March 2, 2013

"Scott Walker Compared To Jeffrey Dahmer By Wisconsin Democratic Aide Graeme Zielinski."

Yikes.

Screen shot of the now-deleted tweets here.

"The 23 Best Goat Remixes On The Internet."

#1:



There are 22 more....

Purchase of the day.

From the March 1, 2013 Amazon Associates Earnings Report:

Quick Cable 604050 WSL RESCUE Jump Pack 900 Model (Earnings to the Althouse blog = $4.94)

... and 67 other items purchased — at no additional cost to the buyers — through the Althouse Amazon portal.

Thanks to each and every one whose never-flagging support and energy jumpstarts Althouse's motor each and every day.

"But listen: sometimes being stuck in a sock is just..."

"... a thing you need to go through to get to the next thing."

Listen to the oral argument in the Voting Rights Act case.

Audio here. There's also a summary there of what the case is about, basically whether Congress has the power to continue to require some states, but not others, to get approval from the federal government before they change any election laws. The states are covered based on a formula that looks at how things were in 1972.

I was especially impressed by something Justice Breyer said at 65:42. Transcript (PDF):
If you draw a red line around the States that are in, at least some of those States have a better record than some of the States that are out. So in 1965, well, we have history. We have 200 years or perhaps of slavery. We have 80 years or so of legal segregation. We have had 41 years of this statute. And this statute has helped, a lot. So therefore Congress in 2005 looks back and says don't change horses in the middle of the stream, because we still have a ways to go.

Now the question is, is it rational to do that? And people could differ on that. And one thing to say is, of course this is aimed at States. What do you think the Civil War was about? Of course it was aimed at treating some States differently than others. And at some point that historical and practical sunset/no sunset, renew what worked type of justification runs out. And the question, I think, is has it run out now?

And now you tell me when does it run out? What is the standard for when it runs out? Never? That's something you have heard people worried about. Does it never run out? Or does it run out, but not yet?

Or do we have a clear case where at least it doesn't run out now?
That's a sharp summary to the question and it's fair, though it leans toward upholding what Congress did. I think Breyer framed his question around something Justice Scalia said earlier — which I think is what "you have heard people worried about" refers to. At 50:30 in the audio, Scalia notes that the Court generally leaves "racial questions such as this one... to Congress." But congressional support for reauthorizing the act has increased over the years, even though the need for it has lessened.
[That increased congressional support] is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It's been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes. I don't think there is anything to be gained by any Senator to vote against continuation of this act. And I am fairly confident it will be reenacted in perpetuity unless — unless a court can say it does not comport with the Constitution. You have to show, when you are treating different States differently, that there's a good reason for it.... It's -- it's a concern that this is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress.
Scalia is saying the Court needs to act because there is a dysfunction in the political process that keeps Congress from looking rationally at the actual need for the remedy that made so much sense back in 1965. Breyer's response is: Congress is still in the middle of doing what was once badly needed, it's not obvious that the endpoint has been reached, and therefore it's not time yet for the Court to act.

"Why the 'threat' on Bob Woodward matters."

Kathleen Parker writes:
This is no tempest in a teapot but rather the leak in the dike. Drip by drip, the Obama administration has demonstrated its intolerance for dissent and its contempt for any who stray from the White House script. Yes, all administrations are sensitive to criticism, and all push back when such criticism is deemed unfair or inaccurate. But no president since Richard Nixon has demonstrated such overt contempt for the messenger. And, thanks to technological advances in social media, Obama has been able to bypass traditional watchdogs as no other president has.
Parker's trying to get past the pesky issue of whether Woodward was really threatened.

By the way... tempest in a teapot... leak in the dike.... More of the dreadful reliance on clichés from Washington writers that has been driving me crazy lately.

Here's a rule to try to follow: "Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print."

"Auschwitz and a handful of other concentration camps have come to symbolize the Nazi killing machine in the public consciousness."

"Likewise, the Nazi system for imprisoning Jewish families in hometown ghettos has become associated with a single site — the Warsaw Ghetto, famous for the 1943 uprising. But these sites, infamous though they are, represent only a minuscule fraction of the entire German network, the new research makes painfully clear."

"There’s something very sensuous about it — overripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going to fall into your hands."

There. I've given you another sentence from "The Great Gatsby." I'm doing it now because over there in the "Whenever I think of Indianapolis" post, sydney said "Quick, do a Gatsby post so betamax has an outlet for his literary yearnings." If that makes sense to you, you must be a regular in these "Gatsby" project posts, and you know betamax3000 haunts the comments threads in his distinctly freaky style, which he's resorted to applying to the old "One Day at a Time" TV show in lieu of "The Great Gatsby."

Speaking of Indianapolis, I feel I need to infuse today's "Gatsby" sentence with a little meaning from the previous sentence. You should know that "it" refers to "New York on summer afternoons when every one’s away." That's New York City, of course, not the whole state. People in New York mean New York City when they say "New York." They call the state "New York State" if it's ever worth talking about. They probably never talk about Indianapolis (which probably means "Indiana City").

What kind of sensuous, overripe, funny fruits are falling into your hands... wherever you are when "every one's away"?

"Madison’s communities of color are constantly told by white progressives that people like Governor Scott Walker, radio talk show host Vicki McKenna and blogger Dave Blaska are the enemy."

"While some may agree, they haven’t been the ones silencing, patronizing and marginalizing folks of color in Madison. That distinction belongs to the liberal establishment in this community."

Massachusetts SOS miffed that John Roberts said Massachusetts has "the worst ratio of white voter turnout to African-American voter turnout."

The Chief Justice was questioning  Solicitor General Donald Verrilli in the oral argument about the federal Voting Rights Act (which treats some states differently from others based on voting statistics from 1972). The Chief also pointed out that Mississippi has the "best" ratio.

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin defends his state:
“It’s just disturbing that the chief justice of the United States would spew this kind of misinformation.... He’s wrong, and in fact what’s truly disturbing is not just the doctrinaire way he presented by the assertion, but when we went searching for an data that could substantiate what he was saying, the only thing we could find was a census survey pulled from 2010 … which speaks of noncitizen blacks...We have an immigrant population of black folks and many other folks. Mississippi has no noncitizen blacks, so to reach his conclusion, you have to rely on clearly flawed information.”

The 2010 tables show that Massachusetts does have a high discrepancy between turnout of white and black voters, but is in line with several other states, including Minnesota, Kansas and Washington, which actually has a wider ratio. The states are also similar on registration numbers. Additionally, the margin of error on each of these states’ data is over 10 percentage points, and many states on the list had populations of blacks so small, data wasn’t even available.
I'm sure the Chief was relying on something. Anyone know what it was? In any case, the basic point is intact: There's a disconnect between the problem the act seeks to rectify and the conditions among the states today. 

ADDED: Roberts was apparently referring to material in the dissenting opinion in the court below (the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals).  The underlying data is from the Census Bureau. Nina Totenberg having talked to "Census officials" who explain why their data is unreliable, writes an article that I critique here.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. puts out another pro-gun public service ad.

"Violent crime went up nearly 10% in Milwaukee. Are you the next victim?... You don't have to be, but that's your call."
The sheriff says a "soft on crime court system" puts armed criminals back on area streets, but that residents can get a gun to protect themselves.

"Now it's the crook who has to wonder what you might do," Clarke says. "It could be a great equalizer, but you always have to think survival."
This is similar to a PSA last month that got a lot of attention around the web.

IN THE COMMENTS: Badger Pundit said: "The Milwaukee paper's website to which Ann links turned the audio ad into a video, using a photo of Clarke on a horse, apparently to try to make him look silly.... So I did a version using more macho-looking photos of Clarke, and also including illustrations of the liberals' "catch and release" policy in Milwaukee for crooks, and of the new gun law...":

Did Planet Fitness violate its own "no gymtimidation" rule...

... on this lady who's miffed that they cancelled her membership when she wouldn't get off the phone?
"[The general manager] as enraged,” Asmar said, adding she didn’t want to leave the workout area because her iPad was plugged into the elliptical machine. “I said I’d be off in a minute. He said, ‘I said now.’ His demeanor was very threatening. I said, ‘Oh, please, please step away from me,’ and he continued to say, ‘No, I need you to hang up that phone now or I’m going to cancel your membership.’ ”
This Oh, please, please step away from me lady is the owner of Santoro’s Sicilian Trattoria, so going public with her dispute affects the reputation of her business. Here's a 2009 review of the place in the Boston Globe, which says it's "the sort of place that feels and smells as if you've entered your grandma's kitchen."

What kind of character was your grandma?

"Got to write my paper, going to head over to the coffee shop so I'll stop procrastinating "

Coffee Shop Productivity = today's Urban Dictionary Word of the Day.

"Three Senate Democrats from states where Obama lost in 2012 – and who are up for reelection themselves in 2014..."

"... voted this week against their own party's fix for the 'sequester.' Will such votes hamstring Obama's legislative agenda?"
The GOP's Mitt Romney carried seven states where Senate Democrats will be up for reelection come 2014. Democrats are going to need to protect many of those to keep their Senate majority.

"All of a sudden all I saw was fur, the sky and then the ground."

This is why you need to always have your GoPro helmet cam strapped on:

"A typical workday begins with the alarm clock. You shower, dress, eat and leave the house."

"You walk, drive, bike or train in to work; you chat with your co-workers; you stress over your to-do list; you meet with your boss or underlings; you sit at your desk and stare into the screen. Before you get home, you’ve probably also eaten lunch, run errands, hit the gym or the basketball court, and perhaps visited a friend or a relative."

That's the first paragraph of an article about the problems of retirement. (What happens when you lose all that structure and stress?) But I found that description of the "typical workday" implausible. Even assuming the typical worker has a desk job, I find it hard to believe that on a typical day, a working person slots in exercise, errands, and social calls on the same day.

This narrative of busyness and stress... is that what life is really like?

You know, back in the 1950s and 60s, you would constantly read about the problem of excessive leisure time. In the modern world — with automation and so forth — people would have so much free time it would be a problem. Are we living in the solution to that problem? Who imposed that solution and how?

The Bloomberg diet.

"If you eat less than 2,000 calories you'll lose weight... If you eat more than 2,000 calories, you'll gain weight. Now some things metabolize more quickly than others. And everyone says I should go on this kind of diet or that kind of diet. Don't eat and you'll lose weight."

How does that fit with the "nanny" image? Nannies can get tough.



Anyway, how tall is Mayor Bloomberg? Tall enough to eat 2,000 calories a day (at the age of 71) and not gain weight?

But, as you know, I agree with him. If you're overweight, you are eating too much. You're eating too much for you. Why is it so hard to just eat less? Of course, if you could do it, it would work, but people can't do it. (I think the actual best answer is to go low carb, not to count calories. That's what we do at Meadhouse. )

Smoking marijuana and driving — when is it a crime...

... to a state, like Colorado, that legalizes marijuana?
Prosecutors and some lawmakers have long pushed for laws that would set a strict blood-level limit for THC, the key ingredient in cannabis. A driver over the limit would be deemed guilty of driving under the influence, just as with alcohol....
But what's the level that's comparable to the blood alcohol level that's deemed to be too much impairment? It shouldn't just be arbitrary!
Though research and opinions vary widely, studies have shown that smoking marijuana tends to affect spatial perceptions. Drivers might swerve or follow other cars too closely, as well as lose their concentration and suffer from slowed reaction times....

Every state bars driving under the influence. But convictions in drugged-driving cases generally rely on police officers’ observations rather than blood tests. The White House in a drug policy paper last year called on states to adopt blood-limit laws in an effort to reduce drugged-driving incidents by 10 percent by 2015.
There are so many things that impair driving — sleepiness, distraction, low intelligence — why single out anything (including alcohol) for a special law as opposed to relying on observation of actual impaired driving? You could say single out the things that are measurable in the blood. Or you could say: Alcohol deserves to be singled out the way it is because there is a huge, specific, and much-studied problem.

How are people who use marijuana supposed to know when they're over the limit? With alcohol, the products are labeled and there is at least some rough information about the number of drinks and the amount of time that must pass before you can drive. What if you had a drink with dinner and then couldn't figure out whether it was legal to drive the next morning? Isn't that what will happen with marijuana? You'll have no idea what your blood level is, even days later.

Or will there be little blood test kits so you can check? Will the government provide all sorts of labeling requirements for marijuana? They might make legal marijuana production very expensive by requiring predictable calibration of THC and accurate labeling. Then the product could be very expensive, and lots of sales tax could be collected. Isn't that the real puzzle: how to regulate and collect taxes when you've got a product that already thrives as contraband?

State takeover of...

... Detroit.
While Snyder made his announcement on Wayne State University's campus, a few dozen protesters gathered about two miles away at city hall, clutching signs that read "Snyder, Go Home!" and "This is a takeover!"

Take a sad song and make it... sadder.

"Hey Jude in Minor Scale. Smells Like Teen Spirit in Major Scale. The Final Countdown in Major. Beat It in Major. Losing My Religion in Major."

That's all digital manipulation of the original recording. Presumably, cover versions changing from major to minor or the other way around are very common.

ADDED: My son John IMs me that my presumption is wrong and offers this excellent demonstration of why it's a bad idea:



(If you don't know what that's supposed to sound like, here's the original.)

"Whenever I think of Indianapolis — to this day — I think of that grungy apartment."

"My sister watched a lot of that show (and therefore I was stuck watching it) and I don't remember a single scene that was shot anywhere but that living room."

March 1, 2013

At the Sunset Café...

Untitled

... just now, enjoying the fresh-cut ski tracks in the thick new layer of snow.

"Former University of Wisconsin Female Club Soccer Player Trying out for NFL."

"[Lauren] Silberman will compete against more accomplished or polished college kickers, all hoping to prove they have the leg strength and accuracy worthy of earning an invite to an NFL training camp."

"You read about these Tiger Moms — that’s the opposite of the way we viewed things."

Said Aaron Swartz's father. "Our perspective was — and remains so — that our kids should follow their interests."
Swartz’s parents were quick to recognize their son’s enormous intellect and gave him space to cultivate it.... They often deferred to his judgment and ignored his quirks. If they noted his moodiness, they would do so cryptically, as if afraid to offend....

The Swartzes allowed Aaron to take control of his own education at a young age, and he officially withdrew from high school after ninth grade. Between the Web and a grueling diet of books (Swartz would consume more than 100 per year), there wasn’t much he couldn’t master on his own.
Footnote: "When he was 15, Swartz stumbled across his platonic ideal for a high school education: A Boston Globe story 'about a boy who learned while traveling the country with his father, and is now an assistant professor at MIT,' as Swartz summarized it. 'Amen to that!' he wrote."
His father recalls him holding forth passionately on abstract legal concepts as a child. As an adolescent, he became devoted to the fiction of George Saunders, a writer with strong moral commitments whose idiosyncratic style (Saunders routinely makes up words) appealed to the autodidact in him.
Footnote: "Swartz later became a die-hard David Foster Wallace fan, too. Wallace once remarked that the unwritten 'end' of his masterpiece, Infinite Jest, could be 'projected by the reader somewhere beyond the right frame,' and Swartz spent months mining the text for clues. He eventually knitted them into a plausible conclusion, which he laid out on his blog under a 'gigantic spoiler' alert."

From a TNR article by Noam Scheiber about Aaron Swartz, the computer genius who killed himself last month. Since he killed himself, it's hard to know how to take this information about how he educated himself and how his parents accommodated him, but let's look at this and the contrast to what the opposite, the notorious Tiger Mother everybody was talking about 2 years ago.

"One of the key differences between mistakes that we make in our own lives and mistakes made by governments is that bad consequences force us to correct our own mistakes."

"But government officials cannot admit to making a mistake without jeopardizing their whole careers."
Can you imagine a President of the United States saying to the mothers of America, "I am sorry your sons were killed in a war I never should have gotten us into"?

"A 22-year-old passenger caught carrying 207 pounds of dried caterpillars at London's Gatwick Airport on Saturday..."

"... told customs agents that the insects were meant for personal consumption...."

And: "Caterpillar Stew Found Cooking In Shop In Aubervilliers, France; Police Shut Down Location."

"Location-aware albums" — music apps use GPS to adjust to landmarks...

... as you walk about looking at stuff with your earbuds in (when you could be leaving your earholes open to whatever the actual ambient sound happens to be).

What's wrong with the argument that Bloomberg Businessweek cover isn't racist because the artist is from Peru.

Here's the cover, in yesterday's post, where some commenters were saying something like what I'm seeing at the Columbia Journalism Review:
Sounds to me like it might have been [the artist Andres] Guzman’s decision to make the family members minorities — not Businessweek’s. And I have a hard time believing that a man from Latin America deliberately intended to portray minorities, including Latinos, in a negative light.
Ridiculous. It doesn't matter what Guzman intended or how Guzman feels about things. Bloomberg Businessweek chose to run the illustration on the cover. They are responsible for that decision which had to include judgment about how it would be perceived by potential readers. The point of a magazine cover is to reach out to readers — not to passively convey an illustration that an artist was asked to provide. If what comes in from the artist is going to strike readers as weirdly racial, the editors shouldn't run it. Does the Columbia Journalism Review seriously think otherwise?

Now, it is interesting that we perceive a cartoonish image with 4 black and/or Hispanic caricatures to be saying something about minorities. Maybe we should have evolved to the point where our natural reading of such a cartoon would be generic, but Bloomberg Businessweek's choice of cover illustration took place in the real world that currently exists.

"John Doe probe of Scott Walker office closed with no new charges."

"Sorry for anyone who got their hopes up."

The 301st post in a thread titled "John Doe probe of Walker makes another move." I don't have the energy to comb through the whole thing looking for the most egregious bloodlust, but I'm glad to see it's over.

ADDED: "Out of the left oozed a mixture of disappointment, bitterness and indignation."

"The migrant seems, at first, almost like a hero for being able to carry such an impressive pile."

"But soon, we get the feeling that the objects almost swallow him, and that he’s submerged by the multiplication of the same object — as consumers often are."

Great photos, but let the pictures speak for themselves. That kind of commentary drags down the art.

ADDED: As long as we're looking at photographs, check out these in the International Garden Photographer of the Year finalists.

"I'd come up with a theory that I thought made a tremendous amount of sense... which was that you'd lay next to someone you loved, you wished for a baby..."

"... and then the sperm and the egg met through the pores of your skin. My friend Amanda was like, 'No, a man puts his penis in your vagina,' and I was like, 'This is the worst thing I've ever heard; this is the worst thing that's ever happened to me.' I told my little sister when she was five, so I wouldn’t have to be alone with it. And now she's a lesbian. So there, we've nailed it! That and the fact that I used to make her make out with me through my grandmother's dialysis mask. No, that's not why someone's gay, but it's a funny theory."

Purchase of the day.

Three days, actually.

From the February 26 through February 28, 2013 Amazon Associates Earnings Report:

"The Great Divorce" CD [Audiobook, Unabridged] [Audio CD] C. S. Lewis (Author), Robert Whitfield (Reader)(Earnings to the Althouse blog = $1.36)

... and 251 other items purchased — at no additional cost to the buyers — through the Althouse Amazon portal.

Thanks to all who chose to choose supporting this blog materially and in spirit.

"Rather than showcasing rule of law, the program displayed state control over human life in a manner designed to attract gawkers."

"State-administered violence is no loftier than criminal violence."

NYT article about the reaction to a Chinese TV show covering the death penalty (by lethal injection) for some men convicted of murder.
Some critics said the broadcast, and the subsequent public gloating, displayed an ugly side of China and would hurt its image abroad. To Murong Xuecun, a well-known Chinese author, the program revealed a national psyche, fed by decades of Communist Party propaganda, that craves vengeance for the years of humiliation by foreigners. “It proves that hatred-education still has a market in China,” he said in an interview.

In a commentary posted on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, CCTV defended the program, saying it demonstrated China’s commitment to justice. “There were no glimpses of the execution. We only saw the drug ringleaders’ weaknesses and fear of death,” it said. “In contrast to brutal murder by his gang, the methodical court trial and humane injections have shown the dignity and civilizing effects of rule of law.”

"After a string of five similar winners, ['American Idol'] understandably would prefer a different kind of winner."

"Whether by accident or design, this goal has been guaranteed by a total absence of straight, white males with sex appeal in the top 10."

"Watching Woodward last 2 days is like imagining my idol Mike Schmidt facing live pitching again."

"Perfection gained once is rarely repeated."

Plouffe takes his shot.

"A man was missing early Friday after a large sinkhole opened under the bedroom..."

"... of a house near Tampa and his brother says the man screamed for help...."
“When [the brother] got there, there was no bedroom left,” Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Jessica Damico said. “There was no furniture. All he saw was a piece of the mattress sticking up.”

The brother called 911 and frantically tried to help his brother. An arriving deputy pulled the brother from the still-collapsing house....

“We put engineering equipment into the sinkhole and didn’t see anything compatible with life,” Damico said. But Damico would not say that the man is presumed dead.

"Aviation danger probe after EVERY passenger on flight leaps in the air at the same time..."

"... at 30,000ft for Harlem Shake flash mob."
"You have a weight and balance issue because that many people moving around in an aircraft, you could have the plane potentially losing control and its very, very dangerous...."...

‘I don't see there being any reason why this should cause any trouble. We asked the staff and they said it was safe,’..."

Lawsuit against the hotel that had a corpse in its water tank for perhaps as long at 19 days.

A class action has been filed against Los Angeles' Cecil Hotel.
The Los Angeles Public Health Department immediately tested the water supply, but told the manager they could stay open as long as they provided bottle water and warned guests not to drink the tap water.

The results of the testing showed no harmful bacteria in the tank or the pipes, according to Angelo Bellomo, director of environmental health for the department. Chlorine in the city's water may be the reason it is safe, he said last week....

New guests continued to check into the Cecil in the hours after firefighters removed Lam's body from the water tank. But each guest was asked to sign a waiver releasing the hotel from liability if they become ill.

"You do so at your own risk and peril," the hotel's release said.

"The Sequester Is Not Too Big, It Is Too Stupid."

Headline that sums it up pretty well.

Scott Walker: "There's a difference between being a strong advocate on a given position versus being against someone."

"I think I can say that with some authority, whether you all agree or disagree with the things I've done over the last 2 years, there obviously have been a lot of personal attacks against me and my family. But I've tried to ensure, hopefully, the best thing I've passed on to my children is even in times like that - don't respond in kind. Stand up for your principles, don't back (down) from those, but don't ever make it a personal issue."

"We were obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and ignoring goals and missions."

"I believed if the public, particularly the American public, could see this it could spark a debate on the military and our foreign policy in general [that] might cause society to reconsider the need to engage in counter-terrorism while ignoring the human situation of the people we engaged with every day."

Bradley Manning, pleading guilty.

“Truth for us nowadays is not what is, but what others can be brought to accept.”

Wrote Michel de Montaigne, whose 480th birthday was yesterday.

Also: "The world is nothing but chatter."

February 28, 2013

At the Snow Tree Café...

Untitled

... we've saved you a seat.

I love when Ask Metafilter has already dealt with the question I have.

In this case, it's that I need a good substitute for the word "clusterfuck." I can't just use that word in class, but it does often seem to be the mot juste, and I need a synonym.

I'm glad to see it's come up on Ask Metafilter... not that there is a good answer. Debacle? Trainwreck? Imbroglio?

I think clusterfuck is unique. 

"The Arawaks were guided to Dominica, and other islands of the Caribbean, by the South Equatorial Current from the waters of the Orinoco River."

"These descendants of the early Taínos were overthrown by the Kalinago tribe of the Caribs. The Caribs, who settled here in the 14th century, called the island Waitikubuli, which means 'tall is her body'. Christopher Columbus named the island after the day of the week on which he spotted it - a Sunday ('Doménica' in Italian) - which fell on 3 November 1493 on his second voyage."

In the place that we call Dominica,  today's "History of" county.

"The Obama administration threw its support behind a broad claim for marriage equality on Thursday..."

"... and urged the Supreme Court to rule that voters in California were not entitled to ban same-sex marriage in that state."
The latest brief, filed late Thursday, does not, however, ask the court to declare such bans unconstitutional nationwide; instead, it has focused its argument on Proposition 8...
The identified problem exists only in states that offer domestic partnerships, depriving same-sex couples of the dignity of the term "marriage."

Businessweek "Warns That Minorities May Be Buying Houses Again."

Horrendous magazine cover for which they've issued a sorry-if-you-were-offended apology.

Me too, says Lanny Davis...

... when everybody's talking about Bob Woodward.

Race, education, and conspiracy theories swirling around a Madison School Board election.

This is complicated. Too complicated to begin to read as I'd originally presented the material. So I've changed the post title and written this paragraph to try to ease you into something that will seem very intra-Madison, but it has some big, general themes that outsiders should relate to.

The Cap Times tries to untangle things.
You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to figure out that the Bradley Foundation’s supposed functionary allegedly behind [Ananda] Mirilli’s candidacy is Kaleem Caire, CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison and architect of 2011’s controversial Madison Preparatory Academy proposal for a charter school aimed at African-American children.

"Strains credulity to think that ice releases thousands of illegals..."

"... and no one there ran it up the food chain. Not even a 'heads up?' Hmmm."

The old buzzword "deniability" popped into my head.

ME (out loud): "Deniability. Who do you associate with that word."

MEADE: "Nixon."

ME (having Googled, reading from Wikipedia): "Kennedy. 'Plausible deniability is a term coined by the CIA during the Kennedy administration to describe the withholding of information from senior officials in order to protect them from repercussions in the event that illegal or unpopular activities by the CIA became public knowledge.'"

I love Wikipedia. I love that there's a whole long article on the topic "plausible deniability." The name Nixon comes up — in a list of 6 "major flaws" in the "doctrine." The Nixon-related flaw is:
It rarely worked when invoked; the denials made were rarely plausible and were generally seen through by both the media and the populace. One aspect of the Watergate crisis is the repeated failure of the doctrine of plausible deniability, which the administration repeatedly attempted to use to stop the scandal affecting President Richard Nixon and his aides.
Also at the article, under the heading "other examples":
The Murder of Thomas Becket

King Henry II of England is often said to have stated of Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket, "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?" Becket was indeed murdered, although the king denied that his plea was to be taken in such a way.
We don't live in a monarchy, and efforts to insulate a U.S. President from criticism should fail and will fail if we haven't lost track of our role as citizens.

(And, as noted a few posts ago, these Washington writers are nauseatingly dependent on clichés. The food chain, heads up. "Food chain" isn't even the right cliché. Perino meant the chain of command. That other chain. Django Unchained. Chain of Fools. Chains, my baby's got me locked up in chains. Workers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. Ball and chain. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Chain smoking. Hey, I'm only yanking your chain.)

Apparently, people hate Anne Hathaway.

But why?

Psychology professor says:  "When times are good we prefer actresses with rounder faces...They convey these ideas of fun and youth."

But Hathaway hath a narrow face, which "suggests she would be popular when times are more challenging... As the economy improves, Hathaway...  may just be a reminder of bad times."

The haters have been chided by Lena Dunham (of "Girls" fame):
"Ladies: Anne Hathaway is a feminist and she has amazing teeth. Let's save our bad attitudes for the ones who aren't advancing the cause," Dunham tweeted.
I hope you can tell that's sarcasm. (Dunham is a genius. Interpret her words accordingly.)

I haven't been reading the anti-Hathaway scribblings (and I've never seen Hathaway in anything), but I would simply assume that women reject idealization of someone that thin.

"I'd never met or heard anyone who'd had a laryngectomy."

"I thought, 'Omigod, I make my living on the telephone and now I'm going to sound like Elmer Fudd on Thorazine for the rest of my life.'"

"When Pope Celestine V quit his job in 1294, his successor locked him in prison and kept him there until he died."

"Pope Benedict XVI will not suffer the same sad fate. When he resigns today, not only will he not be jailed, exiled or even sent to a retirement home, he will get to stay in the Vatican."
This worries some Catholics who think having two popes in the house will make things a little crowded. Some even fear there is a nefarious scheme at work that will allow Benedict to exert undue influence on his successor.
Good luck working out the ex-Pope logistics. 

ADDED: "He has no intention of interfering in the position or the decisions or the activity of his successor. But as every member of the church, he says fully that he recognizes the authority of the supreme pastor of the church who will be elected to succeed him."

Richard the Lionheart's heart... preserved in a lead box... analyzed by forensic experts.

The English king died in 1199.
After his death, his body was divided up - a common practice for aristocracy during the Middle Ages.... [The] heart was embalmed and buried in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Rouen....

The heart, which was wrapped in linen, also had traces of myrtle, daisy, mint and possibly lime...

"That consciousness of using very high-quality herbs and spices and other materials that are much sought after and rare does add to that sense of it being Christ-like in its quality... Medieval kings were thought to represent the divine on Earth - they were set apart form other lay people and regarded as special and different...."

The Very Senior White House Person who threatened Bob Woodward was Gene Sperling, economic adviser to the President.

Politico reveals the name and presents the text of the email:
I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today. My bad. 
So there's also that conversation, which involved yelling, and we don't have the transcript of it.
I do understand your problems with a couple of our statements in the fall — but feel on the other hand that you focus on a few specific trees that gives a very wrong perception of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here.

But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post. 
These Washington folk are fond of clichés — moving the goal posts, forest for the trees, seeing eye to eye. I would lose my mind!
I know you may not believe this...
As a reader, I translate that into I don't even believe what I'm about to say myself.
... but as a friend...
More filler and one more thing that's not believable, but maybe there's a Washington kind of "friendship" that we outsiders don't quite get.
... I think you will regret staking out that claim. The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand barain [sic] with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start....
If "I think you will regret" is supposed to be the threatening part, the accusation is weak. Sperling is bullshitting — blathering the administration's position wordily — but only explicitly saying Woodwood is wrong and predicting that Woodward will ultimately agree that the President didn't "move the goalposts." But I didn't hear the tone and content of the earlier discussion. And Sperling's apology and subsequent verbosity — I'm eliding a chunk of it — suggest that he knows he crossed a line.

The email ends:
Not out to argue and argue on this latter point.
Which of course he just did.
Just my sincere advice. Your call obviously.

My apologies again for raising my voice on the call with you. Feel bad about that and truly apologize.
That sounds pretty meek, but — again — implies that he was awful earlier.

Here's Woodward's response:
Gene: You do not ever have to apologize to me. You get wound up because you are making your points and you believe them. This is all part of a serious discussion. I for one welcome a little heat; there should more given the importance. I also welcome your personal advice. I am listening. I know you lived all this. My partial advantage is that I talked extensively with all involved...
So, Woodward is conciliatory and seemingly all about maintaining his continued access to Sperling. What happened next that motivated Woodward to go on TV and say he was threatened and that it was "madness"?

Woodward is a master at this game, so let's figure out what he's doing. He said he welcomes a little heat. Then he makes some big heat of his own. Why?

The return of Guido, the Italian Sausage.

"The hot sausage reportedly was dropped off at TJ Ryan's bar in Cedarburg."
Two men - one wearing a hoodie pulled tight over his face - lugged the larger-than-life link into the bar just before 8 p.m. Wednesday, plopped him on a bar stool and warned staff, "You did not see anything," said bartender Jen Mohney.

February 27, 2013

"Are there any atoms in my body that used to belong to Abe Lincoln? What about Hitler?"

"In other words, do particles of matter on earth get mixed so well by natural processes that when we die, our particles are evenly distributed over the whole world, a little bit everywhere? Are we made of everyone?"

"The Genius of America" — a 30-foot mural that's been hidden behind a curtain.

Because a figure in the lower right corner was deemed offensive.
But late last year, the department... decided to delicately pull back the curtain — for a single hour, once a month — to allow people to make up their own minds....

Not a single objection was raised, which... might offer proof that “over the last decade and a half our sensibilities... have evolved.”

"Is this the way you're meant to interact with other people? It's kind of emasculating."

"Is this what you're meant to do with your body?"

Woodward's gone rogue!

"A 'Very Senior' White House Person Warned Me I'd 'Regret' What I'm Doing."

"Forms leaned together in the taxis as they waited, and voices sang, and there was laughter from unheard jokes, and lighted cigarettes outlined unintelligible gestures inside."

Today's "Gatsby" sentence. It almost feels as though we've seen this one already. I had to check to make sure it was new. It has that visual obscurity, that life slightly out of reach, that we feel we've seen so many times.

"Together with northern Somalia, Eritrea and the Red Sea coast of Sudan, Djibouti is considered the most likely location of the land known to the ancient Egyptians as..."

"Punt (or "Ta Netjeru", meaning "God's Land"), whose first mention dates to the 25th century BC."



Djibouti is today's "History of" country.

Kerry: "And now I will speak in English, because otherwise I would not be allowed to return back home."

A good joke or disgusting condescension? 



(I loathe Kerry, but I actually love hearing him French it up big time. Quelle accent!)

Did the Manskis target Ananda Mirilli?

This is very intra-Madison, but worth paying attention to. David Blaska reports, based on talking to Mirilli, that Sarah Manski was recruited to run against Mirilli and "the Manskis spread a rumor that [Mirilli] was recruited by the Great Right Conspiracy to run as a stalking horse for school vouchers."
Forty-eight hours after taking out the troublesome minority candidate – her job accomplished – Sarah Manski withdrew from the race, assured that the school board would appoint “somebody good” if it came to that....

The Manski campaign was fueled by plenty of big-name Democrats, including the Democrat(ic) leaders in the Wisconsin State Assembly and Senate, Peter Barca and Chris Larson, even though they’re from Kenosha and Milwaukee, respectively....

"Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting there and saying ‘Oh, by the way, I can’t do this because of some budget document?’ "

"Or George W. Bush saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to invade Iraq because I can’t get the aircraft carriers I need’ or even Bill Clinton saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to attack Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters,’ as he did when Clinton was president because of some budget document? Under the Constitution, the president is commander-in-chief and employs the force. And so we now have the president going out because of this piece of paper and this agreement, I can’t do what I need to do to protect the country. That’s a kind of madness that I haven’t seen in a long time."

At the New Snow Café...

Untitled

... your path is clear.

"White House was not involved in ICE's decision to release detainees..."

Carney says.

White House teflon, more slippery than ICE.

"Gatsby, Galbraith and the Myth of Coolidge’s Crash."

By Amity Shlaes (who has a new book on Coolidge):
The corollary to the “The Great Gatsby” in the literature of economics is another old “great,” “The Great Crash 1929,” by the economist John Kenneth Galbraith. Galbraith’s narrative, like Fitzgerald’s, is subtle, conjuring complex characters. Yet the effect of both books is the same: to display the 1920s as a decade full of false numbers and false people, reckless pilots who caused an economic wreck so catastrophic it necessitated 10 years of Depression.

Oh, no! They lost the Italian Sausage!

"The Journal Sentinel says that someone wearing the [Milwaukee Brewers] sausage costume went 'barhopping in Cedarburg' after someone stole it from the Cedarburg Winter Festival."



ADDED: His name is Guido.

"[A] majority of the Court seems committed to invalidating Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act..."

Writes Tom Goldstein after the oral argument in the Supreme Court today:
The vote seems quite likely to be five to four. The more liberal members pressed both the narrow argument that an Alabama county was not a proper plaintiff because it inevitably would be covered and the broader argument that there was a sufficient record to justify the current formula. But the more conservative majority was plainly not persuaded by either point. It is unlikely that the Court will write an opinion forbidding a preclearance regime. But it may be difficult politically for Congress to enact a new measure.
Adam Liptak recounts the "tough questioning... from the Supreme Court’s more conservative members":
Justice Antonin Scalia called the provision, which requires nine states, mostly in the South, to get federal permission before changing voting procedures, a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked a skeptical question about whether people in the South are more racist than those in the North. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked how much longer Alabama must live “under the trusteeship of the United States government.”

The court’s more liberal members, citing data and history, said Congress remained entitled to make the judgment that the provision was still needed in the covered jurisdictions.

“It’s an old disease,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer said of efforts to thwart minority voting. “It’s gotten a lot better. A lot better. But it’s still there.”
I look forward to reading the transcript later today. The issue isn't whether there are still some racial inequities in voting procedures, but whether federal law can continue to treat some states differently from others based on a calculation using statistics from 1972.

ADDED: Here's the transcript (PDF). I'll extract some good parts when I can.

"If schoolteachers were overwhelmingly male and girls were suffering as a result..."

"... there would be a national outcry and Title IX-style gender equity legislation would be touted."

We expect males to solve their own problems. There's no tradition of helping and help-seeking as there is with females. Ironically, that tradition of helping females is patronizing and paternalistic. Whether it's good for government to serve female interests like that or not, it's hard to transfer that nurturing attention onto boys. Is portraying boys as victims good for boys? It's especially problematic if you are going to disparage the female teachers:
It seems that teachers -- overwhelmingly female -- just might be prejudiced against boys and it's hurting their grades.
Might be...

By the way, the egregious example of prejudice against boys that I've seen came from a male teacher. It was exactly the kind of stereotyping of boyish behavior that the author of the linked article — Instapundit — is talking about.

Make no mistake: I think there is a problem with boys in school. But what is the solution?

Here's a hypothetical I made up for discussing the problem in my law school constitutional law class. In a place I call Gendertopia, where policy is based scientific research indicating that there are male and female gendered learning styles, there's a plan for 2 high schools, both of which will receive equal resources. The male-style school will have labs, contests, aggressive sports, and strict discipline from the teachers. Music class is all about using Apple Logic Pro 9. The female model school has group projects and mutual tutoring, positive reinforcement and self-esteem, yoga and dance classes, and — for music — a strings program. Violins, violas, and cellos are distributed.

Do you like my solution? (Don't assume all the boys go to one school and all the girls go to the other school.)

"There were moments of joy and light but also moments that were not easy..."

"... there were moments, as there were throughout the history of the Church, when the seas were rough and the wind blew against us and it seemed that the Lord was sleeping."

A last message as Pope, from the man who, starting tomorrow, will be titled Pope Emeritus.

IN THE COMMENTS: EDH said:
Quit your complainin'!

It's not like he was married to Jennifer Garner. 

"Why Are Teen Pregnancy Rates So Low in North Dakota? Fracking."

Headline from a story that is not purveying some environmentalist scare.
How does North Dakota do it? “It’s not by having such great sex ed, contraception access, and abortion providers,” Guttmacher senior researcher Laura Lindberg told me, listing off solutions favored in more liberal states. No—North Dakota has one Planned Parenthood in a 700,000 square-mile state. Seventy-five percent of North Dakotans live in counties with no abortion provider. State law mandates abstinence-only education in its schools....
The scare is for progressives who want to believe their anti-teen-pregnancy policies work best. So it can't be that all the policies they've opposed — abstinence only education! — actually work. The theory is presented that North Dakota — with all that fracking — has a booming economy and females delay pregnancy when economic prospects are high (and when there's a plentiful supply of men to choose from).

Now, here's the craftily written last paragraph of the article (which appears at Slate and The Washington Post):
Add it all up—a sparsely-populated state heavy in white men, low in sex education, and bursting with oil—and you don’t find many helpful clues for crafting national policy....
It's important for progressives to exclude the good results in North Dakota, which call into question whether the progressive policies are the correct policies. Time to quote a professor:
“North Dakota is just off-the-charts, demographically,” says June Carbone, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and co-author of Red Families vs. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture. The state may prove that white, middle-class teens will probably do OK in the absence of comprehensive sex ed and well-funded reproductive health centers, as “they’ll learn from their families, their peers, their doctors, and the internet.” But that doesn’t change the fact that “the pernicious impact of abstinence-only education is its combination with poverty,” Carbone says. “The best contraceptive has always been a promising future, and North Dakota is one of the few places in the United States right now that is booming."
Off-the-charts, demographically... white, middle-class teens will probably do OK... I can think of a way to translate that into blunter language that would — speaking of scary — sound really awful.

What Ben Affleck said about marriage at the Oscars and why people are criticizing him.

Accepting the award for Best Picture, he said (addressing his wife):
"I want to thank you for working on our marriage for 10 Christmases. It’s good, it is work, but it’s the best kind of work, and there’s no one I’d rather work with."
What's wrong with that?
The criticism centers around this statement as lacking in cuteness, and focusing on the negative. It wasn’t the “right forum” for this type of declaration, it was a possible indicator that “something is wrong” in the marriage, he should have just stuck to “I love you and adore you and you’re perfect” -- basically whining that a major Hollywood star was uncomfortably honest about his relationship and said overly blunt things about marriage in one of the most public forums on the planet.
Obviously, that's a summary from someone who doesn't agree with the criticism.

The critics are imagining themselves in the position of the wife and thinking they'd want to hear a nice compliment. But I bet Affleck planned his speech, with the help of his wife Jennifer Garner, and that the 2 of them decided they had an excellent opportunity to speak to everyone about marriage and this was the message they wanted to give: Work on it everyone. We — the pretty people, who seem so ideal — we have to work on it and we do work on it.

The line is crafted. 10 years was edited into 10 Christmases. It's been years and it's included family traditions and deep values that take a lot of attention. The first sentence creates some tension. Is he saying that the wife took care of the home front, making his life stable and pleasurable, while he went out in the world and furthered his career? The second sentence prolongs the tension — It’s good, it is work, but it’s the best kind of work — and we finally get to the resolution: there’s no one I’d rather work with. That means he is also doing this work. And that's subtly stated. He didn't praise himself as he said those last few words which reveal that he is a partner in the work. It's all carefully about her.

Well, there's also the "no one" — the nonexistent person he would prefer to "work with," that is, to have a marriage with, because it's marriage that equals work. The temptation of adultery is that it looks like a vacation from a marriage that seems like work. Imagine the opportunities strewn in front of Ben Affleck. There's a twist on that last line that creates anxiety for the sensitive listener: There's no one other than Jennifer that he'd like to work with (be in a marriage with), but does he ever play?

Judge by day, stand-up comedian at night — not acceptable under state ethics rules?

Part-time municipal judge Vince Sicari appeals to the Supreme Court of New Jersey to overturn the decision of the state ethics committee, which found an ethics violation.
Kim D. Ringler of the state attorney general's office argued in favor of the ban, saying municipal judges represent the most frequent contact the public has with the justice system. Some of the characters Sicari has depicted on TV could confuse the public and reflect badly on the judiciary, she said.

"His actions detract from the dignity of his judicial office and may reflect adversely on the judge's impartiality," Ringler said of Sicari's performances....

Sicari makes $13,000 a year as a part-time judge... He never cracks jokes on the bench and never lets on that he moonlights as a comic, [his lawyer] said. On stage, he doesn't touch lawyer jokes, the lawyer said.

On Tuesday, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner questioned whether Sicari's comedic routines touched on topics considered commonplace in the comedy world, including "remarks demeaning individuals on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socio-economic status," which are prohibited under judge's rules of conduct.

Britcher said Tuesday that much of Sicari's comedy is derived from personal observations outside of work, such as his upbringing as an Italian Catholic.

On Monday night, Sicari headlined at Caroline's comedy club in New York and brought down the house with his acerbic takes on current events, including the scandals surrounding Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorius. None of the jokes targeted the legal profession, but his humor did touch on the categories Rabner mentioned.
He headlined at Caroline's comedy club and he's not even tapping the material he must have in his head about lawyers? What a drag it is to be a judge! The requirement of sobriety is easy for some, a terrible burden for others.

I hope Sicari wins his case, but if he loses, I hope he dumps his day job and lets us hear all the lawyer jokes he's been keeping to himself in his effort to avoid confusing the public and reflecting badly on the judiciary. If you're really good, Mr. Sicari, bust loose and confuse the hell out of us with all the bad reflections you've got.
Several justices questioned whether the public had the ability to separate Sicari's position as a judge from roles he has played on the ABC hidden camera show "What Would You Do?" in which he has portrayed homophobic and racist characters.

Associate Justice Anne M. Patterson asked about a person who watches such a skit on TV and then comes into court for a traffic ticket hearing. "Is that person going to have their confidence in the dignity of the judiciary affected?" Patterson asked.

Ringler, arguing that the roles of judge and comedian are incompatible, cited the example of the actor Larry Hagman, who was said to have been berated in public by fans who associated him with his role as the conniving J.R. Ewing in the long-running television series "Dallas."
Oh, no. People are dumb, and people must go before judges....

"Supreme Court Weighs Future Of Voting Rights Act."

Nina Totenberg reports on the case that is up for oral argument this morning.
The provision at issue in Wednesday's case applies only to specific parts of the country where discriminatory voting procedures were once rampant. It covers all of nine states, mainly in the South, plus parts of seven other states. To head off discriminatory voting procedures before they happen, the law requires covered areas to get approval from federal officials before changes can take place. So, for example, if an Alabama town wants to change polling places, or to change from an elected board to an appointed board, or to annex another part of the county, it has to first get permission from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington, D.C.

Congress came up with the formula in 1965 to cover areas of the country that had a history of blatant, even violent, discrimination in voting; but the formula has not been changed since 1975, and it still relies on election data from 1972. That's the crux of the issue before the court now: Whether times have changed so much that Congress, in reauthorizing the law in 2006 without updating the formula, violated the Constitution.
The congressional vote in 2006 was overwhelmingly and astonishingly bipartisan, with the Senate voting unanimously to extend the law and the House voting 390-to-33.
Are you so easily astonished? Politically, it's hard to vote against this law, with its dramatic historic momentum. But the Court needs to address problem of treating some states differently from others, relying on a formula that uses statistics from 1972.
Under the law, any jurisdiction with a clean record for 10 years could bail out, and some have done just that. There is also a provision to bail in jurisdictions that can be shown in court to have consistently misbehaved. But basically the law was unchanged — all the areas that had been subject to preclearance before 2006 still were — and Congress simply extended it for another 25 years.

"Aaron Swartz Was Right."

"The current academic publishing system is prettied-up extortion. He defied it, and the rest of us should too."

I'd like to read that article, but it's in The Chronicle of Higher Education, and a subscription is needed for access.

Ironically.

ADDED: From the article (by Peter Ludlow):
If anything, Swartz's ["Guerilla Open Access Manifesto,"] understates the egregiousness with which this theft of public culture has been allowed to happen....

[T]he articles in JSTOR were written with government support—either through agencies like the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, through state-financed educational institutions, or through the tuition of students and the donations of alumni.

Once a student graduates from her college she no longer has access to JSTOR—even though her tuition supported the research that went into the data represented there. She may go on to be a generous donor to her college and still not have access to JSTOR. You have to be a faculty member or student to have access, even though, to some degree, everyone helped pay for that research....

Until academics get their acts together and start using new modes of publication, we need to recognize that actions like Aaron Swartz's civil disobedience are legitimate. They are attempts to liberate knowledge that rightly belongs to all of us but that has been acquired by academic publishers through tens of thousands of contracts of adhesion and then bottled up and released for exorbitant fees in what functionally amounts to an extortion racket.

When Swartz wrote his manifesto he pulled no punches, claiming that all of us with access to these databases have not just the right but the responsibility to liberate this information and supply it to those who are not as information-wealthy....

Aaron Swartz's act of hacktivism was an act of resistance to a corrupt system that has subverted distribution of the most important product of the academy—knowledge. Until the academy finally rectifies this situation, our best hope is that there will be many more Aaron Swartz-type activists to remind us how unconscionable the current situation is, and how important it is that we change it.
Much more at the link, if you can get in there.

February 26, 2013

"Ever wished you could hear the Wonkbloggers just…talking?"

Mmmm. 

No.

I wish I could unhear you just... talking?

Quit talking like that!

What the hell is going on in our culture?

"I am tired of being called a shrieking harridan for pointing out inequalities so tangible and blatant that they are regularly codified into law..."

" I am tired of being told to provide documentation of inequality...."
As though feminist academics haven't filled books (decades of books) with answers to that shit already.... I am so fucking fatigued by this anti-intellectual repetitive shell game...

A famous man making sexist jokes on a primetime awards show watched by millions of people is so banal and status-quo in our culture, that to me—a woman professionally committed to detecting and calling bullshit on sexism—it just feels like a drop in the bucket. Luckily, there's nothing better than a depressing dose of apathy to remind you to FUCK THE BUCKET....
Just some item about the Academy Awards show over at Jezebel. I thought you should know.

"Rand Paul Explains His Surprise Vote For Chuck Hagel."

"The president gets to choose political appointees."

Yes. Exactly. Torment them. And then give the President what he wants.

And hold him accountable for the consequences.

"The Danish people were amongst those known as the Vikings during the 8th–11th centuries...."

"The Danish Vikings were most active in Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy where they raided, conquered and settled (their earliest settlements included sites in the Danelaw, Ireland and Normandy)...."
Paris was besieged and the Loire Valley devastated during the 10th century. One group of Danes were granted permission to settle in northwestern France under the condition that they defend the place from future attacks. As a result, the region became known as "Normandy" and it was the descendants of these settlers who conquered England in 1066.

"An improved SAT will strongly focus on the core knowledge and skills that evidence shows are most important to prepare students for the rigors of college and career."

Oh, really? 

And what will that be — writing godawful sentences like that one?

These powerful experts attempt to explain their new project. Can you understand what they are talking about? They claim they have "three broad objectives":

"Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Surveillance Law."

"In a 5-to-4 decision that broke along ideological lines, the Supreme Court on Tuesday turned back a challenge to a federal law that authorized intercepting international communications involving Americans."

This was a predictable decision based on existing standing doctrine.

Why shouldn't shoes look like...

... feet?

"We have a whole press corps that doesn’t take Obama on... we’re in a period where the press has no respect."

"Woodward’s sort of the exception, but I’m uncomfortable with the idea that we turn reporters into budget negotiators or blame assessors."

Purchase of the day.

From the February 25, 2013 Amazon Associates Earnings Report:

"Marineland Penguin 200B/350B/170B/330B Rite-Size C Filter Cartridge 6 pk "(Earnings to the Althouse blog = $2.55)

... and 98 other items purchased — at no additional cost to the buyers — through the Althouse Amazon portal.

Thanks to all who support this blog by not letting it tank.

Oh, and...

"Obama plans to 'listen,' not present Mideast peace plan: Kerry."

Don't present. Vote present.

Actually, I'm being unfair. SOS Kerry didn't use the old Obama-hater's buzzword "present." He said "sort of plunk":
"We're not going to go and sort of plunk a plan down and tell everybody what they have to do... I want to consult and the president wants to listen."
The insinuation is that those who present actual plans are clods.

Remember how Kerry, when running for President, was always supposed to be the man of nuance, in whose delicate hands we should place the troubles of all of the world? It was supposedly so important to snatch the power out of the clumsy paws of George Bush.

UPDATE: Saying hello to Secretary Nuance: "Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday fired a rocket into Israel for the first time since a cease-fire reached three months ago ended an Israeli offensive against the militant Islamist group Hamas...."

"Kerry defends liberties, says Americans have 'right to be stupid.'"

Lucky for him.

Typical rich bastard, always looking out for his own interests.

"The non-inflammatory antonym for 'libertarian' that you're looking for may be dirigiste."

Noted. (I had used the admittedly inflammatory "fascist.")

The OED defines "dirigisme" as "The policy of state direction and control in economic and social matters." Here are the examples, going back only to 1951:

"As a movie lover, she was honored to present the award and celebrate the artists who inspire us all — especially our young people."

After Michelle Obama got criticized for horning in on the Oscars, her communications director issues that as a response.

I loathe that kind of PR — so saccharine and insincere. Look at all the assertions crammed into that sentence. 1. MO is a movie lover. 2. MO was honored. 3. MO was honored as a movie lover. 4. MO presented the award in order to celebrate the artists. 5. Hollywood movie people are artists. 6. Artists do art for the purpose of inspiring everybody. 7. Hollywood movies are made for the purpose of inspiring people. 8. Hollywood movies actually succeeding in inspiring all of us. 9. Young people are especially inspired by movies.

It's such an inane load of nonsense that it seems low and peevish of me to point out so many distinct elements. It was only ever intended to waft over you as a vague fog of a feeling that something appropriately lofty and bland has been said. That's the only relevant meaning.

Oh, wait. Look at this. Something else is being said. We have here a professor of women’s history from Ohio University who has delved into the study of First Ladies. This comes not from the PR department but from academia. Professor Katherine Jellison says: "I get the feeling that she is for the first time maybe really relaxing and enjoying her celebrityhood."

For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my celebrityhood...

18 foreign tourists plummet to their deaths as a hot air balloon explodes over the ancient Egyptian city of Luxor.

Terrible. Apparently, there was a gust of wind and the gas pipe broke. This attention-grabbing incident is an occasion for looking at the more general question of traveling to Egypt. The attractions are obvious, but the downside is so bad:
Tourism revenues in Egypt dropped 30 percent to $8.8 billion in 2011, following the uprising in January and February. Government officials reported a slight resurgence in those numbers in 2012....

Across the country, anger at Egypt’s newly elected Islamist government and its failure to bring economic and political stability to the country has fueled a rising tide of violent protests and clashes, which further threaten the tourism sector. 
So here's a country where people who are supposedly upset about instability take to the streets and make things even more unstable. Noted. I would never go there. But it's not just the violent protests and the occasional popping balloon:
Fatal road and train accidents are common in Egypt, due to badly maintained infrastructure and poor law enforcement....

[And] an increase in sexual harassment and assault on Egypt’s streets has added to the fears of women travelers.
Terrible. Why does anyone go there? But they do. And they let some local company send them up a thousand feet in the air in a balloon.

"When does a fantasized crime become an actual crime?"

"A federal prosecutor, Randall W. Jackson, told jurors that [New York City police officer Gilberto Valle] had been plotting real crimes to kill actual victims, while Officer Valle’s lawyer, Julia L. Gatto, contended that he had merely been living out deviant fantasies in Internet chat rooms, with no intention of carrying them out."
One outside expert, Joseph V. DeMarco, an Internet lawyer and former head of the cybercrime unit in the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, said in a recent interview that beyond its sensationalism, the Valle case highlighted the fact that there were “dark corners” of the Internet “where a whole range of illegal and immoral conduct takes place, and the general public has only a vague and fleeting knowledge that these places exist.”

"We are professionals, we have to dress nice, but we are paid less than kids who work at McDonald’s."

Says Tammy Williams, a woman pictured in a highly sympathetic light of the front page of the NYT today. The article is "Low Pay at Weight Watchers Stirs Protest as Stars Rake It In." You see, celebrity weight-losers like Jennifer Hudson get big money to lend their credibility to ad campaigns but ladies who hold the little meetings in their homes only make $18 each time they have people over.

Why on earth does Williams think what the stars are paid has anything to do with how much she should be paid? Those stars are selling their reputation and attaching that reputation to a product. Jennifer Hudson = Oscar-winning actress dieting. It costs money to lure someone into making a swap like that.

But more importantly, it's not obvious that the "kids" who work in fast-food restaurants don't deserve more money Williams. Nothing's stopping her from applying for a job at McDonald's. Obviously, she looks down her nose at the noisy, greasy counterwork. She seems to think what she's doing is genteel. That's part of the benefit of the job. She likes it. She can "dress nice," and not in some tacky uniform. She can remain cosseted in her home. She doesn't to  expose herself to the riff-raff that show up for cheeseburgers. That's why she's paid less.

It's absurd to whine about being an oppressed underclass while looking down on workers who do genuinely difficult jobs.

And, by the way, those "kids who work at McDonald's" are engaged in the business of making customers for Weight Watchers. Show some respect!

Hippophagy.

What's so bad about hippophagy?

Which prominent Republicans are signing a Supreme Court brief supporting same-sex marriage?

"The list of signers includes a string of Republican officials and influential thinkers — 75 as of Monday evening — who are not ordinarily associated with gay rights advocacy, including some who are speaking out for the first time and others who have changed their previous positions."
Among them are Meg Whitman, who supported Proposition 8 [a ban on same-sex marriage] when she ran for California governor; Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Richard Hanna of New York; Stephen J. Hadley, a Bush national security adviser; Carlos Gutierrez, a commerce secretary to Mr. Bush; James B. Comey, a top Bush Justice Department official; David A. Stockman, President Ronald Reagan’s first budget director; and Deborah Pryce, a former member of the House Republican leadership from Ohio who is retired from Congress....
Actually, this isn't such an impressive list of names. It seems pretty pathetic to me.

February 25, 2013

Scientists think they've found the lost continent of Mauritia, underneath the Indian Ocean.

It was once part of the supercontinent known as Rodinia, which looked like this as it was breaking up 750 million years ago:



See Mauritia in there between what was on its way to becoming India and what became Madagascar? How do they know it's Mauritia? According to the linked article, it has to do with zircon.



It all fits together.

"Crotches kill."

A Canadian ad advising drivers not to text while driving.
"It’s pretty racy for a Government of Alberta ad, but sex does sell and it did get people’s attention," Edmonton radio personality Rick Lee tells CTV News. "It’s good to see the Government of Alberta is taking the step to connect with younger listeners, and listeners in general, and taking the racy approach is a good way to do it I think."
Oh, Canada.

"For Daisy was young and her artificial world was redolent of orchids and pleasant, cheerful snobbery..."

"... and orchestras which set the rhythm of the year, summing up the sadness and suggestiveness of life in new tunes."

That's today's sentence from "The Great Gatsby."

What kind of flowers does your world — artificial? — smell like? Is your snobbery perky and inoffensive? What kind of musicians are playing the music that sets the rhythm of your year? Assuming your life is sad and suggestive, what new tunes are summing things up for you?

"The Internet in its wisdom has provided GIFs of the best reactions" to the Oscar song-and-dance routine "We Saw Your Boobs"...

"... including Naomi Watts’, perhaps best described as 'the death of a smile'..."



"... and Charlize Theron’s, perhaps best described as 'ice-cold daggers hurled directly from the eyeballs.'"

"The Kingdom of Bohemia was, as the only kingdom in the Holy Roman Empire, a significant regional power during the Middle Ages...."

"In 1212, King Přemysl Ottokar I... extracted the Golden Bull of Sicily (a formal edict) from the emperor, [declaring] that the Czech king would be exempt from all future obligations to the Holy Roman Empire except for participation in imperial councils..." 
King Přemysl Ottokar II earned the nickname "Iron and Golden King" because of his military power and wealth. He acquired Austria, Styria, Carinthia and Carniola, thus spreading the Bohemian territory to the Adriatic Sea. He met his death at the Battle on the Marchfeld in 1278 in a war with his rival, King Rudolph I of Germany. Ottokar's son Wenceslaus II acquired the Polish crown in 1300 for himself and the Hungarian crown for his son. He built a great empire stretching from the Danube river to the Baltic Sea. In 1306, the last king of Přemyslid line was murdered in mysterious circumstances in Olomouc while he was resting.
In the place that is now called the Czech Republic, today's "History of" country.

Purchase of the day.

From the February 24, 2013 Amazon Associates Earnings Report:

Globe-Weis Index Card Storage Drawer, Green (Earnings to the Althouse blog = $2.58)

... and 64 other items purchased — at no additional cost to the buyers — through the Althouse Amazon portal.

Thanks to all you rank and filers who support this blog.

"Notorious prison is transformed into luxury hotel (and guests still sleep in the cells)."

In the Netherlands. 

Nice repurposing! I like it.

HuffPo can't tell the difference between nipples and darts.

Because... look!... darts nipples!!!!

If you see nipples, it's because that's what you want to see.

Maybe Anne Hathaway's breathtaking bust darts will bring back traditional style bust darts. It actually is something that looks new in fashion, and it's fascinatingly retro. In the 50s and 60s — before the "natural look" seemed like a good idea — bodices were constructed with darts.



Remember when a size 14 had a 34" bust measurement?! What's 14 today? Something like 40"?

"Former UNC dean of students says she was forced to underreport sexual assault cases."

"The complaint alleges [Melinda] Manning was told by the University Counsel’s office that the number of sexual assault cases she compiled for 2010 was 'too high' before the total was decreased by three cases without her knowledge...."

At the Snow Bike Café...

Untitled

... keep rolling.

"Miss Wallis, you are young and talented and deserve better. All of us at The Onion are deeply sorry."

The Onion actually apologizes.

There actually is a line that even humor can't cross, and this is evidence of where that line is:

 
We get how this is a joke, but it's aimed at a particular child. Quvenzhané Wallis is the 9-year-old who had a Best Actress nomination for "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Wallis will also star in the new film version of "Annie," taking the part that Willow Smith declined on the ground that she preferring just being a kid.

Speaking of sex jokes aimed at young girls — and speaking of girls named Willow — this reminds me of the way David Letterman had to apologize for making a joke about Willow Palin. (To his credit, Letterman was under the impression that he was making a joke about Bristol Palin who was 18 at the time.)

"Government isn't an all-purpose social-utility machine just waiting to help us make better decisions..."

"... if only we'd be willing to give up our stubborn adherence to the principle of individual autonomy."
Even if we were to set aside all our cherished notions about how liberty is intrinsically good, it would still make sense to be skeptical of whether regulators know or care about the full consequences of their regulations.
And:
If helping people involves insulating them from the natural consequences of their actions, this could "nudge" them to be more irrational. For instance, everyone knows that students sometimes act irrationally: they procrastinate, they write substandard papers when they're capable of doing better, they turn work in late, etc. Given these realities, it's an open question how teachers should nudge students to do less of this kind of thing. The teacher who's willing to give any grade from an A+ to an F- might be more effective than the teacher who gives everyone a B+ or A-.
"Nudge" is in quotes because the author of the linked post — disclosure:  he's my son — is talking about an article — which we discussed recently — written by Cass Sunstein, who's made "nudge" his buzzword.

I wonder if the tendency to lean libertarian or fascist has more to do with how much you love autonomy or more to do with how much you trust government.

(Sorry about writing "libertarian or fascist." I know it's inflammatory. I was going to put "right or left," but it just didn't make sense. Some righties are out to control us, and some lefties — especially on some issues — love autonomy.)

"Can You Find the 'Savage' Sequester Cuts?"

Dan Mitchell savages the inane media hype about the sequester and provides this graphic:



(Via Instapundit.)

The completely inappropriate use of Michelle Obama — piped in from the White House — to announce the Best Picture Oscar.

Wow. I'm just seeing this now. How awkward. I was embarrassed to watch the clip. Jack Nicholson — the greatest actor of the modern era (or something) — comes out as if he's going to announce the award, observes that it's traditionally one presenter who does the announcement, then throws it to a White House feed where it's Michelle Obama, dressed up in her ball gown, in the company of White House toadies in tuxes. And then "Lincoln" doesn't even win, so we don't get the stunning climax of all of history that was what the producers may have thought they were setting up.

Abysmal.

IN THE COMMENTS: Drago said: "Those aren't 'toadies.' Those are the military aides assigned to the President. They have no choice but to be there when 'directed.' And those aren't 'tuxes,' those are military dress uniforms." I stand corrected. I'm sorry. I was going to watch the video again to check that detail but there was no scroll bar on the video and I could not put up with watching it in real time. Why were military personnel used as props for an entertainment industry awards show?