January 20, 2007

Analyzing the text of Hillary Clinton's announcement.

I listened to Hillary's announcement a couple of times, and I just want to say two things about the language.

1. "Basic bargain" seems to be her key slogan:
[I]t is time to renew the promise of America. Our basic bargain that no matter who you are or where you live, if you work hard and play by the rules, you can build a good life for yourself and your family.

I grew up in a middle-class family in the middle of America, and we believed in that promise.

I still do. I’ve spent my entire life trying to make good on it.

Whether it was fighting for women’s basic rights or childrens’ basic health care. Protecting our Social Security, or protecting our soldiers. It’s a kind of basic bargain, and we’ve got to keep up our end.
The repetition of "basic" jumped out at me. The phrase "basic bargain" appears twice, and "basic" reappears, connected to women's rights and children's health care. The idea of a bargain repeats in the word "promise," which is used twice, and the phrases "make good on it" and "keep up our end." So what is going on here? I'm sure these words were very carefully chosen. I think the "bargain" idea is a way demonstrate a commitment to social welfare policies without appearing to support handouts. People have to "work hard and play by the rules" and they have to have the right goal: to "build a good life." These are middle-class values for Middle America, you're supposed to see, and you can trust her to bring them to you because she's from a "middle-class family in the middle of America," and she's worked hard herself for what is good. The word "basic" is important, because it makes you think that she's not going to go too far with lavish programs. Just the basics, and only because people work hard and deserve it. But when they deserve it, government owes it: There's a bargain to live up to.

2. It's all about the dialogue, the chat, the conversation:
I’m not just starting a campaign, though, I’m beginning a conversation — with you, with America. Because we all need to be part of the discussion if we’re all going to be part of the solution. And all of us have to be part of the solution.

Let’s talk about....

And let’s definitely talk about...

So let’s talk. Let’s chat. Let’s start a dialogue about your ideas and mine.

Because the conversation in Washington has been just just a little one-sided lately, don’t you think? And we can all see how well that works.

And while I can’t visit everyone’s living room, I can try. And with a little help from modern technology, I’ll be holding live online video chats this week, starting Monday.

So let the conversation begin. I have a feeling it’s going to be very interesting.
You could say this is just... talk. It's pointless blather. Let's yammer and yak and jaw and babble. Let's chew the fat and confabulate. It'll be great. But if it's not nothing and it's something, I think it's a signal of openness — possibly as an antidote to the disease of calculation that everyone thinks she has and possibly to leave plenty of room to readjust any and all of her policies and proposals.

And let me add that I think she looked fine. It's not easy to sit on a comfy couch and not sink into the cushions and look like a blob or to sit too upright and look like someone who's trying not to sink into the cushions and look like a blob. She had reasonably natural, appropriate hand gestures. And her voice was decently modulated with some midwestern edge to it. She did a nice job of injecting the feeling of a smile into her voice at times, which had a good humanizing effect.

Al Pacino will play the part of Salvador Dali.

How surreal!

I can see it. Al can do what he wants.

Does the new Dakota Fanning movie violate the federal child pornography law?

It's a serious question. In the face of cries that the filmmakers should be prosecuted, the child actress is put forward to defend their film:
“That’s not who Lewellen is,” she said, sitting in her agent’s office in Universal City, braces on her teeth and a small crucifix over her sweater. “Because that has happened to her, that doesn’t define her. Because of this thing that has happened — that she did not ask for — she is labeled that, and it’s her story to overcome that and to be a whole person again.”

“There are so many children that this happens to, every second,” she added. “That’s the sad part. If anyone’s talking about anything, that’s what they should be talking about.”...

She added: “Lewellen is still very innocent, she’s still a child, but she’s also a little bit wise beyond her years because of the things she’s seen and been through. So I think that I should be able to do what I feel is at the right time for me.”

Speaking of which... Dakota Fanning is 13 years old. The law is there to protect her, not to support her free choice. I think it's exploitative even to use her to voice these arguments.

The linked NYT article refers to the Minor Consideration website run by Paul Peterson. He has this essay there:
It now appears Dakota Fanning was wearing a flesh-tone body suit (or a two piece suit) when she acted out the rape scene in "Hound Dog." Defenders of the production company were silent for two weeks when the controversy erupted, and now offer up this "cover up," days later, as proof that they were, in fact, concerned about the propriety of wardrobe worn in this rape scene using the talents of a twelve year-old child. These same voices are silent about what Dakota was wearing when she filmed the mutual masturbation scene. I keep pointing out to these people that it wasn't what Dakota was wearing, but what she was doing!...

I am trying to tell you that for a gifted child actor asked to portray a difficult emotionally loaded scene that over time there is NO difference between reality and pretend. In order to convince an audience to suspend disbelief you must, internally, believe utterly in the character and event you are portraying. That's the gift…and the curse.
ADDED: Here's a nice "Talk of the Nation" segment about child actors. I ran across it as I was looking for some information about how they get child actors to cry. I wanted to know how, for example, Chaplin got Jackie Coogan to cry in "The Kid"? Actually, in the clip they talk about how Vincente Minelli got Margaret O’Brien to cry in "Meet Me in St. Louis." (He told her that her dog had died.)

MORE: There's a lot of heated argument in the comments, so let me say that I think it's important not to assume we know exactly what Dakota Fanning was made to do in the film. Here's the director's defense of herself in Premiere Magazine:
"I think to some extent what they're accusing me of is putting Dakota through some ordeal or a simulation of rape, but that's not the case," says [Deborah] Kampmeier. "The scene was never run through from start to finish; it was shot in increments, over and over, never in a single take. The construction creates the impression of the violence, but doesn't represent the feeling on the set or something that might have traumatized Dakota, especially since there had been so much rehearsal.

Despite her problems financing the movie, Kampmeier was surprised by the vehemence of the reaction to its plot details. "I was naive — I had no idea this would come," she says. "Our decision was to not respond to any of it 'cause everything that's been written or said about us is false. But at a certain point it was so upsetting to read lie after lie and be powerless to change the public perception. I finally had to stop focusing on that and get back to the film."
It's quite a confusing story. Kampmeier complains that people are lying about her movie, but she also says that as she was seeking funding "No one wanted to touch the material" and that "potential investors... would... ask to remove the rape scene." She says she's upset about the misinformation, but refuses to provide the truth. The fact that everything said was a lie is the reason she gives for deciding to say nothing at all. There's something quite odd about that. And I don't understand the way she's acting so wounded. Her critics are people who care about the welfare of children. Why give them the cold shoulder? I assume the movie is intended to show concern about victimized children, so why act as if you actually don't care?

Hillary's in.

It's official. Did she announce early because of Barack Obama?
Her advisers this week have rejected the idea, spreading in Democratic circles, that she would rush to announce as a way to overshadow Mr. Obama, who has engendered intense Democratic interest as a steady critic of the Iraq war and as a skilled orator who comes across as a nonpartisan and unifying force in politics.

Like Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama is also poised to make history. If successful in the primaries, he would be the first African-American to win the Democratic nomination. He is her only real rival at this point in drawing huge crowds of voters at political stops and driving the 2008 political discussion in the media.

This past week alone has shown the ways that the Clinton and Obama candidacies are intersecting: He announced Tuesday and dominated political coverage in the media; she swept in on Wednesday, fresh from her trip to Iraq, and appeared on the network morning shows to talk about the war (pushing the news of his candidacy to second place); later that day, he issued a statement embracing a cap on American troops in Iraq, hours after she had made a similar proposal. And they are now both jockeying for donors in New York, Hollywood, and elsewhere.

"I don't buy the argument that, 'Oh, I wouldn't have acted so racist or anti-semitic if I'd known this film was being shown in America.'"

Says Sacha Baron Cohen about the people who are suing him over the film "Borat":
"This wasn't Candid Camera," he says. "There were two large cameras in the room."
It makes you wonder -- doesn't it? -- why we didn't hear about people suing Allen Funt all the time back in the "Candid Camera" days. Maybe people accepted the pranks because they were primed week after week with the jaunty theme song that instructed us to have a sense of humor:
When it's least expected - you're elected. You're the star today
Smile! You're on Candid Camera!
With a hocus-pocus - you're in focus. It's your lucky day
Smile! You're on Candid Camera!

It's fun to laugh at yourself. It's a tonic, tried and true.
It's fun to laugh at yourself as other people do.

How's your sense of humor? There's a rumor: Laughter's on its way.
Smile! You're on Candid Camera! Smile! You're on Candid Camera!
I don't know. Looking back at those lyrics -- and remembering the tune -- I get the feeling they are laying it on way too thick. It seems to tip us off that they are nervous that their victims will get mad or the viewers will think they are being too mean.

According to the producer of "Candid Camera," there weren't lawsuits and it was because "We never tried to embarrass people or put them in a precarious situation... We did much gentler things."

All that niceness and denial of any cruel edge make it less funny, though, doesn't it?

On Bloggingheads, we were talking about whether it was wrong to respond to Simon Cowell's invitations to laugh at people who look odd or are afflicted with delusional self-esteem. I had to say that part of what makes "American Idol" work is this feeling that it's wrong. That feeling that to laugh is to transgress is what makes you laugh.

Comedy is sadistic.

"She liked his quiet confidence; he didn't seem to be pushing too hard for the job."

Jan Crawford Greenburg tells the story of George Bush's Supreme Court appointments. Here's the part about Samuel Alito:
The call from the White House surprised Alito. Living in New Jersey, he had been insulated from the negative Washington buzz over Miers. He had absorbed the disappointment about being passed over and had come to terms with remaining a federal appellate judge. Alito didn't know that he had been Miers's choice for the O'Connor vacancy after Roberts got the nod for the top spot. She liked his quiet confidence; he didn't seem to be pushing too hard for the job. When Alito was nominated just four days after Miers dropped out, she greeted him warmly in the White House, moments before Bush introduced him as his next nominee.
Note the implication: Others lost favor by pushing too hard.

And here's Greenburg's conclusion:
Bush fulfilled his early vow to appoint justices in the mold of Scalia and Thomas. Together with those two justices, Alito and Roberts make the Roberts Court the most conservative Supreme Court in half a century. Roberts and Alito will not be as forceful as Scalia and Thomas on the bench or in their opinions; they are unlikely to push moderates away with their strong views. For that reason, they may be more effective than Scalia or Thomas in finally removing the court from the contentious social issues that conservatives think belong in legislatures. With the court now poised to recede from some of those divisive cultural debates, George W. Bush and his lawyers at the White House and Justice Department will continue shaping the direction of U.S. law and culture long after many of them are dead.
So, that seems to say, if there's any moderation in Roberts and Alito, it serves the function of making their conservatism more effective.

"Ciomu's case is a dangerous precedent for all Romanian doctors."

"In future doctors may have to think very carefully about what work they undertake." Yes, you wouldn't want medical malpractice liability to get out of hand. We all make mistakes. (Via Metafilter.)

Interesting caption under the photo....



Taking an oath of office with reservations attached.

Here in Madison:
The Madison City Council voted 13-4 Tuesday to offer those taking an oath of public office a formal way to protest Wisconsin's new constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions.

The resolution, passed after 45 minutes of debate, allows officials to make a supplemental statement to the oath that notes they took it under protest because they disagree with the constitutional amendment passed by 59 percent of Wisconsin voters in November.

The statement also says the oath-taker will "work to eliminate this section from the Constitution and work to prevent any discriminatory impacts from its application."

Bert Zipperer, president of the city's Equal Opportunities Commission, which brought the proposal to the council, said the vote was "an act of integrity" that "reflected a sense of hope that was deeply injured in November. This is not to undo the constitution. It's a voluntary statement for justice and liberty for all."

But Ald. Cindy Thomas, 20th District, who voted against the proposal, said the council's action set a dangerous precedent.

"You can't weasel your way out of your oath," Thomas said. "When people from afar hear about our vote on this, we will become a laughingstock."

Okay, people from afar: Are you laughing?

"Denny, you know there aren't many who can sing a song the way that you do..."

Goodbye to Denny Doherty.

The Mamas and the Papas, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, were one of the first major rock groups to include both women and men in equal performing roles, with Mr. Doherty, Mr. Phillips, Michelle Phillips and Cass Elliot striking an image of casual, collegiate friendship. In reality, they were a destructive tangle of love affairs, accompanied by plenty of drugs and alcohol.

“It was an untenable situation,” Mr. Doherty said in an interview with The New York Times in 2000. “Cass wanted me, I wanted Michelle, John wanted Michelle, Michelle wanted me, she wanted her freedom. ...”
Everyone loved Denny.

Here's Denny's own telling of the story of the Mamas and the Papas, if you can get to it. (I'm seeing "bandwidth exceeded.")

How well I remember when their first album came out. What an impression it made, including the amazing cover photo:

See the sign superimposed over the toilet. The original photo, with toilet in full view, was considered too scandalous. But we still have the four singers crowded into the bathtub. That's Denny, over in the corner, underneath the beautiful Michelle and the luscious Cass. What an amazing life lay ahead -- we thought -- if those four hippies could get in the bathtub together like that.

And drink out of the same hat:

"The Mamas and the Papas Deliver." What a great album!

Note the continuing theme of shared, water-containing vessels. What did that mean? Like everything else about the Mamas and the Papas, it meant a world of peace, love, and understanding, achieved through communal living and musical harmony.

Back in the real world, those sexual crosscurrents broke up the group. But there were a couple years -- 1966 and 1967 -- when they seemed exactly perfect. I'm sure my life would have been completely different if I had not gazed on those two album covers and heard the songs inside and wildly imagined what these people were singing about:
You gotta go where you wanna go,
Do what you wanna do
With whomever you want to do it, babe

January 19, 2007

Caricaturing Obama.

This is the first real caricature I've seen of Barack Obama. I find it amusing, and it reinforces my observation -- you can hear it in this Bloggingheads segment -- that he's bland.

O'Reilly on "Colbert" and Colbert on "O'Reilly."

There was a big media event last night. Did you notice? Let's watch.

Bill O'Reilly begins his segment -- which he calls "Culture War" -- by proclaiming that Colbert's "owes everything to me" -- which was hilariously Colbertish. Stephen Colbert is in character as the O'Reillyish ass he plays on "The Colbert Report." Colbert expresses his awe at being "in the holy of holies" -- that is, on "The O'Reilly Factor." O'Reilly begins by revealing the shocking results of his investigation: Colbert used to pronounce the "t" at the end of his name and changed to the Frenchy pronunciation after he came to Manhattan. Colbert admits it was a scheme to get the cultural elites on his side: "Bill, you know, you gotta play the game that the media elites want you to do, okay?" After much banter, including Colbert's claims that he's Irish, Bill -- who's being pretty funny and good natured, in fact -- yells "Who are you? Are you Colbert or Col-bear?" Colbert: "I'm whoever you want me to be."

Later, on Colbert's show, the segment is called "Great Minds Think Alike." The two men sit down in front of a "Mission Accomplished" sign. (Here's the video.) O'Reilly claims he's not a tough guy, really. "This is all an act." Colbert: "If you're an act, what am I?"

Nicely done, by both men.

"I'm Art Buchwald, and I just died."

Funny. He wants you to laugh. [ADDED: Hope the link works now. MORE: Actually, the Times is making it really hard to link to the video. Go here and then look for the video in the sidebar.]

AND: Here's Buchwald's last column, written to be published after his death. He has surprisingly little to say about death, perhaps nothing at all. He says a little something about life and about dying. He made a decision to forgo dialysis, and he says that decision was his and it was "healthy." He doesn't expound, and I suppose he means for us to find humor of this use of the word "healthy" when the decision would kill him. Not having dialysis was utterly unhealthy, but the decision could still be healthy. A decision is something that occurs in your mind.

"Who's the Conservative Now?" - a new diavlog.

I'm on Bloggingheads.tv again, this time in an extra-long diavlog with Bob Wright. So set aside an hour and a quarter and launch in, or proceed segment by segment:
The scourge of anti-Althousiana (03:04 minutes)

Iraq: Hangings, Hillary, etc. (13:48)

A Gore-Obama ticket? (05:37)

Non-Barack-backing blacks (04:17)

The Duke Case: Race, gender, and jocks (09:31)

Ann the feminist vs. Bob the reactionary (20:45)

The American Idol freak show (11:52)

January 18, 2007

Lost at age 8, found -- after living in the wild -- 18 years later.

Her father recognized her from a scar on her arm:
The reconciliation was a joyous one for the father, but apparently not for the daughter, who refuses to wear clothes or eat with chopsticks, fights off anyone who approaches, will not wash and has tried to escape back to the jungle.

Because she can apparently speak no language, it is impossible for her to explain who she is or how she has been living.

“It is not easy, but life is waiting ahead for her,” said Mr Ksor, a policeman who belongs to the Jrai ethnic minority group [in Cambodia]. He is optimistic about the future, and yesterday, six days after her discovery, the woman’s behaviour was said to be improving a little. “When she is hungry, she pats her stomach as a signal,” Mr Ksor said. “If she is not sleeping, she just sits and glances left and right, left and right.”

Physical assault, head shaving, a chocolate with a liver center...

Did you watch "Top Chef" this week? That was nutty!

AN ADDED, LAWPROFFY QUESTION: How many crimes were committed?

"If Hillary frames herself as the school-marm disciplinarian..."

Andrew Sullivan thinks she might do well. In left-handed compliment style, he adds: "It's ... an image more suited to her actual personality than anything resembling charisma."

That reminds me of the old saying: "Let Nixon be Nixon." Which worked.

Those dancing silhouette ads.

They own your brain.

Retaliatory grading by a Duke professor?

Consider this:
A former Duke lacrosse player has filed a civil suit against Duke University and a professor, charging that the teacher unfairly gave him a failing grade after an escort service dancer said she was raped at a lacrosse team party....

The lawsuit said [Kyle] Dowd and another lacrosse player -- neither of whom was charged in the sexual assault -- were in [Kim] Curtis' "Politics and Literature" class last spring. Before the scandal broke, the lawsuit said, both players were passing the course. But after the rape case made news, both players failed the final assignment, and Dowd's final grade was an F. The players were the only ones to receive F's, the lawsuit said....

The lawsuit said Kyle Dowd had a 3.4 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale going into his last semester at Duke. He got a C-plus and a C-minus on the first two papers in Curtis' class, according to the suit. Curtis had told students they would be graded on three papers and class participation, with each counting 25 percent toward the final grade.

When Dowd contested the grade, Curtis sent him an e-mail message saying she had failed him in class participation because he had missed the last month of the class, according to the lawsuit. Dowd had to miss five class sessions to meet with lawyers in the investigation that focused on the team, the lawsuit said.

You missed a month of class when class participation is 25% of the grade? It seems to me that you ought to have better evidence of the defendant's wrongdoing before you file a case... Hey! What does that remind me of?

ADDED: This post got a lot of comments, nearly all of them siding with the student and many of them criticizing me for seeming to side with the professor, so I'll say a little something more. First, this is a very minimal post. It does not directly express my opinion of the whole affair. So let me make several additional points that may let you see how I think about these things:

1. I don't like to see lawsuits, especially by students who are suing their teachers because they don't like their grades. At some point, I accept the need for lawsuits. For example, when I went to college, at the University of Michigan, one of the professors was reported to tell his students that women shouldn't become what he was teaching students to be and that therefore women could only get, at best, a B in his course. If these reports were true, he clearly deserved to be sued.

2. Complaining about your grade when you've missed a month of class looks very bad to me. His excuse -- that he was always meeting with lawyers -- sounds lame. Commenters who disagree are extracting material from his legal complaint. They need to recognize that they are looking at the student's version of the story. You should wait to hear all the facts before being so sure you know what happened. And if you don't see that you're acting like the people who assumed the truth of the prosecutor's side of the rape story, you need to think again.

3. Obviously, many teachers are biased in how they present material in class and how they judge what the students write. It may well be that Curtis has a very strong point of view and isn't fair to students who say divergent things, but I don't think students should sue teachers for that. Your remedies are mostly internal to the university. There is not a good role for courts to play here. Students will often say that a teacher has been "unfair," and they are sometimes right. But think what would happen if courts welcomed lawsuits like this. How many students would find ways to say their teachers had some personal grudge about them? Do you really want all these lawsuits? The cost of the lawyers for the teachers will need to be reflected in the tuition that all students pay.

4. The students who were involved in the Duke incident have reason to be outraged about what happened to them, but we should also see that they are playing hardball and that it is possible for them to go too far.

The Complainer, the Whiner and the Sniper...

What kind of difficult person are you? I mean, how do you deal with the difficult people in your life? Be careful answering. How can you answer without complaining, whining, or sniping?

This article is about all the self-help books about dealing with difficult people. I'll bet the difficult people themselves are buying a lot of them, don't you? I'm thinking that what makes them so difficult is that they think so many other people are difficult.

Several authors think it is useful to characterize infuriating people into types and prescribe ways to deal with them, as Robert M. Bramson did in 1981 in “Coping With Difficult People,” one of the first popular books on the topic. Its overarching lesson is to find a way to communicate with these people because they are not going away. Dr. Bramson lists seven difficult behavior types: Hostile-Aggressives, Complainers, Silent and Unresponsives, Super-Agreeables, Know-It-All Experts, Negativists and Indecisives.

"Everybody in the world says they’re going to do a television series based on us..."

"But then they realize that the story of four middle-aged men, with no sex and violence, is not going to last two weeks."

Senators Schumer, Durbin, and Miller and Representative Bill Delahunt live together.
The common bathroom upstairs is stocked with supersize bottles of Listerine, CVS cocoa butter, Suave shampoo (with dandruff control) and a hair dryer...

The refrigerator is mostly empty save for apples, grapes and about two dozen bottles of beer.
Roommates... dandruff... no food... no sex... The life of a Congressman is hard!

Do you want your politicians to wear something more adventurous than a dark suit?

Do you get nervous when they get at all unusual? Like the first picture here. Or is it something about the way that is unusual?

What is the "innovative" arrangement with the FISA Court about the NSA program?

After a year of argument about the Adminstration's warrantless approach, there is now a new arrangement. But what is it exactly? Orin Kerr speculates:
[I]t sounds to me like the FISA Court judges have agreed to issue anticipatory warrants. The traditional warrant process requires the government to write up the facts in an application and let the judge decide whether those facts amount to probable cause. If you were looking for a way to speed up that process — and both sides were in a mood to be "innovative" — one fairly straightfoward alternative would be to use anticipatory warrants....

What's the mystery legal development that helped make this possible? If my guesses are on the right track, it's probably the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Grubbs, which was handed down on March 21, 2006. The Grubbs case is the first Supreme Court decision approving the use of anticipatory warrants.

January 17, 2007

"American Idol," episode 2.

Quote the first:
What the bloody hell was that?

It was me... Was that not good enough?


Not even close.


It was almost... non-human...
Second quote (from Simon):
You look a little odd, your dancing is terrible, the singing was horrendous, you look like one of those creatures that live in the jungle with those massive eyes. What are they called? Bush babies.
Third, from a guy they required to swear he wasn't kidding:
I swear on my mother's life that this is real... and you are beautiful.
What was that?

"We think the ad's authors were right to give voice to the students quoted, whose suffering is real."

Here's the new open letter from various Duke University professors, saying why their original ad -- "This is a social disaster" -- is not something to apologize for:
The ad has been read as a comment on the alleged rape, the team party, or the specific students accused. Worse, it has been read as rendering a judgment in the case. We understand the ad instead as a call to action on important, longstanding issues on and around our campus, an attempt to channel the attention generated by the incident to addressing these. We reject all attempts to try the case outside the courts, and stand firmly by the principle of the presumption of innocence.

As a statement about campus culture, the ad deplores a "Social Disaster," as described in the student statements, which feature racism, segregation, isolation, and sexism as ongoing problems before the scandal broke, exacerbated by the heightened tensions in its immediate aftermath. The disaster is the atmosphere that allows sexism, racism, and sexual violence to be so prevalent on campus. The ad's statement that the problem "won't end with what the police say or the court decides" is as clearly true now as it was then. Whatever its conclusions, the legal process will not resolve these problems.

The ad thanked "the students speaking individually and...the protesters making collective noise." We do not endorse every demonstration that took place at the time. We appreciate the efforts of those who used the attention the incident generated to raise issues of discrimination and violence.

There have been public calls to the authors to retract the ad or apologize for it, as well as calls for action against them and attacks on their character. We reject all of these. We think the ad's authors were right to give voice to the students quoted, whose suffering is real. We also acknowledge the pain that has been generated by what we believe is a misperception that the authors of the ad prejudged the rape case.

We stand by the claim that issues of race and sexual violence on campus are real, and we join the ad's call to all of us at Duke to do something about this. We hope that the Duke community will emerge from this tragedy as a better place for all of us to live, study, and work.
"The disaster is the atmosphere...." -- we're told. The students' perceptions matter and deserve to be "give[n] voice." But the professors don't like how they were perceived by the world outside the university; that was misreading. But if it is perception -- atmosphere -- that matters -- how can you think that you can contribute things to be perceived and avoid responsibility for the effect that you have?

ADDED: La Shawn Barber is scathing.

MORE: I've been thinking a lot about this post -- minimal as it is. There is so much behind this that could be said, so much going back over the 20 years that I've been a law professor. My office for the last decade or so was once occupied by my brilliant colleague Patricia Williams. She wrote something long ago about Tawana Brawley that maybe not everyone remembers, but you should know if you mean to find your way around American academia. I'll put it in context in this 1997 article by Neil A. Lewis (TimesSelect link):
Critical race theorists, who are on the faculty at almost every major law school and are producing an ever-growing body of scholarly work, have drawn from an idea made popular by postmodernist scholars of all races, that there is no objective reality. Instead, the critical race theorists say, there are competing racial versions of reality that may never be reconciled.

Many theorists say that because few whites will ever be able to see things as blacks do, real racial understanding may be beyond the nation's reach....

Some theorists go so far as to say that what really happened in a particular incident may be no more important than what people feel or say happened. For example, some argue that even though Tawana Brawley, then a teen-ager, made up her account that a gang of white men, one with a badge, raped and defiled her in New York in 1987, her story is still valid because it offers truths about the oppression of black women.

In her book "The Alchemy of Race and Rights" (Harvard, 1991), Prof. Patricia Williams of the Columbia University Law School appeared to suggest that it made little difference whether Ms. Brawley had made up her account. The teen-ager, Professor Williams wrote, was the victim of an unspeakable crime "no matter who did it to her -- and even if she did it to herself."

"Her condition was clearly the expression of some crime against her, some tremendous violence, some great violation that challenges comprehension," Professor Williams said. "Tawana's terrible story has every black woman's worst fears and experiences wrapped into it."

Critics of Professor Williams's comments, however, note that a New York State grand jury investigated Ms. Brawley's story and concluded that she had made it up. Professor Williams, Professor [Suzanna] Sherry wrote, seems "unable to distinguish between Brawley's fantasized rape and another woman's real one."

In a recent interview, Professor Williams said she had been misinterpreted. She meant, she said, that the debate about whether Ms. Brawley was telling the truth obscured that she was a troubled minor.

"Her needs were not dealt with, as they should have been with any child," Professor Williams said. Further, Ms. Brawley was transformed into a stereotype of "black women as hard women who can never really suffer any violation," she added.
Misinterpreted. Remember that word. Professors like it. We mean well. We mean to demonstrate empathy and outrage in all the right places. And if you don't credit us with the grand ideals we intended, we will say you don't read well enough. Try again.

MORE: Another brilliant colleague I'm lucky enough to have is Donald Downs -- who wrote this book -- and teaches in the Political Science department here. He emails me this:
The Duke case is symptomatic of the victimhood syndrome has beset too many campuses, and which (as one poster discusses) undermines the agency and vitality of its putative beneficiaries. The case is also symptomatic in another, less recognized sense: members of the economics department published their own dissent to the now infamous "88" and the campus climate that was hostile to due process, and got hundreds of signatures from alumni and other groups. This is precisely what campuses like Duke need: counter-mobilization by faculty who are fed up with this kind of climate and behavior. Perhaps there is hope for Duke, after all, but faculty have to take a stand against the inanity.
Professor Downs, you should know, has done just the thing he recommends and organized the faculty at his home institution.

"A slogan is not a strategy."

Says Hillary Clinton, confronted -- on NPR -- with Bush's line "Failure is not an option" and asked whether failure actually is an option.

Confronted with her line, I say: A slogan about a slogan is too slogan-y. And don't think that by making a slogan about a slogan that you can distract us from seeing that you think failure is an option.

The audio at the link will not be available until 10 ET, and I recommend listening. Clinton talks of going to Iraq and meeting Prime Minister al-Maliki. She says outright that, based on this meeting, she did not believe that al-Maliki intends to do what he has promised to do. She's running for President (presumably). She makes a trip to Iraq and meets with its leader. And then she flatly says she doesn't believe him. Is that presidential? Meet with leaders, then call them liars.

UPDATE: Here is the NPR coverage. And this is the exact quote that I was referring to in the last paragraph of the original post:
"I was listening for a level of commitment to securing Iraq by the Iraqi government and the Iraqi army and police force that has been missing, and I didn't hear that."

This is phrased more diplomatically than I had thought, so "she flatly says she doesn't believe him" is put too strongly. It actually was rather clever to use the phrase "level of commitment," and to stress her own "listening" and "hearing."
Here's the NYT coverage of Clinton's media blitz this morning:
... Mrs. Clinton called for capping the number of American forces in Iraq to the total number there on Jan. 1 — before Mr. Bush proposed adding forces. That total is roughly 140,000. She also proposed making a new threat to Iraqi government leaders to force their cooperation: the loss of American funds to train and equip Iraqi forces, rebuild the economy, and, to make the pressure more acute, to provide security for the leaders themselves.

Mrs. Clinton did not outline benchmarks for that progress, but she indicated that the Shiite-led government would be expected to crack down on sectarian militias in Baghdad and elsewhere and to find new ways to work with Sunni political groups.

She also called for sending more troops to support the American military mission in Afghanistan, which she referred to as “quite a success story.” And she opposed any shift of forces out of Afghanistan as part of the troop expansion in Iraq.

Yet when it came to a threshold political issue for many Democrats — the end of the American military effort in Iraq — Senator Clinton did not embrace an instant withdrawal or a specific timetable for doing so.

“I’m for redeploying our troops out of Baghdad and eventually out of Iraq so we can make sure that they’re not in the midst of a civil war,” she said on CBS’s “Early Show.”...

Mrs. Clinton, who met with American commanders and Iraqi officials during her visit to Baghdad, said she received “lip service” during her meeting with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal Al-Maliki.

“This is clearly an abdication of responsibility by this government — we need some leverage on them,” Senator Clinton said on CBS.
The expression "lip service" is much closer to insulting Maliki than what she said on NPR. I'm not saying she's not justified in mistrusting Maliki, only that she needs to demonstrate that she can do diplomacy well enough.

January 16, 2007

"American Idol" is back.

Are you watching?

ADDED: No simulblogging tonight. Just a quote for now, from a kid who was crying over not getting through to Hollywood:
Jason, you're 16 years old...

16 years old and I want to start out famous.

MORE: Here's a story about Denise Jackson, the Madison 16-year-old who described herself as a "crack baby."

"A cloned human would be imbued with the same immaterial presence that binds us all, even Antonin Scalia, to the Godhead."

Esquire answers the question: Would a cloned human being have a soul?

"It's snowing," says Chris. He's in Austin, Texas.

I exhort him to take some photographs. Note the window sticker (not really) proving the car is indeed in Texas.

Snow in Austin

The door handle wants to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex:

Snow in Austin

Here's some local news coverage, showing kids figuring out how to sled.

Those damned media atheists.

Giles Fraser writes:
Many of the propositions that fundamentalists are keen to sell the public are oft-repeated corner-stones of the media atheist's philosophy of religion.

Both partners in this unholy alliance agree that fundamentalist religion is the real thing and that more reflective and socially progressive versions of faith are pale imitations, counterfeits even. This endorsement is of enormous help to fundamentalists. What they are really threatened by is not aggressive atheism - indeed that helps secure a sense of persecution that is essential to group solidarity - but the sort of robustly self-critical faith that knows the Bible and the church's traditions, and can challenge bad religion on its own terms. Fundamentalists hate what they see as the enemy within. And by refusing to acknowledge any variegation in Christian thought, media atheists play right into their hands.

It's nothing. Just something I learned over in Scotland.

So Bob Dylan is buying a home in Scotland -- the "25 acre 10 bedroom Aultmore House at Cairngorms." The Aultmore House? Sounds like I should live there... A..lt...House. I belong there more. Well, I mustn't continue with these ramblings, lest Dylan think I'm crazy, and I'll never get an invitation. I'd like to see Scotland sometime. I never have. And I have ancestors from there. MacBeth clan.

Has Dylan ever showed an interest in Scotland? What is it about Scotland that goes with Dylan? I searched the Dylan lyrics -- you can search all Dylan's lyrics here. He's never once mentioned Scotland. You'd think with all his many songs and wide-ranging language he would have gotten around to mentioning it at least once. But then, has he mentioned a lot of countries? England: only 3 times. I wonder what country he's mentioned most often. I take a guess and get 7 hits. I tried a lot of others and none came close. See if you can guess, or maybe find one with more than 7. It turns out he rarely names countries. Even the United States. "But even the president of the United States/Sometimes must have/To stand naked." That's one of only 2. And only 1 for America: "I think I'll call it America/I said as we hit land." And that one's a dream that ends with him leaving (and desperate to leave):
But the funniest thing was
When I was leavin' the bay
I saw three ships a-sailin'
They were all heading my way
I asked the captain what his name was
And how come he didn't drive a truck
He said his name was Columbus
I just said, "Good luck."
So, good luck, Bob.

Life is cruel to the male.

Consider this:
Many... species are beleaguered by infections that can turn males into females, selectively assassinate males, or render males irrelevant by allowing females to give birth without them....

Males are a target for a reason, [says Rochester University biologist Jack Werren]. Many types of bacteria travel from parents to offspring through eggs. Males represent a dead-end, so such infectious agents benefit by doing away with them before they're born while leaving females unharmed.

If that weren't enough, Werren says, males tend to find themselves disproportionately targeted by mutations and other "selfish" genetic anomalies....

More often than not, however, infections and selfish genetic agents bias the sex ratio toward females, since species can soldier on with fewer or even no males, while losing the females means quick extinction.
You men still want to think you're better off. I'll bet you've already processed this cruel truth into some fantasy involving multiple female partners.

"There is no going back to a world where we can assume that marriage is the main institution that organizes people's lives."

Inexorable unmarriedness.

"If you are affected — moved, amused, provoked — by the assembled Hayes oeuvre, then is it art?"

Holland Cotter asks:
Are Ms. Bancroft and Mr. Nesbett artists?... Are they themselves perpetrators of a scam? Or are they critical thinkers working in an alternative direction to the market economy?...

Is it an example of the white art world — Ms. Bancroft and Mr. Nesbett are white — getting mileage out of the work of a black artist, real or not?

Requiring gun ownership.

Glenn Reynolds has a NYT op-ed about towns that require residents to own guns. He likes this on the ground that it reduces crime if it is known that everyone in town has a gun in the house. What if you don't want to own a gun? If you think individuals have a right to own guns, shouldn't you think they have a corresponding right not to own guns? The right of free speech includes the right not to speak.

Whether the Second Amendment protects an individual right or a collective right is a hot question. ("Under the 'collective right' view, the Second Amendment is a federalism provision that provides to States a prerogative to establish and maintain armed and organized militia units akin to the National Guard, and only States may assert this prerogative.") Glenn alludes to the collective right view here:
The twin purposes of self and community defense may very well lie behind the Second Amendment’s language encompassing both the importance of a well-regulated militia and the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. As the constitutional and criminal law scholar Don Kates has noted in the journal Constitutional Commentary, thinkers at the time when the Constitution was written drew no real distinction between resisting burglars, foreign invaders or domestic tyrants: All were wrongdoers that good citizens had the right, and the duty, to oppose with force.
Don't you have to adopt the collective right view to believe people can be forced to possess guns?

January 15, 2007

Golden Globes!

Hey, watch the Golden Globes with me! Comment away. I'll be adding to this post, with each update indicated by a number.

1. And they start right up with no preliminaries and -- even nicer -- they give the first two awards to two of my favorite people: Jennifer Hudson and Prince. Hudson, who wins Best Supporting Actress for "Dreamgirls" and accepts the prize from the lovely George Clooney, says thanks for making her "feel like an actress." Prince, who wins for some song in "Happy Feet," is not there, and Justin Timberlake, who for a long time seems not to know what to do, finally accepts the award for him, and, to do it, he does a deep knee bend to get down to a 5'1" height and symbolize the tiny purple genius.

2. Jeremy Irons has big bags under his eyes and is dressed in a strange but elegant suit that seems to come from the 19th century. He wins in some TV Supporting category. Next comes TV Dramatic Actress. Kyra Sedgwick. Her dress seems to come from ancient Greece.

3. Emily Blunt. Never heard of her... Best TV Dramatic Actor: Hugh Laurie... "Cars" wins for animation.... Wow, we're up to Best Actress, and with very little fanfare, we hear it's Meryl Streep. Oh, it's just Best Actress in the Musical/Comedy. Meryl also seems to be wearing a dress from ancient Greece. She says "I think I've worked with everybody in the room" in an affected voice that seems intended to impersonate an actress from the past that I can almost remember. I'm wracking my brain and rewinding the the TiVo, and I just can't get it. It's not Katharine Hepburn. It's someone more precious sounding.

4. Best Supporting Actor. Eddie Murphy. He's charming and sweet. Helen Mirren wins for her TV queen role (Elizabeth I). Whether she'll win for her big movie queen role (Elizabeth II) remains to be seen.

5. Cameron Diaz is transformed by black hair. She wears multi-layers of ruffles and yet somehow the effect is not wedding-cake. She seems very pleased by her ability to inform us that "The Departed" is another Scorsese masterpiece.... Next is the Best Screenplay award. "The Queen." The writer tries to make it a political speech about how public protest can affect political leaders. Just when you think you're about to hear about the current war, he's told to wrap up, and he does with a quick "I love you all."... TV Comedy actor: Alec Baldwin. He seems like an amusing guy, referring to the "autumn of my career."

6. "Ugly Betty" wins for Best TV Comedy. Do you watch that show? I watched the first episode, on the theory that it was supposed to be good. It wasn't terrible, but I didn't like it enough to stay with it. But then I don't really watch TV sitcoms, so pay no attention to me on this.

7. How stringy our Sharon Stone has become. The award is for foreign language film, and it goes to Clint Eastwood for "Letters From Iwo Jima," and the thought shoots through my head that I should see a movie every week. "You don't know what this does for my confidence," Clint says. He's wearing all black and a little silver bow tie.... In the comments, people are talking about whether Angelina Jolie is in a bad mood. Which is what's really important. She's so beautiful, and she's got the beautiful man, so, please, Lord, let her be unhappy.

8. Oh, Prince is in the audience. He was too late to receive his award. No wonder Timberlake was confused. We're told Prince was stuck in traffic. I find it hard to believe the world does not stop to allow the diminutive deity to proceed, but -- oh! -- Prince is there. Your humble blogger breaks down and cries.

9. Musical/Comedy TV Actress. Some terrific ladies. And it goes -- I'm not surprised -- to America Ferrera. Who, like every other woman there tonight, is wearing ancient Grecian garb. She's sweet, talking about "beauty that is deeper than what we see." Of course, she is lovely, but if she can speak for the ugly, that's nice. She thanks "Mommy." And you know you should all thank Mommy.

10. Tom Hanks is giving some award to Warren Beatty, who has such an embarrassingly self-satified look on his face. "What balls this man has. What balls this man has. And by balls, of course, I mean artistic vision and fortitude. What balls has Warren Beatty." Oh, he'll always be Milton Armitage to me.

11. Martin Scorsese wins the Best Director award, which he accepts with touching geeky fan style. He wanted to make a movie like "Public Enemy" or "Angels with Dirty Faces," and he lists all the actors he worked with on "The Departed," including "the great" Alec Baldwin... Next is the Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy award, and it goes to the brilliant man I love so much, Sacha Baron Cohen! As he walks up to the stage, they play his Kazakhstan national anthem. Here's a phrase: "When I saw your two wrinkled Golden Globes on my chin."

12. For dramatic acting, the two admirable Brits collect awards. Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker.

13. To present the last award, out comes our true American, Arnold Schwarzenegger, on crutches. The award for best dramatic movie goes to "Babel." And as Angelina Jolie gives Brad Pitt a slap on the back of the neck, I decide I should go see that movie.

ADDED, NEXT MORNING: Isn't it odd that there were two -- count 'em, two! -- speeches about testicles? (From Tom Hanks and Sacha Baron Cohen.)

Old age is cool.

According to Norman Mailer (who is 83):
There's one good thing about old age that people don't recognize. Which is that if you have a reasonable old age, as I do, in that you're not in pain, and you're not in terrible trouble emotionally with your children, or your mate, then what happens is you cool. And you finally are cool in a way that you never were before. And you realize that you won and you lost, and that's just what happens to everyone else. They win and they lose also. And what you didn't succeed in doing, you didn't succeed in doing, so f--- it....

In other words, I'm at peace with myself in a way that I wasn't for many, many years. I feel more sane than I've ever felt in my life.

"Cracked-Out Shark-Jumping Awesome"... or not?

After giving the opening episode an A and saying "This Show Is Going To Be Cracked-Out Shark-Jumping Awesome," Jacob at Television Without Pity gives the second episode an F and says "Well, that was a new low... the worst ***damn show on television." I TiVo'd but didn't watch it. My TV time yesterday was limited to "Meet the Press" and an episode of an ancient season of "Survivor." I was going to decide whether to watch the new "Apprentice" episode based on Jacob's grade, and F is so bad you just have to look, right? I'm not quite sure what's going on with Jacob's wild mood swings, but it is clear that he's very deeply offended by the Playboy Mansion. And somehow juxtaposition with Hugh Hefner makes Donald Trump seem more loathsome than usual.

"It's the dishonesty."

Joe Kristian weighs in on the AMT:
The AMT has provided cover for sleazy tax policy ever since it was enacted. It works like this: a politician promises a tax benefit. The tax benefit is written so that it doesn't work for AMT....

The politician gets to brag about a brave new loophole, and the taxpayers think he's a great guy, or gal. Then they complain about how that darn AMT got them. It's the ultimate bait-and-switch of tax policy.

This trick has been part of every major tax break in the last 20 years, and many of the minor ones. Perhaps the biggest example is the 2001 Bush tax cuts...
Read the whole thing, including Joe's assurance that they can't repeal the AMT. Yeah, I pretty much knew that. So, go ahead, accuse me of writing "Why I love the new Democratic Congress!" just so I could condemn the Democratic Congress when they break their vow.

ADDED: Here's a NYT op-ed from 2005 about TurboTax and the AMT:
In a world without paid preparers and TurboTax, taxpayers would face the tedious process of calculating their taxes twice - once under the regular income tax and once using the cumbersome alternative minimum tax rules. But software does that calculation in the blink of an eye - and for taxpayers who have to pay the tax, tell them how to adjust their withholding so that next year they won't even notice that they're paying it....

We have created a vicious cycle. Congress has made taxes increasingly complicated and burdensome over the years. To cope, taxpayers have sought help from tax preparers and computer software. But that consumer convenience has bred inertia, shielding bad policy from the wrath of taxpayers who bear the burden of it.

AND: Here's an old post of mine, from 2005, before I started using TurboTax:
[It took me 20 minutes to figure] out my AMT, and Turbotax would have spared me from having to feel very bad about this, I suppose. I feel bad about the federal tax for having the AMT and bad about the state taxes for being so high in the first place and for being the reason I owe so much on the AMT.

Rationally, I admit that it isn't fair for people in states that charge high taxes to get away with contributing less to the federal effort. Why should people in low-taxing states, deprived of the benefits of the local services more taxes would fund, have to pay a larger portion of the costs of the federal government?

Rationally, I know my real problem should be with the state taxes, yet the feds are irking me with their complicated forms. In which case, I really ought to use Turbotax, not only to avoid the aggravation of witnessing the AMT grinding out the extra thousands, but so that I won't irrationally blame the federal government for doing something that is actually fair. Or am I losing my mind?

I love one-idea blogs.

Like this. (Via Metafilter.)

It's absurd that the governor of the largest state can't run for President.

Let's amend the Constitution for Arnold. Is there anyone more fundamentally American?

"How Moroccans laugh at religion, sex and politics."

They don't.

"The head of Mr. Tikriti was severed from his body by the noose as it snapped tight around his neck."

New, more gruesome hangings. The Iraqi government assures us this complication is "rare." Here's some information on the efforts that have been made over the years to perfect hanging, chiefly by calculating the length of the drop so that the neck is quickly broken but the head doesn't come off. Done right, it's considered comparatively humane. Done wrong, it's obviously not.

UPDATE: And there is video, described here.

January 14, 2007

"To say that we are going to feed more American young men and women into that grinder..."

That's Senator Chuck Hagel on "Meet the Press," really -- as my son John puts it -- "ramping up the gruesome imagery." Context:
The Middle East is in more trouble today, more combustible, more dangerous than at any time since World War II. And you can measure that in, in Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian states, Iran, Syria. And to say that we are going to feed more American young men and women into that grinder, put them in the middle of a tribal, sectarian civil war, is not going to fix the problem....

[H]ow in the world do we think we can pursue a legitimate policy that’s going to work, that doesn’t continue to consume more of our young men and women, continue to erode America’s standing and respect in the Middle East where we’ll have no hope to have any influence other than bog down further in an unwinnable situation. That’s a very dangerous strategy that will not work.

"They're convinced that the United States will pack it in and go home if they just kill enough of us."

Says Dick Cheney, speaking of our terrorist enemies, on tonight's "60 Minutes." "They can't beat us in a standup fight, but they think they can break our will."

He's right. And so are our terrorist enemies.

"Men are still resisting and clearly prefer the rounder, fleshier type. But women want to be free and powerful..."

"...and one way to reject submission is to adopt these international standards that have nothing to do with Brazilian society." That's one attempt -- by a historian, Mary del Priore -- to explain the changing standard of beauty in Brazil. It's a strange idea -- isn't it? -- that the natural feminine body is a sort of enslavement and that anorexia is a way to power. It's surely not limited to Brazil, but the Brazilian manifestation of it is so stark:
Experts also agree that Brazilian men, whatever their class or race, have been much slower to accept slenderness as a gauge of feminine beauty. When they are looking for a sexual partner, Brazilian men are consistent and clear in saying that they prefer women who are fleshy in the rear — “popozuda” is the wonderfully euphonious slang term used here — and have pronounced curves.

In the past, that standard was so firmly established that some Brazilian women resorted to breast reduction or buttock augmentation surgery, sometimes even transferring their own tissue from top to bottom.
Sometimes even transferring their own tissue from top to bottom. Now, that is something. That's amazing. And "popozuda" -- what a cool word.

So, anyway, what do you think, are Brazilian women undercutting themselves, missing out on this nicely accommodating old standard of beauty to take on the rigors of the "international" standard of beauty, or is there actually something oppressive about the old standard?

The words mean something, "but not if you try to figure them out."

Says David Byrne in this 1983 Letterman appearance, that's talked about in this really long NYT article calling Byrne "Indie Rock's Patron Saint." ("Once the archetypal nerve-racked data-age persona (his famously uncomfortable 1983 Letterman interview is on YouTube, if you need a reminder), Mr. Byrne is today much more mellow.")

I rather think Byrne is doing a performance there, don't you? Nowadays, the Times tells us, he's "comfortable in his skin" (a phrase that has always bugged me for some reason):
He seems comfortable in his skin, chatty and quick to laugh; his conversation ranges energetically from computerized embroidery machines to a recent visit to a neuroscience lab in Canada with his pals from the Arcade Fire. (“We didn’t get a chance to get into the M.R.I. machines,” he said, “but we had a lot of fun.”) He has even become a blogger, and a self-disclosing one at that.

“I was a peculiar young man,” he wrote in a reflective entry last April. “Borderline Asperger’s, I would guess.”

Hmmm... well, then I guess he wasn't just acting. I forgot about his blog. Here it is.

ADDED: John, on watching the clip: "He acts like Billy in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.'" (Remember, we watched that recently.) He's right! Now, we're listing to "Talking Heads: 77." Me, looking through the old records: "It should be easy to find. I know it's orange."

I was saying that's my favorite.

Here's some politics:
I see the states, across this big nation
I see the laws made in washington, D.C.
I think of the ones I consider my favorites
I think of the people that are working for me

Some civil servants are just like my loved ones
They work so hard and they try to be strong
I'm a lucky guy to live in my building
They own the buildings to help them along

It's over there, its over there
My building has every convenience
It's gonna make life easy for me
It's gonna be easy to get things done
I will relax along with my loved ones
We played "Talking Heads: 77" so many times... in 1977! You have to try to imagine how that sounded then, when rock was arena rock and disco was everywhere.

My second favorite: "More Songs About Buildings and Food." But if you want to play that, you'll have to take it down from the picture frame hanging on the wall:

No, Mickey, it's the money.

Mickey Kaus thinks the main objection people have to the Alternative Minimum Tax is the hassle of doing two calculations. I use TurboTax, which does the calculations automatically, and the AMT cost me $4900 last year. It's definitely the money!

And if you want to know why the AMT costs me so much, let me tell you it's a reason that Democrats should care about, because it's all about living in a blue state. The deductions I lose in the AMT calculation are -- as I wrote here -- are state and local taxes, like my incredible $12,000 property tax bill:
What the AMT does -- certainly in my case -- is to make sure that people who suffer from a really high state and local tax burden still pay their share of federal taxes. Getting rid of the AMT makes it easier for state and local government to maintain high taxes because these taxes will lower our federal taxes. Anyone in a state with low taxes should probably be pissed off at this, because their states do with less revenue while their citizens fork over more to the feds. But presumably those states vote Republican, so who cares? My state votes Democratic, and it's got a lot of people who could really save a lot -- and contribute generously to the Democrats who have tended to us so well.
Plus, they vowed to get rid of fix the AMT. I'm watching them closely on this one.

ADDED: Glenn Reynolds says: "[T]he hassle factor probably does matter some, and programs like Turbo Tax also make increased tax code complexity easier. Should conservatives hate those, too?" It depends on the conservatives. If they are in favor of simplicity, they shouldn't like a program that makes complexity feel like simplicity. But if they are in favor of benefiting red staters, they should love the way it mutes AMT outrage. I used to fill out the AMT form by hand, and it was.... vexing.

"I don't like to call the police or call his boss. . . . I'm a libertarian. I'm not into that."

Said Tucker Carlson about the video store clerk who had blogged about Carlson's previous visit to the store (and called Carlson's wife "ridiculously wasped-out"). (Via Memeorandum.)

The clerk -- Charles Williamson -- had failed to observe the video store clerk - video store client privilege, and he paid the price for it. He got fired. How much sympathy should we have for Williamson? He's 28, old enough to know that if you use access to information that you get on the job in a way that hurts your employer, your employer won't like it and you can get fired. A video store client wants to feel a sense of privacy about the information that he creates by renting videos.

The linked article, in the Washington Post, doesn't take the privacy issue seriously. It's so tempting to mock Carlson and to feel for the little guy -- here's his blog -- and to think that blogs are a special enclave that should be immune from the limits imposed on the rest of the world. But let's focus on the larger issue. Do you want your video rental information disclosed?

Back when Robert Bork was nominated for a seat on the Supreme Court, a Washington newspaper published a list of the videos he had rented. The Bork list had nothing particularly interesting on it, but the disclosure of the list scared people enough that the Congress soon passed the Video Privacy Protection Act, which made anyone engaged in video sales or rental liable for the disclosure of "information which identifies a person as having requested or obtained specific video materials or services from a video tape service provider."

Well, I guess good libertarians should think this law is terrible. And good for Tucker Carlson for not invoking his legal rights -- if any -- on this one. (I don't know how "specific" the information Williamson published was.)

Think of all the fun we've missed over the years not having all this juicy information to chew over. But even if there were no law, video business owners would probably have a policy against disclosure and would fire clerks who published information about clients. Wouldn't you avoid the store where the clerks blogged about what the customers rented?

Anyone who thinks the answers depend on whether or not we hate the particular client really doesn't know how to think straight!

"They are basically jealous. They’ve been toiling in the trenches for decades, and along comes this son of a Kenyan farmer..."

"... suddenly he’s measuring the drapes in the Oval Office," says a "Democratic strategist," who doesn't want to be named but does have an explanation for why various black leaders have so far declined to embrace Barack Obama.

Here's a quote with a name -- Harry Belafonte -- to go with it: "He’s a young man in many ways to be admired. Obviously very bright, speaks very well, cuts a handsome figure. But all of that is just the king’s clothes. Who’s the king?"

And Al Sharpton attaches his name to a quote: "Right now we’re hearing a lot of media razzle-dazzle. I’m not hearing a lot of meat, or a lot of content. I think when the meat hits the fire, we’ll find out if it’s just fat, or if there’s some real meat there."

• • •

I love the way Sharpton speaks in phrases that sound like existing expressions. "When the meat hits the fire." Google it, and you'll see that the hits are all this very quote from Sharpton. It meshes well with "hearing a lot of meat," and "hearing meat" isn't an expression -- how noisy is meat? -- and it's sort of a mixed metaphor. There's a faint echo of "Where's the beef?," the classic political catchphrase.... based on this commercial:

"When the meat hits the fire" sounds vaguely like other phrases: "Where the rubber meets the road," "When the sh*t hits the fan".... But "when the meat hits the fire" is a Sharpton original, I think. He concludes the thought with "we’ll find out if it’s just fat, or if there’s some real meat there," which seems to me to refer to the common expression "all sizzle and no steak." But in the case of a candidate who's "all sizzle and no steak," hitting the fire would be the point at which you'd get the most sizzle, based on the presence of fat, and you still wouldn't "hear the meat."

• • •

But back to the meat of this post. Sharpton -- and others -- must be profoundly jealous and resentful -- and with good reason. In a political culture in which the media have long consulted them and preserved a place for them in the debate, now it seems that Obama will be given that place, and Obama is likely to say things that are far more mellow and conciliatory to the majority of Americans. They have to be asking -- and we should ask too -- whether that is why Americans like Obama so much. Looking at the problem from this angle, we should see that it's not simply a matter of personal jealousy, it is a real fear that their message is being effectively excised from the national debate.

This blog is 3 years old today.

Here's what I said 2 years ago:
One year old!

The day has finally come. This blog is one year old today. It's been pretty cool. I remember starting off in utter obscurity, thinking I'd better take care what I write, because I've got to assume that, eventually, some people who know me are going to find this. And now the Sitemeter is up over 900,000. Thanks to all the readers for coming by!
One year ago... minimalism was in:
Two years old today...

This blog is.
Going all the way back to the beginning, January 14, 2004, to the first post, at 10:36 a.m.:
This blog is called Marginalia, because I'm writing from Madison, Wisconsin, and Marginalia is a fictionalized name for Madison that I thought up a long time ago when I seriously believed I would write a fictionalized account of my life in Madison, Wisconsin. There is nothing terribly marginal about Madison, really, but I do like writing in the margins of books, something I once caused a librarian to gasp by saying. Writing in a blog is both less and more permanent than writing in the margin of a book.
But I'm still here somehow, still checking in daily from my remote outpost in Marginalia.