February 11, 2012

Whitney Houston.

She had the... perfect voice, and the perfect image: a gorgeous singer who had sex appeal but was never overtly sexual, who maintained perfect poise....

But by the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use. Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanor and bizarre public appearances....
Very sad.

ADDED: The first video

In the Wisconsin Capitol today, 1 year after Scott Walker touched off the protests.

"Shameless pigs!"

ADDED: The second half of that short video is shot from behind the Veterans Memorial. It was just about a year ago — February 25th to be exact — that Meade and I tangled with protesters over the treatment of that memorial. Here's what it looked like that day.

"It's gonna sound horrible for me to say money is meaningless..."

"... but everyone's like: 'What are you gonna do now, now that you have all this money and freedom?'... I did everything I wanted to when I had nothing. Everyone's like: 'Well, what are you gonna do now?' and I'm like, I'm still gonna do whatever I want except more people are just gonna bother me now."

It was a year ago today that Scott Walker announced the budget reform...

... that touched off the massive protests.

We stopped by the Capitol today... but not during a planned demonstration between 12 and 2. I talked to a cop who said there had been a few people there. Here's how it looked to us:

Note the bride posing in the arch at the top of the second photo. That has nothing to do with Scott Walker. It's just the usual wedding photography that happens all the time in the Capitol.

Mitt Romney wins the Maine caucuses.

With 39%. Paul 36%. Santorum 18%. Gingrich 6%.

(Transcribed from the TV announcement.)

"There is nobody in this country who got sex on their own. Nobody. You got elected president out there - good for you."

"But I want to be clear. You floated your rubber ducks in bathtubs the rest of us paid for. You hired interns the rest of us paid to indoctrinate. You were safe in a swimming pool that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that Jackie would return home suddenly, and ruin everything... Now look. You built Camelot and it turned into something terrific. Great idea - God bless! Be a hunk in it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a few of those Cuban cigars and leave them in the Oval Office for the next kid who comes along."

Meade, commenting on the post about JFK and his 19-year-old intern.

ADDED: In case you don't recognize the source for this satire, it's this.

Did you hear about President JFK and the 19-year-old? They took lots of baths where they played with rubber duckies.

Mimi Alford tells her tale, and she didn't call it rape, even though some of her friends prompted her with that word. She says that even at the point when the President overwhelmed her and took her virginity on Jackie's bed, she felt "the thrill of being desired." After that first encounter he was "attentive.. gentlemanly ... [and sometimes] seductive." Their "sexual relationship was varied and fun, and we spent an inordinate amount of time taking baths together, turning his elegant bathroom into our own mini-spa."
The only discordant note was the yellow rubber ducks, which a friend had sent him. Every time the President saw those ducks, he’d become irresistibly playful.

We named them after his family members, made up stories about them, and often set them racing from one end of the tub to other. It was part of his charm that he was a serious, sophisticated man with extraordinary responsibilities, yet willing to be completely silly.
Sounds like they had a fine time together. She was sleeping over all night when Jackie was out of town:
I was so pleased with myself at being chosen by the President that I didn’t feel self-conscious at all about wearing the same clothes at work two days in a row.

If my office mates noticed, I didn’t care. I felt invulnerable, as if I were cloaked with the President’s power.
What a trip. A power trip. Too bad for those other women (and men) who were not chosen. Did Alford wait until these inconvenient women passed away to preen about her powerful chosen-one status?
It shames me to admit that I don’t recall feeling any guilt. In my 19-year-old mind, I wasn’t invading the Kennedys’ marriage; I was merely occupying the President’s time when his wife was away. If he wasn’t troubled, why should I be? It was hardly by chance that in the 18 months I knew him, I never once met his wife.
Isn't it funny that the "19-year-old mind" came up with exactly the same set of trite justifications that almost every lover of a married man/woman comes up with if they don't want to admit they know it's wrong?
As the summer wore on, I was pulled deeper into his personal orbit. But despite the increasing level of familiarity between us, I never rose above being the obedient partner in our relationship.

Even in our most intimate moments, I called him Mr President. To do otherwise would have seemed inappropriate.
Inappropriate... and way less sexy. And speaking of obedience, there's the dirtiest story, the one where she gives a blow job to Dave Powers, the President’s special assistant after JFK whispers to her "Mr Powers looks a little tense — would you take care of it?"
I don’t think the President thought I’d do it, but I’m ashamed to say that I did.... Perhaps I was carried away by a spirit of playfulness.
Later, she realized it was sordid, and JFK apologized, but nevertheless tried it again, asking her to "take care of my baby brother" — that is, Teddy.

Over at The New Republic, Timothy Noah, absorbing the blow-job incident, calls JFK a "monster."

What do you think?
Noah's right, he was a monster to do those things.
It's complex, and JFK isn't around to tell us what domination and submission games they played.
She was an adult, she consented, and she was callous toward Jackie (and her coworkers).

pollcode.com free polls 

ADDED: "The rubber swan is mine" is a punchline from Vaughn Meader's "The First Family" album — a big hit comedy record at the time — in a segment in which Meader as JFK explains whose bath toys are whose. (Thanks to Hagar in the comments for the tip.) (I note that "schwanz" is slang for penis, so I wonder if Meader was in on the joke of JFK with his toys in the bath.)

The GOP race "is just a mess."

Jonah Goldberg finds "the prospect of any of them becoming the nominee worrisome and hard to imagine":
The lamentations of Team Romney count for little. They prattle about low turnout, as if the “front-runner’s” failure to excite the base is an asset....

Team Santorum understandably wants everyone to believe that this was a huge endorsement of their guy’s message and candidacy....

The single biggest factor in this campaign remains the fact that the base of the GOP is uncomfortable with Romney and refuses to believe that it can’t do better than the guy who invented Romneycare and talks to conservatives like he’s reading from a right-wing Berlitz phrasebook....

Santorum... is honestly and forthrightly committed to using government to realize his moral vision for America.... But... he is not the one the tea partiers have been waiting for.
Goldberg's reduced to dreaming of a brokered convention.

"More than a million petitions were submitted this month to force a recall election for Gov. Scott Walker."

So says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a sidebar to its article, published yesterday, about Scott Walker's "hero's reception" at the Conservative Political Action Conference last night.

First of all, the petitions were submitted last month, but more importantly, there's no way "more than a million petitions were submitted." There's a claim that the petitions contain more than a million signatures, but there are multiple signatures per petition, and the calculation that there are more than a million signatures is based on the assumption that there are an average of 6+ signatures per petition.
[A]ccording to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board we do know 152,336 Scott Walker recall petition pages were turned in two weeks ago.
152,336 is a lot less than "more than a million." But even if the Journal Sentinel had said "signatures" instead of "petitions," it should not have flatly stated "more than a million petitions were submitted." We have yet to see an accurate count of the number of signatures. And that's quite apart from the question of duplicate/fake/ineligible signatures.

The number of claimed signatures is high presumably to make Walker supporters give up on trying to prove that there aren't enough signatures. Now, perhaps they should give up — not because it's hopeless, but because the Walker opponents don't have a good candidate to field. It's quite bizarre, all the work they've done campaigning for blank-to-be-filled-in-later. And if the candidate is Kathleen Falk, Walker's already showing us how effective he will be against her:
"She's basically saying she's bought and paid for by the unions. I mean even the other Democrats are hesitant to say that they're going to veto something," Walker said....
Read the article at that last link for background on the veto demand, the pledge, and the endorsement. But back to the first link, the "hero's welcome" article about Walker's CPAC speech:
"When we prevail [in the recall election], it will send a powerful message to every politician in America, that if you stand up and do the right thing, if you tackle the tough challenges, if you make the tough choices, there will be men and women in every state and every part of this country who will stand up shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm with you," he said....

"Collective bargaining is not a right. In the public sector, collective bargaining is an expensive entitlement."...

Introducing the governor, [National GOP chairman Reince Priebus] said of the Wisconsin fight: "The public union bosses are angry and refuse to go down without a fight. They're pulling out every trick in the book, because after all, hornets are always angriest when you try to destroy their nests."
(Mixed metaphor: Hornets don't have books.)

ADDED: Here's video of 2 and a half minutes of the speech.

"The bishops note that the Obama administration never even bothered to contact them to discover what their true objections are, and what would satisfy them."

"The White House simply presumed to know church business better than the bishops and offered an 'accommodation' that is anything but.  In fact, that sounds a lot like the process that produced this mandate in the first place."

Writes Ed Morrissey, flailing in the trap Obama set.

Note to conservatives: When you get people thinking about abortion, you may very well win. If the liberals drag you back over the line before conception — your when-life-begins line — and make the subject contraception, you'll probably lose.

"Obama Punks the GOP on Contraception."

That's the spin from Slate's Amanda Marcotte (and I think she may have it right!):
After two solid weeks of Republicans rapidly escalating attacks on contraception access under the banner of "religous [sic] freedom," Obama finally announced what the White House is proposing an accomodation [sic] of religiously affiliated employers who don't want to offer birth control coverage as part of their insurance plans. 
Yeah, rotten spelling/proofreading, but give her a chance. Normally, I can't stand Marcotte, but I think she's homing in on the truth:
In those situations, the insurance companies will have to reach out directly to employees and offer contraception coverage for free, without going through the employer. Insurance companies are down with the plan... contraception actually saves insurance companies money, since it's cheaper than abortion and far cheaper than childbirth. 
Remember the economies of the "blue pill" and the don't-call-them-death-panels for end-of-life human beings? There's lots of money to be saved at life's onset. Insurance companies (and the safety-net-providing government) stand to save lots of money through pregnancy — and child! — prevention. It makes economic sense to incentivize the use of birth control. A woman has a right to choose whether to have children or not, but the government may nudge the woman toward its preferred choice. It is good economic policy to push women to avoid having babies until they've got a stable relationship and a solid economic foundation, so clear the path to the relatively inexpensive pills and poisons and devices that keep the sperm and the egg from acquiring a will of their own.

Another point, which Marcotte doesn't make, is that many, many healthy individuals are about to be forced to spend thousands of dollars a year on health insurance, and there needs to be a decent flow of seemingly "free" things so that they don't get too upset about it. Birth control is perfect for this. It's something women use — continually — when they are perfectly healthy. Face it: Birth control is about preventing an important bodily function from working. Now, the birth control won't be free, because everyone paying into the insurance pool will be covering the cost, but the women who use the birth control will have the feeling that they're getting something. That's a special kind of palliative care that the designers of Obamacare are going to want to cover.

So did Obama "pull a fast one" on conservatives, as Marcotte surmises?
He drew this out for two weeks, letting Republicans work themselves into a frenzy of anti-contraception rhetoric, all thinly disguised as concern for religious liberty, and then created a compromise that addressed their purported concerns but without actually reducing women's access to contraception, which is what this has always been about....
Now, those who complained about the old rule have a choice whether to move on to some other traditional-values issue or to find a way to say that the problem is still there. If they do the latter — as Rush Limbaugh did a series of semi-coherent rants on his show yesterday — they're going to annoy/scare the millions of women who use contraception and the millions and millions of women and men who want other people to use contraception. (Don't forget the "Freakonomics" theory connecting the avoidance of unwanted pregnancy to a reduction in crime.)

Marcotte thinks the conservatives will give up on this issue and exults that "the damage has already been done."
[W]hat most people will remember is that Republicans picked a fight with Obama over contraception coverage and lost. This also gave Obama a chance to highlight this benefit and take full credit for it. Obama needs young female voters to turn out at the polls in November, and hijacking two weeks of the news cycle to send the message that he's going to get you your birth control for free is a big win for him in that department.
And let's not forget — Marcotte doesn't mention this — that the birth control fracas peaked precisely when a story was breaking that should have made the administration look weak on a women's rights issues: the decision limiting women in the military. As I noted yesterday, Michelle Obama was deployed on a nutrition-in-the-military mission on the very day that decision was announced. So there is good reason to think the Obama campaign is sharply focused on manipulating the minds of constituents who care about women's issues.

As Marcotte said: "It's all so perfect that I'm inclined to think this was Obama's plan all along."

So was I right all along or did the Santorum campaign read my blog...

... and see how to spin the "other emotions" remark about women in combat?
After Rick Santorum said that women should not serve in combat, citing “emotions,” critics were furious, saying he had insulted women by suggesting that they were too emotional to be depended upon in life-and-death situations.

But Mr. Santorum said Friday that he was actually referring to the emotions of men, not women, saying that men might be distracted from their mission by their “natural instinct” to protect women.
Yesterday, you may remember, WaPo's Jennifer Rubin said he'd get in trouble, and I said:
I'm guessing that Rubin is worried that he's stuck on some stereotype about women — they're too "emotional" — but I think he's referring to an argument about the way men feel — that is, an urge to protect women that would skew decisionmaking and performance.
ADDED: As Irene points out in the comments, Santorum made it apparent that he was talking about men's emotions on Friday's "Today" show, which was before my post.

If Obama loses he will have something which, if he wins, he will lose and never be able to recover.

An observation from a discussion, here at Meadhouse, about what the Obamas, Michelle and Barack, will do after he is out of office. What set off the discussion was this news story about Michelle Obama going on the TV show "Top Chef" and judging a competition about school lunches. She'll be around forever — won't she? — doing things about kids and health and food. Women's TV. Books for women. The traditional woman gig. (It's for liberals too.)

And Barack? He'll be fine. He'll do analysis. Distanced observation. Comfort and critique. I say. Meade says: "Not if he loses." At which point I said what I've got quoted there in the post title. You see what it is, of course.

February 10, 2012

At the Capitol Café...


... fill in the blanks.



A door. Photographed in 2004. I was fooling with these old pics today, getting the coding right for this post and this one, after realizing — reading an article about the Goodman Community Center here in Madison — that it's the old Kupfer Ironworks building where they played "9 Beet Stretch" back in April 2004.

Severely hollow conservatism?

Romney at the at the Conservative Political Action Conference:
"I know conservatism because I have lived conservatism... I was a severely conservative Republican governor... I fought against long odds in a deep blue state....

"Leadership as a chief executive isn’t about getting a bill out of subcommittee or giving a speech. It’s about setting clear goals and overcoming constant adversity...."
Santorum says:
"We will no longer abandon and apologize for the principles that made this country great for a hollow victory in November....

"Why would an undecided voter vote for a moderate candidate who the party isn’t excited about?..."

"Now videogamers can play the role of Ho Chi Minh's communist forces as they rout French colonists in a blood-spattered shoot'em-up."

"We in Vietnam aren't that familiar with World War II but we still enjoy the 'Call of Duty' games... Anybody can enjoy any game, as long as it's fun and rewarding."

At the Long Legs/Long Arms Octopus Café...

... don't worry about overreaching.

(The item pictured, from the Chazen Museum is an ivory object from 19th century Japan.)

The man behind the "V for Vendetta" mask says he feels "V for validation."

Alan Moore:
It... seems that our character's charismatic grin has provided a ready-made identity for these highly motivated protesters, one embodying resonances of anarchy, romance, and theatre that are clearly well-suited to contemporary activism, from Madrid's Indignados to the Occupy Wall Street movement....

As for the ideas tentatively proposed in that dystopian fantasy thirty years ago, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that whatever usefulness they afford modern radicalism is very satisfying.

Rick Santorum on feminism and abortion.

From his book "It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good":
It is obvious that for [women who feel regret], abortion was not a liberating choice. These women and many others say abortion was a last resort, or that they felt they had no other choice. It is a decision, often born out of loneliness and desperation, that can cause a lifetime of suffering.

Alice Paul, the feminist author of the Equal Rights Amendment, was right when she said, “Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.”

"Our society has let [children] down by not being supportive of mothers, and even fathers, who dedicate their time and often their lives to their children."

Please read the 3-paragraph-long book passage that I've added to the post about whether Rick Santorum is committed to equality for women. He fights what he calls "radical" feminism, but he's expressing a feminist position. He calls the radical feminists "misogynistic" (for making "working outside the home the only marker of social value and self-respect").

Obama relents on contraceptives.

"Seeking to allay the concerns of Catholic leaders,President Obama on Friday announced an adjustment to its health-care rule requiring religiously affiliated employers to provide contraceptive coverage to women."

"Five years ago today, a few thousand of us gathered in Springfield, Illinois, to launch an improbable campaign for president."

Email from Barack Obama.
The task was to build a grassroots movement capable of making the kind of change we believe in.

You've got to see this video about that journey -- it will make you smile...
Oh, really? Let me try...

Trying to rekindle the old spirit. Did I smile? Of course! It's a nice presentation of all the smiley Obama-related things there are... including catching the fly, dancing with Ellen, hugging his daughters, singing "Let's Stay Together," and saying he just killed Bin Laden. And Joe Biden. I always laugh when I see Joe Biden, but maybe that's just me.

"I see you've got some kind of a 'G.I. Jane' theme going today."

Says Meade, and I reply, "Yeah... hmmm... I should do a post about... you know, she has her problems."

"Goldie Hawn."

"No, it's not Goldie Hawn. Demi Moore."'

"I thought it was Goldie Hawn."

"Goldie Hawn is 'Private Benjamin'...

"Demi Moore is G.I. Jane...."

See the difference? Demi stood up to torture in G.I. Jane, but in real life, she's crushed by romantic heartbreak and seeking help from Deepak Chopra.
"['The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success'] is my bible. It is a practical guide to the fulfillment of your dreams..."
Deepak Chopra is a male, but he is distinctively nonmilitaristic:
Although terrorism is a tactic, what lies behind it is an idea, and once an idea seeps into people’s brains, bombs and mortar attacks won’t defeat it....

Our only hope... is to...  offer a more enticing idea in the long run. Peace and social reform are both enticing ideas....

Bush’s war on terror was a horrendous mistake, an ideological delusion and a failed tactic. It alienated most of the world and created as many extremists as it defeated. Obama knows all this. Now it’s time for him to lead us out of a self-created quagmire.
But enough about the terrorists. What can be done about Ashton Kutcher? Adultery is a tactic, what lies behind it is an idea, and once an idea seeps into people’s brains, bombs and mortar attacks won’t defeat it. Your only hope is to offer a more enticing idea in the long run....

"To an extent, Romney’s secret antipathy is a healthy quality."

"The truly fanatical politicians are those who detect no contradiction between their interpretation of what is right and the desires of the great and good American public.... But feigning respect is exhausting. Romney does not suffer fools gladly—he does suffer them, though, because there are a lot of fools out there, and he has put himself in the fool-suffering business. His constant discomfort on the trail is the agony of suppressed contempt."

Says Jonathan Chait, adding that Romney reminds him of George H.W. Bush. Me too. So... advice to Mitt: Whatever you do, do not look at your watch.

By the way, why is Jonathan Chait so mean?
There are just a lot of people out there exerting significant influence over the political debate who are totally unqualified. The dilemma is especially acute in the political economic field, where wealthy right-wingers have pumped so much money to subsidize the field of pro-rich people polemics that the demand for competent defenders of letting rich people keep as much of their money as possible vastly outstrips the supply. Hence the intellectual marketplace for arguments that we should tax rich people less is glutted with hackery.
Now, go away wingers! You're flummoxing Jonathan!

"It’s my everyday bag. You can put literally everything in it."

"Will you please tell me what’s in there?"
I just have my smaller clutch inside and my wallet.
"So, basically, you have other bags inside the bag?"
Um, yeah.
If men have more physical strength — as the Pentagon, upholding restrictions on women in combat, says — why is it women who are always carrying bags? Men have basic daily life set up so they have pockets and they only carry around what fits in the pockets. (Sure, sometimes that looks ridiculous, but not any more ridiculous than that woman at the first link.)

I wanted to find Obama's reaction to the Pentagon decision — announced yesterday — to continue to exclude women from combat...

... but yesterday's Obama/military/women news takes me right to a story about Michelle Obama taking her anti-obesity campaign to the military.
"Our primary focus is on the health and well-being of service members, their families, and our retirees," [Assistant U.S. Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Jonathan Woodson]. "Obesity is a preventable problem which, if combated, can help prevent disease and ease the burden on our overall Military Health System."
If combated... so: women in combat... against fat.
In an effort to promote good choices, the military will redesign menus and try to supply healthier foods in mess halls and on bases and in vending machines and snack bars on military bases....
"Whenever our men and women in uniform step forward, Americans take notice. When our service members make healthy eating a priority in their lives, the rest of us are more likely to make it a priority in our lives," [the First Lady] said...  "Simply put, this is America's entire military once again stepping forward to lead by example."
Who planned these optics? On the same day, the Pentagon announced it was (mostly) sticking to its traditional view about women in combat and Michelle Obama went high-profile in a military context in the traditional female role of meal-planning and health-caretaking.

Where was the other Obama, our President, Barack?

"The Pentagon will maintain bans on women serving in most ground combat units..."

"... despite pressure from lawmakers and female veterans who called the restrictions outdated after a decade of war."
After taking more than a year to review its policies on orders from Congress, the Defense Department announced that it would open about 14,000 combat-related positions to female troops, including tank mechanics and intelligence officers on the front lines.
But the Pentagon said it would keep 238,000 other positions — about one-fifth of the regular active-duty military — off-limits to women, pending further reviews. Virtually all of those jobs are in the Army and Marine Corps.
What is the reason for the limitation? Officially, it's the lack of physical strength. Males and females are currently held to different standards:
But some female veterans questioned why the Pentagon has been slow to adopt gender-neutral physical requirements for such jobs. Maybe only a few women would qualify, they said, but they should be allowed to try.
Do you agree?

Santorum on women in combat: What "other types of emotions" was he talking about?

Jennifer Rubin thinks he may get in trouble for saying:
"I want to create every opportunity for women to be able to serve this country... but I do have concerns about women in front-line combat.

"I think that could be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved. It already happens, of course, with the camaraderie of men in combat, but I think it would be even more unique if women were in combat... And I think that’s not in the best interests of men, women or the mission."
What "other types of emotions"? I'm guessing that Rubin is worried that he's stuck on some stereotype about women — they're too "emotional" — but I think he's referring to an argument about the way men feel — that is, an urge to protect women that would skew decisionmaking and performance.

Rubin quotes something Santorum said in 2005 the crux of which is: "The radical feminists succeeded in undermining the traditional family and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness." Rubin exclaims "Yikes" and pronounces the statement "badly off-key." Is Rubin succumbing to the kind of emotional reasoning that is so typical of... journalists?

Feminism succeeded dramatically in making women feel that life outside of the workplace is stultifying. (Read "The Feminine Mystique," the 1963 rant about how horrifyingly small life is for a homemaker.) Here's the book Santorum was promoting when he called the "radical" feminists to account: "It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good." I'm going to read it, as I've been reading "The Feminine Mystique" lately, and it's worth understanding what happened in American culture. You can care about equality without jumping to the conclusion that everyone needs a job! What's so wonderful about a job? If 2 adults can found the economic and emotional unit we call the family, they are most free if they realize that there are many different ways to structure their lives and find happiness together.

I read Santorum's 2005 quote as saying no more than that: You don't need to buy into dogma about "professional accomplishments" as "the key to happiness." What's "yikes"-worthy about that? Is it that women will flip out if you say anything that even sounds like you'd deny them full access to the workplace? Ironically, that thought is the stereotype that women are emotional to the point of irrationality.

ADDED: Here's the passage in Santorum's book about feminism (and the only place in the book were the word "feminism" appears [though the word "feminist/s" appears quite a few times, but I'll leave that to another post]):

February 9, 2012

At the State Street Café...

... showcase yourself.

"Colorado student charged in 'glitter bomb' of Romney."

The charges — all misdemeanors — are: creating a disturbance, throwing a missile, and an unlawful act on school property.

... Stephen Glasser, an optometrist in downtown Washington, tells ITK that while they might seem harmless, glitter bombs can cause real damage: “If it gets into the eyes, the best scenario is it can irritate, it can scratch. Worst scenario is it can actually create a cut. As the person blinks, it moves the glitter across the eye and can actually scratch the cornea.” Although not likely, it can even cause a potential loss of sight.

That’s almost what happened to one of Glasser’s patients, who was out at a New Year’s Eve soiree where partygoers were tossing glitter around: “It literally scratched not the cornea, but the white of the eye … [S]ince [glitter isn’t] exactly what you’d call sterile, there’s not only a chance of a scratch, but giving the person an infection.”...

“If the person’s breathing in, it can be drawn up into the nose and into the sinuses and cause one hell of an infection that’s difficult to get rid of because it’s literally an object... that highly irritates the tissue,” says the doctor.
Is this enough to dispel the illusion that glitter bombing is fabulous and funny?

"Did 'The Woz' Slag Steve Jobs In FBI Interview?"

Asks The Smoking Gun.

(But nothing quoted from the FBI file tells us anything we don't know from reading the biography "Steve Jobs.")

"[The Grateful Dead's] Bob Weir sat in with Lukas Nelson... one of Willie Nelson’s sons..."

"... for Bob Dylan's 'Maggie’s Farm' and 'I Shall Be Released.' Ruby Stewart — Rod Stewart’s daughter — also added background vocals...."

Do you enjoy paying other people's cell phone bills?

You are doing that, you know.
Last year, a federal program paid out $1.6 billion to cover free cell phones and the monthly bills of 12.5 million wireless accounts....

The program came to be after the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was passed, and the FCC created the Universal Service Fund to help "to promote the availability of quality services at just, reasonable, and affordable rates," among other things. All telecommunications carriers must pay into the fund, and many do so by tacking on a fee to each of their customers' bills. It's probably added into your monthly wireless bill and your landline bill, if you still have one.

What's a dictator's wife supposed to do?

"Why are we shaming her and saying she should do something? There was never any question that she would do anything else."
"Even if, deep down, she was not happy with what's happening, she wouldn't be able to do anything about it.

"And even if, between four walls, she told him 'I don't approve of this', we wouldn't know about it. Let's be more realistic about this."

"The reason I caught the deep end to it is because I’m black."

"The bottom line is the game carries a lot of bigotry, and that was an easy way for them to do it... If I wasn’t outspoken and a so-called a 'proud black man,' maybe I would have gotten the empathy and sympathy like other ballplayers got that I didn’t get; like Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Steve Howe. I can name 50 people that got third and fourth chances all because they weren’t outspoken black individuals."

Oil Can Boyd, admitting that 2/3 of the time he pitched under the influence of cocaine.

Obama's contraceptives policy and the Catholic vote in swing states.

Craig Gilbert has some detailed analysis in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. (Wisconsin is a swing state, and 33% of the voters are Catholic.)
... Democrat Obama dominated among Latino Catholics nationally and in key swing states in 2008. He won roughly three out of four Latino Catholics in New Mexico and Nevada, according to exit polls.

But he narrowly lost white Catholics in the majority of swing states he carried, winning this group in only three battlegrounds with sizable Catholic populations– Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan. In most cases, the "white Catholic vote" was very similar to the "white vote."
Wisconsin's Catholics are — as Gilbert puts it — "overwhelmingly white." In 2008, these white Catholics went for Obama by a 4 point margin. But Obama won Wisconsin by 14 points, so the white Catholic vote is more conservative than the state generally. In 2010, white Catholics voted for Scott Walker by an 8 point margin. So influencing this group can be key to flipping Wisconsin one way or the other.

Is contraception the perfect wedge issue for Republicans? How strange! It was only one month ago that Mitt Romney was puzzled that the topic of contraception was even being raised.

What is the argument against allowing home-schooled kids to play on high school sports teams?

"Legislation to allow home-schooled students to play varsity sports at public schools passed the Republican-controlled Virginia Assembly on Wednesday," writes the NYT as it sets up a debate — there are 7 commentators — under the topic "Should Home-Schoolers Play for High School Teams?" I guess since a "Republican-controlled" legislative house voted for it, the NYT had to phrase the question as if the presumption was against letting these kids play, but it was hard for me — without reading the essays — to think of any reason not to let the kids play. After all, their parents pay taxes, and by home schooling, they are saving the school districts money. 

Ken Tilley, executive director of the Virginia High School League, contends that "participation in school activities is a not a right, it's a privilege." To win the privilege, the kids who go to a school have to meet various requirements, some of which, like GPA and passing X number of subjects, don't align with anything the home-schooled kid can meet. Tilley also notes that there are sports programs for home-schooled kids, and we shouldn't let the best home-schooled athletes opt to play on regular school teams, because "we should be helping [those programs], not poaching from them." Poaching from them? We're talking about a human being making a choice about where to play. Tilley is picturing the action from the perspective of the people who run the teams, and — if you wake up that dying metaphor poaching — he's analogizing the student athlete to an animal that might be stolen from its proper owner.

Lawprof Michael McCann cites the argument — which he finds "unpersuasive" — that there's something wrong with a high school having a team with too many home-schoolers. If the coaches pick the best players, it might turn out that the teams are full of kids who don't go to the school. Is that a problem? Robert Ferraro, founder and chief executive officer of the National High School Coaches Association, suggests that there be a rule that the home-schoolers can only play on teams at the school that they'd attend if they weren't home-schooled.

Ferraro's suggestion sheds some light on the "poaching" issue. There could be some abuse if coaches could roam about looking for the best home-schooled athletes, and excellent athletes might choose home-schooling for the specific purpose of being able to participate as free agents in a market that could get very aggressive and that could hurt a lot of kids (and parents) who dream about sports achievement — Tim Tebow! — and undervalue schoolwork.

"Hey, I heard that there was a Supweem Court Justice on 'Sesame Street.'"

"There is, Baby Bear. There is."/"Hi, Baby Bear. I am Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, but you can call me 'Justice."

"Wow! Impwessive!"

ADDED: Let's talk about the particular legal problem the "Sesame Street" folks used to teach kids law. Baby Bear has a complaint against Goldilocks, who entered his house and sat in his chair, breaking it. Justice Sotomayor, after listening to Goldilocks, notes that Goldilocks didn't intentionally break the chair, and the dispute is resolved by having Goldilocks help Baby Bear glue the chair back together. "And the 2 of you can live happily ever after." Baby Bear says "I can live with that," so we could view Sotomayor as proposing a settlement — Baby Bear agrees to it — rather than issuing a legal decision.

Notice the emphasis on conflict resolution and building community. Fine. But I'm not satisfied with the observation that Goldilocks didn't intentionally break the chair. Goldilocks intentionally broke into a private home. Why is there no attention to that? If somebody broke into my house when I was away, I would be outraged, even if nothing were broken. I would also not accept a glued-together chair as an adequate replacement for an unbroken chair.

So "Sesame Street," in classic left-wing fashion, pays no attention to property rights. Also, consider the gender dimension of this problem. If a male had intruded into the home of a female, I don't think "Sesame Street" would focus on how nice it would be if the 2 could now become friends.

Union leaders ask candidates in the Walker recall election to promise to veto the next budget unless it restores collective bargaining for public employees.

One candidate, Kathleen Falk, immediately agreed.
Falk, who received the state teachers union endorsement Wednesday at an event in the Madison suburb of Monona, said Walker used a budget-repair bill to pass the repeal of most union bargaining so it was appropriate to use a budget bill to undo it.

"I have said that I will veto a budget bill if it does not have collective bargaining," Falk said. "The way you undo (Walker's) damage is the same vehicle by which he did the damage."

Unions spearheaded the recall effort against Walker in November in response to Walker's labor legislation, garnering more than 1 million signatures for the attempt to force a recall election....

Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) briefly considered running against Walker in a recall election then decided against it. He said that he was asked by leaders of public-employee unions if he would veto any state budget that didn't restore collective bargaining.

"I said I could not make that promise and I did not think any serious candidate for governor could or should make that commitment," Cullen said of a veto of the state budget. "It's a $60 billion document."
I don't know how many times during the protests I heard the assertion: This is not about money.

February 8, 2012

"So there you go: an internet troll. That's what they look like."

I thought this was a joke, but it's not. The BBC tracks down some piddling internet troll and confronts him.

At the Neon Café...

... you can order anything you want.

Evidence that 34% of likely voters are irrational.

Here are 2 questions from the same Rasmussen poll, conducted in the last 2 days, of 1,000 likely voters:
1* Should health insurance companies be required by law to cover all government-approved contraceptives for women, without co-payments or other charges to the patient?
43% Yes
46% No
11% Not sure...

4* Should individuals have the right to choose between different types of health insurance plans, including some that cost more and cover just about all medical procedures and some that cost less while covering only major medical procedures?
77% Yes
9% No
14% Not sure
If you answered "yes" to question 1, you can't rationally turn around and say "yes" to question 4! How are these individuals supposed to buy something that the insurance companies are not allowed to offer? Apparently, people feel sympathetic to individuals but not to insurance companies, and they reflexively decide to push the companies around and respect individual freedom.

Anyway... speaking of things people get emotional about... there's also sex and religion, which naturally go together, since "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."

"Back in business — Blaska!"

Announces Meade, telling Isthmus readers to bookmark the new blog, but it's Isthmus, so Meade's immediately smacked down by one commenter who assures everyone that Meade "will be dropping [Blaska's] opinions on [the Isthmus forum] like they are science at every opportunity, so I don't feel the need to bookmark his page." And then everyone switches to talking about some other blogger on the same site, and she's apparently a complete idiot.

Blaska was the conservative blogger at Isthmus not too long ago. But Isthmus lost a couple of its liberal bloggers left — Jack Craver (remember when he trashed me?) and Emily Mills (remember when she trashed me?) — and if they'd kept Blaska, there'd only have been one liberal (Citizen Dave) to offset the one conservative, and that wouldn't make sense in a Madison, Wisconsin "alternative" newspaper now, would it?

"Obama Has Handed The Election Over To The Super Rich."

Says Robert Reich.
It has been said there is no high ground in American politics since any politician who claims it is likely to be gunned down by those firing from the trenches. That’s how the Obama team justifies its decision to endorse a super PAC that can raise and spend unlimited sums for his campaign.
Seems like a pretty damned good justification to me. But not to Reich.
[W]ould refusing to be corrupted this way really amount to unilateral disarmament? To the contrary, I think it would have given the President a rallying cry that nearly all Americans would get behind....

"Russian scientists have breached an ice sheet that has sealed subglacial Lake Vostok in Antarctica for more than 20 million years..."

"... at a depth of nearly 4,000 meters, reaching a critical stage in a decades-long drilling project... Lake Vostok is the largest of a network of hidden subglacial Antarctic lakes... It is also one of the largest lakes in the world."

Reports The Moscow Times, which adds this spicy tidbit:
Rumors that these lakes were also home to secret German submarine bases during World War II are also being revisited in the wake of renewed excitement, driven by Nazi claims that they had created an "unassailable" Antarctic fortress and by archival evidence describing the construction of ice caves.
No Nazis in the NYT report, which pays attention to the threat of pollution from the kerosene and Freon used in the drilling and the prediction — which was supposedly correct — that the borehole would freeze up, sealing in the chemicals, as soon as the drill reached the lake.

The most recent Rasmussen poll has Santorum up 1 point over Obama.

A big gap closed up suddenly:
Rasmussen Reports, 2/2-2/3: Obama 44, Santorum 45
Rasmussen Reports, 1/31-2/1: Obama 46, Santorum 44
Rasmussen Reports, 1/23-1/24: Obama 48, Santorum 40
Rasmussen Reports, 1/17-1/18: Obama 48, Santorum 38
ADDED: By the way, there's a lot of talk about how Rush Limbaugh hasn't endorsed anyone, but — based on my own listening to nearly every recent show in the last month — I think he's been subtly influencing listeners to choose Santorum. Limbaugh frequently talks about how he doesn't do endorsements, that his "candidate" of choice is conservatism, and that he wants to be in a position to support whoever goes up against Obama in the fall. But he has repeatedly pointed to Santorum as the most conservative candidate and, perhaps more important, the candidate who will be most able to articulate conservatism when confronted with Obama.

Why did Mitch Daniels in Indiana get away with doing something more drastic than what Scott Walker did that set off the huge protests in Wisconsin?

Leon Fink (in Salon) wonders:
In Wisconsin, the union presence seemed wedded to a deep sense of civic identity, including connection to a long-standing state tradition of “progressive” innovation and peaceful reconciliation of differences among competing social and economic interests.

In Indiana, despite the fact that Indianapolis had once hosted more union headquarters than any other city in America, legislated reduction of the union presence triggered no visible sign of larger public hurt. That the union leaders themselves viewed the issue as “mere politics” betrays their own skepticism that worker rights can truly appeal to the public conscience...
That is, love/support/respect for unions needs to be firmly embedded in the culture of the place or you don't get the Wisconsin Effect. Noted. That means you can't suddenly whip up a political frenzy in response to one political move on the other side, no matter how drastic the move is.

Fink drifts off into a reverie. Here's his last paragraph before the one-liner "I’m dreaming, of course. This is Indiana.":
I could only think of how different was the determination of the 1968 Olympic athletes who raised a black-power salute at their official Olympic awards ceremony. If a similar sense of solidarity had been on display in Indianapolis, players from each team might have unfurled a “union” banner — Norma Rae-like — at halftime and carried it aloft to their respective locker rooms. Better yet, they would have handed off the emblems to Madonna, a long-established member of both the Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild of America.
It's actually pretty pathetic when your dreams of deep embeddedness in the culture consist of showy gestures by sports/music/movie celebrities. Madonna, the union member? Why would organizations that boost Madonna resonate with Hoosiers and seem wedded to a deep sense of civic identity?

Face it, Fink: There's a price to be paid for locating liberalism in pop culture. It's not going to be deep. It's inherently shallow. Deeply shallow.

Mike Kelley "never lost his interest in the cut-rate products of American culture, work that for one reason or another ended up discounted and ignored."

"His art tried to make failure into the highest form of achievement," writes Richard B. Woodward in the Wall Street Journal about the artist "who died last week at the age of 57, reportedly a suicide."
His most identifiable body of work (late 1980s to early '90s) are the thrift-store stuffed animals that he placed on blankets in the middle of gallery floors. Their air of soiled hopes and cheerful failure became central to the critical movement of "pathetic" or "abject" art. But how should the icky pungency of these pieces be balanced against his later wish to distance himself from their popularity? "I was viewed as an infantilist, possibly a pedophile, or victim of abuse myself," he complained in a 1996 essay.
"Abject" is a great word. If you Google it, the first substantial hit — i.e., the first thing that's not just a definition of the word — is

February 7, 2012

At the White Dome Night Club...

... you can talk all night.

"I think Eastwood got scammed. I think he got scammed."

"I think he got roped into doing something he thought was patriotic, and ended up being played. I do."

Rush Limbaugh on the Clint Eastwood "Halftime in America" Super Bowl ad.

(There's also a parody of the ad but you have to be a RushLimbaugh.com member to get to it. I wish he'd put it up for the general audience. It's quite good, basically making the pro-Obama political message overt.)

ADDED: Reason Magazine has a parody of the commercial.


"Rick Santorum had a breakthrough night on Tuesday by winning the Missouri primary and making strong showings in the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses, breathing life into his struggling campaign and slowing Mitt Romney’s march to the Republican presidential nomination."

ADDED: I'm listening to Santorum speaking. He's saying tonight's results show what happens when we don't have one candidate vastly outspending the others, and this is therefore more like what will happen in the fall. That is, Romney's been depending on his money, but in the end, he won't be able to do that.

At the Blue Glow Café...

Photo on 2-2-12 at 9.06 PM #2

... you're still staring at the screen.

"Of course, debates are a completely new form of 'dialogue' for me: a brouhaha. In short, we shouted to our heart's content."

Presidential candidates debate in Russia:
The candidates repeated familiar promises and accusations, with [Communist Gennady] Zyuganov pledging to bring "justice and socialism"... Zyuganov twice invoked Hitler to criticize [businessman Mikhail] Prokhorov

"What moral right do you have to rule after what the Communists did?" Prokhorov said, prompting Zyuganov to later accuse him of disrespecting the accomplishments of the Soviet Union.
The post title is a Twitter post by Prokhorov. For his part Zyuganov tweeted: "Unfortunately, Prokhorov and I were not able to have a normal conversation. He didn't discuss anything; he simply repeated worn-out phrases."

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin, who is way ahead in the polls, avoided the debate. Not sure if he tweeted.

Prop 8 ruling from the 9th Circuit is expected momentarily.

At 10 a.m. Pacific Time, noon Central.

UPDATE: The court holds that the ban on same-sex marriage violates equal protection.

AND: Here's the opinion [PDF].

ALSO: What Prop 8 did, the court writes, was take away the designation "marriage," and that word matters:
We are excited to see someone ask, "Will you marry me?", whether on bended knee or in text splashed across a stadium Jumbotron. Certainly it would not have the same effect to see "Will you enter into a registered domestic partnership with me?". Groucho Marx's one-liner, "Marriage is a wonderful institution... but who wants to live in an institution?" would lack its punch if the word "marriage" were replaced with the alternative phrase. So too with Shakespeare's "A young man married is a man that's marr'd," Lincoln's "Marriage is neither heaven no hell, it is simply purgatory," and Sinatra's "A man doesn't know what happiness is until he's married. By then it's too late." We see tropes like "marrying for love" versus "marrying for money" played out again and again in our films and literature because of the recognized importance of the marriage relationship. Had Marilyn Monroe's film been called How to Register a Domestic Partnership with a Millionaire, it would not have conveyed the same meaning as did her famous movie....
You get the idea. The judges are old. I mean... marriage — even just the word — matters.

Warm caramel/warm cheese.

Karen Handel — VP for public policy at Susan G. Komen for the Cure — has resigned... why?

She'd been on the side of cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood:
A person with direct knowledge of decision-making at Komen's headquarters in Dallas said the grant-making criteria were adopted with the deliberate intention of targeting Planned Parenthood....

According to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, a driving force behind the move was Handel, who was hired by Komen last year as vice president for public policy after losing a campaign for governor in Georgia in which she stressed her anti-abortion views and frequently denounced Planned Parenthood....

Handel, a Republican, ran for Georgia governor in 2010, winning an endorsement from former vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Handel then lost a primary runoff to former Georgia Congressman Nathan Deal, who won the general election.

Throughout the campaign, Deal accused Handel of being soft on abortion.

Deal repeatedly attacked Handel over a 2005 vote she took while serving on a metro Atlanta county commission to give more than $400,000 to Planned Parenthood....
Abortion politics. It's hard to position yourself in the middle, as it seems Handel has done, and she's managed to get slammed from one side and then the other and to lose 2 big jobs.

"School Linked to Abuse Claims Will Replace Entire Faculty."

"The drastic move is the school district’s latest attempt to deal with a crisis of confidence among parents who had begun to protest what they said was the failure of school officials to act against the abuse and explain its extent."

They really don't want that protest!

"Is it fair that some of Mr. Obama's largest campaign contributors received federal loan guarantees?"

Stephen Moore, at the Wall Street Journal, noting that Obama likes to talk about economic fairness, has "A Fairness Quiz for the President."

"Profs Criticized for Insufficient Love of Reagan."


Some students pay tuition that is as high as it is to fund financial aid that is offered to other students.

Is there something wrong with that?
In his proposed budget, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is seeking to cap the use of tuition dollars from in-state students to provide financial aid, a practice employed by almost all colleges and universities, public and private. McDonnell has said he is pushing the cap to spur conversation about aid policies and to keep down the cost of college education, saying the current structure is placing a higher burden on middle-income students....

Who ultimately bears responsibility for ensuring access to higher education? If states aren’t willing to pay, do institutions have the right to charge more to students who can pay in order to subsidize those who can’t?

"The witches’ brew of predator-prey arms races: eye of newt, fenny snakes and resistance to a deadly poison."

The title of a lecture, one of many events here at the University of Wisconsin campus this week — in observance of the birthday of Charles Darwin. (We do a whole week for "Darwin Day," apparently. The great man's actual birthday was February 12, 1809.)

My mind is dragged back to the fascinating story in the previous post. Trent Arsenault has the ideal Darwinian strategy, doesn't he? He's perfecting and maximizing his genetic material and its distribution, including the likelihood that his offspring will be healthy and well-protected and well-reared to adulthood.

If you do come to Madison this weekend, perhaps to take in some Darwin-related things, make sure to drop by the Chazen Museum and see the Art Department's faculty show. Meade and I loved it. I couldn't do photographs of that exhibit, but there's a slide show at the link. My favorite thing was "Stoney's Tiny Tattoo" ("a painted-wood structure by Assistant Professor Fred Stonehouse... Inside, graduate student Ben Grant tattoos himself"). No one was doing tattoo performance when we were there. I just loved all the faux-primitive drawings inside the booth.

But wait! Why am I talking about Darwin's birthday today? It's not the 12th, it's the 7th. And it's not a big centenary birthday for Darwin. That was 3 years ago. Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of another great Charles D: Charles Dickens. And the reason I noticed this is the usual reason people these days notice things like that: I saw a mysterious Google Doodle and clicked on it. I've read a lot of Dickens, but there's only one Dickens book I've read twice:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way....
Oh, yes... that reminds me, it's just about exactly the 1-year anniversary of the start of the Wisconsin protests, our own special Wisconsin season of darkness/spring of hope/winter of despair.

If you're coming to Madison for Darwin Day Weekend — and maybe the faculty art show — you can also sojourn in and around the protest commemorations. I don't know what's in store, but check out the Capitol Square for some hope and despair and epochal belief and incredulity.

Trent Arsenault — devoted sperm donor, virgin father — hounded by the FDA.

Here is a man who has — as I read this truly fascinating article — devoted himself to sperm donation for altruistic, religious reasons. He gives the sperm, only to couples, and he maintains a rigorous health regime designed to produce the best quality product.

And I use the word "product" to highlight the fact that the FDA has filed a "cease manufacture" order against him.
Although sperm is neither a food nor a drug, the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research regulates those who traffic in it, enforcing frequent and comprehensive tests designed to curb the spread of communicable diseases and genetic disorders. Historically the agency has focused only on traditional sperm banks, not private donors, but Trent was unprecedentedly public about what he was doing. When the FDA first contacted him, he had naïvely signed a piece of paper confirming that he was “an establishment.” In August 2010, using that as a pretext, the FDA sent three agents to his house, where for several days they interviewed him and copied his records. Trent had by then made 340 donations to some 46 different recipients. The scrutiny was time-consuming and stressful; he didn’t have a lawyer and worried than he might land in prison.

By November, the FDA determined that Trent wasn’t screening for diseases nearly often enough, and it issued its cease-­manufacture order. Trent replied that he wished to contest it. He wasn’t charging money, as he explained, and he was helping people. He knew that he was celibate, that he was disease-free, and that he took extraordinary measures to safeguard his DNA. He considered his relationship with his recipients to be “intimate.” Why should the government regulate what he was doing, when anyone, with who knew what health issues, could walk into a bar and have a one-night stand? A government-accountability public-interest group, Cause of Action, agreed, seeing the FDA action as a ringing example of regulatory overreach, and filed a brief on Trent’s behalf. “We questioned him as to the parameters of his relationship with recipients,” Amber Taylor, the chief counsel for Cause of Action, says. “We took away that he’s a very generous, helpful person who sees people in need who could not have children without some form of assistance, who are often lower income or underserved by the fertility-medicine industry.” Trent is currently awaiting a decision by the FDA on whether to grant him a hearing, and in the meantime, the cease-manufacture order has been suspended.
I'm sure that, after this high-profile article, the FDA will back off. But let's talk about the legal issues here. Does Arsenault have a right of privacy in his relationship with the couples he assists? "He describes himself as a 'donorsexual,' with all of his libidinal energy channeled in service of others." Consider that he has 15 — and counting — children through this activity, which had deep religious and emotional meaning to him:
Many of the recipients who have successfully become pregnant have maintained contact with Trent; the lack of anonymity has always been part of his appeal. They send him ultrasounds and arrange to have Trent meet the child. He has a bag ready to go containing his own old toys, which he gives away, and items he uses to observe childhood development....

Trent sits at his desk and pulls up Facebook, where he clicks through photographs of many of his biological children....

Even if he were to stop donating—which he would do immediately if, for instance, he learned that one of his children was autistic or had another genetic problem—Trent says he would stick with his extreme health regimen. “I want to be alive for the children. They will want to know about me. It may not be until they turn 18, or later in life, that they decide they want to meet me, so I want to be in a good capacity to meet them.”
Quite aside from whether he has a constitutional right of privacy with respect to these intimate relationships, why does the federal government have power over his activity? Because it regulates the sperm bank business and this is like the way it can regulate growing one marijuana plant even one that isn't intended for the commercial market? But marijuana is a commodity, and — as the Supreme Court said in Gonzales v. Raich — "the regulation is squarely within Congress’ commerce power because production of the commodity meant for home consumption, be it wheat or marijuana, has a substantial effect on supply and demand in the national market for that commodity."

Be it wheat or marijuana... or sperm?

February 6, 2012

At the Wine Bottle Café...

... you get the message.

Should the government crack down on unpaid internships?

Or leave people alone to enter into whatever sorts of arrangements they find mutually beneficial?

Clint Eastwood's "Halftime in America" Super Bowl commercial features the Wisconsin protests.

Click to jump to the exact part of the commercial:

Say what you want about Eastwood's approval of the auto bailouts, I'm excited to see the statue of the Civil War hero Hans Christian Heg, which — you may remember — Meade defended on 3 separate occasions last year during the protests: March 2 (Meade removes a sign), March 13 (Meade removes a "Solidarity" T-shirt); March 21 (Meade washes off "Workers of the World Unite").

And, by the way, Clint Eastwood played a crucial role in getting Meade and me together, so there was also that.

"Weapons are allowed inside only after they have been hammered into plowshares."

A local church uses this — citing Isaiah 2:4 — for its "no weapons" sign:

Enlarge to see the text clearly.

(Here's where were talking just the other day about Wisconsin gun laws and these "no weapons" signs.)

"America secretly loves whipping itself up into a frenzy over this sort of thing, but it wasn't just the rightwing press expressing outrage..."

"... even Pitchfork was in on the act. 'In the few bars Madonna was kind enough to grant her during the biggest television event of the year, MIA's message to America was simply, "Fuck you"' it complained, somewhat innacurately (surely the message was 'I don't give a shit', otherwise she'd have just said 'fuck you'). It went on to conclude that: 'It wouldn't be the worst idea [for MIA] to draw as much focus as possible back on to her music.'"

Writes Tim Jonze in The Guardian, embarrassingly choosing the word "inaccurately" to spell inaccurately.

This is all so stupid. First of all, listen to the recorded song, or just read the lyrics. "I'mma say this once, yeah, I don't give a shit" is in the original song, so it's not as if MIA was going off script and inserting some spontaneous self-expression. Even though Madonna has famously sung "Express Yourself" — and even sang a bit of it during last night's big show — MIA didn't suddenly come up with an opinion and decide to spit it out to the world. And the word "shit" wasn't even vocalized. If you think you hear it, you're only hearing it in your head because it's the word that rhymes and obviously follows "I don't give a," and there was a hissing "shhhh" sound in the instrumentation that was used for a bleeping effect.

So the only issue is the giving of the finger. I remember when the America Online movie discussion forum was afire with the discussion of the finger back when "Titanic" came out and the Kate Winslet character gives the finger. Here's an old "Straight Dope" column from 1998 discussing whether it was historically accurate — or as they say in England "acurrate" — for Rose to give the finger in 1912? ("[T]he middle-finger/phallus equation goes back way before the Titanic, the Battle of Agincourt, or probably even that time Sextillus cut off Pylades with his chariot.")

Are we going to get all heated up about the finger again? Because that would be really stupid. A throwback to 1998. But what the hell. We are that stupid. We are getting all jazzed up about "Titanic" again right now:
Fans crashed multiple servers trying to secure advance tickets for the now sold-out Feb. 14 preview screenings of Hollywood's "Titanic in 3D," producers said.
You want to know my opinion? I think giving the finger is completely appropriate.

4-year-old boy who loves toilets gets the gift a dual-flush toilet from Kohler Company.

Front-page news in Milwaukee.
Jim and Michele Kruse first noticed their son's admittedly unusual interest when he was about 18 months old and, having spotted a line of portable johns, wouldn't leave until he had inspected each one.

The parents, understandably, had reservations about this new enthusiasm. But they decided to go with the flow. They used portable toilets to help teach Dustin his colors. Michele encouraged his interest in reading by scouring libraries for books on toilets....
Blah blah blah... free toilet... famous at the age of 4 for loving toilets. (Incredibly cheap PR for Kohler, which would really like you to watch the video of the child who loves their toilets.)

Dyslexia — "a bias in favor of the visual periphery" — is also an aptitude at grasping the whole picture quickly.

Whatever special abilities dyslexia may bestow, difficulty with reading still imposes a handicap. Glib talk about appreciating dyslexia as a “gift” is unhelpful at best and patronizing at worst.
So then... the expression "differently abled" can only be used patronizingly. Because if you really meant it, that would be patronizing!

An amazing paradox!

February 5, 2012

At the Thin Ice Restaurant...

.... come on out and have a seat!

Madonna: greatest half-time show ever or...

... greatest show ever?

At the Pink Lady Café...

... settle in for a long afternoon.

Pussy Riot...

... in Red Square.

"I'm a bigot... but for the left."

An old Woody Allen punchline that came up in conversation just now. It's from the movie "Annie Hall." The actress is Carol Kane.


Whatever happened to Carol Kane? She had such interesting feminine beauty. I can't think of any actresses today who have the her style of beauty. Is it because they've all been surgically altered? I resist movies these days, in part because the actresses all look alike. Presumably, the look is beautiful, but it doesn't read as beautiful anymore, because they all look alike. This was all predicted in the "Twilight Zone" episode "Number 12 Looks Just Like You."

I know. It's not a day for talking about feminine beauty. It's a day for masculine beauty. It's Super Bowl Sunday, and here in Wisconsin "Number 12" is Aaron Rodgers, who is interestingly beautiful in an individualistic way. Which reminds me, despite my (and Meade's) resistance to watching movies, we did watch a movie last night: "Moneyball." It features the masculine beauty of Brad Pitt, who has to hide is splendor a bit in baggy pants, greasy hair, and constant munching of food, so he'll seem as though he belongs in the shabby office space and locker rooms of the Oakland Athletics baseball team (and not in the spiffy digs of the Boston Red Sox). Everyone else in the movie is pretty awful looking. He's bookended throughout by the Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who seem to be in a competition over who most embodies the word "tubby." There's scarcely a woman anywhere in the movie, though there is at least one scene with the Robin Wright, who is beautiful in that boring way and who was once in a movie with Carol Kane.

Third photo on a theme.

A juxtaposition.

(Yesterday, at the Chazen Museum.)

Gender difference.

You see it everywhere.

(Photo taken yesterday at the Chazen Museum in Madison.)