March 12, 2005

"As a woman... I wanted to be liked - not attacked."

Responding to "[t]he kerfuffle over female columnists started when Susan Estrich launched a crazed and nasty smear campaign against Michael Kinsley," Maureen Dowd explains the travails of a female editorialist:
Guys don't appreciate being lectured by a woman. It taps into myths of carping Harpies and hounding Furies, and distaste for nagging by wives and mothers.
Hmmm... that's a thought I've had a few times in my twenty years as a female lawprof.
This job has not come easily to me. But I have no doubt there are plenty of brilliant women who would bring grace and guts to our nation's op-ed pages, just as, Lawrence Summers notwithstanding, there are plenty of brilliant women out there who are great at math and science. We just need to find and nurture them.
Nuture?! If we want women to go on the attack, we've got to nuture them? Well, actually, yes! It takes a lot nerve to put your harsh, straightforward words down on paper. You can feel entirely squelched and intimidated, yet still have those things inside you, and you could say them if somehow someone managed to give you the go-ahead. I know I've found myself able to write a lot of things down in this blog, but I've also gone many, many years holding my tongue. There may be a lot of men clamoring to speak first, easily finding a way to talk over the women who have just as much to say. It may take a little something more to unleash what women can say. Maureen Dowd doesn't explain how she was able to let loose. Someone saw she had it in her and gave her the forum, and from there she had to force herself to do it. But clearly, she could.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds links here for the point I think women are more sensitive to harsh attacks. This post is really more about how women are more harshly punished if they go on the attack, which is what Maureen Dowd wrote about. It's not just that we (generally) feel worse when we are attacked, but that we are (generally) more likely to be perceived in a negative light if we do attack. Anyway, I have written before about wanting more civility and rationality in blogging, such as here, where I respond to a post by Kevin Drum, who wrote:
[D]oes this mean that women need to change if they want to enter the fray, or does it mean that the fray needs to change in order to attract more women? As usual, probably some of both. Unfortunately, the blogosphere, which ought to be an ideal training ground for finding new voices in nontraditional places, is far more vitriolic than any op-ed page in the country, even the Wall Street Journal's, and therefore probably turns off women far more than it attracts them.
My response was:
I don't think women or the blogosphere needs to change. Each blog is a place unto itself, where a writer establishes a tone and a voice. As long as you keep the comments function off, you control your own space. A thousand vitriolic male blogs don't prevent one woman from setting up her own blog and making whatever she likes of it.
Reynolds was noting how vicious people were being to Zephyr Teachout -- in the comments. Well, I definitely turned off my comments long ago and after a very short experience with them, because I was not going to tolerate people talking to me like that on my own blog. I want to decide whom to ignore and when to fight back.

"It’s feminine, the smell of death."

Perfumers at work (via A&L Daily):
The group walked around Aswan. The markets were full of spices, and Ellena smelled lotus roots; when macerated in water, the root produces a smell halfway between peony and hyacinth. He also found some jasmin sambac, which is full of indoles, molecules that smell overwhelmingly animalic. Feces are rich with indoles, he explained to Gautier and Dubrule, and so are decomposing bodies. It’s feminine, the smell of death. Calvin Klein’s Eternity is a heavily indolic perfume—the name must have been ironic, he joked.

Blogs in the crossword again.

Blogs have made the NYT crossword again. The clue is "many a blog post." It's a four letter word, which you can read here.


Letters in Bottles is simulblogging the Future of Wisconsin conference -- some kind of conservative policy fest. The first panel is moderated by someone identified as Growthman, possibly some sort of superhero or possibly someone actually named Grothman. Anyway, it would be cool if there could be some government policy geek superhero named Growthman, solving all our problems with endless economic expansion.


AmbivaBlog has some thoughts about growing old. Pushing over one of the 0's is always an occasion, and she's thinking about the six-0 occasion.
This is the last year I'll have the luxury of saying, with astonishment, "I'm almost 60!" I remember my grandmother saying, "I feel exactly the same as I did when I was 16, and then I look in the mirror and say, 'Who is that old lady?'" At this age, I discover, you can feel very old and very young from one day to the next. One day it's, "Sex is so over. I'm old now, a watcher from the sidelines. It's not that I don't have any desire. It's that I don't have any hope." The next day, envy for the sex-ridden is replaced by pity, if not contempt, as I view their driven, drunken antics from the self-possessed paradise I last inhabited when I was 12.


Since I was quite young, I've thought about aging by imagining myself saying something to my older self, offering some advice or encouragement, and, as I've gotten older, I've remembered the things I thought of saying to myself all those years ago, so the communication actually did occur: my young self sent a message to my older self. I've also contemplated the reverse: what would my older self say to me now? Imagine yourself 10, 20, 30, or more years in the future: what does that person say to you? The answer is purely imaginary. Maybe you will reach that age and realize that is not the message you would have sent at all. Does your older self tell you to take risks or to be more careful? If you think your older self wants you to take risks, and you do, you may grow into the older person whose message is you should have been more careful. But if you think your older self wants you to be careful, and you are, you may grow into the older person whose message is you should have taken more risks.

UPDATE: Tung Yin reads this posts and wonders if I'm a "Star Trek: Next Gen" fan. Episode reference: "Tapestry."

ANOTHER UPDATE: AmbivaBlog responds to my post and writes the letters from old self to young and from young to old.

Rice running for President.

Here's the transcript of the Washington Times's interview with Condoleezza Rice, in which she leaves open the possibility of running for President in '08. That prompts follow up questions about "domestic policy," which she's had little occasion to talk about so far. "Domestic policy" turns out to be abortion, because, unfortunately, abortion has far too much to do with how people think about who should be President:
[Interviewer]: [O]ne of the things people are confused about and they understand your foreign policy positions, you've been very clear about those but there is some confusion about some of your domestic policy issues. And I know that's not your bailiwick, but, for example, I interviewed Colin Powell last year as secretary of state and he talked about how he was pro-choice, how he was pro-affirmative action, how he was against an amendment that would ban the burning of a flag, these kinds of social issues. I "googled" Condi Rice and abortion and I've gotten so much murky, contradictory information. Could you clear it up for us today? Are you pro-life? Are you pro-choice? What is your thought on abortion?

Miss Rice: I believe if you go back to 2000, when I helped the president in the campaign, I said that I was, in effect, kind of Libertarian on this issue, and meaning by that that I have been concerned about a government role in this issue. I'm a strong proponent of parental choice, of parental notification. I'm a strong proponent of a ban on late-term abortion. These are all things that I think unite people and I think that that's where we should be. I've called myself at times mildly pro-choice.

[Interviewer]: That was the phrase that kept coming up.

Miss Rice: Yeah, mildly pro-choice. That's what that means. I think that there are a lot of things that we can unite around, and that's where I would tend to be. I'm very comfortable with the president's view that we have to respect and need to have a culture that respects life. This should be an issue pretty infrequently because we ought to have a culture that says that, "Who wants to have an abortion? Who wants to see a daughter or a friend or, you know, a sibling go through something like that?" And so I believe the president has been in exactly the right place about this, which is, we have to respect the culture of life and we have to try and bring people to have respect for it and make this as rare a circumstance as possible.

[Interviewer]: The only reason I even brought it up was because there is a school of thought that says that no conservative Republican can be elected president if they are not firmly pro-life. I know you haven't ruled anything in or out but...

Miss Rice: I'm not trying to be elected.

[Interviewer]: But it sounds like you do not wish to change the laws that now allow ...

Miss Rice: Well, I don't spend my entire life thinking about these issues. You know, I spend my time really thinking about the foreign policy issues. But you know that I'm a deeply religious person and so, from my point of view, these extremely difficult moral issues where we have — where we're facing issues with technology and the prolongation of life and the fact that very, very young babies are able to survive now — very small babies are able to survive — these are great moral issues.

What I do think is that we should not have the federal government in a position where it is forcing its views on one side or the other. So, for instance, I've tended to agree with those who do not favor federal funding for abortion, because I believe that those who hold a strong moral view on the other side should not be forced to fund it.

A nicely articulated middle position. Her weaving in the topic of religion prompted this line of inquiry.
[Interviewer]: You mentioned your deep religious faith. We talked to the president the other day in our interview with him, and he talked about how his faith and how it bears on the conduct of his duties. Could you talk about how your faith bears on your duties as secretary of state and how?

Miss Rice: Well, first, my faith is a part of everything that I do. You know, it's integral to who I am and it's not something that I can set outside of anything that I do because it's so integral to who I am. And prayer is very important to me and a belief that if you ask for it, you will be guided. Now, that doesn't mean that I think that God will tell me what to do on, you know, the Iran nuclear problem. That's not how I see it. But I do believe very strongly that if you are a prayerful and faithful person, that that is a help in guiding us, as imperfect beings, to have to deal with extremely difficult and consequential matters.

As an American, when I talk to others out there in the world, particularly people who are going through processes of democratization, I would be the first to say that I think America has it right in that you can worship freely in any way that you wish, but you can also choose not to worship if you wish, and that you can choose to believe or you can choose not to believe, and that that is the genius of the American system — that somebody as deeply religious as I am is a fully appreciated and respected American as someone who has no faith at all.

So I can speak in terms of faith and my personal circumstances, but I can also, I think, speak from the perspective of an American, where I think we've gotten this balance right.

That is just brilliantly put. I so hope we are lucky enough to see -- and hear -- Condoleezza Rice run for President.

"The inside of the body is a very good place to store things like this."

The amazing, successful medical treatment of a 2-year old boy whose father accidentally ran over his head with the tire of a 2-ton SUV.
The procedure [Dr. Michael R. Egnor] performed, called a cranial cruciate decompression, involved removing four triangular sections of bone from the top of Bobby's skull, leaving behind a cross-shaped, floating section to protect a large vein and four openings through which the swelling could protrude, alleviating the pressure.

The quadrants that were removed are now being temporarily stored just below the skin of the boy's lower abdomen and will be reattached to his skull in two to three weeks, when the danger of further swelling has passed. "The inside of the body is a very good place to store things like this because it's sterile," Dr. Egnor said.

Despite swelling that lasted about a week, he said the pressure on Bobby's brain was kept in check. Stony Brook has been performing cruciate decompressions for about two years, and the procedure has become fairly common in larger hospitals across the country, he said.

"Many hospitals have the ability, but there's often a pessimism about a child's chances for survival," he said, adding that he had performed about six on children, all of them older than Bobby and all but one surviving.


A report from India:
The authorities in southern Rajahmundry have hired groups of drummers to play nonstop outside the homes of property tax evaders until they pay up. The city took the action after other incentives, like waiving interest and penalties, failed. After a week of the incessant drumming, 18 percent of the overdue backlog has already been cleared.

Words, everywhere.

Yesterday I posted about bumper stickers, and the Armchair Philosopher takes that as a cue to design some bumper stickers to counter the typical Madison bumper stickers.

On occasion, I've been tempted to get out my camera and photograph some Madison bumper stickers, but it seems too hostile and intrusive to the car owner, so I haven't. But there are some cars around here with ten or more bumper stickers, and it really is often quite amusing. I'd want to talk to the person about their bumper stickers to know what their attitude is. Do they mean to scream hysterically at the world that all these things are terribly important? Or do they think they've got a crappy old car, so why not just slap any damned sticker on? Do they mean to make a solemn statement that they are not accepting the governments policies? -- as expressed in bumper stickers like "Not in my name" and "Don't blame me, I voted for X." Or do they really mean to express hostility and even to emotionally wound anyone who disagrees with them and happens to stop behind them at a red light?

It is the last sort of person whose car I would most feel justified intruding on with a little photography. I'm also most afraid to encounter that person if he or she were to catch me taking the photograph! A bumper sticker I saw the other day -- on a car with ten bumper stickers -- nearly got me to overcome my inhibition and get the camera out of my bag. In amongst the miscellaneous lefty stickers was "Nothing fails like prayer."

Why put that on your car? What are you trying to achieve? So you think religion is a delusion. And maybe you'd like to spread the word. Maybe you'd like to plant this thought in people's minds. They're sitting in their cars, in need of something to activate their idling minds:
Hmmm, yeah ... when you think about it.... people are praying all the time for things they don't get... so, yeah ... right... uh ... religion really is a delusion....

Hoping for something along those lines? Do you ever consider how upset and angry that will make some people? There are always people who are praying for family members who are sick and dying: have you thought about how your mean little sticker makes them feel?

That's all I have to say at the moment about your bumper stickers, O People of Madison. Now about those yard signs.... I think we've established that you supported John Kerry in the last election. Could it possibly be time now for just plain, unopinionated lawn and garden -- or, as the case would be today, fresh blanket of snow?

Or is that blanket a blank page that must be written upon? Ah, perhaps the deep urge to pee one's name in the snow proves how wrong I am to want to clear all the words out of my field of vision. We are human beings, we produce words, and we want to get our words out there one way or another -- as I, of course, am doing now. Why should I want to escape the beautiful human touch -- the written word? Even in the middle of a desert, one expects to find graffiti. And that is exactly where I'd choose to aim my camera. One of my favorite photographs -- I should scan it and post it here later -- is of a rock found on a desolate beach -- half buried in pebbles and sand, with the painted, red block letters: JESUS.

UPDATE: More on Madison bumper stickers here. And an emailer writes:
Recently, while I was in Milwaukee for a wedding, I spotted an old Toyota with about 10 left leaning bumperstickers. What really struck me were two right next to each other: "Mean People Suck" followed by "Cats, Not Kids." Hmm...
Maybe that second sticker -- seeing as how it's Wisconsin -- was a reference to hunting season. Another emailer writes:
Because they're so small, and so information-poor, I think that bumper stickers mainly communicate one thing: "I'm in & you're out." ... That being said, the only decal I've got on my car is from

Here's his bumper sticker. Okay...

March 11, 2005

I want entertainment-oriented shopping.

Richard Lawrence Cohen describes the new, huge Whole Foods in Austin, with all its glorious entertainment features, like a chocolate fountain for dipping strawberries. I want one here in Madison too! We have Whole Foods, but not the new deluxe Whole Foods they've got. He disapprovingly calls it "decadence," but why shouldn't shopping have an entertainment element to it? I hate to go food shopping. I've been known to make meals out of peanut butter -- just peanut butter -- for days, purely to avoid the experience of setting foot in a food store. I hate the feeling of wheeling the cart around from aisle to aisle, especially in an ordinary supermarket. Time slows down, you lose your feel for reality. You need some things, but it's so boring to lift them up and put them in your cart! I will pay more for the food to pay, indirectly, for an aesthetic, amusing experience. Won't you? We pay all the time for aesthetic, amusing experiences, like movies, that don't even get us through a basic chore like laying in supplies.

UPDATE: Richard tells me he did not intend "decadence" as a term of disapproval. More of a Sally Bowles "divine decadence" sort of a thing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader writes:
I love Whole Foods because it presents itself as a feast of sensualism, rather than dour vegetarianism or consumerism. That's entertaining in itself!

I agree. There's a real appreciation for beauty at Whole Foods. The health theme is not medicinal and puritanical as it is in old fashioned health food stores. Shopping at Whole Foods causes you think of eating well: it's easy to see and feel drawn to things that are both healthful and delicious. That is so helpful! In an ordinary supermarket, you feel torn between the good-for-you and the junk food. You transcend that dilemma at Whole Foods. And the people who work there enhance the experience. Supermarket workers usually seem weary and act like they don't even see you, in the hope that you won't ask for anything. Old fashioned health food store workers tend to channel the puritanical theme of the place or to act as though they're too evolved for the work ethic. Whole Foods employees tend to be alert and friendly and knowledgeable -- and not in a phony or annoying way. And that's not just by chance. They have an excellent training program and a real conception of what they are about. They richly deserve their success.

Censorship in France and Italy.

BBC reports:
France's Catholic Church has won a court injunction to ban a clothing advertisement based on Leonardo da Vinci's Christ's Last Supper.

The display was ruled "a gratuitous and aggressive act of intrusion on people's innermost beliefs", by a judge.

The church objected to the female version of the fresco, which includes a female Christ, used by clothing designers Marithe et Francois Girbaud.

The authorities in the Italian city of Milan banned the poster last month.

The French judge in the case ordered that all posters on display should be taken down within three days.

You can see the ad at the link. It's quite artistic and supposedly inspired by "The Da Vinci Code."

Sidenote: There was a time in the 1980s when Marithe et Francois Girbaud was the most desirable label for a pair of jeans.

Some TV thoughts.

Matt at Throwing Things convinces me to buy the "Wonderfalls" DVD collection: "a snarkier and agnostic variant of 'Joan of Arcadia.'" I've been a big "Joan of Arcadia" fan since the opening minutes of the very first episode, but I must say I'm getting tired of the repetition. How many problems can the earnest, hangdog dad have at work? How many times must Joan deliver a peck on the lips to her boyfriend before they head off to different classes? How many times will Joan seriously consider getting into a first tier college and then in the next show have to struggle with the problem of getting into any college? And how many times will God be able to seem cute telling her to do one thing and then another -- join the chess club, learn to juggle, be a cheerleader, play the piano -- before God seems to be a crazy sadist with attention deficit disorder?

Also over at Throwing Things (or whatever the hell they expect us to call that blog these days), Kingsley throws a nice douse of cold water on "American Idol"'s Bo Bice, and Adam predicts the night will come when it's Nadia as the only woman in a competition with five men. I wonder who's the one man he thinks is subject to early elimination? Scott? Constantine? Anthony?

Question to my word editor type readers: I've been putting TV show names in quotes, so how should I do the possessive of "American Idol"? I went with "American Idol"'s, but that looks awfully strange.

UPDATE: Answering that word editor question is Joe's Dartblog, but I read his solution to mean, essentially: that's why you never should have put TV show titles in quotes in the first place. Let me reword my question: assume a commitment has been made to putting TV show titles in quotes....

While I'm here fiddling with this post, let me state my theory why I don't think Scott Savol will go out easily. I see him as the combination of Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken. Like Ruben, he's the fat guy. Americans feel a special fondness for a fat guy. They don't want everyone to be fat, but if just one person is fat, marked as the underdog, we root for him. Also, we identify with the fat guy. We're fat! Like Clay, Scott is the completely unhip white guy who really does have a nice voice, and when he tries to dance, we're all what was that? I can really see a big bloc of American voters united behind a guy like that. The fact that he's made it this far shows this is happening.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Several emailers, answering the editing question, suggest the classic workaround. Don't say "'American Idol''s Bo Bice," say "Bo Bice of 'American Idol.'" I considered doing that, but I'm trying to write in a conversational style, and I wouldn't talk like that. The punctuation pile-up looks bad, I admit, but in a contest between looks and sound here, I'm going with sound.

YET MORE: Another emailer writes:
You drove me to the "Chicago Manual of Style" and that's never a good thing. I think everyone is working too hard on this and I propose the very simple:
"American Idol's" Bo Bice....

Using the CMS, 15th Edition, I'll refer to sections 5.26 and 7.13
5.26: Possessives of titles and names. The possessive of a title or name is formed by adding 's {American Idol's Bo Bice}. This is so even when the word ends in a sibilant {Dickens's novels}.

7.13 works in quotation marks. The plural of a word or phrase in quotation marks may be formed by the addition of an apostrophe before the s, with the closing quotation marks following the s (though rewording is usually a better option. A plural ending should never follow closing quotation marks. {How many more "To be continued's" can we expect? {not "To be continued"s})
That looks really weird to me. Of course, the apostrophe used to make a plural is really weird, but if that's right, clearly, the possessive "s" ought to go inside quotes too. But I rebel against that suggestion. The "s" isn't part of the title, so why should it insinuate its way inside the quotes? It's a quote crasher!

AND: I just reread this post and noticed a couple of punctuation errors, now corrected. What am I doing writing about a fine point of punctuation and making low-level errors? I am interested in word editing, and yet I'm writing -- a lot -- with no editor at all! Inevitably, I'm going to end up as a stickler-hypocrite.

Ikea, feminism, Poland.

Nina has some thoughts.

Ambiguity and responsibility: Michael Jackson and children.

Tunku Varadarajan, in the WSJ, theorizes about why Americans "loathe" Michael Jackson:
Michael Jackson offends--and offends spectacularly--against this principle of clarity, of decipherability. He is not so much opaque--for that is a quality America can live with--as deeply fuzzy. Opacity, of course, is clarity of a kind, and an American is thought to have as much right not to show his hand at all as to reveal it in full. What he must not do, however, is to be indeterminate....

Transparency of word, overtness of execution--these are American characteristics. One can see them in President Bush's assertion made to the world after Sept. 11: "You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror." One can see them also in the drive by America's gay activists for the legal recognition of same-sex marriage: a penumbral state, that of civil unions, is simply not conspicuous or clear enough--and therefore not good enough.

Where did this national aversion to ambiguity come from? ... Definition and precision are the stuff of business, and in a materialist society like America's their absence becomes the basis of profound unreliability.

From there, as the Michael Jackson case has shown, it's only a short hop to opprobrium.

It's interesting to meditate on the love of clarity and the fear of ambiguity, and maybe we do need to have more appreciation for ambiguity -- especially as we look to art and artists. The real problem with Michael Jackson, however, is not the general ambiguity of his looks, his music, and his fantasyland ranch. It is the very specific ambiguity about his relations with children. There is a special value to clarity -- a special responsibility to be clear -- when an adult deals with a child. I think we Americans accept and indulge many inexplicable eccentricities in our artists, but if we can't understand what you are doing with a child, it sets off our sense of responsibility to the child.

UPDATE: Mark Daniels has some thoughts about Americans' acceptance of ambiguity in artists.

Bumper stickers.

Yesterday, we drove past a car pulled over by the police, and I ranted something along these lines:
Check it out. He's got a Feingold bumper sticker! You put a bumper sticker on your car and then you do something wrong, and it seems to reflect on the candidate. Imagine someone voting for Feingold and then not living up to a Feingoldesque standard of virtue?

Well, you voted for Feingold, didn't you?

Yes, and I see where you're going with that. I voted for Feingold, and I ran a red light, but I didn't have a Feingold bumper sticker on my car at the time. I didn't weigh down Russ's reputation with my own misdeeds. You know, back last fall, I was driving along, and some bastard cut right in front of me, and he had a Kerry bumper sticker. And I say right out loud, "Just for that I'm not voting for Kerry." That's my idea of a joke, but, really, these people who were for Kerry were always acting like they were more virtuous than those selfish warmongers who were for Bush, but then in real life, here's this bastard cutting me off.

I'm glad you didn't put a Bush bumper sticker on the car. I couldn't have driven the car if you'd put a Bush bumper sticker on it.

That wouldn't exactly punish me. But anyway, there was zero chance I'd put a Bush bumper sticker on the car, and not just because I'd be afraid someone would vandalize my car: I've never put any bumper sticker on any car I've ever had. I think bumper stickers are ugly. Plus, I don't want random people knowing miscellaneous things about me. They already know one big thing about me, which is what kind of car I drive. That's already a massive invasion of my privacy. I don't need to advertise additional facts -- especially the kind of facts people get pissed off about.

Consider this news story (via Memeorandum):
[A] Tampa woman learned that simple Bush-Cheney bumper sticker can bring trouble, if not danger, from a total stranger.

Police say Michelle Fernandez, 35, was chased for miles Tuesday by an irate 31-year-old Tampa man who cursed at her as he held up an anti-Bush sign and tried to run her off the road.

His sign, about the size of a business letter, read:

Never Forget Bush's Illegal Oil War Murdered Thousands in Iraq.

"I guess this was a disgruntled Democrat," Tampa Police spokesman Joe Durkin said. "Maybe he has that sign with him so he's prepared any time he comes up against a Republican."

While I personally go with the no bumper stickers strategy, Baldilocks recommends a "more speech" solution: add an NRA bumper sticker.

UPDATE: Several people -- all males -- have written noting the inconsistency between saying "I don't want random people knowing miscellaneous things about me" and blogging. I'm not really trying to attain pristine consistency, especially as I rant things while driving, but I can explain myself. When you're driving your car, you're actually physically there, in your car, driving down lonely roads, getting in and out, sometimes in dark parking lots. When someone's reading your blog, they are off somewhere, miles away, and you are sitting at home or at a café, nowhere near the reader. It's a whole different feeling.

"A faceful of musician poo."

The driver in the Dave Matthews busload of poo case has pled guilty and received just a fine, community service, and probation. Who's blogging the best commentary? There's Hog on Ice:
I pity Dave when the lawsuits are filed. I don't support kneejerk litigation, but you better believe I'd sue if I got a faceful of musician poo. The news said some of these folks were looking up, with their mouths open. I wouldn't care if Dave's kids starved. I would be looking for some poo payback. How stupid do you have to be to dump 800 pounds of sewage without even checking to see if it's going to land on someone?

And the Chicagoist has some fun with the prosecutor -- who took the attitude: hey, nobody broke any bones! -- and runs an appropriate picture of Dave dressed as a bear.

March 10, 2005

Dog subpoenaed; babies accused of looting and criminal damage.

Subpoenaing the dog -- one "Murphy Smith" -- was a mistake. But the babies -- aged 3 months to two years -- are really being prosecuted.

"Well, honey, most people are good."

Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow answers her daughter's question: "Why is the world so evil?"

Chicago police sent detectives to a Milwaukee suburb to investigate a suicide, and a newspaper said the man had left a note claiming responsibility for the slayings of a federal judge's mother and husband...

[Bart] Ross filed a lawsuit against the University of Illinois over cancer treatment in the early 1990s, the newspaper said. Lefkow rejected it on a technicality in 2004.

War motivations.

Remember the Jon Stewart's interview with ex-Clinton aide Nancy Soderberg? She was there to promote her ill-timed book, "The Superpower Myth: The Use and Misuse of American Might," and he brought up the positive post-war developments. Stewart, of course, had been ridiculing the decision to go into Iraq all along. Now he said:
Do you think that the people of Lebanon would have had, sort of, the courage of their conviction, having not seen--not only the invasion but the election which followed? It's almost as though that the Iraqi election has emboldened this crazy--something's going on over there. I'm smelling something. ...Do you think they're the guys to--do they understand what they've unleashed? Because at a certain point, I almost feel like, if they had just come out at the very beginning and said, "Here's my plan: I'm going to invade Iraq. We'll get rid of a bad guy because that will drain the swamp"--if they hadn't done the whole "nuclear cloud," you know, if they hadn't scared the pants off of everybody, and just said straight up, honestly, what was going on, I think I'd almost--I'd have no cognitive dissonance, no mixed feelings.

So a talking point of war opponents is: even if good things are happening now, since they said they were going in for weapons of mass distruction, they deserve little or no credit for these side effects.

Right Wing News collects a lot of statements by supporters of the war, many dating back to before the invasion, making predictions of the sort that war opponents now suggest they never heard.

Of course, there is still the problem that the administration choose to sell the idea of going to war on the WMD point. So I do think something remains of the anti-war talking point. The revamped talking point should be: you didn't think enough of democracy to be up front about that as the goal. And the answer to that is: and you didn't think enough of democracy that you would have signed on to the war effort if we had.

March 9, 2005

"American Idol" -- kicking out four.

Finally, some results, some weeding out. They did a masterful job tonight of dragging out the results for half an hour. The process by which they moved twelve of sixteen candidates from one side the stage to the other was just plain brilliant. I was irked early on that Lindsey made it. Then, in the late stage of the show, we were down to, among the men, Nikko, Scott, and Travis, and only one could stay. Scott made it, and that is okay, but I was very sorry to see Nikko go. (Travis had to go.) He was my favorite of the men this week. Scott has made it, and he represents all the unattractive people of the world. He is the only fat person, the only unattractive person, who's made it to the final twelve. The last three women, Janay, Mikalah, and Amanda, all deserve to leave, so I don't feel so invested in this decision. Mikalah makes it. That's the decision I would have made. Ah! To be rid of Amanda! Janay, I wish you well! I like the finalists ... with one exception! Next week... Lindsey, you're in big trouble!

Rather's last day.

I found it a bit creepy that Rather ladled all that 9/11 material on his final show. Then, he spoke of "courage," a theme he tied to 9/11, soldiers fighting, and the tsunami victims. He didn't say: and it took courage for me to deal with all my 9/11/war/tsunami-like travails. But there was a disturbingly Nixonesque look on his face that seemed to plead pity me.

UPDATE: I'm not the only one who thought Rather seemed Nixonesque on the way out.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This made me laugh.

About that headstone.

Jeremy questions how much information was really on that headstone from 1339 -- and transcribes a mind-blowing passage from "The Great Mortality."

The al-Qaeda cultural-destabilization plan.

Entertainment Weekly reports:
In an interview with GQ magazine, [Russell] Crowe says the FBI approached him just before the Golden Globes in January 2001 (eight months before the 9/11 attacks), tipped him off to the plot [to kidnap him], and provided him with security. ''That was the first [time] I'd ever heard the phrase al-Qaeda,'' he told GQ.

For a while, Crowe had his own entourage, courtesy of the federal government. ''I never fully understood what the f--- was going on,'' he recalled. ''Suddenly, it looks like I think I'm f---ing Elvis Presley, because everywhere I go there are all these FBI guys around.'' Federal agents accompanied him to the Globes (where he lost the Best Dramatic Actor award to Cast Away's Tom Hanks, only to win the Oscar a couple months later for Gladiator), the Proof of Life premiere in London, and on the sets of A Beautiful Mind and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Crowe also hired his own security detail.

Why was Crowe a target? ''I don't think that I was the only person [targeted],'' said the Australian actor. ''But it was about — and here's another little touch of irony — it was about taking iconographic Americans out of the picture as a sort of cultural-destabilization plan.'' Or maybe they just didn't like Proof of Life very much.

What a bizarre plan! I wonder who the other celebrities were, and why the terrorist masterminds thought it would achieve anything. I'm imagining them talking about how we Americans are so dominated by Hollywood stars that we would collapse into disarray if several of them were kidnapped. I guess they would send out videotapes of the stars threatened with on-camera slaughter. Why Crowe? He is one actor who embodies strength and masculinity, so presumably making him beg for his life and cry on camera would break down our system of beliefs.

"Hot fore-edge action."

There are times when I am in awe of Metafilter.

Deciding which demonstration to believe.

Those of us who were heartened by the recent anti-Syria demonstrations in Lebanon have to think of some response to yesterday's huge pro-Syria demonstration. Here's Bill Clinton's attempt:
Mr. Clinton was ... ebullient, noting that the Iraqi elections "went better than anyone could have imagined." In Lebanon, he said, "the Syrians are going to have to get out of there and give the Lebanese their country back, and I think the fact that the Lebanese are in the street demanding it is wonderful."

Asked about huge demonstrations on Tuesday, sponsored by Hezbollah, that demanded just the opposite, Mr. Clinton said: "I find it inconceivable that most Lebanese wouldn't like it if they had their country back. You know, they want their country back and they ought to get it."

So Clinton simply switched to analyzing what people should or probably do tend to want, and the demonstration element fell out of the equation. Some people are observing that the anti-Syria demonstrators are better looking. But isn't the difference in appearance a difference in social class?
While the anti-Syrian opposition movement has been called the Cedar Revolution, a reference to the Lebanese national tree, it has also been called the BMW revolution. The [pro-Syrian] demonstration included far more women with covered heads and many men in traditional dress.

I've also seen the term "Gucci revolution":
Some people here are jokingly calling the phenomenon "the Gucci revolution" - not because they are dismissive of the demonstrations, but because so many of those waving the Lebanese flag on the street are really very unlikely protestors.

There are girls in tight skirts and high heels, carrying expensive leather bags, as well as men in business suits or trendy tennis shoes....

[W]hat has been fascinating to observe is how Lebanon's middle and upper classes have been woken from their usual lethargy by the assassination of Hariri.

I'm sure there are plenty of other ways to marginalize yesterday's big protests, but you can't -- like Clinton -- just ignore them if you want to count the other demonstrations to mean something, and it's not enough to say the people aren't so pretty.

March 8, 2005

"American Idol" -- the "girls" again.

All right. Let's slog through the "girls'" performances, starting with the worst one:

Amanda Avila. She sings "River Deep, Mountain High" with cheesy wailing, but no genuine feeling. Oh, my ears hurt! But she's pretty, and she'll get credit for that. As Randy and Simon say: don't do Tina unless you can come close. You'll just look inadequate. And you did!

Janay Castine. I refuse to talk about her thoughts on the fact that she's a Libra. She's all off key. She looks great. Great image improvement -- maybe the best I've ever seen on the show. But she's singing just terribly! And she's got that look of terror on her face, which is to her credit: she knows she doesn't have it.

Carrie Underwood. She's way too into talking about her astrological sign. She's doing that hold-my-appendix Kelly Clarkson gesture. But she's abysmal. I can't recognize the song: "because you love me." Could a lyric be duller? Simon worries that she's "looking a bit old fashioned." They love her and expect her to make the final, but at the same time, they tell her she's a bore. Ryan's nice to her, and she acts natural for a second, and we kind of like her again.

Vonzell Solomon. Oh, how the women buy into the astrological crap! Why would you be all into the idea of being a fish? She sings "Respect," and she's dressed in cowboy clothes. She does one of the big "OH!"s really off. How sick I am of this song! She smiles sweetly at the compliments and that makes me like her and then hate myself. You've got to sing!

Nadia Turner. Should I care that she's my sign? Do I feel some affinity? Not based on astrology, but, yeah, I love her. She looks fabulous. She is the coolest looking person ever on the show, beginning with giant hair. They always straighten the curly hair on "American Idol," but I will rail and rail if they ever uncurl her hair. Nadia is the ultimate demonstration of the grandeur of curly hair. Oh! She's singing "Try a Little Tenderness"! She changes the words to "that same old funky dress." And she's herself wearing a funky dress, a short black thing with a pink tutu underskirt. Wow! She did Otis! She even has a distinctive way of smiling, biting into her lower lip. Nadia shines! So much more real than all the other "girls."

Lindsey Cardinale. "I could stay awake..." she begins -- as I feel like nodding off. No, no, no! She's wearing gaucho pants! This is just putrid! An outrage!! She does that knees apart, bobbing non-dance that is so common ... and ugly. Randy thinks it's "all right" -- but it's not! Paula bullshits. Simon insults her by simultaneously insulting Ryan. Stupid! She in no way got the trashing she deserved. Clearly, the worst of the night.

Mikalah Gordon. Dressed all in black, she eases into "Somewhere." It's weirdly nasal and off. Really off. She seems to be out of her mind, butchering this beautiful song. Possibly the worst performance ever on the show. They need to tell her! Randy: "You're a risk taker." Paula: "You like Barbra Streisand, don't you?" Simon (please, Simon, tell the truth): "The first part of the song was hideous... it's like you've gone into an aging machine ... you're losing what we like ... she's seventeen years old!"

Jessica Sierra. She sings some bluesy, rocky song I don't recognize. Randy thinks it's "hot." Paula: "Awesome." Simon makes some connection between her outfit (denim and velvet) and the song title, but I have no idea what song she sang, so his witticism flies over my head.

Clearly, Nadia was the best. But we've got to kick out two. Janay was awful and deserves to go, but the one I most want to eliminate is Lindsey. That was unforgivable. Mikalah was awful, but still, she is something, and I could see keeping her around. And I've been up for squelching Amanda for ever so long. Just keep Jessica and, of course, Nadia, and it will be just fine.

UPDATE: A reader writes:
Simon's comment about Jessica Sierra's song choice -- "The Boys Are Back In Town" -- was a crude reference to her low-cut top. I think he was implying her, uh, chest was about to pop out.

One more thing: I liked Nadia too but she reminded me of Tim Curry performing the last musical number in "Rocky Horror Picture Show." This is neither a criticism nor a compliment.

"Boys" for "breasts"? I'll have to check out the old "Rocky Horror" DVD to see if I agree about Nadia. That's quite an association!


I love these painted and collaged Moleskine notebooks from Sketchbob, which I found throught the incredibly cool blog Drawn!, which I found where I find a lot of cool things -- Metafilter.

“Legalized neo-segregation"?

That's one student leader's description of the UW's tuition rises.
ASM Chair of Academic Affairs Ashok Kumar said the tuition raise was “legalized neo-segregation.”

“It seems the big-business lobbyists are getting their way with legislators,” Kumar said....

“We don’t have 12 million dollars [to lobby with] … we have ourselves,” Kumar said. “It’s sad, but that’s the reason we’re doing this hunger strike.”

Yes, hunger strike (for three days).

This just in!

King Tut died from a broken leg.

Anti-pornography feminists and the political right.

"What happened to the anti-porn feminists?" is the title of a piece at (via A&L Daily). One answer is that the political success of the anti-pornography movement depended on an alliance between very strong feminists and social conservatives, and that just didn't sit well with enough feminists, who found it easier to accept liberal notions of freedom of speech, especially after they heard about the Canadian anti-pornography law having its harshest impact on gay pornography.
[Catharine A.] Mackinnon bristles at the old charge that anti-porn feminists were, in effect, in bed with the political right. ''I actually know who I'm in bed with,'' she said in a recent interview. ''This was just something created by the pornographers to scare liberals off, which doesn't take much.''

But her language has been adopted by some on the right. Now, according to Janet LaRue of Concerned Women for America, ''It may be that we're not hearing as much from the traditional hardline feminist organizations, but when I write and speak on the topic of pornography, one of the aspects that I point out is that it certainly subjugates and degrades women and reduces us to the sum or our body parts.''

The single-sex bathroom issue again.

Yale lawprof Ian Ayres is feeling front page: "What the Constitution Says About Toilets." There isn't a word about the Constitution in Ayres's article, and not just because the claim that single-sex bathrooms are illegal sex discrimination is far-fetched. The Constitution has nothing to say about sex discrimination in private institutions (like Yale).

I wrote about single-sex bathrooms last week, and I am eager to preserve them. Like Ayres, however, I do think there isn't so much point to limiting single-user bathrooms to one sex or the other. But Ayres clearly wants to go further. Getting people to see single-sex single-user bathrooms as an intolerable discrimination is just the foot in the door, as this passage reveals:
This is the kind of sex discrimination that troubles only law professors and no one else; the kind that has no relevance or application outside ivy walls? Well, it matters to Riki Dennis, too. An article in last week's New York Times described how Ms. Dennis, a transgendered woman, was beaten for going into the wrong bathroom. Bathroom discrimination literally does hurt people. If the toilet Dennis entered had been gender neutral, there may not have been an attack. Single-sex toilets give bigots another excuse to hit people.
There's only someone there to beat you up when it's not a single-user bathroom. Of course, mixing with men in a non-single-user bathroom feels physically threatening to many women. If we are to base policy on anecdotes, what will you do with the anecdotes of women who are sexually harassed and raped in mixed bathrooms if sex segregation is outlawed? I can't imagine driving alone on the interstate and needing to stop at a rest area and having to use a mixed-sex bathroom! I would truly be afraid, and I think many women would be too. It would be time to buy stock in whatever company makes Depends Undergarments!

Ayres is the author of a forthcoming book "Straightforward: How to Mobilize Heterosexual Support for Gay Rights." I support gay rights, and I like the topic of the book. I get the message Ayres thinks sex discrimination, which many people already care about, can work as a wedge to get people to start caring (or caring more) about gay rights. But this move to take away sex-segregated bathrooms is totally failing to mobilize my support. (And, again, I'm already pro-gay rights!)

Liquor ads.

Did you know that the hoitily named Distilled Spirits Council of the United States has a "Code of Good Practice" barring liquor ads that "rely upon sexual prowess or sexual success as a selling point for the brand"? Don't most liquor ads do this, you might wonder. Yes, but some ads are so embarrassingly, so ridiculously sexual that the industry does get all self-regulatory.

March 7, 2005

Cat hunting season in Wisconsin.

There are 1.4 million feral cats in Wisconsin, and they kill, we think, 7.8 million birds a year:
Those numbers are why this April the Conservation Congress will be voting on a proposal to identify feral cats as an unprotected species in Wisconsin–basically meaning they could be hunted.
I really find it hard to picture people going out cat hunting!

UPDATE: More here.
Sheri Carr, senior humane officer at the Dane County Humane Society, said the group has not yet taken a position on the proposal, but wants cat owners to abide by their local ordinances and not let their animals roam.

Shoot a neighbor's cat? "I would hate to think that tame, owned cats who happen to slip out would be at risk of being deemed a wild, unprotected species," Carr said. "It's a delicate (ecological) balance out there, but does that mean people should be able to shoot their neighbor's cat? Probably not."

Mark Smith, the man who brought the proposal, said he is not a cat hater and has owned cats in the past.

"They don't belong in the environment. All I want is for people to be responsible for them," Smith said. "If I catch a cat in the yard in a live trap, I should be able to put that animal down."

Smith added, "There needs to be something to protect the average guy. Cruelty to animals is one thing. Dispatching them is another . . . What I'm trying to do here is make a distinction between a domestic cat and a feral cat. Domestic cats are under the ownership of an individual. If you open the door and kick your cat out at night, you've changed its status."

Karen Etter Hale, executive secretary of the Madison Audubon Society, said the society favors education as the best solution to bird predation by cats.

"I'm not sure redefining cats and having an open season on them is the best way to address the issue," she said. "The Madison Audubon Society believes all cats should be kept indoors. We might make an exception for working farm cats."

The DNR is concerned about the killing of small mammals and birds by pet and feral cats, said Bill Vander Zouwen, wildlife ecology section chief for game management.

"We urge owners to prevent their cats from roaming. That's always been our approach, rather than ask for authority to let hunters shoot cats," he said.

O'Donnell of the Wisconsin Cat Action Team said Smith's proposal "is a callous response to cats."

"There's more humane solutions," he said. "We as citizens should step up and solve the problem humanely."

Though I don't think this proposal will be passed, I do think that the proposal can have a positive, educational effect. An awful lot of people let their cats roam, and don't seem to get the ecology angle -- and that's true here in Madison, where people think so highly of their sensitivity to environmental matters.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This made me laugh.

YET MORE: Alicublog sees into my dark, dark soul.

"American Idol" -- it's "guys" night again.

For some idiotic reason, they are calling attention to the astrological signs of the contestants tonight. Arrrgghhh! How I hate astrology!

Scott Savol
is Taurus -- the bull. But does this have anything to do with singing "Can't Help Myself"? Maybe impulsiveness is a Taurus trait. But why should I care? I care that I'm being forced to listen to this old song that sounded clunkily old fashioned back when it came out. Savol's enunciation is so good that I understand a line that has evaded me for over thirty years: "I'm tied to your apron strings." Randy: "You did it." Paula: "You threw in the choreography." Simon: "The choreography ... was horrendous."

Bo Bice is a Scorpio -- threatening to sting us, he says. He sings this incoherent song. "Instead of the gallows of heartache that hang from above/I'll be your cryin' shoulder/I'll be love suicide" -- what on earth is that supposed to mean? Randy: "You've got that gruff... that growl, dude." Paula: "Slam dunk." Simon: "I think it's your competition to lose." Note that last week, Simon said he thought he knew who would win, and I said I thought the person he'd identified was Bo. Simon's comments tonight add weight to that theory.

Anthoy Federov moved to the U.S. from the Ukraine when he was nine -- supposedly that has something to do with the fact that he's a Taurus. He sings this putrid song. Why is that even a song? Randy and Paula love him. And Simon -- I'm glad! -- disagrees: "You're sweet ... but you have as much Latin flair as a polar bear." But he's bathing him in comparisons to Clay, so I assume this criticism is lighting a fire under all the young girls.

Nikko Smith is another damned Taurus. I guess being Taurus helps in this competition. He sings a real song: "Georgia on My Mind." So this makes me want to love him. But he's a little shaky. I think he's in trouble. Wait, now! He's warming up and becoming thrilling! I'm for Nikko! Beautiful! Randy: "Wow... very ambitious ... you ended it so good. ... Brilliant, man." Paula: "Wonderful." Simon: "Everyone will remember that one, last note." Hmmm.... I may vote for the first time this week! Weirdly, he says he sang the song not because of the success of "Ray" at the Oscars, but because "I feel the same way about St. Louis." So, presumably, it's a song you sing about a place, and you sing "Georgia," but you think whatever place you love. What a sweetheart!

Travis Tucker, singing as an Aries, looking all newsboy in suspenders and a cap. He sings this godawful song. Randy tells him he was totally out of tune. "Pitch-wise, it wasn't on, dude." Paula: "You're different and unique." Simon: "That, I thought, was appalling." I think Travis is going. I thought he was going last week. He says, "America, help me out," and flashes a winning smile. Maybe that will work. But it shouldn't.

Mario Vazquez is a Gemini, so he's supposedly going to bring some duality. He goes hatless for the first time, and we get to see that he is not bald, but has a headful of curly hair. He sings "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart," which is a real song. He sings it in a way that makes it less song-y, but I still kind of love him. He ends really prettily. Randy: "I like you, man." Paula: "I've got goose bumps, goose bumps." Simon notes that he's going hatless and being a bit smarmily please-the-parents-y: "I prefer the other side of you, to be honest."

Constantine Maroulis is a Virgo, meaninglessly, and he sings "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" -- a great song, but he's a little thin. But he pours in the personality, and I think he'll make it. Randy thinks it's a good song, but he's not that good, yet he's got personality. Paula: "Charisma!" Simon: "A bad impersonation of Sting." True!!! Constantine smiles as Ryan Seacrest announces the numbers. He knows he can coast a good ways on his charm. But in all fairness, he (and Travis) ought to go down this week.

Anwar Robinson -- another Taurus -- he sings "Wonderful World." He hits a lot of sweet, clear, high notes. We love him! Standing O! Randy: "I gotta give it up for you... best vocal I've heard this season." Paula emits a classic Paula-ism: "Your voice is truly your instrument." Simon: "You're everything a music teacher should be. You're so nice." Anwar is officially the embodiment of niceness now. That could hurt! Simon tried to sandbag him there.

I still haven't voted this season, but if I were going to vote, I'd vote for Nikko. I think Travis ought to go. For the other loser, I might pick Constantine, because he's the smarmiest. Or maybe Scott, because he's just so charm-impaired. I still like Mario and Bo, my early picks. I don't care one way or the other about Anthony. And it would be wrong to eliminate the uplifting music teacher guy, Anwar. We'll see!

"It is kind of strange, being, like, a famous guy...."

"... This is part of me that's trying to be unfamous, I guess. But it's also: go against the rules attitude. You know, is this a big pose? Yes! It's a pose."

That's a quote from James Hetfield, the Metallica frontman, from the movie "Some Kind of Monster." Ah! The travails of a heavy metal band! But I enjoyed this documentary about the group, the aging guys, so successful, but bumping up against the limitations of a band built on youthful aggression and negativity. They struggle to find a way to keep the aggression and the passion but to lose the negativity. It's a perplexing artistic problem, and they don't have deep personal resources to tap. They have a hired psychiatrist, a thinned out, pointless man who tells them -- mind-numbingly -- to "treasure" each other and treasure their moments together. What a strange human collision!

Note: The directors of this movie made "Brother's Keeper" and the "Paradise Lost" movies. These documentaries are even better than "Some Kind of Monster."


I'll be traveling to Oregon this week to participate in this conference about federalism. I hope to bring you some good blogging -- from Portland (where the hotel is) and from Salem (where the law school, Willamette, is). Much as I love the nothern tier of states and the Pacific coast, I've never been to Oregon, and I won't be there very long, but I'm looking forward to getting my first glimpse of the beautiful state and hope to return soon, perhaps in the big summer road trip I'm cooking up.

The President's movies.

Elisabeth Bumiller writes about President Bush's movie watching habits and reveals that, after he saw "Hotel Rwanda," he invited Paul Rusesabagina -- the person played by Don Cheadle in the movie -- to the White House:
"Don Cheadle is an actor," Mr. Rusesabagina said in a telephone interview on Friday from his home in Brussels, where he now lives. "He is a messenger." The president, he said, "wanted to know who was the person behind the story, the real life behind Hotel Rwanda."

Mr. Rusesabagina said that Mr. Bush was well briefed. "He was informed about everything," he said. "He knew everything that happened in Hotel Collines. He was asking me why did I decide to do that? And then at the end, he said I had done what any human being should have done."

The president and Mr. Rusesabagina also talked about the mass killings in the Darfur region of Sudan, which the United States has labeled genocide. Mr. Rusesabagina reported that "he's interested in what is going on in Sudan, he's following that closely, and he's committed to finding a solution."

Beyond that, Mr. Rusesabagina said the president gave no indication of what he might do. "Sometimes when you talk with a president," Mr. Rusesabagina said, "you have to know that some questions will not be answered."
Also interesting: Bush does not watch that many movies, but the ones he does choose are pretty serious. He's only seen three films this year: "Hotel Rwanda," "The Aviator," and "Paper Clips." "Paper Clips" is a documentary about schoolkids who collect six million paper clips to be able to visualize the deaths in the Holocaust.

What's the short answer?

Yesterday, I complained about Senator McConnell's complete nonanswer to a question I wanted to hear the answer to: How do personal accounts deal with the Social Security solvency problem? I analyzed McConnell's nonanswer as: They don't!

Note: I like short answers. Some things require long, complicated answers. But when I hear a long, unclear answer, I suspect bad motives. I think: You don't know what you're talking about! You're trying to hide something from me! You think I'm dumb enough or apathetic enough to give up trying to understand and will let you and your friends make whatever decisions you like! Long answers are disrespectful. Long answers are anti-democratic.

My post about Senator McConnell brought in some email, by no one attempted to answer the question simply and directly. One emailer pointed me to this website, which is obviously not designed to reach out to anyone who isn't already ideologically wedded to the President's position. It begins with a rant about the "lies" told by "the Left." I'm not going to wade through that, and I don't trust an explanation from anyone who begins like that. Anyway, it looks like the same old obfuscation that really only says it's better to have the money in personal accounts than held by the government.

I'm not on the left or the right, and I'm not committed to the success of either party on this issue. I have no ideological commitment about which policy approach is better. I don't get all jazzed up about Ownership or Preserving the Legacy of Franklin Roosevelt.

Talk to me clearly in sane, rational, pragmatic terms. If you're saying we ought to change things now because of a big financial problem, you need to present your plan as a way to save or put more money into the program. And if you can't put that in a couple straightforward sentences, I will not trust you.

March 6, 2005

Intimations of spring.

Winter isn't over yet, here in Madison, but we had a day of respite today, with the temperature going up to 57 degrees and the sun shining. Snow was melting like crazy, sending rivulets across the sidewalks.

The clean top layers of snow were dissolving, revealing the filthy underlayers.

A swing was looking for a child.

A tree stretched out around telephone wires, reaching, like all of us, for spring.

My destination: Starbucks. It's wildly strewn with Sunday newspaper.

I read four admissions files and a law review article, drank that grande latte, and, hopping over rivulets and puddles, made my way back home.

"But how does that help the solvency problem?"

On "Meet the Press" today, Tim Russert asked Senate Republican whip Mitch McConnell exactly the question that I have about the President's Social Security plan. That is, he asks and re-asks. You read the transcript and tell me if McConnell ever answers:
MR. RUSSERT: What does private personal accounts do to fix the solvency problem? I don't understand that.

SEN. McCONNELL: What personal accounts are is an extraordinarily good investment. Let's take a 25-year-old, for example. Invests $1,000 in regular Social Security, gets a 2 percent return over 40 years, he gets $61,000. That same young person investing that same $1,000 in a personal retirement account, looking at the average return on investment of the stock market, would get $100,000 more. Why don't we at least discuss that in the context of the overall effort to save Social Security for our children and our grandchildren?

MR. RUSSERT: But how does that help the solvency problem?

SEN. McCONNELL: But why not discuss it? If it is a better deal for younger workers, why rule out adding that to the overall discussion of how we not only save Social Security but make it better for the next generation.

MR. RUSSERT: But when the president says Social Security is going to go bankrupt and we have a problem with solvency and the solution is private accounts, people don't understand that connection. Private accounts don't seem to deal with the solvency problem alone. And the White House acknowledges that.

SEN. McCONNELL: What we want to do is make Social Security better for the next generation, in addition to saving it. At the risk of being redundant, it seems to me that the smart thing to do is to discuss all aspects of this. Every good idea ought to come to the table. We're certainly open to any suggestions the Democrats have in any part of this discussion.

All McConnell can say is: as long as we are going to do something about the solvency problem, why don't we do something else about Social Security that is also a good idea? Why should we not read that as a concession that personal accounts don't help with the solvency problem?

"The Manolo he does not wish to go all Foucault on you."

Or maybe he does! Manolo steps outside of his (shoe) box.

What will become of all the young people who graduate with film studies degrees?

Here's a piece in the NYT called "Is a Cinema Studies Degree the New M.B.A.?"
"You sort of have this illusion coming out of film school that you'll work into this small circle of creatives, but you're actually more pigeonholed as a technician," said [Aaron Bell, who graduated as a film major from the University of Wisconsin in 1988].

For some next-generation students, however, the shot at a Hollywood job is no longer the goal. They'd rather make cinematic technique - newly democratized by digital equipment that reduces the cost of a picture to a few thousand dollars and renders the very word "film" an anachronism - the bedrock of careers as far afield as law and the military.

We are at a cusp now, aren't we? All these smart, interesting, creative people have flocked to film programs, in love with the films of the past, thinking they need to find a place in the film industry, which is ugly and uninspiring, and here is all the new digital equipment, and an entire world ready to receive communication in the visual form about which they have the expertise. What will these people do?

A stickler for the rules.

Here's a NYT piece about what a stickler for rules the man accused as the BTK killer was.
[Dennis L.] Rader and his wife of 34 years went to church each Sunday. Sometimes when he left an after-work bar outing to hurry home, his colleagues would privately breathe a sigh of relief; with him gone, they could drink up and tell off-color jokes. As far back as the eighth grade, Mr. Rader was picked for the prestigious school patrol, who carried big red Stop signs and told classmates and drivers when to go and when not to.... [E]xperts on serial killings say that the portrait of Mr. Rader takes that notion of stability, authority and prominence in the community to a level rarely seen.

Details about Rader's public persona in Wichita before his arrest:
In May 1991, Mr. Rader was hired as a Park City compliance officer, a period one resident of this suburb just north of Wichita calls the start of the "reign of terror" for homeowners here. Mr. Rader's critics here say he seemed to sit in his truck, just waiting for something to go wrong with their houses. He took numerous photos of their homes, they said, in search of something awry....

Rhonda Reno said she watched one day as Mr. Rader wandered on the lawn of a neighbor who was ill and unable to mow the grass. Walking the grass with a yardstick, she said, he measured for infractions.

Does this mean we should wonder about people who are overly meticulous about rules? Or does it just mean that someone really good at rules would be able to evade discovery for a long time and thus have the opportunity to carry out a series of murders?

Making a gag out of a gag order.

Jay Leno finds a way around the gag order against his making gags about the Michael Jackson trial (where Leno is on the list of possible witnesses).

Podcasting in Iran.

The BBC reports:
Hossein Derakhshan admits that Iranian podcasts might not prove as influential as blogs in the short term.

But in the longer term, as podcasts become technically easier to produce and more people are able to listen to them, he says that may change. Toward that end, he says he's going to actively podcast in the lead-up to the Iranian elections this spring.

Derakhshan plans to interview Iranian scholars and journalists, both inside and outside the country, whose voices Derakhshan feels aren't heard enough.

"Anyone who takes podcasting seriously could have a very big effect, even on the elections," says Derakhshan.

"Maybe even some of the mainstream Iranian media will pick up the podcasts, and distribute them in a much broader way, to an even larger audience."