November 15, 2014

Did feminists make the comet landing all about clothes?

That's what Glenn Reynolds writes, and I'm not buying it.
So how are things going for feminism? Well, last week they took one of the great achievements of human history -- landing a probe from Earth on a comet hundreds of millions of miles away -- and made it all about the clothes.
There's no antecedent for "they." Is "feminism" a collective term for all feminists? Even if it's only "some women," as Glenn puts it in the second paragraph, there's no way the people who chose to comment on Matt Taylor's shirt had the power to transform a newsworthy event into an event all about the clothes.

The statement would make more sense if it read: Some feminists made their preferred topic more attention-getting than the topic that should have predominated.

So what? We often pay less attention to what is more important. Why aren't we spending all our time thinking and talking about the deepest religious and philosophical questions?

Do you want to shut up the chatter that you think is too frivolous? It used to be the feminists who seemed to want to silence others. Apparently, now, they're so powerful that men are the ones doing the silencing. Men used to tell women that they ought to enter the debate and argue forthrightly in words and not expect men to shut up. In the case of this shirt, women jumped in, spoke up, and got heard. Isn't that what men had been advising women to do?

Rocket man picks a shirt.

And I think it's gonna be a long long time
Until they let Matt Taylor forget his crime
Wearing a shirt decorated with sexy gals
And let him be just what he is, a rocket man
Rocket man — crying contriteness with his science pals
Rocket man!

Science is not a place to express your id
In fact, it's not a place at all
And it's not like they'd really get you, if you did
And all this science, he can understand
It's just his job, five days a week
A rocket man!

So here's the shirt, it looked a little something like this, I think:



Rocket man, you can't redo real life and pick a shirt again
Rocket man, if you only could, pick this one and see what they say



And I think it's gonna be a long long time, until they let Matt Taylor forget his crime....

(Here's the Elton John song.)

P.S. TO THE PEOPLE WHO DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT: Don't talk about it!

"It’s not a good time to be a pick-up artist, or the sort of bloke who relies on his 'wisdom'..."

Writes Dean Burnett in The Guardian.
On one hand you’ve got Julien Blanc, provoking such a strong backlash with his seminars on using violence to attract women that he’s literally being thrown out of countries.  On the other, you’ve got the Dapper Laughs, with his ITV2 show about how to chat up women being cancelled, along with several live events, following a campaign and footage of him saying some horrific things to a woman at one of his gigs....

Despite their apparent complexity and widespread use, the methods of pick-up artists are largely pseudoscientific nonsense, so what better way to achieve dominance (which is the most important thing, after all) than by using actual science?...
Burnett offers some science based advice, then says "this entire piece is actually an elaborate example of 'negging,' so any pick-up artist who complains is basically admitting their methods don’t work." There's a link on "negging" that goes to this XKCD cartoon:

"With its batteries depleted and not enough sunlight available to recharge, Philae has fallen into 'idle mode' for a potentially long silence."

"In this mode, all instruments and most systems on board are shut down.... From now on, no contact would be possible unless sufficient sunlight falls on the solar panels to generate enough power to wake it up."

Let's just array these flight controllers... randomly:


Photo credit: Steven Young/Astronomy Now.

Fatherly discipline of the old-school, patrician kind.

From George W. Bush's book "41: A Portrait of My Father." George W., college age, driving drunk, hits a garbage can and zooms into his parents' driveway:
Mother had watched the scene unfold. She was furious.

“Your behavior is disgraceful,” she said. I stared at her blankly. “Go upstairs and see your father,” she said.

I defiantly charged upstairs and put my hands on my hips. “I understand you want to see me.”

Dad was reading a book. He lowered his book, calmly slid off his reading glasses, and stared right at me. Then he put his reading glasses back on and lifted up the book.

I felt like a fool. I slunk out of the room, chastened by the knowledge that I had disappointed my father so deeply that he would not speak to me.

That was as close as we got to an argument. Dad was not the kind of man who engaged in verbal fisticuffs. He would let my siblings and me know when we were out of line, and he expected us to correct the problem. Eventually, we did.
I think most parents don't realize how much discipline can be achieved through wordlessly conveying expectations.

Criticizing Scott Walker as too much of a one-man show.

It's Kimberly Strassel in the Wall Street Journal —  channeling "Republican leaders" — in a piece subtitled "He went into the midterm just one name on a presidential short list, but came out the buzz":
What still gives a lot of Republican leaders pause about Scott Walker is, well, Scott Walker. The Wisconsin dynamo is good, but the knock on him is that he knows it. He has a reputation as a one-man band, serving these past four years as his own chief speechwriter, chief policy aide, chief fundraiser, and chief political analyst. He is known to listen to a few trusted Wisconsin gurus—like consultant R.J. Johnson—but for the most part is anti-team effort....

Even Ronald Reagan, as savvy and principled as they came, knew the value of surrounding himself with advisers who knew things he didn’t. Republicans remain concerned by how unprepared, or unwilling, Mr. Walker seems to be to switch up to a presidential-run mentality, noting that he relied in this crucial re-election on an ad hoc campaign group, rather than using it to ramp up a pre-presidential team. His tendency to insularity also makes them worry what personnel choices he will make if and when he gets around to it.

This issue of personnel and advisers matters since it goes to the heart of Mr. Walker’s greatest challenge: Proving he can rise to the stature of a national presidential figure, and be something more than a statewide politician. As governors go he’s the anti-Chris Christie. The New Jersey governor is big on talk, less on policy. Mr. Walker is big on substance . . . and Midwestern flat.
It sounds like there are a lot of consultants looking for jobs who have Ms. Strassel's ear.

November 14, 2014

About that scientist's sexy-lady shirt.

You know this story. The Rosetta project scientist, Matt Taylor, on the day of the landing on the comet, wears a ridiculous shirt, gets criticized, and makes a tearful apology. I wasn't going to talk about it because I didn't know what to say. Then I read this from WaPo's Rachel Feltman:
Of course, I personally hope that one day (when he's a little less busy) Taylor will say a bit more on the subject, and show that he understands why the shirt wasn't okay. Science is not a welcoming place for women, even today, and the only people who can truly make it more welcoming are the men who run the show. If a stellar scientist walks into work -- and then says hello to the whole world -- wearing a sexist shirt, what kind of message are we sending to future scientists?
She wants him to say why the shirt wasn't okay. That's just dragging out the apology, making it into more of an abject ritual. She already knows the reason why it's not okay, but just wants to hear him recite the reason that he's already had his face rubbed in to the point where he's sniveling. What I want him to talk about is what we don't know: Why did he think it was okay... not just okay, but a good idea? I don't know what else Mr. Taylor has in his closet, but what was that like — knowing it was the day of the landing, when eyes would be on you — to look at your array of clothing and to have it dawn on your big brain that this is the best costume for the day. I'd like a verbal depiction of that mental process, perhaps in the style of Little Edie:



That's from one of my favorite movies, "Grey Gardens." Another favorite movie of mine is "The Fly," the 1986 one with Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle. Brundle's a brilliant scientist — a tad odd, but brilliant. And in one of the lesser scenes — lesser, but memorable — he has to explain his clothes to his girlfriend Ronnie (Geena Davis):
Ronnie: Do you ever change your clothes?
Seth Brundle: What?
Ronnie: Your clothes. You're always wearing the same clothes.
Seth Brundle: No, these are clean. I change my clothes every day.
Ronnie: [looking in his closet] Five sets of exactly the same clothes?
Seth Brundle: Learned it from Einstein. This way I don't have to expend my thought on what I have to wear next, I just grab the next set on the rack.
So, now, I'm picturing Matt Taylor's closet — his Einstein-informed closet — packed end to end with shirts garishly patterned with cartoonishly bosom-y women. Come on, Matt, stop your sobbing and say something interesting.

The best song for the day:



"Do you have a shirt that you really love, one that you feel so groovy in?"

"What counts as 'censorship' on a platform like Twitter?"

"Magazines and blogs are typically free to reject articles—and, for that matter, to delete offensive reader comments—without being accused of censorship."

That statement — by The New Yorker's Kelefa Sanneh in "Censoring Twitter" — gets a big huh? from me. You get accused of censorship all the time when you delete comments on a blog. I lob such accusations myself. Even if "blogs are typically free" to delete what the commenters post, everyone is also free to make accusations about the nature of the deletions and to use the word "censorship" if they want.

Perhaps Sanneh means to say that it's not "censorship" and that he defines the word "censorship" to refer only to the acts of government because we only have a constitutional free-speech right against what the government does. I don't accept that limitation of the word. But I do delete comments sometimes, according to my standards. I own up to censorship, and I defend my standards.

But I do understand something Sanneh might be trying to say, something I agree with: Blogs are different from websites like Twitter and Facebook which are larger frameworks designed to accommodate the individual expression of others. My blog is on Google's Blogger, and if Google tried to control what I could say it would be quite different from my deleting comments that cross whatever line I've decided to defend.

Hillary's Mook Mafia and its Most High Grown Ass Reverend Marlon D. "Please believe and obey the beard."

At ABC News: "Read the Secret Emails of the Men Who May Run Hillary Clinton's Campaign.
[Emails] include rallying cries to, in [Robby] Mook’s words, “smite Republicans mafia-style,” and, to quote [Marlon] Marshall, “punish those voters.”... The existence of a “Mook Mafia” of friends and loyalists who extend through Mook’s previous campaign work has long been known....

In the more substantive messages, though, Marshall emerges as the more aggressive of the duo.... “F U Republicans. Mafia till I die,” he wrote.... “First, the mafia never separates, it just continues to grow and expand and move into other states in order to destroy Republicans,” [Marshall] wrote. “A special thanks to none other than the namesake himself, Deacon Robby Mook. Without him, there would be no mafia and I for sure know I would not have learned as much as I have in this business and have this opportunity.”...

“It's true: Marlon Marshall is leaving our fold. Today is the day the grownassman [sic] grows up and leaves for America's Second City. I know this prodical [sic] son will return to the mafia manger soon enough to smite Republicans mafia-style,” Mook wrote. “If you can't be here in person, join me in spirit by sending your words of love and encouragement to the Most High Grown Ass Reverend Marlon D as he embarks on his pilgrimage. Please believe and obey the beard.”

"And you think it's possible for the State to navigate between not enough minority members in the district and too many minority members in the district without taking race into account."

Said Chief Justice John Roberts at the oral argument Wednesday in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama. (I'm quoting from the transcript, but here's a news article summarizing things.)

The lawyer for the appellants, Eric Schnapper, fought for coherence (and it really is hard to be coherent in the difficult-to-navigate area of law that is redistricting). He brought up a case (Easley) that said "that the fact that race was a factor in drawing a district doesn't trigger strict scrutiny" but that there should be strict scrutiny if "race was the predominant, overriding purpose."

Roberts came back: "So... they have to navigate between too many and too few, but without race being the predominant consideration."

Viral video of men taking advantage of a woman...

... was made by taking advantage of men.

The woman was not befuddled — did you know the original meaning of "befuddled" is drunk? — but the men were befuddled — in the sense of confused. They were (apparently) invited to participate in a little film project, playing a role, not anticipating that it would be presented as documenting street harassment, in the manner of that woman-walking-for-10-hours viral video.

I blogged that walking-for-10-hours thing, but passed on that follow-on drunk-girl fakery. I knew it was fakery, because the acting was bad. It's not easy to act drunk. Here's some classic advice from an actor: "You don't play drunk—you try to act sober. People don't act drunk, people are drunk, and they try to act sober." Great advice, if you can figure out how to follow it. More here:
Only bad actors slur their words, stumble over the furniture and gasp after each swallow of fake hard stuff. Real-life drunks try to disguise their condition — and the best pretend-drunks follow suit.

Everyone has a different take on "playing drunk," says top Dallas theater director René Moreno. "Pacing your drunk acting is key. First drink equals feeling relaxed. Second drink equals mild euphoria. Third drink, hilarity ensues. Fourth, paranoia prevails. Fifth, sixth or more, anything from plain old meanness to self-hatred to weepy-weepy to suicidal. You want your actor to bring as much of his or her own experience to the work but not actually be drunk onstage, though I have had that experience. Yikes."

Trying hard not to seem wobbly is one of the secrets to looking plastered, say actors and directors. Former Dallas actress Julie Osburn studied with the great Uta Hagen, who originated the role of Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on Broadway. "Acting technique 101 is to consider the alcohol tolerance level of the character," Osburn says. "Martha's alcohol tolerance was higher than God's. To perform Martha, the slur might come in her last three lines, but never neglecting her consonants. Drunk acting means paying attention to the consonants."
You might be able to reverse-engineer that for the real-life goal of seeming sober when you really are drunk.  If you try to appear sober, that's what will out you as drunk. This makes me think of the old Yoda quote: "Do. Or do not. There is no try." Be drunk. Or be sober. There is no try.

"Whenever I'm in the shorts, I feel a real onus to be as deadly serious as I can possibly be, because you can't put those on and act silly."

"If you put those on and act silly, it's a joke on a joke on a joke. It's just an over-decorated cake. So, for better or for worse, whenever you see my performance on the show, that's me doing my most serious acting. In my mind, I'm like Cary Grant in that thing."

From "10 Things Thomas Lennon Wants You to Know About Lt. Dangle's Reno 911! Shorts."

Lennon is speaking of his state of mind, not opining on how he thought he looked, but it does make me wonder if Cary Grant wore shorts. Yes:



But that's consistent with my long-term exception for sports where the traditional attire is shorts.

Architect of the Universe.

With all this blabber about Jonathan Gruber as the "Architect of Obamacare," we got to talking about the "architect" metaphor and the idea of God as the "Architect of the Universe."



I got that image from Wikipedia, where there is an entry for "Great Architect of the Universe." Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote: "God, Who is the first principle of all things, may be compared to things created as the architect is to things designed (ut artifex ad artificiata)."And John Calvin repeatedly calls God "the Architect of the Universe." The Masons use the initials "G.A.O.T.U., meaning the Great Architect of the Universe."And the term appears in Hermeticism, Rosicrucianism, and Gnosticism.

I'm calling this to your attention not only because it's interesting on its own, but because it helps us think about the arrogance that oozes from the designation "architect." Gruber is an academic, whose work was useful in whatever way it was, either because he designed plausibly workable structures or because he mobilized the reputation of M.I.T. to be exploited to lull and soothe us. Calling him an "architect" is part of the propaganda. It's a powerful word, and when we become aware of its association with God, we may wake up to the magnitude of the flimflammery.

"After attempting twice to physically take Gonzalez down but failing to do so because of the size disparity between the two..."

"... the officer then attempted to draw her baton but accidentally grabbed her flashlight instead.... The officer threw down her flashlight, drew her firearm, and continued to give Gonzalez commands that he ignored."

From the report on how that White House fence jumper got past security.

"They asked us to delay the moment of silence to wait until the mayor got there."

Said Miriam Estrella, who lost 5 memebers of her family in the the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 and stood ready to ring a bell at a precise moment — 9:16 a.m. — the time of the crash 13 years ago.
“They kept telling us, ‘Wait, he’s coming. He’s coming,’ and I said, no, we’re not waiting. We’re not going to wait for him for a moment of silence. It happened at a certain time. That’s the time that we have to toll the bells,” Estrella said....
The mayor, Bill De Blasio, only made it worse by offering an explanation: "I was just not feeling well this morning. I had a very rough night. I woke up sluggish, and I should have gotten myself moving quicker... just woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep and I felt really sluggish and off-kilter this morning."

He's an idiot not to see that calling in sick was the best option. Having missed that opportunity, an abject apology was the only decent option. He thinks people will have sympathy over his struggles with a "rough night." 260 people died in a plane crash!

"You will find on the record for all time your filthy, dirty, evil companions, male and females giving expression with you to your hidious [sic] abnormalities."

"It is all there on the record, your sexual orgies. Listen to yourself you filthy, abnormal animal. You are on the record. You have been on the record – all your adulterous acts, your sexual orgies extending far into the past. This one is but a tiny sample. You will understand this. Yes, from your various evil playmates on the east coast to [name redacted] and others on the west coast and outside the country, you are on the record. King you are done.... King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is.... There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation."

King = Martin Luther King, Jr.

The text is a letter written in 1964 by an unspecified FBI official.
Even now, looking at a full copy of the letter, it’s tough to puzzle out just what the bureau wanted King to do. The largest unredacted section focuses on King’s sex life, recounting in graphic language what the bureau believed it knew. Another uncovered portion of the note praises “older leaders” like the N.A.A.C.P. executive director Roy Wilkins, urging King to step aside and let other men lead the civil rights movement. And some maintain that they simply meant to push King out, not induce suicide.

"I have never seen a president in exactly the position Mr. Obama is, which is essentially alone."

Writes Peggy Noonan in "The Loneliest President Since Nixon/Facing adversity, Obama has no idea how to respond."
He’s got no one with him now. The Republicans don’t like him, for reasons both usual and particular: They have had no good experiences with him. The Democrats don’t like him, for their own reasons plus the election loss.... No one at [his post-election lunch with congressional leaders] looked at him with colder, beadier eyes than outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who clearly doesn’t like him at all. The press doesn’t especially like the president; in conversation they evince no residual warmth. This week at the Beijing summit there was no sign the leaders of the world had any particular regard for him....

The last time we saw a president so alone it was Richard Nixon, at the end of his presidency, when the Democrats had turned on him, the press hated him, and the Republicans were fleeing.... But Nixon had one advantage Obama does not: the high regard of the world’s leaders, who found his downfall tragic (such ruin over such a trifling matter) and befuddling (he didn’t keep political prisoners chained up in dungeons, as they did. Why such a fuss?).

The Nancy Pelosi possibilities: lying, suffering from serious memory loss, or a facade whose power is exercised by unelected others.

"House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that, not only did Jonathan Gruber not play a significant role in drafting Obamacare, but that she doesn't even 'know who he is'":



You have to watch the video. There's a moment at 0:13 to 0:15 where her lips move and no sound emerges that is quite strange, revealing (perhaps) that she's frightened to find herself in the middle of this statement as if she's lost in a mental maze and wondering where's the exit. At 0:21, we see her 5 years ago, in happier times. She does seem unforthcoming there too, and it's quite possible that she had no idea who Jonathan Gruber was even when she was dropping his name as if it proved that the economics of Obamacare had been carefully worked out.

ADDED: A sign of the times: Lefty website FireDogLake attacks: "Trying to pretend Gruber had no part in crafting Obamacare or that you have never heard of him despite considerable evidence to the contrary does sound like someone who is relying on a lack of transparency and the stupidity of the American voter – doesn’t it?"

November 13, 2014

"Come January, fifteen University of Pennsylvania creative-writing students and I will sit silently in a room with nothing more than our devices and a Wi-Fi connection..."

"... for three hours a week, in a course called 'Wasting Time on the Internet,'" writes Kenneth Goldsmith.
Although we’ll all be in the same room, our communication will happen exclusively through chat rooms and listservs, or over social media. Distraction and split attention will be mandatory. So will aimless drifting and intuitive surfing. The students will be encouraged to get lost on the Web, disappearing for three hours in a Situationist-inspired dérive, drowsily emerging from the digital haze only when class is over. We will enter a collective dreamspace, an experience out of which the students will be expected to render works of literature....

Nothing is off limits: if it is on the Internet, it is fair play. Students watching three hours of porn can use it as the basis for compelling erotica; they can troll nefarious right-wing sites, scraping hate-filled language for spy thrillers; they can render celebrity Twitter feeds into epic Dadaist poetry; they can recast Facebook feeds as novellas; or they can simply hand in their browser history at the end of a session and present it as a memoir....

Speaking of naked...

... the rich folk of New York don't mind if you look at them naked while they use the bathroom... as long as you have to look way, way up.

ADDED: The NYT should back link to its own 1990s article "Telescopes for (Sneaky) City Views." Telescopes aren't even mentioned in the new article.

"'This is Bush v. Gore all over again,' one friend said as we struggled to absorb the news last Friday afternoon."

"'No,' I replied. 'It’s worse.'"

Oh? Is that an admission from Linda Greenhouse that Bush v. Gore wasn't really all that bad? Actually, yes!
In the inconclusive aftermath of the 2000 presidential election, a growing sense of urgency, even crisis, gave rise to a plausible argument that someone had better do something soon to find out who would be the next president. True, a federal statute on the books defined the “someone” as Congress, but the Bush forces got to the Supreme Court first with a case that fell within the court’s jurisdiction. The 5-to-4 decision to stop the Florida recount had the effect of calling the election for the governor of Texas, George W. Bush. I disagreed with the decision and considered the contorted way the majority deployed the Constitution’s equal-protection guarantee to be ludicrous. But in the years since, I’ve often felt like the last progressive willing to defend the court for getting involved when it did.

That’s not the case here. There was no urgency....
"Here" = King v. Burwell. That's the new Obamacare case that's freaking people out.
This is a naked power grab by conservative justices who two years ago just missed killing the Affordable Care Act in its cradle, before it fully took effect.
Naked power grab? It's a naked power grab to grant review of a case that's been decided by a Court of Appeals panel, just because there's no split in the circuits? The Supreme Court has discretion over whether to grant certiorari, and its own rule on "Considerations Governing Review on Writ of Certiorari" refers to "compelling reasons," then lists a few things that it says are "neither controlling nor fully measuring the Court's discretion" but that "indicate the character of the reasons the Court considers." One of the things on the list is a split in what different courts have said about federal law. But another is: "a United States court of appeals has decided an important question of federal law that has not been, but should be, settled by this Court." So: It's an important question. Where's the power grab — naked or clothed?

The nakedness metaphor must have really stood out to the headline writer. The piece is called "Law in the Raw." Greenhouse doesn't like that the Supreme Court inserted itself — its naked, grabby self — into the controversy when there was going to be a rehearing by the full D.C. Court of Appeals (which had vacated the judgment of the 3-judge panel). But if it's an important question that in the end the Supreme Court is going to resolve, maybe it's also important not to drag things out. Get it resolved so we can move forward either knowing things need to be redone or freed from the cloud of possible illegality.

But Greenhouse's real complaint is that she — like many others — reads the Court's impatience as revealing the opinion on the merits: "There is simply no way to describe what the court did last Friday as a neutral act... [T]he justices have blown their own cover...." By "the justices," she means the 4 Justices she presumes voted to grant review:
Certainly Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — the four who two years ago would have invalidated not only the individual mandate but the entire law — voted to hear King v. Burwell....

An intriguing question is whether there was a fifth vote as well, from the chief justice. I have no idea, although I can’t imagine why he would think that taking this case was either in the court’s interest or in his own; just two months ago, at a public appearance at the University of Nebraska, he expressed concern that the “partisan rancor” of Washington could spill over onto the court.
Wait! Taking cases based on self-interest actually would be naked power-grabbing. I love the way Greenhouse signals to Roberts what he needs to do to win the respect of the legal elite, not that he can ever really have it. He can have a little, and, you know, sometimes a little love, with true love withheld, is just what keeps a love-seeker pursuing love... nakedly grabbing.

That's 27-and-a-third million dollars per Elvis.

Andy Warhol's "Triple Elvis" sells for $82 million.

That makes me want to do a search in one of my favorite books, "The Andy Warhol Diaries":
Sunday, May 18, 1980 

John Powers called and told me the prices at the art auctions, and the Triple Elvis went for $ 75,000 and he said he thought that was a fair price so I felt okay, but then he told me that the Lichtenstein went for $ 250,000 so I felt bad. Oh, and the three Jackies went for only $ 8,000, so that was a bargain.
Hey. Did Andy Warhol invent the "Oh, and..." locution that has infected American writing?

How does Jonathan Gruber feel?

Contemplate the possibility that he feels good.

He didn't lie. He experienced discomfort with the lying nature of others and his own implication in it. Consider the possibility that he didn't get caught telling the truth: He felt a drive to tell the truth and he is immensely, awesomely satisfied that his truth-telling has burst out and is dominating the American consciousness.

This is just a theory. I don't know how the man really feels, and I acknowledge that my theory may conflict with what I presume is his policy preference — the success of Obamacare. This is simply a line of thought that occurred to me the moment I said: "I wonder how Jonathan Gruber feels."

Sudden fame is an interesting phenomenon. I was just reading this NYT article "Alex From Target: The Other Side of Fame," about a 16-year-old boy who got famous suddenly one day when a picture of him that had been taken without his notice got tweeted by a girl with the one word caption "YOOOOOOOOOOO." It can be surreal and upsetting to get a fame surprise.

But Gruber is not a teenager. And he wasn't just minding his own business. He's a professor who thrust himself into the political policy sphere. He got his work — Architect of Obamacare! — and he had his effect, but he had his outsider observations too, and he felt distanced and above it all, and he wanted to disclose his perspective to others. He spoke openly, in an academic setting, to others who feel distanced and above it all.* And now the whole world is listening in. Gruber didn't say it directly to us, which would have been rude. He confided to like-minded confidantes, and we overheard. The American people are the distanced observers of his sphere of activity — the professors. And I want to suggest that he's energized and alive and joyous to get his message across to the vast classroom that is all of America.

______________________

* I think Barack Obama himself is that sort of person, but he's taken that manner and repurposed it for general consumption. The manner often works for him, perhaps because it plays against a racial stereotype that Americans don't like to believe they harbor. But it doesn't always work, and it must be a very strange experience for Obama, if he has the time and disposition to notice his feelings and reflect upon them. And I think he does. That's the Obama memoir I want to read. And I bet he's writing it, and we will read it some day.

ADDED: And then there's Rich Weinstein, the "nobody... the guy who lives in his mom’s basement wearing a tinfoil hat." How does he feel?
"It’s terrifying that the guy in his mom’s basement is finding his stuff, and nobody else is," he says. "I really do find this disturbing."

Reading about U.S. Presidents.

From "41: A Portrait of My Father," by George W. Bush:
IN THE SUMMER of 1948, George H.W. Bush had two immediate tasks: start his job, and find a place for Mother and me to live. While he scouted for housing in Odessa, Texas, we stayed with my great-grandfather G.H. Walker at his summer house in Kennebunkport, Maine. Life was a lot more comfortable on Walker’s Point than in West Texas. In those days, Odessa was a town of under thirty thousand people located twenty miles from its sister city of Midland and more than three hundred fifty miles from the nearest major airport in Dallas...

[My father] didn’t know a single person when he arrived. People he met were more like the folks in the Navy than those he knew back home. Odessa was a blue-collar town, home to oil field laborers: mechanics who fixed the equipment and roughnecks who worked on the rigs. One of my father’s coworkers once asked him whether he’d gone to college. As a matter of fact, Dad replied, he had just graduated from Yale. The fellow thought for a second and said, “Never heard of it.” The fashion in West Texas was different too. Dad once walked out of the house wearing Bermuda shorts. After several truck drivers honked at him, he went back home and packed away the Bermuda shorts for good. Even the food was unfamiliar. My father always remembered the first time he saw someone order a West Texas delicacy: chicken-fried steak.

Dad found a house on East Seventh Street. The good news was that it had a bathroom, unlike most residences on the street, which had outhouses. The bad news was that we had to share the bathroom with two women who lived on the other side of the duplex— a mother-daughter pair who made their living by entertaining male clients throughout the night....
I'm reading the whole book, but I had to tell you about that men-in-shorts business. And sharing a bathroom with prostitutes is quite something.

I saw that this book is #1 on the Amazon list of books about U.S. Presidents,so I wanted to see what else was on that list. Who are the Presidents that people are reading books about these days? The top 20 is dominated by Bush (this book, in various, versions as well as "Decision Points"), Theodore Roosevelt, and JFK. There's also one book about Lincoln and one about — was he really a U.S. President? — Jefferson Davis. I was going to say JFK seems to be the only Democrat of interest, but one of the Teddy Roosevelt books is "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History," and that includes FDR. And let's be fair: Jefferson Davis was a Democrat.

Moving onto the next 20 — and wondering how far I need to go to get to Barack Obama — we get a book about George Washington and 6 books about Lincoln and 4 more about Teddy Roosevelt. There are those old David McCullough books about John Adams and Harry Truman. There's a book about the assassination of James Garfield! There's a book about LBJ and Ronald Reagan, "Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America." Who reads that? Reagan people or LBJ people? Are there LBJ people? There's a book about Reagan and another book about Bush I.

Finally, on the third set of 20, at #49, there's a book about Obama, and — why does this seem so sad? — it's "Dreams From My Father." I'm reading Bush II's book about his father, and now here's Obama's book about his father, and it's not really a book about his father. It's a book about himself. And it's not a book about a President. It's a book by a man who didn't know that some day he'd be President. And it's as if he's become small and little known all over again, even as he is still President.

I keep searching for another book about Obama. I have to go all the way to the last page on this list that ends at 100. There, at #85, it's "The Audacity of Hope." This symbolism of isolation and apathy is painful. Is Obama the only one who cares about Obama?

And what about Bill Clinton? Not a single book about Bill Clinton in the top 100 books about U.S. Presidents? Isn't he the hero of the Democrats? Isn't he on a heroic quest to retake the White House in a clever end run around the 22nd Amendment? Doesn't anyone care?

Now, these are historical biographies and memoirs. Maybe that genre doesn't jibe with the liberal/progressive mentality. Maybe there's something conservative about reading history. Checking the overall bestseller list at Amazon, I'm not finding anything oriented to liberal politics. I see that Bush's "41" is #2. #1 is a children's book, as is much of the top-selling reading material. Isn't it funny how we love to "raise a reader"? But do they read later? Maybe just not books. We grownups mainly want to read the internet. (I started reading the internet, and I just couldn't put it down.)

What about Chuck Todd's book about Obama, "The Stranger: Barack Obama in the White House"? That's gotten some good publicity. You might think Democrats would read that. But it's #1,629 in Books.  At least that's better than Hillary Clinton's "Hard Choices." I guess it was an easy choice not to read that book. "Hard Choices" languishes at #1,778.

Whatever happened to SiteMeter?

I've enjoyed SiteMeter over the years. It's the traffic counter I've used since beginning this blog in 2004. It's where I watched this blog reach various milestones (like the millionth visitor) and where I have looked daily to get a picture of who was linking and what search terms were bringing people here. It's so much a part of my blogworld. Yes, I have a "stats" page within Blogger, but it's not the same presentation and it's not as much information.

But right now, I'm not getting any service. SiteMeter has been down for days. A click on the "Who's on your site?" page gets: "The statistics for visitors from the last 2968 minutes are not yet available." I've emailed for help and got no answer.

Any ideas? Are you out there SiteMeter?

IN THE COMMENTS: People are giving me reasons to break my dependent relationship with SiteMeter, so maybe I should see this malfunction in a positive light. Finally, I will let go. I must. But I'll be better off. 

"First, straights came for the smooth, pretty gay look recustomized as 'the metrosexual,' and now you have come for our hairier brethren. "

"What else would you like? What else can we give you? You’ve taken it all. All our cutting asides and repartee, design expertise, gym dedication, fitted shirts, food knowledge, high and low culture snarking, gift-buying nous, and our smarts ('She’s such a drama queen')—straight culture has gobbled gay culture as ravenously as Cookie Monster atomizes baked dough. It’s fine, we’ll take the compliment, even if we are baffled that you’re now wanting a slice of performing and playing with masculinity, given the amount of homophobia and legislative discrimination you have put in our way. All that gay fear you’ve labored under and battered us with, all that crap about what men should be, and now, with the lumbersexual, the metrosexual, the use of camp, and so much more, you’ve not only come over to our side, you want in on the joke. And lumberjacks, well, you should have really trademarked your look. The lumbersexual is beards and flannel shirts, the opposite of the waxed chest, sculpted muscles, empathetic male cyborg of a few years ago: the straight man who was 'gay' apart from where he chose to place his penis. "

From a Daily Beast article by Tim Teeman subtitled "Have you met the lumbersexual: all beards, flannel shirts, and work boots? It’s the latest gay ‘look’ co-opted by straights. Have it. We have nothing left to give you."

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade quotes Teeman's "We have nothing left to give you" and writes:
And after a long time the conflicted homophobic boy came back again.

"I am sorry, Conflicted Homophobic Boy," said the lumbersexual tree, "but I have nothing left to give you — My fashionable apples are gone."

"My teeth are too weak for apples," said the conflicted homophobic boy.

"My fitted branches are gone," said the lumbersexual tree. "You cannot swing on them —"

"I am too old to swing on branches," said the conflicted homophobic boy.

"My gym-toned trunk is gone," said the lumbersexual tree. "You cannot climb —"

"I am too tired to climb," said the conflicted homophobic boy.

"I am sorry," sighed the lumbersexual tree.

"I wish that I could give you something... but I have nothing left. I am just an old lumbersexual stump. I am sorry..."

"I don't need very much now," said the conflicted homophobic boy, "just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired."

"Well," said the lumbersexual tree, straightening [himself] up as much as [he] could, "Well, an old lumbersexual stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Conflicted Homophobic Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest."

And the conflicted homophobic boy did.

And the lumbersexual tree was happy.

― Hugh Goldenburger, The Lumbersexual Tree 

November 12, 2014

"And I realized almost immediately that I knew nothing about today’s birthing or parenting issues."

"I hadn’t tracked this stuff. I hadn’t wanted to presume that it would be relevant to my daughters.... So what good is my wealth of knowledge to her? What can I give her now, when our experiences are so unshared?"

My colleague Nina Camic has a column in the NYT "Motherlode" section titled: "A Soon-to-Be Grandma, Ready to Learn."

At the Caution Café...

Caution tape

... be very careful.

"We’re there and Philae is talking to us. We are on the comet."

Touchdown on Comet 67/P, 317 million miles away.

"Moves by some U.S. states to legalize marijuana are not in line with international drugs conventions..."

"... the U.N. anti-narcotics chief said on Wednesday...."
Residents of Oregon, Alaska, and the U.S. capital voted this month to allow the use of marijuana, boosting the legalization movement as cannabis usage is increasingly recognized by the American mainstream.

"I don't see how (the new laws) can be compatible with existing conventions," Yury Fedotov, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), told reporters.

The dark side of "an apple a day keeps the doctor away."

"John Chapman died in 1845, and many of his orchards and apple varieties didn't survive much longer. During Prohibition, apple trees that produced sour, bitter apples used for cider were often chopped down by FBI agents, effectively erasing cider, along with Chapman's true history, from American life. 'Apple growers were forced to celebrate the fruit not for its intoxicating values, but for its nutritional benefits,' Means writes, 'its ability, taken once a day, to keep the doctor away...' In a way, this aphorism — so benign by modern standards—was nothing less than an attack on a typically American libation."

From a Smithsonian article titled "The Real Johnny Appleseed Brought Apples—and Booze—to the American Frontier/The apples John Chapman brought to the frontier were very different than today's apples—and they weren't meant to be eaten."

Means is Howard Means, who wrote a book called "Johnny Appleseed: The Man, the Myth, the American Story."

Lately, Meadhouse has been ciderhouse. Meade recommends:

"The sensation of an otherworldly presence... actually derives from garbled sensorimotor brain signals..."

"... in which a person's self awareness of their own body is projected into a seemingly disconnected space. In such cases... the brain mis-assigns its own life signals as belonging to someone or something else."

In other words: It's not a ghost. It's not an angel. It's just you.

"I don’t believe you should stay on stage until people are begging you to get off."

"I like the idea of leaving them wanting a bit more. I do think directing is a young man’s game and I like the idea of an umbilical-cord connection from my first to my last movie. I’m not trying to ridicule anyone who thinks differently, but I want to go out while I’m still hard...."

Said Quentin Tarantino.

"Are they relationships with no future, ones that will end in a similar manner, with the man remaining married and me single?"

"Yes, but what of it? What if I don’t want to embark on a long journey, one with changing scenery and a companion who remains the same? What if I want to cruise the cul-de-sac?... Affairs with married men offer controlled companionship — there’s warmth and there’s space, there’s intimacy and there’s distance. I can’t control growing older. But as the other woman, I’ll always have an element of mystery, an invitation to a different narrative...."

From a squalid Salon essay by Heather L. Hughes titled "Why I date married men."

Weekly Standard bellyaches...

... about the Creedence song "Fortunate Son" getting played at the "Concert for Valor" (a televised Veterans Day event on the National Mall). The song is termed a "famously anti-war anthem," "an anti-war screed," and "an anti-draft song." The latter is most accurate, but the Weekly Standard author says that makes it "a particularly terrible choice," since the concert was "was largely organized to honor" those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and these people were all volunteers.

It seems to me that an anti-draft song is a good choice to honor the volunteers. Read the lyrics here. The singer complains that he has to do the fighting because the sons of the men who decide when wars will be fought manage to evade the draft. I don't see how that's generically anti-war. What it's against is a particular political dysfunction that has been corrected. So it's a complaint that doesn't hold up anymore. You don't have to be a "fortunate son" to avoid the military. You can do what you want. Every single person who serves chose to serve.

Now, some people think that's also a dysfunction, and they'd like to correct that by bringing back the draft so people in general would have more of a stake in avoiding unnecessary war. But I don't know any songs about that.

I couldn't watch the clip at the first link. I can't stand Bruce Springsteen, and much as I dislike the Weekly Standard's bellyaching, it's not as bad as listening to Bruce straining histrionically. I have to concede that it's possible that Bruce thinks — and somehow conveyed — that those who volunteer today are doing so because it's their best option in the limited array of choices they have because they are not rich or well-connected. If that's the message, then it really is a rotten thing to say to our American volunteers.

Was the Kel-from-Good-Burger correction the greatest NYT correction of all time?

Or was it something else?

(I'm partial to: "An article last Sunday about the documentary maker Morgan Spurlock, who has a new film out on the boy band One Direction, misstated the subject of his 2012 movie 'Mansome.' It is about male grooming, not Charles Manson. The article also misspelled the name of the production company of Simon Cowell, on whose 'X Factor' talent competition show One Direction was created. The company is Syco, not Psycho.")

"(should we cite the crappy Gabor paper here?)"

Embarrassing artifact of crappy editing.

"9 Things Drivers Need to Stop Saying in the Bikes vs. Cars Debate."

I don't like the "Need to Stop Saying" phraseology, but this does elaborate on 9 things that get said a lot... obviously for good reasons.

"Each female citizen of Russia will be able to receive by mail the genetic material of the President, get pregnant from him and have a baby."

"These mothers will be receiving special allowances from the government."

ADDED: It's a modern-day variation on Genghis Khan.

"I think a feminism that started with a love and appreciation for classic male culture..."

"... and then sought to persuade men that it doesn’t have to be sexist toward women – would be more productive than treating all men as inherently suspect or privileged, and attempting to police their culture from the outside," writes Andrew Sullivan, trying to understand heterosexual feelings from the outside.
[T]he young testosteroned male’s desire for and incomprehension of the opposite gender can be mitigated, it seems to me, but not abolished. And in the case of male attitudes toward women, of course, the “other” is also the object of often-crippling and overwhelming sexual desire. These are powerful – often internally conflicting – forces and they will not easily be constrained by abstract rules or “social justice warriors.”

And so I think we just have to live with a certain amount of straight-very-male homophobia and sexism, and leave it be. Young men want to live out fantasies of rescuing big-boobed women while being encased in a steroidal muscle culture (precisely because, for so many, it is utterly beyond their actual day-to-day lives). And my inclination is simply: give them a break...

What I think is counterproductive is precisely an agenda that refuses to see real, biological differences, physical and mental, between men and women, whose first item on the agenda is to get men to “check their privilege,” and who want to police speech and urgently stamp out sexism and homophobia. This will often compound the problem, create a zero-sum environment, and in a world where Twitter gives everyone a completely unaccountable megaphone, generate levels of public toxicity we can all live without....
This interests me even though it's partly about "Gamergate," the controversy that I refuse to get up to speed on. 

November 11, 2014

"Former President George W. Bush once went on an awkward blind date with the daughter of then-President Richard Nixon."

"During dinner, I reached for some butter, knocked over a glass, and watched in horror as the stain of red wine crept across the table. Then I fired up a cigarette, prompting a polite suggestion from Tricia that I not smoke."

Aw, that's not so bad. Maybe I need to buy the book. Here. The story is that Bush's father hosted a dinner honoring the commander of Apollo 8, which had flown around the moon in December 1968, and invited young Bush, to mix with the various Washington people. Old Bush had an "ulterior motive": "I also invited Tricia Nixon. I thought it might be fun for you to take her to the party."

Bush was "briefly speechless":

MIT prof Jonathan Gruber is sorry he was transparent about the lack of transparency in getting Obamacare passed.

He wants us to know that he was speaking at an academic conference and "off the cuff," when he said:
This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If [Congressional Budget Office] scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so it’s written to do that. In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in -– you made explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money — it would not have passed… Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter, or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass. And it’s the second-best argument. Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.
He wants his old lack of transparency back. He revealed what he liked so much about it. Now, why can't he have it back? Well, Professor Gruber, it just doesn't work that way. Once you've let us see that you mean to deceive us, we won't get fooled again. Oh... unless you're right, and we really are stupid.

"For a Lasting Marriage, Marry Someone Your Own Age."

"Even a 5-year age difference makes a couple 18% more likely to get divorced, compared to a couple born on or around the same year."

"In an elegant stroke of free-market irony, self-proclaimed enemy of feminism Ayn Rand has become a girl-power commodity several decades after her death."

"Etsy offers the 'unstoppable' quote on pendant necklaces and inspirational posters decorated with flowers adorned in curlicues. Yoga retailer Lululemon once distributed a 'Who Is John Galt?' tote bag. Pinterest boards dedicated to affirmations are littered with Rand.... Initially, I was surprised to discover Rand had become a leitmotif of modern mass-market feminism. 'I’m a male chauvinist,' she told an interviewer who asked her about women’s liberation. 'I am profoundly anti-feminist because it’s a phony movement,' she told another. The prospect of a female president disgusted her: 'She would become the most unfeminine, sexless, metaphysically inappropriate, and rationally revolting figure of all: a matriarch.' Nevertheless... [t]he slogans of rational self-interest are indistinguishable from affirmations designed for women with low self-esteem: 'To say "I love you," one must first be able to say the "I,"' reads a Pinterest-popular Fountainhead quote... Of course, whereas Objectivism promotes selfishness in the name of a brutally ruthless worldview, female-centric media encourages self-indulgence as a palliative to cultural forces encouraging meekness...."

From "Ayn Rand, Girl-Power Icon" at New York Magazine.

Veterans Day.

Dunn's Marsh

Let us express gratitude.

Chewing and eschewing... Obama in China.

"Gum-chewing, limo-eschewing Obama riles some Chinese."
Obama emerged from his car chewing gum; he's a well-known user of Nicorette, the smoking-cessation gum. But Chinese Internet users, accustomed to the highly formal standards of their stiff party leadership, quickly characterized the leader of the world's most powerful nation as an impolite "idler," or careless "rapper."

"We made this meeting so luxurious, with singing and dancing, but see Obama, stepping out of his car chewing gum like an idler," wrote Yin Hong, a professor of journalism at Beijing's Tsinghua University, on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo micro-blog service.
However "stiff" the Chinese might be, Americans also criticize the President for chewing gum.

"Mormon leaders have acknowledged for the first time that... Joseph Smith... took as many as 40 wives, some already married and one only 14 years old."

The NYT reports:
Elder Steven E. Snow, the church historian and a member of its senior leadership, said in an interview, “There is so much out there on the Internet that we felt we owed our members a safe place where they could go to get reliable, faith-promoting information that was true about some of these more difficult aspects of our history. We need to be truthful, and we need to understand our history... I believe our history is full of stories of faith and devotion and sacrifice, but these people weren’t perfect.”

The essay on “plural marriage” in the early days of the Mormon movement in Ohio and Illinois says polygamy was commanded by God, revealed to Smith and accepted by him and his followers only very reluctantly. Abraham and other Old Testament patriarchs had multiple wives, and Smith preached that his church was the “restoration” of the early, true Christian church....

Most of Smith’s wives were between the ages of 20 and 40, the essay says, but he married Helen Mar Kimball, a daughter of two close friends, “several months before her 15th birthday.” A footnote says that according to “careful estimates,” Smith had 30 to 40 wives. The biggest bombshell for some in the essays is that Smith married women who were already married, some to men who were Smith’s friends and followers....

Mary Burke says she got "dragged through the mud" in the Wisconsin governor's race.

What mud? Hers was the campaign using swastikas. Scott Walker was doggedly positive. What is she talking about? The Wisconsin State Journal bolsters her assertion with this paragraph:
Critics accused her of copying campaign materials after parts of her jobs plan and other proposals included segments that were identical to those other Democratic candidates. And just days before the election, a pair of former Trek employees with conservative ties alleged that she had been fired from her family’s company, which was founded by her father.
That's mud? Trying to figure out the source of her jobs plan — upon which she relied heavily — and seeking to understand a gap in her professional résumé — the primary qualification she presented?

Most-liked comment at the WaPo article "Glenn Beck’s dramatic revelation: He’s been hiding a mysterious brain illness."

"As a physician, this is all medical gibberish which possibly explains his commentary and views. He needs a psychiatrist more than all the unspecified treatments and experimental therapies mentioned. He displays features of psychosis."

Second-most-liked: "'Glenn Beck reveals he's been hiding a mysterious brain illness.' He didn't do a very good job of hiding it."

Third: "Beck suffers from CFD, or cranial fecal disorder...."

When Bob Dylan had gotten "deeply into Jerry Lewis" and came up with an idea for a "surrealist comedy series for HBO."

This was back in the 90s. He was working with Larry Charles (a producer and writer known for "Seinfeld," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and "Borat"). I like this scene where Dylan pulls the old hot coffee trick on Charles:
"So they bring a hot coffee for him, like a cappuccino, and they bring the ice coffee for me and they put them together in the middle of the table, and he immediately grabs my ice coffee and starts drinking my ice coffee," Charles said. "And I'm watching him drink it and I'm not touching the other thing. I don't want the other thing. And finally he almost finishes my drink and he goes, 'Why aren't you drinking your drink?' And I'm like, 'You're drinking my drink.' And he laughed and that broke the ice. It's like a test. Like, he drank my drink. How would I react?"
Yeah, that's comic and surrealistic. Then there's the old box-of-scrap-paper trick:
Charles recalled Dylan bringing a box of scrap paper with phrases written on it and dumping it on the table. "I realized, that's how he writes songs," he said. "He takes these scraps and he puts them together and makes his poetry out of that. He has all of these ideas and then just in a subconscious or unconscious way, he lets them synthesize into a coherent thing. And that's how we wound up writing also. We wound up writing in a very 'cut-up' technique. We'd take scraps of paper, put them together, try to make them make sense, try to find the story points within it. And we finally wrote...a very elaborate treatment for this slapstick comedy, which is filled with surrealism and all kinds of things from his songs and stuff."
What a cut up. HBO greenlit the project, and Bob immediately performed another scrappy switcheroo: "I don't want to do it anymore. It's too slapsticky." Love that Bob!

Question: How is Rush Limbaugh like Lena Dunham?

Answer: He's threatening to sue somebody for quoting him.

1. "Lena Dunham Threatens To Sue Truth Revolt For Quoting Her/Lena Dunham may not like our interpretation of her book, but unfortunately for her and her attorneys, she wrote that book."

2. "Limbaugh threatens to sue DCCC for ‘out of context’ quotes about sexual consent."
The legal threat is the result of DCCC fundraising appeals sent out in the wake of Limbaugh’s on-air comments about a new policy at Ohio State University that instructs students to get verbal consent before having sex. The DCCC highlighted one particular sentence from his commentary — “How many of you guys . . . have learned that ‘no’ means ‘yes’ if you know how to spot it?” — saying it was tantamount to condoning sexual assault.
For an older variation on this sort of lawsuit — a real lawsuit, not just a threat to sue — recall Shirley Sherrod's defamation claim against Andrew Breitbart for presenting a quote of hers out of context. That lawsuit is still pending (incredibly, against Breitbart's widow). A couple years ago, I commented:
Don't we constantly extract quotes and clips from larger contexts? I do blog posts by that method all the time. I find the juiciest line and quote it often deliberately out of context or with intent to misdirect for humorous or shocking effect. It's the reader's responsibility to figure out what to do with it. I'm not ashamed to operate that way. For one thing, I give links, so you have a path to the larger context. And, more important, by depriving you of a pat, self-contained package, I'm forcing you to read critically and keep going.

There's always more to the story. When we purport to put something "in context," it's never the whole context. We're choosing the frame of information that serves our interests, interests that may include but are rarely limited to the pure understanding of the truth. Traditional newspapers may have led their readers to think that they'd processed all the information and digested it into a simple-to-read article, and they often abused their readers' trust. The web doesn't work like that. The web activates its readers, and I think that's for the good....

Sharyl Attkisson says CBS News suppressed a clip of Obama refusing to call Benghazi a terrorist attack.

This clip — recorded in a Steve Kroft "60 Minutes" interview — was evidence of the precise point that Obama denied in the second debate with Mitt Romney, the moment when the debate moderator Candy Crowley stepped in to side with Obama. In the "60 Minutes" clip — which was left out of the edited interview that aired — Obama said: "Well, it's too early to know exactly how this came about, what group was involved. But, obviously, it was an attack on Americans."
In a chat that aired on Howard Kurtz’s Fox News media program yesterday, Attkisson addressed the apparent suppression/possible misplacement of that clip: “The ‘Evening News’ people who had access to that transcript, according to the e-mails I saw, when it was sent from ’60 Minutes’ to ‘Evening News’ the very day that it was taken, they in my view skipped over it, passed it up, kept it secret throughout the whole time when it would have been relevant to the news and I think that was because they were trying to defend the president — they thought that would be harmful to him,” said Attkisson to Kurtz.

Even more damning: According to Attkisson, CBS Newsers directed her to use a “different clip from the same interview to give the misimpression that the president had done the opposite” — that is, that the president had indeed acknowledged terrorism early on.
The link goes to Erik Wemple's column in The Washington Post that has the headline "Sharyl Attkisson’s compelling gripe against CBS News over Benghazi coverage." I don't think I've ever seen the phrase "compelling gripe" before. If something is compelling, it's not a gripe! It's like they want to minimize it and call it a big deal at the same time. Obviously, it's a huge deal!

November 10, 2014

"Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon has described his terminal colon cancer as the 'most amazing experience of my life'..."

"... because he is surrounded by his loved ones and donating his $100 million fortune to his passion - animal rights..."
"They said these are the scans of a dead man. I said, 'Is it curable?" And they said, "We don't use that word."...

Asked why he decided to dedicate his fortune and final months to animal rights, Simon was unequivocal. "The thing about animals that speaks to me so much is that my passion for the animals and against animal abuse is based on the knowledge that these creatures which think and feel can't speak for themselves"....

"Ideally, you'd find complete focus and do one thing well. You'd pick one really important thing, say No to all the rest..."

"... and put your complete focus on this one project. This might be school, or a project at work, or a volunteer project… but just one thing. You'd learn to do it well, and get better and better at it, and serve people exceptionally. However, that's not reality. We can't always pare things down to one thing, so focus on two. I've found that you can do two things well, and one thing really well. With two focuses, you won't be as concentrated, won't learn as deeply, but it's doable. With three or four focuses, you won't do anything well or learn anything deeply or serve anyone exceptionally."

Just do 2 things well and say no to everything else.

Why not? How many things are you trying to do well? Is there some way not to have to do everything else? It seems wrong to signal to everyone that you're only going to do your special 2 things. What happens to the things that need to be done that no one selects as the things they will do well? What happens when crucial functions are ceded to the kind of people who feel they must take responsibility for everything? And are we doing well — doing good — when we rope those people into to these tasks? And what if those people aren't trustworthy? What if they are nefarious power-mongers? The article at the link originally appeared at a place called Zen Habits, and the illustration is of a man in a suit in a state of blissful meditation.

Found art.

P1230949

Out on the bike trail... which generally looked like this:

P1230931

"Don't put yourself in a situation that would cause you to be trying to explain something that really needs no explanation had you not put yourself in that situation."

Said Robert R. Jennings, president of the Lincoln University to the All Women's Convocation. 
The historically black university in Chester County holds separate convocations for women and men, an annual tradition started by the 63-year-old president to mentor each group in matters of behavior, dress, health — and sexual encounters....

His unusual address has found an audience on YouTube, and angered some parents and faculty who say the president appears to be blaming women for sexual assault. It came at a time when the federal government is cracking down on campuses across America over their handling of such cases.

"President Barack Obama has come out in favor of net neutrality..."

"... in a special website and video announcement wherein he lays out his plan for protecting the freedom and openness of the Internet."

AND: Ted Cruz takes the other side: "Net Neutrality' is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government."

"The best I can say in defense of this comical 'correction' is that it would be challenging to amend the piece in light of the categorical collapse of the article's central assertion."

"I mean, how do you correct it? I guess you just don't? Which is pretty much what they did here."

Josh Marshall slathers on the mockery that Breitbart richly deserves.

Breitbart the website, not Breitbart the man, who sadly died, leaving his name on a website that he can no longer monitor and control.

"When I watched Romney, I thought: that's probably what I'd be like if I ran for president."

"I'd be stilted and awkward and overly calculating. Probably most people I know would be. Most normal people would be uncomfortable as national politicians. Very few people would be as cool and effortless as Obama."

Says my son John, who's 33, in what was an IM'd dialogue with Alex Knepper, who's 24. The conversation took place "a few weeks ago," so it doesn't reflect the 2014 election.

The Rolling Stones try to collect $12.7 million from insurance companies after the death of L'Wren Scott.

The companies insured against the cancellation of concerts that occurred because the unforeseen and sudden death of various persons, including Mick Jagger's girlfriend L'Wren Scott.

But L'Wren Scott committed suicide. It's hard to believe that insurance companies put that much money at risk and include suicide or even that a purchaser of insurance would want loved ones to have a monetary incentive to commit suicide.

So now there's litigation — in federal court in Utah, of all places — with discovery into the question whether the suicide was "sudden and unforeseen" and whether Mick Jagger was really so broken up that he could not perform.

Christian couple fined $13,000 for refusing to rent their wedding facility to a same-sex couple.

The facility is the farm where they've lived for 25 years, but they've made a business of offering it commercially for wedding ceremonies and receptions.
“We respect and care for everyone!’’ Cynthia Gifford told me. “We had an openly gay man working for us this past season... We’ve had a woman who’s transitioning to be a man. We don’t discriminate against anyone.... This is scary... It’s scary for all Americans."

"It’s not that I mind seeing breasts everywhere; after all, I have two of my own that I quite like."

"But it’s disheartening that breasts are often considered more interesting than the women they’re attached to – as if we’re an afterthought compared to our body parts. But now a bevy of women, in a matter of days, have taken back the tit. We’re reclaiming the rack, whether you like or not.... You don’t like it? Tough titties."

Writes Jessica Valenti in a Guardian column titled "Topless Keira Knightley is not alone: 2014 is the year women reclaimed our boobs."

For a prescient Althouse post — pinpointing 2006 as the year of "boob" reclamation — see "Let's take a closer look at those breasts."

(I put "boob" in quotes because that is not my style of slang. Nor is "tits," for that matter. I never use any word other than "breasts" (unless I'm quoting someone else).)

ADDED: 2 more things:

1. A "bevy of women"? I don't think I've ever seen the word "bevy" used outside of the trite phrase "bevy of beauties," where it seems old-fashioned and insufficiently attentive to the personhood of women but at least alliterates.

2. Why is it "disheartening that breasts are often considered more interesting than the women they’re attached to"? Lots of women aren't very interesting, whereas breasts have a base level of interestingness. If you're someone who believes you are regarded as less interesting than your breasts, become more interesting. I don't see how calling more attention to your breasts — in some sort of out-and-proud move like baring them in a magazine — is supposed to boost the relative interestingness of the aspects of you that are not your breasts. Do you imagine there's something especially feisty and feminist about posing with naked breasts that somehow transcends all those women in the past who thought they were baring their breasts in an exciting new way? I've heard this self-deception for at least 40 years. I'm sure Hugh Hefner has whispered it to bevies of beauties.

"If I were there, Margaret, I'd throw my hat in the door before I came in."

Said Ronald Reagan to Margaret Thatcher, in a newly revealed conversation from 1983.
The saying refers to an Civil War-era practice in which a visitor might throw his hat in to a room before entering - if he was unwelcome, it might be thrown out again or even shot at.

"There's no need for that," Lady Thatcher replied.... "The action [in Grenada] is under way now and we just hope it will be successful. There is a lot of work to do yet, Ron," she said.
The conversation ended with Thatcher saying she had to get back to a "tricky" debate in the House of Commons and Reagan saying: "All right. Go get 'em, eat 'em alive."

"I was shocked that Althouse even considers the possibility that Hillary would step aside for the good of her party."

"The idea seems preposterous," says a commenter at a post at Instapundit that linked to my "Dan Balz exposes the oldness and emptiness" from yesterday. I didn't remember expressing any belief that this was something Hillary would do, just something she could do. Let me reread myself:
If Clinton were to see that she's either going to lose in 2016 or destroy the future development of national-level stars in her party, she could decide against running, release the dammed-up streams of cash to the next wave of Democrats, and allow them to develop their reputations in the 2016 race. Assume the GOP is due for its time in the presidency, and let this next round of campaigning center on rebuilding the front ranks of the party. From that invigorating process, a star could emerge. A star emerged in '08 even with Hillary blocking the way. To hope to win in '16 using the same tired bullyism on the theory that there's no one up and coming seems lame compared to bold moves to repopulate the party.
I guess it seems that I am essentially making the argument to Hillary that she should step aside. Why make the argument if you don't think it could possibly be accepted? It works as an implicit criticism of Hillary: She's a selfish power seeker, uninterested in building the party. But I can see that I genuinely thought she might let go of her quest for the presidency. The country seems to switch parties every 4 years, and the Democrat is likely to lose. There's no hope of waltzing into the presidency after Obama, so why squander whatever respect she's accumulated over the years by putting your face on that loss, especially when it's predictable that everyone will blame her for preventing newer faces to emerge? She has an opportunity now to lead the party out of the wreckage of 2014. That would take foresight, grace, and generosity.

Yes, I know: I was shocked that Althouse would even consider the possibility that Hillary would act with foresight, grace, and generosity....

November 9, 2014

Scott Walker all but declares that he's seeking the presidency.

After watching "Meet the Press" this morning, I said "I'm waiting for the transcript, but I'll just say... he all but announced that he's running for President." Now, I've got the transcript, so let me show you (boldface added):
CHUCK TODD: I've got to ask you about 2016. You made a pledge in October that you were going to serve all four years. Does that pledge still hold?

SCOTT WALKER: I said my plan was for four years. I've got a plan to keep going for the next four years. But, you know, certainly I care deeply about not only my state, but my country. We'll see what the future holds.
Walker won't let the word "pledge" be pinned on him. It was a "plan," not a "pledge." He's not going to be breaking anything he promised. And look how he didn't get distracted into hemming about whether he'd pledged. He substituted his word, but advanced immediately to the message that he cares not only about Wisconsin, but about his country. 

Todd's next tack is to ask him if he defers to (fellow Wisconsinite) Paul Ryan:
SCOTT WALKER: I love Paul Ryan. I've said many times before I'd be the president of Paul Ryan fan club. But I do think if we're going to beat Hillary Clinton in this next election, we've got to have a message that says, "Hillary Clinton is all about Washington." I think in many ways, she was the big loser on Tuesday because she embodies everything that's wrong with Washington.
And Paul Ryan is a creature of Washington. He can't embody the argument that must be made against that which Hillary embodies.
We offer a fresh approach. Any of us, now 31 governors across the country have the executive experience from outside of Washington to provide a much better alternative to the old, tired, top-down approach you see out of Washington D.C. We need something fresh, organic, from the bottom up. And that's what you get in the states.
I love that fresh-and-organic line, which he used on Election Day in his victory speech (blogged here).
CHUCK TODD: You're not deferring to Paul Ryan, then? It sounds like you believe a governor, not a member of Congress should be the Republican nominee?
Good follow-up by Todd.
SCOTT WALKER: Paul Ryan may be the only exception to that rule. But overall, I think governors make much better presidents than members of Congress.
That showed perfect respect for Ryan while making a pretty clear pitch — within the bounds of modesty — for himself.
CHUCK TODD: Governor Scott Walker, again, third election in four years. We'll see if you run again in two. Thanks for coming on Meet the Press.

SCOTT WALKER: Thanks Chuck. Go Packers.
(And that Packer game kicks off just as I write this.)

"Nothing and no-one can stand in the way of freedom."

"We're the happiest people in the world and we're thrilled that you brought the Berlin Wall down 25 years ago."

Festivities at the site of the wall. The music played was Beethoven's "Ode to Joy."

At the Red Gloves Café...


... applaud!

Applaud for whatever you like, but, me, I'm applauding for getting a new computer going today. All the accounts and the passwords! I loathe the details of technology. I just want this to work the way the computer that died worked. And I'm almost there. This is the first blog post on the new computer.

And, by the way, if you are enjoying this blog, you might consider doing your shopping at Amazon going in through the Althouse portal. For example, if you'd like the kind of cashmere-lined leather gloves Althouse dropped in the forest when she had to tie her shoelace, you can go here. The color is "claret."

"Thanks, Chuck. Go Packers."

Gov. Walker on "Meet the Press" this morning. I'm waiting for the transcript, but I'll just say that he used the expression "fresh and organic" again to refer to the kind of government he wants, and he all but announced that he's running for President.

UPDATE: New post here with the transcript.

Rank-busting foreigners are vexing us.

GMAT percentiles slip to the point where U.S. business schools want separate percentiles for American applicants who are as good as they ever were but getting outclassed in the quantitative section by Indian and Chinese test-takers.

Most violent sentence in a NYT op-ed about the anxieties that beset the modern American mother.

"This made my sister-in-law, who was already late for work, want to teach a few people the artisanal craft of rearranging someone’s face using only your bare hands."

WaPo's Dan Balz exposes the oldness and emptiness of the Democratic Party.

He blames Obama and Hillary. And it's a problem that will only get worse if Hillary wins the presidency:
If Clinton were to win the presidency and serve two terms, the next opportunity for a new generation of Democrats to compete nationally would not come until 2024. The Democrats could go 16 years between competitive presidential nomination contests, wiping out opportunities for today’s younger generation to define or redefine the party apart from either the Obama or Clinton eras.
But at this point, if Clinton doesn't run, things are even worse, since the ranks are so thin. Not Martin O'Malley, after what just happened in Maryland. Balz assumes Jerry Brown at 76 is too old. (On his most recent HBO show, Bill Maher did a long, unfunny routine about the ageism of saying Jerry Brown is too old. Aren't we just terrible to display skepticism about an 80+-year-old President?)

Here's my observation. If Clinton were to see that she's either going to lose in 2016 or destroy the future development of national-level stars in her party, she could decide against running, release the dammed-up streams of cash to the next wave of Democrats, and allow them to develop their reputations in the 2016 race. Assume the GOP is due for its time in the presidency, and let this next round of campaigning center on rebuilding the front ranks of the party. From that invigorating process, a star could emerge. A star emerged in '08 even with Hillary blocking the way. To hope to win in '16 using the same tired bullyism on the theory that there's no one up and coming seems lame compared to bold moves to repopulate the party.