February 21, 2015

Zeus and Meade on frozen Lake Mendota.

About an hour ago. Notice the Wisconsin Capitol building on the far shore.

It was almost Old Testament God day on the blog, but doughnuts edged Him out.

It's strange the way the blog plays out sometimes. When the first 2 posts by chance have a common element, you think a theme is striking. Old Testament God appeared in Post #1 today, and then, damned if the Old Testament didn't rear its head in Post #2. But a tiny frog rode into town on a beetle, and things were never the same. Next thing you know, Scott Walker was walkin' here, and we were ass-deep in doughnuts. And so doughnuts it was. I spent my afternoon pulling doughnuts out of the hot fat that is my Kindle collection. So here's the Krispy Kreme of my Kindle:

David Foster Wallace, "Up, Simba" (an essay about following the 2000 John McCain campaign, in "Consider the Lobster"):
About two-thirds of the way down the aisle is a little area that has the bus’s refrigerator and the liquor cabinets... and the bathroom.... There’s also a little counter area piled with Krispy Kreme doughnut boxes, and a sink whose water nobody ever uses.... Krispy Kremes are sort of the Deep South equivalent of Dunkin’ Donuts, ubiquitous and cheap and great in a sort of what-am-I-doing-eating-dessert-for-breakfast way, and are a cornerstone of what Jim C. calls the Campaign Diet.
Hunter S. Thompson, "The 'Hashbury' Is the Capital of the Hippies" (an essay in "The Great Shark Hunt"):
A 22-year-old student was recently sentenced to two years in prison for telling an undercover narcotics agent where to buy some marijuana. “Love” is the password in the Haight-Ashbury, but paranoia is the style. Nobody wants to go to jail.

At the same time, marijuana is everywhere. People smoke it on the sidewalks, in doughnut shops, sitting in parked cars or lounging on the grass in Golden Gate Park. Nearly everyone on the streets between 20 and 30 is a “head,” a user, either of marijuana, LSD, or both. To refuse a proffered “joint” is to risk being labeled a “nark”—narcotics agent— a threat and a menace to almost everybody. With a few loud exceptions, it is only the younger hippies who see themselves as a new breed. “A completely new thing in this world, man.” The ex-beatniks among them, many of whom are now making money off the new scene, incline to the view that hippies are, in fact, second-generation beatniks and that everything genuine in the Haight-Ashbury is about to be swallowed— like North Beach and the Village— in a wave of publicity and commercialism.
Mary Karr, "The Liars' Club: A Memoir":
The next day right after dawn, I pulled down my BB gun from the top bookshelf and went on a rampage that prefigured what Charles Whitman — the guy who shot and killed thirteen people from the tower at the University of Texas — would do a few years later. I stuck a can of hot tamales with a can opener in a paper bag and fixed myself a jelly jar of tea. While all the other kids were still sitting around in their pajamas eating their doughnuts with powdered sugar and watching cartoons, I was sneaking across the blackberry field behind our house . There was a lone chinaberry tree at the field’s center, and I shinnied up it, then pulled my BB gun after me to wait for the Carter kids. They’d planned to berrypick that morning so their mama could make a cobbler. I’d overheard talk about it.
Mary Roach, "Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal":
To experience taste, the molecules of the tastant— the thing one is tasting— need to dissolve in liquid. Liquid flows into the microscopic canyons of the tongue’s papillae, coming into contact with the “buds” of taste receptor cells that cover them. That’s one reason to be grateful for saliva. Additionally, it explains the appeal of dunking one’s doughnuts.
 J. Maarten Troost, "Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story":
I had always imagined your typical twelve-step meeting as occurring in some grim, darkened chamber full of cigarette smoke, bad coffee, and doughnuts, filled with fat, spiteful old men telling you to take the cotton out of your ears and stuff it into your mouth and listen for a change, why don’tcha, but these days, you’re more likely to find a meeting in a smoke-free hall serving herbal tea, filled with people discussing Bikram Yoga and their latest marathon time. This made sense to me, of course. Try as we might, the word moderation leaves many of us scratching our heads. Why run one mile when you can run ten? Why do half an hour of sun salutations when you can do ninety minutes of pretzel-like contortions in a 105 degree sauna? More is better. Always.
Mark Twain, "At the Appetite Cure":
"My system disguised—covert starvation.  Grape-cure, bath-cure, mud-cure—it is all the same. The grape and the bath and the mud make a show and do a trifle of the work— the real work is done by the surreptitious starvation. The patient accustomed to four meals and late hours—at both ends of the day—now consider what he has to do at a health resort. He gets up at 6 in the morning. Eats one egg. Tramps up and down a promenade two hours with the other fools. Eats a butterfly. Slowly drinks a glass of filtered sewage that smells like a buzzard's breath. Promenades another two hours, but alone; if you speak to him he says anxiously, "My water!—I am walking off my water!—please don't interrupt," and goes stumping along again. Eats a candied roseleaf. Lies at rest in the silence and solitude of his room for hours; mustn't read, mustn't smoke. The doctor comes and feels of his heart, now, and his pulse, and thumps his breast and his back and his stomach, and listens for results through a penny flageolet; then orders the man's bath—half a degree, Reaumur, cooler than yesterday. After the bath another egg. A glass of sewage at three or four in the afternoon, and promenade solemnly with the other freaks. Dinner at 6—half a doughnut and a cup of tea. Walk again. Half-past 8, supper—more butterfly; at 9, to bed. Six weeks of this regime—think of it. It starves a man out and puts him in splendid condition. It would have the same effect in London, New York, Jericho—anywhere."
Kurt Vonnegut, "Slaughterhouse Five":
“Go take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut,” murmured Paul Lazzaro in his azure nest. “Go take a flying fuck at the moon.”
Lena Dunham, "Not That Kind of Girl":
Everything took on a hazy romance: having a pimple, eating a doughnut, being cold. Nothing was a tragedy, and everything was a joke. I had waited a long time to be a woman, a long time to venture away from my parents, and now I had sex, once with two guys in a week, and bragged about it like a divorcée who was getting back in the game.
Thomas Sowell, "The Thomas Sowell Reader":
At the heart of the affirmative action approach is the notion that statistical disparities show discrimination. No dogma has taken a deeper hold with less evidence—or in the face of more massive evidence to the contrary.

A recent story in the Wall Street Journal revealed that more than four-fifths of all the doughnut shops in California are owned by Cambodians. That is about the same proportion as blacks among basketball stars. Clearly, neither of these disparities is due to discrimination against whites.
Robert M. Gates,  "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War":
When I walked in and saw coffee and doughnuts, I thought I would get along just fine with these folks. The traffic coming in from Midway Airport was awful, and Hillary Clinton was late. She had dispensed with a police escort complete with lights and sirens, clearly having an elected official’s sensitivity to ticking off everyone on the road. I did not have that sensitivity....
Andy Warhol, "The Andy Warhol Diaries":
I asked Reese how he started in crystals and he said that when he was little, “Mr. Morning” came to see him. When he was a baby. He saw “Mr. Morning,” but nobody else did. And then in the army he got interested in electricity and the body and all this stuff. Reese was talking about his trip where he went around sticking crystals all over the pyramids and the Wailing Wall. And he eats things like coffee and doughnuts. But he cures the coffee by passing the crystal over it ten times.... Reese is Episcopalian, so I feel better with him than with the Jewish crystal people, somehow, because knowing he believes in Christ I don’t have to worry that crystals might be somehow against Christ.
Tom Wolfe, "Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers":
Sixty strong, sixty loud, sixty wild, they come swinging into the great plush gold-and-marble lobby of the San Francisco City Hall with their hot dogs, tacos, Whammies, Frostees, Fudgsicles, french fries, Eskimo Pies, Awful-Awfuls, Sugar-Daddies, Sugar-Mommies, Sugar-Babies, chocolate-covered frozen bananas, malted milks, Yoo-Hoos, berry pies, bubble gums, cotton candy, Space Food sticks, Frescas, Baskin-Robbins boysenberry-cheesecake ice-cream cones, Milky Ways, M&Ms, Tootsie Pops, Slurpees, Drumsticks, jelly doughnuts, taffy apples, buttered Karamel Korn, root-beer floats, Hi-C punches, large Cokes, 7UPs, 3 Musketeer bars, frozen Kool-Aids—with the Dashiki Chief in the vanguard....

The young guy from the Mayor’s office retreats... Much consternation and concern in the lobby of City Hall... the hurricane could get worse. The little devils could start screaming, wailing, ululating, belching, moaning, giggling, making spook-show sounds... filling the very air with a hurricane of malted milk, an orange blizzard of crushed ice from the Slurpees, with acid red horrors like the red from the taffy apples and the jelly from the jelly doughnuts, with globs of ice cream in purple sheets of root beer, with plastic straws and huge bilious waxed cups and punch cans and sprinkles of Winkles, with mustard from off the hot dogs and little lettuce shreds from off the tacos, with things that splash and things that plop and things that ooze and stick, that filthy sugar moss from off the cotton candy, and the Karamel Korn and the butterscotch daddy figures from off the Sugar-Daddies and the butterscotch babies from off the Sugar-Babies, sugar, water, goo, fried fat, droplets, driplets, shreds, bits, lumps, gums, gobs, smears, from the most itchy molecular Winkle to the most warm moist emetic mass of 3 Musketeers bar and every gradation of solubility and liquidity known to syrup—filling the air, choking it, getting trapped gurgling and spluttering in every glottis— 
And it was here that Bill Jackson proved himself to be a brilliant man and a true artist, a rare artist, of the mau-mau....
 Barack Obama, "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance":
“We’re interested in the best possible outcome for the residents,” Ms. Broadnax shouted over her shoulder. We followed her into a large room where several gloomy officials were already seated around a conference table. Ms. Broadnax remarked on how cute the children were and offered everyone coffee and doughnuts.

“We don’t need doughnuts,” Linda said. “We need answers.”
John Steinbeck, "The Red Pony":
“There’s two doughnuts in the kitchen for you,” she said. Jody slid to the kitchen, and returned with half of one of the doughnuts already eaten and his mouth full. His mother asked him what he had learned in school that day, but she didn’t listen to his doughnut-muffled answer. She interrupted, “Jody, tonight see you fill the wood-box clear full. Last night you crossed the sticks and it wasn’t only about half full. Lay the sticks flat tonight. And Jody , some of the hens are hiding eggs, or else the dogs are eating them. Look about in the grass and see if you can find any nests.”
James Thurber, "Writings & Drawings":
I got back to New York in early June, 1926, with ten dollars, borrowed enough to hold on until July in a rented room on West 13th Street, and began sending short pieces to the New Yorker, eating in doughnut shops, occasionally pilfering canapés at cocktail parties (anchovies, in case you don’t know, are not good for breakfast). My pieces came back so fast I began to believe the New Yorker must have a rejection machine.
Howard Zinn, "A People's History of the United States":
At Boston University, a thousand students kept vigil for five days and nights in the chapel, supporting an eighteen-year-old deserter, Ray Kroll....

On a Sunday morning, federal agents showed up at the Boston University chapel, stomped their way through aisles clogged with students, smashed down doors, and took Kroll away. From the stockade, he wrote back to friends: “I ain’t gonna kill; it’s against my will. . . .” A friend he had made at the chapel brought him books, and he noted a saying he had found in one of them: “What we have done will not be lost to all Eternity. Everything ripens at its time and becomes fruit at its hour.”
The GI antiwar movement became more organized. Near Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the first “GI coffeehouse” was set up, a place where soldiers could get coffee and doughnuts, find antiwar literature, and talk freely with others....
David Sedaris, "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls":
I find a half-empty box of doughnuts and imagine it flung from the dimpled hand of a dieter, wailing, “Get this away from me.” Perhaps the jumbo beer cans and empty bottles of booze are tossed for a similar reason. It’s about denial, I tell myself, or, no, it’s about anger, for isn’t every piece of litter a way of saying “fuck you”?
Cass Sunstein, "Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness":
Self-control issues are most likely to arise when choices and their consequences are separated in time. At one extreme are what might be called investment goods, such as exercise, flossing, and dieting....

At the other extreme are what might be called sinful goods: smoking, alcohol, and jumbo chocolate doughnuts are in this category. We get the pleasure now and suffer the consequences later. Again we can use the New Year’s resolution test: how many people vow to smoke more cigarettes, drink more martinis, or have more chocolate donuts in the morning next year? Both investment goods and sinful goods are prime candidates for nudges. Most (nonanorexic) people do not need any special encouragement to eat another brownie, but they could use some help exercising more.
And then there's the choice of how to spell doughnut/donut. Isn’t the failure to pick one spelling and stick to it a way of saying "fuck you"? That question is me nudging Cass Sunstein. We'll see if he does better in the future.

And that's all the Krispy Kindle Kremes for now, so — as they say in the azure nest — Go take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut.

"We were in [Jony] Ive’s black Bentley, which is as demure as a highly conspicuous luxury car can be."

"The hood barely sloped, and it met the car's front end at a tightly curved corner that mirrored the iPhone 6 in Ive’s left hand... Ive would prefer an unobserved life, but he likes nice things. He also has an Aston Martin DB4. He acquired his first Bentley, a two-door model, ten years ago, after an inner zigzag between doubt and self-justification. 'I’ve always loved the big old-school square Bentleys,' he said. 'The reasons are entirely design-based. But because of the other connotations I resisted and resisted, and then I thought, This is the most bizarre vanity, because I’m concerned that people will perceive me to be this way—I’m not. So I’m going to—' A pause. 'And so I am uncomfortable about it.' Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice-president of operations, drives an old Toyota Camry. Ive’s verdict, according to Williams, is 'Oh, God.'"

From "The Shape of Things to Come/How an industrial designer became Apple’s greatest product" by Ian Parker in The New Yorker.

Ive would prefer an unobserved life, but he likes nice things. Ha ha. Don't we all? Except that senior vice-president of operations with his.. Oh, God... Camry.
I had previously asked Ive about the rounded corners and edges that have long helped distinguish an Apple product from a ThinkPad or a book.... For each product, Jobs and Ive would discuss corners “for hours and hours.” [Laurene Powell Jobs] later noted that she and Ive share a taste for Josef Frank, the Austrian-Swedish designer of rounded furniture and floral fabrics, who once announced, in a lecture, "No hard corners: humans are soft and shapes should be, too."

50 years ago today: Malcolm X was shot dead.

As Time Magazine put it:
Malcolm X had been a pimp, a cocaine addict and a thief. He was an unashamed demagogue. His gospel was hatred: "Your little babies will get polio!" he cried to the "white devils." His creed was violence: "If ballots won't work, bullets will."

Non-Wisconsinites, I need to explain something about Scott Walker to you that you are missing.

Those of you who think that he's a neophyte, that he hasn't yet learned how to step up to answering a question. You don't get it. You are a neophyte. You haven't yet learned how to step up to understanding Scott Walker.

I'm talking to people like WaPo's Dana Milbank, who wrote a column called "Scott Walker’s cowardice should disqualify him," based on Scott Walker's response to Rudy Giulian'is "I do not believe that the president loves America."
And Walker, just a few seats away, said... nothing. Asked the next morning on CNBC about Giuliani’s words, the Republican presidential aspirant was spineless: "The mayor can speak for himself. I’m not going to comment on what the president thinks or not. He can speak for himself as well. I’ll tell you, I love America, and I think there are plenty of people — Democrat, Republican, independent, everyone in between — who love this country."

But did he agree with Giuliani? "I’m in New York," Walker demurred. "I’m used to people saying things that are aggressive out there."
It's interesting that Walker was right there when Giuliani said that, yet he didn't rise to the bait, but it's exactly what I'm used to seeing in the doggedly on-message Walker. He's rock-solidly used to this sort of situation. I think back to the debates he had with Tom Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor who was his opponent in the 2012 recall election.

In the first debate, Barrett, standing right next to Walker, did all he could to turn up the heat, saying Walker "tore this state apart" and started "a political civil war." Walker never quarreled over these inflammatory characterizations. He'd go straight to his message: This is "about our reforms, which are working."

In the second debate, the 2 men were sitting next to each other at a table, and the candidates were encouraged to talk to each other. I said:
This is a great format with the men sitting side by side. Barrett — a larger man — leans toward the governor and speaks with urgency and stress. Walker seems more relaxed. He's earnest, gesturing and explaining. Walker's theme is: the taxpayers.
As in the first debates, Barrett kept calling Governor Walker "Scott," and Walker steadfastly called Mayor Barrett "the mayor." Barrett kept up with the inflammatory tone, at one point accusing Walker of "ripping my face off." As one of my commenters said:
What struck me most was the imperious yet at the same time perplexed look Barrett directed at Walker almost constantly. A combination of ridiculous pomposity and pathetic passivity. Amazing he could pull off such a combo. A talent of sorts, I guess -- for doing himself in. Walker looked relaxed and human and never once reciprocated with any form of rudeness such as he was getting.
Go to 31:33 to 32:00 in the video to see what "ridiculous pomposity and pathetic passivity" looks like.

After all of that, do you really think Walker would feel compelled to weigh in on what the former mayor of New York City spouts off about Obama? Absolutely not. Giuliani was deploying some colorful New-York-City-style rhetoric and purporting to know the emotional contents of the President's heart. There's nothing worth responding to, and the no response is the Wisconsin man's response to nothing. He was "in New York" and "used to people saying things that are aggressive out there."

Implicit in that is: That's not Wisconsin style. Get used to it, coasties.


A link to an article titled "How to Stay Married to an Attorney" seems to be the best answer to the question...

... whether a doughnut is dessert if you eat it for breakfast and it's all you eat. 

ADDED: Commenters say they can't get to the Facebook post I'm linking, so I'll copy a few things. First, David Lat writes:
My latest debate with Zach Shemtob: is a doughnut a dessert? Zach's position: a doughnut is always and inherently a dessert. My position: a doughnut eaten in the morning is breakfast; a doughnut eaten later in the day is a dessert. (This issue is the subject of heated debate on Yahoo! Answers and elsewhere on the web.)
There are many answers, including my "It depends on whether you spell it 'donut' or 'doughnut'" — linking to my old post "Such proper ideas of doughnuts" —  and the one I thought most apt was just a link to a Wikihow piece titled "How to Stay Married to an Attorney."

"Almost all furries have a fursona, but only a small proportion wear a fur suit. Many furries feel that, in everyday life, we are all forced to adopt personas..."

"... their fursona allows them to be their true selves. The one message that was consistent across my conversations was that each member of the community felt they had something that made them different and ill fitting in mainstream society, such as Asperger syndrome or a facial tic. The fandom gave them a safe venue in which to express themselves.... Furries are well aware that the public perceives their community and lifestyle as primarily motivated by sex. From my conversations that day, I got the sense that there are layers behind the decision to become a furry, and that sex and furry pornography are only one aspect of their lifestyle... [E]veryone was too busy making new friends and having fun."

Fron "A Peek Inside a Furry Convention," from a letter sent by Debra W. Soh to the Archives of Sexual Behavior, published in the February issue of Harper's Magazine under the title "Below the Pelt." You need a subscription to Harper's for the link to work).

A question I have about this (and about some similar things) is whether we are grouping together people who belong in 3 different categories: 1. Those who want to have fun and are just playing, 2. Those who are mentally disordered and hurling themselves toward greater chaos and feelings of turbulence, and 3. Those who only want to feel normal.

"ISIS is talking online about jars of Nutella, pictures of kittens and emojis."

"These three images are in part helping ISIS recruiters lure westerners into their fight because they want people to believe their life on the battlefield isn't so different than yours. They actually eat Nutella, and I guess they have pet kittens..."

I don't know about all of that, but here's a tiny frog riding a beetle...

Have you ever heard of insect and frog politics? Neither have I. Insects and frogs ... don't have politics. They're very... brutal. No compassion, no compromise, no Nutella. We can't trust the insect... or the frog... or the kittens...

ADDED: That's not my photograph, but I don't know where the original credit should go.

"I'm glad I've started a conversation. But why are the people on the other side of the conversation so boring?"

"All they say is that I'm 'stupid' or my comment is 'nonsense.' What I said is apparently interesting enough to respond to, but you don't say anything interesting in response. Say something about art! Say something new and unusual about why I'm so wrong! Dammit! I can see people are talking about me, and I go over to hear what they are saying, and it's a thuddingly dull remark."

That's something I said back in '05, and I'm reading it this morning as a result of this morning's first post — about Will Butler and Bob Dylan — which brought up my old aphorism — "To be a great artist is inherently right wing" — which was the topic of that '05 post.

That made me think of something I heard in the middle of the night on the audiobook I had playing through my under-pillow speaker, "Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story" by J. Maarten Troost:

"What will happen to me — an Americanized Russian-speaking novelist who emigrated from the Soviet Union as a child — if I let myself float..."

"... into the television-filtered head space of my former countrymen? Will I learn to love Putin as 85 percent of Russians profess to do? Will I dash to the Russian consulate on East 91st Street and ask for my citizenship back? Will I leave New York behind and move to Crimea, which, as of this year, Putin’s troops have reoccupied, claiming it has belonged to Russia practically since the days of the Old Testament? Or will I simply go insane?"

From "'Out of My Mouth Comes Unimpeachable Manly Truth'/What I learned from watching a week of Russian TV," by Gary Shteyngartfeb in the NYT Magazine.

(Oh, no. The words "Old Testament" have now appeared in the first 2 posts of the day. That was not intentional, but now I feel challenged, and it will be difficult to step up to the challenge given the subject matter of the next post, already half-drafted.)

Arcade Fire's Will Butler adopts the blogging method of songwriting.

He's not saying it's like blogging. I am. He's saying it's like Bob Dylan:
Arcade Fire’s Will Butler will be writing a song a day based upon a news story in the Guardian for a week from 23 February. Each original track will premiere on the Guardian’s website.

“It was partly inspired by Bob Dylan, who used to announce that certain songs were based on headlines,” Butler says of the project. “It would be a song he wrote in two weeks or something, such as The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, which is one of the greatest songs ever. So I’ve set myself an impossible bar.”
Yeah, William Zantzinger could have sued Bob Dylan for the defamation in that song:
"The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll" got famous
And Bob Dylan became the most honored of rock stars
Zantzinger kept quiet and wouldn't talk to the press
He just lived through the decades with that song on his head
And he probably cried for himself and for Hattie
And what did he think of that songster Bob Dylan?
"I should have sued him," he finally said later...
Back to Will Butler:
“I’ve been reading the Guardian every day, perusing the different sections."
Oh, perusing! I've been perusing and excusing and infusing and accusing. Overusing. Now, I'm oozing, all while you sing. (All I really want to do is be friends with Will Butler.)
"Some of them possibly lend themselves to songs. It’s a cruel thing..."
An uncool thing... a damned fool thing....
"... but sometimes you read something and think, ‘Uh oh. I could make something really meaty out of that.’"
Uh oh. I could make something really meaty out of that. Uh oh. You could make something really cool and cruel out of "Uh oh. I could make something really meaty out of that." Perhaps"Uh Oh, Love Comes to Town" infused (and confused) with "Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy." I'm thinking of a graffiti entreaty in Tahiti, sweetie.
"Something like the Dominique Strauss-Kahn trial – my God, that’s the gnarliest story in the world, but it’s interesting."
See? It's like blogging. The standard is that standard of standards: interestingness. Back to Butler:
"Or you might read a science headline and think, 'The universe is so much bigger than I thought it was.' There’s something really beautiful in that."
"Big and small" is one of my favorite tags, and it's because — and I cannot figure out why — I invariably visualize everything smaller — often far smaller — than it really is. I'm a minimizer. A minimalist. So I'm with Butler, except no mere science headline can correct my mind's distortion. The universe will always be much bigger than I think it is. And "always" will always be far longer.

So, anyway, Will Butler is interested in politics, interested enough to have applied to Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He got in, but he didn't go. Which says something about where he was in the development of political sophistication — a process that began when he was a teenager, when he read Dostoevsky and Kafka.

Bob Dylan has no songs with Dostoevsky and Kafka (though he does have Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot fighting in the captain's tower and he sneers at a man who thinks he's something for having been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald's books). It's hard to rhyme Kafka, who drinks vodka with his latka, not to mention Dostoevsky (are you kidding me?).

Will Butler says:
"On the one hand, the government is – in a country like America or Canada or the UK – the expression of the people. It’s not freedom from things but its freedom to govern, which is a beautiful concept. But there’s a sense that modern government almost takes the place of the Old Testament God. Things happen because governments cause them to, but people are like, 'No. This is how the world is. It’s a world of pain.' There’s something very Old Testament about that – yet we’re on our knees to them about policy as well."
After that quote, The Guardian scurries to tell us that Butler is "an Obama fan." You could write a song about the lefty newspaper's need to assure its larval readers that the artist they've been reading about and whose music they're getting primed to receive is properly on the left even though he just said that modern government almost takes the place of the Old Testament God.

February 20, 2015

"Why Are So Many Toddlers Taking Psychiatric Drugs?"

"An analysis of 2013 IMS Data, found that over 274,000 infants (0-1 year olds) and some 370,000 toddlers (1-3 years age) in the U.S. were on antianxiety (e.g. Xanax) and antidepressant (e.g. Prozac) drugs. This report also found over 1,400 infants were on ADHD drugs."

"The coldest day ever! Temperature records broken across the country by the 'Siberian Express' cold snap as Manhattan hits..."

"... 1F."

LOL, from Madison, Wisconsin.

"The power to require permits is the power to prevent something from ever existing."

"This lovely movement would've never begun or spread if everyone who wanted to build a Little Free Library recognized a need to apply and pay for a permit. Instead they did good and asked permission never."

"After saying in his re-election bid that he wouldn't push so-called right-to-work legislation, Gov. Scott Walker voiced support for it Friday and committed to signing it..."

"... acting after GOP leaders fast-tracked the proposal for a Senate vote next week....".
"I've never said that I didn't think it was a good idea. I've just questioned the timing in the past and whether it was right at that time," Walker told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in an interview at a National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C.

"In using the term 'gender theory,' [Pope] Francis is denouncing the academic perspective that sees gender identities as a spectrum rather than as binaries."

"Gender theorists argue that the way people identify themselves is the result of social and cultural constructions of gender...."
In the interview, Francis recalled how a public education minister was given funding for new schools for the poor only on the condition that school textbooks taught gender theory. Francis described this as “ideological colonization” and added that “the same was done by the dictators of the last century. … think of Hitler Youth.”

"Many of my straight friends, even the most liberal, see this logic as warped."

"It’s one thing for them to admit that they would prefer their kids to be straight, something they’ll only begrudgingly confess. But wanting my daughter to be a lesbian? I might as well say I want her to grow up to be lactose intolerant."

"The real culprit here is Airbnb, which makes millions by encouraging New Yorkers to violate their leases without even informing them of the risk."

"This decision reinforces what tenant advocates and I have been saying all along — almost all NYC residents who list their homes on sites like Airbnb are violating the terms of their leases and putting themselves at risk of eviction."

"And if you’re wondering whether a multiracial musical about one of the founding fathers could possibly amount to anything more than a knee-jerk piece of progressive sermonizing..."

"... get ready for the biggest surprise of all, which is that this show is at bottom as optimistic about America as '1776.' American exceptionalism meets hip-hop: That’s 'Hamilton.'"

Says Terry Teachout, declaring "Hamilton" "the most exciting and significant musical of the past decade." Sample lyric: "Another immigrant, comin' up from the bottom/His enemies destroyed his rep, America forgot him."

50 years ago today: Ranger 8 crashes into the moon.

"The first image was taken at 9:34:32 UT at an altitude of 2510 km. Transmission of 7,137 photographs of good quality occurred over the final 23 minutes of flight. The final image taken before impact has a resolution of 1.5 meters. The spacecraft encountered the lunar surface in a direct hyperbolic trajectory, with incoming asymptotic direction at an angle of -13.6 degrees from the lunar equator... Impact velocity was slightly less than 2.68 km/s, approximately 6,000 mph."

Gail Collins hears my call.

3 days ago — in the comments to a post titled "Justice Ginsburg gently corrects those who heard her previous remark as a confession of drunkenness at the SOTU" — I wrote: "I wonder how soon the talk of her needing to resign will begin. Spring is near, the end of the term looms. People will be thinking this is Obama's last chance to do a nomination. And yet, the GOP controls the Senate, so maybe they will leave her alone."

And here's Gail Collins — we remember her embarrassing column last week — with a new column "The Unsinkable R.B.G./Ruth Bader Ginsburg Has No Interest in Retiring."
From the beginning, Ginsburg waved off the whole idea. (“And who do you think Obama could have nominated and got confirmed that you’d rather see on a court?”) Anyway, since Republicans took control of the Senate in January, it’s become pretty clear that ship has sailed.

“People aren’t saying it as much now,” she said with what sounded like some satisfaction.
On the subject of the aging and sleeping of Supreme Court Justices, a reader sent me 2 quotes from the book "Yankee from Olympus: Justice Holmes and His Family":

P.J. O'Rourke taps into the collective memory of the Baby Boomers.

He's talking about his new book — a memoir — called "The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way (And It Wasn’t My Fault)(And I’ll Never Do It Again)."

"It cannot be too often repeated that all real democracy is an attempt (like that of a jolly hostess) to bring the shy people out."

"For every practical purpose of a political state, for every practical purpose of a tea-party, he that abaseth himself must be exalted. At a tea-party it is equally obvious that he that exalteth himself must be abased, if possible without bodily violence. Now people talk of democracy as being coarse and turbulent: it is a self-evident error in mere history. Aristocracy is the thing that is always coarse and turbulent: for it means appealing to the self-confident people. Democracy means appealing to the different people. Democracy means getting those people to vote who would never have the cheek to govern: and (according to Christian ethics) the precise people who ought to govern are the people who have not the cheek to do it."

Something more from G.K. Chesterton's "Tremendous Trifles" (also quoted in the previous post).

"We hear of the stark sentimentalist, who talks as if there were no problem at all: as if physical kindness would cure everything...."

"... as if one need only pat Nero and stroke Ivan the Terrible. This mere belief in bodily humanitarianism is not sentimental; it is simply snobbish. For if comfort gives men virtue, the comfortable classes ought to be virtuous — which is absurd. Then, again, we do hear of the yet weaker and more watery type of sentimentalists: I mean the sentimentalist who says, with a sort of splutter, 'Flog the brutes!' or who tells you with innocent obscenity 'what he would do' with a certain man — always supposing the man's hands were tied. This is the more effeminate type of the two; but both are weak and unbalanced. And it is only these two types, the sentimental humanitarian and the sentimental brutalitarian, whom one hears in the modern babel."

Wrote G.K. Chesterton,  in "Tremendous Trifles," something I ran across looking up the word "brutalitarian" in the OED, which has only 4 quotes, 2 of which are from Chesterton. The other is "And in this the brutalitarians hate [George Bernard Shaw] not because he is soft, but..because he is not to be softened by conventional excuses." Those quotes are from 1909 and 1910. The oldest iteration of "brutalitarian" (from 1904) is the title of a journal: "The Brutalitarian, a journal for the sane and strong." The word — used as a noun or adjective — is patterned on "humanitarian" (not on "totalitarian," which is a word that doesn't get started until 1926, and which migrates into English from Italian ("totalitario").

You might think: Brutalitarian! What a great word! Why don't we hear it more? A Google search turns up only 26,000 hits, and the first couple of pages are mostly dictionary definitions. A search of the NYT archive turns up only 5 articles, and the only 2 in the last 50 years were in letters to the editor. The New Yorker has only used the word 3 times, and 2 of those were in the mid 1930s. The recent one, from 2008, seems to be a malapropism: "F.B.I. headquarters in Washington is still housed in a brutalitarian structure known as the J. Edgar Hoover Building." I think the author (Hendrik Hertzberg) intended the architectural term "brutalist."

Why was I looking for "brutalitarian"? The previous post quotes the famous line from the Army-McCarthy hearings — "Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" — and links to the transcript. If you keep reading the transcript, you'll see that Senator Joseph McCarthy has plenty to say, including:
... I think we must remember is that this is a war which a brutalitarian force has won to a greater extent than any brutalitarian force has won a war in the history of the world before. For example, Christianity, which has been in existence for 2,000 years, has not converted, convinced nearly as many people as this Communist brutalitarianism has enslaved in 106 years, and they are not going to stop. I know that many of my good friends seem to feel that this is a sort of a game you can play, that you can talk about communism as though it is something 10,000 miles away.... let me say it is right here with us now....

"Scott Walker's New Specialty: Punting" — maybe it's a good thing.

Bloomberg's Ben Brody broods:
When asked [on CNBC's Squawk Box] whether he agreed with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said at a dinner the two attended on Wednesday that he doesn't believe President Obama "loves America"... [Walker said] "The mayor can speak for himself.... I'm not going to comment on what the president thinks or not. He can speak for himself."...

"I’m going to punt on that one,” he said on Feb. 11 when asked he believed in evolution. "That’s a question a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or the other."

Back in January, Bloomberg reporters Michael C. Bender and John McCormick declared that.... "avoiding any topics that are off-message" is one of Walker's big skills.
Sometimes the best answer to a question is a refusal to answer.  Walker's approach to declining to answer a question is so polite that it's hard to hear the implicit criticism of the question.

I read Brody's article and asked Meade to think of a historically significant, dramatically stated refusal to answer a question because there's something wrong with the question. I had something in mind, but he went in a different direction and said: "That's a clown question, bro."

I was thinking of: "Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

February 19, 2015

"I look at Rutherford B. Hayes, and all I see is beard. So I just tried to rank him based on his beard. (His beard is great!)"

From "The Presidents of the United States in Order of Hotness."

AND: I got a big laugh out of #24: "What’s not to love about a corrupt bad boy who plays by his own rules? He’s like the James Dean of presidents!"

At the Ladyfingers Café...


... you can grasp at any topic you like.

(This is another one of my scans of photographs I took in 1980/81 of the messed-up walls in and around SoHo in NYC. After the last one, I said: "I think I only have one more... and it's pretty different from the others." But I found this one, and the one that's pretty different from the others is yet to come. It's just a 2-word graffiti that I found written on a red door. I've always found it quite striking, even though the 2 words are not nice at all. And the words aren't "Fuck you." "Fuck you" is damned nice by comparison.)

(And, please, if you've got some on-line shopping to do, consider entering Amazon through The Althouse Portal.)

"Freedom is only meaningful if it includes all speech, no matter who is offended by it."

"It would be a hazardous undertaking for anyone to start separating the permissible speech from the impermissible, using the standard of offensiveness. The freedom guaranteed in the First Amendment is indivisible. You can’t take it away from Larry Flynt and keep it for yourself. The real issue of this case is: Are we afraid to be free?"

Said Herald Price Fahringer who represented Larry Flynt at trial — and also Al Goldstein and Claus von Bülow and Jean S. Harris. The quote appears in his NYT obituary, which has a nice picture of him sitting in his law office and reading Screw. He was 87.

"A wrongfully convicted man filed a $40 million lawsuit on Tuesday against Northwestern University, a former journalism professor, a private investigator and an attorney..."

"... accusing them of framing him for a double murder to get another man released."
Alstory Simon... was imprisoned in 1999 after confessing to the 1982 murder of two people in a park, and spent more than 15 years behind bars before he was exonerated on Oct. 30, when prosecutors decided his confession was coerced....

Another man, Anthony Porter, was originally convicted of the murders, and sentenced to death but was released after Simon's confession.... Porter's release was an early victory for Innocence Project programs....

"A former top staffer to U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin has rejected a proposed severance deal that would have required her to remain silent regarding what she knew..."

"... about the problems at the troubled Tomah VA Medical Center. Now Marquette Baylor, ex-deputy state director for Baldwin and chief of her Milwaukee office, has hired a team of attorneys to explore litigation for wrongful termination or sexual discrimination. A source said Baylor believes she was one of the highest ranking heterosexuals on Baldwin's staff. Baldwin is the first openly gay member of the U.S. Senate."

Writes Daniel Bice.

ADDED: Based on my Google search just now, this story is the first time the internet has heard the phrase "highest ranking heterosexuals."

"In reviewing Mein Kampf in March 1940, George Orwell confessed that he had 'never been able to dislike Hitler'..."

"... something about the man projected an underdog quality, even when his goals were cowardly or loathsome. 'If he were killing a mouse he would know how to make it seem like a dragon.' The Islamic State’s partisans have much the same allure. They believe that they are personally involved in struggles beyond their own lives, and that merely to be swept up in the drama, on the side of righteousness, is a privilege and a pleasure—especially when it is also a burden. Fascism, Orwell continued, is 'psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life … Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people "I offer you a good time,” Hitler has said to them, “I offer you struggle, danger, and death,” and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet … We ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.' Nor, in the case of the Islamic State, its religious or intellectual appeal. That the Islamic State holds the imminent fulfillment of prophecy as a matter of dogma at least tells us the mettle of our opponent. It is ready to cheer its own near-obliteration, and to remain confident, even when surrounded, that it will receive divine succor if it stays true to the Prophetic model."

Once again, I'm quoting from Graeme Wood's "What ISIS Really Wants/The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths...." Please use the previous post as the main discussion thread and use this post only for George Orwell and the Hitler comparison.

"Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, 'the Prophetic methodology'..."

"... which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal."

Writes Graeme Wood in The Atlantic in "What ISIS Really Wants/The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it."
Centuries have passed since the wars of religion ceased in Europe, and since men stopped dying in large numbers because of arcane theological disputes. Hence, perhaps, the incredulity and denial with which Westerners have greeted news of the theology and practices of the Islamic State. Many refuse to believe that this group is as devout as it claims to be, or as backward-looking or apocalyptic as its actions and statements suggest....
Read the whole chilling thing.

"It crawls across the Internet, in the manner of Eric Carle’s very hungry caterpillar, attempting to make a copy of every Web page it can find every two months, though that rate varies."

It = the Wayback Machine, the awesomeness of which becomes clear in this New Yorker article by Jill Lepore "The Cobweb/Can the Internet be archived?" I've already linked to that — in "When I met him, I was struck by a story he told about how he once put the entire World Wide Web into a shipping container" — but I want to link to it again because I'm just realizing how important it is to me. Sometimes I worry that this blog will become unavailable at this URL — perhaps because Google ends Blogger or because some day this blog becomes inactive and Blogger deletes inactive blogs. The archive will still be available in the Wayback Machine, complete with all the comments. That gives me a great feeling of security!

On not taking a second look at that UT affirmative action case.

Linda Greenhouse writes about the potential for the Supreme Court to look once again at Fisher v. University of Texas — the affirmative action case that it sent back to the Court of Appeals in 2013. Greenhouse has written before to express her view that the Supreme Court will not (should not?) take the case again. Last July, after the 5th Circuit opinion came out, she wrote: "unless the new appeal offers a plausible vehicle for getting rid of affirmative action... why would the justices bother?"

But on this blog, we were talking about Richard D. Kahlenberg's contention that the 5th Circuit opinion "is likely to invite review—and reversal—of the lower court’s decision."  Kahlenberg said:
Justice Kennedy’s opinion in the 2013 Fisher decision made two big substantive points and one stylistic one, all of which the Fifth Circuit’s majority opinion, written by Judge Patrick E. Higginbotham, oddly defies.
I summed up what Kahlenberg said were the 3 things Kennedy said that Higginbotham defied:
... Higginbotham "dismissed Kennedy’s emphasis on race-neutral alternatives," "blithely asserted"  that alternatives like socioeconomic affirmative action "wouldn’t work," "paid lip service to Kennedy’s requirement that courts give 'no deference' on the question of whether alternatives can produce 'sufficient' racial diversity," failed to require the University to give definition to its goal of "critical mass," and "took an unnecessary dig at Kennedy’s contention that the Fifth Circuit had misapplied the Grutter precedent."
Okay, now back to Greenhouse's new essay on the subject of why the Supreme Court should leave Fisher II alone. Greenhouse says that the 2013 Fisher decision seems to have been "the result of some kind of compromise":
But what actually happened inside the court remained unknown outside until the publication this past fall of a new book about Justice Sonia Sotomayor by Joan Biskupic, a longtime legal journalist in Washington, D.C. The book, “Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice,” discloses that the original vote was 5 to 3 to disallow the Texas plan.
Wow! I don't remember reading that before.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. assigned the majority opinion to Justice Kennedy. The dissenters were Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Stephen G. Breyer. As the senior justice in dissent, Justice Ginsburg gave Justice Sotomayor the task of writing a dissenting opinion that would speak for the three.
Notice the name Linda Greenhouse omits: Elena Kagan. Kagan — according to Biskupic — voted along with Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito to find an equal protection violation in the UT affirmative action policy. I guess I'd better get Biskupic's book (which I must have bypassed because I don't need any more detail on Sotomayor's rise to power). [CORRECTION: No. Kagan recused herself. I should have remembered... or at least noticed that 5 + 3 ≠ 9. Now, once again, I'm free not to get Biskupic's book. ]

But let's stick with Greenhouse:
According to [Biskupic]’s account, Justice Sotomayor circulated a proposed dissent that was passionate and — my extrapolation — polarizing. With “Sotomayor as agitator, Breyer as broker, and Kennedy as compromiser,” Ms. Biskupic writes, there ensued a weeks- and eventually months-long effort to “lower the temperature” and produce an opinion that justices in the competing camps could sign. It succeeded, as Justice Kennedy gradually inched toward the minimalist opinion that Justice Sotomayor was willing to accept. (Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas signed the Kennedy opinion as well, but also wrote separate opinions to make clear that they would relish the opportunity to overturn the court’s affirmative action precedents.)
Greenhouse guesses that the polarizing Sotomayor opinion was a lot like what we saw from Sotomayor last year in her long fervent dissenting opinion in Schuette v. BAMN (the case about Michigan's new state constitutional provision banning affirmative action).
Obviously stung and undoubtedly annoyed, Chief Justice Roberts responded in his own opinion that it “does more harm than good to question the openness and candor of those on either side of the debate.”

Against that background, does the court really want to invite a replay of Fisher v. University of Texas
Why should Sotomayor's willingness to let loose with some passionate, high-handed rhetoric affect which cases the Court chooses — especially after that Fisher I compromise — if that's what it was — ultimately failed to stop her from saying all those things anyway? We already heard it all in Schuette, so that seems to clear the way for the Court to finish resolving the University of Texas controversy. The 5th Circuit doesn't seem to have responded to the nudge the Court gave it in Fisher I, so now it's the Supreme Court's turn again. Why not?
As the Fifth Circuit opinion makes clear, the case presents a Texas-specific issue. The 10 percent plan is required by Texas law, and no other state has anything like it. 
It was just as Texas-specific the first time up, but there is a larger issue, and it was perfectly apparent back in Fisher I: How seriously must courts take the strict scrutiny requirement that considering race must be necessary to the achievement of classroom diversity?

"Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts."

Writes Oliver Sacks, who learned a few weeks ago that he is dying.
I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.

This is not indifference but detachment....

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.
I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

ADDED: Oliver Sacks — who "goes home and eats fish with rice - every evening," "doesn't go out much," and has "a dread of social occasions" — "has never married, and has apparently been celibate for years."

In the comments to this post, Chris Low Chris Low points us to this fabulous picture: "Oliver Sacks on a motorcycle in 1961."

"Inside Jeb Bush's ‘shock and awe’ launch/While Bush avoided the spotlight last year, aides were making a plan."

A big article in Politico.
The confidence with which Bush is pursuing his strategy was evident last Wednesday in the Picasso-adorned Park Avenue home of private-equity titan Henry Kravis. It was Bush’s 62nd birthday, and he celebrated in Kravis’ 26-room penthouse with more than 40 of the richest people in New York. Among them were Bush’s cousin, George Walker IV, the chief executive of the investment management firm of Neuberger Berman, and real estate mogul Jerry Speyer, along with Ken Mehlman and Alex Navab of Kravis’ firm, KKR. The admission price: a minimum of $100,000, also the going rate for other Bush fundraisers. Guests took an elevator straight to the foyer and noshed on salmon and other hors d’oeuvres while listening to Bush talk about strategy for the upcoming campaign.
Most interesting word in that paragraph: Walker.

MEANWHILE: Scott Walker is also eating non-sandwich food:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is scheduled to attend a private dinner Wednesday with longtime advocates of supply-side economics. The gathering, set for the upscale “21” Club in Manhattan... Economists Larry Kudlow, Arthur Laffer, and Stephen Moore will host Walker.... For Walker.... the dinner is not a fundraiser but a reintroduction and opportunity for him to impress influential conservatives and potential mega-donors....
AND: Walker has a fund-raising strategy that might be designed to "to circumvent the 'invisible primary' — the period leading up to the actual primary contests in which elites influence the process through donations and endorsements." He's using a 527 organization instead of a PAC, the NYT explains:
By building up a reserve of cash from a relatively small number of deep-pocketed donors, [Julia Azari, an assistant professor of political science at Marquette University, wrote], he could cut the party out altogether or at least minimize its influence, stick to an insurgent’s message and appeal, and surpass the party’s preferred candidate — in this election, Jeb Bush.

Let's take a serious look at Obama's reasons for not using the words "Islamist" and "Muslim" when he talks about al Qaeda and ISIS.

The reading for this morning is from the NYT: "Faulted for Avoiding 'Islamic' Labels to Describe Terrorism, White House Cites a Strategic Logic."
With remarkable consistency — including at a high-profile White House meeting this week, “Countering Violent Extremism” — they have favored bland, generic terms over anything that explicitly connects attacks or plots to Islam.

Obama aides say there is a strategic logic to his vocabulary: Labeling noxious beliefs and mass murder as “Islamic” would play right into the hands of terrorists who claim that the United States is at war with Islam itself. The last thing the president should do, they say, is imply that the United States lumps the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims with vicious terrorist groups.
Not lumping all Muslims together is obviously important, but to what extent is that goal served by strictly avoiding any mention of the blatant religious focus and motivation of the military enemy? Obama can't control how people interpret his silences, and we might interpret the meticulous censorship to suggest an inconvenient belief in something he's unwilling to say — including, ironically,  the very thing that his aides say is the last thing that he wants to imply.
But Mr. Obama’s verbal tactics have become a target for a growing chorus of critics who believe the evasive language is a sign that he is failing to look squarely at the threat from militant Islam....
So, the article shifts to Obama's critics, whom we must suspect of seizing upon whatever works as an attack the President. Is this fuss over terminology the usual political partisanship?
“Part of this is a semantic battle, but it’s a semantic battle that goes to deeper issues,” said Peter Wehner, a veteran of the past three Republican administrations and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “Self-deception is not a good idea in politics or international affairs. We’re lying to ourselves, and the world knows it.”

While the most vehement criticism has come from Mr. Obama’s political opponents on the right, a few liberals and former security officials have begun to echo the criticism.
I credit the NYT with resisting quoting a bunch of hotheaded right-wingers. The respectable, sensible-sounding Wehner stands in for all who might have an anti-Obama motive, and the NYT is highlighting the criticism that we're not nudged to discount:
“You cannot defeat an enemy that you do not admit exists,” Michael T. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014, told a House hearing last week. “I really, really strongly believe that the American public needs and wants moral, intellectual and really strategic clarity and courage on this threat.”

Akbar Ahmed, chairman of Islamic studies at American University and author of a book on Islam in America, said.... “Obama’s reaching a point where he may have to ditch this almost scholastic position.... He sounds like a distinguished professor in the ivory tower, and he may have to come down into the hurly-burly of politics.”
What's scholastic and professorial about not saying the words "Islamist" and "Muslim"? Ahmed must be thinking of something the NYT has yet to mention: Obama purports to opine on the true meaning of Islam, as if he has the authority to judge religious orthodoxy and identify heretics within Islam. Indeed, the NYT finally gets to this material:
“Leading up to this summit, there’s been a fair amount of debate in the press and among pundits about the words we use to describe and frame this challenge, so I want to be very clear about how I see it,” the president said [at an "extremism conference" on Wednesday]. “Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam... [But] we must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie.... [But they] are not religious leaders — they’re terrorists."
When and why do we doubt the sincerity of other people's declarations of religious belief? Obama says the claims of religious beliefs and motivations are "a lie." To my ear, the statement that it's a "lie" is itself a lie, unless we interpret Obama to be saying that Al Qaeda and ISIS subscribe to an untrue version of Islam.

Normally, Americans don't accuse religious believers of lying when what we mean is that their religious beliefs deviate from what we consider to be a more orthodox or more acceptable and benevolent set of beliefs under the same name. Imagine a President saying that Roman Catholics lie about Christianity or that Reform Jews lie about Judaism.  In our tradition of religious pluralism and tolerance, individuals and private groups are on their own, defining whatever set of beliefs they want — in words of their own choice. We don't say they are lying unless we mean that they are saying they believe something they don't actually believe.

Does Obama mean to say that al Qaeda and ISIS fighters don't actually possess the religious beliefs they assert? If that's what he means to say, I'm practically certain he's lying. Could unalloyed political ambition and sheer military fervor explain what al Qaeda and ISIS are doing? No.

There are 2 possibilities here: 1. Obama is choosing to say something that is not true — that al Qaeda and ISIL fighters don't really believe the religious beliefs they continually profess and act upon, or 2. Obama is making himself an arbiter of the true meaning of Islam — that al Qaeda and ISIS profess beliefs about Islam that are not what Islam really is.

Should a President do either or both of those those things? It's easy to jump to "no," but you might say "yes" if: 1. It's in the strategic military interest of the United States, and 2. Obama is very subtle and crafty in the way he frames his statements.

February 18, 2015

"A group of Muslims plan on forming a 'peace ring' around a synagogue in Oslo, Norway, following the recent attack on a synagogue in Copenhagen."

"Hajrad Arshad, the 17-year-old organizing the event, told Norway broadcaster NRK that the group wants to 'extinguish the prejudices people have against Jews and against Muslims.'"

"He has a wonderfully engaging manner which has made him a very popular person around these parts..."

"... and I think he would be extremely effective in dealing with students and in conducting class."

From 1973, a lawprof's letter of recommendation of Bill Clinton for a job as a lawprof.

"Then there is Bush’s sense of how far to push, and that he was entitled to do so."

"In August, 2003, he wrote to one of the many judges involved, 'I normally would not address a letter to the judge in a pending legal proceeding…. However, my office has received over 27,000 emails reflecting understandable concern for the well-being of Terri Schiavo.' A Times report published last weekend, about Jeb’s many notes and requests to the White House on other matters when his father worked there, suggests that he 'normally' wasn’t shy at all about asserting influence inappropriately. At the very end, after the autopsy confirmed that Terri’s brain really was too damaged for the sort of consciousness that her parents imagined, Bush wrote to a state prosecutor asking him to investigate Michael Schiavo, suggesting that there had been a sinister gap between when Schiavo found his wife collapsed and when he called 911. 'I urge you to take a fresh look at this case without any preconceptions as to the outcome,' Bush wrote. The prosecutor found nothing."

The last paragraph of Amy Davidson's "The Punisher: Jeb Bush and the Schiavos."

"When I met him, I was struck by a story he told about how he once put the entire World Wide Web into a shipping container."

"He just wanted to see if it would fit. How big is the Web? It turns out, he said, that it’s twenty feet by eight feet by eight feet, or, at least, it was on the day he measured it. How much did it weigh? Twenty-six thousand pounds. He thought that meant something. He thought people needed to know that."

He = Brewster Kahle,  the inventor of the Wayback Machine.

"Oysters are always scripted into scenes because they're very sensual, but many actors don't want to slurp those down on camera."

"So I tend to make a lot of fake oysters, which I make out of flan — a custard — which I then color and air brush, and I shape it. It perfectly slides out of the oyster shell."

"Over the last few snowfalls in Cambridge, Harvard's metaLAB used a drone to document the wintry conditions from above."

"They observed instances of icicle build-up on various Harvard buildings from up close, could see how pedestrian traffic was directed through the narrows of cleared pathways, and were also able to see how the storm affected visibility compared to what clear conditions would afford us on the same kind of flights."

"In a proper sandwich, the cheese is adjacent to the bread to create a moisture barrier against the lettuce."

"Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton runs best overall against leading Republican White House contenders in three critical swing states, Colorado, Iowa and Virginia..."

"... but U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is in a virtual tie with her in Colorado and Virginia, according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released today. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush ties her in Virginia, the largest of the three, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is in a virtual tie in Colorado."

According to a new Quinnipiac poll.

ADDED: In the details — PDF — you can see the significance of the question "Is your opinion of [candidate name] favorable, unfavorable or haven't you heard enough about him?" Few people say they haven't heard enough about Hillary, but "haven't heard enough" answers for the Republicans are, in each case, in each of the 3 states, above 20%. The "haven't heard enough" answers are (by far) highest in the case of Scott Walker: 54% in Colorado, 55% in Iowa, and 57% in Virginia. That means that the vigorous shaping of opinion that is happening right now is going to be especially important for Walker, and monitoring mainstream media manipulations — e.g., Gail Collins's notorious "eraser" column — is crucial.

AND: The poll asked 2 good questions about Hillary: "Does [the fact that her husband served as President] make you more likely to support Hillary Clinton for president, less likely, or does it make no difference?" and "Does [Hillary Clinton would be the first female president] make you more likely to support Hillary Clinton for president, less likely, or does it make no difference?" The "no difference" answers had an overwhelming majority for both questions, in all 3 states. On the first question, "less likely" beat out "more likely" in all 3 states — 15/24 (CO), 15/18 (IA), 16/21 (VA). On the second question "more likely" exceeded "less likely," in all 3 states, but not by much — 15/11 (CO), 12/10 (IA), 14/9 (VA). Of course, the questions weren't set up to weigh the importance of the factor. I could see finding "first woman President" of some weight, but not much.

"Assume that all of Biden's gestures were entirely innocent, just Joe being Joe."

"Still, in today's society, sexual harassment complaints have been lodged for less. Biden's behavior gives critics plenty of ammunition and puts supporters in a difficult position. Why is that kind of stuff OK when the vice president does it and cringe-making when it's the overly-friendly guy in the office?"

Asks Byron York.

"The 'Sandwich Manifesto' sounds like a movie title right out of 1968/69."

Said Surfed in the comments to the previous post. And I knew exactly what he meant: "The Strawberry Statement"!

"The vibrations were good, but the times were bad."

The film came out in 1970, but it depicts the protests that took place at Columbia University in 1968.

ADDED: Maybe someone could make a movie about the Wisconsin protests of 2011 and call it "The Sandwich Manifesto." The protest scenes here were very similar to some of the scenes in that trailer, and — as noted earlier this morning — Scott Walker has made sandwiches his trademark.

Since I think the whole point of a sandwich is that the bread keeps the tasty stuff from making a mess...

... I'm picking Japan as the best of the sandwiches from around the world.

A photo posted by miho (@mu_tan345) on

I explained my position on sandwiches on August 3, 2008 in "The Sandwich Manifesto":
We have gone too long and too far with the evolving meaning of the sandwich. It is time to return to the original intent. John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, may not have been the first person to want his food inside 2 slices of bread, but the thing is certainly named after him, and we know his specific purpose: He didn't want to have to stop what he was doing and he didn't want to get any sloppy meat grease on his playing cards or his books and papers....

[T]he original intent of the sandwich is clear: To take messy food and make it neat and convenient. You want a substantial meal, but you want to have it on a plate over to the side, so you can continue doing something else. You want to be able to reach over without paying attention, pick it up in one hand, and easily take a bite and put it down again. You shouldn't have to use your fingers to poke stray pieces in before you pick it up. No sauce should drip out. You shouldn't have to use both hands and lean over the plate and expect your bite to eject miscellaneous items from the other side of the bread. You hands should remain clean.

Sandwich makers, quit trying to impress me with piles of slippery ingredients uncontrolled by inadequate bread. The bread must be in charge of the filling. Nothing should be falling out. I don't want to struggle with these slovenly concoctions anymore. I don't want the job of reassembling what you have assembled. I want to sit here and type on my laptop keyboard, use my mouse, and eat a meal at the same time without even thinking about grease and drips. This desire traces back through the whole noble tradition of Sandwich, which you need to respect and value.

In the name of the fourth Earl of Sandwich, return to the original intent.
August 3, 2008... that was exactly one year before Meade and I got married. It was our -1 anniversary. The August 3, 2009 post announcing the surprise fact of a just-completed wedding is one of the 89 posts on this blog with the tag "sandwich." ("And now, we're here at Yeti's Grind on Broadway, in Eagle, eating our first food (sandwiches)... as husband and wife.")

And isn't a sandwich the perfect wedding food — the ideal metaphor for marriage. Please reread my "Sandwich Manifesto" in that light.

"What was the ambition and the goal?"/"Oh! To elevate the rock and roll song!"

"What I mean by stupid, I mean, like, The Doors.... I never liked The Beatles. I thought they were garbage."

"I asked the woman if by 'Dread Scott'... she meant to suggest a connection between Scott Walker and the era of slavery. She said 'Of course.'"

4 years ago today at the Wisconsin protests.

The Twitter stylings of Scott Walker.

February 17, 2015

"As ISIS makes inroads into Libya, officials in Rome are panicking..."

"... about an Islamic State just across the sea — but have no idea how to combat the crisis."

"Iowa poll: Walker garners 24% of GOP support, Paul & Bush trail at 10%..."

And: "Going to head-to-head with Walker, Clinton leads 47 percent to 41 percent."
But, inside the polls crosstabs, Walker beats Clinton 56 to 38 percent among males and 49 to 44 percent among voters with a four-year college degree. The former secretary of state leads Walker among voters with post-graduate degrees by a margin of 57 to 33 percent.

"And guess what? Cat gonna survive too."

"Unlike the nastiest Obama hatred — which is typically rooted in a fear of the Other (black, with an Arabic middle name, product of a mixed marriage) — Clinton disdain had a strange kind of intimacy."

"It was like hating a sibling who was more popular, more successful, more beloved by your parents—and always getting away with something. [R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., the founder and longtime editor of The American Spectator] felt he knew the Clintons, because he’d gone to college with so many Clinton types: draft dodgers, pot smokers, ’60s 'brats.' They were 'the most self-congratulatory generation in the American republic,' he tells me. 'And it was all based on balderdash! They are weak! The weakest generation in American history!'"

So writes Hanna Rosin in "Among the Hillary Haters/Can a new, professionalized generation of scandalmongers uncover more dirt on the Clintons — without triggering a backlash?"

ADDED: Is "more dirt" needed? It seems to me that the new generation of scandalmongers could just dish up the old dirt, which never seems to have been taken seriously enough — notably Hillary's role in suppressing the voices of Bill's women.

At the Running Legs Café...

Running Legs

You can write about anything you want.

(This is another one of my scans of photographs I took in 1980/81 of the plastered-over walls in or around SoHo in NYC. And, please, if you've got some on-line shopping to do, consider entering Amazon through The Althouse Portal.)

Justice Ginsburg gently corrects those who heard her previous remark as a confession of drunkenness at the SOTU.

"Oh — what I meant was that I had a glass of wine with dinner... And that on top of having stayed up all night. I was writing something.... [My] pen was hot."

Sometimes, Justice Ginsburg has just been working so hard and long that she conks out. You would have conked out long before, no doubt. She stayed up all night — and she worked all the previous day, through the night and through the day of the long, boring speech — and she was sitting in a comfortable chair and not able to stretch or fidget.

She tells us that in the old days, Justice David Souter sat next to her and "he was sensitive to my, well, he couldn’t, he could sense when I was beginning — my head was beginning to lower. So he would give me a pinch."

Now that the dear, sweet, sensitive David is gone, she's got to sit between Justices Breyer and Kennedy, and they just don't know how to minister to her precise needs the way David did. They are "reluctant." They may give her "a little jab, but it wasn’t enough."

The jabs of Breyer and Kennedy cannot replace the pinches of Souter.

BY THE WAY: I got it right the first time.

"This wasn’t an intellectual Islamist with a long beard... This was a loser man from the ghetto who is very, very angry at Danish society."

Said the Danish sociologist Aydin Soei, quoted in the NYT, about Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, who, the authorities say, was the gunman who shot up that Copenhagen café and synagogue.
Though perhaps not part of an established jihadist network, the young man was clearly not alone in his anger. On Monday, about a dozen young men, their faces covered by scarves, visited the spot where Mr. Hussein died and, declaring themselves his brothers, shouted “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great,” as they removed flowers laid in memorial, a ritual they said was contrary to Islamic teaching.

In place of the flowers, they left a printed leaflet on the ground that fulminated against what they described as Denmark’s double standards, noting that Mr. Hussein’s body had been left in a pool of blood when the body of the Jewish security guard killed at the synagogue had been quickly covered. This, the leaflet said, exposed promises of equality as a fraud and showed that “religion and background make a difference.”
Soei studied Hussein's gang — called "Brothas" — and produced a book titled "Angry Young Men." (Was the book a source for the leaflet's rhetoric about the false promises of equality?) Soei knew Hussein:
"He was one of the [gang] members who seemed to be the most interested and engaged... He was willing to enter into a dialogue about questions of the gang and their behavior. He wasn’t unintelligent. When he wanted to, he could do a good job in school. But he had an enormous temper he couldn’t control."...

Until his incarceration [for stabbing someone], religion for Mr. Hussein and fellow gang members was not so much a faith, Mr. Soei said, but “part of their identity, part of their narrative of: ‘We are outsiders because of who we are and how we look,’ but they were not praying all the time.”

"A federal judge in Texas has ordered a halt, at least temporarily, to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration..."

"... siding with Texas and 25 other states that filed a lawsuit opposing the initiatives."
“The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts and the district court in Washington, D.C., have determined that the president’s actions are well within his legal authority,” the White House statement said. “The district court’s decision wrongly prevents these lawful, common sense policies from taking effect, and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision.”...

My 703rd post about Scott Walker... finally getting around to what Gail Collins wrote last Friday.

This blog has 703 posts with the tag "Scott Walker" and is at risk of becoming absurdly Scott-Walker-focused as the country-at-large suddenly trains its eyes on the man who became the governor of my state 4 years ago and touched off massive protests, endless legal proceedings, passionate criticisms, and a bonus political campaign in the form of a recall election.

I've had 6 posts about Scott Walker since last Friday — mainly on 2 subjects: his declining to answer the question whether he feels "comfortable with the idea of evolution" and his lack of a college degree.

I'm experiencing active pushback from commenters who seem anxious to get me to stop monitoring the journalism and commentary that's so suddenly raining down on Scott Walker. I get accused of being a "spokesperson" for Walker or a "big fan." The truth is, I have an aversion to politics, but I read the news and I vote. And I blog. I blog about Walker because he's a long-entrenched topic here and has been ever since my city became Ground Zero for Walker-hating 4 years ago.

At this point, it's very hard to deal with every Walker topic that comes up as it comes up, especially since I don't want to be an all-Walker-all-the-time blog. But after 4+ years of following Scott Walker, it feels as though I'm doing something wrong if there's a significant Walker topic that non-Wisconsinites are blogging and I haven't even acknowledged its existence.

So here I am at 4:48 in the morning, driven by a weird sense of obligation to pay attention to that foolish Gail Collins column The New York Times published on Friday the 13th: "Scott Walker Needs an Eraser."

You'd think columnists who want to wield influence would be more careful about letting their murderous intentions glare. But Collins stupidly overreached, perhaps fed by the Wisconsin Walker-haters who've been chewing over a set of stock topics for years and now pass along the gooey pulp of their contempt.

Collins built her column on the story of a young teacher who won an award for excellence but then got fired due to budget cuts. Walker's name is associated with budget austerity, so Walker must be to blame for her job loss. This was a gross error, the teacher having lost her job the year before Walker became governor. It took 2 days for the Times to edit out the mistaken assertion (which left the column not making much sense). Walker's reforms were aimed at saving money at the school-district level and making it possible to keep excellent new teachers.

Yesterday, Politico latched onto the screwup with a piece that begins with a sentence that seemed to write itself: "In hindsight, perhaps the headline 'Scott Walker Needs An Eraser' wasn’t the best idea." I was settling in to read an article with some substance, but it's just a little pile of fluff:

Conservative news sites had a field day with the error over the weekend, with The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack calling out the (since deleted and corrected, but archived) mistaken section in question.
The New York Times gets caught in a bad factual error and one of its main columnists — did you know Collins is a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board? — exposes herself as a Walker-hater, and Politico casts the incident as an occasion for conservatives to have "a field day." Like it's all just a big militarized operation, and one side got an occasion for a grand, showy triumphing.

Oh, how I loathe all the politicos out there — those who are labeled "Politico" and, worse, those who are labeled "New York Times." But I'm sticking with this little enterprise of mine. It's 5:44 a.m. now, and I'm as dedicated as ever to monitoring these politicos, even though in my heart, I'm an artist. My real inclination — as I've been toiling over this post in the pre-dawn — has been to go off on a tangent about the meaning of the term "field day" (originally, a day when military troops are assembled for some sort of review or exercise) or to go into a reverie about erasers I have known and loved, like the rubbery pink Pink Pet (not to be confused with the upstart Pink Pearl) and the mystifyingly fragrant Art Gum, which, when I was a schoolgirl, I used to like to rub into an inch-deep pile of dust which I'd invite my classmates to palpate.

Everyone who touched my little evanescent creation was delighted.