October 29, 2005

Is this the third time you've posted that photo?

Yes, but each time it's been different. Can you tell?


"The growing Supreme Court buzz around Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr. is reaching highly suspect, Clement-ine proportions."

Underneath Their Robes is not going to be fooled again. The trick is to fill in the blank: Edith Brown Clement is to John Roberts as Samuel Alito is to ________. Guessing he fits the blank, some folks are out to pre-emptively tar Michael Luttig. One swipe is that he only went to a state law school: Virginia.

State Street, pre-Halloween.

It was a beautiful day here in Madison, Wisconsin, with temperatures in the 60s and bright sun (made fall-like by long shadows in mid-afternoon). Lots of young people circulated along the blocks that would turn into a Halloween party mood before long.

Get ready! Buy some costumes!

State Street

State Street

Soak up the atmosphere:

State Street

State Street

Notice any politics? Look closer:

State Street

Oh, but who's doing politics today? It's a beautiful Saturday. Let's just hang out and have some latte:

State Street

Gotta run now. What? What's this?

State Street

While you were hanging out and latte-sipping, politics set up shop on pre-Halloween State Street. Oh, I see they've got a petition they're hoping all the kids will stop and sign. They want a referendum on the ballot here in Wisconsin that would demand that the troops be brought home from Iraq:

State Street

The signature-seekers are all middle-aged and older. The pre-Halloween young folks don't go anywhere near them. One man with a clipboard-and-petition goes over to a woman with a clipboard-and-petition and says: "Are you getting many?" She says: "No."

Oh well. Take a break. Enjoy the sun:

State Street

The "left wing gear" purveyor isn't doing a brisk business either:

State Street

I walk back toward my car. Near the campus end of the street, the city has put up some portable toilets to help out the Halloween crowd. Nearby, an old guy is banging on drums and half singing:
Money, money, money, money
They say the best things in life are free
But try giving that stuff to Mr. B

"The fingerprints of my past were all around me, but I didn't know what they meant."

Many Hispanic Americans are discovering their Jewish ancestry:
When she was growing up in a small town in southern Colorado, an area where her ancestors settled centuries ago when it was on the fringes of the northern frontier of New Spain, Bernadette Gonzalez always thought some of the stories about her family were unusual, if not bizarre.

Her grandmother, for instance, refused to travel on Saturday and would use a specific porcelain basin to drain blood out of meat before she cooked it. In one tale that particularly puzzled Ms. Gonzalez, 52, her grandfather called for a Jewish doctor to circumcise him while he was on his death bed in a hospital in Trinidad, Colo.

Only after Ms. Gonzalez moved to Houston to work as a lawyer and began discussing these tales with a Jewish colleague, she said, did "the pieces of the puzzle" start falling into place.

Ms. Gonzalez started researching her family history and concluded that her ancestors were Marranos, or Sephardic Jews, who had fled the Inquisition in Spain and in Mexico more than four centuries ago. Though raised in the Roman Catholic faith, Ms. Gonzalez felt a need to reconnect to her Jewish roots, so she converted to Judaism three years ago.

"I feel like I came home," said Ms. Gonzalez, who now often uses the first name Batya. "The fingerprints of my past were all around me, but I didn't know what they meant."
There are, according to the article, many stories of so-called "crypto-Jews" (hidden Jews):
For more than two decades, anecdotal evidence collected by researchers in New Mexico, Colorado and Texas suggested that some nominally Catholic families of Iberian descent had stealthily maintained Jewish customs throughout the centuries, including lighting candles on Friday evening, avoiding pork and having the Star of David inscribed on gravestones.
It's fascinating and poignant that the old traditions would be kept alive for so long by people who were not talking to each other about the origins of the traditions.

IN THE COMMENTS: A reader is shocked that the NYT is using the term "marrano."

Post-Miers, a long, unpredictable political game.

The post-Miers battle brews:
As he picks another nominee - Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit emerged as a leading candidate on Friday - President Bush faces redoubled pressures from both the left and the right. His conservative supporters are more determined than ever to demand someone with a clear conservative record on abortion rights and other social issues; Senate Democrats are emboldened by the unraveling of the Miers nomination, the downturn in the president's popularity and the indictment Friday of I. Lewis Libby Jr., a top White House official.

The handling of the next nominee is likely to be "tougher than hell," Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in an interview Friday.

Both sides have spent years preparing for the pivotal battle over who will succeed Justice O'Connor, the critical swing vote on abortion rights and other social issues. The pressures from both sides present a political challenge for President Bush - and it could generate a battle that could bog down the Senate for months if Democrats decide to block a vote on the new nominee....

Asked if Democrats might seek to block a nominee with a filibuster, which allows at least 40 senators to block a full vote on a nominee, Mr. Schumer said, "Nothing is off the table."

Mr. Specter, who supports abortion rights, said "there was already talk on the Senate floor yesterday of a filibuster" if the president nominated an outspoken critic of Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights case.

Earlier this year, Democrats used filibusters to block several appellate court nominees, Republicans threatened to change the Senate rules to eliminate the tactic, and Democrats said they would retaliate by tying the Senate in procedural knots. Only a last-minute deal by a bipartisan group of 14 senators averted a showdown....

If Democrats filibuster Mr. Bush's new Supreme Court nominee, Republicans "would have no alternative but to say that game is over" and move again to change the rules, said Senator Orrin G. Hatch, a Utah Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

"Let's be honest about it," Mr. Hatch said, "whoever the president puts up here, there is going to be screaming and shouting about it from the left and maybe from the right."
Considering how far we will be into the Court's new term by the time any new nominee can be confirmed, what is the importance of even trying to replace Justice O'Connor before next October? It seems unkind to O'Connor to prolong her stay on the Court when she has asked to leave, but now that she is participating in the new cases, it seems brusque to oust her. After all, if she genuinely wants out, she can walk away and leave an empty seat.

The President and the senators must be seeing a vast political playing field in front of them, stretching from now until next fall -- which is also, of course, the time of the midterm elections. But how to play? Bush needs to make the first move, and he must know very well that he cannot control what comes next. The Miers fiasco teaches that trying to avoid a fight can just lead to a less predictable fight. Perhaps he ought to lob the nominee that produces the very fight he thought he could avoid with Miers.

I'd like to promote the ingenious strategy of actually picking the person who would make the best Supreme Court justice. But should we have any confidence in Bush's judgment on this score, given his abysmal choice of Miers? I'd say yes, because he picked John Roberts too. When he picked John Roberts, he was, it seems, picking the best person for the job. When he picked Harriet Miers, he was trying to avoid a fight. Avoiding a fight doesn't work, so go back to picking the best person. Perhaps the most political benefit lies there as well: Bush should look competent and confident.

As for the senators, they will do what is in their interest, and maybe enough of them will see fit to bog down the Senate for the months leading up to the election season. Who would benefit from making abortion rights the topic of national conversation right now?

A lot will depend on the quality of the nominee. The stronger that person is -- the more like John Roberts -- the worse a senator looks opposing him. But what if Bush picks someone who is a highly competent federal appellate judge and who is also susceptible of being painted as a right-wing ideologue and a sop to the folks who -- if can be argued -- brought down Miers? No one can foresee how that game will play out.

"This is exactly the thing that journalists fear most."

I have avoided writing the Plame story. There is too much detail to it for me to analyze it and come to a fair conclusion. A man faces criminal prosecution. The temptation is to say either this is a huge deal or this is practically nothing based on how much you'd like to see the Bush Administration wounded. How many bloggers have fallen prey to that temptation? How many bloggers have written about the indictment of I. Lewis Libby without imbuing it with their own political wishes? A man faces criminal prosecution. Let him go to trial, then.

What I would like to examine, however, is the larger picture. Can we peel our attention away from the Bush Administration and think more generally about reporters and their sources? Katharine Q. Seelye and Adam Liptak write in today's NYT about how very unusual it is to have reporters testifying against their source. Journalists rely on sources, work to develop them, and fight to keep them secret:
It is all but unheard of for reporters to turn publicly on their sources or for prosecutors to succeed in conscripting members of a profession that prizes its independence....

The three reporters [Tim Russert of NBC News, Matthew Cooper of Time magazine and Judith Miller of The New York Times] all initially resisted subpoenas for their testimony, hoping to avoid not only testifying before the grand jury but also having to appear as a prosecution witness at trial....

"This is exactly the thing," said Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, "that journalists fear most - that they will become an investigative arm of the government and be forced to testify against the sources they've cultivated."...

Floyd Abrams, the First Amendment lawyer, said he could not recall a previous case that depended so heavily on testimony by reporters or in which reporters could be so exposed.

"It's troubling that reporters are being asked to play so central a role, but even more troubling that reporters may be obliged to play the role of testifying against someone that they had promised confidentiality to," said Mr. Abrams, who has at various times represented The New York Times, Time, Ms. Miller and Mr. Cooper.

Mr. Fitzgerald said at a news conference yesterday that he had not been seeking a "First Amendment showdown" with the news media and had thought "long and hard" before issuing subpoenas to reporters....

"I do not think that a reporter should be subpoenaed anything close to routinely," he said. "It should be an extraordinary case. But if you're dealing with a crime - and what's different here is the transaction is between a person and a reporter, they're the eyewitness to the crime - if you walk away from that and don't talk to the eyewitness, you are doing a reckless job of either charging someone with a crime that may not turn out to have been committed. And that frightens me, because there are things that you can learn from a reporter that would show you the crime wasn't committed."...

Ms. Miller said she did not know why Mr. Fitzgerald "structured it as he did." Mr. Libby's eventual trial, she said, would bring into focus the balance the courts struck in her case.

"The case has got to raise a profound question about reporters' obligations and freedom of the press against national security imperatives," Ms. Miller said.

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the case was setting a dangerous precedent. "Reading the indictment makes my blood run cold," she said. "This whole thing hinges on Russert."

Basing criminal charges on statements by reporters, she said, "puts us on completely new ground."
At the time of the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate scandal, we scorned a President livid about leakers and made heroes out of journalists who found sources and revealed secrets. Now we are in a new era, with a different President and a different war, and the journalists slip into a different position. Oh, it's all different -- you may say -- when the leak comes from the Administration, by those who would preserve the position of the powerful, in the interest of supporting a war. Are you sure you shouldn't worry about the free press right now?

[I've added "you may say" to the second-to-the-last sentence for fear of misreading.]

IN THE COMMENTS: Commenters try to turn the discussion to the subject I tried to turn it away from. I try to engage with some of this without getting dragged into the details -- one commenter keeps trying to give me long reading assignments -- and I wind up saying:
As I've said before, I'm not going to invest my time in getting into the details. I find it puzzling on the surface, and I bet most ordinary Americans with places to go and lives to live feel something fairly similar. Who's going to delve into all of this now? Only people like you who are hot to drag Bush down. I don't think Bush is hurt as much as you want him to be, because the whole thing is too hard to understand at this point. And normal folks never cared about Scooter Libby anyway. I accept that a man has been indicted. Let him go to trial. I'm a little sad that my effort to start a more general conversation about the free press got diverted into the very material I've said all along I'm not going to study. You'd have to pay me to do this sort of legal work. You are fueled by political fervor. What's my motivation to read the things you're reading? None!
Then a commenter who calls himself John Harvard gets us very nicely focused on the problem the prosecution presents for the reporters who will be called as witnesses:
I have read the indictment. Every count boils down to this: Libby made statements to FBI agents or to the Grand Jury about the content of conversations with Russert, Miller, and Cooper. These statements disagree with Russert/Miller/Cooper's statements about the content of these conversations. Therefore, Libby made false statements and perjured himself.

In other words, the case turns on the credibility of a political appointee versus the credibility of three journalists. Can you say, "field day for impeaching witnesses?" And since Libby does not have to take the stand at trial, we will be treated to the spectacle of every single thing these three journos ever wrote or said on camera being put under a microscope. Not to mention the things Russert said over his own career as a political hack. Find enough untrue or dodgy things in anything these three have said and written, and the prosecution case falls apart.

So it's Libby's freedom (his freedom through Jan 19, 2009, anyway)versus the reputations of three reporters. Which side has more to lose?

This is the true cost of turning reporters into judicial witnesses: their public record becomes a matter of, well, public record.
Is this what we are going to see: Russert shredded on the witness stand?

October 28, 2005

Do you mind...

...if I continue not paying any attention to news stories with the word "Plame" in them? That's been my policy up until now, and it's saved me a lot of time. Occasionally, I've glanced about the 'sphere and noticed the slavering hyenas waiting for the Fitz-kill, but I've never felt the call to express how repulsive I find them.

Bush's communication breakdown.

A Miers post-mortem from the Wall Street Journal:
Nothing is more important than that President Bush preserve sufficient standing with the public to see this commitment [in Iraq] through. The Miers nomination threatened that standing, and its withdrawal restores the conservative political support he will need to defend him against daily opposition to his 9/11 presidency.

Still, there is a lesson from the Miers nomination relevant to whether the president succeeds in Iraq and with the policy beneath it. His government has to do a better job of communicating the necessity and the substance of this action. The troops deserve better on this score. Just as the Miers nomination was a mystery and was allowed to remain a mystery, the war in Iraq most of the time has been allowed to drift through the mind of the American public on not much more than al-Zarqawi's news budget for the Western media. Just as the Miers nomination failed because of inadequate explanation, Iraq too may falter for the same reason. It should not.
Well put. I think the Miers nomination was always a bad one, but the failure to explain it was even worse, and worse than that is Bush's failure to communicate persuasively about the war in Iraq. Why is he acting like a tired and beaten man? Talk to us!

Back from radioland.

That was a lively hour on the Joy Cardin show. Were any of you readers listening? There were a number of passionately conservative callers. (Yes, on Wisconsin Public Radio.) I'm interested in listening to the recording when it's up. Mostly, I want to hear whether the microphone picked up me saying "The internet is great" when the news break ended abruptly. Joy thought it only picked up me saying "is great" and that the story that had just ended was something about a corpse. Hmmm....

UPDATE: Listen to the show here. [Link fixed. Find today's 7 a.m. show.]

Will the right's attack on Miers strengthen the Democrats?

Hugh Hewitt, who was Harriet Miers's biggest supporter in the blogosphere, has this op-ed in today's NYT:
The right's embrace in the Miers nomination of tactics previously exclusive to the left - exaggeration, invective, anonymous sources, an unbroken stream of new charges, television advertisements paid for by secret sources - will make it immeasurably harder to denounce and deflect such assaults when the Democrats make them the next time around. Given the overemphasis on admittedly ambiguous speeches Miers made more than a decade ago, conservative activists will find it difficult to take on liberals in their parallel efforts to destroy some future Robert Bork....

The next nominee - even one who is a superb scholar and sitting judge who recently underwent Senate confirmation like Michael McConnell of the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, or a long-serving superstar like Michael Luttig of the Fourth Circuit - will face an instant and savage assault. After all, it "worked" with Ms. Miers. A claim of "special circumstances" justifying a filibuster will also be forthcoming.
The problem with Miers is that she was glaringly underqualified, and I opposed her on this ground. But much of the opposition expressed a demand that the candidate meet ideological requirements, and Hewitt is right that legitimating this kind of criticism will give weight to the ideological problems the Democrats will have with a demonstrably Scalia-like nominee. So the right's opposition to Miers could have some effect on the ability of Bush to put forward the kind of nominee they want. Still, the Democrats will object to a strong conservative anyway, and if Miers had gone on the Court, that would have been a very real consequence with powerful effects.

More later. I've got to run and do that radio show.

October 27, 2005

We're still laughing about "The Apprentice."

Hilarious episode tonight. Pretty boring right up until the end, but the payoff was damned amusing.

"Americans are looking for something moral and just. Something other than this mess in Iraq we are engaged in."

"They need a champion. That champion is you." So said John Edwards, stopping by the UW campus today on his "Opportunity Rocks" tour. The message:
Poverty is the great moral issue facing America today....

The number of Americans living in poverty rose by 1 million in 2004 and now stands at 37 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"It's not a complicated thing," Edwards said. "It's just wrong."

Katrina exposed the ugly face of poverty. "We saw that poverty has a face in America. It's largely black," he said.

Edwards, dressed in faded jeans with the sleeves of his blue oxford shirt rolled up, said that the typical African-American family has about $6,000 in assets and that the typical Hispanic family has about $8,000. White families have about $80,000, he said.

Most of the nation's poor are people who work or are capable of working, Edwards said. Many of them are single mothers who are working two or three jobs for minimum wage. They are working 15 to 16 hours a day, six or seven days a week, trying to survive and give their kids a better life, he said....

Asked what his dream ticket would be for 2008, he responded, "Somebody who would stand up and fight for the kind of people we're talking about here today."

Before Edwards spoke, Scott VanDerven, 51, was musing about Edwards-Feingold in '08.

"It's youthful. It's certainly not traditional. But is it too far left for mainstream voters?"
In case you were wondering what John Edwards was up to! Personally, I'd rather hear John Edwards try to come up with ideas for lifting people out of poverty than John Kerry offer his plan for Iraq.

After Miers.

Should I say something more about the Miers withdrawal? I keep thinking I should, but somehow I feel so calm about it all. I'm glad that the difficulties are over. But we shouldn't be complacent, because the new struggle is about to begin. I haven't been monitoring the news that much today, but from what little I saw, I got the impression that the hardcore conservatives who led the way, undermining the nomination, are spinning the withdrawal as their own personal victory that entitles them to have their demands served the next time around.

Is it true that they brought down the nomination? I don't for one minute believe the cover story, that the impasse over document production required the withdrawal. And I recognize that the strong and articulate opposition of conservatives unsettled the nomination and raised the threshold much higher than it would have been if Republicans had just closed ranks with the President. Remember when Lindsey Graham advised everyone to "shut up" and wait for the hearings? But it was Graham yesterday who was saying Miers needed to "step it up a notch." The nomination collapsed right after that. I think it was the loss of support among more moderate Republicans that really destroyed hopes that Miers could make it. So we shouldn't accept exaggerated claims by the far right. Bush should not have to respond to the Miers debacle with one of their very favorite nominees.

Or is everything different now? Now that the right wing of the Republican party has experienced its independence and power, perhaps it will never get back in the party box again.

I would think Bush could nominate someone just about exactly like Roberts -- if such a person exists. (It's hard to be impeccably qualified, spotlessly clean, just conservative enough, with a paper trial and without a paper trail, and willing to put up with all the crap that looks even crappier than it did a month ago.)

But maybe the newly fired up right won't swallow even a Roberts now. Yet if Bush gives them what they want, it will light a fire under the Democrats, and that fire could easily spread to the moderate Republicans. Some folks love the idea of that hot, hot fight. It might be very distracting at a time when Bush needs to create a distraction, but somehow I don't think Bush wants a big fight.

At this point, it may be too late to avoid one. The attempt to avoid a fight by choosing Miers was a spectacular failure.

What "political settlement" is Senator Kerry talking about?

The Washington Post reports:
"The way forward in Iraq is not to pull out precipitously or merely promise to stay 'as long as it takes,'" Kerry said during an address at Georgetown University. "We must instead simultaneously pursue both a political settlement and the withdrawal of American combat forces."...

As part of his call for a political solution to the Iraq conflict, Kerry proposed a conference of nations led by the United States, Britain, Turkey, Russia and other NATO allies to forge a compromise between the Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions in Iraq. He also called on Bush to appoint an envoy to help "maximize our diplomacy in Iraq and the region."
So the Iraqis have approved their constitution and are moving toward elections at the end of the year, and Kerry wants an international group to intervene and start hammering out some other arrangement? Isn't the constitution the political solution? I genuinely can't understand what he's talking about.

UPDATE: I suspect that the press is helping the hapless senator by highlighting his call for drawing down the troops and burying the inane call for an international "political settlement" effort.


I'll be on the Joy Cardin show at 7 a.m. tomorrow, talking about the Miers withdrawal. This show is carried by the WPR "Ideas Network" stations. It should be streamable at this archive later.

Mukhtaran Mai to speak in Madison.

Who is Mukhtaran Mai?
The world knows Mukhtar Mai for her courage in speaking out about the grotesque gang rape she suffered at the hands of a tribal jirga. No judge, social taboo, village leader or military administration could silence Mukhtar’s cry for justice for victims of rape and sexual abuse....

Mukhtaran Mai, an icon of the bravery and courage of the Pakistani women is coming to America to share her story of survival, courage and bravery with the hope that all who hear her would focus their attention on thousands of Pakistani women and children that desperately need help. Without any legal and social safeguards or economic opportunities, the women who have been rendered homeless by the earthquake face the horrific specter of being persecuted by a system that does not prioritize their welfare. There is no system in place to ensure that women left who lost male family members will be safe from sexual violence and societal discrimination.

She'll be speaking on campus at the Red Gym tomorrow (Friday) at 6:30 PM. UW lawprof Asifa Quraishi will do the introduction, and she'll be saying something about her own writing about rape laws in Pakistan and Islamic law. I don't know about Ms. Mai, but Professor Quraishi is one of the best speakers I've ever heard. Her ability to enlighten on the subject Islamic law is awe-inspiring.

MORE: Asifa recomments the alt.muslim site for more information.

"The President needs a brawl."

So said Fred Barnes on Fox News just now, responding to a question about whether Bush could afford a brawl in Congress right now, which is what will happen if Bush nominates someone openly committed to conservative jurisprudence for the Supreme Court, now that Miers has gone down. The conservatives are claiming a glorious victory right now, and they want the spoils. They want their nominee this time. They've proven -- they will claim, with justification -- that pleasing them is more important than pleasing the Democrats. And next time, he's got to get it right -- right, as they see it. The fight the Democrats will put up? Oh, it will be great! Just what you need! Surely, it will distract us all from the many things that have been holding and are about to grab our attention.

When pink turns to black.

A template change for Harriet Miers's Blog!!!

Aw, goodbye Harriet Miers's Blog!!! -- one of the memorable shooting stars of the blogosphere.

Miers withdraws.

Just as I had given up on expecting a withdrawal from Miers she withdraws:
Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination to be a Supreme Court justice Thursday in the face of stiff opposition and mounting criticism about her qualifications.

President Bush said he reluctantly accepted her decision to withdraw, after weeks of insisting that he did not want her to step down. He blamed her withdrawal on calls in the Senate for the release of internal White House documents that the administration has insisted were protected by executive privilege.

"It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House -- disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel," Bush said. "Harriet Miers' decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the constitutional separation of powers -- and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her."

Miers' surprise withdrawal stunned Washington on a day when the capital was awaiting news on another front -- the possible indictment of senior White House aides in the CIA leak case.

Miers told the president she was withdrawing at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. In her letter dated Thursday, Miers said she was concerned that the confirmation process "would create a burden for the White House and our staff that is not in the best interest of the country."

She noted that members of the Senate had indicated their intention to seek documents about her service in the White House in order to judge whether to support her nomination to the Supreme Court. "I have been informed repeatedly that in lieu of records, I would be expected to testify about my service in the White House to demonstrate my experience and judicial philosophy," she wrote.

"While I believe that my lengthy career provides sufficient evidence for consideration of my nomination, I am convinced the efforts to obtain Executive Branch materials and information will continue."
So he used the Krauthammer strategy of relying on the impasse over the documents.

Ah, so we don't have Miers to kick around anymore.

But what now? Can he find another Roberts or will he satisfy the conservatives who've been insisting on someone who really is openly another Scalia or Thomas?

"That isn't centrist. That's very liberal."

Captain Ed comes out in opposition to Harriet Miers, based on the speech she gave in 1993 to the Executive Women of Dallas, which he's read four times. He detects -- in addition to bad writing -- liberalism:
Miers wrote the speech for executive women the year before her first official campaign position with George Bush. She doesn't seem to share much of Bush's political views at this time, which belies the notion that she represents some rock, impervious to prevailing winds. For instance, on abortion, we get this declaration:

"The ongoing debate continues surrounding the attempt to once again criminalize abortions or to once and for all guarantee the freedom of the individual woman's right to decide for herself whether she will have an abortion."

Does that sound to anyone like someone committed to opposing abortion, or even allowing the issues to be decided by the legislatures?...

[T]his speech gives so mamy reasons to oppose Miers that it's a wonder she hasn't already repudiated it as a youthful indiscretion. There's hardly a passage in here that gives any credence to the notion of Harriet Miers as an originalist, or even a conservative.
This sort of analysis, designed to pry Bush supporters away from Miers, should encourage Democratic senators to support her. If the Democrats all decide to support her, shouldn't she still manage to get enough votes from Republican senators to make it through? Surely, a majority can be reached by adding on hardcore Bush supporters, pro-choice Republicans, and Republican political pragmatists who can see what damage the annihilation of abortion rights would do to their party.

Folks like Captain Ed seem to think Miers is such a mediocre mind that going to the hearings will prove nothing but a horrible embarrassment. I've made some predictions of that sort myself. Yesterday, I expressed some sympathy for her, as various senators were saying nasty things indicating that they thought she wasn't smart enough for the job. Once they think you're dumb, I said, whatever you say is likely to confirm it. But later, I started to think, it might not be so. Remember how everyone adored John Roberts's performance at the hearings and said things like he displayed an encyclopedic knowledge of constitutional law? But the fact is: he didn't. There was actually very little occasion for him to explain any constitutional law in serious detail. I TiVo-blogged much of the Roberts hearings, and, really, I think he used a set of strategies to talk about the things at a general level and to stay away from controvery and difficulty.

The people who are helping Miers can read through the Roberts hearings and analyze what he actually did to create that impression of encyclopedic knowledge: Assume he didn't have the knowledge but had some smart techniques for surviving the hearings. Classify the strategies. Maybe he had ten. Maybe five. I think if Miers sat through the hearings following a set of rules distilled from the Roberts hearings, giving short clear (but not revealing) answers to the questions, not taking any bait or looking disturbed by any senatorial blustering, she'd make it.

Bush has dug in. I thought he would withdraw the nomination, but now, as so much time has passed and so much battering has already been endured, I think he'll stick it out. I remember thinking Clarence Thomas would cave after the Anita Hill testimony at his confirmation hearings. But he sat through it and survived. I tend to think Miers will too.

UPDATE: While I was writing that, of course, Miers withdrew!

ANOTHER UPDATE: I went back to proofread this ill-fated post about the ill-fated candidate and saw that I'd written "Once they think your dumb, I said, whatever you say is likely to confirm it." I've corrected that, but maybe I should have left it uncorrected, and said it was a deliberate tribute to Harriet Miers's Blog!!! which always got your and you're wrong. Poor Harriet Miers's Blog!!! It's not long for this world. I see the pink has turned to black!

Is it negligent to have a parking garage under a building?

A jury in Manhattan found the Port Authority negligent for allowing public parking under the World Trade Center:
It was in the basement garage below the trade center that Islamic terrorists detonated a van packed with explosives on Feb. 26, 1993, foreshadowing the attack that brought down the towers and killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.

The verdict came after four weeks of testimony from security experts and three former directors of the Port Authority....

David J. Dean, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, called the verdict "an extraordinary victory." The jury, he said, clearly accepted the plaintiffs' argument that the Port Authority should have foreseen the terrorist attack, based on warnings from its own experts as early as 1985, and shut down the public parking garage.

"The case was never about blaming the terrorists," Mr. Dean said yesterday. "It was about what the Port Authority should have done. They disregarded the advice of their own experts and other experts. They were motivated by money. They should have thought about the ultimate sacrifice of human lives."

There are more than 400 plaintiffs, seeking $1.8 billion. The jury, which was unanimous, had to fix the percentage of blame for the Port Authority, as opposed to the terrorists. It decided that the terrorists bore 32% of the fault, with the rest of the blame falling on the Port Authority. Under the law applicable in the case, as explained by the plaintiff's lawyer, the Port Authority will have to pay 100% of the economic and noneconomic damages.

Jurors were impressed by 1985 report by the Office of Special Planning and by the testimony of Peter Goldmark, who directed the Port Authority from 1977 to 1985:
Mr. Goldmark created the office in 1984, after becoming concerned that, given terrorist activities in other parts of the world, the trade center, as a symbol of American capitalism and strength, could be a target. After a visit to Scotland Yard in London that year, he wrote a memo saying that Scotland Yard was "appalled" that there would be public transient parking beneath a facility like the World Trade Center.

The report concluded: "A time-bomb-laden vehicle could be driven into the W.T.C. and parked in the public parking area. The driver would then exit via elevator into the W.T.C. and proceed with his business unnoticed. At a predetermined time, the bomb could be exploded in the basement. The amount of explosives used will determine the severity of damage to that area."...

Jurors said that they were impressed by Mr. Goldmark, who testified for the plaintiffs and wept on the stand, and that they found the witnesses for the defense less credible. "Goldmark was the only one who didn't seem to be a Port Authority company man," said the jury foreman, Alan Nelson, 54, of Washington Heights, who works in the services department of a law firm.

In contrast, he said, the witnesses for the Port Authority, "seemed highly programmed in their answers," and seemed to be speaking, "from a bureaucratic, organization-man point of view."
There was striking evidence in this case because Goldmark paid attention to the problem and a conscious decision was made not to solve it. But perhaps, once an attack occurs, we ought to expect, the owners of any building with a public parking garage will be viewed as negligent.

October 26, 2005

Audible Althouse, #15.

Here's the new episode. I went over an hour this time. Just a tad though. Topics discussed: what your car says about you, guy cars and chick cars, Jimi Hendrix singing "All Along the Watchtower," Edie Brickell singing "What I Am," dreary women in the news (Valerie Plame, Cindy Sheehan, Harriet Miers), impressive women dead and alive (Rosa Parks and Condoleezza Rice), great and not so great films (especially "Nashville"), Steve Colbert, Al Franken, Howard Stern, three rather bad artists, and the importance of having a high energy Monday. Key digressions: insect repellent (and the "they don't bite, they don't even light" commercial) and the whole issue of whether "life is but a joke."

Don't forget: Audible Althouse has been nominated for a BOB! That ought to make you listen to the podcast with new ears.

Vote for Audible Althouse!

And, once again, let me thank the wonderful John Althouse Cohen and Brit Rice for recording the incredibly cool theme music!

When the lawprof proctors the exam.

I've got a question for you law students. Do you like it when the professor proctors the exam (or would you like it)? What does the lawprof proctoring the exam signify to you? Seriously. I'm trying to figure something out.

"This wasn't just about a woman drinking a lot of beer. This was a powerful piece of art."

The Japanese artist Tomoko Takahashi drinks 48 bottles of beer then walks across a balance beam -- and has a £5,000 grant to do it.
James Tyson, the theatre's programmer, defended the performance, staged as part of the centre's Experimentica 05 season. He said: "Miss Takahashi is an internationally renowned artist. Her work constantly questions the way products are marketed and the role of mass media in society."
To be fair, there is some question about whether she actually drank all 48 bottles of beer.

"She needs to step it up a notch."

That's Lindsey Graham's message to Harriet Miers. And Norm Coleman wants "to get a better feel for her intellectual capacity and judicial philosophy, core competence issues." Jeez, how would you like to go to a job interview where the interviewer's presumption was you're too dumb for this and it was up to you to disprove it? You'd better start spewing some supersmart things right now, lady! How grisly! I can't imagine how one could come off well trying to live up to that. Once people have decided you're dumb, pretty much everything you say sounds dumb.

Madonna's new look: Valerie Cherish!

I knew my beloved Lisa Kudrow "Comeback" character would live on.

"Nashville" -- the Robert Altman movie.

For some reason, I never saw this incredibly highly praised movie when it came out. This was odd, since it was back in the days when I went to see a lot of movies, when it wasn't possible to say I'll wait until it comes out on video, and when I had been a big fan of the Robert Altman movies up to that point. "McCabe and Mrs. Miller," "Thieves Like Us," "Mash," "The Long Goodbye" -- I loved them. I don't know what it was about "Nashville" that kept me away. Was it just the popularity of it?

Many years later, I bought it on DVD, but it sat on my shelf for years. Finally, last Sunday, I started to watch it. After less than a third, I took a break. It turned out to be a very long break, as I didn't get back to it until Monday night, when I sat through maybe another half hour of it.

Last night, I meant to try to work my way through some more of it, but I ended up watching "Special Report With Brit Hume" and an old episode of "South Park" that I'd seen before that the TiVo happened to pick up.

What is it with me and "Nashville"? At this point, it's partly that I find the music intolerable. If you're going to imitate country music, you need good-sounding music to go with your satirical words. But that doesn't explain my avoidance of the film for three decades.

Is she judging you by your car?

Great topic for an article in the big, thick, advertising-padded "Special Section: Cars" in today's NYT.

And yet... cars do say something about you, don't they? I mean, something more than just how much money you were able and willing to spend on a car. But if you're concerned about your sex appeal, what should you drive? One woman says:
First, an expensive sports car, like a red Ferrari, should raise a red flag. "Something's lacking," she said. "It could be an appendage, but it could mean he has a void in his social skills."

Second, a dumpy car is O.K., but only if the driver makes up for it with something else, like a dazzling personality. Third, a funky car is not only all right but also sexy (like the refurbished taxi owned by a guy in her apartment building) because she thinks it shows a man's passions and interests.
My observation: Most people drive unbelievably boring cars! But what does that say? They need transportation and are not that interested in cars. Still, there is an irrational effect: boring car, boring person. You can overcome that, but you do have to overcome that. The reverse is true. We may think: exciting car, exciting person. But the presumption is easily rebutted.

Bonus info:
The idea that there are "chick cars" and "guy cars" is real to many people, said Joe Wiesenfelder, 37, the senior editor of Cars.com, a Web site that reviews automobiles and is affiliated with the NPR program "Car Talk." The radio show did an unscientific survey of favorite chick and guy cars, based on thousands of e-mail submissions from listeners. The survey found that the Top 5 Ultimate Chick Cars of All Time are the VW Beetle, VW Cabriolet, Mazda Miata, VW Jetta and Dodge Neon; the Top 5 Ultimate Guy Cars are the Ford Mustang, Chevy Corvette, Chevy Camaro, Ford F-150 pickup and Dodge Viper.

Steve Colbert's risk.

He's making the right-wing jerk character ... awfully lovable. Last night's "Colbert Report" was brilliant, by the way. I especially enjoyed the interview segment, which had been a problem in the first few episodes, where the guests were mostly newsfolk. Last night, he had Greg Barendt -- the author of "He's Just Not That Into You" -- and they took (fake) call-ins, all from women who were having trouble understanding the damned obvious messages their boyfriends were giving them. Colbert barged in to dominate all the answering, encouraging the women to keep at their relationships. "Hang in there," he told the caller whose boyfriend announced he's gay. If she's woman enough she can change him. The self-assurance while wrong is hilarious. But I do think that with some of the political points he makes, the supposedly wrong position isn't all that obviously wrong, and spoken with assurance by a character the audience loves.... Well, who knows what a show like this might do to flexible young minds?

Ho, ho, [silence].

The death of a laugh.

IN THE COMMENTS: Commenter Ruth Anne is an almost unbeatable contender for best comment on this one. She writes: "May he rest in peas."


Ad. (Via Canadienne)

October 25, 2005

Simulblogging Al Franken on "The Daily Show."

Wow, has he fattened up. "The President seems to be yelling at a lot of people right now," according to The Daily News, Franken says. Now, he's trying to describe his book, "Resurrection of Hope," which apparently contains a description of the future, which includes his becoming a senator (from Minnesota) in 2008. Something about impeaching Bush, then Cheney having seven heart attacks in one day gets a big laugh from the audience. The Democrats "need bold leadership." National health care. Republicans are the worst spenders -- applause -- it's in the book. End of interview. There was absolutely nothing funny said by Franken (or Jon Stewart). There was only one real laugh from the audience -- which was obviously ready to laugh -- and that was just over the hoary old idea of Cheney having heart attacks. Verdict: less amusing than Lou Dobbs on "The Colbert Report" last night.

UPDATE: Stewart was bizarrely inert. When he held up the book in the classic interview-ending gesture, I couldn't believe it was over. That was it? I think Stewart cut it short. But why? Because Franken was unfunny? That can't be it. Normally, Stewart would inject the funny to help out a dull guest. Can it be that Stewart dislikes Franken and deliberately let him flop and then cut the segment short?

I love "Fight Club."

But this list is just nuts. "UK film experts" -- they are apparently all young guys!

UPDATE: Here's a top 50 films list my son Christopher came up with a year and half ago.

What cities attract Halloween visitors?

Madison is one. But the authorities are saying we don't want you here! This is a party for insiders only. How do you close a town to outsiders? Does it make our party seem even more desirable and ... crashworthy?


Mmmm.... how beautiful:


Photographed and manipulated into this form -- from this -- by my son John Althouse Cohen.

A new TNR entry for the "blogoshpere."

Well, that's the way they spelled it. Maybe they're drunk. Or maybe -- gosh -- they're just that impressed by the blogosphere. Anyway, they're calling it "The Plank," as in walk the plank. They're pirates! That's a good self-image for the guys -- they're all guys -- at the nerdy little magazine (which I subscribe to). The formatting -- except for the extra banner on the top -- is especially nice. They do need to work on those typos! No blogroll. But I'm putting them on my blogroll and hope they work up some nice atmosphere, momentum, and interaction -- which is what makes The Corner so great. So far, it seems a bit stiff.

UPDATE: Stiff? What do you expect from a plank? Is the prose a little wooden? A little flat? I'm sure they worked through all the permutations, all the insults that might ensue, before they thought we're pirates and ran with it.

Althouse commenters affected by hurricanes.

Readers have noted the return of our regular commenter Elizabeth, who was ousted by Katrina. At the same time, we've lost touch with Victoria, who is fine, but among the 6 million Floridians for whom Wilma turned out the lights.

IN THE COMMENTS: Victoria checks in, is cheered by this post, and gives us this link to her new post with lots of good post-Wilma photos and descriptions.

Harriet Miers, "in line with the court's most hallowed traditions."

Andrew Ferguson characterizes the history Supreme Court appoints as "a long march of mediocrity " into which Harriet Miers would easily fit:
If you were to categorize Supreme Court nominees according to the reason presidents chose them, the slot for "Presidential Pal'' would quickly flood over -- while the category "Distinguished Constitutional Scholar'' would be significantly less populated than "Sop to Special Interests.''

The Supreme Court, in other words, has seldom been a showcase of intellectual distinction. To judge by her background and public writings, the choice of Miers appears in line with the court's most hallowed traditions.
The problem, he asserts, is that the last 20 years have been a "new era of excellence":
What accounts for this new era of excellence? One possibility is that we really have created the meritocracy that successful baby boomers are always telling us about (it explains why they're so successful!).

Another, more plausible explanation is the increasing importance of ideology.

The court having arrogated to itself the final say in many political and cultural matters, a president will want to be sure of a nominee's views. And intellectually engaged professors like Scalia and Ginsburg will have firmer and more predictable positions than professional networkers like Blackmun and Stevens.
So what does this mean? The renowned scholar is the real hack, and the President's friend is a decent, valid, time-honored choice?

(Aside: I note that the President did not pick his personal accountant to head the Federal Reserve.)

Morning on the 7th floor.

Tuesday morning, I arrive at my office on the Seventh Floor of Our Beloved Donor Law Building, grab my coffee mug (the one that doesn't tip over), and head over to the Lubar Faculty Library, where I put the mug in the coffee machine and hit the Large, Strong, and Start buttons. The machine grinds through its routine, and I wander about.

Hmmm.... the absence of doughnuts:

The absence of donuts.

Thinking of what might have been, I gaze out the window:

David Lee Roth and Adam Carolla.

They are going to replace Howard Stern who is moving over to Satellite Radio).

Do you think Adam Carolla would be better on the radio than on TV? That is, would you find him funnier if you weren't looking at his face? I think I'd prefer not to have to look at him, I'm afraid. It's not that he's ugly, but his face looks like he's uncomfortable in it. It disturbs me a little.

David Lee Roth -- well, I have no idea what sort of a radio personality he'd be, but I have some old fondness for the man. I like that he's become a real geezer, looks-wise, and don't mind seeing him at all.

Howard Stern? Well, how do you think he'll do on satellite, without the limitations of broadcast regulation to push up against? If he can do anything, maybe it will be less interesting. Oddly, I only know Stern from TV. I've watched the E! TV version of his show many times. I find him sort of a sympathetic character for some reason, even though I find a lot the things he does offensive (because of the attitude expressed toward women some, but not all, of the time). He's been channeling childishness effectively for us. But without "parents" -- the FCC -- telling him he's wrong, maybe we'll come to seem him as just a horrible, horrible man.

"What accounts for this intolerance of abstinence by college students?"

I think that's probably a question that answers itself, but here is an account of efforts to promote abstinence on campus.

Hottest "law porn."

The award goes to ... NYU! Congratulations, NYU! How do you do it? "Dworkin on Dworkin" -- that's so ... exciting!

Could Dworkin possibly have a more satisfied look on his face?

The new constitution.

The Iraqis have adopted their constitution. The announcement came today, with the first news of the results for Ninevah, one of the Sunni-dominated provinces. Opposition did not rise to the two-thirds level, which, added to two other Sunni provinces, would have defeated the constitution. Now, it seems, the Sunnis' interest lies in electing members of Parliament, that is, working within the new system.

Where it's against the law to use the letters W and Q.


October 24, 2005

"I am leaving this legacy to all of you ... to bring peace, justice, equality, love and a fulfillment of what our lives should be."

RIP, Rosa Parks.

Scary phone.

Found face

Talking to Google like it's your friend.

I'm constantly amazed (and amused) by the Google searches that bring people to this blog. (You know, I pay nothing to use Blogger, but I do pay by the month to have the premium service at Site Meter, which you need to have to see all the searches.) People write Google searches as if they were posing questions to a friend, a psychiatrist, or a Magic 8 Ball.

Here are some recent searches:
why am i attracted to fat womens bellys
i'm smart, goodlooking, and so why aren't i popular?

Then there are things like this:
what does it mean jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule

I come up second in a search for that. I've never given my opinion of what it means to say that "jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule." I kind of think Bob Dylan himself doesn't know. It sounds dirty though, doesn't it?


Audible Althouse got nominated for a BOB! Best Podcast!

The BOBs - BEST OF THE BLOGS - Deutsche Welle International Weblog Awards 2005

What did He do? (Not miscapitalized!)

Conceptual art marches on:
An artist that came to Buffalo to perform in an exhibition tracing the development of Chinese conceptual art is now in trouble with the law after trying to perform another stunt.

He Yun Chang, 38, of Beijing sat in a plexiglas box filled with concrete up to his waist on Friday in front of the Albright Knox Gallery totally naked.

Wait! Wasn't he kind of wearing concrete pants? Boxy, concrete pants...
Saturday afternoon, Chang decided to perform another stunt.

State Parks Police say Chang stripped off all his clothing, tied a rope around his waist to some sort of an anchor and walked out about 40 to 50 feet towards the brink of the falls.

Police believe that his plan was to stand out in the water totally naked for 24-hours.

Chang even had a staff member from UB and several people filming the stunt until something went wrong. The rope that was holding him from slipping into the rapids came untied and he had to wade back towards shore.

That's when a tourist spotted the naked man in the water and called police thinking that he may be suicidal.

Tourists! Such philistines!

The argument for Diane Sykes as the post-Miers nominee.

From Jessica McBride:
I don't profess to understand what's going on in Bush's mind nowadays because I still can't wrap my mind around WHAT he was thinking about Miers. But here is why a Diane Sykes candidacy would be a brilliant move for Bush. The more I think about it, the more I think that Diane Sykes has a female John Roberts feel about her.
Read the whole thing! A key point: Diane Sykes is from Wisconsin:
[A] Sykes' nomination puts Wisconsin Democratic Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold in a box. Wisconsin is unique in that we have TWO Democratic senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Both voted for Sykes [for the 7th Circuit appointment]. But they did more than that; they actively pushed her for the federal appeals court. And they were liberally quoted lavishing praise on her, saying they couldn't think of a reason to oppose her and citing the fact that she was so highly qualified blah blah blah. The humorous part is that I didn't believe Kohl and Feingold one bit that they think the Conservative Diane Sykes is the best thing since sliced bread. They just wanted Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle to get an appointment to the state Supreme Court. He appointed Louis Butler, who has solidified a new liberal majority on the court that is responsible for the decision on medical malpractice, among others. But now Kohl and Feingold would be in a box of their own creation. Which is deliciously humorous. What goes around comes around. They deserve it. NO RESERVATIONS about Sykes, both senators said then, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Nice. Many more points are made at the link. You should go there!


Have you noticed what a wonderful group of commenters hangs out at this blog? Well, anyone that answers is going to be a commenter, so that might not work as a question. How about have you noticed what distinctive personas some of the commenters have? It's easier to make yourself into a distinctive character as a blogger than as a commenter, isn't it? (Maybe not!) I'm impressed by the cast of characters we've got here. Comments?

Dangerous hot things.

The class I was just rushing to was cut short -- at both ends. I began by spilling my whole cup of coffee all over my notes, which led to a couple minutes of delay blotting things up with paper towels instead of talking about what I wanted to talk about: an exploding hot water heater. (If you do Civil Procedure, you will, of course, recognize the case.)

Well, at least there was thematic unity: hot liquid mishaps.

Then halfway through the hour, the fire alarm went off, and it was not a drill -- the profs are told when there is a drill planned -- so it wasn't a matter of putting in the 15 minutes hanging out on the lawn. Maybe we'd better get a little further away from the building. It seems to be a bad luck day. There are the fire engines.

I pack it in and go to the parking garage.

So we won't get to the case about the exploding, burning Audi -- you know that one too, don't you? -- I think as I get in my Audi and pull, very carefully, out of my parking space. I'm hoping my law school is not burning or exploding, I think, as I sit here now, cocooned at home, waiting for the firemen. These are firemen who, on the side, do people's windows. They are coming to take down the screens and put up the storms windows to protect me from the cold I know is coming, even though today is a day of dangerous hot things.

UPDATE: Word is there was "a very small fire." Somebody overmicrowaved something. So, to revise the theme of the day, it's a day of fizzles.

"Harriet Miers is -- is an extraordinary woman."

What do you make of this Q&A with President Bush that took place an hour ago:
Q Mr. President, as a newspaper reported on Saturday, is the White House working on a contingency plan for the withdrawal of Harriet Miers' nomination?

THE PRESIDENT: Harriet Miers is -- is an extraordinary woman. She was a legal pioneer in Texas. She was ranked one of the top 50 women lawyers in the United States on a consistent basis. She is -- look, I understand that people want to know more about her, and that's the way the process should work.

Recently, requests, however, have been made by Democrats and Republicans about paperwork and -- out of this White House that would make it impossible for me and other Presidents to be able to make sound decisions. They may ask for paperwork about the decision-making process, what her recommendations were, and that would breach very important confidentiality. And it's a red line I'm not willing to cross. People can learn about Harriet Miers through hearings, but we are not going to destroy this business about people being able to walk into the Oval Office and say, Mr. President, here's my advice to you, here's what I think is important. And that's not only important for this President, it's important for future Presidents.

Harriet Miers is a fine person, and I expect her to have a good, fair hearing on Capitol Hill.

I'm in too much of a hurry to explain right now -- class starts in 5 minutes -- and I'll concede to the influence of wishfulness, but I read this as a sign that the nomination WILL be withdrawn: he's setting up the Krauthammer exit strategy with the documents; he did not address the question that was asked directly; and he fuzzes things over with irrelevant assertions about what a fine woman Miers is.

MORE: Here's the link to the Krauthammer article proposing that Bush set up "a classic conflict, not of personality, not of competence, not of ideology, but of simple constitutional prerogatives," in which an impossible bind requires the withdawal: "The Senate cannot confirm her unless it has this information. And the White House cannot allow release of this information lest it jeopardize executive privilege." And then, of course, you say all the nice things about what "an extraordinary woman" Miers is.

I was watching this press conference on TV, and it seemed as if Bush was making a planned withdrawal speech. He hesitated a lot and put his words together carefully. Note that he did not express confidence that she would be confirmed or that she would make a fine Justice. He focused on her general excellence, unrelated to the position she's been nomited for, and on the Senate, stepping up the pressure to give her a fair hearing -- right after turning up the heat about the denial of the documents. It seems as though he wants the Democratic senators to make more of a stink about the documents so that he'll look more credible blaming them for forcing him to withdraw her name. I'll bet they are too smart to make that move, though. Let him twist in the wind while they hold their fire until the hearings. Or maybe even -- crazily riskily -- just go ahead and support her and leave Bush to solve his own problems, without using them for leverage.

The preppy look -- what does it mean?

Here's NYT op-ed about the preppy look:
[T]hat craving for order may have been what made the preppy world look interesting in the summer of 1980, when a group of glib Ivy Leaguers (including me) put together the book as a tongue-in-cheek guide to one of America's obscure little subcultures.
Hey, we were just talking about "The Preppy Handbook" here last week!

Anyway, you might think from that excerpt that the piece would end with a pithy political observation about how today is like 1980. But no:
And now [preppies are] back. It makes sense, I suppose, from a fashion point of view. We just got through the hippie phase and preppy was due to be recycled. The alligator shirts and wood-framed handbags are a pure fashion revival, though, with little reference to the original subculture that spawned them.
Maybe sometimes fashion is just fashion, and it doesn't mean a damned thing. And we're not even going to amuse ourselves by reading meaning into it?

That's kind of a new idea, isn't it?

I wonder what that means about what our culture is coming to?

Half-hearted nostalgia for what was once new.

Isn't it funny how things like this seem quaint and old fashioned these days?
For a famous exhibition in 1960 at the Iris Clert Gallery in Paris he responded to Klein's exhibition "La Vide" ("The Void"), which consisted of an entirely empty gallery, by filling the gallery floor to ceiling with rubbish and calling it "Le Plein" ("Full Up").

Arman went on to create accumulations of all kinds of objects, from partly squeezed-out paint tubes immersed in cast plastic to a 106-foot-high stack of military vehicles embedded in concrete, in Beirut; called "Hope for Peace," that 1995 work was commissioned by the government of Lebanon. He made sculptures out of everything from buttons to typewriters, musical instruments, car parts and bicycles, and he manipulated them in all sorts of ways - sometimes violently, as in works that involved dissection, burning and exploding, and sometimes by creating elegantly patterned arrangements.
Well, it's not so cute when it's 106-foot permanent public art is it? I'd hate to have that "Hope for Peace" in my city. It must be the butt of jokes in the format "Hope for [blank]" with entries like: "Hope for that damned sculpture to get out of my city."

Anyway, RIP Arman.

Signs of a Rice candidacy.

Is Condoleezza Rice running for President?
It was Ms. Rice's second trip to the [South] since Hurricane Katrina, when she and other members of the Bush administration came under criticism for the handling of the storm's aftermath. On this trip, Ms. Rice met with hurricane victims and volunteers in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. But much of the rest of her itinerary was of a more personal nature.

No recent secretary of state has taken a trip like this, to relate a life story. Nor has Ms. Rice previously put her own experiences on such public display.

There was her childhood friend, Carole C. Smitherman, now president of the Birmingham City Council, who recalled Ms. Rice as a softball player who could hit the ball as far as any boy, a student who devoured the great books "as casual reading," a ballet dancer and a pianist whose music "filled our streets."

John Cantelow, who taught band in elementary school, with Ms. Rice playing the bells, said, "She was a different kind of kid." He added, "She was more mature than the others and very, very, very - how can I explain it, for a kid? - very focused."

Despite her disavowal of political ambitions, it was hard not to imagine Ms. Rice bringing this biography to elective politics, with this visit as her coming-out party.

Ms. Rice seems genuinely uninterested in running for office, but she clearly enjoyed her celebrity status. And how unlikely would it be for a Republican presidential nominee in 2008, especially one lacking foreign policy credentials, to turn to her as a running mate, especially if the Democratic opponent is, say, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton?
What about seeming "genuinely uninterested in running for office" would not also be exactly the way she would want to seem if she were genuinely interested in running for President?

"For God's sake, please don't name an award after me."

That's what Steve Martin, accepting the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, read from a slip of paper that he said contained his favorite quote from Mark Twain.

October 23, 2005

Audible Althouse, #14.

Another podcast about the odd last few days on a blog called Althouse. Beginning with the gene for black urine, we flow into the subject of books, prison, retreats, coddling toddlers by dressing up like The Beatles, how buying a minivan affects men and how it affects women, attacking a carjacker with a cup of coffee and a car door, The Doors, opposing Harriet Miers, underwear parties, boko-maru, witch-hunting, and that 5-year-old boy who put the image of Jesus on the poster about environmentalism to his teacher's dismay. 48 minutes, 36 seconds of podcasty goodness.

Here's a ... uh ... children's book.

Well, I guess that about explains it... German style. (Via Metafilter.) I'm trying to think how that would have affected me when I was a kid. It's just so damned clear! Wait 'til they ask, hand them the book, and see if they have any questions. I'm sure it will be better than my own insanely botched explanation. Or my mother's nuttily over-simplified version, in its entirety: "You know how men and women are physically built."

"We hope this project will be fun for all!"

Antonio, when he was 5 (in 1999), made a poster for his kindergarten class which the teacher folded in half before displaying. The problem was that Antonio had put a cutout image of Jesus on his poster (which he thought fit the environmentalism theme), and the public school teacher was worried about violating the Establishment Clause. The Second Circuit reverses a grant of summary judgment in favor of the school.

Here's the PDF of the text of the decision, Peck vs. Baldwinsville School District, which contains this description of the assignment that was sent home to the parents:
To enhance the student’s understanding of his environment, we are askingstudents to make an environmental poster at home and bring it to school by June 4th. These posters will be on display at our program. The children may use pictures or words, drawn or cut out of magazines or computer drawn by the children depicting ways to save our environment, i.e. pictures of the earth, water, recycling, trash, trees etc. This should be done by the student with your assistance. The poster should be able to fit in the child’s backpack. We hope this project will be fun for all!
Oh, it was fun all right!

Here's the mother's description of the first attempt at making a poster:
[S]he and Antonio sat down together one night to do the poster, and she told Antonio that the school wanted him to do a poster on how to save the environment. Antonio responded, according to [the mother, Joanne] Peck, that the only way to save the world was through Jesus. Peck then provided Antonio with art materials and some magazines, and Antonio selected pictures, cut them out, and, with his mother’s assistance, arranged them on a piece of paper. Antonio (who could not read) told his mother what he wanted the poster to say, and Peck wrote out what Antonio said so that he could include the words on to the poster.

This poster, which was turned in to [the teacher Susan] Weichert, was comprised of the following images: a robed figure (who is described by both parties as “Jesus”) kneeling and raising his hands to the sky, two children on a rock bearing the word “Savior,” and the Ten Commandments. Written on the poster were the phrases, “the only way to save our world,” “prayer changes things,” “Jesus loves children,” “God keeps his promises,” and “God’s love is higher than the heavens.”
A complete failure to do the assignment, right? But the boy is only 5. What difference does it make? The teacher tells the mother to do a new poster if she wants it to be exhibited in the cafeteria along with the other kids' posters.
[The mother] again assisted Antonio in selecting images (from the computer and from a religiously-themed coloring book), and in arranging pictures on the poster. The second poster depicted, on its left side, the same robed, praying figure pictured in the first poster. It also showed, in the center, a church with a cross. To the right of the church were pictures of people picking up trash and placing it in a recycling can, of children holding hands encircling the globe, and of clouds, trees, a squirrel, and grass.
This poster was displayed partially folded over to conceal the Jesus image. There is an interesting fact question here about how the school would generally treat irrelevant images, and the deposition testimony indicates that the child would have been asked to explain how the image related to what they'd studied. With the image of Jesus, the school did not ask and assumed the child's message was that God would save the environment, though it makes some sense to think that religious belief would motivate some people to behave virtuously in matters environmental.

As a matter of free speech analysis, the questions are whether the school engaged in viewpoint discrimination and if so whether avoiding endorsing religion is a compelling state interest justifying that discrimination.

The court does not in any way acknowledge the general problems schools face when parents (and students), fired by religious zeal, look upon every school assignment as an opportunity to send their religious message into the classroom.

Not contributing.

They want you to give, but do they?
One of the kings of Democratic fund-raising, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, collected more than $25 million to win a second term easily in 2004, and he has raised much more since then as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

None of it came from his own pocket.

Not once, according to federal records, has Mr. Schumer, right, donated to his Congressional campaigns, which go back more than two decades.

"Every spare nickel I have goes to college tuition," said Mr. Schumer, who has two daughters.
There are lots of others who don't contribute to their own campaigns. The typical excuse is that they need all their money to support their family. Who doesn't?

Getting out of that corset of a small car.

The article about the man and his minivan, discussed in the previous post, was buried in the back pages of the sports section of the Sunday NYT. Now, here's an article about a woman and her minivan, and it's buried in the back pages on the Sunday "Styles" section. (I remember when newspapers used to have a section that was just forthrightly called the "Women's" section, or, more amusingly, the "Society" pages.)

So what's the angle for dealing with the big minivan issue vis a vis women? Oh, how about feminism and fashion:
WOMAN, in case you had not heard, is not a vessel.

But Woman has been poured, packed and trussed into some mighty constraining containers over the years, from the figure-flattening boned bodices of Elizabethan England to the figure-flattering Wonderbras and stilettos of the 1990's. And when it comes to helming vessels, Woman has often found herself skipper of that slow boat to suburbia: the S.S. Station Wagon, a weighty skow practically synonymous with women's lack of lib.
Or should I say: feminism and fashion and alliteration?

And while we're being literary, let's toss in another element that, Oprah knows, appeals to the ladies: literature:
Jennifer Weiner feels liberated behind the wheel of her empowering minivan.

Kate Klein, the heroine of the new chick-lit best seller, "Goodnight Nobody" (Atria), and the possessor of today's answer to the station wagon, can relate. "She hates her minivan," Jennifer Weiner, the novel's author, said of her protagonist. "To her it's a symbol of suburban enslavement, everything she's given up - going from having a MetroCard and all the freedom it represented to a life of encumberment."

Before you go thinking of the writer as an ardent yet trenchant cross between Gustave Flaubert and Erma Bombeck, take note: For Ms. Weiner, the sound of freedom is the robotic rumble of the side doors of her Honda Odyssey sliding open at the remote click of her key ring. She doesn't just like her minivan. She loves it.
You will love your minivan.

So from "the figure-flattening boned bodices of Elizabethan England to the figure-flattering Wonderbras and stilettos of the 1990's" to what? Speaking of literature, I note that the imagery fell short. What is the fashion step of the '00s that corresponds to the minivan? It's all about room, room, room, so .... well, we hate to say it.... caftan?

Oh, the indignity, the emasculation of it all!

A man and his minivan:
RECENTLY I became a full-time, stay-at-home dad, having assumed the "Mr. Mom" role because my wife makes more money than I do. I have taken this in stride, largely because it is just the slipperiest part of a slope I've been on for a while.

Three years ago I sold my sports car, a Mazda Miata deemed impractical by someone other than myself. My motorcycle stayed - stayed parked, that is - until this summer, when it also found a new owner, in deference to my all-consuming parenting role. Sacrifices have to be made.

But lines must also be drawn: the one indignity I have refused to suffer is admitting that I should now be driving a minivan, let alone actually going out and spending my wife's hard-earned money on one....

It's not just the soccer mom stigma that makes me shudder. I learned to drive in the mid-1980's in a horrid Ford Aerostar, meaning that sliding behind the wheel of a new minivan today is tantamount to embracing the fact that I have become my parents.

If there is any hope that I won't grow into a pathetic middle-age man, it must lie in my refusal to accept the minivan as destiny.
The rest of the article is a review of the Mazda 5 minivan, which the author, Jeff Sabatini, manages to conclude is "cool." (He talks of tossing his snowboard -- which he calls his "plank" -- in the back.)

Something that seems even harder to do than having kids without buying a minivan: talking about a man to staying home with the kids without using the term Mr. Mom.

Too bad the idea of men and children always has to have this aura of emasculation around it!

That said, minivans are awful, and you don't have to have one just because you have kids. I never considered buying such a thing, myself. There are a lot of options between sportscar and minivan.

But, hey, Jeff, didn't anyone ever tell you that a Miata is a lady's sportscar?

"Testify before the sham court and you will be signing your own death warrant. "

That's the telephoned message to prospective witnesses in the trial of Saddam Hussein.
"We want Saddam to be held to account for his evil crimes and eagerly await the day when his lifeless body will swing from a rope," said Hatem, a farmer from Dujail whose brother Ali is one of the witnesses fearful to testify.

"There is almost nothing we won't do to hasten this day, but Saddam is very powerful. He has his agents everywhere. So when the message came that we would be liquidated if we took part in his trial we had to think of our families."...

American officials said there was no possibility that Saddam could threaten prosecution witnesses from the confines of Camp Cropper, the facility near Baghdad Airport where he is held in isolation from other prisoners.

"There is rampant paranoia about Saddam," one said. "He is a broken man who will soon be begging for his own life. All he thinks about now is himself and he has had no connection with the insurgency since we captured him in late 2003. I don't underestimate the evil that is inside him or the magnitude of his deeds. But as a tyrant, he is finished, impotent. And Iraqis need to realise this."
How difficult it will be to get through the trial. The trial ought to inspire people about the rule of law, but, as it is, many will decide instead that it would have been better to have killed Saddam outright on capture.