November 22, 2014

At the Constraints of November Café...


... this tablescape expresses the smallness of my perspective over the past week.

ADDED: Go Badgers.

FBI sting leads to the arrest of 2 men "described as reputed members of a militant group called the New Black Panther Party" suspected of buying explosives...

... which they were said to be planning to use in the protests that are expected to follow the announcement of the grand jury's decision in Ferguson, Missouri. 

"A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly..."

"... in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees."
Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.


8 posts before dawn.

It's one of those mornings! And, strangely enough, I got plenty of sleep last night. If "last" is the right word. The night is just ending.

IN THE COMMENTS: David invites us to commemorate the JFK assassination, and I reject the invitation.

What's wrong with this picture?

"If you’re not British, Labour politician Emily Thornberry’s resignation for posting a tweet of a house, some flags and a van may seem baffling. Here’s why it happened."

"Almost every time I’ve talked to a reporter has gone this way: they had already decided the narrative beforehand."

"I’m never being asked for information — I’m being used for quotes to back up their predetermined story, regardless of whether it’s true. (Consider this when you read the news.) Misquotes usually aren’t mistakes — they’re edited, consciously or not, to say what the reporter needs them to say."

Writes Marco Ament, with a vivid example of a NYT reporter working on a story about hipsters moving to Hastings on Hudson. The story became "Creating Hipsturbia." And Ament says: "The article, which was mostly bullshit, is slowly making itself more true. And our town is doing very well from it."

The town made the news ≈ the news made the town.

Hazing and hunting on the Supreme Court.

"They hazed me, this is true," Elena Kagan said. They made her head of cafeteria committee:
"It's not a very good cafeteria, so this is really just the opportunity they have to kind of haze you all the time. Like, 'Argh, you know, Elena, this food isn't very good.' "
And it's her job, as the Justice with the least seniority to take note and open the door when someone knocks:
"I take notes as the Junior Justice … and answer the door when there's a knock. Literally, if there's a knock on the door and I don't hear it, there will not be a single other person who will move. They'll all just stare at me. You might ask, Who comes to the door? Well, it's knock, knock, 'Justice X forgot his glasses.' And knock, knock, 'Justice Y forgot her coffee.' There I am hopping up and down. That's a form of hazing, right?"
Kagan also describes going hunting with Justice Scalia several times a year:
"I do like it... I'm a competitive person. You know, you put a gun in my hand and say the object is to shoot something, I'm like, 'All right! Let's do it!'"

There's some evidence that birth control pills mute a woman's natural urge toward a man who is "objectively good-looking... by evolutionary standards."

They took 2 sets of women who were on birth control pills when they chose their male partners. Group 1 had objectively good-looking men, and Group 2 had objectively not-so-good-looking men. They stopped the birth control pills, and supposedly the women in Group 2 became less attracted to the men, but the women in Group 1 did not.

If this is true... then what? My thoughts flowed in this order:

1. So this is the real force behind the push for birth control — to serve the interests of unattractive men.

2. Do these men realize the stake they have in getting and keeping women on the pill or are they bellyaching that women are getting a benefit and men are not?

3. Should women want to take the pill so they can enlarge the group of potential sexual partners or should they want to stay off the pill so their natural urges remain intact?

4. Attractiveness in the evolutionary sense is a bit irrelevant under the conditions of the modern world, so it might be personally advantageous to strip this distraction away from the process of mate-selection.

5. It's horrible to use pills to change something so fundamental to one's being, and yet people take all sorts of pills that restructure their mind.

6. Natural hormones restructure your mind over time. Would my thoughts have flowed out in this order if I were 40 or 30 or 20? 

How Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush talked about illegal immigration in April 1980.

Via Reason, this is from the debate before the Texas primary, answering a question from an audience member about whether "the children of illegal aliens should be allowed to attend Texas public schools free":

Transcript at the link. I was struck — perhaps because I'm also in the middle of reading "41: A Portrait of My Father" — by Bush's spontaneous and a bit awkward expression of empathy:
... we're creating a whole society of really honorable, decent, family-loving people that are in violation of the law.... If they're living here, I don't want to see...six- and eight-year-old kids being made, one, totally uneducated, and made to feel like they're living outside the law.... These are good people, strong people. Part of my family is Mexican.
This education issue doesn't come up anymore, because —2 years after that debate — the Supreme Court determined that it violated Equal Protection to exclude these children from school. Reagan's contribution ignores the school question and stresses the need for work permits:
Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don't we work out some recognition of our mutual problems? Make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit, and then, while they're working and earning here, they'd pay taxes here. And when they want to go back, they can go back. They can cross. Open the borders both ways.

"To the extent that large-scale use of prosecutorial discretion is ever appropriate, it is surely so..."

"... in the case of helping people whose only violation of the law is fleeing poverty and oppression under terrible Third World governments. Few other offenders have such a compelling moral justification for breaking the law. I strongly support the legalization of marijuana and the abolition of the War on Drugs more generally. But illegal immigrants violating the law to escape Third World conditions are considerably more deserving of our compassion than college students violating it to experiment with marijuana or other illegal drugs. If exemption from prosecution is acceptable for the latter, it should be permitted for the former too."

Writes Ilya Somin in "Obama, immigration, and the rule of law."

"Do you not see that so long as society says a woman is incompetent to be a lawyer, minister, or doctor, but has ample ability to be a teacher, that every man of you who chooses this profession tacitly acknowledges that he has no more brains than a woman?"

A quote from 1853 (from Susan B. Anthony) that appears in a NYRB piece by Jonathan Zimmerman titled "Why Is American Teaching So Bad?"

Here's the second-to-last paragraph:
Indeed, the biggest insult to the intelligence of American teachers is the idea that their intelligence doesn’t matter. “The teaching of A, B, C, and the multiplication table has no quality of sacredness in it,” Horace Mann said in 1839. Instead of focusing on students’ mental skills, Mann urged, teachers should promote “good-will towards men” and “reverence to God.” Teachers need to be good, more than they need to be smart; their job is to nurture souls, not minds. So Garret Keizer’s first supervisor worried that he might have too many grades of A on his college transcript to succeed as a high school teacher, and Elizabeth Green concludes her otherwise skeptical book with the much-heard platitude that teachers need to “love” their students.
Garret Keizer is the author of "Getting Schooled: The Reeducation of an American Teacher," and Elizabeth Green is the author of "Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone)."

November 21, 2014

"A hospital in eastern China offers fathers-to-be a chance to experience the pain of childbirth using pads that induce an electric shock."

"Free sessions are held twice a week at Aima maternity hospital in Shandong province, and about 100 men have signed up. Pads attached to a device are placed above the abdomen, giving electric shocks that induce pain."

"The Mystery of Why This Dangerous Sand Dune Swallowed a Boy.

"When a boy suddenly disappeared into a sand dune, a scientist embarked on a quest to find out where he went."

Title and subtitle of an article in Smithsonian Magazine. It's an interesting story, even though I don't think the dune "swallowed" the boy. According to his friend, the only other person who saw what happened, the boy saw a hole in the sand and climbed down into it.
When the fathers turned around, there was no sign of Nathan—just a round, 12-inch-diameter hole in the sand. Keith, tall and beanpole thin, lay across the sand and reached into the hole.

“I’m scared,” came the boy’s voice from somewhere in the darkness....

The men dug furiously, confident they’d soon feel Nathan’s hand or head. But within minutes, sand was sloughing into the hole from every direction.

"We must reclaim and retake feminism from our fellow idiotic women."

Said Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
"... I condemn whole-heartedly the trivial bullshit it is to go after a man who makes a scientific breakthrough and all that we as women — organized women — do is to fret about his shirt?"
Was #shirtstorm organized?

ADDED: I have a few problems with Hirsi Ali's statement: 1. She portrays the various individual reactions to Matt Taylor's shirt as the work of an organized collective, but that's not so. 2. There's nothing wrong with taking a shot at a small problem even though there are larger problems. 3. The women who choose to do the kind of culture critique that was aimed at the shirt are not idiots, nor is fretting about the shirt all they do. 4. Those who decided to go after the women who went after Matt Taylor were themselves guilty of taking something small and inflating it beyond all proportion. That said, I do agree that much of feminism seen on the web these days is predictable, safe writing that feels as though it came from a college course on feminism.

"Undercutting the president’s staff at a time of transition to a new majority is pretty outrageous."

"For Krone to do this and there’s no retribution? Unbelievable."

Said William M. Daley, Obama's former chief of staff, commenting on Harry Reid's top aide, David Krone, in the NYT article "Reid Unapologetic as Aide Steps on Toes, Including Obama’s."
Mr. Krone said he was simply protecting Mr. Reid. A few days before the midterm elections, he said, he was hearing from reporters that the White House was blaming the legislative strategy devised by him and Mr. Reid for the party’s lousy electoral prospects. “I’m going to go meet with these reporters,” Mr. Krone recalled telling Mr. Reid. “And he’s, like, ‘O.K.’ ”....

Wall Is Over.

"For years, Prague's Lennon Wall was a vibrant rainbow in the city, attracting artists and tourists alike with its prismatic graffiti. But on November 17, the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution that peacefully ousted Communism from Czechoslovakia, Prague residents woke up to a very different Lennon Wall than the one they had known since 1980—a completely white space, with years of artwork painted over save for bold black text proclaiming, 'Wall Is Over!'"

And then what happened?

And here's the official video for the John Lennon song "War Is Over":

"You're looking at them? Well, they're looking at you."

#57 in a set of 57 drawings — with captions — by women of their own breasts.

Explanation of the project (in New York Magazine) here. From the comments: "Should do this for guys and their dongs."

Mattel apologizes for its book "Barbie I Can Be A Computer Engineer."

"The portrayal of Barbie in this specific story doesn’t reflect the brand’s vision for what Barbie stands for."

What was so terrible? Pamela Ribon unleashed the critique here.
Despite having ruined her own laptop, her sister’s laptop, and the library’s computers, not to mention Steven and Brian’s afternoon, she takes full credit for her game design– only to get extra credit and decide she’s an awesome computer engineer! “I did it all by myself!”

A few thoughts on reading the transcript of the President's immigration speech.

1. What, if anything, is really changing? Here's the deal:
If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes – you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily...
You have to register and the protection from deportation is only temporary? Who even wants this deal? The alternative is to continue as before, knowing that the government lacks the resources and will to deport you as long as you don't commit a crime other than the violation of immigration law. We, the citizens of the United States of America, are urged to picture this as "living in the shadows." But that "shadows" rhetoric — which appears 4 times in the speech — is aimed at us citizens. And I'm trying to think of a comparably dramatic replacement for "if you register." The word "register" appears in the speech once. Isn't there something ominous and oppressive about a government registry?

2. Overstated reactions to Obama's announcement of his pragmatic continuation of immigration enforcement make his opponents look extreme, and I think that was the idea. Didn't his party lose the elections earlier this month because the GOP had managed to mute its immoderate voices? The Democratic Party needs the Tea Party/Ted Cruz element to speak up, and Obama's speech built a nice stage upon which they can strut, declaim, and chew scenery.

3. Obama got to sound elevated and aspirational: "[O]ur tradition of welcoming immigrants... [has] kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial... And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like..."

4. The speech is studded with conservative themes — not rewarding bad behavior, requiring people to take responsibility, keeping families together: Give people who want to "play by the rules" a way to "embrace... responsibilities."

5. On mentioning law, Obama proceeds to a double sleight of hand. Obama presents his independent action as a last resort, a temporary fix, while he waits on needed congressional action:
But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President – the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me.
Almost immediately after that statement, he intones the big generality "we are... a nation of laws," but that does not come in the context of explaining how he himself is following law that binds him. It's about the problem that "Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable – especially those who may be dangerous." See the 2 moves in that sleight of hand? First, he shifted away from presidential power to the law that the "undocumented workers" are violating, and second, he broke that group in two, separating the whole law-violating category into those who are only violating immigration law and those who are "dangerous" for some other reason. The next bit is:
That’s why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mother who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day. 
So, those law-violating people who are not "dangerous" are completely good people who deserve our compassion. How does that fit with the idea that "they must be held accountable"? We're supposed to lose track of who's supposed to be held accountable and think that only the dangerous subgroup needs to be held to account.

6. Does the President ever return to the topic of his legal authority? No, but he does seem to refer back to the (nonexistent!) place in the speech that maybe listeners will blame themselves for forgetting:
The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century. 
Now, there is a legal argument for presidential power that is premised on "a systematic, unbroken, executive practice, long pursued to the knowledge of the Congress and never before questioned, engaged in by Presidents who have also sworn to uphold the Constitution." (That's a quote — from the famous steel seizure case — that I discussed here a few days ago). But Obama doesn't say he's using that argument. He doesn't say "The actions I’m taking are lawful because they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century." He says "not only" are his actions lawful, but they are also the kinds of actions that other Presidents have taken. The past practice of other Presidents comes as a reason to be persuaded that it's a good, practical, not immoderate policy.

7. Do past presidential actions establish either the legal authority or the good politics and policy of the President's proposed actions? I don't know! Obama only states a conclusion that there are all these other examples of the same kind of thing, but to assess any legal/political argument he might intend to be making, we'd need to study each example and make a sound judgment about whether it's parallel to what Obama is doing now. Let's say you buy into the proposition in that quote (in point #6) from the steel seizure case. That quote is from Felix Frankfurter's concurring opinion, and he took the trouble to examine past actions and decided that — other than 3 things FDR did in 1941 — they were not comparable.

8. Obama seems to claim a power to do what must be done even in a nonemergency.
And to those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.
First, we — and he — should always question a government official's authority, and it's absurd to accept the idea that Congress's only way to object to the abuse of power is through the passage of a law. Second, Obama's claim of power doesn't include the premise that we are in a position where it is necessary for action to be taken. He just wants "to make our immigration system work better"! That doesn't sound like an emergency, just a policy tweaking. And, as I said in point #1, I don't see how what he's doing changes things that much, not enough to be characterized as a fix to get us through an emergency until Congress gets its gears in motion. If I'm wrong, and Obama is doing a lot, creating a substantial new policy, that weakens his argument for legal power. But if I'm right, and he's not doing much, then what's all the prime-time to-do about? For an answer to that question, please refer to point #2.

9. He acknowledges the objections of some Americans, then insults them: "... I understand the disagreements held by many of you at home," but this is "about who we are as a country." You people are not who we are.

10. Religion! "Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too." What scripture is that? I assume it's Matthew 25:35-40.

I missed the speech last night, and I'd actually wanted to watch it.

I was sitting in a chair right in front of the TV, and the TV was on (with the sound off), and we were ready to unmute it when the President appeared. We were reading iPads and not sure when the speech was supposed to happen, and then we realized it already did.

It wasn't that we were looking at one of the broadcast networks and we didn't know that they'd decided not to let the President cut into their prime-time shows:
The White House asked the networks for time at 8 p.m. on Thursday night, and were greeted with little more than a "Mmm, no thanks." ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS knew that their customers would not be happy if the President ate into time reserved for some of the most popular shows on television, including "The Big Bang Theory" and "Bones."
That's the first I'm seeing that the speech was on at 7 (our time). Anyway, we were tuned to CNN, and yet somehow we missed it. These presidential prime-time appearances don't mean what they used to. There are always other channels, other distractions, and if we actually want to see the speech, there will be streaming video. I originally wrote "read" for "see," because the truth is, I want to read the speech. I prefer the transcript. Even in the old days, the transcript was in the paper — in the paper I read, the NYT — and — speaking of reading — even when the President could take over every channel, we could turn off the TV and read.

You know, I still haven't watched or read last night's speech. I'm interested in seeing how the legal argument was put together, and I wonder how many of those who've already written about the speech have understood and made a reasoned assessment of the argument for presidential power. Or does everyone accept or reject it based on the political/policy preference they had in the first place? It's hard to expect more from people who probably — by now — believe that's what Supreme Court justices do.

Now, I'm going to read that transcript and give an assessment of it as if I had no policy preference about how to resolve the immigration problem. It happens to be true that I have no policy preference (because I'm not an ideologue and I don't understand the realities and practical problems deeply enough). But I have no illusion that anyone is interested in reading something that approximates an unbiased, legal assessment of the argument.

No, Althouse, shut up if you aren't going to say it's obviously soooo unconstitutional. 

Did I just hear you yell that?

Obama looked so presidential, he looked just like Reagan.

Here's the NYT right now:

ADDED: The story at the top left, by Michael D. Shear, is "Obama, Daring Congress, Acts to Overhaul Immigration." That headline stresses the political interplay with Congress, not the reason for independent presidential action or the legal argument for it. The first words of the article are: "President Obama chose confrontation...."

The story that goes with the picture of Reagan is "Obama’s Immigration Action Has Precedents, but May Set a New One," by Julie Hirshfield Davis. This article addresses the legal argument, which looks at past presidential actions:
Although Mr. Obama is not breaking new ground by using executive powers to carve out a quasi-legal status for certain categories of unauthorized immigrants — the Republican Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush all did so — his decision will affect as many as five million immigrants, far more than the actions of those presidents.
At that link, the photo of Reagan is uncropped, and the figure standing right behind Reagan is George H.W. Bush.

November 20, 2014

"How, my students wondered, was it possible for such incendiary material to be both public and simultaneously hidden from view..."

"... 'something walled off from our collective understanding of Bill Cosby'?" asks Rebecca Traister at The New Republic.
White people loved “The Cosby Show,” especially liberal white people. They loved it ...  because it offered a warm vision of a world in which shared experience might help Americans of all colors to see past racial divisions and instead focus on the places where they connected...

Any suggestion that white people were culpable in the history of racism that the show addressed mostly through reference to mid-twentieth-century activism. White audiences were never made to feel bad about themselves....

[A] decade after “The Cosby Show” went off the air... the comedian embarked on a speaking tour in which he told black audiences that the kinds of hardships they faced were of their own making.... Here was the white blamelessness that made his television such a balm to white audiences, writ all too real. It was an approach that earned him sharp criticism from some black critics like Dyson and Coates....
By the way, I never watched "The Cosby Show." I just didn't watch network sitcoms in that period of my life. I did, however, watch "The Bill Cosby Show"  — which was on around 1969, when I did watch plenty of sitcoms. It predictably hit a note of sentimentality that made me cry. Cosby played a phys-ed teacher in L.A., and something about the way he helped kids always tear-jerked me. Maybe I saw Episode 5, "Rules Is Rules": "Chet goes to great lengths to obtain a valve needle which he needs in order to inflate basketballs for his gym class." I'm sure I saw Episode 4, "A Girl Named Punkin." Here, this is the sort of thing that really got to me when I was 18:

ADDED: You know, Rush Limbaugh, who is exactly the same age as I am, had a beloved cat named Punkin. Perhaps, like me, he was moved by that episode about a painfully withdrawn girl who learns about love from Bill Cosby.

"As I walk this land of broken dreams/I have visions of many things/But happiness is just an illusion..."

"... filled with sadness and confusion/What becomes of the broken hearted/Who had love that's now departed?"

Now, departed: Jimmy Ruffin
What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted is one of the most perfect records ever made, a nugget of starkly articulated loss and longing made palatable by the strident piano and drum rhythm, anthemic melody, lush denseness of the strings and ethereal uplift of soaring backing vocals. It is the essence of bittersweetness, the quality that empowered Motown's most soulful recordings, a ballad that physically moves rather than gathering in a maudlin puddle of self-pity, its terrible sadness stirring into a kind of majestic defiance, utterly bereft and yet still reaching out for the silver-lining of hope.
Ruffin died yesterday at the age of 78.

"Dressing up was my mother’s way of taking control, and making sure that she felt her best going into a situation that..."

"... though she didn’t betray it at the time, left her shaken and scared....  Now that I live in San Francisco, land of the billionaire hoodie, I never see anyone who looks like my mother. It’s clear that in Silicon Valley, there’s a strong relationship between informality and innovation, and I wonder how my mother would feel about that..."

From a NYT op-ed by Anna Nordberg with the title "Dressing Like My Mother."

"He would say when you observe this type of act, you need to increase the force of good in the world."

"Do something good you wouldn't have done otherwise.... It's the only way we'll defeat the forces of evil."

"4:45 Wake up and have a bowl of quinoa cereal. I do an hour or so of 3rd or 4th series ashtanga yoga."

"6am My little ladies wake up and I make their breakfast—green milk (almond milk with coconut water, banana and steamed baby spinach) and either whole wheat French toast or pancakes. I usually run downstairs to get dressed while they eat and then I get them dressed and do their hair...."

From a Forbes article titled "The Morning Routines of 12 Women Leaders."

Nice to see Forbes covering the achievements of women.

"Rather than a complete reinvention to become a monarch in the mould of his mother..."

"... [when he is king, Prince Charles will] try and continue with his heartfelt interventions, albeit checking each for tone and content to ensure it does not damage the monarchy. Speeches will have to pass the following test: would it seem odd because the Queen wouldn’t have said it or would it seem dangerous?"

I love the "Would it seem odd?" test. What a standard!

Quote above is from an unnamed "well-placed" source, but the linked article (in The Guardian) also quotes Paul Flynn, a Labour member of the Commons political and constitutional reform select committee:
"We know Prince Charles has deep-seated, passionate views, some of which are sensible, some eccentric and some barmy.... If he continues to be a controversial figure on issues like complementary medicine and country sports he could precipitate a constitutional crisis if he comes up against a government which is bent on some course of action and he disagrees and refuses to sign the act of parliament."

Flynn said the Queen’s silence on controversial issues had secured the monarchy and made it acceptable in a democracy.
Barmy views on country sports, eh?

"Nevertheless, the Justice Department suggests that the choice schools discriminate because they do not do something they do not have the resources to do."

"That is, they do not offer the panoply of services that public schools, with ample state and federal funding, offer to children with special needs. With sanctimony commensurate with their hypocrisy, school choice opponents borrow language from the era of Brown v. Board of Education to accuse Wisconsin of sanctioning a 'dual school system.' The federal government is attempting to order the state to require the choice schools to choose between the impossible and the fatal — between offering services they cannot afford or leaving the voucher program. Closing the voucher program is the obvious objective of the teachers unions and hence of the Obama administration. Herding children from the choice schools back into government schools would swell the ranks of unionized teachers, whose union dues fund the Democratic Party as it professes devotion to 'diversity' and the downtrodden."

Writes George Will in "The Justice Department becomes a schoolyard bully in Wisconsin."

"The Obama administration is adamant that the president is acting within his powers to implement laws already passed by Congress..."

"... and to prioritize resources but officials won't reveal the legal reasoning until tonight's speech. Other Obama supporters were reluctant to speak publicly about the potential legal arguments ahead of the address."

"By pulling Cosby’s already completed and widely consumed work, TV Land kicked off an effort to scour Cosby from pop-culture history..."

"... as though, with every re-air, the public would be reminded it had been duped, and was once again guilty of putting too much trust in an individual now thought undeserving of it. It’s the closest thing to retroactively reprobating Cosby, reminiscent of the NCAA vacating Joe Paterno’s wins and Penn State removing his statue after the coach was deemed culpable of covering up Jerry Sandusky’s sex abuse of young boys."

Writes WaPo's Soraya Nadia McDonald at "Cleansing popular culture of all things Cosby."

Interesting application of the word "guilty."

ADDED: "So Netflix, don't air that Cosby post-Thanksgiving special, even though you have already paid for and shot it; NBC, cancel that Cosby sitcom. And if that doesn’t happen, then shame on anyone who watches them."

Children at St. Edmund's Academy in Pittsburgh pass the doll test.

They resist societal pressure and indoctrination....

... or do they?

(For comparison: The doll test that figured in the Brown v. Board of Education case.)

ADDED: My Barbie:


"VERSION 1.0: Original release. Heavens, Earth, formless void."

"1.1 Improved visuals with 'Light' expansion pack. Replaces 'darkness.'..."

"New Wisconsin School of Business Study Uncovers Risks and Rewards of Touching Shoppers."

Headline on a press release.

Goodbye to Mike Nichols.

"Mike Nichols, who won an Oscar for directing the 1967 film The Graduate, has died aged 83."

AND: There will be longer obituaries soon. I'm looking at YouTube, all the old Nichols and May comedy routines. Nichols was never married to Elaine May, but he did have 3 other wives before his marriage to Diane Sawyer, whom he remained with for 26 years. The glamorous newswoman is now his widow. I'm looking at Wikipedia and see that he was born in Berlin, Germany in 1931. His original name was Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky.
His father was born in Vienna, Austria, to a Russian Jewish immigrant family. Nichols' father's family had been wealthy and lived in Siberia, leaving after the Russian Revolution, and settling in Germany around 1920. Nichols' mother's family were German Jews. His maternal grandparents were anarchist Gustav Landauer and author Hedwig Lachmann. Nichols is a third cousin twice removed of scientist Albert Einstein, through Nichols' mother.
The relocation to the United States — escaping the Nazis — took place in 1938. What a life!

ADDED: Here's a picture of Gustav Landauer:

"You don’t know what order with freedom means! You only know what revolt against oppression is! You don’t know that the rod, discipline, violence, the state and government can only be sustained because of you and because of your lack of socially creative powers that develop order within liberty!"

AND: Here's the long NYT obituary. Excerpt:
Mr. Nichols said in interviews that though he did not know it at the time, his work with Ms. May was his directorial training. Asked by Ms. Ephron in 1968 if improvisation was good training for an actor, he replied that it was because it accommodates the performer to the idea of taking care of an audience.

“But what I really thought it was useful for was directing,” he said, “because it also teaches you what a scene is made of — you know, what needs to happen. See, I think the audience asks the question, ‘Why are you telling me this?’ And improvisation teaches you that you must answer it. There must be a specific answer. It also teaches you when the beginning is over and it’s time for the middle, and when you’ve had enough middle and it’s time already for the end. And those are all very useful things in directing.”

That song about going to Mexico to commit suicide.

You remember, that Ariel Pink song we were talking about yesterday — "Picture Me Gone" — the one where the father was singing about "going down to Mexico to die," and I connected it to that Reddit tale about a guy who supposedly went to Mexico to kill himself but then did some drugs, had sex with prostitutes, and thereby determined that life was worth living. Given all the social media references in the song — selfies, iCloud, Find My iPhone — I theorized that the Reddit story was viral marketing for the song.

Anyway, that song reminded both Meade and me of some other song we knew — something in the phrasing and cadence of the melody in the first few lines — but we couldn't figure out what it was. I emailed my son John and got the answer back immediately: "Just Because," covered by John Lennon on his "Rock 'n' Roll" album. Yes! That's the song.

"That must be one of the best breakup songs," says Meade. "Just because you left and said goodbye/Do you think that I will sit and cry?/Even if my heart should tell me so/Darling, I would rather let you go." Maybe that song has helped a lot of people.

The original version is by Lloyd Price. Let's play the 78:

November 19, 2014

When the marmoset is happy, we're all happy.

("Ninita, our orphaned baby pygmy marmoset, gets a much loved toothbrush massage from her keeper. Ninita was born deaf, and abandoned by her parents. [Rare Species Conservatory Foundation] staff hand-reared her, and she is now doing well in an enclosure of her own with a handsome boyfriend.")

"I had a strong religious upbringing and the first word on my first LP is Jesus."

Says Patti Smith, responding to people who don't get why Pope Francis invited her to sing at the Vatican Christmas concert.
"I did a lot of thinking. I’m not against Jesus, but I was 20 and I wanted to make my own mistakes. And I didn’t want anyone dying for me."
The line was: "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine."
"I stand behind that 20 year old girl, but I have evolved. I’ll sing to my enemy! I don’t like being pinned down and I’ll say what the fuck I want — especially at my age."
She's 67.

"I spent parts of 2006 and 2007 following Bill Cosby around the country. He was then in the midst of giving a series of 'call-outs'..."

"... in which he upbraided the decline of morality in the black community.... I published a reported essay in 2008, in this magazine, on these call-outs. In that essay, there is a brief and limp mention of the accusations against Cosby..... And should I have decided to state what I believed about Cosby, I would have had to write a much different piece.... At the time I wrote the piece... I believed that Bill Cosby was a rapist.... The Bill Cosby piece was my first shot writing for a big national magazine. I had been writing for 12 financially insecure years.... A voice in my head was, indeed, pushing me to do something more expansive and broader in its implication, something that did not just question Cosby's moralizing, but weighed it against the acts which I believed he committed. But Cosby was such a big target that I thought it was only a matter of time before someone published a hard-hitting, investigative piece. And besides, I had in my hand the longest, best, and most personally challenging piece I'd ever written.... I have often thought about how those women would have felt had they read my piece.... I regret not saying what I thought of the accusations, and then pursuing those thoughts. I regret it because the lack of pursuit puts me in league with people who either looked away, or did not look hard enough...."

Writes Ta-Nehisi Coates in "The Cosby Show/Declining to seriously reckon with the rape allegations against him is reckless. And I was once reckless."

So... he did what was in his interest then, and he's doing what's in his interest now. Noted.

"At a moment when students who have been sexually assaulted are finding new ways to make their voices heard..."

"... and as college officials across the country are rushing to meet new government standards, a specialized class of lawyers is raising its voice, too. They are speaking out on behalf of the students they describe as most vulnerable: not those who might be subjected to sexual assault, but those who have been accused of it. To do so, they have appropriated the legal tools most commonly used to fight sexual misconduct and turned them against the prosecution, confronting higher education’s whole approach to the issue, which they describe as a civil rights disaster."

From a NYT piece titled "New Factor in Campus Sexual Assault Cases: Counsel for the Accused."

Interesting usage of the word "appropriated"....

Rules are rules. The same rules for everybody.

No exceptions, says the Party of Empathy. 

I agree with Pelosi's position. But after all the "war on women" junk from the Democratic Party in the last few years, I do like seeing her suffer the abuse for her failure to accommodate Tammy Duckworth. Duckworth served in Iraq, had both legs amputated, is now heavily pregnant and following medical advice not to travel, and she wants to vote by proxy. Pelosi says no exceptions to the rule against voting by proxy.

Of course, she's right! How could the exceptions be managed in the future? What is commensurate with 2 amputated legs and a pregnancy? Oh, the horrific calculations that would be required! Death of a child plus cancer? Death of 2 children plus advanced cancer with chemotherapy?

"It’s probably one of those defense things where my identity is so entrenched in appearances, how I’ve never really felt like a man."

"So maybe that’s part of the gender-bending thing. Maybe I inch closer to the estrogen side, and it gets mistaken for style. I am just a guy, a heterosexual guy, but at the same time I’ve got this very queer sensibility that I’ve just been endowed with. And maybe it comes across as being mismatched in my more recent years. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t really know how I come across at all and I’ve kind of thrown up my hands. I just kind of leave it to the blogs or whoever, to the kids, to write it off as being probably like ‘throwback hipster chic,’ which I guess I sort of patented, inadvertently."

Ariel Pink explains himself. In case you were wondering. I'd never heard of him until Meade sent me that link (which goes to the NYT), but apparently, he's a currently popular singer. I clicked on the first video of his that was linked in the article, "Picture Me Gone," and I stopped in the middle — never to restart — and said 2 things:

1. I don't see why this guy is a singer. I sort of get being interested in his clothes — that caftan reminded me of Donovan (and if this is impressive "gender-bending," Donovan did that 50 years ago) — but he's not just being put before us in the news as a fashion person. We're supposed to be interested in him because he's a "purveyor of eccentric, ironic indie pop." Shouldn't he have a good voice? I don't get it. (Cue the commenters who will tell me for the umpteenth time that Bob Dylan doesn't have a good voice. (I only wrote "umpteenth" because I've noticed no one says "umpteeth anymore, and perhaps because I'm an umpteenager, what with my endless interest in the singer who struck my heart when I was just 14. (And excuse me for shifting to Dylan from my original focus on Donovan, who was "mad about 14" when I was 15.)))

2. Too suicide-y! Picture me gone? I checked the lyrics — which are actually quite clever — to see if my sense that the title/repeated phrase was a suicide threat, and I believe it is. I was surprised to see that it's in the voice of a father speaking to a son. He's taking a "selfie" — I guess this is video, with the song as the audio track — and saying he's put it on his iCloud "so you can't see me when I die." You can't see him because he's going down to Mexico to die: "I left my body somewhere down in Mexico." He recommends using "Find My iPhone" to find the body. That got me thinking about the guy who went to Mexico to kill himself and: "Decided that if I was gonna die anyway I might as well fuck a prostitute before it was all over. After that a cab driver offered to sell me cocaine. One thing lead to another, and I got a room above a whore house equipped with a heart shaped bed, a stripper pole, and a hot tub. Spent a full week snorting coke off tits, popping pain meds, drinking tequila, eating handfuls of Viagra to fight the whiskey/coke dick, and had three FFM threesomes. Somewhere in the midst of my coke-fueled orgy, I decided life wasn't so bad after all." But that story came out too recently (12 days ago) to be considered the source of Ariel Pink's song (posted on YouTube 15 days ago). Viral marketing maybe? The Mexican drugs-and-whores story appeared on Reddit and the song has all these new-media references: selfies, iCloud, Find My iPhone. Just a theory!

"Oh hell, there's nothing wrong with dragging Meade's corpse around behind a city snowplow every so often."

"The little fucker deserved what he got. And yes, his wife is a Grade A toad licker who's need for self aggrandizement rivals that of Sarah Palin. I only hope that Larry the Gardener treats his pups well and never moves to my neighborhood. Our listserv is already full of crotchety old fucks who can't tell the difference between fireworks and gunshots."

From a discussion at the Madison alternative newspaper Isthmus about that article about Meade's blog in the nonalternative Madison newspaper the Wisconsin State Journal.

That's at the end of the thread. Higher up, there's a comment from Stu Levitan quoting my salary and snarking that the UW is "underwriting such a creative and valuable endeavor." Stu Levitan is a longtime Madison politico who is currently the Chairman of Madison's Landmarks Commission!

Levitan does get some pushback, notably from someone with the pseudonym Ninja:
Clearly there's some general unhappiness going on here, but that's no excuse for abusing the Redbook for a petty, personal attack (and involving a spouse rather than the actual target on top of that).
(The Redbook gives access to all the UW salaries.)
It's hard enough to get sunshine/disclosure/open government policies cemented into law, no need to give opponents ammunition or create a chilling effect.

This is why we can't have nice shit, America. Because we're children and we'll just break it.
That's not quite fair to children. It's not so much childish as it is evil politics. Levitan is so partisan that he doesn't see how sexist it is to attack a man through his wife. Levitan's wife [per Wikipedia] — in case you want to flip this thing — is Terese L. Berceau, a Democrat who holds a seat in the Wisconsin State Assembly. (In our district!)

Sunlight, baby!

From a 12-year-old NYT article: Jonathan Gruber's "most embarrassing moment in government."

This is from an April 2002 article by David Leonhardt titled "How a Tax On Cigarettes Can Help The Taxed":
For years, economists would have said that actions speak louder than words. Whatever smokers say about quitting, they are rationally deciding that the pleasure they derive from cigarettes exceeds their cost.

Jonathan Gruber was one of these economists when he worked in the Treasury Department in the Clinton administration. Mr. Gruber, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, remembers telling other policy makers that economic theory says they should not increase cigarette taxes. People should be allowed to decide for themselves whether they want to smoke, he told his colleagues. Those who smoke may hurt themselves, but they will not drain the country's resources because so many of them will die before running up large Medicare bills.

Mr. Gruber called it his most embarrassing moment in government, and his discomfort with his own argument caused him to begin researching the issue when he returned to academia.....
So, there was an argument for taxation based on the costs that smokers impose on all of us because of the health problems caused by smoking, and Gruber undercut that argument with a truth. Smokers don't cost more overall because they die earlier. Why was that so embarrassing? Well, "embarrassing" is the reporter's word, not a quote from Gruber. Gruber is a very chatty guy. Maybe he said something like:

Did I catch hell for that. Here, they were all justifying their tax on smokers by blaming these people for forcing all of us to pay for their supposedly monumental hospital bills, and I — big, harsh-truth me — I said do you know anything about lung cancer? These people die, they don't hang around for years, they don't get multiple surgeries, they die. They're dead! And when they're dead they don't run up any more bills and they don't burden us all with endless Social Security payments either. We should be paying people to smoke, not taxing smokers more to try to get them to quit. If your argument is make people pay the true cost of their behavior, we ought to tax people for not smoking. They're the ones who will live up into their 70s and 80s — 90s! — collecting Social Security, and getting medical treatments for all their little, survivable ailments. Oh! You'd have though I was proposing to murder everybody's mom and dad. I was right, of course, but what's the use of an argument that can't be used? It doesn't matter that it's true. Does it work? I had to learn to be more aware of my surroundings. I was in government. Smokers die, and, economically speaking, that's great. Ha ha. You can't say that!

Are we too stupid to understand Jonathan Gruber?

Searching the name of the M.I.T. economist who's been talked about so much lately, I ran across a 2006 NYT Magazine article by David Leonhardt titled "What Makes People Give?"
... Jonathan Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has conducted a mischievous experiment on the relationship between religious giving and religious observance. His inspiration was a comment his father made after he was elected treasurer of his synagogue in New Jersey. “Good,” Gruber’s father told him, with some amount of irony, “now I don’t have to go.” Somebody thinking purely about the temple might have decided that the treasurer should attend services even more often than an ordinary congregant. After all, he would need to set an example as a community leader. But someone who wanted to attain a certain commitment level — who wanted do enough to feel the warm glow of being involved in the life of the temple — would consider regular attendance and synagogue duties to be substitutes for each other.

To see how typical his father was, Gruber dug into surveys that ask people about how they spend their money and their time. Sure enough, his dad was typical. When the tax code changed in the early 1990s and made the deduction for charitable giving more valuable, the average churchgoer gave more money — and attended services less often. Gruber called his research paper “Pay or Pray.”
I'm presenting this to you as interesting on its own, but I also think it sheds light on the mind of Gruber, if that matters — does it? — in the current swirl of excitement around Gruber.

Personally, I think Gruber is a wonderful character. I might be his biggest fan. He seems to feel the urge to say what others won't say, to tell the truth about lying, even lying that he has participated in. The truth about lying — and I'm using "lying" in its broadest sense — is that people lie all the time and it's necessary, interwoven throughout human culture.

Gruber's father seems to have had a humorous style of revealing the ways human beings dissimulate, and Gruber was inspired and has based his work on the influence of his father. I don't know the whole story of Gruber, son and father. Perhaps, Gruber — exiled, now, from politicians who need to continue their lying, deceitful activities — will compose a memoir telling us all about how he formed his intellectual orientation, with many more words from the old man.

I'm think that it is precisely Jonathan Gruber's orientation to open up any human activity and reveal the trickery. So: of course, he wanted to talk about the creation of Obamacare in terms of the rhetoric and the manipulations. He thought people would appreciate his insight into human psychology and the deception and illusion that permeate human culture. What is more fascinating? What could be more enlightening and important than to become conscious of such things — especially if you are a good and empathetic person? Gruber got in trouble for telling us that people are "stupid," and the question is why are we too stupid to see the value of studying the ways in which we are, indeed, stupid?

The answer is that the people who are talking about Gruber are still inside the political game of promoting or attacking Obamacare. They prefer to use Gruber's statements to the extent that they are useful in continuing whatever political prestidigitation they are performing.

Gruber needs to go meta. He can never insinuate his way back into the center of things. Gruber, you've been there, and they used your wisdom until it was too much wisdom, and then they shut you out and said they never knew you. Now that you can't go back, go forward. Tell all. Give us all the truth you've got — the truth about lying.

November 18, 2014

When the NYT public editor criticized Jonathan Gruber for failure to disclose his interest in a matter he was commenting on.

Back in January 2010, the New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt wrote:
Jonathan Gruber, a prominent M.I.T. health economist, wrote an Op-Ed column and was quoted frequently in other Times columns, news articles and blogs on health care reform before it came to light that he had a contract worth nearly $400,000 to analyze health proposals for the Obama administration....

The ideal expert source is entirely independent, with no stake in an outcome. But in reality, the most informed sources often have involvements, which is why they know what they know. Readers are entitled to disclosure so they can decide if there is a conflict that would affect the credibility of the information....

Gruber, the health care economist, wrote an Op-Ed column in July supporting an excise tax on so-called Cadillac health plans. Not long before, he had signed a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to analyze the economic impact of various health care proposals in Congress. He did not tell Op-Ed editors, nor was the contract mentioned on at least 12 other occasions when he was quoted in The Times after he was consulting for the administration. After a blogger reported on Gruber’s government contract on the Daily Kos Web site, Gruber did volunteer it to Steven Greenhouse, a Times reporter interviewing him for an article on the excise tax...

Gruber said, “I guess it never occurred to me that the fact that I was doing technical modeling would matter.” He said he has long supported the tax and that the administration opposed it when he wrote his column, so he was hardly bending his views to a government paymaster.

"Here's the 1969 Bill Cosby Routine About Wanting to Drug Women's Drinks."

"Cosby's dozen-plus accusers tell similar stories: that, after having a drink with Cosby, they felt drugged and confused as he had his way with them. Curiously, Cosby himself once made such scenarios the center of a stand-up routine: Witness "Spanish Fly," a cut from his now-unfortunately titled 1969 LP It's True! It's True!."
Even when I heard this bit as a kid, I wondered: Why would famous TV stars need a drug to get women interested in them?... Hearing it now, it's positively chilling, especially the crowd's easy laughter, which suggests that Cosby was able to put over his fantasy of women stripped of their ability to say no as something near universal.

Word of the year: "vape."

Says Oxford Dictionaries.

"Vape" beat out "bae," "budtender," "contactless," "indyref," "normcore," "slacktivism."

That was the best we had this year? Sad!

I guess "gruber" came too late...

"We’re continuing to see, including in this last video, a group that is so carried away with its own fanaticism and its own barbarity..."

"... that it is not seeing how what is meant to compel people to cower and be fearful is actually having the opposite effect.... We’re seeing how it’s causing a stiffening of resistance and feeding a determination not to be dominated by these people."

ADDED: The Peter Kassig video was different from the others. The production values were lower, and Kassig didn't make a statement. Some think it was the Ranger Creed....

I wanted an image of golden retrievers arrayed on a Utah desert landscape in the manner of Holsteins on Wisconsin farmland.

This desire arose in the context of making a 10-point list on the topic of Utah's consideration of whether to make the golden retriever the official state domestic animal. Sean Gleeson responded with this "photo of a pack of wild Utah golden retrievers in Bryce Canyon, where their natural coloration helps them blend with the orange cliffs."

"Defining constitutional deviancy down."

From the new David Brooks column titled "Obama in Winter":
Usually presidents at the end of their terms get less partisan, not more... Usually presidents with a new Congressional majority try to figure out if there is anything that the two branches can do together... But the White House has not privately engaged with Congress on the legislative areas where there could be agreement. Instead, the president has been superaggressive on the one topic sure to blow everything up: the executive order to rewrite the nation’s immigration laws.... Instead of a nation of laws, we could slowly devolve into a nation of diktats, with each president relying on and revoking different measures on the basis of unilateral power — creating unstable swings from one presidency to the next. If President Obama enacts this order on the transparently flimsy basis of 'prosecutorial discretion,' he’s inviting future presidents to use similarly flimsy criteria. Talk about defining constitutional deviancy down.
"Defining deviancy down" is a famous alliterative phrase — less alliterative with Brooks's extra word "constitutional" thrown in. It was coined by Daniel Patrick Moynihan in a 1993 article titled "Defining deviancy down," which, as Mickey Kaus once put it, "blames the left for treating mental illness and single motherhood as acceptable 'life styles.'" The deviancy in question was the private citizen's deviancy from social norms. It's a catchy way to decry the lowering of standards (similar to Bush's "soft bigotry of low expectations").

It's interesting to transfer "defining deviancy down" to the context of the behavior of Presidents within a constitutional system, and in fact the behavior of Presidents does influence the way courts later interpret the power of the President. As Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote long ago in a very significant case:
The Constitution is a framework for government. Therefore, the way the framework has consistently operated fairly establishes that it has operated according to its true nature. Deeply embedded traditional ways of conducting government cannot supplant the Constitution or legislation, but they give meaning to the words of a text or supply them. It is an inadmissibly narrow conception of American constitutional law to confine it to the words of the Constitution and to disregard the gloss which life has written upon them. In short, a systematic, unbroken, executive practice, long pursued to the knowledge of the Congress and never before questioned, engaged in by Presidents who have also sworn to uphold the Constitution, making as it were such exercise of power part of the structure of our government, may be treated as a gloss on "executive Power" vested in the President by § 1 of Art. II.
That proposition was warmly embraced in Justice Breyer's opinion for a majority of the Supreme Court in last term's case about the President's power to make recess appointments:
[T]e longstanding “practice of the government”...  can inform our determination of “what the law is”...

That principle is neither new nor controversial. As James Madison wrote, it “was foreseen at the birth of the Constitution, that difficulties and differences of opinion might occasionally arise in expounding terms & phrases necessarily used in such a charter . . . and that it might require a regular course of practice to liquidate & settle the meaning of some of them.” Letter to Spencer Roane (Sept. 2, 1819), in 8 Writings of James Madison 450 (G. Hunt ed. 1908). And our cases... show that this Court has treated practice as an important interpretive factor even when the nature or longevity of that practice is subject to dispute, and even when that practice began after the founding era. See Mistretta, supra, 400–401 (“While these [practices] spawned spirited discussion and frequent criticism, . . . ‘traditional ways of conducting government . . . give meaning’ to the Constitution” (quoting Youngstown, supra, at 610) (Frankfurter, J., concurring)); Regan, supra, at 684 (“[E]ven if the pre-1952 [practice] should be disregarded, congressional acquiescence in [a practice] since that time supports the President’s power to act here”); The Pocket Veto Case, supra, at 689–690 (postfounding practice is entitled to “great weight”); Grossman, supra, at 118–119 (postfounding practice “strongly sustains” a “construction” of the Constitution).
So Presidents really can define constitutional deviancy down. They can acquire power by claiming and using it, especially if Congress doesn't put up much of a fight.

"I am simultaneously aggravated, outraged and bewildered by this woman's allegations and her lack of awareness of what truly transpired."

Writes Matt Titus, the NYC matchmaker sued by one of his clients:
I should have known it was a bad idea [to be a male matchmaker for female clients] when I was called by New York City's most iconic matchmaker to have lunch so she could welcome me into the business. She looked me dead in the eyes and said, "Honey please tell me that women aren't going to be your paying clients... are they?" I paused for a second and said, "yes they are because I truly want to help women meet the right men and also stay away from guys that aren't serious about being in committed relationships." She simply looked at me and said." You will put a gun in your month in the first six months of your business. I [won't] take women as clients, I have an assistant herd them into a database and exclusively have men as my paying clients." I was shocked, and wondered if this could... be true? Nah! She foreshadowed the reality of my idealistic vision for this business. One of my biggest regrets is ignoring her advice....

"After reading Monday’s front page story ("Golden retriever proposed as official ‘state domestic animal,’" Nov. 17)..."

"... telling of the harmless, well-intentioned efforts of children to determine an animal deemed worthy by Sen. Aaron Osmond and his cohorts to be Utah’s 'state domestic animal'... I am truly bewildered by the placement, column inches and content of the story, but who am I to judge what should appear on the front page of a major city’s daily newspaper?... I do hope the children being taught by Ms. Meyer are able to learn from their efforts to affect the actions of the state’s lawmakers. Keeping the state Legislature busy with such matters seems far better than letting them have time to carry out their usual lunacy. If the children involved actually learn how those governing this state operate, their quest will be eye-opening but ultimately disappointing and maddening. May I suggest an animal that represents this state far better than any dog or cat. The domestic creature most emblematic of the residents of this state is the sheep."

Letter to the editor of The Salt Lake Tribune by John K. Dallimore of Cottonwood Heights.

Ms. Meyer = Daybreak Elementary School teacher Alli Meyer, who led her 4th grade class in " just really a fun project to partner with these kids to teach them about the legislative process." Her class got the idea to influence a state senator to propose a state domestic animal after seeing that some other Utah students had successfully influenced the legislature to change the state tree from Colorado blue spruce to quaking aspen. Those students had made the persuasive political argument that a tree with "Colorado" in its name should not be the state tree of Utah. I don't know the extent to which they considered fact that "Aspen" is a city in Colorado.
"We wondered if we could do something similar. We thought of replacing the California seagull as the state bird, but didn’t think that would happen since the seagulls helped save the pioneers from crickets," Meyer said. "We noticed we didn’t have a state domestic animal," as Wisconsin does (the dairy cow). She said the students decided to pursue that. (Utah already has an official "state animal," the Rocky Mountain elk.)
10 thoughts:

1. Thanks for emulating Wisconsin, but the significance of golden retrievers to Utah scarecely parallels the significance of cows to America's dairyland.

2. It's hard to oppose dog lovers... dog lovers and 4th graders... but that's how politics works, right? What a lesson! Patch together bits of sentiment and make it harder to say no than yes.

3. What's up with picking a particular breed? It's not like Wisconsin picked the Holstein as its state domestic animal, and we have the experience of seeing those iconic black-and-white cows dotted all over the rolling green farmland. If I had photoshop skills, I'd produce an image of golden retrievers in a comparable pattern on a stark desert landscape.

4. Okay, what's the story of the crickets and the seagulls? Here's the Wikipedia entry for "Miracle of the gulls":
Although late frosts in April and May destroyed some of the crops, the pioneers seemed to be well on their way to self-sufficiency. Unfortunately, swarms of insects appeared in late May.... According to traditional accounts, legions of gulls appeared by June 9, 1848. It is said that these birds, native to the Great Salt Lake, ate mass quantities of crickets, drank some water, regurgitated, and continued eating more crickets over a two-week period. The pioneers saw the gulls' arrival as a miracle, and the story was recounted from the pulpit by church leaders such as Orson Pratt and George A. Smith (Pratt 1880, p. 275; Smith 1869, p. 83). The traditional story is that the seagulls annihilated the insects, ensuring the survival of some 4,000 Mormon pioneers who had traveled to Utah. For this reason, Seagull Monument was erected and the California gull is the state bird of Utah.
5. So "California" was in the name of the state bird, which made it look like a sitting duck of a Colorado blue spruce variety. But the children learned that the seagull had a monumental role in the history of Utah.

Credit: Intothewoods29

6. Of course, the cricket — not that they were crickets (they were some kind of katydid) — can't be the state insect of Utah. The state insect had to be the bee... as a 5th-grade class back lobbied the legislature to acknowledge: "The honey bee is significant in Utah history, as Utah was first called by its Mormon settlers, 'The Provisional State of Deseret,' a Book of Mormon word meaning honey bee."

7. Can we get an Establishment Clause lawsuit over the honey bee's status as state insect?

8. Would that there were somewhere a Provisional State of Golden Retriever!

9.  Have you heard of golden retriever politics? Neither have I. Golden retriever don't have politics.... they're very gentle... all compassion.... all compromise. We can trust the golden retriever. I'd like to become the first golden retriever politician. I'd like to, but.... I'm a golden retriever... who dreamed she was a woman, and loved it. But now the dream is over, and the golden retriever is taking another nap.

10. What happens when a golden retriever goes on "Meet the Press"? 
What if I forget my talking points? These journalists can be ruthless... hard-hitting... always looking for sound-bites, gaffes, gotcha moments.... What? My position? (Uh oh, here it comes) On what? — my position on CATS ??? Uh... well, cats are... uh, cats are...

November 17, 2014

At the Red Apple Café...


... you can polish your style.

Scott Walker says "you have to be crazy to want to be president."

"And anyone who has seen pictures of this president or any of the former presidents can see the before and after."
No matter how fit, no matter how young they are, they age pretty rapidly when you look at their hair any everything else involved with it. Whether it’s two years, six years or 20 years from now — because I think of Hillary Clinton. I could run 20 years from now and still be about the same age as the former Secretary of State is right now. The only thing I think someone is sane should want to be president, or should run for president not because they want to be or yearn to be, but because they feel called to. Right now, I still feel called to be the governor of the state of Wisconsin, and I’m going to do the best job I can over the next four years.

Kaci Hickox says "I never had Ebola, so please stop calling me 'the Ebola Nurse' – now!"

I like the dissonance between "please" and "now!"
I never had Ebola. I never had symptoms of Ebola. I tested negative for Ebola the first night I stayed in New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s private prison in Newark. I am now past the incubation period – meaning that I will not develop symptoms of Ebola.

"The Dutch Village Where Everyone Has Dementia."

"The town of Hogeway, outside Amsterdam, is a Truman Show-style nursing home."

2 new affirmative action cases filed — against Harvard and the University of North Carolina.

SCOTUSblog explains:
“Given what is occurring at Harvard and at other schools,” the lawsuit filed in Boston argued, “the proper response is the outright prohibition of racial preferences in university admissions — period.  Allowing this issue to be litigated in case after case will only perpetuate the hostilities that proper consideration of race is designed to avoid.”

The North Carolina complaint, filed in Greensboro, often uses some of the same language as in the Harvard case....

The lawsuits do not ask the courts to abandon the idea that racial diversity among college students is a valid educational goal. Instead, they contend that diversity can be achieved by race-neutral alternatives, so public colleges and those that receive federal funds should be ordered to end, altogether, any use of race in the process.
More at the link.

"Naked, what am I? A lank, skinny, spider-legged libel on the image of God!"

"Without my clothes I should be as destitute of authority as any other naked person. Nobody could tell me from a parson, a barber, a dude. Then who is the real Emperor of Russia? My clothes. There is no other.... [W]hat would man be — what would any man be — without his clothes? As soon as one stops and thinks over that proposition, one realizes that without his clothes a man would be nothing at all; that the clothes do not merely make the man, the clothes are the man; that without them he is a cipher, a vacancy, a nobody, a nothing...."

From "The Czar's Soliloquy," which is Mark Twain riffing on — one might well say blogging — an item he read in the London Times Correspondence: "After the Czar's morning bath it is his habit to meditate an hour before dressing himself." Twain supplies the hour of meditation, which ends with the Czar deciding to put on his clothes:

"There is but one restorative — Clothes! respect-reviving, spirit-uplifting clothes! heaven's kindliest gift to man, his only protection against finding himself out: they deceive him, they confer dignity upon him; without them he has none.... Mine are able to expand a human cipher into a globe-shadowing portent; they can command the respect of the whole world — including my own, which is fading. I will put them on."

I ran across a quote from that yesterday as I was writing about the rocket scientist's sexy-lady shirt and expounding my enigmatic "In the broad span of human culture, fashion is more important than space travel."

AND: Let me add a few questions for the champions of Matt Taylor's shirt: Do you know whether Matt Taylor wants to be used as a poster-boy for anti-feminism? If you don't know — and certainly if he doesn't (and I suspect he doesn't) — are you supporting his self-expression or are you appropriating him as a device for your self-expression? He cried when criticized for wearing a pinup-festooned shirt, but maybe you are making him cry by prolonging the exposure of the image he himself rescinded and by using it to attack the women that he chose to appease. Now, excuse me while I write "Matt Taylor's Soliloquy" in the style of Mark Twain.

"For years now, it’s been an article of faith among Democrats that the future belongs to them, thanks to the country’s changing demographic mix."

Kevin Baker diagnoses the "Delusions of the Democrats" in a NYT op-ed. I thought the diagnosis was excellent — detailed and particularized — but the proposed cure — the last 2 paragraphs — felt thin and hopeless. The Democrats have all these things wrong. Check. But what would be right?
Invite us to dream a little. You don’t build an enduring coalition out of who Americans are. You do it out of what we can be.
Isn't that what Obama tried to do?

Jeffrey Goldberg is "Remembering a time when Islamist extremists wanted to persuade reporters, not kill them."

He begins: "In the spring of 2000, I lived for a month in a Taliban madrasa, a religious seminary, located on the Grand Trunk Road outside of Peshawar, in Pakistan." Excerpt:
The subject of my religion came up in conversation. The imam was fascinated. He was anti-Semitic, but impersonally so. His abstract detestation of Jews was trumped by a practical curiosity. He phoned a friend who, like him, had never met someone from my tribe. That friend brought another friend. Soon, we were having a colloquy on several subjects—the putative righteousness of Osama bin Laden’s cause, the alleged treachery of Bill Clinton—but our focus narrowed to matters of faith. I raised the subject of Muhammad’s often complicated, sometimes violent relationship with the Jews of Arabia. These men, like many Muslims, believed that the Jews had behaved perfidiously toward their Prophet, and they endorsed Muhammad’s decision to behead some 600 of his Jewish enemies, the males of the vanquished Banu Qurayza tribe.

Back then, it did not seem foolhardy to engage Muslim terrorists on the subject of beheading....
A question I have for Goldberg is whether it was really true that the "extremists wanted to persuade reporters" and something changed. Or was it always the case that reporters were exploited as a means to an end — they were used to communicate and the head-cutting videos are powerfully communicative? You were always being used. That would be my hypothesis.

Bobby Jindal all but announced he's running for President on "Meet the Press" yesterday.

Did anyone notice? 
CHUCK TODD: All right. I'm going to ask you about your own presidential ambitions. A majority in Louisiana disapprove of your job as governor. Why is that a launching pad to Iowa and New Hampshire?

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL: Chuck, I don't care at all about poll numbers. I never have. The reality is, I was elected in Louisiana to make generational changes. Look at what we've done in Louisiana. So now, we've cut our state budget 26%, cut the number of state employees 34%. We've got the best private-sector economy in a generation. Our economy has grown twice as fast as the national economy. More people working than ever before at a higher income than ever before. We transformed the charity house [?]. That's, like, the third rail in Louisiana politics. Statewide school choice, so our children have the opportunity to get a great education. If I were to run, and I haven't made that decision, if I were to run for president, it's because I believe in our country. The American dream is at jeopardy. This president has defined the American dream as more dependence on the government. We need to restore the American dream. So it's more about opportunity and growth and not redistribution.
That was — it seemed to me — a carefully prepared sound bite, complete with campaign theme: restore the American dream.

The line "Our economy has grown twice as fast as the national economy" jumped out at me, because in the just-concluded gubernatorial election in Wisconsin, Scott Walker's Democratic Party opponent Mary Burke continually referred to the national average:
“If our state economy in Wisconsin had grown at just the national average over the last three years while Gov. Walker is in office, our state’s economy would be $4 billion a year bigger.  4 billion,” said Burke.
I heard her say words to that effect repeatedly. I assume America is looking for a governor as the next President. What must Jindal do to rise within the group? Well, it seems he can point to accomplishments, and some of this material puts him distinctly ahead of Walker.

There's not only that economic growth, but also statewide school choice. By the way, I took Jindal's quote from the linked MTP transcript, but I also checked it against my DVR recording, and corrected the phrase "school of choice" to "school choice." Jindal tends to speak quickly and garble words as he speeds along. It's great to have so many achievements that it's hard to squeeze them into the time Chuck Todd will allot you, but it can be wearying to the point where the listener just gives up.

I wondered if phrase "the charity house" was correct and took the trouble to listen to the recording about 10 times. I couldn't figure out anything it could have been but "charity house." What's "the charity house"?  It's "like, the third rail in Louisiana politics"? So... some weird thing about Louisiana politics... one always hears about that... Huey Long... whatever... I forget... How else is a normal person supposed to hear and process material like that.

Now, I am taking the trouble this morning to Google key words, and I feel sure Jindal was trying to say "the charity hospital." The transformation of the charity hospitals seems to be a great achievement of Jindal's, yet in his effort to launch himself as a presidential candidate, he left us utterly puzzled.

Sharpen up, Bobby. You may be the best candidate, but if you don't slow down and articulate, no one will notice.

November 16, 2014

Meade makes the news: "Dog-sharing leads to Puparazzo blog."

By Samara Kalk Derby in the Wisconsin State Journal. Excerpt:
When someone left the neighbors' gate open, Zeus wandered into Meade's backyard. Meade invited him inside, and with tail wagging, Zeus got a tour of the place. Eventually, Meade led him back to the neighbors, who with two little kids and another on the way, didn't notice he was missing.

Zeus has been coming over to visit pretty much every day since. And when Zeus' owners, Raj Shukla and Tora Frank, go out of town, Meade and Althouse take care of him. Meade has even taken Zeus paddleboarding.

"Laurence is really the person at the center of our dog's life," Shukla said. "(Zeus) loves us... I guess. He would probably save us if we were in trouble -- probably. But we know where he wants to go most days. And it's to be with Laurence.... We were never sure, is he going to the park, or are they just binging on bacon?" Shukla said laughing. "What is it that is causing this deep affection? But it turns out it's both."

"Iran is not your ally. Iran is not your friend. Iran is your enemy. It's not your partner. Iran is committed to the destruction of Israel."

Said Benjamin Netanyahu on "Face the Nation" this morning.
"This is not a friend, neither in the battle against ISIS nor in the great effort that should be made to deprive him of the capacity to make nuclear weapons. Don't fall for Iran's ruse, they are not your friend," Netanyahu said.
Over on "Meet the Press" this morning, Chris Matthews was going on about how Obama needed to meet with John Boehner and really pressure him, ask him — "in public... on television" — "What is your opposition to this immigration bill? Is it we don't have enough enforcement? I'll give you more enforcement. Is it hiring rules? We're going to enforce them. I promise you we're going to enforce them. What do you want? So you're absolutely against any kind of amnesty for people who have been here 20, 30 years, absolutely against it? So what then when the president issues the executive order, people will understand he really tried to negotiate. Let me tell you something, we're negotiating with Tehran right now. We're desperately trying to cut a deal over nuclear weapons to the last moment. Why don't we have negotiations going on right now between the two sides?"

Chuck Todd brings him up short:  "You know... I can hear Republicans now echoing, he'll negotiate with the Iranians, he won't negotiate with us on immigration."

Matthews (clearly upset): "That's not the way I said it."

Todd: "No, I'm telling you how you're going to get requoted.... that's how he's going to get requoted."

Matthews: "But they want to negotiate though, Chuck." They, that is, Iran.

Now, go back to the top and read what Netanyahu said.

"We just learned that TIME magazine apologized for including 'feminist' on their poll of words to ban. What a victory!"

"TIME backtracked so quickly because activists like you spoke up. When thousands of us sign petitions, share news with friends, and tweet, we can make a difference. TIME's closed their poll, and we're going to follow up with the editor to make sure nothing like this happens again. Thank you for helping us win such an important victory for gender equality today."

Email from Ilyse G. Hogue, President, NARAL Pro-Choice America, received just now. (I've never given them money, in case you're wondering why they send me email.)

Here's the TIME piece with the apology.

Doing the okey-doke with Sylvia Burwell.

On "Meet the Press" this morning, Chuck Todd was talking to Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, and he presented one of those amazing Jonathan Gruber clips like this: "This is how Gruber explained taxing high-end Cadillac health insurance plans and sort of doing a little 'okey-doke.'"

I had never heard "okey-doke" used like that. I only knew "okey-doke" as a cute/corny way to say "okay." I Googled and got to Ice Cube's "Don't Fade Me": "I don't fall for the okey-doke/And before I fall for the okey-doke/I let the pistol smoke." Rap Genius explains: "'Okey doke' is slang for pulling a trick on someone. Cube would rather commit murder than take care of a baby that isn’t his because the girl lied to him."

I read all the lyrics. They're pretty evil: "Then I thought deep about giving up the money/What I need to do is kick the bitch in the tummy... I'm thinking to myself why did I bang her/Now I'm in the closet looking for the hanger..." I get distracted into thinking about doing a parody. What rhymes with Gruber? 1. goober, 2. uber, 3. FUBAR, 3. rube err. What rhymes with Burwell? 1. Stairwell, 2. Orwell.

But who am I to parody rap songs? And I've got to finish this post.

Todd plays Burwell some Gruber, including: "This bill takes, what I call, the spaghetti approach. Which is it takes a bunch of ideas that might work and throws them against the wall, we'll see what sticks." And Todd pushes her: "He said, 'Spaghetti at the wall.'" (What rhymes with spaghetti? 1. machete, 2. already, 3. unsteady.) "And he said that the week the health care law passed. Is that what this bill is? To see what works and what doesn't?"

Burwell began: "This law is a piece of legislation that is about three fundamental things.... Affordability, access..." And I paused it so Meade could make a joke about how funny it would if she couldn't remember the third thing, Rick Perry style. But she didn't. The third thing was "quality." So affordability, access, and quality — how can that be spaghetti thrown at the wall?

Todd tried a different tack: "Is Mr. Gruber going to be welcomed back as a consultant?" Burwell evaded: "Certainly right now in terms of the work that we're doing at HHS, we are doing our work and focusing on what we are doing and our modeling." Todd attempted the old paraphrase move: "So he's not welcome back?" And Burwell utters the line that makes us laugh: "With regard to Mr. Gruber and his comments, I think I've been clear. That's something we fundamentally disagree with."

Welcome back, you're not welcome back, Gruber
Welcome back, you're never coming back, it's FUBAR
Well, the names have all changed, now there's Burwell
But those dreams have remained, they're from Orwell
That bill you called spaghetti (bill you called spaghetti)
Could you shut up already? (shut up already)
Yeah, we tease him a lot cause we've got him on the spot
Welcome back, you're never coming back....

(Apologies to John Sebastian.)

"In these times of compassion when conformity’s in fashion...."

A Bob Dylan line arrived at this morning as a consequence of researching the word "fashion." That's the only time Bob Dylan ever used the word "fashion," in a song about Jesus. Meade recommends Lou Reed's version of the song:

Now, the reason I'm researching the word "fashion" is that yesterday — a propos of the rocket scientist's pinup-festooned shirt — I said: "In the broad span of human culture, fashion is more important than space travel." I didn't elaborate at the time, because it would have been a detour, and also because I thought it would be much more interesting and entertaining to see how much scorn I could incur for saying something that I knew was a cinch to defend.

Click on this blog's "fashion" tag and see all that is encompassed in this topic. I've found 618 occasions to discuss something that fits my conception of "fashion" over the past 10 years. Few subjects rival fashion. Law has 5000+ posts, but other than that. Dylan? 337. It's bigger than Dylan. The Beatles? Only 173. Are The Beatles bigger than Jesus?

Are The Beatles bigger than Jesus on this blog? No! The Jesus tag is used 301 times. So Jesus is bigger than The Beatles, but not bigger than Bob Dylan, according to the metric of blog tags.

Fashion is more important than space travel drew the predictable scorn — much of it in the this-is-why-women-can't-do-science mode — but there were some comments that took things in the direction I'd intended. Dustbunny said:
I like this site because it is smart, funny and littered with Dylan references.
Yes, it is!
Unlike a number of left wing or right wing sites Althouse plays with the stereotypes with which those sites proudly and quite stupidly adhere. I am going to think deeply about the influence of fashion throughout history, but I'm not convinced there is a great deal there except on an esoteric level. Fashion leads to variations on a theme, science lead to space exploration. I am a woman, I grew up reading Seventeen and Vogue, I studied art history and I concede that Coco Chanel was a badass who changed a small but recent block of history..Also I studied art because math was way too hard — l'stereotype c'est moi. Is this about the court at Versailles? sans-culottes vs the aristocrats?
And furious_a had already said:
Hmmm, maybe fashion precedes space travel. Since fashion is intrinsically foreign and requires travel to acquire. Demand for silk and spices drove the merchant adventurers of the Middle Ages to open trade routes to the Far East, after which Columbus and Magellan followed. Demand for furs drew trappers to the Trans-Mississippi West, after which Lewis & Clark followed.
And chickelit said:
Cave people and aboriginals have fashion and very little science (that we know of). So fashion is more basic somehow to human nature. Insofar as fashion is related to mating behavior, fashion is more important than science. You can't advance culture if you can't even reproduce.
Eventually, some people noticed that a lot depends on the scope of the term "fashion." Rusty said:
I suppose, Althouse, it would depend on how you define fashion, but in the grand sweep of human history nobody cares what pants Lee Harvey Oswald wore.
And yet, if Lee Harvey Oswald had not been wearing pants, he would never have assassinated John F. Kennedy. As Mark Twain said: "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." He also said: "Strip the human race, absolutely naked, and it would be a real democracy. But the introduction of even a rag of tiger skin, or a cowtail, could make a badge of distinction and be the beginning of a monarchy." And: "A policeman in plain clothes is a man; in his uniform he is ten. Clothes and title are the most potent thing, the most formidable influence, in the earth. They move the human race to willing and spontaneous respect for the judge, the general, the admiral, the bishop, the ambassador, the frivolous earl, the idiot duke, the sultan, the king, the emperor. No great title is efficient without clothes to support it."

Glad that someone had finally focused on the scope of the term, I banged out an answer late at night on my iPad, typing with one finger and therefore stating it bluntly:
By fashion, I mean to include all of the clothing that everyone wears. It's important for basic survival, comfort, and protection, and it's a powerful mode of expression for the wearer and the designer. It's intimately tied to the body and thus to our personal presentation. We see others almost always only with their clothes as part of their image, and it affects how we feel and think about them. Clothing is a big part of nearly everyone's life, a huge part of our visual world.
Having missed the issue of defining the term, Joe spoke words of anger:
Way to backtrack, Althouse. Fashion ≠ clothing except in the minds of elitist snobs. If you meant clothing, why the hell didn't you say "clothing"? And you wonder why most people think lawyers are arrogant dicks.
Oh? So now do I get to be a boy? Suddenly, I'm not one of those women who can't do science, nor am I one of those females who outperform males in language-based enterprises. My verbal achievement gets categorized as male, and suddenly, I am a dick. Well, at least I get to be an arrogant dick.

And arrogance brings me back to where this post started, because that Bob Dylan song quoted in the post title is "Foot of Pride." That song begins: "Like the lion tears the flesh off of a man/So can a woman who passes herself off as a male." I can only speculate what that might mean, even as I've only speculated about what Matt Taylor meant to say as he arrayed himself in a shirt patterned with bosom-y ladies. But I wasn't trying to pass myself off as male.

To the extent I applied lawyer-mind to the task of understanding Matt Taylor's fashion statement, I was sticking to the evidence I had: He wore a very loud, attention-getting shirt, and that implies that he intended a message and thus invited us to think and talk about it. I'm still wondering what he meant, why he took it back, and why taking it back made him cry. I wanted to understand. A commenter criticized me for knowing "very little about geek culture," but I never claimed to know. I was the one who didn't want to talk about Matt Taylor's shirt until I noticed the question: What was he thinking?

Anyway, fashion is a broad term in my book, which is this blog of 10 years. And I am not guilty of making it overbroad: As a word in the English language, it is far broader. The original meaning is "The action or process of making." The meaning related to clothing is: "A prevailing custom, a current usage; esp. one characteristic of a particular place or period of time...  with regard to apparel or personal adornment." That's from the OED, which has as one of it's oldest quotes for the clothing-related meaning, Shakespeare's 1616 line: "'Tis some odd humor pricks him to this fashion/Yet oftentimes he goes but mean-appareled."

Pricks? Are we to think of pricks in the sense of dicks? With Shakespeare, it's a good bet anything that could be a pun is an intentional pun. And I like to think that even with lesser beings, the expressions that could have deeper meaning really do.

I'm not talking through my hat when I say: You're talking through your shirt.

You can't wear that and claim you didn't mean to say anything.

So be more subtle if you want deniability.

Subtlety is my bag....