December 31, 2005

"The first job of a rock 'n' roll band is not to be dull."

Bono pretends to worry that U2 will kick him out of the band.

Is it really this easy to become famous these days?

I'll bet if his name wasn't Farris he couldn't have ridden one plane ticket this far.

Trump as governor of NY?

Oh, the horror! Ridiculous, really. You can't be that weird and run for office. (Can you?)

Investigating the leak... and reporting about it in the NYT.

The Justice Department has started to investigate the leak of classified information about the NSA surveillance program:
"The leaking of classified information is a serious issue," said [White House] spokesman, Trent Duffy.

"The fact is that Al Qaeda's playbook is not printed on Page 1, and when America's is, it has serious ramifications. You don't need to be Sun Tzu to understand that," he said, referring to the Chinese warrior who wrote "The Art of War."

The president last week denounced in strong language the leaking of information about the agency's program, saying: "My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy."
I'm linking to the NYT and quoting its article, even though the NYT is the place where the leaked information first appeared. It is a special challenge to them to report the investigate well, and we shall see how well they report it. The author of the article, David E. Sanger, does a good job, I think, even if he gives prominent place to quotes that lamely say that investigating the surveillance program ought to predominate. Here's Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union:
"President Bush broke the law and lied to the American people when he unilaterally authorized secret wiretaps of U.S. citizens... But rather than focus on this constitutional crisis, Attorney General Gonzales is cracking down on critics of his friend and boss. Our nation is strengthened, not weakened, by those whistle-blowers who are courageous enough to speak out on violations of the law."
And here's Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center:
"[T]he priority at this point for the Department of Justice should be the appointment of an independent prosecutor to determine whether federal wiretap laws were violated" by the security agency program, not the leak inquiry.
Sanger does call attention to the leak investigation in the Valerie Plame case, which tends to refute Romero's implication that the President is only concerned about leaks as a way to get at his critics. (I wonder if those who screamed loudest about the Plame leak and national security are equally outraged about this new leak?) Sanger also quotes Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, "a nonprofit law firm that defends whistle-blowers," saying that "his group would not object to a limited investigation of the leak of classified information":
"But if they do a blanket witch hunt, which I fear, ... it would trample all over good government laws" intended to protect government workers who expose wrongdoing.

"The whole reason we have whistle-blower laws is so that government workers can act as the public's eyes and ears to expose illegality or abuse of power."
Sanger offers a neutral-sounding account of the newspaper's role in leaking the information:
The administration first learned that The New York Times had obtained information about the secret eavesdropping program more than a year ago and expressed concern to editors that its disclosure could jeopardize terrorism investigations. The newspaper withheld the article at the time, and the government did not open a leak investigation at that time, presumably because such an inquiry might itself disclose the program.

The newspaper did additional reporting and eventually decided to publish the article despite the continuing objections of President Bush and other top officials.
Why? Naturally, we crave more information here, but Sanger's inability to offer it does not undermine his report. The Times is part of the investigation, and Sanger can only tell us: "Bill Keller, the newspaper's executive editor, declined to comment on the leak investigation."

UPDATE: If you came here from Crooked Timber and want my response to the scurrilous things that were said about me there, it's here.

Counting the laughs...

... in Supreme Court oral arguments.

Is a sense of humor a mark of a good judicial mind? It's Scalia and then Breyer with the most laughs, and Roberts is off to a good start.

To get laughs from your sense of humor, of course, you've got to make your observations out loud. Who knows what amusing things Clarence Thomas is thinking in his silence? I know I'd have different thoughts depending on whether I actively engaged in debate with the lawyers. If I did, I'd have to concentrate on the terms of the legal argument. If I didn't, I'd think much more about how the lawyers and judges looked and acted as characters in a human drama -- a very rich source of witty remarks, but nothing you can interpose at oral argument.

ADDED: Why isn't Green Bag available on line? It would be nice to be able to read an link to Professor Wexler's article (the basis for the article I linked to above).

MORE: Gordon Smith aptly observes that counting the laughs mostly only counts which judges think they are funny, since the captive audience will tend to oblige the judge with a laugh when he tries to be funny. What are you going to do? Groan and roll your eyes? Also, the courtroom is a tense and sober place that laughing is a special relief. You might have had any number of things you wanted to laugh at and had to stifle yourself.

AND: Here's a PDF of the Wexler article!

My New Year's prediction for the Supreme Court.

Yesterday, I blogged about William Safire's predictions about what the Supreme Court would do in a handful of cases. This led to some more generalized speculation in the comments, and Eli wrote:
Actually, with the four on the right, and with the four on the left, we have a court balanced perfectly around one justice. So, one man will control one third of the government. 2006 will be a year in which Anthony Kennedy will wield a sharper and more powerful sword than George W. Bush.
Even though I've said things like this myself, I think it underestimates the intellectual and charismatic powers of the new Chief Justice. So I want to make a different prediction for what 2006 will be like for the Supreme Court: Kennedy will work with John Roberts to forge a newly coherent moderate-conservative position. The project of creating an articulate moderate position will be so compelling and promise such benefits that Stephen Breyer will contribute his formidable skills, and we will see the era of fragmented, ad hoc decisionmaking come to an end.

Article III Groupie goes to Washington.

Article III Groupie -- AKA David Lat -- of Underneath Their Robes, is leaving his job at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark. He sent out email to the office yesterday saying he was going to Washington, D.C. and "You'll be hearing from me more." He was not forced out of his job -- according to the article -- though, of course, he was forced to closed down his incredibly cool blog after he revealed his identity. So what is he going to do in Washington? Something that taps his amazing creativity? I hope!

December 30, 2005

A year in the life of the blog.

January: I just wrecked my car.

February: Is podcasting good?

March: Is it possible to explain the Schiavo statute on television?

April: "Try to survive a tornado with a post-structuralist"

May: Notes on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

June: Who was inconsistent about federalism in Raich?

July: Tattoos remind you of death

August: Where am I?

September: The Roberts confirmation hearing

October: State Street, pre-Halloween

November: In which I advise local liberal lawyers to support Alito

December: How political is that "gay cowboy movie"?

The romantic entrepreneur...

Burns out:
The psychological gap between working in a cafe because it's fun and romantic and doing the exact same thing because you have to is enormous. Within weeks, Lily and I—previously ensconced in an enviably stress-free marriage—were at each other's throats. I hesitate to say which was worse: working the same shift or alternating. Each option presented its own small tortures. Two highly educated professionals with artistic aspirations have just put themselves—or, as we saw it, each other—on $8-per-hour jobs slinging coffee. After four more months, we grew suspicious of each other's motives, obsessively kept track of each other's contributions to the cause ("You worked three days last week!"), and generally waltzed on the edge of divorce. The marriage appears to have been saved by a well-timed bankruptcy.
Many years ago, in the 1970s, when I was married, R and I seriously considered opening a small bookstore, which we envisioned in romantic terms. Nevertheless, I got a book from the library about starting a small business. It had a chapter "Would You Hire Yourself?" that doggedly pressured you to seriously consider whether you would hire yourself to run this business you've got in mind. My reaction to that chapter was very much like my reaction to the lecture I received, around the same time, from a young woman at the SPCA, where I'd gone to adopt a dog. Suffice it to say, I've never owned a bookstore or a dog. I'm capable of having romantic visions of myself engaged in some activity in the future, but I'm at least as good at picturing myself in the negative variation. I can see the nightmare that cancels the dream.

Robscalithom predictions.

William Safire returns to the NYT op-ed page to do his usual "office pool" on predictions for the year 2006. Question 4 is about the Supreme Court:
The Robertscalito court will: (a) in the Texas case disengage from involvement in states' redistricting; (b) go the other way in Oregon, holding that federal power to prohibit substances trumps a state's authority to permit physician-assisted suicide; (c) decide that federal funds can be denied to law schools that prohibit military recruitment on campus; (d) uphold McCain-Feingold, enabling Congress to restrict political contributions but not expenditures; (e) reassert citizens' Fourth Amendment protection from "security letters" and warrantless surveillance.
His answer is "all." Some are more likely that others, though, especially (c). And "Robertscalito" is an awfully inelegant coinage for a notorious word maven. Much as I object to "Scalito," I still find it aesthetically appealing. If you're going to go toward ungainliness and make it "Robertscalito," leaving out Clarence Thomas becomes conspicuous. So in the interest of inclusiveness and aesthetics, I'll suggest: "Robscalithom."

"My kids aren't going to relate to Jesus Christ the same way we do..."

"And that's to be expected because Jesus Christ is your own personal lord and savior," says one mother who's accepting of the way teenagers these days shop around for a church that's more exciting that the one their parents take them to: "At New Life, ... the youth group sessions feel like rock concerts: T-shirts are on sale outside and bands are onstage, grinding their way through screaming songs of praise for Christ while teenagers dance before them."

December 29, 2005

Quotes of the year 2005 -- my choices.

After writing that last post, on the WaPo's quotes of the year, I got the idea of going through the past year of my writing on this blog to find the quotes I thought were most interesting. Here they are, beginning with a quote from back in January:

"I can't think of any examples where I said, 'Gosh, I wish I had more power.'" -- President Bush

"When you think of the New Testament, they get about 2 of the values and we get about 27." -- Howard Dean

"Christ did not come down from the cross." -- Pope John Paul II (on why he didn't retire)

"But I also know if I can get music without buying it, I'm going to do so." -- Justice David Souter (at oral argument in the Grokster case)

"I can't agree with you. 'Our laws come from God.' If you don't believe it sends that message, you're kidding yourself." -- Justice Antonin Scalia (at oral argument in the Ten Commandments case)

"Try to survive a tornado with a post-structuralist." -- Camille Paglia (speaking in Madison)

"If I should ever be in a vegetative state and kept alive on life support, please, for the love of God, don't ever show me in that condition on national television." -- Kenny in the "Best Friends Forever" episode of "South Park"

"Matt, Matt, you don't even -- you're glib. You don't even know what Ritalin is." -- Tom Cruise

"What are you, some redneck blogger pig?"-- Claire Fisher on "Six Feet Under" (to her boyfriend, when he defended the war in Iraq)

"Narm." -- Nate Fisher on "Six Feet Under."

"That's for me to know and for your to find out." -- Chief Justice William Rehnquist (responding to a question about whether he's retiring on July 11th, causing me to write "How near death can he be if he's horsing around like that?" He died on September 3rd.)

"The Supreme Court voted last week to undo private property rights and to empower governments to kick people out of their homes and give them to someone else because they feel like it." Rep. Tom Delay (on the Kelo case)

"He's crushing his testicles in tight trousers for world peace." -- John Lydon (insulting Bono)

"We have an American refugee situation on our hands." -- a Red Cross spokesperson (re Katrina)

"We perceive no reason why both parents of a child cannot be women." -- the California Supreme Court

"What dreary sentimental nonsense this all is, and how much space has been wasted on it." -- Christopher Hitchens (on Cindy Sheehan)

"If you're not on drugs, you've got problems." -- Jimmy Kimmel (to Courtney Love)

"There's loads of room for judgment. The judges do judge." -- Justice Stephen Breyer

"They will do what they think is in their interest, however they define it." -- Senator Hillary Clinton (predicting how Democrats would vote on the nomination of John Roberts)

"Would you agree that the opposite of being dead is being alive?" -- Senator Tom Coburn (asking the most ridiculous question asked at the Roberts confirmation hearings)

"By becoming John Roberts the chief justice, don't ever forget to be John Roberts, the man." -- Senator Mike DeWine (at the Roberts hearing)

"Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire." -- John Roberts (at his confirmation hearing)

"I believe the common character of the universe is not harmony, but hostility, chaos and murder." -- Werner Herzog (in voiceover in the movie "Grizzly Man")

"I haven't even run out of weed yet." -- one of the New Orleans holdouts (on not evacuating after Katrina)

"Almost all of them that we see, are so poor and they are so black." -- Wolf Blitzer (on the Katrina victims)

"Anyone can read the news to you. I promise to feel the news at you." -- Steve Colbert

"She needs more than murder boards. She needs a crash course in constitutional law." -- Arlen Specter (on Harriet Miers)

"I think with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, you can't play, you know, hide the salami, or whatever it's called." -- Howard Dean

"I know her heart." -- President Bush on Harriet Miers

"These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will." -- President Bush (finally fighting back against war critics)

"It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy." -- Judge John E. Jones III (in the Intelligent Design case)

"I don't expect you to support everything I do, but tonight I have a request: Do not give in to despair, and do not give up on this fight for freedom." -- President Bush (on the Iraq war)

"We will talk to each other, and we will connect with each other, and we will weave the country together like a piece of cloth." -- A voter in Iraq

"I have no friends." -- Howard Stern

"We undermine the president's credibility at our nation's peril." -- Senator Joe Lieberman

"The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them." -- Harold Pinter (accepting the Nobel Prize)

"I for one do not dance to dance music; disco for me is a lofty metaphysical mode that induces contemplation." -- Camille Paglia (criticizing Madonna's new CD)

"Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job."

Is that the quote of the year? WaPo's Mark Leibovich says so. The runners-up are pretty amusing, especially the horrifying "This is working very well for them."

The sole voice of reason?

Arye Dworken of The Jerusalem Post attacks "Curb Your Enthusiasm" as anti-Semitic:
Some might argue [Larry] David's misrepresentation of Judaism is but a warped, misguided love letter to his own tradition, and that his humor doesn't discriminate when it comes to mocking any religion or ethnicity.

This is true to an extent, but if one takes a closer look at the show's cast of characters, Judaism is the most poorly portrayed. The cast, which features Susie Essman, Jeff Garlin, Larry David and Richard Lewis, is predominately Jewish. All four characters have similar traits, most of them unflattering (with the occasional exception of Garlin, who can be a well-intentioned individual). And interestingly, the one non-Jew, Cheryl Hines, represents the sole voice of reason among the aforementioned neurotics.
Wait. Cheryl is out of her mind.

Question about shirt collars.

How should a man decide whether or not the collar of his shirt belongs inside or outside the lapels of his jacket? Obviously, if he's wearing a tie, the collar goes inside, and a big crazy disco collar goes outside. But other than that, what is the significance of inside or outside?

The problems with boys and school.

Melana Zyla Vickers writes in the Weekly Standard about the gender gap in higher education:
What is going on? Schools are not paying enough attention to the education of males. There's too little focus on the cognitive areas in which boys do well. Boys have more disciplinary problems, up to 10 percent are medicated for Attention Deficit Disorder, and they thrive less in a school environment that prizes what Brian A. Jacob of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government calls "noncognitive skills." These include the ability to pay attention in class, to work with others, to organize and keep track of homework, and to seek help from others. Where boys and girls score comparably on cognitive skills, boys get worse grades in the touchy-feely stuff. Perhaps not coincidentally, boys reportedly enjoy school less than girls do, and are less likely to perceive that their teachers support them, according to studies of Hispanic dropouts.

Harvard's Jacob is one of the few scholars to have studied the gender gap in higher education. His statistical analysis suggests it is boys' lack of skill in these noncognitive areas that is the principal cause of the gap.
Let me tie this to my usual point that whatever is discovered to be true of the female is portrayed as superior. Here, we see characteristics discovered in the male portrayed as a deficiency in "noncognitive skills." But isn't this because the scientists are defining "noncognitive skills" to fit what they find to be true of girls? Once could just as well spin what the boys seem to have as "noncognitive skill." You can easily translate Jacob's diagnosis into a positive one for the boys: Boys have wide-ranging, active interests and the capacity to deftly shift from one area of interest to the next. They resist becoming bogged down in details and meaningless exercises and hold fast to their independence. They are not subservient and are straightforward in their criticisms of authority figures. But then the girls might come out deficient. And, of course, designing a classroom to suit these skills would be much more difficult.

UPDATE: Slate links to this post and ridiculously garbles my meaning!

"I had stressed if they have to denounce me then please denounce me -- no problem."

The Dalai Lama.

The Panchen Lama: "I've been to many places in the past decade and witnessed the ample freedom enjoyed by individuals and religious organisations alike. Living Budhhas like myself are able to perform religious rituals under the wing of the Chinese constitution and other laws."

If you like the Audible Althouse theme music.

If you like the theme music on my podcasts, you might want to stream these two songs by Lucas Cates. Brit Rice, who worked on the podcast theme with my son John, plays the drums and percussion.

Happy New Year... Virtuous New Year!

The NYT has two op-eds today on happiness, which will be pushed in our faces perhaps a bit too much this weekend. Psychprof Timothy Wilson says thinking about your happiness is counterproductive:
Numerous social psychological studies have confirmed Aristotle's observation that "We become just by the practice of just actions, self-controlled by exercising self-control, and courageous by performing acts of courage." If we are dissatisfied with some aspect of our lives, one of the best approaches is to act more like the person we want to be, rather than sitting around analyzing ourselves.
History prof Darrin M. McMahon has a similiar message:
"Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so," [John Stuart] Mill concluded after recovering from a serious bout of depression. Rather than resign himself to gloom, however, Mill vowed instead to look for happiness in another way.

"Those only are happy," he came to believe, "who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way." For our own culture, steeped as it is in the relentless pursuit of personal pleasure and endless cheer, that message is worth heeding.
It's true we say "Happy New Year" and therefore seem to focus on happiness, but we also have the practice of making resolutions, so perhaps we have already incorporated the message that the route to happiness is simply to do the kinds of things that will make us better human beings. Maybe we just need to change the saying. Instead of "Happy New Year": "Virtuous New Year!"

"We must recover the religious texts and free them from an exclusively male interpretation..."

Muslim women in Europe turn to education, specifically in Islamic studies, where they are learning to make effective arguments against the oppression of women:
"This is a big shift," said Amel Boubekeur, a social scientist at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, who is writing her doctoral thesis on Europe's "new Islamic elites." "Instead of having to be passive, women now become teachers," she said. "It used to be taboo for women to recite the Koran." But now, she added, "It offers them a new prestige, new jobs and, not least, it gives them a stronger voice in dealing with their parents, brothers and husbands." In fact, Ms. Boubekeur said, women found religious texts more effective than secular arguments....

As educated Muslim women assert themselves, they appear to be forging a strand of Euro-Islam, a hybrid that attempts to reconcile the principles laid out in the Koran with life in a secular, democratic Europe.

"I tell women, 'We can honor the Koran from our perspective and apply it to our experience today,' " said Dounia Bouzar, an anthropologist who is both Algerian and French. "We must recover the religious texts and free them from an exclusively male interpretation that belongs to the Middle Ages. Most important right now is that women get into the universities."

That amazingly transgressive American idea: Fun!

Chinese kids get a look at Nickelodeon TV:
There was ... sliming, a highlight of the American version of the show, which involves dumping, squirting and otherwise propelling green gooey stuff at people. And adults repeatedly were whacked by children - with balloon bats, of course - just to give the Chinese a taste of the freedoms afforded to children in the United States.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the show's national television broadcast was that children in China seemed to think that even this much kinder, gentler version of the program was wonderfully, outrageously transgressive.

"This is just so much fun," said Wang Yinong, a shy 12-year-old girl who watched the show at home with her parents in Shanghai. "I'd really like to go there and do the same thing: slime people."
Ah, freedom!

Family disputes.

From CNN:
Bibi recounted how she was awakened by a shriek as Ahmed put his hand to the mouth of his stepdaughter, Muqadas, and cut her throat with a machete. She said she looked on helplessly from the corner of the room as he then killed the three girls -- Bano, 8, Sumaira, 7, and Humaira, 4 -- pausing between the slayings to brandish the bloodstained knife at his wife, warning her not to intervene or raise....

Speaking to AP from the back of a police pickup truck late Tuesday as he was moved to a prison in the city of Multan, Ahmed showed no contrition. Appearing disheveled but composed, he said he killed Muqadas because she had committed adultery, and his daughters because he didn't want them to do the same when they grew up....

Despite Ahmed's contention that Muqadas had committed adultery -- a claim made by her husband -- the rights commission reported that according to local people, Muqadas had fled her husband because he had abused her and forced her to work in a brick-making factory....

Activists accuse President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a self-styled moderate Muslim, of reluctance to reform outdated Islamized laws that make it difficult to secure convictions in rape, acid attacks and other cases of violence against women. They say police are often reluctant to prosecute, regarding such crimes as family disputes.

"It's still all nude pumps and suntan pantyhose."

Why do figure skaters dress the way they do? It's not cool and it has no correlation to fashion in general. Why don't they require all the Olympic contenders to wear a solid black unitard? Wouldn't it be nice not to purify the competition and remove the distractions? Or is the absurdity of bugle beads and pirate shirts what we really love about the skating?

The shift in Bush's Iraq rhetoric.

According to the WaPo:
President Bush shifted his rhetoric on Iraq in recent weeks after an intense debate among advisers about how to pull out of his political free fall, with senior adviser Karl Rove urging a campaign-style attack on critics while younger aides pushed for more candor about setbacks in the war, according to Republican strategists...

Although Rove raised concerns about giving critics too much ground, the younger-generation aides prevailed. Bush agreed to try the approach so long as he did not come off sounding too negative. Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University specialist on wartime public opinion who now works at the White House, helped draft a 35-page public plan for victory in Iraq, a paper principally designed to prove that Bush had one....

Writing off 30 percent or more of the public as adamantly against the war, his advisers focused on winning back a similar-size group that had soured on Iraq but, they believed, wanted to be convinced victory was possible....

The humility theme was woven into speeches, often in the first two minutes to keep viewers from turning away. Aides had noticed that anger at Bush after Hurricane Katrina subsided somewhat after he took responsibility for the response. The idea, one senior official said, was like fighting with a spouse: "You need to give voice to their concern. That doesn't necessarily solve the division and the difference, but it drains the disagreement of some of its animosity if you feel you've been heard."
I guess spouse-fighting chez Rove is an ugly affair. Nice of the younger-generation aides to think the we could actually appreciate something other than pure pep talk.

I wonder if there's some implicit advice in this for the President's opponents: The straight dyspep talk is offputting. Defeat your inner anti-Rove.

December 28, 2005

Audible Althouse #28.

The Blue Christmas Podcast. 36 minutes. (You can stream it right through your computer here.)

UPDATE: If you tried before and found the file way too large, try it now. I needed to change a setting in the software on my new computer.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I notice I said 1418 instead of 418 -- twice! -- referring to St. Augustine. Sorry!

Sometimes the music in the café is so bad...

... that you suspect the barista is playing a CD made by her friend who has a band. Thanks to John for this theory.

Let Congress amend the surveillance laws to support data-mining.

David Ignatius has this WaPo op-ed:
As we learn more about what was going on under the Bush administration's secret surveillance program, it's clear the National Security Agency has developed some powerful new tools against terrorist adversaries. That's all the more reason these innovative spying methods should be brought within the rule of law -- so that they can be used effectively and legally.

That should be a New Year's resolution for Congress and the administration: Amend our laws on surveillance to establish a framework for using these new techniques of collecting and analyzing information....

Although the headline has been "warrantless wiretapping," the Times accounts suggest the program actually was something closer to a data-mining system that collected and analyzed vast amounts of digitized data in an effort to find patterns that might identify potential terrorists....

This is the kind of innovative technology the government should be using, with appropriate safeguards. It employs computer algorithms to discern patterns that would probably be invisible to human analysts. It searches electronically amid the haystack of information for the one dangerous needle. In the phrase that was often used in the scathing Sept. 11 post-mortems, it seeks to "connect the dots."
So, an important new technique is being used, it seems, and it doesn't correspond very well to the activities Congress has attempted to regulate in the past. Rather than dwelling on whether it agrees with the President's legal interpretation of the existing legal texts, Congress ought to design the right legislation that clearly supports the beneficial and nonabusive use of the new techniques.

UPDATE: Marty Lederman participates in the comments, citing this post of his over at Balkinization, and I try to respond.


By chance, two of my favorite bloggers are talking about addiction today. Hog on Ice is fed up with his sister's I'm-an-addict antics. And RLC, left on his own to plunge into addictive behavior, analyzes why he doesn't.

"Bloggers are the bloodthirsty masses slavering for a public flogging."

"Incivility is their weapon and humanity their victim."

The sturdy popularity of Hillary Clinton.

"Frustration Over Iraq Vote Unlikely to Trouble Clinton" is the headline of a piece that, in the paper NYT, is headed "Clinton Can Handle Left's Frustration." Make of that difference what you will. The paper headline is shorter, but it also includes more information. It's not just a big, amorphous cloud of frustration that's vexing the ambitious lady. It's the Left.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's support for the war in Iraq has outraged many liberal activists in the Democratic Party, who are warning of retribution, including a primary challenge to her re-election campaign next year.

But the activists are in the same sort of political bind that liberals found themselves in a decade ago when Bill Clinton defied liberal orthodoxies: struggling to bring meaningful pressure to bear on a politician who is cherished by many traditional Democrats....

The senator has defended her vote to authorize military action but has harshly criticized President Bush's handling of the war and has called for a plan to begin withdrawing troops next year if the Iraqi elections earlier this month yield positive results.
No mention of HC's silence about the domestic surveillance controversy the Times seems to want to keep well-stirred. The piece is mainly about her sturdy popularity and the political strategy learned from her husband.

"The case against a lot of these guys just came out of nowhere because they were really nobodies..."

Will criminal defense lawyers find a way to challenge the administration's domestic surveillance program?
[A] number of defense lawyers said in interviews that circumstantial evidence had led them to question whether the security agency identified their clients through wiretaps.

The first challenge is likely to come in Florida, where lawyers for two men charged with Jose Padilla, who is jailed as an enemy combatant, plan to file a motion as early as next week to determine if the N.S.A. program was used to gain incriminating information on their clients and their suspected ties to Al Qaeda. Kenneth Swartz, one of the lawyers in the case, said, "I think they absolutely have an obligation to tell us" whether the agency was wiretapping the defendants. In a Virginia case, Edward B. MacMahon Jr., a lawyer for Ali al-Timimi, a Muslim scholar in Alexandria who is serving a life sentence for inciting his young followers to wage war against the United States overseas, said the government's explanation of how it came to suspect Mr. Timimi of terrorism ties never added up in his view.

F.B.I. agents were at Mr. Timimi's door days after the Sept. 11 attacks to question him about possible links to terrorism, Mr. MacMahon said, yet the government did not obtain a warrant through the foreign intelligence court to eavesdrop on his conversations until many months later.

Mr. MacMahon said he was so skeptical about the timing of the investigation that he questioned the Justice Department about whether some sort of unknown wiretap operation had been conducted on the scholar or his young followers, who were tied to what prosecutors described as a "Virginia jihad" cell.

"They told me there was no other surveillance," Mr. MacMahon said. "But the fact is that the case against a lot of these guys just came out of nowhere because they were really nobodies, and it makes you wonder whether they were being tapped."...

Because the program was so highly classified, government officials say, prosecutors who handled terrorism cases apparently did not know of the program's existence. Any information they received, the officials say, was probably carefully shielded to protect the true source.

But defense lawyers say they are eager to find out whether prosecutors - intentionally or not - misled the courts about the origins of their investigations and whether the government may have held on to N.S.A. wiretaps that could point to their clients' innocence.
I think if there is to be a lawsuit examining the legality of the surveillance, it will be in this form, not in a suit brought by a member of Congress (who would not have standing to sue).

UPDATE: For analysis of the legal problems facing the defense lawyers and prosecutors, see Jeralyn Merritt and Reddhedd.

Car wreck blogging.

Please, all the rest of you Althouse commenters who blog: Do not repeat this technique for getting me to link.

The Rapture.

Writing that last post made me think about about the song "I Pray We'll Be Ready," by the Chicago Mass Choir, which made me stop on one of the religious channels on satellite radio that I normally dial past. I haven't given much thought to the notion of the Rapture, though I'm well aware that there are a lot of books milking its melodramatic possibilities. But the singing was so excellent that I kept listening to the many verses. In one, a husband wakes up one morning and finds his beloved wife gone. That got me wondering about the wife. How is she supposed to enjoy bliss? Oh, I guess Bob wasn't good enough...


The NYT has a front-page article on the debate over limbo.
"Limbo has never been a definitive truth of the faith," Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Benedict XVI earlier this year, said in an interview in 1984, during his long term as Pope John Paul II's doctrinal watchdog. "Personally, I would let it drop, since it has always been only a theological hypothesis."...

The theology is complicated, but the bottom line is that Augustine, believing in mankind's original sin, persuaded a church council in 418 to reject any notion of an "intermediary place" between heaven and hell. He held that baptism was necessary for salvation, and that unbaptized babies would actually go to hell, though in his later writings he conceded that it would entail the mildest of conditions....

In the Middle Ages, theologians, notably St. Thomas Aquinas, postulated a slightly cheerier idea: limbo, from the Latin "limbus," meaning a hem or a boundary. Here innocents would live forever in what Thomas called "natural happiness," if not in heaven.
The idea seems to have originated because of the need to moderate the harshness of the religion. But limbo itself may seem too harsh today:
The church is growing most in poor places like Africa and Asia where infant mortality remains high. While the concerns of the experts reconsidering limbo are more theological, it does not hurt the church's future if an African mother who has lost a baby can receive more hopeful news from her priest in 2005 than, say, an Italian mother did 100 years ago.

"You look at the proper theology, but if there is more consolation, all the better," said the Rev. Luis Ladaria, the Spanish Jesuit who is secretary general of the International Theological Commission, the official body working on limbo.
Is religion about consolation? Is it about consolation because it's really about expansion and consolation works? Is it about consolation because it's really about expansion and the greatest potential for expansion is among the poorest people who really need consolation? I don't see how any of that has anything to do with whether limbo in fact exists.

UPDATE: In related news, Pope Benedict said today that God sees embryos as fully human:
"The loving eyes of God look on the human being, considered full and complete at its beginning," Benedict said in his weekly address to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

Quoting Psalm 139, Benedict said the Bible teaches that God already recognises the embryo as a complete human. That view is the basis for the Church teaching that aborting or manipulating these embryos amounts to murder.

In Psalm 139, the psalmist says to God: "Thou didst see my limbs unformed in the womb, and in thy book they are all recorded."

"It is extremely powerful, the idea in this psalm, that in this 'unformed' embryo God already sees the whole future," Benedict said.
Do the Psalms count as God's perspective?

December 27, 2005

"I know this sounds crazy. I was crazy to have listened to him in the beginning."

David Letterman's lawyers have succeeded in quashing a restraining order that was granted to a woman who made patently psycho allegations against him.
"I appealed to the court for a restraining order to keep this man away from me, but now that's been denied me," she said. "He has access to me. He can actually come for me or send people. He has many accomplices. I know this sounds crazy. I was crazy to have listened to him in the beginning."

New laptop!

This is my first post on my new laptop, I'd like you to know, in case you've been worrying about me and my destroyed iBook and my labors over the weekend with my clunky iMac. Thanks to Josh for doing the red tape things to get the new computer ordered and ready to be picked up at the UW Tech Store in just a few hours. It's a nice PowerBook, the smallest size (because even though I spend a lot of time looking at the screen, I want the most portable computer). Is it better than the iBook that died? Yes! It's faster, it has twice the storage space, the screen is crisper, and the keyboard has a much more solid, substantial feel to it. And, of course, everything that was white is now silver.

"The thief 'went right for the bun.'"

You remember the cinnamon bun that looks like Mother Teresa:

The Bongo Java coffee shop sold T-shirts, prayer cards and mugs with the bun's image until Mother Teresa wrote a letter asking the sales be stopped, before her death in 1997.

[Coffee shop owner Bob] Bernstein said the thief "went right for the bun", ignoring cash lying nearby.

"Stop talking about putting the city back into its 19th-century state to make mass transit work."

"Instead, let's see what people want to do, then see how the city can be built around them."

A quote from "Sprawl: A Compact History," by Robert Bruegmann, reviewed by architecture critic Kevin Nance.
"There's a certain contrarian glee that Bob takes in goring sacred cows, and I think there's value in challenging us to look at these issues fresh," says Ned Cramer, curator of the Chicago Architecture Foundation. "But I don't think I can set aside my prejudices about the vacuousness of life in suburban sprawl. Gertrude Stein said, 'There's no there there,' and I still on an emotional, psychological and intellectual level fail to find any 'there' in the vast majority of sprawl-style developments that I visit and have lived in. And it's interesting that Bob lives and works in a traditional city. I don't see him moving to Aurora."

Still, the early critical response to Bruegmann's book has been mostly positive, with reviewers such as Witold Rybczynski, the architecture critic of the online magazine Slate, lauding Sprawl as an "iconoclastic little book" that "demonstrates that sprawl is not the anomalous result of American zoning laws, or mortgage interest tax deduction, or cheap gas, or subsidized highway construction, or cultural antipathy toward cities."

Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman is equally enthusiastic.

"The intellectual perception of sprawl is a snobbish one that says it's all crap, and Bob points out that it just ain't that way," Tigerman says.
Here in Madison, people tend to gasp about sprawl, but absurdly, they also object to tall buildings downtown. We're progressive: we don't really want anything to change. Except we want light rail. Because light rail would be a wonderful way to spend money to help us feel really good about ourselves.

Pay members of Congress $1 million a year.

Says Thomas Sowell. He notes that the persons we should most want in Congress are the ones who will have to make the biggest financial sacrifice to leave their current careers. This means we end up with some combination of mediocrities and folks who are really interested in wielding power. I do think there are also at least a few public service types in Congress, the sort of people who wouldn't take high-paying jobs if they were not in politics. But I'm thinking Sowell doesn't trust these people to make decisions about our money.

"In the 1960's and 1970's, ... psychotherapy felt like a social movement, and you just wanted to be a part of it."

But now, says psychologist Jeffrey Zeig, it's just not the same. The "cool logic of science" threatens to unseat the "spirit of humanistic activism."
[Hunter "Patch" Adams] called for a "last stand of loving care" to prevail over the misery in the world, its wars and "our fascistic government." Overcome by his own message, Dr. Adams eventually fell to the floor of the stage in tears.

Many in the audience of thousands were deeply moved; many others were bewildered. Some left the arena.

At the conference, many said they found it heartening that psychotherapy was finding some scientific support....

Many therapists at the conference said that if the field did not incorporate more scientifically testable principles, its future was bleak.

The "humanistic" psychotherapists remind me of the proponents of Intelligent Design. They don't have science, but they have the deep conviction that what they believe is more profound. The question is: What do you do with it? If you try to sell to patients/students as science, you've got a problem.

"But, somehow, life is warmer and closer, the hearth burns more redly..."

"... the lights of home shine softer on the rainy street, the very names endeared in verse and music cling nearer round our hearts."

A quote from Robert Louis Stevenson, about being born in Scotland and not England. From his 1894 obituary. The news came from Apia, Samoa, that he had suddenly died of "apoplexy" and "was buried on the summit of Paa Mountain, 1,300 feet high."

Mama mia, Galileo, magnifico.

The story of "Bohemian Rhapsody."
Perhaps the song's most distinct feature is the fatalistic lyrics: "Mama, just killed a man," "Nothing really matters" and "I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all." Mr. Mercury, who died in 1991, always refused to explain his composition other than saying it was about relationships. (He never officially admitted his bisexuality.) Some interpreted it as a way of dealing with his personal issues. To this day the band is still protective of the song's secret.

"I have a perfectly clear idea of what was in Freddie's mind," Mr. May said. "But it was unwritten law among us in those days that the real core of a song lyric was a private matter for the composer, whoever that might be. So I still respect that."

Mr. Baker said, with a hearty laugh, "If I tell you, I would have to kill you."

The idea that springs most readily to mind is that he actually did kill a man!

Imperial succession.

Here's an article about the debate over imperial succession in Japan. The princess's problems with depression and anxiety after giving birth only to a daughter have led to a proposal to permit females to carry on the line. Despite the ancientness of the tradition, the debate proceeds in modern terms, with one side emphasizing the Y chromosome and the other feminism:

"I think the male succession system in the imperial family has led to the discrimination and oppression of women in general in Japan," Ms. Kano said. A female line would make a woman the symbolic leader of the nation and show a man deferring to her, as wives of emperors do, she said.

"If Princess Aiko became empress, it might be a little better for the realization of the equality of men and women, rather than clinging to the male line," Ms. Kano said. "I'm basically for ending this system where wives always stand back while the emperor speaks, or walk behind him. That kind of image says a lot to ordinary people."

Do the holidays cause depression?

That's what they say. But it's not true, though Jeremy seems to be acting this folk belief out. I think that's just his way of having fun.

December 26, 2005

Speed listening.

You often hear about people who can speed talk or speed read, John observes, but what about speed listening? That's an impressive skill. Yes, I'd like to see a speed listening contest -- on ESPN, like the National Spelling Bee. You could do it by using recorded passages and playing them to the contestants at ever increasing speeds. Then, they'd be quizzed on their comprehension. It would be fun for the home viewers, because we'd lose the ability to hear the passages, and they'd still understand.

IN THE COMMENTS: There's some questioning of the importance of the skill of speed listening. I add this:
I had some law school classes where I made recordings because there was more going on than I could pay enough attention to. I'd want to think about one thing, but I'd worry that I'd miss the next, which made it hard to understand anything properly. It's not necessarily the speed of the talking but the concision and complexity of the ideas.

You can tell when you're teaching that you can say something perfectly clearly -- your own recording will prove that to you -- and still know that students just can't absorb it in real time -- their questions will prove that. Often, you have to say the same thing three times before it's heard. If there were a recording, and the student could pause it and think, they'd understand it. I think it's helpful to speak a sentence fairly quickly (so the listener's mind doesn't wander) but then pause to let it sink in.

The subject of speed listening came up when we were playing Trivial Pursuit (90s edition), and we wanted to play faster so we tried reading the questions fast. The questions are written in a somewhat odd style, compressed, and studded with unexpected names. Reading them fast just slowed us down. We were all: Whaaaat?

One way to be disarming in conversation is to say one short but unusually phrased sentence with some surprising words in it and then stop. It forces everyone to try to understand what you've said. (There's some danger that they'll decide you're weird and ignore you.) It's much more effective than overexplaining everything and holding the floor too long.

I do think it's possible to train yourself to listen more efficiently. A lot of the problem is just the anxiety of worrying that you're going to miss something. It's most noticeable when someone gives you long driving directions or a phone number and you're not writing it down. It isn't really that hard to remember, but you're so worried that you'll forget that it becomes hard. Also, there should be a way to remember what was said and hold off until later to think through what it means. We all have the experience of replaying a conversation and realizing things about it that we couldn't figure out in real time. Sometimes it takes years to understand. The obstacle to speed listening, then, is that you are trying to combine listening and contemplation.

I think with a class, making a recording is usually unnecessary. Just take notes and write things that are truly perplexing down verbatim. Put a star or a question mark next to the things that confuse you and go back to those things very soon afterwards. If you can't make sense of them, ask outside of class or talk to other people about them. But don't wait too long to ask the teacher. Sometimes, I've had a student read me something they wrote in their notes and ask me what I meant when they wrote that. But it's a month after I said it!

Have you noticed who's been amazingly silent lately?

Hillary Clinton. Has she said anything about the current domestic surveillance controversy? I think she had the good sense to see how this was going to play out and to leave her record clear of comments that would come back to haunt her.

"Several non-liberal blogs that I read daily or almost daily."

Thanks to Kevin Drum for putting me on this list:
I periodically get email asking me for a list of good conservative blogs. In fact, I got another one just yesterday. Around these parts, we consider "good" and "conservative" to be oxymorons for most of the year, but today I'm going to make an exception. For a variety of reasons — some are entertaining, some I learn things from, some are mainly anthropological excursions — there are several non-liberal blogs that I read daily or almost daily.
I could roll out the usual protestations and say I'm not conservative, but I've become resigned to the label, which, more than anything else, means to me that the category "liberal hawk" doesn't exist anymore. Maybe I seem to be one of the "good" ones because I'm not one.

Condi in '08?

WaPo's Anne Gearan reads the political landscape and sees that Condoleezza Rice is awfully popular:
Kurt Campbell, director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, credits Rice's heavy travel schedule, an approach to diplomacy that is more pragmatic than other Bush advisers, and a measure of personal pluck.

"She appears to have sort of skated away" from controversies over U.S. intelligence failures and aggressive U.S. tactics in the hunt for terrorists, Campbell said, and from the perception that the United States is "slogging" along in Iraq.

"She appears at once to be close to the president but separate and detached from some of the foibles of the administration, and that's a very hard thing to pull off," he said.

Never Listen to a TV Pundit.

I think that's the secret title to this article called "You, Too, Can Be a TV Pundit!"
The toughest part of the job is developing the ability to reduce everything in the news to the party's latest talking points. Make sure to get yourself on your party's e-mail lists or otherwise learn the correct line. The booker will test your skills at assembling a one-sentence, easily digested sound-bite in the pre-interview. Treat the pre-interview as an audition for a part in a continuing TV drama, because it is. "Clinton was worse on this than Bush" or its opposite is a perfectly acceptable answer to almost any question. Don't try expressing an original thought on TV or otherwise upstaging the host, or he'll never invite you back. Remember, it's his show and you're just the replaceable talent.

And no matter what you do, don't answer pre-interview questions with the preface, "It's very complicated."
Did Jack Shafer not get a callback?

December 25, 2005

What board game did you play today?

We played this:

Kurt Pursuit

Photo by Chris.

UPDATE: The game is a special 90s version of Trivial Pursuit. Question that came up yesterday: "What outfit, after investing 20 years and $20 million, stopped using psychics to gather info?" Answer: the CIA. I don't remember that. It seems awfully strange.

Christmas, 1958.

Obviously, Mommy was taking the picture. Dell was resisting the onslaught of the popping flashbulb. I was trying to prove that I belonged on "The Mickey Mouse Club" more than Karen. There's George in his cowboy pajamas. Is Daddy asleep or has he had more than just that one beer? He's got his Lucky Strikes. Note the creche, the Christmas tree, and the inexplicable 1950s pattern on the curtain. The dolls are not Barbies. Barbie comes out in 1959. We are Barbie-innocent here in 1958 with our Ginny dolls and Jill dolls.

Christmas 1958

And here's a second photo from the same year. The classic dangling string approach to displaying Christmas cards was used. Pole lamps seemed perfect. Surely, in the future everyone will always want three lights on a pole that can be wedged between floor and ceiling. Nice kitty-cat appliqué on the shirt.

Christmas 1958-2

Here's the last one in this set. That's my grandmother, Elsa Tausig Althouse, known as Mom. Look at how dressed up people got to visit their grandkids. Shiny stockings, black pumps, good dress, curled hair. A special Christmas pin (which probably had a string to pull to make Santa's nose light up). She expected my mother to dress us up too. You can see I'm in a skirt. I don't suppose Mom appreciated the dirty Keds though. We're engaged in that time-honored Christmas tradition: explaining the presents.

Christmas 1958-3

Merry Christmas.

Again. Just wanted to have that at the top of the blog today. It's finally getting light here. I'm looking at just about the same image pictured in last night's Blue Christmas post. Well, don't have a blue Christmas if you can help it. Have a merry or a pleasant enough Christmas or just a nice day!

What we have here is failure of telecommuting.

You'd think the transit strike in NYC would have caused office workers to work from home, but it didn't. Telecommuting was supposed to be a big trend, but it didn't happen, and the efforts people made to get to the office during the strike really say something:

Some hurdles to telecommuting have persisted for almost 20 years. Employers, for instance, like to keep an eye on employees. Employees often fear that rewards will accrue to those dedicated stars who show up at work most often, and certainly to those who, unlike the lazy, wily telecommuter, brave the elements even during a transit strike.

But daily journeys to and from work are more than just physical. For many workers they are necessary cognitive commutes.

"It's in some ways an incredibly functional period for people getting into a work frame of mind or a home frame of mind," said Christina Nippert-Eng, a professor of sociology at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

"For people who really make a big distinction between work or home, they really need a bridging routine," she said. "If they don't figure out how to do that, telecommuting won't work."

Cut and run, Scalito, Intelligent Design, truthiness...

Here is a collection of pieces about the words/phrases of the year. Truthiness comes from "The Colbert Report":
"Truthiness is sort of what you want to be true, as opposed to what the facts support," Mr. Colbert said in a recent interview. "Truthiness is a truth larger than the facts that would comprise it - if you cared about facts, which you don't, if you care about truthiness."
Ah, I love that show! Much better than "The Daily Show" these days. I love the complexity of Colbert playing a character the audience is supposed to hate, but making himself so adorably audacious that half the time the audience sounds as though they approve of his counter-liberal opinions.


This is actually a pretty nothing article on a subject I'm interested in: catchwords. It links to two sort of useful websites: blogpulse and wordspy. You'd think a piece on the front page of the NYT Week in Review, with that subject and those websites, would find some new, cool things to play around with. Instead, we get to hear about metrosexual again.

"Metrosexual" comes right off the top of Word Spy's Top 100 list, but this word was originally listed on September 4, 2002. The author notes that "ubersexual" is a few slots lower on the list. Related words on the list: pomosexual, retrosexual, technosexual, heteroflexible.

Unrelated, though possibly seemingly related phrase that interested me, though I don't remember ever hearing it: time porn. TV shows where the characters -- metrosexuals, retrosexuals, whatever -- wallow around in excessive amounts of time.

Merry Christmas!

Blogging on Christmas? Oh, please. I'm up at 4:30 and reading the NYT. How can I not?