January 24, 2015

50 years ago today: "The great figure who embodied man's will to resist tyranny passed into history... He was 90 years old."

"The world had been watching and waiting since Jan. 15, when it was announced that Sir Winston had suffered a stroke. The last authentic giant of world politics in the 20th century was going down." Wrote Anthony Lewis in the NYT.
For nine days the struggle went on. Medical experts said that only phenomenal tenacity and spirit of life could enable a man of 90 to hold off death so long in these circumstances.

But then those were the qualities that had made Winston Churchill a historical figure in his lifetime. His pluck in rallying Britain to victory in World War II saved not only this country but, in all likelihood, free nations everywhere.... With almost all of Europe under or about to fall under the Nazi jackboot, it was Sir Winston who flung this challenge at the enemy:

"We shall not flag, or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."

Governor Nelson State Park/Today 2:22.


For the annals of unintended consequences.

Mosquito nets — "widely considered a magic bullet against malaria" — used to fish:
Nobody in his hut, including his seven children, sleeps under a net at night. Instead, Mr. Ndefi has taken his family’s supply of anti-malaria nets and sewn them together into a gigantic sieve that he uses to drag the bottom of the swamp ponds, sweeping up all sorts of life: baby catfish, banded tilapia, tiny mouthbrooders, orange fish eggs, water bugs and the occasional green frog....

[T]he unsparing mesh, with holes smaller than mosquitoes, traps much more life than traditional fishing nets do. Scientists say that could imperil already stressed fish populations, a critical food source for millions of the world’s poorest people.

"Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) delivered a fiery speech in Iowa on Saturday, wowing the conservative crowd with a passionate argument for small government and his own lengthy resume."

The Hill reports.

AP says: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is holding up his 'go big and go bold' attitude as something Republicans need to emulate in Washington."

National Journal:
He paced the stage here without notes and without a jacket, in blue shirtsleeves and a red tie, joking that the mass of squatting photographers would struggle to keep up as he moved about... As he bled past the allotted 20 minutes, Walker almost didn't seem to want to leave the stage, as he tacked on applause line after applause line to the end of his speech. "In America, we value our independence from the government and not our dependence on it," he said. "We need leaders who will stand with our allies against radical Islamic terrorists," he said to some of the day's biggest applause.

AND: Here's what Byron York said about Walker — this morning, before the speech:
Scott Walker doesn't have to be great on the stump to do well. As a lot of Republicans see it, the Wisconsin governor is the most accomplished candidate in the race. Who can match his achievement staring down the mighty public-sector unions and then winning a recall and re-election in a blue state? For Republicans, those are simply huge victories. Now, as the campaign begins, Walker's record means GOP voters will cut him a little slack in the charisma and oratory department. It's fair to say that Walker does not electrify a crowd. But his GOP cred as the man who took on the unions and the armies of the left means he can win over an audience even if he can't speak like Ted Cruz.
But Walker apparently did electrify the crowd.

"Even by the standards of Yemen, where violence, uncertainty and a weak central government are endemic, the power vacuum has produced a serious crisis..."

"...  that threatens to tear the country apart, allow a resurgent Qaeda room to expand and accelerate a sectarian conflict between the Houthis, who are a Shiite sect, and Sunni tribes and militants."
It also may undermine the United States’ antiterrorism operations in the region, since the ousted president was an ally of Washington.

Still, the mood here remained calm, almost festive at times, as hundreds of Houthi supporters — bitter opponents of Al Qaeda — gathered in the district of Al Juras, their main stronghold in the capital, to condemn the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were published in the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. It was the local Qaeda franchise that claimed credit for planning the attacks at the newspaper and a kosher market that left 17 dead in Paris this month.

“God is great, death to America, death to Israel, damnation to the Jews, victory to Islam," scattered groups chanted as they strolled back to their cars.
It's only Yemen. Are you paying attention to what is arguably — as opposed to 11 deflated footballs — the most important news story of the week?

"Catherine the Great had a room decorated with penises and vaginas."

"The furniture has vanished, but some pictures (NSFW) remain."

A Metafilter post, linking to here, where you can see the photographs of some pretty amazing furniture. Be sure to click on the thumbnail images. Don't miss the one with the Devil.

The Guardian gives its British readers an introduction to Scott Walker — "polarising figure in arguably the most polarising state in the US."

I'm highly amused by this piece — "Could Scott Walker be the elusive 2016 contender Republicans are looking for?" — because Meade and I have followed the Scott Walker story from here in Wisconsin, from the beginning. It's funny to see how outsiders are brought up to speed on the "polarising" that's been going on here in The North. The Guardian begins:
It’s midday in the Wisconsin state capitol in Madison, and that means it’s time for a Solidarity Singalong. A circle of protesters have filled the central rotunda of the venerable building and are singing lustily to the tune of I’ll Fly Away, their voices spiralling up into the dome overhead.
We’re not going away, oh Scotty!
Until the day when justice holds sway.
You might think our mighty cause is lost, but
We’re not going away.
The singers aren’t here just for the harmonies – they really mean it. They aren’t going away. Though their numbers are down to a meagre 15 from the thousands that overran the capitol at the height of Wisconsin’s union battles almost four years ago, they have stuck it out. Every weekday since 11 March 2011, without a break – 1,006 days and counting – they have turned out to sing songs of defiance against the man they call “Scotty.”
I read this out loud to Meade and say "I don't even know the song 'I'll Fly Away," and Meade immediately — putting the Meade into immediately — launches into a few verses of the song, with the original words about dying and going to heaven. Meade sounds a little like this:

When I heard it sung like that, I remembered the old gospel song. Wikipedia says it may be the most-recorded gospel song. It was written in 1929 by Albert E. Brumley, who said he thought of it as he was working on the farm and "humming the old ballad that went like this: 'If I had the wings of an angel, over these prison walls I would fly,' and suddenly it dawned on me that I could use this plot for a gospel-type song."

That is, he took a secular song — "The Prisoner's Song" — and saw how it could be made into a religious song. The dream of flying out of prison became the vision of flying as an angel away from earthly life. That takes some of the edge off my criticism of the Solidarity Singers' appropriation of the religious song for a secular purpose. "I'll Fly Away" originated in the heartfelt but secular wish to escape from prison, and they've got their heartfelt desire to be free of Scott Walker. I guess that feels like prison to them.

Meade says "The Solidarity Singers are a little bit mental — I think that's what the British press is politely trying to say."

"He was the nicest human being I have ever met. It was like being friends with God."

Wrote Bill Bryson about Ernie Banks in "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir":
My dad was a sportswriter for The Des Moines Register... Baseball, like everything else, was part of a simpler world in those days, and I was allowed to go with him into the clubhouse and dugout and onto the field before games.... Once on a hot July afternoon I sat in a nearly airless clubhouse under the left-field grandstand at Wrigley Field beside Ernie Banks, the Cubs’ great shortstop, as he autographed boxes of new white baseballs (which are, incidentally, one of the most pleasurably aromatic things on earth, and worth spending time around anyway). Unbidden, I took it upon myself to sit beside him and pass him each new ball. This slowed the process considerably, but he gave a little smile each time and said thank you as if I had done him quite a favor. He was the nicest human being I have ever met. It was like being friends with God.
Ernie Banks died yesterday at the age of 83.


A reader emails: "A local 'institute' steps into the New Age mumbo jumbo." She links to the website of Usona Institute, "a medical research organization." Its "affiliates and collaborators" include The University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics and University of Wisconsin – Madison School of Pharmacy. The first link goes to a page headed "about," which has a fuzzy photo of a woman silhouetted against a mountain ridge and the following text:
When those we love are in pain, human nature compels us to help. We try conventional methods to show our compassion, but sometimes they fall short. So we search for answers outside traditional boundaries to respond to those situations that are deeply challenging.

Our immediate goal is simple. We want to help people with a life-threatening cancer diagnosis lift their anxiety and depression with the therapeutic, guided use of entheogens* which can serve as a potential adjuncts to currently available treatments. We’ve witnessed this unique experience and have seen how many patients have attained a richer, more meaningful quality of life. It’s an experience that may help them achieve what every person desires before they breathe their last breath—closer interpersonal relationships and inner peace.

"The two earliest statements as to [the origin of the term 'Yankee'] were published in 1789..."

"... Thomas Anburey, a British officer who served under Burgoyne in the War of Independence, in his Travels II. 50 derives Yankee from Cherokee eankke slave, coward, which he says was applied to the inhabitants of New England by the Virginians for not assisting them in a war with the Cherokees; William Gordon in Hist. Amer. War states that it was a favourite word with farmer Jonathan Hastings of Cambridge, Mass., c1713, who used it in the sense of 'excellent.' Appearing next in order of date (1822) is the statement which has been most widely accepted, viz. that the word has been evolved from North American Indian corruptions of the word English through Yengees to Yankees (Heckewelder, Indian Nations iii. ed. 1876, p. 77); compare Yengees n.

Says the (unlinkable) Oxford English Dictionary, in its entry for "Yankee," which sends us to "Yengee," where we see this quote from an 1819  history of the Indians: "When the Yengeese arrived at Machtitschwanne, they looked about everywhere for good spots of land." If it's Yengeese — with an "e" on the end — one might imagine the singular as "Yengoose," that is, if you're amused by invented false notions about words. In that form of play, the etymology of Yankee could be: that which has been yanked — a prick. As for the delightful word "Machtitschwanne," that's just another way to spell Massachusetts.

But to stick with the uprightly historical, Yankee is a word of uncertain origin, perhaps meaning slave or coward, perhaps excellent, and perhaps English. That's the OED. Wikipedia's entry for Yankee claims that "linguists" reject all the theories that the word comes from any Native American language.

Here's Wikipedia's article "Names for United States citizens," dealing with the pesky old problem of the inaccuracy of the term "Americans," which, taken literally, could refer to everyone on the continents of North and South America. That's nothing that could confuse anyone grounded in the real world, but the question of alternative terms remains amusing (or even important to someone looking to take offense at microagressions).
Several single-word English alternatives for "American" have been suggested over time, including "Usonian", popularized by Frank Lloyd Wright, and the nonce term "United-Statesian". The writer H. L. Mencken collected a number of proposals from between 1789 and 1939, finding terms including "Columbian", "Columbard", "Fredonian", "Frede", "Unisian", "United Statesian", "Colonican", "Appalacian", "USian", "Washingtonian", "Usonian", "Uessian", "U-S-ian", "Uesican", and "United Stater".
"Yankee" is one more alternative, but only non-Americans see it as referring to all Americans, rather than only to non-Southerners. (I was going to say "only to non-Northerners," but it was only yesterday that were were talking about the notion that, in the U.S., "the North" consists of little more than Minnesota.)

Why am I writing about this today? It's a complete sidetrack from the subject you'll see in the next post.

January 23, 2015

At the Capitol Café...


... you can talk about anything you want.

(The photograph shows the Wisconsin State Capitol building from across frozen Lake Mendota.)

The Supreme Court will decide on the 3-drug protocol for lethal-injection executions.

SCOTUSblog reports.

The man who helped engineer Mike Huckabee's Iowa caucus victory in 2008 has signed on with Scott Walker.

David Polyansky.
Iowa has been a home-away-from-home for Polyansky for years. He was deputy campaign manager for Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann when she climbed to a surprise victory in the 2011 Iowa Straw Poll. And he was senior consultant to [Joni] Ernst, who won a five-way GOP primary in June then defeated Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley by 8.3 points in November to claim the U.S. Senate seat held for 30 years by a staunch liberal, Tom Harkin.
And here's a NYT article on tomorrow's big Iowa event:
The event, which is being hosted by Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, offers Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, the most prominent establishment figure on the schedule, a chance to test his appeal among grass-roots conservatives....

The forum on Saturday has the potential to become a gladiatorial matchup between Mr. Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008 on the strength of conservative Christian voters, and Mr. Santorum, who won it four years ago with the same voters. In 2012, nearly 60 percent of Republican caucusgoers in Iowa were born-again or evangelical Christians.
But Walker is also on that schedule — and so are Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson. We'll see how these various characters play to the conservatives.

My preference for fictionalized historical movies, with a particular note on the ones with a fictional country.

I'm thinking about why I don't want to see the movie "Selma" and why the only movie from last year that I took the time to watch was "The Grand Budapest Hotel." I also don't want to see "American Sniper," and I avoided the movie "Lincoln," even when it was staring me in the face on television and even though I love Daniel Day-Lewis. Maybe I just don't like to watch actors pretending to be particular historical figures. It's too much of an impersonation, and invention and originality is problematic. And maybe it's the distraction of the distortions done for dramatic effect, which seems to be the case with the character of LBJ in "Selma." I'm fully interested in history and am, right now, thoroughly immersed in the series of Robert A. Caro books about LBJ. I want to get as close to understanding the great historical character as I can, and any 2 hours immersed in those books serves that interest better than watching dramatic scenes in "Selma."

Here's the earlier blog post where I talk about the Maureen Dowd column criticizing the movie for making a "faux" "villain" out of LBJ. And here's a new piece in The New Yorker by Amy Davidson saying "Why 'Selma' Is More Than Fair to L.B.J." I dislike LBJ and regard him as a great villain (even if his particular form of villainy put him on the good side of some issues), and I don't really care whether the film is "fair" to him or not. If I saw the movie, it would be to pursue my own  interest in the way media massages the story. I'd write a blog post. The post would quote the line: "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

That's the end of "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," a great, great movie with a historical setting and a fictional story. Jimmy Stewart plays the part of a made-up U.S. Senator, Ransom "Ranse" Stoddard. The West, of course, was a real place, not a fictional place, and so it doesn't fit the category I really want to talk about in connection with "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

"The Grand Budapest Hotel" has a fictional historical story, set in a fictional Eastern European country, Zubrowka. (The name Zubrowka comes from the traditional Polish bison-grass flavored vodka.) Here's Wikipedia's plot summary for the movie — a lot about a vaguely explained war in the 1930s and its impact on a posh hotel. It is completely weird and fantastical and yet it conveys quite deep emotions about love and loss, and the resonance with history feels profound and comical. One feels history without needing to fuss over the accuracy. There can be no accuracy. I love that.

Zubrowka is the last country named on Wikipedia's "List of fictional countries," which I found because I was thinking about how great it was to have a fictional country in "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and wanted to think of other movies with a strong feeling of history in a particular place, where the place is fictional. Before looking, I thought of the great comedies "The Great Dictator" (Tomania) and "Duck Soup" (Freedonia and Sylvania). Wikipedia's list of fictional countries doesn't have "The Great Dictator," and not everything on the list has a fictional country used to tell a historical story. So I'm not looking for things like Florin (in "The Princess Bride") or Oz, because these are fantasy lands, not any kind of stand-in for a real geographical place on Earth, or Eastasia and Oceania in "1984" or Gilead in "The Handmaid's Tale" because these stories are not set in historical time but in the future.

So there's a category of movie that I want to say I love, that I want to put above the usual historical movies, but I haven't found enough examples to make a proper category. Perhaps "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is too original to define a category. In that case: grand!

The country I come from is called The Midwest The North.

The Wall Street Journal has an article titled "Minnesota’s New Cool Image as ‘the North’/Proponents Embrace Region’s Frigid Weather, Rugged Character; ‘Heritage’ Brands Thrive":
“North” has a special meaning in Minnesota these days, and it is gradually gaining a stronger following. Though most Americans consider the state part of the Midwest, a number of local influencers are proposing to redefine Minnesota as a region that the U.S., officially at least, currently lacks: the North. They want their region to be recognized for its innovative, sturdy character, honed by long, cold winters.

Supporters of “North” say that being lumped in with the Midwest causes people to lose sight of their region’s special nature. “We don’t behave like the rest of the Midwest,” says Andrew Blauvelt, senior curator of design, research and publishing at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, which recently hosted a standing-room-only symposium on Minnesota’s regional identity. 
I like the idea of North, but it can't just be one state. Surely, Wisconsin belongs to this cool/cold place:
The “North” movement dovetails with national trends of late: buying locally made goods, eating local farm products and wearing “heritage” products with a long pedigree. Well-made utilitarian items—long an important part of Minnesotan culture—are fashionable all over these days....
There are Duluth Packs in Barneys, we're told, and bags made from the fabric of the Minneapolis Metrodome are sold nationally. Red Wing shoes, made in Minnesota, are big, not to mention Faribault woolens. I'm sure Wisconsin's list of sturdy products is cooler than Minnesota's. I mean: Harley-Davidson motorcycles, OshKosh overalls, Trek bikes, Wigwam socks, Sub-Zero refrigerators.
[I]n the true low-drama style of the region, “North” isn't exactly a campaign. There is no marketing budget or organizing committee. There are other names proposed, such as “North Coast” and “Upper Midwest”—though “North” seems to be taking the lead. Most people agree that parts of other states, such as the Dakotas, part of Wisconsin and Michigan’s upper peninsula, also belong in the North. 
Part of Wisconsin! Not the part gets close to Chicago, I take it. Not Milwaukee. Not Madison?
“I think it’s important that it not feel like a top-down orchestrated campaign,” says Mr. Dayton. “It’s important that it bubble up.”
Well, then, let's get bubbling. We're not The Midwest, we're The North.


1. The post's title "The country I come from is called the Midwest" is a line from the Bob Dylan song "With God on Our Side." ("I’s taught and brought up there/The laws to abide/And that the land that I live in/Has God on its side.") There's good Dylan authority, however, for renaming the region The North: "If you’re travelin’ in the north country fair/Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline/Remember me to one who lives there/She once was a true love of mine."

2. "The Idea of North" — in boldface above — is the title of Part 01 of Glenn Gould’s "Solitude Trilogy." (I love the scene in "32 Short Films About Glenn Gould" — one of my all-time favorite movies — where Gould gets the idea for "The Idea of North.")

"Humane motion"... "time is your soul mate"... and "vice destroys"... the Bob Dylan AARP interview.

In the middle of the night — between sleeps — I read this interview Bob Dylan gave to — of all places — AARP Magazine. I made a mental note of 2 things I wanted to blog when I made it to the other side of the second sleep: 1. time, and 2. virtue.

1. Time. Bob says "Life has its ups and downs, and time has to be your partner, you know? Really, time is your soul mate." You need to have a good relationship with time, and that acknowledging what belongs to the past and what still belongs in your life. The Frank Sinatra songs Bob is covering on his new album are always vital:
So a song like “I’m a Fool to Want You” — I know that song. I can sing that song. I’ve felt every word in that song. I mean, I know that song. It’s like I wrote it. It’s easier for me to sing that song than it is to sing “Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane.” At one time that wouldn’t have been so. But now it is. Because “Queen Jane” might be a little bit outdated. But this song is not outdated. It has to do with humane motion. There’s nothing contrived in these songs. There’s not one false word in any of them. They’re eternal.
Humane motion. Did AARP put the space in the wrong place?

January 22, 2015

The fault is not in ourselves, but in our lake, dear Mendota.


Photographed earlier this evening, from Picnic Point.


The Microsoft HoloLens Headset and the horrifying prospect of "immersive videoconferences with colleagues."

"At Windows 10 Event, Microsoft Jumps Into Augmented Reality With HoloLens Headset," the NYT enthuses but my blood ran cold when I got to the end of this paragraph:
The company has seemed adrift in recent years. But on Wednesday, it unveiled an unexpected new headset that allows interaction with holographic images, enabling people to play video games, build 3-D models and hold immersive videoconferences with colleagues.
Here's the upbeat presentation of life with holograms:

Maybe you get excited about playing video games and designing motorcycles, but I'm stuck on "immersive videoconferences with colleagues." Much as I loathe sitting through meetings and would love to be freed from the physical restraint of the closed room, I'm horrified by the prospect of strapping goggles on my head and getting locked into an immersive videoconference with a bunch of other people.

In the future, will jobs with meetings only go to people who have a bizarre capacity to look without flinching into other people's eyes? I'm assuming they're figuring out a way so that we won't be stuck looking at a person wearing goggles. But staring immersively at colleagues' faces — goggled or not — sounds like utter hell. I'm old and I can retire, and if I were young, I realize, I could pursue an occupation free of meetings. But it's not enough to drop out. I don't want the world run by the kind people who are able to put up with that inhuman style of interaction.

And while we're on the subject, you must read this New Yorker article "We Know How You Feel/Computers are learning to read emotion, and the business world can’t wait."
The software [Affdex] scans for a face; if there are multiple faces, it isolates each one. It then identifies the face’s main regions—mouth, nose, eyes, eyebrows—and it ascribes points to each, rendering the features in simple geometries. When I looked at myself in the live feed on her iPad, my face was covered in green dots. “We call them deformable and non-deformable points,” she said. “Your lip corners will move all over the place—you can smile, you can smirk—so these points are not very helpful in stabilizing the face. Whereas these points, like this at the tip of your nose, don’t go anywhere.” Serving as anchors, the non-deformable points help judge how far other points move.

Affdex also scans for the shifting texture of skin—the distribution of wrinkles around an eye, or the furrow of a brow—and combines that information with the deformable points to build detailed models of the face as it reacts. The algorithm identifies an emotional expression by comparing it with countless others that it has previously analyzed.
It seems obvious to me that if we ever do have to put up with meetings in Microsoft goggles, we'll also be seeing detailed computer-processed information about how we all feel about every little thing that is said or seen, including the data about how we all feel about every little thing that is said or seen. Ahead lies madness.

House Republican leaders "abruptly dropped" the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" because of "a revolt by female GOP lawmakers"...

... who thought the abortion restriction "would once again spoil the party's chances of broadening its appeal to women and younger voters," the Washington Post reports.
In recent days, as many as two dozen Republicans had raised concerns with that would ban abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy. Sponsors said that exceptions would be allowed for a woman who is raped, but she could only get the abortion after reporting the rape to law enforcement....

The dispute erupted into the open in recent days and once again demonstrated the changing contours of the expanded House Republican caucus. The 246-member caucus is seeing rifts on issues where it once had more unity. That's because there are now more moderate Republicans from swing districts who could face tough reelections in 2016 when more Democratic and independent voters are expected to vote in the presidential election.

"Illinois Says Rule-Breaking Students Must Give Teachers Their Facebook Passwords."

"Nowhere in the law does it explicitly state that schools are allowed to ask for students' passwords, but one section of it says that schools must implement a policy that includes a 'process to investigate whether a reported act of bullying is within the permissible scope of the district's or school's jurisdiction.'..."

So... an accusation of bullying unleashes the full bullying power of the state. Shameful.

What kind of an arrangement should Jeb and Mitt make?

"Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are scheduled to meet privately this week in Utah, raising the possibility that the two former governors will find a way to avoid competing presidential campaigns that would split the Republican establishment next year, two prominent party members said Wednesday night."

The NYT reports.

So... they are trying to "find a way"? Can you help? Assume you want to. I mean, I'm sure some of you would like to see the Republican establishment wrecked by a split, leaving the nomination to someone more tea-partyish — either because you like that sort of thing or because you think it's easier for the Democrat to beat. But let's examine this from the Jeb-and-Mitt point of view: What arrangement should they make?

"A federal investigation has not found enough evidence to charge Darren Wilson with the federal crime of depriving Michael Brown of his civil rights..."

CNN reports based on "multiple sources familiar with the investigation."

CNN includes a quote from Antonio French, "a St. Louis city alderman who lives near Ferguson":
"I think you have a lot of people who will be disappointed if this does turn out to be the case. The community and the family wanted a day in court, an opportunity to see all the evidence laid out, cross-examined.... And it looks like that's not going to happen. I hope we don't have any violence as a result of this.... People have a right to protest. We will probably continue to see that. That's a good thing. But we want to keep them peaceful, nonviolent...."

"The powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, was arrested on federal corruption charges on Thursday..."

"... sending shock waves through the political establishment and upending the new legislative session," the NYT reports.
Mr. Silver, a Democrat from the Lower East Side of Manhattan who has served as speaker for more than two decades, surrendered to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents early Thursday morning in Lower Manhattan, law enforcement officials said.

The investigation of Mr. Silver began after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in March abruptly shut down an anticorruption commission he had created in 2013.
What does that suggest about Cuomo? Did he see the commission's investigation leading toward Silver and shut it down for that reason?!
The speaker since 1994, Mr. Silver is a consummate back-room player, one of Albany’s “three men in a room,” along with the governor and Senate majority leader, who negotiate the state budget and hammer out deals on important legislation.

The day before his arrest, Mr. Silver, 70, was in Albany, where he attended Mr. Cuomo’s State of the State address and had a prominent seat on stage next to the governor.
ADDED: Drudge presents the story with a photo that features Hillary Clinton:

Why did Obama shift from saying "parental leave" (in the press release) to "maternity leave" (in the SOTU)?

 Asks Naomi Shavin in The New Republic. She notes that the press release says "There is a notable gap in federal benefits, and that is paid parental leave.... This can hamper federal agencies’ ability to recruit talented young people to join public service." And in the State of the Union address, Obama said: "we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers." Now, he also said "it’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue," so why did he move away from the gender-neutral word "parental" and say "maternity"?

That's Shavin's question, but I think the answer is pretty obvious when you notice that there are 2 different issues: 1. The benefits package extended to federal workers, and 2. The requirements to be imposed on private employers. A really nice benefits package gives paid leave when a child is born that goes to either parent and that extends beyond the period of recovery from childbirth, which is a physical matter that is properly linked to sick leave.

It's not incoherent for the President: 1. to support that really nice benefits package for employees of the federal government but not to put such an immense burden on private employees, and 2. to want to require private employers to provide paid sick leave and the kind of maternity leave that has to do with the mother's recovery from childbirth (and is thus comparable to sick leave).

Now, I'm looking at the press release, and I see that my guess is right. Under the heading "Promoting Workplace Flexibility and Access to Paid Leave," there are 2 distinct categories: "Parental Leave for Federal Employees" and "Supporting Paid Sick Leave." Shavin is right that only the phrase "parental leave" appears in the document and not "maternity leave," but the parental leave in question is only for federal employees. Federal workers already have paid sick leave and the proposal is to give them something more, and this would extend to both fathers and mothers.

Under the heading "Supporting Paid Sick Leave," we see the proposal to be imposed on private-sector workers, 40% of whom don't get "sick pay for their own illness or injury." There's a reference to the Healthy Families Act, which would require private employers (of more than 15 workers) to give "1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked." This "sick time" then can be used to cover one's "own medical needs," and since that would include recovery from childbirth, but presumably not spending time bonding with a new baby, that's the reason to say "maternity leave" in the SOTU phrase "we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers."

I can see why Obama wouldn't want to get bogged down in these distinctions in the speech and also why listeners like Shavin are left to wondering why Obama sounded as though he'd fallen into old-style assumptions about childcare being women's work. Why isn't he more forward-thinking and feminist? The answer is that pregnancy and childbirth only happen to women, and there's no legislation or ideology to redistribute that burden. And that plain biological reality is why it makes sense to support imposing paid childbirth-recovery leave on private employers but making baby-bonding new-parent leave optional.

"'American Sniper'... had the power to leave a packed Manhattan movie house silent—really, completely silent..."

"... as they stared at the closing credits and tried to absorb the meaning of what they’d seen. They filed out silently, too.... The movie seems to have pinged off something in the American psyche... [Navy SEAL Chris] Kyle, the movie makes clear, joined up to defend America after al Qaeda began making its moves. When he was a boy his father taught him not to be a sheep or a wolf but a sheepdog—a protector of others. The movie is a meditation on this. It is interesting that Americans want such a meditation. On the Iraq war it takes no stand. While the film glorifies war—all battlefield heroics, by being admirable, glorify war—there is a persistent antiwar presence, and not only because depicting the damage and dislocation done to those visited by war is an antiwar statement. Chris Kyle’s brother, on leaving Iraq after his own tour, makes a statement suggestion [sic] the U.S. is in the wrong place. A heartbroken mother at a stateside funeral seems to cry out for peace. Kyle’s close friend shares his doubts. Kyle doesn’t share them but he hears them, and Eastwood lets them echo out. This is a fair-minded movie. It is not anyone’s propaganda...."

Writes Peggy Noonan.

ADDED: How do you know that people staying to read the closing credits are "tr[ying] to absorb the meaning of what they’d seen." Maybe they're looking to see who played some bit part and what that song was and so forth. And don't people who are still sitting and watching remain silent? I think talking about a movie is something that you do as you're walking out of the theater. Did those Manhattanites, walking out, turn to each other with the usual "So what do you think?" or whatever it is people say nowadays to start the after-movie conversations?

And that's assuming the moviegoers were not alone. And if these moviegoers were really in a position to talk to someone else and delaying in some abnormal way, it might not be about the "meaning" of the movie as a "meditation" on the military, it could be the more mundane question whether this is a good movie. Did I like it as a movie? That's sometimes a puzzle. Sometimes you withhold judgment until you see the end and need more time to have an opinion worth stating.

When I read the first half of Noonan's piece, I thought: I should see this movie. But when I read the second half, I thought: I don't need to see this movie. It's not good enough. It's got formulaic scenes in boot camp and with a tedious wife character. I don't need to spend my time on moving pictures of something that's easily and more authentically accessible in book form.

January 21, 2015

"It's Brad Pitt in 'Fight Club.' That's the body blokes ask for."

"Yesterday: Roided out bodybuilders. Today: V-lined ab-focused fat free men ready for their HD selfie."

44 old-time NYC storefronts.

Nicely presented by Buzzfeed all on one page.

"When Heather Watson crashed out of the Australian Open this week, she put her poor performance down to starting her period ..."

"... Publicly breaking the silence on an issue that affects all sportswomen. But why is it still something we never hear about?"

"[W]hy would the Republican party want this one family to dominate their presidencies from the late 1980s into the 2020s, when both Bush presidencies so far have left so much to be desired?"

Perfect question.

OR: Even if you liked H.W. and W. or both, how could a party possibly want a single nuclear family to be the source of all of its presidents for a period of 32 (or 36) years?

Ludicrous umbrage taken at Scott Walker's "I've got a master's degree in taking on the big government special interests..."

I had to laugh at Daily Kos writer Mark E. Anderson's "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker claims to have a master's degree":
Everyone is almost certainly aware by now that Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin does not have a bachelor’s degree. He left the University of Marquette, and in his words, "I'm someone who went to college, had the opportunity in my senior year to go and take a job full-time job (…)like a lot of folks in America, you know, your family and your job take the time away from you finishing it up."

In that same recent interview, Walker stated, "I've got a master's degree in taking on the big government special interests, and I think that is worth more than anything else that anybody can point to."

Gov. Walker was unable to finish college. There are plenty of websites and blogs out there full of accusations about why he left Marquette, but we're not exploring that today. This is about how he has the audacity to suggest that he has a master’s degree when he does not even have a bachelor’s degree....
Walker was using a hoary old trope. On my list of old-man expressions that no one uses anymore is: I graduated from the School of Hard Knocks.

Now, maybe Anderson does understand the old trope but he's just weirdly bugged by the specification of a master's degree. Since Walker — last I heard — has no bachelor's degree, he ought to have limited himself to saying "I've got a bachelor's degree in taking on the big government special interests." That's some strange umbrage Anderson is taking. I had to laugh.

By the way, I said "last I heard," because my prediction — made here last April — is that Walker will at some dramatic point reveal that he has acquired a degree:
What should Scott Walker — if he's a presidential candidate — say when they ask him whether a President needs to have a college degree?

Underinflated and overinflated football.

ESPN says its "league sources involved and familiar with the investigation of Sunday's AFC Championship Game" are — like air out of a football — leaking: "The NFL has found that 11 of the New England Patriots' 12 game balls were inflated significantly below the NFL's requirements."
Yet to be determined is what, if any, penalties may be imposed upon the Patriots. One source described the league as "disappointed ... angry ... distraught" after spending considerable time on the findings earlier Tuesday....

The NFL began looking into the issue because doctoring the footballs could provide a competitive advantage, compromising the integrity of the game. Deflating a football can change the way it's gripped by a player or the way it travels through the air....
The most interesting commentary comes from the Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who likes his footballs overinflated:
"I have a major problem with the way it goes down, to be honest with you... The majority of the time, they take air out of the football. I think that, for me, is a disadvantage.... The majority of quarterbacks, I would say more than half, are maybe on the other end of the spectrum and like it on the flatter side... My belief is that there should be a minimum air-pressure requirement but not a maximum. There's no advantage, in my opinion -- we're not kicking the football -- there's no advantage in having a pumped-up football. There is, if you don't have strong grip pressure or smaller hands, an advantage to having a flat football, though, because that is easier to throw."
How can it be a disadvantage to take away what was not an advantage? Is that some kind of Zen koan? That makes me wonder about the religion of Aaron Rodgers, and it's actually in the news today:
“I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome,” Rodgers said. “He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.”
Meanwhile, the Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson takes a different position on the God and football question:
“That’s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special,” Wilson said.... “I’ve been through a lot in life, and had some ups and downs. It’s what’s led me to this day.”
Underinflated and overinflated.

Who reads a column called "A meaningless State of the Union" that begins "Why bother with the State of the Union?"

Here it is, by Jennifer Rubin. I'm just pointing at it because the headline captured my attitude, and the SOTU happened, and I wanted to commemorate the event somehow. Did I listen to the speech? I'm not sure. It was on, and I was near the television. I had my iPad out and was looking at random things, nothing nearly as focused as the Twitter feed on the SOTU. Beside me was my husband Meade, and we talked now and then, sometimes about the speech. I remember saying: "He's yelling... Why is he yelling?... He keeps yelling...." Meade turned down the volume. I got sleepy but I stayed up because I wanted to see Joni Ernst. When she came on, Meade said something about her hair that made me say: "Just think of it as a hat and it looks fine." And we talked about how old she is in connection with the question whether it's possible that she was named after Joni Mitchell. So did I watch the SOTU? Posing the question for myself this morning, I see why I was drawn to the headline "A meaningless State of the Union."

"Meet the honor brigade, an organized campaign to silence debate on Islam."

A column in The Washington post by Asra Q. Nomani — author of "Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam" — that begins:
“You have shamed the community,” a fellow Muslim in Morgantown, W.Va., said to me as we sat in a Panera Bread in 2004. “Stop writing.”

Then 38, I had just written an essay for The Washington Post’s Outlook section arguing that women should be allowed to pray in the main halls of mosques, rather than in segregated spaces, as most mosques in America are arranged. An American Muslim born in India, I grew up in a tolerant but conservative family. In my hometown mosque, I had disobeyed the rules and prayed in the men’s area, about 20 feet behind the men gathered for Ramadan prayers.

Later, an all-male tribunal tried to ban me. An elder suggested having men surround me at the mosque so that I would be “scared off.” Now the man across the table was telling me to shut up.

Figuring out how to read the "cylinders of carbonized plant material" that were once scrolls in the library of the father-in-law of Julius Caesar...

... in "a villa in Herculaneum, a town that was destroyed in A.D. 79 by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that obliterated nearby Pompeii."
Many attempts have been made to unroll the carbonized scrolls since they were excavated in 1752. But all were highly destructive, and scholars eventually decided to leave the scrolls alone in the hope that better methods would be invented....

Researchers led by Vito Mocella, of the Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems in Naples, Italy, now say that for the first time, they can read letters inside the scrolls without unrolling them. Using a laserlike beam of X-rays from the European Synchrotron in Grenoble, France, they were able to pick up the very slight contrast between the carbonized papyrus fibers and the ancient ink, soot-based and also made of carbon.

January 20, 2015

At the Ice-Bound Café...


... catch the wind.

ADDED: I was going to do a new post for the State of the Union, but "Ice-Bound Cafe" seems so right.

"Reality TV star hit by train was going for action shot, friends say."

Gregory Plitt's girlfriend said: "He wanted to push things to the limit. He's just like Superman."

"A 5-year-old boy in Plymouth, England, was given a $24 invoice for missing a friend's birthday party..."

"... in an unusual dispute that appears to be heading to court."

The Supreme Court requires an exemption from the anti-beard policy for prisoners with religious needs.

As I predicted here, the prisoner who used the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act to challenge the prison policy against beards has won in the Supreme Court.

Here's the PDF of the just-issued opinion in Holt v. Hobbs. It's unsurprisingly unanimous. The main opinion is written by Justice Alito, and there are concurring opinions by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor.

The prisoner showed that he had a sincere belief that his religion — Islam — requires him to have a beard, so it didn't matter that some Muslims believe a believe a beard isn't required or that the prisoner believed that if the government forced him to shave, he'd get "credit" in his religion for trying to do what was required. There was a substantial burden on his religion within the meaning of the statute, and that meant the government had to show that imposing that burden was necessary to serve its compelling interest.

As explained at the earlier post — at the first link, above — the government's assertions came across as ludicrous because the prisoner's beard was only one-half inch long. Justice Alito wrote:

"When he gets back to the White House on Thursday, [Obama] will reinforce that theme of youth engagement when he sits for his interviews with three YouTube stars..."

"... [Bethany] Mota, the anti-bullying fashionista, who is Hispanic and has a homeschooling background; Hank Green, a video engagement entrepreneur who also does educational programming and has a friendly nerd-next-door persona; and GloZell, a pioneering 52-year-old comedian with a big audience...."

From a Bloomberg column by Margaret Talev titled "Obama's Social State of the Union/In the age of new media, the president and his team are trying to innovate to keep one of the country's oldest traditions relevant." I'm not going to embed any videos from the links above, but I strongly encourage you to go check them out to see the route these characters took to achieve YouTube popularity so you can form an accurate opinion of what it means for the President of the United States to be using them to boost his own popularity.
“The mainstream media still matters a great deal, but you can’t just do that anymore,” said White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri. “You have to work harder to reach a larger audience. It’s so disaggregated that you have to put more effort into it. The good news is there’s ways to reach people who really care about a particular issue.”

Discussions about how to reach a broader and deeper audience this year through non-traditional and social media began six months ago, Palmieri said. “We’re trying to make sure as many Americans know about his proposals as possible,” she said. “And you have to make sure that people who really care about a particular issue know what his proposals are and what he’s done."...

Palmieri summed up their collective appeal to the president... “These people have a huge following.”

"I'm really pumped up for tonight, Ann."

Creepy email.

"If the artists starve, we’ll all go hungry."

"All the other victims of the ragged economy receive sympathy, apart from artists."

"Pickles blocks demolition of homes surrounding former Beatle's birthplace."

Shouldn't that be "Pickles block..."?

"Snipers are cowards. They don't believe in a fair fight. Like someone coming up from behind you and coldcocking you."

"Just isn't right. It's cowardly to shoot a person in the back. Only a coward will shoot someone who can't shoot back."

Michael Moore quotes his father, whose brother, an Army paratrooper in WWII, was killed by a Japanese sniper. That's part of the back and forth over a tweet Moore made that was taken to be about the movie "American Sniper."

Wouldn't virtually all of our military techniques be classified as cowardly by the standard set by Michael Moore's father? Only a coward would drop a bomb from the air?

Maybe some day they'll make a movie about President Obama pointing to the list of targets for a drone attack, and Michael Moore will still be around to quote his father.

Maybe the problem is making a movie from the point of view of the person who is in the position of killing from a devastating advantage. A movie affects the minds of viewers who have not themselves gone through the real world experience that gets a human being into that position. They're just sitting there, safely watching, and getting charged up according to whatever manipulations the filmmaker sees fit to impose on these pliable spectators.

That's something Michael Moore knows a lot about. Michael Moore... and Clint Eastwood.

50 years ago today: "It is the excitement of becoming – always becoming, trying, probing, failing, resting and trying again – but always trying and always gaining."

The most memorable line of LBJ's inaugural address on January 20, 1965.

Later, at the gala, the performers were:
Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev, who danced a pas de deux from “La Corsaire,” the Ballet Folklorico, Alfred Hitchcock, Bobby Darin, Carol Channing, Woody Allen, Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews performing a duet, Harry Belafonte, Ann Margret, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Johnny Carson, and Barbra Streisand.
Other celebrities present:
Peter, Paul and Mary, The Brothers Four, Mike Nichols, Elliot Gould, Bobby Darrin, Jerry Herman, David Merrick, Sophie Loren and Carlo Ponti, John Reardon, Gregory Peck, and Allen Sherman.
Dances danced: the Jerk, the Frug, the Watusi, and the Monkey.

LBJ and Lady Bird aren't dancing the Jerk, Frug, Watusi, or Monkey in that picture, but they are dancing, and "LBJ was the first president since George Washington to dance at his own Inaugural Ball."

A firstier first involving Lady Bird on that inauguration day is: "Mrs. Johnson was the first President’s wife to hold the Bible at the swearing-in ceremony."

January 19, 2015

Seattle Seahawks apologize: "We did not intend to compare football to the civil rights legacy of Dr. King."

"'We shall overcome #MLKDay,' the team’s official account tweeted Monday, which honors Martin Luther King, Jr. The tweet also included a picture of quarterback Russell Wilson crying after his victory Sunday and a quote from King that read: 'Faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first steps.'"

ADDED: It's so easy to put out this kind of shaming, and it's also easy to apologize. I think this shaming-apology cycle has gotten out of hand in social media. Another one that just happened is: "Lena Dunham has issued a pre-emptive apology for suggesting the storm over Bill Cosby's rape allegations is as significant as the slaughter of millions of Jews."
"Additionally I'm already aware comparing Bill Cosby to the Holocaust wasn't my best analogy. 'With Love from your special rape-hating Jew friend LENA.'"

"The Founding Fathers!: Those Horse-Ridin', Fiddle-Playin', Book-Readin', Gun-Totin' Gentlemen Who Started America."

That title and illustrations by Barry Blitt were enough to get me to put this book in my Kindle.

ADDED: This book is aimed (according to the publisher) at children in grades 2 to 5. I did a screen shot of a bit about James Madison to give you an idea of the style and attitude. (Click to enlarge.)

I picked Madison not because I'm a conlawprof or because I live in Madison but because — I see here — Madison was the "first president to wear long pants."

AND: In case you think Madison's owning a parrot was special, here's a website called "Presidential Parrots & Birds - A Brief History." Today I learned that Ulysses S. Grant had a parrot, Teddy Roosevelt had a parrot, Andrew Jackson had a parrot that he taught to swear, William McKinley had a parrot named "Washington Post," and George Washington had a parrot that he disliked.

“So what color have we decided on for the upstairs child’s bedroom?... The one with the expansive tomato-colored floor.”

"I was thinking for that room maybe a dark green?"

"Really? Dark green? You don’t think maybe dark green walls with a tomato-colored floor is a bit much?"

Ice walk.


Lake Mendota, yesterday.

Deflated balls...

... probed.

"Like the lamb that in springtime wanders far from fold/Comes the darkness and the frost, I get lost, I grow cold."

"On the version of 'Stay With Me' he released in 1964, Sinatra was backed by a big band and orchestra. Dylan's new version is distilled down for a five-piece band, recorded live in the studio in one or two takes for Shadows in the Night, the all-Sinatra covers album coming out on February 3."

Stream the Dylan audio at NPR, here.

Here's the Frank Sinatra.

"We are convinced that religion has no place in the political arena, that once religion injects itself into the political debate, the political debate becomes totalitarian."

Said Gerard Biard, the editor in chief of Charlie Hebdo, explaining the nature of the magazine's attacks on religion to Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" yesterday.

The transcript from yesterday's show is not available, and the NBC website, with 2 article on the interview — here and here — has only a few quotes — the one I transcribed above, but another one that uses the word "totalitarian":
The editor told Todd that "religion should not be a political argument." He said if religion enters the "political arena, it becomes a totalitarian argument. Secularism protects us against this, secularism guarantees democracy and assures peace. Secularism allows all believers and not-believers to live in peace and that is what we defend."
Chuck Todd looks strangely confused during the interview, and both articles at the NBC website have an "Editor's Note," calling out the French-to-English interpreter for mistranslating "liberté de conscience" as "freedom of religion" instead of "freedom of thought" or "freedom of conscience." And he shifted to the panel discussion on the show, Todd said that much of the interview was "left on the cutting room floor." So, we need not only the usual show transcript, but a transcript of the whole interview, in both English and French.

Biard was saying something that is objectionable to many Americans and contrary to our free speech values. If you think you might not agree with me, remember that today we are celebrating the birthday of The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., whose most famous speech ended:
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

                Free at last! Free at last!

                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
Could that be translated or even mistranslated into secular language? That's what Biard wants people to do and insists must be done to avoid totalitarianism.

"Gay Marriage Case Offers G.O.P. Political Cover."

NYT analysis topped by a picture of Scott Walker with the caption:
“For us, it’s over in Wisconsin,” the state’s governor, Scott Walker, said about same-sex marriage. He is a potential presidential candidate.
ADDED: Last October, when the Supreme Court decided not to take some same-sex marriage cases, I thought GOP candidates should accept that the issue is now over — accept it as a gift. My post was "2 conservatives, 2 different reactions to the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage ruling-without-ruling: Scott Walker and Ted Cruz":
Governor Scott Walker, up for reelection here in Wisconsin next month and a possible presidential candidate for 2016, kept it short, neutral, and decisive:
"For us, it's over in Wisconsin. ... The federal courts have ruled that this decision by this court of appeals decision is the law of the land and we will be upholding it."
Walker hasn't wanted same-sex marriage to be an issue in his reelection campaign. As a Wisconsinite, I follow stories about Scott Walker continually, and last time I blogged about him and same-sex marriage was last June, in a post called "Shhhh! Scott Walker is evolving on gay marriage," when the federal district court struck down the Wisconsin ban. Walker's response was: "It really doesn't matter what I think now.... It's in the constitution." I thought that was the best response then, and I'm not surprised to see him use it again. I thought the requirement to allow same-sex marriage was "for him, a gift." It allowed him to display restraint and freed him from having to state an opinion on the divisive issue and to "move on to the matters that properly belong to government."

"The Chinese government's new plan seems to be to forcibly educate its citizens, perhaps unused to being tourists, on how to behave while abroad."

"And, intriguingly, with the new tactic of 'public shaming,' the government seems to be learning from various social media-driven scandals (and the 'human flesh engines' following them) that have engulfed Chinese officials who conspicuously displayed wealth or otherwise behaved arrogantly in recent years."

"U.S.-built Ebola treatment centers in Liberia are nearly empty as outbreak fades."

Great! Or... not so great?
The U.S. military sent about 3,000 troops to West Africa to build centers like this one in recent months. They were intended as a crucial safeguard against an epidemic that flared in unpredictable, deadly waves. But as the outbreak fades in Liberia, it has become clear that the disease had already drastically subsided before the first American centers were completed. Several of the U.S.-built units haven’t seen a single patient infected with Ebola....

“If they had been built when we needed them, it wouldn’t have been too much,” said Moses Massaquoi, the Liberian government’s chairman for Ebola case management. “But they were too late.”

"Two years ago, the Smithsonian Institution acquired a conceptual work by Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar that reflects on the funeral of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr."

"The piece — titled 'Life Magazine, April 19, 1968' — is one of Jaar’s lesser-known works, produced when he was culling through the archives of the iconic magazine."
Alongside a reproduction of a photo of King’s funeral that ran in “Life,” Jaar graphically lays bare the nation’s racial divisions at the time of the civil rights leader’s death. In one frame, Jaar represents all of the African Americans at the funeral march with black dots. In a second frame, he shows the white people present as red dots. There are thousands of black dots and only a few dozen red ones....

How could Americans of all racial backgrounds not have mourned the death of the great civil rights leader?...

When King died, he was advocating for “radical economic change” and had taken a stance against the Vietnam War, [the civil rights historian David Garrow said]. Both of those issues alienated him from some former supporters. “People in the Democratic Party thought King had self-marginalized. His murder alters his historical status hugely. What people now remember is his post-assassination enshrinement.”

"The United States has one big advantage... our Muslim populations — they feel themselves to be Americans."

"And there is this incredible process of immigration and assimilation that is part of our tradition, that is probably our greatest strength. Now, it doesn't mean that we aren't subject to the kinds of tragedies we saw at the Boston Marathon. But that, I think, has been helpful. There are parts of Europe in which that's not the case, and that's probably the greatest danger that Europe faces, which is why as they... work with us to respond to these circumstances, it's important for Europe not to simply respond with a hammer and law enforcement and military approaches to these problems, but there also has to be a recognition that the stronger the ties of a... Frenchman of North African descent to French values, French republic, a sense of opportunity — that's gonna be as important, if not more important, in, over time, solving this problem."

President Obama (via Jaltcoh).

January 18, 2015

The Pack...

...stands tall.

A bright, warm winter day in Madison.

We got out early, skating on the Lake Wingra lagoon, happy that it was warm — 37°, almost too warm for good ice — and then exultant when sun broke through — because we've had so many grimly gray days lately. It turned into a brilliant day. The blue was much appreciated:


That's a picture I took around noon as I walked along the shore of Lake Mendota. By then, Meade and I had gone separate ways. He dropped me off downtown and went off with Zeus (the Labrador Retriever) to the dog park. I preferred solitary walking with my audiobook ("The Path to Power/The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 1"). Any dogs in that book? Yes. Once, 4-year-old Lyndon "disappeared for several hours; his father located him only because Lyndon’s dog, 'Bigham Young,' was moving around in the cornfield in which the boy had been hiding and making the tassels wave."

And I did get to see a couple dogs. There was this one, in the café...


... and there was another dog just outside who inspired a barista to exclaim: "Oh! The puppy has a Packers jersey!"

Meanwhile, in Seattle: "Temperatures are in the low 50s, but rain has been falling... a chance for harder rain or a storm later on in the afternoon, toward the end of the game. Winds are also expected to be in the 15-20 mph range. So, the 'run the ball, stop the run' analysis many have used to describe the Packers’ best chances to win could apply even more significantly if the rain or wind impacts QB Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay’s passing game."

"Uncreative journalists have asked January Jones if she’s a feminist one too many times..."

"... and now she’s gone full female supremacist..."

A photo posted by January Jones (@januaryjones) on

See, that's just wrong. The sun doesn't shine 24/7, and if it did... disaster!

"When Colorado legalized marijuana two years ago, nobody was quite ready for the problem of exploding houses."

"The explosions occur as people pump butane fuel through a tube packed with raw marijuana plants to draw out the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, producing a golden, highly potent concentrate that people sometimes call honey oil, earwax or shatter."
The process can fill a room with volatile butane vapors that can be ignited by an errant spark or flame.

“They get enough vapors inside the building and it goes off, and it’ll bulge out the walls,” said Chuck Mathis, the fire marshal in Grand Junction, where the Fire Department responded to four explosions last year. “They always have a different story: ‘Nothing happened’ or ‘I was cooking food, and all of a sudden there was an explosion.’ They always try to blame it on something else.”

"Kids need taking care of. Money needs earning. Those are two very unequal jobs. You can’t split them equally..."

"... because they are not half-time jobs. So you might think I’m a throw-back to the ’50s when I say, stay-at-home dads is a bad idea. You might think I am self-hating when I say that women don’t crave power as much as men do. But don’t say I don’t understand how hard women fought for equality. Because I was part of that fight. I gave up my childhood for the fight for women’s equality."

Writes Penelope Trunk, who says she resisted something her grandmother said for a long time, but finally "realized there’s positively no way to keep things equal, and everyone suffers from trying to establish equality. People can only give what they are good at giving. And people can’t stop needing what they need. It’s what they need."

"It’s no mystery why some Republicans embrace Jay Leno."

"He isn’t a conservative firebrand like, say, James Woods or Ted Nugent. But he has made a conscious effort not to alienate potential right-leaning fans," writes Asawin Suebsaeng at The Daily Beast.
“Democrats and Republicans are interesting, because Republicans really laugh at themselves more,” he told David Gregory in 2012....

“You always put the joke first, and whatever you have to say second,” Leno said on Real Time with Bill Maher last week, when asked about how his politics were supposedly difficult to nail down....

“I don’t like them not to like me for the wrong reason,” the comic said in an interview with Nikki Finke in 2004. “If someone says, ‘I don’t like Jay Leno because he’s a conservative,’ I call him and I go, ‘I’m not conservative. I’ve never voted that way in my life. Where do you get that from?’..."
More from that 2012 interview here:
"Democrats and Republicans are interesting because Republicans really laugh at themselves more. Like when Bush came on, it was, 'We want to do a skit, we're kind of making fun of… — 'Yeah, go ahead!'" said Leno on NBC's "Press Pass" with David Gregory, who appeared on Leno's show earlier in April...

"We went up to Al Gore, 'can we do this skit?' — 'Hang on.' And there was this focus group, and then media people came in: 'Where will Al be sitting? Will Al have the punchline?," Leno said.

"The 'Hey, it’s just a movie' excuse doesn’t wash. Filmmakers love to talk about their artistic license to distort the truth..."

"... even as they bank on the authenticity of their films to boost them at awards season."

Writes Maureen Dowd, about the blatant distortion of the LBJ-MLK relationship in the movie "Selma," which just got snubbed in the Oscar nominations.
[T]he truth is dramatic and fascinating enough. Why twist it? On matters of race — America’s original sin — there is an even higher responsibility to be accurate.

["Selma" director Ava] DuVernay had plenty of vile white villains — including one who kicks a priest to death in the street — and they were no doubt shocking to the D.C. school kids. There was no need to create a faux one.
One-on-one scenes with the President of the United States are dramatically different, and you can see why dramatists felt a need in spite of the church-burning and priest-kicking material they had. But the question of twisting history remains, and perhaps what's really galling is that many liberals would like to be using the 50-year anniversary of LBJ's inauguration to celebrate LBJ as a great hero.

Perhaps it's not so much that there are other villains — plenty of vile white villains — but that there are so few heroes. The GOP got its "Lincoln" (though Spielberg deliberately withheld it from pre-election release in 2012). Where is the great movie-hero President for the Democrats? It could have been LBJ, and with "Selma," Democrats are stuck with the opposite extreme, the would-be hero appropriated as a villain to boost the heroism of MLK.

Dowd saw "Selma" in "a theater full of black teenagers," who'd received free tickets, "[t]hanks to donations" — from whom, Dowd never says. She expresses dismay that "a generation of young moviegoers would now see L.B.J.’s role in civil rights through DuVernay’s lens." So I wonder whether historical accuracy is Dowd's real concern or whether it's got more to do with the political interests of the Democratic Party.

And who did make those donations? If you look at who benefits, you might guess: Republicans.
The “Selma for Students” effort started in New York, where more than two dozen black business leaders raised money to ensure that 27,000 students in seventh, eighth and ninth grades would be able to see the film at no cost. The tickets were taken almost immediately. Now business leaders and nonprofit organizations in a dozen cities, including Philadelphia, Boston and New Orleans, are working together to underwrite students’ tickets to the movie. In the District, the March on Washington Film Festival has raised more than $75,000 toward a $100,000 goal. D.C. Public Schools is developing lesson plans to guide classroom discussions about the film.
Any rehabilitation of the reputation of LBJ in those lesson plans?