November 26, 2005

"Metcalf died in 2003 at age 45 while living in a replica of George Washington's Mount Vernon estate built in Corbin, Kentucky."

The fate of a powerball winner. Now, Metcalf's ex-wife -- they separated on hitting the lottery -- has been found lying dead in her house by the Ohio River, her corpse undiscovered for days. She'd been keeping to herself since last December, when a dead man "was found in her 5,000-square-foot, custom-built geodesic dome house."

So, do you think you would have done better if you'd won $65 million? You think you wouldn't have built a geodesic dome or a replica of Mount Vernon?

IN THE COMMENTS: Readers identify the house they would build a replica of if they had the money.

"That new mattress delivered from a reputable department store, which kindly hauled away your old one? "

"It may have spent all day in a truck wedged against an old mattress collected from a customer with a bedbug problem."

"Anyone who stays in a hotel, rich or poor, can bring them home in a suitcase... Some of the best hotels in New York have them."

Bedbugs!

Breakthrough of the week.

When I see someone's talking about me on another blog, I don't click over and read. This is life in the blogosphere. At some point, you become a target. To go on, to do this thing, you have to accept that they are talking about you over there, but that there is no profit in knowing what they are saying.

Tedious seasonal news reports.

I have a rule: I change the channel/click the mouse when I see the word "tryptophan."

"The Apprentice."

Spoilers follow, of course!

So, our dear boy Adam is gone, and for the first time no white male makes it to the final episode. No white male makes it to the semi-final. Adam was always at a disadvantage, being so terribly young (22), and he should feel great that he made it as far as he did. I think he knew that. In his taxicab confession, he presented his resume for all his future contacts. Smart! They should all do that, rather than rip the other contestants.

Adam remained, every step of the way, a decent, diligent, good kid. And wasn't it cool of him that he didn't make that boring? We felt for the kid. In the clip show that aired on Wednesday, we saw extra footage from the show where they did the education program about sex in the workplace. The expert they brought in to help them asked "Who here has had sex?" He thought that, of course, everyone would raise their hand and then they'd laugh, and it would be an ice breaker. But Adam couldn't raise his hand. Who in the history of the world has had his virginity exposed so blatantly, to so many people? But Adam kept his nerve. He stood up for himself. He's a great guy.

A toast to Adam!

But this week's task? It was a great task. You have all this advertising wrapping, and you're supposed to find something interesting to wrap. But the winner would be chosen by the number of people who call a phone number for a free sample, not by executives judging the quality of the advertising, presenting a new brand to consumers who would pay money for the product. The product was perfume, named after a star, Shania Twain. Having an army of temps with sandwichboards and megaphones was a horrible association for a perfume. But the contestants were right to ignore that, and ignore the creative task of finding something cool to wrap. They concentrated on how they were to be judged: by the number of phone calls. I cringed at the hucksters on the street, who had a negative impact on the brand. It's perfume! The quintessential luxury item. They were hawking it like a strip club!

I loved the way Rebecca and Randal pulled together and won. And I loved the way Trump did something new, sending Alla back to safety and pitting Felica and Adam against each other to debate for their lives. Both of them did a fine job. Never on the show have I seen such an even match. The editors let them have it out for a good, long time. Imagine if job interviews were like that and you had to go head-to-head with one other candidate, pitching yourself as the better of the two!

"Poverty and Prostitution."

The NYT profiles Massoud Dehnamaki, whom it calls "Iran's Michael Moore":
Reformists and conservatives alike harshly criticized Mr. Dehnamaki for making the first movie, "Poverty and Prostitution." Conservatives were furious that one of their own had not only highlighted an un-Islamic social pathology but seemed to sympathize with the prostitutes. Reformists believed he deliberately exaggerated the problem to make a case against easing Islamic law....

In the movie, Mr. Dehnamaki interviews more than a dozen prostitutes and many of their customers. All the women tell the same story of poverty and the need to provide for their families.

"We are two sisters working, and we can hardly earn enough to buy food and pay our rent," says a sobbing woman, whose face was covered to hide her identity.

"I sometimes dream of having chicken, or good food, at least once a week," she goes on, wiping away tears. "I have worked at homes where they had so much money that they threw food in the garbage. I always envy people who can eat well."

A woman clad in the traditional head-to-toe chador, who introduces herself as the mother of the two sisters, says she has thought of killing herself and her daughters several times because of the hardship of their lives but she could not find the courage....

Mr. Dehnamaki, 36, believes Iran needs to modernize, within the confines of a strict Islam, but not Taliban-style.

"If we are against the Islam that the Taliban introduced, we must be able to offer a good model of the Islam that we believe is the source of compassion and kindness," he said. "But it has to be according to the needs of today so that it would be acceptable to our youth."
Much more at the link. Very compelling. Did they have to drag in Michael Moore, though?

"Salmon, lentils, rice with almonds and a salad of parsley, tomatoes, cucumbers and bulgur wheat."

What the war protesters ate for Thanksgiving dinner to express something or other. Get it? They built a stone (concrete?) monument to themselves too.

UPDATE: Dr. Helen contemplates the dubious connection between food and virtue.

Fiber, function, flexibility, freedom, fashion.

In 1924, the Englishman George Mallory and Andrew (Sandy) Irvine died trying to climb Mount Everest. A photograph taken at base camp showed them dressed in "English gentleman's attire of plus fours and tweed jackets":



Now, Graham Hoyland, the great nephew of a member of the expedition's members, wants to climb Everest wearing the clothes they wore. He says it's not as ridiculous as it seems because, in fact, as the recently recovered bodies revealed, the men wore a lot of layers:
"The typical myth of Mallory was that he was under-equipped and amateurish," said Mary Rose, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Lancaster University in the UK, who was inspired by the discovery of Mallory's body to attempt a recreation of his wardrobe.

In fact, she said: "We've found that he understood his clothing probably better than modern climbers.

"It was quite an advanced system; the silk gave wind-proofing, and the silk and woollen layers moved off each other so it was quite easy to climb."...

"I guess I will find it much easier to move across the terrain, but I imagine the wind will be really cutting," [Hoyland] said.
Cool project. It reminds me of efforts to recreate the shoes of the 5,300-year-old Iceman:
"These shoes are very comfortable. They are perfectly able to protect your feet against hard terrain, against hot temperatures, against cold temperatures," [said Petr Hlavacek, a Czech shoe expert who has created replicas]....

Despite their flimsy leather soles, the shoes offer a good grip and superb shock absorption, and are blister-free, Hlavacek said.

It's like going barefoot, "only better," he said. "In the Oetzi shoes, you feel something like freedom, flexibility."...

[The shoes were tested by Vaclav Patek, a Czech mountaineer ... who owns a firm that makes mountaineering shoes for extreme terrain, has climbed all of Europe's tallest mountains. "I daresay I would manage to climb them all in the Oetzi shoes," he said.




The love of natural fibers. That was a major 1970s cultural trend. Now it's an area of scientific study, but will the fashion trend ever come around again? I remember the reaction to the first wave of polyester clothing, when lots of people made a big point of wearing only natural fibers. Somehow we slid back into polyester (renamed "microfiber") and lost that well-cultivated aversion to the artificial. There are all sorts of high tech fabrics now, and we don't ever bother to shun them. We don't ever talk about the importance of layers anymore.

Now, there's a fashion trend that's got to revive at some point:

The perils of trying to cheer Germans up about Germany.

The slogan you dream up -- "Du Bist Deutschland -- You Are Germany" -- turns out to be a slogan the Nazis used. You spend $34 million designing a self-esteem campaign, because studies show Germans are among the gloomiest people in the world, very pessimistic about the economy, and then some historian digs up a photograph from a Nazi convention with a banner that has your slogan and an image of Adolf Hitler. Suggestion for a new slogan: Fortunately, Our Problem Is the Economy!

November 25, 2005

Did you read great books this year?

The NYT chooses 100 notable books for 2005. Can you recommend any of these? I've only read "Freakonomics" and parts of "Becoming Justice Blackmun."

I wonder if I would be a better person if the time I've spent reading various things on the web had been devoted to these books. How could I have spent a year reading so intensely, without reading books?

Miss Penitentiary.

Just something they do in Brazil.

"I feel my blog evolving."

"I’m not sure how it’s evolving, and I’m interested to find out." Beautiful. As ever. No one else ever wrote two sentences that made tears run down my face.

In the blogosphere, there are artists. There are many different individuals. But among them, there are the artists.

Before you link to a blog...

...do you look around a while to make sure there isn't a post that depicts an act of violence against you?

Me neither.

Ever link to a blog, maybe even a few times, and then later discover a post that depicts an act of violence against you?

Well, I have.

Fending off rabid attack poodles.

I really appreciate these two comments from Wombat Rampant. First:
I don't think I'll be dropping by the OSM portal much because I think Steven den Beste and Ann Althouse are correct in their criticisms of the business model and the way Simon and Johnson have handled things, i.e. poorly.
And second:
Ann Althouse is getting shot up from the right and the left these days, which unfortunately seems to be the fate of moderates in these polarized times. The Pajamas Media/OSM/Pajamas Media folks seem to have gone into hypersensitive rabid attack poodle mode ever since Professor A criticized them for things they themselves are trying to fix now; the latest blowup seems to be over her fairly mild criticism (if you can even call it that) of PM's Thanksgiving Parade liveblogging and related tightening of comment policing on the Professor's blog.

As for the yahoos at Daily Kos, sounds like the same hypocrisy on a different day as they defend their right to be as racist and sexist as they wanna be, because it's all just funny masks they wear in the comment section as a big inside joke. Ann exposes the stupidity of that argument, and ruminates that the Democrats went a long way towards killing off honest feminism in the Clinton years. All that's left are the "bitches" now, if you'll forgive my use of GULAG thieves' slang.
Thanks. A while back, instead of the quotes you now see in my banner, I had a description that began "Politics and the aversion to politics." I really am blogging as someone with a distaste for politics, someone who is put off by hot partisan passion. Most people who don't like partisan politics and who find themselves close to the political center aren't going to want to deal with the usual ugliness of the blogosphere. Why do I? I have my reasons.

Poodles.

I wish our teachers would (educate/indoctrinate) our children.

The news from Bennington, Vermont:
A high school teacher is facing questions from administrators after giving a vocabulary quiz that included digs at President Bush and the extreme right.

Bret Chenkin, a social studies and English teacher at Mount Anthony Union High School, said he gave the quiz to his students several months ago. The quiz asked students to pick the proper words to complete sentences.

One example: "I wish Bush would be (coherent, eschewed) for once during a speech, but there are theories that his everyday diction charms the below-average mind, hence insuring him Republican votes." "Coherent" is the right answer.

Principal Sue Maguire said she hoped to speak to whomever complained about the quiz and any students who might be concerned.
Pop grammar quiz: Principal Sue Maguire said she hoped to speak to (whoever, whomever) complained about the quiz and any students who might be concerned.

Back to the article:
Chenkin, 36, a teacher for seven years, said he isn't shy about sharing his liberal views with students as a way of prompting debate, but said the quizzes are being taken out of context.

"The kids know it's hyperbolic, so-to-speak," he said. "They know it's tongue in cheek." But he said he would change his teaching methods if some are concerned.

"I'll put in both sides," he said. "Especially if it's going to cause a lot of grief."
Chenkin's attempt at a defense is way better than we saw from the Madison, Wisconsin third grade teachers earlier this week ("I don't see it as a controversial issue"). And it's notable that he's teaching older students. I'd like to know more about the whole context. What were the other sentences on the test? What is the rest of the class time like? Do students comfortably debate with him and take different opinions? I like seeing his willingness to change and include divergent viewpoints, but it sounds as though he's only doing that to keep people from giving him "grief." He should want to do it as a matter of being a good educator.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum and Steven Bainbridge weigh in on this story.

No more Madonna and Child Christmas stamps?

Darleen discovers.
To know my mom is to know that she has never indulged in cutesy stuff. Every year she always selects the Christmas stamp that features a classic painting of Madonna and Child. She asks if they have any classic Christmas stamps and the man pulls out a couple of sheets of last year's Madonna and Child. Mom notices he doesn't seem happy and he says to her, "These are all I have and they'll be the last you ever see." Mom asks, "What do you mean?" He explains the USPS will not be issuing any more "religious" stamps.
After all these years of having a choice between the religious-themed and the non-religious-theme seasonal stamps, now all must choose the Santas and snowmen. So ends an American tradition that meant a lot to a lot of people. What was the point? No one had to pick the Madonna stamps. The Post Office makes millions off of people sending out Christmas cards. I think many people preferred the Madonna stamps because they reproduced beautiful works of art, from the grand historical tradition of depicting the Madonna and Child. The notion that the religious side of Christmas is something only Christians appreciate is actually quite wrong. I'll bet there are plenty of non-believers who prefer the religious imagery to the commercial-secular things that lack a beautiful art tradition. Leonardo da Vinci did not paint snowmen and Santas.

UPDATE: The commenters question Darleen's postal clerk and dig up some links. So I wouldn't take that story to mean that the Post Office has abandoned the stamps. I've added a question mark to the post title. Let my post serve the purpose of making part of the argument for retaining the stamps, for those who are feeling Newdowish about them. There's a lot of discussion about whether government should be issuing Madonna stamps, and I think it's still an interesting question, whether the policy has been changed or not.

IN THE COMMENTS: Darleen comes by and says:
I did offer my mom's story as an anecdote about what she was told, unsolicitied, over the counter, at her local PO. Not just about the stamps but about the "Happy Holiday" greeting in lieu of "Merry Christmas".

Via phone to USPS customer service I was unable to get a definitive answer on whether or not there WILL be religious stamps offered in the future.

A 2006 Madonna and Child design was presented in August to reporters at a Stamp show I have been unable to get a confirmation that the USPS is actually going to issue it next year.

The Pajamas Media Discussion Board.

Here. Set up by Laurence Simon, whose nerve I've recently praised. Now everyone can blogjam about the Pajamas Entity.

UPDATE: Over on the discussion board, someone named Louis Sifer writes "Honestly, I think Lou Minatti is Ann Althouse. Honest. It's my honest opinion. I detect the same writing style." What do you think are the chances that I would want to hide my writing under a pseudonym, and then what do you think are the chances that I'd come up with the name "Lou Minatti"? Now, I'm just giggling over the keyboard, which you might picture me doing a lot, but, in fact, I hardly ever do. But this Lou Minatti character seems pretty smart. The thread is limited to constructive criticism for Pajamas, and he's got:
Anyway, they need to turn it off. Now. Just shut it off.

Then sit down and ask what it is they're trying to do. Why not ask us, the readers? I can't recall anyone (Charles, Roger, Glenn) asking us for our ideas. It's their money of course, but it's like they just assumed that they would know what we wanted to look at.

Is PJM a blog aggregator? A competitor to Huffington? What is it? To this day I still do not know what PJM is, and I still haven't bookmarked it because it's guilty of the worst sin of all - there's nothing interesting to read there!

They need to get a clear idea of what they are. Until then, they are wasting time and money.
Ooh, I think Althouse adopted an unlikely pseudonym so she could make it look like someone else agreed with her and then link to "him" back on her blog. And she's probably also that Louis Sifer character too, using "him" to make the whole thing about her. She's an attention whore. Yeah, Louis Sifer, Lou Minatti -- I detect the same pseudonym-inventing style! Lou... Louis... her dad's name is probably Lou. Get the fedora'd detectives on this, quick!

Althouse-o-phobia seeps in the collective mind of the Pajama Entity, where the horrifying words echo:
They need to turn it off. Now. Just shut it off.

"Admission and Exclusion" at elite universities.

Michiko Kakutani reviews "The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale and Princeton," by Berkeley sociology professor Jerome Karabel. Here's some fascinating historical information about the origins of the nuanced admissions procedures we academics hold so dear:
Mr. Karabel writes that until the 1920's, Harvard, Yale and Princeton, "like the most prestigious universities of other nations," admitted students "almost entirely on the basis of academic criteria." Applicants "were required to take an examination, and those who passed were admitted." Though the exams exhibited a distinct class bias (Latin and Greek, after all, were not taught at most public schools), he says that "the system was meritocratic in an elemental way: if you met the academic requirements, you were admitted, regardless of social background."

This all changed after World War I, he argues, as it became "clear that a system of selection focused solely on scholastic performance would lead to the admission of increasing numbers of Jewish students, most of them of eastern European background." This development, he notes, occurred "in the midst of one of the most reactionary moments in American history," when "the nationwide movement to restrict immigration was gaining momentum" and anti-Semitism was on the rise, and the Big Three administrators began to worry that "the presence of 'too many' Jews would in fact lead to the departure of Gentiles." Their conclusion, in Mr. Karabel's words: "given the dependence of the Big Three on the Protestant upper class for both material resources and social prestige, the 'Jewish problem' was genuine, and the defense of institutional interests required a solution that would prevent 'WASP flight.' "

The solution they devised was an admissions system that allowed the schools, as Mr. Karabel puts it, "to accept - and to reject - whomever they desired." Instead of objective academic criteria, there would be a new emphasis on the intangibles of "character" - on qualities like "manliness," "personality" and "leadership." Many features of college admissions that students know today - including the widespread use of interviews and photos; the reliance on personal letters of recommendation; and the emphasis on extracurricular activities - have roots, Mr. Karabel says, in this period.
Later, universities changed the goals of admissions, Karabel writes, in part because discriminating against women and minorities went out of style and in part because large amounts of money from the foundations and the federal government freed them from needing to cater so much to the preferences of alumni donors. Karabel characterizes these changes as self-interested: the Big Three wanted "to preserve and, when possible, to enhance their position in a highly stratified system of higher education." They were "often deeply conservative" and "intensely preoccupied with maintaining their close ties to the privileged."

You just can't win with these sociology professors. Try to adopt an enlightened policy, and they'll find a way to demonstrate that you did it for your own good. Well, maybe you did.

Kazakhstan versus Borat.

Has there ever been a funnier idea for a lawsuit than Kazakhstan suing Sacha Baron Cohen for playing the character Borat?
Responding in character as Borat, Cohen, who is Jewish, said: ``I like to state, I have no connection with Mr Cohen and fully support my government's position to sue this Jew.''

``Since 2003 ... Kazakhstan is as civilized as any other country in the world,'' he said on his website, www.borat.kz.

``Women can now travel on inside of bus, homosexuals no longer have to wear blue hat and age of consent has been raised to eight years old.''
I love Borat's website. Very retro-web.

Are you nostalgic for old-fashioned web design? Or is it still so horrible that it isn't funny yet? You know the day will come when big corporations will tap this look to create that rebellious, indie feel that's so sought after.

UPDATE, December 14, 2005: Kazakhstan asserts its power over the "kz":
Yesterday, the government-appointed organization that regulates Web sites ending in the .kz domain name for Kazakhstan confirmed that Mr. Cohen's site had been suspended. Nurlan Isin, president of the Association of Kazakh IT Companies, said: "We've done this so he can't badmouth Kazakhstan under the .kz domain name. He can go and do whatever he wants at other domains."

Surprise! Nixon had qualms about mass nuclear destruction.

The NYT reports:
Widely considered a military hawk, President Richard M. Nixon fretted privately over the notion of any no-holds-barred nuclear war, newly released documents from his time at the White House reveal.

The recently declassified papers, from the first days of the Nixon presidency in 1969 until the end of 1974, show that Nixon wanted an alternative to the option of full-scale nuclear war - a plan for a gentler war, one that could ultimately vanquish the Soviet Union while avoiding the worst-case situation.

The papers provided a glimpse behind the scenes at efforts to find choices other than "the horror option," as the national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, called the worst-case scripts for all-out nuclear war that were then in place.
It would be surprising if Nixon didn't have qualms. It's a long crazy step from "military hawk" to feeling at ease with the prospect of killing millions of human beings.
The documents reveal Mr. Kissinger's chilling insight that government budget-crunchers would prefer complete nuclear warfare because it was already planned for and would be cheaper than recasting American capabilities to permit limited strikes.

"They believe in assured destruction because it guarantees the smallest expenditure," he said in August 1973 at a National Security Council meeting in the White House Situation Room. "To have the only option that of killing 80 million people is the height of immorality."
This is what is shocking.

"Unprepared? Been There, Done That."

Michael Brown is starting a disaster preparedness consulting firm.

November 24, 2005

"They have no idea what they want to be or why they exist."

Concludes Jeff Jarvis upon reading the self-criticism session over at Pajamas Media. The Pajamas insiders are openly discussing their problems. Everyone admits the site is boring, skimpy, corporate-looking, and lacking bloggishness. Tammy Bruce writes about wanting to capture a "feel and structure" that's "smart but revolutionary, rebellious." Hmmm....What's more corporate than trying to think up ways to express rebelliousness?

By the way, what do you think of the new Pajamas logo? It's a bathrobe -- with emanations.

Anyone still want to accuse me of being too critical of Pajamas? The insiders are now saying many of the same things openly on the blog -- partly, probably, in an effort to convey that rebel spirit they need to mask the corporateness. It would be interesting to know what criticisms they are hurling about in private. You can look at their comments and try to figure out what they are not talking about -- the lack of advertising for one thing.

Anyway, here's another Pajamas post for you all. I didn't want to have to do it, but the self-criticism session is too big to ignore.

UPDATE: Steven Bainbridge looks at the Pajamas "blogjam" and says "at the risk of descending to a level of crudeness to which this blog rarely goes, the only phrase that comes to mind is 'circle jerk.'" Well, at the risk of descending to a level of crudeness to which this blog rarely goes, Bainbridge is giving me ideas for another joke like the one found here, which sent those Pajama entity boys into a tizzy.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jarvis's post included the line "Finish this sentence in no more than 10 words: Pajamas Media is _________________." Some wags are filling in that blank:
Right Thoughts: Pajamas Media is (run and topped by) an elitist group of uberbloggers who couldn’t care less about the health of the blogosphere at large as long as they get their names in the paper and get to spend that venture capital money.

Laurence Simon: My sneaky answer is "Pajamas Media probably won't be sending it's members more checks.", but based on the lack of two-way communication by the management and editorial board with the member bloggers, I get the distinct feeling who cares what I think.
(Simon is one of the insiders, so let's admire his nerve, breaking the code of silence.)

MORE: Aaron on the logo: "Ann, those aren’t emanations. That’s stink."

AND MORE: Lots more from Laurence Simon here:
There is zero communication with the member sites right now... Right now, things feel elitist in nature, and this blogjam just reinforces the views of the members I've chatted with privately that we're being kept at arms length. That builds up resentment and frustration at the silence.

More as I comb through my notes and work up constructive criticism of it. I have some really bad memories of Go.com, Starwave, Jamie Barton, ESPN, DIG, and iXL that takes a while to boil out all the bad blood so I can examine the rotten, putrid flesh underneath clinically and dispassionately for enlightenment with regards to this current fiasco.

I'm sorely tempted to throw up a PHP bulletin board and send out invitations myself. Unlike certain people, I don't believe you need an osm.org or pajamasmedia.com domain name to quick-and-dirty build these tools when there's an emergency. Sitting around and waiting for the "proper" tools to be supplied to you when disaster is crashing all around is reminiscent of the appearance-obsessive, press-fearing superficial Michael Brown of FEMA.
Like my hat? I got it at Nordstroms. Are you proud of me? Can I quit now? Can I go home?

YET MORE: The Pyjamas Media logo is much nicer. I love the way they kept the "stink" marks.

AND: Nice spoof of the hand-wringing blogjam.

A movie and a new policy.

What movie did we watch for Thanksgiving? "Boogie Nights." Appropriate? No. But we just felt like watching it. What a great film!

Checking in on the blog, I face up to the problem of the degradation of the comments caused by an influx of several categories of new readers. I realize I've got to be more vigilant and less tolerant, because the decline in quality is affecting our regular readers. Newcomers are welcome to participate, but I've got to uphold some standards or the comments will lose their value for everyone.

In particular, I'm not going to accept repetitious arguments, abusive language, and overblown accusations -- which seem to have become the style in the last few days. This is my place. I like debate and am ready to read criticism, but what has been going on lately has crossed the line, and I'm adopting a new, more activist form of supervision.

I will delete comments that offend my standards, and I will turn off comments on posts where the conversation is played out to the point where it is attracting too many deletable posts. You're welcome to practice your free speech on your own blogs. I intend to keep a civil dialogue on mine.

"The M&Ms float crashed. Oh the humanity! As God is my witness, I thought M&Ms could fly."

That's the reaction in the Pajamas Media live blogging when a Thanksgiving Parade balloon crashes and falls, along with a streetlight into a crowd. Here's an MSM report of the incident, quoting a spectator saying "It happened so fast. I said, 'Oh, my God!' It dropped like a rock." Also: "A 26-year-old woman and 11-year-old girl were apparently hurt by the debris."

Do our intrepid bloggers right themselves? Scroll at the first link to see how they carry on joking about the accident:
"Are we liveblogging someone's death? Because I didn't sign on to do parade snuff."

"Ed, you're thinking of skittles. Skittles have superpowers that M&M's do not. It's a generational thing."

I was at the parade in 1969, when Bullwinkle deflated all over a bystanders near the Ansonia Hotel, who moved inside en masse and started Plato's Retreat.
Yikes.
UPDATE: I've closed the comments on this post, based on my new, more vigorous policy announced here. For readers who may not know, the many references to "Jeff" in these comments are to the commenter Protein Wisdom, who is Jeff Goldstein, one of the participants in the live-blogging criticized in this post.

Is Pajamas Media too much like MSM? Well, one way in which it's different, to be sure, is that when you do a blog post, say, criticizing Dan Rather, he doesn't come over and yell at you in the comments! I think it's damned strange that you have what is supposed to be a business, with $3.5 million in financing, where the insiders behave like this. All I did was quote four things that they said and write "Yikes," and Goldstein comes over and rants in my comments -- on Thanksgiving! -- until I'm finally driven to close them down and announce a new comments policy to protect my space from being deluged by ugliness. He's also writing on his own blog, denouncing me as "absolutely despicable." For saying "Yikes" at those jokes made when a large object falls on a crowd? A little thin-skinned, Jeff?

And what about this character, another PJM insider? He writes about my post, saying I'd "lost my mind" and titling the post "Ann Althouse's Integrity"? All for a little old "Yikes"! Oh, I see, he was over here commenting and I deleted his comment. Yeah, because it was too abusive. Now, on his own blog, he's calling me "a liar ... spreading malicious untruths." Where's the lie? He thinks it's a lie to have written about the accident in this post when I wasn't watching the parade on television!

Let the historians of blogging judge who's lost their mind. I'd like to know which insiders are embarrassed to be yoked to folks who are harassing me this way just for criticizing them a little. How bizarrely unprofessional! And, worse, how hostile to the spirit of blogging, which they so desperately want and need to recover!

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader writes:
I think the 2 posts you describe in the update make it clear that these are not just people who are criticizing your blog because they happen not to like the things you say; it's a smear campaign (which means you're certainly entitled to delete ALL of their comments). A normal person would never say that you were lying in your post about the parade. So many of the recent criticisms of you from people who defend Pajamas Media are essentially saying: "You're criticizing them too much." (Weird attitude for bloggers to have!)

Indeed!

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Dan at Riehl World View notes that Pajamas could have foreseen that the wind that day would pose problems for the balloons and could have mobilized to provide the citizen journalism they've been talking about:
With just a very little bit of research into what turned out to be an important subtext of this particular parade, PJM might have been in a position to put something rather substantive out within minutes of the accident, offering readers something they likely wouldn't have gotten from the MSM on line for an hour.

News is rarely, if ever that which is expected - it's the unexpected which makes headlines. If we as bloggers want to move into an increasingly significant role as reporters, we're going to have to learn to be better prepared in certain cases.
That's a very sharp and constructive criticism. What does Dan get for it? Jeff Goldstein shows up in the comments and goes after him until Dan actually rewrites his post to "correct the emphasis."

MORE: Baldilocks doesn't understand why I wrote in the comments here that Jeff Goldstein acted as though been given "the assignment to be my personal Baldilocks." I explain over in her comments section.

AND: Was lighting into me for this post behavior befitting the insiders to a major business undertaking? Of course not. What would a media organization that was actually ready for prime time have done? They should have added a note at the end of their live-blogging that said something like:
Live-blogging is part of the great fun of blogging, but it poses risks too. Our live-bloggers didn't see much of the mishap with the balloon as they were watching the televised parade, and unfortunately, their comments carried on in the joking spirit of the live-blog. Afterwards, they saw the news reports, and their hearts went out to the young woman and the girl who got hurt. Looking back, some of those jokes seem pretty insensitive. But we took the risk of live-blogging, and we're going to keep taking risks in the grand tradition of blogging. We knew we'd step on some toes along the way, but we never meant to be mean to the nice people who go to parades.

Then Althouse would have amended her post and said Nice save by Pajamas!

Instead, I've got to say not ready for prime time.

ALSO: I'm going to allow new comments, but I will monitor actively. I will delete posts with hatred, abuse, shouting, personal attacks, repetition, and perseverating demands for apologies and retractions. You can debate and disagree, but you must try to engage with some of the issues on a rational, intelligent level, in the tradition of Althouse blog comments. If you're not familiar with my place, read some of the comments in other posts and get a feeling for the kind of community you are entering. The regulars who hang out here have created an environment that's different from a lot of places where you may be used to commenting. I will not allow you to spoil it for us.

"We have a tight community with a private language, and Althouse ... doesn't get that."

So says a commenter, over at Kos, who thinks he's explaining that I was unfair to the commenters over at Eschaton. Hello? They were attacking me. You're right that I'm not a member of the community, and I don't know their "private language," but since I could see you were talking about me, I thought I'd read some of what you were saying. I got about 100 comments into a series of 800+ comments and most of what I read looked like rank sexism. And no one stood up to say anything about it. All this in a post reacting to my complaint that Democrats don't seem to care about feminism. You folks looked awful. Your defense is, we're all insiders who share a private language?

You're talking on the web, in front of the whole world. You purport to be liberals, the people who usually tend to claim they are the ones who will protect the interests of women. But you present an ugly, degraded face to the world. Then you say, oh, this isn't my real face. This is a funny mask I wear and you just don't get it. Brilliant politics, folks.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, feminists within liberal groups would give you hell if you talked about women like that. Saying you're joking, ironic, or speaking a private language would only earn you the next slam. That kind of feminism died in the Clinton Era.

A life spent playing the jug and the washtub bass.

Goodbye to Fritz Richmond, who played the jug and the washtub bass in Jim Kweskin's Jug Band:
Drawing on his expertise as an Army helicopter mechanic, he strung the washtub bass with a steel cable, turning it into a usable instrument. To play it, he developed his own steel-and-rawhide gloves.

He won national attention in 1963 with the Kweskin band. Only when he joined the band did he learn that he would be playing the jug as well as washtub bass. None of the members of the band knew the instrument firsthand; Mr. Richmond learned how to play it from scratchy old records.

Mr. Muldaur said Mr. Richmond was an innovator who, among other things, suggested the Lovin' Spoonful's name and was the first to wear the granny glasses with tiny colored lenses later favored by many other musicians. While most wore the glasses to be trendy, Mr. Muldaur said, Mr. Richmond wore them to hide the fact that the exertion of blowing the jug made him go cross-eyed.

Oh, so that's why we all wore those glasses! I wonder how many other fashion trends were started by someone who had an idiosyncratic reason for wearing something unusual.

Anyway, I loved the Jug Band. Here's a greatest hits record -- and you can listen to some clips.

Trends in Chinese blogging.

The NYT reports:
The new wave of blogging took off earlier this year. In the past, a few pioneers of the form stood out, but now huge communities of bloggers are springing up around the country, with many of them promoting one another's online offerings, books, music or, as in Mu Mu's case, a running, highly ironic commentary about sexuality, intellect and political identity.

"The new bloggers are talking back to authority, but in a humorous way," said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California, Berkeley. "People have often said you can say anything you want in China around the dinner table, but not in public. Now the blogs have become the dinner table, and that is new.

"The content is often political, but not directly political, in the sense that you are not advocating anything, but at the same time you are undermining the ideological basis of power."...

Another emerging school of blogging, potentially as subversive as any political allegory, involves bringing Chinese Web surfers more closely in touch with things happening outside their country.

Typically, this involves avid readers of English who scour foreign Web sites and report on their findings, adding their own commentary, in Chinese blogs....

By far the biggest category of blogs remains the domain of the personal diary, and in this crowded realm, getting attention places a premium on uniqueness.

For the past few months, Mu Mu, the Shanghai dancer, has held pride of place, revealing glimpses of her body while maintaining an intimate and clever banter with her many followers, who are carefully kept in the dark about her real identity.
How interesting it is to see how individuals repressed by government censorship find new and clever ways to break through with blogging! I love the idea that what Mu Mu is doing is intensely political because it is in China, when it wouldn't be the slightest bit political here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Find some critter to eat.

The Enemy

Arguing with Armando about Bush v. Gore and Samuel Alito.

I try to stay out of arguments about Bush v. Gore. One of my earliests posts on this blog agonizes over the impossibility of teaching it to law students:
Bush v. Gore is important, but I find it hard to believe that people are willing to invest the time to understand the federal and state statutes and the federal and state constitutional law provisions needed to grasp the legal issues in the case. Even if they do spend the time, I think their intake of information is affected at every step by their preexisting mindset about what the Supreme Court did (e.g., stole the election, saved us from an overreaching state court). But most likely, they won't spend the time, because they know very well what happened. Where did that knowledge come from?

I remember the night the decision came down, watching reporters on TV trying to read and understand the opinion in front of live cameras. That seemed at the time to be antithetical to a real process of understanding a piece of writing, but in retrospect I think nearly everyone reached their understanding at that point. Perhaps that is what human understanding is, and the rest is filling in the details.

It is hopeless and crucial and absurd to teach Bush v. Gore.
It's much worse to try to argue about Bush v. Gore in the blogosphere, especially when you have to talk with very partisan folks who know damn well what they think and write for thoroughly political purposes. So what am I supposed to do when the DailyKos, with its 700,000+ visitors a day starts talking about something I wrote about Bush v. Gore? Armando takes a passage from an article I wrote years ago, which I happened to have posted in the comments section of this post the other day. He refers to the passage as a "pile of manure" and doggedly states his opinions without engaging with the intellectual substance of what I'd said.

Naturally, he doesn't read the whole article that precedes the conclusion, which parses all the legal texts. I don't have a link for it. You'd have to go into LEXIS to read it. Look for: Althouse, The Authoritative Lawsaying Power of the State Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court: Conflicts of Judicial Orthodoxy in the Bush-Gore Litigation, 61 Md. L. Rev. 508 (2002). I don't blame him for not reading the whole thing, only for writing as if there wasn't an entire detailed article supporting the conclusion he's satisfied to call "manure." He writes that I do "not even bother to defend [Bush v. Gore] on legal grounds." But I do! Read the article. I just can't do it in short form on the blog.

Essentially, Armando does what I said in that old post that everyone does. My article conclusion ends with the line: "[T]hose who would criticize ought to see how the judges who voted for the outcome the critics liked were all doing something that they would have found a way to criticize if they had felt so motivated." But who can imagine Armando undertaking that particular thought exercise? In fact, I don't expect anyone to do that, because it's an unbelievable pain to work through the materials even without trying to adopt an experimental alternative perspective. And Armando's thing is to be a hardcore partisan, so why would he ever bother to spend his time like that?

Well, am I supposed to respond to him? On this one, it's monumentally easy to see in advance that arguing about what happened in Bush v. Gore is a mug's game.

But Armando uses my text to make an argument about the Alito nomination. I will talk about that. Looking at the way I wrote about Bush v. Gore, he asks:
[D]oes not Althouse admit that she too, is a legal realist? And given that admission, is it not fair to expect that Althouse would approve of a query in detail regarding Alito's views on legal issues? Is it not fair to expect that Althouse would not condemn critiques of the results of Alito's opinions without trying to engage in hypertechnical "gotcha-isms"?
No, I'm not a "legal realist." Legal Realism, like its close companion Critical Legal Studies, goes too far in portraying judges as acting in service of their own political and policy preferences. I simply recognize that the answers in many cases are not predetermined by text and precedent and, therefore, the individual judge's background, beliefs, values, and tendencies will affect the decision. It really matters who decides. I would guess even originalists like Justice Scalia and Thomas would admit that.

So, of course, we all ought to be concerned about what the mind of Alito is really like. Of course, it's not enough to say he's well educated and demonstrably proficient at crafting opinions from legal materials. So what's my answer to Armando's questions about how Alito's opponents should proceed?

It turns out I've already answered. Look at this post from last week, responding to that 1985 job application in which Alito professed a set of conservative beliefs:
Up until now, the attacks on Alito have been based on nothing of substance. Critics cherry-picked his cases, found the ones where he ruled against sympathetic parties, and treated the outcomes in cases as if there is no legal reasoning involved in reaching outcomes. Or they simply assumed that Alito must be a big right-winger because he (unlike Miers) was not being attacked from the right and conservatives all looked rather happy about having him as the nominee.

With this letter, we enter a new phase of the nomination process, in which the opponents have something very substantial to talk about. And, indeed, they must fight, based on this. I see two aspects to the coming fight.

First, there is the question of what is the better set of values. A lot of people will read Alito's statement and agree with it, while others will oppose it. Some may only care about a few of those issues or may agree about some things and not others. Though most of the talk will be about abortion rights, we have a valuable opportunity to talk about what the full set of conservative legal positions is, to compare them with the liberal positions, and to debate about which is better. I welcome this public debate and hope it can be done well.

Second, there is the question of how personal beliefs affect a judge's performance on the bench. Some will defend Alito by saying a good judge is a humble, faithful servant of the law who sets his personal, political beliefs aside. Related to this is one of Bush's big issues: the liberal judges are activist judges who make the law mean what they would vote for if they were legislators. In this rhetoric, the conservative judges somehow escape the temptation the liberal judges succumb to. As long as you have a conservative judge, the rhetoric goes, you don't have to worry about what his political beliefs are: He will do the proper, judicial thing and not "legislate from the bench" like those bad liberal judges. Those of us who are not political ideologues tend to think that judges try to follow the law, but that the texts and precedents are ambiguous or fluid enough to require some judgment to get to a decision. Thus, the background beliefs and political tendencies of any judge will need to flow into the decision-making, no matter how modest and dutiful the human being making the decision is.
Alito opponents should take the rule of law seriously and respect the institution of the courts. These are resources we all rely on. Trashing them is counterproductive. Challenge Alito in a way that also expresses a sound theory of constitutional interpretation. Work on a way to convince ordinary people that approaches other than originalism deserve respect. Help people care and believe in the individual rights you want courts to protect. Playing from the Legal Realism side, from an assumption that law is a kind of politics, empowers your opponents to say -- as they've been saying ad nauseam -- that you only want judges who will legislate from the bench.

November 23, 2005

At the Rotary Club.

Today, I gave a lunchtime talk at the Madison Rotary Club. I was charmed by the wall hangings, with banners from chapters of the Rotary Club throughout the world. Some of the banners looked very old. The president of the Madison Rotary told me they had many, many banners, collected by members attending meetings around the world, but they kept the oldest ones on the hangings that covered the walls behind the podium.

Rotary Club banners

DSC08784.JPG

Rotary Club banners

My talk was about the newly configured Supreme Court. I got to see, for the first time, the inner workings of a Rotary Club meeting. Everyone in the huge group seemed happy and friendly and devoted to Rotarian principles. Birthdays were announced, aphorisms were recited, and songs were sung. Today's singalong was "Georgia on My Mind."

The family your humble blogger married into.

Summarized... mercilessly. I'm caricatured at the end of this long post, by the way. ADDED: R says the references at the end of the post are not to me.

Scalia's kids tell him to get out more because "it makes it harder to demonize you."

So he's out and about, even taking a question from Al Franken, whom he apparently doesn't recognize.

UPDATE: Oh, it is so obvious: Scalia should blog!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a more detailed report of the encounter with Franken:
Page Six said Franken ... "found out the hard way not to mess with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who chided Franken as if he were a delinquent schoolboy … ."

Franken asked "hypothetically" whether a judge should recuse himself if he had gone duck-hunting or flown in a private jet with a party in a case before his court, the Post reported....

Scalia lectured Franken, "Demeanor is the wrong word. You mean ethics."
I'm sure Franken felt cut to the core. And, by the way, "delinquent" isn't really the right adjective for a schoolkid who uses the wrong word. Now doesn't that make Page Six look... whatever.
The justice explained a judge does not have to recuse himself from a case if his friend, in an official capacity, was a nominal party in the dispute, according to Opinion Journal Editor James Taranto, who witnessed the exchange.
Sounds like a very ordinary question and answer session. If Franken didn't try to argue back or say something usual, it's hardly a story at all, is it?

"We don't want this to be all about the money."

"We want this to be all about kicking the crap out of an overpromising, underdelivering turkey of an alternative news site."

Ooh, I've never been linked like that before!

Nice likeness, capturing the spirit of Althouse.

All I really want is the stuffing.

Ruth Siems realized that's the way a lot of us feel about Thanksgiving food. RIP, inventor of Stove Top Stuffing. From the patent application:
"The nature of the cell structure and overall texture of the dried bread crumb employed in this invention is of great importance if a stuffing which will hydrate in a matter of minutes to the proper texture and mouthfeel is to be prepared."

Actually, I've never eaten Stove Top Stuffing, but I have a nostalgic feeling about the original TV commercials, even though I didn't enjoy them at the time.

The new logo and lower-casing.

So, what does it say to you, this blue-and-white striped marble and the lower-cased letters of the big old name AT&T? They've gotten cute and young and playful? I see a marble. Maybe you see globe. Or do you see stylized fingers, intertwined? Intertwined around a globe?

"Obviously, we're not talking about Steven Avery."

The NYT has a long, front-page story about Steven Avery, the man freed by my law school's Innocence Project who is now accused of murder:
For days, however, the case of Steven Avery, who was once this state's living symbol of how a system could unfairly send someone away, has left all who championed his cause facing the uncomfortable consequences of their success. Around the country, lawyers in the informal network of some 30 organizations that have sprung up in the past dozen years to exonerate the falsely convicted said they were closely watching Mr. Avery's case to see what its broader fallout might be.

Two years ago, Mr. Avery emerged from prison after lawyers from one of those organizations, the Wisconsin Innocence Project at the University of Wisconsin Law School, proved that Mr. Avery had spent 18 years in prison for a sexual assault he did not commit.

In Mr. Avery's home county, Manitowoc, where he was convicted in 1985, his release prompted apologies, even from the sexual assault victim, and a welcoming home for Mr. Avery. Elsewhere, the case became Wisconsin's most noted exoneration, leading to an "Avery task force," which drew up a package of law enforcement changes known as the Avery Bill, adopted by state lawmakers just weeks ago.

Mr. Avery, meanwhile, became a spokesman for how a system could harm an innocent man, being asked to appear on panels about wrongful conviction, to testify before the State Legislature and to be toured around the Capitol by at least one lawmaker who described him as a hero.

But last week, back in rural Manitowoc County, back at his family's auto salvage yard, back at the trailer he had moved home to, Mr. Avery, 43, was accused once more. This time, he was charged in the death of Teresa Halbach, a 25-year-old photographer who vanished on Oct. 31 after being assigned to take pictures for Auto Trader magazine at Avery's Auto Salvage....

Lawmakers who had pushed to have the state pay Mr. Avery more than $420,000 for his wrongful arrest have grown quiet. And the bill of changes - to the way the police draw up eyewitness identification procedures, conduct interrogations and hold onto DNA evidence - is no longer called the Avery Bill.

"The legislation is very important and very sound for our justice system as a whole," said Representative Mark Gundrum, a Republican who helped organize what was then called the "Avery task force."

"But this does detract a little bit," Mr. Gundrum said. "Obviously, we're not talking about Steven Avery anymore, not highlighting his conviction."

And plans for a "grand, glorious" signing ceremony for what is now simply called the "criminal justice reforms" package, he said, seem remote.
As I've written here before, Avery was proven innocent of the rape he was sent to prison for and deserved to be released, and the Innocence Project does essential work. But it's a terribly sad thing to see someone who symbolized your idealism revealed as a monster.

"They didn't expect the assignment to cause any problems, because it was part of a social studies project asking for peace."

The news from Madison, Wisconsin:
"We didn't intend to offend anyone, and I hope we haven't offended anyone," said Julie Fitzpatrick, Frank Allis 3rd grade teacher.

Fitzpatrick is one of five teachers at Madison's Frank Allis elementary school, who says some parents are upset over their message of peace....

Last Friday, third grade teachers at Frank Allis sent home this letter.

It explained a project, where the students would write letters to lawmakers, other students ... even to the president ... asking for an immediate withdrawal of U–S troops from Iraq.

Fitzpatrick says they didn't expect the assignment to cause any problems, because it was part of a social studies project asking for peace.

"I don't see it as a controversial issue ... I really don't," said Fitzpatrick.
The project was cancelled -- school district policy prohibits teachers from presenting controversial issues with bias and promoting their personal political views.

I wonder how well that policy is enforced. That a group of five teachers thought this was an acceptable assignment suggests that it's hardly enforced at all.

"I don't see it as a controversial issue." I love that. It's so it depends on what the meaning of controversial is. Community standards seem to apply to that. And we're all here in Madison, Wisconsin.

UPDATE: I did a little local TV segment on this story and the effect of blogging about it. You can watch the video -- with a commercial and quite grainy -- here.

November 22, 2005

"Did Roger Simon Form a Partnership With Dennis the Peasant?"

Entrepreneurship lawprof Gordon Smith does some analyzing
The story bears a striking resemblance to the facts of Urban Decay, where a California appellate court held that two women who developed ideas for a cosmetics company had formed a partnership.

Why won't those jealous outsiders stop being so mean?

The Pajamas Media Death Pool.

UPDATE: Joe Gandelman: "You KNEW it HAD to happen: a site has been started to formally start a deathwatch for Pajamas Media.... Why did you KNOW it had to happen?"

"The election was dragged into the courts by the Gore people. We did not go looking for trouble."

So said Antonin Scalia yesterday. Once the case had been set in motion, the Supreme Court had to take it, he said:
"The issue was whether Florida's Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court [would decide the election.] What did you expect us to do? Turn the case down because it wasn't important enough?"
I wonder if Scalia approves of the bracketed language! I should think he'd want something more like "The issue was whether Florida's Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court [would resolve the legal questions raised by Gore's challenge]." He's right, isn't he? Once the Florida courts started interpreting their way toward upsetting the result, the Supreme Court couldn't sit by passively.

UPDATE: If you've arrived here from DailyKos and are looking for my answer to Armando, go here.

Weighing blog traffic.

Duncan Black is touchy about something I said about his traffic. I suggested he gets a lot of traffic through minimal posts, including many "open thread" announcements. That is, people use the main page as a portal to the comments window. Of course, he should be touchy, because he makes a lot of money from ads, the advertisers rely on the traffic numbers, and the ads do not appear on the comments pages.

His average daily traffic, per Site Meter, read today, is 169,709. The average visit, however, is a mere 4 seconds, perhaps as readers jump over to the comments window, which Site Meter doesn't measure. By contrast, my average visitor stays 181 seconds. So, though I lack his immensely high traffic, if you multiply my daily traffic (10,827) times the seconds spent looking at the page, you get 1,959,687. Do the same multiplication on his numbers, and you get 678,836. Isn't that interesting? I'd like to see someone do a ranking of the blogs based on this statistic! On this standard, I even beat Kos! With 2 second visits, he's at 1,485,224.

Yeah, would somebody please produce this ranking?

UPDATE: Or am I wrong in the way I understand how Site Meter counts visit length? Here's the first comment on this post:
Ann you don't understand that sitemeter only measures a visit length when you move to the comments window. If a blog had no comments then visit length would hover near zero except for those few people who clicked on the archives. His lower visit time means that there are a lot of zero length visits which stay solely on the main page. Your higher visit time means that you have many active participants in your comment section. I don't think you proved what you thought you did.


ANOTHER UPDATE: Visit time is inaccurately measured by Site Meter, but it's still something, otherwise it would make no sense for them to include it on their charts. And I hardly think people stay on Eschaton's main page, since it's full of very short posts, often simply announcing an open thread. Some portion of zeroes are apparently averaged in, where Site Meter records no movement within the blog, but we all get zeroes averaged in. I'm just pointing out an extreme difference in these numbers. Today, November 26, my average visit time is up to 3 minutes and 48 seconds. I think avertisers ought to know that some blogs keep their readers on the page much longer than others. This is an important factor, even if a fully accurate statistic can't be produced.

"Federalism After Gonzales v. Raich."

It's a big, exciting symposium, published in Lewis & Clark Law Review, with the articles now posted here (in PDF form). Raich is the case from last Term where the Supreme Court said that the commerce power allowed Congress to regulate home-grown, home-consumed marijuana, even when the state wants to authorize its use for medicinal purposes.

Here's my contribution to the symposium, snazzily titled "Why Not Heighten the Scrutiny of Congressional Power When the States Undertake Policy Experiments?" I focus on Justice O'Connor's dissent and conclude:
Justice O’Connor seems to have responded sympathetically to the predicament in which the Raich plaintiffs found themselves. This sympathy resonated with ideas about the states as laboratories of democracy. But Justice O’Connor’s dissenting opinion never faces up to what it means as a general proposition. Many commentators will nevertheless look at her opinion and, through the lens of their own sympathy for the plaintiffs and perhaps also their own enthusiasm for the judicial enforcement of federalism, see a better formulation of Commerce Clause doctrine than what the majority had to offer. I would ask commentators who think the Court erred in Raich to look beyond the context of the case and consider the general issue of whether to endorse a new doctrine that would change the degree of deference to Congress where a state has undertaken a policy experiment in an area that traditionally has been left to the states. I think such a doctrine is unworkable. It would invite fifty states and innumerable cities to carve out exceptions of all sorts from important federal statutes that are unquestionably supported by the Commerce Clause. Much as I would prefer to believe that it would prove beneficial to free local government to conduct idiosyncratic policy experiments that take random bites out of major federal statutes, I predict disarray and detriment. But I would love to be convinced that I am wrong.
Other contributions to the symposium:
"Foreword: Limiting Raich" by Randy E. Barnett

"Is Morrison Dead? Assessing a Supreme Drug (Law) Overdose" by Jonathan H. Adler

"Raich and Judicial Conservatism at the Close of the Rehnquist Court" by Eric R. Claeys

"Rescuing Federalism After Raich: The Case for Clear Statement Rules" by Thomas W. Merrill

“'Society Must Be [Regulated]': Biopolitics and the Commerce Clause in Gonzales v. Raich" by John T. Parry

"The Medical Marijuana Case: A Commerce Clause Counter-Revolution?" by Robert J. Pushaw, Jr.

"What Hath Raich Wrought? Five Takes" by Glenn H. Reynolds & Brannon P Denning.

Alito and the Free Exercise Clause.

Emily Bazelon has a piece in Slate about what Samuel Alito has written about religious freedom. She starts off by linking to my NYT op-ed noting that his take on the Free Exercise Clause sets him apart from Justice Scalia, who has embraced a narrow interpretation. Well, she half-links to it, in that it's behind a pay-wall now, but I preserved a permanent link, and you can read it free here.

Bazelon writes:
Alito's religious-liberty opinions are mechanistic applications of precedent. They reveal little about the stance he'd take toward religious liberty as a justice of the Supreme Court.
This is incorrect. Judge Alito pushed the envelope in two cases. In two cases -- which Bazelon details -- he took the doctrine, which says that neutral, generally applicable laws do not violate Free Exercise and was unusually quick to see nonneutrality, which causes the standard to become strict scrutiny. This, in fact, is very revealing. It shows a judge chafing against the doctrine he's forced to follow!

Why didn't more parents name babies Elvis?

I mean, look at all the Dylans. Why didn't that happen with Elvis? I remember thinking, back in the 60s, that soon we'd be seeing lots of young people named Elvis. But it didn't happen. Why?

(Here's that Baby Name Wizard if you want to compare the naming trends over time.)

3-D TV.

Did you watch last night's episode of "Medium," the one with the 3-D? Did you go out and buy an issue of TV Guide to get the 3-D glasses and then find they didn't really work too well? That's what happened to the person here who loves "Medium" and procured the glasses. I was going to watch with him, and I even went to Borders and looked around for TV Guide. I couldn't find it, and I just couldn't bring myself to go to the information desk and ask for TV Guide. Man, it's embarrassing enough to buy TV Guide, but to have to ask for it... Just couldn't do it!

"What's wrong about all this is that in an effort to protect against illegal copying, it was Sony BMG that engaged in illegal conduct."

Said the Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott.
In separate legal actions yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an influential digital rights advocacy group in California, and the Texas attorney general filed lawsuits against the music publisher Sony BMG, contending that the company violated consumers' rights and traded in malicious software.

They are the latest in a series of blows to the company after technology bloggers disclosed this month that in its efforts to curb music piracy, Sony BMG had embedded millions of its music CD's with software designed to take aggressive steps to limit copying, but which also exposed users' computers to potential security risks.

The copy-protection software, called XCP, was bought by Sony BMG from a British company, First 4 Internet, and was installed on 52 recordings, totaling nearly five million discs, according to the music publisher, which is jointly owned by Sony and Bertelsmann....

Users do have to accept "license agreements" that appear on their computer screens before playing CD's protected by the First 4 Internet and SunnComm software, but the foundation called the terms of those agreements "outrageous" and "anti-consumer."
It will be interesting to see what the courts do with those click-thru contracts. Any idea how many of them you've "agreed" to over the years?

What the guys-in-suits made them do.

Hey, OSM is going back to the name Pajamas Media:
[O]h, what a drubbing we took. Many, many readers pointed out to us that OSM™ was an oxymoron; the open source tech community expressed concern; and a very fine gentleman named Christopher Lydon at Open Source (www.radioopensource.org) politely pointed out that we might be trampling on his space. ...

[T]he whole experience of being caught with our pajamas down has been a bit embarrassing, but in the end, when we realized we could get our beloved name back, we were overjoyed. So a warm, hearty thanks to all of you who expressed your displeasure with our phony identity.
Even me? My biggest problem with the name "Open Source Media" was not the wound imagery ("open sores"), but that is was so thuddingly dull and corporate-sounding -- as if they hoped to suck the life out of blogging.
So how did this happen in the first place? Back at the beginning, certain, shall we say, paternalistically minded parties (i.e., the guys in suits) decided that we should act like grownups, and being as yet somewhat immature—at least as businesspeople--we did as we were told.

Which is how, one day, we ended up sitting around a conference table listening to representatives from a "branding" company....

Enough said. So, in the spirit of "open source," we thought we’d tell you the real story behind the reason for our name change. And hope that our corporate parents will be satisfied with good grades and healthy revenue.
They're not the guys-in-suits. Some other guys, who once pushed them around, are the guys-in-suits.

Now that the name has been changed, will there be other changes? Will the site fill up with exciting, interesting material? Because it's the lack of good stuff to read that has always been their main problem. Did the guys-in-suits make that happen?

November 21, 2005

"If you don't like my attitude, then you can F-off...."

"Just go to Texas, isn't that where they golf?"

Don't you love Madonna's new "Confessions on a Dance Floor"?

Democrats have a long, long way to go to convince me that they care about feminism.

Atrios links to my post asking feminists to care about the sexual harrassment of women -- specifically in this case, me -- on the web:
I saw this the other day because my Google Desktop is for some reason obsessed with Ann Althouse. Waaah! Why won't feminists speak up for me!!! wahhh!

The underlying issue is, of course, a real one. Critics across the political spectrum (and of both genders) are quick to jump to use sexist and sexual language when criticizing women. Still, the "I can ignore it until it happens to me" game is annoying.
My question is why Atrios assumes I haven't been a feminist all along? Did he read enough of my work to make this assumption? It's quite wrong and offensive. I'd like him to prove to me now that it isn't the case that he's an example of the sort of person on the left who thinks that women who don't hew to liberal dogma deserve sexual harassment. These are the people who sold out feminism to protect Bill Clinton not so long ago. People of the left ought to see the need to prove to people like me that they actually care about feminism, as opposed to partisan politics, which, for Democrats, is concurrent with feminism often enough that they may imagine that their lack of real interest in feminism won't show. In my case, I don't care about partisan politics, but I do care about feminism, and I have a long record of writing to prove it.

Atrios, who doesn't deign to link to my blog as he discusses me, sets off a spate of comments that is now over 800. Let's see how his folks respond, and perhaps we can get a sense of how the left really processes feminism:
Feminism is OK in its place.

Feminism is OK in its place.
in the kitchen.

Feminism is OK in its place.
in the kitchen.
Hey, yeah! Fetch me an eclair!

"Remember back last February when Kevin Drum wrote about why there are so few women in political blogging?"
Because mainly ugly chicks and dudes are interested in politics. Pasty greasy faced (I saw the picture here and shivered in revulsion) fish belly white thighs and guts are not attractive.
That is why Pam Anderson can play a ditz and ROLL in cash.
Plus most Democrat women are real bow wows. One thing the Republicans have is a whole stable of hot blonde white women they can roll out for tv.
Who really wants to f**k her for her mind anyway?
But as an old black buddy of mine told me " Put a flag over her head and f**k her for old glory!
That's patriotism!

Hey, yeah! Fetch me an eclair!
You have to remove your pants first before I entertain that command.

Feminism is OK in its place.
So are Negroes. Once either gets uppity there's gotta be hell to pay.

but she looks like a man

It's pretty f**king awful to be a feminist, actually. You get called names by Rush Limbaugh and friends, you get to be ridiculed in the mainstream media and if the wingnut sources are anything to come by you are responsible for white women disappearing in Aruba, for the falling birthrate, for every divorce that has taken place and the demise of the Western civilization. You are even responsible for increased alcohol use among young women and male depression. In fact, you are pretty goddamnawful.
Yeah, but Echidne, every so often you get to use the Courts to beat the sons of bitches senseless and make them give you large amounts of money for having screwed you over. And that counts too.....
Well, I'm not one eighth of the way into Atrios's comments, and no one has shown up to beat back this sexist crap. Atrios managed to summon up worse misogynists than Charles Johnson did. I hope he's proud of his people.

Democrats have a long, long way to go to convince me that they care at all about feminism.

UPDATE: Atrios has now linked to this post, but he doesn't answer my questions and doesn't correct his false assumption that I have only recently adopted feminism and only to serve my personal interests. He doesn't condemn his despicable commenters. He just says I'm missing the "irony." Yes, yes, I lack an appropriate sense of humor. Sexist jokes galore, and I ought to just learn to laugh about it. He seems to lack a shred of sensibility about how pathetically retro-male chauvinist that is. I'll say it again: Democrats have a long, long way to go to convince me that they care at all about feminism.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Atrios (AKA Duncan Black) adds some more material his post that links to me:
...to answer Althouse's question, the reason I assumed that she hadn't "been a feminist all along" was because she wrote:
Are there any feminists around to see when it's happening and say a little something?
Meaning, quite clearly, that feminists are other people. Had she written, "as a feminist, I think it's important to point these things out" or something similar taking ownership of the label I (and proud feminist Echidne) wouldn't have responded the way I did.
That's a weak attempt at a close reading argument. If that were true, if I wrote "Doesn't anyone care?" it would mean that I didn't care. Both Edchidne and Black didn't pick up the allusion in the title of my post. "Can I get a feminist?" was meant to invoke "Can I get a witness?" Those who say "Can I get a witness?" are themselves also witnesses.

More from Black:
I of course haven't devoted my life to reading the entirety of Althouse's body of work, on her blog and elsewhere, though I certainly am no stranger to it. If Althouse would like to point me to something she's written which, for example, happened "say a little something" when it wasn't directed at her I'll happily make the correction.
I could send him three law review articles. Or I could spend three hours going back over the blog to put together the argument that I've consistently and frequently taken feminist positions on this blog. Or I could get affidavits from people who know me personally avowing to the fact that Althouse has been openly feminist as long as they've known her. What is this, discovery?

The point is that Black chose to make an assumption about me and assert something about me without checking it. I could shout triumphantly: Duncan Black doesn't fact check!

Or I could return his treatment in kind and assert: Duncan Black is an anti-feminist! Because I, of course, haven't devoted my life to reading the entirety of Duncan Black's body of work, on his blog and elsewhere, though I certainly am no stranger to it, but if Duncan Black would like to point me to something he's written which proves that he isn't an anti-feminist, I'll be glad to issue a correction.

Is that how we're doing assertions of fact about individuals now?

Black adds something that substitutes for chiding his commenters:
I agree that it's understandable if people find ironic jokes about racism or sexism genuinely inappropriate or offensive. Sometimes those jokes are almost indistinguishable from genuine racism and sexism, no matter the intent of the person making them, and I'm not going to tell people what should or shouldn't offend them.
That's the old sorry-if-you-were-offended faux apology. I'd like to ask Black to do one more thing. Compare the comments made after he did his post calling attention to me for crying about something with the comments made on the post he made one day earlier laughing at a Roger L. Simon for crying about something. I called attention to that post of his:
Atrios has unleashed the commenters on Roger. I can almost empathize. It's actually a good opportunity to compare the behavior of lefty and righty commenters. The lefties, in this sample, are all over the place, in "open thread" mode, despite the assigned topic.
The righty commenters referred to were those at Little Green Footballs, who were extremely viciously toward me in blatant sexual language. Now, we can see how the Atrios commenters acted in two similar situations, with the difference being the sex of the two chosen targets. Look at the difference, Duncan and all those of you who think the left adheres to feminist values.

I repeat: Democrats have a long, long way to go to convince me that they care about feminism.

IN THE COMMENTS: Commenters strain to distance Atrios from his vile comment thread: "Atrios can only do to his comments what Haloscan allows him to do. And when he has a dayjob and a blog and a family, there is only so much he can do when he is regularly gets 300+ comments to a post."

I answer:
You and others are missing the point. I am asking him to condemn the sexist comments, not monitor or censor everything. I'm asking him to show that he cares, that he is some sort of feminist. I'm just sick and tired of liberals and lefties who assume it's taken for granted that they care about feminism. Atrios is a channel for putrid sexist invective. It's irrelevant that the commenters had a smile on their face when they wrote it or think they are cute when they say it. Try living in the real world and speaking like that. It doesn't work. The fact is Atrios and his defenders are more interested in getting him off the hook than in looking to the infection of bigotry in their own house. Why is he not appalled that this is the "community" he's nurturing on his blog? My theory is he doesn't care about feminism, only his side of partisan politics. I'm calling him on that, and he and his defenders have yet to respond to that. The lack of response is in itself instructive. He doesn't care! Feminists, disaggregate yourself from these folks. Why don't you?

"A snake bit me but I do not need treatment. I need six years of deep meditation."

The 15-year-old Ram Bomjon is one-twelfth of the way through that time period. They say he doesn't eat or drink and that a light shines from his forehead. Meanwhile, he's something of a theme park:
A thriving market has grown in the once pristine forest, supplying pilgrims with everything from chewing tobacco and bicycle repairs to incense and sacred amulets. The ground is covered in litter.

A fence was built around Ram's tree to prevent pilgrims prodding him, then a second, and now a third is planned, as well as a bus park, leaving Ram at the centre of an ever growing circle of rubbish.

Prakash Lamsal, a businessman said: "Some people are selling 2,500 rupees [£20] worth of tea a day.

"These lamas [monks] are going to build mansions out of this. If I wasn't a bit embarrassed I'd take a van down there and set up a stall."

"The zobo and the ogive could not quite triumph over the qanat and the euripi on Sunday, and thus the contender was birsled."

At the World Scrabble Tournament:
Adam Logan, a 30-year-old mathematician from Canada, scored 465 points to beat Pakorn Nemitrmansuk, a 30-year-old architect from Thailand, with 426 points in the final game of a playoff.
Inevitable topic in any article about Scrabble champions: the way they don't care what the words mean. Why do we want them to? Why do we feel that it's wrong -- almost like cheating -- not to love the words the way literary word-lovers do? Is it something about the passion -- like sex without love?
During the contest, Mr. Logan said, when he was going for one particularly high-voltage triple-letter-score, triple-word-score word, he was so tense that "my hands were shaking and it was difficult to get the letters on the board" - passions perhaps not familiar to the average parlor player.
I've seen "parlor" players get like that, though. Haven't you?

What's the board game people get most emotional about? In my experience, it's Risk.

Susette Kelo, still at the old homestead.

She lost her Supreme Court case, but life goes on just the same as before:
[W]ary of public disapproval and challenges from groups like the Institute for Justice, the law firm that represented the holdouts in court, the state and the city have halted plans to evict the remaining residents. Investors are concerned about building on land that some people consider a symbol of property rights. At the same time, contract disputes and financial uncertainty have delayed construction even in areas that have been cleared.

With so many complications, some people are unsure whether the city's initial vision for the property - a mix of housing, hotel and office space intended to transform part of its riverfront and bolster a declining tax base - is even realistic anymore.
A nice lesson in what we at the Wisconsin Law School love to call "law in action."

Can you think of some other examples, in law or elsewhere, where the loser, losing conspicuously, took on some golden glow that served his interests better than winning?

And I love the line: "Investors are concerned about building on land that some people consider a symbol of property rights." Sounds like in the movies when something is built over an old Indian burial ground.

Charges of viewpoint discrimination in funding student groups at UW.

The Badger Herald reports:
The Student Services Finance Committee for the 2006-07 fiscal year voted to minimally fund Collegians For A Constructive Tomorrow at a meeting last Thursday.

Lindsey Ourada, a University of Wisconsin senior and intern program director of CFACT, said in the past few years the group has grown drastically in interns and student participation....

Ourada said CFACT’s main goal is to represent the other side of the marketplace of ideas, which is oftentimes neglected....

Although this year’s CFACT budget proposal asked for a total of approximately $385,000, the organization received minimal funding — about $3,000....

“I think it’s a really good system as long as the people act viewpoint-neutrally and in a fair way, but it was just clear that that wasn’t the case. The decorum in the room was appalling,” she said. “Some committee members did do their job, so I’m thankful for that, but unfortunately, the majority did not.”...

Wisconsin Student Public Interest Research Group, a university organization with goals similar to CFACT, received $123,209 in funding from SSFC for the upcoming fiscal year.
The process for allocating funding to student organizations at the University of Wisconsin has been the subject of high-profile litigation in the past: Board of Regents v. Southworth. The Supreme Court wrote that the First Amendment requires viewpoint neutrality: "The whole theory of viewpoint neutrality is that minority views are treated with the same respect as are majority views."

Studying blog advertising.

MIT management prof Starling Hunter has done a study of BlogAds. I'm interested in seeing more studies of the business of blogging, such as it is. Hunter says that leaning to the left has brought in more ad money than leaning to the right. I wonder why. I'll just theorize that the political left is more comfortable with the web and more likely to advertise there.

For example, I'm grouped with some conservative blogs for the purpose of selling ads at BlogAds. (Here's the corresponding group for liberal blogs.) Despite being in this group, I don't think I've ever had an ad for a political candidate or cause (and I've never refused an ad). It may be that right-leaning causes are managed by people who are put off by the language and nasty tone of some of the right-leaning blogs. Nasty, bloggy things may be more tolerable to those with left-leaning causes.

Really, there are a lot of reasons for advertisers to shun bloggers. They actually don't know what we'll say next. Do you think blogs will grow up and come under commercial umbrellas that will somehow discipline them into ad-friendliness? That would spoil much of the good of blogging, though, don't you think?

"As you build a free society in the heart of Central Asia, the American people stand with you."

The first President to go to Mongolia:
President Bush, buffeted by unrelenting criticism at home over Iraq, on Monday saluted Mongolia's "fearless warriors" for helping his embattled effort to establish democracy in the heart of the Middle East.
That's the first sentence of the AP report. I feel proud to see our President go to this remote place, to thank its people for standing with us in the war and to hearten them in the cause of freedom in their own country, where they have abandoned communism and adopted Western-style democracy. I'm disgusted that the editors saw fit to shoehorn the phrase "buffeted by unrelenting criticism at home over Iraq" into that sentence. The inability of news organizations to cover the President's trip without inserting commentary like that is embarrassing.

Being in Mongolia, Bush did some classic Mongolian things. He drank fermented mare's milk and listened throat singing. "He was greeted at the Government House by flower-toting children in traditional Mongolian robes and soldiers in bright red, blue and yellow overcoats." He met with the president, Nambaryn Enkhbayar, in a white tent -- a ger -- with "a red-and-yellow design on the roof and red wood doors."
Inside were red brocade chairs, tapestries, Oriental carpets and a towering, white statue of Genghis Khan, the legendary horseman-warrior and country founder whose empire once stretched as far south as Southeast Asia and west to Hungary.
Beautiful. I note that the AP declines to shoehorn in any criticism of Khan.