January 18, 2014

"Detroit Auto Show: Automakers push weight loss to promote fuel efficiency."

Yeah, lose some weight so cars don't need to burn so much fuel carrying you around.

No, they're not saying that. (They're just trying to make the vehicles weigh less.) But wouldn't it be funny if they did?

Maria Conchita Alonso booted out of a San Francisco production of "The Vagina Monologues" after appearing in an ad for a Tea Party candidate.

In the ad — which we talked about here — she said, expressing antagonism toward big government — "We’re screwed." She said it in Spanish. "The Vagina Monologues" production was also to be in Spanish. I don't know how to say "screwed" or "vagina" in Spanish, but the producer of the show, Eliana Lopez, wife of San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, said: "We really cannot have her in the show, unfortunately."

And Jim Salinas, "a long time Mission resident and former president of the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club," noting the sexual language in the ad, the chihuahua named "Tequila," and predicting boycotts if Alonso remained in the cast, said:
“We don’t act like that. First of all, that is not a typical Latina... First Amendment rights, we all have the right to say something. But it’s also our right to say we object to that.”
If you're a member of a minority group and you speak in a setting that seems to be conveying the message — politically leveraging the message — that you are a typical member of that group, you will attract criticism, and that criticism can also be criticized.

And criticize that play too. It sucks.

What is the origin of the idea of the "scorched earth" policy?

How far back does it go?

The tactic goes back to ancient times.

The term "scorched earth," according to the (unlinkable) OED is a translation of Chinese phrase jiāotŭ (zhèngcè), with the earliest use in English traced to 1937:
1937 C. McDonald in Times 6 Dec. 12/2 The populace..are still disturbed, in spite of official denials, by wild rumours of a ‘scorched earth policy’ of burning the city before the Japanese enter....
One OED example is comic:
1963 P. G. Wodehouse Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves xvii. 135 The kitchen maid..always adopts the scorched earth policy when preparing a meal.
If you've read the history at the first link, you might think that comic usage is in bad taste, but then you must never speak of "nuking" things in the microwave.

"His 'Bone-Dry' Martini features a tincture made from chicken bones that are roasted and dissolved in phosphoric acid..."

"... his Sazerac contains a touch of ambergris, the whale secretion used in perfume production..."

There's some weirdness going on these days in the segment of commerce that goes under the rubric "cocktails."

The report of the death of the death spiral...

 ... was an exaggeration.

Twilight catch.

Last night, in the blue hour.

It was a Lab fest:

Flesh! and calenture.

In the comments to that first post of the day today, the one about the caveman diet, St. George said:
Interesting how "trash" is used to make food and how it is marketed.

Would you eat a Chapul bar?

Dates, chocolate, walnuts, flax, peanuts, and protein flour..i.e. ground processed cricket flesh.

The smaller the animals people eat, the poorer the civilization.

The scam here is that it's being marketed to appeal to people as a politically-conscious "revolutionary" food choice that benefits the environment...and your body!
I said:

"Claim: Photograph shows a man eating a dead baby served at an Asian restaurant."

"The photographs" — shown here —  "were taken seriously by a number of law enforcement agencies who viewed them, and both Scotland Yard and the FBI investigated this matter, trying to determine when and where the pictures were taken and the identities of those appearing in them."
The origins of the images were quickly uncovered: The man in the photographs is Chinese performance artist Zhu Yu, who staged a conceptual shock piece called "Eating People" at a Shanghai arts festival in 2000. Maintaining that "No religion forbids cannibalism, nor can I find any law which prevents us from eating people," Zhu Yu acted out a performance in which he appeared to eat a stillborn or aborted child (likely constructed by placing a doll's head on a duck's carcass) and said that he "took advantage of the space between morality and the law and based my work on it."

The controversial photographs have since been part of a number of art exhibits and caused another stir in 2003 when they were aired on television in the UK as part of the Beijing Swings documentary...

"You can't forget that pigs are smart, social animals that experience a wide range of emotions."

"In such austere isolated conditions, they'll be suffering for much of their lives. For sure, it would get a lot of attention from animal rights groups."

Yes, but do you want your inside-a-pig-grown organs-for-humans or not?

This post needs a final line based on the old Groucho Marx joke: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

Outside of a pig, medical technology is man's best friend. Inside of a pig it's too dark to read about ethics.

"For those many, many people who were raised on processed cheese, there is a memory connected with it that can’t be discounted in terms of its importance..."

"It’s a bite of the past, and that trumps flavor every time."

A quote from an article at Smithsonian.com on the history of Velveeta. That's just the next thing that interested me on line, not something I went looking for after that last post, which had food writer Michael Pollan giving us reason to enjoy some of the products of civilization (bread and other cooked foods), absolving us of the sense of obligation to return to whatever it is we imagine nourished the caveman, but not touching upon the mystic chords of memory of the more recent past, the days of mothers in aprons and the things that yielded so willingly to melting in that vividly golden childhood of yore.

And let's remember the psychology of environmentalism. Weren't we just talking about the problem of the industrial byproduct of all that Greek-style yogurt we've been eating? From the Smithsonian article:
[Emil Frey, a Swiss cheesemaker who moved from Switzerland to upstate New York, where he worked in cheese factories in the late 1880s]... figured out how... to help recoup some of the [cheese] factory's waste. He learned that by adding a by-product of cheesemaking called whey, which is the liquid released from curds during the cheesemaking process, to the leftover Swiss bits, he could create a very cohesive end-product. Frey named the product Velveeta....

"Michael Pollan explains what’s wrong with the paleo diet."

What do you mean by "wrong"? All Michael Pollan is saying is that people doing the paleo diet don't know exactly what our ancestors in evolutionary times ate and in what proportions. 

But prehistorical inaccuracy only makes the diet "wrong" if: 1. You adhere to a philosophy or moral code that demands not only that you attempt to ape the apeman but also that doing the best you can yet falling short is a violation, or 2. There is no independent scientific support for the healthfulness of the collection of foods that have been identified under the label "paleo."

I'm not really criticizing Pollan here. He didn't write the headline. It's pointing out the obvious that we don't know that the paleo diet is correct, not that we know it's wrong. Here's his book "Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation," which is oriented around making us feel good about (some of) the food that civilization has made for us.
One problem with the paleo diet is that “they’re assuming that the options available to our caveman ancestors are still there,” he argues. But “unless you’re willing to hunt your food, they’re not.”

As Pollan explains, the animals bred by modern agriculture — which are fed artificial diets of corn and grains, and beefed up with hormones and antibiotics — have nutritional profiles far from wild game.
Can you "beef up" beef? It's already beef. You can "humanize" a human being. But you can't bird up a bird, porkify a pig, or enlambate a lamb.

Here's one of my favorite songs:

January 17, 2014

"The things I like about Walker (my front-runner so far) are his executive experience, his principles, and his guts and fighting spirit..."

"... as well as his success in a mostly-blue state such as Wisconsin countering whatever the left could throw at him. That is a formidable accomplishment," writes Neo-Neocon, comparing Scott Walker to Chris Christie. "His rhetoric and charisma, I suspect, leave quite a bit to be desired. But I don’t know how much they are lacking because I haven’t watched or listened to him speak all that much. I fear Walker will have too much of the blah-blah-blah factor, but I don’t know...."

Well, I sure have watched him and listened to him. A lot. I watched all the debates in the 2010 election and the 2011 recall election. He has a style that people outside of the Midwest might not get. But I'm thinking that we got such a rhetoric-and-charisma overload with Obama that people might find Walker's style refreshing and uplifting. Walker comes across as completely sincere and earnest. He's committed to his conservative principles, which is unnerving to those who'd like to shake him. He's unshakeable.

"The easiest way Hillary can be stopped is if she stops herself."

"There is a reasonable chance she’ll decide not to [run again]," writes Bill Kristol (reacting to TIME's question "Can Anyone Stop Hillary?") 
She’s an intelligent woman. She remembers that her last experience of running for president wasn’t fun and didn’t end well. She knows that winning the Democratic nomination won’t be as easy as the media now pretend and that the general election will be, at best, a 50-50 proposition....

Hillary has no agenda different from that of other generic Democratic candidates, or for that matter from Barack Obama, the man she would succeed. Hillary’s first term would in reality be Obama’s third. She’d be tinkering with his successes and trying to cope with his failures. Becoming president in 2009 after eight years of dastardly Republican rule, with a chance to make things anew, was an exciting prospect for a liberal. Succeeding the modern liberal president after two terms?
Not worth it... maybe. When's the last time we had a President who followed a 2-term President from his own party? It was when we had Bush I, the man Hillary's husband defeated. Basically, Americans don't want more than 2 terms of the same. The 22d Amendment, barring anyone from election to a 3d term, was our reaction to FDR's election to a 3d and a 4th term. Before him nearly everyone followed the principle demonstrated by George Washington, serving only, at most, 2 terms, and the few who tried for a 3d failed.

Since the ratification of the 22d Amendment (in 1951), not only has it been impossible for anyone to serve a 3d term as President, efforts by other members of the President's party to follow on, being — to use Kristol's phrase — "in reality" the "third" term have all but one have failed. The one exception, George H.W. Bush, not only had Reagan as his predecessor, but also had a weak opponent (Michael Dukakis).

"In the Civil War, Union balloons’ reconnaissance tracked the size of Confederate armies by counting the number of campfires."

My favorite sentence in the transcript of Obama's speech about reforming the NSA.

"The New York Times' Most Popular Story of 2013 Was Not an Article."

"A news app, a piece of software about the news made by in-house developers, generated more clicks than any article."
And it did this in a tiny amount of time: The app only came out on December 21, 2013. That means that in the 11 days it was online in 2013, it generated more visits than any other piece.

"We do not have a ban on nontraditional sexual relationships... We are not forbidding anything and nobody is being grabbed off the street...."

Said Putin.
"We have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia. I want to underline this. Propaganda among children. These are absolutely different things — a ban on something or a ban on the propaganda of that thing.... You can feel relaxed and calm [in Russia], but leave children alone please."

"I think the books I read as a child made me want to write..."

E.L. Doctorow says, giving a quick list of things makes me feel this is exactly what a kid should read... for starters:
Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” and “Kidnapped”; C. S. Lewis’s “Out of the Silent Planet” and “Perelandra”; Mark Twain’s boy books, and his “Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”; Jack London’s “Call of the Wild” and “White Fang”; Dickens’s “David Copperfield,”  “Great Expectations” and “A Tale of Two Cities”; Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories; Victor Hugo’s “Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Les Misérables.” Poe’s detective and horror stories; the Horatio Hornblower sea novels of C. S. Forester; all the “Oz” books; and in middle school, “Mario and the Magician,” by Thomas Mann, and Kafka’s “Metamorphosis.” For starters.
Could they package these all in one nice ebook anthology?

"There's a lot of discussion about pot right now... they all come back to the same thing for me: Dad, Dad, Daddy."

"My entire life, my dad has smoked pot."
It's so synonymous with him that I've made a joke out of it. "What does your dad do?” comes that age old question. “He's a pot-smoking hippie” is the easiest answer. And he is. Several times a day, every day, for as far back as I can remember, my dad has toked the reefer, hit the Mary Jane....

Michelle Obama "like to take 'me time'" and "dishes with girlfriends over brussels sprouts and dirty martinis."

And I like to dish with whoever is out there on the internet about the NYT's latest effort to make us admire Michelle Obama (who turns 50 today, as I'm being told by multiple emails from the Democratic Party urging me to sign an on-line birthday card).

Does Michelle — does any adult? — actually use the term "me time"?

ADDED: The fawning at ABC is really embarrassing: "50 Ways to Celebrate Michelle Obama’s Birthday." Mocked at The Corner where they cherry-pick things you can't do, like "Hang out with your friend, Oprah" and "Travel the world on Air Force One," so I'll cherry-pick the crap you can: "Laugh out loud" and "Drink lots of water."

"[F]or proponents of the death penalty it was a great form of erotica."

Says Attaturk at Firedoglake, about the execution by lethal injection, yesterday in Ohio, that took 15 minutes to kill the condemned man. I blogged that story here, and we talked about it in the comments. Did any of us get off on the cruelty that resulted from the mishandled machinery of death?

"A small-town Red State girl goes to work in the Big City, but finds everyone there whiny, shallow, and unlikeable..."

"... in secret she keeps alive her swampblood roots by hunting ducks in Central Park Lake by night. Eventually she meets a young man who poses as an independent film critic for the Village Voice but covertly is a massive NASCAR fan. Together they convert a former 'communal garden' into a combination gun range and outdoor smoking pavilion."

A commenter Instapundit brainstorms a new TV show to be called "Dux And The City" after reading about my practice of watching an episode of "Duck Dynasty" after an episode of "Girls" as a counterbalance. The commenter's combination of the 2 shows into one makes the new show a "fish out of water" story, like those old 60s favorites, "Beverly Hillbillies" and "Green Acres." Since he's bringing the country person to the city, it's the "Beverly Hillbillies." Put a "Girls" girl out in the swamp for the "Green Acres" counterpart.

Sidenote on TV: Are you watching "American Idol"? Consider that "Family friendly judges may breathe life back into 'American Idol.'" Family friendly and pulchritudinous. Especially, for me, Harry Connick, Jr.

How great is he?

I'm just noticing Best of the Web's "Question and Answer" feature.

I'm noticing it because I'm noticing that I got a link, under one of BOTW's longstanding headings "Hey, Kids! What Time Is It?" (for my post, quoting Gov. Christie saying, "It Is Time to Lengthen Both the School Day and School Year in New Jersey"). I'm very pleased to get a link under such a classic BOTW heading, especially since I also recently made it to BOTW's classic "Questions Nobody Is Asking" heading. (For "Does Ezra Klein Really Have a Following, the Way Nate Silver Had a Following?")

Anyway, the new classic heading is "Question and Answer," with a headline from one place answered by some headline somewhere else. Yesterday's BOTW column had 3 examples:

The large household appliance most likely to die is...

... the dishwasher.

That's my experience anyway. I moved into this house in 1986, the dishwasher died shortly after that. The replacement died and was replaced, and the replacement for the replacement died recently. The next one, getting installed right now, is this one.

Meanwhile, I have a washer and dryer that were installed in the late 80s that work (and look) like new and have never even needed repair. What brand? Same as that new dishwasher. If they ever die, I don't think I'll be able to replace them with something that works as well, not in these "energy efficient" times.

John Hawkins has an interview with Scott Walker.


Some of the interview recounts the story covered in Walker's book ("Unintimidated"), and there's  substance on immigration and health care, but let me highlight the most abstract and forward-looking part, summarizing "the message that we’ve got to get out to people":
... that the Left, they want you under their thumb.  They want to control you.  They want to control your lives.  They want you to be dependent on the government.  We should say we’re the ones, not only for the poor, but for young people coming out of college, for working class families, for immigrants, for others out there.  We should say we are the ones who empower the American Dream.

We’re the ones who say you can do and be anything you want, but it’s because we empower you with the ability and the platform to do that.  Then it’s up to you to make that happen.  The other side tells you they want to help you, but in the end they want to keep you limited in how far you can grow.

We want to make sure everyone’s a part of the recovery.  We’re not going to leave anybody behind, but we’re going to do it by empowering people to control their own lives and destiny.
That's a nice combination of staunch conservatism with empathy and caring, which is, I think, what the GOP should want in its next presidential candidate. Walker has absorbed and processed the "income inequality" theme that the Democratic Party has chosen to push.

Walker goes on — prompted by a question — to analyze why Mitt Romney lost in 2012. Romney's people "mis-served" him by misremembering how Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter in 1980. Reagan did not focus solely on the bad economy. He was, in fact, "much more aspirational," and he stood for a coherent set of principles — "limited government, you know, smaller government, lower taxes, strong national defense" — that appeared clear to Walker when, as a teenager, he voted for Reagan and that is still memorable today. It was a whole package, you understood what it meant and "You knew... a Reagan presidency was going to be better for you."

29 years on an island fighting a war that had ended, Hiroo Onoda thought of "Nothing but accomplishing my duty."

He didn't believe the pamphlets that said Japan had surrendered. He thought they were a trick. And the last order he'd received was never to surrender but to fight to the death, a fight that included killing islanders whom he took to be enemy guerrillas.
The last holdout, Lieutenant Onoda — officially declared dead in 1959 — was found by Norio Suzuki, a student searching for him in 1974. The lieutenant rejected his pleas to go home, insisting he was still awaiting orders. Mr. Suzuki returned with photographs, and the Japanese government sent a delegation, including the lieutenant’s brother and his former commander, to formally relieve him of duty.

“I am sorry I have disturbed you for so long a time,” Lieutenant Onoda told his brother, Toshiro.

In Manila, the lieutenant, wearing his tattered uniform, presented his sword to President Marcos, who pardoned him for crimes committed while he thought he was at war.
The link goes to the long NYT obit, which stresses how important Onoda was to the Japanese in the 1970s because he represented values that contrasted to then-prevalent materialism. From paragraph 4:
[H]is homecoming... stirred his nation with a pride that many Japanese had found lacking in postwar years of rising prosperity and materialism....
From paragraph 12:
More than patriotism or admiration for his grit, his jungle saga, which had dominated the news in Japan for days, evoked waves of nostalgia and melancholy in a people searching for deeper meaning in their growing postwar affluence.
From paragraph 15:
In an editorial, The Mainichi Shimbun, a leading Tokyo newspaper, said: “To this soldier, duty took precedence over personal sentiments. Onoda has shown us that there is much more in life than just material affluence and selfish pursuits. There is the spiritual aspect, something we may have forgotten.”
That says something about Japan in the 70s, but it also says something about the United States right now, the United States as seen by The New York Times, which did not need to publish such a long, elegant, respectful obituary and to put it top and center on its website front page and which chose to highlight the idea that affluence is or can be experienced as a deep spiritual problem.

What is the NYT trying to say to us? (Multiple answers allowed.)
pollcode.com free polls 

ADDED: If you answered that poll, please go on to answer one more question:

Is the NYT trying to help Obama by massaging us into acceptance of our bad economy and more taxation and regulation?
pollcode.com free polls 

American Apparel, via shop window mannequin, starts a conversation about...

... pubic hair.

January 16, 2014

"Cruel or not, Scalia's disparagement of a lawyer who read his argument aloud..."

"... was not just a whim or personal pet peeve; it is based on the court's own rules and traditions."

Life is more than a 3 hour tour.

But it can't go on forever.

Goodbye to The Professor.
The Professor was a good-looking but nerdy academic, an exaggerated stereotype of the man of capacious intelligence with little or no social awareness.... But he was pretty much the only character on the show who possessed anything resembling actual knowledge, and he was forever inventing methods to increase the castaways’ chance of rescue.
Russell Johnson was 89.

Did Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand say something sexist about woman's essential "nature"?

That was my impression from reading this item in The Atlantic titled "A Female Senator Explains Why Uptalk Is Part of Women's 'Nature.'"

But I took the time to listen to the full video here, to get the full quotes, including improving the accuracy of the transcription of what was quoted in The Atlantic — which seemed too eager to enthuse over Gillibrand, calling her "a refreshing departure from feminism," which sounded like partisan claptrap to me. If a Democrat says something that would be called sexist if a Republican said it, it's my business to call bullshit.

But I really don't care about how The Atlantic presented it. Let me present it accurately, with full-length quotes. This matters, because there's so much pressure both to acknowledge gender difference and to deny it, and Gillbrand spoke with some courage and cogency.

"To my friends at The New York Times: Journalism has died at this paper."

"Do you really believe this wasn't a pre-planned terrorist attack — preplanned terrorist attack with Al Qaeda affiliates in charge?" asked Lindsey Graham today.
"There's not one report coming from Benghazi about a protest around the embassy.... People in charge of security never reported a protest because there was not one...."
And John McCain, calling the NYT an "ever-reliable surrogate for the Obama administration," said:
"The false narrative that The New York Times has been trying to further is intended to undermine the conclusion that the Senate Intelligence Committee has effectively arrived at, that is, that the administration knew or should have known of the terrorist threat present in Benghazi during the relevant period and should have pre-positioned assets, or made other preparations, that would have prevented Americans there from being harmed or otherwise ensured their security."

"'John Doe' Target Demands Wisconsin Prosecutors End Retaliatory Probe or Face Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit."

A press release:
Washington, D.C. (January 15, 2014)—Eric O’Keefe, who has been identified in media reports as a target of a secret “John Doe” investigation in Wisconsin, today demanded that state prosecutors end their action against him or face a federal civil rights action. O’Keefe is director of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which was also targeted for alleged unlawful “coordination” with Governor Scott Walker’s campaign for fiscal reforms.


(Click image to enlarge.)

ADDED: I didn't put this image up because it says "Republican" under Elizabeth Warren, which is funny too. (The link goes to Sen. Warren: Republican "Political Games" With Americans Have Got To Stop) I put it up — as the circles of blur show — because of the weird similarity between the picture of her and that lady in the Goldman Sachs ad.

"What you find in real life with narcissists is that they’re very good at gaining friends and becoming leaders..."

"... but eventually people see through them and stop liking them."
"Online, people are very good at gaining relationships, but they don’t fall off naturally. If you’re incredibly annoying, they just ignore you, and even then it might be worth it for entertainment value. There’s a reason why, on reality TV, you find high levels of narcissism. It’s entertaining."
Is that true? On-line relationships don't fall off naturally?

"I used to think I was asexual, but the primary reason why I thought that was because my BMI was 14..."

"I castrated myself when I was 15 to rebel against society... a degenerate capitalistic system results in a commodification of sexuality...."

"Executed Ohio killer Dennis McGuire took 15 minutes to die with never-before-tried drugs."

AP reports. Top-voted comment at The Daily News: "Unfortunate, that it only took 15 minutes for him to suffer not 15 hours."

"The U.S. military cannot hunt down and kill people responsible for the deadly 2012 attack on an American compound in Benghazi, Libya..."

"... as long as the terrorists are not officially deemed members or affiliates of al Qaeda, newly declassified transcripts from congressional hearings show."

"Tea Party Candidate’s Ad Touts His ‘Sexy’ Wife And Large Testicles."

Pisses Think Progress, which is only going to make people watch this ad by California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R), running for Governor:

I've watched it, and I can explain that the joke is he doesn't understand his wife when she's speaking Spanish. At one point, she objects to hunting and translates her remarks as being about something else altogether. So her assertion that he has "big ones" cannot be understood by him (at least not until he watches the ad with subtitles).


If you're enjoying this blog, please consider doing some of your shopping via the Althouse Amazon portal (which allows you to contribute to this blog without paying anything more for the items you select).

If you're looking for suggestions, here's something I bought recently.

Blaming Hillary Clinton for Benghazi.

From Amy Davidson's piece in The New Yorker (boldface added):
The talking-points controversy was always strangely misdirected—in part because, as this report makes clear, there is a lot that was substantively wrong with the way things were managed in Benghazi. That is true particularly if the subject of discussion is Hillary Clinton. She does not come out well in this report, in any part, although the Republican minority is more florid in its criticisms. The State Department made mistakes when she was its leader. One of the findings is that nothing changed even when “tripwires” meant to prompt an increase in security or suspension in operations had been crossed, and people in the Department knew it.

Why not? She doesn’t really have an answer; in the past, she has deflected questions by pointing out that Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who died in Benghazi, was someone she knew well and cared about; there is no doubt that he was. Despite her performance at a hearing last year, when she wondered why exactly what happened really mattered, callous indifference is not the answer here.... But her reluctance to change course may have been influenced by her heavy investment in the decision to take military action in Libya; the former defense secretary Robert Gates writes in his new memoir that hers was the voice that swayed the balance. (Joe Biden was on the other side.) Libya was one of the things she had managed in her stint as Secretary of State, for which she had been so praised. Also, again, Libya was supposed to be something we were done with; now it will be a question Hillary Clinton has to contend with in 2016, and, in fairness, rightly so.
Hillary has used her close association with Stevens as a reason not to blame her for what happened. She cared, specifically and personally, about him. But he cared about himself too, and he comes in for blame in that report for the circumstances of his own death. It looks to me — and, please, argue with me and correct me if I'm wrong — as though the idea of Libya was to win without putting our military personnel in the line of fire, and having seemingly won using that approach, Hillary Clinton and Christopher Stevens wanted to avoid needing to send our personnel in to provide security. They chose, for the sake of that image, to use Libyans for security, and that risk did not work out.

Political locution of the week: "continuity election."

NYT columnist Charles M. Blow uses the term "continuity election" 3 times in his new column, which I've discussed at length in the previous post. On first use, he says:
There are two kinds of presidential elections: change elections and continuity elections. For many of those who see 2016 as a change election, finding an anti-Obama may seem quite appealing, and Christie fits that bill in style and tone.
Obama is "polished and professorial," while Christie is "brash and blunt." Blow doesn't mention it, but Obama's key word in 2008 was "change" (along with "hope") and a lot of people who thought George W. Bush was brash and blunt felt good about the idea of undoing the Bushiness with Obama-style politesse. Enough yang. We need yin. For 2016, do we need yang again? Do we want another "change election"? Or is more yin the thing? That would be a "continuity election."

Charles Blow suddenly perceives that the attack on Christie feels "unseemly and trivial and reeks of fear."

I wonder why?! Scroll forward to his 6th paragraph for the answer if it's not already obvious:
... and polling thus far shows Christie maintaining much of his home-state support.
Not just polling in New Jersey. National polling shows this too, but Blow doesn't mention that. He'd like to package this up and restore it to state-level politics, now that he sees that the national media — having gone big-time and hardcore on Christie — failed to destroy his national-level political aspirations.

Blow claims to be "bored" by Bridgegate, but I bet he wouldn't be bored if the polls showed the attack on Christie was working. If you're winning a fight, you think you look good, but if you're attacking and attacking and not getting anywhere you look bloodthirsty and desperate. Time to suddenly find this all so boring.

But I'm not going to let him get away with that. I'm going to say that the declaration that this is boring also looks desperate, and you are still bloodthirsty. You've just failed to draw blood here. You'll be looking for blood somewhere else, I'm sure, and that won't seem boring unless the polls show you losing that fight too.

Now that bullying Christie hasn't worked, it's time to get back to touching up the official media image of Christie the Bully.
To my taste, Christie’s bullying disposition is utterly inconsistent with the dignity of the presidency, but I am only one vote. Some people see charm in his crassness. That scares others who wish for a continuity election.
Wish for a continuity election? But what a hell of a refined way to say want Democrats to win in '16. You're making me "wish for" some straight talk, and I think this prissy style of locution does not absolve you of suspicions that your "disposition" is "bullying" too. Myself, I don't see "charm" in "crassness." I just want clear, direct, comprehensible speech.

If you read on, you'll see that Blow is still looking for blood. He's saying: Let's quiet down and wait for the "investigative firepower — both journalistic and legislative" to get at the truth.
If everything that Chris Christie said in his interminable news conference stands up to scrutiny, and anyone else found to be involved is fired, Christie is likely to survive this scandal....
Everything must be true. Any misstatement is death.
However, if that turns out not to be the case, his goose is cooked.

Either way, the focus on the scandal has taken too much of the focus off the meat of the matter: that for many progressives, this must be a continuity election.
Goose is cooked... meat of the matter....  The bloodlust is still there, but a new strategy is needed. Here's the full text of the paragraph — paragraph 3 — from which I took the quote in the post title:
[The point in politics where disgust becomes delight] is when political accountability veers into political blood sport, where partisans lick their chops at the idea of an opponent’s demise. It becomes unseemly and trivial and reeks of fear.
So it's all about how you look when you're bloodthirsty, and you've figured out that your partisans don't look good. You're telling them to behave more decorously, to walk away as if bored, and that there will be meat later, if not here, then somewhere else. Don't stand around slavering over this now. We're starting to look unseemly. And this appearance might be utterly inconsistent with the dignity of the media, which is, above all, dedicated to a continuity election.

Too late. You've been seen.

"I eat pizza with a knife and fork because I want only the gooey stuff on top, not the crust."

Says Maureen Dowd, on the occasion of "the fledgling New York mayor’s de Blasphemy" getting caught "daintily carving up his smoked-mozzarella-and-sausage pizza at Goodfellas in Staten Island with a knife and fork."

What man wants a woman to come to his defense like that? 1. Does a man want a woman to defend him at all? 2. Does a man want a woman to defend in particular from an accusation that he is behaving in a manner that's too refined/prissy? 3. She used "daintily" in the second sentence. 4. She describes her own eating in a manner that essentially confesses to not eating pizza at all.

After 2 years of frequent pizza eating — in the first 2 years of our marriage, Meade made pizza (not to mention pancakes) just about every day — I've been eating low-carb for the last 2 years. I get how you can transform pizza into a low-carb meal by just eating the stuff on top, but the whole point of pizza is a great crust, and the stuff on top makes no sense without the crust. If I were trapped somewhere and hungry and the only thing there was to eat was the stuff off the top of pizza, I'd eat it, but I wouldn't say I was eating pizza.

Anyway. I'm sure Dowd knows her defense isn't really a defense, and she knows de Blasio is such a big manly guy he's got no worries about appearing too feminine (a point of distinction from the previous NYC mayor). Things like this only hurt when they reinforce negatives or refute positives that are already implanted in our head:
Sargent Shriver calling for a Courvoisier in an Ohio mill town bar. Jerry Ford at the Alamo, biting into a tamale without removing the corn husk. Jimmy Carter’s fishing trip that turned into “Paws,” fending off a Killer Rabbit. Michael Dukakis advising farmers to grow Belgian endive, and Barack Obama talking the price of arugula. When John Kerry ordered Swiss cheese on his Philly cheesesteak in 2003, it buoyed Republican efforts to paint him as a Frenchie, fromage-loving surrender monkey.
Now, there's a list I'd like to see lengthened. You'd think Dowd would have come up with a comparable embarrassment for George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. Were there none?

Oscar nominations are out. What's your favorite snub?

Mine is: no foreign language film nomination for "Blue Is the Warmest Color" (discussed on the blog here, here, and here). [ADDED: I thought it was obvious, but since at least one person misread this (and didn't bother to go to my old posts linked there), "favorite snub" means I'm pleased it was snubbed!]

Other nominees for Best Snub by the Motion Picture Academy: Oprah. Robert Redford. Tom Hanks.

Worst snub? James Gandolfini! The man died! Sorry. Just kidding. No extra credit for dying. I appreciate the neutrality.

Here's the full list of nominees, announced this morning. I haven't seen any of these movies, but we would like to see "Inside Llewyn Davis," if we ever feel like showing up at a specific time and sitting in the dark for 2 hours. (Who does that anymore? Don't you want control over your time (which you always have with TV)?) "Inside Llewyn Davis" only got Cinematography and Sound Mixing, anyway, so it's more of a Snubbed by the Oscars than an Oscar-approved thing anyway.

I know, one answer to my parenthetical question above is: You've got to go to the theater for the fully immersive, giant-screen, 3D experience. I considered seeing "Gravity" in the theater for that reason. ("Gravity" got 10 nominations, equaled only by the good-for-you (as opposed to feel-good) flick "12 Years a Slave.") But I couldn't force myself to go. Like "12 Years a Slave," it felt like something I was supposed to do. When I really thought about how I wanted to spend my time, sitting through that wasn't the answer.

Creating this aura around a film that it must be seen — it's a must-see movie — is exactly what the promoters want to do, and it must work on many people, perhaps the kind of people — young people? — who see a large number of movies. Target the big spenders. Use the pitch that works with the people who spend the most money on the product. But to me, feeling like I'm supposed to do something — unless I'm legally required to do it — sets up my resistance.

CORRECTION: "12 Years a Slave" only got 9 nominations. It's "American Hustle" that equaled "Gravity" with 10.

January 15, 2014

writing : speech :: masturbation : copulation.

That last post, about Bridgegate, ends with some musing about how email and texting are preserving in writing far more of the kind of remarks that used to appear mostly only in speech. Researching a different topic, I stumbled upon a strangely relevant passage in a book (called, of all things, "When Men Are Women: Manhood Among The Gabra Nomads Of East Africa"):
[Jean-Jacques] Rousseau wrote about the difference between speech and writing, and following Plato, he regarded speech as more authentic, present, or real than writing. Writing, in his view, imitated speech but never quite accomplished the interpersonal communication possible with direct speech. Rousseau noticed, however, that he communicated his thoughts more clearly and accurately in writing than in speech: "If I were present" in a conversation, Rousseau wrote, "one would never know what I was worth," since shyness would inhibit his speech (quoted in Derrida 1974:141). It is Derrida who points out the paradox: writing, though a false imitation of speech, is nevertheless truer than speech. Rousseau, Derrida explains, "valorizes and disqualifies writing at the same time" (1974:141). For Rousseau, the relation between writing and speech is much the same as that between masturbation and copulation. Masturbation, like writing, is an imitation motivated by a lack — in this case the lack of a sexual partner. Masturbation is a faint imitation of copulation, but because it represents a "perfect" union between sexual partners, who are in fact one in the same person, masturbation trumps copulation as writing trumps speech. 
The different topic I was researching came up over in the comments to that "growing brain cells through sex" post. Would masturbation work on the brain cells or was it something about sex with a partner? I realized that my assumption that masturbation wouldn't work resonated with really old notions, like the idea that masturbation could make you insane. Researching that, I easily found the Wikipedia article "History of masturbation," and I was fascinated by the line:
The 18th-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau saw masturbation as equal to 'mental rape,' and discussed it in both Émile and Confessions. He argued that it was the corrupting influence of society that led to such unnatural acts as masturbation and that humans living a simple life amidst nature would never do such things.
So many strange ideas. So many potential connections. Think about them, write about them, talk about them here in writing. We might grow some brain cells.

69% of Americans say that bridge traffic scandal hasn't changed what they think of Chris Christie, and 5% like him more.

According to a new NBC News/Marist poll. Only 18% like him less. I wonder which of these people might potentially vote for him. Who cares if hardcore Democrats or staunch Tea Partiers who'd never vote for him say they like him even less now?
In addition, a plurality – 44 percent – believe Christie is mostly telling the truth, 33 percent say he’s not and another 23 percent are unsure. 
That means at least 7% of those whose opinion hasn't changed (or who like him more) think he's not telling the truth. What's up with them? I'm guessing they're the cynics who think all politicians lie or the pragmatists who think you've got to be able to fudge the truth to get things done in the real world.

Why do you think this bridge business isn't having much of an effect? Maybe people feel that this sort of political payback is going on all the time and is small stuff. Perhaps the question should be: Why was this a story at all? Obviously, one answer is the interest in tearing down a presidential frontrunner, and another is that it was a good distraction from the Obamacare rollout and the Gates memoir.

But there's something more general here that we ought to be prepared to deal with in the future, with different characters and in different times. And that is the way writing has taken the place of speaking. People don't talk on the phone anymore. They send email and texts. So there are many more speech-like remarks — casual or brusque or allusive or jocose or elliptical — set down in writing.

"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee"/"They are the children of Buono voters." That's the junk that saw the light of day and blew up this brouhaha.

"It was the first time I've had to hide a New Yorker post from my Facebook feed. Blech."

Says a commenter at Television Without Pity, responding to another commenter who said:
Wow, I don't think I can watch any more of this.
This, being the HBO series "Girls."
I hate the nudity and everything else. And, yes, I am shallow and I don't enjoy [Lena] Dunham's very odd body and the unnecessary reveals. And I HATE those freaking tattoos. That's part of the problem when she dresses up for something like the Globes. The dress was hideous on her and those tats were gross as always. The nudity for no reason? Like when they stopped to hike?...  Hannah lies down on the ground and we -- lucky lucky us -- can see up her skirt. Why? It's distracting and unattractive and took me out of the weird scene because I was trying to figure out if she had underwear on or not. And why her ass was hanging out at all.
Here's the New Yorker item with the photograph of Hannah in the is-she-wearing-underpants position that needed to be hidden in the TWoP commenter's Facebook feed. The New Yorker writer, Sasha Weiss, describing the relevant scene in episode 2 of the new season, says:

"No Randy... Keith Urban, Sole Survivor... The Return of Jennifer Lopez... Less Awful Contestants... The Elevator of Doom... Not Just A Cappella Anymore... It's All in the Edit... Harry Connick, Jr., Comedian..."

Television Without Pity says "American Idol" might be worth watching again this season.

I can boil that list down to one reason why I will watch: Harry! I love that guy.

When you're hanging out in your café and you get told "the president will be stopping by... You’re welcome to stay, but one of our agents will be coming around to swipe you."

You get swiped. You find that "ignoring [the President] in person is as easy as ignoring a TV." You see that he's good lofting a baby. You experience the details of his handshake... "like the rough surface of your favorite baseball." You try to eavesdrop, but the only interesting thing you get is: "It seems like they don’t use Facebook anymore." But you're not sure who "they" are. Probably young people, maybe the 18 to 34 year-olds who need more prompting to buy insurance.

Also, you hear that the President's wife watches the TV show "Scandal," and that the White House isn't as exciting as that because they "don’t have enough time to engage in too much scandalous behavior." By "scandalous behavior," he didn't mean to touch off rejoinders about the IRS, the NSA, and Benghazi, and so forth. He meant sexual things.

Which amusingly resonates with Rush yesterday saying, "Why can't we have Obama running around on Michelle or some, good, old-fashioned, just... just wishful thinking, just for the media. You know how the Drive-Bys love to have exciting things happening in the news. I mean, wouldn't that be a much better scandal than Christie and bridge lane closures, for crying out loud?  Now, this Hollande guy, he's not even married, and he's in a love-triangle scandal."

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon is sorry if John Kerry was offended...

... by the remarks: 1. "Secretary of State John Kerry... who operates from an incomprehensible obsession and a sense of messianism — can’t teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians,” and 2. "The only thing that might save us is if John Kerry wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us be."

The headline and opening paragraphs here stress that Yaalon has apologized, but scrolling down to the actual words, I see it's a classic sorry-if-you-were-offended nonapology:
"The defense minister had no intention to cause any offense to the secretary, and he apologizes if the secretary was offended by words attributed to the minister."

"The students primed with 'educated'..."

"... were more likely to rate the black man's skin tone as lighter on a memory test later. "

"So growing brain cells through sex does appear to have some basis in scientific fact."

Put that together with the news that drinking doesn't kill brain cells.

Education is — apparently — not the only way to build brains. Maybe you should attend a party school. Not idiotically, of course. Moderately.

Back to that first link:
One myth about sex... is that “testosterone poisoning” makes young men stupid. Actually, a 2007 study... concluded that “boys of average intelligence had significantly higher testosterone levels than both mentally challenged and intellectually gifted boys, with the latter two groups showing no significant difference between each other.”

But if having sex can make people smarter, the converse is not true: being smarter does not mean you’ll have more sex....
Well, of course. But smarter people drink more....

Lots of moving parts here. What is the means and what is the end? What do you want most? Sex, intelligence, or drinks?  Is drinking a means to more intelligence and sex? Is intelligence a means to more drinking and sex? Or is sex a means to more intelligence and drinking? Are intelligence and drinking a means to more sex? Are intelligence and sex a means to more drinking? Or are — come on, admit it, this one is your favorite — drinking and sex a means to more intelligence?

Gary Grimshaw, who made posters for Detroit's Grande Ballroom like the posters they were doing for the Fillmore out in San Francisco.

Posters for the Ballroom's house band, The MC5, and, when they came to Detroit, bands like The Who, Cream, and Led Zeppelin.

Grimshaw has died at the age of 67. 

More posters here.

IN THE COMMENTS: Seeing Red was reminded of the poster for "Fantasia" on its rerelease in the 60s, and I find it. Here:

"I don’t think the people who have been harmed by [the John Doe investigation] are going to let bygones be bygones."

"I could see them looking at litigation, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there are calls for legislative reform of the John Doe law and, in this case, an investigation into the investigators."

Said "a Wisconsin legal expert" who with "proximity" to "the Democrat-driven secret investigation of state conservatives."
“What are [these investigators] going to do if they truly don’t have anything to go on? What is the next move in the investigation?” the source asked. “What are they going to try to do to substantiate this going forward? This judge [Gregory A. Peterson] slapped them down. He’s going to want to know what these guys have got next.”...

[Judge Barbara A.] Kluka, the former presiding judge in the John Doe probe, suddenly recused herself from the investigation, but only after she approved the subpoenas... “What kind of supervision was Judge Kluka exercising when this judge (Peterson) has just thrown out” several subpoenas, “particularly in light of the fact that she only put in for one day’s worth of work?” the legal expert asked.
The unnamed expert suggests that Judge Kluka "basically rubber stamped whatever it is (the prosecution) wanted."

"Hey, this is kinda like 'Bridgegate,' only national in scale..."

"... and targeted at children."

ADDED: I love Bridgegate. Acknowledge what a terrible thing it was to do. Don't back off. Welcome it. Lay it down as foundational: This is exactly what politicians should not do with the power we've trusted them with. Hardcore. Stick to it. No excuses.

Now, what can be built on that foundation? What else is like Bridgegate?

"NYT's Bill Keller thinks he's enlightened for endorsing palliative care. Here's how he's affirming right-wing mania."

The subhead at Salon. The headline is: "How Times columnist Bill Keller aids Sarah Palin’s 'death panel' smear."

It's not a smear if it's true, but Salon's Brian Beutler asserts that "death panels" is "the single most contemptible lie about Obamacare."

What about the famous lie-of-the-year "If you like your plan you can keep your plan"? Must we have a contemptibility face-off between these 2 lies? Is the battle to be the most contemptible lie different from being the least true assertion of fact? Different from being the lie with the most clout in the political process? And if it's a contemptibility contest, who's the judge? Whose mind is feeling this contempt? Brian Beutler's?

More subtly, we need to distinguish the form of expression from the substance. "Death panels" was a hotly emotional way to express concern about something that was real — that there will have to be rationing and denials of expensive treatments to some older/sicker patients. It is contemned because of its power to replace close attention to the facts with instinctive, quick commitment to a political position — opposition to Obamacare.

"If you like your plan you can keep your plan" was a deliberately cool, seemingly unemotional way to assert something that was absolutely not true. It is contemned because it was an outright, knowing falsehood, and it reassured and pacified people who would have been lit on fire with opposition if they'd understood what was coming their way.

What was the single most contemptible lie about Obamacare?
pollcode.com free polls 

"Ads Attacking Health Law Stagger Outspent Democrats."

A headline in the NYT that reads like the subject line on a Democratic Party email hitting me up for a contribution. Here's the first paragraph of the article:
Democrats are increasingly anxious about an onslaught of television ads hitting vulnerable Senate and House candidates for their support of the new health law, since many lack the resources to fight back in the early stages of the midterm campaign.
Anxiety! Vulnerability!

Has my tight purse loosened up yet?
Since September, Americans for Prosperity, a group financed in part by the billionaire Koch brothers....
Oh, no! The Kochs! The Kochs! Oh, Democrats, I'm all yours! Yours! Take whatever you will!

David Brooks gets high on life.

And unexamined privilege.

Rush Limbaugh on Scott Walker: "There was not a linguini in his spine at all."

"There was not one speck of cowardice.  He was committed to it.  It illustrates, it shows that it can be done, and in a Democrat stronghold it can be done.  They tried twice.  You're right.  They tried twice to get him out of office simply because he was there.  They concocted crimes.  They lied about things that he was supposedly doing.  They created allegation after allegation after allegation. They tried stymieing him legislatively by leaving the state.  They tried everything."

They tried everything. They tried leaving the state

Going to Illinois as the ultimate tactic. How ridiculous that sounds at this remove.

Rush was talking to some guy from Wisconsin who wanted to know how to defeat the Democrats, and Rush had wheeled out one of his most basic principles, which is that conservatives win when they talk about ideas. If only the political discourse could be, quite straightforwardly, about the actual substance of the political ideas, the conservatives would win. A corollary is: The Democrats — and their big media supporters — know they'd lose the battle of ideas, so they do whatever they can to distract us whenever they can. They try everything.

January 14, 2014

"It is time to lengthen both the school day and school year in New Jersey."

Said Chris Christie in his State of the State address.
Our school calendar is antiquated both educationally and culturally. Life in 2014 demands something more for our students.
Why would penning up the students longer cause more achievement? Is this really for the students or is this a day-care proposal to benefit parents? Is it for the teachers' unions? I have a hard time believing this is better for children.

What about obesity? Childhood obesity, I mean. Shouldn't the kids be out playing — for the sake of their minds and bodies?

"A federal appeals court today nullified key provisions of the FCC’s net neutrality rules..."

"... opening the door to a curated approach to internet delivery that allows broadband providers to block content or applications as they see fit."
The 3-0 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit guts much of a 2010 Federal Communications Commission order, in a challenge brought by Verizon. The nation’s number one mobile provider successfully argued that the regulatory agency overstepped its authority because it issued the rules in 2010 without classifying broadband providers as common carriers, like rank-and-file telcos.

"Sam Berns, 17, Public Face of a Rare Illness, Is Dead."

"Diminutive and bespectacled, Sam was a riot of enthusiasms: for math and science, comic books, scouting (he was an Eagle Scout), playing the drums and Boston-area sports teams."
In his TEDx talk, he spoke of his heart’s desire: to play the snare drum with the Foxborough High School marching band. The trouble was that the drum and its harness weighed 40 pounds. Sam weighed 50 pounds. His parents engaged an engineer to develop an apparatus weighing just six pounds. Sam marched.

"I think that we need to have a conversation about subtle structural sexism."

Says Megan McArdle, leaning into the conversation I said I thought was played out years ago. In fact, here are Megan and I bloggingheadsing about that topic 6 years ago:

Anyway, what's interesting me right now is McArdle's use of the term "structural sexism." She doesn't define the term, which she uses twice. The other usage  is:
[Many people who make accusations of sexism] would genuinely like to gently convince people that there is much more subtle structural sexism out there than they understand... and they would also like to be able to get their political opponents hounded out of office for making sexist remarks. 
That appears before the quote in this post title, where McArdle says she too wants to talk about. Her focus is on how hard it is to have a good conversation on the subject. But it jumped out at me that she used the jargon "structural sexism." Both times she puts "structural" in front of sexism, she also puts "subtle." "Subtle" is easy to understand and doesn't give off a whiff of left-wing academialike "structural."

Searching my own archive for the term, I stumbled onto this paragraph from Obama's "Dreams From My Father" (describing his approach to life at Occidental College):
To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets. We smoked cigarettes and wore leather jackets. At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy. When we ground out our cigarettes in the hallway carpet or set our stereos so loud that the walls began to shake, we were resisting bourgeois society’s stifling constraints. We weren’t indifferent or careless or insecure. We were alienated.
So, what's the deal with "structural"? Should McArdle be throwing that word around so casually?

Does anybody know about the quake?

Ice quake!

Photo-walking the neighborhood with Abby the St. Bernard.

This was yesterday, when the temperature was up around 40°:

"What You Should Know About the Abuse Allegations Against Woody Allen."

Summarized at Gawker, after Mia and Ronan Farrow tweeted hostility when Woody was honored at the Golden Globes. Some interesting comments over there:

I am 26% conservative, 74% liberal.

Says Time Magazine's politics calibrator.

I say it out loud: "I am 26% conservative, 74% liberal."

And Meade say: "I'm not surprised."

Me: "Can I quote that? And how would you describe the tone of your voice?"

Meade: "It can be misinterpreted as resignation but that's not accurate. I was reading your post where you're quoting me saying 'I guess I'd really be a fool not to take a close look if Althouse were to, just out of niceness, propose to pity-marry me.'"

Me: "So the tone of your voice was about that?"

Meade: "No, but I was a little annoyed to be interrupted, and also, those questionnaires... I don't believe them." He imitates people saying "A-ha! This proves it!" and bragging about their percentages and so forth, but I couldn't transcribe all that. He thinks the questionnaires are bullshit and prefers the fascinating story of how he and I got together. I agree. 100%.


If you had it, how long would you wait before seeking medical treatment? 5 weeks?!

"The images are considered to be promoting idealised physical appearances and are policy violating..."

Says email from Facebook to Marilyn McKenna, the wife of a former Washington State Attorney General, according to an Australian news site, linked at Drudge. I don't believe that Facebook would write to some lady in Washington and spell "idealised" like that, so at least one letter of that email was changed.

Anyway, McKenna paid to "boost" her post, which Facebook considers advertising, and the policy relates to ads, not (apparently) just posting on Facebook about how beautiful you consider some physique. McKenna is showing off her weight loss by standing with both of her legs inside one leg of an old pair of pants. I can see how this looks like various annoying ads that appear on other websites, showing before and after pictures to lure folks into buying some diet product. So I don't see the problem with Facebook — previously ad-free and now risking user rejection — having some picky policy about what makes an ad acceptable. From the Facebook spokesperson:
"The image used here is of a woman standing in a large pair of pants holding the waist band out to show weight loss. The images are considered to be promoting idealised physical appearances and are policy violating... It is also worth noting that things like before and after photos, images with scales, tape measures, zoomed in body parts are also considered to be promoting idealised physical images and are not allowed."
McKenna says: "I can't even fathom what they're thinking. I call bulls*** on Facebook." I call bullshit on expressing disagreement by pretending not to understand.

"The Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn't plan to file criminal charges over the Internal Revenue Service's heightened scrutiny of conservative groups..."

"... law-enforcement officials said, a move that likely will only intensify debate over the politically charged scandal."
The officials said investigators didn't find the kind of political bias or "enemy hunting" that would amount to a violation of criminal law. Instead, what emerged during the probe was evidence of a mismanaged bureaucracy enforcing rules about tax-exemption applications it didn't understand, according to the law-enforcement officials....

With this year's midterm elections heating up, the FBI's decision will feed both parties' stories about why—or whether—the IRS scandal mattered. ...

Nonpaper — "a diplomatic term used for an informal side agreement that doesn’t have to be disclosed publicly."

"The nonpaper deals with such important details as the operation of a joint commission to oversee how the deal is implemented and Iran’s right to continue nuclear research and development during the next several months...."
Asked late Monday about the existence of the informal nonpaper, White House officials referred the question to the State Department.... A State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, denied later Monday that there was any secret agreement.

"Any documentation associated with implementation tracks completely with what we've described," she said. "These are technical plans submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency," the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency....

To live freely in writing.

That's my longtime motto here on the blog. (Not that I have some other motto that I use somewhere else, though I do, off-blog, frequently deploy my aphorism "Better than nothing is a high standard.")

Writing that last post, marking the 10-year anniversary of this blog, I worked in the old motto. It's the only link in that post [or was, until I added a link to this post], and it goes to a normblog profile of me from November 2004, where the first question is "Why do you blog?" and my answer was what was already my motto: "To live freely in writing." Scrolling down over there, I also see: "What is your favourite proverb? > I'm from the 60s, so: 'Do your own thing.'" My own thing is to live freely in writing.

But I started looking for other occurrences of "to live freely in writing." For a long time — I can't remember when or how long — I kept the motto in the blog banner under my name. That was before that space became the place to stow links to other important stuff, not that anything's more important to me.

Anyway, here's what I found in my search for other occurrences of the motto (which I've boldfaced):

10 years ago today, I started this blog, and I have blogged here every single day, since then.

It's hard to believe I'll ever have another blog milestone as big as this one. Will I blog for another 10 years?

Even if I do blog until I'm 73 years old — which is what that would mean — would I blog every single day? Weekends, holidays, days of illness and surgery... not that I'm expecting any particular troubles, but no one's luck holds out forever. And even if I did, why would the second set of 10 years be more of a milestone than the first?

So this is it. The big milestone of the blog. I've made it to the last time-related goal that matters. It was all, always, done for the sheer intrinsic pleasure of it — to live freely in writing, in real time, daily — even the time-related parts, like noticing the annual anniversary on January 14th, 2 days after my birthday, feeling like it's more important than the birthday.

Time matters, but on a blog, as in life, you live by days, you live in the day.

To arrive at this last significant time-related goal is to be even more free to live freely in writing, to be free of goals. There's no looking ahead, only the scintillating now, the moment of the newest time stamp and the day and whatever happens in it, between sleeps.

January 13, 2014

Are womb transplants controversial?

Because they are not needed to save a life and unlike transplanted hands and faces — which are not life-saving but improve life — are not even permanent. They are installed for the temporary purpose of enabling a woman to become pregnant and to give birth. And the donors are living — relatives of the woman who wants to bear a child.
The transplant operations did not connect the women's uteruses to their fallopian tubes, so they are unable to get pregnant naturally. But all who received a womb have their own ovaries and can make eggs. Before the operation, they had some removed to create embryos through in-vitro fertilization. The embryos were then frozen and doctors plan to transfer them into the new wombs, allowing the women to carry their own biological children.

"Perhaps the most unfortunate moment for presidential authority was a comment by Justice Stephen G. Breyer that modern Senate-White House battles over nominations were a political problem...

"... not a constitutional problem. Senators of both parties have used the Constitution’s recess appointment provisions to their own advantage in their 'political fights,' Breyer said, but noted that he could not find anything in the history of the clause that would 'allow the president to overcome Senate resistance' to nominees."

From the SCOTUSblog write-up of today's oral argument in in National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, about the President's power to make appointments without Senate confirmation.
... U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. The Solicitor General made little headway in arguing that the [Recess Appointments Clause] meant the president to have significant power to make temporary appointments, and that deferring to the Senate would, in effect, destroy that power. He seemed to startle even some of the more liberal judges when he said that, if it was a contest between historical practice and the words of the Constitution, practice should count the most....

Washington lawyer Miguel A. Estrada, speaking for the Senate’s current Republican members, made a vigorous defense of leaving the Senate to decide its own procedures, including when it takes a recess....

At the Off-Screen Café...

... what are you looking at?

We're looking at Mr. Pepper the Yorkie, who is off-screen, in this photo taken on December 12th in Austin, Texas, by John Cohen. We're in Madison now, and another dog is clamoring for attention.

"What is this, trickle-down gender rights?"

Reddit discussion of this post of mine.

She's Jaqueline Bisset and she's perfect. She's an actress.

Now, go to hell and don't come back.

"Catholics in high places of power have the most trouble, I've noticed, practicing the separation of church and state."

"The pugnacious Catholic Justice, Antonin Scalia, is the most aggressive offender on the Court, but not the only one. Of course, we can't know for sure what Sotomayor was thinking..."

From a U.S. News column titled "The Catholic Supreme Court’s War on Women," by Jamie Stiehm.

The first comment over there says: "I'm honestly shocked that someone with such extreme religious prejudice has a job in journalism. This is something straight out of an 1850's Know Nothing pamphlet."

Here's the Wikipedia article on the Know Nothings, which has this intriguing image from 1854 of "Uncle Sam's youngest son, Citizen Know Nothing."

Imagine conceiving of that guy as the idealized American (in contrast to those terrible immigrants). It makes me wonder about our notions of masculinity over the years. This man seems more like the "pajama boy" sort of guy that gets ridiculed by some folks today. Our notions of masculinity today reflect the infusion of vigor from the Catholic immigrants the Know Nothings were so worried about.

Meanwhile, in the gender wars, according to that U.S. News column, Catholics are portrayed as a threat to womanhood, with womanhood understood in terms of bodily autonomy, and pro-choice women hoping both to hold onto the political support they won for the subsidization of female bodily autonomy and to quash the political victories of those who would burden it.

"For the Smiths, like other members of public sector labor unions, working on the Wisconsin side has meant rising personal contributions..."

"... for health insurance and pensions and a union with drastically less negotiating power. For Mr. Fulton, like many business executives, running a company on the Minnesota side has meant bracing for new business taxes and higher income taxes."
Mr. Fulton, a third-generation foundryman, has worked in Minnesota long enough to recall the decision to open the Duluth operation in 1980, a period when life looked much the same on either side of the border, many say.

“Knowing then what we know now, would we even do it in the state of Minnesota anywhere?” said Mr. Fulton, the president of ME Global, which operates the foundry. “I doubt it. We would go to another location. It’s an expensive place to do business.”
From a NYT article titled "Twinned Cities Now Following Different Paths." Duluth is on the Minnesota side of the St. Louis River, and, on the Wisconsin side, the city is Superior.

The marijuana entrepreneurs are pioneers in a legal twilight zone.

"Banking is the most urgent issue facing the legal cannabis industry today. So much money floating around outside the banking system is not safe, and it is not in anyone’s interest. Federal law needs to be harmonized with state laws," says Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association in Washington, D.C., quoted in a NYT article titled "Banks Say No to Marijuana Money, Legal or Not."

But marijuana is not legal, no matter what the states do with their own laws and no matter how many times the NYT says "legal marijuana" (7, in that one article). It's a crime under federal law, and federal law wins. Banks don't want to be accused of aiding and abetting a criminal enterprise, and until the federal law changes, there are going to be entrepreneurs in the marijuana business holding and moving around large packs of cash.
They pay employees with envelopes of cash. They haul Chipotle and Nordstrom bags containing thousands of dollars in $10 and $20 bills to supermarkets to buy money orders. When they are able to open bank accounts — often under false pretenses — many have taken to storing money in Tupperware containers filled with air fresheners to mask the smell of marijuana.
These people are a type of criminal that we're currently — some of us — pretending are not criminals, and they are also targets for the type criminal — robbers — that we easily see as criminals. (How would you like to be a humble sales clerk, walking to your car late at night?)

The marijuana entrepreneurs are pioneers in a legal twilight zone, and it will be interesting to see how they amass power through acquiring the money to lobby and the trappings of respectability by behaving like other businesspersons, operating in the open, paying taxes, complying with the regulations of the state law that we're encouraged to think has "legalized" what they are doing.

Like other business persons, in the effort to make a profit, they accept risk. But unlike other business persons, part of the risk they are taking is in violating the criminal law. This risk — since they are acting openly — creates pressure on the federal government to change the law. But until that risk pans out, they've got a bad problem with all that cash that the banks won't risk handling.

"The Maids Complaint For want of a Dil doul."

To be filed under: Things Meade Found for Me When He Was Searching For Something I Needed But Was Too Afraid of the Internet to Look.

Writing that last post, I had a need to spell the plural of "dildo."

Me: "Is it like in Spanish, -os, or is there an 'e' in there, like potatoes?"

Meade: "You know they have this thing called Google."

Me: "Yes, but I'm afraid of what might pop out at me."

Meade found me the answer to my spelling question, and took the iffy topic in a scholarly direction with a wonderful item from the Magdalene College Pepys collection. Click the image above to enlarge, or read the salacious 17th century text here.
At night when I do go to bed
thinking for to take my rest,
Strange fancies comes in my head
I pray for that which I love best:
For it is a comfort and pleasure doth bring
to women that hath such a pritty fine thing....
The (unlinkable) OED pronounces "dildo" "A word of obscure origin, used in the refrains of ballads," and the earliest example of the word — from 1598 — puts an "e" even in the singular. Shakespeare used the word in the plural in "Winter's Tale" and used the kind of apostrophe people make fun of today: "He has the prettiest Loue-songs for Maids..with such delicate burthens of Dildo's and Fadings."

ADDED: I was wondering about "fadings" and found this key to Shakespeare about that line:
dildo (n.) nonsense refrain in a ballad; also: artificial penis

fading (n.) nonsense refrain in a ballad [with allusion to sexual energy]
Note that in that "Maids Complaint," "Dil doul" is a nonsense refrain: "For a dill doul, dill doul, dill doul doul." And you can see this in the OED examples, as well:
c1650 in Roxburghe Ballads II. 455 She prov'd herself a Duke's daughter, and he but a Squire's son. Sing trang dildo lee.
1656 S. Holland Don Zara i. vi. 57 That Gods may view, With a Dildo-doe, What we bake, and what we brew.
I take it "dildo" rhymed with "view" and "brew."

"Tina Fey and [Amy] Poehler tried hard, and sometimes too hard... their jokes about prosthetic penises fell flat."

Writes Alessandra Stanley about the hosting of the Golden Globes last night. Oddly, Stanley attributes the jokes that fell flat to the actresses' effort "to be like the guys and go blue."

I say oddly, because I didn't watch and I don't know what all these supposedly "blue" jokes were, but the one she referred to — without quoting — was about a topic that doesn't seem particularly like a guy thing. Prosthetic penises? That made me think of some medical devices to assist persons who have undergone penile amputations, then wonder whether  "prosthetic penises" is the way you say "dildos" and "strap-ons" in the NYT.

See, this is the kind of question you're forced to ponder when you don't watch the awards shows and you try to figure out what happened the next morning by reading the NYT.

Googling, I figured out that it was a movie thing. Extra doodads the makeup artists stick on are called "prosthetics." So like Kenneth Branagh getting a rubbery attachment for his chin so he could play Laurence Olivier, Jonah Hill submitted to genital appendagement for "The Wolf of Wall Street." Ah! Here's the text of Amy and Tina's opening routine:
AP The Wolf of Wall Street is a big nominee tonight, and I really loved the film, but some of it was too graphic. If I wanted to see Jonah Hill masturbate at a pool party, I’d go to one of Jonah Hill’s pool parties

TF Jonah Hill actually used a prosthetic penis in The Wolf of Wall Street, so you have that to look forward to the next time you eat at Planet Hollywood.
I think I get that joke, the joke that the NYT TV writer says fell flat. Correct me if I'm wrong. The idea is that a "prosthetic" really is a  medical devices for someone who has had an amputation, so if Jonah Hill wore a prosthetic penis, his real penis must have been lopped off somehow, and also, it's the mystery meat in the food at a local Hollywood restaurant.

There's more:
AP A number of big movies used prosthetic genitals this year. Blue is the Warmest Colour, The Wolf of Wall Street, Saving Mr. Banks. A lot of people don’t know that, Tom Hanks was wearing one the whole time. He’s wearing one right now – he’s really enjoying it.
So were AP and TF being like the guys? It's inconceivable that a male host on an awards show would single out an actress in the audience and talk about her genitals. If he did, critics would savage him. They wouldn't merely opine that the joke "fell flat." AP and TF were not acting like guys, they were exercising female privilege.

Drinking alcohol does not — as you were told for your own good — kill brain cells.

Scientists "meticulously counted neurons in matched samples of non-alcoholics and alcoholics" and found "no real difference in the density or overall number of neurons between the two groups."
[E]ven alcoholics who are continually taking in unhealthy amounts of alcohol aren't going to see brain cells die because of their drinking problem.
Copious drinking obviously has some harmful effects, but moderate drinking has benefits — including preserving cognition as a person ages — so look at the actual facts and make your own decisions.

And shame on those who make stuff up or outright lie because they're so concerned that we can't enjoy life's pleasures in moderation that they think it's best to scare us into doing nothing at all.

January 12, 2014

What's good for women is what's good for men.

Meme alert!

1. In today's NYT, an opinion column by Stephanie Coontz: "How Can We Help Men? By Helping Women."
Social and economic policies constructed around the male breadwinner model have always disadvantaged women. But today they are dragging down millions of men as well. Paradoxically, putting gender equity issues at the center of social planning would now be in the interests of most men....

Putting women’s traditional needs at the center of social planning is not reverse sexism. It’s the best way to reverse the increasing economic vulnerability of men and women alike.
2. On "Meet the Press" today, David Gregory interviewing Maria Shriver about the current state of the war on poverty, which began in the Lyndon Johnson administration, with Shriver's father in charge. (At one point Shriver says: "Daddy ran the war on poverty.") Anyway, Shriver's done some new report, which Gregory calls "so interesting." There's much discussion of the centrality of the concerns of women, Gregory declares the "role of men" to be "interesting." Shriver says:
Men are totally a part of this conversation in terms of how they raise their daughters, in terms of how they support their wives and their partners. And what's good for women, at the center of the economy, is also good for men. Men need flexible hours. Men need sick days, because they're going to be caring for parents, as well. Men need all of the things that these women need. These are smart family policies that we're talking about in this report.
A bit later, Shriver again pairs the idea that women are "the center of the economy" with the assertion that what's good for women is good for men:
I think women are at the center of our country. They're at the center, as I said, in electing our political leaders. They're at the center of the economy. They're in the center of the family. And when women do well, men do well, and the nation does well. And when women do well, they don't just support other women doing well, but we support our sons and our daughters.