December 9, 2006

"If I quit blogging, it will be because I get tired of having to pay attention to the news all the time."

Glenn Reynolds says he said that back in 2002. He's talking about blogger burnout with Bob Wright on Bloggingheads.tv. The point is that the news is "fundamentally depressing," and the assumption is that blogging requires you to keep up with the news more than you otherwise would.

But you don't have to blog about the news. You don't have to provide any particular service to your readers or even try to maintain your existing set of readers. I started blogging with the idea of just seeing what struck me over the course of the day, primarily as I sat down with the New York Times every morning.

Anything might be bloggable. Something someone said, a TV show, a passing thought, a street scene, a new Supreme Court case ... and the news was just one more thing that had the potential to grab my attention. The thing I'm most likely to be criticized for, by commenters and other bloggers, is the failure to write about some particular subject. They tend to assume that the more important a news story is, the more I am obligated to write about it. So, for example, if I don't write about the treatment of the detainees or the war, that in itself constitutes a statement that I don't care or I think everything that is going on is just fine. But in fact, the failure to write may only mean that I respect the difficulty of the subject. Learning to put up with that criticism and not letting it drag me into obligatory blogging has been crucial to preserving the energy and fun of blogging.

You know, I've guest-blogged over on Instapundit a few times, and it's hard! You have the sense that people expect things to be covered -- even though Glenn never said try to blog in the Instapundit manner. Quite the opposite, in fact. But Glenn can transform into some other sort of blogger if he wants.

Hey, I wrote all this with the linked segment on pause, then went back and unpaused it only to find that Glenn and Bob start talking about me! (At about 2:16 into the segment.) That was kind of cool. Bob opines -- and Glenn agrees -- that my way of blogging is "psychologically healthiest." I wonder if they know that I am called "batshit crazy" virtually every day in the blogosphere.

And it's nice to see Glenn doing Bloggingheads. If you listen to the first segment, you'll see that he and Bob screwed up their first recording and had to redo it. I recorded a Bloggingheads with Jonah Goldberg last Thursday, and some technical snafu ruined it. We didn't find out until the next day, so there was no chance for an instant redo. It was lots of fun doing Bloggingheads with Jonah, in part because he was happy to leave the big Iraq news aside and just talk about sex, food, and religion. And yet, it was actually pretty political.

Similar to my blogging.

I certainly never set out to be a political blogger. But politics has a way of naturally leaking into things, and if you take note of it here and there -- what the hell? -- somehow you end up looking like a political blogger. And now I have all sorts of fervid polibloggers hanging over my every post -- even stuff I write in the comments section -- looking for material to gasp with horror about.

It's weird, this blogging life. But I'm just sitting up here in my lonely outpost in Madison, Wisconsin, typing a few words when something strikes my fancy.

Your military coup...

... is our pop culture fun time.

Don't forget to...

... vote. Here. You can vote every day, remember, and you should. It's not wrong. It's the actual procedure to vote every day.

"When we started in those days, drag queens were square... "

Goodbye to Van Smith, who designed the costumes and makeup for John Waters films. Dead at age 61. His greatest design: the hair/makeup/costuming that made Harris Glenn Milstead into Divine. The year was 1972, the film "Pink Flamingos":
First was the hair, shaved back to the crown to allow more room for eye makeup. Second was the makeup, acres of eye shadow topped by McDonald’s-arch eyebrows; lashes so long they preceded the wearer; and a huge scarlet mouth. Third were the clothes: shimmering, skintight numbers...

The entire budget for “Pink Flamingos,” Mr. Waters said, was $10,000.

That left little to spend on costumes beyond sequins (absolutely essential), staples (to hold the costumes together) and lentils (see below). ...

Like his costumes, Mr. Smith’s makeup was the stuff of riotous nightmare. It was often made from common household ingredients, including dirt (used as foundation), egg whites (when dry, they lent the face a scabrous look) and potato chips (the crumbs made teeth appear plaque-ridden).

Then there were the lentils. These, as Mr. Smith discovered after much experimenting, made natural-looking prosthetic breasts for Divine. They moved better than socks.
So coat your teeth with chewed-up potato chip, smear the dirt and egg white on your face, load up that brassiere with lentils: An artist has died.

ADDED: To see the full effect of Smith's design and to hear the answer to the question "Could you give us some of your political beliefs?," click -- NSFW! -- here.

"'We must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern,' Mr. Romney wrote..."

Poor Mitt Romney, who tried to reassure the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts in 1994, during his unsuccessful run for the Senate, and now has the social conservatives irked, even as the gay rights groups are hostile to him for his opposition to gay marriage. And those who expect consistency need placating:
Aides to Mr. Romney... said that the governor’s opinions on gay issues had not changed. They said Mr. Romney had always been an opponent of same-sex marriage, had always opposed discrimination against gay men and lesbians and had been consistent in his views about allowing them to serve in the military....

Mr. Fehrnstrom, echoing the language that Mr. Romney has frequently used on the campaign trail, said Mr. Romney had been "a champion of traditional marriage" and "fought the efforts of activist judges who seek to redefine marriage."

Nonetheless, the breadth of the letter’s language and the specificity of many of the pledges stunned conservative leaders. Many of them had turned to Mr. Romney as a conservative alternative to Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, whose position on issues like abortion had been considered suspect.

"This is quite disturbing," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who had praised Mr. Romney as a champion of traditional values at the group’s conference in late September....

Paul Weyrich, a founder of the modern conservative movement, said: "Unless he comes out with an abject repudiation of this, I think it makes him out to be a hypocrite. And if he totally repudiates this, you have to ask, on what grounds?"
Abject repudiation is not what's needed. He should demonstrate how well he can finesse discord like this. Is he a skillful candidate? It's a good test for the man.

"One of the hardest tasks will be to determine who gets to be the hangman because so many people want revenge..."

Everybody wants to be Saddam's hangman. But, really, under the rule of law, the executioner -- if we are to have executions -- should be a neutral, disinterested government functionary, not someone who's into revenge. One must maintain a sharp distinction between executioner and murderer.

And what of public executions?
Officials have considered staging a public hanging in Baghdad’s largest sports arena, Shaab Stadium, and filling the place with tens of thousands of spectators...
That has been rejected, but only because of the security risk.

The linked article goes on to talk about the death penalty in Iraq, where at least 51 people have been hanged since August 2004. (The American authorities had suspended the death penalty in 2003.) Here's one anecdote:
On Sept. 6, the Iraqi authorities planned to hang 27 people. On the 13th hanging, according to an official who was there, the rope snapped and the convicted man plummeted 15 feet through the trap door onto the concrete floor. “God saved me!” the man cried. “God is great! I did not deserve this!” For an hour, he lay on the ground praying and shouting while prison guards and the executioner debated whether this constituted divine intervention and, if so, whether the man’s life should be spared. Once a new rope was rigged, however, the man was forced up the stairs once again and successfully hanged.

What I think is really going on in the war on trans fat.

William Saletan on the "war on fat":
The whole world is engulfed in a war on fat. On one side are health crusaders. On the other side are food sellers and libertarians. Lately, the health costs of obesity have prodded politicians into the war, shifting the balance of power to the crusaders.
I simply do not believe that the so-called health side is really composed of people who are solicitous about everyone else's health. I can't prove it, but my intuition is that all the strength on the "health" side of this war comes not from people who really care whether other people are healthy, but from people who don't like having to see fat people. They are concerned about their own aesthetic pleasures, and they think fat is ugly.

And that argument about how much money fat people are costing us? I say it's bogus... a strategy to win more support for more restrictions. Fat people burden the taxpayers? I simply don't believe it. I'm sure fat people have various ailments they need to put up with, and some of these are going to tap into public funding -- drug benefits for blood pressure medicine, amputations, and so on. But what about the offsets? They are going to die younger. (On average. Not you, of course.) I don't trust the numbers concocted by the people who want to intrude here. Those who want to be left alone don't work hard enough at putting together their own facts.

Saletan:
Purging trans fats in New York would save at least 500 lives a year and possibly 1,400, said the health department. That's more than the number saved by seat belts.
Where does that number come from? If people are dying of trans fat, won't we save on Social Security and Medicare? If fat is so fatal, why do fat people walk among us?
The instigator of the New York ban, city health Commissioner Thomas Frieden, says chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes are eclipsing infectious diseases. Most experts and politicians share that view. We already regulate restaurants for infectious disease; why not extend that scrutiny to chronic disease?
Regulate restaurants because they cause the "disease" of making people fat. That's the argument. But he's NYC's health commissioner. He must have thought this through. You remember Frieden. He's the guy who offered the explanation “This is something we hadn’t fully thought through, frankly,” when withdrawing that proposal to let people change their sex on their birth certificates, even if they hadn't had sex reassignment surgery.

(Are you fat? Try the Atkins diet! It's about eating fat.)

ADDED: I should add that I do realize that trans fats and the fats that will substitute for them are equally caloric, and presumably equally fattening. Saletan's piece is clear on this point, and I assumed readers would take the linked article as background and assume that I understood it. But I see from the comments that some readers think I didn't. Nevertheless, it's fair to ask why I think people are really alarmed about appearances, not health, when they back a regulation like this, considering that it's rather unlikely to make anyone thinner.

I'm talking about the emotions here, not reason. I think people are buying into the theory that the food industry is nefarious and must be controlled because they see a problem and they want a villain. People support ineffective regulation all the time: they want to see something done. Look at all the people fretting about "high fructose corn syrup," with assertions that it's making everyone fat, even though, if it were banned, other, equally caloric sugars would be substituted. Yet people think there's some special problem with the stuff. They want to blame the food industry.

One thing I didn't think about, however, and wish I'd put in the original post, is that plenty of fat people themselves support regulation like this. It's not just a matter of feeling alarmed about what is happening to other people. Some of this is alarm about one's own body. People cannot control their own weight, so it must be some outside force making them fat. This failure to take personal responsibility is a downward spiral. There will never be enough regulation to make people thin. After every ban, people will wolf down whatever is still legal, and then cry for more help. If you keep an honest tally of how many calories you consume, you'll see it's your own fault if you're fat. It may be a terrible fault to overcome, but it is still your fault. If you think it isn't, it will only become harder to overcome.

Which may be why people are getting so fat. They've been lured into thinking that their bodies are not their own responsibility.

December 8, 2006

"Clearly, the worst day was Abu Ghraib..."

"... seeing what went on there and feeling so deeply sorry that that happened." -- Donald Rumsfeld, leaving office.

"Why Women Aren't Funny."

Christopher Hitchens purports to explain:
For women, reproduction is, if not the only thing, certainly the main thing. Apart from giving them a very different attitude to filth and embarrassment, it also imbues them with the kind of seriousness and solemnity at which men can only goggle....

Men are overawed, not to say terrified, by the ability of women to produce babies. (Asked by a lady intellectual to summarize the differences between the sexes, another bishop responded, "Madam, I cannot conceive.") It gives women an unchallengeable authority. And one of the earliest origins of humor that we know about is its role in the mockery of authority. Irony itself has been called "the glory of slaves." So you could argue that when men get together to be funny and do not expect women to be there, or in on the joke, they are really playing truant and implicitly conceding who is really the boss....

If I am correct about this, which I am, then the explanation for the superior funniness of men is much the same as for the inferior funniness of women. Men have to pretend, to themselves as well as to women, that they are not the servants and supplicants. Women, cunning minxes that they are, have to affect not to be the potentates....

Childbearing and rearing are the double root of all this.... As every father knows, the placenta is made up of brain cells, which migrate southward during pregnancy and take the sense of humor along with them....
He's trying to make me say "That's not funny" to prove his point, right? And, if I say he's pissing me off, that's just my womb making me take things seriously, right?

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick.

RIP.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said that Kirkpatrick, who had a reputation as a blunt and acerbic advocate, "stood up for the interests of America while at the U.N., lent a powerful moral voice to the Reagan foreign policy and has been a source of wise counsel to our nation since leaving the government two decades ago. She will be greatly missed."

"We're going to buy Manhattan back, one burger at a time."

The Seminole Tribe buys the Hard Rock Café chain. It's payback time:

"What Britney's Crotch Did To My Stats."

Sissy's right. But I was just doing my usual thing of talking about Camille Paglia. I just hope Camille -- she of the dinner dis -- realizes that she has more currency around here than Britney's crotch.

BONUS LINGUISTIC INSIGHT: I do not like the word "crotch" to refer the body part in question. Here's the dictionary definition:
crotch

NOUN: 1. The angle or region of the angle formed by the junction of two parts or members, such as two branches or legs. 2a. The area on a pair of pants, underpants, or shorts where the two leg panels are sewn together. b. A piece of material sewn into a pair of pants, underpants, or shorts that joins the legs. 3. The fork of a pole or other support.

ETYMOLOGY: Possibly alteration of crutch and partly from Middle English croche, crook, crosier (from Old French croche, hook, shepherd's crook, feminine of croc, hook; see crochet).
See? To refer to the vulva as a "crotch" is to wish it out of existence, to see it as simply the place where one leg becomes the other leg!

Now, go crochet yourself a pair of panties, and beware of the female crocodile... and the vagina dentata.

"Apocalypto" is not "Aguirre."

From the NYT review of Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto":
When I first heard about this project, and later when I saw the early trailers, I halfway hoped that Mr. Gibson might turn out to be an American (or half-Australian) version of Werner Herzog, setting out into the jungle to explore the dark and tangled regions of human nature. Once you get past the costumes and the subtitles, though, the most striking thing about “Apocalypto” is how comfortably it sits within the conventions of mainstream moviemaking. It is not an obsessive opera like Mr. Herzog’s “Aguirre: The Wrath of God,” but rather a pop period epic in the manner of “Gladiator” or “Braveheart,” and as such less interested in historical or cultural authenticity than in imposing an accessible scheme on a faraway time and place.
"Aguirre: The Wrath of God" is on my very short list of favorite movies. (See my profile.) That "Aguirre" even gets mentioned in the review makes me more likely to partake of the new Mel-o-drama, even if the mention is only to say it's not quite like it.

F*!#ing trippy!

"Pulp Fiction" condensed into (nearly) all f-word form. (Of course, it's NSFW.) It's surprising just how long it takes to get through, and how much delightful variety there is in the simplicity. (Via Throwing Things.)

AND: The commenters at Throwing Things note the same thing was done with "The Big Lebowski" and "Scarface." I think the "Pulp Fiction" one is clearly best. More delightful variety, as I said.

"A new musical is said to have opened last night on Broadway. I mean, I saw it. Or I think I did. It’s called, uh...."

Ben Brantley signals that he's offering up another contender to the meanest bad review ever.

The show is "High Fidelity." (Eh! I didn't even like the movie.) And I see it has the lyrics, "Nothin’s great, and nothin’s new, but nothin’ has its worth." Almost a "Porgy and Bess" paraphrase, isn't it?

Why Bush (the Elder) cried.

Peggy Noonan says:
[N]o one who knows George H.W. Bush thinks that moment was only about Jeb....

Surely Mr. Bush knew--surely he was first on James Baker's call list--that the report would not, could not, offer a way out of a national calamity, but only suggestions, hopes, on ways through it. To know his son George had (with the best of intentions!) been wrong in the great decision of his presidency--stop at Afghanistan or move on to Iraq?--and was now suffering a defeat made clear by the report; to love that son, and love your country, to hold these thoughts, to have them collide and come together--this would bring not only tears, but more than tears.
She goes on to speculate about the younger Bush's feelings:
He has been shorn of much--his place in the winner's circle, old advisers. A man who worked for Richard Nixon reminded me the other night that when Nixon fired Haldeman and Ehrlichman, "he lost his asbestos suit." He lost his primary protectors and loyalists. President Bush is now without a similar layer. Old staffers gone, Rumsfeld gone, Cheney marginalized, Condi and Karen off representing. And the ISG. And the loss of Congress.

And yet the president presents himself each day in his chesty way, with what seems a jarring peppiness.
Why hasn't the ordeal registered on George W. Bush's face? His foes would, I think, say it's a sign of his idiocy. He's too shallow and witless to have processed the information. His fans must think it's depth of character (if not divine inspiration). Peggy says:
It is part of the Bush conundrum--a supernal serenity or a confidence born of cluelessness? You decide. Where you stand on the war will likely determine your answer. But I'll tell you, I wonder about it and do not understand it, either what it is or what it means. I'd ask someone in the White House, but they're still stuck in Rote Talking Point Land: The president of course has moments of weariness but is sustained by his knowledge of the ultimate rightness of his course . . .

If he suffers, they might tell us; it would make him seem more normal, which is always a heartening thing to see in a president.

But maybe there is no suffering.

Maybe he outsources suffering. Maybe he leaves it to his father.
I haven't heard an "outsourcing" joke in a while. Not that that's really a joke. It's nothing all that special for parents to suffer for their children. Once our children are not babies anymore, we have to release them into the world and see what happens. It's a dangerous thing about having children. It's like having a second body that can experience pain, but you can't control what that body does. You can't avoid that pain. But your suffering as a consequence of what happens to them doesn't save them from pain. It may make it worse. Didn't you refrain from telling your parents things that would only make them feel bad? If your parents are deceased and something bad happens to you, don't you think about how they didn't have to suffer the pain of knowing that? So it's a joke-like end to a column that raises a serious question: Why hasn't wartime presidency ravaged GWB the way it ravaged Lincoln, LBJ, and Nixon?

IN THE COMMENTS: Some excellent answers to that last question. Sean says:
Repeating what others have said, George Bush is a child of privilege. People like that (I am one) never worry, because we are Fortune's children. Roosevelt wasn't ravaged by WWII.

And Ed serves up the red meat for the conspiracy theorists.

Pass the squash.

Page 6 (via The Corner):
[John] Kerry, who desperately wants to run again for president, had a dozen big-bucks Democrats to his Georgetown townhouse for pot roast and butternut squash.

According to a source who knows one of the attendees, Kerry started off by asking guests if he should run or not: "When no one answered, he launched into a speech about why he was the best candidate."
More squash, please?

Bloggingheads.

What's going on over at Bloggingheads.tv? Bob Wright asks himself a question -- "Where's Mickey?" -- and answers:
Excellent question! Normally a Bob-and-Mickey diavlog would be showing up about now, but this week Mickey phoned in with a lame excuse. Bob, in a desperate attempt to appease Mickey's fans, has lined up several non-lefty bloggingheads for the remainder of the week: Jonah Goldberg, Ann Althouse, and a well known conservative blogger mystery guest who will be making his bhTV debut in a diavlog with Bob. Also debuting will be globetrotting foreign correspondent Joshua Hammer. If all goes according to plan (Hah!), one of these three diavlogs will show up some time tonight. --Dec. 7
So it's a veritable Bloggingheads logjam (of the Mickeyless kind). It takes a while for them to put the video together for a Bloggingheads episode. Apparently, it's a technical feat of some difficulty. I recorded a diavlog at 10 a.m. yesterday, but the video that went up last night is Bob with Joshua Hammer. If mine goes up next, it will be quickly pushed down from the top spot by that third one. So I guess it's better to come in third.

I have this blogger's angst about all the topics going stale. Blogging makes you feel that everything must go up immediately. But Bloggingheads is more like the podcast. You look back over what you blogged about recently to come up with some topics, then you talk about that... and digress. Did we get some good digressions in? I think so. I had to listen to my recording to pick the segment breaks and titles, but that mean I only heard my side of the diavlog, with all the long empty spots. Something makes me roll my eyes way more conspicuously than I've ever done on Bloggingheads. Anyway, stay tuned.

UPDATE: Actually, the news is that Jonah's computer crashed! I still have my end of the conversation, with me rolling my eyes at now I'll never know what. As Jonah puts it:
Due to technical disasters at Bloggingheads HQ, my hour long conversation with Ann Althouse for BloggingHeads has been lossed [sic] to history forever. We discussed everything from transgender issues to "liberaltarians" to the author of The Conservative Soul. Gone, gone forever.
Except my side. Someone could take my video and add an audio track making up amusing stuff for the other side of the conversation.... A project that would appeal to my blogger-enemies, probably.

Anyway, it was great fun talking to Jonah! Wish you all could have listened in.

Vote.

I hope you realize you can vote for me every day here.

UPDATE: Hey, check out this email I just received from Will Hinton:
I am thrilled to announce that Good Will Hinton has been picked as a finalist for Best Centrist Blog for the 2006 Weblog Awards. This nomination is a reflection of all the great contributors, commentors, and readers here. Unlike some of the other nominees, I'm not sure that many of the individual contributors or commentors are particularly centrist in their viewpoints. However, as a collective group, we represent a centrist rhetoric with the desire for charitable and reasonable dialogue with those we disagree with.

Big thanks go out first of all to Expat Teacher, with whom I have had a ongoing debate with for almost two years. I consider Mike a friend and greatly appreciate his good faith participation and the daily challenge he provides me.

I'd also like to recognize the great contributions of Curt Portzel, Dustin Kidd, Joseph Knippenberg, Jim Keffer, Rusty Tanton, Amber Rhea, Marc Porlier, gurufrisbee, CAC, Scott McD, jpe, and Brian Janaszek for their posts and comments. I am amazed at the conversations that have taken place over the past week or so that, in any other place, would have degenerated into terrible flame wars, but have been examples of people from opposite ends of the political/social/religious spectrum being willing to engage one another.

So now the voting begins to determine the winner. The voting lasts for the next ten days. I would greatly appreciate your vote for Good Will Hinton each of the next ten days so that we can have a good showing. Your vote will show that you have faith and hope for a renewed civil public square.
A vote for me, on the other hand, symbolizes what broad propositions and general principles? I mean, what does voting for me say about you? Does it mean you're -- gasp! -- not a good person? Does it mean you're not all about faith and hope? It's the Weblog Awards, your chance to reaffirm values. Or just vote for the blogs you like to read.

Now, are you going to interpret the Wisconsin marriage amendment to preclude domestic partner benefits?

Wisconsin voters have approved the anti-same-sex marriage amendment, despite arguments about how damaging it would be to the university to preclude us from extending domestic partnership benefits. Now, the time for broad interpretations of the text is over, and the new interpretation is, of course, narrow:
In an effort to retain and attract quality staff members, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents voted Thursday to ask for domestic partner benefits for university faculty members....

UW System President Kevin Reilly ... pleaded with the governor and state Legislature to amend state statutes to provide for domestic partner benefits, calling it an issue of basic human fairness and the ability to stay globally effective....

The regents briefly addressed concerns about the state’s gay-marriage amendment, which voters affirmed in November banning gay marriage and the recognition of similar partnerships.
A key source for the narrow interpretation, of course, will be the proponents of the amendment:
The amendment’s author, Rep. Mark Gundrum, R-New Berlin, said in a previous interview with The Badger Herald that the ban does not necessarily prevent domestic partner benefits.

“If done correctly, the amendment would not preclude those benefits,” Gundrum said.

What did you expect?

A Yale docudrama.

By David Lat. A hilarious and devastating depiction, allegedly "fictionalized" and allegedly "loosely based on what we've heard," of how it came to pass that this year's Yale Law School Award of Merit is not going to Samuel Alito.

UPDATE: Lat has more on Koh and Greenhouse.

December 7, 2006

Johnny Blue Eyes.

[SPOILER!!!]

Gone! Damn! I loved that that rascal! So, now, my love is split only two ways: Yul and Ozzy.

A judge might order a scene cut from the "Borat" DVD.

Outrageous!

Camille Paglia on... it's not my word.... "crotchgate."

Hey, it's mainstream media! It's Us Magazine. If it offends you, don't read on. I haven't been talking about "crotchgate," though I've noticed it, and I've thought you might want to talk about it, but it hasn't made it to the blog yet for any number of reasons. But now, Camille Paglia wants to talk about it, so... what the hell?... it feels sort of compulsory:
On how [crotchgate is] affecting feminism:

"These girls are lowering themselves to the level of backstreet floozies. It angers me because I fought a bitter fight to get feminism back on track and be pro-sex at the same time. This is degrading the entire pro-sex wing of feminism."
I love the way she thinks: 1. that she caused the whole trend, and 2. that she could start a trend and then keep it right in the ideal zone where it would benefit but not hurt women.
On how it’s affecting their reputation:

"I am completely appalled by what these young women are doing because I think that they are cheapening their own image and obliterating all sexual mystery and glamour, which are the heart of the star system."
The great stars need to maintain their grandeur. Nevertheless, there's another route, and you can get somewhere that way too. How else would Paris Hilton be anything?
On how Hollywood’s changed:

"These are women who are clearly out of control because the old studio era is over. The studio system...guided and shaped the careers of the young women who it signed up. It maximized their sexual allure by dealing it out in small doses and making sure you don’t have -- what has become here -- a situation of anarchy."
Anarchy! It's so easy. Just don't wear underpants.
On Madonna:

"Madonna was able to flash her breasts and play peek-a-boo because she is an authentic, creative artist who churns out song after song, project after project… but Britney seems like she’s lost and the career track is obliterated."
Madonna gets special privileges. She's an artist. You can tell by all the churning. Really, it's not the workaholism that makes Madonna an artist. It's the genuine creative touch (tainted as is it with untold foolishness).

As to the young celebs caught up in crotchgate.... They've grabbed your attention. They are the fixation of the whole world right now. That's something. It doesn't matter at all, really. But it's an impressive feat, however pointless.

ADDED: More here -- discussing the crotch-webtraffic connection and the "junctions of two parts or members" that is the "crotch," a term I reject, even without the "-gate."

YET MORE: Camille Paglia has been linking herself to Madonna for 16 years. I remember seeing this NYT op-ed back in 1990 (TimesSelect link). I remember talking about it then and wish I could have blogged about it at the time! So look at what Paglia said about Madonna and feminism and think about how well her "pro-sex feminism" connects to the crotchgate floozyism she now decries:
Madonna is the true feminist. She exposes the puritanism and suffocating ideology of American feminism, which is stuck in an adolescent whining mode. Madonna has taught young women to be fully female and sexual while still exercising total control over their lives. She shows girls how to be attractive, sensual, energetic, ambitious, aggressive and funny -- all at the same time....

Contemporary American feminism, which began by rejecting Freud because of his alleged sexism, has shut itself off from his ideas of ambiguity, contradiction, conflict, ambivalence. Its simplistic psychology is illustrated by the new cliche of the date-rape furor:" 'No' always means 'no'. " Will we ever graduate from the Girl Scouts? "No" has always been, and always will be, part of the dangerous, alluring courtship ritual of sex and seduction, observable even in the animal kingdom.

Madonna has a far profounder vision of sex than do the feminists. She sees both the animality and the artifice. Changing her costume style and hair color virtually every month, Madonna embodies the eternal values of beauty and pleasure. Feminism says, "No more masks." Madonna says we are nothing but masks.

Through her enormous impact on young women around the world, Madonna is the future of feminism.

Top 10 Funniest Political Moments of 2006.

They are pretty funny. (Via Instapundit.) But I bet we could come up with 10 more that are just as funny.

(Spare me the predictable and boring attempts at humor like the first comment at the link.)

"The Florida Supreme Court tossed Seminole County Judge John Sloop off the bench..."

"Sloop had been fighting for his job since he ... ordered 11 people to jail because they were late for court. It turned out they were sent to the wrong courtroom by a courthouse worker. Even when presented with the facts, Sloop didn't get them released and many of them sat in jail for hours." Sloop managed to hang on for 2 years.

School's out...

... for the winter.



Or, like, until the day after Martin Luther King Day. Still, there are lots of things that need to be done. But some key things are very nearly done. And as for today, well, it mostly feels like all the other weeks this semester, because my schedule's been to have my classes only on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Anyway, this sign will be on my door in about an hour. It's finally another Bloggingheads.tv day. You'll just have to wait and see who my split-screen-mate is. But feel free to guess. Hint: not a repeat.

"America's made up of choice..."

"You know, what is good for you? It's your own body that can tell what's good for you." (Via Metafilter.)

"A transparent scrim ... created a step back, a first, transitional distance."

Beautiful post, Amba.

"Jake was treated like a second-class citizen because he was IZ."

Life in Madison, complete with Inclusionary Zoning.

"The appearance of Little Fatty is a milestone for the internet."

BBC reports.

"It seems so simple - blocking the sense of smell and taste."

Now, here's a truly sad weight loss idea. Shouldn't we go in the opposite direction? Make very tasty dishes that are satisfying in smaller amounts.

The "bloggerlike behavior" at Evite.

As invitations are set up to encourage a reply that all the other recipients can see:
And while some people simply refuse to respond to Evite invitations, countless others find themselves composing clever detailed responses that require so much effort, they end up R.S.V.-Peeved.

Just last week Carolyn Fitzpatrick, 32, a retired lawyer from Wollaston, Mass., spent 20 minutes drafting a “no” response to an Evite.

“Twenty precious minutes,” said Ms. Fitzpatrick, the mother of a 3-month-old and a 2-year-old. “Do you have children? You don’t understand what 20 minutes to yourself is.”

So why bother?

“There’s pressure,” Ms. Fitzpatrick said. “You’re on stage.”
Ha. You don't sound too "bloggerlike" to me. The article goes on to print the chirpy regret she took 20 minutes to write and how much personal vanity she invested in the project. I suspect that the author of this NYT "Style" piece is friends with Fitzpatrick, heard her tale of tiny woe and then got the idea to concoct the "Style" piece.

Well, do people want to go to parties or not? Why not send out invitations for parties that will never even exist and just create a forum for everyone you know to write a message bragging about all the things they are so busy doing this time of year?

"It is a report to solve American problems, and not to solve Iraq's problems."

Iraqis respond to the Iraq Study Group's report.
For months, the Bush administration has pressured the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to take steps toward bringing the warring groups together and tackle Iraq's violent militias and corruption. But the Iraq Study Group recommends withdrawing U.S. support if the Iraqis fail to show advances....

For some Iraqis, the statement suggested that the report's authors did not grasp, or refused to acknowledge, the diverse ambitions, rivalries and weaknesses that plague the government. The Kurds have dreams of creating an independent state. The Sunnis appear leaderless, yet seek a political voice. The Shiites are riven by feuds. There are disagreements over partitioning Iraq, over whether to restore members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to their old jobs, over whether amnesty should be given to opponents of the government and the U.S. occupation....

Sammarai, the Sunni lawmaker, said the Bush administration has a responsibility to fulfill its pledge to bring democracy to Iraq, in which minorities will have a voice. "Because of their mistakes, it is so complicated now," Sammarai said. "Now, they say, 'We're going to leave the Iraqis to solve their problems.' "

December 6, 2006

"To some people in the office I could be considered borderline tragic."

"I figure life is short, so why not enjoy the frivolous, ridiculous side of it."

Hmmm.... maybe I need a lap dog.
I could sneak it into cafés, stow it under my desk in the office, prop it up on the lectern during class... don't we want doggies everywhere? As long as they're tiny.

"Daddy, the whores need to be paid."

No one should ever have to say that. But, good luck to Rain.
She is the daughter of an exceedingly complicated African American icon... and an equally complicated blond, blue-eyed Jewish woman who fervently believed that she was black....

When she was 4, her mother introduced Rain to her father.... [H]e took one look at her and said, "Ain't denying this one's mine!"...

"So yeah... he was misogynistic, mercurial, unpredictable and violent. But he was also my daddy, and sometimes, when he held me close, I looked into his big sad eyes and I knew he loved me. And that's the part I want to remember."

I

approve.

UPDATE: Too much complexity!!

The "Stupid" Dialogue.

Q: Is it not "incredibly lame" -- as you yourself said -- to call your opponent stupid?

A: You forgot the part about how I said it was "an admission that you have no substance."

Q: Yeah, well, then, that too.

A: And you forgot the part where I called Glenn Greenwald "such an idiot" and a "moron." ("Disreputable slimeball" is another matter altogether.)

Q: Yeah, yeah, yeah, all that too. So you admit, don't you, as you must, that you are a hypocrite?

A: First of all, if this was a contradiction, I'd own up to it. It provides an occasion to look appealingly self-deprecating and to quote Walt Whitman. (I am large. It's the blogs that got small.) But it's not a contradiction, for two -- at least two -- huge reasons. First, you have to see the two statements in context. I said "calling your opponent stupid is incredibly lame... an admission that you have no substance" in response to someone who made no argument other than to call me stupid. It was the sum total of his argument. I called Glenn Greenwald an idiot and a moron in the context of a 152-word paragraph that stated a substantive argument. You can object to the epithets because they were epithets, but not because they revealed a lack of substance. The substance was also there, and the substance established the stupidity of what Greenwald had written. Second, Greenwald's post was titled "The meaninglessness of tenure" and intended to be personally insulting to me. My retaliation with cheap insults was meant as a taunt, as a way to say "same to you, &*%#!" It was ironic, a way of saying -- not that everyone got this -- I don't normally stoop to your level, but today I feel like making an exception, &*%#!

Q: I don't get it.

A: That's not a question.

Q: Yeah, but I don't get it.

A: You're an idiot.

Thanks!

The 2006 Weblog Awards

Am I in the right category?

James Kim.

It's so sad to read about James Kim, who set out to save his family and did not even have the chance to know, as he was dying, that his wife and daughters would survive.

"I can't get past the fact that she's an abusive maniac who can’t tolerate insolence, no matter how inadvertent."

When divas collide.

"Thousands of Taco Bells Toss Green Onions."

Okay, then, let's have some music to throw out food by:

"Grave and deteriorating."

Iraq.

ADDED: For a version of the report with linkable HTML pages, go here.

“Like a bag full of genitals."

That's Will Self's description of his own face. Brilliant! Self-deprecation is so appealing... when it's done just right. And that's perfect. His new novel sounds pretty cool too:
“The Book of Dave” (Bloomsbury USA), is about a London cabdriver who inadvertently founds a religion when a ranting diatribe he buries in the garden of his ex-wife is dug up five centuries later, in a now post-apocalyptic world, and becomes a sacred text. Mr. Self’s own text is immensely learned in cabbie lore and even creates a cab-based “Clockwork Orange”-like language, in which the sun is the “foglamp,” for example, and the moon an “édlite.”
Perfect! Also in the article: Self arrives at Kennedy Airport and walks to his hotel in Manhattan. (See the photo of him on the Brooklyn Bridge, with just a slim book bag.) He used to consume lots of drugs and alcohol, but now he walks a lot: "But I’m not addicted... I don’t need to score a walk." Well, maybe you'd walk the 20 miles from airport to hotel if you had the NYT personnel accompanying you, taking note of your every observation. But how could your observations be as good as Self's?
[H]e caught a whiff of subway. “Ah,” he said. “The afflatus of the city’s bowels — now we’re getting into the real body of the city.”

"Things without trans fat are harder to get and more expensive."

Says O’Neil Whyte of Sweet Chef Southern Styles Bakery in Harlem, "This will be better for people’s health, but we’d like to know where to go from here." So you can't cook with Crisco anymore? That's crazy! Is there no respect for tradition? Of all the elitist regulations, this one takes the cake. And the pie crust.

(I know there's a new Crisco without trans fat. It's got more saturated fat instead. How long before we find out that the solution is worse than the problem?)

New York gets cold feet about subjective gender.

You start out wanting to be generous and benevolent and responsive to individuals with difficulties, but sometimes you have to face up to the practical problems:
New York City’s Board of Health unexpectedly withdrew a proposal yesterday that would have allowed people to alter the sex on their birth certificates without sex-change surgery.

The plan, if passed, would have put New York at the forefront of a movement to eliminate anatomical considerations when defining gender. It had been lauded by some mental health professionals and transgender advocates who said it would reduce discrimination against men and women who lived as members of the opposite sex.

But after the proposed change was widely publicized recently, board members and officials with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said that a surge of new concerns arose. Vital records experts said that new federal rules regarding identification documents, due next year, could have forced the policy to be scrapped.

Health officials said patients at hospitals asked how doctors would determine who would be assigned to the bed next to them. And among law enforcement officials, there were concerns about whether prisoners with altered birth certificates could be housed with female prisoners — even if they still had male anatomies.

“This is something we hadn’t fully thought through, frankly,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner. “What the birth certificate shows does have implications beyond just what the birth certificate shows.”

''We got complaints. It is controversial.''

The bus shelter made to smell like cookies:
Some critics expressed concern over potential allergic reactions. Others complained the ads could be offensive to the poor and homeless who can't afford to buy sweet treats.

Scented oils were sandwiched between cardboard cards emblazoned with ''Got Milk?'' and affixed to shelter walls, in hopes that the smell of just-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies would spark cravings for milk. The promotion was launched at five San Francisco bus shelters at a cost of about $30 per shelter.

Got milk? No, got whine.

That "austere, voice-of-God detachment... muffles personality, humor, accumulated insight—all the reasons reporters tend to be fun to talk to."

John Harris has a problem with newspapers like The Washington Post, where he was political editor, and he's turning to a new project.

"Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information..."

Historian Kenneth Stein ends his 23-year association with the Carter Center over Jimmy Carter's new book, "Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid," the "inflammatory" title of which he cannot bring himself to put in his scathing letter of resignation. (Via Instapundit.)
Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book. Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information or to unpack it with cuts, deftly slanted to provide a particular outlook. Having little access to Arabic and Hebrew sources, I believe, clearly handicapped his understanding and analyses of how history has unfolded over the last decade. Falsehoods, if repeated often enough become meta-truths, and they then can become the erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and for policy-making. The history and interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is already drowning in half-truths, suppositions, and self-serving myths; more are not necessary.
Jimmy Carter is 82. A bizarre number of books have been published with his name on the cover. What is it, 20 since leaving the Presidency? Almost one a year! What is his role in the production of these rectangular objects? He needs to come forward with some honest information. Professor Stein deserves a response.

"A 'bill of particulars' against the Constitution."

Lawprof Sanford Levinson cites seven problems with the U.S. Constitution as a model for the rest of the world.
1. [The equal representation of the states in the Senate]...

2. [The Electoral College]...

3. Is it appropriate that a president can frustrate the will of a majority of both houses of Congress by vetoing legislation with which he disagrees on purely political grounds?...

4. Is it a desirable feature of the Constitution that the impeachment clause enables us to rid ourselves of a criminal president, but leaves us at the tender mercies of an incompetent one until the conclusion of his or her fixed term of office?...

5. Does it make sense that an incumbent defeated in a national election maintains the presidency for a full ten weeks beyond election day, fully capable of making policy decisions that may drastically effect [sic] the future of the United States?...

6. Do you really want justices on the Supreme Court to serve up to four decades and, among other things, to be able to time their resignations to mesh with their own political preferences?...

7. Do you support the ability of thirteen legislative houses in as many states to block constitutional amendments desired by the overwhelming majority of Americans and, potentially, by eighty-six out of the ninety-nine legislative houses in the American states?

This is the lead piece in a symposium in the Harvard Law & Policy Review. There are responses from Frank I. Michelman, Mark Tushnet, Adrian Vermeule, and Robin West.

"John Roberts, Centrist."

Jeffrey Rosen writes about the Supreme Court's "partial-birth" abortion case, over at TNR, where they title the article "John Roberts, Centrist" and display an excellent caricature of our high court hero. But what about our other high court hero? He's not in the title, but there's plenty about Justice Stephen Breyer:
In the oral argument, there was a dramatic gap between the liberal and conservative justices about how broadly to create a health exception. Roberts suggested that a marginal increase in safety wasn't enough to override Congress's interest in preventing D&X abortions as long as the D&E procedure was nearly as safe in most cases. Justice Stephen Breyer, by contrast, wondered aloud whether the Court might allow D&X abortions "only where appropriate medical opinion finds it necessary for the safety or health of the mother." And, in 2000, Breyer wrote for the Court emphasizing that D&X abortions had to be allowed as long as a "significant body of medical opinion" believed they might be safer for some patients. The Court had previously said the abortion itself had to be necessary for the woman's physical or psychological health; Breyer expanded this to say that, if a woman chose an abortion, she was entitled to the safest one in all circumstances.

If Breyer applies the same lax standard in this case, he risks calling into question his hard-earned reputation as the justice most deferential to Congress--since a minority of doctors believe that the D&X procedure is always safer than D&E. Between 1994 and 2000, Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg voted to strike down fewer federal laws than any other justice; and, in his recent book, Active Liberty, Breyer argues that judges should show restraint and modesty in the face of national disagreement, deferring to the decisions of elected representatives--especially those in Congress--in order to promote democratic deliberation. There was something unseemly about Breyer's announcement that he had asked his law clerks to tally up the numbers of medical experts who testified for and against the partial-birth ban at every stage in the case. He seemed to be allowing his progressive weakness for the rule of experts to trump his devotion to judicial deference to Congress. By allowing the federal ban to be enjoined only for specific categories of medical conditions in which substantial numbers of doctors believe that D&X abortions are safer than D&E abortions, Breyer could preserve his record as a principled defender of judicial restraint.
But the main point of the article is that John Roberts will find -- Rosen prompts him to go for -- a compromise, a narrow basis for decision that could bring the Court together over this devisive issue. The idea is that the new Chief ought to see his role in terms of avoiding divisions and that his success will be defined by his ability to achieve unanimous decisions:
Roberts's hero, Chief Justice John Marshall, convinced a group of unruly colleagues to converge around narrow, unanimous opinions that appeared to give a victory to one side while also acknowledging the claims of its bitter opponents. If Roberts follows Marshall's example and finds a deft compromise in the abortion wars, he will deserve the thanks of a grateful nation. And, if he fails, his vision of a Court that governs best when it governs most narrowly will be off to a bumpy start.
But this is all contestable. Marshall kept things narrow? Marshall gave the losing side respect? Which cases is Rosen looking at when he makes that assertion? And is narrow compromising Roberts's only path to greatness? Is it a path to greatness at all?

Restoring the Bamiyan Buddhas.

The huge task:
German restorers from the International Council on Monuments and Sites have spent two years carefully sorting through the debris from both Buddhas, lifting out the largest sections by crane — some weigh 70, even 90 tons — and placing them under cover, because the soft stone disintegrates in rain or snow. The smaller fragments and mounds of dust are carefully piled up at the side.

Reports that the Taliban had taken away 40 truckloads of the stone from the statues to sell were not true, said Edmund Melzl, a restorer. “From the volume we think we have everything,” he said. Yet only 60 percent of that volume is stone, he added. The rest crumbled to dust in the explosions.
A surprising fact:
The Buddhas were only roughly carved in the rock, which was then covered in a mud plaster mixed with straw and horsehair molded to depict the folds of their robes and then painted in bright colors.
To remain a world heritage site, the statues need to be rebuilt out of the old pieces -- up to 90 tons of material. Quite aside from the difficulty of the project, there is some question whether it is right to spend the money -- $50 million -- on this in such a poor country. And there must be some question -- though the article barely refers to it -- about whether people in a Muslim country want giant Buddhist sculptures in the open landscape. The Taliban hated them enough to destroy them. Even assuming that few Afghans supported the outright destruction of the statues, how much do they want them back, what do they think of all the outsiders who care so assiduously about it, and do they really want all the tourists?

But there is already a plan to put on a big laser show that will project images of the Buddhas into the empty niches, a plan that involves hundreds of windmills and is designed to supply electricity to the local citizens. Presumably, these projects are made palatable by offering poor people benefits that outweigh any opposition they might otherwise have. But I'd really like to know what the local people think of it aside from the economic benefits they will be promised. Does anyone ask them?

"You need a computer and a phone and suddenly you're part of a new mesh of people, programs, archives, ideas."

Internet!



IN THE COMMENTS: Exemplifying just what's so great about Internet, a few minutes after I posted this, someone from Norway weighed in with the Norwegian point of view:

They used a Swedish flag to signify the guy from Oslo. You'd think Canadians would be more sensitive to that type of error.

December 5, 2006

So happy in my Neanderthal world.

It's been a cool day here on the Althouse blog. First there was the NY Sun crossword puzzle, and now this:



For the new Althouse sideline, check this out, which got touched off here.

For the original Neanderthal post, go here.

And all this talk about Neanderthals has got me thinking:

Ancient doll.

Yesterday, I started to show you things from that old box of dollish things I dragged out of the cabinet. I can't quite identify this little doll from the 60s. We're in the Barbie era, but who is this? She's much smaller than a Barbie, about 6" tall. I used a scanner to take the photo, and though it's only by chance, the eerie look seems apt to me.

Ancient doll

"A true measure of a man is how you handle victory and how you handle defeat..."

Why does George H.W. Bush break down and cry? Is it really about Jeb? Or is he broken up about that other son?

Is it wrong for a disabled parent...

... to want a child with the same disability?
[S]ome parents had the painful and expensive fertility procedure for the express purpose of having children with a defective gene. It turns out that some mothers and fathers don’t view certain genetic conditions as disabilities but as a way to enter into a rich, shared culture....

Mary Ellen Little, a New Jersey nurse with dwarfism, had her first daughter before a prenatal test for achondroplasia was available. For her second child, she had amniocentesis. “I prayed for a little one,” meaning a dwarf, she told me.

The wait, she recalled, was grueling, since “I figured I couldn’t be blessed twice, but I was.” Both her daughters, now 11 and 7, are “little people.”

What's Angela wearing these days?

You know, Project Runway Season 3 Angela. I'm just wondering what she's been wearing lately.

I feel famous.

Now.

UPDATE: Now, you have to go to the archive search and select 12/05/2006 to find what I'm talking about. When you get there, see: 60 down.

"With the Christmas specials upon us, what's your favorite "special holiday episode" TV convention?"

Asks Television Without Pity:
  • The A Christmas Carol rip-off
  • The It's a Wonderful Life rip-off
  • The Miracle on 34th Street rip-off
  • The "Jesus is the reason for the season" lesson
  • The "It's better to give than to receive" lesson
  • The "There's no place like home for the holidays" lesson
  • The "Guitar-playing teen angel helps you and your mom care about the homeless, and rescue your embattled gay friend" episode
It's a poll, so go vote. If you know the basic TWOP rule of polls, you already know which one is going to win.

"I like-a this place. Very nice. When you make all the mens do a pyramid, can I be on top?"

The Borat deleted scene. Too risky for the movie. Now on YouTube.

"Smaxey."

Just one of those things that appeal to Dan.

"So what did Neanderthal women do all day?"

The usual evidence of division of labor by sex -- needles, small animal remains, grinding stones -- is missing, so anthropologists Steven L. Kuhn and Mary C. Stiner theorize that the women must have joined the men in hunting for large animals. But -- assuming the theory is correct -- don't cheer over the modern-seeming enlightenment of the Neanderthals. The Neanderthals died out, and our ancestors, with their division of labor, won the struggle for survival.

But there's an alternate theory:
A rival hypothesis proposed by Richard Klein of Stanford University holds that some cognitive advance like the perfection of language underlay the burst of innovative behavior shown by Upper Paleolithic people and their predecessors in Africa.

Why did the Neanderthals fail to adapt when modern humans arrived on their doorstep? Under Dr. Klein’s hypothesis, the reason is simply that they were cognitively less advanced.
Does this say anything about us? As you think about yourself and what we are, does it make any difference if the truth is as Kuhn and Stiner have it or as Klein does?

IN THE COMMENTS: Madison Man says: "I'm guessing that cognitively less advanced is anthrospeak for dumber. It must be too judgemental to call Neanderthals stupid -- even though that's what the adjective means!" It's funny that we feel that it's wrong to disrespect the Neanderthal. But I have that feeling!

ADDED: UW anthro professor John Hawks is reading the the Kuhn-Stiner paper. He comments:
[T]en years ago, we were arguing about whether Neandertals could hunt at all, or whether instead they were ineffective scavengers depending on carnivore handouts.

I suppose those days must be behind us, because now we read Neandertals were such committed big game hunters that they needed their females and kids to hunt along with them, which fatally compromised their ability to find and exploit small animals and plant foods.

Apparently it took some tropical mojo to make modern women realize they could eat plant foods like every other primate.

"There seemed little prospect that either the Louisville, Ky., or Seattle plans would survive the hostile scrutiny of the court’s new majority."

Writes Linda Greenhouse of the racial balancing cases argued yesterday:
Before the arguments on Monday, the challenge for the school board lawyers defending the plans, along with their allies in the civil rights community, had appeared to be to persuade the justices that the appropriate analogy was not to affirmative action, a freighted subject for the court in which benefits are bestowed on one group and withheld from another, but rather to integration, in which the goal is to educate everyone as equally as possible.

But by the end of the tense two hours of argument, that effort had not so much failed as it had become irrelevant. Lawyers for the school systems found themselves struggling, under the justices’ questioning, to meet the even more basic challenge of explaining why the plans should be seen as something different from the intentional segregation that the court struck down in Brown v. Board of Education.
Is it really so hopeless for the school districts? What did Justice Kennedy say?
While his questions suggested that he would not rule out any and all policies undertaken with a knowledge of the probable racial consequences, Justice Kennedy made clear his distaste for the policies at issue in these cases, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, No. 05-908, and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, No. 05-915.

To Mr. Madden, the Seattle district’s lawyer, Justice Kennedy said that unlike magnet schools, special resources, or school location decisions, “you’re characterizing each student by reason of the color of his or her skin.”

He continued: “That is quite a different means. And it seems to me that that should only be, if ever allowed, allowed as a last resort.”

"Gibson is a primitive all right, but so were Cecil B. DeMille and D. W. Griffith, and somehow we survived their idiocies."

Can we respect the art and put to the side what we know about the artist?

If "Apocalypto" is a great work of art, I want Mel Gibson to get full credit for it. Am I taking back what I said last summer, in a post titled Mel Gibson, you are discredited forever"? Not really. The point there was that what we know about the artist's mind belongs in our interpretation of his work. For that reason, what we learned about him had a very damaging effect on the meaning "The Passion of the Christ," which had already aroused suspicions of anti-Semitism.

What of Richard Schickel's idea of regarding Gibson as a "primitive"? Is this a label that works? Regard the man as an unruly beast who can't meet our normal social standards, and realize that art can spring forth from such a beast and that this art can be fresher and truer that what comes from artists with far greater character and refinement?

IN THE COMMENTS: Johnstodderinexile:
I sense that the Michael Richards incident has retroactively given Mel Gibson another chance....
I agree!

"Bond drives expensive supercars. Borat has a bodged-up old ice cream van of dubious origins with a bear in the back."

Who pays more for insurance?

December 4, 2006

Long blog posts.

I'm not impressed. Try harder. Edit.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lots of speculation about why I wrote this post. I eventually burst a bubble of suspicion. Then some people get into a brevity contest. Sippican suggests the ultimate, iconic, brief blog post. I am inspired to create the ultimate, iconic, brief blog.

Heteroclite.

Cellist and listener in Paris

John Althouse Cohen took this picture in Paris in 2005. It looks better in the enlargement, which you'll see if you click on the picture. What's with the post title? Click on the picture!

Things made by children for Christmas long ago.

Back in the 1950s, in the days before Barbie, my family lived in a little house in Brookside, in Newark, Delaware, and my sister and I played with "little dolls" -- Ginny Dolls. We had a dark green bookcase, and each shelf was considered a floor of the doll's house. It was elaborately furnished and decorated, and we were always making tiny things for them. I am surprised that some of the things still exist. Here are three Christmas stockings that we sewed by hand. They are only slightly larger than this picture shows them:

Hand-sewn Christmas stockings

Did your dolls celebrate Christmas? Did you play out stories of them anticipating the day? Did you have each doll give every other doll a present? Did you make the tiny presents yourself? We did. Here's a little teddy bear that my older sister made. It's actually smaller in real life:

Hand-sewn bear

It's hand-sewn and stuffed, with the details painted on. Why is the paint still so clear and bright, after nearly half a century? It's oil paint. Why did little kids have oil paint? Because we had paint-by-number sets, and we realized with could use the paint for our own purposes. I, for example, painted my nose blue, because I was inspired by a rustic character on the Walt Disney TV show -- "The Adventures of Spin and Marty" -- who used to say, "Well, I'll be a blue-nosed gopher." My sister painted the features on the exquisite little bear. Do you know what it's like to have an older sister?

Corporations with chaplains.

Is your employer tending to your soul?
From car parts makers to fast food chains to financial service companies, corporations across the country are bringing chaplains into the workplace. At most companies, the chaplaincy resembles the military model, which calls for chaplains to serve the religiously diverse community before them, not to evangelize.

“Someone who has never thought about this might assume they pray with people, but the majority of the job is listening to people, helping them with very human problems, not one big intensive religious discussion,” said David Miller, executive director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture and the author of the book “God at Work.”

The spread of corporate chaplaincy programs, especially out of the Bible Belt to the North, is part of a growing trend among businesses to embrace religion rather than reject it, Mr. Miller said. Executives now look for ways to build a company that adheres to certain Christian values. Some businesses offer Muslim employees a place and the time to pray during work.

Workplace chaplaincies are generally less costly to operate than the more familiar employee assistance program model of counseling and making referrals. Most chaplaincies also go beyond such programs to bring something of the local pastor to the workplace: the person who is on call around the clock to rush to the hospital when an employee has been in a car accident, or to find housing for families burned out of their houses, or to visit a worker’s relative in jail, even to officiate at weddings and funerals.

“You’re at work 8 to 10 hours a day, so that is where you spend a lot of your productive time,” said Tim Embry, owner of American LubeFast, a chain of oil change companies in the Southeast. “Work is where people are at and where they need to be cared for.”
Work is where people are at and where they need to be cared for. It's true, isn't it?

ADDED: Stephen Bainbridge opines.

MORE: Maggie's Farm likes the chaplaincy.

The crude oil spa.

Luxury, Azerbaijan style.
In her office overlooking the oil field that supplies Health Center, Gyultikin Suleymanova, the lead doctor, said the local crude was unusual because it contained little natural gas or other lighter fractions of petroleum, and as a result was safe.

Naftalan crude contains about 50 percent naphthalene, a hydrocarbon best known as the stuff of mothballs. It is also an active ingredient in coal tar soaps, which are used by dermatologists to treat psoriasis, though in lower concentrations....

Each bath uses about a barrel of crude, which is recycled into a communal tank for future bathers, given the cost of oil these days. [Bath master Arzu] Mirzeyev also uses paper towels to wipe bathers clean, a long, hard process that involves several showers....

The resort has 80 rooms and 10 tubs, 5 for women, 5 for men. The tubs are not scoured between baths and, as might be expected, have perhaps the world’s worst bathtub rings — greasy and greenish brown.
Oh, our spas are ridiculous too.

"'The office of student services has disapproved your transfer request' because it would 'have an adverse effect on desegregation compliance.'"

Do you accept that... well, not you, you're a 5-year-old boy... should your mother accept that? Crystal Meredith did not, she sued, and the Supreme Court hears oral argument today:
Her lawyer, Teddy Gordon, says... it "is a pure quota," adding, "We've color coded children."...

To supporters of the Louisville plan, diversity is more important in early grades than it is in college. Opponents counter that there are other race-neutral ways of achieving diversity -- such as assignment by socio-economic status. In school surveys, however, Louisville parents have rejected that approach as too intrusive, since it would require that families supply the school board with personal information.

What the parents want is important, the school board says. It points to the fact that white students were fleeing the Louisville public schools by the thousands until the board adopted a plan in the mid-1980s that combined race-conscious student assignment with choice. Suddenly, school attendance stabilized....

PTA board member Mary Myers says the race-conscious assignment plan has also equalized school resources. "My children do not have to sit next to a white child to learn," she says, "but they need the resources of that school," and under this system, "they all get the same resources."...

The Bush administration and its former solicitor general, Ted Olson, point out though, that before 1954, racially segregated schools were highly popular too. "To deny people opportunities on the basis of race because you've been re-elected by a high popular vote just won't cut it under the Constitution," Olson says.

The Constitution, he adds, requires that the government be colorblind. It cannot discriminate to offset societal discrimination. Frank Mellen, the school board's lawyer, says that's simplistic since the Louisville plan is an evolution of what the federal courts ordered until just six years ago.

"It would be odd," he says, "if what was legally required one day by a desegregation decree becomes forbidden another day when the court dissolves the decree."
There's much more at the link, and plenty of discussion elsewhere on the web about today's tremendously important cases. (The second case is about the Seattle schools.) Please read the whole article. Your comments here will be better if you speak to the specific details to the case and understand the context, even if it is your inclination to answer the question with a bright, ideological rule. Keep in mind that Judge Alex Kozinski, a judge who is highly respected by conservatives, approved of the Seattle program, writing that it "is not meant to oppress minorities, nor does it have that effect. . . . There is no attempt to give members of particular races political power based on skin color. There is no competition between the races, and no race is given a preference over another."

December 3, 2006

My cartoon environment.

On a concrete wall -- it's actually the art school -- in the snow... it's mysteriously evocative...

Speech bubble grafitti

Speech balloons unconnected to comic book characters...

In a café, I'm staring at the back of a young man with the Punky Color red hair of ten years ago:

Café redhead

Or is that Manic Panic?

ADDED: Tonya photographs my "Do Not Disturb" sign, which overlaps two postcards by the comics genius Mark Beyer.

Audible Althouse #73.

It's time for another podcast... about the odd last few days on the blog called Althouse... hints of life in the real world of the life of a blogger called Ann Althouse... wandering into a physical place where you get lost and can't find your way back, and the way that's like life itself, as you find yourself hopelessly separated from the past.

Stream it right through your computer here. But all the hardy, experienced outdoorsmen subscribe on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

"He can't get within a Glenn of me!"

"Glinks are links from guys named Glenn."

Those are just two quotes from me, in my 73rd podcast, talking about my irritation with Andrew Sullivan. Stay tuned! The podcast will be available shortly. And longly.

Disharmony, chaos, and the sin of "close proximity."

Cracking down on the bloggers in Malaysia.

"I'm sure that there are some conservatives out there who break out in hives when they hear a judge talking about activism."

Said Chris Wallace, interviewing Justice Stephen Breyer about his book "Active Liberty," on "Fox News Sunday" this morning. Breyer flipped out, turned bright red, and started accusing him of doing a right wing hit job. Just kidding. Can you even picture Breyer getting mad?

A taste:
WALLACE: Let's start with the title of your book, "Active Liberty." I'm sure that there are some conservatives out there who break out in hives when they hear a judge talking about activism. They get the idea you think it's OK to read all sorts of things into the Constitution so you get the results you want.

BREYER: I think the best description in one sentence of that title, "Active Liberty," is that the point of the book is we don't need activist judges; we do need activist citizens. And it's about not how judges should be activists. To the contrary, it's about how every citizen should participate in government.

WALLACE: But let's talk about that. Because in your book, you say that judges have various tools when they decide a case. And more important even than the language of the law, you say, are the purpose of the provision and the consequences of deciding it one way or another.

I want to put up a quote from your book and take a look at it, if you will. Here it is: "Since law is connected to life, judges, in applying a text in light of its purpose, should look to consequences including contemporary conditions, social, industrial and political, of the community to be affected."

Justice Breyer, when a judge takes it upon himself to interpret what purpose the founders, the framers meant when they put something in the Constitution, doesn't that allow them, a judge, to do almost anything?

BREYER: No, I think it's the contrary.

You see, it takes place in a context. I think whether you are a judge on my court or whether you are a judge on a court of appeals or any court, and lawyers too — and if you're interested in law yourself, you'll be in the same situation — you have a text that isn't clear.

If the text is clear, you follow the text. If the text isn't clear, you have to work out what it means. And that requires context.

The freedom of speech. Do you know what it means? Basically. But you don't know its entire content, and it doesn't tell you itself. Those words, "the freedom of speech," "Congress shall pass no law abridging the freedom of speech." Neither they, the founders, nor those words tell you how to apply it to the Internet.

So what can you use in a tough case to figure out how the First Amendment applies to cable television and requirements that cable carry over-the-air stations? How do you do it?

Taking the fest out of Festivus.

This was Governor Doyle last year, when Festivus meant something...



But now... now!... Michael Richards has taken away all the joy of the season. But was Festivus a season of joy in the first place?
GEORGE: ... It's a card from my dad.

ELAINE: What is it? (Grabs the card from George, he tries to stop her, but fails. She reads it out loud.) "Dear son, Happy Festivus." What is Festivus?

GEORGE: It's nothing, stop it..

JERRY: When George was growing up..

GEORGE: (Interrupting) Jerry, No!

JERRY: His father..

GEORGE: No!

JERRY: Hated all the commercial and religious aspects of Christmas, so he made up his own holiday.

ELAINE: Ohhhh.. and another piece of the puzzle falls into place.

GEORGE: (pleading) Alright..

JERRY: And instead of a tree, didn't your father put up an aluminum pole?

(Elaine starts laughing uncontrollably - and continues to do so)

GEORGE: Jerry! Stop it!

JERRY: And weren't there a feats of strength that always ended up with you crying?
No! It was for cranks and cynics. Was Kramer even involved? Yes, he was. As George's father (Frank) explains the holiday, Kramer is the one who gets into it:
FRANK: And at the Festivus dinner, you gather your family around, and you tell them all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year.

KRAMER: Is there a tree?

FRANK: No. Instead, there's a pole. It requires not decoration. I find tinsel distracting.

KRAMER: Frank, this new holiday of yours is scratching me right where I itch.

FRANK: Let's do it then! Festivus is back! I'll get the pole out of the crawl space. (Turns to leave, meets up with Elaine)
So, really, it is important for Governor Doyle to make it clear that he doesn't itch there.

Bloggers who take money from politicians.

A handy chart, showing who got money, how much they got, and the embarrassing ass-kissing quotes they dished up. More here:
The trend seems certain to continue in 2008. Potential presidential hopefuls like Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain already are paying big-name bloggers as consultants...

“This intersection isn’t going away,” Jerome Armstrong of MyDD, an elite blogger hired by campaigns, wrote earlier this year, “and I hope more and more bloggers are able to work to influence how campaigns are run.”
And more and more bloggers will sell out their credibility. Politicians: If you're worried a blogger might undercut your campaign, know that about $2,000 a month will not only cut off the criticism; it will buy you a stream of free ads, written by a free ad writer. What a bargain!

Those contemptuous atheists... why won't they be kind?

Nicholas Kristof -- in a TimesSelect column -- wants atheists to back off and quit pressuring religious people about their beliefs:
[There is] an increasingly assertive, often obnoxious atheist offensive led in part by [Richard] Dawkins — the Oxford scientist who is author of the new best seller “The God Delusion.” It’s a militant, in-your-face brand of atheism that he and others are proselytizing for....

[T]he tone of this Charge of the Atheist Brigade is ... contemptuous and even ... a bit fundamentalist.

“These writers share a few things with the zealous religionists they oppose, such as a high degree of dogmatism and an aggressive rhetorical style,” says John Green of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. “Indeed, one could speak of a secular fundamentalism that resembles religious fundamentalism. This may be one of those cases where opposites converge.”...

Now that the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars, let’s hope that the Atheist Left doesn’t revive them. We’ve suffered enough from religious intolerance that the last thing the world needs is irreligious intolerance.
The Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars? In-your-face atheists are "the Atheist Left"? Is this just a right-left political battle? I think at least some of this is a genuine debate about religion. Whether it's a cloaked political debate, a mixed political-religious debate, or purely a debate about religion, there is a place for pointed humor and harsh argument. I generally favor respecting religious beliefs. It's usually best not to go at religious people with mockery and contempt. For one thing, if you want to persuade people, it's usually better not to demonize them or call them idiots. But it's also a bad idea to stir up a lot of free-floating hostility. Nevertheless, we do need some strong voices in the mix, and I'd hate to live in a world where all the opinion was tamped down and moderated. I just hope that those who go in for mockery do it well. Dawkins is pretty good at it. He just needs more smart, tough people on the other side to joust with him.

Note: In an amazing deviation from the usual NYT approach, Kristof's column contains an actual hot link that sends you away from the NYT website. (It takes you to Why Won't God Heal the Amputees? (Which is a damned good question.)) The link is right in the second paragraph, demonstrating an astounding trust in the reader's ability to remember to come back and finish reading the column. Talk about faith!

ADDED: Like me, Kevin Drum is incredulous about Kristof's assertion that the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars.

"The memo will be spun in the usual ways; the best thing is to read it for yourself."

Says John Hinderaker of the Rumsfeld memo -- leaked and published in the NYT. Exactly. Read the memo yourself: here.

IN THE COMMENTS: Steven B says:
My conspiracy theory: The memo is a fake. I've read several different places that Rumsfeld despises acronyms, never uses them, and doesn't allow them to be used in documents he reads or dictates.

Ruth Anne says:
Stephen B: If your acronym theory is correct, here's another one that crept in, "Korean Katusas"

Katusa is an acronym for Korean augmentee to the U.S. Army.

Is that true about Rumsfeld and acronyms?

MORE: By the Sea writes:
I worked on Secretary Rumsfeld's personal staff for three years and at least the writing style is consistent with his. He does use acronyms, and especially in snowflakes, those nasty things that come drifting down from his office that ruin your chances of going home on time.

All I can say is based on writing style, it seems authentic.

"Lost in the Amazon."

Regular readers know -- unless you're skimming... and forgetting... -- that one of my favorite TV shows is "I Shouldn't Be Alive." In fact, this is the only show that I find myself telling other people to watch. (I used to tell people to watch "The Comeback," which is now off the air.) Part of it is that real-life situations can remind you of something that happened on "I Shouldn't Be Alive." Things go awry and you can say, You know, if this was "I Shouldn't Be Alive'... well, you know, all sorts of unfortunate decisions and bad consequences would ensue.

Usually, the characters on "I Shouldn't Be Alive" are hardy, experienced outdoorsmen taking on a tough challenge and running into some bad luck. The new episode, "Lost in the Amazon," is not like that. You have a young couple, fulfilling their dream of seeing the Amazon rain forest, starting out from a lodge, onto what they know know to be a 3-mile hiking path. All they have to do is stay on the path. Like little children, they become charmed by the cute animals they see and totter about pointing at things -- ooh, it's a toucan! -- until they realize they're not on the path. They have a compass, but they've left the map back at the lodge, and instead of preserving their awareness of their starting spot and meticulously exploring the possible ways back to the path or just staying put and waiting for rescue, they decide they're sure which direction on the compass point is the correct one and hike straight into the forest trying to go as far as they can. They trudge on for days, into unmarked forest, completely destroying any chance that people who go out to search for them can possibly find them. They keep going as if they've got a shot at coming out on the other side of the forest, when, if they remember anything about where they are, there could be nothing but 1000 miles of forest ahead of them.

In all the other episodes of the show, the tough guys with problems display an astounding will to live. Horribly crushed leg bones, -70 degree temperatures, an elephant stampede, trapped under a boulder.... they deal with it. "Lost in the Amazon" is different. These characters don't just give up, they get tired of struggling and decide to commit suicide! And their struggle, on the physical level, consists of foot blisters, unclean drinking water, mosquitoes, sleeping outdoors, and -- despite much talk of scary animals like jaguars and snakes -- a herd of little pigs. The man does a decent job of yelling at the pigs to make them go, and the woman has the good idea of straining the water through her bra cup. But mostly, they slap mosquitoes, keep walking (as if it's a solution), and talk about ending it all. They happen to run across a man in a boat who saves them, but this is right before the deadline on their suicide pact, which was premised on the notion I'd rather die than spend one more night in the forest.

I was picturing an alternate version of the couple who realize that they are so deeply lost that they may never get out and decide they will live out their lives in the forest. Build a camp, develop your hunting and gathering skills, and find a way to make life good. Wouldn't you get to the point where you'd look at each other and say Hey, we're Adam and Eve.