January 28, 2012

Actress Cynthia Nixon in trouble for saying her "gayness" is "a choice."

Nixon, who's been in a relationship with a woman for 8 years and (before that) with a man for 15 years, said:
"A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it's a choice, then we could opt out. I say it doesn't matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not."...

"Cynthia did not put adequate thought into the ramifications of her words, and it is going to be used when some kid comes out and their parents force them into some ex-gay camp while she's off drinking cocktails at fancy parties," [said Truth Wins Out founder Wayne Besen.] "When people say it's a choice, they are green-lighting an enormous amount of abuse because if it's a choice, people will try to influence and guide young people to what they perceive as the right choice."
Does he want truth to win out or something more like good policy or political pragmatism?

By the way, I vividly remember back around 1990, the progressive gay-rights-type people I knew were intent upon portraying sexual orientation as a choice. I won't name the famous lefty who snapped at me for entertaining the notion that homosexuality might have a biological basis: If it exists at the biological level, it will be perceived as a disease and people will try to cure it. That was really the same point as Besen's, oddly enough, in that it was about acceptance as opposed to treatment.

"40.6 trillion dollars in debt. Over 9% unemployment. But you know what Milwaukee? Those are just facts."

"And at its best, this country has never been about facts. It's been about belief. It's been about looking at the facts and saying, 'No.' "

"The Daily Show"'s John Oliver, doing standup comedy in Milwaukee last night, and (according to the Journal Sentinel) experiencing "one fleeting moment when he lost his crowd" — apparently, because he aimed some criticism at Barack Obama.

Romney ad uses archival news footage and Tom Brokaw is not pleased.

Brokaw — who wants the ad withdrawn — says: "I am extremely uncomfortable with the extended use of my personal image in this political ad. I do no want my role as a journalist compromised for political gain by any campaign."

Extended use? The ad is 30 seconds long. And how does it "compromise" Brokaw's role as a journalist? Anyone can see it's the archival footage of the news from 1997, and the point of using Brokaw is that it makes it plain that this is the straightforward news of that time, not any pumped up, slanted presentation.


... unless — ironically! — Tom Brokaw's role as a journalist is already — in the minds of viewers — compromised. I mean, when you look at this ad, do you think: Oh, there's that terrible left-leaning NBC News making what Gingrich did look as bad as possible? Or do you think: That's the regular, professional news as it appeared in 1997, informing us of some disturbingly bad things Gingrich did?

Obviously, Mitt Romney is using the clip on the theory that you'll think the latter, and therefore it boosts Brokaw's reputation as a neutral journalist. Brokaw's objection is self-undermining.

I have the copy of the U.S. Constitution, and it doesn't say anywhere anything that anybody can make Tom extremely uncomfortable with the extended use of his personal image.

The Capitol Times — "Your Progressive Voice" — in Madison, Wisconsin, put up a poll about the Scott Walker recall.

See? It's over in the sidebar. Keep in mind that the Cap Times is not only based in Madison. It proudly skews to the left and, consequently, attracts an unusually liberal readership. So check out the results:

It's possible that some pro-Walker site has already linked to this poll, and that's why Walker is getting 54% of the vote. (I assume my linking now will have an effect.) But it's startling to see the Cap Timesters going big for Walker like this.

In second place, with 33%, is Russ Feingold, but Russ Feingold has assured us he's not running. I have — at various times — predicted he'll "reluctantly" jump in after playing coy, but I don't think he'll do it unless he feels pretty confident he will win... not just the primary, but win against Walker. And I don't think he's going to get that feeling.

The interplay between the Wisconsin recall and the November elections.

Business Insider has some analysis of a subject that deserves a lot of attention:
"It’s possible the recall elections will rally Wisconsin Democrats, spurring them to keep up the fight by heading to the polls in November. However, the recall election will not be cheap....

Democrats outside the state have expressed concern about sinking money into a statewide election so soon before the presidential race. There is also a chance that adding another hot contest to the year’s election calendar will induce voter fatigue, leaving would-be voters unwilling to summon the energy to make their way back to the polls again in November. In a state as evenly divided as Wisconsin, voter turnout is critical....

In the background, Wisconsin is also considering a proposal that would change the way it allots its Electoral College votes from a winner-take-all model to a representative one based on congressional districts. Maine and Nebraska are the only states that currently determine their Electoral College votes this way.... [I]f the proposal did somehow pass, it could deprive Obama of the last few votes he needs to win a close race, even if he narrowly carries Wisconsin.

"Possibly the biggest gap between how much I loved it as a kid, and how unwatchable I'd find it now of any show."

From a discussion of "Welcome Back Kotter," on the occasion of the death of actor Robert Hegyes (who played Epstein).
On his website, Hegyes wrote that he modeled the swaggering, skirt-chasing Epstein after Chico Marx, whom he played in a national touring production of "A Night With Groucho." He was a big fan of the Marx Brothers: "They were immigrant Jews, and I was an immigrant Italian. Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Gummo, and Zeppo were intellectuals ... They all played the piano and took music lessons, and they were all juvenile delinquents; I could definitely relate."
It's sweet to see that connection to the Marx Brothers tradition of ethnic characters played by actors whose own ethnicity is at odds with the character's ethnicity. Heyges came from Hungarian and Italian ancestry and the Epstein character was Jewish and Puerto Rican.

"Welcome Back Kotter" wasn't a show I watched. I was in my 20s in the 1970s, and didn't watch much TV in those years. It's the TV shows of the 50s and 60s that are seared into my memory. Are there shows that I truly loved that I'd find really unwatchable now? Maybe "The Red Skelton Show."

Reporter challenges State Department official to explain how the U.S. Constitution gives Jay Leno the right to make fun of religion.

State Dept. spokesperson Victoria Nuland is grilled about a Jay Leno joke that has offended Sikhs. Here's the joke, which targets Mitt Romney:

The joke-writers probably did a Google image search for something like "fancy palace" without realizing that the glorious image they retrieved depicted a site revered to the exclusion humor.

I love the way Nuland keeps a fully dignified straight face as she encounters the challenge from the Indian reporter:
As I conlawprof, I find this line the most amusing:
"As India celebrates tomorrow the Constitution Day of India, I have the copy of the U.S. Constitution, and it doesn't say anywhere anything that anybody can say anything or abuse or accuse anybody's religion."
Much funnier than a Jay Leno joke.

I also think it's interesting that CNSNews — which conceives of itself as an antidote to liberal news bias — seems to fault Nuland for citing, in her response to the reporter's question about the U.S. Constitution, the "freedom of religion and tolerance for all religions" but not the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. Obviously, Jay Leno has a free-speech right to mock religion and to label the Golden Temple Mitt Romney's summer home. (Maybe Nuland fretted about whether Leno had violated the photographer's copyright.)

Should Nuland have boldly celebrated the American free-speech tradition or was it appropriately diplomatic to murmur assurances about respect for religion?

"From his father Jobs had learned that a hallmark of passionate craftsmanship is making sure that even the aspects that will remain hidden are done beautifully."

"One of the most extreme—and telling—implementations of that philosophy came when he scrutinized the printed circuit board that would hold the chips and other components deep inside the Macintosh. No consumer would ever see it, but Jobs began critiquing it on aesthetic grounds. 'That part’s really pretty,' he said. 'But look at the memory chips. That’s ugly. The lines are too close together.'"

Page 133, Walter Isaacson, "Steve Jobs" (p. 133). That was called to mind both by the last post — the one about Fred Stoller's uninspiring mother — and by a conversation we had last night about the value of doing one's own work according to your own high standards, even where your supervisors/clients/audience do not perceive the final increments of quality you have put into your craft.

If you are religious, you may believe that God sees and knows about this care and discernment and achievement of yours and even that you will be rewarded for it in the afterlife, but you can also work to this high standard purely for yourself, for the intrinsic value of the work and the work product. Somewhere in between is the idea that you do beautiful work because you learned it from your (earthly) father.

"My mother tried her best, but was saddled with many fears that she passed onto me with the highest anxiety."

Writes Fred Stoller:
I'm pretty sure I'm the only nine-year-old who set up a lemonade stand, whose mother reacted by panicking: "What if it goes under? Don't do it, Freddie." And my mother also panicked about my imminent rejection when as a teenager I wanted to work at Burger King to earn my own spending money. "Yeah, right! They're waiting for you," she brutally informed me.
From "My Seinfeld Year," a Kindle Single book that I blogged about — and read in its entirety — yesterday.

"Mr. Zuckerberg had been reluctant to push forward with an IPO."

R"People familiar with his thinking said he has been fearful of the damage an IPO could do to the company's culture. He wants employees focused on making great products, not the stock price...."

January 27, 2012

In the Cocktail Lounge...


... you can talk about anything.

"Could the United States establish a moon colony and develop a new propulsion system for going to Mars?"

"All within eight years of a Newt Gingrich presidency, as Mr. Gingrich promised this week? The answers seem to be technologically yes, economically iffy and politically very difficult."

Newt's idea for a lunar colony is...
... lunacy.
... intriguing but misguided.
... exactly the kind of thing we need.
pollcode.com free polls 

Skulking turkeys.

Today... in Owen Park.

"The fact is that CO2 is not a pollutant."

"CO2 is a colorless and odorless gas, exhaled at high concentrations by each of us, and a key component of the biosphere's life cycle."
Plants do so much better with more CO2 that greenhouse operators often increase the CO2 concentrations by factors of three or four to get better growth. This is no surprise since plants and animals evolved when CO2 concentrations were about 10 times larger than they are today. Better plant varieties, chemical fertilizers and agricultural management contributed to the great increase in agricultural yields of the past century, but part of the increase almost certainly came from additional CO2 in the atmosphere.

"It’s like asking a priest not to pray..."

"... they have acquired skills and want to use them in real life."

"Dublin dole office bans those in pyjamas."

"There is a psychological aspect and pyjamas are associated with sleeping at night and comfort in the home...  You have to get into the mindset of what you are doing that day. So if you are wanting to get a job, go dressed prepared to get a job."

Oh, come on. People dress to express themselves. These "pyjama"-wearers are telling the government something important about the way they feel about the "dole." Don't squelch the communication. Don't stanch the flow of information between citizen and government.

How Romney's new debate coach seems to have affected what Romney said about religion.

Sarah Posner looks at his new answer to the debate question about how religion would affect what he does as a President and compares it to what he said back in October.
Romney's answer was clearly aimed at making sure no one thought that his Mormonism would impact his decision-making, but that his embrace of the Christian right's "Judeo-Christian values" framing would.


... gifts.

"What about low IQ and Liberal beliefs? Did the study link those to anything?"

"Say, gullibility? Conformity? Susceptibility to cults of personality? Unhealthy narcissism? Vanity? Shouting down governors? Locking one's own head to gallery railings? Chanting? Drumming? Occupying? Incessant blowing of vuvuzelas? Did those questions make it into the study?"

"This stuff stings, man."

Lethal injection. Last words.

"The Secret Power Of Introverts."

Jenna Goudreau, writing in Forbes:
In the last few decades, this “Extrovert Ideal” has transformed workplaces, says [Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking]. Independent, autonomous work that favored employee privacy was eroded and practically replaced by what she calls “The New Groupthink,” which “elevates teamwork above all else.” Children now learn in groups. Ideas are formed in brainstorming sessions. Talkers are considered smarter. Employees are hired for “people skills,” and offices are designed to be open and interactive.

Yet, according to Cain, it’s only worked to damage innovation and productivity. Research shows that charismatic leaders earn bigger paychecks but do not have better corporate performance; that brainstorming results in lower quality ideas and the more vocally assertive extroverts are the most likely to be heard; that the amount of space allotted to each employee shrunk 60% since the 1970s; and that open office plans are associated with reduced concentration and productivity, impaired memory, higher turnover and increased illness.

... “Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women living in a man’s world,” says Cain. “Our most important institutions are designed for extroverts. We have a waste of talent.”
A good reason to stay out of institutions, if you ask me.

"I promised the Almighty God that if he took hate out of my heart I would never hate again... He did and I have not."

Justice Clarence Thomas, in a speech yesterday, describing an experience that occurred "on the morning of April 16, 1970."

Does the ABA Journal shed any new light on last year's troubles in the Wisconsin Supreme Court?

Well, there's new junk commentary from far-off observers, like this:
Also, it’s possible that some of [Chief Justice Shirley] Abrahamson’s colleagues have had problems taking directions from a woman, says Deborah Rhode, a Stanford Law School professor whose work focuses on gender, law and public policy. She notes that many studies suggest women in leadership positions face trade-offs that men don’t.

“What’s assertive in a man is abrasive in a woman,” Rhode says, mentioning a report on women in leadership roles by Catalyst, a nonprofit group that focuses on expanding opportunities for women in business. It surveyed female executives, and many of them attributed some of their success to finding a management style that made men feel comfortable.
Speaking of things that are "possible"... it's possible to say something more generic about the relations between men and women in the workplace.

And there's this from Leah Ward Sears, the former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court:
“You have to know when to hold them, and know when to fold them. Sometimes people don’t know when to walk away... Because everybody is a sovereign state... sometimes you have to push hard, because some justices can be bullies. But that doesn’t mean you choke anyone or push anyone out the window.”

Hillary Clinton climbs down from "the high wire of American politics" on the theory that "it's a good idea to just find out how tired I am."

She says "It’s a little odd for me to be totally out of an election season... But, you know, I didn’t watch any of those debates." And "I am happy to work with Vice President Biden, who does an excellent job..."

Credibility assessment please.
I take the lady at her word. True until proven otherwise.
She's a diplomat. It's essentially true, but slathered in niceties.
She's a Clinton. That says it all. Anything that's not lies is there because it's useful.
These options don't express my subtle insights. Write polls that sound more like my thoughts.
pollcode.com free polls 

"I feel like I'm prepared emotionally to perform in a state like I've never been prepared before."

"When you're exposed to some slightly crazy people in arctic conditions, there's no way the state can hurt me now."

That's "The Daily Show"'s John Oliver, who's performing in Milwaukee tonight, and the preparation he's referring to is his coverage of the Wisconsin protests last year. At the link, there are 3 clips from that coverage, and we just laughed hysterically at this one where he interviews state senator Jon Erpenbach, as if he's a terrorist, hiding out in his "cave" in the tribal stronghold of Illi-no-EEZ.

"You have a movie coming out, a fragrance, a new album and a tour—and now the Super Bowl. Was this a master plan?"

"No, everything kind of converged in a bottleneck. I was always planning on making a record when I finished my film but I ended up finishing my film much later than I had expected so, because I had already scheduled time with all the producers and writers for my record, I had to multitask and work on my record at the same time I was finishing my film. And then somehow it worked out that the record was being finished right around the time the movie was coming out. Then I got talked into doing the Super Bowl."

Madonna sounds quite smart, normal, and appealing in this interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Larry David hired Fred Stoller to write for "Seinfeld," but then it turned out...

... as Fred tells it, that "Mr. David had hired Mr. Stoller, at least in part, because his schnooky personal life might lend itself to story lines."
At one point, Mr. Stoller finally got up the nerve to pitch an idea to Mr. David and to Jerry Seinfeld, and Mr. David immediately interrupted, asking: "Where'd you get that shirt? Do people help you? What's the process of someone like you buying a shirt?"

"Larry would just look at me and go: 'How do you talk to a woman?' " Mr. Stoller recalls.
From a WSJ article on Stoller, whose $1.99 book "My Seinfeld Year," is #1 on the Kindle Singleslist.

"Wouldn’t it be nice if people didn’t make accusations somewhere else that they weren’t willing to defend here?"

"I think it’s important for people to make sure that we don’t castigate individuals who’ve been successful."

Last night, Romney owned Gingrich.

ADDED: The phrase "Romney owned Gingrich" also appears in this MSNBC piece, introducing this text:
If Mitt Romney wins the nomination, we'll look back and say the first hour of last night’s debate and say that was when he finally put it away. Romney dominated Newt Gingrich -- from the opening barbs over immigration to his effective response to Gingrich on Freddie/Fannie money (“Mr. Speaker have you checked your own investments?”) to squashing Gingrich’s attempt to co-opt the audience once again (“Wouldn’t it be nice if people wouldn’t make accusations somewhere else that they aren’t willing to make here?”). Romney was aggressive without being petulant. He finally looked comfortable sparring. He looked for the first time like he deserved the moniker “front runner” on stage. And it certainly helped that he had a new debate coach. Romney just wasn’t the same guy.

January 26, 2012

"The most important debate yet" — according to the intro to the CNN debate starting now.

I'm not going to say I'll live-blog, because such promises seem to sap my energy these days, but feel free to talk about it in the comments, and I'll update if I've got anything to say (beyond the mundane descriptions and transcriptions).

ADDED: "I want anguish to be the official language of government," says Newt, or so it it almost sounds, as he pronounces "English."

AND: My son John is live-blogging, and I really do think he's an ace live-blogger.

"This is what your brain on drugs really looks like."

Psychedelics are thought of as ‘mind-expanding' drugs, so it has commonly been assumed that they work by increasing brain activity," explained [neuropsychopharmacologist David] Nutt in an interview with Nature's Mo Costandi. "Surprisingly, we found that psilocybin actually caused activity to decrease in areas that have the densest connections with other areas."...

Decreased activity within and between the brain's hubs, conclude Nutt and his colleagues, allows for "an unconstrained style of cognition."

Polls in sidebar.

Keep an eye out for polls in the sidebar on this blog. My ad service, BlogAds, is gathering info that might be useful for getting more ads. Like right now, I'm seeing a question on the extent to which you like Sarah Palin.

The return of Joe Biden's "slight Indian accent."

That's our VP.

"Despite a heavy tax burden, Warren Buffett’s secretary last year was able to purchase a second home in Arizona..."

"... a residence complete with a swimming pool and a 'professional PGA putting green'..."

Oh, now, now. I clicked through to the pictures of the house, pool, and putting green and it's not really that nice.

In the 1980s, Gingrich "often spewed insulting rhetoric at Reagan, his top aides, and his policies to defeat Communism."

"Gingrich was voluble and certain in predicting that Reagan’s policies would fail, and in all of this he was dead wrong." — Elliott Abrams.

ADDED: That article is regarded as one element of a concerted effort by conservatives to destroy Newt.

AND: Newt himself seems to be joining the effort:

He totally lied.

Scott Walker's State of the State speech...

... and the protesters who made it an occasion for themselves.

Protesters gather for State of the State speech: fox11online.com

Slate's Jessica Grose is surprised the internet wasn't cruel after "Queen of the Mommy Bloggers" Dooce announced her separation from her husband.

Grose says "the tone of the response has been extraordinary in its relative kindness."
We think of Internet commentary—especially toward women who write about their personal lives—as full of vindictive bile. Certainly, Armstrong is not immune from such cruelty, and some bloggers are taking her to task for making her every move so public. However, most of the response to Armstrong’s split has been concerned and sweet.
Do we really expect the internet to be such an asshole?

It's just plain upsetting to see this idealized married couple break up... which Grose eventually gets around to:
Many of her readers want and appreciate what she appeared to have—a thriving home business with a “[l]over, business partner, best friend,” which is how Armstrong described Jon three years ago. Her marriage seemed aspirational, yet attainable—particularly because their lives weren’t entirely perfect, given Armstrong’s depression and anxiety, and her husband’s own mental health issues.

It’s precisely because of this notional attainability that Armstrong’s separation is so jarring for her readers. Fans of Seal and Heidi Klum might be sad about their split, but I doubt many of them could imagine themselves in the shoes of an uber-wealthy Teutonic supermodel. But plenty of Armstrong’s readers would love a companionate marriage that meshed work and life seamlessly, and her separation may dash those dreams.

Adam Clymer says Newt Gingrich may seem to relish denouncing journalists, but actually he "enjoys consorting with the enemy."

Here's Clymer's column in the NYT. You may remember him as the Times's Washington correspondent back in the day.

(Speaking of politicians' denunciations of journalists, Clymer received the best one ever.)

""[I]t’s no surprise that a visiting professor is teaching Admin; professors at Yale love to dump..."

"... the black-letter teaching duties on visitors, so the YLS tenured professors can teach 'Law and Literary Theory' or 'Law and Robots' or 'Law and __' (yes, blank in the original; this meta-course was all about the interdisciplinary study of law)."

David Lat, discussing a current student problem at Yale Law School
, in the larger context of the differences among law schools. He continues:
In the grand scheme of things — global poverty, domestic unemployment, the war in Afghanistan, climate change (presumably you believe in it) — the inability of third-year students at Yale Law School to take Administrative Law is not a huge problem. But it is an interesting illustration of the very real differences between law schools. At how many other law schools would students take to the streets — Occupy 127 Wall Street, if you will — over being denied the right to wallow in the nuances of Chevron deference?

"Even though the percentage of incoming freshmen who identify as conservative has stayed relatively stable..."

".... those students and the rest of their peers are shifting away from hard-line conservative stances on issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion, marijuana legalization and affirmative action...."
Even though on an issue-by-issue basis the opinions of incoming freshmen are becoming less conservative, the number of liberal students per se is not necessarily on the rise.

As students over the past couple of years have become more likely to self-identify politically as “middle of the road” (47.4 percent in 2011, up three percentage points since 2009), the percentage who consider themselves “liberal” has actually declined more than that of those who say they’re “conservative.”

January 25, 2012

"Instead of asking for résumés, the New York venture-capital firm..."

"... asked applicants to send links representing their 'Web presence,' such as a Twitter account or Tumblr blog. Applicants also had to submit short videos demonstrating their interest in the position."

ADDED: Here's the link. Sorry for the omission.

"The Beatles, 'Revolution,' cut up, scrambled, and looped. The Beatles sing 'one two three four' for an hour."

"All of Billy Joel's greatest hits played at once. Celine Dion screams for 1.5 minutes. Please enjoy responsibly."

Yes, indeed. You can end up feeling a little ill.

Like, if you go here: "Have you ever wondered what each Beatles album would sound like if you played all the songs together at the same time? No way! Me too!"

And they recommended this...

... which seems pretty entertaining while it's going on, but I don't feel so good now.

"American commandos raced into Somalia early Wednesday and rescued two aid workers..."

"... an American woman and a Danish man, after a shootout with Somali pirates who had been holding them captive for months."
One American official said an assault team of Special Operations troops parachuted in from fixed wing aircraft, not helicopters, under cloak of darkness to a landing area about a mile’s walk from the actual target. The paratroopers landed, then walked to an encampment where the kidnappers where holding the two hostages.

Within minutes, shots rang out. The hostages were located and secured. Nine Somalis were killed and an unknown number wounded in the ensuing firefight with the commandos. No Somali prisoners were taken....

"Gov. Scott Walker holds single-digit leads over several potential Democratic opponents in hypothetical recall matchups..."

"In the survey of 701 registered voters, Walker leads his 2010 opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, 50% to 44%. He leads former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk 49% to 42%.  He also leads two other Democrats, former congressman Dave Obey and state lawmaker Tim Cullen."
In the same statewide poll, President Obama leads Republican Mitt Romney in a hypothetical matchup 48% to 40%.
Maybe Wisconsinites just like incumbents. Seriously, what's going on there? We've got Obama 8 points ahead of the supposedly kind of moderate Romney, yet the supposedly staunchly conservative Walker is beating all the potential Democratic opponents?

Looking through to the full results — PDF — it's interesting that on the right direction/wrong track question,  70% of the respondents think the country is on the wrong track (24% say "right direction"), but when the same question is asked about Wisconsin, 50% say "right direction," and 46% say "wrong track."

Check out question 30: "In general, which of the following statements do you agree with more? I'd rather pay higher taxes and have a state government that provides more services, or I'd rather pay lower taxes and have a state government that provides fewer services?" 50% prefer the lower taxes approach, compared to 41% who want more services. 

And question 38: "Thinking about all the changes in state government over the past year, do you think Wisconsin is better off in the long run because of these changes or worse off in the long run?" 54% say "better off," over 40% that say "worse off." 

Interesting results. I think it's predictable that Scott Walker will survive the recall election.

Nancy as the new Marianne?

What's this supposed to mean? Drudge has been pushing it as "PELOSI THREAT: NEWT WON'T BE PRESIDENT/'THERE IS SOMETHING I KNOW.'"

Is Pelosi implying possession of some secret knowledge nugget? The clip is creepy. I feel like the network is teasing us with another woman — after last week's ex-wife interview — who's going to step into the spotlight and say a few words that will supposedly be sufficient to take down Gingrich.

It's interesting that it's John King doing the little sequence with Pelosi, because it was John King who moderated last Thursday's debate and began it by confronting Newt Gingrich with what his ex-wife had said. Newt pounced on John King that night. (For a visual depiction of the pounce, you've got to watch this. Go to 2:17 for the kill.)

Anyway, what's up with Nancy? In that clip with King, she seems weirdly woozy. I can't tell if she's claiming to have her own personal anti-Newt stink-bomb or if she just feels like she has ESP: "It isn't going to happen... There is something I know."

Now, Newt is saying: "I have a simple challenge for Speaker Pelosi...you know, put up or shut up." Ooh! He really knows how to talk to the ladies. I mean... we've certainly reached a new milestone in the advancement of women.

UPDATE: Pelosi's office says she meant it in the ESP way, not the own personal anti-Newt stink-bomb way.

Disparaging Obama's SOTU because it "was written at an eighth-grade level."

Eric Ostermeier relies on the Flesch-Kincaid test, which calculates the readability of written text, based upon the length of sentences and words. He notes the prevalence of sentences like:
"There are plenty of ways to get this done. So let's agree right here, right now: No side issues. No drama. Pass the payroll tax cut without delay."
Hey, it would be on an even lower grade level if it weren't for that colon. You see my point? The punctuation says nothing about the difficulty or ease of the material in a text written for oral delivery. It's a signal to the speaker, indicating the length of pauses, the degree of flow. But I could just as well have written the previous 2 sentences as one sentence, with a colon in the middle, so quite aside from the oral/written distinction, the Flesch-Kincaid test is a pretty simplistic device to leverage an argument that a text is simplistic.

Obama repeats himself in State of the Union speeches.

I hear the ominous chimes, but how bad is this, really? He repeats platitudes. (Via Instapundit.)

January 24, 2012

"Which way am I going? This way or that?"

After the State of the Union.


You watching?

ADDED: Who decided that Obama should start pronouncing the word "business": bid-ness. Is that supposed to make us feel that this country is back to work?

AND: What are those beams of light shooting in from the upper right? It's nighttime. Did they set up some spotlights? Or is that the light of God?

ALSO: Amazingly unbelievable assertion: "I'm a Democrat, but I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: The government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves and no more."

The Supreme Court "signaled sympathy with the 'mosaic' theory of privacy..."

"The mosiac theory holds that aggregating lots of pieces of information about an individual that in themselves may be harmless may nonetheless, taken as a whole, constitute a search — even if all the data is public."

That reminds me of one of the most useful books I've ever read: "Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed."

"The Brown-Warren agreement does not seek to equalize spending between the two candidates, both of whom are well funded."

"It is a sort of suicide pact, providing... that the two 'donate to charity half the price of ads that are run in their name in the state.' Says Brown: 'By having 50 percent of that negative or positive ad buy go to charity of the other person's choice, it's an incentive to keep those groups out.'"

Brown is pandering to Massachusetts liberals who hate Citizens United and don't understand the underlying principles of free speech.

It's been observed that young Newt Gingrich looks like "The Office" star Rainn Wilson.

Now, check out Rainn Wilson's Twitter photo, and this tweet:
Congrats to @NewtGingrich on his win! If he's still into the whole 'open marriage' thing I'm VERY interested.

Why are there 9 — not 5 and not 10 — Best Picture Oscar nominations and which are the real nominees...

... that is, the nominees that would be the nominees if, as in the old days, there were only 5 nominees. My 28-year old son Christopher Althouse Cohen does the analysis:
This year there are 9 nominees. There's a reason there are 9 instead of 10 (or 5). The category originally got expanded to 10 nominees after 2008, probably because a lot of mainstream moviegoers were upset that The Dark Knight was "snubbed" in favor of The Reader. The Academy figured that, if only there had been some more slots, The Dark Knight would have been nominated and the viewers would have been more happy.

The next year, there were 10 nominees, and it was a much more commercial lineup that included at least 5 box office hits (Avatar... District 9, Inglourious Basterds, Up, and The Blind Side). They probably liked seeing District 9 and Up nominated, but the critics largely didn't consider The Blind Side to be Oscar material. The next year, Inception and Toy Story 3 got nominated, probably because of the expanded category, but so did the not-particularly-good-for-ratings Winter's Bone and The Kids Are All Right.

The Academy probably thought the category was getting watered down, but they wanted to keep the category big enough so that some hit movies would keep getting in. So, they came up with some formula where there are at least five nominees, and other movies can get nominated (but no more than ten) if they meet a certain voting threshold. It happened to be 9 this year, but it could just as well have been 8, etc.

Here are the nominees:
The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight In Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse
So, let's figure out which of the 9 are the "real" nominees that would have made it into a normal, 5-nominee list, and which are the extra ones.
We just have to eliminate four of these movies. But first, there are two movies that are locks on the 5-nominee list, the ones that got by far the most nominations: The Artist and Hugo. Those have to be nominated, so really we just have 3 open slots and 7 movies to choose from.

Romney vs. Gingrich at last night's debate.


Fantasy author poses like female characters on the covers of fantasy books.

"My sense is that most of these covers are supposed to convey strong, sexy heroines, but these are not poses that suggest strength. You can’t fight from these stances. I could barely even walk."

(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

"I'm heading to Capitol Hill soon to deliver my third State of the Union address."

"Before I go, I want to say thanks for everything you're doing.... Barack."

Email, just received. Nice to know the President appreciates whatever it is I'm doing.

"Newt is a Vessel: He Won South Carolina Because He Articulated Conservatism."

Speaking of articulation, I thought Rush Limbaugh articulated this really well on his show yesterday:
To those of you in the Republican base, this isn't complicated.  Newt is winning. He is on a momentum roll here because he can articulate conservatism, that and he's willing to take it to Obama.  I have said for the longest time that whoever does that, whoever articulates conservatism with passion, with love, cause that's love of country, with good cheer.... cannot be beat....

Now, this presents a huge stumbling block potential for Newt.  He is vulnerable on the very thing he can do better than anybody else.  He had better fully embrace his conservatism and not make it a part-time thing.  The days of being able to keep this momentum going by ripping on the media are over.  The standing ovations for taking on the media are over, or they have a very short life span.  He can't live on that anymore.  Been there, done that.  It's gonna get old and it's gonna look like it's been set up....
I was just talking to someone who expressed the belief that the standing Os were orchestrated, that — at the South Carolina debate — you can hear them begin and end as if a leader were giving hand motions.
Now, Newt keeps pushing off any questions on his anti-conservative statements.  And he better not.  I think Newt is just as vulnerable on his anti-conservatism as Romney is on Romneycare.  "What do you mean by that, Rush?"  Very simple.  Newt has made it plain two or three times that he's very open to the concept of manmade global warming.  He can blow this by sitting on the couch with Pelosi again or something that is equivalent.  Newt has in the past had some unflattering things to say about capitalism.  His time at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is a vulnerability. Saying that FDR is the best president, his favorite president, that doesn't jibe with being a conservative.  His open support for single payer health insurance with a mandate.  I'm just telling you, Newt's not out of the woods here....
So let a long campaign happen.  Let a long, drawn-out campaign happen, let's flush 'em out here....

"I’ve got to think Monday night’s debate further swelled the groundswell of support for Mitch Daniels."

It's Bill Kristol again:
The liveliest part of the debate was at the beginning, when Mitt went after Newt—and Republicans all over America watched with fascinated horror at the thought that these are the two GOP frontrunners. The only spectacle in American politics more off-putting than Newt Gingrich in self-righteous defense mode is Mitt Romney in self-righteous attack mode. I thought Mitt’s attacks were somewhat more dishonest than Newt’s defenses were disingenuous, but it was good to move on to the rest of the debate, where little further damage was done.

My conclusion: If Mitch Daniels’s effective tax rate is 30 percent rather than 15 percent, and if he was never paid $1.6 million by Freddie Mac, he can be the next president.
By the way, Mitch Daniels was my original, provisional choice for the GOP nomination, in part because I'm sentimental about Indiana.  Kristol's recent Mitchomania interests me!

I'm working on slogans playing off the similarity between the names Mitt and Mitch... but I keep including the word "bitch," so I'll spare you the examples.

"How Not to Listen to the State of the Union."

Not turn it on?

No, seriously... from TNR's Jonathan Bernstein:
You can see the typical press approach in The New York Times preview of the speech earlier this week. The piece is almost entirely focused on Barack Obama’s strategies to win the American public to his side; we’re told that he’s expected to “dra[w] a stark contrast between the parties” and to “define the election” in various ways. The Washington Post says that “how he delivers the argument will test his rhetorical dexterity and set the tone for the year ahead,” and focuses on the speech as a campaign document.

But the truth is that presidential speeches rarely have much effect on public opinion. For one thing, most people already have opinions about the president, so they’re not particularly open to changing their mind even when they hear something they like....

So it’s unlikely that the State of the Union can produce any short-term bump in any president’s approval ratings. Even less likely is that the speech could have any effect on voter choice in the upcoming elections, which are still over nine months away....
Which is a reason to ignore the whole thing, but Bernstein says it's worth paying attention to because "the State of the Union is usually a reliable guide to White House priorities for the next legislative year and even beyond."

But I don't have to watch (or listen) to get that. The State of the Union is usually very tedious because of all the applauding and standing ovations... with half the people in the audience grimly enduring it. Maybe the first 5 minutes are worth it. I like to check out which Supreme Court Justices are there.

They're required to sit there, right in front and act like they are completely disaggregated from politics. But Obama might chastise them, and maybe one of them will silently mouth a simple response and get all the attention the next day. Will Samuel Alito be there tonight? Frankly, the interaction with the Supreme Court is the only aspect of the speech that interests me. With the big Obamacare case coming up this year and a pending decision that will have an impact on the fall election, I'm wondering what Obama might do.

Romney's federal tax returns: "he is likely to pay a total of $6.2 million in taxes on $45 million in income over the two tax years of 2010 and 2011."

The NYT reports:
Mr. Romney said last week that his effective tax rate was “about 15 percent,” a figure lower than that of many affluent Americans. But his returns suggested that he paid an effective tax rate of nearly 14 percent.
That's a heavy-handed "but." 14 is "about 15."
“I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more,” Mr. Romney said during Monday night’s debate. “I don’t think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes.”
Exactly! The question isn't what he paid — unless he cheated — but what his tax policy for the country would be. Still, he really needs to be able to explain cogently and persuasively why capital gains are taxed the way they are. And he really needs to be able to convey why we should want a man who mostly worked in private finance to help us out with our finances.
Mr. Romney, a Mormon, has long said that he had promised to give 10 percent of his income to his church. His tax return shows that over two years he and his wife, Ann, gave $7 million in charitable contributions, including $4.1 million to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
So he gave more money to his church than to the federal government. Is "gave" the right verb for both of those payments? Perhaps it's not the right verb for either. Tithing is compulsory in the church, is it not? In both cases, he's relinquishing what is due under a requirement.

CORRECTION:  Romney gave more money to charity than to the federal government. The amount given to his church was $4.1 million, which is less than the $6.2 million given to the federal government. He gave $7 million total to charity.

Remember when Joe Biden released his tax returns in 2008 and we saw that he gave about 0.15% to charity? That same year, we saw the Obamas had given 5.8% - 6.1% of their income to charity. McCain was way up in the 27.3% - 28.6% range. To be fair, Democrats' idea of government is more of a replacement for charity. Let everyone hand over the appropriate amount and government will rationally/politically determine how to deal with all the needs. If you think that's a good idea — isn't it, in the abstract? — then you probably lean Democratic. I do think it's a good idea — in the abstract — but I lean back to the center when I think about concrete reality, and I don't trust the government to determine the needs and dispense the money properly. I also don't trust people to choose charities well. (They'll give for the cure of diseases that attack sympathetic people and shell out big time for dogs and cats.) And I don't trust charities to handle vast pools of money properly. Unlike many conservatives, I don't care about the warm feelings of self-love that flood the brains of charitable givers. I care about competently dealing with real needs and avoiding waste and corruption.

"You can take the blue pill and go back to your classroom and lecture your 20 students."

"But I’ve taken the red pill, and I’ve seen Wonderland."

Strange mixed metaphor! (The red pill is supposed to get you to reality, but Wonderland is a dream.) But mixing metaphors doesn't make your idea wrong, and Sebastian Thrun is a professor of computer science, not a professor of rhetoric. He's leaving his tenured position at Stanford to found Udacity:

"Were there any Oscar surprises?"

The nominations were announced this morning.
The nominees for best picture are “The Artist,” “The Descendants,” “The Help,” “Moneyball,” “Hugo,” “War Horse,” “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” “The Tree of Life” and “Midnight in Paris.”
I've only seen "Midnight in Paris," so I'm not a good judge of whether any of this is a good idea, though I will say I've seen the trailers for “The Help” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and believe them to be the kind of sententious treatment of an important subject that I avoid. All the others, except "War Horse," I could be prodded to see, except that I already feel overprodded about "The Artist," and I'm getting cranky. (Sorry, movies are mainly about emotions, and these are mine.)
The nominees for best actress are Michelle Williams (“My Week with Marilyn”), Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady”), Viola Davis (“The Help”), Glenn Close (“Albert Nobbs”) and Rooney Mara (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”).
Is there an iota of suspense about that one?

January 23, 2012

Watching the GOP debate tonight.

1. Yes, again. I'll do numbered updates.

2. Gingrich — who looks tired and badly made up — is asked about electability. He says "a solid conservative... who has the courage to stand up to the Washington establishment" is exactly what the American people want.

3.  Gingrich will have a website responding to the "at least 4 things" Romney just said that are false.

4. Santorum gives a great answer to the question why he lost his Senate seat in Pennsylvania.

5. Romney isn't going to apologize for his success or for free enterprise, and he's critical of Gingrich for picking up the "weapons of the left," attacking capitalism.

6. Romney and Gingrich are given free rein to go back and forth against each other, with Romney accusing Gingrich of "influence peddling" and Gingrich seeming quite angry and defensive.

7. Gingrich opines that Castro will not "meet his Maker," because he's going to Hell. I suddenly figured out what's likeable about Gingrich: his unlikeability.

8. From my son John's live-blog: "Brian Williams asks Gingrich a ridiculous question: whether he'll shift in his views on foreign policy in order to get Ron Paul's endorsement. Williams seems like he isn't even trying to do a good job of moderating the debate." Ha ha.

"My hands are so cold, I can't even blog."

"I'll be right back. Can't afford to lose any more followers."

This Samsung ad that got my attention:


1. Bloggers don't call their readers "followers." That's Twitter talk.

2. I know from browsing through other Samsung ads, looking for this, that the people camping out are waiting in line to get into an Apple store, but when we saw the ad — during one of yesterday's football games — we thought the campers were "Occupy Wall Street" folk.

"A Florida teenager who called 911 last week asked police to place her in a Christian children’s shelter..."

"... 'because she heard her mother having sex' and 'felt disrespected'... The mother explained to police that she had invited her boyfriend over and 'sometime during the visit, her daughter heard them having sex and became upset.'"

"Cathy N. Davidson, an English professor at Duke, wants to eradicate the term paper and replace it with the blog."

Matt Richtel writes in the NYT:
Across the country, blog writing has become a basic requirement in everything from M.B.A. to literature courses. On its face, who could disagree with the transformation? Why not replace a staid writing exercise with a medium that gives the writer the immediacy of an audience, a feeling of relevancy, instant feedback from classmates or readers, and a practical connection to contemporary communications? Pointedly, why punish with a paper when a blog is, relatively, fun?

Because, say defenders of rigorous writing, the brief, sometimes personally expressive blog post fails sorely to teach key aspects of thinking and writing. They argue that the old format was less about how Sherman got to the sea and more about how the writer organized the points, fashioned an argument, showed grasp of substance and proof of its origin. Its rigidity wasn’t punishment but pedagogy.
That's a bogus complaint. Just require the blog posts to be well-written! Davidson has her students "regularly publish 500- to 1,500-word entries on an internal class blog." These are as long as the essays law students write on the exams that often constitute the entire basis for their grade in a semester long course. These entries are essays, and they are no more "personally expressive" (read: indulgent) than a term paper if the teacher states that the assignment is to write something structured/neutral/scholarly (or whatever the directions for a term paper are).
The debate about academic writing has given rise to new terminology: “old literacy” refers to more traditional forms of discourse and training; “new literacy” stretches from the blog and tweet to multimedia presentation with PowerPoint and audio essay.
These are just different ways of publishing. It's the content that matters. But, obviously, different technologies promote different kinds of thinking and writing. For example, when we used typewriters, we didn't do as much redrafting as we do with computers, and when we publish on line, we tend to go public faster.

Andrea A. Lunsford, a professor of English at Stanford, says "that students feel much more impassioned by the new literacy. They love writing for an audience, engaging with it. They feel as if they’re actually producing something personally rewarding and valuable, whereas when they write a term paper, they feel as if they do so only to produce a grade."

There's a certain sort of teacher who's always imagining stimulating the students to new levels of passion. I suspect students can find this quite annoying and burdensome. Not only does the student have to write a lot, he's supposed to be all excited about it. Because teacher says blogging is exciting. But the blog can be a slog. It's not a slog for me, because I'm motivated from within. I make my own projects and do what I want. The intrinsic reward is fantastic. But I don't imagine that I could make students feel the same thing if they have to write when and where I tell them to and submit to my judgment for a grade.

Here's Davidson's book — which I just bought — "Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn." I'm interested in this subject, but also skeptical. Back in the 1960s I read "The Medium Is the Massage," by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, and I chanced upon a copy of it last week at Waterloo Records in Austin — the greatest record store in the country (maybe!). Yeah, I bought a book about media in a record store. One of my reading things is to read books that were once and within my memory a big deal in our culture.

On the drive home from Austin to Madison, as the passenger, I read the entire old book out loud. It's full of effusions about how are brains have changed because of "the high speeds of electric communication." McLuhan and Fiore were talking about television.
Our electrically-configured world has forced us to move from the habit of data classification to the mode of pattern recognition. We can no longer build serially, block-by-block, step-by-step, because instant communication insures that all factors in the environment and of experience coexist in a state of active interplay.
That was in 1967! If what they're saying were true when they wrote it, by now — with the internet and mobile devices — we'd all be crazy.

(Yes, yes, maybe we are crazy now. How would we know? By looking at election results?)

IN THE COMMENTS: FedkaTheConvict said:
Duke's Group of 88 Cathy Davidson?
Oh, my... The internet comes back to bite a pundit of internetology.

The death penalty for individuals who bring 2 ounces of marijuana into the country?

Newt Gingrich, as Speaker of the House, had that in his "Drug Importer Death Penalty Act of 1996."

"What could we put on the air that would soften their hearts to the church that we had invested so deeply in?"

The Mormon public service ads of the 1970s and 80s.
"Before Homefront began airing, when we did surveys asking people, when you hear the word ‘Mormon,’ what comes to mind, the answers were Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Osmonds, polygamists, racists. Those were the top four answers. After seven, eight, nine years of Homefront airing, when you asked the same question, the No. 1 answer was always family."
Check out "Julie Through the Glass":

When "the Government trespassorily inserted the information-gathering device" on a car, it was a search within the meaning of the 4th Amendment.

Says the Supreme Court, this morning, in United States v. Jones. Scalia writes the privacy-protecting opinion, joined by Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, and Sotomayor.
It is important to be clear about what occurred in this case: The Government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information....

The text of the Fourth Amendment reflects its close connection to property...

Consistent with this understanding, our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence was tied to common-law trespass, at least until the latter half of the 20th century....

Our later cases, of course, have deviated from that exclusively property-based approach. In Katz v. United States, 389 U. S. 347, 351 (1967), we said that “the Fourth Amendment protects people, not places,” and found a violation in attachment of an eavesdropping device to a public telephone booth. Our later cases have applied the analysis of Justice Harlan’s concurrence in that case, which said that a violation occurs when government officers violate a person’s “reasonable expectation of privacy”....
Despite the deviation — which worked to protect people using public phones and so forth — the Court rejects the Government's argument that Jones had no "reasonable expectation of privacy" with respect to the underside of his Jeep and where the Jeep was when it was driving about on the public roads. The Katz test was about extending the scope of an individual's privacy, not cutting back on traditional property-based protections.

There's no dissent, but Alito writes a concurring opinion which is joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan. Alito characterizes the majority of using "18th-century tort law" to interpret the 4th Amendment and says the question should be analyzed in terms of reasonable expectations of privacy.

William Kristol: "A Candidate to be Drafted Later?"

He floats the possibility and ends the post: "I notice a new online petition was launched Saturday night to try to produce one possible outcome. It’s at runmitchrun.com."

"The right to petition your government is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution."

"We the People provides a new way to petition the Obama Administration to take action on a range of important issues facing our country. We created We the People because we want to hear from you. If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response."

This is an interesting part of the official White House website, which I noticed for the first time last night when I was blogging about Christopher Dodd and discovered the petition demanding an investigation of his lobbying activities on behalf of the movie industry. (Is "lobbying" the wrong word?)

There were 10,378 signatures on the petition when I put the post up, and there are 16,459 now. (I'm not claiming credit for the increase.) 25,000 signatures are needed to force the White House staff to review it and respond. Note that you have to "create an account" on the White House site to sign, and if you sign your first name and last name initial, along with the name of your city, will be posted on the site. So that's something of a deterrent to signing. It's a bit of a test of how much you trust government.

When fascism comes to America, it will be with a smiley face (as George Carlin famously said (and Jonah Goldberg turned into a book cover)).

The White House will have your information, correlated to the petitions you've signed. You can see the subject matter of the currently open petitions. Click on filter by issue to get a sense of the issues raised by the people who trust the website with their information (and believe there's some point in petitioning this White House). That seems to explain why there are 0 petitions in the category "Firearms," but 15 in "Civil Rights and Liberties" and 13 in "Human Rights."

You can also filter by the number of signatures, and at the moment, the petition with the most signatures says: "Actually take these petitions seriously instead of just using them as an excuse to pretend you are listening." Well, naturally... what did you expect? How seriously should the government take 25,000 signatures?

But this is one way the internet is working now, for what it's worth. Check out the video they used to announce the new petition function. (This came out last August, and I didn't notice.) I am amused by the effort — by the White House! — to display youthful innocence and enthusiasm. Very smiley face:

"It's an official way to make your voice heard.... And if your petition is among the most popular, a group of White House policy officials..." Video frame suddenly widens to show 9 young people in suits sitting around a White House table. They smile and wave at us. "... like this good-looking bunch, will review it, make sure it gets to the right people in the Obama administration, and craft an official response."

The right people in the Obama administration? But will they be a good-looking bunch? Because I want good-looking bunches crafting a response. An official response. Because it's an official way to make my voice heard. And policy officials will be reviewing my official petition to give an official response. Are you sure all this is official? And is everybody good-looking? Okay, then. Start crafting responses. Because after you've given me this official way to blow off steam, what will help me reach closure in this process is a well-crafted response. Official response. Official and well-crafted.

Thank you, President Obama and your good-looking bunch of officials. Thank you for this official outlet for all our frustrations with government.

January 22, 2012

"With surprising candor, Chris Dodd tells Obama that the Hollywood purse strings are about to get tight."

A Metafilter post, linking to this Fox News piece, and continuing:
Angry over the Obama administration's siding against SOPA and PIPA, Dodd says openly that the money the Democratic party regularly counts on Hollywood for might not be there this election cycle. One view is that Hollywood considers that it bought something very specific with it's money, and it's angry it's not getting it. Should Obama be worried about this? Perhaps not. The guys from Freakanomics say that our assumption that money is the most important factor in deciding elections is a fallacy.
The 3d comment says:
We petition the Obama administration to: Investigate Chris Dodd and the MPAA for bribery after he publicly admited to bribing politicans to pass legislation.

(currently 7,312 signatures out of 25,000 needed for response)
It's up to 10,378 as I write this. Christopher Dodd has learned something in the last few weeks about how the internet works in a democracy. I suspect he's about to learn a whole lot more.

Obama sings a bit of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" to an audience at the Apollo Theater that includes Al Green."

"I'm... so in love with you..."


IN THE COMMENTS: Writ Small said:
There was more likeability in that 55 second clip than in the last two months of the GOP race. 
Loving you whether, whether times are good or bad, happy or sad...

"In those final seconds before his patients lose consciousness and die, the words they utter sound like Donald Duck..."

"... he says, imitating the high-pitched, nasally squeak familiar to any child who has sucked a gulp from a helium balloon. So, this is how a human being can leave this Earth?"

"But he had no idea the nail had entered his brain until the next day, when he began feeling nauseous."

"Dante Autullo, 34, was in his workshop when a nail gun recoiled near his head...."

WaPo's Carter Eskew says that last night Romney called Newt “an instrument of the left.”

He puts that in quotes, like Romney said those words. But we have listened and relistened to Romney's speech, and I have Googled and searched in the news of the last day, and the only place I can find that "instrument of the left" business is in Eskew's own blog post, which begins...
Pinch me. I think I’m having a rare and racy Democratic dream... The most beatable Republican has just made it a race.
Okay. You're having a wet dream, but you're writing in the Washington Post. Wake up and get your quotes straight.
This is Mitt Romney’s moment of truth... He will need to adapt and re-tool, and he will need to do better than tonight when he called Newt, “an instrument of the left.”
Maybe Eskew was taking notes during Romney's speech and paraphrased something that he later believed was a direct quote. But it's not even a good paraphrase of anything in the speech. It bears some resemblance to this from Romney:
"Our president has divided the nation, engaged in class warfare and attacked the free-enterprise system that has made America the economic envy of the world. We cannot defeat that president with a candidate who has joined in that very assault on free enterprise."
Romney doesn't name Gingrich there, but let's assume Gingrich is the "candidate." And you might say that the material about class warfare and the attack/assault on free enterprise equates with "the left." You still can't find anything that accuses Gingrich of becoming "an instrument of the left." Romney only says he's "joined" them in their assault, not that he's become their tool.

I don't know whether Romney should intensify his attack on Gingrich that way. (Should he?) But it irks me to see the Washington Post throwing out a bogus quote (assuming that's what it is). I hate the idea of crap like that going viral. Meade detected the first signs of viral infection over in the Isthmus forum. He pointed out the problem, and the response there was basically: Hey, it's in the Washington Post. If it were wrong, they'd correct it.

Would they?

ADDED: "Carter Eskew... was the chief strategist for the Gore 2000 presidential campaign...."

IN THE COMMENTS: chickenlittle said:
Eskew is askew. Eschew Eskew.

"Steven Tyler Sings/Screeches/Murders The National Anthem."

"The Aerosmith frontman, who also twilights as a judge on the hit show American Idol, has certainly seen better days. You have to believe that if 'judge' Steven Tyler saw 'singer' Steven Tyler perform this poorly he probably wouldn’t put him through to 'Hollywood week.'"

Yeah, that was putrid.

(Feel free to talk about the Ravens and the Patriots, going on now, and about "American Idol," which started a new season this week.)

Why Apple took its jobs overseas and — as Steve Jobs told Barack Obama — "Those jobs aren’t coming back."

A long article in the NYT.
Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option. One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”
They're hungrier... and you can fuel them with biscuits. And that's why we have iPhones with beautiful glass — not plastic — screens. Steve Jobs wanted them "perfect" and "in six weeks," and that meant: China.
The facility has 230,000 employees, many working six days a week, often spending up to 12 hours a day at the plant. Over a quarter of Foxconn’s work force lives in company barracks and many workers earn less than $17 a day....

“They could hire 3,000 people overnight,” said Jennifer Rigoni, who was Apple’s worldwide supply demand manager until 2010, but declined to discuss specifics of her work. “What U.S. plant can find 3,000 people overnight and convince them to live in dorms?”

A warning from mom: "If you vote for a Republican you'll never forget the day when you became a colossal cocksucking asshole."

Proudly reported by an anti-Scott Walkerite over in the Isthmus forums. A fellow forum participant approves: "You certainly have a cool mom." The anti-Scott Walkerite comes back:
Oh come on guys, it was a joke. I'm not sure that my librarian mother is even capable of uttering the words "cocksucking asshole." What she actually told me is that if I voted for a Republican she would build a time machine, go back to 1971 and have an abortion.
Cocksucking is inversely related to abortions. Tell your mom.

What's funnier — amongst Madison liberals — than moms calling their kids "cocksucking assholes"? Abortions. Abortions are hilarious. Haven't you noticed?

Coming to terms with The Newt.

I told you I went to a classical music concert last night. I'm not very good at listening to music, in the sense that I don't focus and notice all the details the right way or whatever real music connoisseurs do. I don't even respond emotionally most of the time. I do behave. I never cough. I don't get out my iPhone and read. If you were sitting next to me, you wouldn't notice that I'm a bad concertgoer, but I am.

So what I feel I have to do — and I know I should just stop it — is think about all sorts of things. For example, I contemplated various structures for tomorrow's first day of class in Federal Jurisdiction. Debussy was trying to tell me something about Spain, and I was thinking about something that happened "on a dark night" in Hughestown, Pennsylvania.

Inevitably, my thoughts drifted to Newt. Before going out on that dark night last night, I'd seen that he'd won the South Carolina primary. At intermission, I said to Meade: "I've come to terms with Newt." I didn't mean that I was prepared to vote for him. I still regard the idea of President Gingrich as bizarre. But I live in the moment. I embrace the now. It's fine the way things are. Newt has his role to play, and right now, I'm going to say it's a good one.

First, I especially adore the spectacular failure of The Attack of the Ex-Wife. ABC News somehow lured this uncomfortable little woman out of the shadows and into the spotlight. They interviewed her for God knows how long and extracted one seemingly lurid remark — her interpretation of what Newt said to her as a request for an "open marriage." The values-voters of The South were supposed to collapse in horror. He's unclean! But that's not the way they reacted. ABC didn't have that analyzed properly. I like this new culture of religious conservatism — if that's what it is — in which people who care about character don't recoil but reflect. They're not simpletons. They can get their mind around complexity. You can't just push their buttons. Or... at least... you can't push their buttons with big clumsy ABC fingers.

Second, it's good that the Tea Party and other sorts of conservative factions contribute to the political mix in America. Newt — along with Santorum — has established that the Establishment can't dictate who the candidate will be. Whoever ultimately becomes the candidate — and I assume it will be Mitt — he won't achieve his place through the nods of insiders bypassing the people who have imperatives of their own. It's strange that Gingrich embodies their wants, but that's the way this strange campaign has evolved, which leads me to....

Third, Gingrich has achieved his position through the sheer force of putting ideas into words, words that people heard. There's something quite beautiful about that, quite American. And it's beautiful without the man being beautiful. Back in 2008, many of us fell for Barack Obama, who — as Joe Biden put it so memorably was "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy... that's a storybook, man." Today, we question how articulate Obama really is and, with the distance of time, it's easy to see that the whole "storybook" gave us the impression that the speech was wonderful. That was an impressive effect in its time. But with Newt, there's no storybook. There's no newness, only Newtness, which isn't nice-looking or even clean. It's just words. Words! That's a storybook political treatise. A political treatise, man, and we're reading it. You'd think we'd be more influenced by the image of The Newt...

... but we're not. We're hearing the words, the speech, the ideas. I hear democracy maturing! Over The Newt! I think that's pretty cool.

There, now. There must be more that's going on. I'm still absorbing the Newtessence of it all. But that's all I'm going to say at the moment.

I read this out loud to proofread, and Meade said: "That's good. Just don't become a Newtist. In a Newtist colony."

Last night we went to a concert and heard music by Tchaicoughsky, Procoughiev, and Cough Debussy.

No, I'm kidding. Somehow the coughing didn't happen during the Prokofiev, when Augustin Hadelich joined the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Is Hadelich some kind of magic healer? Did paying closer attention keep people from coughing? Do they cough when they get bored? Please tell me. If they're capable of not coughing, which they demonstrated, it only intensifies the sense that there is an obligation not to cough. I was seated next to one of the main coughers, and she assured me, between numbers, that she was "not contagious." Not contagious!

Anyway... the crowd loved Hadelich, who's only 27. He played an encore, which was this Paganini...

ADDED: That Paganini piece is chosen for its difficulty so the musician can show off. "It's just like a Metallica concert... but you're forced to behave." I IM that to my son John, who immediately sends me to this metal version of Beethoven's 5th Symphony — supposedly Metallica (is it?) — and over there in the sidebar I see a metal guitar version of the very Paganini piece that Hadelich played last night.