February 27, 2010

At the Prospect Hotel...


... you can shoot the moon.

A Saturday evening snack.

Meade took my picture:


... as we had an order of frites and a glass of our favorite brew...


Now, checking in on the Gmail, I see that Hazy Dave has sent me a clip of something I happened to say somewhere on an old podcast. It seems appropriate or inappropriate:

Ha ha. It's all out of context. I'm reading something — probably something written in the 18th century. But we didn't drink 6/7/8 pints — not to be weak or strong. We shared one glass and easily walked home in the pre-Spring sunset:


"The Time Has Come to Say No to Death," by Bianca Jagger.

All right then: No! 

You hear that, Death?

Finally succumbing to Blogger's "Layout" format.

I've updated the blog to "layout." If anything looks worse now, let me know. One thing that's clearly better is that if you click on a tag, you'll be able to see all the old posts with that tag. Also...

At the Sweetness Café...


... don't you love it?

Life with dolphins.

American pop culture has its helpful friend dolphin, Flipper...

That's the delusion, built on the accidental smile.

"To be fair, they should have also had a bad dolphin: Zipper!"

But really, the dolphin is neither "ever so kind and gentle" (Flipper) or "surly" and "uncaring" (Zipper). It has its own ways.

Killer whales — like the one that killed Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld — are dolphins (the largest dolphins).


In starting to write this post, after that last one, my idea was to develop the theme of dolphin rape, but I got grossed out by many YouTube videos showing people at dolphin shows being set up — legs spread — to receive a dolphin, who — not understanding the lines human beings draw with respect to bodily interactions — leaps up and performs according to its own standards.

And, amongst dolphins, the standard is what we would classify as rape — gang rape:
In order to coerce the reluctant females, males form groups of two or three – often remaining together in their search for sexual gratification for well over a decade. When they find a suitable female they literally force her to mate with one or more of the group, and have even been known to herd their unwilling consorts for months at a time, basically using them as their personal sex-slaves.
Although dolphins are not alone in the animal world of gang-rapists, research suggests they’ve the perfected the art to a degree unseen in any other species, and it seems they don’t limit their advances to their female partners, either: there are several reports claiming divers and swimmers have also been accosted.
Studies would suggest the behaviour is likely to be undertaken for reasons of pleasure as much as reproduction, as dolphins are known to enjoy sexual activity in cases when reproduction would be physically impossible
In real life, the dolphin is more Zipper than Flipper. Leave him to the ocean where he can do the things he wants to do — unless you think he's so smart he can be convinced to learn principles of human morality. I would be interested in hearing the dolphin's perspective. Perhaps there is complex dolphin reasoning about the sexual slavery of the female, but I have no interest in considering adopting it for human society.

Presumably, a dolphin who managed to learn our morality would find it repugnant — and he would argue for his position with reasons that would outrage us. Maybe if that learned dolphin were confined to an aquarium — where, like a human prisoner in solitary confinement with nothing to do but read — he might take advantage of his knowledge to create some structure of asceticism around his deprivation. Then it wouldn't be so painful. I'll leave it to you to imagine how that analogy works from the perspective of a human woman who had to live in a society controlled by dolphins.

When the whale killed Dawn Brancheau... was it an instance of domestic violence?

"They really develop an interesting intimate relationship with these whales!" That is said about Dawn Brancheau, in this video depicting her with a killer whale, in happier days:

"Animals are real, sensitive to the touch, and they can feel all those things," Brancheau explains as she demonstrates her practice of rubbing the whale. Brancheau was rubbing the whale's nose when he turned on her and dragged her to her death.

Here are 6 theories of why the whale may have killed Brancheau. #3 is:
He was feeling sexual

[Whale expert] Nancy Black has also said it might have been a hormonal outburst from the killer whale. The killer whale was often isolated and encouraged to breed.

"He was used a lot [by SeaWorld] for mating and could have even been enacting a mating behavior during the incident," said Black.
Now, obviously, I don't know the extent to which the woman and the whale had a sexual relationship. I don't know it either from her perspective or the whale's. But the whale is an intelligent creature with feelings and in need of relationships, and the woman — if we listen to her own words — believed that she was providing a relationship. But think of it from the whale's perspective. Imagine the whale's sexuality. Imagine the frustration, tension, and deep longings.

No, you can't get that far trying to imagine how the whale felt. Animals are real, sensitive to the touch, and they can feel all those things. What things?! We don't really know. And yet we use them, for our purposes, which they cannot possibly understand. We imagine that we provide them love and companionship and touching. But we must know that even if a human being could fully grasp what the whale felt, she could never give him what he really needs.

The whale's name? Tilikum: 'Til I come.

February 26, 2010

At the Sweet and Salty Snackhouse...


... you can get your fill. And you know damned well that none of this is any good for you. Yet you cannot stop!

A "balding, blunt, unprepossessing, listed-at-5-foot-7 policy wonk would be a strong contender to take on President Barack Obama....."

"[H]e’s the un-Obama. If the country has soured on a charismatic orator who brought glamour but little executive experience to the presidency, the thinking goes, then [Mitch] Daniels could provide the antidote.... He’s a Princeton-educated former Senate chief of staff-turned political operative-turned think tank chief-turned Fortune 500 executive-turned White House budget director-turned two-term governor."

The Hoosier is willing.

A sociology professor is suspended for making the wrong kind of wisecracks on her Facebook page.

Gloria Y. Gadsden, an associate professor of sociology at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, wrote:
"Had a good day today, didn't want to kill even one student.:-) Now Friday was a different story ..."

"Does anyone know where I can find a very discrete hitman, it's been that kind of day."
I guess the smiley face isn't enough to calm nerves in post-Amy Bishop academia.

Is this a fair description of the way Obama looked at the summit?

I've put some effort into defending Rush Limbaugh this week, so I want to balance that with some criticism. I didn't watch the summit yesterday. I had other demands on my attention. I don't watch Daytime TV. I could have watched the rerun at night, and I can still watch some clips. I just didn't and haven't. But I did listen to the podcast of some of Rush's show yesterday. At one point, he was running the audio of the summit and commenting in real time. He had some descriptions of how Obama looked, and it had me crying out loud that it was over-the-top:
Obama was sitting there and his lips were pursed. There as tight as he could be. He had one finger over his mouth and he was shooting Boris Karloff eyes.
So, something like this?

Or this?

More Rush:
He just looked like, "How dare you do this! This is not going the way I had it planned. I'm the one being embarrassed here! They're the ones are supposed to be made to look like a bunch of mean-spirited extremists, and now they're throwing my own words and my own plan right back at me and they don't even know how to respond to this." So he had to come over some help. Some aide had to come over and give him some advice on how to respond like he was a witness in front of a congressional committee, like a mob guy and his lawyer whispering. "Psst, pss, pss, pss."

There was utter panic.
Utter panic? Really?

"Women who have multiple sex partners 'preserve humanity.'"

Seriously. It "reduces the spread of a sex-ratio distortion (SR) chromosome that would lead to all-female offspring."

The affable, stuttering skeptic and the grim, concise Jeremiah.

Will Wilkinson and Mark Kleiman are talking about anthropogenic global warming, but in this quick clip, they could almost be talking about anything. They are 2 really distinct types in the big human conversation about what is true:

"Lost Sweathog Tyler Grady had a nice look and shtick, but he sang a mediocre song boringly."

No, that's not my theory why Tyler Grady failed to garner the votes to survive for another week of the "American Idol" competition. The song — "American Woman" — is not so much "mediocre" — many songs sung on AI are mediocre. That can hardly cause sudden death. The problem is that the song insults American women, and American women are the main people who do the voting. I have hated this song since it came out in 1970. The original group that did this song was the Guess Who. They were Canadian, and they were insulting American women and insulting America:
American woman gonna mess your mind...
American woman, stay away from me...
American woman, get away from me...
Don’t wanna see your face no more...
You know I’m gonna leave
You know I’m gonna go, woman
I’m gonna leave, woman
Goodbye, American woman
Goodbye, American chick
Goodbye, American broad ...
Well, hell. He was asking to leave. Don't want to see our face? Fine! We don't want to see yours.

Now that at long last no one cares, Carly Simon reveals that the "you" who probably thought that song was about him was...

... David Geffen.

(Via Throwing Things.)

Do liberals pretend to be deaf to Rush Limbaugh's sense of humor?

I have to respond to this post over at Language Log, because they are talking about me. Mark Liberman can't understand my post — "Disingenuous or stupid, Hendrik Hertzberg calls Rush Limbaugh a disgusting race-baiter" — which is about how Hertzberg misses — or pretends to miss — the humor in something Limbaugh said. Liberman's failure to get me replicates Hertzberg's failure to get Limbaugh.

February 25, 2010

In the Dark Winter Hotel...


... we can talk our way through this.

At the health-care summit: "President Obama won. So did congressional Republicans."

That means the losers were the congressional Democrats.

Among the Republicans, it seems that Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan was especially good:

If that's characteristic of the Republican's vigorous, incisive style — and that's the way it looked to us as we streamed the video — the Democrats came across looking frenzied and not well-grounded in sound policy. There were these random hard-luck stories. This is typical:

One feels sorry for the woman who wore her dead sister's dentures, but it doesn't establish that one policy is better than another. It's just a nervous cry to hurry up and do something. Do something... anything! That's not the way I think.

Judge Posner says maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if FDR's Court-packing plan had passed.

"It would have increased turnover on the Court, reduced the average age of justices, made an appointment to the Court less prestigious, and made the justices more cautious about bucking strong political forces, because they would have learned that Congress was willing as well as able to rein them in. We would probably have been spared the excesses of the Warren Court, which turned Roosevelt’s idea of the 'living Constitution' on its head: where Roosevelt wanted the Court to stand aside so that the government could deal with the distinctive problems of modernity, the Warren Court responded to the surging crime rates of the 1950s and 1960s by increasing the rights of criminals."

That's snazzily put, but it's really saying the same old thing about judicial restraint. Deference to legislatures in FDR's day served a liberal goal, and the activists were the conservatives. In later decades, judicial activism was mobilized for liberal ends. Over time, conservatives and liberals have used both judicial restraint and judicial activism to suit their ends.

The more fundamental question is whether we'd be better off if the judicial branch were subordinated to the political branches. I would think that conservatives and liberals alike — the full range across the political spectrum — benefit from a system of separated powers with 3 branches that are well-balanced and strong within their own spheres.

We can fight forever about exactly what the 3 spheres of power really are and what constitutesproper balance — when courts should act and when they should defer to the democratic branches — but I balk at the invitation to be wistful about the missed opportunity to weaken and subordinate the courts.

Who will watch today's health care summit and why?

Are you going to watch? You can stream it live at C-SPAN.org or watch it live on TV if you get C-SPAN3 (which I don't). And I think it will be on regular C-SPAN TV tonight — if you need a break from the Olympics or whatever your usual Thursday shows are. We like "Survivor." And there must be an "American Idol" results show tonight. (Could they please just kick off 3/4 of the guys and 1/2 of the girls?)

Presumably, some people will watch, but why exactly? What do they think they're going to get out of it?
In convening Thursday’s bipartisan health session, President Obama is angling to recreate the kind of spontaneous, unscripted debate that gave him a decided advantage when he took questions on live television at a House Republican retreat in Baltimore last month.
So some Obama supporters will watch in an effort to perceive Obama's awesome dominance and then  to sit back and feel optimistic about health care reform — or maybe to blog about why their perceptions are so true.
But this time, Mr. Obama will face adversaries who are well prepared to joust with him on the finer points of health policy before a large audience that will be judging both sides and looking for signs of bipartisanship.
And some Obama opponents will watch in an effort to perceive the demolition of Obama's hopes 'n' dreams and then to sit back to enjoy the continuation of the downward spiral of health care reform — or maybe to blog about why their perceptions are so true.

Most normal people, I think, are sick of hearing politicians talking about health care.

IN THE COMMENTS: People are live-blogging the big show. For example, rhhardin says:
Ha. I listened for 20 seconds, and in that time Obama did his rhetorical tic

1. Tell a lie

2. "and that's why," followed by a bad idea.

Not that anybody should make it a drinking game.

Instead of dashing to the scene of an accident, lawyers in need of clients dash to blog posts about accidents.

There are computer programs that find blog posts about, say, motorcycle deaths and then drop comments that seem to be from an ordinary person sympathizing about the death and dropping a link to a website offering to help you with legal claims. I know this because I just got a comment on an old post of mine — "The mystery of Bob Dylan's motorcycle crash." It contained some key words like "very seriously injured" (in the phrase "not very seriously injured") and "ambulance" (in "no ambulance was called to the scene") and "died" (in "he would have died if" he hadn't, after the accident, changed the way he lived).

This morning I discovered the comment — already deleted — from "John" — who sounds like a caring individual: "I feel very sad to know about the cause of Bob Dylan’s death...." Now, the program didn't quite work the way it was supposed to, because the accident happened long ago, Bob Dylan didn't die, and, however much I may love Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan is not one of my loved ones. So I'm not the target of the material that follows about the nature of motorcycle accidents and how "it is best to look over your case with a personal injury attorney beforehand to see if you have a strong case for a accident death claim."

But I can see how the comment is meant to work. It's supposed to appear on the genuinely sad blog posts written by people who have suffered a terrible personal loss and are touched that a stranger would say "I feel very sad to know about the cause of [name]’s death...."

February 24, 2010

A ghAstley error.

Rickrolling revived.

ADDED: That link doesn't rickroll you. It's an article about how the video was deleted and everyone got mad. It contains a link to the video though, so watch out for that.

Killer whale kills.

"The trainer was explaining different things about the whale and then the trainer that was down there walked away from the window. Then Telly (the whale) took off really fast in the tank and he came back, shot up in the air, grabbed the trainer by the waist and started thrashing (her) around. He was thrashing her around pretty good. It was violent."

ADDED: Theme park visitors were sitting there eating dinner — "Dining with Shamu" — next to a window to the whale's tank. Imagine biting into your food — thinking you're in this lovely, desirable environment — and seeing the whale swimming around with the dying woman in its mouth.

Disingenuous or stupid, Hendrik Hertzberg calls Rush Limbaugh a disgusting race-baiter.

Hertzberg presents an audio clip in which Rush plays and comments on an audio clip of President Obama pronouncing the word "ask" "ax" (or "aksk"). As Hertzberg puts it:
Limbaugh, after saying “Did you catch that?” and playing the sound bite a second time, sneers, “Obama can turn on that black dialect when he wants to and turn it off.” Then he suggests that the incorrect pronunciation was purposely spelled that way on the teleprompter. (Very funny.) Then he speculates that the President was trying to “reach out” to “the Reverend Jackson.” (Ho ho, if I may be permitted a bit of “black dialect.”) Then he says,
If I use the word “ax” for the rest of the day, am I going to get beat up and creamed for making fun of this clean, crisp, calm, cool new articulate President? Maybe we should do it and see what happens. I’ll ax my advisers.
Emphasis Limbaugh’s....

What is one to make of this?
The reader will have ... noticed the racist coding of Limbaugh’s description of Obama as “clean” and “articulate.” Yes, I know—Joe Biden used the same words about Obama during the campaign. But you’d have to be pretty obtuse not to notice the difference in intent, the difference between awkwardness and haplessness on the one hand, malice and contempt on the other.
But Limbaugh didn't say: “Obama can turn on that black dialect when he wants to and turn it off.” He said: "This is what Harry Reid was talking about. Obama can turn on that black dialect when he wants to and turn it off." Hertzberg took out the part about Harry Reid!

Back in January, when the book "Game Change," came out, there was much talk about the report that Reid had said — during the 2008 campaign — that Obama would be able to succeed because he's "light-skinned" and speaks "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." Yes, Reid said "Negro." And he apologized. So the racial remark about dialect was Reid's. It went right along with Joe Biden's "clean and articulate" remark that Hertzberg concedes he knew Rush was riffing on.

Rush has been making a big deal out of Biden and Reid's racial remarks. It's a running theme on the show that the Democrats are racist, and Rush riffs on this material all the time. For example, Rush did a monologue on January 11th called "Why Harry Reid's 'Negro Dialect' Comment is Devastatingly Racist," and one on January 12th called "We're Dwelling On It, Dingy Harry! We Won't Ignore Democrat Racism."

Limbaugh has "malice and contempt" all right, but it's for the way Democrats use race. Reid had said that Obama could turn "Negro dialect" on and off, which suggests that he'd turn it on when it was politically useful. In that light, the original audio clip was funny, suggesting — facetiously — that Obama's slip was a deliberate turning on of the "dialect" to suit his purpose.

So Biden's remark only evinced "awkwardness and haplessness"? Why not come down hard on him? Apparently, it's for the same reason that Hertzberg didn't see fit to bring Harry Reid into the discussion at all: He's a Democrat.

Hertzberg's "What is one to make of this?" is an inane pretense of puzzlement. It was obviously humor, and it came from someone who is trying to expose the racial foibles of the Democrats. Hertzberg ends by calling Rush a "vicious demagogue." Hertzberg is, himself, the vicious demagogue — unless he's an idiot who didn't listen to the clip himself or who can't hear humor that doesn't suit his political tastes.

Hertzberg is scandalized that Rush Limbaugh is "enabled by nominally respectable media corporations and advertisers." But the scandal, I would say, is that Hertzberg is able to publish such dishonest trash in that great magazine, The New Yorker.

ADDED: Language Log doesn't understand my point, and I respond at length here.

AND: Hertzberg responds and I respond.

"Black Folks We'd Like To Remove From Black History."

From The Root, which designates its targets as "embarrassing." Some are bad role models from pop culture, some are outright criminals, and some are just conservatives. Now, what's "embarrassing"?

3 Google executives are criminally convicted — in Italy — based on Google's hosting of a video that some Italian students uploaded.

Incredible! And Google even took down the video as soon as it was notified and helped the authorities find and punish the students.

And how horrendous was this video? It depicted bullying. The child bullied had Down syndrome, but still.

ADDED: From the Official Google Blog:
[The conviction] attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet is built. Common sense dictates that only the person who films and uploads a video to a hosting platform could take the steps necessary to protect the privacy and obtain the consent of the people they are filming. European Union law was drafted specifically to give hosting providers a safe harbor from liability so long as they remove illegal content once they are notified of its existence. The belief, rightly in our opinion, was that a notice and take down regime of this kind would help creativity flourish and support free speech while protecting personal privacy. If that principle is swept aside and sites like Blogger, YouTube and indeed every social network and any community bulletin board, are held responsible for vetting every single piece of content that is uploaded to them — every piece of text, every photo, every file, every video — then the Web as we know it will cease to exist, and many of the economic, social, political and technological benefits it brings could disappear.

Newsweek loves Rielle Hunter.

A ridiculous puff piece by Jonathan Darman. It's called — I am not kidding — "The Quiet Dignity of Rielle Hunter." It ends:
That's not to say we've heard the last of Rielle Hunter. She is too rich and intriguing a character for her story to end here. Eventually, she will talk to someone. When she does the inevitable interview, the questions will be all about the affair: Did John say he loved her? Did she love John? Did she know it was wrong to go after a married man? But I hope someone thinks to ask her about what came after: What was the strength that kept her head down through the years? And why is that strength so elusive to the rest of the world?
Ha ha ha. Well, I've already written about Darman's writing about Hunter — back in August 2008. It ends:
Our adorable reporter tries to do his job as he teeters between falling for her and figuring out what is going on.

"Vote For Me Or The Wife Gets It."

Harry Reid's new campaign slogan.

(Via Memeorandum.)

"It's like being in a cartoon."

Billy Corgan and...  Jessica Simpson.

But watch out, Billy, "that girl is like crack cocaine":
"And drugs aren't good for you if you do lots of them..."

"It was like napalm, sexual napalm."

John Yoo would like Barack Obama to know: "I may have just helped save his presidency."

He'd like a little appreciation for "winning a drawn-out fight to protect his powers as commander in chief to wage war and keep Americans safe." Of course, the fight was against the current Executive Branch, including the investigation conducted by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility:
OPR's investigation was so biased, so flawed, and so beneath the Justice Department's own standards that last week the department's ranking civil servant and senior ethicist, David Margolis, completely rejected its recommendations.
Yoo says he fought for "to help our president—President Obama, not Bush.
If a president cannot, or will not, protect the men and women who fight our nation's wars, they will follow the same risk-averse attitudes that invited the 9/11 attacks in the first place.
Without a vigorous commander-in-chief power at his disposal, Mr. Obama will struggle to win any of these victories. But that is where OPR, playing a junior varsity CIA, wanted to lead us. Ending the Justice Department's ethics witch hunt not only brought an unjust persecution to an end, but it protects the president's constitutional ability to fight the enemies that threaten our nation today.

David Axelrod "would love to live in a world where the president could snap his fingers or even twist arms and make change happen..."

So, an autocracy? That would be swell?
...but in this great democracy of ours, that’s not the way it is.
Damn! This terrible democracy. Oops, I mean this great democracy of ours.

That's from a NYT article by Sheryl Gay Stolberg that's mostly about Barack Obama's lack of skill in getting members of Congress to do what he wants. It begins with a description of a January 15th meeting in the White House, in which Obama was "playing 'marriage counselor'" with various members of Congress. Supposedly, "he coaxed, cajoled and prodded them," but in the end people, including Obama, were frustrated and angry. Stolberg then analyzes Obama's ability:
Ever since his days as a young community organizer in Chicago, Mr. Obama has held fast to the belief that by listening carefully and appealing to reason he can bring people together to get results, an approach that in Washington has often come up short.
He's dealing with members of Congress, not local Chicago people. Why would his listen-and-reason approach translate easily to this new environment? Maybe he should have taken a little time to work in the Senate and get to know its ways and its characters before deciding he was ready to be President.
Mr. Obama has not been the sort to bludgeon his party into following his lead or to intimidate reluctant legislators. And while he has often succeeded by relying on Democratic leaders in Congress to do his bidding — the House and Senate, after all, both passed versions of the health legislation last year — it is not clear whether his gentle, consensus-building style will be enough.
Stolberg tries to burnish the Obama image, but read between the lines: The point there is that he hasn't led. Stolberg quotes Representative Louise M. Slaughter, a New York Democrat: “If you are asking me if he dominates the room, I would have to say no.”
But his defenders and some historians say that perhaps more than any modern president since Lyndon B. Johnson, Mr. Obama has been aggressive in trying to work his will with Congress. During his 13-month-old presidency, he has had countless one-on-one meetings with lawmakers — a technique that some scholars and strategists say evokes memories of Johnson...
But he's not much like Johnson. Johnson was quite a different sort of character, but he'd developed his skills by operating in the Senate for 12 years.
Members of Congress do not find him intimidating; they are more apt, said Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, to view him as “a friend.”...

“He always starts off with a policy argument, making the intellectual case for his point of view,” [Senator Evan] Bayh said. “Secondarily to that, there might be a discussion of some of the political ramifications, but he always starts off with, ‘Look, this is why I think this is right for the country, and I respect your point of view, I know where you are coming from, but here’s why I think we need to do it this way. Can you help me?’ ”
And why should that be enough? Do a ritual of listening and calmly laying out reasons, then tell people — nicely! — what you'd "need" them to do. I guess the members of Congress don't take orders, even if the President is nice and friendly and even if it worked in Chicago. They really do represent people in this great democracy of ours, and they quite properly stand their ground in the face of the President's ambition. It's called separation of powers.


A reading for the day. From The Federalist Papers, Number 51:
But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

February 23, 2010

At the To-Be-Honest Lodge...


... this is what it really looks like.

"Hate Sells: Why Liberal Magazines Are Suffering Under Obama."

"The paid circulation... of The Nation nearly doubled from 2001 to 2005, that of Mother Jones rose by 37 percent, and that of Harper’s by 7 percent.... The year 2009 was a tough one for magazines in general, with circulation down 2.23 percent overall.... The three leading liberal political magazines, however, fared particularly badly. The Nation’s circulation in 2009 was down 7.4 percent from 2008, Mother Jones was down 6.7 percent, and Harper’s was down 5 percent."

I hope relief comes soon!

Did anyone win that caption contest?

I don't know, but Chip Ahoy did this:

Smoking is like oral sex, the French say...

... in an ad that supposed to make you not want to smoke.

These anti-smoking ads always backfire. They always make smoking seem more rebellious.

$750 pink leather shorts.

= what Senator Scott Brown wore on his first date with the woman he went on to marry.

Today, all 9 Justices embrace a clear rule over a more nuanced and litigation-breeding interpretation.

Now, there's a whole day of Civil Procedure class notes down the drain!

In Hertz Corp. v. Friend (PDF), the Supreme Court unanimously adopted the "nerve center" test as the meaning of a corporation's "principal place of business" for the purpose of federal court diversity jurisdiction (i.e., cases that can be brought in federal court not because they arise under federal law, but because they are between citizens from different states):
We ... recognize that the use of a "nerve center" test may in some cases produce results that seem to cut against the basic rationale for 28 U. S. C. §1332.... For example, if the bulk of a company's business activities visible to the public take place in New Jersey, while its top officers direct those activities just across the river in New York, the "principal place of business" is New York. One could argue that members of the public in New Jersey would be less likely to be prejudiced against the corporation than persons in New York — yet the corporation will still be entitled to remove a New Jersey state case to federal court....

We understand that such seeming anomalies will arise. However, in view of the necessity of having a clearer rule, we must accept them. Accepting occasionally counterintuitive results is the price the legal system must pay to avoid overly complex jurisdictional administration while producing the benefits that accompany a more uniform legal system.
That "One could argue" business has fueled endless hours of Civil Procedure discussions. But no more! Thanks for simplifying things— even if it means that diversity jurisdiction makes even less sense than ever. Which is a good thing, right?

I'm in the NYT....

... talking Tiger.

How to create and play with a bubble ring under water.

What the dolphins have to teach us:

For the record: I loathe sentimentality about dolphins. I just think this is really cool. Skip the first minute of introductory stuff if you're impatient.

"I can't remember ever having a 'hero' when I was a kid, or at any other time."

"And if I did, it was a ridiculous idea, not a concept that I'd insist remain untarnished for the kids of the present and future."

"The Democrats are giving birth to every movie monster you have ever seen, from Freddy Krueger to... Hell, I can't remember them all."

"Every movie monster ever, the Democrats are conceiving it. They are not happy with themselves. They're in a series of rapid divorces. They're angry. They're throwing the kitchen sink at each other — and to try to help themselves out, they are now conceiving a health care plan. Obamacare is an act of anger, it is an act of desperation, it is a law that soon-to-be-fired Democrats will abandon and leave on the doorstep of the rest of the country. It's a bill with no visible means of support. We're getting a total deadbeat offspring of the Democrats here. It has no visible means of support or love. Nobody's going to love this bill. Nobody's going to have any support for it. It's going to be an unwanted, unloved bill, dependent on the expanding bankrupt government. What could possibly go wrong here? What could possibly go wrong? This bill, while it is right now just an unviable tissue mass which has zero humanity in it, needs to be aborted. I've always been pro-choice. I've always chosen life, except in this case. This bill needs to die. This bill's being conceived by the most unhappy bunch of parents. It's a bill conceived in grievance and anger and desperation and defiance and an attitude of 'Screw you!' to us."

Rush Limbaugh gets a rant started and runs it to a "Screw you!" crescendo.

The jumble of images is truly weird: every movie monster ever; Democrats fucking each other and then getting into fights like a married couple and throwing not everything but the kitchen sink, but actually the kitchen sink; the offspring of this awful relationship, an abandoned baby who's unloved and a deadbeat; the unviable tissue mass that needs to be aborted; the Rush Limbaugh who has "always been pro-choice"; the unhappy, "Screw you!"-shouting parents who should abort their unborn child.

Caption contest!

"Since when has even a blog as interesting as the The Volokh Conspiracy trumped, for a law-school audience, a chair at a major law school and all the speaker’s academic publications?"

Joe Bottum asks, looking at a poster that identifies Eugene Volokh as "Founder of The Volokh Conspiracy blog and Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law at UCLA."

In the marketplace of ideas, the currency is page views.

A mystery illustration.

From this morning's email, this is one of a set of 4 illustrations for a law school conference. What is the theme? (If you've already see the brochure/poster, don't give it away.)

UPDATE: Here's the conference announcement.

February 22, 2010

At the Winter Flowers Hotel...


... it's so quiet and cozy here.

Harry Reid propounds a sexist stereotype: "Men, when they're out of work, tend to become abusive."

"I met with some people while I was home dealing with domestic abuse. It has gotten out of hand. Why? Men don't have jobs. Women don't have jobs either, but women aren’t abusive, most of the time. Men, when they're out of work, tend to become abusive. Our domestic crisis shelters in Nevada are jammed."

"You can’t be using the church just to get elected and then push the church to the side."

"If the president says he’s Christian, then in his narrative, and in his speeches and in his life, that should be displayed."

Spying on students through their required laptops.

"What's the purpose of shutting down a camera for the user of the laptop but still making it available to network administrators? Ask yourself: if you wanted to convince someone that a webcam blinking was a glitch, would disabling the cameras help make your case?"

Much detail at the link.

"I saw that 'demeanor' up close more than once and was coldly appalled by the pig-nostriled and also piggy-eyed form that it took."

Hitchens hates on Haig.

"I'm deeply sorry" — the remix.

ADDED: That video comes from Playboy, so let me point out that, just yesterday, talking about Tiger Woods, I said: "Why can't he be like Hugh Hefner?"

And I said it again:

(Tiger's real name is Eldrick, not, as I say "Edrick.")

Oh! The artistry!

Help! It's a skater!

"Now, like, I'm President. It would be pretty hard for some drug guy to come into the White House and start offering it up, you know?"

"I bet if they did, I hope I would say, 'Hey, get lost. We don't want any of that.'"

"The medicalization of kind of what used to be called moral... you know... uh... or immoral... the medicalization of what used to be called immorality is certainly a topic that a lot of people, I'm sure, especially conservatives, have given... have given... devoted some ink to."

Isn't it strange how uncomfortable Bob Wright is talking about the subject of religion and morality? It almost seems that an alarm goes of in his head saying: Don't go there! That's what conservatives talk about! Watch the whole clip. The context is Tiger Woods, and I'm intent on enlarging into a more general critique of addiction therapy as a religion substitute. Does Wright cut off the conversation at the point where he can't see how to avoid sounding like a conservative?

And it's particularly odd since Bob was so intent on characterizing the discussion of Tiger Woods as frivolous. I'll limit myself to one clip, but the idea that we were stooping to talk about this subject came up a few times.

"Ann questions the sincerity of Tiger’s apology/Bob thinks Tiger’s swinging may have hurt his swing/Has this scandal harmed impressionable young fans?/Ann and Bob catch Winter Olympics fever/Amy Bishop and the banality of crazy/Was the Austin kamikaze pilot a terrorist?"

It's the new Bloggingheads! With Bob Wright and me!

ADDED: Here's a missed opportunity:

I shoulda said "Yeah, I've heard about his 'large part.'"

"Climate scientists withdraw journal claims of rising sea levels."

"In a statement the authors of the paper said: 'Since publication of our paper we have become aware of two mistakes which impact the detailed estimation of future sea level rise. This means that we can no longer draw firm conclusions regarding 21st century sea level rise from this study without further work. One mistake was a miscalculation; the other was not to allow fully for temperature change over the past 2,000 years. Because of these issues we have retracted the paper and will now invest in the further work needed to correct these mistakes.'"

Amusingly, the authors aren't disclosing whether they overestimated or underestimated the rise of seas. They'd said 0.75 to 1.9 meters by 2100. The IPCC had said 18 to 59 centimeters. So, let's stay terrified.

And I love the phrase "we can no longer draw firm conclusions." Somehow, they once had firm conclusions. But they were wrong.

I hadn't tweeted in a month.

But I had to say this.

Obama "rolls out comprehensive legislation to revamp the nation’s health care system."

Why is this happening now? Congress has been working on this matter for many months (obviously), and what about the summit that's supposed to give Republicans a forum for presenting their ideas? As the NYT puts it:
The president’s legislation aims to bridge differences between the bills adopted by the House and Senate late last year, and to frame his debate with Republicans over health policy at a televised meeting on Thursday.
Does that make sense? Well, I never understood how the summit made sense, and the Congress has certainly gotten itself in a tangle, so why not?
By focusing on the effort to tighten regulation of insurance costs, a new element not included in either the House or Senate bills, Mr. Obama is seizing on outrage over recent premium increases of up to 39 percent announced by Anthem Blue Cross of California and moving to portray the Democrats’ health overhaul as a way to protect Americans from profiteering insurers.
Oh, the fat cat theme! An Obama favorite. Is the idea to monitor "profiteering" or to drive private insurance companies out of business so the long-awaited single-payer solution will be the only thing left?

AND: For the annals of childishly dumb magazine illustration, here's a screenshot of The New Republic's coverage of Obama's proposal:

What is the difference between a Republican and a Democrat?

That's Senator Everett Dirksen in 1967. His name turned up on the blog yesterday, and it put me in the mood to hear his once-familiar voice. I wanted to be reminded of how people talked back then, when — perhaps! — Senators were Senators. Or, anyway, when I was growing up, his image and voice were the very embodiment of the word "Senator."

February 21, 2010

At the Winter Tree Lodge...


... take shelter for the long night.

Notes on a conversation...


... to be revealed soon enough.

At the Cleopatra Café...

... we're having aspburgers!

(Thanks to the reader [sookeyjane] who photoshopped the picture in this post.)

Slogging through Evan Bayh's NYT op-ed "Why I'm Leaving the Senate"...

... so you don't have to. Here's the text. Let me edit it down and supply a little commentary:
BASEBALL may be our national pastime... Ben Franklin...  David Letterman... Milton Berle...
Man, that first paragraph telegraphs that the man has nothing to say!
Challenges of historic import... Congress ... dysfunction...

Many good people serve in Congress...
I don't want to attack any particular individual, but as a group, you people suck.
My father, Birch Bayh...
Everett Dirksen... asked what he could do to help...
A Republican displayed cooperativeness toward a Democrat, back in the old days.
When I was a boy, members of Congress from both parties, along with their families, would routinely visit our home for dinner or the holidays...
The parties partied. Back then. Chez Bayh.
... Sept. 11.... There were no Republicans or Democrats in the room that day...
That golden day...
Let’s start with a simple proposal: why not have a monthly lunch of all 100 senators? 
Sounds good, but I'm not that hungry.
... the current campaign finance system that has such a corrosive effect on Congress....

The recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, allowing corporations and unions to spend freely on ads explicitly supporting or opposing political candidates, will worsen matters. The threat of unlimited amounts of negative advertising from special interest groups will only make members more beholden to their natural constituencies and more afraid of violating party orthodoxies.
Help! All that vigorous free speech will make us even bigger pussies than we already are!
... the Senate should reform... the filibuster....

Admittedly, I have participated in filibusters. If not abused, the filibuster can foster consensus-building...

.... filibusters should require 35 senators to sign a public petition and make a commitment to continually debate... Those who obstruct the Senate should pay a price in public notoriety and physical exhaustion....
And, eventually, we will be hungry enough to eat 100 Senators for lunch.
What’s more, the number of votes needed to overcome a filibuster should be reduced to 55 from 60....

During my father’s era, filibusters were commonly used to block civil rights legislation and, in 1975, the requisite number of votes was reduced to 60 from 67. The challenges facing the country today are so substantial that further delay imperils the Republic and warrants another reduction in the supermajority requirement.
The challenge = Scott Brown got elected... and a couple very elderly Dems are not feeling so well. And the majority of Americans don't like what you're trying to do, so you need to get this thing through before the next election. That's like the Civil Rights Act, isn't it?!

American arrogance.

Should we rein it in — a little humility perhaps — so the world doesn't hate us?

There were warnings that Dr. Amy Bishop "booby-trapped the science building with some sort of 'herpes bomb.'"

"Only people who had worked with Dr. Bishop would know that she had done work with the herpes virus as a post-doctoral student and had talked about how it could cause encephalitis. She had also written an unpublished novel in which a herpes-like virus spreads throughout the world, causing pregnant women to miscarry...."

Thomas Friedman is puzzled: Obama "speaks so well" yet he "can’t come up with a clear, simple, repeatable narrative to explain his politics."

Look out. Here it is again: the "he speaks well" compliment that white people bestow on black people. It was embarrassing and hackneyed 40 years ago. But still it lives.

Saying "hope" and "change" in a campaign speech isn't much like selling specific policies. Friedman blurs the difference with the notion of "explain[ing]...  politics" with "a clear, simple, repeatable narrative." (By the way, I loathe that word "narrative." It's a synonym for "story" that sounds fancier and has the advantage of not also being a synonym for "lie.")

Friedman muses over the puzzle he's constructed for himself — why Obama hasn't found the right words to grease our gullets so we'll accept what he'd like to ram down:
[I]nstead of making nation-building in America...
That's one of Friedman's phrases: nation-building in America. It implies that we haven't yet built a nation. Think of the depth of the disrespect to the Framers of the Constitution and all who have worked on their construction.
[I]nstead of making nation-building in America his overarching narrative and then fitting health care, energy, educational reform, infrastructure, competitiveness and deficit reduction under that rubric, the president has pursued each separately. This made each initiative appear to be just some stand-alone liberal obsession to pay off a Democratic constituency — not an essential ingredient of a nation-building strategy — and, therefore, they have proved to be easily obstructed, picked off or delegitimized by opponents and lobbyists.

So “Obamism” feels at worst like a hodgepodge, at best like a to-do list... and not the least like a big, aspirational project that can bring out America’s still vast potential for greatness.
Now, why would we let him do that? We would be imbeciles to accept some big abstraction and not pay attention to the details.  Friedman is talking about what Obama should have done to retain the support of voters like me who don't automatically vote for Democrats, but who thought Obama was more likely than McCain to deal with the various problems we faced in the next 4 years.

I can tell you that I am not distracted by the feeling of having "a big, aspirational project." It wouldn't lull me. It would alarm me. I don't care about the labels and generalities. I voted for Obama the Pragmatist, not Obama the Ideologue or Obama the Lefty.

You know, what Friedman calls "a hodgepodge" or "a to-do list" would be perfectly fine with me. Just make the items on the list — or in the potgood ones.

ADDED: In the comments  american girl in italy said:
You are kidding [about "he speaks so well"], aren't you? You think this was a racist slam? Everyone in the free world has proclaimed Obama to be the world's best speaker. How many times have we heard he is the master of oratory, the world's best speaker.
Let me call in Chris Rock for some backup. (NSFW audio)("'He speaks so well! He's so well spoken. I mean he really speaks so well!' Like that's a compliment. 'He speaks so well' is not a compliment, okay? 'He speaks so well' is some sh*t you say about ret**ded people that can talk," etc.)

A woman with 2,000 living descendants has just died at the age of 93.

2,000 living descendants — think about it. Yitta Schwartz had 15 children and a number of grandchildren that the family rounded at 200. The great- and great-great-grandchildren were so numerous that the family only estimated.

Schwartz was a Satmar Hasidic Jew who lived in the village of Kiryas Joel — a place we read about in the Supreme Court case Board of Education of Kiryas Joel v. Grument:
The residents of Kiryas Joel are vigorously religious people who make few concessions to the modern world and go to great lengths to avoid assimilation into it. They interpret the Torah strictly; segregate the sexes outside the home; speak Yiddish as their primary language; eschew television, radio, and English language publications; and dress in distinctive ways that include headcoverings and special garments for boys and modest dresses for girls. Children are educated in private religious schools, most boys at the United Talmudic Academy where they receive a thorough grounding in the Torah and limited exposure to secular subjects, and most girls at Bais Rochel, an affiliated school with a curriculum designed to prepare girls for their roles as wives and mothers. See generally, W. Kephart & W. Zellner, Extraordinary Groups (4th ed. 1991); I. Rubin, Satmar, An Island in the
According to the NYT article (the first link):
Like many Hasidim, Mrs. Schwartz considered bearing children as her tribute to God. A son-in-law, Rabbi Menashe Mayer, a lushly bearded scholar, said she took literally the scriptural command that “You should not forget what you saw and heard at Mount Sinai and tell it to your grandchildren.”