Garland, who's an English professor at UW-Eau Claire. Here's his poem "Fedoras."

"I am not a passive person, but I chose to fall into a more submissive role in our relationship..."

"... because I wanted to do everything in my power to make my marriage and family work.... The definition I'm using with the word 'submissive' is the biblical definition of that. So, it is meekness, it is not weakness. It is strength under control, it is bridled strength."

Says Candace Cameron Bure, an actress I'd never heard of, who has a book.

This got me trying to remember a trend in the 1970s that took this approach. There was Marabel Morgan's "Total Woman":
The Total Woman sold more than ten million copies and was the bestselling nonfiction book of 1974. Grounded in evangelical Christianity, it taught that "A Total Woman caters to her man's special quirks, whether it be in salads, sex or sports," and is perhaps best remembered for instructing wives to greet their husbands at the front door wearing sexy outfits, or draped in transparent saran wrap, with nothing (but herself) underneath. "It's only when a woman surrenders her life to her husband, reveres and worships him and is willing to serve him, that she becomes really beautiful to him," Morgan wrote.
I think there was another book that was less oriented toward sex, something more like "the surrendered wife," but I see Morgan talked about "surrender" and that there was a book that came out in 2001 called "The Surrendered Wife," which inspired a movement, "The Surrendered Wife movement," if I am to believe Wikipedia.

Here's a 2001 NYT article about "The Surrendered Wife":
Her suggested path back to marital bliss runs suspiciously close to the doormat. ''Instead of throwing out traditional roles, try them on again,'' [the author, Laura] Doyle exhorts in Chapter 13, called ''Abandon the Myth of Equality.''...

[The book] has inspired Surrender Circles around the country where women gather to practice saying, ''Whatever you want, dear'' with a straight face....
Do men really want their wives gathering in circles with other women and chanting "surrender" cant?
Ms. Doyle believes that every decision, from vacations to child care, is an opportunity to make a husband feel more masculine and thus more eager to please. To get hubby to carry packages, a wife should marvel at how big and strong he is. ''This will feel odd -- perhaps even dishonest -- at first,'' writes Ms. Doyle, who actually suggests that women practice covering their mouths with duct tape to curtail the urge to sass....
I love the "at first." If you're bullshitting, at first, you'll feel uncomfortable, even ashamed, but make it a habit, and that old, nagging conscience becomes a thing of the past.
The surrendered wife provides sex on demand (a rather innocuous edict compared with a zestier suggestion in Marabel Morgan's 1973 work, ''The Total Woman,'' which urged wives to greet their husbands naked and wrapped in cellophane). Being available, Ms. Doyle temporizes, ''doesn't mean you don't have to ask for what you want first.''
You've got to give old Marabel Morgan credit for putting an image in our head that we never forget... or remember mostly. Cellophane and Saran Wrap are not the same. You could get more compression with Saran Wrap — more of a Spanx effect — while cellophane would merely be loose, albeit transparent, packaging. But there's no accounting for taste. Try both! Try aluminum foil too. Who knows what household wrap best contains a woman's "zest[]."

By the way, why is sex on demand considered "innocuous" compared to presenting yourself wrapped in Saran on the day of your choosing? Maybe only because sex on demand is a more abstract concept. I think if you go through the effort of picturing it — and what an arduous mental exercise that is! — you'll see that it's "zestier" than the old 1970s Saran Wrap routine.

That's a long digression. You may remember that I was on a search for another 1970s books, something less sex-oriented than "The Total Woman." I ask Meade if he remembers, and he suggests "The Sensuous Woman." No, no, that's more sex-oriented. "Not too long ago only 'bad' girls had a good time in bed. 'Good' girls endured — and wondered what they were missing."

What I am missing is the name of that other 70s book. I Google "counter-feminist books of the 1970s" and get to Wikipedia's "List of feminist literature," which is in chronological order and is very long.

I spot Andrea Dworkin's "Right-Wing Women," from 1983, which probably has the answer I'm looking for, but I'm not seeing it in a searchable form. I searched the NYT for a discussion of Dworkin's book (which I read 20-some years ago), and I found the puzzlingly titled "JOINING HANDS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST PRONORGRAPHY." (The NYT also spells "pornography" correctly many times, but also misspells it as "pornograpy," so I'm just going to guess that the word elicited messiness in the proofreaders.)

That NYT article revisits the old anti-pornography movement, which presented the feminist problem — I remember this so well! — do you want to win a fight that you can only win in alliance with the right wing?
Miss Dworkin said she had never met [Jerry] Falwell, Phyllis Schlafly or any other conservative leaders. ''But more and more right-wing women are coming to hear me speak,'' she said. ''They keep reading in the papers that they're on our side, and I'm having the most interesting conversations I've ever had in my life with them. I don't ask women to pass a political litmus test to talk to me.''

While many feminists disavow Miss Dworkin and her work, she, in turn, is critical of what she calls ''organized feminism'' for not taking a stronger stand against pornography. ''The National Organization for Women is incredibly cowardly and timid on the issue,'' she said, ''because they don't want to alienate their liberal supporters.''
Now, I've dragged you into the 80s, but the 80s grew out of the 70s, and there was an interesting interplay between feminism and the answers to feminism, especially in the way the more radical feminists diverged from liberal feminists of the NOW ilk and found fellowship with the right-wing women. But this is only a blog post, and we can't go down all these roads. I've already gone too far, I didn't find what I was looking for, so I'm stopping now, and I'll update if anyone reminds me what's that book from 4 decades ago.

UPDATE: A reader emails the name of the book I was trying to remember: "Fascinating Womanhood."
The first step to a happy marriage is to understand that all life is governed by law--nature, music, art, and all of the sciences. These laws are immutable. To live in harmony with them produces health, beauty, and the abundant life....
The art of awakening a man's love is not a difficult accomplishment for women because it is based on our natural instincts. However, in our highly civilized life many of our natural instincts have become rusty due to lack of use. You need only to awaken the traits which belong to you by nature....

The study centers around the ideal woman, from a man's point of view, the kind of woman who awakens a man's deepest feelings of love... The role of a woman when played correctly is fulfilling, fascinating, and full of intrigue...

"Mr. Dubiner said that a wall of closet space in the bedroom served as a 'place holder' for a woman he had yet to meet."

The single man redecorates. (Click backwards, to the left, to see the rest of the place and the rest of the story.)

"It hurts to think that it isn’t as important to Americans as it was to us while it was happening."

Marines react to the loss of Fallujah.

"It made me sick to my stomach to have that thrown in our face, everything we fought for so blatantly taken away."

"This has been a gut punch to the morale of the Marine Corps and painful for a lot of families who are saying, ‘I thought my son died for a reason.'"

The link goes to the NYT, which balances blaming Obama with blaming Bush:
Some now blame President Obama for not pushing harder to keep some troops in Iraq to maintain the stability. Others express anger at George W. Bush for getting them into a war that they now view as dubious in purpose and even more doubtful in its accomplishments.
The "some" and the "others."

January 9, 2014

Loving lions, hugging hyenas.

"All lanes of traffic on the George Washington Bridge were blocked this afternoon by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s ego, traffic reports said..."

"First the polar vortex, and now this."

Personal connections.

Can you have a personal connection with someone you've never met in the flesh?

It depends on how you define "personal" and "connections," but is it helpful to define these terms narrowly? Are people in danger of deluding themselves into thinking they have personal connections with celebrities and with people they write back-and-forth with on the internet?

Or is it good to think of personal connections broadly? For example, you might feel a personal connection to a writer who lived long ago, whom you cannot possibly meet. I feel that way about Henry David Thoreau. The personhood matters as it relates to the ideas, even if one cannot possibly meet the person. Much of reading works this way, I think.

In Christianity, there is much to the personal connection to Jesus. Not all religions have a central person with whom believers can bond, but what are we to make of the importance of Jesus in Christianity as it relates to this question of personal connections with individuals who are not physically present in our lives?

Christie "embarrassed and humiliated."

“I am heartbroken that someone I permitted to be in that circle of trust for the past five years betrayed that trust... I am very sad person today... A person close to me betrayed me.”

The word of the day is "foremost."

See the various posts below for context. [Here and here.] I think "foremost" is a funny, old-fashioned word. I remember it as a brand name for ice cream.





What bad ice cream from the 1960s do you remember? I remember Sealtest — I guess they tested the seal — and Crestmont. Crestmont chocolate chip ice cream was a major part of my diet when I was in high school. That and potato chips.

I see Foremost is still around and in fact it comes from "a rich tradition of dairying" in Wisconsin, specifically Baraboo and Milwaukee," so good. Wisconsin, good.

Anyway, "foremost" is an old word, and you don't have to be America's Foremost Etymologist to see that it's a compound of "fore," meaning at the front, and the superlative "most." The (unlinkable) OED shows the word going back to c1000, appearing in the West Saxon Gospels ("Seþe wyle betweox eow beon fyrmest sy he eower þeow") and even further to Old English ("Here wicode, eorlas ymb æðeling, egstreame neahon neaweste nihtlangne fyrst, þæs þe hie feonda gefær fyrmest gesægon.")

I'm inspired to write a poem:
Is ice cream
Too egstreame?
It is, for most
For others: Foremost!
ADDED: Meade read this post and inspired me to write another poem:
I scream
You scream
We all scream
When egstreamists intrude into American maynestreame politics
EEK! It's the Tea Party

The World's Foremost Authority!

Commenting in the thread to "Ta-Nehisi Coates reacts to the reaction to his calling Melissa Harris-Perry 'America's foremost public intellectual," EDH says:
For over 50 years, has there been any debate in America whatsoever?

"The World's Foremost Authority..."

Professor Irwin Corey.

He's still alive and he will be 100 this year! God bless him.


I love this guy. He looked old back in 1966 when The Smothers Brothers introduced him as "The World's Foremost Authority," and he is still alive. His 100th birthday is this year, July 29th.

"Sweetness and a smile is a great façade, but is also very boring. Whereas outbursts of anger at appropriate times..."

"... set boundaries and wake people up by letting human emotions... into the game. A tongue lashing is not violence. But today's social standards permit only the most docile sweet men. A bold pretty woman may get to do angry in public, but no Braveheart type males need apply."

Traditionalguy brings the gender analysis to the discussion of the law school that suspended the professor for his "disrespectful" and "intimidating" outbursts. 

I'm making a separate post about this because it's such a distinct subject, part of what some would call the feminization of the workplace. There once was a time when Professor Kingsfield was the iconic law professor, and demanding high standards and enforcing them staunchly with righteous indignation was the norm. But unless there's a critical mass of tough guys (and gals) in the school, you'll be a problem. If the school has created a climate of friendliness and ease — which might be thought central to a policy of inclusiveness toward female and minority students — then you're a rebel against the policy. Is that possible? It might be, with allies, or with work that is especially great and devoid of incidents where you seem to be declining into personal expression of your own emotionality.

Ta-Nehisi Coates reacts to the reaction to his calling Melissa Harris-Perry "America's foremost public intellectual."

"I made this claim because of Harris-Perry's background," he says, reciting achievements from her resume. Somebody has to be America's foremost public intellectual, right? Actually, that's not right, and any time you create a superlative, you're inviting dispute. Coates humorously restates his designation as the "TNC Public Intellectual Prize," which retracts the invitation. In TNC's opinion, MHP is America's foremost public intellectual. Okay, then... never mind. She's a public intellectual — aren't we all?

And we're all entitled to have our personal favorites, not that I can think of mine, and if I could, I wouldn't use the expression "America's foremost public intellectual." I'd say "my favorite public intellectual." And doesn't that really show Coates's sleight of hand? Both "America's" and "foremost" imply that this isn't a matter of his personal preference or even his opinion of who is the best, but an observation of prominence in America. "Foremost" doesn't mean best. It means first in rank, and to speak in terms of what is "foremost" is to claim that there is a rank. Why do that?

Lawprof sues law school claiming failure to accommodate his depression and Asperger’s syndrome.

Joel Cornwell, who's taught at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago since 1985, bases his claim on the Americans With Disabilities Act. The school — calling his behavior "disrespectful, intimidating and insubordinate" — suspended him from teaching and barred him from campus. He says the school is "stereotyping and harassing him, creating a hostile work environment" and explains the incidents in terms of his disability, which makes it hard for him to read "nonverbal cues" in social interactions.

January 8, 2014

The poverty line was originally designed...

... with the assumption that a family would have a "housewife" who is "a careful shopper, a skillful cook, and a good manager who will prepare all the family's meals at home."

"Bully-boy Gov. Chris Christie’s White House hopes hit a massive roadblock..."

"... after emails implicated a top aide in a punitive George Washington Bridge traffic nightmare."
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” read the damning Aug. 13 email made public Wednesday — the political payback to the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., for his refusal to endorse the GOP incumbent last year.
 Rush Limbaugh says:
The point of the story is that Christie will do payback. If you don't give him what he wants, he'll pay you back.... So now that is a story, and whatever the truth of it, I don't care. That's not my point. The point is the media has just glommed onto that like bees in a honeycomb so that they don't have to talk about the Gates book.

"It’s not a matter of pro-choice and pro-life... It’s about a matter of our daughter’s wishes not being honored by the state of Texas."

"All she is is a host for a fetus... I get angry with the state. What business did they have delving into these areas? Why are they practicing medicine up in Austin?"

Quotes from the mother and father of a 33-year-old woman who is 14 weeks pregnant in Texas, where the statutory law bars doctors from withdrawing life support from a pregnant patient. 

Hitler's "Mein Kampf" is surging in the rankings on Amazon and iTunes.

Why?

At the Frozen Lake Café...



... see the Wisconsin Capitol in the background?

"All 156 episodes of 'Twilight Zone' ... at the same time."

"After several minutes, I started to doubt whether the cacophony of sound was truly the real audio output of all the episodes.
There were few discernible transient sounds, and it was nigh impossible to associate them with any given clip, so I started to suspect it was just either "overdubbed background noise" or maybe just the sound of 7 or 8 episodes overlaid.

Nope! It's the real deal. At about 7:08, there is the sound of electric buzzing. zzzzzZZZZIP! zzzzzZZZIP! It corresponds to the clip at 10x4 (10th from the left, 4th row down), Mr. Dingle The Strong, when he is being zapped by the martians.

0.1 °F.

We're finally above zero!

"When [Lizzie] Velasquez was in high school, she discovered a video of herself on YouTube that was titled 'World's Ugliest Woman.'"

"She had to decide in that moment whether or not she would let these cyberbullies define her...."

"The prevalence of specifically racial offenses shouldn’t blind us to a kind of bigotry jiu-jitsu that often follows in the wake of these incidents..."

"... in which the offenders quickly flip the script to portray themselves as the victims of intolerance toward their own intolerant remarks."

One of many New Yorkerish sentences in a New Yorker piece grappling with the way playing the race card backfires. And I mixed my metaphors knowingly and with intent to be annoying, because I don't think The New Yorker — famous for its "Block That Metaphor" squibs — noticed it mixed metaphors of eyesight, martial arts, boating, script-writing, and portraiture.

IN THE COMMENTS: Henry says:
I'm trying to figure out the point of the word "specifically."

That seems to imply the existence of "vaguely racial offenses" which by definition must be even more prevalent than the specific ones. The world is awash in the brickbats of hamhanded script-flippers.
My offhand theory would be that "specifically racial offenses" are incidents where the use of race is explicit or at least implicit and intended, to be contrasted with pervasive disparities that can be perceived or understood to have a racial aspect, like incarceration or poverty or inadequate education. It's exasperating to comb through the author's tangled prose, but here are a couple sentences than might support my theory:
[Melissa] Harris-Perry’s apology was striking precisely because we inhabit a hallucinatory moment in which the lines of power, inequality, and, yes, victimhood are blurred. Untouched is the higher standard for those confronting real grievances, the kinds rooted in systemic, empirical inequalities, not the imaginings of the angry entitled.
I love the use of "precisely." It serves a function similar to "specifically." And here we are, living within a hallucination full of blurred lines. I guess that first sentence means that if anyone says anything at all clear, like Harris-Perry's apology, it's striking. In a world of blurred hallucination, we're surprised to discern anything.

Now, what's going on in the next sentence? What is "untouched"? Harris-Perry apologized for her specific racial offense, but there are also the "real grievances," things that are more important, but harder to discern. The real grievances are the "systemic, empirical inequalities," but they're nonspecific, so thoroughly woven into everything that if you try to point them out, people will hold you to a "higher standard." Instead of talking about what really matters, we pay attention to the wrong victims, the upstart victims, like Mitt Romney, who's able easily to command our concern, because of the specificity of Harris-Perry's offense.

Okay, I think I untangled that, and I do see the author's point. His name is Jelani Cobb, and I think for whatever reason, he's decided it's brilliant to write like that, and The New Yorker is refraining from the tough work of word editing, for which it was once renowned.

Did Roger Ailes offer a TV producer an extra $100 each week "if you agree to have sex with me whenever I want"?

That's what Randi Harrison said happened, back in the 1980s, when Ailes was at NBC, according to “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” a 560-page biography of Ailes by Gabriel Sherman. The book also relates an anecdote from the 90s in which Ailes probably used "an obscene phrase with the words 'little' and 'Jew'" in speaking about some rival executive at NBC.

ADDED: The author says he did 614 interviews. Consider those 2 anecdotes — from 20 and 30 years ago — in that context. Not much of a portrait of evil, even assuming the stories are true!

The offer of $100 is a bad joke. If he'd really wanted to buy sexual access to an employee he'd have offered a lot more or offer it per encounter. Who would agree to step up to a sexual encounter whenever the other person "wants" it? Maybe you can get your spouse onto that arrangement — and I think you should try! — but that's not something you can buy… not since the days when you could buy a slave.

And as far as the anti-Semitic remark, it was directed at a particular individual, not an expression of an actual opinion about the group (even if it's some evidence of his view of the group). Ailes had a longstanding battle with one guy, and one time, that hostility manifested itself in a reference to his enemy's religion/ethnicity. 614 interviews produced no other anti-Semitic remark? That's actually rather strong evidence that he's not anti-Semitic.

Why do members of Congress, nice enough in private, get tough on camera, when network journalists, presumably also nice in private, stay nice on camera?

In his new book, "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War," former Secretary of State Robert Gates makes this criticism of the members of Congress:
During his tenure as Pentagon chief, Gates often found himself tempted to quit because of the adversarial treatment he received from members of Congress. He says that in private the lawmakers could be reasonable. "But when they went into an open hearing, and the little red light went on atop a television camera, it had the effect of a full moon on a werewolf," he says in an excerpt in the [Wall Street] Journal.
Here's the WSJ excerpt, in which I cannot find that quote, but there's additional text about Gates's dismay at congressional brutality. He says that at congressional hearings he'd often thought of slamming his briefing book shut and saying: "there is no son of a bitch in the world who can talk to me like that. I quit." He complains about "the consistently adversarial, even inquisition-like treatment of executive-branch officials by too many members of Congress across the political spectrum—creating a kangaroo-court environment in hearings, especially when television cameras were present."

Are television cameras to blame? Yesterday, I was talking about how inanely nonconfrontational David Gregory is on "Meet the Press." He and his fellow journalists coddle administration officials. They sit back, nod, and say "okay" and "right" as these people deliver their prepared talking points. They don't seem to understand that they need us, the audience, and we want vigorous, probing questions. They're making one another comfortable, on camera, in the manner Robert Gates describes as prevailing behind the scenes in Congress.

How can we explain this difference? Why do members of Congress, nice enough in private, get tough on camera, when network journalists, presumably also nice in private, stay nice on camera? Let me offer a few answers for your assessment:

1. To put on a good TV show, you do need to get tough on camera, and "Meet the Press" is failing as a TV show. It's ratings are way down. Maybe members of Congress should not see themselves as putting on a TV show, but they are modeling how to put on a show.

2. Members of Congress have the power to force administration officials to appear and to testify under oath, but the producers of a show like "Meet the Press" can only extend invitations, invitations that will be accepted only if the invitees think it will be to their advantage. As there are more than one show, a host needs to give the best party to entice A-list guests. The real guests that matter, of course, are the home audience, but the TV show folk must think the viewers look at the guest list to decide what to watch.

3. Members of Congress face elections, and the judgment of voters exerts more pressure than the judgment of viewers. The viewers and the voters are just the American people, but each member of Congress is answerable to his (or her) constituents, and a national TV show is trying to appeal to everyone. The member of Congress has a more focused idea of what people in his state or district are going to grill him about, and the journalists involved in a TV show think more vaguely about what will make people tune in and stick around.

4. Both the members of Congress and the journalists are supposed to feel a profound sense of responsibility for the power they exercise, but actual power to legislate is different from a power only to influence people through the force of words. You'd think this difference would create more vigor in the expression of the journalists, so why would it have the opposite effect? The easiest inference is that the aim of the journalists is to lull the people.

"Today is forecast to be Much Warmer than yesterday," the day after it was also "forecast to be Much Warmer than yesterday."

And here we are, at 5 a.m., up to -1.7°, about to cross the line and hit zero. Strangely, by Sunday, it's supposed to be 29°, so we'll have experienced a nearly 60 degree temperature span within one week.

January 7, 2014

"And that, to this day, so blows my mind that not only was he NOT SURPRISED that i was in this town, population 115..."

"... but that I just walked by him, he recognized me and he felt [no] need to say anything more than 'hi.' Not 'what the hell are you doing here.'"

Surrealism, in the Midwest, for Jerry Seinfeld.

Bikini bridge...

... the new thigh gap.

IN THE COMMENTS:  madAsHell likens these photos to "looking down a woman's blouse," and I see 3 issues: 1. These photos are selfies, the idle Instagram efforts of women with iPhones lying on beaches, so who's doing the looking? It's a "look at what I'm looking at" invitation. 2. As a beach pic incorporating the photographer's view down her own body, it falls in the same category as hot dog legs, 3. The "bikini bridge" is supposed to be "thinspiration," so watch out for the hot dogs.

ALSO: That link for "hot dog legs" goes to Know Your Meme which also, I see, traces the origin and journey into virality of "bikini bridge":
On February 26th, 2009, a Tumblr blog titled “Bikini Bridge” was launched, highlighting photographs of bikini bottoms stretched across women’s hip bones... On April 24th, 2009, Urban Dictionary user mormdav submitted an entry for the phrase “bikini bridge”.... On October 12th, 2010, the /r/bikinibridge subreddit was launched...

On January 5th, 2014, 4chan members launched “Operation Bikini Bridge,” in which bikini bridge photos were spread to promote the pose as “the next big thing”... On the same day, BuzzFeed highlighted a dozen of bikini bridge photos... On January 6th, the women’s fitness blog Blogilates published an article about the hashtag... The next day, The Daily Mail published an article...
My post is a link to that Daily Mail article, which refers to the 4chan involvement, as Will said in the comments shortly after I posted:
4chan is trolling the internet. It says so right in the article. Is Althouse participating knowingly?
Honestly, no. I hadn't read that far into the article. I was just browsing around in The Daily Mail. But it's not as if 4chan started a hoax. "Bikini Bridge" has been a thing in the world of thinspiration since 2009. If 4chan's involvement means we should avoid participating and their boosting a topic causes us to see it for the first time, then we'd be empowering them to eliminate the topic from discussion.

"Diversity Done Wrong: How ‘SNL’ Mishandled Casting a Black Woman."

Variety cries "blatant tokenism."
Making finding a black female in particular a priority over other racial groups sets up an absurd hierarchy of diversity needs.... “SNL’s” micro-targeting of a subsegment of the population comes off like a staged gesture, noblesse oblige intended to be perceived as “the right thing” more so than being that in actuality....

Is it wrong to call the man who delivers the President's talking points his "point man"?

This question came up in this morning's post about "Meet the Press," where I'd written that David Gregory introduced Gene Sperling as "President Obama's economic point man," and I quipped "He's the 'point man,' on the show to give the Administration's points."

In the comments, Kevin said:

"There's zero doubt in my mind that when the final version of this device comes out it is going to change the world."

"For me, today, already has."

"People have no idea how much I detest this job," wrote former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Quoted by Bob Woodward in "Robert Gates, former defense secretary, offers harsh critique of Obama’s leadership in 'Duty.'"
It is rare for a former Cabinet member, let alone a defense secretary occupying a central position in the chain of command, to publish such an antagonistic portrait of a sitting president....

Gates writes about Obama with an ambivalence that he does not resolve, praising him as “a man of personal integrity” even as he faults his leadership. Though the book simmers with disappointment in Obama, it reflects outright contempt for Vice President Joe Biden and many of Obama’s top aides.
ADDED: Here's the NYT summary of the forthcoming memoir:

"What does $142 million look like, hung on a wall? At first glance, disappointing."

"From across the room the panels present a dull expanse of mustard and puce."

But this is a column in The Nation, so the question above is quickly replaced by: "That some anonymous billionaire acquired a new silver spoon to display at dinner parties may be boring or infuriating, but is it relevant?"

But is it relevant?! How old is that writer (Zoë Carpenter)? Her question was a laugh-line cliché in the 1960s. I mean, in my memory's eye, I see magazine cartoons with that caption... in The New Yorker, 2 sophisticates holding cocktails glance at a tray of hors d'oeuvres... in Playboy, a woman looks at a man's genitalia.... But is it relevant?

 It made us laugh because But is it relevant? was what everyone was saying about everything.

This Nation piece, however, isn't funny at all. Ms. Carpenter makes me feel that any topic of seeming interest will be met with a grim face and a stern admonition to think about "the bleak fortunes of workers and the poor." Somebody was rich enough to bid the price of a triptych up to $142 million, but what does this mean about the potential to make "income inequality" the central concern of American politics?

"Just as I want plus-size women visible, and valued, and loved in my books, so do I want books like mine visible and valued..."

"... if not loved, by a critical establishment that’s still too rooted in sexist double standards, still too swift to dismiss women’s work as small, trivial, unimpressive, and unimportant."

Says "chick lit" author Jennifer Weiner, quoted in a New Yorker profile titled, "WRITTEN OFF/Jennifer Weiner’s quest for literary respect." The profiler, Rebecca Mead, observes:
In this analysis, Weiner’s failure to receive critical recognition is not an implicit judgment of, say, the perfunctory quality of some descriptive passages, or of the brittle mean-spiritedness that colors some character sketches... It is, instead, a product of the larger cultural forces that left Weiner feeling oppressed long before she became a writer. To battle those forces as visibly as Weiner does is not just to tell a fairy-tale story but also to try to live one: to insist on moving from the margin to the center, and to demand a happy ending of one’s own.
What I hear Mead implying is: Weiner has a psychological need for respect and demands it from the literary establishment, but she doesn't deserve literary respect. She's parlayed her emotional needs into commercial success because she meets what are the mundane emotional needs of female readers who want encouragement and support, and that's not the way to get elite folk to regard you as an artist.

Men in shorts.

A reader emails this picture (with the subject line "Men in shorts"):

I love this little dog.

I think this is the first time I ever held a dog on my lap.



It's Mr. Pepper at The Kimber Modern, the hotel where we stayed when we were in Austin, Texas the week before Christmas. I thought I'd accidentally deleted these photos, but I see I had them in my laptop, which I hadn't used since the trip.

Oh, no, we have to talk about "Tiger Mom" again.

I should be immune to the efforts of law professors to get us all talking about themselves, and Amy Chua has already done it once, with her "Tiger Mom" book in 2011, so I should be able to resist as she reappears, 3 years later, with another book, this time co-authored with her husband (who's also a law professor). But this one is cleverly packaged to make us say: Hey! Isn't that racist?! How can they say something so racist?!! Do they think because they are Yale law professors that they won't be accused of racism?!!!

"Meet The Press" has run out of time, right?

Politico has an item titled "NBC's 'Meet The Press' hits historic lows in the final quarter of 2013":
It's no secret that NBC's "Meet The Press" has been in bad shape of late. Indeed, the show has been on the decline since David Gregory took over in 2008. But the most recent numbers are especially troubling.
This is no mystery! The show is completely different without Tim Russert, who challenged his guests — "guests" seems like the wrong word — with questions, often built on a series of quotes — displayed on screen — that would box them in painfully. We at home enjoyed the tension and pain. Gregory expects us to look on as the respected elite of Washington are made comfortable while they deliver the speeches they arrived with. And Gregory plays favorites, shoring up liberal commentators when they seem to be stumbling, supplying arguments and glossing over rough spots for them. Russert would go in for the kill.

"Today is forecast to be Much Warmer than yesterday," says the weather report.

With the current temperature at -15.5 (and the wind chill -35).

January 6, 2014

The 8-year-old girl in the suicide vest was captured...

... perhaps because she couldn't operate the button.

At the 15-Below-Zero Café...



… come out and play!



Snuggle up in the crispy clean snow…



Life is beautiful!

Speaking of things you don't see much anymore...

... and it's really hard to notice an absence, by the way, so it's important when anything like this turns up (and the observation is vulnerable if in fact you can point to the supposedly absent thing anywhere) — but here are 2 things that I've noticed have gone missing. One was emergent and got nipped in the bud. The other was rampant and now rare.

Emergent but nipped in the bud: "Microaggression." Last month, I told the story of the short public life of "Microaggression — the word that died," and I'm checking again this morning for signs of life. Seeing none, I proclaim it really most sincerely dead.

Once rampant and now rare: "Addiction." I've had an "addiction" tag for a long time, and I'm always on the lookout for things getting characterized as addiction, that is, things other than the obvious substance abuse problems. This is a rhetorical move, deployed to mute individual responsibility and to stimulate a response from The Community of the Caring. Back in September, I noticed that the Chinese government was pushing the notion that people are addicted to the Internet (to justify government suppression of free speech). That's a strong sign of the dubiousness of "addiction" rhetoric. And looking over a few years of the "addiction" tag, I think the great source of awakening to the bullshit that is "addiction" talk was the notion of sex addiction, which arose in the fumbling efforts at reputation repair in the very conspicuous cases of Tiger Woods and Anthony Weiner. When I dig back before that stuff, I see a lot of discussion — in the American major and new media — about internet addiction. That's in the 2005-2007-2008 period. Now, "internet addiction" talk is a Chinese government con.

You never see Old Man Winter anymore.

Whatever happened to the personification of winter that looked like this?



He doesn't even have a full Wikipedia article. Just a squib:

"The Supreme Court on Monday morning put on hold a federal judge’s decision striking down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage..."

"... thus stopping a wave of such marriages across the state.  The Court’s order reinstates the state ban and will keep it intact until after a federal appeals court has ruled on it."

No Justice dissented.
The ruling can be interpreted as an indication that the Court wants to have further exploration in lower courts of the basic constitutional question of state power to limit marriage to a man and a woman.  Had it refused the state’s request for delay, that would have left at least the impression that the Court was comfortable allowing same-sex marriages to go forward in the thirty-three states where they are still not permitted by state law.
IN THE COMMENTS: Fen says:
Who cares? I'm so tired of hearing about gay marriage.
And I say:
When you thought you could defeat it, you were only too happy to talk about it all the time. Defeated, you're "so tired of hearing about" it.

Another way of putting it is just to admit that you're really sad about losing. If you'd won, you wouldn't stop talking. You're promoting no more talking about this because it's all you've got.

That's how it looks to me anyway.

But you're certainly entitled to be tired. Your position is old and wearisome, and your expression about it has been mightily tiresome, which is to say, I'm tired of hearing about how tired you are.

And I won't be silenced. Same-sex marriage is still not established across the country (and in the world), so those who support it have good reason to keep talking. The argument for shutting up is a con.
UPDATE: Fen returns to the comments to say that he is not an opponent of same-sex marriage. What I said (above) — hedged by "That's how it looks to me anyway" — assumed a mindset of those who profess to be "tired" of posts about same-sex marriage. I seem to get these comments every time I post on the subject. I don't understand why people who are tired of posts about this subject don't simply skip them. Why don't they go on to something that they are interested in? Why drag down the thread by announcing that you aren't interested in it? Why do you think that's interesting? So the "you" in my little rant is everyone who comes by to say they are tired of hearing about the subject. I guess I have to concede that some people who feel compelled to announce their tiredness actually wish for the success of the marriage equality movement. Fen offers no explanation for his behavior, dragging down the thread when he isn't a same-sex marriage opponent, and he proceeds to make many hostile remarks which I won't front page. What's that all about? I'll decline to speculate.

"Population-based studies... indicate that bisexuality is in fact more common than exclusively same-sex attraction..."

"... and that female libido is particularly open-ended," writes Michael Shulman in the NYT.
In a recent Modern Love essay in The New York Times revealing her relationship with another woman, the actress Maria Bello wrote, “My feelings about attachment and partnership have always been that they are fluid and evolving.” Before marrying Bill de Blasio, Chirlane McCray identified as a lesbian, which has become part of the progressive credentials of New York’s first family.

Male bisexuality, by contrast, is more vexed,

"The left is too silent on the clunking fist of state power."

A headline at The Guardian, linked to this morning by Instapundit, which called this image to my mind:


WaPo Fact Checker gives 2 Pinocchios to the claim that "more Americans have lost health insurance than gained it under Obamacare."

Glenn Kessler checks the accuracy of a GOP talking point that's put in various different ways. The quote in this post title is the way Marco Rubio phrased it, but there's also the really bad version that The Daily Caller put up, saying that Obamacare has "left more Americans without coverage than before the law was passed." See the difference? Rubio compares the set of persons who lost health insurance they had (even though they may have been able to replace it with some other health insurance) and those who had no health insurance and got health insurance. The Daily Caller is comparing the total number of persons who have "coverage" at 2 different time points: before and after Obamacare.

It's 18 below zero, with a wind chill at 45 below.

Here in Madison, Wisconsin. Everyone is staying in, so I see a danger of keeping too warm, losing one's acclimatization to the cold, so that when it warms up enough for some nice winter days outdoors — back to, say, 18 above — that will feel chilly. Perhaps we'll take a walk around the block at some point in the interest of preserving winter acclimatization. There's also the interest in being able to say that you remember when it was 18 below and you don't just remember it from reading what the temperature was from inside the house: You remember how it felt.

UPDATE: Meade reports that he stood outside, without a coat, but with his hands in his pockets, for about a minute. He says it was "painful." So I step outside, without a coat, with sleeves pulled down over my hands. It's surprisingly pleasant. Predawn, 7:15. Quiet. For many years, I'd believed that what's distinctive about temperature lower than 5 below is that when you breathe you feel the moisture in the air icing up inside your nose. You need to wrap a scarf around your face to create an antechamber for the air to make it breathable. But I had no scarf, and the breathing was fine. It felt good. But the door was at my back, and I knew I could withdraw into the warmth at any second. How much that changes the perception of cold!

The weathermen can tell you how much the element of wind affects the perception of cold, but they cannot calculate the effect of the mental element, which, even if it could be measured, varies from person to person and even within one person constantly changes. Our powers of mind enable us to get out and experience nature in winter, to the point where we might actually damage our bodies. The mentally strong have their stories of frostbitten hands and feet. It is possible to get hurt and even to die. The powers of mind must also be expended to take proper precautions, the best of which is access to an indoor refuge.

By the way, speaking of factors the weatherman doesn't report when they tell you what the wind makes the temperature feel like, how about the effect of wearing a woolly hat, a scarf around your face, insulated mittens and boots, and a very warm, long coat? They tell you the wind chill factor, but never the coat-warmth factor. The wind-chill factor is based on the feeling of blowing cold air over naked skin. To really know how it feels, I need to redo my front-stoop test naked. But dawn has now struck, and my test results would be crazily skewed by the public-nakedness-embarrassment factor.

January 5, 2014

At the Running Dog Café...



... get out there now! You can do it!

David Gregory, in a word choice he immediately regrets, speaks of Obamacare unraveling.

This was on "Meet the Press" this morning, at the end of an interview with a couple doctors (the delightfully named John Noseworthy of the Mayo Clinic and Toby Cosgrove of the Cleveland Clinic):
Thank you both for helping us get beyond the debates about Obamacare. I’d love to have you back and as this thing un-- unravels over the course of the year- - not unravels in a bad way -- but continues to roll out over the course of this year…
A song lyric comes to mind:
If you want to destroy my sweater
Hold this thread as I walk away
Watch me unravel, I'll soon be naked
Lying on the floor (lying on the floor)
I've come undone...
It's good to see you lying there in your Superman skivvies
Lying on the floor (lying on the floor)
I've come undone...

The details of evil, soothed by a perception that all is chaos.

"Survival was a moral as well as a physical struggle. A woman doctor wrote to a friend in June 1933 that she had not yet become a cannibal, but was 'not sure that I shall not be one by the time my letter reaches you.' The good people died first. Those who refused to steal or to prostitute themselves died. Those who gave food to others died. Those who refused to eat corpses died. Those who refused to kill their fellow man died. Parents who resisted cannibalism died before their children did."

Ta-Nehisi Coates quotes the passage from "The Bloodlands" that made him shut off his MP3 even though, as he puts it, he "generally ha[s] a strong stomach when it come to reading about evil." Coates goes on to say:

"On the desolate beach that is the lot of the contemporary book reader, the footprints of one companion can still be found."

"They belong to the writer, who needs the reader not just to pay her or his wages but also to give meaning to their words."
As John Cheever put it: “I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss — you can’t do it alone.”

The troubling thought occurs, however, that this last remaining cohabitant may also be about to depart the island. With falling advances, writing is evermore dominated by people who don’t need it to earn a living: Tenured academics and celebrities spring to mind. For these groups, burnishing a résumé or marketing a brand is often as important as satisfying the reader.

And then there are the hobbyists, those for whom writing is primarily an act of self-expression....
But if it's precisely like a kiss, isn't the hobbyist exactly what you want? Worrying about falling advances and people who don’t need it to earn a living? Prostitutes don't kiss!

“There are thousands of murderers walking around who haven’t been brought to justice.... It’s horrifying.”

Said Andy Rosenzweig, a former NYPD lieutenant, quoted in a NY Daily News article titled "Despite record-low murder rate, many homicide cases linger unsolved as families suffer."
The NYPD has won great praise for bringing crime down to historic lows. But lost amid the fanfare is a growing segment of New Yorkers like Rayside: Those waiting for justice in the murders of their loved ones. About 1,500 murders have gone unsolved over the last decade....

“The homicide squads are always pretty well staffed. As a matter of fact they do other things because the number of murders is way down,” [said Former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.] “I think the clearance rate is going to remain at roughly 70%, give or take. That’s just the way it is. There are … certain homicides that will never be solved. We don’t necessarily want to make that public, but that’s just the way it is.”
Horrifying or just the way it is? Both!

"The West is not there, and we are in the hands of two regional powers, the Saudis and Iranians, each of which is fanatical in its own way."

"I think we are witnessing a turning point, and it could be one of the worst in all our history.... I don’t see how they can reach any entente, any rational solution," said Elias Khoury, a Lebanese novelist, quoted in a NYT article titled: "Power Vacuum in Middle East Lifts Militants."

Unlike some recent NYT articles about conflict in the Middle East, there is some discussion of the role of the Obama administration: