April 24, 2014

The NYT mourns its loss of Nate Silver...

... with this tragically striving effort at data-crunching and display.

Scott Walker named one of the world's 100 most influential people (according to Time).

And the write-up is by Chris Christie (who's not).
[Scott Walker's] battle to bring fairness to the taxpayers through commonsense reform of the public-sector collective-bargaining laws brought him scorn from the special interests and a recall election. Despite these threats, he stood tall. His reforms have brought tax reductions to his citizens and economic growth to his state. They have allowed public workers the freedom to choose whether to belong to a union. They have made Wisconsin a better place to live and work.
Doesn't that read like it was written for a children's newspaper?

ADDED: I don't know if Christie wrote that or just agreed to put his name on it, because from what I've seen so far on this Time list, it's all written in that flat, simple tone that assumes the reader has a mental age of about 10. For example: "Holder uses his power to defend Americans’ freedoms and thus our values of democracy and justice."

AND: "How much suffering can human beings tolerate? Unless he starts taking care of his people, the young generalissimo may be the first Kim to find out." And here's "Madeleine Albright" on Putin: "History is filled with aggressors who triumphed for a moment. Then failed." And: "Gray Davis" on Jerry Brown: "No longer the new kid, he’s now the adult in the room — the wise steward of our state’s resources." And: "If Kirsten Gillibrand wants to be a rock star, she’ll be a rock star. But she’d make a great President."

"UW-Madison professors propose making first two years of college free."

"Students could have their first two years of public university paid for by the federal government, according to a plan proposed by University of Wisconsin-Madison professors."

That's the headline and the first sentence of a news article. Somehow that pairing made me laugh.

From the "Happiness" sequence...

... at Dogging Meade.

Madison’s Urban Design Commission approves non-code-compliant "Tiny Houses."

Because the code-violations come from the heart.

"Leave it to Jodie Foster to go and get married and not make a big deal out of it."

"Fact is ... it's pretty clear (Foster has) never felt a need or obligation to make a public declaration, and by getting married she's merely living her life...."

What would Camille Paglia say about Camilla the Duchess's brother?

1. Here's Camille Paglia singing the praises of alcohol. Specifically, she's arguing for lowering the drinking age from 21, which I completely agree with, and I even agree with most of what she says about alcohol's superiority to marijuana (because of its long tradition and its enrichment of the great pleasures of food and conversation). But Paglia goes pretty far. ("Exhilaration, ecstasy and communal vision are the gifts of Dionysus, god of wine. Alcohol’s enhancement of direct face-to-face dialogue is precisely what is needed by today’s technologically agile generation....") It's not that she says nothing about drunkenness. (In fact, she stresses the big problem with the 21-year drinking age: It pushes young people into destructive house-party drinking.) In fact, I've got to say, I pretty much agree with everything she says — including the worry that marijuana "saps energy and willpower and can produce physiological feminization in men."

2. Here's Mark Shand, brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, dead from a door — dead as a doornail, nailed by a door. He was drinking in the posh bar of the Gramercy Park Hotel, which he had to exit, through a revolving door, to smoke a cigarette — the long history of drinking and smoking having been disrupted by the demand that smokers take their disapproved-of habit outdoors. Having left through the revolving door and smoked, it was time to return to his drink, and he never got back in. Somehow the drinking and smoking and door revolving sent him falling onto the sidewalk, forever separated from that drink, gone for good. Is drinking to blame? The law that separates drinking from smoking? The revolution of the door? One more British death in an American revolution. Whatever happened to American freedom, within which a man with a drink and needing a smoke could stay put in his chair and not have to test his alcohol-laden skills in the dangerous door?

"For aspiring community organizers who go to college and then grad school before moving into a job that the government defines as public service, the forgiven debt can be $150,000..."

"... or more, courtesy of the taxpayer. And unlike with some other federal programs, when the government forgives the debt of one of the exalted class of nonprofit or government workers, the do-gooder doesn't have to report it as income to the IRS. Who wouldn't want to pick up $150,000 tax-free?"

Sotomayor's "race-sensitive admissions policies" is not just a euphemism for "affirmative action."

James Taranto notes. It's a euphemism for a euphemism. Which puts Sotomayor on "what cognitive scientist Steven Pinker calls the euphemism treadmill."
A new euphemism is needed because the old one has lost its power to obscure: Its real meaning is too obvious, even though it is unrelated to the literal meanings of either "affirmative" or "action."

Ironically, Sotomayor's new euphemism comes considerably closer than "affirmative action" to being a literal description of the underlying reality. "Admissions policies" is far clearer than "action," and "race-sensitive," unlike "affirmative," at least acknowledges that what's going on has something to do with race.

The word "sensitive" does all the euphemizing work. But it cuts both ways. Defenders of segregation were, in their own way, "sensitive" when it came to race.
"We're all sensitive people," as Marvin Gaye sang in the begging-you-to-do-what-I-want song "Let's Get It On." You're sensitive? Well, I'm sensitive too. He's arguing his case to some woman, whom we can only imagine, a woman who's been resisting his sexual action. She's presumably claimed to be very sensitive. That's why there's that line "We're all sensitive people."

That song is about sex, not race, but you see my point about one side to an argument/conversation making a claim to sensitivity. There's sensitivity all around. We're all sensitive people, with so much to give....

A more common expression than "race-sensitive admissions policies" — and it must be somewhere on that treadmill journey — is "race-conscious admissions policies." Why "sensitive" instead of "conscious"? "Sensitive" connotes feelings of warmth (and irritability), and "conscious" connotes mental clarity and perception. If they're going to talk about when government may take race into account, judges should be speaking about sharply observed and understood facts about the real world. It's called "strict scrutiny" for a reason. "Sensitivity" suggests a more vaguely sourced intuition about how things ought to be, the very stereotypes and prejudicial impulses that strict scrutiny is supposed to preclude.

April 23, 2014

"By using a common four-letter term for sexual intercourse... Lawrence was trying to remove the stain of profanity from plain English words."

Writes the NYT in an obituary for Richard H. Hoggart, the cultural historian who was the star witness in a case about the censorship of "Lady Chatterley's Lover." Hoggart testified in 1960 about why D.H. Lawrence wrote the word "fuck" in 1928, and the NYT still won't print the word in 2014.

But the NYT did print the word "fuck" 4 days ago — as I noted here — in the sentence "Fuck Brooklyn!" which is just some dumb thing a basketball team's general manager yelled:
With A list celebrities, including rappers Drake, Jay-Z and Beyonce, occupying courtside seats, an embarrassing technical malfunction and a jaw-dropping expletive delivered by Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri to thousands of frenzied supporters at a pre-game pep rally, the first game of the NBA postseason offered a little bit over everything.
Why print "fuck" the hurtful, intentionally brutal slam, and not "fuck" the nonmetaphor, used descriptively, with love and artistic force? Have a rule and stick to it. Your rule could be only sometimes, but what rule would justify "fuck" the sports arena epithet over "fuck" a great author's word choice for which free speech advocates fought governments? Perhaps: "Fuck" is fit to print to vividly convey how wrong it is to yell fuck in front of a lady like Beyonce.

As for the other lady, Chatterley, she asked "But what do you believe in?" and he said:
"Yes, I do believe in something. I believe in being warmhearted. I believe especially in being warm-hearted in love, in fucking with a warm heart. I believe if men could fuck with warm hearts, and the women take it warm-heartedly, everything would come all right. It's all this cold-hearted fucking that is death and idiocy."

"But you don't fuck me cold-heartedly," she protested.

"I don't want to fuck you at all. My heart's as cold as cold potatoes just now.... It's a fact!... Anything for a bit of warm-heartedness. But the women don't like it. Even you don't really like it. You like good, sharp, piercing cold-hearted fucking, and then pretending it's all sugar. Where's your tenderness for me? You're as suspicious of me as a cat is of a dog. I tell you it takes two even to be tender and warm-hearted. You love fucking all right: but you want it to be called something grand and mysterious, just to flatter your own self-importance. Your own self-importance is more to you, fifty times more, than any man, or being together with a man.... I'd rather die than do any more cold-hearted fucking."

"Benghazi attack could have been prevented if US hadn't 'switched sides in the War on Terror' and allowed $500 MILLION of weapons to reach al-Qaeda militants, reveals damning report..."

Reports the British paper The Daily Mail.

Be careful with that... The Daily Mail is part of the chain of commerce conspiracy, identified in the Clinton White House "Conspiracy Commerce" Memo of 1995 (PDF).

An awful lot of what seems like scientific information about nutrition deserves to be called "nutritional folklore."

According to George Johnson, who cites extensive research into cancer that has found "little evidence that fruits and vegetables are protective or that fatty foods are bad." Back in 1997, there was a big authoritative review of over 4,000 studies that pushed green vegetables to prevent lung and stomach cancer,  and broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts for thyroid and colon cancer. Onions, tomatoes, garlic, carrots and citrus fruits seemed generally helpful in the fight against cancer. But 10 years later, it was all taken back.

The pro-produce advice had relied on interviewing people about what they remembered eating in the past, and the newer, more rigorous studies used "'prospective' protocols, in which the health of large populations was followed in real time." And:
With even the most rigorous studies, it is hard to adjust for what epidemiologists call confounding factors: Assiduous eaters of fruits and vegetables probably weigh less, exercise more often and are vigilant about their health in other ways...
All this badgering about eating lots of fruits and vegetables, all the cabbage and broccoli we've been pressured to buy and wash and cut up and cook and choke down! There was never good evidence for it. Obviously, it seemed good to people because it fit what we already thought was supposed to be good. But why?!


Let me show you this passage I've remembered for a long time, from James Joyce's "Ulysses" (scroll to line 7825):
Only weggebobbles and fruit.... They say it's healthier. Windandwatery though. Tried it. Keep you on the run all day. Bad as a bloater. Dreams all night.

ADDED: A poll:

How much vegetables would you eat if you found out, for sure, that there was no particular health benefit? (Not counting potatoes!)
pollcode.com free polls 

AND: What is the environmental cost to producing all these vegetables and trucking and flying them about? What of all the money families spend on vegetables, because they've heard the propaganda, money that could be spent on more satisfying, concentrated protein? What of all the torment we've caused schoolkids giving them lunches they hate that leave them hungry and running for the vending machines for junk food? Where is the science?

"D’Souza Case Is Political, Lawyer Says."

Headline at the NYT. Excerpt:
[The lawyer, Benjamin] has filed court papers contending that... there was “good reason for concern” that Mr. D’Souza, the author of the best-selling 2010 book “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” was “selectively targeted for felony prosecution because of his outspoken, vigorous and politically controversial criticism and condemnation” of the president and his administration.

Mr. Brafman said that a review of similar campaign finance violation cases shows many were typically not referred for felony prosecution and where they were, it often took several years. “The speed with which the authorities responded to the conduct in this case is virtually unprecedented,” he wrote.

Shakespeare's 450th birthday.

It's today, presumably.

How will you celebrate? May I recommend searching for some word — search here — and telling us in the comments what word you searched for and what you found that was interesting? I decided to search for "America," and it appears only once in all of Shakespeare, in "The Comedy of Errors." Dromio is describing a woman whose width is the same as her height, so "she is spherical, like a globe," and he can find all the countries on her body. Antipholus proceeds to ask where various countries are. Ireland, according to Dromio, is "in her buttocks: I found it out by the bogs." Scotland is in the palm of the hand, France is in the forehead, England in the chin, Spain was not seen but felt ("hot in her breath")....

"Where America, the Indies?" asks Antipholus, and Dromio says:
Oh, sir, upon her nose all o'er embellished with
rubies, carbuncles, sapphires, declining their rich
aspect to the hot breath of Spain; who sent whole
armadoes of caracks to be ballast at her nose.
There's only one more question: "Where stood Belgia, the Netherlands?" And the punchline answer is "Oh, sir, I did not look so low."

Anyway, America, the nose, seems to be all of the new world, and Spain is sending a fleet of ships to get whatever can be drained out of it. And that's all America was to Shakespeare — a big, pimpled, runny nose... for Spain.

Lots of HBO coming to Amazon Prime video streaming.

Unlimited access all of "The Sopranos," "The Wire," "Deadwood," "Rome," "Six Feet Under,""Eastbound & Down," "Enlightened,"and "Flight of the Conchords," lots of comedy specials and miniseries (e.g., "Band of Brothers" and "John Adams") and much more.

If you don't already have Amazon Prime let me recommend using this Amazon Prime link. Like other Amazon links I put up, it let's you make a contribution to this blog without paying more for something you want to buy anyway. I'm genuinely encouraged by the appreciation for this blog readers have shown by using these links. Thanks to everyone.

How does Sonia Sotomayor really feel about affirmative action?

Instapundit calls attention to Sonia Sotomayor's dissent in yesterday's Schuette case. He links to James Taranto's "First Among Equals: An Orwellian dissent from a muddled ruling" and to my post "The way to get a concurring opinion out of Chief Justice Roberts is to rewrite his famous aphorism." I'd counted 11 repetitions of the phrase "race matters" within a short segment (4 paragraphs) of Sotomayor's very long dissent, and Instapundit quips: "She also repeats the phrase 'race matters' a lot. But then, it does. It’s how she got her job."

You might think, as I initially did, it's wrong to degrade a particular individual's status by saying they only got it through affirmative action. How many times has Clarence Thomas expressed his outrage at that kind of abuse? But then I happened upon The Washington Post's treatment of the Sotomayor dissent (by Robert Barnes) and saw this:
Sotomayor, 59, has spoken extensively about how affirmative action was key to her rise from a public housing project where her parents spoke only Spanish. The search for minorities to diversify student bodies in the 1970s won her invitations and scholarship offers from Ivy League schools she had only just learned existed.

She excelled at Princeton, winning the top undergraduate prize, and went to Yale Law School. But she has drawn diametrically different lessons about the experience than Justice Clarence Thomas, the court’s only African American, who said affirmative action cheapened his Yale Law degree.
So I guess the Instapundit gibe bounces off Sotomayor and hits Clarence Thomas. And why not? Sotomayor is going to vote to uphold affirmative action, even as Thomas consistently votes against it. (Doesn't "vote" look wrong there? Is it too late or too prissy or too unrealistic to say we should scrub "vote" from our speech about the judicial work that's done in group-project form?)

But — as Barnes detected (combing through the 58-page dissent) — Sotomayor has arrived at an aversion to the term "affirmative action." As Barnes puts it:
She even wrote that she was not going to use the term “affirmative action” because of its connotation of “intentional preferential treatment” such as quotas, because the court has outlawed such practices. Instead, she called it a system of “race-sensitive admissions policies.”
She even wrote… What is the function of "even"? Barnes credits Sotomayor with enthusiasm for affirmative action, then encounters her rejection of the term and substitution of a euphemism. The word "even" implies additional enthusiasm, not its opposite. I found that a bit puzzling. Here's the relevant text from Sotomayor's opinion, at footnote 2:
Although the term “affirmative action” is commonly used to describe colleges’ and universities’ use of race in crafting admissions policies, I instead use the term “race-sensitive admissions policies.” Some comprehend the term “affirmative action” as connoting intentional preferential treatment based on race alone—for example, the use of a quota system, whereby a certain proportion of seats in an institution’s incoming class must be set aside for racial minorities; the use of a “points” system, whereby an institution accords a fixed numerical advantage to an applicant because of her race; or the admission of otherwise unqualified students to an institution solely on account of their race. None of this is an accurate description of the practices that public universities are permitted to adopt after this Court’s decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U. S. 306 (2003) . There, we instructed that institutions of higher education could consider race in admissions in only a very limited way in an effort to create a diverse student body. To comport with Grutter, colleges and universities must use race flexibly, id., at 334, and must not maintain a quota, ibid. And even this limited sensitivity to race must be limited in time, id., at 341–343, and must be employed only after “serious, good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives,” id., at 339. Grutter-compliant admissions plans, like the ones in place at Michigan’s institutions, are thus a far cry from affirmative action plans that confer preferential treatment intentionally and solely on the basis of race.
Here is this term — "affirmative action" — composed of 2 very positive words —  "affirmative" and "action" — a term that has been used and defended for decades, and Sotomayor decides it's time for a euphemism? She may perseverate for 58 pages, but that backing off from the traditional term of art shows insecurity in the soundness of the position. In fact, going on for 58 pages — longer than the 4 other opinions combined — can also be regarded as a sign of insecurity.

What if a Supreme Court Justice, writing an opinion upholding the right to abortion, suddenly announced — in a footnote — that she wasn't going to use the word "abortion" anymore, because "some comprehend" it to mean things she thought were incorrect and distracting? Henceforth, she's only going to call it "reproductive freedom."

I'm sure you can think of other examples to make the point that it's a sign of insecurity in the acceptability of the practice. Imagine a 19th-century judge writing an opinion upholding the right to own slaves and dropping a footnote to say he wasn't going to use the term "slavery" anymore, because it set opponents' minds reeling into thoughts he needed to control. He's only going to refer to it as "our peculiar institution."

So… how does Sonia Sotomayor — the Justice chosen for her empathyreally feel about affirmative action?

"Do you have a photo w/ a member of the NYPD? Tweet us & tag it #myNYPD. It may be featured on our Facebook."

Tweeted the New York Police Department, apparently not foreseeing that this bid for good PR would bring responses like this:

April 22, 2014

What's up with the mules?

Okay, I've seen this twice in 2 days as we've driven into work:

What does it mean?!

Meade took the photo, on campus, on University Drive.

"I felt an incredible anxiety—the same anxiety I had felt every day since my diagnosis. Then, like a switch went on..."

"... I went from being anxious to analyzing my anxiety from the outside. I realized that nothing was actually happening to me objectively. It was real because I let it become real. And, right when I had that thought, I saw a cloud of black smoke come out of my body and float away."

A quote from "Prescribing Mushrooms for Anxiety/A New York University research team is using hallucinogenic experiences to help patients come to terms with their mortality."

So what do you think?
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A long NYT obituary for someone whose accomplishment lay in the field of editing Wikipedia.

"'It is a huge loss for Wikipedia,' said Sue Gardner, the executive director of the foundation in San Francisco that runs Wikipedia, who has made a priority of getting more women to edit it. 'She may have been our single biggest contributor on these topics — female authors, women’s history.'"
Ms. Wadewitz defied many of the stereotypes of a Wikipedia editor — young, male, tech-obsessed. But she was typical of Wikipedia editors in “being persnickety, fact-obsessed, citation-obsessed,” Ms. Gardner said.
While Wikipedia is famously the encyclopedia that anyone can edit, the bulk of the unpaid work is done by a relatively small number of people willing to devote the time to do the research, navigate the editing system and learn the community mores.
Adrianne Wadewitz was 37. She died in a fall, rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park.

IN THE COMMENTS: David said (referring to the mockery of a 3rd-year law student who takes school seriously):
This woman probably would have enjoyed the third year of law school. I have stopped being surprised at the high quality of many Wikipedia articles. All these people who love their subjects and are willing to share their knowledge while getting so little credit. Bless them all.
Yes, there are saints on the internet, and they do things like this.