July 31, 2010

At the Sunset Café...

... you can speak with subtlety....


... or intensity....


(2 stages of the same sunset, viewed from a jetty on the Mississippi River, in Pepin, Wisconsin — which is where the Little House on the Prairie was.)

"Now 9 influential American Muslim scholars have come together in a YouTube video to repudiate the militants’ message."

"The 9 represent a diversity of theological schools within Islam, and several of them have large followings among American Muslim youths. The video is one indication that American Muslim leaders are increasingly engaging the war of ideas being waged within Islam."

"I prefer the more martial view that death is the ultimate enemy—and I find nothing reproachable in those who rage mightily against the dying of the light."

Wrote Stephen Jay Gould in “The Median Isn’t the Message." Diagnosed with abdominal mesothelioma, for which the median survival was 8 months, he lived 20 more years. Atul Gawande writes:
I think of Gould and his essay every time I have a patient with a terminal illness. There is almost always a long tail of possibility, however thin. What’s wrong with looking for it? Nothing, it seems to me, unless it means we have failed to prepare for the outcome that’s vastly more probable. The trouble is that we’ve built our medical system and culture around the long tail. We’ve created a multitrillion-dollar edifice for dispensing the medical equivalent of lottery tickets—and have only the rudiments of a system to prepare patients for the near-certainty that those tickets will not win. Hope is not a plan, but hope is our plan.

The locally owned BP gas station pleads for your love...

... via the door of the ladies' john:





Just an old sign I liked. In New Richmond, Wisconsin.

"The treatment of workers by American corporations has been worse — far more treacherous — than most of the population realizes."

"... Many of those workers were cashiered for no reason other than outright greed by corporate managers. And that cruel, irresponsible, shortsighted policy has resulted in widespread human suffering and is doing great harm to the economy."

Anguishes Bob Herbert in a column called "A Sin and a Shame." How is it a singreed! — or treachery for a business to operate efficiently by laying off employees when there is less work to be done? Herbert does say that there was a disproportion between the number of people who were laid off and the decrease in the amount of work that needed to be done. That is, the workers who kept their jobs became more productive. But what is the evil in that?

If you're traveling in the north country...

... where Highway 63 meets Route 2... there is a café... Casablanca Traders...


... where the nice lady kept the place open for an extra 15 minutes so that Meade could have a smoothie and I could have a peppermint tea with a shot of internet. We were the only customers, and Meade said you must do very well in wintertime, and she said that's what she, a transplanted San Diegan, thought when she moved up here and opened the place. But the truth is, no one comes in the winter. The customers come on the sunny warm days (which are few, up north).

In winter, where does everyone go? Don't they want to be somewhere cozy? We drove quite a ways in the Chequamegon Forest. And what we saw were bars, bars, bars. Bars and bowling alleys. The culture up north isn't so much about coffee and WiFi. It's more about beer and bowling. That was my observation, as I drove by....

... with my vision admittedly blurred... by speed, not beer. I was on peppermint tea...


... and to-go chocolate cake, leftover from lunch.

Instead of divorce, an amicable permanent separation.

"Why bring in a bunch of lawyers? Why create rancor when there’s nowhere to go but down?"

Plus, there are all sorts of financial reasons to preserve the marriage — health insurance, pensions, joint tax filing status. If you both understand what you are doing, why isn't this a great solution?

1. One spouse may be more attached to the old relationship than the other and may see this failure to divorce as hope for getting back together. You might need the divorce to express that the relationship is truly over.

2. It makes it hard to establish relationships with new partners, who might feel uneasy or immoral consorting with you. You might need a divorce for the peace of mind and comfort of those outsiders to the marriage.

3. Maybe it's not ethical to collect the financial benefits of marriage if you aren't committed to each other in the traditional way, living together and having an exclusive emotional and sexual relationship. Is it as wrong as 2 individuals marrying solely to create an economic benefit and without any sex or love at all? But how wrong is that?

"The interior door handles are red straps..."

"famously used in... 1973."

"I wanted to express something in the outer world that I feel inside... We seem to have lost that understanding of the whole of nature and the universe as a living entity."

Prince Charles feels a sense of purpose.

Is that really so terrible?

What Hillary wore.

I don't care about the big wedding. I just want an explanation for that crazy thing enveloping Hillary Clinton.

Althouse's needs are met!

We're happy to find a place that might be okay, open for lunch in New Richmond, Wisconsin. Bellarietta. I misread it as Bellateria and joke that it's deleterious.


I'm cheered by the colored pencils and paper-topped table. (You know how I feel about drawing on table-paper. ("1 part Homer + 1 part Moai + a dash of Redon + sprinkle with love = Meade.") Ha. Those links go to last summer, in the early days of the Meadhouse marriage.) And there's a book too, in case we run out of amusing things to say: "The Little Book of After Dinner Speeches."


(Enlarge to read the text of the open book... and the messages we've penciled on the table.)

After extensive consultation with our excellent server Tanya, I trusted them with a Philly steak sandwich and Meade, oddly enough, went for a black bean burger. It looked like this and tasted as good as you'd hope upon seeing it, and it's hard for bread to meet my high standard:


Computer on the table? Damned right: There was WiFi! Yay! The wifie got her WiFi, and her hubby is happy with that. So marriage can work. It was possible to find a husband who suited my eccentric needs.


And it was possible to find a great place to eat in this little town in the middle of Wisconsin.

Life is good!

July 30, 2010

"Senate Votes to Double Fines, Jail Time for Pot Brownies."

Protecting the children by grabbing one more sweet morsel out of their grubby little hands.

At the Bubbler Café...


... you can put things in your own words.

The Nazis and KKK of Galesville, Wisconsin.

Details from a kiosk displaying snippets of the history of the town:



... faded away into the night, and have never returned to this day. Never returned... implies what is unknown: that they left.

A view of Galesville from the heights of Pine Cliff Cemetery:


"American Idol" will never find a true replacement for Paula.

Ellen is out. She was nice, but she didn't know much about music and preserving her reputation for niceness (and comedy) trumped any dedication to judging the contestants. Now, there's talk of bringing in Jennifer Lopez. Does Lopez bring niceness to the judge's table? She may have Paula-level musical expertise... but will she project the love and the crazy that Paula gave us? No, they will never find another Paula, though they may one day understand how subtly perfect she was for their impossibly popular little TV talent contest.

"She doesn't have to carry this on her conscience any more, and that's a kind of relief."

It wears on you over the years, this use of infanticide as your method of contraception.

It's easy retaining your status as the oldest man in Tokyo...

... when you're already dead.
[W]hen officials went to congratulate Sogen Kato on his 111th birthday....  discovered a mummified body, believed to be Kato, lying in his bed, wearing underwear and pyjamas, covered with a blanket.

Mr Kato's relatives told police that he had "confined himself in his room more than 30 years ago and became a living Buddha"...

But the family had received 9.5 million yen ($109,000: £70,000) in widower's pension payments via Mr Kato's bank account since his wife died six years ago, and some of the money had recently been withdrawn....

"His family must have known he has been dead all these years and acted as if nothing happened. It's so eerie," said Yutaka Muroi, a Tokyo metropolitan welfare official.
What uncaring skepticism toward religion!

"Unmarried women, 70% of unmarried women, voted for Obama..."

"... and this is because when you kick your husband out, you've got to have big brother government to be your provider."

Said Phyllis Schlafly
, who meant to say that: "Yes, I said that. It's true, too. All welfare goes to unmarried moms."

"What explains Mr. Obama’s consistent snubbing of those who made him what he is?"

"Does he fear that his enemies would use any support for progressive people or ideas as an excuse to denounce him as a left-wing extremist? Well, as you may have noticed, they don’t need such excuses: He’s been portrayed as a socialist because he enacted Mitt Romney’s health-care plan, as a virulent foe of business because he’s been known to mention that corporations sometimes behave badly."

Krugman, who worries that Obama is "still wrapped up in his dream of transcending partisanship."

Architectural details in the Garden of Eden.



In Galesville, Wisconsin.

What will Mickey Kaus do now?

"I'm going to blog and then do something else on top of that and I don't know what the something else is going to be and I don't know where my blog will be."

"[T]he ceaseless obsession with and exultation over Chelsea's upcoming nuptials is emblematic of how our culture rewards women who marry...."

Hyperventilates Rebecca Traister about the way other people are hyperventilating.
I don't mean to be the Matrimony Grinch. Weddings are joyful and great. What they are not is the apotheosis of the human, the romantic or, more pointedly, the female experience.
Oh? Why not?
There are a lot of people who don't get married. There are a lot of people who can't get married....
The fevered fetishization of the marital day is not just irritating, it's destructive. It reproduces attitudes about personal -- and especially female -- achievement that are far past their sell date....
You know what weddings are? They are parties.... Who knows how tasteful or how extravagant the marriage of the only Clinton daughter will turn out to be? Who -- besides those who really love her and her future husband -- really cares?

July 29, 2010

At the Mississippi Sunset...



Last night, somewhere south of La Crosse.

At the Overlook Café...


... you don't have to pay attention to anything you don't want.


(Pictures taken yesterday in Wyalusing State Park, in Wisconsin, from cliffs above the Mississippi River. That's Iowa on the other side.)

"The baguette scene could not have been simpler, but Carla wanted to make it a big one."

French First Lady Carla Bruni, doing a Woody Allen movie.

I'm nostalgic for Muzak.

You could ignore it. It was designed to fade into the background, and we used to scoff at it for precisely that reason. Now, I have to listen to the urgent yearnings of pop singers oozing from tinny ceiling speakers wherever I go. Even stuff that should be good — I've heard U2's "With Or Without You" twice in 2 days — sounds cheesy and insincere when piped into a restaurant or lobby. What are these decontextualized problems the singers are going on about? What does this person's troubled relationship have to do with my scrambled eggs?

"By the time this thing would reach the Supreme Court Obama's going to have amnesty. He's s going to have all these brand-new Democrat voters."

Rush Limbaugh rails against the federal court decision preliminarily enjoining the Arizona immigration law:
The judge is a Clinton appointee, Susan Bolton, and I remember, after it was reported or learned that she was a Clinton appointee, I remember everybody said, "Ah, but this woman, she's not a political judge. She's really not partisan judge. She's a fair judge." Oh, yeah, right. Right, right, right, right....

This judge has not ruled on the law. There is no racial profiling. We didn't make a [big] deal of it because we figure a judge is gonna look at the law, not the stupid media in making her decision. But she listened to the media. She had to ignore the high bar that was not met in staying the law. This underscores why Sonia Sotomayor should not be on the Supreme Court. This underscores why Elena Kagan should not be on the Supreme Court, because they are activists. They have no judicial temperament, judicial experience, they're not judges. Well, Sotomayor pretended to be one on TV, I guess, but she's not....
This is all reacting to the sudden news of the opinion, which he hasn't read. It's 36 pages long, and "there's no way that I'm going to be able to go through all 36 pages prior to the program ending, but I know what went on here":
[The judge has] bought the notion there was racial profiling and discrimination and all this happy horse manure that's part of the American left these days. So that's pretty much it. I guess the judge is saying it's not in the public interest for Arizona to try to defend itself from an invasion. I don't know how you look at this with any sort of common sense and come to the ruling this woman came to. But, she didn't. She's a leftist and she made an activist decision, not a judicial decision. 
So... Judge Bolton just looks at the hot-button issue and emotes without attending to the text that should govern her opinion... asserts Rush Limbaugh as he takes a glance at the news of the decision and let's his feelings flow.

To quote Rush, out of context, from the middle of that rant: "Nothing, nothing in the media is real.  There is nothing real.  Media is not real. [Political ideology] is not real. It's all spin; it's all fake; it's all lies."

"With his bloodless, sallow face, his lank hair drained of all color..."

"... his languorous, very un-Australian limbs, and his aura of blinding pallor that appears to admit no nuance, Assange looks every inch the amoral, uber-nerd villain, icily detached from the real world of moral choices in which the rest of us saps live."

Oh, no! It's the Wikileaks guy, Julian Assange. He seems like some kind of monster, if we go by the way he looks.

At the Special Touch Café...


... you can get tattoos, fireworks, and more. We didn't get any fireworks or tattoos. Not today, anyway. We did get some dinner at Culvers, though.


July 28, 2010

Life on the Mississippi.

At Wyalusing State Park today, we rented a canoe...


... and paddled 5 miles of Mississippi River. Part of it was out on the open river like that, and part of it was in these slow back channels called sloughs:


I could do photos because I brought my iPhone. I didn't want to risk one of my good digital cameras, but I decided to risk the iPhone on the theory that if we fell in and the phone died, I could buy one of the new iPhones, which is something I'd like to do anyway.


We fantasized about living on a houseboat (complete with sliding board):


And look — look closely....


A bald eagle!

A few more faces from the counter-demonstration.




(Background and photography here and here.)

How beautiful do you need to be to be "most beautiful" on Capitol Hill?

This beautiful.

"If It Causes Stress, Is It Really a Vacation Home?"

Let me react to another NYT headline. The easy answer is yes — because vacations are stressful.

"The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers."

Great headline. Justified by the text?
The crucial problem the study had to solve was the old causation-correlation problem. Are children who do well on kindergarten tests destined to do better in life, based on who they are? Or are their teacher and classmates changing them?
The Tennessee experiment, known as Project Star, offered a chance to answer these questions because it randomly assigned students to a kindergarten class. As a result, the classes had fairly similar socioeconomic mixes of students and could be expected to perform similarly on the tests given at the end of kindergarten.
Yet they didn’t. Some classes did far better than others. The differences were too big to be explained by randomness. (Similarly, when the researchers looked at entering and exiting test scores in first, second and third grades, they found that some classes made much more progress than others.)
Where does the amount $320,000 come from? It's "the present value of the additional money that a full class of students can expect to earn over their careers." And that's not counting the social and psychological values that may flow from excellent early schooling. But salaries aren't calculated by the actual benefit the employee bestows on the clients. If it did, there would be some negative numbers. But what if kindergarten teachers were very highly paid? Different individuals would pick kindergarten teaching for a career....

An idiomatic expression gone wrong... and Rush Limbaugh is mystified and amused.

On Monday, Rush was riffing on that Maureen Dowd column about The Sherrod Incident, which had this quote from Congressman John Lewis about Shirley Sherrod and her husband Charles:
“I’ve known these two individuals — the husband for more than 50 years and the wife for at least 35, 40 — and there’s not a racist hair on their heads or anyplace else on their bodies”....
Rush stresses the image:
... the media is holding Charles Sherrod up as a paragon of virtue. And John Lewis said that there's not a hair of racism on his head or anywhere else on his body. It's the first time I've ever heard anybody say that. There['s] not a shred of racism any hair on his head, or the rest of the body. What's Lewis thinking when he says that? 
He pauses to let us try to picture all the body hair Lewis has strangely conjured up for us to contemplate the possible racism of.

I can't explain everything about The Sherrod Incident, but I can explain Lewis's linguistic mishap. He began by mixing up 2 common idiomatic expressions: 1. not a [blank] bone in his body, and 2. wouldn't harm a hair on his/her head.

Having said "not a racist hair on their heads," Lewis must have realized that it didn't work the way it was supposed to. It didn't say there's absolutely nothing racist about them, because people have a lot more hair than just on their heads. By going with hair on their heads instead of bones, it's as if he were saying: in the part of them we can see, there's no racism. To avoid creating the implication that there was hidden racism, he had to vouch for the racism-free nature of the rest of their hair. So he tacked on "or anyplace else on their bodies."

This is a good time to remember that great piece of advice about language: "Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print." Use original images or avoid metaphor, and you won't get into weird troubles of the "anyplace else on their bodies" sort.


Also: Don't be a racist.

July 27, 2010

"I have never quite got over the fact that I thought, and I'm afraid I still do think, that 'acting' for a man — a really proper man — is sissified and faintly ridiculous."

"The French have a word for what I am and it's called 'manqué,' meaning a failure of desire.… I am everything 'manqué.' An actor manqué, a philosopher manqué, a writer manqué, and consequently an intolerable bore. (Not manqué, I'm afraid.)... The place I like to be best in the whole world is back in my village in Wales, down at the pub, standing with the miners drinking pints and telling stories. One drinks because life is big and it blinds you. Poetry and drink are the greatest things on earth. Besides women. There's something to death and something to truth, and we're after them all our beautiful lives on earth. Liquor helps."

Said/wrote Richard Burton.

"Marriage is under attack in Wisconsin... Standing for marriage as God designed marriage is not easy.”

So said Julaine Appling, CEO of the Wisconsin Family Council at the National Organization for Marriage rally in Wisconsin today. Appling appears in photo #4 in my collection of stills, posted here. I also put some video clips together. This gives a pretty accurate feeling of the event, as I encounter the pro-same-sex-marriage march on State Street (watch for the old woman who's concerned about crossing the street) and, later, join them on the Capitol steps. Finally, I go up in back of the speakers to see what the NOM event actually looks like.

Created for the hoped-for Chicago Olympics: "a 167-mile road course that looped through Madison three times before taking racers west and into the hills near Blue Mound State Park."

A NYT article about our fabulous bike trails.
“The steepness of the climbs are really what made this course significantly harder than other Olympic courses in the past,” [said Robbie Ventura, a former professional cyclist who was part of Lance Armstrong’s United States Postal Service team for four years].

“If you ride that course just to ride it, you can’t help to get excited every time you get to the top of one of those climbs,” Ventura said. “Even if you do just one loop, there’s a satisfaction of completing something that is not only incredibly beautiful, but also incredibly challenging.”
The article also mentions the the trails in Kettle Moraine State Forest, the Military Ridge Trail and the Capital City trail (which Meade and I rode 3 times in the last 3 days).

"The oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico appears to be dissolving far more rapidly than anyone expected..."

Oh, no!
The immense patches of surface oil that covered thousands of square miles of the gulf after the April 20 oil rig explosion are largely gone... [The] few remaining patches are quickly breaking down in the warm surface waters of the gulf....

The gulf has an immense natural capacity to break down oil, which leaks into it at a steady rate from thousands of natural seeps. Though none of the seeps is anywhere near the size of the Deepwater Horizon leak, they do mean that the gulf is swarming with bacteria that can eat oil.
Storms also helped, along with evaporation.

"If it’s an Althouse link, everybody drinks."


(Via Instapundit.)

The 9th Circuit held Chipotle violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not giving persons in wheelchairs the same view of the food prep that other people have.

"The court said the accommodation the company offered - bringing spoonfuls of each dish to wheelchair users for inspection before ordering - didn't measure up. That would provide only 'a substitute experience that lacks the customer's personal participation in the selection and preparation of the food,' the court said in a 3-0 ruling."

Journolist "took a process that could have been public, democratic and transparent and gratuitously made it private, stratified and opaque."

"This was an odd move for 'progressives' to make when confronted with the revolutionary openness of the Web."

Says Mickey Kaus.

At the National Organization for Marriage rally on the Capitol steps in Madison, Wisconsin today...

... the counter-protest was much more visible:




But the speakers plugged away nonetheless:


The National Organization for Marriage attracted a very small crowd, including the touching smallness of children, who can't know which side they will want to be on...


... even as the speakers proclaimed themselves on the side of the children, who — all the science shows! — need a mother and a father.


"Everyone loves a gay boy":


In the end, Madison spirit prevailed:


Now, what's next?


I love therefore I am!


UPDATE: Video.

Will Wilkinson and I talk about Shirley Sherrod, Journolist, Top Secret America, Wikileaks, and road trips...

... on the new Bloggingheads.

Putting the last 2 posts together makes me think about a Beatles song.

It's one of my least favorite Beatles songs, but Ringo's a good guy, and it's one that he managed to write. He says:
I wrote Octopus's Garden in Sardinia.
(And he wrote "Sardine's Garden" in Octopussia.)
Peter Sellers had lent us his yacht and we went out for the day... I stayed out on deck with [the captain] and we talked about octopuses. He told me that they hang out in their caves and they go around the seabed finding shiny stones and tin cans and bottles to put in front of their cave like a garden. I thought this was fabulous, because at the time I just wanted to be under the sea too. A couple of tokes later with the guitar - and we had Octopus's Garden!
Ah! Peter Sellers. I was just watching a Peter Seller's movie last night: "The World of Henry Orient." Recommended. Do a triple feature of movies in which 2 girls get together and things get crazy and show it along with "Ghost World" and "Heavenly Creatures." Or make a double feature with another Peter Seller's movie from the same era, "I Love You, Alice B. Toklas" (especially if you disapprove of Ringo's toking):

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is right about this.

On the one hand, it is absurd for a world leader to be attacking an octopus, but superstition is a sign of a deficient culture:
"Those who believe in this type of thing cannot be the leaders of the global nations that aspire, like Iran, to human perfection, basing themselves in the love of all sacred values."
I agree. Let us aspire to perfection, love sacred values, and turn away from superstition.

(Via First Things.)

"The Flower Show may come back someday, but it’s not where people are these days... Food is an easier sell."

Botanical gardens are turning away from flowers! 
Botanical gardens are experiencing an identity crisis, with chrysanthemum contests, horticultural lectures and garden-club ladies, once their main constituency, going the way of manual lawn mowers. Among the long-term factors diminishing their traditional appeal are fewer women at home and less interest in flower-gardening among younger fickle, multitasking generations.
Oh, lord. We don't indulge a love of pure beauty anymore? Because of careers and multitasking?
Forced to rethink and rebrand, gardens are appealing to visitors’ interests in nature, sustainability, cooking, health, family and the arts. 
Cooking, health, family... that sounds older and more traditional than flowers. We're all working, working constantly now, so we can't stroll through a flower garden. Even our optional activities must have a sharp cutting edge of functionality and hygiene.
Some are emphasizing their social role, erecting model green buildings, promoting wellness and staying open at night so people can mingle over cocktails like the Pollinator (green tea liqueur, soda water and Sprite). 
Oh, it's all so damned good for you. Wellness. Greenness. Liqueur and Sprite.
In May, the Atlanta garden opened an attraction that would fit right in at a jungle park: a “canopy walk” that twists and turns for 600 feet at a height of up to 45 feet, allowing visitors to trek through the treetops. Not far away, food enthusiasts can stop in at a new edible garden, with an outdoor kitchen frequently staffed by guest chefs creating dishes with fresh, healthy ingredients. Edible gardens are the fastest-growing trend at botanical gardens, consistently increasing attendance, experts say, along with cooking classes.
Can't we just eat our vegetables in private and not make a godawful show of it? Everyone must be instructed. And yet this is conceived of as the way to be young and popular.
“There’s a generation that will be less interested in gardens,” says Daniel J. Stark, executive director of the public gardens association, “but that generation is incredibly interested in what’s happening with the planet. Recently, my own two daughters, and a friend, were reading me the riot act about cutting down some trees.”

Mr. Stark’s daughters are 4 and 8.
So dad proclaims what his little daughters will be interested in. Incredibly interested in. They'll be all about saving the planet. Greenness! Wellness! Save that tree, but not because it is beautiful, so it can absorb the nefarious CO2.
Well, that's what Mr. Stark said. Here's hoping his little dears find some respite some day from the relentless pedantry of nutrition and ecology and, in some transformative, revelatory moment, stop and smell a rose.

(Photo taken on June 12th at Madison's beautiful botanic garden, Olbrich.)

Maybe the kids will rebel against the Puritans of the older generation who have misappropriated so much of their precious time with morality lessons. It could be a whole movement, returning to the hedonistic love of the beauty of nature. They might care about flowers again. I have a good name for this movement: Flower Children.

"Rush is the man," said Jeffrey Toobin on Journolist.

After Sarah Spitz said she'd immensely enjoy watching Rush Limbaugh die:
Rush cannot be replaced. What people miss about Rush is that he is just astonishingly good as a broadcaster.  He is compelling, funny, entertaining. I haven’t heard Thompson often, but he’s probably pretty lame. Ingraham is ok. I never listen to Hannity on the radio. But Rush is the man.
And for that Jonathan Strong of The Daily Caller counts Toobin as one of the "Heroes of Journolist."


On July 20, Rush talked about Journolist, and mentioned Toobin:
Friend sends me a note, "Rush what do you mean? What do you mean here this 'small time, crazy, left-wing bloggers'? Jeffrey Toobin, Eric Alterman, Paul Krugman Joe Klein are crazy left-wing bloggers? They're treated as giants." Let's take 'em individually. Eric Alterman. Do you know who Eric Alterman is? The left may treat him as a giant. I know that they do. He's a kook! He's a far-left fringe kook. But do you know who he is? Do you? Jeffrey Toobin. You might know who he is. He works for the least-watched cable news network in history, CNN. He also worked there when they had viewers. I know he's considered a giant. He's a "legal correspondent." He's considered to be above reproach.

There is no journalism. These people are not journalists. They're propagandists, whether it's Jeffrey Toobin or Eric Alterman or Krugman. Yeah, he's a New York Times columnist; he's a propagandist. He is a giant because he's in the New York Times. But my point is whether it's people you've never heard of on this list writing for blogs you've never heard of or whether it is names you never heard of, it's the entire Washington media -- and it's pervasive. I really do think that the take here is there is no media. This is the big myth. You know, the German historian Carl von Clausewitz once stated "War is diplomacy by another means." Well, journalism is just propaganda now: The government putting out its agenda by another means. There are no reporters. There is no journalism. It's just liberalism....

Obama, speaking of his family's financial situation: "We’re not that far removed from what most Americans are going through."

From an inane interview with ABC with consumer reporter Elizabeth Leamy, who makes a lame effort to convey the impression that she's going to enlighten viewers about the new financial reform law. Leamy exclaims that Americans don't know what's in the law, as if she's about to extract that information from the President. Spoiler: She's not.

Laughing, she hefts the 2,000 pages and shakes them at the President, and he laughs too and jokes "Don't hurt yourself." She laughs more. Ha ha. Isn't funny?! She recites a seemingly memorized question that ends with "Persuade me that this law matters to ordinary Americans," and then she lets the President gets away with simply asserting the purpose of the law: consumers will have lots of new "security and protection." But what's in the 2,000 pages that gives "security and protection"? Obama doesn't have to say.

Leamy cites some examples of "unintended consequences," and Obama looks a little uncomfortable but quickly plugs in a sound bite about how consumers are going to get "more information." Why is that an answer? There will be unintended consequences, but somewhere, in writing, you will get told about them? And that's it for the subject of what's in the law, as the interview moves on to whether Obama will appoint Elizabeth Warren — Leamy calls her "Elizabeth Warden" — to head the new agency.

At this point, less than 3 minutes into a 6 1/2 minute segment — did ABC edit out some more substantive material? — Leamy slips into the subject of what it all means for Obama and his family.

"What are you and the First Lady teaching your daughters about money?" That has nothing to do with the 2,000 page law that we've learned nothing about. We're into the touchy-feely, news-for-women part of the morning show. For the first time in the interview, Obama compliments Leamy on her question: "You know, it's a great question." Ha. Translation: Oh, good, we're through the hard part of the interview. Obama says that the girls get an allowance and "may be able to earn some of their own money babysitting." How could that possibly happen? How many Secret Service agents would have to come along? Anyway, Leamy is reduced to giggling and raising her hand in a silly, girly "pick me!" gesture as if Malia or Sasha would babysit her kids.

Leamy asks about Obama's own retirement fund. "Can you feel the pain?" Oh, lord, does she  think she's interviewing Bill Clinton and that Obama would emote "I feel your pain"? I imagine he's thinking: You know, that's a stupid question. Do you have any idea what a fountain of wealth I am? If I ever ran short, I could hire a ghostwriter and do another autobiography or 2.

But he has to be nice and he has to take the political opportunity. He rambles through an answer that includes the quote I put in the post title. Yes, we laughed when he said that, but, seriously, what was he supposed to say? It's Leamy's fault for not asking serious questions about how the new law would work and for indulging herself and disrespecting her viewers with mushy family stuff about the Obamas.

July 26, 2010

On the Capital City Bike Path...


... you can roll along at your own speed.


"Any delusions that Journo-List was not, in part, a collusory venture..."

"... to shape the media narrative in ways to benefit Obama, above and beyond ferreting out the truth about any and all candidates, must now be abandoned. Ezra Klein has already been caught in a bald-faced lie about his discretion in picking members; and the notion that this was simply a water-cooler collection of journalistic thoughts is also belied by the emails now published by the Daily Caller."

Sullivan seethes.
This is your liberal media, ladies and gentlemen: totally partisan, interested in the truth only if it advances their agenda, and devoid of any balls whatsoever.
Devoid of any balls. Sullivan, by contrast, had the balls to question Sarah Palin's uterus.

A question about the Shirley Sherrod incident and taking things out of context.

Don't we constantly extract quotes and clips from larger contexts? I do blog posts by that method all the time. I find the juiciest line and quote it often deliberately out of context or with intent to misdirect for humorous or shocking effect. It's the reader's responsibility to figure out what to do with it. I'm not ashamed to operate that way. For one thing, I give links, so you have a path to the larger context. And, more important, by depriving you of a pat, self-contained package, I'm forcing you to read critically and keep going.

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

With that in mind, let's look at the Andrew Breitbart post — "Video Proof: The NAACP Awards Racism–2010" — that started the sequence of events around Shirley Sherrod.

Oliver Willis, at Media Matters, writes a shamefully dishonest post about me.

Just posted today:
To listen to the conservative media, the Daily Caller has exposed the discussion listserv Journolist as some sort of hotbed of liberal message coordination. Ann Althouse said it "was designed -- apparently -- to figure out how to structure the various news stories to serve the interests of their party," Limbaugh said the emails showed "mainstream coordination with the left," and Beck saw a plot "to help Barack Obama."

This theory of secret list coordinating all manner of nefarious activities gets debunked, however, by the latest Journolist story from the Daily Caller...
The Limbaugh and Beck quotes are supported by links (to Media Matters posts with video), but there's no link for what I said. Why's that? I don't think it's mere sloppiness, because, in fact, he's quoting something I wrote on June 27th, before the Journolist archive became available. I said:
Remember the liberal meme that George Bush was "incurious"? But aren't these liberal journalists incurious? They had this email list that was designed — apparently — to figure out how to structure the various news stories to serve the interests of their party. The Journolist was a self-herding device. They wanted to be good cogs in a machine that would generate power for the Democratic Party, didn't they? For career and social rewards? That's my hypothesis. As an intellectual, I would like to study how that worked. I'll write a book about it if someone will send me the raw material I need — the complete archive of the Journolist. 
I'm hoping to see the archive, because I can test a theory about what was going on. I'm asking questions and using the word "apparently." I don't know the truth. I want to read. Yet Willis presents my quote as if I am already reading, as if I'm misrepresenting what has been published in The Daily Caller. In fact, I've been notably critical of the way The Daily Caller has presented quotes from the list.

Willis writes: "To listen to the conservative media, the Daily Caller has exposed the discussion listserv Journolist as some sort of hotbed of liberal message coordination." My quote couldn't form the basis for an opinion about what the Daily Caller had exposed. It was written before The Daily Caller had published anything from the archive!

Media Matters... indeed...

ADDED: Having written this post and thereby worked through my anger, I must concede to some amusement at the presentation of "the conservative media" as me, Limbaugh, and Beck — in that order!

"On Sept. 8, 2008, five days after Palin’s national debut, some members of the group discussed producing coordinated propaganda designed to wound Palin and boost Obama."

Writes Jonathan Strong in The Daily Caller:
Ryan Avent, then a freelance blogger for the Economist, now an editor there, complained that Obama’s supporters were missing a chance to attack. “If we were the GOP, we’d be taking this opportunity to shout long and loud how unprepared Palin is—‘She doesn’t even know what Fannie and Freddie are…in the middle of a housing crisis!’….That’s the difference in the game as played by us and by them.”

Michael Tomasky responded: “So why aren’t Dems doing that? Just wundrin’.”

Luke Mitchell, then a senior editor at Harper’s magazine, asked Tomasky if his paper would be able to help: “Michael – Isn’t this something that can be fanned a bit by, say, the Guardian?”...

“... [I]t seems to me that a concerted effort on the part of the left partisan press could be useful. Why geld ourselves? A lot of the people on this list work for organizations that are far more influential than, say, the Washington Times.
“Open question: Would it be a good use of this list to co-ordinate a message of the week along the lines of the GOP? Or is that too loathsome? It certainly sounds loathsome. But so does losing!”

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, the founder of Journolist, quickly jumped in: “Nope, no message coordination. I’m not even sure that would be legal. This is a discussion list, though, and I want it to retain that character,” he wrote.
So we see the suggestion of propaganda/message coordination, presented as probably too loathsome to do and then immediately nixed by the list founder, Ezra Klein. The headline of Strong's article is "Journolist debates making its coordination with Obama explicit," suggesting that they were coordinating, but this was just the point where they openly talked about what they were doing... except they only talked about doing it in the future.

An empty wheelchair... "Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot."

John Callahan leaves the wheelchair forever.

Oh, no! Ron Johnson wants to move the BP oil spill to Lake Michigan!

The graphic in this new Russ Feingold ad had us guffawing.

July 25, 2010

At the Sunset Café...


... you can cling to the last shreds of the real...


... or become complete abstracted....



The flower that made me stop...


... as I pedaled the Capital City Trail today.

Is it important to sleep through the night in the same bed with your mate?

A lot of people don't. There's snoring. Inconsistent habits having to do with TV/computers/iPhones. Keeping different hours. Let's assume a solid couple, really committed and loving. What's wrong with separate rooms if it helps you both get a good night's sleep... and a chance to do other things you like?
Paul C. Rosenblatt, a psychiatry professor at the University of Minnesota, interviewed 42 couples for his book “Two in a Bed: The Social System of Couple Bed Sharing” and came to some surprising conclusions.

Co-sleeping is better for your health. His subjects mentioned seizures, diabetic shock and other medical emergencies that would have gone undetected if not for a proximate partner.

Co-sleeping is better for your sex life. “I talked to plenty of men (and women) who think that sexual intercourse is far more frequent if they have access to their partner,” Dr. Rosenblatt said. “If you want it, share a bed.”

Co-sleeping is better for your security. Women, in particular, feel safer from intruders when sleeping with another person.
I'm not sure those reasons are really that great. Is frequency even the right test of how good your "sex life" is? Frequency gained by simple access because you're in the same bed? I think it's nice to have enough room in your house or apartment so there is a separate bed to go to if you want it. It's nice to know you're sleeping together because that's what you want, and it's nice, when you are sleeping together to know there's somewhere else to sleep (or sit up reading/watching TV/hanging out on line) if that would feel better.

"Americans fighting the war in Afghanistan have long harbored strong suspicions that Pakistan’s military spy service has guided the Afghan insurgency with a hidden hand..."

"... even as Pakistan receives more than $1 billion a year from Washington for its help combating the militants, according to a trove of secret military field reports made public Sunday."

The WikiLeaks document dump. Let's try to understand.

"He leads by being there."

"The important thing is fear."

At the Mellow Madison Café...

... this was the vibe last evening. We're off to soak up the new vibe. It's a lovely day. You can do what you want, but if you want a place to talk about something, anything, that's what this is.

"The Obama White House is too white"... so it keeps "tripping over race rather than inspiring on race."

Says Maureen Dowd:
The West Wing white guys who pushed to ditch Shirley Sherrod before Glenn Beck could pounce not only didn’t bother to Google, they weren’t familiar enough with civil rights history to recognize the name Sherrod. And they didn’t return the calls and e-mail of prominent blacks who tried to alert them that something was wrong....

The president appears completely comfortable in his own skin, but it seems he feels that he and Michelle are such a huge change for the nation to absorb that he can be overly cautious about pushing for other societal changes for blacks and gays. 
(Gays! Where did that come from?)
His closest advisers — some of the same ones who urged him not to make the race speech after the Rev. Jeremiah Wright issue exploded — are so terrified that Fox and the Tea Party will paint Obama as doing more for blacks that they tiptoe around and do less. “Who knew that the first black president would make it even harder on black people?” asked a top black Democratic official....
“The president’s getting hurt real bad,” [Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina,] told me. “He needs some black people around him.” He said Obama’s inner circle keeps “screwing up” on race: “Some people over there are not sensitive at all about race. They really feel that the extent to which he allows himself to talk about race would tend to pigeonhole him or cost him support, when a lot of people saw his election as a way to get the issue behind us. I don’t think people elected him to disengage on race. Just the opposite.”
Dowd ends by recommending that Obama hire Shirley Sherrod for a newly created position called "Director of Black Outreach."

"No one in recent pop memory has been a greater enemy to the authentic than Lady Gaga."

No one? What about Madonna?
From the start of her career Madonna was a savvy pop trickster, using outrageous imagery as a distraction while smuggling ideas about religion and social politics into her music. Most of the Gaga generation, however, is interested in distraction as an end in itself.
As a 60s person, I'm highly amused by this presentation of the 80s as the standard what was once real in popular culture. Madonna was fake as a means to an end, but Lady Gaga is really fake, and fake is what's real now. To my 60s ears, that sounds like something Andy Warhol would say.
Lady Gaga has become successful by adhering to the belief that there’s no inner truth to be advertised, or salvaged: all one can do is invent anew.

It wasn’t that long ago when artifice appeared to be on its last leg. In the mid-to-late-1990s female performers especially were in a confessional place, a movement captured and branded by Lilith Fair, the summer tour package founded in part by Sarah McLachlan that ran from 1997 to 1999.
Wait. People took Lilith Fair seriously? 11-year-old girls, maybe. Seems to me it was mostly abhorred.
The last couple of years have seen the first wave of 1990s nostalgia, which might explain in part why Lilith was resurrected this year. But Lilith aesthetics haven’t aged well....
Do we say hasn't aged well about something that was never pretty?

"I know it's about a lesbian couple, but give me a break."


"Almost all judicial decisions... can be assigned an ideological value."

"Those favoring, say, prosecutors and employers are said to be conservative, while those favoring criminal defendants and people claiming discrimination are said to be liberal."

If you can get past that sticking point, you can code everything into an immense database, produce some amazing-looking charts, and reach conclusions like "Court Under Roberts Is Most Conservative in Decades." You can then see into the future:
If the Roberts court continues on the course suggested by its first five years, it is likely to allow a greater role for religion in public life, to permit more participation by unions and corporations in elections and to elaborate further on the scope of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. Abortion rights are likely to be curtailed, as are affirmative action and protections for people accused of crimes.
Affirmative action is likely to be curtailed? But you just said decisions favoring employers are conservative, and decisions in favor of persons claiming discrimination are liberal.

IN THE COMMENTS:Paul Zrimsek said:
Almost all judicial decisions can be assigned a molecular weight, too, provided you don't object to talking nonsense.