December 31, 2011

At the New Year's Eve Café...


... have a drink with us. Or just hang out with us. We're staying in for the night. Who goes out on New Year's Eve? That's crazy!

The last Iowa poll before the caucuses...

... puts Romney on top, at 24%. Ron Paul's in second place, with 22%, and Santorum's in third, with 15%. That's a 4-day poll, but:
If the final two days of polling are considered separately, Santorum rises to second place, with 21%, pushing Paul to third, at 18%. Romney remains the same, at 24%.

25 most-watched Althouse/Meade videos of 2011.

1. Wisconsin Capitol protesters disrespect the Veterans Memorial. 66,919 views.

2. Wisconsin protesters get children to chant. 37,011 views.

3. Gov. Scott Walker compared to Hitler. 28,944 views.

4. 14-Year-Old Girl at Tea Party Rally in Madison Drowned Out by Chants and Boos. 26,219 views.

5. First-hand View of the Attack on Althouse at the Wisconsin Capitol Singalong. 25,674 views.

6. Attack on Althouse at the Wisconsin Capitol Singalong. 24,054 views.

7. Protest at the Wisconsin Capitol, Saturday, Part 15. 15,359 views. (Doctors give excuse notes to protesters.)

8. Protesters re-take the Wisconsin Capitol. 12,111 views.

9. Sarah Palin in Madison, Wisconsin. 11,766 views.

10. Anti-Scott Walker protesters get aggressive. 11,657 views.

The 9 most-read posts on this blog in 2011.

1. "Union thuggery against Althouse and Meade: 'We will hang up wanted posters of you everywhere you like to go.'"

2. "Attack on Althouse at the Wisconsin Capitol singalong."

3. "I receive a threat: 'whoever video taped this has no life and needs to be shot in the head.'"

4. "'I really hope that in the future, people will be able to do more of the 'contrast' and less of the 'compare' with regards to Iraq and Libya.'"

5. "Obama lied about a central fact about his own life which he used — powerfully — to push health care reform."

6. "A 14-year-old girl speaks at the Tea Party rally in Madison and is drowned out by chants, boos, and cowbells."

7. "How much respect did the demonstrators show for the State Capitol grounds?"

8. "18 seconds of raw class warfare."

9. "Protesters at the Wisconsin Capitol disrespectfully have taped signs on and piled junk against the Veterans Memorial."

Romney: "I won't cry. But I do!"

Does that count as flip-flopping?

Romney's talking about his parents there, and the audience member who says "Don't cry" is presumably alluding to Newt Gingrich getting "all teary-eyed" talking about his mother.

"Hey" = the subject line on email from the President of the United States.

"Twelve times two is the number of light bulbs in a case."

"Four cases of lightbulbs is four lightbulbs short of a hundred which is a nice round decimal number for being in the teens."
At twelve o'clock noon there will be twelve hours left to drop oneself into the Althouse vortex and pass through the Amazon portal and search:

SYLVANIA 12709 100-Watt 130-Volt A19 Household Bulb, 24 Pack.

and change quantity to four in the blue box and then hit 'buy now with one click.' For the children. Think of the children.

Twelve is the number of dollars I will charge for each lightbulb in the 100 watt incandescentless future.

Twelve is the number of steps in the Hoarders Anonymous program.

Twelve is the number of times I will kick myself in the ass when the feckless government changes the law back and this whole lightbulb thing proves nothing but nonsense.
Chip Ahoy in the "Let's talk about 12" comments thread.

"There's a lot of politics... and no honesty...."

And this isn't politics....

... is it?

Maurice Sendak says "Go to hell"...

... and a lot of other fascinating art-related things in a beautiful video shot in a beautiful room:

(Via Metafilter.)

"Any time you switch anything up in Wisconsin — it's a very rare thing — so you got to like that."

Badgers appreciate the subtlety, lightness, and slimming effect of their new Rose Bowl uniforms.

(In other Rose Bowl news, Occupy losers horn in on the Rose Bowl parade.)

AND: The Recall Walker signature gatherers are traveling all the way to Pasadena to intrude on the Rose Bowls. How about traveling around the actual state of Wisconsin? Who's paying for the trip, by the way?

Let's talk about 12.

1. Write a poem about the new year. There are only 2 words that rhyme with 12: delve and shelve. You could expand the possibilities for rhyming with "12" by adding an additional word to the end of the line, such as "is." For example: "2012 is/a year without Elvis." Improve on that concept.

2. 12 is the largest number with a single-syllable name, so think of all the time we'll be saving saying "2012" instead of "2011." (That said, there were more rhymes for 11, including a few that are much more useful in poetry than "shelve." I'm thinking of "heaven," "seven," and "leaven.")

3. 12 feels nicely stable and satisfying, because of the familiar concept of a dozen and the number of inches in a foot. I guess that's why the 12 Steps program has 12 steps. And why there are 12 persons on a jury. You have 12 pairs of ribs too, you know. 12 months in a year. 12 hours on the clock.

4. Here's the etymology of "twelve" (which highlights the oddness of its being "twelve" and not "twelf"):
O.E. twelf, lit. "two left" (over ten), from P.Gmc. *twa-lif-, a compound of the root of two + *lif-, root of the verb leave (see eleven). Cf. O.S. twelif, O.N. tolf, O.Fris. twelef, M.Du. twalef, Du. twaalf, O.H.G. zwelif, Ger. zwölf, Goth. twalif. Outside Germanic, an analogous formation is Lith. dvylika, with second element -lika "left over."
So it's basically "2 left" (and 11 was "1 left"). It's the same concept as the "-teen" numbers, relating the number to 10, but 12 and 11 use subtraction — what is left after 10 is removed — and the "-teen" numbers use addition, with "-teen" meaning "ten more than." I wonder why. Does it have something to do with the development of a child? If the child is 11 or 12, you think of taking him back to a younger age, but at 13, you picture him standing on a foundation of childhood and building from there? If that is so, then maybe 2012 is the last year when we feel we've just entered the new century/millennium, and next year, we'll feel we are truly in it.

5. 2012 is the last year when we won't have a name — a name that we actually use — for the decade. Next year, we'll be in the "teens." Don't tell me there really was a name for the first decade of the century. You can concoct something — I'd say "the 0s," pronounced "ohs" — but we didn't call it that casually and naturally, the way we said "the 80s" and "the 90s." The first 12 years of the century have been a weird respite from focusing on the decade-ness of the decade. And that has had some subtle effect on us. 2012 is that last year to experience that effect. And then next year, 2011 and 2012 will be swept into the decade that will thenceforward be called "the teens."

6. What's your favorite "12" movie?
The Dirty Dozen
12 Angry Men
12 Monkeys
Cheaper by the Dozen
Ocean's Twelve
12 free polls 

7. We'll ring in the new year at 12. At 12 it will be 12. Unless you're very young — and also very optimistic — you can't think that there will be any other day in your life when at 12 it will be 12. Unless you're extremely old, you've never before had the chance to realize: At 12 it will be 12. How stunningly unique today is!

Happy New Year...

... 's Eve.

Any last loose ends to the year you need to tie up today?

What are the chances you'll stay up until midnight?

If 2012 is only exactly as good as 2011, will you be disappointed?

Are you going to be a better person in 2012, or did you set a pretty high mark this year, so that staying close to that mark is the most you're going to expect from yourself?

December 30, 2011



Last chance for light bulbs.

Make sure you've got enough to last a lifetime... with extras to leave to your children and grandchildren... so that they can know that once there was light... and it was a warm light... there were bulbs that glowed. And the heartless government, which had no feeling for warmth and glow, took those bulbs away.

"Is Ron Paul A Racist?"

"Don’t be absurd. Might as well charge Barack Obama with racism based on his associations."

Do you love/hate the Happy Rizzi House?

I'm going to say love. Why not?

The artist James Rizzi, who also did lots of drawings and paintings — here's his website — died this week, at the age of 61.

He also did the cover for the first album by the Tom Tom Club...

... and animated 2 of the band's videos. Hard to get a clear copy of the video, and since I found a copy of "Genius of Love" with the audio disabled, I can see why. I guess the Tom Tom Club doesn't want free publicity. Anyway, for now, you can (kind of) see the animation, with the audio, here.

"In the comments..."

I like to "front page" comments that especially interest me, and I do this on the original post. Sometimes when they really interest me, I feel like writing a new post to let people know that I did an "IN THE COMMENTS" update. This time, that's just what I'm doing.

"2011 was a year when unions said 'it wasn't about the money'..."

"... before many of them (including Madison city workers) rushed back to the bargaining table to 'Walker-proof' their benefits before the new collective bargaining law went into effect."
While statewide unions said they would accept the increases in health and pension contributions, many local unions clearly weren't reading from the same playbook.

Speaking of money, during the summer, unions spent over $20 million to [try to] unseat six Republican state senators who voted for Walker's plan. This exposed exactly why it's about the money. Government employees merely serve as conduits for taxpayer funds to work their way to the unions, who then spend money electing obeisant legislators to negotiate favorable contracts. Shockingly, lefty "good government" groups appear not to have a problem with this blatant purchase of favors.
Christian Schneider in Isthmus, "The Wisconsin left made a spectacle of itself in 2011." Read the whole thing.

"This holiday has felt a bit like one last long, deep breath before we plunge into 2012."

"This time next year, I don't want us to have any regrets."

Another example of email from the Obama campaign that has a creepy, too-personal tone. That's supposedly from Michelle Obama.

Deep breaths... plunging... no regrets...

Back off!

"I love the excitement of coming out here and seeing all these beautiful people I know."

"Even my dates are a comfort. This place has made me strong. It keeps you young.”

Says a 52-year-old prostitute, who's been walking the streets for 30+ years and now has the NYT writing a flattering story about her. Why would the NYT publish this? Because the NYT is all about helping its aging female readers feel good about themselves.

"Who Should Be Crowned Drunk of the Year?"

Vote! (The last picture is hilarious, but not safe for work... but what are you doing at work?! Just scroll slowly and stop at "Jesus" and you'll be all right.)

Do your gifts need gifts?

Save 50% to 70% on accessories for your electronic devices.

And feel free to buy whatever else you like at Amazon.

After all of the criticism of Sarah Palin for using target imagery in some campaign literature...

... it's it interesting to see the National Journal writing like this:
As they form a circular firing squad, Romney stepped back. Rather than engage his GOP opponents, as he's done most of his campaign, he's focused almost entirely on his No. 1 target, President Obama.

Romney has received cover from the primary's unprecedented volatility (at least since 1964), which has sent a bushel of candidates to momentary stardom atop the Republican field only to be torn down weeks later. Attacks from rivals and media scrutiny have followed each of these momentary front-runners...

And it's not as though Romney, his past rooted in blue-state Massachusetts, didn't supply his opponents plenty of ammunition. They have the bullets; they're just not firing them.
IN THE COMMENTS: First, the amusing. Mocks the writing in the National Journal — "This almost veers into Bullwer-Lytton territory" — Henry says "Why not go all the way?" and pens a rewrite:
While one candidate after another disintegrated like a clay pigeon at an English hunting weekend, former Governor Romney, encircled with the barrage balloons of his plastic bonhomie, so easily avoided the strafing attacks of candidates Bachmann and Cain, not to mention the kamikaze crash of Governor Perry, that the artillery spotters of the media could only wonder if their radios were broken: the guns of Sevastopol fire into the sea; the assassins' bullet bounces off the ghost shirt of the Mormon underwear; even the bloody dagger of professional ridicule fails to find the heart and the smiling to-be-tyrant only exclaims, "Gosh Brute, lovely day, wot?"
Second, the serious. Scott M wrote:
I don't know anyone that was taken in by the calls for a new civility after the AZ shootings. It struck me as just so much more "I want to feel good about something so this is what I'm going to say and assume it fixes the world" bullshit.
SGT Ted — noting that my "civility bullshit" tag "speaks for itself" — responded:
It struck me that after the AZ shooting that leftists and Democrat Party leadership were just trying to hang it around Republicans necks, when the shooter was a "leftwing pothead" according to his friends.
SGT Ted, Paco Wové said:
You should check out the Althouse comment threads from that day, for example. It took less than 30 minutes for the blame-orgy to start.
I just went back and read that long — 292 comments long — thread, and it's just appalling. 12 minutes after I put up a simple post — "U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shot, along with at least 11 others, at a political event in Tuscon" — the get-Sarah business started: "Sarah Palin had AZ's 8th district in her gun sights." That came from someone who was taking a distanced attitude about what other people will be saying —"It would be interesting to follow the conversation on teh Internets today...." But soon it was "Remember, the DHS warned us of the rising threat of violent extremism from the political right" and so on, including much push back from commenters who didn't think we should be talking like that.

Time Warner's cable guys "assigned to the highest-end 'Signature Home' jobs will be getting a more 'fashion-forward look' soon."

And Verizon's recent ads "highlighted its technicians’ dress shirts"  and "characterize the install as a white glove experience."

That's from a NYT article — promoted top and center on its front webpage — called "Today’s Cable Guy, Upgraded and Better-Dressed." The photo at the link shows a clean-shaven, crewcut cable guy — with white paper booties over his shoes to protect the gleaming hardwood floor — demonstrating how to use the TV to a woman standing by her side. There's a second photo of another cable guy — also in booties. He's the bearded type. This better class of men will come to your house and help you set up the company's elaborate "suite of products."
"My genius husband had the router in the basement," joked the homeowner, Kathleen Hassinger, a 39-year-old mother of three daughters...
Now — it's been obvious to me for quite a while — the New York Times is written for women. But at what point does it actually become... ridiculous...
[Selene Tovar, 35, a stay-at-home mother of three] needed the Internet service at her three-story home in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood to be fast enough to power the family’s six televisions, five Xboxes, several PlayStations and multiple iPads and laptops. Even a new scale — a Hanukkah present from her husband — required a fast connection so it could send daily weigh-ins to an iPhone app.
Note the clueless husband: thinks a scale is a nice gift. Coming to Ms. Tovar's aid was Quirino Madia who "wore a white button-down shirt and gray slacks."

But watch out, affluent ladies of New York, "many cable technicians still wear the standard work clothes and tool belts."


And I'm sure it's got nothing to do with anything the New York Times would ever have intended to allude to, but reading that article made me want to Google "cable guy pornography," just to see how prevalent that genre was. I don't know. That's just the direction my mind went. Not that I clicked on any of the links. I didn't. And my Google search only retrieved about 4 million hits, so maybe it's not such a big porn sub-genre. I don't know if the new "fashion-forward look" will heat up the sub-genre or not. Actually, I think not. But I'm no porn connoisseur. I'm more of a Google-search connoisseur. For example, I moved on to the search: "fashion-forward cable guy porn" — 192,000 results — and found "James Franco Porn Documentary: Disappointing Sex Tape Inspires Film," an article in HuffPo (the San Francisco edition). Speaking of disappointing! James Franco does not appear as a fashion-forward cable guy in any porn film. Apparently, one time Franco made a home video with his girlfriend and realized: "Those people in pornos, they are great performers. They're not just doing it, they're selling it to an audience." The guy's a genius!


Rereading this post, I suddenly see what the real porn is for the ladies who read the New York Times: "three-story home in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood."

"It’s the first time I can recall — let me rephrase — it’s the first time I’m aware of a recall-related lawsuit...

"... where only the official who is being targeted for recall gets to be a party, and the folks who are working to recall that official are shut out of the process."

Organizers of the recall petition drive against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker got shut out of the lawsuit Walker brought against the Government Accountability Board. Walker is suing to force the GAB to do something to check for duplicate, fake, and forged signatures on the petitions. The judge rejected the intervention to avoid delay in a case where speed is important and because the GAB will make the necessary arguments defending its own policy.

Really, what would the Democrats pushing the recall add that would even help their side of the argument? Shouldn't they prefer that the argument against checking the signatures be made by the (seemingly) neutral entity, the GAB? Those questions make the intervention look like a delay tactic, but seeming like an agent of delay undercuts the argument they wanted to make about not bogging down the process with signature-checking.

But maybe what they wanted was to be put in a position where they can complain about getting shut out — as we're seeing now — and put pressure on the judge from the outside.

Speaking of delay, the lawyer for the petition organizers — quoted in the post title — arrived 35 minutes late for the hearing on the motion to intervene.

"Note to bloggers: In a free-speech controversy, you can’t count on WordPress."

"WordPress Takes Down 'Bare Naked Islam' Blog After Threats From CAIR."

"The left-right coalition against corn ethanol has been growing for some time..."

... and Congress just adjourned "without extending the $6 billion annual tax subsidy for blending corn ethanol into gasoline and the steep import tariffs on the industry's foreign competitors."

What accounts for the change? I would have guessed that neither party is worried too much about what people in Iowa want right now, but the linked article cites the growing evidence showing that ethanol can't compete in the market "without mandates, subsidies, tax exemptions, and tariffs" and it's not even green — it increases net carbon emissions.

December 29, 2011

NYT quotes Washington insiders calling Obama “remote,” “distant” and “perfunctory.”

On Capitol Hill, Republicans say they rarely hear from the president, and members of his own party complain that Mr. Obama and his top aides are handicapping themselves by not reaching out enough.

“When you have relationships with individual members, you can call them up and ask a favor, and a lot of times, if it’s not objectionable, you can get things done,” said Representative Dennis A. Cardoza, Democrat of California....

White House officials, however, counter that Mr. Obama’s detachment from Congress could end up benefiting him politically. After all, many Americans regard this Congress as dysfunctional, with abysmal approval ratings.
So... if you're dysfunctional with the dysfunctional, you're... functional!
Despite the narrative in Washington of Mr. Obama as a loner, his friends and aides say he likes people just fine....
That's not a contradiction. You could like people just fine and want nothing to do with the particular people who happen to be in Congress. Don't you identify with that?

Former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz advocates blowing up a public sculpture.

He writes:
Blow it up. That’s right. Attach some dynamite to the base of the darn thing and launch it. We could make a big party out of it... People could gather to watch the event from a safe distance...
I wonder what Cieslewicz thought about the Taliban blowing up the Bamiyan Buddhas?
"They drilled holes into the torsos of the two statues and then placed dynamite charges inside the holes to blow them up."
Do you feel glee at the notion of blowing up a work of art that you find ugly? Should the people of a particular place have the power to destroy a work of art if they hate it? I supported moving one famous sculpture that was an arrogant and hated imposition on the people who had to live with it.

As for the particular hated sculpture Cieslewicz wants to blow up — I like it. I think it's smart and amusing — an obelisk that is "ruined" to the point where we can see that it is composed of footballs — set outside the football stadium.
It’d be one thing if it had been Pablo Picasso trying to force his vision on us. But who the heck is Donald Lipski? I doubt seriously that Madison will be embarrassed someday as the town that didn’t appreciate Lipski.

So, if the public hates it, don’t force it down their throats.
Why would you say "don’t force it down their throats" about something that's obviously a phallic symbol? Why exactly does the obelisk upset you? Before exploding this thing, I urge you to submit to a Freudian session of deep (throat) thought. Throats... Lipski... are the lips key?

Think, Madison, think. Why does this sculpture — "Nail's Tales" — bother you? Why does it make you think of explosions?

By the way, when Chicago's monumental Picasso sculpture was unveiled in 1967, Mayor Richard J. Daley said: "We dedicate this celebrated work this morning with the belief that what is strange to us today will be familiar tomorrow." Various politicians complained that the thing should be removed.  Ald. John J. Hoellen wanted it replaced by a statue of "Mr. Cub . . . Ernie Banks."

In the philistine tradition of Alderman Hoellen, Cieslewicz recommends replacing the obelisk with a statue of Donna Shalala.

ADDED: I posted about Our Football Obelisk back in 2008... with my photograph of it:

Our Football Obelisk

Romney 45%/Obama 39%.

A big shift in the Rasmussen poll.

I think what we're seeing is that as Romney emerges as the winner within the GOP, his winner status makes him seem more appealing in comparison to Obama. And it's an upward spiral: The more Romney looks strong compared to Obama, the more Republicans should want him as their nominee.

At the Small Plate Café...


... there's very little nourishment, so make the most of what you have.

Don't tease the frog!

"'Barbie Trashes Her Dreamhouse' is a series of photos of a Barbie-sized house, in which Barbie is a hoarder..."

"...and the place is stuffed full of shopping bags, pizza boxes, newspapers, and other debris, all in realistic miniature form. It's the work of artist Carrie M. Becker..."

Oh, Barbie!

"There is a purity, a simplicity..." to Eric Holder's fight for voter rights.

Asserts Jeffrey Toobin... mystifyingly. Holder is fighting against voter ID laws, and the argument that these laws violate rights isn't pure and simple, as Toobin's own article shows. So why is Toobin saying that? It's by contrast to all the other issues that Holder might want to use "to define his legacy as Attorney General — as something more than the guy who tried, and failed, to have Guantánamo Bay detainees tried in federal court in New York."
There is a purity, a simplicity, about the voting-rights fight that is sadly absent from many modern civil-rights battles. This is not about special privileges, or quotas, or even complex mathematical formulae.
Why be sad? The straightforward civil-rights battles have been won. Those that are left are questionable. That's good. Unless you define the good in terms of opportunities for Eric Holder to define his legacy.
It's about a basic right of American citizenship, which is being taken from large numbers of people for the most cynical of reasons. [Voter ID] laws are, quite literally, indefensible...
Ridiculous! They're completely defensible. The case law is clear that requiring an ID doesn't violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court said so in 2008, in a 6-3 case. Holder still has a chance to use statutory law against the states that are covered by the Voting Rights Act, but to do that he'll have to argue for a broad interpretation of congressional powers, and what's pure and simple about that?

A walkable roller coaster.


And here's a bike-able roller coaster.

"I'm Proud to Be a Freeloader..."

"Taking is as Important as Giving in Collaborative Consumption."

Santorum is surging.

It's the meme of the day. I'm just noting. I feel sorry for all the journalists assigned to the 2012 campaign who've got so little to write about now and in the next few months. They need to act like something is happening, and after the Perry, Cain, Gingrich, and Paul surges, it must be time for a Santorum surge. And there's nothing else to talk about today.

"Workers are dropping out of the labor force in droves, and they are mostly women."

"In fact, many are young women. But they are not dropping out forever; instead, these young women seem to be postponing their working lives to get more education. There are now — for the first time in three decades — more young women in school than in the work force."

What accounts for this gender difference? The linked NYT article slants toward the conventional journalistic assumption that women are better than men, but if you wanted to take the same material and slant it the other way, you could say women are more likely to retreat in the face of adversity and going to school feels safe and comfortable to women.

The article quotes an economist who says: "The jobs out there just aren’t very good, and men seem more willing to take them for whatever reason... The women are looking at those same jobs and saying, 'I’ll be more productive elsewhere.'"

More "productive" spending money than making money? This is the old stereotype that women work for personal satisfaction, and yet it's still supposed to be a mystery that men make more money than women. In fact, the article has the line "Already earning lower pay, women are less willing to work when wages fall further...." That might be switching around the cause and effect. Do women drop out of the labor market because they earn less money, or do they earn less money because they tend not to keep plugging away when things get tough?

IN THE COMMENTS: John Althouse Cohen — referring to "the conventional journalistic assumption that women are better than men" — says:
And why has this become the conventional assumption? It's based on old-school, pre-feminism gender stereotypes of men being tough and strong, while women are fragile and weak. Those who follow these stereotypes will be more willing to criticize men than women, since men can "take it," while women would crumble upon hearing any criticism.

December 28, 2011

Eagles and kitties.

Together at last.

(Via Metafilter.)

Young people today lack even the "ideological baggage" to concern themselves with copyright as they go about appropriating images.

"They feel that once an image goes into a shared digital space, it’s just there for them to change, to elaborate on, to add to, to improve, to do whatever they want with it. They don’t see this as a subversive act. They see the Internet as a collaborative community and everything on it as raw material."

Much more here — including the discussion of a case in federal court brought by a photographer whose images were worked into collages by a painter who made millions of dollars and an iPhone app that automates appropriation and collage.

What man and woman are the "most admired"?

The answers for the past year are predictable, but what's more interesting to hear about in this video are the man and the woman who have made Gallup's top 10 "most admired" list for many decades. There's one of each, and the man has been on the list since the 1940s. Only living individuals can be named.

Things that are not actually strange.

"It is strange that the sculptor John Chamberlain and the painter Helen Frankenthaler should have died within a week of each other — he on Dec. 21, and she on Tuesday — considering that they occupy such similar positions within the history of American art."

That's the beginning of an article by Roberta Smith in the NYT. Maybe something here is strange, but it's not strange that 2 elderly individuals died within a few days of each other. If I were to try to articulate what is strange that comes to mind as we are prompted to think about these 2 artists at the same time, I would say it's the way art like this doesn't matter in American culture anymore, and it used to matter so much.

It was a big deal in the late 1950s when Chamberlain made sculptures out of scraps from old cars. It seemed really important and controversial enough to argue about. And then there was Frankenthaler with her "pastels and slithery forms [that] could be read as descending from Georgia O’Keeffe’s flowery colors and labial shapes." Did abstract expressionism make men do one thing and women another?
Some feminist art historians have suggested that Ms. Frankenthaler’s stain technique could perhaps even be likened to menstruation.
That used to matter so much. Imagine the arguments of long ago. We're so post-menopausal now. We can't get excited things like that anymore.

Monks fight — hurling brooms — at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Greek and Armenian monks had a territorial dispute "along the border of their respective areas" in the church built over the place traditionally held to be the site where Jesus Christ was born. (Video at the link, shows brooms flying an Palestinian security forces breaking up the Christians.)
A fragile status quo governs relations among the denominations at the ancient church, and to repair or clean a part of the structure is to own it, according to accepted practice. That means that letting other sects clean part of the church could allow one to gain ground at another's expense.
Apparently, fights like this have been going on "for centuries" and have resulted in the church falling into ruin:
Although the roof has needed urgent work for decades, and leaking rainwater has ruined much of the priceless artwork inside, a renovation has been delayed all these years by disagreements among the denominations over who would pay.
What a shameful embarrassment.

If Wikipedia were a set of old-style encyclopedia books... how many books would there be?

Depends on how thick the books are.

New Hampshire kid asks (nearly) all the GOP candidates what superhero they'd like to be.

(Via Bloggingheads.)

Why would a candidate say anything other than Superman? You just know they're probably going to say Superman. (Santorum and Huntsman don't.) So I think follow-up question would be: Could Superman be President of the United States? See if you can get a big "natural born citizen" thing going.

How Ben Nelson lost Nebraska.

"Get him the hell out of here!"

"Elvis has a history of cranky behaviour..."

Ridiculous. I saw the video. Elvis was provoked and deserves no criticism for the attack.

Politico's Ben Smith calls some Gingrich video "Possibly the weirdest video of the cycle."

But the video is down now, so I have no idea what that was about. Other than Christmas.

A little more info, at HuffPo:
The video, posted December 23, features the Republican presidential hopeful's New Hampshire staffers decked out in Santa hats, singing to the tune of "Deck the Halls." While the group sings of Newt's solutions stopping Obama's "trauma," one staffer dons an elf outfit and runs around Gingrich's New Hampshire office.
So... maybe the problem was the implication that an "elf outfit" is "gay apparel." (Paging David Sedaris.)

In other news... a teacher in a Michigan elementary school changed the "Deck the Halls" lyrics after the kids laughed at "Don we now our gay apparel." She made it "bright apparel" and then got publicly criticized for not turning it into a "teachable moment." Video at the link of the principal telling the reporter: "We have an anti-discrimination and bullying policy that includes sexual orientation, and so, going forward, the teacher will be addressing: this is how we're supposed to be reacting, this is how to be respectful about this."

"Gay" is not a bad word... I agree. But can you really teach people not to laugh at the silly line "Don we now our gay apparel"? Nothing makes you want to laugh more than being forbidden to laugh. And "gay" is supposed to mean mirthful. Where's the mirth? If mirth is forbidden because we must be respectful and ever on the alert for incipient bullying, then I think you need to pick another song. But "Deck the Halls" is one of the best secular Christmas songs.

What are you going to do? Maybe we need to recognize that music is not compatible with the highest values of the public schools of the United States:
It's better that our dear youth spend their valuable time in learning respect for all minority groups and essential and useful bullying resisting skills and fill their time with teachable moments and healthy recreations instead of music.
ADDED: My son Chris tells me about the time, years ago, when he was in a public school chorus that had to sing the song "Scarlet Ribbons" and the kids were forbidden to laugh about the line "I peeked in and on her bed/In gay profusion lying there..." Chris IM's:
we had to practice a lot to get to the point where we wouldn't laugh on that line, and we had been able to do it in the last rehearsals, but then in the performance someone laughed, that made everyone laugh, and it made you laugh and you had to cover your face and sort of put your head down
It almost seems like bullying to put the kids through that! [LATER: I just realized that the "you" in his description referred to me! It still makes me laugh right now.]

"Washington’s year of drama leaves little done regarding debt."

Newsflash from WaPo's Department of the Obvious.

One of the great film stars from the golden age of Hollywood has died... at the age of 80.

"He was very compassionate... He could tell if I was having a good day or a bad day. He was always trying to get me to laugh if he thought I was having a bad day. He was very in tune to human feelings."

Not everyone was a fan. Mia Farrow tells us that her mother Maureen O'Sullivan always referred to him as "that bastard."

In Madison, Wisconsin, "the Occupy movement isn't resonating with people."

Todd Finkelmeyer observes ruefully, in Madison's pathetic newspaper, The Capital Times ("Your Progressive Voice"). He's found one UW student who is into the protest and who "has struggled to find fellow students willing to join him in making a visible and vocal protest on behalf of the youthful 99 percent."

By "the youthful 99 percent," I presume Finkelmeyer means the portion of the 99% that happens to be adult but not yet middle aged. I suppose, depending on how you define young, the percent might be something like 30%. But young people who find themselves at the lower end of the income scale have the least to gripe about. They're just starting out. The question is: Can they move up over the course of their careers? If they are students at a fine university, they ought to think they can or they're wasting their time. Whether making it in America today is easy or hard nowadays, these students are better off studying than protesting. I congratulate the students for their good sense in resisting the protest scene.

But Finkelmeyer chides them:
But in Madison, despite its reputation as a hotbed of student activism — notoriety that dates to the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the city served as an epicenter for those protesting the Vietnam War — college students are slow to jump on the Occupy bandwagon.

"From the very beginning of Occupy Madison, from the very first general assembly at Reynolds Park and in the following weeks, there was a noticeable lack of students," says [that one UW student], who in late October helped organize two Occupy UW marches as a member of the Direct Action Committee of Occupy Madison. He had hoped those would turn into weekly on-campus protests, but only 15 people showed up for the second march and no more were held due to a lack of interest.

"I don't think the outreach we did was as good as it could have been, so it didn't grow and Occupy UW has sort of been put on the back burner," says Phillips.
Maybe people don't want to be organized — by others, that is. Maybe the UW students are organized within their own lives and are pursuing an education and aiming toward a career path. Back in the not-so-good good old days of Vietnam protesting, you couldn't just concentrate on getting started on the path to economic well-being. The military draft was staring you in the face.

And, by the way, Finkelmeyer, mixed metaphor alert: "hotbed... epicenter...  bandwagon."

The article goes on and on, with lots of quotes from professors and other politicos who wonder why the students are resisting the pull of protests. The delightfully named Elizabeth Wrigley-Field — "a New York native who is pursuing her Ph.D. in sociology from UW-Madison" — "cautions" us not to "over-generalize" and say that the students are apathetic.
"I think part of the strength of the Occupy movement in most areas is that it's a novelty of sorts... But we already had that here with the occupation of the Capitol (in February and March) and then we had Walkerville...."
So maybe they're not apathetic; they're sick of all the protesting. Or they're passionate about their own individual lives and they need to study to get to a solid place for themselves in this risky economy. That tent-city out on East Washington Avenue is — by contrast — a horrifying alternative. It's irrational to think that hanging around in a parking lot with a bunch of left-wingers hoping for a revolution is going to work out better for you than concentrating on your school work and your job search.

IN THE COMMENTS: sean said:
Somewhat akin to what Prof. Althouse said, my back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that there are about 12 million Americans of college age, of whom perhaps 400,000 go to colleges of the caliber of Wisconsin or better. (The majority, of course, don't go to college at all, at least not to four-year institutions.) So Wisconsin students are in the top 3% of their age group, if not the top 1%, and obviously they aren't disposed to protest on behalf of other people.
And Patrick said:
I had the good fortune of being in Madison on Christmas eve day. As we drove down E. Wash, past the Occupy parking lot, it looked barren, save for some tents. I'd assumed that if they were still "occupying," they'd be up at the Capitol. What sort of impact could they possibly imagine having from that parking lot? "Occupy Parking Lot" just loses whatever zing those clowns ever had. Total failure. They need to "move on."
I responded: "It's the parking lot of what used to be a Don Miller car dealership, so we always call it 'Occupy Don Miller.'"

"The Muslims Are Coming!"

WaPo highlights a comedy tour that's targeting Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, apparently on the theory that's where the Islamophobes are. They're filming themselves to make a documentary, and as you can see from the glossy clips presented at the linked WaPo page, they've set out to cherry-pick anti-Muslim remarks from the locals... even though they've got almost nothing. (For example, they catch a Southern girl saying she doesn't know what people would think if a mosque opened up in her neighborhood.)

Isn't this all rather Southernophobic? What if 4 comedians from Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee called themselves "The Southerners Are Coming!" and went to New York City — comedians just about exactly as funny and perceptive as the 4 comedians in the WaPo story — and they went around trying to elicit anti-Southern remarks from New Yorkers and cherry-picked the meanest/stupidest things people said. I have 2 questions about that: 1. Would the New Yorkers remarks be worse than what the Southerners said in the "Muslims Are Coming!" video? and 2. Would the Washington Post (or the New York Times) promote these aspiring comedians with a big glossy web page like the one at the link?

Answer questions 1 and 2.
Yes and no.
No and yes.
Yes and yes.
No and no. free polls 

"FDA falls short on safety checks on disposable wipes makers."

"Little or no enforcement action taken against those with contamination issues."

ADDED: Isn't it often the case that the thing you're using to try to get cleaner is only making you dirtier? And I mean that question in the broadest possible way.

December 27, 2011

"But when I'm shooting a gun, I guess I feel empowered, and empowerment is sexy."

So says a woman, so isn't it adorable? From a very silly article about women and guns and how "feminine" and "girly girl" they feel. Replete with New Age nonsense:
"I'm a yoga instructor, I work at a vegan bakery — and I also like to shoot guns.... Yoga's Zen-like quality can be applied to shooting guns in a lot of ways... Shooting guns takes focus, concentration, and it doesn't always have to be about violence."
Imagine a man going on in a similar fashion about guns making him feel "sexy" and "empowered" in some "Zen-like" way.

At the Unfrozen Café...

... let the conversation flow.

"If I didn’t leave right then, I would have likely smashed my head repeatedly against the nearest wall in an expression of cosmic frustration."

A great true story. Go read it. (Via Metafilter.)

What do Ducks wear to the Rose Bowl?

The "latest Nike Pro Combat system of dress – the most advanced football uniform system ever assembled. This fully integrated uniform system... incorporates the pinnacle in performance innovation and design from the world’s most renowned athletic outfitter. The new uniform provides enhanced thermoregulation and more durability with the inclusion of Nike Chain Maille Mesh – a lightweight ultra-breathable material – used in both the jersey and pant."

It's not just a uniform. It's a uniform system. If you're like me — that is, if you went to law school — when you hear "uniform system," you think of A Uniform System of Citation.

Here's a better idea of what to wear to the Rose Bowl.

How many journalists were killed this year, in "direct relation to their work"?


What if the best remedy for obesity is...

... stop eating entirely — just fast until you reach your goal weight — even if it takes 382 days?

ADDED: I'm just asking "what if"? Apparently, it's not a good experiment to try on your own.

"Once SOPA... became high-profile among the Internet community, the lazy endorsements from companies and various hangers-on became toxic."

"And now, those supporters are scrambling, hollowing out the actual support for the bill. Suddenly, a bill with ‘widespread’ corporate support doesn’t have much support at all."

ADDED: Here's a big list of who's supporting the bill (and who's opposing it).

"The University of Wisconsin Law School is deeply saddened by the loss..."

"... of Professor Jane Larson, Voss-Bascom Professor of Law, who passed away unexpectedly from natural causes at her home in Madison last week."
A brilliant scholar and teacher, Professor Larson joined the faculty in 1996 teaching Property, Women's Legal History, Conflicts of Laws, and Feminist Legal Theory. An immensely popular teacher, she once explained that she taught doctrine as if teaching musical scales, i.e. as a necessary technical skill on which all else is based. But, she said, it is the social, political and philosophical context that brings meaning to doctrine and makes music out of the law.


... you need in the new year.

(At Amazon. And thanks — once again — to all of you who've done some shopping through my Amazon links!)

Free speech and references to killing... on posters at the University of Wisconsin—Stout.

Via Instapundit.

"The first time I cheated death was when I was 4."

Cheating death 3 times, but not 4.

The key to victory in 2012 for Obama...

... the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

"When fans and analysts talk about which player should win the 2011 NFL MVP award..."

"... the first name that automatically springs to mind is Green Bay Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But no one player is having a season as dominant or historic as New Orleans Saints' quarterback Drew Brees."

(Video from last night's game at the link.)

Hardline clerics in Iran criticize Ahmadinejad for promoting "Islamic and beautiful" clothes for women.

The government's fashion show did not deviate from the requirement that women cover their hair and bodies in public. The dispute is more about things like leaving coats unbuttoned and wearing boots.
Followed by television cameras, a team of judges — mostly men — circled the halls, grading the coats on their functionality, design and “Islamic-ness.”...
According to the linked WaPo article, Ahmadinejad is posing as "a champion of civil rights" to win votes for his supporters in the March parliamentary elections.
[W]ith young adults making up the majority of the population — nearly 70 percent of Iran’s more than 72 million people are younger than 35 — religious conservatives have been waging an uphill battle to prevent young urban women from dressing the way they want, even within the framework of the laws that mandate coats and scarves....

On any given day, women in the streets of Tehran can be seen wearing combinations of wide-open coats, heavy makeup and towering platinum blond hairdos held in place by large hair clips and minimally covered by brightly colored scarves. Technically, they are not violating the dress code, but they can still be arrested.
Unfortunately there are no photos of Tehran street fashion at the link, only of the government's more moderate fashion show. Maybe WaPo doesn't want to get these young people in trouble. You can Google "street fashion Tehran" or something like that to try to get to some pictures.

It's fascinating the extremes that one resorts to when stuck with some specific rules. Where the rules give some room individual expression, you go all out. So, of course, heavy makeup and hair teased high for under-scarf impact. Find a picture that shows one of these young people and show it to someone who doesn't know what restrictions that person is dealing with. See what they say, then tell them what they are looking at. Watch them go from derision to respect in an instant. As I say, it's fascinating.

My links on "heavy makeup" go to the website of a photographer who writes: "I now live in iran which has become way more exciting to me than New York [because] of all the diverse art and the energy of its youth."

Now, I feel like I'm almost unwittingly making an argument in favor of limitations! But no, I'm for freedom. In an environment of American freedom, you'll have a hard time coming up with something truly original and expressive. Heavy makeup and teased hair... it's not daring and transgressive. What is? Perhaps, ironically, modesty... or modesty with irony. I'll let you know when I find pictures on the internet of that. Googling things like "modest dress in america" only takes me into the realm of religion. Which is ironic, but not the kind of irony I'm looking for.

ADDED: From Hijab style — I love this one. And then there's this.

AND: Those 2 links ended up taking you to the same place. This is the one I meant to say I loved. And this is the other one I meant to point out.

"In the span of just two weeks, Mitt Romney has gone from seeming quite vulnerable to the near-inevitable Republican nominee."

Nate Silver says, noting that since December 13, Romney's gone from 42% to 72% at Intrade, and opining that even 72% seems low. (Here's the Intrade chart, and you can see that Romney's just back where he was before, following a brief plunge. Meanwhile, here's what happened to Newt.)

Can you visualize a scenario in which Romney does not emerge as the winner? Silver tries. He notes that Romney's numbers are low for a frontrunner, and you can tell that plenty of Republicans still resist him. Yes, but what could happen? He might do poorly in Iowa. Silver's numbers show that Romney might get as much as 36% in Iowa, but "as little as 8 percent, which could drop him all the way down to fifth or sixth place."
Even a third-place finish in Iowa, much less something worse, might now be viewed as disappointing for Mr. Romney, increasing the risk of either a loss in New Hampshire or a close call that made Mr. Romney vulnerable heading into South Carolina and Florida....

My view is that the probability of these scenarios is higher than is generally acknowledged.... [but] there’s still that issue of one of the other candidates actually having to defeat him. One of the more likely scenarios is that Mr. Romney does take some bruises in the early states, whether at the expense of Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Perry, Mr. Huntsman or even Mr. Paul. But then the other candidate runs out of steam. Mr. Romney recovers and wins, perhaps after a strong performance in Michigan on Feb. 28, on Super Tuesday.

"We agree entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100 percent insurance coverage for all Americans."

Newt Gingrich, 2006.

December 26, 2011

At the Cheese Curds and Popcorn Café...

... grab a chair.

Obama nominates Chuck Schumer's brother-in-law as a federal judge in New Jersey.

New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg "had been leaning toward other candidates until surprisingly submitting McNulty’s name to the White House."
“No one knows why [Lautenberg] did it,” said one person involved in the nomination process. “Everyone thinks it’s all about 2014 and Frank making sure he has Chuck in his corner."...
People involved in the judicial-nomination process in New Jersey told The Post they believe the surprise nomination was a naked political maneuver by the 87-year-old Lautenberg to stay in Schumer’s good graces. Lautenberg is worried that party elders will try to push him out of his beloved Senate seat because of his advanced age — something that Schumer, one of the party’s top opinion makers and fund-raisers, would be able to stop.
“McNulty came out of left field,” said another source involved in the Jersey judicial politics. “McNulty’s not a dumb guy, but people were just, like, ‘How’d that happen?’ ”
I need a punchline for this post. What do you think is funnier? An 87-year-old is worried about "party elders"?! Or: Left field... isn't that where Obama goes to get all his judges?

See those little pink snowflakes...

... above "Yahoo!" at the top of the Flickr page? Click on one. And feel free to smash the light bulbs.

"Now that my war on Christmas is over, I can begin my war on New Years."

Steve Martin tweets.

"Pretend to be completely in control and people will assume that you are."

The most highlighted sentence in the Kindle edition of the Steve Jobs bio.

Second most highlighted: "People DO judge a book by its cover... We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software etc.; if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities.”

Here's the most highlighted one that I also highlighted: "People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint." It's actually the 6th most highlighted. It's a quote from Steve Jobs. The first 2 above are not Steve Jobs quotes. They are, respectively, by Nolan Bushnell (Jobs's role model, the founder of Atari) and Mike Markkula (first big Apple investor).

ADDED: Here— chez Amazon — is a list of the most highlighted passages of all time. #1 is: "Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them." Oh, man. I guess obviousness brings out the old highlighter (among readers of Suzanne Collins books). She's got the second most-highlighted passage as well: "It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart." It's fun to read these things because you're seeing... something about a certain type of reader. #13 shows what leaped out at readers of Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People":
Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.
Ha ha. Think about that next time you're out to manipulate people, you little weasel.

The Glass House.

Conversations in Context: Paul Goldberger from The Glass House on Vimeo.

Downloading ebooks.

Here are the top 100 Kindle books — 100 each in the "paid" and "free" categories.

I tend to buy my books in Kindle format and read them in the Kindle app on my iPad. I just finished reading the Steve Jobs biography (which is #14 in the paid category), and the main book I'm reading right now is "Losing It," which is a book about the shrinking brain, which was written by the shrinking brain of William Ian Miller and I'm reading with the shrinking brain of Ann Althouse. Here are a few other Kindle books I bought recently, in case you're wondering what I'm carrying around in my iPad:

"What? Did you think we got you crackers?"


What a charmingly low-key family! I really enjoyed watching that after watching — and being told to love — this.

Didn't you get what you wanted?

May I recommend Amazon?

You know, I would consider buying a big new TV— but it just seems so complicated these days. I don't even know the difference between an LED and an LCD screen. Which is supposed to be better? Any advice? Built-in WiFi... is that the future or is the future about to overtake that technology? 3D... does that make the thing worse if you don't want 3D? If I wait 6 months, will everything be better and cheaper?

"When a mother branch branches in two daughter branches..."

"... the diameters are such that the surface areas of the two daughter branches, when they sum up, is equal to the area of the mother branch."

Leonardo's observation, verified.

Scott Walker is the first of Politico's "top unanswered questions for 2012."

Here's how they phrase it: "Can Democrats claim a scalp in Wisconsin?" (Why isn't "claim a scalp" politically incorrect by now?) The question is whether the Democrats can take down Scott Walker in a recall election. I'm predicting they can't. I think the more interesting question is: Will the Democrats' effort to oust Walker have repercussions in the fall elections to the ironic point where it is Wisconsin that tips the Senate and the presidency to the Republicans?

There are a bunch of other questions. 2 are about the Supreme Court: "Will the Supreme Court deliver for the GOP?" and "Will a liberal retire from the Supreme Court?" Again, Politico is obtuse. For example, it says: "If the court strikes down the controversial individual mandate, it would be a jolting setback for Obama just a few months before he’s up for reelection." But striking down the individual mandate would help Obama! How is it a setback? The unpopular law would be gone. Obama could claim it was a good thing and blame the bad old Supreme Court for being all "activist." If, on the other hand, the Court upholds the law, Obama will feel the full force of the opposition to it. And the spotlight will be on the liberal Supreme Court Justices who won't enforce limits on congressional power, which will leverage the GOP to say: Do you want Obama naming the successors to those terrible liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Steven Breyer?

That 55-yard touchdown catch.


Mitt Romney "mastered the Harvard Business School method of literally looking at the world on a case-by-case basis..."

"... approaching each problem completely on its own terms and making recommendations based on data."
In the classrooms where Mr. Romney distinguished himself, there were no “right” answers — no right questions even, just a daily search for how to improve results. The Mitt Romney classmates knew then was a gifted fix-it man, attuned to the particulars of every situation he examined and eager to deliver what customers wanted.

“Mitt never struck me as an ideologue outside matters involving church and family,” said Howard Brownstein, a classmate. “He is a relativist, a pragmatist and a problem solver.”
That's from an article by Jodi Kantor in the NYT, and you can try to figure out if it's trying to promote Romney, undermine him, or tell it straight. I don't really know, but then, I like pragmatists and don't trust ideologues. For voters who look for an ideological structure of beliefs and mistrust pragmatism, this portrait will look different. But what I'm noticing, after all these months of mushy complaints about Romney's lack of "core values," is that there is no dirt on Romney. The criticisms about him are utterly abstract: he seems "plastic" or wishy-washy. Why do people keep saying things like that? I think it's because that's all they can say. The man has lived a blameless, virtuous life. He's the man who's never done anything wrong. Do you have a problem with that? He's too good?
If Mr. Romney melded with [Harvard Business School] l intellectually, he kept some distance from it socially. He was married and a parent. In the liberal precincts of Cambridge, he and his wife, Ann Romney — pictured wearing matching sweaters at a fall 1973 business school clambake, with their two sons on their laps — seemed like they were from “out on the prairies,” Mr. Brownstein said.

The future governor abstained from things many other students were doing: drinking coffee or alcohol, swearing, smoking.... When classmates visited the Romneys’ tidy home in suburban Belmont, they felt as if they were visiting a friend’s parents, not members of their own generation, and the young couple’s closest friends came from the Mormon church.
He's a big old square, you see.
The Romneys did let outsiders into their world, sometimes inviting study group members to their weekly “family home evening,” a night Mormons traditionally set aside for husbands, wives and children to spend time together. (Mr. Brownstein remembered Mrs. Romney showing him her basement: in accordance with Mormon custom, she had a year’s supply of food stored in bins and freezers.)
Those crazy Mormons! Family home evening... a year's worth of provisions, stored in the basement... are these the kind of people you'd like to put in charge of the economy?
Mr. Romney never seriously considered practicing law. “He wanted to make money, he wanted to solve problems,” said [Howard] Serkin, his former classmate. (In Mr. Romney’s world, money is “how you keep score,” he added.)
How many Howards did the NYT find to inject snark into every fact? Don't we want a President who will "keep score" with money? Or does solving problems and keeping track of money fit your "no core values" template for Romney?

Ron Paul is not an anti-Semite, but he is "most certainly Anti-Israel, and Anti-Israeli in general."

"He wishes the Israeli state did not exist at all. He expressed this to me numerous times in our private conversations. His view is that Israel is more trouble than it is worth, specifically to the America taxpayer. He sides with the Palestinians, and supports their calls for the abolishment of the Jewish state, and the return of Israel, all of it, to the Arabs."

Writes Eric Dondero, who was a senior aide to Ron Paul, 1997-2003, campaign coordinator in 1995/96, the national organizer of Draft Ron Paul for President (1991/92), and a personal assistant to Ron Paul 1987/88.

Dondero also writes that Ron Paul is not a racist, that in 12 years of working for the man, he "never heard a racist word expressed towards Blacks or Jews come out of his mouth." I note the limitation "toward Blacks or Jews" and have no idea whether Dondero intended to create a suspicion that he may have heard a "racist word" against some other group or groups. Dondero calls Paul "clueless when it comes to Hispanic and Black culture, particularly Mexican-American culture" and "most certainly intolerant of Spanish and those who speak strictly Spanish in his presence." This is strong language — most certainly intolerant and clueless — and we're left to guess what kind of cantankerous or inept remarks Dondero heard over the years.

Consider that "racist" is such a strong word that it might mean little to say I've never heard a racist word. I have no idea what sorts of things Ron Paul actually said. In fact, for all I know, Dondero would say that the things in the Ron Paul Letter that have caused Ron Paul so much trouble were not racist, though they were certainly clueless and intolerant.

As to gay people, Dondero has this:
Is Ron Paul a homo-phobe? Well, yes and no. He is not all bigoted towards homosexuals. He supports their rights to do whatever they please in their private lives. He is however, personally uncomfortable around homosexuals, no different from a lot of older folks of his era.
So what's Dondero saying? Paul is okay with gay people as long as they stay away from him? And we should cut him some slack because he's an old guy? Not very encouraging to those of us who expect the work in the executive branch and the military to be fully open to gay people. Dondero recounts a couple incidents: 1. Ron Paul refused to use the bathroom at a gay man's house (and yelled at Dondero for not getting him out to some fast food restaurant where he could use the bathroom), and 2. Paul "literally swatted... away" the hand of a gay man who reached out to shake hands with him. Dondero writes: "I would not categorize that as 'homo-phobic,' but rather just unsettled by being around gays personally." This says something about Dondero's standards, Dondero who "never heard a racist word." But exactly what did he hear that he's not classifying as not racist the way he's not classifying those bathroom and hand-shaking incidents as homophobic?

There's quite a bit more to Dondero's article, covering the "sheer lunacy" of Ron Paul's ideas about foreign policy and asserting that he "expressed no sympathies whatsoever for those who died on 9/11, and pretty much forbade us staffers from engaging in any sort of memorial expressions." Dondero says that "Ron Paul was opposed to the War in Afghanistan, and to any military reaction to the attacks of 9/11," and that he would have voted no on the war resolution, but switched his vote at the last minute for reasons Dondero only guesses about.

December 25, 2011

Intelligent adults, contemplating why they play a mindless video game.

Lori Culwell sees the game "Angry Birds" as her "meditation tool" and thinks she's "picked up some sage wisdom from those self-sacrificing birds and their mortal pig enemies. Call it an Angry Birds satori, perhaps."
[T]he birds put my mind into a deeply Zen-like and hypnotic state, not unlike "flow" as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Maybe the people at Rovio have given us a game that is part meditation, part allegory for life. Maybe Freud would point out that my finding Zen in a game based on pig destruction signals latent anger issues.
("Flow" by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly is one of my very favorite books, as I've noted before.)

And here's William Ian Miller in "Losing It"  — a book I first talked about here — talking about solitaire:
Everything distracts me... I interrupted the writing of this paragraph to play a game of solitaire, and then when I lost I allowed myself to play until I won, and then one more in case I won two in a row, and then I kept on until I won two in a row. Says the ancient rabbinical Pirkei Avot: The Ethics of the Fathers, written some eighteen hundred years ago: “If a man is walking by the way and is studying and then interrupts his study and exclaims: ‘How beautiful is this tree? How beautiful is this plowed furrow?’ Scripture considers that it is to be regarded as if he has forfeited his life (or as if he bears guilt for his soul).” If the beauties of nature cannot justify distraction, what of solitaire? My offense is (as if) capital; if only I could remember which circle of hell awaits me. My will—an element of my name, no less—never strong to begin with, has become weaker. The “I am” that remains in Will -iam is thus a ghost of its former self. If William James is right, and I find that he usually is, then I am in trouble: “The essential achievement of the will, in short, when it is most ‘voluntary,’ is to attend to a difficult object and hold it fast before the mind" (italics in original).
Do you use video games in a way that makes you want to explain it — like Culwell — in terms of meditation and wisdom or — like Miller — to read it as a signpost that you are walking downhill toward the grave?

"I'm about as secular as a person could reasonably be..."

"... but not secular enough to grumble about other people's enjoyment of what they regard as the birthday celebration for their spiritual savior," says Geoffrey K. Pullum, at Language Log.
From my kitchen here in Edinburgh right now, I can hear the bell of Broughton St. Mary's Church calling the flock in for the Christmas morning service, and it doesn't make me bristle. And I don't mind the huge Norwegian Christmas tree that is always erected on The Mound behind the Scottish National Gallery (a gift from Hordaland in Norway in memory of close ties during the Second World War) being called a Christmas tree. The nativity scenes put up here and there annoy me to the same extent as the menoras in some windows, which is to say, absolutely not at all.

The Christmas Eve carol service from King's College Cambridge, broadcast on BBC Radio 4, is worth hearing by anyone who appreciates high-quality choral music, and if some public funds are used to get the outside broadcast trucks to Cambridge and the mikes set up, I say good, spend it. The BBC's short sermon each morning, "Thought For The Day", studiously circulates through Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Islam, so determined are they to be eclectic in their spiritual uplift. I disappear into the shower rather than hear the platitudes, but I'm not inclined to campaign for removing them from the airwaves. Considering that the UK actually is a theocracy (the reigning monarch is both head of state and head of the uniquely established church that the state recognizes), it's all pretty relaxed and inclusive and not worth a serious person's protest time.
The UK actually is a theocracy... but a serious, completely secular person shouldn't mind it at all.

"People treasure old, weird typewriters. But you throw out a computer..."

"... and it’s gone. It’s sitting in a pile of toxic rubble in India."

"A lot of parents today are terrified that something they say to their children might make them 'feel bad.'"

"But, hey, if they've done something wrong, they should feel bad. Kids with a sense of responsibility, not entitlement, who know when to experience gratitude and humility, will be better at navigating the social shoals of college."

— Amy Chua.

"Let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped."

"Let us allow ourselves to be made simple by the God who reveals himself to the simple of heart."

Merry Christmas!

Christmas 1953

(That's the traditional Althouse blog Christmas photo... from 1953.)

ADDED: More "young Althouse" Christmas pics — from 1958.

"Maria would please me muchly by denying herself the Christmas frolic because it’s a fool’s day."

So wrote Jonathan Blanchard, president of Knox College, in 1858, in a letter to his wife Mary, as noted by Paddy O in the comments. Paddy O also says:
Back in the 1800s... very conservative Christians assumed that Christmas was in fact a pagan holiday and would not celebrate it.

The founder and first president of my very Evangelical college, Jonathan Blanchard, did not even want to cancel classes on that day....

Yet, Christian ritual is by its very nature adaptive. Unlike in the Torah, there's no liturgical prescriptions, so Christians are able to adapt within a culture, honoring their savior in culturally imbued ways. For our culture, a day of birth is the day we honor especially those we value. So, to honor the day of Christ's birth is to honor this man, to honor indeed the incarnation itself, making it a theological statement.
Following this analysis, we should approve of the early Christians who fell into the celebration of the Feast of the Sol Invictus. Right?
There's also an issue of theology and culture involved. Do Christians hide from the culture or do they interact with it? How do they interact with it? I very much like the transformative approach, shining light on a culture through culturally understood celebrations. 
I think your answer to my question needs to be yes. It's the old question of whether religions need to be kept pure and, if so, what counts as pure. Paddy goes on to stress "goodness, love, community, giving, peace, joy," so perhaps he would lean toward purity but define what is within that circle of purity to include a set of virtues that are not limited to Christianity or even to religion.
We celebrate that we are to be good, to live at peace, to sing and laugh and hope together. Christmas, much more than Valentine's Day, is really a celebration of the deepest reality of love. We wish each other love on this day, not sentimentality or cheap romance or egotistical lust, but actual deep, fulfilling, holistic love.

May your day be merry and full of life, full of love. On this day may we taste that fullness of love that is at the heart of God's work in this world, sending his son, to us, for us, with us, among us, seeking us out, because God first loved us.

A Christmas poll.

Please read the previous post before answering.

Should we celebrate Christmas?
Yes, because it's a traditional holiday in our culture.
Yes, because it's the day Christ was born (or so they say).
Yes, but we should celebrate on a different day, like maybe December 17th.
No, because it's not good Christianity to celebrate birthdays.
No, because Christians should concentrate on Easter and other days.
No, because Christmas has been degraded by paganism and commercialism.
No, because Christianity is not true. free polls 

Why the early Christians did not celebrate Christmas.

Rev. Brian D. Blacker explains:
It was strongly felt that the celebrating of any day or date – be they birthdays or anniversaries of an event – was a custom of the pagans. By the word ‘pagans’ they meant irreligious people who still live in the darkness of superstition. In an effort to divest themselves of all pagan practices, therefore, they did not even set aside or note down the date of their Saviour’s birth....

Most scholars agree that the birth of the Redeemer did not take place in the month of December at all. In fact, the 25th of December was not even chosen by the Christians, but by the Romans – the traditional arch enemies of the early church...

[The Romans had begun] to celebrate the “Feast of the Sol Invictus” (the Unconquerable Sun) on December 25. Soon many Christians began to join in this pagan festival and the various celebrations that went with it. Their faith wasn’t vibrant enough (or real enough) to stand against the strong pull of the festivity and celebration around them. They drifted with the crowd.

Thus, in order to keep the Christians away from all the pagan rituals that was part of this worship of the sun, Bishop Liberius of Rome declared, in 354 A.D., that all Christians everywhere should celebrate the birth of our Lord on December 25...

We must recognise a parallel in what took place in church history and what is taking place in this day and age....
Uh oh. Here comes the sermon. You can go to the link if you want to see what lessons Rev. Blacker draws from this sequence of events. It seems to me there are quite a few different lessons you might teach with that intro, and I believe the conversation we have right here will be more interesting and enlightening than what Rev. Blacker says.

And then there's the separate question whether the Feast of the Sol Invictus theory of Christmas is even correct. Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI, has observed that December 25 is simply 9 months after March 25, and March 25 was the date of the Annunciation, that is the date of Jesus' conception.

Getting the date right matters far less than the question whether we should be doing annual celebrations on a particular date — including all kinds of birthdays, death-days, and anniversaries — and which days should be the ones that we single out as the biggest occasions. Even if you're a Christian, you could decline to celebrate Christmas and even then, it could be for one of a number of reasons: 1. because it's less important than other days within Christianity, 2. because celebrating birthdays and anniversaries is not what Christianity should be, 3. because it's too closely associated with the pagan festivities having to do with the sun, or (least convincing reason) 4. because December 25th is the wrong day.

ADDED:  Sorry, but I'm going to argue with the Pope. Doctors calculate the length of pregnancy from the first day of the woman's last period, not the date of conception. If Mary conceived on March 25, then the first day of her last period — I've never before in my life thought about Mary's periods! — was  March 11th or thereabouts. (I'm assuming Mary had 28-day periods and conception occurred on the day of ovulation, 2 weeks later.) If the first day of Mary's last period was indeed March 11th, using the standard calculation, the predicted due date is December 17th. I can't believe it was so easy to point out a hole in a Pope's argument!

What are you doing reading blogs on Christmas morning?

Maybe you don't celebrate Christmas, either because you never did or because you stopped for some reason.

Maybe you're up — or you're reading your iPhone/iPad/laptop in bed — and the rest of the family/friends/co-celebrants are not up, and you're passing the time until they are.

Maybe you've finished celebrating, or you've finished Stage 1 of celebrating, and you're taking an internet break while other people play with their toys.

Maybe you are playing with a new toy — of the internet-accessing type — in which case, thanks for testing it out on a blog called Althouse.

Welcome, this morning, to all readers, whether today is extra special or another normal day. I love normal days myself, so let me extend a special welcome to the readers who don't regard Christmas as a special day and to those who would like to see Christmas be more like a normal day.