September 3, 2015

"5 Totally Exposed Bathrooms."

Somehow, I love these.

"Kareem – Now I know why the press always treated you so badly — they couldn’t stand you."

"The fact is that you don’t have a clue about life and what has to be done to make America great again! Best wishes/Donald Trump."

"The drowned child washed up on a Turkish beach captured in a photograph that went around the world Wednesday was three-year-old Alan Kurdi."

"He died, along with his five-year-old brother Galib and their mother Rehan, in a desperate attempt to reach Canada. The Syrian-Kurds from Kobane died along with eight other refugees early Wednesday. The father of the two boys, Abdullah, survived."

ADDED: A photo shouldn't make a difference. Should it?

"The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order."

"If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that’s what potentially causes problems," said the federal district judge David L. Bunning, sending Rowan county clerk Kim Davis to jail for contempt for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Ms. Davis tearfully testified that she had not hesitated to stand by her religious views and defy the courts. “I didn’t have to think about it,” she said. “There was no choice there....

“Marriage is between one man and one woman,” she replied, before a lawyer asked her whether she had “the ability to believe marriage is anything else.” Ms. Davis offered a terse response: “No.”...

Judge Bunning... said Ms. Davis’s explanation for disobeying his order was “simply insufficient." “It’s not physically impossible for her to issue the licenses,” he said. “She’s choosing not to.”
A high-rated comment at the link (which goes to the NYT):
I am an Orthodox Jew. I can't eat milk and meat together as per my own personal beliefs. But if I were a county clerk, and someone wanted to open up a cheeseburger joint, I'd have absolutely zero right as a government official to deny that person his permit on the grounds of the rules of my religion.
The answer to that, in the terms that Judge Bunning found "simply insufficient," would be that the Orthodox Jewish county clerk would not lack the mental capacity to conceive of a cheeseburger joint as a business requiring a permit. It would just be a business he would not patronize and perhaps disapprove of. Davis was arguing a lack of an "ability to believe" that marriage is anything other than the union of a man and a woman. I do agree with the judge that the argument is insufficient. As a government official, she's obligate to treat same-sex marriages the same as opposite as marriages, whether she privately thinks of them as marriages or not. No one is requiring her to believe something she doesn't believe. She's simply required, as a government official, not to violate the rights of citizens.

Trump signs the loyalty pledge!

"I, Donald Trump, affirm that if I do not win the 2016 Republican nomination for President of the United States I will endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is."

Tom Brady wins in federal court.

"Judge Richard M. Berman of Federal District Court in Manhattan did not rule on whether Brady tampered with the footballs in a bid for competitive advantage. Instead, he focused on the narrower question of whether the collective bargaining agreement between the N.F.L. and the players union gave Goodell the authority to carry out the suspension, and whether Brady was treated fairly during his attempt to have his suspension overturned."

A man who traveled to every country on Earth tells us which countries were the hardest to get to.

It too Albert Podell 50 years to accomplish this goal, and it was arduous. I'm voting for Nauru as the worst of the hardest to get to:
From the late 1960s through the early ’70s, the denizens of this tiny Pacific island were the wealthiest people on the planet per capita, due to the dense and valuable guano deposits left on the island by fish-eating seabirds over a period of eons. The last of these rich phosphate resources were depleted by 2006, and the suddenly impoverished Nauruans were compelled to make a living in other ways. First the country became a tax haven and alleged money-laundering hub for Russian criminals. Then it established internment camps for refugees as part of “the Pacific Solution” to prevent the refugees from reaching or remaining in Australia, and effectively closed its borders to all visa-seekers not approved by the Australian High Commissioner to prevent foreigners from monitoring the migrants’ conditions. Nauru relaxed these restrictions with the formal end of the Pacific Solution in 2008. And though the country remains a dumping ground for many refuge-seekers, it is now focused on legitimate enterprises, including tourism, making it far easier to get a visa—the island’s airline arranged mine, and I finally visited in 2011. But unless you are on a crazy quest to visit every country, you might want to skip this uninviting strip-mined mess of a speck of limestone.
He's written a book about it, so this is one of these situations where reading is really preferable to real life.

Another one of his hard-to-get-to countries is Kiribati, one of my favorite countries to read about and never even consider going to. It's the subject of one of my favorite books, "The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific," by J. Maarten Troost.

"It was a clever, bright show on the surface, but its underlying message declared that marriage was, at best, a vapid compromise, insoluble and finally destructive."

Said Dean Jones, about the Stephen Sondheim musical “Company.”
Not long after the opening night of the musical — in which he played the central role of the 35-year-old bachelor Robert, an object of either envy or concern for a circle of married friends — he quit the production, citing stress and depression related to the recent collapse of his own marriage.

He soon after become a born-again Christian... Although he was replaced by Larry Kert, Mr. Jones agreed to record the original cast album, leaving him indelibly associated with the show, which won the 1971 Tony Award for best musical.
Jones was even better known as the standard man in a Disney movie, especially one with animals — “That Darn Cat!,” “The Ugly Dachshund,” “Monkeys, Go Home!,” “The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit,” “The Shaggy D.A.” — or Volkswagens — “The Love Bug” and “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo.”

He died on Tuesday, of Parkinson’s disease, at the age of 84.

ADDED: Here he is recording "Being Alive" from "Company":

Here are the lyrics — in case you want to analyze what troubled him so:

Jeb pre-blows his appearance on the first Stephen Colbert "Late Show" show.

Without getting the okay from Colbert, Jeb's campaign is trying to raise money by raffling off a "VIP" ticket to the show, which triggers this kind of funny but obviously also angry response from Colbert:

Jeb! quickly gets a social media response to Colbert...

... but the whole thing feels sad. Both men look worse — Jeb! with his low-energy scripted humor and Colbert with his hard-edged, cranked-up, beaming face.

ADDED: I think this hurts Colbert more than Bush, because it's Colbert who's trying to establish credibility as a late-night host to mainstream America. This video has too much of the feeling of the old Comedy Central show. Don't pre-blow it!

September 2, 2015

The are 3 trillion trees on earth.

8 times as many as previously thought.

420 for every person.

IN THE COMMENTS: Drago said: "If you could be any number of trees, which number would you be?"

"Mitt wants to run. He never stopped wanting to run."

"... a senior member of his 2012 team told me. Other Romney-ites, watching this cycle’s candidates falling short, feel a sense of vindication after all the attacks they endured after Romney's failed 2012 bid. 'These guys like Walker and Perry, they were big deals in their states, but you get them onto the national stage and it's a different story,' a former Romney adviser told me. 'It's like they were in middle school, and now they're freshmen in high school and they're getting their faces slammed in the toilets.'"

From "Romney Is Horrified by Trump — and That’s Restarting ‘Mitt 2016’ Talk" in New York Magazine.

Audi wants you to associate its cars with Bob Dylan.

"As the documentary-style video portrays, at the instant Dylan plugged in and fired up his electric guitar, some of the Newport crowd booed the game-changing decision. Festival founders interviewed for the video said they recognized the new technology as a force to be reckoned with...." Blah blah blah...the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid.

A last article from Oliver Sacks: "Urge."

In the New York Review of Books. Excerpt:
Walter, previously a moderate eater, developed a ravenous appetite. “He started to gain weight,” his wife later told me, “and his pants changed three sizes in six months. His appetite was out of control. He would get up in the middle of the night and eat an entire bag of cookies, or a block of cheese with a large box of crackers.”

“I ate everything in sight,” Walter said. “If you put a car on the table, I would have eaten it.”...

Even more disquieting was the development of an insatiable sexual appetite. “He wanted to have sex all the time,” his wife said....
He's caught with child pornography and a criminal prosecution ensues: "At the end of the trial, the judge agreed that Walter could not be held accountable for having Kl├╝ver-Bucy syndrome. But he was culpable...."

Hillary's confidante Sidney Blumenthal called John Boehner "louche, alcoholic, and lazy."

Louche! That really hurts.
Blumenthal went on to compare Boehner unflatteringly with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, saying that while Gingrich was "the natural leader of a 'revolution'", Boehner was "careworn and threadbare, banal and hollow, holding nobody's enduring loyalty."
Hillary's response was just "Thx, as always, for your insights," which is perfectly opaque and boring.

"Louche" is a great word. It means — according to the (unlinkable) OED) — "Oblique, not straightforward. Also, dubious, shifty, disreputable." Sounds like everyone in government, no?

The etymology is: It's French for squinting and comes from the Latin word "lusca," which is the feminine form of the word for one-eyed.

One of the historical examples at the OED comes from George Bernard Shaw, a 1905 letter to Granville Barker: "You could play Snobby. I want a slim, louche, servant-girl-bigamist, half-handsome sort of rascal."

ADDED: For fun, I wanted to add a picture of Hillary squinting. I ran across a bit of Think Progress nonsense from 2008: "Drudge Posts A Picture of Hillary Clinton With Squinted Eyes, Says She’s ‘Feeling Japanese.'" ("Drudge seems to have deliberately chosen a picture of Hillary that hints at Asian stereotypes — slanted eyes, arched eyebrows, and prominent teeth — to pair with the caption that she’s 'feeling Japanese.'")

Oh, that's not Japanese, it's just louche. Here's a better louche Hillary picture...

... with louche Bill as a bonus.

"The Coming Liberal Disaster at the Supreme Court."

Title of a new Jeffrey Toobin piece in The New Yorker. Excerpt:
The liberals’ big victories last term arose from a very particular set of circumstances.... But the conservatives on the Court are poised for a comeback, and the subjects before the Justices appear well suited for liberal defeats....

Affirmative action....


Public-employee unions....

There is not yet a major campaign-finance case before the Justices, but in an election year it would be no surprise to see one surface....

"El hombre no es conservador."

"Besides, he tries to personalize everything. If you're not totally in agreement with him you're an idiot, or stupid, or don't have energy, or blah blah blah."

Jeb Bush lacks the energy to finish a sentence.

"These men are not human. They only think of death. They take drugs constantly. They seek vengeance against everyone."

"They say that one day Islamic State will rule over the whole world."

"I’m not going to expose myself. I’m not a pervert. I’m a transgender woman. I’m a girl."

"I’m just in there to change, do my business, and... if they have any questions about being transgender, they are more than welcome to talk to me, and I’ll be happy to explain it."

And: "The girls have rights, and they shouldn’t have to share a bathroom with a boy."

ADDED: Elizabeth Price Foley has the nerve to say: "And I’m sorry, but 'Lila' is clearly just a dude with a wig, and I wouldn’t want my teenage daughter to share a locker room with him/her/it."

The NYT's embarrassing attack on Clarence Thomas for writing in words that are "not his own."

The Times' Adam Liptak wrote, in paragraph 2, that "opinions contain language from briefs submitted to the court at unusually high rates." And then way down in paragraph 15:
Over the years, the average rate of nearly identical language between a party's brief and the majority opinion was 9.6 percent. Justice Thomas's rate was 11.3 percent. Justice Sonia Sotomayor's was 11 percent, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's 10.5 percent.
So, obviously, there is absolutely nothing special about Thomas's use of language that's also in the briefs.

And, I would add, the use of the same language isn't even a problem, because briefs and court opinions are always studded with quotes from old cases and the kind of stock word clusters that make up legal doctrine and shouldn't be paraphrased. I'm surprised the shared language is as low as 11%. I'd guess that any judge that does us readers the service of keeping it concise would have a higher percentage, because there'd be less filler and verbosity to dilute the necessary language.

My link goes to the blog post at, which cites Orin Kerr's trenchant criticism....
The implication is that Justice Thomas is not doing his job. Not only does he not ask questions, he doesn’t even think for himself. For the New York Times audience, it's the kind of ideological catnip that is likely to make a lasting impression...
... and the wan response to Kerr from the New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan:
I thought the article’s language was quite careful, and, from what I can tell, accurate. But the overall impression it left may well have overstated the case.
And I think those 2 sentences are careful — careful not to hurt Adam Liptak's reputation and careful not to get in the way of the game of inspiring contempt for Clarence Thomas.

Sullivan's short piece  is mostly — talk about using words not your own! — a reprinting of email  from Adam Liptak. I'll put these 4 paragraphs after the jump because they're too long and windy (like a not-concise judicial opinion). I read them with growing outrage at the Sullivan's weak acceptance with mild distancing. She couldn't even say that Liptak overstated Thomas's distinctiveness. It had to be "may well have overstated." Embarrassing!

"The Kentucky county clerk facing potentially stiff penalties for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses has been married 4 times..."

"... raising questions of hypocrisy and selective application of the Bible to her life," U.S. News reports.
She gave birth to twins five months after divorcing her first husband. They were fathered by her third husband but adopted by her second. [Kim] Davis worked at the clerk's office at the time of each divorce and has since remarried.

Davis has described her desire to strictly adhere to the Bible in stark terms and thus far has shown no sign of bending to court orders on same-sex marriage. She said Tuesday she fears going to hell for violating "a central teaching" of the Bible if she complies with the orders.
That's very interesting, but, from a legal standpoint, the scope of Davis's entitlement to relief from substantial burdens on her religion depends on her sincere belief in the religion not on whether she has committed sins within the terms of her religion or whether we think her beliefs are coherent.

In any case, Christians tend to believe that they are forgiven for their sins and to try to go forward without committing new sins, so is this evidence of the "selective application of the Bible to her life"?

It does make Davis a more ridiculous or contemptible person, for those who are inclined to think of her that way. To my mind, it's better simply to see her as someone who cannot hold onto the government job she wants unless she's willing to deal with the public in a manner consistent with our rights.