November 13, 2004

Paglia on Zappa.

Camille Paglia reviews a new book about Frank Zappa in the NYT Book Review. True to Paglia form, she emphasizes Zappa's Italian background. The book, by Barry Miles, is just called "Zappa," but Paglia titles her review "Freak Out!" after Zappa's first album. I can't hear that title without guilt, because a friend of my brother's loaned me the album, an expensive double album, 35 years ago, and I've never given it back. For the last 30 years or so, I haven't remembered the person's name or had any idea how to reach her. So it's really just a permanent burden of guilt. But here's some Paglia on Zappa (and Miles, whom she doesn't seem to like very much):
Miles, who knew Zappa, often seems ambivalent about him. There is a gap between the ''juvenile and prurient'' Zappa he describes and the one we see in the book's sensational photographs, which show a man of burning magnetism and piercing intellect. Miles calls Zappa a ''cold nihilist'' who felt no real emotions for anyone. Along with ''cynicism and misanthropy,'' he detects Catholic guilt and ''deep-seated problems with women.'' Zappa was ''stuck in a 50's time warp'' -- yet the bold feminist Germaine Greer was a Zappa fan.

Whatever the meaning of the S-and-M and fetish imagery in his songs (a theme that makes Miles squirm), the picture painted here of Zappa's family life is troubling. When not touring (which he loved to do -- Miles calls him a ''road rat''), Zappa spent 10 to 18 hours a day holed up in his cavernous basement studio in his Tudor mansion in the Hollywood Hills. He was a born tinkerer and a groundbreaker in early digital production.

Addicted to black coffee and cigarettes (he was fiercely antidrugs), he slept during the day and saw little of his family. His second wife, Gail, said, ''Frank did not do love.'' When she was 13, Moon Unit slipped a note under the studio door to ''introduce'' herself and her ideas. The result was the hit song ''Valley Girl,'' a phenomenon when it was released in 1982. Because he thought formal education a waste of time, Zappa took his children out of school at 15 and refused to pay for college.
Painful. But "black coffee and cigarettes" -- that reminds me, I'm in the middle of watching "Coffee and Cigarettes," and liking it very much. I'm up to the scene with Iggy Pop and Tom Waits and I'd only meant to stop for a minute to go see if the Tom Waits fan in the house wanted to watch that scene, and I got sidetracked by my laptop and that Paglia review!

The President and the Supreme Court.

Jeffrey Rosen has a Week in Review piece in tomorrow's NYT that looks at what sort of Supreme Court President Bush may be able to produce in the next four years. "Strict constructionism" and "originalism" are discussed, and then comes this part about what the Times loves to call the "federalism revolution."
In 1995, for the first time since the New Deal, the court said there were limits on Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce. And since then, the court has struck down 33 federal laws. During its first 70 years of existence, the court invalidated only two.
33 federal statutes have been stricken down on federalism grounds? There are two cases that strike down parts of federal statutes on the ground that they are beyond the scope of the Commerce Power! There are a few more federalism cases, but 33? Does Rosen just mean 33 federal statutes have been stricken down on all sorts of grounds, including the constitutional rights grounds that were favored by judges of the Warren Court era? And why compare the current Court to the earliest days of the Supreme Court. People love to point out how few laws were stricken down in those early years, but it says very little about the level of activism of this Court. Compare this Court to another Court of the modern era, when federal statutes are plentiful and courts feel secure in the role of judicial review. Rosen raises the alarm:
[T]he federalism revolution hasn't quite delivered what conservatives hoped. Each time the court's strict constructionist justices have appeared on the brink of striking down environmental laws or health and safety laws, the moderates, Justice O'Connor and Justice Kennedy, have stepped back from the brink. They are less willing to overturn 60-year-old precedents that might strike at the core of the regulatory state. "If the 'Constitution in exile' were taken seriously, a lot of environmental regulation could be under attack, occupational safety and health regulation, even possibly some securities regulation," said David Strauss, a law professor at the University of Chicago. "Minimum wage and maximum hours laws? You never know."
The reader is urged to picture a "brink" -- a precipice up there that we would have tumbled over already if not for "the moderates" O'Connor and Kennedy. Without moderates nailing down the center -- we're left to think -- the Court would roll things back to the way they were when FDR proposed his Court-packing plan (reviving the so-called "Constitution in exile").
[F]ormer administration officials say all of the names on Mr. Bush's short list for the Supreme Court are considered strict constructionists who are closer to Justice Scalia than to Justice O'Connor. "An entire generation of lawyers have been reared and trained in Justice Scalia's philosophy," said Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law School, who led the second President Bush's Office of Legal Counsel after Mr. Yoo. "So the Bush administration is likely to be more successful than its predecessors in finding reliably conservative nominees."
I very much doubt that many law students are being "reared and trained" to think like Justice Scalia! My sense is that the Warren Court vision of constitutional law still prevails among law professors. In fact, it's probably safe to guess that Justice Scalia's positions are routinely derided in most law school classrooms! It is true at least that students have read the conservative Supreme Court opinions (though I bet they were informed by their lawprofs about how wrong and bad these decisions are) and they have been able to participate in the Federalist Society if they wanted to pursue the conservative viewpoint. But the liberal position continues to dominate. That said, I'm sure President Bush will be looking for conservative Justices -- not moderates like O'Connor and Kennedy -- and that he will be able to find them. But it is alarmist to suggest that these people would radically dismantle federal law, tossing out statutes like those that protect the environment and guarantee minimum wages at a shocking new rate. UPDATE: Law students or recent law students are welcome to send me their observations. For example, I just received this from one law student:
[A]s for law students being reared and trained in Justice Scalia's philosophy, I'd be shocked out of my socks if there were a professor in my law school who doesn't think Scalia is a wacko and curmudgeon who is blind to the "realities of the situation." Every SCOTUS case we've ever discussed (now halfway through my second year), the professor criticizes the Scalia opinion, sometimes to the exclusion of discussion of the majority opinion! So, you are EXACTLY right. And keep in mind that [state name deleted] is probably the reddest of the Red States. If he's that despised here, I can't imagine it's any better anywhere else.
Well, I graduated from law school in 1996, so maybe that's not "recent" but it's a good deal more recent than anyone who's likely to be considered for a Supreme Court appointment in the next four years. I can certainly tell you that professors at Harvard Law School were very much interested in presenting Scalia's views but equally interested in deriding them, to the point that my first-year criminal law class actually sent a petition to Justice Scalia to come and give us the other side of the story. This being Harvard, he did just that and had a toe-to-toe debate with our professor, Alan Dershowitz. Suffice to say that they did not agree on much. On the other hand, the existence of the Federalist Society certainly does give young lawyers a sufficient exposure to a comprehensive Scalia-like judicial philosophy that you can expect to see more and more people who can be depended upon by Republican presidents to be genuine Scalia-like conservatives. So Rosen's essential point isn't all that off the mark.
I agree with that second-to-the-last sentence, as my original post shows. But Rosen is overeager to make a point and in the process drags in much dubious information. My post doesn't even begin to deal with the blather about "strict constructionism," which Scalia himself makes a big point of disavowing

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Another email:
I can affirmatively assert that at my school, the University of Chicago (I'm the class of '00), the professors took Scalia very seriously. Some seemed to disapprove of originalism, others rather liked it. But everyone ... approached Scalia and originalism as a vital form of constitutional jurisprudence.... [at Chicago], Scalia's writings and teachings -- along with law and economics and formalism and feminist jurisprudence and other theories -- are certainly taught and treated with respect. And why wouldn't they be? Scalia, like many other originalists, are federal court judges after all. It would be pretty silly to train lawyers to exercise contempt toward a judicial philosophy that moves so many of the arbiters of the lawyers' future clients' cases.
The emailer is quite right (and lucky to have gone to Chicago). One of the reasons I became a law professor was to find for myself the experience I felt I was denied as a law student: exploring the full scope of the debate about law. STILL MORE: No Oil For Pacifists writes about his experience in law school in the early 80s:
I was one of the few conservatives in law school. My views were tolerated at best, derided at worst. I remember a First Amendment course taught by an old-time socialist. He was smart and funny, but increasingly frustrated with my interjections. So, after calling on me about halfway through the semester, he paused for a few seconds, put hands on hips, and said "Carl--you're a wrong thinker and should be liquidated." He never solicited my views again.
He probably thought he was being hilarious--and perhaps that conservatives have no feelings so why not torment them and have fun at their expense?

Politics and fear.

I just ran across the September 6th copy of The New Yorker, which has a painting on the cover of fearful elephants crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. The reference is to the Republican Party's convention in New York City, and the notion is that Republicans are anxious about a visit to the unfamiliar territory that is New York (a popular pre-convention topic). It's funny to see this image now, after reading endless post-election expressions of fear about the territory of the red states -- Jesusland! -- coming from Democrats.

Four hours later.

Somehow in all this time, I've only managed to read seven admissions files and put up one of the blinds. Some cursing was involved. Not at the admissions files however. And at least now I understand how the new brackets work and why they can't be put in the same spots as the old brackets. I spent way too much time looking for the chuck for the drill before finding it clipped to the drill's cord and trying to figure out how to run the drill in reverse to remove the screws on the old brackets before giving up and using a screwdriver. Now it's nearly 4 on this Saturday of mine, it's getting dark, and I have yet to touch the rake -- or even leave the house!

UPDATE: An emailer writes that I should call that drill thingy the chuck key and not the chuck, but I think I remember my father calling it the chuck and this diagram calls it the chuck. Anyway, have you ever noticed what an elaborate website the writer Chuck Palahniuk has? The things one finds while Googling for answers to one thing may be more interesting than what you were looking for. I'm much better at blogging than hanging blinds or fiddling with drills because I enjoy all sorts of distractions and digressions. I prefer them. I believe that John Lennon lyric: "Life is what happens to you/While you’re busy making other plans."

More interesting to me than whether that thingy is actually called a chuck or a chuck key -- and no, I'll resist writing anything about the new Chucky movie -- is that since Chuck is a classic macho guy's name -- Palahniuk seems pretty macho -- and since the key device is more masculine than the clamping jaw mechanism of the drill, that it would be more linguistically elegant for the thing I was looking for to be called the chuck.

Also, here's Chuck Berry's official website. Another good Chuck is Chuck Jones. And you know that Chuck E. Cheese slogan, "Where a kid can be a kid?" How many times a day do you think somebody sees that and cracks a joke that begins "and an adult can..."?

So I have four more blinds to hang, 32 more admissions files to read, and a yard full of leaves that cannot be raked today because it is already dark out. Which means the bright day I described earlier is a thing of the past. And I still have not left the house!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Note that I do concede that damn thing must be called the chuck KEY.

A Saturday plan.

It's nice to have a Saturday. The carpenters who have been yanking out and replacing pieces of the exterior wall to my house are off, and I can sit at my dining room table this long morning, idly reading the New York Times, intermittently blogging or reading email, and inking in the crossword puzzle, without feeling the cold air pouring through gaping window frames and without having to hear the carpenters' radio. They keep it tuned to a Wisconsin Public Radio station, even during the fund drive parts, but most of the time it's classical music that I hear along with their hammering and sawing.

It's a clear, bright day today. I haven't left the house yet. I'm just getting to the end of my NYT-and-blogging session, which has stretched out as it always does on Saturday. I do have two pressing household tasks to accomplish today.

First, I've got to rake the leaves in my front yard out into a pile by the street. I only rake the front yard. I've been relying on a self-serving theory of mulching for the backyard for the last decade or so. My backyard is ruled by a 200 year-old oak tree named Agatha, and in her domain, lawn is banished. There is only ground cover and whatever else she deigns to preserve. But the front yard leaves must make it to the street before the first snow falls, and today, with the temperature at 30, has chosen itself as the day when the task must be done.

Second, I need to put the new blinds up on the five six-foot windows in my bedroom that look out on Agatha's domain. These blinds have been lying on my bedroom floor for several weeks. The paint-splattered step ladder is right there by the first window, and the power drill is in the spot on the desk where I put it shortly after the blinds arrived. I keep thinking I'm about to put the blinds up, and all these things in my room are there night after night, mocking me. It's a wonder I can sleep at all.

And I've also got a non-household task to accomplish. I have forty law school admissions files to read. I'm thinking if I just start one thing, then, when I need a break, switch to one of the other things, I can generate energy and endurance out of the three distinctly different things that need to be done. I'm also hoping that blogging about this plan will create some crisp commitment to the three-task plan. I'm envisioning an update here later saying that it has all been done and an excellent night's sleep, after a hard day of mental and physical labor, in a newly darkened room with a clear floor.

UPDATE: No, this isn't the update I was envisioning. Scroll up for the description of my level of progress on the three tasks. This is an update to include an email:
I had no idea that carpenters in Madison were so educated. I would have thought they would be listening to classic rock, or sports radio. How very frou frou of them. Your life sounds so... so... I don't know. Like a wine commerical sort of. A leisurely Saturday reading the NY Times, sipping Celestial Seasonings or riesling, and trying to decide whether to get the Corvette or the Range Rover while the carpenters (who have all graduated Harvard and are slumming) carefully add a new wall and deck and wine cellar. In only a matter of moments, the educated and single man next door will look out his window and see you looking out yours watching him make Berilla pasta. I'm only too sure he will next ring your doorbell and you, carpenters and hunky neighbor will sit down to pasta with shaved truffle sauce, and discuss methods to reduce your massive 10,000 property bill (which must mean you live in a $7 million dollar home....though, math is not my strong point either).

I don't think it's math so much as Madison politics that this guy lacks knowledge of. Let's just say the property tax rate is about 14 times what he thinks it is and see if you can calculate the assessed value of my house. And if I am really so rich, why am I driving a five year old New Beetle, hanging my own blinds, and raking my own leaves. But as for the tea, it was Twinings Lady Grey!

The news from Ann Arbor.

One of my email correspondents sends this, from Ann Arbor:
Since about 8:45AM today morning, a 2 to 3 block area around Ann Arbor City Hall has been closed down, and cordoned off, because, it seems someone had called in a bomb threat. The police have Division, 4th Ave, 5th Ave, Huron, Washington and Liberty Streets closed off for the time being, while they investigate. And it is totally disrupting traffic, especially since today, there is a football game at Michigan Stadium - the season's last game!!!. I walked downtown to check it out, and talked to some folks who were gathered there also watching the happenings. The rumor was that it was a threat called in by a Bush-hater, who was angry about Pres Bush being reelected.
From what I've seen here in Madison, the peace movement folks lack much regard for the way ordinary citizens feel about traffic and football. (Let's hope it is just a lame threat in Ann Arbor.)

UPDATE: The emailer sends this:
As of 12pm, Ann Arbor time, the bomb threat situation has been resolved, and the police has opened up all the streets. While I haven't heard any sort of an official statement, I would assume that it was a hoax, and that they checked everything out and found nothing.
Good to hear. And note that I don't intend for my comment up there to suggest that I think the peace movement folks use bomb threats as a technique. I just think their protest rallies and marches are obtusely insensitive to the driving and football interests of people they (presumably) want to persuade.

So what about that car?

You may remember my "Should I buy a new car?" post, and you may have even voted in the poll, perhaps as one of the 805 who produced the winning choice: buy the Corvette! I hope you didn't imagine that I agreed to be bound by the poll. I notice Chevrolet has thus far failed to pursue the fabulous PR opportunity of giving me a Corvette. The fools! Don't they realize I would blog about it?! I would drive all over the U.S.A., taking digital pictures of the mythic landscapes, many of which would include the Corvette, and I would post these pictures prominently on my popular blog?!

I see that theCarblog, discussing my little blogpoll, simply assumes I have the money on hand to buy a Corvette. Didn't I just tell you about the carpenters I've hired to rebuild the exterior wall of my house? I may be a tenured law professor, but I'm also a tuition-paying parent, and I live in the city of Madison, Wisconsin, which is about to mail me its annual property tax bill for well over $10,000. Yeah, yeah, I know that inspires absolutely zero pity. Nor should it. But buying a Corvette is quite irrational. If everyone who voted for me to buy a Corvette would click on that Amazon Honor System button over there and make a $75 contribution, I'd buy the Corvette!

About moving to New Zealand.

Americans contemplating moving to New Zealand after the election are following an Australian tradition:
After Australian voters re-elected Howard last month, giving him an expanded mandate and control of both houses of parliament, commentators in that country also raised the idea of unhappy Australian liberals fleeing to New Zealand.

In a satirical column in The Bulletin magazine, Tim Blair wrote: "The malaise among this bunch is so profound, many are threatening in various online forums to leave Australia for New Zealand, which is as close as you can get to committing suicide while still registering a pulse."

Strong words, especially considering that the contrast is with Australia, which already seems unusually calm and remote to us Americans. I had thought that blue-state types generally looked down on the red states for being boring -- too remote, too rural, too monotonous, too bland. I cannot understand the idea of leaving the country -- where presumably you are already living in blue-state, urban pluralism -- to go someplace that seems more bland and remote.

A radiant ferret.

Arafat interred. (Anagram.)

"It's a little sexist. It's not creating an image of a woman as an elegant creature. It's a little bit down and dirty, a little crass."

The "voluptuous" new mannequins have 38" hips and actually wear a size 8. Should we be offended at the loss of "elegance," like the executive quoted above, whose company manufactures the "Twiggy mannequin," which is tall and wears a size 2 or 4? The voluptuous mannequin -- called the Goddess! -- ends up selling a lot of clothes, because the clothes (especially jeans) look good on the mannequin and then look good on the customer. Who hasn't wasted time trying on something that looked great on the mannequin (or the hanger) and then been horrified at how it looked on? If you go to all the trouble to try something on and it looks the same on you as it looked on display, you're extremely likely to buy it.

And then there are the men: "Men like it. Some guys come in and buy the mannequins."

November 12, 2004

Moving out.

Here's another article about people wanting to move out of the country because Bush got reelected. Choice quotes:
"Life is too short to spend with people whose values you don't like or agree with."

"Why would I want to fight to change things here when I can just move there?"

[re New Zealand, a preferred haven] "Yeah, they have a big ozone hole, but I'm nocturnal. They have great coffee, great food and a great music scene."

I suppose these people mean to register a protest, but they sound so watery-blooded that it's hard to imagine anyone cares about their threatened departure.

[Here's what I wrote yesterday about threatening to leave the country.]

Secret Service responds to high school kids' rendition of Dylan's "Masters of War."

Some teenage kids played Dylan's "Masters of War" at a Boulder, Colorado high school talent show and the Secret Service later came to town.
"It's just Bob Dylan's song. We were just singing Bob Dylan's song … If you think it has to do with Bush that's because you're drawing your own conclusions. We never conveyed that Bush was the person we were talking about," said Allysse Wojtanek-Watson, a singer for the band.

The lyrics are devastatingly harsh:
And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead

But the song is about "masters of war" -- "masters" with an "s" -- and it could be about a lot of people, I write as I sit here watching the news which conspicuously features a casket today.

The latest in Duke Ellington CDs.

My wonderful colleague Stewart Macaulay sends out advice about buying Duke Ellington records to the faculty email list here at the University of Wisconsin Law School. I keep telling him he should start a blog for this sort of thing. But since he hasn't, I asked if I could reprint his email here. He said yes. So here's the latest missive from Prof. Macaulay:
Several people have asked that I keep you up to date on Duke Ellington CDs. If you couldn't care less, stop reading now.

There is a brand new never before issued release on the Danish Storyville label called "The Jaywalker." These are recordings from 1966-67 and part of the collection of stuff that Mercer Ellington gave to Danish radio. Some of the cuts are things that appeared on other CDs such as "Rue Bleu,"" Chromatic Love Affair" and Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count." It also includes music for the play "The Jaywalker," a religious allegory "about the boy Mac (Mac meaning Son of) trying to have the traffic on the highway stopped so that people living on either side of the road could cross freely." I think the music is better than the concept for the play.

At the other extreme, there is the Bluebird release called "The Centennial Collection: Duke Ellington," which goes back to the original "Black and Tan Fantasy" and "East St. Louis Toodle-O." But it also has such classics as "Ko Ko" and "Concerto for Cootie" (which later became "Do Nothing 'Till You Hear It From Me."). It includes 7 previously unissued tracks from 1940s radio broadcasts. Also included in a DVD with films of the Ellington orchestra playing.

Finally, there is one that many of you might like. It is "Duke Ellington's Jazz Violin Session." It is on Wounded Bird Records WOU 1688. (It originally was released in 1976 on Atlantic). It feaures Svend Asmussen on viola and Stephane Grappelli and Ray Nance on violins. The tunes are classic Ellington, such as "In a Sentimental Mood," "Don't Get Around Much Any More," "Day Dream" and "Cotton Tail." This music was recorded in 1963 for Reprise, the then new label formed by Frank Sinatra when he decided to eliminate all the middle men and make off with more of the money from recording. He engaged Ellington as his jazz A & R man. Warner Brothers bought Reprise and didn't release much of what Ellington had recorded. Of course, the mid-1960s was a time when people weren't listening to much jazz. I have found myself putting this one on over and over. The strings playing this music are different and nice.

I got all of these from Tower records on line. ( I assume that they are available elsewhere as well. The nice thing about Tower is that you can switch to recent releases in order without having to go through everything as you do on

I don't watch "The Apprentice" anymore.

But I do still glance at some of the recaps. This, from Entertainment Weekly, amused me:
[H]aving a task that is the exact job of one of the contestants in real life seems a little bit disingenuous to me, like casting, I don't know, a survivalist on Survivor or, like, a hooker on The Bachelor.

A "long, white, wordless banner" of peace.

Here's a report of a 60-person peace march that took place in Madison yesterday. Maybe someone ought to tell these people than snarling rush-hour traffic for over an hour is not a good way to influence public opinion. The group carried a "200-foot piece of white fabric ... a sculpture by a veteran that symbolized peace." One group member said: "There were some elements of teamwork that were kind of interesting." The drivers whose trip home was blocked were not terribly intrigued by the symbolism of what the Capital Times calls the "long, white, wordless banner." On my way home, I saw the protesters clustered in front of the ROTC building with their banner crisscrossing itself in the space above them. It didn't look like "peace" to me. It looked like someone had TP-ed the trees in front of the ROTC building.

"You can't have an arsenal on school property."

School fundraiser goes awry.

"The consequences ... of losing are great. And we're unprepared for the consequences of winning."

So says Matthew Coles, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's lesbian and gay rights project, discussing the pursuit of a constitutional right to gay marriage in the courts. Matt Foreman, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, says: "Our legal strategy is at least 10 years ahead of our political and legislative strategy." These quotes and some excellent analysis appear in this NYT article by Adam Liptak. The gay marriage question is the most complex interaction of law and politics I have ever seen.

Resurveying about that "moral values" motivation.

Pew Research finds that you get very different results if you present voters with a list than if you ask them an open-ended question:
[W]hen [voters] were asked an open-ended question about the top issue, Iraq and the economy moved past moral values. Iraq was picked by 27 percent, the economy by 14 percent and moral values tied with terrorism at 9 percent.

Presumably, there's suggestive power to mentioning "moral values" to people. They want to look like they care about morality once it's brought up, but before that, they may not have been thinking about it. The new poll also probes what people mean when they say "moral values":
Just over four in 10 of those who picked ``moral values'' from the list mentioned social issues like gay marriage and abortion, but others talked about qualities like religion, helping the poor, and candidates' honesty and strength of leadership.

"We did not see any indication that social conservative issues like abortion, gay rights and stem cell research were anywhere near as important as the economy and Iraq,'' said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. "'Moral values' is a phrase that's very attractive to people.''

The new Vanity Fair website.

Looks nice!

"Well, they are taking away my license but at least it's by a Lamborghini."

Italian traffic cops!
Paolo Mazzini, a highway police commander, said: "Italian people are not always friendly toward authorities. They are curious, so they accept the ticket more readily."

"It's not for fun," he added.
If only there were enough money to solve all of our difficulties dealing with authority in this Italian manner!

The voting fraud rumor lives and dies by the blog.

The NYT reports:
In the space of seven days, an online market of dark ideas surrounding last week's presidential election took root and multiplied.

But while the widely read universe of Web logs was often blamed for the swift propagation of faulty analyses, the blogosphere, as it has come to be known, spread the rumors so fast that experts were soon able to debunk them, rather than allowing them to linger and feed conspiracy theories. Within days of the first rumors of a stolen election, in fact, the most popular theories were being proved wrong - though many were still reluctant to let them go.
Seems healthy enough. Much better than the long-festering conspiracy theories of yore. I think some people are working through their own feelings of bitter disappointment, and nursing a little, quirky hope for a few weeks is a minor matter.

That article also features this idiotic quote from a Kerry campaign spokesman: "I'd give my right arm for Internet rumors of a stolen election to be true."

Car choices.

A while back, spurred on by a brochure for Corvette that came in the mail, I asked whether I should buy a new car or keep my old car. I did a blogpoll that a lot of people voted in, and I wrote later commenting on how impractical it would be for me to have a Corvette, but also talking about my personal history with Chevrolet. I noted that the only cool car I'd ever had was the 1961 Chevrolet Impala convertible that my father passed on to me, and that, when the time came to buy my first car, I chose a Chevy Chevette (the lesser 'vette). Chevrolet had a place in my family's story. I neglected to tell the older and more important family story that involves Chevrolet. In the 1930s, my grandfather, George Dewey Althouse ("Pop"), was a car mechanic with enough money to start his own business, faced with the decision which make of car to work with, a decision that came down to Chevrolet and Pierce Arrow. He chose the Pierce Arrow. That is the perfect example of making what is simultaneously exactly the right and exactly the wrong choice. Pop worked on beautiful cars before he went out of business.

What car did Pop drive when I knew him? A Pontiac. And it was a Pontiac that my father bought when he handed down the Impala to me. Before the Impala, the previous two cars my father had owned were both Nashes. I particularly remember the day he brought home a new car in the mid 1950s. The old car had never been a new car to me, so it was the first time I had ever experienced the event of introducing a new car into the family. Though it was the same make as the car it replaced, the new car was much bigger and flashier, in the style of the 1950s. It was a fleshy tan color with a white roof and the spare tire mounted -- who cares if it's ridiculously inconvenient? -- in front of the trunk. I remember being fascinated by the big fold-down armrest in the middle of the back seat. Another amazing feature of this car was the gas cap, which was hidden under one of the tail lights. Of course, in those days, people didn't pump their own gas, and my father used to get a kick out of pulling into the gas station, saying "fill 'er up" to the attendant, and watching the poor man search in vain for the gas cap. The light actually pulled out and up. But the most amazing thing about the car was the hood ornament. Scroll down on this page and you'll see one that's quite close to what we had. All the kids on the block were fascinated by this hood ornament. You think a Jaguar has a cool hood ornament? You should have seen the hood ornament on our Nash.

November 11, 2004

"If Bush wins I'm leaving the country"--some nostalgia and a question.

Let's look back to the year 2000. Here's an old Snopes inquiry:
Claim: Some celebrities promised to leave the USA if George W. Bush won the 2000 presidential election.

Status: True.
So threatening to leave the country over Bush getting elected is at least boringly old. But here's the problem I have with the leaving-the-country meme. When rich celebrities and comfortably ensconced academics and other elite blue-staters say they feel like going to France/Canada/wherever, what are they talking about? Isn't your problem with Bush what he will (supposedly) do to other people -- the poor, the unfortunate, the underclass, the third worlders? Didn't you put aside your own interests -- which you proclaimed were actually served by Bush's tax cutting -- to oppose him for the sake of people who were not like you at all? If that is the case, what is the point of leaving the country? It shouldn't matter where YOU are, since your problem with Bush is with what he will do to people other than you? You were unselfishly concerned with others, weren't you? So what are you trying to achieve by leaving? Is it that you just don't want to be anywhere near those Jesuslanders who let "moral values" determine their votes? But I thought it wasn't all about you. I thought it was about other people! Or are you discovering that you really just don't like other people as much as you thought you did? They seemed so sympathetically in need of your love and concern before, but then they actually voted and even said things about why they voted the way they did, and then they seemed so horrible that you didn't want to be within a thousand miles of them.

Good observation about CBS.



1. Like my new Blogad? It's for an ant farm. See the holly sprigs? That's to let you know an ant farm -- especially a high-tone, woodworked ant farm -- makes a great holiday gift. Why was my blog chosen as a place to advertise an ant farm? I've been wondering about that all day!

2. Remember the movie "Antz"? It was a computer animated thing that came out the same year "A Bug's Life" came out, back in the early days of computer animation when it was too hard to do hair so they made up stories about plastic toys and then bugs? I walked out of "Antz." I just hated it. It gave me a headache to see the big ant face closeups. I was glad when the NYT was mean to "Polar Express" yesterday, because I find computer animation repellent. Not out of principle -- I feel a purely physical repulsion.

3. The other day I noticed key parts of my house were rotting and I called in some highly recommended carpenters to figure out what to do about everything, which turned out to be to yank out and replace a lot of wood. My approach to house repairs is: hire someone trustworthy and then trust them to do things right -- I feel the same way about car repairs -- but (maybe it's a Madison thing) these good people usually want to explain to me exactly what they are doing and why. The other day, the head carpenter described the hundreds of ants that he'd had to scoop out along with the rotted wood. "That's pretty gross," I said and apologized for putting him in the position where he had to deal with ants. "That's okay," he said, "it's my job." Which kind of surprised me. I would have thought dealing with insects was a specialized job that would require calling in an exterminator, but apparently it goes along with being a carpenter. Well, they were, in fact, carpenter ants.

4. Hey, remember this game?

Not showing "Saving Private Ryan" on Veterans Day.

Some ABC affiliates are declining to carry the network's Veterans Day broadcast of "Saving Private Ryan," which, pursuant to the network's contract with director Steven Spielberg is shown unedited and contains a great deal of violence and some profanity. Although the film has been shown on previous Veterans Days, events of the past year have heightened awareness of the FCC's concerns about indecency (particularly regarding Janet Jackson's breast revelation at the Super Bowl).
"We have attempted to get an advanced waiver from the FCC and, remarkably to me, they are not willing to do so," [Ray Cole, president of Citadel, which owns WOI-TV in Des Moines, KCAU-TV in Sioux City and KLKN-TV in Lincoln, Neb.] told The Des Moines Register. ...

ABC has told its affiliates it would cover any fines, but Cole, of Citadel, said the network could not protect its affiliates against other FCC sanctions. ...

Cole cited recent FCC actions and last week's re-election of President Bush as reasons for replacing "Saving Private Ryan" on Thursday with a music program and the TV movie "Return to Mayberry."

"We're just coming off an election where moral issues were cited as a reason by people voting one way or another and, in my opinion, the commissioners are fearful of the new Congress," Cole said.
It sounds to me as though Cole is using the occasion to express his displeasure at the outcome of the election, and Veterans Day should not be appropriated for the purpose. Maybe the FCC ought to find a way to clear things like this in advance; the FCC's policy is not to monitor broadcasts, but only to react to complaints. Still, when the network aired the uncut movie before, the FCC denied the complaint it received. Cole's point is that he can't trust the past denial because the FCC's actions in the past year and the election itself make him worry that the result will be different this time. But ABC is promising to pay any fines, so Cole's rejection of the film feels more like political grandstanding. It is Veterans Day, and he ought not to deny viewers access to the network's commemorative experience.

And why "Return to Mayberry"? What the political message is that choice supposed to convey? It's not hard to figure out. You dumb rubes, you voted for Bush? Okay, watch this.

UPDATE: Here's another version of the same story, noting that 18 ABC affiliates are refusing to carry the film and giving a better explanation of the FCC's policy:
Janice Wise, spokeswoman for the FCC's enforcement bureau, said they had received calls from broadcasters asking if the film would run afoul of the rules. Wise said the commission was barred from making a prebroadcast decision "because that would be censorship."

"If we get a complaint, we'll act on it," she said.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I can't get over how crudely political the choice of "Return to Mayberry" is. If you're genuinely concerned about violating decency rules, replace the movie with something else that has some bearing on Veterans Day!

November 10, 2004

Imagine coming all the way from Kansas to picket a high school play...

Because you just have to let the kids know their principal is "Satan's Pied Piper."

UPDATE: The group in question is depicted in the play itself ("The Laramie Project," which has an HBO filmed version, now playing on HBO on Demand). It makes a point of showing up at high schools that are staging the play (see, for example, here and here). I'm not going to link to their website, but it is an openly hateful (and very small) organization.

Apparently, the subject of cars is so popular...

That people are emailing Professor Bainbridge about MY car!

UPDATE: If you're into cars, try theCarblog.

Phrases you really don't want to see in the NYT review of your children's Christmas movie.

From Manohla Dargis's review of "Polar Express":
creepily unlifelike beings

vacuum-sealed simulacrum of the world

Hitler's Nuremberg rally entrances

airborne scrotum

Things that remind me my property tax bill is arriving soon.

Joanne Jacobs notes the strange approach to spending money that prevails here in Madison, Wisconsin.

A lapel button.

A colleague of mine walked by wearing a big white lapel button with one of those red circles with a slash mark that signify "no." I looked to see what he was saying "no" to -- more politics? -- but it said "proximate cause." He was a Torts prof off to teach a class -- let me guess -- about Palsgraf.

UPDATE: I spoiled my own joke. I've corrected it now. It's "proximate cause," not "probable case," as I'd written initially. Well, you know how we lawprofs are always out to confuse you ....

ANOTHER UPDATE: An emailer writes:
Though I began reading your blog out of interest in the election, your references to your life as a lawprof are intriguing. A case in point is today’s post about proximate cause. I sense there is an entertaining joke there, but since my knowledge of the law is limited to what I can glean from watching “L.A. Law” reruns and the constant Peterson trial coverage on Fox, I can’t get the full measure of enjoyment that those in the know must get.
Let me tell you, proximate cause is hiLARious. Sorry to seem to be withholding the secret info that would make that post a "joke." I mostly just thought it was funny that the button turned out not to be political, but the tortsprof wore the button to be funny, so there still is a question: what's so funny about no proximate cause. Partly, it's the double meaning.

The subject of the class on proximate cause would be about when a person who does something negligent should be liable for an injury that is caused by that act of negligence. In the classic case, Palsgraf, the one case every first year student is sure to study, this happened:
Plaintiff was standing on a platform of defendant's railroad after buying a ticket to go to Rockaway Beach. A train stopped at the station, bound for another place. Two men ran forward to catch it. One of the men reached the platform of the car without mishap, though the train was already moving. The other man, carrying a package, jumped aboard the car, but seemed unsteady as if about to fall. A guard on the car, who had held the door open, reached forward to help him in, and another guard on the platform pushed him from behind. In this act, the package was dislodged, and fell upon the rails. It was a package of small size, about fifteen inches long, and was covered by a newspaper. In fact it contained fireworks, but there was nothing in its appearance to give notice of its contents. The fireworks when they fell exploded. The shock of the explosion threw down some scales at the other end of the platform, many feet away. The scales struck the plaintiff, causing injuries for which she sues.
The question is whether an act -- here, the guard's act -- is the "proximate cause" of the injury, and the class usually proceeds with many hypotheticals designed to make students think about what is proximate cause and what is not. How are you going to know the difference between causation that is proximate and that which is not? Especially on the exam! So the question of when there is "no proximate cause" -- as the button says -- is very important to students.

The double meaning would be that a law student might feel overwhelmed by the seeming difficulty of the subject and want to say "no proximate cause" in the sense of: don't make me study that!

You may note that I said "seeming difficulty." Part of learning law is just getting used to the idea that you've got to draw lines somewhere. You need to learn to live with -- maybe even enjoy -- the feeling that you won't have a way to know exactly where to draw the line in all the hypotheticals and exam questions.

The Rove fixation.

Adam Nagourney has a little piece in today's NYT headlined "'Moral Values' Carried Bush, Rove Says."
Mr. Rove appeared to stifle a grin when asked whether he was "indebted" to Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, who opened his City Hall to gay marriages until he was blocked by a court, and to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, for ruling that gay couples have a right to marriage.
Well, let's inspect the inscrutable face of the evil genius Rove for expressions that might have been about to happen. That's reportable news, isn't it? At least the Times buried this story on page A18.

The effort to portray the election as some devious Rovian plot is rather desperate and pathetic (and unlikely to do much good in equipping the Democrats to compete more effectively next time), but let me nevertheless copy this chunk of transcript from Rove's appearance last Sunday on "Meet the Press" to show what Rove actually says when asked to analyze that exit poll where "moral values" was the most-cited influence on voters:
I do have a little bit of a different view of those numbers. First of all, if you take Iraq and terrorism and aggregate them, which I think are sort of different sides of the same coin, 34 percent of the electorate we're concerned with, if you will, the security issue. If you take taxes and the economy and aggregate them, they're 25 percent of the electorate and then moral values is third. That's not to denigrate the importance of moral values which have traditionally been about 16 percent of the electorate have been concerned with that as their number one issue in past races. What essentially happened in this race was people became concerned about three issues--first, the war, then the economy, jobs and taxes, and, third, moral values. And then everything else dropped off of the plate. And security grew the most in comparison to past races but values grew second, the second most amount.

Perceptions of "Jesusland."

Here is another email I found interesting:
I was in a meeting today, and a man was talking about an urban renewal event he went to. He praised cities highly but spoke with some heat about how awful suburbs are and how they're destroying everything, etc. I couldn't help but think of the Kerry-Bush divide, city people vs. country people. This man voted for Kerry and doesn't much like Bush. He even had sitting out that list of states ranked according to IQ, the one that says the smart people voted for Kerry and the dumb ones for Bush. It occurred to me how everthing is connected: cities, Kerry, smart, good... country, Bush, dumb, bad. I wish folks could see that city living and country living each have their strengths and dangers, just like Kerry and Bush each have their good points and weaknesses.
The human mind sorts through information efficiently, not in a way that is fair, but in a way that enables the organism to get through life on a basic level reasonably successfully. This is also the mechanism of prejudice, and we all have this mechanism going for us. We'd be hopelessly stymied at every decisionmaking point if we did not have it. Yet we must also develop the consciousness that we do have it, and the ability to override it when we should. Often we are better at perceiving when other people stick too much with their prejudices than we are at seeing how much of what we think is mere prejudice. The "Jesusland" response to the election is a classic example of blindly indulging one's own prejudice in the process of perceiving prejudice in others. Ironically, the central prejudice maintained by the propagators of the "Jesusland" meme is that they are smart and the others are dumb.


I've gotten a couple emails complaining about the way I put "insurgents" in quotes for this post. Am I the only one who thinks "insurgent" is too flattering a term for these people?

UPDATE: Austin Bay objects to the term "insurgents" too. (He prefers "reactionaries.") And as long as I'm here, updating, let me point out the logic flaw in my poll. As soon as one other person has voted "no," everyone, even those who favor the term "insurgents," should also vote no, since I am at that point manifestly not the "only one." But, don't do that! Keep voting, but the question should be understood to ask whether you think the term is appropriate.

November 9, 2004

"I don't think there's anything wrong with celebrities talking about politics ..."

Chris (my son) said when I pointed out this story. He added: "It just shouldn't be reported."

Federal judge halts Guantanamo tribunal.

Tung Yin has some insights into the case.

Are the Fallujah "insurgents" escaping?

The NYT reports from Fallujah:
Reports from inside the city said the insurgents were spreading the word that they were not retreating but rather luring the American forces into a "killing zone" deep in the city, though that claim was so far unrealized. …

General Casey said on Monday that his forces had been expecting the insurgents to put up a fight. He predicted that they would probably fall back from an outer ring of defenses and retreat toward the city center, leaving a minefield of improvised explosives to slow the progress of American and Iraqi soldiers.

"What we have generally seen is there's an outer crust of the defense, and then our estimates tell us that they will probably fall back toward the center of the city, where there will be probably a major confrontation," General Casey told journalists at the Pentagon by telephone from his headquarters in Baghdad. …

The invasion actually began 26 hours before the troops charged over the embankment. Beginning Sunday afternoon, Colonel Formica's battalions moved into position, forming an impenetrable chain around the city.

A Falluja resident who tried entering the city on Monday said he had found no way through the seal. The resident said the situation was much different from the situation in April, when Americans battled the Falluja insurgents before withdrawing and when there were many gaps that gun runners could exploit to keep the insurgents supplied.
Yet, those who can't believe the military can get anything right in Iraq have been saying things like:
The main rebel force is long gone. And those that are left are either in hiding, or slipped out of the city under cover of darkness. Remember, Fallujah is the size of Cincinnati. Slipping in and out is a cinch in a city that large, and no blockading force, especially one as small as the one in Fallujah (15-20,000 troops), could completely seal the city. ...

It's all going to hell. ... Most of the insurgents will melt away in the face of the far superior American force. Then the US will be forced either to pull back, ceding the city back to these same insurgents, or we'll garrison the city making our troops car bomb magnets.
Sometimes it seems as though people want bad news so much that they make up their own bad news.

The day I finally had to admit that I can't answer all my email.

That would be today. I'll still answer some, and I am still reading it all or nearly all, and I really do find it excellent and will even use a lot of it in updates. Please keep sending email and forgive me for not personally answering everything.

Did someone write something about me?

Somewhere in here? (Via Volokh Conspiracy.) Well, at least he didn't say this.

UPDATE: Note that in actual blog space, that last link was followed by this.

About "Jesusland."

I don't know who started the "Jesusland" map, but it seems to have zipped through the email-o-sphere very soon after the results of the election became apparent. I Googled "Jesusland," and this tirade from Ken Layne came up first. It's timestamped 1:30 on November 3rd. It's quite virulent:
While there is no headquarters for Jesusland, all of its subjects do march at the command of the RNC and Karl Rove.

Rove's re-election strategy was elegantly simple: Scare the bejesus out of Jesusland. Faggots are headed your way! Satanic Muslims are hiding everywhere! That's all it took to get Jesusland to do the job. Intellectual conservatives like the National Review staff are flattering themselves if they honestly believe Jesusland cares about conservative thought. The "reality-based" folks are learning that Jesusland doesn't even care about jobs or the economy. In Jesusland, it's all the will of Jesus. ... Keep praying and always keep your eye out for homosexuals and terrorists, and you will eventually be rewarded ... all you have to do is die, and then it's SuperJesusLand, where you will be a ghost floating in a magic cloud with all the other ghosts from Jesusland, with Jesus Himself presiding over an Eternal Church Service.

I've never had a problem with actual conservatives ... But I've got a big problem with Jesusland. If you want to worship the ghost of a jew from the Roman Empire, that's cool. Enjoy it! But when you people and your bizarre mystery cult claim the goddamned president as your prime convert who rules by the voices in his head, I call bullshit.
Layne includes a second, crueler, map, representing the world view of Jesuslanders. It is drawn children's drawing style, complete with misspellings. (By the way, the linked page shows Google Ads at its most obtuse, displaying: "Free Jesus Christ Video/A beautiful account of the Savior's miraculous life and ministry," "Ave Maria Singles/Real Community, Serious Catholics Marriage, Friendship & Faith," "Passion of Christ - Free/The Passion of the Christ Movie," "Searching For Christ?/We'll Pay You $300 Right Now For A Jesus Christ Survey," and "Jesus T-Shirts And More/Feel Good About What You Wear/Quality Christian Apparel For All.")

I ran "Jesusland" through a Technorati search and got 687 hits. So there's no way I can trace the life and times of the Jesusland meme through the blogs. I'll just say that I ran into a colleague in the faculty library today and asked him how he was doing. He told me that he could not get over his feelings of bitterness and horror at the outcome of the election. Like Layne, he focused on Karl Rove and accused him of carrying out a brilliant and cynical plot to con millions of religious naifs into voting for a party that in fact has nothing to offer them. Read the Newsweek article! It's all there, I'm told. It's all about Karl Rove and religious simple folk who don't understand politics. Okay, I'll read it. We did both agree that it wasn't going to do the Democrats much good to express contempt for the very people they need to find a way to win over.

Unfortunately, the massive "Jesusland" blurt was a spontaneous expression that everybody heard. It will be hard for Democrats to find a way into a place where they can believably say, no, really, we think you are the real working people that make this country great, you are the heart and soul of America, and other such cornball campaign-isms.

The "service learning" graduation requirement and religion.

The UW-Eau Claire considers changing its service requirement:
Today, the Eau Claire faculty senate will discuss a proposal that would make it so students could not perform any sort of religious practice in order to fulfill their service learning requirement.

The proposal would make it so that any volunteer work on behalf of a religious institution, such as missionary work or teaching at a religious school, would not be counted toward a student's service learning requirement. Secular work in a religious setting, such as work for religious charities like Habitat for Humanity, would still be allowed. ... While religious advocacy does not count toward the requirement, other types of advocacy, including political solicitation, will continue to be worth service learning credit.

According to the linked opinion piece, the proposal is intended to fend off lawsuits. Last time I looked, there was more to the First Amendment than the Establishment Clause. It may be hard to steer between Rosenberger and Locke here, but this looks to me like viewpoint discrimination in a limited forum, a free speech violation. The cure is, as the opinion piece suggests, excluding all advocacy from qualifying as "service learning."

A new political star.

Soon to be mayor of America's seventh largest city.
"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you ... and then you win."

About that Corvette ...

I had thought politics was the subject that drew the most traffic to a blog. I was wrong. It's cars! Cars! Cars! Cars! People love their cars. I've gotten by far more email on that car post than on anything else I've ever written. And that was true even before it was linked on Instapundit. But I'm not much of person to be writing for car buffs, because I've been driving the same car for five years. And it's a relatively modest car, a New Beetle. It's certainly a sensible car. My previous car, which I kept for twelve years (including some years of overlap with the Beetle) was the most sensible, modest car possible, a Honda Civic. The only other two cars I've ever bought were a VW Jetta (in 1983) and a Chevette (the year Jimmy Carter was elected President). No, the Chevette didn't last from 1976 to 1983. I sold the Chevette (which at least was red) after less than a year and moved to New York City where I lived without a car. It was perfectly fine not having a car. So my lifetime car story is an amazingly modest and dull one. The only cool car I ever drove was the 1961 seafoam green Chevy Impala convertible that I drove to school every day when I was in high school, and I have my father to thank for that. And how little I appreciated that -- and just about everything else about my father -- in those days!

Now, I know the traffic -- good word for a car post! -- that has come to this blog over the "Should I buy a new car?" post was largely stimulated by the prospect of my buying a Corvette, the Audi and the Beetle being obviously much more sensible choices. It is the very lack of sensibleness that excites people. (It's like voting for Nader ... and, uh, Kerry's the Audi ... no, Bush is the Audi ... no, Bush should be the Corvette ... analogy abandoned ....) And the idea of buying a new car at all sprang up because of the Corvette brochure that came in the mail last week. And if you look back over that car-buying history of mine you can see that there's a Chevrolet theme. My father gave me the fabulous, classic Impala and, much as I rejected his values and believed in buying a small, fuel-efficient car in the depths of the fuel-shortage 70s -- the Impala got 6 miles a gallon -- I still bought a Chevy. (Hey, I still remember the Chevette jingle: "Chevy Chevette, it'll drive you happy!")

Doesn't it seem that some mystic force larger than myself wants me to get the Corvette? There's just one more thing I'm waiting for: Chevrolet, Oprah-like, gives me a Corvettte!

November 8, 2004

The post-election transformation of the front tables at Borders.

For a long time, I used to stop by Borders nearly every day and look around, usually get some coffee, and often buy books and magazines. Then I stopped going. I just didn't feel like being there. I speculated I'd lost interest in going there because it was it was a drag seeing all the front tables loaded with Bush-bashing books. They hardly seemed like books at all, more like thick rectangles around which a crude political cartoon had been wrapped.

Back when I enjoyed going to Borders, the front tables were full of a variety of books, making it fun to see what was new, what cover would draw my eyes in and cause me to pick up a book and read a few paragraphs. Yesterday, I finally went back, and the front tables had returned to their old form. I noticed a forlorn display in the back with lots anti-Bush materials. Who would buy a DVD of "Going Upriver" now? I stared at the display for a while, and then a woman started standing next to me, staring at it too, and I had the eerie feeling that she felt that she was sharing a moment of silent grief with me. It seemed something like going to a funeral where you're standing by the casket thinking unfunereal thoughts -- how long do I have to stay? where can I get some lunch? he really was a bit of a bastard, wasn't he? -- and then a close family member steps up beside you to commune with the deceased. You really don't much want to stand there anymore, do you? I walked away.

In any event, today I returned to Borders, stayed for coffee, and even bought a couple things. The old habit of haunting the bookstore springs back to life.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds noticed something similar at his Borders. Re that photograph: I saw "The Disorderly Orderly" when it came it out (the year Goldwater lost his bid for the presidency), and thought it was, by far, the funniest thing I'd ever seen. If you're a fan of the old TV show "Bewitched," you should see "The Disorderly Orderly," because there's a hilarious character in it named Miss Fuzzibee who is played by Alice Pearce, that impossibly homely actress who played Mrs. Kravitz in "Bewitched."

And while I'm updating, let me link back to this post of mine, from back in March:

I was browsing at the front display table at Borders last night, when an old woman, for some reason, started talking to me about how bad it is that there are so many books attacking Bush. I told her not to worry, that no one who didn't already oppose Bush would read a book like that, so it didn't matter. Maybe I specialize in reassuring old ladies, because I also went so far as to assure her that Bush was going to win and he was going to win by a lot.
I'm relieved to see that I did not falsely reassure the old woman.

Smart computers, funny books.

Today, on Amazon, I ordered James Lileks' book "Interior Desecrations: Hideous Homes from the Horrible '70s." The mysterious inner workings of Amazon then spewed forth the suggestion that I buy P.J. O'Rourke's "Peace Kills," and the fact is I had just bought the CD version of "Peace Kills" at Borders a mere a two hours earlier. Kind of scary!

Anyway, I'm eager to read "Interior Desecrations," because I've never laughed so much at a book as at the previous Lileks book "The Gallery of Regrettable Food." Lileks has a way of looking at a photograph that you yourself can already see is pretty funny but then using just the right words to describe telling details in the photograph to make them much, much funnier than they already were. I mean, read his caption here ... the part about cats.

UPDATE: Hey, Lileks noticed that I bought his book. That's pretty cool.

Scalia vs. Thomas.

If President Bush really is considering Justice Thomas as the next Chief Justice, I guess we'll hear this quote from Justice Scalia a few more times:
Specifically, Scalia told [Ken Foskett, the author of "Judging Thomas: The Life and Times of Clarence Thomas,"] that Thomas "doesn't believe in stare decisis, period." Clarifying his remark, Scalia added that "if a constitutional line of authority is wrong, he would say let's get it right. I wouldn't do that."

The link is to a Washington Post opinion piece of October 14th. It goes on:
Stare decisis is a fancy Latin term that stands for a bedrock proposition of U.S. law: that the Supreme Court will uphold precedent and not disturb settled law without special justification.

Well, the trick is in figuring out what constitutes special justification.

"You can walk everywhere."

That's a surprising thing to write in a description of Los Angeles, but Andrew Sullivan does. And it makes sense. Elsewhere in the same post, making a bit less sense, he writes: "A clear victory in this election - but no landslide - has now apparently led [President Bush] to contemplate Clarence Thomas as Supreme Court Justice." I know what he meant to say ...

Did you just call us nerds?

NYT sportswriter Pete Thamel has this to say:
In a way, the new Bowl Championship Series formula is like a junior high school class election. Everyone knows who is going to win before a ballot is cast.

At least that is how Wisconsin and Auburn see it. They are playing the role of the student candidates with the pocket protectors and taped-up glasses. They are undefeated, have stout defenses and have realistic chances to win the rest of their games - and they still may not play in the Orange Bowl for the national title.

When do we want it?

On Saturday, I encountered a peace rally. (Here is my photo-essay.) The usual "What do we want? PEACE! When do we want it? NOW!" routine was heard. An emailer sends this:
Right before the election, there was a protest march around City Hall, which is kitty-corner from my office. It had a similar call-and-response, though it was not an antiwar march.

For some reason, the absurdity of it struck me in a way it had not before.

You will never hear protesters chanting:

"What do we want?" ___________!

"When do we want it?" LATER!


"What do we want?" ___________!

"When do we want it?" NO RUSH! WHENEVER'S GOOD FOR YOU!

At that peace rally Saturday, I could see yelling "Peace!" to the first question, but then for question two, the answer would have to be something that isn't a one-syllable, shoutable word. When do we want it? When the insurgency is defeated and Iraq has been transformed into a stable democracy!

Whenever I hear the "NOW!" response to that chant, I always think of the old Jim Morrison lyric: "We want the world and we want it .... NOW!" Well, that seemed quite exciting and cool when I was a teenager. But imagine if the world had been handed over to Morrison and the kids who shouted "NOW!" back at him when he sang. At the time it seemed to us Baby Boomers that the over-30s -- none of whom could ever be trusted, according to the saying of the time -- had ruined the whole world for us. Now the Boomers are those old folk and they are failing to make the world perfect, to the dismay of the new generation. But there's nothing about the babyish yell "NOW!" that is going to hasten the emergence of a perfect world.

UPDATE: An emailer lets me know -- re the quoted email -- "The Simpsons" already did it:
Carl: What do we want?
All: More equitable treatment at the hands of management!
Carl: When do we want it?
All: Soon!

Actually, they seem to have done it a lot:
Activist: "What do we want!?"
Crowd: "The gradual phase-out of animal testing over the next three years?"
Activist: "When do we want it!?"
Crowd: "Over the next three years!"

And as to the observation that "The Simpsons" already did everything, so we might as well give up on efforts at saying anything funny: "South Park" already did it.

ANOTHER UPDATE: You know, the quality of the email I get from readers of this blog constantly amazes me. I just got this:
An even earlier rendition: The Adventures of Buckaro Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension:

Lizardo: Where are we going?

Lectroids: Planet Ten!

Lizardo: When?

Lectroids: Real soon!

"The Boulevard of Broken Dreams."

Or is it "The Boulevard of Broken Dems"?

November 7, 2004

"Bush: You have no mandate here."

Someone else is taking Madison pictures and posting them: here. The stop sign one brought back old memories of the Vietnam days when spraypainting the word "war" under the word stop on random stop signs seemed like a worthy endeavor.

Strange compliment of the day.

"Ann Althouse (who is a lot like Lileks except for the fact that she's occasionally interesting and could probably kick somebody's ass in a fight) ..."

That's from TBogg.

The return of Pee-Wee Herman!

Back in July, I wrote about wanting to buy a DVD of "Pee-Wee's Playhouse":
I am quite nostalgic for this wonderful old TV show, and I would have ordered something on DVD, but nothing is available or even in production. It's very sad the way Pee-Wee was excised from American culture. We still have one of the old Pee-Wee talking dolls around. If you had snapped up a lot of them back when Pee-Wee got into trouble back in 1991, thinking they'd be great collector's items later, you'd be trying to unload them today on eBay for next to nothing. Ah, poor Pee-Wee Herman! Not even a life in the realm of nostalgia?

But look, here's a nice, big article in the NYT about Pee-Wee Herman and the new DVD of "Pee-Wee's Playhouse." Yay! I go right over to Amazon and order the 5-disc set containing seasons 1 and 2. And I'll probably order the second set, seasons 3-5, pretty soon.

Thanks, Pee-Wee.

My sons loved this show when it was originally on in the 1980s. It's just great. (And Laurence Fishburne is in it -- as Cowboy Curtis!) If you don't know the show and only think of Pee-Wee's legal troubles, you're really missing something. There has never been a better TV kids show. It's a great family Christmas present.

Hey, I got linked by the Times and didn't notice.

On election night. Apparently, the Times is like Santa Claus. It knows when you're asleep!

I was in favor of the link before I was against it.

Well, now both Jeremy and Nina, who have indicated to me several times that they like me to link tho their blogs, have deleted a post after I linked to it. Here Jeremy obsesses interestingly about the deletion of the post about Kerry voters having higher IQs than Bush voters, which I linked to here. Here's my post linking to Nina's blog and noting her subsequent deletion of the post.

UPDATE: Jeremyesque fussing continues here. Now he seems not to want to talk about politics anymore. This reminds me of my early efforts at political blogging, back when I had comments (or perhaps it was email). Someone made a point of advising me to stay away from politics, that it would somehow harm me and ought to be left to others. The notion seems to be that politics is for the hardcore politicos, not for those of us who aren't all that political. I disagreed then and I disagree now!

ANOTHER UPDATE: I note that Nina and Jeremy did not actually delete the entire post, they re-wrote posts in a way that removed the material that I had linked to and discussed in my posts. [And I just re-wrote this post, because it had only referred to Nina, but was, I realized, also true of Jeremy.]

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: I think both Nina and Jeremy were motivated by seeing someone (either me or a commenter) make an undesired interpretation or observation based on what they had written. When you blog, you write all sorts of things, very spontaneously, and anyone, with any motivation, might write something about it (or even about you) as a result, and there is always potential for it to be upsetting.

Should I buy a new car?

After writing those recent posts about driving -- here and here -- and getting some email from other road trip fans, I find myself thinking a lot about getting a new car. I've been driving a Cosmic Green New Beetle since July 1999. I've been admiring the Audi TT Coupe for a while. Most cars are too boring to me to even make me think of spending the money and going to all the trouble to buy a new car. The brochure for Corvette that came in the mail the other day made a big impact on me and got me thinking again about how fun it would be to drive out over the American western landscape again. So help me decide by answering this poll. And don't forget that I live in Madison, Wisconsin. Also, I live in an old house in an old neighborhood, where I park the car in my driveway. [ADDED NOTE: The Corvette I'd buy is also a coupe -- no convertible is wanted.]

[POLL REMOVED: It was causing loading trouble.]

UPDATE: Prof. Bainbridge weighs in. Interesting, at first the proportions stayed the same even as many new votes came in, but now I'm seeing an upstart trend in the Bainbridgean direction.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Wow! The Bainbridge endorsement is powerful! Remember I need a car I can drive in the winter. He's writing from Los Angeles.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Several people have emailed to suggest this. Are you kidding me? Not only is it horribly ugly in the completely objective sense, but subjectively, a person who likes the looks of an Audi TT Coupe and a Corvette cannot possibly be thought to find this attractive.

AND YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Now Glenn Reynolds has sent the Instalanchers over, and the Corvette is tearing out ahead of the poor Audi TT. Do you folks know what driving in the snow and ice is like? I've gotten a lot of email like this:
There simply isn't a car made that is worse [than a Corvette] in the snow. Unless you have no interest in driving it in the winter .... Rear wheel drive, very wide tires and a front to rear weight ratio heavily tilted to the front, all have the makings of disastrous snow driving. Fun is nice, but so is staying alive. On the other hand, the TT is available in all wheel drive, has narrower tires (a plus in the snow, large tires tend to act like a sled) and a better weight distribution. Between those two, and living in Madison ... the TT is the better choice.
Before the Bainbridge (and Reynolds) link, the poll maintained a very stable 40% for the Audi, 30% for the Corvette, and 30% for the Beetle. But now ...

Anyway, there is the official Instapundit car, here -- which emailers have been recommending too. Maybe that should be the official car of the blogosphere. Glenn also links to this L.A. Times article about a study of German men who, it turns out, would rather spend a weekend with a Lamborghini than with Britney Spears. I mention this to Chris, and he says:
"Well, if you spend the weekend with Britney Spears, you don't know if you'll be able to have sex with her, but if you spend a weekend with a car, you know you'll be able to drive it."
So, you see, there is one sense in which a Lamborghini is cheap.

"What I really want is Life-B-Here."

TV-B-Gone. You know, I don't like TVs in restaurants and a lot of other places, but what makes someone think he should be allowed to turn off other people's TVs? Obviously, he must think the no-TV preference is so morally/aesthetically superior to the preference for TV that he has the right to reshape the environment even inside someone else's business place. Is it worse than getting a no-smoking ordinance passed? Of course it is. It's just one guy with a universal remote control on his keychain going about behaving sanctimoniously.


Korla Pundit has a nice rebus for you. Plus, he says he's working on another "Famous Monsters" page, this time covering the right-wing side of the political field.

Getting over the election.

Here's my op-ed piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

UPDATE: I should have noted that the link requires registration. Here's some of what's over there:
Kerry, being a good statesman, conceded quickly, making a speech signaling to his supporters that the fight was over. ... But it may not be so easy for Kerry’s supporters to absorb the loss and let go of the “anger and rancor” as quickly as Kerry’s concession speech made it seem that Kerry himself did. ... There was a lot of feeling that had been stirred up by the campaign and by the war that was so much a part of what we talked about during the campaign. ...

But most people, even if they are not as quick to let go of the fight the way Kerry and his “army of lawyers” did, are likely to calm down soon enough. Perhaps they will even be able to look on the war effort in Iraq with new eyes, now that finding fault with the war is no longer intertwined with the desire to develop arguments that might work to defeat Bush. ... Most people, despite their passions, are practical and reasonable and ought, therefore, to see the need for unity that Kerry spoke of.

Most of us can share the hope that the situation in Iraq will be concluded successfully, and Bush is the person who will need to achieve that success. For that, he deserves our support. ...

"Real Time."

I hope you got the chance to see this week's "Real Time," the Bill Maher show on HBO. Not only did Andrew Sullivan passionately revile Noam Chomsky, but former Senator Alan Simpson went all Zell Miller on Bill Maher. And why didn't the "Real Time" producers edit out Sullivan very conspicuously and embarrassingly scratching himself? (It happens during the closing credits sequence.) I can only conclude that they deliberately decided to humiliate him!

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has an extended recount of the show. He makes fun of Susan Sarandon, who really was awful.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Slate's Dana Stevens can't say enough about Sullivan's scratching himself. Sullivan is duly irked. Stevens manages to completely miss what Simpson and Sullivan were arguing with Maher about.