February 4, 2006

Two great faces, gone.

Goodbye to Betty Friedan and Al Lewis:

They kind of look alike, don't they? I remember the first time we saw Officer Leo Schnauzer on "Car 54, Where Are You?" Al Lewis looked and sounded hilarious from that first second. He didn't have a big role on the show, and we always whooped with glee when he showed up in a scene. Later, he played Grandpa on "The Munsters." But that was so long ago. He was an old man back in the 60s, it seemed, but he was only 83 when he died, so he was only in his 40s then. Thanks for all the laughs, Al.

Betty Friedan, I must say, I didn't follow. I never read "The Feminine Mystique." It was a little before my time. I could have read it as a classic, of course, but it always seemed to me to be addressed to the women of the 1950s, and I was a child in the 1950s. The women my age all read Kate Millett's "Sexual Politics" and Germaine Greer's "The Female Eunuch." (Those were the first two books I bought in hardback.) For a feminist classic, it was "The Second Sex," by Simone de Beauvoir. And then women avoided Friedan's book, for reasons described in the obit that I won't belabor. I'll just call attention to this paragraph:
"That great head, the hooded eyes, the broad features of a woman the French might describe as une jolie-laide , which refers to a magnificent kind of ugliness that can be attractive, even beautiful," wrote Washington Post reporter Megan Rosenfeld in 1995. "The head, looking sometimes like a snapping turtle and at others like a lion with a white mane, sits atop a surprisingly short body, out of which comes the voice of a foghorn in heat. She is always carefully dressed in a New Yorky, nouveau-Bohemian style, with lots of interesting jewelry and spunky little shoes."
Yes, a truly "magnificent kind of ugliness." The world needs more grand faces like that.

Hey, Blogger's back!

I was hovering over it, hoping it would come back, and it just did! Yay! Glad to have all the other blogger blogs back too!


By Christopher Althouse Cohen. (I ran across it today while cleaning the studio.)

chris baby eye

The studio.

Over the next month, preparing to put my house on the market, I've got to put my house in order. After a lot of work this week, the main tasks involve the lower floor, the attic, and the closets. The lower floor, which I'm going to deal with first, consists of a basement, a garage, the studio, and "outer space" (AKA "outer face"). Outer space is just a kid-named part of the house. Do you get the allusion? "Outer face" is the baby-talk way of saying it, and I kept saying it that way long after the kids learned how to say "space." The basement section of the lower floor is truly daunting. It has two sections: the band practice area and the 20-years-of-storage area. The garage is full of bikes, yard care devices, and unusable furniture.

Today, however, I'm devoting to the studio, a place I've used over the years for painting and miscellaneous storage. I've started to throw things into large black leaf-and-garden bags. It's hard not to get distracted by things -- old notes and letters, photographs. After an hour, I've built up some focus and nerve. Do you throw out 50-year-old ceramic figurines? They are cheap and in bad taste: angels and little animals -- all stamped "Japan" on the bottom -- that were given to me when I was a child. Someone determined that I should have an angel collection. I don't think it was me. But I did tend the collection and appreciate additions to it. Do you throw out pencils, pastels, craypas, chalk, charcoal, erasers? There are thousands of them! And what about all these board games? The answer, I think, is: you must throw them all out and quickly or you will never get done in a month.

Crazy traffic.

Suddenly, I've got hundreds of visitors going to my Christmas Eve post, because it comes up first on a lot of search engines when Googling for something that I mentioned from a NYT crossword that day. I've got to assume that today's the day that puzzle reappeared in other newspapers. I hope everyone's enjoying the picture of little me sitting on Santa's lap! As opposed to cursing at me... Well, maybe they will bookmark the page and become regular Althouse readers. I mean it was a Saturday puzzle, the hardest of the week, and an unusually hard Saturday puzzle. So these are pretty sharp folks -- as are the regular readers. Don't you think?

ADDED: I just stuck the answer I know they are looking for at the top of the post.

Wikipedia and politics.

Wikipedia entries for politicians attract a lot of editing that violates the collective spirit of the project. There are millions of edits a month, of which thousands -- only thousands! -- are inappropriate. Here's the WaPo report, which isn't very interesting actually. I'll bet this news coverage only encourages people to go in there and screw around with more entries. Basically, I'd just assume the political entries aren't worth reading. Or do you like "impressionistic history"?

"Welcome to the new age of impressionistic history."

Walter Isaacson, former managing editor of Time and chief executive of CNN, reviews James Risen's "State of War" for the NYT:
[Risen's] Page 1 articles in The New York Times exposed, for better or worse, the government's national security wiretapping program. And now he has produced an ''All the President's Men'' inside narrative based on anonymous sources....

So what are we to believe in a book that relies heavily on leaks from disgruntled sources? We are in an age where the consumer of information has to make an educated guess about what percentage of assertions in books like this are true. My own guess is that Risen has earnest sources for everything he reports but that they don't all know the full story, thus resulting in a book that smells like it's 80 percent true. If that sounds deeply flawed, let me add that if he had relied on no anonymous sources and reported instead only the on-the-record line from official spinners, the result would very likely have been only half as true.

In fact, the new way we consume information provides a good argument for the role of an independent press that relies on leakers. Other journalists will and should build on, or debunk, the allegations reported by Risen. This will prompt many of the players to publish their own version of the facts. L. Paul Bremer, the American viceroy in Iraq after the invasion, has just come out with his book pointing fingers at the C.I.A. for giving him flawed intelligence and at Donald Rumsfeld for not giving him the troops he actually wanted. And Tenet, one hopes, will someday cash in on a hefty book contract by clamping cigar in mouth and pen in hand to give evidence that he was not the buffoonish toady Rumsfeld's aides portray him to be. Besides being fun to watch, this process is a boon for future historians.

So welcome to the new age of impressionistic history. Like an Impressionist painting, it relies on dots of varying hues and intensity. Some come from leakers like those who spoke to Risen. Other dots come from the memoirs and comments of the players. Eventually, a picture emerges, slowly getting clearer. It's up to us to connect the dots and find our own meanings in this landscape.
I've elided the part of the review about revealing government secrets, not because I think that's unimportant, but in order to focus on the "impressionistic history" theory -- a theory that bloggers, in particular, might to feel attracted to. Is that a laughably lame excuse for writing a book based on disgruntled anonymities? Or has he got something there?

All about Malcolm Gladwell.

Rachel Donadio writes:
Gladwell has become an all-out international phenomenon — and has helped create a highly contagious hybrid genre of nonfiction, one that takes a nonthreatening and counterintuitive look at pop culture and the mysteries of the everyday. In the past year, several other books in the Gladwell vein have appeared. They include the best-selling "Freakonomics," a breezy collection of case studies by Steven Levitt, an economist at the University of Chicago, and the journalist Stephen Dubner (the pair write an occasional "Freakonomics" column for The Times Magazine); "The Wisdom of Crowds," a business book for thinking people in which the New Yorker writer James Surowiecki argues that groups are collectively smarter and more innovative than individuals; and "Everything Bad Is Good for You," Steven Johnson's case that pop culture is becoming increasingly sophisticated....

For all their resonance and success, Gladwell's books have also been criticized, most often for demonstrating, or encouraging, lazy thinking. In a scathing review in The New Republic, the judge and author Richard Posner found "Blink" full of banalities and contradictions, "written like a book intended for people who do not read books."
Well, what's wrong with clearly explaining ideas to people who don't want to make the effort to read more scholarly things? But it's more than just vividly written explanation. He transforms social science material into a positive message:
"I'm by nature an optimist. I can't remember the last time I wrote a story which could be described as despairing," he said. "I don't believe in character. I believe in the effect of the immediate impact of environment and situation on people's behavior."...

Although pitched as descriptive, Gladwell's books are essentially prescriptive. Trust your instincts! You too may be (or can become) a connector, maven or salesman! Gladwell's dazzling arguments ultimately offer reassurance. Indeed, he seems a contemporary incarnation of a recurring figure in the American experience, one who comes with encouraging news: You can make a difference, you have the capacity to change. Gladwell may be the Dale Carnegie, or perhaps the Norman Vincent Peale, of the iPod generation. But where Carnegie in his 1936 book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People," instructed readers how to understand their customers and flatter people into liking them, and Peale in his 1952 "Power of Positive Thinking" offered watered-down Christian palliatives, Gladwell offers optimism through demystification: to understand how things work is to have control over them.
So, to paraphrase Posner: It's written like a book intended for people who read self-help books. Do we need to start being embarrassed that we like Gladwell so much?

February 3, 2006

"No one can refuse to carry a coconut."

It would be too dangerous.

The 100 Greatest Dogs of Pop Culture History.

A perfect list. (Via Throwing Things.) I like the rows of pictures to scroll down toward #1. When I saw that Pluto was #25, I got really excited. Which dogs outranked Pluto? They must be really great dogs. I had guessed Lassie would be first. (Wrong.) I was hoping to see Ren do well. (He did.) I was happy to see the recognition given to Tige. I like the nice balance between film dog and cartoon dog, with some nice variations in there, like Slinky Dog, Spot, and Cerberus. Hey, what about Flub-a-dub? Flub-a-dub was a dog, wasn't he? (Oh, I guess not.) Well, what about Cleo?

"We will not accept less than severing the heads of those responsible."

Said one preacher in Gaza about those cartoons depicting Muhammad. Meanwhile, a U.S. State Department spokesman read an official statement:
"Anti-Muslim images are as unacceptable as anti-Semitic images," which are routinely published in the Arab press, "as anti-Christian images, or any other religious belief."

Still, the United States defended the right of the Danish and French newspapers to publish the cartoons. "We vigorously defend the right of individuals to express points of view," Mr. McCormack added.
That's exactly right, isn't it? We ought to care about what religious persons regard as offensive, but we need also to support the right of individuals to speak even when it is offensive. And, of course, those who want us to care about the offense to their religious sensibilities ought to demonstrate their commitment to decent values. It's bad enough when they don't support free speech. (They should argue against the speech, not try to suppress it.) But when they descend into violence and threats of violence, they utterly surrender the high ground. The demands for respect that would have won many sympathetic supporters lose all effect in that ugly form. The most you can hope for is fear and retreat, which you don't deserve and you aren't going to get.

"I'm sure she's probably happier with a low-key send-off. She was never in it for the glory."

Said Sandra Day O'Connor's brother Alan Day.
There was no ballyhoo this week when Sandra Day O'Connor ended her nearly 25-year court career.

She attended a private oath ceremony at the court for her successor, Samuel Alito. Several of the justices were out of town and unable to watch as Alito pledged to "administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich."

O'Connor made a point to be there, however, with her husband, then departed to Arizona with little notice. She declined to make a statement to reporters.
Yes, it was awfully low key, wasn't it? Where were all the tributes? Can we even remember the last time a Justice stepped down and how much fuss was made? When Rehnquist died, it wasn't the same. Those were obituaries. I think the reason we didn't hear much about Sandra Day O'Connor this week is that we already said all the appropriate things last summer when she announced her intention to retire. Still, I think more should have been made of saying goodbye to her, and now I feel a little bad that we just let her slip away like that.

Hey, it's kind of a slow day here on the Althouse blog.

What's going on chez Althouse? -- you might ask.

Well, I'm getting serious about the idea of selling my house. I had the realtors over today and that meant that the last two days I was madly trying to put the place in order. Because Thursday is trash collection day, I devoted Wednesday to getting bulky items and large trash bags out to the curb. I also put a lot of bags of books into the trunk of my car and a large box of used clothing on the front seat. Yesterday, I tried to take the clothes to Goodwill -- closed, must go back Friday morning -- and I took the books over to Half Price Books and waited while they assessed their value. It turned out to be $70, and if you know Half Price Books, you know that had to be a hell of a lot of books. "Half price" is what they give to people who buy their books. The seller gets far less. I took the money and ran back home to spend the evening cleaning and stashing away clutter. I really thought I could blitz through this in two hours, but that was really quite wrong. I spent a good four hours working just as hard as I could. Cleaning four bathrooms was the least of it.

Four bathrooms? Yeah, I know. I deserve to suffer just for having four bathrooms. Or is it that if I have four bathrooms, why don't I have a way of paying people to clean for me? Oh, it's all about my intense love of privacy. Intense love of privacy? Then what the hell is this blog?

So, really, want to buy a big, cool, giant house in historic University Heights in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin?

"Thank you, beer."

A commercial just for women.

The "unschooling" movement.

CNN reports:
Welcome to the world of "unschooling" -- an educational movement where kids, not parents, not teachers, decide what they will learn that day.

"I don't want to sound pompous, but I think I am learning a little bit more, because I can just do everything at my own pace," said Nailah Ellis, a 10-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, who has been unschooled for most of her life.

Nailah's day starts about 11 a.m., her typical wake-up time. She studies Chinese, reading, writing, piano and martial arts. But there's no set schedule. She works on what she wants, when she wants. She'll even watch some TV -- science documentaries are a favorite -- until her day comes to an end about 2 a.m.

An extension of home-schooling, "unschooling" is when parents give their children total freedom to learn and explore whatever they choose.
This is great... if you've got a Nailah. But, of course, your child is a Nailah? Right?

What to do when you have the flu?

Read "Churchill: Visionary. Statesman. Historian." or watch a lot of episodes of "Project Runway"? Oscar's experience:
I would read a page or two of Churchill, drift into a doze for an hour or two, read another page, doze, etc. Okay, so I basically spent most of the day sleeping.

But by evening, I felt pretty much awake. Not clearheaded "Visionary. Statesman. Historian" awake, but sufficiently awake to watch four solid hours of back-to-back episodes of Project Runway. Even though I haven't liked any of his designs, I find myself inexorably drawn to Santino Rice...
Uh oh, he sounds really sick! Go over there and read the whole thing. It includes an explanation of why he doesn't get flu shots, which I agree with.

UPDATE: I wonder if there are any book titles with more punctuation than that Churchill book. Three periods and a colon? Also, how can a lawprof hold onto his pseudonymous personality and blog about having the flu during the semester?

The Goldberg lecture.

I didn't make it to the Jonah Goldberg lecture on Wednesday night (though that didn't prevent a local blogger from seeing me there!). Here's the Badger Herald's report (which includes a lot of student response). Here's the Cap Times (which quotes him slamming the New Orleans police after Katrina: "Huge numbers of them didn't show up at work because it was going to be more fun to loot Wal-Mart"). Uncle Jimbo got some photos. Letters in Bottles has a collection of links to the live-blogging of the lecture. The Martins weren't "sure what to expect from the rest of the audience, Jonah being conservative and Madison being, well, not." But apparently, no special Madison-style reaction occurred. Well, really, people may be lefties here, but they're polite and quite sedate, actually.

UPDATE: More here and here -- from Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, the group that brought Goldberg in.

"Brokeback to the Future."

Perfect! Hilarious! (Via Andrew Sullivan.)

February 2, 2006

Gaps look less gappy today.

Remember the 18-and-a-half-minute gap? In our high-tech times, there are still gaps, but they don't look so absurdly, ridiculously gappy.

Don't you feel better now?

"What's at issue is a developing control over sensory processing."

Why kids insist on wriggling out of the coats you keep trying to bundle them up in.
Kids would rather be the way they came into the world: naked. And as they adapt to the world of clothing, extra layers -- particularly coats -- add to their heightened perception of constriction.

"It feels like they're being really tightly bound, and it feels bad," says pediatrician Lynn Wegner.

And, let me add, it's not just coats....

Bemoaning the end of "best of" recordings.

Should we care if iTunes is killing the marking for "best of" music collections? People used to buy these things out of a desire to get to one or two really big songs, but now they can download just the thing they want. So, you can get "Bohemian Rhapsody" without loading up on Queen tracks. But when did "best of" collections become respectable? I remember when it was considered embarrassing to purchase your music in that form. If you haven't been following an artist, you were supposed to pick an album. You were supposed to try to figure out which is the best one, and start there, with a set of tracks in the form the artist wanted. Who cares if "best of" marketing dies?

"I think you need to take her at her word that she's not running."

Says President Bush, about Condoleezza Rice, in an offhand statement that gets a headline in the WaPo. Could the line be any less meaningful? It offers no inside information other than a slight vouching for "her word." But everyone knows "she's not running." Whether she will run or whether others will pursue her and she will accept their request that she stand for office are other matters, not covered by the President's statement.

Alito and the culture of life.

And so what do you make of it? The first thing Samuel Alito does as a Supreme Court Justice is vote to prevent the state from executing a man.
Alito, handling his first case, sided with inmate Michael Taylor, who had won a stay from an appeals court earlier in the evening. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas supported lifting the stay, but Alito joined the remaining five members in turning down Missouri's last-minute request to allow a midnight execution....

An appeals court will now review Taylor's claim that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment, a claim also used by two Florida death-row inmates that won stays from the Supreme Court over the past week. The court has agreed to use one of the cases to clarify how inmates may bring last-minute challenges to the way they will be put to death....

Taylor was convicted of killing 15-year-old Ann Harrison, who was waiting for a school bus when he and an accomplice kidnapped her in 1989. Taylor pleaded guilty and said he was high on crack cocaine at the time.

Taylor's legal team had pursued two challenges -- claiming that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment and that his constitutional rights were violated by a system tilted against black defendants.

The court, acting without Alito, rejected Taylor's appeal that argued that Missouri's death penalty system is racist. Taylor is black and his victim was white.
President Bush expresses great concern about the "culture of life" and regards Alito as a man of ''steady demeanor, careful judgment and complete integrity.'' It will be interesting to see where that sound judgment takes him.

"Feingold cuts an attractive figure, natty and trim ('I'm a swimmer') with vulpine good looks."

Vogue magazine likes Senator Russ Feingold. He's the "man of the moment."
The article flits between policy (Feingold's votes against the Patriot Act and support of campaign finance reform) to his reputation as a "goo goo," Beltway slang for goody-goody. Bradley Whitford (the Madison native who plays Josh on "West Wing") is quoted: "I've never felt that Russ is acting, which as an actor is something I appreciate." Whitford's wife, actress Jane Kaczmarek, calls Feingold "very sexy." Apparently the author agrees, writing: "In person, Feingold cuts an attractive figure, natty and trim ("I'm a swimmer") with vulpine good looks."
"Vulpine"? How is that a compliment? I guess they think it's a synonym for "foxy."

Here's the word as used in a literary classic:
I say I became habituated to the Beast People, that a thousand things which had seemed unnatural and repulsive speedily became natural and ordinary to me. I suppose everything in existence takes its colour from the average hue of our surroundings. Montgomery and Moreau were too peculiar and individual to keep my general impressions of humanity well defined. I would see one of the clumsy bovine-creatures who worked the launch treading heavily through the undergrowth, and find myself asking, trying hard to recall, how he differed from some really human yokel trudging home from his mechanical labours; or I would meet the Fox-bear woman’s vulpine, shifty face, strangely human in its speculative cunning, and even imagine I had met it before in some city byway.
That does make me think of Congress: I became habituated to the Beast People, that a thousand things which had seemed unnatural and repulsive speedily became natural and ordinary to me.

And now we meet the Senator, with his vulpine, shifty face, strangely human in its speculative cunning.

February 1, 2006

Project Runway.

We see Daniel given the choice to keep his model or switch to Tarah, whom Zulema stole from Nick last week, setting in motion the bad karma that took her down and put Tarah up for grabs. But Daniel sticks with his original model, and the charming Tarah must go.

The new task is to make something out of things bought from flower stores. It seems inspired by the wonderful first episode of Season 1, when Austin made a dress of corn husks, and no one else got seriously into the vegetable matter on hand in the grocery store where they had to do their shopping.

Tim Gunn tells them that the winner on this project will have immunity. We see Santino saying he really wants to win this one so he can do something "really offensive" on the next one and get away with it. Nice attitude. That's what immunity's for, isn't it?

Kara cares about helping Chloe, who's way behind. She's got this the theory that one woman must make it to the final three. Kara says she's amazed that she's made it this far, and she's generous about acknowledging that Chloe was the best of the women. Chloe doesn't have much of a design though. It's just an ordinary dress with a lot of leaves plastered all over it. Much is made of the fact that she doesn't have enough time to stick on all the leaves properly, but not the fact that there isn't much of an underlying idea.

And then it turns out that Kara made a terrific, detailed dress when we weren't looking.

Nearly everyone has focused on leaves and shied away from flowers, flowers being dangerously fragile. Daniel was the only one to use many flowers, and the judges really wanted to see that. So he wins. He now seems to be so much the frontrunner to win the whole season.

And Andrae must leave. Oh! I'd grown to love him. But his Spanish moss thing really was doormat-y. It didn't fit at all. And it was quite a cop out to just shape the whole thing out of moss. (Hey, remember the moss wall on "Trading Spaces"? Moss is doom!)

Andrae interviews that he thought he was an angel floating above all the problems, and it's tough to discover that he's a human being like everyone else. Ah! The men thought they were all safe and surely one of the women would go home tonight. So I guess I'm glad to see that they were the ones who sustained the loss. But I did really like dear, sweet Andrae.

"American Idol" -- Austin.

1. A Trini Lopez wannabe: "Lemon tree very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to wheat" [sic].

2. A "fashion genius" with teeth so huge a massive set of braces cannot begin to tame them, who does ghastly drawings of Paula Abdul and turns out to be named Paula: Paula Goodspeed. She sings terribly, but it's not enough just to tell her that. Simon has to say: "I don't think any artist on earth could sing with that much metal in your mouth anyway. You have so much metal in your mouth."

3. Lots of horrible singers.

4. Jason Horn, a funeral director, who hopes to use "American Idol" to teach the world that funeral directors are ordinary people. He's good!

5. Cierra Johnson. She's pretty, really pretty ... and her black hair looks kind of purple. She sings "O Holy Night." Simon: "Awful... I'm really surprised. For whatever reason, I thought you were going to be really good. It was terrible." Well, we all know the reason. She's really pretty. It's hope. The enduring hope that outward beauty has something to do with other aspects of a person.

6. Ricky Hayes. "There's nothing else for me. This is what I'm meant to do." That's the attitude of so many delusionals. He says he's a music student. He starts to sing, and it makes me cry. I think I'm just relieved that the nice young man is actually good.

7. Ashley Jackson. She's pretty. She's a fit model (a model they fit clothes on). She's not that good but she can sing the national anthem with her mouth closed. And she is really pretty. The votes of the two male judges put her through.

8. Ronnie Norman. RJ. He's presented as a ridiculously smarmy ladies' man. He sings a truly beautiful song, "Ain't No Sunshine." He does well enough to get through.

9. A very fresh-faced 16-year-old guy sings in an affected way, but they have a heart and put him through.

10. A very delusional 17-year-old woman is treated rather badly by the camera which keeps panning from knee level up across her tight red pants. Simon does an extended routine about stuffing potatoes into a sack. Yes, we get it. She's chubby. It's because she acts like a jerk about being told the truth that they feel free to treat her like that.

"Yes, we have the right to caricature God."

That's the headline in France Soir, which has reprinted the Danish cartoons that depict the Prophet Mohammad, along with a new cartoon showing the Gods of various religions saying, "Don't complain, Muhammad, we've all been caricatured here."
[The French newspaper] France Soir said it had published the cartoons to show that "religious dogma" had no place in a secular society.

Their publication in Denmark has led to protests in several Arab nations.

Responding to France Soir's move, the French government said it supported press freedom - but added that beliefs and religions must be respected.
Must? In what sense? Free speech obviously includes the right to express the most severe disrespect for anything at all.
Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated this week in the Gaza Strip, burning Danish flags and portraits of the Danish prime minister.
Fine. More speech. But those threats of violence aren't too smart. You're just giving the cartoonists more fodder.

UPDATE: "The Muslim owner of the France Soir newspaper has fired the Paris newspaper's editor for publishing controversial cartoons making fun of Islam."

Two abortion decisions in one day.

Yesterday, both the 9th Circuit and the 2d Circuit Courts of Appeals issued decisions holding the federal partial-birth abortion ban unconstitutional. The statute lacks a health exception.
''We are reluctant to invalidate an entire statute,'' 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote. ''However, after considering all of the obstacles to our devising a narrower remedy, we conclude that such is our obligation.''...

Chief Judge John M. Walker, a relative of former President George Herbert Walker Bush who serves in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said the application of the statue ''might deny some unproven number of women a marginal health benefit.''...

The 2nd Circuit ruling Tuesday was marked by an unusually sharp dissent by Judge Chester J. Straub, who said he believed Congress' determination that the procedure was never medically necessary to protect a women's health was well founded and supported by a lower court ruling.

''Allowing a physician to destroy a child as long as one toe remains within the mother would place society on the path towards condoning infanticide,'' he said....

''Even though the supporters of this law purported to be banning one particular abortion procedure, the law as the court found would in fact chill doctors from performing virtually any second trimester abortion,'' said Eve Gartner, senior staff attorney for Planned Parenthood and lead counsel in the 9th Circuit case.

The death of a yippie: "Still me. Still me."

Stew Albert, one of the original Yippies, has gone:
Stew Albert, who with Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and a handful of similarly scruffy, leftist anti-establishmentarians formed the Yippie party to protest the Vietnam War, mock institutional authority and nominate a pig, Pigasus, for president, died on Monday at his home in Portland, Ore. He was 66....

[He] caused considerable laughter after Yippies were arrested after nominating Pigasus outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 [when he quoted] a policeman's comment while he was in jail: "I have bad news for you, boys. The pig squealed on you."...

For the last 21 years, Mr. Albert lived in Portland, where he wrote articles and books, ran a Web site and participated in organizations fostering racial harmony.

Last Friday, in his next-to-last blog entry, he wrote, "My politics have not changed."

A blog? How about a link?

Here's Stew Albert's Yippie Reading Room. Ah! Here's the blog. Nice to see Yippies use Blogger. You have to scroll down a ways to get to his last post:
"Day in the Life: Super crazy thing. The hospice nurse had to do more. Still me. Still me."
"Still me" is a great last line, with a profound double meaning. If you can write that you are still you, you retain your identity. But dying, you are being stilled, and dead, you will be still, silent, forever. The "still me" goes on forever.

The second to the last post, one day earlier reads:
Draining fast food
Gotcha going nowhere
It's still the sea around us
So award tells me
Moving fast
Don't move it tonight
I prefer it clean

Day in the Life: My politics have not changed. Stew
His politics are the same, the last political statement, very general and abstract. The day before, the last specific political comment:

Fell over flat first thing in the morning
so now there is a bit of hospice in the mix
your Arabs fell further
they voted for Hamas
even two life times might not be enough
Goodbye to Stew Albert.

No concealed carry in Wisconsin.

The Assembly fails to override Governor Doyle's veto. "Two Democrats who had voted for the bill when it originally passed changed their votes."

Characterizing Alito's demeanor at the speech last night.

Dana Milbank's description of Samuel Alito's demeanor at the State of the Union speech seems a tad subjective:
How would he react when Bush introduced him to Congress? (He would make a self-conscious grin.)
My response to that moment: "Roberts has a clenched jaw and a downturned mouth that somehow reads as a proud smile. Alito has a similar serious face to start but then he breaks into a nice grin." It looked natural to me. What was self-conscious about the grin? I think if anything, the serious face was self-conscious, but he was comfortable enough to let his genuine pleasure break through.
If Alito and his peers were being extra cautious, that was understandable. Yesterday's rare overlap of a State of the Union address and a Supreme Court confirmation could have been a celebration of democracy. Instead, the anger from the confirmation process spread through the body politic, leaving a brittle, divided House.
Were they being "extra cautious"? It's always a problem for the Justices to be on view at the SOTU, because they can't act involved in politics, and they've got to just sit there on view in the front row. That's offered as an explanation for why so few of them show up for the big event. But the two new ones had reason to be there, and it was nice for two others to attend. Those two were the junior appointees of the previous two Presidents (Breyer and Thomas).

I was only watching on TV, but it didn't seem to me that the Justices were affected by the political struggle that just took place in the Senate. It's equally easy to imagine that Roberts and Alito accepted that that struggle is a necessary part of the confirmation process, which they had to make their way through; they prepared, handled themselves well, and now the ordeal is over for good. I tend to think that even as they were sitting there is the committee room answering overbearing, often rude questions, they felt a sense of distance from the fray. They sat through it, acting deferential, but knowing the time would pass and they would, soon enough, be untouchable forever by these politicos. I imagine such thoughts ran through their head with regularity and kept them supremely cool while Senators emoted furiously.
Alito began tentatively. As the justices were announced, he listed to the Republican side of the aisle as he made his entrance and barely glanced toward the Democrats. He stood awkwardly next to Breyer, a Clinton appointee, making occasional small talk as he waited for the speech to start. When Bush entered and shook the new justice's hand, howls of approval poured from the GOP side.
Well, I just took another look at the TiVo'd material here and couldn't detect anything tentative or awkward. Alito looked happy and seemed to be interacting with Breyer in the style of an ordinary colleague. When Bush greeted him, Alito had a nice little smile. I didn't notice anything special about the applause at that point, certainly not any howling. He craned his head around at one point, which made me think at first that he was checking out the architecture of the room, before I realized he must have wanted to look at his wife.
At times, Alito followed the lead of the other three justices who sat with him in the front row. When Bush said "We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it," Thomas looked at Roberts, who looked at Breyer, who gave an approving shrug; all four gentlemen stood and gave unanimous applause.

At other times, Alito showed independence from his senior colleagues. When Bush delivered the stock line "The state of our union is strong," Alito dissented while the other three robed justices in the front row applauded. When Bush declared that "liberty is the right and hope of all humanity," Alito was the only member of the judicial quartet to provide his concurring applause.

It seemed from their frequent conferences that the justices had agreed on some ground rules: Any mention of Iraq or hot domestic disputes were off limits; broad appeals to patriotism were deemed applause-worthy. But there were disputes. When Bush said "We will never surrender to evil," the justices conferred briefly. Breyer shook his head, but Roberts overruled him, and Breyer reluctantly stood with his three colleagues.
I'm glad someone was keeping an eye on this, and it's nice to get the details. It seems as though they just have a difficult role to play as judges. It's not a question of whether a particular line is "applause-worthy," but whether it's a place where a judge can appropriately react. They don't want to look like four statues, but they don't want to look as though they have a shred of partisanship.

I agree with Breyer that "We will never surrender to evil" is not a line judges should respond to. "Evil" is a code word in the political discourse, and "never surrender" is a classic political phrase demanding a fight to victory. These things mean too much. But I can accept Roberts "overruling." Come on, evil, who's against that? Never's a strong word, but is it supposed to be okay to surrender to evil once in a while? I think it's cool that the justices were signaling each other and acting as a quartet.

January 31, 2006

"American Idol" -- Las Vegas.

42 minutes into it -- has anyone been good yet? Las Vegas is all about delusion, apparently.

"I came to realize my life in this audition," says Haggai Yedidya, who's wearing a shirt covered in American flags. He sings "God Bless the U.S.A." in a heavy accent -- and a terrible, out-of-key voice. Afterwards, he claims to have perfect pitch and slams the judges for failing to make eye contact.

"I'm conceited, and I am good at what I do," says Princess Brewer, who compares herself to Aretha Franklin. She's loud, but horrendous. "Stop it, stop it," chants Simon. "There were sweet moments in there," says Paula. "Those high notes were just... whoa!" says Randy.

"I am good. If they would just let me sing another dang song," says one unnamed crying fool.

They save Taylor Hicks for last. He's got prematurely gray hair. "A Change Is Gonna Come," one of the best songs ever. He sings with his hands clasped behind his back and his eyes closed. He does a second song, clapping and contorting almost like Joe Cocker. Simon says personality is important, which Paula takes as a cue to praise him for his nice personality, but that's the opposite of what Simon had in mind. [ADDED: He gets through, without Simon's vote.]

Oh, now they are reminding of the one good singer from the beginning. There was this tiny girl with the names of two cities: Mecca Madison. She sings "Hey Big Spender" -- a prostitute's song and gets through.

That's all for Las Vegas!

"The State of the Union is strong."

You knew he'd say that, and he did.

There's John Roberts, chatting and laughing with Condoleezza Rice. On his other side is Clarence Thomas, then Stephen Breyer, who's looking happy if wizened, and he's next to Samuel Alito, who's looking truly vibrant. He must feel great. He's hanging out with Breyer. We see a close up of Alito, and he seems to be pulling in his smile, as if maybe it's in bad taste to over-beam right now. No Sandra Day O'Connor, unless she's stashed away somewhere else. No Scalia. No Souter. No Stevens. No Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

There's Laura in a pink suit.

Bush's first words are about Coretta Scott King.

He speaks of bipartisanship, and then confidence pursuing American interests, as opposed to timid withdrawal. "The only way to protect our people... is by our leadership." Bipartisanship, but we're not pulling out. "We seek the end of tyranny in our world."

"We will act boldly in freedom's cause... We're writing a new chapter in the history of self-government." Security demands freedom everywhere, including Iran.

Bush decries "radical Islam, the perversion by a few of a noble faith into an ideology of terror and death."

"The United States will not retreat from the world, and we will never surrender to evil." Applause. We see John Kerry giving a very quick standing ovation.

Progress in Iraq. Some grim faces in the audience, but there's Lieberman clapping. Bush looks happy, with a sneaking smile and crinkling eyes. "We are winning."

He accepts "responsible criticism": "Yet there is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success, and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure. Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second-guessing is not a strategy." After he says that, there is applause and his face is set, then suddenly his jaw rotates in a truly bizarre way. What was that? What emotion, held in, burst out right there? He's pissed at his opponents! "A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison." The camera fixes on John Kerry, who's looking down, perhaps following the script, perhaps wondering when this part would finally be over. Anything domestic coming up? Because this is getting old.

He processes the disheartening news of the Palestinian election: "The Palestinian people have voted in elections – now the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism, and work for lasting peace." He sticks to his beliefs in democracy: "Yet liberty is the future of every nation in the Middle East, because liberty is the right and hope of all humanity." He speaks to the people of Iran: "Our Nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran."

He defends his surveillance program. After 9/11, there was criticism of failure to "connect the dots." "This terrorist surveillance program has helped prevent terrorist attacks. It remains essential to the security of America. If there are people inside our country who are talking with al-Qaida, we want to know about it – because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again." He says this last part with angry conviction. He is confident in this position, and I think this expression will be convincing to most listeners. There's a rousing standing ovation on one side of the aisle. On the other side, everyone's seated. We see Hillary Clinton, smiling quite brilliantly, but shaking her head in a Bush-is-wrong-as-usual way.

He's against "economic retreat." Being against retreat is the night's rhetorical device. His opponents, we're to think, want retreat.

"Make the tax cuts permanent." To let them end would be retreat, after all.

John McCain has been looking grim all night, but when Bush says "earmark reform" he beats his hands together wildly.

Is every female member of Congress wearing red? Nearly. Condi's in beige.

Social security... borders... health care. The health care topic includes medical malpractice reform.

"America is addicted to oil." Solution: technology.


Crime... welfare.... drugs... abortion. Things are getting better: "These gains are evidence of a quiet transformation – a revolution of conscience, in which a rising generation is finding that a life of personal responsibility is a life of fulfillment." People need to be ethical, with some help from government, and correspondingly, government needs to be ethical: people are "concerned about unethical conduct by public officials, and discouraged by activist courts that try to redefine marriage." Wait! That's a strange linkage! Corrupt elected officials and "activist" courts? Courts finding too many rights aren't being immoral or unethical, though they are disappointing people with a conservative social agenda. These folks want moral elected officials. But those of us who favor strong judicial support for individual rights are also opposed to government corruption. It's a slap in the face to put these things in the same category.

"The Supreme Court now has two superb new members, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito." We see each justice as he is named. Roberts has a clenched jaw and a downturned mouth that somehow reads as a proud smile. Alito has a similar serious face to start but then he breaks into a nice grin. Bush expresses thanks to Sandra Day O'Connor. But she's not there.

"Human life is a gift from our Creator," so don't mess with embryos. Interesting that this topic follows the part about the Supreme Court, isn't it?

Children... hurricane relief... poverty... bring hope to everyone. HIV/AIDS... end the waiting list for medicine.

Human beings determine the course of history. We have choices to make. "And so we move forward – optimistic about our country, faithful to its cause, and confident of victories to come."

A nice, vigorous speech. Full of optimism and courage. Ack! Now the NBC commentators come on and talk first about the "deep divisions" in the room. The Republicans applauded a lot more than the Democrats. Isn't that disturbing? "We just plain disagree on every fundamental issue that is confronting this country," Tim Russert says in a dire tone. What can Bush get done? Very little! Hey, forget your damned optimism and get depressed fast, people.

Enough for me. I'm switching over the the TiVo'd "American Idol."

A perspective on moving.

If you faced the question today whether you would buy the house you live in now at its current market price or that other place you're thinking of:


Which would you pick? If it would be completely absurd to buy your current house today, does that mean you should move?


Alito is confirmed.

The Court's new era begins. Goodbye to Sandra Day O'Connor. I have long been a great admirer of hers. This is the first moment in history when the number of women on the Court has declined, unfortunately. But Samuel Alito and John Roberts are brilliant newcomers, and they should serve us well.

The Oscar nominees.

Here. Comments?

UPDATE: The nominated films are unusually dark and dreary this year, aren't they? Of the films with major nominations, I've only seen "Capote" and "A History of Violence," both of which I thought were reasonably good, but not that good. Seeing these nominations scarcely makes me any more likely to go to the movies than I was before. And I'm much less likely than usual to watch the awards show. There's nothing awardsy about these films, nothing big and glamorous. And where are the women? Mostly, it looks like a parade of trudging, depressing men. The only note of feminine charm is "Pride and Prejudice."

MORE: Seeing the nominations did cause me to buy a DVD: "Crash." I think it may have the momentum. I'll try to develop an opinion about whether it deserves it. And I watched a new DVD yesterday -- it's like I'm on a film-watching spree -- "The Aristocrats." A pretty good documentary about what it means to tell a joke.

"It was the right battle at the right time, and the right cause."

Senator Kennedy defends his futile filibuster attempt.
Mr. Kennedy and Senator John Kerry, both of Massachusetts, argued for an effort at a filibuster during a Democratic caucus meeting last Wednesday, provoking a passionate debate. Many Democrats have grumbled privately since then that mounting a doomed filibuster would only expose senators from conservative states to political heat....

"There was a difference in terms of strategy," [Kennedy] said, "but not on the substantive issue, which is the overriding issue, Judge Alito."
Here's something Kennedy said while arguing for the filibuster:
"We have a responsibility to try to present this to the American people"...

"What's the next measure on the calendar? Asbestos? Isn't that interesting?" he continued. "Anything more important than spending time and permitting the American people to understand this issue? I don't believe so."
Yeah, the asbestos litigation problem is a big bore. Why rush to try solve a difficult problem that we've gotten away with ignoring for decades when we can pontificate about a lost cause? But the fact is there's no rush at all to get to the subject of asbestos, because, for the Democrats, it's just another matter for filibuster anyway.

"The four things that I look for in a wife are character, personality, intelligence and beauty."

"And you have them all," said the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.

RIP Coretta Scott King.

Requiring health care professionals to report underage sexual activity?

The NYT reports:
A federal trial opened here Monday over whether a Kansas law prohibiting virtually all sexual activity by people under age 16 means health care professionals and educators must report such behavior to state authorities, which some say would stop many teenagers from seeking contraception or treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

The class-action lawsuit stems from a 2003 opinion by the Kansas attorney general, Phill Kline, a conservative Republican who has developed a national reputation for fighting abortion....

Mr. Kline's interpretation of the law focused mainly on the reporting duty of abortion providers, arguing that any pregnant, unmarried minor had by definition been the victim of rape or abuse. But it included a broad mandate for reporting whenever "compelling evidence of sexual interaction is present."...

"If they know what they tell me is reported, they simply won't talk," said Beth McGilley, a Wichita therapist who is among the plaintiffs, referring to both teenage clients and adults who often consult her about their children's sexual exploration.
It's a harsh policy, but is it unconstitutional?
Bonnie Scott Jones, a lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, which is representing the plaintiffs, said in her opening statement that Mr. Kline's "dragnet approach" to amassing information on under-age sex violated minors' privacy rights and the Constitution's equal protection clause, and that it "seriously endangers the health and well-being of adolescents."...

Steve Alexander, an assistant attorney general defending the suit, said the Kansas statute meant that those younger than 16 could not consent to sex, and that those violating the law forfeited any privacy rights.

"Illegal sexual activity by minors can lead to S.T.D.'s, unwanted pregnancies, abortion, depression, mental illness," Mr. Alexander said. "To pretend otherwise is foolish."
Surely, you don't want to pretend anything foolish.

Actually, I'd like to see more of what the legal arguments are here. It looks as though the case is mostly about interpreting a state statute, but there is also a constitutional attack. Presumably, the constitutional attack is both part of the argument for narrowly construing the statute and a device to get the case into federal court. Shouldn't the federal court abstain and let the state court interpret the state statute?

"This cheap and tawdry imitation of English royalty."

That's what Woodrow Wilson said [CORRECTION: caused a senator to say] about the State of the Union address, as quoted in this NYT op-ed by Francis Wilkinson, who says the President's constitutionally required annual message ought to be delivered in writing. That was the way Thomas Jefferson did it. It's not that Wilkinson's against speeches. In fact, he's a speechwriter. But:
When presidents exhale the breath of history — "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," or, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" — they invariably do it someplace other than in the State of the Union. A rhetorical omnibus making all local stops, the speech conveys a year's worth of departmental hackwork. In "Lend Me Your Ears," William Safire's compilation of great speeches, not one State of the Union address makes the table of contents.
And then there's the way the State of the Union isn't about the state of the union:
The State of the Union is all about His Majesty, the president. Is he master of Congress or supplicant? How far will his poll numbers rise? How did he perform? Mr. Bush may not like French, but the address is the embodiment of "L'état, c'est moi," transforming citizens into subjects, much as Jefferson feared....

Manipulation is the essence of the game, after all, and because no one ever stops playing it, the president is expected to exploit his free shot at the goal for all it's worth.
But what's the problem, really? I know a perfect way to force the President to deliver his speech in writing, in my little world. I leave the TV off, and I read the text in the paper. You can do it too. So let George Bush have his fun tonight making a roomful of erstwhile blabbermouths sit there and listen to him for an hour and perform the tedious clapping/not clapping ritual. And skip the commentators. You don't need to know the precise number of times they clapped and the lengths of the various clappings.

I see there's a second State-of-the-Union-is-no-damned-good op-ed. It's got a hilarious quote from one of Warren Harding's SOTUs:
"The motor car reflects our standard of living and gauges the speed of our present life. It long ago ran down Simple Living, and never halted to inquire about the prostrate figure which fell as its victim."

A "trashily facile" novel about "the rich and overprivileged, grotesquely set against the backdrop of 9/11."

Jay McInerney -- that 80s hipster of a novelist -- has a new novel. Michiko Kakutani has a review:
"The Good Life," in contrast, is at its most powerful in chronicling its characters' romantic and familial travails, and at its most ham-handed in its attempts at social satire. Indeed the novel is a bizarre mix of the genuinely moving and the trashily facile, the psychologically astute and the ridiculously clichéd; part of it aspires to create an F. Scott Fitzgerald-esque romance, and part sags to the level of a Judith Krantz tale about the rich and overprivileged, grotesquely set against the backdrop of 9/11....

These sections of "The Good Life," which often lie submerged amid pages and pages of embarrassing writing, suggest that the author has both the desire and the ability to move beyond the glibness of his recent fiction and to tackle more than facile chronicles of fizzy life in the fast lane. In fact, this flawed novel suggests that just as so many of Mr. McInerney's characters dream of reinventing themselves, so, perhaps, is the author struggling to find a way to reinvent himself as a writer.
Too bad these author struggles don't take the form of doing another draft -- I say glibly, from the safety of my place in a writing form that is all about forgoing drafts.

January 30, 2006

"I want those 19 Democrats' heads on a platter!!!"

Here's the DailyKos live comment response to the cloture vote on Alito, which was 72-25. There's a lot of outrage:
WTF?! I was expecting a close call. Not a mere 25. What happened?

i'm pissed. ...everyone of those dems who voted for cloture should be brought down

Blook making.

RLC has gotten a book made out of 90 of his blog posts -- mainly his fiction posts -- using a service called iUniverse. The fiction posts should work especially well redone in book pages, because they don't depend at all on links. A key problem with making a book out of your blog is that the bloggiest things can't be ripped away from their links. It's a good idea for some bloggers to defy some blogging conventions so that their posts are bookifiable. I know RLC realized this from the start.

Radio: "Generation Alito."

I'll be on Open Source Radio tonight at 7 ET/6 CT, doing a show I mentioned before, that got rescheduled. Go here to see all the stations or to stream the audio.

UPDATE: You can stream the audio here. The students do a great job. They're articulate, passionate, and idealistic -- from both the conservative and the liberal side. I'm there too.

Why is "American Idol" even more popular now?

You'd think people would tire of the formula. But no. The popularity of the already top-rated show is way up. The linked article doesn't offer any real ideas about why this is happening. I'm in too much of a hurry to come up with anything at the moment, so comment away.

How to use the little time you have left.

A man given just months to live writes a guidebook on how to die:
[Eugene O'Kelly] knew it was strange to be making a to-do list two days after learning he had three brain tumors; he also knew it was strange to count nearly a thousand people to whom he needed to say goodbye. But he clung to the role of good, methodical business manager because it worked for him. He would rethink dying from the ground up, so to speak. Then he would live differently during 1 percent of the 10,000 days he thought he had coming, having assumed he would survive into his late 70's. About 100 days were all he had left....

But "Chasing Daylight" is far from uniformly flattering. It reveals a chilly, manipulative side to Mr. O'Kelly — or, as Mrs. O'Kelly puts it, "a 'cut to the chase' approach that had made him so successful in business but could sometimes come off as abrupt in personal interactions." When he set out to bid farewell to everyone he knew, one at a time, the meetings were arranged strictly on his terms. But it is the crumbling of this very rigidity that makes the book affecting. The author taught himself new survival strategies when the habits of a lifetime failed him.
Saying goodbye individually to a thousand people? That strikes me as a very strange way to use a small amount of time well.

Sane talk on the NSA controversy.

Texas Lawprof Philip Bobbitt has a NYT op-ed on the NSA spying controversy:
IN the debate over whether the National Security Agency's eavesdropping violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, we must not lose sight of the fact that the world we entered on 9/11 will require rewriting that statute and other laws. The tiresome pas de deux between rigid civil libertarians in denial of reality and an overaggressive executive branch seemingly heedless of the law, while comforting to partisans of both groups, is not in the national interest....

This is not to play down the damage done to our war aims by the executive branch's repeated appearance of an indifference to law. A president does have an obligation to assess the constitutionality of statutes, but when he secretly decides a measure is unconstitutional and neglects to say so (much less why), he undermines the very system of public consent for which we are fighting. Having said that, we also must not be so absorbed by questions of statutory construction that we ignore the revolutionary political and technological events that are transforming the world in which our laws must function.
Well said.

"We call on you ... to direct all aid to the Palestinian treasury so it can be used in keeping with the priorities of the Palestinian people."

Says Ismail Haniyah, a prominent member of Hamas. Nothing like phrasing your requests to generate the maximum amount of resistance.

SAG awards and politics.

Here's an article about the Screen Actors Guild awards, which is linked at Drudge with the line "'BROKEBACK' SHUT-OUT AT SAG..." Why is what happened to "Brokeback Mountain" the story? Isn't it nice that the ensemble cast of "Crash" got some recognition? Do we find politics so much more interesting than art? We're obsessed with the politics of sexual orientation, aren't we? Don't forget to note that Reese Witherspoon beat out Felicity Huffman for the best actress award, after both women won Golden Globes (the Globes have two categories, for drama and for comedy/musical). Huffman played a transexual in "Transamerica," while Witherspoon played a good wife in "Walk the Line." Witherspoon even went on at some length, in her acceptance speech, about all the wonderful wives who support their husbands and get little recognition for the fine lives they have lived in that role. It's all so meaningful, isn't it?

Social psychology and politics.

Social psychologists examine political behavior:
Studies presented at [a conference last week] produced evidence that emotions and implicit assumptions often influence why people choose their political affiliations, and that partisans stubbornly discount any information that challenges their preexisting beliefs.

Emory University psychologist Drew Westen put self-identified Democratic and Republican partisans in brain scanners and asked them to evaluate negative information about various candidates. Both groups were quick to spot inconsistency and hypocrisy -- but only in candidates they opposed.

When presented with negative information about the candidates they liked, partisans of all stripes found ways to discount it, Westen said. When the unpalatable information was rejected, furthermore, the brain scans showed that volunteers gave themselves feel-good pats -- the scans showed that "reward centers" in volunteers' brains were activated. The psychologist observed that the way these subjects dealt with unwelcome information had curious parallels with drug addiction as addicts also reward themselves for wrong-headed behavior.
This shouldn't surprise anyone. We process new information by incorporating it into what we already understand. How could we possibly think and get on in the world if we didn't?
Another study presented at the conference, which was in Palm Springs, Calif., explored relationships between racial bias and political affiliation by analyzing self-reported beliefs, voting patterns and the results of psychological tests that measure implicit attitudes -- subtle stereotypes people hold about various groups.

That study found that supporters of President Bush and other conservatives had stronger self-admitted and implicit biases against blacks than liberals did.
Not surprisingly, given that first study, Bush partisans find ways to discount this study:
Brian Jones, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said he disagreed with the study's conclusions but that it was difficult to offer a detailed critique, as the research had not yet been published and he could not review the methodology. He also questioned whether the researchers themselves had implicit biases -- against Republicans -- noting that Nosek and Harvard psychologist Mahzarin Banaji had given campaign contributions to Democrats.

"There are a lot of factors that go into political affiliation, and snap determinations may be interesting for an academic study, but the real-world application seems somewhat murky," Jones said.
So how did they do the study? Actually, it was an on-line test that I'm sure many of you took. I know I did:
For their study, Nosek, Banaji and social psychologist Erik Thompson culled self-acknowledged views about blacks from nearly 130,000 whites, who volunteered online to participate in a widely used test of racial bias that measures the speed of people's associations between black or white faces and positive or negative words. The researchers examined correlations between explicit and implicit attitudes and voting behavior in all 435 congressional districts.

The analysis found that substantial majorities of Americans, liberals and conservatives, found it more difficult to associate black faces with positive concepts than white faces -- evidence of implicit bias. But districts that registered higher levels of bias systematically produced more votes for Bush.
Do you find yourself thinking of lots of ways to discount the study? Is it because you're a Bush partisan? And if you're thinking the study is pretty good, well, aren't you a Bush opponent?

"Power lectures."

The Daily Cardinal -- a student newspaper here -- has a poll today:
Poll Results
What's the earliest class you would take?

8:50, I'm a trooper 48%
11 is doable 45%
Night classes only 3%
Whenever, just no power lectures 3%
"Power lectures"? I've never seen that term. Does it refer to the use of PowerPoint or to some intense, oppressive style of lecturing? Well, the option is only getting 3% so why is there even a special term for this sort of thing, whatever it is?

IN THE COMMENTS: I'm told a "power lecture" is just an extra long class. Not a very descriptive term then. "Endurance lecture" or something would be better. As a lawprof, I don't even like the use of the word "lecture," unless the teacher actually opts to lecture.

January 29, 2006

That building.

Here's that café I like so much:


And here's the view from the 8th floor:

A view.

And view of the street outside:


Audible Althouse #34.

Finally, it's time for the 34th entry in this series of podcasts. I've made a significant sonic improvement, I think. Key posts that I've mined for this one are:

The return of Eggagog
Contemplating change
The Winfrey-Frey fray
When a judge writes a memoir
Colbert and the dissonance between religion and comedy

You can subscribe over at iTunes, but you don't need an iPod. You can stream the audio here.

Contemplating change.

I'm contemplating selling my big old house, which I've lived in for 20 years, and moving into a condo very near the Capitol, in a beautifully renovated old building that was once a glamorous hotel. (President Kennedy stayed there. So did Mae West.) I'm rather entranced by the idea of living up off the ground, in a very solid, substantial place, with a view of the Capitol and a cathedral and, at street level, a cool café (where they sell lots of wine by the glass as well). I like the idea of a one mile walk to work that takes me down State Street, past dozens of cafés and restaurants and shops. Who wouldn't walk if that's the walk? If you get cold (or hot), there's always a place to step inside. My house is only a little over a mile from the Law School, but the walk -- which I've already walked thousands of times -- is through a residential area and campus, and there's nowhere to stop along the way.

Should I make this move? What's the downside? The work of dismantling my house, editing my possessions down to fit in half the space, seems overwhelming. I have an attic that I haven't entered in years, even though I used to stash things up there all the time. Then, I discovered a bat problem that freaked me out. I got the bat man to correct the problem long ago, and there hasn't been a bat in the house since, but I haven't been up there in all this time. Then there's a basement full of stuff, including lots of musical equipment from the bands that used to practice there. There are two speakers that are the size of armoires. There are thousands of paperback books, which we bought by the stack over all those years when hanging out at Borders was a major pastime. There are a thousand vinyl LPs, not just ones that I bought but ones that my parents bought. (I'll bet I have more Ray Conniff records than you. More Julie London too!) There are large paintings on wooden stretchers and lots of unused stretchers and a giant roll of canvas. There are a hundred sketchbooks and innumerable loose drawings.

What an overwhelming task it would be to deal with all these things!

And yet....

I could blog about it.

When a judge writes a memoir.

Jeffrey Rosen writes about judicial memoirs, which are difficult to write, because they're either going to be bland -- like Justice O'Connor's, in his view, despite the incident with the testicles -- or embarrassingly revealing -- like Justice Douglas's:
From his boastful opening sentences ("While I have been blessed with a photographic mind...") to his concluding screed against President Nixon ("This attitude toward enemies ... marked the essence of Nixon's Mein Kampf"), Douglas offered a combination of political ranting and gossipy score-settling that still leaves readers slack-jawed. As his biographer, Bruce Allen Murphy, argued recently in "Wild Bill" (2003), many of Douglas's stories were made up, perhaps because his insatiable political ambition led him to write what were essentially campaign autobiographies for the presidential bid that never materialized. Douglas claimed to have had polio as a child, for example; in fact, Murphy writes, he had intestinal colic. And he claimed to have graduated second in his law school class, when, at best, he was fifth.
Ha. Too bad Douglas didn't have a chance to get chosen for Oprah's Book Club. It would have been cool to see her scold him on TV.

And now Justice Thomas is working on a memoir. The man has fabulous material -- he grew up in poverty and his confirmation battle was a political and cultural event unlike any other. Does he dare to really use this material, to risk his slowly accumulating somber reputation by writing a real book for us to read? Rosen cautions him not to:
[L]ike Douglas, Thomas may inadvertently harm his judicial reputation among moderates (which is, at the moment, unfairly underrated) by revealing more than he intends.

"Judges wear black robes because it doesn't matter who they are as individuals," John Roberts said during his confirmation hearings. "That's not going to shape their decision." Few people today, of course, believe that judges' personal experiences have no influence on their judicial decisions. But taken as a warning, Roberts's statement was prudent and wise. Too much revelation may undermine the public's respect for judges as apolitical authorities. And judicial celebrity can backfire: as any celebrity knows, those who live by publicity have to avoid overexposure, which can lead to the worst fate of all - oblivion.
I say: either write a book or don't write a book, but don't write a fake book. Don't put your name on a book-shaped object just because you're a celebrity and you can get publishers to publish it and publicists to get you on talk shows and lure readers to give up their money and time. If you're going to write a book, you owe your allegiance to the reader above all. If you've got a conflict of interest, recuse yourself!

(Please read David Foster Wallace's essay on Tracy Austin's memoir in "Consider the Lobster." He faults her for her allegiance to friends, family, and everyone else, and lays down the rule that the writer's duty is to the reader.)

It's one thing to embarrass yourself by making things up, like Justice Douglas and James Frey, quite another to put yourself out there and let readers see who you really are. I think the memoirist who fails to do that is the one who has embarrassed himself.

I said something similar back when Bill Clinton's book came out:
I see Clinton is getting a lot of grief for writing a boring book. But what did people expect? If you want to read a great memoir, read a memoir by someone who is in a position to follow the number one rule for writing a great memoir: tell your story without a trace of personal vanity. You have to be willing to make the character that is you look foolish, mean-spirited, selfish, petty, and everything else. There is simply no way that Clinton or any other political figure can follow this rule. So if you want to read a good memoir, read Augusten Burroughs' "Running With Scissors" or Mary Carr's "Liars' Club." If you want to read about grand historical events, don't read the story told by one of the key figures. How could that possibly be good? It would make more sense to read this as a memoir of the Lewinsky-impeachment events.
I guess, according to that, I don't really think there's much chance at all that Clarence Thomas will meet my standard. But wouldn't it be incredibly cool if he did?

And by the way, do you think all those things in "Running With Scissors" really happened?

The mystery of a TimesSelect blog... and whether Hillary should run.

"Link to this" it says at the bottom of a post by "The Opinionator" by Chris Suellentrop. It looks like a blog, but it's in TimesSelect. I just don't understand the concept. Link so some small fraction of your readers can go there? Or did the link function to pierce the wall, allowing me to let my readers see the thing? Let me know if by chance that link worked some magic, but I'm going to talk about the post anyway. It's titled "Hillary, Don't Run."
In a bitterly divided and partisan nation, is there anything conservatives and liberals can agree on? Yes: Hillary Clinton, please don’t run for president. Lone Star liberal Molly Ivins kicked off a wave of anti-Hillary commentary with a column last week that began, “I’d like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.”

Sen. Clinton’s primary shortcoming? Ivins believes she isn’t liberal enough: “Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone. This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.”...

Conservatives are delighted about liberals’ newfound anti-Hillary animus. National Review’s Jonah Goldberg attributes the sentiment to Sen. Clinton’s recent moves to the right. “To be honest, I never understood what they saw in her in the first place,” he wrote in his weekly Los Angeles Times column. “[T]here’s something oddly satisfying in the possibility that Clinton being herself is politically disastrous. And, if she’s really just playing one more role according to some classically Clintonian political triangulation, there’s something equally satisfying to the prospect that even her fans aren’t falling for it anymore.”
Oh, wait, Suellentrop didn't take a position anyway. He's really only collecting links -- to Ivins and Goldberg and also to Arianna Huffington and Josh Marshall. I guess I should just copy his links and talk about the same subject myself. If so, should I put a "via Suellentrop" link? It's kind of screwy to do that if it doesn't get people to the post but just gives them a little experience of exclusion. And the main reason you do a "via" link is to send a fellow blogger some traffic. How can I be guilty of denying a blog something it's already denying itself?

A TimesSelect blog doesn't function in the blogosphere, but maybe that makes some sense for TimesSelect folks. They aren't really ready to read blogs, and it's nice to have a trusted voice to categorize and summarize what's being said by various commentators on the web, some of whom might actually even be bloggers. Look, I found Josh Marshall and Arianna Huffington for you!

Anyway, what do I think of these voices on the left and the right who are saying Hillary shouldn't run? Is the opinion trustworthy because it's on both sides? Not at all!

Those on the left don't like her -- as Suellentrop acknowledges -- because she's not far enough to the left. They ought to know that an excessively left candidate is doomed, but they don't want to face that horrible reality. These people were against Bill Clinton too, back before he actually did that thing that Democrats seem almost never to be able to do, win a presidential election. On the right, you've got folks who've loathed Hillary all along and who, of course, don't want the Democrats to win an election.

So how should Hillary hear these voices on the left and right who don't want her to run? As strong encouragement! But she's got to find a way to keep her hawkish credentials, or we'll be stuck once again with a Democratic candiate with an incomprehensible attitude toward national security who will push those of us who vote almost entirely on that ground to go with the Republican again.

But maybe it's already too late for Clinton. She's already lost too much credibility catering to the Ivins crowd. Being the front runner, she's got them at her all the time, making demands -- demands that she sacrifice all her potential to win in the end. Poor Hillary! If she finds a way through this ordeal, maybe she is good enough to be President.