May 21, 2011

At the Cream-of-Mushroom Café...


... I'm sorry, we're closed.

(Enlarge for the soup, etc.)

"Passing the sexual Turing test."

It's not easy! The computer hears the laughter on comedy shows and thinks it's porn.

The world-did-not-end traffic.

From my Site Meter, just now, under "Referring Search Words Ranked by Visits":

It's not all about the world not ending — Google traffic going to this post of mine. Somebody came here looking for "music to read to" and got to a post that I'm proud of. And then there was "you know i work on my hair" — which went here, where the clip from the movie with that quote no longer plays.

Sunset in Monroe, Wisconsin.



How can Mitch Daniels announce that he's running for President when he's got 16 stitches in his big bulbous forehead?

"Indiana Republican governor Mitch Daniels was hit in the forehead by a swinging door after concluding a workout Friday afternoon, prompting an injury that required 16 stitches."

Prompting an injury. What the hell happened? Was another human being involved, did the inanimate object — the door — lose control, or did he do some crazy-ass slapstick with the door? Whatever... you can't run for President with a Frankenstein head.

Planking — "the seemingly harmless trend of lying face down, perfectly stiff, on various structures in public."

But it killed a guy... so let's worry about it.

If Tammy Baldwin were to run for the Senate seat vacated by Herb Kohl, could she simultaneously run for reelection to her House seat?

You know, like the way Joe Biden ran for Vice President and for reelection to his Senate seat in 2008 (and then resigned the Senate seat). The answer is: no.

ADDED: I've reworded the title to this post because somebody in the comments found it ambiguous.

The Daily News heaps bad PR on a dress shop for refusing to give a cash refund for a $1200 prom dress.

The store's policy is only to give store credit for returns, but supposedly an exception must be made because the girl's boyfriend died.

What do you think?
The store is right to stick to its policy. It's best to apply the same rules to everyone.
The store would have been nice to make an exception, but not doing so doesn't belong in the news.
It's good that people learn that this store failed to do something compassionate.
The store was morally obligated to give the refund and deserves public shaming. free polls

At the County Courthouse Café...



... you can talk about anything, but I'd love to hear about the county courthouses of America. This one, photographed yesterday, is in Monroe, Wisconsin, the county seat of Green County. I love small cities like this, with a central square dominated by the county courthouse. Lafayette, Indiana is like this. Tell me about others that you know.

The world did not end. That's not the big news.

The big news is that big news covered the nonnews. We were supposed to find it amusing. Amusing to snicker at marginal people who believe religious things. They're so dumb. We're so smart. No, you're not. You are part of the system of dumbness you purport to report.

"Paula Deen's recipe for English peas. Read the recipe. Then read the comments."

Tell people to melt a whole panful of butter and dump 2 cans of peas into it and see what they say.
"This was outstanding! I did make a couple modifications. I eliminated the butter, and in place of the peas I substituted one can of Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs."

"A huge opening-day pop is not a sign of a successful I.P.O., but rather a massively mispriced one."

"Bankers are rewarding their friends and themselves instead of doing their fiduciary duty to their clients."
Suppose... your trusted real estate agent persuaded you to sell your house for $1 million. Then, the next day, the same agent sold the same house for the new owner for $2 million. “How would you feel if your agent did that?”... That...  is what Merrill and Morgan did to LinkedIn.

"White House on War Powers Deadline: 'Limited' US Role in Libya Means No Need to Get Congressional Authorization."

Jake Tapper reports:
“Since April 4,” the president wrote, “U.S. participation has consisted of: (1) non-kinetic support to the NATO-led operation, including intelligence, logistical support, and search and rescue assistance; (2) aircraft that have assisted in the suppression and destruction of air defenses in support of the no-fly zone; and (3) since April 23, precision strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles against a limited set of clearly defined targets in support of the NATO-led coalition's efforts.”

A senior administration official told ABC News that the letter is intended to describe “a narrow US effort that is intermittent and principally an effort to support to support the ongoing NATO-led and UN-authorized civilian support mission and no fly zone.”

“The US role is one of support,” the official said, “and the kinetic pieces of that are intermittent.”
Get it?

UPDATE: Jake Tapper emails:
i know you're not responsible for the folks who post to your site -- God knows i stopped reading my comments long ago -- but FYI, per your first commenter, I never defended Helen Thomas.
He's referring, apparently, to the second comment, from chickenlittle, who said: "Sorry but I lost a lot of respect for Jake Tapper when he defended that hag Helen Thomas."

Gifts/Candles/Birthday/New Age/Body Jewelry/Stuff/Tobacco/Bachelorette/Incense/Weapons.

A puzzling storefront in Monroe, Wisconsin:



"Justice Anthony M. Kennedy... said he aspired to Ernest Hemingway’s stripped-down language..."

Talk about falling short of your aspirations! Of all the Justices on the Court today, I find that Justice Kennedy writes in the least straightforward style. Ah, well. At least he means well. Or is he conning us with this Hemingway talk?

The linked article — by Adam Liptak, in the NYT — links to this set of long recorded interviews with Supreme Court Justices about how they write and how they want lawyers to write.
Justice Ginsburg said she had learned much from a course Nabokov taught at Cornell on European literature.

“He was a man in love with the sound of words,” she said of her former professor. “He changed the way I read, the way I write.”

Justice Thomas, on the other hand, cited only a single author, and then only by way of contrast. “It’s not a mystery novel,” he said of a good brief. “People can’t think, ‘I’m Agatha Christie,’ or something like that.”
Ginsburg and Nabokov. Thomas and Christie. What do you think of Liptak's juxtaposition? It's a literary device. Would you put it at the Nabokov level? The Christie level? Somewhere lower?

ADDED: Both Nabokov and Agatha Christie are discussed in the Wikipedia article "Unreliable Narrator":
A controversial example of an unreliable narrator occurs in Agatha Christie's novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, where the narrator hides essential truths in the text (mainly through evasion, omission, and obfuscation) without ever overtly lying. Many readers at the time felt that the plot twist at the climax of the novel was nevertheless unfair....

Humbert Humbert, the main character and narrator of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, often tells the story in such a way as to justify his pedophilic fixation on young girls, in particular his sexual relationship with his 12-year-old stepdaughter....
Now, you want your judges and lawyers to be reliable narrators when they tell you about the facts of the case and interpret and apply the law. Thomas said don't be like Agatha Christie. You need to tell it straight. But Ginsburg said she learned from Nabokov, learned to love the sound of the words. Liptak — I think — intended to make Ginsburg look good and Thomas bad, but it didn't quite work out that way.

"Mildred said [Schwarzenegger] had long hands. He would grab her behind often... She liked the attention."

I'm passing along what The Daily News passes along.

May 20, 2011

At the Morel Café...


... maybe you'll find what you're looking for.

The new Wisconsin Law School dean: Margaret Raymond!

"Margaret is a distinguished legal scholar and a lively intellect. She has a keen sense of the strengths of our Law School. We are delighted she has decided to join our team."

Said UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court recount is finally over, Prosser has won by over 7,000 votes, but Kloppenburg may move the battle for judicial power into court.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
Former Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske said she saw little chance that a court challenge to the recount would succeed. "I think it's going to be a very, very difficult road for Ms. Kloppenburg to upset Justice Prosser, unless there are things we do not know about," said Geske, now a professor at the Marquette University Law School. Any evidence is "going to have to be extensive to overcome that number of votes."...

Prosser attorney Dan Kelly said earlier this month he was concerned a legal challenge would take months and lead to a temporary vacancy on the court. The next 10-year term on the seven-member Supreme Court begins Aug. 1.
It would seem that the only reason for taking this into the courts would be to delay in order to produce this vacancy. The vacancy has special value because of the hot controversy over the budget-repair bill:
Unions rallied behind Kloppenburg in the hope that she would vote to overturn the law, while conservatives stepped up their support for Prosser in the hope that he would vote to uphold it. Now that bill has been passed by the Legislature but blocked from taking effect by a court challenge....

Ultimately, the issue could be decided by the Supreme Court - unless a temporary vacancy in Prosser's seat produces a 3-3 tie, in which case a lower court might have the last word.
So Kloppenburg failed to win a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in an election that focused on the budget-repair bill, but she could try, by initiating a futile lawsuit about the election, to affect the way the Wisconsin Supreme Court decides the budget case and to affect it in a way that is contrary to what the voters voted for. And, if she does that, expect to hear her say lofty-sounding things about protecting the interests of the voters.

As a libertarian, you ought to love the way government buildings are ugly.

I tell Matt Welch:

"Peace based on illusions will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle East reality."

Said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to President Barack Obama today.
Netanyahu told Obama that Israel was willing to make compromises for peace but flatly rejected the idea of going back to 1967 borders, which he described as "indefensible."
The headline of this NYT article totally threw me: "Divisions Clear as Netanyahu and Obama Discuss Peace." I read the second word as a verb, but it's an adjective.

Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds a sentence of life-without-parole for 14-year-olds.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
Omer Ninham was just 14 when he was part of a gang that threw a 13-year-old Hmong boy to his death from the top of a Green Bay parking garage in 1998....

The law that allowed Ninham to be tried and convicted as an adult, and sentenced to Wisconsin's harshest penalty, came as a result of outrage over the fate of an earlier 14-year-old killer. In 1983, Peter Zimmer killed his adoptive parents and brother in Mineral Point, but could only be found delinquent and held until he turned 19, when he was released with a new name and a plane ticket to Florida....

Ninham suffered physical and mental abuse at home, and was regularly drinking alcohol by age 10. He never had a toothbrush until he was put into juvenile detention. His lawyers say he has made great progress in prison.
Here's the opinion. There is a dissenting opinion by Shirley Abrahamson (joined by Ann Walsh Bradley):
Just as society's standards of decency categorically do not allow a juvenile to be sentenced to death, juveniles 14 years old or younger should not be sentenced to death in prison.

Omer Ninham's sentence guarantees he will die in prison without any meaningful opportunity to obtain release, no matter what he might do to demonstrate that the heinous act he committed as a 14-year-old is not representative of his true character. I conclude the death-in-prison sentence subjecting the 14-year-old to "hopeless, lifelong punishment and segregation is not a usual or acceptable response to childhood criminality, even when the criminality amounts to murder."

We always knew that Arnold Schwarzenegger was here to "pump you up."

We just have more insight now about what "pump you up" meant.

Justice Alito: "I've never earned an honest living."

He was responding to the charge that he's pro-business:
Alito recalled seeing one television commentator assert that Alito had previously worked for the Chamber of Commerce. "I wondered if I was suffering from amnesia and thought I'd better check my resumé,” Alito said. “The only employers I've ever had have been the Department of Justice and the Supreme Court. I've never earned an honest living."

The new anti-Romney ad "shows that Priorities USA Action... will work as something of a roving hit squad."

Says Jim Rutenberg in the NY Times:
The spot focuses on Mr. Gingrich’s suggestion on “Meet the Press’’ on Sunday that the Medicare overhaul approved by House Republicans last month represented “radical change’’...

Examining why there is an attack on Romney coming so early, Rutenberg quotes Paul Begala (who is an adviser to Priorities USA):
“The man, the moment the place, the characters, it all came together... Any good political player sees defining moments happening and helps to form them.”

The spot shows that Priorities USA Action, like the conservative group it is seeking to counter, American Crossroads, will work as something of a roving hit squad. As an independent group, it is unencumbered by the political sensitivities that a candidate has to worry about, and is free to pick its shots as long as it can afford them.

Rush to Newt: "What did you apologize to [Paul Ryan] about?"

And Newt said, referring to what he had said on "Meet the Press" using the phrase "social engineering" to describe an aspect of Ryan's Medicare proposal:
Because it was interpreted in a way which was causing trouble, which he doesn't need or deserve, and was causing the House Republicans trouble. One of my closest friends -- somebody I truly, deeply respect -- e-mailed me and said, "You know, your answer hits every Republican who voted for the budget." Well, my answer wasn't about the budget. I promptly went back and said publicly, and continue to say: "I would have voted for the Ryan budget. I think it's a very important first step in the right direction," and I have consistently said that from the time that Paul first briefed me on it weeks before he introduced it -- and I've been talking with Paul Ryan about budget matters for the last four years.

Gallup finds — for the first time — that a majority of Americans favor gay marriage.

But the shift was entirely a shift — and it was a big shift — in the views of Democrats and independents. Republicans stayed put.

Conservatives are conservative. You can be smug about that. But independents moved 10 percentage points in one year. Think about it.

Track marries his high school sweetheart.


"How about never? Is never good for you?"

About moving the period outside of the quotation marks.

ADDED: People in the comments are talking about what makes sense. I say:
It's not about making sense. It's about aesthetics. What feels right? We are accustomed to the quotation mark holding and containing the period and if the period is exiled from that embrace, we will have the uneasy feeling that it might roll away.

May 19, 2011

At the Deep Shade Café...


... it's getting late, but you can talk all night.

Google and free speech.

The NYT features a Bloggingheads clip with Matt Welch and me.

Arnold's other woman.

An interesting contrast to Maria.

"In a resumption of the judge wars from last decade, Republican senators today voted for the first successful filibuster ..."

"... of one of President Barack Obama's judicial nominees, Goodwin Liu.... The vote was a throwback to Democratic filibusters of some of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees."

Senators who had been members of the so-called Gang of 14 justified the filibuster by pointing at Liu's testimony against the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

What did Liu write?
"Judge Alito’s record envisions an America where police may shoot and kill an unarmed boy to stop him from running away with a stolen purse … where a black man may be sentenced to death by an all-white jury for killing a white man.... I humbly submit that this is not the America we know. Nor is it the America we aspire to be.”

At the Long Branch Café...


... you need to prop up your sagging arguments.

Gabrielle Giffords has surgery "grafting a piece of ceramic shaped by a computer to fit the part of her skull that was removed after her injury to relieve swelling."

"[D]octors ... opted for a prosthesis because the original bone was shattered and contaminated by the bullet... [S]ome fragments of the bullet remained in her brain and could not be safely removed."

"Seeking to harness the seismic political change still unfolding in the Arab world..."

"... President Obama for the first time on Thursday publicly called for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would create a non-militarized Palestinian state on the basis of Israel’s borders before the 1967 war that led to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza."

ADDED: Reactions:
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said Obama, whom he served as U.S. ambassador to China until last month, undercut an opportunity for Israelis and Palestinians to build trust. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Obama "threw Israel under the bus" and handed the Palestinians a victory even before negotiations between the parties could resume. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called it "the most dangerous speech ever made by an American president for the survival of Israel."

I'm on trend, people.

Haven't you seen what's going on with A.Co,  Z.Co, and K.Co?

AND: Check out — a sleek, arty blog. Although that was once in Sweden. But I know all about Arthouse....


"I think I understand the man. He's not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him and I sympathize with him a little bit."

What Lars Von Trier said about Hitler, after Kirsten Dunst tries to stop him from stream-of-consciousness talking. He brushes her off with "There will come a point at the end of this..." as if he's being shocking at this point in his riff, but he's going to bring it all in for a landing in some way that's going to be quite brilliant and good. Later, he says that he ran his mouth off and that he was "egged on by a provocation."

Is it possible that von Trier really does sympathize with Hitler? I find it so hard to believe that, even though I don't much like him as a director, but perhaps that is true. Assuming it's not true, it's a PR blunder. And it's terribly insensitive to get people wound up over the subject of Hitler because you have some clever "point at the end of this."

But I can see why a movie director would think he could speak like this. At the movies, the viewers sit still while the entire 2-hour narrative unfolds, and only after the "point at the end" arrives do they begin talking about what they think it meant. In the meantime, the director can take them through all sorts of twists and misdirections. There are disturbing fears and ambiguities along the way. The viewer is supposed to take it all in, to feel and to think on the fly, as the next thing and the next thing is thrown in their faces.

But the press conference did not work like that. People did not sit still and wait for the end of von Trier's narrative arc. And now, he's being punished, and he's abjectly apologizing. Fine. But could he please tell us what "the point at the end of this" was going to be? That would be more useful than an apology. Where was he going? He is a man whom people have cared about as an artist. I want to hear what he was going to say.

"There is... a rare historic opportunity... to free yourselves from servitude to the desires of the rulers, man-made law, and Western dominance."

Osama bin Laden's posthumous message, praising the revolution in Tunisia and Egypt.

Voter ID passes in the Wisconsin Senate and protesters chant "Shame!"

"Those in the Senate gallery sang 'We Shall Overcome' after a speech about voting rights."
State Sen. Spencer Coggs, D-Milwaukee, [said] "There is some racism in this bill"....

"This is a shameful day," Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, said. "It is the day that democracy died."

It's not Lady Gaga unseating Oprah that disturbs me. It's Elton John and Bon Jovi in the top 10.

"The World's Most Powerful Celebrities"... according to Forbes.

We need better celebrities! It was bad enough back in the 80s when Elton John and Bon Jovi were the celebrities we had to settle for. But here they are. Still "powerful," whatever that means. Growing up in the 50s and 60s, I really got the wrong impression of the speed of the flow of new celebrities into the popular culture.

Maybe this is why time has seemed to go faster as we (Baby Boomers) have gotten older. Or do you think it should be a reason why things should appear to be going slower? When nothing's happening and you're bored, time does seem to go slower. But uneventfulness also makes long stretches of time look shorter. It's a paradox. The paradox of the puzzling persistence of Bon Jovi and Elton John.

"The FBI wants DNA samples from 'Unabomber' Ted Kaczynski in its probe of the 1982 Tylenol killings."

Breaking news, we're told.

ADDED: The CNN breaking news link died... presumably because there's a whole article now. It doesn't look as thought there's any special focus on Kaczynski in the old Tylenol case. Kaczynski is trying to stop an auction of his property, most notably the handwritten copy of his manifesto, and the papers he filed in court about that revealed that the FBI wanted his DNA. An FBI spokeswoman says the FBI wants DNA from "numerous individuals" in its efforts to solve the old murder case.

In case you'd like to read the manifesto, you can. And here's some more info on the big auction:
The GSA is used to auctioning off diamonds and Lamborghinis, beach-front condos and well-appointed mansions seized from Wall Street fraudsters and drug traffickers. It sometimes hires private auctioneers to conduct the sale. Bernard L. Madoff’s wine cellar went on sale yesterday, also online, with proceeds to be distributed to his Ponzi scheme victims.

When the bad guy is a recluse who lived in a 10-by-12-foot cabin in the Montana woods, picked berries and hunted woodland creatures for food, no Bentleys turn up. The government does the best it can.

Hence Kaczynski’s handwritten instructions on how “to make reindeer moss edible” is available for purchase.

Not available are instructions or materials for making bombs, nor his guns. His cabin’s out, too, as it’s on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C....

At the end of the first day, the highest bid for the hand- written Manifesto stood at $10,050, making it the most valuable item. The hoodie and sunglasses were next at $3,125.
AND: Here's the auction.

Let's talk about URLs, specifically:

As you may have figured out by now, especially if you hang out in the comments here, I'm working on moving this blog out of Blogger. My recent troubles with Blogger/Google, which are still not completely solved — old posts are still missing their comments — pushed me to do what I probably should have done long ago.

One thing we've had to do is pick a URL. The obvious choices, and, are not available. Whoever owns them is demanding a ridiculous amount of money — $33,500 and $888, respectively (with no mechanism for making a counteroffer). I don't know what is going on there, but if the point is to squat and then sell, shouldn't you make the price something within reason? I don't accept switching the .com to .net for either "althouse" or "annalthouse," because I think people would accidentally go to the .com, and who knows what horrible things someone might put there. In any case, I don't want to drive traffic to those bastards, whoever they are.

So the predicament of the unavailability of the obvious forced us to brainstorm. When I IM'd my son John about it, he immediately suggested I didn't even know what the .se meant. Well, it means Sweden. But who cares? There's no embarrassing association with Sweden that concerns me. There's the issue of giving the false impression of being Swedish, but that's a very retro concern, I think. (Am I wrong?) The hip approach — am I right? — is to look at all those country codes as a source of letter combinations to form short, spiffy URLs like


ADDED: In the comments, there's a lot of fretting about using .se, but check this out:
Following in Twitter ( and Overstock’s (’s) footsteps, Amazon has picked up the domains A.Co, Z.Co, K.Co and interestingly enough in a deal made with Colombia-based domain registry .Co.

While .Co originally gave Twitter the T.Co domain name for free in order to spread awareness about the brand, Amazon has actually purchased these from .Co for an undisclosed price. In comparison, Overstock’s O.Co rebranding was the first negotiated .Co purchase deal, for $350K...

The genesis of the .Co domain is through Colombia, and while country codes usually take a hit in Google rankings, .Co is part of a unique set of cclds (.tv .me .co) which are treated like gtlds or generic domains like .com .net .org.

.Co is about to hit its 1 millionth domain registered in little under a year of service (.com is at over a hundred million) and is about to set up a stable pricing plan for one letter and two letter domains....
A.Co,  Z.Co, and K.Co will probably be used for Amazon, Zappos, and Kindle. But, anyway. You see my point. The country-based top-level domains — I'm told "country codes" isn't the right term — are being used now for their letters. This is the trend. I'm on trend, people.

May 18, 2011

At the Allium Café...


... you can stalk around all evening.

(Enlarge. For earlier allium posts, click here.)

Adult baby throws a tantrum when he hears of a threat to his SSI payments.

"You wanna test how damn serious I am about leaving this world, screw with my check that pays for this apartment and food. Try it. See how serious I am. I don’t care... I have no problem killing myself. Take away the last thing keeping me here, and see what happens. Next time you see me on the news, it will be me in a body bag."

Feminist on a panel that chooses winners of the Man Booker International prize withdraws when the panel picks Philip Roth.

The Guardian reports on the sensibilities of Camern Callil:
Dismissing the Pulitzer prize-winning author, Callil said that "he goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book. It's as though he's sitting on your face and you can't breathe"....

"I don't rate him as a writer at all. I made it clear that I wouldn't have put him on the longlist, so I was amazed when he stayed there. He was the only one I didn't admire – all the others were fine... Roth goes to the core of [the other judges'] beings. But he certainly doesn't go to the core of mine ... Emperor's clothes: in 20 years' time will anyone read him?"
He's sitting on your face. Sitting on your face!

Video that I wasn't going to post, but it's stood the test of time.

I don't know, it didn't seem to hit my standard, but I'm still thinking about it 2 days later, so it hit my still-thinking-about-it-2-days--later standard:

The shopping trip.

1. We went to a building supply showroom to look at some doors. All my doubts about fiberglass doors that are made to look like wood were shattered, but I was freaked out in the kitchen section by the fake waffles display:


2. We prowled the outdoor racks at Home Depot to get about 300 plants — a few extra odds and ends after the thousands of bulbs and seedlings Meade has mail-ordered. After 25 years of accepting whatever the heavens bestowed upon my patch of real estate, I'm amazed at the number of plants one buys to do the landscaping professionally.


3. Leaving the parking lot, we kept our distance from these people who were displaying the hilarious, age-old confidence in the ability of the human hand to secure a large item of furniture on the roof of the car. (And note the classic "baby on board" sign.)


It's like they're trying to act out old comedy routines:

1. Baby on Board:

2. The power of the hand:

That Corsi book?

"There is no book."

"This is sounding very much like a Gary Hart 'Monkey Business' moment..."

Follow me around!

(Click through if you want to understand the context. I'm just putting up a highlight for the folks who bellyache about having to watch a whole, long "Boringheads." The fact is, this one isn't boring, but you won't know that unless you watch it. Remember, what Gary Hart said was "follow me around... it will be boring.")

"An Austrian man has voluntarily had his hand amputated so he can be fitted with a bionic limb."

"Milo took the decision after using a hybrid hand fitted parallel to his dysfunctional hand with which he could experience controlling a prosthesis."

They say that 20-foot cross that the ACLU objects to was a gift from Woody Allen.

What a funny world we live in!
The ACLU of New Jersey threatened legal action against the Neptune school district after an attendee at last year’s graduation ceremony took offense to the building’s religious symbols and Christian-based references -- among them a 20-foot white cross above the auditorium’s entrance. The ACLU asked the school to remove or cover up the cross and three other religious signs, arguing their visibility during a public school event is a First Amendment violation....

The Camp Association said it could not cover the cross, said to have been a gift from movie director Woody Allen, who used the auditorium during shooting for the 1980 film "Stardust Memories."
Interestingly, if this case goes to court, the key Supreme Court precedent will be Van Orden v. Perry, the case about the 10 Commandments monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds, and that monument supposedly originated as a promotion for the Cecil B. de Mille movie "The Ten Commandments." From the oral argument in Van Orden:
Justice O'Connor: How did this monument get there? Was it in... is it true that it was put in as a result of promoting a movie about the Ten Commandments?

Mr. Chemerinsky: The record is unclear as to that. There are certainly many indications in the popular press that Cecil B. DeMille together with his movie, The Ten Commandments, worked with the Friends of Eagles to have these monuments put around the country. But there is nothing in the legislative history that links this particular monument to that.
And the cross is only said to be a gift from Woody Allen.

Where do all the religious stories come from? If there were movies back in Biblical times, what movie directors would be wandering around in those old Judeo-Christian stories? Anyway, I tried to find a YouTube clip showing the cross in "Stardust Memories," but I can't remember that movie well enough to know what scene it's in. I did run across this clip from Woody's "New York Stories" that has a little Larry David performance in it. And here's Larry David saying "Religion should be made fun of, it's quite ridiculous, isn't it?... If I really believed that stuff, I'd keep it to myself, lest somebody think I was out of my mind":

The marriage proposal cool enough...

... to have 653,128 views on YouTube after 2 days:

ADDED: By chance, I opened up a book near the top of the pile on the floor by the desk and opened it up to a marriage proposal — a marriage proposal that makes an interesting contrast to the viral video:
That evening Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said it didn't make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had the last time, that it didn't mean anything but that I probably didn't love her. "So why marry me, then?" she said. I explained to her that it didn't really matter and that if she wanted to, we could get married. Besides, she was the one who was doing the asking and all I was saying was yes.

What Thurgood Marshall said to Clarence Thomas.

"I had to do in my time what I had to do. You have to do in your time what you have to do."

And, on society's cynics:
"What monument is built for all that negativity? You are negative sometimes in order to make something better. You criticize it in a way to improve it. There are things wrong in this country that have to be improved, but you don't just keep nagging and nagging and nagging. But at some point it's got to stop. At some point too much is too much."
IN THE COMMENTS: Eric Muller said:
If I were Clarence Thomas, this is what I would tell myself Thurgood Marshall really believed about me too.

I talk to Matt Welch about freedom...

... and sex scandals, politicized media, and the meaning of various buildings:

IN THE COMMENTS: Shouting Thomas said: "One hour and two minutes. No can do. Is there a highlight reel?"

And Deborah made this clip:

May 17, 2011

At the White Tree Café...


... you can talk all night.

How Scott Walker is like Barack Obama on the same-sex marriage issue.

The Obama administration has stopped defending the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act because it has determined that the Act violates the federal Constitution.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker now seeks to stop defending the Wisconsin domestic partnership law because he has determined that it violates the Wisconsin Constitution.

Obviously, there's a big difference. The Obama adminstration's decision supports marriage rights for gay people, and the Walker decision opposes marriage-like rights for gay people.

People are asking me why I haven't written about the Kloppenburg op-ed in yesterday's Journal Sentinel.

The answer is: I found it mind-crushingly dull. But okay. I'll point out one thing:
The recount process in Wisconsin is unfolding as prescribed by Wisconsin law. 
What? Where is the agency here? Kloppenburg chose to invoke a procedure that was available to her under Wisconsin law. It wasn't forced by the law itself. The recount didn't "unfold" like a flower. Kloppenburg asked for it. She didn't have to. Take responsibility for your decisions.
... When the [Journal Sentinel] Editorial Board says the recount is a "mere preamble to the court challenge," it is wrong on the facts and wrong to prejudge my intentions.
But she's here now, talking to us, consuming our precious time. She could admit she's going to take this into court or assure us that she won't drag us through another stage of her futile quest for judicial power, but she claims not to have decided yet.
Wisconsin law specifically anticipates that there may be court challenges to the recount, but those challenges can only happen after the recount is done. The recount is not "merely" a preamble to anything: It is a process that proceeds in prescribed ways when an election is this close.
Oh, so the disembodied process proceeds as it was prescribed. No, it proceeds because you chose to put it in motion, and another choice looms in the future. Why are you pretending that you don't know what you are going to do?

"Wisconsin law specifically anticipates that there may be court challenges..." See what I mean by mind-crushingly dull? Or... if you think about it long enough, maybe it will cease to be dull and become infuriating.

"There is no music in this world beautiful or serene enough, that it would stop people from arguing in the comments under a youtube video."

The top-rated comment out of 7,624 comments under "Ave Maria."

Sample argumentative comments (which I'm making you click to see, because of rotten language):

Diavlog notes and doodles.


From a Bloggingheads recorded this morning. I'll link to it when it's up, but meanwhile, I was amused by what ended up on the page in front of me.


Paul Ryan won't run for the Senate seat Herb Kohl is vacating.

All right then. Who do we want to see run?  Surely, not the 69-year-old Tommy Thompson, who said, a year ago, when he decided not to challenge Russ Feingold, that it was time for a new generation to take over.

So who is there? J.B. Van Hollen?

The archive is back!


About that 4th amendment...

1. There's the new Supreme Court case, Kentucky v. King, described here by Orin Kerr, who thinks Justice Alito "did a pretty sharp job":
In this case, officers entered an apartment without a warrant after smelling marijuana inside, knocking, and hearing noises inside. The Kentucky Supreme Court had assumed that the police had exigent circumstances in those facts, but then concluded that the police had created the exiegncy [sic] — and therefore could not rely on it to make a warrantless entry — by in effect inducing King inside to react to the police outside and react in a way that created the exigency. In its opinion today, the Supreme Court disagreed...
2. There's what the Indiana Supreme Court said in Barnes v. State, and, again I'm relying on the wonder that is Orin Kerr:
In this case, the officer had come to the home in response to a domestic violence call.... The officers asked if they could enter the home, and the defendant’s wife pleaded with the defendant to let them enter. The defendant refused. The police then entered anyway, and the defendant “shoved [an officer] against the wall.” The officers then tazed the defendant and arrested him.

The defendant was charged with misdemeanor battery against a police officer, among other things. At trial, he wanted to argue to the jury that it was lawful to shove the officer because he had a citizen’s right to reasonably resist unlawful entry into his home. 
The court said there was no such right, noting "a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence."

I'm not ready to take a position on either of these cases, but I wanted to put them up for discussion. I'm about to record a Bloggingheads episode, and we may talk about these, but, then again, maybe not.

"So there was never a question of whether this narcissist millionaire shirt-unbuttoner would manfully rise to the defense of his poor, underprivileged pal Dominique Strauss-Kahn..."

"... but just how thoroughly he would soil himself, his country, and his alleged professions in the course of the apologetics. Well, thanks to the editing genius of Tina Brown, we now have an answer."

Writes Matt Welch... about the loathsome French "philosopher" Bernard Henri-Levy. Those are Welch's quotes, but I'd have put them there independently.

Democrats in Wisconsin feel free to make threats without bothering to hide their identity and it's not hard to guess why.

Instapundit writes:
WI Attorney General Releases 100 PAGES of Documented Threats Against Lawmakers During the Budget Negotiations. “A surprising number of even the most vile messages came from readily-identifiable senders.”

As Prof. Jacobson has asked in the past, “Why do these people, many of whom are professionals, feel no fear in expressing such death wishes in the open?” Because they don’t expect to face any consequences. And so far, most of them haven’t.
During the Wisconsin protests, there were 2 occasions when written threats were directed at Meade and me, and, in both cases, it took almost no time to identify the person making the threat. The first one said I "need[ed] to be shot in the head" (for making a video of city salt trucks circling the Capitol Square blowing horns in apparent support of the protesters). The second one described a campaign to harass Meade and me and drive us out of Madison, where we have no right to live. Even though we called the police in both cases, and the police duly took down a report, nothing seems to have happened to the culprits.

What's with these European men — Dominique Straus-Kahn and Arnold Schwarzenegger — and sex with the servants?

First, Arnold Schwarzenegger — though not a natural-born American and therefore not qualified to serve as the U.S. President — has been a naturalized American for a long time. But I want to call attention to his continent of origin for the purposes of discussion this week, when we are all focused on Dominique Straus-Kahn, the IMF and French presidential candidate, who was just arrested for attempted rape on a hotel maid.

Schwarzenegger, we learn today, fathered a child with a woman who had been "a member of his household staff" for 20 years. His press release says that Maria Shriver left him when he informed her about it. Like she didn't know previously?! He deliberately waited until his term as California governor was over, he says. I think it's more likely that she deliberately waited until his term as California governor was over. Or is she stupid?

Both men have committed adultery. DSK has, allegedly, attempted rape. Schwarzenegger has committed that special offense to marriage of fathering a child. But I'd like to focus on the way both of these powerful, ambitious men — who could have found willing women out in the world — went for the women who were working in their place of abode — the house and the hotel room. It's so lazy... so entitled... so unfair to the women who will be torn between the desire to run away and the need to keep her job.

May 16, 2011

Flowers called...


... "snowflakes."

Wait 'til you see my edgy, new URL.

Bet you can't guess!

ADDED: Lots of comments, and I will say: It has been guessed! And I bet that the person who guessed it knows he/she got it.

At the White Dot Café...


... things are popping.

"At the beginning there were people who would criticise us and would say, 'How tacky that you are wearing that. I wouldn't wear them.'"

"But we feel good dancing with the pointy boots."

Really pointy boots. 

(Via NotYourTypicalNewYorker.)

Trump won't run.

I'm posting about this for some reason, even though I didn't see the point of posting that Huckabee won't run. What does a man have to do to get attention for not doing something?

If you want to maximize the likelihood that your description of a politician's sexuality will be remembered...

... include a specific animal:
IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn acted like a "chimpanzee in heat" during a creepy previous grab-and-grope with a French journalist -- an incident with eerie similarities to his alleged attack on a Manhattan hotel maid Saturday, according to an explosive interview.
Other examples? The one that springs immediately to mind and hops up and down yapping until I notice it is:
I squirmed to try and get out of his grasp, telling him stop, don't, several times and I finally told him and said, 'You're being a crazed sex poodle,' hoping that he'd realize how weird he was being, yet he persisted.

"Judge denies bail to International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in sexual assault case."

Well, it makes sense. How could one be a bigger flight risk?

It's a furlough day here at the University of Wisconsin, and I am forbidden to work.

There's a new Supreme Court case that I might like to write about — Kentucky v. King —  but I am not even allowed to read it. I'm deprived of pay today, and on top of that, the hands of the state are clasped tight over my eyes and my typing hands are bound. I cannot read or write in any subjects in the range of my professorial job.

This furlough business is a vestige of the Doyle administration. The new governor — the infamous Scott Walker — has a different approach to balancing the state budget.

IN THE COMMENTS: Ignorance is Bliss writes:
I'd ask 'Doesn't that violate your first amendment rights?', but since that is a constitutional law question, you wouldn't be able to read it, let alone write a response.
Now, normally, that's enough to make me add the "law" tag, but I must refrain, lest my enemies wreak revenge.

ADDED: A previous discussion of the furlough day, with better detail.

"I'd hate to die twice. It's so boring."

Said Richard Feynman, who died in 1988, at the age of 69. There's a new book about his life, which was marked by the death of this first wife, who died after only 2 years of marriage:
Feynman was stricken and turned, as some kind of compensation, to the predatory pursuit of women – dating undergraduates, visiting prostitutes, and sleeping with the young wives of several colleagues while an academic at Cornell University.

At the age of 31, having never ventured outside the United States, he visited Rio de Janeiro, where he lectured at the Centro Brasiliero de Pesquisas Friscas during the day. In the evening, he played drums for a samba band or picked up women – he particularly liked air stewardesses – in the bar of the Miramar Palace hotel.

He was eventually snared by Mary Louise Bell – "a platinum blonde with a penchant for high heels and tight clothes," according to Lawrence Krauss. They married in 1952 and divorced shortly afterwards. "He begins working calculus problems in his head as soon as he awakens," Bell complained to a divorce judge. "He did calculus while driving, while sitting in the living room and while lying in bed at night."
He also did calculations "while sitting at the strip bars [which he] visited because he claimed they helped him concentrate."

The topic is: the intersection of death, sex, and math. Discuss.

"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail."

"There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

Says Stephen Hawking, who "lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years" and is "not afraid of death, but... in no hurry to die."

Also, from the interview, this question-and-answer that I find quite puzzling:
What is the value in knowing "Why are we here?"

The universe is governed by science. But science tells us that we can't solve the equations, directly in the abstract. We need to use the effective theory of Darwinian natural selection of those societies most likely to survive. We assign them higher value.
What "societies" does he mean? Different categories of animals, so the human beings have the highest value? Or does he mean different societies of human beings? And why is this an answer to the question asked? It has the word "value" in it, but it seems to be used  in a completely different way. I'm going to assume that Hawking, one of the smartest individuals in the world, is making sense, so help me out here. What is he saying?

ADDED: Here's my stab at it. Under Darwinism, whatever is here now is what has survived because its ancestral line was able to survive. So we can look around and see all the living things and think of them as really valuable because they are alive. That is what we know: We are here because we survived, and that's impressive. Once we understand this — why we are here — we find value in the knowledge that everyone who has made it is impressive by virtue of having made it. It's the atheist's version of This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

"There Goes Your Corpse Again."

A cool little recording by The Deadly Snakes. Amusing use of the "Be My Baby" riff. (You can buy the whole album here.) I'd never heard of this group, but I like this kind of music, which tends to play on the "Underground Garage" channel on satellite radio.

Cue Crack Emcee to come in and tell me this kind of music sucks. (Hey, did you see he got Blogger to restore his blog?)

"Shock. Political Bomb. Thunderclap."

So read the headline in left-leaning newspaper Libération.
The deputy editor, Vincent Giret, wrote sadly on Sunday that [Dominique] Strauss-Kahn seemed “best-armed to respond to the disarray of the French, exhausted by the crisis and disoriented by the crazy reign of Sarkozy.” But Mr. Strauss-Kahn apparently believed he could win the presidency “without fighting,” Mr. Giret said, and so did not follow a path of “renunciation and abnegation.”
A path of renunciation and abnegation... Some French way to say don't rape anybody... when you're running for the highest office and the hopes of a political party are resting on you.

Socialistes pauvres!
Some of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s allies said that he must have been the victim of a setup. Christine Boutin, head of the small Christian Democratic Party, told French television: “That he could be taken in like that seems astounding, so he must have been trapped.”
Trapped... in a $3,000 a night hotel room... by the maid....

Yes. It could happen. The French are onto the machinations of the maids.
As for suggestions that Mr. Strauss-Kahn might have fallen into an elaborate sting, [Gérard Grunberg, a respected political scientist who studies the left] was dismissive. “If all this was a trap, he wouldn’t have fled in a panic”....

"We killed bin Laden. Ha ha! That's right!... Walked right into his house. Shot 'im in the head!"

Wow. Obama's getting awfully excited about it. Even smoking on camera!

May 15, 2011

"I am the porn guy! I am the porn guy!"

(For context on Farley, read this.)



Today, in the Garden.

"Drudge, once thought of as a hothouse flower of the Lewinsky scandal, is now more powerful in driving news than the half-billion folks on Facebook."

"His durability is, first and foremost, a personal achievement, a testament to the fact that he is... 'the best wire editor on the planet. He can look into a huge stream of news, find the hot story and put an irresistible headline on it.'"

At the Rutabaga Café...


... you can call any vegetable, and the chances are good that the vegetable will respond to you.

If you're looking for an old blog post and came here...

... I'm having a problem with Blogger, and it's somehow blocking the display of all the posts — the 23,000+ posts — before May 13, 2011. I am in touch with people at Google who seem to be in the process of restoring the archive. Meanwhile, if you've used a search engine to look for something specific, you should be able to go back to the results page and find the "cache" version of the old post.

I'm really sorry this is happening, and I will keep this post at the top of the blog until the restoration of the archive is complete. I have my own version of the archive backed up as far as March 17, 2011, so no matter how bad this Blogger screw-up is, I'll still be able to preserve nearly all of my work on this blog.

I hate to think about leaving Blogger, because I like the way it works, and I want to like Google. But this experience has made me look at the other options. Every hour that passes without getting the archive back erodes my confidence. Perhaps Blogger really isn't meant to handle very large archives. Some time ago the "manage posts" page stopped working to return search results further back than about a year.

ADDED: I'm not going to keep this post bumped up to the top. It's too tedious to see it, and it makes the stuff below it look old. So... this is all very annoying, but I think I'll recover the whole archive soon enough... and this has lit a fire under me to make a big change that I think you're going to love!

"How is it that people remain optimistic even though information challenging those predictions is abundantly available?"

"It turns out it is not commencement speeches or self-help books that make us hopeful. Recently, with the development of non-invasive brain imaging techniques, we have gathered evidence that suggests our brains are hard-wired to be unrealistically optimistic. When we learn what the future may hold, our neurons efficiently encode unexpectedly good information, but fail to incorporate information that is unexpectedly bad."

(NYT link.)

"The last time I rooted for someone this much in a reality tv finale, it was the Battle of the Davids on Idol."

"Before that, you might even have go back to season two of The Amazing Race (Chris/Alex v. Tara/Wil), but let's all agree on this one -- Rob Mariano has to win tonight."

"Shadow Stat Misery Index Highest on Record."

Using "economic data for inflation and unemployment the way it used to be calculated pre-1990":
Based on that data, the CPI inflation rate is over 10%, and the unemployment rate is over 15% (see charts). The Misery Index is the sum of the current inflation rate and the unemployment rate. If it were to be calculated using the older methods, the Index would now be over 25, a record high. It surpasses the old index high of 21.98, which occurred in June 1980, when Jimmy Carter was president.
Is Shadow Stats doing this right? I have no idea, but I hope not!

"Ryan will decide soon on Wisconsin Senate race."

He said, this morning on a CNN show.

Do you want Paul Ryan to run for the Senate?
No, because he's powerful in the House and I like what he's doing.
Yes, because I like him and want to see him move up.
No, because I don't like him and don't want to see him move up.
Yes, because I want him to lose his power in the House and maybe he'll lose the Senate run too. free polls


Forget the Senate, should Ryan run for President?
Yes, he'd be a great candidate and I want him to win.
Yes, because I think it would help Obama win.
No, he's good but he should wait.
No. He's not presidential material. free polls

AND: I wish I'd put one more option in the first poll, and it's not No, because he should run for President. It's: Yes, because he's the best hope for the Republicans to take another Senate seat. The fight for control of the Senate may be far more important than Ryan's retaining his position in the House. Some other Republican can take over where Ryan leaves off.

The Wisconsin protests cost the state $8 million.

That includes the expense of all the extra security that was needed. The estimated cost of repairing the Capitol building was $270,000.
Originally, DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch estimated the repair costs alone would run about $7.5 million. The controversial figure was said to have been a quick estimate, based a single handwritten page of notebook paper. Heubsch later revised that number down to $350,000.

On Friday, the secretary spelled out the estimate and said the costs could have been higher, given the size of crowds at the historic building for four straight weeks.

“It is important to note that there was no malicious damage,” Huebsch said. “But that said, this is still a lot of money.”
Presumably, "malicious" means done solely for the purpose of destruction. There were plenty of intentional actions that were destructive, such as forcing open a door (bending a hinge and breaking a wooden panel) and putting duct and masking tape on marble walls.

The $8 million estimate only covers the period from February 14 to March 13, so it doesn't include the cost of the added security we now have at the Capitol.
Huebsch said the tighter security measures would likely continue, at least until the collective bargaining bill debate is resolved. On Friday, however, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said it was time the Capitol returned to normal.

“We did not need to waste this money, nor do we need to continue to waste this money,” he said. “The majority of the people here now are fourth-grade schoolchildren on tours.”
And if the security were removed? I note that there was another protest at the Capitol yesterday, with 7,000 to 10,000 people. It was called the “Fight Is Not Over” rally:
“We have to reclaim our moral outrage, our sense of indignation,” Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, said to cheers from the crowd. “We have to keep the pressure on and let them hear us.”
Are we supposed to believe that the protesters wouldn't retake the Capitol building if the security were removed?

Replacing Herb Kohl: "And what about Tammy Baldwin?"

"She's got nearly $1 million saved up from her previous campaigns, but I think Democrats would worry that she is too 'Madison' to win out-state votes. She represents her Dane County constituents very well in Congress, and in a Senate race, that might not be a good thing."

You think?!

"Have you ever had a thought on the topic of race that isn't set generations into the past? Have you ever thought about the future?"

A commenter questions Matt Yglesias's questioning of Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich talked about having "a voting standard that says to vote, as a native born American, you should have to learn American history." Yglesias liken this to "the kind of techniques that were used to prevent African-Americans (and many poor whites as well) from voting in the Jim Crow South."

Well, you can expect to hear the Jim-Crow-South meme from Democrats whenever there's any talk about about restrictions on voting. We're hearing it in Wisconsin over the voter ID law. Republicans who want to pursue these issues need to have some good responses ready.

The most conventional response is: The Jim Crow South was the work of the Democratic Party. But Republicans shouldn't be too smug about that. Obviously, Democrats think all those Democrats would be Republican today.

The question I've used as the title of this post suggests the beginning of one response, but it needs to be filled out with some substantive, believable vision of a better future. Gingrich had some substance: He wants schools to do a much better job of teaching American history. But he could have stayed with that, not brought up the notion of "a voting standard." If that was an idle rhetorical flourish, it was incompetent, because he handed a chunk of red meat to his enemies.

Dominique Straus-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund and potential President of France, arrested for attempted rape, criminal sexual act and unlawful imprisonment.

The NYT reports:
[Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman] said that it was about 1 p.m. on Saturday when the maid, a 32-year-old woman, entered Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s suite — Room 2806 — believing it was unoccupied. Mr. Browne said that the suite, which cost $3,000 a night, had a foyer, a conference room, a living room and a bedroom, and that Mr. Strauss-Khan had checked in on Friday.

As she was in the foyer, “he came out of the bathroom, fully naked, and attempted to sexually assault her,” Mr. Browne said, adding, “He grabs her, according to her account, and pulls her into the bedroom and onto the bed.” He locked the door to the suite, Mr. Browne said.

“She fights him off, and he then drags her down the hallway to the bathroom, where he sexually assaults her a second time,” Mr. Browne added.
Let's assume that the maid's story is true. When things like this happen, I suspect that this is a man who has had sexual encounters like this before, many times. He's gotten more cursory and abrupt over time, because he's been successful in the past. Here is an illustrious man, staying in an extremely expensive hotel room — a room with many amenities.  Seems you can get whatever you want. A woman appears. Is she beautiful? He imagines that the woman is another thing the hotel subtly offers to men who pay $3,000 a night for the hotel.