April 24, 2010

"Fibres in a variety of colors protrude out of my skin like mushrooms after a rainstorm: they cannot be forensically identified as animal, vegetable or mineral."

Joni Mitchell says she's got Morgellons disease, a "weird, incurable disease that seems like it's from outer space."
"Morgellons is a slow, unpredictable killer – a terrorist disease: it will blow up one of your organs, leaving you in bed for a year."
Is this disease real or a delusion?


Underneath the skin
An empty space to fill in

Instapundit vs. Isthmus.

Glenn schools a UW undergraduate who doesn't get lawprof blogging.

Rain and tulips.



At the Farmers Market this morning, in Madison, Wisconsin.

"Obama's use of Meds Yeghern 'is an elegant dodge to avoid using the 'g-word'..."

"... but the substance of what he states about what happened gives no comfort to those who cling to the Turkish official version... '1.5 million Armenians were rounded up and massacred or marched to their death.' Despite the passive construction, that assumes intentionality."

Is radical Muslim the new Goth?

You can upset your parents and teachers by masquerading as a zealous devotee of other people's religion.
[Zachary Adam Chesser] was a "loner," a former classmate said, one who frequently drew pictures of Satanic figures in his notebooks and had just a few friends, most of them male.

"He was definitely sort of weird," the classmate told FoxNews.com. "He was very into violent industrial music, borderline Satanic bands and stuff like that. He had dark undertones in his interests."

Two years later, Chesser is literally a changed man. He now uses an alias and has a new set of hobbies. He now likes to be called Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee, and his primary interest in this world appears to be Islamic radicalism.
This is a much greater mockery of Islam than a drawing of Muhammad! Nice work, Chesser, you loser.

ADDED: Eugene Volokh notes the historical resonance.

"Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" is not a good idea.

And as long as I'm disagreeing with Glenn Reynolds, let me say that I disapprove of "Everybody Draw Mohammed" Day, which he seems to be promoting. (Hot Air, Dan Savage, and Reason are actively delighted by the idea.)

I have endless contempt for the threats/warnings against various cartoonists who draw Muhammad (or a man in a bear suit who might be Muhammad, but is actually Santa Claus). But depictions of Muhammad offend millions of Muslims who are no part of the violent threats. In pushing back some people, you also hurt a lot of people who aren't doing anything (other than protecting their own interests by declining to pressure the extremists who are hurting the reputation of their religion).

I don't like the in-your-face message that we don't care about what other people hold sacred. Back in the days of the "Piss Christ" controversy, I wouldn't have supported an "Everybody Dunk a Crucifix in a Jar of Urine Day" to protest censorship. Dunking a crucifix in a jar of urine is something I have a perfect right to do, but it would gratuitously hurt many Christian bystanders to the controversy. I think opposing violence (and censorship) can be done in much better ways.

At the same time, real artists like the "South Park" guys or (maybe) Andre Serrano should go on with their work, using shock to the extent that they see fit. Shock is an old artist's move. Epater la bourgeoisie. Shock will get a reaction, and it will make some people mad. They are allowed to get mad. That was the point. Of course, they'll have to control their violent impulses.

People need to learn to deal with getting mad when they hear or see speech that enrages them, even when it is intended to enrage them. But how are we outsiders to the artwork supposed to contribute the process of their learning how to deal with free expression? I don't think it is by gratuitously piling on outrageous expression, because it doesn't show enough respect and care for the people who are trying to tolerate the expression that outrages them.

UPDATE: More here.

"Were I representing Arizona, I’d argue that the federal government is in default on its 'protection against invasion' responsibility, and that this empowers the state to resort to self-help."

Says Glenn Reynolds, citing Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution. ("The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.")
Not sure how that would play out, but it would make an interesting law review article. And a fun oral argument.
I'm pretty sure how it would play out. The courts would apply the political question doctrine and say that Article IV, Section 4 is a "textually demonstrable commitment" of the question to Congress and the Executive. It is for them and not the courts to say what constitutes an "invasion" and what protection is warranted. Even though it would not be a lawsuit against the federal government, attempting to get a court to compel it to act — it would only be a justification of the state's acting in its own defense — the courts would refuse to interpret and apply that provision of the Constitution.

UPDATE: Glenn fights back on the political question doctrine. He connects Article IV, Section 4 to Article I Sec. 10. ("No State shall... engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.")
Arizona is not — yet, anyway — engaging in war, but it’s clear from this language that it’s constitutionally empowered to do so when invaded, even if the federal government does nothing (and perhaps even in the face of federal objection). Arizona’s legislation is passed in response to armed people coming across the border and killing Arizonans, which sounds rather like an invasion. If that’s the case, then lesser responses to invasion are, arguably, permissible as well in the face of federal inaction. What the courts will do with this is, of course, uncertain (and likely not tied very closely to the actual text of the Constitution!) but it’s certainly not a frivolous argument.
An immediate military response to a sudden invasion that "will not admit of delay" is clearly distinguishable from the long influx of migrants to which the state has responded with a stringent policy of requiring and checking papers and deporting people. Arizona has adopted its own immigration policy, because it doesn't like the policy the federal government is following. But the federal government has complete power over immigration. This "invasion" concept is offered as a work-around to that power.

I think that if the Arizona policy were challenged and Arizona argued it had suffered an invasion that the feds wouldn't deflect, that the courts would say: It's not for us to decide what constitutes an "invasion." Congress and the Executive have already made their decision about that, and the Constitution makes that the final answer. As they say in political question doctrine talk, there's "the impossibility of a court’s undertaking independent resolution without expressing lack of the respect due coordinate branches of government... an unusual need for unquestioning adherence to a political decision already made... [and] the potentiality of embarrassment from multifarious pronouncements by various departments on one question."

At that point, the court would be back at the original barrier to the state's law: the exclusive federal power over immigration.

It's the President and the First Lady vacationing in Asheville and eating at 12 Bones.

That's what we did last year. Look at the photograph.


See the big red sign in the background in that photograph? Here's my picture from the same room:


The guys are RLC and Meade (my 2 husbands).

(And here's my old blog post about 12 Bones. We need to do a summer drive that takes us back down that way again. I'd like to spend a few days in Asheville and eat every meal at 12 Bones.)

April 23, 2010

A less close look.


Old images.

I have so much more time and subject matter for artistic projects in the summer, and with classes ending on Wednesday, I was looking for inspiration in the earliest examples of photography on this blog.

1. The blog post with the first digital photograph I ever took.

2. An early model of a post using photographs I happened to take that day and creating — concisely — a narrative arc.

3. Riffing on a movie with photographs taken — unabashedly — from the TV screen.

4. Photos of signs and displays accompanied by text that looks at them from a skewed perspective.

5. Attending and interpreting a genuinely interesting artistic event: Here and here.

6. I could use my drawings in a bloggy style. That reminds me: Palladian has done a magnificent job of presenting his drawings on line. Check it out. I used to travel with a pen and a sketchbook instead of a camera. I was highly influenced by this book. You have no idea how much time I spent, traipsing about, alone, looking and drawing. I don't know if I could go back to that, now that I've found digital photography. But I think there are alternative things that you can do, combining drawing and photography. I wonder if I'll ever get back to something like that....

7. Another idea is to get a new lens for the SLR camera and see what happens. 

Anyway... just casting about....

At the Violet Café...


... it's getting dark. Let's think deep thoughts.

"Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the toughest illegal immigration bill in the country... and reignited the divisive battle over immigration reform nationally."

Why is it so inflammatory for the people of a state to deal with a problem of disorder within their own borders?
Even before she signed the bill at a 4:30 p.m. news conference here, President Obama strongly criticized it....

Saying the failure of officials in Washington to act on immigration would open the door to “irresponsibility by others,” he said the Arizona bill threatened “to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”
What is irresponsible and unfair about what Arizona did?
The law... would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime. It would also give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Opponents have decried it as an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status.

The New York crime of having a balloon.

In NY, a court found helium a "noxious substance" and upheld the charge of "unlawfully possessing or selling noxious material" against a man who sold 2 helium balloons. It says "possessing or selling," so I must infer that even having a helium balloon is a crime. So watch out kids.

"I would like the firing squad, please."

In Utah, one has a choice of execution method.

If you faced unavoidable execution and had a choice of lethal injection or firing squad, what would you pick?
Firing squad if I believe I deserve the death penalty, but otherwise, lethal injection.
Lethal injection if I believe I deserve the death penalty, but otherwise, firing squad.
Whether I deserve the death penalty or not, I'd take the lethal injection.
Whether I deserve the death penalty or not, I'd take the firing squad.

pollcode.com free polls

ADDED: Almost no one is going for the idea that your choice of method would depend on whether you deserved harsh punishment. I put those alternatives in there because I thought people would quibble about that. But no. Now, the 2 choices have been polling about equal, and I wonder if it's because there's a difference of opinion about which is actually less painful or if it's a preference about the sort of drama you'd feel best about.

I like this Harvard Law Review attack on the FTC regulation of bloggers who write about stuff they get free.

Noted here. But whatever happened to editing?
In the interest of providing consumers with full disclosure, the Guides require bloggers to disclose any “material connection[s]” they have with producers of any products that they “endorse” on their blogs. A “material connection” includes not only monetary compensation, but also any free good received by the blogger — even if that good was provided unsolicited, with no conditions attached, for the purpose of allowing the blogger to review the product.
The word referring to merchandise is "goods." You can't invent the singular "good" in serious writing. Come on, Harvard!

"This. is. the. best. thing. in. the. known. universe! Excuse me while I roll around on the floor as if I were Ann-Margret and this post were baked beans."



"High-ranking officials within the SEC were spending more time looking at porn than taking action to help stave off the events that put our nation's economy on the brink of collapse."

Other people's money is so much less interesting than other people's naked bodies.
The SEC's inspector general conducted 33 probes of employees looking at explicit images in the past five years....

• A senior attorney at the SEC's Washington headquarters spent up to eight hours a day looking at and downloading pornography. When he ran out of hard drive space, he burned the files to CDs or DVDs, which he kept in boxes around his office. He agreed to resign, an earlier watchdog report said.

• An accountant was blocked more than 16,000 times in a month from visiting websites classified as "Sex" or "Pornography." Yet he still managed to amass a collection of "very graphic" material on his hard drive by using Google images to bypass the SEC's internal filter, according to an earlier report from the inspector general. The accountant refused to testify in his defense, and received a 14-day suspension.

• Seventeen of the employees were "at a senior level," earning salaries of up to $222,418.

• The number of cases jumped from two in 2007 to 16 in 2008. The cracks in the financial system emerged in mid-2007 and spread into full-blown panic by the fall of 2008.
I wonder what people who read about this are thinking. I'll bet a lot are outraged — and the GOP is banking on that outrage as it makes this an issue right now (because attacking the SEC is something they want to do for reasons utterly unrelated to porn). But I bet a lot of people — guys — feel really nervous about it because they are looking at porn at work too.

Is it good politics for the GOP to go on an anti-porn rampage?
pollcode.com free polls

Explain your answer in the comments, if you like. I have my answer, but I'll wait to say it so I don't over-influence the discussion.

Limbaugh cites a BarackObama.com sponsored link on Google as evidence of collusion between the White House and the SEC.

On Wednesday's show, Rush Limbaugh was talking to a former Google employee — "John Doe" — about the way sponsored links on Google work. Rush was unusually thick trying to understand, and I found that pretty annoying considering that he'd been riffing this week about how a sponsored link to BarackObama.com — Obama's campaign site — comes up on a Google search for: goldman sachs sec. (It still does. Try it. You get "Help Change Wall Street/www.BarackObama.com/It's Time for Financial Reform that Protects Main Street. Act Now!")

Rush has been saying things like:
So this is pure Alinsky on steroids. This guy is incompetent to run the private sector but, boy, does he know how to agitate and community organize. They had no advance knowledge this was happening, but they happened to get hold of Google and they said, "Look, we want to buy the search terms 'Goldman Sachs SEC,' we want you to direct the first hit to our website where we are going to raise campaign funds and awareness of the effort to demonize Wall Street." Meanwhile, the White House continues to deny that there's any link between the timing of the SEC suit and its push for regulatory reform.
Okay. Interesting conspiracy theory — collusion between the White House and the SEC. That's something to consider. It was pretty convenient that the SEC moved against Goldman Sachs just as Obama was presenting his finance reform bill. But what kind of evidence is the Google ad?

Back to the colloquy with John Doe:
CALLER: The way it works is that, for instance, with the Goldman Sachs SEC key word, a company or a political campaign can put in a bid on that key word or that phrase so that when someone does a Google search for that phrase an online auction is conducted instantaneously, and the highest bidding organization has its advertisement displayed there. So if you were the Obama campaign, you would bid enough so that the very top result would be the one that you want people to see, namely the anti-Goldman Sachs advertising campaign.... [I]t can cost anywhere from five to ten cents a click or it can cost upwards of two to five or ten dollars a click depending on how popular and how much in demand those key words are. And so, for instance, every time you click on that ad, the campaign is charged anywhere from 25 to 50 cents....
I'm editing out the parts where Rush struggles to understand this description. You can read the whole dialogue at the first link in this post. It's possible that Rush pretends to have trouble understanding to help radio listeners keep up with something that might be a little challenging.

Now, the funny thing is that John Doe didn't call in to help us weigh the evidence of collusion. (What would motivate the Obama campaign to bid for the "goldman sachs sec" search term? How likely is that bid to a result of advance knowledge that the SEC was going to charge Goldman Sachs with fraud?) Instead, John Doe has an idea that will waste the Obama campaign's money:
CALLER: [W]hat your audience might be interested to know, sir, is that each time somebody clicks on that link, the campaign is charged anywhere from 25 to 50 cents or greater. And so I don't want to tell anybody what to do, but again, your audience of millions of people might be interested to know that each time they click on that link, the campaign is charged a small fractional amount, but with millions of listeners, sir, that can end up having --

RUSH: Snerdley, do you know what he's talking about? I have no idea what he's talking about here?
Ha. Is Rush pretending not to understand?
CALLER: Sir --

RUSH: John Doe from somewhere in the country, uhhh, sometimes I'm pretty thick.... So if the 20 million people in this audience all entered "Goldman Sachs SEC" and then clicked on the first result that came up at the top of the list, the person responsible behind that link -- in this case the campaign -- would be charged 25 to 50 cents.

CALLER: That's correct, sir.

RUSH: That can add up to a lot of money if I'm hearing you right.

CALLER: It can, sir, and in many cases the organization will establish a daily budget of maybe $50 or $100 or $10,000 or $100,000 dollars. But in any case, each time there is a click, there is a charge against that organization, and when they reach their maximum budget for the day, their ad disappears.

RUSH: Oh, is that right?

CALLER: Yes, sir.

RUSH: Oh! Oh! So the White House -- I'm sorry -- the campaign here has agreed to a maximum daily financial exposure, and whenever that limit is reached per day, that link then disappears from any further searches?
Oh, too bad! Because 20 million clicks at 50¢ each... talk about pure Alinsky on steroids! But it's still pretty good Alinsky stuff to get people who don't like Obama to go max out the clicks, use up the campaign's allotted money for that sponsored link, and make it go away so it can't reach anyone the campaign was hoping to reach.

After the break, Rush goes into a related riff that is horribly ignorant about Google. Rush either doesn't know or pretends he doesn't know the difference between a sponsored link and a "Google bomb":
RUSH: You remember late in the second term of George W. Bush, if you entered the search term "miserable failure" in the Google search field you would come up with stories on George W. Bush. And Google said, "There's nothing we can do about that, that's just the way it happens." But then when it began to hurt Obama -- 'cause after Obama was elected you put in "miserable failure" or whatever the algorithm was, it defaulted to whoever the president was. That was a way of hiding it being a direct default to George W. Bush. There was a time you could enter "miserable failure" in a Google search field and you would end up with Obama. They found a way to fix it then.
But it's incredibly easy to find out that Google fixed the Google bomb problem by January 29, 2007 — before Obama had even announced his candidacy for President. I Googled "Google bomb" and got the Wikipedia article on the subject. It has a section on the "miserable failure" incident, and that got me to the NYT article, dated January 29, 2007, which makes it obvious that Google responded to the problem Bush had:
It has been a bad month for anti-Bush snarkiness.... 
[A] favored online tactic to mock the president — altering the Google search engine so the words “miserable failure” lead to President Bush’s home page at the White House — has been neutralized.

Google announced on Thursday on its official blog that “by improving our analysis of the link structure of the Web” such mischief would instead “typically return commentary, discussions, and articles” about the tactic itself.

Indeed, a search on Saturday of “miserable failure” on Google leads to a now-outdated BBC News article from 2003 about the “miserable failure” search, rather than the previous first result, President Bush’s portal at whitehouse.gov/president.

Such gamesmanship has been termed “Google bombing,” and is not unique to President Bush, or even politics. John F. Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, was linked to the search “waffles,” while other Google bombs have been elaborate jokes or personal vendettas.
So, note: Google didn't respond to the problem when it affected Kerry. So Rush's they're-all-against-us pose is ridiculous. Yet it's unlikely his millions of listeners will notice. It happened to jump out at me. I think Rush Limbaugh reads my blog, by the way — I have my evidence — so Rush, I'm talking to you.

Back to Rush's Wednesday show:
"Miserable failure" at Google was linked to the White House page, the official WhiteHouse.gov page. And so when Bush was president, "miserable failure," took you there. But when Obama assumed office it still took you there, and then Google found a way to change it. They said they didn't know how it was happening. So when Obama was elected, it went to him, and Google said, "Oh, no, no, we can't have that," so they changed it. So now "miserable failure" does not take you to the White House website ever since Obama has been immaculated.
That's just plain not true. And even if it were true, it wouldn't have anything to do with the suspicions about the sponsored link and the question whether there was collusion between the White House and the SEC.

April 22, 2010

At the Mayapple Café...


... take over the whole damned place....


"He gets to be President, and I have to sit around like a kindergarten teacher..."

I'm just trying to interpret the look on Michelle Obama's face here.

"You’d be surprised how many people liked that. That’s sort of the best thing I ever did."

Lefty gasping at Dick Cheney's deadpan humor.

"We have a constitutional scholar in the White House who is disregarding the secular underpinnings of our government."

Said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of Freedom From Religion Foundation, which sued President Obama (and others) over the annual proclamation of a National Day of Prayer. Judge Barbara Crabb, here in the Western District of Wisconsin, agreed with the Foundation that there's a violation of the Establishment Clause. Obama will appeal that decision. So, it's Obama, pro-prayer. Are you surprised? (I'm not!)

Isthmus publisher Vince O'Hern embarrasses himself pontificating about the value of his paper over my blogging.

"We who labor at turning dead trees into public knowledge feel some obligation to make the sacrifice of the atmosphere-cleansing, oxygen-producing creatures worthwhile. It's possible that the theoretical infinity of cyberspace encourages throwing whatever is lying around into the void. It achieves nothing. It is simply wasting time by people who have time to waste."

LOL. Great Earth Day bullshit for the landfill, Vince. I hope you appreciate this blog post, which will lie around in the void... forever... searchable by Google.

Isthmus finally came out with that article about me by UW student Jack Craver — to whom I refused to give an interview.

Here's the article, in which — among other things — Craver quotes  my blog post from last January, where I talked about why I didn't want to do the interview. I don't know if he realizes it or not, but Craver's article is better because he needed to do what I told him to do and he did it: read the blog and try to get it instead of asking me to explain myself.

I'm not saying he got everything. He most assuredly didn't. For example, after (correctly) noting my peeve about men in shorts, he tells the story of Meade asking me out like this:
In fact, Meade's first date proposal came after Althouse posted a response to Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino, from which she drew this piece of advice for men: "A young man should perceive when a girl likes him and he needs to ask her out to dinner and a movie before somebody else does."

Meade saw his opportunity and seized it. "OK. Want to have dinner with me and see it again? I'll wear my pants [a reference to Althouse's distaste for shorts]," wrote the loyal commenter, eyes averted.
That wasn't about shorts at all. It was a reference to my delight — "LOL! The green pants..." — when Meade changed his comments avatar to a close-up of a male model in green trousers immediately after — I can't find exactly where — I'd professed love for said model.

Mistakes aside, picking around through my various posts, looking for clues and quotes, resulted in a better material than Craver is likely to have produced if I'd talked to him for an hour. But he does make me look a little pissy in the email I sent him declining the interview:
Basically, the answers to all these questions are already on the blog. If that sounds enigmatic, I mean to be enigmatic. I'm bored by whether something is right wing or not and how can anyone be right wing and so forth. The point of the blog is not to be bored.
He doesn't include the questions he's proposed. In trying to decide if I wanted to overcome my instinctive disinclination to do an interview with a UW student writing for the Isthmus, I asked, "Could you give me an idea of what kinds of things you are looking at and how much of the blog you have read?" He offered these questions:
Why is your blog so successful?...

What is the goal behind your blog?...

What is the blog's politics?...

How have your experiences shaped the world view/political view expressed on the blog?
I didn't think I'd be very interesting blabbing in person about such things, and I didn't want to see what quotes would be cherry-picked out of my babblings for the readers of the local "alternative" paper. Isthmus, as you'd expect in Madison, has a lefty slant, and I had every reason to expect a hit piece. (Including past experience.) And since the writer was a UW student, if I'd spoken with him, I would have treated him in that friendly, accommodating, supportive way that suits my professorial role. Consequently, I would have found it hard to protect myself from a hit piece and to respond to it after the fact. I'm not going to get into any kind of a public fight with a UW student.

I wasn't going to read the article because I didn't want to get annoyed, but then reader Larry K emailed me the link to it and — even though he alerted me that it was "scurrilous" — I couldn't resist. Then I was surprised that it wasn't as bad as Larry K seemed to think:
[Criticize Democratic politicians and policies long enough] and you'll get a scrawny University student trawling through your personal life and making repeated references to your UW salary (which is healthy, but a fraction of what I'm sure she could earn in private practice)....

If this dude thinks her blog is right-wing, he ought to move out of the basement - and work on his critical thinking skills. The apparently big insight of this article - "People who call Ann Althouse a right-wing political blogger miss the point. She's a right-wing pop-culture blogger" - is simply asserted, and then goes nowhere. Having "attitude" is right-wing? Did this guy miss the 20th century?
Ah, but wait! Maybe having attitude is right wing! In the Isthmus article, Craver wonders about my (oft-derided) line "to be a great artist is inherently right wing." I stand by that, for the reasons I gave at the time. Now, I realize I could expand that into: Having attitude is right wing. That might ring true, and, in any case, it will rile the lefties, which is how I have my fun a motivating force behind my blogging, which you know I consider to be art work (and therefore... right wing!).

Comedy Central cowers in the face of a murder threat/warning against "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

The NYT reports:
An episode of “South Park” that continued a story line involving the Prophet Muhammad was shown Wednesday night on Comedy Central with audio bleeps and image blocks reading “CENSORED” after a Muslim group warned the show’s creators they could face violence for depicting that holy Islamic prophet. Revolution Muslim, a group based in New York, wrote on its Web site that the “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker “will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh” for an episode shown last week in which a character said to be the Prophet Muhammad was seen wearing a bear costume. Mr. Van Gogh was slain in Amsterdam in 2004 after making a film that discussed the abuse of Muslim women in some Islamic societies.

A new episode of “South Park” on Wednesday night attempted to revisit this character, but with the name and depiction of the character blocked out. It was unclear how much of the bleeping was Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker’s decision. In a message posted on their Web site, SouthParkStudios.com, they wrote that they could not immediately stream the new episode on the site because:
After we delivered the show, and prior to broadcast, Comedy Central placed numerous additional audio bleeps throughout the episode. We do not have network approval to stream our original version of the show.
On Thursday morning, a spokesman for Comedy Central confirmed that the network had added more bleeps to the episode than were in the cut delivered by South Park Studios, and that it was not giving permission for the episode to run on the studio’s Web site.
Did Revolution Muslim truly threaten Stone and Parker or was it merely warning them? That is, were they indicating that they would commit and act of violence or were they only opining based on their prediction of what others, more extreme than they, would do? Revolution Muslim says it's just a warning:
In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Younus Abdullah Muhammad, a member of Revolution Muslim, repeated the group’s assertion that the post was a prediction rather than a threat. He said that the post on the group’s blog “was intended in a principle that’s deeply rooted in the Islamic religion, which is called commanding the good and forbidding the evil,” tying the group’s complaints about “South Park” to larger frustrations about U.S. support for Israel and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They have freedom of speech too, so the question is whether it's a true threat.

ADDED: I have no end of respect for Stone and Parker. What brilliant artists! What political heroes!

"This ridiculous perverted marketing has cheapened the concept of what is really green."

"It is tragic."

It's hard being a greenie. You love the earth and you hate the market, and then the love for the earth is marketed. Oh! The contradictions!

"There is an idea that there is more to judging than looking at sources of law, and Barack Obama has specifically emphasized that part of the judicial role."

That's me, quoted in the L.A. Times article "Why religion could affect Obama's court nomination/With the exit of John Paul Stevens, the court will be without a Protestant for the first time. Catholics dominate. Does it matter?"

"Save the world! Save the world! But first … let's crush someone's dreams!"

"And whose dreams were crushed tonight? All those teen girls who dig Tim Urban, that's who."


Did you watch the show last night, the "American Idol Gives Back" charity night? They had a lot of big stars performing, and too bad we don't get to vote them out. They were all awful. I didn't enjoy one of them. Not Alicia Keys, not Elton John, not the Black Eyed Peas, not Jeff Beck w/ Joss Stone... not anybody. Why are they all so bad? At least the regular contestants have a reason for being as bad as they are. And, as noted, you do get to see them — all but one — rejected in the end.

April 21, 2010

On a path lined with trout lilies.

Looking ahead, uphill...


... and looking back and down....


"It’s a big shitty world, and it gets shittier by the minute."

A nugget from the newly revealed letters of J.D. Salinger. Don't you hanker for more heaping mouthfuls of that?

He had 2 children,Peggy and Matthew.  At restaurants, Peggy had "a double portion of shrimp cocktail, dessert, and milk, with a pickle on the side, if available," while Matthew ate "lamb chops, almost exclusively."

He didn't like us too much: "Murder in my heart, daily, hourly, incessantly, and you ask if I feel as nasty as ever about planetary affairs. … How ready this wretched planet is for the bomb or more Nancy Reagan."

Imagine having such a troubled relationship with other people that you fixated on the idea of a nuclear war that would end it all, not just for you, but for everyone.

IN THE COMMENTS: Seven Machos says:
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is what my kids like to eat at restaurants and what my lousy view of the world is like, and how I am occupied with thoughts of murder, and all that John Wayne Gacy kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

The iPad is kind of like Twitter.

I have it, and I feel like I could be using it. But I don't really use it. Maybe I think I'm going to be using it. But I also think it's possible that I'm never going to use it. I seem to have a need for it, but I have other things that fit that need that I go back to instead over and over again. And yet there it is, over there. I think I'm going to be going there, maybe later. Maybe tomorrow.

"The name Courtney Love is a way to oppress me."

"We've all decided we don't like her any more ... We love her when she goes onstage, but I don't need her in the rest of my life."

But she's not actually changing her name: "In an e-mail to MTV News, a spokesperson for Love wrote that the quote was taken '100 percent out of context.... She's not changing her name, unless it's to "Courtney Love Mellencamp" or "Big Baby Jesus."'"

That's either amusing or really, really tiresome.

Did you know they made a Broadway show out of the Green Day album "American Idiot"?

And it got a great review in the NYT? Excerpt:
Who’s the American idiot being referred to? Well, as that curtain slowly rose, we heard the familiar voice of George W. Bush break through a haze of television chatter: “Either you are with us, or with the terrorists.” That kind of talk could bring out the heedless rebel in any kid, particularly one who is already feeling itchy at the lack of prospects in his dreary suburban burg.

But while “American Idiot” is nominally a portrait of youthful malaise of a particular era — the album dates from 2004, the midpoint of the Bush years, and the show is set in “the recent past” — its depiction of the crisis of post-adolescence is essentially timeless. 
Malaise... <giggle>... see previous post.

It's an odd business to be obsessing about George Bush when he's keeping such a low profile these days. He's hoping to fade into history, perhaps, but some people really miss him — miss him in the sense that they want him there in center stage to hate on, like back in the good bad old days. And now here he is, center stage, on Broadway, where they do punk rock. If there is a "malaise of [each] particular era," then I guess that says something about the one we're in.

ADDED: Sonicfrog blogs:
Ah, yes. The ggod ol’ days. Back when it was OK to hate the President. Of course, bashing Bush was not exactly edgy or breaking new ground by the time “American Idiot” came out – Dixie Chicks, Keith Olberman, and Rosie “fire has never melted steel” O’Donnell had already blazed that trail. What make the Green Day album notable was not the music – I doubt many could name a single song from the album, or hum one of the tunes – but the fact that the anti-Bush sentiment was marketed so prominently as a feature of the album.

The bookishness of Presidents.

Apparently, our Presidents tend to read a lot, but not necessarily to good effect. Like, for example, Jimmy Carter:
Presidential reading backfired on Jimmy Carter.... In the summer of 1979, with the economy struggling and the presidency shaken by the Iran hostage crisis, Carter delivered his infamous speech proclaiming a "crisis of confidence" in America. It became known as the "malaise" speech and is widely regarded as a major political mistake. The address, written mainly by adviser Pat Caddell, was inspired by Christopher Lasch's best-selling book "The Culture of Narcissism." Lasch had come to the White House for a dinner about six weeks before the address, and his ideas apparently stayed behind. Two days after the July 15 speech, Carter fired several Cabinet members, adding to the sense of drift that seemed to define the era. (In 1993, during the fourth season of "The Simpsons," Springfield unveiled a Carter statue; the inscription at the base read "Malaise Forever.")

First, the obligatory foray into YouTube:


Anyway, did you read Christopher Lasch's "Culture of Narcissism" back in the 1970s when it was a best seller? If it was such a best seller, why didn't America appreciate Carter's "Crisis of Confidence" speech?  I just watched that speech again at the link. I heard it in real time back in 1979. I must confess that it appealed to me at the time, but it's scarily bizarre by present-day standards.

Here's the spiffy, non-lugubrious way we talk about narcissism today — a fun-loving article, not a scolding, depressing book.

"We are going to do that"/"Yes, we can!"

Here's President Obama stumping for Barbara Boxer and interrupted by hecklers demanding the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Obama turns on some charm and says "We are going to do that," and the crowd starts chanting "Yes, we can."

Now, I interpret the "Yes, we can" chant as sarcastic. You say you "are going to" do something, but why haven't you done it? You ran for office telling us "yes, we can," and you got the power of the office, so you've had time to demonstrate your vaunted capacity to do things. To tell us now that you will do something in the future isn't good enough. Sarcastic, right? If not, it should be.

"I don’t want to be thinking... about how many calories are in this slice of (delicious!) olive bread..."

"...or in that crème brulee or pile of pea shoots sauteed in sesame oil with garlic. And I certainly don’t want to see that information on a menu. Two words that have no place on a good restaurant’s menu: 'Nutrition information.'"

ADDED: I note the phrase "a good restaurant." So is it fine as far as Sifton is concerned to require fast food joints to display the calorie counts? Exactly why?

Did you hear Crystal Bowersox sing "People Get Ready" on "American Idol" last night?

It was one of the best ever performances on the show. Watch. At the last line — "you just thank the Lord" — she breaks down and cries. Afterwards, she attributed her tears to the presence of her father in the audience and the thankfulness she felt toward him.

It's hard to imagine anyone but her winning, but there are still 6 others on the show to be eliminated. What's to keep us engaged for the rest of the season? Can any of the 6 provide worthy competition for Crystal? I got the impression from the judges' comments last night that they have selected Lee Dewyze as the appropriate challenger. His "The Boxer" last night really was good, but the overpraise was insipid, especially when they were as negative as they were toward the 5 others.

The Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina looks pretty ugly.

At least as filtered through TPM (boldface added):
The event took place at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, and featured former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) as its keynote speaker. Tancredo, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, said that Americans are "going to have to pray that we can hold on to this country."

He added, referring to President Obama: "If his wife says Kenya is his homeland, why don't we just send him back?"

Pastor Stan Craig, of the Choice Hills Baptist Church, was particularly angry about the state of Washington, saying he "was trained to defend the liberties of this nation." He declared that he was prepared to "suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do."...

Dan Gonzales, who Chairs the Constitution Party in Florida, asserted that "this is the end of America right here," and if the Tea Partiers "don't get to work we're going to be fighting in the streets."...

Another speaker, ["apparently William Gheen, President of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC"] claimed Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is gay, noted:
I'm a tolerant person. I don't care about your private life, Lindsey, but as our U.S. Senator I need to figure out why you're trying to sell out your own countrymen, and I need to make sure you being gay isn't it.
That's all quite awful. It plays into the hands of those who would like to squelch the Tea Party movement.

April 20, 2010

At the Rectilinear Café...


... surely you've got something planned.


"I have some idea of the pressure of finding your own identity with a famous father."

Said Michael Douglas... at the sentencing of his 31-year-old son Cameron, who received a 5-year sentence. Or... wait... no... Michael Douglas wrote that. He didn't show up in person. [ADDED: No, Michael Douglas was there. He wrote a statement — 5 pages — and he also appeared. Sorry. I got the sense from that quote that MD was distanced, but that's not right. I'm genuinely sorry. I can't imagine the pain of seeing your son sentenced to prison.]

"The European Union has declared travelling a human right..."

"... and is launching a scheme to subsidize vacations with taxpayers' dollars for those too poor to afford their own trips."

What Bill Clinton knew about Waco.

"The plan Reno approved and took to President Clinton for approval contemplated the children choking in the gas unprotected for forty-eight hours if necessary, to produce the requisite 'maternal feelings.' By taking aim at the children with potentially lethal gas, their mothers would be compelled, according to the FBI plan repeatedly defended by the Clinton administration afterwards as 'rational' planning, to flee with them into the arms of those trying to gas them."

You'd think Bill Clinton would lie low about anything at all Waco-related, like the Oklahoma City bombing — yet he's done the opposite this week in his far-fetched but aggressive attack on the Tea Party movement.

Ronald Reagan and James Dean — in "The Dark, Dark Hours."

Not seen since it originally aired, live, on December 12, 1954. This is pre-"Rebel Without a Cause" and just 6 minutes long. Crazy!

The Supreme Court declines to add depictions of animal cruelty to the categories of speech that the First Amendment does not protect.

Good. This doesn't — of course — mean that you can't punish acts of cruelty to animals.

ADDED: Here's the text of the opinion (which I don't have time to read at the moment). There is one dissenter: Justice Alito. The law that the Court struck down was a congressional response to "crush videos." In these, high-heeled women stepped on animals until they died, which some people find sexually stimulating.

Law schools ranked by U.S. News "peer reputation" scores.

Do you like the score that comes from surveys of various lawprofs? My school, Wisconsin, ranks at #23 by this factor alone, but is #28 on the U.S. News list. Even though Wisconsin always comes out higher on the peer reputation ranking than on all the factors taken together as weighted by U.S. News, I'm very skeptical about it. I don't think professors know enough about what's going on at all the other schools, and I think our opinions are massively biased and, ironically, affected by what we've read in U.S. News over the years.

About that prototype iPhone that was lost in a bar.

Put me in with the people who suspect it was fake-lost to get the publicity it, in fact, got.

April 19, 2010

I was asked to explain why I've made so many of my Tea Party photographs black and white.

The subject came up in the comments to this morning's post, which had 3 black and white photographs. Let me post a few more, and then I'll give my answer.


Marc Ambinder would like you to conceptualize obesity as social inequity.

"Think of a kid. A working class kid. Maybe he's black or Hispanic, or pale while."

Pale while... what? Pale while being white, I presume.

"She or he is standing inside a very dark room, so you can't seem [sic] her or him. Then she walks out the door. Suddenly, cymbals start to crash and the child becomes afraid and experiences stress; an unending inner monologue begins urging the kid to 'eat, eat, eat'; think of arrows sending pulses to the child's brain insisting that they consume more and more; think of a table of food in front of the kid, who has a few bucks to spend and can only buy the cheapest stuff; this new room is also a 360-degree high definition media experience, with television commercials tempting the kid by linking toys to the food on the table; think about the parents... where are the parents? They're at work; both of them; two incomes are needed to maintain a standard of living. Think of self-hatred and self-reinforcing stigma. The kid lives 24/7 outside the dark room, and grows up. Unless his or her genetic code has a lucky guanine where others have an adenine, there's a good chance — soon to be a better than even chance — that the kid will be fat or obese by the time he or she is in the second decade of life."

Ambinder is making an argument. It's an argument about the unfairness of obesity, an argument designed to justify new government policies and spending. Ambinder is disconnecting obesity from individual responsibility and tying it to race and disparities in wealth. After the quoted material above, he declares that "the social inequity is apparent." But where did that quoted material come from? His fervid brain? Ambinder is not being scientific. He's operating in a literary mode. Who is this kid, this he or she, in this abstract place in the world, this "very dark room"? He or she is an empty vessel, defenselessly filling up with information that pours in — from where? Ambinder is fumbling with the tools of the literary author. But he's no Charles Dickens. His literary character isn't a David Copperfield, but a nonentity, scarcely recognizable as human. Yet Ambinder calls upon us to identify or empathize with him. Or her. The methods and explanations of science and good journalism are needed, but Ambinder doesn't bother.

Meanwhile, the solution he found for his own obesity was bariatric surgery. Abdominal surgery fits snugly with the idea of obesity as the result of social and economic forces playing upon helpless humans (though Ambinder himself was not economically deprived in life). In calling us to make obesity the government's business, Ambinder says "It will involve some money, but not all that much." But do you feel confident that the government will not force insurance companies to cover bariatric surgery and spread the cost to all of us? Somehow I don't. I see big emotional manipulation pushing the democratic majority to take responsibility for every overeater in America and beneficently fund the scarily invasive procedure.

Ironically, after the drastic surgery, you only lose weight because you eat less. All it does is disable you from eating more by removing your stomach. It's based on the idea that you can't be expected to eat less on will and choice alone. You can't handle freedom. You need to be physically incapacitated. And, sadly, there are many people who need medical procedures that are in no way substitutes for things they could do for themselves. When health care is rationed — and it will be rationedsomething will need to be withheld. Do you think it is possible that some people will be asked to go without heart surgery or hip replacement surgery while others get their stomachs removed so they can't eat so much? I certainly do, and I think writing — flabby writing — like Ambinder's is mushing up minds so that's what the democratic majority will clamor for.

Tea Partiers.




Why is Bill Clinton suddenly making such a spectacle of himself over the Tea Party?

The former President has cropped up on TV and in an op-ed the NYT warning about the potential for violence. I know why the Tea Party is in the news, but what's with Clinton? Why is he the go-to guy on the supposed latent violence of the Tea Party movement?
Fifteen years ago today, the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City claimed the lives of 168 men, women and children. It was, until 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in United States history. 
Oh! It's a memorial for human beings who died 15 years ago. We are remembering them, and that brings Bill Clinton, who was President in 1995, to the fore. There was nothing partisan about who lived and died in the Oklahoma City bombing. Children — individuals who never thought about politics — died that day. Yet here is Bill Clinton using his special prominence today to unleash a political attack to push back a populist movement that threatens his political party.

April 18, 2010

A little pinkness.


"Young children very often engage in reasoning that professional philosophers can recognize as philosophical..."

"... but typically their parents or teachers don’t react in a way that encourages them. They might say, 'That’s cute,' but they don’t engage the children in thinking further about whatever the issue is."

Did you — do you/will you — encourage philosophical thinking with your children? If not, why not? Presumably, philosophical thinking in children isn't encouraged because it's inconvenient for the parents. It's not just that the parents don't know how to keep up a philosophical dialogue with a child, but that conversations like that slow down the practical business of the day. And yet, what is life for if not to philosophize?

Why should it be illegal for airlines to charge a fee for carry-on bags when they can charge a fee for checking bags?

I don't get it. No one likes to pay more for anything, but why should one particular way of collecting money from passengers be forbidden? If I'm getting on a plane with a bag and I could either check my bag or not, why should the cheaper option be the one that slows down other passengers in 3 separate places (the security line, getting on the plane, and getting off the plane)? Right now, the checked baggage fee has cost-conscious travelers dragging more bags on board. Why is it always the most annoying people who find champions in Congress?

Obama cancelled the new moon mission partly "to make sure that we’ve canceled everything George Bush wanted to do, whether it’s the right thing to do or not."

Says Harrison Schmitt, who walked on the moon in 1972. But the main thing is "the Obama administration, including the president, is made up of people who do not really like what America has been. And our prowess in space is part of what America has been. And I think they would just as soon see us take a second- or third-rate status in that."

Strong words. Schmitt will be speaking here in Madison tomorrow night (Monday, April 19th) at 6:45 p.m. in room 1610 of Engineering Hall, 1415 Engineering Drive.

I have to admit I'm not a big supporter of space travel. Maybe I'll give Schmitt a chance to convince me otherwise.


Old song lyric that played in my head as I wrote this:
Well, I don’t know, but I’ve been told
The streets in heaven are lined with gold
I ask you how things could get much worse
If the Russians happen to get up there first
Wowee! pretty scary!
Sorry. I've never seen what it was all for.

The 1960s look.

I was enjoying this selection of photos of women who exemplified 1960s style. Lots of iconic prettiness. But then I hit this one:

Ha ha.

And here's a bonus 60s style video — fashions by Elizabeth Taylor, with Patti Boyd modeling, and George Harrison, John Lennon, and Richard Burton gawking.

At the New Bud Café...


... branch out...


... in a new way.

The Icelandic volcano is causing trouble, but how much worse would it be if Yellowstone erupted?

Haven't you been wondering?

Think Progress? Think humorlessness.

Want to laugh twice? A comic riff and a laughable failure to perceive that it's a comic riff.

Somehow Think Progress has no trouble seeing that Obama had to be joking when he said "There’s no Armageddon out there" but when Rush Limbaugh pointed to the Icelandic volcano that could only be crackpot religion.

Maybe it's not just humor-deafness. Maybe what Think Progress is letting slip is its own secure confidence that Obama is not a religious man (along with an assumption that Rush Limbaugh is). This gives me an idea for a little poll. This is a completely serious poll, not a joke or an attempt to record which of the 2 men you prefer.

Who's religious, Obama or Limbaugh?
Both men are genuinely religious.
Limbaugh is genuinely religious and Obama is not.
Obama is genuinely religious and Limbaugh is not.
Neither man is religious.
pollcode.com free polls

The leaked Gates memo: We have no plan for dealing with nuclear Iran.

If diplomacy fails...
Why was this leaked now? The memo was written in January but only today are “government officials” finally whispering about it to the Times. Normally I’d assume that it was leaked by the White House itself in yet another naive attempt to pressure allied powers about the severity of the threat, but the story’s simply too embarrassing to Obama. Presumably the leakers are insiders who are worried that, three months later, we’re still not taking the prospect of an Iranian bomb seriously enough.

Who said you're going to jail if you don't buy health insurance?

Surely, not anybody on Fox News!

VIDEO: Here's the right video.

Sorry, I had the wrong video before. I did not want to link to the video that way, at TNR, precisely because TNR displayed a Media Matters video without the embedding code. I hate when websites do that. They take video MM collected and use it in a way designed to force the link that I have now given them. I would have been happy to link to them, because that's where I found the video, if they had been properly generous to Media Matters and shown the embedding code. So I went to Media Matters to find the code myself... and found the wrong video, which made me write a post that didn't make a whole lot of sense. You have no idea how irritating that is to me.

ADDED: At that TNR link, Jonathan Chait not only has the video without embedding code, he also says "watch this fantastic video from HuffPo's Ben Craw (via Media Matters)" without any links to Ben Craw or Media Matters. It's easy enough to retaliate against TNR by dispensing with the usual "via" links when blogging about something you've found through them.

"How Grand Socialism Is!"

"Ooh it’s good, ah it’s good":
How grand, the vinalon fabric pours out like a waterfall

How grand, the Juche iron glows like a fiery sunrise

My socialist homeland overflows with joy

Ooh it’s good, ah it’s good

The day of living well draws nigh

How grand socialism is!
Just some Sunday morning propaganda, submitted for your approval. I know what you're wondering: What is "vinalon"? It's the "national synthetic fiber" of North Korea.