January 10, 2009

"Five of the pirates who hijacked a Saudi supertanker drowned with their share of a $3 million ransom...."

How terribly not sad.

The Oscar recall voting.

Entertainment Weekly set up recall votes for 30 Oscar contests — the 6 major categories from 5 past years at 5 year intervals (2003, 1998, 1993, 1988, and 1983). I'm sure the voting — by Hollywood insiders — was strongly influenced by the fact of the past win, so I'm not surprised that only 7 old winners lost the recall vote. One Best Picture Oscar was revoked: "Shakespeare in Love" lost to "Saving Private Ryan." The actor losers are James Coburn (to Geoffrey Rush), Tommy Lee Jones (to Ralph Fiennes), Geena Davis (to Frances McDormand), Gwyneth Paltrow (to Cate Blanchett) Renee Zellweger (to Shohreh Aghdashloo), and, naturally, Roberto Benigni (to Edward Norton).

By the way, I was a big Shohreh Aghdashloo supporter for the 2003 Oscar. Her movie, "The House of Sand and Fog," was the first movie I ever blogged, on the second day in the life of this blog, and I remember feeling that I was inventing a way to blog a movie — which is decidedly not the same as reviewing a movie — first here:
... The movie we'd come to see, though, was "House of Sand and Fog," which had a good script, the kind of story that works so well in a movie, where some little thing happens in the beginning, then one thing leads to another, with all sorts of extravagant consequences. At some point you have to just let go of the thought "Jennifer Connelly should have opened her mail" and follow the characters.
... and then, the next day, in a post about candy:
“House of Sand and Fog” introduces a character by having him take a bite out of a Snickers bar and then subtract its cost in his account book. That movie may be the melodrama equivalent of “The Odd Couple”: One keeps account of a candy bar, the other never opens the mail. Both are trying to live in the same place. Hijinks/tragedy ensues.
Sorry to go off on a wave of nostalgia about the early days of this blog, but next Wednesday is its 5th anniversary. It will be 5 years straight — not one day missed. But back to the present: The Golden Globes are handed out tomorrow. And I mean to live-blog the big show.

The "glum and strained and limited phrases" of the Emancipation Proclamation remind us that Lincoln "was a lifelong martyr to constipation."

Says Christopher Hitchens.

The new Solicitor General -- Elena Kagan -- is female, so the question is: What will she wear?

The Solicitor General — up to now, invariably a male — has always worn a "morning coat" — that is to say, tails. So it's a puzzle. Lawprof Patricia J. Williams writes:
The persistence of this sartorial custom beyond its natural lifespan—and in the American justice system of all places—is not merely a quirk of history but testament to the deep and tenaciously clubbish culture that still afflicts the highest levels and most intransigently closed circles of power. Blockquote
Tradition, it's an affliction.

Williams tells the story — "perhaps apocryphal" — of a female deputy solicitor who wore a "'dove-brown' or 'doe-beige' business suit" when she argued a case in the Supreme Court:
According to a friend who, to this day, fears being identified, Chief Justice Rehnquist "went berserk." He chastised her for inappropriate attire, and followed it up with a scathing letter to the Solicitor General himself, requesting that this not occur again. Brown textiles! The scandal!...

In response, the Solicitor General’s office thenceforth recommended that women wear what is popularly known as a "feminized" version of morning attire, and/or a plain black suit.
So, then, the answer is easy: Kagan will wear a nice black skirted suit. Yes, it might have tails, but in my view that would seem oddly costume-y in the absence of an established tradition. Dressing like a man is not a tradition. It's sort of kinky.



IN THE COMMENTS: Sean writes:
There hasn't been a female solicitor general before, but women from the solicitor general's office have argued before the Supreme Court, and they wore business suits.

In fact, my [Appellate Advocacy]professor told us that there was some discussion, when there first started being women in the solicitor general's office, of what was the female analogue of a morning coat. Several answers suggest themselves, based on the situations where morning coats are encountered: bridesmaids' dresses (men still wear morning coats if they are in a wedding party); women's church clothes of the 1950s, featuring knee length dresses and white gloves (men used to wear morning coats at upper class churches into the 1950s); or upper class female street clothes of the Edwardian era, perhaps featuring a bustle (this was the last time that men wore morning coats on a regular basis). None of these female attires seems quite suitable for a lawyer.

Theo Boehm says: "Forget Dietrich. If that era is any guide to style, the new Solicitor General should try the Louise Brooks look":

Why did the prosecutor strike the only black person from the jury? Because she was so fat.

That's the reason he gave, anyway:
"I do not select overweight people on the jury panel for reasons that, based on my reading and past experience, that heavy-set people tend to be very sympathetic toward any defendant."

When asked whether he was saying that race had nothing to do with it, the prosecutor said "that’s correct." And the trial court ruled: "I’m satisfied that is a race neutral explanation, so the strike stands."
Is that a good enough inquiry into whether there was race discrimination? The Second Circuit said no:
[S]uch a conclusory statement does not necessarily indicate — even by inference — that the trial court credited the prosecution’s explanation, especially since (i) the judge’s words suggested that the proffer of a race-neutral explanation was itself enough, and (ii) the explanation given here lends itself to pretext. (Which side is favored by skinny jurors?) Defense counsel later pointed out that several overweight jurors had been seated without objection, but the trial court rejected that further attack on the prosecutor’s motives after visually assessing the jurors’
relative obesity.
Visually assessing the jurors’ relative obesity — discreetly put by the Second Circuit. I checked the case to see what the trial judge actually said: Some people are "a little overweight," but the excluded juror was "grossly overweight."

So now, there needs to be a hearing "to reconstruct the prosecutor’s state of mind at the time of jury selection," or if that is "impossible or unsatisfactory," a new trial. The Second Circuit signaled its disbelief, saying the decision "rested precariously on an intuited correlation between body fat and sympathy for persons accused of crimes."

Is there some research on the sympathies of fat people? One might think that they are self-indulgent and will therefore indulge others. As long as there are going to be peremptory challenges, can't the prosecution maintain folk beliefs about what fat people are like?

Too bad there was no picture of the excluded juror and the Second Circuit had to rely on the cold paper record — especially when the trial judge and the prosecutor were under social pressure to be polite. No one described in detail just how fat the excluded juror was. But the point is the judge should have asked more questions before letting the prosecutor exclude the only black juror.

(Technical law point: This was a habeas case, and 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) only denies habeas relief “with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” The Second Circuit said that there was no adjudication of the claim at all, and therefore § 2254(d) did not apply.)

"Get the sex you deserve."

That's a line in an ad that Sociological Images interprets as "the idea of the entitlement to good sex." Yes, of course, it must mean good sex. What ad would insinuate that you deserve rotten sex (though surely it must prompt such thoughts in the minds of some insecure readers)? But does the line reflect the belief that one is entitled to good sex? It's part of an ad that advises men to use a time-consuming, considerate sexual technique that inherently deserves reward. Whether you generally deserve good sex or not, you probably do if you go to all that trouble.

Be that as it may, Sociological Images examines the sense of entitlement to good — nay, awesome — sex:
I wonder when, in American history, we decided we were entitled to awesome sex. I can’t imagine that pioneer husbands and wives, after spending all day trying to not to die (whether it be that day or that winter), and laying on a straw mattress next to their six children in their freezing/sweaty one-room home, felt pouty if their sex wasn’t mindblowing. The entitlement to great sex, then, must have come later (at least to the regular folk). I would bet it had something to do with capitalism and the commodification of pleasure, generally, and sex, specifically. After all, how do you get the sex you deserve? Well, you buy the right products: whether that be, for example, diet- and exercise-related products, cosmetic surgery, or sex toys.
So capitalism is what makes people feel entitled? I thought the opposite of capitalism — the welfare state — was what made people feel entitled. If people really think they need to work so hard — dieting, exercising, submitting to surgery, using tools* — to get sex, wouldn't that be the opposite of entitlement?
________

* Why are they called "toys"? Is it because "tool" is commonly used to refer to the body part? It would make more sense to call that a "toy," and the supplemental implement a "tool." So, with this post, I'm recommending that the term "sex toy" be changed to "sex tool."

Clint Eastwood, admitting he voted Republican, said "but Republicans are supposed to be libertarians, aren't they?"

He said it to Randy Barnett, who's back posting at Volokh Conspiracy — with the comments turned off. Barnett does not detail the circumstance under which he met Eastwood and got the chance to interrogate him about his politics. I'm picturing something along the lines of...



Anyway, Randy's post bounces off my post about the new Clint Eastwood movie "Gran Torino." He writes that the character Walt Kowalski is basically the same as Harry Callahan ("Dirty Harry"):
[I]n Gran Torino he treats the character with complete respect--without a hint of self-parody--thereby respecting and satisfying those who always liked the character. Anyone who enjoyed this character then, like Ann ("a guilty pleasure for us peace-and-love hippies"), will enjoy him now all the more. The big difference is the critical hype that Eastwood gets today, that he never got back then, thus permitting those who despised Harry to buy Walt. OK, I admit that Eastwood has grown over the years as an actor though, like John Wayne, he was always far better than the critics would admit.
Do you remember back when Pauline Kael was reviewing movies and she deplored Dirty Harry for his "fascism"? I can't find her old review on line, but I did find this 2005 article by Christopher Orr which reads "Million Dollar Baby" as Eastwood's attempt "to make amends for his early career, when he became famous as the vengeful loner, the angel of violent retribution, the Man with a Gun":
Eastwood is the rare artist who has gone from being condemned as a fascist propagandist by the left to being condemned as a fascist propagandist by the right. The former charge was leveled in 1971, when the New Yorker's Pauline Kael described "Dirty Harry" as "fascist medievalism"; the latter, earlier this month, when Ted Baehr, the head of the Christian Film and Television Commission, declared "Million Dollar Baby" to be a "neo-Nazi movie." The particulars of the accusations have little in common: Kael was objecting to "Dirty Harry's" enthusiasm for vigilante justice, Baehr to "Million Dollar Baby's" perceived support of euthanasia....

[W]hile it's true that Eastwood's work, as an actor and especially as a director, has espoused a vague political philosophy -- and one that has evolved over time -- it has never been nearly as programmatic as either his admirers or his detractors imagine. The films he made early in his career were never as "conservative" as their reputation, and even his most prominent revisionist works -- "Unforgiven," "Mystic River" and "Million Dollar Baby" -- are not as "liberal" as theirs. Both the fascist medievalist of the 1970s and the neo-Nazi eugenicist of today have been largely the projections of his accusers' own political nightmares.
Or maybe he's a libertarian!

IN THE COMMENTS: Chuck b. writes:
Clint Eastwood should play Tim Gunn in the movie version of Project Runway. He can sing too, so make it a musical.

"That's a lot of look. Make my day!"

"I'm not sure about this marabou trim. Don't bore Nina." [pulls back his jacket to reveal holstered Colt .45]

"In this world there's two kinds of people, my friend. Those with loaded guns, and those who pick carefully and wisely from the Blue-fly accessories wall."

"I know what you're thinking. Do you need six zippers on that pleather skirt, or only five?"

Andrew Sullivan is "particularly struck" by that passive-aggressive note saying "someone pooped" in the shower.

Link to Andrew Sullivan.

Link to Passive Aggressive Notes.

Now, I like the blog Passive Aggressive Notes — I just blogged about blogrolling it — but singling out the "someone pooped" note to say that it "particularly struck" you?

"Selling was an intellectual pleasure, an art form" for Josiah Wedgwood.

"No fad was too small. In 1772, when women started bleaching their hands with arsenic to make their skin a fashionable porcelain tone, Wedgwood immediately advertised black teapots: against this background, hands looked even whiter. No cause was too great, either: the company produced emancipation medallions asking, 'Am I not a man and a brother?' that were worn as buttons and bracelets."

Judith Flanders looks at the downfall of a company that what was once was an innovative marketer.

Another obituary: Charles Morgan Jr., the lawyer who argued "one person, one vote" in the Supreme Court.

The civil rights lawyer who won Reynolds v. Sims has died at the age of 78.
In 1962, Mr. Morgan and other young Alabama lawyers filed a lawsuit to force the reapportionment of the Alabama Legislature. The rural counties of south Alabama had many times the voting strength of the more urban north, allowing the old planter elite to control the Legislature. In 1964 the Supreme Court ruled in the case, Reynolds v. Sims, and ordered a more equitable apportionment. Along with similar cases from other Southern states, Reynolds established the doctrine known as one-person-one-vote, which increased the political power of African-Americans and urban voters.
You can listen to the argument here. (It's a 3-hour argument, and Morgan goes second, so settle in.)

Morgan also won the case the kept Muhammad Ali from being drafted and led the ACLU effort to get Richard Nixon impeached. He also got in trouble with the ACLU in 1976, when he opposed Jimmy Carter and said, stupidly, "I could never vote for anybody with a Southern accent. That’s bigotry, and that makes you a bigot."

Here's a 1979 review of Morgan's autobiography "One Man, One Voice" (a review written by Howell Raines):
What is missing here is a more thoughtful discussion of how hostility toward the rich and the well-favored went into the making of the passionate populist that Mr. Morgan always has been in his civil rights practice.

Mr. Morgan is hard on lawyers, too, especially those who practice what he calls "Frankfurterism" — a coinage reflecting Mr. Morgan's view that the late Associate Justice Felix J. Frankfurter "could always find legal reasons for refusing to do the right thing." The author's hero is the late Associate Justice Hugo Black, the Alabamian who helped change a cautious court dominated by Frankfurter into an aggressive defender of First Amendment rights.
I typed out that passage — it's a PDF that wouldn't let me cut and paste — because there are so many things about it that interest me. Most notably, Raines, writing in 1979, exhibits the attitude toward the Supreme Court that I saw when I was a law student at NYU from 1978 to 1981. I remember one lawprof who wanted us law review editors to write about the demise of Frankfurterism. There was a great confidence that the vigorous enforcement of constitutional rights was mandatory and notions of judicial restraint were backward and, in fact, bigoted.

Note, too, how judicial activism seems like a completely positive and appropriate attitude for the Court. The court should be "aggressive" and "a defender." That makes the Court sound like an activist lawyer. And "cautious" is pejorative. Today, the Justices often fight over different kinds of restraint, and no one tries to look like an activist. The norms are entirely different.

And look at how Raines conceives of activism specifically in terms of the First Amendment. You don't see that anymore. Those who like judicial activism today emphasize privacy rights, due process, and equal protection. Back then, freedom of expression was the core value. When and how did that change? I can't answer that question in a blog post, not this one anyway.

The Lonesome Death Of William Zanzinger — or Zantzinger, for that was his real name.

He was 69 years old and never sued Bob Dylan
Who wrote a folk song that made William look evil
He was just raging drunk in a Baltimore Hotel
He had a toy cane that he'd bought at a farm fair
He ordered a drink from poor Hattie Carroll
And Hattie was slow and he stupidly hit her
But he didn't do anything that seemed it would kill her
Yet she suffered a stroke and she died the next morning
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face.
Now ain't the time for your tears.

They arrested Zantzinger for disorderly conduct
But when Hattie Carroll died they upped it to murder
At the bench trial, Zantzinger said he couldn't remember
And his lawyer said Hattie had high blood pressure
Did Hattie really die from that blow from the cane?
The 3-judge panel agreed with the lawyer
They said it's only manslaughter, here's your 6-months sentence
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face.
Now ain't the time for your tears.

Bob Dylan read the story in the New York newspaper
And he scribbled out lyrics in an all-night diner
Or maybe it was at Joan Baez's house in Carmel
And he didn't take much care for the facts of the case
He sang that the charge was first-degree murder
And the 6 months sentence was a corruption of justice
Yet the court found him guilty of manslaughter not murder
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face.
Now ain't the time for your tears.

"The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll" got famous
And Bob Dylan became the most honored of rock stars
Zantzinger kept quiet and wouldn't talk to the press
He just lived through the decades with that song on his head
And he probably cried for himself and for Hattie
And what did he think of that songster Bob Dylan?
"I should have sued him," he finally said later
Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now's the time for your tears.

January 9, 2009

“Want to do some Nasnas?”

"One thing we had never seen before was a cleric’s naked butt...."

Wingsuits.

Amazing.

Mother-in-Law in the White House.

Obama will be surrounded by women. Wife, 2 daughters, and, now, mother-in-law, keeping him grounded and human. I'm seeing this as some sort of structural safeguard.

Big discounts make me stand-offish. They seem desperate.

Maybe I seem too emotional, but spending is an emotional matter, and shoppers' emotions are important right now. I walked through Macy's today — the Madison Macy's — and there were huge discounts — 50 or 75% on racks and racks of clothes. And it looked so desperate. I need my clothes to play hard to get.

"I suppose they heard there would be a lot of ham" is the kind of script line that seems to dare critics to make it into an insult.

But Clint Eastwood says it early on in "Gran Torino." His character is explaining why so many people showed up at the house after his wife's funeral. And maybe there was a lot of ham — nearly all of it from Eastwood — but it was delicious ham. I loved this movie. The only thing that would have made me love it more would be if the other actors had been capable of serving up the same kind of ham. But the 2 actors who play the Hmong brother and sister who live next door are not well-seasoned, so there is a bit of a flaw. They're okay though. Anyway, I laughed, I cried — a great movie experience.

Some random thoughts:

1. I've complained about the movie cliché of having a character in the bathtub, but it mainly annoys me when it's used as a way to get young actresses naked. So I was amused by the twist of having the old geezer in the tub.

2. Eastwood smokes a lot in the movie, and smoking is important for more than one plot point — in a movie with a clockwork plot — but at the very end of the credits we are assured that no one connected with the movie accepted any product placement money from tobacco companies.

3. The last movie I'd seen was "Doubt," so this was the second movie in a row with an important priest character. The priest plays a nice counterpoint to Eastwood's character. He's young. Eastwood's old, and they are at odds over religion. It's an excellent religion movie, as we see both Catholicism and the religious practices of the Hmong. Not only is there a priest, there's a shaman, and they both get criticism and respect.

4. Much as I'd love to go to the café after the movie and have a long conversation about religion, I have another discussion question: Does the movie legitimatize racial epithets? We have our snarling but lovable geezer spitting a hundred racist slurs — especially to refer to Asians — over the course of the movie. And, in trying to teach his young mentee how to man up — and not be a pussy — he encourages him to banter playfully using words like "wop," "mick," and so forth. You might want to say it's a hilarious slap in the face of political correctness. But I think the movie is pretty effective in selling plain old-fashioned racial talk.

5. This is a good movie for people who like cars and guns and tools. There's also a lot of drinking and, as I said, smoking. And a military medal, a lawnmower, and a dog. All the manly things. With lots of manliness on top.

6. The old man teaches his mentee about tools. He starts him off with the 3 items with which — he says — you can do half of the jobs you need to do. These items are: WD-40, a vise-grip, and duct tape.

7. American flags, American flags, American flags. You want to see American flags? I'd say they appear in half the shots.

8. This was one of the very few movies I've seen where I never looked at my watch. I was never even tempted to look at my watch. It had a nice, crisp story arc. I appreciate that.

9. Driving home, I was thinking: Clint Eastwood is the best Hollywood guy ever.

10. I remember when Clint Eastwood was the cute guy on "Rawhide." I saw "Dirty Harry" when it first came out in the theater, when enjoying it was considered a guilty pleasure for us peace-and-love hippies. That was long ago, and a ton of respect for Eastwood has accumulated over the years. That's cool.

Cajun squirrel crisps.

What they're eating in Britain.

Blago impeached.

The vote in the Illinois house: 114-1.

ADDED: Meanwhile, Blagojevich went jogging, but he stopped to say: " Let me simply say I feel like the old Alan Sillitoe short story 'The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.' ... And that's what this is by the way, a long-distance run."

Didn't Blago compare himself to a literary character on some earlier occasion? I wish I could remember. This tendency invoke fictional characters to describe how you feel — is it a bit nutty, is it wily? What does it signify?

AND: As has so often been the case over the years, my son Jac knows what I've forgotten. At his December 19th press conference, Blago quoted the Rudyard Kipling poem "If." ("If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs...")

AND: While I was looking for that old literary reference, Blago was dishing out some new. At a press conference today:
He ended by quoting from Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem "Ulysses": "We are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are. One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

Question: What's going on at the University of Wisconsin?

Answer: Tickling girl rats' tummies for hours on end and making their brains more like boy rats' brains.

Question: Why can't a woman be more like a man?

Answer: She can, if only you would rub her belly much, much longer.

***

(Q: How did I find this story? A: Hazy Dave.)

Puzzling -- but pretty cool, I guess -- advertising.



(Via Popwatch.)

More info: The commercial, for Gatorade, was directed by Spike Lee. The voiceover is by Li'l Wayne.

I like this kind of advertising and think it is necessary. If you just obviously promote some product, I'm going to skip over it. This, I enjoyed watching, and I accepted the unobtrusive presentation of the product's name. It probably created a favorable opinion of the brand.

ADDED: You don't see "Gatorade." The product is now called G. You have to find out what the product is independently of the commercial.

AND: As for finding out the name of the product independently, I have become a product information provider, because it's viral video. And I made you watch the commercial, with my seal of approval. So, clearly, it's fabulous advertising if it can do all that.

"Ann has her reasons, discernible in a parsing of her own comments following her post..."

I'm not sure if I like that or not. On the one hand, Sissy Willis, not bothering with my reasons, rolls along, lavishing praise on the project she has already bound herself to. ("Roger L. Simon is a genius.") On the other hand, it does encourage her readers to click over to this blog.

And those reasons of mine have to do with not wanting to be put in the position of needing to defend and promote a group project that I can't control.

Incidentally, the University of Wisconsin Law School is the greatest law school in the land!

Merging a movie still with its inspiration.

Very cool.

Top 10 Jewish Movie Characters.

From Idol Chatter. Excerpt:
5. Obi-Wan Kenobi from "Star Wars" (Sir Alec Guinness) - His name seems more Japanese than anything else, but "don't tell me he's not Jewish," a friend says confidently. Sir Alec Guinness's rabbi-like Jedi talk of a Force that runs through us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together is proof.
Throwing Things takes offense:
[This] may be among the most poorly-constructed lists I've ever seen, a BFTJ compendium focusing on characters that are just brutally bad stereotypes (Judd Hirsch in Independence Day), in bad movies (Melanie Griffith in A Stranger Among Us), or who aren't even Jewish at all (Obi-Wan Kenobi and Gov. William J. Lepetomane, and just because the Native American chief spoke some Yiddish doesn't make him Jewish -- see Powell, Colin.)
And yet he's miffed that Yentl isn't on the list.

What powers Dianne Feinstein?

According to John Fund, since there's a good chance that Feinstein will run for Governor in California in 2010, she doesn't have to go along to get along with her Senate colleagues. She's got an incentive to stand apart and distinguish herself.

Great! I've been enjoying watching Dianne Feinstein lately....
This week, she bristled when Barack Obama picked fellow Californian Leon Panetta to be CIA director. She bluntly noted he lacked any intelligence experience and that she had not been consulted even though she chairs the Intelligence Committee. An irritated Senator Reid told Politico.com: "I think you need better reasons for coming out against somebody than somebody didn't call you."

Mr. Reid was also not happy that Ms. Feinstein, a key member of the Rules Committee, openly bucked the party line on whether Illinois Democrat Roland Burris should be seated despite the fact he was appointed by scandal-implicated Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Ms. Feinstein challenged the position of Democratic leaders who rejected Mr. Burris, saying their move called into question the validity of "gubernatorial appointments all over the country."

Mr. Reid is clearly of another view. "It's not valid, her statement," he told Politico. "I told her that. OK?" Nonetheless, many observers expect Mr. Burris to be quietly seated in coming days.
Ha ha. Go, Dianne.

A dubious Wall Street Journal opinion piece on alternative medicine.

I know some of my readers are doctors and scientists, and I'd like a professional assessment of what I consider to be a very weird column by Deepak Chopra, Dean Ornish, Rustum Roy, and Andrew Weil. (Enough authors?)

I'll just highlight a few things that triggered my suspicions:
In mid-February, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and the Bravewell Collaborative are convening a "Summit on Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public." This is a watershed in the evolution of integrative medicine, a holistic approach to health care that uses the best of conventional and alternative therapies such as meditation, yoga, acupuncture and herbal remedies. Many of these therapies are now scientifically documented to be not only medically effective but also cost effective.
A "summit" is a "watershed in the evolution"? Even setting the inane mixed metaphor aside, that's inane. The convening of a "summit" is not a scientific advance, it's just people talking about something. And either treatments are supported by scientific testing or they are not. I'm not impressed that "many" alternative therapies have been "scientifically documented to be ... medically effective." The proper distinction is between what has passed scientific testing and what has not. I don't care about the categories "conventional and alternative." If it's proven scientifically it becomes conventional, doesn't it? The proven ones don't get to hang out with the bogus ones, propping up their reputation. [CLARIFICATION: I mean Chopra, Ornish, Roy, and Weil can't be permitted to group the proven ones with the bogus ones.]
President-elect Barack Obama and former Sen. Tom Daschle (the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services) understand that if we want to make affordable health care available to the 45 million Americans who do not have health insurance, then we need to address the fundamental causes of health and illness, and provide incentives for healthy ways of living rather than reimbursing only drugs and surgery.
So, the alternative therapy gurus want their cut of the money. Millions of people need medical treatments, and these guys want money to instruct people about meditation and eating right.
Many people ... have a hard time believing that the simple choices that we make in our lifestyle -- what we eat, how we respond to stress, whether or not we smoke cigarettes, how much exercise we get, and the quality of our relationships and social support -- can be as powerful as drugs and surgery.
Oh, bullshit. People believe that — to excess if anything. What they have a hard time with is actually losing weight, exercising, and quitting smoking. Don't waste limited health care funds on these characters who only want to nag us about what we already know. And by the way, this isn't alternative medicine. It's is the routine health advice that any doctor would give you.
Chronic pain is one of the major sources of worker's compensation claims costs, yet studies show that it is often susceptible to acupuncture and Qi Gong. Herbs usually have far fewer side effects than pharmaceuticals.
Usually. Look, if those herbs are drugs, test them as drugs and get them approved by the FDA. Don't spread the generic notion that "herbs" are good. That's harebrained hippie talk. And as for acupuncture and Qi Gong: Point me to the scientific studies.

I'm skipping the paragraph that talks about erections. Integrative medicine wants to help you with your orgasms.

Closing in on the conclusion:
It's time to move past the debate of alternative medicine versus traditional medicine, and to focus on what works, what doesn't, for whom, and under which circumstances.
Yeah, let's call it all science, and let's just do real science, and cut the bullshit.
It will take serious government funding to find out, but these findings may help reduce costs and increase health.
Look, if you have a study you want funded, apply for funding. If you just want public support for a nice chunk of cash to go toward promoting alternative medicine, I say no no no no no no no.
Integrative medicine approaches bring together those in red states and blue states, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, because these are human issues.
Oh, shut up.

"As His Inmates Grew Thinner, a Sheriff’s Wallet Grew Fatter."

That's the headline to a NYT story about Greg Bartlett, of Morgan County, Alabama, who made $212,000 in 3 years by spending less than the state's allotment for feeding the prisoners — $1.75 a day for each person. That sounds terrible, but if you keep reading and make it to the 9th paragraph, you'll see that Bartlett was not stealing this money:
An unusual statute here dating from the early decades of the 20th century allows the state’s sheriffs to keep for themselves whatever money is left over after they feed their prisoners. The money allotted by the state is little enough — $1.75 a day per prisoner — but the incentive to skimp is obvious.
Now, that is a bizarre statute, giving the sheriffs a self-interest in underfeeding the prisoners and using the cheapest food items. And the prisoners went to federal court, saying they'd been losing weight.

It's not until the 5th paragraph of the story that we see the startling fact that the federal judge in the case — U. W. Clemon — sent Bartlett to jail to come up with a new meal plan.
The judge expressed no regret about sending Mr. Bartlett to jail. The Alabama law is “almost an invitation to criminality,” he said in the interview. Sheriffs, he said, “have a direct pecuniary interest in not feeding inmates.”
Is the statute constitutional or not? If it is, strike it down and move forward. Whether it is or not, Barlett didn't make the statute, nor was he charged with a crime. Isn't it shocking that he should be sent to jail over this? The premise for sending him to jail is a previously existing consent decree. Presumably, the judge held him in contempt for violating it. Why was such harsh treatment required? Out of shock that the prisoners were treated so badly?

How badly were they treated? There were 300 prisoners, and Barlett pocketed $212,000 in 3 years, so I calculate that Barlett was spending $1.10 a day for each prisoner. If you were buying food in bulk, could you provide adequate nutrition at that rate? I'd like to see the details — of the consent decree and the menus.
With precision and some wonder, Judge U.W. Clemon, who is retiring shortly, recounted a typical inmate lunch here: “Two peanut butter sandwiches, with small amounts of peanut butter, chips, and flavored water.” Hunger pains were not uncommon.
Hunger pains — not "pangs," but pains — after a lunch of 2 peanut butter sandwiches and chips? Could this news story be written with a little more neutrality?
“Given the testimony about the fairly blatant violations of the consent decree, I knew of no more efficient means of impressing on the sheriff the seriousness of the matter than by placing him in jail until he indicated a willingness to comply,” the judge said.
What say you lawyers out there? Did Judge Clemon abuse his discretion?

January 8, 2009

"A quirky mix of Gypsy ballads, jazz, folk and art-rock, with frequently whistled melodies."

Andrew Bird.

Today's news: Obama wins the Presidency!

It's official.

"Whatever the common judgment of the whole of a great people may be, that judgment will be right."

Let's analyze the photograph of the presidents.



1. It's nice that they're all smiling naturally. A good picture.

2. The oddest thing is the way Bush2 is leaning over into Obama's space. It's as if he were saying "I'm with these guys." By contrast, no one seems to want to be anywhere near Jimmy Carter.

3. There are 4 different hand positions. Jimmy and Bush2 match with the hands at the side look, which seems best, since 2 of them are doing it. Obama's gentle handclasp is vaguely prayerful, symbolizing hope, resonating his campaign theme. Bush1 has his hands in his pockets, which seems as though he's not paying attention. Hands behind the back — Clinton — in body language, this says I've got something to hide. I heard on the radio that Clinton complimented Bush2 on the new carpet — that nutty gold starburst that reminds me of an Obama poster — and maybe Clinton's thinking about the embarrassing incidents in which he was involved and which may have motivated Bush2 to recarpet.

IN THE COMMENTS: Christopher Althouse Cohen says:
Obama used that hand position throughout the campaign. When I went to a Hillary rally, not only did she use that hand position, but all her supporters (including Chelsea, Ted Danson, and Mary Steenburgen) all had their hands in the exact same position.
Oh, no! It's a secret signal!

Sarah Palin: "Is it political? Is it sexism? What is it that drives someone to believe the worst and perpetuate the worst ... gossip and lies?"

Reflecting on the way she was treated by old and new media:



ADDED QUOTE: "The grizzly rises up in me, hearin' things like that."

AND: I'm told she says "The mama grizzly rises up in me, hearin' things like that." I'll take your word for it, rather than listen again. I also see, from Gawker, that the filmmaker, the interviewer in the clip, is John Ziegler, who was the radio talk-show guy that David Foster Wallace wrote about in "Host."

You can read the DFW. Excerpt:
John Ziegler, who is a talk-radio host of unflagging industry, broad general knowledge, mordant wit, and extreme conviction, makes a particular specialty of media criticism. One object of his disgust and contempt in the churn so far has been the U.S. networks' spineless, patronizing decision not to air the Berg videotape and thus to deny Americans "a true and accurate view of the barbarity, the utter depravity, of these people." Even more outrageous, to Mr. Z., is the mainstream media's lack of outrage about Berg's taped murder versus all that same media's hand-wringing and invective over the recent photos of alleged prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, which he views as a clear indication of the deluded, blame-America-first mentality of the U.S. press. It is an associated contrast between Americans' mortified response to the Abu Ghraib photos and reports of the Arab world's phlegmatic reaction to the Berg video that leads to his churn's climax, which is that we are plainly, unambiguously better than the Arab world...

Depending on one's politics, sensitivities, and tastes in argumentation, it is not hard to think of objections to John Ziegler's climactic claim, or at least of some urgent requests for clarification. Like: Exactly what and whom does "the Arab world" refer to? And why are a few editorials and man-on-the-street interviews sufficient to represent the attitude and character of a whole diverse region? And why is al-Jazeera's showing of the Berg video so awful if Mr. Z. has just castigated the U.S. networks for not showing it? Plus, of course, what is "better" supposed to mean here? More moral? More diffident about our immorality? Is it not, in our own history, pretty easy to name some Berg-level atrocities committed by U.S. nationals, or agencies, or even governments, and approved by much of our populace? Or perhaps this: Leaving aside whether John Ziegler's assertions are true or coherent, is it even remotely helpful or productive to make huge, sweeping claims about some other region's/culture's inferiority to us? What possible effect can such remarks have except to incite hatred? Aren't they sort of irresponsible?

"We could lose a generation of potential and promise..."

It's Barack Obama, scaring us into accepting whatever it is he thinks must be done.
"I don’t believe it’s too late to change course, but it will be if we don’t take dramatic action as soon as possible. If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years. The unemployment rate could reach double digits."

If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years.... and if something is done?

"Why the Democratic Scandals Don't Matter (Yet)."

Ha ha. I couldn't get past the picture.

So the scandals don't matter, eh? Oh, let me force myself to read this.

Eve Fairbanks has 4 reasons why the Democratic scandalfest doesn't matter (yet):
- Most of the Democratic scandals have been on the state or local level....

- The Democratic scandals are not linked (and, to boot, are mostly so bizarre as to seem sui generis)...

- The Democratic scandals do not involve top party leadership....

- People do not yet think the Democratic president sucks....
I think the emphasis needs to be on that "yet."

Pajamas Media taps Joe the Plumber to serve as a war correspondent in Israel.

Many are the times when I've felt good about rejecting offers to work for Pajamas Media. This is one of them.

No Chris Matthews run for the Senate?

Oh. Darn. I was hoping for a full-on clown show. Once there are clowns, what can you hope for but more clowns?

Richard Batista, who donated a kidney and saved his wife's life and is now using that kidney as a bargaining chip in the divorce case.

The Long Island doctor would like you to know — with the help of The Daily News — what a saint he is...
He fondly recalls a visit to her room on the day after surgery.

"There was no greater feeling on this planet. As God is my witness, I felt as if I could put my arm around Jesus Christ. I was walking on a cloud."
... and what a slut she was:
"There's no deeper pain you can ever express than to be betrayed by the person you devoted your life to," Batista told reporters...

"I saved her life. But the pain is unbearable."

Batista charged his wife, Dawnell, repaid his gesture by first sleeping with her physical therapist - and then denying him access to their three kids in an increasingly bitter divorce.
This is all about money. Money and the desire to humiliate.

IN THE COMMENTS: There's some good discussion of the dynamics of marriage, and I defend my position vigorously, by I just want to highlight this silliness from Bissage:
I gave Mrs. Bissage a kidney and it came with a string attached.

No wait. That was a ureter.
ALSO IN THE COMMENTS: There's quite a lot of talk about a photograph of Dawnell that causes bamboobzlement.

UPDATE: Dawnell says Batista cheated on her.

Let's not laugh along with Jane Hamsher over Harry Reid's problems.

Quipping "INSTAPUNDIT: Bringing America together!," Glenn Reynolds highlights a couple conservative blogs that thank him for linking to a post by lefty firebrand Jane Hamsher.

GayPatriot said he'd been permanently avoiding reading Jane's blog (FireDogLake), and Glenn's post led him to something he "pretty much" agreed with. And Syd And Vaughn, another FireDogLake avoider, saluting Glenn for taking them to Jane's "very valid" post, declared "Kumbaya!"

So let's look at Jane's post — "I want to play poker with Harry Reid" — and see if it's true that lefties and righties can come together and laugh about Reid's pathetically played politics.

First, if you haven't already, read her whole post. Despite some awkward, cornball writing — "Reid looks like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs on Meet the Press" — it's generally very pithy and funny, and it sums up the embarrassing succession of bad moves Reid made. We can all have a shared laugh about that.

But, my fellow moderates and conservatives, focus on this:
A seventy-one year old dude who hasn't held office for 14 years, appointed by a crook, takes the Senate Majority Leader to the cleaners.

Reid is a red state senator, up for re-election in 2010 and under pressure from the right, who is already making noise about appeasing Republicans who aren't going to be appeased. He's a hazard to Obama's agenda, which is why leading Senate Democrats tried to ease him out as Majority Leader last year.
Hamsher is rooting for the left wing of the Democratic Party. She thinks Reid will keep the party centrally located and give Republicans some clout, so she's saying loud and clear: He's a terrible leader. Don't follow him.

So Jane's post doesn't make me say oh, ha ha, Harry Reid, what a fool. It makes me reconsider whether I want to continue knocking him around. I have been giving Reid a hard time mainly because I think law is important and the legal question is easy: Blagojevich is the governor, he has the appointment power, he appointed Burris, so Burris properly holds the Senate seat until 2010. Deal with it. Blagojevich's sliminess doesn't suspend the rule of law. Play by the rules.

I'm not going to change my strong opinion on that point, but I'm realizing that we need to keep a sharp eye on the people like Hamsher who are hot to push Congress to the left.

ADDED: Henry, the commenter, emails a Venn diagram:

January 7, 2009

"The porn industry has been hurt by the downturn like everyone else and they are going to ask for the $5 billion."

"The take here is that everyone and their mother want to be bailed out from the banks to the big three.... Is [porn] the most serious thing in the world? Is it going to make the lives of Americans better if it happens? It is not for them to determine."

Harry Reid on Roland Burris: "He obviously is a very engaging, extremely nice man. He presents himself well."

After a meeting this morning.

Presents himself well????

Rush Limbaugh, just now, ridiculing the Democrats' racial attitudes, likened that quote to Joe Biden's famous assessment of Barack Obama: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

Remember The Dullest Blog in the World?

It was one of the first blogs I ever read. It had posts like this:
Pulling my chair a few inches towards the table

I was sitting at the table and realised that I would be more comfortable if my chair was a couple of inches nearer to the table. I moved the chair forward slightly, thus lessening the gap between me and the table. I was then able to continue what I was doing in greater comfort.

Walking along at a steady pace

I needed to get somewhere and decided to walk there. I wasn’t particularly early or particularly late, so I walked along at a steady pace.

Making a note of something on a piece of paper

Earlier on I heard something that I wanted to remember. I found a pen and wrote it down on a piece of paper. If I need to be reminded of the information at any point I will find the piece of paper and read it.

Replacing the lid on a container

I noticed that after eating my lunch a tub of low fat spread remained on the kitchen work surface. It did not have a lid on. I remedied the situation by replacing the lid and returning the container to the refrigerator.
Those are just a few posts in a row from 2003. Now, that was fascinatingly hilarious back then. Today, does the humor even register? It looks like Twitter! Now, millions of people write tiny posts to say whatever little thing it is they happen to be doing. And it's not to be funny. It's to communicate and feel connected.

There's this odd phenomenon where the things that were once the most serious become jokes and funny stuff from the past somehow becomes the grim norm.

The Senate must seat Roland Burris.

Says Walter Dellinger, who was a Supreme Court law clerk (for Hugo Black) when the Supreme Court decided the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. case (Powell v. McCormack):
In Justice Black’s view, one of the worst abuses of power in England resulted from parliamentary majorities wrongly refusing to seat dissident legislators. That experience makes me very wary about the Senate’s barring a person from taking a seat unless its authority to do so is clear. Here it is not.
Dellinger notes that Blagojevich is the governor, he has the appointment power, and he has exercised it:
The charges that he sought bribes to appoint certain candidates to the Senate do not automatically render illegal other official acts of his office like signing laws or pardoning criminals. And because there is no evidence that a bribe was solicited from, or proffered by, Mr. Burris, his appointment is presumptively lawful.

Nor do the other arguments against Mr. Burris’s appointment hold up. The contention by the Democratic leadership that Mr. Burris can be denied a seat because the Illinois secretary of state refuses to sign his appointment papers is without merit — it would confer upon secretaries of state absolute veto power over governors’ appointments.
The idea of delaying and giving the Illinois legislature a chance to impeach Blagojevich makes no sense, because Burris has been validly appointed, so he's in until the term is up in 2010.

There is still a separate question whether Burris can get into court (as I noted last Thursday). Dellinger says:
The Supreme Court decision in the Powell case did leave open the possibility that a Congressional decision finding that a member was not properly elected — in this case, appointed — might be a “political question” immune from judicial review.

But that some reasons for denying Mr. Burris this seat might not be subject to review by the courts means that the Senate should take more care, not less.
Exactly. When the court finds a case nonjusticiable under the political question doctrine, it is because it reads the Constitution as committing a particular constitutional question to one of the political branches of government. It is decidedly different from rejecting a Constitution-based claim on the merits. It is saying that some other branch of government is the final authority on the meaning of a part of the Constitution, and that indeed means that the nonjudicial branch that has this responsibility must look at the Constitution and figure out what it means and then follow it.

It absolutely does not mean that the other branch can simply carry out its political will.... something you'd never guess from watching Harry Reid.

It's the new Bloggingheads — with me and Glenn Loury!

They've called this one "Slippery Issues." Topics:
Glenn decries Israel’s attack on Gaza
Will Palestinian nihilism end the Israel experiment?
The case for Senator Roland Burris
Caroline Kennedy and American plutocracy
Sex and politics in “Milk”
Ann detects a pedophilia trend in the Oscar-bait films
I'll pick out some choice clips and expand this post pretty soon. Meanwhile, you can watch the whole thing, if you like, at the link.

AND:
00:00: Hey, look how similar the backgrounds are. Does he always have that background, or did he copy mine as a subtle joke?

03:25: I ask a question that Glenn first calls "very good" and then calls "a part of this Orwellian discourse."

12:12: Glenn says "The Jewish state is an experiment." A complicated discussion follows, and you tell me if he's suggesting that the Palestinians can, by abject nihilism, cause the experiment to fail.

17:15: We both say that Roland Burris is the Senator from Illinois.

21:57: "The South Side became a steppingstone in the march of Obama into history," says Glenn, who's from the South Side of Chicago and who wonders whether the appointment of Burris reflects the ambivalence of all those the old Chicago politicians that Obama left behind. [ADDED: How do those old pols feel? Song cue.]

26:10: Why is there no more talk about Valerie Jarrett for the Senate position? I say: "I wonder what's in the tapes" — the Blagojevich tapes.

32:14: Glenn, the economist, answers all my questions about the stimulus package.

44:45: Glenn thinks "Milk" failed to depict the "ferocity of male sexual appetite."

52:26: I do my rant about prettified pedophilia in the movies:



55:10: I'm talking about Ricky Gervais insulting black people, and Glenn says: "Well, as a person who is obese..." And I'm all: Oh, no, you shouldn't say it. We're just heads here....

Finally, it's light enough to open the blinds.

DSC09843

"The trouble with Sanjay Gupta," says Paul Krugman, is seen in the way he "mugged" Michael Moore.

I know, you're thinking: If that's the trouble, bring it on.

But let's read what Krugman has to say:
So apparently Obama plans to appoint CNN’s Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon General. I don’t have a problem with Gupta’s qualifications. But I do remember his mugging of Michael Moore over Sicko. You don’t have to like Moore or his film; but Gupta specifically claimed that Moore “fudged his facts”, when the truth was that on every one of the allegedly fudged facts, Moore was actually right and CNN was wrong.

What bothered me about the incident was that it was what Digby would call Village behavior: Moore is an outsider, he’s uncouth, so he gets smeared as unreliable even though he actually got it right. It’s sort of a minor-league version of the way people who pointed out in real time that Bush was misleading us into war are to this day considered less “serious” than people who waited until it was fashionable to reach that conclusion. And appointing Gupta now, although it’s a small thing, is just another example of the lack of accountability that always seems to be the rule when you get things wrong in a socially acceptable way.
Krugman's link — at "mugging" — goes to a USA Today article about the conflict, which mainly dealt with the amount of money spent on medical care per person in the United States compared to Cuba. You can see Gupta and Moore having it out on the Larry King show on video here or read the transcript here. The fact that Gupta actually did get some numbers wrong overshadows the policy dispute: Moore wants the government to pay for all medical care for everyone, and Gupta thinks Moore might be right, but that things are more complex than Moore will admit.

It's true, as Krugman says, that Moore comes across as an uncouth outsider and that we tend to feel an instinctive aversion to him. And Gupta is couth, an expert at projecting competence, expertise, and level-headedness. And Krugman is right that the uncouth speaker may be right when the couth speaker is wrong. On this occasion, Gupta got some things wrong, and where he was wrong, he quickly and clearly corrected himself and apologized. That's part of the couth style. So where is this "lack of accountability" that Krugman talks about? Gupta didn't get away with mistakes by speaking "in a socially acceptable way." Gupta was immediately called to account, and he stepped up to it.

And what of Moore? Is he accountable? Moore may have not been wrong on this occasion, but he's been wrong in the past about plenty of things, and his entire filmmaking style is based on a strong point of view — that is, bias — that involves distortion and emotive exaggeration. Does Moore make corrections and apologize? He method involves going doggedly forward toward his predetermined goals — like government-managed health care or opposition to the war or gun control.

So it's quite sensible — not some dysfunctional "village" reflex — to be skeptical when Moore speaks. At the same time, we listen to Moore — some of us — because he's got an artistic style that is often lively and funny and thought-provoking. He's chosen his uncouth, rebel style, and he uses his style every bit as successfully as Gupta uses his. Moore has scarcely been ostracized for his outsider manner. He's very popular. Some people hate him, but he's choosing to antagonize those people — it's part of his the polemical style that has made him rich and famous.

So don't cry for Michael Moore, give Sanjay Gupta the credit he deserves, and don't swallow anything whole, whether it's served up by rebel filmmakers or sophisticated doctors.

January 6, 2009

For Surgeon General, Obama picks Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Link.

Poll:

What is the significance of the Sanjay Gupta appointment?
Obama has made a strong advance in the project of merging politics and showbiz.
Surgeon General has long been a showbiz slot, so nothing much has changed.
pollcode.com free polls


ADDED: Cato@Liberty says:
[W]hy do we need a surgeon general in the first place? After all, can anyone name our current (acting) surgeon general?

In reality, the surgeon general is little more than the “national nanny,” hectoring us to stop smoking, lose weight, exercise more, and never ever go out without a condom. I’ve been flipping through my copy of the Constitution, and I can’t find the authorization for the federal government to take taxpayers’ money to establish an office to tell us how we should live our lives.

"Has the man who writes best selling books about his ‘Conversations with God’ also heard God’s commandments? Thou shalt not steal...."

Well, if you have conversations with God, you're pretty special. Maybe you get some special rules. Perhaps, those generic commandments are for the little people.

Neale Donald Walsch accused of plagiarism, would like you to believe that "he made a mistake in believing the story was something that had actually happened to him."
Except for a different first paragraph in which Mr. Walsch wrote that he could “vividly remember” the incident, his Dec. 28 Beliefnet post followed, virtually verbatim, [Candy] Chand’s previously published writing, even down to prosaic details like “the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down.”
Aw. Come on. Give him a chance. Here's how I'm picturing it:
GOD: Yo, Walsch. Conversation time.

WALSCH: What is it now, Lord?

GOD: You know that that thing Candy Chand wrote? Where she went to that Christmas pageant and one of the kids holds the M upside-down? "Christmas Love" becomes "Christ Was Love."

WALSCH: Why you lap up that sentimental crap, I will never understand.

GOD: LOL, do not try to understand my ways, Walsch. I invented cute. And I also invented practical jokes, so here's my idea. I want you to copy that story, word for word, and publish it on the intertubes...

WALSCH: That's supposed to be funny?

GOD: "Intertubes"? That will never stop being funny.

WALSCH: No, I mean me blatantly plagiarizing something.

GOD: You copy the whole thing word for word, but then — here's the hilarious part — you add a first paragraph all about how you "vividly remember" that time you went to the Christmas pageant.

WALSCH: This will be so easily discovered...

GOD: Yeah, it used to be just me that knew about all the lying and cheating. Now, with the intertubes...

WALSCH: Am I allowed to say that gets on my nerves?

GOD: Now, with the intertubes, a lot more people can discover lying and cheating. Hijinks ensue. And when you are discovered, because, of course, you will be discovered...

WALSCH: Obviously...

GOD: When you are discovered, I want you to claim — really sincerely — that you actually mistakenly believed that you remembered the incident as if it had happened to you. You can be all: "I am chagrined and astonished that my mind could play such a trick on me."

WALSCH: You think that's funny?

GOD: Mmm-hmmm.

WALSCH: People aren't going to believe that.

GOD: The believe you have conversations with God, don't they?

"Man left dangling upside down, pantsless after Vail lift mishap."

Oh, no!

Burris blocked!

Just now.

That's it?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Monday that Burris would not be permitted to take his seat because Burris "has not been certified by the state of Illinois," a reference to incomplete paperwork that only touches on the dispute. Senate Democrats maintain that Burris' appointment is tainted because of the charges against Blagojevich.
No explanation of the constitutional basis for the claim of power. I suspect the reason is that the constitutional argument is so weak. Burris was appointed pursuant to the processes that exist in state law.

ADDED: I had to cut this post short because I had a Bloggingheads recording scheduled. (It's not up yet, but we talked about Burris.) Anyway, let me note that I wrote about the constitutional question in some depth last Thursday. In that discussion, the assumption was that the Senate would go through some procedure — hearings, debate, a vote. But there was none of that, just a raw exercise of power. Ironically, Blagojevich is accused of abusing his power. Are we having an abuse of power contest?

"Right now, the most important task for us is to stabilize the patient."

"The economy is badly damaged — it is very sick. So we have to take whatever steps are required to make sure that it is stabilized." So says Obama.

It's an emergency. Get into the emergency frame of mind, which is stand back, don't interfere, accept that they gotta do what they gotta do. Obama is going with the full emergency metaphor: The economy is a patient who is "very sick," he's the doctor who must "stabilize" the patient by taking "whatever steps are required."

Does my lake look Stonehenge-y to you?

"So is there a North American version of Stonehenge just sitting up there beneath the glacial waters of a small northern bay in Lake Michigan?"

Here he comes now! Your new Senator!

Tired of pink men.

"I am so tired of pink men bombing brown children and rationalizing it as fighting terrorism. I am so tired of pink men telling women (of all colors) what to do with their wombs--which connect with their brains--in case you forgot. I am so tired of pink men telling us we should stay in Iraq for generations. I am so tired of pink men buying bombs and cheating schools. I am so tired of pink men having wives who stand behind them and nod sagely on television. I am so tired of pink men expecting that someone--a brown, black, yellow or white woman--will trail behind them changing light bulbs, taking out garbage, washing laundry, keeping food in the house, taking care of kids of all ages, of parents of all ages. I am so tired of pink men whose wives double or triple the family income thinking they can spend it without doing a damn thing at home. I am so tired of pink men spouting nonsense on TV. I am so tired of pink men arguing, blathering, bloviating, predicting the future--usually wrongly--and telling women to shut up. I am so sick of hearing that another pink man has dropped his children out a window, off a bridge or killed his pregnant wife or killed his unpregnant wife because he was infatuated with another pregnant woman. I am so sick of pink men making war and talking about peace. I am so sick of pink men appointing their mediocre cronies to judgeships, to political advisors, to cushy jobs, to columns in the paper, to multimillion-dollar posts as CEOS or actors (while the actresses make less) or producers or writers or newsreaders or talk show bloviators or supposedly sage counselors at law. I am so tired of pink men."

That's Erica Jong, in one of "The 10 Worst Quotes From The Huffington Post For 2008."

Pink men? Reminds me of this:



I am so sick of pink men appointing their mediocre cronies to judgeships, to political advisors, to cushy jobs.... Well, how do you like Barack Obama appointing Leon Panetta to run the C.I.A.? How pink/unpink/mediocre/unmediocre is that?

"Gaza is where dreams of reconciliation go to die."

Why Jeffrey Goldberg doesn't want to talk about Gaza:
I have friends in Gaza about whom I worry a great deal; I've seen many people killed in Gaza; I've served in the Israeli Army in Gaza; I've been kidnapped in Gaza; I've reported for years from Gaza; I hope my former army doesn't kill the wrong people in Gaza; I hope Israeli soldiers all leave Gaza alive; I know they'll be back in Gaza; I think this operation will work; and I have no actual hope that it will work for very long, because nothing works for very long in the Middle East. Gaza is where dreams of reconciliation go to die. Gaza is where the dream of Palestinian statehood goes to die; Gaza is where the Zionist dream might yet die. Or, more to the point, might be murdered. I'm not a J Street moral-equivalence sort of guy. Yes, Israel makes constant mistakes, which I note rather frequently, but this conflict reminds me once again that Israel is up against an implacable force, namely, an interpretation of Islam that disallows the idea of Jewish national equality.
.

Why did Obama pick Leon Panetta — a man with no significant experience in intelligence — to head the C.I.A.?

The NYT has this:
Democratic officials said Mr. Obama had selected Mr. Panetta for his managerial skills, his bipartisan standing, and the foreign policy and budget experience....
Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is now the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and will conduct any confirmation hearing, is openly expressing disapproval, both because Panetta is not an intelligence professional and because she was not consulted. Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the outgoing chair of the committee, is also said to disapprove.
The choice of Mr. Panetta comes nearly two weeks after Mr. Obama had otherwise wrapped up his major personnel moves. It appears to reflect the difficulty Mr. Obama has encountered in finding a candidate who is capable of taking charge of the agency but is not tied to the interrogation and detention program run by the C.I.A. under President Bush.

Aides have said that Mr. Obama had originally hoped to select a C.I.A. director with extensive field experience, especially in combating terrorist networks. But his first choice for the job, John O. Brennan, had to withdraw his name amid criticism over his alleged role in the formation of the agency’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11 attacks.
By contrast, Panetta wrote a piece in The Washington Monthly that said: "We cannot and we must not use torture under any circumstances. We are better than that." That's very nice, but a million bloggers have written the same thing. If you aren't on the inside, dealing with the details and responsible for outcomes, it takes nothing to say that, and in fact, it's the most obvious opinion that anyone would take. It's not impressive to have thought that up, and it certainly doesn't amount to a qualification for anything other than to appease the people who bellyached about Brennan.

But, we're told, Panetta has strong management skills — generic skill, supposedly applicable to anything.
If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Panetta would take control of the agency most directly responsible for hunting senior leaders of Al Qaeda around the world. He would also become the oldest director in the agency’s history....
He's 70. A 70-year-old man with no background will lead the hunt for al Qaeda.
“It’s a puzzling choice and a high-risk choice,” said Amy Zegart, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has written extensively on intelligence matters.

“The best way to change intelligence policies from the Bush administration responsibly is to pick someone intimately familiar with them,” Ms. Zegart said. “This is intelligence, not tax or transportation policy. You can’t hit the ground running by reading briefing books and asking smart questions.”

IN THE COMMENTS: TheCrankyProfessor said:
If people think the Clintons gutted America's ability to respond to terrorism by treating it as a law enforcement issue, this appointment ought to signal that intelligence is now purely a political issue. So appoint a politician.

Hope! Change!

ADDED: Andrew Sullivan says:
Feinstein and Rockefeller sense a real individual with real clout at the agency, whom they cannot control. There may have been a lack of foreisght [sic] here in not phoning Feinstein ahead of time. But it is also indisputable that many leading intelligence Democrats were deeply complicit in the Bush torture program and his illegal wire-tapping. It was just as important for the president-elect to pick someone not beholden to them either.

Some are now citing Panetta's appointment as somehow "political" rather than substantive. But it's obvious that Obama has actually found someone both capable of running a bureaucracy as complex as the CIA, of a stature to be approved by the Congress and maintain good relations, and with the good sense to know how interrogation based on torture is never right and much less effective than legal methods.

It remains an inspired choice. And the critics help show why.
So, if your opponents oppose something, you should be for it? It seems to me you need better reasons than that. Obama and the congressional Democrats should want to project an image of seriousness and competence — and actually be serious and competent.

How is it obvious that Obama has found someone with the right skills? Where do these judgments come from? Do you think some people just have "good sense" and then they automatically know what is "never right" and what is "much less effective"? Whatever happened to deep knowledge and real-world experience? Now, you're willing to go on assertions of good character and a cocky belief in the soundness of what your instincts tell you is obvious and right? That attitude is positively... Bushian. And I remember when Andrew Sullivan loved exactly that about Bush.

January 5, 2009

"You seemed to be quite open about sexual issues or other behaviors such as drinking or smoking. Are you sure that's a good idea?"

"You might consider revising your page to better protect your privacy."

Are you following me on Twitter?

Here.

I like tweeting. But it's a little hard to take, not having commenters. I'm so used to having you close by.

I answer your questions.

Yesterday, I noted the questions each of which, according to SiteMeter, brought 1 person to this blog. I intended only to mock, but then I actually answered the questions. Why should I mock? I can answer the questions and do some small particle of good in this world.

In that spirit, let's answer today's questions:

who is msm?

A miserable left-wing fool.

what type of jobs will obama create?

According to Rush Limbaugh, today, these will be military jobs, and you won't need to apply for them. You will be drafted.

what to stockpile for an economic crisis?

Bottled water, peanut butter, toilet paper, powdered milk, granola, and V8 Juice — as much as you can fit in your house.

what happened in the movie doubt?

Meryl Streep pursed her lips and Philip Seymour Hoffman got red in the face.

what do men wear to sleep in?

Shorts.

"Is nothing sacred?"

"No, nothing is sacred. And even if there were to be something called sacred, we mere primates wouldn’t be able to decide which book or which idol or which city was the truly holy one. Thus, the only thing that should be upheld at all costs and without qualification is the right of free expression, because if that goes, then so do all other claims of right as well."

"Morris dancing could be 'extinct' within 20 years because young people are too embarrassed to take part, a UK Morris association said today."

I read that and felt bad, but I also wondered: What's Morris dancing? Fortunately, there's YouTube, and I found this:



Okay, that does seem really embarrassing, but on the other hand, it looks like a lot of fun. And it would be a lot more fun if that one guy would get his head out of the way.

Lots more on Morris dancing here, and forgive me if I'm an idiot for not knowing about it.

"For gayness to be the same as fatness..." — Ricky Gervais defends his anti-fat remarks.

We discussed this minor controversy yesterday. Now, Ricky's got this on his blog (which seems to defy permalinking):
I heard someone on the radio once say that they were tired of the prejudice aimed at the overweight. They said something like "you're not allowed to make fun of gay people, so why are you allowed to make fun of fat people? It's the same thing."

It's not the same thing though, is it? Gay people are born that way. They didn't work at becoming gay. Fat people became fat because they would rather be that way than stop eating so much. They had to eat and eat to get fat. Then, when they were fat they had to keep up the eating to stay fat. For gayness to be the same as fatness, gay people would have to start off straight but then ween themselves onto cock. Soon they're noshing all day getting gayer and gayer. They've had more than enough cock... they're full... they're just sucking for the sake of it. Now they're overgay, and frowned upon by people who can have the occasional cock but not over indulge.

When a doctor tells me that that's how you become gay, I'll stop making jokes about fat people.
You're not going to poke holes in that logic, now, are you?

"This is all politics and theater, but I am the junior senator according to every law book in the nation."

Roland Burris, rolling into town, and don't you dare try to stop him. He's got every law book on his side.

Hey, did Al Franken just win?

Isn't it rich?

ADDED: "More ballots than voters."

"The Blu-ray format is in jeopardy simply because the advent of downloadable HD movies is so close."

Yeah, can't we just skip this format?

Resolution: Read more blogs.

I don't read enough different blogs, so I'm looking at PC Magazine's 100 favorite blogs. I've clicked through to more than half of them, and I'm going to blogroll all the ones that seem worth revisiting. Later, I will have to prune the blogroll, which, to tell you the truth, currently includes a lot of blogs I haven't read in months. I want some bright, snappy blogs that are worth reading every day.

What blogs — beyond those written by you and your loved ones — do you really like reading every day?

ADDED: Meade will like this question: "Do you have a hankering for mead?"

MORE: I enjoyed Sorry I Missed Your Party and Ugly Overload, but I don't see the need to ever go back. I feel bad about myself after reading Sexy People and — especially — for laughing at Christine. Actually, now, I'm starting to feel a weird new love for humanity, as humanity tries to look good and fails. I blogrolled it! And I'm blogrolling Passive-Aggressive Notes, Oddee, Life Hackery, Jezebel, Indexed, Got Medieval, and The Comics Curmedgeon ("This panel shows a way that Snuffy Smith could become relevant to modern audiences: by highlighting the health dangers of meth addiction, which is so sadly prevalent in America’s rural suspender-wearing communities"). Oh, hell, my resistance is broken down. I'll blogroll Sorry I Missed Your Party and Ugly Overload.

At The Smokestack Café....

DSC_0002
... you can let off steam.

"Why do you need a Department of Commerce?"

"The Department of Commerce... has no legitimate Cabinet-level function."

***

The link goes to a Reason magazine column by Matt Welch. The first quote comes from Clarence Thomas, and the second quote from Bob Barr. The Thomas quote goes back to a 1987 interview with Reason I hadn't seen before. 1987 was 5 years before Thomas became a Supreme Court Justice. Here's the relevant passage (with some typos from the obviously scanned text fixed):
Reason: I suspect that [Thomas Sowell] might think that the EEOC ought not to exist. Why do you think that this agency should exist in a free society?

Thomas: Well, in a free society I don't think there would be a need for it to exist. Had we lived up to our Constitution, had we lived up to the principles that we espoused, there would certainly be no need. There would have been no need for manumission either. Unfortunately, the reality was that, for political reasons or whatever, there was a need to enforce antidiscrimination laws, or at least there was a perceived need to do that. Why do you need a Department of Labor, why do you need a Department of Agriculture, why do you need a Department of Commerce? You can go down the whole list--you don't need any of them, really.

I think, though, if I had to look at the role of government and what it does in people's lives, I see the EEOC as having much more legitimacy than the others, if properly run.
Not really that strong of a statement against the Department of Commerce, is it?

Skipping ahead, I see Reason asks the very question that sets off my anti-libertarian feelings. From the interview:
Reason: Say I'm a private employer and I'm a racist, and no matter how qualified a black candidate is I don't look at him. Isn't it my right to hire whom I choose? Should the state force me to hire somebody?

Thomas: I guess theoretically, you're right. You say, it's my property and I can do as I damn well please. I'm able to choose my wife, I can choose my employees. I can choose where I live, I can choose where I want to locate my business, the whole bit. I think, though, that we've embodied the principle of nondiscrimination because we don't have a homogeneous society. And the problem is that we had state-imposed racism in our society. We had segregation and slavery that was state-protected, state-imposed, state-inflicted. The state can't undo the harm that was done, but I feel very strongly that if there is any role for the state, it is to protect us from others.

Let's look at it from the other side. When you prevent somebody from participating in our free society and the economics of our free society, I have some real problems. That's a right to me.

Reason: Well it's clearly immoral to do that, but should it be illegal?

Thomas: I'm torn. If I were to look at it theoretically, as you say. I would have to say I'd like the state out of my business. Putting it back in the context of reality, I can't say that. I have seen the devastating impact of the denial of economic opportunities to certain groups, including my race.
Putting it back in the context of reality.... I like seeing how quickly Clarence Thomas said that, and I will continue to be wary of the kind of people who seem to continually need to have that said to them.

Freezing bubbles.

Cool photography stunt.

(Via BoingBoing.)

Jett Travolta and the fear of giving your child necessary drugs.

This is terribly sad:
Jett was found on the bathroom floor of the family's posh condo at the Grand Bahama Resort on Friday. Authorities believe he died of a head injury after suffering a seizure and falling....

"Each seizure was like a death," McDermott told celebrity Web site TMZ.com. Jett lost consciousness and went into convulsions about four days a week when he was unmedicated, he said.

Jett took Depakote, an anti-seizure and mood-stabilizing medication, for several years until it apparently lost its effectiveness. The Travoltas had also become concerned about the drug's possible side effects, which include liver damage, McDermott said, and took him off Depakote some time ago.
It is very difficult to dose your child on a drug that has warnings of serious side-effects, but you have to be rational about weighing the likelihood of the side-effect and the benefit of the drug. It's too late to say that to the Travoltas, but maybe some other parents who are drug-phobic will come to their senses. But the drug had "apparently lost its effectiveness." I'm not sure what that means. Did they not want to increase the dosage to keep up with the child's increasing weight? Was there really no effective drug for his condition?

I feel sorry that the Travoltas must now put up with everyone — including, now, me — analyzing the extent of their responsibility for their son's demise. They are suffering unimaginable pain. And yet, I think it is still important to talk about the decisions parents make for children. Perhaps many children who need seizure medication will receive it as the result of Jett's death.

Then there is the issue of autism... and Scientology:
There has long been speculation that Jett suffered from autism, but the Travoltas have maintained his health problems were a result of Kawasaki disease, a rare inflammatory ailment affecting the blood vessels that most often occurs in early childhood.

Advocates for autistic kids, including other Hollywood stars, have accused Travolta, a Scientologist, of denying his son's condition because it would have required Jett to see a psychiatrist, which his religion forbids.
But Scientology doesn't forbid anti-seizure medication, does it? I must say I don't even know the details about what Scientologists think about treating autism. It's one thing to tell people with mundane emotional problems that they should turn to religion instead of psychiatry. That might be pretty good advice, common to many religions. But it's quite another thing to tell people to avoid medical treatment for specific conditions of the brain.

I don't like to see a rush to blame religion over Jett's death. Parents can be afraid of drugs or in denial about autism without religion playing any part. Did the Travoltas ever talk about religion in connection with their treatment of their son? I don't know. From what I've seen, it looks like an excessive fear of drug side effects. Those side effects aren't the result of religious ideation. They are real, but they were, it seems, given excessive weight.