October 4, 2014

"What foul curse has befallen you?!"

The Silence of the Hedgehogs.

"You are being given this card because a sick person who might have been exposed to Ebola sat near you on a plane OR had contact with you in an airport."

Card handed to 261 passengers who arrived at Newark Airport on United flight 988 remain from Brussels. This reading material staved off boredom as they had to stay in their seats and watch authorities come on board to deal with the person suspected of carrying ebola.

"The most consistently loyal fans in America live in Wisconsin."

"More than 87 percent of fans in some Wisconsin ZIP codes support the Badgers, a level that isn't reached anywhere else, our estimates show. That's why the red in the map is so dark. Though the numbers aren't nearly so high elsewhere, Wisconsin territory also stretches into Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan."

From a NYT piece (replete with interactive map) titled: "N.C.A.A. Fan Map: How the Country Roots for College Football/With data based on Facebook 'likes' we estimated the boundaries of fandom for 84 teams."

"A Federal District Court judge on Friday ordered the public disclosure of 28 classified military videotapes showing the forced cell extraction and forced feeding..."

"... of a hunger-striking Guantánamo Bay detainee, rejecting the Obama administration’s arguments that making the videos public would endanger national security."
The dispute over force-feeding has been building since early 2013, when a hunger strike protest broke out across the Guantánamo prison...

In response, President Obama revived his moribund efforts to transfer low-level detainees, which had stagnated, but he also endorsed force-feeding, saying he did not want detainees to die. The procedure involves strapping a detainee into a restraint chair and inserting a tube through his nose, through which a nutritional supplement is poured into his stomach.

Most of the hunger strikers have since resumed eating....
Here's the opinion, from Judge Gladys Kessler, a District of Columbia federal district judge (appointed by Bill Clinton).

"To be honest, I think the women's rights movement has been portrayed in a way that makes women look like they are whining about something."

"But really [women] just want the right to make their own decisions and [this] has sometimes been shown in a negative light by Gov. Walker," said a University of Wisconsin freshwoman, quoted in an Isthmus article titled "Planned Parenthood national director Cecile Richards rallies women on the UW campus to vote for Mary Burke."

Justice Scalia wants you to know that he's not going to tell you what he's pretty much telling you.

What a scamp this man is!
After giving a speech against the concept of an evolving Constitution, Justice Scalia at the University of Colorado was asked by a high school student about Colorado becoming the first state to allow recreational-pot sales...
Scalia smiled and said, “I’m not going to respond to that because it would force me to have to recuse myself” if the question ever went to the high court.

But he added, “the Constitution contains something called the Supremacy Clause,” which is the provision stating that federal laws trump state laws.
The justice was also asked when we’ll find out if the high court will take up the question of whether state same-sex marriage bans are constitutional.
“I know when, but I’m not going to tell you,” he reportedly replied, getting a big laugh from the audience. “Soon! Soon!” he added.
By the way, years ago, Justice Scalia did recuse himself in a case where he'd commented on the issue in public. It was the case about whether "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance violates the Establishment Clause:
[I]n his talk to the Knights of Columbus, Justice Scalia... mentioned prior rulings by his own Court indicating that government could not favor any religious sect or religion over non-religion. He observed that such rulings were "contrary to our whole tradition, [and] to 'in God We Trust' on the coins," and said that these rulings had created inconsistencies that lent "some plausible support" to the lower court rulings in Newdow.

[And] when Scalia saw a protest sign in the crowd, he remarked: "The sign back there which says, 'Get religion out of government,' can be imposed on the whole country. . . . I have no problem with that philosophy being adopted democratically. If the gentleman holding the sign would persuade all of you of that, then we could eliminate 'under God' from the Pledge of Allegiance. That could be democratically done." Scalia thus arguably implied that the elimination of the "under God" phrase could not be accomplished by any Court — even his own....
The standard for recusal is vague — "[a]ny justice, judge or magistrate of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned" — and there's a great deal of analysis of it at that last link by Vikram David Amar. Excerpt:
The truth is that Scalia's judicial opinions are often far more sweeping, far more dismissive, and far more harsh in their treatment of legal theories, contentions and cases — including fact-patterns not yet before the Court — than any of his extra-judicial public statements have been. And yet no one in the world thinks that simply because a Justice in a published opinion has made clear in passing, say, that he does not agree with an earlier ruling and would overrule it when given a chance, that he is "biased" against that ruling — in the sense that he cannot participate in a case that comes up in which the continued vitality of that ruling is squarely presented. Having opinions about the law is very different from being biased in a particular case.
But cases must be decided. It's the judge's duty. He doesn't have to fly about the country and the world doing speeches and question-and-answer sessions. There, he's choosing to speak, and what he says on those occasions may seem more freely spoken from his mind: I'm saying this because I've got a will to say it. Within the constraints of the opinion-writing duty, there is paradoxically greater freedom: I'm saying this because I must.

But, now, Newdow was a very special case. For one thing, the plaintiff Michael Newdow asked for the recusal and pushed that demand in the press. Another thing is, the Newdow case was to be decided in the presidential election year of 2004, and to leave the liberals to determine that "under God" couldn't be in the Pledge was to invite them to burden the Democratic candidate and help President George Bush get his reelection. (Remember how his father kicked Dukakis around over the Pledge in 1988?)

In Newdow, the liberals ended up figuring out some weird tweak on the standing doctrine and avoided saying something inopportune about the Establishment Clause and the Pledge. And that maneuver has always been enough for me — arguably, a reasonable person — to question their impartiality. But the recusal statute can't mean that. Otherwise, it would be recusals all the way down and nothing could ever be decided.

"Are you suggesting that committing marriage fraud, which in this case meant paying $8,000 to another person and lying to immigration officials for years, is the American dream?"

Said the federal judge, to the lawyer for the former New York State assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa. The judge, Denise L. Cote, did not like the argument that Rosa had "married to obtain a green card 20 years ago when she was following the American dream and 'looking for a better life.'"
The federal Probation Department recommended no prison sentence, but Judge Cote disagreed, saying that written submissions on Ms. Rosa’s behalf included “very troubling suggestions” that the crime resulted in part because Ms. Rosa was following the American dream.

She said the suggestions were a “disservice to all our immigrants who actually try to follow the law and gain citizenship legitimately.”
Judge Cote was not appointed by Barack Obama, who, the day before Rosa's sentencing, appeared at the annual gala of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and said: "Fixing our broken immigration system is one more big thing we have to do and one more thing we will do."

Judge Cote was appointed by Bill Clinton. 

The Wisconsin man who had a sword held over his head when he answered the door to the popcorn-selling Boy Scouts...

... told the police that "he always answers the door with a sword to protect himself against religious people." 

22-year-old Owen S. Reese was arrested for reckless endangerment. The police say that upon opening the door, the man "immediately started yelling at the children... made threatening motions toward the children and yelled at them to leave." A parent was present and yelled at the kids to leave.

The man's assertion that he always answers the door with a sword is backed up by the fact that when the police arrived at his house, he answered the door "holding a sword with both hands at shoulder height." Told to drop it, he did.

You know, this is why I just don't answer the door (unless I know who's arriving). I don't want to fend off pint-sized salesfolk or tie-with-short-sleeved-shirt-wearing adults. But if you are going to answer the door in your own house, what's wrong with being armed? I'm not saying Reese didn't cross a line here, depending on what "threatening motions" he made. What makes people feel entitled to a kid-friendly greeting when they disturb random strangers in their homes?

The linked article publishes the man's address, so anyone is free to look at it in Google street views. I performed this high-tech invasion of personal space, but only because I wanted to imagine his subjective experience. Wandering down that virtual street is — in so many ways — my subjective experience. Swiveling to the long view of the street, I felt like I was looking at the establishing shot in a movie scene where something terrible was about to happen....


... and there I am, safe with the popcorn.

October 3, 2014

Scott Walker wants nothing to do with that rape metaphor.

Eric O'Keefe, head of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, spoke on local radio yesterday about the trauma suffered by targets of the John Doe investigation. (I recommend listening to the whole show, here, to get the full sense of the abuse the John Doe investigators visited upon their targets.)

But at one point, he said: "I have read some about rape and talked to people about rape, and I am saying this very deliberately... The reactions that I got from the people I interviewed were similar to a rape victim."

He may have said that very deliberately, but the Walker campaign also deliberated and said, via spokeswoman Alleigh Marre: "Eric O'Keefe, who has no ties to the campaign, deserves nothing less than outright condemnation for his egregiously offensive remarks."

I'm guessing the Walker side of the deliberation had 2 aspects:

1. Since the John Doe accusations are about coordination with the Club for Growth, the less we seem to be on the same page with them, the better.

2. "Rape" is a hot button word. It's a word they can kill you with. RIP Todd Akin. Unless you're talking about the crime of rape — or are a liberal — stay away from that word.

"Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has declined to defend the Government Accountability Board in the latest 'John Doe' legal challenge..."

"... citing among other things the 'tenuous legal positions' taken by the agency in the investigation."
Assistant Deputy Attorney General Daniel Lennington said in a letter to the agency Friday that the Department of Justice has a conflict because it is representing John Doe judge Gregory Peterson in other challenges. In January, Peterson quashed subpoenas sought by John Doe prosecutor Francis Schmitz, saying he was not convinced that the campaign coordination under scrutiny is illegal....

"In the Attorney General's view, Judge Peterson's order reflects a correct interpretation of the Wisconsin Statutes," Lennington wrote....

"The Ebola crisis, and the role missionaries are playing in it, has brought dislike of missionary work out into the open."

"When an infected American missionary was flown back to the United States for treatment, Donald Trump griped that do-gooders trying to save Africa should be prepared to 'suffer the consequences.' Ann Coulter called the doctor 'idiotic,' and asked of his mission to Africa, 'What was the point?'"

From Brian Palmer's Slate article subtitled "Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?" Palmer is an atheist who admits to a milder sort of skepticism about missionary doctors. Who's keeping track of the quality of care? There's no oversight. There's no medical malpractice law. They might be proselytizing, which for Palmer includes even just revealing that they are doing what they're doing — to quote one doctor — "because of what God has given me and his love for me." Palmer experiences a "visceral discomfort with the mingling of religion and health care."

If you were a vulnerable patient — poor and horribly ill — would you rather be attended to by those who are inspired by the love of God or those who are doing the dangerous, onerous job because the world health care system had provided adequate pay to motivate a person who responds to financial incentives?

Palmer ends his article with a puzzle of a paragraph:
As an atheist, I try to make choices based on evidence and reason. So until we’re finally ready to invest heavily in secular medicine for Africa, I suggest we stand aside and let God do His work.
I read this to mean that missionaries only have to beat the better-than-nothing standard, so fans of secular medicine can just shut up.

But on a more cynical level, the notion of God's work is sarcastic. There is no God, thinks the atheist, but if there were, He'd be responsible for this disease.

In that light, when the atheist says "let God do His Work" he might mean: Let God continue his scheme of dragging Africans into early, painful death. And: If a few of His very best friends see this horror show as an opportunity to demonstrate their fealty to Him, who's to say that's not in the plan?

What does it mean that Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke backed out of a scheduled debate?

This looks like a last-minute cancellation, attributed to "an unavoidable conflict." The debate, at Milwaukee Area Technical College, was about student debt, and the participants were American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, economics professor Michael Rosen, and an MATC student. This might mean nothing or not much — some passing illness? some supervening fund-raising opportunity? — but one commenter at the link (to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) says:
I sense, fatigue, disillusionment, loss of enthusiasm, waning commitment, and a total breakdown of resolve.
I tried unsuccessfully to find Burke's schedule on line. What did she do yesterday that made her unavailable for the scheduled debate? Her supporters ought to want to see her out there, actively campaigning, demonstrating that the energy is still there, even after the discouraging new Marquette poll and that "plagiarism" problem (about which the camera caught Burke looking unprepared and inarticulate). There was also Michelle Obama's appearance with Burke last Monday, where, we were told:
According to a statement from the Madison branch of the Society of Professional Journalists, reporters present claimed that aides from the White House and the Burke campaign prevented them from speaking to attendees until the event concluded.

The statement added that "one press minder even told the chairman of the state Democratic Party to stop talking to a reporter because he was inside the press pen."

Meg Kissinger and Erin Richards, both of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, noted in their report on the event that they had been told not to speak to attendees, writing, "Burke and White House staff also told reporters not to talk to people in the crowd before the event."...

"To say that I was creeped out is an understatement," Kissinger wrote on her Facebook page. "This is what reporters do in America: we speak to people. At least that's how I've been doing things -- at all kinds of political events -- since 1979.”
I guess the real test will come a week from today, when Burke is scheduled to debate Governor Scott Walker, and then a week later, when there's a second debate.

The Supreme Court will hear the case about Abercrombie & Fitch's rejection of a sales person who wore a headscarf for religious reasons.

The Muslim woman, Samantha Elauf, who wore a headscarf in her interview, was not hired. 

The company has changed its dress code since then, but it's fighting this case on the ground that it didn't deny her a religious accommodation because she didn't ask for a religious accommodation. That is, it had a dress code that applied to everyone, and she violated it, so she was treated like anyone else who fails to comply with the dress code, not subjected to discrimination based on religion.

If she'd asked for an accommodation based on religion, the company would have had to make some conscious decision about whether an exception to the usual rule could be made. Without having been given that chance, the company argues, there's no discrimination, the company says. The EEOC, which brought the case on behalf of Elauf, doesn't want the burden to bring up religion to rest entirely on the employee. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Abercrombie.
[T]he EEOC says Elauf never requested an accommodation because she didn't know about the "look policy." The agency also claims that Abercrombie was clearly on notice that Elauf needed to wear the headscarf for religious reasons, or else it wouldn't have denied her a job.

Abercrombie's lawyers say the law is clear that an employer must have actual knowledge that a religious conflict exists before any accommodation is offered. The company argues that job applicants "are not permitted to remain silent and to assume that the employer recognizes the religious motivations behind their fashion decisions."
It's not surprising that a job applicant wouldn't want to bring up religious needs during the hiring process, and it's hard to see how the employer is supposed to be expected to bring up something that might have to do with religion. If the EEOC is saying the company should see itself as "on notice" of the need to wear religious garb, that seems to conflict with other things we might want the employer to do, like not bring up religion in a job interview. How proactively religion-conscious do you want employers to be?

ADDED: Here's the PDF of the 10th Circuit opinion (EEOC). I'll extract some highlights:

"In complete disregard of the unfortunate truth that not all dogs are like the beloved Lassie, a vicious dog has been granted a pardon by the highest court of this State."

Wrote Justice Allen H. Loughry Jr., dissenting from an opinion by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, that let a pit bull terrier off on a technicality.
The dog’s troubles stem from a biting incident last year when an animal control officer responded to a complaint about Major and another dog at the home of Bluefield resident Estella Robinson, according to the court’s opinion. A municipal judge directed that the city kill the dog, citing a city ordinance that authorizes the destruction of dogs deemed “vicious, dangerous or in the habit of biting or attacking persons.”

Ms. Robinson, who last year pleaded guilty to having a dangerous animal, claimed that the municipal court’s death sentence clashed with a state dog regulation that says only circuit and magistrate courts may decide the fate of an allegedly dangerous canine. The state’s highest court agreed with her.

“A municipality seeking an order to kill a vicious or dangerous dog must do so in circuit or magistrate court,” wrote Justice Menis E. Kethum in the opinion....

Justice Loughry said he loves animals — recalling his “fond memories of [his] childhood companion and faithful dog, ‘Bozo,’ — but said he’s not blinded to “the sad reality” that some dogs are dangerous and vicious.
Bozo... Lassie... Either a court has jurisdiction or it doesn't. Everyone knows some dogs, like some people, are heartless bastards, but if the state wants to deprive the worst of us of life or liberty, it has got to follow the right procedures.

Rereading that last sentence, I see 2 important points I must make.

1. When a dog is a heartless bastard, it's almost surely the fault of the person who raised it (not necessarily the current owner). And maybe when a person is a heartless bastard, it's also some other person's fault. Who deserves to die, when it's heartless bastards all the way down?

2. Loughry decorated his opinion with remarks about Bozo and Lassie, but he had his analysis on the jurisdictional issue too:
While the majority acknowledges the statutory authority of municipalities to enact ordinances, it cavalierly disallows the enforcement of such ordinances in municipal courts simply because a statute allows for counties to seek the destruction of vicious dogs in either magistrate or circuit court... [W]ill the majority’s ruling be relied upon in the future to strip municipal courts of their power to enforce other ordinances, such as those involving assault and battery and hate crimes, merely because there are statutes that also authorize the prosecution of such matters in either magistrate or circuit court?
The West Virginia legislature could easily fix this problem and make the municipal court's power explicit, but now they'll have to do it while the dog lovers are staring right at them. Loughry attempts to rebalance the empathy:
Will the confusion created by the majority effectively sanction future and potentially fatal attacks by vicious dogs upon unsuspecting children as they walk to school within a city’s limits? Will an elderly couple be mauled by a vicious dog in their front yard as they rake leaves?
And I see 2 follow-on points after #2, supra:

1. It almost sounds like the dogs are reading the opinion and deciding to rampage. There was never a judicial opinion so clear that it wouldn't confuse a dog. Or, really, no judicial opinion, not even the most confusing absurdities of a jurisdictional kind, would confuse a dog. (This is the iconic cartoon that depicts how a dog experiences the laying down of the law.)

2. I love Loughry's selection of victims for his what-if questions: the unsuspecting children walking to school and the elderly man and wife raking leaves in their own yard. And the dogs are just "vicious." There are plenty of people who — nice and not-so-nice, engaged in wholesome activities or not — get bitten because  they do something that scares a dog who's generally more or less reining in his beastly propensities.

October 2, 2014

Aretha Franklin talks — charmingly — to David Letterman.

Last Monday:

She also sang "Rolling in the Deep," a cover of the Adele song, from her new album of cover songs. I think the performance wasn't good, which is why I'm embedding the interview, which is much better, but Aretha Franklin is 72 years old, and she's earned our indulgence, including our indulgence of her dramatically low cut gown, there in the Ed Sullivan Theater, where, back when she was 17, they told her that her dress was too low cut and then that they were overbooked and she wasn't going to go on at all. And don't you just want to say: "Forget 'toned arms'!"?

"A white Ohio woman is suing a Downers Grove-based sperm bank, alleging that the company mistakenly gave her vials from an African-American donor..."

"... a fact that she said has made it difficult for her and her same-sex partner to raise their now 2-year-old daughter in an all-white community."
After searching through pages of comprehensive histories for their top three donors, the lawsuit claims, Cramblett and her domestic partner, Amanda Zinkon, chose donor No. 380, who was also white. Their doctor in Ohio received vials from donor No. 330, who is African-American, the lawsuit said.
It's not as though they don't love the baby that was born. They just didn't get the product they ordered. They have a basis for a lawsuit, but what are the damages? It's gruesome reading the allegations, which are written in what seems to be an effort to wrest as much money as possible from the sperm bank without painting the mother, Jennifer Cramblett, as an unsympathetic racist:

2 Prince albums, suddenly.

"'Art Official Age' playfully acknowledges the gleaming artificiality of current studio sounds, while 'PlectrumElectrum' flaunts the real-time muscle of vintage power-trio rock."
"Art Official Age" comes across as a concept album diverted by second thoughts.... Amid... technical display, Prince sings about “a place in heaven far off in the future.” Soon, spoken-word interludes have him waking up from suspended animation 45 years from now, in a new culture where “there are no such words as me or mine.”.... Most of “Art Official Age” sticks to Prince staples: slow-motion seduction and dance grooves, though this time he makes a point of praising long-term romance...

What constrains “PlectrumElectrum” is its rigorous, deliberately retro back-to-basics mandate. Prince at his best doesn’t just collect and recreate genres; he smashes them together. If Prince can meld the concision of “PlectrumElectrum” with the sonic imagination of “Art Official Age” — past plus future — the possibilities are wide open.
The possibilities right now, however, are — and these links go to Amazon — "Art Official Age" and "PlectrumElectrum." The quoted text above is from Jon Pareles's review in the NYT.

"Secret Service Director Julia Pierson Was a Victim of the 'Glass Cliff.'"

Headline at The New Republic.
Reasonable people can disagree about whether, ultimately, she deserved to lose her job or whether anyone in charge during such an incident would have to resign. But it’s probably not pure chance that Pierson, who held that position for just a year-and-a-half, was a woman. Time and again, women are put in charge only when there’s a mess, and if they can’t engineer a quick cleanup, they’re shoved out the door. The academics Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam even coined a term for this phenomenon: They call it getting pushed over the glass cliff.

Pierson was, in fact, explicitly brought in to clean up a mess. When President Obama nominated her last year, it was on the heels of news that Secret Service employees hired prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia ahead of the president’s arrival. Pierson was meant to be a breath of fresh feminine air to clear out the macho cobwebs still dogging the agency....
In other words, put the blame where it belongs. Pierson didn't hire herself. As I put it yesterday: "It's as if they thought having a female director would fix — image-fix — their women-related problems." It's really quite gross that they brought a women to clean up after the prostitutes in the hotel room. Like she's the maid!

Breath of fresh feminine air, indeed. There was stale feminine air in the room, those horrible prostitutes. But I don't want to hear about feminine "air." Men had a problem, men chose to make a woman look like the solution, men continued to screw up, and men chose to the political theater of ousting the woman in another effort at a solution.

I'm not sure if all my uses of the word "men" in that last sentence are correct. I'm sure the first one is, and I'm pretty sure the third one is, but the second and fourth ones are iffy. There is at least one man, however, who should be held responsible for the choice to hire Pierson and the choice to oust her, and that is Obama. I don't know who else was in on that choice, and Obama being a man with quite a few female advisers, I don't really think they were all men.

"The Supreme Court took a pass Thursday on its first chance to decide whether there is a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry."

Writes Robert Barnes in The Washington Post, making the non-news seem more exciting than it is.
The court is considering cases from Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana and Wisconsin where federal appeals courts struck down state prohibitions on same-sex marriages.... But those who study the court and even the lawyers making the requests have said they expect it will take weeks or even months for the justices to decide which of the cases provides the best vehicle for a decision....
The Court didn't reject any of these cases yet.

IN THE COMMENTS: mccullough said: "I just read the linked article and it says 'took no action.'" Ha. I assure you I cut and pasted. I don't know if this blog post is the reason for the change in wording. There's no notation at the link that this change was made.

Oh, no! Crammed walruses!

They're hauling out onto dry land, 35,000 of them.
"It is really a reduction in the sea ice that is causing the change in behavior, and the reduction of sea ice is due to global warming...."

Live free or die.

We watched the first episode of that National Geographic series "Live Free or Die," about 4 men and 1 woman — the woman is paired with one of the men — who live under quite primitive conditions, not in some "Survivor"-like competition, but as their chosen approach to life — presumably genuinely chosen, though the cameras are there too, so there's an untold meta-story about why, having retreated from civilization, they are inviting the world into their secluded place. Perhaps the answer for each of the 4 men and the woman is different. I assume that none of them are seriously psychologically disordered, that they are weird enough to be entertaining but not so weird as to distract us with worries that National Geographic is exploiting them.

You can watch the episode at the link. You'll see that one man seems to be on a post-divorce rampage. He had a big house and some sort of financial consulting job, but whatever that ex-wife did to him, his reaction has been to go rogue on some island in a swamp and live on trapped beaver (metaphor alert) — selling the pelts and eating the meat. Another man, named Thorn, seems closest to being the wilderness equivalent of an urban street person, and he's the only one who doesn't get his meat, after trudging around all day looking for a squirrel to shoot with an arrow. He ends up eating rice and lentils, which is not what he wants. He needs meat. A third man is out in a very dry part of California hoping to catch a pack rat with a cartoonish-looking trap that drops a big rock on the little beast. He's exultant when he finds his "flat rat," and he roasts it over the fire, scraping the fur and skin off as it chars, and then he nibbles away at it, tail and all. It's delicious, we're told.

But my favorite guy is the one who has a woman, because it's a lot more of a challenge to live under primitive conditions — no electricity, no running water, etc. — when you've got not just your body and mind to preserve but a relationship. And what woman would humor what man this much? The life is much harder than just working in town at a little minimum-wage job and economizing like mad. And what meat! These two cook and eat a bobcat, found dead and in a state of rigor mortis by the side of the road. I mean, who eats cat in the first place? I know people eat roadkill, but isn't that usually something they know just got hit, not something that's been lying around long enough to have rigor mortis? Here's the woman, snuggling in the bobcat fur:

I found an interview with this couple — Tony and Amelia — and they talk about why they chose to do the show. Tony seems to come at it from an abstract, intellectual direction: He went to college and took courses in environmental studies, then determined that he wanted to live off the land and spend no money on food. He speaks of "harvest[ing] rain water" and "fell[ing] wood in winter without killing it."

Amelia, on the other hand, attributes her interest in living like this to her upbringing on a farm. "After living on dad’s farm then a few other places unusual; a small homestead in Nashville where I had chickens and an organic garden, I met Tony."

About doing the show, Amelia says she wants "to share" and "inspire people to live in a way that they will feel more satisfied with their life, and bring more happiness to our world." Tony is more ideological: "I have ideas in my head I want the world to hear." But he also seems more laid back: "I want to encourage people to do what they want to do. To live like me or not. Just to be happy and free. If you want to be a painter or a space shuttle engineer – just do it. We are not bound by the expectations of society."

Stuart Taylor Jr. advances his John Doe investigation story by publishing his long list of questions to the prosecutor John Chisholm.

I'm not surprised that Chisholm declines to answer Taylor's long list of questions, even though Chisholm did speak up in response to Taylor's original attack and seemingly went to some trouble in an effort to to impugn Michael Lutz. Lutz was Taylor's unnamed source for the article that depicted the prosecutor and his office as highly politicized and openly antagonistic to Governor Scott Walker.

The questions standing alone go a long way toward rehabilitating Lutz after the attack on his credibility and they also work to restate and emphasize Lutz's original charges against Chisholm. Taylor observes that Chisholm has generally denied that he had a political agenda, but that he doesn't seem to have denied the specific allegations that Lutz had made. This corresponds to what I wrote when I saw Chisholm's response:
Reading [Taylor's original attack and Chisholm's response], I'm thinking that Taylor raised suspicions that Chisholm and his lawyers and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have not adequately refuted. I want to see a specific statement from Chisholm that goes into the details, something more than expressions of outrage and denials that could be based on Chisholm's belief that he compartmentalized his prosecutorial decisionmaking and his personal political beliefs and husbandly tenderness.

Were there blue fist signs in the office and other expressions of support for unions and antagonism to Walker? What was the extent of participation in the protests? Did Chisholm speak openly about his wife's feelings in the context of the case? Taylor's article created a strong motivation to respond on that level, and neither Chisholm nor his lawyer provided that response.
So I'm pleased to see Taylor taking this approach — with far more detailed questions —and I'll reprint Taylor's questions below:

October 1, 2014

Finally, someone in the Obama administration resigns in the face of scandal.

It's Julia Pierson, director of the Secret Service.
Ms. Pierson, a 30-year veteran of the Secret Service, was supposed to have been the one to repair the agency’s reputation after scandals involving drinking and prostitution during foreign trips.
It's as if they thought having a female director would fix — image-fix — their women-related problems. There's more to the Secret Service than just making it seem as if someone is stopping them from whoring. Did she even succeed at that? Or were we just supposed to feel better about it?

The ebola scare in Dallas.

Hide your kids.

"A new Marquette Law School Poll in the Wisconsin governor’s race finds Republican Gov. Scott Walker receiving the support of 50 percent of likely voters and Democratic challenger Mary Burke receiving 45 percent support."

"This is the first time since March a candidate has held a lead outside the margin of error among likely voters.... Among registered voters, Walker receives 46 percent and Burke 45 percent...."
In the previous Marquette poll, conducted Sept. 11-14, Walker held a 49-46 edge over Burke among likely voters and registered voters tied at 46 percent support for each candidate....

Among likely voters, Walker leads among men with 62 percent to 34 percent for Burke. Among women, Burke leads with 54 percent to Walker’s 40 percent. With registered voters, Walker leads among men 54-39 percent while Burke leads among women 50-40 percent....
Big gender gap, but Walker's appeal to men outstrips Burke's appeal to women.
Regionally, Burke leads in the city of Milwaukee 69-24 percent and in the Madison media market 66-31 percent. 
31% of Madison voters are for Walker? That's a lot!

Maybe you don't like vegetables because you've got the taste receptor gene TAS2R38, which binds tightly to bitterness.

People who don't have it experience a sweetness in vegetables... and also eat a lot more vegetables.  And "people who were sensitive to bitter ate fewer of all kinds of vegetables, not just bitter, cruciferous ones." The seem to "generalize" their dislike of bitter vegetables to all green vegetables.
So, does an aversion to bitter tend to be lifelong?... And then, in older age, as smell and taste perceptions begin to fade, the taste of bitter foods can seem much less intense.
I have a major loss of taste and smell. I am nearly taste and smell blind, and I don't think this is similar to the genetic impairment of bitterness alone, which supposedly leaves vegetables tasting really good. For these people, the other flavors shine through.

For me, with almost no taste, I'm experiencing mostly texture and temperature, and it turns out that foods that were always bland provide the most satisfying tactile experience, because that's mostly all they ever were. But highly flavored food rely on flavor for their attraction. They were designed around flavor. Take away flavor and what do you have? Something inexplicable. Something no one would have concocted, like an abstract expressionist painting viewed by a person who is colorblind. I'd steer the colorblind person to the analytical cubist paintings. So give me the cubism of food. What is that?

Braque, "Bottle and Fishes."

ADDED: Holy fuck: "Your nose knows death is imminent/Losing the sense of smell predicts death within five years, according to new research." John Hawks provided that link in the comments.

"Milwaukee's long-running school voucher program... has saved Wisconsin more than $238 million since its inception in 1990..."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports on a new study, which it says is not surprising, since the voucher students get to go to private school is less than is paid to cover their public school education. (Vouchers are less than $8,000 per student, while public school is about $10,000 per student in Milwaukee.)
The [Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice] that conducted the study operates in the spirit of economist Milton Friedman, a 20th century free-market advocate who believed allowing public dollars to follow the child would expand personal freedom, improve achievement and save money.
The $238 million number predates a recent expansion of the voucher program. The question of further expansion of the program is a current issue in the Wisconsin gubernatorial election, something the linked article doesn't mention. The 2 candidates take opposite positions here, as you can see in this Sept. 3rd Journal Sentinel article. The Democratic candidate, Mary Burke — who is a member of the Madison school board — opposes expanding the voucher program (though she says she won't eliminate the programs in Milwaukee and Racine). The Republican candidate, the incumbent Scott Walker, is enthusiastic about vouchers.

The Democrats are big hypocrites about "dark money" in politics.

According to Thomas B. Edsall (in the NYT).

He has this horrifying quote from Media Matters chairman, David Brock, speaking to a Democracy Alliance group:
You’re not in this room today trying to figure out how to rig the game so you can be free to make money poisoning little kids. Subscribing to a false moral equivalence is giving the Kochs exactly what they want: keeping us quiet about what they’re doing to destroy the very fabric of our nation.
That's one of the many, many ways of saying the end justifies the means.

Deploying the French language when you're trying and not trying to talk about prostitutes.

Here's an article I found in the UK Independent when I googled the awkward French-ish phrase "belle du jour": "The truth about student sex workers: it's far from Belle Du Jour."
"I hate the word prostitute – when you think of a prostitute you think of someone on the street who is causing a public nuisance..."

Sophie* is 22, studying at university and paying for it through sex work... By advertising on an adult site, she can pick who she sees depending on the feedback from girls and customers. They try to establish legitimate clients from potentially dangerous ones, alongside rating and ranking the workers themselves....

Sophie is resigned and bitter about the perception of sex work – particularly the character of Belle du Jour. "I hate it. Because, say I work for a hundred pounds an hour, that it makes it sound very classy, whereas I tend to be going to real s***holes...." 
I take it that by "Belle Du Jour" Sophie and the Independent are referring to the movie "Belle de Jour," in which the young Catherine Deneuve plays "a respectable young wife who secretly works in a brothel one or two afternoons a week." The word between "Belle" (beauty) and "Jour" (day) is "de" (of) not "du" (of the). The title is premised on "belle de nuit," which means prostitute, in the sense of "lady of the night." Deneuve's character works during the day. I don't know why "the" is left out of both "belle de nuit" and "belle de jour," but I don't think "belle du jour" is a phrase that means anything, an opinion I'm basing on Google's changing my "belle du jour" search to "belle de jour" and not even asking if I really meant "belle du jour."

Enter Kathleen Parker, the Washington Post columnist, who's got a new piece titled "The silly, selective 'war on women.'" She begins with the unbelievable assertion: "The war on women is based on just one thing — abortion rights." Maybe no one reads any further after that. (Whatever you think of the packaging of the Democratic Party's gender politics as a "war on women," it obviously includes at least a couple other issues like employment discrimination and violence against women.) But I kept reading until I hit this:
I promise, this isn’t another abortion column, not that the horrific number of abortions performed each year shouldn’t make one’s stomach turn. Instead, extremists on the pro-choice left celebrate the “right” to terminate a 20-week-old fetus. Google an image of this stage of fetal development and try to comprehend the glee we witnessed when state senator Wendy Davis, now running for governor, became the belle du jour upon her filibuster to protect that “right” in Texas.
Belle du jour? You'd think after all the trouble Rush Limbaugh got into when he said something that sounded like he called a young woman a prostitute that conservative pundits would be more careful!

I realize that Parker was slapping "du jour" on "belle" in the old "soup du jour" way and meant to say that Davis is the Democrats' darling "du jour." It's a dismissive way of saying that people keep getting a new (whatever) every day the way a restaurant gets a new soup. And somehow Parker decided that the word before "du jour" ought to be in French too, even though the word "soup" in the phrase "soup du jour" isn't French. (In French, it's "soupe.") If you're going to tart up you prose with French, at least Google you're words and see if you've said something stupid. (Or maybe she didn't think "belle" was French at all and was really using the old "soup" format, and "belle" was the "belle" of "Southern belle" and "belle of the ball.")

And how's old Catherine Deneuve doing these days? Here she is at a fashion show in Paris 2 days ago, wearing, among other things, a sweater with the shape of a marijuana leaf knitted into it. And here she is, almost 50 years ago, as Belle de Jour:

September 30, 2014

"A security contractor with a gun and three prior convictions for assault and battery was allowed on an elevator with President Obama during a Sept. 16 trip to Atlanta..."

"... violating Secret Service protocols, according to three people familiar with the incident."

And: "The man who jumped the White House fence this month and sprinted through the front door made it much farther into the building than previously known, overpowering one Secret Service officer and running through much of the main floor, according to three people familiar with the incident."

Both links go to The Washington Post, so I guess it's the same 3 people.

My spellcheck's questioning of the word "mystifyingly" — in the previous post — has me looking up the lyrics to the old Critters song, "Mr. Dieingly Sad."

"And when the leaves begin to fall/Answering old winter's call/I feel my tears, they fall like rain/Weeping forth the sad refrain/Blue, dark, and dim it may seem/You mark a grin, a moonbeam/Brightens your smile, pray tell me/How all the while you can be/So mystifyingly glad/I'm Mr. Dieingly Sad...."

Yes, of course, it's terrible poetry. And the video, should you accept the challenge to watch it, demonstrates how wiltingly douchey The Critters were, but there's something refreshingly delightful about plunging into this disturbingly proto-Emo pop song:

Spelling brought me to this darkeningly dismal corner of 60s music, so I've got to register my dismayingly pedagogically prissy objection to "Dieingly" instead of "Dyingly."

As long as we're talking about The Critters, here's the song you know if you only know one Critters song, "Younger Girl." I love this video, with the trippy op-art scenery into which the keyboard player camouflages. And I really think there's a moment — 1:36 —when the singer shows some shame at the pedophiliac lyrics:

The lyrics are by John Sebastian, and The Lovin' Spoonful also recorded this song: "A younger girl keeps a-rollin' 'cross my mind/And should I hang around, acting like her brother/In a few more years, they'd call us right for each other/And why, if I wait I'll just die, yeah."

All of this music is from 1966, my favorite year in music. I was 15. (In real life here at Meadhouse, Meade, who was 12 in 1966, is ad libbing "A younger boy keeps rolling across Ann Althouse's mind/He's only 12 years old and he hasn't even quit Boy Scouts yet...." That's so inappropriate and so not the slightest bit sexy.)

"A film adaptation of the classic ‘80s video game 'Tetris' will be falling into theaters sometime in the near future."

"'It’s a very big, epic sci-fi movie,' Threshold’s CEO Larry Kasanoff tells Speakeasy exclusively. 'This isn’t a movie with a bunch of lines running around the page. We’re not giving feet to the geometric shapes.... What you [will] see in Tetris is the teeny tip of an iceberg that has intergalactic significance.'"

Well, it is the biggest video game of all time. Who hasn't thrown hours of his or her precious life into manipulating the mystifyingly compelling, relentlessly falling blocks of Tetris? 

At the Sugar Maple Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

That's how my favorite tree on my lake-shore walk looked yesterday.

And, by the way, if you're enjoying this blog, please consider doing your on-line shopping beginning at The Althouse Amazon Portal.

"The 50 Weirdest Movies Ever Made."

I've only seen 2 from this list.

"The Islamic State was born out of the ashes of Al Qaeda in Iraq, which was crippled by the time Mr. Obama withdrew American forces from Iraq at the end of 2011."

"The civil war that erupted in neighboring Syria pitting President Bashar al-Assad against a variety of rebel organizations provided a haven for the Qaeda affiliate to reconstitute itself with an influx of foreign fighters. 'To anyone watching developments in Iraq from mid-2010 and Syria from early 2011, the recovery and rise of ISIS should have been starkly clear,' said Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. 'The organization itself was also carrying out an explicitly clear step-by-step strategy aimed at engendering the conditions that would feed its accelerated rise.'"

From a NYT article titled "Many Missteps in Assessment of ISIS Threat."

"If I had to do this again, I’d insist that you literally had a camera on me at all times," said Mitt Romney...

... quoted by Mark Leibovich in a NYT Magazine article titled "Mitt Isn’t Ready to Call It Quits."
"I want to be reminded that this is not off the cuff." This, as he saw it, was what got him in trouble at that Boca Raton fund-raiser, when Romney told the crowd he was writing off the 47 percent of the electorate that supported Obama (a.k.a. “those people”; “victims” who take no “personal responsibility”). Romney told me that the statement came out wrong, because it was an attempt to placate a rambling supporter who was saying that Obama voters were essentially deadbeats.

If Tebow can go down on 1 knee, Abdullah can go down on 2.

"Husain Abdullah should not have been penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct following his fourth quarter touchdown."
"Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) states 'players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground.' However, the officiating mechanic in this situation is not to flag a player who goes to the ground as part of religious expression, and as a result, there should have been no penalty on the play."
No sect preference. It's a very basic American rule of religion and government football.

And don't tell me Tebow only got 1 so Abdullah shouldn't get 2. We're not counting knees here. We're getting to equivalence in parallel religious expression. It only gets complicated when some nonreligious showboat flops down on his knees in a clownish celebration.

"Who do you think the president could nominate and get through the current Senate that you would rather see on the Court than me?"

That's a question Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she "asked some people, particularly the academics who said I should have stepped down last year" and "No one has given me an answer to that question."

Ginsburg knows how to frame a question, but so do I. Here's mine: When that question falls on the ears of people close enough to Ginsburg to hear it and they make no sound, what does their silence mean?

Ryan Lizza talks to 2 witnesses to the notorious Aqua Buddha incident that's been dogging Rand Paul.

From the long — read the whole thing — piece in The New Yorker titled "The Revenge of Rand Paul/The Senator has fought to go mainstream with the ideology that he shares with his father. How far can that strategy take him?":
[During] the 2010 Senate race... GQ.com posted a report in which an anonymous source said that Paul and another NoZe brother had taken her from her apartment, encouraged her to smoke pot, and asked her to pray to something called Aqua Buddha.
The NoZe Brotherhood was a group at Baylor University that "was founded in the nineteen-twenties mostly to mock Baylor’s clubs and fraternities and to satirize its earnest religiosity." Lizza uncovers GQs source, Kristy Ditzler, and talks to her, and he also talks to Paul's confederate, George Paul (who doesn't seem to be related to Rand, despite the last name).

Ditzler is a Democrat who told Lizza she's "speaking up" because she "was a little bit irked by him making himself out to be all about God and country and all about conservative values, because he was clearly not promoting that when I knew him." Nevertheless, she was "appalled" (Rizza's word) at the way the Aqua Buddha story was distorted. She says: “They did pretend they were abducting me, but it wasn’t a forced sort of thing... It was weird, with all of these tents with bongs inside and piles of clothing. Completely bizarro."
Ditzler said that George and Rand asked her to go into one of the tents and smoke pot, but when she declined they drove to a creek in Elm Mott, north of Waco, and told her to wade into the water and worship Aqua Buddha. “They never explained what was going on, but that’s the way they were about everything—vague and mysterious.”
George Paul says that "they took her to a dark pub, where they had an easel set up and pretended to sketch a portrait of her while reading Kant — but he insisted that no drugs were involved...."
He also said that the Aqua Buddha incident took place on another night, when he and Paul blindfolded Ditzler and several other members of their swim team by putting cotton in their goggles, and then loaded them into the back of a pickup and drove to the creek, where they were asked to “pay homage to the Aqua Buddha, and then we all went swimming.” He explained that Aqua Buddha was an inside joke on the swim team. During practice, George, Rand, and others would descend to the bottom of the pool and strike a Buddha pose, creating an amusing sight for swimmers at the surface. “It broke the monotony and helped us get through the workout,” he told me.
That's practically wholesome. What are the lingering questions here? Drug use? After Obama, are we even going to talk about politicians using drugs in their distant past? The insincerity of Rand Paul's religion? He was in a college group that was founded to (Lizza's words) "satirize" the "earnest religiosity" they saw around them. I guess I should do my own research into the NoZe Brotherhood, but I'll just end this here by saying that satirizing earnest religiosity is what Jesus did.

"I have a question: if an opposite-sex couple is in the middle of having seemingly normal sex, but at some point the man stops affirmatively consenting..."

"... or at least the woman isn't able to 'ensure' he's still affirmatively — what is this law ordering the woman to do, exactly? Push him away? (Notice that the law is written in explicitly gender-neutral terms, with the male and female pronouns, so surely it is supposed to apply to both genders.)"

A question about the new California "affirmative consent" law.

I'm not going to answer that question, posed by my son John, facebooking my "Jerry Brown signs a law" post from yesterday. I'm going to say something more general about legislation.

Those who are actually writing and reading the text of a bill — and I'm sure most legislators don't study the text they vote on — are focused on the problem they think they are solving. Obviously, there are also distortions in the perception of the problem and whether the solution will work, and we should also suspect that legislators are lying about what problem their solution is supposed to fix, but what I want to talk is about how legislators can fail to picture applications of the text to things that are not part of what they think is the problem they think they are solving.

This is especially so when legislators think they are solving a women's problem and simultaneously trying to avoid violating the requisites of equal protection. They produce some strange text, and equal protection will require that text to be applied equally to men and to women.

September 29, 2014

Camille Paglia on the campus culture of mixing up "felonious rape" and "oafish hookup melodramas."

"Real crimes should be reported to the police, not to haphazard and ill-trained campus grievance committees," she writes, then lambastes "middleclass women, raised far from the urban streets" who expect too much protection from the "wilderness" of the world. But isn't there a place for a campus with some disciplinary rules and procedures? That's my question.

Paglia's answer is not to trust those horrible academic leftists who purvey "illusions about sex and gender" and blame society for oppressing us with "racism, sexism, and imperialism," which they see as "toxins embedded in oppressive outside structures that must be smashed and remade." But — as she sees it — sex is Nature, and the evil part of it can't be fixed.
There is a ritualistic symbolism at work in sex crime that most women do not grasp and therefore cannot arm themselves against.
Do not grasp... does she mean cannot grasp? I'm going to guess that she thinks most women could grasp this truth of hers, but only if we break free of the lefties' illusions and come face to face with Nature.
Misled by the naive optimism and “You go, girl!” boosterism of their upbringing, young women do not see the animal eyes glowing at them in the dark. They assume that bared flesh and sexy clothes are just a fashion statement containing no messages that might be misread and twisted by a psychotic. They do not understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature.
Paglia, talking about men, sounds like Werner Herzog, talking about the bears, in "Grizzly Man":
"And what haunts me, is that in all the faces of all the bears that Treadwell ever filmed, I discover no kinship, no understanding, no mercy. I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature.
ADDED: What's missing from Paglia's stark depiction of human nature is the middle — and I don't mean Paglia's cartoon idea of "middleclass," some bland place where everyone's safe and protected. I mean our communal spaces where we encounter a variety of people — work, campus, parties, restaurants and bars. Paglia veers from "middleclass" home life to the "wilderness," and doesn't account for the range of more or less normal people we run into when we're looking for friends and lovers.

These people are not raw nature, but some mix of nature and nurture, and the developing social norms affect what most of these people are willing to do and say. Of course, there are some monsters in amongst them, and we've got to think about protecting ourselves, but not to the point where we're crippled by fear and defensiveness. Most of the people we meet are human beings with their share of vices and virtues and the basic tendency to pursue self-interest.

Young people leaving home for the first time to live on campus enter a specific and special phase of their lives. It's an intermediate step away from home, and the schools have some responsibility and selfish interest in making the outside-the-classroom part of the experience a positive one. Between the "naive optimism... of their upbringing" and "the animal eyes glowing at them in the dark," there is the real world where most these young women will be living most of the time and where they have a decent expectation that life will be good.

You can criticize the rules and procedures that colleges are coming up with to help young men and women learn and grown and enjoy this transitional phase of their lives, but to me your criticism sounds weird and crazy if you won't acknowledge the vast social spaces where most of us live, especially the specific important one that is the college campus.

"The man who sued the prosecutors of a secret John Doe investigation into dozens of conservative groups now wants the lead prosecutor investigated..."

"... on charges of feloniously using his office for political persecution and personal reward."
Long-time political activist Eric O’Keefe, a director of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, on Monday sent a certified letter to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm demanding that Chisholm ask the Milwaukee County Circuit Court to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the conduct of the DA and his office....

O’Keefe notes that Wisconsin law prohibits a district attorney from using the powers and privileges of his office for the financial benefit of himself, his immediate family members, or an organization with which his immediate family members are associated.

A distric [sic] attorney also is prohibited from using those powers and privileges to obtain an unlawful advantage for third parties, such as political candidates and recall committees; to obtain through official functions for those illegitimate purposes; and from allowing his office to become de facto campaign grounds.
Details at the link. This ties back to the revelations in the Stuart Taylor Jr. article we discussed herehere and here.

"I have a lot of respect for you, Ann."

Subject line on email, received just now, from Joe Biden.

Republicans advertise on "Big Bang Theory," Democrats on Hollywood gossip shows.

Etc. etc. etc.

"It’s easy to understand the instinct to keep the class objective. People who oppose having a separate African-American history course in the first place..."

"... will portray it as an ideological program or divisive propaganda. (This, of course, assumes that any other course in history—world history or European hstory [sic]—is not ideologically driven.) While no one has to fight to legitimize a course in, say, Algebra, proponents of ethnic studies are always put on the defensive. Darlene Clark Hine, the Northwestern professor who adapted a college textbook to create the one taught to Philly high-school students, argued that one of its strengths was that it lays out a history 'as tight and compelling as possible, without a lot of scholarly debate over interpretations.' The stated goal of the text, according to a 2005 Philadelphia Inquirer article, was to instruct students in chronological progression and cause and effect. But if the class can be vexing for students, it’s no less so for the people standing at the front of the room, who sometimes fear that introducing current events and encouraging interpretation and debate will lead to controversy or open conflict...."

From a New Republic article subtitled "Lessons from Philadelphia's mandatory African American History classes."

"'Simpsons' character's death, heavily publicized, leaves fans unmoved."

Sample fan tweets:
"So Krusty's dad is the major character to die on the #simpsons? I don't think so. What a letdown."

"Should the Simpsons be sued for false advertising over the major character being Krusty's dad?"

"Krusty's dad died. ... Um, Krusty had a dad? Never heard of him. Wasted anticipation."

"Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting."

Eli Lake says Obama got it wrong on "60 Minutes":
Nearly eight months ago, some of President Obama’s senior intelligence officials were already warning that ISIS was on the move. In the beginning of 2014, ISIS fighters had defeated Iraqi forces in Fallujah, leading much of the U.S. intelligence community to assess they would try to take more of Iraq.

But in an interview that aired Sunday evening, the president told 60 Minutes that the rise of the group now proclaiming itself a caliphate in territory between Syria and Iraq caught the U.S. intelligence community off guard. Obama specifically blamed James Clapper, the current director of national intelligence: “Our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that, I think, they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” he said.

Reached by The Daily Beast after Obama’s interview aired, one former senior Pentagon official who worked closely on the threat posed by Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq was flabbergasted. "Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting," the former official said.

Academic writing is so bad on so many levels for so many reasons.

Explained by Steven Pinker.

And he's not even talking about legal academic writing, where it's possible (and popular) to blame the student editors. (Here's a PDF of something I wrote 20 years ago: "Who's to Blame for Law Reviews?" Spoiler alert: I blame the professors.)

Jerry Brown signs a law requiring colleges and universities that get state money to impose a "yes means yes" standard on student sex.

The Chronicle of Higher Education — citing the famously spurious "one in five women" statistic — says the new law "ushers in a new era in the debate about how to curb sexual assaults on college campuses."

Actually, the statute doesn't — like the Chronicle — call it the "yes means yes" standard, which sounds silly, since "yes" already meant yes. They ought to at least say "only yes means yes." But the statutory term is "affirmative consent":
“Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. 
He or she... this is gender neutral, as, of course, it must be. So no more assuming that the male must want the female's touchings.
Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.
The statute proceeds to speak of "the accused" and "the complainant." The accused is not permitted to use intoxication as an excuse for misperceiving the existence of affirmative consent and there can be no affirmative consent when the complainant was "incapacitated" by drinking or drugs.

What if both are drunk? The smartass answer to that question is: It depends on who's the accused and who's the complainant. It seems as though, beyond the gender-neutrality of the statute, there is an assumption that only women will complain. The statutory scheme would collapse if men complained too. But social conditioning and convention keep men quiet... at least so far. Perhaps in the future, they will complain defensively after a night of ambiguity.

As The Chronicle of Higher Education says, it's "a new era in the debate."

ADDED: I suspect that what's really going on is an effort to change the culture of drinking and sex. It will go the way of drinking and driving and become something that decent people don't do... not beyond a light drink anyway. The feminist angle is the wedge.

See what happens when you call for philosophers?

By the Capitol Square, the city of Madison built what it called "Philosopher's Grove"  — artistically shaped stone seating positioned under shade trees.
A group of business and property owners in the area, Downtown Madison Inc. and the Downtown Business Improvement District “strongly support” physical changes to help curb drinking, fighting, abusive language, littering, drug dealing, prostitution and the use of alleys and doorways as toilets....
You can see the Philosopher's Grove at the beginning of this video I made in 2011, the year of the protests. It begins with a Grove denizen saying something we've never forgotten: "All the assholes are over on the other side." From this man's point of view, the "assholes" were — if I understood the context correctly — the protesters. The Philosopher's Grove was the territory of the people who in non-protest times are the regulars, and they seemed a bit put out by the upstart regulars who, at this phase of the protests, were camping out in tents all along the square in a demonstration they called "Walkerville."
The business property owners group has already sent a list of ideas suggesting relocation of the granite stones “as soon as possible;” opening up West Mifflin Street to create a walkway between the Square, Overture Center and the Central Library; more street parking and lighting; signs that inform about security cameras in the area and expected behavior; seating for restaurants; more police presence; beautification; and mounting a mural on the Wisconsin Historical Museum....

Any moves, however, could be controversial because they may affect homeless people who frequent the area. The fate of public art, mature trees and future development of a joint Historical Museum and Wisconsin Veterans Museum also could be at stake.
Here in Madison,  everyone has an opinion about which side the assholes are on.
In the spring, DMI, business and property owners, and city officials brainstormed ideas to improve the crossroads. The city stepped up cleaning, temporarily put up chalkboards to solicit public input and added sparkle lighting on trees in Philosopher’s Grove. But through the summer, “It got worse in terms of the behaviors,” DMI president Susan Schmitz said.
Sparkle lighting? Doesn't that create a sort of outdoor café, a nice atmosphere where street folk can continue to drink, use drugs, get into arguments, and experience sexuality and the need to urinate?

September 28, 2014

"Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality."

"But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things."

From a BBC piece, published Friday, with the insipid title: "Happy Birthday, T.S. Eliot: 20 of His Most Life-Affirming Quotes."

You know what's not "life-affirming"?

Along the Lakeshore Preserve.



"Nice little island you've got there," Meade comments, looking over my shoulder.

Reminder: A blog post with a photograph and minimal text should be regarded as a "café" post — just like the posts with "café" in the title — and that means it's an open thread in the comments. Write about whatever you want.

Reminder #2: If you're enjoying this blog, please think of doing your on-line shopping beginning at The Althouse Amazon Portal. That link is always up there in the blog banner, and you can also use the Amazon search box in the side bar. It's much appreciated.

Dogs allowed in outdoor areas of restaurants.

It's the law now in California.
The law, AB1965, sailed through the Senate and Assembly and was signed by Governor Jerry Brown, a dog owner himself, in August. Restaurants can choose to continue prohibiting dogs, and the law allows individual cities and counties to create their own ordinances banning them.

Pet welfare group Social Compassion in Legislation drafted and pushed for the law after the organization’s president, Judie Mancuso, was kicked out of a restaurant with her two rescue chihuahuas and became aware of the state prohibition. Reception to the new law has been positive across the board, she said.
It's a free market. It's not like the restaurants are banned from discriminating against ladies with chihuahuas. (Or is breed discrimination forbidden?)
The new law does not allow dogs to sit on seats or tables, prohibits contact between employees and dogs, and bans dogs from areas where food is prepared — “real common sense stuff,” Mancuso said.
That sounds like the dog can still be on the customer's lap or in a handbag on a seat. But, again, as long as the restaurant can make the rules, I see no problem with dog-friendly restaurants included in the options.

AND: Governor Brown's dog is a corgi.

Don Diego el Guapo

Not that corgi.

"Will jihad-style attack boost 'bring gun to work' laws?"

"Americans should be ready to face these fanatics... As the Oklahoma [attack] indicates, people can stop terror attacks with firearms. Americans need their guns to defend life and freedom."

"What strikes me as noteworthy is how easy it is to parent certain values in your kid if the whole culture supports a set of imperatives."

"The mom didn't do this on her own. The kids are used to good social behavior because they learned it in school, with friends, at family gatherings. She is just the maraschino cherry on their path in life. Much of the socialization of children takes place in schools and day care centers here, starting with infancy, where good manners, especially table manners are taught as assiduously as nursery rhymes and letters of the alphabet."

From a description of very young French children eating dinner at a restaurant with their mother. You have to scroll past (or linger over) many travel photos to get to this text, which surrounds the last of the photographs.

"Lamb is more Nutritious than any kind of Poultry, Mutton than Lamb, Veal than Mutton, and Beef than Veal; But Pork is more Nutricious than any of these..."

"... for the Juices of Pork, which is more like Human Flesh than any other Flesh is, are more adapted to the Nourishment of a Human Body than the Juices of any other Flesh." 

IN THE COMMENTS: BDNYC points out that I've blogged this before. I'd forgotten! I wonder how often I do such things. I'd like to think this is the first time. Perhaps not. It's interesting to see that I blogged it exactly the same way — except for the placement of the line break — even though I contemplated doing some different things with it, including discussing the chapter titled "A Short Digression on the Pig; or, Why Heaven Hates Ham" in Christopher Hitchens's "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything."
[O]ne may note that children if left unmolested by rabbis and imams are very drawn to pigs, especially to baby ones, and that firefighters in general do not like to eat roast pork or crackling. The barbaric vernacular word for roasted human in New Guinea and elsewhere was “long pig”: I have never had the relevant degustatative experience myself, but it seems that we do, if eaten, taste very much like pigs.

"The Khorosan Group Does Not Exist/It’s a fictitious name the Obama administration invented to deceive us."

Writes Andrew C. McCarthy (at National Review):
The “Khorosan Group” is al-Qaeda. It is simply a faction within the global terror network’s Syrian franchise, “Jabhat al-Nusra.” Its leader, Mushin al-Fadhli (believed to have been killed in this week’s U.S.-led air strikes), was an intimate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the emir of al-Qaeda who dispatched him to the jihad in Syria. Except that if you listen to administration officials long enough, you come away thinking that Zawahiri is not really al-Qaeda, either. Instead, he’s something the administration is at pains to call “core al-Qaeda.”

“Core al-Qaeda,” you are to understand, is different from “Jabhat al-Nusra,” which in turn is distinct from “al-Qaeda in Iraq” (formerly “al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia,” now the “Islamic State” al-Qaeda spin-off that is, itself, formerly “al-Qaeda in Iraq and al-Sham” or “al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant”). That al-Qaeda, don’t you know, is a different outfit from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula . . . which, of course, should never be mistaken for “al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” “Boko Haram,” “Ansar al-Sharia,” or the latest entry, “al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent.”

Coming soon, “al-Qaeda on Hollywood and Vine.” In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if, come 2015, Obama issued an executive order decreeing twelve new jihad jayvees stretching from al-Qaeda in January through al-Qaeda in December.
McCarthy looks at the big picture and criticizes Obama for using terminology that obscures it, but there could be reasons — other than to deceive us. It could be to demoralize the enemy. (If that's the idea, though, we should avoid "Islamic State.") It could be some notion of breaking a seemingly impossible big project down into doable chunks. (Which sounds like an idea from a business self-help book. Stuff like this: "Chunk!")

Up too early in a surveillance society.

Why am I up too early? Apple forced an iPhone update on me the other day, and it defaulted to "yes" on whether I wanted to receive "amber alerts" and "government notifications." I got buzzed with an amber alert at 5 a.m.

Apparently, it was this case of an 8-year-old girl — now found — who was missing in Green Bay. Green Bay is well over 100 miles from here.

Here's an article in Forbes from a year ago: "With Auto Amber Alerts, We're Opted In By Default To A 'Little Brother' Surveillance Society."
The alerts are a public-private partnership tour de force: Requested by the president after 9/11 and mandated by Congress in 2006, the Wireless Emergency Alerts are overseen by the FCC and FEMA; major carriers from Verizon to AT&T had to get on board and mobile handset providers such as Apple and Android had to make changes to their operating systems to make the alert on by default, as well as giving carriers access to their APIs to send the messages to phones.
It's Bush's fault!
While you can opt out of the Amber alerts (if you’re willing to be thought of as a horrible person)...
I am.
... and “alerts involving imminent threats to safety or life” (if you’re a risk-loving person)...
I'm balancing the more real risk to my life: not getting a full night's sleep.
... you can’t block alerts from the President. The alerts go out to anyone within a geographical area, broadcast from cell towers....
I'm 130+ miles from Green Bay. If the targeting were more focused, I wouldn't have noticed the opt-in and turned it off.