January 26, 2013

At the Under-the-Bridge Café...

Untitled

... you can skate on through.

Police beg for help catching 10,000 escaped crocodiles.

In South Africa, where a flood enabled the animals' escape from a farm (where they are raised for their meat and their glamorous skins).

Water and ice — on spring-fed Lake Wingra.



This afternoon, dogless, Meade and I took a walk down to one of the other lakes.

"When we pulled out into the winter night and the real snow, our snow, began to stretch out beside us..."

"... and twinkle against the windows, and the dim lights of small Wisconsin stations moved by, a sharp wild brace came suddenly into the air."

To diagram that sentence — today's sentence from "The Great Gatsby" — begin with: brace | came. The subject of the sentence is brace, and the predicate is came. You've got a long clause beginning the sentence which has 3 parts to it — one with a we | pulled subject and verb, one with snow as a subject and the verb began tied to stretch and twinkle, and one with lights and moved. There is also a pair of "into" phrases — "into the winter night" and "into the air" — near the beginning and at the very end of the sentence.

You could easily get on the wrong track reading this sentence and think the real snow is part of what we pulled out into, especially with no comma after night, but the real snow, our snow is the subject of the next phrase. We don't pull out into the snow, only into the night. The snow then takes over the action, stretching out beside us. That's a little sexy, like the snow is in bed with us. But then we see that we must be on a train and the snow is out there in the night, on the other side of the windows. The snow twinkles against the window. It's a kind of light, twinkling. It's tiny lights that mingle with dim lights, the tiny lights of small Wisconsin stations. The stations move by — that's the illusion as we move forward on this train into Wisconsin, into the real snow, our snow, the snow that's like a lover in bed with us, with tiny twinkly lights all around.

Did you get that thrill? It was a sharp wild brace that came suddenly into the air. Orgasmic!

ADDED: Speaking of thrills, here's Chip Ahoy's animation of the "Gatsby" sentence I revealed to be my favorite, 3 days ago:



"A tray of cocktails floated at us through the twilight, and we sat down at a table with the two girls in yellow and three men, each one introduced to us as Mr. Mumble."

Joseph Brodsky "used to appall his students by requiring them to memorize something like a thousand lines each semester."

"He felt he was preparing them for the future; they might need such verses later in life. His own biography provided a stirring example of the virtues of mental husbandry. He’d been grateful for every scrap of poetry he had in his head during his enforced exile in the Arctic, banished there by a Soviet government that did not know what to do with his genius and that, in a symbolic embrace of a national policy of brain drain, expelled him from the country in 1972."

From "Why We Should Memorize," by Brad Leithauser.

(In 1972, Brodsky became the poet in residence at the University of Michigan. I was a student there at the time and remember a grand assembly with Brodsky received as a great hero.)

"According to... Brunei's national epic poem, the present-day sultanate originated when Dewa Emas Kayangan descended to earth from heaven in an egg."

"He had children with a number of aboriginal maidens, and one of these children converted to Islam and became the first sultan. However, the state continued to be multicultural. The second sultan was either Chinese or married a Chinese woman. The third sultan was said to be part Arab, who are seen in South and Southeast Asia as the descendents of Muhammad.... The sultanate was a thalassocracy, a realm based on controlling trade rather than land. Situated in a strategic location between China and the trading networks of southeast Asia, the state served as an entrepôt and collected tolls on water traffic."

Brunei is today's "History of" country.

Today's vocabulary words are:  thalassocracy and entrepôt.

"In some cases, [Nate] Silver tends to attribute successful reasoning to the use of Bayesian methods..."

"... without any evidence that those particular analyses were actually performed in Bayesian fashion."
For instance, he writes about Bob Voulgaris, a basketball gambler,
Bob’s money is on Bayes too. He does not literally apply Bayes’ theorem every time he makes a prediction. But his practice of testing statistical data in the context of hypotheses and beliefs derived from his basketball knowledge is very Bayesian, as is his comfort with accepting probabilistic answers to his questions.
But, judging from the description in the previous thirty pages, Voulgaris follows instinct, not fancy Bayesian math. Here, Silver seems to be using “Bayesian” not to mean the use of Bayes’s theorem but, rather, the general strategy of combining many different kinds of information.

"They would be explaining what your benefits were, then all of a sudden this embarrassed look would flash across their face like, 'Oh, sorry. I guess this doesn’t apply to you.'"

For the new gay members of Congress, "their freshman orientation sessions were a reminder of just how unequally the law treats them, since the entity that cuts their paychecks and provides benefits — the United States government — is barred from recognizing their relationships."

I wish members of Congress would have more opportunities to experience the embarrassment of having to live with the people their laws oppress. And I don't mean just things having to do with whether their colleagues are getting paid enough.

Petra Haden sings movie themes — a cappella, multitracked.

NPR is featuring this. Generally, ideas like this appeal to me. Ideas. In execution, I find her voice annoying. Admittedly, the main one I listened to was the "Psycho" title-sequence theme, which is intended to get on your nerves.

The fact that it can be done isn't enough. You have to do it well. Check out the Swingle Singers to hear what this replacing-all-the-instruments-with-voice thing can be like at its best. Something about the sound of it makes me feel like these people are too pleased with their ability to do it at all. I know: this may be a special delusion of mine. I simultaneously admire it and feel irritated. Is it just me?

In the case of Petra Haden, I feel really irritated.

"The problem, apparently, is that the Jabba the Hut Lego palace looks like a mosque."

"And not just any mosque, but Istanbul’s great Hagia Sophia, and another mosque in Beirut, Jami al-Kabir."
Dr. Melissa Günes, General Secretary of the Turkish Cultural Community, confirmed that Lego had been contacted with an official complaint and that an Austrian toy store had removed the offending Lego sets, according to the Austrian Times.

"Buy yourself a shotgun"... maybe not a real shotgun, maybe something metaphorical.

So, yeah, there's Jimi Hendrix, on TV in 1965. Can you even hear him? I want to concentrate on Buddy & Stacy. I'm surprised they got away with dancing like that on television:



Those were different times.

"Schools train people to be ignorant, with style."



Frank Zappa, opining, years ago.

Harkin quittin'.

'Bout time.

"Muslim professor Mustafa Umar explained... that there is 'nothing intrinsically wrong with wearing nail polish'..."

"... the real issue is that this substance forms an impermeable barrier over the nails preventing water from getting underneath."
For years, women have been required to either remove and reapply polish for prayers every day, or wait to wear it during the week they have their period - when they're not allowed to pray.
Solution: "Breathable" nail polish.

"With Aaron's death, we can wait no longer."

"This time there will be change or there will be chaos."

Lip reader figures out what John Boehner said that made Michelle Obama roll her eyes.

In the conversation, with Obama and Boehner leaning back to converse behind Michelle's head: "Boehner asked President Obama — a longtime smoker who claims to have kicked the habit — if he’d had a chance to have a cigarette before the luncheon. The speaker, a chain smoker, then quipped, 'Somebody [Michelle] won’t let you do it.'"

Judge Michelle's famous eye-roll now.
  
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Diet tip: "Wait 20 minutes for seconds."

Reason this should work: "Food must move 22 feet through your intestines from your stomach to peptide YY cells — the switch that says you are sated."

That's very helpful. Not that I want to think about the location — somewhere in the long, twisted path through my intestines — of what was so recently in my mouth, but I've noticed the tendency to eat and then eat again. It seems to be easier to avoid eating all afternoon than to resist getting one more thing after dinner. The dessert impulse. Even after breakfast or lunch, there's this feeling of needing to eat again. So the idea is: Just wait 20 more minutes. If the science quoted above is accurate, the feeling will ebb. Tell yourself: I can have something more if I still want it 20 minutes from now. The meal you just ate will, by then, have arrived in your peptide YY cells (whatever that means).

"A working group of senators from both parties is nearing agreement on broad principles for overhauling the nation’s immigration laws..."

3 Democrats and 3 Republicans — Durbin, Schumer, Menendez, Graham, McCain, and Rubio — "have been meeting quietly" and are about to announce their proposal, the WaPo frontpages:
The new effort was spurred in large part by the growing influence of Latino voters who strongly backed President Obama and other Democrats in November.
Interesting how that energizes both parties to act. A fascinating political game, which includes not only the reform itself but also — whether the reform occurs or not — the way various political actors look as they relate to the proposal for reform. It's sure to be a garish spectacle. In this political theater, who's most likely to take pratfalls on the public stage?
The senators are expected to call for normalizing the status of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, including allowing those with otherwise clean criminal records to obtain legal work permits, officials said. The group is also likely to endorse stricter border controls and a better system for employers to verify the immigration status of workers.

It was not clear, however, whether the final agreement will offer guidance on perhaps the thorniest issue in the immigration debate: what mechanism illegal immigrants could use to pursue full citizenship.
Here's a chance for Republicans to stop being "the stupid party" — as Bobby Jindal advised recently — and to become the truly smart party. Don't appeal to fears. Don't resort to ideology. Actually figure out the right answer on the basis of sharp economic thinking, and be prepared to explain it clearly. It seems to me, we have 11 million undocumented immigrants working in this country because they are serving our needs. My hypothesis is: We don't kick them out because we want them here, whether we admit it to ourselves or not. That's why we don't get tough. We still talk about getting tough and kicking them out — and walling out additional migration — because that appeals to emotion and tracks habitual thinking. But what's really happening? What have we really been doing all these years? How can we align the official policy with reality? That's how I'd like to see Republican politicians sharpen up, become the smart party, and show leadership.

"By naming the tragedy 12/14, we honor the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting, their families and their town. 12/14."

"Think it. Say it. Help Newtown heal."

I'm sorry, but no. If we take that approach, history will turn into numerical code and erstwhile ordinary days on the calendar will pop up each year as doomsdays, depressing some people and luring the crazies into copycatism.

Big events are normally named by the place where they happen, unless they are storms that we see coming and we name them like babies, when they are still cute like babies and haven't, like teenagers, shown their horrible tendencies.

9/11 was the exception to the rule, and this past year we got another 9/11 attack, in Benghazi. What do you do when these things pile up on the same day? It's not even random. The day fires up the imagination and focuses plans. I don't want a famous school massacre day called 12/14!

Protect our days, so that they continue to dawn as fresh new days, innocent and full of potential. Or let individuals infuse them with good memories, anniversaries of happiness like weddings and births.

January 25, 2013

At the Blue Ice Café...

Untitled

... there's nothing to cry about.

Purchase of the (yester)day.

"Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science" (Fully Revised and Updated) [Paperback] Charles Wheelan (Author), Burton G. Malkiel (Foreword) (Amazon Associates earnings to the blog: $0.91). Thank you, each of the 58 anonymous naked persons, who used the Althouse Amazon portal, adding exactly $0.00 to your own purchase price while once again sending the clear unmistakable message that you enjoy, relish, adore, and treasure the blogger's bloggy blogging as only she can blog.

I was so tired when I wrote last night's "Gatsby" post.

It was a real struggle with that sentence:
There was dancing now on the canvas in the garden; old men pushing young girls backward in eternal graceless circles, superior couples holding each other tortuously, fashionably, and keeping in the corners — and a great number of single girls dancing individualistically or relieving the orchestra for a moment of the burden of the banjo or the traps.
You might say I wrestled with that sentence. The commenters — whom I read this morning, after I conked out and slept for 10 hours — helped me make the connection to wrestling. Terry said: "The key phrase, I think, is 'on the canvas.'" That affects how you think of the men pushing the young girls, the gracelessness, and the tortuously. Dancing is like wrestling here. In the "Gatsby" project, we look into one sentence, in isolation, but I just looked back into the text to get a better picture of that canvas, which I took to be a way to transform lawn into dance floor. I get to this sentence:
At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden.
So let that be today's sentence. Lots of Cs: corps, caterers came, canvas, colored, Christmas. Christmas replacing the garden evokes the New Testament supplanting the Old. From the Garden of Eden to the salvation of Christ. By the way, that is the sentence just before the "crowded hams" sentence that made me angry 3 days ago.

Brazil had its own monarchy for 90 years.

This is Maria I, AKA Maria the Pious and Maria the Mad:



There's much more to know about the history of Brazil, which is our "History of" country today.

"Stop being the stupid party."

Says Bobby Jindal.
"It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults.... We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I’m here to say we’ve had enough of that."
He's absolutely right. And it's not enough merely to avoid stupidity — "legitimate rape" type stuff. They need to become the smart party, as well-grounded as possible in science and economics. The Democrats aren't that smart, but somehow they're able to pull off the appearance of being smart. Outsmart them. The other side will always try to portray anything the GOP stands for as stupid and not just stupid, but mean-spirited, sexist, and racist. If the party were firmly and reliably backed up with science and economics, Republicans could defend themselves (and they would be worth supporting).

"High heels were seen as foolish and effeminate."

"By 1740 men had stopped wearing them altogether."

"Weird things happen when you take price out of the equation for consumers. For one thing, they stop looking for the best price."

Yes. Obvious. I know. But this is NPR talking, which is what struck me.

(The topic is the breast pumps that must be paid for by health insurance companies under Obamacare.)

"Your safety. It's no longer a spectator sport. I need you in the game. But are you ready?"

"With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option. You could beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back. But are you prepared? Consider taking a certified safety course in handling a firearm so you can defend yourself until we get there. You have a duty to protect yourself and your family. We're partners now. Can I depend on you?"

Says Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. in a new radio ad (which you can play here).

Predictable pushback. From the office of Tom Barrett (the Mayor of Milwaukee who challenged Gov. Scott Walker in the recall election and lost):
"Apparently, Sheriff David Clarke is auditioning for the next Dirty Harry movie."
And from Jeri Bonavia, executive director of Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort:
"What (Clarke's) talking about is this amped up version of vigilantism.... I don't know what his motivations are for doing this. But I do know what he's calling for is dangerous and irresponsible and he should be out there saying this is a mistake."

The new Gender Inclusive Living Experience at the University of Michigan.

Gender-neutral rooms for transgender and gender non-conforming students.

The University wasn't prepared to go as far as some advocates of gender neutrality wanted, which would be to allow "men and women of any sexual orientation to chose roommates of the opposite gender."
"We weren't prepared to go that far, yet," said [Peter Logan, communications director for housing], explaining that the GILE program "felt like a comfortable step in that right direction of at least making some accommodation" for students with non-traditional gender identity.
But if you're a traditional gender identity person and you want to live with an opposite sex traditional gender identity person, you'll have to sneak around, which is what we did back in 1969, when I went to the University of Michigan, and lived in East Quad, which is where they're installing the innovative GILE program. East Quad was the hotbed of innovation in my day too. It was fully infested with hippies, descended upon Ann Arbor to partake of alternative education at the Residential College.

"As she struggled to reclaim her memory, Shawnda discovered she had been a life-long keeper of journals."

"She found them stashed in a box in the spare bedroom... She had taken meticulous notes on her entire life."
Shawnda learned of her troubles with her husband and read in detail about all the pain and depression she had lived through the past several months, and then forgotten. She read of people in her life who were now like characters in a novel she was starting from the middle.

"We know what happened in Benghazi now... but what we don't know is why we were misled."



Ron Johnson, questioning John Kerry. I'm breaking out what I think is the main quote. Look how differently this exchange is presented at TPM.

This was the same disconnect that Hillary Clinton tried to pull off when Ron Johnson questioned her the other day and she had her "What difference does it make?" outburst. She wanted us to focus on the point in time when the attackers decided to attack.
"Was it because of a protest or because of guys out for a walk one night who decide to kill some Americans, what difference at this point does it make?"
It. She has the wrong it. Johnson's question to her and then to Kerry related to the point in time when the people in the Obama administration decided to mislead the public by actively pushing a phony story about the "Innocence of Muslims" video. That was a strange thing to do, and both Clinton and Kerry have doggedly distracted us by pretending the question is why the attack occurred.

"Millions of smokers could be priced out of health insurance because of tobacco penalties in President Barack Obama's health care law..."

"... according to experts who are just now teasing out the potential impact of a little-noted provision in the massive legislation."
The Affordable Care Act... allows health insurers to charge smokers buying individual policies up to 50 percent higher premiums starting next Jan. 1.

For a 55-year-old smoker, the penalty could reach nearly $4,250 a year. A 60-year-old could wind up paying nearly $5,100 on top of premiums.

Younger smokers could be charged lower penalties under rules proposed last fall by the Obama administration. But older smokers could face a heavy hit on their household budgets at a time in life when smoking-related illnesses tend to emerge.
I got there via the Isthmus forum, where Meade wrote:
Does that really make sense? Shouldn't it be reversed? Charge higher penalties/taxes to younger smokers as they will potentially have more years to cost society in lost production and "free" health care.

Charge older retired or retiring smokers lower penalties/taxes, encourage them to keep smoking and die sooner. After all, at their age, the older smokers are no longer contributing. The sooner they die, the less they cost the rest of us.
What are the voluntary activities that create the greatest risks for costing the insurance pool money? Why pick on smokers alone? To get the variable premiums concept started, because we're already into burdening smokers? By the way, "Among Americans, Smoking Decreases as Income Increases/Gradual pattern is consistent across eight earnings brackets." The least well-off people are hit hardest! But — what the hell? — kick the smokers now, and later we can tweak the system and raise the premiums for people who.... well, who would you like to hurt/nudge? How about the fat? Weigh in every year and get your premiums adjusted accordingly, scientifically. Here's a BMI calculator. Maybe we should charge you $1,000 a year in added premiums for every point above the "normal" range.

Where will this smoker premium surcharge lead?
  
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"President Barack Obama violated the Constitution when he bypassed the Senate to fill vacancies on a labor relations panel..."

"... a federal appeals court panel ruled Friday."
The unanimous decision is an embarrassing setback for the president, who made the appointments after Senate Republicans spent months blocking his choices for an agency they contended was biased in favor of unions....

Obama claims he acted properly in the case of the NLRB appointments because the Senate was away for the holidays on a 20-day recess. But the three-judge panel ruled that the Senate technically stayed in session when it was gaveled in and out every few days for so-called “pro forma” sessions.

GOP lawmakers used the tactic — as Democrats have in the past as well — to specifically to prevent the president from using his recess power....
The Supreme Court is likely to take this case, which, if it is not reversed, will invalidate all the decisions the NLRB has made going back more than a year and that going forward, there is no quorum for it to decide any cases. 

Let's dance like it's 1958 in Idaho.



That's nice and slow. I think you can all learn that, and I think it would be nice if kids today learned that dance, maybe in gym class. I think it would help them in many ways. And feel free to dress like that, even unironically.

I found that because YouTube suggested it after I watched this 1965 clip from the TV show "Hollywood a Go-Go" with Del Shannon singing "Runaway" and the "Hollywood a Go-Go" go go dancers were dancing around him doing some dance that represented running away, even though their forward motion only took them in a circle so they never got away. It's faster and more frenetic dancing, but I think you might be able to figure out the moves, even though we never get to see the feet.

Seemingly bridging the time gap between the first and second video — and also suggested by YouTube — here's Little Eva singing about the brand-new dance "The Loco-Motion." I say "seemingly" because it looks early 60s and the "Runaway" dance looks later 60s, but in fact, both clips are from 1965. A lot of old and new intersected in 1965. Personally, I was 14 years old, and I was rooting for progress. I watched "Hollywood a Go-Go" and "Shindig" (the show Little Eva's on), and I tuned in hoping to see British invasion stuff like The Kinks or folk rock stuff like The Byrds. I would have regarded Del Shannon as an intrusion from the pre-Beatles era. "Runaway" was a hit in 1961. It was one of the singles we played at slumber parties when we were children.

"The Loco-Motion" was a hit in 1962. Little Eva — Eva Narcissus Boyd — was a maid who also worked as a babysitter for Carole King and Gerry Goffin: "It is often claimed that Goffin and King were amused by Boyd's individual dancing style, so they wrote 'The Loco-Motion' for her" — but maybe that's not true. Little Eva doesn't look too interested in dancing in that "Shindig" clip. The notorious song "He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)" was based on what Little Eva told Carole King about her relationship with her boyfriend. That song was originally recorded by The Crystals — produced by the not-yet-a-murderer Phil Spector — and in recent years, it's been covered by Courtney Love and Grizzly Bear — with some unknown degree of irony.

Paul McCartney's 1964 demo of "World Without Love."

Presented by Peter Asher — the Peter of Peter and Gordon who had the hit single version of the song — who is playing it as part of the shows he's doing these days:



Peter was the brother of Jane Asher, who famously dated Paul McCartney at the height of Beatlemania. The Lennon-McCartney songs recorded by Peter and Gordon — "A World Without Love," "Nobody I Know," "I Don't Want To See You Again," "Woman" — were written by Paul.

What about "I Go to Pieces"? That was a nice Peter and Gordon song. It was written by Del Shannon, who also wrote "Hats Off to Larry" and "Runaway," and who committed suicide in 1990. Peter's Gordon — Gordon Trueman Riviere Waller — died of a heart attack in 2009.



Peter does his Austin Powers imitation at 2:33.

"Females have biological problems staying in a ditch for 30 days because they get infections..."

An old meme about women in combat. Is it a bugaboo from old farts afraid of ladyparts... or is it real?

"Welcome to New York, pal — now go to jail."

"An Italian tourist spent his second night in the city behind bars after staff at an upscale East Side steakhouse called cops when he claimed he left his wallet at a friend’s place."
Graziano Graziussi, a 43-year-old lawyer from Naples, is a regular at Smith & Wollensky....

“I was going to leave my iPhone,” he said. “I suggested they bring a bus boy with me... It would have been an easy trip.”

One police veteran told the Daily News he wasn’t surprised to hear that the restaurant wouldn’t take the phone as collateral.

“How do they know that iPhone was his? It could have come from anywhere,” the cop said.
The restaurant is getting some horrible press, but I'm sure people rip off restaurants all the time with the old forgot-my-wallet routine. If you let the guy leave, 9 times out of 10, you never see him again. I made up that statistic for rhetorical purposes. What do you think the statistic is? How much money do you think restaurants lose every year? They'll have to compensate by charging more to the people who do pay. But now they're stuck with the bad PR, because they called the cops on a photogenic lawyer, which means: 1. Focused outrage, 2. Ability to contact and talk to the press, 3. Big newspaper willing to run the story.

***

Readers of this blog might be thinking: Smith & Wollensky, where were we just talking about Smith & Wollensky? Was it in "The Great Gatsby"? It sounds like the name of the place that's been around long enough to have figured in "Gatsby," which takes place in 1922, but it opened in 1977. It adopted an old-fashioned image way back then. It was founded by Alan Stillman, the man who invented T.G.I. Friday's.
According to Stillman, there was never a Mr. Smith or a Mr. Wollensky involved. He opened the Manhattan phone book twice and randomly pulled out two names, Smith and Wollensky. The announcements for the opening, however, carried the names Charlie Smith and Ralph Wollensky. Stillman later admitted that Charlie and Ralph were the names of his dogs.
What's the deal with Stillman and Friday's? T.G.I. Friday's started back in 1965. Stillman — Wikipedia says — was a "bachelor perfume salesman [who] lived in a neighborhood with many airline stewardesses, fashion models, secretaries, and other single people on the East Side of Manhattan near the Queensboro Bridge, and hoped that opening a bar would help him meet women."
At the time, Stillman's choices for socializing were non-public cocktail parties, or "guys' beer-drinking hangout" bars that women usually did not visit; he recalled that "there was no public place for people between, say, twenty-three to thirty-seven years old, to meet." He sought to recreate the comfortable cocktail-party atmosphere in public despite having no experience in the restaurant business.
So he kind of invented the singles bar?
With $5,000 of his own money and $5,000 borrowed from his mother, Stillman purchased a bar he often visited, The Good Tavern at the corner of 63rd Street and First Avenue, and renamed it T.G.I. Friday's after the expression "Thank God! It's Friday!" from his years at Bucknell University....
Aw. I'm rooting for this guy, who made his mom happy, by facilitating a million fucks, some of which were his. Ah! Here's a whole interview with him, complete with photos:
NCR: Did your strategy work? Did you meet good-looking girls?

Stillman: Have you seen the movie Cocktail? Tom Cruise played me! I was lucky enough to do it for three years — he only did it to make a movie. Even today, the advantage of being the guy behind the bar is huge. Why do girls want to date the bartender? To this day, I’m not sure that I get it.
Ha ha. But, Althouse, get back to where you were going: that time we were talking about Smith & Wollensky on this blog. Yes. It was 9 days ago, and the story was about some job applicant who was presented in the press as a young guy who used what I called "the old honesty-modesty routine." Posting, I accepted the media cue that he was a gutsy, charming underdog, but — using Smith & Wollensky as my clue — I got suspicious in the comments:
A key line in the letter, as reprinted in the Daily Mail is: "I met you the summer before last at Smith & Wollensky's in New York when I was touring the east coast with my uncle, ***** ******"

Why put the name of your uncle in the letter unless it's intended to influence the hiring? Perhaps this person's seemingly refreshing attitude is just the cheeky confidence of a young person from a privileged background.

Would a guy working his way up from a working-class background ever write a letter like this?
Which guy most nearly won your heart?
  
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January 24, 2013

Purchase of the (yester)day.

"Intellectuals and Society": Revised and Expanded Edition [Paperback] Thomas Sowell (Amazon Associates earnings to the blog: $1.06). Maybe we should start a Thomas Sowell book club. Someone near and dear made me happy by sending me this book for Christmas. Thanks to everyone who used the Althouse Amazon portal.

"There was dancing now on the canvas in the garden; old men pushing young girls backward in eternal graceless circles..."

"... superior couples holding each other tortuously, fashionably, and keeping in the corners — and a great number of single girls dancing individualistically or relieving the orchestra for a moment of the burden of the banjo or the traps."

Tortuously, fashionably... on the canvas in the garden, keeping in the corners (of the canvas)...

So there's a big square of canvas, maybe on top of the grass, that makes a dance floor, and the couples, with the women going backwards, don't overstep the boundary, whether they're young and pushed by old men or part of a couple of superior dancers. And then there are the females who dance alone. Individualistically or... what? They are bending over the knees of the drummers in the orchestra and allowing themselves to be strummed or beaten upon like a banjo or a drum. Or do you think they oust the band-member and do some drumming or strumming themselves? I'm thinking the latter. But the first image I got from today's "Great Gatsby" sentence was of single ladies becoming the instruments, offering up their voluptuous buttocks as a substitute for conventional instruments. On reflection, I merely see them grabbing an instrument and pretending to be a member of the band.

"The guy said they were sitting at that same table three years ago and some stranger paid for their meal and made them think about kindness and love..."

"... and they’ve been talking about it ever since. They’ve incorporated it into their lives and said there was no other place he could have proposed, it was their most impactful memory."

I think this CafeMom post would have gotten more play if only she hadn't said impactful.

She's all "Has anyone ever anonymously bought you a meal at a restaurant? Have you ever purchased one for someone else?"

But I'm all... have you ever felt enthused about something and then one word killed it?

ADDED: And you're all... enthused....

AND: You're all... you're all....

"The film is reportedly loosely based on folk singer Dave Van Ronk's memoir 'The Mayor of MacDougal Street,' although it appears to be a mostly fictionalized tale, and Dylan is alluded to..."

"... not just visually and narratively, but by his song 'Farewell," which is played throughout the trailer."

"Pentagon officials repeatedly stressed that there will be 'gender-neutral standards' for combat positions."

From NPR's "Women In Combat: 5 Key Questions."
For example, to work in a tank, women will have to demonstrate the ability to repeatedly load 55-pound tank shells, just as men are required to do.

Infantry troops routinely carry backpacks with 60 or 70 pounds of gear, or even more. The most common injury in Afghanistan is caused by roadside bombs. This raises the question of whether a female combat soldier would be able to carry a 200-pound male colleague who has been wounded.
No more double standards. I approve.

"Wisconsin budget surplus projected to grow to $484 million."

One more occasion for us here at Meadhouse to dance to "Stand with Governor Walker."



(Do you have any idea how much this annoys our fellow Madison citizens?)

Sruli Recht makes a $470,000 ring out of gold and a 4-inch strip of skin excised from his belly and tanned... with the hair left on.

Art! Via Metafilter.

It's the hair that makes it so... challenging.

In 1885, responding to Khama III, Bathoen, and Sebele, the British took over in "Bechuanaland."

The southern part of that place became part of South Africa, but the northern part went on to become what today is Botswana, today's "History of" country, an independent constitutional democracy since 1964.

Hey, kids, here's a way to have fun in your American history class...

... if you've got a teacher who admires Hillary Clinton. Whatever the lesson of the day is, raise your hand, and when you're called on, throw your hands in the air and cry out: "What difference at this point does it make?!"

I like the way Meade puts it over at the Isthmus forum:
What difference, at this point, does it make?

2007 troop surge in Iraq?... What difference, at this point, does it make?

Yellowcake uranium in Niger?... What difference, at this point, does it make?

Asking for a Florida recount in only select counties instead of statewide?...What difference, at this point, does it make?

An "edgier strategy" for the obesity problem: "a carefully calibrated effort of public social pressure" to provide "a shock of recognition."

Or, as The Daily Mail restates it: "Shaming fat people into losing weight is the only way to solve obesity epidemic, leading health academic claims."

"GOP Senator Pushes Gun-Running Conspiracy Theory During Benghazi Hearing."

That's the way they put it over at Think Progress. I've watched the video. Rand Paul asks a question. It seems histrionic to equate asking a question with pushing a conspiracy theory, and the truth is Hillary Clinton's answer has the ring of... lying.

The effort on the left to stereotype Rand Paul as a nutcase is so strenuous that it stimulates my root-for-the-underdog instinct. And makes me suspicious. I feel a Rand-Paul-must-be-destroyed conspiracy theory blossoming within.

"Senators keep 2016 in focus as Hillary Clinton grilled on Benghazi."

"You will be sorely missed, but I, for one, hope not for too long," said the Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, and "I wish you the best in your future endeavors — mostly," said Republican Rep. Steve Chabot.

I don't picture Hillary Clinton as the candidate in 2016. Someone new will emerge. The Democrats gravitate toward youth (even as the Republicans duly cede the candidacy to the next oldie in line).

The bad science of Obama's use of the "devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms" to scare us about climate change.

How absurd to use obviously bad science to hit us over the head about our failure to react to what you claim is good science!

Why does it have to be so hard to combine science and politics?

"Althouse, you're playing games with the men here. Abstract hypotheticals are the problem."

"Abstract hypotheticals serve your purpose in advancing feminism. Abstract hypotheticals screw men."

Wow! I remember when it was a major feminist talking point to accuse males of dominating the discourse with abstract reasoning. Women lived in context, embedded in relationships, and the privileging of abstract reasoning was a method of subordination.

The quote above is from Shouting Thomas in the comments to my post about the feasibility of instituting the military draft before and after the removal of the ban on women in combat. I'm trying to get commenters to focus on the precise issue and not drag in other material or emote about how they feel about me. I'm amused to see myself accused of oppressing the men with the use of the kind of rhetoric that feminists used to condemn as typically male.

Why, I remember "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House" by Audre Lorde. But apparently the master's tools are working quite well!

Gallup poll: 64% of Americans agree that "The decision to have an abortion should be made solely by a woman and her physician."

In the summer of 1972, half a year before the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade.
A majority of all identified groups, including Catholics, agreed with that statement. There was almost no difference between men and women. The group expressing the strongest agreement – 68 percent – was made up of Republicans. George Gallup’s syndicated column discussing the poll results, “Abortion Seen Up to Woman, Doctor,” ... was... in Justice Blackmun’s files.
And Justice Blackmun, the Nixon appointee who wrote the Roe v. Wade opinion, had that column in his files. Also in his files:
[A]n account by Dr. Jane E. Hodgson, a Mayo Clinic-trained obstetrician/gynecologist, of her arrest in St. Paul in 1970 for performing a first-trimester abortion for a patient who had contracted German measles in the fourth week of pregnancy. (In those days before immunization eradicated the threat posed to pregnant women by German measles, the disease commonly caused serious birth defects.) Justice Harry A. Blackmun, formerly the Mayo Clinic’s lawyer, knew Dr. Hodgson’s story; I had found her account, published in the clinic’s alumni magazine, in the justice’s files at the Library of Congress.
That's from a long column by Linda Greenhouse, referencing historical materials collected here. The column also talks about the post-Roe political strategy of the Republican Party, which we were just discussing a couple days ago here. The idea is that Republicans were for it before they were against it.

(Feel free to relate this post to the previous post about Second Amendment rights, which Democrats don't believe in.)

"How many of you all believe that there is a movement to take away the Second Amendment?"

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin asked a group of his supporters back home in West Virginia.
About half the hands in the room went up.

Despite his best attempts to reassure them — “I see no movement, no talk, no bills, no nothing” — they remained skeptical. “We give up our rights one piece at a time,” a banker named Charlie Houck told the senator.
That's the anecdote that leads off the NYT article "Democrats in Senate Confront Doubts at Home on Gun Laws." The article ends:
During the lunch, Mr. Manchin shared a recent conversation he had with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Obama administration’s point person on gun control.

“I said, ‘Mr. Vice President, with all due respect, I don’t know how many people who truly believe that you would fight to protect their rights.’ ”

The senator added, “That’s what we’re dealing with.”
How are we to think about rights? It's good for politicians to hear the deeply engrained American attitude: We give up our rights one piece at a time. There's a long tradition — predating the Bill of Rights — of thinking like that. Here's James Madison in 1785:
[I]t is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it.
The issue there was not guns but the use of tax money to pay for teachers of religion. In the paragraph quoted above, Madison went on to say that citizens should object to the requirement of paying even "three pence" to support a religion because a government that extracts even that trifle may go on to coerce religious conformity. The small things are not small. The small things are where the people still have the capacity to fight authoritarian government.

Democrats know this. They are part of this American culture of deeply engrained belief in constitutional rights. What is different to the Democrats is that they don't believe that the right to keep and bear arms is a constitutional right. They think the Supreme Court misinterpreted the Second Amendment when it found a constitutional right. District of Columbia v. Heller was a 5 to 4 decision, and the 5 are the 5 Justices, still on the Court, whom the Democratic Senators would love to have a chance to replace.

The NYT portrays the folks back home in West Virginia as misinformed, troublesome, and hysterical. That’s what we’re dealing with.

At the Pink Sky in Morning Café...

Untitled

... we've been warned.

Does lifting the combat ban for women make it easier or harder to reintroduce the military draft?

Here's a story explaining the new policy change and why it was done.
In the military, serving in combat positions like the infantry remains crucial to career advancement. Women have long said that by not recognizing their real service, the military has unfairly held them back.
No mention of the draft. When I first saw this story, I assumed it meant that it would be much more difficult, in the future, to bring back the draft. I cannot believe that the people would accept forcing women into combat. But now I'm thinking that removing this barrier makes it easier to restore the draft, because women won't really be forced into combat. With neutrally designed physical tests, no woman will be forced. These tests, keyed to what strong men can do, will exclude all but the most fit and motivated woman.

You don't need discrimination against women to filter out all the non-volunteers. And it will be more acceptable to Americans to force men and women into an institution that renounces any formal, express policy of sex discrimination. A male-only draft would raise objections, and a draft that includes women, but puts them in back up positions should be a problem both for women, because they are subordinated, and to men, because they are, because of their sex, more likely to be put in life-threatening positions.

***

I've been thinking about this problem quite a bit over the years as I teach the old Supreme Court case Rostker v. Goldberg, which involved a challenge to the requirement, introduced in 1980, that males register for the draft. The draft itself had ended in 1973, but President Carter thought we should be prepared for the possibility of a draft. He wanted to include both women and men, but Congress made it male only, which was challenged as unconstitutional sex discrimination. The fact that only men would be used in combat was the basis for upholding the discrimination:
In light of the combat restrictions, women did not have the same opportunities for promotion as men, and therefore it was not unconstitutional for Congress to distinguish between them.

"Virginia State Senate Moves Ahead on Electoral College-Rigging Bill."

What, exactly, makes this "rigging"?

January 23, 2013

Obama's "acting alone" fallacy.

"The idea that you're 'alone' unless you're being directed by the government strikes me as dehumanizing and almost abusive."

"North Korea said Thursday that it plans to carry out a 'high-level nuclear test' and further long-range rocket launches, all of which it said are 'aimed at the U.S.'"

"The statement from the North's National Defense Commission was carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency," says just-in email from CNN Breaking News.

I read it aloud, hear myself laugh, then say, "It's funny 'til it's not funny," and Meade says, "Axis of Evil."

Purchase of the day...

... and by day I mean yesterday: Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Coffee (Amazon Associates earnings to the blog: $1.00).

Many thanks to everyone — in every language except Yanomamö since there is no word for "thank you" in Yanomamö, the language of the fierce people — who showed their support by shopping through the Althouse Amazon portal.

"A tray of cocktails floated at us through the twilight, and we sat down at a table with the two girls in yellow and three men, each one introduced to us as Mr. Mumble."

For some reason, that's been my official favorite "Great Gatsby" sentence for a long, long time. I thought I'd bring it out today after getting unreasonably angry at yesterday's "Great Gatsby" sentence (here in our Gatsby project of looking at one "Great Gatsby" sentence each day in absurd isolation). You remember, the crowded hams and the salads of harlequin designs. People said to me, Althouse, you are wrong, this is a perfectly wonderful sentence, it describes sumputuousness and sensuousness. Sumptuousness! I was contemptuous of all this you-us-ness. I said:
1. Any hack writer can use a lot of words and create a picture of a "sumptuous" feast.

2. I'm a reader, a consumer of the words, not of the food itself, so it's not like I'm getting a lot to eat here.

3. "Sumptuousness" seems like a corny idea, like something from a Harlequin (!) romance, especially in the effort to make it seem to refer to sexuality.

"Bosnia has been inhabited at least since Neolithic times."

"In the late Bronze Age, the Neolithic population was replaced by more warlike Indo-European tribes known as the Illyrians. Celtic migrations in the 4th and 3rd century BCE displaced many Illyrian tribes from their former lands, but some Celtic and Illyrian tribes mixed.... Conflict between the Illyrians and Romans started in 229 BCE, but Rome wouldn't complete its annexation of the region until 9 CE. In the Roman period, Latin-speaking settlers from all over the Roman empire settled among the Illyrians and Roman soldiers were encouraged to retire in the region."

In what is now called Bosnia and Herzegovina, today's "History of" county.

"The U.S. military will end its policy of excluding women from combat, officials said."

"Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will announce Thursday plans to open combat jobs and direct combat units to female troops, multiple officials confirmed to CNN."

Email, just now, from CNN.

Did you see that "deconstruction of what has come to be known as 'hipster racism'"?

That "moment that challenged" the "privilege" of the "core audience" of the show "Girls"?

In Season 1, Episode 1, they acted like a character could just be black without being about the fact of his being black, but in Episode 2, the main character, saying "you know what, I never thought about the fact that you were black once," was essentially mocking the viewers' own phony pretense that they didn't think, like back in Episode 1, about the fact that he's black.

Also, they made him Republican... and perfectly decent and low-key about it.

By the way, if you've never noticed that there's something that has come to be known as "hipster racism," I see it's got its own Wikipedia article:
Hipster racism, a term coined around 2006 in an article by Carmen Van Kerckhove, is described as the use [of] irony and satire to mask racism. It is the use of blatantly racist comments in an attempt to be controversial and edgy. Its irony is established in a somewhat post-racial belief that blatant expressions of genuine racism are no longer taken seriously and are an outdated way of thinking, thereby making the use of such overt expressions satiric. In some cases, hipster racism can be seen as the appropriation of cultural artifacts by hipsters.
Why hasn't this led to more trouble if it's actually been around for 7 years? Because it's so lame no one can be bothered to get offended? Because no one really does it? Anyway, I guess I can imagine examples of humor that would fit this category, but the notion that it's been some sort of style trend for more than half a decade just seems so sad. We need better trends these days. Pop culture is insufficiently diverting. 

Hillary Clinton, chin in palm, puts up with Rand Paul's tirade.



Rand begins with a feint: "I'm glad to see your health is improving." Note: he's a doctor. In fact, he's an ophthalmologist, but he didn't add, "And by the way, I love your new glasses." No, he proceeded to flay her.

This she was prepared for. All she had to do was endure. His time would run out, and it would be a Democrat's turn, which is to say it would be rest and relaxation time again. Mission accomplished.

Your assessment.
  
pollcode.com free polls 

Ron Johnson — by raising his voice, getting testy, and interrupting — tricks Hillary Clinton into losing her modulation.



My interpretation of this is that Clinton had prepared for this question and practiced getting indignant, but she was not quite ready for the tension cranked up by the wily Wisconsinite Johnson. So the workshopped outrage flipped out over the top. Great theater.

ADDED: "It was theatrics... she didn’t want to answer questions so she makes a big show of it," said Ron Johnson afterwards.

"We will look forward to interrogating [John Kerry] mercilessly.... We will bring back for the only time waterboarding to get the truth out of him."

John McCain makes a torture joke.

Is that okay?
  
pollcode.com free polls 

"An 80-year-old former Australian Catholic priest... bit off a fellow clergyman's ear during a row over a parking spot."

"Thomas Byrne... reportedly told [Fr Thomas Smith, 81] to pick up something he had lost during the brief scuffle. That something turned out to be a part of Smith's ear.... but he did not realise that until he got back to his room and took the object out of his pocket."

At some point, very old people really shouldn't be driving.

Hillary time!

Here. Testifying on Benghazi to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. 

ADDED, 8:31 A.M.: Hillary has a fairly authentic crying quality in her voice as she speaks of embracing the families of those who died in the attack. That comes just after she says in a steely voice that those who serve in countries like Libya know they are going into a dangerous place and cannot work "in a bunker." Risk comes with the territory, and Chris Stevens fully understood where he was going and what he would face.

"So far, few traditional farmers lining up to grow marijuana in Washington state, Colorado."

WaPo reports:
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law....

The Justice Department has not said whether it will try to block the two states from implementing their new laws, passed late last year.....

In addition, marijuana is a crop that can’t be insured, and federal drug law bars banks from knowingly serving the industry....

Both states are in the process of developing rules for a legal marijuana industry....
How can state rules possibly make the industry legal? They can only make chaos that might conceivably move Congress to change the federal law. I don't see that coming any time soon. The Justice Department might say something encouraging, but will the next President's Justice Department stick with whatever position Eric Holder embraces?

Even if you felt sure you wouldn't be prosecuted, would you want to sign up on an official list as someone who is conspicuously committing an ongoing felony? Would you switch from a legal crop and expose yourself like that? And even if some farmers would go ahead and violate the criminal law — presumably because the upside profits are high — does the inability to buy crop insurance and use banks wreck the whole idea?
Dozens of marijuana experts, who have been growing plants for medical use or in secret for illegal use, are educating state officials about the potential for the crop. Probably 95 percent of those people choose to grow their plants indoors, despite higher costs, to control light and temperature, improve quality and increase yields....
Indoor crops generally allow for up to three harvests per season, compared to just one harvest for an outdoor crop, and allow for easier security measures. 
So "traditional farmers" have an entirely separate reason for not responding to the new program. You can't be growing marijuana amber-waves-of-grain-on-the-fruited-plain style. This stuff will be grown in big warehouses, pulling in loads of electricity for intense lighting and heavily guarded with guns! guns! guns!

Oh, but here's a little old lady, "Gail Besemer, who grows flowers and vegetables near Deming, Wash., [who] has expressed interest in a producers’ license."
Besemer already has three hoop houses, which are essentially temporary greenhouses, but could see expanding her business slightly to grow marijuana for a local clientele in northwest Washington.
Slightly! Flowers! Grandma!
However, “I’m concerned about druggies invading my property — ne’er-do-wells invading my property to steal, to get free dope,” she said. “Security would be an issue.”
Where do you get off with that contempt for the consumers of the product you want to grow? Seems to me, these are your people. Don't insult them.
“My family is not particularly excited about me being interested in this. But if someone has an integrated farm, growing a number of different crops, I would think it would be a high profit plant,” she said. “Taxation and security might get in the way of profits, and it might end not being so profitable.”
Yeah, you'd better think about it, lady. There's a reason it's a high profit plant. If it weren't for all these problems, any idiot could grow his own in his house. Take away the obstacles, and it's not a business at all. Which removes half of the attraction for the government, since there won't be anything to tax if there isn't a big rules-heavy structure burdening business. This isn't a game for the little old lady with her flowers and hoop houses. But that's the screwy, sentimental anecdote The Washington Post ties to plant in our brain.

"I think Justice Scalia would correct you and say it was a Saint Thomas More hat, rather than a Sir Thomas More hat."

Said Astro in the comments to the post about the hat Scalia wore to the inauguration.

I responded saying that "the truth is that the reason I used 'Sir' is that it was the caption on the Hans Holbein painting," but the comment got me researching what's the right way to refer to More, and Wikipedia's article begins: "Sir Thomas More... known to Catholics as Saint Thomas More...." So, it seems that the failure to say "Saint" is the shibboleth that reveals that I'm not Catholic. In which case, I don't think Scalia would correct me.

Notice my tendency to reinforce my original choice — which involved little thought — with additional reasons. That's the lawyer instinct. What happened happened, and now that I'm challenged, I furiously brainstorm reasons why it was correct. (What's not lawyer-like is to concede that and display it like this.)

Another reinforcement for my choice is, as I wrote in the comments at the first link:
It's a Sir Thomas More hat, that is, a hat that he wore in his role as a knight. There is no "saint hat," or if there is — maybe you get issued a hat in Heaven — it's not that hat.

It's like, say a cowboy died and was later beatified and we had a picture of him in his cowboy hat. Cowboy Bob. If I adopted his hat, it would be a Cowboy Bob hat, not a St. Bob hat.
I'd like to think Justice Scalia would be intrigued by this language usage question, whether the noun hat calls for the modifier Sir rather than Saint — even for those who revere him as a saint — because it's not a saint hat.

ADDED: Astro did a Google images search for "saint hat," with hilarious results. Before clicking on the link try to guess what 3 types of hats come up most often. It's not this:

Roman Empire-era stones, long thought to be gaming pieces, turn out to be ass-wipers.

Or that's the new theory in the British Medical Journal. It's not as if there's ancient poop on them. They've just decided to present them differently. Instead of hey, kids, the Romans played checkers, it's hey, kids, can you imagine wiping yourself with a rock. And the kids all go EEEWWW!!! which the adults take as a sign of gratitude for the trip to the Fishbourne Roman Palace museum in West Sussex, England.

The museum curator,  Dr. Rob Symmons, said: "I love the idea we've had these in the museum for 50 years being largely ignored and now they are suddenly engaging items you can relate to."

I wonder what other museum labels could be tweaked to pique the imagination of the younger generation.
"They would have probably been quite scratchy to use and I doubt they would be as comfortable as using toilet (paper)," Symmons said. "But in the Roman era it was that or very little else."
Like the Romans were cavemen! From Bill Bryson's wonderful book "At Home: A Short History of Private Life":
The Romans were particularly attached to the combining of evacuation and conversation. Their public latrines generally had twenty seats or more in intimate proximity, and people used them as unselfconsciously as modern people ride a bus. (To answer an inevitable question, a channel of water ran across the floor in front of each row of seats; users dipped sponges attached to sticks into the water for purposes of wiping.) 
Maybe the stones were for taking a first pass, and the sponging followed. But let's not picture this dry scraping. The Romans had water galore. They were up to their asses in water. Bryson writes:
The Romans loved water altogether—one house at Pompeii had thirty taps—and their network of aqueducts provided their principal cities with a superabundance of fresh water. The delivery rate to Rome worked out at an intensely lavish three hundred gallons per head per day, seven or eight times more than the average Roman needs today.
I'm going to posit that the Romans would find our reliance on paper pathetic and Symmons's sniffing untoward.

Anti-abortion man, who yelled from a tree at the Inauguration, is charged with a crime.

Rives Miller Grogan was charged "with violating a previous order to stay away from the U.S. Capitol, and with violating laws that require authorities to 'preserve the peace and secure the Capitol from defacement,' and with 'preventing any portion of the Capitol Grounds and terraces to used [sic] as playgrounds ... to protect the public property, turf and grass from destruction.'
He had just been arrested and charged with disorderly conduct last week, after police said he shouted from the gallery of the U.S. Senate. He’s been convicted five times in the District since 2009, mostly on charges of disorderly conduct and disobeying police....

Police said Grogan once dropped to the ground in the Capitol Rotunda while clutching a doll and screamed in front of 60 visitors. Another time, police said, he paced the Capitol steps holding a bible and shouting, “Stop killing the babies.”....

Officer Shennell S. Antrobus, a U.S. Capitol Police spokesman, said officials decided to leave Grogan in the tree until after the swearing in to avoid disruptions. Police said he came down on his own after five hours.
Some of this reminds me of our tenacious Wisconsin protesters, whose deep convictions and emotive righteousness have led them to specialize in loud annoyingness and innumerable petty violations. Grogan is different from them too. He's driven by religious fervor, and he's not on the left.

What are the limits of protest?

ADDED: This story reminds me of an old Sunday School song:



I remember singing that as a child and feeling embarrassed by how cute the adults found it whenever a child did the spoken-word part, "Zacchaeus, you come down." Are children's songs written to amuse children or to lure children into performances that will amuse adults? If the latter, is it wrong?

Here's the Bible story, in chapter 19 of Luke:
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
Jesus looked with favor on the tax collector, it was his method to conspicuously reach out to those who seemed conspicuously to be sinners when there was a more subtle point that all are sinners and he is reaching out to all of us.
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Lefties and righties can argue about what (if anything) Jesus meant to say about taxation. One might say, as I suggested above, that Zacchaeus was chosen because the people had a stereotype equating tax collection with sin, so he easily became The Sinner, for Jesus to bounce his lesson off of. But you might say that Zacchaeus's conversion shows the importance of taxation when it is used to take accumulated wealth from the rich and to distribute it to the poor. That's not the way the taxation of the time was used, and Zacchaeus had become wealthy through his tax collection work. So he's more like a typical rich man, and he is declared saved because he instantly gave half his possessions to the poor, without regard to whether that wealth was ill-gotten. Zacchaeus makes a second promise, to give quadruple restitution of any ill-gotten gains.

What is the proper tax rate for the rich? The Bible implies that it's 50% and that the spending should go toward alleviating poverty. And that's not a 50% income tax, by the way, Mr. Buffet. That's a wealth tax. You should cough up about $15 billion to get right with God.

January 22, 2013

At the Road-to-Hell Café...

Untitled

... we've got nothing but good intentions.

"On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors d’œuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold."

That's today's sentence from "The Great Gatsby" (in the practically inexplicable Gatsby project).

I must say this sentence almost makes me angry, and I'm going to calm myself by diagramming it...
hams | crowded
Okay. That's it! That's the action in this sentence. Hams crowded. Got that?

"A death sentence handed down in Bali to a British grandmother found guilty of drug trafficking has been condemned by the UK government."

Can you understand why?

Harvard prof isn't advocating gestating a Neanderthal.

He's just saying it's "technically possible someday" and "we need to start talking about it today."
[George M.] Church said he has done perhaps 500 interviews about his research during more than two decades and this is the first one to spiral out of control quite like this.

But he said, “I’m not going to run away. … I want to use it as an educational moment to talk about journalism and technology.”
I bet Neanderthals would be better journalists. Let's get some, pronto, to help us with our endless fuckups.

"Richard Blanco's inaugural poem for Obama is a valiant flop."

"'One Today' has some fine lines, but writing good poetry for a grand national celebration is an impossible feat."

"Tiwanaku was not a violent culture... to expand its reach Tiwanaku became very political creating colonies, trade agreements... and state cults."

This was around 400 A.D., in the place that today is Boliva (today's "History of" country):
The empire continued to grow with no end in sight. William H. Isbell states that "Tiahuanaco underwent a dramatic transformation between AD 600 and 700 that established new monumental standards for civic architecture and greatly increased the resident population." Tiwanaku continued to absorb cultures rather than eradicate them.... The elites gained their status by the surplus of food they gained from all of the regions and then by having the ability to redistribute the food among all the people. This is where the control of llama herds became very significant to Tiwanaku....



Tiwanaku disappeared around AD 1000 because food production, their main source of power, dried up. The land was not inhabited for many years after that.
Later came the Inca and the Spanish.


Pizzaro.

Where are you on the Roe v. Wade matrix?


(From "Why Republicans should stop talking about Roe v. Wade.")

I'm in the 18%. I'm surprised I have so much company!

Justice Scalia was wearing his Sir Thomas More hat.



Did you notice?

"I'm outing this because I have a thick skin and, in the end, speculation on the size of..."

"... my vagina doesn't move me half as much as worrying about the next chapter of my book I'm supposed to write."

Professor Mary Beard pushes back the trolls.

ADDED: On scrolling down at the link, there's an offensive photoshop combining a face with female genitalia. I didn't put a NSFW notation because it's small and doesn't look like much of anything from even a slight distance, but commenters are requesting a NSFW. So there.

Beyoncé lip-synched.

Do you care? Is there some authenticity issue here that matters? If so, why?

(Yo Yo Ma bow-synched at the 2009 Inauguration.)

Things I would only be willing to do only if I had gone deaf.

Go out on one of those boats that take you to look at dolphins or whales. Seriously, the human vocalizations on this video of people getting a look at a "super-pod" of dolphins — "a rare dolphin stampede" — are simply horrifying to me. Even if I were deaf, I would resist this activity, because I don't enjoy intruding on animals, but maybe if you paid me, I'd go along. But I'd rather listen to fingernails on a blackboard than hear human adults squeal over the dolphins and shout inane things like "They're coming over to us" and "I can't believe it."

Linda Greenhouse and Reva Siegel "say one of the things that really politicized the abortion issue was the efforts of those working to re-elect President Richard Nixon in 1972."

"His aides, including future Republican presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan, wanted to lure Northern Catholic voters, who had traditionally voted Democratic, over to the Republican Party."
Nixon "was strongly advised by his strategists ... to make a play for a Northern urban Catholic Democratic vote," says Greenhouse. "A kind of Northern strategy that mirrored the Southern strategy."

In fact, up until then, top Republicans tended to be more in favor of abortion rights than Democrats, including, for much of his first term, Nixon himself....

So, taking his aides' advice, Nixon switched sides on abortion, even reversing an earlier relaxation of an abortion ban in military facilities.

Blind date unblinded.

It was obvious that the scrambled photographs at the Crazy Blind Date app were going to be rearranged, and now it's been done.

It was like solving the old 15 puzzle:

Politicians and their wives... chez Drudge.

Right now, at Drudge, at the top of the middle and left columns:



The message of the juxtaposition seems to be: Powerful political wives dominate their husbands. Or: Bow down to women, O ye men!

Here's the story about Carla and Nicolas moving to — of all places to avoid taxes — the UK. You know taxes are harsh when England seems like the way out. (Didn't the English rock stars use to move to France to avoid taxes? (Back in the days when The Beatles contributed to the protest-song genre with "Taxman.")
[Nicolas Sarkozy] and his former supermodel third wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy would be likely to settle in an affluent district like South Kensington – so becoming the most high profile Gallic celebrity couple in the city.
But the former president is under investigation for corruption in France, and if he does cross the Channel there will be outrage.
Oh, to be relatively young and super high profile! Carla is waving bye-bye. We'll see what her getaway looks like. (How "Gallic" is Carla Bruni? She was born Carla Gilberta Bruni Tedeschi, in Turin, Italy. How coupled is she? She famously cheated on Eric Clapton with Mick Jagger.)

Meanwhile, in America, I've got no criticism of Barack Obama bowing to his wife as he invites her to dance. Or do you think anytime he bows, he calls up the old bowing-to-dictators meme?

"Just hours before he died in a terrorist attack at the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Ambassador Chris Stevens sent a cable to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton..."

"... painting a chaotic, violent portrait of the eastern Libya city and warning that local militias were threatening to pull the security they afforded U.S. officials."
Militia leaders told U.S. officials just two days before the attack that they were angered by U.S. support of a particular candidate for Libyan prime minister and warned “they would not continue to guarantee security in Benghazi, a critical function they asserted they were currently providing,” Stevens wrote in the cable the morning of Sept. 11, 2012.

40 years ago today, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Roe v. Wade.

Justice Blackmun wrote:
The Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy. In a line of decisions, however... the Court has recognized that a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy, does exist under the Constitution. In varying contexts, the Court or individual Justices have, indeed, found at least the roots of that right in the First Amendment.... or in the concept of liberty guaranteed by the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment.... These decisions make it clear that only personal rights that can be deemed "fundamental" or "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty"...  are included in this guarantee of personal privacy....

This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent. Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved. Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases, as in this one, the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved. All these are factors the woman and her responsible physician necessarily will consider in consultation.
Was the state's interest in protecting the unborn child sufficient to permit some regulation? The answer was yes, but not before the "viability" of the unborn. As to whether the killing of that pre-viable entity ought to be seen as the killing of a human being, justifying rescue by the state, the Court refused "to endorse any theory that life, as we recognize it, begins before live birth," since "those trained in... medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus."

Pre-viability, the decision whether to continue with a pregnancy would rest with the woman within whose body the mysterious process was taking place, and it would not be the role of the state to make that decision for her, no matter how firmly the majority of the people believe they have solved the mystery and they know that what she is doing is murdering a child.

January 21, 2013

"Watch Michelle Obama Throw World-Historical Shade at John Boehner."

I can't believe she had to sit next to that guy.

"Her face, above a spotted dress of dark blue crêpe-de-chine, contained no facet or gleam of beauty..."

"... but there was an immediately perceptible vitality about her as if the nerves of her body were continually smouldering."

"The Great Gatsby" is flowing with light and darkness, we've seen time and again in this Gatsby project (where we isolate our sentence of the day and have at it). We can almost always begin with the question: Where is the light? And if not where is the light then: Where is the energy that is like light? Some sentences are just light and darkness chasing each other around. Sometimes we get an overwhelming darkness, but there's a play of light.

Today we have a description of a woman, whose face and body each has its own separate claws clause. There's her face above a spotted dress of dark blue crêpe-de-chine. So the dress, the inanimate thing is the overwhelming darkness. The face, being "above," seems detached...



It's devoid of light — no gleam. None of the gleam that would be beauty. No facet...


So forget that face. How about the body under the dress — the dark, spotted dress?



Here, we find the energy, but it's not light. It's fire. Under the dark dress, there is vitality. It's perceptible, as if we're seeing through the spotted dress down into her nerves, her slowly burning — smouldering — nerves.