October 11, 2014

"To Justice and All!"/"And vampires!"

Those are the kids' toasts heard at the end of "What Happens When Second Graders Are Treated to a Seven-Course, $220 Tasting Meal":

The incredibly charming video is made by Jeffrey Blitz, who did "Spellbound."

ADDED: I want to analyze that the delightful toast "To Justice and All!" The ultra-casual "and all" after the grand beginning "to justice" makes funny contrast, but we're intrigued by what seems to be a mutation of the end of the familiar Pledge of Allegiance phrase "With Liberty and Justice for All." Assuming that's the source, we wonder how "for all" became "and all." We might think that the kids say "and all" frequently and that caused them to substitute "and" for "for."

But I think something subtler happened. These kids knew about toasting. Look how the stemmed glasses and the dinner setting seem to have motivated them to engage in toasting behavior. So I think they knew that a toast begins with "to." Having put "to" rather than "and" before "justice" in the familiar Pledge phrase, the sense of the missing "and" affected their flexible minds, and having begun with the preposition "to," the next preposition, "for," seemed excessive, and that's where the "and" moved.

You, like me, may think the "Genderbread Person" is a ludicrous, bad-science graphic...

... here's yesterday's post about the Genderbread Person...

... but there seems to be a raging fight about who created it and whether somebody is getting credit for thinking up something that had already appeared in a similar form elsewhere. I wouldn't think people would be clamoring to take responsibility for something like that.

Anyway, when accused of plagiarism, you can always try the old Wisconsin saying: "I’m going to take the best ideas wherever I can find them." Go ahead. Take that. It might be the best idea, and you will have found it in Wisconsin.

ADDED: "While we upped the ante on accuracy and inclusivity, we did our best not to compromise what was arguably the most effective aspect of the old Genderbread Person: ‘e is freaking adorable!"

Exulting in the gloriousness of blue.


It's Lily the white poodle, at one with white clouds.

More photos by Meade of Lily here.

"Just as the Delay prosecution touched off a dozen other politically motived cases, the Wisconsin John Doe investigation provides a template for similar mischief across the nation."

"It suggests that anyone can lob accusations of illegal 'coordination' between an officeholder and his allies — and all a partisan prosecutor needs is evidence of a single private meeting or email to justify an intrusive and aggressive investigation. It’s that easy to tie your ideological opponents in knots for months or years on end. After Wisconsin, the temptation to use the law as a political weapon may prove irresistible."

From a Wall Street Journal article titled "Criminalizing Political Speech in Wisconsin/Like it or not, the federal courts should intervene in the state to uphold Americans’ First Amendment rights."

"Then, male university students were divided into camps. Among them, crudely put, there were sensitive, arty types..."

"... who liked indie music and baggy cardigans, and 'rugger buggers,' who were loud, aggressively masculine and devoted to sport. Now, though, we have a new type: 'the Lad,' who is hyper-macho and makes jokes about rape. He is, according to journalist Clive Martin... 'the anti-scholar, the beer-swilling, banter-puking cuckoo in the scholarly nest… The Lad is far less cuddly than his predecessor. He’s not selling a bit of hash on the side to finance the buying of yet more Che Guevara and Pulp Fiction posters. The modern male yooni-going dunderhead buys his drugs and his degree online, so most of his free time is spent charging drunkenly around whatever provincial British city he’s been assigned to, as if it were his own personal adventure playground.'"

From a Guardian article titled: "Campus nightmare: female students on the rise of sexual harassment/Photographed in their beds, shamed on social media – and, for some female students, that’s just the beginning. So what are British universities doing about sexual harassment and assaults?"

"The Snappening."

"A giant database of intercepted Snapchat photos and videos has been released by hackers who have been collecting the files for years...."
... Snapchat confirmed the images came from third-party sites, while denying that Snapchat's servers were breached by hackers:
We can confirm that Snapchat’s servers were never breached and were not the source of these leaks. Snapchatters were victimized by their use of third-party apps to send and receive Snaps, a practice that we expressly prohibit in our Terms of Use precisely because they compromise our users’ security...
4chan users say the collection of photos has a large amount of child pornography, including many videos sent between teenagers who believed the files would be immediately deleted after viewing. Half of Snapchat's users are teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17.

"Unless conservatives and liberals are masochists, promoting laws that hurt them, these laws must suppress minority voting."

Writes 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner, marshaling the evidence about voter ID laws, including the evidence that "conservatives... support them and liberals... oppose them."

Here's the opinion, dissenting from the denial of a rehearing en banc, in the Wisconsin voter ID case.

"A British performing artist has been forced to shelve a book based on his experiences of childhood sexual abuse..."

"... after his ex-wife obtained an injunction to prevent their young son from reading it."
After a copy of the manuscript was leaked to [the mother], she brought proceedings on behalf of her son, who has Asperger syndrome, attention deficit disorder and a number of other health problems. [the mother] says that on divorce, she and her ex-husband agreed to a court order that requires them to attempt to prevent their child from discovering information about their past lives “which would have a detrimental effect on the child’s wellbeing.”...

"Police in a small Alaska town mistakenly told a couple their son had been killed in a car crash..."

Hours later, when Karen and Jay Priest have driven to the home of Justin's girlfriend to deliver the terrible news in person, at 5:30 in the morning, Justin himself opens the door and is surprised to see his parents. They are even more surprised to see him.
"It opens and right here is Justin. I don't even see it but Jay is sobbing. It doesn't compute to me. Then I see him... You want it to be true, but you go, 'Am I hallucinating?' Justin didn't know what was going on."

"Remember that whole Brian Leiter kerfuffle? Well he’s gone."

"The world (of philosophy rankings) was not ready for one as beautiful as thee."

Thanks to Joe Patrice at Above the Law for summarizing all that.

I read the underlying article — "Leiter to Step Down from PGR / The New Consensus" — but I was finding it hard to think of how to get readers up to the speed where something interesting could be said. Catch up with all that if you want, if you think you need to follow the doings of the philosophers. I'll just say that it looks as though the women philosophers are making their presence felt, and philosophy in the form of invigorating insults like "sanctimonious asshole" and "stupid" will not be the way to show one's philosophical stuff in the future.

I don't read too much philosophy, but I enjoy some of the great old aggressive aphorisms and epithets, including and especially attacks on bland, blabby, blurry writing. Here's a nice list of "The 30 Harshest Author-on-Author Insults In History." Who called whom "A great cow full of ink"? "An idiot child screaming in a hospital"? "[T]he king of nincompoops, the prince of the superficial, the anti-artist, the spokesman of janitresses"? "He’s a full-fledged housewife from Kansas with all the prejudices"? "[A] queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples"?

But let the philosophers in the academy deal with their own problems. Leiter had reigned over a rankings system, and that gave his words a power to intimidate that extended beyond the meaning of those words.

By the way, I too am a woman who has been targeted by Leiter. The funny thing is that I don't care enough to remember what the dispute was. I need to publish this post so I can click on the "Leiter" tag and bone up on my own old lost history.

ADDED: Oh! I see I fought insult with insult, and — so amusingly — predicted that women would be his downfall. From September 10, 2006:
Nerd wants love.

Thinks sucking up to feminists is a good move. Don't you realize all the best feminists laugh at that?

"She is a normal, useless type of a girl. Nothing in her is special at all. She’s selling what the West will buy."

Not everyone loves the new Nobel laureate.

Hostile Christmas negativity at its Hollywood worst.

Here's Robin Williams in the mean old man role in "Merry Friggin' Christmas." They must have counted on and intended to exploit Williams's long-term reputation as madcap and lovable, but now his suicide looms over every non-life-affirming line:

I'm sure the film ends life-affirmingly, since there's no sign that this Hollywood product is anything but cynically formulaic. I'd rather watch a melodrama about an old actor who decides to make a movie like "Merry Friggin' Christmas" — because it's his best offer at the time — and agonizes over how to go on living. Something more like...

October 10, 2014

Live-blogging the Wisconsin gubernatorial debate between Mary Burke and Scott Walker.

It starts at 7 Central Time, and I'll be updating this post, with my own commentary. Tonight, I'm going to concentrate on things other than the actual substantive argument, which will be in the transcript. I'm going to watch and listen and see what I can make of the candidates' demeanor. You can watch along with me here.

7:06: Mary Burke goes first with her opening statement, sounding a bit tense, and glancing down at her notes, perhaps out of nervousness.

7:07: Walker begins by thanking everyone for being here tonight, and he acknowledges his opponent, Mary Burke, and all the people of Eau Claire, where it's great to be back. Burke omitted such pleasantries. "It's particularly nice to have my wife, Tonette." Oh! Mary had nothing like that.

7:09: The first question is about the Supreme Court's vacating the 7th Circuit's stay of the injunction against the Wisconsin voter ID law. Burke earnestly emphasizes the importance of everyone getting to vote. Walker thinks the voter ID law is "common sense" and it will be upheld ultimately in the court. He says he doesn't care how many instances of fraud there might be, because who among us would want OUR vote cancelled out by somebody else? Rebutting, Burke calls it "shocking" that "the Governor" doesn't even care about the amount of fraud, yet he'd put these "roadblocks" in front of people. Burke is coming alive in rebuttal here. She listened to what Walker said and reacted with good spontaneity.

7:12: Walker comes back with an assertion that the Milwaukee police have found multiple instances of fraud.

7:14: The second question is about jobs. What's something new they'd do? Walker has nothing new to say he'd do. He wants to keep doing what he's been doing, touts that, and says we don't want to go "backwards," which is what we'd be doing with Burke. Burke has one thing: "actually reduce the cost of college."

7:18: Minimum wage. Burke thinks the $7-something minimum wage is "ridiculous." Walker ignores the question of what the minimum wage should be and talks about getting people into jobs that pay 2 or 3 times the minimum wage. They pursue Walker over his failure to say whether the minimum wage should be raised, and without exactly saying "no," he says "no." The minimum wage is fine for really young people working at McDonald's, as he did. Then they go back to Burke for rebuttal, and she looks surprised. "I had actually already rebuttalled [sic] to the minimum wage."

7:24: Abortion. Walker reaffirms that he's pro-life, but emits some feelings about the difficult decisions women go through, cites the Supreme Court's resolution of the question, and stresses that his efforts are about ensuring the woman's "health and safety." Burke, with some passion in her voice, accuses Walker of taking away a woman's right to choose.

7:27: Will you serve your full term? Burke sure will! Walker says it's his "plan" to serve for 4 years. On rebuttal, Burke doesn't take the obvious opening and talk about whether Walker might run for President. He "plans" but will he "promise"? She could have pinned him down there! She chooses instead to emphasize how excited she is to serve and even says she wants to be Wisconsin's longest serving governor. Walker, laughing, says his wife doesn't want him to serve that long. Why did Burke do that? I suspect she feels some people think she's not that serious and is just a placeholder for the Democrats.

7:29: An intense interchange about Obamacare.  Burke tells us that as a businessperson, she knows to take that money from the federal government. Walker thinks it's not a good "bet."

7:34: Repeal Act 10?  I don't know if Burke gave a straight answer here, but she's struggling to deflect the accusation that she's a puppet of the unions. Both candidates drift into anecdotes, but certainly Walker is clear that Act 10 was the right thing to do.

7:39: Fracking? Burke is not going to be "selling out to the special interests." Walker thinks ""God and the glaciers gave us a great opportunity to build the economy.

7:47: An invitation to say something nice about your opponent. Walker appreciates Burke's philanthropy. Burke begins with a long "uh" and a shake of the head. She likes what he's done "in the community" and "around domestic abuse."

7:48: Oh! We're up to closing statements! Yay! Walker enthuses about all the good things that have been happening. He still drives his 1998 Saturn and eats lunch from a brown bag. "And I still love the people of the state of Wisconsin." Some of us might not agree with everything he's done, but he hopes we can see that his "motives are pure." Burke tells us how bad things are. There is no "comeback," and if only we'd "kept pace with the rest of the country," we'd be way better off. She doesn't care about whether "ideas are Democratic or Republican ideas, just whether they're gonna get the job done." And she's going to change the "tone" and "the system." Unlike Walker, she has to glance down at her notes.

8:24: Well, I guess I didn't do a good job of describing how the candidates looked and acted. But to tell you the truth, those two look and sound the same all the time. They're both offering to work hard and they aren't particularly charismatic or quirky. Neither of them said a single thing that was funny or weird or cute. 

"Why would Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke choose someone once charged with domestic abuse to star in her latest campaign ad?"

Asks Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Daniel Bice.

"The Clinton Presidential Library and the National Archives released more than 10,000 pages of presidential documents today..."

"... including lots of juicy morsels from the Monica Lewinsky scandal and meetings around Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

At the Pie Shop...


... you can show a little humility.

"What Walker needs to do.... What Burke needs to do...." at tonight's debate.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
[Walker's] goal is to rally his base, appear strong and friendly while not coming off as condescending against a first-time candidate for state office....

[Burke's] aim is to make a good first impression and show that she's up to the task of being governor.... She'll also need to effectively deal with the issue that has bedeviled her in recent weeks: the disclosure that her jobs plan included passages lifted from other Democratic candidates.
The debate is at 7 Central Time tonight. I'll be live-blogging.

The lava and the ravioli.

(Via Oddly Satisfying.)

"You're so handsome that I can't speak properly."

Said to Barack Obama by Gwyneth Paltrow, who also enthused fascistically that "It would be wonderful if we were able to give this man all of the power that he needs to pass the things that he needs to pass."

Do you notice what's extraordinary...

... about this, from 1968?

I was just poking around in the Christmas Eve 1976 edition of The New York Times, looking for something else, and I ran across:

And this pair of ads on the facing page caught my eye:

Two competing images of sexiness from late 1976. Who knew then that the Rocky image would be the much more enduring one. The man, alone with his armpits. Not the man and the woman, with hands thoroughly entangled in curly hair. Rocky even has the more enduring font. And they tried so hard with all those futuristic serifs stabbing their way through the adjoining letters in "A Star Is Born."

Anyway, after finding what I'd actually been looking for — news of the concerts Lou Reed played in NYC in the 70s — I went in search of The Wind in the Willows. I hope you enjoyed that hippie, trippy sojourn into the land of the gentle people, that canyon of if-not-your-then-my mind that was the 1960s, before the mean old 70s came along and made everything so harsh and cruel.

"Always ask yourself . . . ‘Will this configuration create a gendered space?'"

Advice to school teachers on gender inclusiveness. I was going to defend this document — PDF — against the excessive scorn from National Review, but then I scrolled down to the third page and saw this...

... and I lost  .

AND: Ironically, the "Genderbread Person" looks too male.

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade said: "You lost , I lost ."

Malala Yousafzai wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

Along with (the less famous) Kailash Satyarthi.
"The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism."
Yousafzai is the youngest-ever recipient of the prize. She's 17.

You must answer this question immediately, in no more than one second.

You will have no time to ask why this is the situation or to get more information about the nature of the question, so don't click in until you are genuinely ready to use your one second to answer the question asked. Ready?

U.S. Supreme Court keeps Wisconsin voter ID law from applying to next month's elections.

The NYT headline for this story is really bad: "Courts Strike Down Voter ID Laws in Wisconsin and Texas." The news about the Wisconsin law isn't that a court struck the law down, though a federal district judge did find the law unconstitutional back in April. The news that just happened was that the U.S. Supreme Court has vacated the 7th Circuit's stay of the district court's injunction. This was done in order to give the state time to petition the Supreme Court to hear the case.

Here's the PDF. It ends this way:
Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this order shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the order shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment of this Court
The period is missing in the original, I thought you'd like to know. Some indication of haste?

Anyway, as you can see, the Court isn't striking anything down. It's just preventing the 7th Circuit's resolution of the case from going into effect until the Supreme Court either decides it won't hear the case or actually decides the case. If it doesn't take the case, the 7th Circuit's decision will prevail, and the voter ID law will go back into effect. If it takes the case, it might very well uphold the 7th Circuit's decision and the voter ID law will go back into effect.

Justice Alito, joined by Justices Scalia and Thomas, dissents on the ground that the standard for vacating a stay has not been met because it can't be said that the 7th Circuit "clearly and ‘demonstrably’ erred in its application of ‘accepted standards.'" But they nevertheless acknowledge the point of vacating the stay in this case:
There is a colorable basis for the Court’s decision due to the proximity of the upcoming general election. It is particularly troubling that absentee ballots have been sent out without any notation that proof of photo identification must be submitted. 
So there's such a good reason for keeping the law from applying to the upcoming elections, and vacating the stay is less of an indication that the court below got wrong than would normally be the case.

October 9, 2014

Goodbye to Jan Hooks.

Jan Hooks died today. She was 57.

Things that you would have paid $1,000 a year for 30 years ago...

... that are free now and you hardly use at all.

"The nominations for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Class of 2015 are in, and the list includes Green Day, Nine Inch Nails, N.W.A, the Smiths, Lou Reed and Sting."

"The rest of this year's hopefuls are the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Kraftwerk, Chic, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, the Marvelettes, the Spinners, Stevie Ray Vaughan, War and Bill Withers."

Reading all that, the first thought that came into my head was Beechwood 4-5789, you can call me up and have a date any old time...

ADDED: Of this list — Green Day, Nine Inch Nails, N.W.A, the Smiths, Lou Reed, Sting, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Kraftwerk, Chic, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, the Marvelettes, the Spinners, Stevie Ray Vaughan, War, Bill Withers — your humble blogger has seen only 3 in concert. One twice. Can you guess which?

The walk home...


... is blessed.

What kids eat for breakfast...

... around the world.

(Vivid photographs at the link, which goes to the NYT.)

"He had a sandwich in his hand, and they thought it was a gun. It’s like Michael Brown all over again."

Said a young woman who said she is the cousin of the teenager who was shot to death by a St. Louis police officer last night, touching off new protests. The 18-year-old, Vonderrit Myers Jr., had a gun, the police say, and he not only charged at the officer, he shot at the officer at least 3 times and was trying to keep firing, but the gun jammed. The cop shot 17 times.
Jackie Williams, 47, said Myers was his nephew... “My nephew was coming out of a store from purchasing a sandwich. Security was supposedly searching for someone else. They Tased him... I don’t know how this happened, but they went off and shot him 16 times. That’s outright murder.”...

An attorney, Jerryl Christmas, suggested, "There is no epidemic of black officers shooting white kids, but there is an epidemic of white officers shooting black kids." He said police are too quick to resort to deadly force....

"Scott Walker's son acted as witness in gay marriage."

Daniel Bice reports.
Laurel Patrick, a spokeswoman for the governor, confirmed Thursday that Walker's son was present for the event for the lesbian couple.... "Shelli Marquardt is the first lady's cousin," Patrick said in a statement. "She is a part of the Walker family who they dearly love."... Patrick did not say whether the governor or first lady attended the same-sex wedding last month. Alex Walker did not respond to emails on Thursday.

"Just heard the fabulous news from tonette," one relative recently wrote on Facebook... "We are thrilled for you both. Congrats and much love from the Tarantino Gang in Az.!!" Tarantino is the first lady's maiden name....
ADDED: This post is just another post in my year-plus effort to convey the message to you old-not-young conservatives: It's over.

IN THE COMMENTS: TCom, talking about me, says "As a gay man, I find her pompous stance on this issue to be more than a little annoying," and I say: "LOL. What a concept. Of course, I'm committed to the opposite" with a link to this, from over a year ago:

"What’s eleven dollars buy you in Wisconsin? Well, Scott Walker thinks eleven dollars buys your vote."

"Because under his tax plan the average Wisconsin taxpayer got just eleven dollars a month."

The new Mary Burke ad:

Here's the memo — PDF — from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau that's identified as the source of the figures.

Ads, of course, have mostly a subliminal, emotional effect, but let's pick at the facts. If it's $11 a month, and we're electing Scott Walker to a 4-year term, he's trying to buy the average voter's vote with $528. In pizza terms, that's 48 pizzas. But what is Burke's counter offer? Is Burke suggesting that "buying" votes by providing economic benefits is wrong, or is she saying that she'd get more money to us? If so, how?

If the argument is that she's offering the average voters more, the ad's suggestion seems to be the old soak the rich. Immediately after the convenience-store-shopping mom with the weary face we see a man in a suit with his back toward us. Make him pay! (Can we reach him over there in Chicago, the city upon which he casts his presumably gluttonous gaze?) Note that the numbers about the rich are not presented in the per-month, per-individual form that makes them as small as possible. We get a lump sum for all corporations, $610 million. And a per-year number for "millionaires."

The Turtle.

The submarine, in 1776.

Does the term "dark money" sound scary because it — intentionally? — resonates with racism?

"When I hear the phrase, I can't help but think of normal cash, with Presidents and other Founding Fathers on it, going from the familiar pale green to a much darker shade."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looks into the basis for Mary Burke's claim of business executive expertise.

Daniel Bice writes:
Burke says she boosted European sales for Trek Bicycle, her family's business, from $3 million a year in 1990 to $50 million in 1993. Only the former Trek executive says there aren't any reports, memos, newsletters or other records to support her claim because the Waterloo-based firm is a private company.
But Bice found records that show that Trek's overall sales increase in that period was only $107 million. It's hard to believe that nearly half of that increase came from Europe.  Bice also found an old newspaper article quoting a company official saying that sales in Europe, Canada, and Japan together rose $30 million in the period 1991 to 1994.

A Burke spokesman says: "These pathetic attempts to discredit Mary Burke's track record of success creating good-paying jobs in Wisconsin are a joke." How can you rest on the "track record" and the contention that there are no records... especially when a journalists finds some records? What's "pathetic"? The only thing that's pathetic is that no one had even gone this deeply into the claim of a record of executive experience made by a person who is asking us to hire her as our state's executive.

Bice quotes a UW-Milwaukee political science professor: "She can't put out such a specific claim and then say it's a secret."

Quite aside from whether the number is correct, what did Burke herself do that caused the sales to increase? The bikes are a great product. It's not surprising that sales increased. What did Burke do that had a causal effect? We've seen many commercials with her asserting that she knows how to grow businesses, but if having a great product is how, that's not anything she's done, but only a way in which she's been fortunate in life. Now, if you grew sales with a mediocre product, your role would be more impressive.

Bice goes on to note that when Burke became the state's secretary of commerce in the Doyle administration, her résumé said she boosted Trek's European sales from $2 million to $60 million, but now she's saying from $3 million to $50 million. And: "She left in the summer of 1993 to begin a two-year break from the firm." Has anyone given us any depth about why she left and what she did? The election is only a few weeks away. You'd think it would come up.

ADDED: We'll see if it comes up in the debates, the first of which is tomorrow at 7, moderated by Jill Geisler, with panelists Keith Edwards (WQOW), Judy Clark (WEAU), Mike Thompson (WKBT), and Shawn Johnson (Wisconsin Public Radio). That's a lot of panelists, so there's a good chance for somebody to distinguish himself or herself with some specific questions. I can imagine the mind-numbing I-know-how-to-grow-business generalities that will waste our time if the candidates are allowed to run out the clock. I'll be live-blogging, keeping my eye on these journalist characters, so stay tuned.

October 8, 2014

Late afternoon, October 8th...


... Picnic Point.

Talk about whatever you like.

"Oh, dear police department, we know, we know. We know we look like victims. We know we present as easy goddamn prey."

"How lovely to be reminded by the police department. What a nice opportunity to think about the fact that none of the women I know who have been raped have ever reported it. Not one!"

Jezebel ravages the University of Wisconsin—Madison Police Department for its "Shedding the Victim Persona: Staying Safe on Campus."

"Justice Anthony Kennedy issued an order to halt same-sex marriage in Idaho — and apparently also Nevada — on Wednesday..."

"... after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the states' bans one day earlier."

Interesting, but I don't think it suggests the Court will take the case. There's still no split in the circuits, and there probably never will be, and I'm holding to my theory that the Court has decided to decide by not deciding. Within that theory, Justice Kennedy is only slowing things down a little and keeping a feeling of procedural regularity while the government petitions for certiorari and the Court denies it.

UPDATE: Stay lifted for Nevada.
Justice Kennedy, the member of the court responsible for hearing emergency applications from the Ninth Circuit, entered a temporary stay on Wednesday morning on very short notice after a last-minute request from officials in Idaho. He acted so quickly that he included Nevada in his order.

A few hours later, Justice Kennedy issued a revised order, limiting the stay to Idaho.

Have you noticed the political ads you're watching these days don't say "I'm [whoever] and I approve this message"?

I was just watching this new Scott Walker ad, saying "Mary Burke lied," and became conscious — I think for the first time — of the missing personal statement of approval of the ad. I guess I'd lost track of what I see is called the "Stand by Your Ad" provision. It was part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (AKA McCain-Feingold).

I don't hear it anymore because I don't watch TV ads or listen to radio ads. I use a DVR to skip ads when I watch TV, and I listen to commercial free satellite radio in my car. (Yes, I also listen to Rush Limbaugh, but I pay for the podcast and get it commercial free.)

The political commercials I watch are on line, and "Stand By Your Ad," passed in 2002, pre-YouTube, doesn't apply to on-line advertising. There have been proposals to extend it, but they've gone nowhere.

What do you think of the Stand By Your Ad requirement?
pollcode.com free polls

"I was SHOCKED when my daughter showed me the pamphlet that she was required to make promoting Islam in a way 3rd graders could comprehend."

"As a mother who teaches her children that the One True Creator God is the GOD of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it made me sick to my stomach to see my daughter promoting another god (Allah) as the One True Creator on a pamphlet!"

The perils of trying to teach schoolchildren about religion. 

"The horrifying scene was filmed by an MTA security camera and captured the 23-year-old man’s final moments..."

"... which were later uploaded to Facebook for the world to see. The NYPD said it is investigating who posted the shots."

(Unwarning: There's no video at the link.)

"My tweet went viral - at last check, it had been retweeted more than 11,300 times - and I soon began to notice a disturbing trend..."

"... of the thousands of people who were retweeting and following me, many of them had the black flag of Isis as their Twitter profile photos. Others had pictures of themselves holding swords, standing in front of the black Isis flag. Uh-oh."

ADDED: More about Jennifer Williams here:
Williams is a Brookings Institute researcher who spent years studying religious extremism and the Middle East before finally realizing that she’d never actually read the Quran. So she took the plunge and unexpectedly found answers to the questions about morality and belief that she’d had since childhood. She converted to Islam three years ago and is now finding that she constantly has to defend her faith from the extremists who twist it to justify violence.

Mary Burke supporters worry about how she'll do in the debates with Scott Walker.

A discussion at the very intra-Madison, intra-lefty forum at Isthmus. One commenter breaks up the good feeling within the group:
I'm just hoping Burke does better at the debates then she does when asked unscripted questions. It's all very fun to make fun of Walker and act like he's an idiot, but he's been a professional politician for about 20 years now. He knows how to publicly debate political issues. I'm not sure Burke has that skill yet and her inability to answer the plagiarism question was not very reassuring.
That last bit refers to this. Another commenter, local politico Stu Levitan, draws a warm bath for the group:
I thought Mary did really well on For The Record last weekend. I think she'll do fine in the debates.
For The Record! "For the Record" is a local Madison show that reflects local Madison values, where Mary Burke sat down for comfortable chat with 2 friendly reporters. Here, you can watch the show.

"For the Record" has invited Scott Walker to do the show too. It's not surprising he's declined.

MEANWHILE: Michelle Obama was back in Wisconsin, campaigning with Mary Burke, this time in Madison.

Jimmy Carter is criticizing Obama.

"[W]e waited too long. We let the Islamic State build up its money, capability and strength and weapons while it was still in Syria... Then when [ISIL] moved into Iraq, the Sunni Muslims didn’t object to their being there and about a third of the territory in Iraq was abandoned.”
"I noticed that two of his secretaries of defense, after they got out of office, were very critical of the lack of positive action on the part of the president."

Aunt Jemima's descendants want their share of that pancake money.

"The great grandsons of Anna Short Harrington, who was hired as the American pancake icon in 1933, claim that her family is entitled to a percentage of the company's revenue every time her likeness was used. They're now seeking $2 billion in compensation, plus a share of future revenue."

This is more of a public debate... or a shakedown. I can't imagine how any conceivable legal claim could survive a statute of limitations defense. But it's a publicity problem for Quaker Oats. And if you're going to apply moral pressure, it's convenient that the company is named after a religion associated with high moral values. At this point, the company's response is that Aunt Jemima is a fictional character symbolizing "a sense of caring, warmth, hospitality and comfort." The plaintiffs are leaning on us to see Aunt Jemima as "one of the most exploited and abused women in American history."

I wonder what the descendants of Larry have in mind litigation-wise? You know what I'm talking about? Larry? This is Larry:

Reparations... micro-reparations. If micro-reparations are $2 billion, just think what the reparations would be for all of the most exploited and abused people in American history.

What is the sound of...

... me not blogging what I just resisted blogging?

CLUE: It began with "What is the sound of one hand..."

ANSWER: What is the sound of one hand not giving you the finger?

The ebola story that really gets people's attention.

Spain wants to kill a dog.

This is like the way the human suffering after Katrina was overshadowed by the plight of some dogs. Here's something David Sedaris wrote about that:
People I know, people who had never before contributed to charity, emptied their pockets when a cocker spaniel was shown standing on a rooftop after Hurricane Katrina hit, eight months later. “What choice did I have?” they asked. “That poor little thing looked into the camera and penetrated my very soul.”

The eyes of the stranded grandmother, I noted, were not half as piercing. There she was, clinging to a chimney with her bra strap showing, and all anyone did was wonder if she had a dog. “I’d hate to think there’s a Scotty in her house, maybe trapped on the first floor. What’s the number of that canine-rescue agency?

October 7, 2014

"I think maybe we need not to condemn Naomi Wolf but..."

"... to consider the possibility that she's having a psychotic break."

ADDED: Examples of things Wolf has been saying:
Author and former Democratic political consultant Naomi Wolf published a series of Facebook posts on Saturday in which she questioned the veracity of the ISIS videos showing the murders and beheadings of two Americans and two Britons, strongly implying that the videos had been staged by the US government and that the victims and their parents were actors.

Wolf published a separate Facebook post, also on Saturday, suggesting that the US was sending troops to West Africa not to assist with Ebola treatment but to bring Ebola back to the US to justify a military takeover of American society. She also suggested that the Scottish independence referendum, in which Scots voted to remain in the United Kingdom, had been faked....
AND: Naomi defends herself:
"I am not asserting that the ISIS videos have been staged," she wrote in a Facebook post. "No one can yet know anything for sure about the ISIS videos as they have simply not been independently analyzed, according to the news outlets which we have contacted for more information about the verification process."
Actually, I don't think her demands for better journalism are crazy. How do we know the videos are not staged? Who is verifying it? If we were being played by a government that was trying to manipulate us, would we notice? Do we know how to defend ourselves from disinformation?

PLUS: Operation Mincemeat.

"Well, religious beliefs aren't reasonable. I mean, religious beliefs are categorical. You know, it's God tells you. It's not a matter of being reasonable. God be reasonable? He's supposed to have a full beard."

Justice Scalia riffed about religion, God, and beards at today's oral argument in Holt v. HobbsPDF — the case about whether the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act entitles a Muslim inmate to wear a half-inch-long beard despite the prisons rule against all beards. The inmate's lawyer noted that Holt was only asking for a half-inch beard, even though he really needed, for religious reasons, to wear a full, long beard. He was compromising, to be reasonable.

The oral argument quickly devolved into hand-wringing about whether the Court was going to have to decide a half-inch today, an inch in the next case, then another case about 2 inches.

Anyway, Scalia was right. God is supposed to have a full beard:

Bascom Hill flamingoes.


Some kind of fund-raising even here on the UW campus today. Plastic flamingoes on the hill have been a thing here at Wisconsin since before I arrived, which was 30 years ago.

The "Dark Tetrad" — sadism, psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism.

Found — by Canadian researchers — in internet trolls.

Oddly enough, some internet trolls found the Dark Tetrad in Canadian researchers!

Today in the Supreme Court, another religious accommodations case — this time, about beards in prison.

You remember all the fuss about Hobby Lobby, last summer's case about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Obamacare requirement that employers provide health insurance coverage that includes birth control. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act doesn't apply to the states — not because Congress didn't try to impose it on the states, but because Congress only has the powers enumerated in the Constitution — really! — and the Supreme Court actually said that Congress didn't have an enumerated power for that. But then Congress passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, using its spending power to impose the same obligation to accommodate the religion of prisoners on any state accepts federal money for its prisons.

So the question up for argument today is whether the Arkansas prison rule against beards must give way to a prisoner's religion-based demand. The man is Gregory Holt, and it doesn't matter why he's in prison, does it? (If you're interested: He murdered a woman.) It doesn't matter which religion is the source of his need, does it? (If you're interested: He's Muslim.)

Under RLUIPA, if the no-beards rule puts a substantial burden on Holt's exercise of religion, the state must show that it's the least restrictive means for serving a compelling interest. (An added problem here is that Arkansas also allows quarter-inch long beards for prisoners with a medical need to avoid shaving. Holt wants a half-inch beard.)

The assertion of compelling interest is based on, first, the idea that a prisoner might — and I confess to giggling while typing this — hide things in his beard...

(That illustrates for this limerick.)

... and second, the idea that if a bearded prisoner ever escaped, he could easily, by shaving, dramatically change the way he looks.

Is it obvious that Holt should win under this standard? What can you hide in a half-inch beard? As for escaping, don't let him escape! But, on the other hand, the Court might be especially deferential toward the judgment of the prison officials. Back in 2005, in Cutter v. Wilkinson, when a unanimous Supreme Court said that RLUIPA didn't violate the Establishment Clause, there was some talk about deference:
We have no cause to believe that RLUIPA would not be applied in an appropriately balanced way, with particular sensitivity to security concerns. While the Act adopts a "compelling governmental interest" standard, "[c]ontext matters" in the application of that standard. See Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U. S. 306, 327 (2003). 
Grutter v. Bollinger is the affirmative action case that accepted classroom diversity as a compelling governmental interest. You see the point: Compelling is maybe not really all that compelling when we've got government authorities who need to exercise subtly context-based judgment.
Lawmakers supporting RLUIPA were mindful of the urgency of discipline, order, safety, and security in penal institutions. See, e.g., 139 Cong. Rec. 26190 (1993) (remarks of Senator Hatch). They anticipated that courts would apply the Act’s standard with “due deference to the experience and expertise of prison and jail administrators in establishing necessary regulations and procedures to maintain good order, security and discipline, consistent with consideration of costs and limited resources.” Joint Statement S7775 (quoting S. Rep. No. 103–111, p. 10 (1993)).
So RLUIPA applied to the state prisons should perhaps work quite differently from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act applied to the federal government. Deferring to the HHS's idea of what is compelling in the area of health insurance coverage is different from deferring to prison authorities about what's compelling in the area of prison security. The state prison authorities, the Court suggested in Cutter are more like those law school admissions committees in Grutter, more worthy of deference.

2 conservatives, 2 different reactions to the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage ruling-without-ruling: Scott Walker and Ted Cruz.

Governor Scott Walker, up for reelection here in Wisconsin next month and a possible presidential candidate for 2016, kept it short, neutral, and decisive:
"For us, it's over in Wisconsin. ... The federal courts have ruled that this decision by this court of appeals decision is the law of the land and we will be upholding it."
Walker hasn't wanted same-sex marriage to be an issue in his reelection campaign. As a Wisconsinite, I follow stories about Scott Walker continually, and last time I blogged about him and same-sex marriage was last June, in a post called "Shhhh! Scott Walker is evolving on gay marriage," when the federal district court struck down the Wisconsin ban. Walker's response was: "It really doesn't matter what I think now.... It's in the constitution." I thought that was the best response then, and I'm not surprised to see him use it again. I thought the requirement to allow same-sex marriage was "for him, a gift." It allowed him to display restraint and freed him from having to state an opinion on the divisive issue and to "move on to the matters that properly belong to government."

And as I said yesterday, the Supreme Court's denial of cert. signifies that the issue is over. You may dispute whether that's really true, as we wait to see if any federal circuit upholds a ban, but it's certainly over in Wisconsin, and it was smart of Scott Walker to say that and move on. Notice that back in June, Walker's opponent Mary Burke had tried to goad him into making same-sex marriage an issue. She said: "I think the people of Wisconsin would like to hear what the governor thinks... And it seems pretty political to me that he seems now to be waffling on whether he supports gay marriage or doesn't and that he's not being clear with voters about that." He didn't take the bait then and there isn't even any bait to offer now. There was nothing to be said then, and there's really nothing to be said now. That's a good, solid, small-government-conservative answer.

Senator Ted Cruz has a wider view. Unlike Walker, he's not grounded in a state where it's clearly over. As a U.S. Senator, he quite properly looks toward the whole country, and he represents Texas, one of the states where the same-sex marriage ban survives. Unlike Walker, he has a background as a legal expert (an exceedingly strong background). Unlike Walker, he's not facing reelection right now, but like Walker, he's a potential presidential candidate for 2016.

Cruz issued a highly opinionated statement yesterday. He accused the Supreme Court of "abdicating its duty" and expressing "astonish[ment]" that the Court would deny cert. "without providing any explanation whatsoever," even though that's the norm for cert. denials and hardly anything outrageous. Sometimes a Justice publishes a dissent from the denial of certiorari, so I take it there was nothing any of the 9 of them wanted to say. From that, as I've said, I infer that they see the issue as over. It's a slowly developing picture of finality, which will only ever get sharpened up by the Supreme Court if some federal circuit fails to see what has been placed clearly enough before its eyes.

Cruz calls the Court's restraint "judicial activism at its worst." I guess sometimes not acting is the most active thing you can possibly do. Cruz goes into full fighting mode, stirring up the crowd with hard-hitting law and traditional-values talk.
Unelected judges should not be imposing their policy preferences to subvert the considered judgments of democratically elected legislatures.... The Supreme Court is, de facto, applying an extremely broad interpretation to the 14th Amendment without saying a word... The Court is making the preposterous assumption that the People of the United States somehow silently redefined marriage in 1868 when they ratified the 14th Amendment. Nothing in the text, logic, structure, or original understanding of the 14th Amendment or any other constitutional provision authorizes judges to redefine marriage for the Nation.... Marriage is a question for the States.... Traditional marriage is an institution whose integrity and vitality are critical to the health of any society. We should remain faithful to our moral heritage and never hesitate to defend it.
He's got his State Marriage Defense bill and he's going to push a constitutional amendment. He's not giving in or moving on. He's your fervent-to-the-end defender of traditional marriage in its starchily exclusionary form, which I'm sure some of my readers love. Myself, I respect Cruz, and I like him as a member of the Senate, where he's a clear strong voice within a group, but I don't think he's the kind of person who could serve the whole people as President. (As I said recently, here.)

October 6, 2014

"At the time of reunification, Beijing pledged to endow Hong Kong with a 'high degree of autonomy' under a deal called 'one country, two systems.'"

"But it was a fragile conceit, and, this summer, it failed. The Communist Party had promised to give Hong Kong citizens the chance to vote for the territory’s top official in 2017, but, in August, Beijing released the details: only candidates acceptable to the central government would be permitted to run.... In the official media, the [protests] were portrayed as a disaster; an editorial in the People’s Daily published on October 1st warned that 'a small number of people who insist on resisting the rule of law and on making trouble will reap what they have sown.' But the costs of a crackdown— diplomatic isolation, recession, another alienated generation — would be incalculably higher than they were in 1989. China’s economy today is twenty-four times the size it was then, and Beijing aspires to leadership in the world.... "

From a piece by Evan Osnos in The New Yorker.

I was too lazy to blog my prediction, but — believe me! — I knew the Supreme Court was going to deny cert. in the same-sex marriage cases.

"This morning the Court... denied review of all seven of the petitions arising from challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage. This means that the lower-court decisions striking down bans in Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia should go into effect shortly...."

My prediction was based on 2 data points:

1. In mid-September, at a forum at the University of Minnesota Law School, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked when the Supreme Court will decide the same-sex marriage question, and she "noted that all three appellate courts to address the issue so far... have struck down state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples... [G]iven that there is no disagreement so far, she concluded, there is 'no urgency' for the Court to take it right now."

2. Last Wednesday, at a forum for high school students in Colorado, Justice Scalia was asked the same question, and he said: "I know when, but I’m not going to tell you." After a laugh from the audience, he added: "Soon! Soon!"

I had the feeling that Scalia's "I know when" referred not a specific date, but to the specific condition, and that condition was the one Ginsburg had cited: When there is a split in the circuits. The Court has reason to believe that condition will never occur, and it can preserve its political capital by never weighing in on the subject.

I have thought ever since Windsor that any careful analysis of the Supreme Court precedent would lead any federal circuit to strike down the same-sex marriage bans. The uniformity we tend to think of as coming from the Supreme Court can come from unanimity among the circuits (after the nudge in Windsor).

Some people might want to get the answer nailed down for the whole country as soon as possible, but I'm guessing that the view on the Supreme Court is that things are already happening quickly and giving people a little more time to adjust — to evolve, as many like to say — is really more effective than a top-down dictate from the Court — which would give marriage equality opponents much more to cry out about.

And really, rejecting these cases is almost a clearer announcement that issue is over. Unless some circuit court decides to resist the compulsion of Windsor, at some point we will all look back and see that it was really already decided last year.

When will the Supreme Court decide the same-sex marriage question? The answer is probably: Never. Or: It already did.

ADDED: Look, Rand Paul is evolving.

Fighting against the gender gap, 2 opposing gubernatorial candidates — one male, one female — strain to show you they care about what their gender is supposed not to care enough about.

Scott Walker — male and Republican — has the male vote by a 62 to 34 percent margin. Walker's ad, called "Teri," assures us that he "cares about women":

And Mary Burke —  female and Democrat — has the female vote by a 54 to 40 percent margin. Burke's ad, called "Quince & Apple," assures us that Burke "really understands how to make a business work":

The gender gap numbers come from the Marquette poll that was released on October 1st. Looking back at that poll, which showed Walker ahead by 5 points, I see there's a really abstruse clarification about the margin of error. The loss of that margin of error argument must have really hurt.

Chuck Todd chuckles over your possible need for liquor in the morning.

"I've got a nice new coffee bar. I'm going to call it coffee bar because hey, it's Sunday morning, we should only be drinking coffee. Some of you may decide that you need more than that. But we hope you enjoy [the new 'Meet the Press' set]. It's a clean look, we like it. It's more my style. And now let's get down to business. It's been a rough week."

From yesterday morning's show. 

And, actually, I loved the new set. Whether it's actually Chuck Todd's style — whether Chuck Todd has a style in interior decoration — I have no idea. But some designers decided to strike the old saturated blue and lucite world that exists nowhere in normal life but everywhere on television and build something more like an oversized office space for flesh-and-blood 1-percenters.

And now that I think about it, I doubt that Todd determined the shape of his own goatee. Some stylist determined that Todd's chin-line determined the shape that would sharpen up Todd's image.

Todd's image may be intended to be hip, but the part of the show where he stands in front of a screen and comes up with some sort of cute and sort of expert explanation for something — with music playing in the background for some insane reason — is getting called "Nerd Screen." Perhaps someone decided that it's cool to be a nerd or as we used to say hip to be square.

Did you know "Hip to Be Square" is Huey Lewis and the News's "undisputed masterpiece... a song so catchy, most people probably don't listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it's not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it's also a personal statement about the band itself!"

Does Chuck Todd know the pleasures of conformity and the importance of trends? Does Chuck Todd ever make a personal statement? Does Chuck Todd really grant us the latitude to "decide" that we "need" more than coffee in the morning, and am I correct to read into that delegation of decision-making authority an actual encouragement to consume liquor in the morning based on need?

But "we should only be drinking coffee," Todd says, even though "It's been a rough week," and I take it that Todd's message is one only of compassion for those who feel the need for something "more" than coffee. He only hints at possible indulgence if should we succumb to our need.

October 5, 2014

Kicks just keep getting harder to find...

Goodbye to Paul Revere of Paul Revere and the Raiders, who died yesterday, at home in Idaho, at the age of 76. It was only half a century ago that I would come home from school and switch on "Where the Action Is," Dick Clark's afternoon rock 'n' roll show, which had Paul Revere and the Raiders as regulars. Paul Revere founded the group, and his name really was Paul Revere (Paul Revere Dick), but he was not the lead singer. So if you, like me, had a crush on the lead singer when you were 14, Paul Revere was not the one we had our crush on, and you may feel some relief knowing that Mark Lindsay lives on.

Here are Mark and Paul as they appeared on another Dick Clark show "Happening '68," in 1968, when everything was happening:

That's Mark in the Nehru jacket and love beads and Paul, looking slightly dubious.

Sarah Silverman as Joan Rivers on "Saturday Night Live."

From last night's show:

And, yes, all the tags for this post are correct.

AND: Even better is the trailer for "The Fault in Our Stars 2: The Ebola in Our Everything."

The Mistrust List.

Interviewing Dan Pfeiffer (senior Obama adviser) on "Meet the Press" this morning, Chuck Todd put up what I'll call The Mistrust List:
I think one of your challenges though is a trust deficit that has been created over the last 18 months. I want to put up a graphic, whether you believe it's fair or not, it is a fact about all the different sort of government gaps over the last 18 months.
The heading on the graphic was "Trust in Government?" And it had the following bullet points, which I'm displaying here as Todd read them (with all the items, but some extra words):
  • Edward Snowden stealing NSA files
  • The VA fakes wait times
  • IRS losing emails
  • Healthcare.gov doesn't launch
  • The president himself saying, "U.S. intelligence agencies underestimated ISIS."
  • The DHS, the border failure with that surge over the summer, sort of failure, and of course...
  • The Secret Service. 
Why should we trust that what you're saying about the CDC is able to handle [ebola]? You understand why there's more skepticism than normal.
On "Fox News Sunday," Chris Wallace teased his panel discussion in a similar (if less hard-hitting) way, premising a question about trust with a list of reasons for mistrust:
[W]ith growing concerns over Ebola, the Secret Service and the VA and IRS scandals, can we trust the federal government to do its job?
Unlike Dan Pfeiffer who could only lamely assert that when there's a problem "we deal with it," George Will was particularly good at leveraging himself off the Mistrust List. I mean, Will was so good that I suspect the teaser was designed to go with the material he had prepared. From the transcript (with emphasis and punctuation added based on the audio):

"The Most Ambitious Environmental Lawsuit Ever/A quixotic historian tries to hold oil and gas companies responsible for Louisiana’s disappearing coast."

There's a lot of fascinating material in this NYT Magazine article by Nathaniel Rich, but I'm just going to pick out a few things that might motivate you to read the whole thing rather than to think: New York Times Environmentalism.

1. It's not about global warming or carbon emissions. Louisiana is losing land at a bizarrely fast rate, but it's because of a reversal of the process that built the land up in the first place: "As the Mississippi shifted its course over the millenniums, spraying like a loose garden hose, it deposited sand and silt in a wide arc. This sediment first settled into marsh and later thickened into solid land. But what took 7,000 years to create has been nearly destroyed in the last 85. Dams built on the tributaries of the Mississippi, as far north as Montana, have reduced the sediment load by half. Levees penned the river in place, preventing the floods that are necessary to disperse sediment across the delta. The dredging of two major shipping routes, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, invited saltwater into the wetlands’ atrophied heart." None of that is attributable to the gas and oil industry, but they did dig a lot of wells, canals, and pipelines that seem to have accelerated the inflow of the saltwater.

2. The title of the article reveals its hook: A supposedly heroic underdog, in this case a political journalist named John Barry, who spent a long time writing a book called "The Ambition and the Power" and was in the middle of writing another book — "Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul" — when he got distracted by Hurricane Katrina and concluded that "people died because of cynical decisions made by shortsighted politicians drawing on bad science." Back in those days, Bobby Jindal was a member of Congress, and Barry met with him and "left in total disgust." Is Barry contemplative and public-spirited, or is Barry a politico who hates Bobby Jindal? The fact that the second option even occurs to me while reading this article — framed on Barry's heroics — suggests that's the correct one.

3. Stray football hate:  "When discussing his public battles, he often summons football metaphors. 'Writing is pretty isolated,' he said. 'I enjoy the action. I like to fight.'" Where's the football metaphor? Action? Fighting?

4. Stray intellectualism: "For Barry, the battle for New Orleans’s survival would be fought along the Santayana-Hegel axis." Santayana is George Santayana, best known for the aphorism "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Hegel, unlike Santayana, apparently needs no first name (or, really, would require 3 more names if we weren't on a single-name basis with him)...

... Hegel — doesn't he look like he's wearing glasses when he's not? — said a lot of things. Whatever Hegel's most famous quote is, he also said — and this is the source for the concept of a Santayana-Hegel axis "The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history."

5. Flare up of bad science in an article impugning the bad science of others: "The sea is rising along the southeast coast of Louisiana faster than it is anywhere else in the world." (Thanks to The Drill SGT, in the comments, for pointing to that.) Connected waters — such as the Gulf of Mexico and all of the oceans of the world — rise in one big, flat unit. "The sea" may be encroaching on the land in Louisiana faster than anywhere else in the world, but that's mainly because the land isn't getting continually regenerated with mud from upstream. I read that sentence as an effort to slip in some global warming alarmism, which, as noted in #1, supra, is not what this story is about.

6. Louisiana has a Coastal Master Plan, which is supposed to cost $50 billion, with $20 billion of that coming from the BP oil spill settlement. Barry's lawsuit is based on a calculation about who should pay the remaining $30 billion: "Because the industry conceded responsibility for 36 percent of land loss, it should pay its part: $18 billion would be a start." That's a calculation of the damages. A successful lawsuit requires a basis for liability. The liability argument is premised on 100 years of violating permits. But whether that's enough to win or not, the article reveals that the lawyers "hoped, perhaps quixotically, that after filing their lawsuit, other parishes and levee boards across the state would join the effort, with the goal of achieving a larger settlement with the entire industry." Is filing a frighteningly huge and complex lawsuit with the aim of forcing your opponent to settle anything like anything that happened in "Don Quixote"?

7. Not getting the Rotary Club. Barry, on the advice of a lobbyist, gave presentations at Rotary Club meetings. The NYT writer ascribes this thought to Barry: "If he could sway hostile crowds at Rotary Clubs, shouldn’t he be able to persuade enough legislators to kill a bill?" (The bill would deprive the regional levee board, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, of power to bring the suit.) My experience with the Rotary Club is limited a single event here in Madison, but there's one thing that was outstandingly clear: These people are dedicated to principles of friendliness and goodwill. Barry encountered "hostile crowds at Rotary Clubs"? But he swayed them? I find that hard to believe. I think it's more likely that he felt — or could tell himself and others — that he swayed people because he had reason to believe they didn't like his lawsuit, but they evinced the civility and good feeling to which the club dedicates itself.

8. The meat of the article has to do with the Louisiana legislature considering a series of bills aimed at depriving the plaintiff of standing to bring the lawsuit. The NYT writer outlines a story of oil and gas company lobbyists and legislators changing their minds over small favors like "funding for a new roof for a V.F.W. hall in his district." I see a lot of compression in this sentence: "Some of the bills were seen as overly broad, raising the fear that they might endanger the incipient BP settlement; others were voted down over constitutional concerns." Were minds changed or was legislative text refined? In the end a bill passed, Governor Bobby Jindal signed it, and the last hope for the lawsuit is an argument to the federal judge that the bill is unconstitutional (or that it doesn't, on its text, deprive the levee board of standing in federal court). The judge is Nannette Jolivette Brown, who was appointed by Barack Obama. Meanwhile, Bobby Jindal is working on repopulating the board, which is currently 5-4 in favor of continuing its lawsuit.

9. There's political pressure on Jindal to fund the Coastal Master Plan, and the end of the lawsuit could focus attention on that. Having promoted the lawsuit-ending legislation, he could see a glorious self-interest in balancing his environmental image by extracting that $18 billion from the oil and gas companies. His term ends in January 2016, a presidential election year. Jindal's stalled at 3% in the polls. Impress us, Bobby!

10. Barry was a member of the levee board when the lawsuit was filed, and he'd been accused of joining the board for "ulterior motives." So he pledged not to write about the lawsuit. But now, as the last paragraph of the article tells us, he's considering breaking that pledge. So the hero of the NYT Magazine article will be the (pledge-breaking) hero of his own book? Last sentence of the article: "But John Barry, John Barry insists, would be just a minor character." Damn, a paraphrase! I'm going to infer that our hero didn't get the words out quite so elegantly.