October 15, 2005

"No one is very happy with the Miers nomination."

But "the odds are we will soon be saying 'Justice Harriet Miers' and something along the lines of: How did that happen?" My op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Ecstatic.

My son John has been putting a lot of pictures into his Flickr photostream, including this one of me, looking ecstatic. I no longer remember why!

~~~

Companion photo, showing the whole context. Empty wine glass noted, but it's insufficient to explain the mood:

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The educational gender gap.

David Brooks writes about the accelerating disparity between males and females in education. (Unfortunately, this link will take you to TimesSelect, which requires payment to enter.)
Women are more likely to enroll in college and they are more likely to have better applications, so now there are hundreds of schools where the female-male ratio is 60 to 40. About 80 percent of the majors in public administration, psychology and education are female. And here's the most important piece of data: Until 1985 or so, male college graduates outnumbered female college graduates. But in the mid-80's, women drew even, and ever since they have been pulling away at a phenomenal rate.

This year, 133 women will graduate from college for every 100 men. By decade's end, according to Department of Education projections, there will be 142 female graduates for every 100 male graduates. Among African-Americans, there are 200 female grads for every 100 male grads.

The social consequences are bound to be profound. The upside is that by sheer force of numbers, women will be holding more and more leadership jobs. On the negative side, they will have a harder and harder time finding marriageable men with comparable education levels....

For 30 years, attention has focused on feminine equality. During that time honest discussion of innate differences has been stifled (ask Larry Summers). It's time to look at the other half.
Women have jumped ahead of men so quickly. It's important to take account of the situation and do something about it before the gap gets worse. Unfortunately, it's risky even to bring up the subject, though it should be remembered that Larry Summers got slammed for speculating about why women were achieving less than men. Is male underachievement a less or more touchy topic?

Coined word: shrediting.

Shrediting: shredding someone through editing, as typically seen in a reality TV show, where a film editor, to create a story line, selects clips from hours of footage to give a very negative impression of a person. See "The Apprentice," Season 4, Episode 4 (character: Toral). See also, "The Comeback" (a sitcom in which the central character is filming a reality show without realizing when she is unwittingly providing the material that will be used in the final edit to shred her).

Talking back to fortune cookies.

Fortune Cookie #1: "Suffering is caused by attachment to impermanent things."

Althouse response: "So is pleasure."

Fortune Cookie #2: "Kind words cost nothing."

Althouse response: "Kind words are worth nothing."

General comment: The fortune cookies did not contain fortunes.

Fortune Cookie #1: "Suffering is caused by attachment to impermanent things."

Translation into a fortune: "You will attach yourself to impermanent things and suffer for it."

Fortune Cookie #2: "Kind words cost nothing."

Translation into a fortune: "Without expending a single dollar, you will achieve your goals through flattery."

Vienna.

Nina's in Vienna for the weekend, and she just got a new SLR camera. Beautiful!

New ways to get lost in Amazon.

Have you noticed the new features in Amazon? I haven't seen any announcements on their main page, but if you go to an individual book, now, you can find all kinds of new, cool things. I'm not finding it for every book, and it seems as though it wouldn't be possible for books that are not open to the "search inside" function. But take, for example, "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim." Let's look at the SIPs -- or "statistically improbable phrases":
Amazon.com's Statistically Improbable Phrases, or "SIPs", are the most distinctive phrases in the text of books in the Search Inside!™ program. To identify SIPs, our computers scan the text of all books in the Search Inside! program. If they find a phrase that occurs a large number of times in a particular book relative to all Search Inside! books, that phrase is a SIP in that book.

SIPs are not necessarily improbable within a particular book, but they are improbable relative to all books in Search Inside!. For example, most SIPs for a book on taxes are tax related. But because we display SIPs in order of their improbability score, the first SIPs will be on tax topics that this book mentions more often than other tax books. For works of fiction, SIPs tend to be distinctive word combinations that often hint at important plot elements.
For "Dress Your Family," they've only come up with: "eight black men." If you've read the book, you know what that refers to. If you click on the phrase, you get all the other books with that phrase: here. Useful? Possibly not in this case, though still interesting, in a rather random way.

Then there are the CAPs (capitalized phrases):
Aunt Monie, Monie Changes Everything, Baby Einstein, The Girl Next Door, The Ship Shape, Full House, Nuit of the Living Dead, Blood Work, North Carolina, Slumus Lordicus, Kwik Pik, Great Dane, Puta Lid, Saint Nicholas, Anne Frank, The End of the Affair, Royal Pavilion, Who's the Chef, Apple Pan, The Empire
Each is clickable. You can then see other books that frequently use that capitalized phrase. Well, no one else is using Slumus Lordicus yet, but here are the Anne Frank references.

Then there's the concordance:
Concordance is an alphabetized list of the most frequently occurring words in a book, excluding common words such as "of" and "it." The font size of a word is proportional to the number of times it occurs in the book. Hover your mouse over a word to see how many times it occurs, or click on a word to see a list of book excerpts containing that word.
There are also "text stats," showing you how easy or hard the book is to read. Sedaris, it turns out, is awfully easy to read -- 7th grade level. Doesn't say how funny he is, though.

Let me check another, similarly funny, but much darker book I like, "Running With Scissors." Hey, that's even easier to read! Let's try "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time." Oh, that's easy too. Hmmmm.... that's got a SIP of "bloody dog," so who else is SIP-ing "bloody dog"?

James Joyce! All right, then. Let's get the text stats for "Ulysses." I see that's easy to read too, so they say. According to the Flesch-Kinkaid analysis, it's written at less than a 7th grade level, so if you're not ready to tackle "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim"...

UPDATE: You can check text stats for blogs at this website. In case you're wondering, this blog has the following numbers:
Gunning Fog Index 10.31
Flesch Reading Ease 66.29 (higher is easier, with 100 being the easiest)
Flesch-Kincaid Grade 7.13
The numbers for "Ulysses" are: 9.0, 68.1, 6.8. Do you find this confusing? Generally, I think it's a good sign if your ease-of-reading stats seem low for the difficulty of the material.

Eavesdropping for nerds.

What hot gossip were you overhearing when you just couldn't resist breaking in and joining a private conversation? Or perhaps you were sitting near people who were discussing a logic problem, maybe this one:
Someone has prepared two envelopes containing money. One contains twice as much money as the other. You have decided to pick one envelope, but then the following argument occurs to you: Suppose my chosen envelope contains $X, then the other envelope either contains $X/2 or $2X. Both cases are equally likely, so my expectation if I take the other envelope is .5 * $X/2 + .5 * $2X = $1.25X, which is higher than my current $X, so I should change my mind and take the other envelope. But then I can apply the argument all over again. Something is wrong here! Where did I go wrong? In a variant of this problem, you are allowed to peek into the envelope you chose before finally settling on it. Suppose that when you peek you see $100. Should you switch now?
Would you become so intrigued that you would ask to join the conversation?

(Here's the solution to the problem.)

ADDED: Let me be clear: I was not the eavesdropper! I was one of the original conversationalists, but I was not the person who introduced the topic. Of the three persons described here, I was the one demonstrating the least nerd cred.

What keeps conservatives out of academia?

John Tierney has another column (behind TimesSelect) about the lack of conservatives in academia. He paraphrases the justifications various professors have offered:
1. Conservatives do not value knowledge for its own sake.

2. Conservatives do not care about the social good.

3. Conservatives are too greedy to work for professors' wages.

4. Conservatives are too dumb to get tenure.
Tierney rejects all of that, and blames the disparity on "the structure of academia, where decisions about hiring are made by small independent groups of scholars":
They're subject to the law of group polarization, derived from studies of juries and other groups.

"If people are engaged in deliberation with like-minded others, they end up more confident, more homogenous and more extreme in their beliefs," said Cass Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago. "If you have an English or history department that leans left, their interactions will push them further left."

Once liberals dominate a department, they can increase their majority by voting to award tenure to like-minded scholars. As liberals dominate a field, conservatives' work comes to be seen as fringe scholarship.

"The filtering out of conservatives in the job pipeline rarely works by outright blackballing," said Mark Bauerlein, a conservative who is an English professor at Emory. "It doesn't have to. The intellectual focus of the disciplines does that by itself."

Suppose, he said, you were a conservative who wanted to do a sociology dissertation on the debilitating effects of the European welfare state, or an English dissertation arguing that anticommunist literature from the mid-20th century was as valuable as the procommunist literature.

"You'd have a hard time finding a dissertation adviser, an interested publisher and a receptive hiring committee," Bauerlein said. "Your work just wouldn't look like relevant scholarship, and would be quietly set aside."

That sounds accurate to me.

Tierney concludes that the phenomenon ultimately hurts liberals in the political sphere because they can't draw on the ideas of liberals in academia, who have veered too far left to produce ideas that are appealing to American voters.

"I came to vote for Iraq."

The polls have closed in Iraq. Yesterday's blackout in Baghdad is said to have had no effect on today's voting, and I've seen no reports of significant violence today. Security was effective -- in NYT literary style, "helicopters buzzed low over dun-colored rooftops."

UPDATE: Now, have I seen reports of significant violence? WaPo has this:
The worst violence Saturday morning was in Ramadi, an insurgent and Sunni Arab stronghold about 55 miles west of the capital, where prolonged clashes between militants and U.S. soldiers forced three of the city's main polling centers to close shortly after they opened at 7 a.m. Hospital officials said that at least seven people seeking to vote were killed by insurgents early in the day, and the continuous crackle of gunfire kept streets empty.
The WaPo also reports, however, that "[i]n other Sunni areas, turnout was described as surprisingly brisk" (though those interviewed all said they voted "no").

Squirrels! -- an Althouse obsession.

I love squirrels out in yard. They're entertaining, scampering around, looking for love in the spring, furiously burying acorns in the fall. Yesterday, I walked right next to one that was burying an acorn, and I was impressed by the efficient technique and the impressive musculature of the upper back and forelegs under sleek gray fur. When podcasting, I am easily distracted by the skittering of a squirrel across my roof. And, as you know, I've had this ongoing mystery about whether a squirrel has been in my house. I'm not as nervous about that as I once was. There have been no more stray cracked shells on the carpet.

But now, there's this! (Via Metafilter.) Squirrels on crack! Crack dealers/users bury rocks of crack in people's yards and the squirrels dig them up and come back for more.
"I was chatting with my neighbour who told me that crack users and dealers sometimes use my front garden to hide bits of their stash.

"An hour earlier I'd seen a squirrel wandering round the garden, digging in the flowerbeds.

"It looked like it knew what it was looking for.

"It was ill-looking and its eyes looked bloodshot but it kept on desperately digging.

"It was almost as if it was trying to find hidden crack rocks."

Is this for real? This Guardian article notes: "According to internet legend, crack squirrels have terrorised residents in New York and Washington." Yes, it does sound awfully urban legendary. But still...

Some miscellaneous things about blogging.

1. I love Blogger! Nothing has malfunctioned around here since last May, and it's free. There must be a lot of people who left Blogger and regret it. How irritating it must be to have more traffic cost more. On Blogger, more traffic is unalloyed fun.

2. I really have meant all along to redo my template into something more distinctive, but lately, clicking around and seeing other blogs using Minima, I've started to feel that we have a kind of kinship. We are the Minimalists.

3. I must confess I've never understood trackbacks. I'm fairly sure Blogger blogs can't receive them, and I have no idea how to give them. I just quite simply regard trackbacks as something other people do.

4. I don't understand Blogshares, and I don't want to understand it. My interest in understanding it did not increase when I read this on the page about my blog:
Althouse suffered a huge setback with several analysts urging their clients to ditch the stock as it suffered a public relations disaster. The exact nature of customer dissatisfaction was not known but TxapulĂ­n was rumoured to have had a hand in it. Industry insiders suspect a Judge (artefact) was involved. Althouse share price dropped from B$7,667.73 to B$3,373.8.

The hell?

October 14, 2005

Suddenly class is a lame reality show.

And the richest man in the world plays substitute teacher for your little seminar:
The class burst out in laughter as the founder of Microsoft and the richest man in the United States dropped by the University of Wisconsin-Madison class unannounced as part of his tour of college campuses.

The 13 students were five minutes into a review for their exam next week when [Bill] Gates walked in.

Jaws dropped as cameras for mtvU, a 24-hour college TV network, filmed the surprise as a part of a series that features celebrity drop-ins on campuses.

The interpretation of deadlines.

If you've got a deadline on Friday, and you email about whether it would be okay to take until Monday, and they don't answer the email right away, that means they aren't sitting around waiting for it today, and it's the same as an extension until Monday. Right?

Yesterday, I had a deadline that was "the close of business Thursday." I sent the draft at 5:59 p.m. Did I meet the deadline? It's more business-y to work late, isn't it? It's a slackerish businessperson who leaves at 5. And don't you love the 59? It makes it look as though I was all briskly focused on 6 as "the close of business." And what's with "the close of business" as a deadline anyway? If you're clocking out at the end of the work day, why not say "before the open of business Friday"? Why deprive me of the evening if I might happen to have writing habits of that sort?

"What else is there to say, in any case, about a middling bureaucrat and yes-woman than that she attends some mediocre place of worship?"

Who hasn't been waiting for a nicely pissy Christopher Hitchens rant about Harriet Miers?

George Washington + Baked Communications Professor on Graduation Day + Jessica's Grandpa.

Go Fug Yourself finally gets around to Michael Stipe. (What I don't get is: are those his ears?)

"It's amazing that there's a computer up here for me to log onto and start blogging with while the little ones sweat over Gertrude Stein's inanities."

The English professor exam-blogs.

"But surely all these man-boys are making free choices based upon what is right for them. Who is anyone to complain?"

Peter Burnet offers up a companion piece to that little discussion we had yesterday.

"Harriet Miers and her Royal Family."

I'm getting kind of a Glinda the Good Witch vibe from Harriet as Queen.

(And, thanks to retouching, Catherine the Great is not making me look fat anymore.)

"Karl Rove nosed his Jaguar out of the garage at his home in Northwest Washington in the predawn gloom..."

Is this the beginning of some pulp novel? No, it's just another nonstory about the Plame investigation. The White House is "jittery." Check. There is "a mood of intense uncertainty." Noted.

IN THE COMMENTS: It's a dark and stormy night in there: a real Bulwer-Lytton contest!

Men make women fat!

"Men are very bad for women really" -- says some doctor. What's that all about? Pleasures?

"What a stupid, stupid mistake."

"You cannot fix this for 25 years." The conservative wrath over Harriet Miers rages on:
Conservatives have stuck with Mr. Bush through the bloodiest and gloomiest days of the war in Iraq, held firm as administration officials are investigated for revealing a CIA operative's identity and given him a pass on the galloping federal spending. But blowing the historic opportunity to replace a swing vote on the Supreme Court is unforgivable, conservatives say....

Many conservatives also have been shocked by the administration's handling of the negative reaction from its longtime and ardent supporters. They have been called "elitist" and "sexist," and some Republican Senate Judiciary Committee staff lawyers say White House officials have stopped communicating with them.

They also have gone to great pains to tout Miss Miers as an evangelical Christian in an apparent effort to shore up that bloc of voters. The tactic is insulting, say conservatives -- especially conservative jurists who think religion and personal views have no place in the debate.
Yes, the defense of the choice was worse than the choice.

"The Apprentice" -- oh, the irony!

Spoiler alert. How exquisitely amusing: the fall of Toral! The entire show was edited around the misdeeds of the Wharton School graduate who knew she was so much better than everyone else and had fixed on the strategy of lying low, doing nothing, while the other women -- those inferior women -- "stepped up to the plate" (the inevitable metaphor) and made their inferiority obvious. Last week, Toral had only the work of sitting on a sofa, showing seniors how cool and easy-to-use a nice, new TV was, and she could not operate the remote control. But Rebecca, who was awed by the great name of Wharton, did not finger Toral for the final boardroom showdown. As a result, Rebecca nearly went down, and Toral survived to the next week. But Trump spared Rebecca. He admired her loyalty and said she was "either going to be great or a disaster." And this week, when Rebecca reluctantly admitted that she would now fire Toral, Trump fired Toral on the spot, preempting the usual identification of three potential victims for a separate boardroom ordeal.

How funny it was seeing Toral shirk everything. The women (other than Rebecca) plotted to make Toral's outrageous passivity obvious, and they insisted that she be the one who wears the mascot suit the team had designed for Dairy Queen. But Toral said that was not for her. Oh, it was fine for the other girls to debase themselves, but you need to understand that she is a prestigious businesswoman, and the wearing of mascot suits is just not something she feels comfortable with. After the team loses, Toral reframes her argument for why she did not want to wear the mascot suit: it's against her religion. Did you ever say that before, Toral? Trump asks. "I believe I did," she says. "Believe"? All the other women cry, no you did not! "Believe"? Trump snaps that she said "believe" because she did not say it before and she knew it. Hah! So you wanted people to give special respect to religious belief -- and the fact is the team would have yielded if she had played the religion card -- but you used the word "believe" in a way that made it synonymous with lying. Oh, the irony!

And the further, hilarious irony is that in her attempt to stay aloof and to insist that everyone else be debased before her, Toral set herself up for one of the most humiliating defeats we've ever seen on the show. Riding away in the taxicab, Toral speaks to the camera and tells us she's glad to be rid of those people who are so beneath her -- her, a Wharton graduate, a businesswoman who must maintain an aura of respect around her. She's in a taxicab reveling in her superiority, and we're at home watching her, laughing at her foolish conceit and loving her debasement.

E.B. White on gender-neutral writing.

David Gelertner detests the new edition of "Elements of Style," which has added illustrations by New Yorker artists Maira Kalman:
The problem with these pictures is their strange relation to the text. A section on pronouns includes a sample sentence that mentions "Polly." On the facing page is a loud, large picture of Polly--who has nothing to do with the topic under discussion. Ms. Kalman's pictures are like a kibitzer's random observations during a conversation among friends.
Whimsy does not amuse Gelertner, who seems to attribute many of his own ideas to to "Elements" co-author E.B. White:
[White] insisted on simplicity, clarity, concreteness. He would have despised subliterate email, unedited Web ramblings and gaseous literary criticism posing as philosophy.
But enough rambling. Let's get to the point I wanted to make, as evinced by the post title:
White ... hated politicized writing; in 1979, he added a new rule to "Elements" to explain just why "gender-neutral writing" is ridiculous. "The use of he as a pronoun for nouns embracing both genders is a simple, practical convention rooted in the beginnings of the English language. He has lost all suggestion of maleness in these circumstances." But the 1999 revision slips an extra sentence into White's rule, like an assassin slipping a stiletto into someone's back: "Currently, however, many writers find the use of the generic he or his to rename indefinite antecedents limiting or offensive." But White never minded offending people. He rejected the trendy and glitzy. He admired good craftsmanship. He didn't mind being called old-fashioned.
I wonder if we regret it now, shifting over to gender-neutral writing. We sacrificed elegance to make a political point -- over and over again, in texts that have nothing to do with gender politics, and long after everyone has absorbed and accepted the point. Women are equal. We all get it. And yet we must go on forever, writing (and speaking) awkwardly.

October 13, 2005

Audible Althouse, #11.

Hey, a new podcast! This time with theme music -- written by John Cohen, Brit Rice, and John Matlack, and performed by John Cohen (my son, John Althouse Cohen) and Brit. Per John:
John, Brit, and I composed the music together. (We had written a complete song, with different lyrics; then I fit your lyrics to the chorus of that song.)

Guitar and bass: me.

Vocals: me and Brit. (It's 3-part harmony with Brit singing 2 of the parts.)

Shaker (Ibuprofen bottle emptied out and filled with rice) by Brit.

Snapping by me and Lucas Etten.

Produced by Lucas Etten in his apartment.
Here's Johnny Matlack's website. He's a drummer and songwriter who's in Nashville, Tennessee now, but used to be here in Madison.

Anyway, the new podcast is about 37 minutes long. You can comment on it here. Topics: mellowing on Miers, writing an op-ed for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, cameras in the Supreme Court, "strict constructionism," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," hostile lawyer jokes, Harold Pinter's grim stories, how much people don't like Congress, the sex holidays, and how disturbed all my readers are about women who seek artificial insemination to become single mothers.

UPDATE: The theme music is copyright 2005, Tin Whisper Media Group. Also, Brit has a band called Polydream, which is making a recording called "A Rigid Shard of Balance." And he plays drums and percussion with Lucas Cates, who has a record, "Contradictory," due out in February under Popbomb Records. Look for both Polydream and Lucas Cates to tour. Brit has also remixed Star Wars music for Star Wars conventions.

Valentine's Day, Memorial Day, and the Fourth of July.

What do these holidays have in common? They are the sex holidays!

"They dream of Supreme Court justices capable of writing brilliant opinions that will reshape the battle of ideas."

And Harriet Miers is so vapid, so pedestrian. David Brooks writes of the pain this nomination has caused conservatives -- conservatives, as opposed to Republicans. Conservatives are those people who think that ideas matter.
Republicans, who these days are as likely to be members of the corporate establishment as the evangelical establishment, are more suspicious of intellectuals and ideas, and more likely to believe that politics is about deal-making, loyalty and power.
It's been interesting to watch the struggle between these two groups. Quite fun spectating for liberals and Democrats, isn't it?

(Sorry for the TimesSelect link. I presume Brooks is too.)

Female autonomy: Does it frighten you?

Women without men who want children: Must they find a man first? Must they behave so indirectly in the pursuit of what they want?
On the Internet, ... hundreds of pregnant single women trad[e] notes....

"Five years ago you never heard about this," said Ms. Carr, who had the insemination procedure performed last month. "Now you can talk about it, and it's O.K."

...Sperm banks, which once catered largely to infertile and lesbian couples, are seeing a surge in business from single women, as are obstetricians who perform artificial inseminations.

The groundswell of single women deliberately having babies reflects their increased ability to support a family. It helps, too, that the Internet has done away with the need to leave the house to find a donor. A woman can now select the father of her child from her living room and have his sperm sent directly to her doctor. It is faster and cheaper than adoption, and allows women to bear their own genetic offspring.

Single women have always found adoption rules more restrictive than they are even for gay couples. Many hesitate to simply have a sexual fling or use a "known donor" for fear that the father may someday stake a claim to the child. But thousands are now gravitating to sperm bank Web sites, where donor profiles can be sorted by medical history, ethnic background and a wide range of physical characteristics. Like an online dating service where no one ever dates, written answers are given to questions like "What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you?" Some women screen for men with no cancer in their family. Some look for signs of high I.Q. Some search for a man who might have been their soul mate. Others are more pragmatic.

"You're paying for it, so you kind of want the best of the best," said Anna Aiello, 38, of Moriches, N.Y., on Long Island, the mother of 1-year-old twins, who saw her ability to select a 6-foot-2 blond, blue-eyed, genetic-disease-free donor as some consolation for not getting to fall in love with someone who would most likely have been more flawed.
Economic independence and the ability to leap over one's immediate environment through the internet have accelerated this social change. Many will tsk and try to shame women who do this, but now they find their allies and escape the traditional means of constraint:
"I had one psychologist friend actually suggest that I 'channel' my (neurotic?) need to parent into volunteer work in a children's hospital," wrote one mother on a support group Web site. "Can you say 'condescending'??"

A 32 percent approval rating.

For Congressional Republican leaders, according to a new Pew Research poll. The bad news for Democrats: their Congressional leaders also have a 32 percent approval rating. But the NYT reports on swelling Democratic hopes for the 2006 election. After all, the disapproval ratings are different, with the Republicans festering at 52 percent, and the Democrats somewhat less targeted for contempt at 48 percent.

"Usually enclosed in one room, they organize their lives as a sort of grim game and their actions often contradict their words."

Such are the characters in plays by Harold Pinter, who just won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

That description of his plays sounds very much like what I thought of when I was a child and first understood that adults read things that were entirely different from the stories given to children to read, and I tried to grasp what these stories for adults were.

"'You're a sexist snob' isn't a case; it's an insult."

Peggy Noonan thinks there is no case to be made for the Harriet Miers nomination and the efforts at defending it have become embarrassing and harmful:
An essential White House mistake--really a key and historic one--was in turning on its critics with such idiotic ferocity. "My way or the highway" is getting old. "Please listen to us and try to see it our way or we'll have to kill you," is getting old. Sending Laura Bush out to make her first mistake as first lady, agreeing with Matt Lauer that sexism is probably part of the reason for opposition to Ms. Miers, was embarrassingly inept and only served to dim some of the power of this extraordinary resource.

As for Ed Gillespie and his famous charge of sexism and elitism, I don't think serious conservatives believe Ed is up nights pondering whiffs and emanations of class tension and gender bias in modern America. It was the ignorant verbal lurch of a K Street behemoth who has perhaps forgotten that conservatives are not merely a bloc, a part of the base, a group that must be handled, but individuals who are and have been in it for serious reasons, for the long haul, and often at considerable sacrifice. They don't deserve to be patronized by people they've long strained to defend.
Over Harriet Miers, the "serious conservatives" have identified themselves and now demand recognition. What would motivate them to back down now?

"A putrid, enraged, aggrieved place."

Unbearably sad descriptions of the suffering after the earthquake. A million people are homeless, cold, and hungry. Many persons with broken bones and other serious injuries are stranded in places far from the hope of medical care.
Journeying for miles on foot, desperate survivors from high-altitude villages streamed into major towns where Pakistani, American, Afghan and United Nations helicopters landed on makeshift helipads to evacuate the injured. All told, there were 40 helicopters on duty Wednesday, but with more than 52,000 injured, they appeared to come nowhere near meeting the need for evacuations....

A man named Jahanzeb said he had walked for a whole day to reach Balakot from Sangar; at least 50 people, he said, were badly injured there and unable to travel. He knew of four who had died of their injuries, after being pulled from the rubble. The villagers built a makeshift helicopter pad on Monday, he said, but the army had not yet arrived.

Jehangir Khan, an old man with a white beard, said he had carried his injured daughter, Saira, down from their village, Bhumara, on a stretcher and waited three days to get her on a helicopter. On Wednesday, Saira, a slight girl of perhaps 15 - she did not know her age - lay on a stretcher under cotton quilts. Her leg was broken, she was bleeding and she felt pain in her abdomen, she said. By day's end, she was loaded onto an American Chinook helicopter along with 28 of the most seriously wounded here. Her brother, also injured, was not allowed on. Her sister, Zaheda, had died in the quake.

You meet someone and the first thing he has to say is that people like you should be shot -- twice!

And yet the man was attempting to make a good impression. What could possibly be happening?

Another "He is the box"-style topic for Althouse commenters.

ADDED: The speaker was definitely referring to a gun. Not a camera, as many commenters have guessed. And his attempt to make a good impression did not succeed.

October 12, 2005

"But in the future, you will physically be inside the experience, which will surround you top, bottom, on all sides."

Says Steven Spielberg, who's apparently invented something movie-like. I'm picturing a helmet of some sort. We go into the theater and a thousand helmets descend individually on each head. Good luck trying to eat popcorn or smooching. On the bright side, maybe people will shut up.

But no, I must be wrong, because this new Spielbergerama will be on the top, sides, and bottom. It's actually a tad frightening! Are you going to inject dreams into our heads, like in "Total Recall"? So what the hell are you talking about, Steve?

"I've invented it, but because patent is pending, I can't discuss it right now."

Feel free to discuss it for him in the comments.

The new Steve Colbert show.

Here's a piece about the new Steve Colbert show, which debuts next week, when it will follow "The Daily Show," where we're used to seeing Steve Colbert:
In what, at least initially, is an eight-week tryout, "Colbert" will try to show that it can mine as many punch lines from the quarry of cable-news punditry - the Colbert character is an amalgam of Bill O'Reilly, Aaron Brown, Joe Scarborough and Dan Abrams, among others - as "The Daily Show" has discovered skewering network news anchors and correspondents, to say nothing of the president.

"I don't think he's necessarily a Republican or Democrat," Mr. Colbert, 41, said of his character. "He is part of the 'Blame America Last' crowd. Mostly, he just wants to get those bastards - whoever they are. They know who they are, and they know they're going to get gotten."...

"The one risk that this show has is that Stephen works so well contraposed to Jon," said Ben Karlin, a former editor of the satiric paper The Onion, who serves as executive producer of both "The Daily Show" and "Colbert." "If you separate out the instruments and hear just one instrument, will that still sound as beautiful? That's been the challenge."...

Though not intended to feature a dead-on impersonation of Mr. O'Reilly, "The Colbert Report" will have the feel of "The O'Reilly Factor," with an outspoken host delivering blunt opinions, some of them illustrated by graphics - Mr. O'Reilly calls them "talking points" - that are the equivalent of captions for the impaired, emphasizing what the host is trying to communicate.

"Like O'Reilly, we'll grab the most important word out of every sentence," Mr. Colbert said. " 'The,' for example. Also, I'll say, 'I'm angry,' and the graphic will read, 'Colbert angry.' "
I hope the show does well. I think staying in character within the comedy is the better approach to doing "fake news" comedy. Jon Stewart makes it work to constantly go out of character and say I'm just a fake. He never looks much like a real newsman, so he compensates by being a stand up comedian (though he's always sitting down). Colbert can embody the ridiculous newsman. He's a comic actor. I wish him well!

A comedy intervention.

Ron Rosenbaum slams Larry David:
Again, Larry, what makes the difference this season is that the character you’re playing isn’t being mocked for his self-absorbed sense of superiority. He’s being portrayed as the lone Truth Teller, who can see through politically correct sensitivities and tell it like it is, even if it costs him.

But Larry, nothing prepared me for the third episode. You know I was a little worried about the third episode, because I’d begun writing you this letter on the basis of the first two. What if the third episode represented a turn-around? I’d have to revise everything.

No worries! The third episode reaches a new low; it is mainly devoted to making fun of Hispanic household help! Now I know this is an important issue for your new super-rich crowd, and perhaps in an earlier season you’d do a satire on your rich friends’ concern about their Hispanic help. But here you just gratuitously abuse the help, Larry. Portray household help as thieves and fools. (There’s a particularly unfunny and cruel mockery of a handyman called Jesus. And needless to say, Larry, you can’t resist the cutting-edge ethnic humor that comes with asking Jesus whether he pronounces his name “Jeesus” or “Hey-soose.” So fresh and funny!)

I don’t know what to say, Larry. I’m speechless. A comedy intervention is required. Or should we just give up and watch the genuinely edgy work of, say, Sarah Silverman or Mary-Louise Parker (so devastatingly funny and sexy on Weeds)? Or even Lisa Kudrow—far braver, even self-destructively braver (her show was cancelled because it was so uncompromising), far more cutting-edge than this season’s pretense of being cutting-edge.
Ah, the brilliant Lisa Kudrow, whose wonderful show "The Comeback" was just too painful for people to take.

But is Rosenbaum right about the new season of CYE? I'd been thinking something's not quite right with the new episodes. Some of the scenes struck me as hastily filmed and haphazardly cut together. Maybe Larry could write some episodes about how Larry's show "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is going to the dogs ... including a certain racist dog named Sheriff, the central figure in the second episode, which Rosenbaum calls "a woefully dated, grindingly unfunny 30 minutes which I would venture to call the most annoying TV episode of the century so far."

"OMG!!! Maureen Dowd is making fun of me and no one can even read it!!!"

Maureen Dowd has an op-ed today making fun of Harriet Miers. But you can't read the column -- here -- unless you have TimesSelect, so what the hell difference does it make? Should I even bother to point out that she's using the same idea that Harriet Miers's Blog!!! has been using since October 3rd, the day the nomination was announced?

What made me take another look at Harriet Miers.

My "Mellowing on Miers" post yesterday got so much attention that I feel I'm vulnerable to the accusation that I deliberately went negative to make an event out of returning to the fold. And since I haven't endorsed the nomination yet, you could even say that I'm dragging out the return so I can get attention more than once.

But that's not it at all. The doubts I expressed about Miers were exactly what I thought. I objected to her lack of engagement with the great issues and theories of constitutional law. I was acting like what I am: a conlawprof.

I know exactly how I arrived at a state of self-awareness and then a feeling of being distanced from this identity: I read a few too many messages from conlawprofs on the Conlawprof email list. I didn't read these messages closely. I'm too busy to read that much of what flows into my email in-box from this list, so no one who is actually writing on the list should take this personally, but the sense I was getting from the ongoing conversation was that conlawprofs are rather vain about their own line of work. They feel sure that constitutional law is what they do.

Accordingly, they -- we -- think Miers should be reading a lot of books and articles of the highly theoretical sort that win accolades in academia. The Senate Judiciary Committee should test her with questions about these books, and if she reveals she's never bothered with such things, we will know that she is not worthy to hold a seat on the Court and have the power to decide what the Constitution means.

It was the mindset of the conlawprof -- my own mindset -- that repelled me and made me look again at what Harriet Miers is.

"A little possible sexism."

I was just overhearing the TiVo'd "Hardball" from last night, with Laura Bush saying that people are sexist to oppose Harriet Miers. Wait a minute, let me get the exact quote: "Some are suggesting there’s a little possible sexism in the criticism of Judge Miers." Some. (Not me!) Suggesting. (Not accusing!) A little. (Not that much!) Possible. (Only maybe!) And it's not that you're sexist, but merely that there is sexism in the criticism. Not in you. In the criticism.

Ah, that Laura! How did she learn to talk like that? A hardcore feminist would say that our culture of sexism has trained women to speak in that modified, mediated, mollifying way.

And yet she still kicked ass. She called you anti-Miers folks sexist. That's how you heard it. That's how I heard it. She used the word: SEXISM! Ah, but she did swathe it so prettily in feminine wraps.

I go out to the big room to see Laura as she's saying these things. She's standing in a construction site of some sort, next to the President. She's wearing a light blue blouse over slim, beige pants. The first thing out of my mouth is: "Wow, Laura's lost a lot of weight! She's really slim!" And then: "Oh, I guess I shouldn't be the critic of who's sexist, when I look at a woman and the first thing I talk about is her weight." I slink back to my computer in the dining room.

The next thing I click to is this rather magnificent concoction, over at All Things Beautiful: "The First Lady and Professor Althouse." Alexandra von Maltzan has depicted Laura Bush as the Empress Josephine Bonaparte and me as Catherine The Great at the Temple of The Goddess of Justice. Of course, the first thing I think is "Damn. Catherine The Great is making me look fat."

UPDATE: Rechecking the TiVo, I see that it's the interviewer, Matt Lauer who says the line "Some are suggesting there’s a little possible sexism in the criticism of Judge Miers." Laura responds, "I think that's possible," and then moves to restating that Miers is very accomplished. So, Matt: I love your feminine ways!

October 11, 2005

“If any senior faculty had ever expressed disapproval about my blog, I would have stopped blogging immediately, as wimpy as that might sound."

UW-Madison's own inimitable Jeremy Freese is quoted in this Inside Higher Ed article about blogging and tenure (which reports on the Daniel Drezner incident):
Jeremy Freese, who received tenure in sociology this year at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, said that he worried that his blog might hurt his chances, but that he doesn’t think it had an impact.

“If any senior faculty had ever expressed disapproval about my blog, I would have stopped blogging immediately, as wimpy as that might sound. I’m not addicted to my blog and the benefits I get from it are not as unique as the benefits of a wonderful job, which is what I have,” he said.

But Freese isn’t at all certain that senior faculty members even know about his blog. “I attended at least two dinner parties with senior colleagues in which the topic of blogs was raised and it was clear nobody else in attendance read blogs, and I certainly didn’t volunteer that I had one,” he said.

He said that his worry, pre-tenure, was that his department might think he was spending too much time on his blog, a concern he said would have been unfair. Freese noted that he doesn’t have children or a television and he’s sure he spends less time blogging than the average sociologist spends with children or watching TV. As for the content of what he writes, Freese said that he censored himself on some things before getting tenure and continues to do so now.

“It’s just the same kind of prudence that guides other kinds of interactions that could have professional consequences,” he said. “My rule is that I won’t say anything on my blog if there is anyone in the world that I would really regret if they saw it. But that hasn’t really been specifically motivated by tenure and hasn’t stopped with getting tenure."
A good rule. I note the word "really" in the phrase "really regret." A little regret is worth it, apparently. If you spend your whole life being careful, you'll never have any fun, and bad things will still happen.

I wonder which academic departments are most aware of blogging. I sounds as though the folks in Sociology just don't notice this ... social phenomenon.

Some questions for "Curb Your Enthusiasm" fans.

Did you like all that "Passion of the Christ" material in the new episode?

Was there any reason to have that brassiere subplot in the same episode?

Was it the best use of the cross as a weapon since "The Graduate"?

How much religion can Larry David pack into this season? Will it work as well as themes from earlier seasons, like opening the restaurant and being in "The Producers"?

My profoundest question: Are you for Susie or Cheryl?

Looking for a strict constructionist.

Hugh Hewitt, who likes a lot of my "Mellowing on Miers" post, has a problem with my observation that Bush is failing to meet his campaign promise to appoint justices in the mold of Scalia and Thomas. He writes:
When Bush said "like Scalia or Thomas" many people heard many things. I think it is very safe to say that the vast majority of American voters did not hear [as Althouse puts it] "justices committed to a particular theory...of textualism or originalism." I think they heard "justices who aren't making stuff up," or "justices who aren't full of themselves," or "justices who will not impose same sex marriage or overturn every juvenille death penalty in the land or import EEC law on a whim."

I think they heard "results," and if I am right, Bush has not only not broken his promise, he may be well on his way to fulfilling it twice and hopefully more times over.
Stephen Bainbridge then takes issue with Hewitt. He quotes a 1999 "Meet the Press" interview with Bush, where he says that in looking for a Supreme Court justice "the most important view I want to know is are you a strict constructionist ....Will you strictly interpret the Constitution or will you use your bench as a way to legislate? ... will they strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States?" Bainbridge observes:
Contrary to what Hugh claims, there is no doubt in my mind that Bush expressly stated an intent to apply a litmus test - namely whether or not the nominee was committed to what Hugh calls a "committed to a particular theory"; namely, strict construction. In turn, strict construction is defined as:
... interpreting the Constitution based on a literal and narrow definition of the language without reference to the differences in conditions when the Constitution was written and modern conditions, inventions and societal changes.
In other words, a justice "committed to a particular theory" of strict construction would be an originalist or textualist.

Bush said he would appoint strict constructionists. That is the promise he made and the fire to which his feet should be held.
There's a funny thing about the way Bush kept saying he wanted someone like Justice Scalia and his repeated use of the term "strict constructionist": Scalia doesn't purport to be a "strict constructionist." Indeed, he goes out of his way to reject the term. Here's an excerpt from my notes on a speech Justice Scalia gave here at the UW Law School on March 15, 2001.
“What do we think we’re doing when we are interpreting the Constitution? … What is the object?”

“My school of thought is very much in the minority”— originalism, but it used to be orthodoxy: everyone believed it until 40 years ago.

people were not necessarily honest about how they did their originalism then, but they all professed to believe in it. There were “willful judges” then as there are now.

“They used to do it the honest way: they lied about it.”

The change is: people today don’t feel it’s “necessary to lie about it anymore.”

he prefers the old way, even with the lying: “hypocrisy is the beginning of virtue.”

the change has occurred very rapidly.

The 19th amendment, adopted in 1920: if they’d have thought like the majority thinks today, they wouldn’t have bothered amending the Constitution: they’d just have used the Equal Protection clause.

Nonoriginalists tout the “living Constitution.” For example, they’d find the death penalty violates “cruel and unusual punishment.” They want the Constitution to reflect the “evolving standards of a maturing society.” Scalia scoffs at the notion of a “maturing society”: it assumes that “every day in every way it’s getting better and better.” It’s “pollyannaish.” The Framers were concerned that future generations would do bad things: that’s why they adopted the Bill of Rights.

Here are the ways in which the notion of the living Constitution is defended:

It’s flexible.

“The Constitution is not an organism.” It doesn’t need flexibility in order to work: it won’t become brittle and break.

but it is not flexible to make more choices off-limits to democratic preference by identifying more rights.

it makes the Supreme Court the sole possessor of the power to change it: how is that flexible? “It is rigidity.”

[he fails to note that a right reserves decisionmaking for the individual: rights-making changes who gets the flexibility. You could end up with more flexibility even though you leave less flexibility to the legislature. Also fails to note how constitutional line-drawing may be about which democratic process gets more room to choose: state/federal.]

It’s good for liberals.

living Constitution vs. originalism is not about liberals vs. conservatives: “Conservatives distort the Constitution for their ends just as willingly as liberals.”

Consider the day the court came out with Romer v. Evans (which he called Romer v. Colorado) and BMW v. Gore (where he, amusingly, refrained from saying the respondent’s name). Romer produced a result liberals like and BMW produced a result that conservatives like. In both cases, people thought “it’s terrible so it must be unconstitutional. And the Court agreed.”

“I say a pox on both their houses.”

“This is an equal opportunity fallacy.”

It will lead to more freedom.

why is that even a good idea? maximum freedom is anarchy. You should want the right balance between freedom and order.

but why do people think the living constitution will lead to more freedom? it “will lead to what the current society wants.”

example: confrontation case with sexually abused child testifying over closed circuit TV. The living Constitution produced a restriction of rights but originalism would have protected the rights of the accused.

example: Apprendi, originalism led Scalia and Thomas to vote with those who protect the rights of the accused

It will make you happier.

living Constitution folks can always feel good because they always make the Constitution mean what they think it should mean. They can say after a day’s work that they feel great because they discover once again that the “Constitution means exactly what I thought it meant.”

the originalist comes home and feels bad. Scalia doesn’t like bearded, sandal wearing flag burners, but he had to vote on their side because he takes the first amendment seriously and a statute targeting flag burning (as opposed to burning anything—trash, leaves, etc.) is against speech. His hands were tied. “My philosophy ties my hands.” When he went to breakfast after deciding that case, his wife was scrambling eggs and humming the “Stars and Stripes Forever.” She’s more conservative than he is. He had to feel bad about the decision.

In this regard, he noted that he is not a “strict constructionist.” “I never say that.” He interprets the Constitution “reasonably.” To be a strict constructionist, you’d have to say that Congress could censor handwritten letters (they aren’t “speech” or “press”).

[I can’t help thinking that his originalism does make him feel good: the comfort of saying any sad effects are beyond my control, the satisfaction of feeling that I am the one who adheres to principle.]
So, in a sense, Bush didn't know what he was talking about when he pointed as Scalia as his model for a judge. "Strict constructionist" is more of a politician's term. Nixon used it pointedly. Who has the better of the argument, then, Hewitt or Bainbridge?

Busy!

Hugh Hewitt calls my mellowing-on-Miers post "important," and Cyber Bob reviews my podcast #9 ("She sounds like she been through some very hard times, and this hidden emotion in her voice keeps me listening"), but I've got to extract myself from these fascinating matters and get ready for my 11:00 Religion and the Constitution class and a lunchtime talk to the Dane County Bar Association.

"There's something sick about making entertainment out of real people's legal problems."

So says Justice Scalia, saying why he opposes television cameras at Supreme Court oral arguments.
"We don't want to become entertainment," he said. "I think there's something sick about making entertainment out of real people's legal problems. I don't like it in the lower courts, and I don't particularly like it in the Supreme Court."
Oh, come on. When Court TV shows a murder trial, that might absorb us in an unhealthy way, and wrongly make victims into a spectacle for cheap entertainment, but by the time a case is argued in the Supreme Court, the victims are out of view and the issue has been abstracted. What is left is a high-level debate about ideas and the meaning of texts. The public would be lifted up and educated by hearing the arguments.

UPDATE: I suspect that what Scalia is concerned about is not so much those "real people" with legal problems, but the image of the justices. If we could see them pushing with questions and interrupting decent lawyers, maybe regular people would find them narcissistic, pompous, rude, or just plain strange. They'd be ridiculed. "The Daily Show" would run clips. Some folks like me would watch the uncut show on C-Span, but most would experience the Court in the context of politics and humor. The question is whether that might be good for them.

Mellowing on Miers.

The Washington Times reports on the official White House response to the massive doubts about Harriet Miers. On the surface, it's all wait and see, we actually know what we're doing. Meanwhile, nearly half the Republican senators have expressed doubts.
[Senator] Thune, for instance, did not go beyond calling for a "fair up-or-down" vote.

"However, I will reserve judgment on this nominee until the Senate studies her qualifications," he said before invoking conservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. "It has been my expectation that President Bush would nominate someone in the mold of Justices Scalia and Thomas and it is my hope that Harriet Miers will prove to be such a person."
In an important sense, President Bush has already failed to fulfill his campaign promise that he would choose someone like Justices Scalia and Thomas, because they are justices committed to a particular constitutional theory, which they make a point of saying they are bound by. Really, John Roberts did not fit this mold either. It seemed as though he was supposed to be conservative, but one couldn't really know, and, in fact, he seems likely to end up in a more moderate position than Scalia and Thomas. And we discovered at the hearings that Roberts did not embrace the sort of textualism or originalism that distinguishes Scalia and Thomas. Roberts presented himself as more of a pragmatist (like Justice O'Connor, perhaps, or even Justice Breyer). And surely, Harriet Miers is associated with no theory of constitutional interpretation. She appears to have never shown any interest in constitutional analysis at all.

This lack of interest in theory has bothered a lot of lawprofs, including me. Conlawprofs are biased in favor of theory. If you are going to devote your life to the subject of constitutional law, as an academic subject, you are probably the sort of person who is attracted to abstractions, theories, and larger patterns and aspirations. You are going to tend to approve of jurists who have a similar frame of mind, a large capacity for theory, that makes you and the people you surround yourself with so impressive. Now, who is this Harriet Miers, this practicing lawyer, who presumes to go on the Court and write the opinions we must spend our lives reading and analyzing? Even when you have little hope that the nominee will decide the cases the way you want, you have a problem with the presumptuousness of putting a person like that on the Court. Roberts was one thing, but she is quite another. In him, we saw ourselves, but she is just an attorney. The very idea!

Thinking about it that way has begun to thaw my opposition to Miers. Why is it not a good thing to have one person on the Court who approaches constitutional decisionmaking the way a lawyer would deal with the next legal problem that comes across the desk? Perhaps the Court is harmed by an excess of interest in the theoretical. A solid, experienced lawyer like Miers, with no real background in constitutional law, might look at the text, the precedents, the briefs, and use the standard lawyer's methods to resolve the problem at hand. What is wrong with having that style of analysis in the mix? We need a safeguard against the excessively theoretical.

And let's not forget that much of the Court's work is not constitutional law. There are many complicated federal statutes that require interpretation and many problems of procedural law to be sorted out. Too often the justices seem to be preoccupied by cases that appeal to the theoretical mind, but that have less real effect on the world than many tedious, technical matters that they might have spent their efforts on. For example, the problem of whether government can display the Ten Commandments absorbed the Court last year. It's a fascinating theoretical problem that I enjoy discussing with students in the classroom. But what cases solving less fascinating problems were passed up to put the Ten Commandments cases on the docket?

Thinking about these things, I've mellowed on Miers.

October 10, 2005

Audible Althouse, #10.

We're up to the double digits in podcasts, with episode #10. I forgot to reset the tempo, so I had to fit it into 30 minutes or so. Here it is.

Bloggers on the Miers nomination.

Right Wing News polled 79 "right of center" bloggers (including me) about the Miers nomination. Here are the results.

Girls' night out.

Harriet Miers, Condoleezza Rice, and (former agriculture secretary) Ann M. Veneman have a regular girls' night out -- AKA "G.N.O." -- but since there's "a pinkie swear that what goes on at the table stays at the table," there's nothing juicy in the NYT article about it.

After gay marriage: "gender fluidity."

Wisconsin State Journal reports:
"Even though I see myself as a male, often I'm talking to other people, especially within the LGBT community, and I refer to myself with feminine pronouns and nouns and think nothing of it," said [a UW student]. "(It's) kind of a dichotomous relationship between my anatomy and my mannerisms and behavior."

Eric Trekell, the director of the campus center, referred to this kind of expression as "gender fluidity." He believes that the way society reacts to people who don't conform to gender expectations will be the next public debate after gay marriage.

"What we're seeing more and more are students coming out of high schools who are rejecting the common notions of gender," Trekell said. "They say, 'I express myself how I want, whenever I want.'"

While researchers have yet to quantify the trend, Caitlin Ryan, a clinical social worker at San Francisco State University who's conducting a long-term sexual orientation and gender survey of youth and their families, says in the last five years, she's seen more young people coming out as transsexual - those who believe they are one gender trapped inside the body of the other.

She and others in her field also are seeing a noticeable number of young people who are ... taking it further by purposely evading gender definition, expressing androgyny with wardrobe, hairstyle or makeup - sometimes going as far as calling themselves a "boi" or a "grrl."...

[P]eople who stretch gender stereotypes do not always feel safe doing so publicly. Trekell, of OutReach, said many of the gender-fluid students he meets conform to their biological gender at school, work, or any place they perceive as hostile toward gender variance....

But as young people continue to challenge gender distinctions, the answer to the question "boy or girl?" will become more complicated. Trekell said it may be more difficult for the straight public to accept gender fluidity than gay or transgender culture.

"Gender identity is still such a pervasive part of our society that students that are really fluid in that are still seen, I think in some ways, more as 'freaks' than trans(gender) people," Trekell said. "It's like, 'Choose. What are you?'

"We still have that dipolar concept of what you should be."
Is "gender fluidity" the next public debate after gay marriage? Gay marriage requires legal changes and demands that others readjust their behavior. To make "gender fluidity" into a political cause, do you need to generate tangible political demands that the individual should have choices about which sex-segregated facilities to use or that sex-segregated facilities be abolished? I'm not a fan of strict sex stereotypes, and I'm very tolerant, especially of young people experimenting with their identity. But as soon as males claim a right to use the women's bathroom, I'm flipped over to the other side. But those who want "gender fluidity" to be a political movement seem intent on creating this opposition (see the linked article). Too bad!

MORE: I've written about the "transgendered bathrooms" before. Here's an old post (collecting links to earlier posts). There are detailed discussions of the problems in the comments.

Do professors understand blogging?

No, they do not.

MORE: Actually, I should say that I think some of the mistakes were sophisticated. On seeing Tonya's spoof blog in the guise of Bill, "Kelvin" thought: "Wow! Bill's really out there, but I guess that's a good thing." "Carolyn" thought it was satirical but that Bill himself was doing the satire. That's not really dumb. I mean, I could imagine starting a blog that looks like it's someone else pretending to be me. You might develop some fine humor ideas in that mode. Who knows how to ridicule you better than you yourself? And you never have to worry about yourself taking it the wrong way and getting steamed.

October 9, 2005

Lawprofs as Supreme Court justices?

Orin Kerr is talking about whether lawprofs make good Supreme Court justices. That prompted this comment from someone known only as "appellate lawyer":
Some profs would make great judges, but most -- esp. most Con Law ones -- would be horrendous. Most Con Law profs (the ones on VC being notable exceptions) are the most blatant results-oriented types around, with everything else as window dressing.

Aside from that, I have seen pretty many profs jump into appellate briefing on their pet issues. Most stink. Many just like to cite their own articles, and their friends articles, as if that were legal authority.

If I could pick 9 profs from the rare minority of profs, then I could make a Court of them. But if I had to pick 9 random Con Law profs from the top 20 law schools, or 9 random managing partners from the top 20 firms, I'd take the firm crew, with no doubt.
I just want to say that I'd like that to be a reality TV show, like "The Apprentice," not one of the seasons where they have the men's team and the women's team, but one where they divide them up into "street smart" and "book smart" or "corporate" and "creative." Each week, they get their task, a case to decide. Who would be the Donald/Martha passing judgment on their work? On what basis? Maybe a call-in vote, a la "American Idol."

Defending Miers, digging a deeper hole.

Kate O'Beirne made a pithy statement about the Miers nomination on "Meet the Press" today. The specific issue was the lack of judicial experience, and they'd just run a tape of Justice Scalia sounding positive about having "people with all sorts of backgrounds" on the Court.
MS. O'BEIRNE: The lack of judicial experience is not fundamentally important here. I agree with Justice Scalia. Look at Robert Bork in 1987. Robert Bork, of course, remains a hero to the conservatives. Nobody knew his personal views on any issues. Nobody asked his personal views on any issues because he had well-stated, well-understood views on the Constitution. Because Harriet Miers doesn't have those, surrogates of the White House are pointing to her personal opinions, which she shouldn't be bringing onto the Court, and to the fact that she's an evangelical Christian, which some supporters of the president find persuasive. We shouldn't care about what her personal creed is. We want her to be faithful to the Constitution. But they can't make those arguments on her behalf because she's expressed over the years no interest in or opinions on any of these constitutional issues.
Yes, this is a fundamental problem. Those most vocally opposed to the Miers nomination are strong social conservatives. But the attempt to win them back repels people who care about the proper functioning of the courts. In fact, early on the show they had Dr. Richard Land, of the Southern Baptist Convention, defending the Miers nomination, and he was saying things like this (when asked why he wasn't concerned that Miers would become "another Souter"):
Because I trust the president and this president is not those previous presidents. George W. Bush, if he's anything, is a man of his word. And if there's any issue that he's earned the trust of conservatives on, it's this issue. ... He picked a person he's known for 15 years, and I believe he picked her because he knows her that well and he knows that she will vote the way he would want her to vote.

MR. RUSSERT: In fact, there was a conference call on Thursday, originated by the White House, someone who claims to have been on the call has shared notes of that with the People for the American Way who've now put it on their Web site. And it has under Dr. Richard Land, you say, "I am from Texas. George W. Bush is from Texas and Harriet Miers is from Texas. And in Texas, we have two important values, courage and loyalty. If Harriet Miers didn't rule the way George W. Bush thought she would, he would see that as an act of betrayal and so would she." Is that accurate?

DR. LAND: It is. It's substantially accurate. I didn't say that those were the only two values. But those are two very important values. And if someone is disloyal, if someone betrays a trust, in Texas, they're right down there with child molesters and ax murderers. And I'm absolutely convinced this president believes absolutely in his heart, and this is not David Souter. George Bush 41 didn't know David Souter from Adam's cat until John Sununu introduced him. The president has known this woman. She's been intimately involved in the selection process for the last five years.
So, great, huh? If Miers doesn't go on the Court and vote the way George Bush wants her to vote, she's on a level with an ax murderer, according to the governing Texas values that are meant to reassure us.

"The energy you consume (while playing) is immense. The degree of concentration and absorption is so great that you lose yourself."

Playing video games in Korea:
Many of South Korea's 17 million gamers -- some 35 percent of the population, principally males in their teens and twenties -- are obsessive. At the 1,000 won-per-hour ($1) Internet cafes popular among young South Koreans, they'll sit eyes glued to monitors for hours on end. Sometimes play will extend for days.

"I've seen people who play games for months, just briefly going home for a change of clothing, taking care of all their eating and sleeping here," Jun said.

Gamers camped out at Internet cafes typically live on instant cup noodles and cigarettes, barely sleeping and seldom washing.

"Gray is nature's way of whispering 'You're dying.'"

Anderson Cooper talks about his gray hair. He says it can be cool for a guy to go prematurely gray. But:
When was the last time you saw a sexy gray-haired woman in a movie? Rogue and Storm don't count; they're cartoon characters.

"It's not fair," says Diane Harris, a media image consultant, "but men see gray on a woman and they think she's old."

My friend Cathy went gray in her early thirties. She was attractive and successful, but guys backed away.

"Men instantly assumed Birkenstock-wearing, protest-rally-organizing cat lover," Cathy says. "You could see it in their eyes."

Needless to say, Cathy's no longer gray.
Gray and white are flattering colors. We wear clothes in these colors all the time. But the meaning of gray/white hair is just too deep. I started getting white hairs when I was a teenager and had so many by time I was in my late twenties that my naturally red hair didn't read as red anymore. It just looked dull. And when I ran into friends I hadn't seen in a while the horror would show on their faces! You have to color. Anyway, most women color their hair even when they aren't going gray, don't they? Gray hair? It's just not done anymore. Completely white hair? That might be cool, but it takes a while before it's completely white, and by the time it is, you've probably been coloring so long that it's hard to think of how you could do it. Let the roots grow over the summer, then cut it so only the new uncolored part is left. Then waltz into work in September with very short, absolutely white hair. That would really shock people. I'd do it. But only if they made a reality TV show about me doing it.

A good excuse for withdrawing the Miers nomination?

Relying on this might work nicely to allow Bush to save face.

"I always think they're showing off, and probably they're not typing anything; they're just hitting the keyboard."

The writers' shared workspace:
Paragraph and the Writers Junction are part of a growing number of members-only centers springing up in writerly metropolises like New York, Boston and Los Angeles. For $100 a month, on average, members secure the right to a desk, a lamp and a power strip in a shared space where they can ply their trade day and night.

Ms. Parisi compares writers' rooms to gyms. In both, a large group of people share the same equipment. And, paying for membership helps writers take their commitment to writing seriously, she said, and gets them "off of the couch" and onto the literary StairMaster....

And like exercise buffs, the writers who use these spaces need to be self-motivated and disciplined. "The concept of writers as drunken Hemingwayesque malcontents traveling the globe is over," Ms. Cecil said. "They see it as a job now, and they see themselves not as inspired alcoholics, or depressive psychopaths alone in a tenement. It's more mainstream. It's good kids going to M.F.A. programs, then looking for a place to find the kind of writerly community they had in grad school."...

You might think that a writer surrounded by dozens of direct competitors tapping away at the Great American Novel would find his creative juices frozen, not freed. But the playwright Kirk Wood Bromley, a member of the Brooklyn space, says he finds the atmosphere bracing. "I think writers get jazzed by writing in a room with other writers," he said. "Writing is a very competitive art."

Another Brooklyn member, the novelist Lisa Selin Davis, was less jazzed. "I hear people typing and I freak out," she said. "I think: 'They're typing so fast. Why aren't I?' And then you've got the loud typists, and I always think they're showing off, and probably they're not typing anything; they're just hitting the keyboard."

There is something about being surrounded by other people working that can make you feel that what you are trying to do is real. But then there is that way that you can get alienated all over again, where you feel that all the others are doing something real, and you're the fake, and maybe they can tell. And then there's just that $100 a month you're spending. That could be an incentive, but it could also haunt you and worry you and make you feel that you owe your writing to some boss, but you're really that boss, who's paid for you, so you'd better get cracking. And then you can fritter away even more hard-bought time wondering if this really is the way an artist ought to live. But, then, didn't you set yourself up here to overcome procrastination? Oh, why don't you just think about that for a while?

Young George Washington.

Computers generate a picture of the youthful Washington.
Standing 6-foot-3, very tall for his time, he had a prominent nose, a square jaw undamaged by dental disease and a slim, muscular build. With his piercing gray-blue eyes and long auburn hair that he wore in a ponytail, in another age he might have been a rock star.

I love the idea of re-portraying the great President as a young man. But what's with the "rock star" image? Being very good looking is not a qualification for rock stardom. Being a rock star tends to make an average or even bad looking guy seem highly attractive.

"She needs more than murder boards. She needs a crash course in constitutional law."

Arlen Specter on Harriet Miers. ("Murder boards" are the practice sessions to prepare for the Senate hearings.)
Behind the scenes, Republican allies of the White House said they were trying to put together a public relations strategy to combat the mounting criticism over the Miers nomination.... They said the White House was working to assemble a dossier that would back up its case about Ms. Miers' record of accomplishment, her legal qualifications and her conservative credentials.
Oh, they are just now getting around to figuring out a strategy about how to support her nomination? How easy does Bush have to make it for his critics? The resonance with the usual arguments about lack of planning for Iraq, Katrina, etc., couldn't be more obvious.
Jim Dyke, a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee who has joined the White House to help confirm Ms. Miers, said in an interview she was being seriously underestimated.

"President of the Texas bar association, president of the Dallas Bar Association, head of a major law firm, those are impressive credentials and they are being summarily dismissed," Mr. Dyke said. Asked about Mr. Specter's remark, Mr. Dyke said that as White House counsel, Ms. Miers already had "a mastery of the Constitution and constitutional law," and said she needed to do nothing more than any other nominee to prepare. He added, "There seem to be some unfair assumptions being made."
I love the way Dyke's first attempts at persuasion instantly undermine his credibility.
Several Republicans, including Mr. Specter, said they steered clear of asking Ms. Miers questions about constitutional law. Mr. Specter, who said the timing of the confirmation hearings would depend in part on when Ms. Miers felt ready, said he initiated a discussion of the shifting standards the Supreme Court has applied in interpreting the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, but only to illustrate to Ms. Miers the kinds of questions she would face during her hearings.

"I did not ask her about it because I don't think she's ready to face it at the moment," he said. "Look, the lady was White House counsel dealing with totally other subjects until Sunday night when the president offered her the job. And Monday she's sitting with me. I'm not going to ask her questions which she hasn't had a chance to study or reflect on."
But she has a mastery of constitutional law, I've heard.
One conservative advocate, Sean Rushton, executive director of the Committee for Justice, said generating enthusiasm for Ms. Miers was proving difficult because "anytime we put out something positive about her it gets shot to pieces by all our allies and the blogs."
Oh, the blogs! Keeping you honest, demanding credibility, dismantling specious arguments. It's a real pain, isn't it? You can't get even get your propaganda started these days.

"I had been raised to believe that enforced celibacy was a misguided practice, an artifact of medieval papal politics..."

"...and yet here were men who rejoiced in it." The son of a priest and a nun contemplates becoming a monk.

"The very first words I wrote on this blog were: 'I shouldn't be doing this. I'll be going up for tenure soon.'"

Daniel Drezner puts his thoughts about being denied tenure in genuinely bloggish form, which takes nerve and charm and high spirits. (Link via Instapundit.)

Considering that he can't know whether his blogging played a role in the denial of tenure, does he have any regrets?
[I]f one assumes that the opportunity cost of blogging (e.g., better or more scholarship) was the difference between tenure and no tenure – an unclear assertion at best – then it’s a tough call. From a strict cost-benefit analysis, one could argue that the doors that blogging opened could have been deferred for a few years in return for the annuity of a tenured position at Chicago. That said, if I did things only for the money, I never would have entered the academy in the first place. And I’ve enjoyed the psychic rewards of blogging way too much to regret my choice.
I know some untenured lawprofs who want to blog but who are hesitating or have already decided to wait until they have tenure. Drezner's case will probably stand as a cautionary tale for everyone now, despite the paucity of evidence that the blog hurt his cause. With the University of Chicago Law School putting its weight behind an official faculty blog, should we think that the University of Chicago political science department is hostile to blogging?

But there is a real range of thought among faculty members about blogging. Some get it and some don't. Those who do tend to have blogs or want to start them. But there are many -- and they might not talk about it -- who don't understand the phenomenon. Some of these feel threatened by blogging or, perhaps, jealous of those who are getting attention -- unjustly! -- by blogging. Anytime a blogger falls short in any other aspect of life, it is possible to say it was because of the blogging.

If you didn't blog so much, you would have
[used all that time to do whatever I think you ought to have done].

Time spent on a blog is visible in a way that time spent watching movies or talking with friends or reading mystery novels or engaging in physical exercise or playing with your kids or daydreaming is not. Those who worry about blogging or feel jealous of bloggers have that blog always there, so visible, planting tiny negative impulses in their heads day by day. Then some day, when they must make a decision about you, who knows what role the blog played?

But for a true blogger, like Drezner, it's worth it.

UPDATE: Steven Taylor notes that colleagues keep asking him how much time he spends blogging. It makes you wonder if they're going to use it against you. My stock answer is: "It's a trade secret." The truth is, I myself don't know. Relatively little time is spent actually writing out posts, but a strange amount of time is spent on peripheral activities that are hard to draw a line around -- like reading miscellaneous things and thinking. But is that blogging? People who don't blog do that too.

"Entire villages -- they have collapsed... almost entire towns, they have vanished..."

The death toll from yesterday's earthquake in Pakistan nears 20,000, with many still buried in rubble:
Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf issued a plea on Sunday for foreign aid -- specifically, cargo helicopters and relief goods such as tents and blankets.

Helicopters are necessary, he said, because roads leading into some remote areas have been buried by landslides and the areas cannot be reached.

Musharraf said it was difficult to reach remote areas, "which are mountains anywhere over 10,000 feet."

"We can only go by roads, and roads also don't reach to every corner, so therefore it's only helicopter access that we have. Things are not as simple as one would see in the West."

He asked the international community to "bear with us. We have formulated our strategy now. UK and U.S., yes, indeed, we will expect helicopter support from you."

Isn't this a difficult situation, sending American helicopters to the very area -- the mountainous region bordering Afghanistan -- where our worst enemies have been hiding for years? Yet it isn't possible for us not to help.

UPDATE: As I wrote that post, the estimated turned to 30,000:
Villagers desperate to find survivors dug with bare hands Sunday through the debris of a collapsed school where children had been heard crying beneath the rubble...