May 25, 2015

At Abby's Café...

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... talk about whatever you want. (Note: Moderation is on this morning. Sorry!)

More pictures of Abby at The Puparazzo, here. Also new over there, a Corgi and a white German Shepherd.

"George was also very depressed and told his mother that his life was so wretched that he would rather die."

''She said, 'So look George, if your life is so wretched, just go and shoot yourself.' So George went to the basement, stuck a .22-caliber rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger.''

The bullet didn't kill him. It cured him. Not that the mother predicted that bizarrely fortunate outcome!

"You can imagine how many times each of these men and women have heard a parent tell their child, 'Don't look. Don't stare at him. That's rude.'"

"I take these pictures so that we can look; we can see what we're not supposed to see. And we need to see them because we created them."

"Turning sewage into drinking water gains appeal as drought lingers."

California gets ready for "indirect potable reuse."
Instead of flushing hundreds of billions of gallons of treated sewage into the Pacific Ocean each year, as they do now, coastal cites can capture that effluent, clean it and convert it to drinking water.

"That water is discharged into the ocean and lost forever," said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Assn. of California Water Agencies. "Yet it's probably the single largest source of water supply for California over the next quarter-century."...

"You know, toilet to tap might be the only answer at this point," said Van Nuys activist Donald Schultz. "I don't support it, but we're running out of options. In fact, we may have already run out of options."

The problem with "The Tolerant Jeweler Who Harbored an Impure Opinion of Same-Sex Marriage."

All Right, you've probably seen this Charles C.W. Cooke headline at The National Review for a story about a lesbian couple in Canada who ordered wedding rings and then wanted their money back when they found out the jeweler opposes same-sex marriage.
When the couple “found out what he really believed about same-sex marriage,” Dreher writes, they “balked, and demanded their money back — and the mob threatened the business if they didn’t yield.” Which is ultimately to say that White and Renouf sought to break their contract — not, you will note, because he was rude or because he failed to deliver on his promises, but because they made a window into his soul and they did not like what they saw — and then, when he objected, to subject him to bullying and to threats until he caved. Is that “tolerance”?
1. It's not breaking a contract to ask to be released from a deal. The very fact that Cooke added "sought" shows that "breaking" (like "breaching") is the wrong word. Parties to a contract can reach a new agreement, ending the deal. That doesn't break the contract. It rescinds the contract by mutual agreement.

2. Cooke leaves readers to think that the jeweler merely held an opinion — in his mind, in his soul — and people peered into that secret, personal space and took umbrage. But — click on the link in Cooke's article and get to the news story — the jeweler posted a sign in his store: "The sanctity of marriage is under attack. Let's keep marriage between a man and a woman." This sign was posted after they made the deal to buy the rings, and at that point they felt bad about having their rings — the rings that are highly symbolic to them — coming from that place. The jeweler displayed a message of disrespect to them and they objected.

3. What if a black person made a restaurant reservation and showed up to find racist posters on the wall but the maitre d' was perfectly polite and ready to seat him? Wouldn't you support the customer's request to be released from the reservation without having his card charged? If the restaurant had a policy of charging customers who don't follow through on reservations, that policy was clearly explained at the time of phone call making the reservation, and the restaurant insisted on charging, what would you think if the customer went on Facebook and told his story and got a lot of negative PR for the restaurant, hurting its business?

4. Businesses may choose (or be required) to provide service without discrimination against gay people, but that doesn't create a reciprocal obligation in consumers, requiring them not to take gay-friendliness into account at all. There's nothing hypocritical about expecting businesses not to discriminate against you and still, when choosing which business to patronize, selecting the one that you think really respects you and other people you care about.

5. "Toleration" is a good standard, but it's not the best. (You may remember that James Madison, participating in the drafting of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, changed the word "toleration" — written by George Mason — to "free exercise.") You wouldn't go to a party where the invitation said your presence would be tolerated. You'd feel bad about needing to accept a job offer that said you would be tolerated as an employee. If you have a choice of businesses to patronize, you might say: I don't give a damn what they really think of me as long as they're polite — I'll pick the one with the best product. Fine. That's you. But somebody else might say: As long as the products are pretty similar, I'm going to patronize the business that shares my politics (or my religion or my culture).

6. A jeweler who puts up signs expressing various religious messages is seeking the advantages to be gained by customers choosing businesses according to the politics/religion of the proprietor. He's stimulating the marketplace with the expression of opinion, getting some customers and losing others. Let's not pretend he's a humble little shopkeeper getting bullied by mean people who won't let him harbor thoughts deemed impure. When you speak, you might cause others not to like you and to want to avoid your business. That's part of free speech!

"We don't wail when things go badly, nor blow off steam at every victory. The fight goes on, come good news or bad."

WAC with flag

Memorial Day.

May 24, 2015

"Pentagon report predicted West’s support for Islamist rebels would create ISIS."

"Anti-ISIS coalition knowingly sponsored violent extremists to 'isolate’' Assad, rollback 'Shia expansion.'"

"One of the most entertaining searches you can do on Spotify is for Hitler: There are tons of songs."

"A band called The Buttplugs wrote one about Hitler’s nipples. There’s one by Antony & the Johnsons ('Hitler in My Heart'), and one by Faith No More ('Crack Hitler'). There’s the obligatory Mel Brooks number, plenty of punk, and a track by Bob Newhart. There’s a Churchill speech and a testimonial from an RAF Bomber, and the announcement of the Führer’s death on German radio. Under related artists, where you’d expect to find Hideki Tojo, Benito Mussolini, or maybe Himmler, you find Neville Chamberlain, Edward Kennedy, John Glenn, and Charles Lindbergh. Statistics aren’t the same as historians. Related Artists is actually a social network for people with extremely eccentric friends: You can get from Nazis to an album of Kurt Vonnegut reading Slaughterhouse-Five in a few clicks. Here’s how: Start with Hitler, and then go to Charles Lindbergh. Take a left at Franklin D. Roosevelt, a hard left at Studs Terkel, and an even harder left at Ward Churchill. Veer slightly right (but you’re really still going left) to Howard Zinn, then Angela Davis. Enter a tunnel until you hit Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Next you’re at Gertrude Stein, who is unexpectedly close to Dorothy Parker. Head right until you see Rudyard Kipling, and after that you can’t miss Vonnegut."

From "Other People’s Playlists/Spotify’s secret social network," by Paul Ford in The New Republic.

Bob Woodward: Bush did not lie about WMD in Iraq.

Today, on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Bob Woodward about the questions the GOP candidates have been getting about Iraq: Was the 2003 invasion a mistake? Woodward answered:
[Y]ou certainly can make a persuasive argument it was a mistake. But there is a time that line going along that Bush and the other people lied about this. I spent 18 months looking at how Bush decided to invade Iraq. And lots of mistakes, but it was Bush telling George Tenet, the CIA director, don't let anyone stretch the case on WMD. And he was the one who was skeptical. And if you try to summarize why we went into Iraq, it was momentum. The war plan kept getting better and easier, and finally at the end, people were saying, hey, look, it will only take a week or two. And early on it looked like it was going to take a year or 18 months. And so Bush pulled the trigger. A mistake certainly can be argued, and there is an abundance of evidence. But there was no lying in this that I could find.
Woodward was also asked if it was a mistake to withdraw in 2011. Wallace points out that Obama has said that he tried to negotiate a status of forces agreement but did not succeed, but "A lot of people think he really didn't want to keep any troops there." Woodward agrees that Obama didn't want to keep troops there and elaborates:

At the Panther Mound...

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... Café...

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... you can hang out all afternoon.

A beautiful mind dies.

John F. Nash Jr. was 86.
He invented a game, known as Nash, that became an obsession in the Fine Hall common room... [M]ost real world interactions are... complicated, where players’ interests are not directly opposed, and there are opportunities for mutual gain. Dr. Nash’s solution, contained in a 27-page doctoral thesis he wrote when he was 21, provided a way of analyzing how each player could maximize his benefits, assuming that the other players would also act to maximize their self-interest.

This deceptively simple extension of game theory paved the way for economic theory to be applied to a wide variety of other situations besides the marketplace.
ADDED: Nash and his wife were passengers in a taxi on the New Jersey Turnpike:
[T]he driver lost control while trying to pass another car and hit a guard rail and another vehicle.... The couple were ejected from the cab and pronounced dead at the scene.
The cab driver survived.

"The one other Wisconsin politician with numbers like Feingold’s in recent years was former GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson at the outset of his own 2012 Senate race."

"Like Feingold, Thompson had been out of partisan politics for several years, making him a less polarizing figure. Like Feingold, he scored well with independents and did unusually well with voters in the opposing party."
But in Thompson’s case, his popularity and crossover appeal didn’t survive the polarizing brawl of the 2012 election, which he lost to Baldwin.

“Thompson started at plus 18,” says [Marquette pollster Charles] Franklin, referring to the difference between his positive and negative rating. “But he finished at minus 14. It’s a powerful example of how a campaign can change a politician’s image with the voters in the state.”

"My first gym class scares me. The other kids seem to know what to do."

"They can climb ropes, hurl themselves at footballs and shriek with delight. I’m more of a ‘watching-from-the-sidelines’ kind of kid. But Mr Lee, our teacher, doesn’t seem to mind. He keeps giving me encouraging, kind looks. Like he knows I’m a bit self-conscious but he’s on my side and doesn’t mind at all. It’s all unspoken, but it feels clean, defined, safe. I find myself looking towards him more and more during the class...."

"Figured I might as well post this since everyone is texting me. Yes, my portrait is currently displayed at the Frieze Gallery in NYC."

"Yes, it's just a screenshot (not a painting). No, I did not give my permission and yes, the controversial artist Richard Prince put it up anyway. It's already sold ($90K I've been told) during the VIP preview. No, I'm not gonna go after him. And nope, I have no idea who ended up with it! �� #lifeisstrange #modernart #wannabuyaninstagrampicture"

"These are the last days of Mecca. The pilgrimage is supposed to be a spartan, simple rite of passage..."

"... but it has turned into an experience closer to Las Vegas, which most pilgrims simply can’t afford," says Irfan Al-Alawi, director of the UK-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation. "The city is turning into Mecca-hattan... Everything has been swept away to make way for the incessant march of luxury hotels, which are destroying the sanctity of the place and pricing normal pilgrims out."
The Grand Mosque is now loomed over by the second tallest building in the world.... The hotel rises 600m (2,000ft) into the air, projecting a dazzling green laser-show by night, on a site where an Ottoman fortress once stood – razed for development, along with the hill on which it sat.

The list of heritage crimes goes on, driven by state-endorsed Wahhabism, the hardline interpretation of Islam that perceives historical sites as encouraging sinful idolatry – which spawned the ideology that is now driving Isis’s reign of destruction in Syria and Iraq. In Mecca and Medina, meanwhile, anything that relates to the prophet could be in the bulldozer’s sights. The house of Khadijah, his first wife, was crushed to make way for public lavatories; the house of his companion Abu Bakr is now the site of a Hilton hotel; his grandson’s house was flattened by the king’s palace. Moments from these sites now stands a Paris Hilton store and a gender-segregated Starbucks.
ADDED: Do you think much about the problem of idolatry? It's strange where such thinking leads people, but one reason it is strange is that we've lost touch with idolatry as a significant sin. We use the word "idol" with complete casualness.

Taking ABBA as seriously as possible.

This essay — at NPR — is so over-the-top about ABBA that it's really very weird. I'll quote the last few sentences:
Gay people particularly respect entertainers who cloak suffering behind carefully constructed artifice because it's a skill most of us are still forced to learn. ABBA concealed the distress of their ditties with as many deliciously gaudy overdubs as the era's analog recording techniques could muster. Embedded in some of the brightest whiteness pop has ever known, ABBA invented their own blues, one that hasn't left the radio. They whispered private anguish in the midst of the party.
"Embedded in some of the brightest whiteness" refers to the fact that the members of ABBA grew up in 1950s Sweden, where you could only hear 2 hours of music on the radio each day and — amid the "classical music, jazz, Swedish folk, Italian arias, French chanson, German schmaltz and John Philip Sousa" — there might be one pop song but never any "American blues."

The best and worst of the NYT article about the best and worst of the U.S. Presidents in their post-presidential phase.

BEST: cool illustrations (of John Quincy Adams, Teddy Roosevelt, etc.); appropriate selection criteria (do good work, don't undermine your successors, etc.); actually saying something nice about Nixon (a "purposeful post-presidency," becoming a "respected elder statesman").

WORST: Acting like they're offering help to Obama (who's "deeply engaged in his presidency," but must be thinking about his post-presidency), when the subject obviously came up because of Hillary Clinton and her ex-president spouse coming in for criticism for their grandiose and lucrative posturings in the direction of great good work.

"Hours after the Senate balked at reauthorizing the bulk collection of U.S. telephone records, the National Security Agency began shutting down..."

"... a controversial program Saturday that senior intelligence and law enforcement officials say is vital to track terrorists in the United States."

That's the Senate, working according to plan — balking at bulk — acting through inaction.

The "therapy" of exposing yourself to what is said to be a temperature of 200+ degrees below zero.

Cryotherapy — supposedly a fad amongst celebrities.

A photo posted by Mandy Moore (@mandymooremm) on

POTUS on Twitter... joking about Twitter...



... I don't believe in Twitter.