April 18, 2015

In Madison, Wisconsin, the Farmers Market returned to the Capitol Square today.

The farmers were there...


And the deep-fried cheese curds...


And the proponents of peace...


And the Walker-haters...


"Did punk begin with 'I'm Henry The 8th I Am'? The minimal production, the basic drums, the snotty sloppy carefree vocal delivery..."

"... the directly Ramones-inspiring, 4th wall breaking cry of 'Second Verse, same as the first'.. to what extent could this track be considered an overlooked antecendent of the punk rock movement?"

That's an internet discussion I encountered after reading jr565's comment — "in regards to Henry Viii - now we know where the Ramones got their 'second verse, same as the first' from" — on last night's post about the #1 songs of 1965.

Here's how the song looked as interpreted by Patty Duke (in her Cathy persona) on her old TV show in 1965:

Here's the adorable original Peter Noone (in his Herman persona):

Actually the original is Harry Champion (it's really a British music hall from 1910):

"Gay Events That I, Marco Rubio, Would Go To."

A comic piece at The New Yorker — #1 on The New Yorker's "most popular" list — that riffs on a WaPo item that reads:
Presidential candidate and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in an interview with Univision’s Jorge Ramos on Wednesday that he would attend a gay wedding of someone he was close to — while qualifying that he wouldn’t condone the union itself.
It's a good comic idea, which is why I and, I assume, many others clicked on it, which is all that is needed to be "popular" for the purposes of climbing an internet "most popular" chart. The execution of the comic idea is another matter. But that's subjective, and it's going to depend on whether you feel empathy for politicians who need to adopt a namby-pamby pose on gay marriage.

I stopped to contemplate the quality of my own humor. Should I say "a namby-pamby pose"? To help decide, I did a Google image search on the phrase "a namby-pamby pose." #1:

My question is answered. The god Serendipity has spoken.

UPDATE: Speaking of gods speaking, no sooner do I publish this post than my doorbell rings. Though I don't normally answer the doorbell, I go to the door. It's 2 men in suits and a little boy. They've got copies of The Watchtower. Here's how I reacted:

Ah! It's such a perfect day today! I believe in The Universe!

"One virtue of appointing federal appellate judges to the Court is that these highly judicialized folk are already masters at applying Supreme Court doctrine."

"After all, this is what circuit-court judges do every day: they study and apply what the Supreme Court has said about one legal issue or another. One problem, however, is that Supreme Court precedent can be dead wrong. Sometimes, in fact, it is baloney. And lower-court judges, who daily slice and eat this doctrinal baloney, may be ill-equipped to see it for what it is. Specifically, they may be inclined to think that judges are more right than they really are, and other branches of government, more wrong. A lower court’s job is to follow the Supreme Court’s precedents, whether right or wrong. But the Supreme Court’s job, in certain situations, is to correct its past mistakes—to overrule or depart from erroneous precedents. (Brown famously and gloriously abandoned Plessy v. Ferguson’s malodorous 'separate but equal' doctrine.) Someone who has not spent his or her entire life reading Supreme Court cases — who has instead spent time thinking directly about the Constitution and also spent time in a nonjudicial branch of government with its own distinct constitutional perspectives and traditions — may be particularly good at knowing judicial baloney when he or she sees it."

Writes lawprof Akhil Reed Amar in "Clones on the Court/A Supreme Court that once included former senators and governors is populated today by judges with identical résumés. Here's why that's a mistake."

"I grew up with: midcentury furniture, and I still get a sense of rightness from living with it."

"I don’t think it’s only because of a generational memory; 60 years later, some of these objects still seem unsurpassed. I have two chairs designed by Gio Ponti the year I was born [1952], which are really perfect."

Said the artist David Salle, responding to a prompt (in bold face) from The Wall Street Journal, which includes pictures of various things including a chair, but not the Gio Ponti chair he declared perfect. I'm going to guess — consider the possibilities — it's this:

Salle also praises the book “Several Short Sentences About Writing,” by Verlyn Klinkenborg, which (I see) says things like:
Why short sentences? They'll sound strange for a while until you can hear what they're capable of. But they carry you back to a prose you can control...
Dot dot dot because that sentence actually turns out to be long and I'm transcribing and don't want to transcribe it all. Do you need to learn to control your prose? Did you forget about the usefulness of short sentences? Do you need a book to remind you?

Salle also has this:
A transformative technology can: change how you hail a cab, but I’m not sure it changes the structure of things that are really important to me. When I was in art school, the first portable black-and-white video cameras were introduced and quickly became part of the artist’s tool kit. There was a lot of talk then about how they would fundamentally transform art. And of course they did no such thing.
When I was in art school, circa 1970, we were invited to become entranced with a dot matrix printer that could only print letters and numbers but which could produce a crude image of, say, a face because of the way various letters and numbers read as darker or lighter from a distance. Is this where we were going?

"Being exposed to sweat produced under happiness induces a simulacrum of happiness in receivers, and induces a contagion of the emotional state."

"Somebody who is happy will infuse others in their vicinity with happiness."

"They weren’t thinking about me, just about my mother. They just ripped me out and tossed me aside," said Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra was a gigantic baby, the year was 1915, the setting was the family's kitchen, and the midwife had to call for the doctor, who arrived, with forceps, to save the mother. 
The doctor cut the cord and laid the boy - huge and blue, bleeding from his wounds, and apparently dead - by the kitchen sink, then quickly shifted his efforts to ­saving the nearly unconscious mother’s life.

The women all leant in, shouting advice in ­Italian. At the back of the scrum, one of them looked at the seemingly lifeless baby, picked up it up and, just in case, ran ice cold water from the sink over it and slapped its back. It snuffled and began to howl....

In a nightclub with a lover named Peggy Connelly, he flinched when, in the dark, she caressed his left cheek and her fingertips touched his ear. Though she had barely noticed the deformity, he told her how sensitive he was about it....
Connelly recalled: ‘There was no ­outburst of emotion, just a ­lingering bitterness about what he felt had been a stupid neglect of his infant self to concentrate on his mother, otherwise his torn ear might have been tended to in time.’
As for the mother, Dolly Sinatra:
After Frank was born, there were no more babies, possibly because the birth rendered Dolly unable to have any, but more likely because she ­simply decided — and she was one of life’s deciders — she didn’t want to go through that again.
But she compensated for her trauma in the strangest of ways. She chose to become a midwife and an abortionist, for which ­illegal activity she got the ­nickname ­Hatpin Dolly and a ­criminal record.
The link goes to an excerpt from the book "Frank: The Making Of A Legend" by James Kaplan. I ran across that this morning because last night we were watching the new HBO documentary "Sinatra: All or Nothing at All," which isn't based on Kaplan's book, but goes through the same story of the birth and contains that brief, startling fact: Sinatra's mother was an abortionist.

We were watching the Sinatra documentary because we'd gotten tired of that other, much more noticed HBO documentary "Going Clear," which is based on the Lawrence Wright book "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief." I'm sure the book is much more worth your time. The movie is just too dumb for my taste. In the part I put up with, there were too many boring people on camera stating that they were indeed taken in. But why? Some of the clips of L. Ron Hubbard were interesting. He was brilliant/crazy/devious. He's a good character. The rest of the cast... well, one wonders what they would have done with their lives if they hadn't entered the "prison of belief" in Scientology.

I was surprised to see that both documentaries were made by the same guy, Alex Gibney. If he could have been allowed to stay with the interesting character in "Going Clear," I might have liked it as much as "Sinatra: All or Nothing at All." But left to delve into the mystery of ordinary people getting and staying inside of religious belief, he had little insight. At least not in the part I put up with.

Maybe I'll finish it at some point... or, more likely, switch to Wright's book or just Wright's New Yorker article, "The Apostate, Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology." I could get interested in Scientology's complicated legal problems, but I don't want to hear long accounts of dumb people getting trapped in "the Prison of Belief." Why are other people's beliefs a "prison"? If some beliefs are prisons, what beliefs are not prisons? Now, if the point is, the organization threatens and bullies anyone who tries to leave, then it's not belief that is the prison.

ADDED: Lawrence Wright goes on the podcast "Here's the Thing with Alec Baldwin" which I was in the middle of listening to when I tried to watch HBO's "Going Clear." This morning, having given up on "Going Clear," I went back to the podcast and was surprised to get to hear Alec Baldwin complain that what the movie was missing was just about exactly what I'd thought. Go to 23:32. Baldwin had seen the movie, and he said: "There wasn't any sense, to me, of: What are the people who are in Scientology, who remain in Scientology, who are dedicated to this, what do they perceive they're getting out of it?... What does it do for them? Why are they there?" Baldwin suggests "maybe it's in the book," and Wright is able to give some answers — but these are answers that make me want to ask whether the motivations are different from what brings people into other religions.

By the way, at the "Here's the Thing" site, the title of Wright's book is misstated as "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Unbelief." That's a good (if unwitting) response to my statement (above) it's not belief that is the prison.

April 17, 2015

"In 1965 there were a ton of deserving No. 1 songs on the Billboard charts..."

"... and two silly novelty ones."

ADDED: The discussion about The Ramones that begins in the comments continues here.

"There was the story about a man bringing a gun to an Easter church service – which went off when it got caught on his pants."

"Then we had a guy accidentally shooting his mother-in-law through the wall of her trailer when his target was actually an armadillo ('That bullet couldn’t have taken a more American journey if it had punctured a Kraft single, ricocheted off a Nascar trophy and got lodged in a painting of Elvis and Jesus holding hands at a rodeo,' observed Williams). But neither of these news stories could even come close to the report that succeeded in taking home the 2015 'Mercun Award crown..."

From a WSJ report on "The Daily Show"'s  awards based on the "popular social-media meme #Murica." The WSJ's link on the hashtag goes not to Twitter but to the Urban Dictionary, which defines the term in an openly bigoted manner: "The way un-educated Americans (generally rednecks, hicks, republicans, or very patriotic people) say America" and "The term 'murica' is the way how many people with extremely thick, American accents, pronounce 'America'. The term is used to denote extreme, extreme nationalism and patriotism, but not necessarily facism. It is generally seen as a derogatory yet humorous way to describe most Americans: fat, lazy, gunwielding, war loving, horse riding, saloon fighting, beer drinking, sex wanting or etc."

"The swing member of the state Supreme Court lashed out at a lawsuit brought by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson over how the court's leader is selected..."

Justice N. Patrick Crooks said: "I think it's not only sad, it's unfortunate. I won't give you my view of the merits of that lawsuit, but I will tell you I think it's something that should not have been done. We've become a little bit of a laughingstock, or at least she has."
In the interview, Crooks said he was considering seeking the position of chief justice himself after some of his colleagues talked to him about it. He declined to name them. The 76-year-old justice also held out the possibility of running for re-election next year, despite suggesting to his colleagues last year that he would not seek another 10-year term.
In case you've forgotten, Abrahamson has been chief justice for a long time under the old seniority rule, a part of the Wisconsin state constitution which the voters amended. Now, the justices are to vote to select the chief, and Crooks seems to be positioning himself for selection — and for reelection if he wants to run again. Calling Abrahamson "a laughingstock" is awfully harsh, even if it's what he genuinely thinks (as opposed to what's politically opportune). If the idea is to restore the dignity of the court, it's a bit strange. But perhaps the unnamed colleagues who've talked to him include Abrahamson:
Crooks distanced himself from Abrahamson, saying he had a "very different" judicial philosophy than her. Regardless, he argued the decision on who should lead the court should be about who is best able to bring members of the court together, not a "philosophical tug of war." He said he felt he could serve that function.

"I view the job of chief justices I think very differently than Justice Abrahamson does," he said. "I think that the chief justice is a first among equals. I think the approach that's appropriate is that you're a team player and you try to get everyone involved in the team."
If I were in Justice Abrahamson's position masterminding the coming election, that's exactly what I would advise him to say. And by the way, call me "a bit of a laughingstock" so it won't look like I'm colluding with you.

"Should You Get Married (Or Divorced) For Tax Reasons?"

Do the math.
Whether you get a tax bonus by being married or end up paying the marriage penalty depends on how much income you and your partner make and how it’s divided between you. Type your own numbers in [at the link] to see how marriage affects your taxes.
The link goes to FiveThirtyEight, where I love the update:
In response to comments on Twitter, we’ve changed the color scheme of these graphics from green-and-red to blue-and-red to make it possible for people with red-green colorblindness to read them clearly.

"For all the righteous concern people expressed about the welfare of my children, what most of them failed to understand was that taking those pictures was an act separate from mothering."

"When I stepped behind the camera and my kids stepped in front of it, I was a photographer and they were actors, and we were making a photograph together. And in a similar vein, many people mistook the photographs for reality or attributed qualities to my children (one letter-­writer called them 'mean') based on the way they looked in the pictures. The fact is that these are not my children; they are figures on silvery paper slivered out of time. They represent my children at a fraction of a second on one particular afternoon with infinite variables of light, expression, posture, muscle tension, mood, wind and shade. These are not my children at all; these are children in a photograph. Even the children understood this distinction...."

Writes Sally Mann, whose very arty photographs of her (sometimes naked) children were published to much elite acclaim in 1992 and — simultaneously — intense criticism as “manipulative,” “sick,” “twisted,” “vulgar” — in part because of what Mann calls the "cosmically bad timing" of coinciding with the controversy about Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs. Mapplethorpe had "included images of children along with sadomasochistic and homoerotic imagery," and: "Into this turbulent climate, I had put forth my family pictures."

From the comments there (at the NYT):
There is absolutely no question that Sally Mann is a photographic artist of great stature. There is also no question that were she not, she would have had her children taken from the home decades ago, and probably would have been jailed. If the father down the block from Mann took similar photos and made them public, he would have been thrown under the jail house. She was, and remains, ethically tone deaf - at best. To use one's children, who cannot possibly understand the ramifications of what they are doing, as one's subjects to create sexually charged images, is the grossest violation of the concept of informed consent. and is inexcusable.

"But what exactly is civility—and is it a prerequisite for a vibrant intellectual climate?"

Asks Joan W. Scott in "The New Thought Police/Why are campus administrators invoking civility to silence critical speech?"
As with all polemic, tweets can be satirical, ironic, blasphemous, outrageous. To read them literally is often to misread them, as was the case with one of the tweets most often invoked to indict [Steven] Salaita as an anti-Semite...

The medium of Twitter is complicated because it provides a public space for private, personal expression. In one sense, it is no different from a speaker’s rostrum at an antiwar rally or any other highly charged political event....

Twitter disrupts this careful separation of the hidden and the acceptable, blurring the boundaries by offering a public forum for venting private feelings. In so doing, it makes the hidden visible and seems to reveal the “true” nature of the tweeter—the reality ordinarily concealed by the rules of decorum and politesse. They may not realize it, but those... who take tweets to be indicators of the “real” nature of the tweeter (and so the ultimate proof of his or her unfitness as a teacher and colleague) are also acknowledging the limits, if not the inauthenticity, of civility as a form not only of political but also of intellectual exchange. For some members of the UIUC faculty, as for the chancellor, the tweets exposed the underlying premises of Salaita’s scholarly work, the hidden transcript of his articles and books. The tweets became not an easily compartmentalized instance of extramural speech (and so of the First Amendment right of the scholar as citizen), but the key to the entire body of his work and to the unacceptability of the politics that informed it....
Much more at the link (which goes to The Nation).

"In interviews, Ryan has characterized his #BottomForHillary movement as 'just a fun way for people to show support for a presidential candidate'..."

"... but many gays aren’t laughing. A Huffington Post commenter decried the phrase, writing, 'we do not need this type of exposure, as it does not help our LGBT community at all,' and Zach Stafford has penned a screed against the thing in the Guardian, declaring that it relies on a logic of 'bottom-shaming,' the essentially misogynistic notion that bottoming is more effeminate—and therefore a lesser act—than topping. Stafford’s point is well-taken (I definitely share his dislike for the way bottom-shaming often creeps into gay men’s discourse), but I wonder if it’s totally fair...."

From a surprisingly long piece at Slate by J. Bryan Lowder called "Should Gays Bottom for Hillary?"

"But wait a minute... there's nothing inconsistent about being a libertarian and collecting Social Security."

"If you believe the government is wrongfully taking your money (in the form of taxes), naturally you should want to take as much of it back as possible (in the form of benefits). You can still complain that this was inefficient because you would've spent the money better if you had kept it all along; some of your money was siphoned off by government workers; etc. By analogy, if a thief stole your wallet and spent half of the cash that was in it, then offered you the wallet back, you'd take it back, simply to recover most of what you had lost. That wouldn't be an admission that what the thief did was good."

, reacting to a "Zing!" by Daily Kos over a tweet that says "Rand Paul is running from Libertarianism faster than Ayn Rand ran to the mailbox for her Social Security checks."

April 16, 2015

"When I began as a young lawyer in the 1960s, text was an interesting jumping-off point."

"It was sometimes even read from beginning to end. But it was rarely dispositive…. One of the great triumphs of Justice Scalia’s work on the Court over the years — with help from a number of the other justices — was to remind us that text does play an important role, and that we should be spending more time with the text."

Said NYU lawprof Burt Neuborne, talking about his new book, "Madison's Music: On Reading the First Amendment." Alongside him was Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whom he thanked for "her human voice." Is that a compliment? Is this a compliment: "It’s a fun book for someone who's not immersed in the law"? That's what she said about his book.

I got to that NYU page via email that promotes NYU School of Law things to the school's graduates (which include me). I hesitated to link to it, however, because I'm ashamed of the inaccuracy of this sentence:

"Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday he had an 'honest, frank conversation' with Spike Lee to let the movie director know..."

"... that he doesn’t like, 'Chiraq,' the working title of Lee's coming movie on black-on-black violence based in Chicago’s crime-ridden Englewood community."
Emanuel didn’t say whether he asked Lee to change the name.... But the mayor made it clear that he had used the Hollywood pipeline provided by his brother, super-agent Ari Emanuel, to make his feelings known directly to Spike Lee. The face-to-face meeting took place in the mayor’s office prior to Wednesday’s City Council meeting....

In an apparent attempt to soften the blow of the title, "Chiraq," Lee... noted that gun violence is “not limited” to Chicago. It’s happening in Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York, where he’s from. He even talked about the derogatory name used to describe a part of Brooklyn where he’s from. He talked about how similarly insulting names applied to Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Well, apparently "Chiraq" is a great title. It's getting such high level attention. You can't buy that kind of PR. Obviously, it's also negative PR for the city, but Rahm is trying to squeeze good PR out of the bad (on the theory that Chicago isn't really that bad and even if it is, other cities are also bad... or worse).

ADDED: From a year ago: "How Chicago Became 'Chiraq'":
President Obama may have gotten our troops out of Iraq, but the gunfire in his hometown of Chicago is still earning it a searing nickname coined by young people who live there.


"Resistance is not part of civil disobedience."

"Civil disobedience is a symbolic non-violent violation of the law.... The act must be nonviolent, open and visible, illegal, performed for the moral purpose of protesting an injustice, and done with the expectation of being punished."

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin instructs, explaining the arrests of the high school students who, protesting the police shooting of Tony Robinson, may have resisted police efforts to relocate them from the street to the sidewalk.
"In the future, while all of these protests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, MPD will not be facilitating extended street closures."
In the past, the police have facilitated protests that took over the street. During the big protests of 2011, we saw police cars blocking the streets so cars could not get through. We've had it personally explained to us by a police officer that redirecting the cars was considered the best approach.

I don't know what the precise policy is, but I note the word "extended" in the mayor's statement. I guess the police will facilitate your street-blocking protest in Madison, but not for too long. I hope it means that where there are marches confined to the sidewalks (or State Street), police ought to stop traffic to let the whole march cross an intersection as a single, densely packed group. But the phrase "on a case-by-case basis" hints of: 1. something that permits flash-mobbish takeovers of the streets, and 2. something that could be applied — consciously or unconsciously — in a way that is not viewpoint neutral.

"I love that Etsy gives a platform to someone who can crochet these shorts and sell them to men who love pants made of yarn."

"I’m probably going to buy this glowing owl necklace right after I publish this story. I need this coffee mug. I like Etsy just the way it is. And that’s why I’m taking time to soak in the company as it exists today, before Wall Street forces it to change."

Why is Hillary Clinton misstating checkable facts about her life?

Buzzfeed reports: "Speaking in Iowa Wednesday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that all her grandparents had immigrated to the United States, a story that conflicts with public census and other records related to her maternal and paternal grandparents."

Meanwhile, Chelsea Clinton expects people to believe that her very curly hair on its own changed into glossily sleek, slightly curved straight hair:
"My curls, in my early twenties, just fell into waves. I don't know if they got tired of me, but the curls slowly subsided, and so now it's naturally a little bit wavy but... I miss my curls."
Why lie about things you don't even need to lie about, things that can be checked? Why lie so badly?

"While I think the intent of these laws is well meaning, I think their impact is going to be a significant problem, where we end up doing more harm than good."

That's a comment that could apply to an awful lot of things, but in this case, it's a doctor commenting on laws that require women to be notified that they have dense breasts.

Gwyneth Paltrow does the food stamp challenge... too well.

I think the challenge is supposed to demonstrate how hard it is to eat for a week on $29:

But this array clearly demonstrates how to do it right: Rice and beans are the core staples that combine calories with some decent protein. Eggs are great protein and are completely delicious and versatile. There are additional starches for variety: a yam, corn, and tortillas. And there's plenty of fresh greenery, including the splurgy avocado and limes. The main thing missing is oil.

The Washington Post doubts that this is enough food: "It just might leave her consuming fewer than 1,000 calories a day for a week...."

Why do they write crap like that? Everything is in the picture. It would be easy to count the total calories and divide by 7. What's with the "just might" business?

"The Yazidi woman watched as her name was drawn out of a hat."

"Then a man she had never met told her to go into the bathroom and clean herself. But she knew better. As a Yazidi woman captured by the Islamic State, she knew that a bath was often prelude to rape. So she swallowed some poison and hoped to die."

From "Islamic State’s ‘war crimes’ against Yazidi women documented," in the Washington Post.

Islamic State makes no secret about its enslavement of Yazidi women. In October, the group boasted about the practice in its English-language magazine, Dabiq.

“After capture, the Yazidi women and children were then divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations,” the magazine said, arguing that unlike Christians and Jews, Yazidis, as polytheists, could be treated as property. “The enslaved Yazidi families are now sold by the Islamic State soldiers.”

"It is little surprise the Fuhrer later banned the absurdly camp woodland snap, calling it ‘beneath one’s dignity.'"

For the "men in shorts" files — newly discovered photographs of Hitler in lederhosen.

April 15, 2015

The mystery of knuckle cracking...

... cracked.

"He's not a suicide bomber, he's a patriot."

"I didn't want to get all of D.C. in an uproar and it turn out he was just practicing or something or he was just pulling my leg."

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editors: "Wisconsin Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson should drop her lawsuit."

"However unfair it may seem to Abrahamson and her supporters, she lost this round. She should drop her lawsuit."
Abrahamson's lawsuit will only further divide an already fractious court that is more notable in recent years for its dysfunction more than for its jurisprudence. These justices are as polarized as the state's politicians, which is an embarrassment. Justices are supposed to rise above such pettiness.

We also find it hard to believe there are legitimate federal issues here. The federal court should let the state sort this out.

"15 Dogs Before And After Their Spring Haircuts."


"Dozens of high school students protesting the fatal police shooting of Tony Robinson closed down one of Madison’s main thoroughfares for eight hours Tuesday..."

"... as police, taking a largely hands-off approach, redirected the crawling streams of traffic to side streets."
The protest began around 10:30 a.m. when dozens of students walked out of East [High School] and gathered on East Washington Avenue in front of the school. By 1:30 p.m., students from West High School, who held an earlier rally on Regent Street, and other protesters joined the students from East, eventually blocking all six lanes of traffic....

Shortly after 6:30 p.m....police declared the event an unlawful assembly and began moving people toward the sidewalks. Several demonstrators who refused to comply were arrested.

Police said four people were arrested and another 11 were cited and released. Derrick McCann, 29, was arrested and received a citation for “causing or obstructing the street, sidewalk, alley or crosswalk.” “I feel like it’s really a civil rights movement,” McCann said. “I didn’t do anything wrong ... we were peaceful.”

At the Bright Orange Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Former Patriots star Aaron Hernandez has been convicted on all counts in the June 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, including first-degree murder."

"The murder charge comes with a mandatory sentence of life without parole."
The verdict represents a stunning fall from grace for the former tight end, who just three years ago signed a five-year contract extension worth up to $40 million with the New England Patriots.

Intervenors seek to dismiss the lawsuit Wisconsin Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson filed in federal court...

... to retain her position as chief after the voters of Wisconsin amended the state constitution to make the position depend not on seniority but a vote taken among the 7 justices. I wrote about the lawsuit in a post called "The puzzling argument that Shirley Abrahamson was elected to the position of Chief Justice and has a federal right to keep it."

Here's the PDF of the motion to dismiss. There are numerous arguments for dismissal — well worth reading — but I'll highlight one:
All of plaintiffs’ federal-law arguments turn on the premise that an interpretation of the Amendment that allows the justices to elect their Chief Justice after the April 7 election results are certified is “retroactive.” But that is not what “retroactive” actually means. Plaintiffs’ arguments are premised entirely on prospective conduct: the selection and service of the next Chief Justice after certification of the election. This defect is fatal.
UPDATE: The federal judge has denied the motion to intervene, so that's the end of the motion to dismiss. The arguments in support of the motion to dismiss are as good as they ever were, and the defendants who are already parties in the case will be able to raise them:
... U.S. District Judge James Peterson said in his order Tuesday that the voters' interests will be adequately represented by those already named in the lawsuit.

"On the home movies I saw, Kurt is not meek. Courtney is not dominating him."

"I think this film is really going to challenge people’s perceptions."
In one eye-popping 1992 home video included in the film, Cobain and Ms. Love are seen blissfully living in druggie squalor in Los Angeles. Standing in a towel in the bathroom with shaving cream on his face, Cobain teases Ms. Love about her tabloid image as a man-eating monster. “You and Roseanne,” he says playfully, referring to Roseanne Barr. “You’re tied for the most-hated women in America.” She pretend-pouts....

In [one] lengthy recording, Cobain talks about trying to lose his virginity in high school to a “very fat” girl who attended special education classes. When his peers found out, Cobain felt so humiliated that he panicked. “I couldn’t stand the ridicule,” he says on the tape. “So I got high and drunk, and I walked down to the train tracks,” where he lay down, hoping to be killed.
Major theme: humiliation. Minor theme: fear of fat.

The movie is "Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck," and the moviemaker is Brett Morgen, who made "The Kid Stays in the Picture" (which is excellent).

"President Barack Obama's top adviser, Valerie Jarrett, went around the table and kissed reporters before an interview this morning on MNSBC's Morning Joe."

"The moment was briefly captured on live television before the network cut away to a commercial break."

"These guys are ready to do whatever they can" to get Hillary!

Email, yesterday, from the Democratic Party. Guys are ganging up on Hillary. They'll do whatever they can, those meanies. I'm filing this under "gender politics," but it's rather weak gender politics, deniable gender politics.

It's not like it says "These guys are ready to do whatever they can to make sure that a woman isn't the 45th President"... but "These guys are ready to do whatever they can" is... well... for the sensitive... trigger-warning-worthy....

That reminds me... I just read the Playboy interview with Bill Maher, wherein he was asked "Who’s your money on for the White House race?" And he said:
I’d say Scott Walker will be the nominee for the Republicans. Jeb Bush is building momentum, but he’s attached at the hip to Common Core, which the Tea Party despises. True, he’s not the doofus his brother was, but in today’s Republican Party, that’s actually a huge minus. Then there’s Chris Christie. His numbers with Republican primary voters are horrible, close to Sarah Palin level, though if you like small government, he’s the guy for you, because soon half his administration will be in jail. But Walker? He’s a folk hero with the people from the Tea lagoon and with the establishment wing. His father was an evangelical preacher—a huge plus with the snake handlers and flat-Earthers who make up the base. And he won three times, including a recall, in a blue state, and he faced down public unions. The one problem is he didn’t graduate from college—oh wait, that’s a plus too, because book learnin’ is, you know, suspicious.

Questioning Jon Krakauer's rape-on-campus book.

Last week, we were talking about Krakauer's book "Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town," which comes out on April 21st. My post was: "In the wake of Rolling Stone's 'Rape on Campus' debacle, we're about to get a rape-on-campus book by the best-selling author Jon Krakauer." I said:
... I don't know whether Krakauer and his editors got the chance to do anything to acknowledge Rolling Stone controversy or to prepare for the different kind of scrutiny this book will get, now that skepticism and fact-checking zeal is cranked up far beyond what Krakauer could have envisioned when he was doing his research and writing. He must have been expecting a reception similar to the initial reaction to the Rolling Stone article — high praise for shining a light on the terrible sexual brutality of college men and the inadequate response by college administrators who must start believing women and punishing men.
A reader sent me a link an article in the Montana Kaimin — the University of Montana student newspaper — titled "Krakauer sources a mystery":

"Milwaukee hides along the lake, not far from Chicago and closer all the time, hoping like hell no one notices it and decides that every bad thing about rapidly growing cities has to come to Milwaukee now too."

"Colorado Springs has that big mountain with the Air Force base in it, so you could maybe take over that place and make it a super villain lair. I also had a waitress tell me a really funny dirty joke there one time. But on the whole I’d rather be in Milwaukee."

From "A highly subjective and judgmental ranking of major league and Triple-A cities."

Somehow Donald Sterling's wife won her court case against V. Stiviano and recovered $2.6 million.

I know. It would be a lot more interesting if we could remember who these damned people are, but there was a time, not that long ago, when we felt compelled to talk about them constantly and to develop all sorts of detailed opinions about their doings. Something about basketball and a secret recording with some racism in it... remember?

In a long legal battle between the two women that ended Tuesday, Shelly Sterling argued the money and gifts her husband generously lavished on Stiviano, weren’t his to lavish. It was joint property. In California, assets earned in marriage belong to both parties and cannot be given away without consent. And Shelly Sterling most definitely did not do that.
The old joint property move!

"Personally, I find that the most objectionable feature of the conservative attitude is its propensity to reject well-substantiated new knowledge..."

"... because it dislikes some of the consequences which seem to follow from it—or, to put it bluntly, its obscurantism. I will not deny that scientists as much as others are given to fads and fashions and that we have much reason to be cautious in accepting the conclusions that they draw from their latest theories. But the reasons for our reluctance must be rational and must be kept separate from our regret that the new theories upset our cherished beliefs."

Wrote F.A. Hayek in "Why I Am Not a Conservative," quoted by Jonathan Adler at The Volokh conspiracy in a post titled "What does it take to convince libertarians and conservatives that climate change is a problem?"

April 14, 2015

Goodbye to Percy Sledge.

The great soul singer was 74.
A No. 1 hit in 1966, "When a Man Loves a Woman" was Sledge's debut single, an almost unbearably heartfelt ballad with a resonance he never approached again. Few singers could have. Its mood set by a mournful organ and dirge-like tempo, "When a Man Loves a Woman" was for many the definitive soul ballad, a testament of blinding, all-consuming love haunted by fear and graced by overwhelming emotion.

The song was a personal triumph for Sledge, who seemed on the verge of sobbing throughout the production, and a breakthrough for Southern soul.... Atlantic Records executive Jerry Wexler later called the song "a transcendent moment" and "a holy love hymn."
I've expressed my personal distaste for this recording a few times, but it was always in the context of remembering how I reacted when it came on the rock and roll station and I was only 15. That has no significance today.

Did Madonna sexually assault Drake?

"Madonna pulled the singer back to plant a kiss on his lips, making out with him for at least three seconds.... when she was finished, the musician looked horrified, even wiping his mouth."
Later, sources were quick to tell TMZ that Drake liked the kiss, but that it was merely her lipstick that turned him off, therefore the foul look on his face. It was added by insiders that the smack on the mouth was not planned, but rather a last-minute decision by Madge. 
If it was not planned, then she did not have his consent, and it was a sexual assault. It's an easy question.

BUT: I tend to think that it was planned... planned in a way that still made it possible to say that Madonna made "a last-minute decision" to do the kiss exactly the way she chose and to provoke whatever reaction Drake came up with on the spur of the moment. The 2 were performing together, and I'm guessing that he knew there was a range of spontaneous-looking things she might do to him and that he chose to do a few spontaneous things himself — grabbing her as if he likes it, then wiping his face as if he doesn't. The song was "Human Nature," and presumably they were enacting the lyrics, which include things like "You held me down and tried to make me break/Express yourself, don't repress yourself...."

By the way, "Human Nature" is a great song and my personal favorite Madonna video.

According to the manager of a Chipotle restaurant in Maumee, Ohio, "no one recognized Clinton, who was wearing sunglasses."

ABCNews reports in "Hillary Clinton Makes Surprise Pit Stop at Chipotle in Ohio During Presidential Roadtrip."

I once sat in a restaurant next to John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and I never displayed my recognition and neither did anyone else in the restaurant. That did not mean we didn't recognize them.

The sunglasses signal: I don't want to be recognized. People are behaving intelligently and normally if they infer that she did not want to interact with people, that she was just trying to blend in and be like anyone else, and they respected her seeming desire for privacy.

I'm filing this under etiquette. Maybe the snobs at ABC News don't expect to find sophistication somewhere in the wilds of Ohio. I remember that John Lennon liked living in New York City because it was possible there for him to be a normal person:
He went to clubs to check out bands, strolled through Central Park, was a neighborhood fixture on the Upper West Side. He always said New York was the only place he could feel like a normal guy.
That was long ago. Maybe it's not just New York anymore. Maybe even in Ohio a famous person who acts like a normal person can be treated like a normal person.

If so, it wrecks Hillary's Road Trip! concept. She's doing a routine of behaving like an "everyday American" as a way to meet everyday Americans. But in everyday America, everyday Americans leave you alone if they don't already know you. And — isn't it amazing! — everyday Americans might not be under the delusion that they are in a relationship with the various celebrities we see in the news.

Kelley Paul is here to soften Rand Paul for you, and she's got a book of essays about women and the bonds they forge called "True and Constant Friends."

That phrase, "women and the bonds they forge," comes from the New York Times, which has a article about Kelley Paul titled "Kelley Paul Has a Task: To Make Her Husband More Approachable."
“Rand’s personality is kind of ‘Cut to the point,’ ” she said... “I think in some ways people respond better to that, but we’ll see. We’ll see what the country wants.”...

“He’s the last person in the world who would ever be dismissive of someone [e.g., Savannah Guthrie] because they’re a woman. I mean the last person,” Mrs. Paul went on, pointing out that his partner in his ophthalmology practice in Kentucky was a woman. “Someone could make the argument that perhaps he should be more poised, he needs to be smoother with this. And that’s legitimate,” she added.
5 quick reactions:

1. Is she making him more approachable, or is she trying to make us want to be tough and appreciate the value of a "cut to the point" style? I would prefer the latter!

2. "Cut to the point" is a good metaphor when talking about a surgeon. Isn't it weird that there are two surgeons running for the GOP nomination? Is the surgeon mentality what we want in a President?

3. Did Kelley Paul really write that book? I see it comes out today. The full title is "True and Constant Friends: Love and Inspiration from Our Grandmothers, Mothers, and Friends." I can't bring myself to add that to my Kindle. From the description at that Amazon link: "Kelley explores the universal themes of hardship, determination, commitment, family, independence, optimism, friendship and love — and illuminates the power of the female bond that enriches all our lives." That exploration of everything takes up all of 144 pages, including the photography, which seems to be of gentle, happy women in sunlight and earthtones:

4. In the NYT's expression "women and the bonds they forge," I detect a deliberate insinuation that the traditional, relationship-oriented female life is, metaphorically, slavery. The oldest meaning of "bond" is "Anything with which one's body or limbs are bound in restraint of personal liberty; a shackle, chain, fetter, manacle," and the word "forge" calls attention to the fabrication of iron devices.

5. The campaign's second video, which features Kelley, really is excellent, but in saying that I'm aware that my standards for video are quite different from the way I think about books. With video, I'm more likely to observe from a distance as if I were someone else watching this and being affected (even though I personally resist the sentimentality and cheeseball expressiveness):

"Hi, Juan. What is 'a knowledgeable road'?"

I respond, at 6:03 a.m., to a commenter who stopped by yesterday at a post I wrote in August 2013 called "The philosophy of travel... the psychology of travel..."
Was this a squandered topic by a terrible thinker and writer? Did this post make any sense with its never ending questions? Did the tone of the writer make you want to jump off a bridge for being so condescending and close-minded? Did you once think "I never want to travel with this person. She has got to be biggest killjoy. She probably likes Olive Garden."? Could I have been better served asking a child, who probably has a better sense of travel and basic writing skills? Does this person think very highly of herself because she asks rather meaningless questions instead of leading her readers down a knowledgeable road? Again, she's probably the worst travel buddy, right?

Mad Magazine pre-apologizes...

... for this...

I didn't go looking for Hillary-Clinton-related trouble. I was poking around Mad Magazine because — in the light of dawn — that last post from yesterday, "Meade IM's from the deck," makes it look like Meade is the large avocado plant in the pot, and that made me think of the old Mad Magazine meme from the 1960s, Arthur. Arthur is not well-documented on the web. I see a short reference in the "Running gags and recurring images" section of the Wikipedia article "Recurring features in Mad (magazine)":
Some of the magazine's visual elements are whimsical, frequently appearing in the artwork without context or explanation. Among these are a potted avocado plant named Arthur (reportedly based on art director John Putnam's personal marijuana plant); a domed trashcan wearing an overcoat; a pointing six-fingered hand; the Mad Zeppelin (which more closely resembles an early experimental non-rigid airship; and an emaciated long-beaked creature who went unidentified for decades before being dubbed "Flip the Bird."
The avocado may have represented a marijuana plant back then, but nothing — nothing at all — represented a penis. Ah! The lost innocence!

ADDED: By the way, Hillary's new logo really is terrible. If this were a design class, and the assignment were to make a logo for Hillary, I would think the teacher would get mad at a student who handed in that one. What, did you spend one minute on the assignment? You just did the most obvious thing, the letter H, the colors blue and red, and an arrow, the most cliché logo element possible?! An arrow to signify moving forward! That's what you came up with?

April 13, 2015

Meade IM's from the deck.

"FiveThirtyEight founder and statistics guru Nate Silver has accused Ezra Klein's Vox.com of stealing other people's charts without attribution."

"'Yo, @voxdotcom: Y'all should probably stop stealing people's charts without proper attribution,' he tweeted Monday. 'You do this all the time, to 538 & others.'"

At the Asparagaceae Café...


... floral blueness flows right under the fence.

"Hillary Clinton has followed up the official announcement of her candidacy with a new campaign ad featuring nothing but kittens."

"The sixty-second spot stars an assortment of kittens—tabbies, calicoes, Siamese, and a dozen other breeds—in a variety of adorable vignettes.... Clinton herself appears only in the final seconds of the ad, saying merely, 'Hi. I’m Hillary.'"

Rubio declares.

"Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a telegenic rising star with appeal to conservative and establishment Republicans, told donors in a conference call today that he will run for president...."

"Think of it this way: if none of us wore any clothes, then it would be the male genitalia sticking out visibly..."

"... while women’s would remain largely hidden. Maybe the entire point of formal attire to invert this possibility, to say, 'Yes, in nature, it is women who have mysterious hidden powers of creation, but once we get all dressed and civilized, it’s precisely the other way around.'"

The last paragraph of "Dickheads/The paradox of the necktie resolved," a Baffler article by David Graeber (with an excellent illustration).

Via Metafilter, where there are many comments, including:
Couldn’t we say that a tie is really a symbolic displacementof the penis, only an intellectualized penis, dangling not from one’s crotch but from one’s head?

Is this a comp lit undergrad class in 1986?
I see I have a neckties tag. I'll have to publish this post so I can click on it to see what the hell I've said about neckties over the past decade. Beyond this past decade, for the past half century, the most common insight into the necktie has been that it's a phallic symbol. But what I liked about Graeber's take was the seen-and-unseen angle — and seen and unseen is one of my all-time favorite tags.

ADDED: From the necktie-tagged archive. This is from a 2004 post about shopping for a suit at Brooks Brothers:

Training Marines to obtain consent to sexual contact.

More here: "Pentagon Deploys ‘May I Kiss You?’ Training/Mike Domitrz travels to bases throughout the world to teach soldiers about consent."

Some excellent anti-Hillary street art.

Via Weekly Standard, which has 3 pictures. This is one:

The other 2 are the same but with "ambitious" and "entitled" in place of "secretive."

I believe this is a reference to the email received by NYT reporter Amy Chozick from a group called "Hillary Clinton Super Volunteers," which we discussed here a couple weeks ago.
At the time, I said:
Now, obviously, these are people pushing Hillary's candidacy, and they're trying to intimidate and manipulate the media. The media can't let this cow them. Mustn't criticize Hillary. We might get called sexist for any criticism we make. That would be incredibly lame, and in fact, I think that if a female President can command that kind of privilege over speech, we'd better not have a female President. I don't want a politician that we're not free to kick around. That's dangerous!

But that's no reason to abandon the project watching for coded sexism in language. That's the reason to look not only for sexism — and racism — but for political interest. We shouldn't take statements at face value. That would be naive. There's a lot going on in language, and we ought to take a closer look at everything... including what Hillary and her people say about other women... words like "narcissistic" and "loony toon."

"The Strong, Silent, Dead type."

"The number of people who die this way is shocking."

Hillary's Everyday People theme continues: Her van is named "Scooby."

The Guardian offers a tidbit about the road trip (which we are already discussing in the previous post):
The campaign also leaked other snippets intended to humanise the trip, including that the former first lady had nicknamed the van “Scooby” because it resembles the vehicle from the cartoon.

It is unclear whether the folksy narrative will immediately alter perceptions of Clinton, who has been at the top of the political elite, as first lady, senator and secretary of state, for more than two decades....

Clinton’s current location and planned itinerary is unknown. However, she is scheduled to arrive at a community college in Monticello shortly after 1pm on Tuesday, for what the first in what her campaign is billing as a series of “conversations with everyday Iowans.”
See? There's that word again — "everyday" (the adjective).

I pulled out the "Everyday People" theme, I said in the previous post, not only because Hillary is striving to seem like one of the common people, but also because "When I hear 'everyday' used as an adjective, I think of the song 'Everyday People' by Sly and the Family Stone." Well! I nearly fell off my chair when I saw that the van was named "Scooby." You may think only about the cartoon "Scooby-Doo," but the name "Scooby-Doo" comes from the song "Everyday People." The song has a line — repeated 3 times — "And different strokes for different folks/And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo." "Scooby-Doo," the cartoon, began in 1969. "Everyday People," the song, was a big hit in 1968, when Hillary Clinton was 21....

Now, get in the van. Oh sha sha, we got to live together....

Hillary's Everyday People campaign begins with a roadtrip to Iowa in a van — with spontaneous (-looking?) stops along the way.

Politico reports: 
While she has no planned pit stops on her road trip — which was her own idea — the candidate stopped by a gas station in Pennsylvania on Sunday. She later tweeted a picture of the stop, saying, “Road trip! Loaded the van & set off for IA. Met a great family when we stopped this afternoon. Many more to come. -H”

Clinton asked top aides whether a road trip was feasible about a month ago, one of her staffers said. Instead of a motorcade, she is traveling in a three-car caravan, the smallest possible arrangement given the former first lady’s security constraints.
I'm calling it her Everyday People campaign, because "everyday" is the word that jumped out of Hillary's announcement video, which I summarized yesterday like this:
There are a whole lot of people in it saying this and that about their lives, but take my word for it, Hillary Clinton shows up in the end and says something about her life... that's she's running for President:

There's some connection between "everyday Americans" and Hillary Clinton. That's the idea to be planted in your head. It's just an ad. It could just as well be a Coca-Cola ad. Good people, going about their everyday lives, and then The Product! There's no sense or reason to any of it, but why should there be?
She said "everyday Americans," but I'm saying "Everyday People," because: 1. The connection being made is from the lofty, elite Hillary to the common people, and there's no stress on the distinction between American people and people elsewhere, and 2. When I hear "everyday" used as an adjective, I think of the song "Everyday People" by Sly and the Family Stone: "I am no better and neither are you/We are the same whatever we do/You love me. you hate me, you know me, and then/You can't figure out the bag I'm in/I am everyday people...." Seems fitting!

So here she is tweeting "Road trip!" like a freewheeling young person, when the truth is that she hasn't driven a car since 1996. She can't really be spontaneous and everyday, but that's the image she wants you to see (and you can't figure out the bag she's in). "Instead of a motorcade, she is traveling in a three-car caravan..." Do everyday people understand the motorcade/caravan distinction?

Having written about the new ad, I was drawn in by a headline at Vox: "Hillary Clinton’s announcement video is surprisingly bold, fascinating filmmaking." Despite the headline, most of the analysis of Hillary's video — by Todd VanDerWerff — is like mine (though VanDerWerff shows more enthusiasm):
The first things we see in "Getting Started" aren't anything we'd associate with campaign imagery. They are, instead, a bunch of people going about their daily lives. And that goes on for most of the ad....

We're meant to be pleased that they're taking control of their lives — everybody in the ad has some big goal they're working toward — but also think that we could just walk up to them and start having a conversation. Like we could with all of these people!...

[The ad] subtly reinforces [Hillary's] connection to everybody else in the video. They're all part of the same movement, the same goal. The woman who's moving so her daughter can go to a better school has a dream that is no better or worse than Clinton's ambition of running for president.
VanDerWerff's article veers deeply into film-studies material about the placement of the figure in the frame and the colors and shapes. The headline is misleading because this sort of thing is only "fascinating" to people who are into that sort of close inspection. It would be more accurate to say: Come on, let's get film-studies geeky about Hillary's video. Or really: ... about Hillary and Rand Paul's videos, because much of the article is about 2 Rand Paul videos. I had not seen either of those, and they really are very different from Hillary's video... and different from each other. But that's material for another post, so I will stop here.

April 12, 2015

"What are we doing when we teach fiction to kids?"

Asks Jaltcoh:
When we teach children fiction — reading it, writing it, understanding it, loving it — as important as those teachings are, I think they also have a negative side effect. By teaching fiction so often and beginning at such an early age, we condition children to expect the “just right” results to flow inexorably from the writing of those who are good and bright.

Before kids learn about economics or law, politics or psychology, they learn that we’re supposed to treasure writing not primarily based on how well it corresponds to reality, but primarily based on whether it makes us feel good. And I intend the double meaning of “good” as in both “contented” and “moral.”

This could explain why well-educated, intelligent people, all across the political spectrum, so often make the unspoken assumption that good intentions and well-crafted words are sufficient for making good public policy....

At the Dog-and-Skateboard Café...


... you can roll anyway you want.

Perhaps you haven't heard...

... Hillary Clinton is running for President.

Here's the video that's the announcement. There are a whole lot of people in it saying this and that about their lives, but take my word for it, Hillary Clinton shows up in the end and says something about her life... that's she's running for President:

There's some connection between "everyday Americans" and Hillary Clinton. That's the idea to be planted in your head. It's just an ad. It could just as well be a Coca-Cola ad. Good people, going about their everyday lives, and then The Product! There's no sense or reason to any of it, but why should there be?

Video appears to show ISIS militants destroying what is left of Nimrud, a kingdom from 900-612 B.C.

"In the video, militants use drills, sledgehammers and a bulldozer to destroy ancient stone reliefs and walls, before huge explosions can be seen...."

In the video, militants say "God has honored us in the Islamic State to remove all of these idols and statutes worshiped instead of Allah in the past days" and "Whenever we seize a piece of land, we will remove signs of idolatry and spread monotheism."

ADDED: More pictures (and video) here

"Saturday Night Live" seems to think female teachers having sex with their male students is a big, smirk-worthy joke.

"Think Walter Scott’s death is 'another Ferguson'? Cops don't."

Writes Peter Moskos, who is a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and was a Baltimore police officer.
To see a black life snuffed out by a fellow cop is especially painful to police officers who spend much of their careers trying to protect black lives. One New York City officer wrote me to say, “This cop also just shot all of law enforcement in the back.” At home and in roll calls around the nation, cops watched the video of Scott’s killing and cringed not only at his death, but also at the officer’s betrayal of the police uniform and everything it stands for....

"[S]tanding up for traditional marriage has turned out to be too much for the elite bar."

Adam Liptak writes.
In dozens of interviews, lawyers and law professors said the imbalance in legal firepower in the same-sex marriage cases resulted from a conviction among many lawyers that opposition to such unions is bigotry akin to racism. But there were economic calculations, too. Law firms that defend traditional marriage may lose clients and find themselves at a disadvantage in hiring new lawyers.

But some conservatives say lawyers and scholars who support religious liberty and oppose a constitutional right to same-sex marriage have been bullied into silence. “The level of sheer desire to crush dissent is pretty unprecedented,” said Michael W. McConnell, a former federal appeals court judge who teaches law at Stanford.