September 7, 2005

Should Chief Justice Roberts keep the gold stripes on the robe?

Underneath Their Robes asks and answers:
Here are some points for and against Chief Justice Roberts keeping the gold braid stripes. On the one hand, the modest and unpretentious John Roberts might want to dispense with the pomp and blend in with his fellow justices, placing greater emphasis on the "equals" part of the Chief Justice's status as "first among equals." On the other hand, Chief Justice Roberts might want to retain the gold bars as a tribute to his predecessor and mentor. Removal of the stripes would constitute a repudiation of Rehnquist's sartorial legacy at the Court.
I say he should keep the stripes as a tribute. The tribute rational will tend to cancel the tendency to call it pompous. But then I liked Rehnquist having the stripes. It never seemed that pompous to me. It seemed more like he didn't take himself deadly seriously — which is what the plain black robes are about. He was inspired by an opera! I'm thinking he thought why must everything always be so somber and sober. And then he does something fun and people act like he's a big stuffed shirt? What a drag to be a judge! I think Roberts better use those stripes to keep his spirits up. And underneath: plaid pants!

By the way, that UTR post is full of interesting links and comments, including an attempt to answer my question about why Souter, alone among the Justices, declined to issue a statement on the death of Chief Justice Rehnquist. No one seems to have a good answer, so it's an occasion to make up reasons, in the style of a Letterman Top Ten list.

IN THE COMMENTS: Especially good comments here, including more than one Top Ten list and some alternate suggestions on how Roberts could glamorize his robe. And what's stopping the rest of them from fooling around with the uniform?

The completely covered face in the driver's license photo.

A Florida appellate court rejected the claim of a Muslim woman who wanted to appear veiled in her driver's license photo, with only her eyes showing.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles issued [Sultaana] Freeman, 38, a license in 2001 showing her veiled with only her eyes visible, but later suspended it.

Freeman sued, claiming the suspension infringed upon her First Amendment rights.

In 2003, Circuit Judge Janet C. Thorpe agreed with authorities that letting people show only their eyes would undermine efforts to stop terrorists. That same year, Gov. Jeb Bush signed legislation requiring a picture of a driver's full face on a license.

The appeals court found enforcement of the law "did not compel Freeman to engage in conduct that her religion forbids -- her religion does not forbid all photographs."
That's a rather strange way to word the problem. Her religion doesn't require her to have a driver's license, I assume. So even if her religion did forbid all photographs, the law wouldn't require her to engage in conduct that her religion forbids. But perhaps her religion requires her to veil most of her face? Then the law compels her to do something against her religion to the same extent that it would if her religion had forbidden all photographs. I don't think the ultimate answer should depend entirely on whether the law forbids what the religion requires, but it would be nice if the court could at least get it straight whether that is what is happening.

I haven't read the case, only the news report. Maybe I'm being unfair to the judge.

Search engine visitors.

I've been getting a lot of extra traffic from Google and other search engines in the last three days, mostly people coming to read this post about Wolf Blitzer observing that the Katrina victims are "so poor" and "so black." I wonder if the interest in that bungled comment of his is really so great, which would be significant, or if I just happen to rank high in the searches, which is a boring happenstance. I have to resist getting absorbed in trying to understand things by reading my Site Meter reports. I find them fascinating, in a really low-level way — unfortunately.

"I suspect that the sexual future of the forty-something woman involves having more than one partner at all times."

Just something I read in the paper.

[I]t seems like most men just can't keep up with our needs. I have no idea what men are doing with their supposedly outrageous sex drives because we are just not getting the satisfaction we deserve.

38% said "no one is to blame."

How impressively cool-headed people are about absorbing tragedy. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll taken in the last two days.
13% said George W. Bush is "most responsible for the problems in New Orleans after the hurricane"; 18% said "federal agencies"; 25% said "state and local officials"; 38% said "no one is to blame"; 6% had no opinion. -- 29% said that "top officials in the federal agencies responsible for handling emergencies should be fired"; 63% said they should not; 8% had no opinion....

10% said George W. Bush has done a "great" job in "responding to the hurricane and subsequent flooding"; 25% said "good"; 21% said "neither good nor bad"; 18% said "bad"; 24% said "terrible"; 2% had no opinion. -- 8% said federal government agencies responsible for handling emergencies have done a "great" job in "responding to the hurricane and subsequent flooding"; 27% said "good"; 20% said "neither good nor bad"; 20% said "bad"; 22% said "terrible"; 3% had no opinion. -- 7% said state and local officials in Louisiana have done a "great" job in "responding to the hurricane and subsequent flooding"; 30% said "good"; 23% said "neither good nor bad"; 20% said "bad"; 15% said "terrible"; 5% had no opinion.
So 31% put the blame on the federal level and 25% put it at the state/local level. Why do they break down the federal response into Bush and federal agencies and then aggregate the state and local numbers? I guess it's the usual obsession with what everything means for Bush's popularity. No one cares anywhere near as much about the political fortunes of a particular mayor and governor. Yet the actions at the state and city level were quite different, and it's important to think hard about which level of government to trust in various situations.

I like that ordinary people don't go for the demands that someone ought to be fired. We've heard a lot of demands of this kind in recent years, and they usually strike me as beside the point — political rhetoric heated up and served by the party out of power. The new person will have to struggle with the real world difficulties too, and he or she will have less experience. Meanwhile, there will be a superficial impression that action has been taken. And the party out of power can gloat. It's not surprising that Bush doesn't respond to that sort of thing. But it is quite nice that the average person perceives the nature of the political game and disengages.

UPDATE: I talk about more recent polls here.

Connecting Roberts and Katrina — a good Democratic move?

The Boston Globe reports:
Senate Democrats said yesterday that they will invoke the vast disparities in income and living conditions laid bare by the Hurricane Katrina disaster to sharpen their questioning of Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. at his confirmation hearings next week.

The scenes of devastation featuring primarily poor African-American residents in New Orleans have highlighted the widening gap between rich and poor, said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts.

With Roberts having urged a narrow interpretation of civil rights laws in the past, Senate Democrats will link the scenes of economic hardship with the constitutional and legal issues that surround efforts to address racial and economic inequalities, he said.

''We have made very important progress over the period of the last 50 years in knocking down walls of discrimination so that people can participate and be a part of a changed America," said Kennedy, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. ''And he's going to be asked to explain some of his advice that would have, I think, undermined that progress in important ways."...

Roberts has appeared headed for relatively easy confirmation. But Democrats and liberal groups hope that issues raised by Katrina offer a new opening to critique his record on civil rights and to point out differences between Democrats, who favor a powerful role for the federal government, and Republicans, who are more deferential to the states.

Leahy said he watched the scenes of hardship on television with a growing sense of anger over the inability to deliver services to those who depend most on the government, issues he said would come up during the Roberts hearings.
Or did Leahy watch the scenes of hardship on television with a growing sense of how he might try to get the upper hand at the Roberts hearings?

But a Supreme Court justice should have sensitivity about the plight of the poor and the country's longterm problems with racism. Many judges come from relatively privileged backgrounds, and one does have to worry that their judgment will be off as they weigh interests and think about remedies.

It's unpleasant, however, to see the great Katrina catastrophe used to score political points, and politicians that do that risk their own reputations. But at the same time, Katrina has made us look at an aspect of American life that is usually far in the background. It forced us to see how many poor people there are, how so many of them are black, and how government can fail them.

We will see how Kennedy, Leahy, and the others handle themselves if they decide to use this strategy. Of course, Roberts can be counted on to respond well. If those are to be the questions, he will give just the right answers, demonstrating his strong understanding of the problems of poverty and racisim and tying that to his profound commitment to the Constitution.

IN THE COMMENTS: Someone notes Senator Kennedy's experience with the subject drowning. He will want to refrain from saying things trigger that association.

Arlen Specter makes up the term "superprecedent" — Part 2.

Here's Part 1. And Beldar is re-skewering him for it.

Here's the WaPo story quoting Specter.

What's disturbing your sleep these days?

For me, it's acorns.

(They fall, from some distance, onto the roof over my bedroom, intermittently, and then roll off. It's surprisingly loud when everything else is quiet.)

September 6, 2005

Must Roberts now meet an even higher standard?

Wisconsin Senators Kohl and Feingold — both on the Judiciary Committee — both think so, according to this AP report. Here's my favorite part:
Legal scholars in Wisconsin, however, said they thought the bar probably wasn't any higher for Roberts now.

"The standard for an associate justice is high enough so that it is virtually impossible to be any higher," Marquette University law professor Peter Rofes said. "I cannot imagine a standard for the chief justice being higher."

Ann Althouse, a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, agreed.

"I think an associate justice position is so important that it needs full examination," she said. "I can't think what more one could want for the chief justice."

And, no, Rofes and I didn't get together in advance to coordinate (and weren't listening in on each other's phone calls).

So great minds think alike. I'll leave it to you to decide whether the great minds are Kohl and Feingold or me and Rofes.

I forgot to tell you I was going to be on TV.

Just locally here in Madison — on the 5 p.m. news on the NBC station. Did anybody see that? Just a little chatting about Rehnquist/Roberts.

"My favorite color is light pink."

Frances Bean Cobain speaks. (Via Throwing Things.)

"Ironic index entry in the new edition of the Bluebook."

Per my John:
Mitsakes in quotations, indicated by "[sic]," 69

Maynard to God: "You rang?"

So soon after failing to make a public demonstration of mourning upon the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, I'm going to have to cry publicly here over the death of one of my favorite television personalities, Bob Denver.

Just yesterday, re-watching the last episode of my favorite TV show, "The Comeback," I said, "Valerie Cherish is my favorite TV character, ever."

"Really? What about Seinfeld?"

"No." I thought back over all the TV characters I could remember to see if anyone meant so much to me and said, "There's only one other person I can think of: Maynard G. Krebs."

All the obits will forefront Gilligan. But I don't care about Gilligan. It's Maynard I love!

Like, I'm getting all misty.

IN THE COMMENTS: "When you think about it, how many actors play two iconic characters in their careers on TV?" He mentions Mary Tyler Moore and Bea Arthur. For me, Lisa Kudrow sprang instantly to mind. Then there's Patty Duke, who did it on one show. Robert Young. William Shatner? Don Knotts?

"But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing."

Glenn Reynolds expects anyone who donates to disaster relief to display their contribution on a website. Why wouldn't they? Maybe they take Matthew 6 seriously:
1 "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.
IN THE COMMENTS: People offer various interpretations of the scripture and note that you can post the amount you gave anonymously at the website Glenn links to. I respond:
I'm not purporting to interpret this scripture and won't argue about how it should really be read, but I think there is a scruple about calling attention to charity that some people might be hardcore about. Posting even anonymously on a website that is only about advertising charity could be taken as wrong. I note Jesus sounds rather hardcore about it and puts the stakes very high.

I agree that posting the number can serve the independent good of encouraging more donations. But why doesn't Jesus mention that?
UPDATE: A reader writes:
The Matthew quote on your blog attacks Jews (i.e. those who go to synagogues) as hypocrites when it comes to charity. In fact, anonymous giving is considered the highest form of giving in Jewish tradition (see the writings of Maimonides) both in order to save the recipient from the burdens of embarressment or obligation to the donor, and in order to ensure that the real motivation is charity and not self-aggrandizement.
It seems to me that Jesus is part of that tradition then. He's not condemning Jews in general (and, of course, is himself a Jew). He's criticizing anyone who uses charitable giving to show off in various public spaces — "in the synagogues and in the streets." Clearly, doing the same thing in a church or in a secular building or on a website presents the same problem, and clearly, simply being someone who goes to a synagogue is not itself the problem.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Despite the wording of that update, I do realize that Maimonides lived after Jesus. An emailer writes:
Regarding your post on anonymous donation today, you may be aware that Maimonides lived 1000 years after Christ, and as a secular philosopher, was as likely to have been influenced by Christian thought as anything else. Be that as it may, Maimonides, and not the Old Testament, is the most-commonly cited source for Jewish doctrine that anonymous donation is to be valued above others.

It seems to me that anonymous giving is a fine ethical point. I can see why religious and secular teachers might arrive at it independently or by agreeing with each other. I'm afraid if it were pushed in modern America, it would tend to result in people giving a lot less. It's part of our culture to have telethons and celebrity appeals and things like that. I can't really picture a move toward some austere new form of virtue. We do things in our political, showbiz, pop culture way. There's Oprah at the Superdome, and Travolta's flying in with supplies. That's America! I'm not really trying to correct everyone.

The emailer continues:
I acknowledge that there is a purpose to publicizing certain aspects of charity - peer pressure encourages charity. However, I am troubled when charity becomes one more form of divisiveness - an example of which was Ann Coulter's (reported) recent remark that New Yorkers would be slow to reciprocate to the Gulf the help showed them.

Mmm, yeah. I'm not out there looking for it, but I could imagine the blogosphere turning accusatory. The righties are giving more than the lefties! And some would defend that as useful in drumming up more contributions.

First day of classes.

It's the first day of classes here at the University of Wisconsin Law School. Don't you love the fall back-to-school feeling?

The good news from New Orleans.

Here. Ordinary people, I assume, will eagerly consume the good news. Are you absorbed in political finger-pointing? I'm not — and I was last week when I felt that people were suffering and dying because of bad decisions. That's not to say I don't think there should be studies of what went wrong. I do. But I'm interested in things that are oriented to solving problems, and I'm very mistrustful of people who are providing analysis as a means to advance one political interest or another.

Blogging about work.

Here's a letter to the editor in response to Jeremy Blachman's op-ed about why it's good that people blog about the workplace:
In "Job Posting" (Op-Ed, Aug. 31), his defense of corporate employees who blog, Jeremy Blachman writes: "Now that everyone can publish online, we can get these incredible glimpses into worlds we might otherwise never get to see. People across the world can share stories, commiserate and connect with each other. Potential employees can see beyond the marketing pitches."

There is already such a mechanism. It's called literature.

One form of content that can be very effectively delivered via literature is known as fiction, and it can be used to provide all sorts of "incredible glimpses into worlds we might otherwise never get to see," including the worlds of work.

David Sharp
Paris, Aug. 31, 2005
Who gets the better of this exchange, Blachman or Sharp? Of course, I'm going to lean to Blachman. So many reasons spring to mind. Let me jot down a few. Almost anyone, anywhere can blog. It's not limited to persons with elite literary skills. Blog posts go up instantly and can be read instantly. There are millions of blogs, full of variety, and relatively few novels can be published and kept available. You don't have to pay to read a blog. Blog posts can describe isolated details without needing to fit them into some character's dramatic story arc. Writers with the time and ability to produce publishable novels do not populate all parts of the workplace. Novelists don't tend to care very much about the details of how different businesses work: literary novelists concentrate on personal relationships, and popular novelists concentrate on clever or thrilling stories.

I'm not knocking novels. I'm just saying they occupy one niche, and blogs have staked out another. Novels show things blogs don't and blogs show things novels don't. Blachman is right that blogs give us "these incredible glimpses into worlds we might otherwise never get to see." So do novels.

NYT headline switch.

In the paper paper, it's "A Fox TV Station Refuses to Broadcast a Candidate's Ad That Ridicules the President." On the web, it's "Channel 5 Rejects Anti-Bush Ad of Borough President Candidate."

I read the paper version first and looked for it on line so I could blog about, among other things, the overdone political tone of the headline.
A local television station, WNYW/Channel 5, is refusing to run a provocative advertisement promoting a Democratic candidate for Manhattan borough president. And the campaign of the candidate, Brian Ellner, is charging that the station is doing so because the spot takes a swipe at President Bush.

Brian Ellner, right, a candidate for Manhattan borough president, introduced his partner at the end of his commercial.

The 30-second ad features Mr. Bush's face superimposed upon a middle-aged man's naked torso as Mr. Ellner says of the president that "the emperor has no clothes." Mr. Ellner also introduces his partner, Simon Holloway, in the spot - which the campaign says is the first time in city history that a gay candidate has introduced his or her partner in a campaign commercial.

So, did the station reject the ad because Ellner makes a show of being gay, because it ridicules Bush, because it shows a naked torso, because it shows a naked, middle-aged torso, because it puts a real person's face on someone else's naked torso, because that real person is Bush, or because it combines a gay theme and the depiction of Bush naked?
Mr. Ellner said in an interview yesterday that representatives of Channel 5, a Fox affiliate, had told his campaign that they would not show the advertisement because it was "in poor taste."

"It's pretty clear it's an anti-free speech decision because of our criticism of the president," Mr. Ellner said.

"It's untenable and in my view it's anti-American." He added that the rejection of the ad was "disrespectful to voters."
All Ellner needs to do to prove that is point to other ads that the station runs that are at the same level of taste or lower. If you don't have that, maybe you lack the judgment to be Mahattan borough president.

"I wasn't shattered. But I was deeply concerned."

Leonard Cohen.
I ... saw him driving down the street about three weeks ago. He was driving a 1992 Nissan Pathfinder and had this befuddled look on his face. Now I know why.

UPDATE: Mr. Cohen, so many people love your work. Put out your equivalent of "The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories?" and let us help you.

September 5, 2005

"I wish there was a country called al-Qaedia that we could have invaded, but there wasn't."

Dennis Miller likes to say. But now isn't there a city called al-Qaedia?

UPDATE: Just so I don't get any more messages trying to correct my "typo," please try to understand Dennis Miller's joke. No wonder he went off the air! I think it's funny...

"How did a 6-year-old end up being in charge of six babies?"

Deamonte Love, leader among babies.
In the chaos that was Causeway Boulevard, this group of refugees stood out: a 6-year-old boy walking down the road, holding a 5-month-old, surrounded by five toddlers who followed him around as if he were their leader.

They were holding hands. Three of the children were about 2 years old, and one was wearing only diapers. A 3-year-old girl, who wore colorful barrettes on the ends of her braids, had her 14-month-old brother in tow. The 6-year-old spoke for all of them, and he told rescuers his name was Deamonte Love.

In fact, rescuers had separated these children from their parents, and the parents deserve credit for having raised such a beautifully responsible young boy.

On the radio: talking about Chief Justice Roberts.

Needing to be on the radio at 7, I was up unintentionally early at quarter to 5. I read the paper and drove in to the Business School garage next to the University building that houses the public radio station. There's a bat circling around at the level where I normally park, so I drive down another level. I make it to the radio station with a few minutes to spare.

As I sit down to put on the headphones, the assistant comes in with the AP report hot off the wire, marked "URGENT." Bush has picked John Roberts for the Rehnquist vacancy! Ah! I'm here to talk about Rehnquist and the vacancy he's left, so we launch into the hour's discussion with the freshest possible news.

At some point the audio will be The audio is available here.

What did I have to say? I'm impressed by Bush's quick action nominating Roberts. Bush clearly thinks he is the best judge. I expect Bush to act quickly to nominate someone to replace O'Connor and note that O'Connor's resignation has her staying until her placement is confirmed. That means that the Court will have nine members, and there is no worrisome prospect of evenly split decisions. I'm trusting that Roberts will be quickly confirmed (and that no one will die). Don't I think the Democrats will want to delay and examine Roberts even more closely than they were planning to? There will perhaps be a short delay, mostly out of respect for the dead Chief, but I don't think people tolerate much politicizing of the confirmation process. There are two vacancies to get filled and the terrible aftermath of Katrina to deal with. It's not a good time for futile posturing.

But the Democrats have waited so long for this opportunity, and their core constituents are going to expect them to make some showing for themselves. Meanwhile, Bush looks good getting on with it, being crisply decisive — and Roberts is going to inspire us with the look of crisp decisiveness at those hearings. So I'm picturing the Democratic Senators making their points, staking out their positions in a solid, impressive way, without consuming an exasperating amount of time and accepting their defeat with decent grace and a pragmatic appeal for support in the next election.

MORE: If this post were a work of fiction, the bat would mean something. Yet some people would view the bat as meaningful, despite the nonfiction nature of the blog. Oh, okay, I concede there's an element of fantasy in the last sentence of the post, but it's still nonfiction: I really was picturing that ideal response. But anyway, you don't consider the bat an omen or a supernatural presence, do you? I've never seen a bat in the parking garage before, and it was making circles over the precise spot where I'd planned to park my car.

Nomination politics.

The WaPo reports:
The death of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist just days before Senate confirmation hearings for John G. Roberts Jr. set off a scramble in Washington yesterday and presented President Bush a historic opportunity to put his stamp on the Supreme Court for decades to come....

As they sift through names, White House advisers are weighing whether it would be better to announce a nominee quickly or to wait until after the situation in the Gulf Coast is better in hand and the Roberts confirmation process is finished. With his poll ratings at an all-time low, gasoline prices at a longtime high and U.S. troops suffering rising casualties in Iraq, Bush confronts a perilous point in his presidency.
What will be more important to Bush, appointing someone who will shape the law for decades or using the appointment to affect his current political standing? Obviously, the effect on the law is far more important, and, in fact, to make the decision he wants and let the chips fall where they may is what Bush usually does.

As to the timing, what is the political advantage of waiting? Is the theory that he will be more popular in a month or two, so he ought to drag his heels and leave the Court without a Chief Justice? He might as well make the announcement quickly, while there are so many distractions keeping opponents from getting much attention. He's already been through the list over the Roberts nomination, and I can't believe he wasn't fully prepared to have this second appointment this soon.

"The Comeback" — especially Mickey.

Did you watch the final episode of (my favorite TV show) "The Comeback"? As expected, we got to see the edited version of the reality show, which — no one could have been surprised — humiliated Valerie Cherish. Beautifully done, down to the final theme music, "Cherish."

One of the best things about the series was the character Mickey, who came out of the closet last night, a big deal for him, but not worth noticing to anyone else. Here's an interview with Robert Michael Morris, the 65-year-old teacher and theater actor — and former monk — who played Mickey so brilliantly. An excerpt:
Mickey fixes Valerie's hair a lot, and it never really looks any different.

That's a wig she wears. I was told, "Whenever you're not doing anything, touch her hair."

Is Mickey maybe a tiny bit of a sycophant?

He's not a sycophant at all. I think Mickey completely adores her. He wants her to always look her best. If he was a sycophant, and it was only what she could do for him, he wouldn't protect her as much. Mickey and Val share that history that she can rely on.

Why was Mickey so sensitive about people knowing he was gay?

I don't think he's sensitive about being gay. It's just that he's never been open about it. He thinks of himself as just being him. He doesn't think of himself as being almost a stereotype. People always want to say to me, "Are you gay?" My standard answer is, "If I was playing a serial killer, would you ask me if I was a serial killer?" De Niro played Al Capone. Did people think he was a gangster? I let them think what they want to think, because it's nobody's business. Look what happened with "Will & Grace." Eric McCormack and Sean Hayes spend half their time saying, "No, we're not gay."

Oh, yes, isn't it gauche the way those actors who play gay characters go on talk shows and the instant they sit down find ways to make references to their wives?

September 4, 2005


I'll be on Wisconsin Public Radio with Joy Cardin, from 7 to 8 tomorrow morning, talking about Chief Justice Rehnquist and the new vacancy on the Court. On all the "Ideas Network" stations.

The Justices pay tribute to William Rehnquist.

What's with everyone but Souter making a statement on the death of Chief Justice Rehnquist? ("A statement from Justice David Souter is not expected, the court said.")

Of the seven who did make statements:

Those who noted his fairness: Stevens, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Breyer, Ginsburg.

Those who said they'd lost a friend: Stevens, Scalia, Thomas.

Citing his leadership: Stevens, Kennedy, Ginsburg.

Mentioning his sense of humor: Stevens, O'Connor.

Noting his common touch: Kennedy, Ginsburg.

Noting his intellect: Scalia, Kennedy, Breyer.

Noting his dedication to judicial independence: Breyer, Ginsburg.

Paying tribute to his knowledge of the Court's history: Kennedy, Breyer.

Referring to him as "boss": Ginsburg.

No one said they "loved" him, but Justice Kennedy noted that "He loved his family," and Justice Ginsburg said she "held him in highest regard and affection."

Acknowledging his historical greatness: O'Connor.


Check out the entries in the new logo contest at BlogAds. Man, it's hard to make a good logo! I'd just like to say that it is very clear that the word "blog" looks best in all lower case. The b and the g balance each other. Any entry with all caps or a capital B should be rejected, I'm thinking. And any entry that doesn't make a break of some kind between "blog" and "ads" is bad. You can't have people thinking "gad." Gad! That's bad.

"When people see the bread, they don't want to eat it. But when they taste it, it's just normal bread."

Kittiwat's confectionary slaughterhouse.

MORE: Here's a photograph.

"Why in the world is New Orleans below sea level to begin with?"

I was interested in this statement by Mike Tidwell, author of "Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast," who appeared on "Meet the Press" today:
Why in the world is New Orleans below sea level to begin with? I think the media has sort of accepted it uncritically that this city is below sea level which is why we have this problem. Miami is not below sea level. New York's not below sea level. It's below sea level because of the levees. The levees stop the river from flooding and the river's what built the whole coast of Louisiana through 7,000 years of alluvial soil deposits. And if you stop that flooding, the other second natural phenomena in any delta region in the world is subsidence. That alluvial soil is fine, it compacts, it shrinks. That's why New Orleans is below sea level. That's why the whole coast of Louisiana is--the whole land platform is sinking. An area of land the size of Manhattan turns to water in south Louisiana every year even without hurricanes.

You can't just fix the levees in New Orleans. We now have to have a massive coastal restoration project where we get the water out of the Mississippi River in a controlled fashion toward the Barrier islands, restore the wetlands. If you don't commit to this plan which is this $14 billion, costs of the Big Dig in Boston, or two weeks of spending Iraq, you shouldn't fix a single window in New Orleans. You shouldn't pick up a single piece of debris because to do one without the other is to set the table for another nightmare.
I expect to hear a huge debate about these environmental realities. There will be people who just want to rebuild and people putting immense preconditions on rebuilding. Restore the wetlands? "Get the water out of the Mississippi River"? The mind boggles.

Roberts for Chief?

Orin Kerr thinks so. I agree!

Since O'Connor's resignation was contingent on replacement, isn't it possible to switch the Roberts nomination to Chief Justice and have a nine-member Court sitting when the term begins? Then replace Justice O'Connor.

UPDATE: Actually, I think this would be a poor strategy for Bush if his goal is to produce a more conservative Court. In that case, he should follow through with the Roberts nomination ousting the swing voter O'Connor. That is nearly an accomplished feat at this point. If he replaces Rehnquist first, the debate about how a moderate should replace O'Connor will return to square one.

The Harvard Law School collage assignment.

Prettier Than Napoleon went to Harvard Law School and got assigned to make "a collage, a drawing, a crayon rendition, or any form of expression that depicts the qualities of the lawyer you most want to be." She links to the collage, which is hilarious.

She's responding to this Joanne Jacobs post about collaging in a high school pre-calculus class.

What idiotically inappropriate art assignments were imposed on you when you were in school? Law school assignments most heartily welcomed!

What is the educational theory behind this (if any)? I'm guessing it's some sort of attempt to make people who don't take easily to books feel welcome. I have way too many memories of listening to teachers at my kids' schools murmuring about the wonders of "hands on" assignments and "learning by doing" and thinking they don't believe children can learn by reading. Then there's also the whole self-esteem angle, taken to the extreme of making the subject the student himself — what it means to me, how I feel about it, what my self-image is within it. I've got to admit that as a student, I thought about myself a lot. But what I mostly thought is: I'm bored and you people are stealing my precious time.

Arrrgghh! I just had a flashback to a high school art class where I was assigned to make a collage and given the subject: "society." The hell! Anyway, at least it was an art class and not history.

"We have to prepare the country for what may be some very, very difficult pictures."

Said Michael Chertoff just now on "Meet the Press," referring to the sight of dead bodies to be revealed upon what he called the "de-watering" of New Orleans.

Russert is giving Chertoff a good grilling, by the way, asking him if he will resign, if "heads will roll," and how could Bush have said no one anticipated the breach of the levees. Chertoff's strategy is to emphasize what they are trying to do now and how hard it is.

MORE: Chertoff clarifies about what was a surprise about the levees breaking. It was that the storm had already passed without breaking them. The break came after everyone had concluded they'd "dodged a bullet."

UPDATE: The transcript.

On not paying attention to Iraq.

Hurricane Katrina has diverted our attention from Iraq, and now the death of Chief Justice Rehnquist and the Roberts confirmation hearings will further absorb us. If neither of these things were occupying the stage, we would be scrutinizing the constitutional process in Iraq and following the Cindy Sheehan bus caravan. What effect do you think it will have for Americans to pay so much less attention to Iraq? Certainly, those who are committed to the anti-war movement are frustrated to have built up attention to their cause only to see it torn away. Some of them have tried very hard to link Katrina to the Iraq war.

I'm sure such efforts appeal to those who are already against the war, but I tend to think most Americans would find them obtuse or offensive. The theme has been the woeful, overarching incompetence of the Bush administration. If the administration proceeds to do well with the hurricane disaster, it might make people more likely to assume it must be doing well enough in Iraq too. The anti-war activists will feel tempted to point to all the failings of the hurricane effort to keep the general incompetence theme alive. But I think ordinary people feel very bad about the things that went wrong in the Katrina aftermath and will eagerly consume any new flow of good news. They will get tired of those who harp on the bad, especially when it is conspicuously part of a larger political agenda.

UPDATE: I think this new poll reinforces my beliefs about how ordinary people will feel about things.

Pop culture as the cutting edge of politics — in China.

The Chinese vote for "Super Girl":
In a country where it is illegal to organize many types of public meetings, fans formed booster clubs and canvassed malls to court prospective voters. There were even accusations of voter fraud, as rabid fans circumvented the rule limiting each person to 15 votes.

"It's like a gigantic game that has swept so many people into a euphoria of voting, which is a testament to a society opening up," a social commentator, Zhu Dake, told state media.
It's not just the chance to engage in political-style activity that makes this story so compelling. It is the chance to break away from the centralized cultural norms:
Unlike much programming that comes out of Beijing or Shanghai, "Super Girl" featured young women from the provinces. For many fans, it was the lack of polish of the performers, and the lack of predictability of the voting results, that made the program addictive.
And consider the winner, the Super Girl:
[Li Yuchun], 21, is almost the antithesis of the assembly-line beauties regularly offered up on the government's China Central Television, or CCTV. Tall and gangly, with a thatch of frizzy hair, the adjectives most used to describe her in the media were "boyish" or "androgynous." Some commentators speculated that her fan base consisted of young girls who considered her to be their "boyfriend" because of her appearance.
Don't think style isn't part of politics. Smashing the government's image of the feminine matters!

"John, who the hell is that clown?"

Here is Linda Greenhouse's obituary for William H. Rehnquist. It is suitably long. The first substantive legal topic she discusses is federalism. Here's the most colorful passage:
In one of the Watergate tapes, Nixon was recording as referring to "that group of clowns" at the Justice Department, "Renchburg and that group." According to an account by John W. Dean, Nixon's White House counsel, Nixon stopped by briefly at a meeting that Mr. Rehnquist was running and later summoned his counsel to ask: "John, who the hell is that clown?"

"I beg your pardon?" Mr. Dean replied.

"The guy dressed like a clown, who's running the meeting," the president said in an evident reference to Mr. Rehnquist's pink shirt and clashing psychedelic necktie.

Nonetheless, Nixon nominated him...

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 35, the final page.

It's the last day of this 35 day project. The full set is now available here.

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

With that, we close The Amsterdam Notebooks — and see a final litter square on the back cover, a detail from Page 1:

Amsterdam Notebook

Once again, we wonder: Does it?

MORE: "A final litter square"? I meant little, but I'm going to accept the typo as a true Freudian slip.

"Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals."

The Washington Post reports on the power struggles in the Katrina aftermath:
Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.

The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.

A senior administration official said that Bush has clear legal authority to federalize National Guard units to quell civil disturbances under the Insurrection Act and will continue to try to unify the chains of command that are split among the president, the Louisiana governor and the New Orleans mayor.

Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.

I can't imagine letting even one person die to protect my political reputation. How many people died because of self-protective decisions like what this article suggests Blanco did?

UPDATE: As to the last sentence of the WaPo quote, the newspaper now has a correction at the link:
A Sept. 4 article on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina incorrectly said that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) had not declared a state of emergency. She declared an emergency on Aug. 26.

There's much discussion in the comments, much of it fueled by seeing this mistake by the paper, about whether the administration officials are "lying" about their attempts to wrest control from the governor and her resistance. I'm not seeing any evidence that this part of the article is wrong.

September 3, 2005

Chief Justice Rehnquist dies.


ADDED: I am stunned. I can't believe he's gone. He has been so important for so long. It's hard to believe there's a news story capable of overshadowing Katrina. I wonder what Bush will do. Do you think he might elevate Justice Thomas to Chief Justice? Do you think Judge Roberts will be chosen? A new era is upon us. What an effect this man has had! He was one of the greatest Wisconsin citizens ever, born here in Milwaukee, in 1924.

"A least 200 New Orleans police officers have walked away from their jobs and two have committed suicide."

Reports the NYT:
Some officers officially told their superiors they were leaving, police officials said. Others worked for a while and then stopped showing up. Still others, for reasons not always clear, never made it in after the storm.

From the Superintendent of Police Eddie Compass:
"If I put you out on the street and made you get into gun battles all day with no place to urinate and no place to defecate, I don't think you would be too happy either... Our vehicles can't get any gas. The water in the street is contaminated. My officers are walking around in wet shoes."

Would the NY Police have reacted to adversity that way? Think what they did after 9/11.

IN THE COMMENTS: I want to quote something I wrote in there:
Let me just say that I think my post is too harsh. I understand the pressure these people face. I doubt that I would do better. But I wish there were more stories of heroics after Katrina. I keep thinking of 9/11 because there were so many positive stories to counterweight the horrible then. 9/11 was a story of great evil and great good in human beings. Katrina is more of a story of ordinary things: nature and imperfect people.

Salvation Army.

I see that my BlogAd from turned into a Salvation Army ad. That wasn't my doing. They contributed the ad spot they bought from me to the Salvation Army. Very nice! (The Mercy Corps ad is one I put up free.)

Katrina political rhetoric.

Can you imagine what it would be like if the governor of Louisiana and the mayor of New Orleans were Republicans? Lots of tricky rhetorical twistiness is needed to pull off the blame Bush maneuver. Or — oh hell, why bother? — just blame Bush for everything. After all, the mayor cried. And the governor is all sad-faced. Bush is squaring his jaw and doing that cowboyish walk and talk. Doesn't that make you so mad? He doesn't care!

Katrina and segregation.

Bearing Blog writes about an interview on NPR with Betty Hearn Morrow, a disaster sociologist. (The audio should be available here at 1:00.)
Bizarre. This morning on NPR's Weekend Edition: a sociologist tries to explain to Linda Wertheimer, without using the word "segregation," that the relief workers will be intentionally racially segregating the emergency shelters. I think the link is here.

She's going on about how people want to be with their own "cultural group" and how tensions will be lower that way. This may or may not be true, but what's interesting to me is the linguistic somersaults she's putting herself through to avoid saying "we will segregate the shelters."
Has everyone forgotten about Johnson v. California, a case the Supreme Court issued back in February?
The Supreme Court ruled ... that California must abandon its policy of assigning inmates to racially segregated cells for as long as 60 days when they arrive at new prisons -- unless the state can prove it has no race-neutral way to prevent interracial violence.

A five-justice majority rejected the state's contention that the court should defer to the judgment of the corrections officials who deemed the unwritten policy necessary to prevent members of race-based gangs from turning on one another in two-man cells. The state also argued that its policy affects members of all races equally. The court said California's policy must withstand the same "strict scrutiny" as all other racial classifications.

"We rejected the notion that separate can ever be equal . . . 50 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education, and we refuse to resurrect it today," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in an opinion that was joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

"When government officers are permitted to use race as a proxy for gang membership and violence without demonstrating a compelling government interest and proving that their means are narrowly tailored, society as a whole suffers," O'Connor added.

[Justice Stevens, writing separately, took an even stronger anti-segregation position.]
I wonder what the civil rights cases coming out of Katrina will look like. If the issue of segregating refugee shelters worked its way up to the Supreme Court, would the Johnson dissenting view prevail?
Justice Clarence Thomas said the majority put concern for the "indignity and stigma of racial discrimination" ahead of inmates' "safety and . . . lives."

In a 28-page dissenting opinion that was nearly twice as long as the majority opinion, Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, said California authorities need latitude to deal with such gangs as the Crips and the Aryan Brotherhood. Its policy, he wrote, "is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests."
John Roberts will have replaced Justice O'Connor (unless something very strange happens), but the Johnson majority would still have five votes. It will be interesting to see what effect transformed microcosmic society of the Court will have on Anthony Kennedy.

"A J-School question."

From Mickey Kaus:
Has the network TV coverage of the N.O. Superdome fiasco a) made the situation seem to be worse than it really was (because TV always focuses on the negative things--the crime, the snafus, the corpses and complaints, etc.) or b) made the situation seem better than it really was (because network TV didn't want to make it look as if a heavily African-American crowd of refugees couldn't behave itself)? ... I was going to guess a) until I read this.
His link is to that BBC story about the 50 British tourists escorted out of the Superdome, which we discussed here yesterday. My concern was with whether the National Guard were taking the problems of white people more seriously than those of black people, which is quite different from what Kaus is asking. He's wondering about which way the journalists are bending things.


Rabbi Marc Gellman:
What looks like unfeeling cruelty on the TV screen is most likely the result of hard but decent choices made by people who see exactly what we see, but who, unlike us, are charged with facing the chaos and turning it into hope....

Triage is not a way to decide whom to kill. Triage is a way to decide whom to save so that in the end the most people can be saved. Triage choices are tough, but they are necessary because doing nothing is a choice, and because following the loudest scream is a choice, and because only helping those on television is a choice, but all those choices are driven by impulse and are not supported by coherent moral values. If the resources were unnecessarily limited, and if the triage decisions were made in error we will know in time. The point now is that any finger-pointing must be mollified by a good dose of trust, humility and patience. Just because we see a helicopter on the news flying over a group of victims here does not mean that the helicopter is not following a triage decision to save a group of more needy victims there. Triage is where morality meets reality. It is precisely at times of chaos that morally informed but tough-minded triage decisions must be made, otherwise morality is simply a dilettante’s luxury and a mere intellectual puzzle for the philosophy classroom, but irrelevant on the street.


"Any First Amendment decision, right or wrong, will reverberate more readily through the law than a decision made in any other area."

That is what lawprof Seth Chandler discovered, in an elaborate computer-based study of Supreme Court cases, reports The Economist. As a Federal Jurisdiction lawprof, I was especially interested to read this:
He found the most important opinions, at least judged by how many times they were cited, by working out which nodes were likeliest to fall on the shortest paths between two other nodes. Intriguingly, the cases mostly come from an advanced and esoteric subject—the law of federal jurisdiction—that addresses structural features of American government, such as the relationship between the states and the federal government and the relationship between the courts and Congress.

But the federal jurisdiction cases "are not ... the cases that are most tightly bound into the network":
To find the network's so-called main core, Mr Chandler repeatedly filtered out less-connected cases. He found that most of the cases in the main core interpret the American constitution's First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech and free exercise of religion. This, he suggests, means that deciding a free-speech case requires understanding a more complex body of precedents than deciding any other kind of case. By the same token, any First Amendment decision, right or wrong, will reverberate more readily through the law than a decision made in any other area.


"I have found it personally inspiring in my war on political correctness in academe. "

Says Camille Paglia about Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone." But she doesn't think it deserved to be #1 on that list of greatest songs put out by Rolling Stone. That should have been something by the Rolling Stones. The flaw of "Like a Rolling Stone" is "compulsive sneering - an adolescent tic," per Paglia. But, wait, isn't adolescent sneering the point of rock and roll? It's hard to do adolescent sneering well. And once you've done it well, if you try to get past it, John Pareles might pillory you in the New York Times.

Fats Domino.

I see Fats Domino turned up in that last page of The Amsterdam Notebooks: that annoying little tourboat played his music, just one more example of old American popular music playing incongruously in Europe. Fats Domino has also been in the Katrina news. Here's the story of how he told his agent to pray for him because he wasn't going to leave New Orleans. His house flooded to a depth of 20 feet, and he was rescued by boat, but for three days, he failed to call the agent or his daughter, who were frantically searching for him. He'd gone to stay with a friend in Baton Rouge, where he watched the TV reports about the aftermath of the hurricane.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 34.

It's Day 34 of this 35 day project. Tomorrow's the last one. Here's the set thus far.

This page records my venture onto one of those tour boats that show you around the canals. After avoiding them through my entire trip, I yielded to the inevitable on my last day in the city. I loathed the experience.

The guide with the monotone voice had one theme:

Amsterdam Notebook


September 2, 2005

"Maybe, because of this hurricane, we got our press corps back."

Said Bill Maher, just now, on his HBO show, finding what he called a "silver lining." He's interviewing Anderson Cooper who displayed some passion and anger about hurricane relief. Maher's theory is that the hurricane experience will cure reporters of what he thinks is their supine acceptance of what Bush tells them about the war. Cooper distances himself from the question.


Everyone's made a contribution for hurricane relief by now, right? If not, here's the link to make a donation to the American Red Cross. You can also click on the Mercy Corps blogad over there. (A free ad, in case you're wondering.)

To Loyola and Tulane lawprofs.

Here's a message from the UW Dean's office:
If you know of anyone on the faculty at Loyola or Tulane law schools who would like a place to settle temporarily, the Dean's Office at UW-Madison law school will welcome them here and provide some kind of non-paying visitor/fellow status that will entitle them to access to UW libraries and such. We'll scout for office space in the building (probably squatting in rarely used or shared offices) and make every effort to match them up to folks on our faculty with a guest room. Let them know we are here to help, if they need it. Inquiries can be directed to:

R. Alta Charo, racharo (at) wisc (dot) edu
Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development
University of Wisconsin Law School
5211C Law Building, 975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706


When was the last time Americans were called refugees?

There's an old Woody Guthrie song "Dust Bowl Refugees":
Yes, we ramble and we roam
And the highway that's our home,
It's a never-ending highway
For a dust bowl refugee.
Once drought made Americans refugees. Now it's water.

"The reason I'm mad as hell over Katrina is precisely because I'm a conservative and this kind of thing is exactly what government is for."

Andrew Sullivan writes:
Kevin Drum wants to say that the difference between conservatives and liberals is that liberals believe in funding organizations like FEMA or the Corps of Engineers and conservatives don't. Nuh-huh. Real conservatives believe that the state should do a few things that no one else can do - defense, decent public education, police, law and order among the most obvious - and leave the rest to individuals. Funding FEMA and having a superb civil defense are very much part of conservatism's real core. It's when government decides to reshape society, redistribute wealth, socially engineer, and take over functions that the private sector can do just as well that conservatives draw the line. The reason I'm mad as hell over Katrina is precisely because I'm a conservative and this kind of thing is exactly what government is for. Bush in this sense is not now and never has been a conservative.
Like Drum, who responds to Sullivan in an update, I don't know what the "real core" of conservatism is. I note that good rhetoric can be squeezed out of such ideas. I'm the real conservative. No, I am. I don't personally care that much about that sort of debate. I don't define myself as a conservative and am continually bemused by the tendency of other people to call me conservative. But I do agree with Sullivan that this is what government is for — especially, I would add, when you're talking about restoring order.

But I note that Sullivan doesn't address the line between the federal government and state and local government. Basic order is the responsibility of the city, which failed catastrophically here. The state also has an important backup role, which it seems to have performed badly. The role of the federal government in funding public projects is more complex. I think Drum is right that liberals are more willing to keep taxes high and fund more projects. And I tend to think the federal government should be blamed for not spending the money to solve the glaring disaster-waiting-to-happen that was New Orleans.

Lawprofs opposed to John Roberts.

Here's the letter.

Katrina politics.

Kos (and presumably other sites) are savaging Bush over Katrina. What's missing is criticism of state and local government. Justified outrage about the response to Katrina is — not surprisingly — merged with the usual partisan politics. On the other side, people are excusing Bush and putting all the blame on state and local government. How hard is it to play it straight here? I'm going to try.

Special treatment?

What is your opinion of the racial dimension of this story? Think carefully before answering.

UPDATE: Sorry I had the link wrong. This is a specific story about how British tourists at the Superdome were treated. NOTE: I'm deleting the comments that unfortunately addressed the wrong question.

"After the tsunami our people, even the ones who lost everything, wanted to help the others who were suffering."

World opinion.

"They have M-16s and are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill and I expect they will."

Said Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, who strikes me as incredibly inept.
Governor Blanco told ABC she had "no idea" how many people had died, when asked about fatalities because of the inadequacy of the response.

"We're not into the blame game... I've been trying to save lives," she said.

Well, I can see why she wouldn't be into the "blame game." And, you know, it's not always a game. Some people really do deserve blame. The city and the state failed in this one, it would seem. Now it's time — past time — for the feds to do what needs to be done.

"Not acceptable."

I'm glad to see President Bush is beginning to take a tougher stance about the problems with Katrina relief:
"A lot of people are working hard to help those who've been affected, and I want to thank the people for their efforts," Bush said before leaving the White House for a tour of the devastated areas in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. "The results are not acceptable."

Expressions of hope in the strength of the human spirit only go so far. At some point, they just sound out-of-touch and lame. I want to see better leadership from Bush and think perhaps he's gotten that message. Do more!

"They are so black."

I watched a lot of CNN yesterday. I was watching Wolf Blitzer when he said:
"You simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals, as Jack Cafferty just pointed out, so tragically, so many of these people, almost all of them that we see, are so poor and they are so black, and this is going to raise lots of questions for people who are watching this story unfold."
Clearly, he meant to say "so many of these people are so poor and so many of them are black," and his instinct for poetic parallelism led him to bumble into an extra "so." But perhaps some people do think his mistake let racism show.

Blitzer's quote mentions Jack Cafferty, and throughout the afternoon, Cafferty had been drawing attention to the way the media has not been talking about the plainly visible fact that nearly all the stranded victims of the flooding in New Orleans are black. Cafferty was discussing Jack Shafer's Slate article. Shafer wrote:
My guess is that Caucasian broadcasters refrain from extemporizing about race on the air mostly because they fear having an Al Campanis moment....

Race remains largely untouchable for TV because broadcasters sense that they can't make an error without destroying careers. That's a true pity. If the subject were a little less taboo, one of last night's anchors could have asked a reporter, "Can you explain to our viewers, who by now have surely noticed, why 99 percent of the New Orleans evacuees we're seeing are African-American?
Blitzer's type of error was far different from Campanis's. He didn't express a specific prejudiced belief about race. He just got tangled up in his own news-prose.

But what were Shafer and Cafferty driving at? What should a reporter be saying about race beyond what the viewer can see for himself, that the victims are mostly black? Shafer writes:
What I wouldn't pay to hear a Fox anchor ask, "Say, Bob, why are these African-Americans so poor to begin with?"
I don't think that is the most obvious question of the day, though. Consider these: Were the provisions for flood prevention and for evacuation and shelter so inadequate because mostly black people were affected? Would the rescues have come more quickly if the victims were white? Would viewers and reporters express more outrage at the pace of relief if we were seeing white victims?

When one network took time from its Katrina coverage to provide a bogus "update" on the search for Natalie Holloway, all those questions sprang to my mind.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 33.

It's Day 33 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.)

I visit the Anne Frank House. The sign says no photography. I ask if it's okay to draw, and the woman selling the tickets doesn't quite understand what I'm saying. I realize that if they don't want people taking photographs, they would probably object even more to someone taking the time to stand there making a drawing. I say never mind. If someone tells me not to draw, I'll stop, I decide, but I'm not going to seek out a ban. There isn't a no drawing sign. I feel guilty and clandestine the whole time I'm there.

But, in fact, it's early in the morning, and it isn't crowded at all. I have a long time alone in Anne Frank's bedroom. I make this drawing of the pictures on her wall. She's a kid interested in pop culture — movies — Greta Garbo. "Ninotchka" is a new movie that she's excited about.

Amsterdam Notebook


I feel I'm doing something wrong, drawing these things, absorbed in one girl's interest in the pop culture of long ago— ephemera, preserved under plexiglas.

I find myself noticing everything that is incongruent with the suffering of the Holocaust: the ornate toilet, the Shelley Winters Oscar, the misconceived book covers. I collect a variety of things on one page:

Amsterdam Notebook


September 1, 2005

Admitting Tulane and Loyola students to the UW Law School.

Here is our official announcement. There are some significant limitations — you have to be a Wisconsin or Minnesota resident, you must be 2L or 3L, and you have to pay tuition — but this is the offer [ADDED: I note that nonresident 2Ls and 3Ls might be admitted]:
Madison, Wisconsin

We are prepared to admit students from the J.D. programs of Tulane and Loyola – New Orleans as visiting students for the Fall 2005 semester, subject to the conditions below. Our classes begin on Tuesday, September 6, although we recognize that some affected students will be unable to arrive on campus by that date.

Second- and Third-Year Students: We will admit as a visiting student any student who is a resident of Wisconsin or Minnesota (with whom Wisconsin shares tuition reciprocity). We will consider applications from students who are residents of other states, on a space available basis, if there are special reasons for them to be in Madison, such as the opportunity to reside with friends or family.

We will accept the students’ representation that they are in good standing at their home schools. Transfer of the credits earned at Wisconsin will require the approval of their home schools, and at present there remain some questions as to the circumstances under which Tulane and Loyola may grant that approval, particularly as to second-year students.

First-Year Students: Until we receive clearer guidance from Tulane or Loyola, we are not prepared to consider first-years on a visiting-student basis. We deeply sympathize with the plight of the first-year students at those schools, but also recognize that transferring credit for visiting-student work during the first year presents special issues for the home school. If at some time in the very near future either Tulane or Loyola chooses to grant that approval, we will follow the same residency guidelines as listed above. Until this issue is resolved, students who meet those residency guidelines are free to sit in on our first-year classes.

Tuition: All visiting students will be required to pay tuition. For residents of Wisconsin and Minnesota that tuition will be at the appropriate in-state level. For non-residents, the University administration is presently exploring whether partial credit may be given for tuition paid to the student’s home school or other reductions from the full rate of out-of-state tuition may be available.

Contact information: Please direct your inquiries to Michael A. Hall, Assistant Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid --; 608-262-5914.

20 countries have offered Katrina aid.

It's reported here that offers of aid have come from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Russia, Japan, France, Germany, Britain, China, Jamaica, Honduras, Greece, Venezuela, the Organisation of American States, NATO, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, South Korea, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

This, despite President Bush's statement:
"I'm not expecting much from foreign nations because we hadn't asked for it. I do expect a lot of sympathy and perhaps some will send cash dollars. But this country's going to rise up and take care of it."

Did you notice Venezuela on that list?
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a vocal critic of the United States, offered to send cheap fuel, humanitarian aid and relief workers to the disaster area.

The State Department did not comment on Venezuela's offer but several officials smiled at the gesture from Mr Chavez, who yesterday called Mr Bush a "cowboy" who failed to manage the disaster.

Cuban President Fidel Castro, a close Chavez ally, led a minute of silence in remembrance of the victims of Katrina in parliament on today. The parliament then returned to normal business with a resolution attacking Mr Bush over the Iraq war.

"We pee on the floor. We are like animals."

"Said Taffany Smith, 25, as she cradled her 3-week-old son, Terry." Reported in the L.A. Times:
In her right hand she carried a half-full bottle of formula provided by rescuers. Baby supplies are running low; one mother said she was given two diapers and told to scrape them off when they got dirty and use them again.

At least two people, including a child, have been raped. At least three people have died, including one man who jumped 50 feet to his death, saying he had nothing left to live for.

What plan did this city have for evacuation of the poor? They've always known this could happen. Only a small fraction of the people who needed shelter got to the Superdome, and the Superdome was in no way adequate to house them. So there was no rational plan whatsoever, was there?

Offering homes to the Katrina homeless.

On Craigslist.

"What is going on in the United States?

James Ridgeway writes in the Village Voice:
Why won’t Bush take decisive action in the Hurricane Katrina disaster and send in the military? He has control of the world’s mightiest military machine—thousands of planes, trucks, boats, expertly trained men and women. Where are these people? How can the National Guard be so close to providing help, as the public is told, yet still there are people dying on the sidewalks of a major city?

No excuses. Just do it. I'm tired of the talk. It's all very nice that people are raising money, but the military should be there, saving lives. What is going on?
Fights and trash fires broke out at the hot and stinking Superdome and anger and unrest mounted across New Orleans on Thursday, as National Guardsmen in armored vehicles poured in to help restore order across the increasingly lawless and desperate city.

An additional 10,000 National Guard troops from across the country were ordered into the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast to shore up security, rescue and relief operations in Katrina's wake as looting, shootings, gunfire, carjackings and other lawlessness spread.

That brought the number of troops dedicated to the effort to more than 28,000, in what may be the biggest military response to a natural disaster in U.S. history.

Where are they? People are dying!

Luxuriating in pain.

Times are too troubled for performance art like this:
Tattoo artist Lea Smith will prick [artist Mary] Coble's skin to form the names of hate crime victims from the nation's gay, bisexual and transgender communities....

Once the tattooist etches a name (she won't use ink), blood will well on Coble's skin. Then Smith will press paper against the welts to make mirror-image prints of the first names. As the evening progresses, her prints will wallpaper the gallery with victims' names written in blood.
With ordinary people suffering in New Orleans (and elsewhere), who should care about an artist voluntarily taking on pain for show?

Which is greater, the pain Coble will suffer or her self-indulgence? Her devotion to the anti-hate crimes cause or her devotion to her career advancement?

Investigating the Piano Man

The BBC reports:
The patient at the centre of the "Piano Man" row should be forced to return to the UK to answer claims his condition was a hoax, the local MP has said.... Dartford MP Howard Stoate said the trust should get its care costs back if he was lying. The hospital dismissed this, saying Mr Grassl needed care.

"He recently electrified the United States."

And now he's got a book. And an actress. And he's coming to Madison.

This just came in the email:
JANE FONDA introduces antiwar British MP GEORGE GALLOWAY
Sunday September 18 at 7pm
Wisconsin Union Theatre • Memorial Union • 800 Langdon St.

Tickets: $20 • Students $10 : Sales limited to first 1300
Ticket sales begin: Tuesday September 6th at 11:30am

Memorial Union Theater Box Office Hours:
Monday-Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Saturday: noon - 5:00 p.m.

George Galloway is Respect party MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in East London. He recently electrified the United States with his appearance at a Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing on May 17, when he turned the proceedings into a condemnation of the war in Iraq. CNN's Wolf Blitzer described Galloway's speech in the Senate as "a blistering attack on US senators rarely heard" in Washington.

Galloway's new book is Mr. Galloway Goes to Washington (The New Press) and will be published and timed for national release in bookstores in conjunction with the tour.

Jane Fonda - actress and outspoken critic of the war in Vietnam - will present her views on the occupation of Iraq and introduce Mr. Galloway.

National Tour sponsored by: The New Press, International Socialist Review, Center for Economic Research and Social Change, the National Council of Arab Americans

Madison Co-Sponsors: The Havens Center; The Progressive; The Capital Times

New Orleans, 2025.

The tourist experience, envisioned.

"Senators rarely grow in office. Usually they just get more childish and egomaniacal!"

Says Mickey Kaus. He's talking about Biden, but I wonder if it's true as a broad proposition. I'm not too fond of Senators myself. It's been widely noted that they almost never win presidential elections — and they all seem to think they deserve to be President. What is it about being a Senator?

Helping students from schools affected by Katrina.

From the University of Wisconsin-Madison:
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is taking steps to assist Wisconsin residents studying at colleges and universities closed by the catastrophic damage from Hurricane Katrina....

The university will attempt to accommodate students from institutions that have been officially closed by hurricane damage, should they want to study in Madison. The university will assist students in several sets of distinct circumstances.
Info at the link.

"We are out here like pure animals. We don't have any help."

That's a description of conditions around the Superdome. Inside the flooded city, they've stopped boat rescues because of violence aimed at the rescuers.

Here's the link to make a donation to the American Red Cross.

"Why do you have to sit there and listen to less qualified people ask you repetitive questions when you can't go to the bathroom or whatever?"

Well, you just do. Judge Roberts prepares.

"Mr. Bush confronts this disaster with his political capital depleted by the war in Iraq."

David Sanger of the NYT analyzes the Bush response to Katrina and compares it to his response to 9/11:
Not since he sat in a Florida classroom as the World Trade Center burned a thousand miles away has President Bush faced a test quite like the one he returned to Washington to confront this afternoon.

After initially stumbling through that disorienting day almost exactly four years ago, Mr. Bush entered what many of his aides believe were the finest hours of his presidency. But unlike 2001, when Mr. Bush was freshly elected and there was little question that the response would include a military strike, Mr. Bush confronts this disaster with his political capital depleted by the war in Iraq....

"The great thing about this president is that he doesn't try to use tragedy to gain immediate attention for himself," said Bob Martinez, a former governor of Florida who has endured his share of hurricanes and other disasters. "He talks to those with knowledge, and then he acts."

But now, he said, "there needs to be a powerful message to the country to energize the help," a message Mr. Bush plans to amplify, his aides say, when he visits the stricken areas, probably Friday or Saturday. Mr. Martinez noted that "the risk is that there is sometimes a big disconnect between you when you speak and when bottles of water end up in people's hands."

That may be a more complicated problem in this disaster, veterans of such operations warn, than it was after 9/11. Mr. Allbaugh noted that for all the horror of that day, the immediate damage was confined to "16 acres in New York" and part of the Pentagon, and "here you have hundreds of thousands of square miles" of misery. And the problems in the region will vary tremendously, from caring for the newly homeless in New Orleans to wiped-out ports along the coast.
We all need to hope for Bush to succeed in this. But then we all need to hope for him to succeed in Iraq. As with Iraq, there will be hyenas howling at every mistake, who will drive the rest of us crazy by seeming as though they hate Bush so much that they love when things go badly. I realize they can't really think that way — can they? — but they do drive us crazy by seeming like they do.

Here's the link to make a donation to the American Red Cross.

UPDATE: And, no, I didn't misspell "mistake" intentionally to see if I could make hyenas howl as an object lesson. I just tried to change "misstep" to "mistake" at the last minute. Sorry for the distraction!

Stamps, Acme products.

Here's a set of stamps that were exchanged at an illustrators' conference. Each stamp is like a business card for an artist. I found that via Drawn!, the illustration blog. Also found through Drawn!: all the Acme products the Coyote ever used.

"The sense that we will be decent and brave in times of crisis."

Peggy Noonan on the looters:
A hurricane cannot rob a great city of its spirit, but a vicious citizenry can. A bad time with Mother Nature can leave you digging out for a long time, but a bad turn in human behavior frays and tears all the ties that truly bind human being--trust, confidence, mutual regard, belief in the essential goodness of one's fellow citizens.

There seems to be some confusion in terms of terminology on TV. People with no food and water who are walking into supermarkets and taking food and water off the shelves are not criminal, they are sane. They are not looters, they are people who are attempting to survive; they are taking the basics of survival off shelves in stores where there isn't even anyone at the cash register.

Looters are not looking to survive; they're looking to take advantage of the weakness of others. They are predators. They're taking not what they need but what they want....

If this part of the story grows--if cities on the gulf come to seem like some combination of Dodge and the Barbarian invasion--it's going to be bad for our country. One of the things that keeps us together, and that lets this great lumbering nation move forward each day, is the sense that we will be decent and brave in times of crisis, that the fabric holds, that under duress it is American heroism and altruism that take hold and not base instincts born of irresponsibility, immaturity and greed....

If New Orleans damages that sense, it's going to be painful to face. It's going to be damaging to the national spirit. More damaging even than a hurricane, even than the worst in decades.

I wonder if the cruel and stupid young people who are doing the looting know the power they have to damage their country. I wonder, if they knew, if they'd stop it.
Let me quote this commenter from one of yesterday's threads on this blog:
I work in New Orleans East. I try to help families there. I've recieved telephone death threats from people I couldn't help. I've known children whose father had been shot. People who moved after they had been held up at gun-point. The list goes on. You can't say that the hurricane is the only root of this problem. Many of the thugs running around the city now, were thugs before Katrina as well. This just gave them an opportunity to turn more of the city into the lawless chaos they tend to drag with them where ever they go. I pray for the innocents who lived in fear of them before the storm and especially those who live in fear of them now. They must be stopped.
Most people are decent and brave in times of crisis — and in ordinary times as well. People suffer routinely and inconspicuously in ordinary times. Now we see those ordinary problems magnified and on television. While we're looking and feeling moved to help the victims in New Orleans, we ought to make a note to remember how much people living in that city and other cities have to struggle with violence as part of their lives even when no one is paying attention and thinking about doing anything to help them.

Here's the link to make a donation to the American Red Cross.

Beyond the physical suffering.

Right now we are focused on the physical suffering caused by Katrina.

Monty Loree is talking about the financial problems a million people will have as their credit is ruined as they default on bill payments.

I heard someone on television last night talking about those who depend on government checks that they receive on the first of the month. Because Katrina came at the end of a month, many people who live from check to check were completely out of money when it hit. They cannot get to the new money they stood to receive today.

UPDATE: A reader emails:
I wonder if American Express, for example, would be willing to let people donate their accumulated Amex Points (I'm sure there are similar programs with some other cards) to hotel chains which agree to provide housing at a discount or even free. I'm thinking of Amex because, one, there are a lot of better-off people who use these cards all the time and have great backlogs of points which can be used for all sorts of items AND HOTEL STAYS (we have bunches of points, for example, which we have been banking for a vacation since I made the decision to stay home with my child and thus stopped consulting full-time--and traveling, using Amex). Remember, Amex runs a travel service utilized by MANY corporate travelers--and corporations have subcontracted travel services for business to Amex. Perhaps Amex could help coordinate with the many hotel chains with which it works (and has discount arrangements, even before you get to the points issue).

I'm not trying to put the finger on Amex, by the way; I know there are other similar programs. It's just that I'm more familiar with how that one works, and that I know that particular company works with other major corps.

Many consultants, business employees, and other road warriors are ALSO likely to have free-stays banked at various hotel chains, as well. I wonder if these could be donated, and if so, how people could go about this.

Finally, it's good for people to remember that MANY companies, on an ongoing basis, have charitable-giving matching-fund programs. MANY people don't know this ... so they might want to check with their company's benefit manager, or whatever. My husband works for a major corporation which has this program in place, and we are mostly going to donate through that avenue, just because of the dollar-for-dollar match.

To the New Orleans law students.

Here is the Tulane Post-Hurricane Blog, and here is the Loyola Post-Hurricane Blog. Please know that there are a lot of people in law schools around the country who care about you and are trying to think of ways to help you. Those two blogs will serve as a way to communicate. Thanks to Eric Muller for setting them up.

UPDATE: Here's the official Tulane Law School site, which Tulane students need to use. Go there and sign up for their email list.


It's hard to fathom the suffering in New Orleans. I spent yesterday evening watching the TV news, seeing weary, confused people wading through water, trying to figure out where to go, how to begin to deal with their problems. One woman who walked down the Interstate held a feverish five-day-old baby. I heard someone say that hundreds of people were still on rooftops waiting to be rescued. An old man cried when a reporter asked him if he had to swim to save himself.

What of all the people without water? What about the sick and the elderly and trapped somewhere? What about those who are injured and inside buildings where they cannot signal for help? Will we not eventually discover many dead bodies of men and women — of children — who wondered for days if anyone would ever get around to looking inside their place?

It's hard to think about the city of New Orleans gone. One expert opined that only a small central core of it will be rebuilt.

I heard the word "refugees" over and over again. It's hard to believe this is happening in our country. How can there be so many people suffering and in need of help, waiting for days for the most basic aid — in America?

Here's the link to make a donation to the American Red Cross.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 32.

It's Day 32 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.)

Here are some observations about fashion:

Amsterdam Notebook

And here's a running list I kept of names of stores and restaurants that amused me:

Amsterdam Notebook