September 9, 2006

The odds were 1 in 3,669,120,000,000.

Woman wins $1 million in a scratch card lottery, after previously winning $1 million on another scratch card. She works in a deli making sandwiches, and even after this new win, she's going to keep making the sandwiches. Will she keep buying scratch cards?

The European trailer for "The Path to 9/11."

Over on Kos, where they keep calling the show "Disney/ABC conservative fan fiction," they're saying:
[T]he advertisement makes it very clear just what sort of Limbaugh-style political porn this thing was intended to be.
The trailer certainly makes the movie look exciting. It made me go back to the NYT review by TV critic Alessandra Stanley. ("'The Path to 9/11' is an unsparing, and at times hyperbolic, portrait of bureaucratic turf wars, buck passing and complacency.") A lot of the bloggers who have been railing about "The Path" are laying into her. I see that there's a correction there now:
The TV Watch column in Weekend yesterday, about the ABC mini-series “The Path to 9/11,” referred incorrectly to a conclusion of the commission that investigated the terror attacks. The commission said the accusation that President Clinton had ordered air strikes against Osama bin Laden in August 1998 to distract attention from the Monica Lewinsky scandal was one of several factors that “likely had a cumulative effect on future decisions about the use of force” against Mr. bin Laden. It did not conclude that the scandal distracted the Clinton administration from the terrorist threat.
There. Happy now?

Anyway, this is Stanley's key point that's relevant to the demands to yank the film:
All mini-series Photoshop the facts. “The Path to 9/11” is not a documentary, or even a docu-drama; it is a fictionalized account of what took place. It relies on the report of the Sept. 11 commission, the King James version of all Sept. 11 accounts, as well as other material and memoirs. Some scenes come straight from the writers’ imaginations. Yet any depiction of those times would have to focus on those who were in charge, and by their own accounts mistakes were made.
Various bloggers (and commenters in the preceding post) are crying slander and saying that the public figures who are seeing themselves portrayed here ought to sue. I'm not going to belabor the point I've already made in comments, but it seems very clear to me that the legal standard they are talking about would be outrageously repressive. Why is it so hard to step back for a minute and see how the ideas you're expressing would apply in other situations?

"You can't fix it. You gotta yank it."

Says Sandy Berger, who should know about yanking. He's a yanker of historic proportions.

I wonder what brainstorming went into the choice of the word "yank," which seems to be roundly favored by those who want to pressure ABC to withdraw its docu-drama "Path to 9/11." You know how the Democrats are obsessed with framing.

Yank! It'll make censorship seem positively patriotic -- the Yanks are coming! -- and kinda sportsmanlike -- how about those Yanks?


Tree fungus

It's moist and gray, really dank -- but nicely cool -- here in Madison today. It's been so pretty all week, but I have a ton of work to get done, so it's okay with me. I've got a thousand résumés to read -- literally. (I'm chairing the Appointments Committee.) And I've got three smallish, more-or-less scholarly things to crank forward. And some other things that I ought to write on a to-do list so I don't fritter away mental energy intermittently prompting myself to do.

Anyway, like that tree fungus? It's so clean and crisply designed. Not really that fungus-y, as fungus goes. I ran across it yesterday, walking to school, when I detoured from the main lake path up onto the woodland path:

Wooded path by Lake Mendota

Wooded path by Lake Mendota

That last picture after that last post makes me want to link to these lyrics (which were not written by Cat Stevens):
Morning has broken, like the first morning.
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird.
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning,
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word.

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlight from heaven.
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetnes of the wet garden,
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass.

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning.
Born of the one light Eden saw play.
Praise with elation, praise every morning;
God's recreation of the new day.

The Cat Stevens comeback.

Cat Stevens, AKA Yusuf Islam, has signed with Atlantic Records to put out a new album of pop songs:
"I feel right about making music and singing about life in this fragile world again. It is important for me to be able to help bridge the cultural gaps others are sometimes frightened to cross."
Some folks don't like it, but I'd like to hear what he has to sing.

You know, I had a picture of Cat Stevens on my wall, back when I was a teenager in the 1960s. This was when my walls were entirely covered with large and small pictures cut from magazines like 16 and Tiger Beat. Mostly 16. How I loved that magazine. I knew the day it was due on the newsstands and made a special, eager trip to the drugstore to buy a copy. If for some reason the new issue hadn't arrived on time, there would be lamentations. Anyway, the Cat Stevens picture got on the wall based solely on looks, as none of his records were playing in the U.S. at that time. I knew he was popular in England, which counted for a lot in those days. In college, I heard his records all the time, even though I never bought them myself. The singer-songwriter trend of the early 70s was not my style, though I liked the catchy songs well enough not to go crazy when someone else played them. These days, they play those old Cat Stevens songs -- "Peace Train," etc., etc. -- at my favorite café here in Madison. I enjoy the nostalgic feeling and the fact that they are great songs.

If the man who will always be Cat Stevens to me wants to do some new songs and "help bridge the cultural gaps," I say good. Why bitch about things he's done or said in his nonmusical mode? He's a musical artist. It's good to have him in his zone again. Let's hear the songs and take it from there.

September 8, 2006

Two Madison vignettes.

Walking home from work today, I took the lake path. Someone had dragged the yellow, orange, and green tables and chairs from the terrace out the end of the pier, and college girls were out there basking in the sun:

Lake Mendota

Getting much closer to where I live, I saw two little girls making their way home. They are, doubtlessly, in the elementary school's strings program:

Young musicians

I love that tiny cello on wheels!

Yes, tell me it will be cold here in the winter. I can see the leaves already turning on that tree.

"This is it: crunch time for getting the slanderous ABC television docudrama 'The Path to 9/11' yanked off the air."

That's what the Democratic Party just emailed me:
The network schedule has this slanderous attack on Democrats slated to start on Sunday night, September 10, at 8 o'clock -- and as long as it stays on the schedule, we have work to do. Take a minute right now and tell Disney president Robert Iger to keep this right-wing propaganda off our airwaves:

Here's the good news: the suits at ABC and the Walt Disney Company have started panicking under pressure, thanks to your ferocious response to the outrageous decision to put this irresponsible miniseries on the air. But until Disney quits defending its plan to broadcast conservative propaganda -- fraudulently presented to Americans as "based on the 9/11 Commission Report" -- the company should plan to keep taking every bit of heat we dish out.

Here's a quick catch-up on developments over the last 48 hours:

President Clinton, through his attorney, rebuked ABC for producing a "factually and incontrovertibly inaccurate" miniseries -- and walked the network through three make-believe scenes in the "the Path to 9/11" that defame people and misrepresent events during his administration.

Clinton's spokesman later stepped up the pressure, condemning Disney as "despicable" for "airing a fictional version of what is a serious and emotional event for our country. No reputable organization," he said, "should dramatize 9-11 for a profit at the expense of the truth."

The families of September 11 victims have weighed in on the controversy, telling "entertainers" not to "promote misleading or incorrect information as fact to the public."

House and Senate Democratic leaders hammered Disney president and CEO Robert Iger, in letters that questioned the company's commitment to its "reputation ... as a corporation worthy of the trust of the American people and the United States Congress."

Scholastic has pulled teaching materials off its website and has scrambled to adopt a plan to help teachers show students "the differences between factual reporting and a dramatization," but is still encouraging teachers to show their students this propaganda.

We should all be deeply concerned and disappointed that ABC would air a film that has been proven to have factual inaccuracies about one of the most important events in our nation's history. It's particularly disturbing given that the producer of the piece is a well known conservative. It's incomprehensible how something like this could even get on the air.

In a few hours, we deliver letters from over 150,000 outraged Democrats to ABC's front doorstep. You still have time to make your feelings known. Join the thousands standing up for President Clinton and our party -- tell Disney president Robert Iger to keep ABC's right-wing propaganda off our airwaves....
For some reason that called to mind this quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger -- from an article about an audiotape that got him into trouble for saying that Republican Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia was "very hot" because of her ethnic "blood." He's apologized, and it was truly stupid to say that. But anyway, he said this other thing -- unrelated to the Garcia gaffe -- that sprang to mind when I read that email from the Democratic Party. It was this:
"You really pissed him off... But you know something? You pissed him off because it hit home. That's why it pissed him off. People always get irritated; always when you hit something that is the truth, that's when people flame out."

UPDATE: I've got a newer post on this topic here... with a lively comments section.

The Public Expression of Religion Act.

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee voted for the "Public Expression of Religion Act," which prevents the recovery of attorneys' fees in lawsuits based on the Establishment Clause:
Supporters say the bill, if passed and signed into law, would keep special-interest groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union from "abusing the system" when filing challenges to government actions that may endorse religion. Opponents say it would have a chilling effect on the ability of religious minorities to defend their freedoms.

The committee's vote was split down party lines, with all 12 Republicans present supporting the bill and Democrats opposing it....

"[T]he ability to recover attorneys' fees in civil-rights and constitutional cases, including establishment-clause cases, is necessary to help protect the religious freedom of all Americans and to keep religion government-free," the [ACLU] statement said, noting the fees in such suits often total "tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars."

"Few citizens can afford to [pay such fees]," it continued. "But more importantly, citizens should not be required to do so where the court finds that the government has violated their rights and engaged in unconstitutional behavior."

Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.), the bill's chief House sponsor, said the act was necessary to prevent such groups from intimidating governments into agreeing to out-of-court settlements.

"It is outrageous that public officials have been threatened with the prospect of financial ruin merely because they wish to defend their constitutional rights in a court of law," he said in a statement. "This is a big victory for Americans who care about our rich religious heritage in this country."
Those are some sharply drawn party lines. I'm definitely with the ACLU on this one. "Americans who care about our rich religious heritage in this country" -- that really grates. Taking a strong position in favor of separating religion and state doesn't mean you don't "care about our rich religious heritage in this country." I mean, could Hostettler get any more conservative buzz words into his sentence? Victory, Americans, rich, religious, heritage, country.

Meanwhile, the ACLU forefronts "keep[ing] religion government-free," which really is one of the Establishment Clause values, even though it's not what we usually feel is motivating the ACLU to bring its lawsuits, so you may feel pretty skeptical.

Nevertheless, keeping government out of religion really is something Americans who care about our rich religious heritage in this country should know is every bit as much a part of our rich religious heritage in this country as keeping religion out of government and protecting free expression about religion. And -- I hasten to add -- so is avoiding fighting about religion... which would be a good idea now... even in Congress.

A tale of two conspiracy theorists.

The Deseret Morning News reports:
Brigham Young University placed physics professor Steven Jones on paid leave Thursday while it reviews his involvement in the so-called "9/11 truth movement" that accuses unnamed government agencies of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center....

[Jones has spoken] publicly about research conducted at BYU on materials from ground zero. He said he found evidence of thermite — a compound used in military detonations — in the materials.

In recent weeks, after becoming the co-chairman of the group Scholars for 9/11 Truth, Jones seemed willing to go further, implicating unnamed government groups but not President Bush....

"BYU has repeatedly said that it does not endorse assertions made by individual faculty," the [University's official] statement said. "We are, however, concerned about the increasingly speculative and accusatory nature of these statements by Dr. Jones."

Last fall, BYU faculty posted statements on the university Web site that questioned whether Jones subjected the paper to rigorous academic peer review before he posted it at Jones removed the paper from BYU's Web site Thursday at the university's request....

Jones, also known for his cold fusion research, provided academic clout to the 9/11 truth movement...
Meanwhile, back in Madison, the Capital Times covered the first day of class taught by the UW's 9/11 conspiracy theorist:
"Ladies and gentlemen," he began. "Students, auditors and journalists. Welcome to Conspiracy Theories 370." The room erupted in applause before he shouted "Not!"

Getting real, he added: "This is a class on the religion and culture of Islam."...

On Tuesday, Barrett talked about the fundamentals of Islam and the course. The religion is the fastest growing in the world, as well as the United States, he said. There will be jobs for people who understand Islam and know how to interact with Muslims.

"You will learn something in this class that will have some career potential for you, which is rare among the humanities," he quipped.

He focused on religion and culture. In talking about religion, he asked students for definitions and wrote several words on the blackboard: belief, structure, control, symbol, rules, code, and morality....

Courtney Schiesher, a senior from Chicago, said Barrett was a lively lecturer. She said his personal views on the terrorist attacks do not sour her toward him.

"If he thinks that far outside the box, he also has some other interesting ideas to provoke student discussion," she said. "I'm looking forward to attending the rest of the classes."
BYU and UW are very different places, but there are many other factors that can account for the different treatment. One is the fact that Barrett is just a part-time adjunct with a one semester contract, while Jones is a tenured professor. Another is that Jones is in a Physics department, wielding the authority of the hard sciences. Barrett's course is in a department called Languages and Cultures of Asia, and the standards of what you can say under the rubric "culture" seem to rather lax everywhere. It's just the humanities...

UPDATE: You're wondering how many students showed up for Barrett's class? About 200.

"I'm going to skin you alive. Come here if you've got the balls... I look forward to shooting you seven times when I get my hands on you."

Said to the judge by a man on trial for threatening to kill a judge. But this wasn't just a ridiculous impulsive outburst. Basque separatist Ignacio Javier Bilbao Goikoetxea means to threaten violence "until I die or I'm killed."

"Bill O'Reilly made me a little nervous once, but that was because he was very tall and took so long to order his Irish oatmeal."

Says Cathy Seipp, answering one of 12 Silly Questions, "Which persons you've written on have most scared you?" More:
Did you have to develop a thick skin or does it come naturally?

I guess it just came to me naturally, although naturally we all become less sensitive to what others think of us as we grow older. Or at least, we should. The alternative is to remain forever a sensitive adolescent, and that's kind of pathetic.

Did you have to develop your self-confidence to write as fearlessly as you do or did it come naturally?

Again, I think most people naturally gain confidence as they age, if only because we develop a sense that we finally know what we're doing. What puzzles me is why so many people are scared of so many ridiculous things.
Yes, you young folks, notice this. It's true. But you don't really have to wait until you're older for it to happen! You can read this as advice and arrive early at the place where aging will take you naturally. But maybe you can't. It's all about emotion, and the brain really does change with age. Still, it might be useful to think about, to assuage any fear you might have of growing old.

UPDATE: Cathy writes about the silly questions piece (and this post) on her blog.

"Apple has issued a recall on several models of Mac laptops because the battery can overheat and catch fire...."

"Experts say a Mac fire is just like a PC fire, except it's more hip and condescending." -- Conan O'Brien.

My Power Book has one of the recalled batteries. I feel strangely unthreatened by the thing. I've filled out the form and am awaiting the replacement, but I'm still using the computer. I even use it in bed, surrounded by flammable fabrics. What are the chances? I don't, however, keep it in bed, on, while I'm sleeping. Some people do, you know. I'm pretty attached to my computer, and I do keep it where I can reach it without getting out of bed, and I do sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and use it. But there is a line. I'm not going to sleep with it in the bed. Not on purpose anyway. Let's just say, I wouldn't lie down with it in the bed. I'm quite capable of falling asleep while sitting up in bed with the thing on my lap. Recalled battery and all. Living dangerously, out here in Madison, Wisconsin.

Who would watch the video of the stingray killing Steve Irwin?

Here's a serious discussion -- on -- of whether the video should be shown. I think the answer is so obviously no that it seems lurid even to raise the subject. I realize that would make this post itself lurid, and I confess to trying to create a mental picture the incident I've read about. That picture is lurid.

Anyway, two medical ethicists examine the topic. Anna Smajdor concludes:
Irwin spent much of his life bringing to a wider public a vision of "nature red in tooth and claw", no fluffy bunnies or cute kittens here. His programmes were not for the squeamish, but portrayed wild animals capable of killing a man.

The footage of Irwin's death is his ultimate message to us of the ruthlessness and power that we admire and fear in nature.
Daniel Sokol disagrees, even though Irwin himself once said, "If I'm going to die, at least I want it filmed."
Should you, the viewer, watch the footage?

The answer depends on your motives. Are you a marine biologist or ethologist (someone who studies animal behaviour) eager to understand the defensive behaviour of a frightened stingray? Are you a cardiologist or toxicologist interested in aspects of the injury itself?

Before watching the footage, we should ask ourselves: why do I want to watch this? I suspect many people would answer "for entertainment" or "out of curiosity"

It may well harm the watcher, whose humanity and moral sensibility will suffer.
And remember, you can't unwatch it. Once the real image is in your head -- replacing the fuzzy visualization you have now -- it will always be there. Maybe you've yielded and watched some gruesome video on the web -- perhaps a beheading. I haven't, partly because I've never gotten over what I was raised to believe, that it is wrong to go looking out of curiosity, but also because I want to protect myself from the lingering image.

I should add that I've changed my view about averting your eyes from something you're seeing that you haven't sought out. I greatly admire people -- like doctors and nurses -- who have work to do and deal with what they need to see to do it. And I think squeamishness is a childish character flaw that should be overcome.

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.


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."


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.


... 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.


September 4, 2006

Madison miscellany.


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.


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.


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.