July 7, 2006

Talking on the phone, playing with the computer.

Forgive me, but Photo Booth is quite the distraction, even during an interesting phone call. It's the new doodling... and it's so self-absorbed.

Photo Booth

UPDATE: And then there's this.

"My hair is like dreadlocks. It's all sticking together."

The iPod as extreme hairstyling tool.

The plot to crack the Holland Tunnel and flood lower Manhattan.

Yes, the terrorists are idiots. That's part of the problem.

Medium Hot.

My, that was a passionate radio show! Were any of you listening? The show was not just about the Supreme Court, but a review of a lot of news stories from the past week. We started off with the controversy I blogged about here: "Teaching 9/11 denial at the UW-Madison." I'll be interested to hear how that sounds when they get the recording up. I felt very fired up and at one point, the other guest, Louis Fortis -- editor-in-chief of The Shepherd Express alternative newspaper and former Democratic state lawmaker -- says that he finds me scarier than the 9/11 denial teacher. Well, why don't you listen and let me know what you think.

Other subjects: Ken Lay's escape from punishment via death, whether North Korea is just trying to get attention, biased coverage on NPR, whether George Bush's visit to Wisconsin will help gubernatorial candidate Mark Green, immigration policy, the two same-sex marriage cases that came out yesterday.

Ah, the archived show can be streamed here now (the 8 a.m. show). Listen!

IN THE COMMENTS: Lot's of good stuff, but I especially love this one -- from Mitch -- about teaching 9/11 denial:
Can we look forward to UWM's Chemistry department offering courses in Phlogiston Theory, or maybe the Almegest will be used as the introductory astronomy text. And let us not forget to include the Progessive teachings of Lysenko in the Biology department. I mean, it's only fair to include opposing viewpoints in the interest of academic freedom.

Barrett's big mistake was wandering from the safe areas of moonbattery and conspiracy theories into the dangerous places where scientific falsifiability can strike down the unwary crackpot. Yes, you are entitled to your opinions and points of view, but you are not entitled to teach what has been proven false. Otherwise, what is the point of teaching anything at all?

"I've been popular before, as president."

"And I've been — people have accepted what I've been doing... Sometimes things go up and down. The best way to lead and the best way to solve problems is to focus on a set of principles. And do what you think is right."

Said President Bush on Larry King last night, as reported by Alessandra Stanley in the NYT, who prefaces that quote with this:
Mr. King's questions rarely rile his guests; instead, his cozy, incurious style encourages them to expose themselves.

And just as Liza Minnelli seemed to come unglued all on her own in her appearance on the show last March, Mr. Bush at times seemed tense and defensive even without needling from his host.
Mmmm.... so.... Bush makes a classic statement about the way he sticks to principle and does not get hung up on popularity, and the association is to please-please-love-me Liza Minnelli and coming unglued?

Well, I wasn't watching and am just reading the cold record. I didn't know this was on. I'm pretty much of a TiVo/HBO-on-Demand kind of TV watcher, and I never know what's on. If there's something I should be catching, somebody has to alert me.

Good morning.

It's a beautiful, cool morning here in Madison, WI. I'm going on the radio in about an hour -- at 8 Central -- to be on Joy Cardin's show on the Wisconsin Ideas Network. So listen in if you can get one of those stations, like WHA (in Madison). We'll be hashing over the Supreme Court term, and you can call in. Or check back for the archived show.

I'm eager to go in to the office, because my new computer needs company. Yesterday, it enjoyed the fulfilling experience of a long hot firewiring with the old computer. Here they are in the heat of passion -- right on the desk!

Two computers

You can see that the experience jarred the younger one into speaking with a Swedish accent.

And then, I'm predicting, it will be a good day for a lunchtime stroll down State Street. Or I could just set up at some sidewalk café and write, like my colleague, Richard Monette, who looked so casual and elegant yesterday, when I happened to walk by and ask if I could take his picture:

Sidewalk Café

July 6, 2006

Audible Althouse #57.

A train whistles in the distance. I almost remember a song by The Band. There's a café. A crossword. "Let freedom ring." The tragic Peter Handke. A siren. The documentary "The Staircase." The 70s song "The Americans." A 60s song by the Monkees. "Don't say you love me, say you like me." Walking by the lake. Fireworks. An anecdote about giving money to a beggar and how I react to it when I think it's told by a woman and, later, when I learn it's told by a man. And what should you call a woman, Ms., Mrs., or Miss?

Here's the podcast page. Here's the place to live-stream. And you know damned well you should be subscribing:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

Photo Booth.

I need to get out of the office, but I'm fooling around with the new computer. I discovered Photo Booth, which has various psychedelic effects:

Photo Booth

Photo Booth

Photo Booth

Really, I've gotta get out of here....

Where've I been?

Hmmm.... I see it's a hot traffic day here on the Althouse blog. I haven't been monitoring things -- not deleting the comment trolls. I just got a cool new iMac and it's been firewired to the old iMac duplicating virtually everything. It took a while, but when it was over I could restart and have the whole familiar environment on a spiffy bigger, clearer screen. And it's got a built-in camera. Presumably, I'm ready to vlog.

Only endorsing veterans.

Meanwhile, John Kerry is withholding support for Joe Lieberman:
Amy Brundage , a spokesman for Kerry's political operation... said the Massachusetts Democrat generally does not get involved in primaries, though Kerry has made exceptions in the past for candidates he favors. Earlier this year, he helped raise money for three Iraq war veterans who were involved in contested Democratic primaries for House seats....

Brundage said that this year, Kerry is endorsing only candidates in contested primaries who are veterans.
Much as I respect military service, I think status as a veteran is a ridiculous single issue basis for deciding between candidates. Among other things, it has a discriminatory impact on women. And what about individuals who oppose the war, like Kerry himself? Presumably, they wouldn't enlist. Presumably, he wouldn't enlist. What is this posturing about?

ADDED: How could I have forgotten? Kerry's preference for veterans is anti-gay!

AND: And there are many disabled persons who cannot qualify for the military.

Rejecting a state constitutional right to marriage for same-sex couples...

The New York Court of Appeals just announced its decision, and I'm glad to see it, though I'm a supporter of gay marriage. The more courts find a constitutional right here, the more they inspire the movement to amend constitutions and carve a ban in stone.

Citizens of Wisconsin take note: we don't need the amendment. Courts have gotten the message.

About the case from New York's highest court:
The decision called the idea of same-sex marriage "a relatively new one" and said that for most of history, society has conceived of marriage exclusively as a bond between a man and a woman. "A court should not lightly conclude that everyone who held this belief was irrational, ignorant or bigoted," the decision stated.

"There are at least two grounds that rationally support the limitation on marriage that the legislature has enacted," the court said, "both of which are derived from the undisputed assumption that marriage is important to the welfare of children."

First, the court said, marriage could be preserved as an "inducement" to heterosexual couples to remain in stable, long-term, and child-bearing relationships. Second, lawmakers could rationally conclude that "it is better, other things being equal, for children to grow up with both a mother and the father."

"Intuition and experience suggest that a child benefits from having before his or her eyes, every day, living models of what both a man and a woman are like," the court said.

The court rejected parallels to laws barring interracial marriage, and the claim that sheer homophobia lay at the root of current law. "Plaintiffs have not persuaded us that this long-accepted restriction is a wholly irrational one, based solely on ignorance and prejudice against homosexuals," the court said.
Fine. This is an issue that needs to be worked through the political system over time to reach a stable conclusion. I appreciate the arguments that have been made for same-sex marriage as a constitutional right, but these arguments work well -- work better -- in the political arena.

UPDATE: The Georgia Supreme Court just issued a decision reinstating the state constitutional ban on gay marriage:
Seventy-six percent of Georgia voters approved the ban when it was on the ballot in 2004. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case had argued that the ballot language was misleading. The ballot measure asked voters to decide on allowing both same-sex marriage and civil unions, which [the lower court judge] determined were separate issues about which many people have different opinions.

Biggest Emmy snub and the Emmy thing I'm thrilled about.

No nomination for Edie Falco. Good! I think she's a terrific actress, and she's done a great job of bringing dimension to the loathsome Carmela Soprano over the years, but the whole show was trying way too hard to deliver her the Emmy on a silver platter this season. I said it here:
Are these scripts a gift to Edie Falco? Is the actress groveling for an Emmy with all of these harshly lit, no-makeup bedside scenes?
I'm glad the Emmy people, whoever they are, stand up to this kind of begging. Beating her out for the nomination are Frances Conroy ("Six Feet Under"), Geena Davis ("Commander in Chief"), Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"), Allison Janney ("The West Wing") and Kyra Sedgwick ("The Closer").

But here's the real news I care about: Lisa Kudrow is nominated for "The Comeback." Her competition in the comic actress category: Stockard Channing ("Out of Practice"), Jane Kaczmarek ("Malcolm in the Middle"), Debra Messing ("Will & Grace") and Julia Louis-Dreyfus ("The New Adventures of Old Christine"). Though her show -- cancelled! -- did not get a nomination -- the comedies are "Arrested Development," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "The Office," "Scrubs" and "Two and a Half Men" -- perhaps the recognition she's getting might inspire HBO to let "The Comeback" come back. That was a brilliant, brilliant comedy, and her performance was truly sublime.

Come on, HBO, bring it back. I'll say I love "Lucky Louie" if you do!

ADDED: I see that the nomination procedures were changed this year:
In February, Emmy officials revamped guidelines in hopes of making the nominations more inclusive.

Under the new approach, the AP observes, blue-ribbon panels pick the five nominees each for comedy and drama series from 10 front-runners as decided by a vote of the academy's general membership. Videotapes of shows were used by panelists in their decisions. Previously, leading vote-getters in the general vote were declared the final nominees.


"Rape Gurney Joe."

There's some new terminology in the demonization of Joe Lieberman. I saw it first today in this post at Firedoglake, complaining about Democratic Senators who are supporting Lieberman in his reelection campaign. Tracing back, I found this earlier use, also in Firedoglake, commenting on something Boxer said at Yearly Kos and calling it "damn close" to "the dumbest thing anyone said":
Boxer enthusiastically expressed her support of her esteemed colleague with whom she had worked many times over the years, and said all of the opposition to Joe was based on his support of the war. She said other groups, like women, were backing Joe because he was so good on their issues. I like many things about Barbara Boxer so I’m going to assume here that she’s an idiot and not a liar.

The fact is that women in Connecticut are NOT happy with Joe Liebeman on their issues. In fact the head of Connecticut NARAL and Connecticut Planned Parenthood are EXTREMELY upset about Rape Gurney Joe telling rape victims to take a hike (literally) if they want emergency contraception and have the bad luck to be taken to a publicly funded, Catholic emergency room. In fact in a recent poll 74% of Connecticut voters think that Catholic hospitals should have to provide this necessary treatment to rape victims or get out of the fucking emergency medical business. Barbara Boxer seems, at best, a tad out of touch with what’s going on with Joe in his home state of Connecticut as she shows her support for the incumbency protection racket.

That Boxer is out of touch was backed up moments later in the hall when she turned on Curry, miffed at having been asked the question in the first place. "Why are you so focused on Lieberman?" she snapped. "Because everyone here is," he answered. This seemed to shock Boxer. Where exactly did her aides tell her she was speaking?
Boxer is one of the Senators who, we now see, will be campaigning for Lieberman (second link, above). So the shock she experienced at YearlyKos propelled her away from the candidate they are pushing (Ned Lamont), and caused her to become especially conspicuous in her support for Lieberman. Firedoglake's reaction to today's news -- first link, above -- goes this way:
If Boxer wants to come to Connecticut and spend some of her political capital on Rape Gurney Joe, she better bring a Brinks truck. Because the last time I encountered Barbara Boxer talking about Lieberman, she was sadly misinformed. It was during Yearly Kos, and she was saying that opposition to Joe was "all about the war" and that on women’s issues, he was great.

The women of Connecticut don’t think so. Before Boxer steps in the deep doo-doo Lieberman has created for himself with women in this state by his stance on Plan B and publicly funded Catholic hospitals, she might want to educate herself on his history. I’ll quote the great Connecticut Bob here:
Lieberman said he believes hospitals that refuse to give contraceptives to rape victims for "principled reasons" shouldn’t be forced to do so.

"In Connecticut, it shouldn’t take more than a short ride to get to another hospital," he said.
Well Joe, that’s not very helpful. I mean, I know that you’ll never need emergency contraception at two o’clock in the morning after having been brutally raped. So I guess it’s easy for you to disregard any woman who is unlucky enough to have gone through that trauma....

Well I’m off to start calling the ladies of Connecticut Choice Voice, I’m sure they’ll be there when Boxer shows up to ask a few pointed questions. And that will be me with the camcorder.
Well, what can I say? The label "Rape Gurney Joe" is so ugly that ordinary citizens will feel quite put off. I support abortion rights reproductive freedom, but I dislike the heavyhanded political use of abortion reproductive freedom to threaten those who have some moderate position. Surely, a willingness to accommodate the religious scruples of Catholic hospitals is not something that outrages ordinary people, even ordinary abortion rights reproductive freedom supporters. Firedoglake says that Catholics -- whose religion has caused them to devote so much hard work to providing medical care over the years -- need to "get out of the fucking emergency medical business" because they want to follow their religion's teaching about contraception. That's going to sound bizarre and scarily angry to a lot of people.

UPDATE: Firedoglake responded to me. She called me an "idiot" and depicted me as a baboon. Her main substantive point is that the Connecticut law is about contraception and therefore the politics surrounding it is disconnected from the abortion politics I've referred to. There's a lot of discussion of this point in the comments, and but clearly the imposition on Catholic beliefs doesn't depend on whether the drug is a contraceptive or an abortifacient. And the politics is of a piece with abortion rights, which is why NARAL and Planned Parenthood are talked about. I couldn't tell what drug was being referred to from the post of hers I commented on. Obviously, my concern is the ugly rhetoric, and her response to me is to go all out to alienate me with additional ugliness. Sigh.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I struck "abortion" and replaced it with "reproductive freedom" in the original post. Now, can you focus on my real point?

July 5, 2006

All Yolk Caveat.

Watch out for the eggs?

All You Can Eat

At the Yummy Buffet.

Global shaming.

Internet style.
Online disgrace creates so much buzz on blogs and in the media that companies are beginning to realize the devastating public relations effects brought on by these grass-roots exposés, said Gemma Puglisi, assistant professor of communications at American University.

"This has been a wake-up call for these companies," she said. "The day where you send a little letter to the CEO is over. In the age of technology, you have to be even more careful of how you treat your customers because you don't know where they're going to go. Now everything's out in the open."
I'm seeing a lot of MSM articles like this lately, probably triggered by the excellent (and popular) video of a guy -- Vincent Ferrari -- trying to cancel his AOL account. These articles often portray consumers as "angry," but what's especially impressive about Ferrari's video is how polite and reasonable he is. He's very competently creating a video to demonstrate a problem he's heard people had been talking about.

The great moment of recognition for me comes when the AOL rep says "Alright, some day when you calmed down you're gonna realize that all I was trying to do was help you... and it was actually in your best interest to listen to me." Ferrari's been unusually calm precisely because he's making the video in order to show how hard it is to cancel, yet the rep tries to make him feel guilty about getting overexcited. That must work on a lot of people, because it's such a common move. I know some customers really are pretty ridiculous and irrational, and the phone reps are just using the tricks they've been taught, but it's so bad when they use that trick on someone who is being civil.

I don't think that anecdote means what you think it means.

A letter in today's NYT:
After reading "The Lonely American Just Got a Bit Lonelier," I remembered how a few years ago, I had a friend visit me here in Pittsburgh, and we went strolling down a street with bookstores and cafes.

After passing a beggar with his can, my friend asked me if I could give him a couple of bucks, and thinking it was for a coffee at the adjacent cafe, I handed him the money.

To my amazement, he returned his steps and handed the money to the beggar. He then struck up a conversation.

A good five minutes later, he walked back toward me, and I told him that if I knew it was to give out free money, I wouldn't have given it to him.

He answered: "Here in America nobody talks to you. But for two bucks, I bought myself five minutes of conversation." Alexis Rzewski
Huh? What puzzles me about the writer's apparently fond remembrance of this story is not so much that the friend deceived her and implicitly expressed opprobrium by extracting money from her to give to the beggar she'd just passed by, it's that the guy made her stand around waiting while he had a five minute conversation with the beggar and then delivered a sermonette about it. "For two bucks, I bought myself five minutes of conversation"? Damn, I would have said we were just having a conversation for free and then you made me stand around with no one to talk to while you had to act like you were befriending him so you could think especially well about yourself -- and come back and brag about it. I sure as hell wouldn't have treasured the memory for years and then written to the NYT about it as if the friend had taught me an important life lesson.

ADDED: This item got me thinking about the horrid Bette Midler song (written by John Prine), "Hello in There," you know the one that ends:
So if you're walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
Please don't just pass 'em by and stare
As if you didn't care, say, hello in there, hello.

"I'm not anorexic."


That's Keira Knightley at the premiere of "Dead Man's Chest." That photo along with that movie title ... a little disconcerting.

ADDED: I actually think the dress, creating a breastless look, is cool. Really daring and different.

"Habitrail house," "packer house," "multiple waiting to happen," "Collyers' Mansion."

A few different terms for houses like the one where "Homer and Langley Collyer were found dead in 1947 amid more than 100 tons of stockpiled possessions, including stacks of phone books, newspapers, tin cans, clocks and a fake two-headed baby in formaldehyde."
Thomas Von Essen, a former New York City fire commissioner, said that the term communicated crucial information to new firefighters. "What's dangerous is that all this stuff could fall down," he said. "Or it could weaken the floors, and when you put water on it you could have a collapse. You could fall into it and then you have a hard time getting out. You could get caught behind it; your mask could get tangled. I could guarantee you that people have gotten hurt in those kinds of situations."
Makes me think about this pretty cool movie. There are various other fiction and nonfiction stories on this subject. Can you remember some?

Today's art assignment...

Invisibilia. Via Drawn!, where the commenters are having flashbacks to that A-ha video.

Teaching 9/11 denial at the UW-Madison.

Kevin Barrett, founder of the Muslim Jewish Christian Alliance for 9/11 truth, has made his theory part of the Introduction to Islam course he will teach here at the University of Wisconsin.
''The physics of those collapses clearly could not have resulted from plane crashes and jet fuel fires with office materials.'' Barrett says jet fuel does not burn hot enough to melt steel, and says recent tests on melted steel from the building prove his theory that it was wired to collapse, by the Government.

Barrett says the Bush Administration is fooling the American public with the Adolf Hitler 'Big Lie Technique'... ''Tell them a little lie and they'll wonder about it - weapons of mass destruction in iraq was a relatively little lie - and people are getting called on it.'' Barrett says. ''Tell em a big lie like 9/11 and they have a huge resistance to questioning it.''
I have a huge resistance to believing that this will be taught at my university.

Barrett defends himself in classic academic form, saying he's presenting different interpretations and promoting debate and critical thinking and citing academic freedom.

More here:
[T]he Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance, which claims the Bush administration planned the attacks to create a war between Muslims and Christians. He argues that members of the faiths must work together to overcome the belief that terrorists were to blame.

"The 9/11 lie was designed to sow hatred between the faiths," Barrett has written on the organization's Web site.

"Either we discuss the compelling evidence that 9/11 was an inside job, or there is precious little to talk about."
The university has issued a statement saying it is reviewing the matter "to ensure that his course content is academically appropriate, of high quality, and that his personal views are not imposed on his students."

I'm just noticing the story this morning, but I see that it heated up last week after Barrett appeared on Jessica McBride's radio show. McBride has blogged the story: here (noting, among other things, that Barrett will be teaching "a large introductory course for undergrads and supervis[ing] several TAs" and that "Barrett says that his views are no surprise to his colleagues. In fact, he claims they are shared by many of them"), here (asking whether "the UW draw[s] any line about who it hires to teach courses when it comes to political views"), here (providing the syllabus for the course and the reading list), here (comparing the university's response to its response when the student newspaper published the Muhammad cartoons), and here (dealing with academic freedom saying "He didn't have academic freedom claims until they gave it to him. They MADE him an academic.").

UPDATE: The Capital Times -- the afternoon newspaper here in Madison -- has this editorial, aimed at State Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, who "called on the UW to bar [Barrett] from teaching."
The vitriol that Nass is spewing now is similar to the language he used last year to attack another academic with whom he disagrees University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill. Nass tried to prevent UW-Whitewater from letting Churchill speak at a student-sponsored event....

If Barrett tries to force his views about 9/11 on students, he will be called on it. But everything he has said suggests that he will be a responsible instructor. Indeed, Barrett has been very specific about the fact that he wants to try to "present all defensible sides of important issues" and "let students make up their own minds."

That sounds a lot like the values expressed on a plaque at the UW that reads: "Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found."

Steve Nass should go up to Bascom Hall and read the plaque before he starts telling this great university to fire controversial instructors.
But you don't find the truth by "sifting and winnowing" in a pile of obviously worthless ideas. And you don't learn to exercise critical thinking by reading a lot of material that is clearly wrong. And could the Capital Times learn the difference between "controversial views" and crackpot conspiracy theories? Focusing on the statements of some Republican legislator is a very easy route for the Madison newspaper. How about paying some attention to the interests of students who would like to be able to take a creditable introductory course on Islam? How about some consideration for Muslims who may not appreciate having their religion connected with ridiculous, unscientific, politically motivated bilge? How about a little less attention to the inflammatory question of whether a teacher should be fired and a little more attention to how he got the job in the first place?

July 4, 2006

"You're beautiful."

A man's first sentence, after 19 years in a coma, spoken to his 19 year-old daughter.
He has a granddaughter now, Amber's child, Victoria, and the 2-year-old does not seem bothered by the pale man with the dark mustache and the inward-turned arms. He does not feel any physical pain, he told his parents, and he has no real sense of time. He also said recently that he was "proud" to be alive.
The man, Terry Wallis, is front-page news because he is the subject of scientific study, and the study may help us make decisions about persons in a persistent vegetative state (where 100,000 to 200,000 Americans exist). It's very rare to emerge from this condition, but if it has ever happened, people have hope that it can happen to their loved one. We all remember the hope Terri Schiavo's parents had for her. Will studying Terry Wallis will make it possible to tell when that hope is justified? Or will images of Wallis's brain be used to point out differences between him and the person you're holding out hope for. If you loved someone and saw signs of consciousness in them, would you give up because they were demonstrably different from one person who did recover?


Are you proud to be alive? It is quite an accomplishment.

Another Madison walk.

Up early, blogging a couple photos, I felt the breeze and decided to get out -- with camera -- while the temperature was 65°. There was nobody around. Just the occasional beast:

University Heights

There were gardens:


With flowers trying to break out of their cage:

Caged flowers

There were vistas:

Lake Mendota

And readers lined up along vistas:

Lake Mendota

It was a longish walk, and I know your question is: What was the Althousian hiking shoe?


"I've lost my identity, because I never talked like this before."

Foreign accent syndrome.

Summer holiday.

Find yourself a shady spot.

Picnic Point

Life is good.


Beauty is everywhere.

July 3, 2006

"It's like you order a pizza and Dylan brings you a pile of dog food..."

Wayne Coyne (of The Flaming Lips) on Bob Dylan:
"What can an eighteen-year-old possibly care about a wrinkled-up old man with a pencil-thin mustache hunched over a keyboard?" he asks incredulously. "I mean, have you seen Dylan lately? You can't recognize a single song he plays anymore. It's like you order a pizza and Dylan brings you a pile of dog food, and you're like, 'What's this? I ordered pizza.' And Dylan says, 'This is my version of a pizza.'"
Ths image is Dylanesque, but Dylan's image would be better:
Now you see this one-eyed midget
Shouting the word "NOW"
And you say, "For what reason?"
And he says, "How?"
And you say, "What does this mean?"
And he screams back, "You're a cow
Give me some milk
Or else go home"

Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
But I'm not attacking Mister Coyne. And I like that Rolling Stone put up the audio of its interview with him, which is mostly not about Dylan.

Lieberman will ensure that he can run without his party's nomination.

WaPo reports. Cursing at Kos. Firedoglake says "Sore Loserman." Isn't it strange to see Democrats cursing him with the very wordplay that drove them up the wall in 2000?

"You have no idea how happy I feel here... By late evening, I find myself dreading the moment it will close for the night."

"It" is the Starbucks of Kandahar.

"For most people, it's just too complicated."

Said prostitute/prostitute's rights activist Stephanie Klee, trying to explain why the World Cup competition hasn't done much for the prostitution business in Germany. Keep in mind, the prostitution in Germany is legal. The guys all go to bars together, she theorizes, and "It's difficult to say to your friends, 'I'm going to leave you now and go to a brothel for 20 minutes.' That's not normal behavior."

So much for sex. It's just too complicated. It keeps you from hanging out with the guys at the bar. You know, the normal behavior.


I'll be on the "Midday" show at 11 Central Time this morning, talking about the Supreme Court. You'll be able to stream it here later.

UPDATE: Stream it here. It's a call-in show, but almost everyone opted to email. I comment on that at one point.

Swarms of salps.

And their "sinking fecal pellets" -- upon which few animals feed. Is Al Gore taking this into account?

"Once personal wealth exceeds about $12,000 a year..."

"... more money produces virtually no increase in life satisfaction." That's what the happiness experts tell us.
Wow. Let's pause a moment to let all priests, nuns and anarchists take a bow and say, "I told you so!"

"People grossly exaggerate the impact that higher incomes would have on their subjective well-being," said Alan Krueger, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University and an author of the study.
Who presumably makes a salary more than ten times that $12,000.
"If you want to know why I think poor people are not that miserable, it is because they are able to enjoy things that Bill Gates has not been able to enjoy, given his schedule at Microsoft," Krueger surmised....

"One of the mistakes people make is they focus on the salary and not the non-salary aspects of work," Krueger said. "People do not put enough weight on the quality of work. That is why work looks like, for most people, the worst moments of the day."
A professor has an interesting perspective on this sort of thing. You have a good salary, so you don't know the pains of really struggling to get by. You have nice working conditions, and you're inclined to take note of that when you compare yourself to people in jobs that pay even more than yours. Oh, those people are so busy and harried that they can't really enjoy life. Of course, this kind of thinking demonstrates exactly that human capacity to rationalize and come to terms with your situation that enables us to find a way to enjoy life under all sorts of conditions. Like only making $12,000.

"The city is saturated with pot clubs."

"Fisherman's Wharf is a tourism attraction, and this is not the kind of tourism we're trying to attract."

July 2, 2006

If the book's short enough.

The free sample is the whole book. And -- best of all -- it's Dr. Seuss.

ADDED: Seussian politics:
Think of left! And think about Beft. Why is it that Beft always go to the left? And why is it so many things go to the right? You can think about that until Saturday night. Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!

Sunday, summer, Madison.

I park the car downtown and walk to a café.


I've saved my favorite part of the Sunday Times:

Café, crossword

The puzzle is too easy. With a predictable holiday theme, the trick glyph is detected right away, and the long down entry in the center is guessed without a glance at the clue. I scribble away. The puzzle's done and the cappuccino's not. I flip through the rest of the magazine and become mesmerized by Deborah Solomon's interview with Peter Handke.

What are we to think of this man -- this brilliant writer -- who spoke at the funeral for Slobodan Milosevic? Handke was loved, and now must he be shunned? What does he have to say?
I think [Milosevic] was a rather tragic man. Not a hero, but a tragic human being. But I am a writer and not a judge. I'm a lover of Yugoslavia — not so much Serbia, but Yugoslavia — and I wanted to accompany the fall of my favorite country in Europe, and this is one of the reasons to be at the funeral.
Handke too seems tragic. Look at that picture of him. And read on. Handke takes Solomon's interview format -- always short and trenchant -- and makes it sublime.
[Handke, noting his objection to novels as social criticism] Language is language, and language is not for opinions.

[Solomon] What is language for?

This is the question! This is a big question, and there is no answer. Language exists to become language in the great books.

Aren't we using language now in this conversation?

The most real dialogue for me is when I am alone, writing.
I fall into a reverie. Partly, I'm thinking is the most real dialogue for me when I am alone, blogging? Partly, I'm wondering if Handke's enigmatic sayings show he's a true artist or if this is exactly the way evil men speak. ["What is truth?"] That sets me thinking about the documentary series "The Staircase," which I've been watching over the past week. There, we see what a man chooses to reveal and accidentally reveals about himself: can we tell if he is a murderer?

I pack up and walk back to my car. I'm thinking of driving over to Borders and reading some Peter Handke. I've got the windows rolled down and the radio set to the 70s decade. At the light, some guys are trying to get my attention. They're smiling. Is it me or is it the quite strange song on the radio, "The Americans"?
I can name you five thousand times
When the Americans raced to the help of other people in trouble.
Can you name me even one time
When some one else raced to the Americans in trouble?
I don't think there was outside help
Even during the San Francisco earthquake.
Our neighbors have faced it alone.
And I'm one Canadian who's damned tired
Of hearing them kicked around.
They will come out of this thing with their flag high,
And when they do they are entitled to thumb their nose
At the lands that are gloating over their present troubles.
I hope Canada is not one of these,
But there are many smug self-righteous Canadians.
The song's a guy -- Byron MacGregor -- talking, with "America the Beautiful" playing in the background. The next song is disco, so I pop back to the 60s channel. It's the Monkees. Davy's singing "I Wanna Be Free." The gas tank icon buzzes on, and I change goals from Borders to the BP station. Filling the tank, I remember how thrilled I felt the first time I gassed up the car. I find I'm humming "I Wanna Be Free" to myself.
I wanna be free,
Don't say you love me, say you like me
But when I need you beside me,
Stay close enough to guide me,
Confide in me, whoa-oh-oh
Somehow the road out of the gas station leads me not to the bookstore, but over to the lake, and I park the car and walk all the way to the end of Picnic Point. Why has it been so long since I've done that?

Looking east, toward downtown. (See the Capitol?)

Picnic Point

Looking west:

Picnic Point

Looking down, contemplating the Althousian hiking shoe:


"I was thinking about Alicia Keys, couldn't help from crying..."

"When she was born in Hell's Kitchen, I was living down the line / I'm wondering where in the world Alicia Keys could be / I been looking for her even clean through Tennessee." From Bob Dylan's new album.

Rob Schneider had fainting spell?

That was my first thought on reading Terry Teachout's list "Five things you won't read about here." That and, well, what about Superman's politics? And has he solved his sexual problem yet? And why does it seem so weird that Star Jones Reynolds got so thin? And speaking of Reynolds, I see Glenn Reynolds is going ahead and talking about the the sixtieth anniversary of the bikini. Did Teachout not notice it was blog sweeps week?

What's the real reason you don't go to the movies?

Is it that you hate to commit to being off line that long? The paper version of this analysis of demographics and movies has a subtitle: "Teenagers are all online. But the old folks keep going to the movies."


What's with Hillary calling herself Mrs. Clinton?
Across the Capitol, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, is referred to as Mrs. Clinton at every roll call. Yet the women in the Senate are split: seven use Mrs., but the other six go by Ms., including three who are married: Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine; Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana; and Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan.
This is an old topic that you don't see discussed much anymore. I remember when "Ms." first came out -- both the magazine and the idea of coming up with a marriage-neutral form of address for women. Oddly, people eagerly adopted "Ms." It wasn't just a matter of acceding to feminist demands. It made life easier. People were already slurring "Miss" and "Mrs." together into "Miz" to cover up ignorance about a woman's marital status.

The linked article doesn't raise any of the old debates. It mostly just notes that women in politics have different preferences -- as between "Mrs." and "Ms.," that is. There's no discussion of whether any politician embraces the proud "Miss."

Yesterday, I was making a reservation at an American hotel, filling out the form on line, and I was surprised at the variety of forms of address I was offered to put in front of my name:
Signor e Signora
Hey, no "Professor"! (And what's with all those Italian choices, giving the feminine version of everything but "Professore"?) So I went with the usual "Ms." Even when I was married, I couldn't use "Mrs.," because I never took on a new last name. "Ms." was a good convenience for a married woman who kept her maiden name.

But why not "Miss"? There's something delightfully imperious about Miss, something diva-ish for the older woman, don't you think? I like the sibilance. There's sibilance in Ms., but it's lazy sibilance. I like the crisp Miss. My mother used to call me "Miss Ann" sometimes -- probably if she thought I was out of line. That's a positive now. And then there's the Little Richard song:
Oh, oh, oh, Miss Ann, you're doin' something no one can,
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Miss Ann, you're doin' something no one can,
Because believin' and deceivin', it's drivin' me to grievin' now.
Ha ha.

The story arc of the Supreme Court term.

It's the day for summing up the Supreme Court's just-ended term, the first with John Roberts as Chief, and Anthony Kennedy in full possession of the swing vote. Linda Greenhouse does the presentation for the NYT. I'm impressed by her ability to perceive a story arc in the train of individual cases:
In the court's most significant nonunanimous cases, Chief Justice Roberts was in dissent almost as often as he was in the majority. His goal of inspiring the court to speak softly and unanimously seemed a distant aspiration as important cases failed to produce majority opinions and members of the court, including occasionally the chief justice himself, gave voice to their frustration and pique with colleagues who did not see things their way....

The term's early period of unanimity, during which cases on such contentious subjects as abortion and federalism were dispatched quickly, with narrowly phrased opinions, reflected agreement not on the underlying legal principles but rather on the desirability of moving on without getting bogged down in a fruitless search for common ground. This was especially so in the term's early months, when Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was still sitting but was counting the days until a new justice could take her place.

Once Justice O'Connor retired in late January, after Justice Alito's confirmation, and as the court moved into the heart of the term, some of the court's early inhibitions seemed to fall away. Yet when its most conservative members reached out aggressively to test the boundaries of consensus in the term's major environmental case, Justice Kennedy unexpectedly pushed back and left them well short of their goal.
How much is this a story of how a group of individuals related to each other? The Court knows it has a termful of cases to resolve, and it is natural to sort through difficult work this way. Eliminate the things you aren't going to work on seriously, get through the things you can resolve simply and by consensus, and take the longest to work through the most difficult problems where there is the most divergent opinion.

But individuals matter, too. We got to see two new individuals on the Court, yet it is the role of Justice Kennedy that seems most prominent as we review the cases. That may seem odd, but it is not surprising. The center position deserves the most attention as we try to understand what happened in the most difficult cases. In the past, Justice O'Connor occupied that position along with Kennedy. Replacing O'Connor was a dramatic event, but once he took her seat, Samuel Alito made it less conspicuous, because he stayed fairly reliably with the conservative Justices. This put the spotlight on Kennedy. We're interested in the two new guys, but we're more interested in how the cases are decided, and that made Kennedy important. Did he, as Greenhouse writes, "push back," or did he simply continue to do what he's always done?

David Savage sums up for the L.A. Times, with the same unsurprising emphasis on Kennedy:
In the most divisive cases before the court in the term that just ended, it was Justice Anthony M. Kennedy who determined the outcome every time. In unpredictable fashion, he sided some of the time with the court's conservative bloc and some of the time with its liberals.
Was his "fashion" "unpredictable" or was his fashion predictably centrist, making outcomes unpredictable? And isn't it entirely appropriate that the outcomes are unpredictable?

July 1, 2006

"But Oliver — it's to the point where he drives me crazy, trying to get things right."

Will Jimeno, one of the officers depicted in the upcoming movie "World Trade Center," talks about working with the director Oliver Stone. Note well: his complaint is that Stone is being ultra-fastidious about accuracy. Does that sound like Stone?
"This is not a political film," he insists. "The mantra is 'This is not a political film.' Why can't I stay on message for once in a while? Why do I have to take detours all the time?"

He said he just wants to depict the plain facts of what happened on Sept. 11. "It seems to me that the event was mythologized by both political sides, into something that they used for political gain," he says. "And I think one of the benefits of this movie is that it reminds us of what actually happened that day, in a very realistic sense."

"We show people being killed, and we show people who are not killed, and the fine line that divides them," he continues. "How many men saved those two lives? Hundreds. These guys went into that twisted mass, and it very clearly could've fallen down on them, and struggled all night for hours to get them out."

By contrast Paul Haggis is directing the adaptation of Richard Clarke's book on the causes of 9/11, "Against All Enemies," for the producer John Calley and Columbia Pictures.

Asked if that weren't the kind of film he might once have tried to tackle, Mr. Stone first scoffs: "I couldn't do it. I'd be burned alive." Then he adds: "This is not a political film. That's the mantra they handed me."
This is a high-budget movie, and the people backing this film have got to have looked closely at why "United 93" was so well received. Their choices about how to present the Oliver Stone movie seem obviously informed by what allowed people to accept that earlier 9/11 movie, which was to look straightforwardly factual and to focus on common people portrayed as heroes. Stone's own words --"The mantra is..." "the mantra they handed me" -- reveal that he's under compulsion not to express his actual feelings. I assume it is all very political for him, but he must keep saying -- even while winking -- that it's not a political film.

The real, idiotically blind and self-regarding Stone comes out in the way he talks about what would have happened to him if he'd tried to do a film like "Against All Enemies": "I couldn't do it. I'd be burned alive." That's such a bad metaphor when you're in the middle of talking about a movie about the World Trade Center.

Trust us. We really did think deeply about it.

The editors of The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times explain how they decide when to publish a secret:
No article on a classified program gets published until the responsible officials have been given a fair opportunity to comment. And if they want to argue that publication represents a danger to national security, we put things on hold and give them a respectful hearing. Often, we agree to participate in off-the-record conversations with officials, so they can make their case without fear of spilling more secrets onto our front pages.

Finally, we weigh the merits of publishing against the risks of publishing. There is no magic formula, no neat metric for either the public's interest or the dangers of publishing sensitive information. We make our best judgment.
The two editors -- Dean Baquet and Bill Keller -- rely heavily on the idea that government officials shouldn't have the final say over what gets out and what remains secret. Citizens need to be able to evaluate these officials, who can't be trusted controlling the flow of information. As Baquet and Keller put it: "They want us to protect their secrets, and they want us to trumpet their successes." Government officials are biased toward suppressing things that make them look bad, and the press needs to bring out the full story, so that citizens can exercise the independent judgment that is crucial to democracy.

But the recently revealed secrets -- about the surveillance of telephone call patterns and financial transactions -- were not cases of government suppressing failures. These ongoing programs were successful, and revealing the secrets impaired the operation of very significant efforts in the war on terrorism. I realize that there are arguments that people need to know about successes that are subject to controversy: the telephone surveillance program is attacked as an illegal invasion of privacy.

Here, Baquet and Keller have written a lengthy defense of their behavior, behavior that they know has been severely criticized, even called "treason." Despite the length, the piece seems padded. Look at that last paragraph in the blockquote above. We judge, we weigh, we make judgments. Essentially, trust us. Trust us, because you shouldn't just trust the government. Agreed, but why should we trust you? We look at what you just did and feel mistrustful. What in these generic remarks cures that mistrust? You tell us you really did think about it. Those who abhor what you did will not feel inspired to trust you when you say this is where we ended up when we really thought deeply about it.

MORE: Here's a related article in tomorrow's NYT, going into the history of publishing government secrets. It quotes Ben Bradlee's memoir:
"Officials often — more often than not, in my experience — use the claim of national security as a smoke screen to cover up their own embarrassment."
It's good to remember the problem with trusting the government. It will want to cover up mistakes. But let's also remember that this is not the case with the recent disclosures.

YET MORE: Stephen Bainbridge quotes my post and writes:
Exactly. With great power comes great responsibility. Unfortunately, Baquet and Keller have given us no reason to believe that they exercise their power responsibly. Oh well. Given the trend of market forces, Baquet and Keller will be out of business soon enough. And they'll probably still be wondering why.
I just want to say that I love the NYT and hope it solves its business and other problems. I'm not even considering stopping reading it or ending home delivery, which I've taken for decades.

"It would be good politics to have a debate about this if Democrats are going to argue for additional rights for terrorists."

The post-Hamdan political game.

"So much for unanimity at the Supreme Court."

Tony Mauro zeroes in on what I think is the issue for summations of the Court's just-ended term:
A term that began with hope and at least limited evidence that a new era of consensus had begun dissolved in its final weeks into a blizzard of quarrelsome writing that clarified little and robbed some decisions of their precedential force. In some of the Court's most important rulings, justices tossed consensus aside and penned lengthy opinions, partial concurrences, and dissents that left readers crying "Uncle" or pleading, "Can't they all get along?"...

[N]o one seems to fault Roberts for failing to achieve that goal....

But the biggest factor in the demise of definitive decision-making in June may be Kennedy's central importance in the wake of O'Connor's departure....

"It's Justice Kennedy's world, and you just live in it," says Thomas Goldstein of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. He adds that unlike O'Connor, when Kennedy casts a crucial vote, he tends to write -- either the main opinion or a separate concurrence....

Whereas O'Connor sought to "hammer out differences," says Cambridge University professor David Garrow, "Kennedy is more attracted to the sound of his own voice."
And what an exasperating voice it can be. It wouldn't be so bad having a centrist judge casting the deciding vote and articulating the moderate position that bridges the Court's two sides. The problem is that the statement of the position is so fuzzy and prolix.

Half New Year's Day.

We get all excited about New Year's Day, so why don't we get half that excited about getting halfway through the year, to July 1st? Is there even a term for it? Half New Year's Day? Midyear's Day?

Frankly, I've never even noticed the occasion at all, but I see that Mark Daniels is marking the midpoint with an analysis of who would be Time's "Person of the Year," if the decision where based on half the year -- Time's "Person of the Half Year," you could say.

What else can we do? Make a list of resolutions? Make a list of half-hearted resolutions! Don't say: I'll quit smoking/drinking/whatever. Say: I'll cut my smoking/drinking/whatever in half. Instead of the classic I'll lose weight, try: I'll stop gaining weight. Don't say: I'll be kinder to my loved ones. Say: I'll be a little bit less of a bastard.