November 1, 2014

Post-Halloween, pre-Election Day.

I love the look of burnt-out pumpkins...


... and it's surprising to see the occasional Scott Walker yard sign in our neighborhood, where nearly all the signs are for Mary Burke. But the truth is very few houses have signs. Perhaps people are tired of the turmoil. Burnt-out, like yesterday's pumpkins.

"Obama Courts Women in Campaign Swing" — courts women?! Not men?

That's a headline in The New York Times, and it trips my sexism meter.

They wouldn't say he was "courting men," would they? This reminds me of something Obama himself said the other day: "I shook hands with, hugged, and kissed, not the doctors, but a couple of the nurses...."

To be fair, "to court" doesn't always mean "To pay amorous attention to, seek to gain the affections of, make love to (with a view to marriage), pay addresses to, woo." (OED.) It can also mean "To act as though trying to provoke (something harmful, unpleasant, etc.); to invite unwisely." You see that meaning in phrases like "courting disaster" or "courting death." It's funny to read "courting women" with that as the meaning.

Obama is out in the hinterlands courting disaster women.

ADDED: "There are two main distinctions that make dating different than courting, says Jim Bob. Dating is spending time with someone alone, not necessarily with the end goal of marriage. Not so with courtship, which is carefully monitored and not for the commitment-phobic. 'Courtship is really waiting for the one God has for you and praying through the whole process,' the father of 19 says. 'It’s really examining the person and considering, "'Would this be the guy I want to be the father of my kids?"' says Michelle."

AND: You know, I created the tag "Obama the Boyfriend" for a reason, and I don't put it on a post unless it's deserved. How many posts have that tag? 54!

"As the 10th anniversary drew near, some actors, writers and prominent cultural figures shied away from discussing it."

"One said he worried that his remarks would contribute to the divisions he is trying to transcend. Another declined to comment for fear that he would be exploited by right-wing populists who came to prominence after the murder but are no longer in government. Some were concerned that even the slightest criticism of Mr. van Gogh, who was famous for insulting everyone, would be seen as an apology for his killer and invite attacks from 'friends of Theo,' as his staunchest defenders are known.... Theodor Holman, a journalist and one of Mr. van Gogh’s best friends... argu[es] that fear of causing offense had stifled free speech here. 'Tolerance,' he said, 'has been transformed into cowardice.'"

From "Provocateur’s Death Haunts the Dutch," in the NYT.

Mary Burke's use of the swastika in her ad does the very thing defenders of the ad will say she's accusing her antagonist of doing.

"Mary Burke hits Scott Walker in ad with swastika imagery," says the headline at the Washington Post.
Democrat Mary Burke released a new ad Friday accusing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) of using a Republican county chairman's "lies to attack" her. The ad includes images of swastikas, it says, the county chair posted to his Facebook page.

Burke's ad seeks to tie Walker to Gary Ellerman, the Jefferson County Republican Party chairman and a former human resources director at Trek Bicycle, the Burke family company where the Democrat used to work.

Ellerman was quoted in a report on the conservative Web site Wisconsin Reporter that cited sources saying Burke was fired from the company. In the report, Ellerman said, “She was not performing. She was (in) so far over her head. She didn’t understand the bike business." Burke denies being fired.
You can watch the whole ad at the link, but here's a screen shot of the part where swastikas float across the screen and have whatever subliminal effect they're supposed to have:

There's writing on the screen, but are we supposed to read it or just have feelings that something awful is going on? If you're watching it on line, you can freeze it and read it, and if you do, you'll find swastikas used against Obama in exactly the same way swastikas were used against Scott Walker back in the 2011 protests, to say that a politician you oppose is like the Nazis.

Burke seems to be saying that Ellerman is bad because he used the swastika, and since Ellerman asserted something about Burke that could help Walker, Walker is connected to Ellerman, and Ellerman's form of expression should be attributed to Walker, making Walker bad.

If we had the time to read the words on the screen, it would be clear that Ellerman's use of the swastika is not pro- but anti-Nazi, but the ad doesn't give us that time, and in fact, the words on the graphic on the left never fully appear appear on screen. The most you ever see — and I had to freeze the frame to read this — is "cordance with the/Order, all Christian/-ches must hand over/-rmons regarding/-sexuality and gender/state so that we may/or and "correct" any/-rsive speech that/-dicts our Manifesto," a quote attributed to "-ton's Democrat Mayor, Annise Parker." The words "-sexuality and gender" line up with the eyes of the unfamiliar woman who is smirking and has her hands in what could be called the I-have-an-evil-plan position.

What subliminal effect does that have? One might, in so little time, subliminally read the "evil" woman as Mary Burke. And it is Mary Burke who is wafting swastikas in front of our eyes. I've seen anti-Walker protesters holding signs that put a swastika on Walker, so a casual viewer might think that's what Burke is doing here, even though she wants to say that's the kind of thing that Ellerman does. But most of us don't know or care about Ellerman any more than we know or care about Parker, so I think the subliminal effect — probably intended — was to make us think of Walker as a Nazi. That's something that Burke herself cannot say as a mainstream candidate, but it is something Walker-haters have been expressing for years.

At the 2011 protests, we saw many, many signs comparing Walker to Hitler. Meade and I frequently approached people who were holding these signs. Asked to explain, they always defended the comparison. Here's of photo of mine from February 2011:


I asked that woman behind the sign if she thought Scott Walker was like Hitler, and she said "Yes." So I followed up with: "Are you saying that you think fascism could come to America?" And she said, "It's what's happening." 

And then there was this woman, also from February 2011:

The expression on her face and the tone of her voice when she said "like Hitler" is something Meade and I have never forgotten. (Watch how quickly she otherizes Meade.)

Here's an "Adolf Walker" sign with a swastika.


Here's a young woman with a sign that says "Walker is a dictator" and has an image of Walker with a Hitler mustache. She says she "definitely" thinks Walker is like Hitler. Why? "He doesn't do nice things. He's not a nice person."

Meade follows up: "So, anyone who's not nice is like Hitler?" She tries again: "Well, no. He doesn't do what he should, doesn't do the right thing, and he's doing something that might ruin a lot of things for people. He's pretty much ruining, like, our future."

Meade offers: "You don't think that's over the top, that you're comparing him to Adolf Hitler?" She responds: "It might be a little over the top." Meade: "Just a little?" She makes the concession that might be perhaps what Gary Ellerman would say about Obama: "Just a little, but we kind of need to be dramatic in something like this."

An older woman cuts in and says: "It brings the point across." Meade: "And the point is?" Woman: "The point is this is a democracy, not a dictatorship." Meade asks whether there was something undemocratic about the election back in November, and she says: "Nothing. But what he's doing now is undemocratic." The woman continues, admitting that she didn't vote for Walker, but it's undemocratic because he's not "willing to compromise and negotiate... and that's what democracy is." That's what a lot of people thought about about Obama — quite aptly — when he said "I won" and foisted Obamacare on us when clearly there wasn't majoritarian support for it.

Now, you can see that the young and the older woman are nice people, not extremists, but aggrieved by the policies of the candidate who won the last election, and that they are appropriating a vivid graphic symbol for dramatic effect. Personally, I would not display a swastika as a way to make an exaggerated point about an American politician, but others do — on the right and on the left.

Obviously, I don't refrain from showing you that others are using a swastika in their form of expression, and you might say, that's exactly what Mary Burke is doing in her new ad.

But I am showing you things carefully, so you can study them, and to slow things down so there is no subliminal effect, no irrational roiling of the emotions. And that's exactly what Mary Burke is not doing. Her ad begins with a picture of Walker standing with "a Walker campaign worker and donor who puts pictures like this on his Facebook page." The image — my screen shot, above — slips by in 3 seconds, obliterating any hope of figuring out that Ellerman is not a Nazi fan and that he's just another Wisconsinite using dramatic imagery to get his point across.

Ironically, Burke's use of the swastika works exactly like Ellerman's, and she's doing the very thing defenders of the ad will say she's trying to criticize Ellerman for doing. Arguably, it's worse, because it's not a still image that you can gaze at until you understand. It means to creep in by the backdoor to your mind.

AND: From February 20, 2011: "Do you think Scott Walker deserves to be compared to the Nazis?"/"Yes, I do":

ALSO: I'd written "Annie Parker," but it's Annise Parker. Here's the story the swastika graphic was about:
The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.

Actor spouting Islamophobia gets punched in the face and shouts "It's a social experiment! It's a social experiment!"

"A social experiment that ended with an actor posing as an Islamophobe getting punched in the face has shown that Canadians are prepared to defend Muslims in the face of overt racist abuse in the wake of a recent terror attack."

Via Metafilter, where somebody says "They got punched for committing sociology."

The graveyard of the Gods.

On the University of Wisconsin campus yesterday, fake headstones for 200+ gods of the past, "erected by a group of UW-Madison atheists, is to suggest that one person's god centuries ago may be another person's myth today."

Better photos here

What happened to that Democrats-regret-their-gender-politics article that topped the NYT page earlier this morning?

Drudge had it at the top of his page last night even before it was available on the NYT page, and it's still at the top of Drudge's left-hand column, with the teaser "NYT PAGE ONE: Dems second-guessing strategy of focusing on women's issues over economy... "

But try to find it on page 1 now. I had to do a word search on the page to find it in fine print under "more news," with the title "Democrats Count on Edge With Women to Limit Losses," which sounds like the opposite of what Drudge saw in the article.

Let's look at the article — which is by Jackie Calmes — and see what's actually in it.
Democrats are nervously counting on an enduring edge among female voters....
So that's the idea in the NYT headline.
Yet... some are second-guessing the party’s strategy of focusing more on issues like abortion and birth control than on jobs and the economy.
And that's the part Drudge extracted.

We get the opinions of a couple Democratic Party pollsters. Geoff Garin says: "If Democrats weren’t running on [issues like abortion and birth control], the situation would be much worse." And Anna Greenberg says: "It’s certainly true that we’d be doing better if we were doing better with women, but I do not see a disproportionate drop with women relative to men." That seems to mean Democrats are losing men at a faster pace than they are losing women. But Greenberg's comment, unlike Garin's, doesn't purport to know whether, overall, emphasis on the female body is a net benefit to Democrats.

All the way down in the second-to-last paragraph, Greenberg is quoted again. She's complaining that Republicans were "deliberately misconstruing" the Democrats' gender politics. She says the term "war on women" is a Republican term for what the Democrats are saying about Republicans.
Yet [Greenberg] and other Democratic strategists complain their party has not effectively espoused a broader economic agenda, when women tell pollsters their top concern is jobs and the economy.
And there's the Drudge take on the meaning of the article, buried at the bottom of the article, with no direct quotes and no names for the "other Democratic strategists" who, apparently, "complain."

IN THE COMMENTS: After Jake asked "Since when is 'War on Women' a Republican term?," chickelit "What does the venerable Althouse archive say? When did Althouse first pick up the term and in what context?" Back in 2012, I traced the present-day use of the term to a February 2011 NYT editorial, "The War on Women":
These are treacherous times for women’s reproductive rights and access to essential health care. House Republicans mistakenly believe they have a mandate to drastically scale back both even as abortion warfare is accelerating in the states. To stop them, President Obama’s firm leadership will be crucial. So will the rising voices of alarmed Americans.
UPDATE: The "Democrats Count on Edge" story now — at 4 Eastern Time, November 1 — has no link on the front page at all, and when I got to the page of links on "U.S. Politics," I have to scroll down the space of 2 screens before I see the story. 

October 31, 2014

"The GOP’s chances of winning the Senate are 68.5 percent, according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast..."

"... its highest figure of the year."

"Dude, why aren’t you hitting on her? Dude, why aren’t you trying to pick up more women? Why aren’t you yelling that at her?"

Imagining the pressure from other men that leads men to harass women on the street.

"Justice Department investigators have all but concluded they do not have a strong enough case to bring civil rights charges against Darren Wilson..."

"... the white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., law enforcement officials said."

Your Halloween hangout.

Cousin Itt and the Plague Doctor dropped by Meadhouse at 6:30:


I was so impressed, I put that at the top of the post, originally published beginning at this point:


That's an old pic. From 2009. I'm looking back on old Halloweens blogged in years past. The nicest one was the first year of blogging, 2004:

"Who you vote for is your secret. But whether or not you vote is public record... We will be reviewing voting records..."

". . . to determine whether you joined your neighbors who voted in 2014.... If you do not vote this year, we will be interested to hear why not."

Letter from the New York State Democratic Committee that The New York Post paraphrases for headline purposes: "Democrats: Vote or we’ll kick your ass."

That's in the style of the notorious Daily News headline from the 70s: "FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD."

"The most important single election next Tuesday is for governor of Wisconsin."

Writes James Taranto:
The incumbent, Scott Walker, was elected in the Republican wave of 2010 and embarked in 2011 on a serious, substantive program of reform. He succeeded in his effort to eliminate “collective bargaining” for most government employees, a boon to the state fisc and a blow to politicians, mostly Democrats, who benefit from public-sector electioneering at taxpayer expense.
Taranto delves into the did-Trek-fire-Mary-Burke controversy that we've been discussing on this blog and wonders why Burke relied so heavily on the "biographical campaign" that makes her vulnerable to an attack like that.
Why isn’t Burke running a substantive campaign? As Collin Roth... observed in February: “Mary Burke has been largely incoherent on Act 10,” the collective-bargaining reform law. “Sometimes she opposes, sometimes she likes the healthcare and pension provisions, sometimes she wants to reinstate collective bargaining rights, and sometimes she simply didn’t like that the law was divisive.”

One possible answer is that she doesn’t think a full-throated campaign of opposition would win the election.... Yet even if Walker’s reforms are secure, a loss for him next Tuesday would be a huge victory for Big Labor—a show of union power that would discourage other governors from undertaking similar reforms by sending the message that success is politically fatal. 
I don't see how refraining from full-throated opposition means Walker's reforms are secure. We've often seen moderation in a campaign followed by something much more skewed after the election is won. I know back in 2011, many Wisconsinites felt Scott Walker did too much, too harshly when he got elected.

I'll resist ranting about how terribly Barack Obama disappointed those who, back in 2008, believed he was offering a transcendent new and beautiful politics that would bring us peace and good... brotherhood....

"There is Critical Race Theory scholarship connecting a preference for formality to race," I said in a post speculating about why Clarence Thomas might have said "I like formality."

I was expressing skepticism about the cue in the NYT (from Adam Liptak) to interpret Justice Thomas's statement to mean that "he was content with the way things are." (This was in reference to the way the Supreme Court Justices communicate by paper memo, and not by email or in face-to-face discussions.)

I said:
I could think of some other ways to interpret those 3 words and don't like being told to think of Justice Thomas as complacent and stiff. A person might like formality without being content with the way things are. A preference for formality can arise out of discomfort and mistrust. What kind of person shies away from free-wheeling banter and wants things put in writing?
I dropped a rare footnote: "There is Critical Race Theory scholarship connecting a preference for formality to race. Citation to come." That was 3 days ago, and at least one commenter has signaled he's still waiting. Did I think he'd forget?

I'd known all along what I wanted to cite, the Patricia J. Williams book from 20 years ago called "Alchemy of Race and Rights: Diary of a Law Professor." Unfortunately, that's not on Kindle, so needing to find my hard copy slowed me down.

In Chapter 8, "The Pain of Word Bondage," Williams describes the willingness of her colleague Peter Gabel to rent an apartment with no written agreement, to hand over a $900 cash deposit to strangers without even getting the keys. She, a black, female law professor, could not share his warm feeling for informality:
… I was raised to be acutely conscious of the likelihood that no matter what degree of professional I am, people will greet and dismiss my black femaleness as unreliable, untrustworthy, hostile, angry, powerless, irrational, and probably destitute. Futility and despair are very real parts of my response. So it helps me to clarify boundary; to show that I can speak the language of lease is my way of enhancing trust in me in my business affairs. As black, I have been given by this society a strong sense of myself as already too familiar, personal, subordinate to white people. I am still evolving from being treated as three-fifths of a human, a subpart of the white estate. I grew up in a neighborhood where landlords would not sign leases with their poor black tenants, and demanded that the rent be paid in cash; although superficially resembling Peter's transactions, such informality in most white-on-black situations signals distrust, not trust. Unlike Peter, I am still engaged in the struggle to set up transactions at arm's length, as legitimately commercial, and to portray myself as a bargainer of separate worth, distinct power, sufficient rights to manipulate commerce.

Peter, I speculate, would say that a lease or any other formal mechanism would introduce distrust into his relationships and he would suffer alienation, leading to the commodification of his being and the degradation of his person to property. For me, in contrast, the lack of formal relation to the other would leave me estranged. It would risk figurative isolation from that creative commerce by which I may be recognized as whole, by which I may feed and clothe and shelter myself, by which I may be seen as equal — even if I am a stranger. For me, stranger-stranger relations are better than stranger-chattel.
Now, take that observation and test out whether it could be similar to what Clarence Thomas was thinking when he said "I like formality."

"A witness says Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo exploded during a test flight over California’s Mojave Desert."

"Photographer Ken Brown says the space tourism craft was released from the plane that carries it to high altitude, ignited its rocket motor and then exploded."

I've always been against space tourism. I'm sorry to hear of the death and the injury, but this is not a good way for rich people to try to find fulfillment in life.

"Before President Obama, whose brown eyes are opaque when you look into them, presidents have been more known for blue eyes…."

"The ones with brown eyes, Richard Nixon and L.B.J., came a cropper."

George Washington, blue-gray eyes; John Adams, blue; Thomas Jefferson, hazel; James Madison, brown; James Monroe, blue-gray; John Quincy Adams, black; Andrew Jackson, blue (Old Stonewall-blue eyes?); Martin Van Buren, blue; William Henry Harrison, brown. John Tyler, blue; James Polk, gray; Zachary Taylor, hazel (it figures); Millard Fillmore, blue; Franklin Pierce, gray; James Buchanan, blue; Abraham Lincoln, gray (huh?); Andrew Johnson, black; Ulysses S. Grant, blue. Rutherford B. Hayes, blue; James Garfield, blue; Chester A. Arthur, black (of course); Grover Cleveland, blue (but only once); Benjamin Harrison, blue; William McKinley, blue-gray; Theodore Roosevelt, blue (come on); William Howard Taft, blue; Woodrow Wilson, blue-gray; Warren G. Harding, gray. Calvin Coolidge, blue; Herbert Hoover, hazel (stop laughing); Franklin D. Roosevelt, blue; Harry Truman, blue; Dwight D. Eisenhower, blue (I know, I didn`t believe it, either); John F. Kennedy, blue; Lyndon B. Johnson, brown; Richard Nixon, brown; Gerald Ford, blue; Jimmy Carter, hazel (don't say it); Ronald Reagan, blue.
ADDED: I didn't really mean for this to be a separate post, but I accidentally published what was the draft of a comment to go in the "Eye Implants" thread, where I said something hyperbolic about blue eyes and got called on it. I don't delete posts. Ever. Not in 10+ years.

Now, Meade is telling me that we're just playing and we didn't even have a snow bet this year, that I'm remembering a bet we made last year...

... as we argue about what the standard for "snow" really was, and he hews to the theory that it was about whether the sidewalks needed at least a sweeping if not a shoveling, and I say it had to do with noticeable sticking on the ground, at least a dusting. Dusting, sweeping... all that is broomed away by the realization that perhaps we did not even have a snow bet this year.

But one thing is certain. We have a bet on the Wisconsin gubernatorial race, and that's a bet we put in writing the day we made it. Want to see the writing?


"I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."

"Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple."

Writes Tim Cook.

Eye color implants.

"I looked in the mirror and I was, like, they’re amazing."

ADDED: "The Bluest Eye is a 1970 novel by American author Toni Morrison.... The title The Bluest Eye refers to Pecola's fervent wishes for beautiful blue eyes. She is rarely developed during the story, which is purposely done to underscore the actions of the other characters. Her insanity at the end of the novel is her only way to escape the world where she cannot be beautiful and to get the blue eyes she desires from the beginning of the novel."

How to think about the question "Was Mary Burke fired from Trek?"

Christian Schneider offers 4 pointers:
1.  The debate seems to be largely one of semantics...
If your father and brother decided they wanted to remove you from your position in the family company, they wouldn't label you "fired." They'd probably do what they could to shield you.
2.  When asked for sales number from Burke’s European days by the Associated Press, John Burke said that he “did not have detailed financial records from that far back, but there was one year where the company had a loss.” The idea that a multimillion dollar corporation that operates around the world doesn’t keep financial records from 20 years ago is preposterous.  If there are no records, then where does Mary Burke get the numbers that she raised sales from $3 million to $50 million? Further, how is it that Trek has enough institutional memory to trash its ex-employees who are named in the initial story, but can’t seem to remember why Mary Burke left the company?...
These are Schneider's substantive points. Point 3 is just tweaking liberals for treating this one secretive big corporation differently from others. Point 4 refers to the assertion made (by whom?) that Burke "moved Trek’s European offices from Frankfurt, Germany to Amsterdam because she 'didn’t care for the German people' and because Amsterdam 'better reflected her lifestyle.'" I don't see what that has to do with whether Burke was fired, and Schneider seems to be repeating what he admits is "entirely hearsay" because it might offend the many people of German extraction who live in Milwaukee, "the most German city in America."

Anyway, that hearsay, even if true, is paraphrase. A preference for Amsterdam as a base for an American bike company might be quite sound, and who knows what casual things one might say explaining that decision to confidantes?

ADDED: Another former Trek employee comes forward, this time in defense of Mary Burke: "As Mary does everything, she put her heart and soul into the task," Denise DeMarb wrote. "Did she make mistakes, probably. Was she under pressure, certainly. Did she perform a huge feat — yes she did." DeMarb is president pro tem of the Madison city council.

A thuddingly simplistic interpretation of the risks advertising on "The Daily Show."

Jaime Fuller at WaPo points out the "Daily Show" bit where Jon Stewart acknowledges that Koch Industries is one of the show's sponsors and runs a parody of their ad in which the voiceover listing good things the company does is replaced by a list of bad things, like "rearranging polar bears" and "lubricating birds."

Fuller articulates the "lesson": "Make sure that the content surrounding your ad buy doesn't disagree with you and have the ability to try and neutralize the effectiveness of your ad. Because they probably will."

That's a thuddingly simplistic interpretation. It could be a perfectly good choice for Koch Industries to put its ad on "The Daily Show" even knowing that it would trigger the parody.

"The Daily Show" continually slams the Koch brothers, whether they advertise on the show or not. At least the ad provides some counterweight, some nudge toward skepticism about the world view presented on the show. And the parody is so heavy-handed that some listeners might begin to think: Is it really that bad? Or even: What are liberals so afraid of here?

Some independent thoughts might arise. Like: Dark money? Don't Democrats have their own "dark money"? And: There's something creepy about fixing upon and demonizing 2 particular American citizens.

"I don’t care who you are, if you’re African-American in this country, you know what the deal is … the deal that you’re black."

Said Spike Lee, who was asked what he tells his own children about race. It was: "People who get in trouble are the people who forget they’re black."

"If the court puts Texas back under federal preclearance, it will be a victory for Eric Holder and the Department of Justice..."

"... which is using lawsuits in Texas and North Carolina as test cases to try to restore preclearance to those states that seem to be engaging in the most discrimination. The DOJ got lucky to draw as the trial judge in the Texas voter ID case Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, an Obama appointee who drafted a well-reasoned and comprehensive opinion slamming the state of Texas for discriminatory and unconstitutional conduct."

Writes lawprof Richard Hasen at Talking Points Memo.

To you, this may be Halloween.

To me, it was the last day I could win my snow bet with Meade...


... and I won.


October 30, 2014

White tree.


"The men who are sitting in their offices or in cafes watching this video will... be able to comfortably assure themselves that they don’t have time to sit on hydrants..."

"... in the middle of the day and can’t properly pronounce 'mami.' They might do things to women that are worse than catcalling, but this is not their sin." Says Hanna Rosin, analyzing the racial politics of that woman-walking-down-the-street viral video.

"Beyond Taibbi's behavior, whatever it might have been, it really sounds like Omidyar has no idea what he wants to do with the company."

"That really bodes ill for The Intercept."

"Keats said I was right to invite him: due to its glutinous texture, gluey..."

"... lumpishness, hint of slime, and unusual willingness to/disintegrate, oatmeal must never be eaten alone."

"Why Don’t We Eat Swans Anymore?"

"[R]oast swan was a favored dish in the courts of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, particularly when skinned and redressed in its feathers and served with a yellow pepper sauce," writes Monica Kim in Modern Farmer.
Swans have been the property of the Crown since around the twelfth century, but Edward IV’s Act Concerning Swans in 1482 clearly defined that ownership. To this day, Queen Elizabeth II participates in the yearly Swan Upping, in which the royal Swan Master counts and marks swans on the Thames, and the kidnapping and eating of swans can be considered a treasonous crime....

“Nobody has ever requested swan,” says Mark Lahm, chef and owner of Henry’s End in Brooklyn. Lahm’s restaurant is one of the few in New York to focus on wild game and has claimed to serve every meat imaginable: bear, turtle, kangaroo—everything, except swan. “Swan is not an animal that is hunted and besides it has the ‘cute’ factor going for it,” Lahm says. “I cannot imagine it on my menu.”
But there are places in the United States where swans are considered pests, threatening other native species of birds. And the Queen is irrelevant here. Would you eat swan? If you want to know how it tastes, it's "delicious — deep red, lean, lightly gamey, moist, and succulent."

At the Orange Café...


... feel free to talk about whatever subjects I have failed to raise for your commentary thus far today.

And consider doing your Amazon shopping going in through The Althouse Portal.

"10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Man."

"Is Social Psychology Biased Against Republicans?"

Apparently, it is.

"This astonishing photograph shows [9-year-old] Axel Moss cowering in fear..."

"... as the 3-foot tall winged monster lunged towards him."

RELATED: "Maybe the last picture is the first picture and they lost the kid in the shark tank.'/"Only way for the third picture to make sense would be if the wife ate him."

"Nurse Kaci Hickox left her Maine home Thursday morning for a bicycle ride with her boyfriend as police could only watch."

"'It's a beautiful day for a bike ride,' the defiant nurse cheered to assembled reporters as she and Theodore Wilbur wheeled off."
"You could hug me. You could shake my hand. I would not give you Ebola... I’m not willing to stand here and let my civil rights be violated when it’s not science-based... I’m fighting for something much more than myself. There are so many aid workers coming back and it scares me to think of how they are going to be treated, how they are going to feel."

"These women have been treated like cattle."

"They have been subjected to physical and sexual violence, including systematic rape and sex slavery. They've been exposed in markets in Mosul and in Raqqa, Syria, carrying price tags."

"Rather than try to train their provosts and professors to act like prosecutors," colleges are outsourcing their investigation of sexual assault to former prosecutors.

NPR reports:
"The phone starts ringing, you know, the first day after Labor Day, and I sort of joke that I'm like legal 911," Perkins says. The schools are "stressed like you cannot believe," [said Djuna Perkins is a former prosecutor who is now an investigator-for-hire]. They would rather have someone else handle the investigations, she adds, "because they, at a certain point, might feel a little bit out of their element."...
Perkins interrogates the students:
That means asking questions like, "Well, when you did this particular thing was she making pleasurable moans? Was she lifting her pelvis to get clothes off? That all sort of goes into the mix," Perkins explains...

Perkins has had several cases that involved S&M that was at least initially consensual; she says it takes a lot of experience and training to remain consistently fair and nonjudgmental.

"'Cause my real reaction when students are talking about stuff like that — I'm like, 'oh my God, these kids, what are they doing?' " Perkins says with a laugh.

"A 29-year-old terminal cancer sufferer who had previously spoken of her plan to take her life on November 1 has had a change of heart."

"In a video released on Wednesday, Brittany Maynard said she hasn't decided when she'll end her life, but it remains a decision that she's determined to make before getting too ill."

Wisconsin State Journal runs the Trek-fired-Burke story.

The article "Former Trek executive says Mary Burke was forced out in mid-1990s" went up about a half hour ago. Yesterday, we saw this story on a clearly conservative website, and I think it's significant that it has now passed through the journalistic filters of this mainstream newspaper. (For reference: the Wisconsin State Journal endorsed Obama in 2008 and Romney in 2012. It endorsed Walker in 2010.)
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke was forced out of her job at her family’s company, Trek Bicycle, in 1993, a top-ranking company executive at the time said Wednesday. However, Trek CEO John Burke rejected that assertion, saying his sister left on her own and that allegations she was fired are “a highly orchestrated move by Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign.”
What's the evidence of orchestration by the Walker campaign? It's strange to lob an allegation like that as you're trying to cast doubt on another allegation. I haven't seen anything tying the Trek-fired-Burke story to Walker, and considering the years of harassment Walker has received from the John Doe investigation, it's hard to understand why he'd risk engaging in some "highly orchestrated move."

Anyway, the story that appeared in the Wisconsin Reporter was based on allegations from Gary Ellerman, who is the Jefferson County Republican Party chairman and who himself seems to have been fired from Trek. The Wisconsin Reporter has received a $190,000 grant from the Bradley Foundation and the foundations president is Walker’s campaign chairman.

But the Wisconsin State Journal story is based on the statements of Thomas Albers, who worked at Trek from 1982 to 1997 and was chief operating officer and president in the last 4 years of that stint. Albers was responding to questions asked by reporters who were apparently checking out the truth of what Ellerman had said:
“We were losing a significant amount of money,” Albers said. “A lot of the people that reported to her in Europe were threatening to leave because of her management style. She wanted things done her way and people said that she wasn’t listening to them, that she didn’t value their input.”...

Albers, who oversaw finances and manufacturing, said Richard Burke sent him to Europe to evaluate Mary Burke’s performance after John Burke had determined that a change was needed. Albers said he later organized a meeting in Waterloo at which Burke had to explain the company’s poor performance to about 35 executives....
John Burke purports not to remember that meeting, though Albers says he was there. Do Mary and John Burke want to say that Albers is lying? Albers has contributed to Republican candidates, including a paltry $50 to Walker. He left Trek, we're told "on good terms in 1997 to become CEO of Specialized Bicycle Components," and he had something nice to say about Mary Burke: "I’ve always thought she was very bright. She has an outstanding education." But "I just don’t think she was ready for that job in Europe."

ADDED: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had the Trek-fired-Burke story up last night with the headline "Ex-Trek execs with conservative ties say Mary Burke was forced out." The Journal Sentinel ties the story to criticism of Mary Burke's 2-year service as commerce secretary in the Doyle administration. (Jim Doyle, a Democrat, was governor just before Walker.)

Why is the NYT exposing the Democratic Party's pandering to black people?

The top story at its website since last night begins:
In the final days before the election, Democrats in the closest Senate races across the South are turning to racially charged messages — invoking Trayvon Martin’s death, the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and Jim Crow-era segregation — to jolt African-Americans into voting and stop a Republican takeover in Washington....

In North Carolina, the “super PAC” started by Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, ran an ad on black radio that accused the Republican candidate, Thom Tillis, of leading an effort to pass the kind of gun law that “caused the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.”

In Georgia, Democrats are circulating a flier warning that voting is the only way “to prevent another Ferguson.” It shows two black children holding cardboard signs that say “Don’t shoot.”

The messages are coursing through the campaigns like a riptide, powerful and under the surface, largely avoiding television and out of view of white voters. That has led Republicans to accuse Democrats of turning to race-baiting in a desperate bid to win at the polls next Tuesday.
Why would the NYT push what seems to be a Republican talking point? Why would the NYT direct the entire country to look at ads that the Democratic Party supposedly only wants black people to see? It's possible that the NYT is simply following neutral journalistic principles, but I find it hard to believe that, on the eve of the election, the NYT isn't trying to help Democrats.

So the question becomes: How can this exposure of blatant race-baiting be thought to help the Democrats? I'll list all the ideas I can think of right now, and you can help me refine and add to the list and also opine on the soundness of the various listed points. There are 2 aspects to soundness: 1. Whether the proposition is true, and 2. Whether the editors at the NYT believe it.

1. The racial material in the ads is aimed at black voters, but other voters looking on are alerted to their otherwise more marginal concern about racial matters in America, and seeing these materials tips them toward voting Democratic, and therefore it's helpful to give wider exposure to these ads.

2. Race has not been a sufficiently important issue in this election, and nothing is happening right now to drive it forward. The NYT is looking at an array of possibly newsworthy stories with a racial angle, and this was the best one they could find. There's at least some potential to get some candidates talking about Trayvon Martin and Ferguson again.

3. Lure Republicans into talking about race, because you've got to get them talking about race to create the risk that they'll say something stupid about race. Those damned Republicans have been tight-lipped, and this might loosen them up.

4. It's a longer game. The NYT sees this election as a disaster for Democrats, so kick them while they're down, build some semblance of distance, and make that a foundation upon which to build a Democratic victory in 2016.

"Ebola is a lot easier to catch than health officials have admitted..."

"... and can be contracted by contact with a doorknob contaminated by a sneeze from an infected person an hour or more before...."

That article, the top link at Drudge right now, makes the same point I focused on last week in a post titled "Ebola and the wet-dry distinction."

October 29, 2014

At the Larch Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Students Nationwide Carry Mattresses to Protest Campus Rape."

It's the "Carry That Weight" protest.

I presume the name "Carry That Weight" is meant to evoke the Beatles song by that title, which addresses not a female but "Boy." I never really understood why the boy in the song had to carry a weight "a long time" or even what the weight was:
I never give you my pillow
I only send you my invitations
And in the middle of the celebrations
I break down
I guess when you're a Beatle you get invitations that you pass along to boys you don't sleep with. But what are the celebrations in the middle of which you break down if you've given your invitation to somebody else?

Here's what Wikipedia says about the meaning of the song:
Music critic Ian MacDonald interpreted the lyric as an acknowledgment by the group that nothing they would do as individual artists would equal what they had achieved together, and they would always carry the weight of their Beatle past. McCartney said the song was about the Beatles' business difficulties and the atmosphere at Apple at the time. In the film Imagine: John Lennon, Lennon says that McCartney was "singing about all of us."
Ah, well, now the lyric about the struggles of some males who voluntarily joined together, achieved a happy congress, and then felt burdened by the requirements of groupdom has been appropriated by females who agonize over the involuntarily juncture with males and now feel burdened by the aftereffects of something that was never good.

"A new and massive poll of 2,029 18- to 29-year-olds from Harvard’s Institute of Politics just released..."

"... found that of those who say they will 'definitely be voting,' 51 percent want the GOP in charge, 47 percent favoring Democratic control."

Scott Walker opens up a big lead against Mary Burke in the new Marquette University poll.

Suddenly — after tying in the last poll — it's 50% Walker, 43% Burke.
In the new poll, Walker enjoys a significant lead among independents, who have bounced around more than partisan voters in this race. Among likely voters, Walker leads among independents 52% to 37%.

One other shift in the new poll: Burke's personal ratings have worsened, while Walker's haven't changed much.

Among registered voters, 38% view Burke favorably while 45% view her unfavorably. Among likely voters, 39% view her favorably while 49% view her unfavorably.

"It's the first time we've seen her that far upside down or under water on favorability ratings," said poll director Charles Franklin.
What has changed? Well, there were 2 debates. Burke seemed able to stand with equal weight next to Walker. She tended to attack him and call him not good enough, perhaps without explaining what she could do better, and he tended to speak optimistically about accomplishments. Maybe that made a difference. The other thing that changed is that Burke has identified herself strongly with the Obama administration with 2 big appearances alongside Michelle Obama.

It's post-poll, but worth mentioning here that President Obama himself appeared with her yesterday [CORRECTION: I originally thought the appearance was today.]
The event was at North Division High School, in a ward where Obama outpolled Republican Mitt Romney 843 to 5 in the 2012 presidential election, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The somewhat risky bet that Burke is making is that Obama, polarizing as he is, will help turn out Wisconsin’s urban Democratic base for her next Tuesday....

Burke is one of the very few candidates to welcome Obama, whose unpopularity in the polls has made him somewhat of a pariah amongst vulnerable Democrats in tight races. But Wisconsin’s labor-heavy, populist base hasn’t always loved Burke, a millionaire former executive at her family’s company, Trek Bicycle. Thus the gamble with Obama, whose presence risks putting off independent and suburban voters....

“I think it reflects the fact that she’s the candidate of Washington. We’re not bringing Washington surrogates in,” Walker told reporters after an event Tuesday in Wausau.
And I'm a little skeptical of October surprises — why are we getting this one week before the election? — but I feel compelled to acknowledge this new item in Wisconsin Reporter by M.D. Kittle, "Trek sources: Mary Burke’s family fired her for incompetence."
The [European sales staff] threatened to quit if Burke was not removed from her position as director of European Operations, according to Gary Ellerman, who served as Trek’s human resources director for 12 years. His account was confirmed by three other former employees....

A former employee with the company told Wisconsin Reporter that John Burke, Mary’s brother and current Trek president, had to let his sister go. The former employee, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal from the Burke family, said Mary Burke was made to return to Wisconsin and apologize to a group of about 35 Trek executives for her treatment of employees and for the plummeting European bottom line.

Managers in Europe used to call Burke “pit bull on crack” or “Attila the Hun,” one source said.
You know, she could spin that in her favor. Some of us might like a "pit bull on crack" or "Attila the Hun" standing up to the entrenched interest groups here in Wisconsin.
“There is a dark side to Mary that the people at Trek have seen … She can explode on people. She can be the most cruel person you ever met,” said Ellerman, who started a consulting business after he was “asked to leave” Trek in 2004 over a difference in hiring philosophy.
Come on! "She can be the most cruel person you ever met"... that could be a great political slogan.

Anyway, read it yourself and decide what to make of it. I tend to think Walker doesn't need or even want this kind of help. He's avoided attacking Mary, perhaps because he doesn't want to be thought of as the cruelest person, even though many Wisconsinites have wanted to portray him that way. Here's a picture I took during the protests of 2011:


ADDED: Finally, here's the link to the Marquette page. Additional information of interest:

"I'm not sure how long this beating lasted — perhaps an hour, perhaps only 20 minutes. Toward the end..."

"... I heard the leader approach and braced myself for another blow. It didn’t come. Instead, he knelt close to me and whispered in my ear: 'I hate Americans. All of them. I hate you all.' After this, I lost track of time. I dreamed that the fighters were rolling my body in a winding sheet and lashing my ankles together with golden straw. In the days after this dream, I thought, I have seen the winding sheet, so I must be quite far along in the killing process. But every time I asked myself if I was alive or dead, the answer came back, You are most certainly alive. I thought, The custom must be to wrap the corpses in the winding sheets before they are entirely dead. How peculiar. I didn’t know."

From "My Captivity/Theo Padnos, American Journalist, on Being Kidnapped, Tortured and Released in Syria" (in the NYT).

San Diego University students hold a "Shit-In."

"We find that restrooms and lockers rooms are the places where transgender people encounter aggression and micro-aggression... The most important thing is everyone needs a safe place to do their business."

Lawyers for Kaci Hickox — released from New Jersey quarantine to quarantine at home in Maine — say she won't do it.

"She doesn’t want to agree to continue to be confined to a residence beyond the two days," said Steven Hyman of the New York law firm McLaughlin & Stern.
Maine health officials have said they expect Hickox to agree to be quarantined at her home until 21 days have passed since her last potential exposure to the virus. Twenty-one days is the maximum incubation period for the Ebola virus....

Another attorney representing Hickox, New York civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel, said she would contest any potential court order requiring her quarantine at home. “The conditions that the state of Maine is now requiring Kaci to comply with are unconstitutional and illegal and there is no justification for the state of Maine to infringe on her liberty,” he said.
Hickox is certainly advancing the debate about quarantine. Her essay was extremely effective in making New Jersey look oppressive and abusive putting her into custody. She made a lot of people think differently about what's right and wrong, but now she's resisting the home-based quarantine, which seemed to many of us to be a respectful and safe enough middle ground.

But she's stepping it up and demanding more. This empowers those who like the extreme approach of state custody, because you can't trust these health-care workers to sacrifice their self-interests to the public's demand for protection. Those who empathized upon reading the essay of one woman abused by government are unlikely to have such warm feelings in response to the words of a bunch of lawyers expounding legalistically.

ADDED: As a number of commenters are prompting, this story needs to be connected with the news this morning that "The city’s first Ebola patient initially lied to authorities about his travels around the city following his return from treating disease victims in Africa, law-enforcement sources said."
Dr. Craig Spencer at first told officials that he isolated himself in his Harlem apartment — and didn’t admit he rode the subways, dined out and went bowling until cops looked at his MetroCard the sources said.

"About what fraction of your regular readers are male, do you think?"

Asks Bearing in the comments to the previous post. I ramble:
It's really hard to say, because screen names don't always come across as gendered and one might pose as the other sex, and most readers don't comment.

I think readers of political blogs and the large number of readers who've come here by way of Instapundit tend to be male.

I assume the readership here is majority male, though it probably doesn't skew male as much as most political blogs, not that I see this as mainly a political blog.

I think I've been subjected to criticism for years from the feminist blogs, and I'm sure this means that many potential female readers are lost. I'm very familiar with the way people who lean left get the idea that those who don't signal acceptance of their ideology are toxic.
Then I decide to do a poll:

What sex are you? free polls

Althouse, the "big fool"... the "cock-tease"... the "provacateur"... "the intellectual flirt"... the lawprof who reminds men of the "manipulation, deception, or disloyalty in women close to them"...

Last night, I put up a post that started a discussion about why conservatives — or at least the class of conservatives in the Instapundit commentariat — think I'm a big liberal. I joked that these people ought to come to my hometown and workplace, where I am regarded as a big right-winger. I see the consistent theme: I make people feel that I'm not what they are. I trigger the shunning reflex. Or, to put it less self-effacingly: I've hit the contrarian sweet spot.

It was interesting to me to read the comments thread here on my blog, where people tend to write, I think, if they like hanging out, for whatever reason, including the stimulation to disagree with me. But there's one comment I want to single out for separate discussion, because it has 7 itemized ideas, really detailed and insightful ideas that I want to think about and that I thought you might find useful to examine.

This is what Carl Pham wrote in what was the middle of the night here in Madison, Wisconsin:
1. Only some see you as a big liberal, most see you as a big fool, who was conned by Obama and will be conned again, or as a cock-tease who pretends to get the male/conservo-libertarian concerns, but returns privately to predictable female/collectivist tendencies.

2. For a wide swathe of traditional men, the judicial/law professor temperament is distasteful in a woman: it reminds them unpleasantly of manipulation, deception, or disloyalty in women close to them -- one they may have trusted to their regret. Indeed, I would argue it is attractive to a fairly narrow range of men in general (aside from outright betas who agree they need sensitivity training to be aware of when they leave hairs in the bathroom sink and who wouldn't dream of fondling an ass without politely asking permission first). Men don't mind reserve in a woman, but when it starts to seem calculating (which it has to be in the professor/judge role) it tends to trigger unease, ranging to paranoia in some cases.

3. There's tension between your occasional Woman/Womanhood As Victim ruminations and Instapundit's Men/Manhood As Victim ruminations. It's a very unusual person who can be neutral in the ancient battle of the sexes to win the Most Misunderstood And Exploited prize, or even see the merit that there might be in both sides of the endless argument.

4. There's blood in the water. After eight long years of a baffling preference of the majority of their fellow citizens for a smooth-talking prissy sleazebot and mealy-mouthed collectivist nostrums, there's the sense that now the red-blooded God-fearin' straight-shootin' black-coffee-drinkin' American they thought they lived amongst has finally woken up and is about to throw these changelings and cuckoos the hell out -- and the anticipation raises the blood pressure, while the possibility of a slip 'twixt cup and lip jangles the nerves. Result, partisan fervor.

5. Instapundit himself has changed (perhaps partly because of 4 above). There is less moderation and reflection, less non-political stuff, less independent libertarian stuff, and much more reflexive Obama hate.

6. Most bloggers and persistent commentariats tend to fossilize over time (and the comments in that thread are highly stereotyped). I think it's because it's extremely hard after a while for either the principal or the dinner guests to back down from an iffy and misguided thought -- you get savaged. So after time people tend to be less intellectually adventurous and open. This is a well-known effect in business: the larger the meeting, the more fossilized and traditional the positions. You only really get true experimentation and adventure in the ideas people express when the discussion is small, intimate, and private -- three adjectives that cannot possibly describe public blogging and commenting.

7. You also have a streak of provacateur or the intellectual flirt: you say things sometimes just (or mostly just) to provoke reaction and hot discussion. That makes all kinds of sense in your profession, of course. But, again, in a woman it can make many men uneasy -- few like a tease, which is kind of what this is.

October 28, 2014

Man, these people need to come to Madison and do PR for me.

The commentariat at Instapundit seems to view me as a big liberal, itching to vote for Hillary.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lots of interesting stuff, but I'm going to frontpage Carl Pham, who put up a very substantive 7-point analysis at 3:39 AM (not that he's necessarily in the Central Time Zone). I wasn't through point #2 when I decided I wanted to put this up for more detailed discussion. In fact, I'm going to make this a new post. Hang on.

Photographing colors.




"The French minister for culture has caused a stir by revealing she hasn't read a single novel in two years."

"In the interview on a Sunday evening television show, [Fleur] Pellerin said she had enjoyed a 'wonderful lunch' with [Patrick] Modiano after he was named this year's winner of the Nobel Literature Prize."
But she admitted she couldn't say which of his titles she preferred because she hadn't had time to read his books - or indeed any others - since taking up a ministerial post two years ago.

"I admit without any problem that I have had no time to read over the past two years," she said, adding: "I read a lot of notes, and legislative documents. I read a lot of news. But I read [for pleasure] very little."
MORE: At the NYT:
At the French site of The Huffington Post, Claude Askolovitch, a writer, said... “Barbarism is here.... If one can be culture minister without reading, then we are mere technocrats and budgeters." He chided her for prioritizing the reading of ministerial memos over the uplift provided by great literary works....

“One can salute her frankness, understanding that the life of a minister leaves little time for the calm required for reading, and even salute the spontaneity of Fleur Pellerin,” noted an article in Le Point titled “Fleur Pellerin hasn’t read Modiano! So what?”...
Are we supposed to read novels? It used to seem so. Does it still?

"When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything."

"But that is not so... He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfilment. The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it. Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve."

Said Pope Francis.

Walking while female... in New York City.

Via Metafilter, where somebody says:
God so many people who I generally respect or like are trying to pick this apart or go "oh so I'm not supposed to talk to people on the street? Ok" on social media and it just makes me want to delete them all from reality.

"Over the years, Obama administration officials have described Netanyahu to me as recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and 'Aspergery.'"

"(These are verbatim descriptions; I keep a running list.) But I had not previously heard Netanyahu described as a 'chickenshit.'"

From a Jeffrey Goldberg article in The Atlantic titled "The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations Is Officially Here." Subtitle: "The Obama administration's anger is 'red-hot' over Israel's settlement policies, and the Netanyahu government openly expresses contempt for Obama's understanding of the Middle East. Profound changes in the relationship may be coming."

On the boardwalk...


... through a boggy part of the UW Arb.

"I waited 14 years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day."

Says Alexis Wiggins, who has 3 big observations:
Students sit all day, and sitting is exhausting....

High school students are sitting passively and listening during approximately 90 percent of their classes....

You feel a little bit like a nuisance all day long. I lost count of how many times we were told be quiet and pay attention.... In addition, there was a good deal of sarcasm and snark directed at students.... Of course it feels ridiculous [to the teacher] to have to explain the same thing five times, but suddenly, when I was the one taking the tests, I was stressed. I was anxious. I had questions. And if the person teaching answered those questions by rolling their eyes at me, I would never want to ask another question again. I feel a great deal more empathy for students after shadowing, and I realize that sarcasm, impatience, and annoyance are a way of creating a barrier between me and them. They do not help learning.

The life of a censor is not easy.

Pity the poor Facebook/Twitter/YouTube censor.
For the first few months, Rob didn’t mind his job moderating videos at YouTube’s headquarters in San Bruno. His coworkers were mostly new graduates like himself, many of them liberal arts majors.... But as months dragged on, the rough stuff began to take a toll. The worst was the gore: brutal street fights, animal torture, suicide bombings, decapitations, and horrific traffic accidents...

"It is a misunderstanding of freedom... to suppose that choice is not free when the objects between which the chooser must choose are not equally attractive to him."

"It would mean that a person was not exercising his free will when in response to the question whether he preferred vanilla or chocolate ice cream he said vanilla, because it was the only honest answer that he could have given and therefore 'he had no choice.'"

Wrote Judge Posner (in a 2003 case that comes up in my Religion and the Constitution class).

"The GOP's Giddiness Over Hillary Clinton's Jobs 'Gaffe' Will Backfire."

That's the title of a New Republic article by Brian Beutler, and I'm sure it makes some liberal-lefty readers feel good, but a competent consumer of propaganda begins with a thought like: So I guess Democrats are terrified that Hillary's pandering to the you-didn't-build that crowd is going to destroy her.

How can Beutler purport to predict that this sound bite cannot be exploited without backfiring? The Democrats won the last presidential election by exploiting one awkward thing Mitt Romney said.

Beutler doesn't mention that, but he makes much of the Republicans' use of Obama's "you didn’t build that" remark, which didn't prevent him from winning in 2012. 
[I]n hindsight, many conservatives acknowledged that the GOP’s obsession with that gaffe revealed more damaging truths about the Republican Party than the gaffe itself revealed about Obama.

“One after another, [Republican businessowners] talked about the business they had built. But not a single—not a single—factory worker went out there,” Rick Santorum told activists at the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference last year. “Not a single janitor, waitress or person who worked in that company! We didn’t care about them. You know what? They built that company too! And we should have had them on that stage.”

The fixation on [Hillary's] gaffe foreshadows another Republican presidential campaign centered on the preeminence of the entrepreneur, to the exclusion of the wage worker and the trade unionist and the jobless.
"Gaffe" is not the right word. The point isn't: Ha ha, you made a ridiculous mistake. It's: You said what you really think in a revealing way and we're going to use that against you. That's obviously part of American politics, and in 2012, both the 47% thing and "You didn't build that" were revealing and useful. Both were used, and if Obama won, I doubt that it's because the Republicans shouldn't have exploited "You didn't build that." It's more likely that Democrats (and their media friends) jumped on the 47% remark and used it ruthlessly.

The trick is to use these revealing statements well. It would be foolish for Republicans to take the advice to leave the Democrats' overly leftist lines alone. If it's good advice, you'd have to believe that Democrats would leave the Republicans' overly right-wing lines alone. Who believes that?

"I’ve been gluten-free these last four years, and it has changed my life.... I would have headaches, nausea, trouble sleeping."

"I know that I’m intolerant because I gave it up and I felt better. That explanation is probably not scientific enough for you. But I know how I felt, how I feel, and what I did to make it change."

A quote in the new New Yorker article about the gluten-free craze by Michael Specter. Read the whole thing. Here's the last paragraph:
I have returned to baking whole-wheat bread the way it is supposed to be made: water, yeast, flour, and salt. I will try to live without the magic wand. But I am certainly not going to live without gluten. That just seems silly.
And by the way, I love the line "I know that I’m intolerant because I gave it up and I felt better" because it's funny to think of it out of context. Think of all the things one might say that about and how wrong you could be. Feel free to write a novel with that as a title. 

"Republicans enter the final week of the midterm campaign holding higher ground than the Democrats..."

"... aided by public dissatisfaction with President Obama’s leadership, with the overall direction of the country and with the federal government’s ability to deal with major problems, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll."
Driving attitudes is a pervasive sense of a country in trouble. Overwhelming majorities say the country is badly off-track and give the economy negative ratings. Economic expectations are little better today than they were at this time four years ago.

"Justice Clarence Thomas, who has not asked a question from the Supreme Court bench since 2006, was expansive and gregarious."

"Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who can appear a little dour during arguments, revealed a lively wit. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said she was working to temper a combative questioning style 'that has held me in bad stead.'"

So begins Adam Liptak's NYT article "Three Supreme Court Justices Return to Yale."
Justice Thomas... He acknowledged being a “cynical and negative” law student, blaming immaturity and the unsettled political climate of the early 1970s. “I cannot say we were thinking straight about a lot of things, even if we were not using illegal substances,” he said. “I wish I came here at a time when I could have been more positive.... There is so much here that I walked right by.”...

The justices were questioned by Kate Stith, a law professor at Yale. She asked Justice Alito what he had been reading. “I have two books that are inspirational,” he responded. “I keep them on a table by my bed, and I try to read a little bit of them every night. It’s ‘My Grandfather’s Son’ and ‘My Beloved World.’ ”
Alito is hilarious. There's also this:
Justice Sotomayor cited two reasons for the court’s reluctance to use technology [to communicate with each other]. One was tradition. “The other,” she said of some of her colleagues, “is they don’t know how.”

And the décor is from another era. “We still have spittoons by our seats,” Justice Alito said.
I assumed that was a punchline from Alito, but Liptak signals that it's literally true that there are spittoons. It's still a humorous line, but less funny — less funny of Alito if there really are spittoons,* even though making the observations at that point is a concise, amusing way to say the Court is old-fashioned. And since it's funny if they have spittoons, the sum total of funniness is at least as good as if Alito made it up.

Liptak continues with a Thomas quote, introduced with a Liptak sentence about how to understand the state of mind it reflects:
Justice Thomas said he was content with the way things are. “I like formality,” he said.
I could think of some other ways to interpret those 3 words and don't like being told to think of Justice Thomas as complacent and stiff. A person might like formality without being content with the way things are. A preference for formality can arise out of discomfort and mistrust.** What kind of person shies away from free-wheeling banter and wants things put in writing?


* There are real spittoons: "Each [Justice] has... a spittoon. The spittoons serve as wastebaskets. The last time a justice used a spittoon for its intended purpose was in the early 20th century."

** There is Critical Race Theory scholarship connecting a preference for formality to race. Citation to come.

ADDED: Here's what I was looking for, Patricia J. Williams, "The Alchemy of Race and Rights," Chapter 8, "The Pain of Word Bondage." Williams describes the willingness of her colleague Peter  to rent an apartment with no written agreement, to hand over a $900 cash deposit to strangers without even getting the keys. She, a black, female law professor, said:
… I was raised to be acutely conscious of the likelihood that no matter what degree of professional I am, people will greet and dismiss my black femaleness as unreliable, untrustworthy, hostile, angry, powerless, irrational, and probably destitute. Futility and despair are very real parts of my response. So it helps me to clarify boundary; to show that I can speak the language of lease is my way of enhancing trust in me in my business affairs. As black, I have been given by this society a strong sense of myself as already too familiar, personal, subordinate to white people. I am still evolving from being treated as three-fifths of a human, a subpart of the white estate. I grew up in a neighborhood where landlords would not sign leases with their poor black tenants, and demanded that the rent be paid in cash; although superficially resembling Peter's transactions, such informality in most white-on-black situations signals distrust, not trust. Unlike Peter, I am still engaged in the struggle to set up transactions at arm's length, as legitimately commercial, and to portray myself as a bargainer of separate worth, distinct power, sufficient rights to manipulate commerce.

Peter, I speculate, would say that a lease or any other formal mechanism would introduce distrust into his relationships and he would suffer alienation, leading to the commodification of his being and the degradation of his person to property. For me, in contrast, the lack of formal relation to the other would leave me estranged. It would risk figurative isolation from that creative commerce by which I may be recognized as whole, by which I may feed and clothe and shelter myself, by which I may be seen as equal — even if I am a stranger. For me, stranger-stranger relations are better than stranger-chattel.

October 27, 2014

Hillary Clinton explains her strange statement: "Don’t let anybody tell you that corporations and businesses create jobs."

"I short-handed this point the other day, so let me be absolutely clear about what I’ve been saying for a couple of decades."

Like it's our fault we don't know what she meant. How many times does she have to tell us? She's been talking so long — for a couple of decades — that we ought to know everything she has to say. We should be completing sentences for her... like a doting, faithful old husband.

"The idea that a New York teen-ager in 1981 would turn to Bob Dylan — after Dylan had turned to Jesus — rather than to rap or hardcore punk, was illogical."

"The only Dylan song I liked was Jimi Hendrix’s version of 'All Along the Watchtower,' and even that was stuffed with clunky Biblical references to princes and thieves. Dylan seemed like a square or a failed hippie, and I found both equally hard to take. During the next two decades, playing in bands and obsessing over records, I felt my ignorance of Dylan moving up to the front of my brain. I had, most likely, been put off by the idea of absorbing an enormous catalogue and interacting with an enormous fan base, any member of which would happily fill me in if I didn’t immediately offer up that, yes, he was born with the last name of Zimmerman and grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota. I suspect that this is how gaps in taste often work: even when we are old enough to know better, we dodge certain artists because we sense that engaging with them will be like signing up for a crash course. Where to start with Milton? Is this the year for Henry James?"

From a Sasha Frere-Jones piece about The Basement Tapes in The New Yorker. Frere-Jones was 14 in 1981.

"President Barack Obama is making a rare appearance on the campaign trail just one week before Election Day in an effort to help a Democratic challenger oust Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker from office."

"Obama will appear at a high school in Milwaukee, the state's largest city and a Democratic stronghold," AP reports.
[Mary] Burke must win big there and in similarly liberal Madison to counter Walker's support among Republicans in the conservative Milwaukee suburbs and in rural areas....

"They're trying to drive up turnout figuring they're not having much impact of convincing any more persuadable independent voters and it's more about turnout," Walker said. Walker, who launched a bus tour Saturday for the final 10 days of the race, said he was trying to compete for undecided voters all across the state.
And here's a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article where the money has come from. Excerpt:
"We have a score to settle with Scott Walker," AFSCME President Lee Saunders told The Washington Post on Sept. 10... Eight days later... AFSCME dumped $1.1 million into the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund, a liberal Madison-based, tax-exempt outfit that has been pummeling Walker with TV ads this year, according to newly released federal records.

The D.C. union was not alone. New state records show Greater Wisconsin's political action committee received just under $1.3 million from the Wisconsin Education Association Council — the state teachers union — in early August. WEAC has, in general, kept a low profile so far in this election....

Very red sumac.

On Picnic Point today in the late afternoon:


Meade took over the camera and kept me under surveillance:


But I got it back in time to get this shot:


That's the sumac on the right, its redness turned dingy under the dimming sky.

Was the whip inflation now button designed by the person who designed the smiley face?

A question I'm asking now because I'm reading the book review that's the first thing that comes up in a Google search when you ask that question.
Leave it to [Rick Perlstein, author of "The Invisible Bridge"] to note that the WIN buttons peddled by Ford to promote a desperate “Whip Inflation Now” campaign were “designed by the same guy who invented the yellow ‘smiley face.’ ”
I'm not believing that. What guy are we talking about? I thought the origins of the smiley face were shrouded in mystery. Speaking of "shrouded,"  I think the origins of the smiley face are as shrouded in mystery as the Shroud of Turin.

Here's the relevant passage from Perlstein's book:
The White House had approached a Madison Avenue advertising agency...
Would it kill him to name the ad agency?
... which came up with the slogan: Whip Inflation Now. WIN. Forty-two minutes into the address Ford explained how "a very simple enlistment form" would appear in the next day's newspapers. At that, the president pointed out in his lapel, next to his red-white-and-blue tie, the snazzy little button designed by the same guy who invented the yellow "smiley face." 
What guy?

"The Russian government has blacklisted the California-based Wayback Machine, a comprehensive archive of the Internet..."

"... over an Islamist video available on the website."
The video, called "The Clang of Swords," by the notorious terrorist group Islamic State, was declared extremist by a court in Russia's southern Stavropol region in July.

The state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said on its website Friday that it had found 400 online copies of the video and requested their removal.

A handful of sites, including Wayback Machine's domain, did not comply, leading to their blacklisting.
I'm impressed that the Wayback Machine lasted as long as it did. I'm sure it gets you too all sorts of things the Russian government would prefer its people not to read.

In other freedom-of-speech news from the Moscow Times:
A notoriously outspoken Russian actor and former Orthodox priest who suggested last week that Ebola victims were coming back from the dead as zombies has been banned from entering Latvia over earlier incendiary comments he made about gay people.

In December 2013, [Ivan] Okhlobystin said that all homosexuals should be burned alive because they represent a "living danger" to his children. 
So his comments were literally incendiary.
Last week he suggested that some victims of the Ebola virus were turning into zombies, explaining that he had heard of many cases in which those who died from the virus were mysteriously resurrected several days later. In case there was any doubt, the actor added that he "was not joking" and that he had purchased a crossbow, "just in case."
A crossbow? On a zombie? Does that even work?

"You never know what may happen. That young man was here two weeks ago..."

"... and now he has just died in an accident. It's so sad. I still can't believe it happened."

Goodbye to Oscar Taveras.
Taveras, one of the game's elite prospects, had belted a tying home run in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, the only game the Cardinals won before being vanquished by the Giants in five.
ADDED: I was alerted to this news by Clyde in the comments on last night's open thread. He wrote:
St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, 22, and his 18-year-old girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo, died in a car wreck yesterday in the Dominican Republic. Taveras was a talented young player and one of baseball's top prospects.

It just goes to show the fragility of life, and the role that circumstance often plays in people's fates. Often a split second can be the difference between a narrow escape and becoming a statistic. Recently, my brother's girlfriend's car was totaled when she was out driving and an old metal pole blew over and landed on the hood of her car, just missing the windshield. She wasn't seriously hurt, fortunately, but it was a close thing. Had she driven past that spot a second earlier or later and her car wouldn't have been hit at all. A split second later and it might have landed on the windshield or squarely on the roof, which would have been much worse.

In Oscar Taveras' case, it's not difficult to imagine circumstances where he would have been far away from the Dominican yesterday: Had the Cardinals won the NLCS rather than the Giants, Taveras would have been in St. Louis last night for Game 5 of the World Series, assuming the Series went five games, of course; but even if it had been a four-game sweep, he likely would have still been in St. Louis on Sunday, cleaning out his locker, etc. While the Giants won the NLCS in five games, in an alternative universe, it could easily have gone another way. In that alternative universe, Taveras might have had a long and productive major league career and lived a long life. Sadly, in this universe, he and his girlfriend are dead at tragically young ages.

"Is the name kaffir lime racist?"

We buy a lot of limes, because Meade makes limeade just about every day. If you've read this blog for a long time and also have a long memory, you may remember when Meade was only a commenter here, and his screen name included his first initial, so that it was l.meade, and that looked like "limeade" with the bottom two thirds of the "i" dropped out.

We tend to food-shop at Whole Foods, where there can be a choice of different limes — the limes that look like green lemons, the darker rounder sort of lime, key limes. I don't really keep track, because without a sense of smell, the basic tastes are exposed in raw form, and sourness is the worst. Imagine what a lime would be like if you couldn't smell it. I'll tell you, in a word: bad. To me, limeade is a way to take a glass of water and cause it to need a whole lot of sweetener to make it drinkable. And then Meade's sweetener of choice is stevia. What the hell! "Here's What The Stevia Sweetener Really Is — And Why Some People Think It Tastes Bad." I'm one of those people. So Meade's drink of choice is a horror to me.

Yesterday, at Whole Foods, we saw a type of lime we'd never noticed before. It was small and warty and twice as expensive as those other limes. What are "kaffir limes"? There must be some reason people want to pay double for something uglier, though perhaps it's a trick to make nitwit shoppers assume it must be great, because it's twice the price and weird-looking. That might be one dimension of the Whole Foods scheme to manipulate consumer psychology — along with friendly staff, happy butchers, vast variety in chosen places (notably, cheese), godforsaken aisles of questionable curatives, magazines at the checkout point that signal lightweight spirituality and moderate athleticism, and puzzling racks of canvas slip-on shoes and flimsy, cottony shirts and leggings.

We were told kaffir limes might have something to do with Thai cooking, and we declined the produce person's offer to slice one of those things in half right now and give us a sample, which seemed frightening both because of the small machete she brandished and because of the sourness of lime in unadulterated form. I said we'd look it up on the internet.

So, I'm looking it up and the first thing I find is a Slate article: "Is the Name Kaffir Lime Racist?" The short answer is that although the word is a racist slur in South Africa, the use as the name of those limes seems to have arrived in English by a different route:
As the Oxford English Dictionary points out, Scottish botanist H.F. Macmillan used the term in his 1910 Handbook of Tropical Gardening and Planting to refer to a lime found in Sri Lanka, the home of the ethnic group that refer to themselves proudly as the Kaffirs. Macmillan lived there for 30 years, and it was there that he wrote his botanical handbook. It is difficult to say how he, and the other people he heard using the term kaffir lime, understood the connotation of the word, but it seems at least possible that the name began innocuously....

University of California researcher David Karp has alerted me to an even earlier published instance of the name kaffir lime than H.F. Macmillan’s: In The Cultivated Oranges, Lemons Etc. of India and Ceylon, published in 1888, author Emanuel Bonavia briefly mentions the fruit, noting, “Europeans call it Caffre-lime.”...

Karp and his colleague Cara De Silva have posited a different explanation for the name, speculating in 1998 in the food journal Petits Propos Culinaires, “Indian Muslims most likely encountered the fruit as an import from lands such as Thailand and Sri Lanka, where Buddhists and other non-Muslims predominated. ... From this Indian usage, intended to convey otherness and exotic provenance, the term passed into English.” This theory suggests that the name’s roots lie closer to the original Arabic meaning of kafir than to the 20th-century racial slur, although of course the term’s potentially benign origins don’t invalidate modern-day concerns about the word’s offensiveness.
It seems to me that if you have a product with a name that some people will experience as offensive, you might want to change the name, even though there's a pleasant-enough explanation. (See: Pee Cola and Barf dishwashing detergent.)

But in the case of kaffir limes, the explanation is not all that pleasant. It's old-fashioned othering. I thought we were eschewing that too. And by we, I mean, we, the kind of people who shop at Whole Foods.