July 9, 2011

We went down to the Capitol Square today, not to see the Art Fair on the Square per se...

... because I'm not a fan of the art...

I mean... are these people completely sincere, completely insincere, or do they span all the possible gradations of sincerity and insincerity... and does it even matter? Those mesh female forms twisted slowly in the wind... to what end? Something like wind chimes? [ADDED: By "these people," I mean the vendors.]

Note the Capitol in the background behind the trees, suggesting my real purpose in coming down to the Square. I wanted to see how the art was interfacing with the politics. Would there be any protesters in amongst the art fair folks?

The hunger strike guy was there:

I love the outfit on the art fair lady who stopped to absorb his message. Was it art? Ah, what is art?

I had the idea that this was the best art at the fair:

I love it! So pop and so graphic and greasy. Have some:

Or walk right by:

Enough about the fair food. Back to the hunger strike guy. He was the only protester I noticed. Well, him and some man who'd painted "Recall Walker" on his black umbrella parasol.

"Jeter became the 28th player in history to reach 3,000 hits, but only the second to do so with a home run..."

"... the other was Wade Boggs for Tampa Bay in 1999."
Only Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron and Robin Yount joined the club at a younger age than Jeter, who turned 37 on June 26.

That puts Jeter ahead of the pace set by Pete Rose, the career hits leader, who retired at age 45 with 4,256....

Only one other player, Honus Wagner, reached 3,000 hits while still a regular shortstop. Wagner did it in 1914.

“Physically, you have a responsibility that can be difficult, and mentally as well, you have to be in every pitch, every game,” Jeter said, referring to shortstop. “So there’s probably a reason why there’s not too many guys that have played the position that have had that amount of hits. I take pride in it. This is my job. This is the only thing I’ve done.”

"It's ironic. There is relative peace in Somalia where I live."

"But we are still fleeing."

"Obama Sold, Tracked, Same Guns To Cartels He Hoped To Ban Because They Were Tracked From Cartels."


How big is this scandal?
It will destroy Obama.
Serious, but people won't pay enough attention to cause much to happen.
A minor matter, pumped up by Republicans for partisan gain.
So minor, I'm not bothering to read enough to be able to have a valid opinion. Paradoxically!

pollcode.com free polls

IN THE COMMENTS: Paul Zrimsek said:
I won't know how big a scandal this is until I've seen the wine list. Anything over $100 a bottle, I say impeach him.

"On Saturday, one man held up a sign that said 'Thank You George Bush.'"

Today, there is a new country in the world: South Sudan.
Christian groups had been championing the southern Sudanese since the 19th century. And their efforts paid off in 2000 when George W. Bush was elected president of the United States. He elevated Sudan to the top of his foreign policy agenda, and in 2005, the American government pushed the southern rebels and the central government — both war weary and locked in a military stalemate — to sign a comprehensive peace agreement that guaranteed the southerners the right to secede.

"Republicans unveiled a plan Friday to redraw the state's 132 legislative seats just before a wave of recall elections this summer...."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
A quick vote would allow GOP lawmakers to approve the maps and lock down advantages for themselves at the ballot box for the next 10 years by drawing district lines in their favor. Republicans' schedule would allow them to sign off on maps to their liking even if they lose control of the Senate in the coming weeks....
Scott Fitzgerald spokesman Andrew Welhouse said Republicans would seek to pass separate legislation allowing the legislative and congressional maps to be redrawn before local municipalities finish drawing ward lines. Currently, state law requires the ward lines to be drawn first, which would mean that lawmakers would have to wait until long after the recall elections to pass a redistricting plan.
And wouldn't some of those municipalities drag out the process in order to give the Democrats more time to try to affect the line-drawing? The Democrats have shown their willingness to use whatever they can to have their way, so I can't see the argument against the Republicans changing that law about the sequencing to get what they want.
Democrats said two Democrats challenging Republican senators in recall elections - Rep. Fred Clark of Baraboo and former Brown County Executive Nancy Nusbaum - were drawn out of the districts they are seeking. That would mean if they won this summer's recall elections, they could serve briefly but would then have to move or run in a different district in November 2012.
Sounds like hardball politics, though the Republicans aren't admitting that. Assuming it is, I'm not bothered, because I think the Democrats would do the same if they were in that position. They use the techniques that are available to them (such as, here, litigating). Efforts to cry "shame" over this ring hollow to me.

"Wisconsin became the 49th state to allow its citizens to carry undercover guns..."

"... after Gov. Scott Walker signed the measure Friday."

What is the final holdout state?

"First garlic harvest!"

Says Meade, plunking these down on the counter:

(That's not the counter. I took them outside for good natural light.)

Here's some of the as-yet-unharvested garlic:

Although Meade has grown garlic commercially at other times, in other places, this garlic was planted only because Meade bought a whole lot of harvested garlic from some vendor at the Dane County Farmers' Market, and when he got it home, he discovered it hadn't been properly dried and considered it unfit for eating. So he planted the garlic bulbs, which are in the genus Allium, in a row behind the flowering alliums.

You saw Meade planting the smallest of the flowering alliums in this video last fall. (The day after Election Day. Included in the video is a shot of a political sign in the neighbors' yard for the lefty candidate who was more left than the lefty candidate who won.*) And here's a picture of what the 2 taller types of allium looked like flowering in May.


*Brett Hulsey.

At the lefty blog Firedoglake: "No, I’m not ready to crown Barack Obama the Worst President Ever just yet..."

So which is worse?  The president who serves his base and sets the country on fire, or the president who stiffs his base and fights fire with gasoline?
President A is Bush, in case you couldn't figure it out. Shouldn't you suspect — oh, Firedoglake blogger "Eli" — that if your nominees for "Worst President Ever" are the 2 most recent Presidents, that you've got a perspective problem?

People who are immersed in politics ought to take a good look at their own minds. Maybe what just happened near you is not actually the most dramatic thing that ever happened. Your feelings are one thing. Reality is something else. Make an effort to discern the difference.

I have no interest in these hysterical little men who obsess about whether their "base" is getting served or stiffed.

The new oppo research: Spotting the labels on the wine on the politician's restaurant table.

Some busybody business professor named Susan Feinberg pulled this trick on Paul Ryan and Talking Points Memo is lapping it up:
When [Professor Feinberg] saw the label on the bottle of Jayer-Gilles 2004 Echezeaux Grand Cru Ryan's table had ordered, she quickly looked it up on the wine list and saw that it sold for an eye-popping $350, the most expensive wine in the house along with one other with the same pricetag.

Feinberg, an economist by training, was even more appalled when the table ordered a second bottle....

"We were just stunned," said Feinberg...

She was outraged....
So, Feinberg was appalled, stunned, and outraged. That's got to hurt.
[Feinberg] approached the table and asked Ryan "how he could live with himself" sipping expensive wine while advocating for cuts to programs for seniors and the poor. Some verbal jousting between Feinberg and the other two men ensued. One of the two men said he had ordered the wine, was drinking it and paying for it. In hearing how much the wine cost, Ryan said only: "Is that how much it was?"

The clash became especially heated when Feinberg asked the men if they were lobbyists.

"F---- her," one of them replied and stood up in a menacing way, according to Feinberg's account. Feinberg said her husband then "puffed out his chest" in response before the manager and a waiter came over and Feinberg decided she had said her piece and it was time to leave.
Time to retreat and reposition. Enough of making a show of yourself and your puffy-chested husband in a fancy restaurant that you're about to get thrown out of. Get this story to TPM where it can go viral on the internet, where lots of folks stand ready to get appalled, stunned, and outraged.
Ryan does not dispute most of the details of Feinberg's account, although he told TPM the two men are economists, not lobbyists, and characterized Feinberg as "crazy" and possibly drunk. For her part, Feinberg said she believes the economist at the table who got out his seat to challenge her was the one intoxicated.

"It was my birthday, and I'd had half a bottle of great wine with dinner," she wrote in an e-mail to TPM. "I wasn't drunk, but I was certainly emboldened to speak my mind."
We've all had birthdays like that. How much does Prof. Feinberg weigh? I'd like to calculate her level of intoxication. A woman who's drunk half a bottle of wine and gets emotionally overwrought after calculating the price of items consumed at another table by a politician she loathes should probably restrain herself from going over to that table to tell him off.

And I love the way TPM states that the lobbyist/economist at the table who stood up was "menacing."  Feinberg is the one who went over to a table of quiet diners and started interrogating them. Is this the kind of behavior TPM would like to encourage? Everyone in Washington restaurants should be eyeing the room looking for politicians they oppose, snapping photos of any expensive wine on their tables, and then — perhaps emboldened by their own wine consumption — march over and have an argument with them?

All right then! Release the Feinbergs!

Is this the oppo research of the future? What jackasses we are becoming!

TPM should be ashamed of itself passing along this embarrassing story and for the way it presented this material. In the middle of the piece, TPM informs us of Congressional ethics rules barring expensive gifts from lobbyists. I was thinking: Oh, maybe this is a serious problem. But if you keep reading, much further down, you see that Ryan paid for the meal with his own credit card, and TPM saw the receipt. Ridiculous! What hackery from the once-respectable Talking Points Memo!

Requiring same-sex couples to marry if they want to keep health insurance benefits they've previously enjoyed with domestic partnerships.

This issue arises in the 6 states (plus D.C.) that allow same-sex marriage.
On the surface, this appears to put the couples on an even footing with heterosexual married couples. After all, this is precisely what they have been fighting for: being treated as a spouse. But some gay and lesbian advocates are arguing that the change may have come too soon: some couples may face complications, since their unions are not recognized by the federal government.
So, when opposite-sex couples decide whether to marry, to the extent that it's an economic calculation, they are weighing a much different set of pros and cons. For example, joint federal income tax returns can save a huge (or cost) amount of money. And under federal tax law, the spouse/"spouse" who receives his/her partner's health benefits has treat the benefit as income and pay tax on it.

If one of the spouses is not a U.S. citizen and is in the country on a temporary visa, the state-level-only marriage "could flag your renewal application and reflect your more permanent decision to stay." Marriage, instead of helping you get to citizenship, would send you in the direction of losing your visa.

What if one spouse is in the military? Getting married violates Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which isn't completely gone yet.

In addition, a state-level-only marriage causes problems if the couple moves to a state that doesn't recognize that marriage (and is entitled, under the Defense of Marriage Act, to decline to recognize the marriage):
Getting a divorce can be complicated, since one member of a couple may have to return to the gay marriage state and live there before their split can be completed.

The employers making the changes [to require marriage to retain benefits] said they spoke regularly with their gay and lesbian employee groups and planned to phase in the requirement. Corning, based in Corning, N.Y., said it would offer a reasonable grace period, though it had not completed the details.

“After waiting so much time for that right, we want them to have the opportunity to enjoy that,” said Christy Pambianchi, a senior vice president for human resources at Corning, which put the policy into effect in New Hampshire and Massachusetts when gay marriage became legal there. She said employees did not raise concerns about the requirement. “They are delighted,” she said.
So the New Hampshire and Massachusetts same-sex couples didn't notice the problem? It took New York. Why was that? Are New Yorkers more legalistic and inclined toward economic analysis? Are they more likely to speak up in their own self-interest even when they are getting something they'd been asking for that's supposed to be good?

Obviously, some same-sex couples are happy to be allowed to get married, but under the law, marriage is a complicated matter. It's not just about pledging your love and devotion. In fact, you can do that without a legal marriage. As Joni Mitchell sang a long time ago: "We don't need no piece of paper. From the city hall. Keeping us tied and true."

Legal marriage is about a whole lot of other things, and the set of things is not the same for opposite sex and same-sex marriage. The decision to get married is a different decision for same-sex couples, and it's not real equality to have to decide between losing your health insurance benefits and entering into the kind of marriage that is works only in at the state level and only in some of the states.

July 8, 2011

At the Seedling Cafe...

...there are 1,000s of little things to talk about.

Betty Ford.


"What did David Plouffe really say about unemployment?"

WaPo's Greg Sargent tries to rehabilitate Plouffe, who clearly did say that the unemployment rate is not going to determine how people vote in 2012.

When you see the transcript and think about it, it's obvious that Plouffe did not say that unemployment wouldn't matter to voters. He said that the percentage itself isn't what affects voters' minds. What matters is their personal subjective experience:
So, you know, people won’t vote based on the unemployment rate. They’re gonna vote based on, “How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?”
Sargent says:
You can argue that it was a misstep in that the quote does sound tone-deaf when reproduced without the surrounding context, and it’s understandable why people would see it as insensitive when viewed without that context.
A lot of clever remarks are like that. A witty, engaging speaker will say something surprising and counterintuitive, but then flesh it out or add one more point, and then it clicks. Of course, if you have opponents, you've got to anticipate what they'll do with the little slice of what you said that seems head-slappingly idiotic. So it may not be so smart to be smart like that.

Now let's look more closely at that possibly clever notion of Plouffe's: Any given voter is going to ask not what the facts are about Americans in general, but how do I feel about what's happening to me personally and do I believe that the President cares about me. 

This is how people* got hooked into voting for Obama in the first place! Plouffe and company massaged people into the place where they had a feeling about Obama. Hope. Change. Yes We Can.

And Plouffe is gearing up to do it again. The difference this time is that Obama is not an outsider to the current conditions. He represents not change, but: the same. And the current situation is dreadful. Plouffe knows that, and his comments show how he's planning, this time, to do the same thing but different. Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family? Yes, you do. Or you will. Plouffe hopes.

You can savage Plouffe all you want for his seemingly stupid remark, but don't miss the opportunity to see what he revealed about the theory of the reelect Obama campaign.

*Not me. I voted for Obama, but I coolly observed all this emotionalism, soberly examined the 2 major party candidates, and made a rational choice.

"Never walk alone, particularly at night."

Advice from the University of Wisconsin Police, which I just received by email.

Never walk alone, particularly at night. So... even in daytime, we're not supposed to walk alone? Even if I whistle "You'll Never Walk Alone" and make believe I'm brave?

According to UW Police, there's a "violent predator" at large. Twice, recently, a woman was walking alone on campus and a man came up behind her and hit her on the head. That's bad, admittedly. But never walk alone?

"Having read many claims that ‘Google+ will kick Facebook’s ass,’ I’ll go out on a limb..."

"... and predict that Google+ will fail miserably," says Henry Copeland.
[I]n social networks, the users are the product. Users’ habits and passions and commitments to each other are the life-force that makes a social network grow. Just as you can’t build a tree from a bunch of boards, you never could have constructed Facebook or Twitter or eBay or LinkedIn or Wikipedia top-down with a bunch of prefab components....

Google’s diffuse-by-invites strategy works fine for a tool like Gmail, which is evaluated purely as a feature set, but it won’t work for Google+. Evidence: my friend Dan Gilmore, who as an innovator and former reporter for San Jose Mercury News should have more Google+ connections than anybody, went onto Facebook to look for friends who might also be using Google+. With no luck.
That made me go check my gmail to see if I had an invite, which, it turns out, I did. I joined. I'll check it out and let you know what I think. It's like Facebook, but it's Google, right?

The newest Wisconsin protest jackassery: a "flotilla" disrupts Tonette Walker's lakeside garden party.

Jessica Opoien reports:
After learning that Wisconsin's first lady Tonette Walker would host a garden party on Saturday, July 2, a group of nearly a dozen people formed a flotilla that set sail to the shore of Lake Mendota off the governor's Maple Bluff executive residence.

... The flotilla consisted of two kayaks, two canoes and a paddleboat.

"Saturday was kind of a test drive," [Arthur] Kohl-Riggs says. He has since created a Facebook event called "A Summer Full of #wiflotilla" to organize future lake shore protests. Flotilla protesters are also organizing with the Twitter hashtag #wiflotilla.

He would like to see a more consistent presence on Lake Mendota and is in the process of trying to schedule a weekly flotilla. He also hopes people will start flotilla protests in their hometowns throughout the state. Social media will play a significant role in organizing and publicizing the events.
Do you think social media might play a significant role in teaching the social graces? Why would you  harass a politician's wife in her backyard? And brag about it? And envision a burgeoning movement of like-minded louts... in boats?

You know we're always struggling with runoff into Lake Mendota. Must the politics drain into there too?
"Wisconsin has a lot of waterways," Kohl-Riggs says. "We're trying to let Walker and his administration know that there's an active resistance to him on every waterway in the state."
You know we have a big problem with invasive species in the Wisconsin rivers and lacks. Let's not introduce homo politicus.

IN THE COMMENTS: Robert G. said"
I was at my parents' house in Madison this weekend and got to witness this first hand! In fact, I also used the term "jackasses" in my tweet I posted at the time (http://goo.gl/aNfam). The article doesn't mention the first round when it was just one motorboat and they were using a loudspeaker to chant "recall Walker" and such. That lasted about an hour, then they left and about an hour later this goofy flotilla arrived. At one point one of the Governor's lakeside neighbors got in her canoe and joined the flotilla.

"How Can Jeans Cost $300?"

The answer is simple: They're made in the United States.
To be produced domestically, jeans have to be priced at "$200-plus," says Shelda Hartwell-Hale, a vice president at Directives West, an L.A.-based division of fashion consulting firm Doneger Group....

True Religion is one of the industry's giants, making 4 million units of clothing a year. [Its CEO Jeff Lubell] estimates that his $300 jeans could sell for $40 if he manufactured in China.

Entertainment at Miller Park.

I'm posting this 55-second clip because I got a request for more baseball posts. This video, shot by me, shows the end of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," and that other song they do after that at Miller Park...

... and the introduction of the Chorizo,


Fred4Pres, commenting in the Laurence Tribe post, uses the world "mendoucheous." An obvious portmanteau word, it's easy to understand, but I go and look it up in Urban Dictionary anyway, because I want to see if it has (semi-)official recognitions, and it is listed and defined, but no one's voted on it yet...

I give it the thumbs up.


Miller Park, Brewers v. Reds.

Meade got me to go to a ball game:

It was an interesting game, and ultimately the Brewers won 5-4 (the baseball score that sounds like a Supreme Court decision) — on a big home run from Rickie Weeks (rhymes with "WikiLeaks").

I hadn't been to a baseball game since the 1970s, when I went to some Mets games and a couple Tigers games with my ex-husband. He grew up in NY, hence the Mets, and we lived in Ann Arbor (technically Ypsilanti) the summer Mark Fidrych was a sensation, and that's why we went to see the Tigers.

Last night's game was chosen because Meade has been a Reds fan since he moved to Cincinnati in 1974. I couldn't really tell which team I was rooting for, so I mainly drifted back and forth, between Meade's team and the home team. I tried to examine the nature of my allegiance. Sometimes I felt like I had a tendency to favor whoever was winning (because they were doing well and therefore deserved to win) and sometimes it seemed that I had a tendency to support the underdog (because I felt sorry for them or because if they gained ground it would make the game more exciting). Sometimes I focused on individual players and would favor them based on a combination of factors — for example Nyjer Morgan, who sported the traditional knee-breeches-and-stockings outfit and also made a great catch. That link goes to an interview he did last June that's seems a bit viral. Wait... here's the catch. See? The catch... and the stockings.

The Capitol Times ask Biddy Martin: "Do you have any regrets..."

"... about not letting UW System President Kevin Reilly and the Board of Regents know about the plan you and Gov. Walker were working on to award UW-Madison public authority status?"

Of course, she says no. There's a lot more to this interview, but you have to read between the lines, because Martin speaks in that diplomatic, bureaucratic way. But she sure did love the students. She's going to miss them and all the fun she had with them. And those protests at the Capitol? Not an obstacle. Of course not.

Laurence Tribe on the absurdly strained notion that the debt ceiling violates the 14th Amendment.

A NYT op-ed:
Several law professors and senators, and even Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, have suggested that section 4 of the 14th Amendment, known as the public debt clause, might... nullify the ceiling — or can be used to permit the president to borrow money without regard to the ceiling....

Some have argued that this principle prohibits any government action that “jeopardizes” the validity of the public debt. By increasing the risk of default, they contend, any debt ceiling automatically violates the public debt clause.

This argument goes too far. It would mean that any budget deficit, tax cut or spending increase could be attacked on constitutional grounds, because each of those actions slightly increases the probability of default. Moreover, the argument is self-defeating. If it were correct, the absence of a debt ceiling could likewise be attacked as unconstitutional — after all, the greater the nation’s debt, the greater the difficulty of repaying it, and the higher the probability of default....
The Constitution grants only Congress — not the president — the power “to borrow money on the credit of the United States.” Nothing in the 14th Amendment or in any other constitutional provision suggests that the president may usurp legislative power to prevent a violation of the Constitution....

Worse, the argument that the president may do whatever is necessary to avoid default has no logical stopping point. In theory, Congress could pay debts not only by borrowing more money, but also by exercising its powers to impose taxes, to coin money or to sell federal property. If the president could usurp the congressional power to borrow, what would stop him from taking over all these other powers, as well?
Oh, how ploddingly boring Professor Tribe is! Vividly creative lawprofs have perceived that the 14th Amendment transformed the President into a dictator, and here comes Tribe with his gigantic wet blanket of case citations and constitutional texts. So wooden and formalistic!

The Constitution is alive! Have you not heard? A seed has been found: the public debt clause. It has fabulous growth potential. It had life from the moment these legal geniuses inseminated that ovum of constitutional text. And you would snuff out their brilliant conception? Heartless! That is so lacking in... empathy.

"U.S. Economy Added 18,000 Jobs in June; Unemployment Rate Rose to 9.2%."

Banner announcement at the NYT.

"Josh Hamilton 'Distraught' After Texas Rangers Fan Dies Trying to Catch Ball from Center Fielder."

ABC News report — with video showing the man tumble over the railing as he reaches out.

(At the game and in the video: George and Laura Bush.)

Grizzly bear kills a man in Yellowstone Park.

The description comes out:
Marylyn Matayoshi told park officials that she and her husband were hiking back to their car along the Wapiti Lake Trail about 11 a.m. when they saw the bear and two cubs about 100 yards away. [Yellowstone Supt. Dan] Wenk said the couple had just emerged from a dense area of lodgepole pines into a broad meadow where the bears were.

The couple backed away, and then turned in the direction they had come. When they looked back, the grizzly was charging them, Wenk said. Matayoshi yelled to his wife to run, and she took shelter behind a fallen tree at the side of the trail, according to officials.

Wenk said the sow reached Brian Matayoshi first, fatally biting and clawing him. The bear then approached Marylyn Matayoshi, and picked her up. Wenk said it is likely that because she was playing dead, the bear moved on.
It was the first killing by a bear in Yellowstone since 1986, and the bear was protecting her cubs.

As long as we're talking about Yellowstone, here are some lush photographs of Yellowstone. I especially like the ones of Grand Prismatic Spring. Generally, I prefer landscape photographs to photographs of animals. People get strangely excited about seeing animals in Yellowstone. I mean, a chipmunk begging for food? A coyote running through grass? You probably have these things in your home town. As for the bigger creatures... I'd leave them alone.

"Advances in brain science are calling into question the volition behind many criminal acts."

"A leading neuroscientist describes how the foundations of our criminal-justice system are beginning to crumble, and proposes a new way forward for law and order."

A fascinating article in The Atlantic by David Eagleman. It begins with a recount of the murders committed by Charles Whitman at the University of Texas in 1966. Whitman left a suicide note asking that his brain be examined for abnormality and, in fact, a tumor was found. The note also said:
It was after much thought that I decided to kill my wife, Kathy, tonight … I love her dearly, and she has been as fine a wife to me as any man could ever hope to have. I cannot rationa[l]ly pinpoint any specific reason for doing this...
Once you get past brain tumors pressuring specific areas of the brain that control aggression, fear, and impulse, it gets much more difficult.

July 7, 2011

At the Frog Point Café...

... there are more creaks than croaks.

"It was never my goal for Washington to decide what type of light bulbs Americans should use."

"The public response on this issue is a clear signal that markets – not governments – should be driving technological advancements. I will join my colleagues to vote yes on a bill to protect consumer choice and guard against federal overreach."

Says the erstwhile overreacher Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

A house.

Like it?

Have you perfected your "photo face"?

You need one, you know. What do you think... teeth/no teeth? Kissy-face jaw-lunge? Are you supposed to do something with your tongue behind your teeth like Elizabeth Hurley does to look consistently beautiful?

Do you want to look predictably decent but always the same in all your photographs? Or would you prefer spontaneous moods for different occasions... and all the risks that come with letting your feelings determine the appearance of your face?

"The pearls are absolutely non-negotiable."

"The CIA operative who was responsible for tracking down and ultimately killing Osama Bin laden may have had his cover blown..."

"... because of his distinguishing yellow tie."

(Reminiscent of the old National Enquirer article with John Edwards and his love child and the distinctive pattern on the hotel curtains.)

Barack Obama, Sr. declared to immigration officials that he planned to put Barack, Jr. up for adoption.

The Boston Globe reports:
The elder Barack H. Obama, a sophomore at the University of Hawaii, had come under scrutiny by federal immigration officials who were concerned that he had more than one wife. When he was questioned by the school’s foreign student adviser, the 24-year-old Obama insisted that he had divorced his wife in his native Kenya. Although his new wife, Ann Dunham, was five months pregnant with their child - who would be called Barack Obama II - Obama declared that they intended to put their child up for adoption.

“Subject got his USC wife ‘Hapai’ [Hawaiian for pregnant] and although they were married they do not live together and Miss Dunham is making arrangements with the Salvation Army to give the baby away,’’ according to a memo describing the conversation with Obama written by Lyle H. Dahling, an administrator in the Honolulu office of what was then called the US Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Of course, Obama, Sr. could have been lying about the plan. (Obama, Jr. says he doesn't believe his mother ever considered putting him up for adoption.)
Although [Obama, Sr. ] told Duham that he had gotten divorced from his Kenyan wife, he apparently did not tell her about his other children.
Obama was a member of the Luo ethnic group, the third largest of Kenya’s tribes, among whose members polygamy was common. His own father had at least four wives. In fact, Obama was still married to his Kenyan wife, Grace Kezia Obama, and apparently worried about the financial burden of another child.
So, he was lying about the divorce? I don't understand that sentence that begins with the word "Although." There's no contrast between clause 1 and clause 2 of that sentence. He lied to her about 2 things. "Although" doesn't work.

Now, you may wonder, why would Obama Sr. lie to the authorities about adoption? Isn't his case for staying in the United States stronger if he is rearing a USC child? The article suggests that a new child combined with bigamy is what would make him a worse candidate and notes that the immigration authorities had been "alarmed" about his "playboy" ways. Once he married an American citizen, they anticipated that she would petition to make him a U.S. citizen, and the question of the validity of the marriage would arise. Officials considered "charging Obama with polygamy or bigamy in order to get a deportation order against him," but decided to watch him closely instead and question the validity of the marriage if he attempted to become a citizen. In the end, Obama Sr. left Hawaii (and Dunham and baby Barack) to go to Harvard, where he would find a new wife and "the question of how many wives he had would spiral into a confrontation with devastating consequences."

Why — let's ask the question again — did Barack Obama, Jr. write a book called "Dreams From My Father"? Why did this man, rather than his mother, deserve to be the centerpiece of his autobiography?

"Smelly Hair Syndrome."

What does syndromically smelly hair smell like?
Some describe it as "... stinks like a diaper." Others have compared the smell to "sour milk, wet dog, moldy hay, potatoes, an old shoe or dirty socks, a jacket that's never been to the dry cleaner, and an oily smell mixed with vomit." The most unusual description we've heard was "... sort of a cross between Dorito's Bold BBQ chips and cinnamon (and not a sweet smell, actually kinda foul) and maybe a hint of cheese." And, finally, one unfortunate reader told us that "my hair is so smelly that sometimes flies buzz around my head."

"A judge has sentenced Casey Anthony to four years in prison for lying to investigators..."

"... but says she can go free in late July or early August because she has already served nearly three years in jail and has had good behavior."

UPDATE: She's getting out next Wednesday.

"Murdoch hacking crisis deepens with war dead outcry."

Let's get up to speed on the big scandal.

"A jilted husband built an electric chair in his garage in an attempt to kill his wife after she shocked him by asking for a divorce."

The old jilt → jolt sequence.
Andrew Castle, 61, was so furious at the crumbling of his 18 year marriage he planned to rig a metal armchair to the mains - and invited wife Margaret in ''for a chat.''

Castle asked unwitting Margaret to sit in the chair so he could knock her her out with a cosh and throw on the switch.

But Margaret, 61, got up out of the seat and the couple then got caught up in a violent struggle. Castle landed several blows on his wife's head with the rubber cosh but she escaped through a side door.
A cosh, eh? It's a blackjack. The word I want to talk about is "jilted." Look at the etymology:
"to deceive after holding out hopes," 1670s, from jilt (n.) "loose, unchaste woman; harlot," perhaps ultimately from M.E. gille "lass, wench," a familiar or contemptuous term for a woman or girl (mid-15c.), originally a shortened form of woman's name Gillian, popular form of Juliana.
But if a man does it to a woman, we don't masculinize it and say he jacked her. Although this Castle guy did react with a blackjack....
used in many senses since 16c., earliest is possibly "tar-coated leather jug for beer" (1590s), from black + jack in any of its many slang senses. The weapon so called from 1889; the card game by 1910.
Castle is an interesting name for a man who couldn't say his home was his castle.
"Teach him that his home is his castle, and his sovereignty rests beneath his hat."
He had to go out to the garage and rig up a chair with electricity and invite his wife to sit down and chat in an evil but ineffectual attempt to regain control over his domain. He couldn't avoid the jilt, but — by simply getting up — she avoided the jolt...
1590s, perhaps from M.E. jollen, chollen "to knock, to batter" (early 15c.), or an alteration of obsolete jot (v.) "to jostle" (1520s). Perhaps related to earlier jolt head "a big, stupid head" (1530s). Figurative sense of "to startle, surprise" is from 1872.
A big, stupid head. Thinking about a man named Castle who didn't rule his house or even his garage, you may wonder — in the etymological atmosphere of this post — whether "castle" and "castration" have the same root. The answer is... I'm not sure. "Castle" goes back to a word that means "fort," and "castration" goes back to a word that means "knife," but that word in both cases is the same: "castrum."

Blogger gets up out of her blogging chair and escapes through a side door.

Macaque snaps.

Self-portraiture, discovered at the monkey level.

July 6, 2011

At the Spider Flower Café...

... weave your webs.

"Richard Dawkins Gets into a Comments War with Feminists."

This last comment finally pulled [Rebecca] Watson in. "This weekend when I read Dawkins' comments, I was, briefly, without hope. I had already seen the future of this movement dismissing these concerns, and now I was seeing the present do the same." She urges readers to protest Dawkins's work, declaring that "this person who I always admired for his intelligence and compassion does not care about my experience as an atheist woman and therefore will no longer be rewarded with my money, my praise, or my attention. I will no longer recommend his books to others, buy them as presents, or buy them for my own library," she writes.

NYT: "Obama Takes Questions From His Tweeps."

Yikes. Yeeps. The NYT deploys a slang word that — at this moment — has fewer than 100 total votes at Urban Dictionary.
1. Tweeps

A user-created conjunction from Twitter and Peeps usually referring to the followers of the person using the word. Part of the various lingo resulting from www.twitter.com

"Oprah: Thanks tweeps for your good thoughts…" - Real quote from Twitter.com

2. tweeps

the words 'tweet' and 'peeps' combined. only used to describe the folks that have a twitter account...

3. Tweeps

Tweeps are tweens or teens that hang out with adults 25 years or older on a regular basis. For the adult, this should be a little creepy, since most people their age would like to hang out and party with real adults. Tweeps usually result in tweeping and the adult usually becomes a tweeper.
Definition #3 is not doing well in the thumbs-up/thumbs-down game. I don't think Obama has that kind of tweeps.

In other Urban Dictionary news, the word of the day today is "fuck." I'm not sure why. You'd think they'd have already gotten around to the famous word. It's no upstart like "tweeps." Maybe the President of the United States tweeting with his tweeps makes you think: fuck.

But I like seeing Obama constrained to 140 letters. He's often verbose and I'm all tr;dl.

"I could never shake the feeling that one day someone would say, 'Hey aren't you that missing girl?'"

"... but nobody ever did. I was nobody. Nobody saw me."

"Across Atlanta Public Schools, staff worked feverishly in secret to transform testing failures into successes."

AJC reports on the intensive investigation that "names 178 educators, including 38 principals, as participants in cheating. More than 80 confessed." There was "confirmed cheating in 44 of 56 schools" that were examined.
“APS is run like the mob,” one teacher told investigators, saying she cheated because she feared retaliation if she didn’t.
 Do you pity the underlings who were pressured by their own self-interest?
The cheating cut off struggling students from the extra help they would have received if they’d failed.

At Venetian Hills, a group of teachers and administrators who dubbed themselves “the chosen ones” convened to change answers in the afternoons or during makeup testing days, investigators found. Principal Clarietta Davis, a testing coordinator told investigators, wore gloves while erasing to avoid leaving fingerprints on answer sheets.
Well, do you pity those employees, caving to the job-pressure they felt, or do you turn your back on them, as they betrayed a sacred duty to the children, whose interests had to be put first and were not?
At Gideons Elementary, teachers sneaked tests off campus and held a weekend “changing party” at a teacher’s home in Douglas County to fix answers.

Cheating was “an open secret” at the school, the report said. The testing coordinator handed out answer-key transparencies to place over answer sheets so the job would go faster.

When investigators began questioning educators, now-retired principal Armstead Salters obstructed their efforts by telling teachers not to cooperate, the report said.

“If anyone asks you anything about this just tell them you don’t know,” the report said Salters said. He told teachers to “just stick to the story and it will all go away.”
Disgusting betrayal... parties.
Principal Gwendolyn Benton, who has since left, obstructed the investigation, too, the report said, when she threatened teachers by saying she would “sue them out the ass” if they “slandered” her to the GBI.... 
“In sum, a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation permeated the APS system from the highest ranks down,” the investigators wrote. “Cheating was allowed to proliferate until, in the words of one former APS principal, ‘it became intertwined in Atlanta Public Schools ... a part of what the culture is all about.’ ”
And let's remember that the state compels children to go to school. Children are held captive for endless hours of their young lives, in part so that teachers will impart cultural values to them. And look what their values were!

Obama made the economy worse.

A meme with legs.

"Chairs designed by architects for high-profile commissions increasingly are for sale in stores."

"They are often pricy, but the appeal is the chance to bring a slice of cutting-edge international design into your home."

Mentioned in the article are the Arne Jacobsen chairs that we sat in here. Identified in the comments as Arne Jacobsen chairs by Palladian.

Here's a great book: "The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body, and Design." (Hey! It has a new cover, and one of the chairs pictured on it is a chair I have. Cool! Not sure I'd call that a "chair" though. Or... yeah... it's a chair. A chair long.)

"Want to see a corpse on a can of Pringles?"

(Via Overlawyered.) A. Barton Hinkle rankles at "those graphic new cigarette warnings Washington regulators unveiled last week."
"We'll begin ... studies to make sure that we are keeping people sensitized," says Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius. "What may seem quite shocking at the beginning, people get used to quite quickly." So if people build up a tolerance for the repulsive, the FDA will amp the dial up to grotesque....
The old warnings — informing buyers that cigarettes cause cancer, and so forth — conveyed information. The new labels are designed to provoke a reaction in that lizard part of your brain that thoughts never reach. A warning on a ladder that reads, "Caution: Improper use could lead to serious injury from falling" conveys information. A graphic photo of a compound tibia fracture conveys only sentiment.
Only sentiment... I disagree. Vividly pictured information is still information, even if it offends your taste. Years ago, if I remember correctly, the radical feminist Catharine MacKinnon argued that free speech rights shouldn't cover pornography, because it didn't convey any ideas. It was a sensation... designed to provoke a reaction in that lizard part of your brain that thoughts never reach. Those are Hinkle's words, not MacKinnon's. I don't think she said "lizard part of your brain"... though she might well have said "lizard part."

[INSERTION: "40 years ago: The Lizard King breaks on through to the other side." Did you forget to remember Jim Morrison 3 days ago?]

But, of course, the government doesn't need free speech protection to say what it wants to say to us. It's the government. The question is only whether it can require a private business to carry its message (or its delivery of sensation straight to that lizard part of your brain that thoughts never reach). The messages that already appear on cigarette packs give you the short answer: It can. The better question is: Do we want our government reaching past our intellect, into our deepest instincts, injecting its vision of how we ought to behave?

Well, of course, government actors are always trying to manipulate us on an emotional level in the hope that we'll vote for them or tolerate a war or a tax and so forth. I think the key is to become conscious and critical of those manipulations (and every day, I work at that, in public writing, to model and encourage awareness and resistance). Perhaps an even better question than whether we want the government to manipulate us emotionally is: Do we want the government to manipulate us emotionally with respect to the decisions we make about what to do with our bodies?

Phrased at that level of generality, the photos of cancerous lungs on cigarette packs (trying to get us not to smoke) are like the photos of aborted fetuses (trying to get us not to have abortions). Except we haven't seen the government go graphic with an anti-abortion message, and it's not as easy to think of a commercial product to stick the message on. Something for women. Tampons?

Hinkle's mind drifts to food:
[I]t's reasonable to ask when the federal government will start showing us disgusting pictures on packages of food, in which Washington also takes a keen interest. Indeed, someone asked Sibelius that very question during a press conference about the cigarette labels. Her response was evasive. Food labels are voluntary, she said. And tobacco is unique because smoking is "the No. 1 cause of preventable death."

It won't be No. 1 forever. Obesity is gaining ground fast. Sibelius says smoking imposes "$200 billion a year in health costs." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity costs the U.S. about $150 billion....

Two days after Washington unveiled its new warning labels for cigarette packages, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study reporting that our food choices influence our weight more than exercise does. And potato chips pack on the pounds faster than any other food, including candy and desserts.
Hence the question about a corpse on a can of Pringles.

ADDED: Want to see a corpse in a can of Pringles?

"Was the Space Shuttle a Mistake?"

Asks John M. Logsdon — professor emeritus at the Space Policy Institute, George Washington University, member of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board — in the MIT Technology Review:
The selection in 1972 of an ambitious and technologically challenging shuttle design resulted in the most complex machine ever built. Rather than lowering the costs of access to space and making it routine, the space shuttle turned out to be an experimental vehicle with multiple inherent risks, requiring extreme care and high costs to operate safely. Other, simpler designs were considered in 1971 in the run-up to President Nixon's final decision; in retrospect, taking a more evolutionary approach by developing one of them instead would probably have been a better choice....

The shuttle was much more expensive than anyone anticipated at its inception.... The shuttle's cost has been an obstacle to NASA starting other major projects.

But replacing the shuttle turned out to be difficult because of its intimate link to the construction of the space station....

Today we are in danger of repeating that mistake, given Congressional and industry pressure to move rapidly to the development of a heavy lift launch vehicle without a clear sense of how that vehicle will be used. Important factors in the decision to move forward with the shuttle were the desire to preserve Apollo-era NASA and contractor jobs, and the political impact of program approval on the 1972 presidential election. Similar pressures are influential today. If we learn anything from the space shuttle experience, it should be that making choices with multidecade consequences on such short-term considerations is poor public policy.
ADDED: Was the shuttle program too expensive? It cost $209.1 billion. Think of it as a jobs program and compare it to the Obama stimulus, which is said to have cost $278,000 per job. The stimulus was $666 billion, more than 3 times the cost of the shuttle program, which went on for many years and which went way over budget.

Revenge, the Wikipedia article.

A report that the wife of Dominique Strass-Kahn is seeking "revenge" got me thinking about the specific meaning of the word. Surely, it doesn't include merely remembering who kicked you when you were down.

My curiosity about the concept was sufficient to get me to Wikipedia, where I was, first, interested that there was an article at all, and second, interested that it was as short as it was. It wasn't super-short, like a dictionary definition. If you're going to purport to cover the history of revenge and its function in society and religion plus that famous saying, how do you keep the length to 2 screens?

Presumably: editing! Wikipedia is all about editing. People load crap in. That's the easy part. The miracle of Wikipedia is in the editing.

Oh, come on, Althouse. It's not a miracle. I mean, check it out:  "A miracle is an event attributed to divine intervention."

No, no. I'm not going there. The Daily News used "revenge" to portray a specific individual in a negative light for the titillation of readers. I used hyperbole, in a complimentary sense, to refer to the behind-the-scenes work of thousands of editors who deserve some extra praise and thanks.

Both miracles and revenge play a part in human storytelling, but revenge is a much better story. "Deus ex machina" is not the most admirable plot device, as Aristotle explained:
It is obvious that the solutions of plots too should come about as a result of the plot itself, and not from a contrivance... There should be nothing improbable in the incidents; otherwise, it should be outside the tragedy....
Revenge makes a good tragedy. See "Hamlet."  If you haven't seen it already.
Of the psychological, moral, and cultural foundation for revenge, philosopher Martha Nussbaum has written: "The primitive sense of the just—remarkably constant from several ancient cultures to modern institutions ...—starts from the notion that a human life ... is a vulnerable thing, a thing that can be invaded, wounded, violated by another's act in many ways. For this penetration, the only remedy that seems appropriate is a counter invasion, equally deliberate, equally grave. 
For this penetration.... a good image, when we're talking about rape. But what of the false accusation of rape? That too is a penetration.
"And to right the balance truly, the retribution must be exactly, strictly proportional to the original encroachment."
I think revenge asks for more.  Nussbaum explains the moral aspect of revenge, not the passionate edge that wants more than justice. There is passion, but wait...
Revenge is a dish best served cold.
That is the saying about revenge. And it doesn't suggest becoming dispassionate. You're not using your measuring spoons and cups, preparing a dish "strictly proportional to the original encroachment." The cold dish that is the best revenge is not a calibrated diet dish.

Nussbaum's Heart-Healthy Justice Salad is not revenge.

"Dominique Strauss-Kahn's ever-loyal wife is plotting her revenge."

That's the headline in the Daily News, supported by — it appears — a single text: "Let's not forget those who spit in our face." She sent that to friends, then wrote: "We were right not to have any doubts!"

If you read the whole article — it's short — you'll see that the woman's story isn't one of plotting revenge, but old-fashioned wifely dedication. But women in the news must be reshaped into entertaining characters for the fun-hungry readers.

And yes, I know, the traffic I'm giving them rewards them more than my criticism, but I am not vengeful. I am a humble observer of the web, dedicated to sharing my observations with you, doing my part, in the search for truth. Am I not a sufficiently entertaining woman for you fun-hungry readers?

July 5, 2011

"Vast deposits of rare earth minerals, crucial in making high-tech electronics products, have been found on the floor of the Pacific Ocean..."

"... and can be readily extracted, Japanese scientists said on Monday."
"The deposits have a heavy concentration of rare earths. Just one square kilometer (0.4 square mile) of deposits will be able to provide one-fifth of the current global annual consumption," said Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo....

He estimated rare earths contained in the deposits amounted to 80 to 100 billion tonnes, compared to global reserves currently confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey of just 110 million tonnes that have been found mainly in China, Russia and other former Soviet countries, and the United States....

China, which accounts for 97 percent of global rare earth supplies, has been tightening trade in the strategic metals, sparking an explosion in prices.  
Great news!

At the Sunset Café...

... you can express yourself until the last light dies.

"I’ve been going to graduations, and there isn’t much that I find more pretentious or irksome..."

"... than the sight of ‘faculty’ and graduates in their academic get-ups..."

"Democrats must be in trouble if The Daily Beast is running a headline 'White Supremacist Stampede'..."

"Nine white supremacist candidates? In the whole country? With its multi-hundred million dollar endowment, [The Southern Poverty Law Center] only could find nine candidates?"

"Milwaukee Police Go Barney Fife On Mob Attacks."

Hmmm. Is that really fair to Barney Fife?

"Casey Anthony's 'Not Guilty' Verdict..."

"...  summons O.J. Memories."

"Inebritated passers-by are falling in love with playful pooches frolicking in the window of a West Village pet store..."

"... and the problem has become so bad the owner has banned them from taking the pets home."

A pet shop owns up to the whole problem with pet shops... and does something about what seems to be the worst manifestation of the problem.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lincolntf said:
InebriTated? is that worse than drunk?
A portmanteau word, perhaps, referring to drunkenness and Britney Spears. You shave your head. You get tattoos. You forget you forgot to wear panties.

Cy Twombly "avoided publicity throughout his life and mostly ignored his critics, who questioned constantly..."

"... whether his work deserved a place at the forefront of 20th-century abstraction, though he lived long enough to see it arrive there. It didn’t help that his paintings, because of their surface complexity and whirlwinds of tiny detail – scratches, erasures, drips, penciled fragments of Italian and classical verse amid scrawled phalluses and buttocks – lost much of their power in reproduction."
The critical low point probably came after a 1964 exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York that was widely panned. The artist and writer Donald Judd, who was hostile toward painting in general, was especially damning even so, calling the show a fiasco. “There are a few drips and splatters and an occasional pencil line,” he wrote in a review. “There isn’t anything to these paintings.”

But by the 1980s, with the rise of neo-Expressionism, a generation of younger artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat found inspiration in Mr. Twombly’s skittery bathroom-graffiti scrawl...

In the only written statement Mr. Twombly ever made about his work, a short essay in an Italian art journal in 1957, he tried to make clear that his intentions were not subversive but elementally human. Each line he made, he said, was “the actual experience” of making the line, adding: “It does not illustrate. It is the sensation of its own realization.”
RIP, Cy Twombly.

"Hello. I am on the Blogger team and am one of the guys who has been helping Ann with her blog..."

I just noticed this comment by "brett" on my June 30th post "I'm trapped in a Blogger blog and I can't get out" (the one with the update that says Google got me out). The comment continues:
First I wanted to say that on behalf of the entire Blogger team, we're very proud to have Ann's blog on our platform and many of us are regular readers. Of course we wish she would stick around with us, but if Ann feels like it's time to find a new home elsewhere, we are committed to making sure that users have control over their data as well as tools for making the move off Blogger possible. It is the reason we have spent a non-trivial amount of time helping her with the export file, even though it may end up on another service. To be clear, the entire 1.8G file is now in her hands.

While our export tools may have been somewhat unreliable when handling blogs this large (Althouse is one of the largest Blogger blogs!), along the way helping Ann we discovered ways to improve them and moving forward Blogger will be much better equipped to handle cases like this.

So Ann while I'm personally sad to see you go (if that is indeed the decision), I wanted to let you know that you will always have a home on Blogger and a team who cares about your experience with Blogger. That also (of course) goes for everyone. We love hearing from users, and anyone can bug me directly on Twitter (@electrobutter) if something is on their mind, or hit up the team via @blogger.
Thanks to Google for this help and for letting us all know about that email Twitter address. I have appreciated Blogger very much over the years, and think it's a great place to begin and to stay for a very long time, as I did.

When the move is accomplished — soon! — this archive will remain here, even as all the old posts and comments will also appear in the new place. The new posts will only appear at the new place and will continue there. (The new blog will still be called "Althouse" (with the url althou.se).)

"Even When Patients Describe Pain in Vivid Detail, Doctors Have Few Tools to Determine What's Real."

How is a doctor supposed to tell who's for real and who's a drug abuser/reseller?
"Sometimes it's the patients with elegant clothes and three kids who call a week after a filling and say they need pain medication. That's when my radar goes up," says George Kivowitz, a dentist in New York City and Newtown, Pa. Insisting that the patient come in to be re-examined usually ends the conversation, he says....

"I always ask a patient, 'How are we going to show that this intervention has helped?' " says Scott Fishman, president of the American Pain Foundation who wrote a widely used guide to responsible opioid prescribing. "The person who is just trying to get opioids will say, 'Ah, later, dude' and go somewhere else."
Sometimes it's a guy in a 3-piece suit and sometimes it's guy who says "dude."

"The Mother of All No-Brainers."

Headline for a David Brooks column.

I wonder how many other clichés from the 90s could be stuck together ridiculously. Maybe you don't remember, but "the mother of all [blank]" was ubiquitous after Saddam Hussein called the 1991 Gulf War "the mother of all battles."

I've never liked the expression "no-brainer," because I tend to picture things concretely, and the image upsets me. Anyway, it's particularly inapt with "mother of." You're combining extreme largeness with absolute nothingness. How big is zero? It's big! It's infinitely huge!

Researching this post, I ran into another expressions I thought you should know about:

Literally: "too rambley; didn't listen". This spoken phrase is a take off of the popular "tl;dr" (too long; didn't read). Pronounce the letters, namely "tee are. dee ell". This verbal response indicates you stopped listening as the other person was blathering on for too long and you lost interest.

Sarah: So what do you want to do for dinner tonight? We can do Mexican, Italian or Chinese. I want to invite Steve and Kathy, but of course you know that Steve does not like Chinese and Kathy can't eat late. But the only good Italian place is really crowded so the wait would be really long early.. which I guess leaves either that burrito place.... or that not so good Italian place, where the waiter was rude to us the last time. So, what do you think?

Russell: tr;dl
Ha ha. So, hypothetically: you're Sarah. Do you laugh or get mad?

That reminds me, I didn't tell you what I thought of that David Brooks column: tl;dr

"I honestly believed that 'character witnesses' were witnesses who were brought in to lend character to a trial, like a clown or an eccentric scientist."

Things people are embarrassed they didn't know.

Some of these things are embarrassing not to know, but in some cases, I think these people should be embarrassed to be embarrassed. It's not embarrassing not to know the difference between a sweet potato and a yam. It's more embarrassing to make a point of distinguishing the two. People call sweet potatoes "yams," and a "true" yam is something else. So what? At some point the misnomer becomes an alternate name. How many technical plant names do you worry about getting right?

At an early age, I developed the fear of being embarrassed about not knowing things, so I would steer clear even of asking about things I thought it might be embarrassing not to know. And by early age, I mean about 6. I did not like adults laughing at me when I got things wrong. Decades later, I realized they were just enjoying cuteness. Ah, the amusement I denied them as I denied myself information.

Embarrassment is way overrated. As Bob Dylan said:
King Kong, little elves
On the rooftops they dance
Valentino-type tangos
While the makeup man’s hands
Shut the eyes of the dead
Not to embarrass anyone
Farewell Angelina
The sky is embarrassed
And I must be gone

"We wanted to make sure that this amount of make-up wouldn't kill a person."

Dutch artists Lernert Engelberts and Sander Plug apply — in one sitting — 365 layers of makeup to a model's face (after testing 100 layers "on our intern, who is a man").

What was the main effect of this project?
It illustrates the way the beauty industry oppresses women.
It fascinates by taking something familiar and making it weird.
It expresses contempt for women who use cosmetics.
It titillates viewers who get off on seeing women restrained and humiliated.

pollcode.com free polls

Madison Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin "likely to run" for the Senate seat long occupied by Herb Kohl.

She reveals her thinking to the Capital Times:
"Should I run, I will have to give up my House seat. But I love this state, I love its people and I really want to see Wisconsin flourish again. It would be an amazing opportunity."
An amazing opportunity for Republicans to pick up another Senate seat.  And maybe even the House seat she's held so strongly since 1999.
"I am well-known now in south-central Wisconsin," she says. "I win handily across that area. That basically describes the rest of the state. It’s just that I have not introduced myself to folks across the state yet and look forward to that opportunity." 
The Madison area "basically describes the rest of the state"? That sounds absurd, but her point is that her district contains urban, suburban, rural, and small town areas.
In her fund-raising appeal, Baldwin spoke of "cynical voices," the ones "doubting me from the very beginning." She wrote, "They said, ‘You’re a woman. You’re a lesbian. And you’re too outspoken.’ "
I think the problem is that she's too liberal. But I understand the strategy of disparaging those terrible voters by calling them homophobic and sexist instead of facing the reality that they aren't as far left as she is. Speaking of "cynical voices."

Gov. Scott Walker, "after listening to people across the state," has changed his mind about something.

See? He's listening to you, people of Wisconsin.

I like the way the British newspaper has the strongest 4th of July frontpage today.

Here's the article. Don't miss the second photograph, of the adorable little boy with flag painted on his face — held in the arms of the adorable President of the United States. The boy looks as though he's got all the troubles of the world on his mind. The President does not.

Now, why is a British newspaper so enthused over our celebration of beating the British in a war?
The Brits lack self-esteem and wish they could be us.
The 4th symbolizes freedom and independence and they like that too.
The Brits like to be gracious and demonstrate no hard feelings about the old war.
It's a commercial calculation based on knowing where web traffic comes from.
pollcode.com free polls

July 4, 2011


Did you take 4th of July festivities into your own hands?

Hacking the Fox News Twitter feed, tweeting a false report of presidential assassination.

"We wish @joebiden the best of luck as our new President of the United States. In such a time of madness, there’s light at the end of tunnel."

"I want people to listen to me, because I have, perhaps, finally, a chance to be heard."

Tristane Banon, Dominique Strauss-Kahn's other accuser.

At the Speckled Rose Café...


... enjoy your freedom to talk about whatever you like.

The local Madison newspaper can't handle the word "all."

Here is the Capital Times's editorial about the Wisconsin Supreme Court:
All of the defenders of Supreme Court Justice David Prosser would have Wisconsinites believe the man who had admitted to shouting obscenities at Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson before threatening to “destroy” her, and who now stands accused of trying to choke Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, is just a victim.
All who defend Prosser want people to believe he's just a victim? Why would a newspaper that cares at all about its credibility write like that? The usage collapses on its own lack of internal cohesion. There's no way the Capital Times has checked out everyone who has attempted to defend Prosser. And who could believe that — in amongst all those defenders — not a single person had seen any complexity in the story, that they all said he's just a victim?

It's knee-jerk politics too, but can you even stand to read it long enough to form an opinion of the politics? The first word of the first sentence repels the thinking reader.

Beyond Obama's blue pill: folksingers!

What medical treatments will the government approve, in the future, for the aging population of America? Two years ago, President Obama let it slip that cheap painkillers would supervene more expensive cures. And here's a new, low-price palliative for the oldies:
Every week, three music therapists from MJHS Hospice and Palliative Care crisscross the city and suburbs to sing songs to the dying. With guitars strapped to their backs, a flute or tambourine and a songbook jammed in their backpacks, they play music for more than 100 patients, in housing projects, in nursing homes and even in a lavish waterfront home. The time for chemotherapy and radiation is over.

The music begins: a song to hold death at bay, a song to embrace death, or to praise God. A Vietnam veteran asks for a song in Vietnamese. One man asked only for songs with death in the lyrics, to force his family to talk to him about the future. He was ready to talk about it. They weren’t. So the therapist sang Queen’s version of “Another One Bites the Dust.” “Amazing Grace” and other spiritual songs are most often requested just before death.
It's a jobs program for sensitive young women who might feel uncomfortable busking on the city streets, waiting for cold-hearted businessmen to drop a dollar in their guitar cases. The government will drop the dollar in, and the elderly patients will be too polite (and also physically unable) to walk away.

Welcome to the hospice, where the strumming of Joan Baez wannabes will prepare you for death. They will ease your "final transition." You'll be ready to die before they're ready to leave.  If you hang out too long at the hospice, be forewarned: When you've heard "Amazing Grace" 10,000 times, you've only just begun.

Can't we please pick our own music? Recorded music played by virtuouso musicians? Maybe Beethoven's 6th Symphony.... or "The Man in the Box"....

I was on the faculty in a music department with a music therapy program for ~25 years, and taught a couple of courses to students majoring in MT during that time.

The MT professors/practitioners have been relentlessly pursuing their dream of obtaining funding from medical insurance and the public schools. They point to a growing body of MT research - all of it advocacy, most of it incompetent, much of it just silly - to support their lobbying for the loot.
ALSO: When you get to that hospice and the folksinger arrives, remember John Belushi. (Suggestion via RLC in the email and Sixty Grit in the comments.)

"Everybody say freedom... I like unity of mankind...."

(Via Bloggingheads.)

"Do 'bicycle friendly' urban policies discriminate against women?"

Instapundit asks slyly, linking to yesterday's post "Despite the city’s efforts to become more bike friendly, male cyclists in New York continue to outnumber female cyclists three to one..."

Where's the discrimination if women, being more concerned with safety, are less likely to take advantage of the results of bike-friendly polices?

Disparate impact!

Better make the world extra-extra safe, so women can feel comfortable here.

Instapundit notices...

... the new shining star of the Althouse comments community: Carol Herman!

"[N]ew Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Most likely!

Seems most likely...

That's almost devil-may-care! Are we playing the odds here?

What if some big project today, something much less momentous than an all-new government — let's say Obamacare — were presented on the theory that it seems most likely to make us safe and happy.

You'd scream no, wouldn't you? You'd blog/comment with derision and contempt at the dangerousness of radical change. Wouldn't you?

"[T]hey are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Among these...

So there are others.

What other inalienable rights would you like to call to our attention today?

"[A] decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

Does a decent respect for the opinions of mankind ever impel you to declare anything?

"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes..."

"... and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

"Reading The Declaration Of Independence Aloud..."

NPR does a nice job of.

July 3, 2011


This evening on the Capitol City Bike Trail.

"I guess, in a perfect world, they would not have had to arrest him right away... They could have checked the evidence and everything."

"But I guess they figured they had to get him off the plane. It changed the circumstances quite a bit."

They could have checked the evidence and everything. So says "a law enforcement official with knowledge of the case against Mr. Strauss-Kahn."
The case exposes the “punish first, figure out what happened later” state of American justice that is usually visited upon “ordinary schnooks,” said Eugene J. O’Donnell, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan....

“I think that any high-profile case exposes routine police work, and when you get into the guts of routine police work it is often not a pretty picture,” Mr. O’Donnell said. “Not all the ends tie up neatly, and when you are racing that clock, that is even more possible.”
Also in the linked article: the report that the hotel housekeeper, telling her "life story" caused "senior people... in each of the agencies" to cry. I'd like to know a lot more about why those "senior people" were so vulnerable to what was, apparently, a phony story. What was it about this particular woman that lowered their usual defenses? Why was it possible to play them?

At the Succulent Café...


... there's plenty of juicy conversation.


The hotel maid as hotel hooker.

I have no idea whether this story is true... but if it is, how common is it for expensive hotels to have maids who double as prostitutes? Do the hotels provide this service intentionally, unintentionally, or somewhere in between? Is this what "turn down" service in fancy hotels is really about?

"Despite the city’s efforts to become more bike friendly, male cyclists in New York continue to outnumber female cyclists three to one..."

Because they made it safer but it's still not too safe, and that's how much more women care about safety than men do.

Also, they're more fussy, it seems, about getting sweaty in clothes they're wearing to work.
To avoid sweating much when cycling, [Emilia Crotty, Bike New York’s operations director] advises women to put more things in their baskets rather than their bags, to wear A-line shaped skirts rather than pencil skirts and to choose heels with traction over pointy stilettos.
Heels with traction? A-line skirts? Ridiculous biking clothes... and I don't see how they're going to cut down sweating. And do you really need a government bureaucrat to advise you not to wear "pointy stilettos"?!

I used to bike to work in Manhattan back in the 1970s, and every time I did it, I felt I was putting my life on the line... and I was. I had an accident only once, when a woman impulsively but deliberately flung her car door open as she stood in the space between the parked cars and the traffic. I was about to go around her, but I guess she didn't trust me and she just wanted that extra measure of safety that women crave.

Retired Manhattan Supreme Court Special Referee Marilyn Dershowitz - the sister-in-law of legal giant Alan Dershowitz - was struck and killed by a postal service truck as she rode her bike in Chelsea Saturday afternoon...

"The cars behind me said two cars tried to make it through the light," said Nathan Dershowitz, "and neither wanted to give, and she was caught between a car and a truck."

Bloomberg's Million Trees campaign included 200 ginkgos that bear fruit that stinks like vomit.

The NY Post reports:
"They are only supposed to put in the male tree -- it doesn't produce the berries -- but they've been putting in females, which is driving everybody nuts."
ADDED: There are reports that a male ginkgo can turn female... or something:
I read an article that a Virginia study showed that male Ginkgos can morph into females. That is completely false. What happens is the grafted clone dies on the seeding rootstock and the rootstock sends up a shoot. If the tree farm is not carefully watching this, then nobody knows the "certified male" is no longer alive and they are selling plain ol’ Ginkgo. It happens a lot!

"Why hasn't Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson held a news conference and said something along the lines of 'OK, we get it...'"

"'... We understand the public has lost respect for some justices and perhaps even come to doubt the court's credibility. We understand there are bitter divisions that occasionally explode into personal attacks. We agree with the public that physical attacks have no place in the court. More important, we understand the need to do something. We're going to spend a weekend on retreat with a mediator who will help us deal with our differences so that they don't ever again blow up into physical attacks or fistfights or chokeholds or altercations that demean this office.'"

Asks the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. How can you write that out and not immediately see the answer to your own question? Judges just don't do things like that. It would be great for the Wisconsin Supreme Court to figure out a way to look like... a court. (And by "court," I mean the ideal of a court possessed by ordinary citizens who care about the role of the courts in a democratic system.) But a news conference like that wouldn't seem judicial at all. Bringing in an outside mediator, turning yourselves into a geriatric therapy group — how can talking about that work?

Judges are supposed to work out their human frailty problems outside of public view. Which is why the "chokehold" incident should never have been leaked to the press. That's why my writing on the subject has focused on who leaked and why. I would like to think that it was someone other than one of the Justices, someone who didn't understand the stakes for the prestige of the court. If it was, in fact, one of the Justices, what was the reason? Why would you damage the reputation of the court like that instead of working on resolving the problems quietly internally?

And don't tell me: Because choking somebody is a serious crime! If it were that straightforward, the choker should have been arrested — or the charge should have come to light — shortly after the incident. Instead, a politically partisan journalist broke the story 12 days later. Someone made a decision to go public through him, and that makes it look like a political tactic. Is that someone a supreme court justice? Intolerable.

"If you don’t ever have 'bad' sex, then you probably haven’t been looking hard enough for the really great sex."

Writes Annie Sprinkle, reviewing Chester Brown's graphic novel "Paying For It" (the purportedly true story of his giving up romantic sex for sex with prostitutes):
Brown documents his sad, curious and disappointing paid encounters — always amusing — along with his abundance of sweet, satisfying and successful ones. He appears to be relatively nonjudgmental, like a person who can equally relish both junk food and a gourmet feast....

At the end of “Paying for It,” Brown provides 23 meticulously drawn appendixes, most of which are devoted to deconstructing just about every argument you can think of against prostitution. He presents the typical objections (e.g., “Prostitution is wrong because it gives a man sexual power over a woman”) and counters with utterly rational and incisive responses (“Prostitutes aren’t passive puppets, and most johns aren’t dictators”), backing up many of his points with observations from sex workers themselves. In the process he makes as convincing a case for the decriminalization and destigmatization of prostitution as anyone I’ve ever come across in the prostitutes’ rights movement.
Sprinkle is "the author of 'Dr. Sprinkle’s Spectacular Sex,' is an artist, activist and ecosex educator. She worked as a prostitute for 20 years." Ecosex educator? That jumped out at me as a dubious occupation... from a list that includes prostitute!

I'm going to buy "Paying For It," because I like Chester Brown. (I've read "The Playboy.") The page you can click to enlarge (over at the first link) looks excellent. I used to consume a lot of these graphic novel things, back in the time period between the publication date of "Maus" and the publication date of "Understanding Comics." I had to look up the dates to figure out when that actually was. It was to 1986 to 1993. I was interested in zines then too. Pre-internet.