February 26, 2015

"A local man came up and said 'Please — what does this mean?' I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza..."

"... by posting photos on my website — but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens."

"An Italian surgeon is hoping to perform the world’s first human head transplant..."

"... claiming he could have recipients of the radical surgery thinking their own thoughts and speaking with their own voice."

Oh, I know what that looks like. The question is: How much are they paying you?

"Missouri state Auditor Tom Schweich, a leading Republican candidate for governor in 2016, died Thursday in 'an apparent suicide,' police said."

"Schweich, 54, was hospitalized earlier Thursday following a single self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in suburban St. Louis...."

"Thirty-one percent (31%) say the Supreme Court does not put enough limitations on what the government can do."

"This finding is down five points from last June but is still higher than the 27% who felt this way in September 2013. Just 14% say it puts too many limitations on government instead. Thirty-eight percent (38%) says the balance is about right. Seventeen percent (17%) are not sure."

Kids play "Kashmir."

("The Louisville Leopard Percussionists... are a performing ensemble of approximately 55 student musicians, ages 7-12, living in and around Louisville, Kentucky.")

The return of the "Shame!" chant to the Wisconsin state senate.

"#RightToWork passes 17-14, gallery shouting "Shame." #wipolitics" — video at the link.

Here's the "Shame!" chant of February 25, 2011.

The time the marijuana-growing, suicide-committing, cherry-factory-owner turned the local bees red.

"When the sun is a bit down, they glow red in the evenings...They were slightly fluorescent. And it was beautiful," said one bee-keeper in the vicinity of the Dell's marachino-cherry factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn, back in 2010.
[The owner of the factory Arthur] Mondella did not return phone calls seeking comment....

“Bees will forage from any sweet liquid in their flight path for up to three miles,” [said Andrew Coté, the leader of the New York City Beekeepers Association]. While he has not yet visited the factory, he said that the bees might be drinking from its runoff.... Could the tastiest nectar, even close by the hives, compete with the charms of a liquid so abundant, so vibrant and so cloyingly sweet? Perhaps the conundrum raises another disturbing question: If the bees cannot resist those three qualities, what hope do the rest of us have?

A story of the perils of urban farming, this is also a story of the careful two-step of gentrification....
That was 2010. Last Tuesday, "Mr. Mondella, 57, shot and killed himself in his office bathroom just as city investigators were discovering that a marijuana farm lay beneath the factory." That link goes to the NYT, which took me to the Red Bees of Red Hook story with the line "The most controversy the factory had attracted before this came several years ago, when local bees began turning red after feasting on the cherry liquid."

(I linked to The Daily Mail's story in a short post yesterday.)

"When it is not your time to die yet."

"It's a sign!"

"If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?"

"Not a book but a poem, Johnson’s The Vanity of Human Wishes," writes Terry Teachout, who, because he feels like it, is answering the questions that a NYT editor (Pamela Paul) asked of someone else (David Brooks). (Brooks would require the President to read the essay, “Rationalism in Politics,” by Michael Oakeshott.)

You're probably not the President — and if you are: Greetings, my President! — but you can read "Rationalism in Politics" here — "no man can hope to be successful whose reason has become inflexible by surrender to habit or is clouded by the fumes of tradition" — and here's "The Vanity of Human Wishes":

"And while it’s easy — so, so easy — to make fun of a company taking to Twitter to say 'bae' or 'fleek' or #makeithappy..."

"... the absurdity masks a creeping, insidious repositioning of corporate America in public life."

"The argument that the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell lack standing wasn’t conceived by the Barack Obama administration, which didn’t raise the issue in its briefs..."

"... for the case to be argued March 4. It was dreamed up by an enterprising journalist who tracked down the plaintiffs and got the details of their life situations," writes lawprof Noah Feldman in "How the Supreme Court Could Save Obamacare Again."
According to the article by Stephanie Mencimer in Mother Jones, and the flurry of Internet speculation that followed, it’s possible none of the four plaintiffs has been legally affected by having to buy insurance subject to the subsidies involved in the case. As a threshold matter, the justices would have to be able to ascertain this circumstance from the record for the standing issue to arise. The court can’t take judicial notice of investigative journalism, no matter how clever.

Yet if it’s possible to deduce from the record that the plaintiffs qualify for hardship exemptions from paying for insurance, then it’s within the court’s prerogative to consider the issue.
Just one more Obamacare screw-up by the Obama administration. Couldn't even litigate it right.

"There has been much discussion about a media double standard where Republicans are covered differently than Democrats, asked to weigh in on issues the Democrats don't face."

"As a result, when we refuse to take the media's bait, we suffer. I felt it this week when I was asked to weigh in on what other people said and did and what others' beliefs are. If you are looking for answers to those questions, ask those people. I will always choose to focus on what matters to the American people, not what matters to the media."

Writes Scott Walker (in USA Today).

ELSEWHERE: In Politico, Jack Shafer purports to give advice on how to answer the "gotcha" question. He holds up LBJ as a model: "Here you are, alone with the president of the United States and the leader of the free world, and you ask a chicken-shit question like that." Oh, yeah, wouldn't you just love for the Midwestern son of a preacher man to suddenly emit an LBJ-style outburst full of Texas swagger and farm excrement?

And Ron Fournier has a "Defense of Gotcha Questions." He begins:
Years ago, an Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton walked into the state Capitol media room at the end of a hectic legislative session and asked the journalists if we needed anything else from him.  We had asked Clinton questions all day. We were tired. We wanted him to shut up and go home.

So I said, "Yes, governor. I know you don't know much about baseball, but when there's a pop-up behind the third baseman, whose ball is it?" The other reporters snickered. Finally, they figured: a gotcha question Clinton wouldn't answer.
Bill came up with an answer that seemed amiable and made him look good. But I don't think that's a gotcha question. It's just a casual, irrelevant question that might bring out some personality. It's the sort of question Barbara Walters used to be associated with.... What kind of tree are you?

"One thing those of us who are pro-union need to ask ourselves is why so few Americans belong to unions presently."

"It is facile, lazy, and simply wrong to blame the anti-union efforts of Reagan, Walker, the Kochs, Whole Foods, Walmart and the like. If you say it is the anti-union policies of the past thirty five years, then you are simply ignoring the fact that when American unions formed in the 19th century and struggled to build in the first third of the 20th century, the anti-union sentiment of the corporations and most politicians was much stronger than today, and the lot of the average worker was harder. Lazy people blame others. If those who originally fought to create our unions had such an attitude, unions would never have been established in the first place. Part of the problem is that the Left failed to criticize unions as their leadership often evolved to having more in common with the bosses than with their own members. As the Left moved away from worker issues in the Sixties to Civil Rights, the anti-war movement, feminism, and cultural issues, blue collar workers became alienated from those who were now largely content to support labor by merely singing Woody Guthrie and Weavers songs. The Left largely came to look down their noses at workers because of attitudes regarding culture and the war, only honoring workers when their issues were tied to something else, such as the largely Mexican-American United Farmworkers Union or access to jobs for women."

A comment at the NYT on the article titled "Scott Walker Is Set to Deliver New Blow to Labor in Wisconsin."

"Dang! Have you ever seen waves get so cold they turn to slurpee?"

Photos from Nantucket (via Metafilter).

"Each item is individually wrapped and categorised.... There's a miniature silver ball, a black button, a blue paper clip..."

"... a yellow bead, a faded black piece of foam, a blue Lego piece, and the list goes on. Many of them are scuffed and dirty. It is an odd assortment of objects for a little girl to treasure, but to Gabi these things are more valuable than gold...."

Nick, Quentin, Savion, Qaasim, Clark, Rayvon, Adam, Daniel, Mark, Trevor, Riley, Michael.

In that order.

Clark Beckham had been my favorite up until last night, but then he went and sang a song that I not only have disliked for half a century, but that just yesterday morning I'd been going on about not liking. And getting ready to write this post, needing to rave against it once more, I found myself paraphrasing it as I would kill my best friend if that's what my psycho girlfriend wants.

"People who insist on linking terrorism to Islam often say that only by doing this—only by seeing the problem 'for what it is'—can we figure out what to do about it."

"Really? Long before last week, we knew that ISIS does a good job of convincing some young Muslims that its cause is authentically Islamic. What value has been added if we grant [Graeme] Wood’s point that ISIS, in doing this job, can quote selectively from Islamic texts and point selectively to ancient Islamic traditions? I guess this helps us understand one rhetorical advantage that ISIS has in its recruiting. But since that particular advantage—what ancient texts say, what ancient people did—is something we can’t change, where do we go from there?"

Says Robert Wright, making the question what works for our purposes as opposed to what is actually true about ISIS and Islam. What is true and what works can coincide. Sometimes you get more power out of basing your arguments on the truth, and I think that I'm speaking the truth when I say that it's more true that we want to defeat the enemy than that we want to characterize their religious beliefs accurately.

If the question here is what works, then it's important to see that Wright pictures a causal chain in which Wood's presentation scares Americans, scared Americans cause the government to "react with the undiscerning ferocity that created ISIS," some scared Americans "deface mosques, or worse," and Western Muslims become ripe for recruitment by ISIS.

ADDED: In my mind — I realize 4 minutes after putting up this post — Wright's argument collapses on itself. He's saying Wood's presentation of the facts is too scary, and it's more productive not to freak out. ("Freak out" is his expression, used 4 times in a short essay.) But how can you make Wood's version go away by calling it scary? You've made it scarier by saying it's too scary to look at, and you have no way to calmly suppress it, so you've only contributed to the freakout that you think is so destructive. We might as well simplify everything and just try to figure out what's true.

"I view classroom teaching as a discipline and duty, a responsibility to convey the legacy of the past to the next generation."

"As I strictly monitor attendance and enforce order, I sometimes ruefully feel like a teaching nun from the over-regulated era of my upstate New York youth! I have a powerful sense of the descent of modern education from the medieval monasteries and cathedrals.... My faith in that nurturing continuity is certainly diametrically opposed to the cynically subversive approach of today's postmodernist theorists, who see history as a false or repressive narrative operating on disconnected fragments."

Says Camille Paglia, and no, it's not cynical to call other people cynical. Is it?

Paglia says "American academics... are pitifully trapped in a sterile career system that has become paralyzed by political correctness."  She's also bothered by the way college campuses these days are "hysterically portrayed as rape extravaganzas where women are helpless fluffs with no control over their own choices and behavior." Colleges ought to stop "demeaning and infantilizing" students, and "cease their tyrannical surveillance of students' social lives." She'd like to stop protecting and patronizing women and get back to the old "pro-sex," "street-smart" version of feminism.

"ISIS supporters on social media and jihadi forums are circulating a YouTube video showing a Western teenager singing a gibberish attempt at one of the terror group’s famous songs, 'Saleel al-Sawarim.'"

"The song is often used to accompany propaganda videos made by the Islamic State, and the teen, who posts under the username LethalAscend, is attempting [to sing] the Arabic air."
Although it’s pretty clear that this teen was making fun of the song, ISIS followers don’t seem to have understood the joke. Instead, they are proudly sharing the video, presenting it as great achievement that ISIS managed to “infiltrate the West with our propaganda.” They say this young “American” is singing the ISIS song enthusiastically. Some supporters even edited the video to add an ISIS logo.