April 5, 2014

In Madison, Wisconsin today... a little anti-Kentucky signage.

Get it? (If I'm reading the humor correctly, the reference is to the Wisconsin song/motto "On Wisconsin" and the supposed reputation of Kentuckians for having sex with their cousins.)

Watch the basketball games with us. Comments are on moderation, but I'm sending things through quickly.

Need something to read. Here's "Kentucky Basketball: Is Wisconsin The Underdog?"
So, why the Big Ten bias when only two of both broadcast teams attended Big Ten schools? Who knows? Maybe they are so sick of the SEC winning football titles and also basketball titles? Is it the one-and- done thing? Maybe the fact that the SEC has won 12 football championship and 5 basketball championships while the Big Ten has won 2 football championships and only 1 basketball titles since 1989 as pointed out in this Lost Lettermen article.

Two things you can count on for whatever reason, they will be talking up Connecticut and Wisconsin all throughout the games against Florida and Kentucky until the second half should Florida or Kentucky take control of the game.

"I think there is a gay mafia. I think if you cross them, you do get whacked."

Said Bill Maher, on the "Overtime" portion of his HBO show "Real Time," and this really annoys me, because I watched the whole damned show last night, hoping he'd do this issue, and the show was pretty bad and boring, never getting to this issue, and now I see it was dumped in the on-line only part?!

How did that happen? Hmm??? I suspect The Gay Mafia!

"This Machine Can Tell Whether You're Liberal or Conservative."

"John Hibbing and his colleagues are pioneering research on the physiological underpinnings of political ideology."
It all adds up, according to Hibbing, to what he calls a "negativity bias" on the right. Conservatives, Hibbing's research suggests, go through the world more attentive to negative, threatening, and disgusting stimuli—and then they adopt tough, defensive, and aversive ideologies to match that perceived reality.
ADDED: The term "negativity bias" reveals Hibbing's own bias, because one could just as well characterize the same phenomenon as positivity toward the world one lives in and has known over time. Why stress the negativity toward threats to one's normal world rather than the love for what one seeks to protect?

Blacklisting Prop 8 supporters and gay-rights antagonists is perfectly analogous to the old blacklisting of Communists and Communist "sympathizers."

Isn't it? I'm inviting you to probe this analogy, which may be a good or great but not perfect analogy. Help me locate any possible lack of alignment between the 2 phenomena, for the purpose of close examination.

Distinguishing the words "blabber," "babble," and "blather."

I used "blabber" and "blather" in a single post today, and proofreading, Meade wanted to correct the "blabber" to "blather." I'd written, first, that "the columnists will blather about" who should replace David Letterman, and, later, I criticized a columnist for "stumbl[ing] into blabber like 'something ineffable and increasingly impossible to describe.'"

I had to question whether I'd used "blabber" mainly to avoid repeating "blather." These words may seem so close in sound and meaning that they are interchangeable, so this is the post that delves into the "blabber"/"blather" distinction.

Militantly tolerant — now, there's a concept. Too bad it's only an editing error.

From an article that's been up at the NYT since yesterday afternoon, by Farhad Manjoo, titled "Why Mozilla’s Chief Had to Resign":
Is this an instance of political correctness run amok? Is it a sign that Silicon Valley has become militantly tolerant, unwilling to let executives express their personal viewpoints on issues unrelated to their jobs? I’ve seen many such worries expressed online; even supporters of same-sex marriage have been characterizing Mr. Eich’s ouster as an awful precedent for giving in to moralistic mob rule.

A 20-year sentence to a woman who killed her baby with morphine delivered through breast milk.

It was the minimum sentence for the crime of homicide by child abuse, which is what the prosecutor charged and proved against Stephanie Greene.
Greene’s lawyer said she was only trying to stop debilitating pain from a car crash more than a decade before and relied on her own judgment and medical research on the Internet instead of the advice of doctors and is still overwhelmed with grief from the loss of her child....

A toxicology report from the baby’s autopsy found a level of morphine in the child’s body that a pathologist testified could have been lethal for an adult, prosecutor Barry Barnette said.... Greene still faces 38 counts of obtaining prescription drugs through fraud, and Barnette said he is still deciding whether to take those cases to court.

"Russia must be viewed as a unique and original civilization that cannot be reduced to 'East' or 'West,'"

"A concise way of formulating this stand would be, 'Russia is not Europe,' and that is confirmed by the entire history of the country and the people."

"Today the most intriguing question some panicky UW fans are asking..."

"... is whether Kaminsky, emboldened by a breakout junior season, will leave school a year early to enter the NBA draft."

Commemorating a suicide.

There's a lot of that going around today, 20 years after Kurt Cobain killed himself.

This is worse than the annual commemoration of the murders of John Lennon and John Kennedy, since it's a self-murder. If you like someone who's now dead, how about choosing some other day to think about them, their birthday, perhaps? When we care enough to make a national holiday out of someone who got killed — note that we've never done that for a suicide — we pick the birthday (Lincoln's Birthday, Martin Luther King's Birthday), not the death day.

But we all know why death days get attention. To dwell on the death is our own self-absorption. Where was I when I heard that X died? How did I feel? How did it change my life? Just admit that's what you're doing, remember that's what you're doing, and when you're doing it with someone who killed himself, don't forget he did that to you. He did that to the teenaged kids who loved him, changing that music they loved to something that contained the meaning death, the meaning that life is not worth living.

And he had not only his music, but a baby daughter. I don't want to hear about the suicide note that complained about how he didn't enjoy going on stage and being adulated by fans. Quit performing! Devote your life to your daughter. Shooting yourself is your first choice? That's what you say to the kids who loved you (and to your daughter)?

"I ran the CIA interrogation program."

"No matter what the Senate report says, I know it worked."

ADDED: Meanwhile:
A senior CIA official has died in an apparent suicide this week from injuries sustained after jumping off a building in northern Virginia, according to sources close to the CIA.
Name not yet released. 

"Letterman’s replacement: Can he (or she!) please be a grown-up?"

WaPo's Hank Stuever asks, and I'm more interested in why one would ask for a "grown-up" than in who the grown-ups are who could actually do the old-fashioned gig that is a late-night talk show. Me, I'm beyond grown-up. I'm old. Not as old as Letterman, but old. I watched a good bit of Johnny Carson back in the 60s and early 70s, in the days before you could record a TV show, when the fact that a show came on late actually meant something. And my kids and I eagerly consumed TiVo'd Letterman back in the 90s.

This blog began in '04, and when I look through this blog's Letterman tag, I don't find material that is based on my watching the show as a show, just news stories and clips I consumed because things were being talked about on-line. In 2009, I had "Is it really so terrible that David Letterman has a bachelor pad in the building where he tapes his show?" and "Oops, Letterman really is the lecher he seems to goofily pretend to be." How did he survive that? I guess the Women Warriors of America were not so fierce 5 years ago. And that was not long after he got in so much trouble mocking Sarah Palin that NOW took Palin's side of the argument.

April 4, 2014

"The people who were criticizing Brendan [Eich] were people who have advocated passionately for the rights of the oppressed."

"For them to turn on someone this way is wrong," said Geoffrey Moore (identified in the NYT as "a Silicon Valley consultant and author who has worked closely with Mozilla"):
Mr. Eich, he added, is a very analytical person who got into a situation he did not have the social skills to navigate. “My bet is he’s feeling very wounded. He gave his life and soul to this. Sometimes a community doesn’t really know what it’s doing,” Mr. Moore said.
Community speech — collective speech — it matters. But it doesn't really know what it's doing.

AND: Andrew Sullivan prints and responds to some reader mail he got after he wrote about what happened to Eich.
Morality has always been about keeping society on the same page. If you violate the the norms, then you are shamed and ridiculed. The ultimate “victory” of the gay rights movement will be that those discriminating against homosexuals will be ridiculed and isolated as bigots. Ultimately we can only hope that the best values win out, and that we will always find outcasts in society that share our values, should our values violate the norm.
There you have the illiberal mindset. Morality trumps freedom. Our opponents must be humiliated, ridiculed and “isolated as perverts”. I mean “bigots”, excuse me.
NOTE: I'm adding this note to make that double indentation clear. The single indent is Sullivan's response to his reader. I wouldn't put the punctuation outside of the quotation mark like that, by the way.

"I’m telling you, I swear to God, the face looked like a rubber mask."

"If I thought for one instant it was a real person I would have called the police, my manager, everyone I could think of."

At the Pink-and-Yellow Café...

... you can raise whatever topics you like. I've got moderation on these days though, so have some patience about seeing your comment go up.

By the way, please consider doing your on-line shopping at Amazon by going in through the Althouse portal.

I'm just noticing Amazon's FireTV, a new product in the Roku/Apple TV niche.

"Justice Thomas Was Right/Citizens United and the defenestration of Brendan Eich."

James Taranto connects the Eich ousting to what Clarence Thomas wrote, dissenting, from the part of the Citizens United opinion that was 8-1:
I cannot endorse a view of the First Amendment that subjects citizens of this Nation to death threats, ruined careers, damaged or defaced property, or pre-emptive and threatening warning letters as the price for engaging in "core political speech, the 'primary object of First Amendment protection.'"

"Illinois Residents Least Trusting of Their State Government/North Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah rank at the top."

A Gallup poll.
In general, trust is lower in more populous states than in less populous states. The 10 most populous states and 10 least populous states differ by 11 percentage points in state government trust, with the middle population states in between. Larger states have larger economies and more citizens needing services, and often more diverse populations, so they may be more challenging to govern than smaller states.

"Whatever place you might find yourself in at the moment a residency commences, at MacDowell, they will scoop you up and put you gently down..."

"... in a beautiful little cabin in the New Hampshire woods, with a desk, a window and very likely a fireplace—a screen porch, even. And total silence all around...."
I was given a separate place to sleep in, a ways off, but I loved my writing space so much I only spent one night there. All the rest of my time at MacDowell I slept on a cot in my writing cabin, making the half-mile walk through the woods, or on dirt paths, on a nice, old fat-tire bike provided to me, for breakfast and dinner at the main lodge. Lunch was delivered to my cabin every day—quietly so as not to disturb my work—in a picnic basket set on the porch....

Dinners were spent with the other artists in residence—many of whom lived in tiny Brooklyn studios the rest of the year or worked in dark cubicles whose only contact with the outdoors was a fire escape.....

"It’s frustrating because it’s Golf Digest; it’s not Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue."

"It’s like, What do you have to do to get a little respect?"

"[I]f Amoeba were a large animal, so as to come in the everyday experience of human beings, its behaviour would at once call forth the attribution to it of states of pleasure and pain..."

"... of hunger, desire, and the like, on precisely the same basis as we attribute these things to the dog," wrote Herbert Spencer Jennings in "Behavior of the Lower Organisms," quoted by Oliver Sacks, in an article titled "The Mental Life of Plants and Worms, Among Others," where I learned, that the last book Charles Darwin ever wrote was about worms, "The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms: with Observations on Their Habits."

Sacks says:
Jennings’s vision of a highly sensitive, dog-size Amoeba is almost cartoonishly the opposite of Descartes’s notion of dogs as so devoid of feelings that one could vivisect them without compunction, taking their cries as purely “reflex” reactions of a quasi-mechanical kind.

Explaining Vladimir Putin through an anecdote about dogs.

Told by George Bush:
“As you know, our dear dog Barney, who had a special place in my heart — Putin dissed him and said, ‘You call it a dog?’’’...

“A year later, your mom and I go to visit and Vladimir says, ‘Would you like to meet my dog?’ Out bounds this huge hound, obviously much bigger than a Scottish terrier, and Putin looks at me and says, ‘Bigger, stronger and faster than Barney.’

“I just took it in. I didn’t react. I just said, ‘Wow. Anybody who thinks ‘my dog is bigger than your dog’ is an interesting character.’ And that painting kind of reflects that.”

ADDED: More about Bush's paintings of world leaders here. And this quote: "I expect I’ll be painting til I drop. And my last stroke, and I’m heading into the grave, I wonder what color it will be?"

50 years ago today, The Beatles held the top 5 spots on the Billboard 100.

And the accompanying story in Billboard read: "Just about everyone is tired of the Beatles... Disk jockeys are tired of playing the hit group.... The writers of trade and consumer publication articles are tired of writing about them and the manufacturers of product other than the Beatles are tired of hearing about them."

Who has come the closest to matching this Top-5 showing? Clue: The year was 2005 and the spots occupied were ##1, 4, and 5.

"An Illustrated Taxonomy of City Bikes and Cyclist Archetypes."

"From hipster habits to midlife crises, a morphology of urban life on two wheels."

(A morphology and a taxonomy?)

BONUS: "A List of Don’ts for Women on Bicycles Circa 1895."

My favorite is: "Don’t cultivate a "'bicycle face.'"

NYT columnist Thomas Friedman, called a "sensitive man" by Tina Brown at last night's "Women in the World" event, said he'd heard that when Hillary Clinton wore her hair tied back...

... she was about "to deliver unpleasant news."

Hillary, icily, and with strange new hair (and face!) said: "Really, Tom?, and everyone laughed and laughed, because the topic was whether there's a "double standard" (gender-wise) and there's always been so much talk about Hillary's hair.

(I mean, I was totally distracted by her new look, which you can check out at that link. I think I notice how everyone looks, and I don't like feminist efforts to deprive us of our engagement with the visual world, but I've got to concede that our emotional reaction to the way female power-seekers look is much more complicated than how we feel about their male counterparts.)

Hillary said:
“There is a double standard, obviously.... We have all either experienced it or at the very least seen it. And there  is a deep set of cultural psychological views that are manifest through this double standard.”....

“Some of those attitudes, we know, persist.... And that’s why it's important that we surface them, and why we talk about them, and help men and women recognize when they are crossing over from an individual judgment — which we’re all prone to make and have a right to make about somebody, man or woman — into a stereotype.”...

“Too many young women are harder on themselves than circumstances warrant... At this point in my life and career I’ve employed so many young people — and one of the differences is, whenever I would say to a young woman, ‘I want you to do this. I want you to take on this extra responsibility. I want you to move up’ – almost invariably they would say ‘Do you think I can?’ or ‘Do you think I’m ready?’”

“When I’ve asked a young man if he wants to move up, he goes: ‘How high?’ ‘How fast?’ ‘When do I start?’... There is just a hesitancy still about women’s worth and women’s work that we’re going to have to continue to address.”
Notice how she holds women responsible too for their own failure to advance. Was that subtle enough to avoid the wrath of millennial females? She knocks her own female employees as insufficiently cocky and ambitious. We've got to "continue to address" the "hesitancy." These are careful words. Good enough to stay out of trouble as long as the women she needs to wrangle are allied in keeping her out of trouble, but if a handsome new man arrives on the scene — as in 2008 — she's got to worry that once again the Alliance of Women will collapse.

Things Jefferson/Washington/Lincoln/Henry/Tocqueville almost got around to saying.

Even if it's the kind of thing they would have said or would wish they'd said (if they'd lived to see the quotes attributed to them), you ought to endeavor — when writing a book to bolster your reputation — not to collect too many of these phony quotes.

You can quote some of these quotes some of the time and one of these quotes all of the time, but try not to quote all these quotes all the time.

ADDED: Me, I like to quote Bob Dylan — accurately! — quoting Lincoln (inaccurately (intentionally)):
Half of the people can be part right all of the time
Some of the people can be all right part of the time
But all of the people can’t be all right all of the time
I think Abraham Lincoln said that

"Google Is Having Trouble Trying to Trademark the Word 'Glass.'"

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office indicated...
... that “Glass” — even with its distinctive formatting — is “merely descriptive.” That’s an issue because generic terms don’t have trademark protection under federal law. You couldn’t trademark the word “shoe” for a shoe you’re selling, for instance.
It's not like they tried to trademark "Glasses." If someone looking for his glasses said "Where's my glass?," we'd think he'd misplaced his beverage. Google is using a word that is descriptive of one thing to refer to something else, in the distinctive situation where the something else is normally called what is the plural of the word in question.

It's like as if the first company that wanted to call pants "pant" tried to get a trademark... but no, because "pant" had not previously been a noun that referred to a product.

But — did you know? — there is a regional Scottish and Irish English meaning for "pant" that is a lark or prank —"‘Right,’ says Duffy, ‘bring you Jinnet and I'll tak' my wife, and we'll hae a rale pant.’" — or a rumor — "That's the pant that's going through the country." (Examples from the Oxford English Dictionary, to which I cannot link, from 1904 and a1908, respectively.)

April 3, 2014

"If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out. "

"If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us."

"We ghetto-ize orgasm. We have internalized patriarchy."

"Orgasm is a majorly needed nutrient... it reconstitutes us hormonally, emotionally, and spiritually," said one speaker at the orgasm meditation conference, where...
... participants all had to go through a training. There was an early how-to certification class followed by the option to “OM every hour on the hour.” This meant that every hour on the hour, on the third floor of the Masonic temple, the conference-goers paired off two by two. In a room filled with blankets, cushions, yoga mats, plastic gloves, small hand towels, and a ton of lube, each woman removed her pants. Her partner, stranger or not, would stroke her clitoris in the prescribed manner for the full 15 minutes. Afterward, they emerged like nothing had happened. But a strange glow and intensity built over the day.

Linda Greenhouse concedes that there is "an instinctive appeal" to the "notion" that "photography is an expressive medium."

But this notion — this instinct — that expression matters when society at large has decided to compel expression: She tells us to "consider the implications; florists and bakers are in court raising similar claims."

Bakers?! Isn't that like calling a fashion designer a seamstress? The "bakers" who are resisting government compulsion are wedding cake decorators. At some point, wedding cake decorating is an art, and maybe Linda Greenhouse thinks it's a low art, but please sit through this laborious demonstration of how to make a classic rose, by Toba Garrett, author of "Wedding Cake Art and Design" before using this kind of work as an example of an absurd implication of respecting photography as an expressive medium.

And I insist as well that before you look down your nose at "florists," that you sit through all 20 minutes of this demonstration of Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement:

Am I supposed to respect Linda Greenhouse's hackneyed legal-journalism expression in the commercial enterprise that is The New York Times? Consider the implications!

Where is the low and where is the high when it comes to expression deserving of freedom from government compulsion?

Greenhouse writes this insidious and actually quite disgusting sentence:
The notion that photography is not just any old business has an instinctive appeal, until you consider the implications; florists and bakers are in court raising similar claims, and the list of objectors and their objections would certainly grow if Elane [Photography] prevails.
A notion is a lightweight mental sensation. Instinct pulses from our lower brain. We may have these notions and instincts UNTIL we "consider... florists and bakers," but "consider" implies some serious contemplation, and Greenhouse's use of "until" suggests that she thinks that the instant we see the names of those lowly occupations — florists and bakers — we will shake off the notions and instincts and know that the "expression" template is wrong. But she hasn't considered it, and she doesn't expect her readers to consider it. She is whipping up snobbery for people who are engaged in expressive work.

And that saddest part of it is that Greenhouse wants us to reject negative attitudes about gay people. She's interested in their expression and their freedom, but why should we care about them and not photographers and flower and cake designers? The answer seems all wrapped up in a snobbery Greenhouse is displaying. The elite people have determined that gay people are not to be looked down on anymore.

But freedom of expression at the mercy of the good opinion of the elite is not freedom.

I was going to end this post with that line, but I'm stunned by Greenhouse's next phrase: "Despite its free-speech garb, the religious essence of Elane’s argument is clear...." This is horrifying, for at least 3 reasons: 1. The quick disparagement of expression rights as a flimsy coverup ("garb"). 2. The failure to recognize the interrelatedness of expression and religion — religion is expression and expression is often about or motivated by religion. (There's a reason free speech and freedom of religion were written into the same constitutional amendment.) 3. The most important speech is speech that has a core of deep and true belief, so if there's religious essence seeking protection under free-speech garb, the reasoning that begins with "Despite..." is garbage.

The poet seems concerned about possibly offending me: "Do you like the Supreme Court?"

Meade and I encountered a street poet, Amy Marschak, on our recent journey to Boulder, Colorado. Marschak asks passersby to give her topics for inclusion in what will be an impromptu poetry recitation. I'm not sure whether Meade is making it easier or more difficult when he throws out a few abstractions — life, love, freedom — so when she turns to me, I hesitate, strain to think of something concrete and specific, and being the lawprof that I am, say: The Supreme Court.

Marschak gave us permission to film her and to post this performance on YouTube and asked that we link to her website ePoems About Life.

ADDED: There's a sly reference to the Court's campaign finance case, not yesterday's McCutcheon case, of course, but Citizen's United. Meade and I don't make contributions to political candidates, but we did make our contribution to the street poet, and there's no cap on such contributions… yet!

John Edwards, barred from entering Trinity Episcopal Church for the funeral of the woman who'd been forced at the age of 101 to testify at his trial.

The woman was Bunny Mellon, who had given $700,000, that was used in part to support Edwards's secret lover (Rielle Hunter). Do you remember what happened at that trial? I didn't.
A federal jury acquitted Edwards of one charge, and the judge declared a mistrial on the remaining five charges. The Justice Department dropped the case.
Because he'd suffered enough? Because the government's premise for the prosecution was bad? Why was it a mistrial? How did Bunny Mellon get away with giving $700,000 to a presidential candidate? We've all forgotten. We only remember that Johnny Edwards is an outcast, and now they block him from entering the church, the Episcopal church of the very rich dead lady, who can scarcely be held responsible for the federal crimes she committed along with him — I think — but no one was punished — it's all mistrials and dropped charges — so what difference at this point does it make?

But Edwards took a place in the overflow room, whence he witnessed "a moving eulogy by actor Frank Langella, and a poignant rendition of 'The Rose' by Bette Midler." Thereafter, as the NY Post's Richard Johnson puts it: "the thick-skinned Edwards — seemingly oblivious to the family’s wishes — followed the funeral procession to the cemetery."
“He was working the crowd near the graveside after the service,” [NY Social Diary blogger David Patrick Columbia said].
Working the crowd near the graveside? What does that mean? Talking to people?

By the way, did you know that when she was a schoolgirl, Bette Midler was teased mercilessly? The epithet that was hurled at her: "Haole Crab."
[Gayle] King: "Haole Crab?"

Midler: "Haole Crab," which is something that--

King: I don't know what that means.

Midler: Hawaii. Haole is the word for white.

King: Oh, okay.
How long can you work in media, work with Oprah, with all the racial issues examined on Oprah's show, including, presumably, all the tales of Barack Obama growing up in Hawaii, and never learn the word "haole"?
Midler: Or foreigner.

King: You're in Hawaii. You're poor and you're white.

Midler: Uh-huh.

King: And you're unpopular in school. That must've been really tough for you growing up.
But Bette grew up and unlike John Edwards — who also grew up poor and white — she got into the funeral of the Bunny Mellon — who grew up rich and white —  and Bette got to sing, and she sang poignantly:
Some say love, it is a hunger,
An endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower,
And you its only seed.
Or did John Edwards grow up poor? Was he, like Bette, bullied?
Growing up in a roughneck mill town where bullies didn't just tease you, they made you eat dirt, Johnny Reid Edwards... internalized the lessons of his father -- and of that "rough little town where you either fought or you got the crap beat out of you," as he put it. Later, that childhood message would fuel a gnawing ambition.
A gnawing ambition and an endless aching need... love, it is a flower, and Johnny Edwards spread its seed.

"I had never heard of such limits. Somebody... showed me a chart on the federal rules of campaign giving that was so complicated..."

"... I could barely make any sense of it. On the advice of their lawyers, most people simply comply with these rules and don’t raise questions. As an American engineer in the land of the free, I wanted to understand just exactly why my First Amendment rights were being limited."

Said Shaun McCutcheon, the McCutcheon in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, decided yesterday, in his favor.
My Supreme Court case wasn’t about throwing out sensible limits on money in politics. It was narrowly focused on the “aggregate limits” for contributions under the federal election campaign law—the maximum amount that anybody can give to a number of candidates and national party committees combined. The case was not about base limits: $2,600 (for either a primary or general election) or $5,200 (for a primary and general election combined) to a single candidate in a two-year election cycle, or the separate amounts of $32,400 to a party committee or $5,000 to some PACs and $10,000 to state parties. Congress and the courts have determined that these limits are so low that they don’t pose any risk of corrupting candidates or our political system.

It was the aggregate limits on giving to the candidates and committees that made no sense to me. The consequences of these rules were absurd. I could give the legal amount of $2,600 to 17 different candidates. But if I give that same legal amount to an 18th candidate, it constitutes a violation that somehow corrupts the system.
Lawprof Richard L. Hasen has a piece in Slate that's called — dramatically — "Die Another Day." Die another day, because X hasn't "died" in McCutcheon, but McCutcheon is a step toward the death of X, which should distress us, if we care about X. So even if you, like Shaun McCutcheon, think it makes no sense to stop a person from giving $2,600 to one too many candidates, you're supposed to be mad about the Supreme Court opinion because it portends further damage to the entity that's lumbered over the landscape for so long under the banner "Campaign Finance Reform." It's lost a few limbs along the way, but it's not dead yet. What it lost in McCutcheon was perhaps a useless appendage, capable only of flailing about and hurting well-meaning folk like Mr. McCutcheon, but Hasen wants you to take alarm, because McCutcheon foretells death!!!... death to whatever it is at the core of Campaign Finance Reform that we ought to want to keep.

McCutcheon is "subtly awful," Hasen says, revealing his awareness that ordinary readers may, like Shaun McCutcheon, think the aggregate limits make no sense and therefore the Court got it right. The Court "sidestepped... the question of whether to apply 'strict scrutiny'" because the difference between strict scrutiny and the less demanding form of scrutiny ("exacting scrutiny") didn't affect the outcome because the government's asserted interest had so little to do with aggregate limits. If the level of scrutiny wasn't raised, then what's "awful"? Or is it "awful" to Hasen precisely because he can't find anything unsubtle? You need something dramatically awful to stir up the public's antagonism toward the Supreme Court, so Hasen's idea is that Chief Justice Roberts is devilishly subtle.

Roberts, the subtle devil, has done 3 things that Hasen wants us to find ominous.

First, Roberts said the government could only justify its restrictions of campaign contributions in pursuit of the interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption. Hasen says: "Equality, for example, is a forbidden interest under the First Amendment." He means: The government can't justify restricting freedom of speech on the ground that it is trying to promote equality.

Second, Roberts performed "exacting scrutiny" in a manner that seemed rather... exacting. See the devious subtlety? Hasen does:
Why write an opinion that dramatically adopts strict scrutiny when one can accomplish nearly the same thing by quietly changing the meaning of the “exacting scrutiny,” which applies to contribution limits?
Hasen — to my amusement — goes directly from noting Roberts's avoidance of "an opinion that dramatically adopts strict scrutiny" to "Third and most dramatically..." Most dramatically? I thought the whole idea was that Roberts was doing 3 things that were subtle and not dramatic, that he was the no-drama guy. In that context, what does it mean that the third thing was the most dramatic? This is practically a Zen koan. What is the sound of one hand clapping and what is the drama of no drama? Is the most dramatic subtlety the thing that is most subtle? It's so subtle, it's dramatic. I am deafened by the silence and dazzled by the darkness.

But let's plod on, across the legal landscape, where the wounded entity Campaign Finance Reform stumbles toward its Roberts-dug grave. There's a third thing to be explicated. It's dramatic, we've been warned. Here it is:
Third and most dramatically, the court seems to open the door...
Egad! It's the dramatic semblance of opening a door.
... for a future challenge to what remains of the McCain-Feingold law: the ban on large, “soft money” contributions collected by political parties. 
How did Roberts seem to open that door? Because that ban is based on wanting to stop citizens from buying access to elected officials, and Roberts seemed insufficiently concerned about that problem. At this point, Hasen resorts to a long Roberts quote, which I suspect few of his (or my) readers will take the trouble to absorb, so let me just tip you off that it contains the buzzword of this post "dramatically":
When donors furnish widely distributed support within all applicable base limits, all members of the party or supporters of the cause may benefit, and the leaders of the party or cause may feel particular gratitude. That grati­tude stems from the basic nature of the party system, in which party members join together to further common political beliefs, and citizens can choose to support a party because they share some, most, or all of those beliefs. … To recast such shared interest, standing alone, as an opportunity for quid pro quo corruption would dramatically expand government regulation of the politi­cal process.
Roberts subtly-dramatically values "join[ing] together to further common political beliefs," and he's inclined to characterize widely distributed contributions in that light and to resist the government's attempt to lump them together with bribery and the quid pro quo contributions that are hard to distinguish from bribery.

Having set out those 3 subtle/dramatic things, Hasen tells his readers not to be "fooled by Roberts’ supposed restraint." I don't think Roberts is trying to "fool" anyone, and the modest framing of the opinion is real: Roberts did not elevate the level of scrutiny beyond "exacting" and he did not recognize a government interest beyond preventing bribery and quid pro quo corruption.

And I don't think Roberts purports to take what is traditionally called a position of judicial restraint, which is: deference to the acts of legislatures, presuming their constitutionality. Roberts is taking the First Amendment seriously and stepping up to the classic judicial role of saying what it means and enforcing constitutional rights. That's what typically gets called judicial activism by those who like something the legislature has done and who don't have much respect for the particular version of the constitutional right asserted in a case.

But Hasen, who likes campaign finance reform legislation and doesn't respect the version of the First Amendment asserted in McCutcheon, found it hard to call Roberts activist. That's what was so frustrating, so devious: If you're going to be activist, be activist out in the open where it's easy for your opponents to attack you as activist. But no, the serpent was subtle....

April 2, 2014

If you're enjoying this blog...

... please use the Althouse Amazon Portal when  you're doing your on-line shopping. You'll be making a contribution to this enterprise (without paying any extra for anything).

"An African exchange student plummeted to his death from a hotel balcony after eating a marijuana-infused cookie..."

"... in the first reported pot-related death in the city since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana... the Denver coroner's office said on Wednesday."
One girl in the group became ill after one bite, but when Pongi ate one of the cookies he "went off the wall" and started running around the hotel room...

"His friends were terrified, and they did try to calm him down," she said, but he leapt from the balcony.
 The headline (at the NYT) says "falls" and the first paragraph says "plummeted," but he leapt!

"Whole Foods Market will continue to carry colloidal silver due to responsibility for misuse."

So reads the "warning" sign that caught my attention the other day:

Click to read the fine print which says that there's "insufficient data to confirm the effectiveness" of this product but that it "can cause severe adverse consequences, including argyria." Argyria is your skin turning blue!

Here's a woman who took silver long ago — dosed by a doctor:

She speaks of strangers on the street shunning her and of losing employment opportunity, but I don't understand why she doesn't wear foundation. The gray face — and its awful expression of sadness — repels people, but she has chosen not to conceal what she could easily conceal and not to smile. Take some responsibility for that. But she's participating in a TV show here, and she's dramatizing her predicament and warning.

And here's a man who's accepting having turned blue and continuing to take silver and to recommend it:

Why is Whole Foods selling this? The phrase "due to responsibility for misuse" is a bit weird, but clearly it means due to responsibility for misuse belonging to you the customer, because we've issued this warning. It's your damned fault if you consume this stuff, get no benefit, but turn blue.

Meanwhile, check out the price tag. 4 ounces of what is only 10 parts per million cost over $25.00. There's not much silver. Maybe I'm getting more silver eating with silver forks and spoons. So what's the problem? It's your $25.

Celebrities mentioned in footnote 5 of Roberts's opinion in McCutcheon: Jay-Z, Beyonce, Kid Rock, Robert Duvall, "Rocket Man."

Reason why they are mentioned: These individuals, though they can't hand a huge sum of money to a political candidate, have the power to channel huge sums of money to a candidate by appearing at a fundraiser.

(Here's the text of the opinion.)

Number of times Justice Breyer uses the expression "collective speech" in his dissenting opinion in McCutcheon: 1.

Number of times Chief Justice Roberts uses Breyer's phase "collective speech" —in quote marks — in his plurality opinion in McCutcheon: 4.

"Collective" is a poor word choice if you're talking about individual rights. It was the word used by the opponents of the individual right to bear arms as they litigated about the meaning of the Second Amendment in the Heller case.

"The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a major campaign finance decision, striking down limits on federal campaign contributions for the first time."

"The ruling, issued near the start of a campaign season, will change and most likely increase the role money plays in American politics," reports Adam Liptak in the NYT.
The decision, by a 5-to-4 vote along ideological lines, was sort of a sequel to Citizens United, the 2010 decision that struck down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions. But that ruling did nothing to disturb the other main form of campaign finance regulation: caps on direct contributions to candidates and political parties.
This is extremely important. The case is McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission

ADDED: Chief Justice Roberts writes for 4 members of the Court — himself and Justice Scalia, Kennedy, and Alito — but the 5th vote from Justice Thomas would go even further. Roberts writes:

Madison votes to legalize marijuana.

It was a referendum advising the state to legalize marijuana and it passed with at 64.5% vote (and that includes the whole county, not just the City of Madison, which is more liberal than the rest of the county). It's not as though the state is close to legalizing marijuana or as though advice from Madison about what laws we'd like passed is going to have much sway in the GOP-dominated state legislature, but what the hell?

This was one of these really obscure little election days we have in Madison — school board, judges, a couple of referenda. I wasn't going to vote, but then, walking home from work, I passed right by the First Congregrational Church which had its "Polling Place" signs up. Oh! I'd forgotten about the election, but am I going to walk by my polling place?

There was a park bench outside, so I sat down and called Meade for some info about what's on the ballot, and he read me some things from the web. I'm supposed to pick between 2 school board candidates that seem completely similar?

But I knew about the marijuana referendum. I'd even encountered a little pro-marijuana rally at the Capitol on Saturday:

"Vote for Pedro." See, that's what marijuana will do to your mind. Later — I saw a pro-marijuana lady holding her sign upside down. I said, "Your sign is upside down," and she laughed. I don't know if she righted the sign, but as I kept walking, I said to Meade, "I don't know if she had it upside down on purpose." Some kind of pothead-to-pothead signaling perhaps. I do know what "Vote for Pedro" means

So, I'm sure you're wondering: Does Althouse vote to legalize marijuana? The answer is yes. It's an easy yes for me at this point because — as you know if you've been reading my marijuana posts — I loathe the legal twilight zone where some states have legalized marijuana, yet it remains a serious crime under federal law, and the feds have further muddied matters with statements about the extent to which they are not going to enforce the federal law. I see no way back from this muddiness that returns us to a clear ban on marijuana, so I think the only way to clarity is to legalize. The more states legalize, the more pressure there is to get to the only way out of the legal twilight zone.

So I cast my lot for dissipating the fog. If that means more people will befog their own minds, at least law-followers will have equal access to the product that law-flouters have felt perfectly free to imbibe. That's fair, I think.

ADDED: Meade texts me this picture and tells me he thinks that Allen Ginsberg was doing a much better job with his sign:

"The NYT tries to explain the physics of 'Young Professor Heisenberg.'"

"Is there any truth? Apparently it's all mere probabilities...."

From my old time-travel blog, The Time That Blog Forgot, which I wrote back in '08 and thought about today because a commenter on my JFK post suggested that I begin a project pretty much like that.

In the past, I wrote about the past. How passé am I supposed to be? I've spent a lot of time in the past, but I'm here now.

Big crowds attend the "White Privilege Conference" here in Madison.

The Capital Times reports.
“The courage of people speaking out inspires me. The demonstrated and suggested ways of advocacy in the face of ubiquitous white-dominated structures inspires me. The incredible articulation of wisdom encapsulated in these rooms inspires me,” said [Sue Robinson, an associate professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication]....

"It’s good to focus on how systemic racism exists and how we function with it," [said Isadore Knox, director of the Dane County Office of Equal Opportunity, who attended the all-day "Black Male Think Tank"]....

For example, rough talk and movement by African-American boys playing basketball may be viewed as threatening by some, but more likely is just posturing and a way of relating, he said. “I would parallel that to school situations where teachers who are not culturally competent see behaviors they see as antisocial, but might be just how those boys react," he said.
Meanwhile, at Breitbart, there's some reporting about how Wisconsin Reporter's Adam Tobias tried  to attend but was stymied by the difficulty of registering as a member of the media. He was told "This is a private conference," but he has some questions "as a taxpayer" about how the conference gets some money from the city's hotel tax. Obviously, these conferences bring visitors into the city, and some of them stay at hotels, but should that mean conferences can't be closed to the media? I haven't thought deeply about this, but it seems to me that these sessions were a bit like psychotherapy groups, and I can see why privacy is desirable in a context where participants are encouraged to become introspective and confessional about their vestigial racism.

ADDED: Nick Novak of the MacIver Institute managed to get into the conference and to attend various "breakout" sessions. Novak quotes a session leader:
"Teaching is a political act, and you can't choose to be neutral. You are either a pawn used to perpetuate a system of oppression or you are fighting against it," [said Kim Radersma, a former high school English teacher]. "And if you think you are neutral, you are a pawn.... Being a white person who does anti-racist work is like being an alcoholic. I will never be recovered by my alcoholism, to use the metaphor... I have to everyday wake up and acknowledge that I am so deeply imbedded with racist thoughts and notions and actions in my body that I have to choose everyday to do anti-racist work and think in an anti-racist way."
We're all sinners. To me this is bland. Pablum. But maybe you find it enraging and insulting.  It's a very old controversy. Do you want to reserve terms like racist (or sinner) for the most extreme manifestations of the tendency or do you want to use the term broadly to call attention to our shared human nature?
"We've been raised to be good. 'I'm a good white person,' and yet to realize I carry within me these dark, horrible thoughts and perceptions is hard to admit. And yet like the alcoholic, what's the first step? Admitting you have a problem," she told the session attendees.
See? It's a therapy group. And no one's making anybody attend. It reminds me of religion — and that 12-steps business is religion — where the proselytizer tries to get you to see that you're not as good as you like to think you are and you need to repent and go forth and sin no more.

Men were forbidden to make "goo-goo eyes" in Houston.

Back in 1905, Eugene Volokh reports.

The term "goo-goo" — referring to eyes or glances (to mean " amorous, ‘spoony’") — is only traced back to 1900 in the (unlinkable) OED, so Houston adopted the slang awfully quickly. Historical examples from the OED:
1900 Godfrey & Hilbury He used to play on the Oboe, She'd make goo-goo eyes at the bandsmen above.
1901 ‘H. McHugh’ John Henry 13 ‘It is awfully nice of you to ask me to see Bernhardt,’ says The Real Thing, throwing a goo-goo at me that settles everything.
1901 ‘H. McHugh’ John Henry 76 He'll turn such a warm pair of goo-goo eyes on her that somebody will have to..yell for the fire department....
1907 N. Munro Daft Days ix. 81 They made goo-goo-eyes at me when I said the least thing.

When the President decried and bemoaned "The Soft American."

"Throughout our history we have been challenged to armed conflict by nations which sought to destroy our independence or threatened our freedom."
The young men of America have risen to those occasions, giving themselves freely to the rigors and hardships of warfare. But the stamina and strength which the defense of liberty requires are not the product of a few weeks' basic training or a month's conditioning. These only come from bodies which have been conditioned by a lifetime of participation in sports and interest in physical activity. Our struggles against aggressors throughout our history have been won on the playgrounds and corner lots and fields of America.

Thus, in a very real and immediate sense, our growing softness, our increasing lack of physical fitness, is a menace to our security.
That was 1960. I don't think JFK wrote his own material, but I note his/"his" absurd dependence on pairing one word with another that means almost the same thing:  rigors and hardship...  stamina and strength... real and immediate. Many, many more in the full article: vigor and determination...  effort and determination... vigor and muscle tone... soft and inactive... physical development and prowess... health and vigor... vigor and vitality...

April 1, 2014

At the Perfect Café...

... why hold out for perfect? Is it really that good?

"A thing — affairs are no longer referred to as affairs. They are in the Seventies called 'things'..."

"... as 'I have a thing going' or 'I’m having this thing.'"

From "Rule 1: Use The Lingo" — from Harper's Bazaar relationship tips from 1976... a "relationship" being "one step up from a thing."

"April Fool!" says Joe Besser at 9:59 in "Quiz Whizz."

It's just by chance that Episode 1 of Season 25 of The 3 Stooges has a reference to the special day that is today:

I ran across "Quiz Whizz" when I was writing the post I published at 7:11 this morning: "Andrew Breitbart's ghost said it, I didn't. don't blame the messenger." I said the 3 Stooges helped me with that post, and: "Bonus points to the reader who can guess what question I had, writing the text above, that led me to Google and resolved my question with help from The 3 Stooges."

No one stepped up to this challenge. The question was how to spell "whizz" in the line "Jennings is more of a quiz-show whizz than a comedy writer." Some might say "wiz," short for "wizard," but there's also "whizz" and "whiz," which seem to refer to the sound of speed. The rhyme with "quiz" is so obvious that you know it's been used, but how is it spelled? It's the title of the 3 Stooges short, so I say that nails it.

If you're reluctant to watch a 3 Stooges short with one of the Joes, perhaps it will interest you to know that at 3:09 the Stooges are confronted by an IRS agent, J.J. Figby. When the Stooges try to evade taxes by joking, Figby says, "No levity please."

Racial discipline for Kobe Bryant.

Yesterday, I posted about that New Yorker article about Kobe Bryant, which I'd listened to in podcast form. The one thing that jumped out at me as bloggable — from what was a very long article — was his comment about abstaining from the politics around Trayvon Martin, and now I see that I wasn't the only one.

The author of the article, Ben McGrath has an item today about the "contentious debate" stirred up by a question he'd asked with "no particular expectation of controversy." This new piece seems like an effort to protect Bryant from criticism, and it also reveals that Bryant himself has been working to shore up his reputation (by tweeting "Martin was wronged" and "the system did not work").

Read the whole thing, which includes this Bryant quote: "I won’t say, ‘O.K., I’m going to vote for Obama just because he’s an African-American... I’m not going to do that in a million years." And there's material about Bryant spending 7 years of his youth in Italy and getting "a strong sense that there is 'a much bigger world out there,'" and how he's been called "somewhat confused about culture because he was brought up in another country."

"Sex: The Terror and the Boredom."

Title of an article in The New York Review of Books about the Lars von Trier movie "Nymphomaniac." Sample text:
However lumpy and tasteless it may be, his gruel is not without its raisins. There is a very funny montage in which young Joe tells a succession of lovers that they have given her her first orgasm; a tumultuous sequence in which an abandoned wife... accompanied by her young children, confronts the home-wrecking young Joe, volubly and at great length; a charming religious vision that, among other things, satirizes von Trier’s erstwhile model, Andrei Tarkovsky; and a scurrilously farcical scene in which mature Joe is sandwiched between two squabbling slices of male bread.
Gruel with raisins... squabbling slices of male bread...

The chances that I'll ever bother to see "Nymphomanic" are close to zero, but I know who Andrei Tarkovsky is, and I have my DVD of "Andrei Rublev," and even if I would get its being satirized, I don't really need that any more than I need to see sex made terrifying and boring.

"Detroit has Washington pretty greased."

Says Ralph Nader, interviewed by The Nation about the GM scandal.
The first is they knew years ago about a deadly defect that could cause death and injury. Then they got reports of the deaths and injuries, and did nothing. Under law they were supposed to inform the government about it, and they did not do so. Then more deaths and injuries occurred, and they still did nothing. [General Motors CEO] Mary Barra says that she didn't learn about it until January 31! And she's the CEO. So the best view of what happened inside GM is bureaucracy—committees passing the buck to one another, nobody responsible, stifling whistleblowers.
"Why all the attention now?" The Nation asks. Nader says:
I think Mary Barra is a factor. They’re fascinated by this new woman, and how she’s going to handle it. That’s part of it. 
What does that mean? Fascinated by a woman?!
 The second is that it’s such a simple thing to understand: don’t put anything on your keychain, otherwise you may lose your engine and your airbag will not deploy when you crash. It isn’t like it’s a complex handling problem or an engine problem or something like that. 

"I'd cracked out a clean T, changed my bedding, and dutifully slept in it au naturel for three nights, without perfume."

"Even so, there wasn't much of an odour, but this is about pheromones, so I trusted there'd be a subtle allure to draw in the man of my dreams."
After sticking my nose in a few bags it became clear there were three distinct categories of smell: the not-really-smelling-of-anything-except-washing-powder, the drenched-in-aftershave, and the bloody-hell-have-you-never-considered-deodorant?...

"All the girls are too clean," one bloke complained. "Weren't the rules that you couldn't wash?" It turned out that he had provided one of the more potently "natural" offerings on the table.

Should the Girl Scouts give up cookie-selling?

"To some doctors and parents, the tradition increasingly feels out of step with the uncomfortable public health realities of our day," reports NPR.
"The problem is that selling high-fat sugar-laden cookies to an increasingly calorie-addicted populace is no longer congruent with [the Girl Scouts' aim to make the world a better place]... I spend my days telling patients to eat less, eat better and exercise... So to me it seems like the Girl Scouts are profiteering off an obvious public health problem."
Wrote some heart doctor on his blog, but NPR returns to the concept that the cookies are a tradition.

Should the Girl Scouts give up cookie-selling?
pollcode.com free polls 

"A British sniper in Afghanistan killed six insurgents with a single bullet..."

"... after hitting the trigger switch of a suicide bomber whose device then exploded...."
The 20-year-old marksman, a Lance Corporal in the Coldstream Guards, hit his target from 930 yards (850 metres) away, killing the suicide bomber and five others around him caught in the blast.

Cass Sunstein picks the top 8 Supreme Court Justices of all time...

... and includes William Rehnquist.
When I was clerking at the court in the early 1980s, Rehnquist told me that the court was like a ship that had become badly tilted — and he made a gesture, signaling that the court had tilted left....

Reducing federal power and limiting the reach of numerous Warren court rulings, Rehnquist... succeeded in restoring what he considered to be the right constitutional balance.

"Elect Jeff McElroy... He promises to just smoke pot as mayor. Not crack."

"When I urinate in public, I never get caught on camera. Vote Jim Tomkins."

Let's get jacked up over jacking up taxes on "nonparents."

I'm just going to link to Instapundit, who links to Reihan Salam at Slate, where there are over 1,000 comments, evincing what an Instapundit commenter calls "horrifying Deep Fever Swamp Leftism."

I don't want to get too deeply into fever swamps on the left or the right. I just want to say:

1. The phrase "jacking up" normally goes with opposition to taxes, so it's a humorous flip to use it when you're actually in favor of more taxes. I'll never forget the time, back in 2010, when we watched the Obama rally from the TV set up on the Union Terrace, in a big enthusiastic crowd of mostly students. I wished I'd caught this one guy on video. Upon some mention of taxes, he stood up facing the crowd and yelled "Taxes?! I say jack 'em up!!!" He did this with a big, clownish, full-body gesture that ended with arms aloft and thumbs up. Meade and I have been imitating that guy for years. For the drunk-on-beer/drunk-on-Obama Terrace crowd, maybe it all seemed like a dream or a joke. Need money? Get money! Jack 'em up!

2. But Salam is doing the humorous flip in the humble-altruistic form that says: Jack up my taxes. I deserve it.  Except he's not just talking about himself. He's talking about a lot of other people too. He's saying people like me need to be punished/penalized/tapped. That gives some creditability to the demand, but only to a point. Years ago I got into a disturbing conversation with someone who became so impassioned over how evil human beings are that he declared that the nuclear holocaust — which he was certain was coming — ought to come soon because we deserved it! His presence in the category of those declared to deserve it did not do much to bolster his authority.

3. Who are "nonparents"? Some "nonparents" are people who don't want children and are relying on others to do the work of making the new generations that will carry on civilization and serve us and benefit and keep us company as the years pass. But some "nonparents" are people who don't have children yet, perhaps because they are careful and conservative controllers of reproduction. I was one of those people in my teens and twenties. I waited until I had reached a level of financial stability before I had my first child at the age of 30. If I had never reached that level, maybe I would never have had any children. Jacking up taxes on the childless would function as a way to shift childbearing to those who don't worry so much about home economics. Eventually these new generations will take over government power, and what economic policies will seem like a good idea to them? I picture a horde of millions making a big, clownish, full-body gesture and yelling "Taxes?! I say jack 'em up!!!"

We're good at basketball, but are we good at institutional humor?

Is your favorite local institution doing a better job at observing April Fool's Day than mine?

It's April 1st, but this CNN Breaking News email seems intended to be taken absolutely seriously.

This arrived in my inbox at April 1, 2014 6:22:22 AM CDT:
A senior administration official said today that after a surge in sign-ups on enrollment deadline day, Obamacare is on track to hit the White House's original target of 7 million people signing up, CNN's Jim Acosta reports.

More than 4.8 million visits were made to HealthCare.gov and 2 million calls were made to the call center Monday, raising optimism that the goal would be met, the official said.

The administration is awaiting final numbers from the federal and state exchanges, the official said.
So... an unnamed spokesperson says there was "a surge" and that sign-ups are "on track," and that there was a large number of visits to the website and calls to the center. CNN takes dictation and conveys a message that's intended to be read — if readers don't look too hard — as a claim that the original 7 million target was hit. But there are no "final numbers" yet.

No final numbers?! There are no numbers on the sign-ups, only numbers on the traffic to the website and the call center. Do we even have a rough guess of the relationship between the number of visits and calls to the number of sign-ups? Is it 99%? 50%? 10%? We're given no idea! And the target of 7 million... 7 million what? Wasn't it coverage for 7 million of the previously uninsured, who were the point of all this health-insurance upheaval? Many people lost insurance they had, and if these previously insured folk had to go to the website/call center to replace their insurance, they shouldn't count toward meeting the 7 million.

I'm trying to find out exactly what the original 7 million goal was, so I don't have to rely on my memory, but when I try to Google, I'm hit with a barrage of articles like "Obamacare Set To Reach 7 Million Sign-Ups On Deadline Day: Sources" (HuffPo) and — for faux balance — "ObamaCare sign-ups reportedly on track to hit 7 million – but will they pay?" (Fox).

Everyone can remember "7 million," but 7 million what? No one remembers, and all the news sites report the White House PR that goes as far as it can to create the impression that the target is hit.

If you do a Google image search on "7 Million," this is the first image that shows up, and it's about as useful as the unnamed-official-source-quoting news outlets:

(Image explained here.) Just one lady, running for shelter... the nearest shelter... it's a bowling alley, but it's shelter... get inside...

Oh, no!!! He's everywhere! He's trying to make it look good, but it's not working out very well.

"Andrew Breitbart's ghost said it, I didn't. don't blame the messenger."

Ken Jennings stands his ground, humor-wise, against the attack of the dreaded Twitchy.

When can it work to select an actual well-known dead person as a character in your joking about dying young? Jennings is more of a quiz-show whizz than a comedy writer, and Twitter boxes everyone in with the short format and wide dissemination, so it's hard to judge from this one example, but this is a case of selecting a dead-young person by his political position to demonstrate the truth of the opposite political position, and if the joke-teller isn't someone who has and wants the comic persona of asshole, this is a bad idea.

But I do like the standing of his ground, after he made the decision to joke about the dead man Breitbart. That takes nerve, and that can be funny. Commit to comedy and don't let the first critics scare you into taking it back and apologizing. It's at this point, when the critics step up, that you have a big opportunity to say something especially funny. Prudes will always be pushing you back. They'll always want everyone to stop laughing. A man died! No one should laugh.

But laughing at death is a good move. If you can't laugh at death, life will be nothing but crying, and that would be true idiocy.

Speaking of true idiocy and commitment to comedy, I got an assist in this post from The 3 Stooges! Bonus points to the reader who can guess what question I had, writing the text above, that led me to Google and resolved my question with help from The 3 Stooges....

... who are all dead!

Oh! No!!!

UPDATE: No one wins the bonus. Answer here

March 31, 2014

Never give up, never give up, never give up...

... but eventually, we all will give if not up then out. Goodbye to Eddie Lawrence, The Old Philosopher. He was 95.

Meade's Pull-Up Challenge.

You may remember back at the end of last year, when we were in Austin, Meade demonstrated a pull-up (chin-up?), and there was some byplay in the comments:
Meade seems to be hanging on a bar not doing a pullup. We want video.
So Meade said:
We have a chinning bar here in Madison. Any man or woman (over 40) who wants to challenge me to a pull-up competition, just email me. :-)
That led to what you see in this video:

At the Ocean of Mercy Café...

... there is tea and food and water and the platitudes are few.

No one is watching Ronan Farrow's TV show.

It's hardly surprising and scarcely his fault. How quickly rich, famous, young, pretty people are drained of any value they might have amassed in their brief experience!

What is this unfortunate lad supposed to do with the rest of his life?

Is Drudge amusing you or scaring you with his "UN: No One Will Be Spared"?

The link goes to an AP piece about the new UN study on global warming, which quotes John Kerry saying "the costs of inaction are catastrophic" and one of the study's authors saying "If we don't reduce greenhouse gases soon, risks will get out of hand... the risks have already risen," and another study author saying "We're all sitting ducks," though ducks, of all animals, do well in floods, like the one depicted in the box-office smash "Noah," whence Drudge nicked the photo to illustrate his scare paraphrase — his scare-a-phrase — of the UN's warning.

There's something else Drudge is doing here, because here are the headlines he puts above the photo, and they do not relate to global warming but to immigration:
Internal 'Homeland' Document Revealed...
ICE released 68,000 convicted criminal aliens last year...
872,504 ordered removed by immigration authorities have not left...
The links go to the government document and to a Breitbart and a Daily Caller article about it. The picture of the rampaging horde takes on different meaning, and the UN's warning is repurposed. Or maybe it is thematically connected as we are supposed to picture refugees from horrendously overheated places to our south frenzied in desperation, clamoring for access to our ark.

Maybe it's funny, maybe it's scary, and maybe it's some offensive xenophobia.

"There's a bigger issue in terms of being an African-American athlete, and the box people try to put you in..."

"And it's always a struggle to step outside of that," says Kobe Bryant, in the excellent (but subscription-only) New Yorker article titled "The Fourth Quarter, Kobe Bryant confronts a long—and possibly painful—goodbye." The article is by Ben McGrath, who continues in this paragraph (on page 45 of a piece that goes from 38 to 49):
When I brought up LeBron James posting online a photo of the Heat players dressed in hoodies, with their heads bowed, in solidarity with Trayvon Martin, as political expression, Bryant seemed nonplussed. "I won't react to something just because I'm supposed to, because I'm African-American," he said. "That argument doesn't make sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and as a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American, we immediately come to his defense? Yet you want to talk about how far we've progressed as a society? Well, if we've progressed as a society, then you don't jump to somebody's defense just because they're African-American. You sit and you listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right? So I won't assert myself."

Should students switch from laptops to handwritten notes to enhance their understanding and memory?

A study suggests that the answer is yes.

The problem with laptops seems to be they facilitated verbatim note-taking, so the mind is less engaged in processing what is heard and extracting material, which is what you have to do in handwriting.

In real life, as opposed to in studies, a student — at least a law student — would need to edit these typed notes down into an outline that can be studied. Even handwritten notes — which is what I had when I went to law school — must be rewritten into something much more compressed. In the study, the subjects were tested on their understanding right after they took notes. They didn't have an outlining and study period. Another difference from real life is that the subjects don't seem to have done readings before the lecture. A real student — again, I'm assuming a law student — should have carefully read the material and taken notes before class. Class notes should be adding to pre-class notes.

When I was a law student, I took class notes that were basically annotating my pre-class notes, confirming understanding developed prior to class. Then after class, I would rewrite everything as clearly and concisely as I could, producing an outline that could be studied. Handwriting may have helped, because in annotating and rewriting things, your mind is strongly engaged in an effort to boil it down. We had no computers in those days, and computers make writing and rewriting much easier, but perhaps there's too much mental ease, too much open-endedness... I say as I blog... typing out the words....

Maybe I need to start a handwritten blog... or have a handwritten blog-post of the day/week on this blog. Years ago, I had a series of posts that reproduced marginal doodles from old notes, but they were more about the drawings than the text. I've put up photos of handwritten text for one reason or another now and then. But it always seems to be about some casual charm or mystery, not for special powers of thought realized through handwriting. It's more of an art project than a writing project, and that seems to be the case when it comes to other blogs that feature handwriting.

Obviously, on the web, if you really care about the words that are written, you want the words to be searchable text, so to write a handwritten blog — unless you rewrite everything in digital text — is to choose obscurity. It's twee and introverted. Marginalia.

"The modern university doesn’t believe in a curriculum."

But then there is the idea of the Experimental College...
[F]ounded by educator Alexander Meiklejohn in 1927, the program presents itself on its website as a “college within a college” that fosters an “integrated understanding of the great themes of human inquiry and expression” through its interdisciplinary courses and certificate program—a “more cohesive alternative” to the traditional approach of earning a degree....
Here's the full text of Meiklejohn's book "The Experimental College." More here:
[A]s intentional communities organized around specific learning objectives, LLPs [living-learning programs] had their beginning with Alexander Meiklejohn’s experimental college... at the University of Wisconsin.... LLPs took hold during the expansion of higher education in the 1950s and 1960s, and a few of the early comprehensive programs still exist today, notably the University of Illinois’s Allen Hall/Unit One and the University of Michigan’s Residential College. 
I attended the University of Michigan's Residential College. That was back in 1969.

"What is it about porn stars that bothers you so much? Why do you hate us? What is it about us that you don't like?"

Says porn actor Conner Habib, who professes to dread the question — when he's out on a date — "What do you do?"
Well, I said to Alex, I'm a porn star.
Let me stop you here, Conner. You just called yourself a "star." If you were a "star," Alex wouldn't have had to ask. What's with porn actors always being referred to as "porn stars"? Actors in conventional movies aren't always called "stars," even when they actually are so well-known that if we had the chance to converse with them, we wouldn't resort to the old "What do you do?" small-talk staple.

Quite aside from that, you're suddenly conveying the information that you have sex with other people and you're going to continue to do so because it's your job. That affects the other person's idea of you as relationship material. Note that the 2 men were on a relationship-y type of a date at "this bourgeois tea and food place," with "a statue of Buddha," a menu that was "all platitudes," and teas with "names like 'Goddess of Wisdom' and 'Ocean of Mercy.'" Conner sounds awfully judgmental about the things Alex likes, Alex having ordered the Oceans of Mercy and Conner having limited himself to a glass of water.

The end of "hopes of a Big Ten-flooded Final Four next weekend."

A phrase from a Lansing State Journal article titled "State of despair: Spartans, Wolverines both fail to make NCAA Final Four." That's the view from Michigan, where Big-Ten pride ought to make them all Badger fans for now.

"And this was a mob, inebriated out of its mind by sports mania and alcohol."

"When one young man perched on a fence was asked what was going on, his thoughtful reply was simple: 'Beer!'"

ADDED: "There were people on top of the walkway covering in front of the construction, on the bus stop roof, and on basically every open surface. Even with windows closed, the sounds of singing and chanting were booming and clear. People were crowd surfing through the street." Said a woman who had a view overlooking State Street, whose tweeted view of the crowd went viral:

AND: Meanwhile, in Tucson, selfies at the riot.

March 30, 2014

"Exactly 50 years ago Thursday, in Alaska, the second largest earthquake in recorded history, magnitude 9.2, remade the Last Frontier State."

"What had been gravel beaches rose to become 30-foot cliffs. What had been forests at sea level were submerged, leaving only the ghostly silver tips that you can still see. In Anchorage, 42,000 people were left homeless."

From a column by Timothy Egan titled "A Mudslide, Foretold," which is mostly about the recent mudslide in the Stillaguamish Valley in Washington.

"Merger marriages are what you tend to see on the weddings pages of the Sunday New York Times..."

"... highly educated couples in their 30s, both people well on their way to success. Lots of things can be said in favor of merger marriages... But let me put in a word for startup marriages, in which the success of the partners isn't yet assured...."

Writes Charles Murray in The Wall Street Journal, dispensing 5 rules for a happy life, beginning with "Consider Marrying Young." Just consider, note. There are, of course, also many reasons to consider not marrying your college sweetheart. For one thing, marriage entails only 2 parties, is intended to last for a human lifetime and tends to include children. So it's not like mergers and startups, which can last for short or long periods of time — whatever works — and involve multiple entities coming and going as suits the needs of whoever wields more economic power. It's a really bad analogy.

Brass knuckles... the feminine version.

Poster for a new, mainstream movie, pointed to by JohnJEnright in the comments on this morning's post about brass knuckles. He says:
I suppose this is a good example of where one can be funny about female-on-male violence, because it is male-on-female violence that is normally viewed as the bigger historical problem. 
Yes, and part of it is also that we don't believe women really are going to inflict serious harm, even though obviously they can and sometimes do. The man is often displayed as manly precisely because he endures a woman's beating him. It was an old movie/TV cliché for a woman to pound on a man's chest furiously until she broke down crying and then he would hug and comfort her. Another comedy meme is attempted violence, especially where the effort to harm another backfires on the would-be assailant. That's why "Home Alone" was funny. It's also supposed to be funny when the target of the violence deserves it enough. This is often done badly, and I'll bet that "The Other Woman" is one of these female revenge fantasies where — speaking of beating — they beat us over the head with how much we're supposed to hate this male victim whose pain and fear is supposed to amuse us.

"I have no doubt there will be repercussions for me for talking. They'll figure out a way to do it."

"But it's going to be harder for them to try to do that. If they put me in jail at least people will know exactly what they are doing... I'm not telling my story to help [Scott Walker], or to hurt him.... I don't care who is doing it, the right or the left. I don't want this to happen to anyone. I'm hoping that by telling my story I can wake people up to realize what's happening."

Kelly Rindfleisch speaks (to The Wall Street Journal).

"Ms. Moore suggested that Mr. Clinton invoke God 'as the underpinning for his policy and thought process.'"

The least bland thing in the NYT article "Newly Released Clinton-Era Papers Show Damage Control During Scandal."

Junta, migwm, articulation, knoke, golonka, nudillo, nocca, boğum, zglob, lankstas...

It's lankstas for gangstas in Lithuania... according to the European word translator, into which I chose to enter the word "knuckle," because I'd just spent the previous hour thinking about knuckles.

I got to that first link through Metafilter, where many people are reporting on whatever word it was that they thought of seeing in lots of European languages.

I was fascinated to see that "junta" as a translation of "knuckle" (in Portugal, but not Spain). Thinking about the English word "junta" — influenced by all that thinking about knuckles in a physical attack — I picture a punch, but the English word "junta" relates to government by a committee. A committee? What is the connection between committees and knuckles?

It's right there in the word "junta." Look at it.

"Brass knuckles, also sometimes called knuckles, knucks, brass knucks, knucklebusters, or knuckledusters, are weapons used in hand-to-hand combat."

So begins the Wikipedia article on brass knuckles, which is illustrated by this picture of the brass knuckles that were carried by Abraham Lincoln's bodyguards:

I got there because I was googling "who uses brass knuckles" after reading this news story about San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver, who "was arrested Friday after he allegedly struck a bicyclist, attempted to flee the scene and then threatened a witness with brass knuckles after he was cornered." What sort of person, out driving, finding himself suddenly confronted, would have brass knuckles immediately at hand?