May 18, 2013

Pay attention.

At the Magnolia Café...


... settle in for the evening.

"For months, the Tea Party cases sat on the desk of a lone specialist, who used 'political sounding' criteria — words like 'patriots,' 'we the people' — as a way to search efficiently..."

"... through the flood of applications for groups that might not quality for exemptions, according to the I.R.S. inspector general. 'Triage,' the agency’s acting chief described it."

The NYT looks into the "understaffed Cincinnati outpost" of the IRS based on "interviews with current and former employees and with lawyers who dealt with them, along with a review of I.R.S. documents" and portrays them as confused and "alienated from the broader I.R.S. culture."

"Heh, great stuff, Althouse. Cf. Derrida on Nietzsche's umbrella."

Says Yashu, in the comments on "The word 'umbrella' appears exactly once in Obama's 'Dreams From My Father.'" And that was after I'd read rhhardin, commenting on "Sigmund Freud on the meaning of the umbrella": "Derrida in Spurs on the umbrella that Nietzsche wrote he had forgotten."

I'm spurred to read "Spurs," but "Spurs" is not an ebook, so I'm off the hook. Still, here's some text visible in Google books. Derrida is playing with the the possible meaning(s) of "I have forgotten my umbrella," found (in quotation marks) in Nietzche's unpublished manuscripts. Excerpt:
The umbrella's symbolic figure is well-known, or supposedly so. Take, for example, the hermaphroditic spur of a phallus which is modestly enfolded in its veils, an organ which is at once aggressive and apotropaic, threatening and/or threatened. One doesn't just happen onto an unwonted object of this sort in a sewing-machine on a castration table. 
"Unwonted" is not a typo. Unlike "unwanted," it's not commonly heard/seen. It means: "not commonly heard, seen, practised." So says the OED, which tells us that Charlotte Brontë used "unwonted" in "Jane Eyre": "Difficulties in habituating myself to new rules and unwonted tasks." Are there umbrellas in "Jane Eyre"?
I jumped up, took my muff and umbrella, and hastened into the inn-passage: a man was standing by the open door, and in the lamp-lit street I dimly saw a one-horse conveyance....
The Freudian symbolism is too blatant to need pointing out. The umbrella, the man, and the horse. And the muff, the inn-passage, and the open door. That's more than dimly seen.

"Apotropaic" is also unusual. The OED says it's "Having or reputed to have the power of averting evil influence or ill luck" and gives this earliest example from the 1883 Encyclopedia Brittanica:
The sacrifice of the ‘October horse’ in the Campus Martius..had also a naturalistic and apotropaic character.
Wikipedia says the "October horse was an animal sacrifice to Mars carried out on October 15, coinciding with the end of the agricultural and military campaigning season." There were chariot races and "the right-hand horse of the winning team was transfixed by a spear, then sacrificed." So did the ancient Romans have umbrellas? Yes. They were used by women and "effeminate men." Used against the sun, of course. How much Latin do you need to see the "umbra" in "umbrella" and to know we're talking about shade.

We law folk know "umbra" from the "penumbras" in "specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights [that] have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance," a very glaring phrase written by Justice William O. Douglas, trying to explain how in the lamp-lit street he dimly saw the right of privacy.

But it was really Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. who got that word started in its U.S. law usage, the OED tells us: "The use of the penumbra metaphor in American jurisprudence appears to date from the late 19th cent. and is associated with Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841–1935), legal scholar and Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court."
1873   O. W. Holmes in Amer. Law. Rev. 7 654   It is better to have a line drawn somewhere in the penumbra between darkness and light, than to remain in uncertainty.
I suspect no one will ever Heh-great-stuff-Althouse-Cf. me again. Here I am, writing expectantly, hoping for the circle to finally close, as it did for young Obama, crying over his father's grave, when he realized that the masculine needed to be leavened with femininity and that who he was, what he cared about, was no longer just a matter of intellect or obligation, no longer a construct of words, and then it started to rain and suddenly his brother Bernard was squatting beside him, sheltering him with a bent-up old umbrella. 

"Are you ready for me to read it?" Meade asks, and I say, "It needs one more thing, and I don't know what it is."

People who live in the city are apparently so frazzled...

... that there need to be articles explaining the information that it's relaxing to take a walk in the park. 

A walk in the park is a cliché that signifies an extremely easy activity. If you don't know a walk in the park is relaxing, how on earth do these city people survive in the hectic, harried environment I keep reading about?

Sigmund Freud on the meaning of the umbrella.

We've been talking about Obama and umbrellas this morning — here, here, and here — and, as noted, I bought the Kindle version of Freud's "Interpretation of Dreams" so I could search for "umbrella," which I remembered as a famous Freudian symbol.
All elongated objects, sticks, tree-trunks, umbrellas (on account of the opening, which might be likened to an erection), all sharp and elongated weapons, knives, daggers, and pikes, represent the male member...

Small boxes, chests, cupboards, and ovens correspond to the female organ; also cavities, ships, and all kinds of vessels.
What then would Freud say about Obama's writing a book called "Dreams From My Father" in which he depicts a scene (perhaps concocted for dramatic effect) in which he is crying in the rain between the small boxes that are the graves of his father and grandfather and his brother is suddenly there holding an opened umbrella? To ask that question is already to see the answer.

And what would Freud say about the scene that has seized the public imagination — #1 on The Washington Post's most popular list — "Obama puts Marines on umbrella duty, irking conservatives"?

To ask the question is to see the answer! Indeed, to ask the question is to see innumerable phallic symbols in the photograph. Here, inspect this huge enlargement. Oh, my! It's a world of wonder. The shape of those windowed doors! Obama's 2-thumbs-up gesture. The lectern stands. The microphones. The medals. The arrows in the claws of the eagles on the seals. The umbrellas, one more erect than the other.

According to the WaPo article, the U.S. military might believe that umbrellas are effeminate. Dr. Freud says no, no absolutely not. They are quite masculine, especially when erect. Getting a rigidly erect male to hold erect umbrella over you and another rigidly erect male to hold another albeit slightly less erect umbrella over a world leader? It's the most masculine image ever seen!

It's no wonder the President's detractors are irked. In the Freudian analysis, we know the source of the anxiety that motivates them to drag him down with assertions that umbrellas are not manly.

The word "umbrella" appears exactly once in Obama's "Dreams From My Father."

I'm searching the text, because I've been thinking, this morning, about the fascination with Obama's interaction with the Marine and the umbrella, and that set me looking into umbrellas as a famously Freudian symbol, and I was struck by the meaningfulness — in that Freudian context — of Obama's book title "Dreams From My Father."

Now, I'm astounded to see that the umbrella figures importantly in the book — and it is even an umbrella held over him by another man (his younger brother Bernard). This happens at the end of what is the most dramatic scene in the book, on the last page of the final chapter. Obama, in Africa, falls to the ground between the graves of his father and his grandfather and cries.  He's crying about a lack of "a faith that wasn’t new, that wasn’t black or white or Christian or Muslim but that pulsed in the heart of the first African village and the first Kansas homestead—a faith in other people."
And for lack of faith you clung to both too much and too little of your past. Too much of its rigidness, its suspicions, its male cruelties
He expresses the idea that their "male cruelties" should have been moderated by more of "the laughter in Granny’s voice, the pleasures of company while herding the goats, the murmur of the market, the stories around the fire... Words of encouragement. An embrace. A strong, true love." That is, the over-masculinity should have been mixed with more feminine things, things that "could make up for a lack of airplanes or rifles." There's a theory of gender here: "you could never forge yourself into a whole man by leaving those things behind."

"I think he's crude, I think he's medieval, and I don't want an elderly gentleman from Vienna with an umbrella inflicting his dreams upon me."

"I don't have the dreams that he discusses in his books. I don't see umbrellas in my dreams. Or balloons."

So said Vladimir Nabokov, in 1966, answering the question "Mr. Nabokov, would you tell us why it is that you detest Dr. Freud?" I'm reading this now after writing the last post, about the symbolism of Obama and the Marine-held umbrella. The post ends:
If umbrella-holding conveys a message of unmanliness, it is a vivid image of impotence. It's a symbol.
Umbrellas are a famously Freudian symbol, and I was going to embellish that last post with some stray erudition. But the post was already too long. (Too long!!) And here was Nabokov, taking a swipe at the elderly gentleman from Vienna way back in 1966.

Interestingly, Nabokov is also talking about something else that was a topic in the Obama-and-the-umbrella post:
I'm not a good speaker, you see. When I start to speak, I have immediately four or five lines of thought — sort of roads, you know, trails going various ways. And I have to decide which trail I'm going to follow, and while I decide this, hawing and hemming begins, and it may be very upsetting because I hear it myself. I can never understand those limpid, fluid speakers, as my father was, who just deliver perfect phrases, beautifully built, with an aphorism here, you know, and a metaphor there. I can't do it. I have to think it out; I have to take a pencil; I have to write it down laboriously; have it before me. I do things like that. It's probably psychological. I can imagine what old Freud would have said, whom I heartily detest, as my readers know by now.
Ah! What would Freud have said about Obama's endless uh-ing?

Nevertheless, I am downloading Freud's "Interpretation of Dreams." I want it in my Kindle, alongside, among other things, Obama's — ahem — "Dreams From My Father."

"It was a lighthearted moment in the midst of a grim few days for the White House..."

But Obama's comical stylings didn't play as well this week as they have in the past. I'm reading "Obama puts Marines on umbrella duty, irking conservatives" only because I'm interested in figuring out why it's #1 on the "most popular" list in the sidebar at The Washington Post. Something cute about the headline, I thought. But reading it — and looking at that photograph of Obama intentionally clowning with the white-gloved Marine — I'm seeing something tragic. The old ways — that made us love him — don't work anymore. The gentle, slow-talking, stalling with "uhs" for Woody Allen-like timing:
"Uh I am going to go ahead and ask, folks, why don’t we get a couple of Marines — they’re going to look good next to us — just 'cause uh uh — I wanna — I’ve got a change of suits but I don’t know about uh uh uh our prime uh our prime minister. Uh there we go. That’s good. [To the reporters:] You guys, I’m sorry about but but let let let uh uh mmm uh let me uh uh uuuuhhh make sure that I answer a specific question...."

"Harvard law student hopes to buy a Segway after his $1M ‘Survivor’ win."

ABA Journal covers John Cochran's win:
He told the Hollywood Reporter he would like to spend some of the prize money on a Segway, a new apartment, investments and "a lot of wireless gizmos and stuff."

On the finale, Cochran said he would like to become a writer rather than a lawyer. Asked about his paper about Survivor, Cochran told the Hollywood Reporter it was “basically Survivor for Dummies” and wasn’t that great....
“It wasn't showing any great insight into how to manage the Survivor jury,” Cochran said. “It gave maybe a brief overview of maybe what sort of strategies work and what don't, but it's not especially insightful. That's why I haven't released it. It's just gonna shatter everyone's illusions that I've written some sort of brilliant thing. It's not brilliant at all. It's embarrassing, so I'm gonna keep it a mystery."
Ha ha. Is the new book going to be insight into Survivor or insight into modesty? Or... may I recommend... a memoir of traveling around America on a Segway? If so, scoot through Madison, Wisconsin, because we love those things around here.

The NYT changes the headline that produced the dramatic Drudge link "They Knew."

As I blogged here yesterday, Drudge had this dramatic graphic depiction...

... linking to a NYT article with the headline: "Treasury Knew of I.R.S. Inquiry in 2012, Official Says." Key text on that point:
The inspector general... divulged that he informed the Treasury’s general counsel he was auditing the I.R.S.’s screening of politically active groups seeking tax exemptions on June 4, 2012. He told Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin “shortly after,” he said. That meant Obama administration officials were aware of the matter during the presidential campaign year.
This morning, the headline at the link is: "Republicans Expand I.R.S. Inquiry, With Eye on White House."

It's all about the Republicans' political ambitions. That's the spin. That's what they have.  We're supposed to look ahead to 2014 (and 2016), not back to 2012, when voters were deprived of information we could have used.

But we're not supposed to look backward. Only "Forward" — which was, you may remember, Obama's official slogan in the campaign. It fits nicely with the unofficial slogan "What difference, at this point, does it make?"

In that view, the NYT's new headline makes sense. Look always to the future. The past only matters to the extent that it influences what we do going forward. In that view, the scandal investigations are to be understood in terms of the next election. Naturally. What else is there?

May 17, 2013

At the Evergreen Café...


... it's getting late, but please linger.

"Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers."

Information the IRS demanded from the Coalition for Life of Iowa. Asked if that's an appropriate question to a 501(c)(3) applicant, IRS commissioner Steven Miller says he's pained at his inability to answer.

What an awful witness! (And I say that after watching much of today's testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee.)

ADDED: To help you think about what might be an appropriate question read this ("Exemption requirements") and this ("Exempt purposes"). Miller seemed to actively resist giving us any idea how the requested details might have been anything but harassment, even as he squirmed away from a simple denouncement of the request.

"How Twitter Is Messing With Al-Qaeda's Careful PR Machine."

"Individual jihadis are increasingly taking to social media with their own opinions, sparking disputes within the terrorist organization."

It's a marketplace of ideas. As Justice Holmes famously said:
If you have no doubt of your premises or your power, and want a certain result with all your heart, you naturally express your wishes in law, and sweep away all opposition.... But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas — that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out.
Good luck shopping. 

When the lawyer testifies against his client...

... and the client is O.J. Simpson.
[Yale] Galanter hesitated and spoke only after he paused, breathed deeply and was reminded that Simpson had waived attorney-client privilege.

"I'm very uncomfortable doing this," Galanter said.
Via TalkLeft, who says "Things aren't looking good for O.J., even though other lawyers involved in the case have supported O.J.'s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel...").

"It's as if Stephen Harper were the CEO of Canada the corporation and we were his employees and we were not allowed to step out of line..."

"... or say what we believe is right or true because that would upset the company's brand. This fanatical obsession with message control to me is very much what you have in a company but in a democracy that shouldn't be the case."

Says Franke James, who tells her story in "Banned on the Hill: A True Story about Dirty Oil and Government."

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Drudge: "They Knew."

A very dramatic graphic depiction by Drudge now. The link goes to the NYT "Treasury Knew of I.R.S. Inquiry in 2012, Official Says."

UPDATE: The NYT has changed its headline to: "Republicans Expand I.R.S. Inquiry, With Eye on White House."

"We've had bras hanging here for 45 years. It's been a charm of the place. So here comes this gal..."

"... and she's walking in here like Lady Astor's pet horse, you know, and she says she wants those bras down because they're a fire hazard. Now how can a bra be a fire hazard unless someone is wearing it? Honest to God."

The official ceremony to open the dog park... as seen from the dogs' point of view.

Today was the official opening ceremony for Dane County's 7th dog park — the same dog park you've seen pictured on this blog many times. It's not like it's been closed. It's just that today they had some officials making speeches and some TV cameras. When the speeches were over, it was time to release the dogs, who were supposed to go romping out into the park for some nice TV footage.

Meade was there, getting some blog-style video, which I edited into this 27-second show, stressing the experience for the dogs, who had no idea what these government officials have done for them or what all the talking was about:

Why do 58% of public swimming pools in the U.S. contain fecal matter?

"Finding a high percentage of E. coli-positive filters indicates swimmers frequently contaminate pool water when they have a fecal incident in the water or when feces rinse off of their bodies because they do not shower thoroughly before getting into the water," according to a statement by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fecal incident....

"The City of Philadelphia shut down a career fair for ex-offenders today..."

"... after an unexpected crowd of thousands showed up, résumés in hand."
There was no yelling, no shoving — just 3,000 people all trying to get into the job fair at once.

"It is absolutely not illegal" says IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, testifying today about the targeting of conservatives.

Transcript here.

"Officials in the State Department and Clinton circles seem especially sensitive about the arrangement, and no one would speak about it on the record."

Says the New York Times, about Huma Abedin and her work for private clients while serving in the State Department in her longtime role as Hillary Clinton's confidante.
Ms. Abedin reached her new working arrangement in June 2012, when she returned from maternity leave, quietly leaving her position as deputy chief of staff and becoming a special government employee, which is essentially a consultant. A State Department official said that change freed her from the requirement that she disclose her private earnings for the rest of the year on her financial disclosure forms. Still, during that period, she continued to be identified publicly in news reports as Mrs. Clinton’s deputy chief of staff.

Earlier this month, Mr. Weiner released a copy of the couple’s 2012 tax return showing that they had income of more than $490,000.
I was just asking where all their money came from — last month, when the NYT had an article showing off the Weiner/Abedin lifestyle.

From today's NYT article, we hear that the post-maternity leave "arrangement allowed her to work from her home in New York, rather than at the State Department’s headquarters in Washington."
She earned approximately $135,000 from the department during 2012. It is not clear how much Ms. Abedin was paid by Mrs. Clinton privately, or from the Clinton Foundation and Teneo. The Clintons have described Ms. Abedin as a surrogate daughter to them.
ADDED: What work did she do? Did the Clintons just funnel money to her and Weiner? 

A Madison, WI proposal to authorize community street painting projects to "bring people together."

We're not talking about water soluble paint, but permanent paint jobs, the equivalent of murals, but on the horizontal surface that cars drive on. The alderwoman who proposes the new ordinance — Marsha Rummel — got the idea from Portland, Oregon, "where community members paint an intersection to give it a sense of place and create a public square."

There would be a permit process, including a petition "indicating approval from at least 60 percent residents, businesses and non-residential properties within a 200-foot radius of the proposed location"  and "assurances for the city that hold the design's applicant responsible for maintenance of the painting and requires them to have insurance." (I'm quoting the Cap Times article, not the ordinance, so I don't know whom to blame for the irritating ambiguity.)
"You can't just say you want to come in and do this. It needs to be maintained over time. Paint fades. It needs to be repainted from time to time, just as we go and repaint traffic lines," said Arthur Ross, the city's pedestrian-bicycle coordinator.
Which is why it's obviously a terrible idea.
"What it really is is a community building activity. It gets people out of their houses and working on something together," Ross said.
And what about when it breaks them apart because it's ugly, it makes the neighborhood look trashy, and it's not properly maintained.  I loathe these government dreams of bringing people together. Leave us alone! I know it's Madison, but people have their own private ways of getting together.

Former acting IRS commissioner Steve Miller testifies in Congress: "I do not believe that partisanship motivated the people..."

"... who engaged in the practices described in the inspector general’s report." He apologized for "the mistakes that we made and poor service we provided," and opined that "partisanship ... has no place at the IRS."
Miller said that “foolish mistakes” were made by IRS employees who were trying to be “more efficient” in carrying out their duties. Now, he said, “the agency is moving forward.”...

Under sharper questioning by Rep. Charles W. Boustany Jr. (R-La.), Miller denied that the IRS engaged in “targeting” conservative groups, saying that was a “pejorative term” and that the employees had centralized a “list” of applications in a “troublesome” manner....

Miller said later in response to tough questions from Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) that he did not believe any IRS information on the conservative groups was shared outside the agency. “That would be a violation of law,” he said. “I would be shocked if that happened.”
Is that shocked as in shocked or shocked as in shocked shocked?

"A List Of Recurring Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, And Jason Sudeikis Characters..."

"... Ranked In Descending Order Of How Much This Commentator Will Miss Them."

Via Throwing Things, where they're going to miss Fred Amisen's Prince:

"A Self is interesting to oneself and others, it acts as a sort of rudder in all the vicissitudes of life..."

"... and it thereby defines what used to be known as a career," wrote Jacques Barzun to his grandson, the lawprof, Charles Barzun, quoted by my son Jaltcoh here. The grandson had asked for help with what he called "a genuine crisis of identity... "brought on by the events of 9/11 and partly by my own discovery that I could not have cared less about my job." The grandfather assured him that he would find his way, which would look "like a path marked on a map" and "you will have made a Self, which is indeed a desirable possession."

The elder Barzun likens identity to a path and then to a rudder. Life is a journey. That's a very widely used metaphor. All these people who think of life as a journey: What are they picturing? Do they see a wilderness where you can find — or break — a path? Or do they see a map where you can mark a path? Or is it a journey over the ocean, in which your body is a ship, and what you want is a rudder?

The seafaring image implicit in Barzun's "rudder" made me think of that popular old poem that ends "I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul." I haven't heard that poem — "Invictus" — quoted in a long time, perhaps because it was overquoted to the point of triteness and nowadays people don't read poetry — other than in children's books. They'll listen to poetry, including the endless doggerel of rap (which is, perhaps, inspired by many childhood readings of Dr. Seuss books). But there was a time when lots of ordinary people knew the last verse of "Invictus" by heart.

I'm reading the Wikipedia page for "Invictus," scanning the long list of items under the heading "Influence." It begins with "Casablanca" (where "I am the master of my fate" is used ironically). The next item features Ronald Reagan:
In the 1945 film Kings Row, Parris Mitchell, a psychiatrist played by Robert Cummings, recites the first two stanzas of "Invictus" to his friend Drake McHugh, played by Ronald Reagan, before revealing to Drake that his legs were unnecessarily amputated by a cruel doctor.
Next, another President, FDR, at least the FDR of the 1958 play Sunrise at Campobello. Further down we encounter Nelson Mandela, who recited the poem to hearten his fellow prisoners. There's also Aung San Suu Kyi. And then... it's chilling to encounter this after beginning this post with the crisis of identity brought on by 9/11:
The Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh quoted the poem in its entirety as his final (written) statement.
The terrorists are out and about on their own ships in the seafaring journey of life, and they've got their rudders. Emergency inspiration available here.

"Even the singers' hair was identical and when it came to hitting the highest notes at the top of the song, Jennifer clearly couldn't help but show off her skills."

"It wasn't massively appropriate, and Candice looked bewildered and nervous at times so it's to her utter credit that she still took the title home. Perhaps realising her mistake, and possibly performing on autopilot, Hudson tried to chivvy the younger singer along at the song's close."

The Daily Mail covers last night's "American Idol" finale. (Hence the incomprehensible-to-Americans "chivvy.") The other DM article is "Must be female intuition! Aretha Franklin predicts Candice Glover's win as she duets with final five American Idol ladies via video." Ha ha.

It's kind of true. "AI" brought in 2 gigantic soul-singing divas as if to launch their new counterpart, Candice (whom I'm sure the producers knew would win) and those 2, each in her own way, stepped on Candice's moment.

It was a funny season of "Idol." It turned out to be a singing contest in which the best singer won. She didn't play to the cameras and beg for our love. She tried to win on the merits, and did. But — isn't it the way things always go? — the show is in steep decline. Where's the audience? Maybe the people who are left really just like great singing and not the attendant hammy bullshit. That makes no sense. That's an utterly irrational way to go looking for great singing.

"Dzhokhar Tsarnaev note found in boat points to mystifying motive we may never truly understand."

"... So, probably just teen alienation then."

Yes, of course! Just look at his face!

"WH Benghazi emails have different quotes than earlier reported."

CBS reports:
On Friday, Republicans leaked what they said was a quote from Rhodes: "We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don't want to undermine the FBI investigation."

But it turns out that in the actual email, Rhodes did not mention the State Department.

It read: "We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation."
So the Republicans inserted fake language? Or is the "actual email" not the actual email?
Republicans also provided what they said was a quote from an email written by State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland.... "The penultimate point is a paragraph talking about all the previous warnings provided by the Agency (CIA) about al-Qaeda's presence and activities of al-Qaeda."

The actual email from Nuland says: "The penultimate point could be abused by members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings."
So the version of the email we're now seeing refers to "The penultimate point" but is missing a sentence saying what "The penultimate point is..."? I'm skeptical!

May 16, 2013

At the Windswept Café...


... find a place in the shadows.

"Dying man's eye blinks lead to Ohio murder verdict."

"Police interviewed the 35-year-old [victim David] Chandler after he was shot in the head and neck. He was only able to communicate with his eyes and died about two weeks later."
In the video, police had to repeat some questions when Chandler failed to respond or when the number of times he blinked appeared unclear. But Chandler blinked his eyes hard three times when police asked him if the photo of Woods was the photo of his shooter. He again blinked three times when they asked him if he was sure.

"12 Animals We Wish We Could De-Extinct."

"The science is complicated... and so are the ethics involved. But who can resist dreaming up a de-extinction 'wish list'? With more species nearing the extinction danger zone every day​, there's no shortage of candidates, but some are more scientifically suited for resurrection than others. And even if we could bring a species back, should we? We looked to scientists to explain who they'd like to bring back, and which are best left in the past."

"Left-wing feminists are protesting the Barbie Dreamhouse Experience — a 27,000-square-foot lifesized pink estate — opening in Berlin...."

"'They present an image of cooking, primping and singing, as if it were in some way life-fulfilling,' Socialist Alternative editor Michael Koschitzki, 27, told German newspaper Der Spiegel. 'The Barbie Dreamhouse is the expression of a conventional role model that isn't OK,' he said.

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Shouldn't there be a special prosecutor in the IRS case?

Obama rejected the idea at his news conference today, saying "Between those investigations [by Congress and the Justice Department] I think we’re going to be able to figure out exactly what happened, who was involved, what went wrong, and we’re going to be able to implement steps to fix it."

He also said: "I promise you this, that the minute I found out about it, then my main focus was making sure that we get the thing fixed... I'm outraged by this in part because look, I'm a public figure, if a future administration is starting to use the tax laws to favor one party over another or one political view over another, obviously, we’re all vulnerable."

I still want a special prosecutor because I just don't trust them not to cover up. The minute I found out about it, then my main focus was making sure that we get the thing fixed. I don't think people believe that. I don't believe it. And when was "the minute [he] found out about it"? He keeps making statements about finding out things around about whenever we do... which is absurdly self-serving, as if the only problems are public relations problems. Apparently, nothing exists for him until we learn about it!

The absurdity is hilariously depicted in this "Daily Show" clip:

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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"Look at this Boston bombing. The pictures of those two brothers. Aren’t they cute?"

Said I, as quoted in The New Yorker today in a piece by Paul Bloom called "The Dzhokar Tsarnaev Empathy Problem." I was being sarcastic and criticizing the media for using a strikingly baby-faced picture of Tsarnaev in practically every report.

Bloom concludes:
Relying on the face might be human nature—even babies prefer to look at attractive people. But, of course, judging someone based on the geometry of his features is, from a moral and legal standpoint, no better than judging him based on the color of his skin. Actually, both biases reflect the parochial and irrational nature of empathy—if Tsarnaev were black, would he evoke the same response from the mothers [Hanna Rosin described here]? When someone talks about the warm feelings she has for Tsarnaev because of his sweet face, we should treat this with the same wary understanding that we would give to someone who admits to caring more about those who have the same color skin. It’s an empathetic response, and a natural one, but hardly one to be proud of.
Bloom says nothing about the baby-faced picture of Trayvon Martin that the media tended to use. Sweet faces manipulate us emotionally even when they are black. And an individual's face isn't quite the same as his skin color, because the mind is revealed through the face (albeit incompletely and often deceptively). Bloom displays the media's favorite photo of Jared Loughner and declares that we don't feel much empathy toward that face. But the problem with that face is not inborn ugliness. It's craziness in the expression. We are properly repelled by that.

It is the true sociopath — I would suggest — whose does evil things but keeps a normal-looking face. We need to challenge ourselves to recognize the sociopaths in our midst. And let's not try to overcome our aversion to faces like Loughner's or Adam Lanza's. These people have terrible problems that we ignore at great risk.

ADDED: The post title corrects a typo that appears in The New Yorker ("bothers" for "brothers").

"Because I'm transgender, I was always completely disconnected from my body."

Says Chaz Bono, blithely purveying a stereotype about transgender persons. Apparently, they are all completely disconnected from their bodies!

This head-body disconnect is offered as an explanation for obesity: "I really lived in my head and just kind of tried to ignore everything from the neck down."

"Terrorists in witness protection were allowed on flights, watchdog says."

WaPo headlines on its front page, linking to "Watchdog: Justice Dept. didn’t provide names of some terrorists in witness protection program."

"Water that has been trapped in rock for more than a billion years... might contain microbes that evolved independently from the surface world..."

"... and it's a finding that gives new hope to the search for life on other planets."
"It's managed to stay isolated for almost half the lifetime of the Earth," [said Greg Holland, a geochemist at Lancaster University in England]. It's a time capsule. And it doesn't just hold water. "There's a lot of hydrogen in these samples."

That's significant because hydrogen is food for some microorganisms. Hydrogen-eating microbes have been found deep in the ocean and in South African mines where chemical reactions in the rock produce a steady supply of hydrogen. And that hydrogen, says Holland, "could provide the energy for life to survive in isolation for 2 billion years."
Now, do you see why we need to go to Mars?

Or do you think that we ought to start worrying about alien microbes liberated from the depths of Earth?

Rebooting the Tea Party.

The outrageous persecution of the Tea Party is an opportunity.

Take some advice, Tea Party people:

The Tea Party has been demonized in the last few years. Crazy, violent, racist, stupid... whatever.

Let's see how well these people leverage the persecution experience into a new image.

I suspect they will have a hard time. Why would they know how to exploit a serious crisis like the masters? They were victimized, but can they be the new victims that everyone wants to embrace?

The $495 million art auction — "a new era in the art market."

"The sale included works by Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The sale established 16 new world auction records, with nine works selling for more than $10m (£6.6m) and 23 for more than $5m (£3.2m)."

These works really are valuable, because they are the last great works in the history of painting — if we are to understand the history of painting as the era when people paid attention to and cared about what painters were painting.

"What happens to the 40% of food produced but never eaten in the U.S. each year..."

"... the mounds of perfect fruit passed over by grocery store shoppers, the tons of meat and milk left to expire?"

"Teen terror suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev scrawled a confession inside the boat he was hiding in..."

"... before cops grabbed him last month, according to a report Thursday.:
The note was written in pen on a bullet-riddled wall of the cabin, and reportedly said America’s military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan was the reason behind the deadly April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon, sources told CBS News. The message reportedly said the victims — three killed and more than 260 injured — were collateral damage similar to Muslims who've died in U.S.-led wars.

“When you attack one Muslim, you attack all Muslims,” the note said....

Tsarnaev, 19, also reportedly wrote that he didn’t mourn older brother and alleged bombing mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed in an earlier gun battle with cops. He referred to him as a martyr in paradise....

"'It was pretty much a proctology exam through your earlobe,' said Karen L. Kenney, the coordinator for the San Fernando Valley Patriots..."

"... a tea party group in Southern California that was sent an IRS questionnaire with more than 100 questions on it.... Some groups, including several interviewed by The Washington Post, were asked to provide names of donors or membership lists, which experts say the IRS cannot legally do."
The San Fernando group first submitted its application for nonprofit status in the fall of 2010, which was after the IRS’s Cincinnati-based “determination unit” had implemented its politically charged screening criteria. The group wrote the agency a $400 check to fast-track the process, but 19 months went by before the group heard anything, Kenney said.
So they stole $400 from this group! How many other $400s were pocketed on false pretenses?
That’s when the long list of questions arrived. Kenney said the group sent back a four-inch, seven-pound stack of documents before deciding that enough was enough. The group decided the questions were far too intrusive and could result in individual supporters being targeted.

“We couldn’t sic the IRS on our members,” Kenney said....
This is reminiscent of the way the state of Alabama treated the NAACP back in the 1950s!

That was the Supreme Court's landmark case on the freedom-of-speech-based right of association. Ironically, the IRS behavior has been explained as a response to another Supreme Court free-speech case, Citizens United. From the first link above (which goes to the WaPo article "Groups that sought tax-exempt status say IRS dealings were a nightmare") :
Lois G. Lerner, who heads the IRS’s tax-exemption division, described the targeting campaign as a misguided attempt to deal with a wave of applications after the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited sums on politics.
How many times did Obama say that he was looking for ways to get around Citizens United? How hard did he try to equate "Citizens United" with evil corporations and the money's unfair effect on politics? And here his administration was going after grass-roots groups who were organizing not to lobby for corporate welfare, but to express ideas about limited government and the meaning of the Constitution!

"I was just a stay-at-home mother. I was pregnant with another baby, and I wanted to do what was right. My Tea Party group was becoming really large..."

"... and I couldn't run the money and the donations through my bank account. I was advised the IRS would come after you for that."
So I started calling other groups and I thought I would file and create an organization, and here they were all getting targeted by the IRS, and I got scared....

"Send us your Facebook pages, your Twitter pages," and I said, "Does that include personal pages?" and they said, "Everything."  They wanted to know your personal relationships with politicians and political parties. And I asked, "What would happen if I don't send this to you?" and they said, they made an insinuation like, "Look, it can be considered perjury if you omit things from the IRS."  I'm a pregnant stay-at-home mother on one income, I thought, "Oh, my goodness, I'm not doing anything." I stopped.

3 Pinnochios to "Barbara Boxer’s claim that GOP budgets hampered Benghazi security."

"[I]t is almost as if Boxer is living in a time warp, repeating talking points from six months ago that barely acknowledge the fact that extensive investigations have found little evidence of her claim that 'there was not enough security because the budget was cut.' State Department officials repeatedly told Congress that a lack of funds was not an issue. Instead, security was hampered because of bureaucratic issues and management failures. In other words, given the internal failures, no amount of money for the State Department likely would have made a difference in this tragedy."

Writes WaPos Fact Checker Glenn Kessler.

Why didn't Romney... why didn't the Republicans... root out these Obama scandals before the last election?

Why wasn't the opposition party oppositional enough? Where was the supervision? Why did Romney crumple mid-attack in the second debate? Where was the vigilance? Where was the vigor? Where was the outrage? The American people were deprived of a fair election, and the Republicans — who presumably wanted to get the President's hands off the machinery of power — didn't see what was being done or they didn't want to talk about it or — to voice the last and paranoid-sounding option — they were complicit.

Here's a list — to be lengthened — of things that might have happened:

1. The President's machinations were so devious and brilliant and that it was just too hard for the Republicans to uncover them in time to enlighten the voters.

2. The Republicans had good reason to believe that the American people resisted thinking ill of the famously likeable President and so they pursued campaign strategies that allowed people to maintain this treasured belief. Their idea was: He's a nice guy but it would be good to switch to this other person who's also nice and will do an even better job. That's lame, we can see in retrospect, but it was the decision at the time.

3. The Democrats' theme was the meanness of Republicans, and muckracking and mudslinging would have risked reinforcing that theme. It seemed like a better bet to stay clean, especially once the scrappier candidates — Gingrich and Santorum — lost out to the gentlemanly Romney.

4. Obama's prime target was the Tea Party (which had crushed him in the 2010 midterms), and the establishment Republicans were at odds with the Tea Party movement. I'm not saying I believe this, but sober reflection tells us we need to redraw the line between paranoia and vigilance. The theory is that establishment Republicans appreciated the suppression of the Tea Party.

Connecting the dots: the Justice Department targeted Gibson Guitars and Boeing in 2011.

Breitbart digs into the past:
On Aug. 24, 2011, the Department of Justice sent armed agents into the Gibson Guitar factor in Memphis "confiscating half a million dollars worth of guitar making material is an alleged violation of environmental standards."

Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz is a conservative, and his company eventually settled rather than take matters to court....

Just a few weeks later, the Obama administration squared off against Boeing for daring to set roots in a "right to work" state....

The NLRB complaint against Boeing was eventually dropped, but not before the union got a pretty compensation package as a parting gift.
These data points look very different now than they did at the time, and I wonder how many data points we've missed over the last 4+ years because we were not so paranoid vigilant.

May 15, 2013

At the Why Tree Café...


... you don't have to know why.

Krauthammer on Benghazi.


Eric Holder "seems to be proud of how little he knows."

Says Dana Milbank.
“I don’t have a factual basis to answer the questions that you have asked, because I was recused,” the attorney general said.

On and on Holder went: “I don’t know. I don’t know. . . . I would not want to reveal what I know. . . . I don’t know why that didn’t happen. . . . I know nothing, so I’m not in a position really to answer.”...

But when the Justice Department undermines the Constitution, recusal is no excuse.

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From the May 14, 2013 Amazon Associates Report:
Charcoal Companion Ultimate Barbecue Pit Mitt

"A few months ago, my husband uncovered an affair I was having with an old flame."

"He moved out and initiated divorce proceedings, but in the time since, I was able to convince him that I am truly repentant and to give our marriage another chance for the sake of our children. The problem I have now is that he says that if we are to stay married, he wants it to be an open marriage. I've tried to tell him that I've gotten that out of my system and I don't want to be with anybody other than him, but he says there just isn't any way he can ever trust me again, he doesn't feel an obligation to be faithful to me anymore, and at least this way we're being honest about it."

Letter to advice columnist "Prudie" from a woman who "just want[s] things to go back to how they used to be."

Who's more wrong, the wife or the husband? It's easy to say the wife, but the husband is also wrong, because the idea of open marriage should be founded on trust, not mistrust. He's punishing her, deliberately, not pursuing what he believes is a positive way of life. (I'm not recommending polyamory, but if you're doing it as an expression of hostility to your primary partner, you're not doing it the way the prominent proponents say you should. I know... should... why speak of shoulds in the realm of transgression? I do get that. But I'm not one of the promoters of polyamory. I'm just someone who's listened to my share of Dan Savage podcasts.)

Drudgetaposition of the Day.


"LARRY PAGE: Here’s What’s Wrong With My Voice."

"Rod Stewart: Steroid 'addiction' shrank my manhood!" ("The steroids will take down the swelling in any membrane — including your k--b-- — and it’s what you do when you’re in a bit of a pinch and need to do a show and you can’t sing.")
AND: Meade read this and asked "What's 'k--b--'?" I said, "All I could think of was 'kielbasa,' but why couldn't you print it?"

I google the phrase "The steroids will take down the swelling in any membrane" to find a website that will print the unfit-to-print word. "Knob!"

What's with the dashes before and after the "b"? Damned editors. If I have to guess the word, get the dashes right. Knob. The Daily News — which is what Drudge linked — must have gotten it from The Daily Mail, which wrote "k**b," getting the asterisks in the right place... and displaying what must be the British decorousness about a word that seems more funny than dirty to an American... at least to this American. The Daily News probably just didn't know what the word was supposed to be.

"IRS approved liberal groups while Tea Party in limbo."

Greg Korte in USA Today today:
In February 2010, the Champaign Tea Party in Illinois received approval of its tax-exempt status from the IRS in 90 days, no questions asked. That was the month before the Internal Revenue Service started singling out Tea Party groups for special treatment. There wouldn't be another Tea Party application approved for 27 months.

In that time, the IRS approved perhaps dozens of applications from similar liberal and progressive groups, a USA TODAY review of IRS data shows. As applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with liberal-sounding names had their applications approved in as little as nine months. With names including words like "Progress" or "Progressive," the liberal groups applied for the same tax status and were engaged in the same kinds of activities as the conservative groups.
Examples at the link.

"Oh, this is the metronome thread?"

Says HuronBob in the "Snooky and the metronome" thread:
Then you need this. Not only do cats twitch in time to metronomes, but metronomes twitch in time to cats metronomes.

"We are asking that everyone buy simple glasses."

"The yeshiva will not tolerate thick plastic eye glasses."

"I was suddenly intrigued: What could sensory deprivation do for me?"

"There are only a few places to float in New York City. I first tried La Casa, a day spa near Union Square, which features a tank in large part because co-owner Jane Goldman loves to float."
On a weekday morning, I climbed the stairs to La Casa, took off all my clothes, and, after showering, stepped into a large tub inside an enclosed chamber.
Reading between the lines: The water is reused. Sorry, even though you took a shower, this is icky. I'm not getting the luxury of this at all. Why not take a bath at home with the lights off until you are beyond bored?

"Liberals who are dreading the scandal-mania that is taking hold should note that it contains a potential upside..."

How many liberal columnists have typed intros like that and then paused, wracking their brains for something to write next?

IN THE COMMENTS: Henry said:
Oh cripes, it's just Greg Sargent reading the entrails for a utilitarian polyp.

I was hoping for something more tangible. Something like "Liberals who are dreading the scandal-mania that is taking hold should note that it contains a potential upside: We could steal our souls back." 

"The First Amendment doesn't belong to courts. Either it lives inside all of us or it dies."

"Is our culture so degraded that educated civil servants don't know enough about free speech to slap an idea like this down at its inception?"

Writes Garrett Epps at the conclusion of his piece titled "Why Is It So Hard to Keep the IRS Out of Politics? Government officials need a refresher course in the First Amendment 'anti-retaliation' principle."

Instapundit linked, saying: "Two observations: (1) Obama was joking about auditing his enemies in 2009; and (2) Go to a flat tax or a national sales tax and this problem largely disappears."

On point #1, Instapundit doesn't mean Obama was only joking (and therefore he shouldn't be taken seriously or thought to be connected to the actual targeting of enemies). Instapundit means that Obama thought so little of the important principle at stake that a joke could be made of it.

On point #2: Yes! As I said when this story first broke (responding to Ezra Klein who'd argued that what we need most is harsher — but equal — enforcement of tax law):
The unequal, politically skewed enforcement of a law is a far more serious problem than the level of harshness of a neutrally enforced law. We can disagree about what the tax laws should be and how strictly or harshly they should be enforced, but everyone knows it is fundamentally wrong to vary the degree of enforcement, selecting victims by their politics. If government cannot be trusted to avoid that fundamental wrong, it cannot be trusted with any power at all. It would be better to wipe the tax code clean and rebuild it without any complicated corners where government officials — great or small — have a place to do their dirty work.
Let's do it! Let's set things up so we are not dependent on the good faith of government officials. Flat tax or national sales tax.

ADDED: Rereading this, I see that I need to distance myself from Epps. Even though I agree we need broad and deep cultural understanding of freedom of speech and that the courts alone cannot preserve it, I don't accept that freedom of speech will die unless "all of us" keep the faith. We have a legal system with constitutional rights because of the danger that the political majority will — in some times and in some circumstances — lose track of these values.

And quite aside from what the people in general think, the individuals who get their hands on power will always be tempted to put their immediate desires ahead of other concerns. No "refresher course" on the First Amendment will overcome that tendency. We need to use law to confine them. Of course, Epps is right that First Amendment law, enforced by courts isn't going to control them enough, but inculcated First Amendment principles are not enough either.

We should do what we can to redesign the structures of power so the inevitable degradation of commitment to freedom will not have such a damaging effect. When it comes to taxes, we do have an obvious legal solution at the statutory level: replace the tax code — with all its hiding places for abuse — with the flat tax or national sales tax.

In "In the Reign of the Gay Magical Elves," Bret Easton Ellis — author of "American Psycho" — complains of his victimhood, as a gay man...

... at the hands of "The Culturally Correct Gay Elite," who enforce a strict stereotype of gay men as victims, to be coddled like children and who punish any gay man who — like Ellis — "makes crude jokes about other gays in the media (as straight dudes do of each other constantly) or express their hopelessness in seeing Modern Family being rewarded for its depiction of gays, a show where a heterosexual plays the most simpering ka-ween on TV and Wins. Emmys. For. It."
Within the clenched world of the gay PC police there has been a tightening of the reigns. It’s as if in this historic moment for gay men we somehow still need to be babied and coddled and used as shining examples of humanity and objects of fascination—the gay baby panda—and this is a new kind of gay victimization. The fact that it is often being extolled by other gays in the Name of the Good Cause is doubly stifling.
Okay, Bret. Much as I agree with you about the problems of infantilization and political correctness, I've got to further victimize you. Not you, the gay man. You the writer.

1. A "tightening of the reigns"? Especially when writing under the title "In the Reign of...," you need to know your metaphors. There's a difference between what kings do in their domain and the leather straps a rider uses to control a horse.

2. If you're offering to be the cutting critic and what you're criticizing is putting gay men into the victim role, don't whine about your own victimhood. It's incoherent. Be cuttingly critical and take the consequences.

Factoid about Ellis: "Feminist activist Gloria Steinem was among those opposed to the release of Ellis' book ['American Psycho'] because of its portrayal of violence toward women. Steinem is also the stepmother of Christian Bale, who played Bateman in the film. This coincidence is mentioned in Ellis' mock memoir Lunar Park."

More recently, Ellis got in trouble with the "gay elite" for tweeting that "openly and famously gay Matt Bomer who is publicly married to his partner seemed a weird idea for the role of the very straight BDSM freako Christian Grey in the movie adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey." Ellis needs people to understand — and he's hurt that he was disinvited from the GLAAD awards —  that he "never said Gay Actors Can’t Play Straight Roles." Rather, he "thought this because of Matt’s easy openness with being gay... and with baggage that I believe would distract from the heavy sexual fantasy of that particular movie."
A key exchange in the first section of the book is Anastasia’s open questioning of Christian’s sexuality and his insulted denials—with Bomer in the role, it becomes a very META scene. Right now, in this moment, this particular casting would be a distraction—the public/private life of the actor mixed-up with playing a voracious het predator.
Interesting insight... from a gay man who wrote about the ultimate "het predator" in "American Psycho." 20 years ago, when Steinem registered her complaint, we didn't know that Ellis was gay. He sat back and let the feminists develop all our theories about the violence in the hearts of heterosexual men:
A designer serial killer, ["American Psycho"] Bateman knows from Tumi leather attache cases and wool-and-silk suits by Ermenegildo Zegna and wing tip shoes from Fratelli Rossetti....

But his true inner satisfaction comes when he has a woman in his clutches and can entertain her with a nail gun or a power drill or Mace, or can cut off her head or chop off her arms or bite off her breasts or dispatch a starving rat up her vagina.
Can we go very META on that?

May 14, 2013

"President Passerby needs urgently to become a participant in his presidency."

Liberals like Dana Milbank pick up a longstanding conservative theme.

The bear "took my dog and then it came back to kill me. It had death in its eyes."

"This beast was thirsty for blood. This beast wanted to destroy... I figured my best chance was to run outside by the street so that someone could find me... He had four paws on top of me…he peeled my forehead skin to the back of my head off... Then, he turned me over and tried to bite my stomach and hips. That gave me just a few seconds to curl into a ball and protect my head, which exposed my arm pits and shoulder blades... It doesn’t feel anything. It is a merciless creature... By that time I could feel my body become lifeless... Out of nowhere I heard a horn and these two angles  [sic] saved my life..."

Nothing would stop the merciless beast... except a car horn.

"'Expert' Reports in George Zimmerman Case Disclosed."

And TalkLeft is skeptical:
In the first report, despite the cries on the 911 call being deemed 'minimum-to-marginal material for identification purposes'... The report seems worthless. But even if one accepts it, since [Trayvon] Martin is excluded as the person screaming in three of the last four screams the logical conclusion is he wasn't the one crying out for help. The inference I take from this is that Martin may have yelled as he started hitting Zimmerman (the first two cries) but Zimmerman was the one crying out in the rest of the screams, which fits with him being punched in the nose and having his head slammed into the ground.

The second report is so absurd I'm wondering if it wasn't a joke. Parts of it are laugh-out-loud funny.
[A]pproximately one second after the start of CALL3, Mr. Zimmerman makes a seemingly religious proclamation, "These shall be." His speech is characterized by the low pitch and exaggerated pitch contour reminiscent of an evangelical preacher or carnival barker....
... The first state report is equivocal and a guesstimate. The second is a joke. The court should exclude these expert reports.

"Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell agreed today to two life sentences and waive his appeal rights..."

"... in exchange for the state taking the death penalty off the table.... Seeking the death penalty was overkill...."

New machines that have brought people back to life who've been "dead" for more than 40 minutes.

"A new mechanical CPR technique being tested in Australia is being credited with saving the lives of three people who were clinically dead for more than 40 minutes. The technique uses two machines: One, called an AutoPulse, keeps up a constant stream of compressions (far stronger and more consistent than a human can), while the second, a portable heart-lung machine, pumps blood to the vital organs and brains."

"What on earth are these 'liberals' so terrified of, if not the truth?"

Asks Andrew Sullivan, looking at the outcry against Jason Richwine, "effective fir[ed]" from Heritage on accounted of his Harvard dissertation about race and IQ.
Richard Zeckhauser, the Frank P. Ramsey Professor of Political Economy at Harvard, is on record as saying that “Jason’s empirical work was careful. Moreover, my view is that none of his advisors would have accepted his thesis had he thought that his empirical work was tilted or in error.”...

One particularly disturbing statement came from 23 separate student groups at Harvard:
We condemn in unequivocal terms these racist claims as unfit for Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard University as a whole. Granting permission for such a dissertation to be published debases all of our degrees and hurts the University’s reputation …
Is truth the highest value in our society? I think Sullivan assumes it is, but it most certainly is not. The question is: How can we be smart and scientific and truthful about this truth about truth?

Let's take a walk in the arb.


Meade's hogging the fisheye, and he's got a great eye:


It's very pink:


Let's celebrate the brackish water:


And the fabulous sky:




Why the earliest famers were willing to put more work into the effort...

... beer!

Time to read "The Great Gatsby"!

"The same IRS office that deliberately targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status in the run-up to the 2012 election..."

"...  released nine pending confidential applications of conservative groups to ProPublica late last year....  In response to a request for the applications for 67 different nonprofits last November, the Cincinnati office of the IRS sent ProPublica applications or documentation for 31 groups. Nine of those applications had not yet been approved—meaning they were not supposed to be made public.... no unapproved applications from liberal groups were sent to ProPublica.”

"We have got a concerted effort on opossums, rats, mice, mustelids, but the one that stands out is cats."

"Everybody is too bloody PC and scared to take on cats. So I thought, I can handle that...."

Bicycle kiosk nimbyism.

In NYC: "why they put these giant racks in these little streets is crazy to me."

"Two bisexual activists... recommended casual 'water cooler' ways of bringing up your sexual identity through current events."

"'I was thrilled to hear that Clive Davis came out as bisexual, being bisexual myself,' or 'Did you hear that same-sex couples will soon be able to marry in Delaware? It means a lot to me since I’m bisexual.'"

From a NYT column attempting serious advice about how to "come out as bisexual at work." I copied those quotes because I could picture a comedy sketch giving those lines to a character who has no clue about how to sound casual around an office water cooler.

"Justice Department Opens Inquiry Into I.R.S. Audits."

"The attorney general said there were 'a variety of statutes within the I.R.S. code' that could be the basis of a criminal violation. He said officials conducting the investigation would also look at 'other things in Title 18' of the United States Code. Title 18 is the overall criminal code for the federal government."
Mr. Holder also fielded questions about the seizure of telephone records from reporters and editors at The Associated Press.... Mr. Holder said he was confident that his subordinates had sought the subpoenas in accord with Justice Department regulations...

"In 1961, Vogue magazine said that 'almost every famous female head in the world has gone or will go' to Kenneth..."

"... the hairdresser who created Jacqueline Kennedy’s legendary bouffant and softened the golden locks of Marilyn Monroe.
In 1954, Mrs. Kennedy, newly wed, arrived at the salon and asked for Lawrence, who usually did her hair. Lawrence was not around, so the receptionist paged Mr. Battelle.

Mrs. Kennedy had what was called the Italian cut, which he felt was too short, layered and curly for her tall proportions and big bones, he told Vanity Fair in 2003. He decided to stretch it out by setting it with big rollers. But rollers as big as he wanted did not exist then, so he had some specially made, out of Lucite.

After John F. Kennedy became president, Mr. Battelle perfected the bouffant style that became associated with Mrs. Kennedy. He thought the look would lengthen her head and balance her broad cheekbones. He used some hair spray, but allowed a few wisps to fall away to make her look less “set.”
Goodbye to Kenneth Battelle, who had so much to do with the way women looked in the 1960s. He was 86.

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From the May 13, 2013 Amazon Associates Report:
OXO Good Grips 3-Piece Stainless-Steel Mixing Bowl Set

Young people are driving less and less.

But why? Is it economic pressure?
Online life might have something to do with the change, [suggested Michael Sivak of the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan]. “A higher proportion of Internet users was associated with a lower licensure rate,” he wrote in a recent study. “This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that access to virtual contact reduces the need for actual contact among young people.”
I get the sense that younger people are generally less interested in traveling. The idea that travel is the best thing to do with your free time and extra money... that's fading, isn't it? Something old people do.

There was also this article a few days ago saying "Americans are moving around the country a lot less frequently than they used to." That didn't specifically focus on the young.

So... is something happening to us? We're not so adventurous or not so restless or we've overcome the delusion that moving around changes who you are? We're lazy and the couch potatoism has extended into everything about the way we live? We long for the friends and family that our grandparents and great-grandparents had in the days when everyone — in this nostalgic true/false memory — stayed in one town and you had deep roots and connections to all sorts of people who loved and cared for you (or disliked you but at least knew you).

"The National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all 50 states lower the threshold from 0.08 blood-alcohol content to 0.05."

"Lowering the rate to 0.05 would save about 500 to 800 lives annually, the safety board report said."

"Still, Cruz and Christie possess a key similarity: an abundance of old-school manliness."

"Sure, one is a twangy Texan with that shit-kicking, boot-wearing thing going on (despite being a double-ivied, cosmopolitan kind of guy). The other is a Jersey bruiser, with a (much-discussed) physique reminiscent of Tony Soprano after a doughnut bender. But both are delivering a booster shot of testosterone to the GOP in a way few have managed to pull off of late...."

Writes Michelle Cottle in The Daily Beast (erasing Cruz's Hispanicity and Christie's stomach surgery).
Despite the centrality of this image to the GOP, however, precious few of its high-profile players now are apt salesmen for the manly brand....
As for the current team ... Mitt Romney: too much of a doofus. Paul Ryan: ditto, despite the washboard abs. Eric Cantor: too twitchy (manly men do not visibly vibrate with nervous energy). Marco Rubio: too boyish. Jeb Bush: too soft and measured. With his retro Mad Men groove, John Boehner has the potential to be a Don Draper kind of manly man, but he’s too darn weepy.
ADDED: I looked up "shit-kicking" in the (unlinkable) Oxford English Dictionary. It means, "In early use: worthless, contemptible. Later: designating or characteristic of an unsophisticated person from a rural area; (also) tough, belligerent; cf."
1953   J. Harvey Salt in our Wounds vi. 87   You low-life..shit-kicking..useless bastard.
1972   J. Thomson in J. Malley & H. Tokay Contemporaries 189   A beer drinkin finger poppin shit kickin red neck.
1978   Jrnl. Folklore Inst. 15 264   Shit-kicking villagers wearing whatever it is that villagers actually wear these days.
1987   W. Styron Tidewater Morning in Esquire Aug. 88/2,   I, a shit-kicking Carolina yokel who, when I first met you, suspected you of being a neo-abolitionist.
1992   Playboy Nov. 111/1   He told me not to worry, in that shit-kicking drawl of his.
1998   Esquire May 42/1   This woman is one hot, shit-kicking feminist babe.
2002   L. Coady Strange Heaven i. 6   A pack of g.d. shit-kicking yahoos.
How does that relate in any way to Cruz?

"We asked voters whether they thought hipsters made a positive cultural contribution to society or whether they just 'soullessly appropriate cultural tropes from the past for their own ironic amusement.'"

We = Public Policy Polling.
23% of voters said they made positive cultural contributions while nearly half – 46% – went with soulless cultural appropriation.
Come on. Doesn't everyone know that an amusing and colorful phrase is going to influence the answer? Ridiculous nonsense.

ADDED: The (unlinkable) Oxford English Dictionary traces "hipster" back to 1941.
1941   J. Smiley Hash House Lingo 31   Hipster, a know-it-all.
1946   M. Mezzrow & B. Wolfe Really Blues 374   Hipster, man who's in the know, grasps everything, is alert.
1948   Partisan Rev. XV. 722   Carrying his language and his new philosophy like concealed weapons, the hipster set out to conquer the world.
1956   Observer 23 Sept. 2/5   ‘Hipster’ is modern jazz parlance for ‘hep-cat’.

Why the sudden spate of scandals?

Not only do we need to understand the various scandals individually, we need to understand the phenomenon of the sudden outbreak of multiple scandals. I'm calling this phenomenon of clustering Scandalgate and demanding an explanation for it.

Why are we hearing about so many scandals all of a sudden? free polls 

At the Cat-Mask Café...


... we can see through your disguise.

IN THE COMMENTS: Sigivald said:
All ducks are wearing dog masks. 

If this were a Republican administration with this much scandal hitting...

... the lefty bloggers would be using the word "frog-marched."

With the IRS scandal dropped on top of the Benghazi hearings, you may have lost track of the 3rd scandal that broke last week.

Do you even remember what it is? It sneaked out in the thick smoke of 2 other scandals, so maybe it got away unnoticed.

Presidential Green Crack.

In the comments to "The cynicism question: What do you want — ἁτυφια or τύφος? Lucidity or smoke? Clarity or choom?," Meade directs us to Presidential Green Crack:
Strain Name: Presidential Green Crack
Grade: A+
Type: Sativa
Looks: shades of green and gold
Smell: smells really good, like clean green bud
Taste: almost tasteless, no skunk taste
Effects: creativity, precision to detail
Potency: I give this 4 out of 4 buds
Reviewed by: sharyna
Good Strain For: tedious work
That's not political satire — I don't think. That's an actual review of a strain of "medical" marijuana.

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade said:
Strain Name: Presidential Green Crack
Grades: From college and law school? N/A
Type: Redistributionist
Looks: clean
Smell: clean AND articulate
Taste: almost tasteless, but definitely a skunk
Effects: creative spinning of details
Potency: I give this 4 out of 4 Pinocchios
Reviewed by: internal administration investigation
Good Strain For: relieving stress of 3AM phone calls