December 4, 2004

What the hell kind of a mansion does Althouse live in, anyway?

My property tax bill from the City of Madison just arrived. It's $11,926.89.

Help me understand my nomination.

I've been puzzling for two days over why I was nominated in the Best Conservative Blog category over at the 2004 Weblog Awards. As you may know, despite my puzzlement, I still encourage readers to go over there and vote for me. But before you go, help me understand the nomination by answering this poll:

Bob Dylan on "60 Minutes."

Reports are out on Bob Dylan's "60 Minutes" interview, which airs tomorrow. It sounds as though he pretty much says what he says in his book, which I've read (and blogged). Nevertheless, I've set the TiVo. It will be nice to see old Bob saying whatever the hell he wants to say. UPDATE: Ralph the Sacred River explains Dylan's moustache. And let me add this: Dylan has never used the word "moustache" in a song, though he has twice used the word "beard" (including the "very weird" statement "I like Fidel Castro and his beard," chosen to provoke the farmer in "Motorpsycho Nightmare" into throwing him out of the house.) ANOTHER UPDATE: If you spell "moustache" "mustache," however, you do get a very famous one:
Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues You can tell by the way she smiles See the primitive wallflower freeze When the jelly-faced women all sneeze Hear the one with the mustache say, "Jeeze I can't find my knees" Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel
An emailer had to remind me. I should have remembered this one! I have actually blogged at length about these lines before. To that post I'd add that the presence of Mona Lisa and mustache in the same verse ought to remind us of the famous Marcel Duchamp artwork, especially since "mustache" halfway reappears right next to Mona Lisa in the form of the word "musta." So which is the right spelling? According to the Columbia Guide to Standard American English, "mustache" is more common, but "moustache" is not entirely a British spelling. Anyway, looking up the spelling question, I ran across this, which is kind of funny. There, now, have I made up for my earlier, woeful omission? YET ANOTHER UPDATE: My comments on the actual show are here.

What's next for Oliver Stone?

Page Six has this:
OLIVER Stone plans to explore the possibility of an affair between former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan in his next movie. Stone has apparently always been enamored of Baroness Thatcher, now 79, and wants to cast Meryl Streep ...
I think it would be great fun to see Streep play Thatcher. I don't know about the affair part, and I can't say I trust Oliver Stone to do anything right at this point, but Stone might actually do better portraying people whose politics he deplores. I remember the Nixon movie being fairly good and suprisingly sympathetic to Nixon.

If the cost is the same, does flavored or unflavored matter?

It matters a lot to some people when the state hands out free condoms:
Providing [flavored] condoms actually promotes sexual activity, said Julaine Appling, executive director of the Family Research Institute of Wisconsin.

The government "isn't even subtly saying, 'You're going to do this anyway, so you're going to be safe,' they're promoting it," Appling said. "When they came out with flavored condoms, (it says sex) is another form of recreation."

It's hard to picture the person who would decide whether or not to have sex based on whether the condom is flavored, but Appling's point is that the state, by choosing flavored condoms implicitly says sex is fun and thus promotes it. Obviously, though, the state's real intention is to make condom use seem fun, but there is no way to neatly contain the effect of the message. Interestingly, it's federal money that pays for these condoms, but the states are allowed to choose the type they want. Such are the benefits of federalism: the various states can make decisions that suit the preferences and tastes of their own citizens.

My eyesight and a doodle scrap.

Sometimes I get so involved in staring at the computer screen all day without taking a break that my eyes hurt and I can't see well the next day. Part of it is a failure to blink often enough -- as if I just don't want to take the time. Few people in this world have worn hard contact lenses as long as I have (since 1964), and I'm just conditioned not to pay any attention to eye irritation. But that last post is irritating the hell out of me, that Reznor 90s-font-nostalgia GIF. Remember when that hard-to-see fontage was everywhere? Remember Might magazine?

I'm sure there are great 90s graphic design nostalgia sites out there. Send me a link if you know of one.

Meanwhile, this is the last weekend of the semester, a good time to get some exam writing done. So today's doodle comes in the form of a scribbled post it, part of a scrambled corner of my office desk:

December 3, 2004

Trent Reznor, languishing in doom.

I wanted to go over and check Nina's blog, so I use the low-tech method I usually use, which is to type in the first few letters of her URL. "NI" is enough to make Safari fill in the rest, but I'm overeager and I type "NIN." I find myself magically transported to the Nine Inch Nails website, and I'm curious enough to wonder what Trent Reznor is up to. (Despite my advanced age, I have been to a Nine Inch Nails concert -- and loved it!) I click on current and the most current entry is November 4th:

I was going to say: Good God, man, you're almost 40. Get it together! But then I thought. What does it matter? Reznor is languishing in doom. Isn't that his source of artistry and inspiration?

UPDATE: Actually, Doom doesn't want Trent Reznor!
Trent Reznor has spoken on the official NIN website about Doom 3 [and] the reasons why his work did not make it into the game...

New frontiers of pleasure.

James Wolcott enjoys his colonoscopy:
I had a colonoscopy yesterday, an experience I highly recommend to anyone and everyone who should be tested. The Demerol drip alone was worth the price of admission. As the room began to float and time melted around the edges, I regretted even more keenly never having visited an opium den.

Actually, I think if you do find yourself in a medical situation where drugs of this sort are involved, you may do well to go into the frame of mind where you enjoy them. I know what a Demerol drip is like from having a C-section. I kept drifting in and out of a dreamworld, sometimes while holding the baby. I struggled constantly to get my grip back on reality, my reality at the time being something that, unlike a colonscopy, I wanted to participate in. Nevertheless, I also could tell how pleasant a place Demerol-world might be to visit (if you don't mind losing yourself).

That reminds me of this, which I read earlier today:
Dr. Mary Holley, an obstetrician who runs a Mothers Against Methamphetamine ministry in Albertville, Ala., and has interviewed men and women addicted to meth, said sex is the No. 1 reason people use it.

"The effect of an IV hit of methamphetamine is the equivalent of 10 orgasms all on top of each other lasting for 30 minutes to an hour, with a feeling of arousal that lasts for another day and a half," she said.

If that sounds great (as opposed to, say, painful and horrific), consider the consequences:
"After you have been using it about six months or so you can't have sex unless you are high," Holley said. "After you have been using it a little bit longer you can't have sex even when you're high. Nothing happens. It doesn't work."

Well, naturally. The brain is a regulator. If you overstimulate your senses, your brain thinks it is helping you out by resetting normal at that higher level. Now if you go back to the mere stimulation of ordinary life, it's going to feel agonizingly deficient.

In search of the Christmas spirit on State Street.

UPDATE: The photos that originally appeared on this page were uploaded to — an Apple service that I paid for. Apple discontinued the service and the pictures were lost. I've tried to restore them using, but it couldn't be done.

State Street Brats is decorating with inflatables this year. In this first picture, you see that the Statue of Liberty is still there, serving as a beacon to bratdom, but three sledding snowmen have been added:

At this end of the outdoor seating area, the usual Bucky has been replaced by a candy-cane wielding snowman:

Most of the holiday imagery is not at all religious. The emphasis is on greenery and lights. Many stores sell tree ornaments that are little bears wearing Wisconsin sweaters. But if you're looking for something sacred on State Street, there is always the Sacred Feather, a hat store. A hat makes a nice present. You can go buy a hat and make a contribution to the Salvation Army on your way in.

And there is also the New Age place, which has this sign in its holiday window:

Well, you can think about that. Or you can think about the question that occurred to me as I was putting up these pictures: why would a snowman wear mittens? Seems quite dangerous, actually.

"Best Conservative Blog" update.

I'm keeping my eye on this "Best Conservative Blog" vote, where I'm currently running in 5th place (out of 15). Just after me is Right Wing News, which, judging from its name, is way more into the enterprise of being conservative. Nevertheless, I encourage readers to vote for me. It's not an award for "Most Conservative Blog," and it's my only category. Somehow I missed out on "Best New Blog."

I'm not trying to promote conservative ideology, just saying what I think from my outpost in Madison, Wisconsin. Whether I deserve extra credit for managing to be at all conservative in Madison is a harder question than you might think. I might be naturally contrarian. Anyway, Madison is a great source of blogging material for me. It's been an inspiration.

I will say this too, something I've been meaning to write for a long time. In blogging, I have repeatedly noticed the tendency toward inclusion from the right and exclusion from the left. That is, people to the right of me tend to notice the points of agreement and respond in a very positive way, overlooking or tolerating the points of disagreement. People to my left tend to notice any points of disagreement and react negatively, which I find quite boring and unattractive. Of course, it is also a terrible political strategy.

UPDATE: Note that you're allowed to vote once a day. You have to wait 24 hours before revoting. So go ahead and vote every day. That's the way it's done.


I'm anxiously watching the Q-School leaderboard this weekend, as my nephew Cliff Kresge struggles to keep his status on the PGA tour. The first two rounds did not go so well. Today is the third round, out of a total of six harrowing rounds. The top 30 will make it onto the tour.

"This is a great victory of all people who have been standing at the square, a great victory for Ukrainian democracy."

The NYT reports on the court's decision here.

Puffery and bathos on NBC.

NYT TV critic Alessandra Staley writes with disdain about the Tom Brokow sign off on NBC:
However sad it was to see Mr. Brokaw leave on Wednesday night, it was sadder to watch NBC milk the transition for every drop of bathos and promotional padding. On "Today" and a special "Dateline" this week, the changing of the NBC news anchor was pumped up like the finale of "Friends." Mr. Williams's ascension was festooned with all the hoopla of a White House wedding - or funeral. One spot shown last evening on WNBC cameoed Mr. Williams's profile, solemn and bowed, against a backdrop of Nancy Reagan mourning over her husband's coffin.

I think NBC is desperate to retain its viewers, but letting your desperation show is usually a bad strategy.

I love when Staley punctures pomposity, but don't always agree with her, like here:
Mr. Williams was quick-witted and very funny on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" on Tuesday night, making self-deprecating jokes and gracefully tacking around his host's more barbed questions.

No, no. "Mr. Williams" was corny and show-offy as he trotted out scripted material. I had to look away out of embarrassment for him.

By the way, I couldn't care less about losing Brokow and gaining Williams. I don't watch any of the nightly network news shows, and I could easily TiVo them and watch them at my leisure. I dislike the hammy tone of the presentation. I'd rather read the news or just catch up with the news on one of the cable news networks.


The Badger Herald reports:
Wrongfully incarcerated for 18 years, Steven Avery received $25,000 in compensation from the Wisconsin Claims Board Thursday....

DNA evidence successfully exonerated Avery from the rape conviction in 2003. By the time he was released, his wife had divorced him and two of his children — twin daughters less than a week old at the time of his imprisonment — had turned 18 years old.

Why only $25,000?
The $25,000 in damages was the maximum the board could award Avery under state law, according to Mike Prentiss, spokesman for board member Sen. Scott Fitzgerald. In ignoring the $1 million request, the board referred the case to the state legislature, which would have to change a state statute to allow for greater damages.

The legal work was done by law professors and students in Wisconsin Innocence Project here at the University of Wisconsin Law School.
UW law professor Keith Findley, one of the Innocence Project’s co-directors, said it is obvious a change must be made to allow those wrongfully convicted to claim more in damages.

It is obvious that the compensation cap is far too low. I don't think it's right, however, to say that someone was "wrongfully convicted," as the student reporter wrote, if he received a fair trial. If the DNA test that powerfully refutes other evidence was not available at the time and the evidence as weighed at the time of the trial was sufficient, the conviction itself isn't wrongful. Nevertheless, the man suffered terribly and the state ought to choose to give him far more than $25,000 -- not from a sense of culpability, but out of compassion.

UPDATE: As an emailer pointed out, Avery recently filed a lawsuit against Manitowoc County, seeking $36 million in damages. You can see in this linked article that the man was convicted based on the eyewitness testimony of the victim. I'm not a legal expert in this area, but it seems to me that the testimony of a rape victim is sufficient to convict a person, even when there are many alibi witnesses. The factfinder would have to weigh the credibility of the witnesses. A credible eyewitness could still make a mistake, unfortunately. We know from the DNA tests, which became available later, that the man was innocent, but his conviction is not necessarily wrongful. There's still a question whether failing to perform the DNA test and detect his innocence earlier was wrongful.

Doodle of the day.

A surrealistic still life discovered two days ago while idly wandering with the penpoint on my notepad and listening to a talk.

December 2, 2004

Christmas at the State Capitol.

Here is the beautiful state Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin. The statue in front represents our state motto, "Forward." Note the wreaths along the balcony:

[Photograph no longer available]

In the rotunda, there is a Christmas tree, called a "holiday tree" for official purposes. There will be a ceremony tomorrow at 11:45 am to turn on the lights.

[Photograph no longer available]
You can walk up to the mezzanine level and see the top of the tree extending above the railing:

[Photograph no longer available]

At this level you will also find a full-sized replica of the Liberty Bell:

[Photograph no longer available]

You'll also find the Wisconsin Constitution (which begins "We, the people of Wisconsin, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom..."):

[Photograph no longer available]

And you'll also find this large sign. The fine print says "Freedom from Religion Foundation."

UPDATE: I'm sure readers can come up with their own commentary on that sign in the last photograph, but let me add my comment nonetheless. That sign represents a concession to the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which is very critical of the tree. But the sign is extremely disrespectful to religious people and should be considered offensive not only by those who are religious but also by anyone who cares about treating other people with respect and about preserving a civil, pluralistic society. The sign can't properly be defended as a way to balance the tree, because the tree is not an expression of hostility to non-Christians. It is a festive, lovely object associated with the Christian holiday. I haven't looked closely at the ornaments, but I don't think they express hostility to atheists. If atheists want equal treatment, they might celebrate secularism or reason or nature, which the sign does up to a point. But about halfway through, it switches to outright nastiness. We wouldn't accept balancing a menorah with a swastika. Even atheists should object strenuously to this sign. The sign aligns atheism with reason, but what is reasonable about antagonizing the rest of the community? Reason demands that you align yourself with the facts, and the assertion that religion only "hardens hearts and enslaves minds" is clearly false.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Armchair Philosopher has some thoughts on the sign, which, along with some email I've received, has made me think more about the way that sign is phrased. It is phrased as a creed, an assertion of faith -- of all things. The first sentence, in its use of "may," reads like a prayer. And why mention the solstice unless you have some mystic tie to paganism?

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Sissy Willis comments on the sign. In case you, like Willis, are not familiar with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, here's its website. You may not be too suprised to learn it is based in Madison. Here is its own explanation of the sign:
This is the ninth year the national freethought association's sign has been placed in the Capitol. The Foundation seeks to balance the yearly nativity pageant which takes over the Capitol, the many Christmas activities, a menorah with a religious sign and other displays of religion at the Wisconsin State Capitol.

"The nonreligious are 14% of the U.S. population," according to Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president. "If religious activities are going to take place in the Capitol, then there should be representation of the views of Wisconsin's nonreligious citizens as well.

"Our sign reminds citizens of the real reason for the season, the impending Winter Solstice (Dec. 21), the shortest and darkest day of the year, which signals the return of the sun. The Winter Solstice has been celebrated for a millennia in the Northern Hemisphere by festivals of light, decorations of evergreens, gift exchanges, parties and feasts.

"Freethinkers don't mind sharing the season with Christians, but we think the natural origins of many of the customs of this time of year should be acknowledged."
Note the presumptuousness of saying that the 14% of citizens who are not religious would feel represented by an anti-religion sign. And the sign does not does not even begin to try to educate people about the pre-Christian cultures who originated many of the customs that have become part of the Christmas celebration. In fact, if you're going to acknowledge that the lit-up tree represents the widespread human search for ways to raise the spirits in the darkest month of the year, why let the tree bother you at all?

UPDATE: What happened to the photographs? Apple, after collecting money to allow me to have a page at, ended the service and made all my links go dead. I've worked to replace links where I can by using (the Wayback Machine), but these photographs cannot be retrieved by that method.

Did I violate the Establishment Clause by putting the Christmas cases before the Christmas break? I mean, the winter break.

In my "Religion and the Constitution" class, I deliberately put Lynch v. Donelly and Allegheny v. ACLU last because they deal with Christmas decorations on public property. Lynch and Allegheny both involve creches (only one of which is held to violate the Establishment Clause), and Allegheny also involves a Christmas tree/Menorah combination (which is held not to violate the Establishment Clause). It seemed fitting to end the course that way. But why did it seem fitting? I wonder how many times in the long semester of talking about religion I said something that could be characterized as a violation of the Establishment Clause. Proposed exam question: if you had to argue that one thing about this course violated the Establishment Clause, what would it be? [Note to classmembers: that's not really the exam question!]

It's the lunch hour here, and I look out the window and see the first snowflakes of the season. Snowflakes are the theme used for the lamppost decorations on State Street. How thoroughly devoid of religious imagery can you get for your "winter holiday" theme? Maybe I'll go out and take a walk up to the Capitol Building, where there is a Christmas tree, which we officially call a "holiday tree." Tomorrow, a lighting ceremony takes place, but I'm going to assume the tree is up and in a condition to be photographed.

ADDED: A picture of the lamppost snowflake:

[photo unrecoverable]

"End the Racist Dress Code."

That's chalked on the sidewalk outside the law school here in Madison. Two local bars are named. What could be the problem? The Badger Herald reports:
The dress codes in question at Brothers’, Johnny O’s and Madison Avenue ban such clothing items as sports jerseys, athletic wear and bandanas. Brothers’ also bans sleeveless t-shirts, hats not facing forwards or backwards, wave caps and headbands.

In an interview, Jon Okonek, owner of both Johnny O’s and Madison Avenue, denied any ties between the dress codes he puts in place and racism.

“How can you be racist against an article of clothing? We turn away 100 white people to every one African-American person,” Okonek said.

Okonek also said that the dress code his venues enforce encourages patrons to be on their best behavior. He said patrons who abide by the dress code “behave better and respect the place more.”Students at the meeting see the dress codes at Brothers’, Johnny O’s and Madison Avenue as racist, specifically discriminating against African-Americans.

The students have planned a picket at the two bars for tomorrow:
At their picket Friday night, the students plan to hand out fliers with information about their cause. Their goal is to convince patrons of the bars to go somewhere else for the night, specifically somewhere that does not have “racist” dress codes.

UPDATE: I don't go to these bars, and maybe some Madisonians who do can email me and correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that one reason a bar owner might want to impose a dress code is to make the place more appealing to women and get a better balance of the sexes.

"Best Conservative Blog."

So this blog is nominated for "Best Conservative Blog" in the 2004 Weblog Awards? This will do wonders for my reputation in Madison, Wisconsin. As long as I'm nominated, though, I'd be happy to win, so don't hesitate to vote for me.

Does a boy gymnast have a right to compete on the girls' team if a school only has a girls' gymnastics team?

Here in Wisconsin, the boy was barred:
"I just want to be able to compete and do gymnastics," the Stevens Point Area Senior High junior said. "I never really looked at it as having an advantage over girls."

The school's athletic director, Mike Devine, says the issue is simple: The state's sanctioning body for high school sports, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, does not allow boys to compete in girls sports.

"As a member school, we have to enforce their rules," Devine said Wednesday. "And we're not going to put the team at jeopardy. They would have to forfeit meets because he would be considered an ineligible player."

Unfortunately, the boys' events are also different from the girls' events, so it is hard to understand how this would work. Wouldn't the girls events -- especially uneven parallel bars -- be dangerous for a boy? The boy does practice with the girls' team and competes in YMCA events. The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association doesn't have boys' gymnastics competitions because not enough boys are interested.

Drawing of the day.

I'll go with the tough woman image today. Note the double eyes.

Women as news anchors.

Maureen Dowd comments on the lack of female news anchors.
I know that women have surpassed men, in many respects, by embracing their femininity and frivolity. Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer, who mix news with dish, cooking and fashion in the morning, are the real breadwinners of their news divisions, generating more ratings and revenue than the cookie-cutter men of the night.

Yet, as Mr. Ailes says, "network anchoring is still Mount Olympus." I checked around for feminist outrage, but couldn't find any. Women told me the nightly news was an anachronism, so why shouldn't the anchor be? "Caring about having a woman in the showcase or figurehead role seems so 80's," one said.

Ailes's isolated quotes in this column make him sound like a jerk. (But how can a blogger complain about isolated quotes?) But it may be true that not enough people care about the mere gesture of giving the slot to a woman. People have to also want to watch the show, and they need to get the right woman or that won't work.

I can't imagine watching Katie Couric or Diane Sawyer as a nightly news anchor. These women have cultivated an appalling image. I rarely stop by those network morning shows. (If I watch morning news I flip around among the cable news stations. I'd rather have grizzled, old Don Imus on than those horrible network shows.) Both Couric and Sawyer appear insane to me. Couric with her giant Joker smile and Sawyer with her murmuring smarminess. I don't think they are insane. I think they have crafted a demeanor that reflects an opinion of the audience, which is: women are soft in the head. I see nothing feminist in wanting either of them as a nightly news anchor.

Elsewhere in today's Times is this story about Court TV anchor Nancy Grace.
Nancy Grace, the delightfully irascible star of Court TV, is never short on opinions - fiery, unabashedly blunt opinions. Ask her about defense attorneys, and she'll offer the following: "Their job is not to seek the truth; their job is to get clients off."

She's developed a great female style: beautiful, tough, sarcastic, passionate. Has anyone on TV ever sneered so well? You want a fashion tip from Nancy?
"I put everything in my bra - money, pen, paper," Ms. Grace shared in forthright way. "Never carry anything. I learned that from being a prosecutor walking through housing projects to find witnesses."

December 1, 2004

The Wheels on the Magic Bus.

Roger Daltrey, who has 10 grandchildren, is doing a children's video: "The Wheels on the Bus." And the Who are working on a new album, which just means Daltrey and Pete Townshend are working together, the other two being dead now.

I was a big Who fan in the pre-Tommy period. I was actually a member of the Who fan club before their first album was released in the United States, strictly on the basis of "I Can't Explain" (and maybe "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere"). I never cared much for the 1970s supergroup and all the over-touted reunions of the later years.

You are now entering the awards season.

The minor film awards are starting to come out. For example, the British film awards:
The London ceremony was attended by a raft of stars, including Christian Slater, Kelly Brook, Billy Zane and Gillian Anderson.

Is that the raft floating downstream toward oblivion?

The National Board of Review awards also came out:
"Finding Neverland," a fictionalized account of the creation of children's classic "Peter Pan," was named best film of 2004 by The National Board of Review on Wednesday in the first major award of the Oscar season....

"Finding Neverland" director Marc Forster, who was shopping in a supermarket store when he heard news of the award, said his film offered an optimistic tale of mortality and growing up.

"We live in very dark times right now," he said.

I guess he's working on the draft of his anti-Bush Oscar acceptance speech.

Hey, he got press.

And you just helped him. But isn't that art? I mean in the pop art/performance art way.

"How are you going to respect movies?"

I've already blogged about the real extra we're looking forward to seeing on the "Alexander" DVD, but there's also this, from Video Store Magazine:
The possibilities for disc extras are plentiful, from a reality-vs.-Hollywood study of the three-hour film and a look at the luxurious costumes to Greek mythology features and a behind-the-scenes documentary shot by Stone’s 19-year-old son, Sean.

While excited about the DVD future of Alexander, Stone isn’t entirely enthusiastic about the format itself. In fact, he thinks DVDs will destroy today’s cinematic experience.

“It’s the end of movie-movies the way we know them,” he said during a Los Angeles press event for the film. “It’s like mail-order sex, Internet sex. It’s an easier way to access the person. It’s not good for us.”

The DVD format cheapens movies, he added.

“If you walk into a room with 5,000 DVDs, how are you going to respect movies? How do you know the good ones?,” Stone asked. “It’s going to the LCD — the lowest common denominator. It’s making movies into supermarket-shelf items, which is probably the best you can get at Wal-Mart. … It’s hopeless.”

Yes, it really is terrible when people aren't limited to the crap that happens to be playing at the theaters in their town. If you know you can watch any of thousands of movies, "how are you going to respect movies?" Well, maybe if Stone tried making a movie that isn't atrociously bad.

And how about showing a little respect for your audience? Is there any reason at all to bring up Wal-Mart, other than to accuse the audience of lacking any discernment, tossing DVDs into the shopping cart along with the toilet paper? Stone wants people to be limited to what's in the theater so he can impose his film on them. He was planning to rely on their lack of discernment, wasn't he?

UPDATE: Stone recently invoked Wal-Mart to express his contempt for President Bush:
“He’s worse than Nixon in his vulgarity. He looks like he shops at Wal-Mart. That’s not what the president is supposed to be. He has no intellectual curiosity and is proud of it.”

Blawgging, conlaw.

Here's Ambivalent Imbroglio's piece from the Student Lawyer magazine talking to law students about reading and writing blogs. I'm quoted in there. So is Prof. Yin, whose post led me to the article.

Going to Ambivalent Imbroglio's website to get the link made me see this post of his:
You know you’re a professor of Constitutional law when you tell jokes and then have to explain ... them and then you still have to tell your listeners you’re joking.

Then he tells an anecdote in which the lawprof's original joke included the fact that he was describing a cartoon.

The thing about conlaw is that it's actually strange enough that if you say something as a joke, the students are prepared to believe that really might be part of the law.

A new distinction.

To each his own!

The hallucinogenic tea case.

The U.S. is seeking Supreme Court review of a Tenth Circuit case that relied on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to bar the federal government from enforcing drug laws against Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal. The drug in question is "hoasca tea," a hallucinogenic.
"Compliance with the injunction would force the United States to go into violation of an international treaty designed to prevent drug trafficking worldwide, which could have both short- and long-term foreign relations costs and could impair the policing of transnational drug trafficking involving the most dangerous controlled substances," acting Solicitor General Paul Clement wrote in a court filing.

Here's Prof. Marci Hamilton's excellent analysis of the legal issues in the case, including why there is no claim under the constitutional Free Exercise clause and how the Court of Appeals could rely on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act after City of Boerne v. Flores (which held that Congress's Fourteenth Amendment power did not support the act). Hamilton, you should note, is a strong advocate for the government's side of the argument.

UPDATE: The United States has won a stay:
Justice Stephen Breyer, acting on behalf of the full court, granted a temporary stay to give both sides time to file more arguments with the court.

Property taxes in Madison.

So what kind of property taxes do you pay? Here in Madison, the tax on the average house, worth $205,359, is $4,458.

News about "Alexander."

1. Those Greeks who were suing to vindicate Alexander's sexual reputation are calling it off until they get a chance to see the film. Critics caution against it.

2. Angelina Jolie reflects on her performance as Alexander's mother:
"I connected to her as a mother. I don't think I could have played her if I wasn't a mother... As a mother, I truly understand that you will do anything to protect your child. Yes, she is a dark, wicked person, but as an actress, you have to make the audience believe that her motives were pure. She always put her son first."
Judging from this article, motherhood has totally undermined the once-great entertainment value of Jolie's private life. Oh, well. 

3. Here's quite a sentence from Anthony Lane's review in The New Yorker:
Farrell comes across here as twitchy, straw-haired, and buzzing with sexual mystification, as if he had researched the life of Anne Heche by mistake, and he seems bewildered by the film’s demands, uncertain whether to opt for a stiff-backed action man—an unironic legend, the sort of role that nobody has been able to master since Charlton Heston retired—or a tortured, more modern spirit, his taste for love dulled by his addiction to fame
4. The bogus homophobia angle appears in the Philippines press:
Would a big sector of our society raise hell about the film if it did not present without doubt the sexual and love choices of Alexander, the man? Look at all the tirades, they all point to things like the shaved legs of Farrell, his blonde locks and how they are wrongly dyed. One smells here the ether of homophobia rather than the essence of good taste.
Is anyone raising hell? I'm sure Stone dearly wishes hell had been raised.

5. Colin Farrell raises some hopes about the DVD version:
“I have no problem showing my ****,” says Farrell. “In fact, I did go naked in A Home at the End of the World, but they cut it out. During test audience screenings, they were advised it was too distracting. I don't know. I see my **** every day and am not distracted. But, hey, who knows? Maybe you'll get to see it in the uncut DVD version.”

A deserted city.

Don't miss Michael Totten's great pictures from Libya (via Instapundit). I was entranced by the pictures of the deserted city of Ghadames, especially the beautiful traditional Ghadames house. Googling to find out something more about Ghadames, which I had never heard of, I learned that the name means "yesterday's lunch." I see that this is referred to as "cake and icing architecture." Here's another picture of the interior of a traditional house. Here's a collection of Ghadames pictures. Here's another. Fascinating!

For those who eat Haagen Dazs by the pint.

A great gift idea. This puts the idea of taking my lunch to work in a whole new light.

A drawing for today.

I would have gotten started blogging late today anyway, because I overslept, but not this late. I'm starting this late because Blogger has been down all morning. I wasn't going to go with this drawing today, because it was not my mood when I started trying to post today, but it's a good time to use this one, which is, I know, the kind of drawing that makes people say, I'm worried about Althouse. This drawing also seems to say something about Jeremy's dying weblog, which I talk about in the previous post.

Jeremy writes a Dear Blog letter.

Jeremy Freese says he's "just not that into" it, but I think there is more going on in this relationship than he's letting us know. Let me repeat here what I wrote over there in the comments section:
Jeremy is going to break up with his blog because not enough people have posted comments. But if all of you post a comment here to show that you do love Jeremy's relationship with his blog, maybe they won't break up. ... This isn't enough enough. You didn't comment hard enough. Jeremy's relationship with his blog is dead. [Audience weeps.]

Jeremy was the inspiration for all us Wisconsin profbloggers. He set the tone and invented a style, which we played off of. So please, people, clap if you believe in Jeremy Freese's Weblog.

November 30, 2004

Analogizing law schools to the Boy Scouts.

As I noted yesterday, the Third Circuit relied on Boy Scouts v. Dale as it barred the enforcement of the Solomon Amendment. (The Solomon Amendment withholds funding from universities that don't give military recruiters the same access to campus facilities given to other recruiters.) It was ironic that a precedent that recognized a right of association permitting discrimination against gay persons provided the basis for saying that law schools had a right of association permitting them to exclude an employer that discriminated against gay persons. I've been reading the Third Circuit's long opinion today, trying to see how plausible the analogy really is. The court characterizes law schools as "expressive associations," then determines that the Solomon Amendment significantly affects the law schools' expression. The court writes -- there a link to the case here -- analogizing law schools' self-expression to the Boy Scouts:
Just as the Boy Scouts believed that "homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the Scout Oath," the law schools believe that employment discrimination is inconsistent with their commitment to justice and fairness. Just as the Boy Scouts maintained that "homosexuals do not provide a role model consistent with the expectations of Scouting families," id., the law schools maintain that military recruiters engaging in exclusionary hiring "do not provide a role model consistent with the expectations of," id., their students and the legal community. Just as the Boy Scouts endeavored to "inculcate [youth] with the Boy Scouts' values--both expressively and by example," the law schools endeavor to "inculcate" their students with their chosen values by expression and example in the promulgation and enforcement of their nondiscrimination policies. And just as "Dale's presence in the Boy Scouts would, at the very least, force the organization to send a message, both to youth members and the world, that the Boy Scouts accepts homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior," the presence of military recruiters "would, at the very least, force the law schools to send a message," both to students and the legal community, that the law schools "accept" employment discrimination "as a legitimate form of behavior."

What concerns me about this analogy is the idea that "law schools endeavor to 'inculcate' their students with their chosen values." The Boy Scouts have decided to commit to a particular moral code and devote themselves to instilling it. Do law schools do the same thing? Aren't we devoted to empowering students by teaching legal skills and to fostering the expression of a diverse array of viewpoints with respect to issues that are subject to reasonable, professional debate? The law schools argue that they express themselves through modeling nondiscriminatory values. Having to accept a discriminatory recruiter on an equal basis with other recruiters, they say, interferes with their expression. That seems to me to go beyond Dale. The law school isn't chosing who will speak for them, while the Boy Scouts were choosing who will hold their leadership positions. We don't perceive the recruiters as speaking for the law school. That doesn't mean I think the law schools shouldn't win this one, but I do think there are some key differences from Dale.

Whatever happened to all the Madison photographs?

I haven't posted any Madison photographs in a long time. Not since that peace rally. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the winter light: it's all glare or shadow and it's gone altogether in the late afternoon. Maybe it's that not much is going on out there now that it's colder. But it isn't all that cold. You still see guys in shorts and women in sandals. (Oh, it's in the 30s, so don't think I'm saying it's quite warm. It's just that people have a different attitude toward cold and clothing around here. We're pretty tough and we relish our freedom from bulky outerwear.) Maybe I'm just more likely to stay in if it's not genuinely warm. But let me get out today, camera in hand, and see what's going on. I'll at least get a walk.

UPDATE: Did you go for a walk? Yes. Did you see any guys in shorts? Yes, one. And the temperature is? 30 degrees. Anything photographable? I was about to come back and say no, but I paused on the Park Street bridge to take in the bleak scene and had a slight feeling that I was looking at something. This is, in any case, exactly what Madison is like today. If these vague clouds decide not to precipitate, we will have completed the month of November without snow.

No, no, not streetcars!

The Wisconsin State Journal reports on the continuing effort to impose streetcars on the city of Madison.
Mayor Dave Cieslewicz wants to press ahead with his idea for city streetcars regardless of other regional rail proposals.

Cieslewicz announced his plan to create a separate City Streetcar Committee at Monday night's Transport 2020 Implementation Task Force meeting.

Cieslewicz said he plans to present this new committee as a resolution at the Dec. 14 City Council meeting. Cieslewicz, who favors a plan to run electric streetcars Downtown, led a delegation of community leaders and developers to Portland, Ore., to study a trolley system earlier this year.

An emailer, who flagged this article, writes:
I am fascinated that no one brings up the fact that the cities that our city fathers & mothers are emulating all have much larger populations, very different demographics, and much longer commute times than Madison. And it is population, demographics and commute times which determine the market for light rail or trolleys. If someone can show me a similarly sized city to Madison that has a successful light rail/trolley system I might be convinced; but to the best of my research there is none. Chicago has about 3 million people. Portland has 1.7 million people. San Diego has 1.25 million. And, having lived in both areas, I can tell you that the commute from Middleton to downtown Madison IS NOTHING like the commute from San Ysidro to downtown San Diego. I am not hearing many people complain about the "grueling" 15 minute slow down on the beltline so where is the popular mandate for all this talk about light rail or trolleys? As an obviously enlighted conservative maybe you can explain to me what I am missing here.

You're missing this (to go back to the WSJ article):
The city has secured $300,000 from the federal government that will go toward a streetcar study, Cieslewicz said.

The feds are willing to pay for this particular boondoggle. And note that the main dispute within the city government is about the possible conflict with a separate commuter rail plan for the city (which also taps federal money).
"We need to have one vision about how we deal with transportation, and it needs to be regional," said County Board Sup. Scott McDonell, co- chairman of Transport 2020....

"I do think this is the wrong direction," said Michael Blaska, Transport 2020 committee member and former County Board member. "I always thought the problem was regional. It seems like that's where our priority ought to be. I really don't think that our community is large enough to support two systems."

McDonell said Transport 2020's next step is to figure out a process for dealing with the different ideas for commuter rail and streetcars and how they fit together.

There is $1 million in federal money for the commuter rail and $300,000 for the streetcars. I guess that ought to cover it. What's to worry about? Let's play with trains, trains, trains.

Is there anything wrong with selling a 1,420 calorie hamburger?

I say no. Hardee's is getting a lot of attention for its "Monster Thickburger." But the fact is that fancier places that sell hamburgers regularly sell things like this. All Hardee's is doing is selling something for much less.

I bought the DVD of "Super Size Me" a while back, and like the filmmaker trying to eat his super sized meal, I'm having trouble getting through it. Why? Well, partly because I'm exasperated listening to the soundtrack of a man chewing, which is disgusting, whatever he's eating. But what irks me more is the attempt to say something about real life by forcing yourself to eat what you don't even want and to eat a big McDonald's meal three times a day every day.

How about a little consideration for the many people who work hard all day, without eating much, and want to have a big, satisfying dinner without paying much? 1,420 calories is not that unreasonable for an adult man who is having his main meal of the day.

"The company got the idea from mothers just storing umbilical cords and navels in an album or what-not."

Yeah, what not.

Desperate film ad.

A two inch square on page B4 of today's NY: "Christian Bale Lost 63 pounds" and then some almost invisible writing ("It's one of the reasons the film works so well"), the name of the film, the fact that it's now playing, and a grungy little photo of said emaciated actor. The things one has to do to get attention.

Another last-week-of-law-school drawing.

Another drawing from the margin of my 1981 Federal Courts classnotes.

Law people may detect that the topic is habeas corpus -- FvN is Fay v. Noia -- a subject usually placed at the end of the fedcourts course. That placement seems to symbolize habeas as the last hope. The Supreme Court took certiorari in a significant habeas case yesterday, as Lyle Denniston reports over on SCOTUSblog:

The time period prison inmates have to file challenges in federal court to their convictions and sentences might be considerably longer than the one year set by Congress, depending upon how the Supreme Court decides the one case it agreed on Monday to hear, Dodd v. U.S. (docket 04-5286). The case, coming from the 11th Circuit, tests when that one-year deadline starts to run, under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

Under AEDPA, Congress set the requirements federal and state prisoners must meet if they want to try to take advantage, through a federal habeas challenge, of a constitutional right that has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court. Among the provisions of AEDPA is a one-year limit on the time such habeas petitions may be filed in federal court. Congress, however, apparently did not speak plainly enough in saying when that period starts to run, because the circuit courts are split on that question. The Supreme Court agreed to rule on the Dodd case to clear up that conflict.

The law specifies that the period runs from the date on which the Supreme Court “initially recognized” a new right. But it goes on to say that the right must have been made “retroactively applicable to cases” that are still pending in post-conviction court proceedings. The question before the Court is whether that second provision is a separate factor in calculating the time period.

In the case of Michael Donald Dodd, who was identified by prosecutors as a leader of a large Jamaican drug gang in New York City called the “Sprangler Posse,” the 11th Circuit ruled that the one-year period starts to run as soon as the Supreme Court has issued a ruling setting up a new right. The time, it said, is not extended until the point at which a court decides to apply the new right to cases still pending – an extension that could run a year or longer after the Supreme Court’s initial decision. The Circuit commented: “It would not be logical for Congress to have enacted a strict one-year limitation and then qualified that time by reference to ambiguous events,” such as a later ruling on making the right retroactive. The clause specifying retroactivity, the Circuit added, “qualifies the right asserted – not the time limit.”

That view, cutting off habeas challenges at an earlier point, is shared by the Second, Fifth and Eighth Circuits, but conflicts with the views of four other circuits – the Third, Sixth, Seventh and Ninth. Those four have ruled that, unless a court has declared that a new decision applies to already pending cases, the filing window has not yet opened. That approach can considerably lengthen the one-year span.

Just deal with it.

You've got to learn how to behave in airports.
"I said if it's that big a deal, just keep it," he said. "But then the screener gets really officious with me. He's taking everything out and looking at it, and then they're calling my flight, which inexplicably they call 30 minutes early. I kept saying, 'Look, I got to get going.' I look toward the gate."

"The screener says: 'You cannot look away from me. You have to have your eyes on me at all times,' " Mr. Stevens said. "Every time I would turn, this guy would stop and say, 'Do not look away!' I said, 'O.K., I'm sorry. Please just get me out of here.' "

That only brought over reinforcements. "Then a big fat guy who was sitting there eating comes over and says, 'If he does that again, we're going to throw him out of here.'"

"Every time I tried to reason with them they got nastier and nastier..."

I say deal with it. The man who tells this story was trying to get on a plane with two bottles of carpet cleaner in his carry-on bag! It's irrelevant that he was bringing home his wife's favorite cleaning product. I want the screeners to take account of a person's behavior. Everyone has a flight to catch! You think you're special because you're really a nice person -- with a wife! and a dog! You have to be awfully self-involved not to realize the screener doesn't know that. The man in the anecdote should have thought about how his behavior affected other people and just apologized.

UPDATE: Hamilton's Pamphlets takes a much more negative view of the screeners. I don't fly enough to have a first-hand opinion of what it's like out there these days. I do think the men described in the Times article were being childish, and I'm certainly not saying people ought to put up with everything in the name of security.

November 29, 2004

An interesting turnabout.

The Third Circuit takes the Boy Scouts case, in which the Supreme Court found a first amendment right to exclude a gay scoutleader, and uses it as a basis to say that universities have a right to express their opposition to discrimination against gays by excluding the U.S. military recruiters on campus.
A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, found that educational institutions have a First Amendment right to keep military recruiters off campuses to protest the Defense Department policy of excluding gays from the military.

The 2-to-1 decision relied in large part on a decision in 2000 by the United States Supreme Court to allow the Boy Scouts to exclude gay scoutmasters. Just as the Scouts have a First Amendment right to bar gays, the appeals court said, law schools may prohibit groups that they consider discriminatory....

"Just as the Boy Scouts believed that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the Scout Oath," Judge Ambro wrote, "the law schools believe that employment discrimination is inconsistent with their commitment to fairness and justice."

Seinfeld on "Oprah."

Jerry comes out to a huge ovation. He looks at the audience and says: "This is something. You do this every day?"

The audience constantly over-applauds. Oprah notes that she and Jerry are the same age (50), and the audience goes wild.

Jerry's response is perfect: "I love being 50. It means I'm almost done." Oprah goes into no! no! mode and Jerry has to say "it's just a joke" and a few other things until he finally lands on "it doesn't matter how old you are," and the audience goes wild again.

Oprah asks why they've only released the first three seasons on DVD, and Jerry says, "That's 40 episodes. How much time do you have?" There's a very distinctively Seinfeld way to say "How much time do you have?" and you've got to imagine it to find it funny. It's impossible to render in type. Something like: "How … much time … do you … have?"

Oprah asks him what he finds funny on TV today, and he says he watches a lot of "Sesame Street," and he thinks about how people tell him he should do another show: "I sit there and I watch this Elmo guy. And he is so likeable and so funny and so charming. And I sit there with my daughter, and I think: let him bust his little red ass."

Jerry's wife is there (and moved to tears by the experience of being 20 feet away from Oprah), so the conversation turns to marriage. Jerry says he was surprised at all the questions. He thought "Do you take this woman?" would be the last one. But now it's "How long are you going to sit there watching TV?": "I wish I knew the answer to that one myself."

Jerry's wife tells us he's "sweet," but can't come up with much of an answer to Oprah's request for a story. He's nice to his kids.

Oprah asks him about his obsessions: dolphins (they have "nice smiles"), Bic pens ("Every joke for the Seinfeld show was written with a Bic pen"), sneakers ("I'm wearing shoes just for you.")

The Puffy Shirt is being put in the Smithsonian, we're told.

Seinfeld's wife says has not seen all the episodes of "Seinfeld."

Oprah brings out Jason Alexander. The crowd acts pretty thrilled, even though it's just Jason Alexander.

Oprah brings out Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Clearly, the audience (nearly all women) likes her more than Jason. She looks great, Oprah tells her. Truthfully! Oprah shows Julia a clip of several audience members imitating Elaine's little steps dance [added: technically, it's "The Little Kicks."]. Julia says "wow" but doesn't seem that enthused. She seems not to be so much like the people in the audience, even though they identify with Elaine. Jerry helps out with a joke: "It's really true that girls just wanna have fun."

Oprah brings out Michael Richards. His hair is slicked down. He describes looking for "little things" in the script, ad libbing "the sound effects," practicing lines off by himself, and feeling that Kramer was playing him and that what he needed to do was to "get out of the way."

We're told Jerry bought Billy Joel's house in the Hamptons and we're shown some photos of him and his wife and kids on a windswept beach and in a sparkling, white kitchen. The audience goes "aaah!"

Talking about the last "Seinfeld" show, Jason Alexander says that, as they were about to shoot, Jerry said to them, "For the rest of our lives, when anyone thinks of any one of us, they'll think of all four." The audience goes "awwww." Oprah goes, "That is sweet." When the show ended, Jerry took some parts of the set (which he keeps with his Porsches). He took the door, the couch, and one of the booths from the restaurant. Michael Richards and Jason Alexander just took their shoes and (Alexander only) his glasses. Julia Louis-Dreyfus took her wardrobe, and jokes that she doesn't know why. (On the DVD commentary, she often talks about how bad Elaine's clothes were, and also how bad Jerry's clothes were. George's clothes were always intended to look bad. Kramer's clothes were supposed to be strange, and it's noted in the DVD commentary that only Kramer's clothes look good now. That vintage look aged well.)

After the final commercial break, there's only time enough to push the DVD one more time and say good-bye, but Oprah whips the crowd back up into a hysterical, jubilant cheer. As the closing credits roll, Oprah hugs each of the "Seinfeld" castmembers, kicking one leg up when she hugs Jerry and again when she hugs Michael Richards.

UPDATE: The group continues, more casually, on "Oprah After the Show." Oprah talks about how Jerry and his wife invited her to dinner but she had to refuse because she's on a diet that has a rule against eating after 7:30 at night.

We're shown photos of Julia Louis-Dreyfus's house, which has a retractable roof is dedicated to ecological principles. "It has sustainable woods" causes Jerry to say "What does that mean?" The question isn't answered. It's a joke. The tile, we're told, is made from recycled carpet. "It is a totally green house," Louis-Dreyfus says. Much applause.

Jerry offers this piece of advice: "If you never make a career choice based on money, you'll always have money." Hey, it worked for him!

Oprah asks what's your favorite episode. Jerry: "The Marine Biologist." Jason: "The Parking Garage." Michael: "The Parking Garage." Julia: wasn't asked.

They talk about Jerry's favorite comedian, Bill Cosby. When he walks down the street, Jerry says, he's happy to meet everyone who comes up to him. Oprah tells us that when he appeared on her show, he was dropped off alone! She clearly thinks this is flat-out amazing.

What comedian does Michael Richards love? Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, Jacques Tati, the early Peter Sellers. Good answer! So good it almost makes me cry to think that more roles have not come Richards' way. He adds: "And I love the great Red Skelton." Ah! I loved Red Skelton so much when I was a child. I loved him in that deep, childlike way where you completely believe that everyone loves him.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus? "I think Ellen DeGeneres is unbelievably funny." She also loves the funny actresses, specifically, Mary Tyler Moore and Lucy.

Jason? Jon Stewart. And Jerry.

What's next for TV?

I find this a little surprising:
Fox brass are said to be particularly high on a project that one could dub "That '70s B.C. Show": It imagines Jesus as a slacker teen under pressure from his parents -- God and Mary -- to enter the family carpentry business.

UPDATE: Actually, I don't think this is such a bad idea. Referring to it as "That '70s B.C. Show" was an incredibly lame joke, but I think the show could be well done. Have you ever watched the beginning of the DVD of "The Last Temptation of Christ" with the director's commentary on? Jesus is just writhing on the ground, but Scorsese is saying that what interested him was the idea that Jesus would have gradually understood and had to face the reality of who he was and that this would have caused him a great deal of personal turmoil. With that approach to the subject matter, go back to an even earlier period, where Jesus is a teenager. We have no Biblical text describing this period of his life, so a leap of imagination is required. You have to invent a character. I'm sure that would offend some people, but "The Last Temptation of Christ" offended some people and so do many TV shows for one reason or another.

I think the show seems as though it might be like "Joan of Arcadia," which handles the subject of a teenager singled out by God and dealing with it in an American teenager way. "Joan" is a drama, and I think the Jesus TV show is a comedy, but conceivably it could be well-written.

I'd like to see more sitcoms set in historical time. There's "That 70s Show" and other shows in the "Happy Days" mold that use the recent American past, but not much else. If you're as old as I am, you might remember "It's About Time," which took place in the Stone Age (and included some time traveling astronauts, one of whom was played by one of the "Car 54, Where Are You?" actors -- not the one who became Herman Munster ... the other one). "It's About Time," like "Car 54," had a very memorable theme song.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A correction. The "Car 54" actor (Joe E. Ross) played one of the cavemen.

The medical marijuana oral argument.

The first report looks good for the federal government on this, as Justice Souter seems dubious about the plaintiffs' argument:
Backers of California's law seem to think "everybody is going to get it from a friend or from plants in the back yard," Justice David H. Souter told the lawyer for the two women. "They're going to get it in the street. Why isn't that the sensible assumption?"

UPDATE: Justice Breyer also seemed unreceptive to the plaintiffs' argument:
Justice Stephen Breyer said supporters of marijuana for the ill should take their fight to federal drug regulators before coming to the Supreme Court, and several justices repeatedly referred to America's drug addiction problems.

But it's important to note that Breyer and Souter have strongly and consistently backed strong deference to the policy choices of the federal government and opposed the enforcement of constitutional federalism. To be principled and consistent, they really should be expected to reject these arguments, as I noted yesterday.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Justice Scalia shows some signs of agreeing with the federal government's position that it may regulate an entire market, even trivial parts of the market that seem quite separated from the ordinary trade in the product that gave rise to the motivation to control it:
Justice Antonin Scalia asked [plaintiffs' attorney Randy] Barnett how his argument of a trivial economic effect from medical marijuana would apply to federal laws protecting endangered species. Those laws ban possession of ivory or eagle feathers without regard to whether a person obtained them through interstate commerce.

"Are those laws likewise unconstitutional?'' Scalia asked.

The 9th Circuit had relied on the notion that the medical use of home-grown marijuana does not interact with the market in marijuana, and Justice Stevens asked a question that seemed designed to pursue this theory:
Stevens asked Barnett how allowing medical use of marijuana would affect the illegal market. The lawyer said it would slightly reduce demand and reduce prices.

"Reduce demand and reduce prices? Are you sure?'' Stevens said.

Barnette seems to have conceded a point that related to a key part of the 9th Circuit's decision, which is why Stevens express some surprise, saying "Are you sure?"

Justice O'Connor is reported as asking whether medical use of marijuana is "something traditionally regulated by states.'' It's hard to tell, without more, which way she may have been leaning by asking this. I'd like to see more of the transcript before speculating any more, but I'll just note that O'Connor's vote is often crucial. Still, from what I've seen so far -- admittedly little -- I think the Court will find the federal government has the power to regulate here.

UPDATE: Marty Lederman at SCOTUSblog predicts the decision for the federal government will be unanimous (though Justice Thomas might conceivably dissent). Lyle Denniston, also at SCOTUSblog, seems to perceive a ray of light for the plaintiffs. I'll read the whole transcript when it's available, but as indicated above, I agree with Lederman.

The last week of law school, and an old law school doodle.

It's the last full week of the semester here at the law school. Consequently, I feel a lot of pressure to get through the material--none of the usual expanding into areas that stimulate good discussion. It's time to be crisp and on task. You can't just increase the flow of information because it's close to the end. That's not fair. Yet you have to get to the end somehow. In one class, we've stayed on schedule and will finish simply by continuing at the pace we've followed all semester. In the other class, I've had to use the technique of cutting readings and switching to lecturing. But then there is a special obligation to make the lectures clear. Things we would have puzzled over, had we read a case on the subject, must be simplified now.

I'll have some more news-oriented blogging later. I'm especially interested in two federalism cases to be argued in the Supreme Court today. But, for now, I'll leave you with a doodle I did years ago in the margin of my law school class notes. I used to find drawing in the margins like this helped me focus on what I was hearing. The date was 5/6/81, sometime close to the end of the semester in Federal Courts, where maybe we were encountering new material, tying things together, and still leaving a few threads dangling.

November 28, 2004

Jerry Falwell's curtain imagery.

Jerry Falwell was on "Meet the Press" today. Tim Russert reminded him of the offensive statement he made shortly after 9/11:
I want to ask Reverend Falwell about something and broaden the conversation. We talked about Iraq and the war on terrorism. Something that you said two days after September 11, when you were with Reverend Pat Robertson: "I fear... that [September 11th] is only the beginning. ...If, in fact, God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve ... I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle ... all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say `you helped this happen.'"
Falwell answered:
And I went on to say in a sleeping church, a lethargic church likewise is responsible. I do believe, as Ben Franklin said, that God rules in the affairs of men and of nations. I believe that when God blesses a nation, as he's blessed America for a lot of reasons, things happen that don't happen other places. I believe when we defy the Lord, I think we pay a price for it. So I do believe in the sovereignty of God.

In our house, for example, my wife of 47 years and our three children, eight grandchildren, we begin every day in prayer. We ask the Lord's blessings. This morning in the shower I prayed for all 15 of our family by name, by need, because I want the curtain of God's provision upon them and protection along the highways and decision-making, God's wisdom.
Falwell praying in the shower? I could have gone my whole life without having that picture in my head. But now that he's said it, I have some idea where he gets his imagery. "God continues to lift the curtain ..." Was that the shower curtain? God as Norman Bates?

First, a multiple choice question, then some discussion of wabi-sabi.

Fill in the blank, completing the sequence:
sewing machine, fan, tea kettle, toaster, _________
a. iron

b. vacuum cleaner

c. vibrator
You can find the answer in this article, pointed to by Nina, who comments on something else about the article, wabi-sabi, to be specific. As to why she's sitting next to a potato-chip-spilling guy, read the previous post.

Wabi-sabi is a cool Japanese aesthetic.
It's about spare living spaces and well-worn handmade objects, and an appreciation of quiet pleasures — indeed, of plain old quiet. Sweeping a floor rather than vacuuming, taking up knitting, washing the dishes by hand — these are wabi-sabi activities....

Don't buy a new couch .... Try not to freak out when you come home to a dirty house. Turn the lights off and light some candles, making sure they're strategically placed away from the dirty dishes and the dog hair on the carpet.
Hmmm.... I've been following this aesthetic for years. Minus the dog and the knitting. Ideally, I want to live in a place with only wood floors and no carpeting and throw out the vacuum altogether. It's such an ugly thing.

Speaking of sweeping (and things Japanese), on Friday evening, we parked the car on the street in front of a lit up Aikido place. Inside were about ten men in traditional Japanese clothes, holding what at first I thought were swords. But they were brooms. They were sweeping the place, possibly ritualistically, and it was such a fascinating sight that I watched them as I walked a couple steps and knocked into a telephone pole. Even though the street was otherwise entirely deserted, at that very moment a man walked by, as if he had been dropped onto the earth for the purpose of laughing at me. Really, that happened. That was not a Freudian dream.

The marijuana case: a great test of law and politics.

Tomorrow the Supreme Court hears oral argument in Raich v. Ashcroft, the medical marijuana case, which sets the federal government's interest in comprehensive regulation of the marijuana market against the state's interest in controlling small, isolated uses of marijuana. In the case at hand, California would like to be free to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Generally, judicial and political liberals have opposed the Supreme Court's enforcement of constitutional federalism, which limits the reach of federal governmental power and leaves room for individual states to experiment with their own policies, suited to local conditions and local political preferences. But some state policy experiments are appealing to those who did not like it when the Supreme Court used ideas about federalism to strike down the Gun-Free School Zones Act and part of the Violence Against Women Act.

So it will be interesting to see the response of those who have harshly criticized the majority's recent federalism decisions and have professed abject deference to Congress and the Executive branch about federalism matters. From a liberal perspective, one might want to think: I support the enforcement of federalism limits when federalism is really a stand-in for individual rights, and I support strong federal government power when the federal policy in question is really a stand-in for individual rights. But it is rather hard to translate that instinct into sound constitutional law.

Conservatives face a dilemma too, if their conservatism is the kind that puts great importance on strong anti-drug enforcement. But conservatives who take the libertarian position on drugs can happily seize a two-fold opportunity: they can demonstrate a principled fidelity to constitutional federalism and, at the same time, improve federalism's reputation among liberals.

My earlier posts about federalism and medical marijuana are here and here .

Drawing of the day.

Here's a photograph of a drawing that I like in part because on the left side you can see through to the drawing on the previous page. Another thing I like about the photograph is that red background, which happens to be the Corvette brochure that got me blogging about cars a while back. That gives me a good opportunity to save readers the trouble of sending any more "so are you buying the Corvette?" emails and say there was virtually never any chance I'd buy a Corvette (even though it won on the blogpoll)). So am I buying the Audi TT? That's what I'd buy if I were to buy a new car, but right now I'm keeping my Cosmic Green Beetle (to which I recently added a spectacular dent).

The President is fat.

The NYT is exploring new ways to knock the President:
Yes, the president of the United States, known for his robust good health, is officially overweight, according to the standards of the National Institutes of Health. At 6 feet and 194 pounds, his body mass index, or B.M.I., a measurement of height relative to weight, is 26.4, and 25 or above is officially overweight for both sexes.
Actually, I was just noticing in the video of the President from his visit to Chile that his Texan walking style now involves leading with a prominent belly.

Click on "graphic" at the link to see a chart comparing presidential BMIs. We all know who the fattest President was, but did you know what a teeny tiny man l'il Jimmy Madison was? At 5'4" and 99 pounds, don't you just want to pick him up and carry him around?

I should note that the article is also another one of the NYT's many attempts to remind us of the horrendous American fatness problem, which is always presented as a matter of health rather than aesthetics.

UPDATE: A medically trained reader notes that writes:
Just commenting on BMI. BMI is a cookie cutter measurement and we all know everyone is built different- some are beanpole, some are stout. A six foot 250 lb predominantly fat person would have the same BMI as a 250 lb six foot professional athlete. The BMI only uses two metrics: height and weight. It should be used as one tool in evaluating someone's health along with fitness, comorbidities, family history, etc... The problems are obvious when you consider muscle is heavier than fat.
Hey, the last person who mentioned that fact to me was the butcher that sold me a pork loin roast!