February 28, 2015

"The genesis of the love song would seem to lie somewhere in the fertility rites of the ancient world..."

"... the Sumerians, for example, had a number of hymns/love songs to celebrate the sacred marriage of the king (human) to the goddess (immortal), these nuptials being conducive to a rich harvest, cultural plenitude, satellite dishes for everyone, and so on..."
[Ted Gioia’s "Love Songs: The Hidden History"] touches in passing upon the love song’s evolutionary brief—that is, to encourage men and women down the ages to have sex with each other.... [O]ne of his arguments is that the basic elements have been there from the beginning. It’s hard not to agree with him, really, when Egyptologists are finding amid the pottery shards and crumbling papyri lines like If only I were the laundryman … / Then I’d rub my body with her cast-off garments. Gioia credits women with the greatest breakthroughs in love-song self-expression: “Women were the innovators and men the disseminators”— which sounds anatomically correct, at least. Love shook my senses, / Like wind crashing on the mountain oaks. That’s Sappho, or the composite forensic entity known as Sappho, sounding like Kelly Clarkson.

"Is Leonard Nimoy the first example of a 'famous last tweet?' If not, what are some others?"

A question on Reddit. Nimoy's last tweet was: "A life is like a garden, Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory." I don't see how you can call that "famous" when he just died. Would you remember that 10 years from now?

Among the answers: "The last tweet of that poor Notre Dame student who died on the scissor lift filming football practice was... 'Gust of wind up to 60mph ... I guess I've lived long enough.'" That's the other meaning of the phrase "famous last words." There, stress belongs on last, not famous. It's something a person who isn't planning to die says that, in retrospect, speaks to the circumstances of the death.

Another answer is Roger Ebert's "So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies." That's like Nimoy's. Someone who is planning to die frames an apt statement on the way out.

Let's not mix up the 2 kinds of famous last words. Or are there more than 2?

ADDED: The expression "famous last words" is most useful as something to say to a living person who has just said something that you're picturing could be something that is said right before doing something deadly.

AND: The fire extinguisher's empty. Get the hairspray!

"Stop Scott Walker, Ann."

In my email this morning (sent, as usual for the DNC, to my university address):

I love the way the big, bright, white letters are used to create the deniable, subliminal message: "SCOTT WALKER TERRORISTS."

Why Stephen Breyer is my favorite Supreme Court Justice.

I love his crafty-casual unfolding of an absolutely-to-the-point, devastating question, on nice display in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch (which is a case about the store's declining to hire a woman who interviewed in a headscarf):

That's just one example of his style of questioning. That's his long form attack, which tends to come after lying in wait. There's also the delightful short form of attack: "I'm with you only where they correctly believe that, dah, dah, dah, or understand dah, dah, dah, or no."

"You have to feel a little sorry these days for professors married to their former students. They used to be respectable citizens—leaders in their fields, department chairs, maybe even a dean or two..."

"... and now they’re abusers of power avant la lettre. I suspect you can barely throw a stone on most campuses around the country without hitting a few of these neo-miscreants. Who knows what coercions they deployed back in the day to corral those students into submission; at least that’s the fear evinced by today’s new campus dating policies. And think how their kids must feel! A friend of mine is the offspring of such a coupling—does she look at her father a little differently now, I wonder. It’s been barely a year since the Great Prohibition took effect in my own workplace. Before that, students and professors could date whomever we wanted; the next day we were off-limits to one another—verboten, traife, dangerous (and perhaps, therefore, all the more alluring)."

So begins Laura Kipnis, in a piece titled "Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe."

For the record, I do not think professors should have sexual relationships with students, and therefore I support that particular "Great Prohibition," but I think Kipnis's writing is interesting, and that paragraph hits on something that had been pretty obvious for a long time: It's hard to ban something that should be banned when to do so casts aspersions on the marriages of many prestigious professors.

"The Intercept media executives and staff weren’t fans of their own reporting on the case featured in the wildly popular podcast Serial, delaying stories because they were 'siding with The Man'..."

"... former Intercept senior investigative reporter Ken Silverstein wrote in POLITICO Magazine."
“I came to realize that the system working correctly—and the right people going to jail—isn’t a good narrative to tell at The Intercept,” Silverstein wrote.
From Silverstein's piece:
Publishing the Serial stories was a huge headache: There were constant delays and frustrations getting them out, even after it became clear they were drawing huge traffic. Our internal critics believed that Natasha and I had taken the side of the prosecutors—and hence the state. That support was unacceptable at a publication that claimed it was entirely independent and would be relentlessly adversarial towards The Man. That held true even in this case, when The Man successfully prosecuted a killer and sent him to jail.

Some colleagues, like Jeremy Scahill, were upset after the first installment of Natasha’s interviews with Jay, the state’s flawed-but-convincing key witness, and our co-bylined two-part interview with the lead prosecutor, Kevin Urick, both of whom had refused to speak to Sarah Koenig for her Serial podcast. Jeremy even threatened to quit over the second installment, according to two of my colleagues who witnessed what they described as his “temper tantrum” in the New York office. He told them he couldn’t believe that we’d so uncritically accepted the state’s view of the murder—even though our stories were backed up by our own research, our unique reporting and our reading of court documents. One day at the office, frustrated, Natasha wrote “Team Adnan” on a sign on Jeremy’s office door.

"Today is September 30th, also known as Blasphemy Rights day."

"This day is dedicated to those who are systematically being persecuted, harassed, or killed for their simple expression of Freethought (more precisely, for their ‘blasphemous’ views towards religion)."
Today, we state clearly that considering apostasy to be a criminal offense in state level in fact is an inexcusable offense. If being religious is someone’s right, then being critical to religion is also one’s right. There is nothing wrong to be critical to any idea or ideology, as CFI aptly put on its Blasphemy day banner – ‘Ideas do not need rights, People do’!
So wrote Avijit Roy on his blog Mukto Mona, on September 30, 2013.

Avijit Roy left his home in Atlanta for a speaking engagement in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Last Thursday:
As he walked back from the book fair, assailants plunged machetes and knives into Roy and his wife, killing him and leaving her bloodied and missing a finger.

Afterward, an Islamist group "Ansar Bangla-7" reportedly tweeted, "Target Down here in Bangladesh."

"The Pittsburgh Pirates released a strongly worded statement distancing themselves from the Islamic State..."

"... after a photo surfaced of Mohammed Emwazi – the knife-wielding militant known as ‘Jihadi John’ – wearing a cap with the team’s insignia."

"It is a slippery slope if the government is now going to prosecute people under a manslaughter — a 20-year felony charge — for not preventing those who want to commit suicide..."

"... and that’s what they’re trying to do here."
Asked if they thought [17-year-old Michelle] Carter’s messages convinced [18-year-old Conrad] Roy to kill himself, his grandfather Conrad Roy Sr. said, “Her texts had a big influence on what happened.”

"Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy."

"Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the center of Star Trek's optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity's future."

Said the cool and nerdy, big-eared Barack Obama.

"So" is the new "well."

So, I wanted to write a post with that title after reaching my tipping point listening to 2 things yesterday: 1. Jeb Bush doing a Q&A at CPAC and beginning nearly every answer with "So...," and 2. The Supreme Court oral argument in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, with the lawyer for the government repeatedly beginning his answers with "So..." (and "So, Your Honor").

So, having conceived of that title for a blog post on a topic that has been stewing on the back burner of my mind, I googled those words and found them in a 2010 essay by Anand Giridharadas (in the NYT) called "Follow My Logic? A Connective Word Takes the Lead":
“So” may be the new “well,” “um,” “oh” and “like.” No longer content to lurk in the middle of sentences, it has jumped to the beginning, where it can portend many things: transition, certitude, logic, attentiveness, a major insight....

One can dredge up ancient instances of “so” as a sentence starter. In his 14th-century poem “Troilus and Criseyde,” Chaucer launched a verse with, “So on a day he leyde him doun to slepe. ...” But for most of its life, “so” has principally been a conjunction, an intensifier and an adverb.

What is new is its status as the favored introduction to thoughts, its encroachment on the territory of “well,” “oh,” “um” and their ilk.
Giridharadas traces the tic to 1990s-era Silicon Valley, where software-oriented minds visualize  "conversation as a logical, unidirectional process — if this, then that."
This logical tinge to “so” has followed it out of software. Compared to “well” and “um,” starting a sentence with “so” uses the whiff of logic to relay authority. Whereas “well” vacillates, “so” declaims....
Too phallocratic? Well... I'm saying "well" like a person of the 80s... consider the theory of the linguist Galina Bolden, who's done scholarly writing on the topic of "so":
She believes that “so” is also about the culture of empathy that is gaining steam as the world embraces the increasing complexity of human backgrounds and geographies. 

To begin a sentence with “oh,” she said in an e-mail message, is to focus on what you have just remembered and your own concerns. To begin with “so,” she said, is to signal that one’s coming words are chosen for their relevance to the listener.

The ascendancy of “so,” Dr. Bolden said, “suggests that we are concerned with displaying interest for others and downplaying our interest in our own affairs.”
And then there's Michael Erard, author of "Um...: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean":
The rise of “so,” he said via e-mail, is “another symptom that our communication and conversational lives are chopped up and discontinuous in actual fact, but that we try in several ways to sew them together — or ‘so’ them together, as it were — in order to create a continuous experience.”
So it is written...

February 27, 2015

Stalin World.

Here's a documentary about the Lithuanian theme park Grutas Park — AKA "Stalin World" — which we were talking about this morning in connection with the ISIS destruction of ancient sculptures. Here we see Soviet era sculptures preserved in a tourist-attraction garden setting that many Lithuanians find quite offensive.

Thanks to Irene for pointing me there. And no thanks to the NYT for picturing 2 of the Grutas Park sculptures in a slide show about how aging Americans can absorb Euro-culture through the wonders of Airbnb.

"Boy, Blowing Up A DNC Media Hit Job On Scott Walker In Realtime Sure Is Fun!"

"The Latest Attempt To Launch A New Walker Smear Crashes & Burns On The Launch Pad. And There Was Much Rejoicing."
As it so happens, this Jezebel writer, Natasha Vargas-Cooper, either didn't do any research at all on this piece or she deliberately left out the whole story.

As it so happens, there is a pretty damn good reason Scott Walker deleted these [sexual assault] reporting requirements.

He did it because - get this! - the University of Wisconsin *asked* him to.
(Via Instapundit.)

Jeb Bush at CPAC.

Watch live, here, beginning right now.

UPDATE: It's over now. I watched it. Here's what I remember:

1. He asked if he could be your second choice.

2. He had that young-person's conversational tic of beginning every answer with "So." (He didn't do a speech, but only took questions from Sean Hannity.)

3. He looked presentable and reasonably trim, but he could use a better tailored suit... or is a too-big suit some way of covering flaws or seeming to be an un-rich guy?

4. He's got a good pitch about improving K-12 education in Florida, and he expresses pride in ending affirmative action by executive order.

5. In the instant word association portion of the questions, his response to "Obama" was "failed President."

6. Best but dubious effort at humor: When Hannity said he had one more question, Jeb said "boxers." (Bill Clinton's answer to the famously inappropriate question, by the way, was "Usually briefs. I can't believe she did that." Obama's answer was:  "I don't answer those humiliating questions. But whichever one it is, I look good in 'em.")

7. This was the first time — as far as I remember — that I ever spent any time actually listening to Jeb Bush. So... what's my impression? He seems solid and substantial. Nothing particularly negative. I never expect to agree with everything a presidential candidate stands for. You'd have to reshuffle what the 2 parties are for that to happen. And Jeb only wants to be my second choice.

Goodbye to Leonard Nimoy.

The author of "I Am Not Spock" (1977) and "I Am Spock" (1995) has died at the age of 83.

"Mission to Improve Global Health Through Insects won Climate Quest, a UW-Madison sustainability competition... for efforts to implement mealworms to improve malnutrition and climate in Zambia..."

"UW-Madison graduate students Rachel Bergmans and Valerie Stull... are creating samples of kits they plan to present this fall to communities in Zambia, where insects are already part of community diets... Stull and Bergmans have created recipes such as smoothies and cookies that include mealworms to help promote the consumption of insects."

What's so bad about Scott Walker's "If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the globe"?

"I think the bust of Fighting Bob La Follette is kind of Soviet-like," says Meade, reading the previous post about the Islamic iconoclasm in Mosul and anti-Soviet iconoclasm in the former Soviet states (and the preservation of Soviet sculptures in Lithuania).

Here's a picture I took of the monumental head on February 25, 2011, a little over a week after the big protests had begun in and around the Wisconsin capitol:

Bust of Bob La Follette

I originally blogged that here, with other photographs, including one showing how some protesters had used the back of the Veterans Memorial as a component of what they called their "Information Station." 

And let me use this post to comment on something Scott Walker said at the end of his CPAC speech yesterday. What would he do about ISIS? "If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the globe." That was bad, obviously, and Walker has sent his spokeswoman to rephrase what was supposedly in The Head of Walker. (I'm saying "The Head of Walker" because I'm picturing a "Soviet-like" head of Walker some day, in the capitol, eye-to-eye with Bob La Follette, which would be the "more speech" alternative to iconoclasm.) The spokeswoman said:
Governor Walker... was in no way comparing any American citizen to ISIS. What the governor was saying was when faced with adversity he chooses strength and leadership. Those are the qualities we need to fix the leadership void this White House has created.
There's still a problem. How would the form of leadership demonstrated during the protests transfer to the war on terrorism? Scott Walker's approach to the protests was to let them play out — replete with loud chanting and drumming and lots of taped up signs in the capitol and huge marches outside — all the while knowing he had the votes in the legislature to pass the law that the protesters were protesting. He chose silent inaction, putting up with it, in a situation where he knew he'd win in the end, and, in fact, when the legislation finally passed, the protests ended. There was still the recall effort, and there was plenty more speech lambasting Walker, but Walker knew all along he had the upper hand, and instead of trying to counter the speech of the protesters (or even to get them cleared out of the capitol), he sat back and let them have what probably looked to most Wisconsinites like a big tantrum. He knew that the protesters knew that they could not cross the line from semi-organized protest to anything like violence or the threat of violence. The no-response response was therefore effective.

Is that the kind of leadership he's proposing to use in the war on terror? It can't be. The relevant component of leadership that I'm seeing is something I associate with George W. Bush: silent acceptance of abuse from his critics. Walker said "If I can take on 100,000 protesters," but he didn't take them on. He let them carry on. That may have been wise under the circumstances, but it tells us close to nothing about what he would do with enemies who won't limit themselves to protesting and when he can't control the outcome through partisan domination of a legislature. Sheer cockiness won't do the trick — "If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the globe." And that was a cockiness beyond what we saw — and got tired of — in George Bush.

ISIS endeavors to destroy the art of ancient Nineveh (AKA Mosul).

The efforts at destruction that you see at the beginning of this video are not as horrible as they look, for reasons that are explained half way through.

Watch out for the British expert who appears at 1:47. She thinks it's "pretty rotten for the people who actually live" in northern Iraq that so many of the original works of art have been transferred to Western museums — even as it's apparent that if those sculptures had been left in northern Iraq, they would now be sledgehammered to bits. Or does she — do we — think that if the artworks had been left in place, the history of Iraq would have played out on a different path, and the people who live there would have treasured and protected the world's artistic heritage? From the article at the link (to the British Channel 4 site):
The demolition squad of the Islamic State are following in the tradition of the Taliban who blew up the Buddhas at Bamyan, in Afghanistan, and the Malian jihadi group Ansar al Dine which destroyed mud tombs and ancient Islamic manuscripts in Timbuktu. They quote suras from the Koran that they say demand the destruction of idols and icons.

But iconoclasm isn't just a Salafi Islamic idea. In the 17th Century, puritans, under the rule of Oliver Cromwell, destroyed Catholic holy objects and art in Britain.

"We pulled down two mighty great angells, with wings, and divers other angells . . . and about a hundred chirubims and angells," wrote William Dowsing, Cromwell's chief wrecker, after leading his henchmen into Peterhouse college chapel in Cambridge in December 1643.
Iconoclasm. If you're inclined to reach back into history, you will, perhaps, find it everywhere. From the Wikipedia article "Iconoclasm," here are "The Sons of Liberty pulling down the statue of George III of the United Kingdom on Bowling Green (New York City), 1776":

And I can't look at that and not think about the statue of Saddam Hussein that our military tore down in Bagdhad in April 2003. And what of all those monumental statues of Vladimir Lenin that came in for destruction when the Soviet Union dissolved. Would you like to see them all removed?

I know there's at least one still standing, because the NYT, just a couple days ago, ran a story cooing over an aging American couple who are using Airbnb to live in various European cities and the slideshow features the man, dressed in shorts, like a child, and standing, like a child, knee-high to "this statue of Lenin in Lithuania." The hand of the smiling child-man reaches out to encircle the index finger of Soviet dictator. In another photo, the woman, in a short skirt, poses at the feet of a giant Stalin. This one too is "in Lithuania." We're told there's "a sculpture garden." Isn't that nice?

I need to do my own research to find out about "Grūtas Park (unofficially known as Stalin's World...)... a sculpture garden of Soviet-era statues and an exposition of other Soviet ideological relics from the times of the Lithuanian SSR."
Founded in 2001 by entrepreneur Viliumas Malinauskas, the park is located near Druskininkai, about 130 kilometres (81 mi) southwest of Vilnius, Lithuania.... Its establishment faced some fierce opposition, and its existence is still controversial.... The park also contains playgrounds, a mini-zoo and cafes, all containing relics of the Soviet era. On special occasions actors stage re-enactments of various Soviet-sponsored festivals.
So there's an alternative to iconoclasm.

The word that got Keith Olbermann in trouble: "pitiful."

Keith Olbermann got suspended from his ESPN show for tweeting "Pitiful." He was responding to a tweet by a Penn State graduate who'd tweeted "We are!" (linking to an article about raising $13 million for charity). Olbermann proceeded to tweet "PSU students are pitiful because they’re PSU students — period."

"Pitiful" is a strange word. When we see it alone, as in Olbermann's tweet, we assume it conveys contempt. The 4th meaning in the OED is: "Evoking pitying contempt; very small, poor, or meagre; paltry; inadequate, insignificant; despicable, contemptible." $13 million is very small if the idea is to balance the harm that was done to Penn State's reputation in the recent scandal, and Olbermann has been a critic of the settlement.

"Pitiful" can mean "Full of or characterized by pity; compassionate, merciful, tender." You'd think that literal meaning would predominate in the absence of context, but it doesn't. "Pathetic" works the same way. We assume the sarcastic version: "Miserably inadequate; of such a low standard as to be ridiculous or contemptible." The older, more literal meaning — "Arousing sadness, compassion, or sympathy, esp. through vulnerability or sadness; pitiable" — is overshadowed to the point where you can't even use it without explaining yourself.

And you can't explain yourself on Twitter.

"But for the past half-day, people across social media have been arguing about whether a picture depicts a perfectly nice bodycon dress as blue with black lace fringe or white with gold lace fringe."

"And neither side will budge. This fight is about more than just social media—it’s about primal biology and the way human eyes and brains have evolved to see color in a sunlit world."

"... Coming Home was produced by Jane Fonda, who at that time had made films with Ho Chi Minh and was virulently anti-American. At the Academy Awards, she wouldn't look at me..."

"... because I had already been labeled a right-wing fascist," says the movie director Michael Cimino in a new interview. His "Deer Hunter" was up against "Coming Home" for the awards in 1971.
We were in the same elevator together. I wanted to say congratulations, but she turned away. From what I know about the original script, ["Coming Home"] was honest, but I think because of her political stance at the time, she managed to turn it into American guilt. She's the only one who had the power — she was the producer. The end of the movie is the American officer, Bruce Dern, who out of unspeakable guilt walks into the Pacific Ocean to drown himself. That's not what the original script was. That character is so filled with rage that he strides the hillsides of Laurel Canyon onto the 101, as I recall, and he's got a machine gun with him. He walks to the center of the freeway with oncoming traffic in both directions, and he's just howling, just firing in a circle. Cars are blowing up all over the place. That was the real ending. You don't have moviemaking to prove a point about your political conviction in American Sniper.
About "American Sniper," he says: "Though it was characterized [as such], Sniper's not a political movie. It's not about the rightness or wrongness of the war. It deals with the impact of trauma on people who go to war and people who stay behind."

February 26, 2015

"A local man came up and said 'Please — what does this mean?' I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza..."

"... by posting photos on my website — but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens."

"An Italian surgeon is hoping to perform the world’s first human head transplant..."

"... claiming he could have recipients of the radical surgery thinking their own thoughts and speaking with their own voice."

Oh, I know what that looks like. The question is: How much are they paying you?

"Missouri state Auditor Tom Schweich, a leading Republican candidate for governor in 2016, died Thursday in 'an apparent suicide,' police said."

"Schweich, 54, was hospitalized earlier Thursday following a single self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in suburban St. Louis...."

"Thirty-one percent (31%) say the Supreme Court does not put enough limitations on what the government can do."

"This finding is down five points from last June but is still higher than the 27% who felt this way in September 2013. Just 14% say it puts too many limitations on government instead. Thirty-eight percent (38%) says the balance is about right. Seventeen percent (17%) are not sure."

Kids play "Kashmir."

("The Louisville Leopard Percussionists... are a performing ensemble of approximately 55 student musicians, ages 7-12, living in and around Louisville, Kentucky.")

The return of the "Shame!" chant to the Wisconsin state senate.

"#RightToWork passes 17-14, gallery shouting "Shame." #wipolitics" — video at the link.

Here's the "Shame!" chant of February 25, 2011.

The time the marijuana-growing, suicide-committing, cherry-factory-owner turned the local bees red.

"When the sun is a bit down, they glow red in the evenings...They were slightly fluorescent. And it was beautiful," said one bee-keeper in the vicinity of the Dell's marachino-cherry factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn, back in 2010.
[The owner of the factory Arthur] Mondella did not return phone calls seeking comment....

“Bees will forage from any sweet liquid in their flight path for up to three miles,” [said Andrew Coté, the leader of the New York City Beekeepers Association]. While he has not yet visited the factory, he said that the bees might be drinking from its runoff.... Could the tastiest nectar, even close by the hives, compete with the charms of a liquid so abundant, so vibrant and so cloyingly sweet? Perhaps the conundrum raises another disturbing question: If the bees cannot resist those three qualities, what hope do the rest of us have?

A story of the perils of urban farming, this is also a story of the careful two-step of gentrification....
That was 2010. Last Tuesday, "Mr. Mondella, 57, shot and killed himself in his office bathroom just as city investigators were discovering that a marijuana farm lay beneath the factory." That link goes to the NYT, which took me to the Red Bees of Red Hook story with the line "The most controversy the factory had attracted before this came several years ago, when local bees began turning red after feasting on the cherry liquid."

(I linked to The Daily Mail's story in a short post yesterday.)

"When it is not your time to die yet."

"It's a sign!"

"If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?"

"Not a book but a poem, Johnson’s The Vanity of Human Wishes," writes Terry Teachout, who, because he feels like it, is answering the questions that a NYT editor (Pamela Paul) asked of someone else (David Brooks). (Brooks would require the President to read the essay, “Rationalism in Politics,” by Michael Oakeshott.)

You're probably not the President — and if you are: Greetings, my President! — but you can read "Rationalism in Politics" here — "no man can hope to be successful whose reason has become inflexible by surrender to habit or is clouded by the fumes of tradition" — and here's "The Vanity of Human Wishes":

"And while it’s easy — so, so easy — to make fun of a company taking to Twitter to say 'bae' or 'fleek' or #makeithappy..."

"... the absurdity masks a creeping, insidious repositioning of corporate America in public life."

"The argument that the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell lack standing wasn’t conceived by the Barack Obama administration, which didn’t raise the issue in its briefs..."

"... for the case to be argued March 4. It was dreamed up by an enterprising journalist who tracked down the plaintiffs and got the details of their life situations," writes lawprof Noah Feldman in "How the Supreme Court Could Save Obamacare Again."
According to the article by Stephanie Mencimer in Mother Jones, and the flurry of Internet speculation that followed, it’s possible none of the four plaintiffs has been legally affected by having to buy insurance subject to the subsidies involved in the case. As a threshold matter, the justices would have to be able to ascertain this circumstance from the record for the standing issue to arise. The court can’t take judicial notice of investigative journalism, no matter how clever.

Yet if it’s possible to deduce from the record that the plaintiffs qualify for hardship exemptions from paying for insurance, then it’s within the court’s prerogative to consider the issue.
Just one more Obamacare screw-up by the Obama administration. Couldn't even litigate it right.

"There has been much discussion about a media double standard where Republicans are covered differently than Democrats, asked to weigh in on issues the Democrats don't face."

"As a result, when we refuse to take the media's bait, we suffer. I felt it this week when I was asked to weigh in on what other people said and did and what others' beliefs are. If you are looking for answers to those questions, ask those people. I will always choose to focus on what matters to the American people, not what matters to the media."

Writes Scott Walker (in USA Today).

ELSEWHERE: In Politico, Jack Shafer purports to give advice on how to answer the "gotcha" question. He holds up LBJ as a model: "Here you are, alone with the president of the United States and the leader of the free world, and you ask a chicken-shit question like that." Oh, yeah, wouldn't you just love for the Midwestern son of a preacher man to suddenly emit an LBJ-style outburst full of Texas swagger and farm excrement?

And Ron Fournier has a "Defense of Gotcha Questions." He begins:
Years ago, an Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton walked into the state Capitol media room at the end of a hectic legislative session and asked the journalists if we needed anything else from him.  We had asked Clinton questions all day. We were tired. We wanted him to shut up and go home.

So I said, "Yes, governor. I know you don't know much about baseball, but when there's a pop-up behind the third baseman, whose ball is it?" The other reporters snickered. Finally, they figured: a gotcha question Clinton wouldn't answer.
Bill came up with an answer that seemed amiable and made him look good. But I don't think that's a gotcha question. It's just a casual, irrelevant question that might bring out some personality. It's the sort of question Barbara Walters used to be associated with.... What kind of tree are you?

"One thing those of us who are pro-union need to ask ourselves is why so few Americans belong to unions presently."

"It is facile, lazy, and simply wrong to blame the anti-union efforts of Reagan, Walker, the Kochs, Whole Foods, Walmart and the like. If you say it is the anti-union policies of the past thirty five years, then you are simply ignoring the fact that when American unions formed in the 19th century and struggled to build in the first third of the 20th century, the anti-union sentiment of the corporations and most politicians was much stronger than today, and the lot of the average worker was harder. Lazy people blame others. If those who originally fought to create our unions had such an attitude, unions would never have been established in the first place. Part of the problem is that the Left failed to criticize unions as their leadership often evolved to having more in common with the bosses than with their own members. As the Left moved away from worker issues in the Sixties to Civil Rights, the anti-war movement, feminism, and cultural issues, blue collar workers became alienated from those who were now largely content to support labor by merely singing Woody Guthrie and Weavers songs. The Left largely came to look down their noses at workers because of attitudes regarding culture and the war, only honoring workers when their issues were tied to something else, such as the largely Mexican-American United Farmworkers Union or access to jobs for women."

A comment at the NYT on the article titled "Scott Walker Is Set to Deliver New Blow to Labor in Wisconsin."

"Dang! Have you ever seen waves get so cold they turn to slurpee?"

Photos from Nantucket (via Metafilter).

"Each item is individually wrapped and categorised.... There's a miniature silver ball, a black button, a blue paper clip..."

"... a yellow bead, a faded black piece of foam, a blue Lego piece, and the list goes on. Many of them are scuffed and dirty. It is an odd assortment of objects for a little girl to treasure, but to Gabi these things are more valuable than gold...."

Nick, Quentin, Savion, Qaasim, Clark, Rayvon, Adam, Daniel, Mark, Trevor, Riley, Michael.

In that order.

Clark Beckham had been my favorite up until last night, but then he went and sang a song that I not only have disliked for half a century, but that just yesterday morning I'd been going on about not liking. And getting ready to write this post, needing to rave against it once more, I found myself paraphrasing it as I would kill my best friend if that's what my psycho girlfriend wants.

"People who insist on linking terrorism to Islam often say that only by doing this—only by seeing the problem 'for what it is'—can we figure out what to do about it."

"Really? Long before last week, we knew that ISIS does a good job of convincing some young Muslims that its cause is authentically Islamic. What value has been added if we grant [Graeme] Wood’s point that ISIS, in doing this job, can quote selectively from Islamic texts and point selectively to ancient Islamic traditions? I guess this helps us understand one rhetorical advantage that ISIS has in its recruiting. But since that particular advantage—what ancient texts say, what ancient people did—is something we can’t change, where do we go from there?"

Says Robert Wright, making the question what works for our purposes as opposed to what is actually true about ISIS and Islam. What is true and what works can coincide. Sometimes you get more power out of basing your arguments on the truth, and I think that I'm speaking the truth when I say that it's more true that we want to defeat the enemy than that we want to characterize their religious beliefs accurately.

If the question here is what works, then it's important to see that Wright pictures a causal chain in which Wood's presentation scares Americans, scared Americans cause the government to "react with the undiscerning ferocity that created ISIS," some scared Americans "deface mosques, or worse," and Western Muslims become ripe for recruitment by ISIS.

ADDED: In my mind — I realize 4 minutes after putting up this post — Wright's argument collapses on itself. He's saying Wood's presentation of the facts is too scary, and it's more productive not to freak out. ("Freak out" is his expression, used 4 times in a short essay.) But how can you make Wood's version go away by calling it scary? You've made it scarier by saying it's too scary to look at, and you have no way to calmly suppress it, so you've only contributed to the freakout that you think is so destructive. We might as well simplify everything and just try to figure out what's true.

"I view classroom teaching as a discipline and duty, a responsibility to convey the legacy of the past to the next generation."

"As I strictly monitor attendance and enforce order, I sometimes ruefully feel like a teaching nun from the over-regulated era of my upstate New York youth! I have a powerful sense of the descent of modern education from the medieval monasteries and cathedrals.... My faith in that nurturing continuity is certainly diametrically opposed to the cynically subversive approach of today's postmodernist theorists, who see history as a false or repressive narrative operating on disconnected fragments."

Says Camille Paglia, and no, it's not cynical to call other people cynical. Is it?

Paglia says "American academics... are pitifully trapped in a sterile career system that has become paralyzed by political correctness."  She's also bothered by the way college campuses these days are "hysterically portrayed as rape extravaganzas where women are helpless fluffs with no control over their own choices and behavior." Colleges ought to stop "demeaning and infantilizing" students, and "cease their tyrannical surveillance of students' social lives." She'd like to stop protecting and patronizing women and get back to the old "pro-sex," "street-smart" version of feminism.

"ISIS supporters on social media and jihadi forums are circulating a YouTube video showing a Western teenager singing a gibberish attempt at one of the terror group’s famous songs, 'Saleel al-Sawarim.'"

"The song is often used to accompany propaganda videos made by the Islamic State, and the teen, who posts under the username LethalAscend, is attempting [to sing] the Arabic air."
Although it’s pretty clear that this teen was making fun of the song, ISIS followers don’t seem to have understood the joke. Instead, they are proudly sharing the video, presenting it as great achievement that ISIS managed to “infiltrate the West with our propaganda.” They say this young “American” is singing the ISIS song enthusiastically. Some supporters even edited the video to add an ISIS logo.

February 25, 2015

"Can you annotate the devil?"

"This book is outside of human logic."

"Suppose an employer just doesn’t want to hire any Jews, and somebody walks in and his name is Mel Goldberg, and he looks kind of Jewish..."

"... and the employer doesn’t know he’s Jewish. No absolute certainty, and certainly Mr. Goldberg doesn’t say anything about being Jewish, but the employer just operates on an assumption that he’s Jewish, so no, he doesn’t get the job. Is that a violation?"

Tiny house!!!

"Maraschino cherry tycoon kills himself as cops find 'Breaking Bad' drug lab and a fleet of luxury cars after stumbling on hidden wall at factory."

There's a headline.

"I picked a bad day to stop sniffing glue."

Bo Ryan.

"Kill You."

"Kill You"

This is the last of my scans of photographs from 1980/1981 from in or around SoHo. I saved this for last because it's different from the rest. There's no nuance and ambiguity, no mixed media and collage. It's just one thing, the bluntest graffiti I've ever seen. Was anyone's life in danger, 35 years ago? Nothing to do about it now. And I did nothing at the time but take a photograph. Perhaps I thought it was ironic. Who would just scrawl "Kill you" (as opposed to "Death to" a specific, named person)? Maybe somebody who just needed to say I hate everyone. I hope they've calmed down by now.

It depends upon what the meaning of the word "Christian" is.

That's my idea of how to answer the question whether any given person is a Christian. I'm basing my answer on the famous old Bill Clinton answer...

... which always made sense to me. In the case of whether someone is a Christian, the answer could easily vary based on whether your definition of Christian is just someone who consistently asserts that he's a Christian — which was apparently Dana Milbank's definition, causing him to insist that it's easy and obvious to say that Obama is a Christian — or whether you think a Christian is someone with a particular set of sincerely held beliefs — which could have been what caused Scott Walker to say he didn't know whether Obama is a Christian.

I would suggest that there is a definition of Christianity within which it is possible to assert that no one is a Christian and another that gets you to the answer that everyone is a Christian.

Should politicians get into the activity of defining Christianity? Consider that Obama seems to have decided he can and should define Islam. (He has a pragmatic reason for saying that ISIS is perverting Islam and therefore only lies in saying it is Muslim.) But is there any good reason for any American politician to tread into the territory of saying what Christianity is?

"Taking the LSAT is a pain, and it is expensive.... This is just a way to identify strong-performing students based on perfectly rational criteria that don’t involve the LSAT."

Said James Gardner, the dean of SUNY—Buffalo Law School.
The test comes with a $170 fee, often in addition to months-long prep courses and tutoring that can cost thousands of dollars....

[Buffalo and Iowa] are the first to announce that they've taken advantage of a recent ruling by the American Bar Association, which accredits U.S. law schools. In August, the ABA changed its rules to allow law schools to fill up to 10 percent of their class with students who have not taken the LSAT, as long as they were at the top of their college class and scored highly on the the SAT and ACT, college aptitude tests, or on the GRE or GMAT graduate school exams.
You still have to have done well on some standardized test, so this seems to be more about upping the number of applications to law schools than about finding a way to admit students who perform worse on standardized tests.

(Here's the Justice Thomas opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger in which he criticized law schools for using the LSAT even though they know it has a disparate impact on black applicants: "[L]aw schools continue to use the test and then attempt to 'correct' for black underperformance by using racial discrimination in admissions so as to obtain their aesthetic student body.... The Law School itself admits that the test is imperfect.... And the Law School’s amici cannot seem to agree on the fundamental question whether the test itself is useful.")

"Many women are now exactly what feminists say they are: victims — only not in the way that feminism understands."

"They are captives behind enemy lines, but the enemy is not patriarchy or gender-norming. It’s the sexual revolution itself. And like other people held hostage for too long by a hostile force, these women are suffering from a problem that has had a name for some time. It’s Stockholm syndrome."

That's the last paragraph of an article in National Review by Mary Eberstat that has a title that's so unhelpful in understanding what it's about — "Jailhouse Feminism" — that the subtitle — "What the raging gets right" — is followed by 3 suggested tweets, none of which are too helpful either.

"An early look at likely Iowa Republican Caucus participants shows a strong conservative tilt as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker leads the pack with 25 percent, twice as high as his nearest rival..."

"... according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today."
There is a horse race for second place, with 13 percent for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, 11 percent each for Michigan physician Ben Carson and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and 10 percent for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. No other candidate is above 5 percent and 9 percent are undecided. Walker gets 13 percent when caucus participants name their second choice, with 11 percent for Bush and 9 percent each for former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Paul....

"Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is taking the Republican political world by storm," said Quinnipiac University Poll Assistant Director Peter A. Brown. "... Perhaps most impressive about Walker's numbers is that 57 percent view him favorably to only 7 percent who view him unfavorably— a heck of a first impression."

Questioning Scott Walker's Christianity.


That's a cropped and tweaked version of a photograph of mine that I originally posted here on February 25, 2011. As I said yesterday, I've decided to repost some of my old photographs to show people — as they take an interest in our Wisconsin governor — the abuse Scott Walker took back in 2011.

I chose this photograph because of the plentiful talk this past week about Walker's refusal to express an opinion about whether President Obama is a Christian. I wanted you to see this old sign — taped to the marble wall of the Wisconsin Capitol as the anti-Walker protests raged. Whoever made that sign did not merely express the opinion that Walker is not a Christian. He presumed to speak in the voice of Jesus telling Scott Walker what to do and in the voice of Scott Walker directly and explicitly rejecting Jesus.

Accusing Scott Walker of winking insidious messages, Dana Milbank shows his frustration at the disciplining effect of Walker's no-response response.

I'm reading Dana Milbank's new WaPo column "Scott Walker’s insidious agnosticism," which doubles down on his recent "Scott Walker’s cowardice should disqualify him," which I dealt with 4 days ago in "Non-Wisconsinites, I need to explain something about Scott Walker to you that you are missing."

I'm overcoming my basic urge to ignore Milbank. Isn't he just repeating what I've already addressed? Why feed him with attention? But he's got high profile whether I pay attention to him or not. That column has upwards of 5,000 comments, and Milbank is actively shaping Walker's image right as Walker is getting national attention.

Walker — with his hardcore on-message approach — does not respond to the usual efforts to entice Republicans to make damaging remarks about sex, race, religion, and other things that aren't part of his message. Another strategy is needed, and Milbank seems to think he's found it. (I put "seems to" in that sentence in honor of Walker's dogged refusal to make statements about what's inside another person's head.) Milbank's idea is to make Walker's restraint into a horrible flaw that disqualifies him from serious consideration.

In the first column, Milbank used the label "cowardice." In the new one, it's "agnosticism." But what's wrong with agnosticism? Is he knocking one of the world's great religions? Oh, it's "insidious agnosticism." Insidious, really? Why not invidious? Or perfidious?! Milbank uses the religion-related word as he attempts to crucify Walker for saying that he doesn't know whether President Obama is a Christian:
This is not a matter of conjecture. The correct answer is yes: Obama is Christian, and he frequently speaks about it in public....
Milbank (who is probably not a Christian) is missing something about Christianity that is quite glaring to me (whose possible Christianity is an enigma). To many Christians, claiming to be a Christian doesn't make you a Christian.

As I child, I often found myself in a Christian church with a congregation singing "Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart." Dana Milbank, do you understand why that lyric is experienced as profound, or would you scoff "Why are these idiots pestering God about wanting to be something that they obviously are? The correct lyric is 'Thanks, Lord, for making me a Christian'"?  Why are you the arbiter of what is correct in Christianity? Why aren't you more of an agnostic? Your non-agnosticism here is insidious, invidious, and perfidious.

Milbank says that Walker's idea that he would need to talk to Obama about Christianity is an "intriguing standard," and then he lets loose with the snark:
I’ve never had a conversation with Walker about whether he’s a cannibal, a eunuch, a sleeper cell [sic] for the Islamic State, a sufferer of irritable bowel syndrome or a grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. By Walker’s logic, it would be fair for me to let stand the possibility that he just might be any of those — simply because I have no personal and direct refutation from him.
No. Walker's logic is that if anyone were to ask a bad question like that, he would turn the spotlight back on the questioner and expose the defectiveness of the question. And that would be a better response, because it doesn't treat the question as serious. That is, it's better to say "That's a clown question, bro" than to treat it like a real issue by saying no. Walker doesn't say "That's a clown question." He's more polite. But it's the same idea.

Walker is engaged in the enterprise of disciplining the press, and I can see why they don't like it. Milbank reveals his frustration:
Walker justifies his agnosticism on grounds that he is avoiding gotcha questions.... This is insidious... because it allows Walker to wink and nod at the far-right fringe where people really believe that Obama is a Muslim from Kenya who hates America. 
Only because the question was asked! Stop asking questions like that and you'll be disabling Walker's insidious winking. Face it: Those who are putting these questions to Walker are trying to elicit material that they can used to serve the audience on the left. They have the power to turn off the Walker winks, but they hate to do it. They want to generate material on hot subjects like sex, race, and religion because it works so well to draw in normal, ordinary Americans who know that economics and national security are what really matters in a President but who find these topics boring and difficult.

If only something like "legitimate rape" would drop out of Walker, they'd be in business.
... Walker’s technique shuts down all debate, because there’s no way to have a constructive argument once you’ve disqualified your opponent as unpatriotic, un-Christian and anti-American.
Disqualified? Dana Milbank used that word in the previous column, "Scott Walker’s cowardice should disqualify him." You declared him disqualified, and now you accuse him of shutting down all debate because he won't debate with you about a subject that isn't constructive. You know it's not constructive, that it's a trick, and he's not playing the game. So what do you do? You switch to accusing him of playing a game through silent signalling — unpatriotic, un-Christian and anti-American. Of course, you're frustrated that you can't lure him into the conversation you want, and you'd like to deprive him of the power to discipline you into staying on his message.

At this point, Milbank's column sinks into madness:
On the Internet, Godwin’s Law indicates that any reasonable discussion ceases when the Nazi accusations come out; Walker is essentially doing the same by refusing to grant his opponent legitimacy as an American and a Christian.
What? Walker didn't say those things. (Also, that's not even what Godwin's Law is.) And Walker isn't doing the equivalent of bringing up the Nazis. He's not talking about the things you wish he'd talk about, so you're saying it for him. You know you're doing that, so you toss in the word "essentially" to patch up the mess of that sentence... that sentence that purports to long for reasonable discussion.

Milbank ends the column with an imagined Q&A in which a Walker opponent supposedly gets questions like those Walker has received and answers them the way Walker has answered those questions. The first 2 questions are not in the form of the questions Scott Walker has been asked: "Why does Scott Walker hate America?" and "When did he stop beating his wife?" Those are questions that assume a fact, a notoriously improper form of question. There's a prior unasked question in both cases that could be answered "I don't know" — Does Scott Walker hate America? and Did Scott Walker ever engage in wife-beating?

So, right off, we can see that Milbank is doing something insidious and invidious. Milbank hasn't shown us an example of Walker's failing to acknowledge the problem of an assumption inside a question.

Milbank proceeds to some questions that don't have that problem: "Does Walker love his children?" and "Does he have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood?" And Milbank seems to think that he's demonstrated that the answers should just be "yes" and "no," but I think a better answer to those questions would be to refuse to accept those questions as appropriate and to turn the spotlight onto the questioner, which is the Scott-Walker-press-disciplining technique.
I’ll go out on a limb and stipulate that Walker loves his country and his family, and I have no reason to think he isn’t a good Christian and a decent man. But he’d be a better man if he didn’t insinuate with his demurrals that his political opponents are not.
And you'd be a better man, Dana Milbank, if you didn't pose as if you were saying something nice about Scott Walker and inviting him to a higher level of civil discourse.

February 24, 2015

"Photos seem to be shifting us to that observer perspective, distancing us in some way, so it’s clearly a reconstructed memory."

"There’s an 'observer,' third-person perspective versus a 'field perspective' through your own eyes."
This reconstruction may be even more drastic for children, who not only will observe a photo or video of themselves from the point of view of whoever is holding the camera, but one that is from a taller adult.

It may not seem like a major distinction, but it serves as a metaphor for how an image can alter our perspective and exclude our first-person recollection.

"No federal charges for Zimmerman in Trayvon Martin death."

"The Justice Department said Tuesday its independent investigation found 'insufficient evidence' to charge George Zimmerman with federal civil rights violations in the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin."

"PPP's newest national Republican poll finds a clear leader in the race for the first time: Scott Walker is at 25%..."

"... to 18% for Ben Carson, 17% for Jeb Bush, and 10% for Mike Huckabee. Rounding out the field of contenders are Chris Christie and Ted Cruz at 5%, Rand Paul at 4%, and Rick Perry and Marco Rubio at 3%."
Walker has more than doubled his support since his 11% standing on our January national poll...

Walker is climbing fast in the polling because of his appeal to the most conservative elements of the Republican electorate. Among 'very conservative' voters he leads with 37% to 19% for Carson, 12% for Bush, and 11% for Huckabee. Bush has a similarly large lead over Walker with moderates at 34/12...the problem for Bush though is that there are two times more GOP primary voters who identify as 'very conservative' than there are ones who identify as moderates.
ADDED: Here are the details — PDF. This is particularly interesting:

Congratulations to the Scott Walker supporters for coming in with the lowest percentage on this one, but, jeez, Republicans. I mean, we're not in danger of this becoming law. It would be blatantly unconstitutional. But these numbers are awful.

Why it's worth $2,000+ a month for 300 square feet in NYC.

"For me, the draw was living on my own... I had been crammed in an apartment with 3 other girls, and as I have lived with roommates for 8 years, since my freshman year of college, I was ready to do my own thing."
"I was really impressed with how everything is configured,” Ms. Okuji said. “I think it is great that the bed can go up; it really opens up the space.... The dishwasher looks like a regular drawer, and a mini-oven doubles as a microwave,” she said. “The only drawback is the size of the bathroom: The sink is tiny. But having amenities in the building were icing on the cake."
Click on the photograph of Okuji's tiny-house-modular apartment. Assuming the sound-proofing is top-notch, I'd be happy living there if I were an unmarried woman.

There's nothing about noise in that article, which is in the NYT, but I ran across this other article "Please Stop Making That Noise," about misophonia, which literally means the hatred of sound.
When I lived in New York City, I was much more sensitive than my roommates to noises from adjacent apartments. When dogs are left outside barking late at night, I fixate on the noise and cannot fall asleep. Chewing noises, particularly from behind me, are enormously irritating, as are people who perpetually sniff their mucus back into their nostrils....

For me, one of the most frustrating aspects of misophonia is what I call the “incredulity factor.”...

"Crowd chants 'Recall Walker' at #RightToWork rally."

I'm following the twitter feed here.

Union songs:

ADDED: You can watch live video of hearings and protests here.

James Taranto observes the hazing of Scott Walker...

... in yesterday's Best of the Web — enter here — which quotes my "Get used to it, coasties" post from last Saturday.

"For that reason you can't write with music playing, and anyone who says he can is either writing badly, or not listening to the music, or lying."

"You need to hear what you're writing, and for that you need silence."

I was wondering about that, this morning, because I was struggling to complete the phrase "the path of my wanderings 7 years ago during my exile in Brooklyn" as Meade was searching YouTube for songs with the phrase "walk on" and I could feel how those songs — by Neil Young and Lou Reed — were shutting all the pathways in my head that led to words.

"I stupidly made this blot on the first of December 1482."

Marginalia in a copy of Livy’s Historiae Romanae (Venice, 1470), one of the illustrations in a long New York Review of Books piece about marginalia, a topic dear to my heart as the first thing I ever blogged about, the original title of this blog, and the name of the Madison-like city in a book I never wrote.

ADDED: One of my favorite old post titles is "Genitalia marginalia," which has this memorable photograph:

Genitalia marginalia

"I’ve got to see a man about a dog."

Says David Corn, blowing off Hugh Hewitt at the end of a long radio conversation about Corn's attack on Bill O'Reilly, a topic I've been avoiding all week and intend to continue to avoid.

I'm just blogging this because I'm interested in the phrase "I’ve got to see a man about a dog," which has its own Wikipedia entry:
To see a man about a dog (or see a man about a horse) is an English language colloquialism, usually used as a way to say one needs to apologize for one's imminent departure or absence – generally euphemistically to conceal one's true purpose, such as going to use the toilet or going to buy a drink.

The original, non-facetious meaning was probably to place or settle a bet on a racing dog.
Some people say "I’ve got to see a man about a horse." Another variation is "I've got to see a dog about a man."

Now, I also find it interesting — and this blog runs on interestingness, you know — that earlier in the Corn-Hewitt conversation, Hewitt used another old expression that has a dog in it: "I’ve got no dog in this fight." Maybe that put the dog image in the Corn's head... the head of Corn... the ear of Corn.

"No dog in this fight" has no page Wikipedia. Some people say "No dog in the hunt," but that's denounced as "a bastardization of two Southern idioms: 'no dog in the fight,' and 'that dog won't hunt.'"

"Hello! I, Vladimir Putin, Am Preparing To Surrender Mother Russia To Scott Walker."


"Four months ago, I raised questions after The New York Times reported that Islamic State beheading victim James Foley made a sincere conversion from Catholicism to Islam during his captivity."

Writes Bobby Ross Jr. at Get Religion:
At the time, the Times reporter who wrote the story defended the newspaper's characterization of Foley's conversion....

Now, though, a different Times writer has produced an in-depth piece seriously exploring Foley's faith...
Is any conversion under such duress a legitimate one? Why would a man who had spoken so openly about his Catholic faith turn to Islam? Given his circumstances, is it even surprising if he did?... Mr. Foley’s mother, Diane... said that she had spoken months earlier with Jejoen Bontinck, a Belgian former captive who is Muslim, after his release, and that he had described her son’s conversion as a genuine act. Then, after French and Spanish captives were released, Ms. Foley said she received a somewhat different version of events.

“What the hostages had told me was that by saying that he had converted to Islam, he would be left alone five times a day, without being beaten, so that he could pray,” she said in an interview.... “Only God and Jim know what was going on in his heart,” she said. “I think the Lord used Jim in a magnificent way in the last two years of his life. He gave hope to his fellow captives.”
(I added the boldface.)

ADDED: "Only God and Jim know what was going on in his heart" resonates with "How [could] I say if I know either of you are a Christian?"

"For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him?"

Walker pulls up alongside Ted Cruz in Texas.

This is striking:

I can think of about 10 explanations for that, but I'll let you talk about it in the comments, and I will rectify my omission in my previous poll by including Ted Cruz this time:

Which Republican do you choose as the next President of the United States?
pollcode.com free polls

"Walker, can I 'modestly' kick you in the nuts?"

As the nation turns its eyes to Scott Walker, I thought I'd start a new series, rerunning some of my old photographs that open a window to the past to give you something of a feeling for the abuse the man took back in 2011.

""[T]here's still one alcoholic territory upon which we can exert our manifest drinking destiny: mead."

Sure, it’s 9,000 years old, and it’s made from honey. But it tastes new, and holy hell, is it growing."

From "This Ancient Booze Is Now Growing Faster Than U.S. Craft Beer."

The most charming bookstores in the world...

.... here... including that one in DUMBO that fit the path of my wanderings 7 years ago during my exile in Brooklyn.

"Among the early risers... are Pope Francis, who gets up at 4:30 a.m. to meditate..."

"... novelist John Grisham, who began his habit of rising at 5 a.m. to fit in time to write his first novel; and Apple CEO Tim Cook, who thoughtfully plans his schedule beginning at 4:30 a.m."

From the press release for "12 Qualities of Highly Successful People," which I stumbled across as I googled to find out when Daylight Saving Time begins, which I needed to know because I want the darkness pushed forward so I can get back to rising before dawn.

Darkness Pushing Time begins on March 7th.

February 23, 2015

At the Rose Rug Café...


... take off your shoes and settle in.

And please use the Althouse Amazon Portal if you need to do any shopping. Me, I just bought season 3 of "Shameless," 5 "Big Ass" Bands, a ceramic coffee milltoe separators, and this cocktail shaker.

ADDED: The cocktail being shaken around here is the Negroni, which was possibly "invented in Florence, Italy in 1919, at Caffè Casoni... [when] Count Camillo Negroni... [asked] the bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to strengthen his favorite cocktail, the Americano, by adding gin rather than the normal soda water." (And I know it's more common to serve a Negroni over ice. I don't like ice in drinks. It hits your face! I don't even like restaurant ice water. Just give me cold water. One of the best things about the below-zero temperatures we've been having in The North is that the tap water is perfectly icy cold.)

"Behold the beast the Democrats never intended to create..."

"... a thrice-elected Republican governor in a swing state with a cult following, appreciated by both the establishment of his party and the conservative base...."

Giuliani's rollback.

In the Wall Street Journal.

If you care. I think it's all a lot of blather about rhetoric, including rhetoric of a kind Obama himself uses, and I'm sick of wasting time on it.

This morning, I watched my recording of the 'In Memoriam' section of the Oscars show...

... and I thought it was really bad because of that cheeseball "watercolor" effect that was slapped onto the photographs and because it was full of executives and behind-the-scenes people who had no place in our hearts.

It should have been more about us, more of a show, and less about them, less like an industry convention.

ADDED: Apparently the standard for inclusion is membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. That's why Joan Rivers didn't make the cut.

The Washington Post goes after the top 2 GOP presidential contenders... in interestingly different ways.

This is for Jeb: "Documents show the expensive tastes of Jeb Bush’s low-key wife."

And this is for Scott: "Walker’s anti-union law has labor reeling in Wisconsin."

These are both big articles, served up for Monday morning, and both are low blows.

The attack on Walker is low, because it uses the terms "union" and "labor" without specifying what I think must always be specified to be fair: Walker's reforms were about public employee unions. The Walker article is absurdly emotive and sentimental, larded with quotes from nice people who are bewildered and sad. You have to read to paragraph 5 to get the first indication that Walker's law only had to do with the special problem of public unions, whose collective bargaining is not with private management, but with the government, the representatives of the people, not any commercial operation.

There are over 4,000 comments on the Walker article already, and the top-rated one is: "No wonder Walker scares Democrats so much. He's taken down one of their most lucrative money making scams as well as one of their favorite sources of street muscle." The second highest rated is: "The left is scared to death of Walker." So maybe WaPo's effort to type-cast Walker as a right-wing meanie won't work, but it won't be because WaPo's not trying. And, yes, I know I'm purporting to read The Mind of the Washington Post, even as I'm writing about Scott Walker, The Man Who Cannot Read the Mind of Others.

The low blow for Jeb is a shot at his wife.
In 1999, Columba Bush... was detained and fined by federal customs officials for misrepresenting the amount of clothing and jewelry she had bought while on a solo five-day shopping spree in Paris.... Jeb Bush said the first lady had misled customs officials because she did not want him to know that she had spent about $19,000 on the trip....
What's wrong with a rich woman spending $19,000 shopping when she's gone to Paris by herself? I'm not believing Jeb's explanation. First, why didn't he accompany her? Why'd she have to go alone? I assume it's because she wanted to shop. How could he not know why his wife went to Paris, and why go to Paris to go shopping and not spend an amount of money that corresponds to your level of wealth? 1999 was the year Jeb became Governor of Florida. He was in business before then. I'd say $19,000 was a normal amount of money for his wife to spend on her Paris shopping spree.

WaPo continues:
The ordeal did not stop her from spending freely, however. Less than a year later, she took out a loan to buy $42,311.70 worth of jewelry on a single day, according to records filed with the state of Florida by Mayors Jewelers.
Took out a loan? Why would she need to take out a loan? You have to go way to the bottom of the article to learn that Mayors offers better terms on these loans than are offered by credit cards (which I'm sure she had). Again, I don't see the problem with the wife of a rich man spending money on clothing and accessories that correspond to the family's wealth. I guess there's a political embarrassment, which is what WaPo hopes to visit on Jeb. Jeb's wife is thought to be a political advantage, since she was born in Mexico and her father was a migrant worker. So you see the point of portraying her as another rich lady (and a dishonest one at that).

"Investigative reporter Ken Silverstein has resigned from First Look Media’s The Intercept after 14 months..."

"... saying he and others were hired 'under what were essentially false pretenses [by being] told we would be given all the financial and other support we needed to do independent,inter important journalism, but instead found ourselves blocked at every step of the way by management’s incompetence and bad faith.'"

Women working in Hillary Clinton's Senate office were paid 72 cents for every dollar paid to a man.

"During those years, the median annual salary for a woman working in Clinton’s office was $15,708.38 less than the median salary for a man, according to the analysis of data compiled from official Senate expenditure reports."

I'm sure she can explain that based on things like education, seniority, and experience, but the problem is that's the explanation that undercuts the whole equal pay agenda. 

"Edward Snowden couldn't be here for some treason," said Neil Patrick Harris, the Oscars host, when the documentary about him won an award.

The award — for best documentary — to "Citizenfour" was expected, so the scriptwriters had plenty of time to come up with that joke. It's a neat joke, with its language precision. Or near-precision. The New Yorker's Amy Davison says:
Treason isn’t one of the crimes Snowden has been charged with—the government wants to prosecute him under the Espionage Act—but both the praise and the joke point to why this Snowden Oscar mattered. What he did was useful, and dangerous.

That wouldn’t have been enough if the movie were bad. But "Citizenfour" is worth watching....
Worth watching... in my book, that's a high standard. And "Citizenfour" didn't meet it, nor did the Oscars show, nor did any of the movies that were nominated (except one, "Grand Budapest Hotel," which I noticed in the HBO "On Demand" listings).

I liked the joke, because of its language precision and because it seemed at least a tad risky in the context of Hollywood celebrating itself. Or maybe it wasn't. Having given the award to "Citizenfour," Hollywood may have needed to get right with the Obama administration. "No, I don’t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot" is what Obama has said.

To get a link for this post, I googled "treason" and "patrick" — "patrick" because I didn't want to risk misspelling "neil" and I stopped before adding "harris" because I knew "treason" and "patrick" were enough to pull up the quote from last night in Google. This is pure happenstance:

And isn't Obama's "No, I don’t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot" a fascinating quote to recall after a week of chewing over Giuliani's Obama-not-a-patriot remark?

February 22, 2015

I watched 1 minute of the Oscars and turned it off right after I heard myself say...

"They all look so unhappy to be there."

"Paradoxically, these bitter attacks are still more evidence that Clarence Thomas is now leading the national debate on race."

Writes Juan Williams in the Wall Street Journal.

"Scott Walker feeling the heat" — says Politico, but how does Politico know what Scott Walker feels?

Ironically, the assertion is that he feels the heat over his statements that he doesn't know how Barack Obama feels — doesn't know whether Obama feels love for his country and doesn't know whether Obama feels in his heart that he is a Christian.

It's easy for me to see the simple accuracy of Walker's statement that he doesn't have access to the interior sensations of another human being's body, and I'm having difficulty understanding why Politico imagines it knows that Scott Walker is feeling heat.

Maybe MSM are feeling the heat as the kind of questions that used to generate heat aren't heating things up like they used to. They've been hoping to have some fun watching Republicans self-incinerate, after all these years dutifully admiring the cool character they call "No Drama Obama."

ADDED: "Scott Walker feeling the heat" resembles the schoolyard bullying that comes in the form of taunts like: "Oh, the little baby got his feelings hurt! He's going to cry! He wants to run home to mommy!"

"I know this might be something silly to rant about, but my heart is breaking for my son."

"We invited his whole class (16 kids) over for his 6th birthday party today. Not one kid came."

1. Her heart broke and our hearts are supposed to be lifted by this story about the response a Florida woman got when she posted those words on Facebook: 40 strangers showed up at her house on that very day — 15 children and 25 adults — and brought presents for the child. And now there's a follow-on media to-do about the child's suffering and his supposed subsequent happiness and the supposed meanness of some people and the charity of others.

2. Is any of this good for the child — as opposed to us, the consumers of media melodrama? Consider that the child is autistic — autistic and 6.

3. Why invite the whole class — 16 kids — to any 6-year-old's birthday party? Either he has friends who care about him or he does not. Inviting everyone is like inviting no one. Nobody feels he is really wanted or special. How would you feel if your 6-year-old child were invited to a birthday party where everyone in the class was invited? You'd probably ask your child if he was friends with the birthday kid, and you wouldn't pressure him to attend just to avert the possibility that you and he would stand accused of insensitivity on Facebook and other media.

4. When I was a child, back in the 1950s, my mother cited what seemed to be a standard rule for the proper number of children a birthday party: the number of guests should equal the age of the child. According to that rule of thumb, there should be 6 guests at a 6 year old's birthday party. Not 16. And certainly not 40. In those days, parents didn't crank children up into a frenzy of excitement, and you also never heard about anyone's being hyperactive or autistic. Maybe the classrooms and homes of America were teeming with undiscovered hyperactivity and autism. I don't know, but I do think we are depriving children of the child-scale environment where they can develop and flourish.

5. Here's a more radical idea: Don't celebrate birthdays!
[B]irthdays are unlike other holidays, for they are times "when all the presents and good wishes are for oneself. The birthday cake, splendid with colored icing and shining candles is a personal tribute. Other holidays lift the heart, but birthdays warm the ego." Is it a good idea for Christians to engage in celebrations that "warm the ego"? Speaking to the proud Pharisees, Jesus warned that "whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

"A New York teen who became an Internet sensation for a 'laser cat' yearbook photo..."

"... died in an apparent suicide Thursday night, according to a report."

"The narrative is we have a chance to elect the first woman as president of the United States, something I think we should have done a long time ago."

"I just don’t think it should be Hillary Clinton. There’s a lot of other women I can think of in the Republican Party who would be a much better alternative to that and some day will be. But if it’s a narrative like that, I think we run into trouble. If we shift the narrative, and I think, Hillary Clinton, you even saw with this story, with her book tour, the statements about her and Bill being broke when they came out of the White House. …You see the size of the fees she’s asking universities and colleges to pay, when you look at some of the other things, when she talks about not having driven a car in all those years, I get why that’s true, but it’s why I like to get on my Harley Davidson… every once in a while to drive myself and not have someone else do it for me. I just think those are all things that penetrate this out of touch persona. And to me to win I think the argument has got to be change it from a narrative of two personalities to Hillary Clinton represents Washington."

Said Scott Walker, on the important question of how the GOP candidate plans — or is willing to say he plans — to defeat the presumptive Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

This quote comes from the same event where Walker refused to comment on the secret contents of Barack Obama's heart after Rudy Giuliani proclaimed that Obama doesn't "love America." The event — I'm just seeing this now — was supposedly intended to be off the record, but — per Politico — "that request wasn’t made to POLITICO and other reporters attending the dinner until after he’d already begun speaking."

Obviously, the candidates have to assume that anything said at a sizable event like this — a big dinner at the 21 Club — will leak out. In fact, the very thing that is most useful to your opponents is likely to come out and get even more attention because you seem to be speaking confidentially to a subgroup in terms suitable only for them. To illustrate my point in the previous sentence, I need only show you the tiniest shorthand: bitter clingers and 47%.