April 14, 2012

At the Photograph Me Café...


... you can take a picture. It lasts longer.

"Where is the transparency?"


"Silence is consent."


"No law should have more words than the U.S. Constitution":


Signs at the Tax Day rally at the Wisconsin Capitol today.

The Hilary Rosen flap shows the way to a new bipartisanship premised on the value of single-earner households.

Yes, Hilary Rosen disrespected Ann Romney, who, she said, had "actually not worked a day in her life." Fine. Everybody learned that the American people think it's important to acknowledge the work that women do when they choose to forgo careers and stay home with the children.

But now that this door is open, let's walk through it. There is much more here, and I'm only going to begin to talk about it in this post. I have already talked about the less-noticed issue of respecting men's choices. It shouldn't be simply a matter of women getting to choose to stay home. This is a household economics decision. Traditionally, it's been the woman who stays home in the single-earner family, but in modern America, each family has the power to decide who will bring in the money, and it may be preferable for the man to be the one to contribute to the family in the non-monetary ways. This is something I will talk about much more in future posts.

What I want to concentrate on in this first post, initiating my "single-earner household" tag, is the way it's not just for traditionalists. I want to challenge liberals, left-wingers, feminists, progressives — all those folks — to see why they should want to actively promote the single-earner household.

Single-earner households benefit the environment. You believe in global warming? Prove it! A 2-earner household has a much larger carbon footprint. 2 adults travel to work each day, they buy extra consumer goods (such as work clothes), they rely on fast-food, they take their children to day care. They need to do these things to get along. Yes, they pull in more income, but with more income, they buy more things, and these things must be manufactured, which emits carbon into the atmosphere. A single-earner family sticks with that smaller income and buys less. The stay-at-home spouse works hard to stretch and conserve that income, so that the family's needs are met. In fact, these needs can be better met, as the home spouse cooks meals from scratch, teaches and plays with young children, and so forth.

Here's "The Tightwad Gazette." It's all about using ingenuity to make it possible for a family to live on a single income. Why should we all have to join what they used to call the "rat race"? Is life about having a job? Some people need jobs, but why have we come to believe that every adult must have a job?

Let's form single-earner households. We talk about economics all the time, but why don't we economize — at the personal level?

I've concentrated on environmentalism here, but there is so much more to talk about. For example, unemployment. If the single-earner household movement were to flourish, we wouldn't need so many jobs, and we wouldn't need to drive ourselves so hard. Then there are taxes. If you're living alone, filing as an unmarried person, you've probably noticed how much less you would pay if you added a spouse. And what about feminism? If the woman stays home, maybe the man will leave her some day — leave her for a younger woman! — and then what will she do, not having developed her career? The women's movement made a big deal out of warning us about that danger, but something I want to examine — not here, but in later posts — is the way this women's movement came along just when we Baby Boomers in the 1960s were inspired by the hippie movement, which tipped us off that life might be about freedom and not about taking one's place in the conventional workworld. Wouldn't it be a kick in the head if it turned out feminism served, above all, the interests of commerce and not individual liberation?

I'll end this post now, but I'm beginning a conversation. I want to reject the idea — which Obama himself propounded — that the single-earner household is a luxury available only to a few lucky people. Let's consider the possibility that it is available to most people and what we need is to understand when it works and how to make it work.

Faces at the Tax Day rally — today in Madison, Wisconsin.






What it looked like today at the Tax Day rally at the Wisconsin Capitol.

I was there:


And Meade took some of the pictures, like this one of the big crowd:


See the Hans Christian Heg statue in the back?

"Walker fixed it/Let's not Falk it up/Wisconsin Can't Barrett" (references to the upcoming recall primary and election):


"Why do I have to work 'till I die so you can retire at 55?"

A year ago, Breitbart was here.


The other side of the "He's got nads!" shirt refers to Scott Walker, but it could just as well have referred to Andrew Breitbart, who was here today in spirit:


Roger Ailes answers critics who say the women he puts on Fox News are mostly blonde.

"When women get into television, they dye their hair blonde."

Something about TV and blondness, apparently. But what?

When I was a teenager in the 1960s, and there were no women newsreaders on TV or radio, a high school teacher explained to the class that women could not be hired for these positions because their high-pitched voices simply did not work properly in broadcasting. A male voice was — to use a contemporary employment law term — a bona fide occupational qualification. He said it with utmost seriousness and authority, like it was science, and though it made me feel angry and rebellious, I believed him. Something about the technical equipment, which is another thing only the males can handle.

"Palin has not confirmed a return to Madison this year, but has not declined their invitation either."

Yes, it's the Tax Day rally at the Wisconsin Capitol today.

It was a crazy scene last year. It snowed, Sarah proclaimed that "these are the front lines in the battle for the future of our country," Andrew Breitbart raged, and the tea partiers were way outnumbered by the anti-Walkerites who booed and banged on things in the hope of making the bad people go away.


That's from last year's Tax Day protest and counterprotest. Today it's a sunny day and 60°. We'll see what kind of scene there is on what might still be the "front lines," as the Scott Walker recall election looms. It's April 14th, and we e-filed our taxes last night. TurboTax informed me that I paid over $9,000 less this year than last year. I don't know who made that happen — Scott Walker? Obama? Bush? I'm not sure I really noticed. I guess we were supposed to feel stimulated and buy some extra stuff, but we did not.

"You're disarming yourself in an important struggle if you can't produce a fucking sonnet."

Asserted Christopher Hitchens in an interview in 2010, which I'm reading a propos of a discussion we're having about the value of the childish humor that comes in the form of substituting one word for another. Hitchens and his friends — intelligent adults — cracked each other up over the years by redoing book titles, changing "man" to "cunt" or "love" to "fuck," which is endlessly productive of laughter if you give yourself permission to do it. But I drifted into the part of the interview that's about the importance — the sexual importance — of reciting poetry. Hitchens continues:
"What if I had to try on my own merits? You've got to have some sort of reserve arsenal." He looks incredulous when the photographer, a very beautiful young woman, expresses doubt about the efficacy of this seduction technique.

"Oh no, not if it's done right," he says knowingly. Go on then, I say. Give us a demonstration. "Maybe at lunch?" he suggests, cheering up immediately. "Let's have lunch, and make a day of it." And so, inevitably, we adjourn to the pub....

"The other day I gave her mash and fishfingers for dinner — something quite boring — and her response was 'That’s impressive,' so she has a sense of humor, too."

An English dad describes the experience of living with a 4-year-old genius. 

ADDED: Confession: I had to Google to make sure "mash" referred to potatoes. The process of doing blog tags confronted me with the part of my brain — of whatever size IQ, I don't know — that has been dealing with English food. Long ago, "mash" got mushed with "mushy peas," and I'd never had the push to straighten that out until just now. But, thanks to Wikipedia, I've set my head straight. "Mash" is just mashed potatoes. And "bangers and mash" — which sounds dirty — is just sausages and mashed potatoes, which I think are "impressive."
The term "bangers" is attributed to the fact that sausages, particularly the kind made during World War II under rationing, were made with water so they were more likely to explode under high heat if not cooked carefully; modern sausages do not have this attribute.
Wikipedia kindly includes some pop culture references, including Peter Sellers singing to Sophia Loren, about how he's unsatisfied with her "macaroni" and would like her to "give us a bash at the bangers and mash me mother used to make," which you can listen to on one of those YouTube videos where all you look at is the record spinning. Sellers and Loren do their best to exclude any double entendre that those lyrics may seem to convey in writing.

There's also a Radiohead number called "Bangers + Mash," which has lyrics that begin "You bit me, bit me, bit me, ow," which is something Peter Sellers never sang to Sophia Loren.

Times change, which reminds me of my favorite "banger" song: "Lieutenant Custard & His Banger of Time," which involves a time-travel sausage. Please be careful with this!

April 13, 2012

Wisconsin can go to hell.

As far as Abe Sauer is concerned.

Obama is reeelected, Scott Walker survives the recall, and the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare.

Things that are just about exactly likely, according to the insights of Intrade. (Currently, 60.8, 61.0, 63.3, respectively.)

"If you are a child of the seventies and were raised on 'The Joy of Sex,' you are not likely to have forgotten the illustrations."

"The woman depicted in these drawings is lovely, and, even nearly forty years later, quite chic," writes Ariel Levy in The New Yorker. "Her gentleman friend, however, looks like a werewolf with a hangover. He is heavily bearded; his hair is long, and, it always seemed, a little greasy. His eyelids are usually at half-mast, adding to his feral appearance."
It isn’t easy watching beauty get pawed by the beast, and our narrator does not help matters. “At a certain level and for all men,” Comfort informs us, “girls, and parts of girls, are at this stimulus level unpeople.” In “The Joy of Sex,” a male is a man, a female is a girl, and a vagina is, to “males generally, slightly scarey: it looks like a castrating wound and bleeds regularly, it swallows the penis and regurgitates it limp, it can probably bite and so on.”... Under the heading “Women (by her for him),” Comfort writes of male genitalia, “It’s less the size than the personality, unpredictable movements, and moods which make up the turn-on (which is why rubber dummies are so sickening).”

"Indian Man Single-Handedly Plants a 1,360 Acre Forest."

"It was painful, but I did it. There was nobody to help me. Nobody was interested."

"Consumerism Leads to Depression, Study Finds."

"We found that irrespective of personality, in situations that activate a consumer mindset, people show the same sorts of problematic patterns in wellbeing, including negative affect and social disengagement."

"If a patient is conscious during surgery but doesn’t remember any of it, is that good enough?"

Wait! How can you even ask that question! Obviously, not!
It’s a bit like the tree falling in the forest with nobody to hear it. 
What?! No, it's not.
An anesthesiologist’s koan. If even the patient has no recollection of surgery, was he aware?

And how could we possibly know?
Maybe we don't want to know.

"The prosecutor has most likely deliberately overcharged, hoping to intimidate Zimmerman into agreeing to a plea bargain."

"If this case goes to trial, Zimmerman will almost definitely be found 'not guilty' on the charge of second-degree murder," opines John R. Lott Jr.
Some extremely relevant information from the police report is completely excluded [from affidavit of probable cause]: There is no mention of the grass and wetness found on the back of Zimmerman’s shirt, the gashes on the back of his head, the bloody nose, or the other witnesses who saw Martin on top of Zimmerman, beating him, before the shot was fired. There is not even an attempt to say that the police report was in error; instead the affidavit just disregards it.

"Between Harvard Law graduate Obama’s knowledge of constitutional law..."

"... and Harvard Law professor Elhauge’s poor legal research/analytical skills, I’m beginning to really doubt the value of a Harvard Law education."

Wisconsin Tax Day Rally at the Capitol.

It's tomorrow at 11:30 a.m., at the King Street entrance, that is, at the Heg statue.

"The comments that Hilary Rosen made today certainly have awakened many Mama Grizzlies across the nation."

Sarah Palin weighs in on the issue.
"Why is it that some on the left choose to divide, to incite with comments like that instead of just respecting women’s choices and what they want to do with the gifts that God has given them?"
By the way, do we just respect men’s choices and what they want to do with the gifts that God has given them?

AND: Judith Warner says Democrats owe Hilary Rosen an apology! The Democrats, she says, are "like the Romney campaign itself" "cynic[al]" and "out of touch":
We all know, on the one hand, that there’s a certain portion of the population that feels not just left behind but generally dissed by what they identify as the evolution of attitudes and mores in our era: they’re the Sarah Palin constituency. But these conservative women were never going to vote for Obama anyway.
What we learned from the Rosenflap is that lots of women (and men) want to see respect for women who choose the traditional role. Since when is it politically savvy to insult the groups that don't vote your way?

At the Birdbath Café...


... it's okay to dunk.

"The government spent at least $205,075 in 2010 to 'translocate' a single bush..."

"... in San Francisco that stood in the path of a $1.045-billion highway-renovation project that was partially funded by the economic stimulus legislation President Barack Obama signed in 2009."

Obama? Clearly, it's bush's fault!

"The Myth of Sustainable Meat."

A NYT op-ed, prepping you for the slaughter... of your carnivoraciousness.
Opponents of industrialized agriculture have been declaring for over a decade that how humans produce animal products is one of the most important environmental questions we face. We need a bolder declaration. After all, it’s not how we produce animal products that ultimately matters. It’s whether we produce them at all.
It's noted in the piece that "It is doubtful you can build a genuinely sustainable agriculture without animals to cycle nutrients," which leads to the suggestion that "Farmers could avoid this waste by exploiting animals only for their manure, allowing them to live out the entirety of their lives on the farm...."

Exploiting animals only for their manure.... I don't know about that, but it got me thinking about op-ed writers. You know, they are animals. We could exploit them for their (metaphorical) manure.

"Stand your ground is not a defense, but an immunity statute, providing immunity from criminal prosecution."

Jeralyn Merritt (at TalkLeft) explains the law:
A defendant charged with a crime who wants to raise Stand your Ground files a motion to dismiss claiming stand your ground immunizes him from prosecution....
A hearing is held before trial. The burden is on the defendant to prove by a preponderance of evidence that stand your ground immunity applies.

The judge weighs the facts. If the judge agrees the defendant has shown stand your ground immunity applies by a preponderance of evidence, the charges are dismissed. The defendant can't be prosecuted.

If the judge finds the defendant hasn't met his burden, (including if the disputed evidence is so equal on both sides the judge can't decide one way or the other) the case goes to trial to be decided by the jury. At trial, the defendant can still argue both self-defense and stand your ground immunity -- he only has to establish some evidence of his theory, which can be just his own testimony, that he acted in self-defense.

"Class warfare" and "the war on women" — 2 wars or 2 fronts in the same war?

A question that came to mind as I was reading this comment, from Yashu, on last night's "Rosengate" post:
What happened was, in their efforts to attack Romney, the Dems suffered a strategery malfunction. Crossed wires caused a short circuit.

Crossed wires: i.e. two separate tactical strands of the Obama 2012 campaign against Romney momentarily met in Rosen's soundbite and short-circuited.

1. GOP "war on women" (Dem pandering to women)
2. Class warfare (spurring resentment of Romney's wealth)

Rosen was predictably going along on #1 (that's the meme the Dems are pushing now, #2 will come to the forefront later). But because they had to defend themselves against Romney's counterattack (Obama's economy hurting women), for a moment #2 came to the fore: i.e., Ann Romney's a rich bitch who's never worked a day in her life, so what does she know about the economy or jobs?

Short circuit. Because the "rich bitch" was tacit, implicit; what was explicit, what everyone heard out loud was: stay-at-home mom never worked a day in her life, so what does she know about the economy or jobs?

A stupid sneering insult to stay-at-home moms, i.e. a large number of women. Short circuit.
Do Democrats need to be careful to fight these 2 wars separately, or is there a way that the 2 wars could be merged successfully? Rosen merely lost a battle. That doesn't mean her side has lost the war or that it is not capable of a war on 2 fronts. You might not want them to win, but that doesn't matter for the purposes of this discussion. Whichever side you are on, you will want to understand this.

April 12, 2012

"Romney fundraising appeal off Rosengate..."

It's the turning point in the presidential race... strangely, and yet not surprisingly. The trajectory changes right here. Today.

Because it's all about the women. Everything is all about women.

ADDED: Dialogue at Meadhouse:
MEADE: Why Rosengate? What's the scandal?

ALTHOUSE: The scandal is: They let the mask slip. They let it show.
As we'd talked about earlier: The Democrats don't really believe anything. They're just working on various voting blocs. They started this "war on women" theme, but it was a means to an end. Women were out there, so numerous, so richly exploitable. The campaign made its move. And then... the slip.

"21. This Otter. This otter is disappointed that you never finished Infinite Jest."

From a list of 33 Animals Who Are Extremely Disappointed In You.

What's going on with Senator Ron Johnson and his staff?

It's hard to read between the lines of this Rollcall piece.
While top Republican sources expressed exasperation at the internal turmoil in Johnson’s office, they also noted that the Wisconsin freshman has not been diligent in building relationships with other Senators within the Conference and has alienated himself by not reaching out more frequently to colleagues.
What's that about?

Dibbing Sun Gold Tomato Seeds.

Here's the Rolling Stones song I bring up as Meade dibs.

"Turns out Allen West misspoke. He said Communist Party when he meant Congressional Progressive Caucus.'

"But really, what's the difference?" Oh, no! Meade is winding them up over at the Isthmus forum...

I have here in my hand a list of 78 card-carrying members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus....

"Merah is certainly a monster, but he was a French monster."

"Our passports may say that we are French, but we don’t feel French because we were never accepted here. No one can excuse what he did, but he is a product of French society, of the feeling that he had no hope and nothing to lose. It was not Al Qaeda that created Mohammed Merah. It was France."

"Amazon must be unbelievably happy today."

"Had they been puppeteering this whole play, it could not have worked out better for them."

Framefail in the "war on women" — reframed by Drudge.

This has been up all morning at Drudge:

Let's look at those links. 

The first small-print one — "Adviser to Obama, DNC Attacks Ann Romney" — goes to this video clip of DNC advisor Hilary Rosen, trying to say that Mitt Romney "doesn't connect" on the issue of women struggling economically: He's "running around the country, saying, well, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues, and when I listen to my wife, that's what I'm hearing." She pauses, then blurts out the unfortunate line, which she clearly thinks is a great zinger: "Guess what? His wife has actually not worked a day in her life." She ends with "He seems so old fashioned."

That's the framing of Mitt Romney that the Obama campaign wants: Who are these out of touch people? Ironically, it was profoundly out of touch with the many women who work in the home (and with the many women who've professed to respect the choice that some women make to devote themselves to homemaking). This is the problem with these framing efforts. You have to brainstorm, imagining all the ways in which your opponents can use it against you. Framefail.

"I’m special."

"I’m not like the average inmate... I have spent my life in prison. I have put five people in the grave. I am a very dangerous man."

Everyone thinks they're special.

Song lyric: I wish I was special... What the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here.

"Politicians love mellencamp. Jack and diane."

I wrote that in my iPhone notes on April 1, when I was waiting in the overflow room at the Romney rally. I looked that up this morning after writing about Mellencamp supposedly being "not amused" that they're playing his song "Small Town" at Scott Walker rallies. That post also notes that Mellencamp once performed "Small Town" at an Obama rally. Neither Walker nor Obama were born in a small town or stayed put in a small town with "little opportunity" — as the song goes — but the song somehow still sounds right.

But "Jack and Diane" — is that a good song for a politician, if you start listening to the words?
Suckin' on chili dogs outside the Tastee Freez
Diane's sittin' on Jackie's lap, he's got his hand between her knees
Jackie say "Hey, Diane let's run off behind a shady tree"
Dribble off those Bobbie Brooks slacks, let me do what I please
I'm sitting there in the overflow room, thinking about how Mitt wooed Ann back in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan in the 1960s. Bobbie Brooks was a brand of clothes that teenage girls were proud to wear — not cheap, but if you babysat a little, you could buy them. In 1968, you were hoping to look like this:

Colleen Corby bobbie brooks

Maybe that helps you picture young Ann and Mitt at the Tastee Freez.

What is Barack Obama's full name?

I am just noticing this for the first time. Writing that last post, seeing that John Mellencamp sang "Small Town" at an Obama rally, I was about to add that like Scott Walker, Obama was not born in a small town. (The song, you may remember, is all about being "born in a small town" and staying in that small town even though there's "little opportunity.")

Anyway, Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Deal with it, birthers!) Honolulu is about the size of Colorado Springs. Looking up Obama's birthplace, I just went to Wikipedia, naturally, and I noticed something I'd never noticed before. I did not know Obama's full name. I asked Meade, and he got it wrong too.

"Scott Walker's Using John Mellencamp's Music; Mellencamp is Not Amused."

Oh! Mellencamp not amused. According to headline writers at The Nation. Walker is using Mellencamp's classic song about a small town, "Small Town." (Scott Walker was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which currently has a population over 400,000.)

The article at The Nation is by John Nichols, whose only factual basis for the claim of non-amusement is that "The musician's publicist contacted the Walker campaign to inform them" that Mellencamp is "very pro-collective bargaining and the fight for a living wage." I don't know what that has to do with Walker's limits on unions representing public workers, who are trying to maintain their good salaries and benefits, not private industry workers at a level where they have to "fight for a living wage," who actually sound like the kind of people who would vote for Walker.
Mellencamp is not demanding that Walker... stop using his music. But, as the rocker did when Republican John McCain started using his song "Our Country" in 2008, Mellencamp is reminding Republicans that he is not one of them -- and that his songs are not written to celebrate their policies.
Are they written to "celebrate" anybody's politics? Seems to me Mellencamp is open to all sorts of fans, and I wouldn't be surprised if he is quietly pleased that politicians, including conservative politicians, find his songs apt.
"He's a very liberal person," [publicist Bob] Merlis says of the singer, who performed "Small Town" at a rally for Barack Obama in 2008, recorded a radio ad for Obama and appeared at Obama's inagural [sic] in 2009.
Nichols lamely stretches, saying "Mellencamp has even addressed recall politics," and going on to talk activities related to the recall of California Governor Gray Davis in 2003:
An ardent for [sic] of former President George Bush's Iraq War policies, Mellencamp wrote: "The Governor of California was removed from office based on finance troubles. And yet George W. Bush has lied to us, failed to keep our own borders secure, entered a war under false pretense, endangered lives, and created financial chaos. How is it that he hasn't been recalled?...
And that should count against Walker? Mellencamp seems to like financial discipline. Nichols ends his nitwit piece by fantasizing about Mellencamp coming to Wisconsin and singing "Small Town" at a rally for Walker's opponent, who will be one of these 4 characters. (What would they do to help the economy in Wisconsin? Their ideas ranged from spending on education to ending "partisan bickering.")

Anyway, I will now leave John Nichols to his private dreamy dreams about Mellencamp, the 60-year-old Hoosier who just might care very deeply about government workers in Wisconsin.

"Allen West is denigrating the millions of Americans who voted to elect Congressional Progressive Caucus members..."

"... and he is ignoring the oath they took to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution — just like he did... Calling fellow members of Congress 'communists' is reminiscent of the days when Joe McCarthy divided Americans with name-calling and modern-day witch hunts that don't advance policies to benefit people's lives."

Said Representatives Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, whose members Representative West has called "card-carrying Marxists" and "members of the Communist Party."

West's spokesperson defends his remark by saying "The Communist Party has publicly referred to the Progressive Caucus as its allies," which doesn't explain how that makes them "members of the Communist Party."

West just sounds nutty. I'm saying that because I can't even think of a reason why he'd want to talk like that. 

April 11, 2012

At the Springtime Café...


... time to get started.

Falk and Barrett — rivals in the Wisconsin recall primary — are debating tonight.

Says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which doesn't say where or when. There's absolutely zero information that would give us a chance to see this debate, in a post that's been up for more than 3 hours.

In the comments: "Nice writing JS, you might want to put a where or when in your story." And: "The debate will be at 7PM tonight at the Clocktower motel in Rockford,Il." Ha ha ha.

Here's the Cap Times. It says the debate will be at the Madison Concourse Hotel. I still don't know what time.

Romney campaign says 92.3% of the jobs lost under Obama were women's jobs.

Can that possibly be true? Romney's people did the math, but PolitFact discounts it, concluding:
By comparing job figures with January 2009 and March 2012 and weighing them against women’s job figures from the same periods, [Romney’s press secretary Andrea] Saul came up with 92.3 percent. The numbers are accurate but quite misleading. First, Obama cannot be held entirely accountable for the employment picture on the day he took office, just as he could not be given credit if times had been booming. Second, by choosing figures from January 2009, months into the recession, the statement ignored the millions of jobs lost before then, when most of the job loss fell on men. In every recession, men are the first to take the hit, followed by women. It's a historical pattern, Stevenson told us, not an effect of Obama's policies.

There is a small amount of truth to the claim, but it ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.
I don't get it. It's true, but nevertheless "Mostly False," because... because what? Because Obama isn't responsible for the numbers?! How does that make the assertion "Mostly False"? The assertion is simply a number, and you've said the number is correct. The conclusion should be "Completely True."

Florida special prosecutor will charge George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case.

WaPo reports, based on information from "a law enforcement official close to the investigation."
It was not immediately clear what charge Zimmerman will face.
UPDATE: The charge is second-degree murder:
“We did not come to this decision lightly,” [Angela B.] Corey said. She added, “Let me emphasize that we do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition.”

“We will continue to seek the truth about this case,” she said.

"If the packers couldn't beat the lions in 1937, they certainly won't be able to now."

"A Democratic court-packing scheme, whether proffered this summer or in a hypothetical second Obama term, would be laughed right out of the Capitol."

Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard lawprof, learning to campaign.

"She is new at it, and learning on an unusually prominent stage."
Despite her folksy approach, the response of those who meet her for the first time is often polite formality, not the warmer, more familiar type of exchange that voters tend to have with [incumbent Senator Scott] Brown.

At a St. Patrick’s Day lunch in Quincy, Ms. Warren gamely joined a dais full of local politicians and offered a few jokes that promptly fell flat.

“I’ll get there with you guys,” she ventured after a joke about Rick Santorum fizzled.
What was the joke? Can we get video?
Yet two days later, at a much larger breakfast in South Boston, Ms. Warren breezed through a comedy routine, drawing particular laughs when she said she had heard that Mr. Brown’s barn jacket cost $600.

“Wow, here’s a guy who could use a consumer advocate,” she said.
Who was at this "much larger breakfast"? Why can't the NYT anticipate my questions and answer them?!
Like Mr. Brown, she is also using social media to share personal details that might help her connect. On Saturday, she posted a picture of herself on Facebook dyeing eggs with her young granddaughters. She has posted on Facebook and Twitter about her golden retriever, Otis, and about the fact that she bakes “a wicked apple pie.”
Pictures please. Or at least links. Blah. I'm just visualizing generic grandkids, Easter eggs, and golden retriever. By the way, I added the specificity of "Easter." The NYT just has here dyeing eggs. Maybe she had a non-Easter agenda. I shouldn't presume.

By the way, the new Rasmussen poll has Warren ahead of Brown 46% to 45% (and he was leading her by 5 in February). Interestingly: "Warren leads among those who rate their finances positively; Brown leads among those who consider them poor." Isn't it funny that the more well-off tend to go for a Democrat who offers to speak for the less well-off?

Ah! I've found the Elizabeth Warren joke about Rick Santorum. Commenting on the absence of Gov. Deval Patrick at the St. Patrick's Day event, she said: "He's in Rick Santorum's favorite place today- the Virgin Islands."

I can see why the NYT left that one out.

"If your Big Mac is going to cost about $100 and your Bug Mac is going to cost only $4, people will change to a Bug Mac."

Says Arnold van Huis, the world's biggest expert on entomophagy (the eating of insects).
He believes the rising price of meat will help change diets.
Help? Why is NPR using the word "help" there?
Van Huis says the challenge is to make it delicious. That's where Marian Peters comes in. For years, as secretary of the Dutch insect breeders association Venik, she's been active in bringing edible insects to consumers' tables. And Peters says the first commercially available bug sandwich will be out soon — a wrap filled with insects and peas.
It's easy to make food with bugs in that tastes just fine. We've been eating food all along that has insect parts in it:
The Food Defect Action Levels: Levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods that present no health hazards for humans is a publication of the United States Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition detailing acceptable levels of food contamination from sources such as maggots, thrips, insect fragments, "foreign matter", mold, rodent hairs, and insect and mammalian feces.
It's not a question of whether insects are in your food. It's a question of whether you want to hear about it and consciously embrace the activity — entomophagy — that you've been engaging in all along.

There are people who want you to like it, and people who are perversely excited about the way financial pressure is going to help you like it.

Well, so long as it's merely a cash incentive, we can't complain too much. And maybe some day Congress could impose a penalty, collected through your tax return, for people who choose to eat too much meat over insects. Don't worry. Congress isn't going to require you to eat insects. They just wouldn't do that. So don't worry about whether it has the power to do something it's never ever going to do. And, by the way, eating insects is not kosher, but if Congress said everyone had to eat insects, and failed to make an exemption for people who adhere to a kosher diet for religious reasons, it would not violate the Free Exercise Clause. But don't worry. Congress would never require you to eat insects, and if it did, it would offer an exemption for religious folk. I'm sure.

What am I talking about? Have you heard of insect politics? Neither have I!

"Insects don't have politics.... they're very brutal. No compassion.... no compromise. We can't trust the insect. I'd like to become the first insect politician. I'd like to, but.... I'm an insect.... who dreamed he was a man, and loved it. But now the dream is over, and the insect is awake."

See, this is where I end up when I get to thinking about insects and politics. But please. Calm down. Don't worry about the government and it's plans for the insect. Be very cool, like our biggest politician who is famous cool. Watch how calmly he proceeds with his insect politics:

Whaddya think? That was pretty impressive. He got the sucker.

Facebook pays $1 billion for Instagram.

Do you understand why?

It seems as though the main gauge of Instagram is the number of times the app has been downloaded. I've downloaded the app, but I've never used it. I got hung up at the phase where you establish an account and connect it to Facebook so it can feed off my Facebook account. I just don't feel that good about that. Maybe that's just me.

Anyway, is Facebook just capturing a predator so its competitors won't use it to undercut Facebook? What's really going on?

Will you attend a "Titanic Dinner" this Saturday, in remembrance of the last dinner on the Titanic 100 years ago?

There's one here in Madison, at Steenbock's on Orchard, which is an excellent place. 11 courses, $100 with "wine pairings." "Attire inspired by time period is welcome." Hmmm.

What's the least inviting part of this?
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Oh, don't be such a wet blanket killjoy iceberg, it will be fun!

"Two mobster brothers turned their Brooklyn childhood bedroom into a grown-up den for Mafia hits — nicknaming it 'The Dungeon'..."

"Saracino also directed debtors using his mob loan-sharking services to drop their cash payments inside a plastic chicken flower pot outside an exterior stairway that led to 'The Dungeon'..."

Judd puffy.

Everybody's talking about Ashley Judd talking about everybody talking about Judd looking "puffy."

"That night I went with my husband to where the coffin was and he opened it up."

"Immediately I heard her cry."

The Madison City Council votes to thank Occupy Madison.

And also to deny a permit to extend the encampment any longer.  The counsel first listened to about 15 witnesses "telling personal stories":
Robert Jones, 56, who serves as a cook at the encampment, said Occupy Madison ensured he had a place to go.

Jones recalled a time when he was trying to sleep in Brittingham Park and a police officer approached him, warning it was illegal to sleep in the park. Jones told the officer he knew he was breaking the law but he used all his time at the emergency shelters. The officer, Jones said, told him to go sleep behind a tree where he would be out of sight. "I’m not a shark. I need a place to sleep. ... I’m a human being," Jones said.

Donna Asif, executive director for the Madison Homelessness Initiative, urged the city to support grass-roots movements. "This way of living, it turned into something that felt like a home. I think something like it is part of the array of solutions...."
Odd that the "We are the 99%"-type political protest of the national "Occupy" movement transmogrified here into a makeshift homelessness effort. But as a way to house the homeless, it was bizarre. As the representative of the district around the encampment, Alderman Bridget Maniaci said "Really? This is the best we can do? Tents, a 15-amp electrical service and a parking lot? That’s going to solve it?"

"I want a little black girl to stand up in the front of her classroom and read a poem by her favorite poet and I want that poet to be me."

Says Jasmine Mans, a University of Wisconsin junior who was just named one of Glamour Magazine’s Top 10 College Women:
After a video of Mans’ performing a poem criticizing Nicki Minaj received nearly 475,000 views, she steadily gained fame through appearances on HBO’s “Brave New Voices,” Black Entertainment Television, billboard.com and Broadway.
Here's that video. And here are the rest of her videos.

WaPo skews presentation of a poll on the Obamacare case to bolster the argument that the Court should defer to Congress.

"Do you think the Supreme Court justices will rule on this case mainly on the basis of law or mainly on the basis of their partisan political views?" That's a question on a new WaPo/ABC poll that comes right after a question about what people want to see happen.

Only 25% of Americans — random Americans, not likely voters — want the law upheld in its entirety. 67% want it stricken down in whole (38%) or in part (29%). But the WaPo article on the poll is headlined: "More Americans expect Supreme Court’s health-care decision to be political." On the is-it-law-or-politics question, 50% think the Court will go mostly on partisan politics, and only 40% think the Court will do what it purports to do and decide the case based on the law (or even mainly based on the law).

Do you see what WaPo is doing there? Highlighting the answer to the is-it-mostly-political question serves the agenda of those who want the law upheld. These people side with President Obama, who argues, conspicuously, that if the Supreme Court strikes down the law, it will be behaving in an inappropriately political manner. By stressing the poll respondents' mistrust of the Court's neutrality, the WaPo gives the impression that they agree with people who think the Court should stand down and let the work of the democratically elected Congress prevail. After all, if the Court doesn't have a firm legal ground for an exercise of power, it makes no sense for it to trump Congress.

Now, those who want the law upheld are massively outnumbered. According to this poll, there are 2.7 times as many people who want the Court to strike the law down. But if what the Court is really doing is partisan politics, this much larger group doesn't matter. It's as if these people would like a second trip through Congress. But Congress voted, the President signed the law, and that's that, politically. In that view, the 67% don't count.

But let's examine that poll question again: "Do you think the Supreme Court justices will rule on this case mainly on the basis of law or mainly on the basis of their partisan political views?" Consider the missing detail.  I would like to see the answer to these questions: If the Supreme Court strikes down the health care law — in whole or in part — do you think that will be a decision based primarily on constitutional law or a decision based primarily on the Justices' political opinions? If the Supreme Court upholds the health care law, do you think that will be a decision based primarily on constitutional law or a decision based primarily on the Justices' political opinions?

Since we don't know what the respondents think the Court is going to do, we can't tell which Justices are being accused of behaving politically. What portion of the 50% who say it's mainly political think all 9 Justices, whichever side they take, will be mainly political? As they calculate, on the fly, what the Court "mainly" does, they could be thinking: Well, Scalia/Kagan is about 90% political, and Thomas/Sotomayor is about 30% political... etc. etc.... that seems to add up to I'd say probably, overall, 50+% political....

You see the problem! It's quite possible that many respondents were thinking of the Justices they don't like, fearing those are the ones who'll have the majority, and accusing them of deciding politically. Do the respondents have an opinion on the legal question itself? The pollsters could have asked: Do you think, purely as a matter of constitutional law, that the statute is constitutional or unconstitutional? Then: If the Supreme Court decides the case that way, do you think it will be a decision based mainly on law?

Instead, we get a crude question, with all these details hidden. On the poll results page, the first link above, we see "Questions 14 to 18 held of [sic] future release." Questions 12 and 13 are the 2 questions I've discussed here. So there is more detail, and it is now being withheld. The article, the second link above, does reveal something of what kinds of additional questions were asked:
Almost twice as many conservative Republicans think the court will decide on the basis of the law rather than politics, 58 to 33 percent. Liberal Democrats are more skeptical, saying by an equally wide margin that the court will put politics first.
That's not quite what I want to know. Perhaps there's more. I'll be interested to see when and how WaPo dribbles it out.

By the way, the photograph under the headline shows a woman holding up a sign that says "Obamacare Is Immoral," tipping the reader to think that the threatened political decision is the decision that strikes down the law. Since this, I think, is something WaPo does not want to see happen, there's a message to the Court: If you strike down the law, it will be seen as mere politics.

"Why Do Americans Balk at Euthanasia Laws?"

A forum at the NYT, with 8 contributors. The one that came closest to the answer for me is: "A Recipe for Elder Abuse."
Proponents tout assisted suicide as providing “choice” over the timing of one’s death. But choice under the Oregon and Washington acts cannot be assured. For example, neither act requires witnesses at the death. Without disinterested witnesses, the opportunity is created for an heir, or someone else who will benefit from the patient’s death, to administer the lethal dose to the patient without his consent. Even if he struggled, who would know?
And if we were to go down that road, who would want to know? Another old person has moved on. That will be the overall agenda, once we settle in to the the euthanasia regime.

April 10, 2012

"I suppose it could be a coincidence that lengthy breast-feeding and attachment parenting..."

"... that interferes heavily with maintaining a career came into style right as it became passé to pressure women to downplay their ambitions for the sake of men, but it just seems highly unlikely."

A sentence, among the many sentences I read today, that I thought you might want to digest... maybe diagram.

From a short blog post made up of sentences like that, which one of those readability calculator devices puts at the 16.26 grade level. In other words: suspect obfuscation, AKA bullshit.

"But a musical with so much death and despair is a hard sell in commercial theater these days..."

"... even Margaret’s religiosity is wildly out of sync with current Broadway portrayals of faith as comic, romantic or subversive plotlines in 'Godspell,' 'Jesus Christ Superstar,' 'Leap of Faith,' 'Sister Act' and 'The Book of Mormon.'"

Religion... keep it light. For theater.

Remember when theater was heavy going, bent on shaking you out of your complacency?

Remember when religion was?

Or is it still, where you are?

George Zimmerman's lawyers withdraw... because they can't get in touch with him.

"Attorney Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig said...  they haven't heard from George Zimmerman since Sunday... and against their advice, Zimmerman contacted the special prosecutor who will decide if he should face charges."

Sonner said: "He's gone on his own. I'm not sure what he's doing or who he's talking to. I cannot go forward speaking to the public about George Zimmerman and this case as representing him because I've lost contact with him."

Uhrig said he's "not doing well emotionally."

Meanwhile, Zimmerman has a website: here. He's trying to collect donations, and he says: "I am attempting to respond to each and everyone of my supporters personally." Speaking so freely... it's not the way a lawyer would tell you to deal with a potential prosecution.

At his home page, there's a set of links, one of which is "My Race." If you click, you get to a picture of an American flag and the quote, under the heading "My Race": "The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion." — Thomas Paine. There's also the Edmund Burke quote — which appears on every page — "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men to do nothing."

I'm not a psychologist. Perhaps you are. I won't say how this strikes me. What do you think?

ADDED: From the Orlando Sentinel:
The lawyers said Zimmerman called Sean Hannity of Fox News without consulting them. He also called the special prosecutor in the case, something the attorneys said they'd never have told him to do....

Uhrig added that he thinks Zimmerman is going through post-traumatic stress and is "largely alone... he's at least emotionally alone.... I will not tell you where George Zimmerman is, because I don't know."

"If you could do it again, would you publish 'The Talk: The Nonblack Version'?"

"I never ponder counterfactuals."

But he also says: "I may even just give up writing and work as a butler or something. I sometimes feel I've said everything I want to say."

Pheasant brats.

What Meade is cooking for lunch.

For a mere $40,000, you can sit down to dinner chez George Clooney...

... and raise money for Barack Obama.

Hey, I see from that link above, Clooney is copying Meade's beard.

Speaking of beards, we were singing "Motorpsycho Nightmare" this morning:

"Rick Santorum is suspending his campaign..."

In the email. He's about to speak.

I hope he goes out well, with grace. And I hope this doesn't mean there is sad news about his daughter.

ADDED, watching the speech: He never looks like he's lost any sleep. After spending the weekend with his daughter in the hospital, he still has a well-rested look, which I take to mean that his religion is sincere. He's talking first about his daughter and the disabled and "the least among us" (which invokes the same words of Jesus that were the basis of the Jeremiah Wright preaching we were talking about earlier this morning).

AND: "That's what our campaign was about: What made us Americans — how we built this country from the bottom up and how, if we are going to be successful, how we must believe in ourselves and believe in that ability to go forward and do the same thing."

"I wish they weren’t called the Bush tax cuts..."

"If they’re called some other body’s tax cuts, they’re probably less likely to be raised."

Some other body's...

Aw, don't you miss him and his funny ways?
Well, don't you?
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At the Gift Café...


... it's better late than... on time.

The NYT characterizes the decision whether to prosecute George Zimmerman as dependent on "Florida’s lenient self-defense law, known as Stand Your Ground."

Why stress "Stand Your Ground" other than to demagogue about guns?

It seems to me there are rival descriptions about what happened, but none of them have to do with Zimmerman passing up an opportunity to retreat. Either Zimmerman stalked Trayvon Martin and shot him down or Martin punched Zimmerman, had him on the ground — not standing, but lying — and he was hitting his head into the concrete. Who's describing a scenario in which Zimmerman wins or loses depending on whether there is a Stand Your Ground law on the books?

Why inject an inapplicable, controversial issue? To inflame passions? To skew judgment? To take any opportunity/nonopportunity to push your pet issue?

Meade wants to live in a shipping container.

He's always sending me stuff like this.

We do have a plan to move into a smaller dwelling sooner or later, but it's disturbing to realize that for Meade, that means living in something made out of a shipping container!

As long as I've enlisted you in helping me (or Meade) with this problem, help us decide where this shipping container/house should be. And no, we're not going to ship ourselves wherever this place is.

Song choice: "The Gift," Velvet Underground.

ADDED: Meade says living in something like that is a dream he's had since he was a little boy reading about the Boxcar Children, which he says was about a family of orphan children, who lived in a boxcar. And then there was "My Side of the Mountain," which was — I'm transcribing Meade in real time — "about a boy who — I can't remember the reason — runs away from home and lives in a hollow tree up in the mountains, and he adopts a falcon who... she'll be friends for life/she'll be just like a wife... and he lives on acorns. I liked the book because it gave practical advice... How to trap rabbits. It was like 'Survivor'... a survival manual... told by a 10-year old boy."

How many assistant district attorneys in the office that is investigating Scott Walker signed petitions to recall Scott Walker?

At least 19, according to Media Trackers. And 23 support staff.

Via Charlie Sykes, who says: "This would be the same Democrat Milwaukee County DA's office that has been conducting a nearly two year long 'secret' John Doe investigation of Republican Governor Scott Walker. The probe has been dogged by criticism of possible partisan bias, its selective prosecution, and frequent leaks."

"The Zimmerman family is in hiding because of the threats that have been made against us..."

"... yet the DOJ has maintained an eerie silence on this matter. These threats are very public. If you haven’t been paying attention just do a Google search and you will find plenty. Since when can a group of people in the United States put a bounty on someone’s head, circulate Wanted posters publicly, and still be walking the streets?"

A letter from some unnamed relative of George Zimmerman to Attorney General Eric Holder.

Good lord, what an ugly place we are in right now. Who would have thought that in the last year of Obama's presidential term, the public mind would obsess over race at this level? I'm recalling the media coverage of election night, 2008, and the inauguration, when there was a rhapsody of closure and a feeling — some called it "hope" — that we had entered a new era of harmony. How did we get sucked into some nightmare parody of the past? If it's not Obama's fault, can he at least do something to yank us up out of this awful place? In 2009 or even 2011, he would have given a speech. He would have believed he could rescue us with a speech, perhaps because we kind of thought he could. Maybe no one believes anymore. There's a hope vacuum, and look what's moving in.

"He's good. I can see why you'd sit and listen to him."/"He gets you going, doesn't he?"

Said I and Meade, respectively, listening to that new Jeremiah Wright video that's making the rounds.

Trend watch: Segregated hospital emergency rooms.

Because there's a class of persons who need different treatment.
There were no beeping machines or blinking lights or scurrying medical residents. A volunteer circulated among the patients like a flight attendant, making soothing conversation and offering reading glasses, Sudoku puzzles and hearing aids. Above them, an artificial sun shined through a skylight imprinted with a photographic rendering of a robin’s-egg-blue sky, puffy clouds and leafy trees.

Ms. Spielberger, who is in her 80s, was even getting into the spirit of the place, despite her unnerving condition. “It’s beautiful,” she said. “Everything here is wonderful.”
If you think that's beautiful, you should see the afterlife.

Or am I taking this the wrong way? The NYT is acting like this is sort of posh. But one look at the headline — "For the Elderly, Emergency Rooms of Their Own" — and my "Death Panels!" red flag went up. Let's make them very comfortable, let's palliate, but let's not save them. The heroic treatments are in that other emergency room, the one for the people who are still useful.

Meade saves the planet.

No, he just saved the plants. We had a frost here in Madison, after much warm weather, and he was out hosing down everything before the first sun hit. Did you know that was the trick?

April 9, 2012

"I guess America has a new favorite Bubba."


"NBC 6 Miami... writers are repeating false information from one story to the next, spreading it like a virus."

"Not just one writer, but several. Not just one time, but multiple times. Even after two weeks, and notwithstanding updates to the original articles, the three articles with the distorted, racially charged quote are still up on NBC 6 Miami's website. I think the responsibility for that lies with NBC 6 Miami's senior management. They need a jolt."

The honest waitress, the $12,000 tip, and the cops who tried to keep it because it smelled like marijuana.

After an unidentified man left a roll of cash on her table, the waitress, thinking he might have made a mistake, turned it into the police. Have you ever found money and considered giving it to the police to hold pursuant to a found-property procedure where, if no one claims the property within X days, you get to keep it? Would you turn in the $12,000... knowing that the policy has an exception for property that is considered evidence of criminal activity?

(Knutson had to sue, but she got the money back.)

"Ludicrous, hysterical, brilliant – the top Republican campaign adverts."

Ana Marie Cox assembles and critiques some fabulous material. I don't have time to watch them all just yet, but I did watch Rick Santorum's "Obamaville," and all I can say is I laughed, I cried...

Cox says, about that one: "Hey, people really liked The Ring! Also, the claims are so over-the-top that Obama partisans will be amused as conservatives take slash-fiction pleasure in the visualisation of their most fevered dreams.... The great thing about speculation is that it cannot be fact-checked."

Wow. Ads are getting so good, it's kind of evil. Hold onto your brains, people. It's going to be a crazy year.

"By 5 o'clock today, you're going to have a Republican liver!"

"You're going to love Ann Coulter! You're going to love Glenn Beck!"
"No way!" protested Tim, a staunch Democrat. He swore that even with a chunk of his Republican brother-in-law's liver inside him, he'd never be conservative. The foursome joked and laughed during the 45-minute drive to Lahey. At the hospital, the sisters kissed their husbands goodbye, and the men were wheeled into operating rooms, where surgeons would remove 60% of Paul's liver and give it to Tim, who suffered from advanced liver disease.
A year later Tim was dead, and Paul died in the operating room that day.

"Special prosecutor in Trayvon Martin shooting has decided against sending the case to a grand jury, her office says."

Breaking news at CNN. From the CNN email:
State Attorney Angela Corey, appointed as a special prosecutor in the February shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, has decided against sending the case to a grand jury, her office said Monday.

"The decision should not be considered a factor in the final determination of the case," Corey's office said in a statement.

"At this time, the investigation continues and there will be no further comment from this office," the statement said.

"The Democratic Party has actively encouraged the GOP’s descent into antifeminism."

"And though Democrats have reaped considerable gains from the fallout, their efforts have often ultimately been to the detriment of the country’s women."

Presented for discussion. Read the whole article before reacting to the quote I extracted to get your attention.

"Supreme Court’s Ratings Jump Following Health Care Hearings."

A new Rasmussen poll:
Just before the highly publicized hearing on the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law, ratings for the U.S. Supreme Court had fallen to the lowest level ever measured by Rasmussen Reports. Now, following the hearings, approval of the court is way up.

Forty-one percent (41%) of Likely U.S. Voters now rate the Supreme Court’s performance as good or excellent, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. That’s up 13 points from 28% in mid-March and is the court’s highest ratings in two-and-a-half years.
Ha ha ha ha ha.
It is impossible to know if the improved perceptions of the court came from the hearings themselves, President Obama’s comments cautioning the court about overturning a law passed by Congress, or from other factors. Approval of the court had fallen in three consecutive quarterly surveys prior to the health care hearings.
But pay no attention to the polls, Supreme Court Justices. You shouldn't think about your own popularity. And also, the way to be popular is not to think about it.

Should President Obama be kicking himself over this? Maybe not. The jump in popularity is all coming from Republicans, though it's worth noting that Democrats have stayed in the same position and have not lowered their opinion of the Court. And Obama's disparaging of the Court wasn't for the purpose of turning people against the Court. It was more about: 1. prodding Anthony Kennedy his way, 2. laying a basis for defending his law if the Court happens to call it unconstitutional, and 3. setting up the argument that we really need him to appoint the next couple Supreme Court Justices.

Once mothers — labeled "refrigerator mothers" — were blamed for autism in their children.

It seems so cruel and retrograde now, but:
In the absence of any biomedical explanation for what causes autism after the telltale symptoms were first described by scientists, Bruno Bettelheim, a University of Chicago professor and child development specialist, and other leading psychoanalysts championed the notion that autism was the product of mothers who were cold, distant and rejecting, thus deprived of the chance to "bond properly". The theory was embraced by the medical establishment and went largely unchallenged into the mid-1960s, but its effects have lingered into the 21st century....
As embarrassing and offensive as that sounds to us today, here comes a new way to blame mothers for autism. Ironically, it's refrigerator-related. NPR reports:

139 human individuals... mostly Pakistani soldiers....

... buried under 70 feet of avalanched snow.
The Siachen Glacier, known as the world's highest battleground, is 6,300 meters (20,670 feet) high and spans 77 kilometers (47 miles) across the Line of Control that separates India- and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir...

"It's a very massive scale slide," Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said Saturday. "They are under the slide, but we haven't lost hope. The rescue work is on, and we are keeping our fingers crossed."
Fingers crossed? I didn't want to say anything about how religious people might perceive an giant avalanche that buries the soldiers on one side of a conflict that exists for reasons I have not studied. But I'm surprised to hear a Pakistani general say "we are keeping our fingers crossed," referring to what I've always thought was a Christian gesture. I presume the remark was translated, and I wonder what the general really did say, and what other images and gestures of hope stand in for crossed fingers around the world.

And yet:

"Are public union labor leaders trying to save Scott Walker?"

Paul Fanlund, editor of Madison's venerable (and very liberal) Capital Times, says that many Democrats are asking that question. These Democrats are the Democrats who support Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in the recall primary, who don't like the way his Democratic adversary Kathleen Falk is beating up on him, portraying him as insufficiently union-friendly. Barrett's angle is he's more likely to win, and if Walker is the enemy, then ixnay on Barrett criticism.

It's amusingly similar to the Republican primaries, where some people love Santorum because he's more hardcore, and others want Romney, because you've got to win over the moderates, and they really don't much like the hardcore of your party.

Fanlund seems to spend a lot of time listening to Democratic State Senator Sen. Jon Erpenbach, who has decided to support Barrett:
While loath to criticize Falk... Erpenbach’s decision certainly implies he thinks someone not from Dane County would run strongest statewide: “For me personally, the goal is to get him (Walker) out of office before he does any more damage.”

Erpenbach says he has spoken with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people across the state and collective bargaining is only one of many issues on voters’ minds....

Erpenbach aside, my interviews with other Democrats elicit phrases like “labor leaders are blowing it” and are “being selfish.” One says, “What we don’t need is a circular firing squad” during the next month....
Ha ha. This is just like the way the Republican establishment tries to shush the Tea Party. After all the hard ground work is done by a passionate, ideologically committed group, the party insiders move in to claim a valuable political foothold that they never would have fought for personally, and the theory is they're doing everyone a favor because the protest kids just don't look right in mainstream politics.

Kathleen Falk is getting Christine O'Donnelled! She's getting Sharron Angled!

"Judicial activism is just a charge that conservatives and liberals make at each other when they don’t like a law being struck down."

"It’s really vacuous. It’s a cheap shot that all politicians love to take because it’s easy to level."

Was Obama right to accuse the Republicans of "social Darwinism"?

A philosophy prof — Philip Kitcher — says yes.
The heart of social Darwinism is a pair of theses: first, people have intrinsic abilities and talents (and, correspondingly, intrinsic weaknesses), which will be expressed in their actions and achievements, independently of the social, economic and cultural environments in which they develop; second, intensifying competition enables the most talented to develop their potential to the full, and thereby to provide resources for a society that make life better for all....

So long as social Darwinism is disentangled from the ancillary eugenic and racist ideas, so long as it is viewed in its core form of the two theses... the label President Obama pinned on the Republican budget is completely deserved....
Great label, isn't it? It's completely deserved, and it drags along with it eugenics and racism. But just disentangle those nasty associations, why don't you?

Now, Professor Kitcher, let's move forward with your approach to political labeling. Let's derive a general principle. Let me posit that it is appropriate, in your view, to label a politician with the name of a distinctive and historical ideology that contains some nasty elements, if you can establish that there is a "core" to the ideology that in fact does apply.

Test your commitment to your style of philosophical argument by imagining someone using your approach against Obama (as opposed to defending him, as you did). What if an Obama opponent called Obama's approach to government "socialism" or "communism" or "fascism"? Would you swallow an argument that extracted a couple "core theses" from those ideologies and characterized the inapplicable elements as non-core and expected listeners to disentangle those things?

Or would you say that using language like that is manipulative, deceptive, and devious — a tainted product in the marketplace of ideas? Imagine a marketplace not of ideas but of food, and a butcher who's got luscious piles of ground beef up for sale. He knows it contains e. coli, but he figures it's not core and people can disentangle it. Imagine your friend bought and ate that beef and got sick and said to you: I'm never going back to that butcher! Would you say: Oh, that's silly. You got beef, which was what he was selling. You should simply cook ground beef well enough that any e. coli is destroyed. He's a perfectly good butcher.

What's the most misaligned aspect of my analogy? It's that the butcher would prefer to have untainted meat to sell. He's not using meat as a vehicle for delivering e. coli.

April 8, 2012

Wisconsin "will be at the epicenter of American politics" for "at least the next two months."

Says Dan Balz at the Washington Post, explaining the importance of the recall effort to unseat Gov. Scott Walker.
This homegrown fight has national implications. Walker has become a symbol of Republican governance in today’s GOP. He is campaigning energetically and unapologetically, arguing that he took courageous action to deal with his state’s severe fiscal problems — the same thing Republicans are saying should be done nationally. Walker contends that his policies have been good for the state’s economy and its taxpayers.

His opponents see those policies almost exactly the way President Obama described the federal budget written by Walker’s Wisconsin soul mate, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, and passed recently by the House. Last week, Obama called the Ryan budget a radical document that would put the country in decline. That echoes the view of Walker’s opponents, who say his actions have hurt the state and unfairly punished state employees....

Goodbye to Mike Wallace.

The monumental broadcaster was 93.

ADDED: Here's a nicely detailed obit. Excerpt:
Mr. Wallace was a master of the skeptical follow-up question, coaxing his prey with a "forgive me, but…" or a simple, "come on."...

His late colleague Harry Reasoner once said, "There is one thing that Mike can do better than anybody else: With an angelic smile, he can ask a question that would get anyone else smashed in the face."

Mr. Wallace said he didn't think he had an unfair advantage over his interview subjects: "The person I'm interviewing has not been subpoenaed. He's in charge of himself, and he lives with his subject matter every day. All I'm armed with is research."

The man who says "marvelous," Part 2, the Clint Eastwood version.

Via EDH, in the comments to "Romney, the man who says 'marvelous,'" where we are talking about the extent to which it is unmanly for a man to say "marvelous."

One year into Obama's presidency, David Brooks wrote "he has come to seem like the sovereign on the cover of 'Leviathan'..."

"... the brain of the nation to which all the cells in the body and the nervous system must report and defer."

Brooks is talking about the bookcover that illustrates the previous post ("Romney, the man who says 'marvelous'"). He writes that "the illustration shows the British nation as a large man. The people make up the muscles and flesh. Then at the top, there is the king, who is the head and the mind."

Does Brooks marvel at Obama visualized as a large man and  we us the People as the muscles and flesh that constitute his body? Did Brooks abase himself and slobber that much?

Romney, the man who says "marvelous."

Obama mocked Romney this way: "He said that he's 'very supportive' of this new budget, and he even called it 'marvelous' — which is a word you don't often hear when it comes to describing a budget." Comic pause. "It's a word you don't often hear generally."

This Reuters article takes the position that Obama meant us to think that a man who says "marvelous" is "out of touch" because "marvelous" is "a seemingly out of date" word. Reuters also quotes a polisci prof saying, "It's a word you kind of associate with the upper class, and I think that the intention was to tweak Romney for being wealthy and, you know, sort of brought up in the kinds of circles where they would say ‘marvelous.'"

Wealthy? Old fashioned? My first association, on hearing one man mock another for saying "marvelous," was: Gay. It's an I'm-more-manly move. I heard a smidgeon of homophobia. Perhaps I heard it because, a few days ago, on winning the Wisconsin primary, Romney introduced Ryan, saying: "Congressman Ryan, he's a great leader, wonderful speaker, but he's not gonna take Ann's place." (Ann being, of course, Mitt's wife.) At the time, I quipped: "Combatting the 'bromance' rumors!"

This is just a meme watch. Note that the budget Romney was talking about was Paul Ryan's budget. The alliance of Romney and Ryan is so good that I suspect the Obama campaign will toy with mockery that has a homophobic edge. Let's make their "marriage" seem unseemly. Not so blatantly that they can't deny it. Any homophobia can be disguised within a socially acceptable distaste for the rich. The word "effete" was practically created for this purpose. Do you remember when Vice President Spiro Agnew derided antiwar protesters as "an effete corps of impudent snobs"?

The word "marvelous" — which means "Such as to excite wonder or astonishment (chiefly in a positive sense); wonderful, astonishing, surprising; worthy of admiration" (OED) — is a very old word, going back to c1330: "Þe fift ledde Andalas, A kniȝt of meruailus los he was." (Arthour & Merlin.) The first use with modern spelling — the double L remains current — is from Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan ii. xxvi:  "Miracles are Marvellous workes: but that which is marvellous to one, may not be so to another." And I like the  D. H. Lawrence:  "Their loving grew more mechanical, without the marvellous glamour." (Sons & Lovers xiii. 365.)

By the way, there's also an archaic and regional use of "marvelous," but that is as an adverb. You get things like:  "Nancy Clemens... quoted a farmer who had been hurt in a motor accident: ‘No bones broke,’ said he, ‘but I sure was scratched up marvellous.’" (V. Randolph & G. P. Wilson Down in Holler 161.) That seems quite the opposite of effete. It's folksy. I could imagine some politician using that, probably quoting somebody... some farmer.

But Romney uttered "marvelous," the adjective. He was talking about Paul Ryan's budget, and Obama snickered. Am I wrong to hear a tone of homophobia? I Googled "gay men say marvelous." Sorry, to be so crude, but research can be so easy and I got the most marvelous return. It's Noël Coward's "I've Been To A Marvellous Party," in which male homosexuality and excessive wealth are merged marvelously. Listen to the whole thing, but here's the penultimate verse:
I went to a marvellous party we didn't sit down til ten
Y'know young Bobby Carr did a stunt at the bar with a lot of extraordinary men
And then Freda arrived with a turtle which shattered us all to the core
And then the Duchess passed out at a quarter to three
And suddenly Cyril cried 'fiddle-de-de'
And he ripped off his trousers and jumped in the sea
I couldn't have liked it more...
I'm just waiting for young Paul Ryan to do a stunt at the bar with a lot of extraordinary men and then for Mitt Romney to suddenly cry "fiddle-de-de" and rip off his trousers and jump in the sea. And then Obama arrives with a turtle...

Who doesn't like the turtle? And the Leviathan?