August 30, 2014

Houses made from bricks made of mushrooms.

"The mushroom brick is 'grown' by mixing together chopped-up corn husks with mycelium."

Wake me up when you actually grow a house. Right now the mushroom house is in the courtyard of an art gallery in NYC. So I think I'll just get very small and curl up for a long rest on my cushiony toadstool:

DSC03738

Here's a reading from R. Gordon Wasson, "The Hallucinogenic Fungi Of Mexico/An Inquiry Into The Origins of The Religious Idea Among Primitive Peoples" (1961):

"If the hate-crimes law is used to punish intra-religious crimes, it could change from a shield to protect minorities into a weapon against them."

"Religious groups whose beliefs pervade their whole world view see everyone in terms of religion. Any assault they commit might be considered a federal crime," writes Noah Feldman, defending the 6th Circuit's reversal of the conviction in the Amish beard-cutting case.
The defendants in the Amish case asked the appellate court to rule that the law never applies to intra-religious disputes. This might have made sense as a matter of policy, but not as a legal matter in the case at hand. As the law is written, it covers hate crimes by co-religionists. The court instead pragmatically restricted the law’s reach to cases where a religious motive predominates.
How do we know when people are co-religionists? Seemingly co-religionists have been attacking each other for thousands of years. Some of the worst disputes are over the scope of the religion — who's the heretic? — and the outsider's perception that they're in the same religion ignores the nature of the fight. Is it the same religion or different? It would be unwise to interpret the federal hate crime statute to force judges and juries to determine whether criminal defendants and their victims belong to the same religion. It's too close to having trials about religious orthodoxy. That's not what we do in America.

"A lost chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, deemed too wild, subversive and insufficiently moral... has been published for the first time."

"In the chapter Charlie Bucket – accompanied by his mother, not his sprightly grandfather – and the other children are led into the Vanilla Fudge Room, where they face the sinister prospect of the Pounding and Cutting Room."
"In the centre of the room there was an actual mountain, a colossal jagged mountain as high as a five-storey building, and the whole thing was made of pale-brown, creamy, vanilla fudge," the chapter reads. "All the way up the sides of the mountain, hundreds of men were working away with picks and drills, hacking great hunks of fudge out of the mountainside...  As the huge hunks of fudge were pried loose, they went tumbling and bouncing down the mountain and when they reached the bottom they were picked up by cranes with grab-buckets, and the cranes dumped the fudge into open wagons."...

"The Wanderer..."

"... sings the blues."

"The Weirdest Story About a Conservative Obsession, a Convicted Bomber, and Taylor Swift You Have Ever Read."

"Benghazi, Robin Williams, Islam, Twitter, and a convicted bomber from the 1970s came together in a court case against right-wing bloggers."

Thanks to David Weigel for presenting this story, which I've avoided blogging because of its complexity and moral ambiguity. Where do you start? I've only copied the Daily Beast's headline and subheadline here, and it's an odd list of things. Robin Williams and Taylor Swift aren't actually important, but passing references. "Islam" is much more generic than "Everyone Draw Mohammad Day" (which I always said was a bad idea, but, of course: free speech). And the word "pedophilia" doesn't even appear on the list, but it's at the core of this defamation case.

Excerpt:
When he called McCain to the stand, Kimberlin handed McCain a print-out of a 2009 blog post about how to get traffic, and asked him to read tip number four: “Make some enemies.” Kimberlin, having made his point—this guy was starting a fight to make money—tried to take back the document. McCain snatched it and kept reading.

“At the same time, however, don’t confuse cyber-venom with real-world hate,” said McCain, giving a drawled, dramatic reading of one of his favorite posts. “Maybe Ace of Spades really would like to go upside Andrew Sullivan’s head with a baseball bat, I don’t know. But at some point you understand it’s just blogging about politics, and you start wondering if maybe it shares a certain spectator-friendly quality with pro wrestling. For all we know, Ace is spending weekends at Sully’s beach shack in Provincetown.”

McCain plunked the document back on the witness stand. “A sense of humor is not a crime in this country,” he said.
The right-wing bloggers win in the end, and when they win, they look like this.

"The problem is I'm black.... No it really is because I didn't do anything wrong."

"I'm not sitting there with a group of people. I'm sitting there by myself… not causing a problem with anyone."

"And you may find yourself in a beautiful Oval Office..."


From "Twitter Nation distracted by president's suit."

I'm not distracted by the tan suit. I'm distracted by the distraction over the suit.

They say Obama said he had no strategy, but the suit was a strategy.

It's always showtime/Here at the edge of the stage....



Stop making sense, stop making sense, stop making sense, making sense/We've got a boyfriend that's better than that/And nothing is better that this....

August 29, 2014

"Under pressure from nervous Democratic Senate candidates in tight races, President Obama is rethinking the timing..."

"... of his pledge to act on his own to reshape the nation’s immigration system by summer’s end, and could instead delay some or all of his most controversial proposals until after the midterm elections in November, according to people familiar with White House deliberations."

The NYT reports.

I wonder who the "people familiar with White House deliberations" are and what they are trying to achieve. Something principled? Is anyone familiar with White House deliberations principled?

The President of the United States in a light-colored suit.

What was so unsettling about President Obama in a light-colored suit?



Do we think of the comic-book villain?



That's Lex Luthor as President. It's pretty awful!

Beyond the comic-book realm, where villains are villains and heroes are heroes, we have FDR:



That's Franklin Roosevelt signing the Social Security Act. There were plenty of light-colored suits in that crowd on August 14, 1935. Was there air-conditioning in the White House back then? Yes!
Reconstruction of the West Wing in 1930 after extensive damage by a Christmas Eve fire in 1929 included a central air-conditioning system installed by Carrier Engineering Company. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his staff experienced their first warm season at the White House in 1933, air-conditioning units were added to the private quarters on the second floor.
And it should be noted that President William H. Taft (1909-1913) tried to get the White House air conditioned with a system of "electric fans [that] blew over great bins of ice in the attic, cooling the air, which was forced through the air ducts of the heating system." Like many presidential projects, it didn't work.

And back to FDR and his many projects: Did they work? FDR was no comic-book character, and you can decide for yourself whether to regard him as a hero or a villain or something in between. But since the question here is why do we find Obama in a light suit unsettling, I will consult the mysterious recesses of my own mind, and I hear the echoes of my own earliest memories in the sound of my father's voice, stating as fact: Worst President Ever.

Big and little.

P1070161

More of Mike and Ike at The Puparazzo.

"Everyone knows she is no longer the queen, but she thinks as long as she keeps this crown she's the winner. She's not."

Said David Kim director of director of media for the Miss Asia Pacific World pageant, after 18-year-old May Myat Noe of Burma, who "was described as a disappointment from the start."
"We thought she should be more beautiful... so as soon as she arrived we sent her to the hospital to operate on her breasts. It's our responsibility... If she has no good nose, then maybe, if she likes, we can operate on her nose. If it's breasts, then breasts."

Mr Kim said it was then that the troubles started.
The tiara is supposedly worth $100,000 to $200,000, but the teenager got to walk around with it? Plastic surgery required of the person after she wins? Absurd!

Forget the tan suit. Remember the tan shoes.



That's "Dodie Stevens (born Geraldine Ann Pasquale, February 17, 1946)... an American rock and pop singer... best known for her million selling 1959 song 'Pink Shoe Laces,' which made her a star when she was only 13 years old."

Here's the earlier post of the day about Obama's tan suit, which I thought was just fine. It's August! Whatever happened to summer suits? Why don't we denounce all the politicos and journos who wear heavy black suits on television all summer long? We've lost touch with reality, and it's good to see a President with some appearance of awareness of the world beyond air conditioning.

IN THE COMMENTS: FullMoon notes the song lyric "And a big Panama with a purple hat band" and remembers those famous pictures of Obama in a Panama hat.

"One would have expected that in 67 years that we would become more democratic, more tolerant — rather than become more intolerant and narrow-minded."

In India, the censorship of a film about the assassination of Indira Gandhi, which took place in 1984. ("67 years" refers to India achieving independence.)

From the censor: "Look at the complexities. You have multiple languages, multiple religions, multiple social strata, multiple advantages, disadvantages. It can be very problematic."

Overheard at Meadhouse.

"This is what I want. Except it's ugly as sin."

"Sin can be pretty ugly."

"The problem is sin is not ugly."

"If only sin were uglier."

"Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?"



Did you know that President Obama wore a tan suit and the internet freaked out?

Too soon?



"Other than an off-colour tweet and subsequent apology by the British Embassy, the bicentennial of the punitive mission of 1814 that left the US capital in flames has received little attention this week...."



What cakes will be baked and tweets tweeted on September 11, 2201?

"Each of the couple’s six children had a job in the nuptials. The bride was walked down the aisle by eldest sons Maddox and Pax..."

"... while daughters Zahara and Vivienne tossed flower petals. Shiloh and Knox served as ring bearers."

Nice. The kids were central, and it was the kids who wanted the wedding. Angelina Jolie had been explaining to them for years that "our commitment when we decided to start a family was the greatest commitment you could possibly have," but the movie stars' kids were "watching movies featuring weddings, including 'Shrek,' and had been asking a lot of questions."
Earlier this year, she joked that the kids would serve as wedding planners, and the nuptials would be Disney-themed or feature paintball.

“It means something to them,” [Brad] Pitt said of a wedding in 2012. “We will [get married] someday, we will. It’s a great idea. ‘Get mommy a ring.’ ‘OK, I will, I will.’ ”

“Most kids have a wish for their parents to be married, even or especially kids of celebrities,” says Lisa Brateman, a New York-based psychotherapist. “I think marriage offers a perception of emotional security.”
"Perception," says the psychotherapist. We adults know marriage doesn't make permanence, but the kids believe.

On the subject of the faith of children, Jesus said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

After collecting "about 538 tons of food waste, paper contaminated with food waste and pet waste," Madison gives up on its organic waste composting project.

"The Streets Division can’t afford a $120,000 filter needed to remove non-compostable material, and it makes no sense to seek money for it and significantly broaden the program with uncertainty about when the [$20.6 million] biodigester will be built...."
The Streets Division was poised to add 1,600 households and 25 to 30 businesses this summer to get more residents, events and businesses used to separating organics....

Dan Schwartz, a participant in the pilot program who lives near East High School, said he does some of his own composting, but he wasn’t able to compost bones, paper plates and pizza boxes, all items allowed in the city program.

“It’s unfortunate they’re stopping it, because it will be harder to start it up again and get people used to it again,” he said. He’s already contacted his alderperson and the mayor to complain, he said.
I added the boldface. That phrase "get used to it" keeps coming up in the context of recycling/composting. We're being trained.

ADDED: Were disposable baby diapers allowed in this program? I'm guessing no, but if pet waste was allowed, why not? From the Madison website, a question:
Also, question, on diapers and sanitary products...these have plastic liners, should the interiors be removed from the liner part ew, but I'm willing to do that for the greater good or can the whole thing be dropped in?
The answer is no diapers and sanitary napkins, because: "We do not want to face regulation as a sewerage treatment facility." Ironic, no? The city government doesn't like all that government regulation.

But here's an old NYT report of a dirty diaper composting program in Toronto. And here's the Toronto website, still saying put "Diapers, sanitary products" in the Green Bin. But not: "Dryer sheets, baby wipes, make-up pads, cotton tipped swabs, dental floss."

The 6th Circuit reverses the hate-crime conviction of 15 Old Order Amish for cutting off the beards of Amish men and hair of Amish women.

Marty Lederman criticizes the court:
A critical part of the majority's decision is based upon its conclusion that the evidence did not necessarily prove that the victims' religion was a but-for cause of the assaults. That conclusion strikes me as untenable — indeed, deeply disturbing in its implications....

[T]he assaults... came in the wake of a profound rift within this particular Amish community.  [The Bishop of the Bergholz community, Samuel] Mullett had excommunicated several church members for challenging his leadership.... Mullett was angry.... The series of assaults then followed, under Mullett's direction. The victims were all Amish individuals who were apostates in Mullett's view.... As the court notes, Amish men do not trim their beards, and Amish women do not cut their hair, "as a way of symbolizing their piety, demonstrating righteousness and conveying an Amish identity.
The criminality of the assaults is obvious, but is it a federal crime, a "hate crime" under 18 U.S.C. § 249(a)(2)(A)? It is if it's done "because of the actual or perceived . . . religion . . . of [that] person." The problem is that the trial judge's instructions translated that into a need to find that the victims' religion was "a significant motivating factor," but the appellate court said religion needs to be the "but-for" cause (that is, without this motivation, the act would not have taken place).

Lederman assumes the court is right about that but buys the government's argument that the error was harmless.
Based solely on the undisputed facts described in Judge Sutton's opinion... it appears to be clear that at least some of the victims--those who were excommunicated or who left voluntarily, at a minimum--would not have assaulted but for the fact that Mullett viewed them as heretical.  (Mullet said that beard and hair cuttings would stop people from being “Amish hypocrites.”) And that's true even if the particular assailants were motivated in the first instance by other factors, such as interfamilial disputes or anger about nonreligious actions of the victims....

[And] isn't it plain beyond any doubt that the victims' religion was a but-for cause of the type of bodily injury that occurred here — the cutting of beards and hair?  The assailants obviously chose to use that very unusual form of assault because the hair and beards were of deep religious significance to the victims — indeed, to strike at a fundamental component of their religious identity, by deliberately imparting a tangible, humiliating public sign that the victims were religious outcasts.

"And if [the rapists] are providing [love], plus drugs, and alcohol and freedoms, or perceived freedoms, then we're never going to be able to keep [young girls] safe."

That's a quote from BBC's unnamed source who was a home-care worker in in Rothingham during the period when 1,400 young girls were systematically raped over a period of years:

August 28, 2014

John Rocker — the baseball player destroyed by a Sports Illustrated profile in 1999 — comes back into the culture spotlight as a contestant on "Survivor."

The new season starts on September 24, so let's talk about the old SI article that ruined his career.

I don't remember the old controversy, but I'm interested in looking at what sort of sexist-racist-homophobia material was stirring people up back in the year when Bill Clinton was acquitted in his impeachment trial, "The Sopranos" TV show began,  Dr. Jack Kevorkian was convicted of second degree murder for assisting in the suicide of a terminally ill man, there was a war in Kosovo and a massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado,  "Fight Club," Being John Malkovich," and "The Matrix" were playing in the movie theaters, and — most memorably — Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Hisamuddin Alam Shah Al-Haj, Sultan of Selangor became the 11th Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia.

"The 10 Cities With The Highest Quality Of Life."

"1. Madison, Wisconsin."

"For those at Northeastern, breaking into the U.S. News top 100 was like landing a man on the moon, but Freeland was determined to try."

"Reverse-engineering the formulas took months; perfecting them took years."
“We could say, ‘Well, if we could move our graduation rates by X, this is how it would affect our standing,’” Freeland says. “It was very mathematical and very conscious and every year we would sit around and say, ‘Okay, well here’s where we are, here’s where we think we might be able to do next year, where will that place us?’”
Via Tax Prof.

It's official: "everyone... in the country who wants to be married is legally able."

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie — with 6 children and 10 years into their relationship and after saying they would not marry until "everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able" — have married.

Should they not have waited until the Supreme Court releases the virtually undoubtedly forthcoming decision declaring a right of same-sex couples to marry? Ah, we're close enough! And is the Supreme Court really a more authoritative expositor of American rights that Brad and Angelina?

It is emphatically the province and duty of pop culture icons to say what the law is.

"Without making the victims responsible for what happens, one of the groups that have to be trained not to drink in excess are women."

"They need to be in a position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave. And so part of the problem is you have men who take advantage of women who drink too much and there are women who drink too much. And we need to educate our daughters and our children in that regard."

Said Former GWU President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, participating in a Diane Rehm Show panel discussing the role of fraternities on campus. He'd just touted their "philanthropic activities" and "leadership training" and segued to: "They get other kinds of training as well. Combatting sexual misconduct..."

He was interrupted by Rehm, who asked whether fraternities were — as opposed to combatting sexual misconduct — "participating in sexual misconduct"? That is, Trachtenberg wanted to present fraternities as serving the greater good, and, in that light, they might fight against "sexual misconduct," but isn't that at least partly because they are the source of the problem? Now, it's a good idea for those who are doing what is wrong to take charge of eliminating what is wrong, so why not get Trachtenberg to come out and say that?

Of course, Trachtenberg is getting excoriated for saying that women need "to be trained not to drink in excess," but, to be fair, he had just spoken about men training each other not to commit assaults. If you can get past the static of that one word, does Trachtenberg deserve all the abuse he's getting?

He prefaces the remark with a disclaimer: "Without making the victims responsible for what happens...." That actually works as a confession that he knows he's saying that women should take responsibility for avoiding becoming victims, and I think he means to say it and to acknowledge he's going to be criticized.

As for the advice — good advice to everyone — "not to drink in excess," he's including women as "one of the groups." What are these groups? The other group, I take it, is: men. There are two groups: men and women. Neither should drink to excess. All human beings, in their youth, should acquire the skill of not drinking to excess. Kind of a no-brainer, but Trachtenberg didn't say it quite correctly enough to deflect abuse. And — to use a phrase — he asked for it.

ADDED: Hours after this post went up I noticed a slip: "There are two groups: men and women. Neither should drink to access." Yikes! Corrected.

"Apparently, guileful students are thesaurusizing cut-and-paste plagiarism to fool both their professors and anti-cheating software such as Turnitin."

"But as long as a human is grading those essays, phrases like 'sinister buttocks' (for 'left behind'!) are guaranteed to provoke a professorial head-scratch (and some welcome, albeit dispiriting, entertainment during grading)."

It depends on what the meaning of "isn't" is.

I didn't have the patience to slog through that long article at Vox purporting to answer the question whether Tony Soprano died in the final episode of "The Sopranos," which ends with a cut to black as Tony and his wife and son are sitting around a restaurant table listening to "Don't Stop Believin'" as mysterious doings have been making us feel that we're about to see some carnage.

I blogged the end of the series at the time, in 2007, and I never got sucked into the confusion:
Soooo... I assumed they were all killed and the blackout was just to spare us from seeing it. But over on Television Without Pity, everyone's all confused, saying what happened, curse you David Chase, and I thought my cable went out.
Then, considering the "Don't Stop Believin'" lyric "It goes on and on and on and on," I added: "maybe they do go on and on and on. Or maybe there's going to be a 'Sopranos' movie."

And certainly — I'm adding this now — people would go on and on talking about it, even after James Gandofini died (in 2013), and there's not going to be a movie or some more episodes. It's not like we want more without Tony (though the show did find a way to get on without Livia, when the actress Nancy Marchand died after Season 1).

But I'm catching up on the Vox article this morning by reading Dave Itzkoff's short piece in The New York Times: "David Chase Says Remarks About ‘Sopranos’ Finale Were Misconstrued."

Speaking of cuts and Chase, Itzkoff cuts to the chase: The author of the Vox piece, "Martha P. Nochimson, an author, journalist and professor... when... she directly asked Mr. Chase if Tony was dead." Chase's answer was, in it's entirety, "No he isn’t."

"Are people hating on this dress? Do they not appreciate the fact..."

"... that it looks like blood snow falling on a dark night of the soul?"

And don't miss: "But this is a travesty atop a catastrophe sprinkled throughout the wreckage of a nightmare dreamed up by a colorblind psychopath."

August 27, 2014

New Marquette poll has Mary Burke 2 points ahead of Scott Walker with likely voters, and 4 points behind with registered voters.

"Poll director Charles Franklin called the results 'the epitome of what a horse race looks like.'"

Also in the poll: "A solid majority, 54 percent, say the state is heading in the right direction, while 42 percent say it's on the wrong track...."

ADDED: The new poll has Walker with 47.5% and Burke at 44.1% among registered voters, while last month it was 45.8% percent support, with Burke at 44.8%. Likely voters are identified by Marquette as those who say they are "certain to vote in November’s election," and it's Burke 48.6%, Walker 46.5%. In July it was Burke 46.8%, Walker’s 46.3%.  The questionnaire (PDF) asks people whether they are "Absolutely certain" or "Very Likely" to vote in November, and I wonder what the spread would be if the "Very Likely"s were included. Who can be "Absolutely certain" that they will even be alive in November? It would seem that they are screening for fuzzy thinkers and liars.

"While lawyers for Wisconsin and Indiana attempted to defend their state’s marriage bans, Posner issued a series of withering bench slaps..."

"... that unmasked anti-gay arguments as the silly nonsense that they are. Reading this string of brutal retorts is fun enough — but it’s even better to listen to them delivered in Posner’s own distinctive cadence. With the help of my Slate colleague Jeff Friedrich, I’ve collected the most exhilarating, satisfying, and hilarious of the bunch."

Nice job presenting the clips, by Mark Joseph Stern at Slate. And I'm saying that based on listening to the entire thing myself. I summarized it last night like this:

"ESPN regrets... we collectively failed to meet the standards we have set in reporting on LGBT-related topics in sports."

"On Tuesday, while providing an update about [Michael] Sam’s quest to make the St. Louis Rams’ final roster, reporter Josina Anderson said that a Rams 'defensive player told me that "Sam is respecting our space" and that, from his perspective, he seems to think that Michael Sam is waiting to take a shower, as not to make his teammates feel uncomfortable.'"

What exactly are the standards... other than never saying anything that gets criticized? Obviously, it's not: Don't talk about an athlete's sexual orientation. Journalists seem eager to talk a whole lot about the openly gay football player. If it's important, why is it important? Wasn't the issue supposed to have something to do with the intimacy of the locker room? 

Watch the whole clip at the link, because I think Josina Anderson did the work she was assigned to do and certainly doesn't seem homophobic. I don't think ESPN's apology reflex is fair to her.

How much would I have to pay an economist to get him to stop annoying me by talking like an economist?

"... I own the right to recline, and if my reclining bothers you, you can pay me to stop. We could (but don’t) have an alternative system in which the passenger sitting behind me owns the reclining rights. In that circumstance, if I really care about being allowed to recline, I could pay him to let me.... I understand people don’t like negotiating with strangers, but in hundreds of flights I have taken, I have rarely had anyone complain to me about my seat recline, and nobody has ever offered me money, or anything else of value, in exchange for sitting upright. If sitting behind my reclined seat was such misery, if recliners like me are 'monsters,'... why is nobody willing to pay me to stop?"

Writes Josh Barro in "Don’t Want Me to Recline My Airline Seat? You Can Pay Me."

So stop worrying that you're bothering anybody that hasn't offered you money to stop doing that. [About anything. Not just on airplanes.] And await the day when we'll all be able to raise money by going about annoying people doing anything short of what gets us arrested or sued in tort. 

And I don't think I'm contradicting all the many economics-y things I said in the comments to that other post today about reclining airline seats:

"I fought head on with it for almost half an hour. Then I came to know it was dead."

In case you are wondering how long a 56-year-old woman will fight with a leopard and whether the leopard is sure to win in the end.

What happens when you don't go in that spare room for 3 months and you've left a small window open?

"I did think what a wonderful job they had done," said the exterminator, about the way 5,000 wasps had repurposed the pillows and mattress, through determined chewing, into a 3-foot nest on the bed.

"I had no choice really, because they used to threaten to get my mum and rape my mum."

"So in my mind, as a 13 or 14-year-old, it was 'well if I didn't go out and see them they are going to get my mum and are going to rape her'.... I look back at it now, I was a child, these were adult men who were very, very dangerous, very nasty, they knew everything about me because in the grooming process I had told them everything. So they knew all about my family, they knew where we lived, they knew everything."

From the BBC's "Rotherham abuse victim: 'I was raped once a week, every week.'"

"Lady al Qaeda: The World's Most Wanted Woman. The Taliban wanted to trade Bergdahl for her."

"The Islamic State offered to swap Foley. Why does every jihadi group want the U.S. to free Aafia Siddiqui?"

The Knee Defender and the Water Offender.

"On a United flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Denver, a passenger in a middle seat of Row 12 decided he didn’t want the woman in front of him to lean her seat back. So he pulled out a Knee Defender and locked it into place on his food tray, making it impossible for the seat in front to be reclined. Whether the man politely asked the woman first if she would be OK with that is unclear. The woman was not OK with that. She wanted to recline her seat. She asked the man to remove the Knee Defender. He would not. A flight attendant then asked him to remove it, informing him that Knee Defenders were prohibited on the flight. He still would not. At which point, according to news reports, the woman in the front seat threw a cup of water at Mr. Knee Defender."

From a Chicago Sun-Times editorial titled "Leave the Knee Defender at home."

Oh, come on! Why are we talking about the Knee Defender? A woman threw water at a man. That's the serious infraction. Who cares which of a million things you might do on a plane to bother somebody else?

ADDED: To answer my own question: 1. Knee Defenders are a specific, new piece of technology that readers might contemplate deploying. They seem to offer to solve a predictable problem, and they seem to offer people a way to deal with an annoyance without any interaction with another, so you'd better take into account that you may be laying the groundwork for a very dramatic interaction. 2. As for the water-throwing woman, readers don't divert their attention onto her for exactly the same reason — I'm guessing — that she thought to throw water at him. It's what women have been doing for decades... in the movies. It's a cliché: When a woman is outraged, she throws a glass of water in the face of the person who caused the outrage.

This actually isn't how normal people behave in real life, but: 1. Embedded in the big and small screens of movies, TV, and video games, we've lost our instinct for the lubricated subtleties of social interaction that would have developed naturally if we lived with real fellow humans in the flesh, 2. The inside of an airplane isn't the normal society of the human being. Our fellow humans are present in the flesh, but far too much for normal behavior to make much sense. We attempt to find solitude and isolation where it is least possible, so we're forced to find weird ways to preserve our well being until the flight is over.

"No-one knows the true scale of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham over the years."

"Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1,400 children were sexually exploited over the full inquiry period, from 1997 to 2013," said Professor Alexis Jay, who wrote the new report.
The report found: "Several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought as racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so."

Failures by those charged with protecting children happened despite three reports between 2002 and 2006 which both the council and police were aware of, and "which could not have been clearer in the description of the situation in Rotherham."

Prof Jay said the first of these reports was "effectively suppressed" because senior officers did not believe the data. The other two were ignored, she said.
Even if you don't believe that data — because the scale of the criminality is so extreme — action should be taken. Or was the action always only to do another report in order to get better data?

As for the "fear of being thought as racist" — that gets our attention, and we could muse forever about how to talk about race in the context of patterns of criminal behavior — but it doesn't explain (let alone excuse) the failure to deal with rampant crime. It's harmful to provoke people to worry that every Pakistani male is a child rapist, but descriptions of suspects can't be edited to exclude identifying characteristics. Everyone knows that.

I'd like to see more detail about this "fear of being thought as racist." It sounds like a confession of deliberate law enforcement paralysis, a choice to permit thousands of children to be raped for decades on end, because of befuddlement about how on earth to begin to do anything without looking bad or because of a sense that your community is already hopelessly overwhelmed by evil forces that will only become more aggressive and violent if opposed.
A victim of abuse in Rotherham, who has been called "Isabel" to protect her identity, told BBC Panorama... "I think because the police were aware and social services were aware and he knew that and they still didn't stop him it I think it encouraged him. It almost became like a game to him. He was untouchable."

Well, it's not called Burger President.

Is Burger King unAmerican?

August 26, 2014

"These people and their adopted children are harmed by your law [banning same-sex marriage]. The question is what is the offsetting benefit of your law. Who is being helped?"

Asked Judge Richard Posner, as the 7th Circuit heard argument today in cases challenging Wisconsin and Indiana law.

Based on the linked news report, there was nothing new to be said on the well-worn subject, even with Posner on the panel. But I will listen to the argument, here (Wisconsin) and here (Indiana), and update this post if I hear anything notable.

It seems predictable that the 7th Circuit will reject the ban and that the issue will soon be decided by the Supreme Court. 

ADDED: I've listened to the argument and recommend it. It's lively, and the government lawyers are on the run, but repeatedly cornered by the simple and predictable demand to articulate an interest served by excluding gay people from marriage. All of the judges clearly reject tradition as the interest, and the idea of leaving it to the legislature is repeatedly scoffed at as merely getting us back to the need to at least show some legitimate governmental interest. There is a great deal of attention to the welfare of children, with the government lawyers stressing the capacity of heterosexuals to produce children and the value of channeling this phenomenon into stable relationships for the sake of the children and the judges unable to see the reason to exclude gay people, who may also have children, especially given that the states in these cases both allow gay people to adopt. Why do the states want to hurt those kids? I lost track of the number of times the government lawyers were stymied by that question.

"One of the most indelible images from last night's VMA awards was Beyoncé, midway through a show-stopping 16-minute medley, standing alone on stage with the word 'FEMINIST' emblazoned in giant letters behind her."

"It was a bold and empowering feminist tableau — one that was undercut the following evening by this tone-deaf segment from last night's Emmys, which featured Sofia Vergara being spun around on a pedestal like a a human trophy. Because she's a woman, get it?"

Pick a law school: Columbia or NYU.

Alumni email to new law students at NYU:
But just a friendly reminder – we aren’t Columbia. You don’t already need outlines for your classes. You don’t already need to be doing reading assignments (holy shit, seriously enjoy this last part of your summer because you will never have another one). Don’t be the gunner everyone hates before classes even start.
Alumni email to new law students at Columbia:
But here’s some advice — we’re not NYU. Show up to class prepared. Nobody wants to be slowed down while the professors has to wait for your dumb ass to catch up. Everybody will assume you will be ready to hit the ground running. So, no need to be a “gunner” about it. Everybody has already thought of everything you are thinking of asking.
Yes, you have to go to law school. Don't change the hypothetical. Where do you go?
 
pollcode.com free polls

"I need something with a deeper meaning. Food for thought, and that will keep me eating."

"Unfortunately, by belly hurts ’cause it’s empty. Yeah, I love feeling like the world is against me."

Rap lyrics from Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, AKA L. Jinny.

Looking cross-eyed...

... in makeup touted as ideal.

"Health insurance companies in California may not refuse to cover the cost of abortions..."

"... state insurance officials have ruled in a reversal of policy stemming from the decision by two Catholic universities to drop elective abortions from their employee health plans."
Although the federal Affordable Care Act does not compel employers to provide workers with health insurance that includes abortion coverage, the director of California's Department of Managed Health Care said in a letter to seven insurance companies on Friday that the state Constitution and a 1975 state law prohibits them from selling group plans that exclude the procedure. The law in question requires such plans to encompass all "medically necessary" care.

August 25, 2014

"I have achieved more in the first year than I ever thought I could."

Who talks like that?!

Deborah Turness, the president of NBC News. She also says: "The heat that happens here is quite unique." Unique heat?

Some unnamed former colleague is quoted saying she brings "a bit of rock-chick swagger to a newsroom full of middle-aged men."

Rock-chick swagger? Where does bilge like that come from?

"What To Expect From The Emmy Awards’ Robin Williams Tribute."

What is the TV material other than "Mork & Mindy"?

There are 6 things at the link, but not including the pre-"Mork & Mindy" material — from "Laugh-In" and "The Richard Pryor Show" — that I embedded on the original "Robin Williams has died" post.

"President Obama headlined a $25,000 a head Seattle fundraiser in July hosted by former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal for the liberal Senate Majority SuperPac.... The horror, the horror!"

"Perhaps you didn't notice the lack of media outrage. That's the context in which to understand the breathless reporting about court documents showing that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker encouraged donations to the Wisconsin Club for Growth."

First paragraph of "Hyperventilating in Wisconsin/Documents expose the false legal theory used against Scott Walker." (The link works only for subscribers. The alternative is to Google some of the text and get a "free pass.")

"Much of the time, the law is settled and plain. But life turns up new problems..."

"... and lawyers, officials, and citizens debate the meaning of terms that seemed clear years or even months before. For in the end laws are just words on a page — words that are sometimes malleable, opaque, as dependent on context and trust as they are in a story or poem or promise to someone, words whose meanings are subject to erosion, sometimes collapsing in the blink of an eye."

Barack Obama, "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream" (2006), page 118.

I ran across that quote after blogging about the book in the previous post. I'd searched my Kindle, not for anything about law — though I found the law quote interesting enough to make a new post — but because I'd searched the book for "solitude" — thinking I might find something apt for that other post — and I kept reading.

"Solitude" does appear in the book, once, as Obama is describing life as a senator in Washington, while his wife and daughters remain back home in Chicago:

Flashback '08: The Audacity Althousity of Hope.

The Althousity of Hope

Originally blogged on May 11, 2008, under the heading "The Althousity of Hope." I went back into the archive to find that after reading the comments on the second post of this morning, "Are educated, intelligent adults allowed to complain that they didn't get what Obama's smiling 2008 campaign persona made them feel they could get?" Commenter Kelly said:
Seems like it was only yesterday I saw all the cool kids walking around with a copy of Dreams From My Father tucked under their arm. Everything they needed to know about The One was right in there, or so they thought. The book was as shallow as its author.
And I thought, no the book the cool kids were walking around with was "The Audacity of Hope." See? It's right there on the table.

A fire destroyed one-and-a-half tons of potato salad...

... that was on its way to the Toledo area German American Festival.

How flammable are potatoes? And wouldn't the mayonnaise act as a fire retardant? Ah, but German potato salad is the kind without mayonnaise. It's full of bacon fat and vinegar... is that like lighter fluid on potatoes?

Anyway, don't feel sad about the festival. Volunteers stepped up to the task, and it all worked out nicely in the end.

Are educated, intelligent adults allowed to complain that they didn't get what Obama's smiling 2008 campaign persona made them feel they could get?

Ah, it's a free country. You can complain about anything you want, but you look foolish if you don't take responsibility for your own gullibility.

Thomas Frank interviews Cornel West:
Frank: I... remember... being impressed by Barack Obama who was running for president... I sometimes thought that he looked like he had what this country needed... That was a huge turning point, that moment in 2008, and my own feeling is that we didn’t turn.

West: No, the thing is he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair.... 
Another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair? That's what I hoped I might get when I voted for Obama in 2008. He never assured us he'd be a left-winger, but some people — people who wanted that — projected their hope onto him, and of course, he invited everyone to see him as the embodiment of whatever it was they hoped for.
West: And we ended up with a brown-faced Clinton. 
That's crudely stated, and I wouldn't talk like that, but that's about exactly what I hoped for. A pragmatic centrist like Bill Clinton, and as a bonus, we get the first African American President. I didn't vote merely on that hope. It was also the case that John McCain lost me. It's always only a choice between 2 (or, rarely, 3) candidates. You can't get everything you want, and you can't know everything about what you are getting.

FiveThirtyEight covers one guy paying one visit to a tarot card reader.

I'd say — since this is a news site devoted to statistics — that adds up to zero.

First paragraph:
Here at FiveThirtyEight, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to predict stuff. The science of prediction is pretty hard to get right consistently. But in keeping with the philosophy of exploring other schools of predictive thought, I decided to go to one of the classic sources of predictions — a tarot card reader — to find out what she had to say about the future, and how those predictions would stack up against rigorous statistical analysis.
There are 37 more paragraphs. And 3 graphs. If you can't guess without looking, the analysis is the most obvious insight into psychics: They predict specific-seeming general things that are already quite probable. The "rigorous statistical analysis" promised in the first paragraph — presumably to palm this off as a decent FiveThirtyEight article — is the probability of the predictions the tarot card reader made to that one guy. For example, she said he'd meet a woman with "brown or red hair," and FiveThirtyEight's "rigorous statistical analysis" applies to the real-world likelihood that women are anything other than blonde.

August 24, 2014

"Meet the Press" covered Rand Paul's pro bono eye surgery in Guatemala and larded it with impugnment of his motives.

"Meet the Press"'s Chris Janning accompanied the ophthamalogist senator and got plenty of access, but she took so many shots at him behind his back that it was ludicrous:
CHRIS JANSING: And now to a Meet the Press exclusive: A journey to Guatemala with Kentucky Senator -- and Doctor -- Rand Paul. Top Republicans eyeing a run for president in 2016 have spent a lot of time in two key battleground states: 20 visits to Iowa, 10 more to New Hampshire. But so far, only Paul has turned a foreign country into a unique photo op.... 
Footage of poverty-stricken eye patients.
CHRIS JANSING: ... A mission to restore sight, and hope, to the poorest of the poor. And if it all plays well to American voters it could further Rand Paul's personal mission, too -- to position himself for a race for president.
Oh, please.

"Some friends have told me that kink should not be considered an orientation..."

"... since that could open the door for any deeply felt sexual identity to claim that status. Is sexual orientation a slippery slope? Are we two clicks away from a strong preference for nerdy-Jewish-tech-guys-with-dark-hair-and-an-athletic-streak being called an 'orientation'? Personally, I don’t think it really matters—I doubt that preference could become a legally protected category, so if someone wants to say that’s her orientation, what do I care? — but, for the sake of conversation, let’s say there needs to be some mechanism to limit what can qualify."

Writes Jillian Keenan over at Slate in a piece called "Is kink a sexual orientation?"

I admit to only skimming the article, but what I think is missing is an analysis of what hangs on the answer to the question whether something is in or out of a category called "sexual orientation"? This is one of those questions about whether to interpret a term narrowly or broadly. That's something that we discussed a few days ago with respect to the word "rape."

There are different consequences to defining an important term narrowly or broadly, and it should be recognized that this doesn't need to be about what the words somehow really mean. It's often about what you are trying to do by labeling. You might want to narrow a category so something important is taken very seriously and given special attention, or you might want to be more inclusive because you see something good that could be done (or you just want some priority for an interest of yours).

"Sexual orientation" clearly refers to the sexual preference for a partner of another sex or your own sex. But you could make it a big category, inclusive of things like sado-masochism. But why? What are you trying to achieve by grouping these things together?

If you don't address these questions, the discussion runs in circles.

200 years ago today: The British burned Washington.

"On August 24, 1814, after defeating the Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg, a British force led by Major General Robert Ross occupied Washington City and set fire to many public buildings, including the White House and the Capitol, as well as other facilities of the U.S. government."

The White House in ruins:



The Capitol:

Suge Knight was shot... 6 times.

"Sheriff's deputies had guns drawn as clubgoers exited with their hands in the air...."

That was after the shooting. Who shot Suge Knight?

Don't buy anything.

I adopted that slogan for myself when my sons were in college. The theory was: You can create a new income stream for yourself — when you need it — by taking a new attitude about spending. Obviously, you have to buy some things, notably food, but as an adult established in my own house, I could get by just fine with the clothes I already had, and I didn't need the indulgence of buying myself a gift just because I happen to have wandered into a store. If I entered a store, in my head was that mantra: Don't buy anything. It worked.

So I was interested in this story: "The Buy Nothing Year: How Two Roommates Saved More Than $55,000."

Expressions of hyper-masculinity are covers for weakness.

That's an observation, and it may be true or false or true much/most but not all of the time, but what I want to know is: Who has made this observation? Where did this idea originate? What famous names do you associate with this idea?

Meade and I were talking about it in the context of the Henry Rollins apology, the subject of my first post of the day. Meade hadn't read the post yet, and I was explaining that Rollins — in response to angry mail that presumably accused him of not understanding depression — revealed that he suffers from depression, and that looked to me like an effort to claim the empathy that is extended to suicides.

Henry Rollins has very much of a tough-guy, hyper-masculine image, so it's interesting that he's requesting that we see him as a victim of depression, as a man who really feels terribly sad, worthless, and — despite all the muscles — drained of energy. Meade made the observation that expressions of hyper-masculinity are covers for weakness and asserted that he was the first person to notice that, back in 1957. I said that's like looking out your window and saying it's a nice day when everyone else is looking out their window and seeing it's a nice day. There's no vector from Meade's 1957 observation into the minds of all the other people who think expressions of hyper-masculinity are covers for weakness, but Meade's claim was comic and really only meant that he arrived at the observation independently.

I feel that the observation is quite old and widely embedded in the culture, though not widely enough to dissuade all males from going hyper-masculine. If everyone knew that hyper-masculinity would be interpreted as weakness, who would do it? That's a secondary question here, though, and the tertiary question is whether the observation is true. The primary question, the one I'm hoping you'll answer, is: What are some non-Meade sources of the observation?

Chef dies of a bite from the severed head of a cobra.

This is news from Guangdong, China, so maybe it's fake, but the story is that Peng Fan, making some delicacy, had cut off the head, picked it up to throw it away, and it bit him.
"There was nothing that could be done to save the man. Only the anti-venom could have helped but this was not given in time."
A snake expert said: "It is perfectly possible that the head remained alive and bit Peng's hand... By the time a snake has lost its head, it's effectively dead as basic body functions have ceased, but there is still some reflexive action."

"I’m really not trying to be a Grinch. I just don’t want to be forced into doing something."

"This is turning into a social phenomenon and I had to put an end to it."

Earthquake.

Did you feel it?

Henry Rollins on suicide, round 2: The Apology.

Here's our discussion of Rollins's first piece, which was called "Fuck Suicide." My focus was on the effect of an artist's suicide on our perception of the work he has left behind, but there was also material taking the position that it is morally wrong for anyone with children to commit suicide. ("[I]t should be your utmost goal not to traumatize your kids.")

The new piece is headed "An Apology." First, let me reveal that when I wrote the previous paragraph, on proofreading, I was surprised to see that instead of "Fuck Suicide," I had written "Fuck Apology." Is Rollins really sorry and, more importantly, what is he sorry for?
For the last 9+ hours, I have been answering letters from people from all over the world. The anger is off the scale and in my opinion, well placed.

The article I wrote in the LA Weekly about suicide caused a lot of hurt. This is perhaps one of the bigger understatements of all time. I read all the letters. Some of them were very long and the disappointment, resentment and ringing clarity was jarring.
He acknowledges the "anger" and the "hurt" he caused, and he wants those who are enraged to see that he's taken quite a bit of time to read everything and to undertake to write back to everyone.  Acknowledging that your words have hurt doesn't concede that you now see that what you've expressed is wrong.
That I hurt anyone by what I said, and I did hurt many, disgusts me. It was not at all my intent but it most certainly was the result.
Even this does not take the words back or express regret. He could be invoking the principle of double effect, which explains why it is ethical to do something that has a harmful effect when your intent was to do good, to produce a good effect, even when you know the bad effect will also follow. You don't like that bad effect, but you did go ahead and do what caused it.

Next, Rollins — puts himself within the circle of victims of depression:
I have had a life of depression. Some days are excruciating. 
I'm sure many of the letter-writers accused him of not understanding what it is like to be depressed. If you only knew how it feels, you would not say such ignorant things. Those letter-writers are so very wrong.
Knowing what I know and having been through what I have, I should have known better but I obviously did not. 
Known better than... what? To predict how very angry people would get? Is he feeling sorry for himself for attracting all that hate mail?
I get so mad when I hear that someone has died this way. Not mad at them, mad at whatever got them there and that no one magically appeared to somehow save them.
Here he's backing away from a demand for personal responsibility and adopting the belief that the motivation toward suicide is a separate entity beyond the mind of the person: the "whatever," the absence of magical saviors.
I am not asking for a break from the caning, take me to the woodshed as much as you see fit. If what I said has caused you to be done with me, I get it.
This sounds as though he feels sorry for himself, because so many people got mad at him. He's presenting himself as the victim, visualizing the criticism as physical violence, a caning. And, as noted above, he himself suffers from depression, so he's doubly the victim. The "whatever" torments him and the people who hated his "Fuck Suicide" are beating him up.

We finally reach the apology:
I am deeply sorry. Down to my marrow. 
For what? Is this a nonapology?
I can’t think that means anything to you, but I am. Completely sorry. It is not of my interest to hurt anyone but I know I did. 
I say nonapology. He's sorry that what he said hurt, and he knows that being perceived as hurting others is against his interests. He's sorry for himself! And he's determined to flip the narrative: If we're supposed to empathize with the depressed and not criticize, we need to empathize with him, one of the legions of the depressed.

IN THE COMMENTS: betamax3000 said:
Rollins prides himself on being the angry Truth-teller. This works when you are telling the kids what they want to hear. In this instance he misjudged the expected reaction of agreement to his Truth, which calls attention to the importance of his audience in such events. He probably needs to go back to talking tough against Straw Men.
Paddy O said:
His previous article is out of my analog world. I know it existed, yet it has nullified its existence