March 29, 2014



UPDATE: Congratulations to the Badgers. Final 4!!! Meade and I stepped outside onto our deck, and we could hear the roaring cheers from down toward campus. Great joy in Madison tonight.

AND: An hour after the game has ended, we still hear yelling and horn honking, and we are inside with the windows shut.

Goop and poop.

"He was telling me about his divorce, but he didn’t call it a divorce. He called it a conscious uncoupling. When I heard it I just gasped. I loved the term and it so named my own experience with how I uncoupled from my husband that I asked him if I could use it," said Katherine Woodward Thomas, creator of the conscious uncoupling workshop.

At least she loves something, even if it's only terminology and not that husband. What's so damned "conscious" about it? We're told it "involves breathing exercises and a lot of self-reflection to 'break up victimization... You want to clear the residue. (Clearing out the goop, perhaps.)" The website where Gwyneth Paltrow announced her "conscious uncoupling" is called Goop.

Oh, that reminds me, Meade has returned from his dog-poop-cleanup enterprise, and he reports that he collected 7 buckets of dog shit.

ME: "How big were the buckets?"

At the Raptor's Nest Café...

... alight...

... on the road to Shambhala.

"I will not sleep with you until you stop talking about bacon."

"I'd never sleep with a woman who thinks talking about how much they love bacon is cool or funny."
Seriously, it's been at least 7-8 years of this bacon obsession. Do we need bacon underwear? Bacon peglegs? Bacon wrapped tampons? So what, bacon tastes good. So does chicken fried steak. You don't see hipsters running around with ironic chicken fried steak shirts. If you're going to be a mindless follower, fine. But don't expect to bed down with me....

Obama and the Pope.

Questions asked by reporters about Obama's meeting with Pope Francis and the closest approximation of an answer received from Obama:

The first questioner asks 3 questions, which I'm paraphrasing: 1. Did they talk about the Obamacare and the requirement of birth control coverage? 2. Did they talk about gay rights? and 3. Did they talk about Putin? 

Obama utters about 500 nonresponsive words: He says that they spent most of the time talking about income inequality and world peace, that "the theme that stitched our conversation... was... empathy," and that he explained American immigration reform to the Pope who Obama thinks must be "very mindful of the plight of so many immigrants" because the Pope "came from Latin America."

"You can wish me a 'Happy Poop Day.'"

Says Meade 5 minutes after I ask him if it's okay if I blog him a happy birthday.

Context: Meade will be celebrating his 60th birthday by participating in the volunteer spring clean-up at a Dane County dog park (where he frequently takes our neighbors' Labrador Retriever, up after whom he always picks).

How are you celebrating this next blessed day of human existence?

Does your celebration include poop? Poop beyond your own personal bodily production? Poop beyond your own family members, including your own pets? Poop beyond the pets of your neighbors that you've undertaken to squire around the county.

Whether it's your birthday or not — and if it's your birthday, whether you're hitting a big landmark like 60 or not — please take a moment to notice the good and — to increase the good and to magnify your own goodness — to take away some of the bad, even the bad that plopped from somebody else's dog that was not even the somebody else's dog that you took to the park.

And by dog, I mean real dogs and metaphorical dogs, on this beautiful last Saturday in March.

A toast to the formidable Meade:

My old man.

Oh, New Yorker! How far you have fallen! Your correction of a supposed "editing error" itself contains an egregious error.

"Due to an editing error, some words were omitted from one of Paul Verrilli’s quotes. They have been restored," The New Yorker appended to its Jeffrey Toobin write-up of the Supreme Court oral argument in the Hobby Lobby case — after I blogged about how embarrassing it was.

I preserved an image of it, lest it evanesce:

I included that "Get the best of The New Yorker" part, because I truly love the best of The New Yorker, and I have loved The New Yorker since long before the current editors got their hands on it, since the days when it had a famous obsession with fact-checking and meticulous editing.

Here, in an article that correctly calls Verrilli Donald Verrilli (in a sentence that I'd identified as "the stupidest sentence," the editors — making a correction to try to minimize Toobin's embarrassment — managed to swap in "Paul" as Verrilli's first name. It's as though they want to trash the magazine's reputation.

For a refresher on The New Yorker's reputation for fact-checking, here's an article by Peter Canby (from 2012) in The Columbia Journalism Review titled "Fact-Checking at The New Yorker." Excerpt:

March 28, 2014

The New Yorker's lame effort at un-embarrassing Jeffrey Toobin.

Yesterday, I trashed Jeffrey Toobin's write-up of the oral argument in the Hobby Lobby case. I wrote:
The stupidest sentence in the article is this:
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who was defending the law, invested heavily in the argument that for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby simply do not have rights to religious expression under the First Amendment.
No, he didn't! Quite aside from the fact that he got nowhere with the argument that for-profit corporations should be treated differently from other corporations, the rights in question were not under the First Amendment. They came from a federal statute called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Toobin never mentions in his article!
Today, there's a notation at the bottom of the article that says: "Due to an editing error, some words were omitted from one of Paul Verrilli’s quotes. They have been restored." [ADDED: The New Yorker's correction gets Verrilli's first name wrong, commenter mccullough catches.]

What's "restored" is a reference to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, exactly the omission I'd pointed out. In the text of the article, the sentence after the sentence I called the stupidest now reads:
“It seems to me that it would be such a vast expansion of what Congress must—could have thought it was doing, in 1993, when it enacted R.F.R.A.—to say that for-profit corporations can make claims for religious exemptions to any laws of general application that they want to challenge,” he said, referring to a law on religious expression that Hobby Lobby had cited. 
Why would that quote have fit after the "stupidest sentence," the one that refers to "rights to religious expression under the First Amendment"? RFRA is not the First Amendment. It's a statute.

And that last clause, calling RFRA "a law on religious expression" seems like a desperate attempt to connect the quote to the "stupidest sentence." RFRA was an effort to undo a Supreme Court decision — Employment Division v. Smith — which was not about religious expression but "religiously motivated conduct." The opinion in Smith explicitly distinguished religious expression from religiously motivated conduct when it narrowed the interpretation of the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause — which is what motivated Congress to retaliate with RFRA.

So I am not buying that this was "an editing error" or that something that was originally in Toobin's text got "restored."

Toobin degraded the reputation of The New Yorker, which apparently no longer has an editing process capable of catching egregious mistakes in characterizing what is in a transcript that is right there to be seen by anyone with access to the web. The New Yorker used to seek out hard-to-find sources in what was a famous fact-checking process. We the readers trusted that. Here, it was easy to do one's own checking, and the error was beyond obvious.

Why is Toobin writing for The New Yorker? The only answer that comes to me is that the magazine is pandering to its readers, and I am insulted by the assumption that this is what we want. 

UPDATE: More on the Donald/Paul screw up here

"I was about to put on some lipstick..."

One of many vintage comics images at the entrancing blog Comically Vintage.

"Too many girls have been seduced by the feminist lie that women over 30 are remotely do-able."

"The hard truth is that month after month, your precious eggs are jumping out of your vagina like rats off a sinking ship."

Kristen Schaal is hilarious in this "Daily Show" segment that makes fun of the "Marry Smart" author Susan Patton.

You remember Susan Patton: We've been talking about her in this morning's post "If you associate 'too closely with a man who is significantly below your intellectual level, you will eventually get stupid juice all over you.'"

And you remember Kristen Schaal: She's the band's truest and only fan on "Flight of the Conchords." Or maybe you know her as Hazel Wassername on "30 Rock."

"I will put into this race what I can, but I can't self-fund it," said Mary Burke.

"I'm not a Ron Johnson or a Herb Kohl. I don't have that type of wealth."

She only has the type of wealth that makes Wisconsin Democrats allow her to waltz into the nomination because they think she can self-fund it and to decline to give her any money because they were hoping she'd self-fund and because she's not the candidate they'd have picked if they were looking at criteria other than ability to self-fund.

Who will hear the plaint of the rich-but-not-that-rich politician?

"There is a whole celebrity political class in Washington, D.C., today that I think is doing a huge disservice to the functionality of our national security..."

"... who are using it to foment their isolationalist tendencies — and I think it is dangerous, really dangerous."

Said Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, announcing that he will not run for reelection (and will move into radio).

The University of Iowa is too cool to allow "Girls" to film on campus.

They don't want to be disrupted.

(The Lena Dunham character on the show (Hannah) got into the Iowa writing program, which the real-life Lena Dunham attended.)

The linked article has quotes from Josh Schamberger, director of Iowa City/Coralville Area Conventions & Visitors Bureau:
"Gosh, can you imagine the economic impact of having HBO film crews staying in hotel rooms and bringing a greater awareness of Iowa as the best of the best, especially to a younger audience? You can’t buy that sort of exposure."

“It’s unlike any place in the country... I think it would be cool to see the Iowa City campus and the ped mall” on the show.
The ped mall! Seriously! Iowa! The opportunity you are missing! America could witness the ped mall. I could attain greater awareness of Iowa. Schamberger seems like some guy character on the show — another one of the guys who get dirty looks from Hannah.

ADDED: I think the school made the right decision. They have this high-prestige writing program, and they can't subordinate the students' experience to the interests of the show. They owe it to their students not to succumb to the glamour and mystique of HBO. The students think very highly of themselves and the honor they have attending the Iowa Writer's Program. What would they think — what would they write — if their short time in the program were handed over to a TV show? Maybe some would squee. Others would — and should — feel contempt and hostility. This is not the program that brought me to Iowa. You sold out to pop culture. 

What's really so hard about being Gwyneth Paltrow is that sometimes "they're like 'We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks.'"

She'd like you to know that mothers who work in an office have it easier "because it’s routine and, you know, you can do all the stuff in the morning and you come home in the evening."

Yeah, but what about me? With me, they were like We need you to go to Wisconsin for the rest of your life.

Judge rejects ABC's motion to dismiss, which included the contention that the world "slime" is not defamatory when referring to beef.

The product it called "pink slime" is "much like all ground beef... slimy,” ABC argued.... hilariously.

The commenters at the link (to NRO) mention "Ghostbusters"...

... and "Nickelodeon"...

But when I hear "slime," I go right to my copy of Jean-Paul Sartre's "Being and Nothingness":
The For-Itself is suddenly compromised. I open my hands, I want to let go of the slimy, and it sticks to me, it draws me, it sucks at me. Its mode of being is neither the reassuring inertia of the solid nor a dynamism like that in water which is exhausted in fleeing from me. It is a soft, yielding action, a moist and feminine sucking…. Slime is the revenge of the in-itself. A sickly-sweet, feminine revenge which will be symbolized on another level by the quality “sugary.” … A sugary-sliminess is the ideal of the slimy; it symbolizes the sugary death of the For-itself (like that of the wasp which sinks into the jam and drowns in it)… But at the same time the slimy is myself, by the very fact that I outline an appropriation of the slimy substance. That sucking of the slimy which I feel on my hands outlines a kind of continuity of the slimy substance in myself. These long, soft strings of substance which fall from me to the slimy body (when, for example, I plunge my hand into it and then pull it out again) symbolize a rolling off of myself in the slime… [Slime] transcends all distinctions betwen psychic and physical, between the brute existent and the meanings of the world; it is a possible meaning of being. The first experience which the infant can have with the slimy enriches him psychologically and morally; he will not need to reach adulthood to discover the kind of sticky baseness which we figuratively name “slimy”; it is there near him in the very sliminess of honey or of glue.
He wrote that while eating a cheeseburger.

Advanced comedy problem: make fun of one racially insensitive thing by saying something else that is racially insensitive.

Good luck! This is virtually impossible, unless you don't mind if a lot of the racially sensitive people get mad at you. You're promoting racial sensitivity — you've made that your issue — so how can you pull off your imitation insensitivity sensitively?

Stephen Colbert is a comedy professional, and he got in trouble and had to distance himself from a Twitter feed that goes out under his name but is really PR from the network Comedy Central.

All the PR hack was doing was quoting something Colbert — in his right-wing jackass character — said on his show:
"I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever."
That's hilarious in the context of the announcement, by Daniel Snyder, owner of a football team with a name that many people find offensive, that he's creating the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.

Comedy is hard. I guess Colbert did well enough on the show itself, but taking the biggest laugh line and isolating it in a tweet exposed him. Most people who read that Twitter feed probably get it, so it works to drive traffic to the show's website, where you can watch the clip. But it's also easy pickings for those who have their own agenda.

Often it's your enemies who take your statements out of context, but with Twitter, you do it to yourself.

Or your network — getting followers for its promos by looking like you — does it to you.

The network really only wants the numbers, and if racists and racially insensitive assholes get a kick out of your insensitive asshole character, does Comedy Central care?

If you associate "too closely with a man who is significantly below your intellectual level, you will eventually get stupid juice all over you."

Writes Susan Patton, in "Marry Smart," and NY Post columnist Naomi Schaefer Riley says "Ewwww."

But "Ewwww" constitutes laughing at what Patton obviously intends as a joke, and Riley doesn't disagree with the proposition that women want to pair with men who are at least not significantly below their intellectual level, which is just not a startling assertion at all. The real issue is whether women had better find their life mate while they are in college — and thus in close contact with lots of single men who are on their level — or whether they can risk putting off mate-finding until later in life. That's a serious question, and nothing about squicking over juice that comes out of males is going to change the odds about where women and men are going to find someone they can live with on a permanent basis.

At the bottom of her column, Riley switches over to another woman who has also written a book titled "Marry Smart," Christine Whelan, a professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin. Riley chooses to mention only an older book by Whelan with a less Patton-style title, "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women." At this point, Riley is refuting something Patton might be saying: that it's easier for a man to find a mate later in life, because men are willing to to marry women who are significantly below their intellectual level. Riley says that Whelan "analyzed Census data" and found that "educated men may be just as embarrassed to have a bimbo on their arms as women are to have a 'himbo.'"

So... suddenly it's about embarrassment? And how do you detect embarrassment in census data?

Shame on NBCUniversal! It's shutting down Television Without Pity and even making all its old content unavailable to the public.

Incredible! I've been reading Television Without Pity since... I think as long as there's been the web. Since long before I started blogging (in 2004). Before I even owned a laptop, before there was WiFi, I used to print out pages of TWoP recaps to have something with me to read when I went out walking and stopped in a café. And don't tell me that sentence makes it look like I read while walking. I did read while walking in those days before iPods and digital audiobooks. I read Television Without Pity! What was the point of watching a show like, say, "American Idol" if you weren't going to laugh at it reading Television Without Pity?

Is there any NBC show that I've watched in the last 15 years? "Seinfeld" ended 16 years ago, so maybe not. Damn them! I guess I didn't need TWoP to watch NBC because even with TWoP, it wasn't worth watching.

Why is NBC destroying this internet treasure?

The sassy TWoP TV review and recap site — its motto is “Spare the snark, spoil the networks” — was purchased by NBCU’s Bravo cable unit in 2007. Both were founded in the Web 1.0 era.
I guess the network decided it wanted to spoil itself. It wants to be spoiled. Or it already was spoiled and not even snark could save it. Damn them!
The closing impacts 64 employees at the women-focused DailyCandy and three at TWoP....
It only took 3 employees to run TWoP?! You can't string along 3 employees? (As for DailyCandy, sorry, I don't follow it, despite being a woman, or perhaps because I am the kind of woman who doesn't want my reading woman-focused).
The reason for the closing down was pretty basic: Despite creating laudable sites, there was still not enough traffic and, therefore, a difficulty monetizing the properties, especially in the wake of increased competition since the pair were first founded.
You bought it, it was what it was, so perfectly what it was that you couldn't change it, so you killed it, you fuckers. Great value had been created, you cast your greedy eyes upon it, you thought you could leverage that value, and all you did was destroy it.

Why did NBC buy it, to ruin it? Is it like the Koch Brothers buying the NYT, keeping it going for 7 years, then liquidating the whole operation? Except NBC — and Universal, it's apparently one atrocious entity — is a media operation, reaching out to us, wanting our eyes, ears, and minds. NBCUniversal needs our love or at least our tolerance. I absolutely hate them for this.

Here's how the message is delivered over at Television Without Pity:

Here's the discussion at Throwing Things, where I learned the news. The general opinion seems to be that NBC is only closing what it had already ruined, and "classic Television Without Pity" was already dead. Typical comment:
I can't remember the last time I visited Zombie TWoP. But the quality of the writing and the crazy depth and detail of each recap on OG TWoP was phenometastic.

I'd love to get a scraped archive of the recaps (without having to click through each link.)
Once they had a Project Runway recapper who didn't know what a bias cut was, I was gone, but man, I used to spend days deep in the forums debating Veronica Mars, and it was great for catching up on missed shows or shows you started late or when you wanted to read a dissertation on a "Battlestar Galactica" episode. So, yes, not surprised, but sad.

March 27, 2014

At the Mountain Sun Café...

... you can talk about anything you want (including the Badgers advancing to the Elite 8).

"I looked out the window to see why it got so dark all of a sudden, and they were over 12-feet high, blocking my front and back doors."

"We couldn't get out."

The scourge of... tumbleweeds!

Jeffrey Toobin's embarrassingly bad write-up of the Hobby Lobby oral argument in The New Yorker.

Going over to The New Yorker website to find the important 1982 article "The Fate of the Earth" — its author, Jonathan Schell just died — I accidentally noticed, in the "Most Popular" list in the sidebar, that Jeffrey Toobin article, idiotically titled "Women Justices Rock the Hobby Lobby Argument," about which I thought I'd overcome my feeling that I needed to blog. But the contrast between "The Fate of the Earth" and what Toobin gets away with dropping onto The New Yorker website has got me fired up again.

The stupidest sentence in the article is this:
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who was defending the law, invested heavily in the argument that for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby simply do not have rights to religious expression under the First Amendment.
No, he didn't! Quite aside from the fact that he got nowhere with the argument that for-profit corporations should be treated differently from other corporations, the rights in question were not under the First Amendment. They came from a federal statute called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Toobin never mentions in his article!

"One cannot credibly deter a first strike with a second strike whose raison d’etre dissolves the moment the first strike arrives."

Wrote Jonathan Schell in "The Fate of the Earth," which caught everyone's attention when it was published in The New Yorker in 1982.

Schell died 2 days ago, at the age of 70.

"In the profane world of hardcore rap, verisimilitude is prized..."

"And law enforcement took note...."
[Alan] Jackson, who investigated gangs as a prosecutor, said such lyrics can be useful in building a case, because the search for status — attaining it, crowing about it, expanding it — is integral to gang life. “If you listened to the songs,” he said, “you would literally hear gang members confessing to crimes they had committed previously and were disseminating it within the neighborhood.”...

Critics like Andrea L. Dennis, an associate professor of law at the University of Georgia, say law enforcement ignores the fact that rappers do not necessarily live the lives they sing about.
People often say things that aren't true. The issue on any given statement — whether in the form of a rap lyric or something else — is whether it has enough probative value compared to how unfairly prejudicial it is. If the prosecutor is mostly trying to make the defendant seem to be a disreputable person, that's quite different from, say, lyrics with details about the crime charged.

Nate Silver does a statistical analysis of Paul Krugman not liking him anymore.

There's something so inanely schoolboy about all this.

That's how it feels to me intuitively. I've got no numbers to back that up.

"If humans were not so impressed by size alone... they would consider an ant more wonderful than a rhinoceros."

"The insects are in control and we’re not...."

When is an extension not an extension?

When you just testified that you were not going to give another extension.

Okay. I hope you're doing well on this morning's quiz. Here's question 2: When can the administration exceed statutory deadlines without needing to procure statutory authority? I'll make this one multiple choice (with all the quotes taken from Charles Krauthammer's effort at answering the question):
a. When "the administration decides that morning" that's "how it wants the law to read."

b. When it's "sort of comical" or "cynicism raised to the level of comedy."

c. When the administration is dealing with "one of the longest laws in American history, thousands of pages," so that no one can really be expected to "refer[] to section 706-b, or whatever," so "none of [the words] really matter."

d. When they "were lying when they said... the deadline wouldn't change" and "Everyone knew they were lying."

e. When "nobody really cares" about the statutory text or the fact that it's been lied about.

f. When you actually don't want any deadline, because you want an endless period of open enrollment, because you want to let people wait until they have a big medical expense before they buy insurance, because that's the way to "send all the companies into bankruptcy."

g. All of the above.

h. All of the above except f.

"Do I have the best credentials? Probably not. ‘Cause, you know, whatever."

So said Scott Brown, who — look at him, people! — puts the face in self-effacement. What can he do but admit to the short-comings of his residency in New Hampshire, which he'd like to represent in the U.S. Senate? But no other Republican was going to oust the Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, so if New Hampshirites want to contribute to tipping the Senate to a GOP majority, they'll have to accept a man with a lot of Massachusetts in him.

Brown moved to New Hampshire last December, but he moved into what had been their vacation house (since 1993). And he was born in New Hampshire, unlike Shaheen, who was born in Missouri, which makes it possible for Brown to say — jokingly? — “Sen. Shaheen is not from here, but apparently it’s a problem with me?” Shaheen has been a New Hampshire resident since 1973.

Massachusetts is closer to NH than Missouri is, but in the closeness there's "a complicated relationship":
They share a state line, professional sports teams and a major media market, but there are traces of resentment among some New Hampshire natives. Thousands of Massachusetts residents moved into New Hampshire in recent years, drawn by lower taxes and cheaper real estate. The migration helped give Democrats a slight voter registration advantage, although the state is considered far more balanced politically than solidly Democratic Massachusetts.
How does that cut for Scott Brown? He comes from Massachusetts, but he's a Republican, and other migrants from Massachusetts have tipped New Hampshire toward Democrats. Resentment toward Democrats from Massachusetts should translate into a vote for Brown, if the longtime New Hampshirites resist the liberalism of the newcomers. And Brown can also try to win the votes of those transplanted Massachusettans, who could see him as their guy.
Brown chuckled when 39-year-old Christine Kalinowski told him she was from “Southie,” or South Boston. She said she moved to New Hampshire just a few months ago, like him.

“I voted for him before,” she said, “and I’d definitely vote for him again.”
There's that dynamic. I suspect the newer residents from Massachusetts think they are the cool kids, and they will like seeing themselves in the gorgeous face of Mr. Brown.

I started thinking about Brown this morning because I was reading a Gail Collins column in the NYT called "The Season of the Twitch," referring to this being the "the season where center stage goes to whoever screws up the most" (and the Donovan song title). Brown's supposed screw up was that quote I put in the post title. Collins calls attention to that, I think, to dilute a truly damaging screw up by a Democrat, Bruce Braley, who was on track to win the Senate race in Iowa, until he got caught on video telling "a bunch of trial lawyers at a Texas fund-raiser that if they didn’t contribute to his campaign, Republicans might take control of the Senate and there would be 'a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school' running the Judiciary Committee."

Having begun with Brown and buried Braley in paragraph 12, Collins scampers back to the topic of Brown, declaring "New Hampshire’s still my favorite." She doesn't explain why, so I'm going to assume it's because it's a Republican screw up. Anyway, thanks to Collins for drawing my attention to this great — and totally not a screw up — ad by Joni Ernst, a Republican who's running for the Senate in Iowa, stating that she "grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm":

Ernst and Braley are running for the seat that Tom Harkin is vacating. Grassley is the other Iowa Senator. Braley attacked him as part of an argument for maintaining Democratic control of the Senate. Grassley is 80 years old and has served in Congress since 1975. He does have a family farm, operated by his son. His biography also shows him to have worked as a sheet metal shearer/assembly line worker for more than 10 years, and he has "PhD work" in political science. There's no reason to disparage Grassley for being a farmer. I see more reason to question whether he should be listing his occupation as "farmer," and certainly he deserves attack for hanging around Congress too long. But Grassley is not up for reelection this year. Braley is trying to say it's ridiculous for this man to chair the Judiciary Committee. The question for voters on this score is whether it's less ridiculous than having Patrick Leahy chairing the committee, which is what you get with a Democratic majority. Leahy is only 73, but like Grassley, he's been camped out in Congress since 1975.

Whatever. To sum up: Scott Brown is ultra-handsome, and Joni Ernst is an out-and-proud castrating woman.

Collectors "are in their closets crying" because immensely valuable collections are about to become worthless.

Worthless in the sense of unsellable, but the possessors of ivory-inlaid walking sticks/guns and pianos with ivory keys and ivory-topped violin bows can still admire, caress, and use their objects.

The new regulations from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service are, of course, intended to wreck the demand for new ivory and thereby protect the elephants. The NYT has an op-ed titled "The Wrong Way to Protect Elephants," which doesn't really offer much hope of finding a right way:
We should encourage China, where much of the poached ivory ends up, to start a detailed public education campaign that underscores the damage done to elephant populations by the illegal trade in ivory. We also need more aggressive enforcement of anti-poaching efforts in Africa. And we should figure out a way to manage the trade in raw ivory to protect elephants. For instance, several years ago, ivory stockpiles owned by several African countries were sold in a series of United Nations-approved auctions in an effort to undercut illegal ivory trafficking. The proceeds went to elephant conservation efforts. This is a better approach than destroying these stockpiles, as the United States did last fall to six tons of ivory.
Here's a comment at the second link:

March 26, 2014

"Zero Population Growth."

A building in Boulder that I photographed because it was so crushingly sad looking. I don't know why it says "Zero Population Growth," but if the intention is to promote the concept, it's doing the opposite of working.

The Supreme Court backs away from the concept of "prudential" standing.

I'm reading the new case Lexmark International v. Static Control Components, a seemingly very boring case about toner cartridges. This is a unanimous opinion that's mostly about false or misleading conduct under the Lanham Act, which I'm not going to bother you about. I just want to point to the material about standing, which is of interest to those of us who follow constitutional law and federal courts.

If you are still reading, you probably know that there is a constitutional level to standing doctrine, which is very well articulated in the cases of the last 40 years. As the new case puts it:
From Article III’s limitation of the judicial power to resolving “Cases” and “Controversies,” and the separation-of-powers principles underlying that limitation, we have deduced a set of requirements that together make up the “irreducible constitutional minimum of standing.” Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U. S. 555, 560 (1992) . The plaintiff must have suffered or be imminently threatened with a concrete and particularized “injury in fact” that is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant and likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision….
Then there's also what's referred to as "prudential," supposedly the sub-constitutional level of doctrine. This is much less well articulated and the new case — stressing the federal courts' "virtually unflagging" obligation to decide cases within their jurisdiction — backs away from the concept:

In the Wisconsin governor race: "Marquette poll shows Walker up on Burke 48%-41%."

In January, Walker was up 47% to 41%. Back in October he was only up 47% to 45% advantage. 54% said the state was headed in the right direction.
Only 19% of people had a favorable view of Burke while 22% had an unfavorable view. Fifty-nine percent of those polled were unable to rate Burke, down from 70% in January.

Forty-nine percent viewed Walker favorably compared to 47% who had an unfavorable view of the governor.
ADDED: I've undisplayed the entire comments thread here because of a problem commenter, believed  by some to be a sockpuppet, all the many commenters who engaged with her/him, and the haphazard self-deletions that followed. Sorry to take this harsh remedy, but I did not see the problem until things were far gone.

An 81-year-old man and his 69-year-old wife were sitting side by side when the mudslide hit.

When McPherson woke up, he was still sitting upright in his heavy wooden chair. But their house in a rural enclave about an hour's drive north from Seattle had been pushed 150 yards.
His chair was crushed around him. A ceiling beam lay across his lap. And he was almost completely encased in mud, so cold that he was beyond shivering. All he could move was his right arm....

The chair saved McPherson in more ways than one. Its arms, tall and strong, kept falling debris from breaking his legs. And when the chair shattered, it provided him with a sharp stick that he used to dig through the thick, cold mud.

"Before he heard people coming, he was able to dig a hole and see the sky," said Kate McPherson, 38. "The whole time, he was calling for my mom, who was right next to him, but she never responded. He's physically doing pretty good... But he lost the love of his life. They were married 46 years...."

"Obama Administration Suffers A Drubbing In Hobby Lobby Arguments."

That's the headline at Forbes, reminding me to get back to the transcript, which I half read yesterday. Here's my post, which covers the argument for Hobby Lobby by Paul Clement and ends without getting to Solicitor General Donald Verrilli's argument against the religious exemption the company seeks.

Verrilli begins ponderously and the Chief Justice scampers right in to trip him up:

Dramatic fire rescue.


This happened in Houston yesterday.

The 5 dumbest sentences in the WaPo article "What celebrity divorces like Gwyneth Paltrow’s tell us about ‘having it all.'"

1. "Kim Kardashian’s pre-Kanye West marriage to NBC player Kris Humphries, to whom she became engaged seven months after they started dating, and was married to for 72 days before filing for divorce, is a perfect example." NBC player Kris Humphries, eh? These journalists think awfully highly of themselves. (Yes, I know, I'm laughing at a typo, and I think typo humor is dumb, but... whatever... this is a post about dumb.)

2. "And perhaps most important for the purposes of our imaginings, Poehler and Arnett seemed equally fun – the sort of couple you’d want to have to dinner." I'm just enjoying the lazy locution, leaving in place the alternative meaning of cannibalism.

3. "The tide of Gwynethfreude that is breaking over the internet is particularly tsunami-like because, since founding her newsletter Goop in 2008, part of Paltrow’s business has been telling other women how to live glamorous and complete lives." Schadenfreude is the pleasure we feel when bad things happen to other people. It's a compound word in which the "freude" part means joy. The "schaden" part means harm. The coined word Gwynethfreude literally means Gwyneth joy, and the part about something bad happening to Gwyneth is missing. Also there's an effort at keeping the metaphor unmixed by sticking to water with "tide" and "tsunami" and "breaking over," but why try so hard if you're only going to fail? Tides don't break and tsunamis aren't tides.

4. "And maybe none of us can have it all." The crushingly pedestrian parting shot. (Mixed metaphor intended.)

5. "Paltrow used the word of her split to promote an idea called 'conscious uncoupling,' transitioning smoothly from married-lady guru to the woman who is headed for a better divorce than the rest of us." Nothing especially wrong with that as a sentence. I just wanted to show you the phrase "conscious uncoupling" that everyone's talking about on the occasion of Gwyneth's divorce.

There's "much more to this story" of a little girl whose Christian school sent home a letter that said something about her failure to look and act feminine...

... but the school can't talk about it because it has an obligation to protect the child's privacy. Meanwhile, the girl's grandparents have gone to the press, presenting the story in a way that makes it viral: The school seems backward and mean, and the grandparents just want to let Sunnie be Sunnie.

I've watched the video and wonder if the problem is more centered on a dress code that applies to everyone. Are girls required to wear skirts? If girls are allowed to wear pants, are both girls and boys forbidden to wear the kind of oversized shorts and T-shirts that we see Sunnie wearing in the video?

The one-sidedness of the reporting really bothers me. Note that the girl was not kicked out of the school, but only advised to adapt to the school in some ways. It's a private school, so she's free to go somewhere else. It's not terrible for there to be a private school that maintains gender distinctions in dress and some kinds of behavior. I'm thinking about teaching some traditional etiquette — like boys opening doors for girls and boys asking girls to dance — and having girls' sports different from boys' sports.

I take it the letter was written in a diplomatic style, stressing the religious beliefs that make this school different from other schools and worth choosing. It's interesting that the girl's I've-gotta-be-me claim militates against the school's determination to do things its way and to offer a distinctive option to all the other children whose parents and guardians may specifically want a refuge from gender neutrality, a place where boys are boys and girls are girls.

The girl's grandparents have reacted to the letter by deciding she belongs somewhere else, and there is another place for her. But they've also chosen to open this little girl up to the hungry hungry media, and she — and probably they — have no idea where that's going to go and how that is going to feel. It is no longer possible for little Sunnie to just be herself. Now, she's Sunnie the media icon, Sunnie the boyish girl who proves fundies are meanies.

And all the school can say is: We respect the privacy of the child. At the very least, they are right about that.

"We gave Palmer our hard-earned cash to help start what we thought was the beginning of a VR revolution by a small intensely-focused group of visionaries and engineers."

"Having them sell out to Facebook, which is widely seen as the embodiment of all that is wrong with the new digital economy, is truly heart-breaking."

This is about Facebook, virtual reality goggles, and the sense of entitlement felt by folks who fork over money on Kickstarter.

Heart-breaking? Everything's heart-breaking these days. How are people still living with such fragile hearts? You gave somebody money to try to make something, which he did, and then he cashed in, and you can't say "what the fuck" loud enough and your heart is broken? Maybe you've been spending way too much time inside virtual realities. Get back to real reality and recalibrate your expectations and emotions.

March 25, 2014

At the Tiny Rectangle Café...

... you can see right through.

Time to stop eating bats.

Too much ebola.

"The Way You Hold Your Wine Glass Shows..."

... presumably that you are a "normal human being" — #14 — like me.

Jimmy Carter has the sads.

Obama never calls him. Both Bushes called him. Clinton called him. Reagan called him...

The oral argument in the Hobby Lobby religious freedom and contraception case.

SCOTUSblog and The Wall Street Journal have some detail to their coverage, but I'm going to read the transcript (PDF).

First, Justices Sotomayor and Kagan double-team lawyer Paul Clement, pressuring him about all the various medical treatments — in addition to the contraceptives at issue in this case — that might require individual analysis about whether there is a substantial burden on religion and, if so, whether the government needs to impose it to serve a compelling interest.

Clement says that "nothing could be clearer" than that this is exactly the approach Congress opted to require when it passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

He's right about that! You may think this individualized analysis is clumsy and hard to believe, but Congress passed RFRA, and that is what it says. Kagan and Sotomayor are making arguments that would have been appropriate in Congress, but here, in the Court, to my ear, it only underscores that the courts are stuck with a statute that forces them to do the kind of detailed religious exemptions work that they had interpreted out of the Free Exercise Clause in the Smith case which Congress trumped with RFRA.

Justice Ginsburg says:

Colorado lawyers can give legal advice to marijuana businesses says the Colorado Supreme Court...

... interpreting the state’s ethics rules.

But the court refrained from answering the question whether lawyers could use marijuana without facing discipline under the rules.

Obviously, marijuana — including possession of any amount — is still a crime under federal law, so the legal advice Colorado lawyers give has got to include the advice about federal law. Selling marijuana is a felony, carrying very high penalties, so it amazes me to see businesses openly stocked with massive amounts of marijuana.

Here's a photo I took last week in Boulder:

That's sign for a medical marijuana shop. It was interesting to see that many existing medical marijuana outlets are avoiding expanding into the now-permitted recreational business. Meade talked to some shopkeepers, and it seems that the clientele and shopkeepers at the medical places like the existing ambiance and don't want to mix with the recreational crowd. They like the medical vibe.

"Obama Trolls Tea Party With Bumper Sticker"/"Scalia's Past Haunts Him On Birth Control."

2 teasers from the top of the front page at Talking Points Memo:

Both go to articles written by Sahil Kapur, whose name I first noticed in connection with the Scalia piece yesterday. I didn't blog about that because the legal stupidity of it annoyed me but also bored me too much to explain. I happened to see Kapur's name again this morning as I clicked on a link at Drudge that read "LIMBAUGH RIPS MEDIA": 'PIG IGNORANT'..." Limbaugh excoriates the media for not understanding that self-employed persons — such as Matt Drudge — have to pay quarterly installments on their taxes, so Drudge was not lying when he said he was already paying the penalty for declining to buy health insurance.
The individual mandate went into effect Jan. 1 of this year, and most people paying their taxes right now are paying taxes for 2013. 'Dude, there's no penalty until next yr,' Sahil Kapur of the left-wing Talking Points Memo tweeted.  Kapur's colleague at TPM Dylan Scott wrote a full story with a headline alleging Drudge was 'probably lying.' 'Americans don't pay a penalty for not having health insurance until they file their 2014 taxes -- in 2015,' Scott wrote.
Now I see Kapur's name on that piece about the bumper sticker, which, at the inside page, is headlined "Obama Co-Opts Tea Party Slogan For Obamacare Bumper Sticker." We talked about that bumper sticker last night. My favorite comment on my post is from Carl Pham, who says:
Love it. An effeminate l'il toothless snake, slim 'n' trim from his regular yoga class, sipping chai latte and curling up with his iPad to do a little Facebooking on the back of a lime-green Prius. I'm guessing the same design team that came up with Pajama Boy?
I also like Dr. Weevil:
Unlike the Gadsden flag snake, this one doesn't seem to be a rattlesnake. The point of the original flag is that the snake-warrior doesn't strike first, doesn't go in search of people to bite, but if you step on him, he will bite back and hurt you worse than you hurt him. The Obamacare snake just bites people.
Yeah, and also, if you tread on a stethoscope, it doesn't attack you. You can quite successfully survive stomping all over a stethoscope. And why would they want to portray that stethoscope as being like a rattlesnake? The message seems to be that Obamacare is threatening you and can kill you.

Anyway, I have no problem with TPM noting that Obama has appropriated the old Gadsden flag, which has of late been strongly associated with the Tea Party. And it's not Kapur who called Obama a troll. I just found all that interesting and was surprised to see Kapur's name again.

It's that Scalia piece that is so irritating. Kapur is not responsible for the photo of Scalia coming out of the darkness with his hands in the "Boo!" position under the word "Haunts." But he is responsible for writing such a nitwit explanation of a legal problem. Scalia wrote the majority opinion in the case that most clearly explains what the Free Exercise Clause means — which is that there's no constitutional right to exemptions from neutral, generally applicable laws. The case that's currently before the Supreme Court (Hobby Lobby) is based on the statute — the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — that Congress passed after the Court decided that Free Exercise case, so now there is a statutory right to exemptions. There's nothing haunting about this. There's the Constitution, which needed interpretation, and there are statutes, which can extend more rights than the Constitution provides. These are different texts and they require independent interpretation.

It's dumb (or disingenuous) to portray Scalia as somehow troubled by needing to apply a statute that requires courts to protect religion more than the Constitution requires. In fact, if anything, I could see him being especially deferential to Congress's choice to trump a judicial opinion with a clearly stated statutory entitlement. The problem to be argued before the Court today is about 2 statutes and the way they interact. It's Congress, not Scalia, that is "haunted" by the past. Congress enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a clear text, and it had the power to put text in the Affordable Care Act that would exclude the application of the RFRA. It didn't!

I've explained this before, by the way, back in November when the Supreme Court granted cert. in the Hobby Lobby case:
This is about statutes and the politicos who produce them, not the judges who stand back and let them trip all over themselves pandering to everyone. If the Congress that passed the Affordable Care Act had wanted to exempt it from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it could have done so explicitly. It did not. Why should the Court cut back Congress's absurdly broad RFRA to help it out with what it failed to bother to do with the ACA?

March 24, 2014

At the Sunrise Amphitheater...

... subtly signal your awareness of directionality.

"Show the world you're proud of health care reform."

"Simply connect with OFA on Facebook, and we'll send you a brand-new bumper sticker free of charge."

Email from Organizing for American sent me there, and I am a tad freaked out that the bumpersticker is displayed on exactly the car model and color I used to own (AKA "Li'l Greenie").

"Any kind of edge or stridency is a no-no for shareability."

The secrets of Upworthy, revealed in New York Magazine.

ADDED: The linked article is way too long and obfuscatory. Is Upworthy about building traffic for the ultimate purpose of monetizing and cashing in or is it a political propaganda operation at heart?

It's hard for the reader even to notice that should be the central question. If you do, good luck trying to find an answer in that prose that's cluttered with "Star Trek posters, felt ­Muppet versions of [it doesn't matter], and a cat named Bones with an unerring instinct to hop on the desk during work-related video­conferences, nuzzling his head at [an editor] and, by extension, pointing his anus directly at the camera lens...." and blah blah blah.

"A dangerous new form of a powerful stimulant is hitting markets nationwide, for sale by the vial, the gallon and even the barrel."

The NYT raises the alarm over liquid nicotine for e-cigarettes.

Grandpa's Gift Shop.

In Nederland, Colorado (on March 17, 2014). Why is something so high up in the mountains called the low land?
In 1873 the Caribou Mine, at an elevation of roughly 10,000 feet (3,000 m) and 6 miles (10 km) northwest of the town, was sold to the Nederland Mining Company from the Netherlands.... In the Dutch language, Nederland ("Netherlands" in English) means low land, and based on casual usage by the Dutch miners, Middle Boulder came to be known as Nederland.

"In the government’s eyes, the Branch Davidians were a threat."

"The bureau trained spotlights on the property and set up giant speakers that blasted noise day and night—the sound of 'rabbits being killed, warped-up music, Nancy Sinatra singing "These Boots Are Made for Walking," Tibetan monks chanting, Christmas carols, telephones ringing, reveille... I got to where I was only getting about an hour or two of sleep every twenty-four hours.'"

Malcolm Gladwell article in The New Yorker
, drawing heavily from Clive Doyle's memoir "A Journey to Waco." Doyle was a survivor of the fire that killed 76 persons.
He and a group of nine or ten people had been clustered in a passage at the back of the chapel when, suddenly, he says, everything turned black. He was hit by a wave of unbearable heat, and fell to the floor. He prayed to God for a miracle. He saw a hole in the wall, and crawled toward it.

Outside, the F.B.I. agents manning the loudspeaker system were chanting: “David, you have had your fifteen minutes of fame. [Koresh] is finished. He is no longer the Messiah.” Doyle continues, “I looked at myself. My jacket was melting all over me and smoking. The skin was rolling off my hands. It was not blistering, it was just rolling off. I turned around and looked at the hole, and it was a big mass of flames. The thought that went through my head was: No one is coming out of there now.”

Train jumps track and rides up the escalator.

At O'Hare.

What is Boy George singing about God?

I found that this morning at, which manifests zero interest in the religious orientation of the song, which is called "My God." There's this puzzling sentence:
In 1982, the Irish Catholic singer joined a Jewish drummer, a Protestant guitar-and-keyboard player and a Jamaican bassist to form Culture Club.
I say "puzzling," because I can't tell if George remains a Catholic or if he just was one in 1982. He's still Irish, and maybe Catholic is, at least to NPR, something like an ethnic group and it sticks to you for life. Then the other members of the band are Jewish, Protestant, and Jamaican, which is a funny lack of parallelism. Are we talking about ethnicity or religion or just whatever diversity factor makes each one seem most "diverse"?

"Unlike the challenge to the individual insurance mandate, Halbig v. Sebelius involves no great questions of constitutional interpretation."

"The plaintiffs are merely asking the judges to tell the Administration to faithfully execute the plain language of the statute that Congress passed and President Obama signed."
Federal judge Paul Friedman, a Clinton appointee, ruled in favor of the Administration in January. But the three-judge D.C. Circuit panel may be another story. It includes Judges Thomas Griffith (a George W. Bush nominee), A. Raymond Randolph (George H.W. Bush) and Harry Edwards (Jimmy Carter). The fear of an adverse panel ruling is one reason that Senate Democrats broke the filibuster rule to pack the D.C. Circuit with three more liberals this year. If the Administration loses at the panel level, it will ask for an en banc ruling that it thinks it will win and thus delay any Supreme Court judgment by many months.

Althouse the advice columnist.

A reader writes:
Hi, I just discovered your blog via internet searches. I noticed many of your posts about single earner households and I tend to agree with your views.  I just met a woman I really like. She is an attorney and loves her profession. She is strong willed and out earns me by far. She also wants to find someone to settle down with again after a long and disappointing first marriage. I am also in the same boat in that I'm ready to settle down. We both would like to have children but she doesn't want to stay home. We have discussed are parental preferences already. I am very open to staying home as a full time father and househusband. I think our personalities and career options lend themselves to this arrangement. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to get into MBA schools. I can't perform well enough on the GMAT entrance examination and I receive low test scores. I am just not intellectually qualified for graduate schools such as business and law school. Whereas, she is definitely a lot smarter than me!  :-)  Her and I both know that if we were to marry, she would wear the pants and then would place me on diaper duty! Lol. As a law professor, do you think this would be the best thing for her law career? You touched on this with women wall street bankers and their f/t househusbands. I realize that women are the majority of law students now and there is a large pool of very bright, young women attorneys, which is wonderful. However, there is a grave shortage of women partners in law firms. At least that is what I've heard and read. In order to go as far as she wants to go in law, do you think a woman attorney should get a stay at home husband / full time father to help her reach her career goals?
I sure do! She needs to want it and to view you as a worthy equal and you've got to see yourself that way too. If you get married, you're a team, and you should think soundly and creatively about what works and what makes the most love and happiness — including what makes the most love and happiness for the new human beings who come into the world through your love.

I have a special problem with your sentence "Her and I both know that if we were to marry, she would wear the pants and then would place me on diaper duty!"

Egyptian court sentences 529 persons to death after a mass trial.

They were convicted of "killing one police officer, of the attempted killing of a second, and of participating in rioting that destroyed a police station."
The swift conviction of so many in one stroke was a sudden acceleration of the sweeping crackdown against Mr. Morsi’s Islamist supporters and against other dissenters that has unfolded since his removal last summer....

The verdict on Monday underscored the continuing determination of at least a part of the Egyptian judicial system to treat support for the ousted president as treason....

But Monday’s decision took place in Minya, an Islamist stronghold in the rural areas upstream of Cairo along the Nile. It may indicate a determination by prosecutors or judges to deal more harshly with Islamists in the places where they constitute the most serious threat to the new order.

March 23, 2014

"Hipster littering."

It's a trend, I'm telling you. See it. Record it. Know it.

Cameroonian singer Dencia argues that her promotion of a product called Whitenicious...

... has nothing to do with disparaging dark skin. It's about dealing with what she calls ''hyper-pigmentation."

"In some ways, little has changed in the art of the unsent letter since Lincoln thought better of excoriating Meade."

My favorite sentence in a NYT op-ed by Maria Konnikova titled "The Lost Art of the Unsent Angry Letter."

Boulder panorama.

Meade shot this last Monday — 360° from a vantage point near the Sunrise Amphitheater above Boulder, Colorado. I'm visible at one point.

Public Radio drops "This American Life"!

Oh, no!

ADDED: Ira Glass says the loss of the distributor PRI won't change anything from the listeners' perspective:
Most listeners I meet seem utterly unaware of who our distributor is, or they think – mistakenly – that we’re part of NPR. NPR is the company that puts out Morning Edition and All Things Considered and many fine programs. But there are several other companies that distribute public radio shows around the country. Local public radio stations get shows from all of them.

We’ll announce sometime soon what our new plan is to distribute the show to radio stations.

Why is it almost only men who like to think they have Neanderthal genes?

From "Most of Us Are Part Neanderthal," reviewing 2 books, "Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes," by Svante Pääbo, and "The Gap: The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals"
by Thomas Suddendorf:
Within a few months of the Neanderthal genome being published, forty-seven people had written to Pääbo claiming that they were Neanderthals; tellingly, forty-six of these were men. Twelve women had also written, suggesting that their husbands were Neanderthals.

"Have you ever felt that you needed to see Anita Hill's family doing the Electric Slide?"

"It's clear from the subtitle that Freida Mock's documentary Anita: Speaking Truth to Power will be a rah-rah job, which is fine. What isn't clear, and what isn't fine at all, is why the final work needs to be so shapeless in its hagiography, so triumphal in its vagueness, so hapless in arguing its case."

Writes Alan Scherstuhl in the Village Voice.

And Ignatiy Vishnevetsky in the A.V. Club gives the documentary a D+:
The problems with Anita start with director Freida Lee Mock’s attempt to fit this story into the template of a generic empowerment narrative. Mock, who won an Oscar for the mostly forgotten Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision, directs in a non-compelling, TV-ready style; if viewers close their eyes, the only thing they’ll miss will be the names of the talking heads. Her thesis—laid out, classroom-documentary-style, in the first few minutes—is that Hill is a feminist icon whose testimony led to widespread social change. This reductive take on Hill’s moment in the national spotlight is supported by unconvincing interviewee testimonials, which reiterate that Hill is important, but not why or how. Along the way, Anita repeatedly succumbs to hero worship, drawing attention away from the social forces working against Hill and ignoring the nitty-gritty detail work of feminism in favor of a sugary empowerment high.
I'd like to know if the movie ever mentioned the undoing of this "widespread social change" that happened when a liberal (Bill Clinton) was revealed to have engaged in far worse sexual harassment than anything Anita Hill ever attributed to Clarence Thomas. If Mock doesn't take on that complexity, the whole "Speaking Truth to Power" notion is nonsense.

"After asking his team how it wanted this game to end, [Bo] Ryan said he polled his club on who its best defender was."

"The players looked at him, silent. He answered for them: He was the best defender, because Oregon only hit one of two free throws after the technical foul he picked up just before the break."

"Just as nobody would trust John Mitchell to investigate Richard Nixon, nobody should trust a partisan Obama donor..."

"... to investigate the IRS’s political targeting of President Obama’s enemies. Sadly, 'in the discretion of the Attorney General,' Eric Holder has chosen to reject the bipartisan tradition of the Department of Justice of putting rule of law above political allegiance. Both Nixon Administration Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Clinton Administration Attorney General Janet Reno appointed special prosecutors whose integrity was beyond reproach; Eric Holder should do likewise. To date, nine months after a damning Inspector General report, nobody has been indicted, many of the victims have not even been interviewed, and Lois Lerner has twice pleaded the Fifth. And yet the Attorney General refuses to allow a genuine — and impartial — investigation."

That's Ted Cruz, waving the WORSE THAN NIXON sign.

"Once kids enter middle school, parental help with homework can actually bring test scores down..."

"... an effect [UT sociology professor Keith] Robinson says could be caused by the fact that many parents may have forgotten, or never truly understood, the material their children learn in school."
Similarly, students whose parents frequently meet with teachers and principals don’t seem to improve faster than academically comparable peers whose parents are less present at school. Other essentially useless parenting interventions: observing a kid’s class; helping a teenager choose high-school courses; and, especially, disciplinary measures such as punishing kids for getting bad grades or instituting strict rules about when and how homework gets done. This kind of meddling could leave children more anxious than enthusiastic about school, Robinson speculates....
So is it that parental involvement is "essentially useless" or is it that parental involvement is good when the parents give good involvement, but if you combine good and bad parent involvement, you can't detect the value of the good involvement? The author of the linked article — Dana Goldstein at The Atlantic — concludes that parents should not help their kids with their homework, but perhaps the conclusion should be: Don't help them the wrong way.

Goldstein notes that the government has been actively promoting parental involvement in education on the theory that it will "help close the test-score gap between middle-class and poor students" and says that the new study — co-authored by Robinson and Duke sociology professor Angel L. Harris — has "largely disproved that assumption."

I'm skeptical. If poorly educated parents are trying to help but providing bad help because they don't understand the material themselves or they don't have sound ideas about how to learn, that doesn't mean well-educated parents, who grew up with effective learning habits, should not help their children. It doesn't even mean that those poorly educated parents could not learn how to provide more effective help.

But, as you might expect, the sociology professors are oriented toward policies that improve the schools that are available to children who are economically deprived. This policy goal is strengthened by undermining the belief that what these children need most is better parenting.

"There is a conservative and a liberal rendition" of the argument "that poor black people are not 'holding up their end of the bargain'..."

"... or that they are in need of moral instruction is an old and dubious tradition in America," writes Ta-Nehisi Coates.
The conservative version eliminates white supremacy as a factor and leaves the question of the culture's origin ominously unanswered....

The liberal version of the cultural argument points to "a tangle of pathologies" haunting black America born of oppression. 
Coates associates the "conservative version" with Paul Ryan and the "liberal version" with Barack Obama. The conservative version isn't even serious, in Coates's view, but he's also critical of the liberal version because it "feebly urg[es] 'positive habits and behavior'":
There is no evidence that black people are less responsible, less moral, or less upstanding in their dealings with America nor with themselves. But there is overwhelming evidence that America is irresponsible, immoral, and unconscionable in its dealings with black people and with itself. Urging African-Americans to become superhuman is great advice if you are concerned with creating extraordinary individuals. It is terrible advice if you are concerned with creating an equitable society.