May 4, 2013

At the Pine Tree Café...


... you can talk all night.

"I was aware that my legs were surrounded by water, but my top half was almost dry."

"I seemed to be trapped in something slimy."
There was a terrible, sulphurous smell, like rotten eggs, and a tremendous pressure against my chest. My arms were trapped but I managed to free one hand and felt around – my palm passed through the wiry bristles of the hippo's snout. It was only then that I realised I was underwater, trapped up to my waist in his mouth....

I remember looking up through 10 feet of water at the green and yellow light playing on the surface, and wondering which of us could hold his breath the longest. Blood rose from my body in clouds, and a sense of resignation overwhelmed me....

"China Is Censoring Jokes About Its Propaganda Machine's Penis-Shaped HQ."

"[T]he nearly 500-foot tower won't be finished until this time next year, but the war on mocking it has already begun."

What Niall Ferguson said about John Maynard Keynes being gay and therefore not caring about the future.

I feel compelled to do a post about this story:
Perhaps in an effort to save his job at Harvard, or his gig with the Daily Beast, or just his professional dignity, Ferguson apologized Saturday for his "tactless" and "off the cuff" remarks. "I should not have suggested... that Keynes was indifferent to the long run because he had no children, nor that he had no children because he was gay," Ferguson wrote on his website. He called his assertion "doubly stupid" because of course people without children care about future generations and "I had forgotten that Keynes’s wife Lydia miscarried." Right, yes. That's why his remarks were dumb. Because Keynes tried to have a baby and failed....

"According to our most recent records, it looks like you haven't signed it yet/ Petition status: Unsigned/Suggested action: Add your name here."

I'm not good at taking suggestions. I get my own ideas — in this case, to blog about the email I just got from Sara El-Amine, National Organizing Director, Organizing for Action, with the subject line: "Petition status: Unsigned":

Ann --

This week, OFA volunteers are hand-delivering a petition to Congress with the names of every OFA supporter who's fighting to reduce gun violence.
Fighting? That sounds violent. If I must fight, I'll fight creepy email. Not by unsubscribing from the email list, of course. That's not my style.

"White Men Wearing Google Glass."

A tumblr page, linked at the WSJ article called "Google Glass: An Etiquette Guide."

The photos presumably suggest the need for an etiquette guide. I'm guessing these things things will — like cell phones — seem annoying/inappropriate until enough people have them and the people who get them before that are the kind of people who sort of like being annoying/inappropriate.

"In my case, egg freezing gave me the confidence to go back on at nearly 40..."

"... and proudly tell men 'I can have kids whenever I want. It feels so nice not to have to rush relationships.'" 
Eight months ago, I met a wonderful 45-year-old single dad who wants more kids and wanted to hear all about my frozen eggs. Four hours after meeting at a New York wine bar, we were kissing in Central Park in a warm September foggy mist. I don't know if it is me or the eggs, but I am more relaxed in this relationship than I have ever been in my life.
ADDED: The author, Sarah Elizabeth Richards, spent nearly $50,000 freezing her eggs, and she says:
In the future, a woman who registers for law or medical school — and knows ahead of time that she will spend her prime baby-making years in the trenches — would ask for loans for tuition and egg freezing at the same time. 
What the hell? While you're in the crazy fantasy-land part of your relationship with money, why not go $50,000 deeper in debt?
Or she might ask a boyfriend who wants to wait a few years to start a family to pony up for the procedure.
If you were married to this person, the $50,000 would already be shared, but somehow a man who's not ready to marry might fork over $50,000? But Richards isn't predicting this "boyfriend" character will hand you that kind of money. She's saying you could ask. It's a parry in a negotiation, where he's saying we need to wait, which he'll presumably put in terms of needing to build up sufficient wealth. She can be all: "Well, I'll need $50,000 right now to freeze my eggs."
In either scenario, she would assume control of her fertility from the outset....
Assume control! Freezing eggs! This is an incredibly romantic way of thinking about forming a family. Quite aside from demanding big money from banks and boyfriends and quite aside from the literally cold concept of freezing, the whole idea of having eggs feels so detached from love and humanity.

When is it a rape-threat hoax and when is it a sock-puppeting moby?

I've been thinking about the Meg Lanker-Simons incident. Here's James Taranto asking: "Why are phony 'hate crimes' so common, especially on college campuses?" He also looks into the First Amendment doctrine of "true threats." Obviously, it's not a "true threat" when the threat is actually written by the person targeted in the threat, but the police cited Lanker-Simons for statements she made to them, not for the original statement put up on the University of Wyoming "Crushes" page on Facebook. I can't tell from the articles I've read whether Lanker-Simons was the one who reported the Facebook post to the police, but the police did an investigation and had a warrant to search her computer, where they found evidence that she'd made the statement.
Sarah Zacharias, Wyoming state director for, said she and Lanker-Simons are friends. Zacharias spoke Monday during a campus demonstration against UW Crushes.  Zacharias said she was with Lanker-Simons when she found the post on UW Crushes.

“If the police are going to give her handcuffs for this, they need to give her an Oscar as well for her acting skills because I saw a woman devastated,” she said. Zacharias said she’d stake her own reputation on Lanker-Simons being innocent of creating the controversial post.
Did Zacharias report it to the police? Did the police initiate the investigation because of the demonstration? How awful to have the police seize your computer! It was the decision to leverage the Facebook posting into a demonstration — stirring up fear and outrage — that turned this thing into a hoax (and brought the apparently unforeseen horrible consequence of the police going through her computer). Thinking about the potential for the police to search your computer should make victims of true threats worry about calling the police, but it should also be a powerful deterrent to doing a fake threat.

But let's consider the Facebook posting alone:
“I want to hatef--- Meg Lanker- so hard. That chick that runs her liberal mouth all the time and doesn’t care who knows it. I think its hot and it makes me angry. One night with me and shes gonna be a good Republican b----.”
It's really not in threat form. It expresses a desire, not an intent to do something. And, let's be clear: "hatefuck" does not mean rape. It means: "To have sex, especially in a rough manner, with someone who one finds physically attractive but personally loathsome." So — assuming that Lanker really did write the post — we're seeing the work of a sockpuppet + moby. She was a sockpuppet to the extent that she was complimenting herself, proclaiming herself extremely seductive. She was a moby to the extent that she pretended to be one of her own antagonists and made that fake entity speak in a way that would bring her antagonists into disrepute.

Sockpuppets and mobys are ordinary characters all over the internet. As I said in my earlier post about Lanker-Simons: "People need better bullshit detectors!" The elements of sockpuppetry and mobyism are all over that Facebook posting. "Crush" pages for various institutions — like the University of Wyoming, in this case — invite statements about crushes on various students and make these statements anonymous. Of course, students are tempted to post about themselves, advertising how attractive they are. And of course, they are tempted to weave in their political opinions. The Lanker-Simons posting is exactly what you ought to expect. Sharpen up, everyone.

But what are the school authorities supposed to do? If they slough off these postings as the usual internet flimflam, they'll be denounced for minimizing violence against women. There lies the real problem: There's pressure against sharpening up.

Remember when feminism was about consciousness-raising?

Purchase of the day.

From the May 3, 2013 Amazon Associates Report:
Coolaroo Steel Frame Pet Bed, Large, Nutmeg
By using the Althouse portal, you can buy things you want, pay nothing extra, and make a contribution to this blog. We notice. We appreciate it. And only if we read about it at INSIDE NYTIMES.COM, without a subsequent correction, will we know it's you.

The Althouse Amazon portal: easy to maintain and clean; just spray it down with a hose and mild soap.

Did heavy metal guitarist Jeff Hanneman — of Slayer — die of a spider bite?

The band's website said in January that he "had contracted necrotizing fasciitis 'likely caused by a spider bite, and has been undergoing surgeries, skin grafts and intense rehab since." He died Hanneman died Thursday of liver failure:
... Dr. Donna Seger who routinely treats spider-bite victims at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee... said that spider bites do not lead to organ failure. But infections -- which could develop after a variety of scenarios ranging from a mosquito bite or even a scratch on the skin from a nail -- can sometimes lead to bad outcomes....

Seger stressed that, on the whole, patients with spider bites recover fine if they follow medical instructions and keep their bite areas clean so that a scab can form and fall off.

"I think it's really important that spider bites be understood because there's so many urban legends about, you know, you get a spider bite, your limb falls off and you die," Seger said. "That doesn't happen."
UPDATE: It wasn't the spider.

Harper Lee, 87, sues her literary agent, claiming he tricked her into giving him her rights to "To Kill a Mockingbird."

"To Kill a Mockingbird" is the only book she ever wrote, so don't be expecting "To Sue a Literary Agent."
Harper Lee, 87, says Samuel Pinkus took advantage of her failing hearing and eyesight to transfer the rights and has failed to respond to licence requests.
I originally saw the story about this lawsuit in The Daily Mail, which contains this line:
Lee, who lives in Monroeville, Alaska, has taken legal action to get the copyright reassigned but alleges Pinkus still received commissions.
I almost blogged what I thought was more interesting news: That the reclusive author, whose name we associate with the Deep South, has taken up residence in Alaska. Oh, those 2-letter state abbreviations. So tough for the UK news media to keep track of.

"A person has to be buried. Period. If we had Hitler here, we would bury Hitler."

Says the funeral director looking for a place to put the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
"My main thing is looking for a cemetery,” he said. “I’ve been making calls. I’ve been turned down by every one of them. All these people are petrified.”
Petrified of what? I can think of at least 5 things that are completely rational to fear.

The funeral director has sign-carrying protesters outside his door.
“He should burn in hell,” said Ann Mink of Worcester, who was part of the sign-toting crowd.
When you stroll through a cemetery, do you think about whether some of the souls previously housed in the bodies at your feet are suffering in hell? When you're choosing a cemetery, do you contemplate whether it contains bodies of souls now in hell and attempt to select one that's free of the damned? Would it trouble you to bury a loved one near the body of someone you believed was damned? If you don't believe in damnation, would you avoid cemeteries that contained bodies of those who you think would deserve to burn in hell, if there were such a place?

"Man convicted in mom's death, cited puppy concern in trial."

"Defendant wanted to make sure puppy would be OK."
Larry W. Clark of Big Flats was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide, hiding a corpse, forgery, identity theft and false information on a missing person in the 2010 shooting death of Marcella Clark.
Much more here:
Clark told jurors he awoke the day after he accidentally fired a revolver in the kitchen of the home he shared with his mother to find his mother on the kitchen floor.

“She was still as a person possibly could be; her eyes were open, and I knew she was deceased,” Clark said. Clark testified he sat on the couch to think about what to do next. He looked down and saw the cage that kept the cocker spaniel puppy his mom had brought home a few weeks earlier. The dog, which didn’t have a name, had soiled the cage, so Clark decided to take the puppy outside....

“I felt really guilty,” Clark said. “I knew it was all over; I thought calling (authorities) would mean I’d end up in jail right away.”

Clark said he thought the puppy deserved a chance, so he decided to delay reporting the shooting while he trained it to interact with people, so it could get a home... He took the dog out for a longer walk and saw a tarp covering the wood pile in his mother’s yard. Clark took the tarp inside, slid his mother’s body onto it and then rolled the tarp around her, he said....

Mayor Bloomberg's aides cried sexism to induce 28 famous women to endorse his choice for NYC school chancellor.

The NYT reports:
As they prepared to contact dozens of famous women, his aides planned to use several talking points, among them [Cathleen P.] Black’s managerial and business accomplishments, according to the e-mails. The aides also planned to argue that there was “clearly a difference” between the ways the public treated Ms. Black, “a female publisher without educational experience,” and her predecessor, Joel I. Klein, “a male prosecutor without educational experience.”

In the end, 28 women signed the letter, including Gloria Steinem, Evelyn Lauder and Whoopi Goldberg....
"The Bloomberg administration hoped the endorsements could help persuade the state education commissioner to grant Ms. Black a waiver to become chancellor, which she needed because of her lack of education credentials:
Ms. Black eventually received the waiver, and the job. But she resigned just 95 days into her tenure, after Mr. Bloomberg concluded that the situation could not be salvaged.

When you accuse a 6-year-old of plagiarism in an art contest...

... you'd better be ready to make a decision to disqualify her and stick to it. You've besmirched her, and you can't unbesmirch her. Oh, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service! You idiots!
“Following the contest, concerns were raised by parents and teachers about the authenticity of the work,” the agency said in a press release. “The Federal Duck Stamp Office investigated and learned that the painting had been transferred, which is inconsistent with the Junior Duck Stamp Contest rules.”

Madison [Grimm] said she was “sad” and “a little angry” when she heard the news. “I worked really hard on it,” she told the Daily News.

Her father said was aware that the graphite transfer technique, which is when an artist uses pencil lead on a photo print to create an outline for a painting, was allowed, as was Madison’s use of an unpublished photo from her father as a model.

Robert Lesino, who was the Federal Duck Stamp Program chief when the junior program started, helped write the rules for the contest. He told the Argus Leader that Madison’s two practices were not violations, but rather legal and common practices among artists.
So it wasn't even a violation of the rules?! The press release was wrong? I'd like to know more about these "parents and teachers" who raised "concerns." Maybe they thought the "Junior" contest was supposed to consist of childlike art, like this one, which is the only one in the "2013 Federal Junior Duck Stamp Best of Show Art" Flickr set that doesn't look like it was traced from a photograph. Frankly, I'd prefer to see a duck stamp made from a naive child's drawing than a mature child's labored attempt to produce something that an adult illustrator would do, but you've got to make different rules to get that outcome. The concerned parents and teachers should lobby for different rules next time, not take aim at the one mature child who happened to be the best of the acting-like-an-adult photo-tracers.

"If a child waits too long to take the pill... a fertilized egg could reach the uterine wall and become implanted, after which the drug is useless."

"You see how the word 'child' keeps getting in the way."
There’s no point debating whether such young girls should be sexually active. Obviously, given the potential consequences, both physical and psychological, the answer is no. 
Potential consequences?

It seems to me that when you're talking about girls under the age of 15, if there is an occasion to buy a morning-after pill, there is an occasion to report a serious crime.

May 3, 2013

At the Sunset Café...


... it's another a bleak, chilly May evening.

(Photo taken yesterday evening, on Observatory Drive, looking out over Picnic Point.)

"A lot of people think [polygamy is] just about sex but... sex goes out the window after a while."

"If you don’t want your husband marrying someone else, what would happen to these single mums, then, and these divorcees? Is it fair that they just stay on the shelf? We should be looking after our community. Islam is all about community and society and we should look after our brothers and our sisters equally, otherwise it’s every man for themselves."
... Khola Hasan of Leyton’s sharia council believes that forcing mosques to register all nikahs, and thereby banning polygamy, will only make Muslims feel more persecuted. “The Muslim community in Britain already feels victimised,” she says, and it will inevitably force the practice underground, leaving women more vulnerable. She argues that, rather than banning polygamy, which she views as a “solution to many complex and difficult situations,” the practice should in fact be recognised by British law.
(Via Instapundit.)

"We are a group of adults making the choice to learn but also have fun while we do it."

"That's one of the main reasons people love Wisconsin. And if you think Madison would be the same without that idea, you're wrong."

"The police stopped at our house and said if we have anything that resembles any kind of party they would shut us down... I feel like it's unfair. Our entire house is 21 and we should be able to drink on our own property on any weekend we want."

"Will the United States keep these detainees alive for 12 years against their will?"

"If 12 years sounds too long, then what is an appropriate amount of time to keep a prisoner alive by tube feed? Is this torture?"

It's suicide prevention.

"This Is The World's First Entirely 3D-Printed Gun."

"Early next week, [Cody] Wilson, a 25-year University of Texas law student and founder of the non-profit group Defense Distributed, plans to release the 3D-printable CAD files for a gun he calls 'the Liberator'...."

"I'm an American citizen... I'm allowed to stand on American ground... You're harassing me as an American citizen""

"I'm obstructing your justice?"

The best part is when her husband tells the cop "I'm sorry, I had nothing to do with that!"

"Hi, as a man I must ask why you have lied to us for all these years."

Richard Neill writes on Facebook, addressing Bodyform, a manufacturer of sanitary napkins.
As a child I watched your advertisements with interest as to how at this wonderful time of the month that the female gets to enjoy so many things ,I felt a little jealous. I mean bike riding , rollercoasters, dancing, parachuting, why couldn't I get to enjoy this time of joy and 'blue water' and wings !! Dam my penis!! Then I got a girlfriend, was so happy and couldn't wait for this joyous adventurous time of the month to happen lied !! There was no joy, no extreme sports, no blue water spilling over wings and no rocking soundtrack oh no no no. Instead I had to fight against every male urge I had to resist screaming wooaaahhhhh bodddyyyyyyfooorrrmmm bodyformed for youuuuuuu as my lady changed from the loving, gentle, normal skin coloured lady to the little girl from the exorcist with added venom and extra 360 degree head spin. Thanks for setting me up for a fall bodyform, you crafty bugger.
Bodyform responded (this was last October, but I'd never noticed it before):

"Vatican fresco from 1494 found to have first known European depiction of Native Americans."

"During restoration of the work, hanging in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace for 500 years, Maria Pustka found an image of dancing naked men wearing feathered headdresses."

"John Williamson, a pioneer of the 1960s sexual revolution as co-founder of Topanga Canyon's Sandstone Retreat..."

"... where nudity and free love once took place with abandon, has died at age 80."
[At Sandstone Retreat] as many as 500 people would gather on weekends to frolic in the nude, swap spouses and engage in group sex...

"We actually had open sexuality and nudity, but it was optional. Everything was optional," Barbara Williamson told The Associated Press on Thursday. "We provided a wonderful, wonderful environment in a natural setting, and that natural setting just sort of gave people permission."...

It was reading Ayn Rand's book "Atlas Shrugged" that John Williamson said prompted him to quit a defense-industry job in electronics and move to California in the early 1960s. The book portrays a society in which people, fed up with government and industry controlling their lives, walk away from their jobs.

"Investigators sharpen focus on Boston bombing suspect’s widow."

The Washington Post reports today:
Federal law enforcement officials are sharpening their focus on [Katherine Russell, 24, the widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev] after finding al-Qaeda’s Inspire magazine and other radical Islamist material on her computer, according to law enforcement officials....

On Monday, FBI special agents spent about 90 minutes inside the North Kingstown, R.I., home of Russell’s parents. The agents left with bags of material and a sample of Russell’s DNA.

Two law enforcement officials said that investigators found fingerprints and female DNA on fragments of the pressure-cooker bombs that exploded at the marathon....
I was skeptical about her back on April 22:
I see you've got your brand-new leopard skin print hijab....

It's Katherine Russell, the widow Tamerlan Tsarnaev.  "She was just this All-American girl who was brainwashed by her super-religious husband. Nobody understands what happened to her." She was the daughter of a Rhode Island doctor and nurse. She "dreamed of going to college and joining the Peace Corps."

Brainwashed. Are you buying that or do you think that Peace Corps aspirationalists are just the kind of American kids who feel drawn to the idea of becoming the other?

I tend to think people are responsible for their own choices.
UPDATE: "Katherine Russell... has stopped co-operating with authorities as it emerged female DNA found on one of the detonated bombs does not belong to her."

"I have to say that Target in particular engenders in me an instant version of what some hyper-lefty Germans called Konsumterrorismus..."

".... a total panic caused by the option of limitless shopping.... In my case, this phobia is compounded by the lighting – especially in Target. Aaron took me there once and I could not really get past the doorway. It was just horrifying. If I go to Hell, I will not have my ankles licked by fire. And I will not be lit from below. I will be subjected to giant, constant, overhead fluorescent lighting – what Michael Cunningham once called less lighting than the 'banishment of all darkness.'... All darkness must be banished to promote and encourage the purchase of things. This is what a huge amount of our culture now rests upon: the purchase of things. I guess you have to banish the literal darkness to disguise the shallow yet impenetrable darkness our shopping civilization represents."

The fear of shopping. Do you have it? If so, is it about the extreme excess of free choice? Or is it about the strong lighting? Or is it the fear of encountering strange people who are intimidated by choice and overhead lighting?

Me, I just want to have the choice to buy incandescent bulbs because I hate fluorescent lighting at home, but I don't mind strong overhead lighting in stores. Drug stores, grocery stores, hardware stores — these places would seem dingy and dilapidated if the conventional bright lighting were missing.

But I do understand the feelings of dissociation that can envelope you in a store, especially a large store with long aisles full of colorfully packaged products and lots of slow-moving customers pushing their carts. It can make you think of what Hell might be like, perhaps because of a nagging sense that acquiring material goods is sinful, perhaps because you're vaguely conscious that the minutes remaining in your life are ever fewer and yet here you are expending them shambling around in a windowless box.

Shallow commercial message: You can remain seated in aesthetically dimmed light and shop very quickly at Amazon, leaving you more time to do things you love, such as, perhaps, reading this blog, which you can feel good about having made a contribution to, at no cost to yourself, unless it's somehow deemed sinful when we reach the final reckoning.

"My own view is that one particular form of journalism is actually dying because of this technological shift – and it’s magazines, not blogs."

Says Andrew Sullivan (who recently left the to become independent):
When every page in a magazine can be detached from the others, when readers rarely absorb a coherent assemblage of writers in a bound paper publication, but pick and choose whom to read online where individual stories and posts overwhelm any single collective form of content, the magazine as we have long known it is effectively over.

Without paper and staples, it doesn’t fall apart so much as explodes into many pieces hurtling into the broader web. Where these pieces come from doesn’t matter much to the reader. So what’s taking the place of magazines are blog-hubs or group-blogs with more links, bigger and bigger ambitions and lower costs. Or aggregated bloggers/writers/galley slave curators designed by “magazines” to be sold in themed chunks. That’s why the began as a collection of bloggers and swiftly turned them all into chopped up advertizing-geared “channels.” That form of online magazine has nothing to do with its writing as such or its writers; it’s a way to use writers to procure money from corporations. And those channels now include direct corporate-written ad copy, designed to look as much like the actual “magazine” as modesty allows.

Purchase of the day.

From the May 2, 2013 Amazon Associates Report:
Columbia Sportswear Men's Silver Ridge Cargo Short
By using the Althouse portal, you can buy things you want, pay nothing extra, and make a contribution to this blog. We notice. We appreciate it. And only if you wear it on your sleeve will we know it's you.

The Althouse Amazon portal: laughable, unphotographable, yet incredibly sexy.

"There are so many different things put under the heading homophobic."

"But I think the personal privacy question of whom one feels comfortable taking a shower with deserves distinct treatment. Maybe tough guys should be tough and not care who sees them naked, but the notion that you don't want anyone looking at your body who is sexually attracted to that kind of body isn't about hating others. It's about personal privacy. Maybe it's lame. I note that the French word for shower is douche."

I'm quoting myself, commenting in a Facebook discussion that began when Jaltcoh (my son) quoted something that I blogged yesterday. Sorry for the excess of me in all that, but I felt the urge to go big with my little French joke.

"Kurtz had a string of high-profile mistakes on his record and that had become a source of embarrassment for The Daily Beast."

And "he commanded a hefty paycheck, despite turning out fewer scoops than in the past," write  Dylan Byers and Katie Glueck, citing anonymous sources at the Daily Beast and CNN.
“People here have been groaning about Howie for years,” a source at CNN said. “He’s like the Dick Morris of media critics — just shoddy and out of the game.”...

“It became clear to folks here that Howie had a lot of other commitments, and that that wasn’t working,” a Daily Beast source said....

Despite having his own show on CNN, Kurtz has dedicated much of his recent time to a new venture: a website called “The Daily Download,” where he regularly appears in video segments with the site’s founder and editor Lauren Ashburn. That preoccupation seems to have taken a toll on Kurtz’s attention span and focus....

”What would I go to this site for? As another place Howard Kurtz does his able thing on the week’s media news? Okay, but why does he need that? And why do we? He’s got the Daily Beast and CNN: plenty of platform,” Jay Rosen, the New York University journalism professor, wrote in an email to POLITICO. “Daily Download resists understanding.”
"Resists understanding" is a nice phrase.

Why are the figures on our national stage so lacking in greatness?

I wonder — as I scan the news this morning for topics and stop to think about Howard Kurtz and Jason Collins. Kurtz isn't a bold or great writer. He was dependent on Tina Brown, and he crossed a line, got a little edgy but didn't bother to sharpen up for the attempted edginess, and he got cut. Tina Brown runs her various operations. Is she at the level that should awe us?

Jason Collins was never a great basketball player. It's pathetic — a literal joke — that must we look at basketball to find men to look up to. (They are tall.) But this week, we're expected to admire this athlete we hadn't heard of before not for any athletic achievement but for the miniature feat of revealing — after years and years of hiding — that he's gay. Did he risk anything? His revelation comes at the end of his lackluster career, he's receiving plaudits from everyone on up to Barack Obama, and since his college days, he's had powerful political friends including Chelsea Clinton and (his erstwhile roommate) Joe Kennedy.

Is Barack Obama a great man? He's reached the top position. That takes some doing. He scrambled up over a number of people — were they great? — and he maintained his position, but is he great? We — some of us — like him. He seems like a good person — to some people, the ones who feel comfortable enough with him because at least he's not Bush, he's got a nice smile that reminds us of hope and Republicans seem mean, and it's not really his fault that there are so many problems.

And how about those Clintons and Kennedys and — as long as we're listing American dynasties — Bushes? There are no giants here. Why are the figures on our national stage so lacking in greatness?

It must be us. This must be our doing. Our preference.

IN THE COMMENTS: Jonas quotes George Carlin:
"Now, there's one thing you might have noticed I don't complain about: politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don't fall out of the sky. They don't pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It's what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you're going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain't going to do any good; you're just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it's not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here... like, the public. Yeah, the public sucks. There's a nice campaign slogan for somebody: 'The Public Sucks. Fuck Hope.'"
Henry and Balfegor both mention Steve Jobs as the last great man. When I wrote "Kurtz isn't a bold or great writer," I immediately thought Christopher Hitchens.

At the Betamax3000 Café...


... betamax3000 would like to say something.

What's the best comic remark you ever made that was not laughed at by the people you were with at the time?

This is a question based on a story Meade just told me, about something he said to some other guys when he was in high school. He's remembering: 1. what he said, 2. how funny he thought it was at the time, and 3. that the other guys — 3 boys who were on the wrestling team — reacted with cold silence and, then, departure. And for all these years, Meade has continued to believe that the remark was really funny.

Tell me your stories like that. And feel free to try to figure out Meade's joke.

He was in his art class, working on a painting. The project was to do a painted interpretation of a famous painting, as Picasso did here, painting his version of this Velasquez. The painting he was doing was this Van Gogh of sunflowers. The 3 wrestler boys — one of whom was a friend — had dropped in to hang out in the art room, and they'd been saying things like "Look, it's art boy" and "Meade's a real artiste."

May 2, 2013

"Howard Kurtz leaves Daily Beast following Jason Collins column mistake."

Kurtz, whose area of expertise is media criticism, made a mistake in the media that drew some criticism and what looks like swift retaliation.
... Kurtz mistakenly accused Collins of leaving out “one detail” in Collins’s Sports Illustrated essay disclosing his homosexuality. The detail, Kurtz said, was that Collins “was engaged. To be married. To a woman.”...

Kurtz initially amended his Daily Beast story, saying Collins “downplayed” the engagement and “didn’t dwell on it.” But the Daily Beast retracted the story entirely after the mistake and subsequent amendments drew heavy criticism from several Web sites.
But Collins did attempt to obscure his engagement. This is what he wrote: "When I was younger I dated women. I even got engaged."

That sure sounds like someone who got engaged young, not someone who cancelled a wedding at the age of about 30 after an eight year relationship. While his statement was technically true (everything in our past was when we were younger), it had to have been intentionally misleading, especially coming from a Stanford grad.
I agree, and you put that so much better than Kurtz did in his correction. This is an important basis for criticism of Collins, who's being hailed as a hero. Giving up on living a lie is a good idea, but it's not heroic. Maybe 30 years ago, it was heroic to be openly gay, but even back then, if you chose to keep your sexual orientation quiet, it was still wrong to delude another person to the extent that Collins apparently did. Collins graduated from Stanford in 2001, and it's just ridiculous that someone who lived in that environment at that time — he roomed with Joe Kennedy and was friends with Chelsea Clinton — would be seriously burdened with backward ideas about sexual orientation. I'll refrain from lambasting the man for his deceit and cowardice, but extolling him as a hero is absurd. I think that's what Kurtz might have wanted to say, but he botched his attack.

It would be interesting to know which powerful Democrats, if any, interacted with Tina Brown over the downfall of Howard Kurtz.

"I would like to take a moment to acknowledge your hurt, as well as the letter you sent to me via your attorneys."

"As a father myself, I cannot imagine the pain that your family has had to endure," writes Lil Wayne to the family of 1955 murder victim Emmett Till, whose attorneys corresponded with him over his lyric "Beat that p***y up like Emmett Till." The linked article stresses that Lil Wayne did not, technically, apologize. I'm drawn to the words "the letter you sent to me via your attorneys" and just guess that any standoffishness has to do with the use of lawyers as the way to start a conversation with somebody.

"They All Idolized Jahar."

"Friend Who Had 'Fling' With Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the 3 Additional Suspects."
She got to know the group, she said, while hanging around campus with them, smoking pot and listening to music. She says her romantic relationship with Tsarnaev lasted for about two weeks. "I met him standing outside a building and honestly, his face was enough to capture my heart," she explained, noting that lots of women fawned over him. "I walked right up to him and I was like, 'Oh my God, you are adorable. Can we hang out?' I'm very forward."

Her nascent romance with Tsarnaev soon soured, though, after he invited her to come to his dorm room alone. "He wanted to go further than I did, and that made me uncomfortable, and I realized that that's not the kind of person that I wanted to be around," she says. "I don't think that's necessarily being a terrorist. I think that's just called being a hands-y teenaged boy."

"So I never say 'Where are you? You should be home by now.'"

"I never place demands on him because I think he’s a really talented man and he’s putting something good into the world," says Gwyneth Paltrow, who says she's "a very grounded, homey person," while her husband Chris Martin "is a very mad scientist, genius songwriter."

So... you've got a genius in the family. How do you properly care for him? One thing you could do is address him as "genius."

Hey, genius, you left the eggs out of the refrigerator.

At Hank's Café...

... you can meet Hank.

Green stuff... a kick in the head... U R Dead... hypochondria on U.S. 93 South...

Let's take a break from our mundane cares to check out — as we often do on this blog — who's been calling the police in Montana:
An irate motorist on Helena Flats Road reported a big sprayer truck spraying green stuff all over and was adamant the [activity] be stopped. It was eventually discovered the truck was only spraying grass seeds and mulch.

A Martin City man was knocked unconscious when his daughter kicked him in the head. When he came to, she was kicking him in the face. He refused medical treatment....

An astute Elk Trail woman in Whitefish suspected her ex after finding “U R Dead” scratched into the hood of her vehicle....

A hypochondriac on U.S. 93 South asked a passerby to call 911 after he stepped on a thermometer, claiming he now had mercury poisoning. The passerby reported the man smelled like alcohol and was hard to understand, and all the passerby could see was wrong with the man was that he was dizzy.

When Harry Connick Jr. asked Amber Holcomb "to tell him what the song ‘My Funny Valentine’ meant..."

"... she looked like Ted Kennedy explaining to Roger Mudd why he wanted to be president. She clearly didn't have a clue what she was singing about — a problem compounded by an earlier rehearsal clip in which Connick noticed how much better her voice sounded when she forgot the lyrics to Pink's 'Just Give Me a Reason.'"

"Is your figure less than Greek?" What does that mean? Connick wanted to know. A painful moment last night on the dying show they call "American Idol." The contestants were singing old standards, and Connick obviously knows how to sing them well, but his efforts to help them sing those songs fell on — it's mean to use this cliché, which is why I'm violating my rule against clichés — deaf ears.

"In place of clothes, the woman had words like 'bra' and 'shirt' scrawled on her uber-toned body in black marker."

"Some commuters barely batted an eye when the naked stunner climbed aboard a commuter train."

"Eleven years after she vanished without a trace, Brenda Heist approached police in Florida last week..."

"... to explain that she had abandoned her two children on the spur of the moment, leaving behind her old life in central Pennsylvania to become a vagrant."
"Everybody that knew Brenda told us there was absolutely no way Brenda would leave her children," said Lititz Borough Police Detective John Schofield, who suspected for years she may have been killed. "She explained to me that she just snapped," said Schofield, who met with her Monday in Florida. "She turned her back on her family, she turned her back on her friends, her co-workers."...

Her husband, Lee Heist, who was investigated and then cleared as a suspect, struggled to raise their children. By 2010, he was able to get the courts to declare her legally dead and collected on a life insurance policy. He has remarried. He's angry because of the effect their mother's disappearance had on the children, but he also said he has forgiven her.

"There were people in the neighborhood who would not allow their children to play with my children" because he had been a suspect, he said.
She leaned away.
Gerry said:
Is fugue state still a psychological malady?
Yes, it is:
A fugue state, formally dissociative fugue or psychogenic fugue (DSM-IV Dissociative Disorders 300.13[1]), is a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by reversible amnesia for personal identity, including the memories, personality and other identifying characteristics of individuality. The state is usually short-lived (ranging from hours to days), but can last months or longer. Dissociative fugue usually involves unplanned travel or wandering, and is sometimes accompanied by the establishment of a new identity....

Agatha Christie disappeared on 3 December 1926 only to reappear eleven days later in a hotel in Harrogate, apparently with no memory of the events which happened during that time span.

"The Worst Gun Control Idea Has Bipartisan Support: Why states should not pass new mandatory minimums for firearm possession."

An article in TNR by Daniel Denvir. Excerpt:
"Research over many years has shown that mandatory penalties are limited because they address severity of punishment, not certainty," says Jeremy Haile of The Sentencing Project. "Because most people engaged in criminal activity do not expect to get caught, few think about the penalties they will face if convicted."

"The decent thing to do would be to repeal all existing mandatory penalties and to enact no new ones," Tonry concludes. One reason for this is that, though they are intended to bring consistency and transparency to the justice system, mandatory minimums instead create disparity and confusion. Prosecutors use the threat of draconian sentences to compel guilty pleas to lesser charges behind closed doors and nail those who want their day in court as harshly as possible.

Who will be blamed for the unintended bad consequences of Obamacare?

Consider this poll at a Washington Post article: "Part-timers to lose pay amid health act's new math." Subheadline: "Some workers are having their hours cut so employers won't have to cover them under Obamacare. But many will benefit from the healthcare law's premium subsidies and Medicaid expansion."

(Results captured at 11:18 CT today.)

"Rapper Danny Brown received oral sex on stage during concert 'without his consent.'"

"Brown, 32, is on tour with fellow rapper Kitty Pryde. On Wednesday she penned an angry letter about the incident, expressing her outrage at what she considered sexual assault."

Here's Pryde's letter. Excerpt
I’m mad that a person thought it was okay to pull another person’s pants down during their performance in front of about 700 other people. I’m mad that a person thought it was a good idea to perform a sex act on another person without their consent. I’m mad that nobody made her leave. I’m mad that Danny had to actually wonder what he was supposed to do at that point. I’m mad that when I went home and said I had no respect for that girl, I was attacked for being a “slut-shamer” (after literally leading a girl to his hotel room at 3AM at her request) and, even more outrageously, for being jealous of the girl who sucked his dick. I’m mad that when two dudes pulled my pants down onstage, other people got mad too, but when it happened to Danny the initial reaction was like one big high-five. I’m mad that people are treating "The Thing" like it’s some legendary event. I’m mad that even though they know exactly who the girl is, nobody in the media will even talk to her. I’m mad that I get a bunch of emails a day asking me to talk about my best friend’s “misogyny” and “classless behavior”, from people who have heard only rumors and seen only one very blurry and inconclusive iPhone photo.
Pryde is an excellent writer, embedded in a fascinating social context, extracting some interesting ideas worth talking about. I'd never heard of Danny Brown, and I'm not familiar with the ambiance at rap concerts, but I'd like to understand why "Danny had to actually wonder what he was supposed to do." He was in front of an audience, playing a part, seeming to be someone hypersexual, perhaps, up for anything. Maybe it was hard to figure out whether to drop the facade and reveal his vulnerability. Pryde notes that an effort to stop the girl might have been interpreted as violence against her. There would be photos of him pushing her.
So what was Danny supposed to do, other than back away, which he did? And if he had figured out a way to gently push the girl off him immediately without looking like he was smacking her in the face, he’s faced with attacks on his masculinity by every douchebro in the building. Yo dude, you don’t want your dick sucked, bro? Are you gay? Haha you’re gay you don’t want girls to suck your dick haha gay dude bro man swag! And that’s a rapper’s literal nightmare.

Purchase of the day.

From the May 1, 2013 Amazon Associates Report:
Zymox Ear Cleanser With Bio-Active Enzymes, 4 oz.
by Pet King Brands
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The Althouse Amazon portal: Ear, ear.

"Students say [UW] Chancellor David Ward's remoteness drove them to occupy his office."

A headline at the Cap Times (surprisingly/unintentionally) mocks the students' compulsion to protest.
Students... say they felt pushed into their extreme action because interim Chancellor David Ward has ignored two official findings that labor practices at the Milwaukee factory that makes Palermo’s Pizzas sporting Bucky Badger logos violate the university’s Code of Conduct for licensees....

At the UW-Madison: Who pounded on the window and made a lewd gesture during a performance of "The Vagina Monologues"?

"Actors in the play asked for a public apology from a sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, whose members were filing out of a bus and in the area near the Brink Lounge, 701 E. Washington Ave., when the disturbance occurred."
“It came at the absolute worst moment, when women were putting themselves out there and telling stories of real pain and violence,” said Aliza Feder, a UW-Madison senior theater major who was part of the cast.

It’s not clear that the people who disturbed the play are part of the sorority, said Kevin Helmkamp, associate dean of students.
Sorority! Is there a rift in the enormous sisterhood of women?
It’s also unclear whether they knew it was a performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” the popular play by Eve Ensler about women’s empowerment.
Well, then I guess it was also unclear — if they did know it was a performance of "The Vagina Monologues" — whether their pounding and gesturing expressed their objection to the message of empowering women, their wild enthusiasm about vaginas, a thoroughly justified aesthetic opinion that the play is bad, an alert to the audience members that it's not the 90s anymore and it's time to come out and have some fun, or maybe it was a protest against the monologue "The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could, in which a woman recalls memories of traumatic sexual experiences in her childhood and a self-described 'positive healing' sexual experience in her adolescent years with an older woman," in which case it was unclear whether they knew if the line "If it was rape, it was a good rape" was censored from the play in this particular performance.
The show was held in the basement of Brink Lounge. Near the end, a bus parked on East Washington Avenue let out members of the sorority for their spring formal to be held in a basement lounge adjacent to the theater space. A large window forms part of the back wall of the theater fronting East Washington Avenue. 
The majority of sorority members walked by without incident, Feder said. One woman allegedly starting pounding on the window as the scripted portion of the play was concluding, she said. After a brief lull, other young men and women joined, with most pounding on the window and one woman briefly lifting up her skirt, she said.
I'm guessing wild enthusiasm about vaginas.

Another hate crime turns out to be self-generated — another "victim" threatened herself.

"The University of Wyoming Police Department issued a citation Monday afternoon in Albany County Circuit Court for Meg Lanker-Simons, a woman allegedly threatened last week in a social media post authorities now contend was a hoax.... 'Subject admitted to making a controversial post on UW Crushes webpage and then lied about not doing it,' according to the citation."
The post was made to the UW Crushes page April 24 on Facebook and described Lanker-Simons as "that chick that runs her liberal mouth all the time and doesn't care who knows it."

The post also referenced a graphic, sexual act against Lanker-Simons. "One night with me and shes gonna be a good Republican (expletive)," the post read. The post created a stir on social media and at the university, with school officials issuing statements denouncing the post against Lanker-Simons and campus police opening an investigation....

"This episode has sparked an important discussion reaffirming that the UW community has no tolerance for sexual violence or violence of any type," UW spokesman Chad Baldwin said. "The fact that the Facebook post apparently was a fabrication does not change the necessity for continued vigilance in reassuring that we have a campus where everyone feels safe."
While you're continuing all the vigilance, how about a little vigilance about self-dramatizing fraud? People need better bullshit detectors! Arm the students for real life in every possible way.

I love the contradictory notions of vigilance and feeling safe, especially in the context where a fake threat supposedly made people feel unsafe, and the university spokesman wants to concentrate attention on the importance of eradicating all feelings of unsafeness without condemning the phony stirring up of such feelings.

I say let's be vigilant about everything: vigilant about the possibility that some other human beings might want to have sex with you, vigilant about the way a few of them might use inappropriate or ever violent methods to fulfill this desire, vigilant about how anyone might lie or manipulate you to get things they want, including sex but not just sex. There are people who want to control and dominate the culture, to scare and repress and make life bland and boring and conventional — in old-fashioned "traditional" terms and in relatively recent "feminist" terms. Watch out for all of this! Vigilance!

Feeling safe? You want to feel safe? You need to be vigilant about the people who manipulate you with the idea of your feelings of safety, especially when they cite this aspect of your feelings to keep you from becoming vigilant about those who are scaring you with a photoshopped picture of what's really dangerous in this world. You should want to be safe, not just feel safe. Don't have tunnel vision on one danger that other people are telling you is The Danger that you need to feel safe from. You need to do your own vigilance, not outsource it to the authorities who assure you of their caretaking prowess. Protect yourself, even from these caretakers.
Pamela Kandt, co-convener of the Episcopal Women's Caucus and a Casper activist, came to Lanker-Simons' defense Tuesday. Last week, after the controversial post went public, Kandt lobbied university officials for a "swift response to this outrage."

"I will tell you, I believe Meg is innocent of this outrage," said Kandt, adding she believes the citation issued by police is a "classic case of blaming the victim."... UW Police, Kandt said, "have bullied her and they have pulled a bluff. This is the worst episode of 'Law & Order' you can imagine... I mean, my God, who would do this to herself?"
Do your own vigilance. Anyone might be lying. The student feminist on Facebook. The police. The Episcopalians.  

My God, who would do this? I take it the Episcopalian is querying her God because she, herself, is innocent of the imagination needed to project herself into the brain of a hypothetical person who would demonize others by writing a threat that said all the things she'd need a threat to say for a threat to be useful in promoting her cause and making herself the center of attention. Will God answer the Episcopalian's question? Or is He thinking, Come on, Pamela. I gave you a brain. You're supposed to think for yourself!

(I arrived at that link via Robert Stacy McCain, via Instapundit.)

ADDED: I have some more thoughts here.

Chris Kelly — Mac Daddy — of the 1990s kid rap duo Kris Kross...

... has died at the age of 34, apparently of a drug overdose.

They had a big hit song, "Jump" — video at the link — and they made it a trend to wear your pants backwards. The 2 boys in Kriss Kross were 13 years old, and my sons were 11 and 9, back in 1992 when that song seemed to be every kid's favorite song. I can remember sitting in the audience for a show at school where various kids — pants on backwards — attempted to dance like those 2 boys. Sample lyrics:
I'm the Mac and I'm bad give you something that you never had
I'll make ya jump jump wiggle and shake your rump
Cause I'll be kicking the flavor that makes you wanna jump
How high? Real high
Cause I'm just so fly
A young loveable, huggable type of guy
20 years ago.  

May 1, 2013

At the Bird's Nest Café...


... oh, the things you can see from here.

"With characteristic contrarianness, blogress Ann Althouse speculates... It's a clever theory..."

Says James Taranto, "but not a realistic plan. There's no doubt that die-hard Democrats will respond in the way Althouse imagines they are expected to.... The Althouse theory raises another question: If Obama succeeded in electing a Democratic Congress next year, what would he do with it?..."

"I'm supposed to be enlightened. I'm supposed to be more 'real,' now."

"One year ago I left the internet.... I thought the internet might be an unnatural state for us humans, or at least for me. Maybe I was too ADD to handle it, or too impulsive to restrain my usage. I'd used the internet constantly since I was twelve, and as my livelihood since I was fourteen. I'd gone from paperboy, to web designer, to technology writer in under a decade. I didn't know myself apart from a sense of ubiquitous connection and endless information. I wondered what else there was to life. 'Real life,' perhaps, was waiting for me on the other side of the web browser."

Paul Miller says he was wrong.

"You didn’t hear words like cringe-worthy or cringe-inducing in a complimentary way before."

"Does that make the show a classic? I don’t know. But I do like the fact that the show made people appreciate the entertainment value of cringing."

I'm one of the people who simply cannot enjoy watching "The Office." I understand why it's good and why people find it funny, and why the "cringe-inducing" quality is considered a sophisticated element of comedy, but it makes me feel bad. Even thinking about watching the show makes me feel bad.

By the way, the word "cringe" literally means (according to the unlinkable OED): "To contract the muscles of the body, usually involuntarily; to shrink into a bent or crooked position; to cower." Basically, you curl up into the fetal position. Figuratively, it means: "To experience an involuntary inward shiver of embarrassment, awkwardness, disgust, etc.; to wince or shrink inwardly; (hence) to feel extremely embarrassed or uncomfortable." The first historical example of the figurative meaning is:
1868   Harper's Mag. May 793/1   ‘I should like a smoke,’ was her only comment. I may have cringed at the idea of putting my pipe between those broken teeth, but I of course made haste to do what was hospitable.
The most recent is:
1993   Time 25 Jan. 18   Privately, Clinton advisers cringed at the wreckage left behind by all the U-turns.
Somehow I'm thinking about cigars...

Above the Law produces a "Top 50 Law School Rankings."

"The basic premise underlying the ATL approach to ranking schools: the economics of the legal job market are so out of balance that it is proper to consider some legal jobs as more equal than others."
In other words, a position as an associate with a large firm is a “better” employment outcome than becoming a temp doc reviewer or even an associate with a small local firm. That might seem crassly elitist, but then again only the Biglaw associate has a plausible prospect of paying off his student loans.

In addition to placing a higher premium on “quality” (i.e., lucrative) job outcomes, we also acknowledge that “prestige” plays an out-sized role in the legal profession. We can all agree that Supreme Court clerkships and federal judgeships are among the most “prestigious” gigs to be had. Our methodology rewards schools for producing both.
Take that for what it's worth. Back when I was in law school, turning away from big law firms was what the best people did. But there are different ways of being elitist, and I certainly agree with the proposition that people who pay law school tuition and put themselves through the grind of law school are doing it with the goal of getting an excellent (or at least a good) career in law.

In that light, the big red banner in the middle of the page over there says a lot: "44% of 2012 graduates did not secure a job in the law!" Now, there were 46,364 of these graduates, and 56% of them did find long-term employment in jobs that require admittance to the bar, so that's actually a lot of jobs. Any given student is betting on himself, so how bad are those odds? Of course, many of the people who get the jobs end up hating them. So there's that.

You've got to decide for yourself. Don't just bumble into law school because it's an obvious thing to do to get on a career track if you're reasonably smart and can't think of anywhere else to go. That was never a good idea. It's just a worse idea now than it used to be.

Is "real" sarcasm or is "real" real?

The latest food article in the NYT stimulate, in me, a hunger for an understanding of "real" — not like some what-is-reality? philosophy/stoner college student, but as a connoisseur of language and humor. In 2 different articles, the modifier "real" is appended to a noun, first "milk" and then "vegetables."

1. "Pots and Pans, but Little Pain/Making Lunch With Michael Pollan and Michael Moss," written by Emily Weinstein, has the Pollan (author of books like "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto") and Moss (author of "Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us") wandering judgmentally through the kind of crowded grocery store that people in NYC call a "supermarket."
Mr. Moss and Mr. Pollan considered the mozzarella choices, skipping the pre-shredded kind in favor of a cheese that advertised itself as a product of Amish country and that cost the same as the more generic ball beside it.

“Real milk, no hormones, no antibiotics,” Mr. Pollan said, reading aloud from the label. “I love the term ‘real milk.’ I wonder if we can get fake milk anywhere here.”
2. "The Frankfurter Diaries," by Mark Bittman was about Bittman eating a hot dog. (Somehow, when I clicked on the link, I was hoping for something about Felix Frankfurter, even though I know Bittman is a food writer. I love his cookbook, "How to Cook Everything."). Bittman — like Pollan and Moss in the grocery store — comes across as an elitist out of his normal environment. He's on "a drive to the Jersey Shore" and looking for something to eat at a parkway restaurant.

Obama's performance in the Theater of the Ineffectual President.

It's not "my job... to somehow get [Congress] to behave," said Obama at yesterday's news conference, quoted by Maureen Dowd, who says:
Actually, it is his job to get them to behave. The job of the former community organizer and self-styled uniter is to somehow get this dunderheaded Congress, which is mind-bendingly awful, to do the stuff he wants them to do. It’s called leadership.

He still thinks he’ll do his thing from the balcony and everyone else will follow along below. That’s not how it works.

How can the president star in a White House Correspondents’ Association dinner satirical film pretending to be Daniel Day-Lewis playing Barack Obama in Steven Spielberg’s movie “Obama,” and not have absorbed the lessons of “Lincoln”?
1. It's silly to think that because Obama played the role of himself (playing Day-Lewis playing himself) that Obama is all about Lincoln. It made Obama look like he's about Obama, and putting Obama on the same level as Lincoln, with the mock-historical grandeur and the direction by Steven Spielberg, seems likely only to inflate Obama's egocentrism.

2. Why would this Hollywood-in-Washington adoration make him deferential to some other historical figure, one who had to accomplish great things to achieve his high place in history? Quite the opposite! It should make Obama feel that it's always been enough for him simply to be Obama, the screen onto which a nation projects its hopes and dreams. Why should Obama "absorb lessons" from the movie about "Lincoln"? Obama created his own mode of arriving at greatness, and it's not much like Lincoln's at all.

3.  A "community organizer" doesn't really "organize" a community, but even if one does, Congress isn't like the communities Obama supposedly organized. The idea that Obama could "organize" Congress is silly. Congress has its own organization, and it's full of powerful individuals who are currently actively pursuing political goals, not a bunch of citizens going about their private lives who might be induced to back some political project run by somebody else.

4. Yesterday's performance at the press conference was — I would presume — theater. It was the Theater of the Ineffectual President. It was not the Theater of the Lame Duck. (Dowd's piece is titled "Bottoms Up, Lame Duck." The "Bottoms Up" refers to her suggestion that Obama "have a drink with Mitch McConnell.") Obama likes to say he'll never face another election, but he's facing the 2014 elections. His performance yesterday was — I presume — a scene in the script for winning the midterms. I can't accomplish anything without Congress. Congress is the problem. He needs his Congress. Will we not give this beautiful man — upon whom we've projected our hopes and dreams — the Congress that will bring his presidency to a successful end? He is the central character in this movie "Obama" that we've all got to sit through. If we stay in character as members of the audience — passively taking in whatever we see on the screen — we'll merge our desires with the main character in the big spectacle. Identification with the protagonist. In the scene that ran yesterday, we saw our protagonist suffering his doubts and his weaknesses. He is beset with adversaries. Oh, no!

5. So, now we can see that Obama is doing his "job," as described by Maureen Dowd: "to somehow get this dunderheaded Congress, which is mind-bendingly awful, to do the stuff he wants them to do." Somehow. I'm telling you how I think he's going about getting Congress — Congress 2015 — to do the stuff he wants them to do. Keep sitting on your bottom as he leads from behind. Or: Bottoms up! And I don't mean drinking. I mean, get your ass out of your theater seat and stop watching the "Obama" movie. The lameness is not in our President but in ourselves.

Purchase of the day.

From the April 30, 2013 Amazon Associates Report:
Smithsonian (1-year)
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April 30, 2013

At the Pinker Café...


... you can talk all night.

"Logic Behind Obama News Conference Hard To Fathom."

"It felt as though something newsworthy must be happening. But as it turned out, not so much."
The president had no announcement to make — not even an opening statement. Instead, he plunged right into the queries, nearly all of them posed in a challenging tone....

Again and again, the president seemed to be saying: "OK, that didn't work out so well, but I tried to do what needed to be done and the Republicans wouldn't let me."...

But no matter how frustrating a president finds this dilemma at the heart of our shared-power system, it does not advance his cause to wear his frustration in public....

"It's very emotional for me as a woman to have invested 8 years in my dream..."

"... to have a husband, soul mate, and best friend in him. So this is all hard to understand."

"There is consternation at Wikipedia over the discovery that hundreds of novelists who happen to be female..."

"... were being systematically removed from the category American novelists and assigned to the category American women novelists."

I remember going to bookstores, circa 1990, where "Fiction by Women" was a separate section from "Fiction." These were places that were pro-woman, I'm quite sure, because I remember seeing Camille Paglia's "Sexual Personae" displayed with a warning label that it might not be what you were expecting and that you should bring it back for a refund if you bought it under the mistaken impression that it was good feminism and then found yourself offended.

ADDED: The biggest problem is leaving the male category plain rather than calling it "American men novelists." (Is the parallelism jarring? It should be "Female American novelists" and "Male American novelists.")

At the Slightly Pink Café...


... you can show your true colors.

"As corporate rather than government actors, the Deciders aren’t formally bound by the First Amendment."

"But to protect the best qualities of the Internet, they need to summon the First Amendment principle that the only speech that can be banned is that which threatens to provoke imminent violence, an ideal articulated by Justice Louis Brandeis in 1927. It’s time, in other words, for some American free-speech imperialism if the Web is to remain open and free in twenty-first century."

This is a big subject for me, something I've argued with Bob Wright about, notably in this March 2011 post: "The Bob Wright/Ann Althouse email exchange about what free speech means in the context of saying Roger Ailes needs to kick Glenn Beck off Fox News."

ADDED: Here's a clip from March 2011:

"Extreme Pricing" — Joe Fresh and the building collapse in Bangladesh.

"How did they not know these factories were illegally made, with three extra floors shoddily added?... Did they not know about the fire in Tazreen in November, where 117 people died, mostly women? Nobody going into Bangladesh is naive. The only reason they’re there is so they can pay almost nothing. It was a death trap."
"These workers were mostly young women, and they were ordered into that factory... They didn’t want to go into work as there were already deep cracks in the walls the day before... They were driven into that building by people with clubs waiting to beat them up — gangsters and goons. They went in at 8:00am and the building collapsed at 9:00am."
Meanwhile, the retailer Joe Fresh has a branding problem. $19 jeans suddenly seem evil.

Obama gets back to the topic of closing Guantanamo.

At the press conference today:
"It' is not a surprise to me that we are having problems at Guantanamo." He calls Guantanamo unsafe, expensive, and lessens cooperation with our allies. "It needs to be closed," Obama said. He notes that Congress has legislatively blocked him from closing Guantanamo.

"I am going to go back at this," said Obama, "I am going to reengage with Congress that this is not in the best interest of the American people."...

"This is a lingering problem that is not going to get better," Obama says. "It's going to get worse."
I am going to go back at this ≈ Nothing will change.

"Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg is taking fire from the left..."

When you're on the left, you need to be left all the way, from your first bite of tofu 'til your last dying day.

"I'd like to have breakfast with somebody. I'd like to go to bed with somebody. Sleep with somebody."

Says Martha Stewart, who is 71, and can't really very easily use

"Indian stuntman dies as he uses only his hair to cross Teesta River."

"Officials say Sailendra Nath Roy, 49, was halfway across the Teesta River in West Bengal when he suffered a massive heart attack and died. His body, held to the wire by his ponytail 70 feet above the river, hung for nearly 45 minutes as horrified spectators, who had come to cheer him on, watched from a nearby bridge.
"He was desperately trying to move forward. He was trying to scream out some instruction,” Balai Sutradhar, a photographer who was covering the stunt, told BBC News. “But no one could follow what he was saying. After struggling for 30 minutes he became still.”

"I have seen a lot of post search residences but this one is quite disturbing."

"The agents removed art from the walls, broke the frames and tore the artwork. Mr. Curtis offered his keys but agents chose to break the lock. Mr. Curtis’ garbage was scheduled to be picked up Thursday, the day after he was snatched from his life. A week later, the garbage remains in his home, along with millions of insects it attracted."

Paul Kevin Curtis is the Elvis impersonator who was falsely accused of sending ricin in letters to the President and others.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin uses city money to try to get students not to have a party.

The Mifflin Street block party is a big spring festivity, an annual event going back to 1969, when Soglin was himself a student, partying. The heavy drinking entails law enforcement problems. ("[T]he 2011 party was marred by two stabbings and three sexual assaults.")
Soglin said he wants to put any unused portion of the $190,000 designated for policing the unauthorized block party toward funding summer day camp or employment programs for youths. The budget amendment would require City Council approval.

“Is he trying to make us feel bad?” asked Lauren Cochlin, 23, who lives in the 500 block of Mifflin Street....
Soglin called it a “real-world decision” for attendees who in recent years have gone beyond “the right to party and the tradition” associated with the event with “some very serious situations that have been life-threatening.”
What if back during the Wisconsin protests, Governor Walker had pointed at the extra money that the state would be paying for law enforcement and said that he'd put that money into some program for children if the protesters would knock it off?

A government official should not use public money (or sentimentality about the children!) to pressure citizens out of exercising their freedom. The fact that some people cross the line into committing crimes is not a reason to go after everyone. Government should target its law enforcement on criminals. It's obviously easier to manipulate the good people into giving up their liberties. Imagine feeling guilty, when you're having a beer at a block party, that you're causing some child to miss out on day camp! Ironically, it's the very people who would be sensitive to that guilt trip who'd be most likely to bring good behavior to the party, diluting the proportion of louts who don't care about anything — not the laws, not common decency, not the mayor's creepy bribes, and not the damned kids playing games in the park in July.

Cats are for..

... artists.

"Ted Cruz is too often falling into the reflexive habit of voting no on everything and then mocking his colleagues."

Jennifer Rubin is "sorry to say."
There is being principled, and then there is being a jerk. Putting down your colleagues to boost your own street cred with the base falls into the latter category....

For starters, it’s just not smart to annoy colleagues whose cooperation and support you’ll need in the future. Second, as a conservative he should understand humility and grace are not incompatible with “standing on principle”; the absence of these qualities doesn’t make him more principled or more effective. Third, for a guy who lacks manners (see his condescending questioning of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) he comes across as whiny. They yelled at me! Boo hoo, senator.

There is a deeper problem, I think, with Cruz’s approach to the Senate, which has nothing to do with ideology. The contrast between him and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is telling. Paul is no less conservative than Cruz, but he is polite to a fault, soft spoken and gracious....
It's the old Mutt and Jeff routine! I like it.

"Most of the woodland wildflowers are as late as they have ever been, and some are later than they have been in the last decade..."

"Bloodroot, red maple, toothwort, we haven’t recorded any blooms yet for any of them yet this year."
Last week’s bloom count lacked forsythia, long past its historical average of April 10 in [Aldo] Leopold’s study and March 9 in the [University of Wisconsin] Arboretum’s recent work and a latest date of April 20 for Leopold and April 15 at the Arboretum. The pale purple of hepatica held out past its April 17 record. Dutchman’s breeches, bloodroot, toothwort, white violets and Pennsylvania sedge were all reaching the record late dates for production of pollen of flowers....

“The same thing is happening up at the Leopold shack” near Baraboo, said Stan Temple, who has kept up his research on phenology as an emeritus professor of conservation. “It has been one of the latest dates for most of the things that we keep track of.”

March and April ran close to five degrees colder than average, but, as Temple notes, a late spring is no strange thing in Wisconsin....

“It seems even later because our recent comparisons have been so, so early,” Carpenter said. It was just last year we set so many of the earliest dates we’ve seen.”
Very late spring. Somewhere, Al Gore is fuming.

Purchase of the day.

From the April 29, 2013 Amazon Associates Report:
Victorinox Cutlery PerformanceShield Cut Resistant Glove, Large
By using the Althouse portal, you can buy things you want, pay nothing extra, and make a contribution to this blog. We notice. We appreciate it. And only if the glove fits will we know it's... you.

The Althouse Amazon portal: comfortable, flexible, durable, not USDA disapproved, AND no paper cuts.

"Imagine you're in the oven, baking."

"Some of us know and accept our sexuality right away and some need more time to cook. I should know — I baked for 33 years."

Just catching up on the metaphors in the Jason Collins "coming out" piece in Sports Illustrated that everyone was talking about yesterday. I found this story boring, but somehow the comments on my post on the subject heated up — like you were in the oven, baking — and they're up to 788 comments. What's going on in there? In my book, a 34-year-old gay guy that has gone to a lot of trouble to stay in the closet — or the oven — in this day and age is hardly a courageous hero. Yes, he's in a major American team sport, but he's at the very end of his career, and who'd heard of him before? I see nothing but a career boost for this guy. What is the big deal? Someone left the cake in the oven for 33 years, and I don't think that I can take it, 'cause it took so long to bake it, and you were about to retire from basketball anyway, oh noooooo! O-oh nooooooo!

That cake metaphor came at the end of a paragraph that began:
The first relative I came out to was my aunt Teri, a superior court judge in San Francisco. Her reaction surprised me. "I've known you were gay for years," she said. From that moment on I was comfortable in my own skin. In her presence I ignored my censor button for the first time. She gave me support. The relief I felt was a sweet release. 
Sweet release with your aunt? Having ignored your censor button — for the first time? really? — you might want to find your editor button. I love that the aunt was all "I've known you were gay for years." The first person he came out to found his announcement boring. I'm with Aunt Teri. It's boring. This cake was baked long ago. I recall the yellow polyester shorts/Foaming like a wave/On the ground around your knees/The birds like tender babies in your hands/And the old men playing checkers, by the trees....

April 29, 2013

At the Magnolia Café...


... we're getting someplace.

That line makes me remember something from the comments on today's "golden age of blogging" post. I'd said:

"Sadly, we have been conditioned to believe that the job of the government is to keep us safe..."

"... but in reality the job of the government is to protect our liberties. Once the government decides that its role is to keep us safe, whether economically or physically, they can only do so by taking away our liberties. That is what happened in Boston."
Three people were killed in Boston and that is tragic. But what of the fact that over 40 persons are killed in the United States each day, and sometimes ten persons can be killed in one city on any given weekend? These cities are not locked-down by paramilitary police riding in tanks and pointing automatic weapons at innocent citizens.

"So when Democrats are pushing to ban people on the 'Terror Watch List' from buying guns..."

"... they’re really pushing to have a constitutional right blocked by your placement on a secret list put together by unaccountable bureaucrats with no due process. Just to be clear what they’re really talking about."

"You have a choice, a real choice... to roll with the tsunami of simplistic press and rhetoric..."

"... or the choice to stand against the power of that tsunami," said Jack McMahon, delivering the closing argument for Kermit Gosnell.

He also called the case "the most extraordinary hype and exaggeration in the history of the justice system," which is itself an extraordinary exaggeration.

It's hard to find a good account of what McMahon's argument really was. The NYT article gives a better hint at the legal substance of it:

"When I wear my wig, I know something big is going to happen."

"It makes me feel like I have more responsibility. I think I exude more energy than without it. It's magical."

Lawyers in Hong Kong, and the traditional wigs they love.
"It's a tradition that really dignifies our profession, especially in the context of our commitment to uphold the city's justice," says [Kevin] Tang....

The barristers' prestige emanates not only from the wig, but because they number in the hundreds, compared with the city's thousands of solicitors. Though solicitors have more training, top barristers are typically better paid and because they appear in court, have higher profiles as well. Even the Cantonese translation for barrister is "big lawyer," while the term for solicitor is simply "lawyer."
Solicitors would like to be allowed to wear the wigs.

"I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport."

"But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation."

Jason Collins has strong political connections. Bill Clinton said: “I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea’s classmate and friend at Stanford."

And Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) was Collins's roommate at Stanford: "For as long as I’ve known Jason Collins he has been defined by three things: his passion for the sport he loves, his unwavering integrity, and the biggest heart you will ever find. Without question or hesitation, he gives everything he’s got to those of us lucky enough to be in his life. I’m proud to stand with him today and proud to call him a friend."

Collins has been in the NBA for 12 years and will be a free agent at the end of the season. Does he face abuse within sports? He says he's led a "double life has kept me from getting close to any of my teammates." There's always politics. The man has some powerful friends there.

I'm skeptical that Twitter drives traffic to websites. But if it does, this ought to work...

Via Twitchy, which calls Saletan "soulless."

The "golden age" of the blog is over.

Says Marc Tracy in The New Republic, which is a news opinion magazine, once edited by Andrew Sullivan, who went on to be one of the giants of the Golden Age of Blogging. If this is post-golden age for blogging, is it the golden age for anything else? There are these blogging-y things like Twitter and Buzzfeed (and I was going to add Facebook, but Facebook's golden age is past, right?).

Tracy is writing a "eulogy" for blogging on the occasion of the NYT shutting down a bunch of its blogs. But the NYT only had blogs in response to the blogging trend, and were those blogs really blogs? The real bloggers were people like Andrew Sullivan. Circa 2001:
The Internet had empowered a few strong writers to create their own brand (if you were idiosyncratic—say, if you were gay, English, Catholic, and heretically conservative—then all the better) and a few strong big brands to create their own small brands....

We will still have blogs, of course, if only because the word is flexible enough to encompass a very wide range of publishing platforms: Basically, anything that contains a scrollable stream of posts is a "blog." What we are losing is the personal blog and the themed blog. Less and less do readers have the patience for a certain writer or even certain subject matter. 
How impatient can we get? I'm getting impatient with Tracy right now. I want to interrupt and say that blogs are a great format if you have a distinctive voice, and not just if you have idiosyncratic attributes — like gay, English, Catholic, and heretically conservative. The form — the blog — was so great, so powerful, so liberating, that many, many writers said me too, often pushed by an old-style publisher like the NYT that needed to have blogs to seem up-to-date. What made the age golden was the greatness of some blogs, like Sullivan's, not the sheer number of blogs at any given time.
Sullivan's blog was almost like a soap opera pegged to the news cycle—which I mean as the highest compliment.... A necessary byproduct was that even if you were a devotee, you were not interested in about half of their posts. You didn't complain, because you didn't have an alternative. Now, in the form of your Twitter feed, you do, and so these old-style blogs have no place anymore.
So, when there were only blogs, one had no choice, but now that there are blogs and Twitter, no one will choose blogs anymore? That makes no sense. First, blogs were an alternative to old media. You could still read the New York Times and The Washington Post and provide your own operatic drama. There was a time when we read the newspaper and talked with family and friends about the stories over the breakfast table and in the coffeehouses. Later, it seemed cool to enlarge our circle of interlocutors with somebody from the internet, like Andrew Sullivan (or Glenn Reynolds). And if you got the nerve, maybe you'd offer yourself on a blog as somebody who was willing to be a virtual presence in other people's conversations. (And if you are me, you got one of those interlocutors to actually materialize at your breakfast table.)

Old media survived the onset of blogging, and blogging will survive Twitter, and Twitter will survive ??? 

Whatever comes along next will change what lives on from the old days. And the old folks will always tend to think that there was, not too long ago, a Golden Age.

ADDED: I think this is very relevant: "...the rise of the internet media and social media and all that stuff. He hates it. Okay. He hates this part of the media. He really thinks that the sort of the buzzification, this isn’t just about BuzzFeed or Politico, and all the stuff, but he thinks that sort of coverage of political media has hurt political discourse. He hates it." (That's Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" yesterday, talking about Obama.)