September 20, 2014

"Gov. Scott Walker and two Republican state senators stepped up attacks Saturday on Democrat Mary Burke in the wake of a report..."

"... that sections of her jobs plan were copied from other Democratic campaigns."
But Walker stopped short of calling for Burke to withdraw from the race, a proposal that was being pushed by state Sens. Leah Vukmir of Wauwatosa and Alberta Darling of River Hills....

During a campaign stop in West Bend, Walker indicated Burke had not gone far enough in dealing with the controversy over the copied passages. Walker alluded to U.S. Sen. John Walsh of Montana, who quit a campaign over disclosures that he plagiarized large sections of the final paper in a master's degree program at the Army War College.

"Even Joe Biden, back in the 1988 presidential election, eventually had to pull out because of charges of plagiarism," Walker said.

"Thousands of stray Chihuahuas roam Bay Area neighborhoods."

"Chihuahuas have been popular for years, thanks to movies like 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua' and celebrities' taste for toting the little dogs in purses."
But now they're turning up in huge numbers as strays — either abandoned, escaped or feral.

"Eight years ago, there'd be a line out the door of people wanting to adopt little dogs. Not anymore," she said. "Now we have too many of them. It's market saturation."

"Waiting on food at a restaurant and realized..."

"... that I had the same fashion sense as the table..."

"Wait a minute, if I can fix my diet from ancestral health principles, what else can I fix through ancestral health principles?"

Asks the devotee of the paleo lifestyle.

Blending in and sticking out.



Today, on Picnic Point.


AND: Speaking of orange... how Iris got the orange ball (over at Puparazzo).

"Debbie wears so many hats, so well."

Said Hillary, quoted in "Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s awkward day with party leaders."

Was that mean?

Did you ever notice the 2 different pronunciations of the word "have"?

Test yourself. Say: I have to read this blog post. Then: I have better things to do.

I just became conscious of that difference when I was listening to an audiobook and could tell that the reader believed he was encountering a "have" that meant "must" when it was in fact a "have" that referred to the possession of something. I haff to say that the wrongness of "haff" was obvious.

Here's a discussion of the subject.

ADDED: I think the same thing happens with "has." Compare how you'd say He has to go and He has two GoPro cameras. I think the native speaker says "hass" to mean "must" but "hazz" to refer to ownership.

When it comes to Christina Hoff Sommers and sexism in video games, Jonathan Mann will not stand down.

(Via Metafilter.)

"Designing a hamster wheel big enough for a person takes some serious design skills."

"Godshaw and his associates at Autodesk's Pier 9 fabrication facility ended up creating an 80-inch diameter wheel with a 24-inch-wide base. The wheel moves thanks to four skateboard wheels underneath. A preexisting standing desk was simply fitted inside the wheel."

I love my standing desk, but I've got to say no to the hamster wheel. For one thing, my standing desk is motorized for use at different levels, including sitting, and the wheel doesn't accommodate that. Second, I care about my view beyond the computer screen, which is a big picture window looking out on the trees. The hamster wheel blocks the view.

By the way, I've looked at these motorized treadmills designed to go under a standing desk, but I wouldn't want to stand on that when I wasn't walking, and it would be in my way when sitting. I think if I want to walk while reading, I'll walk out in the real world and listen to an audiobook, and if I want to walk while writing, I'll walk in the real world and think. Or dictate. You know, it would not look that foolish to dictate while walking around the neighborhood. With iPhone headset, I would look no different from someone having a phone conversation.

But, anyway, the human hamster wheel is adorable, and having something with wheels rather than a motor seems nice for the indoor environment. (Except now I'm thinking about children and fingers.)

September 19, 2014

"Large portions of Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke’s jobs plan for Wisconsin appear to be copied directly from the plans of 3 Democratic candidates who ran for governor in previous election cycles."

Andrew Kaczynski reports (at Buzzfeed).
A spokesman for the Burke campaign told BuzzFeed News an “expert” named Eric Schnurer who also worked on the other campaigns as responsible for the similar text, a case of self-plagiarism.
The problem of plagiarism isn't just the loss (if any) to the person who wrote the text. It's also that the taker feels a need for that material. So even if Schnurer was only cutting and pasting his own text and thus doing himself a favor, avoiding needing to do additional work, there's still a question of why the candidate was not the source of the ideas that were being presented in her name.

Stuart Taylor Jr. responds to the attack on his source for the story about the political atmosphere in the office of the John Doe prosecutor.

This follows up on something discussed on this blog a week ago in "John Doe prosecutor John Chisholm objects to what Stuart Taylor Jr. said about his anti-Walker vendetta" and "Did Stuart Taylor Jr. misidentify his unnamed source for his article impugning the motives of the John Doe prosecutor?"  In that second post, I'd said:
It's not just that the source (as revealed by [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Daniel] Bice) seems pretty untrustworthy. What bothers me most here is that Taylor would pass him off as a "longtime Chisholm subordinate" and "former staff prosecutor in Chisholm’s office" if he was a short-time, unpaid, paper-shuffler. Taylor needs to weigh in.
Stuart Taylor now weighs in with "Decorated Wis. cop says he paid dearly for blowing whistle on DA’s crusade against Gov. Walker":

"I decided since then to trust myself as the arbiter of what’s 'enough' and have turned down plenty of offers since, and because I have yet to feel any sexual attraction to anyone..."

"... I have never allowed anyone else to talk me into anything I know I don’t desire. I think I’d recognize it if it happened to me. Most other people find it unmistakable. If a food smells delicious to everyone else but bland or bad to me, I don’t owe anyone the demonstration of actually eating it before I’m 'allowed' to say I don’t want to eat the dish."

From "You’re about as sexually attractive to me as a turtle: Coming out as asexual in a hypersexual culture," by Tracy Clark-Flory. I appreciated the analogy, because I have another "a-" — anosmia. And I've long observed the difficulty of achieving awareness of the separation between what you actually want and what everyone else seems to act like they agree that everyone wants.

And I've also been thinking a lot lately about the one-sidedness of much of the propaganda that we're exposed to. The pro-sex propaganda in our culture — like the pro-travel propaganda and the pro-education propaganda — is pervasive, and the anti- arguments are scarcely seen. That doesn't mean there aren't cogent things to say on the other side, just that people are not finding it in their interest to put effort into exposing that side. So I like when someone is inspired to correct the balance. It can help all of us think more clearly about what we really want.

Also: Clark-Flory explains — intelligently — how masturbation is not necessarily inconsistent with asexuality. Asexuality is defined as a lack of sexual desire directed at anyone. Think about it. You might try to say that if the purported asexual masturbates, she's experiencing sexual desire directed at herself, but that doesn't make sense, because we don't normally talk that way about masturbation, otherwise we would think of all masturbation as homosexual.

"How U2 became the most hated band in America."

U2's Songs of Innocence "was released as part of Apple’s keynote event, dished out to iTunes subscribers for free."
The album reportedly cost Apple $100 million, a figure the company is likely to eat. Rather than generating the kind of hype Apple is accustomed to, Songs of Innocence generated a huge Twitter backlash, with the company posting a guide on how to remove the album from your library on its support page. Most damningly, Wired’s Vijith Assar called the “devious giveaway” no better than “spam.”
Actually, he said it was "Even Worse Than Spam."

"There have been times when I wanted children and other times I've been grateful not to have them."

"I am a mess if I have to say goodbye to my dog for longer than five days. I don't know how I would deal with kissing my children as I left for work. I know there are women who are able to do that. I don't know if I could."

From "25 Famous Women on Childlessness." Interesting to read the whole collection, because so many of them, like the one above, express the old-fashioned belief — not straight out, but implicitly — that a woman must choose between a career and motherhood.

Does the male gynecologist need to explain himself?

Apparently. 10 do.

One reason is you get to restrict your practice to females. One doctor said men were bad patients. Another didn't like "old patients and chronic conditions that never seemed to be cured" or (rejecting pediatrics) "the annoying parents of healthy kids!" Some feel comfortable around women: "I grew up with six sisters, and so I was used to having my life revolve around estrogen, ovulation, and hormones." Perhaps slightly weirdly interested: "The female body is a metaphor for her womanhood, and I am granted access to her whole identity. That’s a great honor."

Others liked the cheerful context of mostly healthy patients in mostly happy times: "I’m kind of freaked out by sickness and death," "the miracle of giving birth … that never gets old," "delivering babies was just about the coolest thing ever."

Then there's the career opportunity that's leveraged on the very suspicion that keeps many men out of this specialty:
I was nervous about being a young, male gynecologist. Frankly, I worried I’d have no patients. But I’ve learned that some women still prefer male doctors, and it’s not for the reasons you might think. They say men are more sensitive on average, more responsive to their concerns. I’ve heard that men are better at pelvic exams because we’re so terrified of causing discomfort that we’re obsessively gentle. Male doctors are less dismissive of a woman’s problems because everything sounds so terrifying and horrifying to us since we don’t go through it. Like, tell us your period is heavy and we feel awful about it! There are people who aren’t allowed to have a male doctor … mostly Muslim … and teenage girls and young women who have not yet had a baby are more likely to want a female … but once a woman has pushed out a kid, it’s like, “Who gives a crap?!” From a recruiting perspective, male gynecologists are a minority, and programs are interested in us — straight men in particular — to reinforce the notion that men still belong in the field, and it’s not just women-to-women care that matters. Focusing on women-to-women care superimposes that there’s a sexual element there, and that makes us think of medicine the wrong way.
That last point is especially intelligent. Gynecological health care is not sexual, and having only female gynecologists sends the message that it is.

Senate votes 78-22 for Obama's anti-ISIS plan.

Among the "no" votes: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Elizabeth Warren.

From earlier in the day, Jeremy W. Peters in the NYT: "ISIS Vote Weighs Heavily on Senators With 2016 Ambitions."
In a speech before the vote on Thursday, Mr. Paul tried to square his belief that America cannot be the world’s policeman with his more hawkish statements lately in support of military action. “I’m not sending your son, your daughter over to the middle of that chaos,” he said. “The people who live there need to stand up and fight. I am not giving up. But it is their war, and they need to fight.”...

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas [said:] “I do not support arming the rebels in Syria because the administration has presented no coherent plan for distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys"....
Peters has nothing from Elizabeth Warren, and I'm puzzled that he ends his article by quoting Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin (whom I've never heard spoken of as a presidential prospect): "I have so many questions... I worry about an open-ended conflict." It's not as if that's a particularly interesting quote! Did the article originally quote Elizabeth Warren, then swap in another female Senator for some reason (to protect Warren, perhaps)?

After the push to restrict access to sugared drinks...

... suspicions turn to artificially sweetened drinks.

September 18, 2014

"So, the woman perhaps most responsible for putting the phrase 'war on women' into the political bloodstream is also now responsible for taking the rhetoric too far."

Writes Nia-Malika Henderson in a WaPo piece titled "How gender mattered in the rise and fall of Debbie Wasserman Schultz."

The "too far" incident is the one we discussed here on September 3rd: "Debbie Wasserman Schultz says: 'Scott Walker has given women the back of his hand' and 'What Republican tea party extremists like Scott Walker are doing is they are grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back.'" And, the next day: "The violent imagery deployed against Scott Walker by Debbie Wasserman Shultz is gendered — it's domestic violence." ("Wasserman Schultz can be accused of subtly purveying a rape metaphor.")

We've also been discussing Wasserman Schultz's problems in this post from last night: "Democrats tire of Debbie Wasserman Schultz — especially her efforts to get them to pay for her clothes," in which I say: "She served their gender-based interests in 2012, and that's not the thing this year, so they launch a gender-based attack on her?"

"Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police — even when they have a search warrant...."

"Rather than comply with binding court orders, Apple has reworked its latest encryption in a way that prevents the company — or anyone but the device’s owner — from gaining access to the vast troves of user data...."
"Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data," Apple said on its Web site. "So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8."
Apple doesn't know our passcodes? 

"Public university required students to submit sexual history or face disciplinary action."

"Clemson is requiring students and faculty to complete an online course through a third party website that asks invasive questions about sexual history."
“How many times have you had sex (including oral) in the last 3 months?” asks one question.

“With how many different people have you had sex (including oral) in the last 3 months?” asks another....

“I don’t know what they’re doing with the data, but I’ve been told time and time again that the data that they are collecting, they aren't analyzing or using the data for anything, so then I don’t understand why they’re asking the questions either,” the student, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution from the university, went on to say.
Sex and coercion.

"This dramatic announcement marks a sad and grim turn to the [Toronto Mayor Rob] Ford story, which always mixed tragic elements with heavy doses of the comic and the surreal."

"These are the sort of dark reversals of fortune which probably haunt all of us, either about our loved ones or ourselves. I would feel remiss not saying that this latest development somehow continues the surreal nature of this man's public story, larger than life, almost operatic in its improbability and drama, almost difficult to even believe."

Josh Marshall, having had his fun with Ford, seems to feel a need to perform in the Theater of Purple Prose. Me, I've always ignored Ford. I didn't care to amuse myself with him when he was supposedly so amusing. Now, we learn he is one of the millions of human beings with cancer alive in the world today, and there's nothing I would "feel remiss not saying." If there was, I guarantee I wouldn't use that phrase.

ADDED: Getting cancer is not "operatic in its improbability." It may be improbable in the sense that it's more likely than not that you don't have cancer, but the likelihood is enough that there's nothing "operatic" about your number coming up. Maybe Josh Marshall is thinking of opera because of the stereotype that opera singers are fat and Rob Ford is both fat and afflicted with cancer of the fat.

Why the U.S. opposes Scottish independence (though we can't say much about it).

CNN's Kevin Liptak explains.
All of Britain's nuclear weapons -- its only contribution to a Western nuclear deterrent -- are housed at the Royal Navy's base on Scotland's West Coast. A "yes" vote would throw into question the future of the Trident nuclear program, which consists of four Vanguard-class submarines armed with ballistic missiles on lease from the United States....

Also in dispute: an independent Scotland's ability -- and willingness -- to contribute to Western military coalitions, which have become ever-more visible as the U.S. rallies support behind its efforts against Russia and ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria....

In rejoining [NATO] Scotland would need to commit to spending 2% of its gross domestic product on defense spending, which given the uncertain economic outcome of an independence vote appears unachievable....

Perhaps the greatest fear for the United States is that a successful independence movement in Scotland could spark further movements in the rest of Europe. Potential breakaway regions in Spain and Belgium are already eyeing the Scottish vote carefully.
ADDED: "Is it really imaginable today that if part of the United States genuinely wanted to secede, it would be stopped with the kind of violence we saw in the American Civil War?"

"Even as a child, I didn't understand why Darren was so against using the magic."

Wrote MayBee in the comments to last night's post marking the 50th anniversary of the premiere of "Bewitched." I answered:
It's an allegory of relations between the sexes. Darren wants to provide for his wife and protect her. He can't do that if she has powers, or so he thinks. Instead of working together to find a new way to live in which the woman can use her full powers and the man can still feel empowered, he forbade her to use them and she tried to live like that, but she nevertheless acted out on her frustration from time to time, though only to help make their traditional life together work out.

"When parties of males encounter single individuals from other communities, they sometimes launch brutal assaults that leave victims gravely wounded or dead."

It's in their nature, those chimpanzees.

"If our parents had not forced us to marry at such a young age, our lives would be so different."

"Recently I spoke to a school friend who told me he was going to engineering college. The news left me feeling ashamed and pitiful.... would have liked to have gone to engineering school. If we were allowed to finish our educations, Rajkumari and I would have learned about family planning. Maybe I would have gone to college. Forcing children to marry doesn’t just push them deeper into poverty and threaten their health. It crushes their ambitions—whether they are girls or boys."

From "The Sad Hidden Plight of Child Grooms."

"Reading insecurity. It is the subjective experience of thinking that you’re not getting as much from reading as you used to."

"It is deploring your attention span and missing the flow, the trance, of entering a narrative world without bringing the real one along. It is realizing that if Virginia Woolf was correct to call heaven 'one continuous unexhausted reading,' then goodbye, you have been kicked out of paradise."

But you won't read the whole thing. You've just enjoyed this juicy morsel, and who wants Virginia Woolf's heaven anyway? Maybe my next morsel is better than reading that whole thing, that whole thing that's about reading the whole thing. I might satisfy you with something sharper and clearer, like: If Virginia Woolf really thought heaven was sitting around reading continuously, why didn't she stay in her room reading instead of heading out to drown herself?

Enough! That's all I want to say here. I've got another blog post to write. Up there, above this. It's a better place, I'm sure.

September 17, 2014

Democrats tire of Debbie Wasserman Schultz — especially her efforts to get them to pay for her clothes.

Politico reports.
Wasserman Schultz is a high-profile national figure who helped raise millions of dollars and served as a Democratic messenger to female voters during a presidential election in which Obama needed to exploit the gender gap to win, but November’s already difficult midterms are looming.

One example that sources point to as particularly troubling: Wasserman Schultz repeatedly trying to get the DNC to cover the costs of her wardrobe. In 2012, Wasserman Schultz attempted to get the DNC to pay for her clothing at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, multiple sources say, but was blocked by staff in the committee’s Capitol Hill headquarters and at President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign headquarters in Chicago.

She asked again around Obama’s inauguration in 2013, pushing so hard that Obama senior adviser — and one-time Wasserman Schultz booster — Valerie Jarrett had to call her directly to get her to stop....  One more time, according to independent sources with direct knowledge of the conversations, she tried again, asking for the DNC to buy clothing for the 2013 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Wasserman Schultz denies it. But what's going on here? Who are these sources that have it in for Debbie? She served their gender-based interests in 2012, and that's not the thing this year, so they launch a gender-based attack on her? It is a gender-based attack, don't you think? Is a woman behind this attack? The only name I see named is Valerie Jarrett. What's up with the Democratic Party? If you make women your stock in trade, you'd better watch out for women against women.

"A fetching suburban house­witch in the person of Elizabeth Montgomery ar­rived on the television screen last night in a series entitled 'Bewitched.'"

For "last night," read: 50 years ago tonight.
Both Miss Montgomery and [Dick] York are extremely at­tractive and personable and there is a durable element of fun in watching someone out of this world solve life's mundane problems by making them go away with a snap of the fingers or a twitch of the mouth....

Agnes Moorehead is play­ing Miss Montgomery's moth­er and, with more substan­tial scenes in the installments to come, should be a reward­ing figure as a senior witch given to disdain for human ways. “Bewitched” promises to be a bright niche of popu­lar TV.
And so it was, for 8 years. Note that the above-quoted NYT review accurately says "twitch of the mouth." We were tricked, perhaps by witchcraft, into thinking we were looking at a twitch of the nose.

MORE: Thoughts on why Darren didn't accept Samantha's use of witchcraft here.

"Remember that copyright litigation between Marvin Gaye and the folks behind Blurred Lines?"

"Well, Pharrell and Robin Thicke's depositions have now been made public, and let's just say that they perhaps didn't go so well...."

Joe Biden emails: "Hold your breath, Ann."

Yes, it's just another email from Who knows who decides which Democrat's name to use to heighten the impression that I'm getting personal attention? But these creepy subject lines!  "Hold your breath, Ann." And 2 days ago, I got one "from" Barack Obama with the subject line: "Almost out of time, Ann."

And the thing is: It's meant to be scary. Not scary in the way these words seem most clearly to evoke, like someone is trying to kill me. But scary in the sense that I'm supposed to feel threatened by the possibility that Republicans will win in the fall elections.

And by the way, where's the trigger alert? What if I — like many of the women pandered to by the Democrats' gender politics — was afraid of some stalker ex-boyfriend? Glancing at "Almost out of time, Ann" or "Hold your breath, Ann" in my inbox would horrify me. What the hell is wrong with these people? Where's the empathy?

"Deeply... it's such a poser word."

Said Meade, reading the previous post "The NYT poll reports terrible numbers for Democrats, but calls the Republcian Party 'deeply unpopular.'" It made me wish I'd had a tag on the word "deeply" all along. It's a metaphor, creating an image of abstract concepts in space. Where are you when you are "deeply in love"? There are so many trite usages — deeply in love, deeply disappointed, deeply religious, thinking deeply, deeply troubled, deeply concerned, deeply offended, deeply regret — and "deeply" is deeply embedded in constitutional law doctrine with the phrase "deeply rooted in this nation's history and tradition." But I'm interested in seeing how is "deeply" is deployed in various political and cultural statements, so I've searched this blog's archive, and here's the best of what I found:

1. "Beauty is a system of power, deeply rooted, preceding all others, richly rewarded," wrote Garace Franke-Ruta, explaining "Why Obama's 'Best-Looking Attorney General' Comment Was a Gaffe."

2. "During the period when [Althouse] rose to blogging prominence, conservatism as an ideology was deeply discredited and unpopular.... But if you look at her whole body of work, you can't escape the conclusion that she's deeply conservative."

3. Sarkozy said "I deeply enjoy the work" (of being President of France), and I said: "Wouldn't it be amusing if some day, a President resigned because he just wasn't enjoying the work — not deeply, anyway?"

4. Talking about libertarians, I said: "I am struck... by how deeply and seriously libertarians and conservatives believe in their ideas. I'm used to the way lefties and liberals take themselves seriously and how deeply they believe. Me, I find true believers strange and -- if they have power -- frightening. And my first reaction is to doubt that they really do truly believe."

5. Last May, Tina Brown said: "Now that Chelsea is pregnant, and life for Hillary can get so deeply familial and pleasant, she can have her glory-filled post-presidency now, without actually having to deal with the miseries of the office itself..."

6. This John Stuart Mill passage came up in the context of a discussion about free speech: "Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.”

7. Something President Bush said in 2006: "It is deeply troubling that a country we helped liberate would hold a person to account because they chose a particular religion over another. I'm troubled when I hear, deeply troubled when I hear, the fact that a person who converted away from Islam may be held to account. That's not the universal application of the values that I talked about."

8. "Clinton’s interest in global women’s issues is deeply personal, a mission she adopted when her husband was in the White House after the stinging defeat of her health care policy forced her to take a lower profile." [SEE ALSO: the use of "deeply personal" to refer to Sonia Sotomayor's dissent in a case about affirmative action. I find it deeply interesting when a woman's interest in an important issue is called "deeply personal." I'm reminded of the old feminist slogan "The personal is political," which I'm inclined to jocosely reword: "The deeply personal is deeply political."]

9. Somebody called Dahlia Lithwick "deeply frivolous" for what she said about the Supreme Court case known as "Bong Hits 4 Jesus," and I said: "I mean, if I were stoned I might be fascinated by the phrase 'deeply frivolous,' but I don't think Carney meant to divert us into contemplating an oxymoron."

10. A sociologist said: "I live on puns and snide, sarcastic asides. I don't look too deeply into myself or anyone else...  I drink a lot, take recreational drugs, don't care about much except being clever. I recently broke up with my girlfriend, and while I am eager to have sex, which I do often given the zillions of available women in New York, the sex is not especially fulfilling, and emotions rarely enter the picture. I am deeply shallow. And I know it."


11. One of Hillary Clinton's most famous quotes: "This video is disgusting and reprehensible.  It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose, to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage."

12. A self-professed liberal says: "the liberal commitment to Roe has been deeply unhealthy — for American democracy, for liberalism, and even for the cause of abortion rights itself....  Roe puts liberals in the position of defending a lousy opinion that disenfranchised millions of conservatives on an issue about which they care deeply while freeing those conservatives from any obligation to articulate a responsible policy that might command majority support...."

The NYT poll reports terrible numbers for Democrats, but calls the Republcian Party "deeply unpopular."

Check out all the numbers and consider the wording of the intro to the poll:
A New York Times/CBS News poll shows that President Obama’s approval ratings are similar to those of President George W. Bush in 2006 when Democrats swept both houses of Congress in the midterm elections.

A deeply unpopular Republican Party is nonetheless gaining strength heading into the midterms, as the American public’s frustration with Mr. Obama has manifested itself in low ratings for his handling of foreign policy and terrorism.
I'm thinking that the NYT loathes the GOP so much — the GOP is "deeply unpopular" at the NYT — that even when the poll numbers show the unpopularity of the Democratic Party, it feels compelled to say that the GOP is deeply unpopular, even though saying that raises the inference that the Democratic Party must be really unpopular to be more unpopular than the deeply unpopular GOP. And yet there's still some hope that the unpopularity of the Democratic Party is, perhaps, not deep.

Maybe the unpopularity of the Democratic Party is a transitory surface phenomenon, like some very itchy rash, while the unpopularity of the Republicans is more like arthritis, bad, but this rampant rash is driving us crazy, so if you ask us right now what's bothering us, it's that damned rash, but the rash will clear up and the arthritis will never go away.

"In the morning, it starts at home with champagne or red wine before 10am, then again champagne."

"Then food, accompanied by two bottles of wine. In the afternoon, champagne, beer and more pastis at around 5pm, to finish off the bottle. Later on, vodka and/or whisky. But I’m never totally drunk, just a little p*****d. All you need is a 10-minute nap and voila, a slurp of rose wine and I feel as fresh as a daisy. Anyway, I’m not going to die. Not now. I still have energy."

Boasts Gerard Depardieu, who is 65, has had a quintuple bypass, and — tellingly — owns a vineyard.

Do school dress codes rules about covering body parts discriminate illegally against female students?

At The Guardian, Jessica Valenti has an article about the high school dress code rebellion we talked about here. Her piece is titled "How many young women can a school legally punish for dress code violations? Singling out female students for humiliation and discipline because of their sex is a blatant violation of federal law."
Let’s be honest: rules for boys that prohibit certain kinds of jewelry or hoodies have nothing to do with their sexuality, whereas rules that seek to literally cover women’s bodies absolutely do.
There's a link to the actual dress code, PDF, where you can see that the rules are written in a gender-neutral form. "No... hoodies" restricts males and females. "No... accessories with metal spikes" — which I take it is the jewelry rule referred to — applies to males are females. "No visible undergarments" is a rule that might aim more at males than females, and it's a matter of opinion whether low slung pants with undershorts showing has anything to do with male sexuality.

"No low-cut blouses, tube/halter tops, midriff tops" does very strongly imply restriction on females specifically, but it's a matter of opinion whether young women making a special display of their breasts has something to do with their sexuality. (I'm thinking of statements from "SlutWalk"-type protesters and advocates of public nursing.) "No short-shorts, mini-skirts" refers almost entirely to females, but I suspect that many girls would be upset to hear that these fashion choices were expressions of sexuality, rather than fashion and comfort choices. (I know I was upset when confronted with this theory by my junior high school principal, explaining my miniskirt to me in 1965).

But I do get the point that the relevant sexuality could be in the minds of the rule-makers, and the covering up of females is part of a long and continuing tradition of controlling sexual behavior. The girl might not think she's doing anything related to sex when she wears short shorts on a hot day, but the authorities may worry that she's stirring sexual feelings in other students. (That's what I learned from the vice principal in 1965.)

Valenti continues:
The rules are so disproportionate...
An "if" would help that phrase.
... they could be a violation of Title IX, the federal law that ensures non-discrimination in educational environments. Alexandra Brodsky, co-founder of Know Your IX, ... explained that dress code violators could argue that they are being targeted precisely because of their sex: rules about short shorts or spaghetti strap tank tops are aimed directly at women’s attire.
The rules actually don't mention "spaghetti straps." The rule is "No tank tops," and boys do wear tank tops. I had to ask the internet "do boys wear short shorts," and I got: "Who Wears Short Shorts? Guys Wear Short Shorts!"

Back to Valenti:
There is also an argument to be made, Brodsky said, that targeting, humiliating and disciplining of female students could constitute a hostile environment, “making young women feel that the school isn’t for them.”
Interestingly, most school discipline seems to be aimed at boys and to make boys feel that school isn't for them. But maybe dress code rules, unlike rules about getting up out of your seat and pushing and shoving, has a greater impact on girls. It is important for authorities do need to set gender-neutral rules and to enforce them in a gender-neutral fashion. They should send the solid message that all the students are equally valued whether they are male or female.

But Valenti seems to be suggesting something more than that obvious proposition. She seems to say that formal gender neutrality is not enough and that demands for coverage of the flesh are aimed at females or that females have a special expressive interest in revealing their flesh. I don't reject that theory, but I would be more careful about applying it to the specific case of a high school principal demanding that students take reasonable rules seriously.

(And yes, yes, long ago — not as long ago as 1965, but long ago in 2006 — there was a big controversy about a blog post I wrote about the way Jessica Valenti posed in front of a very famous sexual harasser. I am not trying to rake up that old business, but I see the resonance here, and I'm mentioning it to free you from the need you might otherwise feel to remedy a seeming omission.)

September 16, 2014

Fried cheese curds.



Pick a cocktail:


Martin Amis sets his novel in a Nazi concentration camp and his European publishers reject it.

They don't get the Englishman's humor or they think he might be construed as sympathetic to the Nazis or they're squeamish and scared or... it's just not that good.
In France, the storied house Gallimard declined to publish the novel because “it wasn’t very convincing,” said Marie-Pierre Gracedieu....

Mr. Amis said his German publisher, Carl Hanser Verlag, had told him that there were “inconsistencies in the plot” and that it had found the main character, Golo Thomsen, an SS officer, too sympathetic to the Nazi cause...

Piero Salabè, Mr. Amis’s editor at Carl Hanser Verlag, said... “Our decision was based on the book’s contents as well as on economic considerations... [It had] nothing to do with the Holocaust being a sensitive issue in Germany.”....

“The problem with the novel lies in his uninhibited English perception of humor, at least for some German readers,” [wrote the London correspondentfor Allgemeine Zeitung].
Here's the book, "The Zone of Interest." See for yourself... unless you think we're being played by a publicity stunt.

Why won't Kirsten Gillibrand name the men she says harassed her?

She writes in her book that a male labor leader said "You're too fat to be elected statewide" and a male colleague said she was getting "porky," another said she's "even pretty when [she's] fat," and yet another made physical contact and said he liked "chubby" girls. But she won't name names. Let's analyze the possible reasons.

1. She wants to focus attention on the general problem of "how women are treated in the workplace... undervaluing women... and chronically paying them less and treating them poorly and not valuing them." This is the answer she gives, and as a politician, it makes sense to think that she has her issues and she wants issues seen as issues, so individual incidents are supposed to work as examples of the sort of thing that's happening. Specific details would distract us from the big problem and would enable those who oppose her solutions to that problem to find ways to distinguish what happened to her from what she's presenting as the big problem to be solved with the legislation that she, as a politician, would like to promote.

2. She wants to present herself in a good light, so she's filtered the story so that people see her as an ordinary woman who struggled with her weight and got harassed about it, rather than as an extraordinary woman who received an appointment to her seat in the Senate in part because she was a woman — because she was replacing a woman, Hillary Clinton — and because she had excellent feminine attractiveness. Did any male even have a chance? Which fatter, homelier women did she perhaps beat out? But, no, men commented on her post-pregnancy weight gain and that was good material to use to help us relate to her and to think that she understands us and our problems.

3. If she named the men, she'd have to tell the whole story, and we'd have to see things from their perspective too. The nameless men were mean to her, but if she named them, she might seem mean. Was she unfair? What was the actual context? Maybe it was a friendly, chummy environment where everyone teases everyone else and it was part of being considered one of the guys. Maybe she had drawn attention to her weight gain and expressed worry about it and they were mirroring her remarks supportively or just saying they like her however she looks. Fat is good too! As for the "too fat to be elected statewide," she got the Senate seat by appointment, and she had to be planning for the election, thinking of things she could do, and the subject of doing what she could to improve her appearance would have come up, as it does for all candidates, male and female. We openly talk about whether Chris Christie is too fat to get elected President. Maybe she was getting equal treatment. If we knew the details, we could probe into this, and any dishonesty in her presentation of the incidents could hurt her now.

4. She wants to protect the men she hasn't named. They're her political allies, perhaps quite well-known characters. I think we can assume that they are all Democrats, since we haven't heard otherwise and she probably would have taken the opportunity to ding Republicans, and since Republicans would be more likely to maintain formal politeness with her and not to assume that they could take liberties.

5. Maybe it didn't happen. There are no names named because there are no names to name.

Pick all that you think are probably true. free polls

"This week my kids have been outside until it’s time for bed, just playing, being kids, like I remember after school."

"When you come home from work, most people don’t want to work. That’s what the kids need to do."

Marlon Brando's Tahitian atoll will become a posh resort.

You can stay in one of the private cottages for $4,000 or so a night.
"Marlon felt that everyone in Hollywood wore a mask,” says Richard Bailey, Managing Director of the hotel company, Pacific Beachcomber, that built and operates The Brando. “But Tahitians don’t wear masks. There’s no hypocrisy. He loved that. He felt Tahitians had something to teach the world about how to lead a happy, balanced life.”
So come buy a Tahitian mask of your very own. Then you can wear the mask of no mask. There's no hypocrisy!

"The great promise of YouTube was its ability to cut out Hollywood-style intermediaries..."

"... but there are now more than 20 agencies and management companies competing to represent YouTube personalities, at least triple the number of three years ago...."
“Money changed everything,” said Naomi Lennon, president of Lennon Management, which focuses on YouTube personalities. Exploitation is now “an issue with our industry,” she said, because a lot of inexperienced video creators “are just believing everything these people are telling them.”

"We've gotta dispense with calling guys who are effeminate or who throw like girls 'sissies.' You know why?"

"Because that diminishes women... We've got to stop this making fun of guys. I think part of it's to protect Obama, because he's the one that's well known for that," Rush Limbaugh said (sarcastically) yesterday, in the midst of a monologue that centered around something an ESPNW columnist, Kate Fagan, said about the problem of violence in football. She said:
Holding NFL's feet to the fire should mean getting men to throw the kitchen sink at domestic violence...
What's up with the anti-violence lady using 2 violent metaphors?
... to invest millions of dollars in grassroots organizations, in going into middle schools and high schools and colleges and talking to young men about dealing with anger, about how they treat women. I think that's where you're gonna see change. Going into the school systems and the younger spaces and really reprogramming how we raise men.
Rush made much of the word "reprogramming." His transcript headline paraphrases Fagan's statement as "We Must Reprogram Men." His monologue goes on to paraphrase her repeatedly like this:
We have been in the process of reprogramming men and the way they are raised for a long time... we need to reprogram the way we're raising men... it's the guys that have to be reprogrammed... I've never run across anybody who suggested that women need to be reprogrammed. I don't think I've even come across anybody who wanted to teach a girl how to throw right. They just accept it is what it is. But honestly, folks, it's always reprogramming men... this effort to reprogram men has been going on a long time.
But Fagan didn't say "reprogramming men." She said "reprogramming how we raise men." Who's getting reprogrammed? Which human beings are analogized to computers and capable of programming? It's got to be those who are raising men, which is mostly women — mothers (more than fathers) and early childhood educators (mostly women). So in fact, in Fagan's statement itself, Rush was encountering what he says he never runs across: a suggestion that women need to be reprogrammed. He doesn't notice it when he sees it, perhaps because reprogramming women is so deeply embedded in the culture that it just looks natural. Feminists continually pressure for the reprogramming of women. That's what the "lean in" campaign is all about.

Maybe during the commercial break somebody pointed out the discrepancy in the paraphrase, because when Rush came back, he was more accurate, referring to "this business of reprogramming the way we raise men" (before detouring into the topic of Ohio State's description of what consent to sex means, which is funny/disturbing because it seems to demand that couples agree about "why" they are doing what they're doing), and "We have got to reprogram the way we raise men" (which relates to expecting men to "think with their brains" rather than their other "head," as Rush frat-boyishly put it). 

You know, I hate all the human-as-computer metaphors, including speaking of how people are "wired." It's dehumanizing, to men and to women. Fagan was trying to talk about what parents and teachers can do to raise good children. Conservatives should agree that boys and girls should be raised into adults who have good character, who understand right and wrong, and who embrace virtue and avoid vice. That's not controversial at a high level of abstraction. As to the details, is Rush saying that the best way to raise boys to be good men is to mock them by calling them "sissies" when they do something in a way that seems stereotypically female?

Does Rush embody and project ideal masculinity? Is he a good role model for boys? Is he carrying on some fine, old, valued tradition of raising boys to manhood? He has no children of his own, and he seems to have a lot of opinions about how parents and teachers — mostly women — are attempting to do well as they shape the new generation of Americans. They're doing many things wrong, it may be presumed, because anyone who tries to do something that difficult will get many things wrong. But how do you do it right?

The Scotland/England relationship, understood in romantic terms.

By John Oliver. This is long but I recommend the whole thing:

ADDED: I think Oliver wants Scots to vote "no" on independence, but he lays out the reasons for their grievance with the relationship with England and gets the audience identifying with them to the point where they burst into a huge cheer with a big Scottish flag unfurls (at 14:52). The emotions of nationalism are strange and powerful. With the right manipulation, an audience that doesn't even possess that nationality can feel the nationalism of others.

AND: Why do flags have such a powerful effect on the human mind? I'd like to see some serious research on this subject? Did you know that the study of flags is called "vexillology"? Here's the flag of the International Federation of Vexillological Associations:

September 15, 2014

"Do you know how many times I’ve been called, the cops have been called … just because we’re black and he’s white."

"You can take me down to the court office and I can make a scene about it. You know that I have a publicist and I work as an actress," said the actress.

"I’m mildly interested, I’m mildly interested that you have a publicist...Thank you for bringing up the race card. I never hear that," said the cop.

"Daddy, Daddy, I can’t believe it — all the things that are happening with the cops right now. I can’t even make out with my boyfriend in front of my f–king studio without getting the cops called on me. I don’t have to give him my ID because it’s my right to sit on the f–king street corner and make out with my boyfriend! That’s my right!" Said the actress to her father, via phone.

"Keep yelling, it really helps, it really helps. I’d already be gone [if you'd show an ID], just so you know, I’d be gone,” said the cop.

"I have to live with the fact that when I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child, I caused an injury that I never intended or thought would happen."

"I also understand after meeting with a psychologist that there are other alternative ways of disciplining a child that may be more appropriate."

Said Adrian Peterson.

What now for Adrian Peterson? free polls

"Urban Outfitters apologizes for its blood-red-stained Kent State sweatshirt."

"As outrage spread, Urban Outfitters issued an apology for the product on Monday morning, claiming that the product was 'was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection."
The company added that the bright red stains and holes, which certainly seemed to suggest blood, were simply “discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray.” The statement added: “We deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively.”
That's actually not an apology at all, of course. 

Only Condoleezza Rice can save football.


"These students are rebelling to the point of basically wearing undergarments."

Said one dad, who — can you figure this out? — doesn't support the enforcement of the dress code and is thinking of suing the school because "Scarmato is a total control freak." Scarmato is Joseph Scarmato, the new principal of Tottenville High School in Staten Island, who exercised his discretion to impose a new "Dress for Success" policy that put 200 students, mostly girls, in detention. Currently, we're told, the students are in rebellion.

I think there should be a dress code and the parents should support the principal, but I confess that when I was a teenager, I was the first girl in line to break the dress code. The issue back then wasn't shorts. We girls weren't even allowed to wear pants (including the new "pantsuits" for females that had just become stylish and that nowadays a woman is considered perfectly dressed up in and could even wear to deliver the State of the Union Address). In 1965, the issue was miniskirts, and the requirement was that the skirt reach midknee. Do you have any idea how unfashionable that looked at that time?

Why, I remember the vice principal, to whose office I'd been sent, musing out loud about the difficulties these skirts caused for the boys and what would happen if the girls came to school in bikinis. I found that exasperating, because the school was requiring me to wear a skirt. I wasn't attempting to wear a less-appropriate item of clothing to school. Let me wear pants if the issue is the sexual troubling of the boys. But don't make me wear a skirt and force me to wear a bad-looking skirt.

See? I'm still arguing with the vice principal from 50 years ago, so you might think I should support these booty-shorts girls. But I don't. They have plenty of stylish choices to make within the range of what is permitted and shows a decent respect for the classroom. I hear that the school isn't air-conditioned, but it can't be especially comfortable to have the bare flesh of the entire length of the back of your thighs sticking to the chairs all day.

"Most Pakistani men, in Rotherham or elsewhere, do not, of course, turn to criminality or become child abusers."

"But Rotherham’s abusers found that their ethnicity protected them because they belonged to a community few wished to challenge."

Writes Sarfraz Manzoor, who grew up in the UK within what he calls the "a Pakistani bubble."

Here's Manzoor's memoir, "Greetings From Bury Park, " which is described at Amazon like this:
Sarfraz Manzoor was two years old when, in 1974, he emigrated from Pakistan to Britain with his mother, brother, and sister. Sarfraz spent his teenage years in a constant battle, trying to reconcile being both British and Muslim, trying to fit in at school and at home. But it was when his best friend introduced him to the music of Bruce Springsteen that his life changed completely. From the age of sixteen on, after the moment he heard the harmonica and opening lines to “The River,” Springsteen became his personal muse, a lens through which he was able to view the rest of his life....

Bill Clinton says (about Republicans): "They’re trying to get you to check your brain at the door, start foaming at the mouth."

"The last thing they want you to do is think."

Emotional politics. He recognizes what he knows very well.

My "Meet the Press" conspiracy theory.

"Meet the Press," the conspicuous Sunday morning talk show, has had a regular practice, for as long as I can remember — and I've been blogging stuff from the show for 10+ years — of posting a same-day transcript. The text is up in the early afternoon, at which point I often have watched the show and written down a couple words that I can use for a search to get me to the part that I want to blog. Yesterday, I scribbled the words "ship" and "potentially," I also made a note, in my words: "blandification of the election." All day checked the MTP transcripts page, and now it's Monday morning and still no the transcript. Why?!

Yesterday was Chuck Todd's second time as host. Last week, his first time, the show was heavily larded with an interview with Barack Obama. That means yesterday's show was the first example of a normal show. Are they ashamed of it? They've put video up, including neatly captioned segments, like "James Baker: We Need People on Ground in Mideast." ("People," is that what we're calling "boots" now?) The preference for lots of little videos, with writing only in the form of captions that very briefly paraphrase what some guest supposedly said, makes me suspicious. I want to see the specific quotes, and I want to pick them apart.

Why deprive us of the words? Maybe it's just a device to make us watch an ad before we can get to the material. Maybe it's exactly what's frustrating me: They want to pick the bits they like and present them in their terms, with their paraphrase, controlling passive viewers and thwarting active commentators. Or maybe the new presentation is an effort to make Chuck Todd's MTP feel new and different, or at least not disappointingly dull.

Kira Kazantsev, the new Miss America, for her talent bit, sat on the floor and sang "Happy"...

... accompanying herself doing percussion on the iconic drinking vessel, the red plastic cup.

From the Wikipedia entry for Solo Cup Company:
The red plastic cups are notably used in American college and university games such as beer pong and flip cup. This usage is referenced in Toby Keith's song "Red Solo Cup." The red party cup outsells the blue variety by a wide margin.
Here's a Slate article on the subject:
Should you doubt the cup’s cultural significance, I would point you toward a brand new Toby Keith song titled “Red Solo Cup.” The song opens with these lyrics: “Red Solo cup is the best receptacle for barbecues, tailgates, fairs, and festivals. And you, sir, do not have a pair of testicles if you prefer drinking from a glass.” The tune’s admirably forthright chorus: “I love you, red Solo cup. I fill you up. Proceed to party. Proceed to party.”
Should you doubt the cup’s cultural significance, I would point you toward Miss America, Kira Kazantsev.

That cup percussion business wasn't Kazantsev's invention. It's an internet craze (I just found out this morning). Here's a popular iteration:

September 14, 2014

It's The Plants...


... previously stalled in the doorway, now advancing on the home front.

"Daniele Watts, who played 'CoCo' in and currently stars as Martin Lawrence's daughter on the FX show 'Partners,' says she was wrongfully arrested on September 11th after being mistaken for a prostitute!"

"How is this possible?  She was dressed in 'short shorts,' a t-shirt and sneakers, which is the same outfit plenty of people wear to live out their day.  And she was spotted sharing a PDA moment with a white man -- HER HUSBAND."

"It's craziness. Originally, it was a joke that he was going to be nominated for homecoming princess, but he got a lot of nominations."

"And now there are a lot of upset girls because a spot was taken from them. I’m very sympathetic that he’s transgender, but he should be on the boys’ side, not the girls'," said the grandmother of a student at Sand Creek High School, where Scarlett Lenh, 16, won the vote for homecoming princess.

And a student said: "I think it’s wrong because he’s actually a guy, he’s not a girl, and he hasn’t been doing this his entire life — he’s only been recently doing it." Doing it? What is it? Dressing and acting and ??? like some stereotype of a female? This implies there's an "it" that biological females are compelled by nature to do, but what, exactly, is "it" supposed to be?

It seems to me that the biological compulsions — menstruation and the capacity to become impregnated — are precisely the ones that the biological male cannot do. The things that can be adopted by a male can also be rejected by a female, and, anyway, what is the relationship between those things and being a homecoming princess? If that's some sort of achievement in princessiness, shouldn't the male who chooses to participate in the competition get the most credit?

And when did homecoming queen become homecoming princess? Is this part of the Disney-related obsession with princesses? Has "queen" become pejorative? If so, why? Is it because the queens in the movies these days are evil? Is it because we don't really want the little girls to lean in and lead? Or is it because of the old association with gay men and the lack of fit with the present-day conception of "transgender," about which even the resistant grandmother has learned to be "very sympathetic"?

"I was not here in the run-up to Iraq in 2003. It would have been fascinating to see the momentum and how it builds."

Said President Obama to an unnamed set of persons just before his ISIS speech last week, according to some unspecified persons within that set, according to Peter Baker in the NYT.

It would have been fascinating... That's so professorial and distant. And read between the lines: He's seeing the momentum and how it builds now, in 2014, and he's projecting himself into the mind of George Bush, who experienced the momentum then and made the decision that seemed so wrong at the time to Barack Obama when he was not here in the White House.

Baker's source tells us:
Obama told his staff... not to evaluate their own policy based on external momentum. He would not rush to war. He would be deliberate.
I can't tell whether Obama thinks or meant to suggest that Bush responded to "external momentum," "rushe[ed] to war," and was not "deliberate." But I suspect that Obama remembers the way he judged Bush back in 2003, and he doesn't want to be what he thought George Bush was.
In forming a plan to destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria using airpower and local forces, but not regular American ground troops, he searched for ways to avoid the mistakes of the past. 
Another way to put that is: Obama feels like George Bush, yet he must not be George Bush. Obama feels compelled to go to war in Iraq, but it must not be the same as what George Bush did. So he's grasping at distinctions: 1. He's taking it more slowly, being deliberate, and thoughtful. (Remember: Bush had no brain and was a cowboy.) 2. He doing it all from the air, so lofty and elevated. (Remember: Bush put boots on the ground. Ugh! Boots, so brutal! The ground, so lowly and filthy!)
“This will be a problem for the next president,” Mr. Obama said ruefully...
Ruefully.... see? Obama is not like Bush, he and his friends in the press are desperate to have you know. I've long seen "ruefully" an absurd adverbial boost to the good old verb "said." (Ask my ex-husband, the novelist, who I don't think ever used "ruefully" again after that one time I pointed it out, though I adopted "he said ruefully" to add punch to subsequent conversations. By the way, one of Elmore Leonard's 10 rules for writers was: "Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialogue." I'd add: Especially not "ruefully.")
“... and probably the one after that.”

But he alternated between resolve as he vowed to retaliate against President Bashar al-Assad if Syrian forces shot at American planes, and prickliness as he mocked critics of his more reticent approach to the exercise of American power.

“Oh, it’s a shame when you have a wan, diffident, professorial president with no foreign policy other than ‘don’t do stupid things,’ ” guests recalled him saying, sarcastically imitating his adversaries. “I do not make apologies for being careful in these areas, even if it doesn’t make for good theater.”
I laughed and laughed when I got to that line. Doesn’t make for good theater! But he is doing theater, the theater of thoughtfulness, the theater of reticence. He said "theater" because he was aware he was in a theater. Like an actor breaking the fourth wall, talking to the audience about the play within which he finds himself.

If we shadows have offended... That's Shakespeare. I'm trying to think of some 20th century play where an actor turns to the audience and says something close to I'm afraid this doesn’t make for good theater. It's a well-worn theatrical move. It's called "meta-reference."

And I know there's a Greek term for rhetoric like "I do not make apologies for being careful...." He's complimenting himself within the guise of self-criticism. Or are we just saying "humblebrag" these days?

"David was most alive and enthusiastic in his humanitarian roles."

Said his brother, Mike Haines.
David Haines worked for the Royal Mail, then joined the Royal Air Force. He later worked with the United Nations in the Balkans, where "he helped whoever needed help, regardless of race, creed or religion," according to his brother.

"During this time, David began to decide that humanitarian work was the field he wanted to work in," Mike Haines said. "... David was most alive and enthusiastic in his humanitarian roles."
Having chosen what made him feel most alive, he was chosen to be the next in line in the one-by-one beheadings performed by ISIS for the world audience.
He was abducted in March 2013 near a refugee camp in Atmeh, Syria, where he was working to arrange for the delivery of humanitarian aid to people staying at the camp. He had previously worked on aid operations for victims of conflict in the Balkans, African and other parts of the Middle East, according to an ACTED spokesman.

"His joy and anticipation for the work he (did) in Syria is, for myself and family, the most important element of this whole sad affair," Mike Haines said. "He was and is loved by all his family and will be missed terribly."
Why select a man like this? Is it in the hope of getting money, a ransom scheme? Or is there focused antagonism on foreigners who arrive with offers of help and claims of humanitarianism? In the video of the beheading, the executioner warns about "another bloody and unwinnable war" and tells those "who've entered this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State to back off and leave our people alone." Presumably, he knows that the beheadings are aggravating America and our allies and bringing us closer to war. Choosing a man who has our sympathy — the humanitarian — makes the war-averse among us more likely to fight.

Or so it looks to me. I don't know how it looks to ISIS. I can see that our government and the British government do not ask us to understand ISIS. We're told flatly that this is "pure evil." Did I just dream that Barack Obama once invited us to understand how America's enemies thought about what we were doing in the world?