April 1, 2006

"Some students would subsist on little more than lettuce flavored with calorie-free spray butter flavoring."

Ah, the extreme austerity that is needed in preparation for the hedonism of Spring Break!

Thousands of mistakes in Iraq and holes in Blackburn, Lancashire.

Condi, beset in Britain.

UPDATE: More here:
She gave several interviews to the British press, and almost every one was dominated by questions about her rough reception.

"People can say whatever they wish," she told The Lancashire Evening Telegraph. "I know where I stand. We made the right decision" in Iraq. "I was fully supportive of the decision."

During the news conference in Blackburn on Saturday, the boos and jeers rose to greet the secretaries as they spoke. Referring to the protesters at one point, Ms. Rice said, "They make my point. A democracy is the only system of government that allows people to be heard peacefully."
What poise. What nerves of steel. Tell me again why she wouldn't be capable of handling presidential campaigning.

"By 2008, the blogs are going to be so institutionalized, it's not going to be funny."

The NYT quotes Markos Moulitsas in an article about how the political parties are trying to figure out and take advantage of blogging. Kos is talking about how the candidates are trying to catch up, and that they might get to the point where they are only cluelessly going, "We're hot and we're hip and we're bloggin'.'" Presumably, they need to hire some real bloggers if they want to get up to speed -- like the way Mark Warner hired Jerome Armstrong.

Anyway, an important aspect of all of this is that blogging is not affecting the two parties in the same way, and Kos has a lot to do with that:
On the left in particular, bloggers have emerged as something of a police force guarding against disloyalty among Democrats, as Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic consultant, learned after he told The Washington Post that bloggers and online donors "are not representative of the majority you need to win elections."

A Daily Kos blogger wrote: "Not one dime, ladies and gentlemen, to anything connected with Steve Elmendorf. Anyone stupid enough to actually give a quote like that deserves to have every single one of his funding sources dry up."...

Bloggers, for all the benefits they might bring to both parties, have proved to be a complicating political influence for Democrats. They have tugged the party consistently to the left, particularly on issues like the war, and have been openly critical of such moderate Democrats as Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut.

Still, Democrats have been particularly enthusiastic about the potential of this technology to get the party back on track, with many Democratic leaders arguing that the Internet is today for Democrats what talk radio was for Republicans 10 years ago. "This new media becomes much more important to us because conservatives have been more dominant in traditional media," said Simon Rosenberg, the president of the centrist New Democratic Network. "This stuff becomes really critical for us."
Hmmm.... But blogging is so different from talk radio. Using blogs to try to produce a radio-like effect could go very wrong, and, indeed, seems already to have gone very wrong. Kos and Armstrong have written their book, but haven't their actual efforts to help Democratic candidates fallen flat? Soon enough, someone will write a book analyzing how their blog hurt the Democratic Party.

You shouldn't want a big, dominant blog pushing your party around. The great thing about blogging is the way individuals can be heard and can spontaneously aggregate and disaggregate as the issues play out. Kos, it seems, is pushing the institutionalization of blogging, and would, perhaps, like to lump those of us who resist that together with lame politicians who think they look "hip" because they're "bloggin'." Get serious, grow up, blog for power!


As for how Kos treats Lieberman: here he goes again.

The NYT crossword today...

... should go down in crossword history as one of the truly great ones. Congratulations to Kevan Choset and David Kwong!

A MILD SPOILER: It's not really as hard as it should be for a Saturday. I think the date trumped the day of the week.

Al Franken's "Screw you."

So Al Franken said "screw you" on "The Today Show." Do you have a problem with that? I'm inclined to defend Franken here, because I'm used to this kind of humor. The other guest snipes at him and says he looks exhausted, and Franken says:
"It's 4:11AM! It's four in the morning here....Screw you! I got up at four in the morning."
It looks worse on the transcript than it sounds in the video.

I don't watch "The Today Show," and maybe its audience is especially fragile and doesn't get mock outrage, but this strikes me as pretty mainstream humor. It gets a big laugh from the crew. He continues because he's doing a humor routine. And when Matt Lauer says "cut his mike" in the end, he's joking too, isn't he? That's an allusion to this, right? That's the way I hear it.

Blogging and the Pro-Test Movement.

The NYT profiles a 16-year-old blogger, Laurie Pycroft, who's gotten a lot of attention lately in Britain:
[O]n Jan. 28, as Mr. Pycroft watched animal rights demonstrators in Oxford marching to protest the planned testing facility. He tucked in behind them chanting, "Build the lab!"

"They got quite hostile," he said. So he went to a stationery store and bought a large square of cardboard and a pen and wrote: "Support Progress. Build the Oxford Lab." When he started waving the sign on the street, someone compared him to excrement. Another person tore the sign apart, he said. He went home and shared his experience on his blog. The result was a new movement, called Pro-Test.
It's fascinating to think of one person, suddenly inspired to dash off a sign, starting a movement. You know, kind of...

In this case, blogging is what makes instant-sign move effective. It's not that he does the sign, but that he goes home and blogs about it. The article doesn't describe the process from first blog post to significant movement, but here's the blog. You can trace the process yourself.

I love the idea of one guy, alone on the other side of a big, active demonstration, and, instead of being outnumbered, using a blog to draw out the numbers on his side that exist, out there, dispersed in the general population. It must often be the case that a person encounters activists and thinks: Yes, these people are passionate and out on the streets, but I'll bet that most people disagree, but they, being more rational, are out living their lives and not inclined to take to the streets. By blogging, you don't need anyone else to be there to respond to your sign -- like the already-assembled workers in the movie "Norma Rae." Your little one-person demonstration comes alive through the description of it on your blog, which also gives you a place to detail your arguments, open a forum for discussion, and touch off debates elsewhere that can link back to you.

March 31, 2006

"You'll pretty much say anything to stay alive because you expect people will understand these aren't your words."

The hostage point of view. We can't ask for more. We can imagine a bolder hero who would do more. But we should speak no ill of the person who does less.

" This whole incident was instigated by the inappropriate touching and stopping of me, a female black congresswoman."

Said Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who may be criminally charged for slapping the police officer who blocked her entry into the Capitol when she refused to stop after being asked three times:
Her lawyer, James W. Myart Jr., said, "Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, like thousands of average Americans across this country, is, too, a victim of the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials because of how she looks and the color of her skin."

"Ms. McKinney is just a victim of being in Congress while black," Myart said.
He's making the police officer sound like Matt Dillon in "Crash"!

We're asked to picture the member of Congress as the poor underdog here? Before working on this self-presentation as a victimized black woman, McKinney had a earlier draft that said: "It is ... a shame that while I conduct the country's business, I have to stop and call the police to tell them that I've changed my hairstyle so that I'm not harassed at work." The arrogance really comes across in that version. How dare you not recognize me! How dare you stall me as I go about work that is so much more important than yours!

Fear and hope among the Afghan apostates.

Abdul Rahman, the Afghan Christian who faced the death penalty for converting from Islam, now lives in exile in Italy. But what of the hundreds -- thousands? -- of apostates who remain behind. How has Rahman's case affected them?

Terri Schiavo died a year ago.

How is the press marking the anniversary? Some are running with the "living wills" theme. Others are revisiting the husband and parents who fought so hard over her fate. Still others reargue the issues of life and death.

Thinking about your muscles makes you stronger.

The team wired their subjects up to weight machines which monitored levels of electrical activity in their biceps and asked them to think in two different ways while exercising.

The more electrical activity measured - the more the muscle is doing.

When subjects were asked to focus on what their muscles were doing and how they were working there were significantly higher levels of electrical activity.

But when they were asked to visualise lifting the weight, electrical activity was lower.
So much for your Zen philosophy!

"It's not like grabbing your crotch, not that bad an obscenity."

But it's an obscenity, says Vito, from "The Sopranos" (Joseph Gannascoli), about that notorious hand gesture of the American jurist Antonin Scalia. Oh, go eat a big bag of small carrots! (Is that an obscenity?)

The Democrats announced their national security plan the other day.

Did you notice? Me neither. Are the media to blame for our inattention to this?

"AI" fashions, critiqued.

Robin Givhan -- the WaPo's fashion analyst -- takes on "American Idol." She doesn't like the sexing up of the women:
Dressed in tight blue jeans, a tight yellow tunic, a tight purple suede jacket and a pair of ivory jeweled showgirl pumps, [Paris] Bennett seemed to have taken all her styling tips from a Baby Phat runway show -- an unwise decision unless one's intention is to resemble what might affectionately be called a hussy.
Well, I think it was. You might want to mention that she's only 17.
Chris Daughtry is a man who knows that a beautifully bald head always looks better than a comb-over. This week, Daughtry was dressed, as usual, like a nonchalant rocker.... Daughtry has a consistent style, and that makes him stand out, since most of the contestants seem to wear just about anything that gets handed to them. Fit, taste, logic, who cares?
I think the biggest problem is inconsistent style. It may take a few weeks (or months) to arrive at a style, but once there, stay approximately there. Daughtry has a consistent look. Well, that is, he has a bald head. He has it every week. And when you look at him, that's what you notice. You can tell all the men with minimal hair that the completely shaved look is best -- and it is! -- but it takes a lot of nerve to put yourself out there like that.

Givhan complains a lot about the women in their elaborate outfits styled around tight jeans (especially on the giant-legged Mandisa), but it's much worse when they put the women in those dorky cocktail dresses that all look to me like crap made by Halston in the 1970s.

Ranking the law schools.

Paul Caron has figured out which law schools have moved up and which have fallen in the new U.S. News ranking. (Wisconsin stayed the same.) He's also pointing us to the rival rankings from the Princeton Review. Can Princeton Review challenge the market dominance of U.S. News? I don't think so. They are based so much on student surveys that the ranks seem mostly to reflect how eager the students are to help their school look good (and how uncritical the students are). Or do these lists just look all wrong to me because of their failure to resemble the U.S. News rank?

March 30, 2006

"This is the first time that anyone has shown that the brain grows differently in extremely intelligent children."

Okay, all you narcissistic parents: Time to run out and get a brain image done on your little genius. And all you IQ doubters: Time to fret about a future of imaging and classifying our young brain-containers.

Massachusetts is not exporting gay marriage.

If gay marriage isn't legal in their home state, a gay couple can't get married in Massachusetts, says the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court:
In an opinion written by Justice Francis X. Spina, the court upheld a 1913 statute that says that no out-of-state resident can get married in Massachusetts if the marriage would be void in the person's home state, unless the person intends to live in Massachusetts....

The original lawsuit was filed by eight out-of-state couples and 12 cities and towns, claiming the 1913 statute was discriminatory and had been invalidated by the legalization of gay marriage in the state....

[Governor Mitt] Romney said in an interview: "This is an important victory for traditional marriage and for the right to each state to be sovereign as it defines marriage. It would have been wrong for this court to impose it's same sex ruling on the other 49 states of America."

Only one justice, Roderick L. Ireland, dissented, writing that "the commonwealth's resurrection of a moribund statute to deny nonresident same-sex couples access to marriage is not only troubling," but "also is fundamentally unfair."

Scientifically testing the power of prayer.

It failed! Whoops!
While many studies have suggested that praying for oneself may reduce stress, research into praying for others who may not even know they are the subject of prayers has been much more controversial. Several studies that claimed to show a benefit have been criticized as deeply flawed. And several of the most recent findings have found no benefit.

The new $2.4 million study, funded primarily by the John Templeton Foundation, was designed to overcome some of those shortcomings. Dusek and his colleagues divided 1,802 bypass patients at six hospitals into three groups. Two groups were uncertain whether they would be the subject of prayers. The third was told they would definitely be prayed for.

The researchers recruited two Catholic groups and one Protestant group to pray "for a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications" for 14 days for each patient, beginning the night before the surgery, using the patient's first name and the first initial of the last name.

Over the next month, patients in the two groups that were uncertain of whether they were the subject of prayers fared virtually the same, with about 52 percent experiencing complications regardless of whether they were the subject of prayers.

Surprisingly, however, 59 percent of the patients who knew they were the targets of prayer experienced complications.

Because the most common complication was an irregular heartbeat, the researchers speculated that knowing they were chosen to receive prayers may have inadvertently put them under increased stress.

Maybe God doesn't like being tested.

"I've lived in my face."

Says Ali MacGraw, who's 67 and comfortable with a face like "a road map." An excellent road map:

There, now. It's nice to be elegantly, comfortably old, perhaps. Don't you think?

UPDATE: By contrast, consider Sharon Stone, as she appears in "Basic Instinct 2." As Manohla Dargis puts it, "man, does she look weird here." She sure doesn't look like Sharon Stone anymore:

A late morning fixation.


"40-year-old men and women who look, talk, act, and dress like people who are 22 years old."

New York Magazine discovers a non-new nonproblem -- and pads the story to death. Could you name any more bands or items of clothing in one story? There's 8 screens of this?

"The growing interest in making Scalia newsworthy reflects a change in the political fortunes of liberal causes and of the Democrat Party. "

Ronald A. Cass decries "Stalking Scalia."

(If that phrase is making you picture Scalia lumbering along after you, please clear that image from your mind. The American jurist is the stalkee.)


Is driving your hybrid car causing you to talk with your eyes closed? The new "South Park" episode -- "Smug Alert" -- had lots of great details. I loved George Clooney's Oscar speech as a cloud of smugness that became part of a weather system, leading to a Perfect Storm. But my favorite thing on the show was the depiction of the San Francisco kids, who had such a precise reason for feeling aggrieved.

Brian Wilson's "new lease on life came with a deed restriction."

And now that landlord is dead:
Eugene Landy, the psychotherapist who was variously called a savior and a snake oil salesman for his unorthodox, round-the-clock treatment of Brian Wilson, the famously dissolute leader of the Beach Boys, in the 1970's and 80's, died on March 22 in Honolulu. He was 71....

"Landy definitely transformed Brian's life and knocked him off of what was a suicidal death spiral in the early 1980's," Peter Ames Carlin, the author of a forthcoming book about the Beach Boys, said in a telephone interview yesterday. "But his new lease on life came with a deed restriction, which was that Landy wanted to be part of Brian's creative and financial lives."
You can find more lurid versions of the story than this NYT obituary, but the man just died, and I'm not going to go looking for them.

The murderer's memorabilia.

He wants it back. And he's suing his former lawyer, Hugo R. Harmatz, to get it:
[David] Berkowitz is serving six sentences of 25 years to life for killing six people and wounding seven in New York City in 1976-77.

He said he gave the materials to Harmatz for safekeeping and for use as props for a youth offender program. He sued Harmatz last June after learning the lawyer planned to use them as material for a book.

The lawyer claims letters from Berkowitz show the killer intended the materials as gifts. But the judge wrote in her decision that the letters do not "unequivocally establish" that.
Yikes! I just found myself siding with the serial killer. Compose your own lawyer joke.

"I was never hurt, ever hit... I was kept in a safe place and treated very well."

Says Jill Carroll, complimenting her kidnappers, after her release.

ADDED: Let me be clear that I'm not slamming Carroll. She was giving an interview at the headquarters of the Iraqi Islamic Party in Baghdad, shortly after her release. She's right to be ultra careful, and she lived through the ordeal, unlike others, so I'd assume she has good sense about how to act.

March 29, 2006

If you had to accept gay marriage or gays in the military...

Which would you pick?

(A question aimed, obviously, at readers who are opposed to both.)

Explain your reasons.

ADDED: Feel free to comment if you're in favor of both or one but not the other. Feel free to talk about the relative importance of the two goals, as well as the relative damage -- if that's the way you see it.

"American Idol" -- results.

ADDED: If you're looking for the newest results show, click on the banner at the top -- Althouse -- and then scroll down to the most recent "Amercian Idol."

ORIGINAL POST: "Hips Don't Lie"? Is that really anything to brag about, Shakira? Wouldn't it be more impressive if your body parts could dissimulate?

Is it going to be the predictable bottom three? Lisa, Ace, and -- no, it's not Bucky! -- Katharine! I cheered. Great! Something exciting happened. Ooh! I hope she's sent home. I've had enough of her dissimulation.

Interesting to see the three of them lined up there: they are the three most physically attractive of the final 10. America can take some pride in our depth.

Ryan's going to send one back. I'm all let it be Ace. And it is Ace.

Ryan asks Katharine how she feels about being in the bottom two. She says, "Whatever -- uh -- God planned for me, that's all I have in my mind right now." Now, I've really had enough of her dissimulation. We see Simon with his face in his hands. He's digging his thumbs into his temples as if he's pushing back a migraine. He's a good barometer of phony.

"Leaving us tonight is" -- long pause, during which Lisa nods, with a full sense of her fate -- "Lisa." Aw. Lisa love.

UPDATE: For comments on the newest results show, click on "Althouse" at the top of the page and scroll to the newest "American Idol" post.

Go ahead and choose C-section!

There's no reason to discourage women from giving birth by Caesarean section, says the National Institute of Health.
As the number of Caesareans increased through the 1970s, in part because of rising malpractice suits, medical groups launched campaigns that reversed the trend. Many medical authorities viewed the procedures as unnecessarily expensive and risky, and advocates of "natural childbirth" saw them as turning a natural experience into a "medicalized" one.

But the number of Caesareans began to increase again in 1996, reaching an all-time high of 29.1 percent of all births in 2004. The trend was fueled by factors including doctors' concerns about the safety of attempting a vaginal delivery after a previous Caesarean, women's fear of the pain and physical trauma of traditional labor, and the convenience of being able to schedule deliveries.

The rapid increase triggered an intense debate and prompted the NIH to convene the panel to make the first new assessment of the procedures since 1980, when the focus was on preventing Caesareans....

The panel concluded that Caesareans increase the risk for some serious, potentially life-threatening complications, particularly devastating uterine ruptures during subsequent vaginal deliveries. For that reason, women planning large families should avoid them, the panel said. And the procedure should not be done before the 39th week of pregnancy unless the baby's lung development has been verified. But there was also evidence that the surgical deliveries reduced risks such as bleeding by the mother and possibly brain damage to the baby.

The evidence on other complications is mixed. The risk of infection, for example, appears to be lower after vaginal deliveries, and the risk of incontinence may be lower following Caesareans, the panel found.
The right to choose! You decide! What would you rather have, an infection or incontinence? A uterine rupture (avoidable by not having a subsequent vaginal delivery) or a baby with brain damage (permanent and irreversible)?

And all these years people have been trying to guilt trip women into having "natural" births! Ha!

"I am, by the way, an American jurist."

Wrote Justice Scalia, chiding the Boston Herald for referring to him as an "Italian jurist." It's all part of today's best tempest in a teapot -- better than boiled babies -- that little scuffle we might call Italianhandgesturegate:
"Your reporter, an up-and-coming 'gotcha' star named Laurel J. Sweet, asked me (o-so-sweetly) what I said to those people. . .," Scalia wrote to Executive Editor Kenneth A. Chandler. “I responded, jocularly, with a gesture that consisted of fanning the fingers of my right hand under my chin. Seeing that she did not understand, I said, 'That’s Sicilian,' and explained its meaning."

In his letter, Scalia goes on to cite Luigi Barzini's book, "The Italians": "'The extended fingers of one hand moving slowly back and forth under the raised chin means: "I couldn’t care less. It’s no business of mine. Count me out."'"

"From watching too many episodes of the Sopranos, your staff seems to have acquired the belief that any Sicilian gesture is obscene - especially when made by an 'Italian jurist.' (I am, by the way, an American jurist.)"
(Do you think Scalia watches "The Sopranos"?)

Anyway... "I responded, jocularly, with a gesture..." If a reporter asks a question and gets only a hand gesture as a response, what exactly makes it read as "jocular"? Isn't there something inherently brusque if not rude about only gesturing? It's a dismissive gesture too. And he concedes she asked "sweetly" -- though perhaps he's only keen about wordplay and he did not know how to restrain himself. Couldn't she justly have been taken aback at getting a gesture? Is it fair to peg her as playing gotcha?

As to the explanation, "That’s Sicilian" -- that's more complex. If a person hears that as threatening, is she being prejudiced, thinking too quickly of Mafiosi? How did he say it? Was he giving it a tough guy nudge? He chose to say "Sicilian," not "Italian." Are we wrong to pick up a Sopranos vibe?

I'm not saying Sweet didn't have to research the meaning of the gesture, and I'm not saying Scalia shouldn't have written the letter. I love the letter! It's hilarious!

CORRECTION: I originally wrote that the Boston Herald called Scalia an "Italian-American jurist," which I read here. They called him an "Italian jurist," much worse, of course.

UPDATE: Well, now the Herald has a photograph and, though Scalia lookes reasonably "jocular" in the picture, the photographer is saying "'The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, 'To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo.'" Sweet won't confirm that Scalia said that word, which really is an obscenity. Remember when Scalia was saying his kids said he should get out more because it "it makes it harder to demonize you"?

The "boiled babies" remark.

So Berlusconi insulted Mao? Find something more substantial to get mad about -- even if you are celebrating the "Year of Italy."
[Berlusconi's] comments on Maoist China were first made at a rally on Sunday.

"I am accused of having said that the [Chinese] Communists used to eat children," he said.

"But read The Black Book of Communism and you will discover that in the China of Mao, they did not eat children, but had them boiled to fertilise the fields."

He tried to calm the furore on Wednesday, telling Italian TV: "It was questionable irony, I admit it, because this joke is questionable. But I did not know how to restrain myself."
"It was questionable irony, I admit it, because this joke is questionable. But I did not know how to restrain myself" -- I love that. Our politicians should try that apology format: I did not know how to restrain myself.

"The 'War on Christmas' has morphed into a 'War on Christians.'"

Presumably, these "War on Christians" people have some valid complaints, so why are they adopting a label that is so offputting and makes them look like idiots and paranoids? The answer is obvious: They're only talking to each other.

The new U.S. News law school rankings are out.

So what's going on at your school over these things? Wailing and gnashing of teeth? Jubilation? Smug boredom? Sighs of relief? A small twinge of satisfaction followed by the cranking forward of the mental gears -- how can we squeeze out another point next year? Kicking yourself because the school you picked because of the rankings is now below the school you assumed it was better than? A quick stab of pain followed by immediate retreat to the usual painkiller thoughts about how the rankings don't really mean anything -- soft variables and intangibles!

UPDATE: The rankings at the link are not yet the new rankings. I'm responding to leaked rankings that I've seen, which I won't link to.

March 28, 2006

"American Idol" -- the final 10.

Without a pause to explain the theme and, apparently, no guest star, they just spring Lisa Tucker on us. She sings a big Kelly Clarkson hit song -- "Because of You" -- and it's a ragged, ugly song in Lisa's hands. The judges savage her. Ryan comforts her. Now she can sit out the rest of the show and hope that somebody falls on his/her face.

Kellie Pickler lays it on thick with a country song, "Suds in the Bucket." (I think the theme is "Songs of the 21st Century," in other words, songs of the last few years.) Her voice is irritatingly thin and harsh. The judges hate the song. "You choose some gimmicky, rodeo, lassoing -- whatever -- novelty song," says Simon. He should add that she sang that crappy song crappily.

Ace Young sings a kind of cool Elton Johnish song called "Drops of Jupiter." He keeps his voice up high and sounds pretty good, even though he seems ackward and, actually, scared. We see his hand shaking like mad in a closeup. He pulls his shirt to the side at one point, and I just think he's being a little spastic, but talking to Paula, he reveals a big, horrible scar there! I go back to see what the lyric of the song was at the point when he drew attention to it: "Tell me, did you fall for a shooting star/One without a permanent scar/And did you miss me while you were looking at yourself out there." So! That was a crafty, intriguing song choice. It's not a surgery scar, because it's an inch wide. None of the judges like him, but suddenly I do. Am I a sucker for scars? No, I like the old candy-pop Elton John sound. Ryan asks him about the scar: it's a basketball injury!

Taylor Hicks knows he's got fans, like that kid in the audience who's spray-painted his hair gray. He sings "Trouble." "I've been upSET by a woman." Simon complains about his leather jacket and jeans outfit. He's becoming generic? Simon wants to keep Taylor in his box: slightly square and inexplicably weird. But Taylor sexed up tonight, and I don't think he'll lose any fans this way.

Mandisa, God bless her, is going to sing a straight out gospel song, "Wanna Praise You." She's been singing it in church for years, she tells us, and it's a testimony that there's nothing too hard for God. "God has broken every chain." Frankly, she could have sung that more gloriously. Paula, blasphemously: "There's a new religion, and 40 million people have now joined the church of Mandisa." Simon: "I thought that was a bit indulgent. I just didn't get that. Not for me." The atheist!

Chris Daughtry gets an interview to start, and the point is made that his version of "Walk the Line" last week was Live's. He is required to genuflect to Live: "You worship them, actually, don't you, kinda?" He's doing "What If," by Creed. It's hard to sing-yell like that. It's the heaviest song anyone has ever sung on "American Idol." If they don't pay him respect, they are simply admitting that rock doesn't belong on the show. And Simon admits it! "There is a line you don't cross. Creed would not be seen dead on this show. The show is 'American Idol.'" Dammit, do I actually have to start voting?

Katharine McPhee, "The Voice Within." "Life Is a Journey." Give me a damned break! Horrendous! She has completely alienated me with this song. Hate, hate, hate.

Bucky Covington. "Real Good Man," a country song. He's got a cowboy hat and a western-style shirt. The song is a complete mess, you know, the kind of thing where you feel you can't even find the song in all that.

Paris Bennett interviews that she's going to be young. "Work It Out." And then she beats us over the head with young. It's desperate. "I can't wait for the bedroom." Wait! She's 17! Please, it's not worth it. She does this jerkily sinuous thing with her body. Is this her or what someone told her she needs to be? It's painful. The worst thing about the show is pushed in our face here. Judges? Randy: "The bomb!" Paula: "Awesome." Please, Simon? "Like a little girl pretending to be Beyoncé. Whoopee." Simon is utterly right here, I have to say, even though what he said about Chris irked me. The fact is, Simon has his feet on the ground. America, listen!

Elliott Yamin. They put him last. That means something. "I Don't Want to Be." He bobs up and down. I detest this song. It just seems sloppy and pointless. But he has soul. They told us that. I take it on faith that he can sing.

Who will leave? It's Bucky and Lisa on the line. One goes this week, and one goes the next. But maybe we'll get lucky and Kellie will be excised.

ADDED: I'm thinking that at this point it has become a contest about maintaining a grip on one's humanity. In that light, who is not lost? The women are losing it faster than the men. Perhaps only Mandisa retains her grip, but even that is questionable. The men are slipping. Chris and Taylor might still have a hold on what is left of themselves. But perhap the only person left is Elliott.

The amazing comments thread.

Have you noticed that this post from last Thursday has over 350 comments and that people with strongly opposed views on the hot topic of gay marriage are keeping up a substantive debate that has not deteriorated into abuse? A similar debate took place the previous Friday, going up to 290 comments.

The argument in Hamdan.

SCOTUSblog describes today's oral argument in the Hamdan case:
For the most part, the session was subdued and understated, especially given the historic dimensions of the dispute before the Court -- a major test of Executive power in the midst of vigorous presidential responses to a proclaimed "war on terrorism." But there was definitely an emotional high point, and that came when Breyer, then Souter, focused on the law that Congress passed late last year that threatened to scuttle the Hamdan case, and all other pending court cases filed by foreign nationals now being detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. That law, the Detainee Treatment Act, is a court-stripping measure that raises serious questions about whether President Bush's orders dealing with captured foreign detainees will ever be fully tested in court.
Much more at the link.

Here's Gina Holland's description of the argument (for AP):
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy questioned Solicitor General Paul Clement about the legal safeguards for the trials. Justice Stephen Breyer also asked what would stop the president from holding the same type of trial in Toledo, Ohio, not just at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Hamdan claims the military commissions established by the Pentagon on Bush's orders are flawed because they violate basic military justice protections.

"This is a military commission that is literally unburdened by the laws, Constitution and treaties of the United States," [Hamdan's lawyer, Neal] Katyal told justices.
UPDATE: Here's Linda Greenhouse:
Justice Souter interrupted [Solicitor General Paul Clement]. "Isn't there a pretty good argument that suspension of the writ of habeas corpus is just about the most stupendously significant act that the Congress of the United States can take," he asked, "and therefore we ought to be at least a little slow to accept your argument that it can be done from pure inadvertence?"

When Mr. Clement began to answer, Justice Souter persisted: "You are leaving us with the position of the United States that the Congress may validly suspend it inadvertently. Is that really your position?"

The solicitor general replied: "I think at least if you're talking about the extension of the writ to enemy combatants held outside the territory of the United States —"

"Now wait a minute!" Justice Souter interrupted, waving a finger. "The writ is the writ. There are not two writs of habeas corpus, for some case and for other cases. The rights that may be asserted, the rights that may be vindicated, will vary with the circumstances, but jurisdiction over habeas corpus is jurisdiction over habeas corpus."

Flipflopping on celery.

The Smoking Gun has some documents showing the John Kerry's demands when staying at hotels when he was campaigning for President. On the first document, there's a list of various foods, and then "Note: JK Hates Celery!" But then on the fourth page of documents, we see that he wants "Vegetables -- preferably organic, not the precut ones" and the first thing on the list of vegetables is "Celery." He's flipflopping on celery.

UPDATE: I can see I'm being unfair. The intro to the documents indicates that the later pages include things for his wife, so the celery is for her. Sorry! And let me add that I have no problem with people making detailed requests like this. His staff should be taking steps to preserve his health and mood. And I'm impressed by how healthy these choices are.

"He was eventually diagnosed with A.D.W., or Attention-Deficit What; then A.D.H.S.T., or Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Stop That..."

"... and, after that, A.D.P.O.Y.P., or Attention-Deficit Put On Your Pants. Finally, I realized that Billy is a Dandelion Child, a term used for unusually bright and active children whose special powers will someday change the world."

Paul Rudnick takes on the Indigo Child delusionals.

Finding the crack...

... in Northern Wisconsin.

Watching real polygamists watch fictional polygamists.

The NYT watches some real polygamists watching HBO's fictional polygamists on "Big Love":
"This is a glimpse of a family that is mainstream," Mary Batchelor, a 37-year-old mother of seven and director of "Principle Voices," a leading polygamy advocacy group, said of the Henricksons.
Batchelor. I love when the real life names seem like a screenwriter's concoction.
"There are hundreds of these families. It shows an aspect of polygamy nobody ever sees. Before, you saw families in crisis." She referred to media images of men being carted off to jail for beating women or children or marrying child brides.

"This is making all of America say 'Why is there a law against polygamy?' " said a 55-year-old woman who wanted to be known only as Doris, because she feared repercussions at her new job after years of staying at home with her 14 children in suburban West Jordan. "This guy is just trying to support his family, and the family is just trying to make it."

While the women said "Big Love" had too much skin and not enough religion or humor for their taste, they agreed that it portrayed the Henricksons like any other American family, especially in an era of mixed marriages of all sorts, gay partnerships, single parents and serial monogamy.
Uh-oh, the NYT is helping the anti-gay marriage crowd with its slippery slope argument!

The show is written by two gay men, by the way, which makes us tend to assume that they want the show to bolster the argument for gay marriage. From the Times article:
The creators of "Big Love," Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer (who along with the actor Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman are the executive producers of the series), said in a telephone interview that they were hearing all the criticisms and compliments. The show was conceived as a prism through which to look at the "struggle for the common good over the individual good" that exists in any family, Mr. Olsen said. He and Mr. Scheffer are partners in real life.

"The pro-polygamists think it's too dark," Mr. Olsen said. "The anti-polygamists don't think it's dark enough. I think we've split the baby down the middle." The men said they spent almost three years researching the show, talking to experts and reading everything from sociological tracts to official Mormon records.

Mr. Scheffer said future episodes would explore some of the darker aspects of polygamy, like the abuses of patriarchy.
It sounds to me as though they are trying to write a complex story. You can't make good shows if the main thing you are thinking about is your political agenda. Olsen and Scheffer have created a great set of characters, with immense dramatic potential, and they need to let things happen without paying too much attention to how everything will affect various political issues.

In the most recent episode -- the third one -- they had a character who was explaining polygamy say "We're like the homosexuals." But I didn't get the sense the writers were trying to sell us that argument. When a fictional character says something, we always have to wonder whether that's something to believe or resist. If we didn't, it wouldn't be art.

The politics of old signage.

The historic preservation of large industrial neon signs is a political battlefield. Consider that big Wonder Bread sign in Seattle:
The San Diego company that is developing the 1.6-acre property said the sign would be donated to the nearby Pratt Institute of Fine Arts. But that has some neighborhood residents worried that Pratt will auction it off to wealthy collectors. They strongly suspect that "Wonder Bread", or "Wonder" or "Bread" — or just "W" or "B," for that matter — would be a hot commodity for the growing set of neon industrial art aficionados....

Bill Bradburd, an artist who moved here from San Francisco, said the Wonder Bread sign was really a symbol of a "bait and switch" on the part of city officials. Mr. Bradburd, who lives near the bakery and is a co-chairman of the Jackson Place Community Council, said development was moving at such a fast pace that city officials who had promised to protect the character of Seattle's neighborhoods were instead seizing on the dollars flowing in.

Mr. Bradburd and others on the council want the sign displayed publicly near the site of the bakery. He is at odds with some, though, by proposing the sign be split up, putting "Read" over a local library and perhaps "Wonder" over a new elementary school.

But is the tension over these 11 red letters, each six feet tall, really about the sign?

"These battles over saving something old are proxy battles," said David Brewster, the founder of Town Hall, Seattle's cultural center, who is writing a history of the city since the 1962 World's Fair here. "They are really battles against traffic, although of course gentrification weighs in."
Interesting. But what made me want to blog about this NYT article when I saw it in the paper version was a quote that doesn't appear on-line. Between the second and third paragraphs of what I've quoted, there's this quote from Bradburd:
"I think it's part of the rightward movement, at least perceived rightward movement in the country," he said, "where a developer in sheep's clothing turns into a corporate pig."
Why take that out? It's the spiffiest quote in an article about the politics of old signage.

These signs must have been considered quite ugly for a long part of their existence. And look at the Wonder Bread sign:

It actually is ugly, especially if you take into account all that metal junk holding it up. It's funny that it's Wonder Bread that symbolizes the rich goodness of the past, when Wonder Bread has traditionally symbolized the sterile blandness of the present.
"Seeing the cookies and bread on the assembly belts, it was a show," said Adrienne Bailey, who grew up near the factory and is now secretary to the Central Area Neighborhood District Council. "It was a smell blocks before you got there. Oh, I have beautiful childhood memories of Twinkies and pies, and a beautiful big red neon sign, all lit up."
That reads like a satire, written in the 1960s, about what nostalgia would be like in the future.

Americans used to have memories of mom's homemade pies and now there's the love of the old factory that cranked out processed foods. And, strangely, those who favor the historic preservation of the site paint their opponents as corporate pigs.

IN THE COMMENTS: More ideas for how to break up the Wonder Bread sign to make other signs for other places.

March 27, 2006

"The Apprentice."

Was it a little dull tonight without Brent to kick around?

Another make-a-commercial task. I'm tired of that. And for a cruise ship! Ugh! Don't you detest cruise ships? Trying to make them appealing? I'm against it.

And that diamonds reward? We can't tell you how much this stash is worth, but it's more than $100 million. Now, hold these diamonds in tweezers so they can slip out and fall on the floor. That's entertaining. The Apprenti are told to pick a diamond to keep, and we get to see one woman decide that bigger is better, but we never hear whether she really did pick the most valuable one. So what was that all about? Just: diamonds are expensive! And this is a show about expensive stuff, so why not diamonds?

"Everybody used to refer to me as the 20th hijacker and it was a bit of fun."

Zacharias Moussaoui explains why he signed the confession. Now, he only admits to knowing that the 9/11 attacks would take place. But he reveals that there was a plan for him -- along with the shoe bomber, Richard Reid -- to hijack a fifth airplane to attack the White House.

MORE: From the NYT:
Mr. Moussaoui said there were times when a Muslim can lie without being immoral: to reconcile Muslims, to answer "yes" when a wife asks, "Am I beautiful?" and to carry out jihad.

When Mr. Spencer asked if his refusal to tell the truth after his arrest in August 2001 reflected his refusal to give up his jihadist dream, the defendant did not disagree. "You're not dead until you're dead," he said.

"Go to the far corners of the Earth... they don't really know what Mount Vernon or Monticello or Hearst Castle are, but they know what Graceland is."

Graceland, Gracelandmark.

Hamdan and the arcana of jurisdiction stripping.

Linda Greenhouse writes about the Hamdan case, to be argued in the Supreme Court Tuesday:
In the face of a measure that Congress passed and President Bush signed into law in late December to strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over cases brought by detainees at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where Mr. Hamdan has been held since 2002, the court must decide whether it retains the right to proceed with this case at all.

For a court that has been highly protective of its own prerogatives, but at the same time notably attentive to the often arcane limits on federal court jurisdiction, the question is one of great delicacy, infused with historical resonance.
In my modern "Dictionary of Received Ideas," the entry for "Federal Jurisdiction" is: call it arcane. Being arcane, it's can be a good way to dispose of pesky problems. If you want to do a little sleight of hand, jurisdiction is a good move. We Federal Jurisdiction lawprofs make it our business to detect the fakery. But it's not all fakery, and the Constitution gives Congress some powers to check the courts, including the power to cut back their jurisdiction. The questions here are whether this statute cuts even pending cases, like Hamdan's, and whether that cut back goes beyond the scope of the power.

If there is jurisdiction, then the Hamdan case will deal with the validity of using military tribunals for the Guantanamo detainees.

More on Hamdan after the oral argument.

ADDED: SCOTUSblog has a good preview, including details about a possible 4-4 split vote and what it would mean. (John Roberts has recused himself, because he participated in the case at the Court of Appeals level. There's also a controversy about whether Antonin Scalia should recuse himself, given some remarks he made about the issue recently.)

MORE: Captain Ed is pretty hard on Scalia. You know, what bothers me the most about Scalia's statement is: "I had a son on that battlefield and they were shooting at my son, and I'm not about to give this man who was captured in a war a full jury trial." Much as I respect the son's service and the father's pride in it, the interests or activities of your friends and family should have absolutely no effect on how you decide a case. Are we to think that if the enemy were only shooting at someone else's sons, he'd take a different view of the issue?

CORRECTION: I've corrected the original text to show that the argument is on Tuesday, not Monday.

"The Sopranos."

There's an excellent Television Without Pity forum on last night's new episode of "The Sopranos." (Spoiler alert.)

Everyone is quite taken with the scene at the well-lit house in the woods. It reminded people of "Titanic" and "The Shining" -- that elegant invitation to join the dead in a beautiful place. Was it hell? Did we see Livia inside? Then it can't be heaven! Why was Steve Buscemi listed in the credits as "The Man"? Tony didn't recognize him, though he seems to have recognized his mother.

What does the briefcase symbolize? It's Finnerty's briefcase, but now it seemed to contain Tony's life or his identity. We all get the "infinity" reference by now: Kevin Finnerty (who "drives a Lexus," the guy at the bar joked last week, alluding to that non-Lexus, Infiniti). I think the briefcase is his soul, and if he goes into death with the wrong soul -- Finnerty's/sin-burdened -- he will go to hell. He needs to take his baggage back into life and make things right.

Lots of folks can't stand Vito. Why has he become such an important character? Surely, not merely because the actor has "slimmed" down. (He's still very fat!) It must be that they are setting him up for slaughter. (He should be fattened for that, though!) The TWoP commenters are rooting for killing Vito, because they find the character boring. And he is too boring to become a main character. So, it's true: he's got to go. There's the homosexual theme with Vito, and that seemed to have something to do with his wolfing down a bagful of little carrots. Oh, the symbolism is rampant!

Some commenters complained about the revival of the Christopher-as-a-screenwriter theme. But then someone pulled that together with everything else that was going on in the episode. Christopher's ridiculous movie plot has a murdered mob boss reassembling his body and coming back from the dead to take revenge on those who betrayed him, and Tony is about to come back from the dead, and we were just seeing how his various underlings are scheming to take over. Therefore, we'll see Tony go after these guys, right?

Everyone loved the scene where Paulie and Vito give Carmela the envelope and she takes a second look at them as the elevator doors close. Edie Falco did that well, don't you think? You understood that she understood. The fat envelope that Carmela was eager to set down resonates with the wrong briefcase that Tony gripped.

Someone raised a really good question that was bugging me too. Why were they acting like they were trying to talk Tony out of a coma when last week we heard that the coma was induced coma to deal with the fever and sepsis? The coma wasn't the problem! Now, suddenly, it is?

Anyway, great episode. I need to watch it a second time to appreciate all the details. For example, what is the writing teacher talking about to that class just before he's rousted out of it? Nuggets of insight must be embedded there. What is Meadow's role? Her lying in bed next to her father seemed important, and it was her voice that warned him not to enter the Death House. Will she be the only one in the end who can run the family?

March 26, 2006

Audible Althouse #42.

Here. A mere 26 minutes. Topics: the movie "Open Water," whether one ought to do physically adventurous things, marriage (a physically adventurous thing?), HDTV, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "My Dinner With Andre," the 1972 book "Open Marriage" and what it seemed to say about what would happen to marriage in the future, how tradition keeps its hold on us and on the Afghan courts with their case against the Christian convert Abdul Rahman, how Rahman's case challenges our thinking about independent courts and the rule of law, and -- finally -- some thoughts on podcasting.

(You don't need an iPod -- you can stream it on your computer here.)

The blogginess of blogs.

Isn't a blog just writing? Is there some style of writing needed to make a blog good? A propos of the Clooney-HuffPo affair, NYT writer Tom Zeller Jr. has a go at the hot issue of blogginess:
The best blogs ... aren't supposed to feel processed and packaged, or appear worried-over, even by the egos from which they spring. Reasoned, syntactic arguments and short, stately essays are for newspaper op-ed pages. Wry, bleary-eyed, observational ramblings make for the most dynamic — and believable — celebrity blogs....

[Alec] Baldwin ... in his latest "blog entry" at huffingtonpost.com, blows a mighty, stately and imploring wind — one that would be at home on any opinion page in the mainstream media. Nothing wrong with that, but then, what makes it a blog? "Help end these horrible and corrupt times in this country," Mr. Baldwin writes. "Give your contributions to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee."

Yeesh. Might as well be an ad for the World Wildlife Fund. Even Rosie O'Donnell's inscrutable, stream-of-consciousness postings at rosie.com capture the spirit of impromptu electronic nakedness that makes "blogging" something new and rangy and interesting.
Wouldn't Baldwin's essay be a crappy op-ed piece too? Zeller insults op-eds a lot more than he needs to as he tries to get to his point, which he does in an "impromptu," "rangy" way, even though he's writing in a newspaper.

Is there a key to blog writing? I think there is a lot of room for all sorts of writing on blogs. It's a form that we are inventing right now. Free-swinging stream-of-consciousness may characterize the early stages of this writing form, but there will be other developments, and some things that were cute will become tiresome.

"To strip marriage of its antiquated ideals and romantic tinsel and find ways to make it truly contemporary."

Remember "Open Marriage," that 1972 self-help-ish book? Well, let's reminisce about it, on the occasion of the death of one of its authors, Nena O'Neill:
"Open Marriage," as the book's champions said emphatically and often, was never intended to be a guide for swingers. Indeed, the book embraced marriage.

Its purpose, the authors wrote, was simply "to strip marriage of its antiquated ideals and romantic tinsel and find ways to make it truly contemporary."

Read today, "Open Marriage" is a period piece, a window onto a distant age of experimentation and abandon. Its ideas can appear shockingly ordinary, even quaint....

Three of the book's 287 pages explore, ever so tentatively, the elastic properties of marital fidelity. Forever after, those pages were all anyone seemed to remember about "Open Marriage."...

When "Open Marriage" appeared, some readers interpreted its choicest lines ("Sexual fidelity is the false god of closed marriage") as a license to cheat.

But on the very next page, the O'Neills seemed to back away from that provocative stance: "We are not recommending outside sex, but we are not saying that it should be avoided, either. The choice is entirely up to you."...

"The whole area of extramarital sex is touchy," Ms. O'Neill told The New York Times in 1977. "I don't think we ever saw it as a concept for the majority, and certainly it has not proved to be."
Only the elite few can pull it off with the requisite taste and élan. Surely, you don't think you're one of them! And yet the book was a huge best-seller, and even if you didn't read the book, you knew the phrase "Open Marriage." You read about it everywhere. "Open Marriage" would be the way of the future, life after the Sexual Revolution. Better get up to speed!

A dialogue from the era:
"I'm married."

"Don't you believe in Open Marriage?"

"Yardlong, spaghetti-thin worms erupted from the legs or feet — or even eye sockets — of victims."

The horrendous, ancient disease called Guinea worm:
[The worms] forc[ed] their way out by exuding acid under the skin until it bubbled and burst. The searing pain drove [victims] to plunge the blisters into the nearest pool of water, whereupon the worm would squirt out a milky cloud of larvae, starting the cycle anew.
Eliminating the disease only required disrupting this life cycle, mainly by putting a mild pesticide in various ponds. But it wasn't easy to do. Read about the efforts to treat one pond that people regarded as sacred:
[Those who came to treat the pond] found many of the village's women forming a human wall around it....

[T]he women shouted: "This disease is a curse from our ancestors, it has nothing to do with the pond water! If we let you touch anything, the ancestors will deal with us. We heard them crying all night!"
The good news is that the disease is on the verge of complete elimination. And, as the article explains, Jimmy Carter deserves much of the credit.

"What sociologists call the 'cool-pose culture' of young black men was simply too gratifying to give up."

Harvard sociology professor Orlando Patterson writes a powerful op-ed:
Several years ago, one of my students went back to her high school to find out why it was that almost all the black girls graduated and went to college whereas nearly all the black boys either failed to graduate or did not go on to college. Distressingly, she found that all the black boys knew the consequences of not graduating and going on to college ("We're not stupid!" they told her indignantly).

SO why were they flunking out? Their candid answer was that what sociologists call the "cool-pose culture" of young black men was simply too gratifying to give up. For these young men, it was almost like a drug, hanging out on the street after school, shopping and dressing sharply, sexual conquests, party drugs, hip-hop music and culture, the fact that almost all the superstar athletes and a great many of the nation's best entertainers were black.

Not only was living this subculture immensely fulfilling, the boys said, it also brought them a great deal of respect from white youths. This also explains the otherwise puzzling finding by social psychologists that young black men and women tend to have the highest levels of self-esteem of all ethnic groups, and that their self-image is independent of how badly they were doing in school.

I call this the Dionysian trap for young black men. The important thing to note about the subculture that ensnares them is that it is not disconnected from the mainstream culture. To the contrary, it has powerful support from some of America's largest corporations. Hip-hop, professional basketball and homeboy fashions are as American as cherry pie. Young white Americans are very much into these things, but selectively; they know when it is time to turn off Fifty Cent and get out the SAT prep book.

For young black men, however, that culture is all there is — or so they think.
Read the whole thing. Much of the piece is about the way sociology professors resist cultural explanations.

"A lack of information and a lot of legal gaps."

So says an anonymous official "closely involved with the case," giving the reason for dismissing the case against the Abdul Rahman, who faced the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity. An authorized speaker for the court pointed to "problems with the prosecutors' evidence," specifically, Rahman's mental fitness to stand trial.

Should we look closely at this to determine whether the court caved to political or moral pressure? Or should we keep our distance and feel vaguely good that the court found a way to reach a satisfying outcome? We sometimes ask ourselves these questions about our own courts. But our courts can bear intense scrutiny. The Afghan court had a hard task before it, and the human beings who hold the public trust made their way through it.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ... stressed the U.S. needs to respect the sovereignty of Afghanistan, which she called a "young democracy."

"We have our history of conflicts that had to be worked out after a new constitution. And so the Afghans are working on it. But America has stood solidly for religious freedom as a bedrock, the bedrock, of democracy, and we'll see." Rice said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Aptly put.

ADDED: Was Rahman mentally unfit?
Rahman, [before his release], said he was fully aware of his choice and was ready to die for it, according to an interview published Sunday in an Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

"I am serene. I have full awareness of what I have chosen. If I must die, I will die," Abdul Rahman told the Rome daily, responding to questions sent to him via a human rights worker who visited him in prison.

"Somebody, a long time ago, did it for all of us," he added in a clear reference to Jesus.

Rahman also told the Italian newspaper that his family - including his ex-wife and teenage daughters - reported him to the authorities three weeks ago.

He said he made his choice to become a Christian "in small steps," after he left Afghanistan 16 years ago. He moved to Pakistan, then Germany. He tried to get a visa in Belgium.

"In Peshawar I worked for a humanitarian organization. They were Catholics," Rahman said. "I started talking to them about religion, I read the Bible, it opened my heart and my mind."
Ah, but I just said, don't look too closely....

IN THE COMMENTS: Twwren writes:
It's Sharia Catch 22. He must be insane because any sane Muslim would reconvert to Islam therefore he cannot be executed.
I like having that part of the law and note that, extended, it would mean that anyone who embraces martyrdom for religion is insane. That's a useful idea. I hope they propogate it.