August 29, 2014

"One would have expected that in 67 years that we would become more democratic, more tolerant — rather than become more intolerant and narrow-minded."

In India, the censorship of a film about the assassination of Indira Gandhi, which took place in 1984. ("67 years" refers to India achieving independence.)

From the censor: "Look at the complexities. You have multiple languages, multiple religions, multiple social strata, multiple advantages, disadvantages. It can be very problematic."

Overheard at Meadhouse.

"This is what I want. Except it's ugly as sin."

"Sin can be pretty ugly."

"The problem is sin is not ugly."

"If only sin were uglier."

"Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?"

Did you know that President Obama wore a tan suit and the internet freaked out?

Too soon?

"Other than an off-colour tweet and subsequent apology by the British Embassy, the bicentennial of the punitive mission of 1814 that left the US capital in flames has received little attention this week...."

What cakes will be baked and tweets tweeted on September 11, 2201?

"Each of the couple’s six children had a job in the nuptials. The bride was walked down the aisle by eldest sons Maddox and Pax..."

"... while daughters Zahara and Vivienne tossed flower petals. Shiloh and Knox served as ring bearers."

Nice. The kids were central, and it was the kids who wanted the wedding. Angelina Jolie had been explaining to them for years that "our commitment when we decided to start a family was the greatest commitment you could possibly have," but the movie stars' kids were "watching movies featuring weddings, including 'Shrek,' and had been asking a lot of questions."
Earlier this year, she joked that the kids would serve as wedding planners, and the nuptials would be Disney-themed or feature paintball.

“It means something to them,” [Brad] Pitt said of a wedding in 2012. “We will [get married] someday, we will. It’s a great idea. ‘Get mommy a ring.’ ‘OK, I will, I will.’ ”

“Most kids have a wish for their parents to be married, even or especially kids of celebrities,” says Lisa Brateman, a New York-based psychotherapist. “I think marriage offers a perception of emotional security.”
"Perception," says the psychotherapist. We adults know marriage doesn't make permanence, but the kids believe.

On the subject of the faith of children, Jesus said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

After collecting "about 538 tons of food waste, paper contaminated with food waste and pet waste," Madison gives up on its organic waste composting project.

"The Streets Division can’t afford a $120,000 filter needed to remove non-compostable material, and it makes no sense to seek money for it and significantly broaden the program with uncertainty about when the [$20.6 million] biodigester will be built...."
The Streets Division was poised to add 1,600 households and 25 to 30 businesses this summer to get more residents, events and businesses used to separating organics....

Dan Schwartz, a participant in the pilot program who lives near East High School, said he does some of his own composting, but he wasn’t able to compost bones, paper plates and pizza boxes, all items allowed in the city program.

“It’s unfortunate they’re stopping it, because it will be harder to start it up again and get people used to it again,” he said. He’s already contacted his alderperson and the mayor to complain, he said.
I added the boldface. That phrase "get used to it" keeps coming up in the context of recycling/composting. We're being trained.

ADDED: Were disposable baby diapers allowed in this program? I'm guessing no, but if pet waste was allowed, why not? From the Madison website, a question:
Also, question, on diapers and sanitary products...these have plastic liners, should the interiors be removed from the liner part ew, but I'm willing to do that for the greater good or can the whole thing be dropped in?
The answer is no diapers and sanitary napkins, because: "We do not want to face regulation as a sewerage treatment facility." Ironic, no? The city government doesn't like all that government regulation.

But here's an old NYT report of a dirty diaper composting program in Toronto. And here's the Toronto website, still saying put "Diapers, sanitary products" in the Green Bin. But not: "Dryer sheets, baby wipes, make-up pads, cotton tipped swabs, dental floss."

The 6th Circuit reverses the hate-crime conviction of 15 Old Order Amish for cutting off the beards of Amish men and hair of Amish women.

Marty Lederman criticizes the court:
A critical part of the majority's decision is based upon its conclusion that the evidence did not necessarily prove that the victims' religion was a but-for cause of the assaults. That conclusion strikes me as untenable — indeed, deeply disturbing in its implications....

[T]he assaults... came in the wake of a profound rift within this particular Amish community.  [The Bishop of the Bergholz community, Samuel] Mullett had excommunicated several church members for challenging his leadership.... Mullett was angry.... The series of assaults then followed, under Mullett's direction. The victims were all Amish individuals who were apostates in Mullett's view.... As the court notes, Amish men do not trim their beards, and Amish women do not cut their hair, "as a way of symbolizing their piety, demonstrating righteousness and conveying an Amish identity.
The criminality of the assaults is obvious, but is it a federal crime, a "hate crime" under 18 U.S.C. § 249(a)(2)(A)? It is if it's done "because of the actual or perceived . . . religion . . . of [that] person." The problem is that the trial judge's instructions translated that into a need to find that the victims' religion was "a significant motivating factor," but the appellate court said religion needs to be the "but-for" cause (that is, without this motivation, the act would not have taken place).

Lederman assumes the court is right about that but buys the government's argument that the error was harmless.
Based solely on the undisputed facts described in Judge Sutton's opinion... it appears to be clear that at least some of the victims--those who were excommunicated or who left voluntarily, at a minimum--would not have assaulted but for the fact that Mullett viewed them as heretical.  (Mullet said that beard and hair cuttings would stop people from being “Amish hypocrites.”) And that's true even if the particular assailants were motivated in the first instance by other factors, such as interfamilial disputes or anger about nonreligious actions of the victims....

[And] isn't it plain beyond any doubt that the victims' religion was a but-for cause of the type of bodily injury that occurred here — the cutting of beards and hair?  The assailants obviously chose to use that very unusual form of assault because the hair and beards were of deep religious significance to the victims — indeed, to strike at a fundamental component of their religious identity, by deliberately imparting a tangible, humiliating public sign that the victims were religious outcasts.

"And if [the rapists] are providing [love], plus drugs, and alcohol and freedoms, or perceived freedoms, then we're never going to be able to keep [young girls] safe."

That's a quote from BBC's unnamed source who was a home-care worker in in Rothingham during the period when 1,400 young girls were systematically raped over a period of years:

August 28, 2014

John Rocker — the baseball player destroyed by a Sports Illustrated profile in 1999 — comes back into the culture spotlight as a contestant on "Survivor."

The new season starts on September 24, so let's talk about the old SI article that ruined his career.

I don't remember the old controversy, but I'm interested in looking at what sort of sexist-racist-homophobia material was stirring people up back in the year when Bill Clinton was acquitted in his impeachment trial, "The Sopranos" TV show began,  Dr. Jack Kevorkian was convicted of second degree murder for assisting in the suicide of a terminally ill man, there was a war in Kosovo and a massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado,  "Fight Club," Being John Malkovich," and "The Matrix" were playing in the movie theaters, and — most memorably — Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Hisamuddin Alam Shah Al-Haj, Sultan of Selangor became the 11th Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia.

"The 10 Cities With The Highest Quality Of Life."

"1. Madison, Wisconsin."

"For those at Northeastern, breaking into the U.S. News top 100 was like landing a man on the moon, but Freeland was determined to try."

"Reverse-engineering the formulas took months; perfecting them took years."
“We could say, ‘Well, if we could move our graduation rates by X, this is how it would affect our standing,’” Freeland says. “It was very mathematical and very conscious and every year we would sit around and say, ‘Okay, well here’s where we are, here’s where we think we might be able to do next year, where will that place us?’”
Via Tax Prof.

It's official: "everyone... in the country who wants to be married is legally able."

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie — with 6 children and 10 years into their relationship and after saying they would not marry until "everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able" — have married.

Should they not have waited until the Supreme Court releases the virtually undoubtedly forthcoming decision declaring a right of same-sex couples to marry? Ah, we're close enough! And is the Supreme Court really a more authoritative expositor of American rights that Brad and Angelina?

It is emphatically the province and duty of pop culture icons to say what the law is.

"Without making the victims responsible for what happens, one of the groups that have to be trained not to drink in excess are women."

"They need to be in a position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave. And so part of the problem is you have men who take advantage of women who drink too much and there are women who drink too much. And we need to educate our daughters and our children in that regard."

Said Former GWU President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, participating in a Diane Rehm Show panel discussing the role of fraternities on campus. He'd just touted their "philanthropic activities" and "leadership training" and segued to: "They get other kinds of training as well. Combatting sexual misconduct..."

He was interrupted by Rehm, who asked whether fraternities were — as opposed to combatting sexual misconduct — "participating in sexual misconduct"? That is, Trachtenberg wanted to present fraternities as serving the greater good, and, in that light, they might fight against "sexual misconduct," but isn't that at least partly because they are the source of the problem? Now, it's a good idea for those who are doing what is wrong to take charge of eliminating what is wrong, so why not get Trachtenberg to come out and say that?

Of course, Trachtenberg is getting excoriated for saying that women need "to be trained not to drink in excess," but, to be fair, he had just spoken about men training each other not to commit assaults. If you can get past the static of that one word, does Trachtenberg deserve all the abuse he's getting?

He prefaces the remark with a disclaimer: "Without making the victims responsible for what happens...." That actually works as a confession that he knows he's saying that women should take responsibility for avoiding becoming victims, and I think he means to say it and to acknowledge he's going to be criticized.

As for the advice — good advice to everyone — "not to drink in excess," he's including women as "one of the groups." What are these groups? The other group, I take it, is: men. There are two groups: men and women. Neither should drink to excess. All human beings, in their youth, should acquire the skill of not drinking to excess. Kind of a no-brainer, but Trachtenberg didn't say it quite correctly enough to deflect abuse. And — to use a phrase — he asked for it.

ADDED: Hours after this post went up I noticed a slip: "There are two groups: men and women. Neither should drink to access." Yikes! Corrected.

"Apparently, guileful students are thesaurusizing cut-and-paste plagiarism to fool both their professors and anti-cheating software such as Turnitin."

"But as long as a human is grading those essays, phrases like 'sinister buttocks' (for 'left behind'!) are guaranteed to provoke a professorial head-scratch (and some welcome, albeit dispiriting, entertainment during grading)."

It depends on what the meaning of "isn't" is.

I didn't have the patience to slog through that long article at Vox purporting to answer the question whether Tony Soprano died in the final episode of "The Sopranos," which ends with a cut to black as Tony and his wife and son are sitting around a restaurant table listening to "Don't Stop Believin'" as mysterious doings have been making us feel that we're about to see some carnage.

I blogged the end of the series at the time, in 2007, and I never got sucked into the confusion:
Soooo... I assumed they were all killed and the blackout was just to spare us from seeing it. But over on Television Without Pity, everyone's all confused, saying what happened, curse you David Chase, and I thought my cable went out.
Then, considering the "Don't Stop Believin'" lyric "It goes on and on and on and on," I added: "maybe they do go on and on and on. Or maybe there's going to be a 'Sopranos' movie."

And certainly — I'm adding this now — people would go on and on talking about it, even after James Gandofini died (in 2013), and there's not going to be a movie or some more episodes. It's not like we want more without Tony (though the show did find a way to get on without Livia, when the actress Nancy Marchand died after Season 1).

But I'm catching up on the Vox article this morning by reading Dave Itzkoff's short piece in The New York Times: "David Chase Says Remarks About ‘Sopranos’ Finale Were Misconstrued."

Speaking of cuts and Chase, Itzkoff cuts to the chase: The author of the Vox piece, "Martha P. Nochimson, an author, journalist and professor... when... she directly asked Mr. Chase if Tony was dead." Chase's answer was, in it's entirety, "No he isn’t."

"Are people hating on this dress? Do they not appreciate the fact..."

"... that it looks like blood snow falling on a dark night of the soul?"

And don't miss: "But this is a travesty atop a catastrophe sprinkled throughout the wreckage of a nightmare dreamed up by a colorblind psychopath."

August 27, 2014

New Marquette poll has Mary Burke 2 points ahead of Scott Walker with likely voters, and 4 points behind with registered voters.

"Poll director Charles Franklin called the results 'the epitome of what a horse race looks like.'"

Also in the poll: "A solid majority, 54 percent, say the state is heading in the right direction, while 42 percent say it's on the wrong track...."

ADDED: The new poll has Walker with 47.5% and Burke at 44.1% among registered voters, while last month it was 45.8% percent support, with Burke at 44.8%. Likely voters are identified by Marquette as those who say they are "certain to vote in November’s election," and it's Burke 48.6%, Walker 46.5%. In July it was Burke 46.8%, Walker’s 46.3%.  The questionnaire (PDF) asks people whether they are "Absolutely certain" or "Very Likely" to vote in November, and I wonder what the spread would be if the "Very Likely"s were included. Who can be "Absolutely certain" that they will even be alive in November? It would seem that they are screening for fuzzy thinkers and liars.

"While lawyers for Wisconsin and Indiana attempted to defend their state’s marriage bans, Posner issued a series of withering bench slaps..."

"... that unmasked anti-gay arguments as the silly nonsense that they are. Reading this string of brutal retorts is fun enough — but it’s even better to listen to them delivered in Posner’s own distinctive cadence. With the help of my Slate colleague Jeff Friedrich, I’ve collected the most exhilarating, satisfying, and hilarious of the bunch."

Nice job presenting the clips, by Mark Joseph Stern at Slate. And I'm saying that based on listening to the entire thing myself. I summarized it last night like this:

"ESPN regrets... we collectively failed to meet the standards we have set in reporting on LGBT-related topics in sports."

"On Tuesday, while providing an update about [Michael] Sam’s quest to make the St. Louis Rams’ final roster, reporter Josina Anderson said that a Rams 'defensive player told me that "Sam is respecting our space" and that, from his perspective, he seems to think that Michael Sam is waiting to take a shower, as not to make his teammates feel uncomfortable.'"

What exactly are the standards... other than never saying anything that gets criticized? Obviously, it's not: Don't talk about an athlete's sexual orientation. Journalists seem eager to talk a whole lot about the openly gay football player. If it's important, why is it important? Wasn't the issue supposed to have something to do with the intimacy of the locker room? 

Watch the whole clip at the link, because I think Josina Anderson did the work she was assigned to do and certainly doesn't seem homophobic. I don't think ESPN's apology reflex is fair to her.

How much would I have to pay an economist to get him to stop annoying me by talking like an economist?

"... I own the right to recline, and if my reclining bothers you, you can pay me to stop. We could (but don’t) have an alternative system in which the passenger sitting behind me owns the reclining rights. In that circumstance, if I really care about being allowed to recline, I could pay him to let me.... I understand people don’t like negotiating with strangers, but in hundreds of flights I have taken, I have rarely had anyone complain to me about my seat recline, and nobody has ever offered me money, or anything else of value, in exchange for sitting upright. If sitting behind my reclined seat was such misery, if recliners like me are 'monsters,'... why is nobody willing to pay me to stop?"

Writes Josh Barro in "Don’t Want Me to Recline My Airline Seat? You Can Pay Me."

So stop worrying that you're bothering anybody that hasn't offered you money to stop doing that. [About anything. Not just on airplanes.] And await the day when we'll all be able to raise money by going about annoying people doing anything short of what gets us arrested or sued in tort. 

And I don't think I'm contradicting all the many economics-y things I said in the comments to that other post today about reclining airline seats: