December 21, 2013


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Widely held religious beliefs that you can't talk about openly in America.

I've been thinking about the "Duck Dynasty" controversy and what it means for religious people in America, most of whom — or at least very many of whom — adhere to a scheme of beliefs that includes forbidding homosexual behavior. They're seeing how badly it can hurt your career and your social standing to express this belief.

How can there be a norm against the expression of something that so many people believe on a profound level?

But it is not unusual at all. There are many things that religious people believe that they also know they can't go around saying. You're not going to do very well in American society, for example, if you come right out and declare that people who don't follow your religion are going to hell. You'll be drifting toward Westboro Church territory if you talk like that. You sound like a crazy hate-monger. The fact that you truly believe it and that it's religious won't help your standing in the community.

So it's not unusual that some widely held religious beliefs aren't fit for expression to the general audience, only a bit surprising when something new crosses the line from fit to unfit. How did that happen? It happens! The culture changes. Think about how that happens.

Speaking of Westboro Church, I see those people are making a show of their support for Phil Robertson. Now, they are religious people who have thrown aside the interest in social acceptance. They've chosen to be in-your-face outrageous, and they seem to believe that God is giving them credit for enduring social scorn.

Jesus said: "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

"Occidental College has been barraged with bogus allegations of sexual assault in recent days after two groups, one claiming to represent 'men's rights' set out to undermine the school's anonymous reporting system..."

According to Occidental spokesman Jim Tranquada, reports The L.A. Times:
The online campaign appears to have been fueled by misperceptions about how the college's anonymous sexual misconduct reporting form works.
"Feminists at Occidental College created an online form to anonymously report rape/sexual assault," a user wrote in a Tuesday post on Reddit's Men's Rights group. "You just fill out a form and the person is called into the office on a rape charge. The 'victim' never has to prove anything or reveal their identity."

In fact, the form was created by campus administrators in 2009 to encourage assault victims to come forward. Allegations reported to the site are reviewed by administrators and, if they occur on or near campus, should be reported to federal authorities in annual crime statistics. The anonymous reports can be used to track patterns and make inquiries but do not lead to formal investigations, Tranquada said.
There's also a controversy at Occidental about its failure to meet federal standards in reporting reports of sexual assault, so the school needs some kind of system for encouraging reports. But those who fear false reports are motivated to create pressure against any system that makes it too easy to make a false report. This particular protest, however, if it is what it appears to be, seems to entail making false reports as a way to demonstrate the harms of false reports.

"If you’re running a Hollywood studio, you may well think there are too many blockbusters."

"But that doesn’t mean there are too many of your blockbusters. You can only control your slate, and you want the other guys to cut back."
Mr. Spielberg, one of the most celebrated in Hollywood history, said that he had trouble finding a distributor for his acclaimed 2012 film “Lincoln,” which almost ended up on cable. And George Lucas, director of the original “Star Wars” franchise, said he had similar problems with “Red Tails,” an action adventure about African-American flying aces.

“You’re talking about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas can’t get their movie into a theater!” Mr. Lucas said this summer at the opening of a new media center at the University of Southern California.
Why are these medicinally historical films considered blockbusters? I know it's because some grotesque amount of money was thrown into them, but why was that done? Because Spielberg and Lucas threw their weight into these projects?

How entitled they feel — how the rich assume they should get richer and richer by dumping vast sums of money into their work! Ironically, the film projects about which they feel so entitled are the ones that purvey their supposedly liberal values, challenge the privilege and entitlement of the rich. Rich other people.

As for the actual non-rich who exist in large enough numbers to make a blockbuster strategy work (when it works), they seem to prefer those stories about boyish adventurers in outer space.
Anita Elberse, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of the recent “Blockbusters: Hit-Making, Risk-Taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment”... that the blockbuster syndrome “turns out to be a winning strategy. It makes sense for the studios to spend disproportionately on a select group of the most likely winners.”...

“The marketplace for entertainment is extremely cluttered,” Professor Elberse said. “When there wasn’t a whole lot of competition, small movies worked, but with so many demands on our time, you really have to convince consumers that they need to see this on the big screen at the same time their friends are seeing it. You need the wow factor. That’s a tough challenge.”


What word originated in the year you were born?

For me, it's blast-off.

Via Metafilter, where folks are a bit younger, since they're getting things like air guitar or downloadable.

"Blast-off" as a noun signifying the launching of a rocket doesn't appear in the NYT archive until March 1952, but there are many instances of the word pair "blast off" before then, mostly to refer to storms — "a blast off the Greenland coast" — and hits in baseball — "a blast off the right-field wall." The 1952 article is titled "'Space Fever' Hits the Small-Fry; If your boy talks gibberish or hisses like a boiler, don't worry -- he's just cosmic."
The hissing represents rocket-ship take-off, and the gibberish is space-ship argot.

In apartment-house elevators, space-talk breaks out in commands like "Blast off!" when a lift starts upward, and "Brake your jets!" as an elevator comes to a landing. On auto rides, small-fry lean out alternate windows shrilling "Blast the port tube!" and "Blow the starboard rocket!"...

The space-conscious don't say "Scram"; They say "Blast off, chum!" They don't call a companion "screwy"; they say "Steady your gyros." A reproof or tongue-lashing draws the remark: "Boy, did I get my tubes scorched!"; and anyone who wanders off the point is told, "You're way out of your orbit."

"Obamacare Is Falling Apart Before Our Eyes."

Writes James C. Capretta in The Weekly Standard.

I said it back in October 2012:
"It's a slow-motion topple. We just haven't seen it go down yet."

December 20, 2013

"If the state bans speech that is offensive to some, where does it stop?"

"A person or persons’ right to speak does not end just because what they say or how they say it is offensive," said Governor Scott Walker, signing a bill that makes it less easy to require schools to change mascots and team names.

"What I love about the pope is he is triggering the exact kind of dialogue we ought to be having."

"People need to get involved in their communities to make a difference, to fix problems soul to soul," said Paul Ryan, quoted in a Buzzfeed article titled "Paul Ryan Finds God/How a backstage prayer in Cleveland and a new leader in the Vatican set the budget-slashing congressman on a mission to help the poor."
... Peter Flaherty, a devout Catholic and former Romney adviser who became close with the congressman during the campaign, said Ryan’s worldview has always been firmly rooted in Catholic teachings about the poor.

“Paul is someone who is very cognizant of the social magisterium of the Catholic Church… which encompasses everything from how we care for our neighbors to the idea that there’s hope and purpose and goodness in every human life,” said Flaherty, who recalled slipping away from the Republican convention in 2012 to attend mass with Ryan. “It also includes the ongoing duty of the strong to protect the weak — which I know drives Paul and his effort to help lift people out of poverty.”

"A federal judge in Utah Friday struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage..."

"[Robert J.] Shelby’s ruling is the first federal decision to address whether a state may ban same-sex marriages or refuse to recognize legal same-sex marriages since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision this summer that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act."

Camille Paglia says the Duck Dynasty debate really is about freedom of speech.

She said:
"I speak with authority here because I was openly gay before the 'Stonewall Rebellion,' when it cost you something to be so... And I personally feel as a libertarian that people have the right to free thought and free speech. In a democratic country, people have the right to be homophobic as they have the right to support homosexuality — as I 100 percent do. If people are basing their views against gays on the Bible, again they have a right to religious freedom there … to express yourself in a magazine in an interview -– this is the level of punitive PC, utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist, OK, that my liberal colleagues in the Democratic Party and on college campuses have supported and promoted over the last several decades. It's the whole legacy of the free speech 1960's that have been lost by my own party."
Meanwhile, some liberals are making the predictable narrowly legalistic point that freedom of speech has only to do with rights held against the government. This is a point I've strongly objected to over the years, most obviously, in debating the liberal Bob Wright (see "When did the left turn against freedom of speech?" and "[W]hat free speech means in the context of saying Roger Ailes needs to kick Glenn Beck off Fox News"). Why is the left taking the narrow view of the concept of freedom? It's a general principle, not something you save for your friends. Like Paglia, I remember the broad 1960s era commitment to free speech. There was a special zeal to protect those who said outrageous things. Today, we're back to the kind of repression that in the 60s seemed to belong to the 1950s. What the hell happened?

"The Supreme Court of Canada has unanimously struck down the nation's anti-prostitution laws."

The Court said:
"The prohibitions at issue do not merely impose conditions on how prostitutes operate. They go a critical step further, by imposing dangerous conditions on prostitution; they prevent people engaged in a risky - but legal - activity from taking steps to protect themselves from the risks."

Why is Obama extracting Baucus from the Senate?

Baucus got the nomination for U.S. Ambassador to China. Why? It's all about the 2014 elections.

Someone must replace Baucus as Chair of the Finance Committee, and if that someone is Ron Wyden, it opens the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and if that goes to Mary Landrieu, who's up for reelection in 2014, she will embody a promise of favoritism toward the energy-producing state of Louisiana.

And Baucus has said he won't run for reelection. His seat is up in 2014, so if he leaves early, the Democratic governor of Montana will pick a new Senator, probably Lt. Gov. John Walsh, who'll then have an advantage in the 2014 election.

If you liked your insurance, but couldn't keep it because Obamacare caused it to get cancelled...

... you can... well, obviously not keep it, because you did lose it, but... how can we put this that might quiet the screaming for a little while?
Millions of Americans who had their health plans cancelled will be exempt from the Obamacare individual mandate, the administration said Thursday — a surprise move that comes just before Monday’s deadline to sign up for coverage starting Jan. 1.

The administration also said people who had their plans cancelled could get a scaled-back catastrophic plan, which has more limited benefits than those included in other Obamacare health plans.
Nothing is working, and the idea seems to be to orchestrate the catastrophe so it feels somewhat better.

With Obamacare, it's nothing but palliative treatment.

"For 20 years, I’ve served this church, and it has now put me outside."

"I find myself totally shunned, excluded. It just felt awful."

December 19, 2013

Was Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson fired after likening homosexuality to bestiality?

Drudge's main headline is "ROASTED 'DUCK' LEADER FIRED AFTER GAY RANT," which links to The Hollywood Reporter story "'Duck Dynasty's' Phil Robertson on Indefinite Hiatus Following Anti-Gay Remarks/The news comes after the reality star compared being gay to bestiality, drawing ire from LGBT groups including GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign."

First, is he fired? The whole next season is already filmed, so viewers will get all they want of Phil Robertson. But the network A&E has a corporate interest in distancing itself from him and appeasing the critics. If the show does well, he'll be back for the next season, and the controversy itself can be integrated into whatever new "reality" scenes they film. It's more PR. Everybody wins, including Phil, who isn't really being punished. These attacks work for him in that we see him standing by his religious beliefs even as he is attacked unfairly.

And the attacks are unfair. He didn't compare "being gay to bestiality." He put homosexual conduct — not the status of being gay — into a category of sins that included "sleeping around with this woman and that woman" as well as bestiality. We don't see the heterosexual men who enjoy multiple sex partners getting hotheaded over Phil Robertson. Why not? They're not organized to make political demands at the moment, but they haven't had to fight for the right to fornicate recently. So those who are organized and in the middle of a movement are taking Robertson's bait (or answering his duck call or whatever). It's "anti-gay." The "bestiality" business is forefronted.

This is the political game of the moment.


The term of endearment of the day.

The folding car.

"The City Transformer quadricycle is designed as an electric two-seater that folds down with the press of a button from 1.6 meters to just one meter (3.2 feet) in width. Its 2.2-meter (7.2 feet) length matches the size of a motorcycle parking spot."

Watch out for the Pajama Boy virus — it's hard to resist. I'm not resisting.

There. I've carried him forward. And Chris Christie is widely — he's wide, you know — widely disseminating the virus:

You can mock Pajama Boy — "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie co-opted the lampooned 'Pajama Boy' image promoting Obamacare in order to send his own message about volunteering" — but to mock him is to carry the virus. It's what they thought you'd do. Don't assume Pajama Boy is worthy of nothing but contempt. If you are mean to Pajama Boy, it will bring out the love for him. I can sense it in my womanly sensors.

ADDED: What is the message in the original Pajama Boy tweet? Pajama Boy is home for the holidays, reintegrated into his parents' concept of him, as if he is still a little boy. He accepts that — the chocolate and the Christmas/holiday pajamas — because he loves his parents and he wants a good visit. But the subject of health insurance can be talked about in that milieu. For some reason, it won't be inappropriate, won't spoil the home-for-the-holidays spirit, it can fit. Pajama Boy is not a "douchebag." He's an average young guy, trying to do what's right, including visiting his parents and living up to their expectation,s and he needs a little prodding to talk about getting insurance, which is part of what a good little boy should do.

But maybe the message is not so much for the boy but for the parents. The parents may think that when their little guy comes home for the holidays, they just want to baby him. But they really should also make sure he's got his insurance. Don't completely pretend he's still a child. He's your kid and you need to make sure he's safe and sound. Jammies and warm milk are comforting, but he needs more protection than that. Do what you can to protect your little sweetheart now, before he once again leaves the bosom of the family and exposes himself to the danger of the world beyond the home. He may not quite yet realize what the risks are, and helping the "young invincibles" get insured is a parental responsibility just like the clothing and feeding you did when he was young. He doesn't really need those jimjams and cocoa. He needs insurance. Help this dear boy one last time, Mama.

There are many pornographers, but what, within the realm of pornography, earns you a substantial obituary in The New York Times?

Some day we'll see how they treat Hugh Hefner, who made pornography clean, commercial and classy, but today we read about the death of Al Goldstein:
Mr. Goldstein did not invent the dirty magazine, but he was the first to present it to a wide audience without the slightest pretense of classiness or subtlety....

The manifesto in Screw’s debut issue in 1968 was... “We promise never to ink out a pubic hair or chalk out an organ... We will apologize for nothing. We will uncover the entire world of sex. We will be the Consumer Reports of sex.”...

Apart from Screw, Mr. Goldstein’s most notorious creation was Al Goldstein himself, a cartoonishly vituperative amalgam of borscht belt comic, free-range social critic and sex-obsessed loser....

“I’m infantile, compulsive, always acting out my fantasies,” he told Playboy in 1974. “There’s nothing I’ll inhibit myself from doing.”
In later years, it became impossible to get famous for being a loud sleazy guy with a magazine, and the idea of anyone "inking" out pubic hair seems mostly puzzling. Even if you know why it was done, how was it done? Ink? Wouldn't it need to be some carefully applied flesh-toned White-Out?

December 18, 2013

"During the 2012 campaign, I, like every liberal writer whose job it is to comment on politics every day, wrote many unkind things about Mitt Romney."

"Much of the time I found him more sad than despicable; politicians who nearly reach the pinnacle of their profession while being manifestly awful at politics are a rare and curious breed."

Writes Paul Waldman at The American Prospect in a post titled "New Documentary Threatens to Make You Like Mitt Romney."

Here's the trailer:

"I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes."

"You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical."

"Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson talks about sin and logic. The line before the one quoted above is more graphic (and I didn't want to put it in the post title): "It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus."

I note the ambiguity in what Robertson says about logic and sin. At first, I thought he meant that when he thinks about anatomy, the vagina makes more sense as a place to put a penis, if one has undertaken the reasoning task of determining the most desirable orifice. But there's nothing logical about that. There are unexamined premises: 1. that the penis be inserted somewhere, and 2. that the place should be the most desirable place. Even assuming those 2 premises, there's the obvious problem of the subjectivity of what is desirable, and Robertson admits that by saying "to me" and "I'm just thinking." In this interpretation, the word "logical" is effectively jocose.

Then, I saw an alternate meaning: The prefatory clause "But hey, sin" gives meaning to the repeated phrase "It's not logical." Sin is not logical. What impels us toward sin and what constitutes sin? These are not matters for logic. Perhaps we could reason logically about what sin is, but Robertson's approach is to accept the traditional Christian beliefs and this faith is not acquired through logic. In this interpretation, there's no logic in defining sin, and, too, there's no logic in a person's feelings that draw him into doing things that fit that definition of sin.

Of course, Robertson is getting criticism for these remarks, which are called "anti-gay," but he's rejecting all of what is traditionally understood in the Christian religion as sin, including adultery and fornication. In the process, he talks about his own natural sexual orientation and seems perhaps to concede that it's easy for him to avoid one sin that he knows other people feel drawn toward. But overall, his effort is to call people into traditional religion and to save them from what he believes is sin. Myself, I support gay rights, but I do not like the simple portrayal of traditional religionists as mean or bigoted (even though I do understand that it may be the most effective way to defeat them politically).

NYT/CBS poll finds only 1/3 of Americans think the ACA will improve the health care system.

The full numbers won't come out until later today, so there aren't specific percentages at the squib just published at the NYT, and there isn't even a rough fraction to suggest how many of the rest thought things would get worse and how many took the neutral middle position. The headline is "Broad Skepticism on Health Care Law," and I'm just going to guess that the negative group is more than 1/3. Here's some teasing text:
Among all adults, nearly half think the law will not affect them at all, while among uninsured adults, just over one-quarter say that. And while a nearly 4 in 10 plurality of uninsured Americans think the health care law will hurt them personally, they are twice as likely as the general public to say the law will help them.
You can't figure out from that what either group said about thinking that the law would help them. I'll be interested to see how low those numbers are. It could be as high as 6 out of 10 and 3 out of 10 or much lower — 2 out of 10 and 1 out of 10 or worse. [ADDED: If 4 in 10 is indeed a "plurality," then 3 out of 10 for the uninsured think the law will help. You can figure that out. And that would mean that 1.5 out of 10 in the "general public" think it will help them. I guess the "general public" includes this uninsured, so the numbers of already-insured who think it will help them must be less that 1.5. I am relying on precision in the NYT language.]

The promise was that vast majorities of Americans would be helped, including nearly everyone with inadequate or no insurance, and that nearly all of the rest would remain [at worst] in a neutral position, keeping what they had if they liked it. So we are experiencing a monumental reversal of expectations. It's hard to fathom how crushed people feel, both in having the huge promise so badly broken and in having so much upheaval with such an effect on one's personal finances and physical well-being.

This is so different from other huge events in American politics. One political party chose to cause this great disruption. It's not like a terrorist attack or a war that demands that we change. It was chosen, and it was chosen with no decent understanding of how difficult a disruption it would be.

I think back to something Michelle Obama said in early 2008, which seemed ominous to some even then:
Barack Obama... is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.
Maybe it's true that Barack has successfully prevented us from getting back to our lives as usual, our lives that many of us liked and wanted to keep. And it's true that he demanded that we shed our cynicism, and that was only the most ironic of the many way that he inspired our cynicism.

Conservative activist Larry Klayman — the victor in the recent NSA case — tongue-lashes CNN's Don Lemon and Jeffrey Toobin.

The clip, below doesn't show the whole interaction, but the text at Politico does:
Klayman’s appearance Tuesday night on CNN was preceded by a profile of him that included a quotation from a former George W. Bush staffer saying his lawsuits were about “fighting for himself and his own, in my opinion, delusions of grandeur.”

When Klayman was brought into the conversation, he came out firing.

“I think it is important to note that you’re a big supporter of Obama,” Klayman said to Lemon. “That you have favored him in every respect. You have to try to do a hit piece to diminish a very important decision.... I’ve watched you for many years. You’re an ultra-leftist and you’re a big supporter of Obama.”

Panel of "distinguished historians" convened to find a President who had a worse Year 5 than Obama.

It's a history emergency over at Politico, where they've called out the experts to cast a better light on Obama than the light that's shining on him here in the present, where there are actual emergencies and the deficiencies of the experts convened to deal with them are glaringly obvious. But in the field of history, nothing occurs to expose the glitches and utter screwups. It's all already occurred and all that's left is to interpret what seems to have happened.

AND: I love the prominence of FDR and Ronald Reagan in this distinguished opinion-manufacturing. It's as if the experts know that their role in this history emergency is to boost Obama, and with that understanding, they find a way to say not only that there are Presidents with worse 5th years, but that having a wretched 5th year is the very mark of a great presidency.

December 17, 2013

"Farms — complete with livestock, vegetables and fruit trees — are serving as the latest suburban amenity."

"It's called development-supported agriculture, a more intimate version of community-supported agriculture — a farm-share program commonly known as CSA."
In planning a new neighborhood, a developer includes some form of food production — a farm, community garden, orchard, livestock operation, edible park — that is meant to draw in new buyers, increase values and stitch neighbors together.
What about the noises and the smell?!

"How George W. Bush Evolved From the Uncoolest Person on the Planet to Bona Fide Hipster Icon."

A Vanity Fair article by Juli Weiner:
But if you are younger than 24, you might not have attended anti-Bush rallies in high school and in college. You might not have pinned “SHRUB” buttons to your tote bag, and might not even remember Bush as a war-lovin’, vowel-droppin’, faux-folksy, ostentatiously religious Connecticut cowboy. This is because Bush has, quietly and wholly, ingeniously refashioned himself into an Internet-friendly, cat-loving, ironic-hat-wearing painter-cum-Instagram savant. Lately, George W. Bush is a hipster icon, and the Internet, unofficial Fourth Estate of the youth of America, is totally buying it.
Rush Limbaugh was going on about it today.
By the way, folks, this Vanity Fair piece on Bush is really snarky. It's as snarky as anything else ever was about Bush. But the comments by readers to the Vanity Fair piece are really positive. I'll tell you, the media, it's under the radar right now, but the media is livid about this.... And they are frosted. They are livid.....

At the Brathaus Truckstop...


... you don't have to stop for long.

"We really didn't care for a PR pitch about how the administration is trying to salvage its internal health care tech nightmare."

Said an unnamed tech company CEO about a meeting with Obama that was supposed to be about the problem of government surveillance. 
'He basically hijacked the meeting,' the executive said. 'We all told the White House that we were only there to talk about what the NSA was up to and how it affects us.'

The biggest Pinocchios of 2013.

WaPo's Fact Checker Glenn Kessler has a top 10 biggest lies list.
President Obama ended up with three of the most misleading claims of the year. But, despite the urging of some readers, his statement that “I didn’t set a red line” on Syria is not among them. We had looked closely at that claim and had determined that, in context, it was a bungled talking point, so that statement actually earned no rating.

Second term Obama is like second term Bush.

Ron Fournier makes 9 points of comparison.

And a new poll at WaPo says:
Obama ends his fifth year in office with lower approval ratings than almost all other recent two-term presidents. At this point in 2005, for example, former president George W. Bush was at 47 percent positive, 52 percent negative. All other post-World War II presidents were at or above 50 percent at this point in their second terms, except Richard M. Nixon, whose fifth year ended in 1973 with an approval rating of 29 percent because of the Watergate scandal that later brought impeachment and his resignation.
I find the headline there painfully funny: "Obama suffers most from year of turmoil, poll finds." It's always all about Obama! Even the suffering. Poor Obama. What about all the people who are suffering as the malfunctioning Obamacare machine cranks into action? I know, the point is that he's doing the worst in the poll, but phrasing it like that — Obama suffers most — is absurd. And I assume they mean to help Obama, to inspire sympathy for him. It's patronizing to him, and it's unsympathetic to everyone else who is suffering.

Head injuries and suicide: It's not just for football anymore.

Now, playing baseball "with abandon" is connected (in the NYT) to suicide.
“There is no way to say [Ryan Freel's] neurodegenerative disease was the cause of his death or the tumultuous 10 years prior to his death,” said Dr. Bob Stern, a neurology and neurosurgery professor and a co-founder of Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy....

The B.U. Center’s examination of athletes has focused on football, and research published earlier this year indicated that of 35 deceased players whose brain matter was inspected, all but one showed signs of C.T.E. Several were suicide victims. One of the most prominent players, Dave Duerson, had attained the third stage of C.T.E.

Stern said he was initially skeptical that a baseball player would develop the disease. Then he learned during the investigation not only about Freel’s history of collisions with outfield walls and other players but that his first of several concussions unrelated to sports may have occurred at age 2....

“I don’t think baseball is going to become a high-risk activity for C.T.E.,” he said. “I don’t think parents should immediately say: ‘That does it. My kid should not play Little League.’ ... [But] we need to pay better attention to our brains. Try to take the head out of these activities."
Will parents overreact and take their kids out of sports? That would be stupid. I assume sports also alleviate depression and some of those sedentary kids, plunging their brains into computers and televisions, descend into suicide. The message is only: Don't get your head knocked hard.

December 16, 2013

The drug consumption rooms of Denmark...

"... where adults with serious addictions can bring their illegal drugs and take them, legally, under the watchful eye of a nurse."
Inside, to the left, behind a huge window, is cluster of smokers with improvised pipes, enveloped in haze. To the right is a long, stainless steel table where several people sit, injecting themselves with heroin, cocaine or both. Some finish and leave quietly. A few slump over the table, asleep. One man gets up and paces frantically back and forth, swearing and shouting. In the middle of it all, sits a nurse in street clothes, calmly taking in the scene.

Every day, these nurses witness up to 800 injections.

"Doctors Save Severed Hand By Sewing to Man's Ankle."

Photo of the arrangement at the link.
Doctors, opted to graft the hand to Wei's ankle to prevent it from dying while they worked on his other extensive injuries. The doctors told Rex Features: “His injury was severe. Besides ripping injuries, his arm was also flattened. We had to clear and treat his injuries before taking on the hand reattachment surgery.”

"I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary’ invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen..."

"... for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval... Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment."

Wrote Federal District Judge Richard J. Leon, a Bush appointee, in a case brought by Larry Klayman, a conservative activist, who is seeking to represent a class of all Americans.
Similar legal challenges to the N.S.A. program, including by the American Civil Liberties Union and the advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, are at earlier stages in the courts. Last month, the Supreme Court declined to hear an unusual challenge to the program by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which had sought to bypass lower courts.
ADDED: Orin Kerr has some sharp analysis:
Judge Leon’s first and most fundamental move is to distinguish Smith v. Maryland, the 1979 case ruling that the Fourth Amendment does not protect numbers dialed from a telephone. I found Judge Leon’s argument on this point not only unpersuasive, but quite plainly so. I realize that a district court judge can’t just announce that he thinks a Supreme Court decision was wrongly decided. But there are plausible ways to write an opinion distinguishing Smith and implausible ways to do so, and Judge Leon’s opinion struck me as a surprisingly weak effort.
Read the rest at the link.


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Thanks to all who've done this already. It's nicely encouraging as I begin the last month of the 10th year of blogging every single day.

"National Security Agency officials are considering a controversial amnesty that would return Edward Snowden to the United States..."

"... in exchange for the extensive document trove the whistleblower took from the agency."

So the message is: If you take enough, you can get away with it simply by giving it back.

This is a variation on the big lie ("a lie so 'colossal' that no one would believe that someone 'could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously'").  Go big enough, and you can get away with what the small time liars/cheats/thieves/monsters must pay for.

Or what was it Donald Trump — I think it was Donald Trump — said? The bank turns down people who ask for small loans, but if you ask for a yoooge enough loan, they don't say no. Can't find the precise thing I'm looking for, but I did find:

"As long as you are going to be thinking anyway, think big."

Back to Snowden. I thought when he first took it on the lam, he said that there were copies distributed to various persons for safekeeping, so that if he were killed, it would all come out. How is the NSA to know whether all those copies are called back?

ADDED: Meade, reading this out loud, helping me proofread, said: "'a lie so colossal that no one would believe that someone could have the impudence'.... how about the audacity?"

I'm irritated for a second by his discontinuity and say "It's a quote," as if I think Meade is offering me writing advice and there's a better word than "impudence," and then I realize that Meade is gesturing at Obama — "Audacity of Hope" — and the colossal Lie-of-the-Year lie that Obama told.

"You do realize that's a Hitler quote?" I ask, unnecessarily.

"The best argument for putting inequality on the back burner is the depressed state of the economy."

Concedes Krugman. "Isn’t it more important to restore economic growth than to worry about how the gains from growth are distributed?"

Of course, his answer is: "No." Or, to be precise (and to capture the Krugman condescension): "Well, no."

"All the apple-cheeked babies, captured for eternity in Creamsicle onesies three sizes too big, are nearly grown."

That's the first sentence of what?

The incredibly long and abstruse Sports Illustrated article about Peyton Manning, from which I was unable to extract the reasoning for choosing him as Sportsman of the Year (other than, looking at the sidebar of other possibilities, the lack of anyone more compelling).

When the hell did sportswriting turn into that sort of thing? Babies. Onesies. Should a man even use the word "onesies"? Creamsicle? Come on, people.

But if we're going to talk about football, let's talk about the Green Bay Packers humiliating the Dallas Cowboys last night. Wasn't that a highly emotive experience?
"It took me everything not to cry," McCarthy said..... "I was drained. I don't think people realize what professional athletes put into a contest. Just to see the emotion of guys... what we overcame. I don't have the words. My vocabulary's stuck right now. It was incredible."
Mars needs women. Women have the words. We're more verbal. We can say "onesies" and "babies" and "Creamsicle" and more. But I'll just say "the emotion of guys"... I love that. And... go, Packers, and good for you, Peyton Manning.

"But there is a reason Ayn Rand is considered a gateway drug to the right and [Adam] Smith isn’t..."

"... the 'greed is good' ethos, whatever else may be wrong with it, is much sexier, more rebellious, and thus more appealing than staid bourgeois morality. But more to the point, it’s interesting that both [The Daily Caller's Matt] Lewis and [Andrew] Sullivan consider Smith the fons et origo of fiscal conservatism, as defined by support for capitalism. I find it interesting because it’s mistaken, albeit a mistaken belief that is held almost universally."

Mytheos Holt, writing in The American Conservative, would like you to pay more attention to Bernard Mandeville and "The Fable of the Bees."

Governor Walker's frosted pecans.

"The People should never rise, without doing something to be remembered — something notable And striking."

"Last Night 3 Cargoes of Bohea Tea were emptied into the Sea. This Morning a Man of War sails. This is the most magnificent Movement of all. There is a Dignity, a Majesty, a Sublimity, in this last Effort of the Patriots, that I greatly admire. The People should never rise, without doing something to be remembered — something notable And striking. This Destruction of the Tea is so bold, so daring, so firm, intrepid and inflexible, and it must have so important Consequences, and so lasting, that I cant but consider it as an Epocha in History."

So wrote John Adams in his diary.

Today is the 240th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party.

"Why Is Pope Francis Promoting Sin?"

There's a click-bait headline that seduced me. It's an op-ed at
By dwelling on inequality, the pope is promoting envy. The Catholic Church, I had always understood, disapproves of envy, deeming it one of the seven deadly sins. I would have expected Francis to urge people to think of themselves in relation to God and to their own fullest potential. Encouraging people to measure themselves against others only leads to grief. Resenting the success of others is a sin in itself.
Obviously, one can say the Pope is promoting virtue, notably charity. But the pitch comes from a Harvard professor, Lant Pritchett, whose expertise is in alleviating poverty, but hear him out. This next part may win over even the Pope fans:
While Jesus repeatedly preached against the love of riches, he was urging people to respond to a call to God and to become “rich to God.” It was not an appeal for people to resent the riches of others and obsess about material inequality. Jesus, when asked to remedy inequality, turned the focus back on envy and greed.

“Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.’ He replied to him, ‘Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?’ Then he said to the crowd, ‘Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.’” (Luke 12:13-15)

I am all for reducing poverty... What I’m against is talking about “inequality” as if that term denoted any of those concerns. Poverty matters; injustice matters. Mere inequality is beside the point.
Mere inequality is beside the point.

"These fascists want to silence citizens," shout the protesters in Madrid.

"Their anti-government chants were centred on the newly passed Citizen Security Law, a bill which will impose hefty fines on everything from unauthorized protests outside the Parliament to disrupting traffic with street football."

"I don't belong in your sort of world... I love you most dreadfully."

"It's a pity you have to grow up..." and then, so many years later, leave us, Joan Fontaine.

December 15, 2013

Peter O'Toole has died.

Here's his IMDB page. I really haven't seen many of his movies. "The Last Emperor." "Lawrence of Arabia." I'm sorry to lose one of the great old actors. I see that he was going to play the role of Symeon in a 2014 movie titled "Mary," based on The New Testament.

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

"Don’t get me wrong — I’m still an atheist."

"But I will no longer be dragged into debates with theists who make a ludicrous claim, then base their evidence on the very book from which their ludicrous claim originates."
There is no point in it. All this back-and-forth sniping serves to do is to make us feel a sense of superiority to the person making the claims and does nothing for them except leave them with a smugness about their assumption that “atheists are all mean.” Faith overrides knowledge and truth in any situation, so arguing with a theist is akin to banging your head against a brick wall: You will injure yourself and achieve little.
Why must an atheist bother with the subject of religion at all? If you think you're so rational, be rational about the reasons why people are religious, including many reasons that you could be empathetic about.

By the way, even in that little quoted squib, the guy is still being a jerk, likening religious people to a brick wall and being a bit of a brick wall himself about the possibility that religious people are seekers of knowledge and truth.

How to turn your face into an "anti-face" — a sight that surveillance technology cannot read as a face.

Don't imagine that sunglasses will work. You need things like dramatically asymmetrical bangs in multiple colors.

I think whatever we do, the robots will learn it and get out in front of us, but you can look quite foolish in your feeble effort to outsmart them. The linked article is more of an art-and-fashion project than a real defense against surveillance. Isn't it funny? Finding surveillance funny is perhaps the closest you can get to a defense.

"I concocted a plan to prove how boring life would be if you were just nice all the time..."

"... how much more bracing it is to have sweetness laced with tartness. I told them I would be very, very nice until they asked me to stop, certain that they’d get sick of saccharine and syrupy in short order. Except they didn’t. They liked it."

Says Maureen Dowd, about her 10-year-old self.

People may be bored by all niceness all the time, but they still appreciate (and maybe take advantage of) those who opt to perform perfect sweetness. One can always find amusing edge in somebody else, even keeping the very nice person around for company and for snuggles later.

Adderall for everybody. That's what the name means: A.D.D. for All.

"Modern marketing of stimulants began with the name Adderall itself."
Mr. Griggs bought a small pharmaceutical company that produced a weight-loss pill named Obetrol. Suspecting that it might treat a relatively unappreciated condition then called attention deficit disorder, and found in about 3 to 5 percent of children, he took “A.D.D.” and fiddled with snappy suffixes. He cast a word with the widest net.


For A.D.D.

A.D.D. for All.


“It was meant to be kind of an inclusive thing,” Mr. Griggs recalled.
And what's to stop the trend toward prescribing it for everyone… to take for the rest of their life?

Lots more at the link, including the 6 question test used to see if you're likely to have A.D.H.D. I scored 14, which put me in the "likely" category, even though on a daily basis, I lock into the work I need and want to do and continue with great concentration for many hours, often to great excess. But there was no question about that, and no questions that subtracted points, so I got 4 points for saying I "very often" "fidget or squirm" when I "have to sit down for a long time." Now, I don't fidget when I'm working on my own reading or writing, but I didn't think about that, because the question said "when you have to sit down," and when I'm doing my own work, I don't have to sit down. I can get up whenever I want, and I often motorize my desk into the standing position. I only have to sit down at a meeting or when stuck in a vehicle on a long trip, so in those situations I do rebel against the constraint.

But obviously, I could get this drug prescribed easily. And anyone can. Is it still a weight-loss pill? Is that part of what's going on with Adderall?

"I feel like a jerk suspecting that they were all actors."

I said, and Will Cate said:
I think they were all actors, and I don't at all feel like a jerk for thinking it. It's television. That means it's almost certainly 100% fake. Look at all the different camera-shots, the lighting. I call bullshit on the whole thing.
It was incredibly didactic and it played straight into the audience's desire to believe that good people are out there with the skill and the energy to lead us forward into racial harmony. Ah, well! It was a nice Sunday-school lesson in how to step up and speak out for what's right... if you believe.

In real life, most people, even good people, think it's best to deploy cold silence as the social pressure against strangers who say things that aren't very nice. But you can't make a TV show out of assorted dirty looks, however sharp and well-aimed.

About that "affluenza."

Those who think the rich teenager — who, driving drunk, killed 4 persons — should have gotten a harsher punishment than 10 years probation are focusing on the expert testimony he presented in his favor. A psychologist named G. Dick Miller testified that having grown up in affluence, "He never learned that sometimes you don’t get your way... He had the cars and he had the money. He had freedoms that no young man would be able to handle."

Miller used the term "affluenza" — a portmanteau of "affluence" and "influenza" — to refer to the young man's psychological deficit.