April 11, 2015

"What free speech absolutists have failed to acknowledge is that because one has the right to offend a group does not mean that one must."

"Or that that group gives up the right to be outraged. They’re allowed to feel pain. Freedom should always be discussed within the context of responsibility. At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious. It becomes its own kind of fanaticism.... Writing satire is a privilege I’ve never taken lightly. And I’m still trying to get it right."

Says Garry Trudeau.

"There are no abortion cakes."

A sentence written by Katha Pollitt. Context:
It’s no news that support for abortion rights is stagnant while gay rights become ever more popular.... I understand that same-sex marriage and reproductive rights are different: marriage is about love, and abortion is about freedom. There are no abortion cakes. But freedom is a bedrock American value, even when it’s for women.
Actually, there are abortion cakes. I could find them on line. Nothing I want to show you though.

"Over the years, belief in the brontosaurus became a badge of melancholy quixotism."

"'We brontophiles have been defeated,' Stephen Jay Gould wrote mournfully, in 1991. 'They have won."

But the tables have turned:
Researchers from Portugal and the United Kingdom have evaluated eighty-one diplodocid fossils—including specimens of Apatosaurus ajax (the first described apatosaurus) and Apatosaurus excelsus (the dinosaur formerly known as brontosaurus)—for a total of four hundred and seventy-seven morphological characteristics. “The differences we found between Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus were at least as numerous as the ones between other closely related genera, and much more than what you normally find between species,” Roger Benson, a professor of paleobiology at Oxford University, said....

"'Free time' — an interesting concept. You always do something with your time."

"You would have more free time if you saw yourself as free when you are doing whatever it is that you do. The question is, how did you get into the predicament of doing so many things that when you do them you do not feel free?"

From a post I wrote on April 14, 2007 titled "The man whose left pre-frontal cortex — the center for positive emotion — soared off the charts."

"You know what? I don't care about any of it — private email address, Benghazi, establishment Democratic, blah,blah, blah."

"If Hillary stays healthy and runs, I'm with her, all the way. Why? Because she is the smartest, toughest, and most experienced player out there. And besides being the best candidate to be the first woman president, she loves this county and it's progressive history. I feel this in my gut like nothing else I've ever felt before — she has her head on straight and she is grounded and rooted in our Democratic Republic like no other politician or citizen out there. Any American who can spend eight years in the White House, and then go on to be a senator, and then Secretary of State, and still want to be president, after all of the slings and arrows shot her, has the guts, savvy, and fortitude I want to see in my president. Damn, that woman is a Great American, there are no two ways about it! And the more the Republican Party tries to find a way to take her down, the more I want her to be the first woman president of the US. This is one for the Democratic Party to lose — there is no competition out there, none! The purists out there will complain that Hillary is old hat, or too much a part of the establishment, or too corrupted by Washington, or not Progressive enough. Well, grow up and get over it, kids! Hardball politics in the USA is not a namby-pamby sport. Realpolitik is the order of the day in the world we live in, and if you don't want the Republican Party, aka The Tea Party, to run this country, with all that that will mean, then you had better grow up and get on board with Hillary Clinton. Lets get it together and sweep her into the Oval Office next year, in a landslide the likes of which this country has never seen."

That's the top-rated comment at an NPR piece titled: "5 Things You Should Know About Hillary Clinton."

"The Best Reason to Take Rand Paul Seriously Has Nothing to Do With His Politics."

Writes Jim Rutenberg in the NYT.
[T]he ground game that [Paul's] team is planning is pure realpolitik. His staff is focused on the delegate math and party rules that could determine the next Republican nominee — a game-theory style of presidential politics at which the Paul team is particularly adept....

[I]n a close-fought, state-by-state contest between two or more competitive candidates, the campaign that best understands the intricacies of delegate allotment will have a real edge — and at this point, that campaign is almost certainly Paul’s. Like Obama in 2008, Paul is a first-term senator who, aware of his underdog status, is spending the campaign’s early days planning for all the scenarios it can envision.

"The beautiful door is completely open for me."

Some nice viral video from Dove (that serves an advertising purpose without showing a product).

I found that because Buzzfeed had an article about it with the subtitle "Once again, soap is acting condescending" and an "update" that reads:
This post was inappropriately deleted amid an ongoing conversation about how and when to publish personal opinion pieces on BuzzFeed. The deletion was in violation of our editorial standards and the post has been reinstated.
The article was (lamely) critical of Dove:
Dove has a long and fabled history of experimenting with the shame women feel about their bodies and posturing that they are the way out of it.... Feeling beautiful is an obligation and a pressure — and sometimes a pleasure, but not always. Feeling beautiful is so much work: work that beauty companies cash in on and exploit.
Gawker attributed the deleting to the fact that Dove advertises at Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed denied that, saying that the post violated a "show don't tell" rule:
When we approach charged topics like body image and feminism, we need to show not tell. (That’s a good rule in general, by the way.) We can and should report on conversations that are happening around something that we have opinions about, but using our own voices (and hence, BuzzFeed’s voice) to advance a personal opinion often isn’t in line with BuzzFeed Life’s tone and editorial mission...

When we write about news-related topics revolving around class, race, and feminism and other heated topics, it’s important that we show the conversation that is happening, or find other people who can give smart and valid quotes to make the point, or, ideally, add to the conversation with something substantively new....
I get it. The "buzz" that belongs in the feed of Buzzfeed is the buzz out there in the world, not the buzz in the writer's head. You're supposed to receive and convey the buzz, not create buzz, or at least that's the way it's supposed to look.

"'She isn't going to know,' one man is reportedly heard saying in the video..."

"Not once does someone say something or try to help the woman, and the incident was never reported...."
"This is happening in broad daylight with hundreds of people seeing and hearing what is happening and they are more concerned about spilling their beer than somebody being raped," [said Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen].

NYC cab driver fined $15,000 for telling his 2 women passengers not to kiss.

"TV producer Christina Spitzer and her actress girlfriend, Kassie Thornton, said they barely exchanged a peck in the back seat early into their ride when hack Mohammed Dahbi became ­enraged."
At a hearing last month, Dahbi told an unsympathetic administrative-law judge that Spitzer and Thornton were doing more than just G-rated canoodling. He said they were kissing “heavily” and “touching all over each other” — including “on the chest and the breast.”...

Each woman was awarded $5,000 for emotional distress, in addition to a $5,000 fine Dahbi was ordered to pay the city.Dahbi was found guilty of denying them a “public accommodation due to their sexual orientation.”

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates a blogger who quotes a lyric from the Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour."

The blogger — a Democratic activist named Daniel Tilson — made fun of an on-line "tax cut calculator" as "Gov. Scott’s Magical Mystery Tax Cut Calculator" and used the line from the song "Coming to take you away, take you away..."
Some person at FDLE (an “analyst,” the agency said) eyeballed those words on Tilson’s blog and perceived a potential threat to the governor. Could somebody be plotting to take him away, take him away...?

Not since Charlie Manson got mesmerized by “Helter Skelter” has anyone twisted the words of a Beatles song so ludicrously — and Manson, let’s remember, is crazier than an outhouse rat.

Yet the FDLE, the top crime-busting force in Florida, detected possible ominous undertones in the lyrics of “Magical Mystery Tour.” An agent was promptly sent to interview Tilson....
I thought no one took song lyrics seriously anymore. Anyway, "coming to take you away" meant that whatever it is that is coming — the mystery tour or the tax cut calculator — is going to transport you on a journey into ecstasy or madness. The song "Magical Mystery Tour" is quite obviously about going on a psychedelic drug trip. It's hard even to try to project a threat of violence into "coming to take you away" in that very 1960s songs. Other coming to take you away material from those simpler times:

1. "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!," the 1966 novelty single by Napoleon XIV. The "they" who were coming were the "men in white coats" — which is an expression you don't hear anymore — who would take him to "the funny farm" — you don't hear that either.

2. Calgon "Take me away" advertising. For some, it took drugs. For others, a simple bath:

"[T]he first 800-page instalment of a two-part history of America that tells of the secret gay life of figures from Alexander Hamilton, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to Mark Twain, Herman Melville and Richard Nixon."

From activist/writer Larry Kramer.

ADDED: The link goes to an article in The Guardian which has the title "Were Lincoln and Nixon gay? The ‘history’ book that is dividing America" and, right under that, this set of pictures:

The caption under that is: "Abraham Lincoln, left and Richard Nixon. 'It may look like fiction, but to me, it’s not,' says author Larry Kramer of his book." One gets the sense that Kramer is playing an imaginative game of hypothesizing that this or that historical figure was gay. He says:
"Most histories have been written by straight people. There has never been any history book written where the gay people have been in the history from the beginning.It’s ridiculous to think we haven’t been here for ever."
Of course, he's right about that. There were gay people who hid it, so why not speculate about which ones were gay? What evidence is there? Lincoln and Nixon look so grim in those photographs. Maybe it was the stress and pain of denying and hiding their true sexuality.

The idea that standardized tests for school kids are "a civil right."

Argued in a WaPo column titled "Is it a student’s civil right to take a federally mandated standardized test?" Excerpt:
[C]ivil rights advocates don’t trust states to pay attention to disadvantaged children if they aren’t required by federal law to test and make public the scores of blacks, Hispanics, students with disabilities and English-language learners....

States and school districts that don’t want to deal with the daunting task of improving the achievement of poor students complain about testing as a way of shirking accountability, Henderson said. “This is a political debate, and opponents will use cracks in the facade as a basis for driving a truck through it,” [said Wade Henderson, president and chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an umbrella group of civil rights advocates that includes the NAACP and the National Urban League].
Further down in the column — 15 paragraphs later — there's the news that Henderson gets paid something like $88,250 a year from the Educational Testing Service for sitting on its board of directors.
He said there was no conflict between lobbying for testing and earning income from a testing company. “I wanted to understand how testing is used and the quality of measurements,” Henderson said, explaining why he joined the ETS board about a decade ago. “It’s been a useful grounding in understanding the science of psychonometrics.”
It's also useful to be grounded in understanding the science of bullshit-o-metrics.

April 10, 2015

At the Red Eye Tap Room...


... what'll you have?

Madonna does a standup comedy routine... and the jokes are all about dating younger men.

One joke is that, needing a date, she asked her son: "Do you have any friends you could introduce me to?" Her son is 14. She's 56.

It's supposed to be funny — not that it needs to be funny (the joke is that she's doing a standup routine at all) — because we're supposed to think good for you when a woman gets a man (or boy) who is younger.

Or maybe the idea was to make the audience boo and hiss, that it was a Neil Hamburger-type routine. Well, no one seems to have gotten it on that level. You have to sell intentionally, painfully bad. It's not easy.

"[Amos] Yee’s arrest doesn't just underscore his complaints about Singapore’s backwardness on rights and freedom."

"It shows the country’s dire need for cultural education through intelligent dissent."
In the days after Yee’s arrest, a slew of local celebrities, including three Singaporean starlet types, were interviewed about his videos on national TV. In sequences depressing to watch, they all sided with the state. “If you say that, ‘Oh, people can say whatever they want, all the time,’ then what about those people who are listening?” Joshua Tan, a young actor, said. Well, what about them? The suggestion that citizens should withhold political criticism for fear of offense is preposterous—far more embarrassing to Singapore than any videos by Yee could be.
Amos Yee is only 17, and he's been arrested under the Protection from Harassment Act, apparently for hurting religious feelings when he likened Lee Kuan Yew — a dead Singaporean leader — to Jesus Christ. Here's the video, in which you can see how very charming Yee is. (Some of the language is NSFW.)

Was Shirley Abrahamson "reelected as chief justice by popular vote... 2009"?

That's what the complaint in her federal court lawsuit says. Here's how the ballot looked:

Even without seeing that ballot, it's obvious that it could not be an election to the position of chief justice. If Koschnick had won, he would not have been elected chief. We, the people of Wisconsin, voted for a Justice of the Supreme Court. The position of chief was determined by the old seniority rule in the Wisconsin Constitution, which we, the people of Wisconsin, have now amended.

The puzzling argument that Shirley Abrahamson was elected to the position of Chief Justice and has a federal right to keep it.

Wisconsin Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson has sued in federal court, asserting that her federal constitutional rights have been violated by the new amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution that provides for the Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices to elect their chief. Under the old provision, article VII, section 4(2) of the Wisconsin Constitution, "The justice having been longest a continuous member of said court.... shall be the chief justice," and Abrahamson has been chief justice since 1996.  She had been elected (to a 10 year term) in 1979 and 1989, so she became chief justice in the middle of her second term. The people did not elect her chief justice. We only elected her justice. Someone becomes chief justice by the operation of section 4(2), but the people elected that individual under section 4(1), which says:
The supreme court shall have 7 members who shall be known as justices of the supreme court. Justices shall be elected for 10-year terms of office commencing with the August 1 next succeeding the election....
I don't see how, under the old provision, there was any election to the position of chief. And, as noted above, Abrahamson originally took on the position in 1996, midway through her second 10-year term. Now, I want to focus on paragraphs 41, 42, and 44 in the complaint in Abrahamson's federal court case:
41.  Plaintiff Abrahamson was subsequently reelected as chief justice by popular vote in 1999 and 2009, earning ten-year terms of office in each of those elections. She campaigned extensively and expended substantial resources for reelection on the theme of the administrative work she had done as chief justice and continuity in the chief justice position.
The expression "reelected as chief justice" isn't quite right. In the election previous to her 1999 election, in 1989, Abrahamson could not possibly be said to have been elected to the position as chief since she didn't become chief until 1996. But more important, in all of these elections, she was running under section 4(1), which says only that "Justices shall be elected for 10-year terms of office." I'm not seeing any reference to "as chief justice." The chief justice role falls upon the justice who has the greatest seniority, by virtue of section 4(2), which is separate from the section about elections, 4(1).

Paragraph 41 also says that Abrahamson chose to stress her accomplishments and leadership as chief justice, when she campaigned for reelection in 1999 and 2009, but I don't see how her chosen campaign theme could transform the election into an election to the chief justice position, rather than simply an election as a justice, where there was an assumption that the method of selecting the chief would remain the same. Paragraph 42 continues with this notion that the campaign's theme determines the scope of the power of the office people are voting to fill:
42.  In the most recent election, which took place April 7, 2009, her campaign committee was called the “Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson Reelection Committee,” and her campaign advertising ended with the tagline, “Wisconsin’s Chief,” attached as Exhibit C, making it clear to voters that a vote for her was a vote to continue her in the office of chief justice.  She campaigned extensively and expended substantial resources for reelection on that theme of continuity in the chief justice position and would not have sought reelection if there was a question about whether her reelection would retain her in the office of chief justice. She also cast her vote in that election to support her continuation as chief justice. Plaintiff Abrahamson won that election on April 7, 2009 with more than 59 percent of the vote.
Note that there is also the assertion that she wouldn't have run for office if she had thought it was possible to be deprived of the position of "chief." That's interesting to know, but it's hard to see how that disempowers the people from amending the constitution to change how the position of chief is determined. Abrahamson counted on being chief, and she wouldn't have deigned to run for a fourth 10-year term if it didn't come bundled with leadership of the group of 7 justices. But so what? Why would her hopes and expectations  — or the hopes and expectations of the people who voted for her — limit our power to amend the constitution? Do those who get elected to office somehow lock in the existing scope of their power? That's a strange notion in itself, but it's even stranger to suggest that the answer to that question would depend on whether you touted a particular aspect of your power in your campaign rhetoric!
44.  As a result of the successful campaign conducted under the backdrop of the seniority rule then contained in article VII, section 4(2) of the Wisconsin Constitution, Chief Justice Abrahamson and her political supporters had the settled expectations that she would continue to serve as chief justice until the end of the term to which she had just been elected, which ends on July 31, 2019.
I don't see how "the backdrop of the seniority rule" in section 4(2) changes the nature of the election provided for in section 4(1), which is an election to the position of justice, not chief justice. There was an expectation that the section 4(2) would remain the same, but I don't see how you can pump that expectation up into a federal constitutional right and deprive the people of the power to change section 4(2).

Abrahamson's argument is that the change to section 4(2) should apply only prospectively and that she has a right to continue in the position until the end of her term in 2019. The argument is based on her rights and the rights of those who voted for her (some of whom are also plaintiffs). She's saying it would violate Equal Protection "by diluting and debasing the value and meaning of the votes" that were cast for her in 2009. And she's claiming that it violated her Due Process rights. (With the chief position comes an extra $8,000 added to the regular salary of a justice, which is $147,403.)

A big problem with filing this case in federal court is that there is a state law question as to whether the amendment to section 4(2) applies immediately. She could win on that state law ground and that would avoid the federal constitutional law question. That is, quite obviously, a reason for the federal court to abstain, since it can't give an authoritative interpretation to the state law question. Federal courts engage in this form of abstention — Pullman abstention — out of respect for the authority of state courts, and yet here is a state supreme court justice invoking the federal authority. I find that very strange indeed. And yet, it seems clear that the state's chief justice wouldn't want to submit to the authority of her own state's courts, where she doesn't see herself commanding a majority. If she did, she could simply accept the amendment to section 4(2) and keep the position of chief because her fellow justices would vote to have her as their chief.

And why wouldn't they? What an affront to take the chief position away in the middle of the venerable justice's term!

ADDED: Someone in the comments asked what the ballot looked like in the 2009 election. But think about it: The ballot could not possibly have denoted the election as an election for chief justice because the opponent in that election wouldn't have assumed the position of chief justice. He would have been the furthest from the position of greatest seniority and the last in line to be chief under section 4(2). The vote had to be only for justice. Nothing else makes sense.

"Do you have a skeleton already?"/"Is that a trick question?"

Penn Jillette, in a conversation about a skeleton — a second skeleton, outside his body — for his home decorating scheme which includes a nice Scrabble-themed bathroom and the color pink (because he tends not to look at things). Also, he's lost over 100 pounds.

ADDED: The video embed didn't work, so I took it out. You can watch it at the first link.

Boy wakes from coma "addicted to cheese and swearing constantly."

"He had always like cheese but now he was obsessed with it — he even added it to his cereal... We asked the doctor about it and apparently it's quite normal for people to develop inappropriate or aggressive behaviour after waking up from a coma.  So while that explained the swearing, no one can explain the cheese."

I hope she's starting a conversation with America.

"[Hillary Clinton] is scheduled to declare her second run for president on Twitter at noon eastern time on Sunday...  followed by a video and email announcement, then a series of conference calls mapping out a blitzkrieg tour beginning in Iowa and looking ahead to more early primary states."

My headline — which is what I said out loud on reading the news — is a reference to Hillary's last launch, in January 2007. As I wrote at the time, on first watching her video announcement:
It's all about the dialogue, the chat, the conversation:
I’m not just starting a campaign, though, I’m beginning a conversation — with you, with America. Because we all need to be part of the discussion if we’re all going to be part of the solution. And all of us have to be part of the solution.

Let’s talk about....

And let’s definitely talk about...

So let’s talk. Let’s chat. Let’s start a dialogue about your ideas and mine.

Because the conversation in Washington has been just just a little one-sided lately, don’t you think? And we can all see how well that works.

And while I can’t visit everyone’s living room, I can try. And with a little help from modern technology, I’ll be holding live online video chats this week, starting Monday.

So let the conversation begin. I have a feeling it’s going to be very interesting.
We've been talking with Hillary now for such a long, long time....

April 9, 2015

In the wake of Rolling Stone's "Rape on Campus" debacle, we're about to get a rape-on-campus book by the best-selling author Jon Krakauer.

Looking up the Amazon page for "Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids" — discussed in the previous post — and seeing that it ranked #4 on the "Gender Studies" list, I clicked through to see what was #1. It's "Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town," by Jon Krakauer (the very popular author (I've read "Into the Wild," "Into Thin Air," and "Under the Banner of Heaven")). The book comes out on April 21st, so it's too early to check it out, and I don't know whether Krakauer and his editors got the chance to do anything to acknowledge Rolling Stone controversy or to prepare for the different kind of scrutiny this book will get, now that skepticism and fact-checking zeal is cranked up far beyond what Krakauer could have envisioned when he was doing his research and writing. He must have been expecting a reception similar to the initial reaction to the Rolling Stone article — high praise for shining a light on the terrible sexual brutality of college men and the inadequate response by college administrators who must start believing women and punishing men.

I see that Krakauer has written an op-ed in advance of the book's release: "The bungled Rolling Stone rape article doesn’t change the fact that sexual assault is the most under-reported crime in the US/When someone is raped in this country, the rapist gets away with it more than 97 percent of the time." 
Make no mistake... Women sometimes lie about being raped. According to the most reliable peer-reviewed research, between two percent and 10 percent of rape reports are bogus. As one ponders this discomfiting information, though, it’s important to keep in mind what the flip side of these numbers reveal: Between 90 percent and 98 percent of rape allegations are true. Rape, moreover, is this country’s most underreported serious crime by a wide margin. Rigorous studies consistently indicate that at least 80 percent of rapes are never disclosed to law enforcement agencies or other authorities....
And it's important to keep in mind that statistics sometimes lie. Krakauer says those numbers come from studies that are "most reliable" and "rigorous," but I don't think that will satisfy people whose skepticism has been so recently roused by the Rolling Stone mess. At the Amazon page, Krakauer's book is described as a "dispassionate, carefully documented account" of "the searing experiences of several women in Missoula — the nights when they were raped; their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the way they were treated by the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys; the public vilification and private anguish; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them." Searing... but dispassionate? Is that even possible?

What will sex education sound like when the government sees a need to encourage young women to get pregnant?

The NYT has an article titled "Sex Education in Europe Turns to Urging More Births," but there's precious little in it about how a society — having given sexual freedom and birth control to women — can foster a rebirth of birth.

The comments at the NYT are loaded with statements that we don't need more people on earth. Now, the article is mostly about the need to keep up the birthrate, so I understand why people are responding on that level, but it's interesting that so few accept the presentation of the problem.

My criticism of the article is that it didn't do what the headline made me think it would do and get into a topic I've been concerned with for years. What if, over time, with perfect reproductive freedom, the choice to avoid childbirth is far more popular than we'd ever imagined? One solution would be to back off from women's freedom and equality, and I don't like that. So the thought experiment is: Assume women will continue to have the power to avoid childbirth and complete freedom to exercise that power. Assume we agree that the birthrate must be increased. What can we do?

ADDED: I just happened to run into another NYT piece from a week ago, "No Kids for Me, Thanks":
Meghan Daum, the editor of the anthology ["Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids"]... said, “It’s undeniable that watching this culture play out — the helicopter parenting, the media fixation on baby bumps and celebrity childbearing and -rearing — is overwhelming, and it’s natural that people would react against it.”

"Seventy percent of the world is coated with goo."

"At the very top of oceans and inland waters lies a distinct micrometer-thick microbial habitat. It influences climate change, fosters unusual and deadly bacteria, and is made of jelly. It is the surface microlayer."

The Rand Paul has a problem with women meme.

I've watched the clip of Paul with Savannah Guthrie on "The Today Show," and it shouldn't be that big of a deal, but it is, and now any time Paul talks over a female, we'll hear about it and this meme will grow. Rand Paul has his response: He's "pretty equal opportunity." He's "been universally short tempered and testy" — toward males and females — and he needs "to get better at holding my tongue and holding my temper."

That's a good answer. Equality is a great concept, and women mostly want equality, and, I think, most men want equality for women. But in real life, rudeness toward women is perceived differently. For one thing, it was traditional for more respect to be shown to women, so we — some of us — notice its absence. And the reaction well, but I'm an asshole to everybody doesn't satisfy those who want a culture of civility.

But even for those of us who don't want special sensitivity to women and who think it will hurt women's opportunities — in journalism, in politics, and elsewhere — we observe how well women are treated with an understanding of what has gone on in the past when women were subordinated and diminished and dissuaded from entering the fray. (I had a high school English teacher who asserted with confidence that women could never work as broadcast journalists because our voices were unsuitable to the medium.) With that background understanding, what is objectively equal treatment may feel unequal.

Of course, it's also true that Rand Paul has his opponents who will use whatever works, and I fully expect them to accuse him of sexism whenever they can now. Once it's a meme, that's how it goes. If he remains "short tempered and testy," whatever hits women will be highlighted as Rand Paul's problem with women. If he manages to take the edge off, because he's trying "to get better," what niceness is aimed at women will be characterized as patronizing and even exclusionary. His opponents will want to box him in. Whatever he does will be wrong.

April 8, 2015

"My dad was exceptionally ambitious. But he had a lot thrown on him, exceeding his ambition."

"He wanted his band to be successful. But he didn't want to be the f**king voice of a generation.  In reality, if he had lived, I would have had a dad. And that would have been an incredible experience.... Even though Kurt died in the most horrific way possible, there is this mythology and romanticism that surrounds him, because he's 27 forever. The shelf life of an artist or musician isn't particularly long. Kurt has gotten to icon status because he will never age. He will always be that relevant in that time and always be beautiful."

Said Frances Bean Cobain.

After Wisconsinites vote to amend the state constitution to change how the state supreme court's chief justice is selected, Shirley Abrahamson sues in federal court to keep her position under the old provision.

Under the old provision, Abrahamson was entitled to the position because she is the most senior member of the court. Under the amendment we voted for in yesterday's election, the justices elect their own chief. What is the federal question that allows this to be heard in federal court?
To have the selection process change immediately would shorten the term of office to which Abrahamson was elected, she argued, and would therefore violate her constitutional rights to due process and equal protection rights.

She also asks the court to block the other six justices on the court from taking any action to remove her as chief justice. Earlier Wednesday, before Abrahamson filed the lawsuit, Justice Pat Roggensack told The Associated Press that she hoped to meet "quite soon" to discuss how to proceed following the amendment's adoption....
ADDED: On reading this, Meade said: "I think what should be said is that this changed the terms of her office, not the term of her office." (That is, voters elected her to serve as a justice for a 10-year term, and under the old provision, by virtue of her seniority, she would be chief. Under the new provision, the terms of her job have changed, so that seniority does not entail service as chief, but the justices get to vote for a chief. Her term is the same: 10 years.)

AND: As they say in Wisconsin (sometimes!): This is what democracy looks like.

At the Late Lunch Café...


... you can have a little of everything.

"So stupid. Giving up your own life and your baby's for a fantasy. Guess she earned a Darwin award."/"Go Darwin."

Comments at the Washington Post on an article about a woman who, as a Jehovah's Witness, refused to accept a blood transfusion, and suffered the loss of her unborn child and then the loss of her own life.

Another commenter wrote: "I hope the death certificate read suicide and murder! Stupid, superstitious people! Darwin award for sure..."

And here's WaPo:
The baby died while still in the womb, and the woman then delivered it vaginally...

“Refusal of a lifesaving intervention by an informed patient is generally well respected, but the rights of a mother to refuse such interventions on behalf of her fetus [sic] is more controversial,” [doctors at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Australia wrote in a letter published this month in the Internal Medicine Journal]. “A doctor indeed has moral obligations to both the pregnant woman, and perhaps with differing priority to the unborn fetus [sic].”
Why did the WaPo columnist — By Elahe Izadi— or WaPo editor put "[sic]" after "fetus"? The child died in utero. It seems as though somebody wants to get some distance between abortion rights and religious freedom rights. But that separation is not justified. Abortion rights — in America anyway — are premised on the woman's right to form her own beliefs:
At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.
That's religion. Face it. Should a woman's concept of the universe dominate over the life of the unborn child or not?

"We never saw, on our monitor, what everybody saw at home, if you can believe that."

Said NCAA head of officiating John Adams.
“I saw it after they had left the monitor, and actually thought about, is it in my prerogative to get up, run over to the table, buzz the buzzer, and tell them to come back and look?” Adams said. “That’s how critical I thought the play was and concluded that this is a job for the guys on the floor. I’ve never done it before. Why would I do it tonight and perhaps change the balance of the game?”
They spent 2 minutes looking at the monitor and they didn't see what we all saw at home?!

I thought the whole point of this boring, game-stopping video review of a call was to save us from having to feel the way we do now — seeing what happened and knowing the call was wrong. They're not seeing what we are seeing?!

The Post Office screws up its effort to honor Maya Angelou with a stamp.

They've put her smiling face next to a quote — "A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song" — that she didn't write.

As WaPo reports, the quote appeared in a 1967 children's book by Joan Walsh Anglund called "A Cup of Sun." Anglund — who is 89 — says it's her original quote (except that her "he" has been changed to "it").
A Postal Service spokesman, Mark Saunders, initially said he had never heard of the Anglund quote until The Washington Post informed him of it. In response, he sent a link to a 2013 blog post interview that quoted Angelou saying the phrase. In a later statement, he also said “numerous references” attributed the the quote to her as well.

“The Postal Service used her widely recognized quote to help build an immediate connection between her image and her 1969 nationally recognized autobiography, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ ” the statement said.
So, the Postal Service's answer is don't blame us, blame Angelou, who is not alive to say she never said she wasn't quoting somebody else.

Anglund is handling the spotlight well:
"It’s an interesting connection, and interesting it would happen and already be printed and on her stamp,” Anglund said. “I love her and all she’s done, and I also love my own private thinking that also comes to the public because it comes from what I’ve been thinking and how I’ve been feeling."
Bash the Post Office, say what you will about Angelou, but consider rewarding Anglund by buying her little book, "A Cup of Sun."

Liberals won and lost in yesterday's Wisconsin Supreme Court election — and this particular win/loss combination is good for conservatives.

Steven Elbow reports in the Cap Times:
Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley won a third 10-year term Tuesday, saving the liberal block of the court from near extinction. But the election was double-edged for Bradley and Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson as voters approved a constitutional amendment to change the way the chief justice is chosen, a measure that will almost certainly oust Abrahamson from the job....

Leading up to Tuesday’s contest, only the union-backed Greater Wisconsin Committee ran TV ads on behalf of a candidate. The group booked $102,000 for an ad attacking [the conservative challenger James] Daley, while Bradley spent about $510,000 on ads. Daley ran no television ads, and no one ran any on his behalf. Instead, WMC gave $600,000 to the group Vote Yes for Democracy to run an ad supporting the measure regarding the chief justice selection. The Greater Wisconsin Committee raised $280,000 to run an ad opposing it.
How could an unknown challenger with no TV ads beat a well-known incumbent with lots of ads? Daley was left to lose, and the serious fight was over depriving Abrahamson of the leadership position on the court:
The measure, which passed two consecutive sessions of the GOP-controlled Legislature and was approved by voters Tuesday, ends the 126-year practice of choosing the justice with the most seniority. The chief justice will now be chosen by the justices themselves. The position has been held since 1996 by Abrahamson, who won her fourth 10-year term to the court in 2009. Critics call the change a blatant attack on the 81-year-old Abrahamson, who also might also have to contend with a GOP proposal to set a retirement age for the court. The constitutional measure, crafted by Republicans and backed by Daley, was likely not seen by voters as ideological, said UW political science professor Barry Burden.
Prof. Burden observed that many voters probably saw the constitutional amendment as politically neutral rather than an important way for the liberal minority to retain some significant power, which at this point in the court's history, it surely is. Insert "Don't call me Shirley" joke.
The conservative block consists of four justices, with a fifth, Patrick Crooks, seen as a swing vote. In recent controversial cases, the partisan divide has been on display. Bradley and Abrahamson voted against Walker’s collective bargaining measure in a 5-2 decision....  At one point an argument concerning when to release the decision escalated to the point that [Justice David] Prosser and Bradley had a physical altercation....
I won't rehash the Prosser-Bradley incident. You can search the word "chokehold" in my archive to sift through that.

The point I want to make here is: Conservatives did not need another conservative justice to control the court.  In fact, a weak conservative justice would hurt the conservative cause, because he would make the conservative side seem more political, rather than as the dedicated followers of law they want us to see them to be. And if Shirley Abrahamson were stranded as the only liberal jurist on the court, she might gain luster as the venerable lone dissenter. With Bradley, there are 2 — a liberal bloc, however small.

That bloc can't win, so conservatives have nothing to lose. In fact, conservatives gain, because 2 justices voting together can more easily be portrayed as ideological and political than Shirley Abrahamson standing heroically alone.

Feeble contradictions in the sidebar.

Found, just now, at New York Magazine...

So, what do you think: Will acting like a nice person go well for you or badly?

April 7, 2015

At the Front Yard Café...


... dig deep.

"Part of being a student is the freedom to hold all manner of idealistic stances with the tenacity of a petty commissar."

"Every arguably 'moral' conflict is an all-or-nothing proposition within the Ivory Tower because there’s pretty much no downside to ranting about every slight, real or perceived. And that’s generally a good thing. It lets students work out the kinks in their personal ethics — learning to pick and choose their battles — so they won’t grow up to be hopeless, untethered rage-aholics. But part of that learning process is smacking down that unfettered idealism from time to time and forcing the students to get some perspective. That time has come for the assembled NYU Law students throwing a fit over the school letting Harold Koh teach an international law course...."

Writes Joe Patrice at Above the Law in a piece titled "NYU Law Students Need To Get Off Their High Horse."

From the law students' letter:
While we believe that NYU Law should remain committed to academic freedom, we take issue not with Mr. Koh’s opinions but rather with his actions — that is, his direct facilitation of the U.S. government’s extrajudicial imposition of death sentences on U.S. citizens along with civilians of other nationalities....

"The hated Blue Devils win a national championship, and literally the only thing written by Slate is how this teenager looks like Ted Cruz?"

"Wow. Maybe time to find a new sportswriter who is not so propelled by this irrational hatred of a successful team (with the highest graduation rate of any other team in the Final Four), coached by the most successful individual of all time, from a university that does great things for the community where it is situated. And has he not watched any other basketball game to see nearly every player who ever dunks a basketball celebrate? Time to move on. Hate to break it to you, but Duke is NOT the hated program it was a decade ago. I know people who have stopped reading Slate because of the negativity. Tempting..."

Comment at an incredibly stupid Slate article titled "Duke Wins NCAA Championship Thanks to Heroics of Ted Cruz Look-Alike."

"I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government."

Says Rand Paul.

"He did not commit suicide because of the show. The show didn’t help. It was mean. He felt bullied."

"It was mean-spirited picking at the way he looked for no reason at all. But he suffered from depression before that."
Dr. Fredric Brandt apparently recognized himself in Dr. Grant [pronounced "Franff"], a fictional character [played by Martin Short] on the popular Netflix TV comedy show “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” And the parody helped drive him to despair.

On Sunday morning, Brandt hanged himself in his Miami mansion. The pioneering dermatologist, who kept celebrities like Madonna looking forever young, was 65.
"Did the show upset him? Yes. It was a mean characterization. He was a human being, no one would like that. It was making fun of him for the way he looked and it was mean and it was bullying."

Here's what Martin Short was doing. Is this "mean" and "bullying"?

How will this incident affect Short? Here's an article from last November showing his sensitivity about the death of his wife. She died of ovarian cancer in 2010, and he says "I’m still very much married to Nancy."
"In our thirty-six years together we became so intimately familiar with the workings of each other’s minds that I can convincingly play out the conversations we would be having today, about things that postdate Nancy’s death, -- the continued adventures of our three kids, the arrival of HRH Prince George of Cambridge, the Chris Christie ‘Bridgegate’ scandal, and such curiosities as twerking, Ted Cruz....

"Nancy has only slipped away into the next room. So some night, when I’m really missing her, I’ll grab a rum and Coke at twilight and sit on the couch on our front porch, or perhaps upstairs, on the balcony off of our bedroom, with the Pacific Ocean in view. I’ll call out, 'Hey, Nan!' Forming the words just feels good in the throat."

Or he does something they always did in the car when Nancy would say "Hand of a hand," which was a cue for Martin to put his right hand in her left. "Kiss the hand," he’d say and she would lift it to her lips and kiss it. "I still offer my hand to Nancy – it’s how I initiate our conversations."
ADDED: A plastic surgeon to the stars is a perfect target for mockery, whether he has the character to take a joke or not. The bullying and meanness that is occurring here is toward Martin Short. And as CJinPA said in the comments, there's a big difference between mocking someone for their "natural looks" and mocking them for "looks resulting from deliberate facial manipulation prompted by income-producing vanity." The former is mean, the latter is telling the truth:
[P]eople like Brandt profited from cultural messaging that produce needless insecurities in regular people. His profit motives, like his clients' faces, are grotesque.

"You have to follow God. Don’t follow anyone else. Be obedient..."

"... and follow the laws and don’t worry about anything. I’ve followed him for many, many years and I ain’t tired."

Said Gertrude Weaver, who was the oldest person in the world for 5 days.

"To many Democrats and professors at Harvard, Mr. Tribe is a traitor."

Says this NYT article, "Laurence Tribe Fights Climate Case Against Star Pupil From Harvard, President Obama":
“The administration’s climate rule is far from perfect, but sweeping assertions of unconstitutionality are baseless,” Jody Freeman, director of the environmental law program at Harvard Law School, and Richard Lazarus, an expert in environmental law who has argued over a dozen cases before the Supreme Court, wrote in a rebuttal to Mr. Tribe’s brief on the Harvard Law School website. “Were Professor Tribe’s name not attached to them, no one would take them seriously.”...

[A] number of legal scholars and current and former members of the Obama administration say that Mr. Tribe has eroded his credibility by using his platform as a scholar to promote a corporate agenda — specifically, the mining and burning of coal.

“Whether he intended it or not, Tribe has been weaponized by the Republican Party in an orchestrated takedown of the president’s climate plan,” said one former administration official.
Tribe says that he's "very comfortable" representing Peabody Energy, because the arguments he needs to make "happened to coincide with what I believe." The NYT provides a quote to cast doubt on Tribe's veracity...
“That a leading scholar of constitutional matters has identical views as officials of a coal company — that his constitutional views are the same as the views that best promote his client — there’s something odd there,” said Richard L. Revesz, director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law.
... and a prediction of his social death...
The Republicans who are citing Mr. Tribe’s work are not surprised. Mr. McKenna, the Republican lobbyist, said dryly, “He’s about to be banned from a lot of cocktail parties.”
Oh, you poor man, now the only friends you'll have are friends nobody wants. 

IN THE COMMENTS: Fernandinande said:
"Were Professor Tribe’s name..."

I first read that as referring to the name of a tribe of "Were-professors," who attack when the moon is full.

"Rand Paul Is Not A Libertarian."

"Take it from Rand Paul: 'I’m not a libertarian.'"

AND: "GOP Hawks Set to Ruin Rand Paul's Big Day."

"Voter turnout is expected to be light" today in Wisconsin.

"Only two out of every 10 potential voters are expected to cast ballots."
Statewide, voters will decide whether to re-elect Justice Ann Walsh Bradley to a third 10-year term on the Supreme Court or to elect her challenger, Rock County Circuit Judge James Daley. They will also consider scrapping the 126-year-old practice of having the most senior member of the court serve as chief justice.
And in Madison, Mayor Soglin is up for reelection. His challenger is Scott Resnick, who is 28:
“I’m young, there’s no denying that,” Resnick said during an interview at his modest apartment he shares with his wife, Kelly, on the 14th floor of a student-oriented building with views of the Langdon Street neighborhood and Lake Mendota. “I do have a track record of some large accomplishments all under the age of 30.”...

He cites poverty, homelessness, housing, the achievement gap, employment, transportation and the digital divide — barriers to the Internet and technology for low-income residents and neighborhoods — as top issues.

“I am motivated by doing the big projects,” Resnick said. “I’m trying to help others by dreaming big."
I'm opposed to dreaming big, so I guess I've got to go for Soglin again. As for the judges, as I said yesterday, "I hate voting for judges and the whole charade of these campaigns."

April 6, 2015

At the Badgers Café...

... hang out with us Badgers.

"What to Eat at Every Single Major League Baseball Stadium."

Including "A two-pound pretzel (with various dipping sauces)." (Dodger Stadium.)

"Bees are good."

Says the President. 

"They won’t sting you, they’ll be OK."

Did anyone watch the Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates' debate?

Noticing that the election is tomorrow, I wondered aloud, "Did the candidates ever debate?" And then, having googled, "Oh! There was a debate!" I kind of think that if I didn't notice and watch it, nobody did. Here's an article about it. I feel that I know what the article will say before reading it: Both candidates asserted that they would decide cases according to the law and that political preferences would have absolutely no effect, and both cited judicial temperament and long experience as their qualification.
"I don't see it as the job of the Supreme Court justice to be for or against any political policy," [Justice Ann Walsh] Bradley said. "Our only agenda is to uphold the Constitution and serve the people of this state."

Rock County Circuit Judge James Daley called Bradley an "activist judge" and himself a "dinosaur," saying that he was for traditional judicial standards. ... "I'm running because I'm not an activist jurist," Daley said....

Daley, a former prosecutor, often went into details of the law, sometimes halting briefly as he cited cases and legal terms. Bradley, a former Marathon County judge, was more fluid and used folksier language and broad examples.
Just as I suspected... although I didn't predict the haltingly legalistic vs. fluidly folksy distinction. Whether that characterization is accurate, I don't know. I haven't watched the debate. But I will. It's streamable here.

"The problem with free speech is that it’s hard, and self-censorship is the path of least resistance."

"But, once you learn to keep yourself from voicing unwelcome thoughts, you forget how to think them — how to think freely at all — and ideas perish at conception. Washiqur Rahman and Avijit Roy had more to fear than most of us, but they lived and died as free men."

The last paragraph of George Packer's New Yorker essay titled "Mute Button."

ADDED: I looked at the blog after publishing this post and saw that it sat atop a post about an American law professor who insisted that it was necessary for him to hide his Christianity in the United States.

Here's a Bible verse for timid Christians: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

"This [law] professor is a practicing Christian, deeply closeted in the workplace..."

"...he is convinced that if his colleagues in academia knew of his faith, they would make it very hard for him.... He agreed to speak with me" — writes Rod Dreher — "about the Indiana situation on condition that I not identify him by name or by institution."
“The fact that Mike Pence can’t articulate [religious liberty], and Asa Hutchinson doesn’t care and can’t articulate it, is shocking,” Kingsfield [a pseudonym] said. “Huckabee gets it and Santorum gets it, but they’re marginal figures. Why can’t Republicans articulate this? We don’t have anybody who gets it and who can unite us. Barring that, the craven business community will drag the Republican Party along wherever the culture is leading, and lawyers, academics, and media will cheer because they can’t imagine that they might be wrong about any of it.”...

Christians should put their families on a “media fast,” he says. “Throw out the TV. Limit Netflix. You cannot let in contemporary stuff. It’s garbage. It’s a sewage pipe into your home. So many parents think they’re holding the line, but they let their kids have unfettered access to TV, the Internet, and smartphones. You can’t do that. And if you can’t trust that the families of the kids that your kids play with are on the same team with all this, then find another peer group among families that are,” he said. “It really is that important.”
Much more at the link.

Martin Short devastates a doctor.

"Cosmetic dermatologist Fredric Brandt - who was recently rumored to be the inspiration behind a character on the Netflix show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt — died on Sunday, aged 65...."
The Dr Franff character is depicted on the Netflix show with a high-pitched laugh and unable to speak certain words due to his plastic surgery. He is also seen drinking from a surgical bag and reinflates his own face after being punched.

"Teens who completely suppress puberty are also likely to be sterile, but Bird says it's now possible to undergo a temporary puberty."

"It can last for just long enough to harvest sperm or eggs for later use, but not so long that a teen begins to grow sexual features, like breasts or an Adam's apple."

From an NPR piece titled "Puberty Suppression Now A Choice For Teens On Medicaid In Oregon."

"Why skeptics think a South Carolina sailor lied about being lost at sea for 66 days."

"Despite claiming to lose 50 pounds after his canned food ran out and he was reduced to raw fish, the amateur sailor appeared robust and upbeat as he exited a rescue helicopter and walked without assistance.... his skin... looked pale and unblemished...."
Jordan’s two-month ordeal was made stranger by his enthusiastic tales of getting iodine poisoning, sailing through swarms of glowing phosphorescent jellyfish at night and encountering two killer whales “with such beautiful faces, they looked so friendly.”

"Every summer, a beehive would form behind the backboard."

"Shooting the ball from close meant a close call with a swarm of bees. So naturally, I would shoot from far away, let the ball land, then sprint and go grab it and run back to my spot. Every once in a while, a bee would get me, but it never stopped me from shooting."

From Frank Kaminsky's "remarkable blog," quoted in a Washington Post article titled "Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin basketball’s Napoleon Dynamite, and the triumph of the goofy."

"Let me tell you something about journals."

"A post about journals was made five hours ago on a blog with a prolific commenting community. There is not one comment on it yet."

"Apologies to my wife, but Penny, my miniature poodle, is my world."

"She’s been the inspiration for countless cartoons...."

"Look, I love art. I work in the arts. I cherish world monuments, and have traveled to see them."

"Why are you promoting the use of force to save things, while the slaughter of innocents and the destruction and displacement of their communities have not moved you to such action?"

Comment at a NYT op-ed titled "Use Force to Stop ISIS’ Destruction of Art and History."

April 5, 2015

Just published: "Rolling Stone and UVA: The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Report."

"An anatomy of a journalistic failure," by Sheila Coronel, Steve Coll, Derek Kravitz.
[The Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Rubin] Erdely believed firmly that Jackie's account was reliable. So did her editors and the story's fact-checker, who spent more than four hours on the telephone with Jackie, reviewing every detail of her experience. "She wasn't just answering, 'Yes, yes, yes,' she was correcting me," the checker said. "She was describing the scene for me in a very vivid way. … I did not have doubt." (Rolling Stone requested that the checker not be named because she did not have decision-making authority.)...

The problem of confirmation bias – the tendency of people to be trapped by pre-existing assumptions and to select facts that support their own views while overlooking contradictory ones – is a well-established finding of social science. It seems to have been a factor here. Erdely believed the university was obstructing justice. She felt she had been blocked. Like many other universities, UVA had a flawed record of managing sexual assault cases. Jackie's experience seemed to confirm this larger pattern. Her story seemed well established on campus, repeated and accepted.

Madison Easter.

We walked downtown and sat in the Peace Park...


Some shops were open and some were closed. A store with massive quantities of Wisconsin-themed clothes had racks of "Final Four" Badgers clothes but nothing representing tomorrow's game. "Final Four" is so yesterday, but the sales guy said the more up-to-date things are not printed yet. "It's Easter!" he said. Who wants to work on Easter? The skateboard shop was closed:


We pondered whether the skateboard people were religious, since they'd taken the trouble to make a special Easter-themed "closed" sign. There's no inconsistency between skateboarding and religion, but perhaps there's a slight disjuncture between religiosity and the use of the human-adult-sized rabbit character, as President Obama is learning if he's reading his Facebook commenters.

At the square, we sat on a bench near the statue of our Civil War hero Christian Heg, the site of some of our fondest protest-era memories — recorded here and here — and we conversed and people-watched until it seemed as though we were accelerating the process of becoming oldies...


... and we got a couple B-cycles out of the nearest kiosk and biked back home along Lake Mendota, which is exactly what we'd done the day before. But yesterday the lake was still maintaining its ice, in layered shards that looked like solid whitecaps. I should have taken a photo then, because today all that water had assumed the liquid form that gets to hog the name "water."

"The journal, first envisioned as an amulet against the passage of time, has grown to overwhelming proportions."

"'I started keeping a diary twenty-five years ago,' [Sarah] Manguso writes. 'It’s eight hundred thousand words long.'... Of all the psychological conditions to be burdened with, graphomania is hardly the worst, and Manguso doesn’t quite succeed in dispelling the suspicion that she is a little proud of her eccentricities, perhaps even exaggerating them... In her memoir, Manguso makes the striking decision never to quote the diary itself. As she started to look through the old journals, she writes, she became convinced that it was impossible to pull the 'best bits' from their context without distorting the sense of the whole: 'I decided that the only way to represent the diary in this book would be either to include the entire thing untouched—which would have required an additional eight thousand pages—or to include none of it.' The diary, she observes, is the memoir’s 'dark matter,' everywhere but invisible, and the book revolves around a center that is absent. 'I envisioned a book without a single quote, a book about pure states of being,' she writes. 'It sounded almost religious when I put it that way.'"

From "Dear Diary, I Hate You/Reflections on journals in an age of overshare," a New Yorker review of a memoir called "Ongoingness."

The description of the connected process of obsessive journaling and carefully written memoirs reminded me of what David Sedaris has written about about carrying a notebook everywhere and continually jotting down observations, expanding it into a typed form every morning, making an index to help him find the .01% that "might possibly qualify as entertaining," and using that as material for the essays he uses in his public readings. He's kept this diary for 35 years, and: "Over a given three-month period, there may be fifty bits worth noting, and six that, with a little work, I might consider reading out loud...."

Obama's Easter photo.

"Mark Zuckerberg, Arsen Avakov, Embajada de Estados Unidos en Argentina and 248,497 others like this."

At the First Shoot Café...


... you can ask questions later.

"Why should a woman cook? So her husband can say, 'My wife makes a delicious cake,' to some hooker?"

From "61 Comedians Recall Their Favorite, First, and Life-Changing Jokes." That joke is from Joan Rivers, and the comedian who calls that her "favorite joke of all time" is Jen Kirkman. Most of the 61 comedians, by the way, don't identify a particular joke, so the headline is misleading. I chose Kirkman's joke for this post because it is a joke, it's funny, and it gives you something to think about.

You might think I chose it because CAKE! has been the subject of the week and the tendency of people to pay attention to CAKE!!! has been amply demonstrated. But I didn't. And I'm actually pretty sick of the cake-o-mania of the past week. I've got some really mixed feelings about this cake-focused exposure of the RFRA laws — laws I've studied and taught for many years. I feel as though I should explain things about which I have an overload of understanding, but I also feel hopeless about conveying that understanding. The political demagoguery will overwhelm the legal material. I'm absolutely convinced. I could do my professorly part, but why should I pour hopeless effort into the rehabilitation of RFRA laws, which I've never liked? When it's not hopeless, it's my practice to explain arguments for things I don't agree with. But it is hopeless here. The political noise is too loud.

Okay? Now, please acquire your cake somehow. Have cake and eat it and share it and stop being so obtuse about love.


AND: I wanted to replace that cake pic with a photograph of a cake that had "God is love" written on it. That would be a loftier ending for this post, but instead I'm going to return to the joke-y spirit I began with. Here's what Google gave me when I asked for a picture of a cake with "God is love" written on it:

What would Mitt Romney do?

"On day ten, I turned a corner— I felt awful, as usual, in the morning, but a completely different person in the afternoon."

"This was delightful, and wholly unexpected: there was no intimation, beforehand, that such a transformation was about to happen," writes Oliver Sacks, describing the aftermath of treatment for metastatic liver cancer.
How much of this was a reestablishment of balance in the body; how much an autonomic rebound after a profound autonomic depression; how much other physiological factors; and how much the sheer joy of writing, I do not know. But my transformed state and feeling were, I suspect, very close to what Nietzsche experienced after a period of illness and expressed so lyrically in The Gay Science:
Gratitude pours forth continually, as if the unexpected had just happened — the gratitude of a convalescent — for convalescence was unexpected…. The rejoicing of strength that is returning, of a reawakened faith in a tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, of a sudden sense and anticipation of a future, of impending adventures, of seas that are open again.

Beware, Duke.

A 10-point list of Easter news.

1. "An Easter Bunny character first hopped up in the 8th century with the English monk Bede's The Reckoning of Time..."
A little girl found a bird that was close to death and prayed to Eostra [the Germanic goddess of spring and fertility] for help. Eostra appeared, crossing a rainbow bridge — the snow melting before her feet. Seeing the bird was badly wounded, she turned it into a hare, and told the little girl that from now on, the hare would come back once a year bearing rainbow colored eggs.
2. In Norway, "Each year, nearly every TV and radio channel produce a crime series for Easter. The milk company prints crime stories on their cartons. In order to cash in on this national pastime, publishers churn out series of books known as 'Easter-Thrillers' or 'Påskekrim.'"

3. The Archbishop of York said: "God is creator of the Cosmos and that includes the Palace of Westminster and the White House. There are followers of Jesus Christ in all the main political parties in the UK. It is not for me to tell their fellow church members how to vote next month, but I will encourage them to use their vote."

4. Police in Tahlequah City, Okahoma nabbed a stuffed rabbit carrying $30,000 of meth: "We’ve intercepted narcotics in the mail before... The Easter Bunny I thought was a strange touch."

5. "When Obama spotted 5-year-old Donovan Frazier distraught after losing his egg roll in 2013, the president gave him a hug and advised him to 'shake it off.'"

6. Pope Francis said: Easter is "so beautiful, and so ugly because of the rain."
He had just celebrated Mass in rain-whipped St. Peter's Square for tens of thousands of people, who huddled under umbrellas or braved the downpour in thin, plastic rain-slickers.
7. In 1926, Time Magazine considered the proposal to fix the date of the moveable feast that is Easter. Was Easter not more about commerce than religion?
People have stepped from decorating their altars to decking their bodies, until the Easter Sunday “parade” of fashionables and fops gets more notice in the lay press than does the sanctity of the holiday. This display of clothes and flowers and jewels and carriages, wily merchandisers have gloated over. None the less they have peered with squinted eye at the fluctuating date of the festival, even as they touted a robe as “hot from N’ York, lady,” or “new from Paris, madame.”
8. "Do You Really Need Jesus for Easter?" asks Steve Neumann at The Atheist's Life at The Daily Beast.
[T]here simply is no supernatural realm for a God to occupy. Nature is all there is.

America's native philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson... wrote “Too feeble fall the impressions of nature on us to make us artists. Every touch should thrill. Every man should be so much an artist, that he could report in conversation what had befallen him.” Achieving that isn’t easy—if those impressions were too feeble 175 years ago, they’re almost undetectable now that we’re surrounded by a shell of concrete and steel, covered by a blanket of wireless radio waves....

“Time and nature yield us many gifts,” continued Emerson, “but not yet the timely man, the new religion, the reconciler, whom all things await.”
9. David D. Ireland of Christ Church in northern New Jersey indulges in the kind of golf meditation that used to drive me crazy when I went to church in northern New Jersey half a century ago:
Easter is God’s mulligan to humanity. In golf, a mulligan is a stroke that is replayed from the spot of the prior stroke without any penalty. Your error has been forgiven. You may take the shot again. This Easter make a commitment to meet Jesus for the first time … again. Easter reminds you to keep trying to live the God-kind of life.
10. "For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again."