June 26, 2010

Madison, U.S.A.

It was a great day to stroll by the lake and maybe take a plunge:


You could sail or wear a balloon hat:


Eat a brat:


But what's this? Inside?! The Rathskeller is packed. (As are many other locations around town.)


All eyes are focused on that drop-down screen:


It's the World Cup, U.S.A. versus Ghana:

It was great to hear chants of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" in Madison.

The reconstructed wigwam.



Built in Whitefish Dunes State Park on the location of — according to a sign there — "a large summer village during the Late Woodland Indian occupation (AD 500-900)."

Jeffrey Goldberg says "I've been leaked postings from JournoList before — wonderfully charming things written about me..."

"... I haven't had the opportunity to use them, but would be happy to if the need arose. Why anyone would think that a listserv with 400 people is private is beyond me. It's McChrystal-level naivete."

Ha. And somebody must be scared. He's got your email and he knows how to use it.

John Cole paraphrases, scornfully: "I’m not against using my perch at the Atlantic to publish someone’s private emails to viciously destroy their character and career, but what really bothers me is if someone makes a joke privately!"

The Journolisters — including Cole? — must be desperately trying to discipline each other not to leak. And yet the evidence is — if Goldberg is to be believed — that the leaks have been going on all along. Whenever someone not on the list was talked about, somebody in that 400 may have seen fit to let that person know what was being said. Think of all the reasons you might decide to forward the email. You might know the person being talked about and think they needed to be be alerted about some scurrilous accusations or plans. You might object to what was being said or dislike the person saying it and want to do something about it without drawing attention to yourself.

It's really too late now to get the 400 listmembers into line. Stuff has gone out. People like Goldberg have it and will use it when they decide it's right. You can try, like Cole, to say that using it will be vicious and destructive, but presumably, the email was vicious and destructive, which is probably why it got forwarded! And, anyway, you can't beat that many people into line. In that huge group are some writers who take orders, but there have to be others who are vindictive or careless. Some may be unsuccessful and jealous. Some may believe staunchly that information wants to be free or that a list of 400 is pretty much a public list with no valid restrictions. You can't control them all.

And there is, it seems, a new, smaller list being formed without the dangerous riffraff. The true insiders are determining what the scope of the inner circle is. And the others, the left-behinds? Well, they're sitting on a pile of hot, nasty words written by the cool kids who just shut the clubhouse door on them.

ADDED: Cole responds to this post and I respond to that here.

"Wondering if the myth of Dedalus and Icarus has ever been thought of as the first science fiction story."

Page 38, "The Last Novel," by David Markson.

"Who knows what song will run through your head when you're dying?"

A question and an answer from a movie.

Bloody hell. I'm going to die to Boney M.

Proto-blogging in 1816.

From "The Last Novel," by David Markson:
Keats stayed up all night on the occasion when he actually did look into Chapman's Homer — and then composed his sonnet so swiftly that he was able to messenger it to a friend to read before breakfast.
You read something quickly. It inspires you to write something quickly and then to get it out instantly to be read. That is blogging, and Keats got as close to that as one could in 1816. But he was reading George Chapman's translation of Homer and writing a sonnet that people will read as long as there are people who can read. That's all very grand, compared to blogging. To counterbalance, the blogger gets the instant writing out to thousands, and Keats only got his poem out instantly to one person.

But would Keats have read Homer and written a timeless sonnet if he could have blogged?


I read the first 82 pages of Markson's book out loud as Meade drove the TT up to Fish Creek, Wisconsin and back — via Whitefish Dunes — Thursday and Friday. I stopped reading at page 82 last night at about 9 when the last of the daylight failed. The book is composed entirely of snippets like the one quoted above, and if I'd gotten to the next snippet, it would have been:
Fish feel pain.
Ah! The fish theme! How apt!

Actually, I'm lying. Lying out of love of aptness. For your sake, dear Reader. That fish snippet is at the very bottom of page 82. It was the second to the next one. The next one was really:
If it were up to me, I would have wiped my behind with his last decree.

Said Mozart — after a demand by the Archbishop of Salzburg for more brevity in his church compositions.
There's another Mozart one that led to some laughter and conversation. On page 21:
I wish you good night, but first shit in your bed.

Reads another Mozart letter to Anna Maria.

Let me get the jump on the comments and say yes, I know that Kurt Cobain sang "It's okay to eat fish/'Cause they don't have any feelings." And yes, these days, on hearing "Homer," one doesn't think of the Greek poet anymore, one thinks of "The Simpsons." That's what TV and blogging and everything modern has done to us. 

Remember, walking in the dunes?

This is Whitefish Dunes State Park, and that water — with a riptide just waiting to drag you to your death if you don't have the presence of mind to swim parallel to the shore — is Lake Michigan.


If you dawdle on the stairs, you might notice this orchid-like vine, and if you're married to a horticulturist, he might tell you it's sweet pea, which it is:


And if you're old like us, you might feel compelled to sing the old Tommy Roe song. The video at the link is nice. You see Roe performing and interacting with a girl in the audience. "Pause at exactly 1:43...the look on her face & eyes as he whispers in her ear..priceless!! :)" says a comment. Another comment comes from "Itsmewithroe," who says:
Actually, Tommy Roe was lip singing. 
I.e., lip synching.
We could hear the recording, and he was whispering. Even he was strumming his guitar, but it was a quiet strum. We were all told to sing the song along with him. If I had known the camera was on me all that time, I would have been so embarrassed. I thought the camera was on everyone.

No. That's not his daughter. the blond in the back, she had a blue & white sailor type 2 piece bathing suit. Tommy Roe had no children. I remember now. It was the summer of 67. I've been talking about that day all my life. I was in ecstasy. I never knew the camera was on me. The producer/director, who ever he was, stage the girls behind me in position. I wonder if I could upload my pictures when I was a kid on this site.
Ha. The producer knew what he was doing. The girl is adorable. And what a great bubblegum song of that era. Roe's best song, however, was "Sheila." It was a cool enough song that The Beatles saw fit to cover it, pretty much in the original form.

But back to Whitefish Dunes. I was going to do a spiffy segue. You know, something with...

... but... well, that counts, according to my rules of blogging.

We were lying on the beach, and a guy came over and asked me if I was Ann Althouse. I confessed and he introduced himself — we'll call him Dr. Steve — and said he loved reading the blog. So, then, hi, Dr. Steve. You know, you said something that invited an answer and I let silence be the answer, but then as Meade and I were walking back across the dune...


I experienced l'esprit de l'escalier — staircase wit — literally on the stairs.
This name for the phenomenon comes from French encyclopedist Denis Diderot’s description of such a situation in his Paradoxe sur le comédien. During a dinner at the home of statesman Jacques Necker, a remark was made to him which left him speechless at the time because, he explains, l’homme sensible, comme moi, tout entier à ce qu’on lui objecte, perd la tête et ne se retrouve qu’au bas de l’escalier: a sensitive man like me, overwhelmed by the argument levelled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he gets to] the bottom of the stairs.
Blogging is great for people afflicted with l'esprit de l'escalier, because I can answer Dr. Steve here. He said: "I can never quite figure out your political persuasion."

The late riposte: "I am not persuaded."

June 25, 2010

At the Green Bay Café...


... you can meander into anything you want.

"Journolist is done now," says Ezra Klein.

"I'll delete the group soon after this post goes live. That's not because Journolist was a bad idea, or anyone on it did anything wrong. It was a wonderful, chaotic, educational discussion. I'm proud of having started it, grateful to have participated in it, and I have no doubt that someone else will reform it, with many of the same members, and keep it going."

So it's not done. It just got too big. And it needs a new name.

"Haven't had a burger in a while. Lunch with Obama at Ray's Hell Burger."

Dmitry Medvedev tweeted.

"She said she was meeting with a rape crisis unit, stuff like that. She said it was a high authority person who has a lot of power. She was scared of him."

The Gore accuser made a contemporaneous statement to her friend, according to the friend.

What is the evidentiary weight of a contemporaneous statement like this? It was taken very seriously when aimed at a notable conservative.

At the Lotus Café...


... you can emerge now.

"The president-elect would be very pleased if you appointed Valerie and he would be, uh, thankful and appreciative."

"They're not willing to give me anything but appreciation -- f--- them." Blagojevich. The trial continues.
After Barack Obama friend Valerie Jarrett publicly pulled out of contention for the U.S. Senate seat appointment, Rahm Emanuel... wanted Blagojevich to know the list of Senate candidates "acceptable" to Obama, according to testimony Thursday in Blagojevich's corruption trial.

They were: Tammy Duckworth; Illinois state comptroller Dan Hynes; U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, according to Blagojevich's former chief of staff John Harris.

Harris told the ex-governor of the discussion in a secretly recorded phone call Nov. 12.

On the call, Blagojevich calls the list "B.S."

Harris testified the former governor believed Obama's list to be political cover.

"If that became public, the president-elect would want the list to represent a diverse group of individuals," Harris explained from the stand.

"I felt like a session man most of the time. Ray wanted complete control of everything. He was a control freak."

Said Pete Quaife, the bassist for one of the best bands ever, The Kinks. I've lifted that quote from what is, unfortunately, his obituary. He was 66.


Just Rory.

Burn, Davey, Burn — The Self-Immolation of David Weigel.

Consider poor, conflicted David Weigel. Hired by the Washington Post, he had the trappings of prestige and therefore he deserved the admiration of the cool young journalists of Washington, D.C. But his assignment was to cover the conservative movement, and that threatened to make him toxic, a man to be shunned. He needed a way to wriggle — to wiggle-Weigel — into the good graces of the cool kids. He had to show that he was covering conservatives, but he was not one of them.

He could try to do that subtly, and without deviating from the good-faith performance of his assigned task, perhaps by writing in a neutral, questioning style about what was going on with the righties these days and carefully raising doubts, undermining foundations, and strategically inserting a knife blade now and then. But would they get it? Didn't he need something a little more emphatic... and a little hipper?

So David started letting his need for lefty approval express itself on the email list, the Journolist, where the cool kids were being intimate and snarky. But those other kids were not tasked with covering conservatives. While they might have been embarrassed if the mean things they wrote in the email were ever leaked, they didn't have careers founded on their suitability for covering conservatives. The risk poor Dave took was of an entirely different nature. Why, Dave, why? Why did you risk the plum job?
“Honestly, it’s been tough to find fresh angles sometimes–how many times can I report that these [tea party] activists are joyfully signing up with the agenda of discredited right-winger X and discredited right-wing group Y?” Weigel lamented in one February email.

In other posts, Weigel describes conservatives as using the media to “violently, angrily divide America.” According to Weigel, their motives include “racism” and protecting “white privilege,” and for some of the top conservatives in D.C., a nihilistic thirst for power....

Of Matt Drudge, Weigel remarked, “It’s really a disgrace that an amoral shut-in like Drudge maintains the influence he does on the news cycle while gay-baiting, lying, and flubbing facts to this degree.”
He also said:
“This would be a vastly better world to live in if Matt Drudge decided to handle his emotional problems more responsibly, and set himself on fire.”
Such nastiness doesn't hurt Matt of course. Matt drops another link, gets all the traffic, and moves on. Ironically, it is Dave who is undone. Having shown us his vivid hostility to the conservatives he was supposed to explain to us, we no longer have any reason to read him. Having destroyed the appearance of his capacity to enlighten us, he has lit the flame of his own self-immolation.

UPDATE: Weigel resigns.
Various readers suggest that the email-leaker was after Dave’s job. I think the WaPo should have a no-journolister rule for Weigel’s replacement, which would solve that problem, among others.
Indeed. One of the problems that might be somewhat solved is the cheeky smugness of the young journalists. The exclusive little club turned deadly for one of its members. And isn't funny how people who should be in the know still don't get modern technology. Tiger Woods brought down by texting, Dave Weigel by email, etc. etc.

AND: In smugger days:
David Weigel|6.14.10 @ 5:01PM|#

Well, I really enjoyed the two and a half years I spent here, and I'm constantly confused as to why mentions of my name lead to a lot of schoolyard insults. I really can't figure out why they do it -- lack of fulfillment seems like a good enough theory. After all, I'm here, and they're where I left them in 2008.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to return to my rewarding job and large circle of friends. I don't know how my ego will ever recover...
(Thanks to C3 for pointing to that.)

June 24, 2010

Visions of seemingly impossible things.

Did you know you can watch the sunset over Lake Michigan from Wisconsin?


And what is this? The camera has somehow taken a mysterious photograph:


"This would be a vastly better world to live in if Matt Drudge decided to handle his emotional problems more responsibly, and set himself on fire."

Wrote the WaPo's Dave Weigel, who covers conservatives but writes things he's ashamed to see get beyond the confines of the lefty "Journolist" email list.

"Real couples are satisfied with making love for between 3 and 13 minutes – and can find anything over 10 minutes tiresome."

Less than 1 or 2 minutes is, however, "too short."

At the Shy Sunflower Café...


... catch a glimmer of happiness.

"Althouse wows audiences with her bee knowledge."

"She has a passion for informing the public about bees and encourages everyone to consider setting up a hive on their property if they can.... Althouse helps folks get started with their own hives: ordering the bees, purchasing materials and setting up the hive.... In January, Althouse ran for American Honey Queen of the American Beekeeping Federation and was first runner up. The five other state honey queen contestants voted her Miss Congeniality, and anyone who knows her would not be surprised at this. She’s modest to the degree that she didn’t mention this honor in the interview."

The modest and adorable Maya Althouse, of Rebersburg, Pennsylvania.

Drudge digs in, and The Smoking Gun has the transcript depicting Gore as "a giggling 'crazed sex poodle.'"

Drudge. Smoking Gun:
In a bizarre statement to police, the Oregon woman who claims that Al Gore fondled and groped her during a massage session described the former Vice President as a giggling "crazed sex poodle" who gave a "come hither" look before pouncing on her in a Portland hotel suite. In a taped January 2009 interview with cops, the 54-year-old woman, a licensed masseuse... detailed her alleged October 2006 encounter with Gore at the Hotel Lucia.... It is unclear why, two years later, she approached Portland police and sought to memorialize her allegations against Gore, who she portrayed as a tipsy, handsy predator who forced her to drink Grand Marnier, pinned her to a bed, and forcibly French kissed her. The woman's statement--which could be mistaken for R-rated Vice Presidential fan fiction--describes Gore as a man with a "violent temper as well as extremely dictatorial commanding attitude besides his Mr. Smiley Global Warming concern persona." After fleeing Gore's suite, the woman returned home to discover, a la Lewinsky, "stains on the front of my black slacks." Suspecting that the stains were Gore bodily fluids, the woman made sure not to clean them.

Getting mad and protesting at your local BP gas station.

Around here, we've had some laughs — when we pass a BP gas station — talking about going in and acting all outraged about the big oil spill and giving whoever happens to work there a hard time, but now I see people really are protesting.
"I understand people are angry and upset, and they have a right to be. But they're taking their anger at the wrong people.... If they want to have a protest at the park or somewhere else, super. But to come to my station to do it, and tell people not to buy my products or come inside my stores, to bash my business without even knowing us is hurtful."

Tiny houses.

You know I'm fascinated by them — check out the video at this link. But, as tiny houses go, isn't this one a tad twee?

Is the "shabby chic" trend coming back? Because I lived through that in the 1970s — and stayed clear of it myself — and it goes to a terrible place where you do not want to go.

ADDED: Ironically, in the the old post of mine (at the first link), I raised the question of the difference between living in a tiny house and living in a trailer, and in the new material (at the third link), the owner of the twee tiny house also lives in a trailer. The twee tiny house is kind of the woman's playhouse, and the main house really is a trailer. There's also a man who lives with her and he's got his own playhouse, so — don't worry — he's not de-balled by that little dollhouse. He retreats to his mancave, "a truck-size shed covered by an enormous tarp...  furnished with a big-screen TV, lots of videotapes, cooking equipment and two lamp-warmed cages for the chicks and pheasants." The husband is "a great bear of man." The woman "is 42, a size zero and wears pink wellies, black tights and a paint-spattered Irish knit sweater over a brown jersey." Oh, lord! The couples that get themselves written up in the New York Times!

7 new Supreme Court cases — including a win for Jeffrey Skilling.

Start reading!

Especially conspicuous:
In Skilling v. United States (08-1394), the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded in a main opinion by Justice Ginsburg.  The vote is unanimous on the “honest services” question in this case, but three Justices would have ruled that the honest services statute is unconstitutional:  Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy.  There are an array of other concurrences in the case, including a partial dissent by Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justices Breyer and Stevens.

Holding: (1) Pre-trial publicity and community prejudice did not prevent Skilling from having a fair trial. (2) the “honest services” statue covers only bribery and kickback schemes.  Part of the opinion vacates the Fifth Circuit’s ruling on Skilling’s conspiracy conviction.  In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor disagrees with the Court’s conclusion that Skilling had a fair trial before an impartial jury.
SCOTUSblog falls prey to the statue-for-statute typo. I picture a ghostly statuesque demon that swipes at the hands of anyone trying to write statute. We all know how to write statute, and lawyers and lawprofs have far more occasions to type the word statute, but something drags us to statue. Perhaps it isn't anything supernatural, but a desire to escape from the legal structure we've imposed on our lives and to experience the freedom and beauty of art. No, no, not another statute! I would prefer a statue!

Woman with a Brancusi

But of the subject of imposed confining structures: Will Jeffrey Skilling, the Fiend of that Terrible Corporation Known as ENRON, break free of the iron grip of federal prison? From the opinion (linked above):
Whether potential reversal on the conspiracy count touches any of Skilling’s other convictions is also an open question. All of his convictions, Skilling contends, hinged on the conspiracy count and, like dominoes, must fall if it falls. The District Court, deciding Skilling’s motion for bail pending appeal, found this argument dubious, but the Fifth Circuit had no occasion to rule on it. That court may do so on remand.
Skilling was convicted 5 years ago, by the way. Isn't it disturbing that justice takes so long, even — especially? — for a very rich man?

I wonder what Obama and his cohort will make of this new opinion, which limits the ability of federal prosecutors to go after the nefarious men who run corporations.

"MARKDOWNS ON men's shorts. UPDATE: A reader emails: 'Don't tell Ann Althouse.' Heh."

Glenn Reynolds does one of his inimitable pants-on-sale posts and my name comes up.

And, by the way, you can show your love for the Althouse blog by buying things pointed at by Althouse links. I don't begrudge Glenn his pants-flogging. But I can flog pants too, you know. And you will get far more pleasure from Althouse-flogged pants. Here, I will even give an official Althouse endorsement to a pair of shorts (applicable mainly if you show the love and buy from that link).

"Just as German taxpayers are finally fed up with subsidising Greek pensioners, so Flemings are fed up with subsidising Walloons...."

The troubles in Belgium.


Just yesterday, my iPhone aggressively autocorrected my attempt to type "walk" as "Walloon." We could Walloon together. Ominous!

"I don't know if I was supposed to come away thinking that childhood obesity is our nation's next major health crisis..."

"... or if Obama wanted us to take the jarring black-and-white footage of a rooster getting its head chopped off literally."

Weekly Address: Jobs Creation from White House Weekly Address on Vimeo.

"Do we really want our tax dollars going toward something so clearly derivative of Sadie Benning's early works?"

June 23, 2010

On the Tumbling Rock Trail...

... I was wearing dark glasses with yellowish lenses. On the way back, I took the glasses off and suddenly all that gray-looking quartzite rock popped into technicolor. All that purple and rose with tinges of lichen green!





What a crazy thing! Taking those sunglasses off was like dropping acid.

These pictures — all done with an iPhone — were taken at Devil's Lake.

Al Gore and the massage therapist.

She went to the police, but then she did not want to go forward:
The case reopened in January 2009. Detectives interviewed the woman but determined there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations.
In a transcript of the interview, the massage therapist said she was doing requested abdominal work on Mr. Gore when he demanded she go lower.
“I was shocked and I did not massage beyond what is considered a safe, nonsexual area of the abdomen,” she said. “He further insisted and acted angry, becoming verbally sharp and loud.

”I went into much deeper shock as I realized it appeared he was demanding sexual favors or sexual behaviors.”

She alleged he later tried to have sex with her.

“I did not immediately call the police as I feared being made into a public spectacle and my reputation being destroyed,” she said. “I was not sure what to tell them and was concerned my story would not be believed since there was no DNA evidence from a completed act of rape.”
There are so many questions. How credible is this woman? Women can lie, but if we reject them reflexively, it means that men can always get away with this crime, which occurs in private. What did the police say to her that discouraged her? Why is she coming forward now? Was she offered money/favors to back off or is she pressing forward for money now? Gore is a billionaire. If Gore really did what she said, does it suggest that he's had other massages and developed a modus operandi of requesting abdominal work, etc. etc. Is the abdomen a normal part of a legitimate massage? I've had a lot of full body massages in my time, and the abdomen was never included. But I am a woman. Maybe it's normal for a man. Or do you have to make a special request? Like Al's abs could be really knotted up from too many crunches. Look at him. How could he need abdominal work? As opposed to abdominal play. But, of course, the argument from his side has to be that the woman is lying. How awful this all is? And what of poor Tipper? Could this have something to do with the marriage breakup?

Why does Grace Kelly's son, Prince Albert, look like that?

He's only 52. And look at that woman who is marrying him.

Well, I think we know the answer. It's obvious. Men only look as good as they need to.

Obama and the fly.

I already have a tag for it, so how can I resist?

Click on the link and then the tag and scroll to reminisce about the time when Obama seemed to have superhuman power.

McChrystal out.

Petraeus in.

Jerry Seinfeld attempts to do a comic riff about Lady Gaga giving Mets fans the finger.

Seinfeld was asked about this because the singer was moved to his private box at the stadium the other day:
"This woman's a jerk. I hate her," Seinfeld said. "I can't believe they put her in my box that I paid for! You give people the finger and you get upgraded? Is that the world we're living in now?"

"It's pathetic," he added....

"She's a jerk," he continued. "What is she giving the finger [for]? What's the finger anyway? Speaking of interesting and new, how old is the finger? How did it even get to be the finger?"
This finger incident happened a while back. All he has is "How old is the finger? How did it even get to be the finger?"? That's pathetic. If she'd just given the finger, I would have thought it was interesting to see how Seinfeld gets started working on one of his little what's the deal with that routines. But he's had time.

And, by the way, I remember the subject — "How old is the finger? How did it even get to be the finger?" — being discussed at great length back when the movie "Titanic" came out. It was an important moment in character development when Kate Winslet (as "Rose") gave some guy the finger. Was that an anachronism in a movie set in 1912? But I'm not going to do your research for you, Jerry. You're going on the radio. You've had some time to put some jokes together. Do some research!

"A French prisoner accused of killing and devouring part of his cellmate's lung ripped out the organ and started his grisly snack while the victim was still alive."

It's Nicholas Cocaign, the world's worst cellmate.
After the argument [over the toilet] escalated to blows, the real-life Hannibal Lecter allegedly butchered his cellmate, carved out his victim's lung - mistaking it for the heart - and fried up part of the organ with onions on a makeshift grill before eating it....

The case has drawn scrutiny to the entire French penal system. It comes on the heels of last week's ruling by a tribunal in favor of 38 inmates and former inmates who sued over inhumane conditions at the same Rouen jail where Baudry was killed. The court ordered the French government to pay $430 to $21,500 dollars to each plaintiff, Agence France-Presse reported.

Cocaign himself testified Monday that the murder was a cry for help - and not just from the victim.

Cocaign said he warned prison officials that he was capable of violence, begging to be transferred for psychiatric treatment as he served time for several rapes, among other crimes.

"No one was listening to me," Cocaign told the court, according to the AFP. "I made several appeals for help, saying I was a man capable of being dangerous. I took action, and then they took me seriously."

The French government actually is responsible for the murder because...
A loud argument was not stopped before it escalated to violence.
A man who needed psychiatric treatment was instead housed with other prisoners.
They allowed cooking equipment and ingredients in the cell.
"Butchered"? "Carved"? They let him have a weapon!
France doesn't have the death penalty.

pollcode.com free polls

A few more details here. The weapon allowed in the cell was a pair of scissors. Cocaign was not in prison for murdering anyone. He was only facing a charge of armed robbery charges. There were onions, olive oil, salt and pepper on a portable camping stove in the cell. Cocaign "initially claimed that he was fascinated by the 'inner workings of Baudry's personality' and 'wanted to take his soul', he later admitted that he was 'curious to see what he tastes like.'"

"Other cable news channels force-feed viewers one narrow, predictable point of view; in contrast, CNN will be offering a lively roundup of all the best ideas..."

Assuming you're eating points of view, are you hungry for more variety in your diet? Great! CNN is serving up a yummy plate of Spitzer.

Sarah Palin is 9-3 in this primary season.

Have you noticed? Impressive? Romney is 13-1

"If the president fires McChrystal, we need a new ambassador and we need an entire new team over there."

"But most importantly, we need the president to say what Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates have both said but what the president refuses to say: Our withdrawal in the middle of 2011 will be conditions based. It's got to be conditions based and he's got to say it.... He won't say this because he's captive of his far-left base."


Meanwhile: "Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal left the White House after meeting with President Obama for about 20 minutes, apparently departing before another meeting on the Afghanistan war scheduled for later Wednesday morning, but there was no immediate word on whether he would keep his job as the top American commander in Afghanistan."

AND: "[W]hy were the general and his team so candid?... They were in Paris...."

AND: In the Wall Street Journal, there's "Why McChrystal Has to Go" by Eliot A. Cohen. But the editors say:
Above all, the President should think beyond short-term political appearances to the difficult hand his own policy restraints have presented to General McChrystal....

This is no justification for military disrespect, but it ought to make Mr. Obama think twice about advice that he sack General McChrystal merely so he doesn't look weak as Commander in Chief. He'll look a lot weaker in a year if his Afghan policy looks like a failure. With a war in the balance, Mr. Obama should not dismiss his most talented commander without knowing who, and what, comes next.

"I used to think diversity was my best friend marrying a black guy."

"But the guy graduated from rich-kid private schools and has tenure at UCLA and, at this point, I think diversity is not skin color but rather social upbringing."

Writes Penelope Trunk, the Brazen Careerist blogger, who married a farmer. The link post is actually about remodeling the farmhouse, or that's the factual context anyway. It's titled "How to cope with diversity." There's a list of 7 tips for coping with diversity, all explained in remodeling-the-farmhouse stories.


Here's a spoken-word performance that I love on the subject of home-remodeling: "Terrors of Pleasure," by Spalding Gray. God, I miss Spalding Gray.

And we missed Penelope Trunk, when she went almost a month without blogging after writing that post.

June 22, 2010

At the Purple Rock Café...


... we felt the cold breath of the devil, but we got away!

New Orleans federal judge rules against Obama on the deepwater drilling moratorium.

... Hornbeck Offshore Services of Covington, La., claims the government arbitrarily imposed the moratorium without any proof that the operations posed a threat. Hornbeck says the moratorium could cost Louisiana thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in lost wages.

During Monday's hearing, [Judge] Feldman asked a government lawyer why the Interior Department decided to suspend deepwater drilling after the rig explosion when it didn't bar oil tankers from Alaskan waters after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 or take similar actions in the wake of other industrial accidents....
ADDED: Here's the opinion in PDF. Conclusion:
This Court is persuaded that the public interest weighs in favor of granting a preliminary injunction. While a suspension of activities directed after a rational interpretation of the evidence could outweigh the impact on the plaintiffs and the public, here, the Court has found the plaintiffs would likely succeed in showing that the agency’s decision was arbitrary and capricious. An invalid agency decision to suspend drilling of wells in depths of over 500 feet simply cannot justify the immeasurable effect on the plaintiffs, the local economy, the Gulf region, and the critical present-day aspect of the availability of domestic energy in this country.

You think the new issue of Rolling Stone is tough on General McChrystal, but how do you think Lady Gaga feels?

She posed for the cover in a big machine-gun bra and a nearly naked ass and purports to "tell all," yet everyone's talking about McChrystal, whose name isn't even on the cover! Life is so unfair to Lady Gaga!

ADDED: That gun bra made me think of this crotch-gun in "From Dusk 'Til Dawn":

"Maybe Michelangelo was hiding secret drawings of brains inside the Sistine Chapel's ceiling frescoes."

"Makes total sense, right? Because... well, wait, it doesn't make any sense at all."

"It's been an unforgiving couple of decades for 21-year-old meth addict Jayden, but he's still got that smile."

Fun with that website that purports to show you what you'll look like in 20 years.

Feel free to "toggle whether you're a drug addict or not."

And here's some clever sleuthing:
And then I tried throwing a cartoon face at it, and got a glimpse of what’s actually going on: it looks like in20years is just blending one of a handful of pre-rendered facial templates onto the submitted face. I got curious about what all those templates look like, and so I found a very simple line-drawing face via google image search... 

Why are people acting surprised by this NYT article about law schools adjusting student grade point averages upward?

Here's the Times article. Memeorandum collects the reactions.

I saw the NYT article yesterday and decided it wasn't worth blogging, but I'm blogging it now because it's getting blogged and only to say that I consider this news a huge bore in light of the fact that law students' grades are always adjusted on a curve.

It's not as if the students previously got the grades they deserved and now the grades are phony. When  lawprofs grade law school exams, we may start with raw scores that represent what we really think of them, but the final grades are determined by the school's predetermined goals for averages and percentages at the various grade levels. If the school thinks those averages and percentages are set in the wrong place and it can reset them.

It never had to do with the actual performance of the students. It was always about where the school, as a matter of policy, decided the grades ought to be. It was always about communicating with law firms and other employers in the hope of advantaging our graduates in comparison to other law schools' graduates. We're all lawyers here. This is all advocacy. Are you actually surprised?

General McChrystal and his advisers spoke to Rolling Stone — "derisively ... often in sharply flippant and dismissive terms" — and now... what?

WaPo reports:
Preparing for a speech he is about to give at a French military academy, McChrystal "wonders aloud" whether he will questioned about the well-publicized differences in opinion between himself and Biden.
"Are you asking me about Vice President Biden? Who's that?" McChrystal says with a laugh, trying out the line as a hypothetical response to the anticipated query.

"Biden?" chimes in an aide who is seated nearby, and who is not named in the article. "Did you say Bite me?"
More quotes from the Rolling Stone article here:
"Who's he going to dinner with?" I ask one of his aides. "Some French minister," the aide tells me. "It's fucking gay."...

According to sources familiar with the meeting, McChrystal thought Obama looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" by the roomful of military brass. Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn't go much better. "It was a 10-minute photo op," says an adviser to McChrystal. "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was. Here's the guy who's going to run his fucking war, but he didn't seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed."...

The Times Square bomber, Faisal Shazad, pleads guilty...

... and is questioned by the federal judge, Miriam Cedarbaum:
"I'm going to plead guilty a hundred times over because until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and stops the drone strikes ... we will be attacking the U.S.," he said. "And I plead guilty to that."...

"Did you look around to see who they were?" Cedarbaum asked him of his potential victims.

"Well, the people select the government," Shahzad said. "We consider them all the same. ..."

"Including the children?" the judge demanded.

"Well, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don't see children, they don't see anybody," Shahzad fired back.

"They kill women, children, they kill everybody. It's a war, and in war, they kill people. They're killing all Muslims."

"One has to understand where I'm coming from," Shahzad told the judge. "I consider myself ... a Muslim soldier."

"And it's a war to kill people..."
IN THE COMMENTS: Irene says:
" 'And it's a war to kill people...' "

The bomber broadcasts a reality that many Americans refuse to acknowledge.

June 21, 2010

At the Summer Sky Hotel...


... have a beautiful night.

"[S]tudent evaluations (against which I have inveighed since I first saw them in the ’60s) are all wrong as a way of assessing teaching performance."

Stanley Fish writes:
[T]hey measure present satisfaction in relation to a set of expectations that may have little to do with the deep efficacy of learning. Students tend to like everything neatly laid out; they want to know exactly where they are; they don’t welcome the introduction of multiple perspectives, especially when no master perspective reconciles them; they want the answers.

But sometimes (although not always) effective teaching involves the deliberate inducing of confusion, the withholding of clarity, the refusal to provide answers; sometimes a class or an entire semester is spent being taken down various garden paths leading to dead ends that require inquiry to begin all over again, with the same discombobulating result; sometimes your expectations have been systematically disappointed. And sometimes that disappointment, while extremely annoying at the moment, is the sign that you’ve just been the beneficiary of a great course, although you may not realize it for decades. 
That's not just an old professor complaining that the students don't like his style. Fish is critiquing a proposal — from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, "a conservative think tank dedicated to private property rights and limited government" —  that would give cash bonuses to teachers (at the college and university level) based on so-called "customer satisfaction":
If there ever was a recipe for non-risk-taking, entirely formulaic, dumbed-down teaching, this is it....
ADDED: Normblog thinks Fish exaggerates:
[T]here are some things that even a student can tell. She may not yet know enough to understand all the subtleties of a challenging teaching method, but she does know something, and she knows more as she goes along. She can tell the difference between clarity and obscurity, between a love of the subject from her teachers and a dullness about it, between an enthusiasm for learning and an indifference towards the process and the students themselves, between a conscientious teacher and a lead-swinger, between an inspiring lecturer and a useless one.

Bork Kagan...

... says Bork.

Going back, adding my new "Little Prince" tag to a lot of old posts...

I find this, from my old man... before I ever met him other than in the comments.

"The Writer Who Couldn't Read."

"[Howard] Engel couldn't see words with his eyes. His visual cortex was broken. But he could 'see' when he used the motor part of his brain, first by tracing letters on a page, then by 'writing' those same letters in the air, and then, strangely, when he shifted to copying letters with his tongue on the roof of his mouth. Tongue-copying was the fastest."

"Obama plan to land on asteroid may be unrealistic for 2025."

Headline that made me laugh.

Anyway, what's unrealistic? In 2025, he won't be President. So it's totally realistic of him to blab about crap he won't have to do. And I'm quite happy to have him dreaming about the distant future instead of inflicting things on us right now.
The moon is 240,000 miles away. A trip to an asteroid would be 5 million miles — at a minimum.

Why go?
Why not!
Asteroids have always been passed over as a destination for human explorers. Then-president George H.W. Bush wanted NASA to go to Mars, while his son, George W. Bush, chose the moon. During the past six years, NASA spent $9 billion building a spaceship, rocket and other gear to help reach the second Bush's goal of returning humans to the lunar surface by 2020.

In February, Obama took steps toward killing Bush's moon program, which was beset by technical troubles and money woes. Two months later, in a speech at Cape Canaveral, Obama announced that the astronauts' next stop is an asteroid.
A President's got to be about going somewhere... somewhere else.
So far, the Obama administration has been quiet on the need for a major sum of money to accomplish his goal.

What do you do once you get to an asteroid?
•Humans can't walk or drive on an asteroid.

... [E]ven the biggest asteroids have practically no gravity. So anything in contact with the surface could easily drift away.
Like thoughts in the cranium of a President.
"You don't land on an asteroid," says former Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart, a longtime advocate of asteroid studies. "You pull up to one and dock with it. ... And getting away from it, all you have to do is sneeze and you're gone." He envisions a spaceship hovering next to the asteroid and occasionally firing its thrusters to stay in place.

Astronauts wouldn't walk on an asteroid. They would drift next to it, moving themselves along with their gloved hands.
La la la. Float along!

In gloves!
To keep from floating into space, crewmembers could anchor a network of safety ropes to the asteroid's surface, but "that has its own risks, because we don't understand how strong the surfaces of asteroids are and whether (they) would hold an astronaut in place," says Daniel Scheeres, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado.
Lasso an asteroid!
The minimal gravity also means that any dust the astronauts stir up will hang in a suspended cloud for a long time. Because there's no weather on an asteroid, there's no erosion to smooth the dust particles.

"It's all going to stay pretty razor-sharp. ... It's not the most friendly stuff in the universe," Korsmeyer says. Keeping humans safe as they explore an asteroid "is going to be really tricky."
Dodge razor-sharp dust!

Go 5 million miles to paddle your gloved hands across the surface of a rock and stir up a cloud of razor-sharp dust particles that will — once you leave — hang there endlessly.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lemondog says:
Any chance the little prince could speed it up???!

Mebbe......next year?

Now we know the B in B-612 stands for Barack.
Just so, you might say to them: "The proof that the little prince existed is that he was charming, that he laughed, and that he was looking for a sheep. If anybody wants a sheep, that is a proof that he exists." And what good would it do to tell them that? They would shrug their shoulders, and treat you like a child. But if you said to them: "The planet he came from is Asteroid B-612," then they would be convinced, and leave you in peace from their questions.
OMG! He's not a natural born citizen! But he was charming, he laughed, and he found quite a lot of sheep.

Why a brain damaged person who can't speak...

... can sing words clearly.

Hotel Photo Fakeouts.

Ever since I ran across this website, I have had a terrible time picking a hotel from websites. I look at every picture and wonder what's just outside that frame. And I'm ultra-suspicious when a hotel website doesn't feature the premises at all, but some people who are obviously not going to be in your room. I mean, are you supposed to project yourself into these characters? If I go there, a beefy, handsome guy will have me rolling in the bed, clutching my belly in helpless laughter.

June 20, 2010

"Time's comprehensive archives allow us to see how the magazine's discussions of homosexuality have evolved..."

"... from pathologizing and stereotyping . . . to awkward attempts to view gays humanely while continuing to refer to their sexual orientation as a disease . . . to a gradual acceptance of gays as upstanding members of society who are struggling for equal rights. Articles from 1956, 1966, 1969, 1975, and 1979 [at the link]."

A masculine tear makes a nation gasp.

The man is Danial Westling, who married Sweden's Princess Victoria of Sweden today.




What's the difference between a negotiated settlement and a shakedown?

Reihan Salam says it was a shakedown (but I'm not so sure):
The most despised multinational working in the United States agreed to pay $20 billion over four years into a fund defined to benefit Gulf residents impacted by the spill. Some have characterized this as a shrewd decision on the part of BP CEO Tony Hayward to contain the damage to BP’s reputation. Yet BP has received no assurances on future legal liability and it remains, quite appropriately, on the hook for environmental damages. The Justice Department has already threatened to prosecute BP, and a refusal to play ball on BP’s part would almost certainly have led to an even more aggressive campaign of public vilification, at the very least.

To maintain an orderly society, we should at least try to contain and manage our desire for vengeance. On closer inspection, this doesn’t look like much of a negotiation. Rather, it looks like what one would colloquially refer to as a “shakedown,” in which a stronger party, ignoring the conventions of a good-faith negotiation, all but forces a weaker party to bend to its will. But now that Rep. Joe Barton has, in fact, called the White House agreement a shakedown, he has, despite backtracking and apologizing, taken the political heat off of the president. Somewhere, Rahm Emanuel is smiling.
Where, exactly, was the bad faith?  BP is extremely well-represented by legal counsel and could have kept negotiating and, if it wanted, it could have stood on its legal rights and let everything be resolved in the courts. It took this deal — and do we know the real dimensions of the deal? — because that seemed to be in its best interest.

But I don't think there's anything really wrong with using the word "shakedown." It's strong rhetoric, and basically metaphorical.

1730, "impromptu bed made upon loose straw," from shake + down. Fig. verbal sense of "blackmail, extort" is attested from 1872, noun meaning "a thorough search" is from 1914; both probably from the notion of measuring corn. The verbal phrase to shake down "cause to totter and fall" is recorded from c.1400.
We encounter this colorful, figurative language all the time in political discourse. For example, Obama's BP speech last Tuesday was full of military language. He called the disaster a "siege" and talked about a "battle plan." Big ... deal. And by the way, "a big fucking deal" — as Biden would say — is not literally fucking. It's the way we talk. And most of the time, like just then, it seems silly even to point it out. So I'm unmoved by the back-and-forth over the word "shakedown." It's more politics. I'm coolly unmoved... though I do think it was lame of Barton to use it and then not defend it.

What matters is whether Obama did a good job of pursuing American interests and whether, in the process of of pursuing American interests, he abused his power. Since BP could have rejected Obama's proposal and fought through the legal process, I don't see what's supposed to be the abuse of power. Salam doesn't say he thinks Obama will manipulate the federal and state courts, so what is the problem? More worrisome is the possibility that Obama's deal was too good for BP. It took the deal, and we should wonder why. Is this one of those things — like the health care reform — where we will find out what it is when it goes into operation?

"A very brave wee boy."

Declan Shanley.

If science shows that people behave better when they believe they have free will AND that people do not have free will...

... should that information be suppressed so that people will behave better?

"So far, the Census Bureau has tallied 379 incidents involving assaults or threats on the nation's 635,000 census workers..."

"... more than double the 181 recorded during the 2000 census. Weapons were used or threatened in a third of the cases."

What's going on?!
While most homeowners have received census takers graciously, some say they have been surprised at the degree of anger exhibited by Americans who consider them the embodiment of intrusive government.

"I came across loads of hostility," said Douglas McDonald, who summoned police in Deltona, Fla., after a tug-of-war with an irate homeowner over a census form. The homeowner threw his ripped half in the toilet....

"There's so much anger and bitterness, with people losing their homes and their jobs," said McDonald, who eventually quit. "They're not too fond of the government. They don't want to talk to you."

Sherri Chesney, 46, said she was cursed and spat at during follow-up visits in Houston. One day, she encountered a woman working in her garden. Chesney showed her census badge, she said, prompting the woman to launch into a tirade: "I don't need the blankety-blank government snooping in my business." Then she threw a metal patio table at Chesney, who escaped injury by ducking.

"I was stunned, I really was, that America is so mad at the government," said Chesney, who no longer works for the census. "People don't know what it's like out there. It's scary and dangerous, and it's not worth my life."
Any theories?

Why the hostility against census workers?
People hate the government more these days.
People feel more inclined to express their hostility these days.
Too many census workers who aren't well trained and don't know how to approach people properly.
The Census Bureau probably just has a lower standard of what counts as an "incident."
More people are up to no good and feel defensive when the government noses around.
pollcode.com free polls

"Why is there ice in the lobby men’s room urinals?" asks the NY Times.

In this (possibly useful) article about (relatively) cheap but (somehow) stylish hotels in New York City. I don't go — no pun intended — in the bathrooms where one finds urinals, but if I were writing that article, I would at the very least Google the phrase "ice in urinals" before leaving it in an article. I would know that some readers would Google "ice in urinals" and I wouldn't want to be embarrassed if the answer was something it would be embarrassing not to know. And once I'd done that, I'd know the answer, because "ice in urinals" gets "about 231,000 results" in Google, beginning with "Why Ice in the Urinals?" in AskMetafilter. You see this right away:
There's a discussion of this in The Straight Dope Tells All. The leading theories are:
  • The melting ice acts as a slow, continuous flush
  • Ice cools the air around the urinal. Cool air sinks, which serves to contain the smell
  • Cold discourages drain flies
  • Fun to melt, helps users aim better, compensates for poor male sanitary habits
New York Times, you seem to need a little help, so... let me Google that for you.

Was Carly Fiorina, talking about Barbara Boxer's hair, guilty of what Robin Givhan calls "style bullying"?

Givhan writes:
[S]tyle encompasses far more than good looks. In fact, it trumps beauty because it's rooted in deep cultural knowledge and self-confidence. Style is an expression of choices -- a declaration of individuality. And thus, the lack of it is not a matter of poor genetic luck. It is, a particularly judgmental soul could argue, your fault....

[I]t can make others feel terribly old-fashioned and parochial by comparison.... Women -- and men -- use style as a tool of intimidation, self-promotion and belittlement all the time. U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina's off-topic remark about Sen. Barbara Boxer's hair caused quite the explosion when it was captured by a live microphone. Fiorina quipped that Boxer's hair was "so yesterday." Fiorina has said she was quoting a friend, but her tone oozed delight in the observation as she happily repeated it...

Fiorina's words weren't, by any means, vulgar or angry. Indeed, she had the cutting tone of a gossipy girlfriend who knows a thing or two about hair travails. But as she gently fingered her own chic pixie, while relaying an insulting description of Boxer's hair, the polite smile never faded from her face -- until she realized her microphone was on. She bore all the earmarks of a style bully.
Givhan concludes that Fiorina was making an indirect but effective political argument that Boxer is out of step with the times. But let's take a closer look at what was really going on. Rewatch the short clip and think about whether what we are really seeing is a woman "ooz[ing] delight" because she thought her hair was "chic" — a "chic pixie" — and the other woman's hair really was so much worse. Does Fiorina even agree with the friend she quotes? Watch carefully, and keep in mind that Carly Fiorina was only quite recently bald (as a consequence of cancer treatment):

It's a bit hard to tell unless you look for it, but I'm looking after hearing a friend, a cancer survivor who lost her own hair, insist that what we are seeing is a cancer survivor's humorous attitude about hair. I now think that Fiorina stopped in the middle of an anecdote when someone off camera signaled for her to shut up, but that if she had gone on, she would have made a self-effacing/sarcastic wisecrack about her own hair along the lines of: Oh, yes, because my hair is so today, if by "today," you mean not utterly bald.

The gesture she makes at her own hair, just before she clams up, is not, I think, a mean girl's I'm-so-gorgeous primp. It's comic business that would have fit amusingly with the wisecrack that was never cracked. My friend, a woman who, like Fiorina, has recently regrown hair, feels sure she has the ability to recognize a shared dark humor about hair that women who have not gone through the experience don't pick up on. Hair is a big deal to women, and our ears perk up when we hear talk about other women's hair. Givhan explores that with good sensibility, but I think she, like many others, is judging Fiorina without a full understanding of the context.

On the other hand, Fiorina's private psychodrama is a bit beside the point when she's running for the Senate. She's got to get these things right and not give her opponents material to use against her. In that light, it doesn't matter what the explanation is, because she's running for office, and she needs to do that competently.

And speaking of context, this is funny:

At the Trailer Café...


... we can hang out here all night.

On-stage bacchanalia.


At the Cocorosie concert at the Barrymore tonight.