spaghetti [reblog]

reblog from

from the essential guide to hysterectomy:

Without a doubt, the most common question about anatomy involves the mystery of the empty space. Women are really concerned about what’s going to happen to the void left by the uterus. Picture this. If you have a bowl of spaghetti with a large meatball in the middle and a few smaller meatballs on the side, and then someone removes the large meatball, the space the meatball formerly occupied is replaced by the spaghetti. No one would know that the meatball was ever there.

Koalas and shirtfronting

If you don’t follow Australia as closely as we do here at Helytimes, you may have missed a good scandal.

Thirty-eight Australians were killed when Malaysia Airlines 17 was shot down over the Ukraine in July.  In anticipation of encounters with Vladimir Putin in Beijing and then Australia for the G20 summit, Australia’s prime minister Tony Abbott said (on a pretty bland TV interview it appears, hard to find the all important context) he would “shirtfront” Putin:

“I am going to shirtfront Mr Putin – you bet I am – I am going to be saying to Mr Putin Australians were murdered, they were murdered by Russian backed rebels,” Abbott said.

Urban Dictionary tells us shirtfront is:

A brutal shoulder charge in Australian rules football (AFL) where a player instead of tackling an opponent, bumps them forcefully in the chest. Often leads to heavy concussions due to incidental contact to the head.
One is reminded of Arthur Ashe’s remark about Australian English:
Australian English is a barroom language. It is not a language for a woman.
Now, everyone knows that nothing infuriates Australians like promising them violence and then not delivering.  So imagine how they took it when here’s what happened instead:

AFP Photo / Andrew Taylo

Not only did he not shirtfront, it looked like he gave Putin the best koala.

can’t find the photographer, I found it here:

There’s even a sub-scandal about a sarcastic news segment that aired about the shirtfronting (you can watch it here – I think it’s been inaccurately described as a “skit”).  The perpetrators have been sentenced to Australia’s cruelest punishment:

The ABC is being urged to have a “long, hard think” about a skit it aired mocking the Prime Minister’s threat to shirtfront the Russian President over the MH17 tragedy with Julie Bishop warning it had the potential to devastate the families of the victims.

(Australia you know I love you baby)

Maybe you guys both need to chill?

Reading Nathan Heller on Stephen Pinker:

American language digests everything, in all directions. (Few other tongues would let you seize a bottle of whisky with chutzpah, drink it with louche abandon, and get down with the party.) And it’s given rise to special innovations. Consider the extra grammatical “aspects” of African-American English, the “be” aspects conveying habitual states, which add descriptive precision and nuance. (Eddie Murphy: “Elvis was forty-two years old, remember, right before he croaked?… His butt be sticking out.”) Problems arise only when vernaculars don’t intersect—when, say, the West Coast twentysomething asks her Bostonian boss to bring “hella” doughnuts to the meeting.

I don’t understand that Eddie Murphy joke.  What would happen if you ask edyour Boston boss for hella doughnuts?  If he’s cool he’d probably think it was funny .  But, even if you’re on the West Coast you probably shouldn’t ask your boss to bring hella doughnuts to a meeting.  (If you’re from the West Coast wouldn’t you call them donuts anyway?)

If you’re gonna take a run at Steven Pinker you better come correct.

Just learn how to diagram sentences and then relax, I say.



Crazy detail from this Washington Post story


Minutes after landing at Reagan National Airport one day early this year, many GOP Senate hopefuls found themselves besieged at baggage claim by people with cameras yelling questions at them about abortion and rape.

This was no impromptu news conference but rather Republican staffers in disguise, trying to shock the candidates into realizing the intensity of what lay before them.

Cute, they’re role-playing!

The names of these organizations:

Party honchos tapped former Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades and star operatives Joe Pounder and Tim Miller to start America Rising, a group dedicated to digging up damaging information on Democrats.

Vote All You Want


If you live in LA County, here are some endorsements based on a very casual roundup from smart people.  I have not looked into all this myself but this may be slightly better than voting at random:

Sheila Kuehl for supervisor.

No on 46.

Yes to all judicial reappointments

Dayan Mathai for judge.

1) Interested by this article in The Boston Globe entitled “Vote All You Want.  The Secret Government Won’t Change.

IDEAS: What evidence exists for saying America has a double government?

GLENNON:I was curious why a president such as Barack Obama would embrace the very same national security and counterterrorism policies that he campaigned eloquently against. Why would that president continue those same policies in case after case after case? I initially wrote it based on my own experience and personal knowledge and conversations with dozens of individuals in the military, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies of our government, as well as, of course, officeholders on Capitol Hill and in the courts. And the documented evidence in the book is substantial—there are 800 footnotes in the book.

IDEAS: Why would policy makers hand over the national-security keys to unelected officials?

GLENNON: It hasn’t been a conscious decision….Members of Congress are generalists and need to defer to experts within the national security realm, as elsewhere. They are particularly concerned about being caught out on a limb having made a wrong judgment about national security and tend, therefore, to defer to experts, who tend to exaggerate threats. The courts similarly tend to defer to the expertise of the network that defines national security policy.

The presidency itself is not a top-down institution, as many people in the public believe, headed by a president who gives orders and causes the bureaucracy to click its heels and salute. National security policy actually bubbles up from within the bureaucracy. Many of the more controversial policies, from the mining of Nicaragua’s harbors to the NSA surveillance program, originated within the bureaucracy. John Kerry was not exaggerating when he said that some of those programs are “on autopilot.”

No surprise here to readers of The Wise Men.


Enjoyed reading this Michael Kelly profile of David Gergen from 1993.

A speech-department staff member culled dozens of anecdotes about Nixon from intimates and aides in a lengthy report, with each anecdote indexed according to the character trait it was meant to advertise: Repartee, Courage, Kindness, Strength in Adversity. What is most painfully obvious about these undertakings is how little the anecdotalists had to work with. Exemplifying the President’s talent for Repartee was an account of Nixon silencing a New York businessman who had upbraided him over the Vietnam War by telling the man not to “give me any crap.” Illustrating the President’s Strength in Adversity was a bald little story of how the young Congressman Nixon, falling on an icy sidewalk, still managed to keep his 2-year-old daughter, Tricia, safe in his arms.

In this perfectionist and paranoid atmosphere, Gergen learned the bones of his craft.

He learned the importance of saying the same thing, over and over and over: “Nixon taught us about the art of repetition. He used to tell me, ‘About the time you are writing a line that you have written it so often that you want to throw up, that is the first time the American people will hear it.’

He learned about the gimmicks of phrasing calculated to catch the public ear: “Haldeman used to say that the vast majority of words that issue under a President’s name are just eminently forgettable. What you need to focus on is what’s the line that is going to have a little grab to it.”

He learned the theory of controlled access. If you gave the press only a smidgen of Presidential sight and sound on a given day, reporters would be forced to make their stories out of that smidgen: “Nixon used to go into the press room with a statement that was only 100 words long because he did not want them editing him. He knew if he gave them more than 100 words, they’d pick and choose what to use.”

He learned the endless discipline required to protect the image, which was as evanescent as morning mist: “It went into everything — the speeches, the talking points, the appearances. Haldeman had a rule on appearances: if you wanted to put in a scheduling request for anything the President was going to do in public, your request had to fulfill what we called H.P.L. — Headline, Picture, Lede. You had to say, in writing, what the headline out of the event was going to be, what the lede was going to be and what the picture was going to be.”

And this:

Then, on Jan. 21, 1980, Bush unexpectedly won the Iowa Republican caucus and became the instant front-runner. “The very next day, Gergen called up Baker and said, miracle of miracles, he had managed to clear his schedule and would be able to take the job after all,” Keene says. “When Baker said the job was filled, Gergen came in as a volunteer speech writer.” In the month between the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, when Bush was the leading Republican candidate, Gergen, according to Keene, “was very visible.”

But on Feb. 26, Bush lost the New Hampshire primary to a resurgent Ronald Reagan. “And Gergen just disappeared completely, I mean right away,” recalls Peter Teeley, Bush’s press secretary at the time. “We never heard from him again until he turned up with Reagan at the Republican convention.”

Even the Reaganites, who benefited from Gergen’s leap, were appalled by the speed of it. “He came to us as soon as it began to seem Bush was going to lose, definitely before Bush pulled out, and quite frankly this made us very suspicious of him,” recalls a former Reagan campaign official. “I mean, there’s jumping ship and there’s jumping ship. This guy was elbowing the women and children aside to get overboard.

Gergen strongly denies that he showed any undue haste in switching allegiances. “It is not true that I disappeared in the campaign,” he says. “I continued to advise Bush much in the same way I had up to the point he was nominated Vice President.”

Let me note here (as I have elsewhere) that I took a class with David Gergen at the K School.  I found him to be a serious but approachable and warm dude, always engaged and present.  He did have a habit of ostentatiously taking notes during any guest speaker’s talk, but I took that to be a form of politeness.

I recall him telling a story – it’s possible I read this somewhere but I think I heard him say it – that he had a meeting with Nixon when he was (I believe) leaving law school and about to go into the Navy.  Nixon advised him to serve as a regular old line officer on a ship, and not to use his law degree to get into a headquarters job.

Boston Marathon bomber’s friends

A courtroom sketch of Dias Kadyrbayev, who pleaded guilty on Thursday. (Jane Flavell Collins / Associated Press)

On a recent visit home to Massachusetts I was surprised to learn about this story, which I hadn’t been following.  After they learned that their friend Dzhokhar Tsarnaev probably did the Boston Marathon bombing, several associates went to his room and rounded up some of his stuff and threw it out.

The New Yorker tells the story with all kinds of vivid details.

The three of them went to Taco Bell, then to Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev’s apartment, where Kadyrbayev’s girlfriend, Bayan Kumiskali, was about halfway through watching “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Everyone but Tazhayakov got stoned, then they all sat on the couch and watched the second half of the movie, checking for news on their devices.

Can’t help but feel for  Azamat Tazhavakov, “who was known as a mama’s boy, even though he was thousands of miles away from home.”

When Tazhayakov awoke early the next morning, he discovered that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was still on the loose, had now been publicly identified as a suspect in the bombing, and that Tamerlan had been killed. Tazhayakov began to panic and smoked marijuana for what may have been the first time in his life.

A VERY bad decision.

Politics roundup

1) Could anyone reasonably say that this statement is not true:

The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans.

That comment appears the biggest issue in Louisiana’s senate race.   MSNBC goes ahead and calls the comment “controversial,” which I guess is “true,” there is a “controversy” about it now, but what a weasel of a word.  As always, important to see the comments in context.  MSNBC again:

It’s important to emphasize that Landrieu, speaking to NBC’s Chuck Todd, went beyond identity politics. “One of the reasons that the president’s so unpopular is because he put the moratorium on off-shore drilling. remember?” she added. “After Macondo. And our state was furious about that. Now he could have shut down the BP operations but he didn’t, he shut down the whole Gulf. When you shut down the whole Gulf of Mexico it puts a lot of people here at risk and out of business. That’s number one.”
See ’em yourself.   Here’s Bobby Jindal, impressively and almost hilariously exploiting the episode:

“She’s basically calling the people of Louisiana, she’s calling all of us in the South racist,” Jindal said, demanding an apology. “Here in Louisiana and across the South, we don’t think in terms of black and white, in terms of racial colors — the only colors that matter down here are red, white and blue and … purple and gold as we cheer our LSU Tigers onto victory in college football. It’s not about race.”



(Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Granting rare “Must Read” status to this post by the New Yorker’s Amy Davidson about Jeb Bush.

“Several of our boys were pallbearers—maybe all of them—but the one I remember is Jeb,” Barbara Bush wrote in an account, in her memoirs, of her father-in-law’s funeral. Jeb was her second son:

He was a student at the University of Texas, nineteen years old, six feet four inches tall. Remember, this was the early 1970′s. He, of course, did not have a dark suit. He told me not to worry—he’d borrowed one. I should have kept worrying. It was black corduroy. He is the most handsome man (at least according to his mother) and that saved him. Otherwise, he would have looked like a card shark from Las Vegas.

It is a quintessential Bush family moment: an establishment premise streaked with clumsy absurdity, with the participants mysteriously pleased about how it all looks—convinced that their fine qualities have saved them. This was October, 1972, during a period in which Jeb’s older brother, George W. Bush, was in something of a Vegas-card-shark phase. Their grandfather, Prescott Bush, who was being buried that day, had been a banker and Connecticut Senator; their father, George H. W. Bush, had made a good deal of money in the oil business and was serving as Ambassador to the United Nations. George W. had just been rejected by the University of Texas Law School and was drinking too much in all the wrong places, including behind the wheel of a car—maybe best not to remember that. The Bushes have always thought, to an extent that can, frankly, be puzzling for anyone who simply watches his speeches or assesses his record, that Jeb was their child of destiny. When Barbara Bush’s memoir came out, in 1994, after her husband’s one-term Presidency, the family thought that Jeb, not George, would be the next President Bush. The Bushes have never hidden their surprise that it didn’t work out that way, and now, according to multiple press reports, they have again become worked up about the idea that the man in the black corduroy suit can make it to the White House. But why should he?

Felt refreshing to read someone raise the idea “why should Jeb Bush be president?” without assuming I concede he’s the most terrific American around.

3) I’m afraid I also have to grant “Must Read” status to this depressing article:

Hard-Nosed Advice From Veteran Lobbyist: ‘Win Ugly or Lose Pretty’
Richard Berman Energy Industry Talk Secretly Taped

Mr. Berman offered several pointers from his playbook.

“If you want a video to go viral, have kids or animals,” he said, and then he showed a spot his company had prepared using schoolchildren as participants in a mock union election — to suggest that union bosses do not have real elections.

“Use humor to minimize or marginalize the people on the other side,” he added.

“There is nothing the public likes more than tearing down celebrities and playing up the hypocrisy angle,” his colleague Mr. Hubbard said, citing billboard advertisements planned for Pennsylvania that featured Robert Redford. “Demands green living,” they read. “Flies on private jets.”

Mr. Hubbard also discussed how he had done detailed research on the personal histories of members of the boards of the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council to try to find information that could be used to embarrass them.

I guess Richard Berman would have to admire whoever recorded the talk for their “win ugly” strategy.  Although it was recorded by an energy executive:

What Mr. Berman did not know — and what could now complicate his task of marginalizing environmental groups that want to impose limits on fracking — is that one of the energy industry executives recorded his remarks and was offended by them.

“That you have to play dirty to win,” said the executive, who provided a copy of the recording and the meeting agenda to The New York Times under the condition that his identity not be revealed. “It just left a bad taste in my mouth.”

What does Berman suggest you do to people operating out of principle?

4) Not granting this full “Must Read” status but it is interesting.  Iowa Senate candidate and proud hog-castrater Joni Ernst was recorded talking about Obamacare.  Here’s what she said.

“We’re looking at Obamacare right now. Once we start with those benefits in January, how are we going to get people off of those? It’s exponentially harder to remove people once they’ve already been on those programs…we rely on government for absolutely everything. And in the years since I was a small girl up until now into my adulthood with children of my own, we have lost a reliance on not only our own families, but so much of what our churches and private organizations used to do. They used to have wonderful food pantries. They used to provide clothing for those that really needed it. But we have gotten away from that. Now we’re at a point where the government will just give away anything.”

I don’t think this is as crazy an opinion as Jonathan Chait seems to.  I bet a lot of Americans would agree with this.  If Joni Ernst believes this, that churches and private organizations should provide things like health care, and the government should just stay out of it, she should say that and argue it.  I would however agree with Chait and John Le Carre.

That’s the fundamental belief that motivates most, if not all, the conservative opposition: Health care should be a privilege rather than a right. If you can’t afford health insurance on your own, that is not the government’s problem.

I happen to find this belief morally bizarre. People who cannot afford their own insurance either don’t earn much money, or have health risks, or family members with health risks, too expensive to bear.

All of us non-socialists would agree that there ought to be some things rich people get to enjoy that poor people are deprived of. Access to health care is a strange choice of things to deprive the losers of — not least because one of the things you do to “earn” the ability to afford it is not just the normal market value of earning or inheriting a good income, but the usually random value of avoiding serious illness or accident.

Indeed, very few Republicans have the confidence to make the case openly that the inability of some people to afford the cost of their own medical care is their own problem. But that is the belief that sets them apart from major conservative parties across the world, and it is the belief that explains why they have opposed national health insurance every time Democrats have held power, and why they have neglected to create national health insurance every time they have.

Anyway, there are honorable people in politics.  If you live in Arkansas’ District 35, let me give my personal endorsement to Clarke Tucker for State Representative.  Wish I could vote for him!