September 10, 2005

At Mother Fool's.

Although the podcast has me saying I'm off to Indie Coffee, it turned out we decided not to go there, because it's close enough to the stadium to make it hard to park on a football Saturday. So we went to Mother Fool's again. They had a new art display. Big paintings. Here's Tonya:

At Mother Fools.

She got there first. When I got there, second, I caught her reading a magazine:

At Mother Fools.

Audible Althouse.

That's what I'm calling my little experiment in podcasting. It's just me, no music, and the basic idea is to look back over some of the past week's topics on this blog, with full freedom to digress.

ADDED: It's about 26 minutes long.

MORE: A problem with a podcast is that you can't do updates and make corrections. I see that I quoted this line from a recent blogpost: "It had been widely assumed until recently that human evolution more or less stopped 50,000 years ago." But for some crazy reason I said 500 instead of 50,000. Well, that's a slight discrepancy!

RFQ and The Red Shirts.

The Vermont Guardian reports:
[N]ew grassroots organizations have coalesced around the recovery effort. One, commonly known as The Red Shirts, came together as a band of 10 people who set out to clean the streets and administer first aid. This group continues to hit the streets wearing their trademark red and impressing many with their self-imposed 12-hour shifts. To date, their most impressive achievements were the cleaning the wrecked Jackson Square, and removing a fallen brick wall.

Another group, Restore the French Quarter (RFQ), came together shortly after the levies broke. RFQ, which includes 40 volunteers, has cleared their share of downed trees and rubbish. One of their fist acts was to make the Esplanade, a major street marking the border of the neighborhood, passable by vehicle.

The group has also built a public stockpile of necessary items that includes food, water, tools and clothing. The goods and the organization are housed in a makeshift headquarters on the corner of the Esplanade and Decatur — a 9,000 square foot three-story building owned by Harry Anderson of Night Court. It is equipped with generators, a fully stocked bar and a large gas grill. RFQ has gone the extra step of stenciling white “RFQ Volunteer” T-shirts and even printing ID badges for their members.

Standing in the courtyard of the headquarters, RFQ member “Steve,” who works in construction, declared that the group’s first action, shortly after the disaster struck, was to help distribute guns and ammunition to area residents to use for self-defense. Since then, they have turned their attention to fixing roads and keeping people fed.

Earlier this week, RFQ was in the process of gathering resources to repair area roofs damaged by Katrina’s winds, when a rumor stopped them in their tracks. On Thursday, word got around that either the local or federal government was about to begin enforcing the mandatory evacuation. Earlier in the day, a number of Louisiana State Troopers entered Johnny White’s and initially demanded that patrons leave with them. After some heated words, the troopers called their superiors for confirmation. As things went, the troopers left with no one in tow. Even so, the story and fear of looming forced removal spread like wildfire across the French Quarter.

“Is that stupid or what?” asked Steve. “There are hundreds, even thousands, of people right here that would be active volunteers. We know this city like the back of our hands. We are not driving around like Mississippi cops that don’t know this place. We know what we’re doing, where everything is, and how to get resources. We can get this place back up and running. They [the government] need to leave the French Quarter alone, and let us do this.”

And I'm also finding this, on a South African website:
Back in the French quarter RFQ leader Stephen James was printing up T-shirts bearing the ad-hoc group's logo.

"We should just let people help themselves and not have government do it all for them," said James to cheers of approval...

Where Gandhi advocated passive resistance, the French Quarter holdouts pledged to employ clean-up power.

James said he hoped a gang of 100 holdouts would be on the streets on Saturday morning with brooms and garbage bags.

"I don't think we are going to have any problem from the New Orleans police department," he said. "If we are helpful, maybe they will leave us alone."

Many of those at the meeting had seemed depressed and fearful in recent days, but seemed to find new strength and determination, perhaps from safety in numbers.

I wrote about my love for the holdouts yesterday. I was reading reports that portrayed holed-up individualists, and my response to them was sentimental. Today, I'm reading about people forming groups, articulating principles, and improving the community — the roots of civil society. Shouldn't the government work with these people?

The post-Woodstock Cavett show.

Last night, I watched another episode of "The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons" (a new DVD set). Jefferson Airplane, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Joni Mitchell were there in Cavett's garish studio. Hippie "supergraphics" were painted all over the floor swirling up to little hassocks for the rock stars to perch on or lean against. Woodstock had just ended that morning. We're told Joni skipped Woodstock just to be on the show. Stills proudly points out the "Woodstock mud" on his jeans.

Jefferson Airplane were doing tunes from "Volunteers," including "We Can Be Together." You know:
We are forces of chaos and anarchy
Everything they say we are we are
And we are very proud of ourselves

The song ends with the prescient, Reaganesque repeated line "Tear down the wall." It was fun to see the Airplane in their prime again. I saw them myself a few times around that year, 1969. Maybe you younger readers don't realize how much we adored Grace Slick back in those days. And, I'll tell you, "Surrealistic Pillow" is one of the six album covers I have framed on my living room wall. On the show, Cavett asks Slick about her parents, and she says her mother is a housewife and her father is an investment banker. "All your private property is target for your enemy," indeed.

The other members of the Airplane are nearly catatonic, though Paul Kantner rouses himself at one point and says something either unmemorable or incoherent — I forget. David Crosby is the liveliest person in the group (for whatever reason), and while I'm working on the the theory that he's the smartest rock star in the room — and thinking that's good for Bailey and Beckett — he announces that he has an idea and, beaming with pride, lists the names of six large corporations and advises them to go out of business — as if that would save the world. There's some tedious patter about astrology, including the fact that Crosby is a Leo and looks like a lion.

The best person on the show is Joni Mitchell, who's wearing a bulky green velvet floor-length dress. She sings at least four songs, playing guitar, then piano, and finally going a cappella — for "Fiddle and the Drum":
And so once again
Oh, America my friend
And so once again
You are fighting us all
And when we ask you why
You raise your sticks and cry and we fall
Earlier in the show, she'd talked about how she writes about love and that she's a Canadian and Canadians are just not political at all. But she does say she would support Pierre Trudeau, after Cavett asks the assembled icons if any of them would support any political candidate and all the others say no — no one deserves it.

IN THE COMMENTS: Among other things, I'm asked what the other five album covers are. Instead of answering, I give hints. See if you can guess.

September 9, 2005

"He's just a terrible person."

Said the speaker, talking about John Roberts, at the anti-Roberts rally, here on the UW campus this afternoon. He seemed to be running out of steam as I passed by with my camera in hand.

Anti-Roberts Rally.

He was saying that women are second-class citizens without the Equal Rights Amendment, which seems to have little if anything to do with John Roberts. But the theme of the half-hearted harangue was women, from what I heard. The signs scattered about were mostly abortion-related.

Anti-Roberts Rally.

The crowd was tiny, and nearly all women, listening to the young man warn them of the great danger they faced if that terrible, terrible man, John Roberts, should become Chief Justice.

"They also have sex for pleasure but most of the time, it's a way of making peace. They are a bit the hippies of the forest."

It's feeding time at the sanctuary, and with the distribution of papayas, bananas, sugar cane and other delicacies for the 43 residents, the excitement mounts; loud screams and, in front of the visitors' curious eyes, simulated sex.

"Do they do this all the time?" asked one surprised Tanzanian official.

"Only to relieve tensions and when negotiating for a perch or food, and then disinterestedly, whatever the sex or the age," said Andre.

Yes, you remember what it was like when you had hippies over to your last dinner party.

About that lawprof letter....

Iowa lawprof Tung Yin (who did not vote for Bush) is very critical of the lawprof letter that opposes the appointment of John Roberts:
From the perspective of the goal of advocacy, I also have a hard time seeing how asserting by fiat that President Bush should appoint someone whose views are consistent with those of persons that Kerry would have appointed is likely to persuade the undecideds that Roberts should be kept off the Court.

"I haven't even run out of weed yet."

Don't you kind of love the holdouts? Don't you feel as though you've already seen a movie about them?

MORE: Slate has a nice article about the holdouts. Among them:
One ponytailed guy in bedroom slippers tells me he has to skip town immediately because the city has completely run out of weed.

"It's an overwhelming expectation that I feel."

The Wisconsin State Journal reports on an overnight bus trip, bringing Katrina evacuees — "five single men, a family of five, and a mother and her two grown daughters" — to Madison:
[Dane County social workers Rita] Adair and her partner in this rescue effort, Jenny Grether, rode in the back of the quiet bus, fielding calls from volunteers with questions and making plans for the return to Madison, expected to be some time this afternoon.

Grether reflected on her hopes for the group.

"Most importantly, that people can find a sense of happiness, peace and hope within their families. Hopefully they'll be able to connect with one another in a way they haven't been able to at shelters. For the single men, who have lost everything, I hope they'll be able to connect to a neighborhood and a larger community that is willing to try to support and understands what needs to happen to rebuild lives."

Adair said the effort, while worthwhile, has been difficult because she doesn't want to let anyone down - neither those in need nor their supporters in Madison.

"So many people gave so much in so many ways, that that became a vehicle of what I am expected to do," she said. "It's an overwhelming expectation that I feel."

How many stories like this are there all over the country? What an unusual situation to break up a large urban community and have very small segments of it welcomed into communities all over the country, into places that are much different from New Orleans. It can't be easy for people to leave home and come to a new place, even when the people in the new place are full of altruism and eagerness to help. Thanks to the good people who make great efforts to help tiny groups of Katrina evacuees like this.

The evolving brain.

The human brain is evolving rapidly, some scientists think:
It had been widely assumed until recently that human evolution more or less stopped 50,000 years ago.

The new finding, reported in today's issue of Science by Bruce T. Lahn of the University of Chicago, and colleagues, could raise controversy because of the genes' role in determining brain size. New versions of the genes, or alleles as geneticists call them, appear to have spread because they enhanced brain function in some way, the report suggests, and they are more common in some populations than others.
Oh, no. One dreads reading on. I like to read about brain research and am glad to see we are evolving better brains, but... Well, we all go anti-science at some point, don't we?

A murder trial in Madison: will the jurors understand the "culture" and "etiquette" of hunting?

The NYT reports on a murder trial in what it calls "this liberal bastion," my city of Madison, Wisconsin. Why does the NYT care about a murder trial and what is the significance of the liberal politics in the location of the courthouse? The accused is a Hmong immigrant and the killings took place in the context of hunting:
A jury was chosen in this liberal bastion on Thursday for the trial of a Hmong immigrant charged with killing six hunters, causing consternation in the North Woods, where the shootings took place.

Some residents of Rice Lake, where all the victims lived or grew up, said they were concerned that the jurors from Dane County, which encompasses Madison, might not grasp the nuances of rural life.

"They are not as rural, and their culture and their lifestyle is quite different from ours up here in the north," said Renee Gralewicz, an ethnic studies instructor at the Rice Lake campus of the University of Wisconsin. "So we might have some people who really don't understand the culture of hunting and the etiquette and the ethics and how all of that plays out on the jury."

Judge Norman L. Yackel of Sawyer County Circuit Court ruled in June that the jury for the trial of the immigrant, Chai Soua Vang, would be chosen from Dane County after the defense argued that publicity and strong emotions in the Rice Lake area jeopardized Mr. Vang's chances for a fair trial.

The concern about the composition of the jury stems in part from the racial overtones of the case. Mr. Vang, 36, a refugee from Laos who lived in St. Paul, Minn., told police that he had been sitting in a tree stand on private hunting land about 25 miles northeast of Rice Lake one Sunday last November when the hunters, who were white, swore at him and used ethnic slurs.

Mr. Vang said he shot at the hunters after someone shot at him first.

"The rest of the group scramble for something at the ATV so I shot them at the ATV and ran toward them because I thought that they will get something a gun to shoot me," Mr. Vang wrote in a letter from jail to a reporter for The Chicago Tribune. The letter has been admitted as evidence in the case. "I feel that this incident is happen because people are not able to treated others with respect like they want to be treated and hatred toward other people or race."

One survivor told the police that Mr. Vang fired first.

Hmong hunters have complained of harassment from white hunters, some of whom point to a different hunting culture as the root of the problem. Many residents in Rice Lake, which is 230 miles northwest of Madison and has a population of 8,300, dispute the claim that racial tensions have been high in the area.
Would it be fairer to have this trial in a place where jurors had pre-existing ideas about the "culture" and "etiquette of hunting"? If understanding the hunting milieu is relevant, can't the prosecutor prove it? Or is the concern that the people of Madison will not understand the victims' behavior and will be unusually sympathetic to the racism theme in the defendant's argument that he felt threatened?

September 8, 2005

When did you stop watching "The Daily Show"?

This week.

It was once your favorite TV show, wasn't it?


IN THE COMMENTS: I explain my reason for drawing the line now:
This week's show, the first post-Katrina coverage, has been just blatantly telegraphing from the very first moment that the whole point of the show is to slam Bush. I'm upset about the hurricane and find it very off-putting to see political ideologues salivating over a chance to get Bush over this. I'm not even sure that's what the show goes on to do. I just can't bear to watch it. Instinctively, I don't want to watch.

ABOUT THE COMMENTS: Lorie Byrd reads this post and one of the comments and responds:
When one commenter said that The Daily Show and Jon Stewart only poke fun at the “people in power” and that is why they are spending so much time attacking Bush over the Katrina response, another responded with this:
"As such, they have done their job. Of course they’re poking fun at the administration. But you can bet it’s more towards the “people in power.” Simply put, that means that if Dems had been in power, i can assure you that the coverage would have been the same.”

The Dems were in power. Which party are the mayor and governor from? There’s so much comedy material based on their performances, are you telling me they weren’t mocked mercilessly?

Katrina polls.

Yesterday, I blogged about a poll that showed a surprisingly low number of persons blamed Bush for the problems in New Orleans after the hurricane. Now there are more polls, and commenters say I'm obliged to update. I responded that I thought the new polls were asking a different question. It's different to ask the usual job approval question than to ask people to assign "blame." I'd answer those two questions differently. I wouldn't just "approve" of what any level of government did, but I'd also hesitate to assign "blame."

But let me turn to Mystery Pollster for an explanation of the different polls:
[B]y probing the dimension of blame and responsibility, this question applies a tougher standard than the job ratings summarized above. One may conclude the President or others are doing a "bad" or "terrible job," yet still not hold them "responsible" or "to blame" for the problems following the Hurricane.
Yeah, that's what I thought. And Mystery Pollster has two more posts on polls that came out today: here and here.

ADDED: I'm not one to follow the polls day by day. I blog when I find something striking or that I have something to add to. I'd hate to think that once I've blogged about something, I then have an obligation to blog about futher news stories on the subject, when they don't meet my normal blogging standard. An old blog post is what it is under its time stamp. I hope people understand that concept. I think they do, even when they decide to go ahead and attack you for having some inaccurate or incomplete old post. I can't monitor everything!

MORE: And I mean "inaccurate" in the sense of something becoming inaccurate because further news stories have come in. This was the case with an old post of mine about the London police shooting a man. There is also the problem of misreading the news in the first place, which I try not to do. I'd be most concerned about making corrections in that case. I'd like the think the posts are in good shape with respect to their original time stamps.

The new mystery.

The Piano Man's fifteen minutes of fame are over. It's time for the Unknown Woman:
She appeared from nowhere on a rain-tossed morning, sitting naked on the shoreline, unable to speak.

Now she sits in a hospital bed, staring into space, mute and expressionless, her charts naming her simply as “Unknown”.

The mysterious appearance of the Western woman, aged between 35 and 45, last week beside the runway of a disused airport has put Hong Kong authorities in a bind, the police chief handling the unusual case said on Wednesday.

“We’ve tried interpreters in many different languages and sign-language experts but none of them appear to get though to her,” chief inspector Victor Ng told reporters.

Boys and your ineffectual subtle cues.

They might not get them:
"If teachers attempt to control boys by subtle means, such as raised eyebrows, and the boys ignore these cues, it may be that they simply are not able to read them and decode them accurately," explained Professor David Skuse, whose team at the Institute of Child Health in London conducted the research.

"It's not that they are being wilfully oppositional," he told the British Association's Festival of Science, which this year is being held in Dublin, Ireland.

The study on 600 children between the ages of six and 17 was actually undertaken to investigate aspects of autism, a predominantly male condition.

The institute hopes eventually to find the genetic factors that lead more boys than girls into this disorder....

The differences at school-entry were specifically to do with the facial expressions tasks.

"At six years, 70% of boys are below the mean for girls; so in other words, 70% of boys are worse than 50% of girls," Professor Skuse explained.

"It means there are a lot of boys at school entry who are very poor at differentiating other people's emotions from their facial expressions.

Males eventually catch up with females, however, so, guys, don't try to use this as an excuse your adult relationship gaffes.

Having two mothers at the genetic level.

It has to happen sooner or later, right?

MORE: Here:
On June 20, at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Copenhagen, scientists announced a development in stem cell research that could allow gay couples to have children that share both of their genetic make-up, instead of just one partner sharing a genetic link.

Researchers discovered that they could develop primordial germ cells (PGC) from embryonic stem cells. Stem cells are the master cells of the body, appearing when embryos are just a few days old and developing into every type of cell and tissue in the body, including sperm and eggs.
PCGs are present during the fetal stage and then develop into either sperm or eggs. By gaining the ability to engineer changes in the PCGs, scientists could develop an egg from the PCGs of a man wishing to pair his genetic material with his partner’s sperm. Similarly, a woman’s PCG could be developed into sperm cells that could be used to fertilize her partner’s eggs. In either case, a unique embryo could then naturally form with the genetics of both same-sex partners.

"Football Season Is Over."

That's the title on Hunter S. Thompson's suicide note:
[Thompson's biographer Douglas] Brinkley writes, "February was always the cruelest month for Hunter S. Thompson. An avid NFL fan, Hunter traditionally embraced the Super Bowl in January as the high- water mark of his year. February, by contrast, was doldrums time."

That puts Thompson in a new light.

The whole text of the note appears at the link, including his final sentence, written before shooting himself in the head: "This won't hurt."

All those pet dogs left behind in New Orleans.

It's terrible to say, but remember what happened after the tsunami.

Who "shamelessly exploited" images of tragedy?

USAToday reports: Political Action plans to unveil a TV ad on Monday that questions whether Roberts is sensitive enough to civil rights concerns to lead the Supreme Court. The ad suggests that the plight of the mostly African-American evacuees in New Orleans showed that poverty remains a serious problem among minorities, said Ben Brandzel, the group's advocacy director. In a mix of judicial and racial politics, the ad then suggests that minorities could suffer if the Senate confirms Roberts.
Wait, is using Katrina pictures to promote its political agenda? But I remember this, from the 2004 campaign season:
Liberal online political activist group is using testimony from former White House counterterrorism head Richard Clarke in a new political ad to promote their anti-Bush agenda.

In the ad, accuses President George W. Bush of politicizing September 11 by using images from the World Trade Center Towers in a recent campaign commercial.

"George Bush shamelessly exploited 9/11 in his campaign commercials," the announcer states at the beginning of the ad.
I'm lawyer enough to know how to make the argument that that is not rank hypocrisy, but, man, that is rank hypocrisy!

UPDATE: The USAToday article now has a link to this update:
A liberal interest group Thursday denied it ever planned to use televised images of poverty-stricken evacuees from Hurricane Katrina as part of a provocative, last-minute effort to divert federal Judge John Roberts' path to confirmation as chief justice. Political Action's advocacy director Ben Brandzel had laid out plans for such an ad to USA TODAY on Wednesday. But Thursday, the group's executive director said "we regret any misunderstanding that may have arisen because of anything that our staff member might have told USA TODAY's reporter."

"We have no plans, and have never had plans, to produce such an ad," Eli Pariser added.

Hmmmm.... So what do you think? Never planned to do it or saw the criticism and changed?

Finding the perfect woman to replace O'Connor.

Manuel Miranda, former counsel to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, writes in the Wall Street Journal about the possible replacements for Sandra Day O'Connor, grouping his list into three categories: the women, the Hispanics, the Senators. (Plus a few that don't fit.) He concentrates on the conservative concern about avoiding "another Souter" and various political ramifications of different choices. So go read his list.

But here's my question, about the blurb he serves up for Maura Corrigan:
Now on the Michigan Supreme Court, she was popularly elected three times, first to the appeals court where she served as chief judge and then to the state high court. She has 13 years' appellate experience and is a widow with two grown children. It would be hard for Democrats to oppose a popular judge from a swing blue state.
Why mention her children when no one else's children are mentioned? Is it a special qualification for a woman if she's had children — making her properly womanly? — but they aren't her current responsibility — which would presumably suit her for a demanding job?

Suit her? Don't say "suit her"! You might jinx her! You know young Bush is devoted to avoiding making his father's mistakes!

September 7, 2005

Should Chief Justice Roberts keep the gold stripes on the robe?

Underneath Their Robes asks and answers:
Here are some points for and against Chief Justice Roberts keeping the gold braid stripes. On the one hand, the modest and unpretentious John Roberts might want to dispense with the pomp and blend in with his fellow justices, placing greater emphasis on the "equals" part of the Chief Justice's status as "first among equals." On the other hand, Chief Justice Roberts might want to retain the gold bars as a tribute to his predecessor and mentor. Removal of the stripes would constitute a repudiation of Rehnquist's sartorial legacy at the Court.
I say he should keep the stripes as a tribute. The tribute rational will tend to cancel the tendency to call it pompous. But then I liked Rehnquist having the stripes. It never seemed that pompous to me. It seemed more like he didn't take himself deadly seriously — which is what the plain black robes are about. He was inspired by an opera! I'm thinking he thought why must everything always be so somber and sober. And then he does something fun and people act like he's a big stuffed shirt? What a drag to be a judge! I think Roberts better use those stripes to keep his spirits up. And underneath: plaid pants!

By the way, that UTR post is full of interesting links and comments, including an attempt to answer my question about why Souter, alone among the Justices, declined to issue a statement on the death of Chief Justice Rehnquist. No one seems to have a good answer, so it's an occasion to make up reasons, in the style of a Letterman Top Ten list.

IN THE COMMENTS: Especially good comments here, including more than one Top Ten list and some alternate suggestions on how Roberts could glamorize his robe. And what's stopping the rest of them from fooling around with the uniform?

The completely covered face in the driver's license photo.

A Florida appellate court rejected the claim of a Muslim woman who wanted to appear veiled in her driver's license photo, with only her eyes showing.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles issued [Sultaana] Freeman, 38, a license in 2001 showing her veiled with only her eyes visible, but later suspended it.

Freeman sued, claiming the suspension infringed upon her First Amendment rights.

In 2003, Circuit Judge Janet C. Thorpe agreed with authorities that letting people show only their eyes would undermine efforts to stop terrorists. That same year, Gov. Jeb Bush signed legislation requiring a picture of a driver's full face on a license.

The appeals court found enforcement of the law "did not compel Freeman to engage in conduct that her religion forbids -- her religion does not forbid all photographs."
That's a rather strange way to word the problem. Her religion doesn't require her to have a driver's license, I assume. So even if her religion did forbid all photographs, the law wouldn't require her to engage in conduct that her religion forbids. But perhaps her religion requires her to veil most of her face? Then the law compels her to do something against her religion to the same extent that it would if her religion had forbidden all photographs. I don't think the ultimate answer should depend entirely on whether the law forbids what the religion requires, but it would be nice if the court could at least get it straight whether that is what is happening.

I haven't read the case, only the news report. Maybe I'm being unfair to the judge.

Search engine visitors.

I've been getting a lot of extra traffic from Google and other search engines in the last three days, mostly people coming to read this post about Wolf Blitzer observing that the Katrina victims are "so poor" and "so black." I wonder if the interest in that bungled comment of his is really so great, which would be significant, or if I just happen to rank high in the searches, which is a boring happenstance. I have to resist getting absorbed in trying to understand things by reading my Site Meter reports. I find them fascinating, in a really low-level way — unfortunately.

"I suspect that the sexual future of the forty-something woman involves having more than one partner at all times."

Just something I read in the paper.

[I]t seems like most men just can't keep up with our needs. I have no idea what men are doing with their supposedly outrageous sex drives because we are just not getting the satisfaction we deserve.

38% said "no one is to blame."

How impressively cool-headed people are about absorbing tragedy. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll taken in the last two days.
13% said George W. Bush is "most responsible for the problems in New Orleans after the hurricane"; 18% said "federal agencies"; 25% said "state and local officials"; 38% said "no one is to blame"; 6% had no opinion. -- 29% said that "top officials in the federal agencies responsible for handling emergencies should be fired"; 63% said they should not; 8% had no opinion....

10% said George W. Bush has done a "great" job in "responding to the hurricane and subsequent flooding"; 25% said "good"; 21% said "neither good nor bad"; 18% said "bad"; 24% said "terrible"; 2% had no opinion. -- 8% said federal government agencies responsible for handling emergencies have done a "great" job in "responding to the hurricane and subsequent flooding"; 27% said "good"; 20% said "neither good nor bad"; 20% said "bad"; 22% said "terrible"; 3% had no opinion. -- 7% said state and local officials in Louisiana have done a "great" job in "responding to the hurricane and subsequent flooding"; 30% said "good"; 23% said "neither good nor bad"; 20% said "bad"; 15% said "terrible"; 5% had no opinion.
So 31% put the blame on the federal level and 25% put it at the state/local level. Why do they break down the federal response into Bush and federal agencies and then aggregate the state and local numbers? I guess it's the usual obsession with what everything means for Bush's popularity. No one cares anywhere near as much about the political fortunes of a particular mayor and governor. Yet the actions at the state and city level were quite different, and it's important to think hard about which level of government to trust in various situations.

I like that ordinary people don't go for the demands that someone ought to be fired. We've heard a lot of demands of this kind in recent years, and they usually strike me as beside the point — political rhetoric heated up and served by the party out of power. The new person will have to struggle with the real world difficulties too, and he or she will have less experience. Meanwhile, there will be a superficial impression that action has been taken. And the party out of power can gloat. It's not surprising that Bush doesn't respond to that sort of thing. But it is quite nice that the average person perceives the nature of the political game and disengages.

UPDATE: I talk about more recent polls here.

Connecting Roberts and Katrina — a good Democratic move?

The Boston Globe reports:
Senate Democrats said yesterday that they will invoke the vast disparities in income and living conditions laid bare by the Hurricane Katrina disaster to sharpen their questioning of Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. at his confirmation hearings next week.

The scenes of devastation featuring primarily poor African-American residents in New Orleans have highlighted the widening gap between rich and poor, said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts.

With Roberts having urged a narrow interpretation of civil rights laws in the past, Senate Democrats will link the scenes of economic hardship with the constitutional and legal issues that surround efforts to address racial and economic inequalities, he said.

''We have made very important progress over the period of the last 50 years in knocking down walls of discrimination so that people can participate and be a part of a changed America," said Kennedy, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. ''And he's going to be asked to explain some of his advice that would have, I think, undermined that progress in important ways."...

Roberts has appeared headed for relatively easy confirmation. But Democrats and liberal groups hope that issues raised by Katrina offer a new opening to critique his record on civil rights and to point out differences between Democrats, who favor a powerful role for the federal government, and Republicans, who are more deferential to the states.

Leahy said he watched the scenes of hardship on television with a growing sense of anger over the inability to deliver services to those who depend most on the government, issues he said would come up during the Roberts hearings.
Or did Leahy watch the scenes of hardship on television with a growing sense of how he might try to get the upper hand at the Roberts hearings?

But a Supreme Court justice should have sensitivity about the plight of the poor and the country's longterm problems with racism. Many judges come from relatively privileged backgrounds, and one does have to worry that their judgment will be off as they weigh interests and think about remedies.

It's unpleasant, however, to see the great Katrina catastrophe used to score political points, and politicians that do that risk their own reputations. But at the same time, Katrina has made us look at an aspect of American life that is usually far in the background. It forced us to see how many poor people there are, how so many of them are black, and how government can fail them.

We will see how Kennedy, Leahy, and the others handle themselves if they decide to use this strategy. Of course, Roberts can be counted on to respond well. If those are to be the questions, he will give just the right answers, demonstrating his strong understanding of the problems of poverty and racisim and tying that to his profound commitment to the Constitution.

IN THE COMMENTS: Someone notes Senator Kennedy's experience with the subject drowning. He will want to refrain from saying things trigger that association.

Arlen Specter makes up the term "superprecedent" — Part 2.

Here's Part 1. And Beldar is re-skewering him for it.

Here's the WaPo story quoting Specter.

What's disturbing your sleep these days?

For me, it's acorns.

(They fall, from some distance, onto the roof over my bedroom, intermittently, and then roll off. It's surprisingly loud when everything else is quiet.)

September 6, 2005

Must Roberts now meet an even higher standard?

Wisconsin Senators Kohl and Feingold — both on the Judiciary Committee — both think so, according to this AP report. Here's my favorite part:
Legal scholars in Wisconsin, however, said they thought the bar probably wasn't any higher for Roberts now.

"The standard for an associate justice is high enough so that it is virtually impossible to be any higher," Marquette University law professor Peter Rofes said. "I cannot imagine a standard for the chief justice being higher."

Ann Althouse, a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, agreed.

"I think an associate justice position is so important that it needs full examination," she said. "I can't think what more one could want for the chief justice."

And, no, Rofes and I didn't get together in advance to coordinate (and weren't listening in on each other's phone calls).

So great minds think alike. I'll leave it to you to decide whether the great minds are Kohl and Feingold or me and Rofes.

I forgot to tell you I was going to be on TV.

Just locally here in Madison — on the 5 p.m. news on the NBC station. Did anybody see that? Just a little chatting about Rehnquist/Roberts.

"My favorite color is light pink."

Frances Bean Cobain speaks. (Via Throwing Things.)

"Ironic index entry in the new edition of the Bluebook."

Per my John:
Mitsakes in quotations, indicated by "[sic]," 69

Maynard to God: "You rang?"

So soon after failing to make a public demonstration of mourning upon the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, I'm going to have to cry publicly here over the death of one of my favorite television personalities, Bob Denver.

Just yesterday, re-watching the last episode of my favorite TV show, "The Comeback," I said, "Valerie Cherish is my favorite TV character, ever."

"Really? What about Seinfeld?"

"No." I thought back over all the TV characters I could remember to see if anyone meant so much to me and said, "There's only one other person I can think of: Maynard G. Krebs."

All the obits will forefront Gilligan. But I don't care about Gilligan. It's Maynard I love!

Like, I'm getting all misty.

IN THE COMMENTS: "When you think about it, how many actors play two iconic characters in their careers on TV?" He mentions Mary Tyler Moore and Bea Arthur. For me, Lisa Kudrow sprang instantly to mind. Then there's Patty Duke, who did it on one show. Robert Young. William Shatner? Don Knotts?

"But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing."

Glenn Reynolds expects anyone who donates to disaster relief to display their contribution on a website. Why wouldn't they? Maybe they take Matthew 6 seriously:
1 "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.
IN THE COMMENTS: People offer various interpretations of the scripture and note that you can post the amount you gave anonymously at the website Glenn links to. I respond:
I'm not purporting to interpret this scripture and won't argue about how it should really be read, but I think there is a scruple about calling attention to charity that some people might be hardcore about. Posting even anonymously on a website that is only about advertising charity could be taken as wrong. I note Jesus sounds rather hardcore about it and puts the stakes very high.

I agree that posting the number can serve the independent good of encouraging more donations. But why doesn't Jesus mention that?
UPDATE: A reader writes:
The Matthew quote on your blog attacks Jews (i.e. those who go to synagogues) as hypocrites when it comes to charity. In fact, anonymous giving is considered the highest form of giving in Jewish tradition (see the writings of Maimonides) both in order to save the recipient from the burdens of embarressment or obligation to the donor, and in order to ensure that the real motivation is charity and not self-aggrandizement.
It seems to me that Jesus is part of that tradition then. He's not condemning Jews in general (and, of course, is himself a Jew). He's criticizing anyone who uses charitable giving to show off in various public spaces — "in the synagogues and in the streets." Clearly, doing the same thing in a church or in a secular building or on a website presents the same problem, and clearly, simply being someone who goes to a synagogue is not itself the problem.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Despite the wording of that update, I do realize that Maimonides lived after Jesus. An emailer writes:
Regarding your post on anonymous donation today, you may be aware that Maimonides lived 1000 years after Christ, and as a secular philosopher, was as likely to have been influenced by Christian thought as anything else. Be that as it may, Maimonides, and not the Old Testament, is the most-commonly cited source for Jewish doctrine that anonymous donation is to be valued above others.

It seems to me that anonymous giving is a fine ethical point. I can see why religious and secular teachers might arrive at it independently or by agreeing with each other. I'm afraid if it were pushed in modern America, it would tend to result in people giving a lot less. It's part of our culture to have telethons and celebrity appeals and things like that. I can't really picture a move toward some austere new form of virtue. We do things in our political, showbiz, pop culture way. There's Oprah at the Superdome, and Travolta's flying in with supplies. That's America! I'm not really trying to correct everyone.

The emailer continues:
I acknowledge that there is a purpose to publicizing certain aspects of charity - peer pressure encourages charity. However, I am troubled when charity becomes one more form of divisiveness - an example of which was Ann Coulter's (reported) recent remark that New Yorkers would be slow to reciprocate to the Gulf the help showed them.

Mmm, yeah. I'm not out there looking for it, but I could imagine the blogosphere turning accusatory. The righties are giving more than the lefties! And some would defend that as useful in drumming up more contributions.

First day of classes.

It's the first day of classes here at the University of Wisconsin Law School. Don't you love the fall back-to-school feeling?

The good news from New Orleans.

Here. Ordinary people, I assume, will eagerly consume the good news. Are you absorbed in political finger-pointing? I'm not — and I was last week when I felt that people were suffering and dying because of bad decisions. That's not to say I don't think there should be studies of what went wrong. I do. But I'm interested in things that are oriented to solving problems, and I'm very mistrustful of people who are providing analysis as a means to advance one political interest or another.

Blogging about work.

Here's a letter to the editor in response to Jeremy Blachman's op-ed about why it's good that people blog about the workplace:
In "Job Posting" (Op-Ed, Aug. 31), his defense of corporate employees who blog, Jeremy Blachman writes: "Now that everyone can publish online, we can get these incredible glimpses into worlds we might otherwise never get to see. People across the world can share stories, commiserate and connect with each other. Potential employees can see beyond the marketing pitches."

There is already such a mechanism. It's called literature.

One form of content that can be very effectively delivered via literature is known as fiction, and it can be used to provide all sorts of "incredible glimpses into worlds we might otherwise never get to see," including the worlds of work.

David Sharp
Paris, Aug. 31, 2005
Who gets the better of this exchange, Blachman or Sharp? Of course, I'm going to lean to Blachman. So many reasons spring to mind. Let me jot down a few. Almost anyone, anywhere can blog. It's not limited to persons with elite literary skills. Blog posts go up instantly and can be read instantly. There are millions of blogs, full of variety, and relatively few novels can be published and kept available. You don't have to pay to read a blog. Blog posts can describe isolated details without needing to fit them into some character's dramatic story arc. Writers with the time and ability to produce publishable novels do not populate all parts of the workplace. Novelists don't tend to care very much about the details of how different businesses work: literary novelists concentrate on personal relationships, and popular novelists concentrate on clever or thrilling stories.

I'm not knocking novels. I'm just saying they occupy one niche, and blogs have staked out another. Novels show things blogs don't and blogs show things novels don't. Blachman is right that blogs give us "these incredible glimpses into worlds we might otherwise never get to see." So do novels.

NYT headline switch.

In the paper paper, it's "A Fox TV Station Refuses to Broadcast a Candidate's Ad That Ridicules the President." On the web, it's "Channel 5 Rejects Anti-Bush Ad of Borough President Candidate."

I read the paper version first and looked for it on line so I could blog about, among other things, the overdone political tone of the headline.
A local television station, WNYW/Channel 5, is refusing to run a provocative advertisement promoting a Democratic candidate for Manhattan borough president. And the campaign of the candidate, Brian Ellner, is charging that the station is doing so because the spot takes a swipe at President Bush.

Brian Ellner, right, a candidate for Manhattan borough president, introduced his partner at the end of his commercial.

The 30-second ad features Mr. Bush's face superimposed upon a middle-aged man's naked torso as Mr. Ellner says of the president that "the emperor has no clothes." Mr. Ellner also introduces his partner, Simon Holloway, in the spot - which the campaign says is the first time in city history that a gay candidate has introduced his or her partner in a campaign commercial.

So, did the station reject the ad because Ellner makes a show of being gay, because it ridicules Bush, because it shows a naked torso, because it shows a naked, middle-aged torso, because it puts a real person's face on someone else's naked torso, because that real person is Bush, or because it combines a gay theme and the depiction of Bush naked?
Mr. Ellner said in an interview yesterday that representatives of Channel 5, a Fox affiliate, had told his campaign that they would not show the advertisement because it was "in poor taste."

"It's pretty clear it's an anti-free speech decision because of our criticism of the president," Mr. Ellner said.

"It's untenable and in my view it's anti-American." He added that the rejection of the ad was "disrespectful to voters."
All Ellner needs to do to prove that is point to other ads that the station runs that are at the same level of taste or lower. If you don't have that, maybe you lack the judgment to be Mahattan borough president.

"I wasn't shattered. But I was deeply concerned."

Leonard Cohen.
I ... saw him driving down the street about three weeks ago. He was driving a 1992 Nissan Pathfinder and had this befuddled look on his face. Now I know why.

UPDATE: Mr. Cohen, so many people love your work. Put out your equivalent of "The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories?" and let us help you.

September 5, 2005

"I wish there was a country called al-Qaedia that we could have invaded, but there wasn't."

Dennis Miller likes to say. But now isn't there a city called al-Qaedia?

UPDATE: Just so I don't get any more messages trying to correct my "typo," please try to understand Dennis Miller's joke. No wonder he went off the air! I think it's funny...

"How did a 6-year-old end up being in charge of six babies?"

Deamonte Love, leader among babies.
In the chaos that was Causeway Boulevard, this group of refugees stood out: a 6-year-old boy walking down the road, holding a 5-month-old, surrounded by five toddlers who followed him around as if he were their leader.

They were holding hands. Three of the children were about 2 years old, and one was wearing only diapers. A 3-year-old girl, who wore colorful barrettes on the ends of her braids, had her 14-month-old brother in tow. The 6-year-old spoke for all of them, and he told rescuers his name was Deamonte Love.

In fact, rescuers had separated these children from their parents, and the parents deserve credit for having raised such a beautifully responsible young boy.

On the radio: talking about Chief Justice Roberts.

Needing to be on the radio at 7, I was up unintentionally early at quarter to 5. I read the paper and drove in to the Business School garage next to the University building that houses the public radio station. There's a bat circling around at the level where I normally park, so I drive down another level. I make it to the radio station with a few minutes to spare.

As I sit down to put on the headphones, the assistant comes in with the AP report hot off the wire, marked "URGENT." Bush has picked John Roberts for the Rehnquist vacancy! Ah! I'm here to talk about Rehnquist and the vacancy he's left, so we launch into the hour's discussion with the freshest possible news.

At some point the audio will be The audio is available here.

What did I have to say? I'm impressed by Bush's quick action nominating Roberts. Bush clearly thinks he is the best judge. I expect Bush to act quickly to nominate someone to replace O'Connor and note that O'Connor's resignation has her staying until her placement is confirmed. That means that the Court will have nine members, and there is no worrisome prospect of evenly split decisions. I'm trusting that Roberts will be quickly confirmed (and that no one will die). Don't I think the Democrats will want to delay and examine Roberts even more closely than they were planning to? There will perhaps be a short delay, mostly out of respect for the dead Chief, but I don't think people tolerate much politicizing of the confirmation process. There are two vacancies to get filled and the terrible aftermath of Katrina to deal with. It's not a good time for futile posturing.

But the Democrats have waited so long for this opportunity, and their core constituents are going to expect them to make some showing for themselves. Meanwhile, Bush looks good getting on with it, being crisply decisive — and Roberts is going to inspire us with the look of crisp decisiveness at those hearings. So I'm picturing the Democratic Senators making their points, staking out their positions in a solid, impressive way, without consuming an exasperating amount of time and accepting their defeat with decent grace and a pragmatic appeal for support in the next election.

MORE: If this post were a work of fiction, the bat would mean something. Yet some people would view the bat as meaningful, despite the nonfiction nature of the blog. Oh, okay, I concede there's an element of fantasy in the last sentence of the post, but it's still nonfiction: I really was picturing that ideal response. But anyway, you don't consider the bat an omen or a supernatural presence, do you? I've never seen a bat in the parking garage before, and it was making circles over the precise spot where I'd planned to park my car.

Nomination politics.

The WaPo reports:
The death of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist just days before Senate confirmation hearings for John G. Roberts Jr. set off a scramble in Washington yesterday and presented President Bush a historic opportunity to put his stamp on the Supreme Court for decades to come....

As they sift through names, White House advisers are weighing whether it would be better to announce a nominee quickly or to wait until after the situation in the Gulf Coast is better in hand and the Roberts confirmation process is finished. With his poll ratings at an all-time low, gasoline prices at a longtime high and U.S. troops suffering rising casualties in Iraq, Bush confronts a perilous point in his presidency.
What will be more important to Bush, appointing someone who will shape the law for decades or using the appointment to affect his current political standing? Obviously, the effect on the law is far more important, and, in fact, to make the decision he wants and let the chips fall where they may is what Bush usually does.

As to the timing, what is the political advantage of waiting? Is the theory that he will be more popular in a month or two, so he ought to drag his heels and leave the Court without a Chief Justice? He might as well make the announcement quickly, while there are so many distractions keeping opponents from getting much attention. He's already been through the list over the Roberts nomination, and I can't believe he wasn't fully prepared to have this second appointment this soon.

"The Comeback" — especially Mickey.

Did you watch the final episode of (my favorite TV show) "The Comeback"? As expected, we got to see the edited version of the reality show, which — no one could have been surprised — humiliated Valerie Cherish. Beautifully done, down to the final theme music, "Cherish."

One of the best things about the series was the character Mickey, who came out of the closet last night, a big deal for him, but not worth noticing to anyone else. Here's an interview with Robert Michael Morris, the 65-year-old teacher and theater actor — and former monk — who played Mickey so brilliantly. An excerpt:
Mickey fixes Valerie's hair a lot, and it never really looks any different.

That's a wig she wears. I was told, "Whenever you're not doing anything, touch her hair."

Is Mickey maybe a tiny bit of a sycophant?

He's not a sycophant at all. I think Mickey completely adores her. He wants her to always look her best. If he was a sycophant, and it was only what she could do for him, he wouldn't protect her as much. Mickey and Val share that history that she can rely on.

Why was Mickey so sensitive about people knowing he was gay?

I don't think he's sensitive about being gay. It's just that he's never been open about it. He thinks of himself as just being him. He doesn't think of himself as being almost a stereotype. People always want to say to me, "Are you gay?" My standard answer is, "If I was playing a serial killer, would you ask me if I was a serial killer?" De Niro played Al Capone. Did people think he was a gangster? I let them think what they want to think, because it's nobody's business. Look what happened with "Will & Grace." Eric McCormack and Sean Hayes spend half their time saying, "No, we're not gay."

Oh, yes, isn't it gauche the way those actors who play gay characters go on talk shows and the instant they sit down find ways to make references to their wives?

September 4, 2005


I'll be on Wisconsin Public Radio with Joy Cardin, from 7 to 8 tomorrow morning, talking about Chief Justice Rehnquist and the new vacancy on the Court. On all the "Ideas Network" stations.

The Justices pay tribute to William Rehnquist.

What's with everyone but Souter making a statement on the death of Chief Justice Rehnquist? ("A statement from Justice David Souter is not expected, the court said.")

Of the seven who did make statements:

Those who noted his fairness: Stevens, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Breyer, Ginsburg.

Those who said they'd lost a friend: Stevens, Scalia, Thomas.

Citing his leadership: Stevens, Kennedy, Ginsburg.

Mentioning his sense of humor: Stevens, O'Connor.

Noting his common touch: Kennedy, Ginsburg.

Noting his intellect: Scalia, Kennedy, Breyer.

Noting his dedication to judicial independence: Breyer, Ginsburg.

Paying tribute to his knowledge of the Court's history: Kennedy, Breyer.

Referring to him as "boss": Ginsburg.

No one said they "loved" him, but Justice Kennedy noted that "He loved his family," and Justice Ginsburg said she "held him in highest regard and affection."

Acknowledging his historical greatness: O'Connor.


Check out the entries in the new logo contest at BlogAds. Man, it's hard to make a good logo! I'd just like to say that it is very clear that the word "blog" looks best in all lower case. The b and the g balance each other. Any entry with all caps or a capital B should be rejected, I'm thinking. And any entry that doesn't make a break of some kind between "blog" and "ads" is bad. You can't have people thinking "gad." Gad! That's bad.

"When people see the bread, they don't want to eat it. But when they taste it, it's just normal bread."

Kittiwat's confectionary slaughterhouse.

MORE: Here's a photograph.

"Why in the world is New Orleans below sea level to begin with?"

I was interested in this statement by Mike Tidwell, author of "Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast," who appeared on "Meet the Press" today:
Why in the world is New Orleans below sea level to begin with? I think the media has sort of accepted it uncritically that this city is below sea level which is why we have this problem. Miami is not below sea level. New York's not below sea level. It's below sea level because of the levees. The levees stop the river from flooding and the river's what built the whole coast of Louisiana through 7,000 years of alluvial soil deposits. And if you stop that flooding, the other second natural phenomena in any delta region in the world is subsidence. That alluvial soil is fine, it compacts, it shrinks. That's why New Orleans is below sea level. That's why the whole coast of Louisiana is--the whole land platform is sinking. An area of land the size of Manhattan turns to water in south Louisiana every year even without hurricanes.

You can't just fix the levees in New Orleans. We now have to have a massive coastal restoration project where we get the water out of the Mississippi River in a controlled fashion toward the Barrier islands, restore the wetlands. If you don't commit to this plan which is this $14 billion, costs of the Big Dig in Boston, or two weeks of spending Iraq, you shouldn't fix a single window in New Orleans. You shouldn't pick up a single piece of debris because to do one without the other is to set the table for another nightmare.
I expect to hear a huge debate about these environmental realities. There will be people who just want to rebuild and people putting immense preconditions on rebuilding. Restore the wetlands? "Get the water out of the Mississippi River"? The mind boggles.

Roberts for Chief?

Orin Kerr thinks so. I agree!

Since O'Connor's resignation was contingent on replacement, isn't it possible to switch the Roberts nomination to Chief Justice and have a nine-member Court sitting when the term begins? Then replace Justice O'Connor.

UPDATE: Actually, I think this would be a poor strategy for Bush if his goal is to produce a more conservative Court. In that case, he should follow through with the Roberts nomination ousting the swing voter O'Connor. That is nearly an accomplished feat at this point. If he replaces Rehnquist first, the debate about how a moderate should replace O'Connor will return to square one.

The Harvard Law School collage assignment.

Prettier Than Napoleon went to Harvard Law School and got assigned to make "a collage, a drawing, a crayon rendition, or any form of expression that depicts the qualities of the lawyer you most want to be." She links to the collage, which is hilarious.

She's responding to this Joanne Jacobs post about collaging in a high school pre-calculus class.

What idiotically inappropriate art assignments were imposed on you when you were in school? Law school assignments most heartily welcomed!

What is the educational theory behind this (if any)? I'm guessing it's some sort of attempt to make people who don't take easily to books feel welcome. I have way too many memories of listening to teachers at my kids' schools murmuring about the wonders of "hands on" assignments and "learning by doing" and thinking they don't believe children can learn by reading. Then there's also the whole self-esteem angle, taken to the extreme of making the subject the student himself — what it means to me, how I feel about it, what my self-image is within it. I've got to admit that as a student, I thought about myself a lot. But what I mostly thought is: I'm bored and you people are stealing my precious time.

Arrrgghh! I just had a flashback to a high school art class where I was assigned to make a collage and given the subject: "society." The hell! Anyway, at least it was an art class and not history.

"We have to prepare the country for what may be some very, very difficult pictures."

Said Michael Chertoff just now on "Meet the Press," referring to the sight of dead bodies to be revealed upon what he called the "de-watering" of New Orleans.

Russert is giving Chertoff a good grilling, by the way, asking him if he will resign, if "heads will roll," and how could Bush have said no one anticipated the breach of the levees. Chertoff's strategy is to emphasize what they are trying to do now and how hard it is.

MORE: Chertoff clarifies about what was a surprise about the levees breaking. It was that the storm had already passed without breaking them. The break came after everyone had concluded they'd "dodged a bullet."

UPDATE: The transcript.

On not paying attention to Iraq.

Hurricane Katrina has diverted our attention from Iraq, and now the death of Chief Justice Rehnquist and the Roberts confirmation hearings will further absorb us. If neither of these things were occupying the stage, we would be scrutinizing the constitutional process in Iraq and following the Cindy Sheehan bus caravan. What effect do you think it will have for Americans to pay so much less attention to Iraq? Certainly, those who are committed to the anti-war movement are frustrated to have built up attention to their cause only to see it torn away. Some of them have tried very hard to link Katrina to the Iraq war.

I'm sure such efforts appeal to those who are already against the war, but I tend to think most Americans would find them obtuse or offensive. The theme has been the woeful, overarching incompetence of the Bush administration. If the administration proceeds to do well with the hurricane disaster, it might make people more likely to assume it must be doing well enough in Iraq too. The anti-war activists will feel tempted to point to all the failings of the hurricane effort to keep the general incompetence theme alive. But I think ordinary people feel very bad about the things that went wrong in the Katrina aftermath and will eagerly consume any new flow of good news. They will get tired of those who harp on the bad, especially when it is conspicuously part of a larger political agenda.

UPDATE: I think this new poll reinforces my beliefs about how ordinary people will feel about things.

Pop culture as the cutting edge of politics — in China.

The Chinese vote for "Super Girl":
In a country where it is illegal to organize many types of public meetings, fans formed booster clubs and canvassed malls to court prospective voters. There were even accusations of voter fraud, as rabid fans circumvented the rule limiting each person to 15 votes.

"It's like a gigantic game that has swept so many people into a euphoria of voting, which is a testament to a society opening up," a social commentator, Zhu Dake, told state media.
It's not just the chance to engage in political-style activity that makes this story so compelling. It is the chance to break away from the centralized cultural norms:
Unlike much programming that comes out of Beijing or Shanghai, "Super Girl" featured young women from the provinces. For many fans, it was the lack of polish of the performers, and the lack of predictability of the voting results, that made the program addictive.
And consider the winner, the Super Girl:
[Li Yuchun], 21, is almost the antithesis of the assembly-line beauties regularly offered up on the government's China Central Television, or CCTV. Tall and gangly, with a thatch of frizzy hair, the adjectives most used to describe her in the media were "boyish" or "androgynous." Some commentators speculated that her fan base consisted of young girls who considered her to be their "boyfriend" because of her appearance.
Don't think style isn't part of politics. Smashing the government's image of the feminine matters!

"John, who the hell is that clown?"

Here is Linda Greenhouse's obituary for William H. Rehnquist. It is suitably long. The first substantive legal topic she discusses is federalism. Here's the most colorful passage:
In one of the Watergate tapes, Nixon was recording as referring to "that group of clowns" at the Justice Department, "Renchburg and that group." According to an account by John W. Dean, Nixon's White House counsel, Nixon stopped by briefly at a meeting that Mr. Rehnquist was running and later summoned his counsel to ask: "John, who the hell is that clown?"

"I beg your pardon?" Mr. Dean replied.

"The guy dressed like a clown, who's running the meeting," the president said in an evident reference to Mr. Rehnquist's pink shirt and clashing psychedelic necktie.

Nonetheless, Nixon nominated him...

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 35, the final page.

It's the last day of this 35 day project. The full set is now available here.

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

With that, we close The Amsterdam Notebooks — and see a final litter square on the back cover, a detail from Page 1:

Amsterdam Notebook

Once again, we wonder: Does it?

MORE: "A final litter square"? I meant little, but I'm going to accept the typo as a true Freudian slip.

"Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals."

The Washington Post reports on the power struggles in the Katrina aftermath:
Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.

The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.

A senior administration official said that Bush has clear legal authority to federalize National Guard units to quell civil disturbances under the Insurrection Act and will continue to try to unify the chains of command that are split among the president, the Louisiana governor and the New Orleans mayor.

Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.

I can't imagine letting even one person die to protect my political reputation. How many people died because of self-protective decisions like what this article suggests Blanco did?

UPDATE: As to the last sentence of the WaPo quote, the newspaper now has a correction at the link:
A Sept. 4 article on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina incorrectly said that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) had not declared a state of emergency. She declared an emergency on Aug. 26.

There's much discussion in the comments, much of it fueled by seeing this mistake by the paper, about whether the administration officials are "lying" about their attempts to wrest control from the governor and her resistance. I'm not seeing any evidence that this part of the article is wrong.