December 7, 2006

Johnny Blue Eyes.


Gone! Damn! I loved that that rascal! So, now, my love is split only two ways: Yul and Ozzy.

A judge might order a scene cut from the "Borat" DVD.


Camille Paglia on... it's not my word.... "crotchgate."

Hey, it's mainstream media! It's Us Magazine. If it offends you, don't read on. I haven't been talking about "crotchgate," though I've noticed it, and I've thought you might want to talk about it, but it hasn't made it to the blog yet for any number of reasons. But now, Camille Paglia wants to talk about it, so... what the hell?... it feels sort of compulsory:
On how [crotchgate is] affecting feminism:

"These girls are lowering themselves to the level of backstreet floozies. It angers me because I fought a bitter fight to get feminism back on track and be pro-sex at the same time. This is degrading the entire pro-sex wing of feminism."
I love the way she thinks: 1. that she caused the whole trend, and 2. that she could start a trend and then keep it right in the ideal zone where it would benefit but not hurt women.

On how it’s affecting their reputation:
"I am completely appalled by what these young women are doing because I think that they are cheapening their own image and obliterating all sexual mystery and glamour, which are the heart of the star system."
The great stars need to maintain their grandeur. Nevertheless, there's another route, and you can get somewhere that way too. How else would Paris Hilton be anything?

On how Hollywood’s changed:
"These are women who are clearly out of control because the old studio era is over. The studio system...guided and shaped the careers of the young women who it signed up. It maximized their sexual allure by dealing it out in small doses and making sure you don’t have -- what has become here -- a situation of anarchy."
Anarchy! It's so easy. Just don't wear underpants.

On Madonna:

"Madonna was able to flash her breasts and play peek-a-boo because she is an authentic, creative artist who churns out song after song, project after project… but Britney seems like she’s lost and the career track is obliterated."
Madonna gets special privileges. She's an artist. You can tell by all the churning. Really, it's not the workaholism that makes Madonna an artist. It's the genuine creative touch (tainted as is it with untold foolishness).

As to the young celebs caught up in crotchgate.... They've grabbed your attention. They are the fixation of the whole world right now. That's something. It doesn't matter at all, really. But it's an impressive feat, however pointless.

ADDED: More here -- discussing the crotch-webtraffic connection and the "junctions of two parts or members" that is the "crotch," a term I reject, even without the "-gate."

YET MORE: Camille Paglia has been linking herself to Madonna for 16 years. I remember seeing this NYT op-ed back in 1990 (TimesSelect link). I remember talking about it then and wish I could have blogged about it at the time! So look at what Paglia said about Madonna and feminism and think about how well her "pro-sex feminism" connects to the crotchgate floozyism she now decries:
Madonna is the true feminist. She exposes the puritanism and suffocating ideology of American feminism, which is stuck in an adolescent whining mode. Madonna has taught young women to be fully female and sexual while still exercising total control over their lives. She shows girls how to be attractive, sensual, energetic, ambitious, aggressive and funny -- all at the same time....

Contemporary American feminism, which began by rejecting Freud because of his alleged sexism, has shut itself off from his ideas of ambiguity, contradiction, conflict, ambivalence. Its simplistic psychology is illustrated by the new cliche of the date-rape furor:" 'No' always means 'no'. " Will we ever graduate from the Girl Scouts? "No" has always been, and always will be, part of the dangerous, alluring courtship ritual of sex and seduction, observable even in the animal kingdom.

Madonna has a far profounder vision of sex than do the feminists. She sees both the animality and the artifice. Changing her costume style and hair color virtually every month, Madonna embodies the eternal values of beauty and pleasure. Feminism says, "No more masks." Madonna says we are nothing but masks.

Through her enormous impact on young women around the world, Madonna is the future of feminism.

Top 10 Funniest Political Moments of 2006.

They are pretty funny. (Via Instapundit.) But I bet we could come up with 10 more that are just as funny.

(Spare me the predictable and boring attempts at humor like the first comment at the link.)

"The Florida Supreme Court tossed Seminole County Judge John Sloop off the bench..."

"Sloop had been fighting for his job since he ... ordered 11 people to jail because they were late for court. It turned out they were sent to the wrong courtroom by a courthouse worker. Even when presented with the facts, Sloop didn't get them released and many of them sat in jail for hours." Sloop managed to hang on for 2 years.

School's out...

... for the winter.

Or, like, until the day after Martin Luther King Day. Still, there are lots of things that need to be done. But some key things are very nearly done. And as for today, well, it mostly feels like all the other weeks this semester, because my schedule's been to have my classes only on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Anyway, this sign will be on my door in about an hour. It's finally another day. You'll just have to wait and see who my split-screen-mate is. But feel free to guess. Hint: not a repeat.

"America's made up of choice..."

"You know, what is good for you? It's your own body that can tell what's good for you." (Via Metafilter.)

"A transparent scrim ... created a step back, a first, transitional distance."

Beautiful post, Amba.

"Jake was treated like a second-class citizen because he was IZ."

Life in Madison, complete with Inclusionary Zoning.

"The appearance of Little Fatty is a milestone for the internet."

BBC reports.

"It seems so simple - blocking the sense of smell and taste."

Now, here's a truly sad weight loss idea. Shouldn't we go in the opposite direction? Make very tasty dishes that are satisfying in smaller amounts.

The "bloggerlike behavior" at Evite.

As invitations are set up to encourage a reply that all the other recipients can see:
And while some people simply refuse to respond to Evite invitations, countless others find themselves composing clever detailed responses that require so much effort, they end up R.S.V.-Peeved.

Just last week Carolyn Fitzpatrick, 32, a retired lawyer from Wollaston, Mass., spent 20 minutes drafting a “no” response to an Evite.

“Twenty precious minutes,” said Ms. Fitzpatrick, the mother of a 3-month-old and a 2-year-old. “Do you have children? You don’t understand what 20 minutes to yourself is.”

So why bother?

“There’s pressure,” Ms. Fitzpatrick said. “You’re on stage.”
Ha. You don't sound too "bloggerlike" to me. The article goes on to print the chirpy regret she took 20 minutes to write and how much personal vanity she invested in the project. I suspect that the author of this NYT "Style" piece is friends with Fitzpatrick, heard her tale of tiny woe and then got the idea to concoct the "Style" piece.

Well, do people want to go to parties or not? Why not send out invitations for parties that will never even exist and just create a forum for everyone you know to write a message bragging about all the things they are so busy doing this time of year?

"It is a report to solve American problems, and not to solve Iraq's problems."

Iraqis respond to the Iraq Study Group's report.
For months, the Bush administration has pressured the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to take steps toward bringing the warring groups together and tackle Iraq's violent militias and corruption. But the Iraq Study Group recommends withdrawing U.S. support if the Iraqis fail to show advances....

For some Iraqis, the statement suggested that the report's authors did not grasp, or refused to acknowledge, the diverse ambitions, rivalries and weaknesses that plague the government. The Kurds have dreams of creating an independent state. The Sunnis appear leaderless, yet seek a political voice. The Shiites are riven by feuds. There are disagreements over partitioning Iraq, over whether to restore members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to their old jobs, over whether amnesty should be given to opponents of the government and the U.S. occupation....

Sammarai, the Sunni lawmaker, said the Bush administration has a responsibility to fulfill its pledge to bring democracy to Iraq, in which minorities will have a voice. "Because of their mistakes, it is so complicated now," Sammarai said. "Now, they say, 'We're going to leave the Iraqis to solve their problems.' "

December 6, 2006

"To some people in the office I could be considered borderline tragic."

"I figure life is short, so why not enjoy the frivolous, ridiculous side of it."

Hmmm.... maybe I need a lap dog.
I could sneak it into cafés, stow it under my desk in the office, prop it up on the lectern during class... don't we want doggies everywhere? As long as they're tiny.

"Daddy, the whores need to be paid."

No one should ever have to say that. But, good luck to Rain.
She is the daughter of an exceedingly complicated African American icon... and an equally complicated blond, blue-eyed Jewish woman who fervently believed that she was black....

When she was 4, her mother introduced Rain to her father.... [H]e took one look at her and said, "Ain't denying this one's mine!"...

"So yeah... he was misogynistic, mercurial, unpredictable and violent. But he was also my daddy, and sometimes, when he held me close, I looked into his big sad eyes and I knew he loved me. And that's the part I want to remember."



UPDATE: Too much complexity!!

The "Stupid" Dialogue.

Q: Is it not "incredibly lame" -- as you yourself said -- to call your opponent stupid?

A: You forgot the part about how I said it was "an admission that you have no substance."

Q: Yeah, well, then, that too.

A: And you forgot the part where I called Glenn Greenwald "such an idiot" and a "moron." ("Disreputable slimeball" is another matter altogether.)

Q: Yeah, yeah, yeah, all that too. So you admit, don't you, as you must, that you are a hypocrite?

A: First of all, if this was a contradiction, I'd own up to it. It provides an occasion to look appealingly self-deprecating and to quote Walt Whitman. (I am large. It's the blogs that got small.) But it's not a contradiction, for two -- at least two -- huge reasons. First, you have to see the two statements in context. I said "calling your opponent stupid is incredibly lame... an admission that you have no substance" in response to someone who made no argument other than to call me stupid. It was the sum total of his argument. I called Glenn Greenwald an idiot and a moron in the context of a 152-word paragraph that stated a substantive argument. You can object to the epithets because they were epithets, but not because they revealed a lack of substance. The substance was also there, and the substance established the stupidity of what Greenwald had written. Second, Greenwald's post was titled "The meaninglessness of tenure" and intended to be personally insulting to me. My retaliation with cheap insults was meant as a taunt, as a way to say "same to you, &*%#!" It was ironic, a way of saying -- not that everyone got this -- I don't normally stoop to your level, but today I feel like making an exception, &*%#!

Q: I don't get it.

A: That's not a question.

Q: Yeah, but I don't get it.

A: You're an idiot.


The 2006 Weblog Awards

Am I in the right category?

James Kim.

It's so sad to read about James Kim, who set out to save his family and did not even have the chance to know, as he was dying, that his wife and daughters would survive.

"I can't get past the fact that she's an abusive maniac who can’t tolerate insolence, no matter how inadvertent."

When divas collide.

"Thousands of Taco Bells Toss Green Onions."

Okay, then, let's have some music to throw out food by:

"Grave and deteriorating."


ADDED: For a version of the report with linkable HTML pages, go here.

“Like a bag full of genitals."

That's Will Self's description of his own face. Brilliant! Self-deprecation is so appealing... when it's done just right. And that's perfect. His new novel sounds pretty cool too:
“The Book of Dave” (Bloomsbury USA), is about a London cabdriver who inadvertently founds a religion when a ranting diatribe he buries in the garden of his ex-wife is dug up five centuries later, in a now post-apocalyptic world, and becomes a sacred text. Mr. Self’s own text is immensely learned in cabbie lore and even creates a cab-based “Clockwork Orange”-like language, in which the sun is the “foglamp,” for example, and the moon an “édlite.”
Perfect! Also in the article: Self arrives at Kennedy Airport and walks to his hotel in Manhattan. (See the photo of him on the Brooklyn Bridge, with just a slim book bag.) He used to consume lots of drugs and alcohol, but now he walks a lot: "But I’m not addicted... I don’t need to score a walk." Well, maybe you'd walk the 20 miles from airport to hotel if you had the NYT personnel accompanying you, taking note of your every observation. But how could your observations be as good as Self's?
[H]e caught a whiff of subway. “Ah,” he said. “The afflatus of the city’s bowels — now we’re getting into the real body of the city.”

"Things without trans fat are harder to get and more expensive."

Says O’Neil Whyte of Sweet Chef Southern Styles Bakery in Harlem, "This will be better for people’s health, but we’d like to know where to go from here." So you can't cook with Crisco anymore? That's crazy! Is there no respect for tradition? Of all the elitist regulations, this one takes the cake. And the pie crust.

(I know there's a new Crisco without trans fat. It's got more saturated fat instead. How long before we find out that the solution is worse than the problem?)

New York gets cold feet about subjective gender.

You start out wanting to be generous and benevolent and responsive to individuals with difficulties, but sometimes you have to face up to the practical problems:
New York City’s Board of Health unexpectedly withdrew a proposal yesterday that would have allowed people to alter the sex on their birth certificates without sex-change surgery.

The plan, if passed, would have put New York at the forefront of a movement to eliminate anatomical considerations when defining gender. It had been lauded by some mental health professionals and transgender advocates who said it would reduce discrimination against men and women who lived as members of the opposite sex.

But after the proposed change was widely publicized recently, board members and officials with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said that a surge of new concerns arose. Vital records experts said that new federal rules regarding identification documents, due next year, could have forced the policy to be scrapped.

Health officials said patients at hospitals asked how doctors would determine who would be assigned to the bed next to them. And among law enforcement officials, there were concerns about whether prisoners with altered birth certificates could be housed with female prisoners — even if they still had male anatomies.

“This is something we hadn’t fully thought through, frankly,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner. “What the birth certificate shows does have implications beyond just what the birth certificate shows.”

''We got complaints. It is controversial.''

The bus shelter made to smell like cookies:
Some critics expressed concern over potential allergic reactions. Others complained the ads could be offensive to the poor and homeless who can't afford to buy sweet treats.

Scented oils were sandwiched between cardboard cards emblazoned with ''Got Milk?'' and affixed to shelter walls, in hopes that the smell of just-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies would spark cravings for milk. The promotion was launched at five San Francisco bus shelters at a cost of about $30 per shelter.

Got milk? No, got whine.

That "austere, voice-of-God detachment... muffles personality, humor, accumulated insight—all the reasons reporters tend to be fun to talk to."

John Harris has a problem with newspapers like The Washington Post, where he was political editor, and he's turning to a new project.

"Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information..."

Historian Kenneth Stein ends his 23-year association with the Carter Center over Jimmy Carter's new book, "Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid," the "inflammatory" title of which he cannot bring himself to put in his scathing letter of resignation. (Via Instapundit.)
Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book. Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information or to unpack it with cuts, deftly slanted to provide a particular outlook. Having little access to Arabic and Hebrew sources, I believe, clearly handicapped his understanding and analyses of how history has unfolded over the last decade. Falsehoods, if repeated often enough become meta-truths, and they then can become the erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and for policy-making. The history and interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is already drowning in half-truths, suppositions, and self-serving myths; more are not necessary.
Jimmy Carter is 82. A bizarre number of books have been published with his name on the cover. What is it, 20 since leaving the Presidency? Almost one a year! What is his role in the production of these rectangular objects? He needs to come forward with some honest information. Professor Stein deserves a response.

"A 'bill of particulars' against the Constitution."

Lawprof Sanford Levinson cites seven problems with the U.S. Constitution as a model for the rest of the world.
1. [The equal representation of the states in the Senate]...

2. [The Electoral College]...

3. Is it appropriate that a president can frustrate the will of a majority of both houses of Congress by vetoing legislation with which he disagrees on purely political grounds?...

4. Is it a desirable feature of the Constitution that the impeachment clause enables us to rid ourselves of a criminal president, but leaves us at the tender mercies of an incompetent one until the conclusion of his or her fixed term of office?...

5. Does it make sense that an incumbent defeated in a national election maintains the presidency for a full ten weeks beyond election day, fully capable of making policy decisions that may drastically effect [sic] the future of the United States?...

6. Do you really want justices on the Supreme Court to serve up to four decades and, among other things, to be able to time their resignations to mesh with their own political preferences?...

7. Do you support the ability of thirteen legislative houses in as many states to block constitutional amendments desired by the overwhelming majority of Americans and, potentially, by eighty-six out of the ninety-nine legislative houses in the American states?

This is the lead piece in a symposium in the Harvard Law & Policy Review. There are responses from Frank I. Michelman, Mark Tushnet, Adrian Vermeule, and Robin West.

"John Roberts, Centrist."

Jeffrey Rosen writes about the Supreme Court's "partial-birth" abortion case, over at TNR, where they title the article "John Roberts, Centrist" and display an excellent caricature of our high court hero. But what about our other high court hero? He's not in the title, but there's plenty about Justice Stephen Breyer:
In the oral argument, there was a dramatic gap between the liberal and conservative justices about how broadly to create a health exception. Roberts suggested that a marginal increase in safety wasn't enough to override Congress's interest in preventing D&X abortions as long as the D&E procedure was nearly as safe in most cases. Justice Stephen Breyer, by contrast, wondered aloud whether the Court might allow D&X abortions "only where appropriate medical opinion finds it necessary for the safety or health of the mother." And, in 2000, Breyer wrote for the Court emphasizing that D&X abortions had to be allowed as long as a "significant body of medical opinion" believed they might be safer for some patients. The Court had previously said the abortion itself had to be necessary for the woman's physical or psychological health; Breyer expanded this to say that, if a woman chose an abortion, she was entitled to the safest one in all circumstances.

If Breyer applies the same lax standard in this case, he risks calling into question his hard-earned reputation as the justice most deferential to Congress--since a minority of doctors believe that the D&X procedure is always safer than D&E. Between 1994 and 2000, Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg voted to strike down fewer federal laws than any other justice; and, in his recent book, Active Liberty, Breyer argues that judges should show restraint and modesty in the face of national disagreement, deferring to the decisions of elected representatives--especially those in Congress--in order to promote democratic deliberation. There was something unseemly about Breyer's announcement that he had asked his law clerks to tally up the numbers of medical experts who testified for and against the partial-birth ban at every stage in the case. He seemed to be allowing his progressive weakness for the rule of experts to trump his devotion to judicial deference to Congress. By allowing the federal ban to be enjoined only for specific categories of medical conditions in which substantial numbers of doctors believe that D&X abortions are safer than D&E abortions, Breyer could preserve his record as a principled defender of judicial restraint.
But the main point of the article is that John Roberts will find -- Rosen prompts him to go for -- a compromise, a narrow basis for decision that could bring the Court together over this devisive issue. The idea is that the new Chief ought to see his role in terms of avoiding divisions and that his success will be defined by his ability to achieve unanimous decisions:
Roberts's hero, Chief Justice John Marshall, convinced a group of unruly colleagues to converge around narrow, unanimous opinions that appeared to give a victory to one side while also acknowledging the claims of its bitter opponents. If Roberts follows Marshall's example and finds a deft compromise in the abortion wars, he will deserve the thanks of a grateful nation. And, if he fails, his vision of a Court that governs best when it governs most narrowly will be off to a bumpy start.
But this is all contestable. Marshall kept things narrow? Marshall gave the losing side respect? Which cases is Rosen looking at when he makes that assertion? And is narrow compromising Roberts's only path to greatness? Is it a path to greatness at all?

Restoring the Bamiyan Buddhas.

The huge task:
German restorers from the International Council on Monuments and Sites have spent two years carefully sorting through the debris from both Buddhas, lifting out the largest sections by crane — some weigh 70, even 90 tons — and placing them under cover, because the soft stone disintegrates in rain or snow. The smaller fragments and mounds of dust are carefully piled up at the side.

Reports that the Taliban had taken away 40 truckloads of the stone from the statues to sell were not true, said Edmund Melzl, a restorer. “From the volume we think we have everything,” he said. Yet only 60 percent of that volume is stone, he added. The rest crumbled to dust in the explosions.
A surprising fact:
The Buddhas were only roughly carved in the rock, which was then covered in a mud plaster mixed with straw and horsehair molded to depict the folds of their robes and then painted in bright colors.
To remain a world heritage site, the statues need to be rebuilt out of the old pieces -- up to 90 tons of material. Quite aside from the difficulty of the project, there is some question whether it is right to spend the money -- $50 million -- on this in such a poor country. And there must be some question -- though the article barely refers to it -- about whether people in a Muslim country want giant Buddhist sculptures in the open landscape. The Taliban hated them enough to destroy them. Even assuming that few Afghans supported the outright destruction of the statues, how much do they want them back, what do they think of all the outsiders who care so assiduously about it, and do they really want all the tourists?

But there is already a plan to put on a big laser show that will project images of the Buddhas into the empty niches, a plan that involves hundreds of windmills and is designed to supply electricity to the local citizens. Presumably, these projects are made palatable by offering poor people benefits that outweigh any opposition they might otherwise have. But I'd really like to know what the local people think of it aside from the economic benefits they will be promised. Does anyone ask them?

"You need a computer and a phone and suddenly you're part of a new mesh of people, programs, archives, ideas."


IN THE COMMENTS: Exemplifying just what's so great about Internet, a few minutes after I posted this, someone from Norway weighed in with the Norwegian point of view:

They used a Swedish flag to signify the guy from Oslo. You'd think Canadians would be more sensitive to that type of error.

December 5, 2006

So happy in my Neanderthal world.

It's been a cool day here on the Althouse blog. First there was the NY Sun crossword puzzle, and now this:

For the new Althouse sideline, check this out, which got touched off here.

For the original Neanderthal post, go here.

And all this talk about Neanderthals has got me thinking:

Ancient doll.

Yesterday, I started to show you things from that old box of dollish things I dragged out of the cabinet. I can't quite identify this little doll from the 60s. We're in the Barbie era, but who is this? She's much smaller than a Barbie, about 6" tall. I used a scanner to take the photo, and though it's only by chance, the eerie look seems apt to me.

Ancient doll

"A true measure of a man is how you handle victory and how you handle defeat..."

Why does George H.W. Bush break down and cry? Is it really about Jeb? Or is he broken up about that other son?

Is it wrong for a disabled parent...

... to want a child with the same disability?
[S]ome parents had the painful and expensive fertility procedure for the express purpose of having children with a defective gene. It turns out that some mothers and fathers don’t view certain genetic conditions as disabilities but as a way to enter into a rich, shared culture....

Mary Ellen Little, a New Jersey nurse with dwarfism, had her first daughter before a prenatal test for achondroplasia was available. For her second child, she had amniocentesis. “I prayed for a little one,” meaning a dwarf, she told me.

The wait, she recalled, was grueling, since “I figured I couldn’t be blessed twice, but I was.” Both her daughters, now 11 and 7, are “little people.”

What's Angela wearing these days?

You know, Project Runway Season 3 Angela. I'm just wondering what she's been wearing lately.

I feel famous.


UPDATE: Now, you have to go to the archive search and select 12/05/2006 to find what I'm talking about. When you get there, see: 60 down.

"With the Christmas specials upon us, what's your favorite "special holiday episode" TV convention?"

Asks Television Without Pity:
  • The A Christmas Carol rip-off
  • The It's a Wonderful Life rip-off
  • The Miracle on 34th Street rip-off
  • The "Jesus is the reason for the season" lesson
  • The "It's better to give than to receive" lesson
  • The "There's no place like home for the holidays" lesson
  • The "Guitar-playing teen angel helps you and your mom care about the homeless, and rescue your embattled gay friend" episode
It's a poll, so go vote. If you know the basic TWOP rule of polls, you already know which one is going to win.

"I like-a this place. Very nice. When you make all the mens do a pyramid, can I be on top?"

The Borat deleted scene. Too risky for the movie. Now on YouTube.


Just one of those things that appeal to Dan.

"So what did Neanderthal women do all day?"

The usual evidence of division of labor by sex -- needles, small animal remains, grinding stones -- is missing, so anthropologists Steven L. Kuhn and Mary C. Stiner theorize that the women must have joined the men in hunting for large animals. But -- assuming the theory is correct -- don't cheer over the modern-seeming enlightenment of the Neanderthals. The Neanderthals died out, and our ancestors, with their division of labor, won the struggle for survival.

But there's an alternate theory:
A rival hypothesis proposed by Richard Klein of Stanford University holds that some cognitive advance like the perfection of language underlay the burst of innovative behavior shown by Upper Paleolithic people and their predecessors in Africa.

Why did the Neanderthals fail to adapt when modern humans arrived on their doorstep? Under Dr. Klein’s hypothesis, the reason is simply that they were cognitively less advanced.
Does this say anything about us? As you think about yourself and what we are, does it make any difference if the truth is as Kuhn and Stiner have it or as Klein does?

IN THE COMMENTS: Madison Man says: "I'm guessing that cognitively less advanced is anthrospeak for dumber. It must be too judgemental to call Neanderthals stupid -- even though that's what the adjective means!" It's funny that we feel that it's wrong to disrespect the Neanderthal. But I have that feeling!

ADDED: UW anthro professor John Hawks is reading the the Kuhn-Stiner paper. He comments:
[T]en years ago, we were arguing about whether Neandertals could hunt at all, or whether instead they were ineffective scavengers depending on carnivore handouts.

I suppose those days must be behind us, because now we read Neandertals were such committed big game hunters that they needed their females and kids to hunt along with them, which fatally compromised their ability to find and exploit small animals and plant foods.

Apparently it took some tropical mojo to make modern women realize they could eat plant foods like every other primate.

"There seemed little prospect that either the Louisville, Ky., or Seattle plans would survive the hostile scrutiny of the court’s new majority."

Writes Linda Greenhouse of the racial balancing cases argued yesterday:
Before the arguments on Monday, the challenge for the school board lawyers defending the plans, along with their allies in the civil rights community, had appeared to be to persuade the justices that the appropriate analogy was not to affirmative action, a freighted subject for the court in which benefits are bestowed on one group and withheld from another, but rather to integration, in which the goal is to educate everyone as equally as possible.

But by the end of the tense two hours of argument, that effort had not so much failed as it had become irrelevant. Lawyers for the school systems found themselves struggling, under the justices’ questioning, to meet the even more basic challenge of explaining why the plans should be seen as something different from the intentional segregation that the court struck down in Brown v. Board of Education.
Is it really so hopeless for the school districts? What did Justice Kennedy say?
While his questions suggested that he would not rule out any and all policies undertaken with a knowledge of the probable racial consequences, Justice Kennedy made clear his distaste for the policies at issue in these cases, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, No. 05-908, and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, No. 05-915.

To Mr. Madden, the Seattle district’s lawyer, Justice Kennedy said that unlike magnet schools, special resources, or school location decisions, “you’re characterizing each student by reason of the color of his or her skin.”

He continued: “That is quite a different means. And it seems to me that that should only be, if ever allowed, allowed as a last resort.”

"Gibson is a primitive all right, but so were Cecil B. DeMille and D. W. Griffith, and somehow we survived their idiocies."

Can we respect the art and put to the side what we know about the artist?

If "Apocalypto" is a great work of art, I want Mel Gibson to get full credit for it. Am I taking back what I said last summer, in a post titled Mel Gibson, you are discredited forever"? Not really. The point there was that what we know about the artist's mind belongs in our interpretation of his work. For that reason, what we learned about him had a very damaging effect on the meaning "The Passion of the Christ," which had already aroused suspicions of anti-Semitism.

What of Richard Schickel's idea of regarding Gibson as a "primitive"? Is this a label that works? Regard the man as an unruly beast who can't meet our normal social standards, and realize that art can spring forth from such a beast and that this art can be fresher and truer that what comes from artists with far greater character and refinement?

IN THE COMMENTS: Johnstodderinexile:
I sense that the Michael Richards incident has retroactively given Mel Gibson another chance....
I agree!

"Bond drives expensive supercars. Borat has a bodged-up old ice cream van of dubious origins with a bear in the back."

Who pays more for insurance?

December 4, 2006

Long blog posts.

I'm not impressed. Try harder. Edit.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lots of speculation about why I wrote this post. I eventually burst a bubble of suspicion. Then some people get into a brevity contest. Sippican suggests the ultimate, iconic, brief blog post. I am inspired to create the ultimate, iconic, brief blog.


Cellist and listener in Paris

John Althouse Cohen took this picture in Paris in 2005. It looks better in the enlargement, which you'll see if you click on the picture. What's with the post title? Click on the picture!

Things made by children for Christmas long ago.

Back in the 1950s, in the days before Barbie, my family lived in a little house in Brookside, in Newark, Delaware, and my sister and I played with "little dolls" -- Ginny Dolls. We had a dark green bookcase, and each shelf was considered a floor of the doll's house. It was elaborately furnished and decorated, and we were always making tiny things for them. I am surprised that some of the things still exist. Here are three Christmas stockings that we sewed by hand. They are only slightly larger than this picture shows them:

Hand-sewn Christmas stockings

Did your dolls celebrate Christmas? Did you play out stories of them anticipating the day? Did you have each doll give every other doll a present? Did you make the tiny presents yourself? We did. Here's a little teddy bear that my older sister made. It's actually smaller in real life:

Hand-sewn bear

It's hand-sewn and stuffed, with the details painted on. Why is the paint still so clear and bright, after nearly half a century? It's oil paint. Why did little kids have oil paint? Because we had paint-by-number sets, and we realized with could use the paint for our own purposes. I, for example, painted my nose blue, because I was inspired by a rustic character on the Walt Disney TV show -- "The Adventures of Spin and Marty" -- who used to say, "Well, I'll be a blue-nosed gopher." My sister painted the features on the exquisite little bear. Do you know what it's like to have an older sister?

Corporations with chaplains.

Is your employer tending to your soul?
From car parts makers to fast food chains to financial service companies, corporations across the country are bringing chaplains into the workplace. At most companies, the chaplaincy resembles the military model, which calls for chaplains to serve the religiously diverse community before them, not to evangelize.

“Someone who has never thought about this might assume they pray with people, but the majority of the job is listening to people, helping them with very human problems, not one big intensive religious discussion,” said David Miller, executive director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture and the author of the book “God at Work.”

The spread of corporate chaplaincy programs, especially out of the Bible Belt to the North, is part of a growing trend among businesses to embrace religion rather than reject it, Mr. Miller said. Executives now look for ways to build a company that adheres to certain Christian values. Some businesses offer Muslim employees a place and the time to pray during work.

Workplace chaplaincies are generally less costly to operate than the more familiar employee assistance program model of counseling and making referrals. Most chaplaincies also go beyond such programs to bring something of the local pastor to the workplace: the person who is on call around the clock to rush to the hospital when an employee has been in a car accident, or to find housing for families burned out of their houses, or to visit a worker’s relative in jail, even to officiate at weddings and funerals.

“You’re at work 8 to 10 hours a day, so that is where you spend a lot of your productive time,” said Tim Embry, owner of American LubeFast, a chain of oil change companies in the Southeast. “Work is where people are at and where they need to be cared for.”
Work is where people are at and where they need to be cared for. It's true, isn't it?

ADDED: Stephen Bainbridge opines.

MORE: Maggie's Farm likes the chaplaincy.

The crude oil spa.

Luxury, Azerbaijan style.
In her office overlooking the oil field that supplies Health Center, Gyultikin Suleymanova, the lead doctor, said the local crude was unusual because it contained little natural gas or other lighter fractions of petroleum, and as a result was safe.

Naftalan crude contains about 50 percent naphthalene, a hydrocarbon best known as the stuff of mothballs. It is also an active ingredient in coal tar soaps, which are used by dermatologists to treat psoriasis, though in lower concentrations....

Each bath uses about a barrel of crude, which is recycled into a communal tank for future bathers, given the cost of oil these days. [Bath master Arzu] Mirzeyev also uses paper towels to wipe bathers clean, a long, hard process that involves several showers....

The resort has 80 rooms and 10 tubs, 5 for women, 5 for men. The tubs are not scoured between baths and, as might be expected, have perhaps the world’s worst bathtub rings — greasy and greenish brown.
Oh, our spas are ridiculous too.

"'The office of student services has disapproved your transfer request' because it would 'have an adverse effect on desegregation compliance.'"

Do you accept that... well, not you, you're a 5-year-old boy... should your mother accept that? Crystal Meredith did not, she sued, and the Supreme Court hears oral argument today:
Her lawyer, Teddy Gordon, says... it "is a pure quota," adding, "We've color coded children."...

To supporters of the Louisville plan, diversity is more important in early grades than it is in college. Opponents counter that there are other race-neutral ways of achieving diversity -- such as assignment by socio-economic status. In school surveys, however, Louisville parents have rejected that approach as too intrusive, since it would require that families supply the school board with personal information.

What the parents want is important, the school board says. It points to the fact that white students were fleeing the Louisville public schools by the thousands until the board adopted a plan in the mid-1980s that combined race-conscious student assignment with choice. Suddenly, school attendance stabilized....

PTA board member Mary Myers says the race-conscious assignment plan has also equalized school resources. "My children do not have to sit next to a white child to learn," she says, "but they need the resources of that school," and under this system, "they all get the same resources."...

The Bush administration and its former solicitor general, Ted Olson, point out though, that before 1954, racially segregated schools were highly popular too. "To deny people opportunities on the basis of race because you've been re-elected by a high popular vote just won't cut it under the Constitution," Olson says.

The Constitution, he adds, requires that the government be colorblind. It cannot discriminate to offset societal discrimination. Frank Mellen, the school board's lawyer, says that's simplistic since the Louisville plan is an evolution of what the federal courts ordered until just six years ago.

"It would be odd," he says, "if what was legally required one day by a desegregation decree becomes forbidden another day when the court dissolves the decree."
There's much more at the link, and plenty of discussion elsewhere on the web about today's tremendously important cases. (The second case is about the Seattle schools.) Please read the whole article. Your comments here will be better if you speak to the specific details to the case and understand the context, even if it is your inclination to answer the question with a bright, ideological rule. Keep in mind that Judge Alex Kozinski, a judge who is highly respected by conservatives, approved of the Seattle program, writing that it "is not meant to oppress minorities, nor does it have that effect. . . . There is no attempt to give members of particular races political power based on skin color. There is no competition between the races, and no race is given a preference over another."

December 3, 2006

My cartoon environment.

On a concrete wall -- it's actually the art school -- in the snow... it's mysteriously evocative...

Speech bubble grafitti

Speech balloons unconnected to comic book characters...

In a café, I'm staring at the back of a young man with the Punky Color red hair of ten years ago:

Café redhead

Or is that Manic Panic?

ADDED: Tonya photographs my "Do Not Disturb" sign, which overlaps two postcards by the comics genius Mark Beyer.

Audible Althouse #73.

It's time for another podcast... about the odd last few days on the blog called Althouse... hints of life in the real world of the life of a blogger called Ann Althouse... wandering into a physical place where you get lost and can't find your way back, and the way that's like life itself, as you find yourself hopelessly separated from the past.

Stream it right through your computer here. But all the hardy, experienced outdoorsmen subscribe on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

"He can't get within a Glenn of me!"

"Glinks are links from guys named Glenn."

Those are just two quotes from me, in my 73rd podcast, talking about my irritation with Andrew Sullivan. Stay tuned! The podcast will be available shortly. And longly.

Disharmony, chaos, and the sin of "close proximity."

Cracking down on the bloggers in Malaysia.

"I'm sure that there are some conservatives out there who break out in hives when they hear a judge talking about activism."

Said Chris Wallace, interviewing Justice Stephen Breyer about his book "Active Liberty," on "Fox News Sunday" this morning. Breyer flipped out, turned bright red, and started accusing him of doing a right wing hit job. Just kidding. Can you even picture Breyer getting mad?

A taste:
WALLACE: Let's start with the title of your book, "Active Liberty." I'm sure that there are some conservatives out there who break out in hives when they hear a judge talking about activism. They get the idea you think it's OK to read all sorts of things into the Constitution so you get the results you want.

BREYER: I think the best description in one sentence of that title, "Active Liberty," is that the point of the book is we don't need activist judges; we do need activist citizens. And it's about not how judges should be activists. To the contrary, it's about how every citizen should participate in government.

WALLACE: But let's talk about that. Because in your book, you say that judges have various tools when they decide a case. And more important even than the language of the law, you say, are the purpose of the provision and the consequences of deciding it one way or another.

I want to put up a quote from your book and take a look at it, if you will. Here it is: "Since law is connected to life, judges, in applying a text in light of its purpose, should look to consequences including contemporary conditions, social, industrial and political, of the community to be affected."

Justice Breyer, when a judge takes it upon himself to interpret what purpose the founders, the framers meant when they put something in the Constitution, doesn't that allow them, a judge, to do almost anything?

BREYER: No, I think it's the contrary.

You see, it takes place in a context. I think whether you are a judge on my court or whether you are a judge on a court of appeals or any court, and lawyers too — and if you're interested in law yourself, you'll be in the same situation — you have a text that isn't clear.

If the text is clear, you follow the text. If the text isn't clear, you have to work out what it means. And that requires context.

The freedom of speech. Do you know what it means? Basically. But you don't know its entire content, and it doesn't tell you itself. Those words, "the freedom of speech," "Congress shall pass no law abridging the freedom of speech." Neither they, the founders, nor those words tell you how to apply it to the Internet.

So what can you use in a tough case to figure out how the First Amendment applies to cable television and requirements that cable carry over-the-air stations? How do you do it?

Taking the fest out of Festivus.

This was Governor Doyle last year, when Festivus meant something...

But now... now!... Michael Richards has taken away all the joy of the season. But was Festivus a season of joy in the first place?
GEORGE: ... It's a card from my dad.

ELAINE: What is it? (Grabs the card from George, he tries to stop her, but fails. She reads it out loud.) "Dear son, Happy Festivus." What is Festivus?

GEORGE: It's nothing, stop it..

JERRY: When George was growing up..

GEORGE: (Interrupting) Jerry, No!

JERRY: His father..


JERRY: Hated all the commercial and religious aspects of Christmas, so he made up his own holiday.

ELAINE: Ohhhh.. and another piece of the puzzle falls into place.

GEORGE: (pleading) Alright..

JERRY: And instead of a tree, didn't your father put up an aluminum pole?

(Elaine starts laughing uncontrollably - and continues to do so)

GEORGE: Jerry! Stop it!

JERRY: And weren't there a feats of strength that always ended up with you crying?
No! It was for cranks and cynics. Was Kramer even involved? Yes, he was. As George's father (Frank) explains the holiday, Kramer is the one who gets into it:
FRANK: And at the Festivus dinner, you gather your family around, and you tell them all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year.

KRAMER: Is there a tree?

FRANK: No. Instead, there's a pole. It requires not decoration. I find tinsel distracting.

KRAMER: Frank, this new holiday of yours is scratching me right where I itch.

FRANK: Let's do it then! Festivus is back! I'll get the pole out of the crawl space. (Turns to leave, meets up with Elaine)
So, really, it is important for Governor Doyle to make it clear that he doesn't itch there.

Bloggers who take money from politicians.

A handy chart, showing who got money, how much they got, and the embarrassing ass-kissing quotes they dished up. More here:
The trend seems certain to continue in 2008. Potential presidential hopefuls like Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain already are paying big-name bloggers as consultants...

“This intersection isn’t going away,” Jerome Armstrong of MyDD, an elite blogger hired by campaigns, wrote earlier this year, “and I hope more and more bloggers are able to work to influence how campaigns are run.”
And more and more bloggers will sell out their credibility. Politicians: If you're worried a blogger might undercut your campaign, know that about $2,000 a month will not only cut off the criticism; it will buy you a stream of free ads, written by a free ad writer. What a bargain!

Those contemptuous atheists... why won't they be kind?

Nicholas Kristof -- in a TimesSelect column -- wants atheists to back off and quit pressuring religious people about their beliefs:
[There is] an increasingly assertive, often obnoxious atheist offensive led in part by [Richard] Dawkins — the Oxford scientist who is author of the new best seller “The God Delusion.” It’s a militant, in-your-face brand of atheism that he and others are proselytizing for....

[T]he tone of this Charge of the Atheist Brigade is ... contemptuous and even ... a bit fundamentalist.

“These writers share a few things with the zealous religionists they oppose, such as a high degree of dogmatism and an aggressive rhetorical style,” says John Green of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. “Indeed, one could speak of a secular fundamentalism that resembles religious fundamentalism. This may be one of those cases where opposites converge.”...

Now that the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars, let’s hope that the Atheist Left doesn’t revive them. We’ve suffered enough from religious intolerance that the last thing the world needs is irreligious intolerance.
The Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars? In-your-face atheists are "the Atheist Left"? Is this just a right-left political battle? I think at least some of this is a genuine debate about religion. Whether it's a cloaked political debate, a mixed political-religious debate, or purely a debate about religion, there is a place for pointed humor and harsh argument. I generally favor respecting religious beliefs. It's usually best not to go at religious people with mockery and contempt. For one thing, if you want to persuade people, it's usually better not to demonize them or call them idiots. But it's also a bad idea to stir up a lot of free-floating hostility. Nevertheless, we do need some strong voices in the mix, and I'd hate to live in a world where all the opinion was tamped down and moderated. I just hope that those who go in for mockery do it well. Dawkins is pretty good at it. He just needs more smart, tough people on the other side to joust with him.

Note: In an amazing deviation from the usual NYT approach, Kristof's column contains an actual hot link that sends you away from the NYT website. (It takes you to Why Won't God Heal the Amputees? (Which is a damned good question.)) The link is right in the second paragraph, demonstrating an astounding trust in the reader's ability to remember to come back and finish reading the column. Talk about faith!

ADDED: Like me, Kevin Drum is incredulous about Kristof's assertion that the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars.

"The memo will be spun in the usual ways; the best thing is to read it for yourself."

Says John Hinderaker of the Rumsfeld memo -- leaked and published in the NYT. Exactly. Read the memo yourself: here.

IN THE COMMENTS: Steven B says:
My conspiracy theory: The memo is a fake. I've read several different places that Rumsfeld despises acronyms, never uses them, and doesn't allow them to be used in documents he reads or dictates.

Ruth Anne says:
Stephen B: If your acronym theory is correct, here's another one that crept in, "Korean Katusas"

Katusa is an acronym for Korean augmentee to the U.S. Army.

Is that true about Rumsfeld and acronyms?

MORE: By the Sea writes:
I worked on Secretary Rumsfeld's personal staff for three years and at least the writing style is consistent with his. He does use acronyms, and especially in snowflakes, those nasty things that come drifting down from his office that ruin your chances of going home on time.

All I can say is based on writing style, it seems authentic.

"Lost in the Amazon."

Regular readers know -- unless you're skimming... and forgetting... -- that one of my favorite TV shows is "I Shouldn't Be Alive." In fact, this is the only show that I find myself telling other people to watch. (I used to tell people to watch "The Comeback," which is now off the air.) Part of it is that real-life situations can remind you of something that happened on "I Shouldn't Be Alive." Things go awry and you can say, You know, if this was "I Shouldn't Be Alive'... well, you know, all sorts of unfortunate decisions and bad consequences would ensue.

Usually, the characters on "I Shouldn't Be Alive" are hardy, experienced outdoorsmen taking on a tough challenge and running into some bad luck. The new episode, "Lost in the Amazon," is not like that. You have a young couple, fulfilling their dream of seeing the Amazon rain forest, starting out from a lodge, onto what they know know to be a 3-mile hiking path. All they have to do is stay on the path. Like little children, they become charmed by the cute animals they see and totter about pointing at things -- ooh, it's a toucan! -- until they realize they're not on the path. They have a compass, but they've left the map back at the lodge, and instead of preserving their awareness of their starting spot and meticulously exploring the possible ways back to the path or just staying put and waiting for rescue, they decide they're sure which direction on the compass point is the correct one and hike straight into the forest trying to go as far as they can. They trudge on for days, into unmarked forest, completely destroying any chance that people who go out to search for them can possibly find them. They keep going as if they've got a shot at coming out on the other side of the forest, when, if they remember anything about where they are, there could be nothing but 1000 miles of forest ahead of them.

In all the other episodes of the show, the tough guys with problems display an astounding will to live. Horribly crushed leg bones, -70 degree temperatures, an elephant stampede, trapped under a boulder.... they deal with it. "Lost in the Amazon" is different. These characters don't just give up, they get tired of struggling and decide to commit suicide! And their struggle, on the physical level, consists of foot blisters, unclean drinking water, mosquitoes, sleeping outdoors, and -- despite much talk of scary animals like jaguars and snakes -- a herd of little pigs. The man does a decent job of yelling at the pigs to make them go, and the woman has the good idea of straining the water through her bra cup. But mostly, they slap mosquitoes, keep walking (as if it's a solution), and talk about ending it all. They happen to run across a man in a boat who saves them, but this is right before the deadline on their suicide pact, which was premised on the notion I'd rather die than spend one more night in the forest.

I was picturing an alternate version of the couple who realize that they are so deeply lost that they may never get out and decide they will live out their lives in the forest. Build a camp, develop your hunting and gathering skills, and find a way to make life good. Wouldn't you get to the point where you'd look at each other and say Hey, we're Adam and Eve.

December 2, 2006

A window on Bascom Mall.

It's a hard call when you're sitting at a faculty meeting in the big law school room that overlooks Bascom Mall and you see students out there on skis. Do you pull out your little camera and grab a couple shots or must you maintain the appearance of 100% concentration on the task at hand?

Skiing on Bascom Mall

I took the picture. If you think I'm the bad law professor for it, just know I'm saying "hi" to all the former students who come by this blog sometimes and like when it's a window looking back into their beloved college town.

There was some really cool skiing on the hill yesterday!

So your 5-year-old boy wants to dress like a girl....

How far should you go in supporting him? What if you're the teacher and the parents send him to kindergarten wearing a dress?
Doctors, some of them from the top pediatric hospitals, have begun to advise families to let these children be “who they are” to foster a sense of security and self-esteem. They are motivated, in part, by the high incidence of depression, suicidal feelings and self-mutilation that has been common in past generations of transgender children. Legal trends suggest that schools are now required to respect parents’ decisions....

Cassandra Reese, a first-grade teacher outside Boston, recalled that fellow teachers were unnerved when a young boy showed up in a skirt. “They said, ‘This is not normal,’ and, ‘It’s the parents’ fault,’ ” Ms. Reese said. “They didn’t see children as sophisticated enough to verbalize their feelings.”
And then there are the parents who think they ought to give hormone treatments to young tomboy girls on the theory that they need to be spared the shocking evidence of femininity that is menstruation.

"Suppose the Secretary of Homeland Security, who has unearmarked funds in his budget, decided to build a mosque..."

Enough about "Bong Hits 4 Jesus," let's pay attention to another of the cases the Court decided to hear -- same link as the previous post -- Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation. This case raises the question of who may sue to enforce the Establishment Clause. The plaintiff (which filed the case in Madison, Wisconsin) relied on the status of its members as taxpayers to challenge the practice of holding conferences the White House to assist religious groups in applying for federal grants -- part of President Bush's Faith-Based and Community Initiative. Judge Shabaz dismissed the case on the ground that Congress hadn't earmarked the money to go to religion and therefore that the plaintiffs could not use the special doctrine -- articulated in Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, (1968) -- that allows taxpayers to enforce the Establishment Clause. The Seventh Circuit reversed, with Judge Posner writing the opinion.

Here's Posner's opinion. (I'm linking to the opinion at "Project Posner," a website devoted to Posner's judicial opinions.)
The Court decided in Flast that they should not stand in the way of challenges to "exercises of congressional power under the taxing and spending clauses of Art. I, § 8, of the Constitution," provided that the expenditure complained of is not just "an incidental expenditure of tax funds in the administration of an essentially regulatory statute" and that "the challenged enactment exceeds specific constitutional limitations imposed upon the exercise of the congressional taxing and spending power and not simply that the enactment is generally beyond the powers delegated to Congress by Art. I, § 8." 392 U.S. at 102-03. The Court found that this two-part test was satisfied by a challenge to the use of "the taxing and spending power . . . to favor one religion over another or to support religion in general." Id. at 103....

At argument the plaintiffs' counsel was unable to identify the appropriations that fund the conferences. The complaint does, however, allege that the conferences are funded by money derived from appropriations, which means from exercises of Congress's spending power rather than from, say, voluntary donations by private citizens. There is no suggestion that these are appropriations earmarked for these conferences, or for any other activities of the various Faith-Based and Community Initiatives programs, or for a statute pursuant to which the programs were created. The money must come from appropriations for the general administrative expenses, over which the President and other executive branch officials have a degree of discretionary power, of the departments that sponsor the conferences. Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005, Pub. L. No. 108-447, 118 Stat. 2809, 2853, 3115-16, 3136, 3150, 3311-12; Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2005, Pub. L. No. 108-334, 118 Stat. 1298-99.

The difference, then, between this case on the one hand and Flast and Kendrick on the other is that the expenditures in those cases were pursuant to specific congressional grant programs, while in this case there is no statutory program, just the general "program" of appropriating some money to executive-branch departments without strings attached. The difference cannot be controlling. Suppose the Secretary of Homeland Security, who has unearmarked funds in his budget, decided to build a mosque and pay an Imam a salary to preach in it because the Secretary believed that federal financial assistance to Islam would reduce the likelihood of Islamist terrorism in the United States. No doubt so elaborate, so public, a subvention of religion would give rise to standing to sue on other grounds, just as in the St. Charles cross case; taxpayer standing in the hypothetical mosque case would not be essential to enabling a suit to be brought in federal court to challenge the violation of the establishment clause. But it would be too much of a paradox to recognize taxpayer standing only in cases in which the violation of the establishment clause was so slight or furtive that no other basis of standing could be found, and to deny it in the more serious cases.
Citing precedent, Posner identified the standing problem here as involving only the "prudential" limitations on federal court jurisdiction -- as opposed to the Article III constitutional limitations. Since "the prudential principles of standing, like other common law principles, are protean and mutable," Posner thereby freed himself to speak in practical terms and to avoid the Article III doctrine -- which has tightened up in the years since Flast and which has long made Flast seem like an anomalous safe harbor for Establishment Clause litigants.

Since the constitutionalized standing doctrine of the Burger and Rehnquist Courts presents a problem for those who want to argue that Flast was correctly decided, I should think it would be quite hard to argue nowadays that Flast ought to be broadened. Yet Flast is stare decisis, and Posner's practical reasoning is impressive. What if the Secretary of Homeland Security used general funds to build a mosque and pay an Imam?

The "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case.

Everyone's going to want to talk about the new Supreme Court case, because it's amusing to say "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." Oh, maybe not everyone. It must deeply pain some people to say or hear the words "Bong Hits 4 Jesus," and it troubles them all the more that some otherwise halfway respectable folks think it's amusing to say "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." Some of them will be upset by the "Bong Hits" part. Drug use is not funny. Some will be upset by the word "Jesus." Sacrilege! And some -- you know the type -- experience "4" for "for" as if they were hearing fingernails on the blackboard.

Indeed, the phrase "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" is a good test of human sensitivity: The unamused folk represent four classic categories of conservatives. There are two types who who bridle at "Bong Hits": 1. people who want to control the manner and extent to which other people have fun and 2. people who are dedicated to the proposition that the law -- whatever it is -- must be followed. Those who don't like the use of "Jesus" are the sort who hear blasphemy in every "Omigod." Their minds don't go to a fun place when you quote words that are to you mere foolery. And then there are the pedants and spelling sticklers who are on guard about the degradation of language. What with Prince and text messaging and who knows what else, our language is under attack.

So now we have this phrase -- Bong Hits 4 Jesus! -- which enters the lofty annals of First Amendment law. Maybe it goes at the top of the list -- ousting "F**k the draft" -- of great phrases in the history of free speech litigation.

And how cool it is now to be Joseph Frederick, the student who got suspended from high school after he unfurled a 20-foot banner as the Olympic Torch Relay that passed through Juneau in 2002. (He displayed his words on the public street, not at school. The students had been released from school to go watch the spectacle.) Whether he wins or loses his case -- he sued the principal, Deborah Morse, for damages -- his name and his gloriously silly phrase will be inscribed in the constitutional case law forever. Some day he'll go to law school, I bet, and everyone will point and stare. He'll be a big law celebrity: It's the Bong Hits 4 Jesus guy!

December 1, 2006

Well, is this NSFW?

It's Susan Hallowell, the director of the Transportation Security Administration's security laboratory, as X-rayed by the "backscatter" machine. She's willing to appear in this form, so why not you? What's worse, that or a pat-down search? Take your pick.

This reminds me of the discussion of X-Ray glasses in Bill Bryson's new memoir of his boyhood. Wouldn't people look creepy, seen naked under their clothes? They wouldn't look like a naked person, because the clothes would be smooshing various parts of their body in strange ways. (And speaking of creepy: "Do I Creep You Out?" (via Drawn!).)

Then there's this book, "Seeing Through Clothes," that contends that paintings of nudes tend to do just that, depict the bodies pushed into a form that could only be achieved with a corset or some such device.

Nude people. You don't really want to see them. Believe me.

AND: I'm still going to watch "Positively Naked" on Cinemax tonight:
On an early morning in March 2004 some 85 adults gathered at a restaurant in Manhattan's meatpacking district, removed their clothes and posed for Mr. Tunick's camera. Arlene Donnelly Nelson and David Nelson's moving 38-minute documentary, to be shown tonight on Cinemax to commemorate World AIDS Day, captures the moment gracefully.

Like a lot of their fellow human beings, some of these men and women are a little apprehensive about revealing their naked bodies to total strangers, not to mention the world. One man says he is much more nervous about showing his distended abdomen (a side effect of medical treatment) than his penis. Many seem nervous at first but soon relax into the equality that nakedness creates. Not surprisingly, one man reports "a sense of camaraderie" in the experience.

At first the sight of scores of naked adults milling about and looking confused about what is expected of them bears an unsettling resemblance to a scene from a Holocaust film. But as the photo session proceeds, an energizing dignity takes hold. Neither the documentary nor the magazine cover photograph focuses on genitalia. The scene really does convey, as publicity materials suggest, the spirit within the flesh.
We'll see if it's quite as spiritual as all that. I tend to doubt it. I hate the idea that it's supposed to be profound because we're told it's about AIDS, as was done so often years ago.

ADDED: "The equality that nakedness creates"??

UPDATE: I've now watched the documentary "Positively Naked," and, despite all the talk about an art "installation," it was very much a documentary about people living with HIV/AIDS. An art-focused documentary would have been entirely different. I'm not knocking it for using AIDS to add weight to art, because it wasn't enough about art. It was about AIDs, and the feelings of the people who got naked and photographed were the subject of the documentary. Yes, photography on this level is art, but there was no pomposity about this art, and Tunick was an appealing and reasonably modest character. He wasn't at all like the stereotypical "installation" artist. As far as the nudity, it was really the standard nudist material. Getting nude in a group has some meaning. It's not art. It's a psychological phenomenon that isn't edgy or new in any way. So basically, this was a conventional documentary about struggling individuals. They also got nude and posed for a big photograph. But there was no pretension about the quality of the photography as art. The emphasis was entirely on the camaraderie. Nice. I wouldn't have watched it if I'd known what this was going to be, but it's perfectly fine for what it set out to do. Really, I would have preferred a full-of-himself artist revealing a lack of sensitivity toward the subject, but that's speaking only of the documentary I'd like to watch. Tunick seems like a decent guy, and that's a good enough thing in itself.

Finally, you can consummate...

... your love for iPod. (Via Metafilter.)

UPDATE: Link deleted. Go to the Metafilter post to get the joke.

Bad timing.

Damn it! I just ran outside in my pajamas -- I'm blogging in pajamas! -- into 18° darkness to look around for the newspaper and not find it. I get back inside, back to my computer, only to hear a car and that distinctive flopping sound....

Bogus headline, ridiculously unshocking juror behavior.

"High heel races, food fights and jurors gone wild." The jurors were back at the hotel, where they were sequestered for two weeks.
Jurors in the trial of a man accused of killing an Indiana University student got "giggly" while sequestered at a hotel, records show -- with men racing each other wearing high heels, food fights, football and Frisbee.

The defense is not amused, but may not be able to do much about it.

Can we do anything about writing that headline and wasting our time with a big article trotting out a defense attorney's desperate theory?

Proposed car safety device: a sharp stake on the steering wheel.

Pointing right at the driver! Think about how effectively it would work. This, risk expert John Adams explains, is why seat belts do not reduce death and injury as much as you might think:
Think of a trapeze artist, suggests Adams, or a rock climber, motorcyclist or college kid on a hot date. Add some safety equipment to the equation — a net, rope, helmet or a condom respectively — and the person may try maneuvers that he or she would otherwise consider foolish. In the case of seat belts, instead of a simple, straightforward reduction in deaths, the end result is actually a more complicated redistribution of risk and fatalities. For the sake of argument, offers Adams, imagine how it might affect the behavior of drivers if a sharp stake were mounted in the middle of the steering wheel? Or if the bumper were packed with explosives. Perverse, yes, but it certainly provides a vivid example of how a perception of risk could modify behavior.

Perverse... and awesome. Picture a whole bizarro world full of safety devices like this! How exciting life would be, even as all you were doing was being really, really careful. For a movie that proceeds on this theory of producing excitement, watch "Wages of Fear":
In a squalid South American oil town, four desperate men sign on for a suicide mission to drive trucks loaded with nitroglycerin over a treacherous mountain route. As they ferry their explosive cargo to a faraway oil fire, each bump and jolt tests their courage, their friendship, and their nerves.

ADDED: Funny typo in the original title to this post: "steering whee." Indeed. What a thrill!

AND: There's a drunk driver I used to know who argued -- vociferously! -- that drunk drivers drive more safely than sober drivers. As long as they aren't so drunk that they've forgotten they are drunk, they are motivated to drive super-safely because they know they have impaired reflexes and they know they are in big trouble if they are stopped by the police.