February 1, 2014

At the Retriever Café...



... everyone has a role to play.

Christie was "low-key" yesterday, but today, he's getting "aggressive" against the NYT.

"A media firestorm was set off by sloppy reporting from the New York Times and their suggestion that there was actually ‘evidence’ when it was a letter alleging that 'evidence exists.'"

"Much of the wage gap can be explained away by simply taking account of college majors."

"Early childhood educators and social workers can expect to earn around $36,000 and $39,000, respectively. By contrast, petroleum engineering and metallurgy degrees promise median earnings of $120,000 and $80,000. Not many aspiring early childhood educators would change course once they learn they can earn more in metallurgy or mining. The sexes, taken as a group, are somewhat different. Women, far more than men, appear to be drawn to jobs in the caring professions; and men are more likely to turn up in people-free zones. In the pursuit of happiness, men and women appear to take different paths."

Writes Christina Hoff Summers in a piece called "No, Women Don’t Make Less Money Than Men."

ADDED: If working with people is considered a plus, such that job-seekers accept lower pay to have that kind of work, is there a problem? What if job-seekers tended to feel it was bad to have to work with others and avoided these jobs? The pay would go up. I think what we're seeing is that working with people is more likely to be a plus among women, and there are a lot of female job-seekers bidding the price down. You might say this is acceptable because it's not intentional discrimination against women; it's just everyone making individual personal choices, and a neutral market producing this effect. Those who still see a problem and want us to care should find a way to say it still matters, because the skewed preferences of women are leading to a disparate impact. I just wish they'd say that clearly and be accurate about the facts and not continually prod people to feel that there are nefarious employers deliberately short-changing women.

"The reason I’m leaving Congress."

By Henry Waxman.

An actual article by Henry Waxman, but it feels like a set-up for a joke.

Please tell the joke.

"You know, Republicans are getting a lot of flack these days, as they should, for waging a war on women. But what's the excuse for the country's most progressive mayor?"

"How can this strain of puritanism endure in the same city that pioneered the kinky hollowed parade? It was bad enough with New York City went all Rick Santorum on Eliot Spitzer to begin with. He's only the guy who arguably did more to reform Wall Street than any other American. Yeah, his libido got the best of him and he paid dearly for it. A brilliant man was reduced to a punchline and banished from public life. But now, anybody he touches has to go?"

Said Bill Maher on his show last night, criticizing Bill de Blasio, "a man so liberal he married a black lesbian," for rejecting a woman seemingly because she was dating Eliot Spitzer — "Lis Smith who ran Mayor Bill de Blasio's communications department in last year's campaign was all set to take over the job that she earned as his top spokesman." How do you "earn" a job as someone else's spokesperson? De Blasio gets to pick the person who speaks for him. If he didn't want to get any Spitzer on him, he's entitled.

#WhiteFeministRants...

... a trending hashtag.

Related to the Michelle Goldberg article we were talking about yesterday.

Hard to tell if these are right-wingers risking attempting to use the kind of third-rate humor that breeds on Twitter or whether non-white feminists are advancing in what Goldberg called the "toxic twitter war" amongst the feminists.

Whatever it is, it's not very funny, and I don't think conservatives have anything to gain by inserting themselves in an intrafeminist conflict, especially if they're feeling they've got something funny to say. As the feminist in the light bulb joke said: "That's not funny."

Amazon.

If you're enjoying this blog, please consider doing your on-line shopping through The Althouse Amazon Portal. If you go into Amazon through that link — which is also always in the banner at the top of this blog — and complete a purchase before clicking away, you will be directing a percentage of the purchase price to this blog, at no extra cost to you. Thanks to everyone who's been doing this.

If you're looking for suggestions, here's the slow cooker we just got that we like. And here's the main camera I've been using.  And the bag — a men's bag — that i use to carry my casebook around in.

Is Mary Burke even trying to defeat Scott Walker?

I'm reading this article in the Wisconsin State Journal about how, in the second half of 2013, Gov. Scott Walker raised $5.1 million and his Democratic challenger Mary Burke only raised $1.8 million:
Burke, a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive and member of the Madison school board, is running her first statewide campaign in an attempt to dim Walker's rising political stardom. She already has tapped $400,000 of her personal wealth on the effort.
Maybe that paragraph was just sloppily written, but it seems to say that the goal of defeating Walker is understood to be out of reach. There's nothing but an attempt/effort to diminish Walker's stature and impede his ability to run for President. 

It must be hard to inspire donations if that's all the campaign is about, especially when Burke doesn't seem to be doing much to tear Walker down. She doesn't even seem to be distinguishing herself from Walker. And look, she declined to show up with President Obama when he did that appearance at the GE plant in Waukesha (Wisconsin) the day after the SOTU. She claimed to be "too busy"!

Is she simply a placeholder to avert the humiliation of no opponent for Walker and because she has her own money? But if it's so obvious that I'm asking that right now, it is humiliating.

ADDED: State Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison says:
“If the president comes to your state and you’re running for governor, you drop what you’re doing and go. That’s just politics 101... The picture of her standing next to Obama (would have helped) her, especially because most people in Wisconsin don’t know her.”

Hulsey, who last year said Burke had the personality of a turnip, tweeted “@MaryBurkeGov is too chicken to greet @PresidentObamaB, #toochicken to repeal Act 10, #toochicken to be governor too?”

But Hulsey himself remains noncommittal about whether he’ll run for re-election, and if so, whether he would do so as a Democrat or independent. He also won’t rule out a possible long-shot gubernatorial bid.
Oh, really? Click on the Brett Hulsey link if the name's not familiar and you want to know why Meade laughed when I read "He also won’t rule out a possible long-shot gubernatorial bid" out loud.

As for Politics 101, maybe Politics 102 says when a candidate avoids appearing alongside the President, it means she strongly believes that the picture would not help her.

Why did the President say "art history"?

We were talking about this yesterday, and here's Virginia Postrel — via Instapundit — talking about the factual inaccuracy of pointing to art history, in particular, as a college major that might not correlate with a good income:
[A]rt history isn’t a major naive kids fall into because they’ve heard a college degree — any college degree — will get you a good job... [I]t’s famously elitist.... It’s stereotypically a field for prep school graduates, especially women, with plenty of family wealth to fall back on. In fact, a New York Times analysis of Census data shows that art history majors are wildly overrepresented among those in the top 1 percent of incomes. Perhaps the causality runs from art history to high incomes, but I doubt it.
That is, it's not that studying art history leads to a high-paying job, but that people who are already in a very affluent social class choose this major and then do very well exploiting pathways that exist for them because of pre-existing wealth. 

"If you don't mind, I must tell you that I am so glad that you are not some angry black man!"

"I am an angry black man," Reverend Alex Gee said. "Why would you think I wasn't angry over what is happening in and to my community? Is it because I put on my best face and 'safe' black voice for you today?"

Impoverished thoughts of retirement.

I'm reading this, in the NYT:
Although the average age at which current United States retirees say they stopped working is 61, up from 59 in 2003 and 57 in 1993, a January Gallup poll of 1,929 members of that generation found that 49 percent didn’t expect to retire until age 66 or older.
My first thought was: I'm surprised that the retirement age has been that low. Only 61 now, and not that long ago it was 57?

But then I see "retirees say they stopped working" and perceived the subtle merger of the idea of deliberately retiring (because you want and can afford it) and the involuntary loss of work (which becomes a permanent condition of retirement). And it's an average, so they're adding the people who keep working because they like it or because they need the money and who can't be forced out (because age discrimination is illegal) with those who lost their jobs and wanted to replace them but failed.

The night The Beatles first lit up our black and white TVs.

It was 50 years ago today...

[CORRECTION: No, it's 50 years ago on February 9th. I'm writing too early in the morning and misreading the notation on my calendar. Today, is the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first hitting #1 in the U.S.]

.... and you're probably seeing lots of clips of the very familiar part of the show when The Beatles stamped the look of 1964 into our permanent memory, including the second-hand memory of those yet to be born, but do you remember what the evening of February 1, 1964 really looked liked?

Back then, everyone watched "The Ed Sullivan Show." And there was no fast-forwarding. You had to watch the commercials and whatever mix of performances Ed had for us that week. The TV schedule was studded with "variety shows," and Ed's was the biggest. You could see rock and roll, and your parents could have rock and roll inflicted on them, but you had to listen to opera or jazz and watch plate-spinning acrobats and whatever else Ed had decided was appropriate, including Ed himself, on stage and introducing and vouching for everyone.

Can you endure the complete Ed Sullivan shows with The Beatles? Back in the earliest days of this blog, 10 years ago, I willingly submerged myself in the first show, the one that's 50 years old today:

January 31, 2014

Online feminism is full of "essays by people who feel emotionally savaged by their involvement in it — not because of sexist trolls, but because of the slashing righteousness of other feminists."

Writes Michelle Goldberg in "Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars/Empowered by social media, feminists are calling one another out for ideological offenses. Is it good for the movement? And whose movement is it?"

What's toxic about debate, disagreement, and hardcore argument? When was feminism ever supposed to be about being nice to anybody?

Goldberg's best example of feminist in-fighting:

Jon Stewart gets tough with Nancy Pelosi.

I think she expected something that would be at least a little fun, but instead it became a downward spiral of doom. Witness Nancy's nervous tics, jewelry rattling, and her go-to phrase "There's no excuse":

Bacon.

I'd said I was going to to step away from the computer to cook up a second pre-breakfast. Tank said: "Second pre-breakfast?... What are you a Hobbit? Or perhaps feeling a little eleven o'clockish? (It's always eleven o'clockish somewhere)." And I said:

The 10th pre-dawn post.

And still more than half an hour before sunrise.

It's one of those mornings. I love the pre-dawn hours, but sometimes it's a mad love. I hope you go on to read the 9 posts that I've already done. There is perhaps an insanity/rationality theme. I don't know, but I'm going to step away from the computer to cook up a second pre-breakfast.

ADDED: This is the view from my window right now, completely unretouched (and showing the computer screen in the dark room):

Untitled

"So happy to see someone playing game theory correct on Jeopardy. Totally nerded out after you bet to tie."

"You're awesome," said the tweet, which correctly discerned Arthur Chu's decision, which was based on the analysis of 2003 Jeopardy! College Champion Keith Williams, who made this YouTube video:

The teachers who feel disrespected by what the President said in Waukesha.

He was here in Wisconsin the day after the State of the Union. Spot the offense. It will be easy. Obama sees it too. He knows when he's stepping in it and tries to scrape it off, laugh it off:
A lot of parents, unfortunately, maybe when they saw a lot of manufacturing being offshored, told their kids you don't want to go into the trades, you don't want to go into manufacturing because you'll lose your job. Well, the problem is that what happened — a lot of young people no longer see the trades and skilled manufacturing as a viable career. But I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree. Now, nothing wrong with an art history degree — I love art history. (Laughter.) So I don't want to get a bunch of emails from everybody. (Laughter.) I'm just saying you can make a really good living and have a great career without getting a four-year college education as long as you get the skills and the training that you need. (Applause.)
Oh, you'll be getting emails. You'll be getting emails and letters and all forms of expression of hurt from the art history sector of the education economy. And let me play the gender card, because if this were not a President with gender immunity — that is to say, if this were a Republican President — the coded sexism would be translated and bruited about everywhere.

"Whether on the right or the left, paranoid libertarianism... is marked by 5 defining characteristics."

Cass Sunstein describes the symptoms that distinguish the insane libertarians.

1. A "wildly exaggerated sense of risks — a belief that if government is engaging in certain action... it will inevitably use its authority so as to jeopardize civil liberties and perhaps democracy itself." I guess the key word there is "inevitably," or I just don't see what's wildly exaggerated about thinking something like, oh, say, NSA surveillance jeopardizes civil liberties.

2. A "presumption of bad faith on the part of government officials." It's the presuming that's nutty, right? I guess we're allowed to be skeptical of the government without looking crazy. Hey! I'm beginning to feel like Cass Sunstein is the government official and he's in bad faith, trying to make us feel that we're crazy if we suspect the government isn't really all about helping us.

3. A "sense of past, present or future victimization." Should I delete my comment at #2? To be safe? Or does the government already know that comment is there, will still see it even after I delete it, and will count the deletion itself as further evidence of my paranoia, when they decide to round up the paranoid libertarians.

4. The "belief that liberty... is the overriding if not the only value, and that it is unreasonable and weak to see relevant considerations on both sides." The sane people balance values on both sides.

5. The "passionate enthusiasm for slippery-slope arguments." The paranoids think if you let the government take "an apparently modest step today," it will do one more thing and then another, and tyranny lies ahead. Only a nut case would think it proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties.

"Many of the images we gawked at were of overweight people, their every fold and dimple on full awful display."

"Piercings of every kind were visible. Women who’d had mastectomies were easy to discern—their chests showed up on our screens as dull, pixelated regions. Hernias appeared as bulging, blistery growths in the crotch area. Passengers were often caught off-guard by the X-Ray scan and so materialized on-screen in ridiculous, blurred poses—mouths agape, à la Edvard Munch. One of us in the I.O. room would occasionally identify a passenger as female, only to have the officers out on the checkpoint floor radio back that it was actually a man. All the old, crass stereotypes about race and genitalia size thrived on our secure government radio channels."

From "Dear America, I Saw You Naked/And yes, we were laughing. Confessions of an ex-TSA agent."

"Sandra Fluke may seek Henry Waxman House seat."

"I’m flattered that I’m being discussed as a potential candidate.... A number of folks I respect very deeply have reached out today and encouraged me to run. I am strongly considering running."

"He’s a young kid, and people will identify with him because of that. It’ll be in the media far more dramatically if he gets the penalty than if he doesn’t..."

"... and that’s a good argument for not giving him the death penalty.... He would become both a religious martyr, and a civil rights martyr." If, on the other hand, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is convicted and given a life sentence: "He will live in obscurity in jail and no one will remember him, not in two or three years."

Said Alan Dershowitz, an opponent of the death penalty, making the same points against the death penalty he would always make, and asserting "If [Tsarnaev] doesn’t get the death penalty then no one should."

Prosecutors announced yesterday that they are seeking the death penalty.

Do you agree with Dershowitz that what Tsarnaev is charged with doing is more deserving of the death penalty than anything else you can think of? Or do you think that's not exactly what Dershowitz is saying? Dershowitz thinks no one should get the death penalty, but we'd better have the guts to give it to baby-faced Tsarnaev, or shame on us for accepting the state's imposition of death on all the far less cute convicts at whose photographs we scarcely glance.

"They crucified me, so there are holes in my hands now."

"Other than that - they cut off my ear, cut up my face. My whole body is a mess. You can see everything. I am alive. Thank God for this."

Said Dmytro Bulatov, the Ukrainian activist.

ADDED: "Why are so many Ukrainians protesting?"

"They'll have to catch me and pull me back kicking and screaming into a prison that I don't deserve to be in."

"I'm definitely not going back to Italy willingly."
[Amanda] Knox said she was relatively fortunate in that she had been able to return to America, and that she was worried for Sollecito. "He's really scared. And really vulnerable. I think he feels abandoned by his own country. Where's he going to run and hide? It's a shame that more people aren't fighting to protect him."

"I would love to work for SodaStream. They’re quite privileged. People look up to them."

"It’s not the people who want to boycott, it’s the officials."
Leaning up against the cement half-walls of the bus stop, jackets pulled up over their cold hands and faces and cigarette butts glowing in the dark, [the SodaStream workers] blame the [Palestinian Authority] for failing to create jobs while taking a political stand against Israeli business that do.

“The PA can say anything it wants and no one will listen because it’s not providing an alternative,” says one man, a 2006 political science graduate of Al Quds University bundled in a jacket bearing the SodaStream logo. As for reports that the company doesn’t honor labor rights, that’s “propaganda,” he says. “Daniel [Birnbaum, the CEO of SodaStream,] is a peacemaker.”
This is in the American news because there's a Scarlett Johansson/Super Bowl ad angle.



"If only I could make this message go viral."

Just say the word.

January 30, 2014

"I don’t want to be morbid, but I just want to remind you that you have control here."

"We can turn the device off at any time. (It is your device and your life.)"

Script prepared by a doctor, for use speaking to a patient, quoted in a NYT article titled "A Decision Deferred: Turning Off the Pacemaker."

At the Orange Café...



... catch some sun.

Murder victim insisted that "the only real literature is prose."

Victim and murderer were — it says here — friends and, also, drunk.

(Via Slog.)

"Today, Vanity Fair ran an article with the headline 'Jennifer Lawrence Damaged Some Of Her American Hustle Costumes With Dorito Dust'..."

"... and it made the world stop, think, and ponder whether Jennifer Lawrence is either A) some sort of Weird Science-esque experiment designed to be an intensely relatable starlet, B) a figment of our collective imaginations, or C) I don't have a third for this list I just love her."

"This is clearly a case of selective prosecution for one of the most common things done during elections, which is to get people to raise money for you."

"If they went after everyone who did this, there would be no room in jails for murderers," says Alan Dershowitz (about the prosecution of Dinesh D'Souza).
The Justice Department's tactics remind Dershowitz of the words of Stalin's secret police chief, Lavrentiy Beria, who said, "Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime."

"This is an outrageous prosecution and is certainly a misuse of resources," charged Dershowitz. "It raises the question of why he is being selected for prosecution among the many, many people who commit similar crimes. This sounds to me like it is coming from higher places. It is hard for me to believe this did not come out of Washington or at least get the approval of those in Washington."

"It’s Not Just MSNBC Making Flip Assumptions About Non-Liberal Racism."

In case you've been distracted by the Cheerios this morning, Matt Welch explains things.

Things you only think about because of the internet.

I just Googled "history of the towel." Got to an article called "The History of the Towel":
The towel was a very important part of Turkish social life and continues to be so.  Originally, it had many uses such as, for the ceremonial bath of a bride before her wedding and for important occasions later in life.  Of course, the hamam also has had an undeniable relationship with these towels, as had the royalty of the Ottoman Empire. The towel would still be a drab piece of cloth were it not for the the intercession of the Ottomans in the 17th century.  Especially, thanks must go to the women in the palace that pushed their weavers to make more and more exquisite pieces.  They brought style, design and flair to towels....
Read the whole thing. My point isn't suddenly we must learn the history of the towel, it's that I reached a point this morning where I asked myself "What's the history of the towel?" and I expended 5 seconds of my life getting to an answer. Why? Because there's a towel on the floor — recently (not that recently) used to dry off a dog that rolled in the snow — and, instead of picking up the towel — as we did in the olden days — or thinking about picking up the towel — in the manner of more recent times — I'm free-associating about towels, in the jumble of my other random thoughts, which are set to perpetual tumble, powered by the continual availability of the spark of satisfaction that comes from Googling something and getting an answer.

"The female power brokers of Washington wear color like virtually no other group of working women."

Observes Robin Givhan, describing the absurdly bright colors worn by the female members of Congress at the State of the Union spectacle.
When will the gentlewomen of Congress stop feeling as though they must announce themselves for the cameras, their constituents and their colleagues? How many more women will it take in the upper echelons of Washington before they can all relax, suit up with authority — see Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) — and stop dressing like gumdrops?...

Congresswomen, there’s no need to peacock for the cameras.
Here's how I observed the same scene (in yesterday's post "10 things I might have live-blogged, if I'd blogged the State of the Union Address"):
Is every woman wearing bright red? As Obama squeezes in down the aisle, the backdrop of red looks like an array of military personnel from some European country, but it's just the congresswomen, bulging into the aisles. Of course, military personnel would clear a path, not make it more difficult for The Commander to walk by. The congressmen are less showily dressed. What choice do they have? If a male member wore anything other than a dark, neutral color, you'd think he's lost his mind, but the women seem to think they can't look crazy....  Incredible what women can do to themselves and still be taken seriously. Respect the women! You'd better. Or else!
Here's how Givhan describes what Michelle Obama wore:

"Researchers excavating unmarked graves at a notorious reform school in the Florida Panhandle... have retrieved the remains of 55 bodies...."

"The exhumations mark a milestone in a painstaking effort to unravel the longtime mystery of what happened to scores of children who were sent to the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla., and died...."
One of those hoping for answers is Ovell Krell, whose brother, George Owen Smith, was sent to Dozier in 1940 at the age of 14, allegedly for stealing a car with an older teen. The next year, the family received word that Owen had disappeared from the school and was later found dead of pneumonia. Although his parents asked the school to keep the body at a funeral home so they could retrieve it, the school buried him before they arrived, said Ms. Krell, 85 years old.

Unable to see Owen's body, his mother spent the rest of her life plagued with doubt. "Every night, she sat out on the porch, waiting to see if he could find his way home," Ms. Krell said. "My mother was never the same."

"I was amused that you quoted Virgil on arugula ('the rocket excites the sexual desire of drowsy people') since I eat the stuff every day."

"And I was most surprised to learn of boring old celery’s properties as an erection-enhancer and pheromone-jogger. What were you most surprised by?"

I was most surprised by the price of arugula.

Remember when powerful conservative voices were writing things like: "John McCain may be gaining what Obama is losing among women because of Obama’s 'Arugula Gap'"?
“Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?” Obama asked an Iowa crowd in 2007.... Most people don’t shop at Whole Foods (which specializes in “organic” foods and other environmentally-fashionable products). And most women, I suspect, aren’t looking for a presidential candidate who reminds them more of their high school French teacher than of John F. Kennedy....

It’s not Obama’s Ivy League bowling skills that are apparently hurting him among women voters. There are at least three factors. Obama is suffering from his effete personality, feminists’ hard feelings about Hillary’s fate, and Obama fatigue.

Obama is an effetenik, a white teacup, pinkie-in-the-air sort. Hillary is more of a shot-and-a-beer guy than he is. Obama is a prig: a moralizer who lectures people, a rhetorician who suffers badly when, deprived of a teleprompter, he’s left to his own devices....

Obama, the organic liberal chicken, doesn’t want to be the main course on McCain’s dinner menu. He is, as Fred Thompson said, George McGovern without the experience. The Arugula Gap may well sink him in November.
For the annals of it just goes to show how wrong you can be.

Arugula was an aphrodisiac.

January 29, 2014

"It looks like axolotls are gone forever. This may not mean much to you if you aren't into amphibians..."

"... but if you read Mad Magazine back in the day the word might conjure up some memories, or even a poem."

"Freshman Nicholas Wright said students felt trapped, bored, hungry and thirsty as they waited for someone to bring them home."

"He said the school had enough sandwiches to feed the girls but not the boys, and a fight broke out between students at one point," at North Atlanta High School, in yesterday's ice storm.
“We were all pent up, and there was really negative energy,” said Wright, who caught a ride home with a neighbor at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. “I would have much rather been at home than spending one more second there.”
Hey, now. What's going on?! Don't discriminate based on gender, teachers! If I were a teacher there, I'd be all about making the students feel that keeping them there made sense, and it was a good, camp-like situation, and I would want it to be something that they'd remember for the rest of their lives as a spontaneous and pretty nice occasion.

ADDED: Alternate interpretation: Maybe the school thought it was a good lesson for the young people to follow the "ladies first" tradition. In a situation where there is not enough food, who should stand back and allow others to eat? Perhaps every male — or every southern male? — should know to suffer some deprivation for the comfort of the females. But Mr. Wright hadn't gotten that message. If that was the lesson, the teachers on the scene should have communicated it, but perhaps that is not possible in a culture that has refrained from saying anything like that.

Adding heat.





At Meadhouse, this morning.

(The old crock pot's crock cracked, so we replaced it with this. Link goes to Amazon, where you know you can show some love for this blog by shopping.)

"If you don’t know how to pronounce a word, say it loud! Why compound ignorance with inaudibility? Why run and hide?"

Wrote E.B. White, quoted in "A Pronouncing Dictionary of the Supreme Court of the United States" (PDF). The authors of that article went to a touching amount of trouble to get the correct pronunciation of the most-likely-to-be-mispronounced names of Supreme Court cases.
To be sure, this is an inexact process, not only because of the sheer passage of time, but also because some litigants may not have pronounced their own names in the way native speakers, or others, might deem correct. Where we have come across that information, we have followed the choice of the litigant. In some cases, pronunciations may even change during the course of litigation. Rumsfeld v. Padilla is an example. Two litigants with the same last name may also elect to pronounce it differently.
Here's the website collecting the pronunciations.

"Three neologisms by @DavidLat that I've defined for Black's Law Dictionary (10/e): 'bench-slap,' 'judicial diva,' and 'litigatrix.'"

Tweets Bryan A. Garner. (And David Lat responds: "I can die now; my life's mission is complete!")

Arctic journey.

In the harsh winter morning light, Meade treks through the back yard to find Zeus.



We're not believers in the Greek Gods as a religion, just borrowers of a dog named Zeus who arrives through that path between those 2 buildings.

"America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel."

So wrote Allen Ginsberg, in the last line of his poem "America," which I'm thinking about this morning as I reflect on the State of the Union rhetoric. As long as I've compared that rhetoric to the work of one poet — Bob Dylan's "3 Angels" — the rules of blogging impel me to move on to the clear resonance with Allen Ginsberg. Obama said "shoulder to the wheel":
[F]or more than two hundred years, we have... placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress....
I've already said that "put your shoulder to the wheel" is an old cliché. If you clicked on my link in my "10 things I might have live-blogged, if I'd blogged the State of the Union Address last night," you saw that it went to The Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing "Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel," the lyrics of which form a poem:

"The wildest cat from Montana passes by in a flash/Then a lady in a bright orange dress..."

"One U-Haul trailer, a truck with no wheels/The Tenth Avenue bus going west/The dogs and pigeons fly up and they flutter around/A man with a badge skips by/Three fellas crawlin’ on their way back to work/Nobody stops to ask why...."

A Bob Dylan lyric that crosses my mind as I'm rereading point #5 of my "10 things I might have live-blogged, if I'd blogged the State of the Union Address last night." Something about "A man took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired" — on Obama's list of characters "today in America" — made me think of Bob Dylan's list of characters — and vehicles, including a bus — in "Three Angels." Dylan's song is about this "concrete world full of souls" who never notice the  angels. Obama's text is much longer, so it's harder to say what it's "about." It has nothing about angels or other supernatural entities, other than the conventional "God," whom we're not asked to notice. He's asked to notice us: "God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)"

Obama does refer to "spirit," but it's the workaday can-do "spirit that has always moved this nation forward" and "the spirit of citizenship." The highest aspirations are repeatedly termed "dreams," as in that above-quoted line about the bone-tired man on the bus, which continues with the mind-reading "he's dreaming big dreams for his son." Just before the invocation of God, there's the 2-word imperative "Believe it," but the "it" is nothing religious. "It" is the "dream" of an American where "dreams" really do come true, if we keep "our eyes cast towards tomorrow." In Obama's America, we cast our eyes, aspirationally, and see, not angels, but a decent-enough job, if we work hard and take personal responsibility.



In this concrete world full of souls...

10 things I might have live-blogged, if I'd blogged the State of the Union Address last night.

1. Most memorable line: "Are you going to have sex with me or do I have to rape you?" That's a paraphrase. Let me get the actual quote from the text. Obama said he had "a set of concrete, practical proposals," and "Some require congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still, and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation... that’s what I’m going to do."

2. The inanity of the congressional dress-up. Is every woman wearing bright red? As Obama squeezes in down the aisle, the backdrop of red looks like an array of military personnel from some European country, but it's just the congresswomen, bulging into the aisles. Of course, military personnel would clear a path, not make it more difficult for The Commander to walk by. The congressmen are less showily dressed. What choice do they have? If a male member wore anything other than a dark, neutral color, you'd think he's lost his mind, but the women seem to think they can't look crazy. "Shirley Temple is there," I said, spotting Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and being unfair to Shirley Temple, whose ringlets — as I do an image search this morning — look artlessly subtle and not at all like Debbie's headful of boing-y springs. Incredible what women can do to themselves and still be taken seriously. Respect the women! You'd better. Or else!

3. Obama kept kissing women. No selfies were taken, but what's with kissing so many women? "He should kiss some men," I said, and not because he's The First Gay President. He should kiss some men to establish that the kissing isn't sexual.

4. Meade announced "He looks high." I glanced up from the iPad game I was playing for the purpose of paying attention — solitaire — and noted the heavily drooping eyelids, then returned to my listen-only mode, with the audio in the room augmented by Meade's intermittent outbursts on the Obama-is-high theme, which fit the text, in ways that perhaps point #5 will make you see. If you're high. And, no, Obama said nothing last night about legalizing marijuana. And, also, Althouse and Meade were not high, not both of us or either of us. We were already talking and laughing as if we were. Artificial enhancement might tip us over into crying and despair.

5. Instead of talking about the government and anything related to his job or Congress's job, Obama begins by telling us about one American character after another, each described with irrelevant specificity. "An entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup...." Who the hell cares that the light was "flipped" on? Are we supposed to flip on with the excitement of your action verb "flipped"? This is why I don't read pulp novels. Characters continually commit actions that create a picture in your head, but it's always a dumb picture — flicking on light switches — and these details don't matter, don't connect to any meaning the author has to give. It's the opposite of turning on light. I can imagine the speechwriter deluding himself into thinking that this picture would somehow intrigue us, but it makes us feel that our time is being wasted. "An autoworker fine-tuned some of the best, most fuel-efficient cars in the world..." There's zero pretense that anybody checked to see if there really was that guy — "today in America" — doing exactly that. It's detail that is really the absence of detail. We're swimming in bullshit. "A man took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired" — no one noticed "bone" next to "grave"?! — "but dreaming big dreams for his son" — a deliberate allusion to Obama's autobiography title? I know he's trying to say This Is America. Like that's going to open us up for the paragraphs of policy that we know lie ahead.

6. The characters are more real when they're present in the room, like "Misty DeMars... a mother of two young boys." Okay, they really did find a person to represent this generality, and she's undeniably real. She's right there. But what does it mean that one particular lady got insurance? It's all worthwhile — all the clusterfuck of Obamacare — because Misty DeMars got insurance? And there's Estiven Rodriguez. Something about education happened to him, so that must mean something. I forget what. We got distracted by the way Obama's said "Rodriguez" — close to "Rod Regrets."

7. It's late, and we got tired, and we're on Central Time. I felt a little sorry for all those 50 and 60ish Congressfolk having to act excited that late at night. We were watching the speech on TV, and then I got it streaming on the mini-iPad, and we got in bed, each reading on iPads, while the mini, between us, blabbed on. Do those Congressfolk feel they're enjoying rare privilege, or do they wish they could be in bed too? I notice none of them seem to be wearing glasses, but they must need glasses, which means they are all wearing contact lenses. That must feel awful that late at night.

8. So much clapping. Clapping is quite an annoying noise, and this clapping happens and is going to happen so regularly, so exaggeratedly. The time-wastage is a constant, nagging presence. The speech is literally claptrap. Our legislative branch is trapped into clapping. At least the Democratic side. The judicial branch is represented, but they're trapped into not clapping. I see Roberts, Kennedy, and Kagan. (Kagan glowed red when Obama greeted her at the beginning.) I don't see Scalia, who once called the State of the Union "a juvenile spectacle" and said: "I resent being called upon to give it dignity…. It’s really not appropriate for the justices to be there." I, too, resent being called upon to give it dignity, not that anyone's calling on me, and I wonder if it's "appropriate" for a law professor to blog the SOTU into the indignity it deserves. Am I saying anything properly legal? If you don't think so, reread point #1 and dig the dignity of the lawprof blogger's concision.

9. With all the applause made the absence of applause stunning at the end the last thing he said about Iran. I said: "Wow!" at the time and made a mental note to check the text in the morning. It's: "If Iran’s leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon. But if Iran’s leaders do seize the chance — and we’ll know soon enough — then Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community of nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war."

10. The speech that began with a string of generically specific American characters ends with a long tribute to one character, present in the gallery, an Army Ranger named Cory Remsburg. He's already been on camera numerous times because he's sitting next to Michelle Obama (who, by the way, is wearing something that seems halfway between a 1950s little girl's party dress and an enlarged insect's carapace). There can be no dissent from solemn respect for Cory Remsburg, but are we to be bamboozled into thinking there can be no disrespect for this speech? Why is the President using Cory Remsburg as his shield from criticism, as he creaks to the end of this spectacle? Maybe everyone's so tired and so desirous of an end that we will be swept up into this it-must-be-the-last story — The Story of Cory — after which the applause must be so long and thunderous — because it must be bigger and louder than any of all the previous applauses — that we will have forgotten everything, as we dissolve into Dreams From My President.

But it's morning now, and I have the text. I can read where he bounced off the Army Ranger. Cory embodies the will and strength to fight back. It's not easy. "Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged." Obama has stumbled and made mistakes, not that he directly admits it. Look there: It's Cory. But Cory didn't stumble and make mistakes. He did his duty, got injured, and kept going, doing what he, individually, needed to do. But he is appropriated to symbolize The People as a Whole. America as an entity moves forward: We have "placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress." The dismal old cliché put your shoulder to the wheel gets tricked up with the lefty words "collective" and "progress," and the workmanlike action verb "put" becomes the never-did-a-day-of-manual-labor word "placed." And now, we've gotta get out of this place, back into our individual lives, and I don't want to be in your collective, I'm tired of your "progress," and I've got my own wheels.

January 28, 2014

The State of the Union.

Feel free to talk about it here. I'm probably too tired to write anything until tomorrow, but, frankly, even if I weren't tired, I'd find this tiresome.

At Nearly Zero Café...



… it's almost time to venture forth and I'm trying to be positive.

Why does the 3-toed sloth, unlike the 2-toed sloth, descend from its tree to defecate?

Why take the risk? The risk is only taken maybe once a week, but still: "The sloth is highly vulnerable on the ground and an easy prey for jaguars in the forest and for coyotes and feral dogs in the chocolate-producing cacao tree plantations that it has learned to colonize." The 2-toed sloth defecates from the tree, so why does the 3-toed sloth descend?

University of Wisconsin biologists find the key — which involves moths and algae — to this mystery.

Woody Allen's "indifference to the gossip has always struck me not as a decision so much as an involuntary and organic reaction."

"In fact, during a written exchange that day in which I mentioned the tweet attack, he was more focused on giving me advice about a stye I had on my eyelid that I joked was probably a brain tumor: 'I agree, you probably do have a brain tumor. You should get your affairs in order quickly as those things can move rather rapidly. You’ll probably start to have some problems with your balance—don’t panic—it’s quite natural for a brain tumor.' He then counseled me not to use up my 'remaining days' fretting over Mia."

But if Woody Allen won't speak, Robert B. Weide will.

ADDED: "In 1969, at the age of 24, [Mia] became pregnant by musician/composer André Previn, 40, who was still married to singer/songwriter Dory Previn. The betrayal is said to have led to Dory Previn’s mental breakdown and institutionalization, during which she received electroconvulsive therapy. She would later write a song called, 'Beware of Young Girls' about Mia. Maybe sleeping with your friend’s husband doesn’t earn as many demerits as sleeping with your girlfriend’s adopted daughter, but if you’re waving the 'Never Forget' banner in Mia’s honor, let’s be consistent and take a moment to also remember the late Dory Previn."

"Unless I have got confirmation from scientists that this condition is not genetic, but a behavior that is acquired..."

... Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni will not sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Homosexuality is already illegal in the East African nation, and violence against the country's LGBT population has been steadily increasing since the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was first introduced in 2009, according to activists on the ground. When the legislation was first introduced in Parliament, it called for the death of anyone who committed "aggravated homosexuality," which included repeated "offenses," sexual relationships in which either person was HIV-positive, or any encounter that involved a minor.

At the Temptation Café...



... we don't have to fight about it.

"President Obama will announced plans to use his executive authority to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for federal contract workers during the State of the Union address..."

"... Federal workers like janitors, construction workers and dishwashers hired under new federal contracts would benefit from the new order, which the White House calls an example of how the president can 'lead by example.'"

Is that "example" or fiat? Since he's spending the taxpayers' money, he's not really an example, if what he's purporting to do is model behavior that private businesses could follow. They don't get to pay people with money raked in from the general populace.

But who's really getting a raise here? Do janitors and construction workers make minimum wage? Who are the minimum wage federal employees? How many are there?

"Who would you like to hear arguing with Hillary? What's the best theater?"

"We know the outcome, so I think these are the relevant questions."

I say, in the comments to on "Rand Paul reveals — in an interview with a 4th grader — that there's a 50-5o chance he'll run for President."

Having quoted Paul saying that the media will "get meaner and meaner when you run for president" and "pick you apart," I add:
And, yeah, the media will get meaner and meaner, so who would you enjoy seeing bullied for the next 3 years?

I think Rand Paul would be a great choice.

As for Scott Walker, we've got to keep him in Mad Town.

Headless portraits.

A 19th century photography fad.

"The more an image mirrored some element of my memories and took me back, the more I felt a connection...."

"It’s painful and humiliating to admit to myself, let alone the whole world, but I pictured myself as a child in the image or video.... In the aftermath of my arrest and all that followed, the mental equilibrium I had created to deal with my past is gone. Today the memories fly at me whenever they choose. They’re the first thing I see when I wake and the last thing I think about before falling asleep. I am not in control of anything anymore, not even my own memories. It’s terrifying."

Rand Paul reveals — in an interview with a 4th grader — that there's a 50-5o chance he'll run for President.

Because if a kid asks you a question, you've got to give a straight, clear answer. And I love the way he elaborates in a way that a kid can relate to:
“It is a big job to do, to run for president...It would take traveling around the country, it would mean I’d be home less time, get to see my kids [for] less time. And the people in the media, they get meaner and meaner when you run for president because they pick you apart and say your clothes don’t look good, your hair looks bad, you need a haircut."
People get meaner and meaner! And they sure will tell you your hair looks bad. When I saw Paul on "Meet the Press" the other day, I observed that his hair was changing, becoming more normal, less ratty and goofy. Oh! I'm being mean. New media mean. All I mean is: I think he is going to run for President because I'm reading the tea leaves hair tendrils.

An explosion caused by cows burping and farting — in Germany.

Methane plus a static electric spark blew up a cow shed in Rasdorf.

Police in the Philippines using a "torture wheel."

"Police reportedly spun the wheel to select abuse for detainees. Punishments included 'bat position,' where people were hung upside down for 30 seconds."

"The key business model of the year for wearables is becoming embedded into the health care system..."

"Selling wearable consumer electronics one-on-one to individual consumers is kind of a tough business.... By embedding them into the health care system, you can reach a mass market."

Says an analyst of wearable devices, quoted in a NYT article titled "Google Glass to Be Covered by Vision Care Insurer VSP." It's not just devices integrated into eyeglasses. It's also "computers that people can ingest, tattoo on their skin or embed in a tooth."

Well, great, because if people come at me looking like that lady wearing Google Glass at the link, I'm not going to want to talk to her. I hope I won't be accused of discriminating against the differently abled.

Now, it's going to be part of health-care, this augmentation by device. And we're all supposed to pool our money — build up the pool — while people tap it for their playthings.

Come on! This is so much worse than covering birth control. With birth control, you're staving off other costs that would take more out of the shared money pool. I know some opponents of the birth-control-coverage requirements of Obamacare think women ought to pay their own expenses if they choose to indulge in the kind of sexual pleasures that can result in pregnancy, but at least it's arguably bottom-line cost effective, and the group doesn't have the power to require women to avert pregnancy. Free birth control is an incentive to do something that saves the group money.

But what's with these tricky new computers becoming part of the health insurance system? You've got manufacturers scheming, marketing. And I'm predicting that they are leveraging male disaffection with the insurance system that seems to be making men pay for stuff for women. Here's something for the guys. They love their computers. The photo at the link is of a weird lady wearing Google Glass, but that's a trick to throw you off.

"Over the past five decades, the Out Party has tried solos, duos, men, women, men and women, press conferences, films and telethons..."

"... in generally unsuccessful attempts to match the presidential pageantry. The Republicans had 17 responders in 1968; the Democrats used to trot out 10 or 12 at a time in an attempt to match Reagan’s star power during the early 1980s."

Writes political biographer John Aloysius Farrell in a piece titled "The State of the Union Curse/Why responding to the president can be hazardous to your political career."

Do you even know who's doing the SOTU response this year?

It's Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Do you even know who she is? Do you think her diminuitiveness is appropriately augmented by having a second responder? That's what they're doing, those brilliant Republicans, who no, no, no are not having a war on women. There's a second SOTU response, from Senator Mike Lee — ostensibly on the theory that the Tea Party should have its own voice.

I sure hope America gets that, as opposed to thinking: Oh, there are the Republicans for you. They show you they actually have a woman, but then they bring out their real person, the pasty old white guy.

Don't tell me it would be wrong for people to take that message. The whole point of the SOTU response is messaging. Whatever message is received is the message. I'm tired of the explanations for all the poorly delivered messages from Republicans. They've got to improve their messaging.

Here's a big clue for you all: Don't Disrespect The Woman.

"Oh, sure. I mean, you know, you make these choices based on imperfect information. And you make them to... as we say, the best of your ability."

"But that doesn't mean that there's not going to be unforeseen consequences, unpredictable twists and turns."

Hillary Clinton, setting up her expression of regret for "what happened in Benghazi."

"I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs."

"I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this," said Pete Seeger, in 1955, subpoenaed to testify before a thing we used to have called the House Un-American Activities Committee. They thought he was a Communist, and he was a communist. "With a small 'c,'" he liked to say. He'd been a Communist with a capital C too, but he'd quit, and he said he should have quit earlier.

His group The Weavers had been a success, with records like "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" (1951), but getting called a communist — and actually being one — wrecked the commercial path forward.
Mr. Seeger was indicted in 1957 on 10 counts of contempt of Congress. He was convicted in 1961 and sentenced to a year in prison, but the next year an appeals court dismissed the indictment as faulty. After the indictment, Mr. Seeger’s concerts were often picketed by the John Birch Society and other rightist groups. “All those protests did was sell tickets and get me free publicity,” he later said. “The more they protested, the bigger the audiences became.”
By then, the folk revival was prospering. In 1959, Mr. Seeger was among the founders of the Newport Folk Festival. The Kingston Trio’s version of Mr. Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” reached the Top 40 in 1962, soon followed by Peter, Paul and Mary’s version of “If I Had a Hammer,” which rose to the Top 10.
Much more in the long NYT article at the link, including his education at Harvard; his encounter with the folklorist Alan Lomax, and, through Lomax, Lead Belly; his alliance with Woody Guthrie, traveling around playing for migrant workers in 1940; his WWII-era group the Almanac Singers, who played anti-war and then antifascist songs; campaigning for presidential candidate Henry Wallace in 1948; his central place in the great folk music revival circa 1960; playing "We Shall Overcome" at Civil Rights Movement rallies; and getting betrayed by Bob Dylan.

Imagine experiencing nearly a century of American history from such a central place. What a lucky man. Pete Seeger lived to be 94.

-13.8, "feels like -35°," and "Today is forecast to be Warmer than yesterday."

Checking out the weather report, at 5:17 a.m.

The University has cancelled classes today, but only for the morning. I don't remember ever seeing classes cancelled for coldness alone. But my class isn't cancelled. It's in the afternoon, when we are expected to hit 0.



UPDATE, 10 a.m.: We're up to -8.5°. "Feels Like -29°."

January 27, 2014

"It’s a song about flirting, about going out and partying, about having fantastic, adventuresome, totally enthralling sex–with your spouse."

"This may not be the vision of marriage conservatives intended to try to promote. And it’s absolutely a more aspirational, exciting good than the idea that marriage will discipline wayward men or provide support for women who can’t manage economically on their own."

So... believing the sentiments expressed in pop lyrics and the staged enactment of passion... that's the fresh approach? Well, sex sells better than advice about careful household budgeting, but why would it sell marriage? And assuming you can bamboozle the young folk into marrying with a hyped promise of fantastic, adventuresome, totally enthralling sex, isn't that laying the groundwork for divorce? But who believes the hype? Is anyone excited by excitement? Exciting people about excitement is a short term game.

That said, I remember being 14 and sold on the thrill of marital love by Sonny and Cher.



But I was young and I didn't know.

"We played that song in a different key every night. It was never in the same key."

"The tour manager would say, ‘It’s in A flat tonight.’ Or we’d already be out onstage, and we’d talk to Tony Garnier, the bass player, and somehow ask him which key and he’d say, ‘A flat.’ And that’s in front of a lot of people. But Dylan never told us. I think he likes putting himself and his band into a corner, to see if they can play their way out."

At the Workwear Café...



... that was some serious Wisconsin shopping, as the temperature descends into the negative double digits. P.S.

"Whenever a spousal spat began to escalate, I was reminded that Mitt Romney was unfailingly sweet to his wife."

"'We could never, ever say anything bad about my mom,' Mitt’s son, Josh, helpfully recalls in the video."

"Fox News didn't even do this. Fox News didn't even cover it. And it's huge, folks. It's the way out! It's what the Tea Party claims to want."

It's...

Greta calls out Erick Erickson as "such a jerk" — "a repeat offender" with a "pattern of being disrespectful to women."

"I don’t care how much you disagree or agree with Texas’ Wendy Davis, you have to agree that this guy, Erick Erickson, is a real jerk and is really lousy at being a spokesperson for his views."

His tweets read: "So Abortion Barbie had a Sugar Daddy Ken. Not exactly the bio she claimed." And: "Wendy Davis is upset you want the truth and she can't handle it. She's so cute when she's lying."

"President Clinton did a bad, bad thing, Monica Lewinsky was not precisely an innocent victim completely..."

"... I recall thong flashing there," says WaPo's Ruth Marcus, noting the tendency of Republicans like Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul to portray women, "when it comes to sex and sexual activity," as "either innocent victims or... sexually promiscuous, slutty, low-life women." It should be that "women get to use sex and sexual activity and with that use contraception responsibly just like men do."

This is similar to what I said yesterday:
If young women are "conquering the world" (as Paul said), why not credit Monica Lewinsky with her conquest of the world's most powerful man? She was enthusiastic and willing, from what I read.
I had a problem with Rand Paul's talking about Lewinsky as a "young girl" who was taken "advantage" of. He acknowledged the importance of rules against sexual harassment, but for what I thought was the wrong reason:
I think the sexual harassment problem in the case of Bill Clinton has to do with other women who were pressured to have sex and with the women and men who were not in a position to improve their standing in the workplace by interacting sexually with the boss.
Lewinsky was young and seems really to have fallen in love with Bill Clinton, who blithely used her for his selfish amusement, but she was an adult and she made choices. As Ruth Marcus said, "women get to use sex... just like men." That's freedom. That's personal autonomy. And a lot of use goes on.

It's nice to hear Marcus plainly say that Clinton's use of Lewinsky was "a bad, bad thing," and I think some people really will feel that it's got something to do with whether he gets to reside in the White House again, even if it's counting the misdeeds of the man against the wife. When the wife is asking for the distinction of First Woman President, there's some sense in thinking about all of the relevant women issues.

I'd like to see Hillary run on the argument that she's the best. Don't do anything at all to get us hyped up about achieving another "first." Just be the best. It makes more sense, and it might be the easiest path.

"Gawker Media has made a business of predatory journalism, violating people's rights to make a buck."

"This time, they went too far. Rather than merely publishing a news story reporting that Plaintiff's screenplay may have been circulating in Hollywood without his permission, Gawker Media crossed the journalistic line by promoting itself to the public as the first source to read the entire Screenplay illegally."

That's the language of the complaint filed in federal court by Quentin Tarantino. 

People's rights to make a buck. That's pithy.

"Its kinda ironic that an article announcing a new website that is going to focus on giving us context failed to do so..."

Says a commenter to Ezra Klein's announcement, on Vox, that "Vox is our next," which seems to have puzzled the Vox readers. Ezra responded to that comment with:
This is fair! This article absolutely lacks some necessary context. OTOH, the necessary context is a site we haven’t built yet! Stay tuned!
Puts a new twist on the old saying: You didn't build that.  Sometimes "you didn't build that" means "It ain't built."

Unbuilt websites... to clarify the context... and Ezra clarifies the context of nonexistence of the context clarifying. When there's nothing to explain, is it a criticism to say that nothing has been explained?

***

"A Zen Master lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening, while he was away, a thief sneaked into the hut only to find there was nothing in it to steal. The Zen Master returned and found him. 'You have come a long way to visit me,' he told the prowler, 'and you should not return empty handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.' The thief was bewildered, but he took the clothes and ran away. The Master sat naked, watching the moon. 'Poor fellow,' he mused, 'I wish I could give him this beautiful moon.'"

And the meaning of that is: If you're already naked, it's very easy to moon somebody, but not if they've already left.

What is this "old school" blogging you speak of?

An aversion to paragraph breaks? That's my first thought on looking at Will Wilkinson's post bemoaning the loss of something that once was.

Why can't I just drain a little overflow off the top of my head at any given moment and move on? Will says:
The idea that the self is an “illusion” tends to be grounded on the false assumption that if the self is anything at all, it must be a stable inward personal quiddity available to introspection. But of course there is no such thing. The Zen masters are right. 
Okay, so maybe a blog is a better representation of who you are and what life might be than any other form of expression, but Will's main problem seems to be that you can't do it right if you're doing it for money.
A personal blog, a blog that is really your own, and not a channel of the The Daily Beast or Forbes or The Washington Post or what have you, is an iterated game with the purity of non-commercial social intercourse. 
What do the Zen masters say about purity? Hei Neng said: "If you cherish the notion of purity and cling to it, you turn purity into falsehood. Purity has neither form nor shape, and when you claim an achievement by establishing a form known as purity... you are purity bound."

If you're enjoying the Althouse brand of old-school blogging, please use the Althouse Amazon Portal. Perhaps you need some quiddity. Or Zen supplies.

At the China Dog Café...



... the internet is hinky this morning, at least from my frozen outlet. The -8 temperature might be icing it over, wrecking my flow. It's one of those days when I realize that I may have a successful blog, but somebody along the line gave me some help... Somebody helped to create this unbelievable World Wide Web system that has allowed me to thrive. Somebody invested in this series of tubes. I've got a blog, I didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.

And you, the reader, can make this post happen, by commenting here, perhaps from a less frozen outpost. From my iced-in place, I invite you to keep up the flow.

What is that telephone hold music?

An old man's dogged search to find out — a "This American Life" episode with a very satisfying narrative arc. Listen here.

Sad-eyed President of the Lowlands.

I'm reading this Juan Williams column at The Hill because it's titled "Williams: Time for Obama to punch hard," mainly because I'm interested in the phrase "punch back twice as hard," which the headline invokes.

Do you remember the origin of the phrase ? Obama opponents have been quoting it for a long time. Who started it? Obama, when first running for office, said "I want you to argue with them and get in their face," which isn't the same as a punch in the face, though it does recommend aggression (of the verbal kind). Of course, "punch back twice as hard" is also only a recommendation of verbal aggression, delivered with the verbal aggression of a physical violence metaphor.

But "Punch back twice as hard" came from deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, and the whole quote was: "If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard." So within the metaphor, the other side has hit you first.

And, indeed, Williams does portray the President as having been hit.

Was it "adorable" for Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr to enact reunion at The Grammys?

Here's how Buzzfeed presents it:
Paul McCartney And Ringo Starr Reunited At The Grammys And It Was Adorable
The other two Beatles couldn’t be there, so they did Paul’s new song "Queenie Eye."
Paul McCartney — deemed "the cute one" since he arrived on the world stage a half century ago — is a 71-year-old man. "The other two Beatles couldn’t be there" because of the utterly unadorable reality of death. Ringo seems to be a nice enough man, but he's roped into appearing on stage while Paul plays his new song. That is, Paul has another record. He's an industrious musician who has consistently put out records over the decades and kept himself in the public eye one way or another, and this year presents a special opportunity, working The Beatles' 50th anniversary.

It's appropriate to include Ringo, who's also put out records over the years, and whose survival — he's 73 — makes it possible to augment Paul with a living human and call it "The Beatles," not that Paul wanted to play some old Beatles song for the occasion. And it's not as if Ringo and Paul haven't reunited before. Buzzfeed says: "This is the first time Ringo and McCartney have performed together since 2009." A 5 year gap. So what?

Back in the 1970s, there was always talk about whether The Beatles would get back together. It was an over-discussed topic that had gotten to be a pathetic wish and a failure to recognize the good work all 4 of them had done post-Beatles. I remember when John Lennon died, in 1980, the first thought that crossed my mind that wasn't completely sad was: That ends all the talk about whether there will ever be a Beatles reunion.

When The Beatles were together, in the 1960s, no one who cared about them gave a damn about The Grammys, which didn't seem to get rock and roll at all. The Record of the Year for singles released in 1964 was "The Girl from Ipanema" by Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz. It was amazing that The Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was even nominated, because no rock song had ever been nominated. The other nominees were "Downtown" (Petula Clark), "Hello, Dolly!" (Louis Armstrong), and "People" (Barbra Streisand). There was a term for what the Grammys rewarded back then: "easy listening." Or as I thought about it at the time: things that Cousin Brucie should not even play but did.

Having therefore always hated The Grammys, I'm not in tune with whoever watched The Grammys last night and have no idea what might seem "adorable" to them or why they would even want men in their 70s to be adorable... unless it's the way that young people patronize the very old. They're not that old.

January 26, 2014

David Gregory tries to drag Rand Paul into the war on women.

On "Meet the Press" this morning, Gregory seemed intent on extracting something from Rand Paul that would hurt him with women voters.

First, Gregory started the interview with Mike Huckabee's gift to the Democrats, the statement that birth control coverage implies that women "cannot control their libido." Gregory asks Paul whether that's "helpful," and Rand Paul goes meta, saying "a lot of debates in Washington... get dumbed down and are used for political purposes," which is a way of saying Gregory's question is dumb. Then Paul jokes, "if there was a war on women, I think they won," and proceeds to talk about the women in his family, who are doing well, and the fact that women now outnumber men in law schools and med schools. He concludes that he doesn't see women as "downtrodden." They are "rising up and doing great things." In fact, he worries about men, "because I think the women really are out-competing the men in our world."

"Only a few weeks into this midterm election year, the right-wing political zeppelin is fully inflated with secret cash and is firing malicious falsehoods at supporters of health care reform."

Begins a NYT editorial, which ends:
The Internal Revenue Service and several lawmakers are beginning to step up their interest in preventing “social welfare” organizations and other tax-sheltered groups from being used as political conduits, but they have encountered the usual resistance from Republican lawmakers. Considering how effectively the Koch brothers are doing their job, it’s easy to see why.

At the Black Hat Café...



… I've got to block the bright sun so I can gaze at my screen.

"I Hope, Sir, that we are not mutually Un-friended by this Difference which hath happened betwixt us."

The earliest use of the seemingly recent verb "unfriend" was found by the Oxford English Dictionary way back in 1659 (in T. Fuller Let. P. Heylyn in Appeal Injured Innoc. iii).

Noted in "Language by the Book, but the Book Is Evolving/O.E.D.’s New Chief Editor Speaks of Its Future."

"She said something like, 'If you’re so immature that your wife is mothering you, and that turns you off and you can’t communicate it, that’s your problem.'"

"She was hard on me. And I was O.K. with that. She’s very authentic."

And: "... if woman is so domesticated and all she wanted is security, why did every civilization need to lock her up if she wasn’t going anywhere, anyway?"

Ancient Willie Nelson rolled out as a gently giggling prop...

... so Bill Maher can blab about legalizing marijuana. I found that very unpleasant. Willie's a beautiful singer-songwriter, and I would prefer not to see him used as an icon of pot-smoking. He's old, and I don't really expect him to articulate policy opinions, but his failure to do much more than giggle actually makes the argument against smoking pot.

I'm also reading Maureen Dowd's new column, which begins, "So you want to get high in a high-end way in the Mile High City." (I can't believe we're not past "Mile High City" jokes, but I guess putting in another "high" — "high-end" — gives you a time extension on "mile high.")

There are some dismaying resort operations exploiting the aging Baby Boomers' urge to spend money getting some legal(ish) marijuana at long last, e.g., "Dale Dyke and his wife, Chastity Osborn, a massage therapist" who are turning their house into a bed-and-breakfast, replete with "a tether ball, a camera in the living room to Skype your friends stoned, an outdoor swing 'where you can have a good time and catch a buzz,' and 'maybe a nerf horseshoe court.'" Picture it. Did you picture it nude? Well, it's clothing-optional. The business plan is to charge guests for the room, then give the homegrown pot to them.

Robot says hi to tea.



A photo from yesterday. This morning, I'm saying hi to new snow on all that beyond-the-window scenery.

IN THE COMMENTS: EDH says, referring to my idea for a new product:
Robot thought bubble: Whew! I'm so glad you "have a mug of hot liquid [to] hold onto it as needed" instead of "smooth metal devices that fit comfortably into various bodily orifices."
And I say:
Actually, that double-wall glass is bad for hand-warming. I recommend a nice ceramic mug.

Maybe the devices for orifice warming should be ceramic...
And then I think about Meade's handiwork. You saw it here in May 2009, on one of those beautiful days before we were married, when I visited him in his little house in Ohio, the one with what Bissage called the "nicely scrubbed stove top." It looked like this:



Reminisced about here.

"Just so we’re clear on this: I still love football. I love the grace and the poise of the athletes."

"I love the tension between the ornate structure of the game and its improvisatory chaos, and I love the way great players find opportunity, even a mystical kind of order, in the midst of that chaos. The problem is that I can no longer indulge these pleasures without feeling complicit...."

From a NYT Magazine essay asking the question: "Is It Immoral to Watch the Super Bowl?" The question-asker is Steve Almond. Am I supposed to know who he is? (Is it immoral not to know?) There's no note about the author on the page and the name isn't a hot link. What's his moral authority?

Perhaps he wants his ideas judged by the strength of this one text, like an anonymous pamphleteer, but I Google his name and see that he's a short-story writer and that he was an adjunct professor in creative writing at Boston College who resigned in protest when Condoleezza Rice was brought in to do the school's commencement address. Moral authority noted.

"'blubber-up' sounds like a really disgusting soda."

Says Ron, the first commenter on the last post.

Blubber-Up is real. I've seen it. Here:

"Is the rise of central heating a contributor to the obesity epidemic?"

Asks Instapundit, linking to Stephan Guyenet, a neurobiologist, who describes some biological processes related to brown fat (fat with lots of mitochondria) and thermogenesis (activated by the brain). Maybe the lack of exposure to cold air is keeping the brain from activating the brown fat? Guyenet describes a study:
The protocol involved exposing people to 60 F (15-16 C) air for two hours on day 1, four hours on day 2, and six hours on days 3-10. Although I assume they were lightly clothed, this is a pretty mild cold exposure.
Here in Wisconsin, where I'm only hoping for temperatures above zero and wind chills above the negative single digits, we set the thermostat at 60° so it's interesting to hear this called "pretty mild cold exposure."