December 3, 2005

"Don't take away our portable Rome..."

"...where we can all have our houses and our cars, and our lovers and our wives, and our office girls and parties and drink and drugs." That's how John Lennon described the attitude of the circle that surrounded the Beatles -- why they never told their tales or showed the photographs they had:
"If you couldn't get groupies, we had whores," he claimed. "Whatever was going.

"There were photos of me crawling round on my knees coming out of whorehouses in Amsterdam with people saying: 'Good morning, John.'"

The BBC airs the 1970 interview today.

"People don't understand what happens to you when you become a judge. When you take that oath, you are transformed."

The NYT has this news article on yesterday's meeting between Samuel Alito and Senator Arlen Spector:
The White House and Mr. Specter hastily arranged the visit after an uproar over Wednesday's release of a 1985 memorandum reflecting Judge Alito's passionate belief that Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark abortion decision, should be overturned....

"Well, Judge Alito characterizes it as a personal opinion," Mr. Specter said. "I don't. That's what Judge Alito says."...

[A] colleague of Judge Alito, Judge Edward R. Becker of the Third Circuit, who is also a close friend of Mr. Specter, said Friday that the memorandum did not reflect Judge Alito's approach on the bench, which he said was to look "at every case anew with an open mind."

"It is not the Sam Alito I know," Judge Becker said. "People don't understand what happens to you when you become a judge. When you take that oath, you are transformed. You are a different person. You have a solemn obligation to be totally impartial and fair."

Mr. Specter said that was the point Judge Alito made in their meeting.

He said the judge "raised a sharp distinction, as he put it, between his role as an advocate and his role as a judge," adding, "And with respect to his personal views on a woman's right to choose, he says that is not a matter to be considered in deliberation on a constitutional issue of a woman's right to choose, the judicial role is entirely different."
And the NYT has this editorial, expressing a lot of skepticism but stopping short of rejecting the nomination. Its bottom line is the same as Specter's: "The Senate needs to look through the cloud of explanations and excuses and examine where Judge Alito really stands on abortion rights." That is, we know with some assurance what he thinks of abortion. The question for a judge is what he thinks about rights.

Judge Becker says, "People don't understand what happens to you when you become a judge. When you take that oath, you are transformed." Well, people quite rightly don't "understand" that you become "transformed" into some inhuman machine that can generate purely legal reasoning. Efforts to convince us that you undergo a complete transformation fail because we are not dupes. We've trained ourselves not to believe assurances about the pure motives of those who would take power. But some transformation must take place, if we are talking about a human being who has enough moral character to be considered for the position in the first place. We also go wrong if we imagine that judging is nothing but repackaged politics.

Still, if we know a judge's attitudes will surely, if subtly, affect decisions, we've got to worry when the nominee has clearly expressed personal hostility to a right we care about. The fight to deprive women of the control over the insides of their own bodies has gone on too long already. Now, we are threatened with a new surge of legal attacks, as a newly configured Court revives the hopes of the opponents of abortion rights. I've supported the Alito nomination because I recognize the significance of the President's appointment power and because Alito is clearly an accomplished man of excellent character. But I do think he needs to demonstrate a commitment to the structure of constitutional rights that we have counted on for so many years.

UPDATE: Let me add a word about the fact that Alito has taken various positions as a legal advocate and not simply as a private individual. Aren't his ideas about abortion, expressed in legal writing, as an advocate, something that relate to abortion rights and not simply to abortion? An advocate has a goal in mind and, in pursuit of this goal, searches for legal arguments that might persuade a court. What an advocate does with legal texts and arguments is different from what a judge does. Advocates don't really think their arguments are the best answers, just that they are professionally arguable and would produce the desired results. If you asked the advocate to be honest and say what he would decide if he were the judge, assuming this advocate was honest and ethical, he would often admit that he would reject his own argument. Thus, Alito can properly distinguish the arguments he supported as an advocate with the goal of overturning abortion rights from the opinions he would reach as a judge.

"I wrote Lennon's obituary for this newspaper the day after he was shot, Dec. 8, 1980."

Paul McGrath writes a memorial to John Lennon, which he publishes 5 days before the 25th anniversary of Lennon's death:
By and large, he had found his peace. He had survived his vices, his politics, his rages and his therapies, avoided the junkie's death unlike so many, only to meet a cheap little handgun in the hands of a sad case like so many others he had met, kids who believed in some desperate part of them that this man could actually pull them out of the pit. And he couldn't. All he could do was write and sing, and in those songs tens of millions did in fact find a real solace, a pushing back of the fog and the dark.
I'm going to pick out a set of John Lennon songs to play it as I drive my car -- baby, you can drive my car -- in the next week. I'll reveal the song list later. If you care about John Lennon, tell me, what is your song list?

UPDATE: After collecting 35 songs from my various CDs, I selected these 17:
Happiness Is A Warm Gun
Come Together
Tomorrow Never Knows
Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!
Instant Karma!
Strawberry Fields Forever
Across the Universe
She Said She Said
Don´t Let Me Down
You've Got To Hide Your Love Away
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
In My Life
I'm So Tired
A Day In The Life
I'm going to put the second group of 18 in my car too:
A Hard Day's Night
Please Please Me
Not A Second Time
You Can't Do That
All I've Got To Do
I Call Your Name
Sexy Sadie
If I Fell
I'm A Loser
Ticket to Ride
I'm Only Sleeping
I Feel Fine
Mind Games
I Am The Walrus
All You Need Is Love
You Know My Name (Look up the Number)
Some things about the sequencing I did on purpose. Others I find amusing now that I notice, like that I put the two songs with exclamation points together. These are all songs that appeal to me for one reason or another, and I didn't put them in the order that I favor them, though I did put my favorite one first.

UPDATE: Al Hurd remembers John and lines up 3 discs worth of songs.

"It became clear that, beyond new wars, what has kept the song alive is its melody, and its vehemence: that final 'I hope that you die.'"

Greil Marcus goes on about Bob Dylan's "Masters of War":
Dylan had stopped singing "Masters of War" by 1964. Songs like that were "lies that life is black and white," he sang that year. He brought it back into his repertoire in the 1980s; he was playing more than a hundred shows a year, and to fill the nights he brought back everything. It was a crowd-pleaser, the number one protest song. But nothing in the song hinted at what it would turn into on February 21, 1991, at the Grammy Awards telecast, where Dylan was to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award.

The show came square in the middle of the first Iraqi-American War—a break from round-the-clock footage of the bombing of Baghdad....

With that night, the song began its second life. In the fall of 2002, when George W. Bush made plain his intent to launch a second Iraq war—on November 11, just after the midterm elections that Bush had used the specter of war to win—Dylan appeared at Madison Square Garden and again offered "Masters of War" as an answer record to real life....

It became clear that, beyond new wars, what has kept the song alive is its melody, and its vehemence: that final "I hope that you die." It's the elegance of the melody and the extremism of the words that attract people—the way the song does go too far, to the limits of free speech. It's a scary line to sing; you need courage to do it. You can't come to the song as if it's a joke; you can't come away from it pretending you didn't mean what you've just said. That's what people want: a chance to go that far. Because "Masters of War" gives people permission to go that far, the song continues to make meaning, to find new bodies to inhabit, new voices to ride.

Read the whole thing, which includes descriptions of other singers doing the song, including those kids at Boulder High School.

I remember listening to "Masters of War" in the 1960s. It releases the young mind to think a new thought: All these people who run the world deserve to die. It emboldens you to sing along with this seemingly profound insight, and, singing along, you find yourself expressing utterly hard anger and hatred.

Without saying why it's time to read a tragicomic book...

John Simon picks five:
1. "In Search of Lost Time" by Marcel Proust (1913-22)....

2. "The Good Soldier" by Ford Madox Ford (1915)....

3. The Plays of Anton Chekhov (1896-1904)....

4. "The Journals of Malte Lourids Brigge" by Rainer Maria Rilke (1910)....

5. "Vile Bodies" by Evelyn Waugh (1930)...

Read them and weep. And laugh. I guess. These seem to be the choices of a very old man. I'll bet you younger folks can come up with some nice post-1930 tragicomic things to read.

December 2, 2005

Saddam on trial -- in a Western suit with a pocket square but no tie!

Robin Givhan wonders what that means:
The pocket square was a particularly distracting flourish. Paired with a tie, a pocket square tends to make a man look more formally attired. But without that accompaniment, it can look almost jaunty and rakish -- like Sinatra or Dino in Vegas.

Hussein's style choice throws the viewer off balance. Is his modest paean to the Flamingo a simple reflection of his hair-dyeing, gold-leaf-loving, frightful vanity? Or has he decided to beat the "occupiers" from within their own system? Take it over, or mock it?

And I thought it was shocking when I opened my office door one morning and found a man sleeping on my sofa.

But this... this... Oh, it's so horrible. And hilarious. (Via Dan Drezner.)

Defending Alito, Senator Specter conveniently forgets his own role in destroying the Miers nomination.

There's an amusing passage at the end of the NYT report on Senator Specter's statement today after meeting with Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. Specter opined that people ought to wait until the confirmation hearings to find out what Alito has to say about a memo on abortion he wrote as a lawyer in the Reagan administration.
Ms. Miers was "really sort of run out of town on a rail," Mr. Specter said. Senator Specter himself helped to weaken the nomination when he suggested that Ms. Miers needed "a crash course in constitutional law."

"Cameron offers audio commentary, and so does a much welcome and much sassier Kate Winslet. "

Come on, you know you want the new, improved DVD of "Titanic." DiCaprio does not contribute. Is he being snooty or does he know he's not good at commentary? Who cares? More audio time for the divine Miss Winslet.

"I for one do not dance to dance music; disco for me is a lofty metaphysical mode that induces contemplation."

Camille Paglia sniffs at Madonna's new "Confessions on a Dance Floor."

You decide if it's worth paying for a Salon subscription or watching a commercial to read the whole thing. If I'm watching a commercial and I think it's too long, it doesn't help my mood that the name of the product is Infiniti.

You know, I don't dance to dance music either. I've been at concerts where I'm just standing there like a statue and some stranger says to me "How can you not dance?" My answer: "I'm an intellectual!" Yeah, I'm in a metaphysical mode, man. You're intruding on my contemplation.

IN THE COMMENTS: Ron quotes Nietzsche, connecting dancing and intellectualism.

"'Sleeper Cell' is better than '24.'"

Alessandra Stanley gives us a strong heads-up about a new TV show (on Showtime):
"Sleeper Cell" is a spy thriller for the new phase in post-Sept. 11 television drama. Until now, most series about counterterrorism clung to cartoon ideations of can-do agents and fiendishly efficient terrorists - reflecting, perhaps, an almost childlike hunger for American indomitability at a time when news reports are less reassuring. Even Jack Bauer on Fox's "24" has a comic-book supercompetence to match that of his enemies, brilliant terrorist masterminds intent on bringing the United States to its knees. (If terrorists can be sloppy or lazy, then there really is no excuse for not catching them.)

In this series, the F.B.I. is a vast bureaucracy riddled with complacent midlevel agents who carelessly screw up surveillance work and bosses who are as concerned with diverting blame as they are with deterring attacks. Even the terrorist fanatics are killing machines with a human face. Some of them make foolish mistakes, from bragging about a secret operation on the telephone to a relative in the Middle East to panicking when they think they are being followed. Others secretly miss their wives and make weepy phone calls home in the middle of the night.
So the cartoonish characters and plots on network TV dramas about counterterrorism are attributable to the viewers' "childlike hunger for American indomitability"? What's the explanation for the cartoonish characters and plots on all the other network TV dramas?

Do schools violate the privacy of openly gay students when they inform the parents?

The NYT reports on what an ACLU lawyer called "the first court ruling we're aware of where a judge has recognized that a student has a right not to have her sexual orientation disclosed to her parents, even if she is out of the closet at school."
Christine Sun [the ACLLU lawyer who represents Charlene Nguon, said:] "It's really important, because, while Charlene's parents have been very supportive, coming out is a very serious decision that should not be taken away from anyone, and disclosure can cause a lot of harm to students who live in an unsupportive home."...

Conservatives criticized the judge's reasoning. "This court ruling is so unrealistic that it borders on ridiculous," said Carrie Gordon Earll, a spokeswoman for Focus on the Family, a socially conservative group based in Colorado. "In a disciplinary action by the school, you can't expect them to lie to the parents and not give details of what happened. It seems ironic to raise privacy as an issue in a public display of affection. She'd already outed herself."

Advocates for gay rights, however, welcomed the judge's decision to let the case proceed, but said it was too soon to celebrate.

"I wouldn't yet go out and tell a kid in Iowa to walk down the halls at school holding hands with his boyfriend," said Brian Chase, a lawyer with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. "It isn't fair, but gay kids expressing affection are not treated the way straight kids are."

The lawsuit seeks to clear Ms. Nguon's record and create a districtwide policy and guidelines for the treatment of gay students.
Schools often tell parents things about their children that are news to the parents but no secret at all at the school. The news that one's child is gay is a unique item of information, however. For a gay person, telling a parent is a special moment in the relation between parent and child. The young person thinks about when to tell the each parent and how to put it. These are decisions that take into account everything that young person knows about the parents attitudes and moods. How it is done has intense short term and deep long term effects on the relationships a person has with each of his or her parents. For a school to preempt that profound interaction and dump the news on a parent to add some extra dimension to a discipline report betrays a contemptible lack of dedication to the interests of students.

This is not a legal opinion of mine. I don't know the law in this area enough to have a legal opinion. This is an ethical judgment.

IN THE COMMENTS: Several readers talk about their own experiences coming out to their parents. One reader finds the complaint in the lawsuit and discovers a blogging angle:
Paragraph 28: While Charlene was serving her one-week suspension in or about March 2005, Principal Wolf called her and her mother in for a meeting at the school. At the meeting, Principal Wolf threatened to expel Charlene for an offcampus “blog,” an online journal entry, wherein Charlene had criticized another student for being materialistic and criticized teachers for favoring that student. He also threatened that he could have Charlene arrested and her computer confiscated for the blog entry, but none of those things happened.
And there's a link to another version of the news story, one with better detail, revealing the problem to be not just the disclosure of information to the parents but also the discriminatory application of the school's rule against public displays of affection:
In his 13-page ruling issued Monday, [Judge] Selna wrote that the administrators failed to take "action to stop or remedy the alleged harassment and discrimination" and failed to enact an "adequate formal or informal policy to ensure that Santiago High is providing a learning environment free from discrimination" as required by the California Education Code.

While attorneys for the district argued that Nguon had no right to privacy regarding her sexual orientation because she had been openly demonstrative toward her girlfriend in public on the campus, Selna agreed with Nguon's attorneys that because an event is not wholly private, it does not mean that an individual has no interest in limiting disclosure or dissemination of the information.

"The court finds that (Nguon) has alleged a serious invasion of her privacy interest by Wolf when he disclosed her sexual orientation to her mother," Selna wrote.

"The court finds that plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged disparate treatment of (Nguon) on the basis of her sexual orientation," Selna wrote.

"Plaintiffs have alleged that (Nguon) was disciplined for expressive conduct that is not similarly punished when engaged in by heterosexual students," Selna wrote. "Hence the complaint alleges discriminatory treatment regarding a clearly established constitutional right, and Wolf is not entitled to qualified immunity."

December 1, 2005

"I actually, like, look down on people who, you know, get depressed."

"I don't relate to that kind of mentality. All I can do is just sit there and laugh. I think Felicia is definitely destined to... be done." That's Alla on tonight's "Apprentice." What a character, that Alla! She was the one that I bonded with in the first episode. She had the strongest persona. In the end, tonight, though, I wanted Felicia to defeat her. Did Trump make the right decision? Sure. Of course. The final episode has the right two competitors.

"The little beasts are agitated."


EXTRA: Fiona de Londras spots the hilarious -- and grisly -- misplaced modifier in the BBC news story.


A defense to rape that worked in Canada.
[A]t a trial, sleep experts testified that [Jan] Luedecke suffered from sexomnia.

A judge then ruled Wednesday that the landscaper was essentially sleepwalking during sex and was not guilty of the rape....

Four other women testified the Luedecke had previously had "sleep sex" with them as well, according to the report.

We know the Oscar is phallic.

But could you tone it down a little bit?

ADDED: Via Oscar Watch.

"You're talking a lot. But you're not saying anything."

I like the way Martha Stewart shot down her most recent victim (on "The Apprentice") with nearly a verbatim recitation of that line from "Psycho Killer." She encanted a series of things "we know" at Martha Stewart: we know what is right and good and true and beautiful at Martha Stewart. She made an intriguing juxtaposition: "We need substance. That's what make my life interesting." Don't we all feel like saying that sometimes? But it would be pretty rude to say it in real life. Still, it's tempting! Who likes empty yammerers? And shouldn't other people be attending to the project of making my life interesting.

And then there's Jim. Dear, sweet, adorable Jim. Jim, who made me kind of love him last week, when he gave Marcela the pep talk that kept her from crumbling into a little pile of defeat. This week's show begins with Jim gloating about his brilliant strategy of telling the weakest player how to defend herself, so she'd be around and easily defeatable on the next task. Ah, Jim is evil. And Marcela is weak. She survived again this time, but we saw her barely able to hold herself together. Martha chided her for always slouching, and then Marcela couldn't motivate herself to straighten up even for just that moment.

"Internet addiction disorder."

There are therapists who diagnose and treat Internet addiction disorder.
[A] leading expert in the field is Dr. Maressa Hecht Orzack, the director of the Computer Addiction Study Center at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. She opened a clinic for Internet addicts at the hospital in 1996, when, she said, "everybody thought I was crazy."

Dr. Orzack said she got the idea after she discovered she had become addicted to computer solitaire, procrastinating and losing sleep and time with her family.
Well, playing computer solitaire obsessively really is a problem. But just strip it out of your computer and move on. You won't get the shakes or anything. If you're at the point of spending a lot of money or checking into an institution to cure your problem, step back and reason it through. You could simply get rid of your internet connection or your computer and eliminate the problem. The same applies to the "addiction" to watching television. You always have the option to remove the TVs from your house. Then you'll need to find something else to do. Don't plunge into indulgent notions of yourself as weak and diseased.
"I think using the Internet in certain ways can be quite absorbing, but I don't know that it's any different from an addiction to playing the violin and bowling," said Sara Kiesler, professor of computer science and human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon University. "There is absolutely no evidence that spending time online, exchanging e-mail with family and friends, is the least bit harmful. We know that people who are depressed or anxious are likely to go online for escape and that doing so helps them."

It was Professor Kiesler who called Internet addiction a fad illness. In her view, she said, television addiction is worse. She added that she was completing a study of heavy Internet users, which showed the majority had sharply reduced their time on the computer over the course of a year, indicating that even problematic use was self-corrective.

She said calling it an addiction "demeans really serious illnesses, which are things like addiction to gambling, where you steal your family's money to pay for your gambling debts, drug addictions, cigarette addictions." She added, "These are physiological addictions."
Yeah, I agree with Kiesler. Or maybe you just think I just haven't gotten to the first step of admitting I have a problem. I think if you find yourself passionately absorbed in something, the question should be whether it is a good thing, not whether you are passionately absorbed.

"'I'm sorry, I was hungry' has become a culturally acceptable way to apologize for brusque behavior."

Oh, yeah? Or is this just another topic the NYT editors discovered by reading blogs and whipped into an article that could seem to be about a new topic and then just happen to have a hip blogging angle?
In an age of electronic navel gazing, when people blog about their every emotion, the hunger-mood connection has been able to be fully expressed and, one might say, feed on itself. Thousands have told their cranky hunger stories online, from a famished driver who admitted to cursing at other motorists, to a woman who wrote that her honeymoon might have been an affair to forget had she not packed snacks.
I mean, I can't complain if this is their methodology. My main methodology is to read the NYT and find things to talk about. And then I can weave in some bloggish critique of the dreaded MSM. But about this new social trend of adults excusing themselves for the babyish weakness of losing control when hungry:
A new vocabulary has evolved around victual despair, with the afflicted referring to their nasty moods as "food swings." Those who say their hunger frequently morphs into anger describe themselves as "hangry." And the word "hunger" itself seems to have taken on new meaning. No longer merely a physiological state, it is now also thought of as a mood.... Some people use their hunger as a verbal Get Out of Jail Free card. "Maybe I kind of enjoy the excuse to be cranky," said Fernanda Gilligan, a 28-year-old photo editor from Manhattan. Yet many mercurial eaters do not stop at words. They try to control hunger-provoked dramas by scheduling their lives around their next meal. They stock drawers, purses and briefcases as if they were kitchen cupboards to ensure that sustenance is always within reach. For some, a granola bar has become as essential as a cellphone. Anna Yarbrough, 26, a teacher in Boston, squirrels away nibble-friendly fare like string cheese, pretzels, apples and trail mix in her purse and desk drawer. If she and her husband have late dinner reservations, she snacks beforehand. A recent trip to a Celtics game required eating before tipoff and again when she got home. On her wedding day in October she was relieved to learn that there would be food at the hair salon.
Oh, lord, these people sound annoying. Do you have a cute slang term for getting cranky when people impose too much information about their private physical needs on you? (And do you have a cute slang term for getting cranky at the gratuitous mention of squirrels?) Finally, there's the male-female angle:
In general men do not seem to suffer hunger-related moods as frequently as women do, or at least they are not as likely to admit it.... But why would more women than men be afflicted? "Offhand I can't think of any good, sound biological reason," Dr. Saltzman said. He speculated that the people who say they have food swings are eating smaller meals and therefore need to eat more frequently or that "psychologically they may have a lower threshold" for hunger. Lisa Sasson, a clinical assistant professor in New York University's department of nutrition, food studies and public health, said weight consciousness might explain why more women report hunger-related moodiness..... Dr. Saltzman said food swings may be harder to conquer if they are based not on physical hunger but on "emotional hunger," which is triggered by stress, sadness, depression or even boredom. Emotional hunger is harder to satisfy, he said, because "you can eat and overeat and still not feel sated." [Blogger] Cherie Millns [writes] "My mother told my husband before we got married to make sure he always carried a banana with him, in case of a sudden cranky-pants emergency," Ms. Millns wrote. "It might just save his life."
"Cranky-pants"? Banana? I find that imagery distracting. But anyway, what's wrong with these people? It's one thing to get hungry and to deal with it by eating something, but it's quite another to make a conspicuous production out of it or, worse, to let it become a major issue in your love relationships. And to have your mother tell your husband how to care for you in the very way you'd care for a toddler? Is this really what's going on around America in 2005?

Reports on the Ayotte argument.

Here's the NPR story on Ayotte, the abortion case. There are two audio clips from the oral argument. The first is a compelling exchange between Justice Breyer and the lawyer for the state -- with a sharp cut in from Justice O'Connor. In the second, we hear Justice Roberts questioning the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project lawyer about why a preenforcement challenge should be permitted -- again, with assisted needling from Justice O'Connor.

Here's Linda Greenhouse's analysis of the argument:
Justices across the ideological spectrum appeared inclined to send the case back to the federal appeals court that had declared the law unenforceable in all respects, and to instruct that court to render a narrower ruling. Such a ruling would permit the law to take effect except when a doctor had certified that an immediate abortion - without either notifying a parent or seeking approval from a judge, an option known as a judicial bypass - was necessary to preserve a girl's health....

Attorney General Kelly A. Ayotte of New Hampshire, who brought the appeal of the lower court's ruling, asserted in her argument that under New Hampshire's general health law, a doctor performing an emergency abortion would have a legal defense in any event, based on the state's general law regarding medical practice. Ms. Ayotte said she was prepared to issue a formal opinion to that effect if the occasion arose.

The attorney general's position left Justice Ginsburg unsatisfied. "That's the real problem here for the doctor who's on the line," she said. "I think a lawyer who cares about his client would say 'defense' is not what we want, what we want is that there is no claim; not that you have to put up a defense and maybe the attorney general will give us a letter saying that we come under that defense."

Justice John Paul Stevens reminded Ms. Ayotte that the sponsors of the parental notice law in the New Hampshire Legislature had rejected including a medical exception. "When you have legislative history that suggests that the Legislature considered this very defense and rejected it in the statute, would then that give some concern?"

Ms. Ayotte replied that while "there certainly was some indication that the Legislature did not want a general health exception," sponsors did not intend to leave pregnant teenagers unprotected in emergencies.
I consider Stevens's question a devastating one, showing the bad faith of the state legislature, a deliberate hostility to the constitutional right the Supreme Court has recognized.

UPDATE: Listen to the whole oral argument here or download here. I'm surprised at how tempestuous the argument gets with the Solicitor General, who aggressively talks over a Justice more than once.

November 30, 2005


A cool new restaurant in Madison, specializing in small plates. A tiny coq au vin in a crepe. A little risotto. A cold (!) omelette. A trio of tiny soups. It's very dark in here, and very stylish:



Your humble blogger:


The oral argument in the abortion case.

David Stout reports:
Justice Souter challenged [New Hampshire attorney general, Kelly Ayotte's] assertion that a doctor who performed an emergency abortion would be "constitutionally protected" from prosecution or civil liability. "What do you mean when you say it would be constitutionally protected?" asked Justice Souter, who is from New Hampshire....

Ms. Ayotte did not budge, asserting at one point that even in the most dire emergencies, and when a judge might not be available to authorize an abortion in the absence of a parent, the doctor would be protected. When a parent is not available to give permission, the state law at issue empowers a judge to grant emergency approval.

Solicitor General Paul Clement, arguing for the Bush administration on behalf of the New Hampshire law, said critics of the New Hampshire statute had focused on "a one in a thousand" circumstance in which a teen-ager might need an abortion quickly, and that the entire statute should not be undone.

"And the real question for you is, faced with that kind of case, do you invalidate one thousand applications of the statute, noting that 999 of them are constitutional?" Mr. Clement asked rhetorically.

But Jennifer Dalven, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which challenged the law, said that even a minor delay can be disastrous. "As the nation's leading medical authorities have explained, delaying appropriate care for even a very short period can be catastrophic and puts the teen at risk of liver damage, kidney damage, stroke and infertility," she said.

Ms. Dalven met with some skepticism when she said that the provision for a judge's order can be a dangerous obstacle. "Once a minor arrives in the emergency room, it is too late for her to go to court," she said.

Justice Antonin Scalia wondered what would happen if the state created "a special office, open 24 hours a day" to field just such emergencies: " 'This is the abortion judge.' It takes 30 seconds to place a phone call."...

The New Hampshire bill's sponsors successfully fought against a health exception on the grounds that it would give doctors too big a loophole to avoid parental involvement in decisions about ending pregnancies. Justice Breyer acknowledged that point in passing, noting that "lots of people think 'health exception' is a way of getting abortion on demand."
Scalia's hypothetical may be interesting, but the state hasn't set things up like that, and the doctor is obviously in a better position to make the call. Even if we were assured there would always be an "abortion judge" by the phone, you'd still have to explain the condition which would presumably take some time. Why should someone have to endure the "risk of liver damage, kidney damage, stroke and infertility" for the time it takes to do that, especially considering that the doctor is the one with the medical understanding of the situation?

And what does Ayotte's assertion about 1000 applications of the statute mean? That every 1000 times it's imposed, one unfortunate woman suffers a serious injury? Why is that acceptable?

UPDATE: Listen to the whole oral argument here or download here.

Do you buy Christmas presents for yourself?

I'd heard some women do that. (Maybe men do it too.) Now, advertisers are openly encouraging the behavior with copy like this:
"Because I've been an exceptionally good girl, I deserve sweet nothings from Dolce & Gabbana Intimates to make my husband forget he's an accountant... and a tartine from SnAKS to fuel my shopping spree, a dress that's the height of chic from Elie Tahari and some flat boots from Jimmy Choo to keep me grounded, anything Marni and something Versace and divine peau de soie pumps from Roger Vivier that I can't get anywhere else."
That might seem laughably over-the-top, but it's beautifully written to reach out and grab a woman's deep longing. It's a nice touch that the ad-character has a husband, but he's such a nonentity -- an accountant! -- that women with no men (to buy them presents) can fully identify.

And have you heard of the Right-Hand Ring campaign?
The marketing campaign has successfully appealed to women with female-empowerment pitches like: "Your left hand says you're taken. Your right hand says you can take over."
Buy yourself a diamond ring. (I Freudian-slip-typed "diamond wring.") How do you palm that off as not pathetic? Well, have you seen the ads? They're mesmerizing.

"Poppy isn't getting Junior back, Vice vowed, muttering: 'He's my son. It's my war. It's my country.'"

Sad that you can't get to Maureen Dowd's column? She's Dowding it up big time today. (TimesSelect link.)

By the way, in the paper version of the Times, the word "my" is italicized all three times in the quote. In the online version, there are no italics. That's bugging me.

"Finish" is an exquisite word choice.

"Finish the war" means something different from "end the war," right? Or will it mean whatever you need it to mean, later?

Just a thought about a very carefully crafted quote from Hillary Clinton:
"We must set reasonable goals to finish what we started and successfully turn over Iraqi security to Iraqis."

UPDATE: "Complete" is the word choice of President Bush, in today's speech on the war. Speaking of the troops fighting in Iraq, he says we must "complete their mission." "Mission" is a much stronger expression than Senator Clinton's "what we started." Do you think we should complete our mission or finish what we started? Or do you think they're the same thing? I don't.

Unintended comedy, economic news reporting division.

The NYT just needs to bring us down, for some reason. All the economic news is good, but Vikas Bajaj, on the front page of the paper today, searches desperately for the bad. Check out the first few lines:
Gasoline is cheaper than it was before Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans. Consumer confidence jumped last month and new home sales hit a record. The stock market has been rising. Even the nation's beleaguered factories appear to be headed for a happy holiday season.

By most measures, the economy appears to be doing just fine. No, scratch that, it appears to be booming.

But as always with the United States economy, it is not quite that simple.

Consumer confidence is bouncing back from what was arguably some of its worst readings in years. Gasoline prices-the national average is now $2.15, according to the Energy Information Administration- have fallen because higher prices tamped down demand and supplies in the Gulf Coast have been slowly restored. The latest read on home sales, released today, contradicts virtually every other recent measure of housing activity that generally indicate a slowdown. And yes, manufacturers' fortunes are on the mend, but few besides airplane makers are celebrating.

It all means that the economy is likely to end the year with a splash, but that does not mean the broad economic picture next year will be even better.

How can anyone read that and not laugh?

"You think loners are weird? I think couples a weird."

Says a loner to Nina, provoking her to consider appreciating loner-tude... rather skeptically it seems to me. Is there a he's-just-not-that-into-you subtext here?

"Isn’t it the right of citizens of the state to answer this question?"

Yesterday there was a long, crowded hearing at the Wisconsin Capitol. The subject: a resolution to amend the state constitution to preclude gay marriage. Voters would make the final call next November.

"Does your emphasis on authority give any substance to the claim ... that conservatism is repressive and dictatorial?"

Marking the 25th anniversary of "The Meaning of Conservatism," Right Reason interviews Roger Scruton.

November 29, 2005

Not 35 million, 77 million.

A death toll, reestimated. (Via No Speed Bumps.)

Live-blogging the Alito panel.

Readers were hoping for a podcast of the big panel we had tonight at the Law School about the Alito nomination, but I couldn't make that happen. Fortunately, Steve S was there to live-blog!
Schweber is leery of radicals....

"I kind of like radicals," says Downs.....

Sharpless makes a joke - "I'm not a lawyer!" Then he goes on a bit of a rant....

It comes to Althouse... If you read her blog, you probably know what she'll say....
Read the whole thing. Lots more at the link.

He doesn't include the thing I found most interesting. UW lawprof Linda Greene, who was Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 1980s, implied that the Harriet Miers nomination was set up to fail. She said it was a "signal that something was amiss" when Miers turned in an incomplete questionnaire to the committee, given the "intellectual talent that normally flocks to a nominee." Yeah, why didn't people nail that thing for her?

Anyway, the panel was sponsored by the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society -- who seem to have a very nice working relationship here -- and they did a great job. Big crowd too!

"An unremarkable use" of the spending power or "a core violation of the First Amendment"?

Yale lawprof William Eskridge and George Mason Dean Daniel Polsby are debating about the Solomon Amendment case -- FAIR v. Rumsfeld -- which raises the question whether the federal government can require universities, as a condition of receiving federal funds, to give military recruiters the same access given to other employers. The Supreme Court is hearing argument in the case next week. Polsby says it's "an unremarkable use of Congress’s Spending Power, while Eskridge sees "a core violation of the First Amendment."

"The reaction from many bloggers has been nothing less than scathing."

The Christian Science Monitor has a big article on Pajamas Media:
Though Pajamas Media is bringing even more attention - and possibly a new revenue model - to blogging, the reaction from many bloggers has been nothing less than scathing. One site,, is collecting guesses as to how many weeks or months Pajamas Media will last before it folds.

"If you say [something] is going to be great for months, and you announce it with a big gala bash, you're asking people to look at it," says Ann Althouse, a professor of law at the University of Wisconsin and a well-known blogger (althouse.blogspot. com). The nature of bloggers "is to mock and pick at things," she says, "that's sort of to be expected." But the Pajamas Media site hasn't helped itself, she says. It's been bland.

Mr. Simon urges patience and promises that the best is yet to come. "I don't think the site is going to seem the same to you in three weeks," he says. "We're learning. We are a work in progress. We are new media in the most extreme sense."

UPDATE: Daniel Solove responds to the article:
Pajamas Media seems like a corporate wrapping around the blogosphere. It has too much of a corporate structure and neglects one of the key elements of the blogosphere -- the unexpected way various blogs gain attention from the ground up. Blogging is a bottom-up grass-roots kind of practice, not a top-down enterprise.
Yes, yes, yes, yes. This is key. The great power -- the great beauty -- of blogging is the natural formation of connections among individuals. (Much more at the link. Go there.)

ANOTHER UPDATE: Dan at Riehl World View responds to the article. I like the way he makes his argument initially just by boldfacing some of the language in the article. He's got some laugh-out-links and a profoundly true link at "This is blogging." Hey, I was so there last February! MORE: here.

IN THE COMMENTS: I have cause to say: "I'm thinking of 'The Producers.'" And Jim makes a sublime wisecrack:
Best quote from the article: Simon wants The Entity's site "to be the place for breaking Internet opinion." And here we have the one objective that's actually been met, since they seem to be breaking it right and left.

"I am happy to let everyone sort themselves into whatever Nozickian communities they want."

Says Andy Morriss, taking issue with my criticism of the plan to wrest Ave Maria, a nicely established new law school, from its current place in Ann Arbor, Michigan and strand it in a cloistered enclave in rural Florida. Latching onto my word "creepy," he writes:
The very idea of a university, however, is to some extent a place where people are to a degree sheltered from the "real world" to allow them to focus on learning. What's particularly creepy about people wanting to be in an environment free from pornography, etc.? This doesn't strike me as any different from, say, people at a law school in a rural town touting the atmosphere available from rural living. Given UPS, the internet,, Netflix, and so on, I don't think "Ave Maria town" is likely to be particularly more closed off from the "real world" than most small towns in rural areas are today. What will be different is that it will be a community that shares values, Catholic values as it turns out, and that, in turn, strikes me as sounding a bit like what you might find in a monastic community.
But Morriss is missing one huge thing. There is an existing community of scholars in Ann Arbor that is not volunteering to move. They like it where they are, in a lively university town, where they've established lives for themselves and contributed to the building of an institution. (Don't believe me? Ask them!) The move is to be imposed, top-down, by one man who happens to have the money. There's nothing Nozickian about that.

Thanks to Juan Non-Volokh for linking to the Morriss piece and for quoting from an article and a letter in the WSJ.

Senate Democrates have "rebuffed, rebuked and rejected" civil rights and women's groups opposed to Roberts and Alito.

Says AP's David Espo:
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, chairman of the Senate Democrats' campaign committee, underscored their political objectives recently to ... representatives of groups opposed to Alito's nomination.

In a private session, Reid and Schumer urged the groups to show restraint when lobbying Democrats from states that Bush won in 2004 - senators from Nebraska, Arkansas, the Dakotas and elsewhere who probably will be the most tempted to support the appointment. Officials who described the session did so on condition of anonymity, citing the confidential nature of the conversation.

Reid, in his first year as party leader, first angered groups opposed to Bush's court nominees last spring. Hoping to head off a showdown over appeals court nominees, he privately told Republicans he would allow confirmation for a few of the appointments that Democrats had long blocked.

[Nan Aron, president of the Alliance For Justice,] made her disagreement plain. "We don't want a deal. We have worked too hard, since we see these nominees as really extreme," she said at the time.
I think it's easy to predict that Alito will be confirmed. I hope the Senate Democrats are smart enough to use the confirmation process to win respect for the liberal version of constitutional interpretation, rather than to portray law as a political struggle and Alito as a candidate they must defeat.

"I'd probably call it an afterthought. It was, 'Oh yeah, by the way, you don't have to do it.' "

Such was the attention to the subject of abstinence in sex education in one Wisconsin high school, as described by a current UW student. Now, a bill requiring a stronger abstinence message is about to pass the legislature here. (What the governor will do is another matter.)
The bill ... would require school districts that offer sex education programs to "present abstinence from sexual activity as the preferred choice of behavior" for unmarried students....

The current state law simply lists more than a dozen topics that districts "may include" in their sex education instruction but does not stress one as more important than others. The word "abstinence" does not appear, although "discouragement of adolescent sexual activity" is one of the topics districts can choose to include.
Should the legislature be requiring all the schools in the state to push abstinence as "the preferred choice of behavior"? The culture varies from place to place around the state, so I don't like a statewide requirement that goes this far, even though I think it's important for young people to hear a strong presentation of the case for abstinence. Shouldn't local school districts decide this one rather than posturing state legislators ?

Alito panel.

Here at the law school tonight, the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society are hosting a panel discusion about the Alito nomination. Room 3250, 7 p.m. I'll be participating, along with Professors Church, Greene, Downs, Schweber, and Sharpless. It should be pretty lively!

UPDATE: Notes on the panel are here.

"UK scientists have identified the part of the brain that determines whether a person perceives themselves as fat."

Would that be the part connected to the eyeballs? Oh, I'm just being mean, and this is the second post today about fat people. (Althouse is obsessed!) Actually, it's a pretty interesting study.

And did you know that "people who suffer from migraine with aura can sometimes experience a phenomenon called the 'Alice in Wonderland syndrome', where they feel that various body parts are shrinking"?

Ah, that calls for another link back to an old, related post: "My scotoma."

Sex Pistols, Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Miles Davis, Blondie.

The new inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Do you approve?

Note that Black Sabbath and Lynyrd Skynyrd got rejected the first seven times they were eligible, and the Sex Pistols got rejected four times.
"It's about time," Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward told Reuters, adding that he had long ago given up on getting inducted.

"What bothered me was not necessarily that Black Sabbath was being passed over but that hard rock and heavy metal was being passed over ... Bands that created heavy metal music or brought it into the foreground ought to have gone into the hall of fame some time ago, quite honestly."
The injustice!

Related post: I visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I'll bet Lynyrd Skynyrd was helped by the very nice presentation they were given on "American Idol" this past season -- backing Bo Bice.

IN THE COMMENTS: There's some questioning of why Miles Davis belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. All I can say is: I saw him open for Neil Young & Crazy Horse at the Fillmore East in 1970.

Abortion case to be argued tomorrow.

Linda Greenhouse writes about Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England:
When the Supreme Court meets on Wednesday to hear its first abortion case in five years, the topic will be familiar: a requirement that doctors notify a pregnant teenager's parent before performing an abortion....

[O]f the 43 states with parental-involvement statutes, New Hampshire is one of only five that do not also provide an exception for non-life-threatening medical emergencies, and it was on this basis that two lower federal courts declared the law unconstitutional....

Waiting in the wings, as the justices surely know, is another, perhaps even more highly charged abortion case. The Bush administration recently filed an appeal in defense of the federal ban on the procedure that abortion opponents have labeled "partial birth abortion," and the court must decide shortly whether to hear it.

CORRECTION: "Today" in the title corrected to "tomorrow." It is not Wednesday!

"'The Wall' is where you don't want to put any more in your mouth."

Said Ian Hickman, who competes in eating contests. You have to train for these things!
First he'll fill up on liquids. Then "I'll practice eating hot dogs when I'm full. The contest is going to be won not by someone who's hungry but by someone who's able to eat when they're full."
Others rely on "guzzling large volumes of water or chowing down low-calorie foods, such as cabbage, in the weeks leading up to an event."

And note that the best contestants these days are not fat!
"About eight out of the top 10 are svelte, athletic," said an eater who goes by the name "Crazy Legs" Conti, who stands 6-foot-3, weighs 210 pounds, and runs marathons. [Sonya Thomas, 5' 5" and 98 pounds] beat him handily last month at a Buffalo wing contest in Bethesda.

He and others buy into what they call the belt-of-fat theory, which supposes that abdominal fat inhibits the stomach from ballooning. "A thinner person has much more room for expansion. An eater like myself, unfortunately, is struggling to catch up," Conti said.
Funny. I like watching a good eating contest. But maybe you think these displays are immoral or obscene. If your reason for objecting to these contests is that the food could have been used to feed someone who is hungry, should you not regard every fat person as embodying the same immorality?

Too many opinions, too few cases -- can't the Supreme Court do better?

Jason Mazzone draws attention to the Supreme Court's glaring problem:
Last term, the Supreme Court issued opinions in just 74 cases. That’s pretty pathetic. It means there are many areas of the law that are unsettled or unreviewed; many important issues in which the Supreme Court could helpfully weigh in but it doesn’t; many issues that, once decided, will not reach the Court again for decades, if ever.

A low number of cases does not, however, mean light reading. Many of these 74 cases produced multiple opinions by sub-groups of justices. It’s not hard to see why this is true. Divide 74 up among nine justices and 30-plus law clerks and the temptation to write separately is irresistible.

Most of the 74 opinions are also lengthy and convoluted, larded with unnecessary detail and footnotes, and containing inappropriate swipes at the work of the other justices.
Oh, don't I know this! Trying to teach constitutional law cases to law students, I sometimes feel I need to defend myself from their hostility by stating the obvious: I didn't write these cases! Or: I'm really sorry but this happens to be the Supreme Court case on the subject.

Like me, Mazzone looks to the new Chief Justice to whip the Court's work product into shape:
My advice for Chief Justice John G. Roberts: double the number of cases the Court decides (it decided 123 the term Roberts clerked for Rehnquist), halve the length of opinions, make unanimity the goal, and discourage separate concurrences.
Mazzone doesn't mention the other change in the offing and the effect it will have on the problems he describes. Justice O'Connor is leaving, and Justice O'Connor was frequently the one who insisted on carving out a middle path between two crisper opinions. Take away Justice O'Connor and replace her with someone who will commit to plainly stated doctrine, and you may not need all that much of the new Chief's charismatic powers to turn things around.

But will we be happy with the new set of problems that replaces the old? Hazy, blabby cases are a pain, but clear doctrine -- quite a shock after all these years -- might hurt a lot more. And it's going to hurt some of us a lot more than others, which explains the hand-wringing over the impending confirmation of Samuel Alito.

Four truths about Bob Woodward.

Her unique personal situation enables Nora Ephron to discern:
Truth #1: Bob is not a liar. ...

Truth #2: Bob has always had trouble seeing the forest for the trees. That’s why people love to talk to him; he almost never puts the pieces together in a way that hurts his sources....

Truth #3: Bob is not to be confused with other reporters.... He knows everything. What’s more, he has no idea what it adds up to. How could he possibly keep anyone, much less his editor, in the loop?...

Truth #4: If you don’t talk to Woodward, you’ll be sorry. I mention this not because it’s precisely true (look at me), but because it’s an operating truth in official Washington....

November 28, 2005

Unintentional humor: "My Best Friend's Wedding."

We're watching "My Best Friend's Wedding," which looks beautiful on HDTV, on Showtime, right now. And we just dissolved into hysterical laughter. Here's Julia Roberts, served an elegant dinner in a lovely restaurant, sitting across the table from Rupert Everett -- he's gay! -- and we hear her cell phone ring, she pulls it out, and the thing is as large as a man's shoe!

In the next scene, she's at home, and her phone rings. Chris says: "Her home phone is smaller than her cell phone." And we laugh a lot all over again.


Me: This is a pretty good comedy.

Chris: Do you remember totally hating this movie?

Me: What'd I say?

Chris: I think you said there were too many closeups.

Me: (laughs.)


Chris: These actresses [Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz], if you saw them in real life, they wouldn't be that attractive.

Me: But the thing is, their face, their whole body sends out so much personality.

Later (as Julia Roberts sets up Cameron Diaz for humiliation in the karaoke bar):

Me: She's really evil.

Chris: That's what people don't like about it.

Me: I like that about her!

That's why it's a cool comedy. Julia's bad!

"He did the worst thing an elected official can do."

"He enriched himself through his position and violated the trust of those who put him there."

"Who’s the real whore here?"

Steve H. is talking about me. In a good way.

MORE: There's a Wikipedia entry for Pajamas Media, now, and not only am I discussed under the heading "Feuds and Flamewars," but the expression "Berkeley house whore" appears.

AND: "Will they succeed? Who cares." Dan from Madison weighs in.

In Dubai: compulsory hormone injections for gay men.

Andrew Sullivan links to this disturbing news report from Dubai:
The Interior Ministry said police raided a hotel chalet earlier this month and arrested 22 men from the Emirates as they celebrated the mass wedding ceremony - one of a string of recent group arrests of homosexuals here.

The men are likely to be tried under Muslim law on charges related to adultery and prostitution, said Interior Ministry spokesperson Issam Azouri.

Outward homosexual behaviour is banned in the United Arab Emirates and the gay group wedding has alarmed leaders of this once-isolated Muslim country as it grapples with a sweeping influx of western residents and culture.....

The arrested men have been questioned by police and were undergoing psychological evaluations on Saturday. Azouri said the Interior Ministry's department of social support would try to direct the men away from homosexual behaviour, including treatment with male hormones.

"Because they've put society at risk they will be given the necessary treatment, from male hormone injections to psychological therapies," he said.

Tim Blair quits Pajamas Media!

You knew someone would be the first to jump ship. Did you think it would be Tim?

TO BE CLEAR: Blair has withdrawn from the Editorial Board. His blog is still listed as one of the member blogs. I don't know what the contractual details are here, but based on the offer I saw, the member bloggers had to commit themselves for 18 months.

Scientists say "romantic love" lasts one year.

Face reality. You are just some chemicals:
The University of Pavia found a brain chemical was likely to be responsible for the first flush of love.

Researchers said raised levels of a protein was linked to feelings of euphoria and dependence experienced at the start of a relationship.

But after studying people in long and short relationships and single people, they found the levels receded in time.

The team analysed alterations in proteins known as neurotrophins in the bloodstreams of men and women aged 18 to 31, the Psychoneuroendocrinology journal reported.

They looked at 58 people who had recently started a relationship and compared the protein levels in the same number of people in long-term relationships and single people.

In those who had just started a relationship, levels of a protein called nerve growth factors, which causes tell-tale signs such as sweaty palms and the butterflies, were significantly higher.

Of the 39 people who were still in the same new relationship after a year, the levels of NGF had been reduced to normal levels.
Now, stop being so damned sentimental.

"And, man, I was gratified when the fab chicks screamed."

Janet Maslin writes about -- sorry, he's an old Althouse favorite -- Donovan:
In his prime, the astral singer-songwriter Donovan appeared to take a serene view of show business and its cutthroat ways. Not anymore. Nowadays, Donovan would like you to know that he never received proper credit for Flower Power, World Music, New Age Music, the boxed-set album package, using LSD and the lyric "Love, Love, Love" before the Beatles did and playing folk-rock five months before Bob Dylan wielded an electric guitar at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.
He deserves this credit too, Maslin says. Donovan states his claims in a book:
"The Autobiography of Donovan" is a very strange book (what else?) that revisits the fertile, trippy 60's, the elaborately constructed aura of Donovan's beatitude, the wild incongruities of that era's popular culture (when the guest list for one Donovan party included Milton Berle, Jimmy Durante and the Doors) and the lingo that has become so quaint. "And, man, I was gratified when the fab chicks screamed," he writes in all seriousness about appearing on his first television show....

"The constant gibes in the British press about my love of beauty has long left a false impression of my work," he maintains. "I was mocked as a simpleton when I sang of birds and bees and flowers like a child." He was also mocked for being wild about saffron, but it turns out that he loves saffron monks' robes and saffron cake with raisins. In any case, this book is where the mockery ends. And the last laugh begins.
Okay, that explains the saffron, but what about "I'm just mad about fourteen/She's just mad about me"? On "Donovan in Concert" he sings "Mellow Yellow" with the variation: "I'm just mad about fourteen-year-old girls. They're mad about me." Aw, they're just all the young girls in the audience, the fab chicks who screamed. I was one of them.

"More people seem to be interested in movie grosses than in the movies."

Mark Steyn writes. Yes, it's strange, isn't it? Maybe the reason for the box office slump is that all the talk about box office makes movies seem like devices for taking our money. From early childhood, Americans learn to detect and resist such devices. The box office slump is testament to how savvy we are.

Remember when intelligent adults thought engaging with the films of the day was an essential part of life?

What can you infer from a single incident?

Crooked Timber is talking about the Madison incident involving third grade teachers assigning their students to write letters calling for withdrawal from Iraq. It's a good discussion, even though they say this about me:
Ann Althouse, oddly, uses the case as a reason to suspect that the District does not have its act together—an odd conclusion to draw from a single instance in which it does the right thing effectively and immediately.
Here's what I said:
The project was cancelled -- school district policy prohibits teachers from presenting controversial issues with bias and promoting their personal political views.

I wonder how well that policy is enforced. That a group of five teachers thought this was an acceptable assignment suggests that it's hardly enforced at all.

"I don't see it as a controversial issue." I love that. It's so it depends on what the meaning of controversial is. Community standards seem to apply to that. And we're all here in Madison, Wisconsin.
What can you infer from a single incident? In this case, you have five teachers who got together and planned something without anyone figuring out what the problem was and one of them continuing to assert that it is not a controversial issue. How did these teachers arrive at such a mindset? From living and working in a particular environment, I would assume. Oh, but the system "does the right thing effectively and immediately," Crooked Timber says. Not really. The response only came because parents got mad. If a letter describing the assignment had not been sent to the parents, would anything have happened? What evidence do we have that the school district's policy has any mechanism of enforcement? I think the fact that the teachers thought what they were doing is fine strongly suggests that the policy is not ingrained in the practice of teaching in the district.

November 27, 2005

"It's like having a bum living in your house."

Larry David (in tonight's episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm") saying what it's like to have a dog.

I also liked his contempt for campfire-roasted marshmallows: "Why don't you reduce all your foods to cinders?"

Audible Althouse, #23.

Finally, the podcast is back. #23 has: the Thanksgiving squirrel, the Thanksgiving salmon, bedbugs, metaphorical vermin, the dog-eat-dog world of blogs, schoolteachers who get too political, and crazy architectural and lifestyle fantasies brought on by winning the lottery or taking LSD. 44 minutes.

IN THE COMMENTS: I apologize for coughing into the microphone.

"See, here's what I don't understand...."

I was just scanning the Pajamas Media discussion boards and ran across this comment:
I *very* much agree that the site needs to be bloggier. The ad revenue is supposed to mostly come from the associated blogs, not the portal, with the portal's role being to boost traffic to the blogs, give people an easy starting point, and provide some original reporting, etc., that will encourage people to go there and encourage bloggers to do more original reporting.

That means that the portal needs to be interesting, and to change a lot. Right now it's neither.
I thought: Wow, that's about the smartest, clearest thing I've read here yet. Who said that? Then I see, it was Glenn Reynolds. Okay. Well, see? That was a blind reading test.

A few posts down Cal lays down the harshest critique I've seen yet:
See, here's what I don't understand: why are these discussions even necessary? Why is Glenn saying (to paraphrase) "hey, great idea, I'm passing this on to the others!"?

What was Glenn doing for the past 8 months or so, exactly, as part of the editorial board? More to the point, what was anyone involved with this absurd enterprise doing all this time?

This isn't a bootstrap organization. It's not something that was cobbled together and thrown open to the public for feedback. This was a venture with 3.5 MILLION dollars in funding.

Where did that money go? Apparently, it was all spent on a blowout opening bash. It clearly hasn't gone to technicians who could quickly respond to the most basic requests for change. Nor has it gone to any more advanced development work--at least none that's readily apparent. Just as obviously, it wasn't spent on competent legal or marketing advice.

When the only evident sign of investment is in the party you throw to announce an organization with an illegal name offering a service that no one understands and that you yourself aren't entirely able to define, you've got a real problem.

So here's a suggestion for PJM/OSM board members and executives alike: Stop asking people what you should do. You convinced a number of fools to invest 3.5 million--or should I say MILLION--dollars in you. They thought you knew what to do. If you don't know what to do, then accept the harsh truth that your only real ability is lies in convincing fools to give you money. Use some of that money to hire people who actually know what to do, then use some more money to hire people who can actually do it. Then get the hell out of their way.
Almost three fifteen hours later, there is no response yet to Cal's devastating words. Shouldn't someone who cares about the operation say something in its defense? What if the folks Cal calls the "fools" are reading the discussion board? The silence over there is really uncomfortable.

IN THE COMMENTS: It's noted that Glenn Reynolds has now responded to Cal, but only minimally, to distance himself from what has gone on there. Per Glenn:
"The Editorial Advisory Board met for the first time the day after the launch. I'm guessing that the site design, etc., was seen by someone as a business decision, rather than editorial, but they didn't involve us. As for the rest, well, perhaps you should just watch the site evolve and see how it does."

I express sympathy.

Steve H. drops by to tell us about this post of his:
I learned something really funny about Pajamas Media yesterday. A source claiming to have inside information says they've actually raised SEVEN million in venture capital. Again, I have to ask, where did it go?

UPDATE: Moxie and Jay Currie have some thoughts on all this.

War poll: "55 percent believe criticism hurts morale, while 21 percent say it helps morale."

WaPo reports:
The results surely will rankle many Democrats, who argue that it is patriotic and supportive of the troops to call attention to what they believe are deep flaws in President Bush's Iraq strategy. But the survey itself cannot be dismissed as a partisan attack. The RTs in RT Strategies are Thomas Riehle, a Democrat, and Lance Tarrance, a veteran GOP pollster.

Their poll also indicates many Americans are skeptical of Democratic complaints about the war. Just three of 10 adults accept that Democrats are leveling criticism because they believe this will help U.S. efforts in Iraq. A majority believes the motive is really to "gain a partisan political advantage."
Not really surprising, is it? I think most Americans are not hotly partisan and are pretty sick of people who are.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lots of discussion, including this from DrillSGT:
As a Vietnam Vet (enlisted), subsequently a Regular Army Officer, and the Husband of a currently serving National Guard officer I can anecdotally state with near certainty that US public opinion belittling the hard work and sacrifices of soldiers in a combat zone and hearing their elected officials say things like "Bush Lied, soldiers died" and Democrat John Kerry accusing President Bush of sending U.S. troops to the "wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time" has a strong negative impact. It initially impacts the families at home. They get a constant stream of comments and it eats at their morale. That in turn bleeds over to the soldiers in the war zone. Unlike my war, soldiers in Iraq have access to real time MSM and can see that the MSM ignores all the successes and finds fault in every opportunity.

It hurts. It hurts. An average American understands what "support the Troops" means. Beyond Lieberman and a few other dems, the average American recognizes that Dean, the DNC and much of the minority leadership are rooting for a defeat in Iraq because it will hurt Bush. That sickens the average American.

MORE IN THE COMMENTS: Readers give DrillSGT a hard time for the quote I front-paged, and he reframes it. This post is certainly getting a lot of comments. I don't post very much on the war in Iraq, though the large number of comments a post like this gets shows me how very much people want to talk about it. I'd just like to say that I never write about things like whether we had enough troops when we started or how many troops should be brought home now. How could I possibly have a valid opinion here? I'm not a military strategist, and I don't have the inside information the people who are conducting the war have. My posts tend to be about political strategies and rhetoric about the war. As to the actual war, it seems pretty obvious to me that we must win. But it would be bizarre for me to act as though I knew how to do that.

"Put on this wig and believe."

A photographer spends six years finding 1,431 persons to put on a big, curly, black wig and pose:
"The wig was perfect because it was a blank slate," Kenneth Solomon said. "The variable was their face, their expression, their interpretation of 'Put on this wig and believe.' "
Too bad the mosaic of tiny photos at the NYT link isn't clickable for enlargements. The impact of the mosaic is nice, what with the thematic unity provided by the wig, but we can't see enough of the varied expressions that the wig set off. Is it supposed to say something about race? You really can't tell from the article.

For something much more substantive on the subject of race, here's a NYT review (by Slate's Dana Stevens) of biographies of two black actors, who found success in Hollywood in the 1930s and 40s.

About "Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood" by Jill Watts:
Her trademark screen attitude of comic insolence reached its peak in "Alice Adams" (1935), when, playing Katharine Hepburn's family maid, Malena, she all but slammed down the plates in front of her white employers while resentfully chomping on a piece of gum.

Watts's sympathetic biography makes much of these moments of Trojan-horse resistance, linking McDaniel's finely calibrated defiance with modern notions in race theory: by infusing her body language with hostility or a parodic compliance, Watts argues, McDaniel was "signifying," deliberately turning racist tropes against themselves.
About Mel Watkins's "Stepin Fetchit: The Life and Times of Lincoln Perry":
He was reviled in the African-American press (and soon after, in the culture at large) as a racist caricature, the "subservient, dim-witted, craven, eye-rolling" Negro. By the 1960's, his name had become an epithet, like "Uncle Tom."

In a 1968 CBS special entitled "Of Black America," a young comic named Bill Cosby proclaimed that "the tradition of the lazy, stupid, crap-shooter, chicken-stealing idiot was popularized by an actor named Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry." The outraged Fetchit, then 66, movingly responded during a press conference: "They're making me a villain," but "if it wasn't for me there wouldn't be no Sidney Poitier or Bill Cosby or any of them."

The LSD-inspired Beatles theme park that might have been.

The Jane and Michael Stern review Bob Spitz's new book "The Beatles." They like it a lot. I've picked out this detail to get some conversation going:
Spitz leads readers on a dizzying ride through the 1960's, taking in the band's musical and financial high points, way-out mystical adventuring, struggles over the Yoko Ono issue and what he calls their "course of reckless hedonism." That course included John's making a deal with LSD-maker Stanley Owsley to pay for a lifetime supply of the hallucinogen. On one occasion, under its influence, they all went to the Aegean Sea to purchase a cluster of islands where they planned to build four houses connected by tunnels, with the land between the homes filled with meditation posts, painting and recording studios, a go-cart track, and a landing strip. When the acid wore off, they got bored and abandoned the idea . . . but bought the islands anyway.
What a nice theme park that would be today if only they'd followed through! What drug-influenced notion did you abandon when you straightened out that you now think would have been quite cool?

Editing "Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever" for 1991 sensibilities.

Here's a Flickr set detailing the differences between "Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever," 1963 edition, and "Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever," 1991 edition. (Via Drawn!) It's not just political correctness either (e.g., lightening the fur on the animal driving in a car stopped by a police officer, making the police officer female). It's also a softening of the tone. "He comes promptly when he is called to breakfast," becomes "He goes to the kitchen to eat his breakfast." Think about what a change like that meant to the editors. Telling children what to do and expecting them not to balk? How retrograde!

The set makes nice use of the "add a note" function in Flickr. The comments are good too. The photographer is Kokogiak.

Stories of surviving the tsunami.

An eight-part article in the NYT Magazine. Sample:
At first, [Sambiyo] thought a ghost might be luring him into the slough. For the past hour, he had been picking up the dead, and the ghoulish task had the effect of a nightmare. Bodies suddenly stared up at him from the water; they hung from trees like branches of flesh. Sambiyo was glad to have his AK-101 hanging from the shoulder of his wet brown uniform. "Brother, please help me," this raspy female voice kept calling. Reluctantly, he waded into the dark water, using his hands to shove aside debris and casting his eyes about in search of the supernatural. As he got close to the woman, he could see only her face and her hair, and they were mottled with mud. He ventured closer, and when he was within a few feet, he realized she was naked.

"But you have no clothes on," he protested.

"It's O.K.," Maisara pleaded. "Just help me."
Vivid fact: "A cubic yard of water - barely enough to surround two people seated with their legs crossed - weighs nearly a ton." Description of what it was like to be slammed by tons of water:
It seemed muddy and sulfurous. It spun her and jerked her. She couldn't see. As she struggled for breath, she gulped some, and it tasted salty and foul. Her arms were useless. Objects struck her, and she felt cut, poked and punched. Something smacked her left eye. Then she stopped, her body upside down, pinned against something flat that she took to be a wall. A car - or what seemed a car - pushed against her and then slid away. Finally, the wall broke apart, and the water pitched her to the surface. She gulped for air. She saw the car, some floating trees, nothing else.

Then there was another wave. And this time it knocked her out.
Much, much more at the link.

"My biggest goal and biggest ambition in life was to be a great conversationalist."

Says Isaac Mizrahi. "I care about clothes and design, but more than anything I care about being this unscripted personality."

I loved his old talk show on Oxygen, and he's got a new talk show on the Style network. I think he really gets how to do TV talk:
"One of the things that I'm very hellbent on doing is not pre-interviewing the hell out of subjects," he said. "On a lot of shows you can feel that the guest is being set up to tell the cute story. I'm like, 'Let's not and say we did.'"

Yeah, don't you hate the way Letterman and Leno bring on actors and actresses who plug in a scripted story? They play the role of an actor on a talk show, being spontaneous and charming the host. What a horror!

Ah! Sex and chess, the eternal subject.

I'm just trying to picture the guys who are thrilled by the idea of a World Chess Beauty Contest.

Found via the NYT, which has a giant article about attractive women who play in chess tournaments. The Times also points to the "Internet Chess Club" -- which makes me want to say "demented and sad, but social" (or demented and sad and not even social). It quotes a female chess player: "a large percentage of the comments [there] are about how hot the women are."

The Times tackles the issue of what to do when a male player accuses his female opponent of using her good looks to "distract" him:
"She was distracting... But there was nothing I could do. It was the beginning of April, right after spring break, and she was dressed appropriately for the time of year. It wasn't anything against the law. I told the guy, 'You are going to have to call upon yourself to overcome the distraction.' He ended up losing the game anyway, but I am not sure that was from being distracted."
I don't play chess, and I've never watched a chess tournament, but I've seen some film clips and photos of grand players, and I imagine that the physical presence of the opponent always has an unnerving effect of some sort. And isn't each player aware of the things about him that are a bit disconcerting, such as very large size, audible breathing, or nervous ticcing? And then there's the subtle question of whether a player is doing it on purpose. It must be distracting just to get sucked into thinking about whether your opponent is doing it on purpose.