December 20, 2014

"'I'm Putting Wings on Pigs Today,' a person believed to be the gunman wrote on Instagram..."

"... in a message posted just three hours before the officers were shot through their front passenger window."
“They Take 1 Of Ours … Let’s Take 2 of Theirs,” the post continued, signing off with, “This May Be My Final Post.”

Mark Bittman shows James Hamblin how to cook spaghetti squash.

Comment at The Atlantic:
"Oh James, I could so teach you to cook. And I love the look of bewilderment on Mark's face when James eats the raw spinach of the box."

"What's your drinking nationality?"

The booze calculator.

(I'm Equatorial Guinea!)

The sound of ice formation...

... on the last day of fall, on Lake Mendota, in the state park of the Gaylord Nelson, where we hiked across stretches of a thousand shades of brown...


We need more ice and more snow and we settle in for the solstice.

ADDED: I don't know about you, but for me, when my clinking ice video ended, YouTube sent me to an ASMR video "Bowl of Ice Cubes, wonderful tapping/rain sounds."

"Who's winning GOP Cuba policy smackdown?"

"Marco Rubio vs. Rand Paul."

"Like many graduate degrees, a Master of Fine Arts carries rising costs and brings limited job prospects. So why are more Americans pursuing one?"

Intro to an Atlantic article quoted by its best-rated comment, which says: "The article doesn't answer its own question. The writer didn't ask even one MFA student, 'So... why are you getting an MFA if you're going to spend your life behind a Starbucks counter?'"

Third best-rated comment: "Next in The Atlantic: Forming a garage band. An increasingly popular, increasingly bad financial decision. Next: Playing minor league sports. An increasingly popular.... Come on. People have dreams, and mostly they fall through. Why pick obsessively on the academic ones."

"The state Government Accountability Board’s top officials proceeded with a secret probe into coordination between Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and conservative political groups for months without authorization..."

"... from the six retired judges who run the board, court records unsealed Friday allege. The documents filed by a target of the investigation also allege that the board voted to end its involvement in the probe in July but that staff continued to work on it."

ADDED: This strikes me as the ultimate in bullshit:
... David Deininger, the retired appeals court judge who chaired the board during the launching of the John Doe investigation, defended [GAB chief counsel Kevin Kennedy and Jonathan Becker, administrator of the agency’s ethics and accountability division].

Deininger... said he didn’t recall exactly when the board was made aware of the investigation, “but something of this magnitude would have been brought to our attention at the earliest opening. They would know this would have been something the board needed to be up to speed on from the get-go." 
He also vouched for Kennedy and Becker, saying impartial administration of election laws was their “modus operandi." "They are professionals and they have always been so," Deininger said.
The GAB is enforcing the letter of the law on its targets. You cannot defend them by saying but they are good people who mean well and who never departed from the spirit of the law. Sticklers must be judged by stickler standards.

"UW-Madison graduate students trump 3 teams, win 'Amazing Race.'"

"The 'Sweet Scientists' team, aptly named for DeJong and Warren’s research topics of candy and ice cream, barely made it to the finale after finishing behind three other teams at the end of last week’s episode. But in a surprise ending, the show kept the duo for the finale, which elicited some frustrated remarks throughout the episode from the other teams."

I'm glad to see a UW team win. I didn't watch because I have tried and failed to enjoy "The Amazing Race." I tried, because it's said to be good. I failed, because it involved scenes of travel difficulties, dealing with airport personnel at ticket counters and so forth, and that's too real.

"They called me an unbeliever for defending democracy, which the Islamic State says is against the Koran."

Said Mohamed Taha Sabri, who is losing support at the House of Peace mosque in Berlin.
“The Islamic State. It is like an invisible arm, coming to poison the wells where our children drink,” Sabri said. “We are losing something precious. We are losing our young people.”...

[T]he Tunisian-born Sabri, who was imprisoned and tortured in the 1980s as a student protester before moving to Germany, called a series of youth meetings. He prominently displayed the flags of Germany and the European Union. His point: Muslims should be proud to live in a thriving Western democracy.

Sabri called the gatherings five days in a row, stringing up new flags each day. But every morning, he said, he arrived to find that some of the youths had taken down both flags before violently shredding them with pocket knives.

"I was disappointed that Lennon got away with giving it to Spector, and even more disappointed with what Spector did to it."

"It has nothing to do with the Beatles at all. ‘Let It Be’ is a bunch of garbage.... [Spector] puked all over it. I’ve never listened to the whole thing, I’ve only listened to the first few bars of some things and said, ‘Oh, forget it.’ It was ridiculously, disgustingly syrupy."

Said the recording engineer and producer Glyn Johns.

Also at the link: Johns on The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and Led Zeppelin.)

December 19, 2014

"On Thursday, we noticed about 1.3 million of Kim Kardashian’s vanished. Rihanna’s decreased by about 1.2 million."

"Katy Perry’s went down 300,000. Even Oprah lost 100,000."

What did they lose?

"[A] single senior officer, who is still in a position of high authority over counterterrorism at the C.I.A.... appears to have been a source of years’ worth of terrible judgment..."

"... with tragic consequences for the United States. Her story runs through the entire report. She dropped the ball when the C.I.A. was given information that might very well have prevented the 9/11 attacks; she gleefully participated in torture sessions afterward; she misinterpreted intelligence in such a way that it sent the C.I.A. on an absurd chase for Al Qaeda sleeper cells in Montana. And then she falsely told congressional overseers that the torture worked.... [S]he has been promoted to the rank of a general in the military... [T]his woman... had supervision over an underling at the agency who failed to share with the F.B.I. the news that two of the future 9/11 hijackers had entered the United States prior to the terrorist attacks...."

From "The Unidentified Queen of Torture," by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker.

ADDED: I wonder what the basis is for using the word "gleefully."

" wanted to paint me as a bad guy, and in general it’s their right to tell the story as they see fit."

"But my emails, right there for all to see, specifically indicated that I wanted the restaurant to refund all customers who had been overcharged. Somehow that key fact ended up totally missing from almost all the media coverage.... From my perspective, the most distressing aspect of the media coverage was how little attention the articles paid to my true motivations."

Said Ben Edelman, the Harvard professor whose email to a restaurant made so many people think he was a world-class asshole.

"We cannot be told we can’t see something by Kim Jong-un, of all fucking people.... we have allowed North Korea to dictate content, and that is just insane."

Said George Clooney.

ALSO: Obama said: "We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States... I would have told [Sony executives], do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks."

Stephen Colbert lays down the mask.

A great conclusion to the great show. 

ADDED: GIFs of the cameos. My thoughts: 1. The first one I saw was the person I like best: Willie Nelson. 2. Samantha Power really wants you to think she's a very fun person, 3. Bill Clinton claims and gets special attention.

Can Oklahoma and Nebraska get the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Colorado from facilitating the commerce in marijuana?

States suing states can file their case directly in the Supreme Court, as you may know. Here's the NYT article about the lawsuit:
“Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states,” the suit says, undermining their marijuana bans, “draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems.”...

Nebraska and Oklahoma’s challenge is aimed more at the commercial side of marijuana legalization, which created new systems of regulations and taxes as well as recreational stores, dispensaries and production facilities that are monitored and licensed by state officials. The suit does not specifically seek to overturn the portion of Amendment 64 that made marijuana legal for personal use and possession, meaning that portions of legalization could survive even if Nebraska and Oklahoma prevail.
States are not obligated to help the federal government enforce its laws, and clearly Colorado can decide to do nothing and let the feds enforce their own law. That's why Nebraska and Oklahoma has focused on the active things Colorado is doing to facilitate the commerce in marijuana.
The lawsuit... accused Colorado officials of participating in a “scheme” that cultivates, packages and distributes marijuana in direct violation of controlled-substances laws while “ignoring every objective embodied in the federal drug control regulation.” ...

While it is against the law to take legally purchased marijuana across state lines, Nebraska and Oklahoma said that Colorado does not require consumers to smoke or eat their marijuana where they buy it, and said that despite purchasing and possession limits, anyone can easily visit several dispensaries and stock up. Some sheriffs in bordering states say they have pulled over drivers and found edibles and marijuana from multiple Colorado retail outlets.
You can read the state's Motion for Leave to File Complain, Complaint, and Brief here.

How many of the articles about Obama and Cuba mentioned cigars?

Like about 11,000.


"Also, we have ACTUAL GIF evidence that she looked absolutely incredible in the moving flesh."

The Justice Department makes a big move on transgender rights.

"Attorney General Holder announced today that the Department of Justice will take the position in litigation that the protection of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends to claims of discrimination based on an individual’s gender identity, including transgender status."
Attorney General Holder informed all Department of Justice component heads and United States Attorneys in a memo that the department will no longer assert that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination based on sex excludes discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender discrimination, reversing a previous Department of Justice position.  Title VII makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate in the employment of an individual “because of such individual’s…sex,” among other protected characteristics.

“This important shift will ensure that the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are extended to those who suffer discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status,” said Attorney General Holder.  “This will help to foster fair and consistent treatment for all claimants.  And it reaffirms the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting the civil rights of all Americans.”

"I believe that the international motion picture audience is racist — in general pictures with an African American lead don’t play well overseas."

"But Sony sometimes seems to disregard that a picture must work well internationally to both maximize returns and reduce risk, especially pics with decent size budgets."

From the leaked Sony email, the remarks of an unnamed producer. This was in the context of explaining why a particular film didn't do well in foreign countries, but the analysis extends to future planning:
"No, I am not saying ‘The Equalizer’ should not have been made or that African American actors should not have been used (I personally think Denzel is the best actor of his generation).... Casting him is saying we’re ok with a double if the picture works.... He’s reliable at the domestic (box office), safe, but has not had a huge success in years. I believe whenever possible the non event pictures, extra ‘bets’ should have a large inherent upside and be made for the right price. Here there isn’t a large inherent upside."
"Double" isn't some movie-industry term, apparently. It's "double" as opposed to "home run." A baseball analogy. That baseball analogy gives way to a gambling analogy, and we can see that the people channeling the money are trying to make money. It's a money-making business, not a lofty art project or a social-change movement.

But let's take a hard look at the old argument: I'm free of racial bias, but my customers are not. That's the argument restaurants used to defend a whites-only policy half a century ago, before Congress made it illegal. Movies, of course, are a form of expression and not places of public accommodation. There can't be any laws relieving movie-makers of the urge to cater to the racial bias of the audiences. That's true even if we think the producers have nothing sincere to say to us and only use expression as a means to an end to get us to hand over our money.

We can withhold our money. The movie business seems to notice when people avoid a movie. That's what the unnamed producer was doing in that leaked email. And yet it's difficult to imagine people staying away from movies they want to see in an effort to contribute to some inchoate message to the film industry that it should treat black actors the same as white actors.

But to see the leaked emails is to get a clearer picture of the decision-making that underlies the product that we are invited to purchase. We don't buy food when we know the factory is squalid.