December 17, 2011

Thanks to everyone who's used my Amazon links in the last few days.

Including the person who bought 10 $150 Amazon gift cards— which worked as a $90 contribution to this blog. It feels great to see that readers appreciate what I do here enough to express it by shopping through the Althouse Amazon portal.

"And this was a man in constant pain. Denied drinking or eating, he sucked on tiny ice chips."

"Where others might have beguiled themselves with thoughts of divine purpose (why me?) and dreams of an afterlife, Christopher had all of literature."
Over the three days of my final visit I took note of his subjects. Not long after he stole my Ackroyd, he was talking to me of a Slovakian novelist; whether Dreiser in his novels about finance was a guide to the current crisis; Chesterton’s Catholicism; Browning’s “Sonnets from the Portuguese,” which I had brought for him on a previous visit; Mann’s “Magic Mountain” — he’d reread it for reflections on German imperial ambitions toward Turkey; and because we had started to talk about old times in Manhattan, he wanted to quote and celebrate James Fenton’s “German Requiem”: “How comforting it is, once or twice a year,/To get together and forget the old times.”
Ian McEwan, attending the dying Christopher Hitchens.

The ultimate OWS slogan: "We need more; you have more."

Spoken off-handedly by a 33-year-old protester named Amin Husain, quoted in a NYT article about how the OWS people are pressuring Trinity Church to let them set up camp on church property.
Trinity’s rector, the Rev. James H. Cooper, defended the church’s record of support for the protesters, including not only expressions of sympathy, but also meeting spaces, resting areas, pastoral services, electricity, bathrooms, even blankets and hot chocolate. But he said the church’s lot — called Duarte Square — was not an appropriate site for the protesters, noting that “there are no basic elements to sustain an encampment.”

“Trinity has probably done as much or more for the protesters than any other institution in the area,” Mr. Cooper wrote on his parish Web site. “Calling this an issue of ‘political sanctuary’ is manipulative and blind to reality. Equating the desire to seize this property with uprisings against tyranny is misguided, at best. Hyperbolic distortion drives up petition signatures, but doesn’t make it right.”
Manipulative and blind to reality... oh, really? Speaking of casually letting the truth slip out!

The House of Fallen Timbers...

... a small log cabin that David Lottes built from the dead trees that were cluttering up his 4-acree wood.

The blog-saga begins here.

ADDED: 2 good quotes in that blog's sidebar:
“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” — John Steinbeck

"The secret of being a bore is to tell everything." - Voltaire
The Steinbeck quote reminds me of this essay by Larry Kaufmann: "The Occupy movement has it all wrong: Income mobility proves that the American dream is still alive." ("No one can change the past, so it's pointless to worry about what others have earned (or saved and turned into wealth) in previous years.")

The Voltaire quote seems like the theory behind Nina Camic's blog. She's in Paris now, after her pilgrimage to Warsaw. ("I’ve stopped speaking Polish for good... I became an immigrant without at least initially intending to be that....")

AND: Thinking of tiny houses and OWS encampments and prompted by Sofa King in the comments — Does he have all the permits for building that? — I went looking for this:
However, if one designs to construct a dwelling-house, it behooves him to exercise a little Yankee shrewdness, lest after all he find himself in a workhouse, a labyrinth without a clue, a museum, an almshouse, a prison, or a splendid mausoleum instead. Consider first how slight a shelter is absolutely necessary.

Buy robots.

... at Amazon.

At the Pre-Snow Café...

... there are things you can do and things you can't.

What is the etiquette for expressing pride in Neanderthal ancestry?

It's very interesting to know that human beings alive today have some Neanderthal ancestry, but wouldn't you like to know exactly what proportion of Neanderthal you are, as an individual?
The result is a rough-and-ready numerical estimate of your Neandertal ancestry fraction. For me it's 2.5 percent. Gretchen is 3 percent, and she's been lording it over me all day.
Is it wrong to express feelings of superiority based on the Neanderthal (or -tal) proportion of your genes? I imagine that in the future there will be individuals claiming to be significantly more Neanderthal than others. Will this be always only the subject for fun, lightweight teasing, or could it cross the line into something too much like racism? And let's say some young person found out he was even more Neanderthal than Gretchen. He's 10%, the highest yet recorded. If he put that on his law school application, would the law school regard it as a diversity "plus factor" on the theory that "'classroom discussion is livelier, more spirited, and simply more enlightening and interesting' when the students have 'the greatest possible variety of backgrounds'"?

ADDED: There's also the possibility that Neanderthal will be taken as a mark of inferiority: "Brian, your words are hurtful."

"I leave it in your capable hands to do whatever you want..."

"... and please write back saying how much money you want."

Question for normal readers: The idealized working relationship?

Question for first year law students: Is that a contract?

ADDED: Compare the story about Steve Jobs dealing with the master of the corporate logo, Paul Rand:
The [Next] computer would be a cube, Jobs pronounced. He loved that shape. It was perfect and simple. So Rand decided that the logo should be a cube as well, one that was tilted at a 28° angle. When Jobs asked for a number of options to consider, Rand declared that he did not create different options for clients. “I will solve your problem, and you will pay me,” he told Jobs. “You can use what I produce, or not, but I will not do options, and either way you will pay me.” 
Jobs admired that kind of thinking, so he made what was quite a gamble. The company would pay an astonishing $100,000 flat fee to get one design. “There was a clarity in our relationship,” Jobs said. “He had a purity as an artist, but he was astute at solving business problems. He had a tough exterior, and had perfected the image of a curmudgeon, but he was a teddy bear inside.” It was one of Jobs’s highest praises: purity as an artist.
"Steve Jobs," by Walter Isaacson (Kindle Location 3941).

"Although we never became religious, by our late teens we had concluded that it was silly to be a militant atheist."

"Why go around proselytizing about what you don't believe in?"

Asks James Taranto on the occasion of the death of Christopher Hitchens.

Christopher Hitchens explores the history of the...

... blowjob. ("The three-letter 'job,' with its can-do implications, also makes the term especially American.")

And here's his classic "Why Women Aren't Funny." ("Women have no corresponding need to appeal to men in this way. They already appeal to men...")

And here's that time he subjected his body to all manner of fancy spa treatments. ("I also take the view that it’s a mistake to try to look younger than one is, and that the face in particular ought to be the register of a properly lived life.")

All of these links come from this collection of Hitch-links at Vanity Fair.

It's so sad to have lost Hitchens! From that 3d link, above:
[M]ost of my bad habits are connected with the only way I know to make a living. In order to keep reading and writing, I need the junky energy that scotch can provide, and the intense short-term concentration that nicotine can help supply. To be crouched over a book or a keyboard, with these conditions of mingled reverie and alertness, is my highest happiness. (Upon having visited the doctor, Jean-Paul Sartre was offered the following alternative: Give up cigarettes and carry on into a quiet old age and a normal death, or keep smoking and have his toes cut off. Then his feet. Then his legs. Assessing his prospects, Sartre told Simone de Beauvoir he “wanted to think it over.” He actually did retire his gaspers, but only briefly. Later that year, asked to name the most important thing in his life, he replied, “Everything. Living. Smoking.”)
By the way, Jean Paul Sartre was way funnier than Simone de Beauvoir.

"Cause of death was not..."

"... a lethal mixture of pop rocks and coke."

"China is known for its fake Apple stores, fake Starbucks, and fake practically everything else."

"In this instance, it would seem that Mayor Wang is determined to make his English castle town a consummate fake."
Beijing's suburban Miyun County is going to build a large European-style town within five years and no one will be allowed to speak Chinese there, said the county mayor.

Wang Haichen said a local village would be turned into a 67-hectare English castle with 16 courtyards of unique houses. It will offer visitors souvenir passports and ban Chinese speaking to create the illusion of being abroad....
Is this absurd fakery or the wave of the future? Why do we subject ourselves to the rigors of travel to faraway places? Perhaps the real question is: Why even build the fake village? It's nearly possible...

There's also the idea of not having the experience at all, just getting a false memory of a vacation injected into your brain. That was Philip K. Dick's idea in "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale":
I will go, he said to himself. Before I die I’ll see Mars.

It was, of course, impossible, and he knew this even as he dreamed. But the daylight, the mundane noise of his wife now brushing her hair before the bedroom mirror – everything conspired to remind him of what he was. A miserable little salaried employee, he said to himself with bitterness.
The story is only 17-pages long — read it in this book — so it's a lot faster than that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, but perhaps, in the future, we'll have Arnold Schwarzenegger movies injected directly into our brains....
We can't let him run around. He knows too much.

"'Work It,' an upcoming ABC sitcom about men forced to dress as women to get a job, has angered equality activists..."

"... who see the premise as trivializing the obstacles transgender people face daily in the workplace," writes Jeremy Kinser at
Although there are no transgender characters on the series, Drian Juarez, project manager for the Transgender Economic Empowerment Program at Los Angeles's Gay and Lesbian Center, finds the promo exploitive [sic]. In a statement released to the press, Juarez says, "What is clearly intended to be a humorous promotional ad for the show depicts the two lead characters, dressed as women, standing at a urinal. Sadly, it’s very common for people to promote fear of sharing the bathroom with transgender people as a means to further their prejudice. We’re frequently portrayed as sexual predators using the bathroom to make sexual advances."
Here's the ad:

Kinser also quotes Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign:
"We've seen a lot of offensive things on TV over the years, but this really takes the cake... The so-called 'comedy' of Work It is based on the premise that male-bodied people who unsuccessfully attempt to present themselves as women are worthy of ridicule. The problem is that most transgender women find themselves in this situation, at least temporarily, during their transition process. And due to the prohibitively high costs of transition-related medical care and widespread insurance inequities, many may be visibly transgender for their entire lives."
Speaking of what takes the cake, the best comedy movie ever made uses the same premise of 2 heterosexual men who dress as women. Is this premise to be avoided because it has something to do with an actual problem actual experienced by some people who may be sympathetic?

If the answer is yes, how many other subjects for comedy would you place off limits to protect the feelings of real people with real problems? Bad marriages, diseases, death, accidents, ugliness, mental illness, farting... ugh! Practically everything funny will be off limits! Or... I don't know... maybe you could still make a comedy about "human rights" activists who starchily insist that nobody laugh anymore. It could be about a group of TV writers — like the old "Dick Van Dyke Show" — except the network has added a "human rights" activist to their team, and she/he shoots down every comic idea they have.

"I’d take it easy on the exclamation points."

"They’re downing jello shots to get the courage to hit on that martini-sipping ellipse at the bar."

December 16, 2011

Amazon Toys.

Amazing deals - up to 70% off top brands.

At the Knitwear Café...

... you can cover everything.

(Seventeen Evergreen - Polarity Song, via Amber Reunion.)

Time magazine named its "Person of the Year" and nobody even noticed.

I'm really surprised to see that the news came out a couple days ago. I didn't see anyone talking about it. I just happen to spot a link in the sidebar over at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Ryan is runner-up for Time's Person of the Year." I clicked thinking it was about Ryan Braun, then realized it was Paul Ryan. As for the actual Time Person of the Year... do you know? Do you care?

The person of the year, it turns out, it "The Protester." I didn't read the article. I just did a search for the word "Wisconsin," and when nothing came up, I felt... I felt... nothing.

Sentencing young offenders to Shakespeare instead of jail.

The Milwaukee County Board seems to think $65,000 will buy a Shakespeare program capable of transforming young criminals:
Modeled after a Shakespeare program in Massachusetts, the local version would help boost self-esteem for participants and teach them to work collaboratively....

Scott Walker has raised $5.1 million to fight his recall... so who will oppose him?

Let's assume the signature-gatherers hit the mark and trigger a recall. Walker can only be removed if the Democrats come up with an opponent who beats him in the recall election. What are they going to use for money?
But the Democratic Party reported raising just under $1.2 million between July 1 and Dec. 10 to support its own role in the recall attempt. It has $360,000 in cash on hand.
Meanwhile, Walker is still raking money in, and under state law there is no limit on donations, and some people are handing him checks in excess of $200,000.

This money will flood into an immense advertising campaign next year. Next year, when all the presidential candidates are trying to get attention and when there's a Senate race here in Wisconsin. Walker will continue to collect donations and spend it freely to promote the conservative agenda in Wisconsin, lending collateral assistance to the Republican candidates in the other 2012 elections. (And candidates in the regular elections have limits on the amounts donors can give them.)

Wisconsin is a key swing state in the presidential election. And Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Herb Kohl could be the one that tips the Senate Republican. The Walker recall could spell nationwide disaster for Democrats.

UPDATE: Power Line links and opines that the Dem candidate — whoever it turns out to be — will have no trouble raising even more money than Walker: "As long as the national unions can extort money from their members against their will, there will be no shortage of cash on the left." But Walker took the precaution of cutting off the collection of union dues. I know there are other unions in other states, but are they going to give it to whatever character steps up to take on Walker?

"Tap water is safe for drinking, but not for irrigating your nose."

Watch out, neti potheads.

Car vandal caught because he can't spell "slut."

Someone carved "sult" on a lady's car, and she had an ex-boyfriend who — twice! — had texted "sult."

When they tracked the man down, police asked him to write "You are a slut," and he wrote "You are a sult."

The squelching of our freedom to bask in the warm light of incandescent light bulbs...

... has been pushed back from January 1st to September 30th.

Great! Now, it can be an issue in the 2012 elections. Even though I've already hoarded many light bulbs, this is an issue that can tip me. I'm very pro-incandescent. I fear and loathe the dimly, coldly lit future, which — may I remind you? — looks like this:

That "Joe Versus the Volcano" clip was originally posted on this blog 3 years ago, just before Obama took office. Palladian commented:
People don't want these ugly, mercury-filled things in their homes. Fluorescent light is ugly. I've experimented with these stupid CF "bulbs" and even the ones with a warmer color temperature do not produce the warm spectrum of an incandescent bulb. The problem is not color temperature or lumens, it's how the "bulb" produces light. Fluorescent sources create pulses of light rather than the continual burn of an incandescent. Save me the claptrap about better ballasts producing more even output: they're still terrible and still bother my eyes and trigger my migraines. Artwork looks terrible under their illumination. I thought these fucking hipster liberals were supposed to be the aesthetically superior ones? Fuck Obama. He can sit under the buzzing pallid glow of a mercury pigtail if he wants. I've bulk ordered every kind of incandescent bulb I'll ever need and the motherfuckers can send the EPA goon-squad over and take them from my cold, dead hands. After all, we have nothing bigger to worry about tha[n] light-bulbs, right?
The first link in this post goes to Politico, which presents opposition to the light bulb ban as right-wing stupidity:
"It's the power of Michele Bachmann and the presidential campaign," added Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee that approved the original language. "What can I say? If we can solve the energy problem with the outcome on the light bulb, America would be a great place."
The power of Michele Bachmann and the presidential campaign... uh, you mean democracy? Don't you lefties like to chant "This is what democracy looks like"? Well, this is what democracy looks like. And it looks a lot better with the lights on... though I can see why you people like to creep around in semi-darkness as you "solve" our problems.

"Feminist blogging is definitely not for wimps, which is why the vast majority of us do it pseudonymously."

"The condescension and mansplaining is hard to bear, particularly if you have to deal with a fair amount of this in the meat world."

So writes Claire Potter, which seems not to be a pseudonym, so I guess she's very bold and brave. Who's doing the "condescension and mansplaining," the blogger or the enemies out there who are presumably the reason why feminist blogging is "definitely not for wimps"?

Potter links the word "mansplaining" to the Urban Dictionary:
to delighting in condescending, inaccurate explanations delivered with rock solid confidence of rightness and that slimy certainty that of course he is right, because he is the man in this conversation
Up until I got to the word "he," I thought "mansplaining" referred a feminist expounding feminist dogma to an idiot man. It's the other way around. The man is the condescender in this particular portmanteau word. 

So the feminist blogger has the difficult struggle with other people condescendingly explaining things to her. Is there any awareness that she is condescendingly explaining things to other people?

Potter proceeds to enumerate 3 "dangerous topics for the feminist blogger": race, sexual assault, and sports. The dangerousness seems to register in the form of people who simply argue with the feminist blogger. For example, Potter says that when she writes about race, "weirdos" speak up and say... well, she doesn't say what they say, only that "They all seem to think that people who write about race have the same power over other citizens that you would normally attribute to, say, the federal government, a state legislature or the Supreme Court." That's pretty vague, and I'm not sensing what the "danger" is.

Anyway, Potter's blog — published at the prestigious Chronicle of Higher Education —  is called "Tenured Radical." Tenured Radical is a delightful phrase to head an essay boasting of one's own courage in the face of adversity.

UPDATE: I respond to Potter's reaction to me.

Coyotes are running around in Madison, Wisconsin....

... and one seems to have killed a pet dog.

Last night — according to neighborhood email — somebody saw 2 coyotes chasing a rabbit near West High School.

I must say, there are too many rabbits around here. And you probably shouldn't leave your cats and dogs outside on their own.

If you can copyright choreography, can you copyright a sequence of yoga poses?

Apparently not.

Why is NPR celebrating a man who practices and promotes child-beating?

"I have more than a thousand rules: specific detailed rules about how how to sleep, how to cover yourself with a quilt... If you don't follow the rules, then I must beat you."

So says a man who is celebrated on NPR. 
For each violation of the rules, such as sleeping in the wrong position, the penalty is to be hit with a feather duster on the legs or the palm of the hand. If it doesn't leave a mark, then it won't make an impact, Xiao [Baiyou] says....

Xiao's method involved all of the children watching each punishment. Any transgression of the rules by a younger sibling would also earn a beating for the older siblings, for failing to be a good model. Despite the sometimes daily beatings, Xiao sees himself as the best dad in the world and repeatedly claims his unorthodox methods "have no shortcomings."...

"In China, beating kids is part of their upbringing. It's not violence. It's not against the law," he says. "If this kind of beating is legal, scientific and in the interests of the kids, then fine. I'm all for beating, since it's effective."
Why does NPR present this man in a positive light? I'm not quite sure. Maybe because he's Chinese. Cultural relativism... a cloak of "diversity" makes everything look charming (on NPR).  Maybe because his technique got 4 kids into his country's most prestigious university. NPR listeners cream over that "top school" business. Maybe because "Tiger Mom" was a popular cultural figure last spring, so the male version — called "Wolf Dad" — seemed like another audience pleaser. Maybe because, deep down, NPR listeners really do love corporal punishment, and all these stories about rescuing kids (American kids) from even mild forms of "bullying"  — which NPR runs all the time — have begun to cloy.

"12 Days of Religious Liberty."

The ACLU highlights its work in the field of religious freedom, in a series of blog posts.
Day 1: ACLU Defends Church's Right to Run "Anti-Santa" Ads in Boston Subways

... In 2002, the ACLU of Massachusetts filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) for removing subway ads promoting the views of a local church and refusing to sell additional advertising space to the church. One of the controversial ads, paid for by The Church of the Good News, said that early Christians did not celebrate Christmas or "believe in lies about Santa Claus, flying reindeer, elves and drunken parties."

The ACLU argued that the MBTA cannot refuse advertising space to groups it disagrees with.

"Christopher Hitchens — the incomparable critic, masterful rhetorician, fiery wit, and fearless bon vivant..."

"... died today at the age of 62."

"Exchange views with a believer even for a short time, and let us make the assumption that this is a mild and decent believer who does not open the bidding by telling you that your unbelief will endanger your soul and condemn you to hell. It will not be long until you are politely asked how you can possibly know right from wrong. Without holy awe, what is to prevent you from resorting to theft, murder, rape, and perjury? It will sometimes be conceded that non-believers have led ethical lives, and it will also be conceded (as it had better be) that many believers have been responsible for terrible crimes. Nonetheless, the working assumption is that we should have no moral compass if we were not somehow in thrall to an unalterable and unchallengeable celestial dictatorship. What a repulsive idea!"

(From "The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever.")

ADDED: From the NYT obituary:
In a political shift that shocked many of his friends and readers, he cut his ties to The Nation and became an outspoken advocate of the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and a ferocious critic of what he called “Islamofascism.” Although he denied coining the word, he popularized it.

He remained unapologetic about the war. In 2006 he told the British newspaper The Guardian: “There are a lot of people who will not be happy, it seems to me, until I am compelled to write a letter to these comrades in Iraq and say: ‘Look, guys, it’s been real, but I’m going to have to drop you now. The political cost to me is just too high.’ Do I see myself doing this? No, I do not!”

December 15, 2011

Get ready for another debate... and hang out here, while I live-blog.

In 15 minutes, "the Republican presidential candidates will convene for the 13th televised debate of the 2012 cycle, the fourth from Fox News." They're in Sioux City, Iowa, on Fox News.

8:15: Rick Perry is the Tim Tebow.

8:20: Ron Paul identifies 2 factions in Congress: those who are for welfare and those who are for warfare. (He's against both.)

8:22: Listening to Huntsman, I blurt out: "He'd be a great candidate if only he hadn't worked in the Obama administration." He just can't get any respect. It's kind of sad! He was reelected governor with 80% of the vote. He's used to being immensely popular, so it must be bewildering not to get any traction. And yet, he knows exactly what his problem is. Too bad... perhaps for all of us.

8:25: The first commercial break. I go over to read what my son John is live-blogging:
9:07 - Rick Santorum is asked why he's doing so badly when he's spent more time in Iowa than any of the other candidates. "I'm counting on the people of Iowa to catch fire for me." He says he presents a "clear contrast" with the others because he's been a consistent conservative. If that's so clear, yet he's going nowhere, doesn't that imply that hardcore conservatism isn't the voters' top priority?
(John is in the Eastern Time Zone.)

8:35: Ron Paul goes after Gingrich on government-sponsored enterprises. They're not private business. Gingrich, given a chance to defend himself, says some government-sponsored enterprises do a lot of good. Then Bachmann gets to pile on: Gingrich stands for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and "they need to be shut down."

8:45: Rick Perry seems to be trying to get in on that Ron Paul small-government magic. Perry's new thing: "Part-time Congress."

9:01: Megyn Kelly invites them to trash those terrible judges, the legislators in black robes. At one point, she insists that they all name their favorite Supreme Court Justice. Rick Perry says: "Alito, Thomas, or Roberts — pick one!" What about Scalia! Man! What happened? Scalia used to be the favorite. Next, it's Romney, and he recites: "Roberts, Thomas, Alito, and Scalia," then almost giggles, as if to say: I did it, I named all the conservative Justices!

9:02: Gingrich agrees about those 4 Justices, then chooses Scalia, because he's "the most intellectual." Hmmm, maybe that's why Scalia didn't rate with Perry.

9:03: Ron Paul says: "All of them are good and all of them are bad." And Bachmann puts Scalia at the top of her list, then adds the other 3: Roberts, Thomas, and Alito. Huntsman gives a little homily about the rule of law... then picks Roberts and Alito.

9:10: "A foreign policy based on 'pretty please,' you've got to be kidding." Romney mocks Obama's request that Iran return our drone.

9:21: "I'm very concerned about trying not to be zany," says Gingrich, in a reference to something Romney said the other day.

9:48: I'd like to see all of them with false eyelashes.

9:51: Gingrich would like to "eliminate abortions as a choice... defund Planned Parenthood and shift the money to pay for adoption services to give young women a choice of life rather than death." Why not eliminate the word "choice" then?

9:52: What happened to the Ronald Reagan commandment "Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican?" That's the new question.

9:53: "There's an NFL player. His name doesn't come to mind, but he said if you don't get your tail kicked every now and then, you're not playing at a high enough level." Hey! That's the second time Perry dragged in football. Gratuitously. And ineptly reminding us of the way he can't remember stuff. And he wants to give "all you all" credit for letting him play at a high enough level. So he dragged in football again, quite unnecessarily, and got stuck not remembering something again.

9:54: Romney these attacks don't matter. Obama's the real opponent. Gingrich agrees: everyone on the stage is his "friend" and would be better than Barack Obama.

9:55: "I kind of like Huntsman. I think it's a shame he ruined himself by working for Obama," say I. Meade says, "I don't like him at all he's..." "Smarmy?" I volunteer. "Yeah, smarmy," says Meade. "He's a smarmdog."

Gingrich expounds on homosexuality: "it’s a combination of genetics and environment. I think both are involved."

"I think people have many ranges of choices. Part of the question is, do you want a society which has a bias in one direction or another?"

That was the answer to the question "Do you believe that people choose to be gay?" I'd jump all over the "bias" concept, but the interviewer followed up with: "So people can then choose one way or another?" Response:
"I think people have a significant range of choice within a genetic pattern. I don’t believe in genetic determinism and I don’t think there is any great evidence of genetic determinism. There are propensities. Are you more likely to do this or more likely to do that? But that doesn’t mean it’s definitional."
So I assume what he meant by "bias" is that society can incentivize the heterosexual lifestyle so that people within the middle of the range of "propensities" will be more likely to tip toward heterosexuality. And the real question then is, as he stated it: "Do you want a society which has a bias in one direction or another?" Should we support positive/negative incentives in an effort to increase the likelihood that people will form heterosexual relationships? Well, should we? I think his answer is yes — and the main incentive is: marriage, limited to one man and one woman.

The interviewer, however, was stuck on the choice point and asked again: "So a person can then choose to be straight?" Gingrich said:
"Look, people choose to be celibate. People choose many things in life. You know, there is a bias in favor of non-celibacy. It’s part of how the species recreates. And yet there is a substantial amount of people who choose celibacy as a religious vocation or for other reasons."
Again, the word "bias" appears, but there I think he's saying that nature has a bias toward engaging in sexual behavior and not refraining. But it's still possible to resist the urge to engage in sexual behavior. Okay. I think nearly everyone agrees with that, but it's completely unresponsive to the question whether people can choose whether to be gay or straight, which has to do with the urges one feels, not whether one acts on them or not.

But if you examine all of those Gingrich quotes, I think you can see that he is conceding that sexual orientation isn't a matter of choice. Once this mysterious combination of genetics and environment has done its work, the individual has whatever feelings he has. Gingrich never says the individual has a way to will himself into different feelings, only that one can refrain from acting on those feelings, and society can influence whether one does refrain. He may also be saying that society shapes the environment, which is a component (along with genetics) in the causation of the feelings an individual experiences.

It's not always easy to understand what Gingrich is saying. He's a slippery character, and you have to ask the right follow-up questions when he gets cagey like this.

Gov. Walker sues to require the Government Accountability Board to check for fake/duplicate/illegible signatures on recall petitions.

The Journal Sentinel reports:
The GAB has said it's up to challengers to point out problems like those and the board itself cannot automatically toss the signatures for those reasons.

The lawsuit says allowing multiple signatures is a violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution because it harms the rights of those not signing. ...

[A]ccountability board spokesman Reid Magney said the board was simply following the law and a carrying out a process that would ultimately weed out bad signatures after Walker's campaign called for striking them.
Meanwhile, signature-gatherers claim they've got 500,000 signatures (of the 540,208 needed to force an election). But who knows how many are fakes or duplicates? And if there is a recall election, the Democrats must put up an actual candidate to defeat Walker.

It seems likely that there will be enough signatures submitted. Then, we have to go through the process of challenging bad signatures. If there's a wide margin between what is submitted and what is required, the challenge process won't be such a big deal... unless the proportion of bad signatures appears high in relation to the margin.

Next, we'll have to muck our way through the primaries, with Walker able to play a role attacking these candidates, weakening them before he even faces them. Under state law he can raise and spend as much money as he wants, and he's already spent $2.2 million on advertising. Finally, a candidate will emerge from the battering in the primary and face Walker. Walker, I imagine, will have much more money to spend and he'll be running as an incumbent. Won't he win? By a lot?

And if Walker wins, where will the Democrats be? The Walker administration and the Republican legislature will have a new mandate to pass legislation that they might not have dared to attempt if Walker had only been left alone. If somehow Walker is defeated, the new Democratic Governor will have a Republican legislature to stymie him, so things shouldn't be much different than if Walker had been left alone. I don't see why it's worth it to the Democrats to go for the recall. What is the point... except to emit an inarticulate cry of pain?

And yet people sign the petitions. It makes no sense to me.

ADDED: Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog says that Walker's equal protection argument is "a major... stretch":
Though the complaint does not cite any caselaw supporting the equal protection theory, I suspect that if this goes further the Republicans will rely on Bush v. Gore.  
If this goes further... suggests that the point of the lawsuit is mainly to cause the GAB to decide to take on the work of checking the signatures.

Looking at the complaint, I see the idea is that the GAB is failing to take even minimal steps to deal with the problem of some people signing petitions more than once and this dilutes the influence of those who do not sign. Every qualified elector in Wisconsin is entitled to one opportunity to choose to sign or not to sign. Everyone who doesn't sign is, essentially, counted once (as signature-gatherers try to reach a number equivalent to a certain proportion of the total voters). Only those who sign have a way to get counted more than once, and when that misbehavior is not stopped, signing weighs more heavily than not signing.

Therefore — the argument goes — the GAB, by failing to exercise its role in a way that catches the multiple signatures, violates equal protection because it is diluting the political clout of one group as opposed to another.

The GAB is putting the burden on Walker to challenge the signature, but its rules give Walker "only 10 days to examine, compare and then challenge more than 540,000 signatures – more than 50,000 signatures a day," which the complaint calls "a practical impossibility."

Jezebel finds it "icky" to talk about what Malia and Sasha are wearing...

... because "They're not walking the red carpet, they're walking to school. They deserve privacy — and part of privacy is the protection from undue scrutiny."

And yet Malia and Sasha are not walking to school in the photograph that Jezebel publishes to illustrate its prissy faux-outrage. They are appearing alongside the President of the United States and the First Lady at a photo-op staged in front of Christmas decorations, and they are wearing bright-colored satiny dresses and smiling graciously at children dressed as Christmas elves. So there they are: political props.

But we're not supposed to talk about them because "They're not walking the red carpet, they're walking to school"? What they are doing in the very photo you're showing is far beyond a mere walk on the red carpet. They are walking in public, for political purposes, in the most conspicuous possible way. You can still argue that because they are children, we shouldn't talk about their clothes. But you'll have to, you know, actually make that argument.

I feel free to talk about their clothes. Their clothes are pretty, and they look adorable. There now, how "icky" is that?

By the way, is it okay to talk about Chelsea Clinton yet? Because she's — what? — 31? Remember when she said "I'm sorry, I don't talk to the press and that applies to you" to a child? In 2009, when she was 29. Now, suddenly, she is the press. That was clever, no? Going from you can never talk about me to now, I'm going to talk about everyone else in an instant. Now, she's going to lead a "purposely public life," now that she's controlling the cameras. She's a celebrity on purpose now. Before she was just a victim of circumstance, the child of a President, and yet she was paraded for political purposes whenever it served the interests of the President.

Oh, but no, no, no... you can't criticize now. Because look: a child! The child emits a halo of immunity protecting the most powerful man in the world.

I'm not saying we should mock the children, though. Just mock the President... and his wife... for their use of children — when that's what they do — and for everything else that flits through your icky mind.

New Rasmussen poll shows Gingrich down to 19% in Iowa.

Romney's at 23%.

Romney's always at 23%, isn't he? He's the embodiment of 23-percentageness, as far as I can tell. But, consistency! Above all: consistency! If there's one thing I think of when I think of Mitt Romney, it's consistency. He's consistently at 23%.

Things that feel inconsistent with the notion that Gingrich is the frontrunner for the presidential nomination.

1. His people keep emailing promos for cheesy merchandise like this:

The authors of "Rediscovering God in America" are — purportedly — Newt and Callista Gingrich. Seriously, why would you rediscover God with them? Okay, because I'm blogging about it, I clicked through to the website. I see that these books "featuring the photography of Callista Gingrich" come "with an autographed certificate of authenticity." Does Callista certify that she does her own photography or just that these really are the books they purport to be? When was the last time you held a book in your hands and wondered hey, is this book really this book?

There's also a DVD in the boxed set:
Take a walk through our Nation’s Capital with Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista Gingrich. From the National Archives to Arlington National Cemetery, this film illustrates the importance of our Creator to our nation’s founders and their successors. Based on the New York Times bestselling book, Rediscovering God in America, this documentary reminds us that America is indeed “One Nation Under God.” Produced in partnership with Citizens United.
Citizens United even!  This would be a great gift for freaking out a lefty friend. Lefty or righty — does anyone really want to "take a walk" with Newt and Callista and listen to their pedantry about "the importance of our Creator"? These 2 characters were having  adulterous sex and lying about it while he was leading the House of Representatives getting Bill Clinton impeached for having sex with Monica Lewinsky and lying about it. And now they're raking in $34.99 payments for pontificating about God. God and government. Ugh. Seriously, though, this is a kickass Christmas gift for your left-wing atheist aunt.

And "Sweet Land of Liberty" is perfect for the kids of your left-wing friends and family. This book is supposedly written by — "[a]uthored by" — Callista Gingrich (who has the sense not to claim to have painted the pictures).

I guess I admire their entrepreneurial spirit. These items really are pretty cheap. I'm sure they do lure a lot of perfectly nice people into deciding that thinly veiled political propaganda would make for nice Christmas presents. But this guy is supposed to be leading the pack right now, running for President. We're all looking at him. And this merchandise is insipid and embarrassing.

Donald Trump hurt Karl Rove's feelings.

"'Sloppy looking . . . hack . . . bad person . . . so-called pundit" — that's what he called me, snivels Rove in the Wall Street Journal.

Remember when Rove was the evil genius? When did he go all beta and start worrying that one of the other boys was calling him a bad person?

Calling a miscarried baby a "fetus" or "fetal corpse."

At a memorial service for their lost child, the Duggar family distributed photographs showing a closeup of a parent's hand holding the tiny feet — "There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world" — and holding the tiny hand. Someone at the service tweeted the photographs. Noted. I have nothing to say about whether any of that is a good idea. I'm only making a blog post to show you  the way 2 prominent websites talked about it. I'm adding boldface. First, TMZ:
The family from TLC's "19 Kids & Counting" chose a unique way to commemorate the life of their 20th child, who passed away this week in a miscarriage -- they took an artsy picture of the fetal corpse ... and distributed it at the memorial.
And Jezebel:
Few among us have never made a judgey comment about the Duggars, however everyone's trying to be sensitive in light of the sad news that Michelle Duggar suffered a miscarriage. But now there's this bit of holy shit: TMZ is running dead fetus photos that the Duggars distributed at Jubilee Shalom Duggar's memorial service today.
They had to say "fetus" (or "fetal corpse"), didn't they? Why? It seems like a strange migration of abortion-rights ideology into a place where it doesn't belong.

I would think that even strong proponents of access to abortion would reject the use of the word "fetus" in the context of a family holding a memorial service and declaring that the deceased being left its mark on the world. Strong supporters of abortion rights accord a woman maximum control over the question of what that entity inside her womb is.

That's why Obama said "That's above my pay grade" and why the Supreme Court said "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."

Mrs. Duggar obviously believed this was a baby.

December 14, 2011

"The Dictator... who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.”

"The bratwurst is sliced and freed of its restrictive casing whereupon it breathed the sweet air of liberty..."

"... and then promptly and with calculated cruelty it was smashed into a disc and by doing so the brat was forfeited its wurst."

Gingrich's "character flaws — his impulsiveness, his grandiosity, his weakness for half-baked (and not especially conservative) ideas..."

"... made him a poor Speaker of the House. Again and again he combined incendiary rhetoric with irresolute action, bringing Republicans all the political costs of a hardline position without actually taking one. Again and again he put his own interests above those of the causes he championed in public."
He says, and his defenders say, that time, reflection, and religious conversion have conquered his dark side. If he is the nominee, a campaign that should be about whether the country will continue on the path to social democracy would inevitably become to a large extent a referendum on Gingrich instead. And there is reason to doubt that he has changed. Each week we see the same traits that weakened Republicans from 1995 through 1998: I’d vote for Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform; Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform is radical right-wing social engineering; I apologize for saying that, and no one should quote what I said because I was wrong; actually, what I said was right all along but nobody understood me. I helped defeat Communism; anyone who made money in the ’80s and ’90s owes me; I’m like Reagan and Thatcher. Local community boards should decide what to do with illegal immigrants. Freddie Mac paid me all that money to tell them how stupid they were. Enough. Gingrich has always said he wants to transform the country. He appears unable to transform, or even govern, himself. He should be an adviser to the Republican party, but not again its head.
So say the editors of The National Review.

At the Sleeping Poodle Café...

... relax!

(It's a silent movie. Silent movies are on trend this year.)

Romney says: “Zany is not what we need in a president.”

"Zany is great in a campaign. It’s great on talk radio. It’s great in print, it makes for fun reading... But in terms of a president, we need a leader, and a leader needs to be someone who can bring Americans together."

And, re Gingrich: "He’s a great historian... If we need a historian leading the country, I’m sure people would find that attractive. I actually think you need someone who actually understands the economy leading the country."

Wait. Isn't it zany to describe Gingrich as a "great historian"?

90+ people out of work, after OWS wrecks business at Milk Street Cafe.

"It’s terribly sad," said the owner of the once popular, now defunct 23,000 square-foot restaurant.

(Via Insta-#OCCUPYFAIL-pundit.)

"Need to prove something you already believe?"

"All you need are two graphs and a leading question."

(Thanks to my colleague John Ohnesorge for this very funny link.)

The impossible task of verifying signatures on the Walker recall petitions.

WISN reports that the Government Accountability Board will only check the addresses and dates that accompany the signatures. It will "flag" names that seem suspicious — e.g. Mickey Mouse — but "will not strike them without challenge." To initiate a recall election, there will need to be 540,208 valid signatures, so significantly more than that will probably be submitted.
The GAB plans to hire about 50 temporary workers to conduct the review of what it expects could be up to 1.5 million signatures.

Judge Thomas Barland, a GAB board member, asked what was being done to prevent the temporary workers being hired to review the petitions from attempting to sabotage one side or the other. All people hired will be subject to the same background check that GAB staff are to ensure they don't have a partisan background, Buerger said.
There are a lot of partisan citizens around here. I assume they don't all have a "partisan background," whatever that means.
The goal is to have the petition review done in public, but because where that will be done hasn't been determined, it's not yet known how broad the access will be, Buerger said.  Electronic copies of all the petitions submitted will be available upon request, he said.

The board plans to ask a court for an extension of 60 days, instead of just 31 days, to finish its review. Challenges must be made within 10 days after copies of the petitions are given to the targeted office holders, but an extension to that is also expected to be sought.
So the burden is on the target of the recall to find the duplicate signatures and phony names, for maybe over a million signatures, on a tight deadline! By "electronic copies," I assume they mean scans of the handwritten signatures. I want typed-out names, so you can use a computer to do targeted searches. I mean, I'd like to know if anyone signed my name and address, but how would I check? Read the handwriting on all of the pages?
The Republican Party and Walker's campaign have started their own website asking for people to submit information about signatures that ought to be disqualified, including multiple signatures.
Walker and those targeted are at a disadvantage since they can't see the signatures collected until after they are submitted, while circulators can weed out problems before they are submitted.
What a mess! I hope they are planning to get the signatures quickly typed up and presented on a webpage so that everyone who wants to check names can do so. I am especially concerned about the appropriation of names of people (like me) who did not sign. I am genuinely afraid of fraud and don't think we have anything close to decent safeguard in place.

ADDED: Instapundit says:
You know, events in Wisconsin have made me wonder if — despite its longstanding reputation for “good government” civil society there is basically a sham, an overlay on a corrupt one-party machine. One expects this sort of thing in Illinois, but Wisconsin?

Taking the "you"...

... out of YouTube.

"Paul closes in on Gingrich."

That's the meme of the day.

I think we know what it means, don't we?

It means that Gingrich has peaked and will decline. Everyone knows that Ron Paul can't possibly be the GOP candidate, so if he's headed for a peak, it's just the next in a series of waves that have broken over the 23% that is Mitt Romney.

"What songs other than 'Leader of the Pack' have the sound of a motor revving?"

A question I asked Google this morning a propos of List-a-Beefy's "I don't get Leader of the Pack. I just don't." Not get "Leader of the Pack"? This immense aficionado of pop songs doesn't get "Leader of the Pack"? I don't get it. Maybe it's the motor revving:
According to legend, to add the authentic sound of a motorcycle engine, one was driven through the lobby of the hotel and up to the floor of the recording studio. No one was arrested, but a ticket was issued. However, in an interview four decades later, Shangri-Las lead singer Mary Weiss said the motorcycle sound was taken from an effects record. The Zombies' drummer Hugh Grundy recalls revving up a motorcycle backstage when the Shangri-Las performed on a U.S. tour.

By the way, if you combine their hairstyles into one hairstyle, you get Amy Winehouse.

Anyway, I'm looking for more songs with motor revving. Google didn't really help. Poking around in YouTube for car songs was a better method. I tried "Dead Man's Curve" and "Little Cobra," then got successful with "409."

Help me generate the definitive list of songs with motor revving sound effects. And express whatever opinions you have about sound effects in songs. It's a tradition that presumably predates recorded music... and perhaps even musical instruments. A classic early example — the not that early — is "The Typewriter":

I'd like to see a video synthesizing "Leader of the Pack" and "The Typewriter." I'd call it "Leader of the Nerds." You have the girl singing about falling in love, the parents breaking up the relationship, and the kiss before dying routine, but the boyfriend is a nerd, not a Brandoesque rebel, and the sound effect is a typewriter.

Blogging is a game of confirmation bias.


(For reference: here's the Wikipedia article "Confirmation bias.")

"Perhaps Callista thinks unchanging style evokes consistency and reliability?"

"Unfortunately, her fashion choices evoke Barbara Bush Senior, and a bygone era."

The cat claws are out for Callista, whose own hyper-manicured claws "are folded neatly over her lap, a posture she frequently assumes." She "assumes her signature rigid stance." If she's in any position, it is — in Daily Beast talk — a position she assumes. Because she's just that kind of person, now, isn't she? So entitled.

"From her perfectly coiffed bob to her bespoke power suits, Callista Gingrich possesses a style that evokes a woman who wants to mirror her husband’s wealth and power — and lacks any singularity." She assumes her rigid position — her stance — next to the man, mirroring him, wearing a version of his suit, lacking any personality of her own. Lacking any "singularity." Are you kidding? She's the most distinctive-looking person on the political scene! The bright colors, the sharp edges, the signature hair.

"Heaven forbid she looked slightly mismatched. Mrs. Gingrich seems pleased with herself." Seems pleased. Seems. We're being fair. We don't purport to know what goes on inside the lady's cranium. But check out her "stiff... bob" !"Will we ever catch her with a hair or button out of place?" She's so controlled. That control freak. That rigid woman. Assuming her position. Existing without singularity. Pleased with herself as she mirrors the man.

All the quotes go to a slide show at The Daily Beast, which is based on this article — "Newt Gingrich's Wife Callista's Prissy Style Problem" — by political fashion writer Robin Givhan, though Givhan's name does not appear at the slide show. Givhan's tone is different, analytic and intermittently empathetic:
Mrs. Gingrich’s style has evolved from that of a young professional who looked as if her closet might have been an outpost of Ann Taylor to a woman who has set out to exude wealth, control, and exceptionalism.
Exceptionalism... is that anything like singularity, which the slide show told us she had none of.
The unspoken rule of political style: do not tempt audiences into pondering how much mirror time one requires—or indulges in—on a daily basis. ...

In contemporary fashion, as well as in politics, style is supposed to look effortless. When effort is apparent, it is damning. It doesn’t matter if a woman takes hours for full hair and makeup, as long as the result looks as if it took only 15 minutes. Imperfection is a mark of modern sophistication, confidence, and youthfulness.
See how Givhan folds in larger cultural issues?
In the broader, contemporary culture, however, her closely tailored blazers, precisely applied makeup, glossy nails, and hair that never requires a glancing adjustment all exude an excruciating prissiness. Her many style tics—stacked one atop the other—read as code for narcissism, self-indulgence, and brittle self-absorption.
Givhan isn't really criticizing Callista here at all. She's telling us about ourselves and how we understand the trappings of beauty and fashion.
Callista Gingrich stands out because, like a woman of the 1950s and early 1960s, she is dressing beyond her years. Youthfulness is not her obsession. Control and order are.
I'm shocked to read that Callista is only 45 years old. Perhaps she's dressing old to erase the appearance of an age gap in her marriage to a man who's pushing 70.
Style can be used to break down barriers. It can show stature and authority and also exude commonality.

But when it is too perfect, too formal, too stiff, it sets one apart. In Mrs. Gingrich’s case, style implies a social hierarchy that, far from exuding empathy, reflects the haughty airs of noblesse oblige.
Givhan's final judgment — that Callista looks like she lacks empathy — lacks empathy.

December 13, 2011

At the Dark Days Café...

... there isn't enough light to take pictures. So you'll have to amuse yourselves with words. Feel free to talk about whatever topics you like.


Start here, please, if you'd like to support this blog.

"You know, I hate your plays. Shakespeare was a bad writer, and I consider your plays even worse than his."

Whispered into the ear of Anton Chekhov, who had bent over in response to a request from the ailing Tolstoy: "Kiss me goodbye."

"Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory."

Said Benjamin Disraeli.

"It seems to me that when you write a short story, you have to cut off both the beginning and the end."

"We writers do most of our lying in those spaces. You must write shorter, to make it as short as possible."

"What would James Madison do if he was staring down a four-hour, closed book Constitutional Law final?"

"I mean besides, you know, not writing the Constitution. I like to think he would have just broken down and started destroying stuff rather than confront the reality of his own intellectual inadequacy and poor post-graduate educational decisions."

Yes, Chelsea Clinton's broadcast debut was wretched, but "Chelsea Clinton's career path has nothing to do with broadcast journalism."

"She is a statist-in-training."
This is not about Chelsea Clinton learning how to do news. And, remember, there isn't news in the news anymore. There's no news. That's just that's not why people turn on the TV. There's no news. She is dutifully learning the inner workings of television in order to learn how to manipulate it later. That's all this is. Nobody starts at the top like this unless they're the daughter of an ex-president who can call in some chits. Nobody starts at the top like this.

"The grade distribution for all courses at UW-Madison is available going back to the spring 2004 semester."

"Unlike studies of aggregate grades that document grade inflation with time, this site provides grade distributions for each individual course and section. The data clearly shows that students in STEM courses at Madison receive markedly lower grades than students in education courses."


... pulls out.

Cruel neutrality.

That's my brand, here on the Althouse blog. And yet I see that some commenter named Richard wrote:
Ann, you'll vote for Obama anyway this cycle. I like your blog and all that, but it's your M.O. to criticize , then vote contrary to your criticisms.
Now, now. I don't like that. In 2008, I took a vow of cruel neutrality....
Who am I supporting in the presidential contest? You shouldn't know, because I don't know. In fact, I'm positioning myself in a delicate state of unknowing, a state I hope to maintain until October if not November. In the meantime, I will spread the attacks around and give credit where credit is due....

So I'm taking a vow of neutrality, but it won't be dull beige neutrality. I think partisanship is too tedious to read. This is going to be cruel neutrality.
3 years later, I've got exactly the same attitude. And, seriously, if you're distracted by the issue of me actually, in the end, needing to vote for somebody, I would rather — in addition to a 2012 vow of cruel neutrality — vow not to vote at all.

I'm not committing to abide by the results of this poll, but give me some input:

In 2012, Althouse should...
Not take any vows related to political blogging.
Vow to tell us exactly what she thinks and to vote for the candidates of her choice.
Take a vow of cruel neutrality again and, in the end, tell us about it and vote for that person.
Take a vow of cruel neutrality and, in the end, vote without telling us whom she votes for.
Take a vow of cruel neutrality and a vow not to vote at all in 2012. free polls 

"Historically, Americans have always been more concerned about big government than big business or big labor..."

Gallup polling shows a trend dating back to the 1960s, as new data show fear of big government hitting 64% — hitting near the pre-9/11 all-time peak of 65%.

Even Democrats are more afraid of big government than of big business, which was not the case in 2009. Since 2009, and despite the Occupy Wall Street clamor about business, big business as the greatest fear has declined by 4 percentage points among Republicans and independents and 8 percentage points among Democrats.

Note that the graph only shows the apportionment of fear among 3 sources of fear, not the total amount of fear. It's possible that people are less afraid of government than before, but that they have an even greater reduction in fear of big business and big labor.

Ron Paul's new anti-Newt ad.

That's hardcore. But is it unfair? Fair or unfair, it's what's coming if Newt is the nominee.

In that vein, here's Erik Tarloff in the Atlantic:
In my lifetime, I can recall only two presidential candidates who were patently anathema to their respective parties' establishment: Barry Goldwater and George McGovern. In both cases, the system sputtered and malfunctioned. Otherwise, the more extreme contenders have all been derailed before they could pose much of a threat.

My prediction is, that's what's going to happen to Newt Gingrich. He may have the wind at his back right now, but one way or another, he will be brought down. Opposition research will be leaked to compliant news outlets. Devastating anti-Gingrich commercials will be produced by campaigns that have no chance of winning. 
Like Ron Paul?!
People who have served with and under Gingrich will trash him in public. Personal scandals will be revisited, with new and uglier details provided. Reputable conservative newspapers and magazines will run editorials questioning his fitness. Much of this has already started to happen, and I'm willing to wager we ain't seen nothin' yet.
Okay, but Ron Paul is on his own. He's at least as "patently anathema" to the establishment as Newt.

Also in the Atlantic, from Elspeth Reeve: "Newt Gingrich's Women Problem":
There's a group of Republicans eager to nominate a Not Romney candidate but having trouble embracing Newt Gingrich: conservative women who don't like his history of adultery....
Former Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott told Politico that while Romney might have a hard time selling himself to southerners, when he gets in a room with them, he can win them over. Lott "recalled that Romney had successfully worked the room during recent campaign stops in Mississippi: 'The ladies loved him.'"
Oh? But Erik Tarloff says "there's something positively repellent about" Romney.
He combines a sort of feigned bonhomie with an air of profound, pervasive superciliousness.  His public self in fact mirrors his politics, opportunistic and inauthentic.  He's always reminded me of a very specific type peculiar to American educational life, one familiar, I should think, to most American males of a certain age:  The Boys' Vice Principal.  The one who pretends to be a regular guy, who kids around in the halls and sometimes permits himself the odd "Damn!" or "Hell!", but will bully you into doing something you don't want to do with a false smile of feigned friendship, and who will cheerfully, and with a little too much zeal, deliver stinging corporal punishment on your ass when he deems it appropriate.
Uh... okay. Well, that seems to be some wacky "male" perspective. The ladies loved him.

Obama processing doubts about running for reelection.

Here's the moment in Obama's "60 Minutes" interview that struck us:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: ... And as Michelle reminds me, "You volunteered for this thing."...

KROFT: Have you and Michelle ever had a conversation about whether you should really seek a second term? Have there been any doubts in your mind about not running again?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No. Not because our quality of life might not be better if I were not president. Not because Michelle is so enamored with me being President. But because we both think that what we're doing is really important for a lot of people out there.
Hearing that, what stunned me was the way Obama processed the question in terms of his personal life with Michelle and seemed to reveal that he's not enjoying life as President and that Michelle isn't happy about it. Then he yanks himself out of that personal brooding and plugs in the appropriate, conventional, and utterly bland assertion that he's doing important things for people. And even that appropriate statement involves Michelle. Michelle and the "people out there."

People out there... what a phrase. It's so... Norma Desmond....

"To come out and proudly boast you have one of the country's most magnificent creatures hanging on your wall is both unscrupulous and, frankly, professional suicide."

There's some discord over the "Exmoor Emperor," now deceased, but once the largest individual animal in all the realm.

"In a weird way the country is not commensurate with [Obama's] gifts."

"That's a harsh thing to say but I have a feeling in the dark night of the soul, that's what he feels. I think he thinks that this is a[n] eighteenth century constitutional republic that needs s-s-significant updating."

So said Jon Meachum, the former Newsweek editor and present Random House editor on MSNBC the other day. Rush Limbaugh was delighted:
That's how you do it! That's how you get rid of him. That's how you convince him to move on. You tell him that he's so, so above this chump country. That's how you do it, folks. They listen to me. They did listen to me.
A few weeks early, Limbaugh had criticized Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen for telling Obama he should — for the good of the country — step aside and let Hillary be the 2012 Democratic Party nominee.
Now, the Schoen-Caddell plan comes down to putting the country above personal ambition.... Obama is a narcissist.  If you want Obama to step aside, you have to flatter him.  You have to tell him the office is beneath him.  If you tell Obama -- well, it's too late now. ...

Messrs. Caddell and Schoen, this, I'm afraid, will guarantee that he will stay.  But if you had flattered him, if you had told him that there are greater things, that the reason things are going the way they are is because he's just not challenged, this is just too small, that you can tell he's bored, you can tell he's not interested.  We all can see that he and Michelle don't like the White House.  They don't like living there.  They would rather be anywhere else.  Running this country is so uninteresting to him, so beneath his stature, so beneath his skill set, so beneath his intellect. The world is crying for a leader now, not just America, the world is crying for a leader, a leader that the United States will listen to.  Then maybe you guys coulda gotten him to quit.  I wish you'd-a called me. I wish you'da sent me a note.
ADDED: By the way, my reaction to the Schoen-Caddell column was similar to Rush's — and I was first:
... I can see Obama choosing to withdraw, with some magnificent long-term life plan. But pressure him out? Ridiculous! 

Apparently, you can cure gayness...

... in penguins.

Ann Beattie's "Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life" is hilariously panned in the NYT.

By Michiko Kakutani.
[A] narcissistic, self-indulgent, hot-air-filled tome that condescends to its ostensible subject, Mrs. Nixon, and that wastes the reader’s time making ridiculous comparisons between, say, the Nixons and the characters in the Raymond Carver story “Cathedral,” or between the Nixons and the characters in the Chekhov story “The Lady With the Little Dog.” There are silly creative-writing-class exercises, like replacing every noun in Mr. Nixon’s famous Checkers speech with the seventh noun below it in the dictionary; and imagining some incidental events in Mrs. Nixon’s life (like taking a bubble bath or drawing sea creatures in the beach sand with her big toe). The chapter titled “Mrs. Nixon Has Thoughts on the War’s Escalation” consists of this one inane sentence: “You and Henry ordering the ‘Christmas Bombing’ was pesky!”...

...Ms. Beattie spreads a gluey gloss of speculation over Pat Nixon, much of it patronizing, stupid or insulting. For example, she writes that Mrs. Nixon thought for herself, but did so “well within cultural conditioning” and “didn’t think metaphorically.”

In one of her efforts to impersonate Mrs. Nixon, Ms. Beattie assumes an icky, Mrs. Cleaver-like voice, talking about making milkshakes to fatten up her husband so he’ll look better on TV in the next debate against John F. Kennedy. (“It’s festive, pretty and full of calories.”) Worse, much of this book feels like a lecture about creative writing....
Ouch. Remember when everyone fawned over Ann Beattie?

SantaCon... making Christmas more like Halloween.

Lots of pics here. Stuff like this:

How the philosophers discriminate against women with dim lights, drinks, and an informal atmosphere.

At the annual meeting of the American Philosophical Association, "where most philosophy job interviews take place, part of the hiring process will take place at 'the smoker,' at which candidates and search committees mingle over drinks, with hiring committees at tables around the room."
A recent blog post painted a disturbing picture of the event... The anonymous post, on the blog "What Is It Like to Be a Woman in Philosophy?," said: "APA interviewing also means spending several nights up late, standing in uncomfortable shoes in a hotel ballroom, sipping cranberry juice while talking to tipsy prospective employers at that monstrosity we call the ‘smoker.' "
The poster, who said she is pregnant, complained about the informal interviews, the drinks and the dimly lit room. She said the setting of the “smoker” was overwhelming proof of the maleness of the profession, and the one time she was at the smoker before, she was hit on. 
If you structure an event to be very casual and informal, it has a disparate impact on people who feel more comfortable in a formal structure. When I first glanced at this article, I thought the problem was literally the smoke in the room, which has a genuinely unfair impact on pregnant women. But the complaint is about the reception, the opportunity to mingle, which, we're told "creates particular problems for women." But what are these "particular problems"? Are there not "particular problems" for all sorts of people, as well as particular advantages for others? And by the same token, doesn't a formal, well-lit, hiring committee with one interviewee situation create problems for some and advantages for others? Is the line between who's disadvantaged and who's advantaged really the line between female and male?
Jennifer Saul, head of the philosophy department at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom... said she was glad that the issue was being debated. “It is an incredible throwback to previous era. Even the name is indicative of that. I think it is a humiliating ritual,” she said.
Saul reports that “all the women I talk to are appalled” by "the smoker." I wonder if men are appalled too. Why don't we see would-be philosophers who are male expounding on their difficulties negotiating a cocktail party? Is it because they are not troubled, or is it because they are even more discriminated against? Do they dare write about their feelings of awkwardness and intimidation? The males suck it up and venture forward, I suspect. The women, in choosing to make an issue of female sensitivity, imagine they are advancing the cause of women. But are they?

ADDED: "Smoking... the symbolic equivalent of destructively appropriating the entire world."

7th Circuit strikes down Wisconsin law limiting contributions to political action committees.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
Wisconsin has long had a $10,000 limit on how much one could give each year to political action committees. But the panel said that law is not in keeping with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last year in the Citizens United case, which determined that corporations and unions can spend freely in elections.

"Citizens United held that independent expenditures do not pose a threat of actual or apparent quid pro quo corruption, which is the only governmental interest strong enough to justify restrictions on political speech," Judge Diane Sykes wrote for the panel.

"Accordingly, applying the $10,000 aggregate annual cap to contributions made to organizations engaged only in independent spending for political speech violates the First Amendment."

December 12, 2011

"The share of income received by the top 1 percent... dropped to 17 percent in 2009 from 23 percent in 2007..."

... according to federal tax data. 
Within the group, average income fell to $957,000 in 2009 from $1.4 million in 2007....

[T]he drop alters a figure often emphasized by inequality critics, and it has gone largely unnoticed outside the blogosphere.

By focusing on the top 1 percent, the Occupy Wall Street movement has made economic fairness a subject of street protest and political debate.

“It’s very interesting that this has become such a big topic now when the numbers are back to where they were in the 1990s,” said Steven Kaplan, an economist at the University of Chicago’s business school. “People didn’t seem to be complaining about it then.”
What? Occupy Wall Street is not fact-based?!

Yes, yes, I know you're going to drag Obama into this. But what Obama said about OWS was that it reflects "broad-based frustration." He wasn't verifying their facts. Just feeling their pain.

"My Mo-dar (sort of like gay-dar, but for Mormons) flatlined through about 314 of... 315 pages" of Romney's book "No Apology.'"

"There’s a mention on page 19 of his father’s Mormon grandparents. And the rest of it sounds like it was written by a policy robot. Which it was. And now he’s supposed to flip the switch and start talking about Mormonism again?"

"A curious vocal pattern has crept into the speech of young adult women who speak American English: low, creaky vibrations, also called vocal fry."

"Pop singers, such as Britney Spears, slip vocal fry into their music as a way to reach low notes and add style. Now, a new study of young women in New York state shows that the same guttural vibration—once considered a speech disorder—has become a language fad."

Science Magazine has a big article
— and Metafilter's talking about it — but the Althouse blog nailed this topic back in 2007.

"Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger."

An old aphorism makes Christopher Hitchens skeptical.

"Separated at Birth: Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords and Young Newt Gingrich."

"Woody Allen glasses, great lips, Davy Jones hair, and sideburns that refuse to play by the rules: we’ll take two, please! Gross! Just kidding, sort of."

55% of likely votes want Obamacare repealed; only 35% oppose repeal.

Rasmussen Reports.

"Roughly 150 longshoremen on the dayshift were sent home with little to no pay..."

Thanks to protesters in Oakland:
"They have some legitimate points and what not, but we are part of the 99 percent and they are stopping us from coming to work," said Tim, a 44-year-old longshoreman who didn't want to give his last name. "The 1 percent's cargo doesn't come in here. The caviar comes in from Russia first class, not on a slow boat from China."
ADDED: More details:
More than 1,000 Occupy Wall Street protesters blocked cargo trucks at busy West Coast ports Monday, forcing some shipping terminals in Oakland, Calif., Portland, Ore., and Longview, Wash., to halt operations....

Organizers hoped the "Shutdown Wall Street on the Waterfront" protests would cut into the profits of the corporations that run the docks and send a message that their Occupy movement isn't finished....

From Long Beach, Calif., to as far away as Anchorage, Alaska, and Vancouver, British Columbia, protesters beat drums and carried signs as they marched outside port gates....

While the demonstrations were largely peaceful and isolated to a few gates at each port, local officials in the longshoremen's union and port officials or shipping companies determined that the conditions were unsafe for workers.
Hmmm. Who really shut down these places? Not really the demonstrators, was it?

"The Supreme Court agreed Monday to rule on Arizona's controversial law targeting illegal immigrants."

AP reports:
The justices said they will review a federal appeals court ruling that blocked several tough provisions in the Arizona law. One of those requires that police, while enforcing other laws, question a person's immigration status if officers suspect he is in the country illegally.

The Obama administration challenged the Arizona law by arguing that regulating immigration is the job of the federal government, not states. Similar laws in Alabama, South Carolina and Utah also are facing administration lawsuits. Private groups are suing over immigration measures adopted in Georgia and Indiana.

The court now has three politically charged cases on its election-year calendar. The other two are President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and new electoral maps for Texas' legislature and congressional delegation.
Ah! 2012 is shaping up to be quite a fascinating year for law-and-politics blogging.

Amusingly, I was just asking people to remember that Arizona law.

About that blogger who didn't get to use the journalist shield law...

David Carr — at the NYT — is not too sympathetic:
In the pre-Web days, someone like Ms. Cox might have been one more obsessive in the lobby of a newspaper, waiting to show a reporter a stack of documents that proved the biggest story never told. The Web has allowed Ms. Cox to cut out the middleman; various blogs give voice to her every theory, and search algorithms give her work prominence....

“I view our case as a blow for the First Amendment,” said [the man who won at $1.5 million judgment from her]. “If defamatory speech is allowed just because it is on the Internet, it cheapens the value of journalism and makes it less worthy of protection.”

"The best tool is a national identity card, including some biometric evidence, such as a fingerprints."

Writes NYT editor Bill Keller, praising Newt Gingrich for showing "a combination of brains, heart and guts that puts the rest of his party to shame."
Gingrich braves the wrath of libertarians and privacy campaigners to endorse it. In today’s living-online, GPS-tracked world, I think a national identity card would find wide acceptance.
Wait! Since when do liberal columnists love tough ID card policies? I don't know about Keller specifically, but I thought it was an article of faith that requiring a photo ID for voting is about disenfranchising minorities. Suddenly, a card with fingerprints is supposed to be a smart, brave, and compassionate idea?

Keller is talking about immigration policy, but I have to go over to Newt's website to puzzle it out:
There has to be a legal guest worker program....

We can build on the universal system of biometric, tamper-proof visa documents that all visitors must have, and invite a private-sector firm with a proven track record to monitor the guest worker program.
For guest workers, the new tamper-proof, biometric cards will replace the e-verify system, which has some promising elements, but is too error-prone. Employers will be able to swipe prospective employees biometric cards, and immediately be able to confirm that these workers are in the country legally.
Oh, I see. Only the guest workers will need to have these cards in order to work. Not everyone else. Keller doesn't mention that, for some reason. Newt seems to be simply opening a path for some noncitizens to work here legally and to prove that's what they are doing. Obviously, others would continue to work here without the documentation, and then there's the problem of all the Hispanic people who really are citizens who might be hassled over their lack of cards. Why isn't Keller concerned about that? Remember all the fuss about ID-checking back in 2010 when Arizona adopted a new immigration policy?

UPDATE: Wow! Less than an hour after I posted this, the Supreme Court announced it was taking a case about the Arizona immigration law mentioned above! (I'll put up a new post about that.)

December 11, 2011

"I am completely innocent."

Ryan Braun.

At the Cooper's Hawk Café...

... you can talk about whatever you like.

I like that hawk, seen through the window as I sat here at my desk just now.