Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sophie Scholl

We watched Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. Above is an interrogation scene.

The movie is inspiring, in a tragic martyrdom sort of way.

Not eager to be a martyr. In fact, rather afraid.
But her part was exquisitely played.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


"Madam Speaker, here specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?"

"Are you serious? Are you serious?"

Audio here.

Well, apparently it's a serious question after all. It's interesting to ask why the bill's proponents never took the issue seriously.

Jay Cost summarizes his answer:
So that is why the left was so surprised. They have no intellectual sympathy for the positions articulated by the conservatives on the Supreme Court. Those opinions rarely if ever make it into their news reports, newspapers, or magazines, and insofar as they were confronted with these contrary views they just ignored them.
There were quite surprised to find that they faced
a serious chance it could all be erased.

Anything But A Great Choice

From Ann Althouse's recounting of today's SCOTUS arguments on the Medicaid portion of Obamacare.
Paul Clement will attack the expansion of Medicaid. He's talking about whether it's "coercive," because if it is, it won't fit the Spending Power...

Kagan interrupts, trying to make her point that a big boatload of money is not coercive. What if someone offered you a job and would pay you $10 million a year. Of course, you say yes, but you're not coerced are you? Clement lays down one of the cleverest teasers I have ever heard: "Well, I guess I would want to know where the money came from."

"Wow. Wow." says Kagan. Has a Supreme Court ever said "Wow. Wow" before? She can't believe you'd do anything other than snap up that money. "I'm offering you $10 million a year to come work for me, and you are saying that this is anything but a great choice?"

Clement springs his trap: "Sure, if I told you, actually, it came from my own bank account."
I have a hunch
it's not a free lunch.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I don't suppose this will make the national news:
Man charged with shoplifting after police spot pork chop in pants
A pork chop in his pants!
Was he trying to enhance
his chances for romance?

Monday, March 26, 2012

CSU Loses CPUs

Chicago State University is in the news again.
A state audit released on Thursday found that $3.8-million worth of equipment, including 950 computers, is missing from Chicago State University, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Notice they said "missing" not "lost", which suggests to me that haven't been simply misplaced somewhere on the campus. Rather it suggests that the computers have left the campus!

If only those computers could talk!
Where did they decide to walk?
How did they manage to open the door?
Will they come back? Alas. Nevermore.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

Whitehouse TX Scam

I got a blue postcard, from Whitehouse, TX 75791. First-class, pre-sorted mail. From "Package Services". It said:
Call Toll-Free to schedule pickup: (888) 685-2652

Package Number: 1151-3012-4873 Track:03674-11

Hours: M-F 8:AM-8:PM (CST)
Sat 8:AM-12:PM (CST)
It's a scam. There's no misdelivered package. Rather, they want a chance to get you on the horn to sell you a "vacation package".

But as long as I'm examining this postcard, can they really be serious about CST - Central Standard Time? Are they really boycotting Central Daylight Time? Or, like many people who write CST, do they just mean Central Time?

Also, there is no 12:PM, in any time zone. There's 12 Noon, which I think is what they mean, followed one minute later by 12:01 PM.

Okay, now I've gotten that off my chest,
I think I'll take a rest.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Baby Name Expert Has Spoken

Did you ever hear of someone being a "baby-name expert"?

Well, allegedly Laura Wattenberg is such an expert, and she declares that people are regretting their choices lately: a percentage of my mail ... remorse from parents who have already chosen names is rising.
You may feel some remorse
if you name your boy "Horse".

I recommend, "John", instead, of course.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 Blooper

I went over to and found a Chicago-related story.

They like Chicago stories, because the president did a lot of living here, and for some reason Chicago is perceived as a den of political iniquity.

Anyway, the story was about the first lady on the Letterman show.
Michelle told a fawning Letterman that “what we want to have happen is when they get off that elevator and walk in to our residence that it feels like the south side of Chicago, the same values, the same rules, the same sense of responsibility.”

Working class. Blue collar. Joe and Jane Sixpack wearing matching Cubs hats.
Nooo. Not Cubs hats! Did he not read the magic words "south side of Chicago"? Does he not know which team we favor in the "baddest part of town"?

The Cubs, bless them, are the north side team. Sheesh.

Thinking southsiders root for the Cubs?
I'd say that belongs in the great hall of flubs.

Taking a Stand, Written on Sand

Vote for me.

I've always had a good touch with an Etch-a-sketch.
So running for office shouldn't be much of a stretch.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What Did Castro Know

The Washington Post reports that according to a new book, Castro knew about Oswald's plan to shoot JFK.
A Cuban spy defector said that on Nov. 22, 1963, the day of Kennedy’s assassination, he was suddenly told to gather whatever intelligence he could coming out of Texas. And about three hours later he reported to his bosses that the U.S. president had been shot.
Well, there have been a lot of stories, over the years, that JFK tried to have The Beard bumped off too.

But it this is true,
the government knew!

(The government of Cuba,
not the U.S. or Aruba.)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Blue State Elephants

The Illinois presidential primary is tomorrow. There's no contest for the donkeys, but Rick & Mitt are battling it out for the elephants in the land of Lincoln.

Newt & Ron seem to have stayed out of the state for some reason, even though they're on the ballot.

Some polls predict a close contest between Rick & Mitt.

I'm guessing mild Mitt will somehow click
several points ahead of rowdy Rick.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Good Reads

My trouble with Good Reads, the website, is that it depends upon ISBN, and I actually read a LOT of pre-ISBN books that are out of print. I blame this on working near the downtown branch of the Chicago Public Library, which contains a lot of old books.

So I can't enter a bunch of the books I read!

I mean, I don't really think of most of these books as old - since most were published in my lifetime.

I guess I'm half antiquarian,
with just a streak of contrarian.

Odoriferous Fish

Stanley Fish, a reportedly genial man who periodically appears in the news by saying outrageous things, has an opinion piece in the NY Times entitled "Two Cheers For Double-Standards". His idea is that it's okay to treat Bill Maher and Rush Limbaugh by different standards, since Maher is right and Limbaugh is wrong.

Except Fish doesn't really believe in right and wrong, he believes in my tribe vs. your tribe.
I know the objections to what I have said here... It elevates tribal obligations over the universal obligations we owe to each other as citizens... It implies finally that might makes right. I can live with that.
Jeff Goldstein comments:
Fish says he can live with that. I’ve spent a decade on my site showing you precisely why, if you believe in the American experiment, you cannot and should not.
Saying might makes right
puts out the light,
nothing left to talk about,
time to fight and shout.

Rolling In Clover

St. Patrick's Day is over.
Now... why is its symbol a 4 leaf clover?

At least, I've been seeing that for years as the symbol. But when I was a kid, and to this day in Ireland, shamrocks are shown as having 3 leaves.

I think the idea of the luck of the Irish somehow ran together with the luck of finding a 4 leaf clover.

But American ideas of how to celebrate Ireland often seem odd to the Irish.

In Ireland, green beer
does not appear.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Whole Truth

Finished reading The Whole Truth by Philip Mackie. The play is a 1955 English murder play with a plot that keeps you guessing. I recommend it highly for its clever plotting and suspense.

It was also made into a movie. I have the impression that the movie plot was reworked, and may not have come out as well.

I took it out of our public library, which has a bunch of copies. Otherwise, it looks like it's a rare and expensive book in the US. But you can get one cheaper if you order from the UK.

But some some savings will be lost
in increased shipping cost.

A Field Full of Robins

After work, I was bicycling in our strangely warm weather, and as I pedaled through the woods I came upon a field full of robins - a big flock, all spread out, pecking at the earth.

Robins appear.
Spring must be near.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Second Sight Second Guessed

Back in 2010 there was an article in a respectable psychology journal - an article claiming to have found evidence of better-than-random ability to predict the future.

And now, the predictable as happened - other scientists were unable to reproduce the original spooky result.

Of course, they didn't test me. I have such powers. But I refuse to use them.

You see, I love surprises!

So my ghostly clairvoyance
is mostly an annoyance.

UPDATE: Oops. Maybe I don't have clairvoyance after all...

I ran my experiments drunk.
They may have lacked precision.
I thought I had second sight.
In fact it was double vision.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Let's see. Who on earth would seriously propose calling the killing of babies "after-birth abortions"?

Of course. Philosophers. Ethicists from down under!
If abortion is permissible, infanticide should be permissible. The authors proceed logically from premises which many people accept to a conclusion that many of those people would reject.
Andrew Brown of the Guardian comments:
Academics are and should be free to entertain monstrous ideas. But that does not trump the freedom of the rest of us to be repelled by their monstrosity.
There's a reason historical cultures tended to hide
the practice of infanticide.

There's a reason so many stories describe
children left to die who turn up alive.

It's an ancient horror that tore at the heart
of anyone who took part.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

From Escape Artists

I read quotation this today, from a new book by an NY Times reporter, about the current president's economic team:
Energy was a particular obsession of the president-elect’s, and therefore a particular source of frustration. Week after week, [White House economic adviser Christina] Romer would march in with an estimate of the jobs all the investments in clean energy would produce; week after week, Obama would send her back to check the numbers. “I don’t get it,” he’d say. “We make these large-scale investments in infrastructure. What do you mean, there are no jobs?” But the numbers rarely budged.
James Pethokoukis notes that the clean energy spending continued to yield few jobs, and mentions that when jobs did appear, they came another part of the energy sector.
So where are the new jobs coming from, at least the good-paying ones? From the industry Obama wants to replace as much as possible with “clean” energy: oil and gas.
Evidently, the president really was surprised. But apparently not all infrastructure is equal.

If the money is poorly placed,
some investment is just a waste.

Speaking of Babies Being Born

This just in:
As Gov. Pat Quinn noted in his budget address last month, more than 50 percent of all births in Illinois are paid for by the state and federal health care program for the poor and disabled. In part, that's because Illinois has fairly liberal income eligibility levels for pregnant women compared to other states.
Well, we could improve our budget by making our eligibility levels less liberal, right?

The federal health care overhaul, President Barack Obama's landmark legislation, requires states to keep their Medicaid eligibility stable, barring Illinois and other states from saving money by lowering income ceilings for pregnant women and other groups.
Yes, oh yes,
it's a lovely mess.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Hospital Bills

"In the old days, we used to celebrate if somebody had a baby, we used to chip in and help him out with the hospital bills, if he happened to be hard-pressed for the moment. Now, if a baby was born, we didn't speak to the parents for weeks. Babies, to us, had become what locusts were to farmers."

That's a quotation that has been haunting me lately. It's from the story of Starnesville, where everybody was responsible for everybody else's expenses, in Atlas Shrugged. I imagine it's based on the author's experiences in post-revolutionary Russia.

I feel like we're seeing some of the same poisonous attitude appear in our discussion of healthcare lately. It's certainly to be expected. In fact, it's only natural.

People are fighting over a limited pie.
And if you miss out, you die.

Noi Vivi

Tonight we watched the first half of the We The Living movie, an Italian movie about Russia with English subtitles, filmed in Italy in the 1940s, re-edited in the States in the 1980s.

As a movie, I feel it stands head and shoulders above the movies of the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged Part One. Trailer is here. You can see how beautifully expressive the leads are.

It captures something at the core of Rand's being, her horrified shock at the sacrifice of the individual for the sake of the collective. It's a cry of the heart, that came before she had a system of ideas worked out, when she simply knew that something very wrong was taking place in Soviet Russia.

Glorifying the collective
was economically defective
and spiritually horrifying.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

On the Road Bike

We had a very warm sunny day, so I took the road bike out for its first ride of the year. I rode along something called the Centennial Trail, which runs on a fairly thin strip of land between the Desplaines River and the Sanitary and Ship Canal. Along the way, you get a nice view of the confluence of the Sanitary and Ship Canal with the Cal-Sag Channel:

You're look due east, with the S&S Canal on your left and the Cal-Sag on your right. I think they're both pretty dirty, but they look nice enough.

The view is first rate,
the smell not so great.

Good News / Bad News

I ran a 5k today, first time since November, and forgive me if this sounds boring, but the good news to me is that my foot didn't hurt afterward. Last year I had an annoying foot injury for the whole darn season, but I spent several months in winter giving my foot rest from running, and I seem to be the better for it.

I ran the same race 2 years ago. I was 2 seconds slower today. Last time, I came in second among men 55-59. Today, I came in 5th. That's the trouble when a race gets popular - more fast people who can beat me show up!

I did have to stop and retie my shoe lace at one point...

That's my excuse -
my shoe lace was loose!

Friday, March 09, 2012

A Big Joke

Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree told the Herald he was just kidding when he suggested that a decades-old clip of a young Barack Obama praising and embracing controversial Professor Derrick Bell was kept hidden from voters during the 2008 campaign.

“It was a big joke,” Ogletree said. “If you watch the tape, the audience is laughing when I’m laughing.”
How big a joke was it? It's true that he laughed, and there was some audience laughter. (See and hear it here.) It's clear he thought he was saying something funny. The crowd laughter sounds uneasy to me, and actually his own laughter sounds uneasy to me. I took it to be an uneasy admission. But... maybe it was just a big joke!

You can see that the provocation from crew did create some results, with Ogletree going to the trouble of denying that he meant what he said.

Another result appeared on CNN, where Soledad O'Brien reportedly showed off her ignorance of Critical Race Theory while trying to challenge Joel Pollack of

For some reason, the Wikipedia page on Critical Race Theory also was in a minor edit war after public discussion suddenly reopened.

Obama gave a very flattering introduction of Derrick Bell, implying that he possessed insight and wisdom. Did he, or does he, actually agree with the substantive positions, such as they are, of Critical Race Theory? Or was it just flattery?

If  you're under attack
and need to take back
words that you spoke,
say "that was a joke".

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Of Course We Hid This

Most interesting thing so far from the Breitbart crew delving into old Obama video:

"Of course we hid this throughout the 2008 campaign. Hahaha. I don't care if they find it now." - Harvard Law Prof. Charles Ogletree. You can hear it here.

"Of course we hid this..." I like the "of course" and the "we" especially. The video is not so interesting as the reflexive desire to hide it on the part of a group.

There's a type of journalism where you just keep leaking dribs and drabs with big innuendo, and you watch how the other side responds. You expect them to embarrass themselves when they counterattack, to catch themselves in contradictions, and to accidentally leak real information in attempted refutations. It's an attempt to "smoke out" something bad. It's done all the time by the press, but they seem to find it unnerving when the technique is turned back on them.

The impulse to hide
from those outside
suggest there's something bad
to be had.


When the alarm goes off my brain is like a rock stuck in the dirt.
To get it out and rolling I need leverage.

And so I seek a squirt
of caffeinated beverage.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Bare Necessities

I came across this quote from Daniel Miessler:
Socialism for necessities, capitalism for everything else…why does this never seem to come up? Both systems have benefits and flaws…why not try to maximize the benefits and minimize the flaws???
But necessities can increase
without cease,
until the budget bloat
is too big to sugarcoat.

The bigger question is: does one person's need create a claim on other people?

If  you say yes, it leads to a need to resolve competing "needs", because people have limited wealth and power. There's only so much pie to go around.

You see it in the healthcare debate. The single-payer people first argue that there's a moral need to provide care regardless of a patient's ability to pay. But once in power, they always turn around and argue that there's a social need to cut back on various kinds of unnecessary care.

In the end, they mess up the supply
so there's even less pie.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Obama Ally Won't Release Alinsky Tape

My subject line is the headline from this article.

The tape in question is not a tape featuring Alinsky. It features an actor playing Alinsky in a play, a play which Obama attended, and which he discussed as part of an Alinsky-friendly panel after the performance.

The script of the play is available. So I'm wondering what value the tape would have, exactly. If it happened to be a tape which included the panel discussion, I can see that it might have some actual news value, if Obama said something on it that was retrospectively noteworthy. But he seems to be a man who has mostly been careful about what he says in public, so I would be surprised.

Otherwise, it strikes me that the main value would be some unpatriotic-looking video which could be shown on the internet and linked to Obama in an associative sort of way. You know, look at this awful attack on our country - with the president's name right on the poster!

Anyway, the director says she has the tape, and isn't giving it up.

I suggest a bidding war
with right and left offering more, more, more,
one side to see it, one to destroy it,
and somebody maybe might really enjoy it.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Mamet on Theater

Last week I reread Mamet's short book of essays, Theatre.

At one point he was saying that the whole point of a story, in theater, is to keep the audience guessing what will happen next - that is, keep them interested - that is, keep them following the plot.

And it occurred to me that if you start with "Keep Them Wondering What Next" as an axiom, then having a logical but surprising story is best because they feel they can sort of see ahead but not quite. So they lean forward in their seats.

You promise they'll be given a fair shot
and they feel cheated if they're not.

Blue Rider / Red Poster

From Google street view, here's a remaining sign for the Blue Rider Theatre:

I read a poem at a memorial service there once.

The place is in the fringes of the news because our president once watched and discussed a play there about Saul Alinsky.

I can't see much coming of it. The play had a revolutionary-looking sixties-style poster, and it had the president's name on it, misspelled as "Baraka", and I guess it's an okay visual for opponents who want to paint him as a revolutionary, but, really, it's not that great a visual. Is it?

In search of a smoking gun?
I don't think it's much of one.

Sunday, March 04, 2012


I see Rush Limbaugh got around to apologizing for calling a woman a slut and a prostitute.

Now a lot of people want Bill Maher to apologize for calling a woman a twat and a c*nt.

Of course, both were just joking. And there were plenty of people who thought it was all a big laugh.

Sometimes a taunt
comes back to haunt.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Lucas Neff Sighting

I didn't know Lucas Neff was from Chicago. He's the young actor at the center of the TV comedy, Raising Hope. But I spotted him somewhere tonight, and I looked him up on Wikipedia.
His acting career started when he was mistakenly assigned to the performing arts department at university.
Mistakenly assigned,
but suitably inclined.

Friday, March 02, 2012


We've been watching Lilyhammer, on streaming Netflix. It's about an American mobster who goes into witness protection in Norway. It's sort of comedy-drama, a lot of it's about the culture clash. You have to be able to tolerate subtitles. In an unrealistic convention that I did get used to, the Americans mostly speak English and the Norwegians mostly stick to Norwegian.

I know people who have conversations like that. It happens with the children of immigrants a lot. Immigrant parent talks in native tongue, child replies in English. This can go on forever. But would an Italian-American transplant really understand so well what he's being told in Norwegian all the time?

If you saw the old movie with Steve Martin, My Blue Heaven, it's a similar high concept, but different style and details.

Sometimes I like to do legs-up-the-wall pose while watching TV, but it's hard to read subtitles when they're upside down, and it's also strangely hard to recognize inverted faces.

To help with reading and recognition,
watch this show in an upright position.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Dancing on Breitbart's Grave

Andrew Breitbart has died, suddenly, surprisingly, in his forties. He dropped dead while taking a walk.

In life, he caused much discomfiture on the left, and today, in death, he inspired much venomous glee. Two media Matts, in particular, rushed to get in some digs before the body was cool.

Matt Yglesias, of Slate, tweeted:
Conventions around dead people are ridiculous. The world outlook is slightly improved with @AndrewBrietbart dead.
How very Jacobin of him. In his hurry to gloat, he did misspell the man's name. But spelling is just another convention.

Matt Taibbi, of Rolling Stone, blogged:
Good! Fuck him. I couldn’t be happier that he’s dead.
Taibbi says he's "sure" that Breitbart would have respected this response. Sure.

I suppose they think they're tough,
writing such small minded stuff.


Attended opening night for Rinaldo, by Handel, at the Lyric.

It originally opened in 1711, and was the first Italian opera designed for the London stage, with music written by a German.

Globalization: not as new as we've been told.
You might even say it's old.