April 21, 2007

Dartmouth skyline.

Dartmouth architecture


Bringing the community together for sandwiches.

"I don't know. I'm not that popular. So I don't know if this will work." But it does. Look at all the video responses, just everyone coming together for sandwiches.

The ups and downs of blog comments.

Glenn Reynolds notes this NPR discussion about the difficulties of maintaining a comments section on a blog:
[MODERATOR ADAM] DAVIDSON: Jacquelyn Schlesier is a full-time moderator for Chowhound, a food discussion Web site. She says keeping things civil is a lot of work. She spends as many as 12 hours a day reading through posts and deleting anything offensive, abusive or off-topic. It's a food blog. How bad can things get? Really bad, Schlesier says, especially with some topics.

Ms. SCHLESIER: Children in restaurants - children in restaurants is an issue that Chowhounds cannot discuss civilly.

DAVIDSON: People can generally say anything they want about food or restaurants, but they can't insult each other. She says she just about never gets the truly nasty kind of posts that Kathy Sierra faced. That's because long ago, Chowhound established a tone.

Ms. SCHLESIER: Kids learn what's acceptable and how to behave in the real world by how they see other people around them and how they see adults behave. People in communities learn the same way.

DAVIDSON: But keeping things civil on Chowhound takes three paid moderators and 12 volunteers. They spend hundreds of hours a week getting rid of all the mean comments. A lot of people who run Web sites don't have that kind of time.

Ira Glass hosts the public radio show "This American Life." The show hosted a Web discussion board for years until one week, his show featured a story about a troubled relationship between a woman and her two daughters.

IRA GLASS: The day after it aired, people started posting to the bulletin board, saying that the girls were sluts and that the mom was a terrible mom. And it continued, and finally, we killed it. We killed the discussion board.

DAVIDSON: Glass didn't want to feel responsible for hosting nasty comments about people who bared their souls on his radio show.

Mr. GLASS: We could actually, you know, devote staff time and look at the board and monitor it and all. But, I mean - and the truth is, you know, what we wanted to do is make a radio show.

DAVIDSON: There's surely many like Glass, people who just don't have the time or inclination to enforce civility on their Web sites. And without people enforcing it, the online code of ethics is unlikely to have much impact.
Glenn adds:
People just tend to get nasty on the Web; the subject at hand, whatever it happens to be, isn't so much a provocation as an opportunity.
That all makes comments seem like a lost cause!

As for me and blog comments, I was against them before I was for them. Here's what I said on the subject at that blogging and politics panel I did here at Dartmouth College on Thursday:

(The video is straight off my MacBook laptop. I hope you enjoy the comical way my hand hogs the screen at the expense of my face.)

April 20, 2007

What Obama said about Morgan Freeman: "This guy was president before I was."

He meant to flatter the actor (who has played a President), but oh, what slipped out!

ADDED: Does it make it better or worse that he goes on to say, "This guy was God before I was"? (Freeman played God in "Bruce Almighty.") This wasn't a planned comedy routine, but an ad lib. Maybe it would have been really funny if you heard it delivered. I think the "God" line was an attempt to save himself after the first line came out wrong. And if you look at it the right way, it's even kind of self-effacing, mocking the people who act like Obama is God. But candidates should probably avoid saying such weird things.

"Charlotte, you've got a scallop on your bosom."

Things only said once.

A perfect church.

This church, located on the Dartmouth campus and built in 1771, struck me as a perfect architectural expression of Protestant religion.


The slightly ornate ceiling:

United Church of Christ church at Dartmouth

The elegant pews:

United Church of Christ church at Dartmouth

The subtly colored windows:

United Church of Christ church at Dartmouth

The basic things:

United Church of Christ church at Dartmouth

I love the simple hymn numbers. 230 is familiar:
All glory, laud, and honor,
to thee, Redeemer, King,
to whom the lips of children
made sweet hosannas ring.
United Church of Christ church at Dartmouth

When this church was "gathered" in 1771, it was Congregational. It's now United Church of Christ.

What Alec Baldwin said to his 11-year-old daughter.

I wasn't going to write about this, but now I see Stephen Bainbridge is talking about it, so that must mean it's not too tawdry to mention. An audio clip of a phone message from the actor Alec Baldwin to his daughter is now immortalized on the internet. Bainbridge writes:
If Don Imus deserved firing for what he said about the Rutgers' womens b-ball team, doesn't Alec Baldwin deserve to be fired from 30 Rock for calling his eleven year old child a "rude, thoughtless little pig"?
Yes, if only we could somehow get an audio clip of the meanest sounding tirade each parent has ever unleashed on a child, we'd have grounds to demand that we all get fired. And kids, don't answer the phone, tempt that parent into leaving a recorded message. Because with the internet, you can have sooooo much fun with recordings. Or do you think only a rude, thoughtless little pig would make such a damaging recording public?

Alternate take, from one of Bainbridge's commenters: "Awww, c'mon why don't you just man up and say that you think what Imus said was no big deal?"

"We don’t want to confront our bodily functions anymore. We’re too busy."

Do women want a pill that would eliminate our menstrual periods? Whether you're "too busy" to "confront" it or not, isn't it obviously a great idea? Some women don't think so. Some say that it's wrong to purport cure something that is not an illness. A better objection is that there may be side effects. And then there are people deeply invested in promoting the idea that menstrual periods are just wonderful, who are irked at being contradicted:
There has also been a backlash among groups that celebrate the period as a spiritual or natural process, like the California-based Red Web Foundation. “The focus of our group is to create positive attitudes toward the menstrual cycle; suppressing it wouldn’t be positive,” said Anna C. Yang, a holistic nurse and executive director of the organization.
But what a fabulous opportunity for the drug companies! So many women, so many years, so much menstruation to stave off. Here's a drug that all women might want to take for something like 40 years.

Is Obama a gasbag?

I'm reading this commentary from Charles Krauthammer, about the things Barack Obama said on the day of the Virginia Tech massacre:
[I]t is simply dismaying that a serious presidential candidate should use it as the ideological frame for his set-piece issues.

Politico columnist Ben Smith has brought attention to a speech that Barack Obama made in Milwaukee just hours after the massacre. It must be heard to be believed. After deploring and expressing grief about the shootings, he continues (my transcription): "I hope that it causes us to reflect a little bit more broadly on the degree to which we do accept violence in various forms. . . . There's also another kind of violence . . . it's not necessarily physical violence."

What kinds does he have in mind? First, "Imus and the verbal violence that was directed at young women [of Rutgers]. . . . For them to be degraded . . . that's a form of violence. It may be quiet. It may not surface to the same level of the tragedy we read about today and we mourn." Good to know that Don Imus's "violence" does not quite rise to the level of Cho's.

Second, outsourcing. Yes, outsourcing: "the violence of men and women who . . . suddenly have the rug pulled out from under them because their job has moved to another country."

Obama then cites bad schools and bad neighborhoods as forms of violence, before finishing with, for good measure, Darfur -- accusing America of conducting "foreign policy as if the children in Darfur are somehow less than the children here, and so we tolerate violence there." Is Obama, who proudly opposed overthrowing the premier mass murderer of our time, Saddam Hussein, suggesting an invasion of Sudan?

Who knows. This whole exercise in defining violence down to include shock-jock taunts and outsourcing would normally be mere intellectual slovenliness. Doing so in the shadow of the murder of 32 innocents still unburied is tasteless, bordering on the sacrilegious.
So I go to listen to the speech. Am I offended that Obama reframes his usual material with the Virginia Tech story? He had a speech to give that day, and it would not have worked to omit the subject. Plenty of other people went out of their way to use the massacre to promote their favorite issues -- notably gun control.

What really struck me about that audio clip though was what a gasbag Obama is. I hear a tired-sounding man, who rambles on and on. I know he's speaking before a group. I hear them respond now and then, when he mentions that Iraq is a war that should never have been waged and when he says teachers deserve higher pay. But if I didn't know who he was and that there was a crowd there, I would picture an old man slumped in an armchair, expatiating for the benefit of anyone unlucky enough to be within earshot. It's formless stream of consciousness. Oh, there is that theme of hope. The stream swirls back there at predictable intervals.

So the original question was whether we should be offended that he mixed the murderous violence of the day with other things, like the "verbal violence" of the dreaded Don Imus. But a better question, I think, is why does Barack Obama have a reputation as a good speaker? From this clip, I'd say he's a gasbag.

Here's a line:
"This campaign cannot be about me. This campaign is a vehicle for you. It's a vehicle for your hopes. It's a vehicle for your dreams."
Spare me.

Well, a candidate can get weary. It was a very stressful day. Maybe that was Obama at his worst. But really, such drivel. Just listing a lot of issues and saying hope, hope, hope should not inspire real hope. I can't believe people are hearing this and thinking: brilliant rhetoric. "Intellectual slovenliness" is a much more apt phrase.

April 19, 2007

I'm just putting this post up...


In case they decide to project images of the blogs of the bloggers who are doing a panel here at Dartmouth in an hour. You know, so mine won't say "Underpants."

About this picture, let me just say: It's pretty much exactly what Dartmouth looks like.

And since I just wrote about men's underpants and since a certain lefty blogger -- one with a name straight out of a classic French film -- thinks I can't possibly be a serious political blogger if I persist in writing about phallic symbolism in architecture, I won't comment on that little thingie between the two white buildings.

And if this is being projected at the panel discussion, I'm quite sure no one's reading the fine print.


Underpants! Men like novelty underpants.
"And I didn’t open on Gay Street, U.S.A. I opened on Main Street, U.S.A."

"Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran."

Get it? To the tune of "Barbara Ann." From that guy who wants to be your President, John McCain. Is he trying to be Reaganesque?

ADDED: Here's the video of McCain making his bombing joke:

Are you okay with it now?

UPDATE: McCain responds to the criticism:
"Please, I was talking to some of my old veterans friends," he told reporters. "My response is, Lighten up and get a life."

When reporters asked if the joke was insensitive, McCain said: "Insensitive to what? The Iranians?"


"The son's defeat is seen as a cosmic act by his father in Seattle. He thought there was a divine reason for it."

From a newspapers in India:
Sanjaya Malakar -- who grew up learning Hare Krishna bhajans from his father Vasudeva Malakar and went on to become the most controversial contender in the singing contest American Idol, and arguably its most visible and most discussed participant -- was "sent home" on Wednesday night...

But the son's defeat is seen as a cosmic act by his father in Seattle. He thought there was a divine reason for it. Sanjaya's father said good karma would be with his son and his daughter. Incidentally the senior Malakar came to America from India as a Hare Krishna pujari.

"I am very proud of the fact that he could endure a lot of criticism and reach this level," his father said in a chat over the phone. Two weeks ago Malakar had gone to Hollywood to be with his son. "We went to the Hare Krishna temple, and we prayed. He received the prasad. And I told him that whatever happens in the competition, he should take it as something good, and he should not forget there is a path of bhakti.",,,

"America still loves him," said Malakar senior. "He would not have lasted so long otherwise. People of Indian origin here and in India love him. I will not be surprised if more and more Indian kids show up in this competition in its next season."

Sanjaya's dad met his mom when she a Krishna devotee. She no longer is a follower and his parents are divorced. But his dad continues to be a strong member of the Hare Krishna community in Seattle.

"Both Sanjaya's parents are very spiritual," said [his uncle's wife Christi Recchi who trained him as a gospel singer].... "Sanjaya has a very good heart and a lovely singing voice....

Dartmouth trees.

Old trees are complicated and wise:

Dartmouth tree

Trees near a church have religion:

Dartmouth tree

They speak to you through the perfectly Protestant stained glass:

Dartmouth tree

What does Mickey Kaus have against "This American Life"?

When I was driving home from Austin two Saturdays ago, I listened to a lot of talk radio. I especially enjoyed the hours when "This American Life" played on the XM Public Radio channel. The segment on the DREAM legislation moved me to tears -- and I do try not to succumb to tears while driving. It told the story of a young woman whose parents had brought her to the United States when she was a child and who had worked very hard and achieved a lot toward her goal of becoming a doctor, but who could not go on to medical school or ever hope to be a doctor unless she were to first move back to the unfamiliar country of her birth and wait her turn to immigrate legally.

Here, Mickey Kaus blasts "This American Life":
Does it always feature tedious bits of propaganda like the recent segment (#4 on this link) from a "fellow at the New America Foundation" crudely presenting one side of the argument for the DREAM Act? ("There is a very simple solution to all of this, a bill called the DREAM Act ..." concludes narrator Douglas McGray--as if he were talking to children and there were no arguments against rewarding "undocumented" immigrants by granting their children legal status, in-state tuition and citizenship.) You'd get a lot more useful information from a two-graf editorial in USA Today.
Well, you listen to that segment and tell me if it's crude or profound. It doesn't set out to examine the provisions of the act. It reaches you emotionally by bringing you inside one person's life. Admittedly, that has a propaganda effect. I was ready to promote the act, though I didn't know the details of it. But I got the message that there is a narrow legislative proposal that is being stalled by those who want to deal with the much larger immigration problem and I realized I'd have to look up the proposal on the web and see if the details checked out. I don't see what is crude about making you care about a problem rather than dissecting the legislation.

So read about the legislation at Mickey's link and tell me -- Mickey doesn't -- why we shouldn't care in a special way about young people who were brought here by their parents, educated by Americans, and then left with no way to follow through on their dreams?

And let's look a little more closely about why Kaus doesn't like "This American Life." He seems quite concerned about Ira Glass and his "clipped, geeky," "ironic nerd/hip" voice. I think it's the big testosterone discrepancy between Ira Glass and Mickey Kaus that is squicking Mickey out.

ADDED: The producer of the "American Life" segment, Douglas McGray, wrote a long piece in the L.A. Times before he did the radio version linked in Kaus's post. Here's some detail about the DREAM Act from the article:
Together with Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, [Democrat Dick Durbin] introduced a bill called the DREAM Act. The bill recognized that kids such as Thi and Martha grew up as Americans and may not even remember another home. It offered them conditional resident status when they graduate from high school; if they graduate from college or serve in the military, that conditional status becomes a green card.

When Durbin and Hatch introduced the DREAM Act in 2001, it provoked the kind of deep disagreement that seems to follow each new immigration proposal. Eventually, though, the bill had collected a staggering 47 co-sponsors, nearly half the Senate, including immigration hawk Larry Craig, a Republican from Idaho; likely GOP presidential candidates John McCain of Arizona and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and their Democratic counterpart, New York's Hillary Clinton; Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman; California Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. The bill has enjoyed unusually broad support for an immigration measure for several reasons.

Only the most extreme immigration hard-liner would blame a toddler, or even an adolescent, for the choices their parents made. Some strain to make the case that offering opportunities to kids such as Thi, Martha or Esmeralda is akin to rewarding their parents, but that is just a polite way to argue that punishing children will discourage illegal immigration—not exactly a crowded bandwagon, when there are other ways to address the problem. Besides, there is something undeniably American about kids who scrap their way out of a bad situation with talent and hard work.

In 2003, the Senate's right-leaning Judiciary Committee voted 16-3 to bring the DREAM Act to the rest of the Senate. But the Senate's Republican leadership refused to schedule the DREAM Act for an up-or-down vote. The bill had Republican dissenters, and Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, appeared fearful of dividing his party and alienating right-wing activists.

Again this year, the Judiciary Committee endorsed the DREAM Act, voting to attach it to the Senate's sweeping immigration reform bill. But before Congress left for recess earlier this month, that bill bogged down, perhaps indefinitely. Even if the measure ultimately passes the Senate, it must be reconciled with a tougher House bill on immigration. Just before legislators left town, however, a bipartisan group of House members reintroduced their version of the DREAM Act. Compared with the nightmarish task of overhauling America's immigration system, and determining the future of 12 million illegal residents, offering green cards to a few all-but-American college kids hardly seems controversial.

Why NBC?

Everyone wonders why the murderer chose NBC to receive his package of promotional materials. Does NBC have some special reputation for evil PR?

Well, NBC had been conspicuously in the news, as it dealt with the Imus story. But it cracked down on Imus, so if anything, its immediate reputation is for being puritanical and moralistic. Maybe Seung-Hui Cho wanted to be shamed. But maybe it was just the most famous network at the particular moment when he had to make the decision. Or maybe it's just outright offensive to try to perceive the reason in a decision by a patently deranged mind.

Should we condemn NBC? Here's the way you could go with that:
Don Imus calls some young women "nappy headed hos" and we're all supposed be to shocked, shocked I tell you. Cho blows away 32 human lives and not only do we hear no condemnation of the vile person from the big media, but NBC is going to oblige the piece of human debris by airing his "manifesto." Democrat presidential contenders refuse to appear on a Fox Network debate, citing bias, but I guess it's okay for NBC is going to realize Cho's dreams of celebrity status at the expense of 32 lives.

Cho may have been a deranged psycho, but he was sharp as a scalpel when it came to playing NBC News for his personal patsy. Anything for a point in the ratings. I'm sure the families of the deceased will appreciate the Cho Show as much as they appreciate [NBC News President Steven] Capus's inevitable defense of freedom of speech and the public's right to know. Though I don't NBC will delete any of Cho's possible references to "nappy headed hos."
There's just so much wrong with that free-swinging attack. For one thing, professional journalism isn't about expressing condemnation or praise. It's about reporting newsworthy facts. There shouldn't be extraneous statements of condemnation. Imus, on the other hand, was an employee of the company, and a business decision had to be made about whether to continue the affiliation.

Moreover, it's ridiculous to think that a mass murder demonstrates that we shouldn't also be concerned about things less horrible than killing. Of course, calling someone a bad name hurts much less than a murder, but the existence of murder doesn't mean that we shouldn't care about our more ordinary social interactions.

What Imus did is trivial compared with murder, but all normal persons already understand that murder is wrong and we're not likely to cross that line. But we really aren't sure where the lines should be with respect to speech about race and sex. We don't understand the full effect of what we say, and we don't agree about how far satire can go and when listeners are being oversensitive. So there's plenty of good reason to talk about this, much more, in fact, than about the vicious murderer.

Goodbye, Kitty.

Kitty Carlisle Hart has died: "the supremely elegant actress, singer, arts advocate and TV personality" was 96.

I remember seeing her all the time, back in the 1960s, on the TV show "To Tell the Truth." You can see a whole segment of the show here with the panelists -- including Kitty in her glory -- trying to guess which of three contestants is really the whale rider. (Embedding is disable, so you have to click over to see it. Kitty first appears at about 3:00.)

It was nice to see her, 20 years ago, in the fine Woody Allen movie, "Radio Days." "Radio Days" was a reverie about the past, and I feel a twinge seeing how long ago "Radio Days" itself was. Kitty sang "They're Either Too Young or Too Old," and I can't find a YouTube clip of that, but I can find the song, sung back in its original time, 1943, by Bette Davis. I hope it doesn't violate some rule to bring a superior diva into another's obit post:

ADDED: In the comments, Madison Man reminds me that Kitty played the ingenue --Rosa Castaldi -- in the great Marx Brothers movie "A Night at the Opera." You can see -- and hear -- quite a bit of her in this clip:

Alone with a sigh of romance!

Oh, there she is with both Chico and Harpo jumping up on her at the same time. That young woman must have been pretty strong. You could almost predict that she'd live to be 96.

Movies and murder.

Two weeks ago, I photographed this mural, on a video store's wall, next to the Spider House Café in Austin, Texas:


At the time, I asked Chris, "Who's the guy with the hammer?"

I've got the answer now:
The inspiration for perhaps the most inexplicable image in the set that Cho Seung-Hui mailed to NBC news on Monday may be a movie from South Korea that won the Gran Prix prize at Cannes Film Festival in 2004.

The poses in the two images are similar, and the plot of the movie, “Oldboy,” seems dark enough to merit at least some further study...

In a Times review, Manohla Dargis wrote that the film’s “body count and sadistic violence” mostly appealed to “cult-film aficionados for whom distinctions between high art and low are unknown, unrecognized and certainly unwelcome.”
Will the Virginia Tech murderer change anyone's opinion about violence in the movies? Do the people who already avoid extremely violent movies have new power to shame those who like them... or perhaps to get major studios to shun them and prestigious organizations to refrain from giving them the "Gran Prix prize"?

(In case you don't know French: "Gran Prix prize" means "Grand Prize prize.")

ADDED: More images from the murderer and the movie.

MORE: Are you worried about copycats getting inspired by the murderer's promotional materials? But the murderer looks like a complete dork with these movie fantasies! Maybe these videos will inspire some kids to get a real life and give up on their angsty nonsense.

April 18, 2007

"You loved inducing cancer in my head, terrorizing my heart and ripping my soul all the time."

The murderer's video. Lurid, but clearly the young man was insane.

"American Idol" -- results -- oh, no! Is this the end for Sanjaya?

Separated from my TiVo, I'm watching live. They've identified the bottom three: Sanjaya, LaKisha, and Blake. Somehow, Chris escaped the bottom three.

Blake's my favorite. Don't take Blake away from me!

LaKisha, she was bad... last night!

Sanjaya... he's our joy-a.

Blah! We have to listen to Martina McBride... and her blusher. But "God is great." That's what she's singing.

Earlier, we heard Fergie, and we -- well, I, at least -- imagined her as just another "American Idol" contestant, and wanted to hear Simon slam her. It was hideous!...

Ah! Blake is safe!

So is it LaKisha or Sanjaya? A painful, dramatic moment on "American Idol"! And America did the right thing. LaKisha has earned another chance. Our dear boy Sanjaya must go.

Watching the video of his highlights on the show, Sanjaya cries. He's wiping tears from his eyes, and who know what he's thinking about what happened to him? And now the break-out star of the season is gone. Can he have his own TV show or something? We (heart) Sanjaya.

Giuliani on the abortion decision.

He supports it:
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), who in the past has supported a woman’s right to a form of late-term abortion, Wednesday joined in the chorus of Republican presidential candidates hailing the Supreme Court decision upholding the ban of the procedure.

“The Supreme Court reached the correct conclusion in upholding the congressional ban on partial birth abortion,” Giuliani said in a statement on the 5–4 decision. “I agree with it.”

When Giuliani ran for Senate in 2000, he said he would not vote to restrict a woman’s right to undergo the procedure.
This is not a contradiction. You can be on the losing side of a legislative choice and still believe that it was constitutional. Giuliani consistently demonstrates a strong commitment to separation of powers. Just as the judges aren't supposed to strike down a law simply because they would have voted against it had they been legislators, a political candidate can support a judicial decision that upholds legislative power, even if that legislative power was used to enact a statute he would have voted against.

Hello, from New Hampshire.

I'm here to do a little panel discussion at the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College. I'll be hobnobbing -- what the hell is hobnobbing? why am I writing like this? -- with Laura Clawson of Daily Kos, Brendan Nyhan of Spinsanity, John Hinderaker of Power Line, Roger Simon of Pajamas Media, Joe Malchow of Dartblog, and Andrew Seal of the Little Green Blog. The subject is politics and blogging. I'm representing the moderate position, and Hinderaker is moderating. Any advice?

I'm glad I paid for the WiFi in the airports, even though I only had a short time, because the abortion case came out. Still haven't read it. I could have read it on the plane, but instead I listened to a podcast and fell asleep. I arrived in Manchester, which is a good way away from my destination Hanover. The rental car turned out to be an SUV. I've never driven an SUV or particularly wanted to, but it seemed okay. It's not the relationship to the road that I'm used to, but it wasn't hard to adapt to being up high -- though I didn't get over my annoyance at the people who say they love SUVs because they like being up high.

The 90 minute drive was scenic, with mountains popping up toward the end. The road dipped briefly into Vermont and then back into New Hampshire with the entrance to Hanover marked by an impressive bridge studded with orbs that reminded me of this:


Not that I'm morbid! In fact, I am happily ensconced in the hotel and flagrantly blogging in the restaurant.

Get your abortion now.

A commenter over at Feministe:
Women need to know that if they become pregnant, and decide to keep the pregnancy, it has become that much more dangerous. Should something go wrong, they now have less chance of surviving. Women need to know this, so that they can decide if it’s really worth it (esp the possibility of widowing their husbands and leaving their children motherless), and get their abortions now.

The federal "partial birth" abortion ban is upheld.

Scotusblog reports:
Dividing 5-4, the Supreme Court on Wednesday gave a sweeping -- and only barely qualified -- victory to the federal government and to other opponents of abortion, upholding the 2003 law that banned what are often called "partial-birth abortions." The majority insisted it was following its abortion precedents, so none of those was expressly overruled. The dissenters strenuously disputed that the ruling was faithful to those precedents.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority in the first-ever decision by the Court to uphold a total ban on a specific abortion procedure -- prompting the dissenters to argue that the Court was walking away from the defense of abortion rights that it had made since the original Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 recognized a constitutional right to end pregnancy medically. Roe v. Wade was not overturned by the new ruling, as some filings before the Court had urged.
More at the link. The case -- Gonzales v. Carhart -- is here. I'm about to be off-line for a while, so you will have to discuss this without me.

ADDED: Justice Thomas, joined only by Justice Scalia, concurs, in an opinion that's easy to read in full:
I join the Court’s opinion because it accurately applies current jurisprudence, including Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833 (1992) . I write separately to reiterate my view that the Court’s abortion jurisprudence, including Casey and Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113 (1973) , has no basis in the Constitution. See Casey, supra, at 979 (Scalia, J., concurring in judgment in part and dissenting in part); Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U. S. 914, 980–983 (2000) (Thomas, J., dissenting). I also note that whether the Act constitutes a permissible exercise of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause is not before the Court. The parties did not raise or brief that issue; it is outside the question presented; and the lower courts did not address it. See Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U. S. 709 , n. 2 (2005) (Thomas, J., concurring).
I note that this does not state that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, only that it was wrongly decided. The question of stare decisis is a separate one. It is also interesting that Thomas thinks perhaps the Commerce Clause might not support the congressional regulation of abortion. Under current doctrine, it seems rather obvious that Congress has this power. Providing abortions is a commercial activity, and, taken in the aggregate, it has a substantial effect on interstate commerce. But Thomas has not supported that doctrine.

MORE: The reason Thomas brings up the Commerce Clause, you should understand, is, I think, that he supports overruling Roe v. Wade and relies on the idea that the issue of abortion will, in that event, devolve to the states. But if Congress can regulate abortion, the federalism-based assurances we keep hearing are meaningless -- unless somehow you have a way to believe that Congress would resist this ripe political opportunity.

Imagine going 91 mph in an SUV and not having your seatbelt on.

I always wear my seatbelt, even when I'm on a short trip where I won't be going over 30, but I can understand the thinking of those who leave their seatbelts off some of the time. But how can you not put it on when you're going 91 and in such a dangerous vehicle? What a spectacle of bad judgment from a political official whom the people of an entire state rely on. That said, I feel sorry for Governor Jon Corzine, who has suffered terrible injuries.

"My parents are actually worried about retaliation against Asians."

Said Virginia Tech student Lyu Boaz, a Korean-American. “After 9/11, a lot of Arabs were attacked for that reason.”
Asian-American students at Virginia Tech reacted to news about the gunman’s identity with shock and a measure of anxiety about a possible backlash against them....

Mr. Boaz, a resident adviser at Pritchard Hall, said many Korean-American students had left campus immediately. Parents of other Korean-American students were preparing to pick up their children on Tuesday afternoon and take them home.
Is this a realistic fear? There was notably little retaliation against Arabs (or Muslims) after 9/11, and that incident was not only much larger, it involved a group of people with a particular ethnicity/religion, who acted out of an ideology that they openly tied to their group characteristics. Americans deserve credit for making the important distinctions and not succumbing to bigotry.

Let's see what Margaret Cho -- who shares the murderer's name -- has to say on her blog:
I look at the shooter's expressionless face on the news and he looks so familiar, like he could be in my family. Just another one of us. But how can he be us when what he has done is so terrible? Here is where I can really envy white people because when white people do something that is inexplicably awful, so brutally and horribly wrong, nobody says – “do you think it is because he is white?” There are no headlines calling him the “White shooter." There is no mention of race because there is no thought in anyone's mind that his race had anything to do with his crime.

So much attention is focused on the Asian-ness of the shooter, how the Korean community is reacting to it, South Korea's careful condolences and cautiously expressed fear that it will somehow impact the South Korean population at large.

What is lost here is the grief. What is lost is the great, looming sadness that we should all feel over this. We lose our humanity to racism, time and time again.
Do Americans deserve this criticism? Is "so much attention is focused on the Asian-ness of the shooter"? If we want to avoid bigotry, let's also think about whether it's right to characterize Americans this way. But, of course, it is important not to look on this madman and imagine that he represents Koreans or -- more absurdly -- Asians. Even when a person is quite ordinary, we should resist thinking of him as being the way he is because of his group.

Meanwhile, I'm not seeing a lot of attention paid to the murderer's Koreanness. On NPR this morning, they called him "the English student"! Get it? He was an English major, and attention is being paid to his writings -- which you can see here. Should we worry about bigotry and retaliation aimed at fiction writers who go in for violent fantasies? Or don't worry. Go to the movies. May I recommend "Grindhouse"?

Trying to understand the Virginia Tech murders.

This article offers a good explanation for why the Virginia Tech officials delayed for two hours before warning students after two persons had been shot.
After two people, Emily Jane Hilscher, a freshman, and Ryan Clark, the resident adviser whose room was nearby in the dormitory, were shot dead, the campus police began searching for Karl D. Thornhill, who was described in Internet memorials as Ms. Hilscher’s boyfriend.

According to a search warrant filed by the police, Ms. Hilscher’s roommate had told the police that Mr. Thornhill, a student at nearby Radford University, had guns at his town house. The roommate told the police that she had recently been at a shooting range with Mr. Thornhill, the affidavit said, leading the police to believe he may have been the gunman.
Even if they thought it was Thornhill and that he'd achieved his end, they still should have warned students that there was a gunman at large and possibly still on campus.

But this background raises another question. Why would someone commit two murders like that and then relocate to another building some distance away and perform a massacre?

It's hard to understand why someone would commit the massacre. But it's not anywhere near as hard as explaining why a person would do both things. The first murder, in the dorm, seems conventional. The second incident is horrible, but you understand it by thinking: madman.
Among the central unknowns is what prompted the gunman to move to Norris Hall, which contains engineering and other classrooms, where all but the first two killings took place. The authorities said [Seung-Hui] Cho’s preparations, including chaining the doors, suggested planning and premeditation, rather than a spontaneous event.
How do you explain a person doing both things?

April 17, 2007

"American Idol" -- the final 7.

How do you do a cheesy singing contest show the day after a massacre? Ryan Seacrest, in somber lighting, backed by quiet pulsing music, asks us to pray. He doesn't lead us in prayer. Pray later, the show goes on.

The theme tonight is country music, tutored by Martina McBride and her blue eyes.

Phil Stacey is first, with his bald head, and he seems to know how to sing country. (Not that I'd know authentic in this genre.) The judges all agree: Phil's a country boy.

Second up is Jordin Sparks. She does "Broken Wing," just standing there, singing out, and everyone loves it.

Now, Sanjaya's up, along with his hair. The big thing this week is a kerchief, with frizzy curls sticking out in back. He's smiling and ready to go. The song is "Let's Give 'Em Something to Talk About," you know, because, after all, we have been talking about him. And he does give us something to talk about: how hideously he sang that song. Was he even trying?

LaKisha's telling us how much the song "Jesus Take the Wheel" means to her, and Martina McBride is overwhelmed by the emotion. But then LaKisha comes out and tries to sing it, and something is horribly wrong. I'm no music expert, so I can't tell you what it is. Let's hear from the judges. Randy: "some pitch problems." Paula thinks maybe she couldn't hear the band. Simon: "It's like eating a hamburger for breakfast." It felt like she was shouting.

Chris is doing a song called "Mayberry." He's got "country roots." Martina likes it. AGH! My ears! What a harsh, ugly edge to his voice. I'm guessing that there's a way to sing this song that has charm, but he hasn't found it. It's just a crazy mess. Simon: "A very nondescript, nasally, tinny vocal, which had no impact on me at all." I agree. Just a little, I suspect they're being extra hard on him to help LaKisha out of a jam. Because 'round about now, LaKisha looks doomed! All we've got left are Blake and Melissa, and they are the two best, most likely.

Chris defends himself, hilariously: "Hey, nasally is a form of singing. I don't know if you knew that." Simon: "Oh, so it's intentional?" Chris: "Yeah." Then he defends himself a bit underhandedly: "My heart goes out to Virginia Tech. I have a lot of friends out there. Be strong." Does LaKisha get to come back out and say that she cares about the massacre victims too? Or, once you bring up the massacre, does it seem wrong even to talk about whether Chris is being unfair by bringing up the massacre?

Melinda sings something about Trouble being a woman in tight blue jeans or with a man on her mind or some such thing. Hm! Who knew? I thought Trouble was Senator Byrd's shih tzu. Anyway, they all love her. Simon says he "saw a little Tina Turner." But she's got to lose that attitude of surprise that she has every week... as if she's always just finding out for the first time that she's any good.

Blake is going to do "When the Stars Go Blue." Country is out of his zone. He needs to relax, says Martina. He needs to get to a softer falsetto and do it in a "really pretty way." He does okay.

I'll put them in order, based on tonight's performances alone: Melinda, Jordin, Blake, Phil, Sanjaya, LaKisha, Chris.

"I take this oath of office today under protest to the passage of the constitutional amendment... This amendment besmirches our Constitution...."

At least ten members of the Madison Common Council chose not to sign a supplementary statement on their official oaths of office on Tuesday afternoon. The statement pledges opposition to the Wisconsin marriage amendment adopted last fall.
Oh, aren't you righteous? And I suppose when the next guy comes along and withholds his commitment to some part of the Constitution that he dissents from, you'll say it's not the same, because the part he doesn't like doesn't besmirch it.

But let's congratulate Eli Judge, who is chair of Students for a Fair Wisconsin, opposing the marriage amendment, "who publicly identif[ies] as 'gay'" and is "usually considered a sure-fire 'statement-er.'" He took the oath, unqualified, and writes:
I will continue to fight the ban, prejudice, or hate against any community until the day I die. I simply do not feel the need to declare that truth in the same breath by which I am put into public office.

UPDATE: Members of the County Board back away from their planned protest and say they were influenced by Eli Judge's position.

Mickey Kaus wants to say something, but he's forced to try to say it...

By imagining me saying it!

Should a parent's Amish belief in no high school education determine a custody decision?

A Wisconsin Court of Appeals says no:
Gove, the mother, had legal custody of the child and Petty had regular visitations with her until 2004, when he sought sole legal custody because of differences over her further education.

The mother’s Amish faith also caused friction with the father’s attempts to do things with his daughter, court records said. For example, Gove refused to allow the teen to go to Europe with her father because the Amish faith forbid her from swearing an oath, which was required to get a passport, and from flying on an airplane, court records said....

[T]he three-judge appeals court said Amish parents cannot be penalized under state school attendance laws because doing so violated their constitutional right to practice any religion of their choosing.

“Nothing in the record justifies ordering (the girl) to enroll in high school, so nothing exists to justify changing custody and placement to facilitate such a requirement”....

"Can you explain to me who that guy was in Sunday night's episode who was dining with Silvio when he got iced? What was that all about?"

LOL. "The Sopranos" does not insult your intelligence. The truth is, you have to watch the episode twice to understand it. More than that to get the nuances.

"He came to our door and tried the handle. He couldn’t get it in because we were pushing up against it."

"He tried to force his way in and got the door to open up about six inches and then we just lunged at it and closed it back up. That’s when he backed up and shot twice into the middle of the door, thinking we were up against it trying to get him out."

More news of the horror at Virginia Tech.

Apparently, the murderer was a student, Seung-Hui Cho, who lived in the dorm.
“He was just a normal looking kid, Asian, but he had on a Boy Scout type outfit,” one student in the class, Erin Sheehan, told [The Collegiate Times]. “He wore a tan button-up vest and this black vest — maybe it was for ammo or something.”

Ms. Sheehan added: “I saw bullets hit people’s bodies. There was blood everywhere. People in the class were passed out, I don’t know maybe from shock from the pain. But I was one of only four that made it out of that classroom. The rest were dead or injured.”
This is such a sad story. I don't have much to say about it, and I apologize for mixing it in with other blog posts that lack solemnity. The young man, it would seem, went crazy. There will be endless debates about what the University should have done and whether more gun control or less would have helped. But the stark fact remains: many people died. It's terribly sad.

"Bodily fluids."

A new label for this blog. Click on it. You know you can't resist.

"Tommy Thompson told Jewish activists Monday that making money is 'part of the Jewish tradition."


(Thanks to Eric Muller for pointing this one out to me.)

Well, now, how bad is this one? It's not "nappy-headed hos" bad. It's not "macaca" bad. Of course, there's always the old "it's a compliment" excuse (which Don Imus could have used too). Thompson tries it, and earns the predictable mockery.

Eugene Volokh is likely to have the right take on this, I decide before reading what he has to say:
Actually, while earning money in the private sector is part of the tradition of most religions and ethnicities that have survived and thrived, valuing the earning of money in the private sector is, to my knowledge, more an aspect of "Jewish tradition" than of at least some other traditions.

Judaism, for instance, lacks the sense that poverty is virtuous, long ostensibly (and sometimes actually) present in Christianity. Jewish culture has also historically lacked the condemnation of mere commerce -- as opposed to military success, political power, or land ownership -- as dirty and grubby, perhaps partly because Jews were so often excluded from the military, politics, and land ownership....

Recent Jewish culture has included some other ideological forces that have devalued commercial success, chiefly Socialism, even non-Socialist social-welfarism, and, in some measure, the exaltation of intellectual pursuits over commercial ones. Today in America, it may actually be that Protestants on average endorse commerce as a worthy way of life more than Jews do....

So it's hard to see Thompson's comments as reflective either of actual anti-Semitism -- which is especially unlikely given that he was wooing a Jewish group -- or of the unreflective acceptance of pejorative or inaccurate anti-Semitic stereotypes. Thompson could have spoken more artfully....
Hmmm.... He's running for President. Isn't the ability to speak artfully part of the job description? (And I'm not saying you can't get the job without. Clearly you can.)

"Last week, the city commemorated 'Queuing Day,' an event held on the 11th of every month because the date symbolizes an orderly line."

The city in question: Beijing.
Volunteers wearing satin Queuing Day sashes shooed rush-hour commuters into lines at busy subway stations, while hospital administrators and a few city officials handed out long-stemmed roses to patients who stood in line to pay their bills or pick up medicines. Local news media swarmed the event.
They're getting ready for the Olympics, and there's a real concern about China's image:
[S]ome Communist Party officials have publicly fretted that Beijing may not measure up. One delegate at the country’s annual political meetings in March recommended heavy fines and a public education campaign to curb spitting, cutting ahead in line, smoking and foul language....

In fact, Beijing had already announced that people caught spitting in public before the Olympics could face fines up to 50 yuan, or about $6.50, hardly small change in China. Mr. Wang, the anti-spitting activist, said the Olympic spirit inspired him to begin his campaign. “I felt I must do something to contribute,” he said.

He chose a very dirty task. Public spitting is a frequent practice in Beijing and even more common elsewhere in China. (The sinus-clearing, phlegmy pre-spit hawking sound is so common that one foreigner wryly dubbed it “the national anthem of China.”)
Oh, no!

There's also the signage problem:
English translations on signs are considered fashionable and good advertising, as well as a gracious gesture to foreigners baffled by Chinese characters. But until recently, the attention paid to the accuracy of the translation was, at best, uneven. Consider that a local theme park about China’s ethnic minorities was initially promoted in English as “Racist Park.”...

[David Tool, an American who has been been enlisted by the city to fix bad translations,] said he spent his weekends visiting different businesses as if he were a detective in a linguistic vice squad. “I go in and I say the Olympics are coming and this sign is wrong,” Mr. Tool said. He then sends an e-mail message with a correct translation or has a printout delivered.

He is writing a book on the subject, and no wonder: regular blunders include typos on menus in which the ‘b’ in crab becomes a ‘p.’ Some translations are trickier, like describing pullet, which is a hen less than a year old but appears on some menus as Sexually Inexperienced Chicken. Mr. Tool said one prominent sign had become a regular photo op for foreigners: the Dongda Anus Hospital.

Mr. Tool intervened. It is now the Dongda Proctology Hospital.

"At a music hall, I'll get upset if someone coughs or if someone's cellphone goes off. But here, my expectations quickly diminished."

"I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change."

I wish I'd linked to this article when it was published 8 days ago. A perverse thing about blogging is that you feel that if something is even a day old, it's too late. And you feel that if something is today, you must talk about it today. Why does blogging feel like a commitment to tie one's thoughts to a chronology set by the news and the news media?

So let's go back to this story of the brilliant musician Joshua Bell who takes his violin into the subway station and plays for the passing crowd as if he were just another street musician:
In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run -- for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look.
If this happens, what else must happen? We must all scurry by everything, constantly. If we can't notice this, what hope do we have of noticing all the subtle beauty that flows around us all the time.

Bell -- stimulated by knowing he was doing something unusual -- experienced heightened awareness:
"At a music hall, I'll get upset if someone coughs or if someone's cellphone goes off. But here, my expectations quickly diminished. I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change." This is from a man whose talents can command $1,000 a minute.
He found delight in observing himself in a life that wasn't his.

For the others, they believed they were walking through their ordinary lives and -- with a few fine exceptions, described in the article -- perceived nothing special. Yet even on the ordinary day, there is beauty, if we would only perceive it.

April 16, 2007

"I was for it before I was against it."

Did you see John Kerry on "The Colbert Report"? I thought he was decently amusing when Stephen Colbert asked him about his position on the environment. Sure, it was scripted -- "I was for it before I was against it" -- but self-deprecation is good. Especially for Kerry.

"Songs with a secret."

Rolling Stone picks the top 25. After all these years, the #1 mystery is still what the hell were the Kingsmen saying in "Louie, Louie."

He said "three times that he has a Shih Tzu, nine times that his late wife named the dog Trouble, and three times that he prefers to call it Baby."

It's very strange how much attention the pet food contamination story has gotten in the press, as I said that in the last podcast, where I asked if I was just imagining that I saw a Senate hearing on the subject on C-Span. In the comments to the podcast post, XWL says that not only were there hearings, but that they're "the best thing you'll ever watch on the web. Sen. Byrd is amazing. It's indescribable."

The quote in the title up there is from the Dana Milbank column, which goes on:
"She sleeps on my bed," said Byrd, in his 90th year and prone to meandering. "She goes with me to the Senate, rides in the car with me. She stays in my office. When somebody comes into the office, she rises and comes over and greets them, goes on about her business and gets back on the couch."
You have to hear the whole thing to get the effect. You can find it on this C-Span page (from April 12). Fast forward to 39:07. This is the most ridiculous 10 minutes of congressional hearing I've ever seen.

Laugh at Byrd all you want -- and you will want -- but it's not just him. People are absurdly emotional about their pets. I would have thought it would be embarrassing to dwell on tainted pet food for so long. There are so many problems in the world, so many human beings suffering. How can the media go on and on about a few dogs dying? I know, I know: I'm always blogging about all sorts of foolish things that capture my attention for whatever idiosyncratic reason. But mainstream media and Congress ought to have some priorities -- some proportion.

"The deadliest shooting rampage in American history."

The NYT reports:
At least 31 people were killed today on the campus of Virginia Tech in what appears to be the deadliest shooting rampage in American history, according to federal law-enforcement officials. Many of the victims were students shot in a dorm and a classroom building....

Up until today, the deadliest campus shooting in United States history was in 1966 at the University of Texas, where Charles Whitman climbed to the 28th-floor observation deck of a clock tower and opened fire, killing 16 people before he was gunned down by police. In the Columbine High attack in 1999, two teenagers killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before killing themselves.

The 50-foot Michael Jackson robot...

It roams around the desert and shoots laser beams. Shouldn't there be a Colossus of Las Vegas? We need more wonders of the modern world. The eastern United States has its Statue of Liberty. Why not something to express the spirit of the West?

For a depiction of a colossal Michael Jackson, go to 3:54 in this old video. Perhaps the Las Vegas project will have our robo-Michael busting out of a roller coaster cage. I love the way that video represents Jackson as the victim of our crazy ideas about him, with the poor man breaking free of the amusement park we made out of him.

Around Madison.

Yesterday, I was out, walking around the Capitol (see it?):

building reflections

Today, I'm dug in at Espresso Royale, drinking one of those outrageously caffeinated large cappucinos (the very thing I was sipping in that Bloggingheads episode where I got mad at Garance):


Let's try to focus this energy constructively.

Another Monday.

Just another manic Monday....

... as the Spring semester crashes in toward a close. Time for cutting pages out of the syllabus and thinking up efficient strategies for presenting the doctrines left for the end. Habeas corpus! Separation of powers! It's harrowing.

But this week is a short teaching week, as I'm off to a conference at Dartmouth -- as noted here. The conference is on Thursday, so that leaves me on my own in Hanover, New Hampshire for the weekend. What to do?

(That linked video is sublime, by the way. Makes you want to do your Susannah Hoffs imitation, doesn't it? It's the easiest imitation in the world, you know.)

"The doctrines of so-called ‘animal rights’ ... violently interfere with the rights of an art work to be freely exhibited in an art museum."

So says the artist. "They completely ignored the concept and ideology behind this particular art work." But that art exhibit put the toads, tarantulas, lizards, crickets and scorpions in an environment designed to provoke them into violence. "It’s pretty clear that the intention is that the observer is intended to witness potential conflict between the animals which frankly I think is kind of sick," said the Humane Society spokesman.

That terrarium was "a microcosm of global conflict and power dynamics" that "functions as a metaphor for the conflicts among different peoples and culture — in short, human existence itself." That is to say the toads, tarantulas, lizards, crickets and scorpions were supposed to do vicious things to each other to express the artist's ideology. The SPCA people wanted to add water bowls and hiding places and transform the gallery into something more like a pet shop -- which would destroy the whole concept of Huang Yong Ping's "Theatre of the World."

So: Artist's expression versus the welfare of toads, tarantulas, lizards, crickets and scorpions.

In the end, the animals were removed from the exhibit, which I think was the right choice. They were being mistreated, and to stop mistreating them would wreck the artist's message. The animals won, yet so did the artist. His show -- in Vancouver -- has received immense publicity. 5,000 people have already seen it with all that toad/tarantula/lizard/cricket/scorpion strife, and now everyone's talking about it.

Isn't the interaction with the animal welfare crowd part of the artwork, the larger performance -- in the theatre of the world? I think that statement from the artist, quoted above, shows him intentionally stoking the conflict in the world beyond the terrarium. The idea that his rights were "violently" interfered with -- surely, he meant to set you off. How can violence to an abstraction compare to the violence of the toads, tarantulas, lizards, crickets and scorpions attacking each other? He made you think that. He made you subordinate art to insignificant creatures. A powerful performance.

"Could that change? It might. It may change over years. It may change over months. I can't tell you, but I've said very clearly...."

Do you recognize the inimitable rhetorical style? Do you miss it? If yes, good, because he -- it's John Kerry, obviously -- is threatening to run for President.

April 15, 2007

Audible Althouse #82.

It's a podcast. About Austin, Texas. Omakase. Driving 1235 miles in one day. Don Imus. Torturing a man by telling him he looks like Mr. Bean. Etc.

You don't need an iPod. You can stream it right through your computer here.

But all the passionate people subscribe on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

"Tattoos remind you of death."

That's the title of what I consider the best blog post I've ever written. It was only possible because I had the perfect news story to riff on. Now, here are some photos of the pigs tattooed for the sake of art and the finished artwork, courtesy of this Metafilter post.

"What do the Canadian Rockies and Sad Liberals have in common?"

Answer here.

Is abstinence education a complete waste of money?

This new report seems to say so. Supporters of abstinence education are going to try to push back:
“This report confirms that these interventions are not like vaccines,” said Harry Wilson, associate commissioner of the Family and Youth Services Bureau at the federal Administration for Children and Families. “You can’t expect one dose in middle school, or a small dose, to be protective all throughout the youth’s high school career.”
Yeah, but the federal government has been spending $176 million a year on this!

Damn it! That reminds me I still need to finish my taxes. Was the report released this week for maximum effect?

But why is the federal government spending any money on propaganda aimed at American kids? Well, obviously, it's a sop to social conservatives. But can we stop now?

Wilson's idea is that the lack of results shows why we ought to be spending even more money and absorbing even more of kids' time telling them what to do with their lives. Why not spend the money on teaching them how to read, research independently, analyze, and critique? That would be real education, that would justify taking up their time, and that would put them in a position to think for themselves about what is the right way to live. And maybe, just maybe, it actually is to be abstinent until marriage.

If you really believed in the good of your own philosophy/religion, you'd want them to think for themselves.

"There was the risqué, sexually offensive, sometimes racially offensive, satire, and then there was this political salon about politics and books."

NBC chief White House correspondent David Gregory has good insight into Imus (in this really well-done Newsweek piece by Weston Kosova):
"Imus was living in two worlds. There was the risqué, sexually offensive, sometimes racially offensive, satire, and then there was this political salon about politics and books. Some of us tuned in to one part and tuned out the other ... Whether I was numb to the humor that offended people or in denial, I don't know."
This article seems to be the beginning of the rehabilitation of Don Imus. Consider this, which shows the special power he had to skewer politicians and mainstream journalists, including the ones who couldn't pass up the air time:
Between insults, he gave politicians and journalists... lots of air time to discuss serious issues and plug their books. He asked real questions and then listened to the answers. The show became an influential salon for the politically connected. Powerful people tuned in to hear what other powerful people would say. For a certain segment of status-obsessed journalists, being called names by Imus was better than not being called at all. Imus had a talent for coaxing his guests into saying what they really thought, often in salty language they'd never use on more "respectable" shows....

Imus may have come off as your deranged, half-addled uncle (he kicked booze and drugs years ago), but he also came to the microphone each morning carefully prepared for battle. He read more books and newspapers than most of his guests and was a formidable interrogator who could cut the powerful down to size. On a recent show, Imus badgered Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, a frequent guest, about the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed hospital. Schumer tried to go for the high-and-mighty approach, castigating Republicans for failing the troops. Imus pounced. When was the last time Schumer visited the troops at Walter Reed? Deflated, Schumer haltingly admitted he hadn't been there in years.
We need to think about why people were so hot to bring him down. Kosova provides the time line:
[U]nknown to Imus, one of his most loyal listeners in Washington, D.C., was watching, and taping, the show every day.... 26-year-old Ryan Chiachiere wasn't a fan, and he wasn't tuning in to be entertained. Chiachiere is one of a handful of young activists who spend their days wading through hours of radio and cable shows for Media Matters for America, a liberal group whose sole purpose is rooting out and "correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media." Wired on coffee, Chiachiere was watching a recording of Imus's show when he noticed the "hos" remark.

It was a big hit at the group's morning meeting....

The group posted a video clip of the exchange on its Web site and put it up on YouTube. It sent e-mails to journalists and civil-rights and women's groups.

The word, and the outrage, spread quickly. A week later, Imus was gone, banished from his multimillion-dollar television and radio show even before he had the chance to complete the all-too-familiar cycle of public penance that high-profile sinners are usually granted.
That is, Media Matters had been lying in wait for a long time, and finally they got exactly the sound bite they needed, and they played it masterfully. Think about why things fell into place so well and why so many people fell in line and took down this idiosyncratic character, who had been talking on the radio four hours a day, five days a week for so long. Who knows what havoc he might have wreaked in the 2008 campaign? Isn't it convenient to have him out of the way?

Or do you support the rehabilitation of Imus?
In an e-mail to NEWSWEEK, Imus said, "I could go to work tomorrow. Bigger deal. More money. TV simulcast ... I've got a summer of kids to cowboy with and then we'll see." He knows what he said was wrong, and that there is much to do. Asked whether his recovery from addiction had given him the strength to cope with the current crisis, he sounded like, well, Imus: "I'm a good and decent person who made a mistake in the context of comedy," he wrote in the e-mail. "My strength comes from not being full of sh— and a coward."
Our political world is full cowards and folks who are full of shit. Is Imus really the one you want gone?




Can anyone get the seemingly obvious joke just right? Apparently, not.

A man died, people. Show some respect. Or don't. But if you can't come up with a good joke at least, go with the respect for the dead angle. That's my recommendation.