May 28, 2015

"There are five leaders — or no leaders — as Republican voters look at likely GOP candidates in the 2016 White House race..."

"... with no candidate above 10 percent and 20 percent undecided, according to a Quinnipiac University National poll released today."

Watch it with me: George Pataki announces his bid for the GOP nomination.

1. Blowy curtains looking out from a high level onto New York City = vague reminder of 9/11. George Pataki was governor of New York when the attacks occurred. The camera advances and the the white curtains — ghosts of the past — move out of view and we look on the city ≈ we recovered from 9/11, with the help of George Petaki.

2. We see the dramatically shadowed face of Pataki, talking about "our uncertain future." He's wearing a zip-up windbreaker, an open-collared plaid shirt, and a grim expression. Blurred in the background is a painting of a sunrise... or sunset... which? I don't know. The future is uncertain.

3. "We are founded on a miracle — a heroic past." He's back to the past, much further in the past than 9/11, and he's back to the window. It's evening... or is it dawn? I don't know. The future is uncertain. He's putting on a tie. Going to work? For us? The view is out over the city again. NYC, I assume. He's got a nice apartment. Makes me wonder what he's been up to since he stopped being governor 9 years ago. (Wikipedia says he's a lawyer at Chadbourne & Parke, concentrating on renewable energy.)

4. Speaking of "courage," the "God-given liberty of the human spirit," and "inventors, visionaries, and heroes," he's tying his shoes. It's a closeup. Could just be stock footage. I don't want to mislead you. Anyway, you know inventors, visionaries, and heroes do put their shoes on in the morning... or when they're going out for the evening. Whichever. Now, Pataki is putting on a tie — a blue tie — and some lady is helping him. Not to the point of tying it for him. Petaki is a man who ties his shoes and his tie. We see his nice apartment again. He's used his God-given liberty well, I presume.

5. Now, we see rain on a windshield of a car and Pataki intones about Washington — "too big," "too intrusive." That's "exactly what the Founding Fathers feared." There's a close-up of Pataki's face as he says with some emphasis that it's time to protect our freedom and "take back this government." He tells us he was a Republican governor in a "deep blue state" for 3 terms. (That one-ups Scott Walker, who's only completed one term as governor, in a not-all-that-blue state.)

6. But he started small. He was the mayor of Peekskill. We see him walking on a stone jetty. 1:27: DOGS!!! 2 Labradors. Black and chocolate. He's scratching the ears of the chocolate. The dog kisses him. He cares about people. We see nice, smiling people. This is the I'm-a-normal-person part of the video. Cares about people like you. He tells people in a bar that they're what we need to make this country work. They give him enthusiastic applause... right after he says "And lunch is on me."

7. Views of the rebuilt World Trade Center site. "When we stand together, we can accomplish anything." That's what he saw after 9/11, when we understood that "We are all Americans." We see more high views of the city and this time we see the Freedom Tower (from Tower 4, which overlooks it). The words "We the People" appear on the screen, and he uses "We the People..." 3 times. The phrase "stand together" reappears. Text on screen asserts that Pataki led New York after the 9/11 attacks. (I note for the first time that the word "attack" is embedded in his name.) "What unites us is so much more important than what might seem superficially to divide us." Most politicians would say "What unites us is much more important than what divides us." I feel there's some insight to be gained from the "so" — it's a tad emotive — and, especially, the "might seem superficially" — which suggests education, precision, and lawyerliness and functions to deny that we are divided in any significant way at all.

8. Now some quick images flash: the original flag, the Founding Fathers, Lincoln with Union soldiers, Confederate soldiers, the men raising the flag at Iwo Jima, an astronaut with the flag on the moon, the Twin Towers "Tribute of Light," a big flag. The voice over is: "We have to fall in love with America again." Text on screen: "United We Stand." Then: "What will We the People stand for?" Then: "Pataki for President."

9. One more look at the Freedom Tower, seen from Tower 4, with Pataki speaking about "reclaiming the skyline" and "coming back stronger and better."

10. So: A good introductory video. You want a governor? I am that governor. Look what I've been through. Look where I was. He's been out of the public eye for an awfully long time, and he seems rather dull. But as long as we're looking through the whole deck, he belongs in the group.  

"I want to play in the NBA. Or be a mortician."

"Why a mortician?"

"I liked the way that my uncle was dressed at his funeral. And if I’m a mortician when someone in my family passes away, then I can take care of their body. Also my science teacher went on the internet for me and found out that morticians make $54,000 a year."

"There is no way that she did not know what was going on, that women were being abused and accosted by her husband."

"She knew what was happening and just to ignore it. It was a political relationship and suited them both. The Clintons don't care what they do, who they run over to get to the top. It is all about political status."

Said Paula Jones, who was run over so long ago that many young voters have never heard of her.

"Did this have something to do with Monica Lewinsky?" a student asked last month when we read Clinton v. Jones. I wondered whether the Supreme Court's statement of the facts in that case came as a strange surprise to the young people in the class:
Those allegations principally describe events that are said to have occurred on the afternoon of May 8, 1991, during an official conference held at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Governor delivered a speech at the conference; respondent--working as a state employee--staffed the registration desk. She alleges that Ferguson persuaded her to leave her desk and to visit the Governor in a business suite at the hotel, where he made "abhorrent" sexual advances that she vehemently rejected. She further claims that her superiors at work subsequently dealt with her in a hostile and rude manner, and changed her duties to punish her for rejecting those advances. Finally, she alleges that after petitioner was elected President, Ferguson defamed her by making a statement to a reporter that implied she had accepted petitioner's alleged overtures, and that various persons authorized to speak for the President publicly branded her a liar by denying that the incident had occurred.

Does this mean Obama's immigration plan will only be carried out if the next President wants to do it?

I'm trying to delve into the true import of this NYT article titled "Immigration Overhaul May Be in Limbo Until Late in Obama’s Term." The headline seems to inject some optimism into the scenario. Let's look closely:

1. There's a preliminary injunction in place preventing Obama from going forward with his plan, and the Justice Department has chosen not to go to the Supreme Court now. So the litigation continues on the merits in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which will take some time. When it ends, whoever wins will seek Supreme Court review. That's going to take some time.

2.  How much time? The NYT says: "That legal battle may extend for a year or more, officials said, undermining any hope of putting the president’s plan into effect until right before the 2016 election." I take that to refer to the possibility that the Supreme Court (assuming it takes the case) would come out with a decision before it goes on its summer break, which would leave Obama with half a year to go forward with his plan.

3. Would Obama start up his program right on the eve of his successor's election? It's a political problem, but it's not just a political problem. Politically, it might help the Democratic candidate to have the program begun so that she (or he) can say you need me to continue it. Pressure could be put on the Republican to say whether he'd keep it going or not and what he'd do with the problem instead. Obama could choose whichever works better for the Democrat, when the time comes. At a late point in the campaign, he'll have the power to affect the factual context of the immigration issue.

4. But it's also a practical problem. It's a program that invites undocumented immigrants to "come out of the shadows." Who will want to do that in late 2016? If it won't work, because those who are eligible to come out lack confidence that the program will stay in place, then why do it? Well, the reasons discussed in point #3 might still hold. Begin the program for show. You've got a safe haven for people but the people are too afraid to use it. Look! Isn't that sad! Don't you want to vote for the candidate who will make it possible for people to use this wonderful plan Obama thought up? That's the political argument that could be built on the practical problem.

5. The political argument built on the practical problem only works if it turns out that voters in the swing states want the reform and approve of Presidents acting independently of Congress. But, as noted in point #3, Obama will make the decision close to the election, so he'll have up-to-date  information about how people feel — not only what they think about immigration but whether they're susceptible to the argument that it's important for Obama to end his presidency on a high note. His word is "HOPE." Wouldn't it be beautiful if he ended with this success that is the very essence of hope? Will that idea resonate in the summer and fall of 2016? He can decide when the time comes.

6. Points ##3, 4, and 5 all assume Obama will win in the Supreme Court. That's unlikely, I think. If he loses, however, he hands his party's candidate an excellent issue: those terrible conservatives on the  Supreme Court who are ruining everything.

May 27, 2015

"Nebraska on Wednesday became the first conservative state in more than 40 years to abolish the death penalty..."

"... with lawmakers defying their Republican governor, Pete Ricketts, a staunch supporter of capital punishment who had lobbied vigorously against banning it."

Nice going, Nebraska.


At the Tree Face Café...


... it's free space to play.

"We are at the water's edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech."

"Because today, we've reached the point in our society where, if you do not support same-sex marriage, you are labeled a homophobe and a hater.... After they are done going after individuals, the next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church, is hate speech and there’s a real and present danger.”

Said Marco Rubio.

"To be thin-skinned, farsighted, and loose-tongued... is to feel too sharply, see too clearly, speak too freely."

"It is to be vulnerable to the world when the world believes itself invulnerable, to understand its mutability when it thinks itself immutable, to sense what’s coming before others sense it, to know that the barbarian future is tearing down the gates of the present while others cling to the decadent, hollow past. If our children are fortunate, they will inherit only your ears, but, regrettably, as they are undeniably mine, they will probably think too much too soon and hear too much too early, including things that are not permitted to be thought or heard."

From a Salman Rushdie story called "The Duniazát."

"You can be full of kindness and love, but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog. I am proud to be called a radical Buddhist."

Said Ashin Wirathu, the leader of Burma’s 969 movement, quoted in a WaPo article titled "The serene-looking Buddhist monk accused of inciting Burma’s sectarian violence."
A catchy pop tune titled “Song to Whip Up Religious Blood” is often played at 969 rallies. The movement is named for three digits that monks say symbolize the virtues of the Buddha, Buddhist practices and the Buddhist community, but its theme song is far from devotional. The lyrics reference people who “live in our land, drink our water, and are ungrateful to us,” according to the Times. And the chorus, “We will build a fence with our bones if necessary,” is repeated over and over again.

Wirathu claims that his movement is not responsible for the violence against the Rohingya [Burma’s Muslims]. But he does repeatedly insist that Muslims — whom he often calls “kalars,” a derogatory term roughly equivalent to the N-word — need to be kept in their place. He calls for boycotts of Muslim-owned businesses, warns Buddhists to protect their women from Muslim rapists and was a vocal backer of a law restricting marriages between Buddhists and Muslims...

Reconsidering America.

I scoffed at the idea, but Meade insisted, so... listen:

This is a band that got started in 1970, a year when I was in college and absolutely no one would give these guys any respect.

The all-male feminist support group.

"I just wish there was a way that we could be validated for being such great feminists."

"Swiss authorities conducted an extraordinary early-morning operation here Wednesday to arrest several top soccer officials and extradite them to the United States on federal corruption charges."

"As leaders of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, gathered for their annual meeting, more than a dozen plain-clothed Swiss law enforcement officials arrived unannounced at the Baur au Lac hotel, an elegant five-star property with views of the Alps and Lake Zurich. They went to the front desk to get room numbers and then proceeded upstairs."

What a scene!

ADDED: Shouldn't America leave soccer problems to the countries that call it football?

"But the problem with thinking of Mars as a fallback planet (besides the lack of oxygen and air pressure and food and liquid water) is that it overlooks the obvious."

"Wherever we go, we’ll take ourselves with us. Either we’re capable of dealing with the challenges posed by our own intelligence or we’re not. Perhaps the reason we haven’t met any alien beings is that those which survive aren’t the type to go zipping around the galaxy. Maybe they’ve stayed quietly at home, tending their own gardens."

From "Project Exodus/What’s behind the dream of colonizing Mars?" by Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker (which I believe is available even to nonsubscribers).

I'm reading that because I read The New Yorker, but by coincidence, I'd just been rereading old Dan Quayle quotes. (Because yesterday, it became necessary to remind you: "What a waste it is to lose one's mind, or not to have a mind is being very wasteful, how true that is.") And I loved this one:
"Mars is essentially in the same orbit . . . Mars is somewhat the same distance from the Sun, which is very important. We have seen pictures where there are canals, we believe, and water. If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe."
Remember the Mars canals?

Almost as entrancing at The Man in the Moon:

But to get back to the garden — and to The New Yorker — here's a March 2007 piece by Adam Gopnik titled "Voltaire's Garden":
Voltaire goes on to detail the hideous theatrics of the Inquisition: the yellow robes, the burnings and flogging set to Church music, the whole choreography of Christian cruelty. The point of “Candide” is that the rapes and disembowelments, the enslavement and the beatings are not part of some larger plan, not a fact of the fatality of life and the universe, but fiendish tortures thought up by fanatics....

By “garden” Voltaire meant... the better place we build by love. The force of that last great injunction, “We must cultivate our garden,” is that our responsibility is local, and concentrated on immediate action... The horror that Voltaire wanted crushed, cruelty in the name of God and civilization, was a specific and contingent thing... The villains are the villains: Jesuits and Inquisitors and English judges and Muslim clerics and fanatics of all kinds. If they went away, life would be much better. He knew that the flood would get your garden no matter what you did; but you could at least try to keep the priests and the policemen off the grass. It wasn’t enough, but it was something.

"The Old Scott Walker Ad Where He Played An Alter Ego With A Fake Mustache And Glasses."

"The ad, which plays on the famous 'I’m a Mac, I’m a PC' commercial, was run during Walker’s 2008 race for Milwaukee county executive...."

"Democrats hope for Hillary Clinton coattails."

Her campaign is still in its infancy. The presidential election is nearly 18 months away. But Democrats are already banking on a “Hillary effect,” an anticipated wave that will lift the party’s fortunes up and down the ticket.
They're banking on it? Where does this come from? Is it pure lying? Is it propaganda?

"Non-Muslims who work in the Middle East, are forced to wear 'respectable' clothing by their employers, or face disciplinary measures."

"The Arab Muslims say that this demand is quite acceptable; and that this is to ensure that people adhere to local traditions and customs of the host country. So, with this same philosophy, why can't Europeans set a similar standard for migrants?"

That is, by far, the most up-voted comment (out of 708 comments) at the NYT article titled "Muslim Frenchwomen Struggle With Discrimination as Bans on Veils Expand."

I want to say that the answer to that question is obvious: Because we have a strong belief in religious freedom and personal expression. But I can't say "we," because I'm not French. From the article:
Mainstream politicians... say they [support the ban] for the benefit of public order or in the name of laïcité, the French term for the separation of church and state.... The concept of laïcité was developed during the French Revolution, and was intended to limit the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in the government.
A little more detail on that:
The strict separation of church and state... has evolved into what some religious leaders see as a "form of political correctness that made bringing religion into public affairs a major taboo." Former President Sarkozy initially criticised this approach as a "negative laïcité" and wanted to develop a "positive laïcité" that recognizes the contribution of faith to French culture, history and society, allows for faith in the public discourse and for government subsidies for faith-based groups. Sarkozy saw France's main religions as positive contributions to French society...  Sarkozy later changed footing on the place of religion in French society, by publicly declaring the burqa "not welcome" in France in 2009 and favoring legislation to outlaw it....

Should men describe their partner's breasts to other people? Should they write about them on the internet?

A question comes to mind on reading the comments on yesterday's post "Men value intelligence in women far above large breasts and long legs, a Cambridge evolutionary biologist has claimed."

Pick the answer that's closer to what you think (or abstain and participate in the comments). free polls
(If you can't see the vote buttons, vote here.)

ADDED: I recommend answering the first question before clicking to reveal the second question:

May 26, 2015

"I'm saving people a lot of time today: You don't have to meditate. You don't have to exercise. Just read some books from Art Garfunkel's list."

Things heard recently at Meadhouse.

I love the new New Yorker cover.

It's "Suiting Up" by Mark Ulriksen.

Great style and substance. We looked at this one and talked about it for 15 minutes.

Here's Amy Davidson's article about the cover and about all the old covers depicting Hillary Clinton. (You see her way in the back in the window to the door of the men's locker room in the new one.)