March 10, 2007

Soaking up the thaw.

From some angles, it may look stark here in Madison, Wisconsin:

Lake Mendota in March

Reminds me of this place.

But look this way:

Lake Mendota in March

Snow was melting like mad today as the temperature shot up to 48°. I bet more snow melted today than on any other day that I've lived in Wisconsin. There were rivulets of ex-snow everywhere. Those ice fisherman have been enjoying things all winter long. But it's balmy enough that a casual couple take a stroll onto the ice and then just stand around having a conversation.

Step a little further back and you're on the Terrace -- which is officially closed, as I read on a sign as I was leaving. See all these piled up chairs and tables?

Terrace in March

Terrace in March

Soon it will be like this:

The Union Terrace

But we don't have to wait for it to get like that for you guys to get like this -- picture taken today:

Oh, no!

And while we're checking out Madison fashions, how about something for your innocent babe?

Political baby clothes

For some crazy reason, fashion designers want guys to...

... dress like Pee Wee Herman.

And there seems to be some fashion designer rule that a man's body must be called his "physique."

Rhymes with "vortex."

It seems there's some sort of competition going on for the title Poet Laureate of the Althouse Blog. Omaha1 wants it, but I think someone needs to alert Lonely Donut Man that there is a challenge.

Here's an old Lonely Donut Man contribution:
Lo! If I could'st but work my will
like a veritable nymph on the pill
would'st the uncouth have their fill
of verse and meter and prose n'er shrill
verily to forgo the Blogsphere's usual swill
Fie! Like a strumpet's fingers at the till
most bloggers be'th naught but a politician's shill

-LDM (lonely donut man)
I love poetry contests. It's cool when the competitive spirit breaks out in the field of poetry. Omaha1 opens with:
behold the frightful power of the vortex
o'er the powerless cerebral cortex
Marcotte, Campos, professors of the law
mere puppets, sucked into its cold, dead maw
Althouse! Althouse! the dreadful siren song
no blogger can resist a force so strong
no democrat is she, if she is for
Chimpy McHitlerburton's Iraq "war"
I say I'm impressed with the vortex/cortex rhyme, and Ron parries with:
Maybe if you get bedeviled by that crazy woman from Yale again, you can rhyme "vortex" with "whore text!"
From this cascade of verse, I'll protect myself with Gore-tex.

It's me and Glenn Reynolds...

On Bloggingheads.tv. With special guest, Dr. Helen. Topics (and times):
Glenn and Ann finally speak to each other (01:31)

The perils of discussing ethnicity in law school (14:47)

Are we really all that politically polarized? (04:49)

Dr. Helen joins the show and talks about abused women... like poor Ann (04:35)

Creepy chatroom guys and blogging feminists (06:59)

Watching reality TV... (04:46)

...and videotaping reality (09:01)

"This is not Dodge City in the 1800s."

A DC Circuit panel adopts the individual rights theory of the Second Amendment and throws out the District's ban on handguns inside the home:
Tom G. Palmer, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and one of the plaintiffs who prevailed yesterday, said he once used a handgun to ward off potential attackers when he lived in San Jose. He said the ruling would help residents protect themselves.

"Let's be honest: Although there are many fine officers in the police department, there's a simple test. Call Domino's Pizza or the police, and time which one gets there first," Palmer said....

D.C. resident Kenny Barnes, who became a gun control advocate after his 37-year-old-son was shot to death on U Street NW, called the ruling "crazy."

"What kind of message are you sending?" Barnes asked. "This is not Dodge City in the 1800s."
The Dodge City image is one of guns in the streets:



This case is about guns kept at home to protect against intruders. How about a Hollywood movie image where someone with a gun kept in the home for protection goes all wrong?

My choice:



"No. I care. This is where I live. This is me. I will not allow violence against this house."

Let's take a closer look at Antonella's photographs.

Lisa de Moraes covers the Antonella Barba story:
Barba may be the best-known "Idol" contestant who didn't make it to the finals, thanks to a bunch of photos of varying degrees of raciness that recently hit the Internet: Antonella on the toilet, Antonella flipping off the person with the camera while smiling her beautiful smile, Antonella with a bunch of gal pals and holding a box of suggestive pasta (don't ask), Antonella dripping wet in a T-shirt and undies in the World War II Memorial on the Mall, Antonella cupping another woman's breasts, Antonella sunbathing topless -- which, sadly, passes for racy in this great country of ours.

A second batch of photos popped up soon thereafter, showing someone who looked like Antonella in a sex act with a guy. But those photos have mostly been dismissed by many, including Coluccio, who said the chick in those pics is wearing acrylic nails, something Antonella would never do. The controversy raged, on "Idol" chat sites and on ABC's morning show "The View," among other places, about whether she is fit to be on the show that is the most popular in the country -- with an average audience of about 30 million viewers, including millions of children, as well as their parents and grandparents -- and whether "Idol" should sack her given that it previously kicked out D.C. area contestant Frenchie Davis over pictures she did for an Internet porn site.
A few comments:

1. I guess the search is on for photos that are obviously Antonella, showing her wearing acrylic nails.

2. I loved Frenchie Davis fan way back in the second season of "American Idol." We were huge suckers, chez Althouse, for her singing "Band of Gold" with Kimberly Locke. When Frenchie got booted, we vowed we'd never watch "American Idol" again. (What would I have done with those hundreds of hours if I'd kept my vow?)

3. Some people like to say that Frenchie was treated worse than Antonella because Frenchie is fat and black and Antonella is thin and white. I doubt it. There's a distinction between what the two women did. Frenchie posed as a model for a sex website. Antonella seems to be posing for fun. But also they had a chance to learn from the Frenchie incident that people sympathize with a young woman who's posed for sexy pictures. There will be more and more of these things with all the digital photography and photo sharing sites. We're going to have to learn to take it in stride. It would be ridiculous to make pariahs out all the young women who let someone take their picture.

4. I took the trouble to look up the (undisputed) photos of Antonella that everyone has been looking at, and really, I don't see what the big deal is (other than that she's really pretty). These are the kind of cute, fun-loving pictures friends take of each other nowadays. You shouldn't casually put them up on the internet, but obviously some people do. Others put them up quite intentionally. Some of what looks casual may be quite intentional. Was Antonella helped or hurt by this? Someone thinking this through in advance might calculate that it's a good way to self-promote. The look of a lack of intent to go public is part of why people are fascinated. And you've got that deniability too.

5. Why is it "sad" that a picture of a topless woman is considered racy in America? Because she was sunbathing? I realize that you have to act nonchalant in a real life naked sunbathing situation, but it's a photograph. The whole idea of a photograph is to gawk at an image. Or is it just "sad" that Americans -- unlike those sophisticated Europeans -- think sunbathing naked is sexy? Should we aspire to lose the feeling that things are sexy? Why is it considered better to drain the feeling out of life? Since when is numbness an accomplishment?

"I'm not going to scream First Amendment here because let's face it: I don't know the doctrine."

I love that. It's a classic line in the annals of lawprof blogging. Written by Dan Filler, who does have a lot to say about "vagina."

CORRECTION: I had wrong the Concurring Opinions author named originally. I apologize for invoking poor Daniel Solove's name. He probably knows plenty about the First Amendment and may very well have little to say about "vagina." I vow to be more careful in the future when blogging at 3 in the morning. I did get the first three letters of the name right...

The trick of "insulting upward."

Ann Coulter uses it, and so does that lawprof columnist Paul Campos -- who went to University of Michigan Law School with her -- Dave Kopel observes.
[P]ick somebody more famous than you. Vilify the person in some outrageous way. Ideally, the target gets upset and responds, and the press covers your public argument. By engaging in a public fight with you, the target has implicitly raised you to his own level of importance....

His column ... insulted upward at University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse (bizarrely claiming that she is part of a conspiracy to protect Coulter). Althouse is far more famous than Campos on the Web and in academia; her record of scholarly publications in law journals is significantly larger than his. She responded to Campos on her blog, thus giving him more publicity.

A couple of weeks ago, Campos also successfully insulted upward when he accused University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds of advocating murder, and urged that the school censor Reynolds. Reynolds too has a vastly larger record of scholarly publication than Campos, and Reynolds' Web log, InstaPundit, is the most influential in the world (based on incoming links statistics at truthlaidbear.com).
Kopel notes that Campos also tried the insulting upward trick on Coulter but she used the correct response of ignoring it, while Glenn and I fell into the trap by responding. Well, it's not as if I don't know not to ignore an insulter who stands to gain from the attention. I do ignore insults every day. Some days, like yesterday, I ignore a whole slew of insults. But I choose some to respond to for various reasons. One reason I responded to Campos is that he's a fellow law professor. Another is, I actually know him. Also, he's got a column in a major newspaper.

Hey, I guess I should perceive Kopel as using the trick of defending upward! He got me to write about his damn Rocky Mountain News column.... at 3 a.m....

(Can you trust your own judgment, blogging at 3 a.m.?)

March 9, 2007

The philosopher's perspective on the Kaplan story.

Now let's hear from the education and philosophy professor, Francis Schrag, in this letter to the Cap Times editor. He says he's learned 5 lessons. Here's #1:
1. Despite their evident distress, the Hmong students displayed an admirable ability to rally supporters and "get their story out." In other words, within a generation, the Hmong have learned how to be effective American citizens...

The punk rock opinion on the Kaplan story, etc.

Hey, Ben Weasel is talking about me. Hi, Ben. Let me just say we have many Screeching Weasel CDs at my house. But Ben isn't talking about my taste in music, he's weighing in on the law school's Kaplan story. Here's the pub
The story is pretty much always the same: A professor tries to fan the dim and flickering flame of intellect he sees in his students and makes the tragic mistake of not using "I'm Okay You're Okay" language. The little Marlos and Phils get an attack of the vapors from hearing such hateful words and go whinging off to the dean who, typically, says, "There, there, my little lambs" as he announces to the world that such slights against their feelings will not be tolerated.

Cue outrage from the vast majority of Everyone Else In The World who can't believe that such weak-minded crybabies are going to enter the adult workforce so ill-prepared to co-exist with their fellow man without having somebody to whom they can run and blubber. The latter assertions, sadly, miss the point that these sensitive muffins will likely live and work their entire lives within arms length of any number of willing wet nurses who will file lawsuits on their behalf every time their precious feelings are bruised. Such a world does indeed exist.

It certainly exists in punk rock - and especially on the West Coast, where witch hunts of this type have been conducted with regularity as long as I can remember. Even in a subculture that on the face of it would seem to be a bit more muscular, these sorts of Romper Room antics thrive (at least in the fertile soil of the SF Bay area). You'd be right if you pointed out that punk is as much a fantasy world as college life, but one can conceivably earn a living in punk - it's hard to be a professional student.

As it is, nobody's career was ever on the line when some punk dingbat who read too much Naomi Wolf and Susan Faludi decided that those of us who weren't gay were de facto rapists. And there were always enough people in punk who loathed such nonse[n]se that it really was and is relegated to the absolute lunatic fringes. As many times as I've been targeted in the crosshairs of some delicate flower who didn't care for my choice of words and who tried to sabaotage some this or that of mine, it's never actually worked.
Oh, there's some nice potential here for connecting the Kaplan story to the current feminist attacks on me for mocking a Yale law student for overreacting to a stupid chat board where guys talked about her picture.

I like this Ben Weasel character, who lives here in Wisconsin. (See, here he is shoveling snow.) He looks a lot like the guys who played punk rock -- and, less to my taste, prog rock -- in my basement throughout the 1990s. I'm putting him on the blogroll.

I appreciate his take on this story, and I guess I should go read some of the lyrics to those old songs of his. My son John tells me a lot of the songs have pretty amusing satirical lyrics. He mentions "I Want to Be a Homosexual." I Google that and the first thing that comes is an FCC opinion!
Several complaints filed with the Commission indicated that on July 12, 1992, Radio Station KNON(FM), Dallas TX, broadcast the song "I Want To Be A Homosexual" (lyrics transcribed in Attachment 1) at 3:55 p.m. during its "Lambda Weekly" program."...

KNON's broadcast, while relatively brief, details sexual activities in very vulgar and explicit terms, warranting, on these grounds, a substantial forfeiture. Taking into consideration, however, the licensee's prompt response to the complaint (before a Commission investigation began), and the licensee's financial records submitted in response to the NAL, we believe a forfeiture of $2,000 is reasonable.
So let's check out Attachment 1:
Oh, Ben, gee, I think you're really cute and sexy,
and well, I know you're straight.
But look, I know you have a girlfriend.
But if you really want to have a...
Go read it over there if you want! What I really like about it is that it includes the subject of guys wearing shorts, which you know is one of my big concerns.

UPDATE: Ben notices this link and says about me: "Her stuff seems to annoy the living hell out of reactionary leftists, who insist on calling her a conservative even though she really isn't." He also expresses sorrow over that typo I kind of couldn't help drawing attention to. So never let it be said that concern about spelling does not exist in the punk rock community. About that FCC case, he says:
I remember reading about this years ago as the station was under attack by some Christian fundamentalist group for playing the song. In our early days we tried to ignite this sort of hype for ourselves several times, phoning and faxing Chicago TV stations pretending to be members of one outraged group or another who were protesting a Screeching Weasel performance. It never worked, of course. By the time the Dallas thing happened we were already doing okay for ourselves so we didn't really care so much. If I'd known they'd been hit with a 2K fine I would've chipped something in!
And he makes fun of the FCC for getting his lyrics wrong. They heard "beat-me-leather fag" for "beefy leather fag," not "beat-me-leather fag."
It's an important distinction because "Beefy leather fag" is funny whereas "Beat-me-leather fag" sounds like something translated from French by Babel Fish.
Leave it to the FCC to miss the funny.

Radio morning.

I've just finished the "Week In Review" show on Wisconsin Public Radio, which you should be able to stream here sometime soon if not already. Now, I'm passing half an hour, sitting in a café and chewing my way through a glass of orange juice before going back to the radio station to do a Milwaukee Public Radio show called "Lake Effect." So I'll be WUWM 89.7 at 10. [NOTE: Recorded for broadcast next week.] We'll be talking about blogging and related things. I'm recording a Bloggingheads.tv show in the early afternoon too, so I may not talk again until Monday. Or will that statement cue demands for a podcast? You know, I want to do a podcast!

Walkable cities. Is Madison really #1?

Just yesterday, in my other life as off-blog Althouse, I was having a conversation about walkable cities. Walkability is the first thing I want from a city. It's what I want from the city I choose to live in and any city I travel to. I like a beautiful, drivable landscape around that city, but inside the city, I want to have great walks, from home to work and from the office to cafés and restaurants, with things to see along the way — shops, people, parks, posters.

I was saying how much I loved living in New York City and Boston. I loved living in the West Village -- on Jane Street -- and walking to NYU every day circa 1980, and I loved living on Hereford Street, near Newbury, in Boston, in the fall of 1990, when I taught for a semester at BU and left my car back home. I'd walk back and forth to work and wander around Back Bay in my spare time. By comparison, in Madison, I have a good walk from home to work, and I love the walk from Bascom Mall down State Street and around the Capitol, but it can't compare to the much grander and more variable walks in New York and Boston -- and, traveling, in Paris and London and Rome.

The other city we were talking about was Austin. I haven't been to Austin in 15 years, but I remembered it as seeming more urban than Madison. Still, if I was moving out of Madison, I didn't think I'd pick Austin. I'd want more of a change from Madison. And, besides, isn't Austin more car-oriented? And how can you walk when it's so hot? Which, of course, provoked the usual reminder that in Madison, it's so cold, followed by the usual rejoinder that at least you can breathe in the cold and you just put on some extra layers of clothing, but when it's hot, you have to hole up inside in the air-conditioning.

Later in the evening, we see this. Prevention Magazine has come up with a list of the top 10 most walkable cities in the United States and Madison is #1. Incredibly, Austin is #2!
Factors contributing to the ranking were air quality, the percentage of people who walk to work, access to parks, number of athletic shoes sold, and (believe it or not) weather....

Madison was the only city in the walking top 10 in a state that's not in the South or the West...

Madison is no stranger to No. 1 rankings. People still talk about Money Magazine naming it the best place to live in 1998, although that ranking dropped to 53rd last year. Outside Magazine named it the best road biking city in August, and other high rankings have come for its being vegetarian-friendly, gay-friendly, environmentally friendly, and, well, according to Midwest Living in 2003, the overall friendliest city in the Midwest.
Friendly, friendly, friendly. Don't forget! In case I've been reminding you of the downside of things around here too much lately.

Anyway, Prevention Magazine's idea of walkability is not going to align perfectly with mine. I don't care so much about maximizing the wearing of the sneakers. I'd give points to a place with more fashion variety. I care more about seeing interesting things -- including unusual shoes -- than in whether people are getting a lot of exercise. But if they get a lot of exercise, they may get into better shape -- I'm always trying to get back to what I think of as my "Boston weight" -- and that improves the aesthetic experience of people-watching.

Did Burt Young spam me?

Scroll down to the one comment on this old post from the days before I turned on the comments.

March 8, 2007

"Prof pays price for causing offense: Sensitivities take precedence over truth and academic freedom."

That's the striking headline in Isthmus, as Jason Shepard covers the Kaplan story. Read the whole thing. It is very strongly critical of the way this incident was handled here:
[I]t appears that both students and the UW administration were too quick to act without all the facts. The students cried racism based on questionable information, then got carried away by the politics of group victimhood. UW officials, meanwhile, saw student offense as all the proof they needed to immediately and unequivocally apologize. (Opined Law School Dean Kenneth Davis to the Wisconsin State Journal, “I think a number of our students were entirely justified in being deeply offended.”)...

Hundreds attended a campus forum on March 1 organized by seven Asian women who’ve led the attacks on Kaplan. Many came expecting a fair airing of views at what was billed as an “open forum.” Instead, they witnessed further condemnation of Kaplan at what professor Howard Schweber afterward called a “political rally.”

At the forum, Moua acknowledged that her initial e-mail was misinformed as to precisely what Kaplan had said. Nonetheless, scores of speakers drew from it over the next two hours to peg Kaplan as racist and ignorant.

Two women in the class, who’ve since transferred out, described their shocked reactions to Kaplan’s comments. Mai Der Yang, a first-year student who missed class that day, said the real harm came in a meeting days later when Kaplan gave “insult after insult.” Among those insults, Yang said, was that Kaplan “believed his statements to be true.”

Nancy Vu, another organizer, stressed the women’s collective victimization, saying they’ve felt “so intensely alone” and “at every corner have been dismissed” by faculty and students. “You have made us feel alienated.”

Additional speakers from student and community groups accused university leaders of not doing enough to promote diversity and sensitivity. Madison school board member Shwaw Vang, who is Hmong, said Kaplan’s speech “degrades and dehumanizes me.” Activist Peng Her drew parallels between the seven women and Rosa Parks and the civil rights marchers in Selma, Ala. And the women were called the “Magnificent Seven” to great applause.

Near the end, Dean Davis again apologized to students, saying they’ve exhibited a “remarkable thoughtfulness and grace that makes me proud.” He did not bother to put in a good word for the idea of academic freedom.

The Kaplan case, as it’s played out so far, represents a low point in UW-Madison’s storied history of defending academic freedom, dating back more than a century to a case that generated the famed “sifting and winnowing” plaque on Bascom Hall. It shows that the fad of political correctness that rose in the early 1990s, giving rise to student and faculty speech codes, still has great power....

“The rush to judgment in this case has been extremely unsettling,” says professor Donald Downs, author of Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus. “How can you make a valid assessment about whether a line was crossed in this case unless you seriously consider the academic freedom issue? That hasn’t been part of the discussion that’s come out of the law school.”....

“It’s not just a question of whether faculty members — or students, for that matter — are punished for expressing the ‘wrong’ views,” says [Professor Howard] Schweber. “It’s whether the university is a place where people feel free to explore controversial topics and express unpopular arguments.”

This is a very tough article, which is sure to send (another) shock wave through the school.

Amanda Marcotte, into the vortex.

Thought you'd like to know, since she got so famous and all, that Amanda Marcotte has a nutty tirade about me here:
Ann Althouse is exactly the sort of shallow, petty, mean person who would try to imply that being hot/having breasts means that the be-breasted hot person should be treated like a sex toy and not be taken seriously as a career-minded individual. If there are plenty of mean-spirited assholes out there like Ann—and there are—then yes, having people gossip about you on the internet might mark you as a sexualized female and hurt your career chances, particularly in a field like the law.
And she continues with the wacky, lying assault here:
[W]here I grew up, people tended to be a bit more blatant [about sexism]. Classic example, since we’ve been talking about the Ann Althouse mentality where women are basically expected to exist for men and certainly not to compete with them academically—when I was in high school, I got in trouble for dress code violations a lot.
Okaaaay.... That's just weird, Amanda. Enjoy your fevered life of the mind, you goofball. Don't go and "gossip about [anyone] on the internet." That would be so wrong.

ADDED: What you are witnessing here is, I think, the full-out punitive mode that victimologists lapse into if you fail to buy into victimology. To be fair, it makes some sense. It's sort of like: Don't believe in victims? I'll show you how it feels to be a victim! So, I can't very well cry "poor me," can I? It would be conceding the (crazy) argument. I'm just going to laugh.

"How Low Can Kresge Go?"

Wow! I go to the PGA website to check the leaderboard and see how my nephew Cliff Kresge is doing, and I see this splashed on the front page:

lowkresge

"Scummy law school sleazebags" in "a massive toilet of racism and sexism."

Gasp or yawn. Your choice. You know, I've heard there's pornography on the web!

AND: You can't say I don't have the personal experience to know how the Yale law students and Feministe Jill feel. Check it out: They're talking about me too.

AND: I like this one: "someone email her this thread. I'm too much of a pussy to do it myself." See? They're a bunch of pussies!

Radio alert.

I'm going to be on the Wisconsin Public Radio show "Week in Review" at 8 AM, Central Time, tomorrow. You'll be able to live-stream it here, and there will be an archived version that I'll link to later. What topics do you think will come up? (You know, you folks out there can call in! Our own Simon called in last time I was on.) I'm recording a Bloggingheads episode tomorrow too, and I've got to fix upon the topics? I think you'll especially enjoy the co-head this time.

ADDED: The other guest on the "Week in Review" show is Bill Lueders (the Isthmus's news editor).

"I'm pretty much going to stay out of it until the course -- the case has finally run its final -- the course it's going to take."

So says President Bush, responding to inquiries about whether he will pardon Scooter Libby. I know Bush often stumbles over his words -- and that the press loves to transcribe his remarks in especially stumbly-looking form -- but reading that quote, in that form, I hear the intention to hang back and hope the legal process spares him, but, if it comes to a point where there's nothing between Libby and prison, to pardon him.
Libby probably faces a prison sentence of 1 1/2 to three years for lying about his role in the disclosure of the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame, wife of war critic and former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. But Libby could avoid jail time until after the 2008 presidential election through appeals, according to legal specialists -- timing that would make a pardon easier for Bush politically.
The path is so obvious. The path, the course, the case, the course...

"It’s very much a part of our house, even though it’s not in the house."

American's insane storage habit:
In the last two years, close to a million more households have joined the ranks of storage renters, and there is now more than two billion square feet of rental storage space in the United States, earning more than $22 billion in gross revenue in 2006.

Storage-space users have traditionally rented for short periods, Mr. Scanlon said, most commonly during life changes like divorce or relocation. But in recent years a new kind of renter has emerged, one who rents for longer periods, sometimes paying thousands of dollars a year, sometimes for units in faraway cities. These new renters seem compelled to keep trading up, from a cozy “personal closet,” say, to a garage-like room, and then to a second unit or even a third. They represent what Diane Piegza, a spokeswoman for Sovran Self Storage, which owns the Uncle Bob’s chain of storage facilities in 22 states, calls “a segment of the population that has truly embedded storage into its lifestyle.”
America's insane storage lifestyle.
Peter Balis, 42, fell into ... a love-hate relationship with storage. At the time he lived in a loft in Chicago and owned a weekend house on Lake Michigan. When he sold the country place, Mr. Balis moved its contents, including a pair of bent plywood Eames chairs and an 11-foot carved totem his grandparents bought at a temple in India, into storage nearby. “If you’re predisposed to squirreling you have no reason not to put it there,” he said.
Oh, once you realize it should be called squirreling, you've got to know it's insane.

Why the UW took the professors' salaries off the web.

Did you know you used to be able to look up all our salaries on line? Not any more. They took them down. Do you think they did that because it was something of an intrusion on our privacy? No.
UW System spokesperson David Giroux said the step was taken to reduce the “regular outflow of talented researchers in the university.”

Citing the retention of professors as “becoming a much bigger problem with every passing year,” Giroux maintained that the easy access of individual salary information made UW professors an easy target for other institutions.
Why were the salaries up on line in the first place? To save money printing up booklets!

March 7, 2007

The right to videotape public meetings.

Oh, how I love the New Jersey Supreme Court and its Chief Justice Zazzali, who not only has a cool name but also wrote this really cool opinion that starts with a quote from Patrick Henry -- "[t]he liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them" -- and holds that people have the right to videotape public meetings.

And I love our feisty hero, Robert Wayne Tarus, who insisted on recording civic events despite lots of bullying and criminal prosecution. He sued in federal court, alleging claims under the U.S. Constitution (First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments) and the New Jersey Constitution and common law (false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and defamation), and lost on the federal grounds, which led to the discretionary dismissal of the state claims. Our hero started again in state court, alleging just the state common law and state constitutional claims, and he prevails!

The court finds a common law right (and doesn't need to reach the state constitutional grounds). Here's my handy cut-down of the opinion:
Today, hand-held video cameras are everywhere -- attached to our computers, a common feature in consumer still-shot cameras, and even built into recent generations of mobile telephones. The broad and pervasive use of video cameras at public events evidences a societal acceptance of their use in public fora.

Commensurate with the use of video recording in society is its intrinsic value in documenting events. “Videotaping is a legitimate way of gathering information for public dissemination and can often provide cogent evidence . . . .” Robinson v. Fetterman, 378 F. Supp. 2d 534, 541 (E.D. Pa. 2005). ...

Openness is a hallmark of democracy -- a sacred maxim of our government -- and video is but a modern instrument in that evolving pursuit. The Mayor and Borough ran afoul of that principle and violated the common law right to videotape by imposing unreasonable ad hoc restrictions. Arbitrary rules that curb the openness of a public meeting are barricades against effective democracy. The use of modern technology to record and review the activities of public bodies should marshal pride in our open system of government, not muster suspicion against citizens who conduct the recording.

In sum, we hold that, subject to reasonable restrictions, members of the public have a common law right to videotape municipal proceedings in New Jersey. Our conclusion is supported by an interwoven tapestry of jurisprudence and policy that demonstrates both the value of open government and the right to document governmental proceedings.
Hooray for the interwoven tapestry!

(Sometimes the lawprof is just a cheerleader.)

Okay, I'll do it. I'll blog "American Idol."

Your requests have not gone unheard. I will go back to "American Idol" blogging! At least tonight. I will watch in real time and simulblog to keep from losing my mind. All for you, my dear friends.

1. Ryan's looking all arty in a black suit with a black turtleneck. Isn't it rude not to shave? Jordin Sparks sings some Pat Benatar. "Heartbreaker." It's full of ugly vibrato. Sparks demonstrates the erstwhile unknown authenticity of Pat Benatar. Randy thinks she's hot (and better than all the boys). Paula does the theme she's been working all season: Singers should keep getting better. Simon calls her shrieky.

2. Sabrina has her crinkly bronze hair and crinkly bronze dress. She's singing about "heartbreakin'" -- so I guess the breaking of the hearts is a theme tonight. The song makes no sense to me. No, I will go further. The song makes me hate music. Forever! Randy wishes the song had a little more melody for him. Yeah! I want some for me too. Paula praises but in amongst the praise says the word "piercing," and I feel my eardrums do a little sympathetic scrunch.

3. Ack. It's Antonella Barba. I like the black over-the-knee boots. But as they say: This is a singing contest. She ends kind of nicely, but really, it's not singing. Simon's left with a wistful wish: If only she could sing better. Translation: She's pretty.

4. Hayley Scarnato: She's awful. America, make her go away. Only Simon is honest: "I thought it was horrible." He's all: I don't even know her name. Paula offers: Hayley. Simon: "What's her surname?" And everyone in the place -- and in America -- is all: What are you talking about? Surname?!!! Who are you, English boy? In the recovery phase, with Ryan, we see her in closeup, with giant, heavy earrings, and they are stretching out her earlobes in a ghastly fashion, like in those commercials for those anti-ear-sag stickers. Then she reveals bad attitude: "Every week, I've gotten bad comments. You just gotta do what you gotta do. You gotta clock in, clock out. So, I'm clockin' in, doin' my job, and I wanna clock out, right after I walk off the stage." Ooh! They don't usually go all human like that.

5. Stephanie. Nice but bland.

6. LaKisha. She hates puppies! ("Terrified of animals.") Uh, oh. Will America accept a puppy-hater? She's screetching that "don't walk away from me... I have nothing" song that they always do, the one that goes all sweet on the final "yooooooooo."

7. Now, it's Gina, who's wearing a thin, stretchy gray knit dress with a red bra showing through. Should we do that? Wear red bras that show through? Maybe I'll go with that look for the next BloggingHeads.tv. She's doing well. Possibly the best "rocker chick" we've ever seen on the show.

8. Melinda Doolittle. Oh, no! She's talking about her OCD, how she has to chew an equal amount on both sides, etc. "It's all about equality." Okaaaay. She sings a song I know: "I'm a Woman." Wow! I love it. This is the only performance I genuinely enjoy. I mean, it reacquaints me with the idea of enjoying a performance. If OCD helped with that, I'm for OCD.

Banning YouTube in Turkey... and you probably know why.

Somebody's making fun of Ataturk!
The court was acting on the recommendation of a prosecutor, who was himself apparently prompted by an escalating war of homemade YouTube videos created by ethnic Greeks and Turks, who antagonized one another with clips featuring images of Ataturk as hero or fool, the flinging of insults, and spurious incantations like “Ataturk is gay."
(I think this is a TimesSelect link.)

ADDED: "Spurious Incantations" would be a good name for a blog. "Ataturk Is Gay," not so much.

What's "the very definition of a happy marriage"?

Why "a union of crunchy, generously salted exterior and pillowy interior," of course!

"Sundance has a fauxhawk, and Sanjaya's been menaced by a flat iron. Thank the good lord Phil decided to wear a hat tonight."

Sez Joe R. File this post under Althouse doesn't really blog about "American Idol" anymore. Eeeeeee... please help me. I don't want to think about Sundance singing "Jeremy." I'd forgotten. And now I'm remembering.... ow....

"For many people the Internet has become a scarlet letter, an albatross."

So, you go to Yale, and you interview at a lot of law firms. No offers. Blame the internet?
The woman and two others interviewed by The Washington Post learned from friends that they were the subject of derogatory chats on a widely read message board on AutoAdmit, run by a third-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania and a 23-year-old insurance agent....

Another Yale law student learned a month ago that her photographs were posted in an AutoAdmit chat that included her name and graphic discussion about her breasts. She was also featured in a separate contest site -- with links posted on AutoAdmit chats -- to select the "hottest" female law student at "Top 14" law schools, which nearly crashed because of heavy traffic. Eventually her photos and comments about her and other contestants were posted on more than a dozen chat threads, many of which were accessible through Google searches.

"I felt completely objectified," that woman said. It was, she said, "as if they're stealing part of my character from me." The woman, a Fulbright scholar who graduated summa cum laude, said she now fears going to the gym because people on the site encouraged classmates to take cellphone pictures of her.
Too beautiful to appear in public? Too hot to be hired? Come on! What rational employer would deny you a job because idiots chatted about you on line in a way that made if obvious that the only thing you did was look good?

(I am sympathetic to the woman who had someone impersonate her by name in a chat. There is a popular blog where that is done to me in the comments and openly encouraged. As I noted here, the blogger in question flatly refused to do anything about it.)

ADDED: Lindsay Beyerstein is more upset than I am about the fact that there is a lot of loose talk about people on the internet -- though presumably not about the dumb, loose talk about me on her own site. She fails to reveal what repressive remedies she has in mind to keep the internet from chattering. But I hope she'll at least do that "more speech" thing and condemn that blog where they impersonate me all the time -- or does she think I deserve it? Anyway, go over there and read about her outrage and about what an unsympathetic clod I am, and check out how she re-defames me over the old Clinton blogger lunch incident. See if you can figure out how she proposes to embrace the web with nurturing kindness and save women from all that talk out there. Hint: You can't. Either the remedies she has in mind are too repressive to scare you with, or she's content with just expressing outrage and sympathy. I'm coming down on the side of free speech on this, and that's one more thing she's outraged about.

MORE: I finally found the email from those bloggers that refused to deal with the problem of people impersonating me on their website, but it's too long and boring to put here on the front page, so you'll have to go into the comments and find this junk. Scroll down to my comment at 4:33 PM.

YET MORE: This post has become a major target for anti-Althouse swarming. It's not feminist -- don't you know? -- to withhold nurturing for sensitive Yale law students who fail to land the jobs they are demonstrably entitled to.

AND: The discussion continues in my new post here.

The Iraq war “put the rest of the world into simulation, so all the world becomes total artifice and then we are all-powerful."

Ah, the mind that could think such thoughts. Post-modernism. Now post-post-modernism. And I mean really post, not just post in some theoretical way, but post, really post, kaput.

Jean Baudrillard, dead at 77.

Avoiding Rodney King-style troubles the French way.

It's now illegal in France for nonprofessionals to film acts of violence. (Via Memeoradum.)
...16 years [ago] Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney King were filmed by amateur videographer George Holliday on the night of March 3, 1991. The officers’ acquittal at the end on April 29, 1992 sparked riots in Los Angeles.

If Holliday were to film a similar scene of violence in France today, he could end up in prison as a result of the new law, said Pascal Cohet, a spokesman for French online civil liberties group Odebi. And anyone publishing such images could face up to five years in prison and a fine of €75,000 (US$98,537), potentially a harsher sentence than that for committing the violent act.
The original motivation for the law was to deal with things like "happy slapping" ("violent attack is filmed by an accomplice, typically with a camera phone, for the amusement of the attacker’s friends"), but they've intentionly drafted it to cover citizen journalists of the Holliday type.

Think it couldn't happen here?

Tiny answer to big question: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's shoe!

And Linda Greenhouse gets the better of Jan Crawford Greenburg, who blogged -- (blogged!) -- about "Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s delay in getting to her feet and leaving the bench," which "Ms. Greenburg wrote, seemed a sign of possible ill health and 'made me think I’d better start pulling those possible retirement files together.'"

Greenhouse has the excitement-deflating news that "Justice Ginsburg had kicked off her shoes during the argument and could not find one of them."

ADDED: David Lat is reveling in the battle of the Greens, -house and -burg. Go read the text. Here's the graphic:

"The time for a pardon is now."

The Wall Street Journal editorializes that Bush should pardon Libby:
In hindsight, the defense seems to have blundered by portraying Mr. Libby as the "fall guy" for others in the White House. That didn't do enough to rebut Mr. Fitzgerald's theory of the case, and so the jury seems to have decided that Mr. Libby must have been lying to protect something. The defense might have been better off taking on Mr. Fitzgerald for criminalizing political differences.
Since the defense made this decision, it's hard to see why Bush would be motivated to pardon him.
We believe [Bush] some personal responsibility for this conviction, especially for not policing the disputes and insubordination in his Administration that made this travesty possible.
I really don't understand how these asserted shortcomings connect to lying to a grand jury. He was convicted of perjury. Whatever you think of the Plame affair and the whole investigation, why should Bush condone that?

"Notably restrained and reflective for a man who has been pilloried for a week."

Inside Higher Education picks up the UW Law School story:
Kaplan’s letter — while firm in denying that he said the hateful things attributed to him — is also notably restrained and reflective for a man who has been pilloried for a week. A lawyer who also has a Ph.D. in psychology, Kaplan has focused on both law and mental health, and his reply begins by talking about all he has learned in the last week or so about Hmong culture and the challenges the Hmong have encountered....
This article quotes the statement of the Committee for Academic Freedom and Rights and continues:
Jonathan Knight, who directs the program in academic freedom and tenure for the American Association of University Professors, said that disputes like the one at Wisconsin do have the potential to raise issues of academic freedom — especially if there is a rush to judgment. “Plainly administrators should take seriously what students complain about, and see if there is merit about it,” he said. But “restraint in public statements” is ideal, even given the pressure to speak out against statements viewed as racist or sexist, he said.

Certain kinds of statements “trigger fast reactions,” Knight said. “There have been occasions when the reactions were well founded,” he said. “But there have been others that were not well founded or were somehow in between, so a dose of prudence and caution is always useful.”

Knight said he was not bothered by administrators acknowledging the pain felt by those offended by something alleged to have been said — the pain being real even if the person never said the words in question. But Knight said he worried about holding forums for people to express their pain when the facts were still being gathered, as happened at Wisconsin. “That can create its own dynamics, which is a problem,” he said. “In creating a forum, inevitably that will suggest that there is a real problem. The forum is not being held to discuss a perception, but what seems to be a reality i.e. that someone has said something that is racist or sexist or vilely offensive.”

He added that while it is “laudable for administrators to pay heed to community sentiments, that can come at a quick and high cost to the sense of freedom necessary for faculty to teach controversial and sensitive subjects.”

(To read all my posts on this incident, click the label "Kaplan story," just below.)

ADDED: The Badger Herald has a good editorial:
[I]nstead of fighting fire with fire, Mr. Kaplan’s letter is the mark of a compassionate man who, as he writes, “regret[s] the part that [his] own limitations played in contributing to” the controversy. To be sure, he does not apologize, and if his account — which has been effectively corroborated by other students in his class — is accurate, even the aforementioned statement of regret is not necessary.

We were delighted to see the professor describe, in tedious detail, exactly the points he was trying to illustrate in discussing the Hmong community....
It's nice of the student editors to be delighted by a professor's "tedious detail"! We have much more tedious detail to delight you with, you know.
When a Badger Herald reporter sought comment Monday from the students who have led the charge against Mr. Kaplan, UW student [name deleted], who was present at the Feb. 15 lecture, responded with just a six-word e-mail, saying, “We are disappointed in his response.”

Meanwhile, UW student [name deleted], who first circulated the complaints via e-mail but was not in Mr. Kaplan’s lecture, declined comment altogether.
Well, Kaplan took a long silence and didn't respond to press reports. If it takes them a while to think through what they want to say, it's understandable.

The Badger Herald editors go on to say "it's the classic 'he said, she said' scenario" but "we believe Mr. Kaplan." The editors opine that the students acted "irresponsibly," but not "maliciously," and suggest that they "seriously consider issuing a public apology to Mr. Kaplan." They praise CAFAR:
[W]hile a disturbing number of individuals exhibited a galling willingness to reach hasty, damning conclusions, UW’s Committee for Academic Freedom and Rights released an articulate, well-reasoned defense of academic freedom, a value under continual threat here at UW and other campuses across the country.
And they express hope that "Kaplan’s letter will be the start of the end to this sordid affair, so we can all move on with a renewed understanding of what can happen when we throw to the wayside values we ought to cherish."

NOTE: I've deleted the student names that originally appeared here. I didn't like using the students' names, and only had them because they were in the newspaper article I was commenting on. Obviously, the names are still available in the linked newspaper articles.

March 6, 2007

Finding the limit on Congress's war powers.

Noah Feldman and Samuel Issacharoff explain why Congress lacks the power to manage the war:
The Constitution gives Congress the power to declare wars, fund them, and oversee the way they are fought. Yet the Constitution never says exactly how these powers are to be reconciled with the president's authority as commander in chief. The Constitution surely must empower the president to fight wars effectively enough to win them. That means that war must be conducted under the president's direction, not run by committee. In the modern era, no country—not even a parliamentary democracy—has been so foolhardy as to place a war under the guidance of a legislative body, rather than a single, unified command....

The short answer to the question of institutional competence is that Congress is good at expressing the popular will about whether we should be at war or not, and what kind of a war it should be, while the president is good at actually fighting the war (or at least he should be). The Constitution should therefore be understood to allow Congress to declare and define the nature of the war while guaranteeing the president's authority to make decisions that are crucial to the tactical conduct of it.
Read the whole thing.

Twilight on Bascom Hill.

Twilight on Bascom Hill

Minutes after we hear that their notes make the jurors seem confused, the verdict is in.

Here's the piece about the confused-sounding notes.
In their questions, which were released Tuesday morning, jurors seemed confused about what Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was alleging.

Were prosecutors saying Libby knew that Plame worked for the CIA by the time of his FBI interview, jurors asked? Was he accused of lying to Cooper? Or does the government believe Libby's account of the Cooper conversation was untrue?

Walton tried to clarify things.

"To be clear, Mr. Libby is charged in Count Three with making false statements to the FBI about what was said during his July 12, 2003 conversation with Mr. Cooper," Walton wrote in response. "Mr. Libby is not charged with making a false statement to Mr. Cooper."

The reading of the verdict is scheduled for noon, Eastern Time.

UPDATE: I'm watching the CNN Pipeline, "Awaiting Libby Verdict." We overhear the journalists chatting as they mill around off camera. One guy stays in the frame. He's got a Burberry scarf all twirled around his neck and lower face. How cold is it in D.C. anyway? Oh, good Lord, he just put on a wool hat. Hmmm... I see it's 26°. "I did it. I'm guilty. I'd do it again." I hear someone -- not the scarf guy -- say. Ooh, I guess I'm "live-blogging" as they say.

"Guilty on 4 out of 5 counts," someone says. Are they predicting or hearing? They are hearing.

Ron Bailey's aha falls splat.

As long as I'm noting the absurd invocation of my name and since I'm up early this morning and have a few extra minutes on my hands today, let me address this piddling dropping by Ron Bailey on the Reason Magazine blog yesterday:
University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse writes a fascinating New York Times op/ed arguing that we should not let our emotions run away with us when we talk about race.

That's very good advice.
Ron probably thought everybody remembered his big dispute with me back in January and would perceive a stunning revelation of my hypocrisy, but I see "his editor" -- my heartthrob, Nick Gillespie? -- made him add a link to his pissy old tirade so readers could see how deeply the old coot has it in for me.

As you can tell from that pissy tirade, the old coot loves to wallow in the belief that he is smarter and more profound than I am, but, unfortunately, he's not smart and profound enough to perceive that I am not contradicting myself. His aha falls splat.

My January dispute with Bailey was about the way hardcore libertarians are too in love with their abstract principles and sanitize the real context of race out of their analysis. Here is how I responded to Bailey's loutish attack on me back then.

Notice the similarity between what I was saying to Ron and what Professor Kaplan was trying to do in teaching his lesson about how law fails to deal with the way things are in real life. Both what I said and what -- I think -- Kaplan was trying to teach had to do with the way it's not good enough to deal in abstractions and how it's important to engage with how these abstractions play out in real life.

In the NYT column, I say:
Ironically, you have to care enough about engaging energetically with issues of race to run into this sort of trouble. It’s so much easier to skip the subject altogether, to embrace a theory of colorblindness or to scoop out gobs of politically correct pabulum. It’s only when you challenge the students and confront them with something that can be experienced as ugly... that you create the risk that someone may take offense.
Ron Bailey, cocooned inside his abstractions, is the sort of person I am saying takes the easier path. I want for it to be possible to bring in the racial context that challenges the pat abstractions he fawns over himself for believing in.

I don't say it's wrong to bring emotion into a legal discussion. I am crediting Kaplan for not retreating from the things that make people emotional. I have never blamed the students for becoming passionate when he stirred up their emotions. That is a misreading of my column (which the preening Bailey does to accuse me of hypocrisy).

Look closely. I talk about Kaplan's "complicated pedagogical exercise" that "stirr[ed] up difficult emotions" in the students. That doesn't mean the students were wrong to respond on an emotional level. I think he wanted them to have deep feelings about law and society. The breakdown occurred because they didn't bring that passion to the discussion with the teacher but ran to complain to the law school dean -- using the scary phrase "a racially hostile learning environment" -- which led to attempts to cure them of their bad feelings.

My NYT column concludes:
Our question should not be about what we can do to make you comfortable or how we can make your life pleasant again.

We owe our law students respect, but part of that respect is the recognition that they are adults who are spending many thousands of dollars and hours of study trying to acquire the critical thinking and fortitude that will enable them to serve clients and to stand up to adversaries who are only too ready to shake their nerve....
Clearly, I am objecting to those who were afraid of the students' strong emotions and who aimed at restoring comfort and pleasantness. I worried that this fear would chill classroom discussion and cause teachers to retreat into a more abstract, de-contextualized presentation.

The already cold Bailey thinks I have now decided I like the chill. I do not. I think there is something distorted and defective about reason drained of emotion. Or, more accurately, I think there is always emotion in reason, whether you admit it or not. That's why I was asking, back in January, what was that emotion that drove you to cling so hard to those abstractions you love so much. How do I know it isn't hatred?

"Ann Althouse would probably write a column in The New York Times about how, if Pelosi were really a feminist..."

Why is lawprof Paul Campos invoking my name in his Rocky Mountain News column?
Now suppose I were to stand up here and call Coulter a \[expletive]. (Interestingly, unlike "faggot," American newspapers won't print this word, although it's no more offensive). That would, I believe, be a highly inappropriate thing to do. Even though it's my personal opinion that, if anyone deserves to be called a \[expletive], Coulter does, it's still the sort of thing any decent person will avoid doing.

Yet if I were to point out that Coulter is, by any reasonable standard of evaluation, a \[expletive], I suspect much outrage would ensue. After all, Nancy Pelosi is giving a speech later tonight inside this same hotel, in which - in this hypothetical scenario - someone Pelosi doesn't know (i.e., me) would have called Coulter a \[expletive].

If such a thing were to happen, the entire right-wing noise machine would leap into action. Ann Althouse would probably write a column in The New York Times about how, if Pelosi were really a feminist, she would unequivocally condemn some guy Pelosi has never heard of, who called Coulter a \[expletive] in front of 75 people in a hotel room in Denver.
What the hell is he talking about?

For reference, here's my post about the Coulter/"faggot" thing. My point was that I'm under no obligation to disassociate myself from someone I've never allied with. So this hypothetical column writing he's imagining... it doesn't fit me at all.

Thanks for keeping my name in the press, Paul. But that was just weird.

IN THE COMMENTS: Go in there and read Daryl Herbert's 11:08 comment. I'd reprint it on the front page here -- it's one of the best comments ever -- but it's kind of long, and it's got that word. You know, the word.

Let's read about the Kaplan story in a better newspaper.

After criticizing the Capital Times in that last post, let me call attention to the far superior coverage of the Kaplan story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Before Kaplan's letter [PDF] became available, Megan Twohey wrote a solid article, which I discussed here. Here's her current article. Exerpt:
Leonard Kaplan, a University of Wisconsin-Madison law professor under attack for comments he made about the Hmong, defended himself in a detailed letter to his dean Monday, saying the allegations against him "do not correctly reflect the statements I did make or my purpose in making them."...

The controversy stems from a Feb. 15 class on legal process attended by about 15 students.

[Names deleted], who were in the class, and [name deleted], who was not, filed a complaint with Kenneth Davis, the dean of the law school, accusing Kaplan of creating "a racially hostile learning environment by promoting racial stereotypes and misinformation about the Hmong community, their cultural practices and their history."...

Kaplan said he was discussing how governments fail to respond to poverty and the challenges of a multicultural society. He made the case that the difficulties many Hmong encountered upon their arrival in this country were aggravated by the government's failure to accommodate them....

He said he referred to Hmong men as "warriors" to express the status they held in Southeast Asia, not to suggest any inherent violent tendencies.

"I noted that many of the first generation of Hmong men died prematurely and that a possible explanation is that some Hmong suffered from a loss of meaning as a result of their changed status in the U.S."

"I never said, and I never implied, that Hmong women were better off with Hmong men dead," Kaplan said.
Read the whole thing. It's an excellent account.

And here is an opinion piece published in the MJS, written by Marc Kornblatt, a Madison resident (who wrote this before the Kaplan response came out):
The controversy swirling around a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and his Hmong students makes me think of the new TV show "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" If someone had managed to record the professor's class, the producers could play the video on their program and a contestant could respond to the following:

What did the professor say? What was the professor's point? What does the professor believe? You have until the next commercial to answer.

Forgive me if I hurt anyone's feelings, but I'm trying to make a point about interpretation and analysis. Neither a lawyer nor a psychologist, but a former journalist who now teaches fifth grade, I work at a Madison school where as many as 70% of the students are poor and the majority are of color....

To form an intelligent opinion, let alone pass judgment, one needs to hear all sides. That's what I tell my fifth-graders....

That's because many people with more money who don't look or talk like you assume you're ignorant, lazy and/or dangerous. So you have to work hard to break the stereotypes to succeed. But you still might not make it because our country's playing field for whites and people of color is not level.

Do I believe the stereotypes? No. Do I talk about them and teach my students how to analyze them? That's my job.

It's tough stuff for a fifth-grader, but so far no one has complained to me. (And believe me, my students know how to complain.) None of their parents has taken me to task yet, either, but someday one might. I can imagine a child misinterpreting me and telling his or her parents that I'm a racist.
Teachers -- and administrators -- need to demand that students think. This is an excellent opinion piece, but I do want to take one step back from what Kornblatt says, because I wince at the use of the word "smart" here. Much as I love pop culture references, I don't think the problem is that our students aren't smart.

The problem lies with those who purport to be teachers who hear that students are unhappy and respond to those feelings instead of demanding that students observe clearly and analyze a situation accurately and with a proper concern for the truth. The question isn't are the students smart, but do the teachers teach.

NOTE: I've deleted the student names that originally appeared here. I didn't like using the students' names, and only had them because they were in the newspaper article I was commenting on. Obviously, the names are still available in the linked newspaper articles.

March 5, 2007

"Do you have a comment now that Professor Kaplan has given his version of what he said and why?"

So read the email I received from a Capital Times reporter this afternoon. My answer:
Only that I'm appalled by the Capital Times reporting on this matter over the last two weeks.
Here's my account of Kaplan's letter, which explains, honestly, I believe, what he was teaching that fateful day and makes it possible to understand the terrible mistake the students made. Here is the original article the Cap Times published on February 23rd. Key passage:
In an e-mail organizing the meeting, students alleged that Kaplan made stereotypical remarks such as "all 2nd generation Hmong end up in gangs and other criminal activity" and "Hmong men have no talent other than to kill."

"These are just some of the incredibly offensive and racist remarks that Kaplan made," Hmong student [name deleted], the author of the e-mail, wrote.
And here is an article the Cap Times published on on February 28. Here is the front-page article after the March 1 public forum, which again quotes the author of the email:
Law student [name deleted] told the crowd Kaplan's comments had "damaged an entire population." She said she has heard from Hmong people across the country who are angered by the statements.

[Name deleted] said she has been disheartened by some people's inability to understand why the comments would be offensive. "I believe the underlying issue is that no one knows who we are," she said.
[CORRECTION: As noted below, I linked and quoted the wrong story there. The Cap Times article after the forum is here. It has the outrageous headline "Prof a no-show at forum." It begins with this emotive presentation of the wounded students and the professor who disappointed them:
Clearly, eloquently and sometimes tearfully, the seven young Asian women who raised the issue of a law professor's allegedly insulting remarks about the Hmong told their story at a public forum Thursday night.

The other side was not heard, however, as Professor Leonard Kaplan did not attend the forum at the University of Wisconsin Law School, to the intense disappointment of many of the more than 200 who came, hoping to hear both sides of the matter.

"He will not be here tonight because he fears that his presence would shift the focus of the discussion to what happened in his class, which would seriously detract from the broader educational function that he hopes this meeting can serve," said Professor Jane Larson.

"That's it?" shouted someone in the crowd, which then listened patiently to a lecture by Jane Hamilton-Merritt, an author and expert on Hmong culture and history, before hearing from the law students.]
[I consider the headline outrageous because it channels the disappointment of students who formed the belief that they was going to examine what happened in the class, when the event was not billed like that. It was promoted as an educational session with the scholar teaching about Hmong culture. The article makes it look as though there were some weird bait-and-switch, where the students came to some sort of show trial -- as if that would have been appropriate -- and then got stuck hearing a lecture. I avoided the event myself, mainly because I didn't want to sit though a medicinal lecture. If I had thought it was going to be more of a show-trial or witch hunt I would have gone so I could record the insanity.]

Here's a letter by former UW law student Mark A. Edwards, addressed to the Capital Times:
Dear Editor:

I read your recent articles reporting racist statements attributed to Professor Len Kaplan with a sense of disgust and dread. I don't know Professor Kaplan personally, only by reputation; but based on his spotless reputation for intelligence and compassion, I knew the stories were about as credible as him having flapped his arms and flown around the lecture hall. That was the source of my disgust. Now, many days too late, you reveal that his accuser was not present at the time of the alleged remarks, and that students who were present deny they occurred. I'm an academic myself; my dread comes from knowing that one day an editor might decide that unverified allegations about me are also newsworthy. That's called the chilling effect, and it works wonders to destroy a university. I realize that fact-checking is labor-intensive, and can end up costing you a story that sells copy. But as a service to your readers, it would be interesting if you could attempt to quantify, in dollars, the extra advertising revenue you gained by publishing this particular sensational, unverified story. Then we would know that exact price of a man's reputation. And it would also be informative if you could let us know, having done that, how well you sleep afterwards.

Mark A. Edwards
What a shameful display by our local newspaper!

IN THE COMMENTS: Chris Murphy, City Editor, for The Capital Times, writes:
I take exception to your characterization of our coverage of the Kaplan matter, which has been the most authoritative and thorough available anywhere. The fact that Professor Kaplan's explanation of events has been under-reported until now (see our front-page story today here)...
That is the story written by the reporter I refused to communicate with, as discussed at the top of this post.
... is because he chose not to discuss in any detail what he actually said for almost three weeks after the class, or 11 days after the first of two public hearings that drew hundreds of people, including a public apology from the dean of the law school. We contacted Professor Kaplan several times prior to the publication of our stories to ask for further comment, and he repeatedly declined, as he did for other media.
He had his reason for not talking to the press. There were other ways you could have tried to find out more about what happened.
But we have worked to explain his side of things even when he wouldn't do so himself. In your post, you neglect to link to our March 1 story that aired the perspective of students in the class and sympathetic faculty who didn't think Kaplan was being offensive and that his critics were mistaken. See it here.
Yes, I remember that day. Wasn't that story buried deep in the paper when another story was featured much more conspicuously with an inflammatory headline? I had trouble finding that on line.
You also erroneously attribute a State Journal story about the March 1 public hearing to us.
Sorry. That was a mistake made while putting the post together. (Both newspapers appear on-line as Madison.com.) But my position, taken in email with your reporter, was based on following all the news stories as the situation unfolded.
Our coverage of that event (which was not on page one, incidentally) is here, and it does not quote [name deleted] (who indeed was not in the Feb. 15 class).
Yes, that is the story I meant to link to, the one with the outrageous headline: "Prof a no-show at forum." Look how that headline blames him for not showing up (without conveying the fact that the event was supposed to be an educational lecture about Hmong culture which would have been spoiled by his presence). Look at how the text highlights and channels the students' emotions. This was written by the reporter I didn't want to talk to. Compare the coverage by Megan Twohey in the MSJ, here.

Murphy continues:
Instead, that story quotes [name deleted], who was in the Feb. 15 class and who does maintain that Kaplan said outrageous things that day.
There were, I think, 15 students in the class. You should have tried to interview some of them.
You don't say in the post exactly what appalls you, though I gather you are of the same mind as Mr. Edwards, who thinks we have no qualms about printing whatever unverified allegations we happen to hear about. That's not what happened here. When hundreds of students gather on campus to discuss and protest what they say a professor has said, and when that professor's dean publicly apologizes to more than 100 people, we would be negligent not to report what they're talking about. Kaplan's version of the story needed to be told, and we repeatedly asked him to tell us, but he refused for 10 days. We did what we could, but he gave us almost nothing to work with.
I agree that you had to cover the story, given the public events, but you indulged in tabloid-style coverage when a man's reputation was on the line. Journalism isn't just repeating what people are "talking about." If talking to the accused is the only way you can think of to find out what happened, you should pack it in.

NOTE: I've deleted the student names that originally appeared here. I didn't like using the students' names, and only had them because they were in the newspaper article I was commenting on. Obviously, the names are still available in the linked newspaper articles.

Professor Kaplan responds to accusations.

Here is a PDF of the letter Professor Leonard Kaplan sent to the Dean of the law school and made public today. I think the letter is a creditable account of what he really did in the class -- which we discussed here and here. Read the whole letter, and I think you can see what it was that students, hearing things through the static of their own emotions, misunderstood. Here's Kaplan's conclusion:
Many of the statements attributed to me in press accounts and emails are hateful. Although I strongly believe in academic freedom, I do not seek to cloak my statements in this protection. Had I made the hateful comments wrongly attributed to me, I would repudiate them without hesitation. I did not make them. As both a matter of personal inclination and my professional training as a clinical psychologist, I try my best to bring human empathy to bear in my vocation as at teacher. However, this experience and the compounded misunderstandings that have resulted from it reinforce my recognition of the limits of language, as well as law, to bridge certain gulfs. I have come to a new awareness of how the statements I did make could be misunderstood and of the pain that this experience has caused. I acknowledge that pain and regret the part that my own limitations played in contributing to it.
I hope students can engage with this account and reconcile with Professor Kaplan, and that we can come together as a scholarly community again. I think the key mistake was to hear statements that presented sociological information about groups of people as if they were stereotypes to be applied to all the members of the group. It needs to be possible to talk about demographic information in the real world, especially if we are to continue to be a school that teaches what we like to call "law in action." It would be a terrible thing if the fear of misunderstandings chilled discussion of sociological information, and if law professors were to retreat into the discussion of law in a more abstract or doctrinal way.

Let me repeat what I wrote in the New York Times column:
It’s so much easier to skip the subject [of race] altogether, to embrace a theory of colorblindness or to scoop out gobs of politically correct pabulum. It’s only when you challenge the students and confront them with something that can be experienced as ugly — even if you’re only trying to highlight your law firm’s illustrious fight against racism — that you create the risk that someone may take offense.
It's desperately important to come back to a place where we can talk about race in the classroom. I understand that people are sensitive and that there is so much potential for hurt feelings, but think of the alternative! The grotesque prejudgment and pillorying of Professor Kaplan is something that everyone who cares about teaching about race and teaching law and society must look upon with horror.

"'Humanly possible' is just a nebulous term, and I don't know exactly what it means."

The judge in the Libby case refuses to answer the question the jury asked. Remember, we puzzled over the question here. I wrote:
"Is it necessary for the government to present evidence that it is not humanly possible for someone not to recall an event?"...

The question suggests that the jurors might be stumped about whether than can convict even though a juror keeps saying something like: But, of course, it's possible to forget anything. This would be an argument against convicting based on the evidence that demonstrated the importance of what Libby contends he forgot.

This question might mean that they are arguing about how high the standard of reasonable doubt really is. But there is also concern about the kind of proof that is required. Is it enough to simply show that the thing allegedly forgotten was extremely memorable, so that the jurors have to make an inference that he is therefore lying? Someone may be demanding that there should be evidence about the mechanism of forgetting.

I would think that the correct answer about the quantity and quality of the evidence needed would tend to make a jury that would ask the question that way likely to convict.
So, now I suppose I have to say that the judge's refusal to give an answer decreases the likelihood that the jury will convict. Do you agree?

Hillary affects a (ridiculous) southern accent.

Apparently in an attempt to appeal to voters. Drudge is drawing a lot of attention to this. Do you care? Or is this along the lines of putting on some locally popular article of clothing or scarfing down some regional food treat? This is just another example of the way audio and video clips go viral these days. My inclination is to brush it off as laughable, but nothing really.

ADDED: Here's an attack on people who linked to the clip and laughed at Hillary:
But as always, a simple fact-check shows this latest wingnut preoccupation to be highly dishonest. The audio clip Drudge linked to cherry-picked that quote and removed it completely from its context, which would have shown that Hillary wasn't adopting this accent or grammar or language as her own at all.

Rather, it turns out that Hillary was actually quoting the hymn lyrics of someone else -- while clearly and very openly imitating (not very well, it turns out) the cadences she thought the lyrics would traditionally have been delivered in. There was nothing phony about it at all.
Oh, ridiculous! It was obvious that she was quoting something -- some song or poem. If I had thought those were her own words, I wouldn't have just made fun of the accent, I'd have made fun of the affected grammar. ("I don't feel no ways tired... I come too far....") Really! What a thoroughly bogus criticism.

So how did that idea for nude day at the gym work out?

"A dozen middle-age and elderly men" showed up for nude day at the Dutch gym. Also on hand were "dozens of journalists," watching their every move. Lovely! Any women? No. (Told ya.)
A smattering of men trickled...
No, no, I don't don't want nude men trickling!
A smattering of men trickled in and out throughout the day at the gym in the small town of Heteren, 60 miles east of Amsterdam...

"We already had naked swimming ... but a gym, that's unique," said one white-haired bespectacled man, who gave only his first name, Henk.

"It's spectacular!" he said, as he pedaled away....

No women showed up for "Naked Sunday"....
"It's always the same - the first ones to shy away are the women. You see that at nudist camps too," said Henk.
Aw, poor Henk. ("It's spectacular!")

"John Edwards Breaks Silence on Coulter's 'Faggot' Barb."

Sounds painful!

ADDED: I'm picturing some garish fishhooklike weapon, but I can see another way of reading this bizarre headline -- the way that makes you wonder: Who is "Coulter's 'Faggot' Barb"? (I believe I learned to read like this from Mad Magazine. You know the regular feature I'm talking about -- from back in the old days?)

"My Dad the Dud."

That's the way The Daily News paraphrases Andrew Giuliani. The actual quoted statements -- from a TV interview -- seem more pro-mother than anti-dad: "I got my values from my mother," "She's a strong influence in my life," "She's a strong woman." And also: "I have problems with my father," "But it doesn't mean he won't make a great President," and "we are both working on our relationship."

If Rudy Giuliani's campaign is any good, we should see a nice father-and-son presentation immediately.

UPDATE: Rudy's response:
"I believe that these problems with 'blended families' are challenges, and challenges are best worked out privately," he said.

Giuliani said his wife was not to blame for the family feud, and it was not her job to fix it.

"I believe the responsibility is mine," he said.
This probably is a better response than what I was asking for -- the parading of the son in public.

March 4, 2007

"A quarter of drivers even said they imagine they are in a driving simulation game while driving for real."

Oh, no! And:
34% of the 1,000 young drivers questioned think computer games can improve real-life driving ability, with two in five reckoning the games can help their reflexes.

So that's why people are driving like that! Insane!

“If had it to do over again, I’d have kept him. I didn’t know anything about mental illness. Nobody did.”

Said George McGovern last year, referring to his rejection of Tom Eagleton back in 1972 -- when supposedly no one knew a damned thing. McGovern chose Eagleton as his running mate after Eagleton had assured McGovern's aide Frank Mankiewicz that he had nothing unusual in his background:
He did not tell Mr. Mankiewicz that he had been hospitalized three times for depression and that his treatment had twice involved electroshock therapy.

But rumors began circulating among politicians and journalists. Mr. Eagleton ultimately held a news conference on July 25 in Custer, S.D., where he had just briefed the vacationing Mr. McGovern over breakfast. Mr. Eagleton told reporters that he had been treated for “nervous exhaustion.” But in response to questions, he acknowledged that the treatment had included psychiatric counseling and electric shocks.

That day Mr. McGovern said, “I think Tom Eagleton is fully qualified in mind, body and spirit to be the vice president of the United States and, if necessary, to take on the presidency on a moment’s notice.” A few days later, as objections to Mr. Eagleton began to mount, Mr. McGovern insisted that he was “1,000 percent for Tom Eagleton.”

But the pressure from party leaders, campaign contributors and members of McGovern’s own staff was unrelenting. On July 31, the candidates met again, this time in Washington, and Mr. McGovern forced him to withdraw. Mr. Eagleton stepped down after 18 days as the nominee, saying he had done so for the sake of “party unity.”
R.I.P. Thomas P. Eagleton.

Clearly, it was Eagleton who made the mistake. Even today, do we really know so much more about mental illness? And, if we do, would we say that someone who had been hospitalized three times for depression should be Vice President? It seems to me that McGovern would have rejected him if he'd known, as would any other competent presidential candidate then or now, and Eagleton's failure to disclose that information to Mankiewicz was an entirely separate reason to reject him. It was horrible when McGovern said "1,000 percent" and then got rid of him, but the biggest mistake there was saying "1,000 percent" instead of figuring out what to do quickly and accomplishing it diplomatically. Why does McGovern now say that he should have kept him? It must just be that he doesn't like his name associated with hostility toward persons with mental illness. Why not be kind and compassionate now that nothing is at stake?

"We fear... that the crucial distinction between gratuitous offense and provocative argument has been lost in the public furor..."

Below is the statement of the Committee for Academic Freedom and Rights. (My discussion of this incident can be found here, here, here, and here.)
The Committee for Academic Freedom and Rights at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has followed with deepening concern the process and news coverage surrounding the accusations by some students against Professor Leonard Kaplan of the Law School. Given that Professor Kaplan has not publicly commented on what he said in class, we refrain from commenting on any other details of the case at this time. That said, it is important to comment on a fundamental principle that is at the heart of the controversy. Namely, academic freedom.

There is a distinct possibility that the emotion and pressures surrounding this case—especially after the public meeting at the law school the evening of March 1—will have a chilling effect on honest and good faith discussion of racial and cultural issues in class and on campus. While good teaching requires that students be treated with respect, undue sensitivity and fear of accusations can cause professors and instructors to steer clear of controversy or uncomfortable truths that need to be discussed and faced if we are to improve as a society. Such pursuit of truth is the university's special charter and reason for existence.

Nothing in this statement is intended to justify the use of gratuitous offense or personal insult as an element of public discussion, whether inside or outside the classroom, and whether directed from faculty members to students or from students to members of the faculty. The university must be a place in which no member of the community has reason to fear expressing his or her ideas and feelings honestly and sincerely, within the bounds of civil discourse, very broadly defined. The university cannot accept efforts by any members of its community to silence others through intimidation, just as the university cannot accept the use of personal insult or denigrating stereotypes in the presentation of arguments.

There is a fundamental distinction between causing offense gratuitously and invidiously, and causing offense as the by-product of the fair-minded pursuit of truth or constructive criticism. A university of the caliber of UW-Madison, with its long history and tradition of protecting academic freedom in the "fearless sifting and winnowing of ideas" for the pursuit of truth, must take this distinction seriously, lest it surrenders its intellectual integrity.

We fear, however, that the crucial distinction between gratuitous offense and provocative argument has been lost in the public furor over the Kaplan case. We are dismayed at the Law School’s public response to this dispute, as it has addressed only the school's commitment to sensitivity and diversity, while saying nothing about that institution's fiduciary obligation to train minds to grapple with various sides of controversial and difficult issues. Without serious consideration of the importance and meaning of academic freedom on campus among the members of the university community, how can freedom prevail in the face of pressures from both left and right to make universities conform to one or another model of political correctness? We urge that the principles of academic freedom and fairness be a serious part of our community's response to the allegations that have been made concerning Professor Kaplan.

Signed by members of the Committee for Academic Freedom and Rights, UW-Madison

Ann Althouse, Mary Anderson, Anatole Beck, Michael Chamberlain, Donald Downs (President), Michael Fox, Robert Frykenberg, Lee Hansen, Lester Hunt, Larry Kahan, Anatoly Khazanov, Kenneth Mayer, Marshall Onellion, Dietram Scheufele, Howard Schweber, John Sharpless, Kenneth Thomas, Steven Underwood (Legal Counsel)


ADDED: UW Sociology professor Jeremy Freese writes: "if they asked the faculty more broadly to sign this, i would sign. since they haven't, i will only link to it."