August 14, 2010

"While the stealth war began in the Bush administration, it has expanded under President Obama, who rose to prominence in part for his early opposition to the invasion of Iraq."

"Virtually none of the newly aggressive steps undertaken by the United States government have been publicly acknowledged. In contrast with the troop buildup in Afghanistan, which came after months of robust debate, for example, the American military campaign in Yemen began without notice in December and has never been officially confirmed."

More strange mushrooms.




Found in Chequamegon National Forest.

Obama agrees with me about the mosque near Ground Zero.

Ben Smith reports:
Speaking to reporters today, President Obama drew a sharp line under his comments last night, insisting that his defense of the right to build a mosque does not mean he supports the project.

"I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding," he said.

Obama's new stance is logically consistent with his words last night, if a bit less "clarion," as Mike Bloomberg called the first remarks.
I had to Google "Mike Bloomberg." Oh, Mayor Bloomberg. Do we call him Mike?

Anyway... Ben, Mike... everybody... could you possibly take the trouble to pay attention to words?

And read the Althouse blog. It was all always obvious, as I told you here and here.
Obama's new remarks, literally speaking, re-open the question of which side he's on. 
Re-open the question only because you foolishly visualized a closed question.

"Literally speaking" ... what the hell does that mean? If you knew how to be literal, you wouldn't have read more into the old remarks than was there. You read subjectively. You let idiotically soaring hopes cloud your eyes.

Obama has made his brilliant career out of saying the most crashingly banal things to people who hear what they want to hear. Could everyone please wake up? Please!
Most of the mosque's foes recognize the legal right to build, and have asked the builders to reconsider.

But the clarification is, in political terms, puzzling. The signal Obama sent with his rhetoric last night wasn't that he had chosen to make a trivial, legal point about the First Amendment. He chose to make headlines in support of the mosque project, and he won't be able to walk them back now with this sprinkling of doubt. All he'll do is frustrate some of the people who so eagerly welcomed his words yesterday as a return to form.
Allow me to help you solve your little puzzle? You are a chump. You need to wake up, smarten up, and realize that words have meaning.

Sky and water.




On the Bad River in Copper Falls State Park.

At the Strange Mushroom Café...


... how can you explain yourself, if you are not yourself?

"Men, [Susan] Orlean says, 'are a lot better at putting blinkers on' and focusing on their work."

"[Elizabeth] Gilbert does not have kids but she agrees. Men, she adds, are also 'more entitled to suffer for their work' and let their wife and kids get neglected. Gilbert adds that her form of suffering involves compulsively taking care of 'anyone who comes within' her orbit. 'Do you think Philip Roth ever set aside his novel so he could change the sheets in the guest bedroom for the third time that week?' she asks."


If it ever seems that men are greater than women, you must look harder — harder — until you can perceive that women are greater than men.

"Marooned flood victims looking to escape grab the side bars of a hovering Army helicopter..."

A harrowing photograph.

ADDED: The link goes to the first picture in a slide show of the week's photographs. Check out #20 too.  Rihanna strikes a pose.

From the White House official Flickr site...

... here's an interesting new photo:


It's supposed to be symbolic, right? The President, having reached the top of a staircase, encounters a closed door. Seemingly unaware that the door is unbolted, the President stands frozen, statue-like, gazing at a black-and-white photograph of a panel discussion. What does it mean? It looks like a scene in a video game, doesn't it? What will happen if he opens the door?

IN THE COMMENTS: Doug urges us to read the caption, as if the caption answers an interesting question.
President Barack Obama waits to be introduced at a critical infrastructure CEOs meeting on cyber security in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, July 14, 2010.
But to me the interesting question — and I had read the caption when I wrote this post — isn't: What was actually going on when this picture was taken? It's: Why did the White House choose this picture, from the 1000s of pictures taken? There is a message — an image — that this picture was thought to convey. What was that message? Does this picture actual convey that?

''I am not here to make any friends."

Says Yve Rojas, who is also not here to avoid clichés.

"This new appetite for all-things-Sasha may be due in large part to her wholesome look..."

I thought we weren't going to talk about the President's children. Or is it okay to gush inanely like this, serenely confident that the rule against talking about the President's children will stop everyone but the truly contemptible from saying that you've gushed inanely?

Overstatements of the left and right.

From the left: "Obama Strongly Backs Islam Center Near 9/11 Site."

From the right: "The President Stands with Sharia."

Antidote: here.

"The Call of Cthulhu in Under 2 Minutes."

"I like that Lovecraft's brand of cosmic horror can be summarized as humanity being 'way harshly insignificant.'"

Why some comments haven't been publishing normally.

Blogger has a new feature that identifies comments that it thinks may be spam. This feature is very useful to me, since it saves me from constantly having to comb the threads looking for those robotic posts that link to commercial websites selling shoes or whatever. But it's also snagging a lot of real-person comments. So I now realize that I need to review the spam page more often to get your comments up, and I think doing that will train the machine to detect spam more accurately.

I'm sorry anyone had the impression that I was deleting things for no good reason. As for the comments that Blogger flagged as spam, I can't see what looked off about them. Anyway, thanks for your comments, keep commenting, and trust me that I to have a longstanding strong free speech policy and a newfound dedication to reviewing what the spam filter caught.

August 13, 2010

"I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground."

Sayeth the President.
"But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan...
"This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable."
Look closely at what he said. It is actually unremarkable. Of course, there is freedom of religion in the United States and the idea of discriminating against a particular religion offends our fundamental values. But it is a separate question whether the plan to build a mosque is a good one that persons of good will should choose to pursue as they exercise the freedom they are most assuredly guaranteed. Did Obama say express an opinion about that?

Ah, here is the text. Let me answer my question: The answer is no.

The view from St. Peter's Dome.

The highest point in the Chequamegon National Forest.


Looking north, toward Lake Superior (which you can see a little strip of). I love the light green spot, which corresponds to the break in the clouds.


ADDED: Meade prompted me to make a video of a patch of sunlight snaking over the landscape. So here it is, 3 minutes of just that:

"We treated him like a wise man, but it turns out he was just a clown."

Writes Peter Popham, about Christopher Hitchens:
[S]uddenly, with death breathing down his neck, what he has to say is of no use to him, and is no use to us, either. He has failed us, and in his blunt way he comes clean about the fact....

We needed to rouse ourselves from the sleep of superstition, but in doing so we have collapsed into the narcosis of materialism. And waking from that to the reality of death is a far nastier matter.

Democratic Senate candidate indicted on a felony charge of "disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity."

But don't worry. It's only Alvin Greene, the guy they already wanted to get out of the way.

"You have the smallest waist in the world. Look at that waist!"

"There's something about her I quite like."

"The first lady's falling numbers stand in opposition to the still-strong belief among some Washington political insiders that she will be a big asset for Democrats on the campaign trail this fall."

Byron York on Michelle Obama:
After the Spain trip brought the first extended bad press of her time as first lady, the White House, and some of its allies in the press, pushed back by claiming Mrs. Obama will still be much in demand. News accounts suggested her "sky-high popularity," her role as "cultural and fashion icon" and her "incredible force" will boost Democrats across the country.
Key words: "of her time as first lady." Michelle Obama got bad press galore during the 2008 campaign. She got her image readjusted — feminized, really. She became the wonderful mom, fashion icon, and purveyor of vegetables. You can just imagine how much she liked doing that. But as she stretched out within the hyper-feminine role imposed on her, she got into the manifestation of femininity that rubs people the wrong way. Too much shopping and free-spending on superficial, materialistic pleasures. It's the classic feminine protest against confinement in a feminine role. Don't like it? Then don't limit powerful women that way. But if Michelle Obama isn't limited, most people won't like her. We saw that in 2008. I mean, I liked her, but it didn't play well generally.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger has finally figured out (or bumbled into) the way to get us talking about her again.

She "articulated the 'n' word all the way out — more than one time." She wasn't calling anyone the epithet or adopting the word as her way of speaking, only referring to the way other people talk: "black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is n*gger, n*gger, n*gger." It was really weird to use the word on the radio, and I suspect her of doing what Rush Limbaugh calls the "Media Tweak of the Day," a remark designed to get his adversaries talking about him.

Now, Dr. Laura has apologized, both for saying the word all the way out and for not helping the caller. The caller, Jade, was a black woman married to a white man whose friends and family make "racist comments" in front of her, which her husband ignores. Voicing her suspicion that "sometimes people are hypersensitive," Dr. Laura asked Jade to giver her 2 good examples of these "racist comments." Jade says:
OK. Last night -- good example -- we had a neighbor come over, and this neighbor -- when every time he comes over, it's always a black comment. It's, "Oh, well, how do you black people like doing this?" And, "Do black people really like doing that?"
Of course, Laura didn't think that was racist, but instead of inviting Jade to contemplate why a well-meaning person might say something like that or how Jade might take a more active role to get the neighbor to stop addressing her that way, Laura opened up the stream-of-consciousness:
... Well, listen, without giving much thought, a lot of blacks voted for Obama simply 'cause he was half-black. Didn't matter what he was gonna do in office, it was a black thing. You gotta know that. That's not a surprise. Not everything that somebody says -- we had friends over the other day; we got about 35 people here -- the guys who were gonna start playing basketball. I was going to go out and play basketball. My bodyguard and my dear friend is a black man. And I said, "White men can't jump; I want you on my team." That was racist? That was funny.
Jade then says: "How about the N-word? So, the N-word's been thrown around..." Here, Laura needed to determine whether the husband's friends and family are saying the word. Laura keeps riffing about general things happening out there in the culture:
Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is n*gger, n*gger, n*gger.
The friends and family in question aren't black guys (and neither is Jade), so what is the point? That Jade should put up with the n-word, said in her presence? People on HBO say "fuck" all the time too, but if the neighbors come to your house and say "fuck" all the time, you have a legitimate complaint. "Don't be so sensitive" is like saying "Be a doormat." But that lapse of Laura's — the failure to recognize what is special about a person's home — hardly gets any attention, because her saying the word "n*gger" was such an immense distraction. Why on earth would Laura do that? Media tweak. 

Yeah, that makes me a tweakee. But there's no tweakee defense for the blogger. We bloggers live on tweaks. Mmmm. Yum.

August 12, 2010

At the Bad River Café...


... you can roil the waters.

Aw, come on now, you can't expect me to follow this sign.


Don't you realize how much a blogger loves lynx?

See the tiny man in the scenery?



It's Brownstone Falls. But what's that? Let's take a closer look:


He's out beyond the railing, with his eyes on the screen of the digital camera he's waving about with delight.

Below him:


Energy efficient windows...

... versus vinyl siding.

(Warning: 1. Link goes to video that begins with a commercial, 2. Don't have vinyl siding.)

"I'm hearing from people, they're in tears there are so many mosquitoes."

Said UW-Madison entomologist Phil Pellitteri.
There are 54 different types of mosquitoes in Wisconsin, he said. "The ones that will make or break a summer we call summer floodwater mosquitoes."

They can lay eggs and those eggs will stay dormant for as long as three years. "It's almost like little time bombs out there," Pellitteri said. Once standing water hits them, they hatch....

"It's just crazy. This is unlike anything we've ever seen before with mosquitoes, that's for sure," said Tom Leonard, assistant store manager at Elliott's Ace Hardware in West Allis.

"I've been doing this for 30 years. This is the first time where almost every customer through the door says, 'Where's your mosquito repellent?'"
We had a terrible encounter with mosquitoes last week in the Kettle Moraine here in southern Wisconsin. But on Monday and Tuesday, we were all the way north, at the Apostle Islands National Seashore, where we went on a long hike through the woods, wore no repellent, and got no bites. Yesterday, we were hiking a little further south, at Morgan Falls and Copper Falls, and though we were able to hike without resorting to repellent, we got a few bites. So people bitch (and itch) about the mosquitoes in Wisconsin, but the northern tier is also Wisconsin. Check it out! We saw some highly scenic places, and though it's the peak of the season, we were often the only or almost the only people there.

In the Prop 8 case, Judge Walker has denied the motion to stay the judgment pending appeal.

So, unless a stay can be procured from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, you can get same-sex married in California beginning August 18th. Walker's opinion expresses doubt over whether there is standing to appeal, because the "state defendants" — the state's governor and attorney general — didn't oppose the stay. The remaining defendants, referred to in the opinion as "proponents" of Prop 8, may lack standing on their own to appeal. These defendants were permitted to intervene at the trial level, but that doesn't mean they have standing to carry the case forward to appeal. If the proponents can't get the state defendants to appeal, that may be the end of this case and Walker's opinion finding Prop 8 unconstitutional will be the last word in California. For now, the standing problem weighed against granting the stay pending appeal, because it undermined the likelihood of success on appeal.

Ben Smith at Politico stoops to using his blog to promote a "new, progressive group" that's hawking T-shirts and coffee mugs.

So embarrassing. Even if his dearest dream in life is to fuck the Tea Party, wouldn't he want to go about it in a slightly sophisticated way?

The deer and the mushrooms.

Encountered yesterday in Copper Falls State Park. This is not a petting zoo, but a path through a scenic river area. Note the massive railing along the edge of the path. The state of Wisconsin is apparently concerned that its citizens, out for a walk, will tumble over the precipice. The national government — as you can see here — is far less protective of its bumbling, stumbling citizens.


I have another video clip of me walking up to the deer and saying "Hi, sweetheart." Then, another woman walks up and says — to the deer — "Hi, baby." So this is how women talk to deer? If so, why didn't we at least say "Hi, dear"?

The tree spirit.


(Found yesterday near Morgan Falls.)

"The airlines have created a monster" — carry-on luggage.

Steven Slater — the mad-as-hell flight attendant — explains:
... the trouble began with the advent of the rolling bag. The worst year I recall was 1997, before the 1+1 limits came on, and before the airlines increased the overhead bin size. The 727. MD-80, and 757 were ridiculous...
We got a break after 9/11, in fact despite the challenges of those events, it became SO much easier to fly, for those of us who still HAD jobs, with the more stringent enforcement of policies. Now it is again a free for all.
Air travel is horrible, but if it was 9/11 that made us more docile and obedient, it's nice that we've got our old edge back. Not that I want to be crammed into a metal tube with you selfish bastards.

"If Hillary is going to be one heartbeat away from the Oval Office..."

"... would you want that to be your heartbeat?"

Shed a tear for the clown trapped in the place of no mirth.

The NYT does.
Cobwebbed by senseless rituals, speeches which no one listens to and rules that make it all but impossible to act on the will of the people, the Senate cries for more ridicule, decorum breaches and old-fashioned wit.
To get through that sentence you need to believe: 1. If only the Senate didn't require 60 votes for cloture, the bills that would pass would be what the people want, and 2. When the legislative process is dysfunctional, what you want is hilarity. Now, the column is about the Sad Clown of the Senate Al Franken, so we come to that sentence bearing another burden of credulity: that Al Franken is a rich source of wit and ridicule. As for decorum breaches... this is a different sort of mental obstacle for me. Under what circumstance is it good for an individual member of a legislative body to make himself an exception to the rules of decorum? Who does he think he is? He's not the star of a movie satirizing government. He's one of a group of equals who have taken on the public service of making laws.
... Little has changed since Mark Twain offered this assessment: “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
If Al Franken is such a wit, why are you quoting Mark Twain? Answer, via Mark Twain: Al Franken is an idiot.

Hmmm... would it breach decorum for me to say that Al Franken is a big, fat idiot?
... Absent any structural change, what the Senate badly needs is a jolt of humor, a clown to shame fellow members of the circus. More ridicule, more mirth under the spotlight to fight a mildewed sense of entitlement, could have the ironic effect of forcing senators to act like adults.
A clown to shame.... oh, yeah! You know the rich comic tradition of The Shaming Clown.

When mosquitoes come to the Althouse café...

... they always order elbows.

August 11, 2010

At the Big Rock Café...


... keep things afloat while we hit the road again.

Look! It's Rush and Elton John at the big wedding!

A lovely couple. Rush married a woman, though. Maybe next time. If he finds he really wants a Chevy... Camaro.

Percentage of Americans who think the U.S. should apologize to Japan for using nuclear bombs in WWII: 20.

Percentage of Americans who think the U.S. did the decision to drop the bombs was good: 59.


Meanwhile, in the Middle East....
What is ... likely, then, is that one day next spring, the Israeli national-security adviser, Uzi Arad, and the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, will simultaneously telephone their counterparts at the White House and the Pentagon, to inform them that their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has just ordered roughly one hundred F-15Es, F-16Is, F-16Cs, and other aircraft of the Israeli air force to fly east toward Iran—possibly by crossing Saudi Arabia, possibly by threading the border between Syria and Turkey, and possibly by traveling directly through Iraq’s airspace, though it is crowded with American aircraft....

In these conversations, which will be fraught, the Israelis will tell their American counterparts that they are taking this drastic step because a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people. The Israelis will also state that they believe they have a reasonable chance of delaying the Iranian nuclear program for at least three to five years. They will tell their American colleagues that Israel was left with no choice. They will not be asking for permission, because it will be too late to ask for permission.

"'I can't handle a Jaguar right now.' He said that many times. 'All I want is a Chevrolet.'"

The 2d of 3 of his wives quotes or purports to quote Newt Gingrich as he spoke to the minister who was — allegedly — brought in to counsel the couple through what turned out to be their crack up.
He asked her to just tolerate the affair, an offer she refused. He'd just returned from Erie, Pennsylvania, where he'd given a speech full of high sentiments about compassion and family values. The next night, they sat talking out on their back patio in Georgia. She said, "How do you give that speech and do what you're doing?"

"It doesn't matter what I do," he answered. "People need to hear what I have to say. There's no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn't matter what I live."
I got distracted at this point in writing this post by a little boy arguing passionately toward his mother who was walking away from him out of this café. I didn't catch what the argument was about, but I could tell from his tone and a few of the words that he was making an argument based on the kind of principles that constitutional lawyers use: liberty, equality, fairness. Like grammar, these principles are built into the human brain. Just as toddlers naturally learn to speak, they learn to use these concepts to argue for what they want. The lawyerly human little boy was perhaps 3 years old.

Anyway, you don't have to be much more than 3 to call bullshit on Newt. The things husbands say to their wives! (And wives to their husbands.) Laughably unprincipled assertions that you'd never inflict on anyone other than a spouse — these words will make a fool of you if they are ever quoted to the general public. And God help you if you're caught on audiotape: "I deserve to be blown fast! Before the fucking Jacuzzi!" Ha. That never gets old. Seriously, I think the phrase "Before the Jacuzzi!" should become a witty comeback that you use to mock your spouse when he (or she) makes an argument of the sort that is only used intra-marriage and that one would never even attempt to aim at someone who wasn't maritally bound to you. "Before the Jacuzzi" = You only think you can say something like that to a human being because that human being is your spouse.

"Stop following your non-rules."

= the only rule in the word game we were playing, as we distracted ourselves while hiking 7 miles over rough terrain.

Walking the bluffs.

Yesterday, we took the hiking path that snakes along the top of the bluffs where we'd kayaked the day before.


It was lovely...


... scary...

(Enlarge and see the expression on the guy's face.)

... and we watched our step...


"Is the 9/11 Mosque a Publicity Stunt?"

Asks David Frum. I got there via Hot Air. Hey! I wrote a post 3 days ago titled "Is the proposal to build a mosque near Ground Zero more political performance than reality?" I was bouncing off the same New York Post story that inspired Frum. Damn! I could have had a Hot Air link. But I decided not to publish my post, because, reading to the end of the story, I saw that although the would-be mosque-builders only owned one of the buildings needed for the project, they did have a lease and an option to purchase  the second building at its assessed value. That is, the path to acquiring the second building looked clear, assuming they could raise the money for the project. So raising the money for the project is the only real difficulty, which is the same thing we thought when it seemed that they already owned both buildings.

So is Frum seeing more than I saw or less?
The mosque developers are three Arab-American businessmen: Sharif and Sammy el-Gamal and Nour Moussa. They have a partner in Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Muslim writer and publicist who does most of the talking. But the money and credit pledged to the project belong to the company owned by Moussa and the el-Gamals, Soho Properties.

Soho Properties has paid some $5 million in cash to buy the Burlington Coat Factory building, a building that yields no income. They are paying rent to hold rights to the Con Ed building, which also yields no income. All of this in the midst of the worst commercial property slump in memory, in an area of New York with a very uncertain economic future....

You can see why the Gamal-Moussa team would be dazzled by the notion that philanthropists in the Persian Gulf might donate $100 million to raise a grand gleaming Islamic center in lower Manhattan. You can tuck a lot of development fees into a $100 million project. And if not a mosque … what else do you do with their two loser properties on Park Place?
Frum thinks the Gamal-Moussa businessmen really did originally intend to build condos, but that wasn't going to work, and they hooked up with Feisal Rauf believing he was the kind of guy who could connect them to guys in the Middle East who'd give them $100 million if they were buttered up in a suitably Islamic way. Is "publicity stunt" the right word for Frum's theory? It sounds more like he thinks it was a hare-brained real estate scheme.
$100 million is not so easily raised, not even in Abu Dhabi, not in the middle of a global commercial property slump, not with the Manhattan real estate market in a shambles. Believe it or not, rich people in the Persian Gulf are not yearning to plunge into a U.S. political controversy.
And, of course, the mosque will never be built. The idea that I tossed aside was different. I entertained the notion that the idea was to propose it in order to stir up the reaction that was, in fact, stirred up. Some Americans would be outraged, including a subgroup that would say anti-Muslism things, and some Americans would get passionate about freedom of religion and celebrating diversity. In this theory, the point was always and only to undermine American society by dividing us in two and touching off a terrible, endless fight between the two halves.  In this theory too, then, the mosque is never built. It's not that the business scheme fails, but that the proposal was itself the project, and the project succeeds.

Will the mosque be built?
No, because it's a business scheme that will fail.
No, because it was always only intended to produce a destructive debate.
No, because our protests will cause the developers to abandon the plan voluntarily.
No, because politicians or courts will find a way to stop it. free polls

"JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater emerges from jail, basks in new status as celebrity."

Americans, embrace the Celebrity of the Summer — the man who just couldn't take it anymore and got mad as hell. But please, do not attempt this path to celebrity. Everybody wants to be famous — except you, I know you, the reader who is about to post the indignant assertion that you don't want to be famous — and we can't have everybody freaking out all at once. That could get ugly. But Steven Slater, you have passed through the portal that separates ordinary life from the life of a celebrity. Dramatically, with the release of that jet plane escape slide, Slater has slid into our hearts.
JetBlue suspended Slater even as Facebook fans began raising money for his legal defense and demanding he get his job back.

He has quickly become a global sensation. MySpace photos of him posing on planes - one with a Bud Light in his hand - hit the Internet.
The linked Daily News article includes a poll, which is running strongly in Slater's favor, with only 17% of respondents picking the negative option. 9% would even like to see him on a TV reality show. And if you cast your eyes to the right-hand margin to the top-10 "Most Read" list, you'll find stories about Slater ranking at #1 ("Carry-ons were JetBlue flight attendant's biggest turnoffs"), #2 ("JetBlue flight attendant basks in celebrity status"), #3 ("JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater is the toast of the online community"), #6 ("Molloy: Flight attendant does what we dream of doing"), #7 ("Molloy: Slater isn't first to pull one-finger salute"), and #8 ("Move over Sully! Workers unite around Steven Slater").

So what does this say about us, that Slater is the man of the moment?

What's the main reason we Americans are so captivated by Slater?
We're angry too and we would love to find a vivid way to express it.
We too seek escape but lack the fascinating detail that is the escape slide.
We too are sick of elitist, entitled people like the passenger and love the working class hero.
We too have felt dehumanized on airplanes and he cried out for all of us.
We're bored and this is something different. free polls

August 10, 2010

Backing out of the Gitche Gumee grotto...

[Click for video.]

... we were, yesterday.

The gay bar next to the mosque next to Ground Zero.

Okay... but then what? It's an interesting progression, worthy of a standardized test.

What's next in the series that begins Ground Zero, mosque, gay bar...? Help me compose the multiple choice question options. When you've done that and identified the correct answer, compose a multiple choice question based on the new series of items. Continue in this fashion until you're ready to write an essay on why you think this conversation in the form of retaliatory expressive architecture has to end and how you propose to end it.

Sarah Palin and the teacher.

Here's your background reading. I just want to say that it's stupid as hell to say that someone working on the terrific musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is "a singer in a transvestite band." What tastes like red meat to some people mostly makes you look small-minded, nasty, and uninformed. And going after Kathleen Gustafson on the ground that she's "not a teacher" when she works in some capacity in a school is like going after "Joe the Plumber" because he wasn't a licensed plumber. What you've got, in both cases, is an ordinary citizen who encountered a politician in a way that yielded some viral video. That revealed whatever it revealed about the politician. Trashing the private citizen is mean-spirited and likely to backfire.

"'Krush' (Karl-as-Rush) was the palest simulacrum of a Rush Limbaugh."

Writes Tunku Varadarajan about Rove's guest-hosting on yesterday's show.

Oh, but no one can step in and imitate Rush. With the exception of Mark Steyn, all of Rush's guest-hosts mostly make you think about how much better Rush is and: When is Rush coming back? (Steyn does his own thing, and it's brilliant. I prefer him to Rush.)

It would have been foolish for Rove to go all bombastic and over-confident on his first radio show, so Varadarajan's criticism is lame:
Rove, by comparison [to Rush], is a lightweight. What we learned today is that he does not have the voice for radio. By that I mean not just that his timbre is too thin, his tenor too brittle, but also that he has little oratorical or rhetorical structure, and no apparent ability to cast a spell over listeners. 
Ha. He's from Austin, Texas. He sounds like a character from the movie "Slacker." I found that charming ... disarming. Rush gets a lot of his oratorical power from his self-conception as an outsider — actively excluded from the power-elite in Washington. Rove is the opposite — so self-restraint is good.
Reading his weekly column in The Wall Street Journal, one was already aware of the modesty of his mind. In fact, his column has done much to baffle many Americans: How on earth did this man become the dark genius of the liberal imagination? Listening to him riff on the radio, one was filled with retrospective alarm: Was this the mastermind in the Bush White House?
Oh, Tunku! Do you really imagine the President, in his confidential, private conversations, listening to a Limbaugh-like blowhard overwhelming him with a big rant? Try to imagine why Rove's style works in the context in which he was highly successful. Gentleness and friendly, quiet, sound advice... is it really such a puzzle?

Should Barack Obama do a VP upgrade?

Replace Biden with Hillary? What's that all about?
Pundits jumped on [Former Virginia Gov. Doug] Wilder's comments and expressed near-universal approval. On his syndicated national show, Chris Matthews of MSNBC assembled a panel to discuss the Wilder intervention. Howard Fineman of Newsweek, a longtime Hillary watcher, said Mrs. Clinton would accept a place on the 2012 ticket "in a second." John Heilemann, a reporter New York magazine, said the major obstacle would be to "figure out a way for Biden to slide aside happily" and suggested that Mr. Biden replace Mrs. Clinton as Secretary of State.

Along the way, Mr. Heilemann outlined why President Obama just might want to have a steadier hand at his side for his re-election campaign: "The Republican attack on Obama is going to revolve around 'too liberal,' but also 'too incompetent.' . . . They're going to say, 'Look, you hired this guy. He was too young for this job. He didn't know what he was doing. He didn't have the experience, and look what's happened.'"
Which is why he picked Biden the first time. All this disrespect for Biden! It's making me feel sorry for him. And it looks really desperate. And what's with this fretting about inexperience? When he runs for reelection, having been President for a few years, he'll have better experience than anyone. I don't understand why this Hillary for VP movement has any traction... unless the idea is to prevent her from going for President in 2012.

Is slum tourism bad?

It brings attention and money to the impoverished places around the world, but this NYT op-ed, by Kennedy Odede says it shouldn't be done.
I was 16 when I first saw a slum tour. I was outside my 100-square-foot house washing dishes, looking at the utensils with longing because I hadn’t eaten in two days. Suddenly a white woman was taking my picture. I felt like a tiger in a cage. Before I could say anything, she had moved on.

When I was 18, I founded an organization that provides education, health and economic services for Kibera residents. A documentary filmmaker from Greece was interviewing me about my work. As we made our way through the streets, we passed an old man defecating in public. The woman took out her video camera and said to her assistant, “Oh, look at that.”...

I once saw [a tour go] into the home of a young woman giving birth. They stood and watched as she screamed. Eventually the group continued on its tour, cameras loaded with images of a woman in pain.
Odede stacks the deck with these anecdotes about completely inappropriate photography. Rude tourists with cameras are a notorious problem in many contexts. I'm sure proponents of slum tourism would assert that they follow good rules for photography, or they could fix the existing tours by enforcing new photography rules.

So the question remains, is the tourism wrong apart from the bad photography? I think it is, but then, I am not the slightest bit tempted to travel like this.

I can't imagine thinking that I am a better, more engaged citizen of the world because I spend money and effort to go look at things in person that I am capable of learning about the way I would learn about history: by reading. If I can't understand and empathize by reading, that is my problem, and I'd be ashamed to try to solve that problem by imposing my physical presence on people who are suffering. 

Pee-Wee Herman at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.

"It's pretty surprising how popular Pee-wee is. I saw a great big burly biker with a Pee-wee doll."

Well, if he likes that doll so much, why doesn't he marry him?

August 9, 2010

At the Sea Caves Café...


... you can find a cozy alcove.

(Picture taken today at the Apostle Islands National Seashore. More pictures and details when I'm not so tired from paddling all day.)


"... can we entertain the hypothesis that his prior slutting around was actually essential to his performance?"

Asks Glenn Reynolds.

Here's what I said back in February, when he made his big "apology":
Deep down, what does he really believe? If I were writing a fictionalized version of his story, I'd have him believe that he is the greatest golfer of all time and that this grand stature authorizes him to do what fits his fabulous mind and body. People get to see the manifestation of that mind and body on the golf course and in those idealized advertisements, but outside of that he must do what has worked, and that means having the anchor of a beautiful family and the whole range of intense sexuality that belongs to him — because he is what he is. Now, he's been called to account by conventional minds and all those people who make money through him — the PGA, the sports networks, advertisers — and they are dragging him down to their mundane morality with no concern for what it took to build the superior mind and body that is Tiger Woods. He is cornered and contemptuous, but he must abase himself for these little people and act as though he agrees. The outrage!
And I said, maybe he needs to throw of the image his father impressed on him and be openly the man he really is, someone more like Hugh Hefner.

What was most essential to Tiger's performance that he's missing now?
Lots of dirty sex.
The love of his wife and stability of his family.
Being regarded as an icon of excellence, which he fed on since early boyhood.
That big, seemingly endless flow of money, from advertisers feeding on his image of excellence. free polls

"Would you like your right to free speech... put up to a vote and say well, if five states approved it, let’s wait till the other 45 states do?"

"Would you like Fox’s right to free press...? These are fundamental constitutional rights. The Bill of Rights guarantees Fox News and you, Chris Wallace, the right to speak. It’s in the constitution." 

Said Ted Olson.

Here's something Rush Limbaugh said in the middle of his monologue about the Prop 8 opinion:
The left uses issues such as gay marriage as battering rams to wreck the US Constitution and that's what's going on here. ...  Well, the Democrats who are cheering this ruling, overturning California's Prop 8, are not really cheering gay marriage.  They want gays to believe that they are.  They are cheering and they are giving standing ovations to this judge for weakening the US Constitution, for ripping it to shreds, because that is the objective of the American left....
The Constitution was written to deemphasize the power of federal governments.  Our Founders had fled tyranny.  They certainly didn't set up tyranny when they founded this country with the Constitution. But the left -- the Marxists, socialists, progressives, whatever you want to call them -- want tyranny and they want to be in charge of it.  The Constitution stands in their way.  So this judge is being cheered ostensibly for recognizing homophobia in the heterosexual community for thousands of years.

Thousands of years of discriminatory homophobia has led to gay people not being allowed to marry, and this judge (finally someone enlightened) has come along and seen it. Wrong.  They are cheering the fact that this judge has rammed the Constitution with a battering ram.  These are the same Democrats who have either remained silent or openly advocated the building of a mosque where Sharia law is the word of Allah at Ground Zero.  Now, Sharia law not only bans gay marriage, it bans gays. Permanently.  So why in the world would leftists who are cheering a judge who has just said that Prop 8, voted on by seven million Californians is unconstitutional because of decades -- generations, thousands of years -- of homophobia and discrimination practiced by heterosexuals...?
I like Rush enough to believe that when he got to this part of his monologue, he knew he'd become incoherent. If you don't want the majority's idea of morality imposed on everyone, you need individual rights that courts enforce against the will of the majority. The Constitution limits what can be imposed on individuals. It limits the federal government, and — with the 14th amendment — it limits the state.

At the Gas Tank Café...



... it's time to get tanked up.

Afternoon and evening light on the Apostle Islands.



August 8, 2010

"The annual contest... had been held since 1999."

"It will never be held again...."

"French nationality is earned, and one must prove oneself worthy of it."

"When you open fire on an agent of the forces of order, you’re no longer worthy of being French."

Said Sarkozy, getting tough.
He vowed to deny automatic citizenship at 18 to French-born children of foreigners if they are juvenile delinquents. He said he would also strip foreign-born citizens of French citizenship if they had been convicted of threatening or harming a police officer, or of crimes like polygamy and female circumcision, which are widespread in North Africa.

Acting Superior.


I'm being all Lake Superior today.

At the fish boil.

Traditional, Lake Superior style.




"Too many bills, hippies moving to the hills, people all over the world, are shouting..."

Motoring in northern Wisconsin.

I had this ideal of drawing the story of the day, the mundane stuff, as if it were a Twitter feed.

Even though there was no way to get it out.




It was actually Mel Taylor who had died, and here's the NYT article I drew myself reading. There was a Don Wilson in The Ventures, as I can figure out now. I mixed up the names. I guess my sketchbooks are full of errors of the kind the internet would save me from today.

Back then, I was fascinated by eyes...

... unmatched, surrealistic eyes.




"Rosie O'Donnell Reveals Motivation Behind Her Own Lesbian Wedding."

Memeorandum features this purported revelation from Brian Maloney.

Oh, spare me. Rosie was utterly clear at the time, as I blogged on February 27, 20042004!
"Vile and vicious and hateful." Rosie O'Donnell gives this reason for going to San Francisco to marry her female partner:
"We were both just trying to come here after the sitting president said the vile and vicious and hateful comments he did on Tuesday and inspired myself and my brand-new wife to fly here this morning."
Quite aside from how it sounds to cite hostility to President Bush as your reason to marry or, more specifically, whether the gay marriage cause is helped by presenting it as a political protest, is it really necessary to tar supporters of the Federal Marriage Amendment this way? It was only two years ago that O'Donnell first publicly said that she was gay. How fast can you expect social progress to take place? Only last summer, the Supreme Court withdrew the power to make homosexual sodomy a crime, and now, already, we are asked to think people are "vile and vicious and hateful" because they want to restrict marriage to different sex couples?...

Supporters of gay marriage would do well to show some understanding for the feelings and beliefs of the people they are trying to persuade. The sense of alarm about the proposed amendment is understandable, though unwarranted, but it is counterproductive to become overheated and engage in this kind of inflammatory rhetoric. The light of reason is on your side: why act as if you don't think it is?
By the same token, if you opponents of same-sex marriage believe the light of reason is on your side, why don't you act as if you think it is and leave Rosie O'Donnell out of it.

"Weigel v. Kaus Detwitterfied."

When something interesting happened on Twitter, can you save it from oblivion? Mickey Kaus tries, but it's a tedious tangle of terseness. Twitter is the Memory Hole and you don't want to stick your arm down there.

"The pain becomes early if it puts it in the plastic bag etc."

"Garbage of an egg to a trash box."

"She always says she dislikes the abnormal, it is so obvious."

"She says the normal is so much more simply complicated and interesting."

Gertrude Stein, writing about herself in the 3rd person.

Part 2 in a continuing series of blog posts made from passages I marked in books I read long ago.

On rare occasions, I drew a comic strip...

... back in the 90s, when I was obsessed with drawing in sketchbooks. This one had some basis in reality:




I was fascinated by the bloated mugs of ugly blowhards.



I can't remember who that character was, but I drew that, from the TV, in the mid-90s.

I used to draw the news.

In the mid-90s, in the days before blogging, when I had only a marginal interest in the news, I'd watch TV, draw, and jot down disembodied phrases that amused me. Here's a good example of the sort of thing I did back then:



I have no idea now what these politicians were talking about, and, apparently, I had the same feeling of distance back then.