August 19, 2006

"I have the feeling [my baby is] not very fond of me..."

This is a very touching Ask MetaFilter.
I don't think this is a normal way for me to feel, but on the other hand I have no idea what I should do about it. I don't feel depressed - more just disapointed in myself, and jealous of the relationship other people seem to be able to build with her. Are some people just not cut out to be mothers? I love my husband, and my parents, and many friends, and my child is, by all accounts, beautiful, but I don't ever seem to have "bonded" with her - I don't find any trace of the feelings I have for them when I look at her. I keep hoping that perhaps when she's hold enough to hug me, or even respond in some way to anything I do that things will change, but I don't hold out much hope.
Now that we have the choice whether to have babies, we rely so much on over-the-top descriptions of baby love. An honest person living a normal life quite sensibly wonders what's wrong with me?

The same is true of love, isn't it? We aren't assigned a husband or wife and required to deal with it. So when we go ahead and pair up, we're disappointed that it's not the big thrill it was promoted as. We think everyone else is in ecstasy, and we're puzzled by the flatness of our own lives.

It's hard to get the truth out, that with freedom comes ordinariness.

"Hey, by turning yourselves into men, don’t you realize you’re going over to the other side?"

Is sex reassignment treatment an insult to homosexuals? It does seem to make a very strong statement that homosexuality is unacceptable. But why are lesbians rebelling about this when gay men are not?
“There is the sense that a transman is ‘betraying the team,’ joining the oppressor class and that sort of thing,” said Ken Zucker, a clinical psychologist and a specialist in gender research at the University of Toronto.
So a gay man identifying with women is completely different from a lesbian identifying with men? There is, for a woman, the idea that various privileges would come along with being perceived as a man.
Ben A. Barres, a professor of neurobiology at Stanford and a transgendered man, recently provided fodder for that view in an article in Nature and an interview with The New York Times. “It is very much harder for women to be successful, to get jobs, to get grants, especially big grants,” he told The Times.
That makes your motives impure, then? But surely the man attracted to men who wants to be a woman is after some advantages too, if of a different kind.

The shocking decision in ACLU v. NSA.

I guess I should say I gagged on it, to keep up today's neck/throat theme. But really...

I'm truly shocked. It's like the feeling you have when you're grading blue books and you realize this one's going to have to get an F.

I finally had the time today to read the whole opinion in ACLU v. NSA... I mean, that was the whole opinion, right? I kept shuffling the pages around and looking under the table to see if there were some pages I missed...

What the hell? Was there no law clerk who had enough nerve to say, Judge, it can't go out like this? How do you ever get to the level of arrogance that keeps you from seeing when an opinion is this patently deficient? Where do you acquire the vaulting imagination that allows you think an opinion in this form will even help the side you're rushing to hand a victory to? I can see slipping into abject carelessness in a low profile case, but this is such a conspicuous case. I simply cannot fathom how a judge with any sense at all, with any assistance from law clerks who were not cowed into ridiculous submission, would file a case in this form.

I'm not talking about the normal way judges write result-oriented decisions, which is to layer in the scholarly and neutral-looking verbiage in the hope that most people will swallow it and the critics will seems like sore losers. This opinion -- beginning midway through the text -- does not even look like a rough draft. It seems as if the judge ran out of time and handed in something that was less than an outline. Much less.

The first half of the text is written in a creditable style. Most of this is the discussion of the state secrets doctrine, which concludes with a dismissal of the plaintiffs' claim challenging the data mining program. We then begin the material that leads to the judge's conclusion that the warrantless surveillance program -- known as TSP -- should be enjoined. The first few pages of this are written competently, as the judge finds that the plaintiffs are suing because they have a "distinct and palpable injury" and thus satisfy the first of the three constitutional requirements for standing to sue. Cases are cited and discussed appropriately. One could argue with the analysis, but it is what one expects from a decently written opinion.

At this point, with many issues left to discuss -- including the rest of the standing doctrine and all of the questions of statutory and constitutional law relating to TSP -- the writing falls headlong off a cliff. I have never seen anything like this. There are many sections left to the opinion, but each contains little more than preliminary verbiage -- quotes from old cases and zingers about how the Framers opposed King George III -- with tagged on conclusions about how "obviously" the Fourth Amendment/First Amendment/Separation of Powers is violated. These read like place-keeper sentences that were slated to be replaced by real analysis.

The judge grants a permanent injunction on the assertion that the requirements "have undisputedly been met." Undisputedly? No one disputed that the requirements were met? I guess that was supposed to be "indisputably." The judge drops a footnote listing the requirements for an injunction:
(1) that [the plaintiff] has suffered an irreparable injury; (2) that remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for that injury; (3) that, considering the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in equity is warranted; and (4) that the public interest would not be disserved by a permanent injunction.
The text of the opinion offers three sentences of analysis of these requirements:
The irreparable injury necessary to warrant injunctive relief is clear, as the First and Fourth Amendment rights of Plaintiffs are violated by the TSP. See Dombrowski v. Pfister, 380 U.S. 479, 85 S. Ct. 1116, 14 L. Ed. 2d 22 (1965). The irreparable injury conversely sustained by Defendants under this injunction may be rectified by compliance with our Constitution and/or statutory law, as amended if necessary. Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution.
That's not analysis. That's a petulant refusal to take the task of judging seriously. Where is the discussion of hardship and public interest? The judge is so hot to hold the President to what she sees as his constitutional obligations. You'd think she'd take a little more care to give the appearance of adhering to hers.

“I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman."

Liesl Schillinger writes:
In her latest essay collection, “I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman,” the roman-à-clef author, playwright, screenwriter and film director Nora Ephron offers rearview reflections on her life as a talker and writer, as well as a flinching but honest look at the image she lately confronts in the mirror....

[L]ately Ephron has learned that there is one betrayer upon whom no woman (with the possible exception of Cher) can exact vengeance or impose a fairy-tale finish: the body, with its dazzling flurry of early gifts, and its misleading air of permanence. Just as you begin to count on it, off it goes, hooking up with its smirking henchman, the aging process. She does not hide her pique at this 11th-hour deserter. “Why do people write books that say it’s better to be older than to be younger?” she asks. Ruefully, she catalogs the body’s defections, and the desperate measures she has taken in her attempts to woo it back — creams, waxes, injections, dental work, dyes, threading, bleaches: “Sometimes I think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death,” she writes. But she doesn’t wallow. Instead, she does what she has always done — she buries the bad news under a barrage of shareable anecdotes, humorous self-deprecation and womanly bravado.
1. Has Liesl looked at Cher recently?

2. Ephron's book sounds like all the stray articles in fashion magazines I have ever read. (And I once had a job that consisted of reading magazines, including all the women's and fashion magazines, circa 1975.)

3. "I Feel Bad About My Neck" really is a great title for a book trying to get the attention of the aging woman crowd. But I can't picture myself standing in line and buying it at a bookstore. Everyone would look at my neck.

Oh yes, it's another theme day here on Althouse.

And we have a mascot. It's Jeffrey Sebelia of "Project Runway," otherwise known as the guy with a tattoo on his neck.

The neck tattoo

We were just talking about him yesterday. My two questions -- sure to get a conversation started at your house -- try it! -- were: 1. Why would you get a tattoo on your neck if you had a incredibly wide neck? and 2. Assuming you've decided to get a tattoo on your neck -- and I mean straight across the front of your neck -- and assuming it had to be a bunch of words, what would you get?

My answer on question 1 is: Maybe people kept bugging him saying things like: Man, you have a freakishly wide neck. Could you wear a turtleneck or something so I don't have to look at that thing? It's scaring me. Or maybe even: It's so wide, it's like a billboard, you could make a fortune selling ads on that thing. And he just snapped.

As for question 2: First, I have to imagine myself as the me that would get a tattoo on my neck, and I'm not so sure I'm in any position to do that. But no weaseling out of this. (Note: only one animal in the previous sentence.) Assuming I'm still myself, maybe Article III, Section 1 or a classic quote from Marbury. Do you think that would help the students pay attention?

More about Jeffrey, from the first link:
At age 16, Jeff left home to live in a garage with his punk band where he fell into a life of music, art and fast times, all supported by a mild criminal habit. It was, according to Jeff, “A lifestyle of freedom, rebellion and self-expression. Working for little money and ‘trade.’ ”
Let's hope he's calculated that it's too late to prosecute him for those crimes.
“I’ve grown to love fashion, namely John Galliano, Comme Des Garcons, Vivienne Westwood, Ann Demeulemeester, Junya Watanabe, Rick Owens, and Yohji Yamamoto,” says Jeffrey, but it was watching his friend Santino that inspired him to try out for season three.
His friend Santino?! Just as I suspected. He's acting like a jerk on the show as a strategy. You probably need to really be something of a jerk if you want to "make it work" well enough to be a successful strategy. The Santino character was quite brilliant. I don't think Jeffrey's got that much to offer. Another reason for the neck tattoo, though, right? Any time he starts to bore you, you can find something to occupy your thoughts. Why did he get that tatttoo? Especially considering that he was starting with that freakishly wide neck?

IN THE COMMENTS: Sanjay wonders:
Is his neck so wide? Maybe it's like striped shirts -- if his neck tattoo were primarily vetical his neck would look long and thin but it's horizontal lines so it looks wide.
And he gets a friend to prove it.

Concreteness blindness.

There's a writing defect that I'm going to call "concreteness blindness" because I don't know if there is an established term for it. I got to thinking about it when I read this sentence in a somewhat interesting article about the pre-fame life of the loser/monster who has confessed to killing JonBenet Ramsey. And I apologize in advance for the bad taste of using material from this disturbing story to talk about language usage.

Here's the sentence:
From his tiny, rusted balcony, Karr could crane his neck to the right and watch Bangkok's choked traffic snake along a highway.
"Crane" and "snake" are perfectly ordinary verbs as used to express what the neck and the traffic did. In fact, necks crane and traffic snakes so often in writing that you could complain they're too trite to use. So this is certainly not abnormal word choice. It's solidly idiomatic. The problem is that you've got two animals in one sentence, and a reader who is in touch with the concrete image behind these very ordinary verbs might -- like me -- become distracted by amusement. The writer is trying to portray the bleak life Karr lived in Bangkok, so you certainly don't want anything silly in the sentence. Frankly, I'd avoid using the word "snake" as a metaphor at all for another week or so, unless you're describing the line around the block for the new Samuel L. Jackson movie.

And whenever you're writing about Bangkok, you need to be especially careful. "Bangkok's choked"?! No, no, no, no, no. You never want that juxtaposition, especially not in an article about a sexually molested murdered child. In fact, the figurative use of "choked" should be eliminated from any story that has anything to do with a person who was literally choked.

"Karr" itself is a concrete image. Don't make up an insignificant scenario that shows a guy named Karr going out of his way to look at cars! And don't draw attention to the neck of a man that you're writing about because he's suspected of an act of violence aimed a girl's neck.

I don't think if I tried all day I could concoct an more impressive example of concreteness blindness.

"The eccentricities are no longer funny. His voice is shot."

Bob Dylan gets a terrible review:
Last night, his singing was reduced to high, pinched whines and hoarse, phlegmatic notes that sounded less vocal than terminal. Pitch was a relative concept. His once-vaunted phrasing was rushed....

He knows that people will always cheer when he wheezes into a harmonica - and that it doesn't matter that it's awful.
Wait. Let's be fair. The harmonica playing was always awful.

August 18, 2006

NYT turnaround.

This morning's NYT editorial page displayed embarrassing overenthusiasm for Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's decision in the NSA case, saying it was "a careful, thoroughly grounded opinion" that "eviscerated" the administration's "absurd" arguments. This evening, in this article by Adam Liptak, the Times is facing up to the harsh criticisms that in fact rained down on the decision.
Even legal experts who agreed with a federal judge’s conclusion on Thursday that a National Security Agency surveillance program is unlawful were distancing themselves from the decision’s reasoning and rhetoric yesterday.

They said the opinion overlooked important precedents, failed to engage the government’s major arguments, used circular reasoning, substituted passion for analysis and did not even offer the best reasons for its own conclusions.
Read the whole thing. Lots of lawprof bloggers are quoted (but not linked!).

A new season of Ricky Gervais podcasts.

About to begin, August 22. Entertainment Weekly has an interview -- probably only for subscribers -- here. An excerpt:
EW.COM: How do you account for the podcast's popularity?

RICKY GERVAIS: It's engaging, it's real. It's a man who sees the world differently from us. It's like we download his head so everyone can see it. We prod him and we shake him, and interesting trinkets fall out. It all comes from a good place, this slightly confused man who wanders around the world and sees things from a slightly different angle than the rest of us. As inarticulate as he may sound, there is a poetry to his strange words of wisdom. Often, he's sort of right, once you know what he means. The things he takes to his bosom, and the things he rejects are often the other way around for most of us. He thinks painting is pointless and he thinks choice is confusing, and those are the things we cherish. He's just different but very nice and honest. Even the things he says that sound heartless, they come from a good place. He's not trying to be funny. He's just a fascinating little creature. He's like a fictional character. He's the closest thing to a living Homer Simpson.

Steve and I see ourselves as carnival barkers who've found the most fascinating creature in the world. We really think of ourselves as some sort of Victorian entrepreneurs, bringing out the Elephant Man. I feel like Anthony Hopkins, taking out John Merrick, going, ''Look what I found.'' Not only is it our own experiment, and fascinating to us, but we want the whole world to see the amazing Eighth Wonder of the World that is the mind of Karl Pilkington.
Ah, Karl Pilkington. We're so ready to spend some more time with him, aren't we?

Mmmm.... bacteriophages.

They're going to be spraying viruses on meat (so the viruses can eat the bacteria). Sorry, that completely grosses me out! Or should I be enthusiastic about this because it's natural?

Wisconsin polls.

A new poll shows 48% of Wisconsin voters favor the constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. 40% are opposed, and 12% undecided.

More striking is the new poll in the governor's race:
A day after a poll by a Madison TV station... showed Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle with a 10-point lead on Republican challenger Mark Green, a new poll released today showed only a one-point lead.
What's happening there? Green just started running an ad, which we talked about on the radio this morning.


The radio show is up! Go here, and click on "Listen" at the 8:00 hour. It's a fast-moving hour with me and Matt Rothschild -- of "The Progressive" -- talking about the new NSA case, Iraq, Lebanon, and lots of American politics (including Lamont and Lieberman, Hillary and Russ, and Mark Green and Jim Doyle).

Vietnam Vets and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

It's been vastly overstated all these years, according to a new study:
The report, published in the journal Science and viewed by experts as authoritative, found that 18.7 percent of Vietnam veterans developed a diagnosable stress disorder that could be linked to a war event at some point in their lives, well under the previous benchmark number of 30.9 percent. And while the earlier analysis found that for 15.2 percent of the veterans the symptoms continued to be disabling at the time they were examined, the new study put that figure at 9.1 percent....

The researchers pored over data from the original 1988 study, and checked it against extensive military records and records of exposure to combat. They found that many servicemen in noncombat roles were exposed to considerable horrors, from shelling and ambushes to caring for the wounded, and that very few exaggerated their experiences.

But a number of veterans whose difficulties were diagnosed as post-traumatic disorder developed it before serving in the war. Others developed symptoms that could not be linked to any specific traumatic event — a crucial element in the diagnosis. And there were some veterans who exhibited symptoms, like nightmares, that were not severe enough to be disabling.
It's interesting to learn this now, when there have been so many articles -- in the NYT, in particular -- about the way the Iraq war is debilitiating the minds of those who doing the fighting.

I wonder how much of the stress the Vietnam vets suffered came from the way Americans treated them after the war. Not only did a lot of people regard them as war criminals, but a lot of us uncritically slid into accepting a Hollywood-influenced image of the Vietnam vet as a woeful shell of a man, if not a raging nut.

Not digging Judge Anna Diggs Taylor.

I haven't had the time to read Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's opinion about the NSA program, other than to skim it and form the impression that it wasn't well-written and that the real analysis will have to come at the appellate stage.

Eugene Volokh's observations resonate with my superficial impression:
[T]he judge's opinion in today's NSA eavesdropping case seems not just ill-reasoned, but rhetorically ill-conceived. A careful, thoughtful, detailed, studiously calm and impartial-seeming opinion might have swung some higher court judges (and indirectly some Justices, if it comes to that). A seemingly angry, almost partisan-sounding opinion ("[The orders] violate the Separation of Powers ordained by the very Constitution of which this President is a creature," emphasis added, thanks to a caller for pointing this out) is unlikely to sway the other judges — especially when the opinion is rich in generalities, platitudes ("There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution"), and "obviously"'s, and poor in detailed discussion of some of the government's strongest arguments.
Also at Volokh Conspiracy, Dale Carpenter is critical of the judge's conclusion that the plaintiffs have standing to sue, and Orin Kerr blasts the Fourth Amendment analysis.

This morning, the Washington Post is really hard on Judge Diggs:
[T]he decision yesterday by a federal district court in Detroit, striking down the NSA's program, is neither careful nor scholarly, and it is hard-hitting only in the sense that a bludgeon is hard-hitting. The angry rhetoric of U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor will no doubt grab headlines. But as a piece of judicial work -- that is, as a guide to what the law requires and how it either restrains or permits the NSA's program -- her opinion will not be helpful....

The NSA's program, about which many facts are still undisclosed, exists at the nexus of inherent presidential powers, laws purporting to constrict those powers, the constitutional right of the people to be free from unreasonable surveillance, and a broad congressional authorization to use force against al-Qaeda. That authorization, the administration argues, permits the wiretapping notwithstanding existing federal surveillance law; inherent presidential powers, it suggests, allow it to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance on its own authority. You don't have to accept either contention to acknowledge that these are complicated, difficult issues. Judge Taylor devotes a scant few pages to dismissing them, without even discussing key precedents.

It's hard to understand why a judge writing an opinion in such a high-profile case, dealing with such difficult law, would not put immense effort into creating an outward appearance of heavy scholarly effort and pristine neutrality. Does the judge lack the competence to do it? Does the judge have a hot feeling of righteousness and outrage about the case and also think it's good to show it? Perhaps it's some subtle combination of those two things.

UPDATE: The 6th Circuit reverses -- discussed here.

Radio. Deadline met. Things not read.

I'm going in to the WHA radio station in about an hour to do the "Week in Review" show. Yesterday, I was preoccupied meeting a deadline, or I would have spent more time reading and thinking about this week's news stories. In particular, there is the district court decision relating to warrantless wiretaps, which I've only skimmed. My impression was that it was not competently written. But let me start a separate post to survey what people are saying about the case.

POST-SHOW UPDATE: That was great fun and very passionate! My opponent on the left was Matt Rothschild, editor of "The Progressive," and he was in the studio, which made it much easier to argue. Last time I was on the show, the other guest was on the phone, and it had a big effect on the dynamic. Even though the show itself sounds quite passionate in the recording, I felt I had to dial it down to avoid overpowering the guest who was downsized by the phone line. Today's show should available for streaming soon. You'll find it here, at the 8:00 hour.

"We took down any bird that landed on our boat and we ate it like that, raw."

Three men survive for 9 months, adrift in the Pacific Ocean in an 8-meter fiberglass boat. (Via BizzyBlog.)

Yes, but it would have been more impressive if they'd had a tiger on board.

August 17, 2006

The "Bloggership" audio.

I'm only noticing just now -- as I struggle to meet my deadline writing another blog-related essay -- that the audio of my panel at the Harvard "Bloggership" conference is available on line. I'm the second speaker, about a sixth of the way in.

"Is this just an obsessive guy craving his 15 minutes of fame?"

"Do we have a wack-job or a murderer?"

My guess: wack-job.

MORE: If I were writing a work of fiction inspired by this man, I would make him a good man tortured by pedophilic urges he knows are wrong, struggling all his life to resist them, struggling -- so far -- successfully, but feeling he has reached the limit of his strength, and choosing now to confess, falsely, to killing a little girl whose image he really has fallen in love with, to make the authorities come and get him and lock him away, so that he can never hurt hurt anyone, as he has, in fact, never hurt anyone.

75% of Connecticut Republicans back Lieberman.

And even Lamont has more Republican supporters than the Republican nominee, Schlesinger. Anyway, overall, Lieberman is polling at 53%, with Lamont at 41%. Wonder what they're saying over at DailyKos? Nothing since yesterday, when McJoan wrote Lieberman should be stripped of his seniority if he wins -- which she seems to be saying because his seniority is one argument for reelecting him.

A judge has ruled the NSA surveillance program violates free speech and privacy rights.

CNN reports.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who say the program has made it difficult for them to do their jobs. They believe many of their overseas contacts are likely targets of the program, which involves secretly taping conversations between people in the U.S. and people in other countries.

We'll see how well that holds up.

UPDATE: Here's the PDF of the opinion. I note that the court dismissed the claim relating to data-mining, based on the state secrets privilege. It is only the warrantless interception of international phone calls and email that the court finds unconstitutional.

Freakishness for fall.

The Style section in today's NYT is full of frightening stories, almost like it's a special spoof edition.

First, we see that the new look for fall is lots of thick, floppy, frumpy, grayish layers. And don't you know it's all a struggle "between clothes that truly attempt to reflect cultural diversity and those that submit to the aesthetic of money"?

Then, we see that eyebrows should be thick and bushy and actively mussed up with clear mascara so they stick up "like plumage" and give the face "a wild expression ... described as 'sauvage.'" But if you don't do it just so, you'll look like Groucho Marx.... a risk you're going to have to take.

Next, we learn that the shoes of the season are "muscle shoes":
The shoes in question are black, bulky and baffling. They have high wedges or cumbersome platforms. Some take the form of demiboots. One pair of leather and suede ankle boots from Balenciaga comes with a harness, a sole thick enough to look like an encyclopedia and a pointy upturned toe, which leaves the top of the shoe looking like a basin....

If the current style has anything to say about sex, it is the suggestion that women suddenly possess little or no enthusiasm for it. Instead the shoes convey the tensions of combative times, said Suzanne Ferris, co-editor of “Footnotes,’’ a scholarly anthology on the meaning of shoes. “This sense of war and fighting and the need to be tougher seems evident,’’ she said.
Blame Bush!

And don't forget your hats.

The unusual stupidity of these styles makes it easier than usual to imagine the articles a year from now that will tell us why no one wants to wear that anymore. Or maybe it will take two years to grow out of this stuff. Since it's Bush's fault, we may need to torture you with this stuff until a Democrat is moved into the White House.

"Misogynistic gay fashion designers"?

Oscar marshalls the evidence. It's an old stereotype -- I remember when it was the stock explanation for any disliked fashion -- but isn't "Project Runway" stoking it?

[Link fixed. Sorry, Oscar...]... [I mean it this time...]

Today's a deadline day.

So naturally, I'm reviewing my old blog posts about deadlines and trying to think up a new angle on my dangerous-relationship-with-deadlines theme.

ADDED: Anyway, just as I'm visualizing the trajectory of the day, picturing myself pounding out the sentences needed to finish the essay that's due today -- i.e., at midnight... or is it before the start of business hours tomorrow? -- email arrives to tell me what we'll be discussing on tomorrow's "Week In Review" on Wisconsin Public Radio, for which I need to be in the studio at 8 a.m. There's a long list of topics, including some very intra-Wisconsin things I hadn't noticed before. There will be a webcast that I can link to tomorrow. The Progressive's editor Matt Rothschild will be there, presumably counterbalancing me. "Week in Review" is the show I where I was pretty passionate a few weeks ago (opposite a different lefty magazine editor).

Okay, terrorists, time to train your face to go blank and to stop that fidgeting.

They're watching you. And I approve, even as I feel sorry for all the nervous, fear-of-flying, I'm-having-an-affair, I'm-scared-of-that-job-interview, I-need-a-cigarette, I-hope-there-aren't-any-terrorists-on-my-plane ordinary people who now have one more thing to worry about: They're watching you. Is that making you fidget and move your eyebrows into the wrong position? You'll need to answer a few questions....

By the way, is anyone being crass enough to speculate about the effect of the London liquid-bomb scare on the box office for "Snakes on a Plane"? Oh, you think I am?

"I’m never dragged in to immaterial rows by inconsiderate, useless men."

Enthuses Yvonne Ridley, who used to write for the Sunday Express, but after being kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, converted to Islam and now hosts a talk show on the Islamic Channel:
[She] wears a hijab that covers her hair and neck [and] said that Islam for her is a welcome antidote to Western libertinism. “What’s more liberating — being judged on the size of your I.Q., or on the size of your bust?” Divorced, with a 13-year-old daughter, she has stopped drinking and having flings. “I never sit in, waiting for the telephone to ring,” she said, "and I’m never dragged in to immaterial rows by inconsiderate, useless men."
What dismal, minor problems people solve with religion. Aren't you embarrassed to present the religion you want us to respect as a cure for your mundane immaturity about boyfriends and drinking? What a stupid either/or choice you thought you had! The real question is why you only see the world in terms of such extremes. The West only represented libertinism and forced you to drink and have meaningless sex, so you had to jump into a system that imposed all sorts of limits on you. You bring up I.Q., but you sound as if you had no functioning mechanism of reason and judgment in your head. If you're so smart, how about controlling your own behavior and using some judgment about who gets to entertain himself with your body? And if you hadn't figured out how to do that yet, what made you competent to select a religion that tells you want to do? How can you decide you don't want to be free if you haven't yet learned what freedom is?

There's much more in the linked article. Read the whole thing. I gave the NYT a hard time yesterday about an article about a Muslim school in NYC, but this article has quite a different tone. And the headline is quite a change from yesterday too: "Hungry for Fresh Recruits, Cult-Like Islamic Groups Know Just When to Pounce."

ADDED: I note that religions of all sorts are pitched as solutions to mundane problems. In particular, Alcoholics Anonymous seems to be based on the idea that you can't solve your own problems, but must refer them to God.

August 16, 2006

How can you be so careless with the female form?

"Project Runway." We're reminded that there is no immunity from last week's show, and I'm reminding you that I predicted, based on the excessive Michael-love in last week's edit, that Michael, last week's winner, would be auf'd soon.

No open-toed footwear. That's what Tim says. The designers are driven out to New Jersey, and the scenery flows by like the opening sequence of "The Sopranos." And it's trash! Make an outfit out of trash.

"This is kinda fun for me, cuz I grew up white trash, and my sister and I used to always go dumpster diving. I spent my whole life in the trash can." Says Kayne, quite adorably.

"I let things evolve. I don't own the future. I don't go there. You know what I mean? I just let it come. Let it come. And that's how I work." Says Vincent, and the accompanying plunking bass notes say: he's in trouble. We see him grimacing, and Laura's saying "He's not mentally stable."

Then we see Kayne and Robert talking about how Laura's nuts. And Laura's making a dress that says -- across the ass -- "for nuts only."

Meanwhile, Kayne is making something inexplicable, with stiff, white paper painted with atrocious green flowers. They're all gonna laugh at you.

Michael has made a really cool gold bustier. But that skirt! It seems like a blank canvas.

Ooh, Alison and Tim are talking about how her model is a little large. She's larger than all the other models... Oh, poor Alison! She needs to win so she can auf her model! Have I ever mentioned how much I love Alison. Look at that subtle color, those pleats. And I'm trying not to be swayed by her ultra-sweet appearance. She looks like a woman on an album cover from the 50s that my father would have loved.

And Michael wins again! Cool! Jeffrey comes in second and -- like an idiot -- he expresses his jealousy: Michael won for a "diabetic" outfit. No flavor.

Kayne is spared, and it's between Vincent and Alison. Oh, no, don't take my Alison away!

"There's a fine line between innovation and insanity," Heidi says to Vincent. But Alison, how could you be so careless with the female form. And Alison is out! Oh, no!

Laura freaks about the bad model Alison got stuck with. Shhhh... shhh, Kayne says. Let us enjoy our last moments with Alison.

Madison, afternoon.


The Terrace

The Terrace.

"It was evil, evil looking. And it had a horrible stench I will never forget."

It was a "hybrid mutant of something," dead at last, after scaring the bejeezus out of the folks in Androscoggin County for 15 years, with its "chilling monstrous cries and eyes that glow in the night."
[T]he animal looked "half-rodent, half-dog" to him.

It was charcoal gray, weighed between 40 and 50 pounds and had a bushy tail, a short snout, short ears and curled fangs hanging over its lips, he said. It looked like "something out of a Stephen King story."

"This is something I've never seen before. It's an evil-looking thing," he said
Monsters! They're scary! I hope they're in your county and not mine. Hmmm.... but it really wasn't very big... Come on! It was just a damned dog. A hell-hound!

UPDATE: I arrive home this evening only to find this monster on the loose in my county:

The monster!

The tourism argument against the gay marriage amendment.

A new parry in the debate:
Doug Neilson... the president and chief executive officer of the Visit Milwaukee marketing group... says the homosexual community has a lot of discretionary income and loves to travel, and anything that would discourage them from coming to the state is a concern.

Wisconsin's tourism secretary, Jim Holperin, also says he believed enactment of the measure November seventh would hurt this state's reputation of being inclusive, tolerant and welcome to all.

So there really was an intruder who murdered JonBenet Ramsey?

They've arrested a man who -- it's reported -- "has confessed to certain elements of the crime that are unknown to the general public." JonBenet's mother died of cancer last June, after living for a decade mourning for her daughter and enduring the suspicion that she or her husband was the murderer.

"How can you really force a 16-year-old to take a tough treatment that he does not want?"

Medical ethicist Arthur Caplan strongly approves of the new Virginia state court decision that allows 16-year-old Starchild Abraham Cherrix to refuse to submit to chemotherapy. A previous round of chemotherapy for his Hodgkin’s disease had many harsh side effects, making him -- and his parents -- prefer "an alternative treatment method that they learned of in a clinic in Tijuana, Mexico [using] a brew of herbs including licorice and red clover [and] spiritual prayers." But Caplan also approves of the decision by the state to intervene and charge the parents with neglect. What Caplan likes is the compromise:
The answer is to find a doctor who believes in standard medical therapy, who has a good rapport with the boy and his family and is open to working with them to allow them to pursue their ideas about healing, in conjunction with standard medical treatment for cancer.

That is exactly what happened today in the courtroom. Judge Glen Tyler announced that the state and the family had reached an agreement to let Abraham be treated by an oncologist who will work with them and be as flexible as possible about Abraham’s care. The regimen won't include chemotherapy, but might involve radiation.
If the state had not intervened, the boy would have continued on herb tea and prayers, on to nearly certain death. Meanwhile, the boy is able to feel that he's won:
"I'm very happy about today. I'm very happy about this outcome. We won. We got our freedom back."

12 planets.

They didn't want to hurt the feelings of Pluto-lovers, so they picked a definition for planet that would include Pluto, and, doing that, they let in 3 more rocks. The nonconformingly named 2003 UB313 (AKA Xena). Charon, which is a moon, which is annoying. And Ceres, ceresly. Wouldn't it have been pleasanter to just oust Pluto? Come on, scientists! If you want to make us feel good, make us feel good!

That Hummer "Tofu" ad.

I think it's great. It's fast and funny and gets the point across. Slate is whining about it. And Metafilter's talking up a storm. I like that the manufacturer shows it thinks we have a sense of humor about the emotional dimension of buying a car and that we aren't hung up about the sexual meaning of shopping.

ADDED: By getting Slate to bitch about it, Hummer got me to watch the commercial. Practically the only way to get me to see a commercial is to get some internet controversy going. Like, remember "girthy" franks?

Boys subjected to 9 hours of rote memorization a day in NYC.

The NYT has what seems meant to read as a charming human interest piece about "children" -- really, boys -- who are sent to school in New York City for 9 hours a day to work exclusively on the task of memorizing the Koran.
But this level of devotion to Islam has a way of causing suspicion these days. While parents whose children are in the schools said they were proud of them, they also worry about how they will be perceived.
How they will be perceived? This isn't a matter of stimulating the supposed ethnic prejudice of Americans, it's blatantly violating the laws of compulsory schooling!

The young boys are taught that if they memorize the entire Koran, they will gain admittance to heaven and the right to choose 10 persons to bring along with them. If believed, this is a powerful incentive. There is a sense that the entire family is relying on him. Meanwhile, these boys -- who must be quite smart to have a shot at memorizing the 6,200 verses -- are deprived of all other education, including instruction in Arabic, the language of the text they are memorizing phonetically. (Nor are they provided with a translation: they are learning only to pronounce sounds.)
By not offering instruction in other subjects, the school may be inadvertently running afoul of state law, according to city and state education officials. Private religious schools like the Muslim Center’s program are required to provide “substantially equivalent” instruction to that offered in public schools, they said. But tracking every school-age child who leaves the public school system can be difficult.
Inadvertently? Inadvertently?! And how "difficult" can it be to detect schools that are completely out of line?
Several parents said they were not worried about their children falling behind because they are smart enough to make up the academic work. Some students from the class have, in fact, gone on to the city’s best high schools, parents and school officials said.

Nevertheless, next year, the school plans to introduce two hours of instruction in math, science, English and social studies, said Mohammad Tariq Sherwani, director of the Muslim Center. The additional classes mean it will take longer for students to finish memorizing. “But it is worth it,” he said.
I love that "nevertheless," as if it is just fine to subject a young child to 9 hours of rote memorization a day as long as "some" of them can make it to the best high schools. Presumably, those who do are unusually intelligent and have also spent their evenings doing remedial work in language and math.

At what point do you stop romanticizing another culture and start to see child abuse and plain violations of compulsory schooling laws? Surely, a Christian private school that dispensed with academic study (or threw in two hours) would catch hell.
[The mother of one of the students] confessed that she sometimes questioned whether she was doing the right thing with her son, fretting that Thaha, who would have been entering the sixth grade this year if he had stayed in regular school, does not know his multiplication tables, for example.

But the beauty of this country, Mrs. Sherwani said, is that her son is free to have it both ways, to be steeped in Islam and be whatever he wants.
No. The beauty and freedom of this country does not include the right to deprive children of schooling.

It's driving and talking on a cell phone that's dangerous.

Holding the phone while you use it is not the problem, according to a study by psychprof David Strayer. This doesn't surprise me. Talking on the phone takes the visual part of your brain into the world of imagination.

Just the other day, I was talking to one of my colleagues about this as we were watching Bloggingheads -- which, you know, I was on. You're hearing the other person over a phone line and not seeing him, but you want the expression on your face to look like you're seeing him. It's somewhat hard to do, because the natural tendency is to have "phone face" (a term I'm making up). You're eyes are open but they've gone rather blind, because the brain connection to the eyes is not there. The brain's visual center is working in the imagination mode, summoning up images of things that aren't coming in through the eyes. That's how I'm explaining it to myself at least.

I think when you talk on the phone, you are generating a temporary blindness. It affects the way you look on Bloggingheads, and you need to do a little acting to disguise it. Of course, to do that is to use even more imagination, not to turn your eyes back on. When you're driving, we mostly don't care how you look, but you really do need to see. How are you going to keep your brain from disconnecting with your eyes?

Speaking of Bloggingheads, by the way, Bob Wright and Mickey Kaus talk about me in the beginning of the new episode (which also has other good stuff in it). The part about me starts at 2:23. Referring to my Bloggingheads performance, Bob says, "She was very civil. I mean, maybe she has a latent combative side that could be brought out by a sufficiently provocative interlocutor." He says he's "hoping to provoke an ill-advised outburst" from me on the show, and Mickey's response to that is "But she's blonde." Is he trying to provoke me?

August 15, 2006

The George Allen "Macaca" story.

This is quite bizarre. I've never followed Senator Allen, and I had absolutely no opinion of him before today, but now we have this story that he singled out a man of Indian descent and called him "macaca," a term I've never seen before.
Allen, who is positioning himself for a possible run for president in 2008, said the name was "just made up" and that he had no idea that macaca is a genus of monkeys including macaques. The name also could be spelled Makaka, which is a city in South Africa.

What sense does that make? Why would you single someone out and make up a term?
"This fellow over here with the yellow shirt -- Macaca or whatever his name is -- he's with my opponent," Allen said. "He's following us around everywhere."

After mentioning that Webb was in California on a fundraising trip, Allen exhorted the crowd: "Let's give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."
The mere fact that he looked at a dark-skinned man and said "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia" is repugnant. And it turns out that "macaca" is an offensive racial term. It's hard to believe that's mere chance taken in conjunction with the "Welcome to America" stupidity.
Allen has been accused of racial insensitivity before. He wore a Confederate flag pin in his high school yearbook photo, used to keep a Confederate flag in his living room, a noose in his law office and a picture of Confederate troops in his governor's office, but has said he has grown since then.
I'm sure some commenters will try to talk me down from this conclusion, and I will give your arguments a respectful listen, but, honestly, I think Allen is toast.

DailyKos assembles
some impressive evidence about the repulsiveness of this term. And here's Josh Marshall:
We now know that not only is 'macaque' a French language slur used to describe North Africans but Allen has a dizzyingly direct way of being familiar with the word. His mother is French Tunisian. Given that it would be amongst the French colonial population in North Africa that the word would have the greatest currency (even if only by familiarity rather than use), it seems close to impossible to believe that Allen didn't become familiar with the word growing up....

[A]ll sorts of things come out of your mouth when you're speaking extemporaneously. Ask anyone who's spent much time on TV or radio. Not things that weren't in your mind somewhere to say, but some things you might have thought better of if you had a few moments to consider it. If you're not a racist, in most cases racial slurs don't come pouring out or, like one conservative yacker, fantasies about sterilizing African-Americans.

I suspect that Allen started off with a pretty crude effort to make fun of Sidarth as an immigrant, an outsider, perhaps by snidely but in his mind jocularly mispronouncing his name. Who knows? But in the moment, when he was looking at this kid who was clearly getting on his nerves, and amongst a lilly [sic] white crowd, this is the word that came to his mind and he used it.
This is all quite reminiscent of the discussion we just had about Mel Gibson. Except Allen wasn't drunk and Allen is asking us to trust him to be President. My trust is shot to hell.

UPDATE: Here's the video clip of Allen's remarks. He's very jovial and energized, and he slips "macaca" in so smoothly, as if outsiders won't even notice this strange word, camouflaged, as it is, in the happy talk. It seems to signal to insiders in code.

Caught up in conspiracies.

Glenn & Helen interview David Dunbar and Brad Reagan, the Popular Mechanics guys who wrote "Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts." I'm especially interested in the speculation about why people become caught up in conspiracy theories? Now that I look at that question, I feel that it seems to answer itself. Why am I "especially interested" in speculation... theories? The mind wants to play...

"Pound for pound, chimpanzees are about five times stronger than humans."

Hmmmm.... okay, I'm going to take back this old and much criticized post. Where I got the info: from this collection of interesting questions answered. (Via Jonah Goldberg.)

"Democrats claim to be more community-minded but act like radical individualists..."

E.J. Dionne diagnoses Democrats. They can't get organized, unlike "Republicans, who defend individualism in theory, [but] act like communitarians where their party is concerned." He calls this "odd" but does he even attempt to explain why this should be? He calls it a "self-image problem," without saying what the wrong image is, and he blames them for only caring about isolated issues and not the party itself, which to me just suggests that people who vote Democratic aren't really Democrats at all but just people who get the feeling they're voting in a referendum on some highlighted issue. He cites the Democrats' dependence on "a handful of wealthy donors," which keeps them from needing to develop the support of a broad group of party loyalists. Really, talk about organization! Is this column organized at all? He even drags in Karl Rove and says he's "spooked Democrats about themselves."

And let me just mock the title of the column: "A Gap In Their Armor." First, if an old cliché contains a word that you think you can't use anymore, why not just retire the cliché? It is a cliché anyway! Why are you bending over backwards to preserve a cliché? And why wave it in our faces that you think we're too dumb to understand language? Second, the Democrats have armor?

One more thing, do Democrats really want to disown individualism? Openly?

It was almost a theme day...

... here on the blog, what with those last two posts about or partly about coined verbs. If I could revise titles -- you know there are blog rules, don't you? -- I would retitle that first post "Boy Georging."

Your Honor, I think you can see the importance of not Boy Georging my client.

Speaking of language, did you notice the way the Boy George article ended:
Later the exhausted star, who was supervised by a uniformed guard, paused for a fag break.

He said: “I am now going to go and have sex with the guard.”
He had a "fag break" and then he had sex with the guard. The British... they're an endless source of amusement, aren't they?

Using Google as a verb.

Complaining about it now only makes it obvious that you waited too long. You allowed the word Google to become deeply ingrained in our speech about the internet. It seems you enjoyed the attention when it served the interest of trumpeting the dominance of your brand. Now that it's become wholly natural for us to use Google as a verb, you want us to to make a conscious effort not to use it. We're supposed to pay attention to you all over again?

IN THE COMMENTS: Drew makes a stunning point:
I don't know about the rest of y'all, but when I go to "google that hottie" I go to and type in her name.

Google's success and thus popularity is in their superiority to the competition. The verbification (I apologize for my english) has only served to increase their popularity.

Google is crucially different from other products, like Xerox, that had good reason to work hard protect their trademarks from becoming generic. The only way to do what the verb expresses is to go to a website. The way to get to a website is to use the name. If everyone says they're "googling," everyone goes to Google. They don't happen to go somewhere else to "google." What competitor would even want to trade on the name Google by saying come to our site to "google"? It would just send people to Google. As long as Google has the URL "Google," it benefits from everyone using the word.

"They are not Swift boating us on security."

Says Nancy Pelosi, implying that the disparagement of Democrats on national security is just some underhanded trick. Note the second bird killed with that stone: the "Swift boating" verb embeds the assumption that the issues raised by the Swift boat veterans against John Kerry were illegitimate.

Humiliating Boy George.

Lots of photographers turned out yesterday to snap Boy George as he swept the streets in performance of court-ordered public service. George snapped back with obscenities, which look nasty in writing but sound fairly good-natured in the video clip. It was, as his lawyers argued, a media circus, and it did impose a much greater degree of punishment on him that the same work imposes on someone who is ignored. After 10 minutes, George is reassigned to indoor work, as if the spectacle with the photographers had not been predictable all along. I feel sorry for him and annoyed at the authorities for subjecting him to this, but only just very slightly.

August 14, 2006

A toast....

... to summer....


... and sons....


At Fresco, high atop the Overture Center:


Here in Madison, Wisconsin.

The new Segway.

All the wires and machinery have been removed from the top. To tell you the truth, I'd love to have one of these things for getting around Madison, even though I think it might be embarrassing. Would it look too ridiculous? Can they handle the snow and ice? But do you really think think the fear of looking dorky is the real reason these things haven't caught on? They're just too expensive! Segway, Inc. missed its chance to be a big sensation because people who would have risked riding one just couldn't bring themselves to pay $5,000 to see how it would work.

Bonus advice to Segway: Give a hundred of them away to bloggers.

Beautifully written history.

A propos of this discussion on Saturday, I'm trying to come up with a list of history books -- emphatically not historical novels, but solid history books -- that are written so well that one would want to read them as great literature. I mean to set a very high standard. That is, David McCullough isn't good enough. (By the way, his blog is... not even a blog.) Anyway, offer up some suggestions for someone who wants a sublime aesthetic experience while reading history.

I'd like to do the same for some other categories of nonfiction: law, science, politics, philosophy, art.

Should Joe go?

Jonathan Chait is telling Joe Lieberman to give up:
In a perverse way, conservative Republicans and liberal doves have a shared interest in making Lieberman the symbol of the Democratic hawk. Dovish lefties want everybody to think that if you're a hawk, you must be cozy with Bush. Conservatives want everybody to think that if you're not cozy with Bush, you can't be a hawk.

Still, the Lieberman rationale held together, just barely, as long as he was fighting the good fight within the Democratic Party. But now that he's running as an independent, the last pillars of that rationale have crumbled.

What's the point of running to uphold Democratic hawkishness when you're running against the Democratic Party and its chosen nominee? Lieberman is fighting on terrain that, from the perspective of the liberal hawks, could not be less advantageous.
Chait is writing as if the election of a senator in Connecticut is a debate about the meaning of the Democratic Party. But the people of the state are choosing their senator, after a primary that took place in the dead of summer produced a 10,ooo gap between the two best candidates. As they go into fall and start concentrating on recomposing Congress, they've got Lamont (an inexperienced politician who ran to the left), an irrelevant Republican, and Joe, their long-time senator. Why shouldn't the fall campaign season offer them a full-scale comparison between Lieberman and Lamont?

But looking at the national debate about the meaning of the Democratic Party, I really want Lieberman to get it together and fight for the life of the liberal hawk. We desperately need that now. Say what you want about his pillars and his terrain, he is where he is and he's got to fight there. Show us what a good hawk is. A good Democratic hawk, even it the loudest Democrats don't want there to be such a thing.

What happened to the "New Democrats"?

Noam Scheiber asks why there are so many more affluent people -- like Ned Lamont -- embracing "economic populism":
[T]he number ... has roughly doubled over the last six years... Can this bizarrely self-defeating brand of politics continue? Over the long-term, are liberal Democrats likely to keep denouncing corporate plutocrats as stridently as they denounce foreign policy hawks and religious scolds?
In the old days, poorer people voted Democratic and richer folks went for the Republicans. But, per Scheiber, the 60s shook up that stability, and plenty of poorer people shifted to the Republicans and a lot of upper income types became Democrats. But are they "Cesar Chavez-style liberals" or "New Democrats"?
A 1999 Pew study found that New Democrats accounted for about 10 percent of the voting public--and just under one-quarter of the Democratic coalition--making them equivalent in number to liberals. According to Pew, the New Democrats were sympathetic to business, somewhat skeptical of government assistance to the poor, and relatively supportive of trade liberalization, capital gains tax cuts, and Social Security privatization. On the other hand, they tended to have a favorable view of government in general and were open to some regulation. They were also pro-environment and tolerant of gays.

But an interesting thing happened between 1999 and 2005, when Pew conducted another detailed analysis of the electorate: The New Democrats had entirely disappeared as a group while the liberals had doubled in size.
Scheiber has a Bush-did-it theory that seems all garbled to me. He doesn't mention 9/11, which is clearly "an interesting thing" that "happened between 1999 and 2005." I think Pew would have counted me as a New Democrat in 1999, and I've certainly felt that the Democratic party has redefined itself in a way that has actively ousted me. We just saw them ousting Joe Lieberman. History has forefronted national security questions, and the Democrats are closing ranks and eliminating the "liberal hawk" category. It's no suprise that if you do that what remains is a high concentration of "economic populists." Call it what it is. It's the Left.

Hot weather dressing.

WaPo offers up advice about how to dress for the office when it's really hot out. Must a woman wear nylons? Must a man wear a tie? I don't understand the questions. Nylons and ties only seem required in the first place in the sort of office that is going to be very well air conditioned in the summer. Presumably, if you're driving in to work, your car is well air conditioned too. So what relevance is there to the weather? Let's assume you have to walk a substantial distance at some point or use some train or bus that isn't well air conditioned. Isn't it perfectly easy to carry your hosiery/tie and quickly put it on when you get to the office? Maybe my life is too easy out here in Madison, Wisconsin, but to me these seem like nonproblems.

The imprudent charity.

Jim Lindgren finds a glaring question in the tax return of Black Box Voting.

August 13, 2006

Audible Althouse #62.

Submit to the podcast. You can trust Althouse, the podcaster, the blogger. Stream it right through your computer here. But to truly submit to Audible Althouse is to subscribe on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

ADDED: Here's the interview with Stanley Crouch I talk about.

Another day in Madison, Wisconsin....

Out by the lake, it was like this:

Lake Mendota

Peaceful... dull!

Let's go to State Street... Damn!


I missed Wanda Jackson. I only found out recently how much I love Wanda Jackson....

Damn! I'm feeling forlorn....


Get me some coffee:


I feel better now... Ooooh...


Just another day in Madison, Wisconsin....


Lieberman 46%, Lamont 41%.

Ha ha ha ha ha. Joementum!

Sunday morning.

It's 66° here in Madison, Wisconsin. It's a good time to go for a walk along the lake path...

Lake path

I'll take my camera -- my big Nikon. (I lost the charger to my small Sony, which finally pushed me over the edge to order a new pocket-sized camera. There are so many, and the differences are so subtle, that I had to simplify the search, which I did by embracing Sony, which had done so well for me. I picked this.) I'll take my iPod shuffle, not to listen to music, but to listen to the recording of "The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America," which I've already listened to for a few minutes while falling asleep and then while completely asleep. I need to get a grip on what's been pouring into my unconscious brain.

Anyway, I must be going. I've got that walk to do, and later, a late lunch to attend, and, in the early evening, I've got to do a one-hour drive to catch up on this week's "Theme Time Radio Hour with Bob Dylan," which I still haven't heard. (It's about eyes this week.) And I want to spend some time at a little table in a State Street café adding some sentences to a draft of an essay I'm writing that's due in a few days. And, of course, it's podcast day.

Meanwhile, I feel I should point you to something to read... as if you wouldn't figure out somewhere to go next if I didn't point you there. There's Michael Totten's report from Lebanon. And Charles Johnson is uncovering information about unearthing bodies for posing in propaganda photos in Lebanon. Beyond Lebanon, you might wonder are smart people grumpier? But don't start acting grumpy as a way of trying to look smart. And speaking of grumpy, remember how pissed everyone got that time I said fat people needed to eat less? Here's a big, steaming helping of food for the kind of thoughts you like: you can blame the microbes that are colonizing your body.

So feel free to talk about any of that while I'm away. And with all that subject matter jammed up in one post, I may as well jam it up more and declare this post a coffeehouse... and alt-coffee-house.