May 1, 2004

"Nonequipopulous." I'm sorry, I just wanted to write that word. Justice Kennedy uses it in Vieth, the political gerrymandering case that came out this week. What an incredibly silly word! It's easy enough to understand. Just silly.

For some reason, that reminds me of the thing that made me laugh the most at a live theater performance. The play was "A Month in the Country," and at the beginning of a scene, where a number of things were going on, a minor character came out and said "The weather is very salaboobious today." Now that was supposed to be funny, but it was just way too funny compared to everything else that surrounded it, and in fact it brought peals of laughter that continued far into the scene.

Lesson: words shouldn't totally sidetrack the audience. Here, I was trying to read Vieth, and I ended up having to blog about nonequipopulous, a word which currently has only one hit in Google (for Vieth itself). I'm aiming to make it two.

UPDATE: Goal achieved! Ha, ha, ha, ha!
My spellcheck wants Kerry to be more exciting. It suggested that I change "Kerry" to "Kerouac."

I know what you're thinking: What the hell kind of spellcheck does Althouse have in her computer? Is that some kind of Mac thing? (The answer is: I rarely use the spellcheck, but I must have used it once when I'd written a post that had "Kerouac" in it and pressed the "learn" button.)
Kerry on the humiliation of Iraqi detainees. News of the humiliation of Iraqi detainees has brought great sorrow and outrage and demands for harsh punishment. Instapundit collects reactions to the news, all compelling, and writes: "[I]t should be dealt with very, very harshly. But those who would -- as Senator Kerry did after Vietnam -- make such behavior emblematic of our effort, instead of recognizing it as an abandonment of our principles -- are mere opportunists." But what is Kerry's response to the news from Iraq? The NYT prints Kerry's written response:
"I am disturbed and troubled by the evidence of shameful mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners. We must learn the facts and take the appropriate action. ... As Americans, we must stand tall for the rule of law and freedom everywhere. But we cannot let the actions of a few overshadow the tremendous good work that thousands of soldiers are doing every day in Iraq and all over the world."

Kerry may choose to do something more with this issue later, but as it stands this reads to me as complete forbearance from opportunism. I want Kerry to demonstrate that he would never allow his political ambition to override the interest in the successful completion of our efforts in Iraq, and I have worried that he would pursue the strategy of uniting Bush and the war in the public's mind, creating a single entity (BushWar), and then use every opportunity to find fault with something done in the war to attack BushWar. What a disaster that would be.

Perhaps Kerry's statement only represents the astute political understanding that he needs to avoid appearing not to support our soldiers--especially important for him because of his Vietnam era statements--but I hope there is something more to this restraint, that there is a real commitment to the success of the mission. He is in a tough position here. Should he criticize Bush for not acting swiftly and harshly against the accused soldiers? For now he's chosen to refer to gathering the facts and providing "appropriate" process to the accused soldiers and preserving the rule of law. That may be too tame, part of his characteristic dullness, but it may be the surface of what is a competent commitment to the success of the war effort.

April 30, 2004

"'Femmebomb' brought down by windbomb." What might have been.
Talking heads who can talk. In Entertainment Weekly, Jessica Shaw recounts the behind the scenes drama of the Barry Manilow episode of American Idol:
"I would never nix a song and say, 'That's not for you,'" vocal coach Debra Byrd says. ''I might say, 'Okay, you don't sound so good right here. Let's rearrange it or change the key or leave out that part.''' This week, a high note at the end of ''Mandy'' was plaguing John Stevens, she adds, so ''I said let's get rid of that gorilla sitting at the end of the song waiting to kick your butt. You know you're gonna screw it up."

Okay, Fox, what I want is a reality show that follows Debra Byrd around! Or alternatively, I'll take a reality show following around Dean Banowetz, the hairstylist:
[re: flower-wearing Jasmine Trias] ''I have been working on de-flowering that girl since day one.''

[re: the problem with John Stevens's hair that requires some burgundy hair dye:] ''the Howdy Doody Idol thing''

[re: his plans to redo Fantasia's hair to look like Whitney Houston's in "The Bodyguard" after Simon said LaToya's hair looked like a "dead cat":] ''After the whole cat comment ... we have to think twice ... But at the end of the day, he's a white guy from the U.K. What does he know about a sista's weave?''

To all TV producers, of fiction and reality shows: I want to watch people who have a way with words! TV is talking heads. Put on people who are good at talking!

And in this light, I have a request for the Presidential campaign: Senator Kerry, President Bush, could you please submit your campaigns in writing?
Do passive students need more toys? Prof. Maule has some thoughts on that classroom clicker device that I wrote about yesterday. I came out for student autonomy both because I saw the devices as coercive and intrusive and because I think students should need to take on the responsibilities of autonomy. Prof. Maule writes:
The typical post-modern student wants to be passive, to be fed information, and to regurgitate it. That's been the educational experience of most of these students. (Too) many of the teachers that these students have encountered, eager for high rankings on student evaluations, prefer to play to the crowd, placate the desires of students weaned on television, and refrain from pushing students to become active participants in their own education. …

If indeed post-modern culture prevents a return to the days of holding students responsible by putting them on the spot, de-valuing their baseless complaints on student evaluations about work load and academic expectations, and failing those who fail, then perhaps getting them involved by "making the work fun" is worth the effort. The clickers are toy-like, they are almost identical to the TV remote with which the student is deeply familiar, they are snazzy and exciting, and they equalize the participation level at something other than zero. Faculty using the clickers claim that the students are enthusiastic about them. That's not a surprise. So surely it's worth a try.

Hmmm.... which side is he really on? When did we cave to "post-modernism"? Do young people today really see themselves in these terms or are they tired of being characterized as the MTV generation and so forth? Aren't we post-9/11 now, so that it's not too late to talk about a serious world of real values and consequences?

I've never seen a personal statement in an admissions file that was all about how the applicant has been spending his life so far playing video games and is hoping to find some snazzy, exciting, familiar devices to play with in the classroom. Nearly every file portrays an individual who is serious about taking on the challenges of learning how to be a lawyer and who has a strong record of independent, responsible academic achievement. No one writes, I'm looking for a place where the teachers will hover over me and feed me information and expect to see me glazed and numb unless they excite me the way TV excites me! On paper, every applicant is hot for a big challenge. I want to hold them to their own representations, not shrug and view these idealized self-portraits as a post-modern joke. Let the joke run the other way: we take these things seriously, we believe you are adults, we think the practice of law is challenging and serious and important, and we are going to treat you like the person you claimed to be when you applied to this school and made us believe you deserved to sit in that seat you are slumping back in right now!

UPDATE: Prof. Maule has a long response to this. What can be done about lack of class participation? I have no special new solution--other than blogging about it. Maybe that will change things. Basically, I favor the traditional law school model. Prof. Maule has something good to say about PowerPoint in the classroom. I detest PowerPoint. If those clickers are helpful the way PowerPoint is helpful that's another reason to be against the clickers. Signed, Cranky Old Retro Lawprof.
Howard Dean will have his own talk show. (Cheap humor: scream show.) I'll believe it when I see it--where's Clinton's talk show we heard so much about?--but here's my advice: don't do it! When has someone prominent successfully started a talk show with full attention focused on him from the first day? You need to work your way into a good talk show, building an audience, while honing your style and making a lot of mistakes. If everyone tunes in to see if you're really any good, at a point when you won't be that good, the show will crash early and embarrassingly. You'll be taunted about your inadequacies from day one.

Anyway, the news of the possible new show appears here in Variety (via Drudge). At first, I didn't notice it was Variety and I was cringing and saying to myself "Who wrote this?" Why is a reporter calling a talkshow not just a "gabfest" but a "skein"? Yesterday, I looked up something about Air America--how's it doing lately, after its big, conspicuous launch, with critcs ready to pounce? I turned up an article (in NEXIS) with the headline: "Two Air America execs ankle." What? Oh, that's Variety, where people can't just leave, they have to "ankle."

But how would a Dean do on a talk show? I have to admit, watching Kerry the other day, I was thinking I miss Dean. Don't you? Wouldn't things be so much more exciting if he were the nominee? Sorry, "presumptive nominee." Oh, I know it's not about excitement. I'm happy to have a boring competent person disappear into the White Hours and do the right things. (Just get to the point, Senator Kerry, and convince me you're competent, so I can stop wasting time listening to you. Feel free to submit it in writing.)

According to "ex-Big Ticket TV topper Larry Lyttle," who seems to be putting the Dean deal together, Dean will be perfect on TV because: "He's a little bit of Howard Beale, a little Dr. Phil and a little Donahue all rolled into one..." The Howard Dean/Beale similarity has been widely noted. So, great--if he'll freak out on camera periodically, we'll tune in, like people used to tune in to Jack Paar, to see if tonight was a night when he'd break down and cry.

According to Lyttle, "The last thing we're going to talk about is politics... [Dean will] look at things like, What happens if you lose a sibling? What about when you're victimized by not having health care?" Oh, yeah, no way that'll verge into politics. We'll steer way clear of that.

UPDATE: A reader--Tracey Berry, a former student--alerts me to a typo up there:
I know that this is a typo: "...disappear into the White Hours..." ... but I could not help but think it sounds very Wasteland-esque -- just the sort of thing that Kerry himself might want to misquote.

"Disappear into the White Hours"--yes, that is (not) going to be the name of my first volume of poetry. I like it as a name for an alter-ego anonymous blog. Or possibly the title of the sort of prestige movie that would star Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Julianne Moore and that I'd kick myself afterwards for thinking I would like.

Alternate response: somehow when I'm thinking about Kerry speaking, the word "hours" lodges itself in my brain.

April 29, 2004

"The sniper community." For years, I've been following the overuse of the word "community." Not everyone who can be put in one category (e.g., gay) is actually in a communal relationship with others in the category who may, in fact, commune in a group. (You could feel sad and left out if you were something that gets called a community but didn't have any rewarding group experiences.) And not every category that people can be put in is the sort of thing that suggests the relationships of community. I remember hearing the expression "the military community" about ten years ago and thinking, now, the use has reached its most ridiculous extreme. Today, on Morning Edition, I heard the most ridiculous one ever, in a story about American soldiers trained as snipers. One of the soldiers referred to "the sniper community." Next up: the loner community.

UPDATE: Chris notes that the most profound misuse of the term "community" is the expression "the international community."
Simon guesses who will be the AI final two. My guess, as I clicked on this article in Entertainment Weekly, was LaToya and Diana. Turns out that is what Simon Cowell thinks, though he thinks it should be LaToya and Fantasia. I said last night: I think Diana is going to win.
Striking ... splinters. Jeremy links to some blogs written about the stresses of striking by striking TAs, like this one:
this morning i had a bit of a breakdown and couldn't stop sobbing. it just seemed so ridiculous, the whole picketing thing. everyone kept saying "emily, you are just tired. you have been working so hard!" but other people have been working just as hard or harder and did not break down and cry just because. i mean, what did it was really having to hold in my emotions for so long. i could chant my heart out, but not be bored. i could yell and shout about the sanctity of the picket line, but not feel doubt about a strike i was against. i could sing "solidarity forever", but not hate the people on the line with me. i snapped after being on the line for just one hour. after lunch, i was better. i still have splinters that i can't seem to get out, but i am better.

I felt especially sympathetic re the splinters part, because my son just got a lot of splinters in his hand moving some fencing material around at work. And I tried to get it out using the method that I thought was the right method, using a sterilized needle to pick out one end of the splinter and then tweezers to pull it out. I couldn't get any of them. I resorted to Googling for tips on splinter removal, and learned that the method I was using was the right method, but it wasn't working. I found another method, in more than one place, which was to spread Elmer's Glue over the affected area, then let it dry, then peel it off. That might work for very fine splinters (like after an encounter with a fuzzy cactus), but it didn't help. Another tip was soaking it periodically in warm water with baking soda over the course of a few days and see if they just come out somehow. So more than a day passed before we realized professional help was needed. We went to the UW Clinic, where a nurse (basically using the needle/tweezers method) removed 25 splinters (more than we realized were there). So, strikers, with picket sign splinters: you need to go to the doctor. (I know you have health insurance.)

This is from another TA blog linked by Jeremy----and it explains the hostility of yesterday's chalkings:
Day two of the strike was even worse than the first. After an entire day of certain people literally chasing undergrads, snarking at them, swearing at them, and telling them that they'll rot in hell, we were ordered to be nicer to them today. The thing is, the union never told us that we would be asking undergrads not to attend their classes in the first place. So if the TAs, who were striking, didn't know this fact, how were the undergrads supposed to know?

As I looked around me today on the picket line, most of the people I saw were those of us who voted not to strike. If all of us who voted "no" didn't picket, the Social Sciences building would have been empty. Where were all the "yes" voters?

And now we're supposed to withhold our grades. I was talking to a union member friend today, and I think she summed up best how the next membership meeting and rest of semester will go: "So all the PAs and militant jackasses will vote to grade strike, we'll vote not to do it, and then 7110 Social Sciences will be THE ONLY FUCKING TAS TO ACTUALLY STRIKE."


PS. I do realize that first poster meant emotional splinters ... which reminds me of a question we were batting around the other day about physical and emotional pain. It seems to me that at different levels of pain it switches back and forth whether physical is worse than mental. Take slight pain, like a mild headache: I'd rather have the physical pain. But at some degree of pain: I'd much rather have mental than physical. Yet it is possible to imagine and even higher degree of pain, where you would prefer the physical version again (for example, if the mental pain were the death of a loved one). Not sure where hard-to-remove splinters lie on that spectrum.

PPS. Jeremy seems to think the splinters were real wood splinters, and that's what I thought at first too, but then I decided, no, I was excessively real-wood-splinter focused after this two day splinter-struggle with my son. I need to read what's on the page/screen and not infuse my interpretation with so much of my own personal experience. The whole post was about emotions, with no mention of the physical ordeal of holding the strip of lumber that makes up the picket sign. But if Jeremy thought it too ... and presumably he hasn't been having real splinter problems lately ... (we'd know, wouldn't we?) ... I admit I'm not really sure.

PPPS. Ah, so it is actual wood splinters. And it was the rough lumber of the picket sign handle.
Omarosa and ... the ordeal of the bier! According to Jeannette Walls at MSNBC News:
The much-loathed reject from “The Apprentice” was scheduled to appear on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” last week, but refused to go on air when she saw a lie detector test backstage.

“The lie-detector test wasn’t even for her,” a spokeswoman for the show told the Scoop. “It was intended for Jimmy’s Uncle Frank [a regular character on the show], but when Omarosa saw it, she just freaked.” Some fellow contestants have accused Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth of lying when she said one of them used the N-word. “We tried and tried to calm her down, but she just kept saying ‘I’m not going on stage with that lie detector test’ then she just walked out.”

That reminds me of a lesson about relevant evidence I used back in the days when I taught Evidence. We read a 1894 Missouri State Supreme Court case, State v. Wisdom (sorry for the long block quote, but this is not otherwise available on line and it's really cool):
In the course of the examination of the witness Hill, he was asked to tell what happened down at the morgue by the dead body of Mr. Drexler, when the witness Willard and defendant were there, prior to the inquest. This was objected to as immaterial; the objection was overruled. The witness answered that "they told us to put our hands on Mr. Drexler," and that he "and Willard did so, but defendant wouldn't do it." Officer McGrath corroborated this statement. Defendant objected to McGrath's statement, but assigned no reason. The action of the court in this regard is now assigned as error. Who it was that told them to put their hands on Mr. Drexler's dead body does not appear.

The request to touch the body was evidently prompted by the old superstition of the ordeal of the bier in Europe in the Middle Ages, which taught that the body of a murdered man would bleed freshly when touched by his murderer, and hence it was resorted to as a means of ascertaining the guilt or innocence of a person suspected of a murder.

This superstition has not been confined to one nation or people. It obtained among the Germans, prior to the twelfth century, and is recorded in the Nibelungenlied, the great epic poem of that country, in the incident in which the murdered Seigfried is laid on his bier and Hagen is called on to prove his innocence by going to the corpse, but at his approach the dead chief's wounds bleed afresh. That it dominated the English mind is attested by the passage of Matthew Paris, that when Henry II. died at Chinon in 1189, his son and successor came to view his body, and as he drew near, immediately the blood flowed from the nostrils of the dead king as if his spirit was so indignant at the approach of the one who caused his death, that his blood thus protested to God. And Shakespeare voices the same superstition in Richard III., in act 1, scene 2, thus:
"O! gentlemen, see, see! dear Henry's wounds Open their congealed mouths and bleed afresh."

And so does Dr. Warren, in "Diary of a Late Physician," 3 vol., p. 327. That it was a prevalent belief in Africa and Australia, in another form, see 17 Encyclopedia Britannica, pp. 818, 819.

This superstition has come to this country with the emigration from other lands, and, although a creature of the imagination, it does to a considerable degree affect the opinions of a large class of our people.

It is true it was not shown that defendant believed that touching this body would cause any evidence of guilt to appear, or that he entertained any fear of possible consequences, but it was simply a test proposed by some bystander, and it was offered as showing the manner in which the three suspects conducted themselves when it was proposed. Clarke v. State, 78 Ala. 474; Chamberlayne's Best on Ev., page 488.

While defendant had a perfect right to decline, either because of his instinctive repugnance to the unpleasant task or because no one had a right to subject him to the test, and his refusal might not prejudice him in the minds of a rational jury, on the other hand, a consciousness of guilt might have influenced him to refuse to undergo the proposed test, however unreasonable it was and it is one of the circumstances of the case, that the jury could weigh. The jury could consider that, while it was a superstitious test, still defendant might have been more or less affected by it, as many intelligent people are by equally baseless notions as shown by their conduct and movements. It often happens that a case must be established by a number of facts, any one of which, by itself, would be of little weight, but all of which taken together would prove the issue.

So, getting back to Omarosa: even if the lie detector was not to be used on her, and, indeed, even if lie detector tests are not reliable, if she believed it was to be used on her and believed it was reliable, her running off at the sight of it is some evidence that she had lied in her accusation about the other contestant. On the other hand, it isn't very strong evidence. She may have believed lie detector tests are not reliable, especially for someone under stress (as she would be if given the test on camera), and so she could be telling the truth but rejecting the test to avoid producing evidence that would be used against her. And it is also completely sensible to flee the lie detector because it gave her the strong impression that she was going to be subjected to intrusive, disrespectful intrusions other than the interview she agreed to. Oh, and I'd like to see a lie detector test given to the spokeswoman for the show, with questions about whether they were planning to ask Omarosa once she was on stage whether she wouldn't like to take the test.

A sidenote: that case appeared in an early edition of the Green and Nesson problem method Evidence book. I harshly critiqued that edition of Green and Nesson in "The Lying Woman, The Devious Prostitute, and Other Stories from the Evidence Casebook," 88 Northwestern Law Review 914 (1994). That's not available on line, but it makes excellent reading. Having written an article with that title, I now have the rare distinction of having a resumé with the word "prostitute" on it! File that under: Things I Didn't Think About At The Time. And I have no quarrel with later editions of Green and Nesson's book, at least some of which included passages from my article.
If only law students had a remote control ... not that they could click off their boring lawprof, but they could conceivably be kept constantly engaged by needing to click in answers to multiple choice questions.
PAUL CARON, a law professor at the University of Cincinnati, uses [high tech clickers] to break through what he calls the "cone of silence" in his classroom.

Well, I've struggled with this "cone" Prof. Caron talks about. And I'd love a high tech solution.
The devices look and work much as a television remote does, sending infrared signals to a receiver at the front of the classroom. The receiver is connected to a computer, which tabulates and analyzes the responses. The data can be displayed by an overhead projector, incorporated into a spreadsheet or posted on a class Web site. Responses are anonymous among the students, but not to the teachers, who can identify students by the serial numbers of their clickers.

In a Constitutional Law class you could accumulate a nice political profile on everyone in the class. You collect a lot of statistics this way, and it is awfully coercive. It doesn't matter in a Tax Law class perhaps, but I think it would be too intrusive to systematically collect this sort of information in some classes, such as Conlaw. Would we not have to comply with University regulations about human subjects experiments? Consider this:
[Indiana University sociology prof Melissa Wilde] uses the devices to turn the 400-student class into a sociological laboratory.

At the beginning of this semester, she had the class use the clickers to answer several basic questions about themselves, including their race, household income and political affiliation. Thanks to the clicker technology, she could collate the data immediately. At the next class, she posted the results, which showed that, compared with the average for the nation, the class had three times as many wealthy students and one-fifth as many poor students.

"They were really surprised and tried to figure out why," Professor Wilde said. "For 20 or 30 minutes, they got really fired up."

"Basically I get them doing sociology of themselves," she added.

Well, that's a nice friendly demonstration of a point about the economics of higher education, but where do we go from there?

I started writing this post with a childlike I-want-one-for-Christmas-too attitude, but I'm getting an oh-no-Big-Brother twinge.
Professor Wilde acknowledged that because she can attach names to each answer, "there's a real potential for abuse." She says she promises the students that for the sensitive survey questions she asks, "I will not connect that serial number to their name." So far, she said, there have been no complaints.

To the contrary, students appear to love the clickers.

Inevitable Orwellian observation: "He loved Big Brother."

Here's where I end up. Students deserve their autonomy in the classroom. By law school, they are adults and they should be taking responsibility for their education. They will soon enough have clients relying on them, and there will be no lawprof wired in to supervise whatever they decide to do. With classroom autonomy, students can play video games or blog or IM or sleep or think about their personal affairs or even engage and learn something. The consequences are there and they will need to live with them come exam time. If they aren't up to keeping track of their responsibilities autonomously, why should they be unleashed with law licenses on an unsuspecting public? So I end up, once again as Cranky Old Retro Lawprof.

UPDATE: Prof. Maule responded to this, and my response to that is up here.
Sex in Space. So, what's the expert scientific opinion on who should be sent on a Mars trip? According to Peter Bond, "a British expert on space matters" (link via Drudge):
"[T]he ideal Mars mission would have - in Star Trek terms - two Mr Scotts and two Mr Spocks, and definitely no Captain Kirks, or Mr Sulus, or Dr McCoys. You need the Scotts to do the engineering stuff, and the Spocks to do the science. You don't need a Kirk because all he does is issue orders - and kiss any woman in sight."
Prince/Musicology. VH-1 ran a nice, but ridiculously short concert show with Prince last night. The first part, with new songs, featured a big band, and Prince in a gray, not purple, suit that was zoot-suitishly long on one side but short on the other side. The second part was done unplugged style with Prince sitting on a stool, doing some of his old songs (though none of my favorites), chiding the audience for not singing along loudly enough, and demonstrating the first song he ever learned to play ("Proud Mary"). Here's a screen capture:

Blog conversation instead of in-person conversation. Tonya has remarked on our tendency to converse via blog, but I'm still going to answer the question she raises at the end of this post about comedians: Margaret Cho.

April 28, 2004

Kerry on Hardball. I'm watching Kerry on Hardball. This is billed as an "exclusive" interview with Kerry. What does that mean? Any time one person interviews another it's "exclusive"? (No two snowflakes are alike.) It's only exclusive, I'd say, if it's a person who hasn't given any interviews in a long time. That's not Kerry.

Comment on Kerry's face: Whoa! It's re-Botoxing time! He's re-craggifying. Especially, on the right side of the face. Yikes! This Botox stuff wears off unevenly? That's pretty embarrassing.

It's on and on about the medals and ribbons. This is incredibly irritating. I agree with Kerry that it's pointless to quibble about whatever it was he threw away when he was an young man with an issue to fight for. But let's make a deal then: stop using Vietnam as an argument for why you should be President. The whole issue is a waste of time. I'm willing to accept that both Bush and Kerry are good people with good character. Now, get on with it! Give me some substance!

After the first commercial break, Kerry is smiling--with teeth showing oddly. Someone told him to smile, so he's taking stage directions. Oh, I'm so hopelessly tired of Kerry. If he would only take a strong stand about following through in Iraq now, looking forward and not backward! But he is in robotic mode: "The fact is that, uh, to PEEL it away, I think it comes down to this larger ideological, neocon concept of fundamental change in the region and who knows whether there are other motives with respect Saddam Hussein, but they did it because they thought they could." That lack of a "to" after "respect" is in the original. And before he launched into that he seemed to get a weary, okay-I'll-have-to-run-the-neocon-ideology-tape-loop look on his deBotoxifying face. Ugh!

I'm distracted by this news, which puts everything in a new light, but I make it through the final moments of the Hardball interview, as Kerry plugs in the domestic-economy-working-people-tax-cut-for-the-wealthy loop. Then Chris Matthews, sounding like an idiot, complains about calling a technical help line, getting a person with an Indian accent, and saying "Forget about it!" to that person. Why isn't that offensive? Someone answering the phone in an Indian accent justifies some sort of outrage? Meanwhile, Kerry is laughing, showing his teeth awkwardly again. Are we supposed to have contempt for the people of India? How does that relate to the idea that we need to cooperate better with the people of the world, which is what Kerry seems to be talking about half of the time? He's so manipulated and machined-tooled into his candidacy, there doesn't seem to be a real person there to think about putting your trust in.

UPDATE: Strange Doctrines criticizes me for asking for substance while being insufficiently substantive myself, but I'm not the one running for President. I keep asking for a substantive plan for what Kerry would do in the future in Iraq (here and here and here and here and I'll stop there, but that's just April). Without that, I cannot begin to think about him as a replacement for the person who is currently seriously trying to deal with the situation, however imperfectly. Do I need to have my own plan for how to wind down the conflict in Iraq? Kerry is robotically repeating fragments of stump speeches, almost incoherently, as quoted here. How can you understand what he's blabbering about (e.g., re neocons) unless you remember the point from before? As for Matthews, I was truly offended by his prejudice toward people with Indian accents, and Kerry just laughed when Matthews ranted about hanging up on such a person. Kerry is coming across as an empty shell of man.

FURTHER UPDATE: Strange Doctrines responded to that update, but none too coherently. I never said Bush had a more substantive plan for Iraq in the sense of a verbal expression of a plan. What Bush is doing, I can see in the news. Kerry has to tell me what he will do, because he isn't in the position to be actually doing anything yet. I have wasted untold hours of my life listening to Kerry and trying to detect an answer. I waste little time listening to Bush, because I can see what he's doing. I think they are both bad at speaking, if it's any consolation, and I have the complaint about lack of substance with respect to virtually every sort of political debate, speech, or event from Kerry, Bush, and everyone else. Why do I say anything about Kerry's face? One: because he calls attention to it by doing things to it. Two: because I am so bored waiting for an answer to the one obvious question that he never answers that I have to grope for things to do with my mind. Three: because physical appearance is a valid and interesting topic, generally, and even specifically, with respect to the Presidency. It has a lot to do with how people respond to a candidate (e.g., Nixon vs. Kennedy) and matters of style have something to do with how a President is able to persuade and influence.

THIS IS THE LAST ONE: Strange Doctrines still thinks I'm being unfair to Kerry because I'm only asking for a "future" plan for Kerry and not for Bush. Only Kerry's presidency is in the future. I just want to know what he'll do if and when he's President.
What do I have to do to get some crab around here? Here, being Hokkaido. And: the cutest kids in the world.
Harmony and order have been restored in American Idol Land. Aw, that was a sweet results show. The dear boy, John Stevens, had to leave and completely deserved to leave, because you just can't sing that many notes wrong. The charge that Americans were voting in a racist way will dissipate, one would hope, now that no white contestants seem to be left. The top three were the ones who clearly were the best last night. And the vote count was extremely high (28 million), which suggests last week was a fluke, caused by general undervoting and overvoting by some rabid fan types. The ordinary viewers were shaken out of their complacency after Jennifer slipped through the cracks last week, and sheer numbers had a regularizing effect. The right outcome was reached. The tribute to the 16 year old retro grandma-loving boy was quite touching and everyone felt good and cried and loved everybody.
"Whereas, Ann A. Althouse, is known to represent the highest Republican ideals and principles..." Okay, a week or so ago, I made fun of the Statement of Affirmation Nancy Pelosi sent me on behalf of the Democrats. Now, I turn my attention to a letter from Bill Frist that arrived in today's mail:
Based on your remarkable support for President Bush in 2000 and our Republican Senate candidates in 2002, I am honored to extend to you an invitation to become a Platinum Member of the Republican Presidential Task Force.

Fewer than one percent of Republicans will ever attain this honor.
Wait, he's honored, I'm honored--there's a hell of a lot of honor being passed around here. But for what? My "remarkable support" for Bush in 2000? Well, all right, if by "remarkable support," you mean voting for Al Gore. And what on earth are the 99% of Republicans to do to get ahead of me in line for this honor?
Only the most committed Republicans have been recognized with this coveted invitation ... and your place in this long and unbroken line is well earned.
Thanks for all the undeserved flattery and the assurances that it is deserved, but what I really want to know is why is it great to be in a long line? And why "unbroken"? I'm picturing a lot of elite Republicans standing in line and no one cutting in. It doesn't make a lot of sense as something to "covet." And if I have an invitation, why must I wait in line? Is there a show? A gala event? I see there is a lapel pin, and that it "instantly marks you for recognition at the most exclusive Republican gatherings in Washington, D.C., Wisconsin and throughout the nation"--yeah, as somebody who made a contribution in response to this letter, as someone who was impressed by this nonsense.

But this is the thing that I found funniest and that put me in mind of that eerie Affirmation the Democrats sent me to sign:



Why not just send me a signed statement attesting to your belief that your supporters are narcissistic idiots? I'm "affixing" my "grand seal" of bullshit on this.
Meandering about gerrymandering. I haven't chewed over the new gerrymandering case, Vieth, enough to want to take position. It's hard to say whether we are better off being told the courts ought never to consider a challenge to political gerrymandering (as Justice Scalia wrote for a plurality) or thinking that there is a remote possibility, but don't count on it (Justice Kennedy's fifth vote which produced the outcome). Will the legislators do better knowing their decision is the last call or if they know there is a very, very, very slight chance of judicial supervision? That's a close question about human nature and political practice, but perhaps the deciding factor is the huge waste of resources that goes into litigating cases that amount to nothing.

In any event, Prof. Grofman should feel complimented that Justice Scalia thought his wisecrack about Bandemer (the earlier gerrymandering case) worth quoting in full. It goes like this:
As far as I am aware I am one of only two people who believe that Bandemer makes sense. Moreover, the other person, Daniel Lowenstein, has a diametrically opposed view as to what the plurality opinion means.
Madison cops. I'm typing this in a café on State Street, looking out the window at two Madison police officers. They are wearing shorts, standing next to their bicycles, and chatting while sipping Jamba Juice with straws.
The speed spraypainter guy. Here's a local street artist, putting on his speed spraypainting show and gathering a crowd. (But what's more entertaining, speedpainter guy or low-rise jeans girl?)



I offer no opinion about whether this tribute to the World Trade Center is in good taste:

Trivia about the Park Street pedestrian bridge. In the Rodney Dangerfield movie, Back to School, filmed here, the bridge is draped with a sign that says "Great Lakes University," the made-up name for the school in the movie. It was fun watching, from my office window, as Rodney and crew filmed a scene for this movie.
"Good people don't cross picket lines." The TAs undertake the teaching of ethics on Day 2 of the strike.



I know it looks like the TAs are reading while picketing (which seems rather scholarly), but they are singing a traditional union song, and I believe those are songbooks, containing songs like these. I walked over the Park Street Bridge, the path from Bascom Hill to Library Mall, which takes you over the street and up to the second level of the Humanities Building. Two picketers were at the Humanities Building side of the bridge and this larger group of picketers was down at the end of the main stairway to the Building. I took a side stairway to avoid crossing the line. As I write this, I'm sitting in a café on State Street, and a large group of strikers marches up the middle of the street, toward the Capitol Building. (Their issue here is really with the state legislators.)

I wrote early today of the anti-strike chalkings. Here you can see that the TAs are correcting student writing, despite the strike, as it relates to the strike:



UPDATE: Here's a shot of the strikers as seen from the café:

The semester has ended. It's a beautiful day and the last class is over. Time now to write exams and tie up all the many loose ends and do all the errands that I've been putting off (like having the oil changed in my car). But first, I'll take a walk down State Street, perhaps capturing some photos of Madison happenings. I'm going to make my way to a restaurant, where I plan to read the new Supreme Court case about political gerrymandering. (Ah, a new Supreme Court case on the political question doctrine comes out just as it is too late to talk about it in Conlaw 1!) Then I mean to go to a café and do a little photoblogging (if, in fact, Madison happenings were captured) and a little blawging (if I can extract a distinctive thing to say about the Justice Scalia/Justice Kennedy stand-off that left us with only a plurality opinion about the political question doctrine). So do come back. I'd like to also listen to the oral argument in the Cheney case, the one that bored all the reporters because there was too much talk about federal jurisdiction, but that will take a little time. There are also the arguments about habeas corpus in the Padilla and Hamdi cases to listen to. I almost regret that the Federal Jurisdiction and Conlaw 1 classes have already ended, just as so many interesting things are happening in the Supreme Court. Yet something tells me that this close to exams, students are not inclined to find anything "interesting," just burdensome. The lot of being a lawprof is often a matter of becoming immensely interested in things students are sorry to find out they need to slog through at all. But there are always some students who really do see what is interesting and important inside the arcana of jurisdiction and federalism and separation of powers. (If only when reading admissions files I could figure out who's who!)
"Kerry is in an impossible box on Iraq." I keep waiting to hear Kerry say what he will do in Iraq, and I can't even think about the possibility of voting for him without an answer. Chicago polisci prof Daniel W. Drezner explains in TNR why Kerry can't answer (along with why we are in a Bizarro World where the war going badly helps Bush):
On a normal issue, if a challenger disagrees with an incumbent--and, moreover, if the incumbent's initiatives are both objectively failing and increasingly unpopular--then the challenger can simply advocate taking the opposite approach. But Iraq isn't a normal issue; there is no opposite approach (or, at least, no responsible opposite approach). ...
I will now go back to averting my eyes from the futile flailings of this campaign season.

I say she looks great. Maybe everyone is making fun of her, but you can't really make fun of a person who's having so much fun daring to look in a way that other people will find easy to make fun of. Me, I've said it several times here and I'll say it again: I love curly hair! So, Anne Heche, I approve! And this is what celebrities are for. (Picture via Gawker.)
"No Strike in Our Name." Things chalked on the sidewalk on Bascom Mall relating to the TA strike:
Get to work hippies
Students hate TAA
Unite against unions
TAA is greedy
Unions suck
TAA sucks
No Strike in Our Name
Nothing pro-strike.

April 27, 2004

"The holy city of ..." What are the journalistic standards for referring to a city, in an ordinary news report, as the "holy city of," say, Najaf? I'm sure many cities have shrines that are important to a religious group, but why must a reporter use "holy" as if it were part of the city's name? Reporters would never say, for example, the holy city of Salt Lake City. That would hit people as the inappropriate insertion of religious opinion into an objective report. Why does a different rule apply to cities in some other countries? No city in the United States ever gets referred to as "holy." Other than Toledo, I mean.
Yay! Nina's blogging photos from Hokkaido! Glad she got the camera/website coordination problems fixed, over there in Sapporo. She's even photoblogging the sushi. (That makes me think: I'll bet there are blogs where people just upload photographs of whatever they are eating at any given time.)
Simon's new tactic. Here's my take on Simon Cowell on tonight's American Idol. He took stock of the way American voters reacted to his open support of some contestants (e.g., telling LaToya she was the best singer in the competition) and his harsh attacks on others (namely, John Stevens). He saw what that led to last week: the voters are either reacting against being told what to do or they are making supporters of his favorites feel like they don't need to vote (while stimulating people who like Stevens to act now to save him). So this week he backed off and was lukewarm to his favorites even though they were good (chiefly, LaToya) and was as nice as possible under the circumstances to John. We'll see how his little tactic works out. I think they are seeing the voting numbers so high for John that they've just faced the fact that he's going to be around for a while and that it was wrong to be so mean to a 16 year old. This week Cowell called attention to the fact that John is only 16 and complimented him for his manliness in the face of criticism--in Simon-talk, that's "every bullet we've thrown at you." (Isn't it funny how the judge who is the most articulate muddles every other expression?)

Anyway, who will leave this week? I think Fantasia and George are in real danger. That Latin theme was tough! Diana DeGarma was the only one who could really sing in that style, but LaToya was also good (and I love her new super-short hair!). Jasmine was fine--I even believe she is the most likely winner of the whole contest. Isn't all of Hawaii watching the show and voting constantly for her?

I'm assuming John Stevens is safe, and not just because all the grandmas in America have to love him after he sang that song to his grandma. One thing I like about John is that he stood tall after singing all those wrong notes to millions of people. I won't even sing in front of one person, because I think it is so shameful to sing off key. So his nerve is exhilarating.
What are the chances that John Edwards will end up as the Democratic nominee? Interesting speculation in The Village Voice (via Drudge).
Blogging your way to free housing at NYU. Wasn't there always a story about an NYU student living in the library? I remember hearing such a tale when I went to NYU Law School (yeah, I know, it's "School of Law") back in 1978. So now it's front page news that someone is using the old technique of living in the stacks. Why? Because the school found out about it, through the student's weblog ("on line journal"), and now is giving him a free room in a dorm. (And other students struggling to pay the bills must be thinking, damn, why didn't I think of that?) I tried going to the web address given in the Times: http://homelessatnyu.com/home.php, but there was nothing there. (Wait, he had his own domain? Why didn't he have to use blogspot??)
As he put it on the Internet, where he has spent four or five months recounting his adventure, it was "the tale of a penniless boy and his quest to gain a college education." He said he took refuge in the library after being denied adequate financial aid, and described himself as "a furtive figure amongst dusty stacks of books, below the offices of the elite administrators of the university."

Could it really be true?

That is hard to say.
Hmmm.... he is a "creative writing major." Fiction writers deserve to get paid or to get their grants or whatever. He did engage the other students with his writing. What did you do, you other students who are struggling to pay your expenses?
"Freedom is keeping us free." Ah, Television Without Pity has its recap of last week's "American Idol" shows up. I particularly appreciate Shack's assessment of the group song on the Wednesday show:
Ryan then introduces the kids and Barry back onstage to sing a song from Barry's new album called "Let Freedom Ring." If he was going to ride the coattails of socially enforced patriotism, shouldn't this song have come out about a year ago? The kids all file out onstage and start by singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee." There's choreography. Patriotic songs shouldn't have choreography. That's just tacky. It's saying that the song isn't good enough to just stand on its own. After they sing about a verse of the song, it switches over to Barry's tripe, and he wanders out onto the stage to sing. The song is dull and poorly written. "Let freedom ring / Let it celebrate sweet liberty that is keeping us free and strong." Freedom is keeping us free. What a dumb-ass song.
"Kenny Boy" and the Times and the oral argument in the Cheney case. I know the Times has a standard policy of alerting its readers to the age of seemingly anyone mentioned is a news article, but what is the policy for noting Bush's nickname for a given person? This is from the report in the NYT on the oral argument in the case involving Cheney:
Mr. Bush, a former Texas oilman himself, has always had close ties to the energy industry and business leaders like Mr. Lay — "Kenny Boy" to the president — who was once one of his most generous campaign donors.
What does the nickname add except an implication that the nickname reinforces the statement that Bush is very close to Lay? The best that can be said for providing the nickname here is that Bush's propensity for nicknaming everyone is so well known that no one is misled that the "Kenny Boy" nickname means anything. People seem to never tire of saying "Kenny Boy."

There's also this:
The presentations today were so highly technical at times that spicier elements of the long-running controversy were all but buried — notably, the duck-hunting trip that Justice Antonin Scalia took with his old friend Mr. Cheney shortly after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case argued today, Cheney v. U.S. District Court, 03-475.

Oh, so the reporter was disappointed in his search for more excitement, which could scarcely come from understanding the legal issues in this important case about Presidential power? He was sitting there waiting to hear about ducks. Good luck trying to understand the real issues from this press report. Perhaps the reason we're not getting any explication of the issues here is that the case in favor of Cheney is just too easy. But the article seems only to say, oh it's all just too technical to bother to explain, so please just see it as a hopeless legal tangle with no legal answer that will therefore be resolved by the Justices based on whether they like Cheney better than the Sierra Club. And so what really matters is those damn ducks. I wanted to hear about the ducks again. Please tell me about the ducks.
The music of the strike. Well, the TA strike is on and visible, audible from my office window, which looks out on Bascom Mall. There was a little eddy of picketers at the entries to the Political Science building and the Education building (across from the Law building) earlier in the day. The Political Science TAs have dissipated but the Education picketers are still going strong. The "Strike Party" is in gear, in front of Bascom Hall, and they are playing highly amplified rap music that is about to drive me out of my office. Now its something more Grateful Dead-like with harmonica, and I don't like that either. Frankly, I don't want to hear anyone's music while I'm trying to work. Not even the jazz or "world" music that my colleagues sometime feel free to unleash on the 7th floor. I've got to get out of here. I really, really love quiet, and need to retreat to my ultra-quiet home base.

UPDATE: My noisy air conditioner came on and white-noised out the party, keeping me in the office. When it switched off again a horrendous live band was playing, a rock band ... with trumpets. I've never liked any rock music with trumpets in it, and this is just insufferable. Why should a strike be like the Manuel Noriega seige? (Hmm... I see at that link that the Army used rock music at the Fallujah siege this month, including AC/DC's "Hell's Bells." New answer to the question: "Why do they hate us?")
That Dick Cheney case in the Supreme Court. Nina Totenberg had an excellent presentation this morning on the case about compelling Dick Cheney to provide discovery delving into the meetings of his energy task force, which will be argued in the Supreme Court today. Most of the news coverage of this case up until now has been about the effort to induce Justice Scalia to recuse himself for having gone on a duck hunting trip with Cheney. But this is an important case about the power of the Executive Branch, and without question, Justice Scalia is the strongest voice on the Court for protecting the independence of the Presidency. He has been a lone voice for the strongest position, most notably in the Independent Counsel case (Morrison v. Olson), so it is naive or self-deceiving to believe the effort to eliminate his participation in this case is primarily a matter of principle about judicial ethics. This is a vital area of law, in which Scalia's writings are unique and of great distinction: the arguments of those who oppose the power of the Presidency in this case ought to need to go through the scrutiny of this Justice. Those who care about the quality of constitutional law should dearly want the contribution he can make to the articulation of law in this case.

The attention to the duck-hunting trip and the petty indignation about the appearance of impropriety, rather than to the important questions of the independent functioning of the Presidency, is typical of the way public discourse in this country slips into the gossipy level of talking about celebrities and their evil ways. Why are we, as a nation, so uninterested in talking about ideas?
Shocking blog-related thing I did last night.
I guess it was a slow comedy day. I was told by someone who seemed to know that "The Daily Show" had given up on doing a segment on the antitrust case against the University for participating in getting the local bars to give up drink specials. I was told the reason was they just couldn't find a way to make it funny. But the segment ran last night and, of course, we were highly entertained to see clips of State Street and Bascom Mall on camera. And some nice students were game enough to do that routine of sitting on a couch while the "correspondent" (Ed Helms) peppered them with inappropriate questions (in this case, about drinking a lot of beer). It seems the path the show took in an effort to make it funny was to just talk a lot about beer. There was exactly one short line about why the agreed-upon abandonment of drink specials might be a legal problem, so I think they really were stymied trying to make antitrust law funny. So I stand by my original statement that you should pat yourself on the back if you've found a way to be funny about antitrust law.

April 26, 2004

More blog dangers. Tonya notes that having a blog can make you cut short an ordinary personal conversation by saying I've blogged about that or I was just about to blog about that. Scroll down to read her post about whether the American Idol voting last week is evidence of racism (or just bad taste in music).
Things to read. Ooh, I see Nina's finally gotten around to blogging from Japan. And blogging an awful lot. It's late, so I'm just going to print that out. I've also got an article I want to read: "Individualism, States' Rights, and the Right of Revolution in the Antebellum Debate Over Bearing Arms" (by Ohio State history prof Saul Cornell, who's going to be speaking on this subject here in Lubar Lounge at noon tomorrow). I think I'll gather these papers together along with my unwieldy oversized casebook (oversized but still overcutting the cases!) and head out for an early dinner at a new restaurant I kind of like. Tomorrow is the last day of class in Federal Jurisdiction--and the first day of the TA strike. No TAs in the Law School, but that doesn't mean there won't be a picket line. I hope the students show for the last day of class!

Here's a NewsHour discussion of the right to bear arms that includes Saul Cornell.
I can't improve on Wonkette's priceless wisecrack about this picture, but, oh, does this T-shirt irk me! What the hell kind of feminism is it that would gain power if the person asserting it is pretty? Especially if the person asserting it claimed her opinion was more valuable because she was pretty? Especially if the opinion is that feminism is an important and strong set of values. And I know Gloria Steinem famously said (when she turned 50), "This is what 50 looks like," but she was saying it to knock the person who told her she didn't look her age. It was a way of telling that person off for having a stereotype about 50 year olds rather than taking the bait and saying, "Yes, you're right I am prettier than other women." It was a sisterhood thing to say. The T-shirt person in the photograph is bringing up the subject herself, contrasting herself to plainer women that no one was even talking or thinking about at the time. That's the opposite of sisterhood.
The area where Clinton hopes to be the equal of Ulysses S. Grant: Writing a worthy memoir. But Grant only wrote a good memoir because he "devoted the vast majority of the book to his triumphant Civil War military leadership and wrote virtually nothing about his often disastrous presidency." So the chance that Clinton's memoir will turn out to be a good read is slim. The chances are quite high, on the other hand, that his book will get lots of attention for quite a while. It's been one book after another this Presidential politics season. One week it's Clarke, then the next week we only want to talk about Woodward. Woodward's book seems to have more staying power than Clarke's (which wiped an even lesser book off the stage). But when the big Clinton book arrives there should be quite an uproar. I suppose everyone is already getting ready to use the choice nuggets to prove whether Bush or Kerry should be elected. Or maybe, now that we know the book is coming out in late June, both Kerry and Bush can plan to do or say things that they'd like to see fail to attract attention.

UPDATE: But they can't plan too much, because Clinton has a well-known tendency to be late. It's a way of sucking even more oxygen out of the room ... sucking the oxygen out of several adjoining rooms.
The VMI dinner prayer case. The U.S. Supreme Court denied cert. today in Bunting v. Mellen (link via How Appealing), a case that presents federal jurisdiction questions galore. There are some pesky problems of mootness and qualified immunity. Justice Scalia dissents from the denial of cert., and writes about the problems created by forcing courts to decide whether a constitutional right exists before going on to decide whether qualified immunity protects the state official from having to pay damages (qualified immunity being premised on whether or not the constitutional law is clearly established). Here, because the students who sued the Virginia Military Institute had graduated, the claims for prospective relief against the school were moot, so all that remained that could be reviewed was the claim for damages against the school's superintendent, Bunting. But he won the case, because the law wasn't clear and he therefore had immunity.

That leaves the statement that the prayer violated the Establishment Clause just lying there on the books, and Bunting wants it reviewed. He doesn't like that announcement--which conflicts with decisions in other circuits--that a voluntary, generic, before-meal prayer violates the Establishment Clause. Should he be able to invoke Supreme Court review? He won! Well, if this is a jurisdictional limitation, it's a strange constriction of the Supreme Court's lawsaying role, brought about by the Court's own doctrine that locks decisions about constitutional rights inside decisions based on qualified immunity. Maybe the Court should reexamine that, but there's no reason why this must be the case to deal with that problem. (Especially since Bunting is now retired, which may well make the case moot for an additional reason.)

But what is VMI to do if it still wants to have the supper prayer and has not been able to get higher court review of the announcement that it violates the Establishment Clause? If the law is now to be considered clearly established, individual officials at the school will no longer have immunity from personal damages. I suppose they need only file a new lawsuit, seeking a declaratory judgment. It will take a while to get back to the Supreme Court, and by then the Pledge of Allegiance case will have been decided, and the Court of Appeals will have an opportunity to consider the Establishment Clause issue in light of that new case, either eliminating the split in the circuits or sharpening the issue for the next go at the Supreme Court.
The looming Bucky. What’s this they’re setting up on Bascom Mall?



A giant-headed mascot badgers me to have my picture taken with him. That’s me in the corner:



There’s free breakfast and assorted cavorting on the Mall. Further down the hill is what first amendment law calls a “designated public forum.” Here you’ll find various unattended public displays expressing some point of view, often informing us of shocking statistics by covering the hill with various items representing the subject of the statistics. (Earlier examples: here and here.) Today there are 2000 little pink flags, and you can see them here, loomed over by the giant figure of Bucky Badger:



According to the signs, each flag represents one of the “2000 undergrad women who will be raped before she graduates.” Is that 2000 within any given 4 year period? Over the entire history of the University? I can’t tell. I’m guessing that the assertion is that 500 students are raped each year. According to another sign, only 1 in 10 (or was it 1 in 20) "of these crimes" are reported. Presumably, some surveying produced that statistic. Still, if this shockingly brutal environment is really what exists here in Madison, where are the criminal trials? Does this book describe what life is like for college women? Where is the complete unraveling of the social fabric that those flaglets purport to document?
"The pursuit of beauty is honorable." So Estée Lauder used to like to say. The announcement of her death at age 97 along with a picture of her taken 16 years ago appears on the front page of today's NYT. The front page color-picture shows the 81 year old Lauder dressed and coifed and made up with drama and perfect taste. On-line, it's the one with the purple hat, here. There's also a nice slide show with narration that emphasizes her "marketing genuis" and success in making the business a family empire. But it's that quote that caught me: "The pursuit of beauty is honorable." Now, clearly, she built a business empire that depended on women's believing that using makeup (and spending a lot of money on it) was a fine thing to do.

That makeup is a great feminist and pop culture topic is very clear to a woman like me who became a teenager when Mod fashion hit us from London at the same time as the Beatles and ended her teenage years when hippies and feminists advocated the no-makeup look as a matter of principle. The fabulous Mod period brought a new and extreme way to wear makeup. Why not draw a thick dark brown line at the top of your eyelid? Especially if the makeup was by Mary Quant! How exciting Mary Quant makeup (essentially, the packaging) was then! Why not paint extra eyelashes--"twiggies"--directly on the skin under your eyes like the model Twiggy? In the hippie period, it seemed that a whole way of life included rejection of all the material purchases that people like Lauder and Quant had hoodwinked women into making. Our high principle--which opposed war and materialism and Nixon and male chauvinism--would be demonstrated, in part, by never wearing any makeup at all. It was possible to believe at the time that all women would reach a kind of feminist enlightenment that would necessarily entail stopping using makeup.

The principled rejection of makeup remains. I saw an example of it just yesterday in the NYT, in a quick interview with documentary filmmaker Jehain Noujaim (who's made a film about al Jazeera):
What film are you making next?

I don't have any of those ambitions. I should probably quit working in film and just find a husband. It would be nice to be in one place for a while and have a social life again and get a job. But I'm not qualified to do anything. That's the problem.

Perhaps you can get a job as an anchor with CNN or Al Jazeera.

I don't think so. I don't wear enough makeup.
Well, maybe she's just kidding, but wouldn't it be weird if the female talking heads on CNN walked around off camera in makeup like that? The notion that they applied for the job already in the on-air style makeup is actually pretty funny. But I hear in that comment the same kind of assertion of superiority (or that superiority/inferiority mix that David Brooks refuses to acknowledge) that I used to hear from hippies and feminists in the early 1970s.

Anyway, respect is due to the magnificent businesswoman, Estée Lauder, whose companies included not just Estée Lauder, but Clinique and Prescriptives (as if she had to create worthy competitors for herself!), and (for men) Aramis, and (for you aging hippies looking for some solace) Origins.

April 25, 2004

A new dimension of law school nurturing. The worst thing about that Adam Liptak article (discussed in the previous post) is that it presents Concord Law School as distinguishing itself from traditional law schools by not using the Socratic Method. Liptak writes that "many students find the method terrifying" and then quotes Concord's dean as saying that his school has a "more nurturing atmosphere" and a Concord student "welcoming" that nurturing: "They don't think we need to be yelled at, screamed at or scared."

Which of the existing non-virtual law schools are using the yelling, screaming, scary type of Socratic Method? I'd really like to know! An innovative idea for a new law school would to use an old style hardcore Socratic Method approach. It's actually hard to find Kingsfield-type lawprofs any more; everybody's already competing to be the most nurturing. I'd like to see a school compete for students and faculty by offering a retro hardcore method.

A virtual law school brings a new dimension of nurturing: it lets you stay home altogether. But the fear of the classroom that is just a fear of speaking at all in class and of being challenged with hard questions: that is a fear that needs to be overcome! Would you hire a lawyer who had not been willing to face down that fear? Attacking the nonexistent Paper Chase-type law school is beside the point.
Has Concord Law School conquered law school? Adam Liptak, in today's NYT, writes about a law school--Concord Law School--that exists only in on-line form. Naturally, traditional law schools will tend to say virtual law school is just terrible. Here's a nice juicy quote from Emory lawprof George B. Shepard:
This reminds me of how small, high-cost retailers will fight bitterly to prevent Wal-Mart from opening nearby. Or unions will fight to prevent the import of cheap goods from China. Existing producers will always claim that suppressing the new technology is necessary to protect consumers. Sometimes this may be true. But often these arguments are merely a facade.
I think most current lawprofs would not want to teach law school if there were no interaction with students in a classroom. But maybe different people would love to have the job of teaching from a remote location and never being on stage, never looking at the students faces. I think it would be quite dreary to be a teacher at what is essentially a correspondence school. Three years ago, when Concord Law School came on line, our tech director made a presentation to the faculty about how we just had to develop our own on-line program or be outpaced by all the other law schools that would be eager to compete in this area. The presentation totally failed to inspire the faculty. The response seemed to be: he's trying to redefine my job into a job I would never have applied for in the first place.

Still, the key question is: which is better for students? I'm sympathetic to the needs of prospective students who have jobs or family or other obligations that make it hard to relocate and attend law school in person. It's just not the ideal. Yet the classroom itself often falls short of the ideal. Still, it's impossible for me not to think that the law school classroom, when everyone is engaged and prepared, is an exciting place to be and that it could never be the same if there were no physical gathering place.

By the way, where are all the virtual programs that our tech director warned us about?
Stylish punctuation. Edmund Morris gives a pretty bad review to the brilliantly titled book about punctuation, "Eats, Shoots & Leaves."

Memorable observation from Morris: "The greatest stylists -- those who 'hear' as they write -- punctuate sparingly and subtly." This observation is followed by some wonderful examples of subtle punctuation by great writers and a dig at editors bound to present-day style manuals:
I just reread ''Middlemarch,'' alternating between old (1891) and new (Modern Library, 1992) editions, and was disconcerted by the latter's willingness to alter Eliot's original marks. For instance, Dorothea Brooke, in 1891, was ''troublesome -- to herself, chiefly.'' A hundred years later, that long, corrective dash is gone, and so is the comma emphasis. Qualification is now changed to consequence. This is not editing: it's rewriting.
"I really feel like we were discriminated against..." The outrage of being denied a twelfth slab of roast beef at the $8.99 buffet. (Link via Blogdex.) When you follow the Atkins Diet, you get the feeling that normal standards of behavior no longer apply to you.
"It's so embarrassing actually," said Leota. "We went in to have dinner, we were under the impression Chuck-A-Rama was an all you can eat establishment."

If it's so embarrassing, why not just say, "Oh, I'm sorry," and not call more attention to yourself?

What confused the couple was the word "buffet," which they thought meant "all-you-can-eat buffet." If only people were more fastidious about avoiding redundancy, confusion like this wouldn't occur: you'd know that if there is an expression "all-you-can-eat buffet," "buffet" can't already mean "all-you-can-eat." This incident demonstrates the need for prescriptive grammar.

I love the name of the restaurant: Chuck-a-Rama. It sounds like a vomitorium.

UPDATE: Throwing Things notes that The Simpsons already did it. ("Mr. Simpson, this is the most blatant case of fraudulent advertising since my suit against the film, "The Never-Ending Story.")
The Times gets the Quote of the Day wrong again. It should be:
"We're a victim of the drug war. It seems like we still got plenty of cocaine coming into this country, but now we got cheap asparagus as well."
"You were wrong dissociable brindle." You know it is bad enough that I couldn't sleep at all last night (except for the first three hours), but getting up at four and trying to check email and getting things with subject lines like that really is making me start to dissociate. And perhaps I am a being that is "tawny or grayish with streaks or spots of a darker color." And I'm sure I wrong about a number of things. The Volokh Conspiracy has a Sunday song lyric series, so let me offer the slice of the song lyric that email called to mind for me:
Discorporate & come with me
Shifting; drifting
Cloudless; starless
VELVET VALLEYS & A SAPPHIRE
SEA: Wah Wah

You can read the rest of the lyrics to "Absolutely Free" here. And here you can get the lyrics for all the songs on what is one of the greatest albums of all time "We're Only In It For The Money." It's one of the greatest album covers of all time too, the kind that make you regret CDs came along and eliminated that entire field of art.