October 25, 2014

The evening drive.


Goodbye to Jack Bruce.

The Cream bassist has died, at the age of 71.

Here's an hour of him showing you how to play the bass:

Did Chris Christie react to the charge that he was using his power as chair of the Republican Governors Association to undercut Scott Walker's reelection bid?

"The RGA, chaired by Gov. Christie (R-N.J.), has been under pressure in recent days to do more to help Walker, a tea party favorite who rocketed to political stardom after he curbed bargaining rights for most public workers in his state. The Weekly Standard reported Thursday that there were brewing suspicions on the right that Christie, as RGA chairman, has been “undercutting” Walker, his potential rival for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination."

That's from a Washington Post article noting that the Republican Governors Association has just put another $1 million into ads for Scott Walker's reelection. The headline of the article puts the emphasis on Walker's state of mind — "RGA puts additional $1 million into Wisconsin ad buys as Walker frets" — but I think Christie's is the more interesting mind about which to speculate.

Walker is trying to get reelected and the polls show a close race. That's a mundane objective reality. The subjective matter of how that feels to him — whether he "frets" — is dumb in the same way that it's dumb for reporters to ask, say, a person whose house is burning down "How do you feel?" The answer is already known: How do you think I feel? There's nothing about the subjective aspect of the story that isn't inherent in the objective aspect of the story.

But what's going on in The Mind of Chris Christie? That's where the subjective part of the story is complex and speculation-ripe.

Here's the above-referenced Weekly Standard article: "Does Chris Christie Have Scott Walker's Back?"
"The Center for Public Integrity reported Thursday that Walker and his backers spent nearly $6.1 million on ads through Monday, while Burke and her supporters ran nearly $6.6 million," the AP reported on Thursday. On Sunday, Walker told the Washington Post's Robert Costa: "We are always looking for more help. Our main help has to be the RGA." But according to the Center for Public Integrity, the Republican Governors Association has spent $5.9 million on TV ads in Michigan, where Governor Rick Snyder is up for reelection, and just $801,000 on TV ads in Wisconsin.

Why would the RGA spend more on Rick Snyder than Scott Walker?...
ADDED: Writing this post made me want to look the word "fret" up in the OED. The original meaning is to eat, to devour, referring to the behavior of nonhuman animals. It still has that meaning in the sense of a small animal — like a worm or a moth — consuming or wearing away something by gnawing at it. The figurative usage is very old, the passions and various irritants consume or wear away at a person's mind. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: "So many curiosities drive one crazy, and fret one's heart to death." The intransitive use — "To distress oneself with constant thoughts of regret or discontent; to vex oneself, chafe, worry" — is also very old, going back to 1551, first in a translation of Thomas More's "Utopia": "He..so fret so fumed & chafed at it."

I like the verb "fret," and use it a lot, probably mostly to make a person seem fussy and overly inward. But searching this blog to find how I've used "fret," I see the first thing that comes up is a fond tribute to an old Kinks song: "Don't You Fret." And there's a reference to the famous line from "MacBeth": "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/And then is heard no more: it is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury/Signifying nothing." And, remember, MacBeth was already king when he said that. Chris Christie, on the other hand, is only the Thane of New Jersey.

At the Gold Leaf Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

Should young women — in their 20s, with no children — be permitted to have the ultimate in birth control...

... sterilization?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists weighed in on the topic last year with an updated policy statement on the benefits and risks of sterilization. The statement concludes that it's both a safe and effective means of permanent birth control. "Women who have completed their childbearing are candidates for sterilization," it says — without elaborating on what, precisely, that means. Does it refer to women who have already had a child, or several, and have now decided they're done? Or could that category also include an 18-year-old woman who has determined she's "completed" before ever getting started?

A major area of focus for ACOG, and the OB-GYNs it seeks to counsel, is the question of regret....
Via Metafilter, where somebody says:
Kinda don't get why this is so controversial - there's nothing like the same sort of outrage over guys getting their tubes tied, even if they do it young.

(I joke, of course I know that endemic sexism is why.)
And somebody responds:
I think it's worth saying out loud, nevertheless: the patriarchy values women primarily on the basis of their ability to rear children and provide sexual pleasure to men. A young woman wanting her tubes tied is explicitly refusing to cooperate with her assigned role, and that is not looked kindly upon by the men who take it upon themselves to regulate women's bodies.
Should young minds be making such permanent decisions? Here's a BBC article "Is 25 the new cut-off point for adulthood?"
"Neuroscience has made these massive advances where we now don't think that things just stop at a certain age, that actually there's evidence of brain development well into early twenties and that actually the time at which things stop is much later than we first thought," says [child psychologist Laverne] Antrobus.
One usually sees this sort of expert opinion in the context of discussions of criminal sentencing, but it sprang to my mind as I read about a woman "explicitly refusing to cooperate with her assigned role" and resisting "the men who take it upon themselves to regulate women's bodies." That sounds as though it might be a somewhat immature way of thinking about your personal life, a temporary stage that you might develop beyond. But the decision to have a child is also permanent, and we completely accept young minds making that decision, and tubal ligation can be reversed (and IVF is also still possible).

"He's a hero to me... He's a fantastic humanitarian and that is how people should think of him."

"He wanted to be a doctor without borders from when he was a kid. It's all he wanted to do.... He didn't just want to be a doctor, he wanted to be a doctor without borders."

Craig Spencer's uncle is distressed to hear criticism of his heroically humanitarian nephew, who went to great lengths to do good, but also did some meaningless little things — riding the subway, going bowling — that he could so easily have avoided.

Megan Silberberger "heard the gunshots first and she came in running... She just grabbed his arm...."

Silberberger is the heroic young teacher who began to stop the Seattle school shooter, Jaylen Fryberg, and then came the shot that killed him.

At the Daily Kos, there's this headline: "Young, petite, UNARMED, female teacher stopped today's school shooter."

Fryberg shot himself in the end. That's what stopped him. It sounds as though Silberberger even tried to prevent that.

CORRECTION: Originally, I referred to Silberberger as "first-grade" teacher. I misread "first-year" to mean first-grade. In law school, "first-year" means the first year of school for the students, but I can see that the linked article was referring to the teacher's level of experience.

"When he ran for mayor, Bill de Blasio condemned police practices under which young black and Latino men were unfairly... charged with possessing tiny amounts of marijuana..."

"But a new analysis of state data shows that low-level marijuana arrests during the de Blasio administration have continued at roughly the same level as under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg."

(NYT link.)

October 24, 2014

"A lot of people have an impulse to be prejudiced. But at the same time, they're like almost everyone..."

"... in that they want to avoid being socially unacceptable. So they want to vent sexism and racism somehow — but only in ways that are considered socially acceptable."
And how can one do that? It's obvious: by expressing sexism/racism against men and whites only. If they'd been born long ago, they might have vented against women or blacks instead. That's why when I hear people expressing shamelessly anti-man or anti-white views, it doesn't strike me as a dramatic improvement over the expression of anti-woman or anti-black view....

"European Scientists Conclude That Distant Comet Smells Terrible."

"The European Space Agency has posted a full rundown of the comet's BO on its website. The mix includes ammonia (NH3), hydrogen sulphide (H2S), formaldehyde (CH2O) and methanol (CH3OH)."

4 looks at red.



Embarrassing premature exultation by Buzzfeed's Evan McMorris-Santoro.

"Watch A Republican Senate Candidate Sign A Young Woman’s Torso/'No pictures on this,' David Purdue jokes, as campaign staffers hold up signs in front of the camera," giggles nitwit Buzzfeed writer Evan McMorris-Santoro. Gotcha! Except you, Mr. McMorris-Santoro, were taken and you wanted to be taken, you wanted to hurt the bad old Republican, and you lapped up the story that you now have to choke down.

"CORRECTED: Dems Miss Insulin Pump In Video Of Perdue Signing Young Woman," reads the post now.

The Coeur d'Alene Hitching Post controversy comes in for a quick, soft landing.

What had happened was something I'd believed I could assure people was not going to happen, and I'm glad to see the local authorities — on receipt of a little push back from the country at large — gave matters a second thought and reversed their position:
The city of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, says the Hitching Post, a for-profit wedding chapel owned by two ministers, doesn't have to perform same-sex marriages.

The city has been embroiled in controversy ever since the owners of the Hitching Post sued the city. They say a city anti-discrimination law threatened to force them to marry same-sex couples now that gay marriage is legal in Idaho....

Initially, the city said its anti-discrimination law did apply to the Hitching Post, since it is a commercial business. Earlier this week, Coeur d'Alene city attorney Mike Gridley sent a letter to the Knapps’ attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom saying the Hitching Post would have to become a not-for-profit to be exempt. But Gridley said after further review, he determined the ordinance doesn’t specify non-profit or for-profit.
And let that be a lesson to everyone. Remember Coeur d'Alene. Don't redo that controversy. It's been resolved correctly now, and nobody ought to make that mistake again. There now, can we all live in peace and diversity?

At the Water-Sky Café...

P1130218 - Version 2

... float your ideas.

"There were people who were put on that list because the Nixon people — very shrewdly, I think — sense from their life style that they were enemies."

"Joe Namath has never said anything political in his life, but they knew he was unreliable. To them, a guy who will flaunt dames and have a bar and look the way he does is clearly a guy who'll flout authority, and they don't like that. There's a Nixon way of doing everything. And the essence of totalitarianism is precisely that: in a totalitarian society there's a state way of doing everything — mathematics, forestry, sex. I think that's what the enemies list was all about — enforcing a kind of orthodoxy in everything. I'm certainly not saying that these guys were Nazis, but they operated like Nazis. James Reston, Jr.... wrote to Albert Speer and got a very interesting letter back. Naturally, it's hedged with comments about how reluctant he is to comment on the American political situation, but the parallels Speer points to between Nixon and the Nazi White Houses are remarkable — the same loyalty to the leader without any consideration of ideology, the same drawing of power into a tiny, isolated group, even the same shielding of the leader by giving him only a prepared news summary. You know, I've read a lot of biographies of Nixon, and they all seem to agree on one thing — that he really was an uncommonly good poker player. I think I've figured out why. It's that he always looks as though he's bluffing. You've got three kinds up and he raises, and you look at his face and you think, 'Nah, he doesn't have the aces.' But he'd look exactly the same if he didn't have them. He's always bluffing. There's no reality. A strange man — but awfully dangerous."

Said Frank Mankiewicz, interviewed in the November 19, 1973 issue of The New Yorker. Mankiewicz, who had been Robert F. Kennedy’s press secretary and who directed George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign, died yesterday at the age of 90. From the obituary:
A scion of Hollywood, the son of Herman J. Mankiewicz, who wrote “Citizen Kane,” and the nephew of Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who directed “All About Eve,” he grew up with an Algonquin West round table in his Beverly Hills household, regaled by movie stars, famous writers and comedians like the Marx Brothers.
What a lucky man!

I wonder who leaked that Eric Holder is exasperated about leaks?

"Attorney General Eric Holder is reportedly not pleased about the recent leaks involving the grand jury testimony of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. According to CBS News, the attorney general has been 'exasperated' over what he calls 'selective leaks' in the case."

Leaking about leaking. Freaky. Meta-leaky.

"Clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type, and therefore organizing them by category helps them feel more comfortable and secure."

Said Marie Kondo, author of "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing," the subject of a NYT article titled "Kissing Your Socks Goodbye/Home Organization Advice from Marie Kondo," which goes on to say:
Such anthropomorphism and nondualism, so familiar in Japanese culture, as Leonard Koren, a design theorist who has written extensively on Japanese aesthetics, told me recently, was an epiphany to this Westerner. In Japan, a hyper-awareness, even reverence, for objects is a rational response to geography, said Mr. Koren, who spent 10 years there and is the author of "Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers."
"Wabi-Sabi" got me drifting off trying to remember that Jim Kweskin song on that album we always listened to in college. What was it? Ah! The album is "Relax Your Mind." The song is "Guabi Guabi."

And that's how we relax in America, some of us anyway. Much as I'd like my house de-cluttered in some way that I might find all the more relaxing by thinking of it as Japanese, I just don't care anywhere nearly as much as I did before listening to "Guabi Guabi." How organized are Jim Kweskin's closets? But back to Leonard Koren:
"Think of the kimono, and the tradition of folding... There is also the furoshiki, which is basically a square of flat cloth used daily to wrap packages. Folding is deep and pervasive in Japanese culture. Folding is a key strategy of modular systems that have evolved because of limited living space.”
And in America:

Let's fold scarves!

Ebola and the wet-dry distinction:

From the excellent New Yorker article "The Ebola Wars":
There are two distinct ways a virus can travel in the air. In what’s known as droplet infection, the virus can travel inside droplets of fluid released into the air when, for example, a person coughs. The droplets travel only a few feet and soon fall to the ground. The other way a virus can go into the air is through what is called airborne transmission. In this mode, the virus is carried aloft in tiny droplets that dry out, leaving dust motes, which can float long distances, can remain infective for hours or days, and can be inhaled into the lungs. Particles of measles virus can do this, and have been observed to travel half the length of an enclosed football stadium. Ebola may well be able to infect people through droplets, but there’s no evidence that it infects people by drying out or getting into the lungs on dust particles. In 1989, a virus known today as Reston, which is a filovirus related to Ebola, erupted in a building full of monkeys in Reston, Virginia, and travelled from cage to cage. One possible way, never proved, is that the virus particles hitched rides in mist driven into the air by high-pressure spray hoses used to clean the cages, and then circulated in the building’s air system. A rule of thumb among Ebola experts is that, if you are not wearing biohazard gear, you should stand at least six feet away from an Ebola patient, as a precaution against flying droplets.
Did you understand that wet/dry was the relevant distinction in the communicability of ebola? Do you think this distinction has been effectively, clearly, and honestly conveyed by the various experts and officials who are trying to keep us informed and at the right level of vigilance? I sure don't.

AND: This is what Rand Paul was talking about:

WaPo's FactChecker Glenn Kessler analyzed Paul's statement and gave him 3 Pinocchios!

SO: "ZWZCYZ Children fashion PM2.5 anti-fog haze antibacterial ventilative mask Ebola disease prevention... Ideal for Dust, Germs, Allergies, Smoke, Pollution, Ash, Pollen, Crafts, Gardening, Travel, Anonymity... Kids Size, Made In China..."

Can anyone explain the profound loserosity of Martha Coakley?

The Democratic Party's candidate for governor in the famously liberal state of Massachusetts weirdly lost a Senate race to a Republican in 2010, and now she's not just losing to her Republican opponent, she's 9 points behind in the new Boston Globe poll. Is this lady poison? Come on! It's just plain mean to be so rejecting of this poor woman. What's going on?

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, 2 new polls came out yesterday, one putting the Democrat Mary Burke a point ahead and the other putting the Republican Scott Walker a point ahead. That's a good way to make everybody feel respected. Good work, Wisconsin. Everybody is a winner. Of course, in the end, one or the other candidate must win. But it's basically a crap shoot, right? It means nothing. Just a tie, out here in the land of peace, love and understanding.

Unlike Massachusetts, where there's some mysterious anti-Coakleyism raging. That poor woman...

"The Hipster terrorists are attacking!"

Comment at a Facebook post linking to an article with the headline "NYPD Fatally Shoots Man Attacking Cops with Hatchet; Possible Terrorist Link."

UPDATE: The comment at the Facebook post disappeared. I assure you it was there. I don't remember the name of the Facebooker who wrote it. The post was put up by my son John, but the comment wasn't his.

AND: Jeralyn Merritt goes looking for the real story of Zale Thompson. Excerpt:
Zale Thompson is a big fan of Malcolm X. He believes the time has come for violent aggression against the oppressors of African Americans in the U.S....

The Arabic graphic on his FB page is one that appears on many non-jihadist Arabic forums. I don't think his attack was motivated by ISIS. The manner of attack (a hatchet rather than a gun) may have been, but he is not a religious zealot. His cause is racial oppression....

Ebola bowling, ebola subway-riding, ebola Uber-cab-riding... in New York City.

Craig Spencer returned — by commercial airline — from his sojourn in Guinea where he treated ebola patients. He returned to the exquisitely crowded American island called Manhattan.

He didn't keep to himself within a small area, but hopped on the subway, went all the way to that other crowded island, the long one with the particularly crowded western end called Brooklyn. He went bowling. Going back to Manhattan, he opted for an Uber-cab. Thence, onward to an ambulance and to the storied Bellevue hospital, the oldest public hospital in America.

But NYC has been preparing for ebola we are told. The professionals know how to contain ebola and avoid contamination, even as Dr. Craig Spencer himself surely knew. He must have been so sure he got it right. Otherwise why would he have gotten on the subway and gone bowling?

Mayor Bill de Blasio reassured New York citizens: "Being on the same subway car or living near a person with Ebola does not in itself put someone at risk."

In itself. 

I take Bill de Blasio to be an honest man. Something made him say those hedge words: in itself

Now, the health department tells us, it is "actively trac[ing] all of the patient’s contacts to identify anyone who may be at potential risk." But what counts as a contact with potential risk? Not simply riding in the subway car or bowling in the same bowling alley, right? Because that's not enough to put someone at risk in itself. But Craig Spencer must have believed that he had done nothing that put himself at risk. Spencer's fiancée and 2 of his friends are under quarantine. That's the scope of the relevant potential risk. The taxi driver, we're told, isn't at risk.

The city's health commissioner says that Spencer was not at "a stage of disease that creates a risk of contagiousness" that night he went bowling. And: "We consider it extremely unlikely, the probability being close to nil, that there will be any problem related to his taking the subway system."

Close to nil.

They can't shut down the subway. Meanwhile, the bowling alley was closed last night. Nobody has to go bowling... ebowla-ing.

October 23, 2014

"Violence against women is never okay… Even if that violence occurs against conservative women."

"Imagine for a second the outrage that would happen if Chelsea Clinton had gotten pushed by some guy. Had she tried to defend herself, the liberal media would’ve held her up as some feminist hero."

Writes Bristol Palin in "The Truth about the 'Palin Brawl' – The Media Reveals Its Bias Against Conservative Women Once Again."

CNN's Carol Costello has now apologized for inviting viewers to "sit back and enjoy" the recording of Bristol describing what was a violent attack on her. And Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski also apologized for presenting the story in a “humorous tone.”
“The more we learned about what happened its clearer that it’s not that funny,” Brzezinski said. “We played into stereotypes from maybe our own outlook, quite frankly. So it’s definitely more of a story than that.”

Scarborough said everyone is guilty for presuming the Palins are to be used as a “punch line.” “There is the very real possibility that something terrible happened to them,” Scarborough said. “… I think we all shot first and asked questions later and a lot of people are guilty of that.”
And by "everyone" he means everyone he knows. 

ADDED: Josh Marshall stands his ground:
So now, liberals, the media, Democrats, apparently anyone who thinks Palin is a buffoon of almost world historic proportions (which gets you to something like 80% of the country) are all abominable hypocrites for 'laughing' at what is now fairly preposterously portrayed as a violent assault against a woman. If you listen to the police interviews, which occurred just as the brawl had barely ended, all the witnesses beside Bristol said she attacked the homeowner. Indeed, even Bristol's younger sister Willow backed up the these other witnesses' account. She just said Bristol missed with her punches.

I think it kind of goes without saying that if news emerged that Bristol had been assaulted by a boyfriend or spouse or really anyone else, no one would be laughing. Indeed, I'm not sure anyone now is laughing so much as standing back agape and marveling. But advocates who are trying to alter public perceptions about and stiffen penalties against violence against women are, I do not think, saying that female bodies are inviolable in every case if you barge into someone's party and start swinging punches at them.

"Correction: A previous version of this post suggested that the real-life Jimmy Carter would never have recommended the Allman Brothers."

"In fact, he had a close relationship with the band."

Appended to "Obama and the End of Greatness," by Jeff Shesol, in The New Yorker.

At the Brown-and-Blue Café...


... think deeply.

"We don’t want to be seen as capitalizing on the tragedy."

"You don’t want to be seen as, 'We’re sending in the robots.' It sounds insensitive and crass."

"Years of disappointment and tension between Democrats and their president are now on open display as politicians..."

"... party leaders and strategists worried about their chances in the midterm elections begin casting about for someone to blame."

"Archeologists Dig Up Sphinxes From DeMille’s 'The Ten Commandments' Buried Along Central California Coast."

I love that headline. It's absurd and yet true, literally — because the stuff from the movie really was buried and in need of meticulous excavation of the archeological kind — and more deeply — because it's making me think that all those ancient Egyptian monuments were melodramatic, crowd-awing  spectacle of a piece with Hollywood.

Abusing children by exploiting them as mouthpieces for adults...

... and putting them on the internet saying "fuck" and "fucking" repeatedly:

Via Metafilter.

This gets my using children in politics tag. I consider it deeply morally wrong to appropriate and exploit children like this. I know I'm contributing to the virality of this video and that it might be more morally pure to protect these children by attempting to hide it, but it's already been on Buzzfeed, on a page that has over 800,000 views, so I think the best I can do is try to shame the adults who are treating children this way.

ADDED: I see that the freeze frame on the video calls the girls "potty-mouthed princesses," and I want to write separately to object to the term "potty-mouthed" to refer to saying the word "fuck," since "fuck" is not a reference to excrement. I know "potty-mouthed" is a generic term, considered old-fashioned and cutesy, and perhaps that makes it seem better to attached to children, but: 1. Children should not be taught that sex is filthy and something that must be kept away from the mouth, and 2. The image is of a mouth filled with excrement, and that is not something that should be connected with children.

"Women are now using technology to try to make themselves seem as much like man as possible..."

"...so that they can have their children later after they have laid the groundwork for their career. It is absolutely true [that egg-freezing as a job benefit] is giving women options and it’s making it economically feasible. And it’s probably the most realistic thing for some women. But it is a shame that we haven’t started a better conversation, not only about the fixes like the day care that was just mentioned, but a deeper conversation about how to reorganize the work world, so you don’t need to be a superwoman at work and a superwoman at home at the same time. That’s never been realistic. And I think the egg freezing is a somewhat extreme response to it."

Said my law school colleague Alta Charo on PBS "Newshour" last night.

"Born Bernard Jewry in the East End of London in 1942, his hits included My Coo Ca Choo, Jealous Mind and I Feel Like Buddy Holly."

"In 1973 he signed with Magnet Records and took on the name that would make him famous. 'It started off as Elvin Starr, because they wanted a kind of rocky, country name,' he recalled in 2010. 'But [a woman] who was doing promotion for us said it wasn't "glam-rocky" enough, so it became Stardust and then Alvin.'"

I'm sorry I don't even remember Alvin Stardust, but he has died at the age of 72. A British glam rock star whose 1973 hit went like this:

"Adesanya angrily fought back against the dogs — punching, kicking and body-slamming the feisty pooches..."

"... before the [Secret Service] agents descended on him."
Adesanya was taken to a local hospital and the two dogs were taken to a vet for injuries sustained during the pummeling they took from the fence-climber.

"But it's very clear why terrorists wanted to strike against Canada."

"Canada was a key part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operations in Afghanistan. Though that participation ended earlier this year, America's neighbor to the North was a key player there, providing a great deal of assistance. Canada is also hardly some socialist, anti-American critic. Since 2004, it's been led by Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. It's policies on the Keystone pipeline and taxes (leading to the Burger King 'inversion') are more in-step with America's Republican Party moderates. And most importantly, Canada has been a strong ally in the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria."

Writes polisci prof John A. Tures.

And, over in the National Review: "Glenn Greenwald Blames Canada for Terror Attack — Against Canada."

The teenaged Colorado sisters, who stole $2,000 and got as far as Germany, on their way to Syria (possibly) to join ISIS.

A few inscrutable details in the L.A. Times:
“They were all underage, and fortunately we were able to assist in finding them,” said a senior FBI official, speaking to the Los Angeles Times on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing. “We’re not sure yet who was influencing whom, or why. But they are all safe.”

When a sheriff's deputy on Monday went to their home to check on the girls, the deputy found them asleep in their bedroom.... “I asked them why they went to Germany, and they said, 'Family,' and would not elaborate on any other details about their trip,” the deputy wrote in the report.
More — seemingly — here, at The Daily Beast:
The FBI had apparently decided that this was less a case of jihad than hooky. Agents nonetheless began to examine the girls’ cellphones and computers, seeking to determine whether the girls had been recruited online, as [Shannon Maureen] Conley had been. Conley’s father had been stunned to walk into his daughter’s room and find her Skyping with an ISIS warrior who used the opportunity to announce he intended to marry her....

[F]or some teens ISIS seems to symbolize power and purpose, a great drama promising deliverance from the humdrum. They appear to see not atrocities but adventure, not gore but glory.
AND: From Tablet ("A New Read on Jewish Life"): "Why the Teenage Girls of Europe Are Joining ISIS/Because they want the same things that teenage boys want: a strong sense of meaning and purpose."
[F]or all the awesome social services and consumer goods it can offer, Europe has become incapable of endowing the lives of its citizens, Muslim or not, with meaning....

It is a striking fact that ISIS appeals not only to young men, but also young European women, many hundreds of whom have gone to Syria and Iraq to marry Islamic State fighters. Sure, some of them, like the 15-year-old French Jewish girl Nora el-Bathy, may have come to regret their decision. But that hardly alters the essential point: The girls sought out IS fighters because the West seems weak and unmanly and they pine for real men who are willing to kill and die for what they believe in.

"When Nir Iveniaki told his grandmother back home in Tel Aviv that he was emigrating from Israel to Germany, the first thing she did was produce a gun."

"The tenacious 88-year-old had wielded the antique pistol during World War II, when she fought with a band of Jewish partisans in Nazi-occupied Poland...."
Iveniaki was sure enough to kiss grandma on the cheek, pack his bags and follow an unlikely trail being blazed by thousands of young Israelis who are moving to Germany.... The wave of newcomers from Israel is accelerating the rebirth of Jewish culture in the country that nearly extinguished it....

“I generally feel way safer in Berlin than I felt in Paris,” said Raphael Podselver, a 25-year-old French Jew who moved to Berlin to work for an IT start-up.
ADDED: This made me think of a passage from David Rakoff's "Half Empty":
A few years back, my first book was translated into German and I was flown over for a tour. I don’t kid myself: the primary reason for their interest in me was precisely because I am Jewish, our extirpated culture being somewhat fetishized in Germany today. I was a phantom talisman, like an ivory-billed woodpecker willingly visiting the strip mall that used to be his swampy habitat, or the walking illustration of that rueful old joke about the suburbs being the place where they chopped down all the trees and then named the streets after them. I spent a week as a Professional Jew...

The Germanized Yiddish I spoke to make myself understood to hotel clerks and taxi drivers was met with what can only be described as delight, and a kind of wistful nostalgia for a time no one really remembered anymore, which invariably led to the time none of them seemed capable of forgetting. Every conversation I had began precisely the same way: “How does it feel for you to be here?”

October 22, 2014

Rush Limbaugh calls my name... and calls out Obama for woman-kissing and other possible sexism.

Here's the transcript of a segment of today's show, where there was discussion of 2 related incidents: 1. The "don't touch my girlfriend" scene in Chicago where Obama, demonstrating how to vote, ordered a woman to kiss him, and 2. Obama's description of an ebola-related appearance at Emory University hospital: "I shook hands with, hugged, and kissed, not the doctors, but a couple of the nurses at Emory because of the valiant work that they did in treating one of the patients."

A woman had called in about that ebola incident, and — as Rush put it:
"[W]hat she thought was that since he made a big deal out of not kissing the doctors, that he wanted to make everybody aware that he wasn't gay. And her point was, what's wrong with being gay? 
My point would be that he used the stereotype that doctors are male and nurses are female. But, yeah, on top of that, what's wrong — within his world view — with men kissing men?
Well, he is married. If he was gay, that would be a problem....
Wait! If he's distinguishing kissing males and females, he's specifying that kissing is sexual, and kissing the women should be a problem for a man married to a woman. If it's not sexual, he should kiss both sexes indiscriminately (which would work to deny the sexuality of kissing unless he's bisexual).
... so he's going out of his way to say he's not gay. That's her interpretation. 
If that's correct, then Obama made a homophobia faux pas.  Rush connects that incident to the "don't touch my girlfriend" scene that I wrote about — here — yesterday. Rush describes what happened and says that some people think the scene was scripted. His theory — which is nothing like mine — is that it was supposed to make Obama seem attractive and supportive to women, to counteract Tina Brown's recent statement: "I don't think [Obama] makes [women] feel safe." Whether the Chicago incident was scripted or not, I didn't read it as a demonstration of making women feel safe. I thought it was an intrusion on the woman. But Rush proceeds to quote me:
Like Ann Althouse on her blog said, "Wait a second, I thought men weren't supposed to --" You know, you have to get consent to do this now on every college campus. You can't just kiss a woman without her permission, and you can't approach her and put your arm around without her permission, without her consent. Obama just forced his way on that woman. And she looked like she wanted it, by the way. She looked like she didn't mind, honored to be given a hug and a smooch by the president, cocksman A. 
In my book, it doesn't matter how she acted. He didn't know in advance how she would feel. Even if she loved it, he assumed he was welcome to impose on her body. And her reaction doesn't convince me that she loved it. She was on camera, overwhelmed by the most powerful man in the world, and forced to think quickly about what might be in her interest. How was rejecting him or acting offended even an option?

Rush continues:
So that happens, and everybody's laughing and Obama walks out around her and he's looking like he's pulled off some major score here. Talks about this guy, why would a brother want to embarrass me like this and so forth. So people are wondering if the whole thing was scripted since it followed, by one day, Tina Brown saying that Obama makes women feel unsafe.

Clearly this woman was not feeling unsafe. She's laughing. She's all excited. 
I don't think that's clear. She was put on the spot... by the President of the United States. She might be laughing out of sheer emotional overload, confusion, and the weirdness of it all. Are you allowed to fight off the advances of The Leader? Droit du seigneur?? Is there some core of personal autonomy and rectitude that I can voice right now? The safe bet is to let it all roll over you. Pretend you're into it. Safe bet. Women want to be safe. Tina says. Safety is one way to play the game of life. But the other players should not assume that your silence means consent. If they do, they don't really care about women. Yes mean yes. Silence does not mean yes. Silence may mean: I am subordinated.

Rush finishing the segment, trying — I think — to pick up on what I'd said:
But it's very clear that she did not sign a consent form before he embraced her. It wasn't an embrace. He put his arm around her shoulder. But there was no consent form. She didn't sign a consent form before he embraced her and kissed her. And that's illegal in many places in America now and on college campi. Just did it.

At the Boardwalk Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"That is not even like lying or something, if someone throws out a ballot..."

"... like if you want to fill it out you should do it."

The healthiest diet...

"... isn't a specific diet at all. It's the absence of a diet."

"In my opinion, Obama has governed as a moderate conservative — essentially as what used to be called a liberal Republican..."

"... before all such people disappeared from the GOP. He has been conservative to exactly the same degree that Richard Nixon basically governed as a moderate liberal, something no conservative would deny today."

Writes Bruce Barlett in The American Conservative.

Whatever you think of all that — and Barlett lays out his evidence at length — it will be interesting to see what Obama does when he has to work with a GOP-dominated Congress after the election.

Why aren't the Democratic Party's Senate candidates talking about Ferguson?

The Christian Science Monitor's Francine Kiefer wants to know.
In the Senate races in Iowa and elsewhere, where Democrats must have high African-American turnout if they want to retain control of that chamber, the candidate silence on Ferguson is deafening....

Only once, an electronic search shows, has a question about Ferguson come up in Senate debates in the four tossup states where African-Americans make up a large percentage of eligible voters: Georgia and Louisiana (more than 30 percent of voters in each state are black), North Carolina (22 percent), and Arkansas (15 percent). The black vote is essential to Democratic victories in all those states, though to a lesser extent in Arkansas, according to political analysts.
Meanwhile, news of the Michael Brown autopsy leaks:
Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson's account of the confrontation in which Michael Brown was fatally shot has reportedly been leaked, with an independent medical examiner's report backing up his version of events.

Brown had marijuana in his system and was shot at close range in the hand, backing up claims by a police officer that that there was a violent struggle between the Ferguson, Mo. teen and the cop, an independent medical examiner told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
So, one reason Democratic candidates might not want to talk about it is that once you make it an issue, you have to field complicated questions, and new information, like this autopsy, can undercut your message. Other reasons: 1. Whatever message they rely on to reach out to black voters will be heard by other voters too, and there is no one message that will work better than saying nothing at all, and 2. The Democrats assume they own the black vote, so they don't think they have to offer anything, and yet they puzzle — or purport to puzzle — over the lack of turnout.

ADDED: As I said a week ago: "Abstaining from voting is a kind of vote.... It's notable that the nonvoters are generally presumed to represent votes that would be cast for the Democratic Party's candidate, but that presumption shows how the abstention means something. The nonvoter doesn't want to give affirmation to the Democratic Party's candidate... I say all the votes — cast and uncast — count and have meaning."

"A lot of computing pioneers — the people who programmed the first digital computers — were women."

"And for decades, the number of women studying computer science was growing faster than the number of men. But in 1984, something changed. The percentage of women in computer science flattened, and then plunged, even as the share of women in other technical and professional fields kept rising. What happened?"

Reversing paralysis with a transplant of cells from inside the nose.

"The treatment used olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) — specialist cells that form part of the sense of smell."
OECs act as pathway cells that enable nerve fibres in the olfactory system to be continually renewed. In the first of two operations, surgeons removed one of the patient's olfactory bulbs and grew the cells in culture. Two weeks later they transplanted the OECs into the spinal cord, which had been cut through in the knife attack apart from a thin strip of scar tissue on the right. They had just a drop of material to work with - about 500,000 cells....

Six months after surgery, Mr Fidyka was able to take his first tentative steps along parallel bars, using leg braces and the support of a physiotherapist.

Insect news.

1. Cashier uses bug spray on a would-be robber. From the comments: "We had a security expert come to our office for a personal safety lecture and demonstration, and they told us BUG SPRAY is much more effective than mace or pepper spray. It lasts longer and won't evaporate in the canister like the other two." And "It's not just bug spray, it's the Hornet and Wasp killer. This stuff can shoot 20 to 30 feet and won't blow back at you with a little wind like mace. It also only cost $3 a can."

2. Viral video of a man with a live moth in his ear. Hang on for the moment when the moth flies out. Don't miss the tick they just happen to find in there too. Sorry to inflict this on you. I wouldn't have mentioned it if I hadn't run into that other insect news story.

Pushing back against George Clooney and his new wife — a lawyer who is working for the Greek government, trying to get Britain to return the Elgin marbles.

"[I]t is time to put aside the wilful misinformation and cheap innuendo that masks the genuine debt that everyone — most especially Greece — owes to Lord Elgin," writes Dominic Selwood.
Should all museums give back everything that does not come from a randomly circumscribed geographic radius around each museum? Should the Louvre return the Mona Lisa to Florence, even though it was purchased lawfully by the French royal family? Should the J Paul Getty Museum in New York hand back all its Greek, Roman, medieval, and European art and sculpture, including many of the world’s most famous pieces? What about France returning the Bayeux Tapestry to England? Or Japanese museums sending back American rock memorabilia? Maybe Venice should give back the Horses of St Mark if we are now only allowed to see things where they were made?

These are facile arguments. Looting and criminality should be deplored and punished. But antiquities, like everything else, can be legitimately purchased or gifted, and we should celebrate museums that have quite properly acquired collections that educate and inform the visiting public.

Overarching this whole debate, the romantic notion that the marbles could simply be tacked back onto the Parthenon is deeply misguided....

Does it bother you that Renee Zellweger doesn't look like Renee Zellweger anymore?

She's done something that has caused the most radical change in personal appearance since Jennifer Grey's nose job, and Jennifer Grey's nose job was clearly a nose job, so the puzzle was only about how much the nose affects the overall look of the face, not — as with Zellweger — about what was changed that caused such a radical overall change. But my question is in the post title. Possible answers:

1. No. You don't care. You don't care because you don't know this actress much or at all, and women in the business of making money through their faces are always doing one thing or another to their faces, and it really doesn't matter in the great scheme of things. What about Benghazi? What about ebola?

2. No. You don't care because Renee Zellweger made her mark as a young woman, edging out older women for the parts she got, and now the time has come for her to pay the price, to be edged out by someone younger. She's entering an entirely predictable phase, doing the various things that women do as they dig in their heels — their high heels — as time drags them over the finish line.

3. Yes. The woman always had a weird face, and I could always recognize her, which is not the way most actresses are in the movies these days. I can't enjoy movies too much when I can't tell the characters apart. Is that the same person that was in that other scene? I barely know. It's all so meaningless and generic. But Renee! Renee was somebody specific. Unmistakable. Now, she looks like every woman or maybe like that actress who used to be in a lot of things, maybe mostly as the main character's best friend, I can almost think of the name... damn... it's driving me crazy....

4. Yes. It's just terrible that women don't believe in the beauty of women as they age through the decades. Embrace the changes that come with age. Show us how that's done, if you have any character at all. Zellweger joins the chorus of celebrities who blare the message that only the young part of life has value and only unlined, unlived-in faces are worth our attention. And it doesn't even work, this plastic surgery and what-all. "There's nothing tragic about being fifty. Not unless you're trying to be twenty-five."

Ebola robots.

Can robots take the place of human beings?
Some tasks done by health workers — decontaminating rooms and moving supplies — could be taken over by delivery robots, decreasing contact between healthy people and those affected by the virus. Also, telepresence robots make people affected by the disease feel less alone, connecting quarantined people or infected patients with those they love.
AND: "My weekend as a telepresence robot."

October 21, 2014

"Don't touch me"... "Don't touch my girlfriend."

Who says "Don't touch me"? Most famously: Jesus. He said it — "Noli me tangere" — to Mary Magdalene, in a scene depicted many times in art:

That had something to do with the fragility of the fleshly body in the immediate aftermath of resurrection. A very special case. In modern times, I think we tend to think of a woman saying "Don't touch me." But Howie Mandel wrote a book called "Don't Touch Me":

He was writing about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Maybe you remember pre-"2001" Keir Dullea as David in "David and Lisa" with his mentally disordered fear of touching:

"You touched me! You want to kill me! Touch can kill!... You coarse, clumsy, stupid FOOL!"

The truth is that we all have a right to sovereignty over our own bodies. It's not just something for women to demand from men. It's something we are all entitled to as human beings. We are now encountering the defense of female integrity embodied in the rather muddled campus policy known as "Yes means yes," but it applies to men too. Women care about our bodily integrity, but too many of us believe that our sexual favors are so universally desirable that a "yes" from a man can be presumed, that a woman can impose upon a man. But that's wrong.

And now, today, we see this story of the President of the United States, Barack Obama, making the kind of assumption that is more typical of the female — the assumption that the person he chooses to touch must necessarily want to be touched. Obama is caught in a relationship with a man who postures as the woman's boyfriend and says to the President: "Don't touch my girlfriend." The President proceeds to grasp at his own dignity by demonstrating to that man that he most certainly can touch that woman, but what of the woman, that woman possessed by two men? It was her choice whether to be touched by the President, and her choice whether to be owned by the man who said to the President "Don't touch my girlfriend," and yet both men assumed ownership over her autonomy — the boyfriend because he had a past with her and the President because, like too many woman, he thought of himself as so universally desirable that a "yes" from any woman can be presumed.

In the history of the world, has there ever been a woman as uniquely subordinated as Aia Cooper? My heart breaks to see how she saw her best hope in coming to the aid of both men, both men who, within seconds, claim sovereignty over the territory of her body. What history lies behind this instinct to protect these 2 men, these 2 exemplars of male power — the boyfriend and the President of the United States? Cooper didn't even want to stand next to the President: "I was like, 'do I have to stand there? I don't really want to stand there.'" And after the incident in which Cooper defended her boyfriend and acceded to the Commander-in-Chief's command "You're gonna kiss me," Ms. Cooper reached out to the President's wife:  "I wanna meet Michelle... Hopefully she doesn't think anything about me, but I really want to meet her."

"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth," Jesus said.

I thought only "yes" means yes: Did Obama get true, verbalized consent from that woman before he kissed her?

No. He did not. People are focusing on Obama's interplay with a man who said "Don't touch my girlfriend" as Obama was voting in Chicago, demonstrating how to vote.

But let's talk about the woman. Obama orders her to kiss him: "You're gonna kiss me. Give him something to talk about. Now, he's really jealous." As you see in the video, he makes that declarative statement and immediately grabs her and kisses and hugs her.

Why is that acceptable? He's using her in an effort to regain dignity and to humiliate the man who humiliated him. It might all be dismissed as play humiliation and play counter-humiliation. But the woman's body was used as an object of that play, a means of communication between men.

"[Bell] Hooks had just come from a seminar entitled 'Transgression: Whose Booty Is This?'"

"She said, 'Pussies are out. It’s bootylicious all the way.' [Laverne] Cox agreed. 'It is the age of the ass,' she said. 'Booty as cultural metaphor is really interesting. J. Lo made the ass a thing fifteen years ago, and now we have issues of ass appropriation.'"

From a New Yorker piece about a conversation between Bell Hooks, the longtime activist feminist, who's currently a Distinguished Professor in Residence of Appalachian Studies at Berea College, and Laverne Cox, the LGBT advocate and actress who's in the TV show "Orange Is the New Black."

Hooks proceeds to declare that she has "had an ironing-board butt all my life," and Cox responds with an observation about astrology, but maybe Hooks is not "into astrology," and Hooks says: "Oh, I’m into psychics, telepathics, you name it... All the paranormal world is very interesting to me." And both of them speak retrogressively about aging: "This aging thing is a bitch" (Hooks, 62 years old) and "I do not [reveal my age]. My official age is 'over twenty-one'" (Cox).


1. Ageism is certainly one of the "-isms" that people still seem to feel safe about openly displaying. Maybe some day we will look back with shame at what bigotry we spouted.

2. It utterly amazes me that people who want to present themselves as intelligent and sophisticated nevertheless openly profess belief in astrology and other "paranormal" nonsense, including people like Hooks and Cox who are activists purporting to push the rest of the world forward into enlightenment. How can you get any footing to push when you're standing in blatant idiocy?

3. Asses. When will they be out?

"Ruth Bader Ginsburg owns a surprisingly large number of ‘Notorious RBG’ t-shirts."

And she is aware of people talking about her on the internet and that opera about her and Scalia. And there won't be "enough" women on the Supreme Court until there are 9. (Note to people who have trouble processing language: That doesn't mean we ought to be hoping for or trying to get 9 women on the Supreme Court. That means that there is no point at which anyone ought to say there are now "enough" women on the Supreme Court and another would be too many.)

Email from James Lileks.

How cool is it to get email from James Lileks? Subject line: "Knew this would come in handy some day."

Body of the message:

Get it?

The Oscars, Pistorius and de la Renta.

1. It was handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance: Oscar Pistorius got a 5-year sentence.

2. Oscar de la Renta, who dressed First Ladies and movie stars, has died at the age of 82: "With French lace and delicate embroidery, he helped women subdue their insecurities. And with his eye for a gentle flounce and a keen understanding of line and silhouette, he helped them build a powerfully stylish wardrobe that never denied their femininity nor apologized for it.... Today, there are designers in New York who are more adept at capturing the sexuality of the modern era.... But de la Renta represented a kind of old-school fashion with its emphasis on propriety, elegance and good taste."

October 20, 2014

At the October Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"I love the law, intellectually. I love nutting out these problems, wrestling with these arguments."

"I love teaching. I miss the classroom and engaging with students. But I think being a Justice is a little bit too monastic for me. Particularly after having spent six years and what will be eight years in this bubble, I think I need to get outside a little bit more."

Barack Obama, quoted at the end of Jeffrey Toobin's mostly routine New Yorker piece about Obama's "judicial legacy."

ADDED: What's up with the verbal phrase "to nut out"? The (unlinkable) Oxford English Dictionary designates the relevant meaning — "to work out through careful thought; to puzzle out" — as "slang" that is "chiefly Austral. and N.Z." Example: " If you have trouble nutting this maths problem out, the Australian Mathematics Competition is not for you." There are no other meanings for "nut out," though "nut" without "out" is a verb that can mean: 1. "To look for or gather nuts" (rare), 2. "To curry favour with" (obsolete), 3. "To fix, fit, or fasten by means of nuts," 4. "To castrate" or "Of a man: to have sexual intercourse with (a woman)" (U.S. slang), 5. "To butt with the head" (British slang), 6. "To kill" (Irish English slang).

"What is the case for Hillary...? It boils down... She has experience, she’s a woman, and it’s her turn."

Writes Doug Henwood in a Harper's article titled "Stop Hillary!/Vote no to a Clinton dynasty." You're going to need a subscription to read all that, which is stupid, because the imperative — "Stop Hillary!" — seems ludicrous if you hide the argument. But the truth is, I have a subscription, so let me pull out the parts that seem significant to me:
Today we desperately need a new political economy — one that features a more equal distribution of income, investment in our rotting social and physical infrastructure, and a more humane ethic. We also need a judicious foreign policy, and a commander-in-chief who will resist the instant gratification of air strikes and rhetorical bluster.
So, she's not left-wing enough? That counts in her favor in my book.
Hillary absorbed the conservatism of her father and her surroundings. In junior high, she fell under the influence of a history teacher, Paul Carlson, a frothing McCarthyite. As Carlson [said], the young Hillary was “a hawk.”

Soon after, though, she found another guru, one she would stick with for years — a young minister at the First Methodist Church of Park Ridge named Don Jones. Jones was a dashing intellectual who helped open Hillary’s mind. He got the church youth reading D. H. Lawrence, listening to Bob Dylan, and talking about Picasso....
Uh oh! Reading D. H. Lawrence, listening to Bob Dylan, and talking about Picasso... Man, that is the story of my life!
"We are, all of us, exploring a world that none of us even understands and attempting to create within that uncertainty. But there are some things we feel, feelings that our prevailing, acquisitive, and competitive corporate life, including tragically the universities, is not the way of life for us. We’re searching for more immediate, ecstatic, and penetrating modes of living."
That's Hillary, at her college graduation, and that's pretty much what we were all saying back then.
By Yale Law standards, Hillary was a conservative, which meant that she opposed the Vietnam War but still basically believed in American institutions. Despite looking like a hippie in her tinted glasses and candy-striped slacks, she had no patience for the utopianism of the time.
Good for her! It's like Harper's's Henwood thinks we need a hippie President!

"God is not afraid of new things."

Said the Pope.

"Two San Francisco radio stations have put the kibosh on Lorde's song 'Royals' until the World Series is over."

"Why send any positive vibes to Kansas City?... Why not give the song a rest? No one is going to get hurt over it."

The weirdest part is that the song, which doesn't seem to be about baseball, was, according to Lorde, speaking last year, inspired by a 1976 photo of George Brett:
"I'd been kind of thinking about writing that song for a while and been pulling together a couple little lines here and there, and I had this image from the National Geographic of this dude signing baseballs... He was a baseball player and his shirt said Royals. I was like, I really like that word, because I'm a big word fetishist. I'll pick a word and I'll pin an idea to that."
Can this lady, a citizen of New Zealand, sing "The Star-Spangled Banner"? She's pretty much going to have to now, right?

"Staring at the computer screen, I spent the day shouting: 'oh my god!' and 'I can’t believe they put that in' or 'That’s so out of context.'"

"And those were the only thoughts that interrupted a relentless mantra in my head: 'I want to die.'"

Says self-titled "Patient Zero" in that terrible epidemic called The Internet.

"Do the Most Hipster Thing Possible..."

"... Move to Des Moines."

AND: "When young college graduates decide where to move, they are not just looking at the usual suspects, like New York, Washington and San Francisco."
Other cities are increasing their share of these valuable residents at an even higher rate and have reached a high overall percentage, led by Denver, San Diego, Nashville, Salt Lake City and Portland, Ore., according to a report published Monday by City Observatory, a new think tank.

"All that drama!... I cannot understand why you do it."

Says Death in the Ted Hughes translation of the Euripides' play "Alcestis." Death is talking to Apollo about us humans:
As far as I am concerned, their birth-cry
Is the first cry of the fatally injured.
The rest is you — and your morphine.
That is what they call you the god of healing.
Life is your hospital and you call it a funfair.
Your silly sickroom screen of giggling faces,
Your quiverful of hypodermic syringes
That you call arrows of inspiration.
We went out to see that play yesterday in Spring Green, which looked like this:


The light through the reddish grass was lovely, but this wasn't one of the outdoor plays. We were indoors for this play...


... which is about a queen, Alcestis, who gives her life so that the king, Admetus, can live, in some deal that makes sense to the gods. Alcestis is the least interesting character in the play that gets her name, since it's established at the get-go that she's going to die, and she does exactly that early on. She's mostly talked about.

In fact, in the end, when — spoiler alert — Heracles brings her back from the dead, she's incapable of speaking for the first 3 days of resurrected life, and the play ends before that happens, so we never hear from her again. My favorite character was the king's father, who, we learn at the outset, refused to give his own life for his son's. The son is outraged that this old corpse of a man — as he sees it — clings to the meaningless shred of life he's got left. When the old man finally speaks for himself, he says just that: It's all he's got left.

Driving back home, (ad)Meade(us) and I talked about the play, and the phrase "death panels" came up. The son thought it was selfish and disgusting that his elderly father and mother wouldn't die. Quite apart from his need to have someone die for him, he had contempt for their attachment to worthless life. Of course, Death, quoted at the top of this post, thought all of life was agonizing drama, and the newborn baby's cry was crying at the fatal injury that is birth. All of life is a hospital, and you call it a funfair.

"If the appeal of Mr. Walker, who is the son of a preacher and left college without graduating, is his earnest, regular-guy ability to win a room..."

"... Ms. Burke’s is her résumé: Georgetown, Harvard Business School and time in the private sector, including at the Trek Bicycle company her father founded," writes Monica Davey, as The New York Times pays some attention to the Wisconsin gubernatorial race. There's nothing that we in Wisconsin haven't seen many times, and for presentation to NYT readers, the emphasis is on Walker's need to win this close race if he is to be a presidential candidate in '16.

"The Americans who went to the moon before us had computers so primitive that they couldn’t get e-mail or use Google to settle arguments."

"The iPads we took had something like seventy billion times the capacity of those Apollo-era dial-ups and were mucho handy, especially during all the downtime on our long haul. MDash used his to watch Season Four of 'Breaking Bad.' We took hundreds of selfies with the Earth in the window and, plinking a Ping-Pong ball off the center seat, played a tableless table-tennis tournament, which was won by Anna.... Steve Wong had cued up a certain musical track for what would be Earthrise but had to reboot the Bluetooth on Anna’s Jambox and was nearly late for his cue. MDash yelled, 'Hit Play, hit Play!' just as a blue-and-white patch of life — a slice of all that we have made of ourselves, all that we have ever been — pierced the black cosmos above the sawtooth horizon. I was expecting something classical, Franz Joseph Haydn or George Harrison, but 'The Circle of Life,' from 'The Lion King,' scored our home planet’s rise over the plaster-of-Paris moon. Really? A Disney show tune? But, you know, that rhythm and that chorus and the double meaning of the lyrics caught me right in the throat, and I choked up. Tears popped off my face and joined the others’ tears, which were floating around the Alan Bean. Anna gave me a hug like I was still her boyfriend. We cried. We all cried. You’d have done the same."

From a New Yorker story by Tom Hanks (which you can read or listen to Tom Hanks read at the link).

Democratic Senators think hammering on the female organs just might work.

Manu Raju has a piece Politico called "Obama’s standing with women hurts Senate Dems," which studiously loads the blame on Obama for the flagging power of the old war-on-women politics:
In battleground states across the country, Obama is underwater with female voters — especially women unaffiliated with a political party — and it’s making it harder for Democrats to take advantage of the gender gap, according to public polling and Democratic strategists....

First, they must overcome the Obama factor. After defeating Mitt Romney by 11 points among women in 2012, the president has seen his approval rating drop sharply with females, particularly in the battleground states....
The theory is, Obama has lost popularity with women, and Democrats still need women, so they ought to double down on war-on-women politics:
In Alaska... Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska)... fighting for his political life against Republican Dan Sullivan... knows full well that female voters will be a key part of his equation if he manages to pull off a win next month. So he’s hammering home Sullivan’s opposition to abortion rights and pay equity legislation and slams his views on birth control and a version of the Violence Against Women Act. 
Hammering and slamming on the female organs. That oughta work...

... cuz it worked before.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall is way down in the polls but less way down with women, so:
Udall has been running a campaign heavily focused on Gardner’s opposition to abortion rights, hoping to disqualify his GOP opponent in the eyes of suburban women and independent female voters.
Raju doesn't mention that Mark Udall's obsessive focus on female organs has got people mockingly calling him Mark Uterus.

Stop poking at us like that! What worked before might not work again, and when it seems not to be working, doing it more and harder might make it worse. We may see your desperation, see what you are trying to do, and that's exactly what will make it not work. Women have a full range of interests, not just the interest in maintaining control over our reproductive function, and once you've made it obvious that you think you can have us because we do care about that, we might find your approach insulting and offensive.

October 19, 2014

Sunday in Madison.

Out by the lake:


In the neighborhood:




Help me make a list of people who have been imitated by a President of the United States.

The previous post has video of Harry Truman doing an imitation of the radio commentator H.V. Kaltenborn. And I can remember Barack Obama imitating Al Green. Or maybe that shouldn't count. He was just doing his best at singing "Let's Stay Together." Oh, I see that later he joked: "Tonight, I am speaking not just as a President, but as one of America's best-known Al Green impersonators." Obama also imitated the Seahawks' Richard Sherman: "I'm the best President in the game!"

I couldn't think of anything else. I googled people who have been imitated by presidents, and the first hit was a NYT pieced called "The Spirit of the President. Let it be Imitated." which I misread as promising for my list-making purpose. Turned out it was from November 12, 1864. Abraham Lincoln had called upon "all having a common interest [to] reunite in a common effort to save our common country," and the NYT editors recommended an imitation of his "forbearing and generous spirit." That's an immensely interesting detour, profound when I'm being lightweight. I'm only mentioning it because it's my way to blog about the process of blogging, and today, especially, has been a day of blogging details.

I'm genuinely trying to make a a list of people who have been imitated by a President of the United States.

A witty allusion to H.V. Kaltenborn.

For reasons that need not be explained here, today's post titled "Out-olding the nouveau old" eventually gets around to the topic of what Holden Caulfield ate in "Catcher in Rye," and I quote him saying:
When I’m out somewhere, I generally just eat a Swiss cheese sandwich and a malted milk. It isn’t much, but you get quite a lot of vitamins in the malted milk. H. V. Caulfield. Holden Vitamin Caulfield.
This prompts commenter Rob to say — and I have no reason to doubt the truth of this:
I'm guessing there's damned few readers today of The Catcher in the Rye who pick up that in talking about "H.V. Caulfield" Salinger was making a witty allusion to H.V. Kaltenborn.
At the link, we learn of the radio commenter who was born in Milwaukee in 1878 and lived until 1965. Apparently, Kaltenborn could speak vividly and intelligently without a script for hours. I liked this anecdote about him and Dizzy Dean:

All the Presidents' Drinks.

John Adams. Adams loved alcohol, starting almost every morning with a hard cider. Then porter beer, rum and copious amounts of Madeira....

Martin Van Buren. Drank so much whiskey that it earned him a nickname, “Blue Whiskey Van.” He also enjoyed something called Schiedam (a gin-like Dutch specialty unique to New York’s Hudson River Valley)....

Millard Fillmore. Fillmore rarely drank wine or served it to others. However, this lightweight once admitted to sampling enough old Madeira that he was “slightly fuddled.”...

Chester A. Arthur. When a representative of the Temperance movement tried to pressure Arthur into a no-liquor policy in the White House, he thundered: “Madam, I may be the president of the United States, but what I do with my private life is my own damned business!”...

Out-olding the nouveau old.

Buzzfeed has a listicle titled "20 Things New Yorkers Older Than 40 Did/And will never do again. It was a great time to be a New Yorker," and there's some pushback in the comments from the older than old:
May I humbly request that this be retitled to 20 Things New Yorkers Older Than 30 Have Experienced? Most of these are from the late 90's or close by and as a 33 year old New Yorker I've experienced...
There was this lovely camaderie between 81-year-olds:
My heart aches to know so many things about New York City are gone forever. My father was born in Yorkville and my mother on Wooster Street in the Village, which is now part of NYU dorms. Saw my first play, The King and I, at the St. James and realized, at 18, that Yul Brenner's baldness could be very sexy. Worked five years in the Woolworth Building downtown, which once was the tallest building in the U.S. For seafood you couldn't beat The Captain's Table in the Village, and for chicken pot pie, The Waverly Inn, also in the Village. Pork chops on an open grille? Peter's Backyard on Tenth Street. Ice skating in Rockefeller Plaza on Saturday mornings and then on to the Automat for those little brown pots of baked beans. I stayed at the Barbizon Hotel when it was still "women only." I have traveled around the world, working for four airlines, and New York City thrills me to this day when I fly over it (not sure if you can still do this after 9/11). Anyone care to guess my age? It is 81! Oh, and I was born, of all places, in Brooklyn!
I'm also 81. Lived in Yorkville, the Village, East Village, finally Soho. Left in 1970. My favorite at the Waverly Inn was the veal ala marsala, $2.
Hey, they are contemporaries of Holden Caulfield! It was the mention of ice skating in Rockefeller Plaza that made me think of this. Caulfield is a fictional character, but we may say that he was "born," nonetheless, and calculate the year as 1933, which would make him 81 today, if he stayed alive. In "Catcher in the Rye," we see his New York City, presumably the city of those Buzzfeed commenters.

Would Holden Caulfield have read Buzzfeed... and commented?

Did Holden Caulfield ever eat the veal ala marsala at the Waverly Inn? What did Holden Caulfield eat in "Catcher in the Rye"? There's breakfast:
I had quite a large breakfast, for me — orange juice, bacon and eggs, toast and coffee. Usually I just drink some orange juice. I’m a very light eater. I really am. That’s why I’m so damn skinny. I was supposed to be on this diet where you eat a lot of starches and crap, to gain weight and all, but I didn’t ever do it. When I’m out somewhere, I generally just eat a Swiss cheese sandwich and a malted milk. It isn’t much, but you get quite a lot of vitamins in the malted milk. H. V. Caulfield. Holden Vitamin Caulfield.
Now, there's a thing New Yorkers did and will never do again: worry about being too skinny. And if you're worried about getting fat, consider the Holden Caulfield diet, just a Swiss cheese sandwich and a malted. In fact, after that skating at Rockefeller Plaza, Holden Caulfield does eat a Swiss cheese sandwich and a malted. Another Holden Caulfield diet idea is be depressed:
So I went in this very cheap-looking restaurant and had doughnuts and coffee. Only, I didn't eat the doughnuts. I couldn't swallow them too well. The thing is, if you get very depressed about something, it's hard as hell to swallow.

How to say something perfectly dumb.

It's easy to say something dumb, but it takes something special to say something as dumb as "Not sure when @SenRandPaul became a doctor, but says Ebola can spread from a person standing 3ft away #uhmm." That, from a CBS producer named Katy Conrad, who was being sarcastic about when Rand Paul, who is a doctor, "became a doctor." Well, I think you just have to get lucky to say something that perfectly dumb.

"'Dadcore?' 'Momcore?' What the heck are these trendy lingoes?"

Asks someone at Metafilter, linking to a Glamour article titled "Move Over, Normcore — Dadcore Is Here. What It Is, Plus 3 Takeaways to Apply to Your Non-Dad Closet."

Someone pointed out the obvious, that the "-core" suffix comes from "hardcore," but how did "-core" get into "hardcore" in the first place? "Hardcore" does not appear in the (unlinkable) Oxford English Dictionary, and "hard core" is only a "draft addition":
hard core adj. and n. (usu. as one word) orig. U.S., (a) adj. denoting harsh, aggressive, or extreme versions of various types of popular music (originally punk, now also rap, techno, etc.), typically faster, louder, or more experimental than related forms, and determinedly less mainstream; (b) n. any of various forms of popular music (often a variety of an established genre) regarded as particularly extreme, aggressive, or experimental.
But we use "hardcore" far beyond that music meaning, most notably for porn, but it's widely used, certainly by me. Some examples from the 10 years of this blog:
If you're hardcore enough to burn [artwork worth millions], why are you not hardcore enough to lie to the police?...

Ironically, this professor is teaching that it's all about power and you need to use hardcore tactics to win, and the student seems to have learned this lesson well. The edited video, dumped on the internet is a hardcore tactic, flipping the power on the old white guy....

I'm not purporting to interpret this scripture and won't argue about how it should really be read, but I think there is a scruple about calling attention to charity that some people might be hardcore about. Posting even anonymously on a website that is only about advertising charity could be taken as wrong. I note Jesus sounds rather hardcore about it and puts the stakes very high....

One of the reasons "We Won't Get Fooled Again" is a great song is because of the complicated ambivalence expressed by the character who sings it. A hardcore politico cannot use those words, even though a hardcore politico is likely to hear that song and mistakenly believe it expresses what he believes....

An innovative idea for a new law school would to use an old style hardcore Socratic Method approach. It's actually hard to find Kingsfield-type lawprofs any more; everybody's already competing to be the most nurturing. I'd like to see a school compete for students and faculty by offering a retro hardcore method....

If one of the hardcore righties had won the Republican nomination, I would probably have gone for Obama. But Mitt Romney got the nomination, which is what I had been hoping for (after Mitch Daniels decided not to run)....

What's toxic about debate, disagreement, and hardcore argument? When was feminism ever supposed to be about being nice to anybody?...

Would East and West Pakistan be one country today if the government hadn't been so hardcore about Urdu?...

If you were a fan of "Fraggle Rock," you may remember that the Fraggles called Doc's workroom "outer space," and if you're an incredibly hardcore fan of the Althouse blog, you may remember that that there is a room in my house that we call "outer space." We've been calling it that since the '80s....

Tom Ford is more hardcore about men in shorts than I am....

You may imagine that Madison is a place where government nannies coddle the populace, but when it comes to facing winter, we are hardcore northerners. No whining. Be tough. Deal with it. We don't submit to Nature. We're having a Snow Action Day....

It's all about the clavicle, the clavicle that you've etched out through hardcore exercise and stringent dieting....

I wouldn't want all nine [Supreme Court Justices] to be flexible pragmatists. Having a hardcore originalist or two in the mix is a moderating safeguard. But don't give me five of them!...

I came away surprised that some people, especially the libertarians, were hardcore, true believers, wedded to an abstract version of an idea and unwilling to look at how it played out in the real world.
There's also "softcore," a word I'm using for the first time on this blog right now, oddly enough. "Softcore," a less useful word that "hardcore," is reserved as a contrast to "hardcore." It's a back-formation, like "underwhelm," not a real word in itself. And I say that acknowledging the contestable reality of hardcore as a word in itself.