November 13, 2010

Out on the new mile of the Ice Age Trail.

Near the Merrimac ferry across the Wisconsin River, just north of Lodi. A view:


A bench:


Another bench, with a nice footrest:


"How do you like to go up in a swing/Up in the air so blue?"

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside--

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown--
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!
"The Swing," by Robert Louis Stevenson...

... from "A Child's Garden of Verses." I've known that poem by heart as long as I've known... anything.

Stevenson was born 160 years ago today, something I learned after noticing the Google-doodle, which is completely pirate- and not swing-oriented.

Bonus Stevenson material:

"[T]here was some confusion as to what book young Obama was writing."

"His publisher thought he was writing about race relations. His employer thought he was writing about voting rights law. But Obama seems to have never seriously considered either subject. Instead, he decided that his subject would be himself. The 32-year-old was writing a memoir."

Jonathan V. Last writes in  The Weekly Standard:
Obama came clean to the university first. He waited until his fellowship was halfway over—perhaps he was concerned that his employers might not like the bait-and-switch. He needn’t have worried. [Douglas Baird, the head of Chicago’s appointments committee] still hoped that Obama would eventually join the university’s faculty...

And it all worked out in the end. The book Obama eventually finished was Dreams from My Father. It didn’t do well initially, but nine years later, after his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention made him a star, it sold like gangbusters. Obama got rich. And famous. The book became the springboard for his career in national politics.

Only it didn’t quite work out for everybody. Obama left the University of Chicago... Simon & Schuster, which had taken a chance on an unproven young writer, got burned for a few thousand bucks. And Jane Dystel, who’d plucked him out of the pages of the New York Times and got him the deal to write the book that sped his political rise? As soon as Obama was ready to negotiate the contract for his second book—the big-money payday—he dumped her and replaced her with super-agent Robert Barnett.

"President Obama is coming home from his overseas trip pretty much empty-handed."

"After watching his party take a beating in the midterm elections, Obama wasn't able to secure even a symbolic victory on a trip that was expected to give him plenty of opportunities to claim a win.... Obama's inauspicious 10-day, four-nation trip included a failure to land an anticipated slam dunk free trade agreement with South Korea."

At the River View Café...


... there's a subtle color.

ADDED: Video by Meade:

A blogger photography genre: Food I cooked that I delusionally believe looks delicious.

I know I have to give an example of what I'm talking about. So... here.

I'm shocked, shocked to learn that semi-clad models are writhing in the law library!

"... Brooklyn Law School officials rented Diesel its library expecting a tasteful photo shoot for a jeans ad -- but what they got was a steamy display of writhing young models in skimpy lingerie grinding against books and computers."

Wait. Why did they expect a tasteful photo shoot?
"It's gross. I work on those computers every day!" fumed a female student, referring to a shot showing two bra- and panty-clad women climbing over the machines toward an open-mouthed man....

The frisky photos, shot last spring, show off the hot bodies of male and female models as they prowl around the library's floors, tables and bookshelves -- while wearing tight-fitting panties bearing various seductive messages.
If the law school — I emphasize law school — did not impose restrictions when it took Diesel's money then it has nothing to complain about.
"We are as shocked and mortified as you must be by these photographs," interim dean Michael Gerber wrote in an e-mail yesterday to students, faculty and staff.
"When the school gave its permission to do the shoot, the school was assured that the photos would be in good taste. They are not."
"Assured" "good taste" — that's not specific enough to make me believe Diesel violated a contractual term. The school took Diesel's money and had to know that any advertising for clothing for young adults is likely to involve some display of sexuality. Especially if the scene is a library. That's what I'd expect.

What exactly was the school assured of? The models aren't naked. They've got on underwear. And what is even so gross and shocking about this? Man, Diesel is getting way more great publicity than its stupid underpants deserve. Where did this controversy really start? I'm inclined to suspect that the administration is only shocked* after the fact and only because some students have managed to create the impression that the school might be accused of contributing to a "hostile environment" form of sexual harassment.

As for the young woman who is grossed out that a model in panties writhed in the vicinity of a computer she uses... do you realize how many people type on those things with hands they didn't wash after they went to the bathroom?



"High-speed rail may be among the casualties of last week's midterm elections."

Says NPR and I rejoice.
The moves to oppose the Obama administration's efforts to get high-speed trains whisking through some parts of the country appear to be the first of many fights between Democrats and newly elected Republicans who campaigned on promises to rein in spending....
High-speed trains whisking...
... dreams of fast trains full of passengers zooming through the Midwest....
Whisking, zooming choo-choos are not our dream. Now leave us alone. We drive cars. Face reality.

How can they take away the mortgage interest deduction?

It's one of the deficit commission's proposals:
“The mortgage interest deduction is one of the pillars of our national housing policy,” said Michael D. Berman, chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association. “Limiting its use will have negative repercussions for consumers and home values up and down the housing chain.”...
[O]nly those in the top third of wage earners even itemized their deductions, meaning that two-thirds of taxpayers weren’t eligible for the break.

“No one can make a serious intellectual argument in favor of the mortgage interest deduction,” [said Calvin Johnson, a tax professor at the University of Texas]. “Why should the government subsidize homeowners rather than renters? The only thing it’s good for is middle-class votes.”
Then why did "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blast[] the commission’s suggestions, saying it would force middle-class homeowners to subsidize tax breaks for the wealthy"? I guess there are a lot of "middle class" people in the top third of taxpayers.

It's a complex policy question, and since there are other, offsetting tax breaks, it's hard to see who will be hurt the most. But generally, isn't it fairer to have lower tax rates than a bunch of deductions? With deductions, they only help if they're more than the standard deduction and if you do the thing the government has decided to favor.

Wouldn't it be better if you made housing decisions — rent or buy, big or small — without the government adding weight to one side? But if you've already bought a house, and the government's encouragement factored into your decision, you might feel cheated if they take that deduction away. Of course, the government always had the power to take the deduction away, and there's always the argument that you should have factored that in when you made your decision.

But that argument is going to piss people off unless they can remain calm long enough to see that a lowering of the tax rates more than offsets the bottom-line value of their deduction. But is that true? Does anyone know?

November 12, 2010

Who should be TIME's Person of the Year?

Here's a list. They are taking votes. Inanely, Lady Gaga is in first place by a lot. I'm going to say Nancy Pelosi.

The Supreme Court leaves Don't Ask Don't Tell in place — with Kagan not participating.

The 9th Circuit stay on the order ending DADT will keep the policy in effect pending appeal. There were no dissenting opinions, and, most interestingly Justice Kagan did not participate:
While it was not a surprise that Justice Kagan had opted not to take part in the order, that was nevertheless a significant development.  It raised the prospect that, when the constitutional challenge reached the Supreme Court, the Justices might split 4-4 on it; that is always a risk when only eight Justices are taking part and the issue is a deeply controversial one.  Should the Ninth Circuit Court upheld [sic] the policy, that result would simply be affirmed; without an opinion, if the Justices were actually to divide 4-4 in reaction to it....

If it should turn out that Congress does not repeal the policy, despite the requests by President Obama and some of the Pentagon’s top civilian and uniformed officers, the constitutional challenge in the Log Cabin Republicans’ case would be the only potential way to end the policy, at least for several more years.

"Can you imagine what little Zoes would have to endure on the playground, and even worse..."

"... when they get a little bit older and someone comes up to them in a bar and says, ‘Can I see your airbags?' or ‘Can I shine your bumper?'"

A French lawyer tries to get a court to prevent Renault from naming a new car model "Zoe." He loses, but the very idea of bringing such a suit makes you stop and wonder about France:
France is known for taking first names seriously, even going so far as to block parents from giving children ridiculous names if officials deem it detrimental to their future.
(Via Above the Law.)

"A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind."

"The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost."

A report of another one of those "happiness" studies. If unhappiness correlates with a wandering mind, is it because a wandering mind makes you unhappy or because it's when you're unhappy with what you're doing that you think about doing something else?

"Actually, I find it useful to contemplate my white privileges..."

"... and any other privileges into which I was born, like being a citizen of the richest country on earth, and did not obtain for myself," says Roy Edroso.
In fact, when I was growing up, it was customary for adults to remind children of such luck as they had inherited, like the food we had and "people starving in other countries" didn't. This was meant as a spur to gratitude and humility, and to not being such a whining little shit.
He's reacting to a program that in which government officials are prodding adult citizens to think about how privileged they are. The analogy to a parent-child relationship comes so easily to the left-wing mind.

And what kind of families — back in the olden days — encouraged their kids to think about how lucky they were to be white? Only racist parents would have said anything like that. Kindly parents back then had a simple message for their kids on the subject of race: There is only one race, the human race. It wasn't hard for them to figure out that that was the right thing to say, and it wasn't at all hard for kids to understand it.

Argument by nostalgia is highly manipulable.

Talking Points Memo turns 10.

"The post was about Ted Olson making his debut as the chief Bush lawyer in the emerging Florida Recount battle."

Yes, it's also the 10-year anniversary of the big Florida recount. I wish I'd been blogging then! It would have been so much fun to write about that every step of the way. I'd have liked to show you in real time that I really wanted my guy, Al Gore, to win, and I also accepted nearly everything the Supreme Court did in the complicated litigation over the recount. But there are so many missed blogging opportunities in the past. I'd have loved to have blogged the Clinton scandals too. And the Clarence Thomas hearings. The Bork hearings.

Here's that first TPM post:
As if things couldn't get any weirder, did you notice the name of the lawyer who made the Republicans' unsuccessful arguments before that federal judge today? That would be Ted Olson, a man Washingtonians often refer to as a 'Washington super-lawyer.' Who is Ted Olson? Well, that would be the same one knee-deep in the Arkansas Project, which in league with the American Spectator spent a ton of money digging dirt on Bill Clinton in Arkansas....
Well, now, isn't that weird? I just blogged this morning about that Think Progress blogger who confronted Justice Alito and he was going on about the Arkansas Project:
Last night, the American Spectator — a right-wing magazine known for its role in the “Arkansas Project,” a well-funded effort to invent stories with the goal of eventually impeaching President Clinton — held its annual gala fundraising event....
That first TPM post wove Justice Scalia into its conspiracy-ish riff:
Of course, Olson... is also the Olson from Morrison v. Olson, the supreme court case which upheld the constitutinality of the Independent Counsel statute. Olson was against it. Come to think of it, we Dems now think he and Scalia were right. So maybe chalk one up in his favor.
So that's how TPM first talked about law. Yikes. Spelled "constitutionality" wrong too.

I'm going to start reading the lefty blogs more and writing about them, I think. I'm interested in the way they string ideas together, and I think they need some more push back.

Do you want me to write more about lefty blogs?
No. Don't give them traffic.
No. I don't care what they say.
Yes. They need monitoring and criticism.
Yes. Broaden your view and see what happens.
Eh. Not sure. Depends on how sharp and funny you make it. free polls

Are Cindy and John McCain in a serious marital breakdown over Don't Ask Don't Tell?

John Aravosis says:
John McCain is leading the filibuster against the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" "repeal" legislation in the Senate (it's not an actual repeal, but we'll leave that for another time). Today, Cindy McCain joined a number of celebrities in a video about gay youth suicide and bullying. Mrs. McCain's part of the video condemned DADT and then accused our government of sending bullies a message that what they do is okay.

The woman basically accused her husband of sharing the blame for gay kids killing themselves.

I'm astonished. And impressed as hell.
Husband-wife teams work like that sometimes. It's not really evidence of a marital breakdown or even necessarily a real conflict at all. Try this exercise: Begin with the assumption that they are a partnership. Now, explain their behavior. Do you see how it makes sense? I sure do.

Robert Downey Jr. is Mr. Peanut.

Great! I've always loved Robert Downey Jr. and Mr. Peanut:

But why is the nutcracker named "Richard"?

Background on Mr. Peanut:"Mr. Peanut was created in 1916 after Planters Peanuts held a contest to create a logo and a 14-year-old boy drew a nut with human features." I'd really like to see the original drawing. According to Wikipedia, the boy (Antonio Gentile) just drew a some sort of man-peanut — and "an artist later added spats, a top hat, a monocle, and a cane." So... did the boy's drawing have the gloves? The unfailingly optimistic smile?

"Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito Dismisses His Profligate Right-Wing Fundraising As ‘Not Important.'"

Think Progress blogger Lee Fang confronts Justice Alito. Later, recording video, he yells at him and is threatened with arrest.

November 11, 2010

"We liked it that the name carried no image of masculinity, that it would free him from all preconceptions and let people see him as unique."

A comment that (supposedly) exemplifies a trend.

Bush says "damn right" he approved of the waterboarding of 3 detainees and he'd do it again — and the American people approve.

Overwhelmingly. Mostly silently. To the distress of the small sliver of the population that includes Dahlia Lithwick.

Tina Brown.


"Top Tweets: Jonah Goldberg Rides a Plane Edition."

Well tweeted, I'd say.

"The Top 100 Influential Figures in American History."

I'm going to click through all this, beginning with Herman Melville at #100 — he's "the American Shakespeare." Come with me. #99 is Nixon! Why's Nixon only 99? I know. He's ugly. And we hate him. Have to click to 86 to get to the first woman. It's Mary Baker Eddy, who, of course, influenced health care reform. Another lady at 81. It's Margaret Mead, famous for being had by 3d world pranksters. Nothing more American than that. A woman at 77: Betty Friedan. I never read her book. I thought it was for my parents' generation. My — my my my — generation transcended sex roles. We were star dust, we were golden.

Frank Lloyd Wright is 76. Architects may come and architects may go, and never change your point of view. Not Frank. He'd sock you in the head with a low-hanging roof as soon as look at you. He was from Wisconsin. That's important. So was Georgia O'Keeffe, who might be on this list. She's a woman, you know. 20 bonus points for being a woman? Here's Jane Addams at 64. Another woman. And I, your humble female blogger, would like to register a complaint against my high school speech teacher who rejected my proposal to do a speech on the topic of Jane Addams. He said she wasn't important enough. I used to want to be a social worker.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. is 53. The only judge so far. Another woman at 51: Margaret Sanger. (A "thoroughgoing racist" says Jonah Goldberg.) Not too many Presidents. After Nixon, you have to wait until #44 for another President. It's Lyndon Johnson. I call him "LBJ." Works better in rhyming chants. LOL! It's Eleanor Roosevelt at #42. "She used the first lady’s office and the mass media to become 'first lady of the world.'" Women playing the media to focus attention on themselves. Yeah, I guess that's a big deal in American culture. She's responsible for that? All right then. 

Harriet Beecher Stowe. #41. The power of novels. Rachel Carson is #39. She saved the eagles... and the mosquitoes. Susan B. Anthony is 38. Elizabeth Cady Stanton is #30. Women's rights. Earl Warren is 29. A second judge. Eisenhower is 28. A third President. Eli Whitney deserves to be 27: "His gin made cotton king and sustained an empire for slavery."

John Adams at 25? Come on? Is HBO/David McCullough the arbiter of history? But yeah, he was President. Truman is 21. A 5th President. Man, get a David McCullough biography about you to cement your historical importance. Andrew Jackson is 18. A 6th President. Reagan's 17. That's 7. Theodore Roosevelt is 15. The 8th Prez on the list, and the 2d of what I predict will be 3 Roosevelts. James Madison is 13. The 9th President, a Founding Father. Ulysses S. Grant gets to be 12. A 10th Prez. And he won the war. Woodrow Wilson is #10 and the 11th President on the list. Martin Luther King Jr. is only #8. John Marshall is #7, the 3d judge. Ben Franklin is 6, deservedly. Another Founder at 5: Alexander Hamilton. FDR snags #4 and is the 12th President on the list. Jefferson is #3, so you know who ##1 and 2 are. And Lincoln beats Washington for the top spot. A total of 15 Presidents.

The final count for women was 10. 10 out of 100. (I think.) Fair enough. I'm not going to say there should have been more. If they'd counted femaleness as a plus factor, they'd have had to "plus-factor" a lot of other groups, and they didn't. Not one Native American?! That's politically incorrect.

ADDED: Actually there were a couple more Presidents, Polk and John Quincy Adams. I'm noticing this leaning over Meade's shoulder as he clicks through. Sorry. My effort was studiously haphazard.

"A cruise is bad enough -- locked aboard a floating death-trap with people -- other people! -- with no means of escape."

"And then the ship stops. And the toilets stop working. And everything stinks like a sewer, which is a nice smell to smell when you're already possibly sea-sick. And then, worst of all, you find out that you're surrounded by magicians. What could be worse than a no-way-out floating sewage-smelling magician convention?"

On the up side, consider that people who go on a cruise are people who go on a cruise. How sensitive can they be?

Dino De Laurentiis, "the high-flying Italian film producer," has died.

He was 91. His name is attached to some of the greatest films ever — notably "La Strada" and "Nights of Cabiria" — and some all-out trashy pop entertainment — like "Bararella" and "Mandingo."

Here's a list of his 166 movies. How many of them have you seen? I've got to say I've managed to steer clear of de Laurentiis films. Other than "La Strada" and "Nights of Cabiria" — 2 of my favorite films, directed by Fellini — the only one I've seen — and we watched it for a laugh — is "Conan the Barbarian."

I never saw the de Laurentiis remake of "King Kong," which was filmed in New York City in 1976. I was living there then, and I remember the open invitation to anyone to come down to Lower Manhattan to be in the crowd scene. I considered going but didn't. I read this article in the NYT on June 22, 1976:
Drawn by 1930's nostalgia and 1976 excitement, a horrified crowd of more than 5,000 New Yorkers surged past police lines at the World Trade Center last night on cue and fought its way to the spot where a giant gorilla lay dead after a 110-story fall from the North Tower.

The ape, constructed of styrofoam covered with horse hair and bleeding a mixture of Karo syrup and vegetable coloring was of course King Kong, the resurrected star of the 1933 thriller being remade by Dino de Laurentiis.
Ah! The unreachable past! When the the death was fake and not even human. What absurd fun we had!
The extras cheered when a technician climbed on the chest of the fallen 40-foot ape to replenish its oozing "blood."

"I'm a female in the entertainment business who has been working 48 years consistently. My stage is my safe place."

"It doesn't scare me, like I guess it scares some people. And I knew that if I didn't get back on stage that I may never get back on stage."

Marie Osmond goes on "Oprah" to talk about her son's suicide and the "calculated decision" she made to go back to work 2 weeks later. It's not that the death didn't have a big impact on her. Please understand. She's "unique," she tells us, and that suicide was "probably the hardest thing I've been through."

USA Today, reporting these quotes, uses that last quote in its headline and sensitively omits the word "probably."

"Who is this woman, this fruit bat in fleece and Gore-Tex, clenching the side of the rock face above a glacier..."

"... screaming 'Tahhd! Tahhd!' at her husband, piercing the tranquillity of the Alaskan paradise?"

The Washington Post staff writer — Hank Stuever — doesn't know what to make of Sarah Palin's reality show.
You're flipping channels and you randomly land on "Sarah Palin's Alaska"... It's a show about . . . hmmm.

About a busy mom with a sporty husband. Their many offspring run from a soldier son in his 20s down to a mentally disabled adorable toddler and an unexpected grandson with curly blond hair. But quick enough it seems to be a show about a woman who fancies herself as something of a nature enthusiast who wants to take advantage of the short-but-sweet Alaskan summer. So is it about the li'l town where she lives? Is it about flowers and birdies and double rainbows? Is it like "Northern Exposure" meets "An American Family?"

You still don't know....
Stuever is imagining "you" flipping channels and arriving at this show, but for "you" to have this reaction, "you" would need not to recognize the celebrity or the celebrity-at-home genre of reality show. Maybe 10 years ago, this hapless "you" would have puzzled over a show like that, back before "The Osbournes" was the next big thing. But now? Come on, "you" is dumb!

(Mumbled "fuck" warning.)

“Obama Twists Own Arm, Says ‘Uncle’ to Extending Bush Tax Cuts.”

A lefty blogger response.

A lawprof puts it more haughtily...
"Obama caving on the high income tax-cut issue guarantees that he will attract an intra-party opponent from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party... The White House misreads the mood of the country. Tea partiers do not reflect that mood. Independents and Democrats disenchanted with Obama’s lack of conviction do."
... and more delusionally.

November 10, 2010

At the Pink Leaf Café...


... don't be a paleface fink.

Why do the Dems win all the close races nowadays? It's uncanny!

"Am I crazy to think that close elections—the ones that are separated by a mere hundreds of votes, that go into overtime and threatened recounts well past Election Eve—almost always are won by the Democrat these days?"

Crossing the pedestrian bridge the other day...

... I happened to catch a combat scene.

"OK, let’s say goodbye to the deficit commission," says Paul Krugman.

"If you’re sincerely worried about the US fiscal future — and there’s good reason to be — you don’t propose a plan that involves large cuts in income taxes. Even if those cuts are offset by supposed elimination of tax breaks elsewhere, balancing the budget is hard enough without giving out a lot of goodies — goodies that fairly obviously, even without having the details, would go largely to the very affluent."

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood leans on 2 new GOP governors about the high-speed rail project.

This is about our new Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, and the new Ohio Governor John Kasich. La Hood says — understandably — that the stimulus money for high-speed rail can't be used for other things. Walker and Kasich — understandably — are fighting to keep the money and put it into highway construction and that sort of thing.

Bush on Harriet Miers, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito.

Jan Crawford finds the stuff about Supreme Court nominations in Bush's book, "Decision Points":
"While I know Harriet would have made a fine justice, I didn't think enough about how the selection would be perceived by others," Mr. Bush writes. "I put my friend in an impossible situation. If I had to do it over again, I would not have thrown Harriet to the wolves of Washington."...

--After he tapped Roberts for chief justice when William Rehnquist died, he only considered women candidates to replace O'Connor. "I didn't like the idea of the Supreme Court having only one woman."
But Roberts was originally picked for the O'Connor position.  The idea of appointing a woman, then, didn't matter all that much.
--There were "frustrating roadblocks" for most of the women candidates. When several senators said they were impressed by Miers, he concluded "she would make an outstanding justice." Miers was "shocked" when he asked if she was interested.

--No one in the White House ever suggested conservatives would revolt over her nomination. Bush suggests the opposition was elitist because Miers didn't go to an Ivy League school and "is not glib."
In addition to Miers, Bush says he considered Patricia Owen, but he thought Miers would be easier to confirm. After all the trouble with Miers, he switched to Alito, who, he writes, was "ill at ease" with Bush at first. Bush relaxed him by talking about baseball.

Bush says wanted to avoid appointing another Souter — Souter, who disappointed Bush's father, by "evolv[ing] into a different kind of judge."
--Roberts was not the unanimous choice. Vice President Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales backed Judge Mike Luttig. Miers supported Alito. Chief of Staff Andy Card and adviser Karl Rove favored Roberts. (Which means J. Harvie Wilkinson and Edith Brown Clement, the other two contenders early on, didn't have prominent backers.)

--Brett Kavanaugh, now a federal appeals court judge, told Bush Luttig, Alito and Roberts would all be solid justices. He suggested Bush ask a "tiebreaker question" of which man would be the most effective leader. To Bush, that was Roberts.
It seems that Roberts has a special appeal to Bush, who liked his "gentle soul" and "quick smile."

In case you don't understand what death is.

The government is here to help.

How misspelled can a write-in vote for Murkowski be before it shouldn't be counted at all?

Joe Miller is arguing for 100% correct spelling.
Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell, who oversees Alaska elections, has indicated that he will accept minor misspellings of Murkowski's name as long as the "voter intent" is clear.
Intent of the voter. Ah! That brings back delightful memories of the Bush v. Gore recount.

Miller is overdoing it. Clearly, they've got to count stuff like "Murakowski" and "Murkowsky" and "Murcowski" and even "Mercowsky." But where's the line? What about "Merssky"? Or "Murk."? What about "Lisa"? That's dimpled chad territory, no?

ADDED: A poll:

How strictly would you judge the write-ins?
Miller's right. The spelling must be perfect.
It must be phonetically accurate or only 1 or 2 letters off.
If you can tell it was meant as a vote for Murkowski, it should count. free polls

After the break, a second poll:

"I wasn't gonna punch back because, again, I think the office of the presidency is precious."

George Bush, speaking to Rush Limbaugh — transcript, audio — consistently expressed the idea that a President should handle himself with dignity and concentrate on doing what he thinks is right:

"He's ethnic but nonthreateningly ethnic — and so this is the Obama thing again."

John McWhorter, musing about the presidential potential of Marco Rubio.

(Via Insta.)

We Didn't Start the Fire....

ADDED: Lyrics here.

It wasn't a missile.

Says the Defense Department. But what was it? An illusion?

November 9, 2010

At the Sidewalk Café...

... you might have to step aside for the beast.

Bush: "I had to endorse [McCain]. But I’d have endorsed Obama if they’d asked me."

I get it.

I totally get it.

"I tried to prevent (being touched) with my hands but Mrs. Michelle held her hands too far toward me (so) we touched."

What difference does it make if he's lying? He's despicable however you look at it.

A 45-year-old woman in Pakistan is sentenced to death for blasphemy.

This happened in the world we live in now:
[S]he had been working as a farmhand in fields with other women, when she was asked to fetch drinking water.

Some of the other women – all Muslims – refused to drink the water as it had been brought by a Christian and was therefore "unclean"...

The incident was forgotten until a few days later when [Asia] Bibi said she was set upon by a mob. The police were called and took her to a police station for her own safety.

Shahzad Kamran, of the Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan, said: "The police were under pressure from this Muslim mob, including clerics, asking for Asia to be killed because she had spoken ill of the Prophet Mohammed.

"So after the police saved her life they then registered a blasphemy case against her." He added that she had been held in isolation for more than a year before being sentenced to death on Monday.

Nothing but wrong numbers.

ADDED: "Mary Ellen, here's your plates. Now stop calling, please, Daddy's busy."

"The tumour that will destroy me is in the proximity of my speech area. But I am also a word-earner."

Says the art critic Tom Lubbock:
I have been doing this all my life as an adult. And I still survive as a language-user – speaking, listening, reading, writing – over the past two years. Or, rather, I survive in fluctuating ways....

I'm no longer fluent. I've forgotten how to do it. I can't do it automatically. I can't hear whether a word that I say has come out right or not. It's as if it's not me that's speaking, but some kind of inefficient proxy forming the words. It's like there is a time-delay between speaking and hearing your own words, or if you were speaking a language whose phonetics and semantics you don't properly know. And when I speak or write, the words do sometimes come out wrong, slightly nonsensically. 
Ah! The decline! But it is not the saddest decline — this painless fade-out.  If this happened to me, I believe — I hope — I would write my way through to the end, like this. Would you not embrace the end of life as a writer and crumple, visibly, into the diminishment of your powers?

"A gigantic belch from the black hole known to reside, like Jabba the Hutt, at the center of the Milky Way."

Something is happening at the center of the galaxy, and they don’t know what it is.

"He asked if he could be a part of our religion for a day, just so he could see my face, just so he could go back (to the police station) and say, 'no it wasn't Elizabeth Smart.'"

Elizabeth Smart testified about the time a police officer, deferential to religion, missed saving her.

The after-class walk, via Bascom Hill to Observatory.





HuffPo introduces a divorce section.

Collecting lots of news and opinion about divorce. Is that wrong?

It's something Arianna cooked up with Alessandra and Nora:
One morning, [NYT tv critic Alessandra Stanley] and I headed off on a long walk down the beach, and we ended up talking a lot about our divorces.
Two divorced women went out walking, and what do you think they talked about? Philosophy?
When we got back to Nora [Ephron]'s, we recounted some of our conversation, at which point she told us that she had actually been thinking that HuffPost's next section should be devoted to all things divorce.

Over breakfast, Nora came up with the tag line for the section -- "Marriage comes and goes but divorce is forever" -- and Alessandra offered up what has become our inaugural divorce aphorism (the first in a series): "His happiness is a small price to pay for my freedom!" As Nora says, "far too much attention is paid to aphorisms about falling in love and not nearly enough to those about falling out of love."
So, a divorce section, eh? How long do you think they will be able to stick with it?

Lisa Birnbach says:
Whatever happened to sticking it out? That's what most people did in the 20th century, if they found themselves less than happily married. Preppy couples were discreet, especially if there were children involved.
And blah blah blah endlessly, about your divorce. Or maybe not endlessly. Maybe pack it in when it doesn't seem so amusing anymore.

Sarah Palin says: "Just dominate! Just take over!"

And I've been practicing how to stick my tongue out in the middle of the word "scandalous":

(As for the crappiness of the video, deal with it.)

According to Bush, Abu Zabeta wanted all "the brothers" to be waterboarded until they broke so they, like him, would get "the chance to be able to fulfill their duty."

I think this is the most interesting thing George Bush said in the interview with Matt Lauer that aired on NBC last night. The topic was waterboarding, which Bush said he believed was legal "because the lawyer said it was legal." The technique was used to get information from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who, they had good reason to think, had valuable information, it worked to "save lives," and his job was "to protect America and I did." Then Matt Lauer brought up "another guy you write about in the book, Abu Zabeta, another high profile terror suspect":
LAUER: He was waterboarded. By the way, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, according to most reports, 183 times. This guy was waterboarded more than 80 times. And you explain that his understanding of Islam was that he had to resist interrogation up to a certain point and waterboarding was the technique that allowed him to reach that threshold and fulfill his religious duty and then cooperate. And you have a quote from him. "You must do this for all the brothers." End quote.

BUSH: Yeah. Isn't that interesting?

LAUER: Abu Zabeta really went to someone and said, "You should waterboard all the brothers?"

BUSH: He didn't say that. He said, "You should give brothers the chance to be able to fulfill their duty." I don't recall him saying you should water-- I think it's-- I think it's an assumption in your case.

LAUER: Yeah, I-- when "You must do this for--"

BUSH: But…

LAUER: …"All the brothers." So to let them get to that threshold?

BUSH: Yeah, that's what-- that's how I interpreted.
What do you think really happened? Was Abu Zabeta's quote fabricated? Was it real, but some kind of sarcastic taunt? Perhaps it was his way to justify himself, after he'd caved to pressure, by saying that under his principles, he'd done his duty. Bush seems to interpret it to mean that the detainees would appreciate being waterboarded until they broke so they could fulfill their duty.

That got me thinking about John McCain. This is from his 2008 speech accepting the GOP nomination:
A lot of prisoners had it worse than I did. I'd been mistreated before, but not as badly as others. I always liked to strut a little after I'd been roughed up to show the other guys I was tough enough to take it. But after I turned down their offer, they worked me over harder than they ever had before. For a long time. And they broke me.

When they brought me back to my cell, I was hurt and ashamed, and I didn't know how I could face my fellow prisoners. The good man in the cell next door, my friend Bob Craner, saved me. Through taps on a wall he told me I had fought as hard as I could. No man can always stand alone. And then he told me to get back up and fight again for our country and for the men I had the honor to serve with. Because every day they fought for me.

I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency; for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn't my own man anymore. I was my country's.
No one would wish to be tortured/subjected to enhanced interrogation, but, after the fact, human beings find ways to process the experience. It's generally known — isn't it? — that at some point everyone breaks, and the standard answer to the shame of breaking is that you held out as long as you could. Both Abu Zabeta and John McCain understood their experience that way. I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's. How much of the rest of McCain's thoughts were mirrored in the mind of Abu Zabeta?

"Olbermann's back."

"Yeah, I know. What a lame PR stunt. MSNBC wanted get in on some of that Juan Williams action."

(Dialogue at Meadhouse just now.)

Bush's book is #1.

Buy it!

ADDED: Bush is on "Oprah" today, you know. I've got my DVR set. And he's on Rush Limbaugh right now.

"People have been seeing too many Blaxploitation movies and kind of enjoyed Shaft..."

"... and they like the idea of this true black man... getting angry on television."

Why do people want Barack Obama to get angry? Do they? I guess the lefties do. If only he'd fight harder to make people see things his way and just force his will on us. I think the conservatives get off the hook for that particular version of racism.

"I'm going to have my fun and later I'll issue my apology."

That's my contribution to the new montage over at Bloggingheads. I'm just after the 4 minute mark if you're impatient. Here's the original context, where my remark appears just after the 1:40 mark.

"Barry, who was chubby, was referred to as the 'boy who runs like a duck,' said Mrs. Satjakoesoemah, 69."

A quote surfaces, as Barry returns to his childhood home, Jakarta, Indonesia. Barry is now Barack, Barack Obama, President of the United States. He's married to Michelle, who has made it her mission to deal with America's fat little boys who run like ducks.

November 8, 2010

At the Blue Spoon Café...


... dig in.

She had a good feeling about it.

That's all.

"If Manchin, Nelson and Lieberman switched, it would leave the Senate in a 50-50 deadlock."

"Republicans believe Manchin is particularly susceptible to the overture because he is up for reelection in 2012 and will have to be on the ticket with President Obama, who is direly unpopular in West Virginia. Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Independent Joe Lieberman are the other two prime targets of Republican advances."

George Bush takes questions from Matt Lauer.

Did you watch the big show on TV tonight? You can watch it here:

And here's the transcript. I thought Bush came off well, though I'm sure people who don't like him will feel twinges of the old revulsion.

An extremely casual touchdown.

By a middle school quarterback:

With its new GOP legislature and governor, will Wisconsin repeal its domestic partnership registry?

Gay rights advocates are worrying about this. It doesn't seem to be on the agenda, but it should not go unnoticed that the Lieutenant Governor-elect Rebecca Kleefisch made one of the stupidest ever statements about same-sex marriage: "At what point are we going to OK marrying inanimate objects? Can I marry this table, or this, you know, clock?"

What kind of person, looking for a vivid image, would come up with the idea of marrying a clock?

"Ricky Gervais Gets in Character."

(Via VF.)

"In this image..."

"... a small drop of ferrofluid is placed within a magnetic field created by a neodymium iron-boron rare-earth magnet."

Isn't it time, after all these years, to get over...

... Jim Morrison's ...

... snake is long, seven miles... he's old, and his skin is cold....

At the Green-Gold Café...

... hold on to your last best thoughts.

Cyclocross is a fall/winter sport, so they can absolutely do it with snow on the ground

Cyclocross National Championships here in Dane County, Wisconsin, in January.
In cyclocross, riders compete along a rugged course with obstacles that force frequent dismounts and require riders to carry their bikes while running up stairs and steep hills and jumping hurdles. The rider who completes the most laps in the time allowed wins.
Surely, you're at least tough enough to be a spectator:
“You can often see the majority of the course from one single spot, which is something we just don’t get in road racing or mountain biking,” Smith said. “It’s very welcoming and casual.”

Olbermann's mini-exile is over.

I hope MSNBC succeeded in proving whatever its point was to you.

"... Gibbs had his foot lodged in the door to the meeting as Indian security officials pushed hard to shut it."

"In an angry shouting match, Gibbs asked the officials if they were going to break his foot as he repeated his threat to pull Obama [out of his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh]."

The imagery coming out of the Indian trip isn't as pretty as I thought they'd make it. 

Barbara Bush had doctors save her miscarried fetus in a jar so she could show it to the teenaged George W. Bush.

Bush recounts. 
"There's no question that affected me, a philosophy that we should respect life. There was a human life, a little brother or sister."

Binding Ambinder.

Marc Ambinder is ending his blog (which has published very prominently on The Atlantic website). He wants to be a journalist again, and not a blogger. He draws the distinction:
Really good print journalism is ego-free... Blogging is an ego-intensive process. Even in straight news stories, the format always requires you to put yourself into narrative. You are expected to not only have a point of view and reveal it, but be confident that it is the correct point of view. There is nothing wrong with this. As much as a writer can fabricate a detachment, or a "view from nowhere," as Jay Rosen has put it, the writer can also also fabricate a view from somewhere. You can't really be a reporter without it. I don't care whether people know how I feel about particular political issues; it's no secret where I stand on gay marriage, or on the science of climate change, and I wouldn't have it any other way. What I hope I will find refreshing about the change of formats is that I will no longer be compelled to turn every piece of prose into a personal, conclusive argument, to try and fit it into a coherent framework that belongs to a web-based personality called "Marc Ambinder" that people read because it's "Marc Ambinder," rather than because it's good or interesting.
Maybe some day I will wake up and feel that I want to be what I might conceive of as some sort exalted and pure beast that would properly bear the name "Law Professor." I'll realize I've had it with this crazy game – this weighty, daily task — of playing the part of the web-based personality called "Ann Althouse."
I loved the freedom to write about whatever I wished, but I missed the discipline of learning to write about what needed to be written. I loved the light editorial touch of blogging , but I missed the heavy hand of an editor who tells you when something sucks and tells you to go back and rewrite it. 
You wake up one day and think: Man, what I really want is some heavy-handed discipline. This freedom, this individuality... it's too much. I want some restraint. Some structure. I want somebody who isn't just another web-based personality to tell me I suck.

"California: The Lindsay Lohan of States."

"Listen up, California. The other 48 states—your cousin New York excluded—are sick of your bratty arrogance. You're the Lindsay Lohan of states: a prima donna who once showed some talent but is now too wasted to do anything with it."

November 7, 2010

"... Republicans won an even higher percentage of Senate races than House races..."

"... they won 65 percent of the 37 Senate races, versus approximately 56 percent of the 435 House races."

"Obama's temperament has become a political liability. "

"In 2008, his calm was a synergistic counterpoint to the joyous excitement of the throngs that packed his rallies. In the tidy, quiet isolation of the White House, his serene rationality has felt to many like detachment, even indifference."

Downtown, early sunset.




The depth of the 2010 GOP victory in the state legislatures.

It's extreme.
Republicans increased their numbers in 73 state legislative chambers of the 87 up for election. Democrats did get one or two seats in six states: California House (+1), Pennsylvania Senate (+1), Delaware House (+2), Hawaii Senate (+1), Washington State Senate (+1), and West Virginia Senate (+2.)

Compare these tiny gains with the massive Republican gains in many state legislative chambers, like these: Texas House (+24), Pennsylvania House (+14), Ohio House (+14), Ohio Senate (+11), Michigan House (+18) and Michigan Senate (+5), North Carolina House (+15) and North Carolina Senate (+11), Wisconsin House (+26) and Wisconsin Senate (+16), Iowa House (+16) and Iowa Senate (+6), Missouri House (+18), Alabama House (+15) and Alabama Senate (+6), Arkansas House (+12) and Arkansas Senate (+8), Tennessee House (+14), Minnesota House (+26) and Minnesota Senate (+16), New Hampshire House (+117), Maine House (+21) and Maine Senate (6), Connecticut House (+16), Montana House (+18), North Dakota House (+10), and Massachusetts House (+17).
Look at the before and after maps. Click on the individual states to see the particular numbers — for example, in my state, Wisconsin. Look at the swath of states — Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania — that went from Democrat or divided to Republican. In the south, Alabama and North Carolina went from blue to red. And red begins to creep down from the upper right-hand corner, with Maine and New Hampshire.

The Obamas dancing with the kids in India.

[Click to play video.]

Should this joyous dance annoy anyone?
Yes, Democrats who just suffered some terrible electoral defeats.
Yes, Americans who are suffering in a terrible economy.
Yes, Indians who are being used as political scenery.
Yes, Republicans who are thinking look at us, we want to dance the joyous dance of victory for you!
No, either you like Obama and therefore his photo-op or you're off dancing your own dance of vicjoy. free polls

Did affirmative action hurt Barack Obama?

And if so, is it because he "wasn't prepared for all the racism he faces now" or because he "wasn't prepared for the lack of racial bias"?

"Switch 2 Mitch."

The movement to get Mitch Daniels to run for President. (Via Politico.)

I find Mitch Daniels very appealing. A successful, accomplished state governor. I have a presumption against Senators at this point. But I haven't seen him in action enough to have an opinion about how strong of candidate he'd be, standing next to President Obama in a debate and so forth.

AND: Then there's Rick Perry...
Gov. Rick Perry says he has no interest in running for president, but one would never know it by watching him this week.

When do we want to see actors pretend to go through what actually was a horrible experience that happened to real people, when we also know exactly what happened?

ALOTT5MA says:
Suggest a form of physical suffering you'd rather endure this weeken than spending $10+ to watch James Franco reenact what hiker Aron Ralston did....

I feel like we've had a bunch of films like this lately -- United 93, A Mighty Heart (the Daniel Pearl story), World Trade Center and others I'm sure you can name -- dramatic films based on real-life events where I can understand why filmmakers believed this was a story worth telling, but where the story itself is not one I have any interest in spending my entertainment dollars/time to see. And yet we (pretty much) all saw Schindler's List, which somehow became a cultural obligation in a way that none of the others -- not even the remarkable story of United 93 -- did.
Are we ghoulish to want to see more than the mental picture we had when we read about it in the press? Is there something different about a filmed depiction of an incident in which human beings did something evil to other human beings — "Schindler's List," "United 93" — and man-against-nature survival tales?

One of my favorite TV shows is "I Shouldn't Be Alive," which features reenacted survival stories like "Trapped Under a Boulder." And one of my favorite movies, "Touching the Void," is the same thing. In these stories, individuals have made a decision to go out into the wilderness or climb mountains and they get into trouble because of their own bad decisions or over-optimistic ideas about the dangers that are out there. Then they need to deal with the consequences. I think it's kind of right-wing to watch dramas like that. What if you leave the comforts of civilization and go out where you will have to be self-reliant? In many of these scenarios, the characters begin with the idea that they want to prove something to themselves by doing something difficult out where there will be no one to help them if things go bad.

And that's the story in the movie ALOTT5MA is talking about, "127 Hours."

That's the new movie by the director of "Slumdog Millionaire," which was a fictional story showing terrible things happening to children. Why do we make up stories of causing children to suffer and entertain ourselves with that? ALOTT5MA seems to think there's something very different about subjecting ourselves to a story where we know what the terrible thing is. Now, in fiction or nonfiction stories, we might know or not know what's going to happen. Are you more willing to watch movies and TV shows where you don't know what the particular horrors are? Would I have avoided seeing "Slumdog Millionaire" if I knew the exact torture that I'd see inflicted on children? Does my answer change if I know that things like that are really done to children in India?

And then there are the movies that depict real historical events, like the Holocaust and 9/11. We know the horrors, but in a rough, general sense. The point of these movies is to allow us to enter the individual experience of the human beings whose lives were part of the familiar history. We see those movies, if they are good enough, because of the way they give us deep psychic understanding of what happened. There's that quote (attributed to Stalin), "A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." A good movie might get you to the tragedy by putting you inside one person within the millions. But it might not be good. It might be a commercial exploitation of the emotions you already have. You may feel that you're obligated to care about these phony scenes full of actors because this really happened to real people. There will be celebrities in Nazi uniforms hamming up how evil they are. Then it's a travesty. Frankly, that's how I felt about "Schindler's List."

The 5-year-old boy who chose to be Daphne from "Scooby-Doo" for Halloween.

And the mother who chose to blog about it.

So now there's a viral photo on the internet of a boy dressed as a girl and endless speculation about what that all means.

1. Did the mother invade her son's privacy? By blogging about the issue of a very young boy who wants to pretend to be a girl? Or was it the photograph? Or was it wrong even to invade the child's fantasy world by speculating about his sexual orientation? The mother's blog post was titled "My Son Is Gay." Do we owe children restraint in thinking about what sexual behavior they will find compelling when they grow up, and if we do, don't we all violate that duty in one way or another?

2. Consider the notion that a costume of a perfectly nice girl was perceived as an unusually scary Halloween character. Kids dress as devils and monsters and dead people all the time, but to be a pretty girl — if you are a boy — is terrifying. As the blogger noted, a girl dressed as a male character would not stir the same anxiety in the grownups. What does this say about sexism? Is there a special aversion to females, that manifests itself when a male associates with female things? Or is it that people have a special aversion to male homosexuals and are really pretty much okay with lesbians?

IN THE COMMENTS: Big Mike said:
I'm glad I'm at home when I followed your "perfectly nice girl" link because some of those cartoons are definitely NSFW.
I've changed the link to the Wikipedia article on Daphne Blake. Previously, it went to the results of a Google image search on: Daphne Scooby Doo. I'll just add the "bestiality" tag to this post to indicate what you would have seen if you scanned the page too long.