January 4, 2014

I read Phil Robertson's autobiography.

1. Here, you can buy it on Amazon, as I did.

2. I have no idea how accurate it is, but I know that the GQ article calls it "a ghostwritten book he says he has never read." I assume he talked to the ghostwriter and didn't check the ghost's work by sitting down and reading through the book. I'd be interested to know what books Phil does read. He reads the Bible. I got that. Phil purports to be such a godly man that I feel entitled to believe the book is accurate, but it has the feeling of PR, and I took it in that spirit.

3. My favorite part of the book was the first chapter, his boyhood, especially all the stuff about living off the land:

Melissa Harris-Perry apologizes, again, this time with tears.

Transcript here. Key lines:
My intention was not malicious, but I broke the ground rule that families are off-limits, and for that I am sorry.

Also, allow me to apologize to other families formed through transracial adoption, because I am deeply sorry that we suggested that interracial families are in any way funny or deserving of ridicule. On this program we are dedicated to advocating for a wide diversity of families. It is one of our core principles....
Here's my post from New Year's Eve covering the controversy. I said: "Quite aside from racial politics, I thought children were off limits. Here you have an MSNBC panel segment planned around laughing at a baby. We scrupulously avoid using Obama's daughters as raw material for jokes. Why didn't anyone at MSNBC nix this?"

Speaking of "core principles," balanced journalism should also be a core principle. If you find you forget your core principles when you see ways to take shots at political candidates you oppose, then you're also forgetting the core principle of balanced journalism. You're doubling up on the forgetting of core principles. And it's so easy to test yourself: Imagine that conservative is a liberal (or vice versa).

"A rejuvenated al-Qaeda-affiliated force asserted control over the western Iraqi city of Fallujah on Friday..."

Reports The Washington Post.
“At the moment, there is no presence of the Iraqi state in Fallujah,” said a local journalist who asked not to be named because he fears for his safety. “The police and the army have abandoned the city, al-Qaeda has taken down all the Iraqi flags and burned them, and it has raised its own flag on all the buildings.”

At Friday prayers, held outdoors and attended by thousands of people, a masked ISIS fighter took the podium and addressed the crowd, declaring the establishment of an “Islamic emirate” in Fallujah and promising to help residents fight the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Iranian allies....

"We will live in a 'society of enforced leisure,' and 'the most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work!'"

From the "Incorrect Predictions" section of an article titled: "Isaac Asimov's Predictions For 2014 From 50 Years Ago Are Eerily Accurate."

"Ronan Farrow has "assiduously avoided" publicity "for much of his life," according to The NYT Magazine, arduously aching to bestow publicity upon him.

The 26-year-old son of Mia Farrow and Woody-Allen-or-Frank-Sinatra has also had an MSNBC show thrust upon him.
His public persona is friendly but guarded.... So working as a television personality seems a strange choice; it’s likely to foreground all the things he has been so keen to leave in the background — his looks, his family, his private life. 
Oh, no, no, no, no, don't speak about how beautiful I am. Do put that in the background. I'm so keen to put that in the background. And in the foreground, please put... what? What the hell else is there? Why is this lad on television and in The New York Times?

12 posts written before dawn.

What a strange morning of blogging!

I see the light beginning to come up at last. Time to back away from the lit screen and absorb the soft gray of the morning.

This is the 13th post, written in the late stages of cabin fever from my remote outpost in The North.

And the nominees for Worst Playing of the Race Card in the Year 2014 are...

Conservatives Are Awfully Silent About Jahi McMath

After Terri Schiavo, you’d think more conservatives would be lining up to side with the 13-year-old’s family....

For some reason, Jahi’s condition doesn’t seem to resonate the same way. The silence from the right is rather deafening, with almost no political movement—other than the Schiavo family’s personal outreach—for Jahi. It's easier, apparently, to move legislative mountains for a white woman in conservative Florida precincts than it is for a black girl from ardently liberal, urban Oakland, Calif.
The Schiavo case involved a conflict between parents who wanted to keep their daughter alive and a husband with the legal power to procure her departure.

"Only weeks before a chemistry experiment sent a plume of fire across a Manhattan high school science lab, engulfing two students and leaving one with life-threatening burns..."

"... a federal safety agency issued a video warning of the dangers of the very same experiment, a common one across the country."

"I don’t know one intersex individual who is happy with the treatment they have received from the physicians they have consulted with over the years — not one."

"One’s sexual feeling, ability to feel like they can couple with another human being, is literally destroyed by some doctor’s idea of how genitals are supposed to look."
“I learned to lie. I couldn’t tell other kids I went to the hospital and had my genitals chopped up again.” He lived with a plastic tube attached to his genitals so that he could stand to pee; his urinary opening came at the base, not the tip, of his penis. Cosmetic surgery should not be performed on infants, he insists. “If they choose, later, to have a surgery—if it’s their choice. If I’d had the chance to do that, I wouldn’t have gone quite so horrible an adolescence, quite so difficult an identify formation as an adult.”

“Remember: your kid is going to want his genitals. Your kid is going to want her genitals.... ”

The vortex.


"We must form their hearts. Otherwise we are creating little monsters. And then these little monsters mold the people of God."

 "This really gives [Pope Francis] goose bumps."

MEANWHILE: The Pope leaves a phone message: "What can the nuns be doing that stops them answering the phone?... This is Pope Francis... I wanted to give you New Year's greetings. I'll see if I can reach you later. God bless you."

Senators suing.

1. "U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson plans to file a lawsuit on Monday challenging a federal rule that allows members of Congress and their staffs to continue to receive health benefits similar to other federal employees."

2. "Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is suing the Obama administration over the National Security Agency’s spying practices.... 'The question here is whether or not, constitutionally, you can have a single warrant apply to millions of people... So we thought, what better way to illustrate the point than having hundreds of thousands of Americans sign up for a class action suit.'"

"Mr Jack's death occurred shortly before he was due to demonstrate how heart implants could be hacked at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas."

So how did master-hacker Barnaby Jack — who was only 36 — die? The coroner's report is in, and it seems that the expert at computer hacking lacked comparable genius in mixing drugs. He died of "acute mixed drug intoxication... an accidental overdose of heroin, cocaine, and prescription drugs."

Maybe this will slap some sense into you.

Sometimes you have to slap them in the face just to get their attention.

"For progressives, there were a lot of inspiring things about Bill de Blasio’s formal swearing in as mayor on Wednesday.... Then there was President Clinton."

Jarrett Murphy, writing in The Nation:
[I]n spite of his rock-star status and brilliance as an orator, Clinton has questionable value as a symbol of the kind of progressive change de Blasio has promised. He’s more accurately a symbol of dashed progressive hopes....

In office, however, Bill Clinton pushed NAFTA over labor’s objections and sought Most Favored Nation trading status for China in the face of severe human rights concerns. He waived human rights requirements to facilitate Plan Colombia, which provided military aid to the Bogota government. He oversaw much of the financial deregulation that enabled the 2007–08 financial crisis. He widened federal authority to impose the death penalty. He signed into law the harsh 1996 immigration bill, backed measures that vastly expanded executive power to fight “terrorism” and supported the odious Defense of Marriage Act.
How could Murphy miss Bill Clinton's crushing of all the progress that had been made on sexual harassment awareness in the recent "they just don't get it" era?

Not one gender-related word even as this commentator of the left purports to enumerate Bill Clinton's sins against progressivism!

Obama's annual reunion with the group that still calls itself "The Choom Gang."

The NYT reports:
For a reputed loner, Mr. Obama has remained remarkably close to a trio he met as a teenager at Honolulu’s prestigious Punahou School — boys of Hawaii’s year-round summer with whom he played basketball, bodysurfed, drank beer and, like so many other young islanders in the 1970s, smoked pot, the “choom” of that long-ago nickname....

The annual gatherings perhaps speak to Mr. Obama’s greater need for their connection now that he has what is called the loneliest job in the world...

That first year, [Mike] Ramos said, “I remember coming home from a golf outing and literally starting to cry,” so emotional was the contrast he felt between their friendships and the “transactional” ones he said he had since formed as a businessman. “For me it’s the unconditional love, it’s the nontransactional nature of the relationship — that enduring quality — that is something that I really value,” he said.
Are your friendships so transactional you could cry?

They didn't start meeting annually unti 2004, when Obama decided to run for Senate and he needed a fresh group of friends for his biography....

It says something pretty funny about politics when an article about the Presidents's friends has a quote about the importance of friends from the "long time" political strategist. And yes, Axelrod was Obama's strategist when Obama decided to start the annual get together with them.

Doesn't that just scream "these friends are part of a political strategy! This article is part of that strategy!" 
The transactionality of nontransactional friends.

Foxes romp in the snow at the Wisconsin Capitol.

Photos of real foxes, the actual red-furred creatures. I'm not using the word in any metaphorical sense. These are real foxes, in the snow, at the Capitol. It's not all protesters around here. I love it. Real foxes. I guess the extreme cold brought them out.

But "Forecast Today is forecast to be Much Warmer than yesterday." Why it's 20.6° now ("Feels like 4"). For some reason, we are getting one day, today, for mild enough cold to venture outdoors, before the temperatures plunge again, for tomorrow, when we'll happily stay inside to watch Ice Bowl II.

ADDED: Speaking of foxes: "'You're Invisible, But I'll Eat You Anyway.' Secrets Of Snow-Diving Foxes."

"That All I Have To Do Is Dream song of theirs was one of my very favorites when I first got a transistor radio way back in the early 60's."

"What a heavenly song. I used to put the radio under my pillow and there it was, Dream, dream, dream. Deliciously swoony...."
As it happens, I had a huge crush from age 8 or so on a boy who was 16, John, who was a neighbor in Kingston, Jamaica. He asked my father to help him run away, which my father did. My father also taught John to play the guitar and sail. John went on to spend the rest of his life, mostly playing guitar and sailing. But he also worked for many years the road manager for the Everly Brothers, which I found out in the early 1990's after not seeing John for decades.

So I called up the Everly Brothers' office in Nashville, left a voicemail and sure enough, several days later, I heard from John, who invited me to Atlantic City, to hear the Everly Brothers play and meet him. John also opened for the Everly Brothers at times or played with the band.

Off I went, to awful Atlantic City, to the casino-hotel they were playing to a sad, scant audience of blue rinse ladies and really elderly folk, met the Everly Brothers, heard them sing and saw John again after decades.
Suddenly, this picture comes back to me:

That was the cover for an album called "A Date With the Everly Brothers" (which you can still, of course, buy, though not easily with that cover). That's the one with "Cathy's Clown." The year is 1960, so I was 9 when I first gazed at that cover and tried to understand that concept that this was "A Date With the Everly Brothers." I had not yet acquired a record album of my own. That wouldn't happen until 1962, when this picture would capture my girlish fantasies. "A Date With the Everly Brothers" was my sister's record, so she determined who would have which brother on this imaginary date of ours. I believe Dell chose Don, so Phil was mine.

Don't want your love any more/Don't want your kisses, that's for sure...

Oh! Forget Cathy! And — what? — are the 2 of you sharing one girl, one girl who's not even good to you? Don't you think it's kind of sad, that you're treating me so bad? Or don't you even care? We care! And there are 2 of us! The Althouse Sisters! Where is this Date With the Everly Brothers?

January 3, 2014

"It’s like God was like, 'Well, I think I overdid it with the ants.'"

"And then had the idea to send some insane, bulky creature down to take care of them. And that’s me. And the thing is, I love it!"

"The idea that you might voluntarily go out at night to see a half-dozen human beings act out a story in person..."

"... much less that you'd commit in advance to doing so at a specific hour on a specific day — is now alien to most Americans, especially younger ones."

Quite a few serious journalists mistook an obvious satire — on a blog written by a man who's published in The Atlantic and The Huffington Post — for a genuine account of smoking pot with David Brooks.

How could you possibly think that the actual stoner friend of Brooks had cranked out a hilarious essay that quickly? One reason is that you "simply wanted to believe in a David Brooks who let a black kid take the blame for Brooks’ pot-smoking because 'if he got in a little trouble, it might be good for him.'"

Does Ezra Klein really have a following, the way Nate Silver had a following?

Or is he what he his because of his platform at The Washington Post? He gambled that he is the former, and The Washington Post called his bluff.

"Suppose the government started applying this Brooksian litmus test to products it pre-clears for sale on the market."

"Yes, it’s a new sort of iPhone, I see. But does it encourage enjoyment of nature? Will it subtly make its users more temperate and prudent? If so, how so?"

"Man calls police to say he's being haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Past."

"For some reason, the South West has been deluged with spooky happenings over Christmas."
Police investigated a "zombie" attack in Redruth, which turned out to be two friends off their faces on hooch and foaming at the mouths. A woman in Exeter said her horse's mane was been platted by an unseen being (check yer hands, love – it's probably you) and a frightened woman in Ilfracombe rang 999 to report finding a stick "which she can only describe as something maybe used in witchcraft." Or maybe just a stick.

"Republicans have their best shot in years at taking back the Senate in 2014.... They have to pick up just six seats and defend 14..."

"... unlike Democrats who have to defend 21 seats."

"North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un sentenced his uncle to be eaten alive by a pack of 120 wild dogs...."

"Jang Song-Thaek, 67, along with five close aides, was stripped naked and thrown into a cage of hounds which had been starved for three days, according to new details emerging from China."
The pack of animals spent more than an hour mauling the group in a punishment called 'quan jue,' or execution by dogs, a report in Chinese newspaper Wen Wei Po said.
ADDED: Tim Stanley, a historian of the United States, writes in The Telegraph:
Western news outlets are slowly picking up the story but I'd urge caution. North Korean media has made no reference to starved dogs, including in Kim's New Year's message – even though the chubby prince did describe his uncle as "filth" (and a Happy New Year to you, too, comrade!). Moreover, why were 120 hounds used when half a dozen would do? And why the audience of 300? It's all a bit James Bond, a bit shark-tank-in-an-underground-bunker.

"Architect expected to plead guilty to causing firefighter's death."

"Gerhard Becker... built long, natural-gas fire pits meant for outdoor use into the interior of his home."
He’s accused of gross negligence for building the frame of the fireplaces with combustible materials, instead of materials such as brick, and for not building any firebreaks inside the walls. Unchecked by firebreaks, the flames rocketed up to the attic. The ceiling eventually collapsed....

"This type of improvisation and casual design is a relic of the past," said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University.... Tragedies are often followed by demands for prosecution and those demands are likely to be tied to this case as precedent... In that way, this could be an example of a hard case making bad law for architects in the future."
Why is this a hard case, and what's the bad law?

"Dogs have a tendency to align themselves along a north-south axis when going to the bathroom, say scientists."

Caption at the Christian Science Monitor. I love the use of the expression "going to the bathroom." For a dog, the whole world is "the bathroom."
The two-year study, which involved 37 dog owners, 70 dogs, and 7,475 instances of the animals relieving themselves outside while their owners dutifully took notes, is the first demonstration of magnetic sensitivity in dogs. The authors write that their findings, which appeared last week in the journal Frontiers in Zoology, "open new horizons for biomagnetic research." 

People in the developing world are now even fatter than those in affluent countries.

"In 1980, less than 40 percent of Mexican women were overweight. By 2008, almost 70 percent were. In some Pacific Island nations, more than 90 percent of men are now considered overweight. The Middle East is also seeing a boom in chubbiness."

People like fattening foods, and when they can get them, they'll probably eat them, and they're going to tend to get fat. It's no mystery. The link goes to NPR.org, where there's a photo with the caption: "Government workers exercise at their office in Mexico City, August 2013. To counter the obesity epidemic, the city requires all government employees to do at least 20 minutes of exercise each day."

The top-voted comment over there is: "Can you imagine the backlash if the US government ordered all employees to do 20 minutes of exercise per day? People would scream about the waste of taxpayer money." I think what people would scream about is the government telling people what to do.

The struggles of writing the "Breaking Bad" spinoff "Better Call Saul."

"When I say drama, even in a comedy, you want drama, you want tension and conflict, and a character that at heart seems at peace with himself is intrinsically undramatic ... . So we've been thinking about how to address that issue."

Effectively keeping an eye on "effectively."

I'm noticing a weaselish use of the word "effectively." It came up twice in 2 days in NYT items that I happened to find myself blogging. Today, I saw David Brooks writing that "Colorado and Washington... have gone into the business of effectively encouraging drug use." It's like: They're not, but they are. And yesterday, I noticed this: "Mao Zedong... effectively eradicated" prostitution. The previous sentence says that he made "the rehabilitation of prostitutes, whom the Communists saw as victims of capitalist exploitation, a priority," but that didn't stop commenters from suspecting that Mao "effectively eradicated" prostitution by actually eradicating the women. What strange work that word is doing!

David Brooks smoked marijuana long ago — "It was fun" — but he moved on and so should you.

Using marijuana — he observed back then and again now — doesn't get you anywhere, unlike the "higher pleasures" in life that "involve a state of going somewhere, becoming better at something, learning more about something, overcoming difficulty and experiencing a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment." Your life should be a "process" of getting better and better — becoming a "more integrated, coherent and responsible" person, "using the powers of reason, temperance and self-control." Marijuana gums up that process.

NYT editors "perplex[ed]" by Justice Sotomayor's perception of a burden on religion in the requirement that some nuns "fill out paperwork."

The nuns don't want any connection — even a little paperwork — to contraception and seek an exemption. The source of religious exemptions is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires relief from burdens on religion imposed by the federal government (unless those burdens are needed to serve a compelling interest). What is "perplexing" here?
The audacious complaint in this case is against the requirement that such groups sign a short form certifying that they have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services, a copy of which would go to their third-party insurance administrator....

The certification requirement, an accommodation fashioned by the Obama administration to bolster the protection of religious exercise without depriving women of an important benefit, does not rise to a substantial burden.
That is, the burden upon which the nuns base their claim for religious accommodation was itself a religious accommodation.

Why didn't Congress simply write an exception to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into the Affordable Care Act? The government would be home free. It wouldn't even have had to provide the certification work-around to accommodate the conscience of the nuns. The Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution doesn't require relief from burdens imposed by generally applicable laws that were not designed to target religion. The answer to the question is obvious: Congress scarcely squeezed the ACA through and couldn't bear any additional friction in the legislative process. RFRA was left as a source of future litigation, even as Congress made a show of catering to the young women who feel cared for when contraception is an entitlement.

Congress failed to deactivate RFRA, and the Democratic Party shored up power with its "war on women" rhetoric, and the result of those thoroughly political, tactical choices is that these nuns have a little legal ground to stand on.

I'm not perplexed at all.

"Ironically, both the conservative false confidence in consensus and the liberal false confidence in uniqueness have a similar downside: smugness."

"Liberals often talk as if only the backward masses disagree with them, and conservatives often assume that only overeducated weirdos and radicals could object to their agenda...."
Conservatives have become far too insular, too often rejecting the need to persuade those who don’t already agree with them, arguing instead that ever bloodier doses of red meat will grow the coalition. Liberals have become far too content with the myth of their uniqueness and the pretense that they are brave polymath iconoclasts who know what’s best for you better than you do.

"10 signs that religious fundamentalism is going down" — a badly headlined item at Salon.

Badly headlined because "going down" is only intended to mean in decline, but it has (presumably unintended) alternative meanings: 1. the violent sense, implying that attackers are taking it down (as in the phrase "You're going down"), and thus evincing dicey hostility, and 2. the sexual sense, which is silly, but the photo under the headline is of Phil Robertson — famous for graphically expressing his preference for classic penis-in-the-vagina sex — so that mental detour is easier than usual.

Anyway... it's a listicle at Salon, compiled, I suppose, to cheer up the kind of people who hope religion will die out or at least turn into something not fundamental, something bland and pliable. This deathwatch has gone on for an awfully long time. From the debate in the House of Representatives over the Bill of Rights:
Mr. Scott objected to the clause in the sixth amendment, "No person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms."... There are many sects I know, who are religiously scrupulous in this respect; I do not mean to deprive them of any indulgence the law affords; my design is to guard against those who are of no religion. It has been urged that religion is on the decline; if so, the argument is more strong in my favor, for when the time comes that religion shall be discarded, the generality of persons will have recourse to these pretexts to get excused from bearing arms.
When the time comes that religion shall be discarded... When did he imagine that time to be? I doubt if Valerie Tarico, the listicle author at Salon, is any more prescient than was Congressman Thomas Scott in 1789.

ADDED: Damn the headline writer for making me remember that awful, old Bruce Springsteen song "I'm Goin' Down" ("I'm sick and tired of you setting me up/Setting me up just to knock-a knock-a knock-a me down/Down, down, down/'m going down, down, down, down...").

January 2, 2014

Parts of Falluja and Ramadi fall to al Qaeda-aligned fighters.

"Dressed in black and waving the flag of Al Qaeda, the militants put out calls over mosque loudspeakers for men to join their struggle in both cities in western Anbar Province, which were important battlegrounds during the American-led war in Iraq and remain hotbeds of Sunni extremism...."
For the United States, which two years ago withdrew its forces from Iraq as officials claimed the country was on track to become a stable democracy, Anbar holds grave historical significance — as a place for America’s greatest losses, and perhaps its most significant success, of the long war. Nearly one-third of the American soldiers killed during the war died trying to pacify Anbar, and Americans fought two battles for control of Falluja, in the bloodiest street-to-street combat American troops had faced since Vietnam.

"A&E messed with the wrong redneck... Phil has agreed to return, but he’s already working on getting out [of] their contracts."

"He’s confident lawyers can find a loophole and get them out of any long-term commitments."
"Phil wants to use his company name Duck Commander as the title for an entirely new show that they can produce themselves and be in control of what goes on."

Jerry Seinfeld disapproving of roadside memorials...

...in the latest episode of "Comedians in Cars, Getting Coffee:

"Must we all get bummed every day, back and forth to work? It sometimes doesn't work out."

(Go to 6:00 to see just the segment where, driving in a ludicrously unsafe car, they encounter a "Ghost Bike"-type memorial.)

ADDED: I am quoting Jerry's disapproval with approval. Click on my "roadside memorials" link to see my long-time opposition to these things.

"The government has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people... It doesn’t need to force nuns to participate."

"In their Supreme Court brief, the nuns said they faced ruinous fines if they failed to comply. They calculated that they would have to pay 'an annual fine of approximately $2.5 million — for an organization that cares for 69 elderly poor people and operates with an annual budget of approximately $6 million.'"

What they must do to avoid the fine is only to sign a certification allowing insurance companies to provide contraceptive coverage, but they are burdened by that intrusion on their religious principles.

What was the carbon footprint?

"Chinese Helicopter Rescues 52 From Ship Trapped in Antarctic Ice."

Beck covers John Lennon's "Love."

Streamable today here.

Who is tempted by Colorado pot tourism?

Have you been waiting since the 60s for pot to become legal? Are you, like me, in your 60s and from the 60s and hoping that the day will arrive when you can walk into a nice little shop, buy some marijuana, and consume it without the need for any of the old rebellious spirit that enlivened us when we were Flower Children? Do you, unlike me, think that day has come if only you go to Colorado?
As Colorado becomes the first state in the nation to allow recreational marijuana sales beginning Jan. 1, a budding pool of "potrepreneurs" have high hopes for an influx of out-of-town pot tourists.

Colorado Highlife Tours, which promises “fun, affordable and discreet” cannabis-centered excursions, is expanding its private and public limo and bus tours.

“You’ll be able to buy a little pot here and there, see a commercial grow, visit iconic Colorado landmarks and take lots of pictures,” said company owner Timothy Vee. “It will be like a Napa Valley wine tour.”
As you may know, I'm a travel skeptic, and these potrepreneurs and "Highlife Tours" only heighten my aversion. Imagine these guys wrangling you with a crowd of shambling boomers and bullshitting about the fine varietals of local weed. But you could put together your own road trip to Colorado. In fact, Colorado is the main place I've headed on my personal road trips, even before I married Meade, who has family in Colorado. Despite our lack of general enthusiasm for travel, we do drive to Colorado, and now when we drive to Colorado, as we will again soon, you're going to think we're pot tourists.


That was back in 2011, wandering around Leadville, catching some shots of the scenery, including a pot shop — medical only back then. We intend to return to Colorado soon, but we're not going to enter these shops, now open for "recreational" users, and I don't like the fact that going to Colorado triggers a suspicion that that's what we're doing.

It's still a federal crime to possess marijuana, and if I were inclined to commit crimes, I wouldn't do it as conspicuously as openly traveling to Colorado, going into a shop where I may have to wait in a line of aging Boomer pot tourists, showing my ID, and perhaps appearing on surveillance cameras. I'd try to be inconspicuous, which means I'd stay home and use the same damned black market that's been available all along.

But I'm not inclined to commit crimes, and I haven't so much as touched an illegal drug since a stranger tried to pass me a joint when The Kinks played the Felt Forum in 1974, which was probably before the President of the United States even began taking drugs.

"At some point, should she run, Hillary Clinton, who did not speak publicly at the ceremonies, will have to sort all this out."

"She will be asked to explain more precisely where she stands on issues of income inequality, economic growth, spending, taxes, entitlements and the trade-offs that will face the next president. Will she be able to be true to the New Democrat ideals that brought her husband to power and also accommodate the energy pulsing through the party’s progressive wing? The answers should begin to come later this year, as she nears a decision about whether to run."

Writes Dan Balz at the end of his column titled "Is New York’s de Blasio prompting a repositioning by the Clintons?" 

"At some point," Hillary, who hasn't spoken yet, will be asked to say something, something more precise, about all these things that she's refrained from speaking about for so long. At some point? At what point? Eventually there will be a point, and when it comes, what difference at this point does it make?

It's a style: Wait long enough and you can say the time has passed for addressing this problem. That's a conservative strategy by the way.
When you see ten troubles rolling down the road, if you don’t do anything, nine of them will roll into the ditch before they get to you.
I think President Coolidge said that.

The energy pulsing through the party’s progressive wing won't pulse forever. And when that throbbing tumescence abates, the calm steady woman will be there as ever, waiting for us all to acknowledge her rightful status as President of the United States.

IN THE COMMENTS: Tom Gallagher said: "Doesn't she need to write a book or two before running for president?" And I had to think: Has Hillary ever written a book?

A blackout for the Packers game?!

"NFL rules stipulate that if the game isn’t sold out by 3:40 p.m. today, or 72 hours prior to kickoff, there will be a television blackout in local markets, including Green Bay/Fox Cities, Milwaukee and Wausau."

It's going to be something like 6° in Green Bay on Sunday, so the desire to watch the game at home is possibly intense, but come on, it's Green Bay. I expect to see the fans out there with their shirts off. How can you not want to be there?

I know, Meade and I are in easy(ish) driving range, but Madison isn't on that list of local markets at risk of being blacked out. (Is it?)

UPDATE: The NFL gives the Packers an extension until Friday at 4 p.m.

"President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home."

A NYT editorial.

"The murky penal system for prostitutes, 'custody and education,' is strikingly similar to re-education through labor."

"Centers run by the Ministry of Public Security hold women for up to two years and often require them to toil in workshops seven days a week for no pay, producing toys, disposable chopsticks and dog diapers, some of which the women say are packaged for export..."
The Chinese government’s approach to prostitution is inconsistent. After the Communist victory in 1949, Mao Zedong made the rehabilitation of prostitutes, whom the Communists saw as victims of capitalist exploitation, a priority. During his first years in power, he effectively eradicated the trade. But the introduction of market overhauls in the early 1980s led to a resurgence in prostitution, and up to six million women were estimated to be working in the sex industry in recent years, according to a United Nations report....

The indignities of incarceration do little to dissuade women who can earn more than $1,000 a month as prostitutes, triple the average income for unskilled laborers in China. Ms. Li, the single mother of two, said she was illiterate and could never make as much money in a conventional job.
Seems like two separate policy issues: How to regulate the market activity of prostitution, and forced labor in the penal system.
And  I say:
I know. It seems like the NYT intended to crank the reasoning forward a few steps and then didn't do it. There's a whole communism vs. capitalism theme. Mao "effectively eradicated" prostitution. Now, China, moving into capitalism, has women drawn into sex work because it pays 3x as much as other available work, and then they are imprisoned and used for unpaid labor (and also made to pay the costs of imprisonment), so both of these things have to do with a profit motive. But the article never says that. It begins and ends with "human interest" material about a particular woman folding paper flowers or sewing stuffed animals. Something really unformed about this article! Where are the human-interest details about the prostitutes Mao effectively eradicated?

"A lad is good friends with a woman who admitted she has a crush on him. He doesn't feel the same way about her..."

"...but knows she would make a great life partner. Should he suggest a companionate marriage from the get-go?"

The link goes to a podcast, and this part begins at 13:36. Unfortunately, there's no transcript. Also, the question-answerer is Dan Savage, and I already know some of you resist the charms of Dan Savage. Let's not get distracted by the difficulty of sitting through audio. (I recommend listening to podcasts when doing things — like putting on your makeup and making your coffee.) And let's not bother with the usual taking shots at Dan Savage. (We know about Dan Savage and the doorknobs, and I could lick a doorknob at night.) Let's get right onto the topic, which I will summarize for your convenience.

A heterosexual man and woman are true friends and get along great, and he's in his 30s and thinking he'd like someone to settle down and grow old with, but he has no sexual interest in her. He's had plenty of women sexually, but none of them are suitable life partners, and he doesn't think he'll ever meet another woman who'll feel like such a great wife. He thinks this woman might be up for any sort of proposal he'll make to her, so could/should he offer to marry her in a "companionate marriage," meaning he has no sexual interest in her and she should never expect to have sex with him, but he's committed to everything else about the life partnership?

You might want to know how much does she desire sex from him? Maybe there's some way he could first find out how interested in sex she is. Would a sex-free marriage in fact be a positive thing for her too? It seems unlikely, but that's a moving part in the analysis that he could try to pin down first. Also, would he give up sex for rest of his life? I think this particular man wanted to propose a marriage where he had freedom to seek out sex with other women, so the idea would be that she'd be agreeing to this arrangement, which would include his conducting these outside liaisons with discretion and respect and disease-prevention precautions. He'd grant her corresponding freedoms if that's what she wanted.

Note that this model for a marriage would enable gay people to marry someone of the opposite sex. It would also enable sexually unappealing persons to form life partnerships.

Savage's actual answer has a lot to do with the age of the man asking the question. He's in his 30s, but he contemplates the value of having this woman keeping him company when he's in his 80s and he imagines sex won't matter at all in half a century.

The term "companionate marriage" has been used to mean different things over the years. Searching the term in the NYT archive, I see that it was a big topic in the 1920s, and Bertrand Russell's name keeps coming up. Here's his 1928 article, "Is Companionate Marriage Moral?"

Russell defines the term to include a 3-fold legal aspect: 1. Recognition of unions in which the production of children will be avoided (at least at first) by using birth control, 2. Allowing divorce by mutual consent as long as there are no children, and 3. No alimony upon divorce where there are no children. The idea is obviously avoiding children, not avoiding sex.

In addition to the legal aspect, there is, Russell says, a "social" aspect. Conventionally, a married man and woman are expected to live together, with the man providing her economic support. But that's because children are supposed to arrive. If children are avoided, these expectations are not present, he says.
[T]here is no reason why the wife should not earn her living, and every reason why she should. There will be no interference with each other's work, none of the fuss and flummery which at present make marriage disgusting to young people of spirit, none of the foolish pretense of protection by the male and dependence on the part of the female. 
The moral topic here is whether a man without the means to start a family should be allowed to marry a woman so he can have sex. The "sexual instinct does not wait" until the man is economically ready to support a wife and children. Yes, a man could go to prostitutes, but:
Nowadays, young women, for the most part, no longer feel bound to abstain from extramarital intercourse, with the result that unmarried men can have decent relations with women with whom they have much in common mentally — relations not founded on a cash nexus, but upon mutual affection.
Companionate marriage, then, was a way for a young couple, sexually attracted to each other, to live together openly. This was recommended over the alternative, which was "surreptitious," and tended to be "frivolous, promiscuous, and unduly exciting."

But our "lad" in the Dan Savage question wasn't fretting about "unduly exciting" sex. He was talking about no sexual interest at all. And the "fuss and flummery" of marriage seemed not "disgusting" at all, but the best part, desirable without any sex at all.

But that's what the term "companionate marriage" has come to mean these days. These notions evolve, and no one seems to wonder anymore about how to deal with raging sexual passions. Today's problem is lack of passion or lack of passion for anyone you'd want to live with along with a desire for long-term, committed companionship.

January 1, 2014

"On the Road," "Atlas Shrugged," "Endgame," and "The Cat in the Hat" would all come into the public domain in 2014...

... if the copyright law were what it was before the 1976 Copyright Act. As it is, you need to wait until 2053.

As for music, beginning today, you could put out recordings of "That’ll Be the Day," "Peggy Sue," "Great Balls of Fire," and "Wake Up, Little Susie," with the kind of freedom that you have with an ancient folk song.

Via Andrew Sullivan, who also links to this list of artists whose works do hit the public domain, including Beatrix Potter, so here you go...

"I'm not gay," said Aaron Rodgers. "I really, really like women. That's all I can say about that."

"There's always going to be silly stuff out there in the media... You can't worry too much about it. I don't. There should be 'professional is professional and personal is personal'... That's the way I'm going to keep it."

Thanks for the update. Gay, straight, bi- or asexual, Aaron Rodgers is much loved.

The giant yellow rubber duckie — an art installation in Taiwan's Keelung Port — has burst.

"We want to apologize to the fans of the yellow rubber duck... We haven't found the cause of the burst. We will carefully examine the duck to determine the cause."

"'One minute exactly until we make history,' shouted a harried Jay Griffin, the 43-year-old general manager of Dank Colorado..."

"... a tiny shop tucked into a nondescript office building in an industrial district of Denver. With hip, urban decor, the store looked much like an upscale coffee house."
A line of about 40 people stretched down the hallway, waiting patiently and without incident as Steve “Heyduke” Judish, a 58-year-old retired federal worker, stepped to a counter to become the first customer at the first retail store in Colorado to get its license last month.

Judish peeled off $30 cash and walked out with 1/8 ounce of Larry OG, a potent strain of marijuana that connoisseurs like for its euphoric rush. “It’s cool to be part of history,” he said with a grin. He had put his name on a list to be the first customer 14 hours earlier.

But, really, he said he had been waiting 40 years for the moment.
All us old Boomers, patiently waiting until we can go to the store for marijuana. Perhaps marijuana will lose its charm as younger folk get a look at the pot-shop clientele.

ADDED: "'I've been waiting 34 years for this moment,' enthused Chrissy Robinson, who arrived at one store, Evergreen Apothecary in Denver, at 2 a.m. to be among the first in line. 'I've been smoking since I was 14. No more sneaking around.'"
In Telluride, Lucas DaSilva of Georgia drove through the night and slept in his car with his dog Marley before settling at the front door of the Telluride Green Room around dawn. A few hours later, he emerged from the store $180 lighter but holding six grams of African Queen, Acapulco Gold and Bubble Gum strains of cannabis and several marijuana-infused edibles.

"I'm at a loss for words. Happy New Year!" he yelled, arms outstretched amidst cheers from the line. "This is history I just made. I can't believe it. Such a blessing."
A blessing! History! Oh, wow!!!

Why is TV "currently inundated with working-class, white-guy reality shows"?

Victor Davis Hanson has 3 theories: 1. "The zoo hypothesis suggests that American suburbanites are amused by exotic creatures," 2. People are "smugly satisfied that they are not like these uncouth white boys," and 3. It's "therapeutic" to experience, vicariously, the "glimpses, premodern though they may be, of unrestrained freedom."
In our upside-down world, the eighth-grade teacher understands that one wrong word, an ill-timed joke, a casual pat on the shoulder can end a career, pronto — while his punk student with the gang-banging parent who shouts profanity at him are mostly exempt from worry. The boss at the DMV accepts the fact that the whiff of a sexual-harassment suit, the rumor of an impending racial-discrimination allegation, the suggestion of inhospitality to the handicapped are more terrifying than the rowdy 16-year-old who pulls in to take his driving test in a monster truck. In our dreams it is better to be an ax man, where it’s Mother Nature, not the local diversity czar, who is after you.

The crabmen and lumberjacks don’t seem to worry about what they say or whom they offend — to the degree that such screw-it attitudes can be hinted about on politically correct camera. 
The agents of political correctness do try to reach into the production of these reality shows (ineffectually, as we saw in the recent "Duck Dynasty" flap), but the point is that these shows depict (or at least purport to depict) a way of life that is (or seems to be) beyond the repressive forces.

"'First accumulate a mass of Facts: and then construct a Theory.' That, I believe, is the true Scientific Method."

"I sat up, rubbed my eyes, and began to accumulate Facts."

"I want to move to Colorado to be a marijuana grower... just like my grandaddy."

Says Meade, who is reading the story Drudge is teasing with "HAppy Knew YEArZ!!": "Pot Opponents Predict 'Hogwild' Colorado Trainwreck."

Meade's grandfather (a farmer in Indiana) was part of the U.S. "Hemp for Victory" program during World War II. Watch this awesome government video:

Most of that extolls hemp, but there's a break in the tone at 2:43 for the warning: "This is hemp seed. Be careful how you use it, for to grow hemp legally, you must have a federal registration and tax stamp."

Freeze the frame at 2:52, and you'll see the word "marihuana" on the stamp, like this:

Meade says he wishes he had his grandfather's old stamp, and his dreams-from-my-grandfather ethos inspires me to believe that the best solution to the marijuana problem is to let individuals grow their own.

Here's this great New Yorker article "BUZZKILL/Washington State discovers that it’s not so easy to create a legal marijuana economy," detailing the problems of marijuana as a commercial product. My proposal is: Don't even try to make the illegal market legal. Destroy the market altogether. Abandon the fantasy of regulation and taxation and turn the much-desired product into a worthless commodity. Let weed be weed, with the true market value it would find if nature could take its course: $0.

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade writes a song (based on "Copper Kettle," which you can listen to by any number of artists; we like Bob Dylan; lyrics here):
Get you a lamp with ballast, get a 600 watt bulb
Fill in with rooted hemp clones; soon be outta your skull
You'll just lay there by the vaporizer while the moon is bright
Watch them buds a-fillin' out in the Colorado light.

Build you an "enclosed, locked space"
Build it in Littleton
Don't use no yard or windowsill,
Won't get the big photons
We'll just lay there by the vaporizer while the moon is bright
Watch them buds a-fillin' out in the Colorado light.

My daddy he grew hemp crops, my granddaddy he did too
We've paid all our hemp taxes since 1942
You'll just lay there by the vaporizer while the moon is bright
Watch them buds a-fillin' out in the Colorado light.

Somehow what happens to be the most recent comment on Ruth Marcus's column, "Edward Snowden, the insufferable whistleblower," is far better than that column.

There are 279 comments, and I doubt if I randomly hit a moment of commenting greatness:
"Smug, self-righteous, egotistical, disingenuous, megalomaniacal, overwrought" are all good descriptions of Ms. Marcus' column. I don't care if Mr. Snowden is particularly engaging or lovable - what he lacks in Marcus' favorite qualities he makes up in pure unadulterated courage. He did what he truly believed was the right thing, the moral thing, the necessary thing. Ms. Marcus how dare you accuse Mr. Snowden of Orwellian "double think" when he has put his life on the line like Winston Smith, in order to expose the Orwellian "state-within-a-state" that the NSA has become? Not many people would have had the courage to do what Mr. Snowden did and he should be praised for it and not denigrated.

"Dying Lawyer Convicted Of Aiding Terrorism Leaves Prison."

Lynne Stewart, 74, released because she has, doctors say, less than 18 months to live.  
In 2005, Stewart was convicted of helping blind Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman communicate with followers while he was serving a life sentence for plotting to blow up landmarks in New York City....

She was not scheduled to be released until 2018.
More here:
Ms. Stewart, in a 12-page handwritten letter to the judge during the summer, said she did not want to die in prison, “a strange and loveless place,” as she put it. “I want to be where all is familiar — in a word, home.”

Ending newspaper birth notices because they "set people up as targets for somebody who might want to steal a baby."

"In general, birth announcements in newspapers are not endorsed by most experts...."

What does the penguin think?

"We’ve got several penguins watching us, thinking 'what the hell are you doing stuck in our ice?.' The sky is a beautiful grey – it looks like it wants to have a bit of a snow. It’s the perfect Christmas, really."

You don't know what the penguins think, and you don't know what the sky wants. What else don't you know, scientists?

The scientist, a marine ecologist, is quoted in a NYT piece titled "Rescue Efforts for Trapped Antarctic Voyage Disrupt Serious Science," linked this morning at Instapundit ("THE WORST THING ABOUT THAT SHIP STUCK IN THE ANTARCTIC ICE: 'This misadventure has energized climate change contrarians, offering a distraction from serious research on the impact of climate change on Antarctica.'").

Serious science.  Science isaccording to the (unlinkable) OED — "The state or fact of knowing; knowledge or cognizance of something specified or implied; also, with wider reference, knowledge (more or less extensive) as a personal attribute." What then is "serious science"? Serious means "requiring earnest thought; demanding or characterized by careful consideration or application; performed with earnestness of purpose."

Get serious, then, scientists. Tell us only what you really know. The penguins have no concept of hell, and you have no line on what would constitute perfection in a Christmas. And don't lie about climate change. And by "lie" I mean, don't say anything more than what truly is science, and if you can do that convincingly and assiduously for the next 10 years, I will begin to believe that there is something called "serious science" that deserves to be thought capable of de-energizing the contrarians who are now distracting us, even as you yourself are distracted by the thoughts of penguins.

"Apple denies it helped build the NSA's iPhone backdoor."

"Either [the NSA] have a huge collection of exploits that work against Apple products, meaning they are hoarding information about critical systems that American companies produce, and sabotaging them, or Apple sabotaged it themselves."

Via commenter Lemondog.

Mobile phones have transformed our world by seducing and delighting us. We installed bugging and tracking devices into our most intimate places, into ourselves. We did, willingly, what we could have resisted if we'd only known. Now, knowing, we can throw away these devices, but we won't. We love them too much.

I wanted to find a little video clip from "Breaking Bad," showing one of the many times a character on that show broke a cell phone. Of course, it wasn't an iPhone. Good luck twisting an iPhone in half with your bare hands. On that show, they always had the old clamshell-style phones, which are good for the drama/comedy of snapping open or shut or twisting into an untraceable shambles. I did find this clip showing "What Walter White Sold Before Meth" and I'll let you write the punchline for this post:

[Defective video removed.]

"It accelerated absorption of pure oxygen...." Pure oxygen. I love Walter's connection to purity. His meth was 99.1% pure.

Happy New Year. Yes, I'm up early. To bed early and up early.

 It's the way of the old, but I'm glad to be old — old and alive here on Planet Earth, with all you other Earthlings, young and old, who have made it this far.

2014. That's the first time I'm writing the number in the new year. Unluckly '13 is over. We survived. If you are reading this, you survived. Congratulations! What are you going to do with the next morsel of life that's been granted you?

Me, I'm going to blog, blog my way through this morning, and put various things in order. For example, I'm finishing a task of taking everything moveable out of the kitchen, cleaning all the surfaces, then putting back only what deserves to occupy the real estate of the shelves, with each item placed in the most convenient and least annoying way. So the broken panini grill and the second-best toaster no longer wedge in the stack of cake and pie pans, and if the day ever comes when we do make a cake or pie again — and 2 years of low-carb eating do make this a January 1st with no need to make the cliché weight-loss resolution — we won't have to clatter through clutter to get to the requisite housewares.

And I'm going through the email that piled up overnight. There's one titled "Make an impression, Ann," with the timestamp December 31, 2013 11:01:29 PM CST. It's from Democrats <democraticparty@democrats.org>. The Party knows I'm in the Central Time Zone. It's already a minute and 29 seconds into the new year in the Eastern Time Zone, where I picture it situated, but they know where I am, and they know I've got almost an hour left to make a donation in 2013, not that it'd be tax deductible, so what do I care about squeezing in donations in the last moments of '13?

Telling me to "Make an impression" when you think I've got nothing to do on New Year's Eve but check email is kind of depression-inducing. Thanks a lot, Democrats. I mean, I'm glad to be old and alive, glad to have survived into another year on Earth, another year in the United States of America, but you guys haven't done your part (or you have and I just don't like it).

So here's the image the Party throws at me pre-midnight, the first photograph I gaze upon in 2014:

The hell?!! You're giving me the "not impressed" face?! I need to "Make an impression"? I need to "fix that" in my last "few minutes" of the year when you failed so miserably?

I know. I know. I am not the target audience. They know I'm in the Central Time Zone, but they don't know how I really feel about them, even though I've been giving clues, visible to all who are on line, for the past 10 years. The true Democratic Party faithful experience a merged identity with the Party and a weird delusion that the President stands outside of the Party and outside of politics, looking on, like some god. God is watching and we haven't done enough. Be grateful that He is still good humored in his disapproval — good humored and adorable and goofing around with pretty ladies and awesome. Donate!

Oh, I'm donating. I'm donating this blog post. I'm donating to the joy and discernment of the people of Planet Earth, here in the pre-dawn of the first day of the new year, 2014.

December 31, 2013

"There’s this energy drink culture now, a high-level, high-risk culture, that’s being marketed and impacting the way people ski."

"That’s what people see and that’s what people think skiing is, but really, that’s the highest level of skiers doing the highest level of tricks."

At the New Year's Eve Café...

... have a seat and try to sum things up.

"Look, you wait until they get to be 20-years-old, the only picking that’s going to take place is your pocket."

"You got to marry these girls when they are about 15 or 16, they’ll pick your ducks. You need to check with mom and dad about that of course."

So said Phil Robertson — back in the news, not because he said something edgy again, but because his antagonists dug up a 5-year old video. It took me a while to grasp that "pick your ducks" means pluck the ducks that you bring home (and not choosing which ducks to shoot). Robertson, we're told in the linked article, married his wife in 1966 when she was 16 (and he was 20). They'd been dating since she was 14 (and he was 18).

This material is right there in Phil Robertson's autobiography, "Happy, Happy, Happy," which has been out since last May. I have it in my Kindle. At page 52:
Miss Kay was the perfect woman for me. I was sixteen and she was fifteen when we were married. Nowadays some people might frown on people getting married that young, but I knew that if you married a woman when she was fifteen, she would pluck your ducks. If you waited until she was twenty, she would only pick your pockets. Now, that’s a joke, and a lot of people seem to laugh at it, but there is a certain amount of truth in it. If you can find a nice, pretty country girl who can cook and carries her Bible, now, there’s a woman. She might even be ugly, but if she cooks squirrels and dumplings, then that’s the woman you go after.
Seems like he's been telling that pluck-a-duck joke for a long time. Anyway, how old was Phil when he married Kay and how old was she? The stories in the news and in the autobiography don't match. And what was the law in Louisiana at the time? I think (looking casually on line at what the law is today) that if you're under 18, you need both parents' consent, and if you're under 16, you need a court order.

"Despite winning more games than their first-round opponents, New Orleans and San Francisco will get penalized in the playoffs..."

"... because another team in their respective—read: tougher—divisions had a slightly better record...."
There is no debating the toughness of the NFC West over any division, especially the NFC North.

The 49ers would earn the third seed in a properly reshuffled playoff system, hosting the sixth-seeded Packers instead of going to Green Bay. The current rules are actually punishing San Francisco for playing in the toughest division in football in favor of a team that won the league's weakest.
Aw, but at least it's warming up in Green Bay. They say it's getting up to maybe 11° by Sunday.

Via Throwing Things, where the first commenter says:
If you don't like it, then win your division. If you don't like missing the NCAA tournament, then win your conference. These playoffs and tournaments are supposed to find the best team, and if you can't win the regular season then don't complain about your seeding.

And I'm a 49er fan.
What do you think? (Multiple answers allowed.)
pollcode.com free polls 

"We still have so much to get to, including the annual tradition of asking 'Hey, was that racist?'"

Squeals Melissa Harris-Perry, on her MSNBC show, going to a break, just after displaying picture of Mitt Romney's family that includes a black adopted child  and inviting her panel to "caption" it, which they do with mockery like, "It really sums up the diversity of the Republican party, the RNC. At the convention, they find the one black person."

The line I quote in the post title, above, was delivered without a trace of awareness that the segment she'd just overseen would prompt the cry "Hey, that was racist!" I have no idea what the "Hey, was that racist?" stuff after the break turned out to be or whether Melissa Harris-Perry — if we were to look more broadly at her efforts — has been doing any good work in the enterprise of making race consciousness something that can be joked and bantered about in a relaxed and friendly way.

I see I do have a tag for her name, based on an article she wrote in The Nation in September 2011. I blogged about her perception that "A 'more insidious form of racism' — replacing the old 'naked, egregious and aggressive' racism — is now undermining Barack Obama." She thought — as I paraphrased it — "that people loaded race into their positive feelings for Obama, and now they have a special race-based disappointment."

Quite aside from racial politics, I thought children were off limits. Here you have an MSNBC panel segment planned around laughing at a baby. We scrupulously avoid using Obama's daughters as raw material for jokes. Why didn't anyone at MSNBC nix this?

UPDATE: More apologizing — replete with tears — here.

Tomorrow, in Colorado, you can walk into a marijuana store and buy marijuana, but what does it cost?

This article (linked at Drudge) doesn't say, other than to predict it's "likely to be expensive." Rachel Gilette, a National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws lawyer, said:
"I did talk to a retailer yesterday who had just set his price points, and they were about double of what you have been able to get medical on the market for the last year... So it is going to be more expensive at least for the foreseeable future."
Theran Snyder, who runs a shop called Kine Mine in Idaho Springs, won't say exactly what he'll charge the new nonmedical customers (and whatever it is, there will be 31.9% tax on top of it). Currently, the medical customers pay $225 per ounce for medical marijuana, and, citing worries about short supply, Snyder plans to charge the nonmedical people much more:
"Obviously the way we're planning on controlling our inventory is with price, and unfortunately that means we're going to be charging a premium."
Also obvious is the incentive to users to continue to seek medical status and/or to remain in the black market. 

"What do scientists say when they go to the bar?"

"Climate change scientists say: 'Where's the ice?' Seismologists might ask for their drinks to be 'shaken and not stirred.' Microbiologists request just a small one. Neuroscientists ask for their drinks 'to be spiked.' Scientists studying the defective gubernaculum say: 'Put mine in a highball,' and finally, social scientists say: 'I'd like something soft.' When paying at the bar, geneticists say: 'I think I have some change in my jeans." And at the end of the evening a shy benzene biochemist might say to his companion: 'Please give me a ring.'"

From a collection of scientists' favorite jokes... at The Guardian, via Metafilter, where someone says:
Aw, a lot of these are pretty weak. Reddit had a great post earlier this year, "What's the most intellectual joke you know?," that had a lot of good ones. I've stolen two of them.

The first requires some thought:
Three logicians walk into a bar. The bartender asks "Do you all want to start with a beer?"

The first logician says "I don't know."

The second logician says "I don't know."

The third logician says "Yes!"
The second doesn't:
Pavlov is sitting at a pub enjoying a pint. The phone rings and he jumps up shouting "Oh shit, I forgot to feed the dog!"

December 30, 2013

"[Y]es, it’s a huge relief that the woman to whom Obama spoke of his own 'evolution' on marriage equality is no longer closeted...."

"And yes, this is not news to me....  and yes, I’m glad for her survival of cancer and her own evolution as a free woman."

"Third Icebreaker Fails To Reach Stranded Ship In Antarctic."

"That was the word early Monday from aboard the MV Akademik Shokalskiy — the Russian ship with 74 passengers and crew that's been stuck in Antarctic ice for a week now."

The passengers are not all scientists. Some are "paying members of the public." Oh, those people who just need to go everywhere, eh? People with "bucket lists." I suppose they want to pay to go up in space too. Will they have to chip in for the helicopter rescue or whatever else is going to be needed and/or will they sue the shipping company?

Here's how the cruise was presented to the public:

"The idea that gluten and carbohydrates are at the root of Alzheimer's disease, anxiety, depression, and ADHD has now reached millions of people."

"It is the basis of a number-one bestseller written by a respected physician. What is it worth?" asks James Hamblin in The Atlantic.
Even as someone who was seriously skeptical of [David] Perlmutter’s story, after reading his 336 pages — and watching his whole YouTube channel and most every TV appearance — I have found myself hesitating around grain. His message is so ardently and unwaveringly delivered. That is how one-sided pop-science works. Katz wrote a tongue-in-cheek case that the 1974 advent of the Post-it note was the cause of the obesity pandemic, to show how easily correlations can be spun. If I read 336 pages on the evils of Post-its, I might set our office supply room on fire....

When a person advocates radical change on the order of eliminating one of the three macronutrient groups from our diets, the burden of proof should be enormous....

"It’s all over now but the mop-up. Maybe shovel-up is more like it."

"And the biggest load sitting there, as the tents are packed up and the elephants are sent down the rails, is free agent-to-be Jay Cutler," writes Rick Telander in the Chicago Sun-Times, the morning after the big game.
Cutler was pretty good in the Bears’ season-ending 33-28 loss to the Packers that reminded us, above all, that Aaron Rodgers is as good as it gets when it counts....
You wouldn’t think what the Packers accomplish should figure in Cutler’s future, but it does because Rodgers and the Packers aren’t going away. Both Cutler and Rodgers are 30, but Cutler is seven months older than his rival.

And Cutler can’t beat the Packers. He’s now 1-9 in his career against them, including the playoffs....
AND: Here's the University of Wisconsin football team, watching the Packers game at a hotel in Florida, forlorn and then jubilant as Randall Cobb's touchdown wins the game:

(There's one Bears fan there, right in the middle, nicely revealed in the slo-mo repeat.)

A plan for reviving the study of grammar.

Over at Language Log, here (recommending The Penn Treebank) and here:
A basic understanding of how language works should be part of what every educated person knows....

[A]t least in the U.S., my suggestion would be to turn away from English departments, and pursue a plan based on an alliance of linguists with people in computer science, psychology, statistics, medicine, law, sociology, business, etc., who increasingly see linguistic analysis (e.g. in the form of "text mining" or "text analytics") as an interesting object of study in itself, and as a means to enable research on other (applied or fundamental) topics. This alliance — which eventually might even include some people from Digital Humanities — is a plausible basis for college-level courses in "grammar" as practical text analysis.
There are more links in that passage than the one that I copied, by the way. That one just jumped out at me. There's no link, however, on "Digital Humanities," which puzzled me, so I googled and found a number of things, including — in The Chronicle of Higher Education — "Stop Calling It 'Digital Humanities'" and an easy-to-absorb Wikipedia article. Excerpt:

Justice Sonia Sotomayor will lead the Times Square New Year's Eve ball-drop countdown.

"She will press the crystal button... the first United States Supreme Court justice to do so."

Because she's from New York City? But almost half of the Supreme Court Justices are from New York City, including both the other female Justices. The male is Justice Scalia.
While it may be difficult to imagine Justice Scalia on the stage in Times Square, Justice Sotomayor has taken on a more public role as a justice, especially as she promoted her recent memoir, “My Beloved World.” She has doled out career advice on “Sesame Street,” appeared on “The Daily Show” and even salsa-danced with a Univision anchor.
Justice Scalia doesn't take a public role?! He's always out and about spreading the word about Originalism and so forth. If he's not manning the Times Square crystal button and not on "Sesame Street" and "The Daily Show," I think that has more to do with liberal media ostracizing nonliberals than anything else.
Justice Sotomayor was selected because of her inspirational story of rising from a humble background to become the first Hispanic justice on the court, said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance. She has encouraged others to dream big, a nice message for a new year, he said.

Anderson Cooper will host the televised party in Times Square, with performances by Miley Cyrus, Melissa Etheridge and others. Viewers should not expect to see Ms. Cyrus twerking near Justice Sotomayor. The justice will have a private space at the event, Mr. Tompkins said.
Humility, big dreams and inspiration, and the continuing subordination of women (in the form of Miley's plastic-clad ass, but not too close to the risen-from-humility Supreme Court Justice, who will be encased in an enclosure of sublime respect with her crystal button).

All the Presidents' Slaves.

And what they had to say about them. Here are 5 quotes. Before checking the link, try to guess the President.

1. "A general emancipation of slaves ought to be 1. gradual.  2. equitable & satisfactory to the individuals immediately concerned.  3. consistent with the existing & durable prejudices of the nation...  To be consistent with existing and probably unalterable prejudices in the U.S. freed blacks ought to be permanently removed beyond the region occupied by or alloted to a White population."

2.  "As far as lenity can be extended to these unfortunate creatures I wish you to do so; subordination must be obtained first, and then good  treatment."

3. "I can only say that no man living wishes more sincerely than I do to see the abolition of (slavery)…  But when slaves who are happy & content to remain with their present masters, are tampered with & seduced to leave them… it introduces more evils than it can cure."

4. "(God) works most inscrutably to the understandings of men; - the negro is torn from Africa, a barbarian, ignorant and idolatrous; he is restored civilized, enlightened, and a Christian."

5. "You tell me, friends, of the liberation of the colored people of the South.  But have you thought of the millions of Southern white  people who have been liberated by the war?"

The link comes via Metafilter, and I can't vouch for the accuracy of all of the quotes, especially ##4 and 5. Apocryphal?

"The White House, Democratic lawmakers and advocacy organizations will launch a campaign this week to highlight real-life experiences under the Affordable Care Act..."

"... tales so compelling that they help drive up enrollment, marginalize Republican repeal efforts and erase memories of this fall’s HealthCare.gov debacle."

Shouldn't that just be the internal memo about the campaign? Saying that's what you're about to do is practically the opposite of doing it. And I think the story only came out in that form — over at Politico — because actually doing it is not possible, not with the raw material they have. Perhaps they expected the media to do it for them, in which case the question is, why isn't the media doing their work for them, as usual? And I'm guessing the media can't do it either, because even if you are inclined to sift through the raw material and find the good things, you can only cherry-pick where there are some cherries. Politico needs to write about something, and this was all they had, the desperate fantasy of launching a campaign that can't possibly happen.

It's like a sad scene from an old melodrama:
“Go on,” said Lennie. “How’s it gonna be? We gonna get a little place.”
“We’ll have a cow,” said George. “An’ we’ll have maybe a pig an’ chickens . . . an’ down the flat we’ll have a . . . little piece alfalfa——”
“For the rabbits,” Lennie shouted.
“For the rabbits,” George repeated.
“And I get to tend the rabbits.”
“An’ you get to tend the rabbits.”
Lennie giggled with happiness. “An’ live on the fatta the lan’.” 

December 29, 2013

Kick blocked.

"It's knee on shin, so when he goes to kick, you put your knee on his shin... It has happened in sparring and guys take a minute off and walk around, and at least it stops them from kicking you. To break someone's leg, I've never done that before. I didn't want to see Anderson get hurt like that."

But everyone's looking at the graphic pics/video of Anderson Silva breaking his leg.

"It's just hard to have your national bird in your arms, going through seizures in a way it can't control..."

"... when you can see it's in pain but don't know what's happening to it."

A Republican and a Democrat from the House Intelligence Committee say the NYT got its Benghazi story wrong.

Fox News Sunday had a good segment today with 2 members of the House Intelligence Committee, the Republican Mike Rogers and the Democrat Adam Schiff talking about the NYT article about Bengazi, reporting on its investigation that "turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault" and that "it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam."

Drudge's de Blasio debasement.

Drudge isn't the loftiest place on the internet, but this is beneath him:

The linked article, in the Wall Street Journal, makes no mention of the Clinton impeachment and gives us no reason to associate deBlasio with any of Clinton's misdeeds and lies. Clinton is a former President, and it's a decent honor for deBlasio to have him do the swearing in.

Drudge's highlighting of the impeachment is gratuitous and stupid, and that headline has been at the top of the page since yesterday, so there's been plenty of time for Drudge to realize it's not up to his usual standards (which include lots of room for ridicule and cheap shots).

Now, if Drudge had phrased the headline to refer to oaths — Clinton lied under oath and now he's administering an oath — I would have approved. Since Clinton was impeached for lying under oath, the appropriate connection was within reach, but Drudge didn't quite get there and ends up looking mean-spirited and flailing.

Woman who only had 3 words for her critics — "ha, ha, ha"...

... now faces a year in prison and critics who say things like "It would be justice if the cat survived and she didn't survive prison" and "Put her in a Rubbermaid storage container for a day... but be nice and bore a few holes so she can breathe. Do it in a public area so people can walk by and say 'ha, ha, ha' to her."

"These sculptures represent the beginning of an exploration into this participatory nature of skin..."

"... a move away from the idea of skin as boundary between 'inside and 'outside' the body, utilizing touch as a means to explore the active relationship between skin and space."

"My biggest problem with unworthy is one of my biggest problems with the 2013... internet...."

Says a commenter at Metafilter (and by "unworthy," he means Upworthy).
... i don't want to look at your fucking video to consume your content. I have no problem with videos, i just think they're the wrong medium for a lot of things. Video of something specifically happening, or some visual/multimedia art? Cool. Video documentary of a situation or about a person? fine. Stupid video of someone talking about something with a couple still photos overlaid a few times? Fuck. OFF.

There's an "idiot switch" safety step that's being skipped here. People need to be asking themselves "What would be missing from this if it was simply written out, maybe with a couple inline images?"...

I think unworthy is a far more sinister cancer than even buzzfeed. All the time people send me links to stuff on there and go "omg check this out". Click through at my desk at work/on the loo/etc and go "oh, video, nope"....

You want me to watch a 4:30 video of something i could read in like 45 to 60 seconds even if it was towards the thick end of content these videos ever have?...

There's a lot of pasta sandwich going on here. It's just the wrong type of content for the media.
Things were different back in the days of Rickrolling, when you didn't know you were clicking to a video, and as soon as you saw that you got to a video (that video), you knew you were tricked and you clicked away. Now you know by the teaser that you are getting sent to a video and you're somehow supposed to believe that if you spent a little time watching the material roll out — in that annoying, exasperating way that video subjects you to its time frame — you really will get to experience the promised feelings. Your heart will explode into a sunburst of tiny sparkles or whatever.

You'd think that by now — at the portal to 2014 — we'd be steely and unteaseable. Who would waste 8 seconds anticipating that this video will restore your faith in humankind?


Are you like me? When you read the words "if you spent some time watching the material roll out... you really will get to experience the promised feelings," did you switch over to thinking about Obamacare?

I'd like to think that by now — at the portal to 2014 — we'd be steely and unteaseable.