May 10, 2014

At the Skinny Tulip Café...

... you can talk about anything you like.

"There can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or body of magistrates."

Wrote Montesquieu, quoted by Senator Ted Cruz in the introduction to — PDF — "THE LEGAL LIMIT: THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S ATTEMPTS TO EXPAND FEDERAL POWER," which is mostly a set of lists of (purported) abuses of power, with each item footnoted to a media source.

I found that via Dana Milbank's "Ted Cruz, the reckless accuser," which begins:
Sen. Ted Cruz, in a speech to fellow conservatives at the Federalist Society this week, provided detailed evidence of what the right calls the “lawlessness” of the Obama administration.

The Texas Republican, in his latest McCar­thyesque flourish, said he had a list of "76 instances of lawlessness and other abuses of power."

To his credit, Cruz made his list public.
So, basically, Dana Milbank, you old bullshitter, it wasn't McCarthyesque at all, and you knew it wasn't McCarthyesque when you wrote that it was McCarthyesque, but you just wanted to say it was McCarthyesque.

And you're calling Cruz "the reckless accuser"?!  Oh, I didn't say he was exactly the same as Joe McCarthy. I said it was McCarthyesque. Don't you know the meaning of -esque?

Yeah, it means bullshit. Joe McCarthy talked about have a list of names of individual human beings, a list he never revealed, of names that were currently unknown to the public and that he was threatening to reveal. Cruz's list was a list not of people but of things the Obama Administration has done, and these were not secret things. They were known things that Cruz had collected on a list. What is the threat of revealing the already-known things in the form of a list? And the list was made public, so it wasn't even a secret list, a list to which one could refer as a scary threat — which wouldn't even be a scary threat anyway because it wasn't a list of names of human beings whose lives would be ruined.

(Milbank goes on to question the accuracy of a few items on Cruz's list and to characterize the whole list as really about Cruz's disagreement with the "politics and policy" of the Obama administration.)

Amanda Hess remembers when Maureen Dowd was "sympathetic to Lewinsky and damning of an administration that rushed to smear her in a bid to cover its own ass."

... and how "It didn’t take long for Dowd to buckle under the power of the Clinton narrative and join the pile-on herself."

David Lee Roth explains the "no brown M&Ms" contract term.

The brown M&Ms strategy is discussed by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen Dubner, in "How to Trick the Guilty and Gullible into Revealing Themselves/It starts with a basic understanding of game theory and incentives."

Levitt and Dubner are the "Freakonomics" guys. They have a new book coming out Monday: "Think Like a Freak."

IN THE COMMENTS: I Have Misplaced My Pants said: "This American Life covered that territory years ago (explaining the brown M&Ms clause)." I don't know when the video I've embedded was recorded but it was uploaded in 2012. The "This American Life" episode — here, "Fine Print" — originally aired in April 2011, but Ira Glass is quoting David Lee Roth's autobiography, and that was published back in 1998. So Roth told his own story first. I'm just seeing it today because of that "Think Like a Freak" piece. I figure if I haven't seen something before, maybe you haven't. That said, I'm a big fan of "This American Life," and I've listened to nearly all the episodes, but I don't always remember what I've heard before. That "Fine Print" episode is one of the most law-oriented ones.

"Everybody’s gone completely crazy on this voter ID thing."

"I think it’s wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it’s offending people."

Said Rand Paul.

"Man on TV dating show reveals killing first wife, lover."

"I killed her after she tried to kill me.... She was accidentally killed when I swung the ax," he said, and then, resisting getting kicked off the show: "Bad luck always found me... In spite of everything, I still want to get married. This time I'll leave it to God. "

"Professors were more responsive to white male students than to female, black, Hispanic, Indian or Chinese students in almost every discipline and across all types of universities."

"We found the most severe bias in disciplines paying higher faculty salaries and at private universities. In a perverse twist of academic fate, our own discipline of business showed the most bias, with 87 percent of white males receiving a response compared with just 62 percent of all females and minorities combined."

"I like the guy… off in his human world, gesticulating about things un-dog."

Say I, commenting at Dogging Meade.

Elsewhere, there, I said this: "Zipper is surly. He is uncaring. Not Zipper the dog, of course. He's great. Zipper the dolphin!"

"'My mouth is full of decayed teeth and my soul of decayed ambitions'..."

"... James Joyce wrote in a letter to his brother at the beleaguered age of 25.... Martin Amis... and Vladimir Nabokov... suffered 'catastrophic tooth-loss' while in their 40s... Virginia Woolf['s] teeth were pulled on the bizarre theory that they caused her mental disorders.... Dostoevsky's Underground Man masochistically glories in the 'malignant' pain in his mouth. Handsome Count Vronsky is deformed by toothache after Anna Karenina's [SPOILER ALERT] suicide. Abscesses and botched extractions mark the decline of the Buddenbrook clan. John Updike's 1955 short story 'Dentistry and Doubt' places a seminary student in the dentist's chair and carries out a primer on theodicy. 'Even his toothbrush,' thinks the young cleric, his mouth filled with metal instruments, 'which on good days presented itself as an acolyte of matinal devotion, today seemed an agent of atheistic hygiene, broadcasting the hideous fact of bacteria. Why had God created them . . . ?'"

The beginning a Wall Street Journal piece about a novel where the main character is a dentist.

"It's kept me for 30 years out of the dry embrace of the computer."

"It" = a Hermes 3000 typewriter, "surely one of the noblest instruments of European genius."

The quote is from Larry McMurtry, on the occasion of winning the Golden Globe award for the screenplay for "Brokeback Mountain." I'm reading that, from 2006, because I just got around, after all these years to making a Larry McMurtry tag for this blog. I dislike tag proliferation, and I avoid making a tag for individuals unless I think they'll be used a few times. It turned out there were 4 old posts with Larry McMurtry's name in them.

The other 3 are:

1. Larry McMurtry effusing over Diane Keaton: "She told me she hoped to be complicated, someday."

2. Larry McMurtry answering questions from a NYT interviewer, including ""What, exactly, do you think cowboys represent, other than the triumph of alpha males?" Answer:
Cowboys are a symbol of a freer time, when people could go all the way from Canada to Mexico without seeing a fence. They stand for good ol' American values, like self-reliance.

Maybe some American values, but you can't say that cowboys were ever interested in spreading democracy.

No, they were interested in spreading fascism.
3. Here's the good, timelessly timely one: "Larry McMurtry raves (literally) about Clinton's book." Clinton is Bill Clinton, and the book is "My Life." Let's go back and read what McMurtry banged out on his juicy Hermes 3000 back in 2004:
Undoubtedly he has occasionally made time for bedroom sports, but not much time. Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky may be three of the nicest ladies in America, but their "conquest," however we are to understand that term, does not make Clinton the world's No. 1 ladies' man, or even the No. 1 ladies' man of northwest Washington....

The very press that wanted to discredit him and perhaps even run him out of town instead made him a celebrity, a far more expensive thing than a mere president....

And somehow, vaguely, it all has to do with sex - not necessarily sex performed, just sex in the world's head. I doubt myself that Bill Clinton's sex life has been all that different from anybody else's: pastures of plenty, pastures of less than plenty, pastures he should get out of immediately, and not a few acres of scorched earth.

During the silly time when Clinton was pilloried for wanting to debate the meaning of "is," I often wondered why no one pointed out that he was educated by Jesuits, for whom the meaning of "is" is a matter not lightly resolved.

"She asked me several times to read Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, not quite to the point of persistence..."

"... not nagging or begging, but with a quiet unspoken pleading—she loved it, and she wanted to talk about it with someone she knew would love it too; I had read The Last Picture Show, and I knew I would like the writing enough to ride along with the plot (I understood it was not a Louis L’Amour type of Western), but I didn’t, and I’m not sure why; maybe it was just the resistance that even an adult child feels when a parent asks her to do something optional—I could feel her yearning, and maybe that scared or dismayed me in ways I still can’t name, or maybe I thought I had too many other 'important' things I wanted to read, this being the years I was in grad school and had developed a bookaholic habit of acquiring them faster than I could ever read them, a habit that is yet uncured, which is sometimes serendipitous, because on one of the four bookshelves in my bedroom, here is her swaybacked copy, which I still haven’t read, but which I’ve already possessed by writing my name in, and when I finally start reading the first page—such a simple, easy thing to do, no resistance at all—oh God, forgive me, I’m hooked by the first sentence and smitten by a half-sentence in the middle of the second paragraph, 'Pigs on the porch just made things hotter,' and by the second chapter I understand she probably wanted to talk about the affection the writer bore for these characters, and his attention to their interior lives, which is probably the same reason she begged me to read some Barbara Pym, and now that I’ve passed 50 myself, maybe by reading this book I can put away the security blanket of regrets and wallow no more in the same pond that made child-me ask for a song I knew would make me cry."

That's the longest sentence in "50 Things About My Mother," in which each of the 50 things is one sentence long. Many of the sentence are short. It's easy to write short sentences, a little harder to mix short and long sentences, and quite hard — not that it's often a good idea — to write an extremely long sentence like that. When you do write an extremely long sentence, you should have a good reason, and I'll bet you could write 50 reasons, in long and short sentences, why that long sentence is that long.

Anyway, tomorrow is Mother's Day. I hope you — unlike me and the author of that list, Laura Lynn Brown — have a mother who is still alive. 

May 9, 2014

Who is not a journalist?

Tina Brown has a piece titled "How Monica Lewinsky Changed the Media," which is linked at Drudge with the teaser "BITTER BROWN: DRUDGE KILLED MEDIA..." From Brown's piece:
Monica’s new musings just remind us of how the death of privacy started. The press was at the height of its power when the Monica story began and Drudge was its underbelly.
Brown describes 90s Drudge as "operating in pallid obsession out of his sock-like apartment in Miami" and "hitting 'send' on each new revelation that no one else would publish."
The ascendant media that looked down on him has been pretty much destroyed. No one would have believed that that only 13 years later the Graham family would no longer own The Washington Post, that the two mighty news magazines would become a shadow and a corpse, and that the juggernaut CNN would be chasing the spoils won by cable TV’s counterpart to the Drudge Report, the Fox News Network. That too, is a story of humiliation. And not just hers.
I remember back then, how people would express outrage that people were reading Drudge. "He's not a journalist." The journalists had decided the story would not be told, and here is this man... who does he think he is? It's hard today to understand the notion that there was something wrong with writing on the internet without the certification of professional gatekeepers.

If Matt Drudge got out ahead of all that major media, it's because they did not do their job. Ironically, it was really they who were not journalists.

Bill Clinton is planning to perform a public apology to Monica Lewinsky.

So they say! The idea would be (obviously) to help Hillary.

What exactly should he say, do you think?

If true, we have clear confirmation of the genesis of Monica's recent re-emergence.

If true, we are witnessing a meticulously planned media campaign.

If true, I am greatly distressed that the most talented people in the business of media campaigns believe that this strategy is appropriate and will be effective.

I am even more disturbed to realize that they may be correct.

Low-carb ice cream...

... requires a good ice cream making machine, and we love this thing.

Of course, you can make great sugared ice cream too, but you can also buy great sugared ice cream. You can't buy decent low-carb ice cream. Not anywhere I've seen.

"I’m talking to a girl. I’m trying to have sex with her..."

"If you were trying to have sex with a girl and you’re talking to her privately and you don’t think anybody’s there, you may say anything in the world!... So they should take away for life your team [if] you say the wrong thing to a girl?... I know what I said was wrong."

Sterling speaks... again.

"Jayceon (and Jayse/Jayce), Milan, Atlas, and Duke for the boys; Daleyza, Marjorie, Lennon, Jurnee, and Everlee/Everleigh for girls."

To answer your question which names are rising fastest on the newest charting of popular baby names.

Resist mockery. Remember: Babies are named by people who have babies. Don't like the names? Have your own baby.

Oh! Speaking of names... we — and by "we," I mean the Green Bay Packers — got the player with the best name: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. And no, that was not a joint. Nor was this.

And.... if you don't like Dix, check out the Dox.

AND: Look at the popularity of my name in relation to the similar names, all more complicated:

My parents believed in sleek modernity. Who knew the future would be so old-timey?

The "cannot unsee" phenomenon.


From "Things You Cannot Unsee (and What That Says About Your Brain)/We're going to rewire your brain. Are you ready?" — which has lots of other examples and interesting discussion.
It is not that the real world doesn't exist, but more that we experience it as a hybrid reality: our top-down categories and imagination of the world and our bottom-up sensory experience of the world blend seamlessly into the experience of walking outside into the sunshine or seeing a bird on a wire or eating an oyster or seeing Jesus in a tortilla.

Meade likes turtles.

More turtle pics, from today's journey to Meade's dog turtle park, here.

"A little girl we can lust after. A little girl we can prey upon. A little girl that can be Woody Allen's daughter taken up into the attic..."

"... and sexually abused with people witnessing from a distance but taking no action on her behalf. Because I feel we have to draw those connections of our enslaved black female body to the enslaved bodies of all girls, all colors, with that predatory gaze. Let's take the image of this super rich, very powerful Black female and let's use it in the service of imperialist, white supremacist capitalist patriarchy because she probably had very little control over that cover — that image."

Bell Hooks does not like that Time Magazine cover of Beyoncé. When pushed back with the assertion that Beyoncé probably used her own stylist and had final approval of the photograph that Time used, Bell Hooks said:
But then you're saying, then, from my deconstructive point of view that she's colluding in the construction of her self as a slave. Are you still a slave? It's not a liberatory image.
Here's the image in question for reference. How that's supposed to remind anyone of a little girl or a slave, I do not know. But congratulations to Bell Hooks for getting her name to rise in the new media morass, and I am happy to do my part in bringing this message forward. I don't particularly like seeing photos of pop singers looking inexplicably grouchy while wearing granny panties. But little girl/slave isn't what I'm seeing. If anyone's doing a "predatory gaze," it's Beyoncé.

Via Metafilter, where somebody says Beyoncé looks like she's wearing "very chaste beachwear" and somebody else says says:
Keep in mind the context, the title of the panel was "Are You Still A Slave? Liberating the Black Female Body."...  If the assertion is that [Beyoncé is] one of the most powerful people in America, then it's worthwhile to deconstruct the Beyonce imagery and machine. She's not off limits, she's THE person to talk about.... [W]hatever bell's comments are, they are NOT "crazy ragey hyperbolic shit." She has clearly thought a lot about this and does not use her words lightly.

The "Benghazi is a circus" meme.

Spotted today in this NYT editorial: "Center Ring at the Republican Circus."

Previously spotted...

... when Jane Harman delivered Benghazi talking points on "Fox News Sunday" and began with: "This is a circus."

Actually, the text of the NYT editorial doesn't use the "circus" metaphor, but it does begin "The hottest competition in Washington this week is among House Republicans vying for a seat on the Benghazi kangaroo court...." and "kangaroo court" does sound sort of circus-like — some spectacle involving animals.

Why did the noble kangaroo get connected to the idea of an improperly constituted, unfair tribunal?
There is some debate over the origin of the term kangaroo court, but some sources suggest that it may have been popularized during the California Gold Rush of 1848, as a description of the hastily carried-out proceedings used to deal with the issue of claim jumping miners. Other sources claim that the term comes from the notion of justice proceeding "by leaps," like a kangaroo. Some[who?] have suggested that the phrase could refer to the pouch of a kangaroo, meaning the court is in someone's pocket. 
The question hich animal would make the worst judge is an interesting one. It's easy to quip that the human animal makes the worst judge. Only the human animal ever gets the idea of conducting anything even resembling a judicial procedure.

That said, I would not like to be tried by a bird.

("Up Before the Beak" from Punch's Almanack For 1882 ("beak" was slang for "judge."))

At the Dog's Head Café...

... it's a freaky disembodied dog head. And yet he lives! He's Bob, one of the many dogs who are not Lefty who met up yesterday at Meade's dog park, "One of the few non-politicized venues left in the nation" (as Mike and Sue call it).

"4 Pinocchios for Obama’s claim that Republicans have ‘filibustered about 500 pieces of legislation.'"

From WaPo's Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler.
On just about every level, this claim is ridiculous.

We realize that Senate rules are complex and difficult to understand, but the president did serve in the Senate and should be familiar with its terms and procedures. Looking at the numbers, he might have been able to make a case that Republicans have blocked about 50 bills that he had wanted passed, such as an increase in the minimum wage. But instead he inflated the numbers to such an extent that he even included votes in which he, as senator, supported a filibuster.

"The ever-grumpy, constantly complaining union leadership at AFSCME and WEAC alienated non-union taxpayers who were paying the bills."

"They used language that sounded like they were defending Pennsylvania coal miners in 1911 instead of office workers and teachers with very good benefits and fine working conditions in 2011. If unions want to reclaim their relevance, it would be a good thing to ban use of the word 'solidarity' as well as anything that rhymes with 'hey, ho' forever more."

Writes Citizen Dave, Dave Cieslewicz, the former mayor of Madison, Wisconsin). He's saying that from the left and right after assuring readers (at the lefty newspaper Isthmus) that he "hated how Gov. Scott Walker demonized schoolteachers and public employees during the Act 10 debate" — which is ludicrous, Scott Walker was demonized by the protesters, but he was completely restrained, almost to the point of dead silence, and didn't demonize anybody — but my point here is that Walker-hater Cieslewicz is sick of the way lefties talk about government workers and their unions.

I read that part and said: "He sounds like me." I was thinking particularly of a post of mine from March 15, 2011: "In the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda, protesters — not noticing the self-dramatization — sing about how they're standing up to 'goons and ginks and company finks' and how one day they'll 'be free.'"
I edited [the video] to heighten the absurdity of appropriating the civil rights song "We Shall Overcome" (about not being free) and that "Stickin' to the Union" song (about facing union-busting violence).

The protests have been on behalf of well-paid people with excellent jobs — better jobs than the average Wisconsinite's. And the protesters got massive extra doses of freedom to express themselves in the state capitol for over a month, without any threats of violence or even arrest for the crimes they committed in full view of the police. I mean, I know they have their complaints, but they are not even the bottom sector of the Wisconsin economy. If there were to be a class struggle here, they would be taken aback to find themselves in the role they actually have in this economy: the oppressors!
AND: By the way, the singing group in my video called themselves "The Solidarity Singers," so Citizen Dave's saying "ban use of the word 'solidarity'" has got to feel like a direct affront.

"New UW-Madison postdoctoral program in feminist biology is the first in the nation."

"Rooting out bias in research." (Emphasis added.)
"Many things that 'everyone knows' about human sex differences are not scientifically accurate," says professor Caitilyn Allen, a plant pathologist at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Yet, she adds, these ideas "affect individual life decisions and broader social policies. Getting the facts right leads to increased opportunities for everyone and improves the quality of science in general."
Plant pathologist... rooting out bias... That has metaphorical potential, but I'm just going to say it's a great idea to forefront research into the truth about human sex differences. Let's get seriously scientific. Obviously, there's a danger that the point is to "root out" only the scientific mistakes that seem to diminish or hurt women in any way. Calling it "feminist biology" heightens our sense that this danger is real. And "Getting the facts right leads to increased opportunities for everyone" — that sounds prejudged. What if getting the facts right decreased opportunities for some people? Would you still want to tell us those facts or do we need facts that help women?

But the fearless pursuit of the truth about the differences between men and women? If you can do that, I celebrate you.

"It May Already Be Too Late to Confirm a Replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg" is a silly title that isn't even trying to say what this TNR article is about.

Not long ago, lawprof Erwin Chemerinsky and others were pressuring Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to heave herself out of her seat on the Supreme Court to give President Obama the opportunity to replace her, but no point now, according to Simon Lazarus and Tom Donnelly at The New Republic, in a piece with the silly title "It May Already Be Too Late to Confirm a Replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg."

I'm saying "silly" because the fussy accuracy consciousness of the first half of the title turns into blatant inaccuracy paired with the second half of the title. As long as the United States in its current form, under our Constitution, persists, it's never too late to confirm a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Whenever Justice Ginsburg's seat becomes available, some President will nominate someone who will be confirmed by the Senate.

What it "may" already be too late for is what the Lazarus-Donnelly article means to tell us about, which I don't have to read their article to know. It's too late for President Obama to nominate the kind of Supreme Court Justice he presumably wants — a solid liberal — and to get confirmation from the Senate. The November election is too close, the Democratic Party is at risk of losing the Senate, the spectacle of attempting to confirm a liberal Supreme Court nominee will put Democratic Senate candidates at greater risk, and the GOP Senators will have reason to drag out the confirmation process so that it might not even be successful.

The most interesting point that Lazarus and Donnelly make — not reflected in the silly title or in the idea the silly title is meant to express — is that keeping a left-leaning Justice off the Court is an issue that works for Republican candidates far more that getting a left-leaning Justice onto the Court could work for Democratic candidates.
Most Democratic voters simply don’t see the courts as relevant to the—mainly economic—issues they care about most....

In contrast, Republicans savor high-decibel political fights over the courts. In the short term, they see them as a way of firing up their base and burnishing their brand as defenders of the Constitution and the rule of law....

This asymmetry yields a chronic, structural disadvantage that limits the options available for Democratic and progressive leaders, when battles flare in the ongoing war over the courts. 
This is an amusing concession that liberals need to do their court appointments when elections aren't too close. It's Democrats and not Republicans who want to avoid accountability for judicial appointments.

But Lazarus and Donnelly imagine — or purport to imagine — that "Democrats and progressives" can "transform the politics around the courts" — that is, make voters get excited about putting left-leaning Justices on the Court. Lazarus and Donnelly present a 3-point plan to accomplish this transformation:

1. Make people see that that liberal Supreme Court Justices will help them economically. That sounds really complicated to me. I doubt if the proposition is true, and what's the argument that it is?
Since June 2008, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy has held recurrent hearings designed “to shine a light on how the Supreme Court’s decisions affect Americans’ everyday lives,” showcasing victims of decisions detrimental to employment safeguards, retirement security, consumer protection, health care coverage, and securities fraud protections. And in the wake of the Court’s recent decision in McCutcheon v. F.E.C., which struck down long-established limits on aggregate campaign contributions by wealthy donors, Leahy and Senate Rules Committee Chair Chuck Schumer announced joint efforts to spotlight how “five justices once again have decided to rule on the side of moneyed interests,” beginning with former Justice John Paul Stevens’s high-profile testimony last week before the Senate Rules Committee. Most visibly, Senator Elizabeth Warren, leader of the Democrats’ populist wing, has begun to tie the courts to her larger economic message, warning progressives about “the corporate capture of the federal courts.” These are steps in the right direction, but thus far, these limited probes that have barely registered with the media or the public. 
Patrick Leahy shining a light somehow doesn't get media attention. I'm sure the media would help with the liberal-judge-appointing agenda if they could, so the failure to direct the public's attention to where Patrick Leahy is shining his light is strong evidence that Step 1 doesn't work too well.

2. Democrats and progressives should scare people about the consequences of allowing right-leaning judges to get their hands on left-leaning legislation like the Affordable Care Act. They need to warn people that "radical" theories like federalism, "[o]nce pie-in-the-sky academic musings," now get serious respect from Supreme Court Justices.

Speaking of pie in the sky... picture a liberal political candidate trying to alarm citizens about the idea that the Constitution gives limited enumerated powers to the federal government and reserves power to the states. Speaking of things confined to the academy! You can make intra-law-school folk nod their head at the notion that federalism is dangerous, but in normal political speech, even Democratic Party candidates assure us of their respect for the role of the states in our constitutional scheme.

3. Convince people that left-leaning constitutional interpretation is actually what the Constitution means, not simply what lefties like. Lazarus and Donnelly admit that Democratic politicos "cede the legal high ground to their Republican adversaries." The remedy is supposedly to roll out legal academics to inform the public of the theories that support the results liberals like. Supposedly, Senator Leahy is leading they way by pointing out that the decisions he doesn't like are wrong as a legal matter. And Obama sometimes throws rhetoric into his speeches about "the enduring strength of the Constitution," so there's that. And there are those law professors who've been working for years writing material that "demonstrates that the Constitution’s text and history often point in progressive—not conservative—directions." Roll those guys out. (I'm saying "guys" because Lazarus and Donnelly name 5 law professors and they're all guys, so I thought I'd insert some War-on-Women dissonance.)

Well, left-leaning politicos really should try to do this. They have ceded the high ground to conservatives, but I think the liberal constitutional law material doesn't play very well in common political discourse, and for too long the go-to liberal argument has been law is just politics and it's all about outcomes. If lefties abandon the all-about-politics meme and commit to taking legal arguments seriously and to demonstrating the soundness of their interpretation, they'll be taking quite a risk. As a law professor, I'd love to see it. I'd have some great blogging material.

But, honestly, I think the actual politicians know they can't operate on that level, AKA "the high ground." Still, I'd love the opportunity to poke at them and try to topple them as they posture and pose up there.

May 8, 2014

"Apparently I went drunk shopping on Amazon last Saturday..."

"... and this arrived today. I regret nothing."

NOTE: If you must drunk-shop, please use the Althouse Amazon Portal.

"If it's possible to have sex in a feminist way, it's possible to record it in a feminist way."

What is feminist pornography?
"You get to see more of people's bodies, more of people's faces, and there's less of an assumption of one person or one gender being the focus over another," says Tristan Taormino, a leading feminist pornographer, author and organiser of the Feminist Porn Conference at the University of Toronto....

Carlyle Jensen says her customers at Good for Her found the narrow range of sexual practices and imagery they saw in porn unappealing, and they wanted something they could feel good about watching... "I want to reclaim the word feminist," says Jensen, who says people unfamiliar with feminist porn wrongly think it's for "people who hate men."

"Was Lefty there?"

I always ask, and the answer is nearly always, "Lefty was not there, but..." and then comes a list of many other dogs, and this is my favorite picture from today's set:

That's Rosey (with Bob in the background). Go to Dogging Meade for the rest of the set.

"The State Department under Hillary Clinton fought hard against placing the al Qaeda-linked militant group Boko Haram on its official list of foreign terrorist organizations for two years."

"And now, lawmakers and former U.S. officials are saying that the decision may have hampered the American government’s ability to confront the Nigerian group that shocked the world by abducting hundreds of innocent girls," says The Daily Beast.
“The one thing she could have done, the one tool she had at her disposal, she didn’t use. And nobody can say she wasn’t urged to do it. It’s gross hypocrisy,” said a former senior U.S. official who was involved in the debate. “The FBI, the CIA, and the Justice Department really wanted Boko Haram designated, they wanted the authorities that would provide to go after them, and they voiced that repeatedly to elected officials.”

3 Pinocchios to Harry Reid's claim that the Koch brothers are "one of the main causes" of climate change.

Why only 3 and not the maximum of 4? Glenn Kessler explains:
Certainly, Koch Industries contributes to climate change, but the relative impact falls well short of being a “major cause.” We understand Reid’s overall point, but it’s important to stick to the facts when making such claims. Given that Reid did not accurately describe the U-Mass. report, our rating on this statement tips toward Three Pinocchios.
Paraphrase: An old politico with his heart in the right place is entitled to a little hyperbole.

I don't agree with that statement, by the way. That's just my translation of Kessler's analysis. What I think is that those who've got their hands on government power should never evince partisan hostility toward private citizens. They should always take pains to appear neutral toward the people they are in a position to harass, and shame on them when they don't.

Writing that made me look up Obama's speech from last weekend's White House Correspondents Dinner, because I remember that he mentioned the Koch Brothers and my reaction was outrage, expressed (out loud) in just about the words you see in the previous 2 sentences. Looking at the text of the speech, I see the precise words were:
And speaking of conservative heroes, the Koch brothers bought a table here tonight. But as usual, they used a shadowy right-wing organization as a front.  Hello, Fox News.  (Laughter and applause.)
Doesn't that seem rather mild? Was I unduly cantankerous late at night, listening for trouble? Or was I right to be outraged? This is the President of the United States, in a position to impose endless anguish on the citizens whose names he called out. He sounds good humored, as though we're supposed to somehow believe that he'd never do any mischief, but look at the IRS scandal, and remember that Obama joked about auditing his enemies.


"... is a field of study that explores the relationship between visual perception and sensorimotor activity."
Mangen and Velay's [2010 report, "Digitizing Literacy"] delved into the implications of switching from writing by hand — a unimanual activity, in which our focus is on the very spot on a page where we're shaping letters we've practiced and memorized — to typing, a bimanual activity, which involves splitting our attention between keyboard and page, and in which "readymade" characters appear on the page with a percussive thrust of a finger.

The transition comes at a cost.

"John Doe investigation halted again after finding that appeal was 'frivolous.'"

The Wisconsin State Journal reports:
The John Doe investigation into possible illegal coordination between Gov. Scott Walker's campaign and several conservative groups has once again been halted after a federal judge on Thursday dismissed as "frivolous" an interim appeal by the prosecutors in the case.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa issued the decision less than a day after the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago stayed an earlier ruling ending the secret "John Doe" investigation.

The appeals court said Randa erred in not first deciding whether the emergency appeal — in which prosecutors argued they had sovereign immunity from being sued in their official capacity — was frivolous.

In his ruling Thursday, Randa wrote that he was "absolutely convinced that the defendants' attempt to appeal this issue is a frivolous effort to deprive the court of its jurisdiction to enter an injunction."
Here's my post discussing Randa's decision on the jurisdictional issues, the most important of which was based on the Younger abstention doctrine. Randa had the power to prevent an appeal on that question by calling it frivolous, and the 7th Circuit yesterday had stayed Randa's preliminary injunction until he took the step that he has now taken.

"So we confronted the Nazis with their greatest fear, Uberfremdung, which means infiltration with foreign blood."

"The first 'like storm,' instead of a shit storm.... We destroyed hate with love."

"What should parents say when their little daughter asks, 'Am I pretty?'"

A question to a WaPo advice columnist. Guess which answer the concerned mother received:

1. Just say "yes."

2. Say: "How do you feel inside? That’s what I ask myself."

3. Here, play The Jefferson Airplane, "Pretty As You Feel" and insist that she listen to the whole thing with you. If she asks "Am I pretty?" again, start singing that song. Repeat until she stops the cycle.

4. You didn't tell us whether your daughter is pretty. If she is, give her the honest "yes." If she's not, say something that's honest but upbeat, like "I always think the prettiest girls are the ones who act like they don't care at all how they look."

5. Say: "Not when you ask that question."

6. Say: "You're quite hideous, like me!" and make that face where you pull the sides of your mouth apart and waggle your tongue.

Click here to see the actual answer.

At CBS DC right now, surprising results of a sidebar poll about Donald Sterling.

Perhaps the poll appears other places as well, but in any case, I think this response is very different from what the media wanted to make people think:

I happened to notice the poll because I'd clicked to the article "US Attorney To Oversee Lerner Contempt Case Appointed By Obama." Feel free to discuss that topic as well. I hope 2 completely different topics doesn't produce chaos in the topics. I'm not going to perform any these-topics-actually-are-related theater for you.

Have at it.

"I think that there are impulses in the government every day to second guess and look into the editorial decisions of conservative publishers."

Said Federal Election Commission Chairman Lee E. Goodman, interviewed by Paul Bedard at The Washington Examiner.
“The right has begun to break the left’s media monopoly, particularly through new media outlets like the internet, and I sense that some on the left are starting to rethink the breadth of the media exemption and internet communications,” he added.
Goodman recognizes this as a mistake — or at least talks as though he does.
Noting the success of sites like the Drudge Report, Goodman said that protecting conservative media, especially those on the internet, “matters to me because I see the future going to the democratization of media largely through the internet. They can compete with the big boys now, and I have seen storm clouds that the second you start to regulate them, there is at least the possibility or indeed proclivity for selective enforcement, so we need to keep the media free and the internet free.”
The possibility or indeed proclivity for selective enforcement... and that is the problem. Once you have a complicated system of regulations, anyone who dares to speak calls attention to himself and risks accusations that he's made some misstep, and ordinary self-protective individuals will decide to keep out of the fray altogether. The tendency of those in power in government to see the rule violations in those on the other political side is bad enough as simply a possibility. But here's the Chairman of the FEC saying not just a possibility but a proclivity!

Goodman is a Republican whose chairmanship ends after this year, and he's susceptible to the accusation that he's the one who's behaving politically by getting this warning out there.

But I think the best approach is to assume that everyone with governmental power is political and to advocate the strongest legal protection for freedom of speech so they can't go where their proclivities may take them.

ADDED: In law, we often speak of a "slippery slope," which expresses the idea that if you take one step in a particular direction, the force of gravity will pull you on and on. "Proclivity," the key word in this post, comes from the Latin word for a downward slope, prōclīvitās. Notices that the English word "inclination" contains the same landscape metaphor. Some legal thinkers express contempt for arguments based on this metaphor. Slipping down imaginary hillsides seems like a phobia of puny minds, and better, wiser thinkers have the judgment to safely balance competing values. And yet "balance" is itself a metaphor, a metaphor that allays the very fear of falling that besets the slope avoiders.

"[T]he larger danger is giving government an expanded role in uprooting all forms of perceived corruption which may result in corruption of the First Amendment itself."

That a quote from Judge Rudolph Randa ends the The Wall Street Journal's editorial "Political Speech Wins in Wisconsin/A federal judge rebukes prosecutors trying to silence conservatives."

Notably, the editors connect the John Doe investigation of conservative groups to the IRS targeting of conservative groups. In both instances, we see how "campaign-finance laws have become a liberal weapon to silence political opponents" and how "fighting the risk of corruption from 'dark money' in politics... done in secret and unrestrained by Constitutional guardrails, have become far more politically corrupting."

May 7, 2014

Hillary says there are "of course... a lot of reasons" why Benghazi, even at this point, still makes a difference to some people.

She was asked "Were you satisfied with the answers [on Benghazi] and are you content with what you know what happened?" She answers:
"Absolutely, I mean, of course there are a lot of reasons why, despite all of the hearings, all of the information that’s been provided, some choose not to be satisfied and choose to continue to move forward. That’s their choice and I do not believe there is any reason for it to continue in this way, but they get to call the shots in Congress.”
I've watched the video twice. The first time, I said, out loud, "Ugh. That tone. She's not likable enough." I was deliberately evoking Obama's old "You're likable enough" line and implying that she would have trouble once again if she runs for President again. Her flat, controlled/controlling attitude is going to put people off, I thought.

Then I watched it again and thought it was a successful expression of a steely, distanced attitude toward a congressional investigation that will take its course and that she has no choice but to allow take its course. There's a hint of dismissal, as if she intended us to think: Those politicos in Congress are keeping a pseudo-scandal alive for political reasons. But it's so subtly and coolly put that she really didn't say it at all, it seems. It seems as if we thought it ourselves.

Perhaps we are susceptible to Hillary's wiles... if we listen twice. But we don't listen twice. It's the first listen that matters, and there, it was offputting, phony, exasperating.

The Yorkie whisperer.

From a photo-essay at Dogging Meade titled "Mrs. Meade likes the little dogs."

(This was Meade's first outing with the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ70, which is a bigger sort of camera — and it only cost $279. The main camera we'd been using recently — and still use — is a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS25. That's only $149. Amazing how cheap these things are these days.)

ADDED: Here's my previously blogged Yorkie encounter, back in January in Austin. Something about Yorkies!

Federal district judge halts the John Doe investigation into conservative groups and the Scott Walker recall campaign.

Here's the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel News report:
In his 26-page decision [PDF], U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa in Milwaukee told prosecutors to immediately stop the long-running, five-county probe into possible illegal coordination between Walker's campaign, the Wisconsin Club for Growth and a host of others during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections.

"The (Wisconsin Club for Growth and its treasurer) have found a way to circumvent campaign finance laws, and that circumvention should not and cannot be condemned or restricted. Instead, it should be recognized as promoting political speech, an activity that is 'ingrained in our culture,'" Randa wrote, quoting from a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.
"Circumvent" is a funny word there. The assumption should be that we are free except to the extent that the government has validly restricted us. A bigger question is whether the campaign finance statutory law that we do have is valid, given free speech rights.

"Was that wrong?"

I went looking for that right now because I was just paraphrasing a famously ludicrous argument made by a prominent American political figure and I realized I was sounding like George Costanza in his "Was that wrong?" speech.

Here's the context from the "Seinfeld" episode "The Red Dot" (the title refers a red dot on a sweater that Constanza buys as a gift for the cleaning woman in his office who has had sex with him on his desk):
MR. LIPPMAN: I'm going to get right to the point. It has come to my attention that you and the cleaning woman have engaged in sexual intercourse on the desk in your office. Is that correct?

GEORGE: Who said that?

MR. LIPPMAN: She did.

GEORGE: Was that wrong? Should I have not done that? I tell you I gotta plead ignorance on this thing because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing was frouned upon, you know, cause I've worked in a lot of offices and I tell you people do that all the time.

MR. LIPPMAN: You're fired.

GEORGE: Well you didn't have to say it like that.

MR. LIPPMAN: I want you out of here by the end of the day.

GEORGE: What about the whole Christmas spirit thing? Any flexability there?

MR. LIPPMAN: Nah. Wait, wait, she wanted me to give you this.

(He tosses the sweater and it lands right on top of George's face. George walks out of the office "wearing" it. )
That was written by Larry David and originally broadcast on December 11, 1991. If you question is Does that context provide a humorously useful clue to the identity of the prominent political figure Althouse was imitating?, the answer is: Yes.

Put in charge of shoveling the hill of manure.

"[T]he campaign biography is an American tradition dating as far back as 1852, when Nathaniel Hawthorne put aside his nobler duties to produce a piece of unfortunate hackwork dedicated to spreading the gospel of Franklin Pierce."
(Hawthorne had known the candidate since their days together at Bowdoin College in the 1820's and was thus able to look beyond Pierce's spectacular weaknesses -- his unwillingness to oppose slavery, notably -- and produce a work of gaseous flattery.)

We've come a long way, baby. No self-respecting writer would deliver such a polemic today....
"Today" was March 2000. I'm quoting a NYT review of some damned book about Al Gore (which the reviewer informs us is "evenhanded"). Who cares about a 2000 book about Al Gore? I'm interested in

Who lured Monica Lewinsky out of her 10-year silence?

Corollary: Why was Lewinsky silent?

Theory #1 has to be: Monica and Monica acting alone as a free and independent woman in the modern world. She had her notoriety, which she attempted to leverage in various ways, and then she saw the limits of that approach and went low-profile, and now she believes she has a way to reconstruct her image (as a victim of internet humiliation, like Tyler Clementi, except that she resisted the impulse to respond to humiliation by jumping off a bridge, and she has gamely tried one thing after another from presidential "mistress" to Jenny Craig spokeslady to London School of Economics social psychologist — what a story of courage and survival in the face of adversity!)

But what are the other theories? Yesterday, as we were driving home from the dog park, I asked Meade the question in this post title, and his immediate response was: Hillary Clinton. You think the Clintons are using Monica Lewinsky, bending her to their will? Did they procure her 10-year silence too? Meade's thinking was: The Monica story is there, ready to spring forth, so inoculate yourself. Time it right where you want it.

I might not have blogged that conversation, but it came to mind when I read this Ruth Marcus column in The Washington Post this morning: "Monica Lewinsky does Hillary Clinton a big favor." Now, Marcus is all: "Monica Lewinsky may not have intended it this way, but she just did Hillary Clinton a big favor." Marcus isn't taking the next step: If it's a big favor to Hillary, then the Clintons procured the favor. That would be pure speculation, but given the questions — Who lured Monica Lewinsky out of her 10-year silence? and Why was Lewinsky silent for 10 years?— speculation should naturally involve analysis of who stands to benefit.

If it's in Hillary's interest to bring back the Monica story, wouldn't the Clintons have done that in 2008? As Marcus observes, the difference is that Rand Paul — a presumptive candidate in 2016 — "has already raised the question of whether Democrats in general, and Hillary Clinton in particular, should consort with a 'sexual predator' like Bill Clinton." And Lewinsky's new presentation stresses that she was a consenting adult, that her victimhood came as she "was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position" — whatever that means — and "It’s time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress." We're victimizing her if we remember her in the only form we would ever have known about her. So: Conversation over! Unless you're an abuser. Rand.

So that's Theory #2: Hillary and Bill Clinton.

Theory #3 — which was my original answer to my own question — is someone in the Democratic Party who wants to prompt Hillary to announce she's not going to run. Push her back. Scare the prospective grandmother out of the impending ugliness so the donor money can flow to somebody else. I can see the self-interest this other Democrat might have, but not how this person would get to Lewinsky.

Theory #4: Somebody on the GOP side. Who? Why? How?

Theory #5: Vanity Fair saw the money in a cover story on Monica Lewinsky. Obviously, we're all looking at Vanity  Fair this week, so they'd have been right to see self-interest in this. And it's also easy to see how they got to Lewinsky. It's a direct arrangement: They paid her to write her story.

Who lured Monica Lewinsky out of her 10-year silence? free polls 

The slim edge of Clay Aiken.

He has it in the North Carolina primary.

(And speaking of yesterday's primaries, congratulations to The Elder!)

The comeback of "The Comeback."

HBO is bringing back my all-time favorite sit-com. "The Comeback" was cancelled after one season 9 years ago.

I said at the time:
I love HBO, but...

I am so mad at them for cancelling "The Comeback." I thought they were known for giving a show the chance to catch on, and "The Comeback" was notorious for the way people didn't get it at first. (Chez Althouse, we got it, but for some reason, people found it hard to get.) But only 1 million viewers saw the finale. I guess there's a limit to what is worth supporting.

What's wrong with people? The low popularity of that show makes me feel so lonely!
ADDED: You can buy the full set of the original "Comeback" season here. Highly recommended!

May 6, 2014

"Clinton’s 20-year sojourn in public life has been bracketed, jarringly, by two pseudo-scandals, both involving the tragic and less-than-fully-explained death of an important man in Hillary’s orbit."

"In between there have been assorted smears and public humiliations, including real traumas like Monicagate, the cumulative effect of which has been to make Hillary reluctant to reenter the political game. Or so many of her friends and aides say, and so Republicans must be hoping."

A paragraph out of Politico's piece titled "The Benghazi-Industrial Complex/Will the pseudo-scandal be enough to stop Hillary from running?"

You know, Hillary should be very afraid to expose herself to the beating that every presidential candidate richly deserves. That's how we do democracy. I'm not accepting any pushback. And I'm not going to be massaged into thinking that Hillary is some bold impressive fighter if she steps forward even after friendly journalists have warned her that it's going to be rough.
And perhaps, in the end, the prospect of facing down accusations over Benghazi alone won’t matter much to her. Between the bloody chaos in Syria, Iraq and the larger Arab world, violence in Afghanistan and the standoff with Russia over Ukraine—despite her effort at a “reset” of relations—Clinton will have a lot else to defend in her record if she runs. Real issues, in other words. With Benghazi or not, any presidential campaign is going to be ugly. But the Benghazi-Industrial Complex is going to be as toxic as anything Hillary has faced since … Vince Foster. Is she ready?
See how that's designed to position us to root for her?

Monica Lewinsky speaks: "Sure, my boss took advantage of me..."

"... but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship."
"Any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position. . . . The Clinton administration, the special prosecutor’s minions, the political operatives on both sides of the aisle, and the media were able to brand me. And that brand stuck, in part because it was imbued with power."...

She also says that, when news of her affair with Clinton broke in 1998, not only was she arguably the most humiliated person in the world, but, “thanks to the Drudge Report, I was also possibly the first person whose global humiliation was driven by the Internet.”
I got to this article from the Drudge Report, where the headline is "LEWINSKY: HILLARY BLAMED THE WOMAN!" There's nothing at the link about Hillary, but I'm only able to see some bits from the article unless I subscribe to Vanity Fair. Ah, here's some detail in the Politco report on the article. Referring to the new evidence of what Hillary Clinton said to her friend Diane Blair — she called Lewinski a "narcissistic loony toon" — Lewinsky writes:
"I get it... Hillary Clinton wanted it on record that she was lashing out at her husband’s mistress. She may have faulted her husband for being inappropriate, but I find her impulse to blame the Woman—not only me, but herself—troubling."
Troubling. Is there a more lame and noncommittal word?

"I had never been political about abortion rights before, but the idea of helping women through an abortion and supporting them..."

"... and reassuring them that they are still wonderful and beautiful resonated deeply with me."
I had spent so long in the trappings of competition with other women and putting too much pressure on myself that I just wanted to help women...

I found out I was pregnant in November. I had been working at the clinic for about a year. It was my first pregnancy, and, full disclosure, I hadn't been using any kind of birth control, which is crazy, I know. I’m a sex educator....

... I knew immediately I was going to have an abortion...

"The Beverly Hills Hotel is like the Clippers; the Sultan of Brunei is like Donald Sterling."

"Does that make it clear?"

There is... no return. No... mediation. It's very brutal. We are under assault. Assault from heat-loving insects.

The NYT reports:
The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects.
Assault from heat-loving insects. You may think this sounds political... but...

... insects... don’t have politics. They’re very brutal. No... compassion. No... compromise. We can’t trust the insect... 
As William Beard explains, Brundle’s desire to function as the intermediary between the human and insect must fail
... because insectness is so intractably and horrifyingly evil in human terms that it cannot be mediated. There may be shades of humanity, signifed by various degrees of trust, compassion, compromise – but there are no shades of insectness. (Beard, 2001, 220)
Brundle’s transformation removes him from the human and takes him to a place from which there can be neither return nor mediation... This movement towards a limit point of human experience....
There is... no return. No... mediation. It's very brutal. We are under assault. Assault from heat-loving insects.

The White House task force report on campus sexual assaults "reflects a presumption of guilt in sexual assault cases that practically obliterates the due process rights of the accused."

Writes Wendy Kaminer, noting that the report titled "Not Alone" would be more aptly named "Believe the Victim":
Students leveling accusations of assault are automatically described as “survivors” or “victims” (not alleged victims or complaining witnesses), implying that their accusations are true.

When you categorically presume the good faith, infallible memories and entirely objective perspectives of self-identified victims, you dispense with the need for cumbersome judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings and an adversary model of justice. Thus the task force effectively prohibits cross-examination of complaining witnesses: “The parties should not be allowed to cross-examine each other,” the report advises, denying the fundamental right to confront your accuser.
Much more at the link. There's also "The White House Flunks a Test on Sexual Assault/An administration task force ignores the rights of the accused," by Matt Kaiser and Justin Dillon in The Wall Street Journal, which is written in blander terms. ("Being a victim of a sexual assault is a horrible, life-altering thing. So, too, is being falsely found to have committed a sexual assault. Schools need processes that are fair to both accusers and the accused.") In less bland terms, there's KC Johnson's "The White House Joins the War on Men."

In Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Supreme Court elevated historical meaning over constitutional law doctrinal tests.

Yesterday's new case — rejecting an Establishment Clause challenge to the practice of opening a town's meetings with a prayer — had some important discussion of the predominance of historical meaning in constitutional law interpretation. For decades, the Supreme Court has struggled to articulate Establishment Clause doctrine, often speaking of a 3-part Lemon test, sometimes ignoring that test and searching for alternatives that attempt to center the Establishment Clause violation on the problem of government "endorsement" or "coercion" of religion. One tends to wait for these Establishment Clause cases with some hope that the Court will state the doctrine in some clear, apt, useful form. But something else happened yesterday.

May 5, 2014

Spring wildflowers.

Dutchman's Breeches
at 5 p.m. in Governor Nelson State Park.

Cinco de Mayo racist stereotyping.


Women hanging by their hair "like a human chandelier."


"It just went crashing down... Everyone was freaking out. We heard this huge clatter and then we just heard the girls scream."

"God instructed me to sell them, they are his properties and I will carry out his instructions."

Said Abubakar Shekau, leader of the group that has kidnapped 230 girls from a school in Nigeria. 

The name of the group is Boko Haram, which means "Western education is forbidden."

First World Anarchists.

Don't click here.

What's wrong with "Meet the Press" is "The Problem (Ray and I Will Be Fixing This Morning)."

Emails the Crack Emcee, alerting us to the new episode of Uncle Ray's "Psychedelic Soul" — [listen live]—  and linking to this Slate piece by David Weigel called " is Not What’s Wrong With Meet the Press."

On the radio show, they're counting down Ray's top albums, and we're starting with #38 N.W.A., "Straight Outta Compton," so language alert (I guess!). You can see the list by scrolling way down here, so Bob Marley, Van Halen, Stevie Wonder, U2, and Jimi Hendrix will be up soon enough.

As for "Meet the Press," somehow I didn't get to it yesterday, but was on. I had it on my DVR along with the other Sunday shows, but this week I watched "Fox News Sunday" and quit. Had to go sit on a rock amidst the trout lilies and consider what Jesus said about soul.

("Lynch mob... macabre..." That was a good rhyme.)

The Jesus quotes with "soul" are:

The Supreme Court rejects the notion that "legislative prayer may be addressed only to a generic God."

"The law and the Court could not draw this line for each specific prayer or seek to require ministers to set aside their nuanced and deeply personal beliefs for vague and artificial ones," writes Justice Kennedy, in today's new Establishment Clause case, Town of Greece v. Galloway:
There is doubt, in any event, that consensus might be reached as to what qualifies as generic or nonsectarian. Honorifics like “Lord of Lords” or “King of Kings” might strike a Christian audience as ecumenical, yet these titles may have no place in the vocabulary of other faith tradi­tions. The difficulty, indeed the futility, of sifting sectarian from nonsectarian speech is illustrated by a letter that a lawyer for the respondents sent the town in the early stages of this litigation. The letter opined that references to “Father, God, Lord God, and the Almighty” would be acceptable in public prayer, but that references to “Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Trinity” would not. App. 21a. Perhaps the writer believed the former group­ing would be acceptable to monotheists. Yet even seem­ingly general references to God or the Father might alien­ ate nonbelievers or polytheists. McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union of Ky., 545 U. S. 844, 893 (2005) (SCALIA, J., dissenting). Because it is unlikely that prayer will be inclusive beyond dispute, it would be un­ wise to adopt what respondents think is the next-best option: permitting those religious words, and only those words, that are acceptable to the majority, even if they will exclude some. Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U. S. 488, 495 (1961). The First Amendment is not a majority rule, and government may not seek to define permissible categories of religious speech. Once it invites prayer into the public sphere, government must permit a prayer giver to address his or her own God or gods as conscience dictates, unfet­tered by what an administrator or judge considers to be nonsectarian.
I'll write more about this case soon. It just happened.

ADDED: Cutting and pasting from the PDF produced "alien­ ate nonbelievers." Is that a sign? Anyway, it's fixed now — my contribution to the government coverup of the alien invasion Jane Harman was talking about yesterday. Anyway, this decision is unsurprising. When the Supreme Court granted cert. a year ago, I said: "My instant impression was they granted cert. to reverse and it's obvious (based on precedent)." But I'm interested in the details of how the various Justices, especially the newer ones, staked out their positions on the Establishment Clause. 

Butter in coffee?

Is that a thing? I read it was a thing. I mentioned it to Meade, and then next day I'm seeing...

Is that weird? Or is that insignificantly different from the flatly conventional practice of putting cream in your coffee?

Big and small.

The Boston Terrier looks huge, but the Chihuahua is more macho.

Jane Harman recited not the talking points, but the opposite of talking points on Benghazi.

The former Democratic Congresswoman went too far on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday. She intended, I think, to present the Democrats' talking points on Benghazi, but at one point — in just a few words — she let us see the way Democratic Party strategists are talking to each other behind the scenes about the effect the talking points are supposed to have on the public mind. I'm visualizing a memo that has bullet points of what one ought to say out loud and a narrative section of things you don't want to say.

The host Chris Wallace turned to Harman for discussion of the new efforts to investigate what happened 2 years ago in Benghazi, and she quickly got to the declaration "This is a circus" and the suggestion that the idea is "to get Hillary Clinton or some way to embarrass her during the election season."

There's some talk about the Rhodes memo (with Harman saying that maybe it only came out when it did because there was "some claim of executive privilege") and assertions that there was "legitimate confusion" when Susan Rice received her preparation to go on all the Sunday shows and to attribute the Benghazi attack to spontaneous protests over the "Innocence of Muslims" video. It was "an intelligence failure." And on saying that phrase "intelligence failure," and just before saying "it's time to move on and focus on the real problems," she wedges this in:
And, by the way, this was an intelligence failure. But it wasn't a conspiracy. And there aren't aliens in Area 51 and Vince Foster wasn't murdered.
And there aren't aliens in Area 51 and Vince Foster wasn't murdered. That was too revealing! I suspect... Look, I realize I can be accused of "conspiracy" thinking to suspect something and to speak as if I know what they're saying behind our back... but here's the kind of thing Harman's Area-51-Vince-Foster remark made me feel they are saying in private:

We need people to hear the word "Benghazi" as a buzzword of nuts. Somebody says "Benghazi" and the reflex reaction is "Oh, no, here we go again with the conspiracy theories." It should be like when somebody brings up Area 51 or Vince Foster was murdered. A normal person is like "Ugh! Leave me alone." That's the way "Benghazi" should feel. Somebody says "Benghazi" and all anybody thinks is "conspiracy nutcase." Nobody who wants to be considered mainstream in this election should be able to say "Benghazi" anymore. Case closed, and you've built in the respect for Hillary saying "What difference at this point does it make?" Everybody decent — if we get this idea across — will react to Benghazi with a Hillary-esque exasperated "What difference does it make?" If it makes a difference to you, you're crazy. This is a circus. You're a clown. A scary clown. Boo! Aliens! Benghazi! Vince Foster!

"He said that, unlike Marxists, he rejected the assumption that individuals were motivated solely by the prospect of selfish, material gain."

"Rather, he insisted, 'behavior is driven by a much richer set of values and preferences' that can also include altruism, loyalty and spite."

From the NYT obituary for Gary Becker, the great economist of "everyday life."

The NYT ventures to opine that President Obama is "not good enough."

Yesterday, I avoided blogging the NYT editorial "President Obama and the World" because of its maddeningly bland demeanor. No. I'm kidding. "Maddeningly bland demeanor" is just one of the many phrases within which the editors' opinion was couched. And I got tired of searching around in between the comfy cushions of that couch looking for lost quarters.

"Mr. Obama has opened himself to criticism," but he's "precisely the kind of" President people say they wanted. He's "done a better job than his detractors allow." The criticisms are "overblown." "Some analysts have suggested... Others say... These criticisms have some truth... It is tempting to dismiss criticism from right-wing Republicans... It was disquieting to hear... But there is also powerful criticism from Democrats, liberals and centrists... His critics are inconsistent... people on the left and the right... find him unfocused, weak and passive.... the perception — of weakness, dithering, inaction...."

Everything is put in terms of what other people think. What other people think is apparently not exactly right, but how wrong is it?
Taken as a whole and stripped as much as possible of ideological blinkers, Mr. Obama’s record on foreign policy is not as bad as his critics say. It’s just not good enough.
Given how annoying it was to read this editorial — and I finally did  — I wanted to get a blog post out of it to give you something short and useful. What feels useful to me is: 1. Notice the extremity of the NYT editors' resistance to owning any criticism of this President, 2. The NYT editors must have some serious criticism they really do want to set down in print, even if they don't want readers to find it in the text, and 3. Perhaps the editors know that they have left themselves open to criticism, as they allow 8 years to pass without any serious criticism of a President.

There, now... did I find any quarters?

May 4, 2014

Watching the Milwaukee Brewers/Cincinnati Reds series at Meadhouse.

Meade took that picture during the first game of the 4-game series.

Closeup of the Meadhouse bobbleheads:

Waiting for the sinkhole.

At the Baltimore landslide:

Scroll to 1:10 for the serious action.

"Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker, one of the greatest economists of the last century, passed away today.

"Gary Becker did pathbreaking work on numerous issues, including the economics of discrimination, criminal behavior, the family, and the dynamics of political interest groups. Becker pioneered the application of economic analysis to questions that were previously considered the exclusive domain of sociology, law, and political science. He had an enormous influence on scholars in other fields, as well as economists. Several of his books and articles are foundational works for the field of law and economics."

Writes Ilya Somin.

"What's wrong with books?... Just be an American!"

That's from 2010, but I'd never seen it before. I got it from a GQ list of "The 100 Funniest Things in the History of the Internet." The list is from a year ago, but I just noticed it today. There were a few things on the list that were new to me (or else I'd forgotten them), like this delightful song about George Washington from 2009 (warning: language... and testicles):

"Big Bill wants you to see what he can do with his tongue."

"Pretty good, huh?"

Consider the trout lilies of the peninsula...

... they neither Google nor blog. But sometimes the conversation takes a turn that requires a BibleGateway search, and I said, "I'm going to sit down on this rock until I attain enlightenment"...

Look at the birds of Lake Mendota. They neither sow nor reap. They can barely keep awake.

But "lilies" was not the word I needed to sit down and search for out there on Picnic Point. It is the word I searched for the quote I tormented above.

The word I searched for out there arose from a discussion of that post from 2 days ago, "What Was the Last Piece of Music that Gave You the Chills?" In the comments, Meade had cited "O Holy Night" as played by The Gourds, and listening to that, I had noticed a word in a 5-word phrase in the song that I think I had always misheard.

Hearing it straight got me thinking the song was presenting Christianity as a self-esteem program. The word I'd been mishearing all my life is the 4th word in the 5-word phrase, and the word I wanted to look up was the 2nd word in the phrase, which we were talking about, and I wanted to know if Jesus used it, and if so, how.

What was the 5-word phrase? What was the misheard word and why did hearing it right lead to a conversation about self-esteem? What was the word Althouse looked up while sitting on the rock? How did Jesus use it and what light does knowing the answer shed on the subject of Christianity and self-esteem and the real intent of the lyrics to "O Holy Night"?

(I'm referring to the John Sullivan Dwight version of the lyrics, not the literal translation from the French, which is different in many ways. The literal translation lacks the self-esteem concept, and has something that the John Sullivan Dwight version lacks: the wrath of God.)

How bad was Joel McHale, the (official) comedian at last night's White House Correspondents Dinner?

At last night's White House Correspondents Dinner, the official comedian — insert typical joke about how they're all comedians — was Joel McHale, whose comic gimmick seemed to be reading bad jokes off cards and then ad-libbing about how that was a poor joke. For example:
I am a big fan of President Obama. I think he’s one of the all-time great presidents, definitely in the top 50. Please explain that to Jessica Simpson. You’re right, that was low.
That came early on and was followed by what might have been his only rough treatment of Obama:
All right, how about the president’s performance tonight, everyone? Sir, it’s amazing that you can still bring it with fresh, hilarious material. My favorite bit of yours was when you said you would close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. That was a classic. That was hilarious, hilarious. Still going.
Detainee Obamedy. Obama laughed and laughed. I think he mouthed something like "I'm still workin' on it."

Kathleen Sebelius is a walking joke, literally.

At the White House Correspondents Dinner, Obama exploits the woman for laughs acting as if his slide show is broken and then calling someone out to fix it. Sebelius is the sight-joke punchline.

Hey! War on Women… don’t you think? I've also posted this at Instapundit, where I'm guestblogging this week.

Obama's stint at the lectern was terrible overall, by the way. For example, he made a joke about the missing Malaysian airplane. It's an occasion to laugh at CNN, and joking about the media is the thing to do at the Correspondents Dinner, but the President of the United States should not be laughing about the death of hundreds of human beings.