January 7, 2009

"The porn industry has been hurt by the downturn like everyone else and they are going to ask for the $5 billion."

"The take here is that everyone and their mother want to be bailed out from the banks to the big three.... Is [porn] the most serious thing in the world? Is it going to make the lives of Americans better if it happens? It is not for them to determine."

Harry Reid on Roland Burris: "He obviously is a very engaging, extremely nice man. He presents himself well."

After a meeting this morning.

Presents himself well????

Rush Limbaugh, just now, ridiculing the Democrats' racial attitudes, likened that quote to Joe Biden's famous assessment of Barack Obama: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

Remember The Dullest Blog in the World?

It was one of the first blogs I ever read. It had posts like this:
Pulling my chair a few inches towards the table

I was sitting at the table and realised that I would be more comfortable if my chair was a couple of inches nearer to the table. I moved the chair forward slightly, thus lessening the gap between me and the table. I was then able to continue what I was doing in greater comfort.

Walking along at a steady pace

I needed to get somewhere and decided to walk there. I wasn’t particularly early or particularly late, so I walked along at a steady pace.

Making a note of something on a piece of paper

Earlier on I heard something that I wanted to remember. I found a pen and wrote it down on a piece of paper. If I need to be reminded of the information at any point I will find the piece of paper and read it.

Replacing the lid on a container

I noticed that after eating my lunch a tub of low fat spread remained on the kitchen work surface. It did not have a lid on. I remedied the situation by replacing the lid and returning the container to the refrigerator.
Those are just a few posts in a row from 2003. Now, that was fascinatingly hilarious back then. Today, does the humor even register? It looks like Twitter! Now, millions of people write tiny posts to say whatever little thing it is they happen to be doing. And it's not to be funny. It's to communicate and feel connected.

There's this odd phenomenon where the things that were once the most serious become jokes and funny stuff from the past somehow becomes the grim norm.

The Senate must seat Roland Burris.

Says Walter Dellinger, who was a Supreme Court law clerk (for Hugo Black) when the Supreme Court decided the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. case (Powell v. McCormack):
In Justice Black’s view, one of the worst abuses of power in England resulted from parliamentary majorities wrongly refusing to seat dissident legislators. That experience makes me very wary about the Senate’s barring a person from taking a seat unless its authority to do so is clear. Here it is not.
Dellinger notes that Blagojevich is the governor, he has the appointment power, and he has exercised it:
The charges that he sought bribes to appoint certain candidates to the Senate do not automatically render illegal other official acts of his office like signing laws or pardoning criminals. And because there is no evidence that a bribe was solicited from, or proffered by, Mr. Burris, his appointment is presumptively lawful.

Nor do the other arguments against Mr. Burris’s appointment hold up. The contention by the Democratic leadership that Mr. Burris can be denied a seat because the Illinois secretary of state refuses to sign his appointment papers is without merit — it would confer upon secretaries of state absolute veto power over governors’ appointments.
The idea of delaying and giving the Illinois legislature a chance to impeach Blagojevich makes no sense, because Burris has been validly appointed, so he's in until the term is up in 2010.

There is still a separate question whether Burris can get into court (as I noted last Thursday). Dellinger says:
The Supreme Court decision in the Powell case did leave open the possibility that a Congressional decision finding that a member was not properly elected — in this case, appointed — might be a “political question” immune from judicial review.

But that some reasons for denying Mr. Burris this seat might not be subject to review by the courts means that the Senate should take more care, not less.
Exactly. When the court finds a case nonjusticiable under the political question doctrine, it is because it reads the Constitution as committing a particular constitutional question to one of the political branches of government. It is decidedly different from rejecting a Constitution-based claim on the merits. It is saying that some other branch of government is the final authority on the meaning of a part of the Constitution, and that indeed means that the nonjudicial branch that has this responsibility must look at the Constitution and figure out what it means and then follow it.

It absolutely does not mean that the other branch can simply carry out its political will.... something you'd never guess from watching Harry Reid.

It's the new Bloggingheads — with me and Glenn Loury!

They've called this one "Slippery Issues." Topics:
Glenn decries Israel’s attack on Gaza
Will Palestinian nihilism end the Israel experiment?
The case for Senator Roland Burris
Caroline Kennedy and American plutocracy
Sex and politics in “Milk”
Ann detects a pedophilia trend in the Oscar-bait films
I'll pick out some choice clips and expand this post pretty soon. Meanwhile, you can watch the whole thing, if you like, at the link.

00:00: Hey, look how similar the backgrounds are. Does he always have that background, or did he copy mine as a subtle joke?

03:25: I ask a question that Glenn first calls "very good" and then calls "a part of this Orwellian discourse."

12:12: Glenn says "The Jewish state is an experiment." A complicated discussion follows, and you tell me if he's suggesting that the Palestinians can, by abject nihilism, cause the experiment to fail.

17:15: We both say that Roland Burris is the Senator from Illinois.

21:57: "The South Side became a steppingstone in the march of Obama into history," says Glenn, who's from the South Side of Chicago and who wonders whether the appointment of Burris reflects the ambivalence of all those the old Chicago politicians that Obama left behind. [ADDED: How do those old pols feel? Song cue.]

26:10: Why is there no more talk about Valerie Jarrett for the Senate position? I say: "I wonder what's in the tapes" — the Blagojevich tapes.

32:14: Glenn, the economist, answers all my questions about the stimulus package.

44:45: Glenn thinks "Milk" failed to depict the "ferocity of male sexual appetite."

52:26: I do my rant about prettified pedophilia in the movies:

55:10: I'm talking about Ricky Gervais insulting black people, and Glenn says: "Well, as a person who is obese..." And I'm all: Oh, no, you shouldn't say it. We're just heads here....

Finally, it's light enough to open the blinds.


"The trouble with Sanjay Gupta," says Paul Krugman, is seen in the way he "mugged" Michael Moore.

I know, you're thinking: If that's the trouble, bring it on.

But let's read what Krugman has to say:
So apparently Obama plans to appoint CNN’s Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon General. I don’t have a problem with Gupta’s qualifications. But I do remember his mugging of Michael Moore over Sicko. You don’t have to like Moore or his film; but Gupta specifically claimed that Moore “fudged his facts”, when the truth was that on every one of the allegedly fudged facts, Moore was actually right and CNN was wrong.

What bothered me about the incident was that it was what Digby would call Village behavior: Moore is an outsider, he’s uncouth, so he gets smeared as unreliable even though he actually got it right. It’s sort of a minor-league version of the way people who pointed out in real time that Bush was misleading us into war are to this day considered less “serious” than people who waited until it was fashionable to reach that conclusion. And appointing Gupta now, although it’s a small thing, is just another example of the lack of accountability that always seems to be the rule when you get things wrong in a socially acceptable way.
Krugman's link — at "mugging" — goes to a USA Today article about the conflict, which mainly dealt with the amount of money spent on medical care per person in the United States compared to Cuba. You can see Gupta and Moore having it out on the Larry King show on video here or read the transcript here. The fact that Gupta actually did get some numbers wrong overshadows the policy dispute: Moore wants the government to pay for all medical care for everyone, and Gupta thinks Moore might be right, but that things are more complex than Moore will admit.

It's true, as Krugman says, that Moore comes across as an uncouth outsider and that we tend to feel an instinctive aversion to him. And Gupta is couth, an expert at projecting competence, expertise, and level-headedness. And Krugman is right that the uncouth speaker may be right when the couth speaker is wrong. On this occasion, Gupta got some things wrong, and where he was wrong, he quickly and clearly corrected himself and apologized. That's part of the couth style. So where is this "lack of accountability" that Krugman talks about? Gupta didn't get away with mistakes by speaking "in a socially acceptable way." Gupta was immediately called to account, and he stepped up to it.

And what of Moore? Is he accountable? Moore may have not been wrong on this occasion, but he's been wrong in the past about plenty of things, and his entire filmmaking style is based on a strong point of view — that is, bias — that involves distortion and emotive exaggeration. Does Moore make corrections and apologize? He method involves going doggedly forward toward his predetermined goals — like government-managed health care or opposition to the war or gun control.

So it's quite sensible — not some dysfunctional "village" reflex — to be skeptical when Moore speaks. At the same time, we listen to Moore — some of us — because he's got an artistic style that is often lively and funny and thought-provoking. He's chosen his uncouth, rebel style, and he uses his style every bit as successfully as Gupta uses his. Moore has scarcely been ostracized for his outsider manner. He's very popular. Some people hate him, but he's choosing to antagonize those people — it's part of his the polemical style that has made him rich and famous.

So don't cry for Michael Moore, give Sanjay Gupta the credit he deserves, and don't swallow anything whole, whether it's served up by rebel filmmakers or sophisticated doctors.

January 6, 2009

For Surgeon General, Obama picks Dr. Sanjay Gupta.



What is the significance of the Sanjay Gupta appointment?
Obama has made a strong advance in the project of merging politics and showbiz.
Surgeon General has long been a showbiz slot, so nothing much has changed.
pollcode.com free polls

ADDED: Cato@Liberty says:
[W]hy do we need a surgeon general in the first place? After all, can anyone name our current (acting) surgeon general?

In reality, the surgeon general is little more than the “national nanny,” hectoring us to stop smoking, lose weight, exercise more, and never ever go out without a condom. I’ve been flipping through my copy of the Constitution, and I can’t find the authorization for the federal government to take taxpayers’ money to establish an office to tell us how we should live our lives.

"Has the man who writes best selling books about his ‘Conversations with God’ also heard God’s commandments? Thou shalt not steal...."

Well, if you have conversations with God, you're pretty special. Maybe you get some special rules. Perhaps, those generic commandments are for the little people.

Neale Donald Walsch accused of plagiarism, would like you to believe that "he made a mistake in believing the story was something that had actually happened to him."
Except for a different first paragraph in which Mr. Walsch wrote that he could “vividly remember” the incident, his Dec. 28 Beliefnet post followed, virtually verbatim, [Candy] Chand’s previously published writing, even down to prosaic details like “the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down.”
Aw. Come on. Give him a chance. Here's how I'm picturing it:
GOD: Yo, Walsch. Conversation time.

WALSCH: What is it now, Lord?

GOD: You know that that thing Candy Chand wrote? Where she went to that Christmas pageant and one of the kids holds the M upside-down? "Christmas Love" becomes "Christ Was Love."

WALSCH: Why you lap up that sentimental crap, I will never understand.

GOD: LOL, do not try to understand my ways, Walsch. I invented cute. And I also invented practical jokes, so here's my idea. I want you to copy that story, word for word, and publish it on the intertubes...

WALSCH: That's supposed to be funny?

GOD: "Intertubes"? That will never stop being funny.

WALSCH: No, I mean me blatantly plagiarizing something.

GOD: You copy the whole thing word for word, but then — here's the hilarious part — you add a first paragraph all about how you "vividly remember" that time you went to the Christmas pageant.

WALSCH: This will be so easily discovered...

GOD: Yeah, it used to be just me that knew about all the lying and cheating. Now, with the intertubes...

WALSCH: Am I allowed to say that gets on my nerves?

GOD: Now, with the intertubes, a lot more people can discover lying and cheating. Hijinks ensue. And when you are discovered, because, of course, you will be discovered...

WALSCH: Obviously...

GOD: When you are discovered, I want you to claim — really sincerely — that you actually mistakenly believed that you remembered the incident as if it had happened to you. You can be all: "I am chagrined and astonished that my mind could play such a trick on me."

WALSCH: You think that's funny?

GOD: Mmm-hmmm.

WALSCH: People aren't going to believe that.

GOD: The believe you have conversations with God, don't they?

"Man left dangling upside down, pantsless after Vail lift mishap."

Oh, no!

Burris blocked!

Just now.

That's it?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Monday that Burris would not be permitted to take his seat because Burris "has not been certified by the state of Illinois," a reference to incomplete paperwork that only touches on the dispute. Senate Democrats maintain that Burris' appointment is tainted because of the charges against Blagojevich.
No explanation of the constitutional basis for the claim of power. I suspect the reason is that the constitutional argument is so weak. Burris was appointed pursuant to the processes that exist in state law.

ADDED: I had to cut this post short because I had a Bloggingheads recording scheduled. (It's not up yet, but we talked about Burris.) Anyway, let me note that I wrote about the constitutional question in some depth last Thursday. In that discussion, the assumption was that the Senate would go through some procedure — hearings, debate, a vote. But there was none of that, just a raw exercise of power. Ironically, Blagojevich is accused of abusing his power. Are we having an abuse of power contest?

"Right now, the most important task for us is to stabilize the patient."

"The economy is badly damaged — it is very sick. So we have to take whatever steps are required to make sure that it is stabilized." So says Obama.

It's an emergency. Get into the emergency frame of mind, which is stand back, don't interfere, accept that they gotta do what they gotta do. Obama is going with the full emergency metaphor: The economy is a patient who is "very sick," he's the doctor who must "stabilize" the patient by taking "whatever steps are required."

Does my lake look Stonehenge-y to you?

"So is there a North American version of Stonehenge just sitting up there beneath the glacial waters of a small northern bay in Lake Michigan?"

Here he comes now! Your new Senator!

Tired of pink men.

"I am so tired of pink men bombing brown children and rationalizing it as fighting terrorism. I am so tired of pink men telling women (of all colors) what to do with their wombs--which connect with their brains--in case you forgot. I am so tired of pink men telling us we should stay in Iraq for generations. I am so tired of pink men buying bombs and cheating schools. I am so tired of pink men having wives who stand behind them and nod sagely on television. I am so tired of pink men expecting that someone--a brown, black, yellow or white woman--will trail behind them changing light bulbs, taking out garbage, washing laundry, keeping food in the house, taking care of kids of all ages, of parents of all ages. I am so tired of pink men whose wives double or triple the family income thinking they can spend it without doing a damn thing at home. I am so tired of pink men spouting nonsense on TV. I am so tired of pink men arguing, blathering, bloviating, predicting the future--usually wrongly--and telling women to shut up. I am so sick of hearing that another pink man has dropped his children out a window, off a bridge or killed his pregnant wife or killed his unpregnant wife because he was infatuated with another pregnant woman. I am so sick of pink men making war and talking about peace. I am so sick of pink men appointing their mediocre cronies to judgeships, to political advisors, to cushy jobs, to columns in the paper, to multimillion-dollar posts as CEOS or actors (while the actresses make less) or producers or writers or newsreaders or talk show bloviators or supposedly sage counselors at law. I am so tired of pink men."

That's Erica Jong, in one of "The 10 Worst Quotes From The Huffington Post For 2008."

Pink men? Reminds me of this:

I am so sick of pink men appointing their mediocre cronies to judgeships, to political advisors, to cushy jobs.... Well, how do you like Barack Obama appointing Leon Panetta to run the C.I.A.? How pink/unpink/mediocre/unmediocre is that?

"Gaza is where dreams of reconciliation go to die."

Why Jeffrey Goldberg doesn't want to talk about Gaza:
I have friends in Gaza about whom I worry a great deal; I've seen many people killed in Gaza; I've served in the Israeli Army in Gaza; I've been kidnapped in Gaza; I've reported for years from Gaza; I hope my former army doesn't kill the wrong people in Gaza; I hope Israeli soldiers all leave Gaza alive; I know they'll be back in Gaza; I think this operation will work; and I have no actual hope that it will work for very long, because nothing works for very long in the Middle East. Gaza is where dreams of reconciliation go to die. Gaza is where the dream of Palestinian statehood goes to die; Gaza is where the Zionist dream might yet die. Or, more to the point, might be murdered. I'm not a J Street moral-equivalence sort of guy. Yes, Israel makes constant mistakes, which I note rather frequently, but this conflict reminds me once again that Israel is up against an implacable force, namely, an interpretation of Islam that disallows the idea of Jewish national equality.

Why did Obama pick Leon Panetta — a man with no significant experience in intelligence — to head the C.I.A.?

The NYT has this:
Democratic officials said Mr. Obama had selected Mr. Panetta for his managerial skills, his bipartisan standing, and the foreign policy and budget experience....
Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is now the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and will conduct any confirmation hearing, is openly expressing disapproval, both because Panetta is not an intelligence professional and because she was not consulted. Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the outgoing chair of the committee, is also said to disapprove.
The choice of Mr. Panetta comes nearly two weeks after Mr. Obama had otherwise wrapped up his major personnel moves. It appears to reflect the difficulty Mr. Obama has encountered in finding a candidate who is capable of taking charge of the agency but is not tied to the interrogation and detention program run by the C.I.A. under President Bush.

Aides have said that Mr. Obama had originally hoped to select a C.I.A. director with extensive field experience, especially in combating terrorist networks. But his first choice for the job, John O. Brennan, had to withdraw his name amid criticism over his alleged role in the formation of the agency’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11 attacks.
By contrast, Panetta wrote a piece in The Washington Monthly that said: "We cannot and we must not use torture under any circumstances. We are better than that." That's very nice, but a million bloggers have written the same thing. If you aren't on the inside, dealing with the details and responsible for outcomes, it takes nothing to say that, and in fact, it's the most obvious opinion that anyone would take. It's not impressive to have thought that up, and it certainly doesn't amount to a qualification for anything other than to appease the people who bellyached about Brennan.

But, we're told, Panetta has strong management skills — generic skill, supposedly applicable to anything.
If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Panetta would take control of the agency most directly responsible for hunting senior leaders of Al Qaeda around the world. He would also become the oldest director in the agency’s history....
He's 70. A 70-year-old man with no background will lead the hunt for al Qaeda.
“It’s a puzzling choice and a high-risk choice,” said Amy Zegart, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has written extensively on intelligence matters.

“The best way to change intelligence policies from the Bush administration responsibly is to pick someone intimately familiar with them,” Ms. Zegart said. “This is intelligence, not tax or transportation policy. You can’t hit the ground running by reading briefing books and asking smart questions.”

IN THE COMMENTS: TheCrankyProfessor said:
If people think the Clintons gutted America's ability to respond to terrorism by treating it as a law enforcement issue, this appointment ought to signal that intelligence is now purely a political issue. So appoint a politician.

Hope! Change!

ADDED: Andrew Sullivan says:
Feinstein and Rockefeller sense a real individual with real clout at the agency, whom they cannot control. There may have been a lack of foreisght [sic] here in not phoning Feinstein ahead of time. But it is also indisputable that many leading intelligence Democrats were deeply complicit in the Bush torture program and his illegal wire-tapping. It was just as important for the president-elect to pick someone not beholden to them either.

Some are now citing Panetta's appointment as somehow "political" rather than substantive. But it's obvious that Obama has actually found someone both capable of running a bureaucracy as complex as the CIA, of a stature to be approved by the Congress and maintain good relations, and with the good sense to know how interrogation based on torture is never right and much less effective than legal methods.

It remains an inspired choice. And the critics help show why.
So, if your opponents oppose something, you should be for it? It seems to me you need better reasons than that. Obama and the congressional Democrats should want to project an image of seriousness and competence — and actually be serious and competent.

How is it obvious that Obama has found someone with the right skills? Where do these judgments come from? Do you think some people just have "good sense" and then they automatically know what is "never right" and what is "much less effective"? Whatever happened to deep knowledge and real-world experience? Now, you're willing to go on assertions of good character and a cocky belief in the soundness of what your instincts tell you is obvious and right? That attitude is positively... Bushian. And I remember when Andrew Sullivan loved exactly that about Bush.

January 5, 2009

"You seemed to be quite open about sexual issues or other behaviors such as drinking or smoking. Are you sure that's a good idea?"

"You might consider revising your page to better protect your privacy."

Are you following me on Twitter?


I like tweeting. But it's a little hard to take, not having commenters. I'm so used to having you close by.

I answer your questions.

Yesterday, I noted the questions each of which, according to SiteMeter, brought 1 person to this blog. I intended only to mock, but then I actually answered the questions. Why should I mock? I can answer the questions and do some small particle of good in this world.

In that spirit, let's answer today's questions:

who is msm?

A miserable left-wing fool.

what type of jobs will obama create?

According to Rush Limbaugh, today, these will be military jobs, and you won't need to apply for them. You will be drafted.

what to stockpile for an economic crisis?

Bottled water, peanut butter, toilet paper, powdered milk, granola, and V8 Juice — as much as you can fit in your house.

what happened in the movie doubt?

Meryl Streep pursed her lips and Philip Seymour Hoffman got red in the face.

what do men wear to sleep in?


"Is nothing sacred?"

"No, nothing is sacred. And even if there were to be something called sacred, we mere primates wouldn’t be able to decide which book or which idol or which city was the truly holy one. Thus, the only thing that should be upheld at all costs and without qualification is the right of free expression, because if that goes, then so do all other claims of right as well."

"Morris dancing could be 'extinct' within 20 years because young people are too embarrassed to take part, a UK Morris association said today."

I read that and felt bad, but I also wondered: What's Morris dancing? Fortunately, there's YouTube, and I found this:

Okay, that does seem really embarrassing, but on the other hand, it looks like a lot of fun. And it would be a lot more fun if that one guy would get his head out of the way.

Lots more on Morris dancing here, and forgive me if I'm an idiot for not knowing about it.

"For gayness to be the same as fatness..." — Ricky Gervais defends his anti-fat remarks.

We discussed this minor controversy yesterday. Now, Ricky's got this on his blog (which seems to defy permalinking):
I heard someone on the radio once say that they were tired of the prejudice aimed at the overweight. They said something like "you're not allowed to make fun of gay people, so why are you allowed to make fun of fat people? It's the same thing."

It's not the same thing though, is it? Gay people are born that way. They didn't work at becoming gay. Fat people became fat because they would rather be that way than stop eating so much. They had to eat and eat to get fat. Then, when they were fat they had to keep up the eating to stay fat. For gayness to be the same as fatness, gay people would have to start off straight but then ween themselves onto cock. Soon they're noshing all day getting gayer and gayer. They've had more than enough cock... they're full... they're just sucking for the sake of it. Now they're overgay, and frowned upon by people who can have the occasional cock but not over indulge.

When a doctor tells me that that's how you become gay, I'll stop making jokes about fat people.
You're not going to poke holes in that logic, now, are you?

"This is all politics and theater, but I am the junior senator according to every law book in the nation."

Roland Burris, rolling into town, and don't you dare try to stop him. He's got every law book on his side.

Hey, did Al Franken just win?

Isn't it rich?

ADDED: "More ballots than voters."

"The Blu-ray format is in jeopardy simply because the advent of downloadable HD movies is so close."

Yeah, can't we just skip this format?

Resolution: Read more blogs.

I don't read enough different blogs, so I'm looking at PC Magazine's 100 favorite blogs. I've clicked through to more than half of them, and I'm going to blogroll all the ones that seem worth revisiting. Later, I will have to prune the blogroll, which, to tell you the truth, currently includes a lot of blogs I haven't read in months. I want some bright, snappy blogs that are worth reading every day.

What blogs — beyond those written by you and your loved ones — do you really like reading every day?

ADDED: Meade will like this question: "Do you have a hankering for mead?"

MORE: I enjoyed Sorry I Missed Your Party and Ugly Overload, but I don't see the need to ever go back. I feel bad about myself after reading Sexy People and — especially — for laughing at Christine. Actually, now, I'm starting to feel a weird new love for humanity, as humanity tries to look good and fails. I blogrolled it! And I'm blogrolling Passive-Aggressive Notes, Oddee, Life Hackery, Jezebel, Indexed, Got Medieval, and The Comics Curmedgeon ("This panel shows a way that Snuffy Smith could become relevant to modern audiences: by highlighting the health dangers of meth addiction, which is so sadly prevalent in America’s rural suspender-wearing communities"). Oh, hell, my resistance is broken down. I'll blogroll Sorry I Missed Your Party and Ugly Overload.

At The Smokestack Café....

... you can let off steam.

"Why do you need a Department of Commerce?"

"The Department of Commerce... has no legitimate Cabinet-level function."


The link goes to a Reason magazine column by Matt Welch. The first quote comes from Clarence Thomas, and the second quote from Bob Barr. The Thomas quote goes back to a 1987 interview with Reason I hadn't seen before. 1987 was 5 years before Thomas became a Supreme Court Justice. Here's the relevant passage (with some typos from the obviously scanned text fixed):
Reason: I suspect that [Thomas Sowell] might think that the EEOC ought not to exist. Why do you think that this agency should exist in a free society?

Thomas: Well, in a free society I don't think there would be a need for it to exist. Had we lived up to our Constitution, had we lived up to the principles that we espoused, there would certainly be no need. There would have been no need for manumission either. Unfortunately, the reality was that, for political reasons or whatever, there was a need to enforce antidiscrimination laws, or at least there was a perceived need to do that. Why do you need a Department of Labor, why do you need a Department of Agriculture, why do you need a Department of Commerce? You can go down the whole list--you don't need any of them, really.

I think, though, if I had to look at the role of government and what it does in people's lives, I see the EEOC as having much more legitimacy than the others, if properly run.
Not really that strong of a statement against the Department of Commerce, is it?

Skipping ahead, I see Reason asks the very question that sets off my anti-libertarian feelings. From the interview:
Reason: Say I'm a private employer and I'm a racist, and no matter how qualified a black candidate is I don't look at him. Isn't it my right to hire whom I choose? Should the state force me to hire somebody?

Thomas: I guess theoretically, you're right. You say, it's my property and I can do as I damn well please. I'm able to choose my wife, I can choose my employees. I can choose where I live, I can choose where I want to locate my business, the whole bit. I think, though, that we've embodied the principle of nondiscrimination because we don't have a homogeneous society. And the problem is that we had state-imposed racism in our society. We had segregation and slavery that was state-protected, state-imposed, state-inflicted. The state can't undo the harm that was done, but I feel very strongly that if there is any role for the state, it is to protect us from others.

Let's look at it from the other side. When you prevent somebody from participating in our free society and the economics of our free society, I have some real problems. That's a right to me.

Reason: Well it's clearly immoral to do that, but should it be illegal?

Thomas: I'm torn. If I were to look at it theoretically, as you say. I would have to say I'd like the state out of my business. Putting it back in the context of reality, I can't say that. I have seen the devastating impact of the denial of economic opportunities to certain groups, including my race.
Putting it back in the context of reality.... I like seeing how quickly Clarence Thomas said that, and I will continue to be wary of the kind of people who seem to continually need to have that said to them.

Freezing bubbles.

Cool photography stunt.

(Via BoingBoing.)

Jett Travolta and the fear of giving your child necessary drugs.

This is terribly sad:
Jett was found on the bathroom floor of the family's posh condo at the Grand Bahama Resort on Friday. Authorities believe he died of a head injury after suffering a seizure and falling....

"Each seizure was like a death," McDermott told celebrity Web site TMZ.com. Jett lost consciousness and went into convulsions about four days a week when he was unmedicated, he said.

Jett took Depakote, an anti-seizure and mood-stabilizing medication, for several years until it apparently lost its effectiveness. The Travoltas had also become concerned about the drug's possible side effects, which include liver damage, McDermott said, and took him off Depakote some time ago.
It is very difficult to dose your child on a drug that has warnings of serious side-effects, but you have to be rational about weighing the likelihood of the side-effect and the benefit of the drug. It's too late to say that to the Travoltas, but maybe some other parents who are drug-phobic will come to their senses. But the drug had "apparently lost its effectiveness." I'm not sure what that means. Did they not want to increase the dosage to keep up with the child's increasing weight? Was there really no effective drug for his condition?

I feel sorry that the Travoltas must now put up with everyone — including, now, me — analyzing the extent of their responsibility for their son's demise. They are suffering unimaginable pain. And yet, I think it is still important to talk about the decisions parents make for children. Perhaps many children who need seizure medication will receive it as the result of Jett's death.

Then there is the issue of autism... and Scientology:
There has long been speculation that Jett suffered from autism, but the Travoltas have maintained his health problems were a result of Kawasaki disease, a rare inflammatory ailment affecting the blood vessels that most often occurs in early childhood.

Advocates for autistic kids, including other Hollywood stars, have accused Travolta, a Scientologist, of denying his son's condition because it would have required Jett to see a psychiatrist, which his religion forbids.
But Scientology doesn't forbid anti-seizure medication, does it? I must say I don't even know the details about what Scientologists think about treating autism. It's one thing to tell people with mundane emotional problems that they should turn to religion instead of psychiatry. That might be pretty good advice, common to many religions. But it's quite another thing to tell people to avoid medical treatment for specific conditions of the brain.

I don't like to see a rush to blame religion over Jett's death. Parents can be afraid of drugs or in denial about autism without religion playing any part. Did the Travoltas ever talk about religion in connection with their treatment of their son? I don't know. From what I've seen, it looks like an excessive fear of drug side effects. Those side effects aren't the result of religious ideation. They are real, but they were, it seems, given excessive weight.

"Rightbloggers: Blago, Richardson Prove Obama Corrupt, Dems Racist."

I always enjoy Roy Edroso's pithy, pissy roundup of opinion in the "Right-Wing Blogosphere" in The Village Voice — especially when he includes excellent quotes from me.

Here's my post on his first one, which had Tom Tomorrow caricatures of all of us on what I assumed was some kind of Rightblogger A-List. There's a Tom Tomorrow caricature on today's column, but it's not of anyone from that A-List. Who the hell is that guy supposed to be? Tomorrow has a spiffy graphic style, but he's not the best at capturing a likeness — kind of a liability for a caricaturist. Is that supposed to be the left-winger's vision of the generic right-winger — a balding white guy in a desert-camouflage T-shirt? Or is that some actual guy I should recognize from Tomorrow's feeble visual cues?

January 4, 2009

Richardson out.

Another money problem for the Dems. Can't we get a sex problem for a change? This is getting boring.

Questions that brought 1 visitor to my blog today.

From SiteMeter.
why do men like collarbones?
why do i want to be fat ?
when you die and they embalm you what happens to your penis?
what verb tense does chief bromden employ in one flew over the cuckoos nest?
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what does they were almost palpable mean?
what do 40 year old women look like?
IN THE COMMENTS: Original George said...
Love, peace, and compassion were surrounding me. They were almost palpable. It was incredible. I was in total bliss. Even the foosball players hesitated long enough to appreciate the elongated notes as he suspended them in midair until they were almost palpable. They were almost palpable. For three weeks we had felt it, touched it almost; it engulfed us; it was warm. We were completely infatuated. Brass and woodwind players were on stage, and in the balcony, swinging their instruments and playing chords so dense they were almost palpable. They were almost palpable, and it was very easy to feel sorry for her character because of the injustices she suffered from her husband. With the international community frowning heavily upon him and local expectations becoming so strong, they were almost palpable. I felt that the passion, ambition, revenge, tension, etc. were so descriptive that they were almost palpable. The narrator also did a stunning job of bringing memories materialized from the walls, so strong they were almost palpable. Grandpop bursting through the front door, the decibel level skyrocketing off the cries of outrage were so intense, they were almost palpable. How could the writers do this to us? Did they not know that Jane would never try out? For upon the eyeballs, affecting the sight as though they were almost palpable to the touch, the dews had not descended, but the leaves were still wet.

What happens when you Google the phrase "they were almost palpable."
He's right! And here I was reading that and trying to understand where the mind of OrigGeo was going with that story.

Meanwhile, Jennifer says...
Oh, I thought we were speaking of one curious surfer who kept ending up at Althouse no matter what new question they came up [with]. That was a funnier mental image.
... and I laugh out loud.

Did you notice how pro-Israel Harry Reid was on "Meet the Press" today?

David Gregory asked whether the invasion of Gaza was offensive or defensive. Reid answered:
I spoke to Prime Minister Olmert a couple of days ago. He indicated that they would do the ground activities. Let's understand the background. For eight years they've been firing rockets into Israel. They've become more intense the last few months. Israelis have been killed, maimed and injured. Sometimes more than 200 a day coming into Israel. If this were going on in the United States from Vancouver, Canada, into Seattle, would we react? Course we do. We would have to. I think what the Israelis are doing is very important. I think this terrorist organization, Hamas, has got to be put away. They've got to come to their senses. The Fatah group, which is--makes up part of Palestinian group, has a peace arrangement with Israel. Hamas should do the same....

And, and, and Israel, for--since 1967, controlled Gaza. They gave it to the Palestinians as a gesture of peace. And all they got are a bunch of rockets in return....

So you think that Israel ought to move forward and try to remove Hamas from power?

They have to. I, I'm not concerned about removing Hamas from power, I'm concerned about stopping the rocket fire and the mortar fire into Israel. That is the key, and that's what Israel's up to according to the prime minister.

Should there be an immediate cease-fire?

If the Hamas organization will agree and there is some degree of certainty that they will follow through. They, in the past, have simply not lived up to what they said they would do. If there's a way of enforcing this cease-fire, then yes. Otherwise, Israel has to continue till they stop the rockets and mortars coming into Israel, maiming, injuring and killing Israelis.

So you, you're in sync with the Bush administration on this point?

Yes, I am.
Interesting. I wonder if he'd be admitting that he was "in sync with the Bush administration" if the Bush administration weren't about to leave — or if he would have admitted he was "in sync with the Bush administration" about a lot of things in the past if only the Bush administration had been about to leave.

Anyway, I added some boldface to the transcript to draw attention to something that doesn't quite fit together. Is it important for Israel to remove Hamas from power or not? He seems to contradict himself. [ADDED: I think maybe he said "They have to" as a response to whether "Israel ought to move forward" and didn't mean it to apply to "and try to remove Hamas from power."]

"They have bits sliced off and tied up and sucked out. I want to say to them, 'You lazy f---ing fat pig.'"

"'Just go for a run and stop eating burgers. You might fucking die.'"

Ricky Gervais opposes liposuction, tummy tucks, and gastric band operations. He also would like you to shout "Fatty!"at him when he walks down the street. Or perhaps "you fucking fat bastard," which is what he says to himself when he looks in the mirror in the morning.

He's a comedian, and that's all very funny, but he's raising some important issues. (No, not whether comedians should be more sensitive, and in any case, to the extent that it is an issue worth examining, he's already said that he's allowed to say cruelly harsh things about fat, because he's fat and admits it.)

1. Is it unethical for doctors to perform serious operation on people who have the alternative route of eating less and exercising?

2. Has the fat acceptance movement caused the obesity epidemic?


I got that link from Freeman Hunt's Twitter feed — just as I was finishing listening to "The Ricky Gervais Guide to Medicine," which I downloaded today on iTunes.

ADDED: More on the fucking fat bastard here:
'I work out every day,' says Gervais, who recently had a swimming pool built beneath his London home and has installed a gym at his New York apartment. 'Don't sound so surprised. I'm fat because I eat too much and I'd rather not give up food. It's not glandular, it's greed. If I didn't work out I'd still eat as much but instead of being probably 20 pounds overweight, I would be 40 pounds overweight and growing.' In any case, 'I don't think a comedian should be worried about their weight'.

Has he ever been on a diet? 'No.' At some points in his life – notably as a student, when he had little money, and had to cook for himself – 'I didn't eat and I was thin'. But 'for the past 15 years I've eaten and I've got fat'.

Jimmy Wales emailed me.

I think.

Is living in the city bad for your brain?

Some science-y crap:
Just being in an urban environment, they have found, impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control. While it's long been recognized that city life is exhausting -- that's why Picasso left Paris -- this new research suggests that cities actually dull our thinking, sometimes dramatically so.

"The mind is a limited machine,"says Marc Berman, a psychologist at the University of Michigan and lead author of a new study that measured the cognitive deficits caused by a short urban walk. "And we're beginning to understand the different ways that a city can exceed those limitations."...

Consider everything your brain has to keep track of as you walk down a busy thoroughfare like Newbury Street. There are the crowded sidewalks full of distracted pedestrians who have to be avoided; the hazardous crosswalks that require the brain to monitor the flow of traffic. (The brain is a wary machine, always looking out for potential threats.) There's the confusing urban grid, which forces people to think continually about where they're going and how to get there.

The reason such seemingly trivial mental tasks leave us depleted is that they exploit one of the crucial weak spots of the brain. A city is so overstuffed with stimuli that we need to constantly redirect our attention so that we aren't distracted by irrelevant things, like a flashing neon sign or the cellphone conversation of a nearby passenger on the bus. This sort of controlled perception -- we are telling the mind what to pay attention to -- takes energy and effort. The mind is like a powerful supercomputer, but the act of paying attention consumes much of its processing power....

But the density of city life doesn't just make it harder to focus: It also interferes with our self-control. In that stroll down Newbury, the brain is also assaulted with temptations -- caramel lattes, iPods, discounted cashmere sweaters, and high-heeled shoes. Resisting these temptations requires us to flex the prefrontal cortex, a nub of brain just behind the eyes. Unfortunately, this is the same brain area that's responsible for directed attention, which means that it's already been depleted from walking around the city.
But what is life for, if not to walk around a complicated city, receiving and responding to the stimulation? Do you have something better to do? If you leave the city, you won't be living in a beautiful mansion, with a beautiful garden and a sun-filled studio where you're painting Picassos. Will you?

Is the brain in the city impaired or is it just used? Now, it's true, our brains evolved in a non-urban environment. But does that mean these brains of ours are hurt whenever we use them for things they didn't evolve by doing? You'd have to also say that our brains are hurt by reading, by climate-controlled interiors, by the knowledge of the news of what's happening in other countries, by YouTube....

Let it be a good city!

If you were blind, would you want a Seeing Eye dog...

... or a Seeing Eye miniature horse — a black and white one named Panda?

"[M]iniature horses are mild-mannered, trainable and less threatening than large dogs. They’re naturally cautious and have exceptional vision, with eyes set far apart for nearly 360-degree range. Plus, they’re herd animals, so they instinctively synchronize their movements with others. But the biggest reason is age: miniature horses can live and work for more than 30 years."

And they seem pretty cool. So cool that maybe you're thinking you want one even though you are not blind. Service animals, they're not just for blind people.

I was thinking I'd like a nice big protective dog to walk with me everywhere, down to campus, into the buildings, into the classroom. What problem/disability would I need to get that privilege? Anxiety?
[A] growing number of people believe the world of service animals has gotten out of control: first it was guide dogs for the blind; now it’s monkeys for quadriplegia and agoraphobia, guide miniature horses, a goat for muscular dystrophy, a parrot for psychosis and any number of animals for anxiety, including cats, ferrets, pigs, at least one iguana and a duck.
Oh, yeah! Anxiety!
They’re all showing up in stores and in restaurants, which is perfectly legal because the Americans With Disabilities Act (A.D.A.) requires that service animals be allowed wherever their owners want to go.
Come on, psychiatrists! Just put Sense of Entitlement Syndrome in the DSM and help us all out.

I don't want to make this post too long. I'm into Twittery terseness today. But the article is long. I'll just flag 2 things:

1. Jim Eggers, a man whose parrot purportedly keeps him from "snapping": "'I have bipolar disorder with psychotic tendencies,' he told me as he sucked down a green-apple smoothie. 'Homicidal feelings too.'" Now, I'm officially afraid of people who drink green-apple smoothies. I'm afraid of green apples. Hell, I'm afraid of people who use straws. Can I have a parrot in a restaurant now?

2. "Business owners and their employees often couldn’t distinguish the genuine from the bogus. To protect the disabled from intrusive questions about their medical histories, the A.D.A. makes it illegal to ask what disorder an animal helps with. You also can’t ask for proof that a person is disabled or a demonstration of an animal’s 'tasks.' There is no certification process for service animals (though there are Web sites where anyone can buy an official-looking card that says they have a certified service animal, no documentation required). The only questions businesses can ask are 'Is that a trained service animal?' and 'What task is it trained to do?'" Apparently, soothe me is the wrong answer.

This is a tough issue. Too many conflicting interests. You have the people who obviously need service animals with trained service animals like Seeing Eye dogs, people who are just completely abusively bringing animals everywhere, and everything in between. And you have business owners who want to be compassionate and who accept that they must follow the law, but who don't want to be played and who are afraid of losing customers and of being sued. And you have all the people who are annoyed, allergic, and afraid of all the animals other people are imposing on them.

I have no answer of my own for this, but gee, wasn't that little horsey cute? I can see why the NYT Magazine led off its article with the blind woman and her Panda!

"Twitter = Terse. I like terse."

Comments Freeman Hunt on last night's post about Twitter.

Nothing prevents us bloggers from blogging tersely wherever we are already blogging. When I started blogging, I worked hard at terseness, and I still do. Nevertheless, there's a temptation to expand and elaborate. Terseness is a discipline. Some of use can achieve it without imposed constraints.

Twitter wants to make us all Instapundit.


I tried very hard to make this post terse, but it's way too long for Twitter.


Hey, follow me on Twitter.

Habitat for Humanity houses -- 8 years old and alive with "cockroaches, mildew and mysterious skin rashes."

Jimmy Carter was one of the 10,000 volunteers who built the Fairway Oaks housing development in 17 days. Now, there's a lawsuit, but it doesn't seem to be based on the shoddy workmanship of amateurs. It seems to be mainly about the site — a garbage dump:
One man pulled up his floorboards to find rubbish 5ft deep under his kitchen. Other complaints include cracking walls and rotting door frames that let in rats and ants.
Habitat must have a system that limits and supervises all those volunteers. It's too easy to laugh at the do-gooders. Even when you use professional builders, you can have problems like rotting door wood, especially in a wet climate. You have to take care of your house, and even when you try, you do periodically find things that have gone bad, and it's your responsibility to make repairs. But once you decide to sue about one thing — here, the site — the lawsuit becomes a grab bag of all your complaints.

Which side should Michelle Malkin be on?
All Jimmy Carter-bashing and schadenfreude aside, do the residents have a bona fide case or are these professional moochers trying to pin blame on others for their own lack of personal responsibility?...

I’ve watched enough of these “environmental justice” activists to know that they coach their clients to complain about vague ailments (“mysterious skin rashes”) that have no relation in reality to the environmental conditions they claim are the cause. These professional grievance-mongers have blocked countless private redevelopment and remediation projects — and milked tens of millions in settlements — based on bogus scientific and medical claims....

The Left has stoked both eco-zealotry and the entitlement culture with impunity. Perhaps they’ll feel a little less inclined to feed those beasts after getting bitten squarely in the ass.

January 3, 2009

Where hell is a hotel room....

... and the other people are Steven Spielberg, Andy Warhol, and Bianca Jagger.

"I'm not gay! I'm morose!"


Do you Twitter, or have you, like me, been avoiding it? I have, but now, if you want, you can follow me -- as they say. Frankly, I think it's weird to ask people to follow you. To me, it sounds like Jesus:
"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."
Or Gary Hart:
"Follow me around. I don't care. I'm serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'll be very bored."
Messianic or inanely desirous of stalkers.

But the world has changed since 32 or 1987, and the real issue for me is whether Twittering is pointlessly duplicative of blogging. The easiest way to delve into that issue is to do it. So, I guess: Follow me.

ADDED: Jac points me to something he wrote on a Metafilter post:
Could someone please explain why anyone would use Twitter? It seems like basically a blog service but with a word limit that's so restrictive that it's awkward to do links. Or like IM without the spontaneity. Or like Facebook's status updates without Facebook. So, it's like a severely limited version of a bunch of other social media, with nothing extra to compensate? What's the point?
I'm just starting, but at this point, I think:

1. There's something fun about being limited to 140 characters. As you type, you see the number counting down. That makes it breezy and game-like, which pleases me.

2. Theoretically, you are answering the question "What are you doing?" I don't know if they kick you out if you use your 140 characters in some other way, but whether you stick to the question or not, there is the idea that you are not purporting to do anything more than saying what you are doing. Presumably, you Twitter because that seems nice.

3. A Facebook page has more information, and it is more of a stable location that represents you, even if you're good about posting "status updates," which I'm not. Twitter isolates your status updates, which looks kind of snazzy. Less is more.

4. On Facebook, people have to ask you to accept them as friends, and I've never accepted people I don't more or less know. (And I only IM a few people.) On Twitter, people can just start following you. There's something simple and friendly about that.

5. That anyone can follow you affects what you're willing to write. I'm interested to see what I will write under those conditions.

6. Twitter could be used interactively with blogging, in ways that I think I'll explore.

"Wikipedia's bureaucracy is distinctly, fearsomely awful."

"The site, which dictates the online reputation of countless living people and companies, itself operates by rules that are completely incomprehensible, determined by a self-appointed group of volunteer editors who can seldom stop arguing over obscurities to explain their ways to outsiders."

Wow. Jimmy Wales, ousted? By "Sue Gardner, a Gothy, spider-tattooed Canadian pop-culture expert who now runs the site"? Bizarre!

UPDATE: I get email that seems to be from Jimmy Wales:
Valleywag routinely prints absolutely false stories. There is absolutely no truth to this story - or most of the things in it.

The truth is that my reappointment to the board, quite routine and unanimous, was publicly announced a week ago. Sue Gardner and I have an excellent working relationship, like, really really excellent.

It's a little alarming that anyone reads it at all. I would file a libel suit agianst them, except, well, you're a law professor so you know the difficulties of that.
People send fake email too. What do I know? The address looks Wikipediaish, and yet when I Google it, I get nothing. When I Google my own email addresses, something always comes up. I don't want the real Jimmy Wales emailing me about absolutely fake email addresses.... and not threatening lawsuits... etc.etc...

UPDATE 2: Jimmy Wales emails: "Please don't quote me." Well, that's rich! Why email me other than to seek a correction? In blogging, we don't take things down. We just continue the flow. This isn't Wikipedia.... The hell!

"The real problem with literary types is..."

"... that the painstakingly detailed analysis of relationships required to understand or even to produce top notch novels can't be turned off when applied to one's spouse, or one's children. Even though you have to tell yourself they are not the same thing. One is an abstract, parallel world, where the rules are similar, but not the same. If a human being has a port wine stain on his forehead, it is a random accident of birth, but if you put one on a character in a novel, either you are a rank amateur, or the stain means something like 'mark of Cain,' etc. Or, to use Chekov's example, if you walk into somebody's house in real life, and they have a gun displayed on the wall, there is no guarantee that it is going to go off an kill somebody you know in the course of your relationship with the person, but in a novel, if there is a gun on the wall, it is going to go off and is going to affect somebody somehow."

Said Barlycorn, John, commenting on a post written by my son John and hitting me — the ex-wife of a novelist — way too close to home.

Scroll up to the post for a great Bertrand Russell quote about the happiness of the man of science.

So Harry Reid pressured Blagojevich not to appoint Jesse Jackson, Jr. — AKA "Candidate 5."

This happened before Blago's arrest. According to the Chicago Tribune. The reason — which does not make Reid look bad — is that Reid didn't think Jackson could win in a statewide election. It's that whole statewide election problem that seems to account for the lack of black Senators (when there are plenty of blacks in the House of Representatives).

But Blagojevich felt pressured to appoint a black person to Barack Obama's seat. It's one thing when only white candidates win those statewide elections, quite another for a Governor with the appointment power to pass over all the most prominent black politicians in his party.

The structural problem is obvious. Congressional districts are drawn to increase the power of black voters, with majority minority districts, and then the district is won by a black politician who designs his policies to appeal most strongly to these voters. In 2001, the radical Bobby Rush trounced Barack Obama in a congressional primary race:
Mr. Rush won the primary with 61.02 percent of the vote; Mr. Obama had just over 30 percent. Mr. Obama was favored by whites but lost among blacks, Mr. Lester said. Looking back, some say the magnitude of the loss reflected Mr. Obama’s failure to connect with black, working-class voters. Mr. Mikva said, “It indicated that he had not made his mark in the African-American community and didn’t particularly have a style that resonated there.”
Obama — the black politician who is atypically popular with white voters — was able to move directly to the Senate, bypassing the House. But the House has plenty of black representatives who, despite their accomplishments, can't move up to the Senate — at least not without a boost from a Governor with an empty seat to fill. And that Governor is pressured by his party not to put the black congresssman in the slot because he'll be too easy to defeat in the next statewide election. Ironically, what was supposed to increase the number of blacks in Congress works to keep them in the House.

I'm beginning to feel that Jackson was ripped off. Wasn't he the natural choice for the seat?


Meanwhile, over at the Chicago-Sun Times, Roland Burris said "We are the senator."
"There is no confrontation here, there is no antagonism here," Burris said in a phone interview from Chicago. "And so we are proceeding very diplomatically, and we are proceeding with all concern about not creating any type of circus that will entertain the media."
A circus? Will there be clowns???

We were talking about khat, and Kev said...

"I thought khat-blogging had kind of gone out of style lately."

I thought I'd do a post with a LOLcat, saying something on this theme, so I went to Flickr to find a picture of a cat, and I got pleasantly distracted by this comment on the photograph that I blogged yesterday. Screen grab:

See? The commenter — jjmadison — has a cat face avatar and his comment — "wow, all that on two packs of Splenda??" — continues the drug theme. Ah! My drug of choice is synchronicity. I'm high on it now. I'm even singing: Oh! Oh! Oh!

Not really, but I do have to shout above the din of my Rice Krispies.

Now, somewhat giddy, I do still want to make that LOLcat, and I search my Flickr photographs for "cat." But I haven't been good about labels over there, and the collection of "cat"-labeled photos seems a bit absurd. There's a latte with a foam cat face. A picture of a poster that says "Don't Shoot the Cat." There's the very young me with a cat and my same-age son with a cat:

Me with an unknown cat Chris and Ramona

[ADDED: Yes, Chris is holding a "Hilter cat" and we were just talking about Facebook groups like "G-D BLESS HITLER," but stay away from the Nazi synchronicity. The brown-shirt acid that is circulating around us is not specifically too good.]

There are the pages from my Amsterdam sketchbook about the Cat Museum — the Katten Kabinet. There are some bat orts.

Most absurd, there is a set of LOLcats, made from photos taken of paused — pawsed — frames from the movie "La Dolce Vita."

What was that all about? Don't you remember back on August 11, 2007, when TRex said "Every time I look in over [at Althouse], something so weird is going on that I feel like I just bumbled on to the set of a Fellini film," and I was all:

"Im in ur hair/Lickin ur i"
"Im ur soul/gettin outta heer"
"Ur head/my roller coaster"
"Im ur/windsheeled wipurrz"
But these Rice Krispies were enough, and I don't want an egg at this hour. So I look to you, dear readers, to pick up Kev's khat-blogging theme and make some LOLcats. You can make them here, and you can email them to me at annalthouse (at) gmail (dot) com.

I'd love to pass out some of the Althouse blog drugs: frontpaging and tags.

And I'm hoping TRex will bumble over here and see that something weird is going on. And also that something crawls from the slime at the bottom of a dark Scottish lake.

UPDATE: From Lem:

AND: From Zachary Paul Sire:

AND: From Palladian:

From Kev (who started all this):

"I Wonder How Quickly I Can Find 1,000,000 People Who Support Israel."

That's the name of a Facebook group that I just got an invitation to join. I click over:

Though this may appear to be a violation of the First Amendment (Freedom of Speech), we have learned it is not. The Bill of Rights only applies to the Government, and entails that the Government cannot obstruct with the rights of the people. Facebook is a private company, and not owned, funded, or operated by the Government; thus the Freedom of Speech law does not apply for them. The rules for Facebook are made by it's creators, and listed in the Terms of Use page. There, on the fourth bullet point under the User Conduct section, it clearly states that no Facebook user can "upload, post, transmit, share, store or otherwise make available any content that we deem to be harmful, threatening, unlawful, defamatory, infringing, abusive, inflammatory, harassing, vulgar, obscene, fraudulent, invasive of privacy or publicity rights, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable."
Sorry. My free speech values extend a lot farther than what's protected by the First Amendment. And I think Facebook's Terms of Use are horrifyingly restrictive. Censoring everything "hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable"? Ridiculous! I'd rather join a Facebook group called "Facebook's Terms of Use Are an Affront to Free Speech."

P.S. I support Israel.

"The political ground is already shifting under Big Labor's card-check initiative."

"The unions poured unprecedented money and manpower into getting Democrats elected; their payoff was supposed to be a bill that would allow them to intimidate more workers into joining unions."
Paradoxically, it's [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid's bigger majority that is now hurting him. In 2007, he got every Democrat (save South Dakota's Tim Johnson, who was out sick) to vote for cloture. But it was an easy vote. Democrats like Mr. Pryor knew the GOP held the filibuster, and that Mr. Bush stood ready with a veto. Now that Mr. Reid has 58 seats, red-state Democrats in particular are worried they might actually have to pass this turkey, infuriating voters and businesses back home.
I love this. The Democrats must now take responsibility for the things they've been promoting.
If Al Franken pulls out a win in Minnesota, Mr. Reid might be inspired to use his 59 votes to forge ahead. Some House Democrats are also suggesting union intimidation would in fact "stimulate" the economy, and that the legislation ought to be attached to the upcoming spending package.
I hope Al Franken does win — precisely and paradoxically because I want brakes on Congress. So that happened because a comedian — did he really win his election? — voted for it? The Senate Democrats will have to worry that's what we'll say about their bad legislation. So maybe they'll see the importance of looking like competent adults and exercise restraint. You know, they already have the problem of looking like clowns — there's the Blago-Burris nonsense and the prospect Caroline Kennedy. If a comedian arrives the fear of looking like clowns should kick into high gear. That fear gives me hope.

"It is a very touchy subject. Some people see it like a drug; some people see it like coffee."

"You have to understand our background and understand the significance of it in our community."

So says Abdulaziz Kamus, president of the African Resource Center, about khat — a substance that is illegal in the United States legal and popular in East Africa and the Arabian peninsula.

Now, I don't much understand the background and the significance of khat in the community Kamus is talking about, but I understand a lot about the background and community of the United States and its media, so my observation is about the L.A. Times article at the link. I can see what they are up to. They are reframing a drug problem in terms of multiculturalism.

Look at how this article begins with a cozy colorful picture set in "Washington" (which I presume means Washington, D.C., since the 4th paragraph contains the phrase "in cities such as Washington and San Diego"):
In the heart of the Ethiopian community here, a group of friends gathered after work in an office to chew on dried khat leaves before going home to their wives and children. Sweet tea and sodas stood on a circular wooden table between green mounds of the plant, a mild narcotic grown in the Horn of Africa.

As the sky grew darker the conversation became increasingly heated, flipping from religion to jobs to local politics. Suddenly, one of the men paused and turned in his chair. "See, it is the green leaf," he said, explaining the unusually animated discussion as he pinched a few more leaves together and tossed them into his mouth.

For centuries the "flower of paradise" has been used legally in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as a stimulant and social tonic.
See? It's a charming culture. You're not supposed to notice that you could mobilize your writing skills and do PR for any recreational drug like this. You're not supposed to notice that the actual scene is nothing more than some men lolling about having a drug-fueled argument.
But in the United States khat is illegal, and an increased demand for the plant in cities such as Washington and San Diego is leading to stepped up law enforcement efforts and escalating clashes between narcotics officers and immigrants who defend their use of khat as a time-honored tradition....

Increased immigration from countries such as Ethiopia, Yemen and Somalia has fueled the demand in this country and led to a cultural conflict.

"We grew up this way, you can't just cut it off," said a 35-year-old Ethiopian medical technician between mouthfuls of khat as he sat with his friends in the office....
"In my mind, [the arrests are] wrong," said an Ethiopian-born cabdriver who was arrested in November in a Washington, D.C., khat bust and spoke on condition of anonymity. "They act like they know more about khat than I know."
I admit I don't know about your culture's drug, but I know my culture's drug, multiculturalism. The L.A. Times is dealing it here. It is not a stimulant. It is a depressant: It numbs judgment.

So let me pour another cup of coffee and say that I do not want my medical technicians doing drugs in the office and I don't want my cabbie high.

January 2, 2009

Times are hard... for philosophers...

"The scuttlebutt among APA's roughly 550 job-seekers was that more than 10 percent of 300-plus advertised positions may have been canceled. Morris, in his second year in the philosophy job market and handsomely outfitted in suit and ponytail, remained upbeat, even playful. 'I'm single, good-looking, athletic, 6-4, my phone number is....' he joked into a reporter's tape recorder. Asked where he'd be willing to go to teach philosophy, he replied, 'Anywhere on the planet. Anywhere at all. Whether or not I get paid. To tell you the truth,' he quickly added, 'the only thing that could push me out of philosophy is the student loans I've accrued.'"

Philosophers should be people who think especially well, but to have decided upon a career in philosophy marks you as irrational. How do you deal with that raging incoherence?

(Link via A&L Daily.)

AND: Glenn Reynolds wonders if I'm being fair: "You might rationally decide you want to be a philosopher even if the job prospects are poor. But if you do so decide, then it’s irrational to complain about a poor job market, I guess."

I agree that it may be rational for an individual to choose to go into philosophy, despite the poor economic prospects. In the comments, OSweet, noting Morris's "Whether or not I get paid...," scoffed: "Yeah, right." That made me say:
Actually, I think there are many people who would teach philosophy without getting paid. (Socrates did this.)

In fact, I think if the job of philosophy professor were put up for an auction, limited to people who could do it competently, that you could get people to pay for the privilege of teaching good students and a good college. I'll bet there are many people who continue teaching philosophy when they could retire and make more money collecting their pensions.
I still have to doubt that our best thinkers are choosing to become philosophers. I know that makes me like the kind of jerk who would say "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" And I really do think that people ought to do work that they are intrinsically interested in.

Also, I said "a career in philosophy marks you as irrational." You could be marked as irrational and yet not be irrational, since other people may look at you and think you've made an irrational choice. You may still have your reasons.

Still, you've got to doubt that the 550 job seekers referred to in the article are really the people that should be doing the work of philosophy if philosophy is going to matter very much. That said, I hope they find their jobs, and 550 applicants for 270 jobs isn't all that terrible. Close to 50-50 odds. So good luck. And remember, you can always go to law school, and philosophy makes a great background for law study.

"Judge Wilkinson compares District of Columbia v. Heller to Roe v. Wade in four respects..."

"...'an absence of a commitment to textualism; a willingness to embark on a complex endeavor that will require fine-tuning over many years of litigation; a failure to respect legislative judgments; and a rejection of principles of federalism.'"

Sounds apt.

If the U.S. ever breaks up...

... do you think it will break up this way?

"A spokeswoman for Obama said the president-elect would probably not attend any of the Leather Weekend events."

Probably not ... probably... oh, the strange hopes and dreams that linger in that word: probably.

"My Day, Yesterday," a Flickr project.

Here's Delphine Gimbert's entry, a long photograph of her day, beautifully shot, but without embellishments:

And here's the "My Day, Yesterday" pool. And here's the Metafilter post that led me there.

Sarah Palin is the frontrunner for 2012.

Say the odds-makers.

Hot Air comments:
Barring a catastrophic first term, The One will be heavily favored for reelection, leading young’uns like Jindal and Palin to bow out and bide their time until 2016.... Mitt might run since he’d be 69 and facing a crowded, charismatic field in 2016, but unless he stands a real chance to win, I figure he’ll pass too in the interest of avoiding further expense and aggravation. Result: A Huckabee-Pawlenty snoozefest....
I think it's impossible to make much of a prediction this far out, but I certainly hope Obama does well. Not too well. Unlike many people who voted for Obama, I dislike change.

(Ugh. Just added the "2012 campaign" tag. Made a mental note to use it sparingly this year.)

The Lex Luthor Award for Best Caper of 2008.

The voting continues until January 7th, but this looks like the winner:
In September, a robber disguised as a gardener pepper-sprayed an armored car driver using a pesticide sprayer and ran off with a bag stuffed with $400,000 in cash. When police arrived seconds later, they found the sidewalk crowded with dozens of men decked out in the same attire as the perp: blue shirt, Day-Glo vest, safety mask and glasses. While the cops hacked through a forest of suspects, the real perp fled to a nearby creek and escaped in a waiting inner tube.

Turns out the unwitting decoys had been lured to the crime scene by a Craigslist ad that promised construction work to those showing up in a "yellow vest, safety goggles, a respirator mask … and, if possible, a blue shirt." A month later, following a lead from a homeless man who witnessed the preparation for the Brinks job, police arrested 28-year-old Anthony Curcio fresh from a Las Vegas vacation. Curcio is now charged with "Interference with commerce by threats or violence," because "Pulling the most awesome robbery ever" isn't listed in the U.S. code.
If possible, a blue shirt.... Isn't that "if possible" the detail that made it seem legit?

"Virgin conception would be more plausible if Mary was a man."

"Could testicular feminisation offer an explanation for the mystery of Jesus Christ's virgin birth, wonders Aarathi Prasad."

What are you wondering about?

If it were true that "'40 to 45 percent of body heat' is lost through the head," then going out without a hat would make you as cold as...

... going out without your pants.
This myth probably originated with an old military study in which scientists put subjects in arctic survival suits (but no hats) and measured their heat loss in extremely cold temperatures. Because it was the only part of the subjects’ bodies that was exposed to the cold, they lost the most heat through their heads. Experts say, however, that had this experiment been performed with subjects wearing only swimsuits, they would not have lost more than 10% of their body heat through their heads.
Now, now... if we're going to be scientific, we'll need to factor in the cold stares you get when you go out without your pants. I mean, take off the swimsuits! Accuracy will require nudity.

That link is from from a 2 part article debunking myths — here's part 2 — that was just linked on Freakonomics.

By the way, it was 19° here in Madison yesterday — the same temperature it was on New Year's Eve in New York City when Ryan Seacrest was whining about the cold while wearing a hugely puffy down jacket and earmuffs — and I saw a young man on State Street who was wearing only a T-shirt, shorts, and moccasins. Not even socks. He wasn't shivering or huddling against the cold, just walking along briskly, talking with his friends. 

I see guys like that all the time in Madison, and my theory is that — like people who sleep naked — they just don't want their limbs encumbered in the slightest, and they are walking from one indoor place to another and willing to put up with a little discomfort during the relocation.

"Lots of folks are wearing those 2009 glasses, and I suddenly realize that this is the last year for the 00 glasses."

"You'll have to wait until the year 3000 to wear glasses like that. Will we even have eyes in 3000?"

I wrote that at 10:08 in the New Year's Eve live-blog.

In the comments, just an hour ago, Peter Hoh wrote: "Someone else noticed the 200X glasses issue." He links here. Ha ha.

That reminds me, Chris explained why I was wrong. Let me illustrate:

Sketch for 2010 Glasses

"Burris will not be allowed on the Senate floor, according to this aide and a Senate Democratic leadership aide."

"The aide familiar with Senate Democratic leaders' plans said if Burris tries to enter the Senate chamber, the Senate doorkeeper will stop Burris. If Burris were to persist, either trying to force his way onto the Senate floor or refusing to leave and causing a scene, U.S. Capitol Police would stop him, said the aide. 'They (police) probably won't arrest him" but they would call the sergeant-at-arms,' the aide said."

So at at time when there isn't a single black person in the U.S. Senate, a black man arrives at the doorway and means to go forward to take what he believes is his rightful seat...

Great imagery, Democrats!