November 23, 2013

Col. Lynette Arnhart steps down "to protect the integrity of the ongoing work on gender integration in the Army."

After Politico publishes the kind of internal memo that looks just awful to the general public.

She wrote:
"There is a general tendency to select nice looking women when we select a photo to go with an article (where the article does not reference a specific person). It might behoove us to select more average looking women for our comms strategy.... In general, ugly women are perceived as competent while pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead."
Maybe she really didn't deserve responsibility for PR, since she drew bad PR onto herself, but it's sad that such innocuous casual talk has so much effect these days.

By the way, I question the validity of the statement "ugly women are perceived as competent." I thought studies had shown that attractive people are perceived as competent. From Psychology Today:
A large number of experiments over the years have shown that, when asked to rate the intelligence or competence of unknown others, people tend to rate attractive others as more intelligent and competent than unattractive others.

"Don’t you just wish you were a dog, sometimes? Don’t you wish that all your intellectual human knowledge about sanitation..."

"... and all that ingrained human near-instinctive revulsion at dirt and contamination would just vanish in an instant, so you’d be free? Free of shame, free of rules, just able to eat anything you want whenever you want, to roll around on your kitchen floor and come up with a faceful of ketchup dribblings, then lie there and lazily lick it off your chin? Nobody’s watching. Nobody’s here. You can do it. You can do it right now. You’re free. You’re free."

At the Red Dogs Café...

Rumor and Dawson

... you'll get your turn.

"Yemen wedding celebration to ‘Gangnam Style’ ends with three dead when dancer accidentally shoots AK-47."

"The horrifying mistake turned the dance floor into a bloodbath and sent guests running in horror."

Replete with viral video.

Is it okay to photograph sleeping sunbathers...

... in Lithuania?

Interesting pics. One can't resist staring, but we're staring also into the soul of the photographer — Tadao Cern — who fancies himself a explorer into other people's "Comfort Zone."

"Refusal to allow your child to attend this trip will result in a Racial Discrimination note being attached to your child’s education record..."

"...which will remain on this file throughout their school career," says a letter to parents of 8-year-olds who might consider opting them out of the National Religious Education Curriculum field trip to learn about Islam.

Among the many problems with this, it's racist to call Islam a race.

There are 242 pending nominees to ram through after the end of the filibuster.

But what are the priorities and the politics of this drastic effort?
Top priorities for the White House include the confirmation in December of Jeh Johnson as secretary of homeland security, Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency and Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve, according to a White House official. Obama also hopes for quick confirmation of three nominees to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit....
And then?
“There is no document; there is no blueprint,” said Robert Raben, a prominent Democratic lawyer close to the White House. “In terms of a strategy, everybody’s blinking really hard.”
I guess "blinking really hard" means it was such a big surprise that they're still trying to wake up into the new reality. Or do you think it's blinking in the sense of losing one's nerve? They looked courageous, but then they blinked?

What Rush Limbaugh is almost surely planning to say to those who are outraged at his rape analogy.

Rush Limbaugh likes to throw out things that he knows liberal media types will propagate. He knows what gets them, and he's using them to go viral. It doesn't always work out right for him, and the Sandra Fluke incident ended up hurting him, but often it creates excitement around his show and keeps his reputation relatively fresh. People love him and hate him, and that's keeps the old radio show going.

This weekend lots of the sort of people who love to hate him are raging about the analogy he used in talking about the ending of the Senate filibuster:
Let’s say, let’s take 10 people, in a room in a group. And the room is made up of six men and four women, okay? The group has a rule, that the men cannot rape the women. The group also has a rule that says any rule that will be changed must require six votes of the ten to change the rule.

Every now and then some lunatic in the group proposes to change the rule to allow women to be raped. But they never were able to get six votes for it. There were always the four women voting against it, they always found two guys, well the guy that kept proposing that women be raped kinda got tired of it. He was in the majority and he said, you know what, we’re going to change the rule. Now all we need is five."

And the women said, "You can't do that."

"Yes, we are. We're the majority, we're changing the rule." Then they vote. Can the women be raped? Well, all it would take then is half the room. You could change the rule to say three. You could change the rule say three people want it, it's gonna happen. There's no rule.
We've got Carolyn Bankoff in New York Magazine ("a vile, profoundly inappropriate rape analogy"), Amanda Marcotte ("The rape comparison is distasteful and casually misogynist"), and Politico collects the tweets:
Ana Marie Cox, a political columnist for the Guardian US, wrote that “Limbaugh using a rape analogy to explain the filibuster really takes mansplaining to a level I never imagined” — or as founder Hilary Sargent dubbed it, “rape-splaining.” Media Matters research fellow Oliver Willis tweeted that “rush limbaugh really games out how you could theoretically vote to rape women. hes just throwing it out there folks,” while fellow Media Matters colleague Todd Gregory called it “dumb, glib bullshit” that “is such a perfect encapsulation of rape culture, it should be put in a museum.” And The Huffington Post’s Elise Foley and Sabrina Siddiqui also weighed in, with Foley tweeting “Class act, that guy” in response to Siddiqui’s comment, “In today’s edition of offensive rape analogy.”
Come on. It's a trap. Don't you know your most basic famous aphorisms about democracy? "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch." Usually attributed, probably incorrectly, to Benjamin Franklin, it vividly drives home the problem with simple majority rule.

I'm virtually 100% certain that on his Monday show, Rush Limbaugh will laugh at his critics for their ignorance of the famous aphorism. He can easily point out that he did not minimize the seriousness of rape. In the aphorism, the lamb is killed by the wolves. His analogy substitutes rape for killing, men for wolves, and women for the lamb. Really, it's men who are getting the negative stereotype, so misogyny is exactly the wrong word. A lamb is the very symbol of innocence. And it is killed by those terrible, selfish wolves. Knowing Rush, I predict he'll pivot to a discussion of abortion: Maybe women don't realize that killing an innocent is terrible. Maybe that's why they didn't understand the workings of his analogy.

November 22, 2013

Eli's coming.


Hide your heart.

"There is something darkly comedic, and readily mockable, about the conspiracy theorist considered as a type..."

"... the lonerism, eager dot-connecting, and thinly-veiled death curiosity masked by a supposed quest for the truth."

Several great clips at the link, but let me single out the one from (one of my all-time favorite movies) "Slacker":

"But are men, and the age-old power structures associated with 'maleness,' permanently in decline?"

"Or do men still retain significant control over the workplace, the family and society at large, including women?" A very lively debate on the proposition: "Be it resolved, men are obsolete…"

Pro: Hanna Rosin, Maureen Dowd. Con: Caitlin Moran, Camille Paglia.

Rosin and Dowd pretty much retreat from the strong version of the proposition, and Moran and Paglia kick ass. Rosin and Dowd end up winning because they "persuaded" more people, after beginning with only 16% on their side (and ending with 44%).

Very amusing, or enraging (if you're the type to get steamed over the obvious fact that it would be considered outrageous for a bunch of men to get all hyper and cheeky over a comparable topic about the value of women).

ADDED: You might need to subscribe to watch at that link, but you can listen (which is what I did) here

"The way Republicans can win those in the middle is not by abandoning their principles. To the contrary..."

"... the courage to stand on principle is what these voters respect. The way to win the center is to lead." Writes Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.
Republicans need to do more than simply say no to Mr. Obama and his party's big-government agenda. They can offer Americans positive solutions for the nation's challenges—to reduce dependency, and create hope, opportunity, and upward mobility for all citizens. They need to make not just the economic case for conservative reforms but the moral case as well—showing how conservative policies and ideas will make America not only a more prosperous society but a more just and fair one as well.

At Jasper's Café...


... we're a notch above the rest.

CORRECTION: That dog isn't named Jasper. It's Ruby.

"There is nothing remotely challenging, for most of Gladwell’s readers, in this story; it is the sort of uplift in which they already believe."

"The dominant narrative for the last three centuries has been one in which the power of elites and rulers is progressively overcome by the moral force of the common man and woman who sticks up for what is right. Far from being a forbidden truth, this is what everyone thinks. Here we can glimpse one of the secrets of Gladwell’s success. Pretending to present daringly counterintuitive views to his readers, he actually strengthens the hold on them of a view of things that they have long taken for granted. This is, perhaps, the essence of the genre that Gladwell has pioneered: while reinforcing beliefs that everyone avows, he evokes in the reader a satisfying sensation of intellectual non-conformity."

From John Gray's TNR article "Malcolm Gladwell Is America's Best-Paid Fairy-Tale Writer/The heavily-footnoted uplift of 'David and Goliath.'"

Here's the book, "David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants," in case you nevertheless want to buy it.

If not, maybe this is a good place to remind you that you can always show a little love for the blog called Althouse whenever you need to do some shopping, by using the Althouse Amazon Portal (the link for which is always up there in the blog banner).

Have you been buying books that make you feel like you're getting something challenging and daring but that really are just reinforcing stuff you already believe and want to keep believing?

Exactly how many cups of coffee to drink, taking all the pro-coffee and anti-coffee study results into account.

The answer is: 3.

"One way or another, the filibuster of judicial nominees must end. The Senate must do what is good, what is right, what is reasonable and what is honorable."

"This filibuster is nothing less than a formula for tyranny by the minority," said the Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, in a speech to the Federalist Society in November 2004.

"Republicans, wounded and eager to show they have not been stripped of all power, are far more likely to unify against the Democrats who humiliated them in such dramatic fashion."

In the NYT, Jonathan Weisman assesses post-filibuster politics, under the headline "Partisan Fever in Senate Likely to Rise."
Republican senators who were willing to team with Democrats on legislation like an immigration overhaul, farm policy and a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act will probably think twice in the future....
Please, Republicans, please be obstructionist. I hear the secret thoughts of the NYT. Go big-time obstructionistic on things that will leverage Democrats next year to say that you hate the Hispanic people and you're at war against women. 

It's the Democrats who are beaten up right now, who need a boost in the midst of the Obamacare debacle. But the NYT is here to tell you that yesterday Democrats "humiliated" Republicans in "such dramatic fashion." The Democrats are desperate to change the subject back to how terrible Republicans are, and the NYT is here to help. The Democrats go "nuclear" on the old Senate tradition, and the NYT stresses the dramatic humiliation of the Republicans.
David Axelrod, a former top adviser to Mr. Obama, said retaliation by Republicans against the president’s broader agenda would end up hurting them more than Democrats. 
Well, of course, it's his assignment to say why whatever happens is good for Democrats and bad for Republicans. You can try to make up the argument for yourself before reading it.

50 years ago today, C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley died.

One might imagine them encountering John F. Kennedy in the antechamber of the afterlife.

I've been planning for a while to write this as the first post today, but I'm pleased to see that there are many news stories this morning honoring the 3 men who shared a death date. You may have noticed who entered the world on the same day as you. (Perhaps I had a conversation with Rush Limbaugh in the antechamber to life.) But will you know who passes through the departure gate alongside you?

ADDED: In The Guardian: , the author Laura Miller writes:
Apart from the Narnia books, the work of Lewis's I most cherish, "An Experiment in Criticism," makes the almost postmodern – and at the very least radically humble – proposition that we might best judge the literary merit of a book not by how it is written, but by how it is read. If "we found even one reader to whom the cheap little book with its double columns and the lurid daub on its cover had been a lifelong delight, who had read and reread it, who would notice, and object, if a single word were changed, then, however little we could see in it ourselves and however it was despised by our friends and colleagues, we should not dare to put it beyond the pale." That is a faith I am happy to share.
And Nicholas Murray writes:
The FBI kept a fat file on [Aldous Huxley] but failed utterly to find anything damning (as his biographer I was sorely disappointed when it slid out of the jiffy bag). He was nevertheless refused US citizenship...

He has survived his detractors and remains an eloquent critical voice, warning against our tendency to "love our slavery" – Brave New World's dystopian idea of manipulation and conformity and our tendency to submit to soft power, so clearly vindicated by the extraordinary complacency with which the public seems to have greeted the Snowden revelations of illegitimate surveillance. A free democrat to the core of his being, at war through words with "the great impersonal forces now menacing freedom," he shows that heroism can exist away from the noisy battlefield.
AND: "Yes, 'Everybody’s happy nowadays.' We begin giving the children that at five. But wouldn’t you like to be free to be happy in some other way, Lenina? In your own way, for example; not in everybody else's way." Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World (Kindle Locations 1167-1169).

ALSO: Kindle Locations 2729-2737:
“But do you like being slaves?” the Savage was saying as they entered the Hospital. His face was flushed, his eyes bright with ardour and indignation. “Do you like being babies? Yes, babies. Mewling and puking,” he added, exasperated by their bestial stupidity into throwing insults at those he had come to save. The insults bounced off their carapace of thick stupidity; they stared at him with a blank expression of dull and sullen resentment in their eyes. “Yes, puking!” he fairly shouted. Grief and remorse, compassion and duty—all were forgotten now and, as it were, absorbed into an intense overpowering hatred of these less than human monsters. “Don’t you want to be free and men? Don’t you even understand what manhood and freedom are?” Rage was making him fluent; the words came easily, in a rush. “Don’t you?” he repeated, but got no answer to his question. “Very well then,” he went on grimly. “I’ll teach you; I’ll make you be free whether you want to or not.” And pushing open a window that looked on to the inner court of the Hospital, he began to throw the little pill-boxes of soma tablets in hand-fills out into the area.
How is your carapace of thick stupidity today? Mine is chafing. I'm struggling not to concoct a joke out "little pill-boxes of soma tablets," Jackie's iconic pink hat, and my favorite Bob Dylan song. I need some rage to make me fluent.

November 21, 2013

NYT publishes the House Republicans' 18-page talking points memo on Obamacare.

Here is the document, and here is the front-page story about it titled "G.O.P. Maps Out Waves of Attacks Over Health Law."
The idea is to gather stories of people affected by the health care law — through social media, letters from constituents, or meetings during visits back home — and use them to open a line of attack, keep it going until it enters the public discourse and forces a response, then quickly pivot to the next topic.
I haven't read the whole document, but there's nothing surprising or disturbing about seeing that the party is somewhat organized and disciplined, and the topics raised are all legitimate, on-the-merits attacks on Obamacare, not any weird or scurrilous tactics.

Will Scott Walker finally get his college degree?

Time Magazine calls attention to the (unnerving?) gap in Scott Walker's resume.
The missing bachelors may seem odd, but it’s one reason Walker’s appeal in the GOP is only rising. Unlike New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, most Americans would have no trouble imagining sharing a beer with Walker, the age-old likability test. “I always thought I’d get back, and I may still do,” Walker said, explaining he recently helped establish a “flex option” at the University of Wisconsin to allow adults to complete their college education. “Someday, maybe in the next few years, I’ll embark on finishing my degree.”
More details! How many credits does he need? What has he already taken? Casual research indicates he needs 36 credits. Here's the flex option website. I can't imagine him putting time into a college course when he's got so much work to do. And not having a degree gives him some panache, putting him in a set with Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg... and George Washington.

But let's give him some advice anyway. What book learning would you like to prescribe for an American presidential candidate? Let's not burden him with material that duplicates what he's learned on the job. What do you think? Process of Legal Order & Disorder? The History of the American Suburb? Race and Sexuality in American Literature? French Philosophy: Existentialism?

"Democrats, who filibustered their own share of Republican judicial nominees before they took control of the Senate..."

"... have said that what the minority party has done is to effectively rewrite the law by requiring a 60-vote supermajority threshold for high-level presidential appointments. Once rare, filibusters of high-level nominees are now routine."

Harry Reid moves to end the filibuster for judicial nominees. [UPDATE: They did it!]

Short term: What a flood of new judges we will have! Long term: The American people will see what sort of judges Obama and the Senate majority installs, the GOP will highlight their "left-wing activism" (or whatever it might be called), the American people will respond (perhaps becoming alarmed), a Republican President will (sooner or later) be elected, he or she will feel fully empowered to pick excitingly conservative judges (the Bork kind, not the bland kind), Democrats will rail against their "right-wing activism," the American people will respond (taking sides between the conservative and liberal activist judges and the role of the judiciary in our democracy), and who knows what will happen in the next presidential election and the one after that and after that?

Think about how that long-term game will play out and answer this poll:

Long term, what will be the effect on the American political mind? free polls 

Hipster/homeless ambiguity could be very dangerous.

"Not to offend anyone directly, but this photo could quite possibly be of a homeless man, a street person, or whatever term you wish to use. It could also just as easily be an affluent hipster wearing a highly dysfunctional piece of high-fashion. I think the ambiguity of that is very dangerous."

Comment on a photograph at The Sartorialist.

Follow-on comment: "The ‘danger’ here is somehow thinking that this is in the territory of Zoolander’s “Derelicte” Collection. I don’t know if it’s a ‘trap’ … but when reading some of these comments, I’m thinking Brüno and Zoolander :-)"

At Daisy's Café...


... what are you sniffing out?

Lucky and Daisy

"She’s not alive, honey."

Psychic's words, true at last.

"Sack of potatoes subdued without incident."

"A Kalispell Police officer and a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officer were able to remove a five-pound sack of potatoes reported hanging from a tree on Seventh Street East that looked like it might fall into the street. Apparently, the potatoes were subdued without causing any mayhem."

"The page lacked a cancel button or any way to opt out of Medicaid."

"It was done; she was enrolled, and there was nothing to do but click 'Next' and then to sign out."

This happened in the state of Washington, which supposedly has one of the better health-exchange websites and which for some reason has relabeled its Medicaid with the absurd name Washington Apple Health.

IN THE COMMENTS: Freeman Hunt said:
Shouldn't that be illegal? How can you sign up for something without agreeing to sign up for it.
I answered her question:
How is it any worse than requiring that you have insurance coverage? Once they've done that and detailed what is required, you're in a mandatory system. The computer is simply telling you what your options are within the system. For this woman, there was only one option. There was no way to back out and say I don't want to do what it's been determined I must do. When she entered the website, she gave up the option of going rogue. The rest was a cranking forward into the machinery.

Racism, Holland style.


Leno: "I must say you look much more relaxed [than when you were President]." Bush: "Duh."

That's Part 1. Here are: Part 2 (in which Bush shows the portrait of Leno he painted and talks about the times Putin insulted Barney), Part 3, and Part 4 (with some cute dancing).

"We think of it as the best thing in the world... and they think of it as toxic and nasty and disgusting."

We = organic farmers. They = U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

It = shit.

Arne Duncan would like people to stop talking about the time he said "white suburban moms."

The phrase was "clumsy," and he's sorry about letting it slip out. But why was it in there, capable of slipping out?
Former George W. Bush adviser Nicole Wallace asked Duncan if his comments were indicative of an Obama administration that views the nation through a lens of race.

“My point was when you dummy down standards, you’re lying to children. That affects all children, that affects all families … even in more affluent suburban areas, not just in the inner city,” Duncan said. 
So the point — and he fully intended to make it — is that he thinks white women in the suburbs deceive themselves imagining that urban black kids are the ones with the education problems.

15 hospitalizations for flu in Wisconsin so far.

Very early in the flu season.

Take cover. Or get vaccinated. And wash your hands, sneeze into your upper arm, don't share drinking cups, and stop using your bare hand to turn doorknobs in public places.

"So why is it important that we have a multitude of desperate law school graduates and many more politically ambitious rich than 30 years ago?"

"Past waves of political instability, such as the civil wars of the late Roman Republic, the French Wars of Religion and the American Civil War, had many interlinking causes and circumstances unique to their age. But a common thread in the eras we studied was elite overproduction."

Excerpt from an article at (by Peter Turchin, vice president of the Evolution Institute and professor of biology and anthropology at the University of Connecticut) titled "Blame Rich, Overeducated Elites as Our Society Frays."

Worth clicking for the illustration, a diagram of how this terrifying process, depicting "Unemployed Lawyers" as a crucial link in a chain between "Wealth Glut" and Elite Fratricide."

But the chain can be broken — "catastrophe isn’t preordained" — and you can probably guess how. But first, you gotta believe the catastrophe is coming, so soften up and get scared.

Is Scott Walker's "fixation" on Reagan "creepy"?

The Capital Times writer Paul Fanlund says so, as he identifies "3 Themes" in Scott Walker's just-published book "Unintimidated." The other 2 themes are "He throws even his allies under the bus" and "His egocentricity is just bizarre." This is the Cap Times, appealing its readership of Madison liberals who've been hating Walker for the last 3 years and have been hating Reagan even longer.

On the Reagan "fixation," there's Walker's annual Reagan birthday party (which is also the anniversary of his wedding to his wife Tonette). Here's how Walker describes the party in 2011, which was just before the big Wisconsin protests began.
[On] Saturday, February 12, Tonette and I hosted a dinner at the Executive Residence to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birthday. (I had been in Dallas to see the Packers win the Super Bowl on the sixth, his actual birthday, so we postponed the celebration by a week.) 
Meade and I were reading the book out loud together last night, and at that parenthetical, I said: "Oh, yeah, the protests blotted out all the great afterglow feeling we were having over winning the Super Bowl." That was sad!
Tonette and I host a dinner each year on Reagan’s birthday. We serve his favorite foods— macaroni and cheese casserole, and red, white, and blue Jelly Belly jelly beans— and have musicians perform patriotic songs and Irish music. 
Aw, come on. That's creepy?! That's incredibly sweet. Who gives a party and serves mac-and-cheese and jelly beans? It's beyond unpretentious, and it's just charming and nice. Why shouldn't Republicans celebrate Ronald Reagan, their modern-day icon? And I give Walker credit for putting the celebration on February 6th (or 12th) instead of March 30th (in the style of the Democrats, with their icon JFK (see Rule #8, here)).
It is a wonderful evening, and serves as a reminder for me each year to be hopeful and optimistic just like Ronald Reagan. It happens to be a dual celebration because President Reagan’s birthday is also our wedding anniversary. Tonette jokes that I never forget our wedding anniversary because it is Reagan’s birthday.
Well, isn't that a really low-key and generous way to make your anniversary something that's fun for other people you know? But for Fanlund, that's part of a creepiness profile.

Hey, Fanlund, ever consider whether you're creepy? Maybe Walker seems creepy to you because deep down you know the way you look at him is creepy.

November 20, 2013

Whatever happened to the "Republicans are committing suicide" meme?

It was all the rage back in September.

There was also "The death of the Republican Party."

At the Lucy-in-the-Sky Café...


... you can picture yourself.


Everyone smiles as you drift through the landscape and stand so incredibly high.

"The First Four Women To Complete Marine Infantry Training Took A Celebratory Selfie Together."

"Harlee 'Rambo' Bradford (in the middle) snapped this selfie after her and the three other women in the photo were the first of 15 to complete a Marine Corps pilot course."
Infantry training for Bradford’s group required the women to to meet the same standards as any other Marine.

Including a 12 1/2 mile march in combat gear that lasted almost 5 hours, running at a 4 mph pace carrying 90-pounds of gear.

Are people burning out on the Obamacare debacle?

That's a question occurred to me when I saw this ludicrous list of "most read" articles in The Daily News:

Is everyone crawling deep into the low-information/aversion-to-politics hole?

IN THE COMMENTS: Henry said:
1. Not too sexy for Obamacare.
2. This cat is covered.
3. Drowning is not covered.
4. Early adopters don't.
5. Beer goggles are covered.
6. Fat kids cost the same as skinny kids.
7. Obamacare will make you go blind.
8. Whats with all the kids?
9. Self-employed Comedian live-tweets insurance loss.
10. Birth control is free. Don't you people listen?

"I have to say that if I had seen the second article first, I would not have written this post..."

"... which I began after reading only the Daily News article. I almost deleted the post entirely rather than continuing it the way I did."

What I was writing in the draft of a post when I decided to edit it into the form you see right here. I was going to confess that I was averse to discussing the very thing that The Daily News censored from its article, and then I realized that I was too sensitive to talk about that.

"Splitting 5 to 4, the Supreme Court... refused to block a Texas abortion law that critics say is forcing the closing of one-third of all clinics in the state."

Lyle Denniston explains the issues and the votes:
The majority said that the challengers had not met the requirement for setting aside a federal appeals court’s order permitting the law to take effect on October 31.

"Of course all this dorky revolutionary-aesthete chatter about tearing down barriers and storming citadels is meant to get museum-goers’ pulses racing."

"After which everybody will be too revved up to notice that Art Spiegelman is constitutionally incapable of making a single mark with any power."

TNR's Jed Perl is very jazzed up about trashing Art Spiegelman.

"You will spend the next hour watching this new video for Bob Dylan’s 'Like a Rolling Stone'..."

"...  Good luck not spending the rest of your day watching this."

I linked to that yesterday, and I'm only bringing it up again to observe that I — a big Dylan fan for 5 decades — spent only about a minute looking at it, which is much less than the length of the song itself. So what's the deal with all these journalists claiming that we're going to become obsessed with watching it for hours or all day?

Obama at 37%.

As pictured by Drudge:

Bush's final approval rating in the CBS poll was 22%, but he didn't sink as far as 37% until 2006, 2 years after reelection. [ADDED: According to what's shown now here, Bush was at 37% in November 2005, which corresponds exactly to Obama. I was looking at a less detailed graph.] Bush's real sinking in the polls occurred with Katrina, which the media exploited to damage Bush.

By contrast, the media have generally boosted Obama, especially last year, facilitating his reelection. They minimized the various scandals, and they declined to delve into the looming problems in Obamacare.

Now we see crashing in Obama polls, and part of this is the media's fault. 1. They lulled people into thinking Obama was doing well enough, which continued his presidency, based on a false picture. 2. When the true picture could no longer be obscured, it was so glaring and obvious, and it got everyone's attention. 3. So many people were liking Obama because liking Obama was a cultural phenomenon, which inflated Obama's popularity and left it vulnerable to crashing when, at long last, there's a cultural message that it's the thing now not to like him anymore. 4. Plenty of people probably never liked him all that much, and they're just liberated from the social pressure to follow the latest thing, which is now so 5 years ago.

November 19, 2013

Professor Rufus.



Photographed by Meade this morning. The dog, a Lakeland Terrier, is named Rufus, but Meade said, "I would call him Professor Rufus." The other dog is the familiar Zeus.

"We could tell you that the interactive video consists of 16 separate videos starring familiar actors and TV personalities lip-synching the lyrics to Dylan's 1965 karaoke classic 'Like A Rolling Stone'..."

"... and that viewers can use their keyboards to flip between these videos seamlessly throughout the duration of the song, so that the opening lines are performed by the guys from Pawn Stars and the song wraps up in the middle of a History Channel special about the Great Depression."

Or wherever you direct it... with no direction home.

But why not just watch it?

Like a complete unknown celebrity.

"Nicholas Mevoli on Sunday upon surfacing from a record attempt. He died a short time later."

Photo caption.
“Water is acceptance of the unknown, of demons, of emotions, of letting go and allowing yourself to flow freely with it,” Mr. Mevoli wrote in a blog post in June. “Come to the water willing to be consumed by it but also have confidence that your ability will bring you back.”
Confidence... but there is a rapture of the deep, nitrogen narcosis, which "may have prompted Mr. Mevoli to disregard symptoms of danger and suddenly renew his quest to dive deeper."
He paused and seemed to turn back toward the surface at 68 meters, or 223 feet, but then turned around and proceeded to dive deeper. 

"We are supposed to be the vandals, but this is the biggest rag and disrespect in the history of graffiti."

The work of 1,500 artists, whited out overnight.

Pre-election jobs numbers fabricated.

The NY Post reports.

In these the last days of Obama as a religion, the WaPo writes of the "dwindling faith in his competence and in many of the personal attributes that have buoyed him in the past."

Oh, the language of the once-true believers is so careful! And yet you can still see that it was a religion, kind of a religion. There was faith, but it's dwindling. It was faith in his competence and in many of the personal attributes. And our faith buoyed him. We kept him aloft in the heavens and — this is a report on a poll — in the polls.
On three measures of leadership and empathy that have been tested repeatedly in Post-ABC polls, Obama now is underwater on all three for the first time. Half or more now say he is not a strong leader, does not understand the problems of “people like you,” and is not honest and trustworthy. Perceptions of the president as a strong leader have dropped 15 points since January, and over the past year the percentage of registered voters who say he is not honest and trustworthy has increased 12 points....
Also interesting, but not specifically about Obama:

"If you are a Republican and you like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, then you probably already have your candidate for the 2016 presidential campaign."

"If you do not like Christie, then your candidate for 2016 is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker," says John Dickerson at Slate, who I doubt is keen on helping Republicans, but check out his argument. Excerpt:

Hey, nobody told me this event was black tie.


Photo by Meade. Post title by me, reading the mind of Zeus, the dog in the back.

"Computers, like children, are more often taught by rote. They’re given thousands of rules and bits of data to memorize..."

"... If X happens, do Y; avoid big rocks — then sent out to test them by trial and error."
 This is slow, painstaking work, but it’s easier to predict and refine than machine learning. The trick, as in any educational system, is to combine the two in proper measure. Too much rote learning can make for a plodding machine. Too much experiential learning can make for blind spots and caprice. The roughest roads in the Grand Challenge were often the easiest to navigate, because they had clear paths and well-defined shoulders. It was on the open, sandy trails that the cars tended to go crazy. “Put too much intelligence into a car and it becomes creative,” Sebastian Thrun told me.
From a New Yorker article about self-driving cars.  I'm interested in the analogy to the education of humans especially with respect to the fear of creativity arising from too much intelligence but also the downside of too much experiential learning: blind spots and caprice.

"Both [Bush's] Iraq intervention and Obama's health-care 'reform' were responses to a status quo that was widely understood to be unsatisfactory."

"We would argue that the former replaced a horrific regime with a better, albeit still flawed, one, whereas the latter appears on its way to replacing a flawed regime with a horrific one."
But it's difficult to dispute that both efforts suffered from severe misjudgments in execution, or that both were entered into amid a cocky overconfidence that led to gross overestimates of the benefits and underestimates of the costs.
Shock and awe/big fucking deal.

"All of the effects of alcohol are sort of amplified with age."

For a lot of reasons.

Viral videos I have not seen, that everybody saw.

Meade is free-associating with elements that I am not getting at all. He can't believe I never saw this. Everyone saw it. It was viral!

What's happening to this world in which there will be allusions — not to the great books and important historical events — but to old viral videos?

The much-admired November 14th interview with Clarence Thomas — now on YouTube.

Discussed previously here, linking to an Above the Law item that is now titled "Justice Clarence Thomas Speaks!" but was previously titled "Justice Clarence Thomas Speaks — And Oh What A Speech!"

I'm going to guess that the "And Oh What A Speech!" part got dropped not because ATL wanted to back away from expressing enthusiasm but because it's not a speech. It's an interview. And part of what's good about it is that the interviewer 7th Circuit Judge Diane S. Sykes is excellent. The gushing over Thomas deprived Sykes of her share of the gushing.

Now, I don't like what's left of the title — "Justice Clarence Thomas Speaks!" — because it redirects our attention to a favorite liberal media meme about Thomas: He doesn't speak at oral argument. But you can easily look up his reason for that. It's been observed and discussed many times. And Clarence Thomas frequently speaks outside of the oral argument setting, so I don't like the hey-who-knew-the-guy-could-speak snark — which is what we're left with once the "And Oh What A Speech!" is lopped off.

Anyway, the fact is, this is an excellent 50 minutes of conversation, and thanks to The Federalist Society for putting it up.

November 18, 2013

"Madison committee to consider paying employees to bike to work."

Ha. That's very funny to me because just this morning, as Meade was driving me to work, we were observing the people on bikes and I said, "It's almost all young white males. All these bike lanes and other amenities, paid for with our tax money? It's almost all for white males. Oh, how it would pain Madison liberals to admit it!"

"What do you think about the idea of the 'flipped classroom'..."

"... where homework consists of lectures that were typically given during class time, and in-class time is used for hands-on projects?"

Lectures... hands-on projects... don't people learn by reading anymore?

Let's say there were 2 schools: Reading School and No Reading School. In Reading School, the homework is to read, and in the classroom, there is discussion of the readings, led by a teacher who lectures and facilitates discussion. (This is what traditional law school is like, and what I've been used to for 30+ years.) In No Reading School, homework is to watch a video of your teacher lecturing, and in the classroom, you do some sort of activity.

Which school would you want your child to go to? I suspect the "flipped classroom" is a nice way to refer to a school experience for children who are not expected to handle reading. Am I wrong?

Fetal pain as a "pro-life strategy" — a successful pro-life strategy.

An article in The Atlantic by Olga Khazan. Excerpt:
On the basis of... uncertain science rests one of the most comprehensive rollbacks of abortion rights in decades. It’s also a sign of the major gains the pro-life movement has made by emphasizing the agony that fetuses might feel, rather than what the movement sees as their God-given right to be born....

“The life at conception issue gets to a spiritual question that's unknowable and unanswerable to a lot of people,” said Alesha Doan, chair of the women, gender, and sexuality studies department at the University of Kansas. But the fetal pain argument touches on the fact that, “we anesthetize for all surgeries, and it's considered cruel and unusual punishment not to do so.”
You don't have to believe in God to believe in pain, but where do you go with your morality when you put pain — not God — at the center of your thinking?

At the Big Tongue Café...


... we're not all ears.

How are all these JFK retrospectives affecting Obama?

Much as I think there's way too much talk about how whatever happens affects Obama, I'd like to talk about this.

We've seen it coming for years, the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. There was plenty of time for media to prepare material — books, movies, TV shows, articles — going back over the historical event that's already been examined over and over. This onslaught of material was perfectly predictable, and those with present-day political interests surely thought hard about how to harness the energy and feeling that would swell up in November 2013.

But they did not know in advance how nasty the political arena was going to look. Those who were hoping to burnish the image of the Democratic Party did not know what trouble would be surrounding their current President. They must have thought all the respectful backward gazing at Jack would stir up more love for Barack (the other -ack). And now they must be — ack! — choking on the noisome melée of goo for Jack and boo for Barack.

So I wonder how Barack Obama feels about all this 50th anniversary business. Perhaps he's relieved that there's a distraction, but maybe he's irked that Kennedy is getting all the love and sentimental celebration right when there's suddenly — unexpectedly! — a rage for exposing the explosion of chaos under Obama.

Björk explains television from the poetic perspective but warns you not to let poets lie to you.

All those dots that make up the picture are "millions and millions of little screens," and so "you are watching very many things when you are watching TV."
Your head is very busy all the time to calculate and put it all together into one picture. And then because you're so busy doing that, you don't watch very carefully what the program you are watching is really about. So you become hypnotized. So all that's on TV, it just goes directly into your brain and you stop judging it's right or not.  You just swallow and swallow. This is what an Icelandic poet told me....
Full text at the link, but it's better in video form (if you can handle all those tiny little dots):

Floaters... a post inspired by the Chris Matthews statement that Obama's "got floaters, like Valerie Jarrett, floating around."

See the the previous post for the context and analysis of the quote. This is a more light-hearted exploration of "floaters."

1. "Float On," by The Floaters... a hit song from 1977. Lyrics here. Each Floater — Ralph, Charles, Paul, Larry — has his own verse in which he begins by announcing his astrological sign and proceeds to tell use what kind of women he likes. Ralph, the Aquarius, likes "a woman who loves her freedom," etc.

2. "Float On," by Modest Mouse, is a completely different song. It's about not worrying about your problems: "Even if things get heavy, we'll all float on/Alright already, we'll all float on alright."

3. The top definition for "floater" at Urban Dictionary is: "a social mastermind who wavers between members of one particular clique or between multiple cliques in general, pitting people against one another and leeching out information without seeming like a threat." Definitions #2, #3, and #5 refer to buoyant fecal matter. Definition #4 refers to those bits in your eyes, and #6 is "A dead body found in the water."

4. In Adelaide, they eat a comfort food called a "pie floater." "Anthony Bourdain, Joe Cocker, Billy Connolly, Nigel Mansell, Shane Warne and Angus Young are high profile fans of the pie floater."

5. Bob Dylan has a song called "Floater (Too Much To Ask)." The word "floater" does not appear in the song, though Bob appears in a boat in verse #3 fishing for bullheads, and in verse #12, there's a reference to "rebel rivers," which include the Ohio, the Cumberland, the Tennessee.

Tom Brokaw, David Gregory, and Chris Matthews daintily allude to Obama's masculinity deficit.

On yesterday's "Meet the Press," Tom Brokaw said it was "just inexplicable" that the Obamacare website "suddenly landed the way that it did, in utter chaos." The President should have pressured "Kathy Sebelius and other people" about the "rollout" which was "going to be our big play for the second term."

"Big play" picks up on that football metaphor Obama used 4 times in his November 14th remarks. "We fumbled," he said, though in real football, it's an individual player who fumbles. But here was this "big play," and somebody fumbled. Was it "Kathy"?

The moderator David Gregory, immediately steps up to frame the next question in macho terms: "Who's got the muscle?" The manly (though 50-years-dead) JFK somehow shoulders his way into the conversation. Gregory turns to Chris Matthews and says:
You were making the point to me this week about, you know, where's his Bobby Kennedy? Who's got the muscle? When the president says, and he did say, "The user experience of this website is everything," who had the muscle in the White House to get it done and make sure the president gets what he wants?
Muscle, muscle, muscle. If a right-winger had phrased the question that way, somebody would call this misogyny. These 3 men — Brokaw, Gregory, and Matthews — are hankering for a muscular man who can nail the big play. He depended on a Kathy when he needed a Bobby. And here's what Chrissy Matthews said:
Everybody goes to their battle stations when there's chaos. 
I'll see you your football metaphor, and raise you a military metaphor.
You always go to where you've been arguing before. But I've always been arguing this president doesn't have a chain of command, a very clear line of authority and unique responsibility. I remember Sebelius, who I like of course, most people do like her, she's a public servant. 
She's liked. Kathy's likeable enough. She's a good servant.
But when she was asked, "Who's in charge?" in that committee, under oath, she started to talk about someone, the head of C.M.S., who handles Medicare and Medicaid. Among 30 or 40 other responsibilities, this person had the rollout responsibilities.
And was "this person" male or female? Female. Marilyn Tavenner. Can you say her name without vaulting back in time to your old macho icons Jack and Bobby? They knew what "responsibilities" to give their Marilyn.

Matthews reaches even further back, to an even manlier man:
Look at Japan, the occupation of Japan, it simple: Put one guy in charge, Doug MacArthur. 
Put one guy in charge. Doug. Call him Doug, not Douglas. Not — in the style of "Kathy" — Dougy. He's Doug. And there was a guy! Put one guy in charge.
You put somebody in charge and they're uniquely responsible for its success or failure. Obama doesn't do things that way. He's got floaters, like Valerie Jarett, floating around. 
Floaters. Like Valerie Jarrett. The disrespect! They can't even spell her name right in the transcript. Floaters, like Valerie Jarrett, floating around. Matthews being a good Democrat somehow feels secure that the double meaning of "floaters" won't bring on the accusations of racism that would surely have burst forth if a Republican had talked about Jarrett like that.
He doesn't want to have a real chief of staff, like a Jim Baker.
He's saying — it's hardly subtle — that Jarrett's not a real man. You need a man. A man like Bobby or Doug or Jim.
He doesn't want to give authority to people, and I think it's been a real problem.
So what does this say about Obama, not wanting to bring in real men, who take charge, who make the play, who exert authority? He's not man enough to work alongside real men? He needs to play with the ladies, ladies who don't know their place — who dither and float?

November 17, 2013

At the Shepherd's Eye Café...


... you don't have to follow the herd.

Nancy Pelosi explains her "pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it," accepts your "hoop-di-doo and ado," and flips the old "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" on us.

On "Meet the Press" this morning, David Gregory confronted Pelosi with her old statement, "But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it away from the fog of the controversy." He asked:
And hasn't that idea, that you have to pass it before you know what's in it, isn't that really the problem, as you look back on it? That the-- there was such a rush to get this done, no Republicans voting for it, and now there are unintended effects of this that were foreseen at the time that you couldn't know the impact of it. And now this is coming home to roost.
Unintended, yet foreseen. Foreseen, and yet with unknown impact. As one might say: the known unknowns.

Pelosi answered:

"The great thing about Bill Clinton is his hands are completely in touch with the average American."

Said Chris Matthews, on "Meet the Press" this morning, unintentionally conjuring up an image that made us laugh.

He continued:
He's got his hands on the American experience in a way that Obama's probably lost for a while, that connection. He knows people are really bugged by this promise that wasn't kept. He knows it.

"A man in camouflage who alarmed Madison neighbors when he walked down a street with an uncased shotgun Saturday morning..."

"... turned out to be a hunter thwarted by city parking."
The Madison Police Department said in a statement that the man, a University of Wisconsin-Madison student, had been hunting outside the city and was unable to find parking close to his residence. He decided to walk home from his parked vehicle with an uncased shotgun, police said.

Bob Woodward seems so mealymouthed, but he might be a genius at saying everything, anything, and nothing.

Today, on Fox News Sunday, George Will took a staunch position about Obama's IYLYPYCKYP fix:
And I do think this is a constitutional scandal. Suppose the next Republican president and there will be another Republican president, comes into the press room someday and says, "You know, I really think the capital gains tax does not serve the national interest, so we're just, as an act of executive discretion, going to quit enforcing that for a few years."

That's not the rule of law.
Bob Woodward broke in and said something — in the slow, strangely over-restrained manner he has — that made me laugh out loud:

Despite his public support for gay rights, Alec Baldwin is punished for uttering an anti-gay slur.

And he even apologized. ("I did not intend to hurt or offend anyone... Words are important. I understand that, and will choose mine with great care going forward.... Behavior like this undermines hard-fought rights that I vigorously support.")

Is that fair?

"The Sermon on the Mount, blessed are the meek? More like blessed are the deaf because they don’t have to listen to this eighth grade poem."

Jebediah Atkinson stands by his harsh review of the Gettysburg Address and other speeches:

"No, the [Chick-fil-A] CEO did not jump out of the hidey-hole slide, point at me... and yell 'You're one of the gays!' as I had imagined."

Writes Carolyn O'Laughlin, the Director of Residence Life at Sarah Lawrence College, in The Wall Street Journal (which I'm reading because a reader emailed asking what the author's point is, whether her position as Director of  Residence Life at Sarah Lawrence College is relevant to that point, and why The Wall Street Journal is publishing this sort of thing).

O'Laughlin is a member of a 4-person family consisting of 2 adult women and 2 male children, and they're on a road trip where they want to stop at the restaurant with a play area, and it happens to be a Chick-fil-A, which she put on her "list of places to avoid" when its CEO "went on record indicating his support for only families that meet the 'biblical definition of the family unit.'"

But O'Laughlin has a moderate approach to using her spending power to nudge businesses. She wanted to favor J.C. Penney, for using Ellen DeGeneres and "families like ours" in their advertising, but there was a pothole in the parking lot, so she went somewhere else, and she'd like to reward Starbucks, but it's overpriced, so she snubs it.

Noting that life is "complicated" and you've got to see the "nuance" and be "practical," she goes to the Chick-fil-A, buys the food, but hates the atmosphere — not because it's anti-gay, but it's noisy and chaotic (because of the very play area that made her overcome her political aversion to the place).
"Let's get out of here." I say to my boys.... Standing outside, my wife and I look around with road-trip decision paralysis. A kind Chick-fil-A employee comes toward us with four trays. "Y'all could sit on these if you'd like," she says. We smile, thank her, and set up a picnic on the grassy island between the parking lots of Chick-fil-A and Burger King. We're having it our way.
So what's the point? It seems to me that the point is that life is complicated, and we make individual choices to suit our own needs and tastes, some of which include politics and morality, and part of what we get to choose is how hardcore we want to be about where we go and what we buy. Also, the lower-down employees of a company are individuals with their own lives, making their own choices, just like you, and it's good for everyone to remember that.

This not the point of the article, but just something I'd like to add: Picnicking at ground level in a parking lot is not a good idea. Not only is it unfair to the business that has provided tables and chairs and wants to project an image of tidiness, but it's not a clean place to eat. Grassy does not equal clean. Grass doesn't magically repel the filth from the cars, and it attracts dog poop, human sputum, and dog and human pee.