July 30, 2005

"Nothing we're doing is evil."

How do you like that as a statement intended as reassuring? Does it hit you in an "I'm not a crook" way?

The children's book that reached you.

RLC is asking his readers what their favorite book was when they were a kid. Richard describes loving the Rick Brant Science Adventure series, which I'd never heard of. In the future, when someone asks this question, maybe everyone will say Harry Potter.

But let me say that I loved the All-of-a-Kind Family series of books. Here's the School Library Journal description of the books:
Five young sisters experience life in New York's Lower East Side at the beginning of the 20th century in this reading of Sydney Taylor's story (Follett, 1951). The close-knit group encounters everyday realities such as boring chores, missing library books, and trips to the Rivington Street market, as well as those details which bring the early 1900's to life--scarlet fever, peddlers, and bathing at Coney Island. Woven into the story are the traditions and holidays of the Jewish religion. The girls celebrate the Sabbath with Hebrew prayers, and dress up for Purim so they can deliver baskets to friends and relatives.
I read a description like that years after I read and loved the books, and I was surprised to see that the family was Jewish. Somehow, reading those books when I was very young, I had formed no idea of the characters as being Jewish. But apparently the books are loaded with descriptions of Jewish rituals. Yet I'm sure I read every word. How could I have missed that?

When I was very young, as I remember, I felt that the world was full of things I didn't understand. I allowed all this mysterious information to flow around me, and I was quite reticent about asking any adults to explain anything. It's not that I thought the adults didn't know the answers, but that I thought they'd scoff of me for not knowing such a thing already. Getting older, instead of causing me to realize that I really should ask for answers, increased my feeling that it was embarrassing not to know already, and at that point I put more effort into trying to find out answers for myself.

But back in my youngest days, I appreciated the aspects of things I could understand and let many things go right past me. So I had no idea the All-of-a-Kind Family followed a different religion from mine. The details of the rituals were different, but so was life at the turn-of-the-century and in the Lower East Side of New York City. (I lived in suburbia, in Delaware.) What I loved was the eventful life of a beautiful family with five daughters and good parents.

UPDATE: Actually the title in the series I remember the most is "All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown," in which, I see, the family moves to the Bronx. Don't you think it's a little strange that I went on to marry a Jewish boy from the Bronx (that is, RLC, my ex-husband)?

A man and his brain tumor.

With impressive good humor, he makes a Flickr photoset. (Via Popdex.)

"The problem with ears is obviously that you have hair ... but with imaging technology we should be able to solve that."

You can try to hide your ears, but they'll still be watching them.

Life in old comment threads.

I get email whenever anyone posts a comment here, so I'm aware when there's action in an old comment thread. There's little chance that regular readers will check back to this old post about "out asexuals" without my pointing to it. I notice from my Site Meter records that that post gets more visitors than just about any old post on this blog. Anyway, if you're interested in the topic, especially long comments by professed asexuals, you might want to go over there.

Great milestones of stagecraft.

From a review of "Saint Frances of Hollywood," a play about the actress Frances Farmer:
The spare production consists only of a white oval platform bookended by two revolving white walls. Ms. Ireland is on stage for nearly every scene and spends an inordinate amount of time disrobing down to her chemise. (In one brief scene she actually takes off her clothes at one end of the stage, puts them back on, then walks over to the other end and takes them off again.)

How do you like those pajamas?

Did you get your offer from Pajamas Media yet? Are you going to put on the pajamas -- take a flat fee to commit the top four spots on your sidebar for a whole year? I thought Pajamas implied a bloggy freedom, different from a corporate, mainstream mentality. Are we supposed to marry Pajamas and give up on Henry Copeland's delightful BlogAds, which has been beautifully designed with a feeling for the spirit of blogging? Ah, I don't like pajamas anyway. I want to blog naked. With Henry.

UPDATE: I have more to say on the comparison between Pajamas Media and BlogAds here.

AND: Welcome Instapundit readers. Please read my newer post, linked in the update: I've got much more concrete analysis there.

Roberts and (just the right amount of) religion.

Peter Steinfels has a piece about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts and religion:
Consider what are already becoming routine descriptions - that Judge Roberts and his wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, are devout Catholics but don't wear their faith on their sleeves; that Judge Roberts hews to his religion but keeps it separate from his legal judgments; that the couple's faith, as one priest who knows them put it, "would affect their personal lives, but they are very professional in their work."
It seems we want our public figures to have some religion but not too much.

"Explornography."

John Tierney uses that word -- which I can't remember having seen before -- in his NYT op-ed today. Is that just a Tierney word, a coinage he's pushing? I see The Atlantic had a piece back in 1998, in its "Wordwatch" column that tracks new words and usages:
explornography noun,a consuming fascination with famous and, especially, dangerous explorations -- for example, Richard Byrd's expeditions to Antarctica -- that may include a desire to retrace such trips in person: "We had been seduced by an odd modern phenomenon, the glorification of exploration at a time when the entire planet has been mapped. The Age of Exploration has been succeeded by the Age of Explornography" (New York Times Magazine).

BACKGROUND: Soft-core explornographers are content to experience super-dangerous adventure travel vicariously, a thrill easily had through books and films. Hard-core explornographers -- a group whose number has been rising sharply in recent years -- spend vast sums on gear, guides, training, and whatever else is needed to undertake such expeditions themselves. These explornographers are, typically, outdoorsy amateurs, many of whom live and work in urban settings. A good proportion are women, and the average age of hard-core explornographers of both sexes is about fifty.
But a little more reseach shows that quote in The Atlantic was written by John Tierney, back in the July 26, 1998 issue of the NYT Magazine, in an article called "Going Where A Lot of Other Dudes With Really Great Equipment Have Gone Before." That's his quote in The Atlantic definition. In the NYT Magazine, he went on:
Like pornography, explornography provides vicarious thrills -- the titillation of exploring without the risk of actually having to venture into terra incognita. In its classic hard-core form, explornography is the depiction of genuine voyages of discovery, trips to uncharted regions where there was no way to summon help when disaster struck. Today's audiences are going back to the old texts, and there has been a recent rash of books and movies about Peary and Dr. Frederick Cook, Richard Evelyn Byrd, Lewis and Clark, Stanley and Livingstone and Heinrich Harrer (the explorer portrayed by Brad Pitt in "Seven Years in Tibet"). Connoisseurs have been especially gratified by the revival of Ernest Shackleton, the explorer who never reached his goals but always produced splendid stories. Like many explornography addicts, I first got hooked on "Endurance," Alfred Lansing's book about the 1914 Shackleton expedition, which was marooned in the Antarctic. Originally published in 1959, "Endurance" resurfaced this year on best-seller lists; Tristar is about to make a big-budget film of the adventure.

But the old stories are not enough to satisfy demand. The explornography industry needs fresh material to fill magazines like Outside and Men's Journal, to make programs for the Discovery Channel and the Outdoor Life Network, to sell outdoor gear and adventure-travel packages. Today's soft-core explornographers, like pornographers who shoot erotic scenes in which no sex actually takes place, have the skills and technology -- minicams, satellite linkups, Web pages -- to wring drama from voyages of nondiscovery. Mount Everest, which has been climbed hundreds of times, is a bigger media star than ever. The new film about Everest is setting box-office records at IMAX theaters; Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air" has spent more than a year on best-seller lists.
Today's Tierney column is about the "Marsonauts" who are engaged in an earth-based simulation of Mars travel:
They live in a round "habitation module" that's 27 feet in diameter, sized to fit atop existing rockets, with a lab on one floor and the crew quarters above it.

The Marsonauts are sticklers for staying "in sim," simulating every inconvenience they can imagine on Mars. No venturing outside the Hab without at least half an hour of preparation: putting on a spacesuit and helmet, wiring a radio, and going through five minutes of decompression in the airlock. No removing a glove to dig for a fossil. No food or bathroom breaks in the field -- ["a huge meteor crater" on "a desolate island in the Canadian high Arctic"].

They have their own jargon ("HabCom, EVA11 is ready to begin its egress de-co") and their own bureaucracy. Reports are filed nightly to Mission Support and the Remote Science Team, a group of researchers on three continents who are referred to as "the scientists back on Earth." There's even a Martian tricolor - a red, green and blue flag flapping above the Hab to symbolize their plans to "terraform" Mars into a green planet with liquid water and a breathable atmosphere.

I know this all sounds silly. I arrived sympathetic to the Marsonauts' cause, but ready to write a wryly detached column on an amusing bunch of zealots. Their fantasy sounded like a futurist version of explornography: the simulation of exploration by people trekking through terra cognita on adventure vacations.

But the Marsonauts are really figuring out how to explore the unknown, how to look for life in a place worth risking lives to reach. By the second day here, I was caught up in the sim, too. As we returned to our home on the edge of the crater, the white Hab up on the rocky brown ridge looked like a spaceship on Mars, and the sight was a bigger thrill than anything that's lifted off from Cape Canaveral in a long time.
Meanwhile, in real life, we're left watching the space shuttle missions, where nothing new is being explored. The current news of the Discovery mission is all about the potential for another accident, the strangely extreme damage that a bit of falling foam debris can cause. And Tierney's point is, if we really are going to risk lives and go into space, we ought to get out where we can find something new. I'm sure I'm not discovering anything new in seeing the irony of calling the shuttle "Discovery."

July 29, 2005

Unintentional theme day.

I see it was an unintended theme day here on the Althouse blog. All about people looking foolish by wearing bad clothes, too little clothes, or no clothes. Those are just the articles that reached out to me today. Pure chance? Maybe not. Maybe something about me was attuned to what people are wearing for some reason. But I can't think why. Maybe getting too little sleep last night is making superficial things seem important today.

"Why dress in 'ho gear' and risk being treated like a hooker?"

Oh, come on. You're not going to blog every single essay Robin Givhan writes, are you?

Well, I don't know, maybe I should. You know she does ask some pretty tantalizing questions:
If clothes function as semiotics, where does the power lie -- with the sender or the receiver? And what happens when the sender is purposefully offering up misinformation?

Yeah, you find those questions tantalizing?

Uh, no, I guess not. Now that you mention it.

Against anti-lookism.

Here's a piece -- via Memeorandum -- saying we shouldn't make witty observations about the way public figures look. It's too mean, like some Mean Girl seventh graders who would deserve a scolding.
While healthy civic discourse involves disagreement on issues of policy, too often people are prone to bully and harass their opponents with attacks on physical appearances when they are unable to articulate a valid and logical opposing argument....

The fact that women fought for many years to be taken seriously in the arenas of government and public policy makes the "lookism" attacks on successful women reveal a deep double standard -- not of men against women, but of women against their own gender.

Where are the feminists? Their silence speaks volumes about their convictions and partisan leanings. After all, it is mainly conservative women who have been the victims of this sort of media slashing. Sad to say, with few exceptions, the circling vultures are left-leaning women.

Has our culture become so shallow, and our sensibilities so numb, that we will accept from adults the sort of vicious behavior that we would never accept from our children?
Where are the feminists? Well, this feminist says women will do better when they value humor and free expression and when they show they can take the same shots men take. We make fun of the way male public figures look all the time. Bush looks like a chimp, Kerry like a horse. If a woman wants to be a powerful political figure, she needs to be up to the full package of ridicule that comes with the territory. I don't see how it helps the cause of women to be known as oversensitive prigs who want to spoil the fun and enforce a smothering, boring niceness on everyone.

Bonus opinion: Making fun of a woman's makeup is not the same as making fun of the size of her nose or the texture of her hair. It's making fun of her judgment. And that's actually relevant to the question whether she should be trusted with political power.

"We find a naked body every bit as beautiful as a clothed one. If they came only out of lust, we have to accept that. We stand for the truth."

A "prestigious" museum in Vienna gets the attention of the Washington Post with a nudity gimmick: They're letting you in free if you take off all your clothes (or wear a swimsuit). Do they lose money this way? I would think it's quite the opposite. Those let in free are putting on a display for the paying patrons. Unlike the regular artists, the nudies draw no pay. And then there's all that extra publicity.
Most of those who showed up in little or no attire Friday opted for swimsuits, but a few hardy souls dared to bare more. Among them was Bettina Huth of Stuttgart, Germany, who roamed the exhibition wearing only sandals and a black bikini bottom.

Although she used a program at one point to shield herself from a phalanx of TV cameras, Huth, 52, said she didn't understand what all the fuss was about.

"I go into the steam bath every week, so I'm used to being naked," she said. "I think there's a double morality, especially in America. We lived in California for two years, and I found it strange that my children had to cover themselves up at the beach when they were only 3 or 4 years old. That's ridiculous."
Oh, yeah, those terrible Americans. What hypocrites!

I'm amused by the way nudists flatter themselves, always claiming to be especially honest. But then they always say things that sound so disingenuous, that they are just being natural and why is everyone making such a fuss?

Yesterday's tablescapes.

Afternoon:

Yesterday's tablescapes

Evening:

Yesterday's tablescapes

July 28, 2005

Thanks to everyone for reading!

Remember that post about a week ago titled "Goal I'm almost ashamed to admit" that said "I started to write a post with that title, but realized I was too ashamed to admit it." I'll tell you what the goal is now, because I'm about to hit it tonight.

Back in January, I had been hoping to get to 1 million visitors to this blog within one year of starting. But I didn't get there until January 31st, and the anniversary date was January 14th. But then I formed the goal of getting to 2 million within 6 months of getting to 1 million, which would be July 31st. So look at the Site Meter: it should reach 2 million tonight, 3 days early.

Thanks to everyone for reading!

UPDATE: The 2 million mark was hit sometime during dinner last night. I was rude enough to check the Site Meter and refresh a few times to see the zeroes click over. Perhaps half of my dinner companions found this at least somewhat amusing and probably one or two of my companions found it a tad more unpleasant than a moderately awkward pause in a conversation. And I survived to tell the tale.

Electronic junk.

It's a lovely day here in Madison, and I'd like to go out and take a walk and stop into a café for a little while to work on a writing project, but I can't leave the house, because the refrigerator repair guy is coming "in the afternoon." I can work on my project at home, but there are distractions, like the way something in the comments to that last post sent me looking for my Amsterdam sketchbooks. There are so many places to look in this giant house, and I didn't find the notebooks, but I kept running across ridiculous, unbroken but unusable old electronic things, and that made me want to take this photograph:

electronic junk

Do you know what these two things are?

electronic junk

Are they relic-y enough to be collectible?

"The most awesome B-list cast ever."

Such is the claim -- and it's got to be untrue -- that Entertainment Weekly makes for the case of the new "Poseidon Adventure" film:
Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Josh Lucas (don't flame me; he's not A-list yet), Emmy Rossum, Andre Braugher (as the captain), Jacinda Barrett, Mia Maestro, Kevin Dillon (Entourage), Freddy Rodriguez (Six Feet Under), and now, EW reports in next week's issue: Fergie! The Black Eyed Peas chanteuse is not only one of the passengers on the doomed ocean liner, but she's also contributing to the soundtrack three tunes she co-composed with John Legend and fellow Pea will.i.am.
Come on, commenters, name some movies with more awesome B-list casts. I mean, just to start off with the obvious, there's the original "Poseidon Adventure" cast:
Gene Hackman
Ernest Borgnine
Red Buttons
Carol Lynley (of "Harlow" and "Bunny Lake is Missing")
Roddy McDowall ("Beware the beast man, for he is the Devil's pawn.")
Stella Stevens (Appassionata Von Climax!)
Shelley Winters
Jack Albertson (Grandpa Joe!)
Pamela Sue Martin
Even more stunning is the cast of "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure":
Michael Caine
Sally Field
Telly Savalas
Peter Boyle
Jack Warden
Shirley Knight
Shirley Jones
Karl Malden
Slim Pickens
Veronica Hamel (Admit it: you were in love with Joyce Davenport!)
Angela Cartwright
Mark Harmon
(How many Oscars does that group have, by the way?)

"Fairy-tale rubbish but could be interesting perhaps."

That's what Alec Guinness thought of the "Star Wars" script -- quoted in this NYT review of a new biography of the actor.

Another tidbit: he turned down "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and said "Do you think my varicose veins would show through the fishnet stockings?"

Much more seriously:
As the letters and diaries make abundantly clear, Guinness, although he enjoyed the friendship of glamorous women, was attracted throughout his life to young men, whom he often hired as dressers or assistants.

Mr. Guinness fought his impulses, first by marrying the very appealing Merula Salaman, a promising actress who abandoned her career under pressure from her husband, and later by embracing the Roman Catholic Church. He lived a secretive, closeted life, tormented by illicit desires and guilt at what he called, in one diary entry, "the sordidness of much of my past." It was not only onstage that profound emotions stirred under a cool, unruffled surface. The theater, he once wrote, saved him from "a very bad suicidal tendency."
So sad!

Searching for suicide bombers.

Here's a NYT op-ed that makes a compelling argument for a very specific kind of profiling:
[C]ommuters need to be most aware of young men praying to Allah and smelling like flower water. Law enforcement knows this, and so should you. According to a January 2004 handout, the Department of Homeland Security advises United States border authorities to look out for certain "suicide bomber indicators." They include a "shaved head or short haircut. A short haircut or recently shaved beard or moustache may be evident by differences in skin complexion on the head or face. May smell of herbal or flower water (most likely flower water), as they may have sprayed perfume on themselves, their clothing, and weapons to prepare for Paradise." Suspects may have been seen "praying fervently, giving the appearance of whispering to someone. Recent suicide bombers have raised their hands in the air just before the explosion to prevent the destruction of their fingerprints. They have also placed identity cards in their shoes because they want to be praised and recognized as martyrs."
The op-ed writer, Paul Sperry, says that once you're on the train and see someone like this, it will be too late. It's necessary for the police to stop the man from boarding the train.

Currently, the official search procedure is to randomly select one person out of five -- the old as well as the young, females as much as males. Actually, I find it hard to believe that they aren't also noticing men with recently shaved beards and smelling of flower water. But isn't it better not to mention they are?

"The much beloved secular legend of the Monkey Trial."

Orin Kerr has a nice description, based on this book, of what really happened at the Scopes trial -- and the activities leading up to the trial and the appeal that followed it. The legal technicalities of the case, which Kerr focuses on, are rather different from the mythical version of the case you probably have in your mind.

My post title is from a Scalia dissent from a cert. denial, in a case called Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education v. Freiler, where the court below found an Establishment Clause violation in a school board resolution that required teachers to preface their teaching of evolution with this statement:
“It is hereby recognized by the Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education, that the lesson to be presented, regarding the origin of life and matter, is known as the Scientific Theory of Evolution and should be presented to inform students of the scientific concept and not intended to influence or dissuade the Biblical version of Creation or any other concept.

“It is further recognized by the Board of Education that it is the basic right and privilege of each student to form his/her own opinion or maintain beliefs taught by parents on this very important matter of the origin of life and matter. Students are urged to exercise critical thinking and gather all information possible and closely examine each alternative toward forming an opinion.”

Scalia ended his dissent this way:
In Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97 (1968), we invalidated a statute that forbade the teaching of evolution in public schools; in Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987), we invalidated a statute that required the teaching of creationism whenever evolution was also taught; today we permit a Court of Appeals to push the much beloved secular legend of the Monkey Trial one step further. We stand by in silence while a deeply divided Fifth Circuit bars a school district from even suggesting to students that other theories besides evolution–including, but not limited to, the Biblical theory of creation–are worthy of their consideration.
Perhaps more interesting than the story of what really happened at the Scopes trial is the story of how the legend of the trial became embedded in American culture and affected what happened in later cases and how many of us have thought about the Establishment Clause. The picture of a noble science teacher persecuted by a bunch of rubes is a vivid one that we respond to strongly -- and our picture is the one from that movie, isn't it?

You know, there's even a legend about "Inherit the Wind" -- that it's an excellent movie. I tried watching it recently and couldn't force myself through the thing. Look how it has an 8.0 rating on IMDB. I find it hard to believe that score was produced by people with a real memory of watching the movie as opposed to an imprint of its reputation on their minds.

The myth of the Scopes trial is animated by a love of science, of basing knowledge on a study of evidence and sound inference. Ironically.

UPDATE: Edited to indicate that the book itself follows the subsequent effect of the case.

How many other things like this are a complete waste of money?

You can stop eating that purple coneflower now, echinacea dupes.

"Unpolished and quirky, with plenty of dead air and 'ums.'"

What are we looking for in a podcast? The NYT writes:
But the real fun is finding the homemade ones, the amateur attempts made in somebody's basement with a laptop and a microphone. These can be unpolished and quirky, with plenty of dead air and "ums," but that's their charm. Podcasts, in other words, are the audio version of blogs - the Web logs, or daily text postings, that made up last year's hot dinnertime conversation.
Yeah, sure, it's the charming, fumbling writing style of blogs that we like so much. It seems to me that what we like about blogs is the pithy writing style -- how they cut right to the quick and tell the truth. By the same token, I think what we want in a podcast is to hear some people who are really good at talking, saying interesting things and saying them well. In other words, podcasting, like blogging, shouldn't be an amateurish, relaxed step down from MSM, but a freer, sharper alternative.

July 27, 2005

"I've looked at the facts and come to my own conclusions."

Sounds like a good attitude for someone going into law, doesn't it? Actually, it's Seamus Farrow -- link via JD2B -- the 16-year old son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen, talking about how he decided against having an ongoing relationship with his father. (I keep sifting the pieces of the relationship through my mind, and examining my life and trying to figure out where did the screwup come, you know.) But in fact he is going to law school, to Yale Law School, this fall. He's 16. As Woody Allen once said "I still can't get my mind around that."

Narm!

I see someone Googled here searching for "narm." People just can't get "narm" out of their heads:
NARM! Is already spazzing its way into my personal lexicon. In describing a fairly rough practical joke, I said "My god, I thought he was gonna NARM! out on us right there." And the person I was talking to totally got it. SFU fans, we are legion.

Should -- can? -- the Senators make Judge Roberts critique old cases?

Lawprof Vik Amar thinks so.

Wasn't the failure to do precisely that the reason Senator Schumer voted against Roberts' appointment to the Court of Appeals? Here's what Schumer says:
I voted against him for one simple reason: And that is he really didn't answer the questions that I and others posed to him fully and some he just refused to answer.

I asked him, for instance, his views of a previous case, Morrison, which involved the great reinterpretation of the commerce clause and cutback on the Violence Against Women Act, and he said he wouldn't answer it.

I asked him, for instance to name three cases that he disagreed with, already settled cases in the Supreme Court; he wouldn't answer that. I asked him what cases he considered activist and he picked an 1899 case from the California State Supreme Court. This is not being fully candid with the committee in letting us explore somebody's views. He did answer some questions. But in too many he did not. And that's why I voted no.
Amar's proposal is limited to one of the things Schumer wanted and didn't get out of Roberts: the Senator names a case and challenges the nominee to analyze it. Unless the cases are identified in advance, it would be reckless to undertake a critique on the fly. But Roberts is quite likely, even then, to say that nothing can compare to the way you would study the questions in making a real decision. So I think it's a pipedream, but I did enjoy Amar's list of cases he'd like Roberts to have a go at:
GRUTTER v. BOLLINGER [the University of Michigan affirmative action case]

STENBERG v. CARHART [the "partial-birth abortion" case]

ATKINS v. VIRGINIA [banning the execution of the mentally retarded]

McCREARY COUNTY v. A.C.L.U [finding that a particular courthouse display of the 10 Commandments violated the Establishment Clause]

SEMINOLE TRIBE v. FLORIDA [finding Congress lacks the power under the Commerce Clause to abrogate state sovereign immunity]
Those bracketed descriptions are mine, by the way. Legal types might enjoy comparing my little descriptions to Amar's -- particularly the one for Seminole.

Oh, it would be an "intellectual feast" indeed if the Senators could get Roberts to do this. But can you imagine how they'd twist his answers and bounce political arguments off them? They'd appeal to the home audience, who could in no way follow the legal difficulties of these issues. The foolhardiness of playing into that would be so great that we ought to question Roberts' judgement if he does. But, you say, he's a smart guy. He's a brilliant litigator. He could do it. That's what Bork thought when he answered questions like that.

Please, go here, begin reading at the star and read a page and a half -- a brilliant description of Joe Biden triumphing over Robert Bork. Isn't Chuck Schumer itching all over for a moment like that?

You'd better learn how to answer this question right.

For, lo, the pitfalls are many. The question is: “Do I look fat?”

"Listening" and "wanting to learn more" is not enough, not even close.

Anne Applebaum does not think Karen Hughes is at all up to the job that was just handed to her:
Her formal title is undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. In plain English, her job is to fight anti-Americanism, promote American culture and above all to do intellectual battle with the ideology of radical Islam, a set of beliefs so powerful that they can persuade middle-class, second-generation British Muslims to blow themselves up on buses and trains.

Presumably, President Bush selected Hughes for this task because she was very good at running his election campaigns. And indeed, in the testimony she gave last week to a nearly empty room, she sounded like she was still running an election campaign. Like Hillary Clinton, she said she wanted people around the world to know that she would be "listening" to them: "I want to learn more about you and your lives, what you believe, what you fear, what you dream, what you value most." Like Jesse Jackson, she deployed alliteration, alluding to the four "E's": "engagement, exchanges, education and empowerment."
Much more is needed, Applebaum writes:
[W]e need to monitor the intellectual and theological struggle for the soul of Islam, and we need to help the moderates win. This means making sure that counter-arguments are heard whenever and wherever Muslim clerics and intellectuals are talking, despite the impact of Saudi money.

The United States has engaged in a project like this once before. In the 1950s and '60s, the West European left was also bitterly divided, with social democrats on one side and pro-Soviet communists on the other. We backed the social democrats. CIA money was used, for example, to found Encounter, a small but influential magazine whose editors promoted not just pro-Americanism but also the principles of democracy and capitalism, largely through allowing both sides to argue their cases.

Read the whole thing!

The euphemisms and abuses of old age.

The Boston Globe has a story headlined "Rehnquist surrendering his golden years to court":
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist left the hospital July 14 and issued a firm statement: ''I want to put to rest the speculation and unfounded rumors of my imminent retirement."

The next morning, he climbed into his wheelchair and, with considerable assistance, made his way to his Supreme Court office.

At 80, Rehnquist is undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer. He has trouble walking and talking. Like all cancer patients, Rehnquist has the right to look forward to a full recovery. At the same time, he should acknowledge that almost anyone else his age, suffering from his disabilities, would be retired.

Can we stop and think before indulging in the euphemism "golden years"? At some point, you're not going to seem polite, you're going to seem sarcastic.

But let's read on. This is an article about Justices staying too long on the Court, and, as you may remember, I'm promoting less polite discussion of the problem of life tenured judges clinging to power. The Boston Globe is duly impolite:
In recent decades, Supreme Court retirements have played out like lab experiments, testing whether people in powerful jobs would retire if they did not have to. The answer, in most cases, has been no.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. remains the role model for all modern justices in legal thinking. Alas, he may also be the role model for never acknowledging the need to retire. Historians still recount how Holmes, at 91, slept through arguments using a stack of law books as a pillow.

Justice William O. Douglas, a passionate liberal, suffered a severe stroke in 1974, his 35th year on the court. But Douglas was determined not to give President Ford, a Republican who had led an attempt to impeach Douglas, the satisfaction of choosing his replacement. According to ''The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court," by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong, Douglas allowed himself to be wheeled to the bench in a state of near-total incapacity, while aides struggled to mask the smell of his incontinence bag....

Since most of the court's work takes place behind closed doors, and each justice has a team of clerks, the public rarely sees the full effects of a justice's infirmities. ...

[Thurgood] Marshall and Douglas considered themselves heroes for serving so long rather than have a conservative replace them. But each had a chance to leave gracefully, at a normal retirement age, and have a Democratic president appoint his successor. Instead, they opted to keep hearing cases into their old age.

Rehnquist, too, could retire and have a president of his party appoint a like-minded successor. But he has been on the court so long, he probably doubts it could function without him.
Those who believe they are indispensible, who occupy a position where they purport to be beyond politics, yet manipulate the politics of the next appointment -- these are the people we are forced to trust with the nation's most profound questions of power and freedom.

"Tattoos remind you of death."

CNN reports:
Tattoos of mermaids and roses, cherubs bearing crimson hearts, Lenin's head and the trademarked pattern of French luxury brand Louis Vuitton stand out against bright pink skin soaking in the sun outside Beijing.

This living gallery of skin art is not on display for a tattooists' convention or a Harley-Davidson fan club meeting. It is an everyday sight in Chenjiatuo village and is borne on the flesh of some unlikely subjects -- big, fat pigs.

The idea was cooked up by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, who has hired a small staff of local farmers and tattoo artists to raise some 20 sows and use them as canvases for skin art at his rustic China base, Art Farm.

"I decided to do something in China first, and I realized tattooing pigs would be a good introduction to the country. It's low-tech," Delvoye, 40, told Reuters.

The pigs get sedatives before they go under the needle and are carefully raised until their natural deaths, normally well past the six-month mark when farm pigs are slaughtered.

Collectors can buy the pigs live and pay for their keep as "foster parents" or simply purchase their tattoo-festooned skins for display after the pigs pass.

"The Art Farm is a real enterprise and by selling, eventually, the skins, the whole thing gets financed and I can go on," said Delvoye, who has pushed other artistic boundaries with previous works.

Mortality is a primary theme in the porky "paintings".

"Tattoos remind you of death. It's leaving something permanent on something non-permanent," he said. "Even when tattooing flowers, there is a morbid side to the activity."

I agree: tattoos do remind you of death. When I see someone with a tattoo, I usually think: you're going to have that as part of your body until the day you die. And then you're going to have that on your body in your grave. You and that tattoo are in a death grip.

But aside from tattoos generally, this story raises some other questions. First, there's the whole placement of Lenin's head amidst mermaids, roses, cherubs, and crimson hearts. But maybe all these things, like tattoos themselves, remind you of death.

Then there's the paired image of Harley-Davidson conventioneers and big, fat pigs. Stereotyping the rider of the beautiful motorcycle again. Stereotyping the pig too.

And then there's the question whether we're outraged about the use of pigs or about going to rural China to do the project. And if we're outraged about both, which is worse? Maybe it's kind of a positive thing, though, both for the pigs and the villagers.

Surely, the villagers must be getting some laughs -- perhaps at the expense of Westerners generally. Maybe we Westerners should be irked that some egoistic artist is making us look ridiculous.

For the pigs, it's a nice life. They get to take sedatives, so they probably enjoy the tattooing experience. Then, they are "raised carefully" until they die a natural death. Think of the pig alternatives. These pigs are living like kings!

And what of the rich folk with tattooed pig skins hanging on their walls? I think the final artwork might look quite nice, and they're not exploiting poor Chinese any more than you are when you buy cheap leather shoes made in China. In fact, it's less exploitative, and the Chinese are learning tattooing skills. Maybe they will emigrate here and tattoo your ass for you as a memento mori.

July 26, 2005

"Boy that's like the worst thing in my mind. It's unbelievable that people would do something like that."

"They can't defend themselves, and it's like hurting a child."

"The most beautiful highway in America."

What is it? Is it this?

"Romney, like all Mormon politicians, usually tries to walk a thin line."

Gordon Smith analyzes Mitt Romney's presidential aspirations.

Diving for the light.

Another on-stage rock death. Goodbye to Patrick Sherry. May the arms of Johnny Ace, Tiny Tim, and Dimebag Darrell reach out to pull you into the glorious musical afterworld.

"The artist disconsolately conceded yesterday...."

Speaking of water-based art in the UK, remember that guy with the running tap? He's turned it off:
A water company has given notice to a work of art which has already shed enough water to sprinkle half the lawns in Surrey.

The artist disconsolately conceded yesterday that his installation, The Running Tap, has probably run its course after pouring an estimated 800,000 litres (1.4m pints) down the drain during one of the worst droughts in the south-east in decades.

"Well that's it, isn't it?" Mark McGowan said miserably....

Who drank that £42,500 bottle of water?

That bottle of melted ice from the Antarctic was on a damned plinth so it was pretty obvious it was art!

UPDATE (Backdate?): One of the commenters was reminded of something that had crossed my mind too: that time a janitor threw out a trash bag that was actually part of an art exhibit:
A bag of rubbish that was part of a Tate Britain work of art has been accidentally thrown away by a cleaner.

The bag filled with discarded paper and cardboard was part of a work by Gustav Metzger, said to demonstrate the "finite existence" of art....

The bag was part of Metzger's Recreation of First Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art, a copy of a piece he produced in 1960...

Metzger, a German artist who lives in east London, invented "auto-destructive" art in 1959.

The work also features an "acid painting" - nylon covered in acid which slowly destroys it to illustrate the transient nature of paintings, sculptures and other artworks....

It is not the first time such a mistake has been made. In 2001 a cleaner at a London's Eyestorm Gallery gallery cleared away an installation by artist Damien Hirst, having mistaken it for a pile of rubbish.

The collection of beer bottles, coffee cups and overflowing ashtrays was said to represent the chaos of an artist's studio.

And in the 1980s the work of Joseph Beuys, which featured a very dirty bath, was scrubbed clean by a gallery worker in Germany.

I can't help suspecting that these are, if not deliberate publicity stunts, hoped for or welcomed opportunities for press coverage.

Did Jon Stewart do a lame interview with Rick Santorum?

Here's a New Republic piece about "The Daily Show," especially the interview Jon Stewart did with Rick Santorum last night (which I just watched):
With most political guests, Stewart sticks to harmless questions and gentle quips, and he seems unable to pursue an argument. Rarely have such flaws been more pronounced than last night, when Senator Rick Santorum appeared on the set.

It should have been great. Santorum, on the show to promote his new book It Takes a Family, isn't shy about sharing his views. He has blamed Boston's political liberalism for the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal; he has compared homosexuality to "man on dog"; and he has equated Democratic attempts to preserve the filibuster to "Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, 'I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me? How dare you bomb my city? It's mine.'" Surely with material like this, Stewart could get a spirited debate going. Yet the only solid part of the interview was the start:

STEWART: [People] felt that we would not agree on a lot of things, so I'd like to start off on some common ground. I will throw the first salvo: I believe sir, that ice cream is a delicious treat. But too much, sir, will spoil the appetite. Your move, sir.

SANTORUM: I uh ... I would agree with that.

After that it was all downhill. Stewart simply began to think out loud...

Read the whole thing, which recounts the interview in detail and is very critical of Stewart. But I thought it was a decent interview. It was not the equivalent of the suck-up interview Stewart did with John Kerry during the campaign. Everyone knows how much Stewart disagrees with Santorum. The "Daily Show" audience booed last Thursday when Santorum was announced as the Monday guest. I felt that Stewart was trying to demostrate that a person that far from him politically could sit down at his table and be treated with respect.

Stewart made his points subtly, in the middle of the mushy niceness. Santorum kept talking about the "ideal" of the man-and-woman-with-children family, and Stewart accepted that ideal but asked why not include other people in that positive model even if it's a step away from ideal. He noted when Santorum equated heterosexuality with virtue and got Santorum to back away from that equation a tad.

I think Stewart was trying to make a connection and a lot of the blather was the kind of small talk that establishes that one can talk. It drew the audience in, and it drew Santorum into a relaxed dialogue. (Did you see Santorum smiling about Victoria's Secret?)

Sure, Stewart could have shredded him with harsh questions, but that's not the only way to talk about politics.

What subjects are you interested in that I don't blog about?

And are there things that I don't blog about that you'd like to read about here? Basically, I'm seeking reader feedback to help me answer someone else's question, but I'm also generally interested in the answer myself.

MORE: People keep answering the second question and not the first. Seriously, my reason for this post is that I'm filling out a survey and one of the questions is about the interests of my readers! I can't just presume you must be interested in whatever I'm interested in. Presumably, there are big areas of interest that I don't touch on. That's what I'm trying to get. I'm not looking for new ideas of things to blog about and not setting out to revamp this blog or anything like that. I should never have thrown in that second question. I'm doing to do some striking to make this clear.

Monkey in the Middle.

What's in the monkey's mind when he looks in a mirror? Higher minds -- human beings, great apes, dolphins -- figure out, when they are looking in a mirror, that they are seeing themselves. Other animals, it's long been thought, think they're seeing a stranger. But a new study shows that the monkey occupies a middle position, where it doesn't see itself, but it doesn't see a stranger either. The monkey sees a "Puzzling Other."

And there's a sex difference. The males are disturbed by the Puzzling Other. The females try to flirt.

P.S. Did you use to play "Monkey in the Middle"? That was a very common kid's game when I was growing up. I suppose it would be considered too mean today. But it was a pretty fun game for three kids to play with just one small rubber ball. (There was also a similar game called "keep away.")

Getting worked up about Roberts, religion, and recusal.

Yesterday, there was a widely noted article about a statement made by Judge Roberts that some people interpreted to mean he'd said his religion would require him to recuse himself in abortion cases.

News reports today have people who heard the statement saying that he didn't really mean he'd have to recuse himself, which doesn't surprise me, since the misunderstanding was already apparent (to me) in yesterday's report.

"Does that mean we can take credit for ruining the Kerry-Edwards ticket, too?"

Wonkette weighs in on Plaidgate.

"N.Y.U. has an extraordinary and unique role in American legal education."

Jeffrey Toobin quotes NYU lawprof Sylvia Law saying:
“N.Y.U. has an extraordinary and unique role in American legal education,” Law said recently in her office, which is decorated with samples from her collection of homemade quilts. “We’ve been ahead of everyone in welcoming women and blacks to law schools and to the profession.”
Everyone? Here are the University of Wisconsin Law School's milestones:
1st African-American student, Charles Noland, 1875
1st Woman graduate, Belle Case LaFollette, 1885
1st African-American graduate, William Green, 1892
So would you please take that back, Professor Law?

ADDED: Nothing against N.Y.U. School of Law. It's my alma mater. I owe those folks a lot. They let me in, despite my appallingly inadequate background.

An end to "The War on Terror."

The term, that is.
The Bush administration is retooling its slogan for the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, pushing the idea that the long-term struggle is as much an ideological battle as a military mission, senior administration and military officials said Monday.

In recent speeches and news conferences, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the nation's senior military officer have spoken of "a global struggle against violent extremism" rather than "the global war on terror," which had been the catchphrase of choice. Administration officials say that phrase may have outlived its usefulness, because it focused attention solely, and incorrectly, on the military campaign.
It did? Because of the word "war"? So now we're supposed to switch to "global struggle"? Please. "Global struggle against violent extremism" is the new term? It's just a verbose translation.

Will it make some people feel better about the Administration's efforts? I see they are also trying to make moms feel better about boot camp. Is there some new Director of Soothed Feelings?

IN THE COMMENTS: The connotations of "struggle" are weighed.

The most beautiful skyscaper ever?

I say it is. The brilliant Santiago Calatrava has proposed a swirled point for Chicago -- to be the tallest building in America: the Fordham Spire. It's a residential building and, being very skinny, it will have full-floor units. Don't you want to live there? It would really be worth scraping together the $5 million it would take. How truly dramatic!

Donald Trump, who scaled back his own plan for a 150-story Chicago tower to a mere 90 stories after 9/11, is saying "Nobody in his right mind would build a building of that height in today's horrible world" and "I don't think this is a real project ... It's a total charade." Ha! Jealous!

Build it!

July 25, 2005

Roberts and the Solomon Amendment case.

Jeffrey Toobin has a big piece in the new New Yorker about the Solomon Amendment case, FAIR v. Rumsfeld. He speculates about how John Roberts might view it:
Even though the FAIR case is rooted in the law schools’ attempt to address discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the case is not, strictly speaking, about gay rights. It is, rather, a First Amendment case, about whether the Solomon Amendment impinges on the right to freedom of speech at universities, and whether the government has the right to use the leverage of federal aid to insist that the military be treated like other employers....

Most observers regard the legal arguments of both sides in FAIR as at least plausible, but most of the current Justices would probably want to defer to the needs of the military. Roberts’s history suggests that he would do the same; the concept of judicial restraint means a reluctance to invalidate the actions of the other branches of government....

Is Roberts committed to some sort of across-the-board judicial restraint, such that he'd be unsympathic to First Amendment arguments raised against the government? Here's Toobin's evidence that he is:
Roberts believes in the concept of judicial restraint. In a recent opinion in the D.C. Circuit, he chided his conservative brethren in a case about the regulation of raw materials used in making drugs, admonishing them, in Justice Felix Frankfurter’s words, “to observe the wise limitations on our function and to confine ourselves to deciding only what is necessary to the disposition of the immediate case.” In an answer to the senators about his judicial role models, he wrote, “I admire the judicial restraint of Holmes and Brandeis, the intellectual rigor of Frankfurter, the common sense and pragmatism of Jackson, the vision of John Marshall.”
That first part is about deciding questions on narrow grounds rather than enunciating broad rules, which is not relevant to which way he'll decide the FAIR case, only to how he'd frame the holding.

The list of favorite judges means something more, but Holmes and Brandeis don't represent judicial restraint across-the-board. Holmes is the key figure in the development of free speech rights against government. (And Brandeis joined him.) What Roberts served up is a list of luminaries there, standing for different things, with only Holmes and Brandeis representing restraint. Others he admires for other things -- intellectual rigor, pragmatism, the vision thing. Who's to know what this amorphous tribute means about how Roberts will actually decide cases?

I'm rather thinking Toobin had a big piece on the FAIR case ready to go, and he tacked on this speculation about Roberts. Good enough. But it doesn't take us very far. Still, the piece is well worth reading for an explanation of the FAIR case, especially the litigation strategies of the parties.

Did Judge Roberts just commit to recusing himself in abortion cases?

No, and here's why.

Lawprof Jonathan Turley notes that Roberts was caught off-guard by a question from Senator Durbin about what he would do if "if the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral":
Roberts appeared nonplused and, according to sources in the meeting, answered after a long pause that he would probably have to recuse himself...

Roberts could now face difficult questions of fitness raised not only by the Senate but by his possible colleague, Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative members of the court (and a devout Catholic). Last year, Scalia chastised Catholic judges who balk at imposing the death penalty — another immoral act according to the church: "The choice for a judge who believes the death penalty to be immoral is resignation, rather than simply ignoring duly enacted constitutional laws and sabotaging the death penalty."
I'm deeply impressed that Roberts answered the question and intrigued by its substance. I'd love to have a transcript of what went through his mind during that "long pause" before his answer. I would bet money that he thought about that Scalia speech about Catholic judges and the death penalty.

Let's look at a key part of that speech:
Capital cases are much different from the other life-and-death issues that my Court sometimes faces: abortion, for example, or legalized suicide. There it is not the state of which I am, in a sense, the last instrument that is decreeing death, but rather private individuals whom the state has decided not to restrain.

One may argue, as many do, that the society has a moral obligation to restrain them. That moral obligation may weigh heavily upon the voter and upon the legislator who enacts the laws, but a judge, I think, bears no moral guilt for the laws society has failed to enact.

My difficulty with Roe v. Wade is a legal rather than a moral one. I do not believe – and no one believed for 200 years – that the Constitution contains a right to abortion. And if a state were to permit abortion on demand, I would and could in good conscience vote against an attempt to invalidate that law, for the same reason that I vote against invalidation of laws that contradict Roe v. Wade; namely, simply because the Constitution gives the federal government and, hence, me no power over the matter.

With the death penalty, on the other hand, I am part of the criminal law machinery that imposes death, which extends from the indictment to the jury conviction to rejection of the last appeal. I am aware of the ethical principle that one can give material cooperation to the immoral act of another when the evil that would attend failure to cooperate is even greater: for example, helping a burglar to tie up a householder where the alternative is that the burglar will kill the householder.

I doubt whether that doctrine is even applicable to the trial judges and jurors, who must themselves determine that the death sentence will be imposed. It seems to me those individuals are not merely engaged in material cooperation with someone else’s action, but are themselves decreeing, on behalf of the state, death.

The same is true of appellate judges. In those states where they are charged with re-weighing the mitigating and aggravating factors and determining de novo whether the death penalty should be imposed, they are themselves decreeing death, whereas in the case of the federal system, the appellate judge merely determines that the sentence pronounced by the trial court is in accordance with law, perhaps the principle of material cooperation could be applied. But as I have said, that principle demands that the good deriving from the cooperation exceed the evil which is assisted. I find it hard to see how any appellate judge could find this condition to be met unless he believes retaining his seat on the bench, rather than resigning, is somehow essential to preservation of the society, which is of course absurd. As Charles de Gaulle is reported to have remarked when his aides told him he could not resign as president of France because he was the indispensable man: “Mon ami, the cemeteries are full of indispensable men.”

I pause at this point to call attention to the fact that, in my view, the choice for the judge who believes the death penalty to be immoral is resignation rather than simply ignoring duly enacted constitutional laws and sabotaging the death penalty. He has, after all, taken an oath to apply those laws, and has been given no power to supplant them with rules of his own. Of course, if he feels strongly enough, he can go beyond mere resignation and lead a political campaign to abolish the death penalty, and if that fails, lead a revolution. But rewrite the laws he cannot do....

This dilemma, of course, need not be faced by proponents of the living Constitution who believe that it means what it ought to mean. If the death penalty is immoral, then it is surely unconstitutional, and one can continue to sit while nullifying the death penalty. You can see why the living Constitution has such attraction for us judges.

It is a matter of great consequence to me, therefore, whether the death penalty is morally acceptable, and I want to say a few words about why I believe it is....
I think Roberts, during the pause, thought this through and fixed on the key point, which was Scalia's point: a ruling in favor of abortion rights is not an immoral ruling, even if abortions are immoral. It is only if he becomes "part of the machinery" -- as is the case with the death penalty -- that the immoral act of another is the judge's own immorality.

Thus, Roberts' answer will not mean that he will need to recuse himself in abortion cases.

Want to listen to Roberts' oral arguments before the Supreme Court?

Here they are!

"He later bought an electric saw, a bow saw and dust sheets, chopped the body into nine pieces and hid them in the fridge freezer in the kitchen."

And exactly why was he sentenced to five years? "Two years for the manslaughter and three years for preventing the burial." Seriously!

What becomes of a person who listens to "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted" while waiting on hold too long?

I have visions of many things ... I can't stand this pain much longer ... Cold and alone/No comfort in sight/Hoping and praying for someone to care...

"UnSouterble."

Amba coins a word.

Let's try shaming first.

John Fund has a Wall Street Journal editorial arguing for term limits for Supreme Court Justices:
A seat on the high court is now so powerful and so heady that many justices stay long past their prime. Legal scholars have concluded that half of the last 10 retirees have been too feeble or inattentive to fully participate in the work of the court.

The secrecy that shrouds the high court can also allow someone to turn his chamber into a nursing home, as William O. Douglas did in the 1970s. He was so determined to hang on until a new president could appoint someone philosophically compatible with him that he refused to leave after an incapacitating stroke. This is not only irresponsible, but for, say, a liberal justice hanging on through a series of Republican presidents, it is directly at odds with the preferences of the electorate. In Douglas's case, his colleagues were so concerned that they informally agreed that during the last year of his service none of the court's decisions would be valid if his was the deciding vote. They finally pressured him to resign in 1975. A weakened Thurgood Marshall often looked to his fellow octogenarian William Brennan on how to vote because he no longer could hear well enough to understand the arguments other justices made during their conferences.
Fund makes a strong argument. (Read the whole thing.) But he does not address how term limits would affect presidential campaigns. We'd know which Justices were slated to leave in the upcoming presidential term. As it is now, we just engage in a guessing game, saying things that are often ridiculously off-base. (In the 2000 campaign we were told the next President would probably get three appointments, but in fact, he got zero.) Maybe the people voting for President should know which Justices are coming up for replacement. And there is something unseemly about the Justices -- supposedly aloof from politics -- timing their retirements to try to control the ideology of the next occupant of their seat.

But I still resist changing the Constitution, and even if I didn't, I'm realistic enough to know how incredibly difficult it is to amend. A more moderate approach, which I want to recommend, is shaming.

While we do criticize Justices for their opinions, we hold back from criticizing them for clinging to their seats too long. I think we may be observing the general social norm that frowns on age discrimination and accommodates disability. But maybe we ought to set aside that generality and get specific about Supreme Court Justices: they wield immense power and they cling to it. Why don't we talk about that? Why don't we shame them for staying too long?

We don't spare the criticism for other persons who tighten their grip on power. Before we try to amend the Constitution, let's try shaming. I think the Justices are vulnerable to our criticism. Much as they may love their power, they must also love our good opinion. They must want to be remembered as great Justices. But insulated on the Court, surrounded by respectful admirers -- should I say sycophants? -- they may need to hear stronger voices from the rest of us. Why don't we put aside our stock politeness and say more clearly and more often that it is wrong to hold your seats too long and wrong to let too many years pass without giving the President a chance to appoint someone new.

I'll leave you with this passage from Bill Maher's book "New Rules":
New Rule

Just because you have a job for life doesn't mean you have to do it for life. It's well and proper that we venerate our elders -- but give it a freakin' rest....

Now, I know it must be hard to give up your job when your job is literally sitting on a throne, or being on a "supreme" court, or keeping women out of the priesthood to make room for the gays -- but at some point it starts to look like you think of yourself as indispensible, and no one is indispensible, including you, the late Mr. Infallible...

[T]here's a reason that names like Cary Grant, Joe DiMaggio, and Johnny Carson inspire a special kind of awe: They all did something that made them more beloved than anyone else -- they left before we got sick of them.

Petite scandalette or nothing at all?

Are we so starved for a scandal that we're biting at anything? Or does Judge Roberts' professed inability to remember that he was on the Federalist Society steering committee in 1997-1998 actually matter?

Plaidgate, an update.

Law Dork -- who's studying for the bar, so give him a break! -- got swept up unwittingly into what I'm calling Plaidgate. I've been trapped in the Plaidgate foofaraw since Thursday, myself, so I appreciate his insight:
No, all public discussion of important issues shouldn't be on this level, but some, it seems to me, should -- and always has been. From Mark Twain to Chevy Chase to Chris Rock, not everyone will find humor about public figures to be funny. That does not, however, make it a gay-baiting whisper campaign.

UPDATE: Plaidgate is noticed by Instapundit ... and The Washington Post. I guess it's a loud plaid.

AND: Let me say, in case you're only reading this post, that I didn't write that the NYT is trying to tell us they believe Roberts is gay, only that they knew what they were doing when they called attention to "Peppermint Patty" and lined up the pictures they way they did. I think they found it amusing, just as newspaper editors found it amusing to frame photographs of John Ashcroft with that bare-breasted statue hovering over him. The NYT layout of photographs on any page is very well-thought-out -- and beautifully done, one of the best reasons to subscribe to the paper version, as I do. Most people reading my comment are just looking at the on-line slideshow. I was describing the way the top of a two-page spread looked. I stand by my opinion that they deliberately tried to make him look gay. Obviously, they also have total deniability, so you don't have to point that out to me again.

July 24, 2005

Did you watch "Six Feet Under"?

If so, go in the comments and talk about it!

UPDATE: Narm!

AUGUST 1ST UPDATE: Oh, noooooo! Go here to talk about the new episode.

"David Souter is not your standard hunka hunka burning love."

Believe it or not, that line appeared in the Washington Post back when he was awaiting confirmation in 1990. A commenter on my "lutte greco-romaine" post asks how the Souter nomination played in the press back then. Were there insinuations that he was gay? I turned up the Washington Post article, which is written by Roxanne Roberts. Here's a taste:
He's a bookworm who looks like Pat Paulsen. His idea of excitement is a long hike in the woods. He does impressions, for God's sake. He wears extremely bad ties.

David Souter is not your standard hunka hunka burning love. News that the 51-year-old judge had never married set off a flurry of speculation that the Supreme Court might be getting its first gay justice. When reporters unearthed three former girlfriends, it appeared instead that he is simply a scholarly workaholic too busy for romance.

Okay, so he's no [name deleted]. No matter. He's a bachelor; more important, now he's a confirmed one. That makes him a hot ticket, the catch of the day, a Power Date. In short, Washington's idea of Extremely Eligible.

"His position will make him handsome to a lot of people," says Washington hostess Buffy Cafritz. "I can hear the footsteps marching already."

"David Souter better fasten his seat belt because this ain't New Hampshire -- and it ain't like living with Mama," whooped Rep. Charlie Wilson of Texas, one of the Hill's legendary ladies' men. "They're going to burn his door down. I can't think of anyone -- except a single president -- who would be more of a prize."

Judge Souter's sudden appeal has nothing to do with the trappings typically associated with eligibility. It's not about looks, money or sex. Once you cross the Beltway, it's about power, influence and the ability to look presentable in a tuxedo.

"The trappings of their power are seductive to anyone," says tennis coach Kathy Kemper, who recently married an investment banker after years of dating high-profile bachelors. "It's very heady to be at a party with the person that everybody wants to talk to. You can get very spoiled if you're dating one of these guys."

On August 7, 1990, The Orlando Sentinel had "It May Be Unjust, but Men Are Judged By Marital Status," by Susan M. Barbieri:
He lives in a New Hampshire cabin with only flannel shirts and firewood for company. He wields substantial power as a judge, and may get the promotion of a lifetime. But what intrigues many Americans about U.S. Supreme Court nominee David Souter is the fact that he is a 50-year-old bachelor. We wonder, "What's wrong with him? How does he feel about women? Is he anti-social, homosexual, mysogynistic, immature or just plain dweeby?"

He is an enigma. He is Spinster Man.

For the average, never-married, middle-aged man, perennial bachelorhood should not be an issue. Yet it is. It is hard to say which sex has it worse when it comes to stereotyping. Never-married women are assumed to be unattractive or otherwise undesirable. Never-married men are thought to be either womanizers (which carries a positive connotation), hermits or homosexuals.
On August 6, 1990, The San Francisco Chronicle had "Heading for 50 And Still Single Isn't That Odd" by Ruthe Stein:
I caught myself mid sentence. I was about to ask a 47-year-old friend who has never married if he thought it was weird that the new Supreme Court nominee has reached 50 without marrying.

My near faux pas illustrates what David Souter is up against: a stigma so pervasive it has clouded the thinking of those of us who should know better.

Some of my best friends are ''confirmed'' singles like Souter. They are perfectly normal, upstanding individuals whose opinions I count on and respect.

So why is it that on some level I still believe there is something wrong with a person who has arrived at a certain age and not acquired at least one spouse? Deep down, I'm convinced he or she has got to be an oddball.

Oddly enough, my friends who have never married also subscribe to the oddball theory. Not that they think they're odd. Each of them has a good reason why he or she hasn't marched down the aisle.

It doesn't seem to occur to them that other singles might also have their reasons -- such as not having met the right person or preferring to be alone -- and that they are not necessarily emotional basket cases.

My friend Debby won't go out with anyone over 45 who hasn't been married, overlooking the fact that she is only a few years shy of that category herself. She says such a man obviously isn't marriage material so why should she waste her time.

Yet Debby has no compunction about dating guys who have been divorced two or three times. Tattered goods though they be, in her mind at least they have what it takes to make a commitment to a woman.

From all accounts, David Souter has led a pretty rarefied life. Holed up with his law books, he may not have been stigmatized the way my friends have -- that is until the press began digging into his past.

An ex-fiancee has been unearthed. She has only nice things to say about her former suitor. Her assurances that he really is OK seemed to imply that was in doubt.

"I suppose I would have said I was a moderate conservative..."

"I wouldn't have put myself smack in the middle. But I would have put myself closer to the center than some but still on the right side." Justice Souter said that -- two days after he was confirmed in 1990, in response to a question from a Boston Globe reporter. He was never asked that prior to confirmation, but if he had been asked, that was his answer.

So consider that, as you contemplate Judge Roberts.

"Il a fait la lutte gréco-romaine au lycée catholique unisexe..."

I can read French up to a point. I find that phrase easy enough to read, but the surrounding material, which links to this blog -- in the last paragraph -- gets too complicated for me. I guess I'll never hear the end of it after writing about that NYT article that made Roberts look gay (in my view). I did hesitate before writing it and carefully framed what I thought it was appropriate to say. I mean, I made la lutte gréco-romaine with my conscience. (Don't worry! No lettuce was involved!) I wasn't trying to stir up or help the right or the left. I was just reading an article in the NYT and became aware of a new idea that had formed in my head and tried to trace it down. I'm not crazy, just reading and observing my own mind, being honest about what I find and somewhat circumspect but somewhat daring about what I'm willing to put in writing.

UPDATE: A reader provides a translation. Here's that last paragraph:
Over here some troublemakers on the left are having fun trying to spike the gay-meter in regards to Bush’s Supreme Court nominee, [John] Roberts -- he wrestled Graeco-Roman style at a boys-only Catholic high school, he married late, he’s definitely not ugly (noted several times on TV by John Stewart with the most ironic smile imaginable) – which all in all is driving the right crazy and has got them hollering ‘scandal’ and ‘invasion of privacy’ and so on. Thanks to Sideshow for sending me the link.
The link to me is on "troublemakers." So, in France, apparently, I'm a "troublemaker on the left." Just "having fun"! And those cranky old right wingers can't take a joke. Now, I'm going to go back to my TiVo to see if Jon Stewart was "trying to spike the gay-meter" with that "ironic smile."

Remember, if you want to say "spike the gaymeter" in French, it's: "relever du compteur gaiomètre." And if you want to spike the gaymeter with the most ironic smile, it's "relever du compteur gaiomètre avec un sourire des plus ironiques."

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: I got an email from Sale Bete, the French blogger who linked to me:
Unfortunately I wrote what I feel was a good explanation of the reasons why I linked to you (via Sideshow) in a comment that has now disappeared, but the gist is that I thought it was curious that other people had noticed "something gay" — vaguely, non-specifically, about Mr Roberts, as I had myself upon reading the New York Times article. But my gaydar frequently misfires or is simply wrong (and I am myself gay). So it was interesting to discover that others had also picked up on "something". Of course it may be totally nother, and I did point out in a reply to a comment that I was being somewhat nasty and mean-spirited in passing along this very likely unfounded gossip — but that's the risk of being in the public eye. I referred to "malins de la gauche" which to me translates as "clever types" or "smarty-pants of the left" rather than troublemakers (fauteurs in French). So I did not intend to be rude or disparaging of you or of anyone else.
Well, I feel confirmed to hear someone else say they got the same vibe from the NYT article that I did. And I'm glad I'm a "clever type" and not a "troublemaker." "Malins de la Gauche" sounds like a good blog name.

"This American Life" -- the TV show.

I love "This American Life." Often, when it's on, I get in the car and go for an hour-long drive, just to enjoy the pleasures of radio. Isn't radio best in the car, merging the music or the words with the landscape?

But now, Ira Glass is working on making his radio show into a TV show. And why not? Everyone assumes TV is a step up from radio. And don't we bloggers all really think it's better to be on the radio and still better to be on TV? It shouldn't be, should it? But we can't help feeling that TV is the best place to be, where everyone sees you!

Hmmm... oh so that's what Ira Glass looks like. He's quite a bit handsomer than his nerdy voice makes him "look" on the radio. Most radio folk have beautiful, sonorous voices that make actually seeing them quite a letdown.

Ah... the article talks about the difference seeing things makes:
Both the stories featured in the pilot were also produced for the radio show. One is about a couple who cloned their prized bull; the other is about a good-natured prank that goes awry. In comparing the two formats, Mr. Glass discovered the effect of seeing people otherwise left to a listener's imagination. One man's face time in the television segment had to be cut down because he came off as much more insincere on screen than on the radio. The narrative, which had been so finely balanced on radio, was suddenly thrown off kilter.

"On the radio, you become the character," Mr. Glass explained. "But when you see someone on TV, you come to all sorts of conclusions about who they are, based on their hair and what they are wearing."

Teflon.

Here's a big lawsuit.

IN THE COMMENTS: Teflon or no Teflon, if you have a pet bird, keep it out of the kitchen.

An easy lesson about criticizing Hillary.

Naomi Wolf, riffing on Edward Klein's "The Truth About Hillary," makes an extended comparison of Hillary Clinton to the 19th century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Basically, there's a standard underhanded way to attack women, which was around in the 19th century and is still around today. There's an easy lesson here, and most respected writers have already learned it: if you want to attack a woman, don't taint your legitimate criticism with crap about how she's not feminine enough.

Idea for a blog.

You pick a single word, and you run it through Google News every day, and you only blog the stories that come up.

What would your word be?

IN THE COMMENTS: A reader points to Literally, A Web Log, which is tracking the word "literally." Very nicely done!

Arlen Specter makes up the term "superprecedent" ...

And uses it in a NYT op-ed to hint that Judge Roberts might need to reveal whether he would overrule Roe v. Wade. Beldar skewers him as thoroughly and painfully as can be done in this age of Google and Westlaw.

So what's worse: Specter making up a term and claiming "legal scholars" use it? Or Specter being dumb enough not to realize there's a such thing as computer research and that scores of lawyers and lawprofs are monitoring the nomination process and blogging about it?

IN THE COMMENTS: A commenter brings up a 1976 use of the term in a law review article, and I respond, noting that old usage -- which I don't remember ever seeing -- was not anything close to what Specter is using it for.

MORE: Redstate notes a Court of Appeals decision by Judge Luttig that uses the term "super-stare decisis" to refer to Casey:
I understand the Supreme Court to have intended its decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), to be a decision of super-stare decisis with respect to a woman's fundamental right to choose whether or not to proceed with a pregnancy. See Casey, 505 U.S. at 844-46 ("Liberty finds no refuge in a jurisprudence of doubt. Yet 19 years after our holding that the Constitution protects a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy in its early stages, Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 93 S. Ct. 705, 35 L.Ed.2d 147 (1973), that definition of liberty is still questioned. . . . After considering the funda-mental constitutional questions resolved by Roe, principles of institutional integrity, and the rule of stare decisis, we are led to conclude this: the essential holding of Roe v. Wade should be retained and once again reaffirmed."). And I believe this understanding to have been not merely confirmed, but reinforced, by the Court's recent decision in Stenberg v. Carhart, 2000 WL 825889, at *4 (June 28, 2000) ("[T]his Court, in the course of a generation, has determined and then redetermined that the Constitution offers basic protection to the woman's right to choose. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 93 S. Ct. 705, 35 L.Ed.2d 147 (1973); Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 112 S. Ct. 2791, 120 L.Ed.2d 674 (1992). We shall not revisit those legal principles.").
There's something to this. Let's see if this notion is used to require Roberts to commit to leaving Roe alone.

AND: Luttig's use of the term "super-stare decisis" is unique in the case law, but I did find three uses of the term in the law review file on LEXIS, including one referring to Casey, written by Lawprof Earl Maltz. All three use the term only in the context of being critical that a precedent is regarded as especially invulnerable. Here's Maltz:
The theoretical problems with the Court's opinion [in Casey] are even more troubling. The implications of the argument are breathtaking. The analysis reverses the accepted view that interventionist constitutional decisions should be granted less protection under the doctrine of stare decisis because they cannot be corrected by other branches of government. In essence, the opinion asserts that if one side can take control of the Court on an issue of major national importance, it can not only use the Constitution to bind other branches of government to its position, but also have that position protected from later judicial action by a kind of super-stare decisis.
The article is Abortion, Precedent, and the Constitution: A Comment on Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 68 Notre Dame L. Rev. 11 (1992).

And let's be clear that Luttig's use of the term "super-stare decisis" is also critical of the idea. Even if we translate Spector's "superprecedent" to "super-stare decisis," there's still no accepted legal concept here. Yet, clearly, it is well-understood that the Casey Court purported to make a final decision about the permanence of abortion rights.

How dangerous is that shoot-to-kill policy of the London police?

WARNING ADDED: If you've come here from another website and think you already know what this post says, I would recommend that you calm down and read what I've actually written. Some really foolish, hotheaded remarks have been made about this post. Don't let yourself be manipulated.

ORIGINAL POST: It's terrible that the poor man was shot to death yesterday by the London police who had reason to think he was a terrorist. But should we worry that the shoot-to-kill policy will result in more deaths?

Really, it should be quite unlikely for the same sort of thing to happen again, just as it's very unlikely that anyone will ever again hijack an airplane with a small knife. That method of hijacking an airplane ended on the morning of September 11, 2001, when everyone who might in the future ride on an airplane received an unforgettable lesson that they must respond actively and rush the hijackers and restrain them at any cost to themselves. Similarly, everyone -- at least in London -- now knows not to run from the police, especially not onto a train and while wearing bulky clothing.

Is it not true that yesterday's sad mistake has already solved the problem it represents? In fact, a further good has been created: as ordinary persons change their behavior and drop the bulky clothing and unnecessary running, the real terrorists will stand out more. Indeed, if anyone ever behaves like Jean Charles de Menezes again, the presumption that he is a terrorist will be so overwhelmingly strong that the police really must kill him.

UPDATE (8/18/05): Leaked information from independent investigation indicates that Menezes himself didn't "behave like Jean Charles de Menezes," so the shoot-to-kill policy was not what it seemed and is in fact something that we should worry about. Who knows what policy the police were following the day they killed Menezes? Fortunately, there hasn't been another incident like it, at least not yet. I would think the incident itself has forced them to change whatever that policy was.

ANOTHER UPDATE: After ranting near incoherence all day, one of the commenters finally expressed himself in a way that gave me a clue what was pissing him off so bad. He read the phrase "a further good has been created" to mean that I thought that it's worth it that the man died, because a higher good had been created, offsetting the death, as a sort of crude utilitarian observation. The phrase "a further good" just means there is a second good thing that has resulted, not that the good made it worth killing an innocent man, as if I would have, if I knew in advance what was happening, authorized shooting the man in order to produce the good! That's quite a bizarre misreading, but I'm spelling it out in case you happen to be reading it that way. Why would I say such a thing? Before posting and ranting based on such a misreading, you ought to stop and consider whether I would say something so absurd. Or do you think making a hasty judgment and acting with hostility is good way to act? Because that would be a tad hypocritical.

IN THE COMMENTS: As I wrote in comments to the post about this post on 8/18, what I'm seeing in the comments to this post is a deep-seated hostility to the police. People are taking advantage of one bad incident to push a big generalized position they have, and have probably had for a long time. There's a sad lack of rationality here, and it's become pointless to try to reason with the ranters. I'm a law professor and I always assume that some of commenters are my students, so I try to talk to everyone in the comments as if you were my students. But office hours are over for me on this post.