September 26, 2015

Blue jean nation.


At the Capitol Square today in Madison.

"Artist Anish Kapoor Slams France For Covering Up Anti-Semitic Vandalism on 'Queen’s Vagina.'"

"The 200-foot funnel-like sculpture (official name: “Dirty Corner”) [at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris] was defaced with white spray-painted hate words including, 'At Versailles Christ is King,' and 'the second rape of the nation by deviant Jewish activism.'"
The words were gilded over in gold leaf, under the artist’s direction, after local officials rejected his desire that they stay uncovered on the steel-and-rock piece as evidence of “the scars of the renewed attack.”

“We lost, can you believe it?” Kapoor told artnet News in Moscow, where he launched a new exhibit Monday. “Some very racist, in my view, deputy from parliament took me to court. We were forced to hide the graffiti. It’s a terrible, sad thing. You want me to pretend it didn’t happen?... It happened.”
ADDED: My first reaction was that of course the graffiti must be removed. My second was a memory of Jackie Kennedy:

A white artist from Miami graffiti'd "Black Lives Matter" 2,000 times on the outside of a building in Detroit.

Analyze the racial politics of that.

The background is painted black and the writing is white, and the lettering is lined up, so it evokes the old-time school punishment of being forced to write one phrase repetitively on the blackboard (a punishment repetitively, endlessly satirized on "The Simpsons").

If you're trying to do my assignment — or you could write "Must Do Althouse Assignments" 2,000 times on a piece of paper — you should know that a Detroit gallery owner — a black man named George N’Namdi — commissioned the Miami artist —a white man named (really!) Renda Writer. N’Namdi and Writer discussed including the phrase "Lives Matter" or "All Lives Matter" and rejected it.
“It really dawned on me, we're talking about a movement here, we’re not talking about just a slogan,” N'Namdi [told The Huffington Post]. “We’re talking about something we’re trying to change, and once you start diluting the movement and making it ‘All Lives Matter’ … What issue is ‘All Lives Matter’ confronting? None.” 
That is, N'Namdi, the gallery owner, not the artist, is promoting/explaining the project to the press and telling the Huffington Post that he went through his own process of realizing exactly what the liberal press has for month's instructed us to see as the correct answer.

What about the artist? Does he have anything to say? If the Detroit gallery owner knew what he wanted on the wall in Detroit, why didn't he hire a Detroit artist? Was it sort of a performance in which the white man was the Bart Simpson, taking his punishment? Or was there no Detroit graffiti artist up to the job?

"I can't believe they're pupating right in front of us!"

From "A Beetle Utopia on an Artist's Conk Fungus" at Scientific American. Artist's conks are "woody shelf fungi that cling to the trunks of trees."
Every single life phase of some sort of beetle was playing out in and around these conks simultaneously....

I tried searching the wikigooglepediatron for the identity of these beetles, but I came up empty. If any entomologists reading know what this beetle is, please tell me!...
Well, look at those photographs. That beetle looks familiar!
The black spots on the blue beetles were also a treat – like something out of Dr. Seuss.... Surely, surely, someone out there knows the identity of this huge, gorgeous beetle, who seems to have a highly specialized relationship with what appears to to be the fungus Ganoderma aplanatum – the artist's conk...
Back in July 2014, we were walking in the foothills by Boulder, Colorado, and we were talking to a young woman, a passerby, and she spotted something on the ground, picked it up on a rock, and held it out for me to photograph:

It's the same beetle Scientific American didn't know!

IN THE COMMENTS: Larry Davis said:
Pleasing Fungus Beetle - Gibbifer Californicus
I added the link. He seems to be right. Thanks, Larry! 

"Let's See What Republicans Learn From Losing Boehner."

A Megan McArdle column that ends:
But maybe the only way Republicans will learn their limits is by crashing into them, as the Greeks did. Maybe they need to elect someone who will try what they’ve been longing for: a full throated, take-no-prisoners approach that doesn’t bother with compromise or concession. Like the Greeks, they’ll discover that this leaves them worse off, not better. If Republicans can't see that coming -- if they can't learn from Syriza's mistake -- then they will very likely learn their lesson from President Hillary Clinton.
ADDED: McArdle did something I wouldn't do — submit to a cross-examination on the "meaning of life":

September 25, 2015

"Don’t think: 'How close can I get to the rape line?'..."

"... but instead: 'How sure can I be that everyone involved in this sexual encounter is completely into it?'"

Congressman snags Pope Francis's glass of water and ritualistically drinks it and administers it to various others...

... including his wife, who looks — if I may interpret — a tad put upon.
This is not the first time Brady has pulled a stunt like this, with the Philadelphia Daily News reporting he did the same thing after President Obama's inauguration, though he just saved that glass and did not drink from it.
Yes, he's a Democrat.

"How are you going to win people’s votes if your introduction to them is ‘all you folks want is free stuff’?"

Said WaPo columnist Eugene Robinson, quoting something Jeb Bush did not say.

Jeb said: "[O]ur message is one of hope and aspiration. It isn’t one of division and ‘Get in line’, and ‘We’ll take care of you with free stuff’. Our message is one that is uplifting, that says: ‘You can achieve earned success … we’re on your side."

Shame on those who'd twist that. 

"Feeling abandoned by Democrats while fighting same-sex marriage, notorious Kentucky clerk Kim Davis has vowed to join the Republican Party..."

"... she announced on Friday at the Family Research Council’s Value Voters Summit. 'I’ve always been a Democrat, but the party left me,' she said."


"Chunk" is the word of the day here... for no other reason than that it's come up on its own twice: "invented something called the 'Cha-Chunker'" and "pegs in their hubs that can 'take chunks out of' the granite ledge." It's a funny word, isn't it? One thinks of "blowing chunks" or the "Goonies" boy Chunk or — if you're really old — "What a chunk o' chocolate":

The word "chunk" somehow devolved from "chuck" — the squarish cut of meat — and "chuck," like "cluck," is the English speaker's reproduction of the sound a chicken makes.

"Chunk" is a notably American word. Here are some of the quotes collected by the (unlinkable) OED:
1856   E. K. Kane Arctic Explor. II. i. 15   A chunk of frozen walrus-beef....
1833   J. Hall Legends of West 50   If a man got into a chunk of a fight with his neighbour, a lawyer would clear him for half a dozen muskrat skins....
a1860   New York in Slices, Theatre (Bartl.),   Now and then a small chunk of sentiment or patriotism or philanthropy is thrown in....
1894   Congress. Rec. 13 July 7445/1   Just one moment, my friend. You are a lawyer... Yes, a chunk of a lawyer.
1907   Chicago Tribune 8 May 7 (advt.)    It's really ridiculous the way we've knocked chunks off these Spring overcoat prices.
1923   P. G. Wodehouse Inimitable Jeeves xiii. 148   Eustace and I both spotted that he had dropped a chunk of at least half a dozen pages out of his sermon-case as he was walking up to the pulpit.
1957   T. S. Eliot On Poetry & Poets 49   Crabbe is a poet who has to be read in large chunks, if at all.

"Freeman has invented something called the 'Cha-Chunker,' a machine with a metal point that can be lowered into the mouth of any canned beverage to widen the hole."

"He then inverts a mini bottle of alcohol into the can..."

Check out the photos. A soda can is served with a mini-liquor bottle stuck into it. The effect is ludicrously low-class, but apparently it's a new and purporting-to-be-trendy thing in New York.

Here's a picture of the machine piercing the can.

"After 53 years and 23 official themes, it is not easy to create a Bond song without venturing into musical pastiche..."

"... but you would have to say they Smith has pulled it off with aplomb.... It is another attempt to give 007 an emotional inner life he rarely betrays on screen. This is a Bond who just wants to be loved. But Smith has to wrap those extraordinary vocal chords around something...."

Why did the lawyer for Patrick Kane's accuser suddenly withdraw from the case one day after doing a news conference holding up a bag he said was tampered-with evidence?

Wednesday, Thomas Eoannou claimed the bag was evidence from his client's case and that he had it because somebody had left it on the doorstep of his client's mother.
But in a news conference on Thursday, he said that the facts surrounding the evidence bag had been misrepresented. “In keeping with my ethical obligations as an officer of the court,” Mr. Eoannou said, “I can no longer represent my client effectively and am withdrawing effective immediately.”...

In his own conference on Thursday, Kane’s lawyer, Paul Cambria, said... “It’s obvious to me that Eoannou dropped out of the case because someone in this woman’s family lied to him about the evidence... I told you yesterday that this was a hoax, and now it’s obvious.”
I first read about the Kane story yesterday in The Nation, where the headline was: "The Patrick Kane Case Marks a New Low in the Long History of Rape Accusations Against Athletes/After a rape kit was dumped at the door of his accuser’s mother, the NHL can no longer be silent." That concluded:

"Speaker John A. Boehner, under intense pressure from conservatives in his party, will resign one of the most powerful positions in government and give up his House seat at the end of October..."

"... throwing Congress into chaos as it tries to avert a government shutdown. Mr. Boehner made the announcement in an emotional meeting with his fellow Republicans on Friday morning...."

IN THE COMMENTS: David Begley said:
From altar boy and Jesuit college to meeting the Jesuit Pope in the House. Crying allowed. 
Yes, that was my first thought: The Pope made that happen.

AND: There I was yesterday mocking the so-called "breaking news" of the Pope's meeting with John Boehner as "the height of banality."

ADDED: I'm watching Newt Gingrich on FoxNews, asked why is this happening now: "John had been thinking about doing it... probably a month later. But I think the emotional impact of the Pope coming, John's a very devout Catholic, this is something he'd always wanted to see happen. Yesterday, in many ways, is the high point of his speakership, and in that sense, I think, it kind of makes sense to say: I want to go out with something that he will treasure the rest of his life."

ALSO IN THE COMMENTS: MadisonMan said...
I thank him for his service -- it can't be an easy job -- and I thank him for leaving. I'm not sorry to see him go. It's too bad he was re-elected so many times.

I wonder what the real story is. He's ignored the Conservatives base for so long...what's different now? 
And Bobby said:
I'm wondering the same thing. A colleague (rating: B3) has suggested that Boehner and the conservatives cut a deal on the Planned Parenthood funding to avert the government shutdown -- i.e., the conservatives will let Boehner fund the government, and he will be forced out so they have their own victory to celebrate. Theory is the Planned Parenthood battle has gotten so large that the conservatives now need to get something tangible for losing that battle, and shooting Boehner out of the saddle is a very convenient win for them.

"I don't think I'd die for a taco. But I might die as a taco."

I don't know how I missed the viral video of the skateboarding taco, but I'm seeing him this morning, because he's on that Village Voice list of 25 New Yorkers who need the Pope to forgive them.

Now that the topic is skateboarding, I want to tell you something about the new skateboarding park in Madison, Wisconsin. It's taunting a man:
“I go out my door on my way to work and see this thing; I pass it every day,” says [Allen] Burger, a machinist who has been riding BMX bikes for 15 years. “If [the rules against biking in the skateboarding park don’t] change, I just want to move. It’s like having the love of your life dangled in front of you... This is so upsetting to have a park right there... I’ve totally lost motivation."
Yes, he's a Burger and that other guy is a taco. That's just serendipitous.
“I do feel bad,” [says Patrick Hasburgh, one of the organizers behind the Madison Skatepark Fund]. “It’s a strange thing as a skateboarder to have to exclude someone after being excluded as a skateboarder. But really, the park isn’t designed for that.”
According to the exclusionary Hasburgh — I can has burg — BMX riders put pegs in their hubs that can "take chunks out of" the granite ledges that the skateboarders would only wear away slowly.

Here's the "Equal Treatment for BMX riders in Madison Skatepark" petition.

"Martin Shkreli... hahahahaha, just kidding, that guy’s going to Hell."

From the Village Voice article "Here are 25 New Yorkers Who Really Need Pope Francis to Forgive Them."

I'm reading The Village Voice this morning — orthography buffs will know why I capitalized the "t" in "the" in this sentence and not the previous sentence — because I'd arrived at "R.I.P. St. Vincent's Hospital" in connection with the story of the white man who settled Brooklyn.
It was where the lowly, the mighty, and the garden-variety zany denizens of downtown were born, cared for, and died. Edna St. Vincent Millay, the Village poet who first proclaimed the lovely light of a candle burned at both ends, was given the hospital's name after it saved her uncle's life. It was where Gregory Corso—the beat poet who "sang Italian songs as sweet as Caruso and Sinatra," as Jack Kerouac said—was born in 1930.
St. Vincent's Hospital is the St. Vincent in Edna St. Vincent Millay:
My candle burns at both ends;
   It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
   It gives a lovely light!
The white man who settled Brooklyn is the subject of the post that's sat at the top of this blog overnight and was the subject of conversation between Meade and me as we assembled breakfast this morning. Meade thought it was funny that the article about the man had the correction: "This article initially quoted B.A. as saying he was born in 'Mt. Sinai.' He actually says he was born in St. Vincent's. We regret the error." As if such a trivial error, amidst everything else that happened, could be a subject of serious regret.

I took the position that, in New York City, the difference between Mt. Sinai and St. Vincent is huge. For a man who is adamant about his urban territorial credentials, the difference is intense. Born in St. Vincent's? He may think he's a natural-born hipster. He's 46, so he was born in 1969. That was the year of the Stonewall riots in the Village, and he was saying "I grew up with Stonewall, I grew up on the laps of drag queens." He also says: "So what I have in this city is ownership. When I look at the concrete I think, oh my blood mixes with the concrete." Blood and concrete ≈ St. Vincent's.

As for St. Vincent himself — St. Vincent De Paul — he was captured by Barbary pirates in 1605 and sold into slavery. His second master was a spagyrical physician, and Vincent learned medicine from the Muslims, converted to Islam, and had 3 wives. There's more to that story. He gets back to France and to Christianity, and, obviously, sainthood. [ADDED: The linked Wikipedia article is incredibly confusing, as discussed in the comments, but, to be brief, the "converted to Islam, and had 3 wives" part isn't about Vincent.]

And Martin Shkreli, the man whose name festers in the post title? Don't you know who he is? His fame, too, lies in the field of medicine: "Thanks to Martin Shkreli, life-saving drug Daraprim will now cost $750 per pill—up from $13.50. And no one, not even the FDA, can stop him."

September 24, 2015

Pushback against white-privileged hipsters and their crocheted mural is "spiraling out of control" in Bushwick.

A flea market and some hipster crochet glued onto the side of a building that's owned by one of the pre-gentrification residents of the neighborhood.

In other Brooklyn gentrification news, there's "White Guy Who 'Settled' Downtown Brooklyn Tells Us Why He Lashed Out At Stroller Couple":
"When I came down here, Myrtle Avenue here, it was abandoned. When I used to go down to the liquor store down there, the black people would all run, because they thought I was a cop! So when I tell you I’m having a fight about white privilege with this man, I’m slightly guilty because I’m moving in to gentrify a neighborhood, except I’m the first one here when nobody wants to live here."

Which 4 Justices attended the Pope's speech to Congress?

John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. 3 Catholics, 1 Jew.

Missing were Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, and Elena Kagan. 3 Catholics, 2 Jews.

So Pope Francis couldn't get a majority — not a majority of the Court, not even a majority of the Catholics, and not a majority of the Jews.

The fawn in late September...

... on his own now, not sure whether to take up the ways of the 2-footed human.

Why Vladimir Putin called Elton John on the telephone.

Elton John had said that he wanted to meet Putin, so he could talk to him about his "isolating and prejudiced" attitude toward gay people. That led a couple of Russian satirists to prank call John, and John fell for it, posting on Instagram that Putin had called him. Then Putin — the real Putin — decided it would be a good idea to call Elton John. He said: "I know that you were pranked by the telephone guys. Don’t be upset with them. They’re harmless, although that, without doubt, does not justify them."

"Beekeeping has been broached as a project for next summer (Mr. Klein has a hankering for mead)."

My favorite sentence in a NYT article called "Where Tiny Houses and Big Dreams Grow/A tech entrepreneur and his friends make a weekend community in the woods." Another tiny-house article. I love those. Hankering for mead? Check. Bees? Broach away!

And broaching alone will do/If bees are few.

"Where My Country Gone?"

The new episode of "South Park." Recommended! Especially for Trump fans. You won't be sore-y.

ADDED: Drudge presents it this way...

... which might not be quite fair. That FoxNews thing is this: "TRUMP GOES OFF – BLASTS RICH LOWRY After Conservative Pundit Talks About 'His Balls' on Kelly File." What Lowry said was: "Let’s be honest, Carly cut his balls off with the precision of a surgeon." That is, it wasn't an imperative. (It wasn't: "cut his balls off!") And I suspect Lowry thought he was exercising some kind of twisted female privilege, since he was interposing a woman between himself and Trump and female violence is sexistly regarded as a big joke.

"Do you consider yourself a feminist?," Lena Dunham asked Hillary Clinton.

And Hillary Clinton said:
"Yes... Absolutely. I’m always a little bit puzzled when any woman of whatever age, but particularly a young woman, says something like, ‘well, I believe in equal rights but I’m not a feminist.’ Well, a feminist is by definition someone who believes in equal rights. I’m hoping that people will not be afraid to say, that doesn’t mean you hate men, it doesn’t you want to separate out the world [sic], so you’re not a part of ordinary life -- that’s not what it means at all! It just means that we believe that women have the same rights as men."
Who writes the definition? We're still saying what X is "by definition" after all these years of scoffing at the anti-same-sex-marriage people who kept saying, tediously, marriage is by definition between a man and a woman?

Even if we are still doing "by definition"-style arguments, where was it ever established that the definition of feminism is just "someone who believes in equal rights"? If that could be nailed down, virtually every American would say "yes" to Dunham's question. They might not go around proclaiming "I'm a feminist" because if what you believe in is equal rights, what's your motivation to use a label that calls attention to a particular subgroup of humanity?

Hillary is being cagey though. She says "a feminist is by definition someone who believes in equal rights," but she doesn't say feminism is the belief in equal rights and nothing more. The reason for resisting the label is that you want to control the precise set of beliefs that you're signing onto and not to make yourself vulnerable to various definitions purveyed by writers and speakers who are more active and powerful than you are. Put that way, the resistance itself sounds feminist to me.

Headline read aloud to me just now.

"Dems want bigger role for Bill Clinton."

What I pictured:

Come on. Can we get a big jelly roll?

And "Serial" has its season 2 subject matter: Bowe Bergdahl.

Rolling Stone reports.

Which statement comes closest to your reaction to the news of the second season of Serial? free polls

There's no music I love more than Bob Dylan from 1965 and 1966 but...

... I don't know if I can take all these takes: "The Cutting Edge will be available in a six-disc and a two-disc version, as well as a monster limited-edition 18-disc set that includes every single take of every song from the three albums..." Okay, maybe the 2-disc version.
The collection reveals that six months before the Byrds turned "Mr. Tambourine Man" into a folk-rock smash, Dylan himself saw its possibilities, taking a clumsy, abortive stab at recording a drums-and-electric-guitar version. ("The drums are driving me mad," he says at the end.) It shows how Dylan attempted to record some Blonde on Blonde tracks with future members of the Band before opting for the subtler touch of Nashville musicians: Their "Visions of Johanna" is almost another song altogether (complete with lyric tweaks — "useless and small" instead of "useless and all"), rollicking where the released version is hushed....
Oh, come on. The line is: "He’s sure got a lotta gall to be so useless and all/Muttering small talk at the wall while I’m in the hall." You can't say "useless and small" and then "small talk." It's a mistake, and maybe it's a mistake because he anticipated "small" coming up in the next line or maybe it's a mistake because he actually wrote "small" twice and then saw the problem and fixed it, but is this something we should be muttering at the wall half a century later?

"The Pope has arrived at the U.S. Capitol and met with House Speaker John Boehner."

Some of these breaking-news alerts I'm getting in my email are the height of banality.

ADDED: I'm going to catch hell for saying this, but shouldn't you wear white underpants with a white outfit?

That's a screen grab from the AP photo of Pope Francis shaking hands with John Boehner, the 5th photograph here.

The full text of the speech to Congress is there too, so feel free to discuss loftier topics. Excerpt:
A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to "dream" of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

"Antarctic sea ice has grown to a record large extent for a second straight year, baffling scientists seeking to understand why this ice is expanding rather than shrinking in a warming world."

"The increasing ice is especially perplexing since the water beneath the ice has warmed, not cooled...."
Ultimately, it’s apparent the relationship between ozone depletion, climate warming from greenhouse gases, natural variability, and how Antarctic ice responds is all very complicated....

“…the seeming paradox of Antarctic ice increasing while Arctic ice is decreasing is really no paradox at all,” explains Climate Central’s [Michael] Lemonick. “The Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land, while the Antarctic is land surrounded by ocean. In the Arctic, moreover, you’ve got sea ice decreasing in the summer; at the opposite pole, you’ve got sea ice increasing in the winter. It’s not just an apples-and-oranges comparison: it’s more like comparing apple pie with orange juice.”
It's so complicated, it's no wonder they can't understand it... and yet we are encouraged to think ourselves fools if we question the things that are presented with certainty. 

"Is the Bar Too Low to Get Into Law School?" Or: "Why are so many law students failing the bar exam?"

A set of 5 short essays — including one from one of my UW colleagues — published in the NYT. The second question in my post title is the real question the essayists are answering. The first question is only one of the possible answers to that question, but for whatever reason, the NYT decided to use that one as the headline. There has been a drop in the number of applicants to law schools, and that's led schools to taking students with lower LSAT scores. It's not surprising that people scoring lower on one test would also score lower on another test. But the overarching question is whether the standards for becoming a lawyer are too low or too high.

One of the essays, by Nick Allard, the dean of Brooklyn Law School, begins:
No one who graduates from an A.B.A.-accredited law school with a strong G.P.A. should have to take the bar exam. The current exam is very expensive, and not a great measure of competence to actually practice law....

For too long the unregulated monopoly of the testing industry has masqueraded as the self-appointed guardian of professional standards.... It is time for the A.B.A., courts and law schools to take back control of the future of the profession (which they know better than a testing organization) and overhaul the way we evaluate the readiness of graduates to serve in the private and public roles of practicing lawyers.
He doesn't mention Wisconsin, but we're the test case. Look at us. There's no bar exam in Wisconsin for graduates of Wisconsin law schools (that is, my school and Marquette). Are our lawyers worse than your lawyers?

"There is no accountability... It’s shocking that almost every year there is some kind of death toll."

Said Madawi al-Rasheed — the anthropologist who has written books on Saudi Arabia — about the 310 717 pilgrims who died and 450 863 who were injured in a stampede near Mecca.
Mina, about six miles east of the city center of Mecca, provides temporary accommodation — with tens of thousands of air-conditioned tents.... Mina has been the site of multiple deadly accidents over the years. In 2006, a stampede there claimed more than 360 lives on the eve of the hajj.... In 2001, a stampede in Mina killed around 35 people; in 1998, about 180 pilgrims were trampled there after several of them fell off an overpass during the stoning ritual; in 1997, at least 340 pilgrims were killed in a fire in Mina set off by high winds; and in 1994, about 270 were killed in a stampede there.....

Professor Rasheed said that officials in the kingdom had avoided responsibility in part by citing the Islamic doctrine that anyone who dies during the pilgrimage — which a Muslim is expected to make at least once in a lifetime — goes to heaven.
In that context, "avoided" seems far too weak. The officials should be seen as assuming responsibility for encouraging people to look forward to dying in this known, dangerous situation. Think of the dynamics of a very large moving crowd. It's already a huge problem, even before you encourage the people to think a deadly stampede would be in their interest.

Here's a 2011 article in The New Yorker called "Crush Point/When large crowds assemble, is there a way to keep them safe?"
[Physics student Dirk Helbing]... observed that at certain critical densities, such as occur in a crowd crush, all forms of collective behavior vanish. Shock waves are the result not of collective behavior but of the failure of it. Individuals at the back of a crowd, unable to tell what is happening up ahead, push forward, not realizing that they are injuring the people in the front. Unlike ants and fish and birds, humans haven’t evolved the capability to transmit information about the physical dynamics of the crowd across the entire swarm. Ants, for example, are able to communicate within a swarm using pheromones. Iain Couzin, a behavioral biologist at Princeton University, told me, “With ants, as with human crowds, you see emergent behavior. By using a simple set of local interactions, ants form complex patterns. The difference is that we are selfish individuals, whereas ants are profoundly social creatures. We want to reduce our travel time, even when it is at the expense of others, whereas ants work for the whole colony. In this respect, we are at our most primitive in crowds. We have never evolved a collective intelligence to function in large crowds—we have no way of getting beyond the purely local rules of interaction, as ants can.”....
We are selfish individuals...

September 23, 2015

"I told that reporter, if female Dalai Lama come, the face must be very, very — should be very attractive."

"If female Dalai Lama come, then that female must be attractive. Otherwise not much use."

Is the Dalai Lama joking?

"No, I meant it, true."

“I don’t know, man. I went nuts. We didn’t know what the hell it was. It was scaring me to death, it was like a dinosaur. It was so ... ugly."

"That’s how he talks all the time. All he does is swear. He’s nuts... He was just spazzing out, and I’m just dying laughing."

Replacing pizza rat, it's... I don't know what that is.

ADDED: I'm reminded of the old SNL routine with Steve Martin and Bill Murray: "What the hell is that?"

The idea of restoring the sense of German-American ethnicity.

Here's an op-ed in the NYT, "Whatever Happened to German America?," written by Erik Kirschbaum, author of "Burning Beethoven: The Eradication of German Culture in the United States During World War I.”
It may be that an identity lost can never be regained. But why not try? It would be good for everyone, reminding millions of Americans that they too are the products of an immigrant culture, which not long ago was forced into silence by fear and intolerance.
It rubs me the wrong way — and as you can tell from my name, I'm partly German-American (the Pennsylvania Dutch kind) — this idea of instilling German ethnic pride on the "why not?" theory and the generic notion that we're all immigrants.

We're all Americans too, if you want to enthuse about what we "all" are. Kirschbaum groundlessly assumes that consciousness of ethnicity will be a moderating force, reminding us of humble beginnings and oppression and generating magnanimity.

I'm not surprised that NYT omitted a comments section for that op-ed.

IN THE COMMENTS: Smilin' Jack said... you can tell from my name, I'm partly German-American...

Make that "self-hating German-American", otherwise it would be Althaus.
Well, it's not as if I changed it. It was changed in the early 1800s, probably by people who got exasperated by seeing the sound "house" getting spelled as "house." I'd rather see the name fully anglicized. It seems unbalanced, as it is, but Oldhouse is a very unusual name. There are fewer than 119 Americans with that last name, which is something I looked up here, where I went to confirm by belief that Althouse is much more common than Althaus. In fact, there are 2,437 Americans with the last name Althouse, and only 1,205 with Althaus. As for Ann Althouse, there are 4 of us.

Confession: I read the Suzy Favor Hamilton memoir.

A few days ago, I blogged about a couple interviews with Suzy Favor Hamilton — the Olympian who turned into a high-priced prostitute:
[The Wisconsin State Journal] begins the interview by observing that SFH's book could be the new "50 Shades of Grey" and later asks if people are saying "there is too much sex in the book."...

We watched her hour-long interview on Dr. Phil's show, which was quite bizarre... Phil never got around to asking SFH what treatment she's had or is having, and she looks so strange, that we had to wonder whether she's on any treatment at all... I had the feeling Dr. Phil was also purveying sex for daytime-TV-watching women who want porn with deniability.... Why is SFH, if she wants to come across as reformed and relatable, wearing her hair like that and why do her eyes glint so lasciviously every time she talks about sex?
The book is "Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running from Madness." So is it a "50 Shades of Grey"-type thing — titillating, or porn with deniability— or is it the saga of mental heath suffering and healing that the authors/publisher seems to want us to think it is? Well, it turns out it's neither! There are many descriptions of sexual encounters, but they are not written in an erotic style. The reader is not, I don't think, drawn in to feel the excitement of the sexual behavior itself, and you can't really identify with SFH. She's a very unusual person! She's someone who loved intense athletic competition and then felt completely dissatisfied living a normal life — in Madison, Wisconsin of all places — with a handsome, loving husband and a nice daughter. She repurposed her strongly physical, competitive spirit in the game of prostitution, in the place that — like the Olympics for an athlete — was the center of the world — Las Vegas.
From such a young age, I’d been told I was special, a prodigy, destined for greatness, and I had spent my whole life chasing that dream on the track. Now, in Vegas, I was looking to be number one, too. At first, it had been enough to have the men I slept with tell me how amazing I was. And then, when I’d needed to take it up a notch, having sex for money had been enough. Then my need to compete turned into wanting more and better gifts from my clients. Now, chasing the high, I became obsessed with the rankings that clients gave escorts on the go-to website for information about escorts all over the world, the Erotic Review. The rankings were the thrill for me, and they fed my insatiable desire to compete. Vegas was no different than the track. If I was going to compete, I had to win. 
Formulating a plan of attack to climb through the rankings, I thought of regulars I could surely receive 10s from, and prepared myself to go the extra mile for new clients who, in turn, I trusted would write me a positive review. I wouldn’t rest until I was number one in Vegas.
When I first heard that SFH was writing a book with a mental health angle, I wrote:
This is the standard approach famous people use to explain sexual misbehavior when they get caught. But here's a person who worked for an escort service that scheduled $600 an hour dates for her in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago. It's a business venture that seems organized and deliberate, not some sad symptom of mental illness. Too bad she can't own it.
Having read the book, I think she does own it! The mental health observations are dotted around in there, and there's an epilogue that tells us she's had a diagnosis and treatment, but it's a very short epilogue and what propels her into the health-care phase is not that she, on her own, decided the life she was living was bad or wrong or unsustainable. It's that she got outed. But I think the book makes it clear that she loved what she was doing, that she wasn't debasing herself or denying her humanity. She loved the sex, as she tells it. She wasn't just pretending. She massively enjoyed it, and it was a bonus that she also got paid a lot to do it.

"I was doing something I loved and getting paid for it."

"I know that most politicians say we want everyone to vote, I’m gonna be honest with you, I don’t want everyone to vote."

"If they’re so stupid — that’s right, if they’re gonna vote for me they need to vote, if they’re not gonna vote for me they need to stay home. I mean, it’s that simple... But in the big picture, there are people who vote and they have no idea what our Constitution says... They have no idea what the limitations of government are supposed to be. The fact that the 10th Amendment expresses it very clearly, that if it’s not expressly written in our federal charter called the Constitution those power stay to the states."

Said Mike Huckabee, who seems to be mixing the Constitution up with the Articles of Confederation.

Articles of Confederation, Article II: "Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled."

Constitution, Amendment 10: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

But I'd still let Huckabee vote. 

Trump or Colbert?

I'd be more enthusiastic if I could embed this, but it's a good segment in which Colbert shows Trump a series of quotes, each of which was either said by Trump or the ridiculous conservative character Colbert played on his old show. It ends... strangely.

ADDED: I found an embeddable version:

Via Slate, which knocks Colbert for not being feisty enough:
What might a feistier Colbert have done? He might have included in this seemingly innocent game some of Trump’s most unequivocally racist remarks and made Trump own them in front of an unsympathetic audience. That might have ensured that Trump’s first visit on his show would be his last, but it would’ve been worth it.
Well, that's obtuse. 1. It's a comedy show, 2. The late-night tradition is to be a good host for your guests, and 3.  If you attack Trump, he attacks you. That's his specialty. He gains power.

One man's mural is another man's wall.

The vice chairwoman of the Missouri Republican Party is photographed writing on a business card that she holds, for support, against a wall that happens to be a Thomas Hart Benton mural.
The mural... “A Social History of the State of Missouri” is one of the most famous murals painted by Benton, an American Regionalist artist who traveled the state in search of authenticity for his subjects. This 13-panel narrative work, completed in 1936, was intended to captured the Missourian spirit and history. It incorporated 235 individual portraits and everyday scenes, from settlers raising a log cabin to the famous James Brothers robberies to slave mistreatment....
A commenter at the NYT snarks: "This incident perhaps says as much about 'the social history of the State of Missouri' as the painting itself."

I like to visit state capitols and can see that I need to get down to Columbia Jefferson City, Missouri some time. [Columbia is a state capital, just not the capital of Missouri, even though the linked article has the dateline Columbia, Missouri.]


How can you be in a building with rooms like this...

... and think a wall is just a wall? At least she didn't pee on it. Or have sex up against it.

"I am thrilled to be a part of the historic effort to set 'Happy Birthday' free and give it back to the public where it belongs."

A lawsuit we can all be glad has succeeded: "A judge ruled on Tuesday that the long-claimed copyright on 'Happy Birthday to You,' the most popular tune in the English language, is not valid."
The decision, by Judge George H. King of United States District Court in Los Angeles, is a blow to the music publisher Warner/Chappell and its parent company, the Warner Music Group, which have controlled the song since 1988 and reportedly still collect some $2 million annually in licensing fees for it.... Judge King’s 43-page decision delved into the complex history of the song — a paper trail of copyright registrations and yellowed songbooks that goes back more than a century....
Warner. Remember when it was Warner Brothers and Jerry Garcia said "There isn't even a Warner brother to talk to"?

The nerve of some corporations, collecting money for an old folk song, the epitome of what should be in the public domain.

You'd think in all these years of irritating phony copyright gouging, people would have abandoned the old song. It's no more necessary than "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow," which no one sings anymore. But you'll say it is necessary, because birthdays require that a song be sung. And the alternatives are... at best... inappropriate....

We’ve given up caffeine and sworn off desserts / I don’t try to seduce you, we don’t even flirt / We’re too good to be happy, too straight to be sad / So just blow out the candles...

"It ain’t over till it’s over."

And it's over, after 90 years, for Yogi Berra.

ADDED: "You should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise, they won’t come to yours."

September 22, 2015

"Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked a Republican bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy."

"The measure failed to advance in a 54-42 vote, falling short of the 60-vote threshold needed."
The measure would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at risk. The ban after 20 weeks is based on the idea that a fetus can feel pain at that point in its development, something that remains a matter of fierce debate....

Opposing the bill, Planned Parenthood argued that abortions after 20 weeks are extremely rare, but are sometimes necessary for medical reasons, like if the baby has a lethal disease that would cause them to die shortly after birth....

Flibanserin is answerin' the prayers of everyone in a happy, sexless marriage.

How will the Secret Service go about "protecting a pope who does not want to stay in his popemobile"?

It's a bit of a mystery, because, of course, they won't talk about it, but:
Large holding pens will be erected along the pope’s motorcade routes for onlookers who have been screened for weapons and explosives. No selfie sticks will be allowed near the pope. In New York, it will be illegal to operate a drone, and there will be no postal service in some areas....

Vatican officials say that the pope has insisted on using an open-air vehicle in some instances in the United States.... “When I’m going down the street, I wind the window down, so I can put out my hand and greet people,” he [once said]. “It’s all or nothing. Either you make the journey as you have to make it, with human communication, or you shouldn’t make it at all.”...
“Look, life is in God’s hands. I told the Lord: ‘You are taking care of me,’... But if your will is that I die or that they do something to me, I ask you only one favor: that it doesn’t hurt,” he said in a light tone. “Because I’m a big coward when it comes to physical pain.”

"But even if a spouse doesn’t reject a partner’s transition, most are, according to therapists and trans experts, unlikely to remain in the marriage."

"Anecdotally, this seems especially true when the transgender person’s partner is male. 'In my experience providing support for partners of people in transition, the majority are women,' says Helen Boyd, a gender-studies professor at Lawrence University whose writing about her own husband’s transition has become required reading for those dealing with this issue. 'Men either don’t stay or don’t seek support.'"

From a New York Magazine article titled "My Husband Is Now My Wife: Trans Women’s Wives on Their Own Dramatic Transformations."

"But could it be that people don’t actually want more sex?"

"Maybe when they are not actively having it, they overestimate how much they want — the same way I buy too much food when I grocery-shop on an empty stomach. 'Also, it could be a socially desirable option to the answer'... That is, people saying what they think they’re supposed to say — or supposed to want. Social expectations play a role...  How did we get to the point of wanting longer sex in the abstract but never really acting on it IRL?..."

From a New York Magazine article titled "How Long Should Sex Actually Last?"

I'd say (and this is not just about sex):

1. The best test of what you actually want is what you are actually doing.

2. There's a distinction between what you want and what you want to want.

3. Thinking about time is very different from living through time.

4. We tend to think about what we want to do, even when we're in the middle of doing one of the things we were previously thinking about wanting to do.

5. If you're thinking about time, you're already losing the experience of being in the moment.

"If the reason they are fun to drive is that they are spewing up to 40 times the amount of pollutants they are supposed to be, I just find it outrageous, frankly."

"“I’d be surprised if they can get that emissions under control and still have the performance.... That’s probably why they did this in the first place."

Diesel, "kind of slushy on the road," not "very peppy." But if it is... it's too good to be true, apparently.

IN THE COMMENTS: Joe Dirt correctly said: "The comment on about a 'slushy' ride and pep was related to the Prius, not the VW." And the Prius is not a diesel. So let me reframe my last line as a question: Would a diesel car feel sluggish if it was properly set to meet environmental standards? Did Volkwagen cheat because it couldn't make a diesel car that people would want unless they cheated?

"Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers’ All-World quarterback with Berkeley pedigree and long established hipster’s snark, threw some shade on Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson..."

"... after Green Bay’s 27-17 victory on Sunday. In the post-game version of sub-tweeting. Rodgers commented that God 'was a Packers fan tonight,' as he seemed to visibly fight a grin. Rodgers’s comments, subtle as a blowtorch, are being read as a direct response to the garrulously religious Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson’s comments after last year’s truly 'miraculous' come-from-behind playoff win over the Pack when he said that a Higher Power made him throw four interceptions because, 'That’s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special.'"

That's Dave Zirin in a piece at The Nation titled "Getting God Out of Football/Believers and non-believers alike should welcome Aaron Rodgers’s and Arian Foster’s dissent against the constant invocation of Christ in football."

I really don't care one way or the other whether football players attribute their fate to God. It's the kind of religion I put under the tag "lightweight religion." I'll join your effort to shush the God-talk from football players, Nation, if you first make it a thing to shame the casual "omigod"/"OMG" exclamations out of common speech. That's even more lightweight. Should we take offense or let it go?

I think The Nation just doesn't like football, and, sure enough, the truth comes out in the end, where we hear of the sport's "filthy underbelly" and "brain injuries" and "boozing and bacchanalia."

Bacchanalia. Who talks like that? People who build an argument on the idea that the person whose position they want to endorse has a "Berkeley pedigree." Rodgers didn't just go to Berkeley. He has a "pedigree." Yeesh. And as for "hipster’s snark" — the phrase that caused me to open up a "new post" window — when has Aaron Rodger's ever been considered a hipster? Hipster! Ridiculous.

And by the way, Rodgers actually was subtle:

Nothing blowtorch-y at all about that.

Presidential candidates on late night talk shows.

I had "Colbert" on the DVR and watched a little of Ted Cruz, then shut it off. Noticed there are clips up showing Fiorina on Jimmy Fallon's show. Watched the one where she sings to her dog. She has 2 Yorkies, and yet when Fallon asked her if her singing was "dorky," she failed to say "It's not dorky, it's Yorkie!" So that annoyed me.

A mumbled entreaty to a rat: "Live your best life."

Would you have had the presence of mind not just to photograph a sudden encounter of a beast at his best, but to speak to him, to speak words of wisdom?

Ah, but "Live your best life" seems to be an entire franchise of pop culture wisdom. I'm a little sad to see that. It seems to be Oprah-connected in ways I am not willing to explore. But for a rat, a rat who has hit the heights, finding an entire slice of pizza, the aphorism is exalted, even as the unseen human mumbles with, perhaps, only irony.

ADDED: The video made me think of the old Frank Sinatra song, "High Hopes." ("Just what makes that little old ant/Think he'll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can't/Move a rubber tree plant/But he's got high hopes, he's got high hopes..." — famously repurposed as a JFK campaign song. Insert "Rat Pack" joke.)

I'm resisting the prodding to feel "shocked" that Scott Walker is already out of the race.

"It’s hard to exaggerate how shocking it is that Scott Walker is out of the 2016 race on September 21," writes Jonathan Last at The Weekly Standard. It's "shocking" because:
On April 1, he led the field with 17 percent in the RealClearPolitics polling average. On August 1, he was in second place, behind Donald Trump, with 13 percent. And in the seven weeks since then, his support has collapsed to the point where he is in tenth place, with 1.8 percent—putting him just above Rick Perry, who has 1.0 percent support despite having dropped out ten days ago. The last three polls have Walker at 0, 2, and 2 percent support.
It was actually more shocking that Walker had ever leaped to the front of the group, and that wasn't really that amazing. The facts are:

1. Most Americans didn't know him and they were suddenly amazed by his one good speech.

2. That was his one good speech, his stump speech, used to fight the recall and then to get elected to a new term, here in Wisconsin. It was well-honed, but it only sounds new and amazing once.

3. 17% isn't really such a high number. It only reaches the top in a big field when people are still shifting around looking for somebody, anybody to favor. Walker's Real Clear Politics average topped out transitorily at 8 points above the next guy. Others — including Rubio and Christie and Huckabee — have enjoyed a stint at the top.
4. Walker, grabbing for a defining issue in the last couple weeks, went big on attacking public unions. It's no surprise that Americans — are we always hot to get angry about something? — didn't see fit to suddenly see unions as our biggest problem. Trump was able to suddenly forefront illegal immigration, so maybe Walker thought it could work to whip out a big new issue, but Walker didn't figure out how to make an equivalent move. Walker's not Trump, and unions aren't illegal immigration. For one thing, unions aren't illegal, and people don't reflexively think there's something wrong that needs immediate fixing. In Wisconsin, Walker got elected, along with his party's majority in both houses of the legislature, and then they revealed the legislation. They had the votes to pass their bill, and, from that position, they spent months trying to educate us about why public unions were a special problem, different from unions in general. It wasn't easy to understand. And they got a lot of pushback. How could Walker have thought he could do anything like that from the position of candidate? Even if he hadn't had to fight to be heard in a crowded field, Americans were in no position to learn the details of a new issue they hadn't been thinking about.

5. Walker had to do something impressive at the big debate last week. What he chose to do was to be the first person to butt in and interrupt when it wasn't his turn. He had nothing really to say at that point. Paul had been attacking Trump and Trump had just delivered a comic line — "I never attacked him on his look, and believe me, there’s plenty of subject matter right there." And Walker starts up: "But Jake, Jake, Jake, Jake…" Jake — the moderator Jake Tapper — pushed him back, because it was totally Trump's turn to speak. There was a rule that when you were attacked, you got a chance to reply. Walker insisted that somehow — absurdly — it was his turn: "But Jake, this — this is — this…" This is what? Important? No, it wasn't. Trump, in fact, got his turn. The next question went to Jeb Bush: "Governor Bush, would you feel comfortable with Donald Trump’s finger on the nuclear codes?" In the middle of Bush's answer, Walker started up again, saying: "Jake, this is — this is — this is…." This time, he got a chance to finish his "This is" sentence: "This is what’s wrong with this debate. We’re not talking about real issues." But then, instead of raising a "real issue," he took a shot at Trump: "And Mr. Trump, we don’t need an apprentice in the White House.... We have one right now. He told us all the things we wanted to hear back in 2008. We don’t know who you are or where you’re going. We need someone who can actually get the job done." That, of course, just gave Trump another chance to respond to an attack, and Trump being Trump, nobody even remembered Walker's line — "We don’t need an apprentice in the White House.... we have one right now" — which, I assume, his people prepared and coached him to deliver. Behind the scenes, I bet they believed they'd set up the take-away quote of the evening, the quote that would leverage Walker as the Trump slayer. But Walker got absolutely nothing out of that.

September 21, 2015

"Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has concluded he no longer has a path to the Republican presidential nomination and plans to drop out of the 2016 campaign..."

As the old song goes: We've got to keep him in Madtown.

Last February, I said: "Who knew that line ['We've got to keep him in Madtown'] would within 3 years turn into a limitation on his career? And who else do we have for Wisconsin? I'm not pushing him for President. I'm just glad he's helping us here with our problems."

Welcome back home, Governor.

UPDATE: He's suspending his campaign and also: "I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive conservative alternative to the current frontrunner."

He began with condolences to the family of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Patrick Crooks, which was the first I had heard that Justice Crooks had died. We already knew that Crooks was not running for reelection as his term ends after this year. Now, instead of an election between newcomers, Governor Walker can make an appointment, a conservative who will face the election as an incumbent.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says:
[Justice Crooks] did come to work on Monday for an administrative hearing but excused himself before the session was over and was later found dead in his chambers. Police and paramedics arrived at the court.

Three people had announced they were running for Crooks' position, prior to his formal announcement of his retirement. They include Milwaukee Circuit Judge Joseph Donald, Court of Appeals judges Joann Kloppenberg and Rebecca Bradley. Gov. Scott Walker could appoint someone to Crooks' seat prior to the spring election, or choose to leave it open.

Crooks was often regarded as a swing or more independent vote on the frequently divided court, voting with the liberal justices more often than Justice David Prosser, who also sided with both liberal and conservative factions depending on the case.

"Rampant sexual abuse of children has long been a problem in Afghanistan, particularly among armed commanders..."

"... who dominate much of the rural landscape and can bully the population. The practice is called bacha bazi, literally 'boy play,' and American soldiers and Marines have been instructed not to intervene — in some cases, not even when their Afghan allies have abused boys on military bases, according to interviews and court records."

"At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it..."

Should there be any discussion of whether Ahmed Mohamed actually "invented" his clock and what his true motives might have been?

I've avoided that discussion because I think the authorities, by egregiously overreacting to what was at worst a minor disciplinary problem, have drawn the exclusive focus on themselves.

At some point, I'm willing to criticize other adults for using a child to further their own political agendas, even as they celebrate the boy. The moral lodestar here is the welfare of the child.

I'm posting to explain my position because I'm seeing the famous know-it-all Richard Dawkins losing his bearings:
In a tweet, the scientist linked to a YouTube video entitled Ahmed Mohammed [sic] Clock is a FRAUD, in which user Thomas Talbot alleges Mohamed’s clock “is in fact not an invention. The ‘clock’ is a commercial bedside alarm clock removed from its casing”.

In his tweet, Dawkins said: “If this is true, what was his motive? Whether or not he wanted the police to arrest him, they shouldn’t have done so.” His next tweet said of the video: “This man seems to know what he’s talking about.”...

Dawkins eventually retreated.... “Sorry if I go a bit over the top in my passion for truth. Not just over a boy’s alleged ‘invention’ but also media lies about J[eremy] Corbyn.”
Dawkins seems awfully emotional in his posturing over his love for truth, so let me proclaim a greater love for truth. Here are 2 truths for which Dawkins showed insufficient passion:

1.  The question whether the clock was an "invention" should be recognized as a debate about the meaning of a word. It's ridiculous to badger a 14-year-old about a linguistic point.

2. The annoyance at calling the clock an "invention" should be recognized as a dispute with the adults who overplayed their enthusiasm over the child's brilliance and technological prowess. A child whose self-esteem is not perfectly aligned with the level of his accomplishments might have a problem, but, if so, it's nothing for strangers to be sticking their nose into.

Driverless pods... in the Netherlands.

The WEpod will be the first self-driving electric shuttle to run in regular traffic, and take bookings via a dedicated app.

What I like about this is the potential to overcome the nutty desire for more trains by overcoming the aversion to buses. Because these are, of course, buses. Of course... but... shhhh.

"Oregon is one of the first states to really grapple with the issue of what do you do with a record of something that used to be a crime and no longer is."

"Clearing a record of past convictions, even in states where recreational marijuana has been legalized, remains controversial."
“There’s a tension between what the bare record of a case would show and what the police or prosecutors believed could have been proven,” said Sam Kamin, a professor of criminal law and procedure at the University of Denver.

You have the power to change one word in the Constitution.

Pick one word and change it to one other word.

ADDED: After inventing that exercise, I happened upon this old quote from Robert Bork, from his 1987 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee:
[I]f you had an amendment that says ‘Congress shall make no’ and then there is an ink blot and you cannot read the rest of it and that is the only copy you have, I do not think the court can make up what might be under the ink blot.
Ah, but what if you had to say what was under the ink blot? What would you say?

"The Supreme Court ruling tells every gay fifteen-year-old living out in the middle of nowhere that he or she is as good as any other dope who wants to get married."

"To me it was a slightly mixed message, like saying we’re all equally entitled to wear Dockers to the Olive Garden. Then I spoke to my accountant, who’s as straight as they come, and he couldn’t have been more excited. 'For tax purposes, you and Hugh really need to act on this,' he said. 'But I don’t want to,' I said. 'I don’t believe in marriage.'"

In the new issue of The New Yorker — subscription required — David Sedaris takes on same-sex marriage: "A Modest Proposal/Just when you thought you’d never get married."

"Once you manage to effectively work a Harriet Tubman quote into your speech and not have it come off pretentious or grandiose, you’ve won the night..."

... say Tom & Lorenzo, before proceeding to the topic — it's a fashion blog — of what Viola Davis wore.
It’s a good dress.... We just have this thing about this sort of design, where all the embellishments are concentrated right at the waist of a gown. Even if it’s all well-placed and chic, it still looks like one of those visual tricks to fool the eye into seeing a waist smaller than it is. We like the “falling leaves” quality of the skirt, but we dislike the way the bust is completely white.....
Yes. Optical illusions are wonderfully useful, but the illusion is blown when we fixate on how it is an illusion.

The Harriet Tubman quote was: "In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line." Davis's take on that was downright conservative: "The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity." And a deft strike at Hollywood: "You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there."

The theory that Obama will endorse Biden but only if Biden commits to serving only one term and picks Deval Patrick as VP.

This is the "talk in Democratic Party circles," according to Edward Klein (linked, just now, by Instapundit). 

ADDED: If you're Governor of Massachusetts and want to be President, you do need to be Vice President first. Ask Michael Dukakis, Mitt Romney, and Calvin Coolidge.

"Liberals feel unworthy of their possessions. Conservatives feel they deserve everything they’ve stolen."

An old Mort Sahl joke, quoted in a NYT piece by Lee Siegel titled "Welcome to the Age of the Unfunny Joke."

Siegel, who's about to publish a biography of Groucho Marx, has observations like: "The laughter, if it comes, is a new kind of laughter: a satisfying release, but also distracted by an undercurrent of hard fact. In that sense, humor today is a continuing assault, or insurrection."

How far into the past do we need to go to find humor that wasn't interwoven with real-life things thing disturb us? Freud had that figured out in 1905.

Siegel ought to have to give us evidence that there was an earlier era when jokes had no "undercurrent of hard fact," when people giggled over jokes that did not relate to the troubles of real life. To the extent that Siegel is saying that many of today's real-life-related jokes aren't funny, there have always been unfunny jokes.

Maybe his point is: These days, we feel social pressure to accept and act appreciative of unfunny comedy that makes reference to subject matter that we believe we're supposed to take seriously. In the older era, the jokes about disturbing subjects gave us release, and that's why we laughed. In the new era, there's no release from anxiety. The laughter is the manifestation of anxiety about being seen as good people who care about the serious things we understand we're supposed to care about.

September 20, 2015

"It's been almost four years since Hillary Clinton came on a Sunday show."

Said John Dickerson, introducing Hillary Clinton on "Face the Nation." I watched it. Here's the transcript. I feel as though I should pick something specific out, but I mostly have a general observation, which is that it's exasperating to listen to her because she follows a pattern of beginning with a short, perhaps inadequate answer to the question asked, and then she dumps paragraphs of material as if the goal is to make you forget the question or at least lose interest in whether an answer will ever arrive. She'd be a lot more appealing to me if she gave a short, clear answer and then just stopped.

I'll give one example:
DICKERSON: Was [Benghazi] your 3:00 a.m. phone call? And how well did you handle that crisis, by the standard you raised in that ad?

"Ultimately, [Shahab] Ahmed concluded that Islam is not a religion in the usual Western sense..."

"... or primarily a system of religious law or a set of orthodox beliefs, as many contemporary Muslims have come to believe. Islam is rather a welter of contradictions -- including at the same time the tradition of orthodoxy and law and the contrasting, sometimes heterodox traditions of philosophy, poetry and mystical thought. Today’s Salafis miss the contradiction and complexity because they see Islam as only rule and creed... Defined this way, Islam contains multitudes. It incorporates the scientific study of nature, the philosophical inquiry into reality, and the mystical experience of seeking after the divine -- understood in its deepest sense of true love. Indeed, Ahmed described what he called a sixth madhhab, or school of Islamic law, beyond the orthodox five: the madhhab of love."

Writes Noah Feldman in "An Extraordinary Scholar Redefined Islam."

Let's visit America's tri-points! You know, trifinia!

There are 65 of them. Here's a map.
It has been more than six years since Brian bagged a new tri-point. “It’s a tough sell [to family] to suggest vacationing for the purpose of tri-pointing,” he said.

But Roger Simpson, 72, of Oklahoma City has had some success getting his wife and daughter to go along. The family’s Web site documents their travels to Oklahoma’s five tri-point monuments, all easily accessible by car.... “People would ask me, ‘Why would you go to such a desolate place. . . . There is nothing there.’... You are right, there is nothing there. That’s why I want to go there.”

"I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that."

Said Ben Carson on "Meet the Press" this morning.

"Jill Biden, sources tell NBC's Chuck Todd, is 100 percent on-board with a presidential run..."

"... despite reports indicating her hesitation is part of what's keeping Biden from jumping into the race. And that looks more likely by the day...."

Okay, then. He's running. Let's get on with it. The first debate is October 13th. Biden already qualifies for participation. (The standard is that you need "at least 1% in three national polls in the six weeks before the debate," and Biden has that.)

"On several different occasions, I saw tourists just gushing over squirrels."

"They were taking selfies with the varmints in the background. Some had telephoto lenses and were shooting pictures like they’d stumbled on a bald eagle. I saw a whole family of Italians, three generations of them, gather around as they watched a squirrel eat a nut, or a pizza crust, or maybe it was a used condom. Who knows? Who cares? When did squirrels graduate to exciting wildlife? My dog would be appalled.... Which reminds me, last month, the Goldbergs were at the Copenhagen zoo. They had lions, some really cool vultures, and African wild dogs. They also had a big open-air exhibit of . . . raccoons. North American dumpster-diving raccoons. I thought it was hilarious."

From the depths a Jonah Goldberg column that I'm reading because there's material in it about Suzy Favor Hamilton, the topic of another post this morning. Go here for that. This post is about people who get excited about wildlife you think is utterly mundane and/or a nuisance.

"When I share this pro-Francis enthusiasm with others (He ministers to the poor! He likes pizza! He’s an environmentalist! He used to be a bouncer!)..."

"... I find I’m far from unique in my affection. While no statistics exist to verify the phenomenon, it appears that, yes, the pope crush is a thing...."
Never mind the absurdity of hipster Christians as a concept (Christ died for my sins? Cool story, bro). If anything, Pope Francis is the anti-hipster, earnest and self-deprecating...

For him, for me, for so many of us who feel shunted aside in coverage of issues of faith, what religion represents is not control or a call to blind obedience or a cloak for corruption, but love and hope. Pope Francis, to us, is love and hope. Love for meaningful ties to tradition as well as hope for progress in the future....

"I was almost rooked in by this," says a high-rated commenter at a NYT "Modern Love" essay titled "'Quirkyalone’ Is Still Alone."

"To read here on Modern Love, one imagines he is about 29 or 30 or so. Ha! he's 48," the commenter writes.
Come on. He's not a lonely singleton looking for love. He's a middled aged player. I note he does not discuss whether he dates women 45-50 (his own age range) OR if he's trying to make it with 20-somethings. Huh. What do you think?

He doesn't want kids, and he's successfully avoided committed relationships for....OVER THIRTY YEARS.

He's a player, and he likes it. In NYC, there is always a new crop of hopeful young women crowding into the city, and playing right into his hands....he gives them hope, then shoots them down. In Men's Journal, he admits to dating two women at once....
Here's the referenced Men's Journal article by Tim Kreider: "Is Monogamy Insane?/You can blame evolution, chemistry, or just our own dogged libidos, but one thing is certain: It can be a bitch."

One thing I noticed was he used the word "swinish" in both articles.

In the NYT:  "Lately I’ve been having a lot of conversations with friends who find themselves still single in their 30s and 40s and are starting to worry that it’s not those swinish men/crazy women or New York City’s cruelly Darwinian dating scene or bad luck. It’s just them...."

In Men's Journal: "Behavior like my friend Kevin's, or the stereotype of the swinish middle-aged man who ditches his wife for some young chippie, is looked on by most women with a contempt that's ostensibly moral but is clearly more personal...."

"It sucks. It sucks that this has to happen to my daughter in 6th grade. It sucks that it's only the beginning."

"It sucks that she has to learn about her body in the context of men noticing it. I want her to be a strong girl, teen and woman. And I feel helpless. It's only going to get worse, and she needs to be ready. She needs to be ready so she can spot it and move past it. She needs to be ready, so she doesn’t believe what they say and can choose to disagree...."

"I'm interested in the Althouse reaction to Rush on Friday, about Fiorina being the agreed Trump destroyer between both establishment Dems and Republicans."

Asks rhhardin in the comments to this morning's post on the new CNN poll (in which Fiorina "rockets into second place"). I hadn't listened to the Friday show yet. I only intermittently play the podcast, which I used to listen to every day. Maybe it's me, but the show seems too slow-moving and repetitious these days. I'll read the transcript:
[The mainstream media] want to get rid of Trump.  It's not that they like her.  This is the mistake people are making.  It's not that they like Fiorina.  They never liked McCain.  They just made him think they did and everybody else.  They don't like any Republican....

I don't mean this to be insulting to Carly Fiorina.... They are never gonna support this woman, I don't care what they do and say now.... [A]fter Fiorina they'll come up with somebody else that they like all of a sudden, or make it look like they like.  And they'll start touting and they'll start highlighting, and they'll start making it look like they're really celebrating and promoting, and all of it is simply designed to end up with them once again picking our candidate.  And right now what they're trying to do is get rid of Trump.  But, by the way, not just the media.  The entire Washington establishment, which the media is a member of.....
I edited that way down. Read the whole thing if you want to see what I mean by Rush's repetitiousness. Anyway, what do I think of this? Is the media trying to get rid of Trump and seizing on Fiorina only because she's useful for that and because their real aim is to cause the Republicans to lose the election in the end? To believe that, you have to believe that the media genuinely fears Trump as a formidable candidate in the general election. I don't believe that.

I do think that much of the media (but certainly not all), wants to help Democrats win in the end. But the general election is a long way away, and for now, the media want ratings, and Trump has been great for ratings. He's very exciting and entertaining, but a lively challenger to Trump is also good for ratings, and Fiorina is a feisty, forcible speaker, unlike all the others, some of whom are almost ludicrously low key. In the end, I think the party is better off with someone who seems normal and has normal credentials — probably Bush, Kasich, or Rubio. But these people aren't much fun for now.

Now, it's also true that those — like me — who want a normal candidate with normal credentials might like Trump to get off the stage so things can become more normal, and Fiorina is performing a convenient function, sparring with him. Plus, it's good for Republicans to have a woman on the stage, fending off some of the usual gender politics problems that the party tends to have and undercutting Hillary's ability to build up credit by being The Woman in the race. But if Fiorina performs this function so well that she becomes conceivable as someone who could get the nomination, she's going to get attacked and we've seen the material that will be used against her.

Rush seems to think these attacks will be held in reserve until the media have achieved their goal and gotten her the nomination. But the other candidates — especially Trump — are going to be attacking her. And I don't think it's like McCain. McCain was like Hillary is now: a candidate from a previous election cycle who'd been waiting his turn and was the party's default candidate against whom no one else ever got traction.

Questioning Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton about her story that bipolarism led her into work as a high-priced Las Vegas prostitute.

 Wisconsin State Journal aims some skepticism at her: "Are people accepting that your bipolar led to this hypersexuality?" She answers:
SFH: That’s the hard part for people to understand. How can that be a mental illness? And if I explain it like that, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense, but if I let people know that two months before that even happened, I was given the drug Zoloft and that brings on the hypersexuality, that particular anti-depressant. We all know that anti-depressants can do crazy things to people.
She doesn't absolve herself of responsibility:
SFH: No, I can’t say that the bipolar is to blame because I knew what I was doing. I can say that the Zoloft triggered the hypersexuality... I lost touch with reality in that I lost touch with being a mother, being a wife. None of that existed....
WSJ begins the interview by observing that SFH's book could be the new "50 Shades of Grey" and later asks if people are saying "there is too much sex in the book." That sounds skeptical of the mental-health angle, which, I'm sure, is useful in getting the author on daytime TV and giving cover to the kind of readers who don't like to think of themselves as consumers of porn. SFH says she was just trying "to show the destruction of the disease and the illness."

We watched her hour-long interview on Dr. Phil's show, which was quite bizarre. Here's a couple minutes of it, from the beginning:

Phil never got around to asking SFH what treatment she's had or is having, and she looks so strange, that we had to wonder whether she's on any treatment at all. How could he not have asked? He's supposed to be Dr. Phil. Where's the doctor part? Isn't that atrocious set supposed to be kind of like a psychologist's office? And what's with the ominous music playing continually in the background? I had the feeling Dr. Phil was also purveying sex for daytime-TV-watching women who want porn with deniability.

You can see even in that short clip that the interview was full of edits. Maybe they did ask her about her treatments and her progress and the answers weren't interesting or weren't believable. Stray extra questions: What's up with blurring the pages of Dr. Phil's folder of interview notes? Why is SFH, if she wants to come across as reformed and relatable, wearing her hair like that and why do her eyes glint so lasciviously every time she talks about sex?

ADDED: Here's the book, "Fast Girl," which seems to be doing quite well at Amazon. SFH has now moved from Madison, Wisconsin to L.A., and I'd be very surprised if this didn't end up as a movie. By the way, Meade and I met Suzy Favor Hamilton. Back before the scandal broke, we were walking around the Capitol Square at some festival or another, maybe "Cows on the Concourse," and she was involved in promoting a product — potatoes, I believe. We were just reading a poster, looking for bloggable things, and this man — a promoter of some kind (potato?) — insisted on introducing her to us. It was pretty awkward!

UPDATE: I've now read the book, and I opine on it here.

New CNN poll has Fiorina in second place with 15%. Trump is first, but down 8 points from last time, at 24%..

The headline is: "Poll: Fiorina rockets to No. 2 behind Trump in GOP field."

But she only gained 3 points, while he fell 8. I don't know. Do the math and translate it into metaphor. 8 is 25% of 32 (8 points more than 24), so Trump lost a quarter of his previous support. 3 is 25% percent of 12 (3 points less than 15), so she gained 25%. Why is she considered the "rocket"? Because — as the first sentence puts it — she's "rocketed into second place"? It's not the encroachment on Trump but her getting in front of everyone else?

Oh! I see I misread that. She's up from 3%....

So, fine, rockets red glaring.