February 10, 2007

The big NYC blogger meet-up.

Hey, all you NYC readers. Want to get together next Saturday evening? Plans are in the works!

Althouse Derangement Syndrome.

Discussed in an update to an old post you might miss if I didn't write a new post to point it out.

CLARIFICATION: I didn't invent the term "Althouse Derangement Syndrome." I found it in the comments section at little Scott's blog. If you want the sordid details, follow the link. And search the comments to find the really mean thing I said that is sure to send ADS sufferers into a frenzy of keyboarding.

Obama: "I recognize there is a certain presumptuousness - a certain audacity - to this announcement."

Not only is he in, but he's leveraged his book title word "audacity" into the announcement. But it does take audacity and presumptuousness to run for President. I find myself instinctively resisting anyone who comes forward just for thinking they deserve it, when, really, no one does. So I find it appealing to come out and say it's presumptuous. Perhaps he sees greater advantage in calling himself "presumptuous" than other candidates would. He's challenging us, in a sense, implying that he knows what we might be thinking and thereby nudging us have such thoughts.

Here's his logo:

According to the linked WaPo article, the logo is the initial "O" -- I agree! -- and it "evokes a rising sun" -- I am more willing to believe that it was meant to evoke the rising sun than that it actually does. I do think the curved red and white stripes at the bottom seem like -- in addition to the flag -- the surface of the earth, specifically farmland. (Iowa!) The blue at the top is certainly the sky. So the hollow center ought to be the sun. You can't make it yellow or it wil ruin the red, white, and blue effect, which is absolutely required. (When's the last time a presidential campaign had a logo that wasn't red, white, and blue?) I see more of an empty center, which is needed for the "O" effect, but which does have a problematic metaphorical meaning.

But we'll see now if he serves up some substance or if it's all empty calories.

Is Yau Man the new Cao Boi?

I don't know about you, but I had no idea a new season of "Survivor" was starting this week. Since there was no controversy making the newspaper -- unlike last time -- no information was coming my way. There must have been little ads on shows I don't watch or things I TiVo'd past. The only way I noticed was seeing the recap of the first episode on Television Without Pity. I was irked that I'd missed it. I've been so big on "Survivor" lately that I've watched 2+ old seasons on DVD since the last season ended. It's actually the only TV I've been watching lately -- old episodes of "Survivor."

And suddenly, there's a new season. Annoyingly, the TiVo season pass wouldn't pick up the new season because the show isn't called "Survivor," it's called "Survivor: Cook Islands" or "Survivor: Fiji" or whatever. But CBS does put up full episodes to watch on line, so I was able to catch the first episode. Watching it on line doesn't give the same effect. The scenery -- both landscapes and torsos -- is beautifully photographed, and it's just not as exciting on the computer screen.

But it was fun to see the characters shape up. The guys with nicknames: Boo, Rocky, Dreamz. There was that new idea of having them build one really nice camp together, which became part of the reward in a very heavy stakes first challenge. And it was interesting to use Sylvia -- the original leader and architect -- to create the two teams, only to exile her on a snake-infested island until it could be determined which team would get sent to the desolate new camp and she could join them there. Poor Sylvia. Does early leadership ever work out well on "Survivor"? Has the show ever been set up to punish the first leader so severely? At least she didn't make the mistake of trying to make the teams unequal, because she'd have gotten stuck with the very people she thought were bad.

But isn't she just the sort of leader that the others are going to gang up against? How did you like it when -- bossing them around about how to set up a building -- she said something was "askew," and, when told not to use "big words," she said it was "not orthogonal"?

And Yau Man -- yow, man -- dropping that box on its corner, opening it easily, when everyone else was trying and failing to open it by crashing big rocks onto it -- that was pretty cool. It does perpetuate a "Survivor" racial stereotype -- that Asian men have nifty secret skills. (Remember Cao Boi's headache treatments?) But it was pretty cool nonetheless.

"Anna came to our company as a customer, but she departs..."

"... it as a friend."

TrimSpa is pretty well screwed, isn't it? Look how they've transformed their website into a memorial for their dead spokesmodel. Think that could make us love them?

"What kind of people supply schoolgirls to a pharmaceutical company...?"

Readers object to a NYT editorial supporting vaccinating girls against the virus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer. The letters worry about as-yet unknown side effects, loss of individual autonomy, the power of lobbying by the vaccine manufacturer (Merck), the burden on girls and not boys, and the misallocation of health care funding.

The editorial was more focused on the way socially conservative parents might stand in the way of girls getting an effective treatment:
Many parents are appalled at the notion of vaccinating such young girls against a sexually transmitted disease. But the medical reality is that the vaccine will generally not work after a woman has been infected, so it is best for girls to be vaccinated well before they become sexually active.
Before they become sexually active. The assumption is they will have multiple male sex partners, but many will not. Should they all have the vaccine? Of course, I can see why you can't expect parents to have an accurate idea of whether their daughters will expose themselves to sexually transmitted diseases -- or to spend their money protecting them from a danger they want them to avoid altogether.
None of these objections seem strong enough to forgo the protection against a devastating disease. The United States records some 10,000 new cases of cervical cancer each year, and 3,700 cervical cancer deaths. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, a conservative Republican, has taken an “opt out” approach, in which vaccination is required but parents can seek an exemption for reasons of conscience or religious beliefs.
So the fact conservative Republican is doing it bolsters the argument? What happened to the usual suspicion that such characters are out to benefit big corporations?

ADDED: I should acknowledge that a woman who only has one male sexual partner could get the virus from him if he has at least one other partner. And I should have been clear that I don't think all (or even most) parents want their daughters to have only one male sexual partner and for that man to have had no other sexual partner in his life. And I'm not a medical expert, so I don't know what the odds of exposure are for persons with very few sexual contacts. I do think there are women who never have sex with anyone or never have sex with males and that it would be good for our culture to notice their existence when we think about what good policy is.

Has Rudy Giuliani gotten incoherent about abortion?

Here's a NYT piece about how Rudy Giuliani is reframing his stance on abortion to appeal to conservatives. It contains a quote that I found puzzling:
“On the federal judiciary I would want judges who are strict constructionists because I am,” he said last week in South Carolina. “I have a very, very strong view that for this country to work, for our freedoms to be protected, judges have to interpret, not invent, the Constitution.

“Otherwise you end up, when judges invent the Constitution, with your liberties being hurt. Because legislatures get to make those decisions and the Legislature in South Carolina might make that decision one way and the Legislature in California a different one.”
How is "strict construction" supposed to protect liberty, and why would it help to have legislatures in different states making different decisions about "your liberty"? The NYT article leaves us hanging -- Rudy seems incoherent -- and moves on to what he said to Sean Hannity the other day about "partial-birth" abortion and parental notification laws.

This seems to be the full context of Giuliani's statement. It adds one more sentence that made me get his point, which in fact makes sense:
"On the Federal judiciary I would want judges who are strict constructionists because I am. I'm a lawyer. I've argued cases in the Supreme Court. I've argued cases in the Court of Appeals in different parts of the country. I have a very, very strong view that for this country to work, for our freedoms to be protected, judges have to interpret not invent the Constitution. Otherwise you end up, when judges invent the constitution, with your liberties being hurt. Because legislatures get to make those decisions and the legislature in South Carolina might make that decision one way and the legislature in California a different one. And that's part of our freedom and when that's taken away from you that's terrible."
The meaning is none too obvious, so I'm not criticizing the NYT for dropping that last line, but it was enough to tip me off that he was talking about federalism (a subject I teach and write about).

I'm not surprised that Giuliani didn't launch into a discourse on federalism in front of a crowd of non-lawyers. But there is a constitutional law point is embedded in these few words. The idea is that constraining the scope of federal constitutional rights leaves more room for legislatures to regulate in ways that suit the preferences of the people in the difference states, and this power to make different law in different places is an aspect of freedom. The people in South Carolina might like things one way and -- look at the other state he chose to name -- the people of California might like something else.

Why is federalism an aspect of freedom? Here's a good passage written by Justice O'Connor that ties federalism to the protection of freedom (from Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U.S. 452 (1991)(citations omitted)):
Perhaps the principal benefit of the federalist system is a check on abuses of government power. "The 'constitutionally mandated balance of power' between the States and the Federal Government was adopted by the Framers to ensure the protection of 'our fundamental liberties.'" Just as the separation and independence of the coordinate Branches of the Federal Government serves to prevent the accumulation of excessive power in any one Branch, a healthy balance of power between the States and the Federal Government will reduce the risk of tyranny and abuse from either front. Alexander Hamilton explained to the people of New York, perhaps optimistically, that the new federalist system would suppress completely "the attempts of the government to establish a tyranny":

"[I]n a confederacy the people, without exaggeration, may be said to be entirely the masters of their own fate. Power being almost always the rival of power, the general government will at all times stand ready to check usurpations of the state governments, and these will have the same disposition towards the general government. The people, by throwing themselves into either scale, will infallibly make it preponderate. If their rights are invaded by either, they can make use of the other as the instrument of redress." The Federalist No. 28, pp. 180-181 (A. Hamilton).

James Madison made much the same point:

"In a single republic, all the power surrendered by the people is submitted to the administration of a single government; and the usurpations are guarded against by a division of the government into distinct and separate departments. In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself." The Federalist No. 51, p. 323 (J. Madison).

One fairly can dispute whether our federalist system has been quite as successful in checking government abuse as Hamilton promised, but there is no doubt about the design. If this "double security" is to be effective, there must be a proper balance between the States and the Federal Government. These twin powers will act as mutual restraints only if both are credible. In the tension between federal and state power lies the promise of liberty.
So Giuliani was referring -- I think -- to the idea that the preservation of the legislative autonomy of the states is an important constitutional structural safeguard that works to protect individuals. We tend to be so used to the idea that courts protect freedom by enforcing individual rights that we forget to think about how the original Constitution embodies a belief in protecting the people from the abuse of power by dividing it up.

Of course, you're entitled to be suspicious about whether federalism protects freedom. O'Connor expressed the skepticism that the history of states rights in the United States demands:
One fairly can dispute whether our federalist system has been quite as successful in checking government in checking government abuse as Hamilton promised....
By failing to explore the idea that Giuliani was talking about federalism, the NYT deprived readers of an opportunity to understand the coherence of his remark, but it also spared him a criticism. There he was in South Carolina letting people know -- if they could pick it up -- that he cared about states' rights.

The Times article, as noted, moves on to the subject of what Giuliani said about "partial-birth" abortion:
[H]e told Mr. Hannity that a ban signed into law by President Bush in 2003, which the Supreme Court is reviewing, should be upheld....

[But when a]sked by Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” in 2000 if he supported President Bill Clinton’s veto of a law that would have banned the disputed abortion procedure, Mr. Giuliani said, “I would vote to preserve the option for women.” He added, “I think the better thing for America to do is to leave that choice to the woman, because it affects her probably more than anyone else.”
Is this a contradiction? No. To say that the Court should uphold a statute is to say that it is not a violation of constitutional law. The question from "Meet the Press" is about whether, as the executive with the veto power, he would sign the law. One could think a law should not be passed -- because you want "to preserve the option for women" -- without also thinking that the law would be unconstitutional. The language "the option for women" itself suggests that he was talking about what is good policy rather than the scope of rights that courts need to enforce.

If you look at the transcript of the Hannity show, you can see this:
HANNITY: There's a misconception that you supported partial-birth abortion.

GIULIANI: Yes, well, if it doesn't have a provision for the life of the mother, then I wouldn't support the legislation. If it has provision for the life of the mother, then I would support it.
Is that inconsistent with what he said in 2000 about Clinton's veto? The bill that President Clinton vetoed did contain exception for the life of the mother: It did not apply to "a partial-birth abortion that is necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness, or injury: Provided, That no other medical procedure would suffice for that purpose."

There's room to wriggle out of the contradiction by saying that is not a proper "life" exception, and I would cut Giuliani some slack for not going into the details on the Hannity show. What "other medical procedures" would women be forced to endure to save their own lives? Would you require a woman with a life-threatening medical condition to have a Caesarean section -- as long as she could survive it -- in order to remove a fetus that was only going to die in the womb?

The NYT article also points to a seeming contradiction about parental notification laws. Here's what Giuliani said on Hannity (from the transcript) in response to the two word question "Parental notification?":
Parental notification, I think you have to have a judicial bypass. If you do, you can have parental notification. And I think the court -- I mean, that's the kind of thing I think the court will do with abortion.
And here's the NYT:
[O]n a 1997 candidate questionnaire from the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League of New York, which Mr. Giuliani completed and signed, he marked “yes” to the question: Would you oppose legislation “requiring a minor to obtain permission from a parent or from a court before obtaining an abortion.”
This is definitely not a contradiction. On Hannity, Giuliani was clearly talking about how constitutional law should be interpreted. On the 1997 questionnaire, he was clearly talking about how he would exercise his role in the legislative process.

Now, you can say, but he's running for President now, and he'll have the veto power, so what matters is how he handles federal legislation. If he would veto anti-abortion bills, shouldn't pro-lifers reject him? I think you need to see how Giuliani's various statements point to the federalism solution. Let the law vary from state to state, reflecting the different preferences of decentralized majorities at the state level. This solution depends not only on the Supreme Court's interpreting rights narrowly enough to leave room for state regulation, but also on the absence of federal legislation that would preempt state law.

If your conservatism extends to federalism, you should see why Giuliani's seemingly complicated position is perfectly coherent.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan agrees with me about Rudy and goes on to say that he has long favored the federalist solution to the abortion controversy. Read his whole post, but let me highlight some of it:
The South is a very conservative place. Forcing them to move more quickly on issues of basic human dignity has historically led to even worse spasms of hatred...

It seems to me that if the conservative coalition is not going to fracture completely, then federalism is its only option. That way, centrists like McCain, Romney and Giuliani can actually become Republican presidents.... Opting to use federalism as the mechanism to allow the social conservatives to support him on other issues like national security and a more competent government, while personally supporting women's freedom and gay dignity, is extremely smart politics.

I think Rudy is the best and most viable candidate the Republicans now have....
Let me flag two posts of mine from last fall about abortion and federalism: this one (responding to a lecture from Harvard lawprof Richard Fallon) and this one (reprinting an op-ed I wrote in the Wall Street Journal).

Glenn Reynolds also links and writes:
First, Ann refers to federalism's role (under the inaccurate moniker of "states' rights") as a shibboleth for anti-desegregation forces.
I agree that "states' rights" is a misnomer and use it here only to refer to the historical rhetoric. I used to think only people who didn't like federalism would use the term "states' rights" other than to call to mind the bad old days of slavery and segregation, but I was surprised back in 2000, when I participated in the (now famous) "Constitution in Exile" conference at Duke Law School, that lawprofs Lynn Baker and Ernie Young used the term "states rights" in a positive way in their article "Federalism and the Double Standard of Judicial Review." I was one of the commenters on their article -- my piece is "Why Talking About 'States' Rights' Cannot Avoid the Need for Normative Federalism Analysis" -- and I wrote:
Baker and Young boldly employ the inflammatory term "states' rights." Before reading their wonderfully assertive new article, I had thought the term states' rights survived only in the vocabulary of opponents of the Supreme Court's recent efforts on behalf of the states. "Federalism," I would have thought, is the term of choice for supporters of the Court's current jurisprudence. The term federalism conjures up more functional and pragmatic ideas about the role of the states....

But Baker and Young openly, eagerly embrace not just federalism but "states' rights." Their use of the term "rights" is not accidental. The way they would treat states corresponds to the way American law treats individual human beings when it is said that they have rights. The law protects individual freedom of speech even though that freedom will be used by persons who have hateful, ugly, or disturbing things to say; the law, however, may justify this individual autonomy on the theory that, over time, good will emerge from the marketplace of ideas. By the same token, Baker and Young are willing to take the risk that some states might do bad things with their freedom. They want protection of state autonomy and rely on a belief that in the long run what the states do with their independence will accrue to the good. Just as some First Amendment libertarians advocate a marketplace of ideas, Baker and Young might be said to advocate a marketplace of states, offering Americans a choice of fifty different cultures....

This argument for diversity -- at least in cases in which uniformity is not necessary -- is a strong one, yet its appeal inevitably will vary depending on how one answers the normative question. As long as Americans fear that states will do too much harm and too little good if left to their own devices, they are likely to prefer not states' rights, but, at most, a flexible, pragmatic federalism.
(I hope regular readers of this blog see the resonance between what I was saying there and the dispute I had with the libertarians recently -- here, here, and here.)

Anyway, you should read the rest of Glenn's post. And Baker and Young's article is really good. More on the "Constitution in Exile" notion here and here.

February 9, 2007

Too sad to watch?

We talk about Anna Nicole at the beginning of today's radio show -- listen here -- and I say I watched her reality show. I recommend it.

Writing about the law.

Look at all these cool people who are going to be speaking at a symposium at New York Law School next Friday.

Before the radio show.

In the studio waiting for the show to start, I open the little notebook that I brought to keep track of the material. To pass the time, I photograph some old pages:


(Click here for actual size.)

What was that about? The "accident" must be when I wrecked my car in January 2005. And the National Anthem/6000 must refer to this concert at the Overture Center (which was mostly Beethoven's 9th Symphony... even to the worm ecstasy is given).


(Click here for actual size.)

Well, that's got to be notes for later blogging. Yeah! This.

And here's Joy Cardin...

In the Wisconsin Public Radio studio.

... ready to start the show.

Listen to the show here (to stream). Or download on the archive page.

Althouse coffeehouse.

I've got to run over to the radio station to do the "Week In Review," so I don't have time to put up any more posts for another hour and a half. So why don't you folks get the conversation started here?

UPDATE: Okay, I'm back. Well, the coffee served up at Wisconsin Public Radio was super-strong. I got a little passionate somewhere in there around 8:30, when the discussion of the war went on a little long and a caller referred to me as "the Lady who likes the war" and then the other guest -- after chiding me for interrupting her -- started interrupting me. Yikes! Normally, I prefer the back and forth, with cutting in, so I never start the "let me finish" business, but if someone is going to block me with the "let me finish" thing, when it's my turn, I'm going to be the "let me finish" type myself. Yikes! See what I mean? I'm in a café now, but not with my usual latte. I'm drinking All Natural Nantucket Nectars 100% Juice Pomegranate Cherry. On the speakers: "It's All Too Much." And, yeah, it is.

Now, what have you kids been talking about?

"With Anna Nicole, she was pathetic but at the same time you thought, 'Gosh, if I could just scoop you up and fix things, it would be OK...."

"You wouldn't want to scoop up Paris Hilton.'"

Ah, yes. The classic two types of hyper-sexualized women -- the kind you think you can help, who just really need you, and the ones who seem ready to crush you if you came anywhere near. Anna Nicole is to Paris Hilton as Marilyn Monroe is to Madonna.

"Just a moment's pleasure."

UPDATE: YouTube has deleted this video, which was Bryan Ferry singing the song "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" (The song was written by Carole King and made popular in the early 60s by the great "girl group" The Shirelles.) In the Ferry video, Anna Nicole Smith appears.

February 8, 2007

Radio alert.

I'll be on the "Week in Review" show with Joy Cardin on Wisconsin Public Radio at 8 Central Time tomorrow morning. If you're in the area, why not listen to it live and maybe call in? We'll talk about whatever news stories people seem to want to talk about.

You'll be able to listen to the recorded show on line later in the day: here. Hmmm... I see Joy talked to Mark Steyn today at 8. You might want to listen to that.



ADDED: I was just checking my archives to see if I'd ever written about Anna Nicole Smith. I'm sure I wrote about her Supreme Court case a couple times. (You can see at the link that she was involved in many legal controversies.) But a search for "Anna Nicole" only led me to one post, less than three months ago, titled "6,666,666":
Some people wanted to know who was the 6,666,666th visitor to this blog. Here's some info from Site Meter:
Zekstra-Informacione Tehnologije
Country : Serbia and Montenegro
City : Beograd
Referring URL http://www.google.co...n&q=ann nicole smith
Search Engine google.com
Search Words ann nicole smith
Visit Entry Page http://althouse.blog...cole-smith-case.html
Visit Exit Page http://althouse.blog...cole-smith-case.html
It does seem a little evil... just a little.
A search for just "Nicole" gets me to this post about her 20-year-old son's death and four posts about her Supreme Court case (1, 2, 3, 4). I always liked Anna Nicole. I used to watch her TV show. She was a little odd, but not evil, and really beautiful:

Goodbye, Anna.

MORE: How long do you think before the biopic goes into production? And what are the chances that the role will be played by Jessica Simpson?


I say, give him the Oscar.

I just want to say this right now that regardless of what they say about it, we're gonna keep them.

Edwards is keeping the bloggers.

ADDED: I'm glad, for the sake of blogging, that Edwards made this decision. I truly worried -- I'm still worried -- about how this incident would -- will -- affect the employability of bloggers and motivate them to censor themselves. (I say "them," not "us," because I'm beyond the point in my career where such things affect me.) Edwards faced serious damage whichever decision he made, so it remains to be seen how reluctant candidates will be to hire bloggers. As one commenter pointed out on yesterday's post about the Edwards bloggers, there's no really good reason why a candidate needs to hire a blogger to deal with the bloggers. Anyone thinking of hiring a blogger as a liaison to bloggers will now check much more carefully, and there will be some worrisome things on everyone's blog. On the up side, this incident shows how much harm bloggers can do, so the candidates are on notice that they need to hire blogger wranglers.

Groucho and the medium.

If you have TimesSelect, you can read Dick Cavett's blog, which has a long post today about ghost stories. Here's an anecdote:
Groucho [Marx] could always go unrecognized in public, thanks to the painted-on mustache he wore onstage. This allowed him to, as he put it “go anywhere and mingle with the common man in all his dreariness.” Back then, there was a prominent trance medium holding forth, and her devoted disciples (sometimes spelled s-u-c-k-e-r-s) solemnly offered to take the man born Julius Marx with them to a séance. Always intellectually curious, Groucho was glad to be asked along — though he told me he was “vaguely insulted” when his new friends solemnly cautioned him to show the proper reverence. “I’m not a clown 24 hours,” he said. “I can also be serious.”

The séance was held in the darkened parlor of some wealthy believer’s apartment. Groucho reported a heavy air of sanctity about the place, “and not entirely from the incense.” Lights were low and the faithful conversed in hushed tones. The medium began to chant unintelligibly, and then to emit a strange humming sound (I can’t help seeing her as Margaret Dumont), eventually achieving her trance state. “I am in touch, I am in touch with the Other Side,” she intoned. “Does anyone have a question?”

Groucho arose and asked, “What is the capital of North Dakota?”

He recalled being chased for several blocks, but escaped injury.

"That has nothing to do with family and friends and everything to do with security... It's a question of distance."

Yes, it's a question of distance between you and ordinary mortals. Can someone explain how Nancy Pelosi has the nerve to tell a group of veterans that her desire to avoid having her plane stop to refuel is all about security?

ADDED: Scott Lemieux -- who has a bizarre case of Althouse Derangement Syndrome -- links to this post and rants obtusely about how it's a post-9/11 security requirement that the Speaker of the House fly in a military plane as opposed to a commercial plane. But this post is about a controversy over the size of the military plane she should have, not about whether or not she should have a military plane. He points out that Hastert got a military plane. Well, duh, Scott, that's in the article I linked to:
[A]fter the Sept. 11 attacks, it was deemed that anyone two heartbeats away from the presidency warranted a military jet.

Until now, the only speaker affected was Republican J. Dennis Hastert, who commuted to his Illinois district in small executive-style military jets.

But those aircraft require ideal weather conditions to make the cross-country trip without stopping to refuel....

The Defense Department delivered a letter to Pelosi late Wednesday that "offers her, as a courtesy, the same provisions to travel that Speaker Hastert had," said a senior Defense official.
And then read the text of my post, which doesn't criticize Pelosi for wanting a military plane by for "her desire to avoid having her plane stop to refuel." You know, words have meaning. Two words you might want to learn are "never" and "mind." And then maybe "I'm" and "sorry." You twit.

Lemieux['s blog] had to withdraw a rant about me on Thursday because his own commenters explained how he was being an idiot and got it wrong. Let's see if he figures out his boo-boo this time and corrects it. I don't normally link to my haters, but I'm going to make an exception just to say that Scott's bumbling is especially ridiculous. [NOTE: I see now that it was a co-blogger with the near-invisible moniker "d" that wrote the post that was regretted. Lemieux writes about me constantly over there, and I was wrong to assume that post was another one of his droppings. Apparently, the ADS over there is contagious, but d hasn't got it as bad.]

I thought Scott was a lawyer, because his blog is called "Lawyers, Guns, and Money," and I was going to say I feel for his clients, but it turns out he's a political science professor, and I don't think there's a law school to blame for his consistently poor reading, wildly flailing attacks, and obsession with a certain female law professor. Get well soon, loser. ADS is a ravaging disease for pathetic little men.

Temperature: zero... and climbing...

Here in Madison, Wisconsin...

Snow on a sunny day

Where it's a brilliant....

Snow on a sunny day

Sunny day:

Snow on a sunny day

"If we can no longer laugh at the terrorists, what weapon is left for the citizen?"

Says Phillippe Val, on trial in Paris, facing the prospect of six months in jail for publishing cartoons that supposedly slander Muslims:
[One cartoon] depict[s] the prophet [Muhammad] greeting suicide bombers in heaven with the caption, “Stop, stop, we have run out of virgins,” and another depict[s] Muhammad wearing a turban containing a bomb. A third image included in the suit was an original drawing by the French cartoonist Cabu, depicting a crying Muhammad with his head in his hands, saying, “It’s hard to be loved by idiots.

"I can understand (trousers) are comfortable but she's a woman and she is allowed to show that."

Donatella Versace offers Hillary Clinton (bad) fashion advice.

Pop quiz.

Identify the book at the bottom:

Comic book detail

And I'll link to your blog.

The gender politics of candy.

We were just talking about that Super Bowl Snickers commercial that pushed the envelope too far for contemporary Americans. It made Victoria -- our own "Cheers, Victoria" -- remember a to-do in Britain over a candy bar commercial back in 2001. Well, if the subject is sex and candy bars, let me show you what I have:

Devil Girl candy bars

Devil Girl candy bars

I bought these at the candy counter at the Majestic Theater, back in the days when the Majestic showed movies, and the movie was "Crumb" (that great, great documentary about Robert Crumb and his brothers). You know, for $25, you can buy the empty box they packed these bars in, over at Kitchen Sink, where they say:
Robert Crumb's Devil Girl bars were an instant success when they hit the market in 1994. The bars themselves are long gone and any surviving bars are probably not edible. But Kitchen Sink Press marketed the chocolate bars in a sturdy display box modeled after the heavy-duty cigar boxes of earlier days.
Not edible, but still, the very survival of the chocolate all these years is damned impressive, no? And, anyway, they were always "bad for you."

What's that cool looking book underneath, you're wondering? It's "My Most Secret Desire," by Julie Doucet, one of my favorite comics artists. You can buy the book -- here -- but it's a new edition with a different cover.

In short, it will be very difficult for you to recreate the still life you see in my photograph. But maybe it's a good day to photograph two objects on top of a book. The possibilities are endless.

For more Julie Doucet, check out "Leve Ta Jambe, Mon Poisson Est Mort!" -- don't worry, it's in English. There's a "search inside" function, so you can see more drawings (NSFW). No references to candy, unfortunately. No fish either, outside of the title. Actually, it's hard to do the "search inside" when the text is drawn. But try "cats" and click to the next two pages, to get a sense of it. Again, NSFW.

Is this post disturbing you? Let me return you to mainstream America:

Candy hearts

"Can we marry up those two — or maybe that's the wrong word — can we have some kind of union of those two issues?"

NY Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman leaned on Condoleezza Rice after she complained about the lack of Farsi and Arabic translators in the State Department:
"It seems that the Defense Department has a 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' when it comes to homosexuals. You don't have such a prohibition in your agency, do you?" Ackerman asked Rice.

"No, we do not," Rice replied.

"Well, it seems that the military has gone around and fired a whole bunch of people who speak foreign languages — Farsi and Arabic, etc.," Ackerman told her.
Ackerman laid it on a little thick:
"For some reason, the military seems more afraid of gay people than they are against terrorists, but they're very brave with the terrorists," Ackerman said.."If the terrorists ever got a hold of this information, they'd get a platoon of lesbians to chase us out of Baghdad."

The remark drew some smiles from fellow members of the panel, but Rice was stone faced.
Oh, wouldn't you like to know all the snappy comebacks that ran through her head and couldn't be said?
"Can we marry up those two — or maybe that's the wrong word — can we have some kind of union of those two issues?" Ackerman asked.
Is this Ackerman character the House comedian?

IN THE COMMENTS: Simon writes:
Congressman Gary Ackerman is full of it. I never tire of pointing out that the Defense Department doesn't have a "'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' [policy] when it comes to homosexuals," Congress imposes that policy on the Department of Defense by statutory law, 10 U.S.C. § 654. Since they have a nice, shiny new majority, and since they clearly have such disdain for Don't Ask Don't Tell, why doesn't the new Democratic majority repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell? Has Congressman Ackerman introduced a bill so to do? Why not?

Now that they're back in the majority, Democrats have no standing whatsoever to criticize Don't Ask Don't Tell until they at least move a bill repealing it through Congress (even if it ultimately gets vetoed). This isn't a military policy. It's Congress' policy. And guess what, Democrats? That means it's now your policy. Take that back to 'Frisco on your private jet, Nancy.

Did New Blogger kill spam comments?

Yesterday, commenters were complaining that under New Blogger, the word verification feature was working badly. I couldn't see the problem, because I was enjoying the way New Blogger was exempting a blog's owner from the step of reading and typing a hard-to-see bunch of letters, something I'd always been terrible at. But people were saying the words had become extremely hard to see [CORRECTION BELOW], so, experimenting, I turned off word verification. This opened up the blog to robot commenters -- the ones who start with a compliment -- "Nice blog!" -- and proceed to plug some commercial website -- "but I was looking for information on sealing wax." After a few hours, there were no robots, but that only made me think the robots come out at night. This morning, as I go to check, I wonder how many spam comments would it take for me to turn word verification back on? 10? I might put up with deleting 10 spambot comments a day. 20? I'd go back to word verification. But what is this? No spam comments at all! Perhaps New Blogger is screwing up its verification words, but if it killed the spambot: Wow! Thanks!

IN THE COMMENTS: Mike writes:
The problem was not that the verification word was hard to see. The problem was that, more often than not, when you typed the word in correctly it still didn't work. Since it failed so often, it was easy to collect enough "data" that it wasn't mistyping, it was the Blogger's word verification software that was failing. That's why I suggested telling Blogger. They have a bug.

February 7, 2007

"American Idol" -- the leftovers.

We're done with the individual cities, and now they're cutting together the odds and ends. Sounds bad, right? The best part of the show was the previews for next week, when we finally get to Hollywood, the place we've been hearing for weeks that we're going to. Mostly, we've got to wade through a lot of dross. A few comic characters, but I've seen too many in the last few weeks to be in the mood to describe them for you. There are a couple of sweet guys who aren't very good, but love Paula a lot, and everyone is pretty nice to them -- almost as if they suddenly feel a sense of responsibility for what happens in the lives of the rejected contestants. Amid all that there were four really good singers tonight.

1. Tami Gosnell, the pedi-cabbie who could pedal Randy, Paula, and Simon uphill and who they said looked like some star from the 60s (clearly, Janis Joplin). She sang "Whipping Post" with lots of power and a distinctive tone.

2. Paul Kim, an Asian guy who was irritated that when people think of an Asian guy on "American Idol," they always think of the comic contestant William Hung.

3. The incredibly beautiful (and tall and roller-skate-wearing) Ebony Jointer. She sings a Whitney Houston song and makes us think we're looking at the Season 6 winner.

4. Finally, there's the one we think of as the new Mandisa: Lakisha Jones. She sings "Think" -- "Freedom! Freedom!" -- exactly the way you'd want someone to sing "Think."

When a blogger goes to work for a presidential candidate.

Two bloggers -- Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan -- get their dream job with a presidential candidate, causing his opponents to comb over their blogs and pull out their nastiest lines to try to discredit them -- and to hurt the candidate. All you bloggers seeking political jobs should expect the same ... and more. After this new dustup, your prospective employers should check to make sure there are no usefully discrediting quotes, and you may never get the job. Getting hired as a presidential candidate's liaison to the blogophere -- I call it "blogger wrangling" -- will never be the same.

Ironically, Amanda Marcotte has blogged about me, using exactly this technique of picking out quotes of mine and using them in a vigorous effort to discredit me. It's the way of the blogger, and now we see it turned on the blogger when that blogger goes to work wrangling bloggers for a candidate. It's interesting that Marcotte's attack on me was in response to my mocking a blogger who had been wrangled on behalf of a presidential candidate.

So I'm a little conflicted about this. Not because Marcotte attacked me -- that's life in the blogosphere -- but because I like to see bloggers use blogging to snag political jobs, and, on the other hand, I'm wary about this new activity of wrangling bloggers for the benefit of political candidates. For you bloggers seeking jobs: I hope you get them. But for you bloggers staying in this noble enterprise: Preserve your independence and don't let yourself get manipulated, even by some blogger wrangler you loved when she was one of you.

In that post of mine that Marcotte savaged, I really was trying to hurt this emerging profession of blogger wrangler. I want bloggers to keep their distance from candidates and not succumb to flattery and seduction. Oh, the candidate actually cares about me, wants to talk to me. It's fine to take advantage of some access, but don't come back like a sucker and blog about how nice the candidate was to you.

ADDED: Captain Ed -- noting Marcotte's "anti-Catholic screeds" -- says:
As a Catholic, I'm less offended by the likes of Marcotte and McEwan than I am surprised that no one in the Edwards campaign thought it was a problem for their candidate. Catholics have overcome bad weather that had more impact on our faith than either blogger, but Edwards wants to court the Catholic (and Evangelical) impulses for social justice and peace to bolster his populist campaign. Surely someone on his staff had the responsibility to actually read the bloggers' previous work to see if it matched the tone Edwards wanted to set with the on-line community and voters in general. That someone should be fired right along with Marcotte and McEwan.

Unfortunately, we can expect this incident to make it harder for bloggers to make the transition into traditional political roles on campaigns. We already have a Wild West reputation for shooting off our mouths and thinking later, which I believe is mostly undeserved; the media will use this to reinforce that impression of the blogosphere. The truth is that the Edwards campaign didn't work very hard to keep a couple of Catholic-haters out of their payroll, and while the media will also report that, that will get missed for the more sensational story of those bloggers and the liability they represent.
Implication: Bloggers gunning for political jobs have to tone down the anti-Catholicism.

UPDATE: Salon reports that the two bloggers have been fired. (Via Memeorandum.)

MORE: "The Pandagon Papers." (NSFW.)

1. Some people seem to think I'm gloating over Marcotte's misfortune. That is a weird misreading of this post, which is damned sympathetic to her plight, especially considering that she was as nasty to me as she possibly could be. I brush that aside as "the way of the blogger" and "life in the blogosphere," as I worry about the employability of bloggers and the pressure for self-censorship.

2. Some people think I'm just a big Republican, interested only in hurting Democratic candidates. But with a handful of exceptions, I've voted for Democrats for 35 years, and I happen to have voted for John Edwards in the Democratic primary in 2004. The Wisconsin primary took place when Edwards was the only man who could stop John Kerry, who I (correctly) thought would make a bad candidate. On the political spectrum, I'm somewhere around Joe Lieberman and Rudy Giuliani. In short, I'm the kind of person the candidates should be concerned about.

Are dissenting opinions vanity or dishonesty?

Tony Mauro has an interview with Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito:
Alito ... commented on Roberts' efforts to achieve greater unanimity on the Court, even at the expense of making broad rulings. Alito thinks there is merit in the idea, and says Roberts has already "worked to prevent fractured opinions." But Alito says Roberts has not made the pitch for unanimity to the justices as a group. For his part, Alito says, "I don't feel too strongly about writing separate opinions."

But he says Roberts' campaign points up a problem that any appellate judge "struggles with," namely, how far to go in compromising in the interest of unanimity and giving clear guidance, without crossing the line into endorsing "something you don't believe in."

Alito recalled that in his early days as a judge on the 3rd Circuit, he heard a judge -- whose name he can't recall -- lecture on the evils of writing dissents. "He said it was nothing but vanity, and that it didn't achieve anything. That's one side of it."
Aw, come on, who was it?
The other side, which Alito worries about, is the dishonesty of signing onto an opinion with which you disagree.

"I think of the analogy of someone coming to your door and asking you to sign a petition," says Alito. "You say no, you don't agree with it, and the person at your door says, ‘Sign it anyway.'"
So, dissenting opinions: vanity or dishonesty? I think it's somewhere in between. It's not really dishonest to sign on even though you disagree. Once a majority of the Justices have one opinion, it will be the precedent in future cases, and you'll cite it and follow it then. What difference does it make if you start following it before it issues? Should you always do that then? Should we agree with the unnamed Third Circuit judge who said that dissenting opinions were nothing but vanity? I'd say that is going too far, but reading dissenting opinions, you can encounter a lot of unseemly preening. Still, there is an important place for dissent:
Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., published an article in the January 1986 Hastings Law Journal, “In Defense of Dissents,” confessing that when he first came to the U.S. Supreme Court, he did not write a single dissent, although 42 of the 56 opinions he authored in 1985 were just that. So why dissent?

After all, the law is made by those who command the majority, not the outsiders. Even Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the "Great Dissenter" at one point opined that dissents are generally "useless" and "undesirable." Justice Potter Stewart labeled dissents "subversive literature."

But by the time he wrote the article Justice Brennan was a true believer in the power of dissent. In this way flaws are demonstrated in the majority’s legal analysis, thereby laying the basis for future corrective action. And a dissent holds the majority accountable for the rationale and consequences of its decision. "At the heart of that function is the critical recognition that vigorous debate improves the final product by forcing the prevailing side to deal with the hardest questions urged by the losing side."
Too much antagonism toward dissent -- in judicial opinions and elsewhere -- betrays a fear that one's arguments are flawed. But that doesn't apply to what Chief Justice Roberts has talked about, which is simply narrowing the scope of the decision to the point where it can eliminate the disagreement.

But does it contribute to global warming?

Nancy Pelosi has been given access to an Air Force passenger jet, but it seems she wants an even larger one.

Driving while talking on the cell phone? You shouldn't even be walking and talking on the cell phone!

Not in New York City, if this bill is passed.

I love walking while talking on the phone. And I remember when I used to make fun of people who were walking around talking on the phone. It used to be that talking while walking alone was a sure sign of craziness, and the early phone walkers had some nerve, looking crazy like that. Now, I look out my office window and see that nearly everyone who's walking alone is talking on the phone. I think it's nice. People don't want to be alone. They want someone to talk with while they're walking, but there's usually not someone there who's going in the same direction. And it's a good use of your walking time, catching up with friends and family or planning meeting somewhere. In fact, it's a good way to get some exercise. When you need to do a phone call, take a walk. Sometimes, when I get a call, I leave the house and walk around the neighborhood, and it's gotten to feel so normal to walk and talk that I also walk around the house when I'm on the phone.

So this bill is not just censorship, it's part of the obesity problem.

The dreariest subject in the world: How to spice up your marriage.

I see that pop culture has come full circle:
Christina Aguilera has no problem showing skin - especially on weekends with her husband, music executive Jordan Bratman.

"We claim ourselves to be the coziest couple ever. We have something called 'naked Sundays..."''''

"You have to keep marriage alive, spice it up....We do everything naked. We cook naked."
This is straight out of "Total Woman," the best-seller that feminists hooted at in the 1970s:

The author Marabel Morgan had all sorts of advice aimed at conservative, middle class, Christian women.
Marabel Morgan's notorious 1973 book, The Total Woman, has lingered in people's minds because of the seduction techniques it recommends to unhappy housewives. They ought to consider meeting their husbands at the front door in sexy costumes (heels and lingerie, that kind of thing), calling them at work and talking dirty to them, seducing them beneath the dining-room table. (Morgan does not, however, recommend that women nurture a burning intelligence. In a list of unconventional locations in which to make love, she includes the hammock, counseling her readers, "He may say 'We don't have a hammock.' You can reply 'Oh, darling, I forgot!'"). But long before she describes any of these memorable techniques, Morgan gives a quite thorough accounting of how a housewife ought to go about "redeeming the time" and the energy so that she is physically and emotionally able to make love on a regular basis. A housewife should run her household the way an executive runs his business: with goals, schedules, and plans. She should make dinner—or at least do all the shopping and planning for it—right after breakfast, so that she isn't running around like a madwoman in the late afternoon with no idea what to cook. She should take time to rest and relax during the day so that she is not exhausted and depleted come whoopee hour. With the right kind of planning, "you can have all your home duties finished before noon." In a household run by an incompetent wife, however, "by the time her husband enters the scene, she's had it," Morgan writes. "She's too tired to be available to him." This seems a fairly accurate depiction of many contemporary two-career marriages, in which dinner is a nightly crisis (what to eat?) and an endless negotiation (who to cook it?) entered into by two people who have been managing crises and negotiating agreements all day long and who still have the children's homework and baths and bedtimes to contend with.
That's a passage from a 2003 article in The Atlantic called "The Wifely Duty" and subtitled: "Marriage used to provide access to sex. Now it provides access to celibacy."

"These people are extremely well-suited, by personality and training, to deal with the stresses of being in space..."

Back on earth... not so much. And those "Right Stuff" days are over:
Today’s astronauts find themselves in a world much less glamorous than the original crews. While the Mercury Seven raced Corvettes, today’s family-oriented fliers are likelier to tool around in minivans.
Isn't the Space Shuttle itself sort of a minivan?
They spend much more time in suburbia than in orbit, and there are no more ticker-tape parades for the returning heroes.

Some former officials of the space program said that romantic thoughts and even love triangles were not unknown to the program but that it was up to management to watch carefully and intervene.

Mr. Abbey, the former Johnson Space Center director, said, “You’ve got some hard-charging people...
Hard-charging, in diapers!
"... and you need to manage them.” Problems like this “don’t happen overnight,” and so “you have to be sensitive to what your people are doing.”

Now and then on his watch, he recalled, “I stepped in, and people weren’t happy about it,” he recalled, but it was important to tell them that “what you’re doing is not a personal thing for you — it’s affecting a lot of people around you, and affecting your performance.”
Oh, so it's one big soap opera with them? I await the TV series: "Desperate Astronauts." The possibilities are endless, both on the ground and in the orbiting giant minivan.

Is there no dignity left for that archetypal American figure, the astronaut? Now, they are reduced to whimpering to the media: "we call them urine collection devices."

"I have scraped many squirrels off roads."

"Because often when we are driving and we see a squirrel we assume they're dead — but they're not. They're just concussed. I always stop and lift them to the side of the road. So the next time you see a squirrel on the side of the road, stop and make sure."

Oh, now I'm sobbing at the beauty of human kindness. Please, somebody nominate Morrissey for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The Enemy

The mainstream media notice Prince's phallic guitar shadow.

Checking Site Meter this morning, I can see I'm getting a lot of visitors searching for things like "Prince Superbowl silhouette" and "Prince Super Bowl silhouette."

(The incorrect one word spelling seems to be more common. We've spelled it both ways in the comments. It's easy to remember that the one word spelling is wrong: Just think about how it can be misread as "Superb Owl.")

My post, "About that silhouette," shows up on the first Google search page. So, I figure the mainstream media have caught up with Prince's phallic guitar shadow. Let's see if we're getting amusement at the blatant-yet-subtle imagery or if they're seeing it as in their interest to pretend to blow a gasket so they can manipulate readers into a frenzy like they did in the old days when Justin Timberlake popped Janet Jackson's armor-clad breast out of her costume.

If I go back to the older stories, I find things like the NYT's "A Noncontroversial Prince, Just the Way the N.F.L. Likes Him":
No doubt National Football League officials were pretty pleased... They know that the halftime show is still haunted by the specter of 2004, when Justin Timberlake enlivened an otherwise unmemorable show by baring Janet Jackson’s breast. Somehow, Timberlake’s role has been largely forgotten, but Jackson’s career has still not recovered. And compared with the controversial Jackson, Prince must seem like a pretty safe bet.

Would that last statement have made any sense at all 20 years ago? In 1987, Jackson was best known as Michael’s effervescent younger sister, and Prince was perhaps the most polarizing pop star in the country; the sexually frank lyrics of his “Darling Nikki” had helped spark a national debate about explicit lyrics.

Yesterday’s command performance was yet more proof that Prince has made that familiar journey from pariah to American treasure. He has a catalog of hits that everybody seems to love (even the players, who normally take little interest in the halftime show, were quoted praising Prince), and he sings and plays and moves as well as he ever did.

Best of all, he does not carry himself as a pop-star emeritus. Did you see his face during the first verse of “Purple Rain,” when he tossed his bandana into the crowd? He looked as if he were getting away with something.
I'm going to assume that -- unlike the headline writer -- the author of this piece, Kelefa Sanneh, knew that he did "get away" with something.

(Political information not included in this article: It was specifically Al Gore's wife Tipper -- not some red state prude -- who flipped out at "Darling Nikki" and ignited that national debate about sexy song lyrics.)

Here's one of my TV photos to refresh your recollection of the subtlety/blatancy of the tiny genius's imagery:


This isn't just a chance image. The whole time the sheet was up, the shadow looked phallic and was moved about into various different phallic positions. I thought it was obvious that Prince had his eye on the silhouette and was playing a shadow game:


It looks like the main MSM story that threw a spotlight on Prince's japery was Jake Coyle's AP piece "Prince's Halftime Imagery Questioned":
A number of bloggers have decried [sic] "Malfunction!" - including Sam Anderson at New York magazine's Daily Intelligencer. Daily News television critic David Bianculli called it "a rude-looking shadow show" that "looked embarrassingly rude, crude and unfortunately placed."

CBS spokesman Dana McClintock said Tuesday that the network has received "very few" complaints on Prince's performance. CBS last aired the Super Bowl in 2004 when Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake's "wardrobe malfunction" sparked criticism and a subsequent crackdown on broadcast decency from the Federal Communications Commission.

But this time, it was the NFL that produced the halftime show (MTV had in 2004). Spokesman Greg Aiello said the league has received no complaints.
That was what was so brilliant about it. The kind of people who would get upset and complain couldn't see it or might perhaps think they see it but fear the embarrassment of being told that they are the one with the dirty mind.


"We respect other opinions, but it takes quite a leap of the imagination to make a controversy of his performance," Aiello said. "It's a guitar."...

For decades, the electric guitar, by nature, has been considered phallic. From Jimi Hendrix's sensual 6-string swagger to Eddie Van Halen's masturbatory soloing, the guitar has often been thought an extension of a male player's sexuality.

Was Prince's pose phallic?
I love all the additional amusement I'm getting out of reading things like this. It was completely clear, yet there's still the question: Did that even happen? It's this playfulness of creating ambiguity in the midst of utter clarity that will go down in pop culture history.
"The short answer is, of course it is," says Rolling Stone magazine contributing editor Gavin Edwards...
And the long answer is: Wow!
"All that said, it didn't seem like a sniggering little puppet show," adds Edwards. "I think it was one of those things because a guitar at waist level does look like an enormous phallus."
Oh, come on. Was Edwards watching? Give Prince credit for this creativity. This wasn't just the usual guitar-is-phallic business. This was art. It came from a mind. It wasn't "sniggering" and it (really) wasn't "little," but it actually was a puppet show. A quite clever one. The billowing sheet looked beautiful waving in the light. It fit the stadium space sublimely, and made the little man big -- which is what the Viagra-consuming football viewers are always hoping for. Give the artist the credit he deserves.
By enlarging his shadow, it's possible Prince intended to accentuate this aspect of his solo, but it's just as likely it was accidental....
Now, I'm outraged at the denial of artistry. These critics think they are the perceptive ones and the dumb musicians only happen to flash imagery for the critics to choose to make real with their writing.

("All the critics love u in New York/Yes, we're certain of it, he's definitely masturbating.")
Stephen Colbert reacted with mock outrage on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" Monday night: "They knew that they were dealing with a lustful, pansexual rock 'n' roll deviant," said Colbert, who joked that the sheet hid (not enhanced) Prince's "demonic guitar phallus."...
Actually, he said, "I don't care what you do with your demonic guitar phallus, any Hassid worth his [something Hassidic?] will tell you that as long as it's through a sheet it's kosher."
"If people want to be hypersensitive, they can be hypersensitive," says Rolling Stone's Edwards. "Those trombones are phallic, too. What are you going to do?"
I am going to draw a distinction between artistic creativity and mere chance.

February 6, 2007

"American Idol" -- San Antonio.

Pushing the Texas cowboy angle, the play "Rawhide" and edit the footage of the gathered crowd to seem like cattle. We're supposed to smirk at the kids' willingness to sing "Rawhide." Don't they know they're being led to the slaughter?

"Are you an aggressive performer?" Ryan asks the burly Bryan Kyrish. "Oh, yeah," he says. Ryan: "Why do you say it like that? It's almost creepy." Bryan is the first audition, and we're left puzzling over whether he's on because he's going to be great or because he's going to be awful. You'd think by now I'd've picked up the cues and would know what was going to happen, but all I know is that it's going to be one or the other. He sings "Rebel Yell," yells "Rebel Yell," and it's not creepy, it's scary. "It was a lot of shouting without a melody," says Simon. Yep.

Haley Scarlato looks good, sounds good, "a bit caberet." I thought they'd love her, but they're just: "You deserve a second chance."

Next is Jasmine Holland, who's terribly shy. She's a black woman from a gospel choir, so I assume she'll be terrific, but she's awful, and they laugh in her face. Paula says she seems sad, and she bursts out and says it's because "y'all're being rude" -- which is true. She then proceeds to attack Randy: "What do you do? I'd never heard of you before 'American Idol'... You were in the background..." Outside the audition room, she's all: "Simon, what is he? He's not even American." Her mother backs her up: "He needs to go back to... where's he from? French." Ryan corrects: "No, he's British." Mom: "He needs to go back to British and be the judge for British people. He's not American, so how can he tell who sings and not sings?" I'll bet they put some thought into whether to use this segment, since it invites viewers to laugh at people who aren't well educated, but I can see how they overcame whatever resistance they had. The young woman was quite bad and deluded, and she got nasty and abusive. She also cried two giant streaks of tears out of each eye.

Next is Baylie Brown, the girl from Krum, who lives around horses, but is also afraid of them. She has a brilliant smile and dimples, and she tells us that at heart she's a city girl. She's only 16. She looks fabulous and sings in a charming country style. "You're commercial with a capital C," Simon tells her.

They do the "wrong door" routine again, the lamest source of humor this season. Why is one door locked? There was at least a punchline: One girl got through the locked door.

A guy sings "Amazing Grace" all off key and gets a no. He's entirely accepting of that but as a joke, after he leaves the room, he starts yelling at them as if he'd lost his cool. His cousin Akron Wilson is next, and he sings the great song "A Change Is Gonna Come." They tell him he's charisma challenged but give him another chance, so he tears into "Let's Get It On," and they like him.

Next, they make a young woman cry. She's bad, and they say "Are you serious?"

Ashlynn Carr is beautiful but a little strange. She's one of the few contestants who gets a no from Randy and Paula, but Simon's a yes. After she's gone, Simon says we're making a mistake. Bring her back. She does "Inseparable," and Simon leans way back and massages his man-boobs in big circles and opines, "You have some very bad habits." But they let her through.

Jake the Snake -- Jacob Tutor -- says he's influenced by Kurt Cobain, and he sings something I can't recognize -- something about being in Hell. "I think you need to be in a very dark bedroom to sing that song," says Simon.

Jimmy McNeal says he's going to sing "Cupid," but he sings "Another Saturday Night" shifting into "Cupid." Simon says, "You're like a little, fun Ruben, aren't you? Remember when we first met Ruben. That was when he used to smile." Oh, how painful! That's the saddest thing anyone ever said on the show. Ruben doesn't smile anymore? He smiled when they first met him, and they they put him through the "American Idol" machine, and now he doesn't smile anymore. But welcome to the machine, Jimmy!

Oh, you know how I adore Dakota Fanning!

"A wig, a trenchcoat, adult diapers, BB gun, a steel mallet, some rubber tubing, and garbage bags."

When Astronauts Attack.

Oh, come on, haven't you at least thought of wearing a Depends to get you through that long, fast car trip... like when you're off to murder somebody?

"Lust and disgust, pride and humiliation, guilt and atonement... moral intuition, empathy..."

It's all there in your insula. Now, if we could just learn how to tweak it.... it would be great... or not.

A question for law students.

What do you think of the law school teaching style where the students are put in small groups and given exercises designed to put them in the role of teaching each other, with the lawprof off to the side in a supporting role?

ADDED: Former law students, lawprofs, prospective students are welcome to join the discussion!

That's not funny! Snickers.

Is this ad offensively homophobic?

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Human Rights Campaign complained and got Masterfoods to withdraw it (after it played during the Super Bowl). I wonder if non-activist gay people and gay-friendly non-gay people are offended by that ad. I think it's funny. It makes fun of guys who are afraid of being gay, which isn't endorsing homophobia. It's mocking it. And what do they do when they feel compelled to "do something manly"? They rip hair off their chest. Hair on the chest is a longtime symbol of masculinity. And de-hair-ifying your chest is a metrosexual thing. And the fact is, they showed two men in a big, sweet open-mouthed kiss.

So the complaint is not only humorless, it's obtuse.

ADDED: Americablog is horrified and outraged by the ad. I disagree, but accept the point that idiots could view the ad and learn the reaction of violence. Given that there is anti-gay violence, one ought not to fool around with material like this.

MORE: As you can see at the Americablog link, there were follow-on ads that exacerbated the problem. And as the commenters point out, the original ad, even if funny and not homophobic, is still not a good way to promote a candy bar.

Hannity grills Giuliani.

No, no, I'm not a news junkie, but I am sitting here at 6 a.m. watching Sean Hannity interview Rudy Giuliani:


After trying to pin Giuliani down about whether he's definitely running, Hannity asks the dopey question "Are you in it to win it?" Giuliani turns that into a chance to make the case for himself succinctly and -- I think -- brilliantly. The "only reason to do it" is to try to win it and:
The first thing you have to do is say to yourself: What can I bring to it? What can I do that's different or... And how can I make the country better? How can I prove it? And I think that the experiences that I've had Mayor of New York City, United States Attorney, all of them very, very strongly kind of...
Don't know why he went soft with the "kind of"...
... in the executive area where you have to have leadership and organization and focus...
Unlike the Senate!
... and having dealt with a city that was in really bad shape when I, when I took over and that had to kind of turn around...
I think he throws in "kind of" when his inner voice warns him not to sound like a braggart.
I think it gives you the background to approach it and to feel pretty comfortable that you can make a difference.
I wrote that I thought this part was brilliant before I transcribed it and got the chance to see the imperfections and the rambling structure. But I think this is not inarticulateness. I think it's intentionally pulling back from a stronger, more glib way of speaking that people might find off-putting. In addition to those two "kind ofs," he uses the word "you" instead of the more precise "I," and he breaks up the core statement -- that he's the experienced, strong, successful executive -- with softening material about "mak[ing] a difference" and "feel[ing] pretty comfortable." What I remembered before taking the time to transcribe this, was, in fact, that core statement, and all that extra material that surprised me when I did the transcription is the lubrication that let the message get through without irritation. So I'm sticking with my opinion that it was brilliant.

Hannity grills Giuliani about all the social conservative issues. This is important. Hannity represents the sector of voters that Giuliani needs to reach. The first big question is about abortion: "Where does Rudy Giuliani stand on abortion, and do you think Roe v. Wade is good law/bad law?" Rudy:
Where I stand on abortion is: I oppose it. I don't like it. I hate it. I think abortion is something that, as a personal matter, I would advise somebody against. However, I believe in a woman's right to choose. I think you have to ultimately not put a woman in jail for that, and I think, ultimately, you have to leave that to a disagreement of conscience, and you have to respect the choice that somebody makes.

So what I do say to conservatives because then you want to look at, well, okay, what can we look to that is similar to the way you think. I think the appointment of judges that I would make would be very similar to if not exactly the same as the last two judges that were appointed. Chief Judge, uh, Justice Roberts is somebody I work with, somebody I admire. Justice Alito, someone I knew when he was U.S . Attorney, also admire. If I had been president over the last four years, I can't think of any, you know, that I'd do anything different than that. I guess the key to it is -- and I appointed over 100 judges when I was the mayor so it's something I take very, very seriously -- I would appoint judges that interpreted the Constitution rather than invented it, understood the difference of being a judge and being a legislator -- and having argued a case before the Supreme Court, having argued in many, many courts -- is something I would take very seriously.
Hannity asks him if he'd look for someone like Scalia, Roberts, and Alito. (I note the non-mention of Thomas.)
Scalia is another former colleague of mine and somebody I consider to be a really great judge. You're never going to get somebody exactly the same, and I don't think you have a litmus test, but I do think you have sort of a general philosophical approach that you want from a justice, and I think a strict constructionist would be probably the way I'd describe it.
Hannity gets back to the part of his abortion question that Rudy never answered: "Is Roe bad law?"
I think that's up to the Court to decide. It's been precedent for a very, very long time. There're questions about the way it was decided, the basis for it. At this point, it's precedent. It's going to be very interesting to see, what Chief Justice Roberts and what Justice Scalia, um, Justices Scalia and Alito do with it.
Why does he throw in Scalia and not mention Thomas? Because he knows Scalia? Because they share an ethnic identity? It's not going to be "very interesting to see" what Scalia does. We've seen it! Actually, I think he meant to just name the two new justices, but said Scalia for Alito, in the usual "Scalito" fashion.
I think probably they're going to limit [Roe], rather than overturn it...
He goes on, with various details about different sorts of statutes regulating abortion, but see what he's done? He still hasn't said that he thinks Roe was rightly or wrongly decided. It's a matter for the justices, he'll be interested to see what they do, and he's got predictions that go right down the middle, offering something to both sides. He won't talk about his own legal opinion, but he does then make the subject himself -- himself as that strong, experienced executive he wants everyone to think about. When he was mayor:
Abortions went down. Adoptions went way up. Because we worked on adoptions as an alternative, so that there'd be a real choice. So that, ultimately, you respect a woman's choice, but it should be a real choice. Adoption or, if they make that choice, I don't think the criminal law can interfere with it.
Hannity says conservatives will like what he's said about appointing justices like Roberts, Scalia, and Alito, and asks him if he's concerned about the disagreement over abortion. Giuliani goes into his perky political mode -- with a marked change of diction ("ya gotta"):
There'll be disagreement on a lot of things. There are always disagreements. People... and then some people just won't be able to vote for ya. Ya gotta live with that. I mean, the reality is ya gotta be yourself. Ya gotta be who you are, be honest with people. If you've changed on something, you've gotta be willing to express it.
At this point, he shifts us off the abortion topic and onto how, as mayor, he changed his mind about education and came to believe in school choice and vouchers. That's some substance for you conservatives -- and another reminder that he's the experienced, strong, successful executive.

Very well done!


And here's a classic Hannity expression for you to interpret:


Do you see smugness or a kindly, good man?

And how about that "ALERT"? You can't tell from the still, but the red splotch behind the letters was pulsating. Okay, I'm alert. Now, what?

"Today, she is a voluptuous woman with a brown pixie..."

Writes Robin Givhan in a fashion article, where, the assumption is, you understand the terminology. If not, perhaps you'd get the absurd image of the voluptuous woman accompanied by one of these:

It's funny, though. If you read about a woman -- voluptuous or no -- a woman with a pageboy, you never picture her hanging about with someone like this:

When the psychiatrist thinks the patient is just an...

... asshole. And he writes a nice essay that gets published in the New York Times, where you can't come out and say "asshole."

February 5, 2007

YouTube politics.

The story so far.

ADDED: The link is a video (a video about video), and it includes a cool segment with Rudy Giuliani in drag... fooling around with Donald Trump. I think Rudy is delightful in it, myself.

"Are there drawbacks to being so smart?"

"It's easy to get bored with routine and hard to extract gratification from normal conversation, at least with most members of the bar crowd."

An interview with Christopher Langan, who's worked for years as a bar bouncer and has an IQ of 195. (PDF, via Metafilter.)

Are there lots of really intelligent people who are only marginally employed? Or do you think that if they are, they probably have mental problems? Perhaps they're only bored will all the things that everyone else finds interesting, and they are disabled from living in the world as all the ordinary people have arranged it.

This post is only for "American Idol" fans.

Really, go away if you're not. You won't even get it.... Paris Bennett -- who finished 5th last year -- has an album now, called "Princess P," and she's got this interview in Entertainment Weekly, with this wacky revelation:
Any featured guests?

Kevin Covais is on my record. He does a rap.

Kevin, as in ''Chicken Little?''

Yes. We're good friends and decided to do this sweet, funny interlude called ''Let Me Rap.'' What the world doesn't know is that he can really rap! He should do a rap record.



IN THE COMMENTS: Comments are piling up quickly, and I keep seeing liberals pop in to say the social conservatives won't accept Rudy, and then responses like this:
I'm a social conservative, but becoming more pragmatic [or is it 'live-and-let-live'?] as I age. I'd vote for Rudy in a New York minute over almost anybody else. I might vote ideology in the primaries, but if Rudy's the nominee, I'll happily vote for him.

"We love the Beatles and it has been painful being at odds with them..."

Apple Inc. and Apple Corps, together at last.

About that silhouette.

Are you feeling outrage or amusement or not really seeing what the big deal is?



Reminds me of the hospital sponge bath scene in the famous "Seinfeld" episode, "The Contest":
(On the other side of a curtain divider, the silhouette of a shapely nurse can be seen entering)

NURSE: Hi, Denise. Six-thirty, time for your sponge bath.

(The shadow of a patient awakening can be seen)

DENISE: Mmm.. is it six-thirty already? I fell asleep.

(The two women go about preparing the sponge bath. George is visibly affected - breathing heavily, and staring at them through the curtain)

SHELLY: (Seems not to notice what's going on beyond the divider) So, George, what are you doing now? I hear you got some kinda television, writing - thing?

GEORGE: (Slowly backing away, he's not at all committed to the conversation) Yeah.. television.

(The patient, Denise, is trying to get her gown off)

NURSE: Let me help you out with that. Here, just slip it over your head..

DENISE: Oh.. thank you.

SHELLY: (Nodding) Well, it's about time. We thought you were gonna wind up on the street. (As the bath is going on, George is now completely mesmerized)

What is it you're doing, exactly?

(A moment passes. George seems not to have heard his cousin)

ESTELLE: George, you're cousin, Shelly, is talking to you!....


JERRY: So the nurse was giving her a sponge bath?

GEORGE: Every night at six-thirty. The nurse was gorgeous.. then I got a look at the patient.. (Laughs, then snorts) I was going nuts.

JERRY: Oh, man. Well, I guess you'll be going back to that hospital.

GEORGE: (Fake sympathy) Well, my mother, Jerry..

(Jerry nods)

JERRY: (Pointing) But are you still master of your domain?

GEORGE: (Arms out) I am king of the county. You?

JERRY: Lord of the manor.


ADDED: I have more to say about this here.

"Rules for YouTube."

Lots of great advice here, including insight into the perfection of this:

So the violence in the Super Bowl commercials means what about the war in Iraq?

Some of the commercials were violent, like a guy throwing a rock at another guy's head. Surely, that means something about the war:
No commercial that appeared last night during Super Bowl XLI directly addressed Iraq, unlike a patriotic spot for Budweiser beer that ran during the game two years ago. But the ongoing war seemed to linger just below the surface of many of this year’s commercials.
Or all over the surface of your brain.
More than a dozen spots celebrated violence in an exaggerated, cartoonlike vein that was intended to be humorous, but often came across as cruel or callous....

During other wars, Madison Avenue has appealed to a yearning for peace. That was expressed in several Super Bowl spots evocative of “Hilltop,” the classic Coca-Cola commercial from 1971, when the Vietnam War divided a world that needed to be taught to sing in perfect harmony.

Coca-Cola borrowed pages from its own playbook with two whimsical spots for Coca-Cola Classic, “Happiness Factory” and “Video Game,” that were as sweet as they were upbeat. The commercials, by Wieden & Kennedy, provided a welcome counterpoint to the martial tone of the evening.
So if the ads are violent, they're about the war, and if the ads are sweet and gentle, they're about the war? And whichever way they go, they are against the war, right?

ADDED: Anchoress: "Hey, NY Times, put down the bong."