June 14, 2014

"If women are the model on which most sexbots are based, we run the risk of recreating essentialized gender roles, especially around sex."

"And that would be too bad, because sex technology has the potential to alleviate longstanding human problems, for both men and women. Sex tech can help us take on sexual dysfunction and profound loneliness, but if we simply create a new variety of second-class citizen, a sexual creature to be owned, we risk alienating ourselves from each other all over again."

From "Sexbot slaves/Thanks to new technology, sex toys are becoming tools for connection - but will sexbots reverse that trend?" by Leah Reich (via Andrew Sullivan).

Look at the new New Republic cover, smearing Scott Walker for his "toxic strain of racial politics."

I live in Wisconsin, and I've been following Scott Walker since the 2010 election here, and I have no idea what the "toxic strain of racial politics" refers to. But congratulations to TNR for its eye-catching and weird sexualization of Walker: "Scott Walker Is So Hot Right Now" and for having the nerve to sub-head with "too bad" as you smear him with the accusation of "toxic strain of racial politics." That "too bad" belongs in the annals of self-refuting statements. Anyone can within one second perceive that The New Republic isn't the slightest bit sad that there's this dirt to throw at Walker... this invented dirt for all I can tell.

If you look at the TNR website right now, you won't see this cover. It's still displaying last week's cover. I subscribe to the magazine, and this new issue just popped into my iPad.

ADDED: I can't link to the article, but I can read it on my iPad. It's titled — creepily — "The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker." Sub-head: "A Journey Through the Poisonous World That Produced a Republican Star." It's written by Alec MacGillis.

AND: I have now read the long article, and the closest thing to anything racial coming directly from Scott Walker is his support over the years for voter ID laws. Much of the article is about the demographics of Milwaukee and the suburban counties around it, including the history — going back into the early 20th century — of how black people migrated to the city and did not — as white people did — relocate into the suburbs.

Milwaukee is an extreme example of this historical pattern, but Scott Walker didn't make this happen, and given that Scott Walker built his political career in the Milwaukee area, it's actually impressive that TNR could not find racial incidents and slips to pin on him.

The article also focuses on 2 talk radio hosts — Mark Belling and Charlie Sykes — who have big audiences in Milwaukee. TNR has little direct racial material on them, but it forefronts the one truly ugly thing it has: Belling mocking a specific black person, Milwaukee Congresswoman Gwen Moore. Mostly, TNR accuses Belling and Sykes of indulging in dog-whistle politics about crime and dependence on welfare.

I suspect that Alec MacGillis wrote a more balanced and sane draft but that TNR editors punched it up, trying to make it racial so they could justify that ridiculous sub-heading on the cover and the title and sub-head at the article. The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker! Terrible. MacGillis provides some material about Scott Walker's early life, mostly about how he's the son of a Baptist preacher who took religion and politics very seriously from an early age. Some of that is sympathetic, though it's dotted with quotes from individuals who have reason to want to block Walker's ascent.

ALSO: Linking here, Instapundit says:
When Chris Hughes relaunched TNR, he promised that TNR would go “deeper than the headlines in a timely, unbiased fashion.” Nah. Just more Democratic operatives with bylines.
AND: I wonder if TNR meant to send out the iPad app version before the material is up on its website. I think it's damned strange that I was able to show you that cover 2 hours ago, and it's still not up on the website, and that I could read the whole long article and give you my subjective understanding of what is in it before you can check the text. Do you think it's lack of website/app coordination at TNR, which would be inept, or do you think they want subscribers to get a special advantage, a sneak peak, which would be naive in a world with bloggers?

UPDATE: It's 6 hours since I posted this, and neither the cover nor the article are up at the TNR website. 

UPDATE 2: TNR put the article up Sunday evening: here.

A propos of the Lois Lerner spoliation: Spooooooool!

The news of nothing.

Drudge has looked like this for quite a while:

That links to a Daily Mail story — "Obama rules OUT sending troops back into combat in Iraq but promises to review military options – including air strikes" — that includes an effort to extract a comment from George W. Bush:
Former President George W. Bush has been reluctant to weigh in on the latest developments in the region where he spent years deploying military assets that Obama would later pull back.

A request for comment from the former president was met with a non-response from his communications director Freddy Ford, who told MailOnline: 'I don’t have a comment for you. When he left office President Bush decided not to criticize his successor.'
Everyone already knew that, but the Mail made it into something that could be reported, and Drudge is featuring what is, essentially, the news of nothing.

With so many newsworthy things happening right now — the VA scandal eclipsed, the Bratquake reduced to a 1-day story, the Lois Lerner spoliation, Bergdahl (Bergdahl? Who's Bergdahl?), Hillary snapped — the news of nothing rises to the top and just sits there.

What is the ever-enigmatic Drudge trying to say?


Jill Abramson — the executive editor axed by the NYT — finds other work, teaching "narrative nonfiction" at Harvard.

Here's the way the NYT reports it, decorously... fit-to-print-ishly.
Harvard said in a statement that Ms. Abramson would be a visiting lecturer in the Department of English for the 2014-15 academic year and would teach in the fall and spring semesters. In the statement, Ms. Abramson said she was “honored and excited.”

Narrative nonfiction, she said, “is more important than ever. Its traditions and how it is changing in the digital transition are fascinating areas of study.”
What is the evidence that Abramson should be teaching writing at the highest level? Is she going to teach the brainy, aspiring kids to use words like "important" and "fascinating" as they tell their stories of things that are actually happening in the real world?

I'd like to see the reading list. There's lots of great narrative nonfiction out there. Read The New Yorker. I assume there's something to be gained from studying the writing techniques, and someone with high-level editing experience might be a good guide through the literature. There are careers in this kind of writing, and understanding the point of view of a NYT executive editor would be helpful.

You might scoff: a fired NYT executive editor.

But she wasn't fired for bad editing. She was fired for being a bitch "her management style."

"Did The IRS Really Lose Lois Lerner's Emails? Let a Special Prosecutor Find Them."

That headline — at the National Journal — says exactly what needs to be said.

For decades the received wisdom has been it's not the crime, it's the coverup. And here we see evidence of a coverup. What kind of crime must there be that after all these years of warnings that it's the coverup that will get you, we've got a glaring, egregious coverup?!

Oh? Do they say maybe it's not a coverup? Maybe Lois Lerner's emails really did disappear in a computer crash? We need a neutral prosecutor to find out what happened. There's zero reason to take that on faith.

How could it possibly be that government operates this way, with high-level government officials working with one computer that could crash and take everything with it? Aren't there central computers, backed up multiple times, with a record of everything?

We're talking about the IRS. Doesn't it have multiple, backed up records on all of us taxpayers?

Give us a special prosecutor, because it's not acceptable to tell us we're supposed to believe this story of disappearing evidence....

June 13, 2014

Look how far the NYT has gone merging editorial and advertising content.

Here's a screen capture from the NYT front page:

See the "paid post"? That goes to a story with the headline "Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work/As the number of women inmates soars, so does the need for policies and programs that meet their needs."

There's a little "Netflix" emblem over the headline, along with the words "Paid Post," and the font is different from the usual editorial content, but it's an article that's like other NYT articles, inviting us to be concerned about the higher number of women in prison these days and to empathize with their distinctively female problems:
At the most basic level, women often must make do with jumpsuits that are made from men’s designs rather than being cut for female bodies. And standard personal-care items often don’t account for different skin tones or hair types.

It’s not just vanity: What drives some prisoners to mix their own makeup or tailor their uniforms is the need to maintain their dignity in a situation that does little to protect it.
If you slog through enough of that, you'll get to the pitch to stream new episodes of the Netflix show "Orange Is the New Black."

Jimmy Scott, had "a rare genetic condition called Kallmann syndrome, which caused his body to stop maturing before he reached puberty."

His "voice never changed, and he remained an eerie, androgynous alto his whole life."
Standing 4-foot-11, with a hairless face to match his boyish voice, he was originally billed as Little Jimmy Scott, and he was presented to audiences as a child until well into his 20s. In his mid-30s he unexpectedly grew eight inches taller and, although he otherwise remained physically unchanged, doctors told him an operation might stimulate his hormonal development. He decided against it.
He said he "was afraid of entering uncharted territory." His "distinctively plaintive delivery and unusually high-pitched voice earned him a loyal following and, late in life, a taste of bona fide stardom."

Here's his 1950 recording of "Everybody's Somebody's Fool."

Jimmy Scott died yesterday at the age of 88.

Shhhh! Scott Walker is evolving...

... on gay marriage.

ADDED: Barbara Crabb, federal district judge who issued the decision in favor of same-sex marriage last week without issuing an injunction or saying whether or not it would be stayed has now come out with the injunction and has stayed it. Judge Crabb's opinion expresses the kind of empathy that some people like to see as part of judging and some find quite inappropriate:
After seeing the expressions of joy on the faces of so many newly wedded couples featured in media reports, I find it difficult to impose a stay on the event that is responsible for eliciting that emotion, even if the stay is only temporary. Same-sex couples have waited many years to receive equal treatment under the law, so it is understandable that they do not want to wait any longer. However, a federal district court is required to follow the guidance provided by the Supreme Court. Because I see no way to distinguish this case from Herbert [v. Kitchen, 134 S. Ct. 893 (2014)], I conclude that I must stay any injunctive relief pending appeal.
Judge Crabb herself is responsible for this week-long interlude of joyful expressions, so there's something off about her vicarious joy at the situation she set up, and it's strange for her to tell us about her emotional engagement with the results of her doing what she has power to do only because it is her duty under the law. But in the end, she admits that she's bound by the law, by what the Supreme Court did in Herbert, and she follows it, and yet this doing of her duty is embroidered with regret. She'd prefer to make people happy (that is to say, to make the people who make her happy happy), and I don't think that sort of emoting belongs in the opinion (and by "the opinion," I mean the written opinion and the decision-making that goes on in the judicial mind outside of our scrutiny).

Now, back to Walker. I see where he's going. He's a party to this case, enjoined "to treat same-sex couples the same as different sex couples in the context of processing a marriage license or determining the rights, protections, obligations or benefits of marriage" (PDF). This is, for him, a gift. He can be modest and humble and say he'll do exactly that. It would suit his style, and it would free him from the burden of having an independent opinion on this divisive issue.

As he said yesterday: "It really doesn't matter what I think now.... It's in the constitution."

At this point, for him, and for other traditionalists who've fought marriage equality over the last few years, that's the place to be right now. That's as close to perfect as you're going to get.

Now, move on to the matters that properly belong to government.

"The Evolution of Dad Dancing."

"We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq."

Said President Obama, observing that what is happening now in Iraq is not simply a military problem and blaming the leaders of the Iraqi government for not doing enough to overcome sectarian differences.

ADDED: At Slate, Reihan Salam writes "We Never Should Have Left Iraq/A U.S. military presence could have mollified Sunnis and prevented the new civil war." Excerpt:
Under Saddam, Iraq’s Shia plurality was subjugated by its Sunni minority. The fear among Sunnis has long been that once the Shias come to power, they would be the victims of all manner of reprisals. A similar dynamic has long been at play in Syria, where the Assad regime, closely tied to the Alawite minority, rules over a Sunni majority. It also played a role in the Bosnian civil war, where various ethnic groups fought desperately to avoid minority status, which many believed would amount to a death sentence.

"Border Patrol changing diapers, heating baby formula for surge of children."

"[A]gents are being asked to do things way beyond their skill set — particularly for so many of the agents who are young, single men."

Including trying to prevent teenagers from having sex with each other.


Obviously satire. with stuff like:
because spousal rape, domestic violence, child abuse, and masculinity aren't things to be celebrated #YesAllWomen #EndFathersDay
Fathers Day should be renamed to Semen Day, because that's what men contribute to families. #EndFathersDay
But it led to some pretty funny Iowahawk spoofing, like:

"I offer you this missive..."

"... not only because it links to a tempting NYT article on kindergarten classroom decor... but because the article — nay, the very circumstances themselves! — allude, perhaps unconsciously, to the title — and by no means not the substance! — of a pardonably obscure, and deliberately hilarious, Edgar Allan Poe satire on permissiveness."

... writes my ex-husband RLC, linking to "Rethinking the Colorful Kindergarten Classroom" and to Edgar Allan Poe's "The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether."

"Study shows men are more emotionally sensitive than women – they’re just also better at hiding it."

"Scientists asked two groups of volunteers, 15 fathers and 15 mothers, to watch a series of videos while their physiological responses were measured by skin conductance electrodes."
The content was categorised into four topics: blissful, funny, exciting and heart-warming – and experts were surprised to see that men displayed marginally stronger reactions on average to all of the first three.

Even more shocking was the results for the “heart-warming” category, however. The experiment showed that men actually responded twice as much to this content than women.
ADDED: I must note that this news story — in the U.K. Independent — violates the rule that I've long observed: "If you do scientific research into the differences between men and women, you must portray whatever you find to be true of women as superior. And when you read reports about scientific research into the differences between men and women, use the hypothesis that the scientists are following that rule. It makes reading the reports quite humorous.."

I'm especially surprised to see the word "better" in describing what the men do. The men are "hiding" their emotional sensitivity. It would be so easy to portray the hiding as fakery or repression. To say "better" is to imply that hiding emotion is an achievement.

"The Lack of Major Wars May Be Hurting Economic Growth."

A foreboding title to a column by Tyler Cowen, published in the NYT.

A spiffier title expressing the same concept is found in the text of Cowen's column: "War! What Is it Good For? Conflict and the Progress of Civilization From Primates to Robots," which is the title of a book by a classics and history professor named Ian Morris:
Morris considers a wide variety of cases, including the Roman Empire, the European state during its Renaissance rise and the contemporary United States. In each case there is good evidence that the desire to prepare for war spurred technological invention and also brought a higher degree of internal social order.
That reminded me of the old Camille Paglia quote: "If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts." Searching for it on line, I found it in a discussion — in the corner of Reddit called "MensRights" — of the statement "If women ran the world there would be no wars." But here's a better source for the Paglia quote, the 1990 review of "Sexual Personae," in the NYT, written by Terry Teachout:
... Ms. Paglia heats things up considerably by drawing a flashy assortment of extreme conclusions from her basic premises. Not only does she praise ''the spectacular glory of male civilization,'' she flatly rejects Rousseau's vision of ''benign Romantic nature'' and its offspring, ''the progressivist strain in nineteenth-century culture, for which social reform was the means to achieve paradise on earth.'' Feminism, she claims, is ''heir to Rousseau'' in that it ''sees every hierarchy as repressive, a social fiction; every negative about woman is a male lie designed to keep her in her place. Feminism has exceeded its proper mission of seeking political equality for women and has ended by rejecting contingency, that is, human limitation by nature or fate. . . . If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts.''
Now that I've gotten this far afield, I feel I must note that Tyler Cowen had nothing to say about the rise of women in the modern West. 

"But if you’re around anyone acting whimsical for long enough, the charm morphs into a grating artificiality."

"I was no exception. I began to detest being around myself. Whimsical’s less popular synonyms began to hold more truth. Capricious. Freakish… Odd. Bizarre. Another possible synonym: phony."

Writes a San Francisco barista named Lucy Schiller who has tired of the emotional labor entailed in playing Amélie for coffee-drinkers.
Alas, whimsicality was the name of the coffee-making game, at least for a young, unsure woman. It disarmed terrifyingly angry or brusque customers. It endeared you to them by summing you up in a palatable way – you were dependably off-kilter and smiley; people looked forward to seeing you. They thought of you as their special barista, and the more charmingly odd you acted, the more you occupied this nook in their brain. You got pretty good tips, and you felt, in an otherwise frighteningly vague time, appreciated and talented. But that took its toll. Eventually my smile hung rather thin. I found myself regarding my attitude like my cell phone bill, hoping that some bubbliness – another word I detested – would rollover into these increasingly embittered months. And I felt like [the] flight attendants [in Arlie Russell Hochschild's "The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling" (1983)], who “spoke of their smiles as being on them but not of them…the smiles are a part of her work, a part that requires her to coordinate self and feeling so that the work seems to be effortless. To show that the enjoyment takes effort is to do the job poorly.”
Via Metafilter, where somebody says:
I adore this article immensely. I came out of college with some ideas about jobs that seem crazy now: I really thought that working as a college radio DJ, a clerk at Cult Cineaste Video Store, a guitar player, or a TA in English Lit were so obviously preferable things one could do that it was perfectly reasonable to close the doors that were opened by my boring Computer Science degree. Why the hell did I believe that? It's almost incomprehensible to me now! And the author of this article nailed it ... the need to feel like you "belong" to the inner circle of the place you live, as judged by your peers, just like you really belonged at your college by your Senior year.

There's also a word unspoken throughout, but it matters: love. What her job required was nurturing the smallest bits of love in the people she served, doling out pinches of the fuel for attraction and affection.... "But it took its toll," she says, rightly. Making everybody love you 5% plays hell with the way you negotiate real love, of friends, of work, and even of the customers whom in another job you'd have normal human inter-relationships with.

"Polish town installs lime green statue of Lenin taking a leak."

"The statue replaces a more traditional sculpture of Lenin that was removed in 1989, following the fall of communism in Poland. The piece, dubbed the ‘Fountain of the Future,’ is designed to encourage debate...."

ADDED: I oppose, in addition to communism, tag proliferation, but this was the post that made me do what I'd resisted in the past, making a tag for Lenin. Having done so, I went back and added the tag to 11 old posts with the name Lenin and it's an interesting lot — including:

"The senior Shiite cleric in Iraq issued an urgent call to arms on Friday..."

"... telling all able-bodied Iraqis to help the government fight Sunni militants who have seized broad stretches of Iraqi territory, in a sign of the growing desperation of the country’s Shiites and its shaky central government."

June 12, 2014

Aussie shepherds in action.


Caught today by Meade... more of the action: here.

"In trying to save men from the blight of Dad Pants, Dockers is running away from its own dubious legacy."

"It’s denying its own success story. No, Dockers are not fashionable. They are not especially attractive...."
But buried in that anti-style history, is the reality that Dad Pants... often are representative of a mindset that puts personal vanity at the end of a long list that includes school drop-offs, soccer practice, yard work, saving for college and the grind of a 9 to 5....
ADDED: Here's the Dockers ad Givhan is critiquing, in which Dockers purports to be the solution to the problem that is Dad Pants:

BONUS: Clint Eastwood rocks the Dad Grandad Pants.

"From the time I lost most of my left arm in February..."

"... I was living in that parallel universe, one where I’d power through, barely acknowledging the amputation — until I went for a run on the sunny afternoon of April 6."
It was nothing more than a slightly uneven sidewalk that took me down. No problem for a runner with two arms. In fact, this particular sidewalk is right behind my home, and I had negotiated it uneventfully for years. But here are two things you need to know about life after an arm amputation: First, your center of gravity changes dramatically when you are suddenly eight pounds lighter on one side of your body. Second, while my arm may be missing physically, it is there, just as it always has been, in my mind’s eye. I can feel every digit. I can even feel the watch that was always strapped to my left wrist. When I tripped, I reached reflexively to break my very real fall with my completely imaginary left hand. My fall was instead broken by my nose, and my nose was broken by my fall....

The woman I was passing on the sidewalk when I fell took one look at me and cried out in panic to her husband: “My God, what’s happened to his arm?” “It’s gone,” I said. “But don’t worry, that didn’t happen today.”

Prime music.

A great thing about this new feature of Amazon Prime — which you can buy here — is that it asks you if you want to immediately "rip" some of the CDs you've bought on Amazon — which ones depends on their licensing. Amazon doesn't know whether you bought these CDs for yourself or as gifts, and it's funny to suddenly have access to a lot of things you never intended to buy for yourself.

"Dion, every time I see him — every time I see him, I get so tired of it—the first words out of his mouth are..."

"'If it wasn’t for you, there’d be no ‘Runaround Sue.'"

Said Gary U.S. Bonds.

"The closer I get to ship day, the calmer the voices are. I’m reverting. I’m getting colder."

"My feelings are being flushed with the frozen logic and the training, all the unfeeling cold judgment of the darkness... I will not lose this mind, this world I have deep inside. I will not lose this passion of beauty."

Reading Bergdahl's journal.

"Iraq was on the brink of disintegration Thursday..."

"... as al-Qaeda-inspired fighters swept through northern Iraq toward Baghdad and Kurdish soldiers seized the city of Kirkuk without a fight...."
In Washington, President Obama expressed concern....

I thought Hillary Clinton did a great job with her "Fresh Air" interview.

I listened to the whole thing — here — after seeing (on Instapundit and elsewhere) that she got "testy."

"Testy" is an interesting word to use to describe a woman. To me, it resonates with Hillary Clinton's discussion, in the "Fresh Air" interview, that as Secretary of State she was regarded, in those countries that don't recognize women's rights, as an "honorary man." ("When you're a secretary of state, as [Condoleezza] Rice and Madeleine Albright and I have discussed — it's perhaps unfortunate, but it's a fact — that you're treated as a kind of an honorary man or a unique woman who comes from another place outside of the religion, outside of the culture.")

But I'm indulging in etymological guesswork and can only insinuate that writers who use the word "testy" to disparage Hillary imagine — as I did — that there is a connection to the word "testicles." In fact, the word — which the (unlinkable) OED defines as meaning "Prone to be irritated by small checks and annoyances; impatient of being thwarted; resentful of contradiction or opposition; irascible, short-tempered, peevish, tetchy, ‘crusty’" — is derived from the Latin word for head, which relates to being "headstrong" or "obstinate" (which is the older and obsolete meaning of "testy").

It's true that the interview gets more intense at one point, on the subject of same-sex marriage, but that is because Terry Gross (the interviewer) decides to keep following up, probing, in an effort to get Hillary to concede that, years ago, she covered up her support for same-sex marriage because it was politically opportune. Gross was trying to pin something on her, and I liked it that Hillary noticed and, in the midst of eloquently elaborating her thought-out talking points on marriage equality, turned on a dime and put Gross in her place.

We need that kind of sharpness on our side. You can't be sliding along, acting amiable, when you're talking to Vladimir Putin. I want someone with that kind of mental and verbal skill working for us.

Naughty wedding photography.

Posing at the fountain:


(Captured yesterday at Olbrich Gardens in Madison.)

"Strongly condemn attacks in Mosul by the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (#ISIL), and its efforts to turn back clock on #Iraq's progress."

Samantha Power lets slip the hashtags of war.

The birch path.


Photographed in the early evening, yesterday in Olbrich Gardens.

(By the way, if you are enjoying this blog, please consider doing your on-line shopping through the Althouse Amazon Portal, which lets you make a contribution without paying extra for whatever it is you happen to need at the moment. And, for future reference, that link is also always at the top of the blog, right under "Althouse.")

"Women's Group Garners 87,000 Signatures Urging WAPO to Fire George Will."

"Accuse columnist of 'mocking sexual assault survivors and saying that women want to be raped.'"

The coronal mass ejection is coming.

"Solar Flares Disrupt Communications on Earth, Could Send Shockwave on Friday the 13th."

50 years ago today: Governor William Scranton says he'll run for the GOP presidential nomination, yielding to the proddings of the "Stop Goldwater" movement.

The NYT reports "Scranton Will Run":
With the party's San Francisco convention only a month away Senator Goldwater's advan­tage is formidable.

It has been made more so by the unconscionably long time it took Mr. Scranton and his mentor, former President Eisen­hower, to recognize that the Goldwater tide could not be stopped unless the people who stand for progress, instead of reaction, in the G.O.P. had the courage to come out forthrightly against him....

"There’s no GOP establishment/Tea Party divide, and there never has been."

Wrote WaPo's Greg Sargent last May.
So today, when incumbent Republicans are threatened from the right by Tea Party challenges, they don’t react by moving right in any substantive way. Not only would it be all but impossible for most of them, it isn’t necessary to shift their positions on issues. Instead, they react with displays of attitude, amping up their pose of confrontation with Barack Obama. You say you’ll shoot Obamacare with a gun? I’ll fry it with a blowtorch! And it turns out that that kind of posturing can be enough to stave off the challenge.
I'm sure there are a thousand equally obsolete columns.

Poor Hillary! She thought she picked a boring week.

The week of June 9th. Nothing was supposed to happen. All eyes were to have been on her, as she grandly rolled out her tome and swanned from one graciously conducted interview to the next. She would be queen of the week's news cycle.

And suddenly, people are rubbernecking at Eric Cantor's calamity and getting to know some new guy, some ridiculous professor, maybe even reading his book, a book impertinent enough to contain ideas!

My book, my book, my book, people. It's my week! Meeeee! I was your Secretary of State and I am contemplating offering myself to be your President!

And now, barging into the the week's news cycle, it's Iraq, going to hell!
Insurgents inspired by al-Qaeda rapidly pressed toward Baghdad on Wednesday, confronting little resistance from Iraq’s collapsing security forces and expanding an arc of control that now includes a wide swath of the country.

By nightfall, the militants had reached the flash-point city of Samarra, just 70 miles outside Baghdad, after having first seized Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s home town, and other cities while pressing southward from Mosul.

The stunning speed with which the rout has unfolded in northern Iraq has raised deep doubts about the capacity of U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces, and it has also kindled fears about the government’s grip on the capital.
And here's Hillary, who thought it would her week, when everyone would look at her, as she revealed her carefully crafted stories of her time making "Hard Choices" as Secretary of State. And now the questions in these book-tour interviews — these interviews that she pictured elevating her into the grandly wise pre-President — are going to have to grill her about what is happening right now in Iraq.

What hard choice would you have made the other way if you'd foreseen this was going to happen in Iraq? Why did you not foresee that this would happen in Iraq? Do you see an element of misogyny in the selection of this week — the week of the launch of "Hard Choices" — for al Qaeda to go on its a rampage in Iraq?

Tooling along, the GOP car was making good time, headed for its destination: Victory in November.

DRIVER: Hey! What happened? Did we get off the 2014 Interstate? Was there an off-ramp back there? What does the polling app say? Is it re-routing? But the polling app didn't warn us before the road got weird looking. I don't trust this app to re-route. We could get even farther afield.

PASSENGER: If we're off the Interstate, we'd better stop and ask for directions. Look, there are lots of people around who seem like they might be helpful.

DRIVER: What, just stop and ask somebody?! We're driving the GOP car, and you want some guy by the side of the road to give us directions to Victory in November?

PASSENGER: Well, clearly we are lost. MAN BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD looks like he's concerned about our predicament, looks like he knows the routes around the Political Landscape...

As the GOP car scoots to a stop, MAN BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD scrambles up, smiling, as if he's delighted at the opportunity to help.

"The distinction between dress and athletic shoes is on the verge of collapse for fashion-forward men..."

"... as the humble gym shoe has outgrown its youth-culture/streetwear origins to become a fashion accessory, as well as a staple on runways, red carpets and in the workplace, where it is no longer considered the height of quirk to wear them with a suit."

Men in sneakers.

The transition from men to boys is nearing completion.

June 11, 2014

Lolling in the front yard.



Photos, taken just now, by Meade.

How the Democratic Party is leveraging Eric Cantor's loss: "This guy isn't extreme enough for the GOP... the Tea Party is now in charge."

That arrived in the email a couple hours ago, from the Democratic Party. At the linked website, the line is: "Tea Party Republicans have taken over the GOP — and they'll stop at nothing to win complete control of Congress. You don't want to imagine what a Congress run entirely by the Tea Party would look like."

"The jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant posted pictures online of militants bulldozing a berm dividing Iraq and Syria..."

"... symbolising its goal of uniting its forces in the two countries.... Creating a cross-border Islamic state is one of the group's main aims."

"Wisconsin Court Broadens FOI Exception, Allowing Government Agencies To Deny Requests Based On Perceived Motive."

"Call me overly suspicious, but I suspect there’s a lot of stuff the Deep State in Wisconsin, fresh from its shady assault on Republican donors, wants to keep buttoned up, and this is just an excuse to start on that."

"Here are 33 Questionable Entries on the ‘Viral’ Everytown Map of All School Shootings Since Newtown."

This is helpful.

"There is very little heart and soul in Judge Breyer's opinions. Quite clearly, he is a rather cold fish."

"He would never be a conciliator or a consensus builder on the Court.... His personality will also not generate supporters; nothing in his opinions suggests warmth in any way."

So said a 1993 memo, released today by the Clinton Library. The memo, addressed to an attorney in the White House counsel's office, was co-written by Ian Gershengorn (who has a high position today in the the Solicitor General's office). Bill Clinton proceeded to choose Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the opening on the Supreme Court (but Breyer did get the next seat that opened up).

Also in the memo:
"His opinions suggest an individual who falls somewhere between moderate and conservative on the ideological spectrum.... One suspects [Breyer] does not have (or refuses to utilize) any innate sense of justice....

"One cannot envision him being a staunch defender of civil rights. Nothing in his jurisprudence will give racial and ethnic·minority groups or the elderly or handicapped, much to cheer about.... Conservatives will be thrilled if Judge Breyer is appointed."
It gives you some idea of how liberal a judge needs to be to be considered liberal by a liberal President. And yet Bill Clinton chose Breyer next. And I'd like to see the memos on Ginsburg. The people I knew around here at the University of Wisconsin Law School at the time called her a conservative. After her activism as a lawyer, they called her a "disappointment" as a Court of Appeals judge. If there's something called "the ideological spectrum," where do you think the center is? It's rather silly to think that the center is wherever the 5th vote happens to be on the Supreme Court we have at any given moment. Plenty of people think they're all too conservative.

Manhattan skyline...

... from Jersey City, across the Hudson River, with the Freedom Tower:


That was the view from our hotel window. We chose to say on the New Jersey side, across the street from the PATH train that got us over to Greenwich Village quickly, because we arrived by car and thought it would be quiet and easier to sleep (which it was). It's an option, let's just say.

"Inside Grindr, Bruneians are careful and choosy. Sometimes people make private parties..."

"... mostly gay artists and celebrities in Brunei do that."
We are in a conservative Islamic country, so we need to be careful. There's no holding hands in public -- this is a Malay Islamic monarchy. We just have to follow one rule: Don't put it out there. It may sound hypocritical from me, but I'm a Muslim. I respect the new law and I support it. Because what I'm doing now, as a gay, it's not right for me to do. It's against the religion. But I have to, because it just came to me. I believe I will go to hell. Sometimes I want to change to be straight -- I've tried -- but I can't. Most of the people I have dated are married people with kids. We have this secret. What to do?"
I believe I will go to hell.  Really?

"Vampire Weekend, whose band members met at Columbia University, sings a song about the Oxford comma."

"Leonard Cohen weaves references to the Old Testament into his work. Bob Dylan may be the Baby Boomers’ Walt Whitman. But could the argument be made that Dan Wilson is our brainiest rocker?"
In the course of a single show at Joe’s Pub in New York this week, Mr. Wilson, a graduate of Harvard University, invoked, not in this exact order, Benedictine monks, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard P. Feynman and the Pyramid of Cheops....
So references in the lyrics are the test of braininess?

I'm sure you could think of some better tests!

And, by the way, what did Feynman do with that Pyramid?, I ask, making an Oxford comma joke, brainily. 

"Mass beheadings reported in northern Iraq as al-Qaeda forces take Mosul and Tikrit..."

"US 'stands ready' to provide assistance to Iraq... No detail yet on what that means - but almost certain to be diplomatic and equipment, rather than actual military intervention."

"[I]t’s not easy to box Brat into a neat caricature of an anti-immigration zealot or Tea Party demagogue, or, in Time’s hasty reporting, a 'shopworn conservative boilerplate.'"

"If Brat ascends to Congress, which is quite likely given the Republican-leaning district that he’ll run in as the GOP nominee, he may actually continue taking on powerful elites in Washington."

Writes Lee Fang at The Nation.

Do you want to ask how Cantor went wrong or do you want to listen to the Professor?

There's a lot of post-mortem on Cantor, and I assume his crushing loss was about him, and Professor Brat was not so much a specific person as he was Not Cantor, but I'll leave that to others right now, because I want to hear from the Professor.

There's a blog post at the Wall Street Journal by Reid J. Epstein titled "David Brat’s Writings: Hitler’s Rise 'Could All Happen Again,'" that begins ominously:
David Brat, the Virginia Republican who shocked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) Tuesday, wrote in 2011 that Hitler’s rise “could all happen again, quite easily.”

Mr. Brat’s remarks, in a 2011 issue of Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, came three years before he defeated the only Jewish Republican in Congress.
One might read that and feel that it means that Brat is a fan of Hilter's and that anti-Semitism made him run against Cantor. But that's not what Professor Brat says at all. In fact, Brat is making a brilliant libertarian point about the importance of not off-loading morality to government:

"Islamist insurgents in Iraq have seized the city of Tikrit, their second major gain after capturing Mosul on Tuesday."

"Tikrit, the capital of Salaheddine province and the hometown of former leader Saddam Hussein, lies just 150km (95 miles) north of Baghdad."
There were also reports on Thursday of fighting further south, in Samarra.

Separately, at least 21 people were killed and 45 hurt by a suicide bomber at a Shia meeting in Baghdad, police said.

Bee-style fighting.

UPDATE: Debunked.

What's with all the Mister Softee?

I was asking that as we walked around Manhattan a couple week's ago. But were these Mister Softee trucks... or where they the imposter: Master Softee?!
In the ice-cream truck turf war, knives and guns have been pulled before in the name of vigilante justice. “If you see a Mister Softee truck, you know bad things are coming!” warned a rival. That music can start to sound sinister.
Start? I've seen "After Hours" — "So now she's the one in the Mister Softee ice cream truck who's trying to kill me. They're all trying to kill me!"

That music has been sinister since 1985.

I don't watch the news on TV. Can anyone tell me how to pronounce "Brat"?

I searched Google news for "how to pronounce David Brat," but I only got a few uses of the verb "pronounce" in phrases like "Immigration 'has been pronounced dead many times over the last..." I checked a couple Wisconsin newspapers on the theory that it's only the people around here who notice that there are 2 ways to say "brat." I found nothing but realized that nothing is sufficient basis to infer that the amazing Professor Brat says his name like the word Samuel Johnson's 1755 "Dictionary of the English Language" defined as "A child, so called in contempt."

By the way, remember the "Brat Pack"? Here's the old New York Magazine cover story from 1985, "Hollywood’s Brat Pack":
It is to the 1980s what the Rat Pack was to the 1960s—a roving band of famous young stars on the prowl for parties, women, and a good time. And just like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Sammy Davis Jr., these guys work together, too—they’ve carried their friendships over from life into the movies....
We easily remember Frank and the others, but can you remember the Brat Packers? Try to fill in the names:
The Hottest of Them All...

The Most Beautiful Face...

The Overrated One...

The Only One With an Oscar...

The One Least Likely to Replace Marlon Brando...

The Ethnic Chair...

The Most Gifted of Them All...
Anyway, since David Brat doesn't seem to be much of a Tea Partier, if he collects some followers, they can be called — perhaps they already are — The Brat Pack.

Paris bridge — Pont des Arts — collapses (partly) under the weight of 700,000+ "love locks."

"Love locks" are "padlocks engraved with a couple's initials, sort of the Parisian version of carving your names into a tree."

I think it looks like a pretty sweet community art project, but I'm not seeing whether the Pont des Arts was beautiful or boring before the locks were attached. They people who dislike it will point to this supposed collapse from the weight, but how much did the bridge collapse?

There's still ice on Lake Superior.

Just a speck.

"It was obviously eaten. What's gonna eat a shark that big?"

"What could kill a 9ft great white?"

"The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (Isis) has become the richest terror group ever after looting 500 billion Iraqi dinars..."

"... the equivalent of $429m (£256m) - from Mosul's central bank, according to the regional governor."
The Islamist militants took control of Mosul after hundreds of its fighters overwhelmed government  military forces in a lightening attack on Monday, forcing up to 500,000 people to flee the city and Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to call a national state of emergency.

The militants freed up to 1,000 inmates from Mosul's central prison, according to senior police officials. They are also in control of Mosul airport and local television stations.
For the record, the U.S. is "deeply concerned" and "stands with the Iraqi people." Noted.

June 10, 2014

"God acted through people on my behalf... It’s an unbelievable miracle."

Said Dave Brat.

"In reality, airplanes not only spew far more greenhouse gases per passenger than any other mode of transport..."

"... but they do so high in the atmosphere, magnifying the ill effects....
A recent study by Stewart Barr, a geographer at the UK's University of Exeter, found that people who identified as committed environmentalists actually flew more than those who didn't. Some of these "bleeding-heart jet setters" insisted they'd earned their flights through green behavior at home. "People tell themselves they can justify a flight of 5,000 miles because they've recycled all year," Barr told me.
But look at this chart:

At the Rub Your Neck Café...


... you're a good doggie!

(Althouse and Bassett Hound photographed by Meade near The Peninsula at Packanack Lake.)

Eric Cantor loses primary to a Tea Partier!

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated Tuesday by a little-known economics professor in Virginia's Republican primary, a stunning upset and major victory for the tea party.

Cantor is the second-most powerful member of the U.S. House and was seen by some as a possible successor to the House speaker.

His loss to Dave Brat, a political novice with little money marks a huge victory for the tea party movement, which supported Cantor just a few years ago.
Love the name, btw, Dave Brat....

I know Hillary is going to chide us for paying attention to her hair...

... but look how she's presenting herself as she begins her book tour:

Her hair is so minutely, so fussily attended to. It's engineered into some desperate, pathetic statement of what she thinks we want in the name of credible power and residual femininity.

The cropped photograph accompanies a "Today" show website item titled "Hillary Clinton: I refused to ‘attack’ Palin for ‘being a woman.'"
"The day she was nominated, the Obama campaign did contact me and asked me if I would attack her,” Clinton said in an interview with NBC’s Cynthia McFadden, airing in full tonight on Nightly News. "I said, 'Attack her for what — for being a woman? Attack her for being on a ticket that's trying to draw attention? There'll be plenty of time to do what I think you should do in politics, which is draw distinctions.'"
Oh! The sisterhood!  Sisterhood is powerful... and yet...

"The 3 humans wander through forest and scrub, through 'pockets of temporal distortion' and a sort of lake..."

"... so subtly underwater the newlyweds only notice they are submerged when the gun won’t fire."
They hunt (“That was rather exhilarating!” says the husband, knocked over by his own recoil), and are hunted in turn—menaced by a mobile, anthropomorphic forest grove, swallowed by a furry, almond-shaped monster with a very yonic mouth, chewed on by a four-legged, bodiless cyclops. Parasites threaten their orifices—the guide pulls a hissing worm out of the husband’s ear, but is later infected himself—and ethereal, telepathic “forest apes” watch them from afar. At one point Jacobs suddenly pulls back to show that the whole forest is actually the face of a maniacally grinning giant, a “revelation” that is never returned to.

The book is "Safari Honeymoon" by Jesse Jacobs.

"Inexplicably, the standard method for cooking lobster tails is to steam them..."

"...which yields a boring, flabby, bland result that tastes like nothing so much as nothing."
Grilling tails has become a common preparation for people who don't like seafood but do like the idea of eating something as symbolic of extravagance as lobster; grilled lobster is wonderful if you enjoy chicken, but enjoy chicken even more when you've traded your child's college education for it. These are the most popular methods for cooking lobster not because they yield the best results, but because they are simple and involve no technique more complicated than putting the lobster tail in a hot place, setting a timer, and then not being abducted by aliens in the interval before it beeps; this way, when the lobster turns out disappointing, you can easily shift the blame to your clock, and bash it to atoms with a sledgehammer.
The proper way to cook lobster tails — apparently, and I'm in the middle of trying it right now — involves something called a beurre monté.

"A California judge ruled Tuesday that teacher tenure laws deprive students of their right to an education under the state Constitution."

The NYT reports. It's a lower court decision, and it's only California law, but it's radical and, notably, it was "enthusiastically endorsed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan." The old Wisconsin protests chant springs to mind: "What's disgusting? Union busting!" I didn't realize the current administration was so anti-union:
“We believe the judge fell victim to the anti-union, anti-teacher rhetoric and one of American’s finest corporate law firms that set out to scapegoat teachers for the real problems that exist in public education,” said Joshua Pechthalt, the president of the California Federation of Teachers. “There are real problems in our schools, but this decision in no way helps us move the ball forward.”
Who are the "us" toward whose goal the president of the teachers' union wants the ball moved? The teachers and the students or just the teachers?

"Every law not based on WISDOM is a menace to the state"/"We must not use FORCE till just laws are defied."

Stunning inscriptions on 2 sculptures at the entrance to the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department in Manhattan:



According to this PDF from the court, the "Wisdom" sculpture is "an old man." It doesn't say it's Moses. Just some old guy. But the "Force" sculpture, we're told "is a composite of General Ulysses S. Grant, General Nelson A. Miles, and Admiral Francis M. Bunce." Actually, there is a Moses statue elsewhere on the building, at the roof line:


There are various other historical figures, like Zoroaster and Confucius, and I see in the PDF that Muhammad was one of them until his image was removed and destroyed back in 1955, at the request of the governments of Egypt, Pakistan, and Indonesia.

Be that as it may, it's the inscriptions that fascinate me. I think that these are original aphorisms, composed for these sculptures, and that they were intended to paraphrase widely understood propositions of American law. Nevertheless, the precise words, taken literally, are quite extreme. I was surprised to see them on the courthouse. How differently cases would come out if these 2 phrases were binding law, taken seriously? 

"Space has a smell."

"And I don’t mean inside the space station. When a visiting vehicle docks with the space station, there is ‘space’ between the two vehicles. Once the pressure is equalized and the hatch is opened, you have this metallic ionization-type smell. It’s quite unique and very distinct.”

Kicking the dead body of the armed citizen who stepped forward to stop a shooting spree.

From the NYT report "Antigovernment Obsession Preceded Las Vegas Shootings":
[T]he Millers crossed the street to the Walmart. Mr. Miller fired a round and announced: “Get out! This is a revolution. Police are on the way.”

Amid the pandemonium, Joseph Wilcox, 31, who had been in the checkout line, approached Mr. Miller brandishing a weapon, the police said. Ms. Miller pulled a pistol out of her purse and fatally shot him in the midsection, the police said.

“He died attempting to protect others,” Sheriff Douglas C. Gillespie said of Mr. Wilcox. “His death is completely senseless.”
That's the NYT template: Guns for self-defense and the defense of others is the delusion of pathetic rubes. Wilcox thought he could be a hero, and he drew the target on himself. Sheriff Gillespie's first statement "He died attempting to protect others" sounds like the usual respect for the dead, but the second statement "His death is completely senseless" is exactly the sound bite anti-gun people love.

A top-rated comment over at the NYT: "I thought a good guy with a gun was supposed to be able to stop a bad guy with a gun. Isn't that right Mr. LaPierre?"

Why should we succumb to what Virginia Postrel calls the "seduction" and "glamour" of travel?

As you may remember, I'm skeptical about travel. Travel is promoted by the industries that profit from it, including writers who romanticize it, and I question whether the consumers who hemorrhage money and submit to the ordeals of travel even know their own minds as they profess to love travel.

Now, Virginia Postrel has this essay titled "The Glamour of Getting Away/No matter how unpleasant the real journeys, travel still has a way of seducing us," and I don't see why her observations don't lead her to the same skepticism that I have. She tells us about the advertising and photography that lure us into thinking travel will be sublime, and that in reality travel rewards our effort and expense with far less pleasure than we formed our expectations around.

But instead of seriously questioning travel, Postrel only shifts to self-help mode with a few sentences of advice on how to make the best of travel:
If you expect your vacation to be a series of perfectly composed still photos, with no sandy bathing suits, sore feet, or fellow tourists, you won’t have a good time. But you can... adopt a viewpoint that downplays the difficulties of your journey and highlights its pleasures. Expect the plane delays and enjoy the view. Focus on the beauty of Venice and ignore the stink. Create happy memory snapshots as you go, preserving the glamour of travel.
In other words, the hope for pleasure and fulfillment that makes you want to spend and work on travel comes from an illusion, but if you do additional work, work on preserving the illusion, you can still get some pleasure and fulfillment. There's no discussion of the alternative of resisting the sales pressure and not buying. Is there a better way to spend your money and your time? One could cast aside illusions and search for the truth, including the truth of what genuinely gives pleasure.

Postrel has made "glamour" her subject, so perhaps she would say we get pleasure from illusions, and truth itself is overpromoted and insufficiently pleasurable.

"Scott Walker and his governorship ought to be the modern-day blueprint for the Republican Party on how to win, how to win in other states, how to win the presidency."

"And then after they do that, how to fix what's wrong with the country," said Rush Limbaugh, on his show yesterday. It was his first show after a week's vacation, so he had a big backlog of material, and one might infer that this idealization of Scott Walker is something he really wanted to say. Evidence against that inference: 1. It began the third (i.e., the last) hour of the show, and 2. Limbaugh was obviously reading a script at this point — you can tell because he gets slightly robotic and stumbles over a word now and then — so maybe this was fallback material to use when the spontaneous stream-of-consciousness runs short.

Let's continue the script:
A conservative triumphing and winning in Wisconsin is huge. That was one of the bluest of blue states. It's home to some of the most fringe, left-wing radical movements that there are in this country. 
Especially here in Madison, I need to say.
They weren't able to beat Scott Walker and two recall efforts, failed miserably. 
Now, this part must be ad lib, because he's got the facts wrong. There was only one recall election against Scott Walker, and under state law, there can only be one per term. 

Rush observes that it's that other governor, Chris Christie who gets all the media, and people might say that's because "nobody cares about Scott Walker."
Well, the people of Wisconsin know about Scott Walker, and the people living there have elected him and have fought against efforts to recall him. He's had to fight like hell. It has not been easy. But it's the blueprint, it's evidence. I've interviewed him for the Limbaugh Letter. I've been chronicling this. I have been pointing this out to people. When he survived the most recent recall and when he announced the latest budget, which included tax cuts, a budget surplus, I said, "This should be the biggest story in the Republican Party today." And it was right before the Republican governors convention. And if you didn't hear about it on this program, you didn't hear about it.
So Rush is really championing Walker. If you read the whole segment at the top link, you'll see it's his usual idea that Republicans win elections through principled conservatism and not by charming the media. The media are now shining their light on Chris Christie, but only, the theory goes, so he'll get the nomination, at which point they'll do what they can to wreck him, and, representing nothing principled, he'll have nothing to offer the voters.

"Nobody" may care about Scott Walker now, but if and when he gets the nomination, "nobody" will care about Chris Christie. That's the Limbaugh line on 2016.

June 9, 2014

A journey into the past.

A week ago, we took a road trip east, and we stopped in Wayne, New Jersey, where I lived from 1964 to 1969, when I graduated from high school. I hadn't been there in over 40 years. I'd lived on Mountainside Drive in Packanack Lake (and looking it up to get a link, I see that Tom Cruise was my neighbor, an elementary school kid when I was a teenager (maybe he noticed me... I never noticed him)).

So it was very strange going back, to that little lake.


I live surrounded by lakes now, in Madison, Wisconsin, but Packanack Lake is mythic to me. Ah! There's the bridge. We walked across that bridge in the evening when we were 18....


How mysterious it all was! Does anyone see me here in 2014, in this place that seems as though it shouldn't even be real, but should be lost in the past, in the summer of 1969, when we spent the whole night out on The Peninsula?

"Gay couples across Wisconsin rushed to wed Monday, as more than half of the counties in the state began issuing licenses ahead of an expected hold..."

"... on a ruling that the state's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional."
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb in Madison struck down the ban Friday in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging the prohibition. But she didn't order county clerks to begin issuing licenses or block them from handing them out. She said she wants the ACLU to draft an order for her spelling out how the organization wants her decision implemented.

"A video showing a mass sexual assault on a nearly naked woman in the midst of inaugural celebrations for Egypt’s new president..."

"... is testing his pledge to curb an epidemic of such attacks, with captured scenes of a police officer with a gun in his hand struggling against a crowd of men to extricate the victim."

I'm glad that when you see men in shorts, you think of me.

So I'd better link to this before I get email from everyone in the world.

For the record: This is the 155th post I've done with the tag "men in shorts."

ADDED: People seem to think I'm freaked out by men in shorts, but my point has always been that a man in shorts looks like an enlarged boy, and only pedophiles are attracted to boys. I continually see unattractive men, and I'd be pretty strange if I couldn't deal with it. I've always simply tried to help men look appealing to women. I think there are many, many men who tell themselves that women (unlike men) are not visually oriented and that the way a man looks is not so important to women. Don't kid yourself, and don't look like a kid.

"Rats are capable of feeling regret about their own actions..."

"... an emotion that has never previously been found in any other mammals apart from humans."

Before clicking, see if you can think of an experiment that would test a rat's capacity to feel regret.

Meanwhile, I'm picturing a rat singing "My Way"...  

Regrets, I've had a few/But then again, too few to mention/I did what I had to do/And saw it through without exemption...

That actually is probably the way a rat thinks. (Hey: The Rat Pack!)

I'll bet you think I should regret writing this post. Non, je ne regrette rien.

Progress on the path of passivity.

"The iPad And Other Tablets Are Turning Out To Be Far More Important Than PCs Ever Were."
[T]ablets have already, by one measure, surpassed the sales numbers of both PCs and laptop-style notebook computers....
And so we see ourselves sliding into passivity. I love my iPad for reading, but it's almost useless for writing. When I'm lounging about with my iPad, I'm a reader. I can write, but it's completely awkward to do so and I rarely do. In the old days, before desktops and laptops, I read paper books, probably with a pen in hand to write notes in the margin. With my desktop and laptop — connected to the internet and loaded with texts — the process understanding through reading merged fluidly with the process of writing. I read to write, and write for readers who write back to me, and I write again, endlessly. At some point in the evening, I settle down with my iPad, and I am deactivated. I'm choosing this deactivation, on a daily basis. One must wind down and go to sleep. But I worry about people shifting to iPads and other tablets and away from the keyboard. I know reading, just reading, can be active, and I know there's the modest activity of "sharing" what is read on Facebook and Twitter, and maybe the young folks can do some serious typing on the virtual keyboard, but I fear we are sinking into passivity, that we're taking sleeping tablets.

The current state of Meade's leaf composting process that I called an "art installation"...

... last November.

Today, Meade did the last of moving the leaves out of the semi-circle lawn, which had taken the form I call "the protractor."


Looking for the picture from last fall, I searched this blog for "leaves," and one thing I found was "Right now, the tiny oak leaves look like flowers." I wrote:
They're pink and less than a half inch long.

Look closer, and they seem like sugar-coated candy.

Who can picture them all brown and leathery? I can. There are still so many of last year's oak leaves strewn about the yard.
That's a post from April 30, 2007. I met Meade in person for the first time in January 2009, but Meade is there, in 2007, in the comments:
What, you mean you didn't rake, bag, and send them off to the landfill back in November?
And the answer to that question, I now see, was: No, I have been keeping them for 25 years, right here — in situ — for that art project of yours.

A neat sliver by Nate Silver.

"The question is whether [Republicans]’ll net the six pickups necessary to win control of the Senate. If the Republicans win only five seats, the Senate would be split 50-50 but Democrats would continue to control it because of the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Joseph Biden. Our March forecast projected a Republicans gain of 5.8 seats. ... The new forecast is for a Republican gain of 5.7 seats."

Stay tuned to FiveThirtyEight, where the fine tuning gets finer by the day.

Caesar conquers...


... your heart.

Neil Patrick Harris, "licking Samuel L. Jackson’s eyeglasses and giving a lap dance to Sting."

Things you missed — and I missed — by not watching the Tony awards show last night.

Monday morning Supreme Court action.

Watching... to the extent that this event can be watched — at the live-blog at SCOTUSblog.

UPDATE: Nothing bloggable today. I'm interested in federal jurisdiction (a subject I've taught for 30+) but I'm not going to spring into action over the Executive Benefits Insurance Agency case (PDF)("[T]he Constitution does not permit a bankruptcy court to enter final judgment on a bankruptcy-related claim, the relevant statute nevertheless permits a bankruptcy court to issue proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to be reviewed de novo by the district court").

"To make the world a better place, I invented a transformative water purifier."

"It takes in dirty and polluted water from rivers, lakes, and even oceans, then massively transforms the water into clean, safe and sanitary water, when humans and animals drink this water, they will live a healthier life."
Writes 11-year-old Audrey Zhang who won the 7th annual Doodle 4 Google competition, which had 100,000 entries from K-12, all trying to "draw an invention that would make the world a better place."

At the link, if you scroll down, you'll see her winning drawing, and if you watch the video, you'll see that she worked with the Google people to add lots of little animations to the drawing to produce the version that you see at the top of the page. It's really very cute and the issue choice — clean water — is nicely sound and sane. You can see some of the other finalists in the video, and some of them have more creative, kidstyle ideas about how the world could be improved.

IN THE COMMENTS: I said: "I can't believe people are being cranky about a child winning a drawing contest! I need to draw a invention that will make the world a better place that is some kind of device that uncranks Monday morning cranks." Ah, forget drawing. I'm going to do the invention. Here it is, a crank to uncrank cranks:

AND: Already invented, with crank, The Twittering Machine:

The Las Vegas murderers covered their victims with a Gadsden flag and one shouted: "This is the start of a revolution."

The couple — a married male and female — began this "revolution" in a pizza joint and continued it across the street at a Wal-Mart where they soon enough killed themselves. Police say they found swastikas and white supremacy material at their apartment.

One neighbor said called them "weird," thought they used meth, and connected them to the Cliven Bundy protests. He said the man "often rambled about conspiracy theories" and "often wore camouflage or dressed as Peter Pan to work as a Fremont Street Experience street performer."

(Photo of Freemont Street by Jean-Christophe Benoist.)

June 8, 2014

More evidence of dissembling at the NYT.

Recently, I wrote: "Question: When does the NYT want us to care about the impact of gun control laws on a convicted felon? Answer: When it's an occasion to portray Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as lacking in empathy."

David Hardy writes:
The fellow in the story was convicted of aggravated assault after breaking a man's nose, and wants a pardon so that his gun rights will be restored. Funny that a few years ago the Times ran an article headlined "Felons Finding It Easy to Regain Gun Rights."

"To many of those soldiers, Sergeant Bergdahl was viewed as standoffish or eccentric, smoking a pipe..."

"... instead of spitting tobacco, as so many soldiers do, and reading voraciously when others napped or watched videos. But he was not isolated from his platoon mates, some said. And while he was, like other soldiers in the platoon, often disappointed or confused by their mission in Paktika, some of his peers also said that Sergeant Bergdahl seemed enthusiastic about fighting, particularly after the platoon was ambushed several weeks before his disappearance. 'He’d complain about not being able to go on the offensive, and being attacked and not being able to return fire'...."

From a NYT piece titled "Bergdahl Was in Unit Known for Its Troubles."

At the Retail Space Café...


... you can talk about anything you want.


(The photos were taken last weekend, when we were in NYC.)

"Rape is a special kind of cruelty in that it transforms the life-giving act into an act of torture."

"To suffer the crime and yet cherish the life is an act of transcendence, a perfection of generosity rarely if ever equaled by the merely human."

ADDED: You might think anyone who made it out of the womb alive has got to support her mother's decision not to have an abortion (like Miss Pennsylvania, Valerie Gatto, who is the product of a rape) but here's an essay by Lynn Beisner from 2012: "I wish my mother had aborted me/This is no 'I wish I'd never been born' howl of angst. I love my mother, and having an abortion would have given her a better life."

"The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation didn’t just bankroll the development of what became known as the Common Core State Standards."

"With more than $200 million, the foundation also built political support across the country, persuading state governments to make systemic and costly changes...."
The movement grew so quickly and with so little public notice that opposition was initially almost nonexistent. That started to change last summer, when local tea party groups began protesting what they viewed as the latest intrusion by an overreaching federal government — even though the impetus had come from the states....

Some liberals are angry, too, with a few teacher groups questioning Gates’s influence and motives. Critics say Microsoft stands to benefit from the Common Core’s embrace of technology and data....

The decision by the Gates Foundation to simultaneously pay for the standards and their promotion is a departure from the way philanthropies typically operate....
Much more at the link.

Racehorse owner's assertion that "It’s not fair to these horses" to let horses that haven't run in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness run in the Belmont.

You've probably already seen this rant by California Chrome owner Steve Coburn after his horse, having won the Derby and Preakness, lost the Belmont and thus the Triple Crown, which no horse has won since 1978:

"This is not fair to these horses that have been in this thing running their guts out for these people and for the people that believe in them, to have some somebody come out like this — this is the coward's way out, in my opinion, this is the coward's way out."

The horse has no conception of fairness. The horse doesn't know the significance of a particular race or set of races or why this particular set of fellow horses are running with him on any given day. The projection of human ambitions and ethical standards onto the horse is perfectly silly. But they do run their guts out. Who knows why... other than to say that of the many horses that are bred for racing, only the ones with the instinct to run their guts out are in these top-level races.

It's maudlin and irrational to speak of the horse's sense of justice, but if we look directly at the minds that are relevant, the human minds, Coburn's outrage makes even less sense. Having lost, you look absurd to say that the rules should be changed to whatever it is that would have given you the victory. And the only reason the Triple Crown is so impressive is that it's very hard for the same horse to win all 3 races, with the third race being significantly longer. If you change the rules, you'd retrospectively undermine the past achievements, and the races would be less interesting to the general public and the betting public.

I mean, why are they interesting at all? Maybe it's only because we imagine the horse as having something like a human mind. I'll wait to hear from the horse.

Questioning the sincerity of Althouse's religion.

From the comments on my post "You know what's weird about all the pushback I'm getting on the Biblical reading I provided?," Mid-Life Lawyer said:
For many of us it is offensive when those who do not properly respect the scriptures or give them their proper authority, pull them out and use them out of context to make a political point....

I have read your site for several years, commenting occasionally, and I feel pretty confident that you don't take much stock in the whole Christianity thing.
The Godfather said:
I get the feeling that some Christian commenters don't think your citations of scripture are sincere. They think you're being a smart ass. It doesn't really bother me: You're a law prof, and my experience leads me to conclude that all law profs are smart asses.
And Jon Burack said:
As to Mid-Life Lawyer who is "offended" by people pulling Bible quotes out and not giving them the take approved by "proper authority," I think Martin Luther let that cat out of the bag a long time ago. Or maybe it was the printing press. The proper authority long ago went up in a puff of smoke.
That's all very interesting and fair, because just 2 days ago I blogged "I am pervasively skeptical that people actually believe the religion they profess to believe," linking to my own comments in an earlier thread:
Reading the Gospels, I see Jesus as challenging people about their beliefs, perceiving that they do not truly believe, and holding them to a much higher standard of what real belief is.

When I look at what purportedly religious people say and do, I question whether they are what they claim to be. Religion is used to serve human interests on earth, and all of that is pragmatic and social.

Show me the true believer. What would the true believer do and say?

Tattoo artist doesn't really want to spend his tattooing time creating trompe l'oeil nipples.

But the universe and The New York Times keep prodding him.

Poor Vinnie Myers whose artistic skill made him really good at tattooing realistic nipples. At the end of the video at the link — which concentrates mostly on the woman's emotional arc — says:
"You know, you definitely lose the artistic satisfaction... when you're doing the nipple tattoos all day. You don't get that same gratification [that you get] when you finish a back piece or you finish a sleeve [and] you're taking the final photos. But you gain this other satisfaction that's... that's... even more rewarding."
He tried to quit. From the text of the article:
As Mr. Myers developed his technique, word spread and his business grew, giving him little time for other tattoos. Mr. Myers said that in 2010 he decided to stop doing nipple tattoos.

“The morning that I planned on telling the guys to stop taking appointments for them, my sister called to tell me she had breast cancer,” he recalled.

He took it as a sign.