July 17, 2004

Couch recipe.

I was looking for an ice cream recipe that would fit the Atkins diet, and I found this:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup water
2 packages artificial sweetener
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon syrup of your choice(or extract)

Place ingredients in a small ziploc and seal well. Place inside a gallon
sized ziploc with ice and salt. Set bag on a towel beside you on the couch
and flip and jiggle the bag around for about 15 minutes, until set.

This is the first time I've ever seen the word "couch" in a recipe! I love the way the assumption is that you will already be sitting on a couch. I'd make fun, but I note that 15 minutes of modest exercise is involved.

Purple Heart button.

I see the Blogads that are running at the top of this page at the moment assume I'm for Kerry. (As regular readers know, unless something quite unusual happens, I'm not picking a candidate until October.) I followed the link to "Kerry 2004 Buttons" because I saw it listed a "Purple Heart Button." Since it's hard to get a Purple Heart Medal, I thought it would be inappropriate to wear a Purple Heart button. Here's what it looks like. Yes, it's inappropriate.

UPDATE: In a classic example of Blogads dumbness, my current ads are promoting a Days Inn in Rosenberg, Texas. This is obviously a result of my recent post about an HBO documentary about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg!

American Rhetoric.

Looking for a link for the Howard Beale speech for the last post, I found the American Rhetoric website. Wow!

No drinking game yet, but ....

Why is Slate teasing us with the line "Play the Jeopardy drinking game!" when its TV writer Dana Stevens hasn't come up with the game yet? But I don't care so much because it made me click on the link to Stevens column and read his comments on the Emmy nominations, which are really clever! I never noticed Stevens before. I particularly loved this:
In an unintentionally comic juxtaposition, Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm finds himself up against a dead guy, John Ritter, who appeared in only 3 episodes of 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter before his untimely death last fall. When I read this, I could only think what a perfect plot it would make for a future Larry David episode: the hopeless plight of competing with a beloved dead actor, and Larry's increasingly difficult-to-conceal resentment that his moment in the sun was being overshadowed by awards-show piety. I wonder if he'll have the courage and/or bad taste to take this real-life gag on as material next season.

That really is Larry David. And as for that drinking game, I'll be looking for it. I've started TiVoing Jeopardy, which, I don't mind saying, I used to watch back in the 60s when it first started and Art Fleming was the host. We used to find the announcer, Don Pardo, especially amusing, long before he became the ironic version of himself that announced Saturday Night Live. By the way, are we hoping Ken Jennings keeps winning or do we root for anyone new who starts off halfway sharp, like that guy with the Marx Brothers tie last week? The main reason for wanting Jennings to keep prevailing, in my opinion, is to keep up the pressure on Alex Trebek to let it slip that he's irritated by Jennings and his mannerisms. I'd like to see Trebek go all Howard Beale.

UPDATE: Dana Stevens is female, contrary to the impression give by my use of pronouns above. Why did I assume a "Dana" would be male? Have I watched "Radio Days" one too many times? No, there was just a picture of what looked like a guy to me at the top of the page that seemed to illustrate the activity of "Handicapping the Emmys," which was the title of the piece "by Dana Stevens." Didn't the email address "surfergirl" in the body of the article make me think otherwise? No! I was perfectly ready to believe a guy would adopt the nickname surfergirl. A Beach Boys fan, presumably.

Change the federal marshals' dress code?

The dress code imposed on federal air marshals presents a bit of a problem, as described in this NYT article:
The marshals fear that their appearance makes it easier for terrorists to identify them, according to a professional group representing more than 1,300 air marshals. …

Federal air marshals must have neatly trimmed hair and men must be clean-shaven, the documents say. Some of the service's 21 field offices have mandated that male officers wear suits, ties and dress shoes while on duty, even in summer heat. Women are required to wear blouses and skirts or dress slacks. Jeans, athletic shoes and noncollared shirts are prohibited. …

Andrea Houck, 52, who was traveling through New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport this week, said that she thought federal air marshals should be "totally undercover."

"Look around you," Ms. Houck said as she pointed to other passengers waiting in the food court. "Most people are traveling in T-shirts, sweatshirts and khakis." She added: "If I was a terrorist and I spotted someone dressed like an air marshal in a suit, I wouldn't get on that flight. I would get on another one."

Clearly, there is a downside to this policy, but I see an opportunity. Why don't more ordinary passengers adopt the dress code? If wearing a sports jacket or a blouse along with nonsneaker shoes is itself a deterrent to terrorism, everyone going on a flight ought to want to dress this way. You know, people used to think they should dress well to go on an airline flight. It would be nice to see people looking less slovenly anyway.

The feds have a reason for their dress code: "In order to gain respect in a situation, you must be attired to gain respect." They don't need to change to blend in with us: we should change. Not only would we look better, but we would give the impression of alertness and readiness that might suggest to terrorists that ordinary passengers, like the heroic passengers on Flight 93, stand ready to stop them. Let's all "be attired to gain respect."

UPDATE: Here's another (Wisconsin) blogger who made the same proposal, way back on July 4th. I hadn't seen that (he emailed me). I tried Googling a little to see if I could find other bloggers who'd come up with the same idea independently, but without any luck. I also got an email from someone who asserted that Americans wouldn't sacrifice comfort. Talk about being unwilling to make any sacrifices!

July 16, 2004

Maxwell Street Days.

It's the third weekend in July and you know what that means: Maxwell Street Days on State Street. It's time for all the merchants to haul a lot of merchandise out on the street and sell it very cheap. There are numerous cluttered stalls:



There's plenty of stuff that seems to have been shipped in from retail limbo to be unloaded as a seeming bargain, like these hipster action figures, with 3 interchangeable heads--Hipster! Philosopher! Cynic!:



They're only 4 dollars. Is that a bargain or a rip-off? Maybe you could buy 25 of them for $100, stow them away for 10 years, then make a killing on eBay, when there's some kind of 90s nostalgia fad going on. (Or ... wait ... is that already going on?)

Part of the idea seems to be to present merchandise unappealingly. Just toss all the old junk in a cardboard box. Go ahead--buy those pink panties!



Or just have a nice Wisconsin brat, cooked outside.



Or buy a Popsicle from the Popsicle Girl:



And listen to the Cashbox Kings:



They're pretty good.


Web design insanity.

Maybe this is what happens when you're sleep deprived.

In love and litigious.

The AP reports from Bucharest:
Sandu Gurguiatu first sued for money. Then he sued for love.

The love-struck Romanian took his company to court four years ago for what he said was unfair dismissal. But after setting eyes on Judge Elena Lala, he sued his employers and others dozens of times - just to see her.

"I fell madly in love with her and when I found out she was married, I didn't know how I would manage to see her .... The only way was to see her in the courtroom, so I looked in the law book and came up with all kinds of excuses." ...

Gurguiatu lost his first suit. But he won some subsequent ones against other companies - including the right to have two towels and enough soap to wash up at work.
I kind of suspect this of being a made-up story, but it is amusing. Who knew you had a legal right to two towels in Rumania?

"Heir to an Execution."

The other documentary I watched yesterday (besides "Running Fence," discussed below), was "Heir to an Execution" (an HBO "America Undercover" feature). Ivy Meeropol, a granddaughter of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, has put together a rambling series of film clips aimed at showing the effects of the Rosenberg case on her family and several other persons who were close to the Rosenbergs. It relies too much on the "Roger and Me" device of following the filmmaker around as she tries to collect the interviews and other information. There simply wasn't enough of a personal journey here to justify that device (which is by now a very tired device anyway). Meeropol herself doesn't display much of a passion for getting at the truth or have any interesting reactions to the discoveries she does make. She is the nice, respectful family member who feels sad that her father had to grow up without parents and who goes to visit her grandparents' grave.

Why would you want to watch a film on this topic made by a family member? The best reason is that many people were willing to talk to her. (Although plenty weren't, and we're subjected to many minutes of watching her speaking into the phone to people whom we can't hear but can tell are declining to be interviewed.) Meeropol didn't use her access to obtain interviews that are in some way distinctive, so the full-length treatment seems quite self-indulgent. There were endless shots of people walking down hallways, remarking on the fact that this is a hallway that had been walked down at some time in the past, and many interviews of persons sitting on couches, reeling out memories, uninterrupted by questions any more searching than how did that make you feel. Considering all the couch interviews, it's humorous -- uncomfortably and unintentionally -- when Meeropol decides to make a 103-year-old man walk around outdoors for his interview.

Compare this film to "The Fog of War" to see how archival film footage and a talking-head interview can be made into something of genuine cinematic value.

"Running Fence" and the law.

I'm two-fifths of the way through "Five Films About Christo and Jean-Claude," and I'm not going to wait until I've finished the whole set to write about how much I love these films by the Maysles brothers ... and how much I love Christo ... and Jean-Claude! And I'd like to put in a special recommendation for law people who may shy away from high art documentaries to take a look at least at the second film "Running Fence," which shows the artists trying to deal with local democracy. The regular folks announce their opinion that they don't think a 27 mile-long fabric fence is art, but why does it even matter if building the fence will pour millions into the local economy and will be taken down in two weeks? A suntanned old rancher explains to the seemingly sophisticated artists that the people around here (Marin County, California) don't know him, and the artist undertakes to get to know the locals, some of whom come to really love the art of the fence and some of whom just manage to get over their initial who-the-hell-does-he-think-he-is attitude. The environmentalists show up and oppose the part of the fence that extends into the ocean, and they get a restraining order, which Christo has to figure out whether to respect. At some point, you get the feeling that the art project is not just or perhaps not even the fence itself, but the local culture encountering and engaging with the fence. The legal system is part of the local culture that gets tangled up in 27 miles of fabric. A nice "law in action" movie.

American Idol: tinkering with the rules.

Last season's American Idol led various commentators to propose various rule changes, and it turns out American Idol is going to change a rule. It's going to raise the age limit by 2 years (to 26). That's a modest change. Some people thought the voting method should be changed to guard against whatever injustices were perceived last season. One of the worst ideas was to change from voting for your favorite to voting against your least favorite. (Discussed here) A more sensible idea might be to raise the lower age to 18, or maybe to have two competitions, one with 16 to 24 year olds and another with 25 and up to whatever the age is when there has to be something wrong with you to be willing to put up with that sort of overhandling. But, really, why should they tinker too much with success?

"Mr. Osbourne's shrewd answer."

Ben Ratliff, writing about Ozzfest in the New York Times, ridiculously garbles the reference to Bush's "Coalition of the Wild-Eyed" commercial:
[G]oofy old Ozzy Osbourne, whose political views have been largely unknown up to this point, made the strongest political statement of the night, and the strongest music. ... "War Pigs," the opener, was the best song of the set and the entire day. To double the force of the music, the giant screens next to the stage showed pictures of President Bush juxtaposed with pictures of Hitler.
It may have been Mr. Osbourne's shrewd answer to the Bush campaign's recent Internet advertisement "Coalition of the Wild-Eyed," which sets film of various Democratic leaders fulminating against films of Hitler fulminating.

I can't believe the Times is still printing descriptions of the Bush commercial that don't reveal that it was a Moveon.org ad that originally edited Hitler images in with Bush. The Bush campaign's point was that it's crazy or irresponsible to use Hitler images to make an argument against Bush. It never likened the "fulminating Democrats" to Hitler! Ozzfest is back to doing the same thing that the Moveon.org ad did: likening Bush to Hitler. It's not coming up with anything new and certainly not anything "shrewd."

And I doubt very much that we can conclude that we now know what "goofy old Ozzy Osbourne" thinks about politics (or even if he thinks about politics). Anyone who's seen "The Osbournes" knows that the visual trappings of his concerts are inflicted on him. Remember the bubble machine?

July 15, 2004

Recognizing the Kerry speech pattern.

ME (reading): Okay, who said this: "The sea is important to me. I get a lot out of being close to it. It's my connection. It's where I've always been. It's where I get a peace of mind and creativity."

JOHN: John Kerry?

ME: How'd you get that?

JOHN: It sounds like him. That's the way he talks. It sounds like when he was talking to Larry King about his religion--his feeling of being centered. He's always talking in abstractions.

For the record, here's the Larry King interchange (my son) John remembered:
KING: OK, what part does your faith play in your governance?

KERRY: It guides you. It's your rock. It's the bedrock of your sense of place, of where it all fits.

"Keep your shirt on"/"Keep your pants on."

Which of those two expressions came first? I was thinking "pants" was first and then it was cleaned up to "shirt." Chris states confidently that "shirt" was first--the point was that a man would take off his shirt when he was preparing to fight. Wouldn't it have been "Keep your jacket on" first, then? And how did "pants" ever get started?

The internet says:
Before modern manufacturing techniques, shirts, and all clothes for that matter, required a lot of labor to make. They were more expensive than they are today. Someone thinking of starting a fight might take off his shirt to prevent damage. Telling someone to "keep his shirt on" was equivalent to telling him "I don't want to fight." ...

Hmmm... so then, it got dirtied up.

What McCain really said.

I wrote earlier today that I doubted that Senator McCain used the term "states rights" when he made a statement about the values of the Republican party. It is characteristic of the New York Times to overuse this term. (I particularly notice it in reports about the Supreme Court.) Here's what McCain actually said, as reported by the Chicago Tribune:
"The constitutional amendment we are debating today strikes me as antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). "It usurps from the states a fundamental authority they have always possessed, and imposes a federal remedy for a problem that most states do not believe confronts them."

"States rights"--should there be an apostrophe?

Looking for the full McCain quote I excerpted below, I got sidetracked by the question whether there should be an apostrophe in "states rights." My search for the full quote turned up this Andrew Sullivan post, and he (and others) put in the apostrophe. I think I would have used the apostrophe too, but I had been quoting the Times, and the Times left it out. So who's right? It might seem logical to put the apostrophe in, on the theory that the rights belong to the states, and the apostrophe makes "states" into a possessive adjective. But if a possessive form is called for, how do you explain the expression "individual rights"? No one thinks it should be "individual's rights" or "individuals' rights." I think the reason is that we perceive "individual rights" as a category of rights, like "free speech rights" or "abortion rights" or "gun rights," and not, in fact as a possessive. The same, then, would have to be true of "states rights." The Times is correct. I think that to put the apostrophe in is to hypercorrect--to deviate from what seems natural, think about a rule, and then apply the rule. I don't object to thinking about grammar rules, it's just that the mere awareness of a rule is no guarantee you're going to apply it correctly.

UPDATE: Jeremy disagrees. He notes that all the examples I've given that don't have apostrophes are singular:
The analogies Ann draws doesn't work, because they are all instances of de-possessiving a potential possessive by making it singular--if we would say "individuals' rights", there should be an apostrophe, but if we talk about the same thing by saying "individual right", we essentially imbue it with a higher degree of abstraction--I'm sure there must be a fancy name for it--such that it's no longer a possessive. You write "human rights" but if you wanted to write "humans' rights", the possessive belongs. To take two common examples, some people refer to "children's rights" and "prisoners' rights", both of which should have possessives, while other people nowadays refer to the same thing as "child rights" and "prisoner rights."
First, it should be "The analogies Ann draws don't work." And I'm just saying that because I want to be right about something.

Second, I'm going to exclude the example "human rights" because "human" is an adjective. "Human" is a noun and "humans" ought to be added to Jeremy's sidebar list of horrible words. They are clearly worse than "impact" as a verb! "Humans" is, at best, jocose. (Authority: Follett!) But I'll hedge on this opinion, because it seems open to the criticism that the rights are not human. They are the rights of the human being.

Third, "prisoners rights" just restates the problem whether the apostrophe is right or not: people hear the "s" and so they think about whether to add the apostrophe, and they may be making the wrong judgment.

Okay. "Children's rights" is the important example here, because we happen to have lucked into an irregular plural, so we know the "s" has to be there only as a possessive, and the apostrophe is required. What force prevented us from adopting the idiom "child rights"? In Jeremy's theory, it would have to be that for some reason we declined to perform the step of abstracting the notion of "the child," which is also what has happened with "states' rights." It might be the force of the irregular plural that kept it from declining into an abstract. But what prevented "states rights" from going singular, given that it's a pretty abstract thing? I think it may be the context of thinking about what belongs to the states as opposed to the national government. We always say things like, "This should be left to the states." It would be misunderstood if we changed that to "This should be left to the state," because "the state" is a generic term for government. Also "states rights" has a longstanding historical use: it's idiomatic. That does make me think that the apostrophe question might be resolved by referring to the historical texts: I do think that if you look at the pre-Civil War references to "states rights," you won't find the apostrophe. A more recent historical reference point is the "States' Rights Democrats" of the 1940s: I think they did use the apostrophe.

Anyway, I really want to the answer to be that the apostrophe does belong there, because I have a law review article with "States' Right" in the title ("Why Talking About 'States' Rights' Cannot Avoid the Need for Normative Federalism Analysis: A Response to Professors Baker and Young," 51 Duke L.J. 363 (2001)). I'm sure I've written the expression, with the apostrophe, many times in published articles. I'm also concerned that my argument for dropping the apostrophe is based largely on my assumption that the New York Times would get it right! That would be rather pathetic. And wait! I just did a LEXIS search of NYT articles written by Linda Greenhouse, who writes about the Supreme Court, and every one I saw had "states' rights" with the apostrophe. So all of this obeisance to the wisdom of the Times is in vain!

Vaguely related question I thought of while writing this update: Why don't we update the name of our country from United States of America to America's United States?

Exam proctoring follies.

My summer Conlaw class had its exam today. I managed to do the most ridiculous thing I've ever done while proctoring. Students hand in the bluebooks in which they've written their answers and often hand back extra bluebooks which they took but then didn't use. I put the written bluebooks and the unused bluebooks in separate piles. Sometimes there's a bluebook that wasn't used for writing an answer but has the student's exam number written on the front. This bluebook has got to be thrown out, so my way of identifying it is immediately to tear it in half. Today, one student handed in two bluebooks, one of which was unused and both of which had exam numbers written on the front. I immediately ripped one in half only to realize I'd just ripped his exam in half!

At least some laughs were had, and the student did not appear to be too horrified. Now it's out into the cool July sunshine in search of a tall latte and a sandwich. I'll take my bag filled with 15 bluebooks (one neatly taped).

McCain and the Gay Marriage Amendment.

Predictably, the Gay Marriage Amendment goes down to defeat. Special recognition is due to the Republicans who had the nerve to vote against it. This is from the NYT report:
Senator John McCain of Arizona, one of six Republicans who opposed the measure, described the amendment regulating marriage - normally a state function - as "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans" because it interfered with states rights.

I rather doubt that McCain used the expression "states rights," as opposed to "federalism" or some combination of words that does not immediately trigger thoughts about slavery and segregation. Of course, McCain himself seems not to have been willing to associate the Republican party with values of individual liberty and equality. A seemingly safe, nicely hedged position is to say that the matter ought to be left to the states--as if there weren't all sorts of problems involving persons marrying in one state and then moving to another.

Here's Maureen Dowd on the subject:
W. thought he had a bit in the maverick's mouth, but John McCain bit back, bolting over to the Democratic side to help embarrass the president by defeating the constitutional amendment that dare not speak its name. Senator McCain scorned the amendment banning gay marriage as "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans." (Well, some Republicans.)

Dowd leaves readers to think that McCain might have actually expressed the idea that Republicans stood for values of individual liberty and equality, because it allowed her to portray McCain as a hero and the rest of the Republicans as louts. If she had wanted to portray all the Republicans as louts, she could have used the "states rights" move used in the news article, but she decided to go with the image of Bush the cowboy and McCain as the maverick, which is a type of horse, so the cowboy can be riding a horse, and then the horse "bit" Bush, which is funny because a horse wears a bit, and then that worked so well with the idiom of "bolting" the party, given that horses also bolt. If you don't like Dowd, this sort of compressed playfulness with language and imagery has got to drive you up the wall. But it actually is pretty clever.

Hair dryer in the bathos.

The Times' Kaleefa Sanneh gets off some good wisecracks in a review of an Elton John concert. For example:
Some of the slower songs were loud and tiresome: there were a few moments when one longed to toss a hair dryer into the bathos and end it all.

"Cinema belongs to the whoring and slaughterhouse trade."

Ingmar Bergman, who is retiring after the production of his last play, had this to say for the inspiration of all those of us who intensely admire his films:
"Theater is the beginning and end and actually everything, while cinema belongs to the whoring and slaughterhouse trade."

First Lady hair.

What's the most amazing thing about Teresa Heinz Kerry? It's that she's getting away with wearing her hair like that. Consider this passage from a NYT report about Heinz Kerry:
Noelia Rodriguez, who was until seven months ago Mrs. Bush's press secretary, said Mrs. Heinz Kerry's outspokenness was refreshing.

"Teresa is comfortable saying things that are off the script, and Mrs. Bush would never do that, or rarely do that," Ms. Rodriguez said. The two could have an intriguing dinner conversation - or, perhaps, a summit meeting on "Oprah!" - Ms. Rodriguez observed, adding that Mrs. Heinz Kerry "definitely needs to see Mrs. Bush's hairstylist" to tame the unruly mane that often hides her eyes.

Has anyone with hair that moves around ever gotten to be First Lady? Classic First Lady hair--sculpted and lacquered--symbolizes the steely self-control we've come to expect in a First Lady.

July 14, 2004

Hitchens on Bush in Vanity Fair.

Hey, why doesn't Vanity Fair make its articles available online? I wanted to link to Christopher Hitchens' article about Bush and drinking: "The Teetotal Effect." It's the August issue, the one with Ronnie and Nancy on the cover. Nice article on Sasha Baron Cohen, whose new season of "Da Ali G Show" is about to begin on HBO (I've been catching all the old season episodes this week on HBO on Demand).

I'll just give you my favorite line from the Hitchens article (which rips armchair psychologists who label Bush a "dry drunk," calls AA a "quasi-cult," and thinks he can figure out that Bush was never much of a drunk):
Winston Churchill was half in the bag for the whole of the Finest Hour, if not longer.

His conclusion is that Bush should drink now and then! Hitchens doesn't like teetotaling, because why should you trust someone who can't trust himself? And: "Nobody likes a quitter."

Always in Wisconsin, never in Madison.

The NYT begins its article on Bush's trip to Wisconsin this way: "President Bush campaigned today in a politically hospitable area of Wisconsin ..."

No matter how close the race is and how important Wisconsin turns out to be, he's never going to come to Madison.

Deplane.

Jeremy detests the word "deplane" so much he's starting a sidebar list of words he detests. The list that only has one other word: "linkage." Now that you mention it, I like "deplane." First, you're always happy to be told to deplane. Second, and this is tied to what people who don't like this word don't like, it doesn't fit properly with other constructions of its type: nouns that have become verbs with the help of the prefix "de." To "debone" is to remove the bones from inside of a chicken. To "delouse" is to rid a body of lice. But that's what I like about it: it seems like the person is removing the plane from himself, as if the plane were an undesirable attachment to the passengers. That expresses something about the way I feel about planes.

"Let's Get Frank."

Stephen Holden reviews the film "Let's Get Frank," about Rep. Barney Frank. Holden notes:
Mr. Frank is no smoothie. His bullish tenacity is matched by a gruff, tough-gay attitude, and he talks too fast.
(Wasn't that supposed to be "tough-guy"??)

But he has a sharp sense of humor. And for a politician so outspokenly liberal, he is a blunt political realist who knows how to play the game.

Discussing Senator Trent Lott's comparison of homosexuality with alcoholism, sex addiction and kleptomania, he surmises that Mr. Lott doesn't really care one way or the other about the issue, that he is only attacking homosexuality to keep his right-wing constituents happy. ...

The film awkwardly sandwiches the drama of the [Clinton impeachment] hearings (many of the clips are taken from C-Span) with recycled tidbits of right-wing homophobia: the Rev. Jerry Falwell's condemnation of the Teletubbies for alleged gay advocacy, and former Representative Dick Armey's public slip of the tongue in referring to Mr. Frank as "Barney Fag."

All the sturm und drang hasn't destroyed Mr. Frank's faith in the people's tolerance and common sense. "Most Americans aren't nearly as homophobic as they were brought up to think they were supposed to be," he says. And the relative lack of public hysteria around the issue of gay marriage suggests he may be right.
I think that Frank's point about ordinary Americans is true, and what a shame Republicans can't bring themselves to resist pandering to the small minority of people who really want to hear this sort of thing.

John Edwards' legal career.

The NYT has a good piece today about John Edwards' legal career:
"He would pick the cases that had the largest verdict potential," said Dewey W. Wells, a former state court judge who litigated against Mr. Edwards as a defense lawyer. "He had a good eye for those cases. He said he was the champion of the little guy, and it's true that many of the people who are injured are poor and downtrodden. He can say he was championing their interest, but it was only by coincidence. He was picking the cases with the biggest payoffs."

Another former adversary, James P. Cooney III, who defended a dozen medical malpractice cases brought by Mr. Edwards, agreed that "he was very selective about his cases."

"He only took the best cases, and by that I don't mean the ones with the highest damages,'' Mr. Cooney said. "I mean the ones where somebody had done something really bad." ...

But Mr. Edwards handled no notable pro bono cases, the typical vehicle for lawyers who want to have a larger impact.Mr. Edwards elevated the selection of clients to a science, rejecting scores for every one he accepted. He looked for grave harm, clear culpability - and plaintiffs, often poor ones, whose stories would appeal to a jury.

Of course, former adversaries have reason to slant their portrayal of matters. (They'd like to say that they only lost their cases because Edwards had selected cases that were sure winners.) But this is the portrayal of plaintiffs' medical malpractice lawyers that most disturbs me. There are many people who are grievously injured by bad medical practices who are unable to get legal representation because it would be too difficult to prove liability. The best lawyers, like Edwards, are able to be the most selective. If these lawyers choose to exercise that power, as Edwards is said to have done, then the people whose cases most demand sophisticated legal skills are least likely to obtain the best lawyer.

The half year mark.

This blog is celebrating its half birthday today.

UPDATE: Jeremy has done some relevant calculations, including Blog Words Per Waking Minute (BWPWM), which he lists as 1.333 for me and a paltry .54 for himself. He appears to be assuming that we're all getting 8 hours of sleep, yet he's on record as a terrible insomniac.
This is a big topic with me lately, because my early class (which ended today) has been making me get up earlier and earlier. I mean 3 a.m. today! And it's not just the class. Regular readers know my house is on a "wooded lot," and the birds in the summer make it hard to sleep as late as the earliest light of dawn. I'm not getting 8 hours of sleep these days.

July 13, 2004

The end of the highly concentrated summer semester.

You may have noticed that my Monday through Thursday blogging has been a little slow these last five weeks. I've been teaching Constitutional Law I compressed into five weeks of classes, as compared to the fourteen weeks of a Spring or Fall semester. It's one thing to say, yeah, I can do that, but the view from this side of the experience is quite different. It's exhausting! I don't feel tired during class, but I just can't find much energy outside of class. Tomorrow is the last class, and the exam is Thursday. I got the exam written yesterday, then I woke up this morning, and immediately thought, no, that exam is too hard. It was hard in a way that made me think a person might get nervous trying to get a foothold, then panic and lose the ability to think of anything. That's not what you want. Exams grades are curved here at the Law School, so the grade distribution is going to be the same whether the exam is easy or hard. But if an exam is extremely hard (or extremely easy), the exam doesn't produce accurate grades. A very easy exam is actually the sort of exam a student who prepares well and studies hard is most harmed by, because students who did very little have an equal opportunity to figure out the answers, and might win the best grades on the curve simply by writing somewhat better or even by chance. An excessively hard exam should be less worrisome for the prepared student, but there is an obvious problem if you can't think of how to get started, especially if that leads to the kind of anxiety that blocks your thoughts altogether. That's something that occurred to me once in law school, and fortunately, I was able to calm down and get to an answer. I don't want to write an exam like that, and I woke up this morning thinking that I had. So it was back to square one, and I've just now managed to finish writing up the exam. I very much wanted to have it done before tomorrow's class so I can reveal a few things about the exam--e.g., the number of questions--which, I think, relieves some anxiety.

A nice political satire.

This animation takes a long time to load, but it's pretty amusing, and I like the way it's not mean-spirited and it makes about equal fun of Kerry and Bush. (Link via Blogdex.)

Pete Townshend vs. Michael Moore.

I learned about Pete Townshend's website through Gawker, which succinctly notes that Pete doesn't like Michael Moore. Here's what Pete writes:
Michael Moore ... says – among other things – that I refused to allow him to use my song WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN in his latest film, because I support the war, and that at the last minute I recanted, but he turned me down. ... I had not really been convinced by BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, and had been worried about its accuracy; it felt to me like a bullying film. ...

I pointed out that WGFA is not an unconditionally anti-war song, or a song for or against revolution. It actually questions the heart of democracy: we vote heartily for leaders who we subsequently always seem to find wanting. (WGFA is a song sung by a fictional character from my 1971 script called LIFEHOUSE. The character is someone who is frightened by the slick way in which truth can be twisted by clever politicians and revolutionaries alike). ...

I have nothing against Michael Moore personally, and I know Roger Daltrey is a friend and fan of his, but I greatly resent being bullied and slurred by him in interviews just because he didn’t get what he wanted from me. It seems to me that this aspect of his nature is not unlike that of the powerful and wilful man at the centre of his new documentary. I wish him all the best with the movie, which I know is popular, and which I still haven’t seen. But he’ll have to work very, very hard to convince me that a man with a camera is going to change the world more effectively than a man with a guitar.

A classic artist's statement that reminds me why I like art more than politics. One of the reasons "We Won't Get Fooled Again" is a great song is because of the complicated ambivalence expressed by the character who sings it. A hardcore politico cannot use those words, even though a hardcore politico is likely to hear that song and mistakenly believe it expresses what he believes.

July 12, 2004

Finding art.

There was this leaden discovery, an attempt at political commentary in a window on Madison's east side:



Political art is almost surely going to be bad art. I don't think this is political, though:



That's a bit horrendous, but I'll bet it makes kids happy, so I'm going to approve. What gave me pleasure were some things that came in the form of paint that were not meant as art:







And I deplore graffiti, but I couldn't help admiring the color and juiciness of this painterly calligraphy:



And I loved the images created outside the humanities building where art students overshot their spray painting:





I guess the art students found it amusing too:


The Nader-Dean debate.

I'm working at home and overhearing the TV playing back the Nader-Dean debate from last Friday. Here's a write up of the debate from the Washington Times, with this catchy-sounding quote from Nader:
"You were an insurgent," Nader said of Dean's momentum before the Democratic primaries. "Now (you're) a detergent for the dirty linen of the Democratic Party."

I just overheard this exchange:
NADER [responding to criticism of him for taking contributions from a Republican]: Republicans are human beings too.

DEAN: The right-wingers may not be.

When did Prince start speaking in aphorisms?

The NYT quotes Prince:
"I always knew I had a relationship with God. But I wasn't sure God had a relationship with me."
This is in the format of any number of old quotes:
[Asked: do you believe in God?] The question is: Does God believe in me?
And:
[When asked if you've made your peace with God.] I did not know that we had ever quarreled.
The first quote appears in the movie (and the book?) "Lolita." The second was supposedly said by Henry David Thoreau (who also said "One world at a time" when asked if he'd thought about the afterlife).

Aphorisms rule. Here's a nice and incredibly cheap book of aphorisms I like. An ideal book in which to scribble marginalia.

Worrying about blogging.

Yesterday, I was on the WHA radio program "Here on Earth," talking about blogging. Though most of the show was about how blogging was affecting journalism, what I ended up talking about was how blogging was affecting life. One caller expressed the concern that more and more of life was taking place staring at a computer screen: should we not be alarmed at the loss of face-to-face human relations? There are a number of answers to this question. One is that you actually do form some connections that lead to face-to-face interaction, such as when bloggers meet for dinner. Another is to focus on what the use of computers is replacing. Using the computer has more potential for connecting to other people than watching television--that other lit-up screen. But what interested me the most was how the caller's concern is the concern raised about every advance in technology.

Weren't people worried that the telephone would prevent anyone from ever bothering to go out and visit someone else? And what about central heating? Maybe people won't snuggle up in bed anymore. And what about writing? If people write things down, they won't talk to each other anymore. If books are published and people learn to read, everyone will choose to engage with the thoughts of the very best minds from all of human history, and who then will bother to speak with the person he happens to meet on the street in his home town? Put down that book, young lady, and go outside and play with your friends!

It occurred to me, after the show, that a similar objection would have been made, had it been possible, to the invention of language itself. Once people can transform real life into these noisy abstractions, how will we ever love and cavort in the real, physical world in that intense, beautiful way that we always did in the past?

July 11, 2004

Antiques of the 1960s.

Antiques from the 1960s make me uneasy. Here's an anthropromorphic bottle ("Mr. Bottle") embracing a shiny rocket, a large sculpture that served as a window display for a liquor store.



I suppose what I don't like is to see the things that once so cleanly threw off the past situated among things that seem only to say the past, the past, the past.