May 30, 2015

"If I understand the history correctly, in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair..."

"... who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair, which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy."

Writes Orin Kerr.

"Extreme Breastfeeding."

The name of a new reality show that will be on The Discovery Channel.

I learned about it from an article titled "Most Support This Mom’s Right to Breastfeed in Public. Then They Realize How Old the Kid Is…."

The child is 6. She's quoted saying: "Sometimes it tastes like candy canes... It tastes like lots of different things." And: "I might stop when I’m eight." And: "It’s my favourite thing to do when I’m not at school. More kids should, because it’s good for you."

It's good to protect and nurture your children. You can do that by breastfeeding them and you can do that by keeping them out of the media. I don't know how many months or years of breastfeeding are ideal, but I'm pretty sure that zero is the right answer to the question How many reality shows should a kid be on?

By the way, the 6-year-old child is named Aminah. I imagine that's pronounced "a mynah." A mynah bird is known as the most able mimic of all the talking birds. When a 6-year-old makes an assertion like "More kids should, because it’s good for you," I think it's a safe bet that she is mimicking an adult. In this case, there is a mother who seems to be seeking narcissistic satisfaction, which — who knows? — might taste like candy canes.

"Have We Learned Anything From the Columbia Rape Case?"

This is a longish NYT Magazine article by Emily Bazelon. Is there anything new here or is this more of a summary of a problem — a conflict — that those of us who've been following the story already know?

1. How Nungesser's parents felt at graduation: It was "devastating," they say, "especially... an exhibition at a university gallery...  that included Sulkowicz’s prints of a naked man with an obscenity and of a couple having sex, inked over a copy of a Times article about Nungesser." I'm a little confused by the word "prints." Prints like etchings or lithographs? Sulkowicz — in email (I think to Bazelon) — called the "prints" "cartoons."

2. Sulkowicz's email gives some insight into the kind of rhetoric she is purveying: "What are the functions of cartoons? Do they depict the people themselves (a feat which, if you’ve done enough reading on art theory, you will realize is impossible), or do they illustrate the stories that have circulated about a person?" Suddenly, I'm thinking about the Charlie Hebdo massacre and other incidents involving cartoons depicting Muhammad. Maybe those who get murderous over cartoons just haven't read enough art theory. And I'm put off by the assertion that if only people would read the right amount of a prescribed sort of material, we'd necessarily believe a particular sort of thing. It's saying: The only reason you don't already agree with me is that you're ignorant.

3.  And I don't even understand how those 2 sentences in Sulkowicz's email addressed the pain experienced by Nungesser's parents. Aside from the parenthetical, which is an assertion, the 2 sentences are 2 questions, but the first question sets up the second question, and the second question is an either/or question, within which the first option is negated by the assertion in the parenthetical. Therefore, Sulkowicz really is saying her cartoons "illustrate the stories that have circulated about a person." So her art work is an illustration added to a NYT story that gives graphic reality to the allegations that were made about Nungesser.

4. I wrote "gives graphic reality to" because I was straining to avoid the word that normally comes to mind: depict. Not having read enough art theory to realize that it is impossible to depict Nungesser himself, I thought the use of that word might make me look ignorant to those who have done the homework. But, for the record, "depict" means "To draw, figure, or represent in colours; to paint; also, in wider sense, to portray, delineate, figure anyhow." Anyhow! As in "The solar progress is depicted by the Hindoos, by a circle of intertwining serpents." R. J. Sulivan View of Nature II. xliv. 288  (1794). (Definition and quote via the unlinkable OED.)

5. Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger avoided shaking Sulkowicz's hand at graduation and the university has taken the position that it wasn't actual shunning but the mattress getting in the way. Bazelon doesn't come out and call bullshit, but she links to the video so we can decide for ourselves.

6. Because we don't have the transcript of Columbia's disciplinary proceedings, "even the procedural disputes between Sulkowicz and Nungesser are lost in the land of she-said-he-said." Sulkowicz says she was asked "ignorant and insensitive questions." (That's Bazelon's paraphrase.) But we're not seeing the actual context. And Sulkowicz and Nungesser are saying different things about whether their friendly Facebook conversations were admitted as evidence. It's frustrating to have this matter become so public — through Sulkowicz's performance art — and then be deprived of the transcript, but Columbia has to protect student privacy and to encourage other students to feel secure that their privacy will be protected if they need to file a complaint or if they are accused.

7. Columbia is trying to improve its procedure: "Students are now permitted to bring a lawyer to their hearings, and if they can’t afford an attorney, the university will provide one. The university also hired new investigators and other staff members and gave training on how to hear cases to the administrators who serve as panelists."

8. Sulkowicz says "the system is broken because it is so much based on proof that a lot of rape survivors don’t have." And: "Even if you have physical evidence, you can prove that violence occurred but not that someone didn’t want the sex to be violent." Presumably, she wants to fix the system by avoiding the need to prove things that are too hard to prove. Here, that would be the mental element that accompanies the sexual act. But how can you possibly get rid of the need for that evidence?

9. Some people say, get rape cases out of university proceedings and into the criminal justice system. Bazelon's response to that is: "[I]n the eyes of the government, universities have this responsibility because of an important principle rooted in the federal law, Title IX: If a rape prevents a victim from taking full advantage of her education, then it is a civil rights violation as well as a crime." Quite aside from what statutory law requires, universities may properly see themselves as having a role in making the campus environment a safer and friendlier place. Bazelon refers to counseling, academic accommodations, assurances that alleged assailants won’t contact complainants, and education about prevention of sexual assaults.

10. Bazelon mentions early on that Nungesser is suing Columbia, but she doesn't connect that to other issues she discusses. She doesn't say that his lawsuit is based on Title IX (though, as you see in point #9, she says that Title IX causes universities to want to remain involved in providing remedies to victims). And she talks about Bollinger's avoidance of Sulkowicz at graduation (point #5, above) without saying that Bollinger is a named defendant in Nungesser's lawsuit.

The dog didn't have a bucket list!

"New York Man Takes Dying Dog on Bucket List Adventure Across the Nation."

Why would you take a suffering, dying dog on a big road trip instead of just keeping him in his familiar, comfortable home? For Instagram? For cheeseball "human interest" stories in the media?

May 29, 2015

"If Carly Fiorina gains any traction from her barbed attacks on Hillary Clinton, the rightwing cartoons will practically draw themselves..."

"... Carly and Hillary in a teeth-baring cat fight, Carly’s claws like a tiger’s, HRC’s eyes as red as a Demon Sheep’s, and Benghazi burning in the background. As one man tweeted, 'Let the Cat Fight begin!! Fiorina will tear Hillary to shreds.'"

One man, eh?

The quote is from The Nation, and all I can say to you right-wingers is: Don't give the lefties what they want. You do see what they want, don't you? I'm not going to womansplain it to you. If you don't see what you shouldn't do, I'm not going to help.

Cruelly neutrally yours,

Your humble blogger, Althouse

"Mr. Ulbricht’s high-tech drug bazaar was novel and full of intrigue, operating in a hidden part of the Internet known as the dark web..."

"... which allowed deals to be made anonymously and out of the reach of law enforcement. In Silk Road’s nearly three years of operation, over 1.5 million transactions were carried out on the website involving several thousand seller accounts and more than 100,000 buyer accounts, the authorities have said. Transactions were paid for using the virtual currency Bitcoin, and Mr. Ulbricht, operating under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts, took in millions of dollars in commissions, prosecutors said... 'He developed a blueprint for a new way to use the Internet to undermine the law and facilitate criminal transactions,' the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a sentencing memorandum this week. 'Using that blueprint,' the office said, 'others have followed in Ulbricht’s footsteps, establishing new "dark markets" in the mold of Silk Road, some selling an even broader range of illicit goods and services.'"

Dread Pirate Roberts — Ross W. Ulbricht, 31 — faced a minimum sentence of 20 years. The judge — Federal District Judge Katherine B. Forrest — gave him life.

"J. Dennis Hastert, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, was paying a man to not say publicly that Mr. Hastert had sexually abused him decades ago..."

"... according to two people briefed on the evidence uncovered in an F.B.I. investigation into the payments...."
The man – who was not identified in court papers — told the F.B.I. that he had been inappropriately touched by Mr. Hastert when Mr. Hastert was a high school teacher and wrestling coach, the two people said on Friday....

The indictment said that in 2010, the man met with Mr. Hastert several times, and that at one of those meetings Mr. Hastert agreed to pay him $3.5 million “in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against” the man.

At the Good Things Café...


... you don't have to believe.

Things that people who love being lovable love to love.

Heading for a new list.

"Cops Arrest Subway Riders For 'Manspreading.'"

The Gothamist reports.

"What is too much? Should you be allowed to drive after a hit of pot? Or three?"

"Is a hit the equivalent of a glass of wine or half a bottle of vodka? What about when a bit of pot is combined with a beer or two? How does a police officer judge the sobriety of a person who is high? Right now, people mostly just guess... It is a strange country that is filled with people who object to life-saving vaccines, insist on labelling G.M.O.s, protest the use of pesticides that, when used correctly, have not been shown to cause harm, and yet seem ready to smoke whatever a dealer hands them to put in their pipes."

From a (subscription-only) New Yorker piece titled "What Are We Smoking?"

Word definition of the day. (I give the definition. See if you know the word without looking it up.)

"Originally and properly, according to ancient writers, The setting down of the foot or lowering of the hand in beating time, and hence (as marked by this) the stress or ictus; the stressed syllable of a foot in a verse; a stressed note in music."

That's from the Oxford English Dictionary. That's the oldest meaning of a pretty common word. 

ADDED: The word is "thesis." Thar surprised me.

"This is just fun for me. This is not a job. I don’t do it for the money, I do it because I love driving and because I’m a sociable person."

Says the man officially recognized as the best Uber driver in Canada.
"I only Uber when I’m upbeat, positive, feeling good, when the car’s clean, I want to go be sociable and get to know my own city a little bit more," he said. "The key is that if this ever feels like a job, I’m done. I’m out... Driving has always come very naturally to me. It’s a passion,” he said. He was raised in rural Saskatchewan, where “your driver’s licence is your ticket to freedom. This allows me to enjoy it even more, be social, meet new people, tour my own city and have some fun,” he said.
He was awarded Uber's Sixth Star medal, which he'll display in the car but not call attention to because "That would be un-Canadian."

He has 5 tips for Uber drivers: "1. A clean car... 2. Smooth driving... 3. Amenities... cold water, Perrier, mints, gum and cellphone chargers...  free Wi-Fi... 4. Music... 'chill house music'... 5. Clean personal appearance... shirt with a collar, blue jeans, driving shoes...."

Note: This man also has a regular job.

"The couples laughed, and the clown did, too, but he didn’t really think it was funny."

"The whole scary-clown thing had gotten out of hand. Clowns now live in a world where everyone seems to hate them, or profess to do so. One of the remarks the clown hears most often, while driving, is someone in another car yelling — the words are always the same — 'Fuckin’ clown!' It surprises and dismays him every time."

From "Fears of a Clown."

"Using masculinities theory, the article examines last year’s hullabaloo about openly gay football player Michael Sam and his prospects for playing in the National Football League."

"I first explain masculinities theory, focusing on how masculinity is constructed and maintained. I then explore how masculinities theory applies in sport generally and in football in particular. The article visits the football locker room — a distinct enclave of masculinity — and shows how masculinities theory explains the locker room 'bonding.' Once we lay bare the implications of cultural assumptions about masculinity and about physically aggressive sports like football, we can more easily explain why an openly gay football player is a rarity. Knowing that even one openly gay player exists threatens to decimate the cultural icons we use our athletes to create."

An abstract for a law review article.

"Gokul doesn't need your pathetic clues. You're a loser and he's Gokul."

"Why would he need your help? He just spelled the word, because he knew it and he knew that he knew it and he wanted you to know that he knew that he knew it. This is pulling up from halfcourt in a tie game and drilling a game-winner. This is swinging on a 3-0 count and hitting a walk-off homer. This is starting to high-step on the 50-yard-line of your game-winning TD...."

From "The Spelling Bee was the best sporting event of 2015."

"If you had to do this over, would you end his life again?"/"I would have done a better job of making sure I ended my own."

Said "The millionaire mom who poisoned her autistic son and called it a mercy killing," who was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced, yesterday, to 18 years in prison.
The sentencing brought to a close a tangled and troubling trial that seemed to raise as many questions as it answered: Was Jude really being sexually abused, or did Jordan just believe he was? And if Jordan’s allegations of abuse weren’t real, was her child’s killing an outcome of delusion or a calculated murder?...

“I need to be dead. I need a lot of drugs to die peacefully. That’s all,” Jordan said at trial, reading what she said was a written dialogue between 8-year-old Jude and herself. Later, she said he wrote, “We are going to die anyway. Let’s do it ourselves.”

"Women in every age group in the United States were more likely than men to have serious mental health problems..."

"... according to federal health statistics released Thursday."

"The model has responsibility; she paid a high price for a feel-good moment with Bill Clinton."

"But he was riding the back of this small charity for what? A half-million bucks? I find it — what would be the word? — distasteful."

Said Doug White, head the master’s program in fund-raising management at Columbia University, commenting on the way the Happy Hearts Fund operates and got Bill Clinton to appear at a posh gala. Petra Nemcova's charity spent $363,413 on the affair:
She booked Cipriani 42nd Street, which greeted guests with Bellini cocktails on silver trays. She flew in Sheryl Crow with her band and crew for a 20-minute set. She special-ordered heart-shaped floral centerpieces, heart-shaped chocolate parfaits, heart-shaped tiramisù and, because orange is the charity’s color, an orange carpet rather than a red one. She imported a Swiss auctioneer and handed out orange rulers to serve as auction paddles, playfully threatening to use hers to spank the highest bidder for an Ibiza vacation.
And Bill Clinton, who had previously declined invitations to accept an award from Happy Hearts, responded to a donation of $500,000 to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

Both Happy Hearts and the Clinton Foundation have the stated goal of helping Haiti. As the HH spokesperson put it: "We believe that we can create the most impactful change by working together."

29-year-old banker jumps from 24th floor of luxury apartment building, landing near a bus full of tourists who take snapshots of the grisly remains.

The body "landed on a guardrail near the northbound Battery Park Underpass, narrowly missing a black SUV." "The head hit the railing . . . Half his head is on one side of the railing, half on the other."

You know, don't kill yourself. But, if you do, don't transform the body you're throwing away into a deadly projectile or a tourist attraction.

"Average US Reading Level by Grade: Country 3.3, pop 2.9, rock ‘n’ roll 2.9, R&B/hip-hop 2.6."

Dubious song lyric science. It irks me when that "reading level" nonsense is equated with intelligence. And having country come out on top and "R&B/hip-hop" on the bottom just seems racist.
Well, Country is the only genre generally devoid of words like “oh” or “yeah” repeated 20 times in a row. Sorry everyone else, but if you say it in the song, it’s counted as a “lyric.”

But it’s also about the syllables. Country music is full of words like Hallelujah, cigarettes, hillbilly, and tacklebox. Add to that long place names like Cincinnati, Louisville, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and Country has a serious advantage over the competition....

In 2007, Rock and R&B/Hip-Hop both plunged with the help of songs like “Buy U a Drank” by T-Pain (which just made it above a 1st grade reading level) and “I Don’t Wanna Stop” by Ozzy Osbourne (a more respectable 1.6 average grade level).

ADDED: Pride in long sentences is idiotic. From Paul Johnson's "Intellectuals":
But Hemingway had had the advantage of an excellent training on the Kansas City Star. Its successive editors had compiled a house-style book of 110 rules designed to force reporters to use plain, simple, direct and cliché-free English, and these rules were strictly enforced. Hemingway later called them ‘the best rules I ever learned for the business of writing.'...

On this journalistic basis, Hemingway built his own method, which was both theory and practice.... He once defined the art of fiction... as ‘find what gave you the emotion; what the action was that gave you the excitement. Then write it down making it clear so that the reader can see it too.’ All had to be done with brevity, economy, simplicity, strong verbs, short sentences, nothing superfluous or for effect. ‘Prose is architecture,’ he wrote, ‘not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over.

"It’s really saying something that he took care of this cheese for 20 years."

"The blink-or-you’ll-miss-it nature of the 20-year cheddar helps create an event around cheese... 'What I like most about these kinds of things is it’s a small-run limited edition and that shows the nature of cheese.... It doesn’t matter how much you like a 20-year cheese because you know what? You get it now or you don’t get it.'"

May 28, 2015

Eugene Volokh thinks the Madison, Wisconsin school board is violating the First Amendment...

... with its new rule against "clothing with words, pictures or caricatures based on negative stereotypes of a specific gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation or disability" and against "shirts, hats or other attire with Native American team names, logos or mascots that depict negative stereotypes."

What Bernie Sanders wrote about rape fantasies in an alternative newspaper in 1972.

This is the feeblest controversy of all time, but it's worth noting that some people think it's worth noting and it probably needs to be said that if a GOP candidate had ever written anything like this, it would be considered significant:

I've read the whole thing, and it's mostly a call to all humanity to avoid "slavishness" and "pigness." Don't be oppressed and don't be the oppressor.
Many women seem to be walking a tightrope now. Their qualities of love, openness, and gentleness were too deeply enmeshed with qualities of dependency, subservience, and masochism.
There's a little blaming of the victim there, but it's an insight that was common in the feminism of the time. And he's endearingly sincere about bringing men and women together:
How do you love — without being dependent? How do you be gentle — without being subservient? How do you maintain a relationship without giving up your identity and without getting strung out? How do you reach out and give your heart to your lover, but maintain the soul which is you?

And Men. Men are in pain too. They are thinking, wondering. What is it they want from a woman? Are they at fault? Are they perpetrating this man-woman situation? Are they oppressors?
ADDED: I see hypocrisy at the Washington Examiner. On the one hand, there's "Bernie Sanders: Woman 'fantasizes being raped'":
Democratic presidential candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders once penned an essay claiming that men fantasize about abusing women and women fantasize about being raped. Not exactly what you'd expect from the far left candidate whose campaign runs on the idea of equality for all Americans....
And on the other hand, there's "Scott Walker attacked over abortion quote that he didn't actually say":
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker believes forced ultrasounds are "just a cool thing for women," a handful of online news sites reported Wednesday. Problem is: That's not exactly what the Republican governor and likely 2016 presidential candidate said.
By the way, what Scott Walker did with his official power 2 years ago is a hell of lot more important than what Bernie Sanders said as a private citizen 43 years ago.

The "Walk in the Woods" trailer.

This just came out today:

I'm excited about it — even though I almost never go to the movies — because I love the book and because I love the actress who plays Mary Ellen (a secondary character in the book, a hilariously annoying woman). The actress is Kristen Schaal. I know her from "Flight of the Conchords" — she was the band's only fan — but you may know her as Hazel Wassername from "30 Rock."

"There are five leaders — or no leaders — as Republican voters look at likely GOP candidates in the 2016 White House race..."

"... with no candidate above 10 percent and 20 percent undecided, according to a Quinnipiac University National poll released today."

Watch it with me: George Pataki announces his bid for the GOP nomination.

1. Blowy curtains looking out from a high level onto New York City = vague reminder of 9/11. George Pataki was governor of New York when the attacks occurred. The camera advances and the the white curtains — ghosts of the past — move out of view and we look on the city ≈ we recovered from 9/11, with the help of George Petaki.

2. We see the dramatically shadowed face of Pataki, talking about "our uncertain future." He's wearing a zip-up windbreaker, an open-collared plaid shirt, and a grim expression. Blurred in the background is a painting of a sunrise... or sunset... which? I don't know. The future is uncertain.

3. "We are founded on a miracle — a heroic past." He's back to the past, much further in the past than 9/11, and he's back to the window. It's evening... or is it dawn? I don't know. The future is uncertain. He's putting on a tie. Going to work? For us? The view is out over the city again. NYC, I assume. He's got a nice apartment. Makes me wonder what he's been up to since he stopped being governor 9 years ago. (Wikipedia says he's a lawyer at Chadbourne & Parke, concentrating on renewable energy.)

4. Speaking of "courage," the "God-given liberty of the human spirit," and "inventors, visionaries, and heroes," he's tying his shoes. It's a closeup. Could just be stock footage. I don't want to mislead you. Anyway, you know inventors, visionaries, and heroes do put their shoes on in the morning... or when they're going out for the evening. Whichever. Now, Pataki is putting on a tie — a blue tie — and some lady is helping him. Not to the point of tying it for him. Petaki is a man who ties his shoes and his tie. We see his nice apartment again. He's used his God-given liberty well, I presume.

5. Now, we see rain on a windshield of a car and Pataki intones about Washington — "too big," "too intrusive." That's "exactly what the Founding Fathers feared." There's a close-up of Pataki's face as he says with some emphasis that it's time to protect our freedom and "take back this government." He tells us he was a Republican governor in a "deep blue state" for 3 terms. (That one-ups Scott Walker, who's only completed one term as governor, in a not-all-that-blue state.)

6. But he started small. He was the mayor of Peekskill. We see him walking on a stone jetty. 1:27: DOGS!!! 2 Labradors. Black and chocolate. He's scratching the ears of the chocolate. The dog kisses him. He cares about people. We see nice, smiling people. This is the I'm-a-normal-person part of the video. Cares about people like you. He tells people in a bar that they're what we need to make this country work. They give him enthusiastic applause... right after he says "And lunch is on me."

7. Views of the rebuilt World Trade Center site. "When we stand together, we can accomplish anything." That's what he saw after 9/11, when we understood that "We are all Americans." We see more high views of the city and this time we see the Freedom Tower (from Tower 4, which overlooks it). The words "We the People" appear on the screen, and he uses "We the People..." 3 times. The phrase "stand together" reappears. Text on screen asserts that Pataki led New York after the 9/11 attacks. (I note for the first time that the word "attack" is embedded in his name.) "What unites us is so much more important than what might seem superficially to divide us." Most politicians would say "What unites us is much more important than what divides us." I feel there's some insight to be gained from the "so" — it's a tad emotive — and, especially, the "might seem superficially" — which suggests education, precision, and lawyerliness and functions to deny that we are divided in any significant way at all.

8. Now some quick images flash: the original flag, the Founding Fathers, Lincoln with Union soldiers, Confederate soldiers, the men raising the flag at Iwo Jima, an astronaut with the flag on the moon, the Twin Towers "Tribute of Light," a big flag. The voice over is: "We have to fall in love with America again." Text on screen: "United We Stand." Then: "What will We the People stand for?" Then: "Pataki for President."

9. One more look at the Freedom Tower, seen from Tower 4, with Pataki speaking about "reclaiming the skyline" and "coming back stronger and better."

10. So: A good introductory video. You want a governor? I am that governor. Look what I've been through. Look where I was. He's been out of the public eye for an awfully long time, and he seems rather dull. But as long as we're looking through the whole deck, he belongs in the group.  

"I want to play in the NBA. Or be a mortician."

"Why a mortician?"

"I liked the way that my uncle was dressed at his funeral. And if I’m a mortician when someone in my family passes away, then I can take care of their body. Also my science teacher went on the internet for me and found out that morticians make $54,000 a year."

"There is no way that she did not know what was going on, that women were being abused and accosted by her husband."

"She knew what was happening and just to ignore it. It was a political relationship and suited them both. The Clintons don't care what they do, who they run over to get to the top. It is all about political status."

Said Paula Jones, who was run over so long ago that many young voters have never heard of her.

"Did this have something to do with Monica Lewinsky?" a student asked last month when we read Clinton v. Jones. I wondered whether the Supreme Court's statement of the facts in that case came as a strange surprise to the young people in the class:
Those allegations principally describe events that are said to have occurred on the afternoon of May 8, 1991, during an official conference held at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Governor delivered a speech at the conference; respondent--working as a state employee--staffed the registration desk. She alleges that Ferguson persuaded her to leave her desk and to visit the Governor in a business suite at the hotel, where he made "abhorrent" sexual advances that she vehemently rejected. She further claims that her superiors at work subsequently dealt with her in a hostile and rude manner, and changed her duties to punish her for rejecting those advances. Finally, she alleges that after petitioner was elected President, Ferguson defamed her by making a statement to a reporter that implied she had accepted petitioner's alleged overtures, and that various persons authorized to speak for the President publicly branded her a liar by denying that the incident had occurred.

Does this mean Obama's immigration plan will only be carried out if the next President wants to do it?

I'm trying to delve into the true import of this NYT article titled "Immigration Overhaul May Be in Limbo Until Late in Obama’s Term." The headline seems to inject some optimism into the scenario. Let's look closely:

1. There's a preliminary injunction in place preventing Obama from going forward with his plan, and the Justice Department has chosen not to go to the Supreme Court now. So the litigation continues on the merits in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which will take some time. When it ends, whoever wins will seek Supreme Court review. That's going to take some time.

2.  How much time? The NYT says: "That legal battle may extend for a year or more, officials said, undermining any hope of putting the president’s plan into effect until right before the 2016 election." I take that to refer to the possibility that the Supreme Court (assuming it takes the case) would come out with a decision before it goes on its summer break, which would leave Obama with half a year to go forward with his plan.

3. Would Obama start up his program right on the eve of his successor's election? It's a political problem, but it's not just a political problem. Politically, it might help the Democratic candidate to have the program begun so that she (or he) can say you need me to continue it. Pressure could be put on the Republican to say whether he'd keep it going or not and what he'd do with the problem instead. Obama could choose whichever works better for the Democrat, when the time comes. At a late point in the campaign, he'll have the power to affect the factual context of the immigration issue.

4. But it's also a practical problem. It's a program that invites undocumented immigrants to "come out of the shadows." Who will want to do that in late 2016? If it won't work, because those who are eligible to come out lack confidence that the program will stay in place, then why do it? Well, the reasons discussed in point #3 might still hold. Begin the program for show. You've got a safe haven for people but the people are too afraid to use it. Look! Isn't that sad! Don't you want to vote for the candidate who will make it possible for people to use this wonderful plan Obama thought up? That's the political argument that could be built on the practical problem.

5. The political argument built on the practical problem only works if it turns out that voters in the swing states want the reform and approve of Presidents acting independently of Congress. But, as noted in point #3, Obama will make the decision close to the election, so he'll have up-to-date  information about how people feel — not only what they think about immigration but whether they're susceptible to the argument that it's important for Obama to end his presidency on a high note. His word is "HOPE." Wouldn't it be beautiful if he ended with this success that is the very essence of hope? Will that idea resonate in the summer and fall of 2016? He can decide when the time comes.

6. Points ##3, 4, and 5 all assume Obama will win in the Supreme Court. That's unlikely, I think. If he loses, however, he hands his party's candidate an excellent issue: those terrible conservatives on the  Supreme Court who are ruining everything.

May 27, 2015

"Nebraska on Wednesday became the first conservative state in more than 40 years to abolish the death penalty..."

"... with lawmakers defying their Republican governor, Pete Ricketts, a staunch supporter of capital punishment who had lobbied vigorously against banning it."

Nice going, Nebraska.


At the Tree Face Café...


... it's free space to play.

"We are at the water's edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech."

"Because today, we've reached the point in our society where, if you do not support same-sex marriage, you are labeled a homophobe and a hater.... After they are done going after individuals, the next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church, is hate speech and there’s a real and present danger.”

Said Marco Rubio.

"To be thin-skinned, farsighted, and loose-tongued... is to feel too sharply, see too clearly, speak too freely."

"It is to be vulnerable to the world when the world believes itself invulnerable, to understand its mutability when it thinks itself immutable, to sense what’s coming before others sense it, to know that the barbarian future is tearing down the gates of the present while others cling to the decadent, hollow past. If our children are fortunate, they will inherit only your ears, but, regrettably, as they are undeniably mine, they will probably think too much too soon and hear too much too early, including things that are not permitted to be thought or heard."

From a Salman Rushdie story called "The Duniazát."

"You can be full of kindness and love, but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog. I am proud to be called a radical Buddhist."

Said Ashin Wirathu, the leader of Burma’s 969 movement, quoted in a WaPo article titled "The serene-looking Buddhist monk accused of inciting Burma’s sectarian violence."
A catchy pop tune titled “Song to Whip Up Religious Blood” is often played at 969 rallies. The movement is named for three digits that monks say symbolize the virtues of the Buddha, Buddhist practices and the Buddhist community, but its theme song is far from devotional. The lyrics reference people who “live in our land, drink our water, and are ungrateful to us,” according to the Times. And the chorus, “We will build a fence with our bones if necessary,” is repeated over and over again.

Wirathu claims that his movement is not responsible for the violence against the Rohingya [Burma’s Muslims]. But he does repeatedly insist that Muslims — whom he often calls “kalars,” a derogatory term roughly equivalent to the N-word — need to be kept in their place. He calls for boycotts of Muslim-owned businesses, warns Buddhists to protect their women from Muslim rapists and was a vocal backer of a law restricting marriages between Buddhists and Muslims...

Reconsidering America.

I scoffed at the idea, but Meade insisted, so... listen:

This is a band that got started in 1970, a year when I was in college and absolutely no one would give these guys any respect.

The all-male feminist support group.

"I just wish there was a way that we could be validated for being such great feminists."

"Swiss authorities conducted an extraordinary early-morning operation here Wednesday to arrest several top soccer officials and extradite them to the United States on federal corruption charges."

"As leaders of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, gathered for their annual meeting, more than a dozen plain-clothed Swiss law enforcement officials arrived unannounced at the Baur au Lac hotel, an elegant five-star property with views of the Alps and Lake Zurich. They went to the front desk to get room numbers and then proceeded upstairs."

What a scene!

ADDED: Shouldn't America leave soccer problems to the countries that call it football?

"But the problem with thinking of Mars as a fallback planet (besides the lack of oxygen and air pressure and food and liquid water) is that it overlooks the obvious."

"Wherever we go, we’ll take ourselves with us. Either we’re capable of dealing with the challenges posed by our own intelligence or we’re not. Perhaps the reason we haven’t met any alien beings is that those which survive aren’t the type to go zipping around the galaxy. Maybe they’ve stayed quietly at home, tending their own gardens."

From "Project Exodus/What’s behind the dream of colonizing Mars?" by Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker (which I believe is available even to nonsubscribers).

I'm reading that because I read The New Yorker, but by coincidence, I'd just been rereading old Dan Quayle quotes. (Because yesterday, it became necessary to remind you: "What a waste it is to lose one's mind, or not to have a mind is being very wasteful, how true that is.") And I loved this one:
"Mars is essentially in the same orbit . . . Mars is somewhat the same distance from the Sun, which is very important. We have seen pictures where there are canals, we believe, and water. If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe."
Remember the Mars canals?

Almost as entrancing at The Man in the Moon:

But to get back to the garden — and to The New Yorker — here's a March 2007 piece by Adam Gopnik titled "Voltaire's Garden":
Voltaire goes on to detail the hideous theatrics of the Inquisition: the yellow robes, the burnings and flogging set to Church music, the whole choreography of Christian cruelty. The point of “Candide” is that the rapes and disembowelments, the enslavement and the beatings are not part of some larger plan, not a fact of the fatality of life and the universe, but fiendish tortures thought up by fanatics....

By “garden” Voltaire meant... the better place we build by love. The force of that last great injunction, “We must cultivate our garden,” is that our responsibility is local, and concentrated on immediate action... The horror that Voltaire wanted crushed, cruelty in the name of God and civilization, was a specific and contingent thing... The villains are the villains: Jesuits and Inquisitors and English judges and Muslim clerics and fanatics of all kinds. If they went away, life would be much better. He knew that the flood would get your garden no matter what you did; but you could at least try to keep the priests and the policemen off the grass. It wasn’t enough, but it was something.

"The Old Scott Walker Ad Where He Played An Alter Ego With A Fake Mustache And Glasses."

"The ad, which plays on the famous 'I’m a Mac, I’m a PC' commercial, was run during Walker’s 2008 race for Milwaukee county executive...."

"Democrats hope for Hillary Clinton coattails."

Her campaign is still in its infancy. The presidential election is nearly 18 months away. But Democrats are already banking on a “Hillary effect,” an anticipated wave that will lift the party’s fortunes up and down the ticket.
They're banking on it? Where does this come from? Is it pure lying? Is it propaganda?

"Non-Muslims who work in the Middle East, are forced to wear 'respectable' clothing by their employers, or face disciplinary measures."

"The Arab Muslims say that this demand is quite acceptable; and that this is to ensure that people adhere to local traditions and customs of the host country. So, with this same philosophy, why can't Europeans set a similar standard for migrants?"

That is, by far, the most up-voted comment (out of 708 comments) at the NYT article titled "Muslim Frenchwomen Struggle With Discrimination as Bans on Veils Expand."

I want to say that the answer to that question is obvious: Because we have a strong belief in religious freedom and personal expression. But I can't say "we," because I'm not French. From the article:
Mainstream politicians... say they [support the ban] for the benefit of public order or in the name of laïcité, the French term for the separation of church and state.... The concept of laïcité was developed during the French Revolution, and was intended to limit the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in the government.
A little more detail on that:
The strict separation of church and state... has evolved into what some religious leaders see as a "form of political correctness that made bringing religion into public affairs a major taboo." Former President Sarkozy initially criticised this approach as a "negative laïcité" and wanted to develop a "positive laïcité" that recognizes the contribution of faith to French culture, history and society, allows for faith in the public discourse and for government subsidies for faith-based groups. Sarkozy saw France's main religions as positive contributions to French society...  Sarkozy later changed footing on the place of religion in French society, by publicly declaring the burqa "not welcome" in France in 2009 and favoring legislation to outlaw it....

Should men describe their partner's breasts to other people? Should they write about them on the internet?

A question comes to mind on reading the comments on yesterday's post "Men value intelligence in women far above large breasts and long legs, a Cambridge evolutionary biologist has claimed."

Pick the answer that's closer to what you think (or abstain and participate in the comments). free polls
(If you can't see the vote buttons, vote here.)

ADDED: I recommend answering the first question before clicking to reveal the second question:

May 26, 2015

"I'm saving people a lot of time today: You don't have to meditate. You don't have to exercise. Just read some books from Art Garfunkel's list."

Things heard recently at Meadhouse.

I love the new New Yorker cover.

It's "Suiting Up" by Mark Ulriksen.

Great style and substance. We looked at this one and talked about it for 15 minutes.

Here's Amy Davidson's article about the cover and about all the old covers depicting Hillary Clinton. (You see her way in the back in the window to the door of the men's locker room in the new one.)

UPDATE: October 12, 2016 — notice who's not there at all: Donald Trump — who would proceed to win the GOP nomination and to get in trouble for "locker room" talk.

"People are wasting valuable thinking time on meditation and mindfulness and should stop trying to clear their heads..."

"... an Oxford University academic has claimed."
Theodore Zeldin said too many people were avoiding using their brains and instead escaping into a state of blank mental oblivion.
Mindfulness has been widely championed for inspiring creative thought, lowering depression and improving physical health and is even recommended by the NHS.

But Dr Zeldin said the practice was distracting people [from] discovering more about other people and the world around them, and encouraged them to instead seek to make new relationships with those who shared different views. He said the world needed to move away from an era of self-discovery.

"Men value intelligence in women far above large breasts and long legs, a Cambridge evolutionary biologist has claimed."

"Although having a large bust and never-ending pins are deemed by western culture as the epitome of femininity, when choosing a mother for their children, men look for brains first."

"George came up to me at a party once and said 'my Paul is to me what your Paul is to you.'"

"He meant that psychologically they had the same effect on us. The Pauls sidelined us. I think George felt suppressed by Paul and I think that’s what he saw with me and my Paul. Here’s the truth: McCartney was a helluva music man who gave the band its energy, but he also ran away with a lot of the glory."

Said Art Garfunkel, in a long interview, in which I also learned that he's got a website where he lists every book he's ever read and it's — in his words — "heavy shit... not fluff." He lists the books in the order he reads them and includes the number of pages in each book.

"It is also alleged that she moved the paddle away from him as he was struggling to stay afloat..."

"... with water temperatures in the 40 degree range, and failed to render him assistance including timely calls for help."

Said the prosecutor in that Hudson River kayak case.

The Supreme Court will answer a key question about the meaning of "one person, one vote."

Legislative districts must have roughly equivalent populations. That's been Equal Protection law for a long time. But how do you count the population? Do you include all residents or just those who are eligible to vote — or are states free to use either count?
Almost all state and local governments draw districts based on total population. If people who were ineligible to vote were evenly distributed, the difference between counting all people or counting only eligible voters would not matter. But demographic patterns vary widely.

If the challengers succeed, the practical consequences would be enormous, Joseph R. Fishkin, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin wrote in 2012 in The Yale Law Journal.

It would, he said, “shift power markedly at every level, away from cities and neighborhoods with many immigrants and many children and toward the older, whiter, more exclusively native-born areas in which a higher proportion of the total population consists of eligible voters.”
"One person, one vote" sounds like a reference to the voters, but that phrase comes from the court cases, not the Constitution itself. You could also think in terms of equality in the number of persons each representative represents. And if we're going to think in terms of voters, why would we look at the number of persons eligible to vote as opposed to the number of persons who actually vote? We know that voter turnout varies geographically.

After the rainstorm...


... Meade gathered up all the allium that had fallen over.

ADDED: The indoor view:


"As a little girl, I had never imagined myself with babies, or, for that matter, with a husband."

"My vision of the future had involved an apartment in New York City, a cat, and a typewriter. I was sure children would get in the way of my ambitions — and, worse, that I’d poison them with my resentment. In Caroline Moorehead’s biography of the swashbuckling journalist Martha Gellhorn, she describes how Gellhorn adopted an Italian orphan after World War II. At first she was smitten, but before long she felt trapped, writing that her son was, 'through no act of his own, but because of a careless, inconceivably frivolous and selfish act of mine, making life untenable.' She was a distant and sometimes cruel mother, and her child grew up to be a great disappointment to her; she once described him as 'a total loss, a poor small unwanted life.' Chilling as this was, I took a bleak sort of comfort in it, since it confirmed that I was right not to take the leap...."

From Michelle Goldberg's essay "I Was a Proud Non-Breeder. Then I Changed My Mind."

"It turns out that generous maternity leave and flexible rules on part-time work can make it harder for women to be promoted — or even hired at all."

Front page teaser for a NYT article titled "When Family-Friendly Policies Backfire."

Note that the unintended consequences are not limited to the working women who have children. Even women who intend to forgo motherhood and put all their effort into work are still going to look like potential mothers. 

The article ends with an effort at the upbeat:
Perhaps the most successful way to devise policies that help working families but avoid unintended consequences, people who study the issue say, is to make them gender neutral. In places like Sweden and Quebec, for instance, parental leave policies encourage both men and women to take time off for a new baby.
Yeah, well, but perhaps not. Who takes this encouragement to spend more time with babies? Who passes up this benefit because they feel they must press on in their career (and because they're not as interested in babies or because they're not the ones who can breastfeed)? I don't see how gender-neutral policies are going to avoid these unintended consequences.

I'm keeping track of the media's use of the "clown" metaphor to describe the GOP.

My theory is that this is a tell and that what it really indicates is anxiety about there only being one candidate on the Democratic side. The "clown" idea is usually expressed as "clown car." That is, it's a way to say there are an awful lot of individuals crammed into a space that shouldn't be able to hold so many.

But this morning I'm seeing "clown show," which either assumes we know the "show" is the old car routine or hopes to get away with simply portraying Republicans as ridiculous:

"The Koch brothers try to rein in the GOP presidential clown show." (A WaPo headline for an article that doesn't contain the word "clown." This article currently ranks #1 on WaPo's "most read" list.)

ADDED: Remember the time Obama was portrayed as a clown? It was a time of outrage! 

"Four Words That Imperil Health Care Law Were All a Mistake, Writers Now Say."

A NYT article about the Obamacare case that's pending in the U.S. Supreme Court. A key word in that headline is "now." At this point — with so many states having decided not to set up their own exchanges — those who support Obamacare have a strong interest in saying that the discrepancy in the text is meaningless:
At the Finance Committee, which thrashed out its version of the bill in September and October 2009, senators initially assumed that all states would set up exchanges, so they added a section to the Internal Revenue Code to provide subsidies, in the form of tax credits, for insurance purchased through an exchange.

But senators and staff lawyers came to believe that some states — “five or 10 at the most” — would choose not to set up exchanges, said Christopher E. Condeluci, who was a staff lawyer for Republicans on the Finance Committee.

At that point, senators authorized a backup plan to allow the federal government to establish an exchange in any state that did not have its own, but they failed to include that language in the section of the tax code providing subsidies. “We failed to include a cross-reference to the federal exchange,” Mr. Condeluci said. “In my opinion, due to a drafting error, we overlooked it. It was an oversight. Congress, in my experience, always intended for the federal exchange to deliver subsidies.”

The words were written by professional drafters — skilled nonpartisan lawyers — from the office of the Senate legislative counsel, then James W. Fransen. It appears that the four words now being challenged were based on the initial premise and were carelessly left in place as the legislation evolved.
So... skilled, professional drafters... failing to check the cross-references. That's the story. As opposed to the idea that the loss of the subsidies was supposed to motivate the states to set up exchanges.

I think the main problem is that if there were a big incentive on offer, it needed to be clearly stated so the states would know what they were giving up if they failed it set up exchanges. But there's still the question whether the Court can remedy that unfairness. If it doesn't, Congress will need to step up.

"A growing body of scientific evidence shows that exercise alone has almost no effect on weight loss..."

"... [R]esearchers who reviewed surveys of millions of American adults found that physical activity increased between 2001 and 2009, particularly in counties in Kentucky, Georgia and Florida. But the rise in exercise was matched by an increase in obesity in almost every county studied. There were even more striking results in a 2011 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which found that people who simply dieted experienced greater weight loss than those who combined diet and exercise. How can this be explained?"

Asks a WaPo article titled "Take off that Fitbit. Exercise alone won’t make you lose weight.The obesity problem has little to do with our sedentary lifestyles."

Do you think it's hard to explain? I think the more interesting question is: Why are we so easily drawn into the theory that exercise is the answer? To my question, I would say: 1. Exercise seems virtuous and we like to call others to virtue, 2. Exercise (unlike not eating so much) can be seen by others and admired and encouraged (you look like you're doing something), 3. We love to eat, the primal urge is so basic and ever-present, and we don't want to give that up, 4. We want to believe we accumulate virtue points for the exercise we do and feel entitled to spend those points on what we really love, eating.

Of course, #4 is the answer to the article's "How can this be explained?"

"Days of flash flooding, tornadoes and historic rainfall across central Texas and Oklahoma swept away hundreds of homes and left at least five people dead and a dozen missing..."

The Washington Post reports.

My son Chris took these pictures in Austin yesterday:

May 25, 2015

Just yoking.




At Abby's Café...


... talk about whatever you want. (Note: Moderation is on this morning. Sorry!)

More pictures of Abby at The Puparazzo, here. Also new over there, a Corgi and a white German Shepherd.

"George was also very depressed and told his mother that his life was so wretched that he would rather die."

''She said, 'So look George, if your life is so wretched, just go and shoot yourself.' So George went to the basement, stuck a .22-caliber rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger.''

The bullet didn't kill him. It cured him. Not that the mother predicted that bizarrely fortunate outcome!

"You can imagine how many times each of these men and women have heard a parent tell their child, 'Don't look. Don't stare at him. That's rude.'"

"I take these pictures so that we can look; we can see what we're not supposed to see. And we need to see them because we created them."

"Turning sewage into drinking water gains appeal as drought lingers."

California gets ready for "indirect potable reuse."
Instead of flushing hundreds of billions of gallons of treated sewage into the Pacific Ocean each year, as they do now, coastal cites can capture that effluent, clean it and convert it to drinking water.

"That water is discharged into the ocean and lost forever," said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Assn. of California Water Agencies. "Yet it's probably the single largest source of water supply for California over the next quarter-century."...

"You know, toilet to tap might be the only answer at this point," said Van Nuys activist Donald Schultz. "I don't support it, but we're running out of options. In fact, we may have already run out of options."

The problem with "The Tolerant Jeweler Who Harbored an Impure Opinion of Same-Sex Marriage."

All Right, you've probably seen this Charles C.W. Cooke headline at The National Review for a story about a lesbian couple in Canada who ordered wedding rings and then wanted their money back when they found out the jeweler opposes same-sex marriage.
When the couple “found out what he really believed about same-sex marriage,” Dreher writes, they “balked, and demanded their money back — and the mob threatened the business if they didn’t yield.” Which is ultimately to say that White and Renouf sought to break their contract — not, you will note, because he was rude or because he failed to deliver on his promises, but because they made a window into his soul and they did not like what they saw — and then, when he objected, to subject him to bullying and to threats until he caved. Is that “tolerance”?
1. It's not breaking a contract to ask to be released from a deal. The very fact that Cooke added "sought" shows that "breaking" (like "breaching") is the wrong word. Parties to a contract can reach a new agreement, ending the deal. That doesn't break the contract. It rescinds the contract by mutual agreement.

2. Cooke leaves readers to think that the jeweler merely held an opinion — in his mind, in his soul — and people peered into that secret, personal space and took umbrage. But — click on the link in Cooke's article and get to the news story — the jeweler posted a sign in his store: "The sanctity of marriage is under attack. Let's keep marriage between a man and a woman." This sign was posted after they made the deal to buy the rings, and at that point they felt bad about having their rings — the rings that are highly symbolic to them — coming from that place. The jeweler displayed a message of disrespect to them and they objected.

3. What if a black person made a restaurant reservation and showed up to find racist posters on the wall but the maitre d' was perfectly polite and ready to seat him? Wouldn't you support the customer's request to be released from the reservation without having his card charged? If the restaurant had a policy of charging customers who don't follow through on reservations, that policy was clearly explained at the time of phone call making the reservation, and the restaurant insisted on charging, what would you think if the customer went on Facebook and told his story and got a lot of negative PR for the restaurant, hurting its business?

4. Businesses may choose (or be required) to provide service without discrimination against gay people, but that doesn't create a reciprocal obligation in consumers, requiring them not to take gay-friendliness into account at all. There's nothing hypocritical about expecting businesses not to discriminate against you and still, when choosing which business to patronize, selecting the one that you think really respects you and other people you care about.

5. "Toleration" is a good standard, but it's not the best. (You may remember that James Madison, participating in the drafting of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, changed the word "toleration" — written by George Mason — to "free exercise.") You wouldn't go to a party where the invitation said your presence would be tolerated. You'd feel bad about needing to accept a job offer that said you would be tolerated as an employee. If you have a choice of businesses to patronize, you might say: I don't give a damn what they really think of me as long as they're polite — I'll pick the one with the best product. Fine. That's you. But somebody else might say: As long as the products are pretty similar, I'm going to patronize the business that shares my politics (or my religion or my culture).

6. A jeweler who puts up signs expressing various religious messages is seeking the advantages to be gained by customers choosing businesses according to the politics/religion of the proprietor. He's stimulating the marketplace with the expression of opinion, getting some customers and losing others. Let's not pretend he's a humble little shopkeeper getting bullied by mean people who won't let him harbor thoughts deemed impure. When you speak, you might cause others not to like you and to want to avoid your business. That's part of free speech!

"We don't wail when things go badly, nor blow off steam at every victory. The fight goes on, come good news or bad."

WAC with flag

Memorial Day.

May 24, 2015

"Pentagon report predicted West’s support for Islamist rebels would create ISIS."

"Anti-ISIS coalition knowingly sponsored violent extremists to 'isolate’' Assad, rollback 'Shia expansion.'"

"One of the most entertaining searches you can do on Spotify is for Hitler: There are tons of songs."

"A band called The Buttplugs wrote one about Hitler’s nipples. There’s one by Antony & the Johnsons ('Hitler in My Heart'), and one by Faith No More ('Crack Hitler'). There’s the obligatory Mel Brooks number, plenty of punk, and a track by Bob Newhart. There’s a Churchill speech and a testimonial from an RAF Bomber, and the announcement of the Führer’s death on German radio. Under related artists, where you’d expect to find Hideki Tojo, Benito Mussolini, or maybe Himmler, you find Neville Chamberlain, Edward Kennedy, John Glenn, and Charles Lindbergh. Statistics aren’t the same as historians. Related Artists is actually a social network for people with extremely eccentric friends: You can get from Nazis to an album of Kurt Vonnegut reading Slaughterhouse-Five in a few clicks. Here’s how: Start with Hitler, and then go to Charles Lindbergh. Take a left at Franklin D. Roosevelt, a hard left at Studs Terkel, and an even harder left at Ward Churchill. Veer slightly right (but you’re really still going left) to Howard Zinn, then Angela Davis. Enter a tunnel until you hit Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Next you’re at Gertrude Stein, who is unexpectedly close to Dorothy Parker. Head right until you see Rudyard Kipling, and after that you can’t miss Vonnegut."

From "Other People’s Playlists/Spotify’s secret social network," by Paul Ford in The New Republic.

Bob Woodward: Bush did not lie about WMD in Iraq.

Today, on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Bob Woodward about the questions the GOP candidates have been getting about Iraq: Was the 2003 invasion a mistake? Woodward answered:
[Y]ou certainly can make a persuasive argument it was a mistake. But there is a time that line going along that Bush and the other people lied about this. I spent 18 months looking at how Bush decided to invade Iraq. And lots of mistakes, but it was Bush telling George Tenet, the CIA director, don't let anyone stretch the case on WMD. And he was the one who was skeptical. And if you try to summarize why we went into Iraq, it was momentum. The war plan kept getting better and easier, and finally at the end, people were saying, hey, look, it will only take a week or two. And early on it looked like it was going to take a year or 18 months. And so Bush pulled the trigger. A mistake certainly can be argued, and there is an abundance of evidence. But there was no lying in this that I could find.
Woodward was also asked if it was a mistake to withdraw in 2011. Wallace points out that Obama has said that he tried to negotiate a status of forces agreement but did not succeed, but "A lot of people think he really didn't want to keep any troops there." Woodward agrees that Obama didn't want to keep troops there and elaborates:

At the Panther Mound...


... Café...


... you can hang out all afternoon.

A beautiful mind dies.

John F. Nash Jr. was 86.
He invented a game, known as Nash, that became an obsession in the Fine Hall common room... [M]ost real world interactions are... complicated, where players’ interests are not directly opposed, and there are opportunities for mutual gain. Dr. Nash’s solution, contained in a 27-page doctoral thesis he wrote when he was 21, provided a way of analyzing how each player could maximize his benefits, assuming that the other players would also act to maximize their self-interest.

This deceptively simple extension of game theory paved the way for economic theory to be applied to a wide variety of other situations besides the marketplace.
ADDED: Nash and his wife were passengers in a taxi on the New Jersey Turnpike:
[T]he driver lost control while trying to pass another car and hit a guard rail and another vehicle.... The couple were ejected from the cab and pronounced dead at the scene.
The cab driver survived.

"The one other Wisconsin politician with numbers like Feingold’s in recent years was former GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson at the outset of his own 2012 Senate race."

"Like Feingold, Thompson had been out of partisan politics for several years, making him a less polarizing figure. Like Feingold, he scored well with independents and did unusually well with voters in the opposing party."
But in Thompson’s case, his popularity and crossover appeal didn’t survive the polarizing brawl of the 2012 election, which he lost to Baldwin.

“Thompson started at plus 18,” says [Marquette pollster Charles] Franklin, referring to the difference between his positive and negative rating. “But he finished at minus 14. It’s a powerful example of how a campaign can change a politician’s image with the voters in the state.”

"My first gym class scares me. The other kids seem to know what to do."

"They can climb ropes, hurl themselves at footballs and shriek with delight. I’m more of a ‘watching-from-the-sidelines’ kind of kid. But Mr Lee, our teacher, doesn’t seem to mind. He keeps giving me encouraging, kind looks. Like he knows I’m a bit self-conscious but he’s on my side and doesn’t mind at all. It’s all unspoken, but it feels clean, defined, safe. I find myself looking towards him more and more during the class...."

"Figured I might as well post this since everyone is texting me. Yes, my portrait is currently displayed at the Frieze Gallery in NYC."

"Yes, it's just a screenshot (not a painting). No, I did not give my permission and yes, the controversial artist Richard Prince put it up anyway. It's already sold ($90K I've been told) during the VIP preview. No, I'm not gonna go after him. And nope, I have no idea who ended up with it! 😳 #lifeisstrange #modernart #wannabuyaninstagrampicture"

"These are the last days of Mecca. The pilgrimage is supposed to be a spartan, simple rite of passage..."

"... but it has turned into an experience closer to Las Vegas, which most pilgrims simply can’t afford," says Irfan Al-Alawi, director of the UK-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation. "The city is turning into Mecca-hattan... Everything has been swept away to make way for the incessant march of luxury hotels, which are destroying the sanctity of the place and pricing normal pilgrims out."
The Grand Mosque is now loomed over by the second tallest building in the world.... The hotel rises 600m (2,000ft) into the air, projecting a dazzling green laser-show by night, on a site where an Ottoman fortress once stood – razed for development, along with the hill on which it sat.

The list of heritage crimes goes on, driven by state-endorsed Wahhabism, the hardline interpretation of Islam that perceives historical sites as encouraging sinful idolatry – which spawned the ideology that is now driving Isis’s reign of destruction in Syria and Iraq. In Mecca and Medina, meanwhile, anything that relates to the prophet could be in the bulldozer’s sights. The house of Khadijah, his first wife, was crushed to make way for public lavatories; the house of his companion Abu Bakr is now the site of a Hilton hotel; his grandson’s house was flattened by the king’s palace. Moments from these sites now stands a Paris Hilton store and a gender-segregated Starbucks.
ADDED: Do you think much about the problem of idolatry? It's strange where such thinking leads people, but one reason it is strange is that we've lost touch with idolatry as a significant sin. We use the word "idol" with complete casualness.

Taking ABBA as seriously as possible.

This essay — at NPR — is so over-the-top about ABBA that it's really very weird. I'll quote the last few sentences:
Gay people particularly respect entertainers who cloak suffering behind carefully constructed artifice because it's a skill most of us are still forced to learn. ABBA concealed the distress of their ditties with as many deliciously gaudy overdubs as the era's analog recording techniques could muster. Embedded in some of the brightest whiteness pop has ever known, ABBA invented their own blues, one that hasn't left the radio. They whispered private anguish in the midst of the party.
"Embedded in some of the brightest whiteness" refers to the fact that the members of ABBA grew up in 1950s Sweden, where you could only hear 2 hours of music on the radio each day and — amid the "classical music, jazz, Swedish folk, Italian arias, French chanson, German schmaltz and John Philip Sousa" — there might be one pop song but never any "American blues."

The best and worst of the NYT article about the best and worst of the U.S. Presidents in their post-presidential phase.

BEST: cool illustrations (of John Quincy Adams, Teddy Roosevelt, etc.); appropriate selection criteria (do good work, don't undermine your successors, etc.); actually saying something nice about Nixon (a "purposeful post-presidency," becoming a "respected elder statesman").

WORST: Acting like they're offering help to Obama (who's "deeply engaged in his presidency," but must be thinking about his post-presidency), when the subject obviously came up because of Hillary Clinton and her ex-president spouse coming in for criticism for their grandiose and lucrative posturings in the direction of great good work.

"Hours after the Senate balked at reauthorizing the bulk collection of U.S. telephone records, the National Security Agency began shutting down..."

"... a controversial program Saturday that senior intelligence and law enforcement officials say is vital to track terrorists in the United States."

That's the Senate, working according to plan — balking at bulk — acting through inaction.

The "therapy" of exposing yourself to what is said to be a temperature of 200+ degrees below zero.

Cryotherapy — supposedly a fad amongst celebrities.

A photo posted by Mandy Moore (@mandymooremm) on

POTUS on Twitter... joking about Twitter...

... I don't believe in Twitter.