December 15, 2012

"It's really nice having a computer to help."

"She did what she was trained to do, but also what her heart told her to do."

"I would expect nothing less from Vicki."

ADDED: The woman on the phone (in the iconic photo) is Jillian Soto, Vicki's sister.

"9 Things I Couldn't Get Anyone to Write About."

"59 is the age we think women should start aging gracefully aka stop having fun... 5 Types Of People 'I will always have sex with'...."

"We too are asking why..."

"Like so many of you, we are saddened, but struggling to make sense of what has transpired."

"So I will not be writing the scenes of the well-meaning but ineffectual school guidance counselor giving the teenager advice that ironically pushes him closer to destruction..."

"... the casually incomprehending teachers joking about him in the lounge; the parental arguments caused by the stress of having to deal with an unfathomable evil in their house (plus the deadpan authorial hints that maybe they had something to do with it); the school classmates taunting him and driving him further into fury... You can imagine all this as well as I can."

After the Tucson massacre, the Justice Department drew up gun control ideas and let them drop.

The NYT reports.
While it is not clear whether any of the proposals would have had an effect on the massacre at an Connecticut elementary school, the set of recommendations could provide a blueprint if the Obama administration chooses to go forward with more aggressive steps to curb gun violence. The Justice Department’s list included several measures that President Obama could enact by executive order even if Congress failed to take any new actions.

"President Obama will nominate Sen. John Kerry to be Secretary of State..."

"... a democrat who spoke to the senator says."

Email just now from CNN (including the lower-case "d" on "democrat").

"Curiously, during the period before deinstitutionalization, the mentally ill seem to have been less likely to be arrested for serious crimes than the general population."

"Studies in New York and Connecticut from the 1920s through the 1940s showed a much lower arrest rate for the mentally ill. In an era when involuntary commitment was relatively easy, those who were considered a danger to themselves or others would be hospitalized at the first signs of serious mental illness. The connection between insanity and crime was apparent, and the society took a precautionary approach. Mentally ill persons who were not hospitalized were those not considered a danger to others. This changed as deinstitutionalization took effect."

From "Madness, Deinstitutionalization & Murder," by Clayton Cramer.

At the Micro-Climate Café...

... you can have your coffee iced or extra hot, you can sit near the door or over by the fireplace, and you can be perfectly pleasant or give everyone hell.

After skipping a trip due to a stomach virus, Hillary Clinton faints and has a concussion.

And guess what?
Congressional aides do not expect her to testify as scheduled at congressional hearings on Thursday into the Sept. 11 attack against a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador.
I'm sorry if she's really sick and that she hurt herself, but I do not accept her weaseling out of the Benghazi hearings.

ADDED: As several commenters have noted, these physical ailments, used as excuses for stepping up to duty, are damaging to her image as a potential presidential candidate. Will she be up for the 3 a.m. phone call? I can only think of 2 reasons why her people would let us hear this story that she fainted, addled her pate, and can't face up to Congress on Benghazi: 1. She's not going to run for President, or 2. What she would have to say about Benghazi is more damaging than this effort to avoid testifying.

"There is, of course, no way to monitor the conversations that take place in living rooms around the country. But we can measure the frequency with which phrases related to gun policy are used by the news media."

Says Nate Silver, whose methodology requires countable things, under the headline "In Public ‘Conversation’ on Guns, a Rhetorical Shift." ("Conversation" is in quotes, because it's not really a conversation.)

What he's found is that the phrase "gun control" is much less common than it was years ago, while "gun rights" and "Second Amendment" have grown steadily. What does it mean? Nate Silver guesses — or purports to guess — quite badly (I'd say):
The change in rhetoric may reflect the increasing polarization in the debate over gun policy. “Gun control,” a relatively neutral term, has been used less and less often. But more politically charged phrases, like “gun violence” and “gun rights,” have become more common. 
If "gun control" is avoided, it's because those who would like to push it believe the public doesn't like it! It's not that we used to be more neutral and have become more politically charged.
Those who advocate greater restrictions on gun ownership may have determined that their most persuasive argument is to talk about the consequences of increased access to guns — as opposed to the weedy debate about what rights the Second Amendment may or may not convey to gun owners. 
Weedy debate? As if those who speak in terms of constitutional rights are in the weeds. This presentation of rights is quite disgusting: 1. People believe in their rights, and it's that real belief that gives life and endurance to our rights; 2. This belief in gun rights endured over time, even as elite legalists largely believed they were just about nothing (so it's not an abstruse, academic topic but nearly the opposite); and 3. The Second Amendment doesn't "convey" rights it refers to a right and declares that it "shall not be infringed."

There was a time when rights were real to liberals. Now, oh, let's not talk about some text that may or may not transmit who knows what to us.

Is Obama a man of "meaningful action" when it comes to gun control?

Let's go back to December 30, 1999, an article in the Chicago Tribune:
In a surreal day of political maneuvering, even for Springfield, [Senate President James "Pate" Philip] defied [Gov. George Ryan] for the third time this month, leaving the governor glowering and vowing to make passage of the [gun control] bill his priority when the spring session begins Jan. 12. ... Ryan began the day confident his last-minute push across the state had won him enough votes to prevail over his chief Republican nemesis.

But then the governor discovered that two senators who had promised to vote for his compromise bill — Barack Obama (D-Chicago) and Kathleen Parker (R-Northbrook) — had decided to remain on vacation instead of returning to the capital for the third special session since the original law was struck down on Dec. 2.

Furious, Ryan tried to track them down, hoping to send a state plane to whisk them back to Springfield. But no one was in Parker's office, and aides to Obama, who was in Hawaii, refused to tell the governor's staff how to find him....
Here's Obama's version of the story from "The Audacity of Hope" (which I was searching for evidence of his opinion on gun control):
[D]uring the Christmas holidays, after having traveled to Hawaii for an abbreviated five-day trip to visit my grandmother and reacquaint myself with Michelle and then-eighteen-month-old Malia, the state legislature was called back into special session to vote on a piece of gun control legislation. With Malia sick and unable to fly, I missed the vote, and the bill failed. Two days later, I got off the red-eye at O’Hare Airport, a wailing baby in tow, Michelle not speaking to me, and was greeted by a front-page story in the Chicago Tribune indicating that the gun bill had fallen a few votes short, and that state senator and congressional candidate Obama “had decided to remain on vacation” in Hawaii. My campaign manager called, mentioning the potential ad [incumbent Democratic Congressman Bobby Rush] might be running soon—palm trees, a man in a beach chair and straw hat sipping a mai tai, a slack key guitar being strummed softly in the background, the voice-over explaining, “While Chicago suffered the highest murder rate in its history, Barack Obama…”
(For what it's worth: Rush's son had been shot to death in October.)

Is Obama a man of "meaningful action" when it comes down to real gun-control legislation? I'm betting no. He'll talk about guns when plying liberals with lines like "cling to guns or religion" and while performing in the Theater of Grief after a momentous massacre, but when it comes to actual action, he's more the man in the beach chair and straw hat sipping a mai tai .

Dancing with the Devil... for Christmas...

... in simpler times:

"I'm not completely convinced that your intentions are honorable."

The origins of Ed Grimley.

From a Vanity Fair article about Martin Short:
Grimley grew out of an existing Second City sketch called “Sexist,” in which a male employer interviewed two candidates for a job, one an accomplished, over-achieving young woman played by the future SCTV star Catherine O’Hara, the other a flagrantly stupid man—“the joke being,” Short said, “that the guy who’s hiring says, ‘You’re both so good, I can’t make up my mind!’ ”
Click "read more" for the part that made me laugh out loud.

"Adam Lanza has been a weird kid since we were 5 years old... As horrible as this was, I can't say I am surprised... Burn in hell, Adam."

A tweet from a neighbor. And:
Nancy Lanza, 54, whom Adam murdered inside the home the two shared, reportedly had worked at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But more recently, she was taking care of her son.

“She needed to be home with Adam,” the family insider said.
I'm seeing a lot of post-Newtown proposals for more gun control — and resistance to these proposals. It's not surprising that each new massacre becomes an occasion to restate positions on gun control, with redoubled enthusiasm.

But why isn't there more talk about institutionalizing the mentally ill? Adam Lanza's mother needed to be home with him? What 20-year-old needs pervasive supervision from his mother? I suspect the mother, who is now dead, had very serious problems of her own. I can't understand her keeping those 3 weapons — pictured at the link — in the home along with a 20-year-old man who — in her view — required her stay-at-home motherhood.

We're so sympathetic to children, and now we're distracted by our sympathy for the dead children, but what about all the deeply troubled young people? Why are we so sympathetic to them up until the point where they act? Or... I mean... why does our sympathy toward the mentally ill take the form of regarding them as socially awkward and weird and leaving them alone?

ADDED: Why did Adam, after killing his mother, travel to the school where she worked? Shouldn't some suspicion fall on the mother? She looks like a victim, but could she and her son have been operating together? News reports say the guns were "apparently" hers, and Adam was buzzed past security at the school because the principal "recognized him as the son of a colleague." If she was a "colleague" and had such a troubled son, why hadn't she conveyed this information to them? If she was staying home from work to deal with his problems, why didn't they know it? What were her issues with them?

UPDATE: Now, the word is that Adam was not buzzed in.

UPDATE 2: The NYT publishes an article about what a "big, big gun fan" Nancy Lanza was.

UPDATE 3: WaPo on Nancy Lanza, who doesn't seem to have worked at the school her son targeted. There was a lot of inaccurate reporting on this incident! My suspicion at "ADDED," above, was largely premised on Adam's going to her workplace. Wouldn't she have been the one with hostility toward that particular place? It wasn't his school. Was her hostility conveyed to him somehow? But if it wasn't her workplace, those questions don't arise. Mysteries remain about what went on between these 2 individuals, and it would be helpful to know whether the mother might have done something to protect the rest of us from her dangerous son. That she failed even to protect herself does not close that door of inquiry.

Obama promises "meaningful action... regardless of the politics."


Obama's statement is... free polls 

"Meaningful" was a vogue word circa 1970s. Back when people were acting as if sex outside of marriage was new idea and "pre-marital sex" seemed to be missing the point, the term "meaningful relationships" had its day. That faded over time. I'm not sure exactly how or when. It wasn't just sex but also politics that were supposed to be meaningful. One imagined wellsprings of inner satisfaction opening up. It was almost even religious. Or not religious, but spiritual. A rabbi wrote a book called "The Politics of Meaning." It turned Hillary Clinton on and made Michael Kelly write a NYT article titled "Saint Hillary."
Driven by the increasingly common view that something is terribly awry with modern life, Mrs. Clinton is searching for not merely programmatic answers but for The Answer. Something in the Meaning of It All line, something that would inform everything from her imminent and all-encompassing health care proposal to ways in which the state might encourage parents not to let their children wander all hours of the night in shopping malls.
That was written in 1993. (Michael Kelly died in 2003, in service as an embedded journalist in Iraq.) In 2008, Jonah Goldberg published a book called "Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning." In 2010, we got our all-encompassing health care, not from Saint Hillary, but from Saint Barack. We called it Obamacare, because Obama cares, cares about meaning, regardless of the politics.

Barack Obama has written 2 books. The word "meaningful" appears once in "Dreams from My Father" ("meaningful time frame") and 7 times in "The Audacity of Hope":
1. "[W]hat binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done."

2. "I have criticized the [Bush] Administration for lacking a meaningful health-care agenda...."

3. "[T]he standards and principles that the majority of Americans deem important in their lives, and in the life of the country—should be the heart of our politics, the cornerstone of any meaningful debate about budgets and projects, regulations and policies."

4. "[W]e already have hard evidence of [school] reforms that work... meaningful, performance-based assessments that can provide a fuller picture of how a student is doing...."

5. "[A lesbian] knew when she decided to support me that I was opposed to same-sex marriage, and she had heard me argue that, in the absence of any meaningful consensus, the heightened focus on marriage was a distraction from other, attainable measures to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians."

6. "[W]here there’s strong evidence of prolonged and systematic discrimination by large corporations, trade unions, or branches of municipal government, goals and timetables for minority hiring may be the only meaningful remedy available."

7. "I wanted to call [an immigration activist group] and explain that American citizenship is a privilege and not a right; that without meaningful borders and respect for the law, the very things that brought them to America... would surely erode...."
What meaning is contained in "meaningful" for Barack Obama, specifically, and for all of us?

Something terrible has happened. Children were killed, seemingly senselessly. We are bereft of meaning. The President deems it meaningful to speak, to offer us meaning, not for why that happened, but in the future. An action has horrified us, an action in the past, which we cannot change. But in the future, actions can be taken. We can do something there in that place of hope. So meaning, meaning... where is meaning? Put it in the future, where the action is. Meaningful action.

There, now. Are you salved? Are you saved? Is there meaning?

Terms used to describe NYU School of Law...

... in this Washington Examiner column:
1. "ultraliberal law school that sues the government for not doing what its professors want."

2. "litigious lodge [with] its mean junkyard dog, the Institute for Policy Integrity, an adviser-ridden think tank with a cheeky name."

3. "bastion of the dark arts." [To be fair: that's just referring to the IPI.]
(It's of possible interest that I graduated from that law school 3 decades ago.)

"Feeling a little bit worn? Need to upgrade your body?"

"We've been doing it for a long time. An overview of more recent advances and a near-future timeline."

"How Maps Helped Republicans Keep an Edge in the House."

Headline at the NYT, where the first 2 paragraphs talk about Wisconsin. Is Wisconsin a clear majority-Democrat state rigged at the district level to elect Republicans?

It's hard to analyze exactly how bad or unfair this is. Either party, when it controls redistricting, takes advantage, and Democrats have the special problem that is referred to in the article as "“unintentional gerrymandering": "the natural geographic patterns that lead many Democrats to choose to live in dense, urban areas with very high concentrations of Democrats, effectively packing themselves into fewer districts." (Strangely worded, no?)

It's not hard to see that Democrats' majority in Wisconsin is caused by a concentration of Democrats in Milwaukee and Madison, and the representatives from these districts can lean way left without risking defeat in the next election. Is it necessarily evidence of a problem that elsewhere in the state, the elections are closer and Republicans can win?
In states where Republicans controlled the [redistricting] process, [a study] found, their candidates won roughly 53 percent of the vote — and 72 percent of the seats. And in the states where Democrats controlled the process, their candidates won about 56 percent of the vote and 71 percent of the seats.
That doesn't mean the Republicans are more advantage-taking than Democrats, though, because of the way the population is dispersed.
An analysis by The New York Times of states where courts, commissions or divided governments drew the maps found a much smaller disparity between the share of the popular vote and the number of seats won in Congress. In those states, the analysis found, Democrats won slightly more than half the vote and 56 percent of the seats, while Republicans won 46 percent of the vote and 44 percent of the seats.
Isn't this because the Democrats, when they control, choose not to cut up those urban districts? And which states ended up in that comparison group and why? I'd like to know more detail. Why is there no more detail? Articles like this clearly serve the political purposes of the Democratic party, stoking the belief that the Democrats really deserve much more power than is reflected in actual legislatures. 

"It’s high time we demolish this unconstitutional and abusive system that violates basic human rights, fuels instability and smears the government’s image."

An end to China's system of re-education-through-work camps?
Liu Jie, 60, a former business executive from Heilongjiang Province, served a two-year sentence for “disturbing social order,” punishment for releasing a public letter demanding political and legal reform. She described how roughneck inmates violently imposed the guards’ will in return for reduced sentences. One particular thrashing cost her several front teeth and left her temporarily blind in one eye.

When she complained about dizziness from the paint used to make paper lanterns, Ms. Liu said, she was hogtied to a chair for a week, a dreaded punishment known as the “tiger bench.” Deprived of food and water for several days, she said, she repeatedly lost consciousness. “When they unshackled me from the chair, my legs had turned black with bruises.”

In a 2009 report, Chinese Human Rights Defenders documented what it called a “hotbed of injustice,” with inmates sometimes working 20-hour days to produce chopsticks, firecrackers, cardboard boxes or handbags.

December 14, 2012

It isn't news, "it's just rubbernecking," turning "this murdering little twat into a a sort of nihilistic pinup boy."

(Via Reddit, where there are nearly 2,000 comments.)

At the Snowball Café...

... let's play! It's so exciting!


"Café," here at the Althouse blog, signifies an open thread in the comments. Write about what you like. And if you happen to have any shopping you need to do, entering Amazon through this link will — at no extra cost to you — send me: 1. some money, and 2. the message that you appreciate what this blog gives to you. (That link is always at the top of the page, under the blog's title: click "Shop Amazon.")

"Cornball brother."

There's a current controversy about some ESPN commentator musing over whether RG3 is a "cornball brother."
"My question, which is just a straight honest question: is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?" [Rob] Parker asked... "Well... he's black, he kind of does his thing, but he's not really down with the cause, he's not one of us. He's kind of black, but he's not really the guy you'd really want to hang out with, because he's off to do something else.... I want to find out about him.... I don't know because I keep hearing these things. We all know he has a white fiancee. Then there was all this talk about he's a Republican...."
All right. I just want to talk about the word "cornball," which strikes me as a very old fashioned word. I mean, I thought it was weird hearing Marlon Brando use the word in his 1953 movie "The Wild One":
Kathie Bleeker: Well, what d'ya do? I mean, do you just ride around or do you go on some sort of a picnic or something?

Johnny: A picnic? Man, you are too square. I'm... I... I'll have to straighten you out. Now, listen, you don't go any one special place. That's cornball style. You just go.
Brando's Johnny was the leader of a motorcycle gang that rode into a small town and scared people like Kathie Bleeker. I saw that movie when I was in college, circa 1970, and we thought it was very funny that Brando said "cornball." For years, perhaps decades, we amused ourselves by saying "That's cornball style," Brando-style, usually with an added, "Man, you are too square."

But maybe "cornball" has made a comeback, maybe specifically in the context of "cornball brother." I check Urban Dictionary, and (unsurprisingly) it's got a couple of completely new entries inspired by the RG3 flap: "A classy, intelligent African-American athlete. The kind of guy who dominates his enemies and doesn't fall in line with the opinion of douchebags — a freethinker and warrior." Fine, but not responsive to my inquiry. "Cornball" was the April 13, 2005 Urban Word of the Day with the definition: "Of a cheesy, corny, and otherwise over-the-top feelgood nature. Virtually any inspirational quote that makes you shudder." (The example given is of George Bush saying something deemed "cornball.") There's another entry — with more down than up votes — from 2005:
Its that dumbass motherfucker that says stupid ass shit and acts like a moron... STOP DOIN THAT! U AINT GOT NO FRIENDS GO HOME!
Okay, so... let's look at the Oxford English Dictionary, where if we skip past the references to "a sweetmeat made of popped corn or maize" — "Nanny remained near the dutch oven to keep us supplied with red-hot pones, or corn-balls" 1843 — we get to the metaphorical use of "a 'corny' person," with the first appearance being a mere 1 year before "The Wild One":
1952   R. C. Ruark in H. Wentworth & S. B. Flexner Dict. Amer. Slang (1960) 124/2   Eisenhower on no account can be called a cornball.
Now, the use of "corny" to refer to a kind of person goes back to 1932, according to the OED. The derivation is obvious as the word means "Of such a type as appeals to country-folk; rustic or unsophisticated; tiresomely or ridiculously old-fashioned or sentimental; hackneyed, trite; inferior."
1932   Melody Maker June 511/1   The ‘bounce’ of the brass section... has degenerated into a definitely ‘corny’ and staccato style of playing.
1935   Peabody (Mass.) Bull. Dec. 42/2   Corny—Derived from cornfed, meaning [music] played in country style, out of date, hill-billy, or in a style of pre-1925....
That's as much light as I can shed right now on the word cornball, which — you get my point — seems to be a word that is itself cornball.

"Most of these comments are horribly insensitive."

"Are you not capable of mourning the horrific loss of these poor dear innocent souls without turning this into a vituperative bromide about your personal views on gun control?"

Comment among many hundreds of comments at the NYT article about the Connecticut massacre.

The Washington Post has a system of badges for commenters.

You can nominate yourself or someone else for high-quality comments in the following categories, and if WaPo agrees, your comments will appear with one of these icons next to your name:
A badge for comments on politics and national affairs.
A badge for comments on Washington area news and trends.
A badge for comments on Washington area sports events and news.
A badge for comments on international affairs.
A badge for those trained by the National Weather Service as Skywarn Spotters.
If I could do a system of badges for the blog commenting here at Althouse, I might like having 5 different badges, but I'd have different categories! Help me fantasize about what the badges could be. And feel free to provide graphic design for the badges.

"An official with knowledge of a shooting at a Connecticut elementary school says 27 people are dead, including 18 children."

I'm afraid the intense news coverage of these shooting sprees leads to more of the same, but I can see in the comments that people will keep referring to it off-topic if I don't make it a topic, and the fact that so many are dead and so many of the dead are children makes it harder to look away, even though if we look because so many are dead and because so many of the dead are children and if looking leads to more shooting sprees, then we are saying to the future killers that they should aim for children and keep shooting. Obviously, it's very easy to know where and when to find concentrated populations of children.

AND: Isn't it wrong for media to display photographs of the faces of terrified children?

All over the world, women are self-comforting...

... grasping their skirt hems and rolling, rolling them upward, absent-mindedly.

Meanwhile, women eat cupcakes, cupcakes, which were ranked among the 10 most overrated things in the world, which made me say:
The only reason cupcakes are popular is because people have forgotten actual cake, which is moist and tender. Cupcakes have way too much edge... and that fluting doubles the already-too-much edge. But if you never eat real cake, you don't notice. It's like how good crackers are if you never have bread or how good a popsicle is if you never get a nice big dish of ice cream.

But people won't go back to cake, because you can't get a slice of cake and carry it around with you on the street. How would it be presented? It can't be sliced and left out on the shelves like cupcakes. You'd need some saran wrap or something to keep it from getting dried out.

So here, lonely ladies of America, here's your pre-dried-out cake: cupcake.

It sounds like something an old-fashioned guy would call you if he thinks you're pretty, so maybe you're thinking about him as you walk down the street licking icing and choking down dry cake... and tears.

"The ten most overrated things in the world [SLIDESHOW]."

Let me guess. Is one of the things internet slideshows? Top 10 lists?
Noted author and essayist Christopher Hitchens once said that the four most overrated things in life are champagne, lobsters, anal sex and picnics.
First sentence at the link. So much better than anything in the slide show that you've got to click through. I miss Christopher Hitchens. He wasn't overrated.

ADDED: After reading the comments (and writing some), I've gotten to the point where I can give the first 3 of my top 10 most overrated things in the world:
1. Sitting in an audience, listening/watching something on a stage/screen.
2. Working at some fucking job.
3. Bruce Springsteen.

Obama's useless response to the Colorado/Washington marijuana issue.

"We've got bigger fish to fry... It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it's legal."

This is no help at all. It states the obvious, and it says what's true about federal policy toward all the states. The feds are not prosecuting the small-time user. The question in Colorado and Washington state is about how the state is supposed to manage the situation, given the conflict with federal law. They've asked for a federal response, and this gives them absolutely no new information.

He does say a  bit more...
"This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law.... I head up the executive branch; we're supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what we're going to need to have is a conversation about, How do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it's legal?"
... but that's restating the question, not answering it.

What we're going to need to have is a conversation about... that's so annoying. Give an answer!

"Top 10 Emotional Intelligence Moments of 2012."

Some are high EQ and some are low. #6 is a fascinating low: a restaurant owner at a Romney campaign stop who suddenly wipes Romney's face — vigorously, with a napkin — just trying to help). #4 is a wonderful low, an inert man in a nursing home, revived by music. I love the part where the interviewer needs to be told to ask a yes-or-no question, and the man is able to respond, going far beyond yes/no. And then he's asked "What does music do to you?" and he says springs to life, saying:
It gives me the feeling of love — romance! I figure right now the world needs to come into music, singing — you've got beautiful music here.
Romance... that made me want to rethink the previous post about Egypt banning "romantic" songs on state TV and radio.

"The broadcasting of any 'romantic' songs or music videos on Egyptian state television channels has been banned..."

"... a state-run newspaper announced on Thursday, adding that only 'patriotic' tunes will be allowed to be aired."
Nationalistic tunes “that are worth broadcasting” will be allowed...
That's a strange way to put it.
Meanwhile, sarcastic songs mocking public figures will be also banned because of the “sensitiveness of the political situation,” it said....
Oh, great. No sarcasm? That should help.
Online, social media users have already begun question the ban on romantic musical interludes....[Twitter] user @_amroali, asking: “How do romantic songs cause chaos?”

Commenters were also reposting the phrase “Egypt kills love.”

But Egyptian blogger Mina Naguib, who has written widely on recent political instability in the country, doubts the authenticity of the news and has suggested it could all just be a rumor; a tool he believes is used by officials to “distract” Egyptians.
Distracted by the possibility of no love songs? Well, I'm obviously distracted. Don't be distracted!

"Inmate hatched castration plot after Justin Bieber didn't return his love letters..."

We're told Dana Martin, 45, felt like a "nobody" in prison, and now, we're all talking about him. Pretty impressive: A prisoner — in for life after killing a girl — is able to seize the headlines. He should be a nobody, but now, he's been allowed to become a big old celebrity and to tie his name to that of a mega-celebrity:
Martin — who has a large tattoo of Bieber on his leg — offered $2,500 for each of Bieber’s testicles, which were to be snipped off with a pair of Fiskars Durasharp pruning shears last month, records show.
I think we should have prevented this: Martin's leap into fame.  And we should not be talking about "Bieber's testicles." Talk about Anne Hathaway's vulva if you want: She flashed photographers. But Bieber has kept his pants on and has nothing to do with the despicable nobody Martin.

Sorry to be part of the machine that is making Martin famous, but I want to call out everyone who's getting off on this story.

I know that it's possible for prisoners to commit crimes from prison by hiring others and that it's not automatically a big joke. But specifying the brand of the pruning shears and the pattern of the tie to be used for strangling (paisley) smells like dark comedy. It should not be this easy for a prisoner to amuse himself and aggrandize himself this way. Martin killed a 15-year-old girl and is a life prisoner: turn the spotlight elsewhere.

Why does Marquette University offer a course on J.R.R. Tolkien?

Because he's popular, of course, but also because they have the manuscripts:
Marquette is one of the main repositories of Tolkien's drafts, drawings and other writings _ more than 11,000 pages. It has the manuscripts for "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit," as well as his lesser-known "Farmer Giles of Ham" and his children's book "Mr. Bliss."...

... Marquette students [study] Tolkien's revisions, notes, detailed calendars, maps and watercolors on site at the school's archive....

"One of the things we wanted to impress upon the students was the fact that Tolkien was a fanatical reviser," said [the school's archivist Bill Fliss]. "He never really did anything once and was finished with it."
Why does Marquette have the manuscripts?
Marquette was the first institution to ask Tolkien for the manuscripts in 1956 and paid him about $5,000.

December 13, 2012

"I confess I feel somewhat bewildered by what you have just told me..."

"... to be born, or at any rate, bred, in a handbag, whether it had handles or not..."

Via Terry Teachout.

At the Black Dog Café...


... there's lots of bright, cold... mud. And I don't know what made you lie down in that muddy puddle — again and again. But you brought it home, and you're decorating our house with it... in mid-December. Meade got out the vacuum cleaner, when maybe what we really need is the Christmas tree... in that box, down there in the basement.

"It was one of my early goals to be a millionaire."

"In the beginning, I wanted to have a gold Rolex, a Rolls-Royce, a cheetah — just stupid things that you think of when you're a kid. Then time goes by. The Rolls-Royce thing went out the window, because when you get to the level where you can afford one, all of a sudden you say, 'It's a little bit over the top.' A cheetah? I think in California they got rid of the law that says you can have wild animals. Having a cheetah is a stupid idea."

The man who invented the bar code also "perfected a system for delivering elevator music efficiently."

N. Joseph Woodland was an undergraduate in the 1940s, when he got the idea of "record[ing] 15 simultaneous audio tracks on 35-millimeter film stock" ("existing methods... relied on LPs and reel-to-reel tapes").
He planned to pursue the project commercially, but his father, who had come of age in “Boardwalk Empire”-era Atlantic City, forbade it: elevator music, he said, was controlled by the mob, and no son of his was going to come within spitting distance.
Elevator music... and the mob. It's all so evil! Then Woodland, as a grad student, heard about the need to encode product data efficiently. He dropped out of grad school, "holed up at his grandparents’ home in Miami Beach," and "spent the winter of 1948-49 in a chair in the sand, thinking." He thought about Morse code, which he'd learned in the Boy Scouts.
“What I’m going to tell you sounds like a fairy tale,” Mr. Woodland told Smithsonian magazine in 1999. “I poked my four fingers into the sand and for whatever reason — I didn’t know — I pulled my hand toward me and drew four lines. I said: ‘Golly! Now I have four lines, and they could be wide lines and narrow lines instead of dots and dashes.’ ”
N. Joseph Woodland died last Sunday at the age of 91.

Susan Rice withdraws.

"I didn’t want to see a confirmation process that was very prolonged, very politicized, very distracting and very disruptive because there are so many things we need to get done," she says.

I stand by what I said 2 weeks ago: We were "being played by a political maneuver designed to keep us from looking deeply and broadly into the issues surrounding the Benghazi attack." We were lured into focusing on and talking about Rice:
She was sent out onto 5 Sunday talk shows a few days after the attack, to say something about that terrible video, which is itself a contrivance, a distraction. So make it about the video and embody that in a specific person, whom we never noticed before. And let's yammer about her for weeks and months until we're tired of talking about her, and then — who knows? — John Kerry is the real choice for Secretary of State. Rice was always expendable. She was the capsule into which the Benghazi scandal was enclosed for burial. Once we're tired of Rice... we'll automatically already be tired of talking about the Benghazi scandal, which never even broke!
Ah, but the news comes out today — coincidence? — that Hillary Clinton is going to testify on Benghazi before both the House and the Senate committees.

"It kind of made me sad on two accounts. One was that I was very sad that we live in an age..."

"... when someone takes a picture of another person in a vulnerable moment and rather than delete it — and do the decent thing — sells it. And I’m sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies sexuality of unwilling participants, which brings us back to 'Les Mis,' that's what my character is, she is someone who is forced to sell sex to benefit her child because she has nothing and there's no social safety net. Yeah so let’s get back to 'Les Mis.'"

So there we see how smart Anne Hathaway is. (And what a lout Lauer is.)

"Flight attendants at Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific Airways are threatening to withhold food, alcohol and even smiles..."

"... from passengers during the Christmas holidays over a pay dispute, a union official said Thursday."

"The L.A. house, nestled between West Hollywood and Beverly Hills and blessed with terrific views, is by far his most modern creation..."

I love this Daniel Romualdez place:

ADDED: I don't pin that much, but looking at the 4 things I've pinned as "interior decoration," I'm confronted with how much I like white.

"And after the miracle birth, Joseph and Mary rejoiced by eating the giant Cheeto."

Regretsy... making fun of Etsy, which I was just reading about here ("Etsy Crafts A Strategy For Staying Handmade And Profitable").

"When you get divorced, all the truths that come out, you sit there and you go, 'What the f*** was I doing?'"

"'What was I doing believing that this person was invested in this way?' Which is a fantastically strong humiliation in the best sense..."

Says Sean Penn, who doesn't "feel that I have ever been loved."

Why are you fat?

Barbara Walters asks Chris Christie.

He doesn't know why, and if he could figure out why, he'd fix it. Then he says it doesn't mean he's not capable of serving as President. But, come on, when you're President, all the world's problems are yours, and you'd better be good at figuring out what's wrong. These problems are much more complicated than why he's fat! He not just a bit chubby. He's very fat. Whatever the subtleties of why people get fat, a good percentage of what he's carting around has got to be from just plain gorging himself. How can he sit there with a straight, sincere face and say "If I could figure out why, I'd fix it"? At least we have video showing us how he looks when he's lying.

"Of all the constraints imposed on us that restrict our freedom — constraints of morality and decorum, constraints of class and finance..."

"... one of the earliest that is forced upon us is the constraint of a language that we are forced to learn so that others can talk to us and tell us things we do not wish to know...."
The greatest escape route is not only humor, but poetry, or art in general. Art does not, of course, liberate us completely from meaning, but it gives a certain measure of freedom, provides elbow room. Schiller claimed in the Letters on Aesthetic Education that art makes you free; he understood that the conventions of language and of society are in principle arbitrary—that is, imposed by will. They prevent the natural development of the individual. ...
ADDED: Putting the tags on this post, including "poetry," made me remember a poem I read the other day that I'd been meaning to show you. It's in this "Good Poems" collection. The poet is Guy W. Longchamps:
O what a luxury it be
how exquisite, what perfect bliss
so ordinary and yet chic
to pee to piss to take a leak

To feel your bladder just go free
and open like the Mighty Miss
and all your cares go down the creek
to pee to piss to take a leak
Read the whole thing at the link. Just search inside the book for "piss," or if you're shy, just search for "bliss."

"I would suggest that we not worry about funding."

"In other words: Design the best programs possible. Then we’ll worry about funding them."

The quote is from Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, and the issue is "the achievement gap" in Madison schools. Soglin has suggested "expanding access to nutritious food outside of school, supporting transportation for students and parents, and increasing the amount of time children spend in learning environments."

Increasing the amount of time children spend in learning environments sounds like a polite way of saying keep them away from their parents as much as possible.

Golden Globe nominations.

If you care: here.

"[W]hen does regulating a person’s habits in the name of good health become our moral and social duty?"

Asks David B. Agus, a USC medicine and engineering professor, in an op-ed that's #1 on the NYT "most emailed" list:
The answer, I suggest, is a two-parter: first, when the scientific data clearly and overwhelmingly demonstrate that one behavior or another can substantially reduce — or, conversely, raise — a person’s risk of disease; and second, when all of us are stuck paying for one another’s medical bills (which is what we do now, by way of Medicare, Medicaid and other taxpayer-financed health care programs).
Get ready. It's coming.

Paul McCartney performs with what's left of Nirvana — Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Pat Smear.

At the Concert for Sandy Relief, they played a new song:
It was a stomping riff like a grunge homage to the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter,” and it looked like Mr. McCartney was having fun belting lyrics like “Mama, watch me run/Mama let me have some fun” as the band bashed away. 
Would Kurt Cobain have approved? On the one hand, why should that matter? He checked out. But also:
The Beatles were an early and lasting influence on Cobain; his aunt Mari remembers him singing "Hey Jude" at the age of two.
That was Paul McCartney he was imitating.
"My aunts would give me Beatles records," Cobain told Jon Savage in 1993, "so for the most part [I listened to] the Beatles [as a child], and if I was lucky, I'd be able to buy a single." Cobain expressed a particular fondness for John Lennon, whom he called his "idol" in his posthumously-released journals, and he admitted that he wrote the song "About a Girl," from Nirvana 1989 debut album Bleach, after spending three hours listening to Meet The Beatles!
So maybe he preferred John, but Paul's the closest you can get to John these days, and there was quite a bit of Paul on "Meet The Beatles."


Really? Where's the strangling? Calling speech offensive is more speech, not censorship.

Via Instapundit, who quotes the headline that contains what I say is a deceptive metaphor: "Harvard, Legendary Home Of Harvard Lampoon, Strangles Campus Satire."

If the authorities are offended and express outrage and demand more circumspect speech, satire is not murdered. It is the opposite of murdered. It is given fertile ground in which to grow and prosper. What better foil for comedy than a bunch of dour, repressive authority figures? Since when is satire ruined when the superiors don't think it's funny? Seems to me their outrage makes it funnier.

If you don't have enough courage with your humor to keep moving forward, you were never very funny in the first place.

The issue of standing in the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage cases.

Linda Greenhouse explains the 2 standing problems in a way that is accessible to the general reader.

The Windsor case is especially striking, because the plaintiff's stake in the case is knock-you-over-the-head clear and tangible:
Ms. Windsor owes more than $300,000 in federal estate tax on the property left to her by the woman to whom she was legally married in the eyes of New York State. Had she been married to a man, she would have inherited the property tax-free. With DOMA barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage, and the Obama administration taking the position that it will enforce the law until the Supreme Court or Congress tell it otherwise, there certainly seems to be a controversy between the parties sufficient to meet the test of Article III jurisdiction.
But the Obama administration declines to defend the constitutionality of DOMA, and Windsor won in the lower courts, making things nonadversarial, and the federal courts can only resolve actual controversies between the parties. But it's not as if DOMA has gone away. It still affects people, and Congress isn't about to repeal it.
Democrats in Congress wanted no part of defending DOMA, even though the statute had passed both houses in 1996 by big bipartisan majorities and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. So a five-member House leadership body called the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group decided, over the objections of its two Democratic members, to take over the executive branch’s abandoned defense of DOMA....
The question in the case is whether this Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group can take over defending the law and thereby preserve the adversarial quality of the case. Obviously, it will be litigated with intensity and excellence. The Group has Paul Clement as its lawyer. But that's not the point in standing doctrine.

The shooter's last text message ended with a sad face emoticon.

One more bit of evidence of what expression in the form of emoticon really means.
"Jake was never the violent type. He didn't go out of his way to try to hurt people or upset people. His main goal was to make you laugh, smile, make you feel comfortable. I never would have guessed him to do anything like this ever," she said....

The last time she saw him, which was last week... "I just talked to him, stayed the night with him, and he just seemed numb if anything. He's usually very bubbly and happy, and I asked him why, what had changed, and said 'nothing.'..."

Sansburn said the last message she sent Roberts was a text, asking him to stay, and saying she didn't want him to leave. He replied "I'm sorry," with a sad face emoticon.
Emoticons are used to manage the emotions of the recipient. They don't reveal what they purport to reveal — the writer's emotion — and should be viewed with suspicion.

Why not eliminate faculty meetings — or most of them — and conduct business via email?

Lawprof  Jacqueline Lipton asks. The first comment nails the reason:
Isn't there some concern about having a paper trail?... I assume live faculty meetings can help maintain confidentiality better than sending emails on a controversial topic....
Even on noncontroversial topics, most lawprofs don't want the risk and pressure of putting it in writing. A few reckless graphomaniacs would dominate the discussion. Squelched passive aggressives may take revenge. 
At my law school [Orin Kerr comments] an "all faculty" e-mail exchange was recently forwarded to and published by Above the Law. That was suboptimal.
Of course, he just put that in writing, and whatever was up at Above the Law is still there to be searched for. Was it this? ("You mistake me for someone who is actually intimidated by you Dick...")

Lawprof blogs.

Ranked by traffic.

ADDED: A poll, suggested by the fact that while I'm still #1 — on this list that doesn't include Instapundit — my page views are down 1.5% from last year, and Prof. Jacobson's are up 83.0%.

Should Althouse do things to crank up the traffic here? free polls 

December 12, 2012

At the Yellow-and-Black Café...

Image 1

... could you possibly be as happy as Ruby and Zeus?



A boy's name. Is it worse than Burger? Donathan? Espn!?
The phenomenon of people naming their kid after ESPN isn't new. It's actually been going on for years now, which is what makes it so alarming. This name has roots now. This is a mainstay. A CLASSIC. Two years from now, it will give way to Espyn and nothing will make sense anymore.

Divorce for Track Palin.

After little more than one year.

"It's a free market, Dave. Plenty of schools don't have sports. Go to one of those schools."

Over at Isthmus, the Madison "alternative" newspaper, Meade takes on former mayor/current columnist Dave Cieslewicz who's fretting about all the money spent on college football and the unpaid athletes and their incipient brain damage.
As far as brain injuries, what else are you going to ban - riding in cars? bicycling? taking showers? drinking alcohol?
Pushing back is local politico Stu Levitan, misspelling Meade's first name and gratuitously insulting him:
Lawrence, are you really asserting that the number of brain injuries from showering equals the number of brain injuries from football? My, you are a silly little fellow!
Meade is all:
Stw, what I am asserting is that football is only one of many activities which can lead to traumatic brain injury. Your question reflects poor reading comprehension. Is it possible that you bumped your head while playing Chutes and Ladders when you were a child?

Or maybe you didn't play that game. Maybe you, Cowboy Stu, and your family played Go To The Head Of The Class. You probably should've worn a helmet.

Like Dave!
This is what it's like in a clash of who-knows-how-damaged male brains of Madison.

AND: If you've got a craving for any old-time kids' games, please use the Althouse portal to Amazon. And I recommend Candy Land. Because they don't want you to eat candy.

Gawker tells Steven Crowder to "stop whining, take your licks, and accept that getting hit in the face is a hazard of inserting yourself..."

"... in the middle of an argument between billionaire-funded know-nothing ideologues and people whose livelihoods and stability are being threatened by the insatiable greed of the super-rich and the blind extremism of their wooden-headed political allies. In exchange, liberals will buy you a band-aid for the cut on your forehead and re-iterate that Punching Is Bad. Sound good?"

I know. They're asking for it: a link. I'm a sucker... must say what baited to say blah blah blah blah liberals blah blaming the victim blah blah if a conservative said that about a woman blah blah blah blah she was asking for it blah blah wearing that smirking look short skirt on his face her female body blah blah....

That detail from Sonia Sotomayor's wedding night.

Seemingly the juiciest item in her new autobiography:
She married her high school sweetheart, Kevin Noonan, soon after they graduated from college.... [O]n their wedding night, Noonan produced a bag of Quaaludes that was a gift from his friends. She insisted he flush the pills down the toilet.
The book — not out until January — is called "My Beloved World."

Here's "Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx / La juez que crecio en el Bronx" — the children's book version of her up-from-poverty story. Illustrated, inspiring, and drug-free.

Is the federal government a protector of rights or a threat to rights?

It's both, obviously, but what if you had to pick?

75% of Democrats say protector, and 75% of Republicans say threat.

I suppose it depends on which rights you were thinking about.

Jimmy Carter thinks "it's okay" to legalize marijuana.

Well, then!

He took the federalism angle: "That’s the way our country has developed over the last 200 years. It’s about a few states being kind of experiment states. So on that basis I am in favor of it.”
... I think we can watch and see what happens in the state of Washington, for instance around Seattle, and let the American government and let the American people see does it cause a serious problem or not.

"I find this quite shabby... All that just to avoid paying tax."

Gerard Depardieu moves to Belgium.
Belgian residents do not pay wealth tax, which in France applies to individuals with assets above 1.3m euros (£1m; $1.7m), starting at a rate of 0.25%. Nor do they pay capital gains tax on share sales.

Next year, the top rate of income tax in France is due to become 75% on earnings above 1m euros. It is currently 50% in Belgium.

"The hereditary link of homosexuality has long been established..."

"... but scientists knew it was not a strictly genetic link, because there are many pairs of identical twins who have differing sexualities."

"How Much of Each State's Budget Comes From the Feds?"

"From 24% (Alaska) to 49% (Mississippi)."

Speaking of bubbles, Bazooka Bubble Gum is ending its Bazooka Joe comics.

"New inserts will feature brainteasers, like a challenge to list 10 comic book heroes named after animals, or activities, like instructions on folding the insert into an airplane."

Here's a brainteaser: What was the name of Bazooka Joe's sidekick and what distinctive clothing did he wear?
Mort, the character with a red turtleneck forever pulled up under his nose — he was a boy with voice but no mouth. He always seemed to me to represent a central duality of man: We wish to be heard, but we fear being misunderstood. Have I nailed it? Duality?
So asks WaPo columnist Gene Weingarten, interviewing Jay Lynch, the main Bazooka Joe jokewriter, who says his literary influences are Henry James and Thomas Aquinas. Lynch answers:
Jay: Sure. Why not? There’s a question, though, because in 1980, they pulled his turtleneck down, and showed his entire face, and changed his name to Red. That lasted a year or so, then they pulled it back up, and he became Mort again.

Me: Wow. What was that about?

Jay: No idea.

Me: Why did Bazooka Joe have an eye patch?

Jay: I never asked. I always assumed it was a terrible bubble gum accident.

"We are monks, we don't want to be too commercial."

"We needed some money to help us buy the new abbey and that's it."

So you can have your Westvleteren 12. Here's where you can buy it, for $85.00 a 6-pack. No Wisconsin retailers, unfortunately.

And you can't buy it on Amazon, though I see Amazon offers a book: "Brew Like a Monk: Trappist, Abbey, and Strong Belgian Ales and How to Brew Them."

Italian conceptual artist, bubble wrap cut in 3-minute, 5-minute, and 10-minute squares...

... people waiting at the bus stop...

It's the principle of "occupied time."

"Concealed carry in a gun free zone really makes it safe."

"What are the odds that two people have a gun in a gun free zone? It's the old bombs on an airplane trick. Always pack a bomb in your luggage."

"I'm switching to Polish now, in stores and elsewhere. But I find that I have that American softness to my speech. The Polish melodic inflection is gone too."

"I hear its absence, but I do nothing to force it back. I'm kind of enjoying the reaction. At several points, people think that I am an American who has learned Polish very very well. Nearly perfectly! The accent isn't perfect, but so what! Which brings me to this question that I come back to again and again: why do so many Poles love America so much? Even as that love is not at all reciprocated. I mean, America let them down. Again and again. Thinking back to the war (and I do, every time that I am here)...."

My colleague Nina, in Warsaw, with lots of photographs, including one of a snow-covered statue of Ronald Reagan.

"My brother had a house in Paris....To it came many Western classical musicians. These musicians all made the same point..."

"'Indian music,' they said, 'is beautiful when we hear it with the dancers. On its own it is repetitious and monotonous.' They talked as if Indian music were an ethnic phenomenon, just another museum piece. Even when they were being decent and kind, I was furious. And at the same time sorry for them. Indian music was so rich and varied and deep. These people hadn’t penetrated even the outer skin."

Said Ravi Shankar, who changed all that. He died yesterday, at the age of 92.

The 7th Circuit strikes down the Illinois concealed-carry ban.

The Sun-Times reports:
"We are disinclined to engage in another round of historical analysis to determine whether eighteenth-century America understood the Second Amendment to include a right to bear guns outside the home," Judge Richard Posner wrote in the court's majority opinion.

"The Supreme Court has decided that the amendment confers a right to bear arms for self-defense, which is as important outside the home as inside. The theoretical and empirical evidence (which overall is inconclusive) is consistent with concluding that a right to carry firearms in public may promote self-defense," he continued.

"Illinois had to provide us with more than merely a rational basis for believing that its uniquely sweeping ban is justified by an increase in public safety. It has failed to meet this burden," Posner wrote.
The Illinois legislature has 180 days to write a better-tailored law.

"When you talk about 8.4 million people in New York City living three years longer than they did 10 years ago..."

"... it is just one of the great improvements in life expectancy ever found on the face of the Earth," says Mayor Bloomberg, who is apparently one of the greatest benefactors of humankind ever to emerge in the history of time.
Dr. Tom Farley, the city health commissioner, pointed to declining death rates from heart disease and cancer as primary reasons longevity is increasing.

“The risk factors for those are things we’ve been working on: smoking, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity,” said Farley. “That says that something we’re doing is working.”
See? The nannying worked. Now, shut up. I mean, really, shut up. That's not me saying that, it Mayor Bloomberg, quoted at the link: "People who complain die early, I’ve always thought." So shut up, sip that small soda, skip the doughnuts, and walk briskly and progressively into the new future.

"An open-book exam still distinguishes good students from poor ones..."

"... is preferred by the students, does not seem to decrease learning and retention, and decreases anxiety levels."

Says a new study, which you can read here (PDF). I found that via The Chronicle of Higher Education, but you can't get to that article without a subscription.

I do open-book exams, by the way, and for precisely the reason stated above.

ADDED: If you don't want the test to be a test of who's most susceptible to anxiety, you've got to go with open book, right? It's not that simple. Knowing it's open book may help students feel calm before the exam and save them from devoting study time to ensuring memorization, but there's still the experience of seeing the exam question and knowing you're pressed for time. There's that big book to consult. Are you leafing through it, wondering where the answers are, while others are already writing?

It's twelve twelve twelve.

Should I wait 'til twelve twelve to say that?

At twelve twelve today, what will you do? It's our last chance to line up the numbers, which we've been doing since January 1, 2001, which became especially satisfying when we could do it with double digits on October 10, 2010, something we were able to do again last year, and are doing one last time today — last time, unless you picture yourself surviving beyond the turn of the next century. Really, are you that optimistic? There are those who see all of us going down a week from tomorrow.

Pink dawn.


The view from here, right now.

5 hours of political television not live-blogged last night.

The Madison Common Council debated and voted on a plan to light the Southwest Bike Path... which is actually called the Southwest Commuter Path, which should tip you off about which side won. The path will be lit. The faction that conceives of a grand plan for upping the percentage of commuters who travel by bike beat the property owners whose land abuts the path that was once a rail line.

The property owners did a fine job of marshaling arguments that would appeal to those who don't live right there. Maybe environmentalists will take their side if they call it "Owlpath" and stress nocturnal wildlife. Experts can explain how pools of light along a dark path make it harder to see and but easier to be seen. There you are lit up as if on stage to be sized up by the robber or rapist hiding in a dark spot.

Over the hours, many citizens spoke, and one phrase jumped out: "commuter corridor." You may think it's your backyard, but it's a commuter corridor. It's not a place to be but a place to move through, and there are so many more people moving through than staying in place. Of course, many more people drive to work, but even those who do are entranced by the fantasy of all those other people biking. Biking year round, despite the cold. It's during the cold times when the lights are most needed. Who knows why winter stops commuters from biking? Maybe it's the darkness.

And there should be gender equity. Why so many more men than women biking in the dark? If there were lights, people would feel safe, and feeling safe is so especially important to women. And making women feel safe is the central function of government, is it not? Making women feel safe coincided with spending tax money to buy a new amenity that will be noticed and will speak continually — to all who pass through the corridor — saying: Government has improved life for everyone. Experts and owls notwithstanding — those property owners are going to lose.

In Portland: "He heard the gunman say, 'I am the shooter,' as if announcing himself."

"A series of rapid-fire shots in short succession followed as Christmas music played..."
Brance Wilson, the mall Santa, said he heard gunshots and dove for the floor. By the time he looked up, seconds later, everyone around him had cleared out. Merchandise was scattered in some stores as he made his way to the door.

"Santa will be back," Wilson said. "It's not going to keep Santa away from the mall."

December 11, 2012

"Hillary Rodham Clinton would be a formidable presidential candidate in 2016."

Says Nate Silver, the proven genius.

"After decades of rising childhood obesity rates, several American cities are reporting their first declines...."

"Researchers say they are not sure what is behind the declines."
Though obesity is now part of the national conversation, with aggressive advertising campaigns in major cities and a push by Michelle Obama, many scientists doubt that anti-obesity programs actually work. Individual efforts like one-time exercise programs have rarely produced results....
What the hell? Give the lady credit!

"This is the most ass-o-centric painting I've ever seen."

Say I, viewing this NYT article "Thomas Hart Benton Masterwork Goes to Met."

The photo at the link is only one panel of said masterwork, which is called "America Today."

I've got nothing against it. It's pretty cool.
The 10 panels — most of them seven and a half feet high and of varying widths — depict a panoramic sweep of rural and urban life on the eve of the Great Depression....

Benton received no fee for the commission. “I did it for nothing, just expense money,” he said. “But it led to eight other murals which paid me very well, so it was a good thing for me.” Its critical success became the impetus for the Works Progress Administration mural programs of the later 1930s.

Madison loses $4.9 million in state aid to schools as Madison kids opt to attend schools in other districts.

The state has an open enrollment policy, so you don't have to go to school in the district where you reside. You'd think students from outside of Madison would choose to enroll here. (Good lord! What property taxes we pay here! I just wrote a check for nearly $15,000.) Why is Madison a school district to flee — as more than 1,041 students have?
... Madison lost the equivalent of 3.8 percent of its student population to other public schools, not counting those who transferred into the district....

According to the district report, those leaving Madison are disproportionately white and largely come from attendance areas that border other suburban school districts. About 70 percent of students leaving are white; about 45 percent of the district population is white....

For years the district blocked many student transfer requests to preserve racial balance at schools. The School Board ended the practice in February 2008 in response to a federal court ruling. Transfers out have steadily increased since then.

A 2009 survey of families opting to leave the district found that more than 60 percent mentioned "environmental issues" related to safety, drugs, alcohol and bullying in the schools....
In Madison. Can you figure that out?

ADDED: White flight, Madison style.

At the Michigan protests: "I was sucker-punched 4 times on camera, without retaliation, choked..."

"... and the AFP tent is torn to the ground with women and children inside of it. Extremely violent footage."

Union thugs... in broad daylight, on camera. Are they stupid... or do they know something about the willingness of the authorities to enforce the law?

At the Snow Tree Café..


... it's nice and frosty.

"The Republican-led Michigan legislature approved a pair of right-to-work bills..."

"... sending them on for the governor's expected signature, as thousands of union activists continued protesting outside the state capitol."
Passing a right-to-work law in Michigan comes as a deep blow to unions, especially in a state the United Auto Workers union calls home. They see right-to-work as political payback for unions' traditional support for Democrats.
Check out the slide-show at the link, especially the view of the Capitol Rotunda at slide 4. Skimpy compared to the Wisconsin protests of 2011.

2 passages read recently on what makes an artist.

I've been rereading Tom Wolfe's "The Painted Word" in Kindle the last couple days, and I ran across a great passage that shed light on something in that collection of essays I keep pushing, David Rakoff's "Half Empty."

First, Rakoff:
An artist is something you are, not something you do.

I first encountered this Seussian syllogism in a used-book store, where I spent an extra thirty minutes fake-browsing just so I might continue to eavesdrop on the cashier, who was expounding to his friend about Johnny Got His Gun, Dalton Trumbo’s classic antiwar novel. The cashier had a theory about the book’s protagonist, Johnny, wounded and blinded and amputated to such an extent that, while sentient, he was little more than an unresponsive trunk of meat with a rich inner life.

Before we let one suicide end a great tradition of fun and puncturing pomposity...

... let's remember great moments in prank calls:
The Queen in 1995 spent 17 minutes talking to a man she thought was the prime minister of Canada. It was actually Pierre Brassard, a Canadian radio presenter and impressionist.

In 1998, Prime Minister Tony Blair took a call from a man claiming to be William Hague, leader of the Opposition. He immediately realised it was a hoax but took it in good humour....

Cuban leader Fidel Castro unleashed a volley of abuse after being hoaxed in 2004 by a Miami radio station presenter pretending to be Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
The Miami djs had previously tricked Chavez into thinking he was talking to Castro. I found the audio of Castro talking to not-Chavez (untranslated Spanish), and here's the English transcript of Chavez talking to not-Castro:
''I'll do what you're asking me to... But I'm going to be harmed, I confess to you,'' Castro says.

Silence from Chávez. Castro goes on: "Everything's set for Tuesday.''

''Everything's set for Tuesday,'' Chávez repeats, obviously befuddled. "I don't understand.''...

Miami's Spanish-language radio stations often play outlandish practical jokes on the air, and Castro's Cuba is one of their favorite targets. Hispanic Broadcasting Corp.'s WRTO Salsa 98.3 FM has a segment dubbed Calls to Cuba in which the morning-drive hosts, known as Los Fonomemecos, call businesses and agencies on the island with some ridiculous request or inquiry.
In a recent segment, a DJ posing as a high-ranking Cuban military officer called a Havana funeral home to request a coffin -- for Castro. The mortician burst into sobs.
Chávez, known for his folksy manner, isn't above playing jokes himself.
For the past Day of the Innocents, Latin Americans' version of April Fool's Day that is celebrated Dec. 28, he announced on the radio that he was tired and going to resign. He then changed his tone. ''Ha ha! You fell for it!'' he laughed.
Oh, yeah. April Fool's Day. That's going to have to be abolished, lest someone's feelings are hurt and suicide ensues. But Day of the Innocents... had you heard about that? Which cultures are disparately impacted by suppression of pranking? This is an angle that will, I think, soften the urge to repress that bedevils the nannies of the United States and Britain.

"Hundreds of people are killed each a year when drivers turn the wrong-way into the face of oncoming traffic on high-speed highways..."

And the solution is... well, what would you think of?

The National Transportation Safety Board proposes...

"If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?"

Justice Scalia is out and about, antagonizing antoninonizing — students, this time at Princeton, with "a form of argument that I thought you would have known, which is called the 'reduction to the absurd.'"
Scalia said he is not equating sodomy with murder but drawing a parallel between the bans on both.

Then he deadpanned: "I'm surprised you aren't persuaded."

[The student] said afterward that he was not persuaded by Scalia's answer. He said he believes Scalia's writings tend to "dehumanize" gays.
Actually, he's humanizing you by crediting you with the capacity to comprehend rhetoric and engage in an on-the-fly verbal interchange. But it is easier to dehumanize your adversary. Afterwards.

What do they teach you at Princeton?

ADDED: Jaltcoh has 3 thoughts about this.

AND: David Lat reminds us about what Judge Posner said about horse meat: "a state is permitted, within reason, to express disgust..."

"Bishop Robert Morlino cracks down on Madison nuns for espousing 'New Ageism' and 'indifferentism.'"

Sisters Maureen McDonnell and Lynn Lisbeth — Sinsinawa Dominicans — are in trouble for their interfaith spirituality center Wisdom's Well.

"Indifferentism" is "the belief that no one religion or philosophy is superior to another."

"The seven countries where the state can execute you for being atheist."

Only 7. And it's not really about being atheist. It's about talking about it. This is the old freedom of speech issue, and we still have a problem with that in the United States. Last I noticed, that man who made the "Innocence of Muslims" video was in prison, right here in the U.S.

Obama says right-to-work laws "have everything to do with politics."

Okay, but which way is that supposed to cut? If it's all political — and not really about what benefits people economically — then which side should we be on? Both parties are doing politics around this issue. That's a good observation. And then....?

The real-life heroine depicted in "Zero Dark Thirty."

WaPo presents a different image:
The operative, who remains undercover... has sparred with CIA colleagues over credit for the bin Laden mission. After being given a prestigious award for her work... “She hit ‘reply all’ ” to an e-mail announcement of the awards, a ... former CIA official said. The thrust of her message, the former official said, was: “You guys tried to obstruct me. You fought me. Only I deserve the award.”

Over the past year, she was denied a promotion that would have raised her civil service rank from GS-13 to GS-14, bringing an additional $16,000 in annual pay.... The move stunned the woman’s former associates, despite her reputation for clashing with colleagues.

“Do you know how many CIA officers are jerks?” the former official said. “If that was a disqualifier, the whole National Clandestine Service would be gone.”

Torture in "Zero Dark Thirty": "It’s enough to make you wretch. It’s arguably the best and most important part of the movie."

Spencer Ackerman — whose wretched spelling may make you retch — struggles with the question that's plaguing movie fans today: Does the much-praised, Oscar-worthy Kathryn Bigelow film approve of torture?
One scene features a bloodied, disoriented and humiliated man strapped to a wall with his pants around his ankles. A second scene depicts the same man having liquid forcibly poured down his throat; later, he’s shoved into a box that could barely hold your stereo...
I'm no longer willing to view movies like this. (And I saw "3 Kings," which had a man getting liquid — crude oil — poured down his throat.) But this is what perhaps counts as serious film art these days. Crappy film entertainment is also full of torture (horror films).

Ackerman defends Bigelow: the film "presents a graphic depiction of what declassified CIA documents indicate the torture program really was" and "does not present torture as a silver bullet that led to bin Laden; it presents torture as the ignorant alternative to that silver bullet."

Bigelow's critics, linked in Ackerman's article, are worried that the film may convince people that torture is effective and worthwhile. This all sounds too rational. What does sitting quietly in a dark room with a crowd of comfortable strangers, watching huge, bright, clear moving pictures of actors pretending to be tortured do to our souls? I know the stock answer is: It's worse to live comfortably and complacently with a head free of any such picture. But the stock answer assumes that our souls are already dead.

"Why Is Higher Education So Expensive?"

Interesting video (featured at Instapundit), which seems smart in spite of the error-filled English subtitles throughout the presentation, which is in perfectly clear English.

ADDED: The errors may not show up in your browser. I was seeing a lot of symbols like ø inserted here and there.

Inappropriate cards.

1. "You’re 13 today! If you had a rich boyfriend he’d give you diamonds and rubies. Well, maybe next year you will — when you’ve bigger boobies!" (Hallmark's excuse is that it was printed in 1998.)

2. This child-drawn card that was topping Reddit yesterday. (I'm not convinced it was really drawn by a child. Are you any good at detecting faked childish writing? I'm looking at the "a" in "balls" and seeing fake.)

"Psy Makes $8.1 Million By Ignoring Copyright Infringements Of Gangnam Style."

Okay, but $8.1 million isn't that much considering the magnitude of the success of the thing. On the other hand, it's the kind of thing that becomes successful in a system of virality. But that's not the other hand. That's the same hand.

It's that kind of thing. How much more of that kind of thing do you want?

IN THE COMMENTS: rhhardin says: "I'm not tuned in to it all, but I imagined that gangnam style meant wearing dyed cotton fabric."

Since Psy's not policing the copyright, feel free to make a goofy "Gingham Style" parody video. And since the copyright ran out long ago, here's the delightful Eugene Field poem "The Duel" — which, if you remember it, you might think is titled "The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat":
The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
'T was half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t' other had slept a wink!
The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
(I was n't there; I simply state
What was told to me by the Chinese plate!)

The gingham dog went "Bow-wow-wow!"
And the calico cat replied "Mee-ow!"
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico,
While the old Dutch clock in the chimney-place
Up with its hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
(Now mind: I 'm only telling you
What the old Dutch clock declares is true!)

The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, "Oh, dear! what shall we do!"
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
Employing every tooth and claw
In the awfullest way you ever saw---
And, oh! how the gingham and calico flew!
(Don't fancy I exaggerate---
I got my news from the Chinese plate!)

Next morning, where the two had sat
They found no trace of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole that pair away!
But the truth about the cat and pup
Is this: they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
(The old Dutch clock it told me so,
And that is how I came to know.)
And here are many more of Field's "Poems of Childhood." (Try to find a copy with the Maxfield Parrish illustrations.) Did you memorize any of theses poems? I did! I had a beautiful Golden Book collection of children's poems when I was a child, and I memorized many of them, including this one. This was my favorite one. I often ended up reciting these poems around my parents. Even though they were the sort of people who didn't display how delighted they were by children's behavior, I realize now that they must have found these recitals adorable. I had no idea at the time. I just loved the poems and wanted others to hear them. That was virality, circa 1960.