June 25, 2011

An alternate account of the Prosser-Bradley confrontation surfaces: Did she "charge him with fists raised"?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel presents new detail to the undersourced report that everyone's talking about today:
A source who spoke to several justices present during the incident told the Journal Sentinel that the confrontation occurred after 5:30 p.m. June 13, the day before high court's release of a decision upholding a bill to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

At least five justices, including Prosser and Bradley, had gathered in Bradley's office and were informally discussing the decision. The conversation grew heated, the source said, and Bradley asked Prosser to leave. Bradley was bothered by disparaging remarks Prosser had made about Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

Bradley felt Prosser "was attacking the chief justice," the source said. Before leaving, Prosser "put his hands around her neck in what (Bradley) described as a chokehold," the source said. "He did not exert any pressure, but his hands were around her neck," the source said. The source said the act "was in no way playful."

But another source told the Journal Sentinel that Bradley attacked Prosser. "She charged him with fists raised," the source said. Prosser "put his hands in a defensive posture," the source said. "He blocked her." In doing so, the source said, he made contact with Bradley's neck.

Another source said the justices were arguing... [and] Prosser said he''d lost all confidence in [Abrahamson's] leadership. Bradley then came across the room "with fists up," the source said. Prosser put up his hands to push her back. Bradley then said she had been choked, according to the source. Another justice - the source wouldn't say who - responded, "You were not choked."
According to the Journal Sentinel, Prosser issued a statement today, saying the accusation against him "will be proven false."

The NYT has picked up the story: "Wisconsin Judge Said to Have Attacked Colleague." The NYT article refers to the Journal Sentinel's new article this way:
Late Saturday, a separate Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report described a physical encounter in which two sources offered conflicting accounts of what happened, including one in which Justice Bradley was said to have charged at Justice Prosser.
I'm reading the Journal Sentinel's account as referring to 3 — not 2 — sources, with 2 of the 3 versions portraying Bradley as the aggressor: "the source... another source... [a]nother source...."

I want to know not only what really happened at the time of the physical contact (if any) between the 2 justices, but also who gave the original story to the press. If Prosser really tried to choke a nonviolent Bradley, he should resign. But if the original account is a trumped-up charge intended to destroy Prosser and obstruct the democratic processes of government in Wisconsin, then whoever sent the report out in that form should be held responsible for what should be recognized as a truly evil attack.

ADDED: Everyone who thinks Prosser must to resign if he attacked Bradley ought to say that if Bradley attacked Prosser, she should resign. If that happens, then the tactic of leaking the original version of the story to the press will have backfired horrifically for Democrats, as Governor Scott Walker will name the Justice to replace Bradley. If both Justices erred and must resign, that will be 2 appointments for Walker, both of whom, I would imagine, will be stronger, younger, and more conservative than Prosser, and, with Bradley gone, the liberal faction on the court will be reduced to 2, against a conservative majority of 5.

AND: Remember, the legislature has the power to impeach, so it is Bradley who is at the greater risk as the story, suppressed for 11 days, comes out. The legislature could play neutral and impeach both Prosser and Bradley, but that would give 2 appointments to Scott Walker.

ALSO: People may assume that the man is larger than the woman, but — from what I have heard — Bradley is significantly larger than Prosser. Bradley is also 7 years younger than Prosser, who is 68.

"Few states have done so good a job as Wisconsin when it comes to retaining a sense of a distinct radical history."

Says John Nichols at The Progressive:
That understanding is essential to the spread of uprisings and movements like the one that has developed in Wisconsin....

Make no mistake: What is often referred to simply as “Wisconsin” has spread. And it will continue to spread if activists in other states go to their own histories for inspiration.

Every state has radical roots....

In each state, we need to reclaim our progressive history, honor this heritage, and celebrate its continual life. There should be yearly progressive festivals in every state to invoke this unique collective progressive memory....

The empowerment comes from sensing that we are a part of something constant and strong.
To me, Nichols sounds...
... inspiring.
... creepy.
... festive.
... fascistic.
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Think Progress explains "Four Ways Justice David Prosser Can Be Removed From Office."

We've already been talking about this rather odd report that Prosser "grabbed" Justice Ann Walsh Bradley "by the neck." No one was arrested, and the story only got into the press via "at least three knowledgeable sources" that cannot be named because "professional relationships" need to be "preserv[ed]."

Ian Millhiser speculates about what might be done if it is, in fact, true that Prosser did this.
Like all accused criminals, Prosser enjoys a presumption of innocence and he should not be condemned until the evidence clearly shows that he is guilty.
It's very poor writing to say "accused criminals" when you mean "persons accused of a crime" and you're trying to stress the presumption of innocence. But no one was arrested, there's no pending prosecution, so why is he even saying that Prosser is accused of a crime? We don't even have a whole report of what supposedly happened. If there were a prosecution here, the whole story would come out — all sorts of details about the justices, and not just the snapshot of one hard-to-comprehend instant within the longer event. Who would end up looking the worst here? A decision was made, privately, to suppress the incident, and then 3 individuals — who? — decided to leak it out in a way that is, presumably, affected by subjectivity and political interest.

But sure. If Justice Prosser committed a criminal attack on another Justice, he shouldn't be on the court, even if he only lashed out after weeks or years of merciless bullying. And let's have the whole story. Maybe there are some other Justices who don't belong on the court. Clear out everyone who doesn't belong on the court. How will they be replaced? By appointment of the Governor — the formidable Scott Walker.

Is that what you want, Think Progress?

Anyway, Think Progress outlines the methods of ousting Prosser:
This is the easiest way for Prosser to end the controversy and give Scott Walker the chance to appoint a virtuous, strong, smart conservative.  Walker should pick someone with nerves of steel so to stand up to any verbal aggression without resorting to felonious neck-wringing.

Removal by Address: A supermajority of both houses of the state legislature can also remove Prosser through a process known as “removal by address.”...
News flash: Wisconsin has a Republican legislature. 
Recall: As a last resort, Prosser may be removed by a recall election using the same process that was recently invoked to attempt to recall several state senators.
But you can't start this process until 1 year after his reelection, so settle down, people. But what is the point of all this? If Prosser goes, Walker appoints someone younger, more vigorously conservative, and without the baggage of old intra-court grudges. I think the point is to discredit Prosser and the conservative majority on the court, to undermine the public's faith in the work of the court. But I agree with Millhiser that if it's true Prosser reached a breaking point and started strangling Bradley, he should go. I doubt that's true, however, because there was no arrest. That's why we're getting the story in this unsourced, piecemeal form.

UPDATE: A more nuanced report from the Journal Sentinel has (unnamed) sources disagreeing about what happened. Someone is saying Bradley charged at Prosser with fist raised, and she ran into his defensively raised hands, then cried choked. 

NY Post is still kicking Anthony Weiner, this time for buying "pathetic" flowers for Huma.

They only cost $22.97, purchased at a — gasp! — bodega:
"It's ridiculous, and it could make her angrier," said Elayne Rapping, a professor of American Studies at SUNY Buffalo. "He knows there are photographers and reporters outside of his house. He could have easily called up a florist and had flowers delivered to her -- this seems to be more of a gesture for the press than for her. A way of him saying, 'I'm being a good husband.' "
Well, let's make sure that gesture backfires. (Can't the guy get some credit for patronizing a neighborhood shop and for not being snooty?)
A clerk at the ritzy Madison Avenue Florists identified Weiner's peace offering as orange roses, white carnations and blue agapanthuses -- and added that they're a lame way to say, "I'm sorry."

"It's ill-conceived," the clerk said. "Carnations are not really popular among women these days -- and orange roses? He should have stuck to red."
Call in the ritzy clerk to sniff at the disgraced Weiner! I love the remark "It's ill-conceived." I'm going to use that in casual conversation when I get the chance.

CORRECTION: The headline originally said "... flowers for Human."

At the Clematis Café...


... things are looking up.

"Abrahamson's clique wanted to game the system in order to buy time for the Democrats to make their political comeback..."

"... either in this summer's recall elections or in the 2012 election cycle in a case brought by Democrats, including the Assembly minority leader and the Dane County district attorney, against the majority party."

Isthmus columnist David Blaska goes after Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

ADDED: Meanwhile, there's this very odd story titled "Prosser allegedly grabbed fellow justice by the neck."
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser allegedly grabbed fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley around the neck in an argument in her chambers last week, according to at least three knowledgeable sources.

Details of the incident, investigated jointly by Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, remain sketchy. The sources spoke on the condition that they not be named, citing a need to preserve professional relationships.
A need to preserve professional relationships, eh? Hmmm.

"Unless you're willing to kill and kill and kill every year, you have to look at these other things."

I am willing to kill and kill every year.
"It's a fairly unusual situation with an invasive species that has no natural predators in our ecosystem," says [Ald. Mark Clear, who sits on the Board of Park Commissioners]. "[Canada geese are] not migratory and have settled in and made the parks their home. Many of our beach closures are directly related to poop."

Opponents of the roundup...say the city hasn't proven that the bacteria blamed for at least 84 beach closures last year came from goose droppings...

"Where is the risk?" [asks Lori Chadli, a Madison resident]. "People like to blame them, because they see the droppings, but there's no evidence."

According to a 2011 report..., conservation resource supervisor with the city Parks Department, seven of 42 water samples collected in 2003 tested positive for a virulent strain of E. coli. This same strain.... was found in 50% of the goose fecal samples collected.
The ruined shorelines are reason enough to destroy the vermin. You want more evidence that they are making swimming in the lakes dangerous? I don't.

The comments over there at the Isthmus are hilarious. One "blake trimbell" says: "Murdering geese will not solve anything and should not be our earth friendly, progressive city of Madisons` initiative." But murdering geese is the perfect solution! If the parks were teeming with rats, would you invoke progressivism? But rage on, Mr. Trimbell, because you're helping expose "progressivism" to the light of mockery.

I was going to make fun of some more of the comments, but now I see they're all from Trimbell.
Canadian geese are beautiful creatures who deserve to live on this planet as much as any other speices. They were thought to be extinct in 1950, until a flock was discovered in Minnesota in 1962. Wouldn't it be awful if they became close to extintion again?
In a word: no.

Let's watch old episodes of "Columbo."

Now that we're thinking about how much we love Peter Falk. Here's the complete first season. Let's start there. I ordered it.

(I never watched the show back when it was on, because I just wasn't a TV-watcher at the time. I either didn't have a TV or only had a small black-and-white TV until 1981. The first season was 1971, when I was in college. We went to movies constantly back then, including "Husbands," one of our favorite movies, which came out in 1970. TV was for kids and old folks, as far as I was concerned. Maybe some news event. But I didn't even watch the moon landing when it was on TV.)

Blogging is like making albums, says Bob Mould, but writing a book is different.

A video interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Buy his memoir here. And here's "Husker Du: The Story of the Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock."

ADDED: At 7:55, the interviewer asks him about his sexual orientation: Mould knew from an early age that he was gay, but he didn't reveal that to the general public until much later. Does he regret that? Mould says he wonders what his "work would have appeared to be" if he had been out when he was, say, 23. "It would have recontextualized the work."

Noting that others did the "heavy lifting" of being the spokespersons for gay musicians, he says he was "so focused on my music that I didn't have time to be gay.... I was very self-hating.... I felt keeping my work separate from my sexuality was really important and was one of the things that drove me crazy... not wanting to admit that they were intertwined. Wanting songs to be gender neutral."

It's an odd stunt in rock music — isn't it? — to keep sexuality out of it, to make it gender neutral. But his point is that he wanted to reach a large audience, so, given the small proportion of potential listeners who are gay males, you can understand that he would want to make the songs seem applicable to more people — not that everyone listens to song lyrics to find resonance with things in their own lives.

AND: Writing that update got me thinking about Cole Porter, who was gay, but wrote some amazing love songs — like "Night and Day" — that millions of listeners who are not gay men resonate with, even knowing he was gay.

ADDED: Robert Christgau reviews both of the books I've mentioned. Christgau tells us that Mould claims to have a 175 IQ.

"People who fill out so-called bubble forms — known to anyone who’s taken a standardized test — use distinctive pencil strokes that can later be used to identify them..."

"... Princeton University computer scientists have found. The techniques they developed could be used to catch cheaters on tests, the researchers say, but also for less benign purposes."

"Stupidity Is Contagious."

"College students who read a short script about a moronic soccer hooligan subsequently did worse on a test of knowledge than a control group. But the deficit disappeared if the readers were encouraged to carefully notice how they differed from the character in the story."

Gay marriage in New York State is "a BFD because a Republican-led State Senate passed this law."

Writes Andrew Sullivan:
Going outside traditional Democratic party lobbies to appeal to those on the other side who are open to our arguments was essential.... Governor Cuomo, by all accounts was magnificent at the politics and Mayor Bloomberg and critical Republicans and Democrats and all factions and groups in the gay movement - even HRC! - pulled together. That the most passionate opponent was a Democrat and the most powerful were Republicans helps scramble the attempt by the Christianist right to coopt conservatism for their reactionary theology.

It's a BFD because it also insists on maximal religious liberty for those who conscientiously oppose marriage equality. A gay rights movement that seeks to restrict any religious freedom is not worthy of the name. And it makes me glad that we largely avoided anything that looks like that strategy, and that last-minute negotiations were flexible enough to strengthen the protections for religious groups, churches, mosques, synagogues and the like. The gay rights movement is about expanding the boundaries of human freedom - and that must include religious freedom if it is to mean anything....
I don't know the details about the religious freedom protection in the bill, but I agree with Sullivan that's extremely important. I put up a quick post last night when the NY vote came in, and I read the comments this morning and saw a lot of fretting about government interference with religion. (For example, what happened to Catholic Charities in Massachusetts.)

June 24, 2011

At the Sunset Café...


... you can hang around here all night.

NY passes same-sex marriage law.

The vote was 33-to-29, with 4 Republican state senators joining the 29 Democrats.


Fist bump/"Solidarity forever."



The scene at the Wisconsin Capitol at about 6:30 p.m. today. (That's Meade in the black T-shirt in the fist-bump pic.) A few blocks later, on the Terrace...


"Winning the right to marry is one thing; being forced to marry is quite another."

Lawprof Katherine M. Franke explains:
If the rollout of marriage equality in other states, like Massachusetts, is any guide, lesbian and gay people who have obtained health and other benefits for their domestic partners will be required by both public and private employers to marry their partners in order to keep those rights. In other words, “winning” the right to marry may mean “losing” the rights we have now as domestic partners, as we’ll be folded into the all-or-nothing world of marriage....
As strangers to marriage for so long, we’ve created loving and committed forms of family, care and attachment that far exceed, and often improve on, the narrow legal definition of marriage. Many of us are not ready to abandon those nonmarital ways of loving once we can legally marry....
But we shouldn’t be forced to marry to keep the benefits we now have...
I was going to say that if heterosexual couples have been excluded from domestic partnerships — as they are here in Wisconsin — then you'd have to open up domestic partnerships to them too. But I think it would be acceptable to have a 2-tier approach to state-sanctioned relationships just for same-sex couples who are already in domestic partnerships. No new domestic partnerships would be accepted. Now, perhaps Franke thinks domestic partnerships are a great innovation that should be open to same- and opposite-sex couples. I don't see a good reason for the state to maintain 2 different types of marriage-like relationships. I didn't like the "covenant marriage" approach either.

"How to avoid getting hit by a train."

(Via Metafilter.)

Peter Falk — the man "everybody falls in love with" — has died at the age of 83.

He'd been suffering fron Alzheimer's disease. The quote in the post title is from John Cassavetes, who directed 2 of my favorite Peter Falk movies, "A Woman Under the Influence" and "Husbands."

Here's an amazing scene from "A Woman Under the Influence" with Gena Rowlands:

And here's a scene that has made me laugh for more than 30 years. (It plays with the audio slightly out of synch, but please put up with that. Palladian synched the audio.)


We're talking about fads. It was my observation that the best fads were in the 1960s, but you might think that's a subjective perception caused by the fact that I was a teenager in the 60s. Correcting for that, the 1960s still wins in the competition among decades for best fads. Or so I assert, listing a bunch of great fads from the 60s off the top of my head: hula hoops, the twist, mini skirts, The Beatles, surfing, Afros, ironing your hair, long hair for males, love beads, happy faces.... surely there's more. I found this list of 60s fads on line. Bell-bottoms! Wide, paisley-patterned ties! Love-ins!

If you think some other decade can best the 60s in the fad category, make your case. But more generally, what do we think about fads? I was thinking that a certain type of fad — hula hoops — is a nice pop culture pastime. And then there is the labeling question: When does something stop being a fad? People use the word "fad" to put down something someone else thinks is important. Is blogging a fad? You might irritate some people by calling their pet concern a "fad": Worrying about the debt ceiling is a fad. Is there a time limit? Some new religion — Scientology — might be called a fad, but if you say "Christianity is a fad," people will know you are trying too hard to be provocative and — if they're smart — yawn.

Where did the word "fad" come from?
1834, "hobby, pet project;" 1881 as "fashion, craze," perhaps shortened from fiddle-faddle. Or perhaps from Fr. fadaise "trifle, nonsense," ultimately from L. fatuus "stupid."
Which reminds me: Fiddle Faddle is... a 60s fad! An even bigger popcorn-based 60s fad was Screaming Yellow Zonkers:
While the front of the package was simple and understated, the rest of the Zonkers box was completely covered with absurdist copy, accompanied by illustrations, informing the reader everything from “how to wash Zonkers” to “how to mate them”. The bottom of the box explained how to determine if it were indeed the bottom: “Open the top, and turn the box upside down. If the Zonkers fall out, this is the bottom. If they fall up, this is the top. If nothing happens, this box is empty.”
That was hilarious in the 60s, when smoking marijuana was also a fad.

"The problem is with adults... If they say we’re becoming more stupid, it’s perhaps because we’re in a school system they invented."

"We need better teachers and talk about more relevant stuff in class... Maybe they should ask us for some advice."

Hey, that's what we Boomers used to say. Then we grew up and put our ideals into practice. How do you like it? Are you going to grow up an put your dreams into practice? Good luck making the Boomers' grandkids stupid.

ADDED: "Relevant" was a 60s buzzword. I remember that well, and Wikipedia backs me up in its crazyWikipedian way:
Relevance describes how pertinent, connected, or applicable something is to a given matter....


During the 1960s, relevance became a fashionable buzzword, meaning roughly 'relevance to social concerns', such as racial equality, poverty, social justice, world hunger, world economic development, and so on. The implication was that some subjects, e.g., the study of medieval poetry and the practice of corporate law, were not worthwhile because they did not address pressing social issues.[ citation needed ]

"I know not what the temple of law may be to those who have entered it, but to me it seems very cold and cheerless about the threshold."

Said Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., after quitting law school.

A song by men in knickers, searched out because Meade just said "Quit It" like that.

"I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" — the first single by the Young Rascals. That clip is their first TV appearance (in 1965). I remember when their 2d single — "Good Lovin'" — came out: the radio DJ expressed relief that the band had improved the moral level of their music, as if "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" was rather smutty. I was 14 at the time, and it was only much later that I was able to imagine that the DJ had disaggregated the words "eat out" from the idiomatic expression "eat your heart out."

The lyric at 1:11 prompts a search for that Prince song... what is it? It's one of the "Purple Rain" songs. Ah! Here.

Was Prince influenced by The Rascals? Did Prince misconstrue the 1965 lyric like that DJ maybe did? We all know Prince got terribly smutty. It upset Tipper Gore so much:

MORE: On the great lyrics scare of 1984:

A Drudgtaposition.

A reader points to this morning's photo-juxtaposition on the Drudge Report:

I don't find this funny in any way, but it is artful — the flow of emotional heat, from cool to hot, the position of the mouths from closed to open. I love the photo of the Greek protester, capturing the peak instant of barbaric yawp between iconic fist salutes.

UPDATE: I feel like Drudge responded to my post, by updating with a more interestingly hand-related juxtaposition centered on Chavez:

McConnell: "But I do think there is more of a tendency to pull together when the guy in the White House is on your side."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, asked about “the isolationist streak of some in the Republican Party." The subject is Libya and the War Powers Act.
I’m not sure that these kind of differences might not have been there in a more latent form when you had a Republican president. But I do think there is more of a tendency to pull together when the guy in the White House is on your side. So I think some of these views were probably held by some of my members even in the previous administration, but party loyalty tended to mute them. So yeah, I think there are clearly differences and I think a lot of our members, not having a Republican in the White House, feel more free to express their reservations which might have been somewhat muted during the previous administration.
Thoughtful and honest, right? Is it also disturbing? Should members of Congress be expected to take a consistent position with respect to presidential power and the military? Or does the need for a check on the President justify the pressure from whichever party happens to be the opposing party?

June 23, 2011

At the Class Warfare Café...


... which side are you on?

For the ladies....

"The helium balloon, which has somehow stayed inflated for more than four months after being released by protesters, has become a symbol of sorts."

"It now has its own 'Capitol Balloon' Facebook page and 'The Heart Balloon' Twitter account. The balloon even has caught the eye of the Wisconsin Historical Society, which has been gathering artifacts to chronicle Gov. Scott Walker's plan to dramatically limit collective bargaining for public workers and the ensuing explosion of protests."

Protest kitsch.

A "major victory for Gov. Chris Christie and a once-unthinkable setback for the state’s powerful public employee unions."

The NYT reports on "broad rollback of benefits for 750,000 [New Jersey] workers and retirees, the deepest cut in state and local costs in memory":
While states around the country have moved to pare labor costs and limit the power of unions, the move is all the more striking here, in a Democratic-leaning state where Democrats control both houses of the Legislature and union membership is among the highest in the country.
And the protests?
On Thursday, thousands of people wearing union T-shirts and buttons filled the Assembly visitors’ gallery, the State House corridors and, in a high-decibel protest, the sidewalks, lawns and streets around the building. A procession down State Street included a hearse draped with a banner saying “The Soul of the Democratic Party,” and organizers with bullhorns led the crowd in chants of “We’ll remember in November!” and “Kill the bill!”...

Until recently, the public employee unions were among the most feared forces in state politics. They were a major source of votes, campaign cash and foot soldiers for Democrats, but officials in both parties were eager to please them. For years, governors and legislators from both parties sweetened their pension benefits but did not put any money into the system to pay for them.

"Cantor and Kyl just threw Boehner and McConnell under the bus."

"This move is an admission that there will be a need for revenues and Cantor and Kyl don't want to be the ones to make that deal."

So says "a senior Democratic aide" after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl dropped out of the debt talks today, leaving no Republicans in the group.

"Lone Star State secedes from incandescent light ban."

The North County Times reports:
Texans can keep buying traditional incandescent light bulbs, under a bill allowed to become law this week by Gov. Rick Perry.

The bill, HB 2510, states that it avoids the federal phase-out specifying that traditional incandescent bulbs are legal to sell in Texas as long as they are manufactured in that state. That means the bulbs are not part of interstate commerce, removing the rationale for their regulation under the U.S. Constitution, according to the bill.
I love my incandescent bulbs, but the law is obviously preempted by federal law. The argument that the Commerce Clause doesn't give Congress the power to ban light bulbs manufactured and sold within one state is plainly wrong under the Supreme Court case law. But I appreciate the gesture, because I want my light bulbs. Why I would travel through the channels of interstate comments to get to Texas to fill up my car with boxes of light bulbs and drive back across the continent to replenish my horded supply.

Mockery from the Austin newspaper (Austin being the Madison of the southern United States):
Only in Texas could people get worked up about using a certain light bulb because the other bulb is too liberal. But I'll bet there are people out there who don't use the new fluorescents because they think members of their bridge club will call them commies.

Maybe what the Legislature ought to do to send a message is get a great big incandescent light bulb and screw it into the Goddess of Liberty's head on top of the Capitol.

Perry was up in New York City the other day, banging his chest about how great the Texas economy is doing. Funny how he didn't mention the light bulb bill. Oh, well, I guess he just didn't want to come across as a dim bulb.

Buy some light bulbs here and support the Althouse blog. Althouse has been against the incandescent ban from the very beginning.

"The president’s decisions are more aggressive and incur more risk than I was originally prepared to accept."

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen testified today to the House Armed Services Committee.
“More force for more time is, without doubt, the safer course... But that does not necessarily make it the best course. Only the president, in the end, can really determine the acceptable level of risk we must take. I believe he has done so....

"No commander ever wants to sacrifice fighting power in the middle of a war. And no decision to demand that sacrifice is ever without risk."

"Dutch populist Geert Wilders acquitted of hate speech."

"The case was seen by some as a test of free speech in a country which has a long tradition of tolerance and blunt talk, but where opposition to immigration, particularly from Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries, is on the rise."

"'Release Baby Release' is the new 'Drill Baby Drill.'"

And candidate Obama told us in '08 it was going to be his "policy to use the strategic petroleum reserves as a market cushion."

How foolish do these Miss USA contestants sound responding to the question whether evolution should be taught in schools?

This video clip is making the rounds on some lefty blogs:

These women don't seem to realize how well-established the theory of evolution is and how central it is to the study of science. Of course, it should be taught in school. The more lively present-day issue is whether intelligent design may also be taught alongside evolution, but that isn't what the women were asked. The question prompts them to think of evolution as something that perhaps ought not to be taught in schools. From the bizarre similarity of the answers, I would extrapolate standard beauty-contest advice: Look for the prompt in the question and echo it back with some embellishment that makes you sound thoughtful, caring, and respectful of diversity.

But maybe, as Nicolle Belle at Crooks and Liars says:
The way that the majority of these women express their view that there are multiple and equally scientifically valid arguments truly shows the success of the religious right to muddy the waters and dumb down the populace by introducing skepticism over scientific theory.
By the same token, these answers may show how fundamental it is in America to believe in gathering information, listening to the argument about what might be true, and developing your powers of judgment. So, to some extent, what these women are saying aligns with the scientific method.

More than anything else, however, what I hear in these answers is a deep instinct toward freedom of choice. I felt moved to transcribe Miss New Jersey's remark because it was so perfectly typical of what they all seemed to be saying:
"I think everything should be taught in schools, every single aspect of evolution and anything you can think of. I think they should have the option of learning everything that there is to learn and then kind of choose what they like to believe."
Now, there is something absurd about that.  You don't want to teach kids everything you can think of, and they shouldn't be choosing what to believe based on what they like, but there's something beautiful and quintessentially American about that commitment to the free flow of information and the freedom of belief. It's not that far from the statement on the "sifting and winnowing" plaque here at the University of Wisconsin... about which I once said:
I would like to see some "continual and fearless" judgment about who should be given the opportunity to amass the pile of material that students are assigned to sift and winnow.
That is, you don't just throw anything you can think of at the students and leave it to them to find the truth. And some things are so well-established that it's a good idea to teach them quickly and simply as facts and save the "sifting and winnowing" activity for some other set of material. That brings us back to evolution: Should schools teach it as a fact — this is the theory — or use this subject as an occasion for teaching students how to look at evidence and judge it critically? I think that is the interesting question, and it is not at all obvious which approach is more supportive of science/religion.

"Wow. Am I crazy, or has the NYT just deployed some powerful new liberal bias technology?"

"I mean, with the 'draws attention to' formulation, Times editors can concoct a lede 'news' story making practically any tendentious ideological connection they want."

The Times wields a rhetorical device — does it have a specific name? — where you exclude human agency not with the passive voice but by making some abstraction the subject of a sentence written in the active voice. [CORRECTION: I mistakenly wrote "passive voice" for "active voice" at the end of that sentence. Sorry for the confusion!]

The headline Mickey Kaus draws attention to is "Sagging Economy Draws Attention to War Spending." In reality, somebody — e.g., Obama, the NYT — is trying to tell us to look at Y instead of X. The headline absurdly infuses the "sagging economy" with the will and the capacity to cause "attention" to be diverted to the subject of war spending.

The word "attention" also drains the headline of human will. The truth is that Obama/the NYT would like people to look at war spending instead of the economy. "Attention" isn't an entity with powers of perception that can be influenced to look at from one thing to another. The economy isn't trying to get attention to flit immediately from the troublesome subject of itself over to the preferred topic of war spending.

Real human beings, with interests and will, are trying to manipulate the minds of other human beings, who also have interests and will. And there's no evidence that the people have turned our attention to the subject the would-be manipulators prefer. In fact, we're still looking at the economy. It's the economy, stupid, a wise man once said. We're not stupid.

Anti-potato research.

"Eating more potato chips and French fries is likely to lead to a bigger weight gain over the years than the weight change associated with eating more of other foods, new research indicates."

"The liberals who long to return to the Midcentury Moment seem to forget that it was a time of enormous cultural uniformity that stigmatized being unmarried or unchurched or gay."

Observes Michael Barone, explaining "liberal nostalgia" for what he calls "America's Midcentury Moment":
The huge menu of lifestyle choices from which we can choose today was a very short menu with very few choices then. It could not last. Baby-boom children, raised in prosperity, were not content with being small units in large machines....

Vietnam, urban riots, Watergate, stagflation—all undermined confidence in big government, big business and big labor, and by the late 1970s the Midcentury Moment was long gone....

So the Obama Democrats, partially successful in expanding the size and scope of government, largely unsuccessful in reviving private-sector unions, are on the defensive politically. As Mr. Levison and other liberals recognize, most Americans don't accept Keynesian economics and don't favor expansion of government as they did during the Midcentury Moment....

[T]he Midcentury Moment's confidence in big institutions was inextricably connected with an acceptance of a cultural uniformity that almost all of today's liberals, and probably most non-liberals, would find unacceptable.
Read the whole thing. There's much about the unifying effect of WWII and the military draft. Do you buy this — the notion that belief in big government depends on cultural uniformity?

"Inside the Anonymous Army of 'Hacktivist' Attackers."

The Wall Street Journal reports from Hoogezand-Sappemeer, Netherlands:
Last week, LulzSec [a splinter group of Anonymous] said it had knocked the Central Intelligence Agency's website offline for about an hour. The CIA said no internal or classified networks were affected.

A call to a phone number set up by the group, 614-LULZSEC, wasn't returned. One LulzSec follower called "tflow" responded to a Wall Street Journal reporter in an online chat room, saying: "Unfortunately the gnomes are too busy to pick up your clearly inferior call."

"For the past month and a bit, we've been causing mayhem and chaos throughout the Internet, attacking several targets," LulzSec said in a statement last week. "This is the Internet, where we screw each other over for a jolt of satisfaction."
The gnomes are too busy to pick up your clearly inferior call....

June 22, 2011

"We will not try to make Afghanistan a perfect place."

"We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely. That is the responsibility of the Afghan government."

Obama's Afghanistan speech.

Andrew Malcolm comments:
The president is in a mess of his own making. He built his initial national political persona on opposition to Bush's Iraq war because, the former U.S. senator argued, it distracted America from the far more important conflict against Al Qaeda, the Taliban and terrorism in Afghanistan, which was the haven for Al Qaeda's 9/11 training.

Bush's Iraq surge worked, however, enabling Obama to proclaim victory and transfer those troops. This, in turn, enabled Vice President Joe Biden, the candidate who wanted to slice Iraq into three parts, to go on cable TV and with no sense of irony call Iraq one of Obama's "great achievements."

That left the Afghanistan war, 10 years old this fall, where Al Qaeda forces were making gains against the invisible central government. When Obama became commander-in-chief, the United States had 32,000 troops there. Today it has 100,000.

"But what exactly is a 'session beer'?"

"You may have encountered the term session beer before, as in, This would make a fine session beer - a statement usually proclaimed with a sense of nirvana, followed by a subtle smile of reaffirmation."

Sweat lodge guru guilty of negligent homicide.

Not guilty of manslaughter.
Prosecutors argued that the lodge, made of willow trees and branches and covered with tarpaulins and blankets, was heated to a perilously high temperature, causing the participants to suffer dehydration and heatstroke....

Event participants paid up to $10,000 to seek "new areas of consciousness" at the October 2009 Spiritual Warrior retreat in the desert... Many had attended previous James Ray International seminars.

The Lytro camera lets you take a photograph and then focus it.

"The Lytro camera [has] a special sensor called a microlens array, which puts the equivalent of many lenses into a small space.... [It has] sophisticated software that lets a viewer switch points of focus.... '[Photographs] become interactive, living pictures,' [Ren] Ng said. He thinks a popular use may be families and friends roaming through different perspectives on pictures of, say, vacations and parties posted on Facebook (Lytro will have a Facebook app)."

Digital cameras already let you see what part of the image is the focus point, but you don't always have time to look at the display, and in bright light it may be hard to see. Also, when you get your images uploaded into the computer and start to work with them, you might see details that you'd like to crop and focus on, perhaps things that you didn't even realize were in the shot... like in the movie "Blow-Up," when David Hemmings sees what may be evidence of murder in the blurry background shrubberies photographed with a film camera. I can't find the scene where he's blowing up the blowups of the blowups, so here's the scene with The Yardbirds:

"Mr. Obama’s decision is a victory for Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has long argued for curtailing the American military engagement in Afghanistan."

"But it is a setback for his top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, who helped write the Army’s field book on counterinsurgency policy, and who is returning to Washington to head the Central Intelligence Agency."
Two administration officials said General Petraeus did not endorse the decision, though both Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who is retiring, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reluctantly accepted it. General Petraeus had recommended limiting initial withdrawals and leaving in place as many combat forces for as long as possible, to hold on to fragile gains made in recent combat....

The decision... reflects the rapidly changing domestic political landscape. Mr. Obama faces a sagging economy, intense budget pressures and a war-weary Congress and public as he looks ahead to his reelection campaign.

The Pussycar Automodule.

It's "The Car of the Year 2000" — from the 1970s!

"If I had to choose Reaganomics or 13 staffers quitting, I think for the average working American, Reaganomics was a much better deal."

Gingrich explains:
"Philosophically, I am very different from normal politicians, and normal consultants found that very hard to deal with..."
He's different! He's not normal!

You squares just don't get him. He's out there on the edge, doing... Reaganomics!

This article — "Social impact of thong underwear" — "is in a list format that may be better presented using prose."

"You can help by converting this article to prose, if appropriate."

Ha ha. I love Wikipedia. Only Wikipedia talks to me like that. If appropriate... convert this article to prose... this article might be better using prose.

Why am I reading this thing about thong? Oh, it's something Carol Herman said in that post about Rep. Hasting:
Back in the old days they said "men chased their secretaries around their desk."

But when I worked, I discovered most women wore low cut dresses; and made themselves as obvious as Monica Lewinsky did.

How did Monica do it? She turned her fat ass towards the president's face. She lifted the top of her thong up over her skirt's waistband. And, she snapped it.
I'm not always sure what Carol Herman is driving at, but this provoked me. I knew Monica Lewinsky showed her thong to President Clinton. But did she snap it? I don't remember the snap. Showing the thong to the President is extremely daring. But snapping? That seems mental! You could try Googling that, but you might end up with repetitions of the myth. It's not in the Starr report, which says "she raised her jacket in the back and showed him the straps of her thong underwear, which extended above her pants." Showed. Didn't snap. Didn't even lift.

But now I'm here at the "Social impact of thong underwear," and — sorry! — I'm not translating it into "prose" for you. But what the hell is this, and why does it get an encyclopedia article? Britannica was never this way!
Psychologist Joann Ellison Rodgers conjectures that "wearing thong bikinis is adaptive among teenage girls because it attracts potential mates". Reporters Alison Pollet and Page Hurwitz observed about that "the most ubiquitous stripper-inspired purchase a girl can make is a thong, a product with a heritage in exotic dancing". The 2000s has seen a rise in the popularity of thongs among younger girls, who have been dubbed "thong feminists" by comedian Janeane Garofalo....

In August 2007 a man in Texas was arrested for being naked in his own backyard. He reported that he was in fact wearing a thong and not naked....
And on and on, with random incidents of thong in the news.
After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, thousands of thongs were included in relief packages to Sri Lanka.
Oh, no! It's prose, though, isn't it? It's just not the kind of intellectual analysis I was hoping for.

"It would be impossible for me in a paragraph or a page or two or a tome or volumes one and two to help you understand the dynamics of these events."

A lesson in how to say "no comment" with maximum verbosity, from Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings — accused of sexually harassing a woman on his staff.

AND: Aaron Worthing has read the complaint:
[T]he plaintiff seems to be a somewhat high-strung person....  It all struck me as a bit “dramatic”...

I found paragraphs 43 and 44 particularly damning.  And gosh, Hastings (allegedly) sure likes to hug her, doesn’t he?  Otherwise, as sexual harassment complaints go (in my work I have become kind of a connoisseur of them) what struck me was how ordinary it all was.  If there was ever a template for sexual harrassment, Hastings (allegedly) largely seems to fit into it.

Of course I can’t tell you how many times you get a complaint like this and you think your client is doomed, only to see if fall apart if you breathe too hard on it, so time will tell.  But right after Weinergate, I am not sure Democrats want to talk about another accusation of sexual impropriety.

It's news — in the NYT — that a lot of black people these days think they'll be better off in the South

It's "an inversion of the so-called Great Migration" — in which black people moved "to the industrializing North to escape prejudice and find work."
About 17 percent of the African-Americans who moved to the South from other states in the past decade came from New York, far more than from any other state, according to census data. Of the 44,474 who left New York State in 2009, more than half, or 22,508, went to the South....

The movement is not limited to New York. The percentage of blacks leaving big cities in the East and in the Midwest and heading to the South is now at the highest levels in decades, demographers say....

“New York has lost some of its cachet for black people,” [said Spencer Crew, a history professor at George Mason University who was the curator of a prominent exhibit on the Great Migration at the Smithsonian Institution]. “During the Great Migration, blacks went north because you could find work if you were willing to hustle. But today, there is less of a struggle to survive in the South than in New York. Many blacks also have emotional and spiritual roots in the South. It is like returning home.”...

The Rev. Floyd H. Flake, pastor of the 23,000-member Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral in Jamaica, Queens, said he was losing hundreds of congregants yearly to Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

“For decades, Queens has been the place where the African-American middle class went to buy their first home and raise a family,” Mr. Flake said. “But now, we are seeing a reversal of this as African-Americans feel this is no longer as easy to achieve and that the South is more benevolent than New York.”
The South is more benevolent than New York.

Why is Elie Mystal so annoyed at the Stanford lawprof who wrote a book called "Is Marriage for White People?"?

I'm reading this blog post over at Above the Law because Instapundit linked to it.  Instapundit did one of those ultra-sleek posts shorn of all opinion: "ELIE MYSTAL has a question for Stanford." That points us to a question that is the post title — "Stanford Law School: Why Are Your Professors Writing Books That Sound Like They’ve Been Written By Bloggers?" — but the post isn't mainly a challenge to Stanford to do something about lawprofs writing books that are insufficiently larded with citation and sober rumination. Mystal's post is mainly about the specific content of a book written by Ralph Richard Banks and aimed at general readers and — it's pretty obvious — TV and radio talk shows. Want to talk about black people and marriage? Bring on Professor Banks. He'll say some provocative things in language that will charge up the audience.

Maybe Mystal is a little jealous:
Now, if I were a blogger looking to make a quick buck, that’s exactly the kind of book I’d write. In fact, look for my upcoming book, “Why White People Can Afford To Piss Away Time & Money in Law School, But Blacks Can’t.”

But Ralph Banks isn’t a blogger, he’s a Stanford Law professor. Shouldn’t we expect less sensationalized bullcrap from him?
Here's Ralph Banks, who is, like Mystal, a black male writer with an elite legal education, and he's writing a book about marriage and black people, and he's also a Stanford law professor, while Mystal is writing for a blog. Moreover, Banks — if we're to believe an advance review (the book's not out until September) — is arguing that black women can "shift the power balance" by marrying white men. Mystal states more than once that he is married to a black woman, but:
For what it’s worth, I have no problem whatsoever with interracial marriage...
So whether or not Professor Banks has a worthwhile point, my objection rests with the way it was stated. I do this every day. I know a sensational headline when I’m looking at one. I’m familiar with how one writes generally reasonable arguments for 90% of a piece interspersed with ten percent of barely coherent hyperbole. We live in a culture where getting heard over the white noise sometimes requires you to shout a little bit. I get that.

I just don’t see why we need that from Stanford Law School, and I don’t see why we need it on a topic where there has been so little top-notch scholarly work.... Couldn’t the Stanford Law professor give us something a little bit more than Is Marriage for White People? Couldn’t the SLS prof tell his publisher (who, dollar-to-donuts, is the one who came up with this title): “Come now, that’s dumb. After the initial shock value, people will just say I’m being dumb, and that’s not going to be good for sales.”
Look, it's a great title, and people are going to stop and pay attention — in part because of the title and in part because of Banks's status as a high-level lawprof. Now, maybe that feels unfair to Mystal, who toils as a blogger unassisted by lawprof status. (But Mystal didn't build his own blog traffic; he stepped up onto a writing-platform built by David Lat.) Maybe it also seems unfair that lawprof-bloggers get some initial attention as bloggers because they are lawprofs. (But the information superhighway is littered with little-read blogs written by lawprofs who thought lots of people would want to know what they had to say about this and that because they are lawprofs. It's not that easy!)

I think it's fine for lawprofs to speak to the general public about a variety of public issues. We need smart and interesting people contributing to the national dialogue. And some of these people are law professors. I wouldn't want to say to law professors — especially to the lawprof named Althouse — you need to crawl back into the stereotypical lawprof box and write books and articles that look more like something conventional people can glance at and say: Scholarship!

The odd little territorial battle that took place in the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda yesterday.

The reported facts are sketchy, and Meade and I didn't happen to be there to witness what happened. Here is a snippet of video — from the Wisconsin State Journal — showing former state Senator David Zien (in a wheelchair )— circling the rotunda in what looks like a deliberate attempt to move the singalong crowd to the periphery of the rotunda.

Zien — the rider of the 1st Million Mile Harley, who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident last March — seems, at the beginning of the clip, to be trying to dislodge his nonmotorized wheelchair from the foot of one of the singers. Judging from the position of the foot, it looks to me as if the singalong man had extended his foot. In any event, Zien looks determined. The singalong people are a regular group that takes over the prime rotunda space every weekday noon hour to sing about how they will overcome Scott Walker some day and how they're sticking to the union and so forth.

The report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says that, according to one of the singalong participants, Zien yelled "Walker for president." Accompanying Zien were 2 men — "Green Bay resident Henry Rahr and Shorewood, Minn., resident Eugene German" — who carried "Don't Tread on Me" flags. So these men were rivals for the greatest free-speech territory in the state: the rotunda.

A singalong participant named Sue Trace said that the men "draped Zien's 'Don't Tread On Me' flag over the singers' heads." That's not in the video, so try to picture what that might have looked like. There's a big range of possibility with respect to how much flag-head contact occurred and how intentional it was. Based on the video we have, I'd guess that the 3 pro-Walker men decided the singalong crowd had no right to control the rotunda territory and decided they would make a counter-demonstration out of taking it back.

In that situation, emotions surge in unpredictable ways. Here's the Journal Sentinel description of what happened next:
Michael Dickman, 50, said Rahr and German were bumping into him along with other singers and grabbing their banners. Dickman said he tried to pull the flag away from Rahr. Dickman said Rahr then put him in a headlock and punched him in the face, chipping his front tooth.

Rahr, 50, was charged with battery but denied punching Dickman. Rahr said Dickman tried to tear the flag out of his hands....

Police cited Rahr, German and Dickman for disorderly conduct.
There must be more video of this unfortunate melée. For the most part, over the long weeks of the Wisconsin protests, people supporting the Governor have stayed away, while the anti-Walker people have chanted "Whose house?/Our house!" over and over and over. Zien felt moved to take a stand — from the position of a wheelchair — and the singalong group chose not to withdraw beyond the pillars that ring the rotunda — not to let the man have the space.

June 21, 2011

Pick your "Perfect Day."

1. With Elvis Costello:

2. With Pavarotti:

3. With Bono, Dr. John, Elton John everybody:

4. Lou, alone:

"It is my high priority to find a new venue —and bring the Surfing Madonna and her important message of 'Save The Ocean' — back into public view in our community as soon as possible."

The unauthorized mosaic is "uniting the Latino community, surfers, ocean-lovers, environmentalists, and promoting ocean awareness in a way that's playful."

"Texas’s economic record really is about 80 percent of Perry’s appeal..."

"... Texas is just killing it on the jobs front compared with the rest of the country."

From a list of 5 reasons to favor Texas Governor Rick Perry's candidacy.

"Supreme Conflict: The Future of Wisconsin’s High Court."

A press release for an event here in Madison that is open to the public:
Two former Wisconsin Supreme Court justices and two private practice lawyers who have argued before the state’s high court will discuss its visible conflict and inner workings at a forum sponsored by the Madison professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

"The state does not recognize domestic partnership in a way that even remotely resembles how the state recognizes marriage"

Writes Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel R. Moeser, reported in the Journal Sentinel:
"Ultimately, it is clear that (the law) does not violate the marriage amendment because it does not create a legal status for domestic partners that is identical or substantially similar to that of marriage. ," Moeser wrote.

In 2006, Wisconsin voters approved with 60% of the vote a constitutional ban on both marriage and a "legal status identical or substantially similar to marriage" for same-sex couples. Wisconsin Family Action, a group that supports marriage as being between a man and a woman, filed suit against the law in September.

It argued that the state-recognized partnerships for gay and lesbian couples are "substantially similar" to marriage and therefore banned by the state constitution.... In May, Republican Gov. Scott Walker asked Moeser to allow the state to stop defending the law against the suit because he believed it violated the state constitution.
There will be an appeal, of course. Instead of commenting, I'm giving you a poll:

Assess Moeser's decision:
It's a sincere but not very good attempt at legal analysis.
It's a sincere and fine example of legal analysis.
It's pure politics, and it's bad politics.
It's pure politics, and it's good politics.
It's a mediocre mix of law and politics.
It's an excellent interweaving of law and politics.
pollcode.com free polls

Concealed carry comes to Wisconsin.

From the comments section at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
1. "If you are so insecure that you feel you need to carry a gun, YOU ARE A NUT CASE and need PSYCHOLOGICAL HELP. If you feel the need to carry a gun, YOU ARE A NUT AND SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO DO SO!!!"...

2. "You people who are going to cc, please do not accidentally shoot us regular people or your self. Although it will be interesting to hear about the 1st cc person who shots themselves in the leg or testycles."
IN THE COMMENTS: t-man said...
The comment is clearly a parody, filled with "NUT"s, "NUT CASE" (scrotum), and testycles.

Either that or the writer's subconscious is trying to work through a few issues.
Oddly, these are 2 different comments, by different individuals, and they are separated in the thread by other comments. Either it's just a funny coincidence, or the term "nut case" somehow influenced the other guy to think about testicles. As for the misspelling, now I'm having flashbacks to the nude bicycle ride I witnessed last Saturday and which I cannot unsee.

"They are promoting drug use... This is the wrong message for Nike to send."

The Mayor of Boston — Thomas Menino — doesn't like the T-shirts in the window at Niketown.
A Nike spokeswoman told the newspaper that the company doesn’t condone the use of banned or illegal substances.

“These T-shirts are part of an action sports campaign, featuring marquee athletes using commonly used and accepted expressions for performance at the highest level of their sport, be it surfing, skateboarding or BMX"...
The mayor is insufficiently hip, apparently. Doesn't cotton to ambiguity.

Respect for "We Didn't Start the Fire."

"[Billy] Joel is the perfect vehicle for Baby Boomer self-possession and his choice of 20th century landmarks has led to more history essays than Millard Fillmore's presidency.... Joel does a fantastic job recreating a modern Gilbert & Sullivan patter song. These are not easy to make, with their every-word-that-we-can-think-of lyrics. Joel's succeed because he keeps the words crisp and the ideas relevant to (at least some of) his audience. Sure it is just a list, but what a list!"

Ha. I didn't know you were allowed to like that much-hated song, but it's #108 on the Top 200 #1 songs of all time.

I still prefer this version:

"Throughout the past 30 or 40 years most criminologists couldn’t say the word ‘genetics’ without spitting."

"Today the most compelling modern theories of crime and violence weave social and biological themes together.”

What caused the subsidence of the formidable fear of anything that sounds like eugenics? Is it the discovery that genes "express themselves differently depending on the environment"? There's the report of a study with "the astonishing result":
In boys not exposed to the risk factors, genetics played no role in any of their violent behavior. The positive environment had prevented the genetic switches — to use Mr. Pinker’s word — that affect aggression from being turned on. In boys with eight or more risk factors, however, genes explained 80 percent of their violence. Their switches had been flipped.
If genes seal an individual's fate, we don't even want to hear about it. But if genes merely create risks, and society can "flip the switch" off, then the research supports all sorts of policies and spending programs to avert the risk. With this new twist, there is support for the research.

By the way, I'm never astonished by research that yields the result that research ought to continue in a direction that government will fund because it tends to show that more government is needed.

IN THE COMMENTS: kimsch said:
Do they really want to go there? This research could also imply that sexual orientation could be genetic but turned "on or off" depending on "risk factors"...

"Harold Koh is the Gollum of Foggy Bottom."

"Considering Koh's background, the whole episode offers a cautionary tale about the corrupting effects of power."

"I've never understood the assumption that if a woman was drunk and doesn't remember giving consent that it must be rape."

Says a commenter named Hamp at the blog JoeMyGod, at a post about Bristol Palin (and what she wrote in her memoir about losing her virginity):
It takes two to tango as it takes two to have sex. And if they're both drunk, if they both made the decision to drink to the point of blackout, then why is only the man at fault? Unless the woman was drugged or forced to drink then both parties are equally responsible. And how does one force another person to drink wine coolers to the point of no return? Did he tie her down and force the drinks down her throat? I doubt it. She's just another person refusing to take responsibility for her own actions. She wasn't raped she just got drunk and made what she now thinks was a bad decision.
JoeMyGod is a prominent blog that has won awards in the politics/LGBT category. I noticed this post because I was getting blog traffic from it after it linked to my post "Did Levi Johnston rape Bristol Palin?" I'm not sure the people over there discussing Bristol's book realize that she did not apply the word "rape" to what happened to her. I did. I looked at her facts, and I introduced the legal concept. Bristol (and her family) did not bring in the police. It seems to me that she took responsibility for her own actions and expressed her sadness over what happened. She did not call it rape. She may have described the facts with the intent that the reader would think what I thought. I only read a short excerpt from her book, so I don't know what her overall intent is. Perhaps she's trying to say: Girls, don't drink yourself into a stupor when you're out in a tent with a boy.

There are comments in that thread like "I just...well....I....Skankity-skank-skank" and "The apple didn't fall far from THAT twisted tree"/".... and the semen doesn't fall far from the oft offered ova." But after Hamp's disquisition on on the mutuality of sexual intercourse, FreudianNips says:
That's just lovely Hamp. Just lovely. I take it you are not a woman? I am, and while I did not consider it rape since I was in a relationship... I can tell you there are not much worse feelings than waking up knowing you've been pounded and not remembering it....

I think most of us are all familiar with the mechanics of both male and female genitalia. Is it a stretch to say that it is maybe more of the man's fault when "blackout sex" occurs, in certain situations (specifically this one if its true)? I mean, he's the one who has to get hard and stick it in her. And let's be real, all a woman ever really has to do is lie there, conscious or not, for sex or rape (BIG DIFFERENCE BTW) to occur....
I don't want to judge anybody or make assumptions, but in my opinion, a lot of men here seem to forget, or perhaps have never realized, the way men can control, manipulate, intimidate and yes, coerce women into doing things they do not want to do or wouldn't normally do. Maybe its because most of you are gay and mostly interact with each other, and maybe its because none of you are scumbags like that, but it is real. It may not be tangible or empircally provable, but many, many women know this. I mean, why do women stay in abusive marriages? ...
It doesn't have to be obvious, or threatening, or even dangerous, but men do this to women, whether they are aware of it or not. Do you know how prevalent, how pandemic, how swept under the rug abuse is, especially sexual abuse? Its fucking everywhere. And I am sick of these circular, apologetic, excuse filled articles and comments, when every damn day another high profile man is accused of, and USUALLY guilty of, crimes involving his fucking dick and putting it where it shouldn't be. And every damn time it happens, women are knocked 10 steps backward and have to try harder, prove harder and defend themselves harder just to stay on track of having a chance one day of being taken seriously. 
God damn I hate the Palins and the energy they have put into this world. 
After that, guess where the conversation goes? To banter about the mechanics of sexual intercourse given the length of Levi's penis and the girth of Bristol's torso.

"We hear you, Jay, we hear you: the president's position on marriage equality is evolving."

"That's your buzzword and you're sticking to it. But it's rare to see a politician evolve both ways on an issue like marriage equality. The president was for it, then he was against it, and now the president is presumably evolving back towards his previous position on marriage equality."

Dan Savage is skeptical about evolution.

June 20, 2011

Weird Al was born this way.

And as for Lady Gaga, maybe she was born that way.

ADDED: The link on "that way," above, was wrong. Try it now! It's funny.

Does the NYT care about the carbon footprint of its wonderful pizza-cooking technique?

"Heat the oven and pizza stone at 500 degrees for one hour..."

Oh, hell! Shut up about my light bulbs. Just. Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

If you people really believed in global warming in the form that you would like to foist that belief on the common folk, that quoted line above would have sounded to you as something on the moral level of first, torture a small, cute kitten....

The Wal-Mart case was decided unanimously, but it was 5-4 in a very important way.

Permit me to explain what is a bit complicated. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, which governs class action, there is a set of preliminary requirements in subsection (a) and then a list of 3 types of class actions in subsection (b). The class must meet all the requirements in (a) and then fit one of the categories in (b).  The Scalia opinion (joined by the Chief Justice and Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito) and the Ginsburg opinion (joined by Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan)  agree that the district court erred in putting the class into the second category in subsection (b), but only the Scalia majority also thought a preliminary requirement in 23(a) was not met. Since all class actions — in any of the (b) categories — must meet the requirements in (a), the Scalia opinion has a much more restrictive effect on class actions.

Let's focus on that disagreement. The proposed class included all current and former female employees of Wal-Mart, well over a million women. Rule 23(a) requires that all the members of the class share a common question of law or fact. Wal-Mart had a policy of decentralizing employment decisions to the store level, and the plaintiffs, attempting to satisfy 23(a), said that Wal-Mart has "a strong and uniform 'corporate culture' [that] permits bias against women to infect, perhaps subconsciously, the discretionary decisionmaking of each one of Wal-Mart’s thousands of managers — thereby making every woman at the company the victim of one common discriminatory practice."

Is this policy of decentralizing decisionmaking a common question? Scalia called it "a policy against having uniform employment practices." There have been cases in which an "undisciplined system of subjective decisionmaking" has been held to violate Title VII (the federal statutory law about employment discrimination). But in the case of Wal-Mart, once the decisionmaking was decentralized to the store level, there would be differences from store to store in how that decisionmaking would be done. Even assuming there was an undisciplined system of subjective decisionmaking in every store, each  store would might have its own undisciplined system of subjective decisionmaking. To meet the Rule 23(a) requirement of a common question, Scalia wrote, there would need to be a "specific employment practice" that was applied to all the members of the class, not simply a policy that created the conditions for thousands of stores to devise specific employment practices. 

Ginsburg thought that Wal-Mart's delegation of discretion, "uncontrolled by formal standards, has long been known to have the potential to produce disparate effects."
Managers, like all humankind, may be prey to biases of which they are unaware. The risk of discrimination is heightened when those managers are predominantly of one sex, and are steeped in a corporate culture that perpetuates gender stereotypes."...
Ginsburg tried to portray Scalia as importing a requirement that the common questions predominate over the individual questions. (That actually is a requirement in one of the subsection (b) categories.) But that's not what Scalia did. Scalia said that the decentralization move simply wasn't a question in the case and that the actual questions are specific to the store level and not to the entire class the plaintiffs attempted to define.

ADDED: After reading the case and trying to explain it as clearly as I could, I've been reading some of the press accounts, and... I can't say I'm surprised, but what politicized drivel!

The billboard-style house.

"The SINGLE HAUS is designed to fill the niche for building in extreme/hard-to-settle landscapes such as marshes, cliff sides, lakes, and even in place of old highway billboards."

This is just a design, and there's no interior floor plan, but I'm fascinated by it. Maybe I'd just like to see a movie about people living in places like this... after the ocean levels rise, perhaps.

ADDED: The Single Hauz — spelled differently — was featured on BLDGBLOG 4 years ago:
Could you use the mast-and-cantilever model for other types of architectural structures, whether those are single-family houses – whole cul-de-sacs lined with modernist billboard homes! – or even restaurants and public libraries?

The Single Hauz shows how beautiful the effect could be.
What about the commercial potential? These pictures don't show the building actually being used as a billboard, but why not? You could pay for your housing by collecting advertising revenue.

Or perhaps the house could be a blog, covered in plasma-screen, with a column of advertising on the right, and new text appearing, typed up fresh by the resident of the billboard-house... BillboardHouseBlog.

ALSO: It taps into that part of us that imagines we'd like to live in a treehouse... or that likes to think about pillar saints, like Simeon Stylites:

A nicely intense exchange between Jon Stewart and Chris Wallace.

Say what you will, I loved this balance of hostility and respect... and facts and emotion.

(Via Memeorandum.)

"The New York Times celebrates fatherhood by cruelly invading a 3-year-old's privacy."

Opines James Taranto.
When G. is old enough, Carol plans to tell him that "Uncle George" is actually his father. Fine, but will she also tell him that caring for G. causes George "a profound despair," that George doesn't "feel paternal toward" G. and "certainly" doesn't "want to be the child's parent"?

Because G. will find these things out in due course. This isn't the 1950s anymore, when to find old newspaper stories one had to spend hours going through library stacks or microfilm reels. Unless the New York Times goes out of business and its website is shut down, this story will live forever on the Internet.

That means that as soon as G. can punch his name and his parents' names into Google, he will be able to read the cruel things his father said about him when he was 3. So, by the way, will his school friends--and enemies. That's why we left the names out of this column. We don't want him to find out from us.
Every minute on the internet there must be a whole lot of kids discovering the kinds of things about what their parents think that in bygone decades they'd have never learned. But not every kid is going to find stuff that was written up in the New York Times. At least G. will have the pleasure of reading it in a carefully written style piece intended to flatter him and his parents. Pity the kids who find out how they looked to their parents when they run across Mommy's First Post Partum Depression Blog.

Oh, my lord! Cooking up a name for a blog you wouldn't want the child to discover, I experience a flood of ideas for blogs by parents that would be horrible for a child (and his friends and enemies) to discover. The photoblog showing the inside of every diaper ever changed accompanied by one poetic sentence about the mother's emotions the moment of the change. And I presume somebody has already done a blog like that. It could be very artistic... and utterly blind to the life of... emphemera on the internet.

At the Sweet Potato Café...


... you can be yourself.

"The Supreme Court on Monday blocked a massive sex discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart on behalf of women who work there."

WaPo reports:
The court ruled unanimously that the lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. cannot proceed as a class action, reversing a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The lawsuit could have involved up to 1.6 million women, with Wal-Mart facing potentially billions of dollars in damages....

The justices divided 5-4 on another aspect of the ruling that could make it much harder to mount similar class-action discrimination lawsuits against large employers.

Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion for the court’s conservative majority said there needs to be common elements tying together “literally millions of employment decisions at once.”

But Scalia said that in the lawsuit against the nation’s largest private employer, “That is entirely absent here.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the court’s four liberal justices, said there was more than enough uniting the claims. “Wal-Mart’s delegation of discretion over pay and promotions is a policy uniform throughout all stores,” Ginsburg said.
I hope the GOP candidates for President are smart and articulate enough to use this case in their argument against electing the Democratic President to a second term.

ADDED: After the oral argument, back in March, I wrote:
I think plaintiffs are trying to say that if headquarters can see a pattern of women doing poorly under the decentralized discretion system, then keeping that system in place is a discriminatory policy. That absence of centralized control is the common issue that makes it an appropriate class action (rather than lot of individual cases that ought to be brought separately if at all).

So... the thing that makes a million individuals the same is that they... are different. They should have been made the same.... or more alike... by a sex-discrimination-conscious policy. I think it's possible to get your head around that idea, but nearly impossible to picture workable legal doctrine governing the real-world affairs of human beings... including the judges who would apply it.
ALSO: I'm reading Justice Scalia's assessment of the "social framework" analysis that the plaintiffs offered to prove that Wal-Mart had "a general policy of discrimination" (which was supposed to be the common question supporting the class action form of litigation):
[Dr. William] Bielby testified that Wal-Mart has a “strong corporate culture,” that makes it “ ‘vulnerable’ ” to “gender bias.” Id., at 152. He could not, however, “determine with any specificity how regularly stereotypes play a meaningful role in employment decisions at Wal-Mart. At his deposition … Dr. Bielby conceded that he could not calculate whether 0.5 percent or 95 percent of the employment decisions at Wal-Mart might be determined by stereotyped thinking.” 222 F. R. D. 189, 192 (ND Cal. 2004)....“[W]hether 0.5 percent or 95 percent of the employment decisions at Wal-Mart might be determined by stereotyped thinking” is the essential question on which respondents’ theory of commonality depends. If Bielby admittedly has no answer to that question, we can safely disregard what he has to say.
AND: I've written a new post to help you understand the way in which this was not a unanimous decision.

"Just hours before his death, ['Jackass' star Ryan] Dunn posted a photo on Twitter showing himself drinking with friends."

"We're told the car caught fire in the crash — and hours later, a tow truck was called to the scene to remove the charred wreckage."

Drinking and charred wreckage photos at the link.

ADDED: "Jackass 3D" trailer. Ryan is the one with the beard.

AND: Here's Dunn talking about his new TV "Proving Ground," which started just last week:

AND: Here's the "tasting chemicals" routine he was talking about:

Whatever happened to Walkerville?

We observed this weekend that the tents were gone. And:
The street permits that had allowed the protesters to set up camp were revoked at the request of the demonstrators on Friday evening.
But there's this Facebook "Events" page: "Walkerville #WIunion Vigil Only Under The Stars NO TENTS":
Time  —Today at 7:00pm - September 2 at 9:00am
Location  — Wisconsin State Capitol...
Camp free-style under the stars, no tents allowed.
ATTENTION: organizer David Boetcher's group, _We Are Wisconsin_, has canceled its permit with the city as of 5 pm Friday June 17. If you still want to VIGIL near the Capitol it must be WITHOUT a tent, AND self-sufficient!
Yesterday a little after 5 p.m., we walked and drove around the square. There was little sign of any protest activity:


(Enlarge to read: "Refusing to Eat — Day 04 Hunger Strike.")

I don't see how the city can accept free-form sleeping on the street, with no group taking responsibility. Homeless and transient people are not allowed to sleep on the street, so I don't see how special immunity from the laws can be given to other sleepers based on their political opinions.

"But who will want to be the next chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison?"

It will not be easy replacing Biddy Martin.
Historian William Cronon, who served on the previous chancellor search committee, said the ideal candidate has to work with the university's diverse constituencies, as well as the governor and Legislature. But he said the candidate also must reach beyond the university community.

"Can this person go to the Green County Fair and hang out with the 4-H kids?...Wisconsin is not a state where people have a lot of patience for people who are holier than thou"...

"There is no question there is a morale issue and a morale challenge, but we have extraordinary resources and it's an extraordinary institution with amazing students, faculty, staff," Cronon said...
In a blog post after Martin announced her resignation, [Historian Jeremi] Suri praised the chancellor for being unwilling to coast in the face of challenges. Her departure is part of "a broader, nationwide purge of creative institutional leaders," Suri said. And there's plenty of blame to spread among both Republicans and Democrats, he added.

"Look around. Does anyone deny that the quality of our leaders at all levels of American society has suffered in the last 10 years? Congress? Corporate CEOs? University presidents? American attack politics have destroyed these leaders"...