January 16, 2010

"When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music."



(Photos from the same place seen here.)

(You can read the larger context of the quote — by Kahlil Gibran — here.)

Another late night in the Crazy Water Café...


DSC07169 copy

... where we never rest, but we don't work very hard either.

Should conscientious public servants resign when their job conflicts with their religious principles?

There's been a lot of talk about Martha Coakley's blunt statement that those who want to adhere to religious scruples against abortion and birth control "probably shouldn't work in an emergency room." I put up a long post about it earlier today, and I'm not going to repeat myself here. The point of this post is to compare Coakley's statement to something John F. Kennedy said about the conflict between public service and religion back when he was running for President and questions were raised about his Catholic religion:
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President -- should he be Catholic -- how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all....
I do not speak for my church on public matters; and the church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as President, if I should be elected, on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject, I will make my decision in accordance with these views -- in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

But if the time should ever come -- and I do not concede any conflict to be remotely possible -- when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do likewise....
So, according to JFK, the President is supposed to make decisions "in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates," and if, because of religion, he can't do that, he should resign. Kennedy doesn't limit his resignation imperative to the presidency. Such a limit would make sense, as there is only one President, and the nation's reliance on his judgment and action is extreme and unique. Kennedy applies his imperative to "any ... public servant." If you take a public service job, that is, then what you owe the public is service according to the public interest "without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates."

Is an emergency room employee a "public servant" to whom Kennedy's resignation imperative should apply? That job is not an "office." You aren't elected to it, but you are, by taking that job, holding yourself out as ready to perform the duties associated with it. Is it right for you to take exemptions for your own sake at the expense of the public you were hired to serve? Maybe your need for an exemption from part of the job is a conflict between personal and public interests that should lead you — if you are conscientious — to resign.

I think Kennedy's imperative becomes too harsh at this point. For one thing, there is a long tradition of religious health care workers serving the public. There is a special energy and altruism that comes from religion that we shouldn't want to lose, even as government money and mandates reach deeply into health care. Nor should we want to alienate and marginalize citizens who belong in the mainstream of American life. Even those of us who believe in the importance and the right of access to abortions and birth control should want to find ways not to brutalize these workers. We shouldn't want to demand that they give up their livelihood unless they are willing to commit what they believe is murder. I hardly think John Kennedy meant for his vision of the separation of church and state to include something so perverse.

Scott Brown wants to rape every woman in Massachusetts.

Or something.

"Curt Schilling? The Red Sox great pitcher of the bloody sock?"

Martha Coakley blunders horribly/hilariously, either not knowing who Curt Schilling is or — if you believe her spokesman's explanation — making the dumbest "very, very deadpan" wisecrack in political history. If it's any consolation, Martha, I didn't know who Curt Schilling is either. Bloody sock sounded interesting. I had to look it up. Now, would you excuse me? I cut my foot before and my shoe is filling up with blood.

Let's take a careful look at what Martha Coakley said about abortion and religious freedom.

This dialogue — with interviewer Ken Pittman — took place on the radio last Thursday:
Pittman: Would you pass a health care bill that had a conscientious objector [sic] toward certain procedures including abortion.

Coakley: I don't believe that would be included in the health care bill. I don't understand exactly what the question is. I would not pass a bill, as Scott Brown filed an amendment, to say that if people believe that they don't want to provide services that are required under the law and under Roe v. Wade that they can individually decide to not follow the law. The answer to that question is no.
She's a lawyer, and she ought to know that Roe v. Wade — along with other abortion cases — does not require services. There is a world of difference between having a right to do something and having the power to make other people do things for you as you try to exercise that right. If you don't know the difference between those two things, you don't understand how rights work. Other people have rights too. Refusing to perform an abortion is not a violation of the constitutional right to privacy.

Now, Coakley said "under the law and under Roe v. Wade." By "the law" she could have meant the law that might be passed. The new statute might require health care workers to provide abortions. But the question is whether she would vote for that law. It doesn't make sense to say I'd vote for it because after it passes it will be the law and then individuals couldn't decide they don't want to follow it. The question is whether she would vote for that law, so slipping "the law" in there with Roe v. Wade was — if not a mistake — a trick to make you think a requirement was already in place.

Yet even if a law were already in place requiring health care workers to participate in abortions, there would be an argument that the right to the free exercise of religion trumps or should trump that requirement. There would be a legitimate conflict in the law that politicians would have opinions about, and it would be wrong to portray the workers as people who merely want to say they are above the law. Just as the right of privacy trumps laws that ban or impose harsh barriers on the access to abortion, religious freedom rights might trump some laws that require abortion services. It isn't lawless to prefer religious freedom. It is a position about what the law is or should be. It is the very question under discussion as the people of Massachusetts decide who, in the future, will have the power to vote on what the law is.
Coakley: And let's be clear, because Scott Brown filed an amendment to a bill in Massachusetts that would say that hospital and emergency room personnel could deny emergency contraception to a woman who came in and had been raped.
Coakley is choosing to press forward on the importance of abortion and contraception rights. It can be effective political argument to focus on rape victims. (Remember "Rape Gurney Joe"?) I imagine Coakley believed at this point that she was making a powerful argument that would win political support and make Scott Brown look like an unsympathetic lout and/or a right-wing extremist. But that was to be blind to the appeal of religious freedom.
Pittman: Right, if you are a Catholic, and believe what the Pope teaches that any form of birth control is a sin. You don't want to do that.

Coakley: No, but we have a separation of church and state here, Ken, let's be clear.
In American constitutional law, we have a proscription of federal laws "respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It is difficult to coordinate the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause, and anyone who serves in the United States Senate will need to have some idea of the meaning of both clauses. Coakley invokes the "separation of church and state" as if it has obvious meaning and a simple reminder should end the debate. But the meaning of religious freedom in America has been the subject of endless debate, a Senator will be an important participant in that debate, and the issue right now is whether Coakley should be a Senator.
Pittman: In the emergency room you still have your religious freedom.

Coakley: Uh, well, uck, u, uk, the, the law says that people are allowed to have that. And so then you.. you can have religious freedom. You probably shouldn't work in an emergency room.
Pittman: Wow.
Why the horrible stammering? The followup is utterly obvious. The answer should have been carefully prepared and couched in real sympathy for the workers who would be caught in the terrible dilemma between giving up their jobs and following their religion.

It is, in fact, permissible under the current interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause to make a general rule like this and impose it on people who will have to violate their religion or quit their jobs. There are also federal statutes — like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — that give people a higher level of protection for their religious freedom, so that they do get special exemptions from generally applicable laws. So it's up to a Senator to have a position on what that law should be. A Senator will also have a vote on the confirmation of Supreme Court Justices, and that will have an impact on what the constitutional religion clauses mean in the future. Coakley has revealed how she balances free exercise and establishment clause values, and voters should take note.

It is especially important to think about these values in the context of an expanding government role in areas that were traditionally left to the private sphere — medical care, for example. It's the separation of church and state, so the dimension of the state is very important. A legislator who wants the state to run more of the economy and wants a strong separation of church is threatening to have a much greater effect on religious freedom than a legislator who believes in the strong separation of church and state but also believes in small government. Now, I want to give Coakley credit for bluntly stating the import of her position: You can have your religious freedom, but you'll have to give up your job. That elicits a "wow." That is, the truth is a slap in the face.

Tomorrow, the (purportedly) honey-tongued Barack Obama comes to Massachusetts to promote Coakley. I hope he submits to questioning and is asked what Pittman asked Coakley. Presumably, his position is the same, and presumably, he can say it in a less "wow"-eliciting way. But the truth is out, and his words — however elegant — can be distilled into the straight, stinging You can have religious freedom. You probably shouldn't work in an emergency room.

Charitable texting.

$5 and $10 donations are easy to make, and they really add up. It's a terrific way to include vastly more donors. It's not just that people have cell phones and the phone company already has all your credit card information, it's that it makes small cup-of-coffee size donations the norm.

Text the word "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross. And get on with your life!

Now, maybe you think charity should involve more reflection and attention to the object of charity. Maybe you think charitable donors should feel that they are giving something up for the sake of the less fortunate and be personally transformed by the act of giving. You know how people who make the effort to attend a long church service feel about the people who say, "I can pray anywhere!," "I can pray on the golf course," "I'll pray when I'm stuck waiting in line somewhere," etc. 

Jesus said: "But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing." So do not let your left thumb know what your right thumb is doing. Text some charity and don't make any kind of deal out of it. Don't even let yourself think that you have done anything. There is good in that, and it's a good instantly achieved by everyone with a cell phone. You're only giving $5 or $10, so there isn't even anything to congratulate yourself about. When everyone just does this, without thinking, the charities get millions, and we have no reason to get puffed up about about our benevolence.

January 15, 2010

A nighttime walk down 6th Street in Austin.

Here's what we saw from the sidewalk as we walked down 6th Street after the movie:




What movie? Why, it was "Girlie Night" at the Alamo Drafthouse, and — it was my birthday — we saw the 1997 cult classic "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion." For added birthday festivity, we sat in one of the 2 private balconies, in leather recliners, and ate chili and drank Guinness.

Insanely inept.

In an anti-Scott Brown ad, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee shows its hostility to Wall Street with a picture of the World Trade Center.

The evidence Martha Coakley still finds "formidable": "the butcher knife rape with no blood, the public tree-tying episode, the mutilated squirrel and the rest..."

The horrific prosecution of the Amiraults.

Another day in the Crazy Water Café...


... and I see you're still here.

"I suppose, if the Congressional id is screaming for a way not to pass health care..."

"... the most obvious way that's left would seem to be this: a Senator bails (Nelson, most obviously) or if Coakley is defeated they just can't pass the bill before Brown takes her place. (Darn!) Any House-Senate compromise is thereby doomed by the lack of a 60th vote--the only hope becomesg [sic] getting the House to pass the Senate bill word-for-word (the Sudden Victory strategy). But just enough House liberals declare they can't stomach the Senate bill--on the grounds that the uncompromised Cadillac tax is unacceptable, perhaps, or the subsidies are too low, or that a public option is essential. Presto, a train wreck."

Mickey Kaus.

"Sobriety diminishes, discriminates, and says no; drunkenness expands, unites and says yes."

So wrote William James in "The Varieties of Religious Experience" (1902), quoted in "The Harvard Psychedelic Club" (2010).

"Is the Tea Party Movement an independent 'third force' in American politics?"

"Or is it essentially a right-wing faction aimed at the conquest of the Republican Party?"

"What do you think, should men continue to produce for a society that devalues them and their work?"

"Or, should they produce for themselves and let others pick up the slack?"

"This country is not worth dying for..."

40 quotes that Right Wing News thinks exemplify "liberalism." I'd say they illustrate a theme among today's liberals that can and should be abandoned.

A "well-connected Democratic strategist" thinks Coakley is "is destined to lose."

"I have heard that in the last two days the bottom has fallen out of her poll numbers.... If she's not six or eight ahead going into the election, all the intensity is on the other side in terms of turnout... So right now, she is destined to lose."

Interesting. When everyone knows turnout is important, how do polls affect what people do? Why do people lose "intensity" when they think their candidate is likely to lose? Do people lapse into the passive observation of what seems to be destiny — and forget that they are voters? Or is there something particular about the Coakley/Brown race, in that people assumed Coakley should easily win and never thought too much about her, never bonded with her or worked for her? Now that Scott Brown is surging, they are inert and fatalistic?

But what this unnamed strategist is really talking about is how we should interpret a Coakley loss:
"With Obama at 60 percent in Massachusetts, this shouldn't be happening, but it is," the Democrat says.
Given those numbers, some Democrats, eager to distance Obama from any electoral failure, are beginning to compare Coakley to Creigh Deeds, the losing Democratic candidate in the Virginia governor's race last year. Deeds ran such a lackluster campaign, Democrats say, that his defeat could be solely attributed to his own shortcomings, and should not be seen as a referendum on President Obama's policies or those of the national Democratic party.

The same sort of thinking is emerging in Massachusetts. "This is a Creigh Deeds situation," the Democrat says. "I don't think it says that the Obama agenda is a problem. I think it says, 1) that she's a terrible candidate, 2) that she ran a terrible campaign, 3) that the climate is difficult but she should have been able to overcome it, and 4) that Democrats beware -- you better run good campaigns, or you're going to lose."
And Obama has decided not to travel to Massachusetts to help Coakley out. It's all about cutting her loose to sink on her own. Strange to give up and look ahead beyond the predicted loss when her vote is so crucial.

UPDATE: Obama will go to Massachusetts.

"She was my beautiful wife."

A victim of the earthquake dies.


How to contribute to earthquake relief.

January 14, 2010

South 1st Street between Annie and Elizabeth.

An Austin walk.








When you get to Elizabeth, eat here.

Bonus photo (by Meade), taken at Annie:





"I'm not sure I can do 90 minutes of that."

"'I'm with Coco!'... the Internet seems to be siding with Mr. O’Brien...."

Mike Mitchell's very cool pro-Conan poster:
NBC, Mr. Mitchell said, had “backed Conan and his entire staff into a corner” with its plan to put “The Jay Leno Show” back at 11:35 p.m., elbowing “The Tonight Show” with Mr. O’Brien to a time slot after just midnight....
“Conan is officially accumulating capital for his next debut in late night,” Aaron Barnhart, the television critic for The Kansas City Star....
... Trendrr... said it had found that the Twitter sentiment for NBC had been “overwhelmingly negative” during the past week....
ADDED: Obama's with Coco!

Scott Brown: "I was a jerk."

Last November, Brown was asked if he'd ever been arrested:
“My mom was on welfare a little bit, and, you know, I lived with my grandparents, I lived with my aunt, whatever. I was a jerk. I had some issues. You know, I was lost. . . . Mom was always working. . . . There was some violence in there where I would be sticking up for my mom and sisters. . . . I may get a little emotional. . . . And one day I was out with some older kids. . . . We were in Salem. . . . I had a pair of farmer overalls, and I stuck some records in them. . . . I was walking out, and a guy caught me.

“And so I was arrested and went over to Salem District Court, and Judge [Samuel] Zoll . . . gets me in his chambers, and he says: ‘So, tell me about yourself. I see you like music.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I love music. I like Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and Grand Funk, all that stuff.’ He says, ‘What else do you do?’ And I said, ‘I play . . . basketball, and I like to run.’ He said, ‘How good are you?’ And I said, ‘Well, I score about 30 or 40 points a game.’ He says, ‘Do you have any brothers or sisters?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, a half-brother and some half-sisters,’ and he says, ‘Wow, that’s great. . . . Do they look up to you?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely.’ He said, ‘That’s fantastic.’ . . . He . . . looks me right in the eye [and says], ‘How do you think they’d like to see you play basketball in jail?’ ’’

“I was, like, ‘Whoaaa.’ . . . He says, ‘I want you to write me a 1,500-word essay on that very topic, and I want it next week.’ That was the last time I ever stole, the last time I ever thought about stealing. . . . The other day I was at Staples, and something was in my cart that I didn’t pay for. I had to bring it back because . . . I thought of Judge Zoll.’’

Scott Ritter.


"She is so tone deaf that she made fun of her opponent for standing outside Fenway Park shaking hands 'in the cold.'"

"A week before the election, Coakley was off the campaign trail entirely in Washington for a fund-raiser that was packed with the usual suspects. But undoubtedly it was well heated."

Ouch! That's Gail Collins in The New York Times.

Martha Coakley: "The Scott Brown stalkers, who have followed me around..."

"... the people from the Brown campaign, who've been very aggressive in their stalking."

You already know that I don't think the shoving incident is a big deal. I also think the slanting in this Fox News local news clip is embarrassing:

But Coakley's "stalking" theme is lame... or it would be lame if it weren't devious. "Stalking" is a word that I think is deliberately chosen to signal that the man — here, Scott Brown — is dangerous to women.

Or, I should say that it's devious and lame, because it's unlikely to have the desired effect of getting voters to rally around the threatened woman. A politician needs to be strong and not easily pushed back. It's one thing to champion the weak — taking violence against women seriously, for example. But the champion of the weak can't herself be weak.

Since there is no real stalking — if there is, show me the evidence — all Coakley is doing is displaying that she can be intimidated, and what sort of representative will she be? She'll be what her opponents say she is: "a sock puppet for Harry Reid and the Democrats." Now, for voters who above all else want to preserve the 60th vote for healthcare, that's just fine. But those are the voters Coakley already has a lock on (though they may be too uninspired to vote).

I doubt if the more independent voters will feel like rushing to protect her from those (phantom) stalkers. Even if their protective instinct is stirred, there's no reason to put a fragile flower in the Senate.

ADDED: Here's a closeup detail from the photograph of Coakley looking on just after McCormack goes down:

It's not fair to judge an individual by one photograph, but this is what the voters are seeing as she frets about "stalking." Another thing that's not fair is the way Scott Brown looks.

AND: Thanks to lucid in the comments for pointing out that it's not Fox News. It's a local news show on Fox.

"This blog is called Marginalia, because I'm writing from Madison, Wisconsin..."

"... and Marginalia is a fictionalized name for Madison that I thought up a long time ago when I seriously believed I would write a fictionalized account of my life in Madison, Wisconsin. There is nothing terribly marginal about Madison, really, but I do like writing in the margins of books, something I once caused a librarian to gasp by saying. Writing in a blog is both less and more permanent than writing in the margin of a book."

Written January 14, 2004, at 10:36 AM. The first post on this now 6-year-old blog. There have been 18,319 posts since then, including this one. I've posted at least once, each day in these 6 years, an average of 8+ posts a day. I've never had a guest blogger (or a ghost blogger), and I've written — with real enthusiasm — on the hardest work days, on the day I wrecked my car, the day I had surgery, the day I drove 1235 miles in one day, and the day I got married. And over 2,000 other days.

January 13, 2010

Pat Robertson: "Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it."

"They were under the heel of the French ... and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True story. And the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another."

When so many in Haiti have died or are dying and suffering, how can anyone think this is the time to say such a thing? Does religion give Robertson the gall? I'm not going to ask why a belief in God doesn't frighten people out of such heartlessness. It's too sadly obvious that it does not.

Why am I avoiding ShoveGate?

There's this story acting like it's a big deal, and I've been avoiding it. Why? Because after watching the video twice, I can't tell what really happened. Witness accounts vary. Apparently, there was a bustle in a tight space, with the reporter — John McCormack — trying to get at the candidate — Marsha Coakley — and the Democratic staffer — Michael Meehan — doing something — maybe just trying to protect her and create space around her, maybe deliberately shoving McCormack, or maybe something in between. So, I guess I'm not avoiding it anymore. I just want to say I think it's a distraction. (And I hate the tendency to call things a distraction!) I don't think it has any value in helping Massachusetts voters decide whether to vote for Coakley.

ADDED: I'm getting comments and email about Meehan's "apology." Shouldn't that change my view? Absolutely not! I can read:
Last evening I was a little too aggressive in trying to help the Attorney General get to her car and catch a flight.

I clearly did not intend to cause John McCormack to trip and fall over that low fence.  As the video shows and he confirms in his blog, I stopped to help him up and make sure he was OK.

I talked with Mr. McCormack this afternoon and apologized for my part.
He does not admit to shoving McCormack here. He apologized the way we all apologize when we bump into somebody.  Saying you're sorry they got shoved is no admission that you hurt them on purpose. There's nothing in Meehan's statement that is inconsistent with the original post.

MORE: An emailer writes:
But the word was not "careless", it was not "clumsy", it was "aggressive".

Even the rest of the disclaimer supports my interpretation. He does not deny shoving, or intending to shove. He only denies intending to cause a fall:

"I clearly did not intend to cause John McCormack to trip and fall over that low fence."

So, we have video which you find inconclusive but which seems at least to indicate contact. We have the reporter saying the contact was a shove. We have the Coakley campaign first saying the fall was a stunt -- not that it was an accident. And then we have have the man accused of shoving saying he was "too aggressive" and carefully not denying it was a shove.
ADDED: This video does, in fact, make Meehan (and Coakley) look very bad.

Little dogs, little and big people.

(Blogged from the Memphis airport, en route home.)

At the Crazy Water Café...


... rave on.

Kos writes: "Brown has been caught in a vice. His support from teabaggers was critical to becoming competitive...."

Does Kos think teabagging is a vice? I can't see what it has to do with (the admittedly handsome) Scott Brown, but it certainly is a reflection on Kos! Shouldn't a liberal be more accepting of various sexual practices? Why is he being so puritanical? Really, I am surprised that he's so judgmental about teabagging that he would call it a vice — as if it were depraved, wicked, and sinful.

Now, maybe if you put my head in a vise and screwed it in far enough, I'd admit that I knew what Kos was trying to say, but for now, my view is that he is an reactionary prig.

Greetings from Austin.


But not for long. We're about to pack up and fly back to winter.

"Am I the only one completely repulsed by this? Seriously, I can barely look at it!"

A photo, supposedly of Mars...

"C'mon, you're kidding us, right? That's actually a closeup of a dish of strawberry ice cream with Oreo™ crumbles, right?"

"So, as I see from the comments, I'm not the only one confused about the fronds sticking up from the dunes. What are those?"

"Eyelashes. Rue the day Mars wakes up."

"Soak in Simon Cowell’s evident distaste for Kara Dioguardi..."

"... ponder the physics of Victoria Beckham’s head tilt; let the shock of a contestant saying Randy Jackson’s his favorite judge sting anew."

It's hard to face a new season of "American Idol," isn't it? I've got the new episode TiVo'd, but I haven't watched it yet, and I don't know if I will. I don't even know if it's that I'm sick of the same old thing or I hate the way it's changed. If Simon Cowell is evidencing enough distaste for Kara Dioguardi, maybe I could try to tolerate it. But I can't stand Kara, and it seems absurd to spend any time feeling uneasy about the absence of Paula Abdul. And now, this is supposely Simon's last season.

(I say "supposedly," because they can always throw more money at him and get him to stay. This is a negotiation game, I assume, and Simon might be particularly interesting this season as he — essentially — makes the argument to us that he is the show and that if he starts up a new show, that's where we will want to go. That might elicit some immense new offer, especially as we fail to bond to Kara and don't really see the point of Ellen DeGeneres.)

"The nihilist’s desire for control, order and blankness..."

"... and his dislike of beauty and the past, mean there’s nowhere calming or beautiful for the eye to rest; no magazine or book by the sofa; no way of putting your feet up on that sofa without compromising its snowy virginity. The house is on permanent standby for the estate agent’s surprise visit. It is forever Year Zero. Old, pretty things have given way to new, ugly nothings."

That's the last paragraph of an article on the death of "shabby chic," the first page of which is here. I mostly disagree with it, by the way. I think a clean, uncluttered space is calming and beautiful. I'm saying this on the last morning of our 10-day stay at a very nicely modern hotel in Austin, Texas.

"If I am elected senator from New York, Harry Reid will not instruct me how to vote."

And New York will have a Senator with a Tennessee accent.

ADDED: Alex Pareene has a lot of fun with what really was an embarrassing interview:
So, just so we're clear, Harold Ford: you want to run for office in New York. You want people in New York to vote for you. Democrats in New York are the people you are trying to appeal to. And, when asked if you prefer the Giants or the Jets, your answer is that you're better friends with the Tisches than with Woody Johnson, so Giants...? That is an insane answer....
Wait, let's ask another question!
Q. Have you been to Staten Island?

A. I landed there in the helicopter, so I can say yes.
Hah. Ha ha ha. 

"Port-au-Prince is devastated, lot of deaths. SOS. SOS . . . Temporary field hospital by us at UNDP needs supplies, pain meds, bandages. Please help us."

The devastating earthquake in Haiti:
“The main issue here will probably be shaking... and this is an area that is particularly vulnerable in terms of construction practice, and with a high population density. There could be a high number of casualties.”...

“There is a blanket of dust rising from the valley south of the capital...We can hear people calling for help from every corner. The aftershocks are ongoing and making people very nervous.”

January 12, 2010

3 dogs.


"'The Tonight Show' at 12:05 simply isn't the 'Tonight Show.'"

Conan O'Brien is right! It's not tonight anymore. After midnight's, it's tomorrow. Remember the Tomorrow show?

"She's wet!"

At the Caffeine Dealer.

Truth-telling, hippie-style signage...


We ordered some great food here and took a number...


... outside, we had black coffee and WiFi...


Cement sentiment...


Highly recommended! The Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse.

Oh, I think it makes some sense.

"Marvin Gaye would not have had a hit with 'Why Don’t We Venture to Consummate Our Relationship?' or even 'Let’s Have Sex' instead of 'Let’s Get It On.'"

A not-random sentence from John McWhorter's fascinating and elaborate defense of Harry Reid.

(Via Jaltcoh.)



Dogs of Austin.

Down by the lake, yesterday:

Understanding misspelling: "Massachusettes" — perhaps it's the feminine form of "Massachusetts"...

... as the female candidate goes on the attack in her effort to become the next... Senatorette!

(Via JammieWearingFool, via Instapundit.)

Let's celebrate!


I don't know what you bought at The Gas Pipe, but this is what we bought. The matches were free. We weren't so impressed by that 40 years business. They only started in 1970? That's a late start. Whatever happened to the 60s? Or don't you remember?

At the Waterscraper Café...


... transform yourself.

So Ayla Brown, the erstwhile "American Idol" contestant, is the daughter of the Senate candidate Scott Brown.

Interesting. Well, that is one good-looking family. (Did you see that Scott Brown won some "America's Sexiest Man" contest in 1982 — and posed (modestly) naked in Cosmopolitan?)

Ayla was on the show back in the days when I did a lot of "American Idol" blogging, so let's see what I said about her. It was 2006, the year Taylor Hicks won and Katherine McPhee was the top female.

February 7, 2006:
There was the beautiful basketballer Ayla Brown, who belted robotically but made it on athletic attitude. Simon said the brilliant words that could stand as a critique of the whole show: "There's something empty about it all."
February 21, 2006:
Ayla Brown, the beautiful basketballer. She motivates herself by thinking about how Simon called her "robotic" and "empty." She's singing some cheesy song in a horribly cheesy style. Oh, it's something like "Reflection." It's harsh and abominable. She puts that pop-groan into it, but I'm not embarrassed for her, because she's so pretty and so tall. When she's done, she says, "I just feel so complete," as if she'd just had sex with herself. Appalling! But will the judges complain? Again with the praise. Is there no relenting? Simon calls her a "hard worker" with "a limit." But he credits her with "some emotion." Disgusting overpraise!
March 7, 2006:
Ayla Brown is just atrocious but the judges are very kind to her, perhaps because she looks fabulous -- really tall! -- and was adorable in the film clip talking about how when she was a kid she believed her dad was Elvis Presley. They don't want her to go.
March 9, 2006:
[M]y two picks to leave -- in the female category -- are in fact leaving. Ayla fights not to completely burst out crying. Oh, don't feel sorry for her. She's beautiful, tall, a basketball player, and a straight-A student. She'll be fine.
Ha ha. Well, they are a lovely family, and they seem to know how to leverage their loveliness. Does Scott Brown deserve to be Senator? I don't know enough about him to say, but I certainly suspect that his extreme handsomeness is a good part of the reason why people are responding to him so enthusiastically.

"Ever since I went to see 'Avatar' I have been depressed."

"Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na'vi made me want to be one of them. I can't stop thinking about all the things that happened in the film and all of the tears and shivers I got from it. I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and the everything is the same as in 'Avatar.'"


"When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed ... gray. It was like my whole life, everything I've done and worked for, lost its meaning... It just seems so ... meaningless. I still don't really see any reason to keep ... doing things at all. I live in a dying world."


When I was younger — I'm 59, starting today — movies had a very strong effect on me, but it wasn't that it turned the world disappointingly gray. When I walked out into the light after a great movie, my experience was that things seemed sharpened, intensified, and refreshed. The real world felt newly real. It was more in color — the opposite of depression.

Is it something about the movies that has changed? Is our relationship to film different now? Are young people today different from the way we were then? Maybe nothing has changed, and there were post-film depressives then as now.

"Classic and romantic, wise and iconoclastic, light and serious, sentimental and moralistic..."

"... he created the ‘Rohmer’ style, which will outlive him," said Nicolas Sarkozy, on the occasion of the death, at age 89, of the film director Eric Rohmer.
“My Night at Maud’s” was the third title in his “Six Moral Tales,” a series of films that Mr. Rohmer began in 1963, though for economic reasons it was the fourth to be filmed. In each of the six films, a man who is married or committed to a woman finds himself tempted to stray but is ultimately able to resist. His films are as much about what does not happen between his characters as what does, a tendency that enchanted critics as often as it drove audience members to distraction.
I sat through "My Night at Maud's" and other Rohmer films back in the 1970s. I can't say that I enjoyed myself very much, but it was the sort of thing one did back then and does not do today.


... Palinified.

It's my birthday.

It's hard to celebrate, when every day is so beautiful.

Like yesterday, for example....


January 11, 2010

That time Professor Friedman said "orthogonal."

"'Orthogonal,' Scalia said. 'Ooh.'"

"It's not the Kennedy seat, it's not the Democrat seat, it's the people's seat."

Scott Brown looks great here:

(Via Instapundit.)

At the Town Lake Inn...


... shimmer.

Although I am wearing a white windbreaker and black sunglasses...

... it does not mean I am one of you.

I've read too much Greek Mythology not to find that a little scary.

Does "Game Changer" get to the heart of the question "Just how wacky is Elizabeth?"

Mickey Kaus wants to know.
True, she's depicted as a snob in heavy denial who flies into inappropriate rages. But is that all? If she's wacky enough, remember, Edwards' decision to take up with another woman may be more explicable, if not excusable. ...

Is Harry Reid a racist? It depends on what the meaning of racist is.

"It was all in the context of saying positive things about Senator Obama. It definitely was in the context of recognizing in Senator Obama a great candidate and future president." So said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, about Harry Reid saying that Obama would be a fine candidate because he's "light-skinned" and has "no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."

Is Harry Reid a racist? It depends on what the meaning of racist is:

If by "racist," you mean somebody who feels antagonism toward black people, then Harry Reid isn't a racist. Harry Reid thinks we are racists.

If by "racist" you mean somebody who would use other people's feelings about race in a purely instrumental way to amass political power, then Harry Reid is a racist.

ADDED: To fight the charge of Type 1 racism, the Democrats are rolling out their Type 2 racism in all its virulence.

AND: Eugene Volokh responds to this post:
Does the term “racist” indeed normally mean “somebody who would use other people’s feelings about race in a purely instrumental way to amass political power”? I don’t think I’ve ever heard it used this way; and while I certainly recognize that words can have multiple standard meanings, I’m skeptical that the second meaning Prof. Althouse suggests is indeed standard.
The reason why I put it that way is not because I saw that as a standard meaning. It is intended to express what I think is exactly what Reid was doing. The clause begins with "if." Seen that way, I'm saying: If what Reid did is racist, Reid is a racist.

Now, it's a separate question whether racism should be defined like that. Perhaps a narrow definition of "racist" is desirable. The word is so inflammatory, you might want to reserve it for those who think people of a particular race are inferior and deserve to be treated differently. But maybe our understanding of the word should be refined so that it covers those who use race in other ways that we disapprove of. My post was intended to offer the suggestion that we ought to disapprove of what Reid did with race and for that reason we ought to adopt it as the definition of racist.

Volokh says that if my proffered use of "racist" isn't "standard"...
... then it seems to me a bad idea to try to redefine “racist” this way, because of the substantial possibility that (1) listeners will misunderstand...
I disagree. I want to challenge people to think about what is "racist," not save the word for the meanings that have already been established. Let's use it in ways that are useful. And let's talk about and develop the meaning of this powerful word, not just try to make life easy for listeners.
... and (2) will misunderstand in a way that is unfair to Sen. Reid, because it might lead listeners to think that Reid is actually being called a definition-one racist (a normal meaning of “racist”), since that’s a more standard definition.
I'm not willing to dumb down the conversation like this. I said quite clearly that Reid wasn't a Type 1 racist. I think there is something else he was doing that was bad, and I'm using a proposed redefinition of the word to inspire critical thought about how bad it is.

Are we going to read The Daily Caller — which is supposed to be the conservative answer to The Huffington Post?

What entitles a website to be perceived as important from Day 1? Arianna Huffington pulled it off, though I certainly resisted it at first. The success of HuffPo presumably created the opening for a conservative counterpart, but who can simply announce that they've got it?  And didn't Pajamas Media already do that?

Howard Kurtz tells us about this Tucker Carlson project, The Daily Caller, which begins today:
[Carlson's] $3 million in funding comes from Wyoming financier Foster Friess, a big-time GOP donor.

But Carlson insists this won't be a right-wing site: "I don't feel guilty about or ashamed in any way of saying we'll cover the people in power," he says, dismissing the capital's Republicans as "totally powerless."

"Our goal is not to get Republicans elected. Our goal is to explain what your government is doing. We're not going to suck up to people in power, the way so many have. There's been an enormous amount of throne-sniffing," he says, a sly grin beneath the mop of brown hair. It's disgusting."...
The focus will be on the White House and Congress; early stories will examine Medicare fraud and wasteful stimulus projects, along with a Carlson piece on the latest White House party-crasher, Carlos Allen....
So I go to the website and here's the teaser for the top story:

That's what you decided to throw in my face on the morning of your first day?! I guess I'm way out of your target audience. Jeesh. That's lurid. And Carlos Allen means nothing to me. You've got an unknown black man posing with 3 breast-wielders, for no obviously apparent reason, making me reflexively assume you're trying to attract childish men and... uh... racists?

And the whole look of the place is old-fashioned and tabloid. HuffPo had a really great aesthetic from the start. Why did they make it look like that? Everyone on the staff must be design-blind. Or there's just something impossible about using Wyoming financier money to hire a great graphic designer.

Much as I like Jim Treacher — who has a blog over there — his logo is so atrocious I feel like...

... well, let's just say it makes the Pajamas Media bathrobe look chic.

"Palin went into a tailspin."

"She stopped eating or sleeping, and drank only a half a can of diet soda a day.... When her aides tried to quiz her she would routinely shut down - chin on her chest, arms folded, eyes cast to the floor, speechless and motionless, lost in what those around her described as a kind of catatonic stupor...."

Does anyone really care, or are we just following the rules?

It's terrible that China, forbidden to use lead in children's jewelry, may have switched to cadmium, which is more toxic than lead.

But do we notice when our own morality works the same way? For example, here's a section from a NYT article called "The 31 Places to Go in 2010":
9. Antarctica
This may be the last year that Antarctica is open to mass tourism — not because the ice is melting too fast (though it is), but because of restrictions that would severely curtail travel around the fragile continent.

Until recently, most vessels passing through Antarctica were limited to scientific expeditions, but an exploding number of tourists now flock to what is arguably the world’s last great wilderness. The tourism boom, scientists argue, poses a major environmental threat. Indeed, several passenger ships have run aground in recent years.

Countries that manage Antarctica are calling for limits on the number of tourist ships, for fortified hulls that can withstand sea ice and for a ban on the use of so-called heavy oils. A ban on heavy oil, which is expected to be adopted by the International Maritime Organization later this year, would effectively block big cruise ships.

With the new rules taking effect within two years, tour operators are promoting 2010 as the last year to visit Antarctica, while, at the same time, procuring lighter vessels that would be permitted. Abercrombie & Kent, for example, is introducing a new ship, Le Boreal (www.abercrombiekent.com), which its public relations firm argues “meets all the environmental regulations, so access to Antarctica via A&K will not be affected.”

Launching this year, the compact luxury ship holds 199 passengers and features an outdoor heated pool, steam rooms and private balconies that offer intimate views of some of the world’s remaining glaciers.
So, go now, because it's not banned yet? If you actually cared, you wouldn't go at all! But the NYT passes along — in quotes — the PR from one ship company, whose ship purportedly meets the new standards. Just meet the standards, and you — as opposed to that "flock" of tourists — can cruise right into that fragile environment. You can snuggle up with your "intimate views" of the frigid continent that you imagine you love so much.

But that's not all. The NYT is tipping us off right now: There are only 2 years left to scoot down there in one of the big non-luxury ships. Why put Antarctica on the list of places to go in 2010 unless you mean to get out the message to the people who aren't going to be able to afford the "compact luxury ship"? Connect the dots! You're supposed to scoot down there while it's still affordable, before the rules kick in.


Now, I know there is this kind of morality that says that voluntary individual action has too little effect. We need rules to control what the hordes of people do. We were just discussing that here a month ago in connection with an environmentalist's op-ed that said "Stop 'going green.'" What we want are rules, and then we will follow them?

So China makes kids' jewelry with cadmium, and tourists flock to Antarctica, and we do all manner of selfish, harmful things, because it's not against the rules yet.

January 10, 2010

Koi in motion.

Is my caveman a murderer?

All right, this looks like another one of those articles that made Bob R say "So how long until NYT subscriptions drop down to the level where every subscriber gets an article about them like this? Althouse already had hers." (In case you're new here, my article was this one.)

Anyway, today's Article About You is "The New Age Cavemen and the City":
LIKE many New York bachelors, John Durant tries to keep his apartment presentable — just in case he should ever bring home a future Mrs. Durant. He shares the fifth-floor walk-up with three of his buddies, but the place is tidy and he never forgets to water the plants.

The one thing that Mr. Durant worries might spook a female guest is his most recent purchase: a three-foot-tall refrigerated meat locker that sits in a corner of his living room. That is where he keeps his organ meat and deer ribs.
Is it one of those refrigerator cases with a glass front, so that the hanging meat is a bit of an art display? If I were the woman in that scenario, the first thing I'd think is: How do I know those are not human body parts? Is that the last woman he brought home? I'd be thinking about Jeffrey Dahmer, who had all those human parts in his regular old Milwaukee apartment refrigerator. But now, here's a meat locker in the living room in New York. Is this some kind of artsy upgrade on Dahmer? Would I vocalize my questions and be the sort of nervy comedienne I've always wanted to be or would I be out of there?

As it unfolds, Durant is supposedly living like a caveman. In New York City. At least in the ways that he's decided he can, because, of course, the caveman didn't have a meat locker or even a place to plug one in.
The caveman lifestyle, in Mr. Durant’s interpretation, involves eating large quantities of meat and then fasting between meals to approximate the lean times that his distant ancestors faced between hunts. Vegetables and fruit are fine, but he avoids foods like bread that were unavailable before the invention of agriculture. Mr. Durant believes the human body evolved for a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and his goal is to wean himself off what he sees as many millenniums of bad habits.
So... it's a diet?
These urban cavemen also choose exercise routines focused on sprinting and jumping, to replicate how a prehistoric person might have fled from a mastodon.
A diet + exercise. Because you know you need exercise too. So buy meat in a store and jump up and down, and it's pretty similar to survival-level hunting on the tundra.
In a city crowded with vegetarian restaurants and yoga studios, the cavemen defy other people’s ideas of healthy living. There is an indisputable macho component to the lifestyle.

“I didn’t want to do some faddish diet that my sister would do,” Mr. Durant said.
Durant wanted a manly faddish diet.
The caveman lifestyle in New York was once a solitary pursuit. But Mr. Durant, who looks like a cheerful Jim Morrison, with shoulder-length curly hair, has emerged over the last year as a chieftain of sorts among 10 or so other cavemen. He has cooked communal dinners in his apartment on East 90th Street and taught others to make jerky from his meat locker.
So the neo-Lizard King's found 10 guys to make jerky with him?

Then, there is Erwan Le Corre, 38, "who once made soap for a living." Soap? No thanks! I've seen "Fight Club"!

"I have a refrigerator in the garage. He opened it up, drank a gallon of orange juice, opened the freezer above and munched two frozen pizzas and snacked on frozen chicken."

"He broke all the shelves and racks out of the refrigerator, bit into some fruit punch and squirted it all over everywhere, then dragged the trash can outside and took a crap the size of a basketball on the front lawn."

A very large bear. He's not going to kill you. He just breaks in and raids the refrigerator. And takes a crap the size of a basketball on the front lawn.

At the Goldfish Café...


... keep swimming around so ice doesn't form.

Barack Obama is the real McCoy.

Ha. [ADDED: There are links at the link. This post is only interesting if you click them!]

... or is it just His Way?

ADDED: An emailer tells me that Obama's walk — which you saw here if you clicked the links — is a style of walking that is common in Hawaii. He says:
I don’t know if it’s a “stoner” stride, a  “hang loose” surfer stride or just something else more particular to Hawaii.
Well, we thought it was particular to Grandpappy Amos.

The answer: The NYT doesn't get pop culture references.

All the front-page promotion of this article about Roger Ailes finally got me to read it — mainly in search of the answer why the NYT thought it had such an important article.
At a time when the broadcast networks are struggling with diminishing audiences and profits in news, [Ailes] has built Fox News into the profit engine of the News Corporation. Fox News is believed to make more money than CNN, MSNBC and the evening newscasts of NBC, ABC and CBS combined...
Yes, yes, how galling it must be, for liberal media to have a market share that corresponds to the actual proportion of liberals in the population. There is one news network that leans conservative, at it has an audience proportionate to the conservatives in the population. All you need is to observe that the presentation of news and opinion is going to have a slant, and it all makes sense. Presumably, the Times would like to rile its readers up about what a terrible, horrible man Roger Ailes is. They lob this quote from his Rupert Murdock's son-in-law Matthew Freud (who is the great grandson of Sigmund Freud):
"I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’s horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to."
Aspires to, eh? But do they reach it? And if they don't, do they have self-awareness about their failure? I've got to think that this article itself is far from those aspirational standards.

Anyway, here's what caught my eye:
As powerful as he is within the News Corporation, Mr. Ailes remains a spectral presence outside the Fox News offices. National security had long been a preoccupation of Fox News, and it was clear in the interview that the 9/11 attacks had a profound effect on Mr. Ailes. They convinced him that he and his network could be terrorist targets.

On the day of the attacks, Mr. Ailes asked his chief engineer the minimum number of workers needed to keep the channel on the air. The answer: 42. “I am one of them,” he said. “I’ve got a bad leg, I’m a little overweight, so I can’t run fast, but I will fight.

“We had 3,000 dead people a couple miles from here. I knew that any communications company could be a target.”
The answer is 42?! What wag fed them that story? And who decided to pull the NYT's (bad) leg over the subject of 9/11? The NYT is still such a lamestain. It's a harsh realm indeed for the square old paper that wants so much to be hip.

Of course, the answer is 42! The answer to everything is 42. It's an old reference, a joke that is supposed to be so easily recognizable that you are really kind of a cob nobbler to resort to it these days. Ah, well. Rock on!

"How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?"/"I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t say anything about bitter people who cling to their guns and religion."

Quotes from a new book elicit an invitation to take another look at this famous photo:

"She's a companion. She has a personality. She hears you. She listens to you. She speaks. She feels your touch. She goes to sleep."

"We are trying to replicate a personality of a person."

In fact, for a price, you get to pick the personlity:
Roxxxy comes with five personalities. Wild Wendy is outgoing and adventurous, while Frigid Farrah is reserved and shy.

There is a young naive personality along with a Mature Martha that [is] described as having a "matriarchal kind of caring."...
But don't scoff. Think of the 9/11 victims!
Inspiration for the sex robot sprang from the September 11, 2001 attacks....

"I had a friend who passed away in 9/11," [Engineer-inventor Douglas] Hines said. "I promised myself I would create a program to store his personality, and that became the foundation for Roxxxy True Companion."
We each must absorb the shock of 9/11 in our own way. Here's Hines, assuaging his grief:

In Malaysia, Christian churches are firebombed after courts say that Christians have a right to use the name "Allah" to mean their God.

The NYT reports:
The line between race and religion is blurred in a country where the Constitution equates Muslim and Malay identities, said Jacqueline Ann Surin, editor of The Nut Graph, an analytical Malaysian news site that covers political Islam extensively.

“Malaysia is peculiar in that we have race-based politics and over the past decade or so we have seen an escalation of this notion that Malay Malaysians are superior,” she said. “That has been most apparent from consistent attempts by the U.M.N.O. leadership to promote the notion of ‘ketuanan Melayu,’ or Malay supremacy or dominance.” The United Malays National Organization is the full name of the governing party.

“So it’s a logical progression that if the Malay is considered superior by the state to all others in Malaysia, then Islam will also be deemed superior to other religions,” she said.

"The message of 'The Playhouse' has always been: 'Dare to be different.'"

The return of Pee-Wee Herman.