December 10, 2005

"Clutching a beer in one hand and my laptop power cord in the other."

Jeremy's hilariously tragic photo. And here's the post explaining the tie, chosen to match his Powerpoint slides. Has there ever been a self-effacing academic blogger to rival Jeremy?

Me, I don't go to the Pajamas Media website anymore.

But some folks are still watching, and I want to link to a few of them.

1. Jim Hu, trying to understand what is going on with the Dongzhou massacre, went to Pajamas and found an embarrassing snark and a link to an obnoxious post.

2. Anechoic Room thinks Pajamas killed a blog.

3. Hog on Ice sees more widespread doom -- and likens Pajamas to Howard Dean.

4. Dan at Riehl World View wonders why a blogger would sign up for Pajamas while believing that BlogAds would pay more.

(By the way, my BlogAds are currently paying me at a rate of more than four times as much as Pajamas offered me to yoke myself to them for 18 months.)

UPDATE: I just accidentally got sent to the Pajamas website when I clicked on a link that said Eugene McCarthy has died. I felt a sense of outrage at being sent there. I don't like it when Pajamas insiders report news and then blind link to Pajamas. Clicking, thinking I'm going to a news site, I see the blue and orange bathrobe and cringe in the way I used to react when playing Old Maid and drawing the Maid.

IN THE COMMENTS: Do other folks feel like me about the rash of intra-Pajamas linkage? Yes, they do. There's advice about how to use the "status bar" -- something I'd never even heard of -- to see where a blind link is trying to send you, which will help me keep reading some of the Pajama people I still like. The question is, how long will we still like them if what we see is Pajamas, Pajamas, Pajamas. A link used to mean the blogger was interested. It still does, of course, but the word "interested" has more than one meaning.

MORE IN THE COMMENTS: I have occasion to respond to a commenter by writing:
The charges that I've lost my "grip" because I'm paying attention to what is a prominent event in blogging are blatantly ridiculous. Stop trying to control speech through name-calling. That's been the Pajama pattern since Day 1 when Charles Johnson portrayed me as crazy and unleashed his hounds on me. Disgusting. Deal with the substantive merits, like the fact that the website is embarrassingly bad and that insiders now have the appearance of self-interest when they link to each other. There should be MUCH MORE discussion of these things, not less. Many people are afraid to lose links if they speak up. They can see how nastily I've been treated, in the Pajamas tradition that YOU are carrying on.

Goodbye to Richard Pryor.

What a brilliant comedian! I remember him as the beautiful, charming young guy who was a very frequent guest on the Merv Griffin Show back in the 60s. Then later he became the startlingly angry stand-up comedian, who was, despite all that flashing anger, always funny. There was a time in the 1970s when he was the most popular movie star. Everyone loved him.

He died today.
"He did not suffer, he went quickly and at the end there was a smile on his face," his wife, Jennifer Pryor, said.

UPDATE: Dan at Riehl World View has a lot of links to clips of Richard Pryor being really, really funny.

The Oscar ads for "Brokeback Mountain."

Notice anything? How about this one? And most absurdly. Here's the whole set of Oscar ads. Compare those to the original movie poster. Comments?

IN THE COMMENTS: "Pathetic. But predictable from the so-called progressives in Hollywood, who play liberaler-than-thou but would rather commit actual suicide than the career suicide they fear would come about if they succumbed to 'the gay.'"

"I have no friends."

Said Howard Stern to Bill O'Reilly on the third of the three interviews he did this week. Stern admitted this was a character flaw of his. He also said that he goes to a therapist four times a week and is trying to learn how to become a better father. O'Reilly had been trying to flail him for living large, and had managed to extract the shocking news that Stern has a nice apartment. Doesn't O'Reilly live somewhere nice? O'Reilly tried to act like maybe his house wasn't all that nice, but who believes him? Stern says he goes to bed at 8 (or maybe he said 8:30) every week night, and has dinner at home with his girlfriend. O'Reilly seemed to think he could make something out of the fact that Stern goes to expensive restaurants on the weekend -- as if that's outrageously decadent.

There's got to be one recording...

That most impressed you as being exactly what you liked when you were a teenager, that, when you hear it today, brings back the whole feeling of loving the music of a particular place and time. For me, it's "I Can't Explain."

By the way, did you know they are making a biopic about Keith Moon? Mike Myers is playing the role. I don't know if I like that or not. Okay for the messed up, older Moon, I guess. Maybe they'll have someone else for young Keith. A good suggestion: Jason Schwartzman.

They don't need to plant a tracking device on you.

Your cellphone is a tracking device. You planted it on yourself.
The government has routinely used records of cellphone calls and caller locations to show where a suspect was at a particular time, with access to those records obtainable under a lower legal standard. (Wireless operators keep cellphone location records for varying lengths of time, from several months to years.)...

Prosecutors, while acknowledging that they have to get a court order before obtaining real-time cell-site data, argue that the relevant standard is found in a 1994 amendment to the 1986 Stored Communications Act, a law that governs some aspects of cellphone surveillance.

The standard calls for the government to show "specific and articulable facts" that demonstrate that the records sought are "relevant and material to an ongoing investigation" - a standard lower than the probable-cause hurdle.

The magistrate judges, however, ruled that surveillance by cellphone - because it acts like an electronic tracking device that can follow people into homes and other personal spaces - must meet the same high legal standard required to obtain a search warrant to enter private places.

"Permitting surreptitious conversion of a cellphone into a tracking device without probable cause raises serious Fourth Amendment concerns, especially when the phone is monitored in the home or other places where privacy is reasonably expected," wrote Stephen W. Smith, a magistrate in Federal District Court in the Southern District of Texas, in his ruling.

"The distinction between cell site data and information gathered by a tracking device has practically vanished," wrote Judge Smith. He added that when a phone is monitored, the process is usually "unknown to the phone users, who may not even be on the phone."
Very interesting and important.

The Democrats' hostility to Joe Lieberman.

From the NYT:
In the last few days, the senator has riled Democratic activists and politicians here and in his home state with his vigorous defense of President Bush's handling of the Iraq war at a time some Democrats are pressuring the administration to begin a withdrawal.

Mr. Lieberman particularly infuriated his colleagues when he pointed out at a conference here that President Bush would be commander in chief for three more years and said that "it's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that."

"We undermine the president's credibility at our nation's peril," Mr. Lieberman said....

"Some Democrats said I was being a traitor," he said in an interview on Friday, adding that he was not surprised by the reaction, "given the depth of feeling about the war."...

Mr. Lieberman noted that his positions on Iraq had not changed over the years, dating from 1991, when he supported the first Persian Gulf war. In 1998, he and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, proposed the Iraq Liberation Act, which made the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein official American policy.

"The positive and negative reactions may have less to do with the substance of what I said than with the fact that a Democrat is saying it," Mr. Lieberman said. "It reflects the terribly divisive state of our politics."
Lieberman is absolutely right, and the Democrats turn to attack him. They should listen to him.

The "white flag" commercial.

What do you think of the GOP's new "white flag" commercial? I imagine it's horrifying to Democrats and utterly devastating to Senator Kerry, whom we see saying:
There's no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children ... uh, uh, uh ... you know, women...
I note that the stammering was probably caused by Kerry's realization that he'd just said "kids and children" rather than "women and children" and that it had messed up what he'd meant as a profound attack. Or do you think he actually regretted saying "terrorizing" when referring to our soldiers?

I think the commercial is very powerful and effective. It gave me chills. Every word of it, every clip, is perfectly chosen to send the message that the Republicans in fact waited far too long to send.

Why Congress should impose TV cameras on the Supreme Court.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a bill in Congress that would impose TV cameras on the Supreme Court, and I raised the question whether it might violate separation of powers. The other day, a journalist writing on the subject called me for an elaboration, and I had to admit that I didn't think there was much of any substance to the constitutional problem. Cameras in the conference room would be another matter. In any case, I think the public would be well served by the ability to see and hear these arguments, and much as I would prefer the Court to adopt cameras for itself and think it's rather intrusive for Congress to act, I think Congress should do it. I'll explain why.

First, let me point out this piece by Dahlia Lithwick that made me want to write about the subject again. She notes that it's blogging not television that threatens the Court's dignity these days and says:
If the high court doesn't make at least some concessions to the public, the American people will get to know its justices and their jobs through parody and politics alone.
Lithwick also notes how camera ready John Roberts is:
[Y]ou cannot attend oral argument these days without being slapped right in the nose by Roberts' youth. Not only is he significantly and markedly younger than almost all his colleagues, he's also clearly a product of the Age of Letterman. ... [T]he new chief is already making it clear that such acts of deluded grandeur are just not his style....

Indeed, one of the reasons Roberts fared so brilliantly at his confirmation hearings this fall was that he is so clearly a product of life after television (unlike, for one, the unfortunate Robert Bork). Roberts' total mastery of the medium—from his subtle comic timing to his gestures and demeanor—revealed right away that this was a guy raised on mass media....
But being raised on TV does not ensure that you will be good on TV. Bork's problem was not merely that he didn't grow up with television. He was a man of significantly less than average physical beauty. A stylist could have helped with better hair and makeup. But still, he was no John Roberts. Roberts is telegenic, and he would be even if TV were invented yesterday. And it's not just looks. It's manner, verbal ability, and the wit to display verbal ability in short bursts. John Roberts has all that. Few others do -- whatever their age.

So, we can't predict that a generational turn will make the Justices want to invite TV cameras into their presence. There will always be Justices who are more television ready than others, unless Presidents limit themselves to appointees that have the whole John Roberts set of attributes. But we already know that isn't going to happen. Harriet Miers was not television-ready, and neither is Samuel Alito. There just isn't that much television talent among those with the experience, ability, and character to belong on the Court. Why would such stars have holed up among the books all their lives?

But there is an even more important reason for the Justices to resist the cameras, and it is the reason I think it is most important for Congress to take the lead. The Justices have life tenure, and they know how to use it. We just saw 11 years pass without a retirement. Presidents go through through entire terms without a single opportunity to choose a fresh voice for the Court. It has become the norm for Justices to hold their seats as they pass into old age and severe illness. With the support of four gloriously able and energetic law clerks and the silence of the other Justices, no slip in a Justice's ability ever shows in his writing. But the Justices do need to take their seats on the bench for oral argument, and it is here that the public has the chance to judge them.

This judgment may be unfair. Some Justices, as noted, are better looking than others. Some will subject themselves to hair and makeup specialists, and others won't tolerate it. And getting older damages even the prettiest face. Some Justices love the verbal jousting with the lawyers in the courtroom, while others think that all they need is the written argument and opt out of the live show. With cameras, Justice Scalia would win new fans, and "The Daily Show" would wring laughs from Justice Thomas's silent face. The read is inaccurate.

But the cameras would expose the Justices who cling to their seats despite declining ability. It is true that the journalists in the courtroom might tell us if a Justice no longer manages to sit upright and look alert. But the regular gaze of the television cameras would create a permanent but subtle pressure on the Justices to think realistically about whether they still belong on the Court. Self-interest would motivate them to step down gracefully and not cling too long to the position of power the Constitution entitles them to. I think this new pressure would serve the public interest. It would institute a valuable check on the life tenure provision, which has, in modern times, poured too much power into the individuals who occupy the Court.

And I want to watch the arguments on television too.

December 9, 2005

"There is no greater comfort than the joy of having a café crème avec un croissant, made with the sweet Normandy butter...."

Despite the snowstorm here in the Midwest, Nina makes it from Madison to Paris.

"Does it surprise me in Madison? No."

So said Ruth Anne Schoer, speaking of the decision to cancel a field trip for third graders here at Chavez Elementary School that would have involved, as in past years, ringing bells to collect money for her organization, the Salvation Army. This year, a parent complained about school children helping a religion-based charity, and the school administration chose to avoid the controversy:
Schoer said bell ringing is something that's very easy for kids to do, and they get a big kick out of doing it, especially when people fold up dollar bills to put into the red kettles.

"It's pretty exciting to a little kid when someone puts a $1 bill in, and when it's a $10 bill, they feel it's the best thing in the world," she said.

Schoer said it's disappointing that people believe the Salvation Army, founded by a Methodist minister in England in 1865, is simply a religious organization.

"All of the money we raise goes to feed, shelter and clothe people," she said. "It doesn't go to promote religion."

The word "volunteer" is just that when it comes to bell ringing, Schoer said.

"I don't want to attack the person who won't allow kids to do this," she said. "We don't want anyone to be forced to do it, but it would be nice for kids to have the right to ring a bell if they want to."
Lots of students in the Madison school district volunteer for the bell-ringing, but this is usually done on an individual sign-up basis. For these third graders, the teachers made the decision to volunteer for the entire class, and that really does present a special problem, so the parent who complained should not be demonized. But rather than give up on a valuable and rewarding experience, the school ought to just structure things differently, with a choice of activities, and let the children, with their parents' help, decide what they would like to do.

"Spielberg knows how to overwhelm."

"But I am tired of being overwhelmed. Why should I admire somebody for his ability to manipulate me? In other realms of life, this talent is known as demagoguery. There are better reasons to turn to art, better reasons to go to the movies, than to be blown away." -- Leon Wieseltier on "Munich."

I have no basis for an opinion on "Munich" specifically, but that statement hits home for me. It expresses so much of what keeps me away from the movies.

"Why not let the citizens of Wisconsin have a voice as to whether or not they think this would be appropriate here?"

No, the topic is not gay marriage. (See yesterday's discussion of a proposal to put gay marriage to a statewide vote.) Now we're talking about a referendum to adopt the death penalty here in Wisconsin, where we haven't had the death penalty in 152 years.

"100 Most Unexpected TV Moments."

Have you been watching the "100 Most Unexpected TV Moments" on TV Land? Here's the list of all 100 moments.

If you're not up-to-date on episodes of "The Sopranos," do not look at #56. And avoid #18 if you're not up-to-date on "Six Feet Under."

#45 made me cry! I am such a sap for certain 60s retro things. Actually, two things made me cry. One was Sonny and Cher getting back together to sing "I Got You Babe" on Letterman. The other was the interview part with modern-day Cher. Why did she ruin her face? (Won't the day come when puffed-out collagen-lips will seem as incomprehensible as giant shoulder pads?)

#42, James Stockdale: It's hard to believe it's not Phil Hartman playing James Stockdale, but that's really him, saying "Who am I? Why am I here?"

They keep showing teasers for #17: "Yolanda Bowersley, come on down!" We laughed hysterically for minutes when we saw that "Price Is Right" moment. Yolanda scampers down the steps, all excited, and the scampering makes her tube top fall down. You have to see it, maybe, to know how funny it is, but I'm laughing out loud just typing this. Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" comes in at #4, but I'm sorry, Yolanda Bowersley has it all over Ms. Jackson.

There's not much news or politics on the list -- by design -- but the Dean scream makes it to #7. To get to the next "most unexpected" political things, you've got to go all the way down to #21 (Walter Cronkite's "It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate") and #22 ( Lloyd Bentsen's "you are no Jack Kennedy").

Anyway, cool show. I love this kind of TV.

Stern versus O'Reilly.

Have you been watching Bill O'Reilly interviewing Howard Stern this week? It's been highly amusing. In my view, Stern wipes the floor with O'Reilly -- though, as a visual image, I'd prefer O'Reilly wiping the floor with Stern, Stern bearing the greater physical resemblance to a mop. He's so tall and skinny and that hair! But the hair has lost its old Ramones feeling. Now each curl is meticulously arranged, including the long strand that hangs over his eye, trying to act like it just fell forward, but rigidly twirled just so. He must have a hairdresser who follows him everywhere (like Valerie Cherish's Mickey). What do you think Stern's curl-wrangler gets paid?

Stern is so sharp that he makes O'Reilly look smushy. The O'Reilly bluster just can't get going. O'Reilly seems cowed by the knowledge of how damned much money Stern is getting from Sirius radio. Is it $500 million? Stern wouldn't quite say. Is it $500 million? O'Reilly kept asking.

News Hounds -- "We watch FOX so you don't have to" -- summarizes last night's Stern/O'Reilly encounter:
"Who's your audience?" O'Reilly asked.

Stern set the tone for the rest of the interview by answering, "Strippers, hookers and crack whores." Then he tried to explain that he always envisions his audience as a guy going to to work, a buddy in the locker room talking honestly about reality....

From all this, somehow O'Reilly concluded that Sterns audience was a "blue collar guy." Stern shot back with the analysis of the Scarborough Report which concluded that his audience was highly educated and high income.

O'Reilly didn't like that and made a crack about having lesbians on his show. Stern didn't blink answering, "There will always be lesbians. I will give the people lesbian's because theres nothing sexier than two women getting it on." One can only imagine what Bill was thinking?

Before O'Reilly could respond to the lesbian comment, Stern turned to O'Reilly's merchandise sales making cracks about all the "kazari". "Who's walking around with a Bill O'Reilly briefcase?" he wondered. O'Reilly got all indignant and self righteous about giving 100% to charities like Habitat For Humanity but Stern claimed that he didn't believe it.

Making fun of O'Reilly he quipped, "Come outside with me right now!" O'Reilly then suggested that Stern could build houses for poor lesbians.

Stern then accused O'Reilly of selling the stuff out of ego and demanded a jacket for free. O'Reilly offered it on the condition that he wear it. "I won't wear it but I'll give it to a crack whore."
That caused great hilarity chez Althouse.

The "family-friendly" decision to cancel church on Sunday...

When Sunday is Christmas. I'd say you're estopped from complaining about the secularization of Christmas for the next 12 months.

Oh, don't be so hard on them. They're handing out a DVD with a "heartwarming contemporary Christmas tale" for the parishioners to play in the comfort of their warm, homey homes.

Really, well, why don't they just put the regular Sunday service on a DVD and save folks the trouble of congregating for the rest of the year? And what about the people who don't have families and might have needed that service to have a warm connection to other human beings on Christmas?

What's wrong with you? Didn't I tell you there's a DVD of a heartwarming contemporary Christmas tale for heartwarming warmth? You act like single people don't have a DVD player!

"The bungling of the trial of Saddam Hussein."

Charles Krauthammer:
Instead of Hussein's crimes being on trial, he has succeeded in putting the new regime on trial. The lead story of every court session has been his demeanor, his defiance, his imperiousness. The evidence brought against him by his hapless victims -- testimony mangled in translation and electronic voice alteration -- made the back pages at best.

"This has become a platform for Saddam to show himself as a caged lion when really he was a mouse in a hole," said Vice President Ghazi Yawar. "I don't know who is the genius who is producing this farce. It's a political process. It's a comedy show."
Painful. Terrible.

"Marriage promotes sharing of resources between men, women and the children that they procreate."

"It is based on the presumption that the optimal situation for child-rearing is having both biological parents present in a committed, socially esteemed relationship."

So said the intermediate appellate court in New York yesterday, as it reversed a lower court's ruling that would have authorized gay marriage in New York City. The NYT characterized the 20-page opinion as "a ringing defense of heterosexual marriage." Judging from the article, however, I'd say it's more of a ringing defense of legislative power to define marriage, a ringing rejection of the notion that the limitation of marriage to heterosexual couples violates equal protection or due process.

UPDATE: I've read the text of the case, Hernandez v. Robles. Here's a key passage, showing the kind of deference to the legislature -- rather than enthusiasm for heterosexual marriage -- that pervades the opinion:
The role of the courts is "to recognize rights that are supported by the Constitution and history, but the power to create novel rights is reserved for the people through the democratic and legislative processes." Deprivation of legislative authority, by judicial fiat, to make important, controversial policy decisions prolongs divisiveness and defers settlement of the issue; it is a miscarriage of the political process involved in considering such a policy change....
Interestingly, the court at this point cites an article written by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, "Speaking in a Judicial Voice," which it characterizes as "urging a measured approach in judicial decisionmaking and citing in contrast the Supreme Court's Roe v Wade decision, which prematurely ended the political process for legislative change on the abortion issue and resulted in protracted controversy."

December 8, 2005

"The Apprentice."

I found tonight's episode kind of boring. Event planning? Yawn. It was interesting to see Rebecca choose to bring back Toral, but then it made some sense: Toral had been deeply embarrassed by her performance on the show and is also a very proud person, so she should be motivated to do a good job for Rebecca. And it was mildly funny when all four of the Randal team players went shopping in a party store and heavy-handed they're-idiots music played. Oh, and the sheer horror of Joe Piscopo being deferred to as an important celebrity: That was sort of funny. But to slog through all that task-doing and not get to see any boardroomage? Very unsatisfying. Next week will be good though.

UPDATE: Over at Television Without Pity, they're all observing that the show seemed to have a "winner's edit" for Rebecca.

Your reward: playing Scrabble with Martha Stewart.

Did you watch Martha's "Apprentice" last night?

My advice to anyone stuck playing Scrabble with people who are into playing Scrabble: Just put your words out fast. Don't even try to win. They want to win. Slowing the game down in the hope of impressing them with your intelligence? Not a good strategy -- as Martha's smirking at Dawna's delaying telegraphed.

"We'll have more about the murder of John Lennon after this."

Heard on the alarm-clockradio that woke us up 25 years ago today. RLC tells his version of the day, along with a few other John-related reminiscences, including the time we sat next to John and Yoko in a restaurant called Residence, a story I told a while back, here.

Oh, and I was just listening to "Mind Games" in my car. Feel free to use the comments on this post to answer the question raised at the end of that old post: "Did I or the ecstatic young woman have the more intense personal engagement with her musical idol?"
We all been playing mind games forever,
Some kinda druid dudes lifting the veil.
Doing the mind guerilla,
Some call it the search for the grail,
Love is the answer and you know that for sure,
Love is flower you got to let it, you got to let it grow...

About bat brains and bat testicles.

Their size is inversely proportional, and related to the sexual promiscuity of the female. Female monogamy correlates with a large brain for the male, which is the opposite of what the scientists predicted. Is it more interesting that the big-brained bat-male's sexual partner is monogamous or that a bunch of scientists speculated that promiscuity would evolve along with bigger brains? I'm more interested in human behavior, so I tend to focus on the scientists, guys who are probably proud of their big brains, and I can't help speculating that they are attracted the idea that women at their evolutionary level will be promiscuous.

(Link found via a comment on this post.)

Purity rings.

Flaunting virginity.
The rings are still not mainstream enough to be considered cool. When Ms. McMunn tells her peers that she is waiting for her husband, "people give me weird looks," she said. "I have gotten made fun of a lot." But the rings are catching on to the point where many wearers feel comfortable talking about them....

"I don't think Christian youth are hiding their beliefs as much as they used to," said Jerry Rady of in Escondido, Calif.

"Before, it was in the closet, a lot of that stuff," said Nickolas Pfendner, the owner of, based in Jamison, Pa. "Peers are starting to really appreciate and respect kids who make that choice."

Ring ceremonies, once modest affairs held in people's homes or in churches, now sometimes involve hundreds of participants and laser light shows interspersed with talk of pregnancy and the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases.
Hmmm... this makes me think about the conversation we were having here yesterday in the comments to this post, about the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Some people say that gay persons ought to just keep what is their private behavior to themselves. Everyone who makes the argument that gay persons shouldn't see any need to tell should also object to these rings that proclaim private sexual facts, right?

Why do gay men dominate the fashion industry?

The NYT asks
[There's] a growing tension between those who feel they are discriminated against and those who feel somewhat favored by a perception, largely unexamined, that men are better designers than women, and gay men are the best designers of all....

Many female designers perceive that their male counterparts have won more industry honors and are featured more prominently in magazines. On television, they note, advice on style and design is almost invariably sought from a vibrantly gay man - witness "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," the new "Isaac" talk show with Isaac Mizrahi on the Style channel and "Project Runway" on Bravo, which began its second season on Wednesday night. Its cast of 16 includes 8 male contestants, 7 of them gay, a spokesman for Bravo said....

Of the young American designers most embraced by retailers and celebrated in the fashion press in recent years, the roll call is almost exclusively male: Zac Posen, Marc Jacobs, Narciso Rodriguez and Mr. Som as well as Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler. Their female contemporaries have had a harder time breaking through, among them Behnaz Sarafpour, Alice Roi and Ms. Subkoff.

"Gay men stick together like a band of brothers," Ms. Subkoff said in an interview. "It's more common for a man to bring up a younger assistant" who is male "and be proud of that," she added, "whereas a woman would be threatened" to promote another woman.
Isn't that a classic stereotype about women? We don't trust each other!
In some quarters, the perception exists that fashion's main consumers, women, are more comfortable taking advice about how they should look from a man. "Men are often better designers for women than other women," said Tom Ford, the former creative director of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent.... "Of course there are many more gay male designers," Mr. Ford said. "I think we are more objective. We don't come with the baggage of hating certain parts of our bodies."
We don't trust each other!
Michael Vollbracht, the current designer of Bill Blass, said he believes that gay men are demonstrably superior at design, their aesthetic formed by a perception of a woman as an idealized fantasy. "I come from a time when gay men dressed women," Mr. Vollbracht said. "We didn't bed them. Or at least I didn't. I am someone who is really pro-homosexual. I am an elitist. I am better than straight people. Women are confused about who they want to be. I believe that male designers have the fantasy level that women do not."
We can -- we do -- trust gay men. Is that the answer?

Maybe this is the best explanation:
The large number of visible gay men in fashion, say many in the industry, traces to the fact that Seventh Avenue has seemed a less homophobic career choice than, say, law enforcement or Wall Street. And the prominence of gay men enjoying fame and prosperity draws others into the field.
A lot of women are drawn into fashion too. But it may be that the most competitive and talented women are spread out into many fields, while a very large proportion of the most competitive and talented gay men choose fashion. Still, discrimination against women may well result. The chances seem high that these men, once there, benefit their own kind. Why should ambitious gay men be any different from any other sort of ambitious human being?

"In the end, it's very difficult to argue against letting the people of Wisconsin decide what they are comfortable with when it comes to marriage."

So says Wisconsin state senator Scott Fitzgerald, defending his resolution that would put the question of gay marriage to a statewide vote. The resolution to amend the constitution passed the senate yesterday, with every Republican voting for it and every Democrat voting against it. It's expected to pass the assembly easily, so Governor Doyle will make the final call as to whether gay marriage will be on the ballot next fall... when Governor Doyle [who vetoed a gay marriage bill in 2003] will himself be on the ballot.

And so, the political game is played.

CORRECTION: Sorry, Doyle has no role this time, as the article makes clear:
Legislators launched the drive to amend the state constitution after Doyle vetoed a bill in 2003 that would have defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. Unlike regular bills, the governor does not have a say on constitutional amendments.

"We encourage diverse opinion at UConn, but this is blatant hate speech."

Students jeer and boo Ann Coulter into ending a speech after 15 minutes.

When John Lennon died.

The doctor who held John Lennon's heart in his hands and tried to pump it back to life remembers that night, 25 years ago:
"There was just nothing left to pump," Dr. [Stephan G.] Lynn recalled in an interview. "There was so much damage to the major blood vessels leading from the heart" that his blood just leaked out....

"The bullets were amazingly well-placed," he said. "All the major blood vessels leaving the heart were a mush, and there was no way to fix it."
I remember hearing the news on the radio the next morning. I heard the news today, oh boy...

I usually listen to a little news on the radio before getting out of bed. I guess I've done that for a long, long time, because I can remember turning on the radio in 1968 and hearing that Bobby Kennedy had been shot to death.

On the day I heard that John had died, I was a law student at NYU. I remember dragging myself in to the law review office and expecting everyone there to be crying and talking about it, but no one was saying anything at all. I never felt so alienated from my fellow law students as I did on that day. I was insecure enough to feel that I was being childish to be so caught up in the story of the death of a celebrity long past his prime. I didn't even take the train uptown to go stand in the crowd that I knew had gathered outside the Dakota. What did I do? I can't remember. I probably buried myself in work on a law review article.

Back in 1968, all my friends were crying and talking about Bobby's death. When Bobby's coffin was on public view in St. Patrick's Cathedral, we got in my car and drove in to New York City (from Wayne, New Jersey) and waited in the long line to file past. I remember the feeling of being around the other mourners and how extremely kind I thought it was when office workers brought us cups of water from inside their building. In the end, we teenagers started worrying that our parents would get upset, wondering where we were, and we left the line we'd waited in for hours.

How I regret not going uptown to be among the people who openly mourned John Lennon! How foolish I was to think I was foolish to care and to put my effort into blending in with the law review editors who, I imagined, were behaving in a way I needed to learn!

I was especially sensitive about fitting in, because I was six months pregnant with my first child, and I worried that this experience was tearing me away from the career I had spent the last two and a half years studying to begin. I was 29 years old, older than most of the other law students. I doubted any of them had studied fine arts, my undergraduate major. With my age, my art school background, and my pregnancy, I was imposter, constantly threatened with exposure. I couldn't walk out on these people and go be with the mourners. I only watched the mourners on television and felt doubly sad.

On St. Patrick's Day, my baby was born. I named him John.

December 7, 2005

"The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them."

Harold Pinter on the occasion of accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature. Pinter, we're told, was "[d]ressed in black, bristling with controlled fury."
Mr. Pinter attacked American foreign policy since World War II, saying that while the crimes of the Soviet Union had been well documented, those of the United States had not. "I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road," he said. "Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be, but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self-love."

Word of the Year.


Madonna on Letterman.

Did you watch Madonna on Letterman last night -- complete with horseys? She was her usual stilted talk-show-self, and she looked weirdly shriveled inside a goofily high-collared purple sweater coat. I liked when she said "Is my necklace on straight?" as a way to get everyone to look at her breasts -- the necklace had a long dangling strand that could line up in her cleavage. And I liked when she tried to instruct Dave on how to toilet train his toddler and to shame him about letting the kid pass the two year mark without learning the highly prized skill. The Madonna technique: deprive the wayward lad of diapers and let him get disgusted with himself. Chances Dave will try that method? O.

The wisdom of the soft launch.

Lately, we've seen all too much of what a disaster it can be to make a big spectacle out of launching a new website with grandiose claims of major innovations and accomplishments that readers can't see on the page. It's refreshing to read a kind note of approval for a graceful soft launch.

Making small talk.

NPR has a piece about how to make small talk at an office party. Actually, I think if you hate small talk, the author they have effusing about small talk will probably just make you feel more negative about having to make small talk -- and she tells you right off that having a negative attitude will totally wreck your ability to make small talk. Anyway, the segment begins with some nice clips from "The Office." And, beware, it ends with some excruciating singing from Renee Zellweger, singing at an office party in "Bridget Jones's Diary." It's supposed to be hilarious but it's trying way too hard to be hilarious, as though they really don't trust us at all to recognize bad singing.

Sugary beverages.

The NYT begins an article on anti-soda litigation this way:
It is lunchtime at Grover Cleveland High School in Portland, Ore. A steady stream of thirsty teenagers poke dollars into the three Coca-Cola machines in the hallway. By the end of lunch period, the Coke With Lime, Cherry Coke and Vanilla Coke are sold out.

Elsa Peterson, a senior at Grover Cleveland and the student body president, said she knew she could bring healthier juices from home. "But it's easy to walk up with a dollar and just get a pop."

That, says Stephen Gardner, staff lawyer for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, is exactly the problem. In an age of soaring obesity rates among children, he argues that soda and other sugary beverages are harmful to students' health and that selling those drinks in schools sends a message that their regular consumption is perfectly fine.

In a lawsuit they plan to file in the next few months, Mr. Gardner and half a dozen other lawyers, several of them veterans of successful tobacco litigation, will seek to ban sales of sugary beverages in schools.
Yeah, I know: blah, blah, blah, too much litigation, blah, blah. But the point I want to make is: Since when is juice not a sugary beverage?

Parents and schools should teach kids one simple rule: If you are thirsty, drink water.

"Dean's take on Iraq makes even less sense than the scream in Iowa."

Says Rep. Jim Marshall, a Democrat. A lot of Democrats are worried about the effect of the Dean style of anti-war talk -- the effect on the fortunes of the party, that is.

"But what if all of this vocabulary -- winning, losing, victory, defeat -- is simply misplaced?"

Anne Applebaum writes about war and language.

Protesting military recruiters on campus.

Lawprof Dan Pinello gave me permission to quote this email he just sent to our list of conlawprofs:
In today's New York Times, Linda Greenhouse reports that the Supreme Court is likely to uphold the Solomon Amendment. However, she relates an interesting exchange from oral argument:
"Asked by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg what a ... school 'could do concretely while the [military] recruiter is in the room,' [Solicitor General Paul D.] Clement replied that as long as the school granted equal access, 'They could put signs on the bulletin board next to the door. They could engage in speech. They could help organize student protests.'"
I plan to rely on this representation to the Supreme Court by the chief legal advocate for the Solomon Amendment. As a member of my school's Committee on Cultural Pluralism and Diversity, I will help organize protests every time military recruiters set foot on campus.

I urge all of you also to follow the Solicitor General's lead.
I note Dahlia Litwick's report on this part of the argument:
Clement, flashing his counterculture creds, suggests they could "put up signs on bulletin boards, give speeches, organize a student protest."

He briefly loses Kennedy. "The school can organize a protest where everyone jeers at the recruiters and the applicant? That's equal access?" the justice fumes. Clement stands firm. Yes. Cue Scalia the wiseacre: "You are not going to be a military recruiter are you?" Scalia and Kennedy don't want to allow student jeering. But Clement would permit it. "This statute gives a right to equal access," he says. After that, recruiters are on their own.
I suppose that at some point a protest would interfere with the recruiting and violate the law, but the "more speech" remedy should be available to the law schools. I'd like to see those who object to the "don't ask, don't tell policy" be respectful to the students who are seeking out this public service job and to the military recruiters who did not make what is a statutory policy. Hostility aimed at these persons is wrong and should backfire. The important thing is to present the civil, reasoned argument for allowing gay persons to serve in the military. This is an appealing and sound argument, and it is most persuasive when it is presented in a calm, articulate way. I'd like to see the law schools hold symposia where the issue can be discussed in an intellectual environment, with good advocates from the military to explain the policy and debate with their opponents.

Not necessarily not dead.

Al-Jazeera withdraws some reassurance about the continuing existence of Osama bin Laden.

The Roberts Court style.

I just read Linda Greenhouse's description's of the "lopsided argument during which the justices appeared strongly inclined to uphold [the] federal law":
[T]he law school coalition's lawyer, E. Joshua Rosenkranz, had difficulty gaining traction as he urged the justices to uphold the appeals court's judgment that the Solomon Amendment amounted to "compelled speech" by forcing the law schools to convey the military's message. Chief Justice Roberts made his disagreement unmistakable.

"I'm sorry, but on 'compelled speech,' nobody thinks that this law school is speaking through those employers who come onto its campus for recruitment," the chief justice said. "Nobody thinks the law school believes everything that the employers are doing or saying."
Roberts seems to have instantly emerged as the dominant voice at oral argument. And he seems to have a way of slamming lawyers in the face with his own clearly stated opinion. Tell me why this is wrong, right now, or forget about it. I hope to see much clearer written opinions from the rejuvenated Court too.


Yeah: -5.

The concealed carry law in Wisconsin.

Last night, the Wisconsin Senate passed a bill to legalize the concealed carrying of weapons. This has been a hot button issue around here for years.
“Concealed weapons in Wisconsin have been illegal for over 100 years, and we have one of the safest states in the whole country,” Sen. Judith Robson, D-Beloit, said....

“I can’t imagine Halloween on State Street. … What a disaster that would be for Madison,” Robson said. “I can’t imagine going to the mall knowing the person next to me may have a concealed [weapon].”...

“This is an important issue for people who want to protect themselves [and to have] control of their own destiny,” Sen. David Zien, R-Eau Claire, said.
Choose your fantasy.

Franken at the Barrymore.

Al Franken was in town to do a live broadcast of his Air America radio show, here on State Street, at the Barrymore Theatre. I hadn't noticed that this was happening, or I might have felt I head out into the cold yesterday so I could tell you about it. But The Isthmus has a good report, with a bloggish set of pictures:
The show was on stage from 11 am through 1 pm, with Franken speaking to a parade of local lefty pundits and Democratic politicians, such as Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, State Rep. Mark Pocan, and Gov. Jim Doyle (via phone). The theater was standing-room only, with nearly one thousand officially ticketed attendees. "I think we packed the place," says Brian Turaney, who is the program director for The MIC.

The live-broadcast was well-received by the politically-liberal crowd. "It's a great event whenever Al comes to town," Turaney explains. "It's great, especially on a cold winter day, to get together and see how many people are like-minded. It's great to see how many people came out and how happy everybody was."
Yeah, it was really cold. Drawing a big crowd for a 3-hour radio show is pretty impressive. But this is Madison! We're not sissies about the cold, and we love the rousing lefty politics.
The crowd is very enthusiastic, applauding regularly and excitedly at Franken's punchlines and rhetorical flourishes made by the political guests.
That's what ever comedian wants to hear: how loud the crowd ... clapped.
The age range of the crowd is diverse, ranging from the myspace Generation to the Greatest Generation. It is also overwhelmingly white and middle class (at least in superficial appearance), certainly reflective of the radio station's listenership. This makes sense, given the need for many audience members to take (at least) several hours out of their work day to attend. In terms of general appearance, conservative naysayers envisioning "hippies" or whatever the fantasy du jour is (as is often the case among those negatively commenting on liberal gatherings of this type) have little to work with.
Is that what you conservative naysayers envision? Well, at least we know that (liberal?) journalists envision conservative naysayers envisioning Franken's audience as somehow rotten-looking.

It sounds as though most of the show was trotting out the local politicians. Franken is a radio genius if he made that interesting. I remember how Bruce Springsteen -- that denizen of Franken's iPod -- reacted when he had to share the stage with Governor Doyle: "I think this will be the governor's last experience as my opening act."

UPDATE: I'm mixing up the Barrymore and the Orpheum! Sorry. The Barrymore is way over on the East Side and would have required a car ride.

Franken's iPod.

Al Franken was in town last night, and The Daily Cardinal -- a UW student newspaper -- got a chance to do an interview. Here's one thing:
DC: You’ve been a known Deadhead and even had Phil Lesh on your show. What kind of music have you been listening to lately?

AF: Well on my iPod, I have some Grateful Dead, of course, and some Guster that my son gave to me. REM and Bruce Springsteen. You know, the classics.
MORE: The Capital Times uses the occasion to opine on Franken's possible run for the Senate:
Franken is not sure whether he will make the race. But if he does, he will be a far more serious contender than his right-wing critics would have Americans believe. Sure, he comes from the world of show business. But, by comparison, say, with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franken has a significantly more impressive track record as a political activist and a commentator on national and international affairs.

In many senses, Franken reminds us of an entertainer-turned-politician we did not agree with but whom we had to respect: former President Ronald Reagan. Reagan got deeply involved in conservative politics years before he entered the 1966 California gubernatorial race. Reagan was ridiculed by liberals and many in the media but he beat them every time because he actually understood politics and was firm in his beliefs.

If Franken seeks the Senate seat from Minnesota, he will be ridiculed by conservatives and many in the media but he too understands politics and is firm in his beliefs. And, we suspect, Franken would hand Coleman the defeat he should have gotten from Paul Wellstone.
Hmmm.... Do show biz types make better true believers?

December 6, 2005

Bad Christmas songs.

They're hating on Christmas recordings over at Lean Left. And don't get all John Gibson about it. They don't object to any of the traditional carols. They're lighting into the Santa Claus-n-chestnuts material. I don't hang around in stores enough to get fed up with these things, so I don't have any particular recordings that drive me up the wall. Do you?

Today's the oral argument in Rumsfeld v. FAIR.

The NYT reports:
"This case is not about whether military recruiters will be barred at the campus gates," [Joshua Rosenkranz, the attorney for FAIR] said. "Congress had a law on the books that guaranteed entry to campus. But that was not what Congress really wanted, so it passed a new law.

"What Congress really wants is to squelch even the most symbolic elements of the law schools' resistance to disseminating the military's message."...

But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. sounded skeptical at one point. The Solomon Amendment, he said, "doesn't insist that you do anything."
That's an awfully skimpy story, padded with the info that the Solomon who gave his name to the law was Representative Gerald B. H. Solomon, "a conservative Republican from Glens Falls, N.Y., who served more than eight years in the Marines and successfully pushed to deny federal student aid to men who failed to register for the draft" and who "challenged Representative Patrick Kennedy, Democrat of Rhode Island, to 'step outside' to settle a disagreement over a proposed assault weapons ban, which Mr. Solomon opposed." Isn't it always relevant that some old conservative was a cranky bastard?

Here's a little more quoting from the oral argument, from FOXNews:
An impatient Justice Sandra Day O'Connor interrupted Rosenkranz, reminding him that "the government takes the position that the law school is entirely free to convey its message to everyone who comes. So how is the message affected in that environment?"

She added that the law school can tell "every student who enters the room” that they find the policy immoral.

But, Rosenkranz replied that when the students enter the room they are receiving dueling ideas. "The answer of the students is we don’t believe you. We read your message as being there are two tiers ...," he said.
Dueling ideas? Aren't law students especially good at decoding conflicting ideas? Yes, but the point is that by having to provide the facilities, the law schools are being forced to express a second idea that they don't agree with, that conflicts with the thing they want to say.
"The reason they don’t believe you," Roberts said, cutting the attorney off, "is because you’re willing to take the money. What you’re saying is, 'This is a message we believe in strongly, but we don’t believe in it to the tune of $100 million.'"
In this view, the law schools are not really even forced to contradict themselves. The message they send is twofold, but both things are true: We oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation, but not enough to give up $100 million. You're not forced to say anything you don't believe, just motivated to do something, and anyone watching what you do can draw the inference.
"Nobody thinks the law school is speaking through those employers that come onto its campus for recruitment. Everybody knows those are the employers. Nobody thinks the law school believes everything the employers are doing or saying," Roberts said.
This is the government's strongest argument, isn't it? The schools are really trying to control what messages the students receive and are not really suffering from having it seem as though they are expressing that message. The law schools' rejection of the military's message is, in fact, one of their best known opinions. The military's forced entry into a school's territory amplifies a school's message of opposition to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

And, moreover, this lawsuit has amplified that message. The law schools have used this litigation to shine a spotlight on the federal government's harsh use of overwhelming power, power that the Court will almost surely uphold.

UPDATE: Dahlia Lithwick has lots of quotes from the argument, including this indicating that Justice Breyer will side with the government:
Breyer telegraphs his vote when he says that the remedy to bad speech "is not less speech. It's more speech." Breyer adds, "I can't find anywhere in the record where a student believes this speech is the school's. I can't even find a recruiter who told a student they can't join the military if they're gay."
Dahlia notes that at one point, it's the liberal Justices who are beating on FAIR's lawyer. (Only Justice Souter seems to support him.) She concludes: "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth. The law schools have no case."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's Linda Greenhouse's description of the "lopsided argument during which the justices appeared strongly inclined to uphold [the] federal law":
[T]he law school coalition's lawyer, E. Joshua Rosenkranz, had difficulty gaining traction as he urged the justices to uphold the appeals court's judgment that the Solomon Amendment amounted to "compelled speech" by forcing the law schools to convey the military's message. Chief Justice Roberts made his disagreement unmistakable.

"I'm sorry, but on 'compelled speech,' nobody thinks that this law school is speaking through those employers who come onto its campus for recruitment," the chief justice said. "Nobody thinks the law school believes everything that the employers are doing or saying."

Was Alito's father born in Italy?

The official White House story about Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito includes the detail that his father was born in Italy. Talk Left marshalls the evidence that this isn't true, that he was born in New Jersey. What gives? Alito supporters should address this discrepancy immediately.

"I was under the impression that these people... generally understood what this thing called 'blog' was all about."

"Clearly, I was wrong."

"In Somalia you could be a warlord."

The clients of a seemingly respectable accountant react to the news that he is a "batshit crazy, insanely bitter, deranged and completely obsessed stalker who preys on the dogs of others and frightens small children off the internet."

Cheering up the Germans.

The NYT has an article about that ad campaign to cheer up Germans:
Whether this is an appropriate way to battle the national melancholy - and opinions vary greatly on this issue - the very existence of such a campaign, reportedly the first of its sort in this country, is a sign of what is generally recognized here: that Germany is indeed in a sour mood, its economy in the doldrums, its financial deficits too high and none of its leaders strong or visionary enough to lead the way out....

[I]t has now settled pretty deeply in the collective awareness that unification has been an economic and a spiritual failure. It cost, and still costs, a staggering amount of money in financial transfers from the former West to the poorer and smaller former East, where the money seems to have vanished without a trace.

Now, the westerners are unhappy because the disappearance of all that money is seen as the root of Germany's economic stagnation and high unemployment. The easterners are notoriously unhappy because life is less secure than it used to be under Communism, and, as this cycle continues, the westerners are irritated that the easterners are unhappy....

[Critics of the ad campaign argue] that what Germany needs is not singers and athletes (and literary critics, television anchor women and 8-year-olds) telling them to cheer up, but serious attention to the country's real problems.

The intellectual weekly Die Zeit heaped scorn on the campaign, labeling it "propaganda" and excoriating its creators in particular for what the paper deemed their "tasteless" use of the Holocaust Memorial as a backdrop to the "You are Germany" chants of the gay and handicapped people.

"Unemployment is depicted as a consequence of the bad mood, a private phenomenon, which at any given time could be corrected by self-contemplation and positive thinking," wrote the paper's commentator, Jens Jessen.

This story got me thinking about Jimmy Carter's "malaise" speech. People who are already unhappy about the economy do not like to hear that they ought to solve the problem by not being unhappy.

"Abu Zubaydah was partial to Kit Kats."

We plied the captured al Qaeda leader with candies, but that was after "he was slapped, grabbed, made to stand long hours in a cold cell, and finally handcuffed and strapped feet up to a water board until after 0.31 seconds he begged for mercy and began to cooperate."

Howard Dean compares Iraq not just to Vietnam, but to Watergate.

Here. We've heard the stock comparison to Vietnam many times, of course, but why bring up Watergate -- except to let the world see that you're drooling over the idea of impeachment? Doesn't the chairman of Democratic National Committee have something better to do -- like inspire confidence that Democrats can be trusted with national security?

"Conservatives should study the ideas and arguments that prevail on the left."

"There is always something to learn from these arguments, if only which way the wind of resentment is now blowing. And lifting your eyes from this joyless stuff, you will thank God that you are a conservative."

So says Roger Scruton, in part 2 of Right Reason's interview, that marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of "The Meaning of Conservatism."

Do you seek joy from politics? Or are you just lucky if the politics you embrace in the pursuit of something other than joy turn out to inspire joy? Do you worry about people who find (or seek) joy in politics?

But Scruton is worrying about people who express resentment in politics. Is resentment your political magnet? Or have you just found that the politics you've embraced for some other reason brim with resentment?

Rumsfeld v. FAIR.

The Supreme Court hears argument today in the Solomon Amendment case, with the audio to be released immediately. Expect lots of commentary here and elsewhere later today. For now, the best on-line review of the issues that I know of is last week's debate between Yale lawprof William Eskridge and George Mason Dean Daniel Polsby.

The great Blogspot outage of '05.

I don't know why all the Blogspot blogs went blank last night for a few hours. Did I freak out? No. It helped that I could see my "compose" and "edit posts" pages, so I didn't worry that my writing was lost. I just turned off the computer, did some work, fell asleep early, and slept eight hours. I did wake for a minute during that long sleep, and it did occur to me that I could turn on the computer and see if we were back, but I didn't. It's nice to see it's all working now.

Do I hate Blogger now? No. This is the first significant problem since last spring. Anywhere else would have its own problems, and Blogger is too big to fail. Right? But I would like an explanation.

UPDATE: Blogger explains the outage.

December 5, 2005

"'London Bridge Is Falling Down' ... contains coded references to the medieval custom of burying people alive in the foundations of bridges."

That's a line in a NYT review of the new "Norton Anthology of Children's Literature." But there's no further information. Intriguing!

"The commander in chief was doing a dignified little head-nod to the beat."

The Washington Post thinks the President should have been more demonstrative, but you can imagine what the pictures in the paper would look like if he in fact stood up and danced. The song, by the way, was "Nutbush City Limits," the singer, Melissa Etheridge, the honoree -- of course -- Tina Turner.

Weblog awards.

Check out 2005 The Weblog Award nominations. This blog is nominated in the Best Law Blog category. And Audible Althouse is nominated in the Best Podcast category. Vote!

ADDED: Things are cranking away slowly over there at the moment, so try again later if you have trouble.

You better get yourself together.

Those three posts I put up before leaving the house this morning look awfully dark. Is Althouse in a gloomy mood? Rottweilers and face-eating Labradors? Oh, my!

I left the house for the first time since Saturday and had snow a squirrel's-length deep to clear off the car. I put my bag in the trunk and took out the brush. I made sure I had the keys in my hand before I slammed the trunk. I got all that snow off the car and reached into my coat pocket: no keys! How to get into the house for my other key? Damn! It's 3 degrees. I was sure I had the keys in my hand and that I slipped them into my coat pocket. Did I drop them into the deep snow behind the car?

Ah, I see the little black hole in the snow. I'm so happy to pick up the keys with my gloveless hands and rub off the snow with my sleeves. I drive into work, my hands getting colder and colder. The gloves -- gloves the color of my crashed car Li'l Greenie -- only make it worse. I've got those John Lennon discs in the CD player:
Instant karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead

Suicide and the face transplant.

The donor in the face transplant case was a suicide: Is this an ethical problem? More significantly: Is it an ethical problem that the recipient came about her need for a face transplant through her own attempt at suicide?

The horrible detail:
Transplant patient Isabelle Dinoire, from Valenciennes, north of Amiens, was reported to have overdosed on pills last May following a row with one of her two daughters. As she lay unconscious, part of her nose, her mouth and chin were bitten off by her Labrador-cross dog, Tania.
UPDATE: The woman's doctor denies that she had tried to commit suicide.

Alito and "one person, one vote" reapportionment.

The NYT reports on Samuel Alito and the strong influence his father had on him. Telling the nominee's life story has become a crucial part of the confirmation process, and Alito has a special need to explain the opposition to the "one person, one vote" principle of legislative apportionment, which he stated in a 1985 job application. Here, the life story component is surprisingly rich:
When ... Democrats pressed Judge Alito about why he had once disagreed with the Warren Court decision that established the "one person, one vote" standard for state districts, he again recalled the legacy of his father, Samuel A. Alito, who worked for three decades as the director of research for the New Jersey Legislature.

In his bedroom at night as a boy, Judge Alito told senators, he could hear his father clicking away at a manual calculator as he struggled to redraw the state's legislative districts with equal populations, people present for the conversations said....

As director of research for the New Jersey Legislature, the elder Mr. Alito became known as a human encyclopedia of state demographics and legislative history....

Although he was a registered Republican, Mr. Alito was obsessive about avoiding any perception of partisanship in his office. Many of his colleagues said he never revealed any hint of his own inclinations on political issues, aside from the Legislature's importance to the state....

The elder Mr. Alito's highest-profile role came when the Supreme Court's "reapportionment" cases in the 1960's established the principle that state legislative voting districts must be of equal population: one person, one vote. The redrawing of New Jersey's districts started 20 years of legal and legislative battles full of risks for incumbent lawmakers. The issue was also rife with racial tensions between urban minorities and the mostly white suburbs, and as director of research, Mr. Alito was in charge of drafting the maps.

"He was walking a fine line," said Jack Lacy, a former Town Council member in Hamilton Township, N.J., who was a friend of the Alitos. "And he not only survived it, he enhanced his reputation."
We're so accustomed to the plain, abstract fairness of the "one person, one vote" standard that we may assume only a bigot would oppose it. But the story of the elder Alito struggling to fit the abstraction to the real world ought to make us want to moderate that assumption.

It's worth going back and reading or rereading the reasons Justice Frankfurter gave for opposing judicial reapportionment, back in 1962:
Apportionment, by its character, is a subject of extraordinary complexity, involving -- even after the fundamental theoretical issues concerning what is to be represented in a representative legislature have been fought out or compromised -- considerations of geography, demography, electoral convenience, economic and social cohesions or divergencies among particular local groups, communications, the practical effects of political institutions like the lobby and the city machine, ancient traditions and ties of settled usage, respect for proven incumbents of long experience and senior status, mathematical mechanics, censuses compiling relevant data, and a host of others. Legislative responses throughout the country to the reapportionment demands of the 1960 Census have glaringly confirmed that these are not factors that lend themselves to evaluations of a nature that are the staple of judicial determinations or for which judges are equipped to adjudicate by legal training or experience or native wit. And this is the more so true because, in every strand of this complicated, intricate web of values meet the contending forces of partisan politics. The practical significance of apportionment is that the next election results may differ because of it. Apportionment battles are overwhelmingly party or intra-party contests. It will add a virulent source of friction and tension in federal-state relations to embroil the federal judiciary in them.

"Any problems people have, money magnifies it so much, it's unbelievable."

The NYT has a long piece on that lottery winner we were talking about last week -- the man who built a replica of Mount Vernon and, soon enough, died there. His wife, you may remember, took her part of the money and built a geodesic dome and, soon enough, died there.
[Mack Metcalf] collected all-terrain vehicles, vintage American cars and an eccentric array of pets: horses, Rottweilers, tarantulas and a 15-foot boa constrictor.

He also continued to give away cash. Neighbors recall him buying goods at a convenience store with $100 bills, then giving the change to the next person in line. Ms. Metcalf said she discovered boxes filled with scraps of paper in his home recording money he had given away, debts he would never collect.

His drinking got worse, and he became increasingly afraid that people were plotting to kill him, installing surveillance cameras and listening devices around his house, Ms. Metcalf said. Then in early 2003, he spent a month in the hospital for treatment of cirrhosis and hepatitis. After being released from the hospital, he married for the third time, but died just months later, in December.
How much is a replica of Mount Vernon worth? It sold for half what it cost to build, $657,000. Maybe it should have sold for more, but the sad story behind it warded off buyers.

December 4, 2005

"Curb Your Enthusiasm" -- the season finale.

Well, what did you think? Cool appearances by Dustin Hoffman and Sasha Baron Cohen!

Audible Althouse, #24.

Here. Internet Addiction Disorder, the turn away from medicating one's sexual and emotional problems, encountering solitude, buying Christmas presents for yourself, fussing over your "food swings," what disco means to Camille Paglia, what John Lennon means to me, who belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and what to think of a high school that outs a gay student to her mother. 46 minutes.

Another ridiculous Committee for Justice ad for Alito.

Listen here.

Oh, no! Liberals are attacking Christmas! Please, Judge Alito! Save Christmas!

It does Alito a disservice to try to alarm people about liberal attacks on "religious expression," when the constitutional law in question is about government's expression of religion, something you can't tell from the ad. And the tinkly Christmas music playing in the background? What that says to me is that they think you have no brain, only a heart. Doesn't the pretty music make it grow three sizes and feel like carving up some nice roast liberal?

Amba gets a link from Pajamas Media.

Care to guess what that does to her Site Meter? Yeah, there it is, posing under the letters "" Amba checks out the Pajamas website for the first time and has the same reaction she had a while back when she took one look at a new store in her neighborhood, the one selling all the "choo-choo trains and monkeys and little boys and girls, all in that same bland, Scandinavian-Polish style."

Don't you love hand drawn animation?

I do. Have you seen the new music video drawn by Bill Plympton? (You can see it, in low resolution and after a few minutes of interview in a link found here.) I've loved Plympton ever since I saw "How to Kiss" in an animation festival maybe about 15 years ago. (You can watch "How to Kiss" here.)

ADDED: I don't know if I've ever mentioned it, but computer animation makes me ill. Years ago, I walked out on "Antz," and I've never gone back. I've seen parts of computer animation films on TV, and I can see that the technology has become fairly good, but there is something wrong with it, something crucial missing -- emotion, humanity... something.

Birds are evolved dinosaurs.

More evidence. With feathers.

Milestone approaching.

I'm about to hit 5 million page views, according to Site Meter. That's nice!

I hesitate to say this...

...because I think the wall between editorial content and advertising is important to a writer's credibility. But I love those little films, which you can get to by clicking on the Nokia ad in the sidebar. They're a little like those old Apple "Switch" ads.

"We need to stop blaming, suspecting and overly medicating our boys, as if we can change this guy into the learner we want."

"When we decide -- as we did with our daughters -- that there isn't anything inherently wrong with our sons, when we look closely at the system that boys learn in, we will discover these boys again, for all that they are."

From an article in the Washington Post, analyzing the gender gap in higher education. Via Gordon Smith.

Here's an old post of mine on the topic of the male/female imbalance. I find it interesting that Gordon says, "The biggest change over the past 15 years is that gender is no longer a diversity factor in admissions." I think he means that femaleness is no longer a plus factor. But I don't think he ought to be assuming that maleness hasn't become a plus factor.

How easy it is to defame someone in Wikipedia.

Who is accountable? Or should we just not worry?
Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Stanford and an expert in the laws of cyberspace, said that contrary to popular belief, true defamation was easily pursued through the courts because almost everything on the Internet was traceable and subpoenas were not that hard to obtain. (For real anonymity, he advised, use a pay phone.)

"People will be defamed," he said. "But that's the way free speech is. Think about the gossip world. It spreads. There's no way to correct it, period. Wikipedia is not immune from that kind of maliciousness, but it is, relative to other features of life, more easily corrected."

Sales of impotence drugs have gone soft.

But why?
[M]any impotent men have chosen not to take the drugs, even though the drugs work about 70 percent of the time and have relatively few side effects....

While the drugs have helped millions, many impotent men have simply decided not to take medicine to improve their ability to have sex, said Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, associate clinical professor of urology at Harvard Medical School.

"The idea that every man with erectile dysfunction is going to want to take one of these pills - I think that's not accurate," Dr. Morgentaler said. "And I don't think there's anything wrong with that."...

Younger men who take the drugs are often disappointed because the medicines do not stimulate sexual desire, said Ian Kerner, a sex therapist in New York City. Instead, the drugs work in men who are already aroused but are physically unable to sustain an erection because they have poor blood flow to the penis.

"I think that they're being oversold," Mr. Kerner said. "I especially think they're being oversold to young people."
The article notes that the sale of antidepressants has also fallen. Has some widespread reaction to mainstream drug-pushing set in? Are human beings finding their way back to their natural bodies?

"Don't you want to be free and men? Don't you even understand what manhood and freedom are?"

"Taking a shower, washing your hair, drinking cold water, opening the window, watching television and even reading a book."

Things not to do after having a baby.
For my part, I refused to be a prisoner to tradition and blithely ignored these taboos. And Dong Ayi did not exactly complain when I took a shower or opened the window or drank iced water.

She would just fix me with a baleful glare... a silent warning of the error of my ways....

Food was another small battleground over which we skirmished.

The Chinese firmly believe that certain foods are beneficial after childbirth, particularly purple rice porridge with dates, pig trotter soup and black chicken broth.

On one memorable occasion, my in-laws even produced deep-fried pork-fat soup, which was surprisingly good.

The problem was that Dong Ayi firmly opposed my favourite foods: namely coffee, chocolate and bananas.

"Not for breastfeeding mothers," she said, banning them from my diet, "they're bad for Daniel's health."

I took the route of least resistance and meekly agreed, though I would visit friends' houses for clandestine coffee and secret bananas.
Even if the rules seem absurd, they do serve many purposes. Look at how these rules intricately connected the new mother to her traditional culture, enforced elaborate special care for the mother, and guaranteed an extended celebration of the arrival of the baby. Of course, the modern new mother can resist and make fun, but at the same time, she appreciates the beauty and function of the traditional ways.