May 3, 2014

"It's cool!"

Drawings photographed with photographs.

"I think Mr. Sterling is being tested right now by a higher power or being and I’m forced to come to his rescue because he can’t rescue himself."

Says V. Stiviano, interviewed by Barbara Walters:

ADDED: "[A] beautiful black model named Jasmine... asked Sterling if she could take a photo with him..."
... and he responded, "I'm not that popular right now. Are you sure?' Jasmine said she was game...

As for how Jasmine feels about Sterling, she says, "It's 2014. I feel that everyone is a little bit racist and comedians joke about it all the time. But yeah, I do think he's racist."

"Males relentlessly bound from partner to partner, as massive hormone releases in their bodies cause their immune systems to crash and their fur to fall out."

"They bleed internally. Some males even go blind, yet still stumble around the leaf litter hoping for one last tryst. In a few short weeks, every single male lies dead, leaving the females to raise their offspring...."

"Shand's body was carried out the church in a biodegradable coffin as 'The Elephant Song' from the film The Jungle Book played in the background."

At the conservationist's funeral.

Is "The Elephant Song" "The Jungle Book" this?
Hup 2, 3, 4
Keep it up 2, 3, 4
Company sound off!
Oh, the aim of our patrol
Is a question rather droll
For to march and drill
over field and hill
Is a military goal!
Is a military goal!
That would be an oddly funny thing to sing while carrying a coffin, even a biodegradable coffin.

"Our distrust of saturated fat can be traced back to the 1950s, to a man named Ancel Benjamin Keys, a scientist at the University of Minnesota."

"Dr. Keys was formidably persuasive and, through sheer force of will, rose to the top of the nutrition world—even gracing the cover of Time magazine—for relentlessly championing the idea that saturated fats raise cholesterol and, as a result, cause heart attacks.... As the director of the largest nutrition study to date, Dr. Keys was in an excellent position to promote his idea.... Critics have pointed out that Dr. Keys violated several basic scientific norms in his study.... In 1961, Dr. Keys sealed saturated fat's fate by landing a position on the nutrition committee of the American Heart Association, whose dietary guidelines are considered the gold standard.... Too much institutional energy and research money had already been spent trying to prove Dr. Keys's hypothesis. A bias in its favor had grown so strong that the idea just started to seem like common sense...."

Excerpts from The Wall Street Journal piece "The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease" (also titled "The Dubious Science Behind Anti-Fat Crusade"). 

Many lessons to be learned here, including: Science ≠ Scientists.

Josh Rogin explains the journalistic ethics of recording John Kerry's "apartheid" remarks at a meeting of the Trilateral Commission last week.

Here, at The Daily Beast:
If a reporter agrees that a conversation or event is off-the-record, then of course he cannot print what was said during that interchange. But the unwritten rule—the one that directly applies here—is that if a reporter enters an off-the-record event uninvited and has not agreed to the off-the-record terms, he is free to report what happens inside that event. It’s the responsibility of the event organizers to keep reporters from entering events without invitations. As long as the reporter does not misrepresent himself and does not attempt to conceal a recording device, the event is fair game. That’s the rule....
People keep saying he "sneaked in," but what does that mean? The Trilateral Commission meeting was disclosed by the State Department and marked "closed press." The location was undisclosed but Rogin had a tip that it was at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, so he went there and "walked straight to the front entrance of the room, nodded politely to the staffer at the door (she nodded back) and entered along with dozens of other people who were filing in."

Rogin says the only thing he regrets is helping himself to the pork loin, chicken, and pilaf at the lunch buffet.

What is a piece of music that gives you chills in spite of your better judgment?

Yesterday's question "What Was the Last Piece of Music that Gave You the Chills?" got a big response in the comments, and it made me want to break out a separate question. Many commenters are naming exalted, high-class pieces of music that are exactly what one rationally believes should give us chills:
rhhardin said...
Faure piano quintet 2....

Anglelyne said...
Every other piece I've got on my "walkin' around" mp3 clip does that to me. Exhausting, if I go out for too long a walk. Last chill up: Jessye Norman does Dido's Lament. (As one of the youtube commenters remarks: "pure heavenly misery".)
I'm sorry, I clicked on the "Dido's Lament" and that guy making pizza dough to an irritating drumbeat came on. Will that guy ever get his damned pizza made? That was so not sublime! It's like Rickrolling, but without the fun of getting pranked. I have had it with that man. (← Althouse's Lament.)

But this feeling we are talking about is a physical sensation, some phenomenon in the nervous system, similar to a sexual response, and everyone, I think, will concede that sexual excitement often results from the perception of something that isn't at all exalted and high-class. I'm not asking you to tell me the most embarrassing/degrading thing that has sexually aroused you. In fact, it would be more interesting to ask: What's the most exalted, high-class sight/sound that ever sexually excited you?

So... sticking to yesterday's topic of music that gives you the chills, I want to focus not on the last thing that gave you the chills, but instances of getting the chills from hearing a piece of music that at a rational level you believe is unworthy of the response. I don't want to pick on any commenter, but I thought of this question as a result of this comment:
gadfly said...
Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You
Maybe you think that song is exalted, and maybe part of the response to it now has to do with sorrow over the decline and death of a gifted singer, but I think that if that song gave me chills, my rational mind would fight my physical body. I'd be self-judgmental — not harshly, because I'm not snobby about music, but in a humorous self-deprecating way. I'm not ashamed, here:

Why my tag for mothers is "motherhood" and my tag for fathers is "fathers."

Having just said that it "means something" that The New York Times put its article about Jason Patric's fight for the rights of sperm donors in its "Fashion & Style" section, I'm sensitive to the meaning of what I've long recognized as a strange lack of parallelism in this blog's tags. I've never bothered to look up the answer before, since I know it must have to do with the first post that seemed to need a tag on the subject, but now I'm interested in the specifics.

The post that led to the creation of the "motherhood" tag was "Brought up by a rabid feminist who thought motherhood was about the worst thing that could happen to a woman" (May 24, 2008). Obviously, the word "motherhood" was in the quote I used as the post title, so that preempted more subtle thinking on the topic, but what got enshrined in the tags was the abstract concept "motherhood," not the collection of human individuals who are mothers.

But now I'm puzzled, because the first post with the "fathers" tag also had the pre-existing tag "motherhood": "We bad moms are happy to confess our sins because we're confident..." (May 15, 2009).

This means that my long-standing lack of curiosity over the lack of parallelism was based on an incorrect assumption. Feel free to psychoanalyze me on the subject. Options: 1. Althouse elevates mothers to an ideal realm but leaves fathers in the mundane and concrete real world (and this means all kinds of things about what she thinks about gender politics and gender difference). 2. Althouse prefers simplicity, so she picked "motherhood" because it was right there in the quote and "fathers" because it's simpler than "fatherhood" (and never changing "motherhood" to "mothers" was itself a matter of keeping it simple).

When the "sperm donor" wants the legal status of father.

The actor Jason Patric is litigating over his status, struggling with a woman he never married and with a couple of abstruse California statutes. I put "sperm donor" in quotes in the title because Patric is squarely in the gray area between the traditional father and the sort of sperm donor whom the law properly shields (and cuts off) from parental rights and responsibilities.

The latter is someone who has no relationship with the mother at all — personal or sexual — and simply provides the material that is used to inseminate a woman who wants to have a child on her own or where there is another man who will be the father (but cannot provide the biological material).

The former is a man in a complete, ongoing, stable relationship with a woman who gives birth to a child as a consequence of the sexual intercourse that is an integral part of their relationship.

The woman Patric never married is Danielle Schreiber. The two (according to the linked NYT article) dated "off and on for a decade" and he tried to get her pregnant through sexual intercourse.
They decided in 2009 (at a time when they were not romantically involved but still friendly) to pursue artificial insemination....

The baby eventually helped rekindle a romance between Ms. Schreiber and Mr. Patric, although they never formally moved in together. 
When the couple broke up, Patric sued for shared custody, there was some mediation, he continuned to see the child, but then she cut off the visits. There's a dispute about whether he was scary and threatening. So that's the struggle with the woman.

The struggle with the California statutes is:
One provides that any man can establish parentage if he “receives the child into his home and openly holds the child out as his natural child.” But another statute holds that a man who provides his sperm to a doctor for the purpose of inseminating an unmarried friend is “treated as if he were not the natural father” — unless there is a specific written agreement ahead of conception.
There is no specific written agreement, but look at that first statute about holding the child out as your own. That seems to refer to a pre-DNA era. There's no question here that Patric is the biological father. So... does that mean that the law designed to protect the standard sperm donor should determine the outcome?

Is Patric's predicament unusual? The NYT connects it to the emerging practice of men informally providing sperm to women who want to be mothers. Citing "societal shifts," the Times prompts us to think about lesbian couples and single women who want to raise a child on their own who have obliging male friends and nobody bothers with the formalities sold by doctors and lawyers.

Patric is out there in public fighting for the rights of all these men who want the right to be part of their children's life. The mother is trying to get him to stop using the boy's name (for example in the name of the foundation, Stand Up for Gus), but she's been losing out to his free-speech rights. She seems mostly to want to be left alone. Meanwhile, there are the sperm donors who want to be left alone, who were only helping out a friend. Don't some of these men remain in the picture as a sort of uncle figure, doing some things with the child, but not too much?

One conspicuous celebrity can make soft-hearted/headed people think the laws need to change (or to be interpreted) to accommodate his exquisitely specific situation. I'm skeptical. I have no idea where the line should be drawn through the gray area Patric inhabits, and it's easy to say men should not become fathers outside of the traditional role, but in the midst of these "societal shifts," there's no way to protect everyone. And the knee-jerk answer "So protect the child!" is too abstract to prevent these ugly struggles.

ADDED: The NYT put this article in its "Fashion & Style" section. That means something!

May 2, 2014

An Uneasy New York Times Juxtaposition.

Click to enlarge and fully enjoy:

Here's the actual article, "An Uneasy Inheritance of India’s Political Dynasty," published in The NYT on April 30. Thanks to RLC for noticing that and sending me the screen shot.

Fritillaria and Grape hyacinth.

"What Was the Last Piece of Music that Gave You the Chills?"

"Studies have shown that our brains tend to send us a shot of dopamine in the anticipatory seconds leading up to our favorite parts of compositions, and that we respond similarly to grand changes in pitch and melody. It's something truly great, and it just happened to me...."

Observed on Observatory.

Closeup on the window sticker:

"I Still Stand With Scott Walker."

(Of course, that's always a song cue at Meadhouse... so: here.)

"Are White Republicans More Racist Than White Democrats?"

At FiveThirtyEight, they look at the statistics for the answer.

Also at FiveThirtyEight, "The ‘Blame Bush’ Era May Be at an End."

A poll.

The comments on this post about these James Franco selfies made me want to do a poll:

Judge the Franco photos. free polls 

Lean out, Hillary, and just be a "post-President," urges Tina Brown... sounding post-feminist.

Check out Brown's last paragraph:
Now that Chelsea is pregnant, and life for Hillary can get so deeply familial and pleasant, she can have her glory-filled post-presidency now, without actually having to deal with the miseries of the office itself...
Go deeply familial and pleasant! Chelsea is pregnant! Yikes. Is this some kind of "reverse psychology" — as we used to say — where you try to get somebody to do something by advising them to do the opposite?

Meanwhile, here's a Politico hit piece on Tina Brown: "How to Lose $100 Million/The undoing of Tina Brown."
Here’s how Regis Philbin killed Newsweek for Tina Brown:

"It is important to not merely isolate affirmative action policy but to put it in the larger context of a narrative of fear that suggests..."

"... that some people are advancing that ‘should not be advancing’ while others are ‘losing ground,‘... Unfortunately this narrative does not look at the demographic reality.... Nebraska is more diverse than UW. Thus, the scrutiny cannot be just about diversity because the numbers don’t seem to warrant the concern."

Says University of Wisconsin Education professor and assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs Gloria Ladson-Billings, quoted in a UW student newspaper article titled "Despite charges of unfair admissions process, UW’s student body remains mostly white." ("Mostly" = 85%.)

"We deal with the actual character of the person as we see it and as it is displayed."

Said Leon Jenkins, who has resigned from his leadership of the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP, displaying his character. How do you see it and deal with it?

"Sexiest Man Alive" thinks he's sexy.

And the award for Worst Judgment in a Selfie by an Academy Award Nominated Actor goes to... James Franco.

Could this be the end of selfies?

ADDED:  And the Award for Worst Judgment in Tweeting About Somebody Else's Selfie by a Sports Superstar goes to... Shaquille O’Neal.

AND: The Award for Best Dog Selfies goes to... Meade.

ALSO: I made this poll.

"This Town Needs a Better Class of Racist."

That's the title of an interesting essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic.

The idea is, roughly, that Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling are so crudely racist that we look at them, easily see that they are quite awful, deserving condemnation, and — this is the bad part — not at all like me and everyone I know. If those two are to be America's stereotypical "racists," it's going to get even harder to see the subtle, below-board, pervasive forms of racism that Coates and others have been urging us to perceive. We will self-indulgently feel smug that: 1. We've ostracized the racists, and 2. We are nothing like the racists.

If you're wondering what "Town" needs a "Better Class of Racist," I assume the town is Gotham, that is, that Coates means to evoke The Joker:

But it's this whole country Coates thinks needs a "better class of racist." He wants us to have to confront and mentally anguish over individuals who: 1. Are nice and normal enough that we identify with and cannot distance ourselves from, and 2. We're somehow compelled to perceive as racist.

I wonder what Coates would be willing to do to smoke out some high-class racists like that? And what would it take — especially after the harsh treatment of Bundy and Sterling — for Americans to respond to invitations to see nice-enough fellow citizens as racists?

50 years ago today: "May 2, 1964, saw the first major student demonstrations against the war in Vietnam."

"In New York City, 1000 students marched through Times Square to the United Nations to protest what was then called 'U.S. intervention' on behalf of the legitimate government of South Vietnam. More than 700 students and young people marched through San Francisco. In Boston, Madison, Wisconsin, Seattle, there were simultaneous smaller demonstrations. A start, but nowhere near enough. Nowhere near enough because very few students even knew about the war, or if they did, knew what it means, or what they could do about it. Now thousands know the nature of the war in Vietnam and its corollary deceit in the press and in our universities, and its concomitant at home. The May 2nd Movement calls that war and the resulting lies about it at home the products of an imperialistic system."

From "What is the May 2nd Movement?," a historical document preserved at The Sixties Project.

A Google news search on the term "the May 2nd Movement" turns up nothing, and I'm not finding anything more general about those protests. I'm particularly interested in the protests that took place here in Madison, and you might think Madison folk would be likely to commemorate 1960s protest. But a news search on "madison wisconsin vietnam" only brought up a couple of articles predicting the level of disorder that may occur on this, the weekend of the Mifflin Street Block Party, which, we're always told, originated in 1969 as a Vietnam War protest.

From protest to beer fest... and no one takes note of the half-century anniversary of the first major Vietnam Protest.

Shouting "fire" in a crowded media environment....

My post title alludes to the famous Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. line: "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic."

CNN is shouting fiery -fire in the hope of inciting a stampede toward the obviously tedious TV show. It's surely a false shout, but no one believes it. So there's no stampede toward the non-fire.

Here's the Wikipedia article "Shouting fire in a crowded theater." Excerpt:
People have indeed falsely shouted "Fire!" in crowded public venues and caused panics on numerous occasions, such as at the Royal Surrey Gardens Music Hall of London in 1856, in Harlem in 1884, and in the Italian Hall disaster of 1913, which left 73 dead.
And here's Christopher Hitchens on shouting fire in a crowded theater. 

The word "crossfire," of course, refers to gunfire, and it's interesting that CNN is reviving the old show title, given the hoopla over the use of a metaphorical target in something Sarah-Palin-related around the time of the Tucson massacre, after which we were all admonished to speak to one another with civility. But apparently, there are times when we must cast civility aside and snipe at one another, like when ratings are low.

And, by the way, just yesterday, Rush Limbaugh was going on about how mainstream news executives care more about being hip and cool than they care about ratings.  I don't know what CNN is doing with Van Jones and Newt Gingrich and the revival of "Crossfire." It's hardly hip, and it's not believable that anyone will watch. Maybe they think it will generate short clips that social media will pick up and share.

Ryan Seacrest's "shocking" Jeff Probst routine.

The night they made the "American Idol" contestant vote on whether to nullify the vote America went to all that trouble to phone in.
Caleb Johnson jumped right out in front of the group and proposed they unionize. Yes? Keep the group together?” he asked. Alex Preston seemed hesitant, and said either “no” or “I don’t know”...

When they came back from commercial, Seacrest read the votes —which were cast anonymously — like Jeff Probst reading results at the end of an episode of “Survivor.”...

So what was all this about? Were producers attempting to save Sam Woolf yet again? Or were they just trying to add a dose of intrigue to the show’s lowest-rated season?

Further, who were the two “no” votes?
Well, they all had an interest in acting like they love each other, but Caleb grabbed the most credit for acting out that love. Did any or all of them worry that the truth of how each of them voted would come out, and that the discrepancy would be held against them? Perhaps they are even too honest to act as if they're voting "yes" when they are voting "no."

I found this "twist" really irritating. Don't incite the public to vote and then interpose a veto. The ordeal of watching all those performances is endurable only because you know somebody's getting the boot.

"People say smoking costs lives... It saved my life."

Said James Goodson...

... the Army Air Forces ace, who has died at the age of 94.
[In June 1944], he was in his P-51 making a strafing run over a German airfield when he was shot down. He fled into a birch forest before collapsing from injuries. He eventually was caught by the Germans and threatened with execution.

He recalled that one captor asked him if he wanted a drink or another indulgence before being shot. Mr. Goodson spied a box of Havana cigars, asked for a stogie and began to blow smoke rings, which he said shocked the German and led to a conversation about their mutual interest in cigars.

“The guy had never seen anything like that,” Mr. Goodson once said in an interview, “and I started teaching him how to blow smoke rings.” Instead of being shot, he was sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.

“People say smoking costs lives,” he said. “It saved my life.”

"It would be unlike me to write about the promise of spring without mentioning that spring is suicide season."

"There are a lot of theories about why spring has the most suicides, but the majority of the theories take into account the relationship between spring and loneliness."

The 3rd-to-the-last paragraph of "There’s a high price to hiding from the need to transition," at Penelope Trunk's blog.

Here's some friend-making advice: "circle... sniff... okay... from now on we'll be old friends."

May 1, 2014

"As a result of the decisions that I made, people said, 'I'll follow you Mr. President.'"

"And to see somebody who is struggling with getting mental balance is hard, and it should be hard for all of us."

Lindsey Graham says "The scumbags are the people in the White House who lied about" Benghazi.

He threw that in at the end of defending himself against a statement by "some guy... on the left" who'd said that "the only reason I cared about this was because I have six tea party opponents": "Well, if that’s true, I’m the biggest scumbag in America."

"If you’re attracted to owning a sports team, there is something very sinister about you."

From a Daily Beast interview with John Oliver (who has a new HBO show that satirizes the news):
There is this cult of moral outrage that exists today, where people turn even the slightest indiscretion into a huge scandal.

Because it’s easy, and there’s no time for thought.

Take the Donald Sterling thing. Racist old guy, with a mistress…

…in a league which has tolerated this, systemically, over a decade—and not just from him, but other asshole owners. If you’re attracted to owning a sports team, there is something very sinister about you. There is a much deeper problem. It’s pathetic.
Yes, let's dig much more deeply into the etiology of sports-team ownership. Don't over-focus on Sterling, who's already toast. What about the rest of them? And it's not just about race, it's about sex.

Notice how in Oliver's answers to the prompts — they're not really questions — he's complaining both about using scandals because they are so easy and the newsfolk don't have to think much, but also saying that the same material that is so titillating deserves more attention, more investigation, more broad-ranging thought.

I think I agree with that. If you're going to latch onto Sterling and demonize and destroy him in a few days, you're setting a standard that you have to be willing to apply in a principled, across-the-board manner. You can't ethically take your fill of Sterling, then walk away satisfied.

Trailer for the new Dinesh D'Souza movie, "America."

"The worst excuse ever: The Rhodes memo debacle."

By Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. That's helpful, sorting through egregious bullshit.

But surely that can't be the worst excuse in the history of the world. If you're going to pick apart other people's rhetoric, you ought to resist deploying superlatives. They are never rarely accurate.

Maybe she should have written: Worst. Excuse. Ever. 

Just kidding. I'm so glad that people have gotten over writing like that. I think they have anyway. And perhaps Rubin's headline is a vestige of that obsolete humor form.

Anyway, I wonder what actually was the worst excuse ever.

30 years.

Yesterday was the last day of classes in what is my 30th academic year.

"A horse is a horse, of course of course / And no one can have a discourse with a horse..."

We were just talking about the important new game called "Vox-shaming," and James Taranto has a fine entry. I'm only going to quote the part I found hilarious.

Not that anything is supposed to be funny about the Israeli-Palestinian problem, but there's a Vox article called ""Does It Matter That John Kerry Compared Israel to Apartheid?" that says "pretty much the entire American discourse around Israel-Palestine has devolved into an endless stream of language-policing. . . . This is all discourse about discourse," to which Taranto retorts:
A horse is a horse, of course of course / And no one can have a discourse with a horse / That is, of course, except discourse with the Famous Mr. Ed. Or, as the New York Times once put it: " 'John Kerry walks into a bar,' goes the Washington version of the old joke. 'Bartender says, "Hey, Senator Kerry, why the long face?" ' "

"Mad".. "Screw"... what's the difference?

At the NYT right now, presumably soon to be corrected:

Al Goldstein was the notorious pornographer, who published "Screw" magazine. He died last December. (Obituary blogged here.)

Al Feldstein, the subject of today's obituary, was a key figure in "Mad" magazine. He took over from its founder Harvey Kurtzman:
[Feldstein] hired many of the writers and artists whose work became Mad trademarks. Among them were Don Martin, whose cartoons featuring bizarre human figures and distinctive sound effects — Katoong! Sklortch! Zazik! — immortalized the eccentric and the screwy; Antonio Prohias, whose “Spy vs. Spy” was a sendup of the international politics of the Cold War; Dave Berg, whose “The Lighter Side of ...” made gentle, arch fun of middlebrow behavior; Mort Drucker, whose caricatures satirized movies like Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters” (“Henna and Her Sickos” in Mad’s retelling); and George Woodbridge, who illustrated a[n article about] 43-Man Squamish, “played on a five-sided field called a Flutney.” Position players, each equipped with a hooked stick called a frullip, included deep brooders, inside and outside grouches, overblats, underblats, quarter-frummerts, half-frummerts a full-frummert and a dummy.
A very nicely written obituary... except for SCREWing up the name.

UPDATE at 10:16: The NYT has fixed the error.

Why Donald Sterling has a big incentive to fight the forced sale to death. Literally.

"Forced Sale of the L.A. Clippers Could Cost Donald Sterling $100-$200 Million in Taxes." These are capital gains taxes. Sterling bought the team cheap, and if he must sell, he'll sell high.

He's 81, and if he dies and passes the asset to his heirs, their asset will begin at the current market value, avoiding an immense tax burden.

That's Sterling's motivation to mount a time-consuming legal fight, even if it's one he ultimately loses. He's got $100+ million in taxes to save by dying before the team is sold. Not that you can take it with you. You can't. But if he cares about his family, or if he hates to see the government get all that money, he's going to fight like hell.

Does he care about his family? I see that he has 2 living children. There was a third child who died a little over a year ago, seemingly of a drug overdose.

There's some dispute over whether the hate-object-of-the-week Donald Sterling is a Republican or a Democrat:
According to Los Angeles County records, Sterling has been a registered Republican since at least 1998. Sterling has also made campaign contributions to at least three Democratic candidates as well — Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, former California Gov. Gray Davis and former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey, a former basketball star.
I'm going to guess he's a Republican, because I think he's going to fight the forced sale like mad, and it's the Republicans who hate taxes.

A Democrat would humbly remit $100-200 million to the government in honor of the principle that taxes are good because government is good:
Franklin Delano Roosevelt once remarked that “Taxes, after all, are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society.” And Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. expressed a similar sentiment when he said that “I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization."

Is "Millionaire Mary" — for Mary Burke — a political nickname equivalent to — for Scott Walker — "Scooter" and "Koch-Head"?

Over at The Daily Beast, Eleanor Clift — Eleanor Clift is still around? — pushes Mary Burke, Scott Walker's likely opponent in the fall. Clift begins:
Republicans call her “Millionaire Mary,” but Mary Burke has plenty of assets aside from her wealth to make her a strong contender to derail the reelection of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, along with his dreams of the presidency. 
I am here in Wisconsin minutely following politics day by day — every single day — and I have never noticed the moniker "Millionaire Mary." I asked Meade if he'd ever heard that, and he said no. So Clift can't get 5 words into her column without hitting a blatantly false note. Scrolling down, I see the term comes from Burke herself, whom Clift interviewed:
Burke... was recruited to run for the Madison school board, a race that she won in 2012 with the help of $128,000 of her own money. “Millionaire Mary, they’re just using that,” she says of Republican efforts to denigrate her wealth. “I have been very clear that what I can put in is a fraction of what’s needed,” she says.
Republicans denigrate wealth?

Googling, I see the descriptor "millionaire" used occasionally in GOP headlines with her full name, e.g. "Millionaire Mary Burke Says More Money for Taxpayer Is 'Irresponsible,'" but that's quite different from having a standard nickname using just her first name, "Millionaire Mary," like "Typhoid Mary" (or the more political — and, incidentally, more phallocratic — "Tricky Dick" and "Slick Willy").

But here's an article from PolitiFact, last November, specifically about the use of political nicknames in the Wisconsin governor's race:

"Nino's No-No."

I chose Nina's "Nino's No-No" headline from among the possible headlines to blog about that mistake Justice Scalia made the other day, and I see that Nina Totenberg is pleased with her own headline writing:
[W]hen a Supreme Court justice pointedly cites the facts in a decision he wrote, and gets them exactly wrong, it is more than embarrassing. It makes for headlines among the legal cognoscenti.

I'm not sure I rank as one of the cognoscenti, but here's my headline for Justice Antonin Scalia's booboo: "Nino's No-No."
Nina notes that some Scalia law clerk " is — to put it in delicate terms — likely having anatomical changes made to his or her body." I think that's a reference to the old guillotine metaphor heads must roll.

Or am I inclining toward French imagery because Scalia's horrible error appeared right under a subheading that read "Plus Ça Change: EPA's Continuing Quest for Cost-Benefit Authority"?

If you're going to dissent, criticizing the comprehension of others, and you get flashy about it with attention-getting language — like "Plus Ça Change," which requires more than the ability to read French — you're glaring light on any mistakes of your own you may make. If you take an imperious tone, you're setting yourself up for a harder fall if you trip.

The "Plus Ça Change" phrase has, along with the correction of the mistake, been replaced by the very modest "Our Precedent."

"Plus Ça Change" requires more than the ability to read French because it's only the beginning of a longer phrase, and the meaning is only understood by those who know how the phrase ends:  "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." But it's just what is a reasonably well-known aphorism in English: The more things change, the more they remain the same.

The French aphorism, by the way, comes from the 19th century writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, who also said, on the topic of abolishing the death penalty: "Je veux bien que messieurs les assassins commencent"/"Let the gentlemen who do the murders take the first step."

April 30, 2014

FiveThirtyEight continues to ferret out the truth about what really matters — like which states count as "The Midwest"?

"To get this broad-based view, we asked SurveyMonkey Audience to ask self-identified Midwesterners which states make the cut."

See, because what you need is data. Because data can be analyzed. And with that data we learn that the heart of the heartland is Illinois. Or is "heartland" a somewhat different place? Maybe another SurveyMonkey for "heartland" and then a Venn diagram showing the overlap.

Are you in The Heartland and/or The Midwest? free polls 

FiveThirtyEight follows up with "Which States Are in the South?" I have a few questions here. For example: How did only 80-some percent think Mississippi is in The South?

Also, I have an answer about Delaware, where I was born and raised. Apparently somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of those who identify themselves as Southerners see Delaware as part of the south. Living there, I didn't know anyone who had the idea that we were in The South, but as an adult, I have been told repeatedly, often by people who were laughing at me, that's because I'm white. So maybe we need 2 maps of which states are in The South, based on 2 surveys — one from those who identify as southern and black and one from a those who identify as southern and not black.

"Pop Culture Recasts Obama as Drone Master" — a NYT headline I misinterpreted.

That's the front page teaser for an article that has a slightly different headline "The Rise of the Drone Master: Pop Culture Recasts Obama." I clicked through because I thought it would be funny if pop culture had started mocking Obama's style of speech. He's no longer eloquent. He's verbose and dull — droning. The Drone Master.

But no:
In Marvel’s latest popcorn thriller, Captain America battles Hydra, a malevolent organization that has infiltrated the highest levels of the United States government. There are missile attacks, screeching car chases, enormous explosions, evil assassins, data-mining supercomputers and giant killer drones ready to obliterate millions of people....

"Tina Fey picking a 5 foot tall husband might suggest that she views those other taller men as potentially dangerous at a subconscious level."

"Finally, you have the answer to why this post is titled: 'Tina Fey Scar = Short Husband?' Crazy speculation?"

"Wall Street is coming to grips with the possibility that Twitter may remain a niche service, rather than become the next Facebook."

Says The Wall Street Journal.
While Twitter has proven to be a powerful communications tool for celebrities, activists, marketers and journalists, it hasn't caught on with mainstream users. Facebook, meanwhile, has become a required place to share photos and life's daily happenings.
I thought the young people were all leaving Facebook. Maybe people will just get sick of all the "required" sharing. What if a higher standard of what counts as interesting and worth saying were to catch on? Where would rich folk park their extra cash?
Given its fast-paced nature, Twitter's service can at times make users feel like they are alone in a crowded room. The company has tried to make users feel more connected by making it easier to find people they already know.
Loneliness in a crowd... the worst kind of loneliness. Discover solitude — loneliness elevated and sublimated, but you have to get away from the crowd. The answer is not in the crowd, even if a company tries to make you feel you've got company. You're on your own.

ADDED: Here's an essay by Todd Gitlin from January 2000, "How Our Crowd Got Lonely":
Half a century ago, Yale University Press published the first edition of ''The Lonely Crowd,'' by David Riesman with Nathan Glazer and Reuel Denney. The book's subject was nothing less than a sea change in American character: as America was moving from a society governed by the imperative of production to a society governed by the imperative of consumption, the character of its upper middle classes was shifting from ''inner-directed'' people who as children formed goals that would guide them in later life to ''other-directed'' people, ''sensitized to the expectations and preferences of others.'' In Riesman's metaphor, the shift was from life guided by an internal gyroscope to life guided by radar. The new American no longer cared much about adult authority but rather was hyperalert to peer groups and gripped by mass media....

Though published when television was still a fledgling medium, it took seriously the fact that Americans had been plunged into a media bath....

Should the GOP run Rick Perry against Hillary Clinton?

Dick Morris explains a key difference between the tastes of Republicans and Democrats:
Of the last eight people who have won the Republican nomination for president, six ran for the office and lost before they eventually got their party’s designation. To win as a Republican, it would seem you have to first go through losing.

Romney, McCain, Dole, Bush-41, Reagan, and Nixon all lost before they won. Only Bush-43 and Ford won without first losing. (And Ford inherited the nomination and almost blew it).

Not so in the Democratic Party. Of the last seven nominees, only Al Gore first lost before he eventually got the nomination 12 years later.
That's about getting the nomination, not winning the election. The GOP's last winner — who won twice — was the one who hadn't tried for the nomination before. It seems to me the GOP has terrible luck with its propensity to go back to the old loser who seems to have waited his turn.
Republicans don’t like to take chances. They want their candidates to have served their apprenticeship as losers. The Republican voters are agoraphobic, fearful of new situations and people. It takes them a while to get used to new candidates and those who have run once and learned their lessons have great appeal. So keep your eye on Perry.
Because he just might win the nomination and proceed to lose the election? Anyway, buried in that column — if you care about the thoughts of (speaking of old losers) Dick Morris — is some pushing of Scott Walker:
Walker... is interesting because he has been, hands down, the best Republican governor in recent years. He slew the teachers union, freed the schools, funded education, cut taxes, created jobs, and survived repeated political assassination attempts. He has the courage, fiber and vision it would take. 
And you know how much Republicans need fiber. 

"How Oklahoma Botched an Execution."

It wasn't the new drug cocktail, it was the needle and the vein.
In all likelihood, the executioner who inserted Lockett's IV—and, in Oklahoma, an IV is inserted into both arms—missed the veins or went right through them. After this likely mistake, the state, according to the protocol, would have had “three persons to administer lethal agents”—that is, to push the drugs through the IV line....

After the first drug is administered, the Oklahoma protocol requires the supervising physician to confirm that the patient is unconscious. The AP says the doctor did this 10 minutes after Lockett’s execution began. The other two drugs were then being administered when the execution team recognized a problem. Lockett started clenching his teeth and trying to lift his head. At this point, the doctor inspected Lockett and recognized the blown vein. A curtain was pulled so witnesses could not see what happened next. The Department of Corrections called off the execution and even tried to resuscitate Lockett, but it was too late: He died of a heart attack.
That sober analysis comes from The New Republic, which illustrates the article with a stock photo of an empty gurney in a prison chamber.

Meanwhile, The Daily Mail has photos of the dead convict and his victim and highlights facts about the crime ("shooting a woman and watching his friends bury her alive"). There's also a photo of another man who was also scheduled for execution and what that man did to deserve it — he raped and killed an 11-month-old girl — the details of the last meals of both murderers. There are over 2000 comments at The Daily Mail, and the best-rated one, with over 6000 up votes (and only 300 down votes), is:
Considering "Lockett was sentenced to death for shooting a 19-year-old Perry woman and watching his friends bury her alive," as I have read elsewhere, I don't have much sympathy for his writhing and shaking.
The next favorite is: "Hmmmm.....I don't think I care...." Followed by:
This man forced his teenage victim to watch his accomplice dig her grave, before he stood her in it and shot her. This was after he duct taped her and beat her. Her crime? She wouldn't hand over the keys to her truck. If there's an afterlife, I hope she was standing next to that gurney for those twenty minutes of agony that he laid dying, and I hope he saw her there, waiting for him.
The worst-rated comment is: "End this madness. Abolish the death penalty now." Second worst-rate: "The death penalty is barbaric, cruel and unusual punishment. I am ashamed this country practices this great evil."

People support the death penalty, and I suspect they would support deliberate, extended torture if it were an option. It's enough to make you worry that there's a temptation to botch lethal injection execution intentionally. I'm sure death penalty opponents think Oklahoma's horrible incident will turn people against the death penalty, but it doesn't seem to work that way. Personally, I am opposed to the death penalty. It transforms a murderer into a victim, an object of pity... at least to some of us. Most people seem to remain focused on the murder victims (and those who loved them), and any suffering that befalls the murderer will always be deemed far out of balance with the suffering he caused.

"How privileged are you?"

A checklist. 

I'm 53% privileged. Meade is 32%, and unlike me, he had to check "I am a man." What's happening there? I pressured him about whether he was straining his interpretation of the questions to try to avoid having to check things.

Did he check "I have never gone to bed hungry"? I checked it, but I could have interpreted "going to bed hungry" to include the times I felt peckish but had already brushed my teeth and was too lazy to go through the rigamarole of finding something in the refrigerator and brushing my teeth again. Meade, who did not check that one, assures me that he interpreted the question in the spirit of the project, which purports to identify attributes of privilege, and in that spirit, "going to bed hungry" means going to bed hungry because of genuine financial constraints.

We got to that Buzzfeed quiz via David Blaska, whose blog post on the topic is called "White, middle-aged (plus), and male? I plead guilty as hell!"

Facts about Althouse's Buzzfeed-tested lack of privilege: I have been denied an opportunity because of my gender (I was excluded from the lighting crew in high school theater; I was excluded from mechanical drawing and shop in high school and required to take cooking and sewing). I have been called a racial slur ("albino").  And a stranger has asked me if my hair is real ("Is that a wig?").

April 29, 2014

Exploiting the Boehner/boner pun...

... is that a good idea?

That ad for J.D. Winteregg cost him his teaching job at a Baptist university.

"Newly released emails on the Benghazi terror attack suggest a senior White House aide played a central role..."

"... in preparing former U.N. ambassador Susan Rice for her controversial Sunday show appearances -- where she wrongly blamed protests over an Internet video."
The email [from Ben Rhodes, an assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for strategic communications] lists the following two goals, among others:

"To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy."

"To reinforce the President and Administration's strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges."

After a trial on the Wisconsin Voter ID law, Federal Distict Judge Lynn Adelson finds a violation of Equal protection and the Voting Rights Act.

The Nation reports:
Judge Adelman found that 300,000 registered voters in Wisconsin, roughly 9 percent of registered voters, lacked the government-issued ID required by the state to cast a ballot...

“The evidence adduced at trial demonstrates that this unique burden disproportionately impacts Black and Latino voters,” Adelman wrote. Data from the 2012 election “showed that African American voters in Wisconsin were 1.7 times as likely as white voters to lack a matching driver’s license or state ID and that Latino voters in Wisconsin were 2.6 times as likely as white voters to lack these forms of identification.”...

Judge Adelman argued that the state of Wisconsin presented no evidence of voter fraud to justify the burdens of the ID law. “The evidence at trial established that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin"...

The problem in Wisconsin wasn’t only the large number of voters who lacked ID, but the Kafkaesque hurdles voters had to jump through to obtain the correct ID....
Obviously, there will be appeals, but this factfinding is significant and sets this case apart from the U.S. Supreme Court's Crawford case upholding the Indiana voter ID law in 2008. In that case, the district judge had granted summary judgment against the challengers of the law because they had "not introduced evidence of a single, individual Indiana resident who will be unable to vote as a result of SEA 483 or who will have his or her right to vote unduly burdened by its requirements."

Fear in Canada of an explosion...

... of a whale. 
"It's very difficult to keep people away, simply because it's not too often that you see a blue whale."
So... fear and curiosity... curiosity sufficient to overcome the risk of a sudden spew of the rotten innards of the world's largest creature swollen to twice its normal size.

"I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers association or the NBA."

"Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices, he may not be present at any Clippers facility, and he may not participate in any business or decisions involving the team."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced just now. He's also imposing a $2.5 million fine and urging the owners to vote to force Sterling to sell the team. The press conference was quite interesting, with many references to the NBA constitution and Silver's powers under it, which, of course, I have never studied. Obviously, Silver has his lawyers. It's interesting that so much could be done so quickly and in the heat of immediate outrage over remarks made in what was a private conversation with one other person.

ADDED: Silver is getting praise for his great leadership, and there was immense pressure on him to act to control the severe damage to the interests of the team's players. I question how much process he gave to Sterling — other than to get a confession that the voice on the tape was Sterling's — but I am guessing that Silver determined that it was worth it to act boldly and to deal with Sterling's legal responses after the fact.

"How the Democrats Can Avoid Going Down This November/The new science of Democratic survival."

An article by Sasha Issenberg in The New Republic that focuses on the correlation between voting Democratic and skipping nonpresidential elections. The answer to "how" — I would guess — has to do with understanding the minds of these people so that they could be fired up to vote in the midterm elections. But Issenberg says:
The real reason Democrats have embraced a progressive agenda has not been to energize their own base but to lure Reflex voters from the other side. 
"Reflex" voters = people who vote regularly (as opposed to "unreliable" voters, who only vote in presidential elections).
Obama and his party’s candidates talk about the minimum wage in the hope that working-class whites skeptical of Democrats on other matters will become more ambivalent about voting Republican. Democrats’ renewed interest in women’s issues—including a defense of Planned Parenthood and embrace of equal-pay standards—is also designed with defections in mind. In 2012, the Obama campaign’s entire direct-mail program on women’s issues was targeted at reliable voters who leaned Republican: Field experiments in the first half of that year had showed that the messages were most persuasive among voters whose likelihood of voting for Obama previously sat between 20 and 40 percent. 

"Preparations for the 2016 Rio Olympics are the 'worst' ever seen..."

"... according to International Olympic Committee vice-president John Coates."

These are the Olympics that were supposed to be in Chicago. At the time of the decision giving the Olympics to Rio, White House senior adviser David Axelrod said:
"The president made, I think, a very strong appeal, and it didn't work out. But it was well worth the effort..." Axelrod said Obama's appeal wasn't strong enough to overcome the "internal currents".... "I think there were other things that played there that we simply couldn't overcome, and that's life. Life goes on."

"I got my feelings hurt and I picked a fight with my husband... The police called it disorderly. Thank God it's orderly now."

Says Edie Brickell, 47, married to Paul Simon, 72.

Both got arrested. Both seem to be colluding to smooth over the whole dismal matter now. Brickell is cracking jokes. "The police called it disorderly. Thank God it's orderly now." Does she write her own domestic-dispute jokes?

Do we need to revisit the old Battered Woman Person Syndrome checklist?

SOS Kerry on the "apartheid" remark he didn't know was being recorded: "If I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word..."

"... to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution... In the long term, a unitary, binational state cannot be the democratic Jewish state that Israel deserves or the prosperous state with full rights that the Palestinian people deserve."

If I could rewind the tape... in other words, if I knew that there was going to be a tape.

If I could rewind knew there was going to be the tape, I would have chosen a different word avoided the clear language that makes what I mean to say comprehensible, and I would have deployed the mind-numbing, meandering verbiage that has work for me for years either to effectively lull people into thinking that they in their weakness must have drifted off and missed the point or to arrive at the absurd but self-flattering belief that they appreciate the subtle explications of The Man of Nuance.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:

The "glass cliff" — explaining the high rate of firing female CEOs.

"Over the past 10 years, 38 percent of female chief executives of the world's 2,500 biggest public companies were fired, compared to 27 percent of their male counterparts."

The "glass cliff" theory attributes the failure rate of females to the tendency to hire females when
the company is already in trouble:
Women are treated as exotic outsiders, brought to the helm when board members are feeling adventurous (mainly out of necessity). They have to prove their worth in situations that powerful men suspect may be hopeless.

"Effective immediately, only those shoes that accommodate all five toes in one compartment are authorized for wear."

Says the Army. Those "FiveFingers" — foot-glove shoes — "detract from a professional military image."

I had to wonder how this controversy even arose in the first place. Whatever happened to uniforms and uniformity? And there seems even to be some complaining about this new rule, that the powers that be are too closed minded and uninformed about the benefits of FiveFinger shoes.

What is the history of shoes in the military? Surely, there have been many soldiers who have gone without any shoes at all. From a Civil War letter:
"We slept on the ground for four nights with only one blanket apiece, and what was the worst thing that happened to me was that in going up the mountains I lost one of my shoes in the mud and it was so dark that I could not find it and then of course I had to carry one until I came back to camp. You must wonder at soldiers having to do without shoes and blankets sometimes. I believe men can stand most anything after they get used to it. The hardest part is getting used to it."
ADDED: "One of the most persistent legends surrounding the Battle of Gettysburg... is that it was fought over shoes."
"On the morning of June 30," [wrote Confederate general Henry Heth], "I ordered Brigadier General [Johnston] Pettigrew to take his brigade to Gettysburg, search the town for army supplies (shoes especially), and return the same day." That parenthetical phrase "shoes especially" has taken on a life of its own over the years....
AND: Continuing to the end of that article at the last link:
[F]rom a literary standpoint, "shoes especially" represents the perfect detail, quickly translating abstract historical forces into blisters on aching feet and the smell of new shoe leather. The Battle of Gettysburg readily lends itself to being read as a three-act tragedy, dominated, as many have argued, by Lee's hubris... That it started by accident, over something so "pedestrian" as shoes, is too perfect for writers to ignore. Shelby Foote certainly did not, crafting a scene in The Civil War: A Narrative (1963) in which A. P. Hill airily dismissed the possibility that the Army of the Potomac was in Gettysburg:

In Foote's dialogue, Heth was quick to take him up on that. "If there is no objection," he said, "I will take my division tomorrow and go to Gettysburg and get those shoes."
From a literary standpoint, it's no surprise that a man named Foote would fixate on shoes.

"Hitler rarely got out of bed before 2pm."

From a front page article in the Washington Post titled "Hitler’s former maid remembers the good life at Der Fuhrer’s mountain retreat" that presents what it calls — I am not kidding — "tidbits about life at Hitler’s home away from home." For some reason the Post sees fit to take a cutesy tone, telling us, for example that at night, Hitler "liked to steal away to the kitchen for a bite of 'Fuhrer cake,'" which was "a specially prepared" cake. Specially prepared... they made the cake he liked. Steal away... what? Am I to picture the man tippy-toeing through the corridors lest somebody interfere with his access to cake?

April 28, 2014

"The darkest secret in the big money world of the Republican coastal elite is..."

"...  that the most palatable alternative to a nominee such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas or Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky would be [Hillary] Clinton, a familiar face on Wall Street following her tenure as a New York senator with relatively moderate views on taxation and financial regulation."

"You thought you were dead?"/"Yes, I was under a mountain of dead girls."

"I touch my hand, and I see it’s not cold. It’s warm. And I walk out."

(Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah.)

"Instead of being content to punish Sterling and go back to sleep, we need to be inspired to vigilantly seek out, expose, and eliminate racism at its first signs."

Writes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and I'm just a little worried about what counts as "first signs." Sure, let's be vigilant, but part of vigilance is vigilance about ourselves, and "seek out, expose, and eliminate" sounds a tad mistake-prone and over-righteous.

"Not only is this woman, putatively a Christian, praising torture, but she is comparing it to a holy sacrament of the Christian faith."

"It’s disgusting — but even more disgusting, those NRA members, many of whom are no doubt Christians, cheered wildly for her."

"All roads led to a mysterious source—the newly exploding Internet," says Chris Lehane, confessing to, explaining, and justifiying his authorship of the 1995 "Right-Wing Conspiracy" memo.

Lehane, a lawyer in the Clinton White House counsel, with access to The World Wide Web, says he felt as though he had been "transported to a parallel universe." His journey of discovery took him to "early versions of chat rooms, postings and other information showing there was an entire cottage industry devoted to discussing conspiracy theories relating to [Vince] Foster’s death, including numerous online reports of people claiming to have seen him."
Those reports would be picked up by so-called news sources that most Americans at the time had never heard of—conservative outlets such as Eagle Publishing’s Human Events or Richard Mellon Scaife’s the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. From there, the story would migrate to right-leaning outlets we were familiar with, such as the New York Post, the Washington Times and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal—all before eventually ending up in the mainstream press.
He had discovered a "media food chain." (Funny that New York Post and the Wall Street Journal didn't count as "mainstream press" to him.)

Lehane says he "realized that this was just the beginning":
We saw the transition from an electorate that passively consumed the information put before it (a joke at the time was that a political rally was a family watching a political commercial on television) to an electorate that could use technology to actively engage in the creation, distribution and self-selection of information.
I have to read that as implying that Lehane thinks an activated electorate is a bad thing. What made it a "conspiracy"? What was particularly "right-wing" about it? I agree it was vast — it was World Wide — but why did Lehane not see it as thrillingly good?

I have to hypothesize that the threat template came immediately to mind because from the perspective of the White House, he was part of a restrictive network of power that exercised immense control over the mainstream press.

The Wide Web really did threaten The Narrow Web.

Things named after Obama.

1. Aptostichus barackobamai — the new trapdoor spider.

2. Caloplaca obamae — a lichen.

3. Etheostoma obama — a fish.

4. Paragordius obamai — a parasitic worm.

5. Obamadon — an extinct lizard.

6. Barack Obama College Preparatory High School.

The first 5 items on the list are all collected at this link, sent to me by a reader who suggests that I use my longstanding, much-loved tag "insect politics." But a spider is not an insect, so I'm stuck with my arachnids tag. I have tags for insects and insect politics, but no specialized arachnid politics tag, because have you ever heard of arachnid politics? Neither have I! Arachnids don't have politics. They're very brutal. No compassion. No compromise. We can't trust the arachnid.

"Donald Sterling and the Neverending Fantasy of ‘Democrat’ Racism/Oh, how eager the conservative press is to call Donald Sterling a Democrat!"

"It’s all part of their larger fantasy narrative about conservatism and race," says Michael Tomasky (at The Daily Beast).

It must be so annoying to Democrats that this idiot .1%-er Donald Sterling stepped on the Cliven Bundy, Republican racist fantasy story.

But Tomasky is right, I think, to say Sterling sure wasn't much of a Democrat.

"I have a source that told me that if Jeb Bush decides not to run, that Mitt Romney may actually try it again."

Said Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation" yesterday, discussed here, by Wesley Lowery, in The Washington Post. Lowery says:
Romney and Bush are considered similar candidates... Several major Romney donors told The Washington Post earlier this year that Bush would be their preferred Republican candidate in 2016.

After shrinking out of the public light following his crushing loss to President Obama in 2012, Romney has slowly reemerged as a coveted political ally for Republicans seeking office this year.

Romney, 67, has begun to embrace the role of party elder, believing he can shape the national debate and help guide his fractured party to a governing majority.
Can America go for a candidate who has already had the nomination and lost? I remember when Nixon thought he could do it, and I considered it a ridiculous notion — I being a teenager and Nixon being correct. You may say: 1. But Nixon got drummed out of office, or 2. It's a new era and what worked in the 60s hasn't worked since the 60s.

Landfill archeology: The search for "E.T." — the video game so bad, Atari threw 728,000 copies into a dump and sealed them under concrete.

The badness of the game and the "Atari grave" had become the stuff of legend, and they're making a movie about the finding and opening the grave — a film to be released on Microsoft's Xbox.

The trash became a treasure precisely because it was trash from the start. It arrived on the market "practically broken," with "E.T. falling into traps that were almost impossible to escape and would appear constantly and unpredictably." The man who designed the game, Howard Scott Warshaw, says Atari only gave him 5 weeks, because it needed to be ready for Christmas shoppers, so it could be opened by kids who were, presumably, tormented by their ugly little hero's propensity to drop into unpredictable, unescapable traps.

Alamogordo, the location of the dump, gets to keep most of the games the film crew found. Not only does the city plan to sell the games, but the mayor expresses hope of attracting tourists to the town that is now the most significant archeological site in the history of video games.

I often wonder why people travel. It is a mystery that is little examined, perhaps because most people do not even see it as mystery. But I say it's a mystery. And within that mystery there are all the different reasons why people travel. One reason is to visit historical sites within a field of interest. For some, it seems, the field is video games. Alamogordo is on a list with... what else?

The video game travelers, arriving in Alamogordo, can interact with the Christian artifact replica travelers, who stop by The Shroud Exhibit And Museum, and the sand dune aficionados, come to gaze upon The White Sands National Monument. I like to think of these 3 sets of travelers, trekking the face of the earth and all converging one day in Alamogordo and experiencing a cosmic convergence.

The geeks who love their games and their creature from another world, the religious folk who want to get close to the corporeal form of Christ through what is reputed to be his burial sheet (even if it's only a replica, a replica of a fake), and the lovers of the beauty of Earth in its greatest extreme of dry desolation — in my mind's eye I see them out there, in a million separate rooms, packing suitcases, readying themselves for... A Voyage to Alamogordo.

April 27, 2014

"Look at the Photo: a woman, surrounded by oblivious oversized sausages, forced to follow their direction..."

"... is this not a cry for Help?"

"Obama does a great job delivering the speech, even though the words of the speech are quite banal."

"There are many references to hope. The speech is blessedly short. Cheers, waving signs. Cue the music."
Now here is a speaker I can stand to listen to....
That's the first thing I wrote about Barack Obama on this blog. It was July 27, 2004.

The next decently substantive thing I said quoted Obama — "I think to some degree I’ve become a shorthand or symbol or stand-in for a spirit" — and commented: "It's appealing to concede that, isn't it? Though eventually Barack Obama will have to be something specific, won't he? Wouldn't it be funny if he didn't?" And:
It's actually rather embarrassing for him to campaign for the Presidency openly admitting that he's doing well because he's a blank screen upon which people project their hopes. Even purely for the sake of appearances, he needs to get some substance.

"Well, fine, Joe Squirtgun. If your rapist is a bird."

A line I pulled out of Sarah Palin's speech to the National Rifle Association's "Stand And Fight" rally to balance the line I saw pulled out in a bunch of places like Huffington Post, "Waterboarding Is How We'd Baptize Terrorists."

"Governor With Eye on 2016 Finds His Rise Under Scrutiny."

A NYT headline on an article about Scott Walker that adds nothing to what we in Wisconsin have heard many times. The man is vetted to the point of boredom, but I guess this stuff is new to nonWisconsin Americans. One time one guy on his staff forwarded a joke based on the premise that it's more of a burden in life to be a Democrat than to belong to 13 discriminated-against/burdened subcategories of humanity. And one time some campaign official tweeted her annoyance from a bus crowded with people who don't speak English. Oh, the sins that count against a Republican! If the NYT were willing to drag down Democrats over such things, it might amount to something.

All the bobbleheads.

We're back home now. Got my Carlos Gomez bobblehead:

Earlier, Meade took his Althouse bobblehead out to Miller Park:

We had a nice 3d row seat — as the home team (which has the best record in baseball) lost. [Jean Segura and Ryan Braun weren't playing after injuries in last night's game, Braun having injured Segura (unintentionally) and, independently, injured himself.]

And a close-up look at the sausages:

"The unsettling thing about Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s ugly rant on the Virgin River on Saturday..."

"... was that there was no negative reaction from the semicircle of gun-toting and conspiracy-minded supporters who had gathered round to hear it."

It's not that there's an old guy out there somewhere in American saying things like that, it's that people had gathered 'round. He wasn't some old grandad with a family who loves him and lets him talk and lets it go. He was (is?) a folk hero, and anybody who gets into hero-promoting activities has an obligation to exercise vigilance and stand ready to speak up and talk back. But those who are susceptible to the belief that they have found a hero may have linked vices like passivity, an uncritical mind, a tendency to merge with the group, and taste for the ecstasy of proximity to the object of worship.

Hero worshipers of the world, disunite.

Ducks in trees.

I'm just sitting here, drinking coffee, doing my morning blogging, facing the computer screen and the big picture window beyond it that looks out over the backyard, and 2 ducks fly in and land in the big old oak tree. Are those ducks? Do ducks land in trees? Ducks in trees? I've never seen ducks in trees. Are those ducks in trees? I'm nattering lines like that while searching for my camera and fiddling with the zoom and the focus.

I get the photos into the computer and close in on the duck, which Meade calls a "mallard," and I resist. It's got that thing on the back of its head, that projection, like on a bike racer's helmet. And those white markings. Meade figures out it's a wood duck:
The Wood Duck is a medium-sized perching duck.... The adult male has distinctive multicoloured iridescent plumage and red eyes, with a distinctive white flare down the neck. The female, less colourful, has a white eye-ring and a whitish throat. Both adults have crested heads.
Crested! That's the word. Perching duck! I never knew of such a thing as a perching duck.
Unlike most other ducks, the Wood Duck has sharp claws for perching in trees... After hatching, the ducklings jump down from the nest tree and make their way to water. The mother calls them to her, but does not help them in any way. The ducklings may jump from heights of up to 88 m (290 ft) without injury. They prefer nesting over water so the young have a soft landing, but will nest up to 140 m (460 ft) away from the shoreline. 
Up to 460 feet? We're close to Lake Mendota, but not that close, so I guess they are only passing through, perching on our tree, perhaps to look out — with red eyes — over where the trees are by the lake and future ducklings can safely plop.

ADDED: Those ducks remind me of my own parents. Site the nest well, and that's the help. You're being watched, but from the start, you have the sense that you are on your own, making your way entirely by the exercise of your own powers. Self-reliance, by parental design, supervision, and restraint.

Artist who, without permission, spray-painted walls that belonged to other people says it's "disgusting people are allowed to go around displaying art on walls without getting permission."

So... that's humor, right? Banksy is playing with ideas about law and ownership. That's part of his art.

Here's The Daily Mail's article — with lots of pictures — about the "Stealing Banksy" art exhibit.

And here's the statement on the website seemingly officially distancing the artist from the exhibition and creating dissonance about whether the ownership of the walls is suspect and anyone buying these walls with the graffiti left on them will face litigation and need to come to terms with the artist:
The title of the exhibit shows that the exhibitioners are also playing — or trying to play — with the concept of ownership, and I suspect that the artist is actually involved in the whole thing, the legal angles have been worked out behind the scenes, and the notice at is part of the PR for the show and the sale of the work that is to follow, and, yes, I know that to the extent that I — a law professor (the law professor who went to art school) — am acting like I find this all so intriguing and playful from an art-and-law standpoint, I am augmenting and propagating the PR.