February 11, 2006

Mysteries of the Althouse house.

You know, there are some strange corners to the Althouse house. But I'm about to put the place on the market, so I've got to eradicate the strange. I've made the studio and the room we call outer space into normal house-parts. Now to the basement, where a lot of music has been played over the years. The bands have left so many signs:

The lower level

The lower level

The lower level

The lower level

The lower level

I've got so much work to do here, and there's another, messier half of the basement that I'm not even showing you. It's over there by the garage. Oh, let's take a look at the garage, because seeing it makes me feel good. I got it nearly completely cleared out last Wednesday. Here's the most interesting thing I found in there:

The lower level

A relic of an old concert-party. And, no, I didn't paint that. This guy did. Well, it's a little spooky down here. Time to go upstairs and work on one of the closets for a while. There are piles of stuff and also stuff in boxes. Some of the boxes even have labels. But some of the labels are mysterious:

The lower level

Losing my edge... getting it back.

I've taken maybe ten thousand photographs since I first got a digital camera in March 2004, but I had never printed a single one. Has anyone else ever gone so long without printing anything? (Once someone printed one for me.) I finally chose a few to have printed through Flickr. They arrived in the mail, I looked at them and was nauseated by how dead they looked. I was horrified. I finally accessed the rational part of my mind and could ask: Did they trim off the edges? I went to my Flickr page and looked at the originals. Yes, they'd trimmed off the edges -- not much, but enough to wreck the meaning of every picture for me. I am appalled by the insulting assumption that a photographer is just looking at the center of the picture and does not frame a composition and carefully place things at the corners and edges. What I have here is a despicable, insipid, disgusting stack of glossy paper.

"So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?"

Teaching kids to confront their teachers in the classroom:
Evangelist Ken Ham smiled at the 2,300 elementary students packed into pews, their faces rapt. With dinosaur puppets and silly cartoons, he was training them to reject much of geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology as a sinister tangle of lies.

"Boys and girls," Ham said. If a teacher so much as mentions evolution, or the Big Bang, or an era when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, "you put your hand up and you say, 'Excuse me, were you there?' Can you remember that?"

The children roared their assent.

"Sometimes people will answer, 'No, but you weren't there either,' " Ham told them. "Then you say, 'No, I wasn't, but I know someone who was, and I have his book about the history of the world.' " He waved his Bible in the air.

"Who's the only one who's always been there?" Ham asked.

"God!" the boys and girls shouted.

"Who's the only one who knows everything?"


"So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?"

The children answered with a thundering: "God!"
Nothing like teaching critical thinking.

"You took my childhood."

Said Bruce Jackson to his adoptive mother Vanessa Jackson at her sentencing hearing, where Vanessa faced the four sons she had starved, including Bruce, who, when he was taken from her at age 19, had weighed only 45 pounds. In the last 27 months, he has gained 95 pounds and grown 15 inches. He is now 5'3" tall.

February 10, 2006

Olympics: The Opening Ceremonies.

Are you watching the opening ceremonies? The ladies in dresses shaped like the Alps, the disco music, the nations with only one or a few athletes who -- the voiceover tells us -- have no hope of winning... It's kind of sweet, isn't it?

"A column is not a 750 word transcription of your id."

TNR's Keelin McDonell just hates Sarah Vowell's NYT op-eds. (If you have a TNR subscription, you can read his piece here.) Excerpt:
Vowell has made her own politics perfectly clear--"I am a capital-D Democrat"--but her allegiance is to whimsy. Not humor, which might expose the ridiculous, but whimsy, which merely makes light of it. And she is a true partisan. Of deaths caused by AIDS and poverty in Africa, she indignantly notes that it's "literally the dumbest thing I've ever heard." Literally? Dumbest? Really? Even the most correct of sentiments cannot withstand expression in such juvenile terms. Other times, Vowell simply free associates her way to a theory. What does she think of the Supreme Court ruling that allowed the Texas State Capitol to display a Ten Commandments statue? Well, "[t]he other night I was flipping channels and..." I'll spare you the next two paragraphs and tell you that our intrepid columnist discovered that human nature is imperfect.
It sounds bloggy to me. Get used to it. This is the way people will write about politics in the future. The Times needs to appeal to younger readers, and that means the regular slots on the op-ed page when they open up are going to go to people like Vowell, and not to older writers who've built their reputations by following the established conventions of column writing. And this has to be what's really bugging McDonell so much. Hear his pain:
Vowell's qualifications for the job are limited. She has spent nearly ten years as a commentator on the radio show "This American Life," where she applies what the San Francisco Chronicle has called her "nasal and high-pitched, somewhere in the neighborhood of Bart Simpson's sister Lisa" voice to programs about popular culture and history. She has published four books of humorous essays. She is young and has appeared on "The Daily Show." She is popular. But in all these successes she has not, so far as I can detect, demonstrated a sophisticated or, for that matter, unique, grasp of current events. This did not prevent the Times from recruiting Vowell to fill the pages of, as she calls it, "the most uppity newspaper in the world."
Is her voice even relevant or is McDonell just irritated? Actually, it is relevant, because there are already podcasts of the columns, and in the future, we'll want to hear the columnist and not just an actor doing the reading. Four books of humorous essays? That's a limited qualification for writing essays? Really, McDonell is quite ridiculous.

"Writing palindromes ... It's like the opposite of a guitar."

Says comedian and former NYU law student Demetri Martin. About quitting law school, he says:
The first week, I remember thinking: "OK, this cool. I get it: You analyze the case, find the issues, apply the rule, draw a conclusion. Cool, I get this." But that was week one. Then, at week two, I was like, "That's it?" And by week three I was like: "This sucks. I'm bored. This is so detail-oriented. I'm not a detail person."

Yikes. Me, I'm in decade three.

"Is the Second Amendment Still Embarrassing (and for Whom)?"

Reprinting an announcemnt:
The Undergraduate Legal Studies Program and
the Institute for Legal Studies at the Law School
announce the following Harris Lecture and panel discussion
open to faculty, students, and the public:

Is the Second Amendment Still Embarrassing (and for Whom)?

Sanford Levinson
Noted Second Amendment and Constitutional Scholar
University of Texas School of Law

Friday, February 17, 2006 at 4:00 p.m.
Godfrey and Kahn Hall (Room 2260)
University of Wisconsin Law School

This lecture is made possible through the generous support
of the Audrey J. Harris Legal Studies Endowment.

The lecture will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Donald Downs, Professor of Political Science, Law, and Journalism and Director of the Legal Studies Program and the Criminal Justice Certificate Program. Panelists include Ann Althouse, Robert W. and Irma Arthur-Bascom Professor of Law; John Sharpless, Professor of History; and Howard Schweber, Assistant Professor of Political Science.

Sanford Levinson (JD 1973, Stanford; PHD 1969, Harvard; AB 1962, Duke University) is the W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair in Law and Professor of Government at The University of Texas at Austin School of Law. He joined the University of Texas Law School in 1980. Previously a member of the Department of Politics at Princeton University, he is also a Professor in the Department of Government at the University of Texas. The author of over 200 articles in professional and more popular journals, Levinson is also book author of Constitutional Faith (1988, winner of the Scribes Award); Written in Stone: Public Monuments in Changing Societies (1998); and Wrestling With Diversity (2003). Most recently, he was the editor of Torture: A Collection (Oxford University Press, 2004), which includes reflections on the morality, law, and politics of torture from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. He has also edited Responding to Imperfection: The Theory and Practice of Constitutional Amendment (1995), and co-edited Reading Law and Literature: A Hermeneutic Reader (1988, with Steven Mallioux); Constitutional Stupidities, Constitutional Tragedies (with William Eskridge, 1998); Legal Canons (with Jack Balkin, 2000), and a leading constitutional law casebook, Processes of Constitutional Decisionmaking (4th ed. 2000, with Paul Brest, Jack Balkin, and Akhil Amar). He has visited at the Harvard, Yale, New York University, and Boston University law schools, as well as at the University of Paris II, Central European University in Budapest, and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. A member of the American Law Institute, Levinson was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001.

Playing computer solitaire on the job.

NY Mayor Bloomberg has a city worker fired after he sees a solitaire game on the man's computer:
Edward Greenwood IX ... 39, said he was dismissed with no notice, and no severance pay, after working there for six years. He earned about $27,000 a year for duties that included sending legislative bills to city agencies and copying and circulating office memos....

"I expect all city workers — including myself — to work hard," Mayor Bloomberg said during a news conference in Midtown Manhattan. "There's nothing wrong with taking a break but during the business day at your desk, that's not appropriate behavior."
Is this part of Bloomberg's new lefty politics?

UPDATE: What's with that name? The Ninth? The NYT examines the mystery. Great headline, by the way.

Peace symbol on the lake.

An artist made a big peace sign out of Christmas trees out on the ice on Lake Mendota:

MORE: A commenter asks "Where's Lake Mendota"? Hmmm.... Well, you can always get a good look at Lake Mendota, right now, here. There have been some art projects on the lake ice before, most famously, this one:

Anyway, the lake, here in Madison, Wisconsin, is not where Otis Redding died.

Blog post gets new life.

In the last day or so, I've gotten more traffic to this old post than to the front page of the blog. It started when RedState wrote this, calling attention to what I'd written over a year ago about how lefty and righty bloggers have treated me. RedState, who seems to have kept the old post in mind all this time as something to reflect upon periodically, writes an elaborate post. Excerpt:
With a Republican majority in both Houses of Congress, a majority of the electorate having voted for a Republican president, and a lot of libertarians and a fair number of centrists and even liberals supporting the war effort, we are working in a very big tent right now; the "RINO" population is booming. Of course, having people in our coalition who don't always support all of our goals - or who, in some cases, support only a few of our goals - can be intensely frustrating. Any one of us can tick off the names of elected officials who drive us up the wall - John McCain, Chuck Hagel, Lincoln Chaffee, Arlen Specter, etc. (And that's just the Senate). There are also plenty of pundits and bloggers who are on our side on the war, or the economy, or the culture, or the law, but not all of the above. In the blogosphere, there are centrists like Althouse and libertarians like Glenn Reynolds, Megan McArdle and Stephen Green. The pundit world even includes people like Christopher Hitchens and Nat Hentoff, arch-liberals on many issues who are nonetheless steadfast allies on some questions.

Anyway, from one issue controversy to the next, we may find ourselves on the opposite side from some of these folks. And therein lies the temptation to go the Kos path, and dissolve into spittle-spraying rage when people who are "supposed" to be on "our side" cross over and side against us. That's the situation where we need to think carefully about how harshly we go after people's motives, their intellectual integrity, etc. A ritual bridge-burning may be fun, but that's how you end up stranded on your own island.
Good point! Hardcore Democrats ought to do the same, and not just because I like people to be nice to me.

Anyway, yesterday, Best of the Web had a link to the old post (with no reference to Redstate), just a quote from me and some brief agreement. Then Instapundit linked to it.

Meanwhile, Sissy Willis and Steven Taylor were noticing all the action they are getting from the time I linked to them over a year ago, and both of them wrote to ask me what's going on. Here's Sissy's old post -- replete with photo of busted up Li'l Greenie. Here's Steven's. Now Sissy's got a new post about the revival of the "Right and left: my sad experience" conversation.

It's funny about blogging. You get so intent on putting the next post at the top, pushing all the old posts down. Blogging is a process of piling on and accepting the endless sinking of whatever isn't newest. But, watching the Site Meter page, you see where new visitors are arriving. Regular readers keep coming to the main page for that newest post. Extra readers tap in at individual new posts when other bloggers link to the posts you've put up recently: you see traffic at one of today's posts, maybe yesterday's. There are always a lot of visitors that come via search engines. Some of these arrive at posts that have had a steady, if low level popularity. (My classic post of this type is "The 'therefore' symbol.'" On any given day, somebody somewhere feels like reading about the therefore symbol and finds that post.) Others come to an old post that talked about a specific subject that has reappeared in the news. But it's quite unusual to experience a flood of interest to an old post like this one. This is just a case of one blogger remembering something we were talking about quite a while back and having something more to add to that old conversation. And then it seemed new again... and bloggable. That turns around the whole feeling of blogging, that sense that it is always the new that matters.

UPDATE: Vodkapundit joins the conversation ("Ann and I arrived at the same conclusion, even though we chew on different slices of the political pie.").

Whistleblowers and the whistleblower law.

CIA Director Porter Goss has a NYT op-ed:
As a member of Congress in 1998, I sponsored the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act to ensure that current or former employees could petition Congress, after raising concerns within their respective agency, consistent with the need to protect classified information.

Exercising one's rights under this act is an appropriate and responsible way to bring questionable practices to the attention of those in Congress charged with oversight of intelligence agencies. And it works. Government employees have used statutory procedures — including internal channels at their agencies — on countless occasions to correct abuses without risk of retribution and while protecting information critical to our national defense.

On the other hand, those who choose to bypass the law and go straight to the press are not noble, honorable or patriotic. Nor are they whistleblowers. Instead they are committing a criminal act that potentially places American lives at risk. It is unconscionable to compromise national security information and then seek protection as a whistleblower to forestall punishment.
We need to keep this distinction in mind.

Fighting extremism by ending rote learning.

Egypt is reforming education to shift away from rote memorization and toward critical thinking:
Young people who learn by rote, say some education experts, are more easily manipulated and indoctrinated. Under an improved education system, students will learn tolerance and open-mindedness, some say. But others argue that tempering religious extremism is more complicated.

"So much is involved in the problem of preventing extremism," says one foreign development agency expert, who was not authorized to speak on the record. "It's not just a question of stopping rote memorization in schools."
I understand this cynicism, but, surely, rote education is a key part of the problem of terrorism, and learning how to think is a benefit in itself. Yet do we Americans, who have shunned rote learning for so long, really have such a wonderful capacity for critical thinking? I think we do, much more than we tend to appreciate, because it is so normal. We're skeptical of anyone trying to sell us anything, and we can't stop criticizing anyone with any power who tries to accomplish anything.

Go ahead and prove my point by telling me what bullshit this is.

February 9, 2006

The new Ken doll.

He's into Buddhism, we're told. Shouldn't Buddhists be freaking out about the use of their religion as a fashion accessory?

UPDATE: I have one of the original Ken dolls -- complete with flocked hair. But I never got any outfits for him, so he only ever had his red bathing trunks. Because my Barbie was "Negligée Barbie," she did not have that classic swimsuit, and I never bought her one. Thus, my version of the famous couple had a doomed relationship.

Ending the hunger strike.

Forcefeeding Guantanamo hunger strikers:
In recent weeks, the officials said, guards have begun strapping recalcitrant detainees into "restraint chairs," sometimes for hours a day, to feed them through tubes and prevent them from deliberately vomiting afterward. Detainees who refuse to eat have also been placed in isolation for extended periods in what the officials said was an effort to keep them from being encouraged by other hunger strikers.

The measures appear to have had drastic effects. The chief military spokesman at Guantánamo, Lt. Col. Jeremy M. Martin, said yesterday that the number of detainees on hunger strike had dropped to 4 from 84 at the end of December.

Some officials said the new actions reflected concern at Guantánamo and the Pentagon that the protests were becoming difficult to control and that the death of one or more prisoners could intensify international criticism of the detention center. Colonel Martin said force-feeding was carried out "in a humane and compassionate manner" and only when necessary to keep the prisoners alive. He said in a statement that "a restraint system to aid detainee feeding" was being used but refused to answer questions about the restraint chairs.

Lawyers who have visited clients in recent weeks criticized the latest measures, particularly the use of the restraint chair, as abusive.

"It is clear that the government has ended the hunger strike through the use of force and through the most brutal and inhumane types of treatment," said Thomas B. Wilner, a lawyer at Shearman & Sterling in Washington, who last week visited the six Kuwaiti detainees he represents. "It is a disgrace."
Is it? It seems to me they quickly and effectively ended the hunger strike. What would have worked better? The alternative would have been death for these men. I don't see the argument that detainees are free to commit suicide.

Declining applications to law school.

There's been a 9.5 percent decline in applications to law school this year, after a 4.6 decline last year. What's going on? Is it some difference in what's on TV? The end of the refugees from the dot-com bust? An upswelling of interest in medical school? A new fear of debt? Something we lawprof bloggers have done?

CORRECTION: John points out that "dot.com"is incorrect, as trying to pronounce it makes obvious. Discussed here. The NYT had "dot-com," as I see on closer inspection.

About those anti-cartoonists.

A summit in Mecca:
As leaders of the world's 57 Muslim nations gathered for a summit meeting in Mecca in December, issues like religious extremism dominated the official agenda. But much of the talk in the hallways was of a wholly different issue: Danish cartoons satirizing the Prophet Muhammad.

The closing communiqué took note of the issue when it expressed "concern at rising hatred against Islam and Muslims and condemned the recent incident of desecration of the image of the Holy Prophet Muhammad in the media of certain countries" as well as over "using the freedom of expression as a pretext to defame religions."
Could anything be more obtuse? You see your own people overreacting in the extreme to some drawings, and your response is all about how bad the drawings are? And your goal is to reverse the antagonism directed at you? I've been, I think, more sympathetic than most bloggers in trying to understand the depth of the offense felt, but at this point, I am left gaping at the insane disproportion and lack of self-awareness among the anti-cartoonists. Are there any bigger clowns in the history of free expression?

ADDED: As a commenter points out, my criticism of the communiqué isn't quite apt since it predates the really over-the-top reaction.

"It is like Germany after the war. In two or three generations people really start thinking about what happened in their country."

Russians are absorbed in a 10-part televised series of Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn's "The First Circle."

82% of Americans approve of Bush.

Laura Bush. She's really popular.

February 8, 2006

"Project Runway."

Spoiler alert. Of course!

Oh, that was painful. I hated seeing Nick leave. He was one of my favorites all along.

But what an interesting challenge! They had to design for each other, but they are in competition with each other. How could the hostilities not pop out all over -- bursting and puckering the seams? And the men! They need to design for women, but they have all that horrid hostility toward the women. Meanwhile, the women showed generosity and good feeling toward the men through their styles. Chloe and Kara came out on top. What Santino did to Kara! Unforgivable! I wouldn't want one person to see me sausaged into a jumpsuit like that. Even the color was putrid. Pudenda -- isn't that the name of that color? Oh, the shame swirled around the men tonight!

Nick, who got the kiss off, was the one person who designed for a member of his own sex. And then what did he do? He picked a feminine fabric, a feminine color, a feminine design. A "Golden Girls" jacket, that belonged with leggings, the judges said. Oh, the abject humiliation of it all!

But I was glad Santino didn't get cut. He is more entertaining than Nick. Of all the designers, he's the one whose Fashion Week line I'd most like to see. He's cramped and constrained by the assignments. So let the man loose. Let him fall on his face... or be brilliant.

"American Idol."

Tonight's show seemed a little lackluster. "I Know I'll NEV-er love this way again." Sorry, I don't have any specific comments. I note the Grammys are going on and that Kelly Clarkson has loomed large over there.

UPDATE: "Idol" got much higher ratings than the Grammys. I'm not surprised. Personally, I've never watched the Grammys. (And I watch movie award shows, even when I'm not very interested in the movies.)

My own private how-to-throw-out-the-trash echo chamber -- re-echoing!

Today was the day to get all the accumulated junk out of the garage and out to the curb for pick up tomorrow -- trash day. I hired two teenagers, children of a colleague, to do the heavy lifting. Big trash bags, two loveseats, a bed, a beach umbrella, a basketball backstop, plywood, a metal desk, sleds, and some big rolls of carpet. Wait a minute! Can you throw out rolls of carpet here in Madison, Wisconsin, or are these among the things that they won't pick up?

Hang on a minute! Let me check the web and see what the rules are again.

A quick Google turns up:
My own private how-to-throw-out-the-trash echo chamber.

I've blogged before about the difficulties of throwing out the trash properly in Madison. In fact, today, as I was thinking about how to throw a few things out this week, I Googled "madison trash collection" and the second thing on the list was my own previous fretting about how to throw out the trash properly in Madison.

At least the first thing on the list seems to be official rules, but no, that's not Madison, Wisconsin! Google again: "madison wisconsin trash collection." And now the first thing on the list is me fretting about how to throw out the trash properly in Madison! I just hope that if there are other people in Madison struggling with the age-old question of how to throw your trash out properly in Madison and they end up here at my blog, they find it a bit amusing, and not incredibly annoying, because it really already is incredibly annoying to try to figure out how to throw out the trash in Madison.

The worst thing is when you try to do it right and they don't take it, and then you've got to drag it back in from the street and try to figure out a different way to proffer it next week. I tried throwing out a blind, and they didn't take it. Did they just not see it? What else can I do? There's no way to fold it or tie it or put it in anything. So I just continue to harbor it by the side of my house, probably irritating my neighbors who are the ones in a position to see it. I have a bunch of chairs and a heavy table to throw out. Let's see, this looks like the right information, and, based on this there is no reason to think I can't just put the furniture right out there on trash day. But no way am I going to put all the things out at one time. I'm going to play it safe and just put out a test chair this week.
Damn it! I try to find stuff out, and I just find myself, complaining about just finding myself!

Anyway, in case you're wondering, you can throw out rolls of carpet in Madison, Wisconsin. But if they're over 8 feet long, you've got to bend the rolls in half and duct tape them in that position.

Jude Law will play Brian Epstein.

In a "quirky, hallucinogenic" biopic of the Beatles manager, who died when he was 32. Do you want to see a Brian Epstein biopic? Do you want Jude Law to play the role? And, most importantly, do you want it to be quirky and hallucinogenic?

"The world ought to call them on it."

Says Condoleezza Rice, about the cartoon protests: "I have no doubt that Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and have used this for their own purposes."

What's in your iPod?

I'm loading up on podcasts of Supreme Court arguments from last term!

Politics at the funeral.

It's not surprising that some of the eulogizing went political at the funeral for Coretta Scott King. It would have been better to pretend that President Bush's attendance at this 6-hour event was not itself political. But, of course, it was. So the Rev. Joseph Lowery said a little something about Iraq? Let it go.

And then there was Bill Clinton:
Mr. Clinton began by saying, "I'm honored to be here with my president and my former presidents." Then he paused briefly and gestured toward Mrs. Clinton, his unspoken words seeming to suggest that he wanted to say future president, too. When the crowd began cheering, Mr. Clinton laughed and said, "No, no, no."
It's most effective by far to just tastefully gesture at politics. No one can prove that he meant to do that, but, of course, he meant to do that. Smoothly played!

"The Republicans can't marginalize Hillary. She has already marginalized herself."

Should I talk about Maureen Dowd's column? Not only is she behind the TimesSelect wall, but she's got a sudden big spoiler for the movie "Matchpoint," which I've been meaning to see. Damn it! But the topic interests me: Is Hillary Clinton angry?

Ken Mehlman recently called her angry. Was that misogynistic? Dowd assumes it was. While it's a classic move to fault women for being weak and for being strong, and that's an unfair trap that we need to notice and reject, we need also to avoid the opposite problem of claiming that every criticism of a woman is misogynistic. If women are going to run for high office, we have to deal with strong criticism. Mehlman only said "I don't think the American people, if you look historically, elect angry candidates... Whether it's the comments about the plantation or the worst administration in history, Hillary Clinton seems to have a lot of anger." Slapping the label "misogynistic" on that is too easy.

But here's Dowd's real point:
Hillary's problem isn't that she's angry. It's that she's not angry enough. From Iraq to Katrina and the assault on the Constitution, from Schiavo to Alito and N.S.A. snooping to Congressional corruption, Hillary has failed to lead in voicing outrage. She's been too busy triangulating and calculating to be good at articulating.

The Republicans can't marginalize Hillary. She has already marginalized herself.
This chimes with the Kerry complaint quoted in the previous post. HC seems to be preserving herself for the presidential run, holding back, knowing that the Mehlmans will snap back whenever she speaks up. The Democrats want her to expose herself more, to help them in this election year. And, really, she should. How does that carefulness -- "triangulating and calculating" -- establish that she is strong enough to be President?

Why can't the Democrats take advantage of Bush's woes?

Adam Nagourney and Sheryl Gay Stolberg address the conundrum in today's NYT:
Since Mr. Bush's re-election, Democrats have been divided over whether to take on the Republicans in a more confrontational manner, ideologically and politically, or to move more forcefully to stake out the center on social and national security issues. They are being pushed, from the left wing of the party, to stand for what they say are the party's historical liberal values.

But among more establishment Democrats, there is concern that many of the party's most visible leaders — among them, Howard Dean, the Democratic chairman; Senator John Kerry, the party's 2004 presidential candidate; Mr. Kennedy; Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader; and Al Gore, who has assumed a higher profile as the party heads toward the 2008 presidential primaries — may be flawed messengers.

In this view, the most visible Democrats are vulnerable to Republican attacks portraying them as out of the mainstream on issues including security and budget-cutting.

One of the party's most prominent members, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, has been relatively absent for much of this debate, a characteristic display of public caution that her aides say reflects her concern for keeping focused on her re-election bid. Mrs. Clinton, who has only nominal opposition, declined requests for an interview to discuss her views of the party.

Mr. Kerry said the party's authority had been diluted because of the absence of one or two obvious leaders, though he expressed confidence that would change.
If only Hillary would save us. Only Hillary can help.
"We are fighting to find a voice under difficult circumstances, and I'm confident, over the next few months, you are going to see that happen," Mr. Kerry said in an interview. "Our megaphone is just not as large as their megaphone, and we have a harder time getting that message out, even when people are on the same page."
Oh, damn it, you had the big megaphone and, when you did, you couldn't manage to get out a comprehensible message.

You know, this is a really long article, but it seems padded with nothingness. I'm not blaming Nagourney and Stolberg. They interviewed a lot of Democrats, who are quoted in the article. You can go over to the link and read what they said. I looked for a pithy quote but I couldn't find anything. The most interesting thing I found was Kerry's feeble whine. That's just sad.

"A lost world of rare plants, giant flowers and bizarre animals."

Found in Indonesia:
Flown by helicopter to a mountain preserve virtually untouched by humans, the scientists found more than 40 species new to science. They also spotted the legendary six-wired bird of paradise, a species with distinctive wiry head plumes that was first described in 1897 but that has proved elusive ever since.

Team leaders on Tuesday described how they spent two weeks in December, butterfly nets and binoculars at the ready, traversing the foggy slopes of the Foja Mountains in Papua province. Among trees encrusted with moss and draped with huge ferns, they marveled as birds and animals approached with no fear.

"It has a fairyland quality," said Bruce Beehler, an ornithologist with Conservation International in Washington and the expedition's co-leader. "It's a spectacularly beautiful Garden of Eden."


AND: Be sure to click on the slideshow at the link.

February 7, 2006

A low fat diet -- for women, at least -- shows no health benefit.

Just as I suspected.

UPDATE: The NYT front-pages its story on the study:
"These studies are revolutionary," said Dr. Jules Hirsch, physician in chief emeritus at Rockefeller University in New York City, who has spent a lifetime studying the effects of diets on weight and health. "They should put a stop to this era of thinking that we have all the information we need to change the whole national diet and make everybody healthy."

The study, published in today's issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, was not just an ordinary study, said Dr. Michael Thun, who directs epidemiological research for the American Cancer Society. It was so large and so expensive, Dr. Thun said, that it was "the Rolls-Royce of studies." As such, he added, it is likely to be the final word.

Of course, you can also get experts to reflexively insist that we still need to cut fat from our diet! And look at the comments to this post: they do the same. Don't dare take this comprehensive study to mean you can ignore the nanny scientists who would like to hover over your every meal.

"American Idol" -- Boston.

I feel like I owe you an "American Idol" post. I know you're dying to talk about the Boston episode. Personally, I'm a little fried. I got home from work today determined to put in my minimum 2 hours on the house, getting the massive thing in shape to put it on the market.

Today's target: outer space! This is a windowless storage room between the studio and the garage that has been accumulating things for more than 20 years, most prominently, a horizontal stack of drawings dating back to 1970. I dreaded looking at this stuff, because it contains the evidence of the folly of a decision to go to art school, made over 35 years ago. You have NO idea how many nudes I stared at and delineated.

Many things I looked at and thought: Why did no one tell me I didn't have enough talent to devote my life to this? There was no Simon Cowell of drawing to tell me to find another line of work. But a few things were fun to see, like the drawings of Woodstock '94, which we watched on pay-per-view. Maybe I'll scan these for you, in the manner of the old "Amsterdam Notebooks."

But, anyway, I've cleared out outer space, and I've hired two teenagers to help me tomorrow, dragging all sorts of junk out to the curb for trash day. There's a lot of progress here in the war against accumulated clutter. I got into the fight today. I didn't just put in the 2 hours I set as my goal. I went 3 hours, and I accomplished a lot. Hungry and dusty, I put the left-over stew on the stove to heat up, and I went upstairs to take a shower, stopping just long enough to answer a phone call. Okay, I didn't time it perfectly. I scorched the stew a little, but it was nice to sit down with a plate of beef stew and a big glass of Cabernet and click on the TiVo'd "American Idol." The stew and the wine and the show all made a lovely evening for me after my hard day's work (which wasn't just about conquering outer space, there was plenty that had to do with making the presumption in favor of concurrent state court jurisdiction into a challenging subject for Socratic inquiry).

But let's focus on tonight's "American Idol."

There was the patriotic rapper that they gave some respect to just because he supported the troops. Lame!

There was the beautiful basketballer Ayla Brown, who belted robotically but made it on athletic attitude. Simon said the brilliant words that could stand as a critique of the whole show: "There's something empty about it all."

I loved the beautiful twins, especially the one with the wrecked vocal chords who crouched on the sidelines and mimed the choreography while her sister sang.

I liked the gorgeous Tatiana Ward, who wanted to show up her grandmother, who disowned her mother for marrying a black man. Tatiana sings "My Cherie Amour," following each intonation of the Stevie Wonder original. They tell her it's old fashioned, even though they've held up Stevie Wonder as the pop music ideal throughout the history of the show. She gets through.

Making me cry this week is Holly Corrente, who works as a music therapist. We see her interacting with a disabled man. They say no.

I'm impressed by Kenneth Maccarone who sings "Believe" in a Cher voice and gets the usual crap from Simon ("Be a female impersonator"), but stands up to him: "I won't dress up like a female. I'm a man."

There were a couple guys that played the Clay Aiken card. One was a joker (Michael Sandecki) and one was dead sincere (Kevin Covais -- "I don't know. I bring youth and excitement"). The sincere boy makes it. God bless him. He looks like one of the Munchkins. "I think anyone over the age of 80 would like you" is Simon's putdown.

And we end with a long, cool montage of the auditions, setting us up for tomorrow night's show: Hollywood Hell Week! Now, we'll get to see most of these supposedly good singers fall flat on their face. They were super-prepared for their auditions, but when they're given something to learn and perform quickly, most will shrivel up into nothings, and we'll wrack our brains trying to remember what was ever good about them.

See you tomorrow!

No "Brokeback" joke lack.

The movie has inspired lavish praise and humor. Is some of it offensive? Probably, but now is an uncool time to be thin-skinned about humor!

“The line between good and evil is drawn not between nations or parties, but through every human heart.”

Is that Solzhenitsyn or Dostoevsky? RLC feverishly Googles for the answer:
I wanted to rush out into the street and grab some poor unaware pedestrian and recite him my quotation and, shaking him by the collar in my fervor, demand, “Who do you think would have said that, Solzhenitsyn, or Dostoevsky? Dostoevsky, of course, can there be any doubt, my esteemed friend? Solzhenitsyn couldn’t have thought of it -- he was the enemy of a specific party, an entire national government, which he associated with evil -- but he knew Dostoevsky was right, and couldn’t resist, in the same no one can resist swiping a nice ripe cherry from the top of the fruit bin in the market, God preserve us. He was Dostoevsky’s younger brother, and he must have said to himself, ‘Fyodor won’t mind…’”

Yes, dear friends, that’s what passed through my whirling noggin in those hectic moments, as if a different personality were taking me over, a demonic twin, a mirror likeness glimpsed at a street corner; and it occurred to me – I can’t deny it – to think, “Heavens above, I'm turning into Dusty himself! This must be what it felt like to be Dostoevsky – at least as translated by Constance Garnett!"
Much more at the link.


I mentioned the other day that the Oscar nominations made me want to see the movie "Crash." It came in the mail yesterday, and I watched it last night. I thought it was quite good, constructed like "Magnolia," with a lot of characters and a script that connects their stories up with coincidences and a common theme. The theme in this case is race. You can tell from the first scene that you are seeing a heightened reality. I haven't read much of the criticism of this film, but if people are complaining that there actually isn't this much racism in real life, they are missing the point. This is a surreal depiction in which racism is concentrated everywhere. Everyone manifests racism, but then also a vulnerable human side. The characters' stories were nicely, complexly interwoven. I liked it -- even when it skewed melodramatic. I liked that you were kept on your toes about which characters to love or hate, to respect or revile.

Che abuse.

If it weren't for that one photo, there wouldn't have been all those T-shirts, posters, and so much more:
Cherry Guevara [a popsiscle] and other examples of what could be called Che abuse are now on display at the International Center of Photography in midtown Manhattan for an exhibition titled "¡Che! Revolution and Commerce."...

The exhibit works, too, as an object lesson in the power -- and on some level, the formidable beauty -- of market economies, which can absorb and commodify anything, even their bitterest enemies. Today, there are dozens of Web sites selling stuff with Korda's Che shot emblazoned on it....

In the United States, Che's life story and ambitions seem beside the point, or maybe they've just been reduced to caricature. The guy's face is shorthand for "I'm against the status quo." He's politics' answer to James Dean, a rebel with a very specific cause. And since very few people know anything about the cause, or the rebel -- besides the basics -- the Che shirt has about it the whiff of inside info. It makes you part of the thrift-store intelligentsia, even if your real focus is beer pong.

This, in brief, is why capitalism won. It's the only system that understands that we'd all like to change the world, but we are way too lazy for that sort of thing. Especially if there's ice cream around. When you get done with a Cherry Guevara, you're left with a wooden stick with the words "We will bite to the end!" stamped on it. If there are nails in Che's coffin, this, no doubt, is what they look like.
I know a lot of people get really mad about all the Che imagery. This article takes the attitude that the runaway popularization actually defeats Che's politics. Revolution is processed into rebelliousness. Are we supposed to feel good about the way our culture drains serious meaning out of things?

I'm trying to think of a way to connect this story to the current insanity around the depiction of Mohammad in cartoons. If one has an important character at the center of a political or religious movement, will the propagation or the suppression of his image serve your cause better? Should you want to propagate but control the image, so that it's presented on your terms, with the prescribed elements of reverence (nails pounded into flesh, yes, submersed in urine, no)? And if you oppose a political or religious movement, what is the more powerful move, suppressing the image -- stop showing that Che picture! -- or diluting it with ridiculous over-reproduction?

Oyster Awards.

For hardest to open packages. The one that took the longest -- more than 15 minutes -- is American Idol Barbie.

"When I woke up, I tried to light a cigarette and didn't understand why it wouldn't stay between my lips."

Isabelle Dinoire, the woman with the face transplant, describes how she discovered half of her face had been chewed off by her dog:
"That's when I saw the pool of blood and the dog beside it."

Ms. Dinoire said she went to look at herself in a mirror and "couldn't believe what I was seeing — it was too horrible."

Her lips were gone, along with her chin and much of her nose, leaving her teeth and part of her lower jawbone exposed, her doctors said....

Ms. Dinoire's doctors said it would be months before they would know how much motor control she would develop in the transplanted part of her face. But Ms. Dinoire said that "being able to show emotions through my face" was already the best thing about her transplant and that she hoped to eventually be able to smile and grimace.
Ah, to grimace again! I hope you appreciate your ability to grimace. Go on, celebrate life. Do some good grimacing today!
She said the transplant had been a long ordeal, but that "in the end, I never really suffered."

She defended her decision to resume smoking within weeks of the transplant, something remarked upon by the news media.

"Anyway, I never stopped smoking," she said, adding that she regrets only the trouble the news of her smoking caused.
Oh, give the woman a break. She's entitled to her pleasures as she defines them. This is a person who, on awakening from a deep unconscious state with her face chewed off, did not notice that something had gone horribly wrong but that she needed a smoke. That is some serious devotion to smoking.

February 6, 2006

The strong man.

Another drawing by Christopher Althouse Cohen. Drawn quite some time ago. (To see the details, click here to enlarge.)

The Strong Man

Betty Boop was "a doglike character with floppy ears"...

Myron Waldman was an animator who played a part turning her into a sexy lady. How much of a part?
Credits for early animated films are notoriously difficult to establish, and while the Fleischer Studios usually gave the producing credit to Max and the directing credit to Dave, it was often the animators who were effectively the authors of individual shorts. Subsequent generations of animation scholars have identified Mr. Waldman with the gentle strain of whimsy (so different from the often abrasive, sexually charged surrealism of his colleagues) that began to appear in the Fleischers' "Color Classics" series, initiated in 1934 in direct imitation of Disney's "Silly Symphonies."...

Paramount foreclosed on the Fleischers after the catastrophic failure of their second feature, the 1941 "Mister Bug Goes to Town," and the studio was reorganized in New York as Famous Studios.

Mr. Waldman stayed with the new company, but under Paramount's control, the studio lost its grand ambitions and adult sensibilities, falling into a series of routine shorts intended for children and featuring lesser characters like Baby Huey, Herman and Katnip, Little Lulu and Casper. Though officially the studio's head animator, Mr. Waldman found his true affinity in the Casper series, curiously morbid fantasies centered on an infant ghost. Animation buffs often cite Mr. Waldman's "There's Good Boos Tonight" (1948), which ends with the death (and resurrection as a ghost) of a lovable fox character, as a particularly traumatic childhood experience.
Waldman has now died, at age 97, and if his ghost is to haunt us, we can trust it will be friendly.

Roadside memorials.

Are there too many of them? Do they distract drivers and cause more accidents, or do they prevent accidents by reminding you that your car is a death machine? If the latter, does that make them a morbid eyesore? Did you know you could order a memorial cross ready-made (with just the right handmade look)? Is there an Establishment Clause problem?
"For us, the memorials raise serious church-state constitutional concerns because they usually feature religious symbols and are placed on state property," said Robert R. Tiernan, a lawyer with the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis., who successfully defended a Denver man arrested in 2001 after he removed a religious roadside memorial.

"I'm sympathetic to people who have faced this kind of grief," added Mr. Tiernan, whose 13-year-old son died after a car accident in 1981. "But the public space belongs to everyone, and I think it's important to honor that."
Are these memorials an aesthetic blight? Some are tasteful and new or well-tended, but others are agonizingly awful -- mylar balloons! -- and covered in grime. But in some places tradition elevates them to a level that completely transforms my response:
[R]oadside memorials are most common in the American Southwest. Most researchers believe they descend from a Spanish tradition in which pallbearers left stones or crosses to mark where they rested as they carried a coffin by foot from the church to the cemetery. Because of this heritage, the memorials are protected in New Mexico as "traditional cultural properties" by the state's Historic Preservation Division.
Based on this, my preference is for some rules, not about religious imagery, but about size, placement, and materials that can be used. Allow only natural materials like stone and wood that have some historical tradition and that age and weather well even when abandoned.

"Justice Souter did his job and we should be proud of it, whether we agree with it or not.”

The attempt to take Justice Souter's house by eminent domain has failed, voted down by the townsfolk. Professor Bainbridge is sorry to hear this!

What Gonzales will say about the surveillance program.

Today, Attorney General Gonzales will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Bush administration's surveillance program. He's got a column in the WSJ this morning, which presumably reflects what he will say:
The president, as commander in chief, has asserted his authority to use sophisticated military drones to search for Osama bin Laden, to deploy our armed forces in combat zones, and to kill or capture al Qaeda operatives around the world. No one would dispute that the [The Authorization for Use of Military Force] supports the president in each of these actions.

It is, therefore, inconceivable that the AUMF does not also support the president's efforts to intercept the communications of our enemies. Any future al Qaeda attacks on the homeland are likely to be carried out, like Sept. 11, by operatives hiding among us. The NSA terrorist surveillance program is a military operation designed to detect them quickly. Efforts to identify the terrorists and their plans expeditiously while ensuring faithful adherence to the Constitution and our existing laws is precisely what America expects from the president....

The AUMF is broad in scope, and understandably so; Congress could not have catalogued every possible aspect of military force it was endorsing. That's why the Supreme Court ruled in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that the detention of enemy combatants--a fundamental incident of war-- was lawful, even though detention is not mentioned in the AUMF. The same argument holds true for the terrorist surveillance program. Nor was the president's authorization of the terrorist surveillance program in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA bars persons from intentionally "engag[ing] . . . in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute." The AUMF provides this statutory authorization for the terrorist surveillance program as an exception to FISA.

Lastly, the terrorist surveillance program fully complies with the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Like sobriety checkpoints or border searches, this program involves "special needs" beyond routine law enforcement, an exception to the warrant requirement upheld by the Supreme Court as consistent with the Fourth Amendment.
We already know this is the argument. We also know the argument of those who oppose the program. What will be interesting today will be to see how well Gonzales will be able to defend the program under hard questioning and how far the Senators will be willing to go when they know that part of the answer, explicit or insinuated, will inevitably be that if they oppose the program they do not care enough about national security.

February 5, 2006

Audible Althouse #35.

Here it is.

Cleaning 20 years of clutter out of the house in preparation for selling... why I've got a room called "outer space"... going to art school ("a pretty damned self-indulgent way to go to college")... becoming a law professor ("floating along on that little scam")... my art studio ("I know my crayons, cuz I went to college")... talking baby talk... throwing out the angel collection... my love of crispness... Samuel Alito... the State of the Union Address... how sad that we never saw Thomas Jefferson on TV... becoming habituated to the beast people... oh, look, it's Senator Feingold!... ugly faces... why I didn't read "The Feminist Mystique"... a crisp feminist quote about choosing between sex and freedom... and the greatest dogs of pop culture history...

Remember: you don't need an iPod to listen. You can stream it on your computer by clicking here. But if you've got an iPod, I hope you'll go to iTunes and subscribe!

The condo.

The lobby is like the hotel it once was:

The condo.


The condo.

The view:

The condo.

The pregnancy weight gain.

It's not just for mothers.

Another drawing.

By Christopher Althouse Cohen. (This may be a series!)


The ridiculous fear of ridicule.

CNN reports:
Islamic anger over newspaper depictions of the Prophet Mohammed is boiling over into violence around the world, with protesters targeting the embassies of countries where the cartoons were published.

Smoke billowed Sunday from the Danish consulate in central Beirut, where hundreds of demonstrators thronged streets around the building to protest a Danish newspaper's publication of cartoons depicting Islam's revered prophet....

"We do not accept any act that effects the security of others," said Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. "These groups include people who intended to [destroy] properties on purpose, giving a bad example of Islam.

"Islam has nothing to do with any of this, no matter how others disrespected the prophets, about whom God says, we have protected you from those who ridicule."
Does it show the strength of your religious faith to react with violence to those who ridicule it? To act righteous in commiting acts of violence is to claim the response is proportional to the offense, so you are assigning great weight to the ridicule. If your faith is so strong, why do you perceive such power in the ridicule? Some crude little drawings and jokes threaten you? Your fear of ridicule ridicules your faith more than the ridicule you fear.

IN THE COMMENTS: Alaska Jack poses a hypothetical:
Suppose at a large dinner party one of the guests relates how his sick child's health is failing and that his wife has just been diagnosed with cancer. Upon hearing this, another guest, a cartoonist, whips out his pen and draws a series of cartoons ridiculing and making fun of the condition of the child and wife and passes them around the table. Do all the zealots agree this is a great example of freedom of expression and should be celebrated? And if the first guest gets angry, is the correct response for all the other guests to draw their own insulting cartoons so as not to chill freedom of expresson? Or is our cartoonist guest just a jerk?

Much discussion follows, not answering the hypothetical -- the answer to this hypothetical is obvious -- but posing alternate hypotheticals and claiming them to be better analogies.