June 7, 2014

"Vocal fry probably doesn't harm your career prospects..."

"... but not being yourself just might."

I was rooting for California Chrome not to win the Triple Crown.

Weren't you? I'm interested in my psychology here.

4 men look at cars.

Today on State Street in Madison:





Acrimony about acronyms.

D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Laurence Silberman is SOYOA.

What a CCOAJ! Maybe he STAR. IRIVF. You know, if you stay in D.C. too long AAGTDYC.

"What dog is this?"/"Read his name tag!"

"Oh, it's Pants."


More Pants at Dogging Meade.

AND: I love these pictures Meade took of Josie, a Westie with black dots for eyes like a dog in a comic strip. But go to the link to see that, I want to show you this picture I took of Meade as he was getting his pictures of Josie:


Toasted cheese, blue grass music, jug band music, vintage cars, live cows, duckies ... and same-sex weddings.

It was all happening in downtown Madison this morning....


You know what's weird about all the pushback I'm getting on the Biblical reading I provided?

I didn't say anything about what it meant or how it relates to the rest of the post. I just said "And:"!

The objections you're raising came from your mind. Examine your fears and delusions.

3 "Price Is Right" things.

1. Via Metafilter, here's a recent episode of "The Price Is Right," displaying in split-screen what goes on behind the scenes.

2. From a recent "This American Life" episode titled "I Was So High," there was a segment about a guy named Josh Androsky who'd been drinking and "doing mushrooms," who for some reason thinks it's a good idea to join the studio audience of "The Price is Right" and the gets the "Come on down" call:
Already without mushrooms it would have been crazy.... Because, literally, old people are dancing with children in the aisles. This one old lady starts booty dancing on Drew Carey. There were just dollar signs and flashing lights. I mean, everybody's going crazy. We were, demonstrably, the least high-looking people there.
Hilarity ensues as he bids $1 on everything, actually wins once (on some damn ring everyone else overprices), and — asked what he does for a living — says he's "a skateboard rabbi."
Drew Carey turns to me and goes, how do you incorporate skateboards into Judaism? I was like, well, Drew Carey, we go to local high schools and attempt to turn religious extremism into religious "X-tremism!"
That fabulous joke did not make the edit of the show that airs, which you can partake of here.

3. I'm not too familiar with the show in its recent form, and by recent, I mean anything after Bill Cullen. It's not just Drew Carey that's unfamiliar. Even Bob Barker doesn't seem to belong. To me Bob Barker belongs on "Truth or Consequences."

Love is all around.

Yesterday, I said "Love was all around, and I was able to choke back tears until I got back in the car." In the comments, Unknown said:
How can the increase of the rate of love in the world be a bad thing? I don't comment often, anywhere, but this moved me. Thank you.
And Pat said:
Long time conservative republican here, glad to see people who love each other and are willing to commit to each other, able to be married. We r's need to let this issue go and fight other fights.
But eric said:
I submit that the word love is being used in a fallacious way. Love does not mean something you feel. It means the way you behave. What we are seeing is a perversion of love. One that says, if you feel good, its love. Which is apropos of this situation. As we see both love and sex being perverter and enablers helping these people destroy their lives.
Love is not something you feel? "I feel it in my fingers/I feel it in my toes," sang The Troggs in a song, titled with the words I used, "Love Is All Around." And here's Joan Jett and The Blackhearts singing the theme from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" ("Love is all around/No need to waste it..."):

And — to embrace tradition — here's the original show opening with Mary emoting and a gentle-voiced man singing about turning the world on with a smile. Perhaps eric will stop in to submit that the human smile cannot in fact turn on the world and, indeed, the world is not a unified, embodied entity with genitals capable of arousal, and even given the vast appeal of Mary Tyler Moore, it is fallacious to contend that the entire world possesses a sexual orientation toward a woman smiling.

The gentle-voiced man — if you're inclined to riff on what your body's ears hear as effeminacy or metrosexuality or whatever — is Sonny Curtis, who played with Buddy Holly before there were Crickets and who wrote — in addition to Mary's "Love Is All Around" — the lawyer's favorite "I Fought the Law" and the Everly Brother's "Walk Right Back." Or does Anne Murray turn you on with her smile?

Did you know Mary Tyler Moore is now 77 years old and nearly blind?

Have you heard there are none so blind as those that will not see

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

June 6, 2014

Who should play Dolly Parton in her biopic?

6 possible actresses.

Suddenly, there's same-sex marriage in Wisconsin, and the Dane County Clerk's Office is staying open until 9.

Come on in! Anybody need a marriage license?


Out on the front steps, there were at least 4 judges in their robes, ready to do impromptu ceremonies for any same-sex couples who reacted spontaneously to today's federal court opinion and wanted to get married:




It's a beautiful, warm late spring night and the atmosphere was low key and not at all protest-y or political. These were couples doing what they should have been able to do all along.


Love was all around, and I was able to choke back tears until I got back in the car.


"U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb in Madison Friday overturned Wisconsin's gay marriage ban..."

"... striking down an amendment to the state constitution approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2006 and prompting joyous weddings on a street outside the Dane County clerk's office."
Crabb did not stay her ruling but also did not immediately issue an order blocking the enforcement of the ban, sparking a heated and hasty debate among lawyers on whether the ruling meant that couples could immediately marry in the courthouses of Wisconsin.

"How Comments Shape Perceptions of Sites' Quality — and Affect Traffic."

"Even if you don't realize it, unmoderated comments change the way you think about what you read...."
I supported removing comments not because I thought traffic would spike but because it seemed a way to better preserve civil discourse; I assumed we’d lose some rubberneckers who gathered around the train-wreck comment section, but it seemed like a worthwhile trade. Yet the fact that traffic actually improved suggests that sites are better off without comments — or at least better off without unmoderated ones. That's a lesson that other news organizations are learning. As Nieman Lab wrote last month, if news organizations aren't moderating their comment sections, they can't really expect them foster quality discussion.

"Schumer Drops by Graduations to Tell Same 'Loser' Story."

"New York Senator Often Arrives Unadvertised but Colleges Aren't Complaining; 'It's a Tradition.'"
... Schumer often recites a variation on the same story, in which he turned down a scholarship to travel abroad after graduating from Harvard to spend time with his then-girlfriend, who subsequently dumped him.

"There I was: no scholarship, no trip around the world, no girl. I said to myself, 'What a loser you are'"...

No rest in NYC.


Photographed last weekend: The couch as a statement of hostility to the idea of sitting down. And... are you depressed?


"I am pervasively skeptical that people actually believe the religion they profess to believe."

I have a lot to say in the comments thread to yesterday's post about the 2 Egyptian women arguing about Islam, beginning here, continuing here.

"Is Hillary Clinton Too Dependent on Stuffed Animals to Be President?"

New York Magazine asks, noting this passage in her new memoir:
[I]t was [former Secretary of State] George Shultz who gave me the best gift of all: A teddy bear that sang 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' when its paw was squeezed. I kept it in my office, first as a joke, but every so often it really did help to squeeze the bear and hear that song."
And let me phrase a second question: Does amenability to an infuriatingly cute song suggest that Hillary Clinton doesn't have what it take to be President?

And what of the underlying philosophy — is that President-appropriate?
The Indian mystic and sage Meher Baba (1894–1969) often used the expression "Don't worry, be happy" when cabling his followers in the West. However, Meher Baba communicated variations of the sentiment; fuller versions of the quote – such as, "Do your best. Then, don’t worry; be happy in My love. I will help you" — which incorporate responsibility with detachment, as well as the master/disciple spiritual relationship. In the 1960s, the truncated version of this expression by Baba was printed up on inspiration cards and posters of the era. In 1988, McFerrin noticed a similar poster in the apartment of the jazz band Tuck & Patti in San Francisco. Inspired by the expression's charm and simplicity, McFerrin wrote the now famous song, which was included in the soundtrack of the movie Cocktail, and became a hit single the next year. In an interview by Bruce Fessier for USA Weekend magazine in 1988 McFerrin said, "Whenever you see a poster of Meher Baba, it usually says 'Don't worry, be happy,' which is a pretty neat philosophy in four words, I think."

"Yes, Adults Should Be Embarrassed to Read Young Adult Books."

Says a piece in Slate that irks people at Metafilter: "Slate really wants to tell people what they should (and shouldn't) be doing."/"Yes, Adults shouldn't bother reading Slate."/"Trollllling for clicks, trollllling for clicks..."/"For an article against YA fiction, the reasons seem pretty juvenile."/"I prefer the article in the original Onionian."...

If you can't stand the heat...

... don't call yourself "Heat."
“[The heat] was significant. It was definitely a factor,” San Antonio big man Tim Duncan told ABC after the game. “I don’t know about what happened to LeBron, but all of us feeling the heat were dehydrated.”

... James asked out of the game multiple times and ultimately left for good with 3:59 remaining and the Heat trailing 94-92. After James’ departure, San Antonio finished the game on a 16-3 run to win the opener of the Finals rematch....

“I’m [going to need] some colder water,” a mic’d-up James was heard saying on the ABC broadcast. “They’re trying to smoke us out of here.”

"President Obama... Queen Elizabeth II, President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Germany’s Angela Merkel, gathered in northern France..."

"... to commemorate the world’s largest amphibious invasion, a turning point in World War II. More than 150,000 American, British, Canadian and other Allied D-Day troops risked — or lost — their lives to begin reclaiming Nazi-occupied Western Europe that day."

It is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and as the world leaders gather...
The leaders gathered as the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the worst conflict between Russia and the West since the Cold War, cast a long shadow. Obama was scheduled to attend a luncheon with the Russian president later Friday, although there were no plans for the two to meet directly.
.... we're prodded to think that the odd person out is Vladimir Putin, but I would think the out-of-place personage would be Angela Merkel, representing Germany. Obama intoned:
“Here, we don’t just commemorate victory, as proud of that victory as we are; we don’t just honor sacrifice, as grateful as the world is; we come to remember why America and our allies gave so much for the survival of liberty at its moment of maximum peril...."
Merkel wasn't there to celebrate victory.

ADDED: Historical photographs. 

AND: "Experience D-Day like your grandparents did, if they weren't in the military on June 6, 1944. Archive.org has the the complete D-Day broadcast from CBS radio."

June 5, 2014

Out of time... out of place...

Here are 2 shops I photographed (with permission) as we were walking about in lower Manhattan over the weekend. One sells old furniture and accessories from the mid-20th century. These are not reproductions but it's wrong — we were gently corrected — to call them "antiques."


The other place was called Carhartt, a brand we associate with rugged, inexpensive clothes sold in big-box stores like Farm & Fleet, but here the things were laid out as if everything was quite posh and elegant:


It was explained that the company that made the clothes we knew had licensed its name for this pricey line, which actually made sense to me. Some guys have more money, like to shop in handsome environments, see value in softer, more flexible fabrics and slimmer, more fashionable cuts, and still want the ethos — the aura — of a manly man who'd buy his working and fishing clothes in a Farm & Fleet in Wisconsin.

We're living wherever we are, whenever we are. And yet we have our longings, and there will be shops that cater to our longings. There's a place somewhere. A place somewhen.

If you're thinking of saying "somewhen" is not a word or, hey, "somewhen" should be a word. I've got news: "Somewhen" is a word, Thomas Hardy used it in "Tess of the d'Urbervilles": "Yes, though nobody else should reproach me if we should stay together, yet somewhen, years hence, you might get angry with me for any ordinary matter, and knowing what you do of my bygones you yourself might be tempted to say words, and they might be overheard, perhaps by my own children."

What is the second largest religion — after Christianity — in each of the 50 states?

At the high level of abstraction where Christianity is a single religion, what do you think the second religion is in the various states? There are 5 other religions. Can you name them all? Can you picture where each of the 5 would be the second religion? Can you name the one religion that is the second religion in only one state (and name the state)? Can you name the religion that is the second religion in only 2 states (and name the 2 states, which are not at all close to each other)? What religion comes in second in the most states? One could draw a single line around this collection of 20 states: Where is this set of 20 states? What are the 2 other religions and where are they located?

Answers here.

Close Hillary advisers met in secret with NYT folk to complain about how unfair the Times has been to Hillary.

"Clinton aides reportedly griped... that Clinton has left public office and should not be subjected to harsh scrutiny.... even as the former secretary of State continues her string of high-profile and highly lucrative speaking appearances and prepares to launch a cross-country book tour next week to promote her new memoir...."

Aw. Let's empathize with Hillary. It's not easy....

Maureen Dowd "got the warning... She did what all the reporters did. She listened. She bought some samples..."

"... I don’t remember what exactly. Me and the owner of the dispensary we were at and the assistant manager and the budtender talked with her for 45 minutes at the shop. It wasn’t all, ‘Be careful of edibles.’ We talked about the difference between shatter and bubble hash. We talked about edibles and how they affect everyone differently."

Maureen Dowd's pot-tour guide speaks.

"In the context of covering all the bases with a customer, we really went into depth to tell this reporter, who would then tell the world, about marijuana in Colorado. She got some bud, some edibles and when we got back to the hotel she had to run off to a Mitt Romney documentary screening. She asked me, ‘Will you roll a joint for me? I don’t know how to do it.’ But she had to run really quickly to the screening, and I was going to catch a flight the next day, and we were going to connect a few nights later but it never worked out."

I blame Mitt Romney.

Charles Krauthammer supports Obama's decision on Bergdahl.

"Had the choice been mine I would have made the same choice... It’s a difficult decision, and I would not attack those who have done otherwise.... These are dangerous militants, but we have long engaged in and all other countries in the West have engaged in hostage swaps where the West always comes out on the short end...."

What the Slenderman stabbing might suggest about intense, fantasy-ridden relationships between young teenage girls.

Rebecca Traister contemplates. Excerpt:
Writing this, I think even of the hours and months my high school best friend and I spent obsessing over fictional characters on soap operas. None of which led us to stab anyone, but which was certainly symptomatic of how powerful and intoxicating escapist fantasy from the sometimes scary world of female adolescence, especially in thrilling tandem with another person, can be....

For generations, it was accepted that adolescent girls might form highly emotional, deeply felt relationships with each other, kind of proto-marriages. For periods of American history, adolescent and teen schoolgirls regularly shared beds, openly expressed their adoration and devotion to each other and were sometimes said to be “smashed”—entwined in committed partnerships. But in the early-20th century, as heterosexual marriage came to be seen as a relationship based on emotion and mutual desire, female partnerships began to be seen as competitive and suspect. Young women were encouraged to train their attentions on young men; a dating culture emerged, and we have not spent nearly enough time since acknowledging the powerful influence that adolescent girls continue to have on each other.

Not that that influence is usually murderous!...
More at the link, including some discussion of the excellent movie "Heavenly Creatures."

The NYT implies that its "conservative" columnists are not influential.

"Stay on top of all the articles by The Times’s influential columnists: from Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L. Friedman to the celebrated wit and wisdom of Maureen Dowd, the sharp political perspectives of Gail Collins, and the global vision of Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof."

That's an excerpt from email from the NYT about its new form of paid access called "NYT Opinion." I'm struck by the unnamed columnists, the implicitly uninfluential, which include all of the "conservative" columnists (i.e., David Brooks and Ross Douthat).

I see the argument that the "from... to..." construction includes omitted names, but I reject that argument because to say that the quote above implies inclusion of Brooks and Douthat is like saying "from A to F" includes Q. 

(And as long as I'm here on the front page, let me preempt the comment you might be thinking is clever: No, it's like saying "from A to B" includes F.)

Science-denying... is it right-wing... or left-wing?

I've unembedded the video, which you can watch here.

"That was a whole lot of effort to elicit sympathy for suffering the consequences of a poor decision."

"I lost heart when the lawyer told her 'It wasn’t neglectful.'.... I can't agree with that. She left a young child, unsupervised, alone, in a mall parking lot. I'm not seeing that as responsible behavior. It only takes an instant to break a window to steal the car, the kid, the iPad, or all of the above. I'm glad nothing happened, but that article felt like a long winded attempt to excuse the behavior. And, the bit at the end about how scared the child is now... honestly, the child wasn't confronted by the bystander or the police at the time of the incident. Every.single.piece of information that child had about the event came from family members."

On Egyptian TV, 2 women debate Islam, calmly at first...

... and it becomes a heated argument.
In a reversal of roles, the apparently liberal host [Riham Sahid] interviews the hijab-clad doctor [Noha Mahmoud Salem], but it turns into a shouting match about what “real” Muslims believe, with the host taking the Islamic hard line: Allah and not Muhummad wrote the Qur’an, sharia law should be implemented everywhere, and Allah answers all prayers. (Sahid claims that Allah would give her a million pounds if she prayed for it, which makes me wonder why she doesn’t.) It’s quite startling to hear Sahid, seemingly a modern woman clad in Western dress, espousing chopping off the hands of thieves and stoning adultresses to death (of course she doesn’t mention the male partner).

It turns out that Dr. Salem wore the hijab to hide her identity, for she says things that brand her as an apostate under sharia law....

June 4, 2014

"It’s better not to argue with women. But Ms Clinton has never been too graceful in her statements."

Said Vladimir Putin (asked about her comparing him to Hitler):
Still, we always met afterwards and had cordial conversations at various international events. I think even in this case we could reach an agreement. When people push boundaries too far, it’s not because they are strong but because they are weak. But maybe weakness is not the worst quality for a woman.
Was he angry? Did he want "to get back at her or laugh"?, the interviewer asked, adding "We have never seen you laugh." He said:
Someday I will indulge myself and we will laugh together at some good joke. But when I hear such extreme statements, to me it only means that they don’t have any valid arguments. Speaking of US policy, it’s clear that the United States is pursuing the most aggressive and toughest policy to defend their own interests – at least, this is how the American leaders see it – and they do it persistently. There are basically no Russian troops abroad while US troops are everywhere. There are US military bases everywhere around the world and they are always involved in the fates of other countries even though they are thousands of kilometres away from US borders. So it is ironic that our US partners accuse us of breaching some of these rules.
IN THE COMMENTS: Barry Dauphin said:
Vlad mocking Hillary is good politically for Hillary. She should send him flowers or a shirt.

"We Exist."


I chose this photograph — of a door in the East Village — as the next picture to blog from the trip we took to NYC over the weekend. I chose it for 2 reasons:

1. I'd just blogged "Beautiful woman reads a book in Russian by the light of the refrigerated pastry case" and got caught up thinking about the other woman in my photograph. She too exists.

2. We were talking about Maureen Dowd's pot freakout. She'd broached the topic of her possible nonexistence: "I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me."

"In fact, this sort of nostalgie de la boue, or romanticizing of primitive souls, was one of the things that brought Radical Chic to the fore in New York Society."

Wrote Tom Wolfe in "Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s" (1970):
Nostalgie de la boue is a nineteenth-century French term that means, literally, “nostalgia for the mud.” Within New York Society nostalgie de la boue was a great motif throughout the 1960’s, from the moment two socialites, Susan Stein and Christina Paolozzi, discovered the Peppermint Lounge and the twist and two of the era’s first pet primitives, Joey Dee and Killer Joe Piro. Nostalgie de la boue tends to be a favorite motif whenever a great many new faces and a lot of new money enter Society. New arrivals have always had two ways of certifying their superiority over the hated “middle class.” They can take on the trappings of aristocracy, such as grand architecture, servants, parterre boxes, and high protocol; and they can indulge in the gauche thrill of taking on certain styles of the lower orders. The two are by no means mutually exclusive; in fact, they are always used in combination. In England during the Regency period, nostalgie de la boue was very much the rage. London socialites during the Regency adopted the flamboyant capes and wild driving styles of the coach drivers, the “bruiser” fashions and hair styles of the bare-knuckle prize fighters, the see-through, jutting-nipple fashions of the tavern girls, as well as a reckless new dance, the waltz. Such affectations were meant to convey the arrogant self-confidence of the aristocrat as opposed to the middle-class striver’s obsession with propriety and keeping up appearances. During the 1960’s in New York nostalgie de la boue took the form of the vogue of rock music, the twist-frug genre of dances, Pop Art, Camp, the courting of pet primitives such as the Rolling Stones and José Torres, and innumerable dress fashions summed up in the recurrent image of the wealthy young man with his turtleneck jersey meeting his muttonchops at mid-jowl, à la the 1962 Sixth Avenue Automat bohemian, bidding good night to an aging doorman dressed in the mode of an 1870 Austrian army colonel.
And nostalgie de la boue was very much the rage yesterday in Madison, Wisconsin: Radical Dogging: That Party at Zeus’s.

"The title of the proposed amendment... 'Restore Democracy to the American People'... is nothing but a perversion of the English language."

Said the venerable First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. The proposed constitutional amendment is designed to overrule the Supreme Court's free speech doctrine that limits what legislatures can do to control spending on political campaigns.
The notion that democracy has already been lost, as we begin what will obviously be a hard fought election season in which virtually anything can and will be said, could be dismissed as rather typical Washington rhetorical overkill. But the notion that democracy would be advanced – saved, “restored” – by limiting speech is nothing but a perversion of the English language. It brings to mind George Orwell’s observation, in his enduring essay “Politics and the English Language,” that “[i]n our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible,” and that the word “democracy,” in particular, “has several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with each other” and “is often used in a consciously dishonest way.”  So let me say in the most direct manner that it is deeply, profoundly, obviously undemocratic to limit speech about who to elect to public office.

IN THE COMMENTS: Tyrone Slothrop said "Ted Cruz was similarly awesome yesterday":

Drudge cites "LAW PROF" as saying Obama is "The President That Richard Nixon Always Wanted To Be..."

Linking to Jonathan Turley (speaking with Sean Hannity):
SEAN HANNITY: We do have co-equal branches of government, separation of powers. You teach this regularly. You agree with the president politically. For you to say we are at a tipping point constitutionally -- now, I agree with you. What does that mean considering our constitution is our rule of law and they are ignoring it?

JONATHAN TURLEY: Well, unfortunately our system is changing, and it's changing without a debate. Or even a discussion about what we're going to do in the future when we have a three branch system, a tripartite system but one branch is so dominant. What's emerging is an imperial presidency, an uber presidency as I've called it, where the president can act unilaterally. This is only the latest example of that. What's troubling is that we have a system that has been stable precisely because these are limited and shared powers. This president has indicated that he's just not willing to comply with some of those aspects. He told Congress he would go it alone and in our system you're not allowed to go it alone.... Well, I think that the biggest problem we have is that the system itself, if we have a dominant branch, simply begins to shut down in terms of the safeguards. People don't seem to understand that the separation of powers is not about the power of these branches, it's there to protect individual liberty, it's there to protect us from the concentration of power. That's what is occurring here. You know, I've said it before, Barack Obama is really the president Richard Nixon always wanted to be. You know, he's been allowed to act unilaterally in a way that we've fought for decades...
I'm a lawprof too, and I too regularly teach this separation of powers business. And Turley is downplaying the argument for exclusive presidential power over some military and foreign affairs matters. Unlike Turley, I wouldn't say I "agree with the president politically," but I did vote for him in 2008, and when I did, part of my reason was that criticisms of President Bush were distorted by partisanship and that if a Democrat were President and responsible for the military, a more balanced assessment of presidential power would emerge.

And here's the memo (PDF) from NSC Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden explaining the administration's legal position, which reads the statute — Section 1035(b) of the FY 2014 NDAA — not to require 30-day notice to Congress when the Secretary of Defense has determined that notice "could endanger" a captive soldier’s life. You might find that statutory interpretation strained, but without it, the administration would resort to a constitutional argument and say that the notice requirement encroaches on the President's constitutional function of "protecting the lives of Americans abroad and protecting U.S. soldiers." The memo points to the President's signing statement:
“Section 1035 does not... eliminate all of the unwarranted limitations on foreign transfers and, in certain circumstances, would violate constitutional separation of powers principles. The executive branch must have the flexibility, among other things, to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers.” 
I would say the signing statement disavows any belief in the statutory interpretation propounded by the memo, but the signing statement expresses the constitutional problem that drives statutory interpretation. (And by the way, just last Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that very strongly supports narrowing a statute to avoid getting to a question whether Congress has exceeded its constitutional powers.)

Beautiful woman reads a book in Russian by the light of the refrigerated pastry case.


In Caffe Reggio on MacDougal Street in NYC last Saturday. Here's the top comment about Caffe Reggio at Yelp! on the Caffe Reggio page at Yelp!:
I sat in Caffe Reggio and drank an Americano, because I had to remind myself that I could, in fact, sit in Caffe Reggio and drink an Americano. It's downstairs from my apartment, and it's been there for thousands of years, and yet I seldom make my way inside. I could feel something deep inside me stirring, and suddenly I had an intense craving to break free from the pattern I had been running as of late. I wanted to be free. My my routine of sulking, and whining, and going to the same places that I always went day in and day out had exhausted me. So I opted for a little bit of history, and a little bit of Old New York, and I began to write a rant about why these things were at the same time toxic as they were healing. It went something like this:

It's been a constant topic of discussion, and it seems to be on all of our minds: New York is dead.

Maureen Dowd went to Colorado, ate some marijuana candy, and had an 8-hour freakout.

I'm surprised she's willing to write openly about violating federal criminal law. On-the-books felony laws would be enough to silence me, but I would also think that a person who at least poses as smart wouldn't want to admit that she made the classic idiot's mistake of choosing edible marijuana — which takes some time to kick in — eating some and then — after not feeling enough — eating some more.
But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn’t move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy.

I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing, touching my green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall. As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.

It took all night before it began to wear off, distressingly slowly. The next day, a medical consultant at an edibles plant where I was conducting an interview mentioned that candy bars like that are supposed to be cut into 16 pieces for novices; but that recommendation hadn’t been on the label.
Among the top comments at the link: "You went all the way to Colorado to try pot and didn't do your homework on how to consume your pot-candy? Wow!" And: "And she did it alone, in a strange hotel room, without even any advice. Sad."

I think, in the end, Dowd's drug-addled brain seems to have lit on the liberally-correct notion that what's needed is more regulation: packaging and labeling requirements and accurate information on correct "dosing." There's no dosing information on bottles of alcohol. How high do you want to get? "Dosing" is the language of prescription drugs, which have a medical purpose. Marijuana used for the purpose of getting high is not susceptible to regulation about dosing. In normal prescription drug regulation, feeling high would be an undesirable side effect. If a side effect is all you're after, the government is not an appropriate adviser.

Well, I want to remember that I'm wearing green corduroys and not dead.

Sorry, lady! You're "experimenting" with drugs, as we've been saying since at least the days of Jimi Hendrix....

Do your own experiments! This isn't science, and the government is not your guru. You're on your own. You, in the hotel room, with your undelivered room service munchies, and your brick wall.

At least you knew — surely, you had flashes of remembering — that you are a NYT columnist and you were piling up raw material for quite a column. And you rested on the firm mattress of belief that the government — the government you hallucinatorily believe will protect you — would never come after you.

Even beset by paranoia, you are so sure of your privilege that you are stone free do what you please...

"Iowa GOPer Who Aired Hog Castration Ad Wins U.S. Senate Nomination."

Joni Ernst wins her primary.

Bergdahl as Obama's worst PR nightmare.

1. I'm surprised, with all the scandals Obama has wriggled his way through and around all these years, that bringing Bergdahl back home has hurt him so badly. I think Obama and his people believed that the Rose Garden announcement of the soldier's homecoming would warm American hearts, cleverly distract us from the VA scandal, and count as a positive step toward his long-delayed goal of closing Guantanamo. Moderate Americans would celebrate (or at least not complain about) the soldier's return. And more leftish Americans would get some satisfaction from the progress on Guantanamo.

2. Obama had just — 3 days before — given a commencement speech at West Point that he must have believed would refocus our attention on his distinctive vision of America's role in the world. He stressed our obligation to follow "international norms and the rule of law," expressed pride in "winding down our war in Afghanistan," and recommitted to closing "Gitmo, because American values and legal traditions do not permit the indefinite detention of people beyond our borders." His people must have believed this dignified oration would set us up nicely to receive the Bergdahl announcement. The speech got an "icy" reception, but the plan to follow up with the Rose Garden announcement remained in place.

3. Obama and his people knew there would be criticism about his violation of the statute that purports to require him to inform Congress in advance of releasing any detainees, but, as I blogged on June 1st, I think they imagined themselves winning this PR spat:
Go ahead. He's daring you. Perhaps part of his motivation for the prisoner trade was a predicted political boost as the President's opponents are distracted into seeming to complain about the return of a hero and tripping all over themselves as they posture about impeachment.
4. The first comment on my post jumped on my use of the word "hero." The Drill SGT said: "There are a lot of questions about how and where he was captured. None of them make him out a hero." I resisted this new material: "I used the word 'hero' precisely to highlight the nature of the response to the complaints, and anything disparaging to this man, like what you're saying, will redound against Obama's opponents." When I read that now, I think: That's exactly how Obama and his people fooled themselves into thinking they'd win this PR game.

5.  Obama's friends in the press worked the angle I had predicted. Joan Walsh over at Salon had a piece titled: "The right’s unhinged Bergdahl hypocrisy: The ultimate way to savage ObamaShould accused deserters face trial by Bill Kristol before being rescued? Understanding the latest wingnut hysteria." It began: "Of course Republicans are going to compare the prisoner swap that won the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to Benghazi. They both start with B." Actually, I think a lot of us, at that point, had not quite absorbed the name "Bergdahl" and were mentally filing it under that name that looks like "Benghazi." That was a random tough break for Obama — making it more likely that we'll hypothesize screwups and coverups — but it was a deliberate choice to send Susan Rice — who famously propagandized about Benghazi on the Sunday shows — onto a Sunday show to do the propaganda on Bergdahl. George Stephanopoulos gave her a supportive forum.

6. CNN's Jake Tapper broke ranks with the liberal media: "Fellow soldiers call Bowe Bergdahl a deserter, not a hero." And consider that that it was CNN's Jim Clancy who uttered the words "pretty icy" about West Point's reaction to Obama's commencement speech. CNN has problems of its own, and wouldn't it be funny if it could solve them by eschewing the role of PR outlet for Obama and doing some tough journalism? I suspect the ratings (and web traffic) are showing that this "pretty icy"/"deserter, not a hero" material is exactly what CNN desperately needs for its own survival. If so, what a tipping point.

7. The Rose Garden performance gets worse and worse in retrospect as we look closely at a man who was supposed to be scenery for the President: Bergdahl's father. Did Obama's people just assume the parents would be humble, grateful ordinary Americans? Should we give Obama some credit for not locking down the PR?

8. What Joan Walsh called "the latest wingnut hysteria" is seeping out to Democrats. Yesterday, The Weekly Standard found that "Senate Democrats Go AWOL: They had Obama's back on the Bergdahl/Taliban trade. Now they're walking away." Lots of Senators were queried, and only Harry Reid took Obama's side. Everybody else seemed to need to learn more about it before they could express an opinion.

9. This morning, Obama's PR nightmare includes Hillary Clinton attempting to extract herself:  "While still secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was skeptical of early plans to trade five Guantanamo prisoners for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, former officials involved in the process told CNN on Tuesday. Clinton pushed for a much tougher deal... Clinton did not trust the Haqqani network holding Bergdahl, they said, and she was wary that the trade would lead to peace with the Taliban."

10. I see that Talking Points Memo is still attempting the old "Obama's in trouble, we need to help" routine: "Conservatives Go From Zero To Impeachment In Record Time On Bergdahl." Whatever you might say about Obama, those Republicans are crazy.

June 3, 2014

"Trading Private Bergdahl."

That's from Mad Magazine.

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade said:
If I've lost Mad, I've lost Middle America. 

"Wisconsin has exercised an inordinate influence on New York dining and drinking of late."

The NYT explains.
Fedora and Perla are part of a downtown collection of restaurants that has been named Little Wisco for the high number of employees who hail from the Badger State, where Gabriel Stulman, one of the partners, attended college. Then there’s the Butterfly, a supper-club-like TriBeCa restaurant from the Wisconsin native Michael White, where diners can get bratwurst sliders, patty melts and old-fashioneds (made with brandy, just as they are in “America’s Dairyland”), and 5 oz. Factory, a Greenwich Village spot that traffics in cheese and frozen custard, two Wisconsin specialties.
We're back in Wisconsin now, but last Saturday, we were wandering around Greenwich Village and we happened upon 5 oz. Factory:


We had a brunch date elsewhere, so we couldn't buy anything, but we went in anyway to offer greetings from Wisconsin, which seemed like the Wisconsin thing to do.

Stairway to Hell.


Skeletal grasp evaded last Sunday on Elizabeth Street in New York City, from whose clutches we escaped yesterday. Other nearby skulls:


Posted from the bosom of Madison, Wisconsin, whither we arrived at 1:45 this morning.

Question: When does the NYT want us to care about the impact of gun control laws on a convicted felon?

Answer: When it's an occasion to portray Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as lacking in empathy.

"Kenny G's Revenge."

"When did the weird lopping sax become so popular in pop music?"

"They do live up to the hype. Get the corn, don't argue. Even when you're on a date."

"They give toothpicks to help with the stuck corn. Very helpful because that would have bothered me the rest of the evening."


We just got back from a road trip that took us to New York City, where seemingly the most ordinary thing is a thing. I was amused by the corn-on-the-cob chomping on the sidewalks of NoLita. We're back home now — in the Midwest, where festivals premised on corn-on-the-cob are a summer tradition.

The quote in this post's title comes from a Yelp! review of the restaurant in my photograph, and I see there is a Yelp! review for the Sun Prairie (Wisconsin) Sweet Corn Festival:

"Live Fish"/"Put the Guns Down."



We were on the road, but we're home now. These are just 2 drive-by shots. Note the Bucky Badger sticker on the "Live Fish" truck. "Put the Guns Down" is a media campaign of some sort in Chicago.

Live Guns/Put the Fish Down.

Those slippery, slimy fish....

"The Supreme Court, returning to the long-running issue of the use of race in drawing up new election districts for members of state legislatures..."

"... agreed on Monday to weigh the legality of 'packing' minority voters into districts where they already are in political control, reducing their chance of having influence elsewhere."

"Between 1991 and 2012, the political alignment of US physicians shifted from predominantly Republican toward the Democrats."

"The variables driving this change, including the increasing percentage of female physicians and the decreasing percentage of physicians in solo and small practices, are likely to drive further changes."

Says a new study that's getting a fair amount of attention.

The notion that women are better than men at multitasking.

"There’s a shaft of nerves that joins the two halves of the brain called the corpus callosum, and it’s thicker in women. … I think this is probably why women are better at multitasking. Because you are, aren’t you? There’s a raft of research, but I know it from my personal life."

So blathered Sir Ken Robinson in a TED talk with 26+ million views, and of course that doesn't mean that women are better than men at multitasking. It mostly suggests that people like to believe that women are better than men at multitasking. I'm drawn to think about why people like to believe that. Who benefits? Is it female ego-boosting? Is it another trick of the patriarchy that hoodwinks women into doing the housework and child-rearing?

A shaft of nerves and a raft of research... a shaft and a raft... It rhymes, but... to see just how pathetic the crap on the raft is, read this.

IN THE COMMENTS: Biff writes:
The corpus callosum thing really is junk science.

"The curious case of Bob Bergdahl’s apparent tweet to the Taliban."

"Bergdahl’s critics view the tweet as another demonstration of the father’s and son’s contempt for their own country. But the elder Bergdahl’s Twitter feed — @bobbergdahl — tells a more nuanced story...."

In Wisconsin, two 12-year-old girls are said to have stabbed another 12-year-old girl 19 times to win favor from Slender Man, a character they read about on the internet.

I'm reading about this in The Washington Post, which struggles to write factually about the attack. It's always a little hard to write about arrests. These articles are full of statements about statements — "the criminal complaint stated" and so forth. But assertions about what the police say the accused said present special problems, and in this case, the attackers are said to have given a stunningly stupid explanation that invites us to satisfy our own sick love of the lurid:
One of the girls told a detective they were trying to become “proxies” of Slender Man, a mythological demon-like creature they read about on creepypasta.wikia.com, a Web site about horror stories and legends. One of the girls told police the character is the “leader” of Creepypasta, and in the hierarchy of that world, one must kill to prove dedication, the Journal Sentinel reported. After the slaying, the girls planned to run away to the demon’s mansion in the Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin, the complaint said.

One girl said she sees him in her dreams. She said he can read her mind and teleport.

Creepypasta... stories often include anecdotes, rituals or lost episodes of TV shows.... Rituals include a “list of instructions for the reader, claiming that if they go to a certain place at a certain time, and perform specific actions, something remarkable and/or horrifying will happen,” the site states.
It seems that 2 young girls chose to viciously attack their erstwhile friend, and because they said ridiculous things about why they did it, they are the talk of the internet today. The Washington Post censors their photos and names, because they might be tried as juveniles, but if you click through to the Journel Sentinel article, you will see their names and their photographs.

Is this what we should be talking about today — how on-line horror stories inspire the young to acts of violence? Teenagers murder or attempt to murder each other every day, so there's no fame without crazy details. We're still talking about Elliot Rodgers and the "pick-up artist" websites that might have inspired him. As we feel drawn to peer into other people's possibly unsound minds, we are submitting our own impressionable minds to the lures of the lurid.

June 2, 2014

"Female-named hurricanes kill more than male hurricanes because people don’t respect them."

Researchers at the University of Illinois and Arizona State University examined six decades of hurricane death rates according to gender, spanning  1950 and 2012.
Sharon Shavitt, study co-author and professor of marketing at the University of Illinois, says the results imply an “implicit sexism”; that is, we make decisions about storms based on the gender of their name without even knowing it.... People imagining a ‘female’ hurricane were not as willing to seek shelter,” Shavitt said. “The stereotypes that underlie these judgments are subtle and not necessarily hostile toward women – they may involve viewing women as warmer and less aggressive than men.”
Katrina and Audrey were left out. We're told they were deemed outliers that would skew the study.

Science! But the science here is marketing, not climatology, so this does not undercut demands that you believe the scientists who are... marketing (?!) global warming.

Obama: "When the President does it, that means it is not illegal."

I mean... Nixon:

But Obama could say it — right? — about this:
The Obama administration’s failure to notify Congress of the release of five Guantanamo Bay detainees ahead of his exchanging them for American soldier Bowe Bergdahl is a direct violation of the law, according to CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

“I think he clearly broke the law,” Toobin said on Monday, adding that the president’s signing statement in which he called the law unconstitutional does not automatically make it so. “Certainly this is an example of a signing statement where the president is taking power for himself that the law didn’t give him — he’s explicitly contradicting it.”
I guess by "law," Toobin means statute. The Constitution is also law, and the President's view of the Constitution is that the statute in question encroaches on his constitutional power and is therefore a nullity. The President may be claiming power that the statutory law didn't give him, but he's not taking power if it was given by the Constitution, and there's nothing illegal about contradicting a nullity.

"The horrors of chemical warfare were vividly captured by John Singer Sargent in his 1919 painting Gassed."

First sentence of the Chief Justice's majority opinion in Bond v. United States (PDF) issued today.

The Court read the federal Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998 not to cover "a purely local crime: an amateur attempt by a jilted wife to injure her husband’s lover, which ended up causing only readily treated by rinsing with water."
[N]o speaker in natural parlance would describe Bond’s feud-driven act of spreading irritating chemicals on  Haynes’s door knob and mailbox as “combat.”  Nor do the other circumstances of Bond’s offense—an act of revenge born of romantic jealousy, meant to cause discomfort, that produced nothing more than a minor thumb burn — suggest that a chemical weapon was deployed in Norristown, Pennsylvania.  Potassium dichromate and 10-chloro-10H-phenoxarsine might be chemical weapons if used, say, to poison a city’s water supply.  But Bond’s crime is worlds apart from such hypotheticals, and covering it would give the statute a reach exceeding the ordinary meaning of the  words Congress wrote....

The Government’s reading of section 229 would “‘alter sensitive federal-state relationships,’” convert an astonishing amount of “traditionally local criminal conduct” into “a matter for federal enforcement,” and “involve a substantial extension of federal police resources.” It would transform the statute from one whose core concerns are acts of war, assassination, and terrorism into a massive federal anti-poisoning regime that reaches the simplest of assaults.
Through this statutory interpretation, the Court avoided the question whether Congress has an enumerated power that would support such a dramatic move into the realm of local crime. Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito rejected what they saw as a strained effort to find ambiguity in the statute in order to avoid what, to them, is the judicial duty to tell us about the limits on congressional power. On the constitutional question — which is the power to make laws necessary and proper to the enforcement of treaties — Scalia (joined by Thomas) said the Necessary and Proper Clause cannot mean that Congress is "one treaty away from acquiring a general police power":
No law that flattens the principle of state sovereignty, whether or not “necessary,” can be said to be “proper.”
Thomas writes (joined by Scalia and Alito) to stress that "the Treaty Power is itself a limited federal power":  "[T]o interpret the Treaty Power as extending to every conceivable domestic subject matter—even matters without any nexus to foreign relations—would destroy the basic constitutional distinction between domestic and foreign powers."

Scalia, Thomas, and Alito would have given us an important constitutional law opinion, but it was not to be. And yet the majority also showed respect for federalism values, which drove the search for unclearness in the statute that could be resolved against the exercise of federal power.

"It is natural to believe that the just-pubescent children on the mathletic podium next to you are the best, the ones who really matter."

"And for the most part, my fellow child stars and I have done very well. But the older I get..."
... the more I see how many brilliant people in the world weren't Doogie Howser-like prodigies; didn't shine in Math Olympiad; didn't go to the inner circle of elite colleges. I'm embarrassed that I didn't understand at 13 that it would be this way. But when they keep telling you you're the best, you start to believe you're the best.

One of the most painful aspects of teaching mathematics is seeing my students damaged by the cult of the genius....

"Obama is giving more thought to his post-presidency than his aides like to suggest."

"He has spoken privately of his intention to establish a foundation with the reach and influence of the Clinton Global Initiative, the international fundraising juggernaut started by former President Bill Clinton. And despite his deep connections to Chicago, he has told friends he would like to live in New York City."
The president’s political world is more and more beyond his command. Instead, it is driven by Republicans in Congress, potentially power-shifting Senate races in states where Obama isn’t welcomed to campaign, and to speculation centered on Hillary Clinton’s agenda — not his own. Obama tells anxious Democrats that there is only so much he can do beyond fundraising and better implementing the health care law. But he also has told allies that losing the Senate to Republicans would make his last two years in office unbearable.
It's like he's already gone.
This sense of diminished possibilities has infused his governing strategy. 
The life of a megalomaniac is not easy.
Obama is most animated by the enormous challenge of closing the income gap between the rich and poor, but he’s had to rely on only small-ball initiatives. 
Most Powerful Man in the World is just not enough power to animate him — to make him come alive. He looks longingly at a life in NYC — like Clinton — cadging cash from fawners — like Clinton — funding a foundation — like Clinton — and then, maybe then, he could call all the shots. Maybe then, he could be happy. That glorious smile, where has it gotten him? Maybe in New York....

"The sense of pride expressed by officials of the Obama administration at the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is not shared by many of those who served with him..."

"... veterans and soldiers who call him a deserter whose 'selfish act' ended up costing the lives of better men."
A reporter asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Sunday whether Bergdahl had left his post without permission or deserted -- and, if so, whether he would be punished. Hagel didn't answer directly. "Our first priority is assuring his well-being and his health and getting him reunited with his family," he said. "Other circumstances that may develop and questions, those will be dealt with later."
How conspicuously evasive can you get? Other circumstances and questions have developed. That's why the question was asked.
Another senior Defense official said Bergdahl will not likely face any punishment. "Five years is enough," he told CNN on condition of anonymity.
One translation of that is: We have determined never to air the facts of this case.

June 1, 2014

"The culture’s attitude is Hefnerism, basically, if less baldly chauvinistic than the original Playboy philosophy."

"Sexual fulfillment is treated as the source and summit of a life well lived, the thing without which nobody (from a carefree college student to a Cialis-taking senior) can be truly happy, enviable or free."

From Ross Douthat's meditation on the motives of the Santa Barbara murderer.
This tension between sexual expectations and social reality is a potential problem for both sexes, but for a variety of reasons — social, cultural and biological — it’s more likely to produce toxic reactions in the male of the species....

Contemporary feminism is very good — better than my fellow conservatives often acknowledge — at critiquing these pathologies. But feminism, too, is often a prisoner of Hefnerism, in the sense that it tends to prescribe more and more “sex positivity,” insisting that the only problem with contemporary sexual culture is that it’s imperfectly egalitarian, insufficiently celebratory of female agency and desire.

This means that the feminist prescription doesn’t supply what men slipping down into the darkness of misogyny most immediately need: not lectures on how they need to respect women as sexual beings, but reasons, despite their lack of sexual experience, to first respect themselves as men.
Should sex-positive feminism be equated with Hefnerism? Pre-Clinton Era feminism had indulged quite deeply in the critique of sex, but that got submerged in what may have been a realistic accommodation to the desire most people have for sexual relationships. The feminists who critiqued sex back in the 80s and early 90s thought that sex-positive feminists were enemies of feminism. (Here, read "Sexual Liberals and the Attack on Feminism" (1990) if you don't believe me.)  These "sex-negative" feminists hated the Playboy philosophy, so it's... interesting to dump the sex-positive feminists in with Hugh Hefner.

A commenter over at Douthat's column says: "Good God, how did you manage to turn liberal attitudes towards sex into the motivations of a murdering lunatic? That is truly an act of ideological desperation."

But what ideology is Douthat pushing? I think he's saying that in our society a lot of people are going to miss out on the ideal of plentiful sex and we need some positive ways to think about that so we don't suffer excessively. It's not so much that an occasional crazed person commits murder as it is that millions of others feel bad that they are not living what seems to be the good life. In that view, whether or not it's good to be "sex positive," we need a way to find good in the absence of sex. What would the "celibacy positive" vision look like?

I assume there are many intelligent, happy individuals in America who are celibate and could express themselves in a positive way, but you have to invade your own privacy to tell others why you're not having sex, and it's a difficult writing assignment, with critics waiting to explain that you're only bullshitting defensiveness of your own failure and repression.

Obama trades 5 Taliban detainees for 1 American soldier... and directly violates a federal statute that requires informing Congress in advance.

"The law requires the defense secretary to notify relevant congressional committees at least 30 days before making any transfers of prisoners, to explain the reason and to provide assurances that those released would not be in a position to reengage in activities that could threaten the United States or its interests."

On Obama's side, the argument is that the statute is unconstitutional, a congressional encroachment on presidential power. There's no way to undo the exchange, and acting in secrecy, without informing Congress, is an exercise of the very power that the President says the statute violates. Taking this action embodies an argument that this power does and should rest with the President. Is there anything that can be done now to press the opposing argument? We can criticize the President, as we always already do. The only other alternative I see is to impeach the President.

Go ahead. He's daring you. Perhaps part of his motivation for the prisoner trade was a predicted political boost as the President's opponents are distracted into seeming to complain about the return of a hero and tripping all over themselves as they posture about impeachment.

ADDED: Proofreading, Meade reads the post title and says: "What does that remind you of? Iran-Contra."

AND: I had a second update that I accidentally deleted. This is an attempt to reconstruct it. What I'd said was that the 5 Taliban leaders might be more useful to America on the loose than in detention, quite aside from concerns about closing or minimizing Guantanamo, because if they are out and about, we can conduct surveillance on them and, if they do anything that the President finds threatening, he can use his drones to kill them, according to his drone program. Since they know that, they may avoid doing anything, and if they reconnect with other terrorists, they may create even better targets for the drone program. That is, there are levels of wisdom and deviousness here that we can't know.