March 8, 2014

"Why Scott Walker was smart to skip CPAC."

4 reasons, from Jaime Fuller in the Washington Post.
1. Scott Walker 2014 Before Walker can (or should) think about running for the presidency, he needs to win re-election to his seat in Wisconsin....

2. CPAC is designed to give lesser known conservatives a chance to shine. Walker had his moment.... Conservatives know who Walker is, and they don't need a reminder of that two years away from the primaries.

3. There's nothing wrong with being mysterious two years out from a presidential contest....

4. Going to CPAC = being in the media spotlight.... By staying away, Walker avoids that judgment-fest.

"It's not just a city of gay men. It belongs to heterosexual people as well."

Says the gay male city councilman as he votes to take down the rainbow flag over city hall in West Hollywood....
Another flashpoint is the strip of gay bars along Santa Monica Boulevard. Some residents and merchants wanted to officially designate the area — the site of numerous gay rights protests and AIDS vigils — as "Boystown," long a colloquial reference to the nightlife scene there. But city leaders balked at the idea, saying they felt the name was too narrow.

"Boystown failed … because the lesbian community, the female community and people who are not LGBT felt excluded, which is understandable," said Robert Gamboa, co-chair of the city's Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board.

There also has been much debate about the annual L.A. Pride celebration, when Santa Monica Boulevard is taken over by rainbow-colored floats and wild costumes. The parade started as a political statement about gay pride and unity. But these days, there are complaints that the parade has become more about corporate sponsorship and partying than about the civil rights message.
Inclusivity strikes back.

America and Russia — described via Drudgetaposition.

Rand Paul's hand expresses a government by reason and deliberation — law — and Vladimir Putin's chokehold says: Government by brute force.

"So, folks, what is happening here is this babe sues her parents, sets up a Facebook page, and people start posting to it, supporting her with all of these assaults on Baby Boomer parents."

"Now, as one who studies sociology in this society and the culture, I find this fascinating that we have these Millennials now who are looking at their Baby Boom parents as a bunch of materialistic, selfish, concerned only with them and their kids are just accessories."

Rush Limbaugh was having a great time with this story yesterday.

At the 2 Dogs Café...

... I hope someday you'll join us, and the dogs will be as one....

"In the dashcam video, a trooper is heard asking, 'What made you do that?' Lopez responds, 'I was alone.'"

"Regelio Lopez, 20, kidnapped his mother from their Richmond, Va., home and stuffed her in the trunk of his green Cadillac last month because she refused to move with him to Miami...."

"Malaysian officials investigating the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines plane Saturday said they were not ruling out terrorism..."

"... as reports emerged that two Europeans listed on the passenger manifest were not aboard and may have had their passports stolen."

Trying to make money as "the best photographer on Instagram"...

It's Daniel Arnold, who thought of "selling 4×6 prints of whatever you want from my Instagram archive for $150 each":
The response overwhelmed him. Orders poured in. A day later, he’d received nearly $15,000 worth of requests, and collected some $5,000....

Because he has so many photos, no single image has emerged as the overwhelming favorite, he says. A number of people have ordered this one of a pantsless subway Santa Claus, and this one of an affluent-looking gentleman getting a shoeshine on Ash Wednesday is popular too.....

"So, if we wanted to do something to decrease the number of strikeouts in a game, what could we do?"

10 ideas here, beginning with moving the pitching rubber back 6 inches.
• Increase the weight of the baseball. That should make it more difficult to throw hard, right?

• Make the ball slightly…bigger. And therefore presumably easier to make contact with.
Maybe you scientist readers of this blog can discuss whether making the ball heavier and/or bigger would put the ball into play more and what kind of unintended consequences would occur. Baseball. It's a specific ball, isn't it? You can't change it. The other suggestions are probably more ridiculous, but I got sidetracked onto the proposition of the unchangeability of the ball.

I know there was a time called the "dead ball era," so the unchangeability — if there is such a principle — would have kicked in later. Let's read "The Evolution of the Baseball From the Dead-Ball Era Through Today."

How racist is this Japanese ad?

The ad was criticized and the airline company, ANA, quickly apologized, and Hifumi Okunuki, a teacher at Sagami Women’s University and  executive president of Tozen Union (Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union), has this to say:
What interested me in particular was the difference between the reactions of Japanese and foreigners who saw this ad. At my labor union there are members of many different nationalities, the large majority of whom expressed unhappiness or indignation toward the ad. “How did they fail to anticipate this would offend people?” many asked.

On the other hand, Japanese people I know reacted with bewilderment. “It’s certainly childish,” their comments tended to run, “but I couldn’t call it racist. On the contrary, since blond hair and big noses are something that in Japanese culture have long been held up as attractive, the ad is more an expression of Japanese people’s sense of inferiority.”...

So why is it that so many of the Japanese people I spoke to couldn’t understand why foreigners would be angry about this “racist” ad? I think, fundamentally, it has to do with the very narrow image that postwar Japan has had of what “abroad” and “foreigners” mean. Because postwar Japan has been politically, socially, culturally and in almost every other respect in thrall to the West — and particularly the United States — the view that blond, big-nosed, blue-eyed and English-speaking are somehow “better” or the “global model” is widespread....
Much more at the link, the last 5 words of which are... can you guess?

"We have an old Japanese saying, ‘Too fat to be wise,’ but the fact is the contrary. We must show the world the success of the fat."

"On the pattern of foreign governments, was the Constitutionalism of Japan organized. It is a derivative from the countries of bigger people than the Japanese."
Though fat men are as a rule despised by rickshaw drivers and girls, this is not right. We must not be discouraged. I hope that one day all of Japan’s people will be as big as we are. If so, Japanese will be invincible.
At the feast of the fat men, 100 years ago in Japan, they formed the Great Weight Society — Tairyo-kai.

(What was happening in Japan in 1914? That "Japanese will be invincible" material turns the American mind to World War II, and 1914 is the year World War I began. Here's an interesting historical account.)

"A black briefcase on the side of Bernard Road was found to contain not business files but a dead animal."

A mortified motorist called the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office after going through a Whitefish Stage Road intersection and having another driver come running up to her vehicle and pound on her window, yelling at her to open her door. She said she may have turned out in front of the vehicle but that there was plenty of room, and that she was now in a parking lot getting her composure back.
The police news from Montana, where, also, a boulder fell on U.S. 93 South. Cars drove around it.

It seems like a David Lynch film, perhaps one that is a distillation of traditional Chinese culture.

What's with all the doctors running for Congress?

"Where do we get this idea that a background in medicine is particularly apt for lawmakers?" I asked on this blog 2 weeks ago.
What is going on with this promotion of doctors in the American political scene? There's something odd and excessive about our respect for them. We must trust and depend on them when we have medical problems, but why are we bent on installing them in political office? Let's think more carefully about the sort of minds that go into medicine and whether we are not overvaluing them as political candidates.
Now, the NYT is looking into the doctors-and-Congress phenomenon:
With a few exceptions, these physician legislators and candidates — there are three dozen of them — are much alike: deeply conservative, mostly male, and practicing in the specialty fields in which costs and pay have soared in recent years...
The Times quotes 2 members of Congress who are doctors, one a Republican and one a Democrat. The Republican, Tom Coburn, a family doctor, says doctors are "frustrated" over changes in the practice of medicine. The Democrat, Jim McDermott, a psychiatrist, looks into the psyche of doctors and says: "They want to have their hands right there on the handle so they can pull it one way or another."
As for the reason so few of them are liberal... [McDermott] said he believed that politically conservative physicians were more likely to chafe at the direction of changes in health care, with greater oversight by the government and a more regulated role for the private sector.
That undercuts McDermott's need-to-control analysis. He's implying that liberal physicians are the ones who accept government control. I can see how to harmonize McDermott's 2 statements. The Congress has already pulled the handle very far in the liberal direction, so the liberal doctor doesn't need to go to Congress to pull the handle back the other way. The liberal doctor is accepting if things as they are because that's what he likes, and he appreciates the way Congress has been pulling the handle. (Or as Bob Dylan once sang: "The vandals took the handles.")

By the way, when a psychiatrist talks about pulling the handle, one simply must cry phallic symbol, and don't tell me sometimes a handle is just a handle. McDermott's handle was always a metaphor, and the image of Congress as a place where a lot of guys get their hands right there on the handle so they can pull it is just too rich to ignore. From the 3rd variation on the top-voted meaning of "circle jerk" at Urban Dictionary:
When a bunch of blowhards - usually politicians - get together for a debate but usually end up agreeing with each other's viewpoints to the point of redundancy, stroking each other's egos as if they were extensions of their genitals (ergo, the mastubatory insinuation). Basically, it's what happens when the choir preaches to itself.
Okay. Let's get on back on the pavement, thinking about the government. The NYT article under consideration here indicates that the GOP is recruiting physicians to run for office and there's something about doctors — at least the ones who say yes — that responds to the call:
“When you’re a Type A surgeon, as I am, one thing leads to another,” said Representative Tom Price, a Georgia Republican who is an orthopedic surgeon. “The next thing you know, somebody is asking you to run for office.”
Mixing up the medicine... with politics.

"It is more than just a Korean soap opera. It hurts our culture dignity."

Anguished one member of China’s political advisory body (the CPPCC).
Well aware of the craze [the Korean soap opera "My Love from the Star"] has created in China... the CPPCC... spent a whole morning bemoaning why China can’t make a show as good and as big of a hit.

At a meeting of delegates from the culture and entertainment industry, some blamed it partly on China’s censorship, euphemistically referred to as the “examination and approval system” at the meeting by Feng Xiaogang, a famous director and a CPPCC member. “My heart trembles,” he said, when waiting for a movie to go through this rigorous censoring procedure.

“My wings and imagination are all broken,” said one comedian delegate. But she didn’t go into further detail, perhaps out of caution of offending those very censors.
What would it take for the Chinese government to lift censorship? Seeing its own people really loving a Korean soap opera?
“Korean drama is ahead of us,” Wang Qishan said in surprising comments at one of the more important legislative meetings, according to Beijing News. Wang is head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, in charge of an ongoing wide-scale anti-corruption campaign.
And he adds this hilarious grab at cultural dignity: "The core and soul of the Korean opera is a distillation of traditional Chinese culture... It just propagates traditional Chinese culture in the form of a TV drama."

That's funnier when you realize that the story line is about "an alien who accidentally arrives on Earth 400 years ago, meets an arrogant female pop star and falls in love."

And I love the detail that the lead female character referred to "beer and fried chicken" that caused Chinese restaurants to offer beer-and-fried-chicken meals.

ADDED: What kind of arrogant female pop stars did they have 400 years ago?

AND: Attempting to answer that last question, I arrived at this find example of Americans distilling traditional Chinese culture (and word has it that the restaurants in China will soon be serving bangers and custard):

"The Comandante's Canal: Will a grand national project enrich Nicaragua, or only its leader?"

"Last June 15th, Daniel Ortega, the President of Nicaragua, held a ceremony in Managua to announce his newest and most audacious plan to help the country’s poor: a transoceanic canal, stretching from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific, a few hundred miles north of the Panama Canal."
“This is a project,” he promised, “that will bring well-being, prosperity, and happiness to the Nicaraguan people.” The last time Ortega attracted the world’s attention, it was as Ronald Reagan’s great adversary in the Contra war of the eighties: a fighter “against the domination of the capitalists of our country, in collusion with the U.S. government—i.e., imperialism.”...

Ortega’s canal would be the largest civil-engineering and construction project in the world. To lead it, and to bring in money and expertise, he had recruited an obscure Chinese tycoon named Wang Jing, and two days before the ceremony, the National Assembly had approved a concession that put a large swath of the country at Wang’s disposal as a building site....
You'll need a New Yorker subscription to read much further. I have and I highly recommend it. But here's an open article in Scientific American: "Nicaragua Canal Could Wreak Environmental Ruin."
The project threatens multiple autonomous indigenous communities such as the Rama, Garifuna, Mayangna, Miskitu and Ulwa, and some of the most fragile, pristine and scientifically important marine, terrestrial and lacustrine ecosystems in Central America.

March 7, 2014

Everybody's talking about... monocles!

More specifically, everybody's talking about the NYT article that asserted that wearing a monocle is a fashion trend. Excerpt:
Martin Raymond, a British trend forecaster, credits the rise to what he calls “the new gents,” a hipster subspecies who have been adding monocles to their bespoke tweed and distressed-boot outfits. On a recent trip to Cape Town, Mr. Raymond said, he saw such a group carrying monocles along with tiny brass telescopes kept in satchels.

“All of this is part of a sense of irony and a way of discovering and displaying old artisanal and craft-based technology,” Mr. Raymond said. “You see the monocle appearing in Berlin, parts of South Dublin.”
Everyone seems to need to say really?

"The reason we don't have to give equal time to the atheists is because we're depicting the history of 9/11."

"The atheists as a community have nothing to do with the history of 9/11. Our mission is to tell the history in a truthful way," said Mark Alcott arguing for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in a case argued before a 2d Circuit panel yesterday. The atheists who brought the lawsuit (and lost at the trial level) complain of the lack of representation of atheists.
Rescue workers found the "Ground Zero cross" in the rubble of the World Trade Center two days after the attacks. The cross-shaped beam was originally part of the World Trade Center's structure. Rescue workers viewed it as a symbol of hope in the nine-month recovery effort, and priests included it in religious services held at Ground Zero....

"Better Call Saul!" is fiction. "Thanks, Dan!" is real.

Throwing Things says, "You know me well enough to know that I don't blog about every attorney's publicity-seeking web ad, but this one is special," and he's absolutely right.

At the Snow-on-Nose Café...

... let's be friends.

"It's a time for boldness and action. The time is now. Stand with me, stand together for liberty."

Watch Rand Paul's CPAC speech here.

"The Walker campaign took aim Friday at Democratic contender Mary Burke’s first campaign ad..."

"... striking back with its own commercial that states the unemployment rate dropped during the governor’s first term in office."

Here's Burke's ad, which went up on YouTube on Wednesday and starts on TV today:

Gov. Scott Walker had this response ad up by this morninng.

Why did Burke make herself so vulnerable by putting an obvious lie in her ad?
Burke's said that "under Walker, unemployment’s up," from 4.8% to 6.2%. Burke defends the claim by saying 4.8% is a reference to when she served as state commerce secretary, which was several years before Walker became governor. But the ad gives no indication that that is the comparison she is making. Moreover, during Walker’s time as governor, unemployment started at 7.7 percent, not 4.8 percent. And rather than trending upward, the rate has steadily dropped to 6.3 percent.
If that's supposed to be a good enough explanation, Burke ought to explain whether that's the level of presenting factual information she intends to offer us if she becomes governor.

"Scientists have patented a new machine that will provide orgasms for women at the push of a button."

Electrodes would fit into the woman's spine and a signal generator would be implanted under the skin of a buttock. The inventor — a doctor who discovered the effect of the electrode on the spinal cord by accident — says the implantation is as invasive as getting a pacemaker.

1. Would you want to be able to have orgasms at the push of a button?

2. If you had a push-button orgasm device implanted inside you, how often would you push the button... on the first day... a week later... a year later?

3. Presumably that push-button orgasm capacity that requires a surgical operation as invasive as getting a pacemaker is a pretty unpleasant proposition, and in fact the inventor says it's only intended for women with the most serious of orgasmic dysfunctions, which I suppose means a woman who is never able to have an orgasm. That's not something that is going to kill you or ruin your health in any way. It is what it is. Since most of the time, one is not having an orgasm, a woman in the "most serious" condition is simply a woman who is always in the condition that everyone is nearly always in, the condition of not having an orgasm. But let's say you are a woman who finds herself permanently and chronically not having an orgasm. Would you submit to this operation? Consider that you need to be awake during the operation and the surgeon will poke around at your spinal cord with an electrode until he locates the spot that produces the orgasm.

Another analogy to "Why I can’t stand white belly dancers."

Yesterday, we talked about that Salon article, and now here's Eugene Volokh making a bunch of analogies to critique the Salon author's rejection of cultural appropriation:
What atrocity will the culturally insensitive appropriators think of next? East Asian cellists? Swedish chess players? The Japanese putting on Shakespeare? Jews playing Christians’ Christian music, such as Mozart’s masses? Arriviste Jewish physicists using work done for centuries by Christians? Russian Jews writing about Anglo-American law? Indians writing computer programs, using languages and concepts pioneered by Americans and Europeans? 
I thought of another analogy: men who appropriate the appearance and stylings that originate among women. Steeped — as we are these days — in LGBT propaganda, no one seems willing to object to males presenting themselves as female (or females presenting themselves as males).

I'd like to hear the Salon author (a novelist named Randa Jarrar) engage with that variation on the appropriation/authenticity problem. Are we free to create our personal identity using elements that we see in others or are we stuck in our place of origin and offensive to the authentic possessors of that identity if we adopt their attributes as our own?

The artist Chuck Close "used to love all-white minimalist spaces," which were "perfect for my black-and-white Sol LeWitt paintings and other contemporary pieces."

"Then I started collecting portraits by old masters from the 1300s to the 1600s."
It didn’t take long to realize I couldn’t hang those paintings on white walls. They looked stupid. Visually, white was too harsh a backdrop.
Based on the colors on the walls at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he picked a "totally dead" — no sheen — red that his girlfriend-now-wife Sienna compared to "dried blood." She agreed to it on the condition that she could paint the bedroom black — a "greenish black."
When the two rooms were done, I actually loved the bedroom and she loved the living room. In the green-black bedroom, the wall-mounted flat-screen TV seems to disappear and our tall green mother-in-law-tongue plants look lifelike. Sienna put up one of her green paintings and it looks so vivid, almost fluorescent. The room even seems larger now, and the dark color puts me to sleep instantly at night.

In the living room, the seven old masters on the walls look at home. The red doesn’t make the space seem like a European drawing room. There’s no crown molding and our furniture is modern... We also have a minimalist gas fireplace made of polished gray cement. So the room’s design is still pretty severe....

Before I painted the living room red, we never went in there. I used to roll through it traveling from the kitchen to the den or the bedroom. Now we eat only in there.... Now I notice the reds in the portraits that I hadn't seen before, as though they had been hiding until the red walls brought them out.
First the art, then the wall color, then the effect of the wall color on the color in the art and on the way you sleep and eat.

"'We're processing the papers as fast as we can, and we just won't be able to get to these papers in time for the 2008 election.'"

"Do you accept that answer? Do you think the opposition's hunger for these documents is ugly, that they'll only rummage through it all to pull a few things out of context to make Hillary Clinton look bad?"

From a post I wrote in August 2007 about the "mother lode of opposition research... locked up at the Clinton Library." I didn't believe the "processing the papers as fast as we can" assertion from the chief archivist at the library, and that was 7 years ago.

Yes, we recently got 4,000 pages of documents from the Clinton Library, but there were, according to the article I linked back then, "2 million pages of documents covering [Hillary's] White House years" that were "locked up in a building here, obscuring a large swath of her record as first lady."

"Leaning back on a bone-white sofa, her glasses perched on her head, Kerry Kennedy spoke of her 20-month-long prosecution..."

"... for driving while drugged that ended last week, when she was acquitted after an hour by a 6-person jury."
"For me it caused some emotional upheaval,” said Ms. Kennedy, a 54-year-old mother of 3 girls, college-age twins and a 16-year-old. “There were times I should have been completely emotionally available to my kids and I wasn’t there, even for reading a book with them or watching TV or tucking my daughter into bed. I was unable to be fully present. That’s a loss."
I don't know if you care about Kerry Kennedy's emotional upheaval and her inability to be completely emotionally available to her kids while she was getting prosecuted for drunk driving. (Is she completely emotionally available now that she's found not guilty?)

But I'm blogging this because I just love the accompanying photograph by NYT photographer Suzanne DeChillo, in which we get to see not only that "bone-white sofa" — on which Kerry Kennedy is leaning forward, not back — but the out-of-focus wall behind her with 2 large paintings of young girls in white dresses, which I took to be pictures of herself as an innocent child, but now think are probably 2 of her 3 daughters to whom she was incompletely emotionally available.

In front of one painted girl, there's a lamp that has a base that's a globe, and on the mantel there's an indistinct dark blob that I construe as a bronze bust of Kerry's father Bobby Kennedy. Kerry looks stressed and earnest, with her man-hands slightly clasped, glasses atop her head, and a chunky cross hanging from her neck. The cross corresponds to text in the article:
Readers [of the media coverage of the trial] learned she is a devoted Roman Catholic, going to church on the mornings she does not go to the gym.
That's a funny sentence. What evidence of devotion is that? If she goes to the gym every morning, then she never goes to church... at least not in the morning. I construe that sentence as deliberate satire gesturing at the jury's charitable construction of the evidence it heard.

March 6, 2014

At the Close-Up White Dog Café...

... it's a more intimate, late-night ambiance.

"A pair of surveys released on Thursday suggest that just one in 10 uninsured people who qualify for private health plans through the new marketplace have signed up for one..."

"... and that about half of uninsured adults has looked for information on the online exchanges or plans to look."

Efforts at legalizing marijuana beyond the medical use are undercutting the medical marijuana system.

The medical marijuana business was "all very folksy – and virtually unregulated, which the authorities say led to widespread abuses."
Now, under pressure from the federal government, [Washington] state is moving to bring that loosely regulated world, with its echoes of hippie culture, into the tightly controlled and licensed commercial system being created for recreational marijuana, which goes on sale this summer....

In Washington, some dispensaries might be well run, others poorly, but without oversight, state officials could not [tell] which was which. So a clean sweep – killing off the old system so that a new one could emerge – was seen as the only way forward, legislators say....

To many patients and providers...the proposed mandatory registry is not a good thing. Some patients, especially those receiving Social Security or other federal aid, have said they would refuse to sign up because that would be a legal admission of drug use that they said could jeopardize their benefits. Others have told lawmakers they fear, with hacking and leaks of government data in the news, a loss of private information.
There's always the freedom and privacy of going back to outlaw ways... an ironic consequence of greater legalization. Unless/until the federal criminalization ends, state-level "legalization" is going to be weird. I suppose getting to this weird condition is one way to create pressure on the feds.

I loathe this midway position, which creates an inequality that burdens those of us who are punctilious about avoiding committing any crimes. And wouldn't you think it's the people who feel excessive compulsion toward order who could most benefit from a recreational marijuana break? In fact, if you see it as an order disorder, we ought to qualify for a medical marijuana pass.

At the White Dog Café...

... you can talk about anything you want.

"Salon became a hardcore racist mag so gradually I barely noticed."

Observes Instapundit, linking to a Salon article titled "Why I can’t stand white belly dancers."

The article is written by a novelist named Randa Jarrar. And there's this twee notice at the end of it: "This piece is the latest in a series by feminists of color, curated by Roxane Gay."

Here's my post from last month where we were talking about this use of the word "curated" (a propos of Ryan Seacrest "curating" a fashion line.) LordSomber (a commenter) said: "'Curate' is one of those overused words that hipster artist wannabes have ruined."

Maybe Salon thinks that it's more feminist and of color to eschew the word "edited," which suggests a superseding authority and intervention. Maybe it's a crafty way to deny responsibility for the thing published: It's not edited, it's merely collected and presented "as is."

But what about that racism? How bothersome is it for a person of authenticity to express exasperation for the appropriation of some attribute of her culture for re-presentation by an outsider to that culture?

Perhaps if these white lady belly dancers asserted that what they are doing is curating dance we could all love one another (or at least wink knowingly).

"Wes Anderson is a genius, but ... come on, people! Get a life! Make your own style."

"Pretentious hipsters of the world, unite!"/"My favorite detail in this article are the piles of old books used as wedding table centerpieces."

Comments at a NYT article about an interior decoration trend inspired by Wes Anderson movies. Click on the slide show to see what the results actually are.

"For Boys, Moving to a Wealthier Neighborhood Is as Traumatic as Going to War."

"Leaving poverty is more complicated than you think," writes Sarah Sloat in The New Republic.
The reason for the disparity between boys and girls isn’t exactly pinned down. [Harvard professor Ronald] Kessler points to various factors — community perception, interpersonal skills — as major points of influence: “We had an anthropologist working with us, and the anthropologist went and talked to and watched the kids in the old neighborhoods and the new neighborhoods, and their perception was that when the boys came into the new neighborhood they were coded as these juvenile delinquents,” says Kessler. “Whereas with the girls, it was exactly the opposite. They were embraced by the community—‘you poor little disadvantaged thing, let me help you.’”

"It is an article of faith among the religious right in America that we are in the midst of a war on religion (in which 'religion' usually means Christianity)..."

... but it's not true, argues Lawrence M. Krauss, who is a physicist and the director of the Origins Project. Along with Richard Dawkins, he's in a new documentary about atheists called "The Unbelievers." He notes that a movie about atheism isn't going to draw much of an audience, while there are some big blockbusters that are quite religious, notably the upcoming "Noah" and "Heaven Is For Real."

Ironically, Krauss is a scientist pushing science and rationality, but the evidence for his argument isn't very sound. Those who say that Hollywood is antagonistic to religion do not,  I think, premise their argument on the number and importance of movies with big religious themes versus movies about atheism. I think these people are looking at all the movies as well as the statements of movie people and seeing pervasive secularism.
No one can fault Hollywood for recognizing that religion, like violence, is often profitable at the box office. But this logic leads to a prevailing bias that reinforces a pervasive cultural tilt against unbelief and further embeds religious myths in the popular consciousness. It marginalizes those who would ridicule these myths in the same manner as we ridicule other aspects of our culture, from politics to sex.
Krauss is conflating irrational belief and religion. Of course, movie stories are full of irrational belief. These are stories of heroes and villains, supernatural disasters and magical solutions. It's fantasy. Even when the stories are sort of realistic, there's usually an element of new-ageish belief in one's true self and the power of dreams or whatever unscientific nonsense the scriptwriters think will make us laugh or cry or tingle. It's not a science lecture. But that doesn't make it traditional religion, and I think traditional religionists tend to deplore these substitutes for religion. Generally, movies don't invite us into either a life of old-school religion or science.

Krauss riffs on Matthew McConaughey's Oscar acceptance speech, which you can watch (after an ad) here. That's only one data point, of course, but how truly religious was it? Who knows? It was weird and folksy, and also silly and self-centered:

Man with 18 cats constructs elaborate system of cat walkways...

... throughout his 4-bedroom house.

So the cats are moving around above your head, above your kitchen counters, whence all the hair and dander and what-all can continually drift through the air and sprinkle onto your food and into your drinks. But it is a sort of moving, living sculptural installation, and every place is always unavoidably filthy at the microbial level. Why be so fussy when you can be fuzzy? Warm and fuzzy, like the cat man.

And now you know the difference between a cat man and a cat lady. Cat Lady has multitudes of cats roaming about underfoot. Cat Man goes architectural and elevates the animals systematically.

"My dog is cooler than yours!... She had her spleen removed yesterday, and the vet let me tattoo her while she was under."

Instagram inspires ire.

"News flash: Your students already know that movies are not reality."

"And if they do think movies are reality, they probably think you are the pompous literature professor from Back to School. I mean, do economics teachers need to tell their students that economics is actually boring? 'It's not all like The Wolf of Wall Street, you know!'"

Writes Professor Hawks in "Archaeology is not boring!"

Why did Scalia refuse to join a footnote that ended "We therefore express no view on the issue"?

He also withheld his name from a second footnote that specified an issue for the purpose of saying it's not going to be dealt with.
We did not deal in these cases, nor do we here, with... We express no view about....
It's almost metaphysical. Reminds me of the philosophical questions of childhood like what if nothing is something? Or the conversational riposte when you drop the phrase "not to mention" and your interlocutor snarks "You just did." Or what is the sound of one hand clapping?

I hope this is a harbinger of Supreme Court writing to come. These characters have been too blabby for too long. If you're not going to talk about something, don't talk about it. Let's get tough. Let's get cranky. As Psycho Killer says: When I've got nothing to say, my lips are sealed...

Message to the Supreme Court: You're talking a lot, but you're not saying anything.

"Annie," in the present day.

There don't seem to be orphanages in present-day NYC, so how can the transposition be made? And if Cameron Diaz is running that modern-day equivalent of an orphanage, how does she manage to get her makeup done so heavily, prettily, and precisely? And more importantly, can she be mean enough to make us feel sorry for the little orphans?

I don't know, but I do know 2 other things about upcoming musical movies: 1. Steven Spielberg is doing a remake of "West Side Story," and 2. Clint Eastwood has made the movie version of "Jersey Boys."

March 5, 2014

At Quincy and Howie's Café.

It's Quincy:

And Howie:

And Quincy and Howie:

The long-term benefits of breastfeeding are...

"Nothing. Exactly."

"A man who took cellphone photos up the skirts of women riding the Boston subway did not violate state law..."

"... because the women were not nude or partially nude, Massachusetts’ highest court ruled Wednesday."

It's not a crime without a statute that defines it as a crime. You can't just prosecute somebody under the closest criminal statute:
Existing so-called Peeping Tom laws protect people from being photographed in dressing rooms and bathrooms when nude or partially nude, but the way the law is written, it does not protect clothed people in public areas, the court said.

“A female passenger on a MBTA trolley who is wearing a skirt, dress, or the like covering these parts of her body is not a person who is `partially nude,’ no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing,” the court said in its ruling.

"Meet The 7 Democrats Who Just Voted Down A Civil Rights Nominee For Supporting Civil Rights."

A headline at Think Progress about the Senate's no vote today on Debo Adegbile.
Although most of these senators have yet to offer an explanation for their votes... it is likely that their votes were motivated by a campaign to disqualify Adegbile because of a high profile case the NAACP LDF participated in during his time with that organization.

In 2008, a federal appeals court unanimously held — with two Reagan appointees on the panel — that procedures used during a convicted cop killer named Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death penalty hearing violated the Constitution. Specifically, the panel of predominantly Republican judges concluded that the trial judge gave the jury a confusing form that could have been read to require a death sentence unless every single juror agreed to a life sentence. The NAACP LDF filed an amicus brief on Abu-Jamal’s behalf.

"The changes [to the SAT] are the biggest the Board has made since its last major edit of the test, in 2005."

"In that overhaul, an essay section was added. In this overhaul, the essay will be subtracted, or at least become optional. The three-part score, with a maximum value of 2400, will revert to a two-part score, with a top value of 1600.... The Board will drop what the Times referred to as 'rarefied' vocabulary words, like 'membranous,' in favor of more workaday words, like 'synthesis.' And henceforth, each test will include a reading passage from a document like the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights."

I love this lurch toward tradition. And, of course, the essay section was a joke:
A study by an instructor at M.I.T. has shown that success on the SAT essay is closely correlated with length: the more words pile up, the higher the score. When, at Advantage Testing, Stier is shown essays that have received top marks, she is horrified. They are, she writes, “terrible.”
Stier is Debbie Stier, author of "The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT."

That time I said "mansplaining" in a law school setting.

The scene in Room 2211 yesterday evening looked like this:

Photo by Meade, across the vast landscape of tabletop and the remains of the dinner provided by The Federalist Society.

Ilya Somin was there to talk about some of the things in his book "A Conspiracy Against Obamacare: The Volokh Conspiracy and the Health Care Case," and I was there to offer a few insights of my own. I began with a description of the last time I heard Ilya speak about Obamacare, which was at another event sponsored by The Federalist Society, that one at the Madison Club, where the audience sat at round dinner tables, and Meade and I were among the last arrivals and took the last 2 seats at a table full of strangers, probably Madison lawyers.
I don't think the person I sat next to knew I was a law professor. He started lecturing — he started mansplaining — he started mansplaining — I'd never say that in law school — he started (as I say) mansplaining to me about how this is really all politics and that the healthcare reform bill represents a big important political effort, and that's why it's going to be upheld in the courts. It's all politics, this was so important to the Obama administration, this was such a huge deal politically that there's no way that the courts are going to be able to strike it down. So I said if it's all politics, then what about all the polls that show how unpopular it is? People don't like it. So if the court is responding to politics, why wouldn't the court respond to politics in the form of striking it down? Well, at that point the panel began, so he didn't have to answer me, but I thought I had him cornered.
Much more was said, of course. And Professor Somin gave a lively presentation taking the strong, clear position that the individual mandate is beyond the commerce power and could not properly be regarded as a tax. Me, I thought both sides on both questions were within the realm of debate. As usual, I'm more interested in how people can think the different things they think and what might be motivating them than in taking positions on legal issues and trying to persuade anyone. So Ilya and I took different tones, but I think it harmonized pretty well for a nice evening law-and-politics talk.

IN THE COMMENTS: I expanded on the meaning of "mansplaining":

After Lois Lerner re-asserts the 5th, Cummings yells at Issa and Issa cuts the microphone.

Issa is closing down the meeting, Cummings asserts what he calls a "procedural question" that's really a political scolding, and Issa cuts the microphone and walks out. It's pretty unpleasant. Here's the video:

"When Nabokov started translating [his memoir] into Russian, he recalled a lot of things that he did not remember when he was writing it in English..."

"It came out in Russian and he felt that in order to represent his childhood properly to his American readership, he had to produce a new version. So the version of Nabokov's autobiography we know now is actually a third attempt, where he had to recall more things in Russian and then re-translate them from Russian back into English."

From Alan Yu's "How Language Seems To Shape One's View Of The World," via Metafilter's "If Inuit have 100 words for snow, linguists must have many for this idea."

Author of "How We Die" dies.

Sherwin B. Nuland was 83.
In “How We Die,” published in 1994, Dr. Nuland described in frank detail the processes by which life succumbs to violence, disease or old age. Arriving amid an intense moral and legal debate over physician-assisted suicide — perhaps the ultimate manifestation of the concept of a dignified death — the book tapped into a deep national desire to understand the nature of dying....

Dr. Nuland wrote that his intention was to demythologize death, making it more familiar and therefore less frightening, so that the dying might approach decisions regarding their care with greater knowledge and more reasonable expectations....

Beyond its descriptions of ruptured embolisms, spreading metastases and bodily functions run amok, “How We Die” was a criticism of a medical profession that saw death as an enemy to be engaged, frequently beyond the point of futility.....

Artwork demanding "a certain level of thought and consideration" is insufficiently "celebratory"...

... and so it is removed, at the last minute, from Kennesaw State University's art museum opening.
The subject of the installation was the homestead of Corra Harris (1869-1935), who was a prominent author and whose homestead the university accepted as a gift to preserve in 2009 -- over the objections of some faculty members....

In an interview, [Ruth] Stanford, associate professor of sculpture at Georgia State University, said she was shocked that the university ordered her work removed. She said that Harris's racism was just one feature of her installation, which also had maps, photos of the homestead, some of her books, and other writings....

"My truth is that I want you to win, I really do."

Says Oprah Winfrey — deploying New-Age "my truth" talk, as she tells Lindsay Lohan to "cut the bullshit." And it's probably all bullshit, generating material for Lohan's reality show on Oprah's TV network and promoting the show with that teaser (at the link).

Reading between the lines, I think they didn't get enough interesting footage of Lohan, for whatever reason, so they tried to edit a story line together about not being able to get the footage. That's the old "Roger and Me" trick, beloved of on-the-cheap documentarians. You can't get footage of your subject, so you use the footage of you trying to get the footage.

I used that technique editing Meade's footage from the Wisconsin protests, as he tried to get our assemblyman, Brett Hulsey, to talk to him. Here, on March 22, 2011:

More here. And here, on March 25, 2011:

The old — but not gone — problem of professors dating students.

Here's an Inside Higher Ed article about a sexual harassment case against Northwestern University:
In her suit, the student says that after a night of bar-hopping and coerced drinking, which started as an invitation from [philosophy professor Peter] Ludlow to attend a Chicago art exhibit that she pointed out, Ludlow took her up to his apartment, assaulting her as she faded in and out of consciousness....

Questions of punishment severity – whether anything less than the "death penalty" is appropriate – is one that colleges struggle with, especially where possible assault is involved, said Peter F. Lake, a law professor at Stetson University....

"I think from the outside perspective, there’s sometimes concern that these things are treated lightly,” Lake said, noting that rescinding a chair position is a very serious matter in higher ed that probably doesn’t resonate with the general public. “It becomes even more difficult to assess an appropriate punishment when you’re not entirely sure whether the evidence is overwhelming for one scenario or another, and it would be a real shame to under-punish for a rape because the evidence isn’t as clear as you want it to be."
Meanwhile, the university doesn't have a policy banning "consensual romantic or sexual relationships," but the professor must report relationships to a superior, and there seems to be room to argue over what triggers the reporting requirement. As the lawprof Lake ponders Socratically:
"Is a kiss a relationship? Is one date a relationship? Does it require an intention to continue? Is it a duration issue?"
Relationships are forbidden where the professor has "supervisory or evaluative authority over" the student. In the Northwestern case, the student had taken a course from the professor in the previous semester, a course on the philosophy of cyberspace.

Here's a snippet of a dialogue from last month with Glenn Loury where we talked about professors making sexual contact with students:

I refer to an old article in The Atlantic (or was it Harper's), and I'm trying to find it. It wasn't "The Higher Yearning: Bringing Eros Back to Academe," a 2001 Harper's article written by a woman (Cristina Nehring). I think it was something older, written by a man, making some assertions about a certain type of female student, who greatly benefits from relationship with a professor like him. The article was roundly denounced by feminists of the time.

ADDED: A reader emailed about the article I was trying to remember. It was "New Rules About Sex on Campus" (1993 Harper's), by Professor William Kerrigan. Excerpt:
There is a kind of student I've come across in my career who was working through something that only a professor could help her with. I'm talking about a female student who, for one reason or another, has unnaturally prolonged her virginity.... There have been times when this virginity has been presented to me as something that I... half as an authority figure, can handle — a thing whose preciousness I realize... These relationships exist between adults and can be quite beautiful and genuinely transforming. It's very powerful sexually and psychologically, and because of that power, one can touch a student in a positive way.

"John Kerry Sits In Shadows Of Kiev Café Awaiting Woman Known Only As Dasha."

"At press time, Kerry had reportedly detected the unmistakable scent of rosewood and nightshade, Dasha’s signature perfume."

In the middle of the night, I discover DipNote, the U.S. Department of State Official Blog.

Did you know the State Department has a blog? I happened upon it — at 3:40 a.m., just now — after clicking from Memeorandum — one of my most-used bookmarks to "2014 International Women of Courage Award Winners," at the State Department website.

"DipNote"... I had to think about it for a few seconds. Dip? To me, a "dip" is a nutty and relatively lovable, lightheaded person. Donovan's "Epistle to Dippy" plays in my head. That can't be the intended association.

At Urban Dictionary, the top definition for "dip" is "to leave abruptly. To get the hell out of somewhere." That's sound State-Department-y, but not in a good way. Scrolling farther, there's "dip" as in smokeless tobacco, which can have a foreign-affairs lilt — Copenhagen, Skoal.

March 4, 2014

Happy birthday, Zeus.

... the god dog is 49 (in dog years).

The Chief Justice confesses that he wrote his opinion "hastily... and while my mind was occupied and wearied by the business of the day."

He expresses fear that "it is less concise and connected than it might otherwise have been," he admits that he hasn't referred to case law and merely noting that the various cases are "distinguishable," and though he doesn't detail what "the best writers on government and the rights of men" have written, he assures us that their "sentiments... harmonize with the principles" he's following.

That was Chief Justice John Jay, in 1793. Standards have changed since then, and these days the writings of the Supreme Court never concede that the Justice gave less than his all to the problem at hand. All the citations are meticulously laid out, and the supporting authorities are quoted tediously. We may grow weary reading what the judges write these days, but if they were weary too, they'd never tell. They're so afraid of being accused of sloppiness, that they earnestly enlist reporters to do PR work for them, assuring the public that they are hard at work, diligently solving complex legal problems according to the highest standards of professionalism.

"My blog is pretty left-wing today. I'm skewing left."

I say. And Meade says: "About time."

Sarah Palin gender-bullies Barack Obama.

"People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil... They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates."

"I thought this would be the perfect time, with this medium of the music video, with this icon Googoosh, to open the conversation about it..."

".. and to say: freedom to love for all is something that we should understand, and should be for."

Pop music and gay liberation... in Iran.

"One of them came right up in my face and yelled, ‘CAN YOU READ?... This confrontation is just one of many instances in which black intelligence is questioned on this campus."

"This campus" = Harvard.

Ellen's Oscar selfie stunt was product placement...

... for Samsung.
As part of its sponsorship and ad pact for the Oscars with ABC, the TV network airing the show, Samsung and its media buying firm Starcom MediaVest negotiated to have its Galaxy smartphone integrated into the show, according to two people familiar with the matter. ABC is a unit of Walt Disney Co.
As I complained at 8:33 Central Time on the night of the show:
And they keep trying to incorporate the idea of social media — Ellen tweeting from the stage, that sort of thing. They need to keep up the grandeur or it's just incoherent and boring. Eh. We turned it off. It was sluggish and draggy. We're out....

"Warren Buffet, climate change denier."

"The public has the impression that because there's been so much talk about climate that events of the last 10 years from an insured standpoint and climate have been unusual. The answer is they haven't."

So wrote the billionaire to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway.

4 things about that first-ever TV marijuana ad.

1. That's a real ad, and it's showing "in New Jersey on several national networks — including A&E, Fox, CNN, Comedy Central, Food Network and the History Channel."

2. It's very funny. "Yo. You want sushi? I got sushi...."

3. It's surprisingly racist, especially coming from an outfit that purports to be doctors and people who are attempting to lure marijuana consumers into the supposedly more wholesome milieu of medical marijuana. In the effort to clobber you over the head with how disgusting it is to buy a product from a street dealer, they chose a dark-skinned actor. In stooping to exploiting the viewers' lower-brain impulses about skin color, Marijuana Doctors wreck their own effort at flaunting purity.

4. Yes, I realize the actor is of indeterminate race and ethnicity. His accent is generically urban (and not anything stereotypically black or Spanish). This indeterminacy is the evidence that they absolutely intended to resonate with racism: They knew they needed deniability.

"We’re acting as if it was the old Cold War days, and it was a communist overture to do something — to dominate the world."

"Well, Putin has a right to watch out for the interests of the people there [Ukraine], just as the way we do in the United States, and just as the Ukrainian government should be doing watching out for the interests of the people of Ukraine."

Said Dana Rohrabacher, the Republican Congressman. He said that "Putin 'has a right to be upset' with the ousting of the democratically elected government under President Viktor Yanukovych, who was pro-Russian."

Is that wrong or just inconvenient (and therefore supposedly unmentionable)? Didn't the elected president of Ukraine, Yanukovych, ask the Russians to come in and help him?

March 3, 2014

At Jeffrey's Café..

... the fur will fly.

ADDED: Perhaps he spells it Geoffrey. I think that would be nice. But who knows how dogs picture their names? Gxphreeeeee? Oh, I think first we ought to get John Travolta to pronounce it....

Beyond medical marijuana, psychotherapeutic LSD.

A new study on the effects of LSD, "as a complement to talk therapy for 12 people nearing the end of life."
The new publication marks the latest in a series of baby steps by a loose coalition of researchers and fund-raisers who are working to bring hallucinogens back into the fold of mainstream psychiatry....

“The effort is both political and scientific,” said Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a foundation that has financed many of the studies. “We want to break these substances out of the mold of the counterculture and bring them back to the lab as part of a psychedelic renaissance.”

Reno-based Universal Society of Hinduism prevails upon Neiman Marcus and Amazon to stop selling swimsuits depicting Lord Ganesh.

Rajan Zed, the president of the society said he got the response he wanted within 24 hours after he sent his protest saying that images of Lord Ganesh do not belong on provocative clothing.

I'll bet the designer, Mara Hoffman, assumed the image was playful and fun-loving. Perhaps it's hard for an outsider to grasp how someone could picture God with an elephant head and not have a sense of humor about it. But it really is inept to appropriate other people's religious imagery. Whether you care about sacrilege or not, it's insulting to treat other people as if they are merely colorful background scenery for your world.

I was shopping the other day, looking at clothes that had the kinds of elaborately printed designs that are possible to produce these days with computers, and I could see that there were some tiny images of Indian sculptures, perhaps Ganesh. I said to the saleslady: "Are these religious images? I'm afraid these might be offensive to some people."

She was all: "No, no, that's just the design."

"After all, where would we be without the knowledge that Democrats are pinko-communist flag-burners who want to tax churches and use the money to fund abortions..."

"... so they can use the fetal stem cells to create pot-smoking lesbian ATF agents who will steal all the guns and invite the UN to take over America? Voters have to decide whether we’d be better off electing Republicans, those hateful, assault-weapon-wielding maniacs who believe that George Washington and Jesus Christ incorporated the nation after a Gettysburg reenactment and that the only thing wrong with the death penalty is that it isn’t administered quickly enough to secular humanist professors of Chicano studies."

From the amicus brief of the Cato Institute and P.J. O'Rourke in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, the Supreme Court case that asks the question "Can a state government criminalize political statements that are less than 100% truthful?" (PDF, via Metafilter.)

The brief is full of funny things (along with actual free-speech doctrinal analysis). I laughed out loud at footnote 15:

Man in shorts at the Oscars.

Scroll way down... or search on the page for Pharrell Williams.

Is it a violation of religious freedom to ban beards for prison inmates?

The Supreme Court just granted cert in Holt v. Hobbs...
... is a case filed directly by an inmate, in a hand-written petition.
The claim of entitlement to wear a beard for religious reasons, in spite of the general rule against beards in prison, is premised not on the constitutional right to free exercise (which authorizes government to impose neutral, generally applicable rules even though they burden religion), but on a statutory right to hold government to a strict scrutiny standard when it puts a substantial burden on religion. The statute in question is not the work of some backward state — as a layperson familiar with the recent to-do in Arizona might imagine — but the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, adopted by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives and signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000.

ADDED: 2 weeks ago, we were talking about another case involving prison, hair, and RLUIPA, in which Supreme Court review is being sought. That case, from the 11th Circuit, is called Knight v. Thompson. We also talked about it last summer, and I showed you an old exam from my Religion and the Constitution class that depicted 5 different prisoners with different reasons — some religious — objecting to a rule requiring short hair.
It was very interesting to me to see how students would respond to the 5 different needs for long hair. If I remember correctly, most students found the Sikh's interest so strong that they began there. But then what happens? Do you include all? Just the Rastafarian-inspired man?  None of the others? And does thinking about that make you want to exclude the Sikh too? If your answer is yes, then you may be an 11th Circuit judge.

"The highest court in Iran has ordered a man's eyes to be gouged out and his ears and nose to be chopped off..."

"... for pouring acid on a girl."
The victim lost her eyes and one of her ears in the incident...
Comments at the link, which goes to a British news site include:
Well, when I first saw the headline I thought, how awful. No[w] that I read the story I think, so what....

I have absolutely no problem with doing this to convicted criminals. The only problem is that the criminal and their family are allowed to buy their way out of the punishment if they can....

Strange, I agree with the sentence....

"Ukraine is weak. It is feeble. I think it is time to put the hurt on the Ukraine."

"Ukraine is game to you!"

"If they won't surrender by 5 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a military storm on all UA (Ukraine Armed) military forces all over Crimea."

Said Aleksandr Vitko, Russia's Black Sea fleet commander.

"This is a matter of defending our citizens and our compatriots, of defending the most important human right -- the right to life... We call for a responsible approach, to put aside geopolitical calculations, and above all to put the interests of the Ukrainian people first," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (at a U.N. human rights meeting in Geneva).

The Washington Post editors say "President Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy."

But it's not like they come down too hard on the President they have loved so much:
Mr. Obama is not responsible for [the "misbehavior" of Russian President Vladimir Putin, among others]... The model for Mr. Putin’s occupation of Crimea was his incursion into Georgia in 2008, when George W. Bush was president....
Bush did it too.
The urge to pull back — to concentrate on what Mr. Obama calls “nation-building at home” — is nothing new....
Nothing especially bad about Obama here.
The White House often responds by accusing critics of being warmongers who want American “boots on the ground” all over the world and have yet to learn the lessons of Iraq. So let’s stipulate: We don’t want U.S. troops in Syria, and we don’t want U.S. troops in Crimea. A great power can become overextended, and if its economy falters, so will its ability to lead. None of this is simple.
We pretty much agree with everything Obama has been doing. We're all responsible, all in cahoots.
But it’s also true that....
That what?! That we're screwed? We can't get what we want?
Military strength, trustworthiness as an ally, staying power in difficult corners of the world such as Afghanistan — these still matter, much as we might wish they did not. 
We wish and wish. We cling to these wishes, and Putin knows it of course. The WaPo editors offer nothing really — other than an acknowledgment that wishing is the stuff of fantasy.

There's really no substance in this editorial. There's also some literary swill:

1. Metaphor about tides — the "tides of war" and the "tide of democracy" — which lure us into indulging in the fantasy that war and democracy are forces of nature that have their ways that transcend the actions of individual human beings (like Putin). Obama would love to expatiate about the tides rising or receding, but that's the passive observer's view of history.

2. Some flourish around what "century" we are in. John Kerry, doing one of the Sunday shows, said Russia's action toward Ukraine is "a 19th century act in the 21st century," and the WaPo editors, having observed the things that are happening in this century, end on the hapless, helpless note: "Sadly, that’s the nature of the century we’re living in."

Disrespecting Judy and Liza.

Last night at the Oscars, in the opening monologue — TV-style, isn't it, beginning with a comic stand-up routine? — Ellen DeGeneres made Liza Minelli uncomfortable. The camera zoned in on Liza, and Ellen described the person on camera as "one of the most amazing Liza Minnelli impersonators that I have ever seen in my entire life." Liza — who'd done seemingly all she could to look fabulous — squirmed in obvious psychic pain.

It was only much later that I got a clue why Liza was there and why anyone would focus on her of all stars present in the arena. There was a tribute to the movie "The Wizard of Oz," which came out exactly 75 ago — as if the 75th anniversary of something is especially big. And the same year — 1939 — was the year of "Gone With the Wind." Given the prominence of "12 Years a Slave" amongst the nominees last night — it ultimately won Best Picture — it would have been apt to delve into Hollywood's most famous presentation of slavery, especially since the Academy awarded an Oscar to a woman who played the slave called Mammy, Hattie McDaniel:

That was for Best Supporting Actress, and last night the Academy gave the Best Supporting Actress Award once again to a black woman who played a slave, Lupita Nyong'o.

But forget the absurd resonance and strange racial history of Hollywood. The 1939 movie that got a long segment last night was "The Wizard of Oz." Who knows why? But there was Liza in the audience, not on stage singing. She was listening to Pink singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," while a montage from the 75-year-old movie played in the background. When the first image of Judy Garland went up, I thought the audience should have erupted in cheers and applause, but there was silence. Generally, the audience last night was stiff and dull, filling the seats as if according to instructions from management. Maybe when they saw Judy mouthing the words "There's no place like home," they felt something, a desire to be out of the un-Oz-like hall, at home or at least at some after party.

Pink was wearing a big glittery red dress that looked as if it had been made out of the skin of a thousand pairs of Dorothy's ruby slippers. After Pink had fully emptied the contents of her prodigious lungs, there was an empty stage and finally Ellen tripped out, in a makeshift Glinda-the-Good-Witch costume. The comic trope was that Ellen was one of these "Wizard of Oz" fans who might paste together a DIY costume of a favorite character for a night at the movies. Ellen joked:
"Did I miss it? Is it over? Not cool, guys, they were gonna call me. I'll do it by myself, 'You had the power' ... Oh, never mind."
She mocked Liza, and then she mocked the loser-fans who believe in the magic of movies, the people who really love Judy and Liza.

When broads attack.

"The strip club industry is under broad attack in New York...."

Writes the double-entendre-deaf New York Times.

March 2, 2014

Oscars. Are you watching at all?

We did for a bit, but have signed off. Interesting seeing Kim Novak, but she was used irrelevantly. Nervy of Jim Carrey to imitate Bruce Dern right at Bruce Dern. Carrey declared it "intense," and we enjoyed the contrast to Ellen DeGeneres, whose squishy niceness doesn't really fit the grandeur of the occasion, and then she was bitchy to Liza. I didn't get that. And they keep trying to incorporate the idea of social media — Ellen tweeting from the stage, that sort of thing. They need to keep up the grandeur or it's just incoherent and boring. Eh. We turned it off. It was sluggish and draggy. We're out. But keep up the Oscar talk here if you like.

"In some quarters, 'misogynist' is now a word used almost as laxly as was 'Communist' by the McCarthyite right in the 1950s — and for very like the same purpose."

Said Philip Roth, who, having quit writing, recently reread all 31 of his books. Those who accuse him of misogyny, he says, "propound my alleged malefaction as though I have spewed venom on women for half a century."
But only a madman would go to the trouble of writing 31 books in order to affirm his hatred.

It is my comic fate to be the writer these traducers have decided I am not. They practice a rather commonplace form of social control: You are not what you think you are. You are what we think you are. You are what we choose for you to be. Well, welcome to the subjective human race.
He says that his focus has been on "masculine power impaired."
I have hardly been singing a paean to male superiority but rather representing manhood stumbling, constricted, humbled, devastated and brought down. I am not a utopian moralist. My intention is to present my fictional men not as they should be but vexed as men are.
AND: Asked how he feels about never winning the Nobel Prize, he says "I wonder if I had called 'Portnoy’s Complaint' 'The Orgasm Under Rapacious Capitalism,' if I would thereby have earned the favor of the Swedish Academy."

"And all of a sudden, if there's advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?"

"The world's pretty dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together."

Said California Governor Jerry Brown... the erstwhile moonbeam.

"For the uninitiated, ‘Governor Moonbeam’ became Mr. Brown’s intractable sobriquet, dating back to his days as governor between 1975 and 1983...."
The nickname was coined by Mike Royko, the famed Chicago columnist, who in 1976 said that Mr. Brown appeared to be attracting “the moonbeam vote,” which in Chicago political parlance meant young, idealistic and nontraditional.

The term had a nice California feel, and Mr. Royko eventually began applying it when he wrote about the Golden State’s young, idealistic and nontraditional chief executive. He found endless amusement — and sometimes outright agita — in California’s oddities, calling the state “the world’s largest outdoor mental asylum.”

“If it babbles and its eyeballs are glazed,” he noted in April 1979, “it probably comes from California.”

"'Breaking Bad' Remix."


Who put "acute political pressure" on Lois Lerner "to crack down on conservative-leaning organizations," and why did Lerner need a "plan" to avoid "a per se political project"?

Former IRS official Lois Lerner has decided she will testify before the House Oversight Committee, the committee chair Darrell Issa revealed on "Fox News Sunday" this morning. Previously, Lerner had refused to testify, citing the Fifth Amendment right not to be a witness against oneself, so what changed?

Issa notes that the Committee's position is that Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights by testifying up to a point before invoking her privilege and assures us that they have not given her immunity in exchange for her testimony. Conceivably, she has come to accept that the privilege has been waived and that she needs to testify or be held in contempt.

The Fox News moderator, Chris Wallace, quoted the report by the Republicans on Issa's committee, which said that Lerner "was keenly aware of acute political pressure to crack down on conservative-leaning organizations." Who put this pressure on Lerner?
ISSA: That's one of our questions. She says things like they put pressure. So e-mails indicate that there was pressure. We don't know whether it was the president shaking his fingers at the House, the Senate, and the Supreme Court over Citizens United or whether it was...

WALLACE: During the State of the Union Address?

ISSA: During the State of the Union, where she felt the pressure. Only she can tell us where she thought that pressure was.

WALLACE: The report also cites a newly discovered e-mail from September 16th, 2010, in which Lerner discusses how to check whether groups seeking tax exempt status are engaged in improper political activity. This is an e-mail to other people in the IRS. And she says, quote, "We need to have a plan. We need to be caution so it isn't a per se political project." What do you think that e-mail shouts?
Shouts? Wallace leaned hard on that. And I put it in boldface. (That's me shouting.) I think it must mean that it was a political project and they were hard at work figuring out how to make it not look like what she knew it was. That's a smoking gun. Here's how Issa put it:
ISSA: It's a series of e-mails. And when you read them in context, what you realize is she's trying to walk back any kind of ability for someone to look at the record and say, aha, this was political targeting. And, yet, it clearly is political targeting.

Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State has been forgotten, or let's pretend it has.

A colloquy on "Meet the Press" this morning:
DAVID GREGORY: Before I get to my final question on Israel, with a big meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister coming to meet with President Obama. Marco Rubio is on this program in just a few minutes in saying it's time for the administration to publicly acknowledge that the reset with Russia is dead. Do you acknowledge that?

SECRETARY JOHN KERRY: Well, I don't know what you mean by the reset.

Thanks to Irene in (the comments to the previous post) for calling attention to that (as an illustration of my observation: "I take that to mean Kerry is weak and he knows it.")

And here's Hugh Hewitt, writing yesterday about the upcoming 5th anniversary of Hillary's reset button.
It is astonishing that so failed a figure would presume to seek the presidency but she is measuring herself against Joe Biden so that is a partial explanation. I have asked a number of pundits, reporters or elected officials to tell me what she accomplished in her long tenure at State....

Obama said "there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine," and "Now you've called this an invasion. So what are the costs?"

David Gregory asked Secretary of State John Kerry on "Meet the Press" this morning.

Kerry was clear. He said it all in one word: "Opprobrium."

That word was (of course) surrounded by typical, tedious Kerryesque blah-blah-blah, which I've printed out below the fold. But the answer is "opprobrium." The dreaded opprobrium. A big international frowny face.

"Why do men want to be smarter than their women?"

Asks Instapundit, linking to this post of mine (wherein I linked to something I wrote back in 2005). He proceeds to answer his own question... or I should say to suggest an answer, since he begins with "well" and posits the result of plugging the question into an evolutionary-psychology question-answering device:
Well, evolutionary psychology would say that a man’s greatest risk is being stuck raising a kid that isn’t his; thus, you don’t want a woman who’s smarter because she’s more likely to successfully cheat on you.
Poor men! So alpha and so beta, all in one organism that produces genetic material but can never see it through to fruition. Wrangling the reproductive container becomes a lifetime preoccupation. So dominant and so subordinate.

But let's examine the purported product of the evolutionary-psychology question-answering device. Isn't there always a smarter man, figuring out how to disperse his genetic material, getting it into a baby-incubator, without spending time caring for her? Shouldn't this woman who scored at the sperm bank trick a good-enough man into caring and providing for her? If this good-enough man wants a woman he can control and looks for someone dumber than he, she only needs to be smart enough to play dumb.

There's no end to the stories one can generate to explain whatever science report happens to pop up in the press and inspire us to think of reasons why it's true (if it's true).

"If a man wants to bring a rival down a peg or two, he simply has to hold the door open for him."

"While the gesture of goodwill might be seen as gentlemanly when it is done for a woman, psychologists claim it is likely to diminish a man’s self esteem. Since it is unusual for men to hold open the door for men, it could be taken to imply that the recipient looks needy and vulnerable. The act is likely to clash with their masculine identity and leave them deflated...."

Things I learned reading Pandagon, which I did this morning because, as noted earlier "in search of blogging inspiration... I impulsively opened all the bookmarks in my file labeled 'left.'"

I look forward to a new era of male domination in which men aggressively vie for superiority by being polite and considerate to other men. It's like a "dick move" but not dickish at all.

"I make a lot of money but I spend most of it on people who help me to do things so I can keep making money."

"For example, I have an assistant, a driver, a nanny, an editor, and a research maven. None are full-time but all make my life much better. I think I make their lives better, too, because I’m good at delegating," says Penelope Trunk, introducing her 3 rules of delegating.

Lawprof Ian Haney Lopez talks to Bill Moyers about "dog whistle" politics.

Via FireDogLake which teases with the usual What's-the-Matter-With-Kansas cant: "Author and legal scholar Ian Haney López tells Bill that dog whistle politics is 'the dark magic; by which middle-class voters have been seduced to vote against their own economic interests."

Ian Haney Lopez's book is "Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class." (Ian Haney Lopez was a lawprof at the University of Wisconsin Law School years ago.)

"What's the Matter with Kansas?" is a stock term — nicked from Thomas Frank's 2005 book "What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America" — to refer to a favorite proposition of liberals and lefties, that non-affluent conservative voters have been duped.

"Oh, these? These aren’t for sex."

"I’m buying these in solidarity with Indian rubber plantation workers. What do you use condoms for?"

At the 3 Bright Eyes Café...

... we're cozily relaxing at Meadhouse.

"Yes, I'm afraid one surefire sign that Pop has turned crackpot is that he starts to consider Charles Krauthammer [as] quite the cutting philosopher."

"A related symptom is when someone starts quoting Thomas Sowell as if he were de Tocqueville.... I consider myself blessed. My parents have not succumbed to the swine flu of Fox. Their TV addictions are Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz (basically any show fronted by a judge or purported doctor), a few soap operas, the local Baltimore news, Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, and, my father's personal favorite, Married...with Children reruns. This has kept them admirably sane and unsour, especially compared to the Simpsons grandpas shaking their canes at the sight of that radical red Harry Reid, and of course they have ME to beam the sweet light of reason from my command post in Manhattan should they ever find themselves trapped in a waiting room with that hectoring parrot Sean Hannity on the TV screen."

"ME" = James Wolcott, at Vanity Fair

1. I read that because, in search of blogging inspiration this morning, I impulsively opened all the bookmarks in my file labeled "left."

2. That was funny, funny of the palpable bitchery kind.

3. How irritated/amused are you by the crap your family members watch on television?

4. What exactly are they watching and why do you think it's any worse than the crap you are watching?

5. What do you think they think of the crap you watch?

6. How genuinely demented would your family members need to be before they'd stop serving as raw material for your humor writing?

7. Imagine them writing about you, with exactly the same form of humor you use about them. What do they write?

Famous binders — binders full of women and that woman full of binders.

You remember Mitt Romney's "binders full of women."

Now, from today's Maureen Dowd column:
The new cache of Clinton papers is benign... There are reams of advice on how to steer health care, which must have filled the briefing binders Hillary famously carried.
Famously, eh?

So, anyway... binders full of women and woman full of binders.

Did you see the link for Romney's binders went to a Wikipedia article titled "Binders full of women"? Now, that's what I call famous. It was made famous, snatched out of context to exploit to the hilt because it was exploitable. Anything vaguely woman-related is a potential weapon for the war-on-women warriors.

Meanwhile, Hillary famously carrying briefing binders? Didn't Hillary have minions to carry her things? Is this a fake memory of Hillary to be implanted in our brains for some political purpose I can't quite yet see? I suspect an effort to further enhance the image of Hillary as the overearnest schoolgirl, the Tracy Flick stereotype:

And that is Hillary's image. Check out the Wikipedia article "Tracy Flick":
Tracy Flick has been a frequent point of comparison in commentary on real-world political figures. Hillary Clinton has more than once been compared to the character. In a January 2008 video mashup produced by Slate, campaign footage of Clinton was combined with clips from Election to draw a comparison between Clinton's and Tracy's feelings about the inferiority of their opponents....

A Christian Science Monitor review of Clinton's 2003 biography, Living History, quoted an excerpt in which Clinton discussed her participation during high school in a Cultural Values Committee and noted, "There is obviously some truth here, but the tone of the passage reeks of Tracy Flick, the overachieving, overly serious high school student from the film Election. Not to belittle the efforts of the Cultural Values Committee, but a brief aside to show that Clinton understands that high school sociopolitics is not exactly on par with race relations would be nice."
Here's that Slate video (from January 2008):