August 6, 2005


On Madison's East Side.

Madison's East Side.

Madison's East Side.

Madison's East Side.

Madison's East Side.

Save the Iraqi.

It's a small thing, and I don't know anything about it, but N.Z. Bear is asking us to vote to save the Iraqi cast member on "Big Brother," and that's good enough for me. So, come on, vote for Kaysar.

Number of magazines I counted on the floor of my bedroom when I realized my habit of throwing magazines on the floor was getting out of hand.


Bubblegum pop.

Heard today on the 60s channel of XM Radio: Tommy Roe's "Sweet Pea."

What it reminded me of: How much I love the purest examples of bubblegum pop music.

Bloggable question that formed soon after: What are the very greatest examples of bubblegum pop?

Obvious problem perceived in answering this question: Where is the line between bubblegum and nonbubblegum?

Don't get sidetracked into defining the term. Just try to find the quintessential bubblegum pop song!

"The Beatles helped feminize the culture."

From a WaPo review of "Meet the Beatles: A Cultural History of the Band That Shook Youth, Gender, and the World":
"The Beatles helped feminize the culture," Stark writes, in part because they usually "displayed a more sympathetic attitude to women in their songs than most other rock writers." In addition, the band "not only sounded and looked feminine because of their style and their hair; they were more feminine in their group dynamic." Key to this inadvertent revolution were the deaths of Lennon's and McCartney's mothers when each Beatle was still in his teens (the "Julia" and "Mother Mary" immortalized on the "White" and "Let It Be" albums, respectively). These deeply traumatic events had the effect, Stark argues, of repeatedly driving both composers toward strong women who shaped them at every turn: Mona Best, mother of early drummer Pete and provider of the band's first regular gigs, at the Casbah Club she founded in her basement; Astrid Kirchherr, the German ingénue who gave the boys their distinctive haircuts and pushed them in the direction of her own black-leather art house sophistication; and later, Yoko Ono and Linda Eastman, indomitable personalities who, at the close of the '60s, with Lennon and McCartney already drifting apart, "tended to spur their partners in opposite directions from one another, almost acting like lawyers in an ongoing dispute."

You need a hook to justify adding to the vast pile of Beatles writing, of course. But what do you think of this one?

Other discussion questions: Did the culture get feminized in the 1960s? Who did this feminizing -- men? If the Beatles only helped in this feminization, who else did the feminizing?

Bonus yes-or-no question to sort Althouse readers into two groups: Did you ever spend much time trying to figure out if the woman on the cover of "Bringing It All Back Home" was Dylan in drag? (Spending time now doesn't count, but feel free to do it.)

"Modern Love."

This week's "Modern Love" columnist is a 41-year-old woman whose alternative to married life is a string of nonsexual relationships with guys in their 20s: "I think I like young guys, especially guys in their 20's, because, at heart, I am a guy in my 20's."

Maybe then my readers who are guys in their 20s will understand this column better than I did.

I read these "Modern Love" columns most weeks, and I'm getting the impression that what the editors are looking for is weird detail and complete ineptitude at self-perception. "Modern," you know, means hopelessly at sea. And "love" means, well, anything but love.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 6.

It's Day 6 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.) I'm in the Van Gogh Museum, having a museum experience:

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

How Flickr is like a blog and blogs could be more like Flickr.

Flickr ≈ a blog:

The photostream is a chronological arrangement with the newest on the top and the old material endlessly sinking down into back pages.

The "description box" is where you put the text. It's essentially your post: You can write anything you want here -- it doesn't have to be a description of the photograph.

There is a place for comments on each photo, which can be used for comments on the post as well as for the photograph.

Blogs could be improved by adding some of the Flickr-style functions: Why not have a button to click to rearrange the posts, so that they are not in chronological order anymore but grouped by tags or by most viewed, most comments, most "favorited," and most interesting?

Personally, I'm fascinated by the Flickr concept of "interestingness":
There are lots of things that make a photo 'interesting' (or not) in the Flickr. Where the clickthroughs are coming from; who comments on it and when; who marks it as a favorite; its tags and many more things which are constantly changing. Interestingness changes over time, as more and more fantastic photos and stories are added to Flickr.
Why isn't there something like this working to find things in blogs? We're still using the relatively crude selection method of counting links.

On Flickr, you can reorder your own (or anyone else's) photos by interestingness, and you can look at the whole world's last 24-hours of photos ranked by interestingness. It's not perfectly executed -- I find it hard to believe my most interesting photo is of a sunset on Lake Mendota -- but it's really cool. How about some more functionality for blogs? One of the reasons to stay with Blogger is the hope that these features are coming.

UPDATE: On Flickr, you can't rank the photos of another individual, only your own. I suppose there is some privacy interest in that.

ANOTHER UPDATE: It was my son John who informed me that you can't get to other people's "most interesting" pages. He added that you could make a Flickr set out of your "most interesting" pages, and then he did that with his: here.

When shopkeepers object to your photography.

Yesterday, we took a photography walk on the East Side of Madison, going from Mother Fool's to Café Zoma -- a nice café hop. One of the great photo stops along the way is the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Shop. Mesmerized by the lined-up shoes in the window, we went in the side entrance first and took many photos like this:

Madison's East Side.

No one objected.

We returned to Willy Street and noticed all the bric-a-brac in the front window and went back in again. After a few shots, a woman came over to us.
What are you doing?

We're taking photographs. We're on a photography tour. Do you object?


I guess one ought to ask permission before taking a picture in someone's store. And, really, shopkeepers should object. They might feel flattered that we find their place picturesque. But they don't know whether we will make fun of them or embarrass them. Perhaps profoundly:

Madison's East Side.

Political paperdolls.

Examined in a post inspired by our recent found-object hula lady.

Blogging conspicuously in public.

Yesterday, the bloggers convened at a turquoise table near the window at Mother Fool's.

Mother Fool's

That yellow chair is for me. Nina was pensive and at one with the yellow and blue atmosphere:

Mother Fool's

Oscar maintained his pseudonymity as he lent Nina, Tonya, and me a hand in this public blogging effort:

Mother Fool's

August 5, 2005

Today and the immediate future.

It's a beautiful day here in Madison, and we Madison bloggers convened at Mother Fool's at 10 a.m. to talk, blog, and photograph. That last post was done from MoFo's, but I'm back home now, with over 250 photos to cull, some from the café and a lot from the Willy Street area between MoFo's and Café Zoma. It's going to take me a while to get things into bloggable form, but if you've been wondering why Althouse doesn't have more photos from the East Side, just wait.

And here's another bit of news about future Althouse blogging: I'll be guest-blogging on Instapundit all next week -- with Michael Totten and Megan McArdle (just like last fall, but without the big presidential campaign to dominate our attention). I'll still be posting here, though. Noticing bloggable things will take on the more complex form of needing to think about what should go there and what should go here. At the very least, the Amsterdam Notebook series will continue here.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 5.

It's Day 6 of this 35 day project. See the set thus far here. In this installment, I finally make my way into the Van Gogh Museum, which was the number 1 thing I wanted to do on the trip. I'm alone and reading "Walden" on this trip, and as I reach the museum, I reach the chapter "Solitude":

Amsterdam Notebook

"Like a Rolling Stone" vs. "Heartbreak Hotel."

Two great singles battle it out: which most changed the world?

See the Uncut magazine survey where music, movies, and books (of the last half century) were all in the running. Music claimed the top four slots and you have to go all the way to #19 to get to the first book, which tells you more about who the magazine surveyed than anything else. The book, by the way, is "On the Road." The top movie is "A Clockwork Orange." I wonder how far down the list you have to go to get to something done by a woman.

In any case, I'm not sure how "Heartbreak Hotel" changed the world, but it's interesting to see that opinion has crystallized that it's Elvis's greatest single. I always love hearing it. Even just hearing the guitar solo. Quite perfect.

Painting a hole in the wall.

An artist paints fool-the-eye images on the Palestinian side of the West Bank barrier. Click on the link to see the cartoony illusion of looking through the wall.

Nice painting. I simultaneously love and deplore graffiti. Banksy says he opposes the wall (except to the extent that he likes it for giving him a place to paint), but the images are on the Palestinians' side and seem to taunt them: look how much nicer things are on the other side. It's complex how the paintings are cheerful, nicely done, and dress up an otherwise blank concrete wall, but at the same time they inflame and anger as they make the viewer envy the life the Israelis enjoy.

"Mr. Novak responded with a profanity."

Here's how the NYT describes Bob Novak's recent outburst:
After Mr. Carville tried to interrupt Mr. Novak twice, Mr. Novak said: "I know you hate to hear me. But you have to."

Mr. Carville interrupted again, saying of Mr. Novak, "He's got to show these right-wingers that he's got backbone."

A moment later, Mr. Carville said directly to Mr. Novak: "The Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching you. Show them you're tough."

Mr. Novak responded with a profanity, before telling Mr. Carville: "I hate that. Just let it go."

He stood up, removed his microphone and walked off.
I say, it's ridiculous to report it that way. You should at least have the word with asterisks -- otherwise we're left to imagine he said something worse than "bullshit," which is, so often, the perfect word. Why there's that bestseller, "On Bullshit," written by a philosophy professor, and that Penn and Teller TV show "Bullshit!" Bullshit is pretty mainstream. With the Times's circumlocution, we might imagine Novak had called Carville a f***ing c***.

My son -- John Althouse Cohen -- says it's like that thing in McSweeney's. What? This:


"Among the hundreds of Web addresses owned by Mr. Bloomberg... are more than a dozen with names like and Many of these names, including some registered last week, include a slang expression of contempt, labeled vulgar in some contexts by dictionaries. The pure-minded could construe it to mean that Mr. Bloomberg has a fondness for lollipops."

— The New York Times, May 12, 2001

"An Internet site for the posting of complaints about American corporations, celebrities and political figures can continue to use a Web address that denigrates Michael R. Bloomberg, the New York City mayoral candidate, according to a ruling a week ago.... The protest site, which is run by Dan Parisi, a pornography publisher, uses many addresses created by adding to the names of companies or politicians a slang expression of contempt associated in other contexts with baby bottles."

— The New York Times, June 14, 2001

The Times needs to get back to these more scrutable circumlocutions. Or just cut out the circumlocuting altogether. I know it's their thing to show off their "fit to print" standard, but a quote's a quote.

The rise and fall of a star apple.

Nobody wants to eat Red Delicious apples anymore. WaPo details the famous apple's rise and fall. What fame and fortune will do to a star! I remember when Red Delicious was very sweet, but it was too soft and tender to stand up to the demands of extreme popularity. It had to harden and, doing so, lost all its charm. Now, there's nothing but bitterness and rejection.

"Wait a minute! The guy is doing pro bono work and helping gay activists?"

Linda Greenhouse has a piece today about Judge Roberts' work on Romer v. Evans (a landmark gay rights case). She quotes Rush Limbaugh's reaction:
"There's no question this is going to upset people on the right," Rush Limbaugh told his radio listeners. "There's no question the people on the right are going to say: 'Wait a minute. Wait a minute! The guy is doing pro bono work and helping gay activists?' "

And she quotes the plaintiff's lawyer from the case, Jean Dubofsky, who sought out Roberts because he was recommended as someone who could help her anticipate the arguments the Court's conservatives would make:
Judge Roberts ... spent about six hours on the case, Ms. Dubofsky said. "He told me, 'You have to know how to count and to get five votes, you're going to have to pick up the middle.' "

And then, she said, Judge Roberts provided explicit instructions on how to do just that, telling her that she would have to prove to the court it did not have to overturn a previous case, Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld a ban on homosexual sodomy. He peppered her with questions in a moot court session.

"So when I was asked by Justice Scalia if they would have to overturn Bowers v. Hardwick to rule my way, I said no," Ms. Dubofsky said, adding, "In this particular case if you wanted to get the U.S. Supreme Court turned around on gay rights issues, you didn't have to win every gay rights case floating around out there."

Ultimately, in a forceful opinion by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the court said the Colorado provision had put the state's gay men and lesbians in a "solitary class," singling them out in violation of the Constitution's equal protection guarantee in a manner that was so sweeping as to be inexplicable on any basis other than animus. Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Scalia and Clarence Thomas, the justices to whom Judge Roberts is most often compared, issued a blistering dissent.
It would be very interesting to know all the advice Roberts gave about how to play the Supreme Court to get to five, which is all you need to win. Anyone can figure out that it doesn't matter that you can't convince the most conservative three, so the strategy should be to try to peel off one of the middle two so that the liberal four will have their fifth vote. The key, it seems, was to anticipate the arguments the conservative three would make so that you could think of ways to convince either Kennedy or O'Connor not to ally with them. Roberts was ideally suited to do exactly that: he was recommended as someone who understood the conservative mind and who would be willing to help the other side counter the arguments that mind would generate.

Six hours of his insight into that problem was a tremendous benefit the plaintiffs. You would not bestow such a benefit on a cause you hated. But it is a good thing that Roberts does not regard gay rights as a hateful cause. Those who are worried about "another Souter" are absolutely right to be nervous, as they were from the start. Or should liberals be worried that they're being suckered into imagining him as a liberal?

Myself, I like the Justice to have some complexity about him. There are times when I worry that Roberts is too thin a character. I want a real human being on the Court, not a legal machine. When the ideologues have to worry about what they're getting, I'm happy.

UPDATE: Jim Lindgren comments on this post and makes some good observations about highly educated conservatives:
[V]ery well educated conservatives rarely fit the public stereotypes assigned to them. While very high educations tend to make liberals more consistently liberal, very high educations tend to make conservatives less consistently conservative (and thus less extreme) on social issues....

This is a bit like highly educated bloggers: while supposedly "conservative" bloggers might support Bush's court nomineees and the War on Terror, such "conservatives" often take the liberal side on some issues, such as perhaps abortion rights, gay rights, assisted suicide, and stem-cell research, and they might also believe in evolution, oppose mandatory school prayer, or favor the right to burn flags. Such a diversity of views among the highly educated left is much more rare.
Lindgren phrases his observation in terms of the right being more diverse than the left. But another way to put it is to say that the highly educated usually reject social conservatism. The position on national security is then arrived at as a separate matter.

August 4, 2005

"If I were to rank every book we have in the house in order of current value..."

"... I'm not saying this would be last, but it would be close" -- said John, just now.

Found object of the day.

From a Walmart parking lot.

Hula girl.

Mighty Mouse, digital camera.

I ordered one of these.
Time is round. Space is curved. Why should your mouse be linear?

Yeah, I'm a sucker for all things Apple.

I ordered a new camera too, because I really need an SLR digital camera. I just can't see what I'm doing outdoors looking at an LED screen -- or indoors unless I put on reading glasses. A lot of the time I'm just pointing at things (rather than framing shots) and relying on taking a lot of pictures and then weeding through them. Here's a NYT article today that tries to simplify choosing a digital camera. It says nice things about the one I picked, the Nikon D50. Hope it's good.

And hope that Mighty Mouse is good... or saves the day... or whatever.

UPDATE: By chance, the subject of Lomography just came up chez Althouse. I'd never heard about it, but it seems like what my non-SLR digital camera has been making me do. Sort of like that Moliere quote: "I have been speaking prose without knowing it for more than forty years." But there's more to Lomography than just "You don't have to know beforehand what you've captured on film." Anyway, there's something to that and to carrying a little camera everywhere and catching odd things. But I also want to be able to look through the lens and frame shots. I'm especially interested in what's in the corners and on the edges. But here's the Flickr "lomo" group.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 4.

On Day 4 of the Amsterdam Notebook series, we see some of the sleazier things, take some interest in the signs and names of things, and contemplate the sexual -- from a safe distance:

Amsterdam Notebook.

Amsterdam Notebook.

Cascading nitrous thoughts.

Endodontist. I'd never been to one before. But I have now. I took the nitrous oxide, so whatever horrors were back there -- in nitrous world -- I'm not sure I noticed them at all.

There was I, thinking "I exist! I am not just a tooth!" and "I wonder if women experience work in their mouths differently from the way men do, given the closer similarity of the structure of the mouth and the genitalia. It must be more disturbing, this invasion of the mouth."

And then there was the gurgling of the endodontist's stomach, which was right next to my ear, producing a cascade of thoughts:

1. What is that word for stomach gurgling? Something with -ygmy...[ANSWER: Borborygmi! Onomatopoeia -- transliterated by the Greeks.]

2. Remember that old George Carlin routine about stomach gurling, from back in the early days was Carlin was sweet and talked about childhood? It's very funny.

3. On the saddest day of my life, I sat at a funeral for a 22-year-old woman. Next to me was her grandfather, whose innards were waterfalls, the worse case of stomach gurgling I'd ever heard. The forces of deepest sorrow and crazy hilarity were in a death struggle for dominion over my soul. At one point the old man apologized to me, even though he couldn't control it -- his body's absurd expression of grief.

4. What else belongs on this list I'm going to put on my blog? Why, the very fact that I'm in this condition making a list of things to put on my blog.

Roberts and gay rights pro bono work.

Supreme Court nominee John Roberts donated his legal work to the cause of gay rights, according to the L.A. Times:
Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. worked behind the scenes for gay rights activists, and his legal expertise helped them persuade the Supreme Court to issue a landmark 1996 ruling protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation.

Then a lawyer specializing in appellate work, the conservative Roberts helped represent the gay rights activists as part of his law firm's pro bono work. He did not write the legal briefs or argue the case before the high court, but he was instrumental in reviewing filings and preparing oral arguments, according to several lawyers intimately involved in the case.

Gay rights activists at the time described the court's 6-3 ruling as the movement's most important legal victory. The dissenting justices were those to whom Roberts is frequently likened for their conservative ideology: Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Roberts' work on behalf of gay rights activists, whose cause is anathema to many conservatives, appears to illustrate his allegiance to the credo of the legal profession: to zealously represent the interests of the client, whoever it might be.

This is a case of donating his work, not just pursuing the interests of a paying client. But his firm was working on the case, and he was asked to help, supposedly, and didn't balk:
The lawyer who asked for Roberts' help on the case, Walter A. Smith Jr., then head of the pro bono department at Hogan & Hartson, said Roberts didn't hesitate. "He said, 'Let's do it.' And it's illustrative of his open-mindedness, his fair-mindedness. He did a brilliant job."

So Roberts can still look like someone who dutifully performed whatever job was put in front of him -- if that's what you want to see.

Roberts did not mention his work on the case in his 67-page response to a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire, released Tuesday. The committee asked for "specific instances" in which he had performed pro bono work, how he had fulfilled those responsibilities, and the amount of time he had devoted to them.

Smith said the omission was probably just an oversight because Roberts was not the chief litigator in Romer vs. Evans, which struck down a voter-approved 1992 Colorado initiative that would have allowed employers and landlords to exclude gays from jobs and housing.

"John probably didn't recall [the case] because he didn't play as large a role in it as he did in others," Smith said Wednesday. "I'm sure John has a record somewhere of every case he ever argued, and Romer he did not argue. So he probably would have remembered it less."

I find this incredibly hard to believe. Romer v. Evans was a huge case. It wouldn't just slip your mind!

But I hasten to add that Romer presented very important issues about democratic processes and the relative power of state and local government. These issues transcended gay rights and might well have strongly engaged a person who did not care one way or the other about the gay rights movement.

Jean Dubofsky, lead lawyer for the gay rights activists and a former Colorado Supreme Court justice, said that when she came to Washington to prepare for the U.S. Supreme Court presentation, she immediately was referred to Roberts.

"Everybody said Roberts was one of the people I should talk to," Dubofsky said. "He has a better idea on how to make an effective argument to a court that is pretty conservative and hasn't been very receptive to gay rights."

She said he gave her advice in two areas that were "absolutely crucial."

"He said you have to be able to count and know where your votes are coming from. And the other was that you absolutely have to be on top of why and where and how the state court had ruled in this case," Dubofsky said.

She said Roberts served on a moot court panel as she prepared for oral arguments, with Roberts taking the role of a Scalia-like justice to pepper her with tough questions.
Read the whole article. I don't get the impression that Roberts hid this work in his answers to the Judiciary Committee. He simply talked generically about working on pro bono cases, and why should he forefront the cases where he was not the lead lawyer?

UPDATE: Malcontent read this post and characterized me as "hard right" and "flipping out." Maybe you'd be a little less of a malcontent if you read things a little more carefully before... flipping out.

August 3, 2005

It's the "war on terror" again.

That effort to rebrand the "war on terror" as the "global struggle against violent extremism" is over:
In a speech here, Mr. Bush used the phrase "war on terror" no less than five times. Not once did he refer to the "global struggle against violent extremism," the wording consciously adopted by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other officials in recent weeks after internal deliberations about the best way to communicate how the United States views the challenge it is facing.

Good. I didn't like the change. But how embarrassing to change and then change back.

A harsh blow for Pajamas.

John Hawkins of Right Wing News slams Pajamas Media:
I mean I understand that some people may love the idea of getting a "guaranteed salary," but is it really guaranteed? Keep in mind, they haven't even gotten started yet, so who's to say they'll even be in business in a year? Take it from me, people, I was running a humor zine on the net back when the tech bubble burst and all the advertising money dried up. There were a lot of people making "guaranteed" money then, too. Guess what? The advertising agencies paying them had to default because there simply were no ad dollars rolling in. Don't think the exact same thing can't happen with Pajamas Media, because it can.

Furthermore, even though Charles & Roger are both talented and successful bloggers, in the world of internet advertising, they're totally unproven rookies starting a brand spanking new company. And start-ups are tough business under the best circumstances. The reality is that most of them don't make it. That's not a slam at Charles and Roger, because they're both sharp guys and I certainly hope they do succeed because the more competition there is for blogger advertising space, the more all of us stand to make in the future.

But right now, Pajamas Media has a very short and unimpressive track record, they're being very secretive (What's going on with syndication and Marc Danziger?), and they're looking for some very long commitments. Until that changes, Blogads is probably the better deal for Bloggers.
Well, you know this is pretty much what I've been saying. If you don't know, my earlier posts are here, here, here, and here. My main post is the second one, which has a LOT of comments. There are excellent comments in the third one too. It's quite striking that so many people keep telling me to decide on my own whether to take it or leave it and not blog about it. People keep saying they don't understand why I'm blogging about it. Here's one of my (many) responses to this doggedly repeated point ("It's not like PM is with a gun to a blogger's head saying join with us or else. Isn't that what a free market is all about?"):
The reason we're talking about it is that offers are going out which, if you accept, bind you for a year. We're thinking out loud about whether to accept the offer. This thinking out loud is part of the marketplace. You, like many others, are saying: each individual blogger should just decide whether to take it or leave it and not share our analysis with others who are weighing offers. To that, I say: no, no, no, no, no! Let's share analysis. Let's do it in public. This is a market too! The marketplace of ideas. I'm saying: talk about it!

Butterflies are territorial.

A tiger swallowtail has been patrolling the mid-tree level of my backyard for weeks.

America Coming Together...

... came apart.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 3.

Page 3, day 3 of the 35-day project, described here. The scene is Amsterdam, the year 1993. I'm traveling alone and drawing.

As it happened, I was reading "Walden," which heightened solitude, and made the garish painful.

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

(Click here and here to enlarge.)

More pajama talk.

Scott Lemieux asks a very good question about Pajamas Media ads and the blogger's supposed veto power. I was wondering that myself.

On the positive side of the Pajamas debate, Pieter Dorsman is willing to put his trust in Charles Johnson and Roger L. Simon, based on their reputation as bloggers. He writes:
It’s always difficult to take a risk on early stage ventures but in general you buy into a concept or technology and the people behind it....But then the question is: do you want to take the risk that PM will not succeed? What if they do? Do you think PM will return to you with an offer down the road if you declined them today? There are no quick and definite answers here and the PM team probably doesn’t have them either. The point is that some bloggers have been asked to come on board at an early stage, be part of a journey that may well end up in a completely different place.

The best deals should be offered to the first people who sign up, because they are agreeing to the unknown, but the deals are not good enough to compensate for the year long commitment for anyone with decent BlogAds income. I'm not going to worry about missing the boat without being more sure of the boat. Dorsman concedes the "journey" is unknown. And remember the commitment is for a year. Who knows what better deals may emerge in six months? The strange emphasis on a long commitment might suggest that there is a rival enterprise on the horizon. If nothing else, there's the coming BlogAds upgrade. Maybe I want to be free to catch the next boat.

But do I think only the early adopters will get deals or even that they will get the best deals? No! I think if Pajamas is successful, they'll want to sign on more people, especially the people who are now most likely to hold out: those who are doing well with BlogAds, because we are the more popular, established bloggers. At this later point, Pajamas will be more of a known quantity, more worth dealing with. And with all the eager early adopters signed on to year-long deals (or 18-month deals), Pajamas will be free to offer much nicer deals to the holdout crowd. Why shouldn't they want us? Maybe they'll be pissed at me in particular, for criticizing them right when they were trying so hard to get started, but on the other hand, they could say even our harshest critic has signed on.

UPDATE: Who knows what better deals will emerge tomorrow?

UPDATE 2009: The collapse of Pajamas Media for bloggers.

The death of a reporter.

Here is the NYT piece on the death of Steven Vincent, the first American reporter to be killed by the enemy in Iraq.
An American journalist writing about the rise of fundamentalist Islam was shot dead overnight after being abducted in the southern port city of Basra, American embassy and Iraqi officials said today....

The body of the reporter, Steven Vincent, from New York, was found this morning. He had been dumped outdoors after being shot several times, and his hands were tied with a plastic wire, and a red piece of cloth was wrapped around his neck....

Mr. Vincent was a middle-age freelance writer who recently had articles published in the Christian Science Monitor and the National Review. He told other journalists he was gathering material for a book on Basra. On Sunday, The New York Times printed an op-ed he had written about Basra, in which he sharply criticized the British government for allowing religious Shiite parties and clerics to take control of Basra and populate the security forces with their followers....

He told this reporter in mid-June that he had worked as an art critic in New York until the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. That and the Iraq war prompted him to travel to Baghdad in 2003, a trip that resulted in a book called "In the Red Zone" and a Web log about his experiences. Mr. Vincent had been writing in his blog the entire time while he was in Basra.

Mr. Vincent was particularly incensed about the sharp divide between men and women in the Islamic world, and about the increasingly religious mores in Basra that forced women to wear full-length black robes in public. He said he fully supported the Iraq war, believing it was part of a much larger campaign being waged by the United States against "Islamo-fascism." But Mr. Vincent said he was also disappointed by the failure of the United States and Great Britain to enforce their visions of democracy here in Iraq, instead allowing religious politicians to seize power across the south.

Here is Vincent's last post on his blog. Here is the last post on the blog at the moment, not written by Vincent, but collecting comments about his death.

Here's the permanent link to Sunday's NYT op-ed. An excerpt:
The fact that the British are in effect strengthening the hand of Shiite organizations is not lost on Basra's residents.

"No one trusts the police," one Iraqi journalist told me. "If our new ayatollahs snap their fingers, thousands of police will jump." Mufeed al-Mushashaee, the leader of a liberal political organization called the Shabanea Rebellion, told me that he felt that "the entire force should be dissolved and replaced with people educated in human rights and democracy."

Unfortunately, this is precisely what the British aren't doing. Fearing to appear like colonial occupiers, they avoid any hint of ideological indoctrination: in my time with them, not once did I see an instructor explain such basics of democracy as the politically neutral role of the police in a civil society. Nor did I see anyone question the alarming number of religious posters on the walls of Basran police stations. When I asked British troops if the security sector reform strategy included measures to encourage cadets to identify with the national government rather than their neighborhood mosque, I received polite shrugs: not our job, mate.

The results are apparent. At the city's university, for example, self-appointed monitors patrol the campuses, ensuring that women's attire and makeup are properly Islamic. "I'd like to throw them off the grounds, but who will do it?" a university administrator asked me. "Most of our police belong to the same religious parties as the monitors."...

An Iraqi police lieutenant, who for obvious reasons asked to remain anonymous, confirmed to me the widespread rumors that a few police officers are perpetrating many of the hundreds of assassinations - mostly of former Baath Party members - that take place in Basra each month. He told me that there is even a sort of "death car": a white Toyota Mark II that glides through the city streets, carrying off-duty police officers in the pay of extremist religious groups to their next assignment.

Meanwhile, the British stand above the growing turmoil, refusing to challenge the Islamists' claim on the hearts and minds of police officers. This detachment angers many Basrans. "The British know what's happening but they are asleep, pretending they can simply establish security and leave behind democracy," said the police lieutenant who had told me of the assassinations. "Before such a government takes root here, we must experience a transformation of our minds."

In other words, real security reform requires psychological as well as physical training. Unless the British include in their security sector reform strategy some basic lessons in democratic principles, Basra risks falling further under the sway of Islamic extremists and their Western-trained police enforcers.

I remember reading so much praise of the way the British handled themselves in Iraq (compared to us). The British are learning some hard lessons now. We owe a lot to Vincent for daring to saying what he did. One of the last things he wrote on his blog was that in publishing his piece in the New York Times he had "the world's largest megaphone." But going on to die for saying it is even louder. How can the British not hear him?

The humble judge.

Supreme Court nominee John Roberts has submitted 83-pages of response to 10 pages of questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee. The NYT article forefronts some verbiage about judicial "modesty":
"Judges must be constantly aware that their role, while important, is limited," Judge Roberts wrote. "They do not have a commission to solve society's problems, as they see them, but simply to decide cases before them according to the rule of law."

That seems like total boilerplate -- nice enough boilerplate, but boilerplate nonetheless -- and makes me think there's not going to be anything of note in the article, but I'm going to read it for you anyway.

Okay. It's interesting, perhaps, that his net worth is $5.3 million and that he was first interviewed for the Supreme Court opening -- by Alberto Gonzales, a competitor for the seat -- three months before O'Connor announced her retirement. He continues to have no memory of any connection with the Federalist Society, including serving on that steering committee that listed him. Not much else.

There is a link to a National Archives page with 14,000 pages of documents written by Roberts. You'll have to read those for yourself. Let me know if you find anything.

The "remarkably clueless and elitist" Current TV.

The Chicago Tribune reviews Current TV -- the new Al Gore project. (Via the Corner.) Apparently, it's quite bad:
Promising "subjects that young adults can rarely find on TV" in one's press kit is foolhardy; advertising that the channel "will blow your mind," as one on-air host does, is downright lunacy.

All the new-media spiel that chairman Al Gore and other Current hype-meisters have been spinning of late sounds like some fairy tale from the dot-com boom. Given the hyperbolic pronouncements about how it would change the face of television and the Internet and the culture, blah blah blah, Current's first 36 hours were particularly disappointing.

There wasn't a whole lot of viewer-created content on the channel on Monday and through midday Tuesday (and Current's Web site appeared to be having difficulties posting the majority of viewer submissions), but it's interesting to examine the professionally produced segments that Current did choose to air in these early hours of its existence.

For a channel that is supposed to be aimed squarely at 18 to 34 year olds and reflect their views and concerns, Current's remarkably clueless and elitist. And a fair amount of the content could be found just about anywhere else.

We meet a couple of newlyweds who drive a Lexus and fight over whether to get a $1,200 icemaker (the expensive ones, you see, make clear ice, not cloudy ice). Young couples in New York City -- news flash! -- find the real-estate market daunting. We meet a couple who's just had a baby. Baby poop is, apparently, very smelly.

Thanks, Current, for blowing my mind.
From the Houston Chronicle:
Borrowing a term from Apple's iPod, the channel's clean-cut hosts call the segments (all eight minutes or less) "pods." Pods are shuffled as viewer requests pop up on the Web site....

Every half-hour Google Current looks at the most popular hits for certain topics or words such as "current," "dark" or "create." It sounds like a cool way to inject some freshness, but even those are repeated.

And where is the sense of humor? On the first day of broadcasting, Current TV seemed a lot like a grown-up version of Sesame Street — without the Muppets.

Is it wrong to make so much fun of them them the minute they launch? Maybe the techy methodology needs some time to kick in and work properly, so it might be unfair to judge them the way we would an ordinary TV show, where great effort would be put into making the debut show very strong. But they made the decision to draw attention to themselves before they started and they got the publicity they sought. They could have started small and built up their reputation slowly, but they wheeled out Al Gore, so they asked for it.

August 2, 2005

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 2.

This is the second day in a 35 day series. Go here for the first day and the explanation of these pages, which date back to 1993. Page 2 deals with the hotel room.

(Click here and here for enlargements.)

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

Bunched pajama pants and popcorn

The Poor Man Cafe links to my "Pajamas Media vs. BlogAds" post and says, among other things:
She doesn’t mention that some people might want to think twice before signing a long-term business deal with a bunch of guys who have spent the last few years explaining how lying and corruption isn’t really lying and corruption and equating disagreement with treason, but that’s what I’m here for. Anyway, long story short, panties become bunched, and Charles Johnson issues a terse rebuttal, which ends with this confidence-inspiring sorta-denial:

I should also mention that we have no plans at all to interfere with or control the content of blogs who sign up for the affiliate program, at either of the two levels.

Oh … good. How reassuring.

Amusingly written, from the left perspective.

Matt Welch just says
"BlogAds vs. Pajamas Media Catfight! Bring popcorn."

Protect yourself from "Six Feet Under" spoilers!

Watch out for, for example. The only true protection is to get up-to-date on your HBO consumption.

UPDATE: For those of you in the know, you might want to buy a "Narm" T-shirt.

Have you noticed how obsessed people are about tags?

I mean, really. These people have gone so far into a little world of their own that they use words like "folksonomies" without defining them. Read on and you'll see they never step back and say something like, Hey, isn't it kind of funny to be obsessing about the tags like this? Let's go out and snap some pictures!

Credit to my son John for pointing out this phenomenon.

Bonus info: I never say "hat tip." Why should I? I sometimes wear a hat, sometimes even a man's fedora-type hat -- I wear an extra large man's hat and no non-stretchy woman's hat fits me. But even when I wear such a hat, I don't tip it at people. That's kind of a man thing. I mean, I know it's a metaphor, but I don't want to adopt the man metaphor. What's a good female variation on "hat tip"?

UPDATE: Sometimes when I put an unusual tag on a picture, I click the tag to see the other Flickr photos with that tag. Like today, with the second page of The Amsterdam Notebooks, I used the tag "zeep" (Dutch for soap) and found maybe four other pictures. And I used the tag "caryatid," and there wasn't a single other picture. Come on! People must be taking pictures of caryatids in museums and in Greece every day. Don't they know the word? But it's on the labels in museums. Anyway, I can't believe I was the only person who ever tagged anything "caryatid."

"Maybe Posner should stop composing his essays with a paint roller and switch to a Sanford Uniball Micro."

Jack Shafer slams Judge Posner's writing, especially his recent essay in the NYT Book Review. I didn't read that very long essay, about journalism, even though it talked about blogging, but according to Shafer I don't need to bother.

Oh, well, there are always many, many things that one could read, that you pass by. Some things reach out to you and some things give off the vibe you don't need to spend time with this. Maybe you pick up the wrong vibe, but you can never even read all the things that reach out to you. If there is one thing that turns me away from someone's writing it's a windy, padded style that might be meant to say I've gone into great depth but really says I'm so busy generating more prose that I won't spend any time turning it into less prose.

Funny to write about blogging verbosely, when blogging puts a high value on concision.

Ah, but I really just wanted to write this post to say: the Sanford Uniball Micro -- damn, that's a great pen. Best pen ever!

Air passenger offenses.

Here's a piece about annoying people on planes. Yeah, I know it's the cliché topic for standup comedians, but a couple things. First, those DVD players:
"You wouldn't believe what people watch," said Mimi Rodriguez, a flight attendant with America West. She says it is not uncommon for people to watch pornography on board; if a passenger complains, she asks the offending party to step into the galley and tells him that his film choice is making some fellow travelers uncomfortable.

"But it's not a violation of regulations," she says. "We usually ask them to turn it off or turn the screen so it can't be seen." Most comply, she adds.
If I was sitting next to some guy who was watching pornography, his just turning the screen so I couldn't see it wouldn't be quite enough. I'd still be ... sitting next to a guy who is watching pornography.

Then there's the food:
If assaults on fliers' eyes and ears are increasing, so are attacks on their noses. Strongly aromatic foods like the Korean dish kimchi can really stink up a cabin, she says. So can less exotic fare, like hard-boiled eggs.
Yes, eggs, cold eggs. You know how I feel about that.

Listening to one person talk.

The playwright David Hare is trying to revive the love of the lecture (via A&L Daily):
The prevailing wisdom is that enlightenment may best be reached through argy-bargy. And yet in practice how infrequent it is, on television or radio, that the Socratic equivalent of men's tennis - massive slams hit back and forth from the baseline - actually illuminates anything at all. Panels are even worse. Taking part frustrates me as much as listening. What's the point? Why attend a forum in which as soon as anyone says anything interesting, somebody else has at once to be encouraged to interrupt, supposedly to generate conflict, but more often to dispel the energy of the previous speaker?

And picture the law school classroom. The conventional wisdom is that properly conducted classes are Socratic or at least "discussion." We think that if we can get everybody arguing with each other, it's just great.

(By the way, I love the word "argy-bargy." I've got to use that more... I mean, for the first time.)
When one person speaks and is encouraged to develop his or her ideas, then it is we, the audience, who provide the challenge.... In each of our hearts and minds, we absorb, judge and come to our own conclusions. The dialectic is, thankfully, not between a group of equally ignorant people thrashing out a series of arbitrary subjects about which they know little and care less. It is between an informed individual who, we hope, has thought long and hard about their own area of specialisation, and an audience which is ready honestly to assess what the speaker has to say.
Hmmm... so, do you want to hear more lectures? Should more of the law school classroom experience be listening to lecturing? Or should we stick with the argy-bargy?

Blogging: is it serious or fun?

Stephen Bainbridge is saying that blogging -- for lawprofs anyway -- is just for fun. He's reacting to Douglas Berman who's asking the dauntingly somber question: "How might we improve blogs as an academic medium?" Well, jeez, Doug, if you're going to phrase it like that, you're going to propel me all the way over to hedonistic side, where I don't even want to be.

Berman's regular blog is "Sentencing Law and Policy," so you can see where he's coming from. He's in that part of the law blogosphere where each blog is dedicated to a particular area of legal scholarship. He asks how we can transform blogging into "a more respected and trusted academic medium." He doesn't say, but I suspect his answer is that lawprofs need to dedicate their blogs to their specific areas of professional expertise -- like Sentencing Law and Policy. No more politics and photographs and idle thoughts about music and TV.

No wonder Bainbridge responds with "Yuck." He calls blogging a "hobby," a nice break from professional obligations.

If I had to pick, I'd go with Bainbridge, but in fact, I reject both the work and play models. Blogging means much more to me than either concept expresses. Blogging is life -- in writing, in public. It's not a job or a break from a job. It's everything you might think about. Blogging is art.

August 1, 2005

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 1.

In the summer of 1993, I took a trip to Amsterdam, traveling alone and without a camera. I had a Mont Blanc pen filled with fountain India ink and two spiral-bound sketchbooks, and I was tremendously influenced by Bill Griffith's travel sketches, collected in "Get Me a Table Without Flies, Harry." I spent perhaps a week in Amsterdam and filled the two sketchbooks. When I got home, I xeroxed all the pages and assembled them in an order that made sense to me, producing 35 pages that I called The Amsterdam Notebooks. The other day, something, I forget what, reminded be of the Notebooks, and I decided to scan the pages an upload them one-by-one for 35 days. It's August 1st, so maybe it's a good day to begin. Here's page 1 (click here to enlarge):

Amsterdam Notebook

UPDATE: I just remembered what set me to thinking about the notebooks. It's in a comment of mine in this post. And if you're trying to read the text in that first picture without enlarging it, don't misread it. It says: "Art Rages."


Amsterdam Notebook

Blogosphere hemispheres.

The Anchoress worries about the blogosphere splitting.

Two idle questions about music.

1. What is the peak year for you, for your favorite music recordings? I'm torn between 1965 and 1966 for reasons best illustrated here, here, here, and here. I'm going to go with 1966, with this single as the big tiebreaker.

2. Which great singer's reputation was most harmed by going into the movies, and which great singer's reputation was most improved? I won't give my personal selections, because they are so obvious. In fact, I think the answers are so obvious that it would be a better question to ask: Which great singer's reputation was second most harmed by going into the movies, and which great singer's reputation was second most improved?

Passage des Panoramas.

Passage des Panoramas
Originally uploaded by John Cohen.
My son John is home from Paris, with lots of photos to upload into Flickr. I love the photoset from the Passage des Panoramas.

"Electing Justice."

Glenn Reynolds has a review in the NY Post of Richard Davis's new book "Electing Justice."
Opponents of Supreme Court elections — among whom I probably fall — will have to come up with better arguments than "people are too stupid" if they expect to prevail. And if the people really are too stupid to take part in these decisions, then what about all those interest groups that claim to represent the people?

I was much more negative toward Davis's proposal in my NYT review of the same book:
Where would the candidates come from? Davis suggests the president could nominate a slate of candidates, and he imagines the Senate holding hearings and issuing reports. But what would the campaigns look like? And what would stop these elections from degenerating into referendums on, say, abortion?

One searches vainly in the pages of this book for any discussion of the changes elections might work on the Court's own conception of its role. It is already accused of being too political. Currently, at least there is an effort to appoint highly qualified jurists who will uphold the rule of law. Even if political ideology underlies the process, the nominee is still generally someone steeped in the legal culture who is going to profess faith in legal principles. Electing justices would not just change the selection phase, it would reshape how justices thought about their role. What would happen to the culture of law once the justices had their own constituents?

UPDATE: I don't know if you've noticed that I've been tinkering with the subheading to this blog and have replaced the old description of the contents, first with a quote from Slate and then, just this morning, with an old quote from Jonah Goldberg. Now, it seems Glenn Reynolds is making a big pitch to get a quote up there. I'm sorely tempted! What do you think?

Pushing Bible study in public schools.

Here's an article about the push by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools to do what its name says: add the study of the Bible to public school curricula. The program, according to the organization, has been adopted by 312 school districts in 37 states.

While there is clearly nothing wrong per se with studying the Bible in public schools -- a local high school here in Madison has a "Bible as Literature" course, for example -- there are some ways of teaching about the Bible that violate the Establishment Clause.

The program discussed in the article is accused of concealing a "religious agenda":
The critics say it ignores evolution in favor of creationism and gives credence to dubious assertions that the Constitution is based on the Scriptures, and that "documented research through NASA" backs the biblical account of the sun standing still....

According to Charles Haynes of the Freedom Forum, which published "The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide" five years ago, "The distinction is between teaching the Bible and teaching about the Bible - it has to be taught academically, not devotionally."

The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools says its course "is concerned with education rather than indoctrination of students."

"The central approach of the class is simply to study the Bible as a foundation document of society, and that approach is altogether appropriate in a comprehensive program of secular education," it says....

A highly critical article in The Journal of Law and Education in 2003 said the course "suffers from a number of constitutional infirmities" and "fails to present the Bible in the objective manner required."

The journal said that even supplementary materials were heavily slanted toward sectarian organizations; 83 percent of the books and articles recommended had strong ties to sectarian organizations, 60 percent had ties to Protestant organizations, and 53 percent had ties to conservative Protestant organizations, it said....

Some of the claims made in the national council's curriculum are laughable, said Mark A. Chancey, professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, who spent seven weeks studying the syllabus for the freedom network. Mr. Chancey said he found it "riddled with errors" of facts, dates, definitions and incorrect spellings. It cites supposed NASA findings to suggest that the earth stopped twice in its orbit, in support of the literal truth of the biblical text that the sun stood still in Joshua and II Kings.

"When the type of urban legend that normally circulates by e-mail ends up in a textbook, that's a problem," Mr. Chancey said.
When people want to use the study of the Bible as a way to inculcate public school kids with religion, they tend to go about it in a way that reveals this intention. They light a fire under critics and make it easy for them to bring successful lawsuits. They alienate people who simply care about good education, who ought to want children to learn the historical and cultural significance of the Bible. What a shame!

UPDATE: Kevin Drum is really irked by the quality of the journalism in the linked NYT article. He has a point!

The real reason Jimi didn't go to Vietnam?

Did you see there's a new Jimi Hendrix bio that claims he procured a discharge from the Army by saying he'd fallen in love with another soldier? (Kos has this discussion going.) Hendrix told people he'd been injured in a parachute jump. The book also says he only enlisted to avoid going to jail for stealing cars.

I wonder if that's true. Just recently, I was looking at his childhood drawings at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was quite struck by his vivid interest in the military.

The author of the biography needs a newsy, juicy nugget to get publicity, and this allegation works awfully well. I hope it's not true.

I was just sitting in a café yesterday where they were playing "Are You Experienced?" and fell into a reverie about Jimi. I thought that of all the rock stars who checked out of this world early, the one it would have benefitted us the most to keep with us was Jimi.

July 31, 2005

"What are you, some redneck blogger pig?"

Claire just said that on "Six Feet Under" -- to her new boyfriend, who defended the war in Iraq.

UPDATE: Come into the comments to discuss the episode. If you haven't seen it, watch out for spoilers inside.

ANOTHER UPDATE: There's a nascent Television Without Pity forum thread for Ted, the guy Claire asked the quoted question. It begins:
Well, I guess it had to happen sooner or later. One HBO show had to have an out & proud Republican.

MORE: The Ted thread isn't there anymore, but it's nice to know that Ted went on to be a very important character, who was always respected by the show's writers.

Visions from the Land of Mu.

Visit the home of Eddie Owens Martin:
Entering the seven-acre property, off a wooded, rural road, is surreal — it's as if you've walked onto an abandoned stage set for a sci-fi movie or some clown cult's hideout.

The main house and five other structures are painted in bright colors, with patterns reminiscent of a Hindu temple, or perhaps what a stoned Southerner would think a Hindu temple might look like. On walls, posts and free-standing statues, Martin depicted alien creatures that look like extras from a David Bowie music video.

The creatures — which Martin said were from Mu — have long, tendrous hair, almond eyes and knowing expressions. Virtually every part of the property is covered with wild patterns and images of strange beings — so much so that it is jarring to come across anything normal, like a refrigerator or table. Even the bathroom has odd designs on the walls.
I love stuff like this.

Structuring the facts -- isn't that the lawyerly approach?

Here's an article by law school memoirist Alex Wellen about gaming the U.S. News & World Report ranking system:
As part of its methodology, U.S. News factors in how much a law school spends per student. But just how those costs are calculated has become a matter of considerable discussion, both in legal education circles and at the American Bar Association.

Consider library costs at the University of Illinois College of Law in Urbana-Champaign. Like all law schools, Illinois pays a flat rate for unlimited access to LexisNexis and Westlaw's comprehensive online legal databases. Law students troll them for hours, downloading and printing reams of case law. To build user loyalty, the two suppliers charge institutions a total of $75,000 to $100,000 a year, far below per-use rates.

But in what it calls a longstanding practice, Illinois has calculated a fair market value for these online legal resources and submitted that number to U.S. News. For this year's rankings, the school put that figure at $8.78 million, more than 80 times what LexisNexis and Westlaw actually charge. This inflated expense accounted for 28 percent of the law school's total expenditures on students, according to confidential data filed with U.S. News and the bar association and provided to The New York Times by legal educators who are critical of rankings and concerned about the accurate reporting of data.

These student expenditures affect only 1.5 percent of a school's U.S. News ranking, but this is a competition where fractions of a point matter. In this year's survey, the magazine ranked Illinois No. 26 of 179 accredited law schools.
Oh, but surely it ought to count for something that these law schools know how to structure the facts to present a strong case to U.S. News.

How about this strategy:
At New York University, Columbia and the University of California, Berkeley, for example, the law schools accept a large number of second-year transfer students, some with LSAT scores and undergraduate G.P.A.'s below those accepted in their first year. "Transfer is almost solely on first-year performance," says Edward Tom, director of law admissions at Berkeley.

Professor Stake of Indiana observes: "It works to schools' U.S. News advantage to do this - to close their doors to first-year students, in turn raising the school's LSAT's and grades, and then open their doors to the second-year program to raise revenue."
And then there's the way some law schools hire their own graduates for short-term legal research positions to make a nice showing on the percentage of graduates with employment upon graduation -- not to mention the way the schools justify this behavior:
"The general attempt by the law schools to make sure that their students get jobs is a good thing," [Professor Stake of Indiana] says.

Northwestern University has also hired graduates for short internships. "I don't think it's unethical if you're giving some value to your students," says David Van Zandt, its law dean.
There, now, I hope I didn't make you hate lawyers any more than you already do.

"The asexual, unmaternal, left-leaning eyes of a poorly groomed woman."

Don't miss the hilarious Joe Queenan review of Edward Klein's book "The Truth About Hillary." I'll just list my favorite phrases:
"Waterworld'' stinks, but it does not reek

short-haired women from the sapphic charnel house Wellesley College

Geraldo Rivera's sublimely vile autobiography, ''Exposing Myself"

only about the 16th sleaziest book I have ever read

referred to by classmates as ''Sister Frigidaire"

the asexual, unmaternal, left-leaning eyes of a poorly groomed woman

manipulative pinkos who were playing for the other team

commie gangsters associated with mobbed-up trade unions

"Conservative Rigor"?

The NYT has a front-page piece today on the new Supreme Court nominee with a headline that really struck me: "Supreme Court Nominee Stood Out for Conservative Rigor." My instinctive response: Conservatives need to worry about whether this "conservative rigor" -- presumably, some sort of meticulous attention to precise, detailed analysis -- is going to produce the outcomes they like. There's absolutely no reason to think that a rigorous methodological style reliably produces outcomes political conservatives like. Judges can make a huge show of rigor and still come out with liberal decisions. David Souter does it all the time.

But let's look at the article:
"John's conservatism was in fact a sign of intellectual courage, coming out of Harvard and being surrounded by law clerks from mainly liberal, East Coast, Ivy institutions," said John A. Siliciano, a law professor at Cornell who clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall at the same time.

His was "a very solid, rigorous, coherent view of very important social questions," Professor Siliciano said, "about the relations between courts and legislatures, about the relationship between the federal government and the state, between the public sphere and the private."

Yes, and what was that view?
"John certainly was in sync with his justice," said Paul M. Smith, who clerked for Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. and is now a lawyer in Washington who frequently appears before the Supreme Court.

Got any details? Does that even mean anything more than that he dutifully did the assigned work or got along personally with Rehnquist?
[A]s far as Supreme Court terms go, Mr. Roberts served during a relatively routine one that included important cases on the First Amendment, federalism and sex discrimination, and ended with a notable affirmation of executive power.
That notable case was Dames & Moore v. Regan, which, the Times writes, "took an exceptionally deferential view of executive power." Hmm, yeah, but it also did what had to be done, from a completely pragmatic perspective (that is, leave in place the deal Jimmy Carter made with Iran to get the hostages released). It was virtually a unanimous decision, with only Jusice Powell partially dissenting. All the liberal justices joined Rehnquist's opinion. It is notable that Judge Roberts recently "accept[ed] the Bush administration's position that it could block claims against Iraq from American soldiers who had been tortured there during the Persian Gulf war," but it's not particularly interesting that he cited Dames & Moore. It's the standard precedent, not some special case he'd be especially attuned to because of his clerkship with Rehnquist.

Let's continue:
Few if any of the memorandums found so far from Mr. Roberts's clerkship shed much light on his political leanings. They are, if anything, concise and reliant on procedural points. ...

Most justices hired clerks who shared their views. But the Rehnquist clerks did not wear their politics on their sleeves, said Robert B. Knauss, a Los Angeles lawyer who also clerked for the justice that year.

"Frankly, the people that did were the liberal clerks, who were more out there, more aggressive, more, frankly, intolerant," Mr. Knauss said. "There were a few that were pretty aggressive that would try to come into the chambers and lobby you."
So this impression those other clerks expressed: where did it come from? What substance did it have? Was it mostly an inference based on their own aggressively liberal views? Where is this "conservative rigor" -- and what is it?

There are also the memos Roberts wrote as a clerk, which are available because Justice Blackmun allowed his papers to go public. But the Times finds nothing of substance worth mentioning: "Roberts's memorandums stand out as terse, lucid and even elegant." So, he's good on style. (And, really, why wouldn't everyone who gets a Supreme Court clerkship have a "terse, lucid and even elegant" writing style?)

Friends, despite the headline, there is absolutely nothing in this article that supports the prediction that Judge Roberts has a strong conservative political perspective on the substance of legal issues.

Pajamas Media vs. BlogAds -- the blogger's perspective.

Let's assume you're a reasonably successful blogger who would like to make money from the writing you put into your blog. You currently have BlogAds, which advertisers buy by the week, month, or quarter. So you must continually attract new advertisers, but you are also always free to adjust your prices. Thus, if you're getting a lot of advertisers and the number of visitors to your blog is increasing, you can raise your prices. If traffic flags or advertisers lose interest, you can lower your prices. You also have the power to accept or reject each ad, so no ad that you don't like ever appears on your blog.

Now, you're presented with an offer from Pajamas Media, and to accept the offer, you will need to give up the top four slots in your sidebar, displacing BlogAds. You are offered a set price to sign on for a year (or 18 months). You will no longer have to worry about attracting new advertisers: the company has taken on the risk. They will find the advertisers and place the ads on your blog for you. You will no longer be able to reject ads, and the ads are likely to come from advertisers of bigger commercial products rather than the kind of products that have been using BlogAds.

Should you switch to Pajamas Media? I can't answer that question for you, and not just because I'm not your lawyer. I don't know enough about you. I can't look into your heart. With Pajamas Media, they've promised to pay a set amount money, so you won't have to worry about continually attracting advertisers. BlogAds will put pressure on you to continue to write the kind of blog that people will want to visit, but it lets you increase your income if your traffic increases and allows you to continue to control how your blog looks. With BlogAds, you're an independent entrepreneur, with Pajamas, you're more like an employee (with a one-year contract).

Who would do best with the Pajamas deal? A blogger with peak traffic now, who is going into a period of decline, who sees himself tailing off, is looking for a mellow way to extract cash from the value he's already created, and who doesn't care so much about what the blog actually looks like or what products he's displaying. Perhaps Pajamas offered this blogger an amount equal to what he made on BlogAds over the past year, but his BlogAds income had already started to decline: he might want to lock in at that level and relax.

Who would do best with BlogAds? A blogger who predicts increased traffic in the future, who doesn't mind or enjoys the ongoing incentive to keep up or improve the quality of his writing, who wants to be in a position to benefit if the blog becomes more attractive to advertisers, and who wants to control which ads appear on the blog. If this blogger received a Pajamas offer equal to the amount he'd made on BlogAds over the past year, but his BlogAds income had been on the increase, so that the offer was only one third of his current BlogAds rate of income, he'd probably puzzle over how Pajamas could possibly believe they'd made a decent offer.

Which company, Pajamas or BlogAds, has the better business model? Pajamas is positioning itself to pitch to big advertisers of the sort that now advertise in mainstream media. They will aggregate the visitors of many blogs and present that attractive, large number to advertisers. But they are trusting that the bloggers, once signed on and entitled to set payments, will keep up the good work and continue to draw visitors, even though the bloggers who took the deal will be the kind of people who saw advantage to themselves in a deal like that. BlogAds might be overshadowed by Pajamas if enough bloggers take that deal, but it will still have the kind of advertisers it's had all along, who are working on a style of advertising designed for the blog environment. And it will have the advantage of keeping the bloggers who cared the most about the content of their blogs and who chose to retain the risk of their own future success.

UPDATE: Charles Johnson counts "three inaccuracies" in this post: "1) bloggers who sign up with us do have veto power over ads we place on their sites, 2) we have two plans so that people who want to continue using Blogads can do so, and 3) bloggers do not give up visual control over their sites, any more than with Blogads." Okay, I made a scrupulous effort to get the facts straight based on reading the email Pajamas Media sent me, so if I've gotten anything wrong we need to consider whether their email conveyed the information properly. If I'm going to yoke myself to an operation for a year, I need to believe they are competent, and the first evidence of their competence is the quality of the email they sent me!

Let's look at it, and you see if you can find any reference to the veto power the blogger has over the ads, Johnson's point #1. And see if you can figure out what point #3 is supposed to mean that doesn't repeat point #1. As to point #2, I didn't state anything inaccurately about that. The fact is: even the basic plan requires you to give the top four slots to Pajamas. Your BlogAds will be underneath all of their stuff, unless you clutter your blog with a second sidebar. In either case, your BlogAds are displaced and clearly will have to sell for less.[IMPORTANT UPDATE: Free Will emails and correctly points out that both a second sidebar and putting BlogAds lower in the single sidebar violates the BlogAds terms of agreement. See Rules 4.4 and 4.6.]

Here's the email:
Dear Pajamas Media Blogger Colleague:
Don't bother addressing me by name.
As we said in previous email to you, the most important goal of Pajamas Media is to extend the power and influence of weblogs. We intend to do this by formalizing the voice of bloggers as Senior and Affiliated Contributors to a Pajamas Media-led electronic media. (The name is currently being researched.)
Are you going to pitch to the advertisers in language this exciting?
We wanted to thank you for your interest in joining Pajamas Media and invite you to work with our new initiative as an “Affiliated Contributor.” We have structured two different levels or options – a Standard and a more Basic Affiliated Contributor. Under each model you would be paid an amount of money for us to link and leverage your content as well as to utilize your advertising space.
First, let’s take a look at the affiliation side of the relationship:

If you elect to be a Standard Affiliated Contributor:
  • We will work together to do a profile of you and your blog
  • We are able to provide a directory link to your blog
  • We are able to use occasional content on the “common” areas of our site.
  • You limit your content on RSS feeds to title and or summary – but not whole story
So you "are able" to do some things. You're phrasing what I'm giving you as if you are offering to do something, but you're not actually promising to do it.
If you elect to be a Basic Affiliated Contributor:

  • We are able to provide a directory link to your blog

In other words, I'll get to be on your blogroll?

Of course we also want to ensure there is an economic aspect to the relationship that works for you – so now let’s take a look at the advertising side of the two options:

As an Affiliated Contributor, you will be offered guaranteed payments!

Don’t blink twice. You are going to be paid to blog!

I'm supposed to somehow be amazed that I could make money blogging? But I have BlogAds already, and the amount you are about to offer me is far less than I'm currently making with BlogAds. What is amazing me is that you're writing to me as if I'm a babe-in-the-woods.

Earning Levels for Standard or Basic Affiliations

Your blog name is: Ann Althouse

The following is a personalized offer, based on your estimated traffic.

Standard -- [amount deleted, mostly out of embarrassment!] per year. [amount deleted] per quarter starting 4th quarter 2005 for six quarters. Plus a signing bonus of [amount deleted] payable as quickly as possible after your site is “ad ready” for a total of [amount deleted]. You will receive this if you reserve all available ad space for Pajamas for a period of 18 months.

Basic -- [amount deleted] per year. [amount deleted] per quarter starting 4th quarter 2005 for a period of 12 months. This will be paid if you reserve your Top Four ad spaces on the right or left hand column for Pajamas Media, and do not wish to display the more extensive ads referred to above.

So the Standard plan, the one that has them making some kind of attempt to promote my blog through their portal, requires me to oust BlogAds altogether, and the Basic plan forces me to give them the top four slots in the sidebar. My post is absolutely accurate with respect to the displacement of BlogAds. Yes, I realize I can still have them, if I take the Basic plan and put them under all this new material. But who's going to buy them down there -- especially with all the new commercial ads that are going to change the tone of the blog? [IMPORTANT UPDATE: As noted above, displaying BlogAds this way would actually violate the BlogAds terms of agreement.]

So there you have the plan – two options involving different degrees of content affiliation, different terms, different ad spaces, and different payment levels and mechanisms. In short – you can choose how closely you would like to be affiliated with our new journey!

Journey? Is there anything less hip than calling something a "journey"? Where exactly are we going? I'm picturing a primrose path.
The following chart sets forth the primary differences between the levels:
I'm not preserving the chart form, but all the content is here:

Profile of you on the Portal
Standard--YES Basic--No

Directory link from the Pajamas Portal to your Weblog
Standard--YES Basic--YES

The use of content from your Blog on the Portal “Common Areas”
Standard-- YES Basic--No


Pajamas has exclusive ad space on all pages (home, comment, etc) including IAB Ad Units
Standard--YES Basic--No

Pajamas has top FOUR spaces on right or left column
Standard--YES Basic--YES

All ads will comply with BAS Standard developed by Advisors. (see below)
Standard--YES Basic--YES

Pajamas gets full use of RSS feeds.
Standard--YES Basic--YES


Term of Agreement
Standard--18 months Basic--12 months

Did you see anything there about a power to veto ads? How about in this next part?
Because we are concerned about the quality of the advertising we place on your blog, all ads will be required to comply with our Blog Ad Standards (BAS), which will be determined by our advisory board, made up of fellow bloggers. Because technology and the marketplace keep changing, we will keep changing the BAS to ensure that all ads placed through this plan are blog-appropriate.
So some board of advisors is making judgments about the ads, with whatever standards they come up with. Where's the part about me deciding? Did I miss something?
Our rough schedule is to start some preliminary advertisements in mid-August, with late September as our grand opening. However, you will receive your full payment for the 4th quarter of 2005 (Oct 1 – Dec 31) regardless of whether we are placing ads by then or not.

How do I Sign Up?

You simply click on this link which will take you to our website:

[URL deleted.]

There you may select either the Standard or Basic plan, and you may be asked to input some additional information. You will receive your contract, with instructions for signing on, by email within 5 business days of sending in your information. You are not obligated to anything until you send back the agreement.
I clicked on the link and got to a page with the choice between Standard and Basic. There was no more information there -- certainly nothing about an ad veto power. I didn't proceed any futher, so I didn't get a copy of the contract to peruse. Perhaps the elusive veto power is in there. Any inaccuracies for failure to guess what's in that part of the Pajamas Media reading material are regrettable, but scarcely my fault. The offer I received was far too terrible to accept with or without that veto power, but a competent business ought to forefront the positive aspects of a deal. It's normally the negatives that you'd squirrel away in the fine print. And you want to be my advertising agent?

So that’s it for now. If you have any questions, please contact

Best wishes,
The Pajamas Media Team

I only have one question: how could you possibly think you've made me an offer I could accept?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Lots of hot discussion in the comments. Check it out. But the main thing I'm updating to say is that Ace of Spades -- whose traffic level is very similar to mine -- has the same complaint about the offer I have.

FURTHER UPDATE: Charles Johnson is in fact wrong that the blogger can continue using BlogAds, and I was also wrong to think that putting BlogAds lower or in a second column was acceptable: these ways this way of displaying BlogAds are is not merely undesirable, they it violates the terms of the BlogAds agreement: Rules 4.4 and 4.6.

MORE: Sorry, I was wrong to think the second column approach was forbidden.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I just noticed the line "Your blog name is: Ann Althouse." My blog name isn't Ann Althouse! So they don't even get the name of my blog right. I'm guessing they made the email weirdly impersonal because they were worried about not giving off a sufficiently professional aura. But that writing quirk is, in fact, amateurish.