April 9, 2005

A moot court day.

I agreed to serve as one of the judges in the 2005 Evans Moot Court Competition, so I drove downtown. Here's some graffiti I happened to see:

It seems like the graffiti version of this blog.

I stopped at L'Etoile Café for some coffee and a sandwich and to read the bench memo in preparation:

Here's the coffee and the memo:

Here's the sandwich:

That's "Fountain Prairie Farm Dried Cured Beef," I'll have you know. I know that will help you think about what kind of life I live here in Madison.

I needed to walk across the state Capitol Square to get to the Dane County Courthouse, and I stopped to take a picture of myself and the Capitol in a mirrored window:

The square looked pretty:

The flag was at half-staff -- not for Saul Bellow, for the Pope:

The judges congregated in a shabby jury room. I don't need these refreshments:

I looked around the jury room and thought about all the boring hours good citizens doing their duty have had to spend here. There was some reading material for them: big piles of depressingly old magazines.

There were also two books in the room: a collection of Erma Bombeck's humor columns and "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man."

There were a lot of very old jigsaw puzzles, including this one, half put together:

I speculate about whether the lawyers would like to know how prospective jurors put together their jigsaw puzzles and decide that the prosecution should want the kind of people who look for the edge pieces and get the frame completed first. Another "judge" asks what other way is there, and other ways are discussed: concentrating on color areas, finding a particular object in the picture, looking at the shapes of the pieces. But the shapes are nearly identical! My grandson looks for the shapes, someone says. Use a peremptory challenge on that one, I think.

The picture on the puzzle is a Norman Rockwell cover for The Saturday Evening Post from 1961:

That issue had an article on what Oklahoma wants from TV. I wonder what it said. I wonder if Oklahoma ever got what it wanted. Perhaps they wanted "The Dick Van Dyke Show," which debuted in 1961.

We went over to courtroom 2F, which was awfully shabby. [ADDED: A new Dane County Courthouse is under construction.]

Among the framed portraits on the wall were two garishly blown-up photographs of female judges:

I think about all the people who must have been depressed and scared and bored out of their skulls in this room. But soon enough, the arguments begin, and the room is ignored. The law students from various schools -- they aren't allowed to say which school -- launch into their arguments and we pepper them with questions and let them show their stuff. They're all great students who've prepared very hard and advanced in the competition.

They've had to learn a lot about the Establishment Clause and the Free Speech Clause of the Constitution, and we debate a lot about a school district's policy barring teachers from teaching "intelligent design" (or anything like it) when they teach evolution.

Tomorrow, the finalists will get to make their arguments in the beautiful room in the Capitol Building that houses the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Until then, I hope all the wonderful law students enjoy their visit to Madison. It's a lovely day, and it's always fun to be here on a Saturday night.

Where did The Anchoress go?

Here. Change your bookmarks and blogrolls!

Playing judge.

Speaking of judges, I've got to go play judge in a moot court competition today. I think I'll leave the computer behind, take the bench memo, and hole up in a nice café near the court house and get myself into the appropriate frame of mind. The problem is about teaching "intelligent design" theory along with evolution in schools. I'll blog about this later.

More railing about judges.

Here's Dana Milbank's article in the Washington Post on the "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" conference. The quotes from Edwin Vieira -- author of "How to Dethrone the Imperial Judiciary" -- are way over-the-top. How stupid do you have to be to adopt Stalin's "no man, no problem" when expressing opposition to a Supreme Court Justice?

Phyllis Schafly was also there:
Schlafly called for passage of a quartet of bills in Congress that would remove courts' power to review religious displays, the Pledge of Allegiance, same-sex marriage and the Boy Scouts. Her speech brought a subtle change in the argument against the courts from emphasizing "activist" judges -- it was, after all, inaction by federal judges that doomed Schiavo -- to "supremacist" judges. "The Constitution is not what the Supreme Court says it is," Schlafly asserted.
I hope the cooler minds among the Republicans in Congress see the need to distance themselves from these sorts of attacks.

UPDATE: The Moderate Guy collects a lot of reactions to that use of the Stalin quote.

The homeless nerd and the Starbucks with a heart.

Sweet, sad, funny. I'm waiting for the movie.


Did you notice that I turned on the comments function yesterday?

Listening to "like-minded" foreigners.

Here's a letter to the editor published in the NYT today, responding to an article titled "Justice Ginsburg Backs Value of Foreign Law." The letter writer (Kate Gluckman of Cambridge, Massachusetts), not only approves of the courts' citing foreign law in constitutional interpretation, but asserts that the Ginsburg "mirrors" the intent of the Framers. The letter writer claims that resisting citing federal law, as Justice Scalia advises, "only enhances the notion of the Bush administration that as an isolationist nation, we can continue to alienate our allies and undermine the authority of international institutions."
Perhaps by listening to the opinions of the "like-minded foreigners" that Justice Scalia views as a threat, we can avoid future foreign policy that has been executed on motives that now prove wrong, as the government's most authoritative analysis of the Iraqi threat was deemed to be.
A court interpreting the Constitution ought to take into account the extraneous concern about improving foreign affairs? Or is the letter writer just saying that politicians ought to take international opinion more seriously? Because that's not what Justice Scalia has been talking about. He's focused on deciding court cases. There really is a difference between court cases and government policy -- and I don't think Justice Ginsburg would say otherwise. Not everything is about Iraq.

And about that phrase "listening to the opinions of the 'like-minded foreigners'" -- it really is a conundrum! First, you decide who thinks like you, then, you listen to them. How is that done? Don't you need to listen to them to know if they think like you? If so, all you're doing is restating, in an obfuscatory way, what you already think. That has been one of Justice Scalia's basic points.

Camilla and Charles.

I see from my referral records that someone just visited here after Googling "camilla parker bowles 'horse face.'" Look, this post of mine comes up fourth for that search. I guess that means Camilla's face is not made fun of as much as I'd thought.

Turning on the TV yesterday morning meant sudden immersion in a funeral. Today, it plunges us into a wedding.

Poor Charles, spending a lifetime dedicated to one woman, yet doomed to look for that whole life like the biggest cheater in the world. The Prince of Paradox. So, a shred of pity for the man. Now, get off my TV.

I did enjoy all the ladies' hats. There was something cool to photograph, and the cable news channels homed in on it nicely.

April 8, 2005

"This is sheer lunacy!"

Nina brings us the reaction, from a Polish chatroom, to an appeal to Poles to turn out the lights for five minutes to honor the Pope. Hilarious!

Shimmering shining shriek/scream.

I watched the last part of "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" which was playing on cable last night. I noticed this exchange, between Gilbert (Johnny Depp) and his morbidly obese mother:
Momma: You're my knight in shimmering armor. Did you know that?

Gilbert: I think you mean shining.

Momma: No shimmering. You shimmer, and you glow.

Later, I watched the DVD of "After Hours" (a longtime favorite movie of mine). This exchange -- always good -- resonated poignantly with the "Gilbert Grape" quote:
Paul [looking at Kiki's papier maché sculpture]: It reminds me of that Edvard Munch painting. What is it? "The Shriek"?

Kiki: "The Scream."
Googling for a picture for "The Scream," to illustrate this post about how things go together, I hit a Reuters story from one hour ago, saying they've just today arrested a man for the theft of "The Scream." (The painting was stolen last August.) I love that feeling of things seeming to converge. I know it's only an illusion.

I also love the way in which the two movie quotes are dissimilar. The "After Hours" quote has the central character getting something a little wrong, and the character who does the correcting flatly and contemptuously sets him right. The mistake is part of a pattern of everything going wrong, part of being swallowed up in humiliation. The "Gilbert Grape" quote has the central figure in the family, the mother, getting an expression a little wrong, and when her son gently corrects her, she reaffirms her version and turns it into a renewed expression of love for the boy. The mistake becomes a new creation, something beautiful.

Spring! Friday! Madison!

A campus classic: the outdoor seminar:

April Friday.

I really don't know how they can concentrate or even hear, but they look quite lovely:

April Friday.

Lots of yummy hot dishes, sushi, smoothies, and fresh-squeezed juice at the food carts:

April Friday.

And the traditional Madison fruit stand is still here, right outside the University Bookstore, where you remember it:

April Friday.

There's lots of sun, so don't forget to expose lots of skin -- scalp included. Keep a patch of hair on top and dye it green. It will look like you're wearing a turf hat!

April Friday.

"The idea of having a big celebration of something that's so tiny — we're playing with the obvious absurdity of it."

It's really tiny and it's really old. 4.4 billion years old. Here, on display, in Madison: a bit of zircon!

Wonkette wept.

Jim Lindgren tells the tale.

Your café doesn't have WiFi?

Neither did photoblogger Rick Lee's café, so he just installed it for them. More café pictures too, including one that shows his laptop screen visibly displaying Instapundit.

Eat cheese or die!

I mean: Eat stravechhio or don't watch "Star Trek."

"Incoherent text."

Great story (via Instapundit):
The French government has destroyed 162,000 copies of the EU constitution because the phrase "incoherent text" was printed on a page by mistake.
Reminds me of the great old "More Mush From the Wimp" -- which is fun to think about with Jimmy Carter back in the news. An editor's too-true comment makes the final edition.


I love the idea.
What the dickens would Charles Dickens have made of plans to build a $116.6 million theme park, Dickens World, around his life and works? The South East Development Agency, a body responsible for planning in the Chatham area, 35 miles from London in southeast England, has announced that construction will start in two months as part of a regeneration project in the town's former dockyard section. Dickens (1812-70) lived in Chatham from ages 5 to 12. Scheduled for completion in April 2007, the roofed attraction devoted to the author of "David Copperfield," "Oliver Twist" and other classics will include an Ebeneezer Scrooge ride, cobbled streets with a replica of the Old Curiosity Shop and themed restaurants, a marketing spokesman said. A re-creation of a Victorian theater will present evening dinner shows with "naughty delights" in the "free and easy" style of Victorian music hall, according to the development agency. Thelma Grove, joint secretary of the International Dickens Fellowship, who is advising on the project, said: "I think it's a marvelous thing. It's an entertainment but also instructional and educational and will put Dickens across to a new audience." Kevin Christie, chief executive of the project, said, "We have great expectations."
Let's have more author-based theme parks! Why is England getting the jump on us with this idea? Surely, we could do one about Mark Twain. Or maybe -- to do things bigger and better, the Amercian Way -- we could do one representing several authors, the way Disneyworld has Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Adventureland, etc. You could have Authorworld with Twainland, Whitmanland, Beatpoetland...

Ted Turner can't think of the name Jayson Blair.

In this gripping dialogue with the NYT's "boldface" columnist:
Mr. Turner, who said he had broken his arm skiing, wore his arm in a sling.

"New York Times?" he asked when we introduced ourselves. "Radio?"

Uh, newspaper.

"How do I know you're with The New York Times?

Well, we have this I.D., and -

"You don't look like The New York Times. You don't write phony stories like that guy with The New York Times. What was his name?"

Come on, we said.

"Go ahead. What's up? I like The New York Times."

Why Does He Keep Repeating the Paper's Name?

No idea.
I like the hyper-accuracy of reporting that he says he broke his arm in a skiing accident. Maybe he's just wearing the sling for fun... or to attract women... for nooners.

The return of a reasonable tone?

The NYT reports comments by Tom DeLay at a conference with the inflammatory title "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith":
Mr. DeLay faulted courts for what he said was their invention of rights to abortion and prohibitions on school prayer, saying courts had ignored the intent of Congress and improperly cited international standards and precedents. "These are not examples of a mature society," he said, "but of a judiciary run amok."

"The failure is to a great degree Congress's," Mr. DeLay said. "The response of the legislative branch has mostly been to complain. There is another way, ladies and gentlemen, and that is to reassert our constitutional authority over the courts."
Despite some overheated calls for drastic steps against the judiciary -- one congressional staffer said "mass impeachments" might be needed -- DeLay seems to have reined himself in after the recent criticism:
"As passionately as we all feel, especially about issues of life and death, the fact is that constitutional rule of law is a matter for serious and rational discussion," he said. "People on all sides of this debate need to approach the issue for what it is: a legitimate debate by people of good will trying to clarify the proper constitutional role of courts."
And here's a second article in today's Times about Congress and the judiciary, this one about how partisan strategies about judicial confirmation will play out in the Senate:
With Republicans threatening to exercise the so-called "nuclear option" by changing Senate rules to prevent judicial filibusters, the Senate Democratic leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, warned Thursday that if Republicans were successful, it would lead to a slippery slope of other rule changes.

"What they're saying," Mr. Reid said, referring to Republicans, "is that this so-called nuclear option is for judges only momentarily. Next it will be for Bolton, next it will be for Crawford, next it will be for Johnson."

With most of the Senate's leadership in Rome for the funeral of Pope John Paul II, it was difficult to tell how these fights would play out. Republicans are keeping a wary eye on the Democrats' maneuvers. One senior Republican aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Republicans were withholding judgment as they waited to see if the Democrats' objections would drag out the confirmations indefinitely or could be "resolved reasonably."
Is it too much to hope that things are cooling off, that, post-Schiavo, a reasonable tone will come back into fashion?

Judge Posner on blog comments.

Here's an article in the Chicago Tribune about the Becker-Posner Blog. (Via Memeorandum.) Judge Posner has a lot to say about blogging -- as you would expect -- and he's especially big on comments:
I think this is very important, with Business Week or any other magazine, of course, you get letters to the editor. But with the blog, what would be a letter to the editor is a comment that a reader of the blog can just post. It's much easier than writing a letter, it doesn't have to be formal, you don't need a stamp or anything. It's really simple.

Then it's very easy for us to read the comments. And we can respond to them. Again, we don't have space or time limitations, we can respond whenever we have a set of interesting comments, then the commenters, they can go back and forth with each other, so the blog stimulates a kind of interchange that isn't really feasible in the print medium....

What's good about it is that through the comments and through other blogs, as we know from the CBS fiasco, there's extremely rapid communication and correction. So the blogger doesn't have his fact-checking staff, but if you make a mistake, within minutes a bunch of people have descended on you....

What have you thought of what people have posted to the comment areas of the blog?

They have a high-average quality -- I found it also when I did Lessig's blog. The comments are really interesting, they add a lot to it.

It makes for a more participatory relationship. If you read a newspaper, it's a passive experience. You don't have much of a sense of being part of the enterprise. [On a blog] you have regular commenters; they clearly feel they are contributing to this enterprise. I worry a little about people spending too much time sitting in front of the computer doing this stuff.

I had the comments on for a while about a year ago, and I turned them off because I found myself doing so much writing over on the comments pages and because a few people were being abusive. I wanted to concentrate my writing on the front page. These days, I spend a lot of time reading and responding to email, which is really a displaced comments page and an even less "front page" kind of writing for me. I'm impressed by Judge Posner's very pro-comment attitude. So in honor of Judge Posner, I'm turning my comments back on.

Let's see how it goes. I hope some of my regular emailers will switch to comments. I'm going to resist responding too much on the comments pages and maybe save up my response and put it on the front page in an update, which I think will be more efficient (and certainly more public) than responding to email (which I've been doing a lot of). I expect commenters to keep a civil tone, and I think most will, because the email I get is extremely thoughtful, well-written, and not abusive. I'll just delete abusive comments without making a fuss about it. So go ahead and comment.

April 7, 2005

The GOP and the judiciary.

The Washington Post has an article about the struggles within the Republican Party about the judiciary, including this passage:
DeLay and his allies, however, remain infuriated that the Atlanta-based Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit refused Congress's orders to take control of Schiavo's case from Florida courts. Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr., who was appointed to the appellate court by President George H.W. Bush, criticized Congress's actions as being "at odds" with the Constitution.

The implication is that the courts didn't take Congress's "orders" because those orders were unconstitutional. I've already written about this a number of times, but the problem wasn't that the law was unconstitutional. Judge Birch's opinion was weak and quite wrong. On the Fedcourts lawprof email list (which I've run for the last ten years), I asked, when the case came out, if any listmembers agreed with Birch's opinion, which I said I thought was clearly wrong. No one did. Someone did challenge me to say why I thought he was wrong, and I wrote:
Birch says a lot of generic boilerplate about how separation of powers is important and the judiciary is independent. This material is belabored and incredibly padded. Then many admittedly prudential doctrines are cited, and the assertion is made that Congress can't eliminate them. But Congress can eliminate prudential doctrines. The assertion is made that the statute dictates the rule of decision, as in Klein, but the statute plainly only tells the courts to apply federal law and doesn't even purport to create the substantive law. And it certainly doesn't try to tell the courts to say that the Constitution means something other than what the courts interpret it to mean. Birch calls the statute unconstitutional. Does anyone on the list think that it is? If so, is it because you think Birch got it right or do you have some other reason?
No one refuted the points I made about Birch's reasoning.

So, I'll say it again: the problem wasn't the unconstitutionality of the statute, but the text of the statute, which I believe was carefully written by drafters who knew where the constitutional pitfalls were. Consequently, they did not produce a text that "ordered" the federal courts to do anywhere near as much as the grandstanders in Congress tried to make us think they did. I'm only writing about this again because the WaPo is perpetuating a misconception.

The rest of the article is quite good, though, so read it. An excerpt:
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a Judiciary Committee member and DeLay ally, said in an interview [about the federal judges in the Schiavo case]: "That kind of judge needs to be worried about what kind of role Congress will play in his future." King said it is not clear what steps his committee might take, but he said most people do not realize the power Congress can exert over courts if it chooses.

"We have the constitutional authority to eliminate any and all inferior courts," he said, referring to district and circuit courts. King said some federal judges refuse to answer questions from Congress unless they are being impeached, so "that may force our hand."
It's true Congress can impeach federal judges and has power over their jurisdiction. The Schiavo case itself shows how foolishly they can use the power they admittedly have. Those who are entrusted with power ought to inspire some confidence that they will be responsible with it. Right now people like King and DeLay are doing the opposite.

A double dose of Hitchens.

The new issue of The Atlantic has two pieces by Christopher Hitchens. One is an article titled "On Becoming American":
"Don't you take that tone with me, you German-Irish fascist windbag. I don't have to justify my presence to riffraff like you. Tell it to Father Coughlin and Charles Lindbergh—and meanwhile, don't stab our boys in Iraq in the back."
That's what he wished he'd said to Pat Buchanan, who irked him by asking "by what right [he], a foreign atheist, could presume to come over here and lecture Americans about their Christian heritage." He explains by what right.

The other is a review, titled "The Man Who Ended Slavery," of a book about John Brown. The conclusion:
John Brown shared his life with slaves, and re-wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution so as to try to repair the hideous wrong that had been done to them. (In issuing these documents, by the way, he exculpated himself from any ahistorical charge of "terrorism," which by definition offers nothing programmatic.) The record shows that admiration for Brown was intense, widespread, and continuous, from Douglass to DuBois and beyond. Our world might be a good deal worse than it is had not numberless African-Americans, from that day to this, taken John Brown as proof that fraternity and equality, as well as liberty, were feasible things and could be exemplified by real people.

Being "programmatic" avoids the charge of "terrorism"? Or is it just that being on the right side makes us want to forgive terrorism, after enough years have passed?

Is my house haunted?

Afternoon light.
Originally uploaded by Ann Althouse.
Look at the strange light effect. Do I need Ghostbusters? No, that's just the late afternoon light as filtered through the glass windows of an 80-year-old house. The glass isn't flat, it has character. It distorts the outside view too, in a way that's really quite charming.

UPDATE: Here's the whole "photoset" with larger images, a rare look inside the Althouse home. The little framed photograph visible in some of the pictures is an Ann Arbor News photograph (with an editor's pencil marks about cropping) of my maternal grandfather (who was an editor at the Ann Arbor News during the Great Depression).

It's so annoying when you're gaming the system and they change the system without telling you.

The Wall Street Journal describes how U.S. News changed the way they calculated the LSAT factor in the Law School rankings and had a big effect on some schools who'd figured out a way to do well on the LSAT factor under the old approach. The old approach, which admissions people assumed still applied, used the median LSAT as reported by the law schools themselves. Suspecting some false reporting, they switched to a combination of the to 25th-percentile and 75th-percentile scores from the ABA and averaging those two numbers.
"We want to look good in U.S. News and World Report," says Greg Crespi, chair of admissions at Southern Methodist in Dallas. "But we have our own agenda of diversity and holistic assessment." With the old ranking method, "We were free to depart downwards as far as we chose in the interest of other objectives." He also complains about being surprised by the change; U.S. News often has informed schools of past changes, but didn't disclose this one until the magazine was printed. "We feel like we played a basketball game and they've gone back and taken away all our three-point shots retroactively," he says. Referring to admissions as a game may trouble some people. But those are the incentives the rankings create.

Mr. Crespi estimates that the change meant a difference of about 10 spots for Southern Methodist: He guesses that under the old method, SMU would have risen from 47th to about 41st, rather than falling into a tie for 52nd, and could have moved even higher. (Southern Methodist says its median LSAT was 163 this year; but U.S. News used a number of 160.) "We were hoping to make a national splash about climbing 10 places into the top 40," Mr. Crespi says. Now, he says the school must decide whether to trim diversity or risk remaining out of the top 50. John Attanasio, dean of Southern Methodist law school, says he expects the school will prioritize diversity over the rankings.
I like the way the admissions chair uses a basketball analogy that reveals the game-playing mindset, but the dean acts like they place their principles above gaming the system.

How to get people to look at an online ad: tiny animation.

I hate any kind of flashing ad on a website. (I wish my current Blogad would hold still.) But a new trick I've noticed on web ads that totally works on me is to have an apparently static ad more just a tiny bit. You sort of notice it and think: did that move? Then you look at it a while -- you actually gaze at it -- and then it moves again, giving you a nice little sense of confirmation. You don't feel antagonistic to the ad for making you look. You form an odd, subtle bond with the image. Often, it will be a face that just turns slightly. Or maybe I'm losing my mind! Are you seeing these ads too? I like them, because when you stare at them and they move again, you think: good, I'm not losing my mind. That did move. Unless it didn't, and I'm really....

UPDATE: Email:
Mostly, I'm inclined to agree with regarding the "nice little sense of confirmation", with one glaring exception: a website (I think it's "lowermybills.com") has been advertising mortgage refinancing on Foxnews.com's banner ads. Their ads feature hideously elongated animals (I've recently seen a deer, and a dachshund) with what I can only assume are tattoos of the abbreviated state names on their sides, so that you can click your particular state and get your *incredible* loan APR. These things look like they've been pulled through a taffy machine. As if that weren't disturbing enough, the designers decided that their ads would look more believable if they animated these things to look like they're breathing. So the misshapen bodies of these things bloat up and shrink down about once a second. It's so creepy, I pretty much can't take my eyes off it when they're on the screen, which (I suppose) is the whole purpose of the thing in the first place. But there's no sense of confirmation... just a wave of stomach-churning nausea at the horrible retro-webbiness of it all.

Advertisers seem to think getting your attention is enough, but clearly it isn't. You don't want people nauseated by the product. There should be great and beautiful advertisements. Some TV ads have become beautiful -- both the images and the music. I stop the TiVo fastforwarding and watch commercials sometimes.

Transubstantiating the evidence?

Criminal defense lawyer David Feige examines "child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome":
According to CSAAS experts, not reporting abuse is thus consistent with suffering from child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome. So is bad behavior, trouble in school, the failure to tell an accurate story, and even the recantation of the entire allegation of abuse. In other words, every criterion usually used by the defense to discredit a witness is actually transubstantiated into evidence that is perfectly consistent with abuse.

And here's the genius: Not exhibiting these signs of CSAAS doesn't mean a child wasn't abused—just that he or she didn't get the syndrome. In other words, a noncredible witness is suffering from the syndrome, but a credible one is merely a credible witness who was legitimately abused.

CSAAS is a prosecutorial silver bullet and a fabricator's best friend. Every mistake you make is consistent with it; every mistake you don't make further confirms your credibility. No wonder prosecutors rely on it to bolster disintegrating cases. By making credibility tautological, CSAAS makes it nearly impossible to present a defense or attack an incredible witness. To make matters worse, CSAAS testimony is deeply appealing to jurors because of its soothing reassurance that otherwise inexplicable or incredible behavior is merely a manifestation of the actual trauma they all expect to see in a victim.
The power of Feige's attack on this sort of expert testimony also demonstrates that the defense lawyer will have a lot of material to use in attacking the expert on cross-examination if he is allowed to testify. The main question in evidence is whether it will help the jury resolve an issue. If child witnesses have special problems that may cause jurors to misevaluate them, the expert may be able to provide legitimate assistance in getting at the truth. I don't know enough about the science to have an opinion about whether these particular syndrome experts mislead more than they help, but if you read Feige's well-written and persuasive article, keep in mind that he represents the defense, that expert testimony is subject to attack if it is let in, and that child molesters are choosing victims who will often not be able to tell a straight story.

Look what a funny collection of things...

Look what a funny collection of things comes up when I do a Google image search using my name. No pictures of me, but Osama Bin Laden comes up as the third image. And this is delightfully apt. And I don't mind being represented by this (and can only hope Manolo is reading).

UPDATE: An emailer notes that a Yahoo image search using my name actually does turn up a picture of me first. Does that mean Yahoo is better than Google? Yahoo did come up with a lot of other funny things for my name, including, on the first line, Karen Hughes. No Osama. Google turned up the "Psycho" silhouette of the knife-wielding murderer on the other side of the shower curtain. Yahoo has images of nicer things overall: a jellybean, a fawn, a Realtone transistor radio, Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Marx Brothers...

Saddam "upset."

He didn't like what was on television: Jalal Talabani, elected President of Iraq. Talabani had this to say:
"After being liberated from the most hideous of dictatorships our people - the Arabs, the Kurds, the Turkomans and the Assyrians - want to build a new Iraq free from dictatorship and tyranny, a democratic, unified Iraq."

Oh, so it wasn't a fake memo?

It's better that some idiot really did write that memo about what an effective political device the Schiavo family affair could be. I'd like to think, after Rathergate, the media have become more alert about fakery. That someone is fool enough to put the rawest political thoughts in writing is almost comforting. You certainly couldn't have imagined that no one in Congress thought those things that were in the memo.
Brian H. Darling, 39, a former lobbyist for the Alexander Strategy Group on gun rights and other issues, offered his resignation and it was immediately accepted, Martinez said.

[Senator Mel] Martinez, the GOP's Senate point man on the issue, said he earlier had been assured by aides that his office had nothing to do with producing the memo. "I never did an investigation, as such," he said. "I just took it for granted that we wouldn't be that stupid. It was never my intention to in any way politicize this issue."

Martinez, a freshman who was secretary of housing and urban development for most of President Bush's first term, said he had not read the one-page memo. He said he inadvertently passed it to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who had worked with him on the issue. After that, officials gave the memo to reporters for ABC News and The Washington Post.

Harkin said in an interview that Martinez handed him the memo on the Senate floor, in hopes of gaining his support for the bill giving federal courts jurisdiction in the Florida case in an effort to restore the brain-damaged Florida woman's feeding tube. "He said these were talking points -- something that we're working on here," Harkin said.
So Harkin was always in a position to vouch for the memo, and Martinez had to come clean. Is Martinez off the hook now that Darling has resigned? Darling is the very definition of scapegoat. Martinez was the Senate "point man," according to the article, and he passed the memo to Harkin! He claims not to have read the memo, the very talking points he was urging on everyone else. He can only distance himself from the memo by portraying himself as horribly inept. But he was the point man! A point man with his points. The finger points at him. At least at him. But is Martinez a darling of the Senate Republicans? Will they close ranks around him, or isolate him because he makes the rest of them look bad?

UPDATE: The NYT has this:
In his statement, Mr. Martinez said that on March 9 he had mistakenly and unknowingly handed the document to Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, on the floor of the Senate. Mr. Martinez said that he had meant to reach for a different document and that he did not know how it had entered his possession.

"Senator Harkin was kind enough today to call me and tell me this afternoon that he believes the memo he received was given to him by me," Mr. Martinez said. "Until this afternoon, I had never seen it and had no idea a copy of it had ever been in my possession."
Martinez is either telling the truth or lying: which makes him look worse? It's almost a toss-up.

UPDATE: Thanks to Kevin Drum for linking. He writes:
Martinez had a copy of the offending memo in his pocket and Republican aides in other offices confirmed that they had received copies too. Is that a smoking gun proving that Martinez and other Republican senators had also read it? Technically no. But let's face it: you have to be pretty naive to believe anything else. The jig is up, folks.

There is a kind of memo that gets passed around by and to people who don't read it, but that would contain information you want to have in writing. When it's the kind of thing that's embarrassing to have in writing, why would you have it and pass it around unless everyone was reading it?

"When are you going to write about Jane Fonda?"

An emailer asks. I'm supposed to pay attention to every washed-up celebrity who requests attention by writing a memoir? Isn't that what Larry King is for? Do I look like Larry King? Is Jane Fonda special because somehow she posed in front of each decade's trends -- a 60s sex kitten, a 70s activist, an 80s fitness guru? Or because she could make us see her as a feminist icon while locking onto one powerful male or another? Or because she could makes us cut our hair like that for one decade and hop around like that for another? I've had enough of Jane! This is someone who lived for attention. Don't give it to her.

April 6, 2005

"Welcome to the show that will end another dream."

So says Ryan Seacrest, introducing the results show of "American Idol." He says it almost gleefully, and I don't really mind, because if there is one word I've come to loathe, watching this show, it's "dream." Climb every mountain, 'til you find your dream. The more dreams ended, the better, I feel, within this hothouse environment of "American Idol."

I'm just going to ignore that whole Fantasia segment. Strenuous. False. Horrible. She advises the contestants to "get ugly." Last night, in my comments, I see that I kept using the word "ugly." I'm all at odds with this. I don't like ugliness. Call me crazy!

I'm going to ignore that Ford commercial too.

Okay. The results. In a deviation from the norm, the first two to hear the results are put in the bottom three. I'm not surprised that Nikko is one. But Vonzell! Oh, no! I didn't like her performance, shrieking "People." Nevertheless, she's far from the worst. (Of course, they are all bad!) And Scott too is put in the bottom three. They've NEVER done bottom three like that! Weird. Vonzell, in the middle, reaches out to both men's hands. Only Scott takes her hand! Nikko!

Vonzell is told she's safe. After the break, Nikko and Scott are given an opportunity to philosophize and Scott rambles on so long I wonder if Ryan would ever stop him. There's talk of God's will and how no one is perfect and all sorts of things. The result is announced: It's Nikko who's leaving. He's the only one in the bottom three that I predicted would be in the bottom three, so I have to say I agree, and America got it right.

You may disagree...

But I completely love this blog. (Via Metafilter). I'm still smiling. That was pure candy happiness!

"America's most addled judge this side of Antonin Scalia."

That's a moronic swipe at Justice Scalia in a USA Today review of this week's "American Idol." Whole context:
The Paula Postscript: As a public service, each week I will attempt to analyze the demeanor and behavior of America's most addled judge this side of Antonin Scalia. She seemed marginally less glazed in appearance and a bit more present this week. This was not necessarily a good thing, as she made covert thumbs-down gestures in Randy's direction, reverted to her Laker Girls days by cheerleading the audience to applaud her favorites, and incessantly disputed Simon's generally reasonable negative assessments, rarely allowing him to complete a thought.

How about as a public service being funny and interesting?

Too many photos on this blog?

With Flickr and springtime, I've been posting a lot of photos. Yesterday, I counted 32 photos on the front page of this blog. So I'm concerned about causing problems for dial-up users, but not concerned enough not to photoblog. Photos are a big part of my concept of the blog. I get a lot of email from people who like seeing photos on the blog -- especially from UW alumni and others who like a way to look back to a time when they too lived in Madison.

One reader mentioned this software, which lets you turn off the photos. I can't personally vouch for it, but it might be a good solution. If you want to see the Flickr photos separately from the blog, they are here. And here's the assortment by tags -- I love the way the tags are graphically depicted in Flickr, with variable sizes representing the number of photos. My biggest tag, you won't be surprised to hear, is "University of Wisconsin."

UPDATE: A reader writes: "Both Internet Explorer and Netscape have functions in preferences/options that allow a user to disabled pictures on websites." I obviously didn't know that. That's way easier. So I guess I'll stop fretting about burdening dial-in people. I'd really only gotten one or two complaints, but it was weighing on my mind, especially this week, as I went Flickr mad and spring brought out all the photogenic local folkways.

Should we have a problem with Nancy Grace?

I enjoy watching and listening to Nancy Grace. She's so intense and clear as she takes the prosecution's side. Usually, I dislike sneering. But I'm fascinated by hers. Is there something wrong with a pro-prosecution courtroom analysis show? Yes, I think there is. But she brings on the pro-defense people, and they have every opportunity to debate. Reading the Television Without Pity forum about her show, I found this Larry King transcript, which pinpoints the source of her unique fervor:
KING: Why law school if you wanted to do literature?

GRACE: Well, a series of events. I loved literature and my hope was to be an English professor in college. But shortly before my graduation, I recall it distinctly, I was coming out of an exam...

KING: You were a senior in...

GRACE: In college. In undergrad.

KING: Undergrad.

GRACE: ...and was headed to my job at the library. And I received a phone call from my fiance's sister. And something in me, I knew immediately that Keith was dead.

KING: Back a little. How long had you been going with him?

GRACE: We had been together over two years....

KING: So had he lived, he would have been out doing geology and you would have been teaching Shakespeare wherever he...

GRACE: A schoolteacher with a family and who knows what by now.

KING: How was he killed?

GRACE: Keith had a summer job with a friend of his father's. And they were out in a remote area in a construction site, building in a very rural area. And he left that day as a favor to go get everybody their soft drinks. They were so far away from everything -- to have with their lunches. And when he came back...

KING: He was how old?

GRACE: Keith was 25. When he came back, he was basically ambushed and mugged in the outback (ph).

KING: For profit, you mean?

GRACE: Yes. I think he had $35 and a picture of me in his wallet. That's one of the ways everyone was identified. The wallet was later discovered in the possession of the man that killed him.

He was shot five times, Larry. And he was still alive when he got to the hospital. And to this day, I just pray that he could not feel...

KING: Did the sister say he was dead or just shot?

GRACE: No, it wasn't like that at all. I called -- I had to stop at a pay phone on campus because I couldn't make it all the way to the library.

KING: What had she told you?

GRACE: Nothing. I called. She picked up the phone. And I -- I knew, Larry. I knew. I don't know how I knew. And I said, "Is Keith gone?" and she said, "Yes."

KING: Out of nowhere, you said this?

GRACE: I just knew. And I remember when I tried to put the phone back, my hands were like butterflies. Like they weren't even attached to my body. I couldn't think. I didn't even know what had happened. I hung the phone up. And then only later did I find out that he had been murdered.

In fact, I didn't even know where to go. And I went to our local church because nobody was at home. There was nowhere to go. And I just went there. Because I knew somebody would be there.

KING: Why didn't you stay on the phone with the sister?

GRACE: I don't know, Larry. I really -- you know why? What else was there to know?

KING: What happened? Where is he?

GRACE: In my mind, all that mattered was he was dead.... The next thing I remember was the funeral. And it was a blur. I could hardly see. My eyes and my face were raw from crying.

KING: You were deeply in love.

GRACE: He was the love of my life.
Here's the New Republic cover story on Nancy Grace from a few weeks ago. It outlines the many criticisms of her and ends:
Nancy Grace is untroubled by these sorts of concerns. As she sees it, if she enjoys an inherent advantage on television, where emotion carries the day, then that only serves to counter the advantage defendants enjoy in the courtroom. "Victims are unheard," she said in her office, as she gazed into a compact mirror and powdered her nose, getting ready to go on the air. "Defendants are heard, I pay for them to be heard. My parents living on a retirement pension after forty-five years on the railroad, they're paying for violent offenders to have lawyers for free, investigators for free, appeals for free. That's fine, I'm all for it. I want it that way. They are heard. They're more than heard." Besides, she maintained, this culture of instant justice and celebrity trials is hardly a recent development. "Think back to the Salem witch trials," she said. "Trials have always been a source of controversy. ... Trials will always be a spectator sport."

The crux of the matter, Grace contended, striking a rare note of agreement with many of her critics, is that the spectator-sport component be kept outside the actual courtroom. Getting up from her chair and slipping on a green blazer, she began making her way toward the studio. "It's the duty of the judge and the lawyers to make sure that does not penetrate to the jury," she said. "Who cares what everybody else thinks?"

Raw lawprof blogging.

Here's Prawfsblawg, two new lawprofs blogging. Do you like the word "blawg"? It's a way to get the word "law" into blog. With "Prawfsblawg," I'm forced by inference to think there was a reason to try to get "raw" into "profs." So I'm expecting some raw lawprof blogging. I suppose new lawprofs are raw. But then, by inference, we oldsters are well-cooked.

UPDATE: A reader suggests I go with the "unprocessed" meaning for "raw," so that we oldsters can, by inference, be refined.


"Never Let Me Go," the new novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, with themes that remind me of "The Handmaid's Tale," is reviewed in Slate by Margaret Atwood, the author of "The Handmaid's Tale."
Hailsham [a mysterious school] exists to raise cloned children who have been brought into the world for the sole purpose of providing organs to other, "normal" people. They don't have parents. They can't have children. Once they graduate, they will go through a period of being "carers" to others of their kind who are already being deprived of their organs; then they will undergo up to four "donations" themselves, until they "complete." (None of these terms has originated with Ishiguro; he just gives them an extra twist.) The whole enterprise, like most human enterprises of dubious morality, is wrapped in euphemism and shadow: The outer world wants these children to exist because it's greedy for the benefits they can confer, but it doesn't wish to look head-on at what is happening. We assume—though it's never stated—that whatever objections might have been raised to such a scheme have already been overcome: By now the rules are in place and the situation is taken for granted—as slavery was once—by beneficiaries and victims alike.

All this is background. Ishiguro isn't much interested in the practicalities of cloning and organ donation. (Which four organs, you may wonder? A liver, two kidneys, then the heart? But wouldn't you be dead after the second kidney, anyway? Or are we throwing in the pancreas?) ...

[T]he book is also about our wish to do well, to attract approval. The children's poignant desire to be patted on the head—to be a "good carer," keeping those from whom organs are being taken from becoming too distressed; to be a "good donor," someone who makes it through all four "donations"—is heartbreaking. This is what traps them in their cage: None of them thinks about running away or revenging themselves upon the "normal" members of society. Ruth takes refuge in grandiose lies about herself and in daydreams—maybe she'll be allowed to get an office job. Tommy reacts with occasional rage to the unconscionable things being done to him, but then apologizes for his loss of control. In Ishiguro's world, as in our own, most people do what they're told.

Two noon talks.

Volokh Conspirator Jim Lindgren will give a talk at the UW Law School at noon today. The subject is the academic fraud controversy about the book Arming America. The Federalist Society is hosting the event and providing free food. Room 3247.

Alternatively, you can go to the Lubar Faculty Library at 12:15 today and hear William B. Turner giver a talk titled "Lobbying the Supreme Court: The Case of Ronald Reagan and Anthony Kennedy on Lesbian/Gay Civil Rights." (One conclusion: "Reagan was more a libertarian than a traditionalist conservative with respect to lesbian/gay civil rights.")

Both sound interesting. I'm going to the Lindgren talk.

UPDATE: Jim Lindgren gave a scintillating talk. Quite aside from the specific problem of Michael Bellesiles's book, which he dissected, it made me worry about all scholarship -- about whether there is a much more general sort of behavior -- not just among historians, but among all academics -- of embracing and protecting those who say what they want to believe is true.

ANOTHER UPDATE: My colleague Gordon Smith was at the talk too. Here are his comments.

Not quoted.

The Wisconsin State Journal interviewed me by phone about Governor Doyle's executive order lowering the flags to half staff in honor of Pope John Paul II. A lot of care was taken getting my quote down, reading it back to me for accuracy, so I expected to be quoted in today's article, by I was not. (It should be noted that I teach a class at the law school on the Constitution's religion clauses.)

I don't mind getting left out of the article, but they've also left out any quote in support of the Governor (other than from his own spokesperson). The article features a condemnation by Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. And it quotes the executive director of The American Humanist Association saying: "We have to ask whether this would be done for other cleric - the Dalai Lama or Jewish or Muslim leaders." The article also makes the point that "Doyle grew up Catholic and attends Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Madison," suggesting that honoring his own religion motivated him (which doesn't explain President Bush's order lowering federal government flags).

The Pope was an important world leader. Lowering the flag for him is justified if it is for any other world leader of his stature whose accomplishments served great U.S. interests.

The First Amendment rights of bloggers.

Thanks to Eugene Volokh for putting heavy and scholarly pressure on those San Francisco characters who aren't being careful enough about the First Amendment rights of bloggers.

Judicial politics.

There's a lot of detail about the political reaction to the judiciary in this NYT article.

Senate majority leader Frist is distancing himself from some of the rasher statements:
"I believe we have a fair and independent judiciary today," said Dr. Frist, who declined to comment directly on Mr. DeLay. "I respect that."

Dr. Frist, of Tennessee, moved quickly to separate the emotionally charged case of Ms. Schiavo from the politically charged possibility of a showdown over Democratic filibusters against President Bush's judicial nominees. Opponents are linking the two, calling them examples of how Republicans, stymied by resistance, take extreme steps to advance their ideology. That tie could complicate Dr. Frist's push to change Senate rules.

Yes, that linkage was ridiculous. Right when you want to criticize your opponents for excessive obstruction of worthy candidates, you make a big deal about how completely political judges are? That makes no sense! If judges are horribly political, politicized opposition to nominees is called for.

The article has more on Senator Cornyn's regrettable comment about judges and violence (about which I've written enough for the moment). (There's also this overstated NYT editorial today ripping Cornyn.)

The article also has this about Tom DeLay:
Before he changed plans to attend the pope's funeral, Mr. DeLay had been scheduled to be a headline speaker this week at a conservative conference, "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith," sponsored by the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration.

According to its organizers, potential steps to be discussed are impeaching federal judges who let personal values influence decisions, reducing or eliminating court financing, and giving Congress and the states the power to vacate Supreme Court rulings.

Way to show your respect for the Constitution!
"This is going to be an action-oriented conference," said a meeting planner, Don Feder.

Feder ought to clarify if he's not actually interested in the "potential steps" the NYT says the conference "organizers" are taking seriously, because the article makes him look bad.

The article notes stirrings in the ABA:
The tone of the criticism aimed at the judiciary after the death of Ms. Schiavo, whose feeding tube was removed, has drawn the attention of the American Bar Association. In an e-mail message on Friday to the bar's membership, its president, Robert J. Grey Jr., said lawyers and others who work with the law needed to respond to what he described as decreasing respect for the courts.

"As the voice of the legal profession," Mr. Grey wrote, "we must not allow those among us who would do harm, in any form, to destroy the very freedoms our legal system is entrusted to protect."

What is the connection between that quote and the project of preserving respect for the judiciary? One of the things the judiciary gets disrespected about is (supposedly) understating the expanse of various constitutional rights. Does Grey mean he expects the judges to draw the right lines about the scope of government power in relation to individual freedom and if they do that, we'll respect them? That seems to be about the same sort of respect the various politicians who run down the judiciary are willing to give. So I could use a clarification from Grey too.

Finally, the article previews the coming fight over the filibuster:
As interest groups stepped up their lobbying, the political parties continued maneuvering in advance of a potential Senate vote to bar the filibusters. Mr. Reid said he was willing to consider ways to avoid a floor fight.

"Let's just calm down and see where the American people are on this issue," he said.

Republicans say it is Democrats who are stirring up the issue, noting they have established a special political strategy office, under Mr. Reid's control, on the filibuster fight. The Republicans say that Dr. Frist is facing increasing pressure from Republican senators to move forward and that his options are diminishing.

"We will reach a point where negotiations, I guess, will have to end, because they will be fruitless, and then votes will have to be cast," said Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the No. 3 Republican.
Yes, let's just calm down. I bet they won't. But maybe they will if "they see where the American people are on this issue," and what they see is that we don't like the exaggerated posturing of politicians degrading the judiciary.

April 5, 2005

The night "Broadway" was not an insult.

After three seasons of using "Broadway" as an insult, "American Idol" makes Broadway show tunes the theme. I've got to assume this is a reaction to Ben Brantley's New York Times piece "Has Broadway Lost Its Voice to 'American Idol?'" (which blamed the TV show for things he doesn't like these days on Broadway). (Here's my blog post about Brantley's piece.) Before they announced the theme and right after Ryan Seacrest made a point of the fact that so far only female contestants have been voted off, I guessed that they would have a theme tonight that would disadvantage males, especially when the first shot of the contestants featured their favorites of the women left, Carrie and Nadia. And I think I was right.

Scott Savol (one of the contestants I believe the Powers That Be want to fail) goes first (suggesting he'll be good) and sings "The Impossible Dream," which his mom told him to sing. He liked it because the words applied to him, he says. He doesn't specify that it actually is virtually impossible for him to win the show. The judges have already taken up lying about him (saying he's off key when he's not and saying he's like the worst singer at a karaoke bar). He does a great job. So do the judges lie? Randy finds pitch problems again and says "ah - ight." Paula is good to him, calling it "heartfelt." Simon sneers and calls it "ordinary." They are just flat out lying because he's fat and weird.

Constantine Maroulis totally comes out as an actor who's studied Broadway -- and loves Frank Sinatra. It's "My Funny Valentine." He's shackled by a crazy, busy arrangement that fights against him. But he's just darling. Paula standing Os. Randy loves him: "This is what you should be doing, dude." Get in that box, Con! Paula: "I admit I'm falling in love with you." Simon: "The best pouting performance I have ever seen on 'American Idol.'" Translation: they know they've found a sexy, sensitive-yet-masculine guy. "Who is the real Constantine?" Ryan asks, and Constantine answers: "The real Constine is..." Wait a minute! Mispronouncing your own name? Who does that?

Carrie Underwood. Full disclosure: I have an irrational dislike for her. It's not so much about her but about they way they like her. She's got Carmenosity on her. So take this with a grain of salt... but ... ick! Tasteless, tawdry, harsh. "Hello Young Lovers." Vote her off! That was just ugly. But they won't criticize her. Just watch. They all lie. I like Paula's awkward "You're a well-oiled machine" -- which was intended as a compliment. Simon: "Too old fashioned." Yes. She's hopelessly square. It's NOT cute anymore.

Vonzell Solomon. She's singing "People." I find it kind of ugly. Paula's standing again. Randy's "wow"-ing. Paula: "You hit that high E flat that Barbra doesn't even go for." Maybe that's because Barbra has some subtlety. (The reference is to that trick, used constantly by show-offs singing the national anthem, of taking a high note up to an unscripted higher note.) Simon doesn't lie: "left me a little cold."

Anthony Federov sings a song associated with a nun: "Climb Every Rainbow." [ADDED: I mean, "Climb Every Mountain." My mistake amuses me an awful lot.] He starts out with weak low notes, which usually means there will be some strong high notes later on that are supposed to wipe out our memory of the beginning of the song. I note that the words of this song are very similar to the words of the crap songs they make "Idol" winners do on finale night. Follow your dreams blah blah blah. Simon: "Hideous."

Nikko Smith does "One Hand, One Heart" from "West Side Story." He tries to Stevie Wonderize it. His final high note is very unpleasant, so I don't think the "end strong" strategy, which has worked for him in the past, is going to work now. Simon makes exactly my point: everyone is trying to end with a big note that is supposed to make us forget all the other crap, and he didn't even nail the note.

Anwar Robinson is going to do the Sir Lancelot piece "If Ever I Would Leave You." He does great! Randy: "Welcome back, baby!" Paula: "Brilliant." Simon: "You seemed very comfortable." Translation: you are Broadway, and that's bad!

Bo Bice. I'm distracted by his dark red shirt-like garment which seems to be made of some odd shiny rubber. He's singing some crap from "Pippin." Bleccchhhh!

Nadia Turner. She's singing the ultimate abused woman song, "As Long as He Needs Me." She's got a cool white gown. Every time she sings the word "as," she pronounces it "has." In fact, every time she sings the word "or," she pronounces it "whore." The tone and the style are actually quite ugly, but watch them lay on the praise. At least Simon holds back a little. (Really, without Simon, the show would be intolerable.)

Conclusion: The theme was awful! I don't hate show tunes. But for these people? Yuck!

Bottom three: Anthony, Nikko, Carrie. Anthony leaves.

UPDATE: The Aspirant, who has a lot of interesting things to say about all the contestants, thinks I'm wrong about Scott -- though not wrong about the "fat and weird" part. I can see, but I admit I'm not good at hearing technical musical things like pitch. There has been some disagreement among the judges over the weeks about whether Scott sings on pitch or not. I used to get the feeling he was off pitch -- it is just a feeling with me -- but then something made me think he wasn't.

Let me add something about Nikko. He was praised for bringing a Broadway show tune up to date. Can someone remind the judges that Stevie Wonder was at his height over thirty years ago? Why do they keep acting like Stevie Wonder is the biggest thing going today?

"I always said -- in answering Ravelstein's question 'What do you imagine death will be like?' -- 'The pictures will stop.'"

The pictures have stopped for Saul Bellow.
"If you dislike existence then death is your release. You can call this nihilism, if you like."

"Yes, American-style -- without the abyss," said Ravelstein. "But the Jews feel that the world was created for each and every one of us, and when you destroy a human life you destroy an entire world -- the world as it existed for that person."

All at once Ravelstein was annoyed with me... As if I would threaten to destroy a world -- I who lived to see the phenomena, who believe that the heart of things is shown in the surface of things. I always said -- in answering Ravelstein's question "What do you imagine death will be like?" -- "The pictures will stop." Meaning, again, that in the surface of things you saw the heart of things.
Ravelstein, page 156.

So said the novelist. And now he's gone. An entire world is lost.

UPDATE: The NYT has a nice big obit. I noticed the Wisconsin connection:
In 1933 he began college at the University of Chicago, but two years later transferred to Northwestern, because it was cheaper. He had hoped to study literature but was put off by what he saw as the tweedy anti-Semitism of the English department, and graduated in 1937 with honors in anthropology and sociology, subjects that were later to instill his novels. But he was still obsessed by fiction. While doing graduate work in anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, he found that "every time I worked on my thesis, it turned out to be a story." He added: "I sometimes think the Depression was a great help. It was no use studying for any other profession."


Rick Lee has a nice new photoblog. I especially like these coffee shop pictures.

"Don't Shoot the Cat."

This afternoon at the Law School, a student group held a meeting about the Wisconsin proposal to permit hunting feral cats. They had an attractive poster:

Here's the "Don't Shoot the Cat" website.

I was going to go to this meeting and blog about it, but I decided not to (because I avoid using this blog to intrude on students). I think feral cats -- nonnative predators -- really are a serious problem, but I understand the sensitivities of people who love pet cats. I do think pet cats should be kept indoors, and a lot of cat owners don't like to face up to that and are in denial about the problems their cats cause.

Is it wrong to lower the flag to half staff for the Pope?

Well, of course, it is according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The Capital Times reports:
An anti-religion group is denouncing Gov. Jim Doyle's executive order to lower flags to mark the death of Pope John Paul II.

Doyle's directive appears like "an endorsement of Roman Catholicism over other religious viewpoints," according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

On Saturday, the governor praised the pope as both an inspiration spiritual leader and a man who has made "a significant impact on social justice." Doyle cited the pope's fight against communism, his opening of dialogue with other faiths, and his fight for peace around the world.

The governor's office today noted President Bush had directed that flags be lowered to half-staff at all public buildings. The governor's directive matches the president's order.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, saw the pope in a different light from the governor.

"The pope was the world's leading sexist," Gaylor said in a statement issued today. "Why should Wisconsin women be expected to revere his anti-woman, antediluvian teachings?" The pope also had been critical of gay marriages, the statement noted.

"Let's reserve the honor of half-staff for true American heroes," Gaylor said.

On Monday, the Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a lengthy criticism entitled "the pope has no vestments." That statement assailed his position against abortion, contraception, sterilization, women's rights, divorce, stem cell research and gay rights.

"Sure, he finally admitted Galileo should not have been condemned by the church, some 350 years too late," the foundation's statement said.

"True, he opposed capital punishment, as most freethinkers do. But think of the capital punishment, slaughters, the witch-burning, purges, tortures and inquisitions committed by the Roman Catholic Church and its followers through history."
First: bad use of the word "antediluvian."

Second: for a change, could we get some more people who don't have contempt for religion to extoll the great principle of separation of church and state?

Third: the Pope was a tremendously important world leader. The fact that he was also a religious leader doesn't mean the government cannot honor him at his death. Were the flags lowered when the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. died?


Okay, if you dress like this, even for a good cause -- he's advertising a comedy show called "Humorology" -- you maybe able to get a guy to come close enough to you to take a leaflet.

Campus election day.

But women are cutting way the hell around him:

Campus election day.

Actually, coming back from lunch I had to walk by him, so I asked him what the "G" was for. I figured he was supposed to be some kind of superhero of comedy, and I knew the show was called "Humorology," so why "G" and not "H"?
What's the "G" for?

Gary. [Pause.] It's my name.

Student government marches on.

Only people in the north can understand how deeply we love spring here in Madison.

The UW kids are sprawled on the hill again in front of Bascom Hall:

Campus election day.

You see the statue of Abraham Lincoln up there. But what's this?

Campus election day.

These guys are trying to encourage voting in the student election. I think they are supposed to be Rock'm-Sock'm Robots and that's supposed to symbolize politics.

See that the flag is at half staff? A Wisconsin State Journal reporter called me as I was downloading these photos to extract a quote from me about government having the flag at half staff for the Pope. Some people are upset about it? People love to get upset about symbolism.

Here's the view from the same spot looking down to the Capitol:

Campus election day.

And looking across to the south -- it's our beloved Law School:

The UW Law School.

What does student government do anyway? What are the issues? How can you try to win one of these elections? A catchy name helps:

Campus election day.

Campus election day.

"She asks excitedly."

David Wallace-Wells (in Slate) quotes me like this:
"Celebrity-suckling gadfly and Bill Maher Thursday hump Arianna Huffington to launch political web site," writes hard-to-please Jeff Goldstein at protein wisdom. At NIF, Virginia-based TJ thinks the move shows Huffington has "more dollars than sense." At first, the news turned off law professor Ann Althouse, as well. "But then I noticed Larry David was on the list, and I was interested. Is he really going to blog?" she asks excitedly. "I mean really blog?"

Maybe I need to blog with emoticons. "Skeptically" would have been the right adverb. To really blog means a lot more -- to me -- than to just to set up a page in blog form. Hmmm... I wonder how Jerry Brown's blog is doing? Ten posts in a month and a half. Maybe that's a website, but it's not a blog. I say excitedly.

The reverse gender gap iceberg.

In an update to that last photo essay, I wrote:
An emailer writes, "What, no lovers?" And I answer, "Actually, we were talking about the solitariness of the 'hill people.' There were no lovers!" In fact, at lunch, we were discussing the way the way primary and middle school teachers appreciate the behavior of girls (and don't see their misbehavior) and punish the boys for not acting more like the girls. Girls end up more accommodated to academia and flock to college, which may need to do affirmative action for males to keep the male-to-female ratio in balance. Does this mean that in college, males end up with lower GPAs? What effect does this have on law school admissions? What is going on?

This is one of the main things we talked about at lunch. I described my heartfelt opposition to the way schoolteachers treat young boys, but at the same time, I am utterly opposed to affirmative action for males! There are some big problems that we are barely beginning to notice. The seeming loneliness of the women on the hill is, perhaps, just the beginning of a huge problem.

That brought this email:
I agree with your asessment of boys being penalized for not acting like girls. I live in NYC but grew up in Nebraska and Texas in the 70's and 80's and I experienced it even then.

As for the education gap and marriage, it might interest you to know that NY has a seemingly huge supply of beautiful, accomplished, and single professional women in their mid-to-late 30's. Doctors, lawyers, business owners, you name it. I see them on nerve.com's singles site and meet them in person. Generation X must be just the tip of that particular iceberg.

[Name Omitted]

PS- I'm a photo editor, overeducated for what I do, but I would NEVER date a lawyer, much less a doctor. Career imbalance in relationships is largely a one-way street.

Yikes! Well, this is kind of what "Sex and the City" was all about, except that in "Sex and the City," the women kept finding men who were reasonable prospects.

For you men who are lawyers, though, and are therefore equally matched, NYC is, apparently, full of beautiful women for you. And the photo editor guys have voluntarily removed themselves from competition.

UPDATE: Richard Lawrence Cohen (AKA my ex-husband) makes this contribution:
Just a couple of quick thoughts on that gender post:

1. Nifty jab at that photo editor fool!

2.. The "no lovers" phenomenon may have something to do with my old bugaboo, the repressive culture of the Midwest. When I moved out there (MI-WI) from NYC, I was surprised at the absence of two things: 1. people showing affection in public; 2. street fights. I remember walking on South U. in Ann Arbor in Oct. 1969 and thinking, "Wow, I haven't seen a street fight in a month!"

(Also no dogs running around the campus in Madison, as opposed to many in Ann Arbor.)

"In France they kiss on Main Street."--J. Mitchell.

3. I'm glad women are becoming aware of the problem of the anti-male ethic in schools. (Probably because many ex-feminists have become the mothers of sons.) As a father of four boys, some of them rather exuberant, I have carefully chosen elementary schools for my sons where the effects are somewhat ameliorated.

4. One reason there are all those brilliant lonely beauties running around loose in New York is that for a generation American college women have been trained to assume that men are their enemy and oppressor, that any man they date will be inferior to them in intellect and sensibility, that husbands are buffoons, etc. Sleeping with someone you think is the enemy doesn't really work. The putative enemy doesn't want to be treated that way. The result is the Maureen Dowds of this world writing whiney columns in which they bemoan the absence of men in their lives -- men whom, as a group, they never miss a chance to insult.

Ciao, Richard
I don't necessarily agree with all that. For one thing, I don't think standing up for boys makes one an ex-feminist. But since you quote Joni Mitchell and fondly remember the dogs in Ann Arbor, I'll do a Bob Dylan quote from that album we used to listen to all the time:
If dogs run free, then why not we
Across the swooping plain?
My ears hear a symphony
Of two mules, trains and rain.
The best is always yet to come,
That's what they explain to me.
Just do your thing, you'll be king,
If dogs run free.

Stirring up hatred against judges.

People have been complaining about "activist" judges for years. But here's a Washington Post report on a Senate speech by Senator John Cornyn that speculates that judicial activism might cause violence:
"I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. . . . And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in, engage in violence. Certainly without any justification, but a concern that I have."
The article connects that remark (which seems to be a rather idiotic sort of talking off the top or your head) with Representative Tom DeLay's recent comment:
"The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior."
DeLay was grousing about the judges in the Schiavo case; Cornyn was complaining about the recent Supreme Court case that barred the death penalty for persons who commit their crimes before they reach the age of 18.

It is really a shame how little people understand of the reasons judges decide cases the way they do. DeLay and Cornyn, like many others, signal to the public to think that the judges are simply out of control and the cases are inexplicable as the serious work of deeply thoughtful persons steeped in the legal tradition. It wouldn't be wise just to assume that judges are unerring oracles of law, but to leap to the opposite conclusion and decide they are frauds is even more foolish. And for a public figure even to hint at violence as a solution is completely unacceptable.

UPDATE: First, thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking. ("I agree with Ann Althouse.") Second, before you reflexively email me in defense of Cornyn, read what I've written. Don't tell me to pay more attention to specifics of what he said without paying attention to the specifics of what I've said. And you needn't inform me that he was a state supreme court justice. That fact is in the Washington Post article, which I obviously read. And I'm also perfectly aware that he's structured his remarks to preserve deniability. He doesn't openly encourage violence, and I didn't say that he did. He's legitimating hostility toward judges, however, and portraying the judges as out-of-control power-wielders. And he's expressing understanding for people who snap and express hostility with violence. That is going too far. My conclusion above is: for a public figure even to hint at violence as a solution is completely unacceptable. I stand by that. Cornyn should know better and behave more responsibly. There are unbalanced people out there who take things the wrong way, and judges -- especially trial judges -- are on the front lines, dealing with dangerous people and often frustrating them.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Beldar urges me to read the whole text of the Cornyn speech and also writes that Cornyn, as a former judge, has a better understanding of how judges decide cases than I do. First, when I wrote "It is really a shame how little people understand of the reasons judges decide cases the way they do," I was referring to the reasons given in written opinions, which I've been reading for a quarter of a century. I have a complaint with people in the political sphere, as Cornyn is today, who score political points portraying judges as illegitimate. Almost no one in politics and media tries to explain the reasons given in writing for a decision, which is the judge's own defense of his exercise of power. The judge can't go on TV and explain that reason to you. You're supposed to read it. But you probably won't. You'll probably just listen to someone tell you what the judge did, but nearly everyone offering up that information has an angle. These people are spinners and self-promoters of one kind or another.

Now, I've read the whole text of the speech, which is mostly justifying his bill to bar courts from citing foreign law. It's full of boilerplate about how much he respects judges, but it also excoriates Justice Kennedy for referring to foreign law in Roper v. Simmons to determine that it is "cruel and unusual" punishment to execute a person for a crime he committed when he was less than 18 years old. I don't think the whole context changes things very much. Politicians know the spiciest part of a speech is the sound bite. Edit it out if you don't mean it.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: This post has gotten a lot of attention. (One post that receives two Instapundit links and two Powerline links on the same day? That's some sort of record.) I stand by the precise statements I made, and I call them as I see them. I'm not into backing the Senator or being part of a weird swarm trying to make trouble for the Senator. I see Atrios is writing "this really is a resignation causing statement," and that goes too far. Cornyn should not have said what he said, and he's groveled, so I'd let it go for now. But I note that his new statement has this:
Our judiciary must not be politicized. Rhetoric about the judiciary and about judicial nominees must be toned down.

I'll hold him to that and keep an eye on what he does next. It seems to me that with his bill about judges citing foreign law, he's deeply involved in advancing his career by overstating problems with the judiciary.

April 4, 2005

In the sun.

It's 70 degrees here in Madison as we head out for lunch. Walking back, we do some browsing at Urban Outfitters. The sun in the window makes the retro-hippie tatters glow:

Urban Outfitters window.

The street vendors are out all over Library Mall, including this one in a big, feathered hat:

Library Mall vendor with a hat.

The choice window seats of Memorial Library are all taken:

Reading on a window sill.

The leafless trees cast the last wintry shadows:

Reading on a window sill.

Crossing the Park Street bridge, we see the shrinking ice of Lake Mendota:

The last of the ice.

Dotting Bascom Hill: readers!

Bascom Hill.

More readers:

Bascom Hill.

More readers on the hill, just in front of the Law School:

Bascom Hill.

And at least one sleeper!

UPDATE: An emailer writes, "What, no lovers?" And I answer, "Actually, we were talking about the solitariness of the 'hill people.' There were no lovers!" In fact, at lunch, we were discussing the way the way primary and middle school teachers appreciate the behavior of girls (and don't see their misbehavior) and punish the boys for not acting more like the girls. Girls end up more accommodated to academia and flock to college, which may need to do affirmative action for males to keep the male-to-female ratio in balance. Does this mean that in college, males end up with lower GPAs? What effect does this have on law school admissions? What is going on?

This is one of the main things we talked about at lunch. I described my heartfelt opposition to the way schoolteachers treat young boys, but at the same time, I am utterly opposed to affirmative action for males! There are some big problems that we are barely beginning to notice. The seeming loneliness of the women on the hill is, perhaps, just the beginning of a huge problem.

Later in the day, Glenn Reynolds linked to this post and made an observation about women outnumbering men. He's surely right that I was not looking for women to photograph, just randomly capturing the view of the hill.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The theme of the imbalance in educated males and females -- the "reverse gender gap" -- is continued in this post.