July 16, 2011

"29% Are Conservative on Fiscal and Social Issues, 10% Liberal on Both."


"We are living through a tremendous bust."

"It isn’t simply a housing bust. It’s a fizzling of the great consumer bubble that was decades in the making."

At the Succulent Café...

... we're ready for your juiciest comments.

"'I love business,' says the artist, who’s interested in evoking money and the market in his art..."

The artist, Takashi Murakami...
...is baffled by what his art costs today. He says he discussed prices with dealer Larry Gagosian before the show, and hearing the figures, told Gagosian that they were “a little bit expensive.” According to Murakami, Gagosian replied, “No, this is big, this is big!”

At last month’s Art Basel contemporary fair, Murakami says, an art adviser told him that prices were now substantially higher than before the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. It’s “bigger and bigger,” says Murakami. “Very scary.”

Does he think he’s too expensive? “I think so, yes, honestly, yes,” Murakami says. At the same time, his expenses are high: He employs about 200 people, and has costly travel and communications bills.

Surprisingly, the artist says he lives in a small apartment. “I cannot buy my home yet,” he says. His salary is “a small amount of money.”

The way he describes it, Murakami’s lifestyle is far from luxurious: He spends his days in the studio, painting and sculpting creatures like the blonde hovering over him.
Let's take a closer look at that blonde. Here's video of Murakami talking about the sexuality and the business of his art. 

The Effigies of Madison, Wisconsin — 1906 version.

An emailer writes:
I just finished John J. Miller’s “The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football” which describes how intercollegiate football almost became banned 100 years ago. Reading in your blog about the double standard regarding effigies in the latest Madison demonstrations, I thought you might enjoy this excerpt from Miller’s book (p. 211). The year was 1906.

“At the University of Wisconsin, frontier historian Frederick Jackson Turner railed against football, calling for its prohibition or at least its suspension, and tried to mobilize administrators and professors against it. On the night of March 27, when a rumor hit campus that football would be banned, hundreds of students took to the streets, chanting “Death to the faculty!” They surrounded Turner’s home. The professor faced them on his porch. “When can we have football?” shouted a student. “When you can have a clean game,” he yelled back. Turner tried to engage the young men, but they replied with catcalls. Later in the evening, they built a bonfire. The fire department showed up as the mob tried to burn three professors in effigy. The firefighters managed to save the last one. It was labeled 'Prof. Turner.'”
Fascinating! Pro-football protests! These effigies were burned, not hung. We've been debating about whether the Prosser effigy was actually hung, since it is sitting down. Obviously, there are many ways to torment an effigy. There is hanging. Burning. And, as commenter EDH said:
The garrote, a specific form of execution, is often performed seated.
The garrote, unlike a proper hanging, kills by suffocation, so it is, in fact, much closer to the choking accusation leveled by Justice Prosser's character assassins.

But enough about effigies. Let's go back to the history of football. Here's Nick Gillespie of Reason Magazine interviewing John J. Miller about "The Big Scrum." A very substantive interview with crisp, quick speaking, so... worth clicking.

"I test limits by publishing controversial material and paying people who are willing to step forward and expose political hypocrisy."

Larry Flynt says in a WaPo op-ed:
Murdoch’s minions, on the other hand, pushed limits by allegedly engaging in unethical or criminal activity: phone hacking, bribery, coercing criminal behavior and betraying the trust of their readership. If News Corp.’s reported wrongdoings are true, what Murdoch’s company has been up to does not just brush against boundaries — it blows right past them.

One cannot live off the liberty and benefits of a free press while ignoring the privacy of the people.

"This is a story about the law school market, a singular creature of American capitalism, one that is so durable it seems utterly impervious to change."

A big NYT article, in the Business section, by David Segal:
There are many reasons for this ever-climbing [tuition], but the most bizarre comes courtesy of the highly influential US News rankings. Part of the US News algorithm is a figure called expenditures per student, which is essentially the sum that a school spends on teacher salaries, libraries and other education expenses, divided by the number of students.

Though it accounts for just 9.75 percent of the algorithm, it gives law schools a strong incentive to keep prices high. Forget about looking for cost efficiencies. The more that law schools charge their students, and the more they spend to educate them, the better they fare in the US News rankings.

“I once joked with my dean that there is a certain amount of money that we could drag into the middle of the school’s quadrangle and burn,” said John F. Duffy, a George Washington School of Law professor, “and when the flames died down, we’d be a Top 10 school. As long as the point of the bonfire was to teach our students. Perhaps what we could teach them is the idiocy in the US News rankings.”
Much more at the link (with a big focus on New York Law School (which is not to be confused with New York University School of Law).

The product is a law school diploma. It's not hard to supply. But why all the demand... at such a high price? There's something quite insane about it, and U.S. News creates appearance of an orderly market in which potential buyers can see the value of the thing they will buy at such a high price. Those who bitch about U.S. News are in denial about the service it provides us, creating that appearance. [And by "us," I mean law professors.]

"Time Is on My Side," "Piece of My Heart," "Cry Baby"...

... songs written by Jerry Ragovoy, whom I'd never heard of until I read his obituary just now. He died at the age of 80. His music career goes back to 1953 and doo-wop groups. He used pseudonyms. For example, on the "Cry Baby" record label, he's "Norman Meade."

And here's a great old recording that Meade and I remember fondly — "Wonderful Dream":

You can see on the label that Ragovoy produced and arranged it, but — I see in the obituary — he was also the songwriter "R. Margolies." That's from 1962.

His connection to Janis Joplin is fascinating:
Joplin recorded “Try (Just a Little Harder),” a collaboration between Mr. Ragovoy and Chip Taylor, on her first solo album, “I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!” Her last album, “Pearl,” included three Ragovoy songs: “My Baby,” “Get It While You Can” and “Cry Baby.” But she died, in October 1970, before she could record a song that Mr. Ragovoy, with Jenny Dean, wrote specifically for her, “I’m Gonna Rock My Way to Heaven.”
Did anyone ever record "I’m Gonna Rock My Way to Heaven"? I can't find that title in YouTube or iTunes. Searching the web, all I can see is that it was sung as the finale in a small-time show called "One Night with Janis Joplin" that played in Portland last spring and got terrible reviews ("one big hot mess").

"What in the world is a beer-drinking, chest-hair-sporting Abby Wambach fan supposed to wear?"

The Wall Street Journal looks at the shirt-buying issues of male fans of women's soccer.
Until now, looking like the players was not such a problem for guys. The women's uniforms, with their formless, masculine cuts, were essentially "sized-down versions of men's jerseys," according to Nike. This year, the team's sleek cap-sleeve jerseys zip up the front, hug the bust, taper in at the waist and jut out at the hips, drawing comparisons on soccer forums to Halloween's ubiquitous "sexy nurse" costumes...

Brian Bober, an executive director at Morgan Stanley from Pelham, N.Y., who coaches his eight-year-old daughter's soccer team, says the situation has left him frustrated. "I've been trying to think of a way I could buy a jersey or something without looking like Freddie Mercury," says Mr. Bober, referring to the late lead singer of British rock band Queen, who wore a lot of tight clothing. "I generally dress with complete disregard of what people will think of me, but based on what's available I would get ridiculed right out of my town."
Bober doesn't sound like the kind of guy who should be experimenting with wearing women's clothes. By contrast: Alexi Lalas. La la la.

Nike denies the charge that they deliberately made the uniforms sexy. Their spokeman says they made "the lightest, most comfortable" jersey cut to "provide the greatest range of motion." Range of motion? All right then: Let's see the cap sleeves on the guys' clothes.

By the way, I think team sports uniforms should be figure flattering to the players. These are spectator sports. The point is to watch impressive human bodies. We want to see what we're looking at. It should look great. Not like pajamas. Not like you're a kid wearing your older sibling's playclothes.

Married in 2004, they renewed their vows in 2008 and in 2010, and now they're getting divorced.

What's really going on behind the scenes with couples who renew their vows?

The couple described in the post title consists of the most beautiful woman in the world (according to People magazine) and a man who isn't even average-looking but was previously married to a Miss Universe. That man had a whole big number on the finale of "American Idol" this year which he only had because he is married to the woman he is now divorcing.

"Taking a page from President Obama’s political playbook, Michele Bachmann has..."

"... formally left a church in Minnesota accused of holding anti-Catholic views."
... The matter has been tailing Bachmann for much of her political career. She was asked about the church’s statement in 2006, when she was running for Congress.

“It's abhorrent, it's religious bigotry,” Bachmann said then. “I love Catholics, I'm a Christian, and my church does not believe that the pope is the antichrist, that's absolutely false.”

"AFL-CIO RUNNING misleading push-calls in Wisconsin Republican primary?"

"'MediaTrackers further notes that while allegations of misleading robocalls by a pro-life group received widespread mainstream media coverage, the same was not true for the misleading pro-Wirch calls.'"

July 15, 2011

"On Friday, 'Midnight in Paris' will become the top-grossing movie of Woody Allen's long career."

It's "on track to dethrone 'Hannah and Her Sisters' as the biggest grossing movie in Allen's directorial career, which has lasted for 35 years and 41 films."

We saw that movie tonight. A fine romantic comedy. And I'm saying "fine" because Ernest Hemingway was always calling things "fine," especially in this movie.

A fine trailer that does a fine job of avoiding spoilers.

"4 Reasons Artists Are Loving Google+."

A list by Rebecca J. Rosen (of The Atlantic):
1. Google+'s image display page looks really classy.... [Example.]

2. The traffic has been immense...

3. One reason for the increased traffic: Unlike Facebook, it's the norm on Google+ to follow people who are complete strangers....

4. Twitter, like Google+, is good for interacting with strangers. But Twitter's not a great way to display art...
And David Pogue (of the NYT) explains Google+ improves on Facebook.

At the True Lily Café...

... let us not talk falsely now.

Obama tips his hand: "But we're running out of time.... We have enough time to do a big deal."

When Obama said that at today's press conference, I thought: I get it now. They're running out the clock. There's still "enough time to do a big deal." Later, they will do a small deal.

I get email.

"It’s amazing how petty Obama’s critics are. Go fuck yourself cunt."

The Seated Lynching Effigies of Madison, Wisconsin.

A couple days ago, we were talking about the way no one at the anti-Justice Prosser rally "seemed to be bothered by the symbolism of a large balloon representing Justice Prosser hanging in effigy with its neck tied to a lamppost." I linked to this comments thread — featuring our own Meade — over at the Isthmus.

Let's revisit that thread, where you can see that a man named Kenneth Burns is making a big deal out the fact that the Prosser dummy is in the seated position:
Ladies and gentlemen, the world's first seated hanging.
That brought in David Blaska (who is a regular blogger at the Isthmus):
Actually, not. Mary Suratt was given a chair to sit on and an umbrella held over her head before the trap was sprung and she was sent to eternity along with the male co-conspirators in Lincoln's assassination. A touching example of chivalry in a gentler age. But then, she and her co-conspirators did have a trial and were found guilty.
(Fascinating!) Burns returned:
I stand corrected! Nevertheless, seems to me a baseline requirement for a hanging in effigy is that it ought to look like a hanging, as opposed to a guy sitting and leaning against a post.
Hey! Fellow Madisonians! Is your memory so short that you don't remember the Great Spiderman Lynching Controversy of 1 month ago?
The sight of a life-size Spider-Man doll [known as Venom] hanged by its neck from a balcony of a Langdon Street home near the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus is prompting a stern response from school officials.

Students who live on Langdon Street said the doll that some believe represented a black man had been hanging for two or three days last week before it was taken down. But many said it never should have been put there at all.
You can see in the picture that the doll was seated.
"I see the visualization of imagery that looks powerfully, iconically of the imagery of a lynching," [said Damon Williams, vice provost for diversity]... "It's an incredibly serious and egregious thing that we do condemn at the highest levels, and we don't trivialize it"....
So does the seated position of an effigy eliminate the lynching symbolism? Apparently not! Let's get on the same page about what we can do with our giant blow-up dolls in public.

(Thanks to Chuck66 for connecting the Proszilla with the Venom.)

AND: Let's remember this lovely sign from a few months ago, originally featured in this post on February 16th:

P1060533 - Version 2

ADDED: Here's video of the Prosser effigy ("Proszilla") getting blown up and tied to the lamppost:

Also, based on discussion and links in the comments, I don't think Mary Suratt was sitting on the chair as the noose was tied around her neck and the trap door sprung. She seems to have been seated before she was called upon to rise and accept her grisly fate.

There's a $55 million budget shortfall in Milwaukee, so let's build that $64.4 million streetcar.

2 absurdly discordant stories on the front page of today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

1. "Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said Friday the county faces a 2012 shortfall of about $55 million and renewed blunt warnings about the inevitability of service cuts."
"There is no way we can avoid major cuts to balance the budget - and balance the budget is what we are going to do," Abele said during a public briefing on county departmental budget requests for 2012.
2. "Milwaukee streetcar plan on track for passage."
Milwaukee Common Council leaders Thursday endorsed building a $64.6 million modern streetcar line downtown, a move that brings the city closer than ever before to resolving a public transit debate that has raged for nearly 20 years.

With Thursday's vote, a majority of aldermen have now declared their support for building the 2.1-mile line pushed by Mayor Tom Barrett...

The council's Steering & Rules Committee acted despite warnings by city Comptroller W. Martin "Wally" Morics, who urged aldermen to slow down the process, and despite two utilities' fears that the planned route would add tens of millions of dollars in costs and delay the project....
Mayor Tom Barrett is the Democrat who ran for Governor last year and lost to Scott Walker. One of his big issues was the high-speed rail line. That was the issue that made me vote for Scott Walker. Chris Abele, as the Milwaukee County Executive, occupies the position Walker vacated when he became Governor.

From the streetcar article: "Modern streetcars resemble light rail vehicles. But, like old-fashioned streetcars, they typically run on rails laid in streets, draw power from overhead wires and operate in traffic." So... don't just worry about the money. Worry about the accidents.

Krauthammer is irked that Obama's "Olympian above-the-fray no-politics-here pose is succeeding."

Well, yes:
A pliant press swallows the White House story line: the great compromiser (“clearly exasperated,” sympathized a Post news story) being stymied by Republican “intransigence” (the noun actually used in another front-page Post news story to describe the Republican position on taxes).
It's one of the cards in his hand as he dares you to call his bluff.

"I want now this vintage bag!!!"

A comment over at The Sartorialist got me thinking about the oldest, most impossible to throw out thing in my closet. My closet is big enough that I can always fit more things in, but I'm trying to discipline myself into at least thinking about editing my collection of presumably wearable items by resisting buying more hangers.

As I visualize this task, the first thing I picture are the oldest items, the things that have survived many editings over the the years. I have a chartreuse dress made of scarf silk that I haven't worn in 20 years. Any time I look at it, I feel I am on the verge of wearing it. And now, it's clearly vintage.

Do you have things like that? When you contemplate off-loading them, does a voice in your head say "vintage"? What is it about that nasty old red bag in the Sartorialist photograph that made a commenter covet it and think "vintage"? If you've looked at the photograph you will know the answer and you will have laughed at the question.

"[W]atching Steve Whitmire’s Kermit is akin to watching someone imitate a mythic and longed-for mother..."

"... my mother — wearing a my-mother costume in a my-mother dance routine. This person’s heart is in the right place, which only makes it worse. 'You should be happy,' the person pleads with me, 'Look, Biddy! Your mother is not gone! She is still here'” Now, no one would ever do that. No one in her right mind would think it would work. A child knows his mother’s voice like he knows whether it's water or air he's breathing. One chokes you and one gives you life. Strangely, I feel the same about Kermit. Whitmire is an amazing performer — especially as the lovable dog Sprocket on 'Fraggle Rock' — but, when he's on screen as Kermit, I can feel my body reject it on a cellular level."

Elizabeth Stevens, still mourning the loss of Jim Henson (via Throwing Things).

Here's a little clip showing Sprocket (getting Doc to say "Fraggle"):

If you were a fan of "Fraggle Rock," you may remember that the Fraggles called Doc's workroom "outer space," and if you're an incredibly hardcore fan of the Althouse blog, you may remember that that there is a room in my house that we call "outer space." We've been calling it that since the '80s.

"The United States formally recognized the rebel leadership in Libya as the country’s legitimate government..."

“The United States views the Qaddafi regime as no longer having any legitimate authority in Libya,” [Secretary of State Hillary Rodham] Clinton said. “And so I am announcing today that, until an interim authority is in place, the United States will recognize the T.N.C. as the legitimate governing authority for Libya, and we will deal with it on that basis.”...

The step allows the United States to turn over to the rebel group some of the Libyan funds that have been frozen in American banks, to finance its efforts to oust Colonel Qaddafi and to administer the part of the country that the rebels control.
ADDED: If you're wondering what "T.N.C." stands for I think it's The Nicaraguan Contras.

"Does education reduce childbearing, or does childbearing get in the way of education?"

Assuming causation, which direction does it go?

"In theory, either scenario is plausible."
A girl born in a "pronatalist" environment might later revise her childbearing aspirations as the experience of schooling transforms her world views, access to contraception, bargaining power or economic opportunities. Conversely, a teen’s unexpected pregnancy might alter the costs and social support available for her pursuit of education.
Supposedly, a study shows "that women's childbearing patterns have a stronger impact on their education than the other way around." That may or may not be true, but one question is: Why is it helpful to know? I've often read that educating young women is the most effective way to control population growth. If that belief is not true, it would undercut enthusiasm for education in countries with overpopulation problems.

We spend so much money on education, and I wonder whether we do that because of the intrinsic value of education or because we believe it is a means to various ends that we like. If the latter, studies that unsettle (or crush) our beliefs threaten our commitment to education.

"You... completely distorted & misunderstood what I said, which is what happens when you read Ann Althouse."

Tweeted Glenn Greenwald to James Taranto — referring to this Best of the Web item (scroll down to "The Libertarian Case Against Legalizing Drugs").

July 14, 2011

At the Lily Café...

... you can talk all night.

"What's the best way to catch a falling child?"

Such as the toddler in China who fell 10 stories and survived, caught by a 31-year-old woman.
Physicists say the key to minimising injury to both child and catcher is to try and spread the energy of the impact over as much time as possible, perhaps by falling away while making the catch....

"If you fell as you caught the baby that might help as you are reducing the impact of the catch. You want to be able to fall safely, so grass and soil will give a little bit more than say concrete.

"The arms are going to take some of the force, so it would help if they were relaxed and loose."

Slate's June Thomas thinks Dan Savage is "bullying" Marcus Bachmann.

June Thomas's Dan Savage is the "it gets better" guy:
[T]he man who launched the “It Gets Better Project,” an effort to stop the bullying of gay teens, was acting like a big bully. As Savage always notes, the kind of smear-the-queer taunts that can cause so much pain to young people aren’t aimed only at kids who are gay, they’re often aimed at boys who don’t live up to some mythical standard of masculinity and girls who just aren’t girly enough. I can only imagine how listeners who happen to have the kind of lisping, effeminate speech and affect that Savage was ridiculing felt upon hearing the attack.

Marcus Bachmann makes money in what I consider to be a reprehensible way: offering “reparative therapy” to “cure” gay people. Judging from the testimony of people who have sought Bachmann’s help, it’s no exaggeration to say that he tries to “pray the gay away.” But that doesn’t justify bullying, and it’s not a good message to send.

I cut Savage some slack. He is a proud gay man who has done amazing work for the community, and I know from having watched the It Gets Better video that he made with his husband, Terry, that he has been bullied and victimized.
Oh, spare me! Thomas's warm, fuzzy Savage is bullshit. Savage is sharp, merciless, and aggressive against homophobia, hypocrisy, and puritanism wherever he thinks he finds it. Based on listening to dozens of his podcasts, I think he bristles at "It Gets Better" as the thing he's famous for, that it irritates him to be reduced to that middle-America-friendly PR campaign.

June Thomas reminds me of people who think John Lennon is all about "Imagine." 

“Cantor didn’t say a word the whole meeting.”

Today at the debt talks.

Gov. Walker tweets: "Got stuck in Denver airport & slept on the floor (did get a pillow & blanket)."

"People here r very nice."

"'Republican Candidate' Extends Lead vs. Obama to 47% to 39%."


ADDED: "Obama, Moderate Republican."

"I can’t in good faith leave this case in a situation where a man’s liberty is at risk..."

"... when the government should have taken steps to ensure that we were not in this situation... I don’t see how I can unring the bell."

Mistrial in the Roger Clemens case, after the prosecution played a video that contained hearsay the judge had ruled inadmissible.  Did the government just screw up?

"Prostitution is just a form of dating."

Writes Chester Brown in Appendix 1 of "Paying For It":
There is no regulatory or legal framework for unpaid dating. Nothing happens during paid dates that doesn't happen in unpaid dates. From a legal perspective they should be seen as identical. No regulatory or legal framework is necessary for paid dating.

What I hope we're moving toward is a time when giving and receiving money is part of the normal give-and-take of sexual activity. It won't be what everyone does, but it will become so common that no one will think it odd, disgusting, or unusual if one adult (male or female) pays another adult (male or female) for sex. It will be seen as normal.
Brown writes from years of experience having sex with prostitutes (after forswearing sexual relationships of the unpaid kind). He gives a clear, easy-to-read, matter-of-fact, nonpornographic account of it in "Paying For It," which I read yesterday.

I'd be especially interested in talking about this subject with people who have actually read the book (and I'd appreciate it if you would use the link above to buy it). There is rich material for thinking about the legal aspects of the subject. The discussion of the difference between "decriminalization" and "legalization" at pages 191-197 is especially interesting.

So Rudy Giuliani is not going to run for President.

"Rudy Giuliani says he will join the race for the White House if he feels no other Republican candidate can beat President Barack Obama in 2012."

"Two strapping young men who were practicing breath-holding exercises at a Staten Island pool yesterday to prepare for military training..."

"... were pulled out unconscious and one died -- after two lifeguards and 20 swimmers failed to spot them."
... It's not clear if the duo was following an official training program, or if they had devised their own workout, said Lt. Col. Robert Roy, head of Air Force recruiting in New York. 
Either way, the military advises against certain breath-holding exercises or swimming underwater at length to avoid "shallow water blackout," which can lead to drowning.
Very sad!

That reminds me. I wanted to link to this article: "Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning." It begins with an unforgettable anecdote.

"Don’t call my bluff."

It's what Obama said when he stormed out of the debt-talks yesterday. Let's analyze it. Glenn Reynolds says:
UM, ISN’T THIS A CASE OF CALLING YOUR OWN BLUFF?... I mean, I’m not a big poker player, but I thought the point of a bluff is not to admit it’s a bluff . . . .

UPDATE: “I’d love to play poker with him. Does he know that it’s played with cards?”
I'd say the biggest problem with the poker metaphor is that it characterizes the talks as a game... and, more particularly, a game in which, on any given hand, somebody wins the whole pot. At the point in poker where you make a comment like "Don’t call my bluff," you are trying to lure the other player into making the wrong decision so you can win it all. In the ultra-serious debt negotiations, where supposedly the 2 sides are engaging in give and take to reach a consensus for the sake of the people, it's bad to reveal that you see it as a game and you're trying to win it... for yourself.

Now, there's also the question whether someone who plays poker competently would use the phrase "Don’t call my bluff." Glenn is right that you don't want the other player to know when you are bluffing, but saying "Don’t call my bluff" isn't admitting you're bluffing. Indeed, if you were playing with someone who thought it was, saying "Don’t call my bluff" would be a great way to get them not to fold when you have an excellent hand. You could just as well say the opposite — "Call my bluff" — in the same situation for the same reason. The other player has the same problem he has when you don't say anything at all — when you keep a poker face: He doesn't know what you have.

Think about when someone outside of a poker game might use the phrase "Don’t call my bluff." Meade and I were talking about that and he said: It's something a father would say. "Son, don't call my bluff." In other words: Do you think I'm kidding? Try me. Within some father-son relationships, that's a very powerful move. The father is demanding obedience, and the son is afraid of what will happen if he does not accede to his father's demands. The father isn't saying what the consequence will be, but the fear of the father's power is enough to make the son comply. He can't risk finding out. It's a test of parental authority.

And we know Obama would like us to see him in that fatherly role. He would like to have our compliance because he knows best. Eat your peas.

Obama lied about a central fact about his own life which he used — powerfully — to push health care reform.

"Book Challenges Obama on Mother’s Deathbed Fight," says the NYT, which, of course, isn't generally inclined to cast unnecessary aspersions on this President. "Lied" is my paraphrasing. The NYT wrote "mischaracterized."
During his presidential campaign and subsequent battle over a health care law, Mr. Obama quieted crowds with the story of his mother’s fight with her insurer over whether her cancer was a pre-existing condition that disqualified her from coverage.

In offering the story as an argument for ending pre-existing condition exclusions by health insurers, the president left the clear impression that his mother’s fight was over health benefits for medical expenses.

But in “A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother,” author Janny Scott quotes from correspondence from the president’s mother to assert that the 1995 dispute concerned a Cigna disability insurance policy and that her actual health insurer had apparently reimbursed most of her medical expenses without argument....
The book came out in early May. The reason this article is hitting the front page today is that the NYT has been trying to extract a response from Obama.
On Wednesday, in response to repeated requests for comment that The Times first made in mid-June, shortly after the book’s release....
It took repeated requests for the NYT to get an answer to such an important question?!
... a White House spokesman chose not to dispute either Ms. Scott’s account or Mr. Obama’s memory, while arguing that Mr. Obama’s broader point remained salient.
Fake false but accurate?!
“We have not reviewed the letters or other material on which the author bases her account,” said Nicholas Papas, the spokesman. “The president has told this story based on his recollection of events that took place more than 15 years ago.”
This is the standard response of the memoirist: These are my memories. This is how I remember it. Even if I am mistaken, there is truth in the way this story has become part of me. (That notion is expressed beautifully in the interview at the end of the audiobook version of the thoroughly delightful "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir.")

But I don't accept that the President could have an innocently false memory about this story, which he milked dramatically, as Byron York describes here:
"I remember in the last month of her life, she wasn't thinking about how to get well, she wasn't thinking about coming to terms with her own mortality, she was thinking about whether or not insurance was going to cover the medical bills and whether our family would be bankrupt as a consequence," Obama said in September 2007.

"She was in her hospital room looking at insurance forms because the insurance company said that maybe she had a pre-existing condition and maybe they wouldn't have to reimburse her for her medical bills," Obama added in January 2008.

"The insurance companies were saying, 'Maybe there's a pre-existing condition and we don't have to pay your medical bills,' " Obama said in a debate with Republican opponent Sen. John McCain in October 2008.
Those terrible, heartless corporations have been a theme of the Obama presidency. He has been trying to structure American brains around that idea, so he can win acceptance of policies that most Americans don't want, and that story of his personal agony played an important role in pushing through an immense federal power.

July 13, 2011

"Stop the carnage in our parks."

A Wisconsin protest I missed: against the killing of the Canada geese that have been pooping up the city.

"Not surprisingly, none of the rally organizers seemed to be bothered by the symbolism of a large balloon representing Justice Prosser hanging in effigy with its neck tied to a lamppost."

Writes Meade, in the comments over at an Isthmus article about the women's rights groups that held a rally against Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser (who has been accused of choking a fellow justice).

UPDATE: "The Seated Lynching Effigies of Madison, Wisconsin."

The cool one lost his cool.

"President Barack Obama abruptly walked out of a stormy debt-limit meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday, a dramatic setback to the already shaky negotiations. 'He shoved back and said "I’ll see you tomorrow" and walked out,' House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told reporters in the Capitol after the meeting."

Is traveling a good use of your time?

I keep trying to leave Madison, Wisconsin, and wondering why it never quite happens these days. Today, I ran across "4 reasons traveling is a waste of time," a blog post that Penelope Trunk wrote a couple years ago. It resonated. Especially #3: "People who love their lives don't leave."
Imagine if you were excited to get out of bed every day because you had structured your life so that every day was full of what you have always dreamed of doing. And you were in love with your boyfriend, and your job, and your new handstand in yoga. You love it all—imagine that. Would you want to leave all that behind for two weeks? What would be the point? You'd have more fun at home than away from home. So instead of traveling somewhere, how about figuring out what you'd really love to be doing with your time, and do that? In your real, day-to-day life.
Someone in the comments groused: "You are describing 5% or less of the population."

Today, it was was 67° here, and I took a walk along the lake path...

.... and through a garden....

At the Wisconsin Women Café...

... you can be whoever you want to be.

(Enlarge to read the signs.)

"While one must always be cautious in seeking government investigation of the media for the obvious First Amendment concerns..."

"... this is not actually an investigation of the media, but an investigation of criminal acts undertaken by those masquerading as members of the media."

Eliot Spitzer, writing in Slate, thinks the Murdoch scandal (although it's occurring in the UK) is "an opportunity for the Justice Department to show it can flex its muscles at the right moment."

"In other words, maybe the First Amendment is a lion, and the Fourth Amendment is a grizzly bear..."

"... but the Letters of Marque and Reprisal Clause is like an Egyptian Plover (because, like the plover, who eats bits of food out of a crocodile’s teeth, the M & R Clause is really interesting because of its relationship to another part of the Constitution — the Declare War Clause — rather than being interesting for itself). Or the Third Amendment is a potential coelocanth (a prehistoric fish that scientists thought was extinct until they found one in 1938) because although right now it does nothing, maybe one day it will suddenly be found again and prove to be important. So, anyway, if the Public Debt Clause were an animal, what animal would it be? I’m not sure. Love to hear your thoughts though. "

Jay Wexler takes a sidelong look at the recent emergence of interest in the Public Debt Clause.

"Ferocious storms and deadly heat waves are occurring with alarming frequency all over the world."

"We are living with the reality of the climate crisis every day. The only question is, how soon can we act?"

Al Gore is threatening us with reality... TV...." a live-streamed event called 24 Hours of Reality...."

I love the way reality is so propaganda-y when it emanates from The Mind of Gore.

"On September 14th, the world will join hands to create 24 hours of reality..."

That was so weird. It didn't have the slightest feeling of science to it at all.

Governor Scott Walker shouted down...

... as he "tried to speak at a celebration commemorating 100 years of technical education in Wisconsin":

Jared Loughner has a "strong personal interest in not being forced to suffer the indignity and risk of bodily injury that results from the administration of powerful drugs."

Says the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel, extending the ban on forcing psychotropic drugs on the man accused of the Tucson massacre.
Mr. Loughner's attorneys contend that the danger-to-others argument is a ploy to avoid a more stringent Supreme Court requirement that applies when the government wants to forcibly medicate a defendant to restore him to mental competency to stand trial. In May, Mr. Loughner was declared not competent by federal district Judge Larry Burns, who is presiding over the Loughner case. Administering drugs to return a defendant to competence requires a court hearing....

[The court noted] that prison officials have been able to keep Mr. Loughner in custody for over six months since the shootings "without injury to anyone."

Unloading a "crippling financial obligation," the Mets deal Francisco Rodriguez to the Brewers.

The NYT reports:
“That’s awesome,” the Milwaukee slugger Prince Fielder said in Phoenix after the All-Star Game when he heard about the trade. “That’s a big trade; he can really help us. He’s a great player. It definitely gives us a spark.

“We’re in first place now, and getting him gives us a little more help. He’s definitely gonna bring the success he’s had in his career and that confidence to the team. He’s gonna keep doing what he’s doing. You can’t go wrong getting that kind of talent.”
A year ago, Rodriguez ran into problems with the Mets’ coaching staff over his usage. He complained when he did not finish certain games, and at one point got into a physical altercation in the bullpen with the mild-mannered bullpen coach Randy Niemann over how he was being used.

Then, in August, he was arrested for attacking the grandfather of his children at Citi Field. He agreed to undergo court-monitored anger management therapy, which seemed to have a positive effect, and he had no reported incidents this year.
Welcome to Wisconsin!

(And congratulations to Fielder, the All-Star Game MVP.)

The best lefty reason for legalizing drugs: to transform drug-users into clients of the nanny government.

Glenn Greenwald and Ilya Somin are, in this long Bloggingheads segment, talking about drug legalization. You can watch that whole thing, but it exemplifies the kind of Bloggingheads style that I loathe. One person holds forth until he finally comes to a stop, and then the other one gets his turn and takes what he seems to have earned, the opportunity to expatiate for an equivalent expanse of time. There's no conversation and interplay, just 2 speeches. Put it in writing, and I could see what you're saying in a few seconds.

I don't want to look at you 2 talking unless something happens because the 2 of you are there at the same time. Sometimes Bloggingheads operates on this tedious concept that it's doing something by simply demonstrating — over and over and over — that 2 people with different viewpoints can talk to near each other. If bland, conventional etiquette is a valuable performance, why not put up video of them eating sandwiches and chewing with their mouths shut?

But I've clipped out 48 seconds of Glenn Greenwald talking because it's such a perfect display of the left-wing mindset. I've skipped over the part where he asserts that you don't have to want to use drugs to want drug legalization and that legalizing drugs would not increase drug use. Watch this:

See? He loves the idea of pulling people into the embrace of government. When drugs are illegal, there is a "wall of fear" separating the people who are drug users from government. But if drugs are legal, "the relationship between the government and the citizenry changes for the better and becomes much more constructive." Tear down that wall, and these people who avoid the grip of government can be enfolded in endless programs. A torrent of ideas for programs spews from the mouth of Greenwald. It's such an exciting idea for lefties: There's a big untapped pool of potential clients for nurturing government services. Let the druggies come to Big Mother government.

"Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today..."

Rob Grill, the lead singer of The Grass Roots, died yesterday. He was 67.

Were you influenced, at an early age, by the lyrics of "Let's Live for Today"? I was!
When I think of all the worries people seem to find
And how they're in a hurry to complicate their mind
By chasing after money and dreams that can't come true
I'm glad that we are different, we've better things to do
May others plan their future, I'm busy lovin' you...

"We've never thought the debt ceiling was the best leverage for a showdown over the entitlement state..."

"... and now it looks like Mr. Obama is trying to use it as a way to blame the GOP for the lousy economy," says the Wall Street Journal:
This may have been the President's strategy all along: Take the debt-limit talks behind closed doors, make major spending cuts seem possible in the early days, but then hammer Republicans publicly as the deadline nears for refusing to raise taxes on business and "the rich."

This would explain the President's newly discovered fondness for press conferences, which he has rarely held but now rolls out before negotiating sessions. It would also explain why Mr. Obama's tax demands have escalated as the August 2 deadline nears. Yesterday he played the Grandma Card, telling CBS that seniors may not get their August retirement checks. Next he'll send home the food inspectors and stop paying the troops.
Read the whole thing. It's an effort to explain that McConnell is not "selling out Republicans."

All 6 "fake" Democrats fall in the recall primary.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
That the primaries were held at all is a function of the twists and turns of political strategy played out in recent months as the state broke into warring camps over Walker's attempt to restrict collective bargaining for public employees.

The Republican Party forced the primaries to give its six senators facing recall another four weeks before facing a Democratic challenger, in order to allow them to take their case to the voters and argue that their work on the budget was good for the state.
You have to click here to see the percentages. Note that the "fake" candidate won at least 30% of the vote in all 6 districts, and one got 46%. Since everyone knew these were not real candidates and voting for them was a most an inarticulate cry of opposition to the recall process or a way to help out the Republican, what does it mean that these candidates did this well?

Torture, by a female...

... makes commenters at the the Daily News crack jokes.

July 12, 2011

At the Backward Café...

... don't back down.

Video of today's anti-Prosser rally.

This is the edited video from today's rally. Meade shot the video. I edited to show things that I found interesting, such as the way the speakers were so willing to collect issues together. The allegations about Justice Prosser choking Justice Bradley are connected to much more general issues about abortion and violence against women. I heard no acknowledgements of the uncertainties about what we know about what happened and no sensitivity about fairness and due process. I heard: 1. declarations about the importance of women's issues and 2. a demonization of Justice Prosser.

"This is classic workplace bullying... Prosser must go!"

President George W. Bush escorting Nancy Reagan at the funeral for Betty Ford.

Photographs ##1 and 14 in this slideshow.

AND: Bush has an intense 7-minute conversation with Hillary before the funeral begins. Meanwhile, Nancy sits silently on his other side, and Michelle sits silently on Hillary's other side. Bush, hanging with the First Ladies... and giving all his attention to Hillary.

Should the principle that "no man is allowed to be a judge of his own cause" mean that a judge should not be the one to decide whether he or she will be recused?

The Wisconsin Supreme Court said no, but it was a 4-3 decision, along all-too-familiar partisan lines, with a vigorous dissent.
The majority [said that] its approach mirrored practices followed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The majority also contended the opposite decision would lessen the public's view of the court.

"Four justices forcing a fellow justice off a pending case will not increase the public's perception that the court is an impartial decision maker," they wrote. "Rather, the specter of four justices preventing another justice from participating will just as likely be seen by the public as a biased act of four justices who view a pending issue differently from the justice whom they disqualified."
The dissenters focused on the particular recusal they thought should have occurred in this case (a case in which 2 trial court defendants appealed separately, and a judge who is now on the Supreme Court had sat on the appeal of the co-defendant). I can't imagine the strife and wrangling that would take place if the judges could change the outcomes in cases by ousting one of their peers. The court already looks way too political. Who thinks they wouldn't use this power in a willfully outcome-oriented way?

Protesters at the Capitol rally against Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser.

It was a constrained and organized media event, with the sign-holders arrayed on the steps around the "Forward!" statue and the speakers in front of them facing the media...

... including the shameless New Media Meade:

There were lots of handmade signs and preprinted signs, and for some reason quite a few men were holding signs that said "We are Wisconsin Women":

"You can put lipstick on him, but it's still Prosser," declares this woman who is "Waiting 4 Justice":

It strangely seems to suggest that the judges ought to be women, but I assume it means he's a pig — an allusion to the old "you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig" remark. The lipsticked face of Prosser has a speech bubble that reads "Bitch," a reference to an incident, leaked to the press, in which Prosser, provoked by something that wasn't leaked, called Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a "bitch." Does that make him a pig in the sense of "male chauvinist pig"?

This is my favorite sign, because I love the way "GOP" is inserted:

You can see the whole sign in this enlargement of the first photograph. It begins "Prosser is Unqualified!" and then lists 4 problems. Given the insertion mark, I take it she originally wrote "Follows a political agenda," which really does make a person unfit to be a judge. I can only guess at the thought processes of whoever worked on that sign. Adding "GOP" like that shot the righteous indignation to hell.

ADDED: Here's a news report on the rally:
Progressive groups, elected officials and protesters led a call for Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser to step down pending the results of an investigation into his workplace behavior at a rally Tuesday afternoon. Held at noon on the Capitol steps facing State Street, it was organized by Lisa Subeck, City of Madison alder and executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin.

"The Wisconsin state Supreme Court should not be allowed to choke out justice for women," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, who represented the Women's Medical Fund at the rally. "Prosser is a supreme disgrace."

"McConnell Proposes Giving Obama Authority To Raise Debt Limit Alone."

Crafty? Or pusillanimous?

Why did Madison police arrest a man for yelling about the badness of the Art Fair on the Square art?

After all the yelling that has gone on around the Wisconsin Capitol this year, I can't believe a man got arrested for loudly criticizing art! And our rag of a local paper, the Capitol Times, presents the story as if it's funny, as if the man — a homeless man — is some sort of clown and as if he had no right to express his opinions in public:
William Zamie, 62, no permanent address, was arrested on two counts of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest at about 3:12 p.m. Sunday on North Carroll Street on Capitol Square, Madison police said.
According to a police news release, a jewelry maker from Florida flagged down a police officer Sunday afternoon because Zamie was yelling derogatory remarks to potential customers after he had slept most of the day on the bench behind the jewelry maker's display.

"He said the artist 'was not selling real art' and the handmade jewelry was really 'mass-produced junk,'" said police spokesman Joel DeSpain.

The critic then entered the artist's tent to continue his harangue.

"He told a customer 'all these artists steal from each other and what you are buying isn't real art,'" DeSpain said.
Zamie's free speech rights do not depend on whether he was speaking the truth, but from what I saw at the art fair, he was.

Gingrich gives his opponents a quote to gasp about: "There is no Supreme Court in the American Constitution."

Just a few days ago, I was talking about a certain type of clever remark:
A witty, engaging speaker will say something surprising and counterintuitive, but then flesh it out or add one more point, and then it clicks. Of course, if you have opponents, you've got to anticipate what they'll do with the little slice of what you said that seems head-slappingly idiotic. So it may not be so smart to be smart like that. 
The context was David Plouffe saying "people won’t vote based on the unemployment rate." And now, here comes Newt Gingrich with an even juicier example of the seemingly stupid line that wakes up the audience and draws them in to hear the whole context but that also gives opponents an easy way to use the remark to make you look like an idiot.

Here's the quote, in it's full context (transcribed in a post by Ian Millhiser at Think Progress):
In the American system, if you read the Constitution correctly — this is why I wrote “A Nation Like No Other” — if you read the Federalist Papers correctly, the fact is the Congress can pass a law and can limit the Court’s jurisdiction. It’s written directly in the Constitution. The Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton promises, I think it’s Number 78, that the judiciary branch is the weakest of the three branches. There is no Supreme Court in the American Constitution. There’s the court which is the Supreme of the judicial branch, but it’s not supreme over the legislative and executive branch. We now have this entire national elite that wants us to believe that any five lawyers are a Constitutional convention. That is profoundly un-American and profoundly wrong.
It's obvious to me — as a law professor who has studied and taught Article III of the Constitution for 25 years — that Gingrich is not denying that the Constitution provides for a Supreme Court. He's denying the supremacy of that Court over the other branches. He's stressing the checks on the judicial branch, which include Congress's power to make "Exceptions and... Regulations" to the Supreme Court's jurisdiction, and the idea that the Supreme Court is not the sole voice in the interpretation of constitutional law. This is routine stuff in a Conlaw I class. It's what we conventionally talk about along with Marbury v. Madison. It's not the slightest bit edgy, believe me.

Watch the video at the Think Progress link. You can hear the stress on "Supreme" in "There is no Supreme Court in the American Constitution." He knows there's a Supreme Court. It's just not, in fact, supreme over everything. The Supreme Court can strike down statutes and order members of the Executive branch around to a certain extent, but it is also subject to jurisdiction cutbacks, new appointments, impeachment, and constitutional amendments. And the question of what the Constitution really means survives independently of the case law. We are free to argue that the Court got it wrong, to try to get cases overruled, and so forth. And there are many places where the Court hasn't spoken yet or may never speak, in which case there are important responsibilities elsewhere in government for other individuals to say what the Constitution means.

Will any of the "fake Democrats" — AKA "protest Democrats" — win in the Wisconsin recall primaries today?

They might!
Mordecai Lee, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee political scientist, says "single-digit turnouts" are possible, which he thinks tend to skew more conservative than higher turnouts.
Single-digit turnout?! As they say around here, "this is what democracy looks like."
Though Tuesday's elections are Democratic primaries, Republicans can cross over and vote in them because Wisconsin's open primary law allows it.
Do you think they should? Or would that somehow be wrong?
Most political observers don't expect any of the fake Democrats to win primaries against the Republican senators' real Democratic challengers, though Lee said a couple of weeks ago that the real Democrats faced a real risk of losing. He said lesser-known candidates Moore and former Oshkosh Deputy Mayor Jessica King might be especially vulnerable. King is the real Democrat challenging Sen. Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac).
As I said yesterday, I agree with Meade, who wrote:
As Mrs. Stapleton said to Fred Clark (the Undemocratic Party District 14 candidate for senate), "it's a crime" that these recalls are happening at all. The cynical true purpose of these recall elections is to reverse the democratic expression of the voters in last November's general election. A vote for the so-called "fake" primary candidate tomorrow is a vote against the recall election itself - a waste of time and money and an insult to all Wisconsin citizens.

A lawsuit challenging Utah's anti-polygamy law, premised on Lawrence v. Texas.

To be filed by Kody Brown, the husband of 4 wives (who starred in the reality show "Sister Wives"):
The lawsuit is not demanding that states recognize polygamous marriage. Instead, the lawsuit builds on a 2003 United States Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state sodomy laws as unconstitutional intrusions on the “intimate conduct” of consenting adults. It will ask the federal courts to tell states that they cannot punish polygamists for their own “intimate conduct” so long as they are not breaking other laws, like those regarding child abuse, incest or seeking multiple marriage licenses.

Mr. Brown has a civil marriage with only one of his wives; the rest are “sister wives,” not formally wedded. The Browns are members of the Apostolic United Brethren Church, a fundamentalist offshoot of the Mormon Church, which gave up polygamy around 1890 as Utah was seeking statehood.

Making polygamous unions illegal, they argue, violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, as well as the free exercise, establishment, free speech and freedom of association clauses of the First Amendment.

“We only wish to live our private lives according to our beliefs,” Mr. Brown said in a statement provided by his lead attorney, Jonathan Turley, who is a law professor at George Washington University.

The connection with Lawrence v. Texas, a case that broadened legal rights for gay people, is sensitive for those who have sought the right of same-sex marriage. Opponents of such unions often refer to polygamy as one of the all-but-inevitable outcomes of allowing same-sex marriage. In his dissenting opinion in the Lawrence case, Justice Antonin Scalia cited a threat to state laws “based on moral choices” against “bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality and obscenity.”
I think the Lawrence-based argument for decriminalizing polygamy is much stronger than the Lawrence-based argument for requiring the government to give legal recognition to same-sex marriage. One is an argument demanding only that the government leave them alone as they pursue their "own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." The other is a demand that the government alter its treatment of its citizens, giving them access to to the benefits of having the official status as a married couple.

"A true superbug that initiates a future era of untreatable gonorrhea."

Look out.

When a Republican draws the map of "South California" — his proposed 51st state...

... he leaves Los Angeles in the north.

Picture the political gerrymandering that could be done if it were feasible to redraw state lines!

Now, California is way too big. It's population is 37,253,956, according to the 2010 census. That's nearly 10 times the size of the entire United States at the time of the first census in 1790 (3,929,214). At the time of the founding, of course, there was much talk of the United States as a "large" republic. (See, e.g., Federalist #10.) The states were supposed to have an important role offsetting some of the problems of that largeness. How is that supposed to work today, especially in the absurdly overlarge California?

But redrawing the lines now? One look at Jeff Stone's South California map should tell you what chaos lies there.

Michele Bachmann — "a freaking dwarf" — screamed "help!" when 2 women — women! — trapped her in a bathroom.

Listen the left-wing radio personality Randi Rhodes (from back in March 2010):

She's calling Michele Bachmann "a freaking dwarf." (Is it not politically incorrect to call a short person a "dwarf"? Isn't that like calling a person with a dark tan the n-word?) Anyway, I ran across that this morning because I was trying to find out how tall Michele Bachmann is. She's 5'2".

I wanted to know, because I've been looking at the accusations of homophobia that are being lobbed at Bachmann, and I noticed this story "Bachmann Feared Abduction by Lesbian, Ex-Nun":
Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is now seeking the Republication presidential nomination, had claimed in 2005 that she was almost abducted by two women in a bathroom, according to The Daily Beast.

The pair consisted of a lesbian and an ex-nun.

At the time of the alleged attempted kidnapping, Bachmann was a state senator from Minnesota and had already started to campaign against LGBT rights. She had previously been caught hiding in the bushes of a gay rights event.
Caught hiding in the bushes of a gay rights event? All right, this article — in The Advocate — makes no pretense of being unbiased. Let's switch over to the Daily Beast article whence these factoids were extracted. Oh! It's Michelle Goldberg. She doesn't provide a link to get us to the root of the "bushes" story, but let's not get distracted. Let's focus, for now, on the alleged kidnapping. Goldberg writes:
A few dozen people showed up at the town hall for the April 9 [2005] event, and Bachmann greeted them warmly. But when, during the question and answer session, the topic turned to gay marriage, Bachmann ended the meeting 20 minutes early and rushed to the bathroom. 
Causation or correlation? What do you think?

When a politician ends a meeting 20 minutes early and rushes to the bathroom, what do you think is more likely?
She wanted to avoid the topic that had just come up.
She really had to go to the bathroom.
Both: stress over the topic brought on the bathroom urgency.

pollcode.com free polls
Back to Goldberg:
Hoping to speak to her, [Pamela] Arnold and another middle-aged woman, a former nun, followed her. As Bachmann washed her hands and Arnold looked on, the ex-nun tried to talk to her about theology. Suddenly, after less than a minute, Bachmann let out a shriek. "Help!" she screamed. "Help! I'm being held against my will!"

Arnold, who is just over 5 feet tall, was stunned, and hurried to open the door. Bachmann bolted out and fled, crying, to an SUV outside. Then she called the police, saying, according to the police report, that she was "absolutely terrified and has never been that terrorized before as she had no idea what those two women were going to do to her." The Washington County attorney, however, declined to press charges, writing in a memo, "It seems clear from the statements given by both women that they simply wanted to discuss certain issues further with Ms. Bachmann."
From the police report:
(Bachmann was a state senator at that time.) Following a public figure into the bathroom and pressing her with questions in that environment is bad etiquette, even if you are calm and friendly, but hostile questions and blocking the exit are completely unacceptable and threatening. Trapping someone in a room is false imprisonment, traditionally, and here's the Minnesota criminal statute: "Whoever, knowingly lacking lawful authority to do so, intentionally confines or restrains... [a] person without the person's consent, is guilty of false imprisonment...." You can go to prison for 3 years for that. I don't know the details underlying the decision not to prosecute.

Do Goldberg and The Advocate think that women are inherently so weak that you're hysterical to get scared when they confine/restrain you without your consent? Are women, especially short women, given special immunity to exercise physical intimidation? We're told that Arnold is "is just over 5 feet tall," but not that Michele Bachmann herself is tiny. That fact is omitted when the aim is to portray Michele Bachmann as homophobic, even as it is used gratuitously to mock her as "a freaking dwarf." How tall was the "ex-nun"? I'm not seeing that information. But we do get to know that she was an ex-nun, as if that's supposed to make her sound benign.

There's a big effort right now to propagate the meme that Michele Bachmann is a raging homophobe. I'm going to monitor that effort for you. I'm not a Bachmann partisan, as regular readers know. I've supported gay rights since long before I started this blog in 2004, and I am not a social conservative. This issue falls right into my zone as a blogger because: 1. I'm observing the 2012 campaign with cruel neutrality as a political independent, 2. I care about consistency in the way women are perceived and described, 3. I think opposition to some gay rights issues should not be conflated with hating or wanting to hurt gay people, and 4. The "Bachmann homophobia" issue is rife with the kind of lying and unfair reporting that I am on a mission to expose.

July 11, 2011

The 9th Circuit gives the Obama administration 10 days to say whether it will appeal the injunction against enforcing Don't Ask Don't Tell.

According to the Wall Street Journal:
[T]he court said it did not believe the Obama administration is prepared to defend the constitutionality of Don’[t] Ask, Don’t Tell....

But the court wrangling appears to be much ado about nothing.

Although the injunction will bar the military from discharging any gay or lesbian service members, as a practical matter the injunction will have little effect on a military that is gearing up for repeal. Pentagon officials have said that they will be ready to certify that the military is ready for repeal within weeks.

"It feels like madness abounds in our state, like Wisconsin is 65,000 square miles surrounded by sanity."

"We're just living in a really weird time."

Said Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

"I'm sort of happy about this because this shows people that politics is about things that affect people's lives. On the other hand, I'm sad for Wisconsin because this is all the wrong kind of politics.... We've gone from clean-cut to really being on the cutting edge of the new form of American politics — battle to the death, win at any cost."

Said Mordechai Lee, a professor of government affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

And this is what really got me:
The state's nine legislative recall elections compare with a total of 20 across the nation since 1913, according to Joshua Spivak, a senior fellow at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College in New York. Wisconsin has had two.
Amazing. We really have gone crazy.

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade said:
As Mrs. Stapleton said to Fred Clark (the Undemocratic Party District 14 candidate for senate), "it's a crime" that these recalls are happening at all. The cynical true purpose of these recall elections is to reverse the democratic expression of the voters in last November's general election. A vote for the so-called "fake" primary candidate tomorrow is a vote against the recall election itself - a waste of time and money and an insult to all Wisconsin citizens.
Brilliant! I agree completely.

Obama wants to take on "sacred cows" and "keep our sacred trust with our seniors."

We thought it was funny, at the press conference today, that Obama, in prepared remarks, used the word "sacred" in the sarcastic way right before using "sacred" in the serious way:
And it is possible for us to construct a package that would be balanced, would share sacrifice, would involve both parties taking on their sacred cows, would involved some meaningful changes to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid that would preserve the integrity of the programs and keep our sacred trust with our seniors...
He needs a better editor! That use of sacred cows primes the listener to disbelieve his seriousness about keeping the trust with seniors. We're prompted to think of "sacred" things as things that people are wrongly leaving untouched!

By the way, the word "sacrifice" also appears in that sentence, and "sacrifice" has the same root as "sacred."
sacrifice (n.)
mid-13c., from O.Fr. sacrifise (12c.), from L. sacrificium, from sacrificus "performing priestly functions or sacrifices," from sacra "sacred rites" (prop. neut. pl. of sacer "sacred," see sacred) + root of facere "to do, perform" (see factitious). L. sacrificium is glossed in O.E. by ansegdniss. Sense of "something given up for the sake of another" is first recorded 1590s. Baseball sense first attested 1880.

c.1300, from pp. of obsolete verb sacren "to make holy" (early 13c.), from O.Fr. sacrer (12c.), from L. sacrare "to make sacred, consecrate," from sacer (gen. sacri) "sacred, dedicated, holy, accursed," from O.L. saceres, which Tucker connects to base *saq- "bind, restrict, enclose, protect," explaining that "words for both 'oath' & 'curse' are regularly words of 'binding.' " But Buck merely groups it with Oscan sakrim, Umbrian sacra and calls it "a distinctive Italic group, without any clear outside connections." Nasalized form is sancire "make sacred, confirm, ratify, ordain." Sacred cow "object of Hindu veneration," is from 1891; figurative sense of "one who must not be criticized" is first recorded 1910, reflecting Western views of Hinduism.
Perhaps, out of respect for Hinduism, we should refrain from using the term "sacred cow." Perhaps respect for religion should lead us away from using the words "sacred" and "sacrifice" casually. But surely, if you want to demonstrate your somber, serious dedication by festooning your rhetoric with the words "sacred" and "sacrifice," you should nix the expression "sacred cow" — which is all about saying people are silly to regard something as holy.

The "meticulous iconography" of the Clarence Thomas bobblehead doll.

Supreme Court bobblehead dolls are a Green Bag (law journal) tradition, and each one depicts a Justice along with various items that reflect things from decision he or she has authored:
For example, Thomas is shown standing on two pizza boxes, a reference to Thomas's statement in the 2005 case National Cable & Telecomm. Association v. Brand X Internet Services, "One can pick up a pizza rather than having it delivered, and one can own a dog without buying a leash. By contrast, the [Federal Communications] Commission reasonably concluded, a consumer cannot purchase Internet service without also purchasing a connection to the Internet."

Likewise, Thomas is holding an American flag which has on the reverse side the text of the 1954 federal law that added the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance. The law was at issue in the 2004 case Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, in which Thomas wrote a concurrence asserting the unusual view that the First Amendment's Establishment Clause does not protect an individual right or apply against state laws. 
More details here,

How President Obama explained away a poll showing only 24% of Americans supported raising the debt ceiling "to avoid an economic catastrophe."

At the press conference today:
Q: You said that everybody in the room is willing to do what they have to do, wants to get something done by August 2nd. But isn’t the problem the people who aren’t in the room, and in particular Republican presidential candidates and Republican Tea Partiers on the Hill, and the American public? The latest CBS News poll showed that only 24 percent of Americans said you should raise the debt limit to avoid an economic catastrophe. There are still 69 percent who oppose raising the debt limit. So isn’t the problem that you and others have failed to convince the American people that we have a crisis here, and how are you going to change that?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me distinguish between professional politicians and the public at large. The public is not paying close attention to the ins and outs of how a Treasury option goes. They shouldn’t. They're worrying about their family; they're worrying about their jobs; they're worrying about their neighborhood. They've got a lot of other things on their plate. We're paid to worry about it. I think, depending on how you phrase the question, if you said to the American people, is it a good idea for the United States not to pay its bills and potentially create another recession that could throw millions of more people out of work, I feel pretty confident I can get a majority on my side on that one.
So... the the American people are misinformed if not incapable of absorbing matters beyond the narrow, personal sphere. It's the "What's the Matter with Kansas?" answer. You don't know what is good for you. If you knew, you'd agree with me. It's also what David Plouffe was talking about the other day when he said: "people won’t vote based on the unemployment rate. They’re gonna vote based on, 'How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?'"

And notice that Obama said: "They've got a lot of other things on their plate." I hope they have room for peas!''

ADDED: "Plate of Peas," the Super 8 movie:

At the Garlic Café...

... go ahead and stink up the joint.

"I'll be the cool guy at the Spring St. subway station watching old episodes of Carnivale on his Nexus One."

Strange notions of coolness.

"Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Monday appeared to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq as part of the war against al-Qaeda..."

"... an argument controversially made by the Bush administration but refuted by President Obama and many Democrats."

IN THE COMMENTS: Geoffrey Firmin said:
Isn't that use of "refuted" pretty hilarious? I thought that word used to mean "proved false" rather than "denied."
They were trying to think of "repudiated," and they got as far as "refudiated," realized therein lies mockery, and retreated to "refuted."

Obama: "Pull off the Band-Aid. Eat our peas."

Today at the press conference, metaphors for resolving the budget right now. No more temporary solutions.

AND: Don't listen to those "voices":

Note the puppet-hand gesture.

IN THE COMMENTS: PackerBronco said:
These days, when the President says that we have to "eat our peas", I no longer know whether he's offering a metaphor or invoking the Commerce Clause.
No, the Commerce-Clause-challenging vegetable is always broccoli.

Harper Seven.

What to name your 4th child, when your first 3 are Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz.
The Seven in the name is believed to be a reference to David's football number when he played for Manchester United and England, while the Harper could be referring to Harper's Bazaar magazine or perhaps To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee.
When I think Harper, I think "Paul Newman is 'Harper'" — a 1966 movie slogan. Here's 1 minute and 41 seconds of Paul Newman as Harper, confronting Lauren Bacall in a tiny festival of bad acting:

I remember seeing this movie at the time. I was 15. I remember having the realization that I wasn't as good at watching movies as the filmmakers expected you to be. I kept having that why is he going there now? struggle to keep up with the elliptical editing and thinking other people in the audience somehow knew. They got it. It was cool that Harper knew where to go next. You knew and he knew. But I didn't know. I blamed myself.

"The man-cession has become a (not large) man-covery."

Explains Michael Barone:
Men have gained jobs in the retail sector where women have lost them. The retail, manufacturing and finance sectors employed 253,000 more men in May 2011 than in June 2009 and 433,000 fewer women.

And men have gained more jobs than women in health and education -- two sectors where employment grew during the past decade.
So underneath the recovery news (dismal though it is) are really horrible numbers for women. Why are men faring better? Because they were originally hurt more, or is this some real shift favoring men over women?
What I see beneath these data is something like this -- a picture of men hustling to acquire new skills and learn how to do different jobs than they have in the past, while women have been more likely to sit back and accept whatever the macroeconomy doles out.
Why does Barone see that? Is that a stereotype about male and female psychology?

"I’m not so egotistical as to believe that it has to be me, or it can only be me, to turn things around..."

It's the other woman: Sarah Palin.

An example of Newsweek's subtle approach to undermining Palin:
Palin has also become conversant on the subject of quantitative easing, the inflationary effects of which she illustrated with a personal anecdote. “I was ticked off at Todd yesterday,” she said. “He walks into a gas station as we’re driving over from Minnesota. He buys a Slim Jim—we’re always eating that jerky stuff—for $2.69. I said, ‘Todd, those used to be 99 cents, just recently!’ And he says, ‘Man, the dollar’s worth nothing anymore.' A jug of milk and a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs—every time I walk into that grocery store, a couple of pennies more...”
So does she understand quantitative easing or not? There's no answer. The anecdote is about inflation, which we all understand, and it's put in that paragraph as if it reflects her comprehension of the much more difficult concept, about which Newsweek provides zero information.

They choose an unflattering cover photo too.

"It is pretty clear now that Geithner only floated the 14th Amendment option..."

"... as a lame attempt to provide Obama with more leverage at the negotiating table."

Which is something you can only do when you see the Constitution as a political tool, and not anything intrinsically worthy of respect or — God forbid! — reverence.

Bachmann leads Romney in Iowa.

"Bachmann received support from 25 percent of likely Iowa caucus goers in the poll, while Romney is backed by 21 percent."

[T[here are virtually no gender differences on the head-to-head question. Specifically, women are no more or less likely to vote for a female candidate than men are.
Yes, but Romney's pretty.
Mitt Romney is considered to be the candidate best versed in business and the economy, yet his expertise in those areas is not currently giving him an advantage....

The one candidate who does substantially better on a certain issue set is Bachmann, who scores well with people who mention border security as a top concern....

Bachmann is currently enjoying the most widespread support in the state. She garners the most support in all of Iowa’s media markets except for Sioux City, where Romney leads. She performed the best in the Davenport media market, which is interesting because she has not campaigned there much, but neither has anyone else. The Davenport area was a Romney stronghold four years ago....

With Romney not participating in the straw poll, Bachmann’s lead over the rest of the field is substantial as she is ahead of Pawlenty and Cain by 16 points....

"This one looks more real."

Comment I made last night, channel surfing, from Movie A to Movie B. It was true — Meade agreed — and a very funny realization.

Guess the movies. I'll reveal the answer later today.

"Have fun with all your circles using your live webcam."

Google+ says. "Fun with circles" sounds like a kindergarten project. "Live webcam" has a diy porn vibe. Together? Creepy! I'm not ready for these live-webcam "circles."

Tiger Woods steps on President Obama's 11 a.m. news conference.

Which 11 a.m. appearance are you going to watch?

Obama plans to hold a press conference at 11 a.m. in Washington today, his fifth public remarks on the debt in a week, as he presses lawmakers to reach an agreement to raise the $14.3 trillion U.S. borrowing ceiling before an Aug. 2 deadline. The president and bipartisan congressional negotiators agreed to meet every day until they reach a deal, said one legislative aide on condition of anonymity.
Or Tiger?
[T]he news that Tiger will sit down with The Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman on Monday morning at 11 AM ET seems a bit strange....

What could it be?... Here are a few of the possibilites.

-- Tiger won't play golf for the rest of 2011...

-- Tiger needs to have surgery to fix his knee/Achilles.

-- Tiger might comment on his relationship with Anthony Galea, maybe just to clear the air after Galea was indicted last week on counts of transporting illegal drugs across the border for a number of athletes.

-- Tiger might be giving us an idea of when he will return to golf.
Which press event will you tune to at 11 a.m.?
pollcode.com free polls

"What is the true cost of the premier transportation project of the administration of Gov. Bill Richardson? "

Take a lesson, train fans, from the disaster in New Mexico. (Link requires some clicking through subscription pages, but you can get in free with the right button choices.)
Just as weekend Rail Runner service to Santa Fe is set to end due to financial woes, it turns out the state needs to shell out an additional $16 million for track and system maintenance.

That’s on top of the projected $25 million in yearly maintenance and operational costs – before the weekend service cuts – that have already created a budget crunch for the Belen-to-Santa Fe operation.

The train has about 4,500 weekday boardings going one way and is expected to generate about $3.2 million in fares....

Richardson pushed for a “bullet train” early in his administration and set a deadline of December 2008 for the completion of the entire 99-mile project from Belen to Santa Fe.

However, neither the equipment nor track is designed for high-speed interstate rail travel.
Oh, the Democratic governors and their choo-choo trains! Here's a cool Wisconsin ad from a year ago:

"I will put a stop to this boondoggle the day I take office"... that's how Scott Walker got my vote.