June 24, 2006

"Turn off your mind, relax, float downstream."

Luc Sante reviews Robert Greenfield's new biography of Timothy Leary:
He was initially known as an expert on personality assessment, but, while on a sojourn in Mexico the following year, he was introduced to psilocybin mushrooms, and the experience was so transformative that psychedelics promptly became the central force in his life, his research and his teaching....

It wasn't long before any pretense to scientific detachment fell away and controlled experiments were chucked in favor of missionary zeal and contempt for all mundane exigencies. Chaotic tripping parties ensued, involving students, under "spiritual" or "philosophical" pretexts.
Teachers involving their students in spiritual exercises? Now, that is outrageous. But he lost his position as a Harvard professor soon enough.
[T]he psychedelic caravan picked up the Hitchcock siblings, Peggy, Billy and Tommy, heirs to the Mellon fortune, and through them acquired the use of a fabulous rambling house and huge estate in Millbrook, N.Y. This became the headquarters of Leary and gang for the better part of five years, a period filled with endless parties, epiphanies and breakdowns, emotional dramas of all sizes.... It was also at Millbrook that Leary, [Richard] Alpert and Ralph Metzner wrote "The Psychedelic Experience" (1964), which contained the injunction to "turn off your mind, relax, float downstream," appropriated two years later by John Lennon for "Tomorrow Never Knows," the last song on "Revolver."...

[H]e had no interest in politics. He called student activists "young men with menopausal minds" and suggested that LSD could stand for "Let the State Disintegrate." But by 1968, his slogans were so poised between derangement and Madison Avenue that they could pass for visionary; "Everyone should start their own nation," he uttered, just days after Martin Luther King's assassination. It was awfully hard to tell charlatans from prophets at the time, and besides, the denatured, anti-intellectual language that dominated discourse then (and is still with us, in a New Age guise) had been rolling off Leary's tongue since before he had ingested a single microgram of lysergic acid: people engaged in emotional "games"; all the world's bad stuff was a "system"; the state of being clued-in was "consciousness," and so on.
Oh, that's painful to read! We Baby Boomers were steeped in this stuff -- whether we took LSD or not. I think it had much more impact than the SDS material that also soddened my generation.

Read the whole review. The plot of Leary's life is convoluted. At one point, he's in Algiers, in the care of Eldridge Cleaver. ("It was a new experience for me to be dependent on a strong, variable, sexually restless, charismatic leader who was insanely erratic. I usually played that role myself.") But it's this that makes me want to read the book:
[T]he book provides a crash course in several aspects of 60's culture: its often gaseous rhetoric, its reliance on mahatmas and soothsayers, its endless bail-fund benefits and sometimes dubious appeals to conscience, its thriving population of informers, its contribution to the well-being of lawyers, its candyland expectations and obstinate denials of reality, its fatal avoidance of critical thinking, its squalid death by its own hand. That still leaves many meritorious elements largely outside Leary's sphere: civil rights, the antiwar movement, music and art, the impulse toward communitarianism, to name a few. In part because of Leary, however, ideals and delusions were encouraged to interbreed, their living progeny being avid consumerism and toothless dissent.
Turn off your mind, relax, float downstream....

Inside the Sigma Phi House.

Hey, it's another architectural tour. Yes, it's a frat house -- an inhabited frat house -- but the place was designed by Louis Sullivan. (It's also only two blocks from where I live.)

The main sitting room:

The Sigma Phi House

The dining room:

The Sigma Phi House

The porch swing:

The Sigma Phi House

A light fixture:

The Sigma Phi House

A fireplace:

The Sigma Phi House

The whole photoset.

5 million!

The Site Meter is getting awfully close to 5 million. That's pretty cool. But I'm not offering a prize for the 5 millionth visitor, nor am I starting a fan club.

"The car has broke down. The chicks have buttoned up their shirts and put their guns away. The midget has gone home."

It's Aaron Spelling Tribute Day over at Faster Than the World.
Next time you make a reference to Tattoo yelling at some plane, think of this man. For he was the one who put that reference in your mind. Hats off to Aaron Spelling today and flags at half mast. Our leader of campy TV and cleavage has died. No more car chases. No more gun toting chicks with their tits hanging out. No more midget asking if he was doing "ok" to his boss.
UPDATE: Quote edited to match editing at the link.

How I know that crossword solvers google.

I'm getting an immense amount of action on this old post, as the NYT puzzle from May 13th appears in other papers today. Funny that it's all about feeling "unbearably unhappy."

UPDATE: I should fish for future traffic: Neroli oil source! 1953 Eartha Kitt hit! "Diamonds Are Forever" soundtrack! Featured performer in Berlioz's "Harold in Italy"! Women's rights pioneer! Composer of about 600 sonatas! A wind killed her! I answer all in the comments.

"Pesto bong?"

Incomprehensible wedding gifts. My prediction, based on personal experience: The day will come when you'll want to sell your oversized residence and go live in a practical smaller space. All that stuff you've got tucked away in your vast storage/display space will go right into trash bags. You'll take one second to decide whether to save or toss each item, and anything you can't understand will be instant garbage, and you'll wonder why you failed to take out the trash for a quarter of a century.

"And so I know now I'm on a different plane."

Byron York quotes Markos Moulitsas. Mickey Kaus piles on (amusingly). But let's look at the quote:
This week has been a very interesting week for me. And I know I have sort of arrived in a scary way, because now I'm not being attacked for what I've said and done. People are making stuff up about me now. They're inventing things. And so I know now I'm on a different plane.
This does have an awfully strange kooky tone to it. I'm on a different plane... No one I think is in my tree... Amerika hates her crazies.
But this is the world we live in. There are people who have a vested interest in the status quo. There are people who don't want to see things change because they're not used to things changing. They know the world. It's comfortable. It's cozy. If they read the media, the media's not going to tell them what we're all about. Howard Dean thought we were all young. I'm not sure where he got that, because he should have known better. Hillary Clinton came up and she quoted the netroots based on something a conservative said. They need to live it for themselves. They need to become part of it, because this is an integral part of American politics now, and that's not going to change.
We are forces of chaos and anarchy/Everything they say we are we are/And we are very/Proud of ourselves....
And the beauty of it is at the end of the day, they can take me down. They can take Jerome Armstrong down. They can take down Atrios. They can take down any of the so-called leaders in the movement and it doesn't matter, because this is not a leaderless movement. I used to say this was a leaderless movement, and I was wrong. It's not a leaderless movement; it's a everybody-who's-part-of-it-is-a-leader. And so you can take any single individual down, and it will continue to live on.
A fellow ain't got a soul of his own, just little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody, then... Then it don't matter. I'll be all around in the dark - I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look - wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready, and when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build - I'll be there, too.
I write in our book, I write, basically, the establishment Democrats have three choices. One, they can join us, and a lot of people have, people like Simon Rosenberg. They can get out of the way. Or we're going to roll them. Because quite frankly we're tired of losing, and we're not going to do that anymore. And so there is a lot of energy, there's a lot of passion out in the rest of the country and we're going to be working hard with those who want to work with us to take this country forward to what it really needs to be, not what it has become.
Come senators, congressmen/Please heed the call/Don't stand in the doorway/Don't block up the hall/For he that gets hurt/Will be he who has stalled/There's a battle outside/And it is ragin'.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lots of stuff, but my LOL favorite is -- re "And so I know now I'm on a different plane":
Are there any motherf***ing snakes on that plane?
AND ELSEWHERE: Rand Simberg felt a similar vibe.

Michael Jackson onstage with Bob Dylan?

That's the rumor. Jackson is said to be in Kilkenny, Ireland, ready to do a cameo performance at Bob Dylan's concert there tonight. If the man is physically and mentally strong enough to appear on a stage, maybe he can find his way back to the artistically productive life he once had.


"...hardly bombers." I love Daily News headlines, but, really, what's the suggestion here? That because these guys were such idiots to have gotten caught so early in their plot that they would never have done much harm? Al Qaeda are a bunch of boobs if you look back far enough into the past. The familar videos of them training on monkeybars or spouting kooky religious theories would be hilarious if they'd never killed anyone.

IN THE COMMENTS: PatCA has this:
In 1993 when I read about the goofballs who bombed the WTC, who were so dumb they wrote the correct names and addresses on the van rental, I just laughed! Talk about dumb. I mean, really, what a bunch of idiots! We went to their apartment, arrested them right away and put them in prison. HAHAHAHAHA. Piece of cake, this jihad BS.

June 23, 2006

I'll make nice to the kitty cats today.

I've been a little hard on the kitties lately -- with good reason. But it's Friday, and what the hell.

Here I am, somewhere in the distant past. The place -- you can read it on the milk box. The decade -- well, we all had milk boxes then.

Me with an unknown cat

More recently, I actually owned a cat. Here's little Chris holding it.

Chris and Ramona

Hey, do you think that cat is one of these?

"Americans have a third fewer close friends and confidants than just two decades ago."

USAToday reports:
In 1985, the average American had three people in whom to confide matters that were important to them, says a study in today's American Sociological Review. In 2004, that number dropped to two, and one in four had no close confidants at all....

The study finds fewer contacts are from clubs and neighbors; people are relying more on family, a phenomenon documented in the 2000 book Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam, a Harvard public policy professor.

The percentage of people who confide only in family increased from 57% to 80%, and the number who depend totally on a spouse is up from 5% to 9%, the study found.
I'm surprised the number who confide only in family is so high, but then why is the number who confide only in their spouse so low? I guess that 80% who confide only in family confide in more than one person, often including a spouse. You can't tell from those statistics what percent of individuals don't confide in their spouses or who confide in only one family member other than a spouse. What percent of Americans confide only in their mothers? More than 9%?
Why people have fewer close friends is unclear, Putnam says. "This is a mystery like Murder on the Orient Express, in which there are multiple culprits."

The chief suspects: More people live in the suburbs and spend more time at work, Putnam says, leaving less time to socialize or join groups.

Also, people have more entertainment tools such as TV, iPods and computers, so they can stay home and tune out.
Yes, what about those blogger characters who confide in the whole world? That's not me. But I'm just saying...

A question I have about the statistics -- and I've only read the news report, not the underlying scholarly article -- is whether the idea of what it means to confide in or rely on someone has changed over time. "The study is based on surveys of 1,531 people in 1985 and 1,467 in 2004," and I'm sure that basically the same questions were asked. But people may think about the questions differently now than they did then. And what it means to be close to other people may have changed. For example, you might be more likely to have someone to talk to about your sex life but less likely to have someone to take you to the doctor. Maybe we've come to accept more professional help for certain kind of problems that we used to rely on friends to help us with.

1985, the year of the original survey, was also the year that "Dionne and Friends" had a big hit with the song "That's What Friends Are For." The recording was made to benefit the American Foundation for AIDS Research, and that expressed the notion that "What Friends Are For" is to help you when you're sick and you need comforting and -- let's be frank -- money. But what friends are for is open to question and redefinition. It would be a different sort of study that examined what it means to have friends. You might feel that you have several friends that you can talk to about your deep feelings and aspirations but still think there is no way you'd ever ask them for money or to do your errands when you're in the hospital. That's what family are for.

"A 58-year-old, slump-shouldered Queens genius."

Meet Steven Finkelstein, "an unlikely 'Casanova' who used the smarty-pants club Mensa to meet women and bully them into giving him free digs." Is that a crime? And if he's so smart how come he's going to prison for it? And aren't the Mensa women supposed to be smart too?

Anyway, I love the writing in The Daily News. "The smarty-pants club Mensa" -- that kills me.

"Perhaps it's time to rethink the whole 'law school as default' mentality that infects so many otherwise sane young minds."

Says Cameron Stracher in a piece in Opinion Journal. Smart young people who want to do well but can't figure out exactly what they want to do often go to law school. The theory is they'll at least be progressing toward a real career. Is this such a bad idea? Well, it's very expensive! And it's a lot of work. And if you don't have focused goals, you're quite likely to find yourself bumbling along with the crowd into a job you don't like at all. And having spent all that money and done all that work, you're also going to find it hard to say no to that job. This is all very conventional wisdom among people who have already gone to law school. What does Stracher have to add? Some sobering statistics about how much money law grads actually make and what kinds of jobs they end up in after the all-too-likely law firm phase.

June 22, 2006

A potato update.


A cat update.

You know, some folks like cats beyond all reason. Me, I was bitten by one yesterday. Readers said we want a photograph. I thought they meant of the wound on my arm. No, they meant:

That's my garden, by the way. My vines, her province.

"Jacob Weisberg is engaging in cynical manipulation of regional and class prejudice in order to enrich himself."

Language Log looks at "Bushisms." The linguistic expertise is appreciated -- go over there and read why it's "regional and class prejudice" -- but keep reading for the economic analysis:
Amazon.com lists 17 Bushisms products, including at least five book-length collections, yearly quote-a-day calendars, and various special editions ("The Deluxe Election Edition", etc.). Stacks of Bushism-objects for sale are prominently displayed in most bookstores that I visit. This is not a flash in the publishing pan -- it's been going on for almost six years. Maybe someone who knows the publishing industry better than I do can estimate what Weisberg's royalty payments from this enterprise are like, but I'm pretty confident that they're in the same range as what he makes at his day job as editor of Slate. (I'm assuming that the royalties go to Weisberg as author, and not to Slate as the magazine where the Bushisms were originally published -- the copyright pages read "Copyright 200X by Jacob Weisberg")....

[I]sn't there something wrong when a magazine editor, whose job is making judgments about what is and is not worthy of publication, makes much of his income from re-publication of collections of a feature whose instances are so often so spectacularly superfluous? Does anyone think that Jacob Weisberg would consider very many of these "Bushisms" worth the space in his (excellent) magazine and the attention of his readers (which include me), if he wasn't making money from George W. Bushisms, Still More George W. Bushisms, ..., George W. Bushisms V, Bushisms 2006 Day to Day Calendar, etc.; and if he didn't foresee the need to fill the pages of George W. Bushisms VI, the Bushisms 2008 Day to Day Calendar, and on and on? and if he didn't have a personal financial motivation for keeping the Bushisms brand and the Bushisms product line in the public eye?
These are very challenging questions for Weisberg!

"G.O.P. Decides to Embrace War as Issue."

What a strange turnaround!
Just a few weeks ago, some Republicans were openly fretting about the war in Iraq and its effect on their re-election prospects, with particularly vulnerable lawmakers worried that its growing unpopularity was becoming a drag on their campaigns.

But there was little sign of such nervousness on Wednesday as Republican after Republican took to the Senate floor to offer an unambiguous embrace of the Iraq war and to portray Democrats as advocates of an overly hasty withdrawal that would have grave consequences for the security of the United States. Like their counterparts in the House last week, they accused Democrats of espousing "retreat and defeatism."
How did that happen? Jim Rutenberg and Adam Nagourney write:
[P]eople who attended a series of high-level meetings this month between White House and Congressional officials say President Bush's aides argued that it could be a politically fatal mistake for Republicans to walk away from the war in an election year.

White House officials including the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, outlined ways in which Republican lawmakers could speak more forcefully about the war. Participants also included Mr. Bush's top political and communications advisers: his deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove; his political director, Sara Taylor; and the White House counselor, Dan Bartlett. Mr. Rove is newly freed from the threat of indictment in the C.I.A. leak case, and leaders of both parties see his reinvigorated hand in the strategy.

The meetings were followed by the distribution of a 74-page briefing book to Congressional offices from the Pentagon to provide ammunition for what White House officials say will be a central line of attack against Democrats from now through the midterm elections: that the withdrawal being advocated by Democrats would mean thousands of troops would have died for nothing, would give extremists a launching pad from which to build an Islamo-fascist empire and would hand the United States its must humiliating defeat since Vietnam.

Republicans say the cumulative effect would be to send a message of weakness to the world at a time of new threats from Iran and North Korea and would leave enemies controlling Iraq's vast oil reserves, the third largest in the world. (The book, including a chapter entitled "Rapid Response" with answers to frequent Democratic charges, was sent via e-mail to Republican lawmakers but, in an apparent mistake, also to some Democrats.)
Great strategy... except that last part. (Email is always breaking loose.) And let me say that it's not just a good political strategy, it's actually the correct analysis of the war.
A senior adviser to Mr. Bush said the White House had concluded that it was better to plunge aggressively into the debate on Iraq than to let Democrats play upon clear, public misgivings about the war. "This is going to be a big issue in this election," said the adviser, who was granted anonymity in exchange for agreeing to describe strategic considerations about the war. "Better to shape and fight it — as good and strongly as you can — than to try to run away from it."
Interesting the way the attitude toward political strategy resembles the attitude toward fighting the war itself. It seems to reinforce the impression that the Republicans are the ones to trust on national security. And, apparently, this impression was clear enough that it shocked the Democrats out of a position that they thought was great.

So, that email escaping into Democratic hands... was that an accident? The Democrat who got the the email was Nancy Pelosi.

What Senators do for fun.

In an interview with GQ, Russ Feingold talks about Hillary Clinton, whom he traveled to Iraq with (along with John McCain):
What was it like traveling with Hillary?

It was a blast.

(That would be your question too, right?)
It was a great group. First of all, to be able to sit there and watch Hillary Clinton and John McCain just shoot the breeze? I mean, I felt like, whatever I had to do to get here? It was worth it.
Still not clear why it was "a blast."
Did they like each other, Hillary and McCain?

I think so. Absolutely. She was fun. She’s got a great sense of humor.
This is like trying to talk to your kids about how school was today. Short answers. No details.
Tell me how. Give me an example.
Yeah, please.
She likes to laugh. If somebody says something outrageous, she pursues it and makes them defend it. Or she can give them a hard time, which I really enjoy. I remember one night she said, “That’s enough work—let’s hear some good stories.” I can’t give you all the details. [smiles]
So I guess I just have to construct my own picture here. Somebody says something, and she makes them defend it. And Russ is looking on having a grand time. Well, I guess the somebody is McCain. And the "something outrageous" is some Republican idea that liberals don't like. And old Hillary "pursues it," just keeps questioning the old guy. Hilarious. What Senators do for fun.
Did she pack more than everybody else?

What’s that?

Did she pack more than everybody else?

[laughs] That would be a dangerous area for me to get into, because I may pack a little more than I should.

So you pack like a girl?

There would be those who would say that. And it would not be the easiest thing to deny.
Hey, it's GQ.
Let’s talk about this twice-divorced thing.


How much of a political liability do you think it will be?

I have no idea. If it is, so be it. That’s up to the people to decide.
What can he say? It is what it is. Which is, obviously a big political liability.
What’s it like to be a single senator?

It’s new to me. You sort of end up working a whole lot. There’s a tendency to let the time get filled up. So I’ve been very careful—

So you’ve become less social?

No, probably more social, in the sense that because you don’t have a spouse—see, when you’re married, you really feel an obligation to spend all that available time with your spouse if you can. I’m able to spend more time with more people now. I’m reconnecting with a lot of people and old friends.


Um, that’s, uh, classified?

Are there women throwing themselves at you?

I certainly wouldn’t say that. [smiles] I’m not gonna say that.

You know, there’ve been some legendary single senators.

Yeah, I know. I’m not aspiring to be in that hall of fame.
You're not going to get anything good out of him on questions like that, but his initial response was telling. He just plunges himself into work. Or is that what he's always done -- which could explain two divorces. Note how he reacted to the question "So you’ve become less social?" I think that was purely political. His answer to the previous question may have been quite honest. That "less social" question, though, set off an alarm and he rushed to protect himself. No way does he want to be perceived as a reclusive loner. Obviously, he's got to put a lot of thought into how to present himself with questions like this if he's going to run for President.

Kos talks about Townhouse and Kosola.

Kos verifies that there is an email list called "Townhouse" and that he really did send the email that TNR printed and we were all talking about yesterday. Kos:
There was one big rule for this list, an important cog in the growing Vast Left Wing Conspiracy -- everything discussed was off the record.

That was obviously violated today as the New Republic betrayed, once again, that it seeks to destroy the new people-powered movement...
Well, TNR didn't break the "one big rule." Someone with the privileged access of list membership did. "Betrayed" is an interesting verb to have TNR as its subject. TNR isn't a traitor. Someone on the list is, and I assume Kos is concerned about that betrayal.
There is nothing controversial about the email, but Jason Zengerle [of TNR] tried to spin it as evidence that there is a "smoke-filled room" and that I send "dictats" to other bloggers, controlling what they can and cannot write about. In a subsequent post, Zengerle went further, saying that I control the financial fates of much of the progressive blogosphere. My power apparently knows no bounds!
Kos usually brags about the power of his blog. Here, he tries -- strains -- to laugh of the suggestion that he could influence bloggers in his sphere. A "diktat" -- let's start spelling it right -- is an "authoritative or dogmatic statement or decree." Kos tries to load on the meaning that it must be able to control what people do and zings Zengerle for asserting what he did not assert. Clearly, Kos aims for power and likes to use it and threaten to use it. Of course, bloggers can do what they want, but there are consequences that they understand.
Ludicrous, all of it, but that's the new rules of the game. TNR and its enablers are feeling the heat of their own irrelevance and this is how they fight it -- by undermining the progressive movement. Zengerle has made common cause with the wingnutosphere, using the laughable "kosola" frame they created and emailing his "scoops" to them for links. This is what the once-proud New Republic has evolved into -- just another cog of the Vast RIGHT Wing Conspiracy.
So you must believe there's a wingnutosphere out to destroy the progressive movement, with the evil New Republic at its core. Somehow, that's not laughable. But I am amused at the accusation that it has "rules." Not "one big rule"?
If you still hold a subscription to that magazine, it really is time to call it quits. If you see it in a magazine rack, you might as well move it behind the National Review or even NewsMax, since that's who they want to be associated with these days.
Now, that's funny! Here, he openly works in financial pressure. Cancel your subscriptions to the noble old magazine. Is that a diktat?
But I do admit being surprised by the sheer creativity of their invented attacks, such as my supposed "pay for play" scheme. Let me be crystal clear. I deny that charge completely.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear. I am not a crook.
I have stated the sources of my income and they do not include money from people asking me to shill for anyone or anything. Problem for these writers, is that the law doesn't protect such defamation. The truth is an absolute defense to libel cases. If they have evidence for those smears, then they have nothing to fear. But if they, say, recklessly invented all manners of illegal or unethical activities by me without bothering to see if they bore any basis in truth, then they'll have plenty to worry about.
Here, Kos tries to scare people off with threats of lawsuits. I agree that people shouldn't write "recklessly invented" things about other people and try to smear them. But is Kos following his own standard? And did Zengerle recklessly invent something about him? Zengerle published an email that Kos confirms he wrote, that gives a fascinating view into the operation of a set of bloggers that Kos strenuously portrays as extremely important in politics today. Why, exactly, is that illegitimate? I can certainly understand Kos's opposition to TNR in the political sphere. TNR tries to call Democrats away from the left-wing politics that Kos promotes.
It is now beyond clear that the dying New Republic is mortally wounded and cornered, desperate for relevance. It has lost half its circulation since the blogs arrived on the scene and they no longer (thank heavens!) have a monopoly on progressive punditry. We have hit their bottom line, we are hitting their patron saint hard (Joe Lieberman) and this is how they respond. By going after the entire movement.
So, let's see what's really here: an important fight for the Democratic party. I'm on TNR's side in the fight. I'd like to see everyone fight fair. And we should talk about what it means to fight fair. Can we publish leaked emails from a private list with a "big rule" about secrecy? Wouldn't Kos publish an email from a private list of right-wing bloggers? Wouldn't he report and speculate about rumors that are equivalent to the ones about him that people are discussing?

June 21, 2006

Cat bite.

A cat bit me! I recommend not trusting cats, even if you know them, even if they sprawl at your feet in the pet-me-please-pet-me posture. They are devious beasts and will lure you into believing that they are not. Go ahead and defend them, cat lovers, but I have the marks on my arm that say you're wrong.

"If any of us blog on this right now, we fuel the story. Let's starve it of oxygen."

TNR publishes a message "Kos sent earlier this week to 'Townhouse,' a private email list comprising elite liberal bloggers" and mocks their "sheep-like obedience to his dictat."

I wonder how much this sort of thing goes on. I'm not on any private email lists like that and have never seen any behind-the-scenes plotting about what should or should not be blogged about. And I wonder who's the leaker among the elite bloggers.

Now, the underlying story -- the one in need of oxygen starvation -- is even more disturbing than the notion that seemingly independent bloggers are "sheep."
Are Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas (of the famous Daily Kos) engaged in a pay-for-play scheme in which politicians who hire Armstrong as a consultant get the support of Kos? That's the question that's been bouncing around the blogosphere ever since The New York Times's Chris Suellentrop broke the news last Friday about a 2000 run-in Armstrong had with the Securities and Exchange Commission over alleged stock touting.
Trouble in blogland.

UPDATE: The Suellentrop piece that should be getting a lot of a attention is behind the TimesSelect wall -- and it's a blog. Crazy! Kos and Armstrong may have found a catastrophic way to screw up blogging, but the NYT has found a supremely boneheaded one. Anyway, here's the TimesSelect link if you can get there. And here's Mickey Kaus ridiculing TimesSelect for keeping Suellentrop from getting credit for his scoop. And watch him talk about "Kosola" on "BloggingHeads."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds quotes the leaked email message -- which TNR called "the blogosphere's smoke-filled backroom" -- and writes: "As usual, I wasn't invited, but then I don't smoke that stuff." But don't you suspect that if they have an elite private list, we must have an elite private list? I note that I get a link on that post, my second Instapundit link of the day. Don't you readers think Glenn must have an email list going out, telling the minions to open up the oxygen tanks and get that fire going? Or do you think: Email? Who needs email! Email is for losers. This blogging thing is all done with links. It's utterly transparent. Anyone can look at the patterns and say whatever they want about how bloggers behave. Emailing behind the scenes is lame... and so embarrassing if it gets out.

AND: But if we did have a list, what would we call it? Not "Townhouse." And why did they call it "Townhouse"? What's the connotation there? Less of a smoke-filled backroom, more of an exclusive private residence.

"Who wants free money?'

Some guy in Wales just starts throwing out £1,000. That's fun for passersby, but I'm afraid it the sign of a very troubled mind. Many years ago, I saw a man take out his wallet and hurl it as far away as he could. I saw it because I was called to my window by his shouting -- shouting just the words "asshole... scumbag" over and over. He took off each item of clothing and tossed it aside, all the while keeping up that chant, until he was stark naked and barefoot. (It was winter in Greenwich Village.) Then, still chanting, he started stalking along the sidewalk. I can't remember how funny or disturbing I thought that was, but I didn't do anything but watch him as he proceeded to the end of the long block, where the police arrived to give him a lift. Some time later, I believe, the man killed himself.


Checking out at the supermarket today, I noticed the headline on The Globe.

ADDED: The visual:

"It's an institute you can't disparage."

The theme this week on "Theme Time Radio Hour With Bob Dylan": marriage. I like the way the old hipster is blatantly square in matching themes to the calendar. We had mother for Mother's Day, father for Father's Day, and now, marriage for June. He also tells the very squarest jokes he can find on the subject, like: My wife and I were happy for 20 years. Then we met.

He had a lot of good songs, like Darlene Love singing "Today I Met the Boy I'm Gonna Marry" and Etta James doing "Stop the Wedding." And it's nice to note the obvious choices that he didn't do, like "Chapel of Love" and "Band of Gold." He had some old blues songs in there, and Rosemary Clooney singing "I'm Getting Married in the Morning."

A funny thing is that, even after that post last night, the subject of gay marriage never crossed my mind until, late in the show, he played Frank Sinatra singing "Love and Marriage." It's such a fun, sardonic song the way Frank sings it, and most of the time he makes me think he's just talking about how women won't let guys have sex with them unless marriage is part of the deal: you can't have one, you can't have none, you can't have one without the other. But there's that part:
Love and marriage, love and marriage
It's an institute you can't disparage
Ask the local gentry
And they will say it's elementary

Try, try, try to separate them
It's an illusion
Try, try, try, and you will only come
To this conclusion
Okay, so, well, we are asking the local gentry, seeing as how we've got a referendum coming up. And a lot of people think in terms of "defending " marriage, that institute you can't disparage. But if there's an elementary idea that love and marriage go together, and you're delusional if you think you can disaggregate them, then it seems plain -- you will only come to this conclusion -- that human beings who love each other ought to be able to marry.

Sorry. Reasoning from song lyrics again. Frank made me do it, even though I think he's making fun of the words of the song -- and the women who hold out for marriage -- all the way through.

What was Bob's attitude toward marriage? Elusive, as usual. But he ended reciting some lines without saying the author's name:
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Please imagine that said with classic Dylanesque intonation: Love's not Time's fool...

"Senate Democrats have been loath to express their opinions publicly...."

"But interviews suggest a frustration with Mr. Kerry," who was "never popular" anyway, says the NYT.
Mr. Kerry now describes the war in Iraq as a mistake, even though he once supported it. His critics say they believe the new stand reflects more politics than principle, and ignores other Democrats' concern that setting a fixed date will leave those in tough re-election fights open to Republican taunts that they are "cutting and running" in Iraq.

The Democrats' exasperation has increased in the last week, as they postponed a vote on Mr. Kerry's amendment to try to fashion a broader consensus among themselves. Democrats up for re-election asked him not to propose a fixed date. But Mr. Kerry, several Democrats said, was unwilling to budge from that idea, even though his co-sponsor, Senator Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, seemed willing to compromise for the sake of consensus. In the end, Mr. Kerry agreed only to extend his deadline, from Dec. 31 of this year to July 2007.

Mr. Kerry's insistence on pushing ahead with his own plan has left the Democrats divided, and open to renewed Republican accusations that they are indecisive and weak — the same ridicule that Republicans heaped on Mr. Kerry in 2004, when his "I was for it before I was against it" statement about a vote on money for the war became a punch line.
Oh, please, if the Democrats don't even like him, can't they make him go away? You know, what the Democrats need is a presidential candidate who was critical of the war early on, but who now firmly supports the successful completion of the mission. Gore?

"We think of Kristian as a hero."

"You know, he didn't have to do this. He believed in what he was doing."

The usual Slate plus a spate.

So I forget to check Slate for a few days, and about a hundred new articles go up. What the hell? They've got the usual Slate plus a spate of extra things marking their 10th anniversary.

Were you reading back in 1996? I was. I also was buying lots of crap on Amazon and running email lists. I'm still doing all those things. I cut way down on my Amazon habit quite a while ago, after buying it seems like a thousand DVDs. (Why not buy every good movie that comes out on DVD?) And I've abandoned my candy-colored belief that email lists will make us free and good and happy. (I think that about blogging now.) But I'm still reading Slate -- even after so many other "content providers" have swamped the internet.

Oh, Slate is exasperating at times. Jacob Weisberg keeps cranking out his Bushisms, maybe just to keep Slate critics from noticing other problems. They're so damned distracting. Look, he's got a new one up there now:
"I tell people, let's don't fear the future, let's shape it."
What's even supposed to be wrong with that? The phrase "let's don't" is standard English. Is there something off about thinking people fear the future? Is the idea of shaping the future too arrogant and unrealistic? Come on, Weisberg, that's no "Is our children learning?"

But you've got to give Slate credit for celebrating its 10th anniversary with a page of links that begins with four articles on the subject "What's Wrong With Slate." And let's don't focus on whether they all bitch about Bushisms. Let's read Michael Kinsley's history of Slate... and maybe pick up this anthology of old Slate articles. And check out this slide show of Slate's graphic design changes. Ah, yes, it's interesting to see the old designs that were so familiar. You don't notice that they're gone until you see them again.

"That's their phrase. They found their three words. They love to do that."

Senator Kerry, talking about Iraq on Imus yesterday:
"Stay the course" is not a plan. And what this administration wants is to have a fake debate, as usual. They're -- you hear the drum beat on every television show from every commentator, "cut and run, cut and run, cut and run, cut and run." That's their phrase. They found their three words. They love to do that.
Yes, it's terrible when your political opponents come up with a three word phrase that mocks your serious position and short circuits debate.
And they're going to try to make the elections in November a choice between "cut and run" and "stay the course". That's not the choice. My plan is not "cut and run." Their plan is "lie and die."
Yes, it's terrible when your political opponents come up with a....

Ah, %$#!, this blogging game is too easy.

June 20, 2006

Defeating the marriage amendment in Wisconsin.

I've said before that I think it's a bad idea to amend the Wisconsin constitution to add this murky language:
"Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state."
Fair Wisconsin is working to defeat the amendment. You might consider helping them out.

UPDATE: And what's with this UW law student saying "Even Althouse things [sic] the amendment is full of 'murky language' and that 'it’s a bad idea'"? I questioned that locution but got no answer. I suspect the student's reasoning is: Althouse is a big conservative, so she must be against gay marriage, so if she thinks the amendment is bad, it means a lot. Quite aside from the fact that plenty of conservatives favor gay marriage and that I'm not any kind of a social conservative, I've been blogging in favor of gay marriage since January 2004, my first month of blogging. You need to think more clearly if you're going to write about people by name. And check your comments to see whether people are raising questions you need to respond to.

Lake Path.

I walked the path along Lake Mendota today, just listening to an audiobook on my iPod and taking a few photos.

Lake path walk

Lake path walk

Lake path walk

Downtown, I had a cappuccino, then walked up Bascom Hill to the Law School. Hmmm.... a new stencil just outside the door:

Lake path walk



What audiobook? It's this, which I got interested in reading after stumbling across this little essay. Only afterwards did I notice that there is an ad for the book running on my blog. That's only an amazing coincidence if you don't know about all the noncoincidences you never take note of. How many things have I become interested in that are not advertised on my blog?

(And speaking of my current blog ads... I want a dumb pipe.)

"Happy Mornings!"

First, go watch this new commercial for Folger's coffee. The Anchoress just pointed that out and said "it's just…really, really odd... I can't think of a thing to say…."

So, come on, there must be something to say. I mean, wake up, what are you, a corpse?

I'd like to see this on TV, preferably HDTV, widescreen, to get the full effect, but even just looking at that YouTube-ish rectangle, I'm going to give this commercial the Althouse Seal of Approval... and not just because it's cleverly creating web buzz. I approve because it's hilariously engaging and entertaining -- enough not only to prevent fast-forwarding but to inspire replaying and even conversation. And that conversation is engaging and entertaining: What the hell was that? How is that a commercial for coffee?

Yeah, go ahead and stretch your brain over this. And have a nice, stimulating cup of coffee before you start. It will help. Me, I just consumed a big, frothing cappuccino, so I can get you started on the extraction of meaning from this rich, satisfying blend of advertising brew.

We begin with a gray, nothing scene. That's the man's dream. We see the man in bed. He's sluggish, clinging to sleep. In the dream, scintillating, lively old folk arise from the sea, dancing absurdly. They sing to him: Happy mornings. You'll sleep when you are dead. They are the smell of coffee, rousing him from that sleep. You don't want to be sleeping now, in that gray limbo. You need to get up. Get the hell out of this dead place, sleep. You think we're scary and creepy? We're dead people! Do you want to stay in this dream? You're with the dead! Wake the hell up!

These strange folk on the boundary between sleep and wakefulness remind us of the choice we must make between life and death -- and the crucial role played by coffee.

UPDATE: A better clip of the ad can be seen on the official site, "Tolerate Mornings." Click on the TV.

"While law professors don't have to treat their favorite theories like clients..."

"... their training and professional culture can arguably predispose them to do so," writes Elizabeth Mertz -- about scholars who merge law and social science.

My first reaction to that was: arguably? You're already backing off on the accusation with "predispose." Personally, I would be skeptical of anything written by a law professor.

About that plinth.

Lionel Shriver bemoans an art world occurrence:
In this year's summer show at London's Royal Academy of Arts, "Exhibit 1201" is a large rectangular tablet of slate with a tiny barbell-shaped bit of boxwood on top. Its creator, David Hensel, must be pleased to have been selected from among some 9,000 applicants for the world's largest open-submission exhibit of contemporary art. Nevertheless, he was bemused to discover that in transit his sculpture had gotten separated from its base. Judging the two components as different submissions, the Royal Academy had rejected his artwork proper--a finely wrought laughing head in jesmonite--and selected the plinth.

Moreover, the Royal Academy denies having made an error, for the plinth and hastily carved wooden support were, according to an official statement, "thought to have merit."
That's just classic. It's sort of a reverse of that story from a few years back about the janitor who threw out some art display that looked like a bag of trash.

You know, I can't look at the word "plinth" and not think of the old Dan Aykroyd character, Leonard Pinth-Garnell. Remember him? He'd be all pretentious and tuxedo-clad, he'd introduce "Bad Conceptual Theater," "Bad Playhouse," "Bad Cinema," "Bad Opera," "Bad Ballet," "Bad Red Chinese Ballet," or "Bad Cabaret for Children," and then he'd inform us how terribly bad that was. I can't visualize the sketches well enough to remember why they amused us so much, but I think it was that the art was so blatantly bad that it was ridiculous to have a fancy expert explain the badness. Or were we laughing at the way art critics are so damned narcissistically pleased with their ability to perceive badness and he was showing things that were so bad and so pornographically pleasurable to him?

But about that plinth....

What more is there to say? I saw this news story a while back and thought about doing a blog post, but decided against it. It's too obvious. Yeah, yeah, there's that. That happened. If someone were making up fake stories to get people to blog them, that would have been one. But it really happened. Shouldn't you take note of something that perfectly bad when it happens?

So Lionel Shriver -- a novelist -- has decided to take on the too-easy topic, so let's see how she -- if she -- manages to make the story her own:
For those who despair that artists these days seem to have lost the skill of fashioning meticulously crafted objects, don't blame Mr. Hensel. While the slate base took only four hours to hack from a mortuary slab, and the little boxwood prop less than an hour, he had painstakingly carved and polished that laughing head for two months. But alas, the sculpture itself has--shudder--emotional content. It was originally christened "One Day Closer to Paradise," a far too expressive title; Mr. Hensel would have been better off with the portentously enigmatic "Exhibit 1201." His laughing head is not only fatally well rendered, but exudes a sense of joy and hilarity, and the overtly evocative is declassé. How much more sophisticated, a stoic square of slate that speaks of--well, ask the viewers.
Well described, don't you think?

But why should the amount of time spent making an object be a good test of the value of art? "A finely wrought laughing head in jesmonite" sounds perfectly awful. Oh, oh, but it's jesmonite. And it's finely wrought. I haven't seen this acrylic resin laughing head, but it sounds rather stunningly bad, monumentally ill-advised, and exquisitely awful. I'm guessing the Royal Academy got it right when they rejected that.

But they fell for the plinth. Hey, unlike the oversized noggin, it was made of a traditional material: stone.
[T]he Royal Academy's exaltation of that plinth recalls many a misapprehension in galleries, where visitors are wont to coo over the fire hydrants, ventilation grates and trash cans, all of which are more durably and fastidiously crafted than the works on display. For that matter, one gift that contemporary art seems to have given us viewers is a way of seeing every object in our surround--as I look about my study now, the powerful yet precarious piles of paperbacks, the airy, ephemeral flutter of bank statements--as art. But in that event, we not only don't need commentators; we don't need artists, do we?
Ah, so there's my question. Did we need a novelist to tsk over the Royal Academy's gaffe, or was the story already too complete in itself? Well, go read the whole thing. I think Shriver performed a nice riff -- enough to make me pick up her novel and give it a glance the next time I'm in a bookstore.


And let me just add that I love the internet. Writing this post, I decided to make a very perfunctory attempt to find a link for the old story about the janitor who threw out the art. I googled "janitor throws out art," and the top hit was exactly the story I wanted, in precisely the best form: the BBC.com report of the incident (which took place in London):
The bag filled with discarded paper and cardboard was part of a work by Gustav Metzger, said to demonstrate the "finite existence" of art.

It was thrown away by a cleaner at the London gallery, which subsequently retrieved the damaged bag.

The 78-year-old artist replaced it with a new bag. The gallery would not reveal whether he would be compensated.
Hmmm.... I see that this happened back in August 2004. I was blogging then. So did I blog about it (or did that fall afoul or my too-obvious rule)? I search my blog. No, I skipped it at the time, but I mention it here, after a commenter prompts me, in an update to a post about... a plinth!

June 19, 2006

$90,000 in the freezer.

It's got such a hilarious snakes-on-a-plane obviousness to it, doesn't it? I enjoyed this dialogue on Fox News Sunday:
BILL KRISTOL: You know, I kind of like Bill Jefferson. He's my kind of Democrat, you know, the best tradition of Louisiana's Democrats. You know, he's not one of these upscale guys who has a private safe at home. He's got to keep his cash somewhere. And the freezer is a useful place, you know. It's typical of Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat -- if you don't keep your money in a safe, you know, you get kicked off a committee.

CHRIS WALLACE: Well, I'm glad you're pleased with yourself on that.

JUAN WILLIAMS: You like that Tupperware as opposed to the safe. That's good. No, but look. The fact is the Democrats really want to inoculate themselves against this charge. But they do so at the cost to Bill Jefferson. And he legitimately raises the race issue because, my goodness, Gary Condit was under investigation for murder and they didn't kick him off of anything. And Dan Rostenkowski -- think back to that. Rostenkowski wasn't kicked off of anything. So you have Jefferson there, but the fact is if the Congressional Black Caucus wants to say that this is somehow a double standard, they have to remove themselves from the interests of the general party, and the general Democratic Party going forward in this election definitely wants to say that the Republicans -- Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, all that -- has a culture of corruption -- and Duke Cunningham -- I could keep going on -- and that they are going to be distinct from the appeal made by the Republicans. They're going to distinguish themselves from that, and so they've got to get rid of Jefferson. He's got to go overboard.

WALLACE: Before I bring in Brit, why is it that they don't do this to Mollohan, they didn't do it to Condit, they didn't do it to Rostenkowski, and they did it to Jefferson?

WILLIAMS: Well, that's my point.

WALLACE: Do you think it's race?

WILLIAMS: No, it's not race. This is all politics. This is hardball politics and someone got hurt, and someone may have even gotten unfairly hurt.

WALLACE: But why the politics on him and not the others?

WILLIAMS: Because he's so high-profile, because of what Bill said, $90,000 in the refrigerator.

BRIT HUME: This is what it comes down to, Chris. This is about one thing and one thing only. And it rivets our attention right here. It's about the dough in the freezer. Now, look. I mean, you think about Nancy Pelosi. I suspect she's personally offended by what a poor investment choice it was. I mean, for someone like her, upscale person like her, she can think of several mutual funds it would have been a better place to put the money in. But you cannot stop talking about the guy sticking the money in the freezer. I mean, it's just too eye-catching. And think of that. Think if that guy hadn't done that. This whole culture of corruption issue would still be working. Can you imagine how frustrating it must be to be a Democratic leader, and these Republicans are involved with all these investigations, and you've got the crooked lobbyist with the black hat and the black raincoat coming out of the courthouse being played on television over and over again, and then one of your guys turns up with 90 grand in the freezer? I mean, it just ruined the whole thing.

The Kennedy effect.

Gina Holland reports:
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Monday that regulators may have misinterpreted the federal Clean Water Act in refusing to allow two Michigan property owners to build a shopping mall and condos on wetlands they own.
Chief Justice John Roberts writes for a plurality, with Justice Kennedy providing the 5th vote in a concurring opinion. I haven't got the text yet, but Roberts slams Kennedy for leaving "lower courts and regulated entities ... to feel their way on a case-by-case basis." [See the update below!]
The court's four most conservative members wanted a more sweeping ruling, clearing the way for development of land unless it was directly connected to waterways.

The court's four most liberal members said that such a ruling would reject three decades of practice by the Army Corps of Engineers and threaten the environment.
It takes nerve to hold the two sides of the Court in equipoise like that, but it would also take nerve to commit to a clear rule. It takes nerve to relegate everyone to so much uncertainty and litigation, but it would also take nerve to determine the outcome in so many cases beyond the case at hand. Poor Justice Kennedy. I can't imagine how he feels about his role. And now it seems that it's the next change on the Court that will produce the... deluge.

UPDATE: Chief Justice Roberts, concurring, faults the Army Corps of Engineers for failing to come up with rules governing the scope of its power after the Court rejected its grandiose view in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook Cty. v. Army Corps of Engineers, 531 U. S. 159 (2001) (SWANCC):
Lower courts and regulated entities will now have to feel their way on a case-by-case basis. This situation is certainly not unprecedented. See Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U. S. 306, 325 (2003) (discussing Marks v. United States, 430 U. S. 188 (1977) ). What is unusual in this instance, perhaps, is how readily the situation could have been avoided.
That's an interesting citation to the Michigan affirmative action case, Grutter. Note how elegantly Roberts doesn't quite criticize Grutter. He doesn't even criticize Kennedy for leaving the law in a condition of fuzziness. My original post says "Roberts slams Kennedy," which is an incorrect inference I made reading Holland's report. Roberts doesn't even mention Kennedy. He slams the Army Corps of Engineers. And he doesn't complain about fuzzy legal standards generally. He's focused on the failure by the Corps to provide the clear rules that would have solved the problem.

Justice Scalia who wrote the plurality opinion, joined by Roberts, Thomas, and Alito, did go after Kennedy, but not to chastise him for leaving the lower courts to struggle through unclarity. His opinion is concentrated on proper textual analysis of the statute.

So, I really need to reframe this post. I was too eager to perceive Kennedy setting himself apart from the Roberts-Scalia-Thomas-Alito group. I think this opinion would have been written differently by the Rehnquist Court, and that Roberts is having a moderating effect.

The biodiversity freezer.

Carved in an icy mountain, guarded by polar bears. Norway as Noah.
Its purpose is to ensure the survival of crop diversity in the event of plant epidemics, nuclear war, natural disasters or climate change, and to offer the world a chance to restart growth of food crops that may have been wiped out....

The vault will have thick concrete walls, and even if all cooling systems fail, the temperature in the frozen mountain will never rise above freezing due to permafrost, it said.
So it will protect us in the event of "climate change," and it will always be frozen "due to permafrost"?

The most ever paid for a painting: $135 million.

And it's for a Klimt painting. A Klimt! I mean -- wow! -- it's pretty. Look at all the gold.

Museum Associates/Agence France-Presse - Getty Images

Speaking of prettiness, the purchaser's money comes from cosmetics.

Actually, the purchase and the price make a lot of sense. The buyer, Ronald S. Lauder, is the founder of the Neue Galerie, "a tiny museum at Fifth Avenue and 86th Street devoted entirely to German and Austrian fine and decorative arts." The painting exactly fits the place and is one of the artist's greatest paintings. Lauder had to convince the owner to sell. And the owner, the niece of the woman in the portrait (Adele Bloch-Bauer), fought a long and hard to obtain the painting from the Austrian government, which, she successfully argued, had obtained it by way of the Nazis.

The complexity of the Texas redistricting case....

Which may or may not come down today. Scotusblog notes three issues beyond the mid-decade redistricting problem that's gotten all the attention:
1. Constitutional Constraints on Racial/Ethnic Redistricting....

2. The Voting Rights Act in Today’s World of Multi-Racial and Ethnic Demographics....

3. Is Partisan Gerrymandering Unconstitutional at the Retail Level Even If Not At the Wholesale Level?
These issues are very complex, but that doesn't guarantee that the Court won't find some simple answers.

June 18, 2006

Audible Althouse #54.

The new podcast. Streamable here -- no iPod needed. But all the cool people subscribe:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

I talk about: Father's Day when your father is gone. Staying on good terms with people who are not gone. Hiding your disappointment. That sign that says "We have Potato!" The way schools disfavor boys... and rebel girls. The high school with 41 valedictorians. Back in the old days, getting assigned to give the prayer at graduation and doing it, rebel-style.

Murtha bumbling through "Meet the Press."

Did you watch Congressman John Murtha on "Meet the Press" today? (If not, you can watch it here.) Or read the transcript. Murtha is -- in Tim Russert's words -- "the most outspoken Democratic critic of the president’s handling of the war." I admit to feeling a certain amount of resistance to outspoken critics of the war effort, so take that into account. But I thought Murtha's performance was embarrassing. I've never seen a "Meet the Press" guest take the first question and spew everything he could think of in one giant, jumbled dump:
MR. RUSSERT: The president says, “stay the course,” that within the next six months, Iraq will be secure under the direction of the new prime minister, and to do anything less now would be irresponsible.

REP. MURTHA: Well, “stay the course” is “stay and pay.” This is the thing that has worried me right along. We’re spending $8 billion dollars a month, $300 million dollars a day. And to give you some perspective of what that means, Gates said, “I’m going to quit the corporation, or I’m going to—less time with the corporation.” Well, you weigh $30 billion dollars. That’s four months of the cost of this war. This port security, if you want to spend more money, it’d would take 47 years the way we’re spending it. Education, the No Child Left Behind, a couple months of the war would pay for that.

[234 words cut.]

It’s getting worse. That’s why I feel so strongly. All of us know how important it is internationally to win this war. We know how important. We import 20 million barrels of oil a day—we use 20 million barrels of oil. We know how important, international community. But we’re doing it all ourself, and there’s no plan that makes sense. We need to have more international cooperation. We need to redeploy our troops, the periphery. What happened with Zarqawi could have been done from the out—it was done from the outside. Our planes went in from the outside. So there’s no reason in the world that they can’t redeploy the troops. They’ve become the targets, they’re caught in the civil war, and I feel very strongly about it.
He gets rolling and jumps from point to point -- mostly freeform financial analysis -- with no end in sight until he suddenly, apparently, thinks of an exit strategy: "I feel very strongly about it."

Russert bases the interview on a clips from a speech Karl Rove gave in New Hampshire last Monday, and Murtha should have been well prepared to answer this. Rove's remarks are clear: the Democrats want to "cut and run." "They may be with you at the first shots, but they are not going to be there for the last tough battles." Murtha's response is nothing but babble about how Rove isn't personally fighting the war:
He’s, he’s in New Hampshire. He’s making a political speech. He’s sitting in his air conditioned office with his big, fat backside, saying, “Stay the course.”
You know, most Americans are fat. Including Murtha. This kind of personal invective may be hilarious among fellow Rove-haters, but it's frustrating to listen to an answer like that when Rove has articulated exactly the issue Democrats need to address. It's always been the case that the leaders are back home in physical comfort -- though it's an unusually bad week to dredge up that hackneyed observation, since Bush just went to Iraq.

Murtha continues:
That’s not a plan. I mean, this guy—I don’t know what his military experience is, but that’s a political statement. This is a policy difference between me and the White House. I disagree completely with what he’s saying.
Thanks for the big, fat nonanswer. We know you disagree with him. Murtha goes on for another 210 words, and Russert finally finds a way to break in and tries to remind him that the Democrats need to keep Rove from pinning that disastrous label "cut and run" on them. Russert:
Is it appropriate for the president’s principal political adviser to accuse the Democrats of cutting and running?
Does Murtha pick up the cue and do the one thing he most needs to do, which is to portray the Democrats as more responsible on national security?
I think it’s, it’s, it’s a, a name—they just use that. I say “stay and pay.” And what I mean by stay and pay, and I’m talking about the hardship on the families, the hardship on the troops. And there’s no plan, that’s the thing. It’s easy to say that. That’s, that’s an easy—the public is way ahead of this. The public is two-to-one against what we’re doing, and they want a change in direction. That’s the thing I see the most.
Notice all the stumbling? "It’s, it’s, it’s a, a name... there’s no plan, that’s the thing. It’s easy to say that. That’s, that’s an easy—the public is way ahead of this." Remember the polls? Americans already disagree with Rove. So why should I -- the most outspoken war critic the Democrats have -- bother to put two coherent sentences together?

Did somebody misprogram him? It sounds as though he was repeating a pep talk someone gave him before the show. It's easy! No, it's not. The polls! You're going into the campaign season, when people are going to start paying attention to the arguments. Are you just going to tell us that we already agree with you?

I'm sure Rove enjoyed that pathetic performance.

"The picture shifts the emphasis from Christ's warning to Mary's desire, and runs with that."

"The gorgeous flesh of the nearly naked Savior, and the Magdalene's luxuriant blond hair and silk robes, do more to invite caresses than ward them off. The saint herself is looking awfully hands-on, with fingers tightly clutched around her golden jar of ointment or reaching out to grasp at her beloved Lord, who in turn is busy fingering the fine cloth he's wrapped in."

The Washington Post is getting a lot
out of art today...

Ointment? Why not go all the way and call it lube?

But isn't this is a typical -- and, really, rather cornball -- way to try to get the public jazzed up about art? Oh, it's all so incredibly sexy! Why not wheel out Sister Wendy?

About that potato.

Yesterday's photograph prompted commenter Mathew to write: "I love the fact that the moment I saw that photo I knew exactly where it was taken, and exactly why it was posted."

That amused me a lot. Am I even sure exactly why I posted it? Consider the manifold possibilites:
1. I want those in the know to know potato is available there.

2. I find handmade signs charming, especially when they express enthusiasm about ordinary things.

3. I love the Eggagog feel to it.

4. It's a mystery for commenters to riff on.

5. I'm completely high and have the munchies.

6. It was about time for another Madison photograph on the blog and that was the one thing that caught my eye on my Saturday walk.

7. It was a little game to see how long it would take for someone to mention Dan Quayle.

8. Setting up something to talk about in the podcast.
Oh, this wants to be a blogpoll. Haven't done a blogpoll in a good, long while. So have at it:

"Somalia was saved because of the Somali women."

"I think it is even something that the men acknowledge now. Finally."

"We were like, 'What if this thing blows up and everybody wants to get burned?'"

Says one of two sisters who were severely disfigured in a house fire and have now had huge portraits painted.
The painter, Doug Auld, 52, says that if people have a chance to gaze without voyeuristic guilt at the disfigured, they may be more likely to accept them as fellow human beings, rather than as grotesques to be gawked at or turned away from.

So go ahead and stare. This is what people with burns look like. There are thousands and thousands of them, and while many shut themselves away, plenty venture out to conduct their lives.
Photography already serves this function of allowing us to stare, and grotesque subjects are frequently chosen. But a painting is different, isn't it? To paint something in a detailed style like Auld's requires a great deal of time and intensely focused attention. A painting proves the artist's long stare. A photograph -- however long the photographer planned and gazed -- is only evidence of one moment.

Life in Canada.

The NYT reports:
The Inuit are a traditionally nomadic people who migrated about 1,000 years ago from western Alaska toward what is today Arctic Canada. Until very recently, they had no formal political organization. Nuclear families lived together and occasionally joined other families to compose small, fluid bands to share their hunt.

Since World War II, the Inuit have been forced by the federal government to abandon their nomadic lives for remote settlements approachable only by airplane. The federal police killed their sled dogs, saying they were sickly. Young Inuit were required to leave their parents and sent to residential schools, where they were routinely abused physically and sexually.

Modern life has its benefits, but the Inuit diet of hunted game has largely been replaced by sugary and fatty packaged foods. Welfare has become a way of life, and 30-year-old grandparents are not uncommon. Housing is scarce, so crowding only exacerbates social ills.

"Now perhaps there's been a chance to reattach the original democratic, liberal values to the flag that come from the 19th century..."

How hard -- and rightly so -- it's been for Germans to wave their flag.
"To the old generation, the flag symbolized aggressive nationalism, or even some continuity with the Third Reich, even if the Third Reich didn't use that flag," said Paul Nolte, a professor of contemporary history at Berlin's Free University...

The new display of pride is almost strenuously nonnationalistic. There are even German cars that show the German flag on one side and some other flag — the Brazilian one seems popular, perhaps because Brazil is a likely opponent if the German team makes it to the [World Cup] finals — on the other side.

"This happy year flew by/My Maury, what a guy!"

Is there no limit to abasement via television? (Thanks, Metafilter.)

Don't miss the part where she gets off the piano.

ADDED: In other Maury news, "Povich Wants a Maury-torium."

"As the engineers of tomorrow, they represent the future of our nation's infrastructure...."

It's the National Concrete Canoe Competition, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison team is number 1 for the fourth year in a row.

Father's Day... is your father gone?

Richard Althouse

Mine is.

The mubtakkar.

Time Magazine reports:
Al-Qaeda terrorists came within 45 days of attacking the New York subway system with a lethal gas similar to that used in Nazi death camps. They were stopped not by any intelligence breakthrough, but by an order from Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman Zawahiri. And the U.S. learned of the plot from a CIA mole inside al-Qaeda. These are some of the more startling revelations by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind, whose new book The One Percent Doctrine is excerpted in the forthcoming issue of TIME....

U.S. intelligence got its first inkling of the plot from the contents of a laptop computer belonging to a Bahraini jihadist captured in Saudi Arabia early in 2003. It contained plans for a gas-dispersal system dubbed "the mubtakkar" (Arabic for inventive). Fearing that al-Qaeda's engineers had achieved the holy grail of terror R&D — a device to effectively distribute hydrogen-cyanide gas, which is deadly when inhaled — the CIA immediately set about building a prototype based on the captured design, which comprised two separate chambers for sodium cyanide and a stable source of hydrogen, such as hydrochloric acid. A seal between the two could be broken by a remote trigger, producing the gas for dispersal. The prototype confirmed their worst fears: "In the world of terrorist weaponry," writes Suskind, "this was the equivalent of splitting the atom. Obtain a few widely available chemicals, and you could construct it with a trip to Home Depot – and then kill everyone in the store."
Why are Suskind (and Time) revealing that we have a source in al Qaeda? If al Qaeda breaks into chaos at the news, maybe they'll start killing each other -- or just every guy named "Ali" -- but I don't see how it's Suskind's call. Did the government approve of this disclosure? Is it even true? It might be good disinformation. What am I missing?

"The equivalent of splitting the atom"? "The holy grail of terror R&D"? But "you could construct it with a trip to Home Depot"? Is it easy or hard? What's so amazing about a container with two compartments? It can't be the potential for a remote switch. There's no genius involved in thinking of the two chemicals, is there? That's basically how they set up the gas chamber they used to use in California, isn't it?

The CIA tested the design and was impressed by how... mubtakkar it was? Is that a trick to get them to build it and off themselves, Weatherman-style?