February 18, 2006


That's the temperature here in Madison. I thought it felt a little nippy when I darted out to pick up the newspaper without putting on a coat. Things are very sunny and prettily snow-covered from inside. But still... -15... that's cold.

The weekend.

I'm glad the peace of the weekend has arrived. It's been a very hectic week, even with Thursday spent snowed in. Yesterday was especially crazy: an early morning meeting with the real estate agent (involving writing a big check, which is always stressful even when you don't think you're feeling any stress), a conlaw class (reaching Marbury at long last), a noontime talk to the faculty (about the intersection between blogging and scholarship), a two-hour stint on a panel listening to and commenting on a talk by Texas lawprof Sanford Levinson (a great talk with a big turnout), and dinner with Levinson and others (good food and talk at the Madison Club).

Next week is a busy one too, including a Thursday trip to Milwaukee to participate in this Federalist Society conference on "The Legacy of the Rehnquist Court" (where I am a speaker, even though I'm not listed on that webpage).

Much as I'd like to take it easy this weekend, I've got to keep working on the project of getting the house ready to put on the market. I've gotten through the most difficult parts. Look how clean the basement is now:

The basement is clean!

But getting the obvious junk piles cleared only means that the smaller things become perceptible. Maybe I need to think up strategies for not getting swallowed up in housework. Like: don't do anything that has to do with moving as opposed to showing. Or maybe: pick one room a day and do everything and be done with it. But those rules won't work. The first one fritters away time in oversubtle line-drawing. And the second fails because I don't have enough days left. Yeah, yeah, I know. Stop talking about it. Stop thinking about it. Do it!

But first, I have to read the newspaper.

"If they come out on to the streets anyway they should be flogged."

Chief Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin approves of the decision by the city government of Moscow to reject what would have been the first gay rights parade in Russia.
"If they come out on to the streets anyway they should be flogged. Any normal person would do that - Muslims and Orthodox Christians alike ... [The protests] might be even more intense than protests abroad against those controversial cartoons."
Ah, so the cartoon violence is to work as general threat to suppress all sorts of behavior. Religious fanatics with no power to force others to adopt their religion use violence and threats of violence to force others to behave as if they were followers of that religion.

The mayor's spokesman, Sergei Tsoi, defended the city's decision on the ground that the idea of a gay rights parade has "caused outrage in society." So the power of government is harnessed by the mere expression of outrage and a reminder of how badly your co-religionists behaved over those cartoons.

UPDATE: More commentary on this news story from Andrew Sullivan ("further appeasement of these religious terrorists is counter-productive - and actually enables the extremists in their simultaneous intimidation of moderate Muslims") and Eugene Volokh ("Russian society is quite hostile to gays... The nastiness can't be laid entirely at the feet of parts of the Russian Muslim community").

CORRECTION MADE: Sergei Tsoi is the mayor's spokesman, not the mayor.

February 17, 2006


The big snow came just at the time that I'm having the gutters on my roof replaced. The gutterless roof edge is a prime breeding ground for icicles.


These things will have to break and fall. I plan to dart out the front door more quickly than usual for the next few days.

"It sounded like the mountain exploded, and the whole thing crumbled."

In the Philippines, 1,500 persons are buried under 30 feet of mud too soft for heavy digging equipment: "Rescue workers dug with shovels for signs of survivors, and put a child on a stretcher, with little more than the girl's eyes showing through a covering of mud."

Student newspapers and those cartoons of Muhammad.

While major newspapers in the United States have declined to reprint the inflammatory cartoons that depict the Prophet Muhammad, some student newspapers have reprinted them:
Editors at some student publications at the University of Wisconsin, Harvard University, Northern Illinois University and Illinois State University have published some of the cartoons.

The decisions have set off a painful clash, seemingly pitting two of the values so often embraced in university environments — freedom of speech and sensitivity to other cultures — directly against each other....

The issue has prompted letters to the editor, community meetings and public forums. Officials at the University of Wisconsin were organizing a forum in Madison for next week after The Badger Herald on Monday ran one of the cartoons, one that portrayed Muhammad with a turban in the shape of a bomb.

"Universally, we found the cartoon to be repugnant," said Mac VerStandig, the editor in chief of The Badger Herald. "But we believe that there was a certain endangerment of free speech here, especially given the general prudishness of the American press. We believe our readers are mature enough to look at these images."
I wonder what that "forum" is going to consist of. Here are some letters to the editor of The Badger Herald, many of which stress that the cartoon is "racist."

Ugly criminals.

A study correlates physical unattractiveness and crime:
[Naci Mocan of the University of Colorado and Erdal Tekin of Georgia State University] analyzed data from a federally sponsored survey of 15,000 high-schoolers who were interviewed in 1994 and again in 1996 and 2002. One question asked interviewers to rate the physical appearance of the student on a five-point scale ranging from "very attractive" to "very unattractive."

These economists found that the long-term consequences of being young and ugly were small but consistent. Cute guys were uniformly less likely than averages would indicate to have committed seven crimes including burglary and selling drugs, while the unhandsome were consistently more likely to have broken the law.

Very attractive high school girls were less likely to commit six of the seven crimes, while those rated unattractive were more likely to have done six of seven, controlling for personal and family characteristics known to be associated with criminal behavior.

Mocan and Tekin aren't sure why criminals tend to be ugly. Other studies have shown that unattractive men and women are less likely to be hired, and that they earn less money, than the better-looking. Such inferior circumstances may steer some to crime, Mocan and Tekin suggest. They also report that more attractive students have better grades and more polished social skills, which means they graduate with a greater chance of staying out of trouble.
Physical attractiveness is subjective, however. A person's inner life projects through his face and posture, so we may rate a depressed or angry or confused person as unattractive. It may be only that a person's mental condition leads to both criminal behavior and physical unattractiveness. A person with the sort of disordered mind that leads him down a criminal path might also do a poor job of grooming and weight control, another reason why it would not be the ugliness that causes the crime, but an antecedent factor that causes both the ugliness and the crime. In particular, drug and alcohol abuse affect a person's looks and connect to criminal behavior.

On the other side of this coin, those students with good grades and a nice social life might look attractive not because they were born that way, but because they are happy about their success.

There is also an economic factor. It may be that students who are better off find it easier to stay off the criminal path and also easier to improve their physical appearance with good haircuts, nice clothes, acne treatments, and nose jobs.

When DNA evidence controverts your sacred text.

What can you do?
For Mormons, the lack of discernible Hebrew blood in Native Americans is no minor collision between faith and science. It burrows into the historical foundations of the Book of Mormon, a 175-year-old transcription that the church regards as literal and without error....

Critics want the church to admit its mistake and apologize to millions of Native Americans it converted. Church leaders have shown no inclination to do so. Indeed, they have dismissed as heresy any suggestion that Native American genetics undermine the Mormon creed.

Yet at the same time, the church has subtly promoted a fresh interpretation of the Book of Mormon intended to reconcile the DNA findings with the scriptures. This analysis is radically at odds with long-standing Mormon teachings.

Some longtime observers believe that ultimately, the vast majority of Mormons will disregard the genetic research as an unworthy distraction from their faith.

"This may look like the crushing blow to Mormonism from the outside," said Jan Shipps, a professor emeritus of religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, who has studied the church for 40 years. "But religion ultimately does not rest on scientific evidence, but on mystical experiences. There are different ways of looking at truth."
And that is the classic response in the encounter between religion and science. It's intended to end the conversation.

February 16, 2006

Matt Savoie, skater, law student.

I'm watching Matt Savoie skating tonight and hear that he's going on to law school, to Cornell. Beautiful skate, Matt. Funny to watch you, knowing you'll soon enough puzzle over Palsgraf and Pennoyer. Good luck in law school. Cornell is an excellent place, I think and say, with some closely vicarious experience.

"I believe that such an investigation is currently unwarranted and would be detrimental..."

So the Senate Intelligence Committee is not going to investigate President Bush's (supposedly) controversial surveillance program. There was also a 96 to 3 vote today in the Senate not to hold up the Patriot Act. Quite a fizzle, no?

UPDATE: There's still the question of the extent to which the House Intelligence Committee will investigate the surveillance program, and a federal judge has ordered disclosure of documents about the program, so maybe there is still some fizz left. But the WaPo detected "a dramatic and possibly permanent drop in momentum for a congressional inquiry, which had seemed likely two months ago."

"Roses of the Prophet Muhammad."

That's what they call Danishes these days in Iran.
"This is a punishment for those who started misusing freedom of expression to insult the sanctities of Islam," said Ahmad Mahmoudi, a cake shop owner in northern Tehran.
The linked Associated Press article slyly compares the name change to Freedom Fries.

An Israeli anti-Semitic cartoon contest.

The Jerusalem Post reports:
While riots over the cartoon depiction of Muhammad continue to rage worldwide and controversy surrounds an Iranian newspaper's decision to hold a Holocaust cartoon competition, an Israeli cartoonist has come up with his own ironic - some say misguided - response. And it's attracting a wide audience.

Amitai Sandy, 29, a Tel Aviv graphic artist, has launched the Israeli Anti-Semitic Cartoon Contest, a challenge, led by Jews, to find the best cartoons, caricatures and short comic strips that demonize the Jewish people.

"We'll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew-hating cartoons ever published!" wrote Sandy on his Web site. "No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!"

Sandy told The Jerusalem Post that his intention was to challenge bigotry by using humor - an approach that officials at Yad Vashem are not convinced is the best idea.

"We're not sure this is the best way to respond," said spokeswoman Esti Ya'ari.

Ephraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Israel office, was more emphatic. He pointed out that the initial response of many Jews to Hitler was one of ridicule. "It might have been funny at the time, but it wasn't an effective response," Zuroff said.

But the contest, launched on Tuesday, is getting lots of attention among Jewish bloggers - at sites like Jewschool.com, which receives thousands of visitors a day. Bloggers are playing up news of the contest and directing Web surfers to Sandy's site at www.boomka.org.
I see at his blog that Terry Gross interviewed Sandy on Fresh Air. Listen here. Gross asks him if it's "kind of sick," and Sandy defends it as sane and smart.

Robot squirrel!

Inventors, it seems, are pursuing the goal of getting mentioned in the Althouse blog. (Via MakeZine.) Why else would there be a robot squirrel? Or, well, maybe it is a good idea:
Current mobile communication devices do not grab our attention in a socially appropriate way. They could be disrespectful of ongoing social activity such as an important meeting or private dinner. To improve on this, I have built the Cellular Squirrel, a system where the agent that controls my cellphone is embodied in a small portable animatronic device, as a personal 'companion' for the user. This embodiment is able to use the same subtle but still public non-verbal cues to get our attention and interrupt us like humans would do (like eye gaze and small gestures), instead of ringing or vibration. The user can whisper and listen to her squirrel, receiving and replying to voice instant messages. If the user wishes, she can also bypass the Intermediary altogether and get into a synchronous voice communication with the caller by simply talking to the embodiment.

"The embodiment" -- I love that!

Watch the film clip here. It really gives you the sense of why the robot squirrel is better than a ringing cell phone.

In the future, life will be different. Don't you think? We'll be taking adorable robots with us to dinner, and they'll sit there on the table and send out subtle cues when someone somewhere needs to talk with us.

Snow views.

The view from the back door. The deck looks abstract:


The view from the front door. It's symmetrical:

snow/front yard

And then there's all that junk, waiting for pick up, looking prettier, unified by the layer of white:

snow junk

And this is the street view. Very calm:

snow junk/street view

Snow and lightning.

It's pouring snow here in Madison, Wisconsin, and I'm worrying about holding class this afternoon. Every time I turn to look out the window, it's snowing harder. And now, just then, lightning flashes. Thunder. Crazy weather!

I'm most worried that all the junk I put out by the curb last night is not going to be seen and therefore not picked up. I went out there with a broom to try to sweep the snow off the lower lying junk items that were most in danger of getting swallowed up by the white. I'll need to re-sweep soon enough.

Should I cancel my 1:20 class today? Never once in the 20 years I've been teaching up here in the north have I cancelled a class for snow. I'm sending out a message to my class email list, asking the students what we ought to do. There's all this snow. But there's also the Independent and Adequate State Ground Doctrine.

UPDATE: I did send out an email, at 9:20 am, cancelling my afternoon class. Lest you think I'm a slacker, the University later cancelled all classes, saying: "Cancellation of classes is a move rarely used at the university. The last time classes were cancelled was in December 1990, when more than 17 inches of snow fell in a 24-hour period."

"There are so many difficulties to being ... a rock star."

35-year-old Weezer front man Rivers Cuomo lives in a plain dorm room at Harvard:
Shortly after the [80-city] tour ended on Dec. 22 with a sold-out show in Tokyo, the band's singer and songwriter, Rivers Cuomo, settled into a tiny, monastic dormitory room at Harvard, from which he will graduate this spring with a bachelor's degree in English.

... He lives alone, in a modest 14-by-9-foot room with the standard-issue desk, bureau and bed, to which he has added only a map of the world, taped to the wall, and a small Oriental rug bought for less than $200 by Sarah Kim, his personal assistant. "Most people wouldn't expect a rock star to be happy living in a dorm room," said Ms. Kim, "but he is."...

"There are so many difficulties to being a musician, and being a rock star," he said in late January as snow fell outside his room in Sarah Whitman Hall, a red-brick 1911 dorm with arched doorways and wooden banisters smoothed by time. "Here I can escape the pain of my profession. The truth is, I hate to perform. I get such bad stage fright, it makes me physically ill."
Cuomo's austerity includes abstaining from sex (though he says he's getting married soon, to a person he won't name). He meditates twice a day -- lately, in the dorm closet, underneath the sweaters. He's returning to Harvard after attending in the mid-90s, which was after his band became popular:
During one hiatus from school, from mid-1998 to 1999, he moved into an apartment under a freeway in Culver City, Calif.

"I became more and more isolated," he wrote in an essay for a Harvard dean, explaining his long absence. "I unplugged my phone. I painted the walls and ceiling of my bedroom black and covered the windows with fiberglass insulation."
Normally, material like that doesn't work well in an admissions essay.

Justice Breyer talks about how it feels to be a Supreme Court Justice.

Linda Greenhouse reports:
"I was frightened to death for the first three years," he said in a recent conversation....

He had felt adequately prepared and had expected to move comfortably into his new role, he said, and was therefore surprised at how overwhelming he found it.

"I was afraid I might inadvertently write something harmful," Justice Breyer said. "People read every word. Everything you do is important. There is a seriousness to every word, and you really can't go back. Precedent doesn't absolutely limit you. In almost every case, you're in a wide-open area. The breadth of that opening, getting up to speed on each case, constitutional law as a steady diet, the importance to the profession. ..." His voice trailed off, and he shook his head. "My goodness!" he exclaimed.
Maybe you think those expressions of timorousness are a bit of a pose, but I'm inclined to take him at his word here. It rings true. Don't you think that's how you would feel if you had this responsibility? Or would you get a charge out of the sheer power?

Here's his explanation for writing his book "Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution":
"An approach is not a theory," he said. "And it's not ad hoc. It's somewhere in the middle. It's consistency. I wanted to know, Am I being arbitrary? What is the check? After a while, a judge begins to leave footprints. Writing the book, the doing of it, forced me to work through and find the coherence."
Only a certain type of mind thinks about constitutional interpretation that way. You might think that a Justice needs to commit to a theory of interpretation beforehand, try to follow it, and then judge his work by whether he played it straight as he applied the theory in the particular cases. Breyer is looking at the accumulated work over the years and discerning the pattern of his behavior, creating an argument for why it is coherent. This approach, by the way, is one you might use to write a scholarly article about the Court: you look at a set of cases and discern a theory that explains them. Is it odd for a Justice to do that with his own work? Perhaps we need to say that a Justice who operates in this manner, only discerning his theory in retrospect, really does have a theory from the outset: the theory is pragmatism.

"It's not the shooting incident itself, it's that Dick Cheney has been the administration's hate magnet..."

Peggy Noonan talks about replacing Dick Cheney:
Mr. Cheney took the heat that would otherwise have been turned solely on George Bush. So he had utility, and he's experienced and talented and organized, and Mr. Bush admires and respects him. But, at a certain point a hate magnet can draw so much hate you don't want to hold it in your hand anymore, you want to drop it, and pick up something else. Is this fair? Nah. But fair has nothing to do with it.
But it's not a good move unless you've got a good replacement. The President's choice has to be confirmed by Congress, which contains some folks who want to run for President and will not like to see any of the competition getting a head start. And maybe the press and the people will balk:
A lot of people would find such a move too cute by half. The contenders already in line--and their supporters, donors, fans, staff and friends in the press--would resent it. Big time.

People wouldn't like it . . . unless they liked it. How could they be persuaded to like it?

It would have to be a man wildly popular in the party and the press.
A man?

February 15, 2006

"Project Runway."

Spoiler alert, obviously.

I'm glad they're using such a fair and straightforward task to make the final cut before the Fashion Week three. They're designing evening gowns, and the style is supposed to represent what they will do if they get the chance to design for Fashion Week. The edit is very Santino-focused. We're shown that no one likes him and that being nice is the key to being a successful fashion designer. I lock onto Santino without meaning to. Now, I find, I just want him to make it. Screw everyone else, who is supposed to be so damned nice. Are they, really? And why does it matter? Stop picking on my Santino! I didn't mean to take this frame of mind. I've just got it.

At about the halfway mark, I'm thinking the key is that Iman is going to be one of the judges and that she's going to wear the winning design somewhere. This is like the first season, where Wendy made it through by making the dress the celebrity chose to wear. So will Iman pick Santino's gold, spangly thing? The other three are too similar and too safe. I can't believe all three of them will get through and only the different one will fail. Iman is going to pick the gold spangles, isn't she?

The judges ask the designers to turn on each other. Chloe picks Santino to be cut, but then all three of the others pick Chloe. In the discussion with the judges, it seems that Chloe and Kara are most at risk, but I predict it will be Kara who will be eliminated, because she played it safe, and she hasn't been winning on other competitions, as Chloe has. So Chloe is the one that deserves to stay.

Santino makes it!

Daniel wins (though Iman tells him it was "borderline boring").

And Kara is out!

It all makes perfect sense.

"American Idol" -- paring it down to 12 girls and 12 guys.

There wasn't much singing on tonight's show, though there was a lot of riding up and down a tiny elevator. There was a camera in the elevator, so we saw various contestants spewing emotion from a cramped little space, where each was all alone, except for us millions of Americans who were watching them and occasionally even feeling some real some real emotion. Let's list a few high spots (which don't include the news, which we already knew, that the Brittenum twins have problems that took them out of the competition).

1. Katharine McPhee cracks her knuckles cutely as she waits nervously. She makes it and kisses all three judges on the lips (even though at a later point in the show a contestant reminds herself of the rule that they cannot approach the judges).

2. Ace Young is the new and improved Constantine. We see him singing. He's cute but why must he slur his words like that? There's something smarmy and deficient about him. But he is cute. He makes it.

3. Eugenia Littlejohn. I'm sorry but I'm completely distracted by her reverse French manicure: the tips are painted black. Anyway, she doesn't make it.

4. Robert Bennett, Jr. freaks out in the elevator. He's made it and he's all manic. He reminds me of a comedian that I just can't quite remember. Oh, it's Gene Wilder! Yeah. I remember now. He's not very attractive, but when he gets all emotive like that in his small space, you've just got to love him.

5. Mandisa Hundley, the new and improved Frenchie. She's a large woman, and Simon has insulted her. She says: "I figured that if Jesus could die so that all of my wrongs could be forgiven, I can certainly extend that same grace to you." That moves Simon to say: "I'm just so appalling, aren't I?" She makes it, and as she walks back to the elevator, she says: "Y'all are looking at my bottom while I'm walking out, aren't you?" And, yeah, we are. But we love her. And, damn it, we still love Frenchie, the great lost hope of the show. Remember when we said we'd never watch the show again, because of how they treated Frenchie? But somehow we went back...

6. Lisa Tucker. They're concerned that she's only 16. But so what?

7. David Radford. He's got a bit of a Tom Cruise vibe. He makes it.

8. Sway makes it. Elliot Yamin makes it. Brenna blabs and makes it. Gedeon McKinney is a little arrogant -- "I'm ready for America to see what God has done" -- but he makes it.

9. A new favorite of mine, Stephanie Scott, makes it. She's tall and sweet and classically trained. "I love opera!"

10. Ayla Brown, the basketballer, makes it. Patrick Hall, who's not pretty, but is good, makes it. Kevin Corvais, who's heart-rendingly nerdy, makes it.

11. Paris Bennett, who was so good in the audition, but not all that great in Hollywood -- and knows it! -- makes it.

12. Kelley Pickler, who's good and innocent -- a bit Carrie Underwoodish -- makes it. She might be a bit dumb, because when she's told she made it, she seems as though she can't understand, and then she blabs inanely about her mascara.

13. Taylor Hicks, the guy with the gray hair, pours it on, walking in playing the harmonica. He makes it. Great!

14. They end with two pairs, two women and then two men. In each case, we know there is only one slot. One of the guys is William Makar. You know, my new favorite. Phew! He makes it.

Winding down.

Hmmm.... lots of comments on the two Cheney-shot-a-man posts today. I'm surprised people have found so much to say about it. It seems to me that this week was set to be the week when everyone talked about Katrina, which is a tremendously important political story. But then a gun went bang, and we had to look.

But today, I've been otherwise occupied. There was the usual law professing, then a trip to the oral surgeon for phase five -- it must be by now -- of getting a tooth implant. After that ordeal, I had to rush home to do the regular Wednesday work of getting a lot of junk out of the house, Thursday being trash day. Once again, I had two teenagers do the heavy lifting, taking things out to the curb, while I organized and sorted things in the house. This week, I did it while biting on gauze.

Amazingly, the basement is nearly done. It was only last Saturday that I was bemoaning the insane pile-up down there. Now, all the junk is removed, and the surfaces are clean. It doesn't even say "We don't need no education" on the wall anymore.

So, it's been a long day. It's time to eat soft foods, drink a glass of wine, and luxuriate in front of the television. It's a peak night for TV you know. It's not just the Olympics, it's "American Idol" and "Project Runway."

"Runway" is an especially big deal tonight, because the last designer is eliminated, before the final three are sent off to make a line of clothes for Fashion Week. I wonder if there will be any big excitement. It would be shocking if Daniel didn't make it, and surprising if Chloe didn't make it. You've got to assume that they want Santino, the most interesting character to make it, so it seems that Kara is the one who will have to go. But Kara has had some impressive staying power. So maybe Chloe will be auf'd!

Cheney talks!

Dick Cheney has given an interview to Brit Hume, which will air momentarily on FoxNews. I'll watch and post.

UPDATE: Cheney: "It's not Harry's fault. I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend."

MORE: Anyone who's inclined to complain about the choice of FoxNews should know that the interview was interspersed with commentary from Fred Barnes who was quite critical of Cheney. He repeatedly said there wasn't enough of an explanation for the delay, that it was wrong to have called only a local press outlet, and so forth.

Alito's law clerk.

The WaPo reports:
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. has hired one of the architects of then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft's policies to serve as his law clerk at the Supreme Court for the rest of the current term, the court announced yesterday.

Adam G. Ciongoli, 37, a senior vice president at Time Warner Inc., served as counselor to Ashcroft from 2001 to 2003. He attended Georgetown University Law Center, clerked for Alito at the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit from 1995 to 1996, and helped prepare the justice for his recent confirmation hearings.

Ciongoli was an aide to Ashcroft during Ashcroft's years as a senator and then came to the Justice Department, where he advised Ashcroft on terrorism issues in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Among the issues he worked on were the detention of thousands of terrorism suspects in the United States and the use of military tribunals to try them.

As a law clerk for Alito, his responsibilities will include helping Alito draft opinions, prepare for oral argument and sift through the mountain of appeals that arrive each week.

Ciongoli's appointment, which will last about five months, is unusual: Though there has been a slight trend at the court toward hiring law clerks with a few years of work experience, the vast majority of clerks are recent law school graduates.

Among those who have come to the court after working elsewhere, none in recent memory had held a government position as senior as Ciongoli's at the Justice Department, where he was widely regarded as one of Ashcroft's closest confidants.
I do find this troubling, but the fact that Ciongoli is a former clerk of Alito's takes some of the edge off it. It doesn't seem that Alito went looking for someone with an inside knowledge of important cases that he is likely to face. And there is a process in place for law clerks to recuse themselves: "According to a 2002 federal publication, 'Maintaining the Public Trust: Ethics for Federal Judicial Law Clerks,' clerks should not participate in cases that they worked on 'in a previous legal job,' or about which they have personal knowledge of disputed facts."

Perhaps it is a good thing for the Justices to hire more experienced persons as their clerks. Here Alito has tapped a person he trusted to help him with his confirmation hearings. Hiring Ciongoli seems so strange because we are used to the strangeness of thoroughly green clerks.

"You are allowed to do everything, unless you want to share it."

That's a quote from a rock musician in Iran.
After the 1979 revolution, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was fashioning Iran into a Shiite Islamic state, one of his many sayings was, "Keep the appearances of Islam." Public profile is important and so, if Iranians chose not to fast during Ramadan, well, O.K., but they were expected to eat in the privacy of their homes....

That seems to be the unwritten law in Iran today: no sharing. The act of publicly sharing ideas that challenge the system is forbidden, because, at a minimum, that amounts to challenging the appearance the government would like to promote....

Paradoxically, civil society here appears vibrant. It has not been crushed, the way it has by the authoritarian leaders in the Arab world. There is, on many levels, real politics here — often with the outcome unknown — and on the most important issues, leaders must draw consensus from the different levels of power. And so people in many spheres — arts, sports, politics, business — find themselves pressing against the limitations of what is deemed permissible.

Mostly, this is done behind closed doors, in the privacy of people's homes. Some people, like the rock musicians, do risk public sharing, but watchfully....

At a recent concert, as young men and women piled into a small room, one concertgoer leaned over and said, casually, "I hope the Basiji don't rush the place." He was referring to the vigilante squads of bearded men who often use violence to enforce strict Islamic social codes. As the music played, the crowd swayed and clapped, shouted out choruses, and bopped the way any audience of young men and women might in the West. The music, though upbeat, had a slightly funereal quality to it, as the singer took the chance to share his thoughts, in public.

Have a right to be ignored and neglected

Have a right to be segued and be raided

Have a right to be damned a right to be jammed

Have a right to be sanctioned and banned.
When the show was over and the lights came up the band seemed exhilarated — and frightened.

"Kurdistan is a place of the mind."

But Michael J. Totten has pictures of it.

"Mystified that the vice president has not come out in public to express his feelings."

That's the WaPo's description of Robert H. Michel, a former House Republican leader who is a "longtime friend" of Dick Cheney's. But is it mystifying? It's not as though Cheney has committed some wrong in his public capacity that affects the public and implies the need for an apology directed at us.
"I guess he's so measured with what he does say personally, but boy, I'd think on something of this nature, you'd let your feelings [be] known," Michel said.

In general, Michel said, Cheney has "enclosed" his personal feelings so tightly to avoid showing them in public. "I guess that discipline upon himself is probably the thing that holds him back." Cheney, he added, is virtually immune to public criticism and image problems: "I don't think he really cares."
Doesn't care that he shot a man in the face? No, Michel didn't say that. He said Cheney doesn't care if people criticize him. The suggestion is only that there's a political need to go on TV and emote so that people see you're not a machine. TV demands emotion. Tell us how you feel, reporters demand of people in pain, who often enough snap back "How do you think I feel?" Cheney accidentally shot an old man. How do you think he feels? Why do you need him to go on television and say what you already know? Because it would be so weird and awkward for gruff old Dick to do that?
That disregard for public approval, though, can become a problem for the White House, according to veteran presidential aides from both parties. "When the vice president is immune to politics and tone-deaf to politics, as Vice President Cheney has shown himself to be at various stages along the way, then his perspective on this kind of situation isn't as sharp," said Ronald A. Klain, chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore.
Well, we're not so immune and tone-deaf that we're going to care what Gore's chief of staff has to say on the subject! How many "veteran presidential aides from both parties" did you talk to anyway?
Despite a string of political embarrassments linked to Cheney, including not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the indictment of the vice president's chief of staff in the CIA leak case and now the shooting, he remains a powerful force inside the White House.

A testament to his power is the deference Bush showed Cheney in the handling of last weekend's shooting episode. White House aides said Bush has not pressured Cheney to disclose more details about the shooting or to apologize.

One person close to both men said that Bush is the only person in the White House who could persuade Cheney to change strategy and that even high-level White House aides are reluctant to take on the vice president's office. That left White House press secretary Scott McClellan to be battered by reporters on national television.

"This is one of the challenges of having a high-profile, very powerful vice president inside the White House," said Klain, who added: "The disadvantage is when something negative happens involving the vice president, it is much harder for the White House staff to step in and exert control."
More from Klain! I love the effort to drag Bush into this for not "pressuring" Dick Cheney, to connect this story to the Iraq war, and to make it sound ominous that Cheney is "a powerful force inside the White House."

February 14, 2006

Group sing night --"American Idol."

1. I loved the guys who sang "Fly Me to the Moon." Two of them were only 16, including William Makar, who hit some lovely high notes. All four get through.

2. Terrell and Derrell, the Brittenum twins. What a pair! Terrell talks and talks and makes it through, and Derrell makes it through than insists on talking and talking and quits the show. "My spirit has been broken," he says, and he's going home to make music with his brother. Then we see him learning that his brother wasn't cut. Terrell tells him to crawl back in and apologize. Later we see the twins together asking for forgiveness, and Simon tells them he's sick of their "hissy fits." They're told to go away for 30 minutes. When they come back, they're given a break, and they get to stay.

3. The song "Can't Help Myself" is sung way too many times, but it's all worth it when Brenna Gethers sings the line "leaving just your picture behind" and dances her behind into position to slap it on the word "behind." The song will never be the same. Good! I've never liked it. (And I remember when it first came out.) Accused of being difficult, Brenna launches into a rant, which includes the observations that "It's 'American Idol' with an 'L' not an 'S' or a 'Z' - it's not 'American Idols.'" Hey! She totally stole that from Randal on "The Apprentice"!

4. And now the cowboys, introduced with a "Brokeback Mountain" trailer parody. One, of course, is the turkey boy who made me cry, Garet Layne Johnson. He's reminding me of Michael J. Pollard. They sing "Doo Wah Diddy." You know: "There she was, just a-walkin' down the street, clapping her hands and schwucking her feet." Simon says that they'd live to regret turning their big opportunity into a comedy routine, and, in the lamest comeback in the world, they say they didn't intend for it to be a comedy routine. They got a lot of laughs, and they got sent home. It ends with a big, soppy cowboy embrace, movie trailer music playing.

5. There's an a cappella competition that we see almost nothing of, and then the judges gather to make a final cut. As they sort through the photographs, Simon says, "Why don't we just have: yes, no, maybe, and weird?" The contestants are put into four different rooms to await the news. Three of the four rooms make it. I see my new favorite William Makar made it. With so many through tonight, a lot will need to be cut tomorrow night. We see the highlights, with Ryan Seacrest voicing over: "Hearts... will be... broken." Sounds like great fun. We'll be there.

The "persistent Lloyd Dobler fetish."

Women love Lloyd Dobler:
Sasha Johnson, 29, a Washington TV producer [says:] "Lloyd Dobler ruined men forever. I can't take total credit for this, an ex-boyfriend said this to me once. He contended that Lloyd Dobler's boombox moment became the pinnacle of romance -- the standard that no man could ever meet no matter how hard he tried. I've always loved Lloyd Dobler and have grown to appreciate him more as the years have gone on . . . the guy in high school that no woman wanted but ultimately now the kind of man we want to marry.

"He had that right mix of self-assuredness, sensitivity and geekiness. He was willing to make an insanely bold gesture to get the woman of his dreams back -- something every woman wishes could happen to her."

Shawna Shepherd, 28, an associate TV producer, agrees. "I am always on the hunt for the Lloyd Dobler type. Unfortunately the ones I've dated so far pale in comparison to the Hollywood character," she says. "Sure they were quirky, and the mix tapes award-winning -- I still listen to them -- but a shower and a treat to dinner every now and then would have been nice, too. And let's face it, if a guy stood outside with a boombox playing music outside my window, I'd be unimpressed and slightly freaked out."

"Do you want to send your son or daughter in there? No, let's send a robot."

Robots, our wartime benefactors.

The slime mold is controlling the robot!

I know I sound like Eggagog, but really: The slime mold is controlling the robot!
Physarum polycephalum is a large single-celled organism that responds to food sources, such as bacteria and fungi, by moving towards and engulfing it. It also moves away from light and favours humid, moist places to inhabit. The mould uses a network of tiny tubes filled with cytoplasm to both sense its environment and decide how to respond to it. Zauner's team decided to harness this simple control mechanism to direct a small six-legged (hexapod) walking bot.
(Via Slashdot.)

The Philip K. Dick robot has escaped!

He's been gone for weeks!

UPDATE: A reader emails to charge that the disappearance is a hoax: "The whole disappeared while flying on a plane thing is lifted directly out of Dick's masterpiece We Can Build You, where an android Edwin M. Stanton gets in a plane and flies to see the protagonist's enemies." True?

"Someday mankind must face and destroy the growing robot menace."

Says Daniel H. Wilson, author of "How to Survive a Robot Uprising."
Dr. Wilson offers detailed — and hilariously deadpan — advice on evading hostile swarms of robot insects (don't try to fight — "loss of an individual robot is inconsequential to the swarm"); outsmarting your "smart" house (be suspicious if the house suggests you test the microwave by putting your head in it); escaping unmanned ground vehicles (drive in circles — they'll have a harder time tracking you); and surviving hand-to-hand combat with a humanoid (smear yourself with mud to disguise your distinctive human thermal signature and go for the "eyes" — its cameras).

If all else fails, reasoning with a robot may work, Dr. Wilson says, but emotional appeals will fall on deaf sensors.

Should you prevail, he offers in a grim addendum: "Have no mercy. Your enemy doesn't."
Make fun all you like, but I really am worried about robot insects. How long can it possibly be before the government has little robotic flies that swoop into your house unnoticed and spy on you all the time?

"Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet."

A 4,000 year old love poem:
"Bridegroom, dear to my heart, Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet,'" the first line in the cuneiform tablet reads. '"You have captivated me, let me stand trembling before you; Bridegroom, I would be taken to the bedchamber."

He apparently does. "Bridegroom, you have taken your pleasure of me," the poem continues. "Tell my mother, she will give you delicacies; my father, he will give you gifts."

... Muazzez Hilmiye Cig, 93, a retired historian at the [Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient] who is one of only a few people in Turkey who can read the text, said she was fascinated by the way Sumerians perceived love. "They did not have sexual taboos in love," she said. "Instead, they believed that only love and passion could bring them fertility, and therefore praised pleasures."
Then would robotic frigidity work as birth control?

Hillary Clinton: angry or robotic?

From the transcript of Hugh Hewitt's interview with -- don't call him pundit! -- Jonathan Chait (via Insta-bestower-of-opinion):
HH: Okay. And yesterday's column is entitled "An Angry Hillary Suits the GOP. That's because Republicans have to open up a new line of attack for a female candidate." Let's put the proposition out there. You don't think she's angry?

JC: I think she's the opposite of angry. I think she's robotic, passionless, dull. Just on the surface, she just comes across as anything but angry. She comes across as someone who would just you know, put you to sleep, and sounds like she's about to go to sleep herself when she's speaking. Just sort of substantively, she has come to the Senate and just made best friends with all her enemies, and she's smiling and patting them on the back, and they're saying nice things about here. So she doesn't really seem to be someone whose motivated by anger in any way. So I think the whole charge is weird.
From the linked article by Chait:
[Y]ou can't very well run against a female candidate by calling her unmanly. So the best substitute is to call her unwomanly instead. Rather than act perky and cheerful, she's angry. There's a bad word that's supposed to spring to mind when you think of her, and it begins with the letter "b."
Yeah, well, calling a woman "robotic" and "passionless" is also a way of slamming her as unwomanly. The unsaid word in this case is "frigid."

Distracted by the VP shooting story.

The Cheney shooting story is the biggest distraction in the political discourse I've seen in a long time. It's interesting and, of course, we had to crack as many jokes as possible, but as a component in the political debate -- where there are many issues that deserve attention -- it's utterly meaningless. Here's the NYT editorial page trying to pump some relevance into it:
The vice president appears to have behaved like a teenager who thinks that if he keeps quiet about the wreck, no one will notice that the family car is missing its right door. The administration's communications department has proved that its skills at actually communicating are so rusty it can't get a minor police-blotter story straight. And the White House, in trying to cover up the cover-up, has once again demonstrated that it would rather look inept than open.
So, slot it right in there with the lying liars material. Do Bush opponents really think that concentrating their attention on this story will help their cause? Joe Gandelman has some analysis:
Is the Cheney controversy going to help [Bush's approval ratings]? Some suggest YES — it's keeping the bad news about Katrina (that neither Michael Chertoff, the administration's Homeland and Security Chief, nor the President did a heck of a job on Katrina....according to House Republicans) off the front pages for a while. It also keeps a press seemingly unable to truly focus on several big issues off the warrantless domestic spying story. FALSE. The Cheney story provides of a GENERAL CONTEXT that shows an administration either in disarray or marked by incredible arrogance when it comes to obeying laws in a way that everyone else and even other politicians would be required to do. The Cheney story will NOT help Bush rise in the polls.
Hmmm... so he's buying the NYT concept. Me, I think it's a distraction from more damaging stories. Whether it helps or hurts Bush is -- or should be -- less significant than whether we can concentrate on issues that matter as opposed to a freak accident.

IN THE COMMENTS: Icepick has perfect timing. Palladian wonders why no one at the NYT noticed that the car wreck analogy risked stirring up the wrong memories of a politician delaying to report an accident. John (classic) reveals the secret Cheney-Rove plot to distract America.

UPDATE: Victoria Spurs coins a word: Cheneyquiddick. Perfect. It even has the "dick."

February 13, 2006

Audible Althouse #36.

At last! A new podcast. (You don't need an iPod and you don't need to subscribe -- though you should! You can stream it here.)

This is a podcast with a theme: echoes! Key post revisited: "My own private how-to-throw-out-the-trash echo chamber -- re-echoing!" and "The echo-y comfort zone of rage."

Michelle Kwan and the need for a "new" injury.

Harvey Araton has an interesting column about Michelle Kwan's withdrawal from the Olympics. (You'll need TimesSelect to read the whole thing.) Did you know that the Emily Hughes is only allowed to replace Kwan on the team because Kwan's injury is considered new?
...Kwan's withdrawing and the International Olympic Committee's acceptance of Hughes as the replacement was the standard figure skating study in emotional untidiness. To begin with: In what other sport does a routine medical diagnosis — albeit one that persuaded Kwan to surrender her gold-medal dream — occur in the middle of the night?

Even Bode Miller was asleep at 2:15 a.m. when Dr. Jim Moeller said Kwan had a "new" groin injury (as Olympic rules demand to replace an existing team member), not an aggravation of the one that kept her out of the United States trials last month, in which Hughes finished third behind Sasha Cohen and Kimmie Meissner....

Did the I.O.C. play along with the semantics of the "new injury" claim because it was sensitive to more allegations of America hating? Did Kwan come here only to generate commercial face time to appease her sponsors?

The second theory seems unlikely, given the risk of scorn that could have befallen Kwan and her carefully shaped image as the Chinese-American Girl Next Door had she skated miserably, leaving critics to cry that she gave Hughes — and by extension her country — the shaft.
The "second theory"? What's the first theory? Presumably, the first theory is that Kwan came to the Olympics because, despite her injury, she really was ready to skate, but then she fell down in practice, causing a new injury, which demanded that she withdraw. Is a fall that aggravates an old injury a new injury? Falls are common in skating. But the question is how the I.O.C. interprets "new." I haven't seen the precedents. But I would think that the desire to replace a team member happens quite often, and perhaps it's not supposed to be easy to claim new injury.

Araton's prose is carefully crafted so that you can't say he said anything unkind about Kwan, but you read the column and find the suggestions have been planted that she took advantage and received special treatment.

I SHOULD ADD: Most of the column is fluffy stuff about Emily Hughes. The ominous but sweetened material about Kwan is buffered by feel-good material about the nice and happy teenager who's gotten the call to replace her.

The echo-y comfort zone of rage.

Armando over at Daily Kos, links to me and awkwardly calls me one of the "theoretically not stupid folks [who are] wondering what hit them in the Left Blogosophere." That's his typo, "Blogosophere," but you know it made me stop and think about whether it was some kind of portmanteau word comprising "blogosphere" and "philosopher." Well, don't you know, I want to be a blogosopher when I grow up. I could ponder Armando's theory of not being stupid, but I'm just going to assume it means not agreeing with him yet and move on.

Armando's link is to my recent post about the revival of interest in a year-old post called "Right and left: my sad experience." The older of the two posts observes that "bloggers on the right link to [me] when they agree and ignore the disagreements, and the bloggers on the left link only for the things they disagree with, to denounce [me] with short posts saying [I'm] evil/stupid/crazy, and don't even seem to notice all the times [I've] written posts that take their side."

Interest in that post was revived, as I explained in the post Armando linked to, when Crank at RedState wrote about how he thought a lot about what I'd said and wanted Republicans to remember that they need to engage and include the centrists and liberal hawks who are the source of their majority power.
[F]rom one issue controversy to the next, we may find ourselves on the opposite side from some of these folks. And therein lies the temptation to go the Kos path, and dissolve into spittle-spraying rage when people who are "supposed" to be on "our side" cross over and side against us. That's the situation where we need to think carefully about how harshly we go after people's motives, their intellectual integrity, etc. A ritual bridge-burning may be fun, but that's how you end up stranded on your own island.
Quoting that passage, I add: "Hardcore Democrats ought to do the same, and not just because I like people to be nice to me."

You'd think that if Armando was going to bother to link to this, he'd respond to the point that matters so much: it's dysfunctional to alienate the people you need to win over in order to gain majority power. But, though he goes on for 725 words, it's all just about how angry he is at the Bush Administration and don't I ever think about why he's so angry?

Yeah, well, but you linked to me. Don't you ever think about why your side can't seem to win elections, despite all these deficiencies in the people you are so angry at? Can't you distinguish between them and people like me, who represent the votes you need to win? I agree with you on many issues. I've been a registered Democrat since I first started to vote, in 1972. I can count on one hand the Republicans I've voted for in my life, for any office. And that's giving a separate finger to Cheney. And go ahead and make a giving-the-finger-to-Cheney joke. I would laugh at it. I watch every episode "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report." You think I'm not worth engaging, because you're angry at Bush? Are elections not worth winning because you're angry at Bush? Just exactly who is theoretically not stupid?

Oh, but, wow, a Kos link -- that must bring a lot of traffic, right? No, my friends. It does not. Less than 2% of my traffic is coming from that Kos link right now, and I've got no active -lanches at the moment. I'm getting more traffic from Google and from Glenn Reynolds' blogroll. Meanwhile, there are more than 300 comments on Armando's post. Wouldn't want to leave the echo-y comfort zone. The echo-y comfort zone of rage.

And then there's this guy, who seems to think that when I said "Hardcore Democrats ought to do the same, and not just because I like people to be nice to me" I was really only talking about how I wanted people to be nice to me. And so it goes.

February 12, 2006

Dick Cheney shoots a man!

A 78-year old guy!


"Both Mark Twain and Arthur Conan Doyle supposedly sent similar telegrams to a dozen prominent men, all of whom packed up and left town immediately."

From a nice piece about telegrams, which have been discontinued.

The odds.

It's almost Valentine's Day. The press won't let you ignore it. (And let's not even talk about all those ads, especially for things heart-shaped and diamond-encrusted.) The press loves to torment us with pieces about how damned near impossible it is to find a special someone. This one, in the NYT, leapt out at me because of the way it presents information to help women feel good about themselves, which is always an important journalistic goal:
THE phrase "All the good ones are taken" is usually ascribed to lovelorn women. But if you're in your 20's, single, straight and looking for love, the statistical odds of finding a full-time partner are better if you're a woman....

Overall, there are 120 men in their 20's who have never been married, widowed or divorced for every 100 women in the same category.
This is silly. Women often marry men who are older then they are. A 20 or 21 year old man isn't hurting because a lot of 28 and 29 year old women have married guys who are 30 and over. Tell me how many 18 and 19 year old girls there are before I marvel at these woman-favoring odds! It's not as though we're penned up in our decades, prisoners of base ten.

"We are used to seeing ourselves as a permissive and open society on the side of the good..."

"... and it is shocking to see Danes as objects of hate."

Here is an excellent article about the "identity crisis" Danes are having over the cartoon controversy.
"The furor over the cartoons has been a wake-up call for Danes," says Flemming Rose, the cultural editor of the paper, Jyllands-Posten. Mr. Rose, who commissioned the cartoons in the fall, announced Friday that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence from the paper. "We are used to seeing ourselves as a permissive and open society on the side of the good, and it is shocking to see Danes as objects of hate."...

As Muslim protesters across the Middle East burned Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in effigy this week, he insisted on Denmark's tolerance. "It's a false picture to portray us as an enemy of Islam," he said in an interview on Thursday.

But Muslim leaders have pointed out that such words fail to resonate when the government coalition includes the Danish People's Party, whose leaders have publicly compared Muslims to "cancer cells."...

In a sign that the cartoon crisis is fanning even greater anti-immigrant sentiment, the People's Party leader, Pia Kjaersgaard, wrote in her weekly newsletter that the Islamic religious community here was populated with "pathetic and lying men with worrying suspect views on democracy and women." She added: "They are the enemy inside. The Trojan horse in Denmark. A kind of Islamic mafia."

Imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen, a Danish convert to Islam, with ice blue eyes and a neatly trimmed goatee, argues that Denmark's self-delusions have been destroyed by the cartoons. Imam Pedersen, who converted 24 years ago and speaks fluent Arabic, says that before the cartoon crisis his Muslim identity was embraced by Danish friends. Now he says he is taunted as a "traitor" as he walks down the street and has even received death threats.

"Blockhead right-wing politicians in this country are saying Islam is a terrorist religion, that our prophet is a con man, that we take their jobs and steal their women," he said. "The tolerance it took decades to build up has been torn down in a matter of a few months."

The Danish People's Party insists that the violence spurred by the cartoon crisis has proved that its anti-immigration policies are justified. Morten Messerschmidt, a 25-year-old rising star in the party, said that rather than preaching intolerance, the party was in fact fighting to preserve Danish liberalism — including respect for gender rights and freedom of the press — which he believes has become increasingly irreconcilable with Islam.

"The crisis over the cartoons has been an eye-opener and has shown that the culture clash we have been predicting for 10 years had come to pass," Mr. Messerschmidt said. "These people we welcomed into our country have betrayed us."
How terribly sad and painful this is. How can a liberal society defend itself against illiberalism? We depend heavily on what we believe is the demonstrable good of a free and open society. When confronted with large numbers of people who won't agree with our idea of the good, what can we do?

UPDATE: Here's a BBC report on a big pro-Muslim rally in London:
The event aimed to explain the views of moderate Muslims towards cartoons published in a Danish newspaper which led to worldwide protests.

Organisers also said it wanted to dissociate the mainstream Muslim community from a "minority of extremists"....

A series of speakers gathered to support the Muslim community, including MP Jeremy Corbyn.

In his speech, which was met with cheers from the crowd, he said: "The only way our community can survive is by showing mutual respect to each other.

"We demand that people show respect for each other's community, each other's faith and each other's religion."
That seems encouragingly moderate. But read this too, Mark Steyn's new column:
[The European Union's Justice and Security Commissioner, Franco] Frattini explained it to the Daily Telegraph, "The press will give the Muslim world the message: We are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression. . . . We can and we are ready to self-regulate that right."

"Prudence"? "Self-regulate our free expression"? No, I'm afraid that's just giving the Muslim world the message: You've won, I surrender, please stop kicking me.

But they never do. Because, to use the Arabic proverb with which Robert Ferrigno opens his new novel, Prayers for the Assassin, set in an Islamic Republic of America, "A falling camel attracts many knives." In Denmark and France and the Netherlands and Britain, Islam senses the camel is falling and this is no time to stop knifing him.

The issue is not "freedom of speech" or "the responsibilities of the press" or "sensitivity to certain cultures." The issue, as it has been in all these loony tune controversies going back to the Salman Rushdie fatwa, is the point at which a free society musters the will to stand up to thugs. British Muslims march through the streets waving placards reading "BEHEAD THE ENEMIES OF ISLAM." If they mean that, bring it on. As my columnar confrere John O'Sullivan argued, we might as well fight in the first ditch as the last.

But then it's patiently explained to us for the umpteenth time that they're not representative, that there are many many "moderate Muslims.''

I believe that. I've met plenty of "moderate Muslims" in Jordan and Iraq and the Gulf states. But, as a reader wrote to me a year or two back, in Europe and North America they aren't so much "moderate Muslims" as quiescent Muslims. The few who do speak out wind up living in hiding or under 24-hour armed guard, like Dutch MP Ayaab Hirsi Ali.

So when the EU and the BBC and the New York Times say that we too need to be more "sensitive" to those fellows with "Behead the enemies of Islam" banners, they should look in the mirror: They're turning into "moderate Muslims," and likely to wind up as cowed and silenced and invisible.

Goodbye Michelle... time to root for Emily.

Come on, get on the plane Emily. Don't let the snow slow you. Ice will conquer snow!

So Michelle Kwan has withdrawn from the Olympics.
You knew that was going to happen -- after that fall yesterday in practice. It's hard to give up after all these years, hard never to get what it has seemed so long was your entitlement. But to petition your way onto the team and get the slot that was Emily's -- that was not the prettiest form of entitlement. And to occupy that slot when you aren't ready to use it, that's an awful way to end your career. So you've done the right thing -- probably the only thing you could do -- and withdrawn.
[Emily] Hughes, 17, was contacted immediately at her home. She is the younger sister of 2002 Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes. She will join Sasha Cohen and Kimmie Meissner on the United States team.

Cohen said graciously that she was disappointed for Kwan.

"I was a little bit shocked," she said of hearing about the withdrawal. "I know how tough it is to come back from an injury. It's great that she tried and I'm sorry that it didn't work out."
Aw, she's only 17. She doesn't have to lie any better than that! Go, little sister Emily!

CORRECTION: I mistakenly read that last quote as being from Hughes, but it's Cohen's. So the cute lie comment is all wrong. Sorry.