September 7, 2006

"The very idea of an institutional blog is a contradiction in terms."

Writes Terry Teachout. (This comes up in the context of talking about the trouble Lee Siegel got into blogging at The New Republic.)
The best blogs are idiosyncratic, unmediated expressions of an individual sensibility, a notion which tends to make old-media executives squirm, so much so that many print-media publications refuse to let their employees blog.

I think that’s a mistake. In fact, I think editors and reporters should be encouraged to blog independently of the publications for which they work.
I said something similar to that first paragraph in that Yale Law Journal Pocket Part essay I mentioned this morning. The essay is mainly about whether law journals should change in response to the internet, but at one point I talk about institutional blogs, specifically law school faculty blogs:
[You law journal editors don't] need to host a blog to talk about your articles. In fact, it is better if you don’t. Institutionalized blogs tend to be flat and safe.

I have put some effort into starting a faculty blog at my law school, perhaps something like The University of Chicago Law School Faculty Blog. But I have little hope that this project will go well, and I note that the Chicago project has never gained much traction. Since the original spike of attention that greeted the announcement of its existence, the traffic to the site has waned. And there is no bloggish energy to the site, with a post – usually a long one – going up only every few days. I don’t think this is a special Chicago Law School problem, but a predictable consequence of worrying about preserving the dignity of the institution they so conspicuously represent.
To continue to Teachout's train of thought... of course, I'm in favor of lawprofs blogging independently from the law school's website. Law schools shouldn't fret too much about their lawprofs expressing themselves idiosyncratically in our own separate blog spaces. There's a temptation for the law school and the lawprof blogger to try to improve things by making a bigger, better law school website replete with blogs, but it will suck the energy out of the blogging.

Postscript: Speaking of Lee Siegel, I enjoyed watching Bob Wright and Mickey Kaus argue about it on BloggingHeads.

Rooftop cognac.

It's evening in the Mad City. The table's out on the rooftop garden, where they serve the cognac in a square glass.

Cognac tablescape

It's a mellow feeling, watching the light fade on the church spire distorted by the glass of water:

Cognac tablescape

A 9/11 tattoo.

A reader asks:
If you were going to get a tattoo about 9/11, what would it say and where would you put it? Or -- do you think it's not your thing, or is it somehow not appropriate?
Comments? Don't get sidetracked into the question of whether a person should get tattoos at all. Assume a tattooer. (And don't picture me, of course.) Is there some reason to eschew the 9/11 tattoo? If not, what should it be?

It's a beautiful day.

I've got to run.

Runners

Not like that. But why don't you?

"I would like very much to know who made the decision to describe a tennis match in reverse chronological order, and why she still has her job."

Funniest blog comment ever.

(Thanks to reader Kathleen Baker for sending me that.)

"Mr. Best said there is some indication that hafiz schools might begin offering a more well-rounded education than others in the city."

What?

Michael Best is general counsel for the NYC Department of Education, which, we're told, is looking into those schools that teach only the memorization of the Koran.
"We are in the process of getting in touch with them to see what's going on there," ... Best, said last week. "If there are concerns, we'll have to address them pursuant to the state guidelines."

City education officials say the investigation was triggered by a feature story about the schools in mid-August in the New York Times.

Nice to know the NYC Department of Education is keeping watch over education in NYC, such that they "get in touch" with a place if there's a big article on the front page of the NYT. "If there are concerns"... yeah, if. All the students do is memorize the Koran. How could that possibly not be a concern? And Best is saying that maybe they offer "a more well-rounded education than others in the city"? What on earth could they be doing at those other schools?

(Here's my post from last month, linking to and discussing the NYT article.)

"The intended spiraling effect may be lost on the casual viewer."

It certainly was lost on me, looking at that illustration.
[T]he buildings do not appear at first glance to be parts of a unified whole. Instead, it may look like an instance of urban randomness.
Yes, I'd say so. In fact, it looks an awful lot like that collection of block-like buildings that everyone got outraged about, that led to the design competition that Daniel Libeskind won. Talk about a spiraling effect. We've spiraled back around to the dull original attempt.

"Those moody French [models] just don't know how to work it."

Jeffrey owes his victory to the exuberant Marilinda, Project Rungay contends. Yeah, look at the picture of the French model in the same dress (with "too much tootie"). The American model made us understand the crazy dress.

Are you sad that Vincent left? His limited vocabulary was getting scarily conspicuous. Every damned dress he makes "turns me on" and "gets me off." Fortunately, when eggs got thrown in Paris, the eggy goo got on Michael's dress, not Vincent's, or the graphic depiction of Vincent's favorite trope would have freaked us out.

But Michael was the one with the blue dress, so we liked the accidental political allusion.

ADDED: EW interviews Vincent. A choice nugget:
Did you think any of the judges understood you?

I think Nina Garcia and at times Heidi understood a little more where I was going. I think what's his name, Michael Kors, didn't have a clue. He only related to what he liked, and he's a simple, pared-down designer. I don't know Tim Gunn's story. Actually, I do. Tim has been bad-mouthing me ever since the show started because I didn't choose to bow down to Tim. If he gave me great constructive advice, I would thank him, but if he tried other things, I would dismiss him. In a nice way, not a harmful way. He did not like that. So he in turn is digging a nice hole for himself for putting me down all the time. He's supposed to be dean of a design school. You don't speak about people that way.

Other things you don't do: You don't put down the guy that everyone who loves the show loves.

"I promised myself I would grow older, stronger and sturdier to be able to break free one day."

"I made a pact with my older self that I would come back and free that little girl."

Natascha Kampusch, trapped in a windowless room for 8 years, tapped her impressive mental resources. We feel so deeply for her, even as we think nothing of all the young people who pass the same years from age 10 to age 18 without devoting an intense effort to strengthening their minds. And all of us who are free continually miss opportunities to develop intellectually and to understand the value of freedom.

We're going to mark the 9/11 anniversary in an especially shabby way this year.

Are we not? All the signs are there. The media have latched onto the conspiracy folk. Hey, it's a new angle, and it's edgy and cool. And no one still feels that bad about it after five years, do they? Surely, we can have a little fun with it this year. It's an election year. The politicos have got to exploit what they can get away with exploiting, and you're callused enough by now not to complain, at least not in proportion to the advantage they can wring out of it. ABC made a docudrama, and that couldn't be received as a solemn reminder of the events of five years ago. It's got to be a playing field for the forces of right and left, and now if you watch the thing, instead of thinking about America and al Qaeda, you can think about Democrats and Republicans. If you haven't caught up with the spirit of 2006, you might want to keep the TV off for the next few days and stay away from the internet.

Blogging lawprofs score Yale Law Journal publication.

Yale Law Journal's on-line version, The Pocket Part, has a set of essays -- grandly titled "The Future of Legal Scholarship" -- on the topic of how the internet will change law journals. My contribution is called "Let the Law Journal Be the Law Journal and the Blog Be the Blog." I come out as a big traditionalist, not just about law journals, but also about blogging.

What do the others talk about? In "That’s So Six Months Ago: Challenges to Student Scholarship in the Age of Blogging Essay,", Stephen I. Vladeck (of Prawfsblawg) focuses on law student writing. "A Blog Supreme?" by Christopher A. Bracey (of Blackprof), finds an analogy to jazz. Jack Balkin's contribution is "Online Legal Scholarship: The Medium and the Message." He talks about "routing around" on the internet, and on first skim, I thought they'd made a terrible editing error. But he's talking about the way the internet "routes around traditional media gatekeepers and ... gloms onto existing cultural sources, appropriating them for its own purposes rather than displacing them." Eugene Volokh, in "Law Reviews, the Internet, and Preventing and Correcting Errors," offers some practical suggestions for taking advantage of the internet to improve scholarship.

This is the linkiest post I've done in a while -- maybe ever. By contrast, The Pocket Part essays look like they have links, but the highlighted text just triggers a pop-up with a footnote, often containing a URL -- and you'll have to copy and paste it into the address bar if you want to go there. [CORRECTION: I'm wrong, sorry. If you point at the link, you get a pop-up window that shows the footnote with web locations as written-out URLs, but if you click on it, it is a hyperlink. Why didn't I notice that? Something about the way the window popped up made me think that was all that would happen.]

ADDED: Archaeoblog likes my blog/scholarship separationism.

September 6, 2006

Now, I understand why I speed.

Insufficient goats.

No matter how bad you look...

... "hipster" is always within reach:

"Around 75 top professors and leading scientists believe the attacks were puppeteered by war mongers in the White House..."

Writes the Daily Mail, which doesn't seem to have much of a grasp of the meaning of the words "top" and "leading." I wasn't going to link to this stupid article -- which also calls UW part-time teacher Kevin Barrett an "assistant professor" -- but people keep emailing it to me.

IN THE COMMENTS: I love the way the people who hate Bush the most provide the most devastating refutation of the inside job theory:
It's amazing that people could believe a skyscraper would NOT collapse when a plane weighing 100 tons flies into it at 500 miles per hour.

And I love the conspiracy theory. We'll plant bombs in the building to make it collapse - and then - just to make it look real - we'll hijack planes and fly them into the building just to make it look convincing. And then, to make it look REALLY convincing - we'll have the President of the United States sit there like a moron for ten minutes saying nothing - after reading a book to schoolchildren.

Why do they same people who think Bush is a moron with an IQ or 80, also think he is capable of pulling off the biggest conspiracy of all time

"It’s time for Mr. Fitzgerald to provide answers or admit that this investigation has run its course."

Says the NYT.

Mice...

... hate cheese!

Princess Kiko and Princess Masako.

So there's finally a new male heir to the Japanese throne, produced by Princess Kiko, after all these years of pressure on Princess Masako. This apparently ends the recent debate about whether a female could ascend to the throne, but I think the more interesting feminist issue is the way Masako and Kiko are perceived and compared:
The birth may ... end the psychological drama surrounding the royal family, especially Princess Masako. When she gave up a career in diplomacy to marry [Crown Prince Naruhito] in 1993, she was heralded as a modern Japanese woman who could perhaps even modernize the imperial institution. But the princess was soon confronted with the reality that she was now expected to do only one thing: bear a male heir.

When the couple finally had a child, it was a girl, Princess Aiko. The Imperial Household Agency, the powerful bureaucracy that oversees the royal family, kept up the pressure to have another child, and Princess Masako eventually slipped into a depression.

Her plight led the crown prince to hold an extraordinary news conference two years ago, in which he stated that he would not let his wife be sacrificed for the greater good of the monarchy. “There has been a move,” the prince said, “to deny Masako’s career and personality.”

Prince Akishino, who had always lived in his older brother’s shadow, criticized his brother and sister-in-law by saying that they must put their public duties above all....

Princess Kiko, the daughter of a university professor who never had a career before marrying, has become the darling of the Japanese media. By contrast, Princess Masako has increasingly become a target, routinely criticized by the conservative media for her supposed selfishness and lack of common sense.
As an American, viewing this from afar, I'm rooting for Princess Masako. I don't like seeing Kiko getting the jump on her. But maybe my Japanese readers can add some dimension in the comments.

Necrophilia in Wisconsin.

Can you believe there are men who see an obituary photo in the newpaper, find the dead woman pretty, and go dig up the body for a sexual encounter?

UPDATE: The Smoking Gun has mugshots, etc.

Why would the world's fattest man need surgery to lose weight?

This makes no sense at all. The man is so fat he's immobilized, which means someone has to be procuring the food for him. He weighs 550 kilos -- 1200+ pounds. It ordinarily takes 12 calories to maintain each pound of weight. He's sedentary, to say the least, so it's less than than 14,544 calories we get from the standard calculation, but still a tremendous amount. Who is feeding him a week's worth of food every day, day after day? What would motivate anyone to do something that is so expensive, so much work, so destructive, and so strange?

IN THE COMMENTS: Pogo tells a vivid story:
I have taken care of a few men like this. One weighed in at over 700 pounds. He was also immobile, and admitted to hospital for a number of related concerns, but they had to cut out the side of his house to get him out (no longer fitting through the door) and transported in a delivery truck (he needed a hoist and didn't fit in an ambulance).

His wife and mother brought him food at home and, despite orders to the contrary, as an inpatient. He would whine and plead like a three year old for food; all guilt and manipulation.

New Year's Eve, 3 months into the stay, he begged to have "just a few pieces of shrimp" to celebrate (exceeding his then 5-to-600 cal diet). I came in the room at midnight to see him holding a huge tray from Red Lobster up to his face, using his arm to shovel the food as fast as possible into his mouth, not even chewing, like in a pie-eating contest.

After we took it away from him, he threatened to kill himself (his frequent ploy to gain sympathy, one that worked on many many caregivers). I was so angry I yelled, "Go ahead. But tell me, how are you going to do it?" I opened up the window. "You can't move, except your arms. You can't walk to this window and jump. You can't even fit through the opening. Frankly, aside from choking on food, I can't even imagine how you'd commit suicide. So be my guest; let us know what you figure out."

His mom started it, it seems. His wife learned to continue the family ritual of feeding him, even long after he quit moving from his bed. I can't explain it, I'm afraid. Some people just can't behave as mature adults, but remain children forever, with appetities insatiable, like Prader Willi syndrome without retardation. C.S. Lewis explains it better than Freud, I think.

September 5, 2006

"Flee sexual immorality!"

There were no political demonstrations that I could see as I walked through Library Mall here on the University of Wisconsin campus at noon today, the first day of fall classes. But there were some religionists trying to get the students' attention:

A religious vigil

Something about leaning on an "America a Nation of Sexual Perverts" sign makes people want to cut a wide swath around you:

A religious vigil

Oh, the snubbing! Does it hurt? Do you feel righteous? Sad? Angry? Resigned?

A religious vigil

I passed by quickly, on my way to pick up an extra-large cappucino to-go to make do for lunch before my Religion & the Constitution class. On my way back, I saw one of the sign-holder guys had turned to street preaching. From a distance, I could hear him exclaiming about "the fires of Hell." Then:
A friend of mine told me this town is the Capital of Lesbianism. The Capital of Lesbianism! What a shame!
I burst out laughing, as did pretty much everyone in the general vicinity.

Okay, I'm watching the Katie Couric show.

It's so annoying to feel forced into it! She's standing up and wearing a weird white jacket buttoned conspicuously at the waist as if to argue with those who said she'd been photoshopped into semi-svelteness. Now, she's sitting down, but in kind of a half standing position in front of a low desk, to give us more of a view of her torso. She's got a special white microphone to blend in with that white lapel. The first few stories are military, as if they need to drive it home that a woman can cover the manly topics.

Now she's interviewing Tom Friedman, who seems to really be trying to help by speaking extra quickly and smiling, beaming at Katie. They've got two armchairs angled together, with just enough room for Katie's bare, sinewy crossed legs.

The teaser going into the break is about gas prices, and we see the image of a gas pump nozzle, slowly rising, rather lewdly, I have to say, as if CBS felt the need to provide -- albeit symbolically -- the missing phallus.

After the break, there's an aggressively edited segment on oil. Lots of color and graphics and moving cameras and Shell logos gliding through space and guys yammering about hurricanes and whatnot.

Next, there's a segment called "freeSpeech." Not "free speech" or "Free Speech" or "freespeech" or Freespeech." "freeSpeech." Get it right. And it's Morgan Spurlock, fast talking, wearing a purple striped shirt and a purple paisley tie, and he's saying civil discourse, it's important. Okay, Mr. Spurlock, if you could, please don't wear that shirt and tie again.

Now the show veers into the female territory we were so worried about. That "freeSpeech" thing seemed to be the bridge. They're showing the Vanity Fair cover with the photo of the spawn of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise. The baby's name is Suri, and Katie -- Couric -- does the pun "Yes, sirree."

After the break, Couric introduces a "picture perfect idea" that combines travel scenery, kids -- orphans! -- and art. You have got to be kidding me. The artist is from Madison, Wisconsin, so I should be soft on this, but I'm not. Wait, this guy doesn't paint the portraits for the orphans. He gets American school kids to paint pictures of photographs of orphans. We're told the painters form a real connection as they stare at the photos, as is necessary in order to do the paintings. We're informed that staring into the eyes has a very special effect. What glop! And the privileged painter and the orphan paintee sometimes even become penpals. Arrgggghhhhh... I'm in pain from this one.

Now, Katie tells us coyly that she just can't figure out what her sign-off line should be. She shows clips of various real and fictional newsguys signing off and then tries to enlist us in the fun of suggesting sign-off lines. "Log on to our website," she says. Log on. When you go to a website, are you "logging on"? See, I'm ready to be irked by anything! Well, let's go over there -- log on over there -- and see whether people are suggesting insulting sign-offs, which is what I would expect, which is one reason it's such a bad idea.

But why did they think it was a good idea? It's like a schoolteacher's "hands-on" assignment. Ooh, she wants to include us. It's so feminine to want everyone to feel included. But how about having an identity instead of asking us to supply one or offering to please us with whatever we want? You couldn't even write a sign-off line or, more aptly, you had to use the sign-off gimmick to make it seem as though this is some new interactive version of the news? What a grand step forward for women!

Checking the website, I see the suggestions aren't openly displayed, and you've got to provide lots of info to make the suggestion. So there won't be any fun and games there.

IN THE COMMENTS: Among other things, readers are suggesting sign-off lines. My favorite, by johnstodderinexile, is "This is Katie Couric, and I can't wait to read what you blogged about me."

The last thing he did...

... was yank a stingray barb out of his heart. Is there a more dramatic last act in the history of mankind?

Attorneys Against the Ban....

... is a new group opposing the proposed amendment to the Wisconsin constitution that would ban marriage and "substantially similar" legal status for same-sex couples. They have a pithy FAQ. Here they address the question I think is most important:
What is “a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage”?

The sponsors of the amendment have been evasive about what legal protections and rights they expect the amendment to take away.

The second sentence almost certainly bans unmarried partners (same-sex or opposite-sex) from entering into civil unions or comprehensive domestic partnerships, such as those enacted by the legislatures of Connecticut, Vermont and California. Such unions define the partners’ enforceable rights and obligations with respect to one another and give some legal recognition to their relationships, but do not constitute marriages. President Bush has endorsed such civil unions in the past. See Elisabeth Bumiller, “Bush Says His Party is Wrong to Oppose Gay Civil Unions,” New York Times (Oct. 26, 2004).

Beyond civil unions, the second sentence puts at risk a wide variety of legal rights, employment benefits, and contractual commitments that unmarried domestic partners take for granted. See questions and answers below. At a minimum, as Wisconsin State Senator Scott Fitzgerald acknowledged during the public hearing on the amendment on November 29, 2005, the courts will inevitably become involved in deciding whether a particular protection – or combination of protections – will be considered “substantially similar” to marriage. Thus, rather than taking this contentious social issue out of the courts, the amendment actually invites litigation.

If you support the amendment, please try to deal with this problem in the comments. The main justification for a constitutional amendment is that the courts forced it, but the Wisconsin courts have not found a gay marriage right. The amendment is trying to get out in front of the courts -- and I can understand this -- but it's written in a way that will have to involve the courts. I think our state courts have left matters to the political process. Why not trust them to continue to do that, especially since the alternative will provoke litigation?

And, conservatives, note the favorable reference to President Bush -- including the fact that they called him "President Bush."

Skates, bottles... Mozart!



(Via Metafilter.)

Katie Couric.

I want to write a post about how I don't care about Katie Couric's new news show, but I don't care enough to write it.

"Anti-dork spin: Maybe guys likely to have autistic kids tend not to become dads as early as other guys."

William Saletan is getting really good at taking a science story, predicting how it will be spun, and putting the spin in a pithy one liner.

It's the first day of the new school year.

It's the first day of school. This is the 23d time I've begun a new academic year as a lawprof, but it's still exciting. I won't get to see any of the new students in my classes, because I only teach 2 and 3Ls in the fall. It would be nice to teach 1Ls -- who must be in quite a state this morning -- but I just don't teach any of those courses. For me, it will be Religion & the Constitution today and CivPro2 -- Civil Procedure II -- tomorrow. That's Everson and Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance today and Pennoyer tomorrow. Delightful! I'll never get over feeling incredibly fortunate to be a law professor.

ADDED: I'd like to write a poem about law school, containing these two lines:
I'll annoy her
With Pennoyer

But maybe you can help. I need more couplets. Each couplet must rhyme, have one famous case name, and consist of two 4-syllable lines. You know you can write one!

"All of this blogging-in-drag is bewildering and appalling."

Wow, David Lat -- the erstwhile Article III Groupie, who's now blogging at Above the Law -- is getting doubly slammed over there at Feminist Law Professors. Belle Lettre has this:
All of this blogging-in-drag is bewildering and appalling. I just don’t understand the prurient interest some have in watching an otherwise impressively credentialed or politically opinionated “woman” degrade “herself” by trivializing her politics or profession. Is this the appeal of watching Ann Coulter in her mini-shorts?

Speaking as a female blogger, who writes a “blawggish” blog at that, I am personally offended. I think these poseurs, cheeky and satiric as they intend to be, bring down the image of serious female bloggers everywhere. It’s not that I argue that my blog is entirely serious–I do run personal posts about poetry, the occasional blog meme, etc. But this is not exactly trivial gossip....

[B]logs like those by David Lat and Libertarian Man of Mystery make me a very self-conscious and cautious blogger. I feel trepidation about writing on non-serious or even non-legal things, even though it is perfectly within my prerogative to do so. I’m not saying that I would like to engage in snark, vitriol, gossip, or triviality....

David Lat and Libertarian Man of Mystery do no favors to women (and especially women bloggers) when they pose as women or caricature “female triviality” to suit their own ends. Even as they continue this “cheeky” style of writing with their genders and identities open, it never fails to be a nudge nudge wink wink at how salacious and saucy writing can be if done in the “female voice.” I happen to think my own “female voice” is quite intelligent and serious, thanks. And there are plenty of women bloggers (and blawggers) like me, who can write about our lives and our work, without being sexed up fembots or saucy wenches. There will be no nudging and winking here, not for your amusement, and definitely not to ours.
This dread of triviality, does it hurt? I wonder if Belle has considered whether this grim, censorious, humorless -- nay, humor-phobic -- attitude helps women. I know you want to be taken seriously, but being so intent on being taken seriously is one of the main things that make people want to mock you. And not just you, but feminism.

Belle is piling on after an earlier post by Ann Bartow, who decided to pick on David for running a search for the "hottest ERISA lawyer in America." Here's her criticism:
Possibly Lat doesn’t understand that being celebrated for her looks is not known for being a ticket to career success in the legal world for a female attorney.

The idea that people are now going to be nominated without their knowledge, and that Lat will not honor their requests for withdrawl if they do find out, frankly strikes me as both mean and sickening. I was present when a hard driving female attorney won a satirical “Miss Congeniality” designation during a “jokey” awards luncheon, and I watched her muster a tight little smile as she accepted a sash and tiara to a sea of derisive laughter, and I saw her crying in the bathroom later, too. I have little doubt that certain kinds of lawyers will take a golden opportunity like this to try to heap ridicule upon colleagues or competitors they dislike, or want to see put in their place. But who cares, as long as Lat is amusing himself and his buds, right?
Is frat boy asshole really the right stereotype for Mr. Lat? Since you're doing stereotypes... It's a little tricky to wield stereotypes while criticizing stereotypes, but the idea must be that it doesn't count if you evoke the privileged white male. But what really irks me is going on and on about Lat without showing familiarity with his judicial hotties contest, the way Article III groupie specially focused on the hotness of males, and how Judge Kozinski offered himself up as the hottest judge. Here's how The New Yorker saw it:
A3G, as she calls herself, writes like a boozy débutante, dishing about the wardrobes, work habits, and idiosyncrasies of the “superhotties of the federal judiciary” and “Bodacious Babes of the Bench.” The author is keen on the new Chief Justice, writing, on one occasion, “Judge Roberts is lookin’ super-hunky tonight, much younger than his 50 years. . . . The adorable dimple in his chin is making A3G dizzy.” In contrast, she had doubts about Harriet Miers, posting a “Hairstyle Retrospective” and noting, “If Harriet Miers wins confirmation, maybe Supreme Court justices should start wearing powdered wigs.” Her posts on the new Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito, have included a report—a “judicial sight-ation”—of the Judge stopping in at a Newark pizza shop, and a sizing up of Alito’s teen-age son: “Since he’s 19, A3G is permitted to say: he’s a hottie!”
This refocus of the hotness question onto males was a much better strategy for smashing sex stereotypes than insisting on being taken seriously and trying to deny the visual aspect of life.

Squirrel hates opera.

Suicidally.

September 4, 2006

Madison miscellany.

window

Shop window

Can you find your humble blogger -- Waldo-like -- in the reflections?

ADDED: That color, on the window frames? I don't want anyone to ever paint anything that color ever again.

Coffee break.

See you later.

Chalked coffee cup

"The pleasantest of all diversions is to sit alone under the lamp, a book spread out before you...."

"... and to make friends with people of a distant past you have never known."

That's another quote from the book -- "Essays in Idleness" -- mentioned at the end of the previous post.

Is this the sense that you have when reading a book, that this is the greatest pleasure and that you are making friends? Or do you think that a person who sits around reading all the time is not experiencing sufficient pleasure and needs to get out and interact with some real people and make some friends? Is there some way in which reading is a more intimate encounter with a human being than anything that can be done in person?

Kenko specifies the pleasure of befriending someone of a distant past you have never known -- like, for us, Kenko.

ADDED: And how many words must you change in that Kenko quote to make it about blogging?

Labor Day topic: idleness.

Tom Lutz has an op-ed that's mostly about the pleasures of a professor's flexible work schedule but has a really cool section about how workers in the 19th century behaved -- claiming flexibility for themselves:
In 1877 a New York cigar manufacturer grumbled that his cigar makers could never be counted on to do a straight shift’s work. They would “come down to the shop in the morning, roll a few cigars,” he complained to The New York Herald, “and then go to a beer saloon and play pinochle or some other game.” The workers would return when they pleased, roll a few more cigars, and then revisit the saloon, all told “working probably two or three hours a day.” Cigar makers in Milwaukee went on strike in 1882 simply to preserve their right to leave the shop at any time without their foreman’s permission.

In this the cigar workers were typical. American manufacturing laborers came and left for the day at different times. “Monday,” one manufacturer complained, was always “given up to debauchery,” and on Saturdays, brewery wagons came right to the factory, encouraging workers to celebrate payday. Daily breaks for “dramming” were common, with workers coming and going from the work place as they pleased. Their workdays were often, by 20th-century standards, riddled with breaks for meals, snacks, wine, brandy and reading the newspaper aloud to fellow workers.

An owner of a New Jersey iron mill made these notations in his diary over the course of a single week:

“All hands drunk.”

“Jacob Ventling hunting.”

“Molders all agree to quit work and went to the beach.”

“Peter Cox very drunk.”

“Edward Rutter off a-drinking.”

At the shipyards, too, workers stopped their labor at irregular intervals and drank heavily. One ship’s carpenter in the mid-19th century described an almost hourly round of breaks for cakes, candy and whiskey, while some of his co-workers “sailed out pretty regularly 10 times a day on the average” to the “convenient grog-shops.” Management attempts to stop such midday drinking breaks routinely met with strikes and sometimes resulted in riots. During much of the 19th century, there were more strikes over issues of time-control than there were about pay or working hours.
What are you going to? They got thirsty. When did coffee come into the picture? I'm guessing there's already a book called "How Coffee Created the Modern World" or something. Lutz has a book, "Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers and Bums in America," which I hope is full of stories like that, though there's nothing relevant about coffee -- I learned, from pursuing my curiosity through the ultra-easy "Search Inside the Book" tool at Amazon. Despite that lack, I'm interested in the book. Slackerishly, I wonder: Is there a downloadable audio version?

A book I do have -- right here on the shelf -- it's one of my favorites -- is "Essays in Idleness," which was written in the 1300s by a Buddhist monk named Kenko. It starts off:
What a strange, demented feeling it gives me when I realize I have spent whole days before this inkstone, with nothing better to do, jotting down at random whatever nonsensical thoughts have entered my head.
How many words in that sentence do you need to change to make it all about the blogger? That's no Zen koan. The answer is too obvious: one! But there is a deep mystery in Kenko's sentence. "Nothing better to do" can be understood to mean not that one has nothing good to do but that this is the very best thing.

How much do you value your free time? Do you use it to rest and recover or do you use it to do work that, because it's done in your own time -- in time you own -- is transformed into pleasure?

“I was struck by how stunningly banal and formulaic it all was.”

Michael Caine thinks these movies today are no damned good, not like in the old days. Is that the distorted perspective of an old man thinking about the past? Or is he right?

"Nothing would ever scare Steve or would worry him. He didn't have a fear of death at all."

Steve Irwin, killed not by a crocodile, but a stingray. It's quite unusual for a stingray to kill a person:
Irwin was swimming over the stingray during filming for a documentary when he was struck in the chest, the barb most likely piercing his heart.

Dr Bryan Fry, deputy director of the Australian Venom Research Unit at the University of Melbourne, said stingray venom was "extraordinarily painful".

"If he was conscious he would have been in agony," Fry told Reuters.

Fry said stingray venom was a defensive weapon similar to that in stonefish but was not lethal. Serrated barbs on the stingray's tail would have delivered the fatal injury, he said.

"It's not the going in, it's the coming out," Fry said.

"They have these deep serrations which tear and render [sic] the flesh as it comes out," he said.
He was making a documentary that was said to be intended to demystify the stingray, and it seems the stingray had some mysteries that it chose to reveal in its own way.

ADDED: It occurs to me that Steve Irwin was the most enthusiastic person in the world, and that it's impossible to think of who would come in second. And then I realize that the reason I don't know who comes in second -- first, now -- is that people who have that level of enthusiasm are ordinarily tamped down by social pressure -- or, if they don't respond to social pressure, shunned or institutionalized. Or drugged. The extraordinary thing, then, is not that he was so over-the-top enthusiastic, but that he didn't annoy us into rejecting him. He actually made us happy. What a guy!

MORE: Lots of comments on Metafilter, including: "it's so weird that it only takes about five minutes after someone dies for their wikipedia page to go from 'is' to 'was'." Also, a link to a big article on Irwin in today's Sydney Morning Herald, published before the news of his death. Lots of good stuff, like:
With only his dog for company, he spent five years [in the mid-1980s] catching and relocating protected saltwater crocodiles that had become a threat to people in remote communities....

Irwin's feats of bushmanship and endurance during that time were astonishing. For months on end he lived like Tarzan, capturing enraged crocodiles with only net-traps and a small aluminium dinghy. "Mate," he whoops, "I was totally feral! I could run a wild pig down." The setting of each trap meant hauling a 120-kilo weight-bag high into the mangroves "while 5,000 green ants were biting on my eyeballs ... [later] I hadda get the croc into the boat, then from the boat to me truck, then into a crate. No-one could believe one person could do that, so Dad sent me up this video camera."

With the camera tied to a tree, or on the boat seat, Irwin recorded his horrifying ordeals. Every so often his grinning, mud-caked face would pop up before the lens. "Didja see that!" he'd holler, bug-eyed, before rushing off to deal with the next crisis.
It's interesting to read that, unlike Americans, Australians are put off by his expressive style, that they think the fun is in underplaying one's exploits. But I think Americans like underplaying too, when it's done well.

IN THE COMMENTS: Someone (inevitably) says he died doing what he loved, and Ruth Anne reminds me of this old post of mine talking about how people always say that, along with (humorous!) speculation about me dying while blogging and people saying that.

September 3, 2006

Audible Althouse #64.

After a two-week hiatus, I've done a new podcast.

I talk about reality and unreality, song lyrics that might be about drugs or religion (like "Crystal Blue Persuasion"), the life of the mind and conspiracy theorizing, how the 1960s transformed America and me, how my parents savored the adult life (it had something to do with Playboy), why the students today don't do anti-war demonstrations, how Alan Turing and Kurt Gödel killed themselves, they way you might know but not know that the food is tainted, and whether you'd rather hear a writer tell you what he's really like or have him cook up his loathsome characteristics into a tasty piece of fiction.

Stream it right through your computer here. But the crystal blue listeners subscribe on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

On Madison's east side.

Graffiti

Info Shop

Art gallery

Theater in the alley

Don't call them "conspiracy theorists." Call them "truth activists."

The SF Chronicle has a long article on the 9/11 conspiracy theorists that goes into some general discussion of the conspiracy mentality.
While many conspiracy theorists are politically liberal, they also include people on the right, including members of the John Birch Society, who imply that the Sept. 11 attacks were part of a continuing plan by U.S. elites to create a "New World Order" and impose greater control over Americans.

Some conspiracy theories are fantastical (CIA agents orchestrated the attacks; Israel planned them.) -- the epitome of preposterous beliefs that start with a conclusion and work backward to find evidence. Each new month brings a deluge of crackpot theories, but a growing number of people say there are too many improbabilities -- too many illogical holes -- in the government's version of what happened....

"Conspiracists (come) from all parts of the population, they (come) from all racial and religious groups," says Bob Goldberg, a history professor at the University of Utah and the author of "Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America." "The fact that people who have advanced degrees believe in conspiracy theories does not surprise me because it's not an issue of whether you're smart or dumb. In fact, when you look at conspiracy theories, what distinguishes them is how rigorously logical they seem to be, that they are so intensely structured and that there's a belief that every single fact is important and connects to another fact. There's a rigor to (their) logic."
Is anyone surprised by fact that people with advanced degrees believe conspiracy theories? Although plenty of sensible people get advanced degrees, the pursuit of an advanced degree is something that appeals to the kind of person who wants to load a lot of material into his brain and do things with it. Someone like that is more likely to get into conspiracy thinking -- things are connected! -- than the ordinary person who wants to get through with school and get out in the world and do things there. The sizzle and ferment of the inside of the head isn't what most people want. And they're suspicious of academic types with good reason. There are a lot of screwy people in academia.

ADDED: Here's an article about two new government reports refuting the 9/11 conspiracy theory.

Still wallowing in the 60s.

I've been listening to the audiobook of Roger Kimball's "The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America," which is emphatically not a pro-60s book. I'm enjoying hearing the social conservative's ultra-tart judgments about all the terrible things my generation embraced. It's fun to hear the evidence against the 60s marshalled by a sharp writer who really is beside himself at how awful and dangerous all that 60s stuff is. I need to face up to the fact that a lot of the material that affected me was crap or worse, and it doesn't bother me that some of the things I still think are great -- like The Beatles, duh! -- are also crap in Kimball's view or that Kimball won't just laugh off the stuff that we all laughed at and knew was junk at the time (like "The Greening of America"). It's actually pretty amusing to hear Kimball slam that too, especially when said crap was written by a Yale lawprof -- i.e., "The Greening of America."

So, you should understand why a quick skim of this article had me clicking over to Amazon to buy this 3 DVD's worth of "Playboy After Dark," which was a TV show that started in 1968. There are also some episodes of "Playboy's Penthouse," from 1959 -- not quite the 60s, but laying the groundwork, and hence, more interesting to the 60s person than the 1968 show. Hugh Hefner was ridiculously behind the times to a young person in 1968, but he represented the way of the future in 1959. You're wondering if I was allowed to watch "Playboy's Penthouse" in 1959, when I was 8 years old. Let's just say my father was a great fan of Playboy Magazine who had every issue going back to 1953 and always proudly displayed the newest issue on the (kidney-shaped) coffee table (sometimes along with Swank and Escapade!). (I'm really afraid Roger Kimball might read this post and have a convulsion.)

Anyway, back to the article:
As [Cy] Coleman’s smoothly addictive theme plays over the opening credits, elevator doors part and a subjective camera roams the party, stopping when the pipe-smoking Mr. Hefner turns to introduce himself. Not the most natural of hosts, his sometimes awkward presence nonetheless has its charms: if the editor and publisher of Playboy can appear uncomfortable, there was hope for every nebbishy reader, a fantasy that fueled much of his magazine’s success.

‘‘Playboy’s Penthouse,” produced in Chicago over two seasons, also helped break down racial barriers on television. Black performers don’t just entertain and walk off. They socialize. Nat King Cole and Sammy Davis Jr. join the party, chatting, laughing and sipping their drinks. Cole, who does not sing, seems pleased to relax with the likes of [Lenny] Bruce and the novelist Rona Jaffe. Conversations have a natural feel, and Mr. Hefner never rushes anyone.

Bruce is the life of the party, riffing on TV censorship, integration and the definition of a “sick” comedian. And he’s funny, relating how executives from another show wouldn’t let him tell a story about why a tattoo on his arm might prevent burial in a Jewish cemetery. (Mr. Bruce, who died in 1966, need not have worried. He is buried in a Jewish cemetery in California.)

‘‘Playboy After Dark” arrived in syndication in 1968. Taped in color in Los Angeles, the show has production values that are slicker than “Playboy’s Penthouse.” But what was elegant and slightly cool about the earlier series here seems forced. Joe Cocker and Canned Heat share the bill — weirdly — with Billy Eckstine and Vic Damone. Instead of Bruce and company, there is Rex Reed discussing “Myra Breckinridge,” the legendarily awful film in which he co-starred. Under his dinner jacket Mr. Hefner wears a shirt so puffy it could have inspired a famous episode of “Seinfeld.”
I love this kind of thing.

"A world of almost inconceivable savagery .... unendurable grief."

Terrence Rafferty -- writing about Kenji Mizoguchi -- singles out "Sansho the Bailiff," a beautiful, brilliant film. (Rafferty reveals the ending, so don't read the last paragraph of the linked piece if you haven't seen the movie.)

If I were making a list of the most profoundly moving films I've ever seen, there is only one other than "Sansho the Bailiff" that would spring immediately to mind. (The other one is mentioned in this old post.)

"I was moved when Sean came to my defense."

Jude Law reveals the pain and sorrow, how Chris Rock hurt him so much at the Oscars in 2005 when he joked and then just kept joking about how Law was in so many movies these days. Oh, it's such a mercy that there are profoundly humorless souls like Sean Penn to come to the rescue of that poor man.

"We are here for each other to make it home. That’s what our motto is."

Depicting demoralized troops in Iraq.

Comments?

IN THE COMMENT: People with military experience keep saying that the attitude expressed in that quote is absolutely standard in combat.

Religion and politics.

A Pew poll:
The Pew poll found that 69% of respondents said liberals have gone "too far to keep religion out of school and government" and 49% contended that conservatives have gone "too far in imposing their religious values."...

Large majorities of Republicans (87%), independents (65%) and Democrats (60%) denounced efforts by liberals to minimize religious influence in the public square, including 70% of conservative and moderate Democrats. Just 38% of liberal Democrats expressed this view....

[W]hen asked which should have more influence over the nation's law — the Bible or the will of the people, even when it is in conflict with the book — 63% of Americans said the people's will should hold sway, compared with 32% who thought the Bible was superior....

Slightly more than half (52%) said Bush mentions his religious faith the right amount and 14% said he talks about his faith too little. Almost a quarter (24%) believed the president mentions his faith too often.
People are delightfully moderate. It must drive the politicos and fundamentalists nuts.

September 2, 2006

The hawk.

Blogging about that heron -- not a crane, I'm told, but a great blue heron -- I glanced up from my computer and saw a hawk in the oak tree. I couldn't get a good shot of it, but then I looked up again and saw it sitting on the railing of the deck:

Hawk

That's the best of the three shots I took through the window, and then it took off in a blur:

Hawk

Lake Mendota, midday.

Let me show you where to look among the weeds and the scum:

Lake Mendota

Lake Mendota

A lone crane heron ...

Lake Mendota

Startled:

Flying crane

UPDATE: I'm told that's not a crane but a great blue heron.

Saturday.

Allen Centennial Garden

Go somewhere.

Sprezzatura.

Well, I see that The New Republic 's Lee Siegel has gone and gotten himself into trouble by participating in the production of blog comments in support of his own writing. The pseudonymous Sprezzatura went about slamming Siegel's critics, like Ezra Klein, who serves up the details and declines to gloat. And now TNR has killed Siegel's blog and suspended him from writing for the magazine.

The person I know with the best memory reminds me that in the past I've made fun of Lee Siegel's writing -- including once in a post with an update saying that the person I know with the best memory reminds me that in the past I've made fun of Lee Siegel's writing. So, I should be enjoying the poor critic's plight more than I'd realized.

Let's look at the old posts.

April 12, 2004:
"The marriage of comedy and politics is even more unhealthy than the marriage of church and state." So says Lee Siegel, TNR's TV critic. Too many metaphors: marriage and health. And unhealthy comedy is not going to kill anyone, whereas the diseases of the religion-state alliance have produced monumental evils throughout history.

But I agree with Siegel that right now politics is ruining comedy, especially The Daily Show (as I said here). Jon Stewart gets so much good press--the NYT never misses an opportunity to praise him--so it's really almost shocking to read strong criticism like this:
Stewart weighs down his jokes with a kind of Government 101 knowingness. He's not just funny about politics, you see, he's savvy about the way the system works, and he's going to help us through the maze. In Washington, "you have to cut through the partisan gridlock just to get to the bureaucratic logjam." Stop, you're killing me. But when it came to Richard Clarke and his controversial book, Stewart gave up even the pretense of being funny. ... Here was a slick, malleable, professional political advisor/operator, who had the choice of resigning in protest against an invasion of Iraq months before it took place, when such a protest might have had consequences, but chose instead to wait until his slighted ego burst at the seams--this Clarke, a true embodiment of human foible and folly, deserved to be manhandled by the spirit of laughter every bit as much as his accusations deserved to be defended by the spirit of truth. But like everybody else in public life, from politicians and pundits to performers and poets, Stewart wants to seem edifying and instructive. He wants to seem good.

Wanting to seem good is really bad for comedy. And, of course, picking a political side to be what is good is just bad for so many reasons. Siegel thinks Stewart is pandering to his audience, but I would think he's losing half of his audience. He's lost me. And (unlike Siegel) I was completely in love with him.

I'VE JUST GOT TO ADD: If I didn't independently agree with Siegel's opinion of The Daily Show, I would have been quite reluctant to trust him, because I think his instincts about comedy are a bit off, since he seems to have meant the following sentence to be taken seriously:
Politics hates the naked unbridled ego that laughter sets free; it hates it with the intensity with which laughter heaps its furies on the naked unbridled ego that hides behind the highflown sentiments of politics.
As Jon Stewart would say: Whaaaa?
From February 7, 2005:
Baby, you can't do my media criticism.

Here's the free link to get to Lee Siegel's TNR essay about why football provides the perfect showcase for ads. Assuming you want to get to it. It reads like this:
Last night, the brunt of the commercials during the first quarter were for cars, mostly SUVs and minivans. Even a very unexcited-looking Paul McCartney ("Thank you Super Bowl!" he kept shouting) sang, as the first of four songs in his halftime show, "Baby You Can Drive My Car." The interesting thing about a car is that it's a piece of property that you can inhabit while traversing, or entering, other people's property. That's what Brady's team was doing as it moved down the field. So what was happening in the stadium and what was occurring on the tube were mutual reinforcements of this illusion of sovereign motion.
Well, first, that really is not the interesting thing about a car. But second, what laughably tedious writing! The weird thing is that it reminded me a lot of the great old George Carlin routine comparing football and baseball.
Funnily enough, over at Klein's post, you can see that Sprezzatura said things like this:
There's this awful suck-up named Ezra Klein--his "writing" is sweaty with panting obsequious ambition--who keeps distorting everything Siegel writes--the only way this no-talent can get him. And I ask myself: why is it the young guys who go after Siegel? Must be because he writes the way young guys should be writing: angry, independent, not afraid of offending powerful people. They on the other hand write like aging careerists: timid, ingratiating, careful not to offend people who are powerful. They hate him because they want to write like him but can't. Maybe if they'd let themselves go and write truthfully, they'd get Leon Wieseltier to notice them too.
Ha! Lee Siegel is a ridiculously bad writer.

Did Patrick Fitzgerald act improperly?

The NYT asks, in light of what we've just found out: that he knew the identity of the leaker all along.
Now, the question of whether Mr. Fitzgerald properly exercised his prosecutorial discretion in continuing to pursue possible wrongdoing in the case has become the subject of rich debate on editorial pages and in legal and political circles....

Mr. Fitzgerald’s decision to prolong the inquiry once he took over as special prosecutor in December 2003 had significant political and legal consequences. The inquiry seriously embarrassed and distracted the Bush White House for nearly two years and resulted in five felony charges against Mr. Libby, even as Mr. Fitzgerald decided not to charge Mr. Armitage or anyone else with crimes related to the leak itself.

Moreover, Mr. Fitzgerald’s effort to find out who besides Mr. Armitage had spoken to reporters provoked a fierce battle over whether reporters could withhold the identities of their sources from prosecutors and resulted in one reporter, Judith Miller, then of The New York Times, spending 85 days in jail before agreeing to testify to a grand jury.

Since this week’s disclosures about Mr. Armitage’s role, Bush administration officials have argued that because the original leak came from a State Department official, it was clear there had been no concerted White House effort to disclose Ms. Wilson’s identity.
Why did Fitzgerald do it? "The inquiry seriously embarrassed and distracted the Bush White House...." That looks rather glaring.
Mr. Fitzgerald, who has spoken infrequently in public, came close to providing a defense for his actions at a news conference in October 2005, when Mr. Libby was indicted. Mr. Fitzgerald said that apart from the issue of whether any crime had been committed, the justice system depended on the ability of prosecutors to obtain truthful information from witnesses during any investigation.
Do you want to unleash the prosecutors of the world to follow that theory, that they ought to go ahead and investigate what they know is not a crime, because by exercising your prosecutorial powers you might cause someone to commit a crime? But Fitzgerald did not defend that theory. He only tried to justify indicting someone for perjury when he had no one to indict for the crime he was investigating. These are two different things!

What would we do without Site Meter?

I see that Site Meter malfunctioned some time around 2 a.m. -- not just here, but on all the blogs I checked. I'm assuming they'll get it fixed soon, even that they'll eventually show the accumulated traffic numbers, but at least that they'll get it going again. But what if they don't? And even if they do, what if they stop later? Blogging will go on as long as human beings have the web -- right? -- but will Site Meter always be there? How much do we rely on it? And then there's that deep, dark downside -- the way you keep checking it. What are you looking for? Connections? Progress? Signs of winning a game?

Would you blog differently if you couldn't look at the Site Meter records? Do you know any bloggers who won't use Site Meter? Not seeing the symbol on the page doesn't mean they don't have it. If you pay for premium service you can opt not to show the symbol. Most bloggers seem to have Site Meter but not to pay for premium service. I think I'm in the smallest category: those who pay for premium service but don't hide the symbol or even block access to the records. I just like seeing the detailed records! What am I looking for? I'm not sure, but I have more to look at.

Some bloggers are proud of having no traffic meter, and others express pride in rarely checking the meter. They seem to think it affects the content of the blog and the whole feeling of being a blogger, and they are probably right. I'm a big meter-checker myself, and I probably started out as the kind of person who would be a meter-checker, but all that meter checking over the years, so closely connected to the daily practice of writing, has got to have had an effect on my mind. If the meter were taken away from me now, what would become of me?

UPDATE: Note only is Site Meter back, with all the accumulated statistics in place, but David Smith, the creator of Site Meter, stopped by the comments to this post to say:
Sorry everyone. Site Meter had a little problem this morning and the statistics are currently delayed a little. They should be back to real-time soon. I plan on Site Meter being around for a long time.
Thanks, David. I (heart) Site Meter.

And some people have been asking in the comments if the Site Meter information affects what bloggers write about. It's hard to say for sure, since you can't experience that alternate reality of life without Site Meter -- unless today's little outage gave some insight. Perhaps I'd write less if I had no information about whether anyone was reading. But does it affect what I write? I don't really think so. I can see what gets linked and which links bring the most traffic (and also what gets the most comments), but I think the blog is what it is because of the whole mix, and the whole environment means something, even the posts that seem to get less attention. I just keep going following my own personal sense of what's interesting, and maybe I even especially like to do a post about something that I think no one else cares about.

September 1, 2006

It's the weekend.

Pink flower

ADDED: If the flower didn't lift your spirits enough, gaze upon this:



Happy now? To take the edge off that happiness:
"The poor little guy stuck out like a sore thumb," [said T.J. Zambrano, 25, president of University of North Texas's Albino Squirrel Preservation Society].

Students will reminisce at a service at noon today near the Student Union Building, the squirrel's favorite scampering spot, university officials said.

"Some students saw the hawk and tried to shoo it away, but it was too late," Zambrano said. "Some animal control people took the body away.

"The squirrel wasn't shy, and people constantly fed him. He had a good life."

This is the second albino squirrel that has lived on campus, he said. The first, Thelonius, inspired the founding of the preservation society in 2002 and vanished in 2003.

"We can only hope Mother Nature will bring us another albino squirrel," Zambrano said.
What? So he can stick out like a sore thumb like the other two? But why not? Sometimes Mother Nature does the hawks a favor and serves up an easy lunch.

Iraq talk: victory, appeasement, fear.

The NYT observes that President Bush's most recent Iraq speech used the word "victory" 12 times, a word he's avoided for months. The same article also notes that he did not use the concept of "appeasement" to knock his political adversaries, as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumfeld each did earlier in the week.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are working on getting us to see through their frame:
“After six years,’’ said Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, “they’ve got only fear to sell.’’

Another Democrat, Senator Barbara Boxer of California, called the Bush speech “a long repetition of old messages and rhetoric to scare the American people’’ and said she would push for a Senate vote calling on the president to replace Mr. Rumsfeld.
The Times doesn't specifically call attention to this as a language ploy, even though the quoted text comes right after the discussion of "victory" and "appeasement."

"The person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is Mr. Wilson."

Says The Washington Post in an editorial today:
[Her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV] chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials. He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.
That goes way beyond simply saying the Plame affair is over, doesn't it? There's an immense amount of blogger commentary on this editorial, of course. Links collected here.

Forget history.

Let's talk about economics, technology, social customs and globalization. The new Chinese history textbooks.
Socialism has been reduced to a single, short chapter in the senior high school history course. Chinese Communism before the economic reform that began in 1979 is covered in a sentence. The text mentions Mao only once — in a chapter on etiquette.

Nearly overnight the country’s most prosperous schools have shelved the Marxist template that had dominated standard history texts since the 1950’s. The changes passed high-level scrutiny, the authors say, and are part of a broader effort to promote a more stable, less violent view of Chinese history that serves today’s economic and political goals....

The one-party state, having largely abandoned its official ideology, prefers people to think more about the future than the past.

It's strange, this idea of seeing history only in the future. It's good to avoid lying about the past, but it's a lie to think the past doesn't relate to the future.

The most powerful woman in the world.

It's not Condi. It's Angela. Condi's 2. 3: Wu Yi. 4: Nooyi.

Breastmilk-pumping.

Did you know some women use a device that pumps out their breastmilk while they are driving? That seems so wrong. But what do you think of all these other efforts women make to keep up with breastfeeding when they are separated from their babies? From my own experience with breastfeeding, I can't imagine wanting to keep it up once I'd gone back to work. The idea of using a mechanical pump is so unpleasant, and the milk seems too intimate to leave in the office refrigerator. (The picture at the link shows bags of milk -- cutesily labelled "My Mommy's Milk" -- on a freezer rack next to a box of black bean enchiladas.) And there's a huge problem -- not mentioned in the article -- that I'll just sum up in one word: leakage.

But apparently, a lot of women are working and pumping these days. I guess if you don't now, you're supposed to feel bad. It's hard enough to be a working mother without having people upping the standard of what it takes to do it passably well.

But as for the women who want to do it... they'd like more active accommodation by their employers. In pursuit of this goal, the linked NYT article takes the equality tack: Professional women are nicely accommodated by employers who offer posh "lactation rooms" and lots of time but working class women are stuck using the bathroom during their regular breaks. Are you softened up for some legislation yet?
[F]ederal law offers no protection to mothers who express milk on the job — despite the efforts of Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York, who has introduced such legislation. “I can’t understand why this doesn’t move,” she said. “This is pro-family, pro-health, pro-economy.”

Meanwhile, states are stepping in. Twelve states have passed laws protecting pumping mothers — Oklahoma’s law, the newest, will take effect in November. But like Oklahoma’s, which merely states that an employer “may provide reasonable break time” and “may make a reasonable effort” to provide privacy, most are merely symbolic.
One solution that's not mentioned is giving women longer maternity leaves so they can breastfeed the baby directly. But that, ironically, would violate the Equal Protection Clause! Maternity leaves in excess of the pregnancy disability period of eight weeks -- unless an equal period is given to new fathers -- is unconstitutional sex discrimination. That's the plain implication of the Supreme Court's opinion in Nevada v. Hibbs -- upholding the Family and Medical Leave Act as an exercise of Congress's Fourteenth Amendment power -- as I pointed out in a law review article (PDF):
There was no recognition in Hibbs that a state might, without engaging in mere sex stereotypes, genuinely think that more than eight weeks are needed to recover from pregnancy and childbirth or might, quite apart from stereotypes about who ought to take care of a baby, want to facilitate breast-feeding for a period longer than eight weeks.

[FOOTNOTE} See Liz Galst, Babies Aren’t the Only Beneficiaries of Breast-Feeding, N.Y. TIMES, June 22, 2003, § 15, at 4 (noting the developing scientific evidence indicating that breastfeeding offers greater health benefits to children as well as to mothers). It is puzzling that there is no mention in the briefs or in the opinions of the issue of breast-feeding, which entails a real physical difference that can justify treating new mothers differently from fathers. The importance of accommodating breast-feeding women in the workplace should not make it seem invidious to support a new mother who wants to take a longer leave to procure this health benefit for herself and the infant, instead of struggling with breast-pumping or bringing the infant into the workplace. That medical research is developing in this area suggests the value of leaving room for experimentation with maternal leave policies.
When I was writing that article, I asked a colleague why no one brought up breastfeeding. She didn't have any ideas about why the states wouldn't use breastfeeding to account for treating men and women differently when it comes to giving leave to new parents (a key issue in Hibbs). But, she said, women's groups have not worked for breastfeeding leaves because it runs counter to their goal of pushing for requiring employers to accommodate breastfeeding employees. And, I would add, it conflicts with a preference for keeping women in the workplace. If a state offered more new parent leave to women in order to breastfeed, women's groups might construe it as an attempt to promote traditional sex roles, with the woman staying home with the baby. Can you tell the difference between a benefit and discrimination there? [ADDED: I should clarify that only government action violates the Equal Protection Clause, so that if the state is not the employer and if the new statutory law did not require longer leave for women, it would be possible to redo the statutory law that limits private employers.]

I think we could support giving women more of a choice whether to stay home and breastfeed or go back to work and continue to breastfeed. There is so much pressure on women! It's hard to go through pregnancy and childbirth and to take care of an infant. Breastfeeding a pretty simple part of this if you have your baby close by. But you may need to go back to work or want to go back to work. I strongly support that. And I support the pumping approach if you can do it. And of course the employer should accommodate the physical needs you will have. But it's a much harder question whether there should be laws that allow you to sue if you think your employer hasn't helped you enough. But of all the things we ought to do to make life easier for mothers, we should quit making them feel like they have to go through the pumping routine. It's hard to work and have an infant at home. It's going to be harder if you have to pump breastmilk throughout the day while you're trying to pay attention to your work -- regardless of how accommodating the employer is. Frankly, quite aside from the pumping task, I would not want to have to try to concentrate on work with my breasts acting up continually.

Now, before you pile on in the comments, let me restate my point. I think it's fine and admirable for women to pump breastmilk in the workplace, and employers should voluntarily accommodate them, but legislation may not be needed, we shouldn't put pressure on women to keep up breastfeeding when they go back to work, and women who decide they don't want to do it should feel perfectly justified in their decision.