December 23, 2006


The diavlog of me and Jonah is finally up.

"I guess I'm going home for Christmas. Hope I don't go insane!"

The novelist serves up a Christmas "style" essay:
Every year I arrive at my parents’ house in Springfield, Va., armed with my healthy self-edifying projects — big leafy Penguin classics, Chomsky-explains-it-all books and a backlog of fortifying magazines. And every year I think I am going to actually read a paragraph of one of these things. But then I walk in the front door, say ‘hi’ to my mom and dad, stand at the kitchen counter and start eating cheese.

That’s not all that’s in the house. In case there is a terrorist attack at the Price Club, my mother has stocked up on boxed food, durable bags of meatballs, bins of croutons, an entire spectrum of cereal, jug wine and other pleasures that would never be reviewed in food and wine supplements.

After inhaling some combination of sustenance entirely made of carbohydrates and trans fats, I will go upstairs and change into an infantilizing outfit of fleece sweat pants and an old high school T-shirt that says “Go Spartans!” on it.

Then I go back downstairs and begin to watch television. In this consumer Green Zone, I can finally, really, watch TV. I am unfettered, and free of my ironic eye, op-ed anger and Web site snark, I can enjoy TV the way it was meant to be enjoyed — sitting there with my mouth open, too lazy to get up and go to the bathroom.
Well, maybe this Web site can serve up the missing snark.

Groups group, crowds crowd, throngs throng, but...

Hordes do not... horde. They might hoard, but it's not the same thing. And it's possible to say that they whored, but it's really not the same thing.

Just some linguistic observations about the mysteries of nouns and verbs -- some thoughts thought today... while swirling around in the crowds/throngs/groups at the stores.

"Even Judy Garland's most iconic on-screen ballad performances seem small compared with..."

The critics go nuts for Jennifer Hudson in "Dreamgirls."

And let me just say that I was writing about her by name the morning after her first appearance on "American Idol" in February '04. Here's another early post. And this:
I've been a big Jennifer Hudson fan since her first appearance on an audition show--February 3rd. (The topic is American Idol, people.) She was by far the best performer last night, as everyone seemed to agree, so here's my theory about her insane dress, that hot pink rhumba thing that a friend supposedly made for her. I say supposedly because when asked his name, she could only come up with a first name, and even that sounded like she just made it up ("George"). Anyone could see that was a ridiculous dress, so why did she wear it? Her bad clothes have been a topic of merriment on previous shows, so what I'm thinking is, the producers knew she would get through, probably by the vote of the people but if not, as one of the judge's selections. Four people are going through, and there is no question that one of them will be her. With that in mind, the producers had an entirely absurd dress made and convinced her to wear it for the sheer comedy of it all. She would agree to do it for any of a number of reasons: 1. She wants to be agreeable, 2. She has a sense of humor, 3. She likes to wear comic clothing, and (this is the real one) 4. She knew, and they told her, that by calling as much attention to her ridiculous clothes as possible, she was setting the stage for the future occasion when she would redo her image and suddenly look fabulous and receive lavish praise for her brilliant transformation.

And here's my reaction to her getting voted off the show:
American Idol: The Outrage. What the hell happened? That was the worst thing ever on American Idol. See my post from this morning for how I read the show last night: I thought Jennifer was the best. I thought the three Divas would be the final three. They were the bottom three! How could that happen? Jennifer was my original favorite, from the first audition. I can only think that the strong praise for the Divas caused people to think they didn't need help, and people speed dialed for two hours for favorites they believed were in danger. I must say they really revealed the results dramatically, telling George to join the safe group, causing him to walk over to the Divas (forming a group that was my predicted final four: George and the Divas), then telling him he'd joined the wrong group. Oh, the outrage!
Anyway... are you excited about seeing "Dreamgirls"? About the new season of "American Idol," which must be coming up soon? Do you picture your humble (diva) blogger going out to see "Dreamgirls" on Christmas? Do you picture me watching and blogging "American Idol" again this year?

Gary Hart reviews Barack Obama's book.

Here's his hopeful audacity:
Truly great leaders possess a strategic sense, an inherent understanding of how the framework of their thinking and the tides of the times fit together and how their nation’s powers should be applied to achieve its large purposes. “The Audacity of Hope” is missing that strategic sense. Perhaps the senator should address this in his next book. By doing so, he would most certainly propel himself into the country’s small pantheon of leaders in a way that personal narrative and sudden fame cannot.

In a very short time, Barack Obama has made himself into a figure of national interest, curiosity and some undefined hope. This book fully encourages those sentiments. His greatest test will be that of sensing the times, of matching his timing with the tides of the nation.
Hart is being rather abstract there. What does that really mean? He evokes the proverb "Time and tide wait for no man"... whatever that means. Hmmm:
The processes of nature continue, no matter how much we might like them to stop. The word tide meant “time” when this proverb was created, so it may have been the alliteration of the words that first appealed to people. Now the word tide in this proverb is usually thought of in terms of the sea, which certainly does not wait for anyone.
Does a nation have processes like nature's? And what would it mean for Obama to match his timing with the tides of the nation? Is it something like this phenomenon? Mysterious synchrony!

"I think it means: I'm a genius, but I don't know. Who am I to say?"

Bloggingheads has a new diavlog up with Bob Wright and -- new to Bloggingheads -- Andrew Sullivan. That quote is Bob paraphrasing Andrew.

You may be wondering whatever happened to that Bloggingheads episode I recorded with Jonah Goldberg (especially after the first one I did with him, a couple weeks ago, died from technical problems). We had technical problems again, but it sounds as though this patient will live. It's a pretty cool diavlog I think. For example, we talk about sex with robots.

The draft scare.

Suddenly, a lot of people thought the Bush Administration had a secret plan to reinstate the draft.
What prompted all this was a Hearst wire service article noting that the Selective Service was making plans for a “mock” draft exercise that would use computerized models to determine how, if necessary, the government would get some 100,000 young adults to report to their local draft boards.

The mock computer exercise, last carried out in 1998, is strictly routine, Selective Service officials said, and it will not actually be run until 2009 — if at all. The exercise has been scheduled several times in the last few years, only to be scuttled each time because of budget and staffing problems, and Mr. Flahavan said he would not be surprised if it was canceled this time around, too.

No matter. With President Bush saying that he wants to increase the size of the Army and the Marine Corps, the military strained near the breaking point and the secretary of veterans affairs suggesting publicly this week that a reconstituted draft could “benefit” the country, even the notion of a mock exercise seemed to strike a nerve.
Supposedly, the blogs went wild. I didn't notice that and am not seeing it on Memeorandum (which is my favorite way to see at a glance what's going on in blogdom).

The subject of the draft came up on the "Week in Review" radio show I did yesterday with Ed Garvey. You can listen to that if you want to hear somebody -- Ed -- state the typical alarmist position and me respond that the only people who support a draft are those who are anti-military. [ADDED: This part begins at 14:31.]



December 22, 2006

The war on Christmas.


IN THE COMMENTS: Somebody doesn't get the Althouse blog.

Suddenly, the Duke lacrosse team rape charges are dropped.

The NYT reports:
Michael B. Nifong, the Durham district attorney, made the decision after learning on Thursday that the woman who complained of rape could not be sure that she had been penetrated with a penis, a distinction that would determine whether what happened to her meets the legal definition of forcible rape in North Carolina, according to court papers filed today.

When she was interviewed on Thursday by an investigator from the district attorney’s office, the woman said she was penetrated from behind while she was bent over with her face toward the floor, but did not know with what, according to a person close to the investigation who would only speak on condition of anonymity.
But kidnapping and sexual assault charges remain.
A week ago, a laboratory director admitted in court that in the wake of an agreement with Mr. Nifong, he had violated his own procedures and withheld results showing that none of the lacrosse players’ DNA had been found on or in the accuser’s body.

“This comes a week after it was shown they intentionally withheld exculpatory evidence on DNA tests,” [defense lawyer Joseph B.] Chesire said. “That begs the question of the extreme coincidence of the timing in which these two things occurred.”
That does look terribly suspicious.

"One lady told me she thinks I'm doing the right thing on this."

Oh, well, all right then.


A reader writes:
My system uploaded an update to the Norton internet security web site list yesterday and your blog was on it. It was blocked by for containing “Sex acts.” Unless your blog has some hidden features I haven’t discovered, I suspect that you were put on the list by someone as a means of enacting liberal free speech (Speech for the left, but not for those who would disagree with them). I’m not sure what the process is to get you on or off the list (or maybe the hidden features make it a fair cop).

This is the first I've heard of anything like this. Is it really happening, and if so, what can I do?

UPDATE: I'm getting some good help in the comments, and just to be clear, I don't actually think it's a political plot. It's most likely that they just have an aggressive program, and since I talk about sex here sometimes, I got snagged. You probably don't want your children reading my blog. This isn't a blog for little kids! Anyway, it sounds as though Norton/Symantec is going to be secretive about how they operate their filters, so what can you do? I've thought of deleting all the F-words, but it's a lot of work to do that. And who knows how to get off the list once you're on?

1. How to make Althouse left wing. 2. How to make Althouse right wing.

1. Embed her in a right-wing confabulation.

2. Sit her down next to Ed Garvey.

Radio alert.

I'll be on Wisconsin Public Radio -- the "Ideas Network" stations -- at 8 Central this morning. I'm doing the "Week in Review" again. This is a show where listeners call in and can bring up any news story they want and two commentators respond -- presumably, from different sides of the political spectrum. I always count as the person from the right. (Can I complain if I keep asking you to vote for me -- daily -- for "Conservative Blogress Diva"? Why, yes I can, I say diva-ishly.)

So who do we have from the left today? It's Ed Garvey, of the Fighting Bob lefty website. Garvey was the Democratic candidate for governor in 1998. Longtime readers know my voting history: prior to 2004, I had only voted for three Republican candidates. I voted for Gerald Ford and his running mate for reasons described here. And once, I voted for Tommy Thompsons because the Democrats put up a candidate who was too far to the left. I'll leave it to you to guess whether this happened in 1998.

Anyway, the radio show should be up and streamable later today.

UPDATE: Go here to stream or download the show. (Scroll to the 8 am show.)

Observations on the Iranian elections.

The Iranian elections, from the official newspaper:
"The massive, wise, powerful and praise-worthy turn-out of the Iranian people in the elections on December 15 was a real test of the country's religious democracy and a manifestation of the greatness of Islamic Iran," [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei] said....

"[The high voter turn-out] sent a message to the world that Iranians have bonded with the Islamic system and are determined to fulfill its goals," he added....

"The tricks played by the ill-willed failed vis-a-vis the divine will and vigilance of the nation. Another golden page was added to the epic on the faithful and revolutionary people.["]
The NYT:
“[President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] has been trying to make himself indispensable by the grandiose issues, but his fate is much more tied to these bread and butter issues,” said Vali Nasr, the author of “The Shia Revival” and a professor of Middle Eastern politics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. “It’s not a fall for Ahmadinejad, but it’s clearly a stumble; there is no momentum coming out of his election in 2005.”...

Reformist politicians beat hard-liners in at least five important city councils, including Kerman, Sari, Zanjan, Ahvaz and Bandar Abbas.

“I think the first message of people’s vote on Friday was that people still favor reforms,” said Mohammad Atrainfar, a reformist politician. “The second message was that populist appeals have failed.”...

“The significance of this election is that we now have a complete new alignment — the reformists, the Rafsanjani camp and the conservative bazaar elements,” said Abbas Milani, chairman of Iranian studies at Stanford University. “That is a de facto coalition whose purpose is to stop Ahmadinejad from doing further damage, both domestically and internationally.”

December 21, 2006

Intermission at the Overture Center.

Outside, there's a mist. The state capitol is enveloped in fog.

Intermission at Overture

Inside, they've projected snowflakes on the wall:

Intermission at Overture

On the night of the solstice, we're reminded of the cold depths that we are not experiencing. But we're here for the concert. It's the intermission, and we're milling around:

Intermission at Overture

We're all here...

Intermission at Overture

To see... Who are we all here to see? What singer would -- just by walking onto the stage -- make your humble diva blogress break down and cry?

It's Judy Collins.

''The virtues of a bright-line rule surely cannot alone justify regulating constitutional speech."

The Federal Election Commission loses in its effort to enforce the McCain-Feingold law against issue ads that mention the name of a candidate.
Wisconsin Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, has been fighting the law since 2004, when it sought to run an advertisement urging voters to contact Wisconsin Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, both Democrats, and ask them not to hold up President Bush's judicial nominees.

Because Feingold was running for re-election in 2004, the ad was prohibited. Wisconsin Right to Life argued that it wasn't trying to influence an election and said the law restricted its constitutional right to petition the government.

Stop wearing pajamas to work.

Imagine needing to put that in the office dress code.

The dazzling MacBook screen.

My Powerbook is (slightly) less than a year old, so it seems wrong to replace it, but I just got a look at it side-by-side with a MacBook, and the difference between the two screens is astounding. I keep the screen brightness turned all the way up on the Powerbook, and we had to turn the brightness nearly all the way down on the MacBook to get the two screens to match. Now that I've seen the difference, continuing on the Powerbook feels like struggling to read without my reading glasses.

"I'm worth billions of dollars, and I have to listen to this fat slob?"

Donald Trump expresses himself... about Rosie O'Donnell.

IN THE COMMENTS: Johnny Nucleo says:
This smackdown is the funniest thing since Borat, which I have not seen, but I understand it is very funny.

Rosie's shots are more polished than Donald's, but I think his are funnier because they are more like a kid's insults. It's stream of consciousness, everything but the kitchen sink stuff: "You're fat and ugly, and I'm going to steal your girlfriend, which will be easy, and Barbara Walters hates you, and I'm going to sue, and you're fat, and ugly too, and you are a loser, and nobody likes you, fatso." I was laughing all day at work and everyone thought I was high, which I was, but that was not why I was laughing. Watch the videos - hell, just read the transcripts - of Trump going off and try not to laugh.

Donald Trump is a treasure. I mean that. He is one of the most unintentionally funny human beings ever to walk the Earth.

Speaking of organs...

Is that organ solo -- in "Whiter Shade of Pale" -- worth 40% of the song? The judge says yes. That seems about right!

Broadcast TV repackaged online uncensored.

Repackaged ... in a box...

Watch it here. Choose the censored or the uncensored one.
Lorne Michaels, the creator and executive producer of “Saturday Night Live,” cautioned in an interview that the strategy of treating Internet users to the equivalent of an authorized “director’s cut” of his late-night show “will be the exception” going forward. But he also predicted that other shows and networks, time and money permitting, would surely follow NBC’s lead in making available material that was deemed not ready for prime time, or even late night. “My sense is that, as always, now that the door has been opened, some things will go through it,” he said....

“Those people who go on the Internet will not be shocked by this,” Mr. Ludwin recalled thinking. “Obviously there are some people who will be offended. Those people are probably unlikely to go searching for it on the Internet. It’s just funny.”

Still, the material was touchy enough, Mr. Ludwin said, that he sought final approval for the Web version of the video from the highest echelons of NBC, including Kevin Reilly, the president of NBC Entertainment , and Jeff Zucker, chief executive of NBC Universal Television Group.. Both approved the idea, he said. Another executive suggested that a disclaimer be placed before the Web-only version of the video that warned of its explicit content, a proposal that was immediately accepted....

Seth Meyers, the show’s head writer, said that he and Mr. Michaels were also mindful that sometimes the funniest material — whether on their show, or Howard Stern’s radio show — was borne of butting up against boundaries, either from the outside or self-imposed.

Sizing up the two versions of the “Special Treat” video, Mr. Meyers observed, “The most interesting thing is that it’s actually not funnier uncensored.”
I approve, by the way. Don't you? This is a fine use of the web to flesh out what we're seeing and hearing on broadcast TV.

Must we talk about Mary Cheney's pregnancy?

Andrew Sullivan has a big cover story in The New Republic about what the Mary Cheney pregnancy means for conservatives:
The more moderate conservatives... they took umbrage at any mention of the subject. Kathryn Jean Lopez, an enthusiastic supporter of the FMA and editor of National Review Online, wrote on the site's group blog, The Corner: "Unless Mary Cheney asks to be part of a political debate about this, there is no need to have a public discussion about her life. The New York Times raises the question of how/who, etc. That just seems outrageous to me. She is not the vice president. She is not the president. That's just uncalled for from anyone in the media/commentariat."

But the news of the pregnancy was confirmed by Mary Cheney, who did not object to any invasion of privacy. She is a public figure who has written a book about her private life. She ran a national Republican campaign. And her pregnancy is the kind of news that simply cannot be ignored or covered up--because it comes in the form of an actual human being, a child, who, thanks in part to Lopez, will be denied the legal security of two parents. And Lopez now wants it not to be personal. Sorry, but it is already personal.

Lopez's colleague, Jonah Goldberg, is a nimbler enabler of anti-gay discrimination. He rightly surmised that any discussion of this issue could only expose the incoherence or cruelty of the right's position on gay families, and so he advised saying nothing. He commented a day after the news about the absence of any mention of the pregnancy on The Corner: "I did like the radio silence around here." In a subsequent post, he wrote that, whatever the merits of the Virginia amendment definitively stripping Poe of any legal rights over her child, the question was moot once gay adoption had been conceded as a principle: "It's very difficult to make the lynchpin of your opposition to gay marriage 'the children' when gays have been allowed to either adopt, have, or otherwise maintain custody of children for a long time now. We are currently in a weird situation in that gay couples get kids all the time without the benefit of being 'married' while gay marriage opponents claim that gay couples shouldn't get married because it would be bad for kids. That horse left the barn."

This pragmatic, if somewhat callous, point is then accompanied by an actual stance: Goldberg says he now supports civil unions for gay couples. So why his complete indifference to something like the Virginia amendment? Here is his response: "What seems to bother a lot of pro-gay marriage obsessives is that I don't think it's the signature civil rights issue of our day. I just don't get that worked up about it, at least not anymore, and this lack of passion is interpreted by zealots as cowardice, strategic silence or bigotry. It's really none of the above."

It is not, he avers, "strategic silence"; and yet, only a day before, he actually congratulated his peers for their silence. Goldberg's final position, it appears, is that he simply doesn't give a damn. He can't be bothered to take a position. But then he splutters, hearing a rising protest from the social right: "I do agree with, or am intellectually sympathetic to, many of their principled arguments on this stuff (depending on which social conservatives and which arguments we're talking about)." Is that all clear now? Goldberg then approvingly quotes a reader who "gets my drift." The reader writes: "You take a reasonable stance on this Mary Cheney thing: none at all." And, yes, that is indeed Goldberg's position.

In fact, it is now the only coherent conservative position on a matter made impossible to avoid by the living, breathing reality of a mother and her child. Their position is nothing at all. Neither for amending the constitution to bar gay marriage nor against it. Neither for gay marriage nor against it. Neither supportive of Mary Cheney nor hostile. After two decades of debate, discussion, state initiatives, lawsuits, protests, custody battles, and on and on, the last coherent conservative position is nothing. On Mary Cheney, they are forced to take a stand. But any stand either attacks the base of the party or attacks someone they know and love. So they have no alternative but to stand very still, say nothing, and hope that someone changes the subject. It is as close to intellectual and moral bankruptcy as one can imagine...

One day, this will be the real conservative position on homosexuals as well as transgendered people: pro-family, pro-integration, pro-equality, and humane. One day, Mary Cheney's pregnancy may even come to be seen as a pivotal moment in that evolution. Derided by some gay activists, Cheney and her partner and their child may one day be seen as the real pioneers of a new world. Yes, this may be naïvely optimistic. But with a new life comes new hope--for Mary, Heather, and the rest of us. In the battle between ideology and reality, reality always wins. Eventually.
Jonah Goldberg responds:
Sullivan makes it sound like I actually addressed Poe or Virginia law. I did no such thing. I didn't mention or really even allude to them either. He makes it sound that I've suddenly endorsed civil unions ("Goldberg says he now supports...") when he well knows that this has been my position for years and I've taken heat from social conservatives for it. See here , here , here , here or Robert Knight's attack on me here. He treats my postings to the Corner as if I've set out to lay out my grand vision on gay marriage and then criticizes me for my lack of coherence (a variety of complaints the zig-zagging Party of Andrew should be permanently banned from ever offering). And he treats my whimsical, parenthetical aside about "radio silence" as some incredibly, absurdly, significant fatwah to the troops. My blog posts are not debated sections to some party platform of the Third International, each syllable pregnant with tactical and ideological import. The old Andrew would recognize this.

But the new Andrew has a fevered and extremist mind. He takes the positions of zealots of all stripes that if you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem. There's no space for not caring as much as he does, for not picking sides, for believing that the little platoons of life will fix problems without dragging the state into it or politicizing everything. So, even though I favor gay unions, shun the demonization of gays, ground my arguments against gay marriage firmly in small-c, skeptical conservative, Burkean arguments about the pace of change, and — as he knows — personally treat gays with nothing but respect, I am now nothing more than a nimble enabler of gay bigotry. Despite the plain and obvious meaning of my radio silence comment staring all fair-minded people in the face, he chooses to read my mind and paint me as some sort of Trotskyite strategist, terrified of exposing the internal contradictions of the "Christianist" movement. And, at the same time, he sees nothing wrong with demonizing me as morally stunted for taking a humane, rational, centrist position. Indeed, to the extent I have some grand strategy on the issue of homosexuality (though it is neither grand nor really a strategy so much as a sentiment) it is simply this: to vent some of the heat from the issue on both sides. But, yes, yes I am the extremist, cynically doing the bidding of other extremists.
Sullivan taunts. It's a political -- and bloggerly -- strategy. Mary Cheney's pregnancy is an occasion. He uses it. That's what bloggers do. There's an event. You note it, and then you play off of it, springing all your usual opinions, making them exquisitely timely all over again. Tagging other bloggers in the course of your writing is a good way to get them to link to you and boost your visibility. It isn't bad -- it's good -- if they are antagonized and they lash back the way Jonah did. This is the kind of writing keeps the political blogosphere going. (I realize Andrew's piece is in a magazine, but it's linked through his blog, and it operates by the bloggerly method.)

I'm in a rush this morning because I'm about to record a episode with Jonah Goldberg. Perhaps this subject will come up, but in any case I'll have more to say about it later. Meanwhile, talk amongst yourselves.

(And toss me another vote here, please.)

December 20, 2006

Madison, last night and now.

Last night, on State Street, the sports bar looked warmly Christmasy:

State Street Brats

Across the street, a woman sold handmade jewelry from a pushcart parked next to a despicable chalking:

Despicable chalking

Today, we hole up at the sublime Electric Earth Café:

Electric Earth Café

The people who work here are unusually nice, so nice it's a little weird. You order your food at the counter and, nicely, they bring it out to you. It makes a difference not having your name called out. Leave a good tip in the tip jar when you come here.

We're enveloped in blue... electric blue, I guess. The paintings are charming. I love the Batman:

Electric Earth Café

Framing the shot, I get a look I interpret as disapproving, but I show the picture to the young woman in green, and she smiles and gives me permission to use it. Thanks!

If your robot seems human enough, would it not damage your soul to mistreat it?

So you think this is foolishness?
Robots might one day be smart enough to demand emancipation from their human owners, raising the prospects they'll have to be treated as citizens, according to a speculative paper released by the British government.
A robot is a machine. It's not human. But perhaps by the time the robots get this good, the evidence will show that we are just machines.

In any case, isn't it bad for your soul to mistreat something that you see as human-like? For example, if you are in a lucid dream interacting with people whom you realize do not exist, do you think you can do things to them that you would not do to a real person? And what do you think of the child who tortures her doll?

MORE: Here.

"We're not winning, we're not losing."

Says President Bush on Iraq. The headline is the "We're not winning" part, which isn't surprising, especially since only last month he was saying "Absolutely, we're winning."

Bad toys. Really bad toys.

The worst! (Via John Hawks.) For example, there's the U-238 Atomic Energy Lab:
For a mere $49.50, the kit came complete with three "very low-level" radioactive sources, a Geiger-Mueller radiation counter, a Wilson Cloud Chamber (to see paths of alpha particles), a Spinthariscope (to see "live" radioactive disintegration), four samples of Uranium-bearing ores, and an Electroscope to measure radioactivity....

The toy was only sold for one year. It's unclear what effects the Uranium-bearing ores might have had on those few lucky children who received the set, but exposure to the same isotope—U-238—has been linked to Gulf War syndrome, cancer, leukemia, and lymphoma, among other serious ailments. Even more uncertain is the longterm impact of being raised by the kind of nerds who would give their kid an Atomic Energy Lab.
Hmmm.... yeah: What strange toys affected your young, impressionable mind, and how do you know the difference between the effect of the toy and the effect of growing up with the sort of parents who let you have it?

Strangest toy I was given and allowed to play with: a small paper cup full of mercury.

When divas attack.

Virginia Postrel -- who's competing with me in a diva contest -- paraphrases something I wrote like this:
Grande Conservative Blogress Diva frontrunner Ann Althouse attends a Liberty Fund conference and decides libertarian and conservative intellectuals are scarily like the 9/11 hijackers. (My response to her specifics is in the comments.) It does seem rather divalike...
What did I actually say?
I am struck ... by how deeply and seriously libertarians and conservatives believe in their ideas. I'm used to the way lefties and liberals take themselves seriously and how deeply they believe. Me, I find true believers strange and -- if they have power -- frightening. And my first reaction is to doubt that they really do truly believe.

One of the reasons 9/11 had such a big impact on me is that it was such a profound demonstration of the fact that these people are serious. They really believe.
Is the Postrel paraphrase apt? It does omit the fact that I made a closer comparison between libertarians and conservatives on the one hand and lefties and liberals on the other. And, in context -- what terse context there is -- you can see that I'm talking about the ideologues and hardcore fundamentalists of either stripe.

I mean to say -- and it's there to be seen if you are a sympathetic reader -- that I instinctively think of my fellow human beings as sensible and practical. We have some ideas and principles but we also watch how things play out in the real world and are prepared to modify what with think and correct our course when things aren't going well. People who embrace an idea with a death grip scare me, and they should scare you too. Look at history. Look what happens when people believe so deeply they lose sight of where their ideas are taking them and go along with their ideas even if they require other people to suffer and die. I don't trust the true believers and ideologues. I find them strange when they don't seem to feel the pull of common sense and human empathy. I don't want them to have power. They can sit around thinking and talking or praying and brooding, but I don't want to see what they would do with the world. That said, obviously, most people who are attracted to religion or politics of the left and the right are ordinary practical, sensible people. I still think that. It will still surprise me to encounter anyone in a death embrace with an idea.

Let's look at what Virginia said in the comments:
I don't know who was at this conference, and I've never read Frank Meyer, but I have been to dozens of Liberty Fund conferences and, more often than not, found them to be genuine conversations where disagreements are invited. The point is the conversation, and no one is invited to a conference in order to be "persuaded" or tested for ideological purity. (Lately, Liberty Fund has, however, been interested in including bloggers.)
That was true here, and I never said otherwise. But no one was invited to represent the liberal or left positions, and things were set up to create a sense that we were honoring Meyer.
But, and this may be why Ann is so uncomfortable, assumptions that go without questioning in some contexts--like Madison, Wisc.--do not necessarily enjoy such lack of scrutiny around a Liberty Fund table.
Well, that completely misunderstands what I wrote! I said that people at the table shared assumptions that would have been instantly challenged in my usual place of Madison, Wisconsin, and that I continually felt I needed to voice positions that were quite obvious and needed to be said and that would have been ignored if I hadn't taken on something of the role of resident liberal. By the way, if they had wanted to persuade me or proselytize, it would have been a horrible mistake to leave that vacuum, which I got sucked into. That left me feeling far more antagonistic than I would otherwise have been.
On the specific issue of civil rights, in my experience libertarians then and now have been divided about the question of public accommodation (as opposed to desegregation of government facilities like schools). Some, including myself, are acutely aware of the need to break the racial caste system that had been enforced through a combination of legal strictures and legally tolerated terrorism in the South. We are therefore willing to make the tradeoff in sacrificing freedom of association.
And, in that case, I won't classify you with the fundamentalists and ideologues who scare me. But you concede that you've got some libertarian friends who -- even today -- in the name of property rights, would have allowed private businesses to continue to discriminate based on race for as long as they felt like it. I was amazed to encounter people who not only thought that and admitted it, but insisted on fighting about it with idealistic fervor.
But, unlike our blog hostess, we explicitly recognize that such a tradeoff exists.
I don't know where that comes from. Explicitly recognize? Maybe that only means that I didn't write out a sentence in my post saying that I am capable of seeing something. So what? Obviously, I know that if you tell a restaurant owner he can't exclude black people that diminishes his autonomy and personal freedom. Telling people they can't rape and murder also limits individual choice, but I don't have to explicitly recognize that every time I write about it.
Others, most notably Richard Epstein among contemporaries, think that tradeoff has had too many negative consequences, including tangled arguments about whether private employers should be allowed to implement affirmative action. (He thinks they should be allowed to.)

As for the argument about whether economic pressures would or could have ended Jim Crow, it's hard to know how such a counterfactual would have worked out in practice; certainly there is some evidence, e.g., from the steel industry in Birmingham, that "foreign" (i.e., northern) firms resisted segregation. It's hard to picture a South full of segregated McDonald's, but one never knows. Certainly outsiders who wanted to integrate their customer bases or workforces were freer to do so than locals, who were subject to financial pressures (local banks could be nasty enforcers) and, in many cases, physical threats.

It can indeed be shocking to encounter such arguments for the first time, but that doesn't mean those arguments aren't worth thinking about, if only to understand why, other than knee-jerk "this is what everybody I know thinks" reasons, you believe they are wrong. The quality of the discussion at a Liberty Fund conference depends largely on exactly who the 16 people are and whether they are willing and able to enter into the spirit of the discussion.
I'm not encountering these arguments for the first time. I teach about them every year when we do Heart of Atlanta and Katzenbach v. McClung in Con Law. What is shocking is to encounter walking relics who are in love with the ideas that were used back in the 1960s to fight off the Civil Rights movement... and who aren't ashamed to declare their love publicly.

I'm not referring to everyone at the conference, it should be noted. Generally, people were smart, articulate, and decent. The conference was extremely well-run, interesting, and valuable. I don't want my following up on this point to cause anyone to think otherwise.

(To vote in the diva contest, go here. You can vote once a day.)

December 19, 2006

It's better than bad, it's good.

It's Audible Althouse, #75.

Oh, the travails of a conservative blogress diva!

Stream it right through your computer here. But everyone but the hardcore ideologues subscribe on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

It's log!

Please get up to speed for the new podcast -- coming momentarily -- by remembering the great "Ren & Stimpy" bit, "It's Log":

"The failure to make normative life course transitions."

Evite causes a twinge.

Protesting minarets.

In Switzerland.

"Let's not talk about philosophy while we're walking."

Says a college girl waiting to buy a take-out drink, in line behind me at the café. "And let's not talk about God." The students are tired of studying for exams.

I sit down -- in modified lotus position -- in a chair like this one.

Espresso Royale

Next to me is a plant that is apparently named Gabriel.


God's messenger?

They play this song, and I'm enjoying it. They get to this verse:
So, we went to the cinema, we came home from the cinema
We went through the front door, up the stairs,
Through the bedroom door, onto the bedroom floor
I’ve seen her naked twice, I’ve seen her naked twice!
And I say "I love this song" out loud.

There's lots to think about while drinking this cappucino. It's stirred up now, but before I dumped the sugar in, it had a spiffy design the barista made out of the foam. He said he tried to make it look like a nuclear explosion. I said I thought it looked like a man without facial features, smoking.

More portraits on the red settee.

We discovered a great spot for glamorous photos. I've already showed you the one Chris took of me. Remember? (And let it remind you to vote for me for Diva.)

Here's one I took of my colleague Steph Tai:

Portrait of Steph on the Red Settee

Chris figured out the way to arrange things with the lighting on the face, but before I started copying his style, I was experimenting with the shadows produced by the ceiling spotlights. Here's one I did of Chris (including much more of the great poster):

Portrait of Chris on the red settee

Althouse snags a big endorsement.

Thanks, David! And I'm delighted to have you on my side for the "Christianist catfight" and the "all-time favorite Althouse-cation."

I find you strange and you find me odd.

Me and Jonah Goldberg. Everyone's just dying for this Bloggingheads showdown, I'm sure.

ADDED: Mark Raven at TPMCafe weighs in:
Conservative law school professor and blogger Ann Althouse's [sic] recently ventured from her home base of Madison, Wisc. to a rather intriguing - in the way that an automobile accident causes one to pause and gape - event dubbed a Liberty Fund conference in Chicago.

For six and a half hours at a time, Althouse and 15 other Conservatives and Neoconservatives discussed the writings of Frank S. Meyer, libertarian, co-founding editor of National Review, and author of the Conservative tome, "In Defense of Freedom."
Okay, Mark. I'm not going to bother saying I'm not really too conservative (especially in that Liberty Fund group!). And "In Defense of Freedom" is too slim to be called a "tome." But the one correction I want to make is that it wasn't "six and a half hours at a time," it was "six hour-and-a-half discussion sessions," that is: nine hours.

Second, what's with talking about me and cutting and pasting a long passage of my text without linking to the post? That's not too sporting! You go on to slam Jonah for not knowing how to win allies situated to the left of him, but look at you, not doing too well winning over a person to your right.
Poor Mr. Goldberg. After clearing his throat several times and inhaling deeply through his tightly pinched nasal passages, Mr. Goldberg declared "odd" the reaction of Ms. Althouse to her privileged attendance at such a prestigious event with her illustrious Conservative and Neoconservative peers. Mr. Goldberg, of course, predictably employed the old Conservative and Neoconservative standby of attacking the personal background of his critic. In this case, Mr. Goldberg chastised Ms. Althouse's home of Madison as "far from an oasis of empiricism, realism and philosophical skepticism." Next, of course, Mr. Goldberg casually dismissed Ms. Althouse's position with the following:

"But more importantly, the notion that stong conviction — AKA belief — is scary in and of itself can be the source of as much pain and illiberalism as certitude itself. Indeed, it is itself a kind of certitude I find particularly unredeeming."

Mr. Goldberg obviously believes that Ms. Althouse simply fails to believe strongly enough in Conservative and Neoconservative principles. Thus, Mr. Goldberg has decided (or perhaps been ordered) to attack Ms. Althouse's home, demean her beliefs, and just possibly drive her like a pox from the Conservative and Neoconservative tribes of the truly devoted.
Mark, you're pretty tone deaf here. Why would Jonah have thought of me as a Conservative or Neoconservative at all in the first place? There is far, far more reason for him to scoff at you and the likes of you for failing to reach out to me because you obviously believe I simply fail to believe strongly enough in liberal and left-wing principles.

As Snagglepuss would say: "Exit, stage right."

I have to do a second cartoon obituary post, because Joseph Barbera has also died. He was 95.
Mr. Barbera and the studio he founded with Mr. Hanna, Hanna-Barbera Productions, became synonymous with television animation, yielding more than 100 cartoon series over four decades, including “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?,” “Jonny Quest” and “The Smurfs.”

On signature televisions shows like “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons,” the two men developed a cartoon style that combined colorful, simply drawn characters (often based on other recognizable pop-culture personalities) with the narrative structures and joke-telling techniques of traditional live-action sitcoms. They were television’s first animated comedy programs....

“I was never a good artist,” said Mr. Hanna, who died in 2001. But Mr. Barbera, he said, “has the ability to capture mood and expression in a quick sketch better than anyone I’ve ever known.”
It's touching and charming that they were about not drawing very well!
Mr. Barbera’s influence can be found today in prime-time animated series like “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” and in cartoons that satirize the Hanna-Barbera style, including “The Venture Brothers” and “Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.” His own work continues to be seen on the cable channel Boomerang, which broadcasts vintage Hanna-Barbera programming 24 hours a day.

Though he was often asked to explain the enduring popularity of his cartoons, Mr. Barbera was reluctant to subject his life’s work to close analysis. “To me it makes little sense to talk about the cartoons we did,” he wrote in a 1994 autobiography, “My Life in ‘Toons: From Flatbush to Bedrock in Under a Century.” “The way to appreciate them is to see them.”
Well, it may make little sense, but let's talk about it anyway. To get you started, here's the list of all the Hanna-Barbera cartoons. I can't copy it here, because it's so damned long. I'll just list the ones I remember spending serious time watching:
The Ruff & Reddy Show (1957)
The Huckleberry Hound Show (1958)
Yogi Bear
Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks
Quick Draw McGraw (1959)
Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy
The Flintstones (1960)
The Yogi Bear Show (1961)
Yakky Doodle
Top Cat (1961)
The Jetsons (1962)
The Magilla Gorilla Show (1963)
My favorite? "Top Cat"! I was a sucker for "The Huckleberry Hound Show" when I was really young, and I watched the "Huckleberry Hound" spin-off "Yogi Bear," but it was "Top Cat" that I loved the most. I think it's the great theme song:

"The pay was low and the insecurity great. Jay felt the writers should pay him."

So said Christopher Robert Hayward about Jay Ward, of Jay Ward Productions, which made the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. Hayward, who has died at the age of 81, was one of the writers:
Mr. Hayward worked on all the segments but was most closely associated with "The Adventures of Dudley Do-Right," which followed the hapless royal Canadian Mountie in his ceaseless pursuit of Snidely Whiplash, a very naughty man.

Because the Dudley Do-Right segments were deemed harmful to the national esteem, the Rocky and Bullwinkle shows were initially not broadcast in Canada.
Ha, ha, Canada. Can't take a joke. They should have been pleased to get any attention at all.

Hayward also worked on "Crusader Rabbit." Remember that? I do! They wouldn't use such Christianist terminology for a cartoon character these days. Anyway, let's talk a look at the little rabbit and see what he was all about. (If the voice sounds familiar, it's probably because it's the same woman who did Smurfette. I know you're old enough to remember Smurfette.)

Oh, you want to see Dudley Do-Right too. Well, YouTube doesn't have everything. I mean, I found this, but...

Senator Brownback blocked the confirmation of Janet Neff because she attended a commitment ceremony for her neighbors' daughter.

Upholding morality is such sleazy work. Now, he's decided to allow a vote. What a prince! And he's not even demanding anymore that she agree to recuse herself in cases about same-sex marriage. Someone clued him in that it would be completely improper for a judge to make a commitment like that in exchange for a vote. On his own, he thought he was standing up for what was right and good.

Let's see if I've ever written about Senator Brownback before. There's this, from the confirmation hearings of John Roberts:
Brownback moves to the topic of abortion, which he focused on in his opening statement: "Could you state your view as to whether the unborn child is a person or is a piece of property?" Roberts gives another short, noncommittal answer about abortion rights. Brownback then consumes a huge chunk of his time giving an anti-abortion speech, at the end of which Roberts can only say, "Well, Senator, I appreciate your thoughts on the subject very much."
Well, Senator, I appreciate your thoughts on the subject very much. I love that.

December 18, 2006

A man who just happens to look like Santa Claus gets kicked out of Disney World.

That's pretty mean of them, but to be fair, he did ho-ho-ho when kids came up to him and asked if he was Santa Claus. You can't go to Disney World and impersonate a Disney character. And yes, Santa is a Disney character... isn't he? If they have their own Santa wandering around greeting kids, doesn't it confuse the kids if some non-Disney guy is also wandering around looking like Santa?

IN THE COMMENTS: Quite a few folks stop by to let the regulars know they just don't get the Althouse blog.

Rein in your enthusiasm no longer.

It's time to vote. To understand why I should be the Grande Conservative Blogress Diva, read this and this, including the comments, or use the comments section here to devise your own reason. You know there are so many.

UPDATE: The Anchoress, one of the nominees, links to all the other nominees, and just says to vote for your favorite. That makes her much nicer and more gracious than I've been, but does that make her more of a diva? That's the question you have to ask yourself, isn't it?

The transparent piano.

The Transparent Piano

Suggestions for what to play here? "Crystal Blue Persuasion".... "I Can See Clearly Now"...

"This is extremely rare for a teacher to get this blatantly evangelical."

It's hard to believe, really:
Shortly after school began in September, the teacher [David Paszkiewicz] told his sixth-period students at Kearny High School that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark, and that only Christians had a place in heaven, according to audio recordings made by a student whose family is now considering a lawsuit claiming Mr. Paszkiewicz broke the church-state boundary.

“If you reject his gift of salvation, then you know where you belong,” Mr. Paszkiewicz was recorded saying of Jesus. “He did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he’s saying, ‘Please, accept me, believe.’ If you reject that, you belong in hell.”

The student, Matthew LaClair, said that he felt uncomfortable with Mr. Paszkiewicz’s statements in the first week, and taped eight classes starting Sept. 13 out of fear that officials would not believe the teacher had made the comments....

In this tale of the teacher who preached in class and the pupil he offended, students and the larger community have mostly lined up with Mr. Paszkiewicz, not with Matthew, who has received a death threat handled by the police, as well as critical comments from classmates....

On the second day of taping, after the discussion veered from Moses’s education to free will, Matthew asked why a loving God would consign humans to hell, according to the recording.

Some of Matthew’s detractors say he set up his teacher by baiting him with religious questions. But Matthew, who was raised in the Ethical Culture Society, a humanist religious and educational group, said all of his comments were in response to something the teacher said....

Frank Viscuso, a Kearny resident, wrote in a letter to The Observer that “when a student is advised by his ‘attorney’ father to bait a teacher with questions about religion, and then records his answers and takes the story to 300 newspapers, that family isn’t ‘offended’ by what was said in the classroom — they’re simply looking for a payout and to make a name for themselves.” He called the teacher one of the town’s best.
What a bizarre story! The poor kid! Why on earth would a public school teacher think he could use the classroom this way?

Note that this happened, not in the deep South, but in New Jersey.

Why Barack Obama might not run.

John Fund analyzes the situation. The main reason seems to be that Hillary Clinton wants so badly to win.

"If people shine light on our religion, they will find some strange things, they will find some unsavory things..."

"... and they will find some wonderful things."

Mormons contemplate the scrutiny and criticism they will face if Mitt Romney runs for President. When Romney ran for the Senate in 1994, he faced "almost daily to potshots that his religion was racist, then sexist, then backward, then clannish with designs on ruling the U.S. if not the world." Nowadays, the church is "more proactive":
[LDS President Gordon B.] Hinckley has also downplayed the more unusual elements of the faith. He has dismissed the pre-1978 ban on blacks becoming priests and the practice of polygamy, which ended officially in 1890, as "in the past." He has written inspirational books without using any Mormon language. He welcomed the world to Utah for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

All of these efforts may help Romney, who could hardly look more All-American. His answer to questions about underwear could be an ad he once ran that showed him bare-chested on a beach.

"If you listen to Mitt and [President Hinckley] long enough," says [journalist Ron] Scott, "you might conclude that Mormons are really just Episcopalians who wear funny underwear."

But some members are wary that in an effort to explain the LDS faith to a critical audience, officials may end up watering it down.

"Downplaying temple garments? What else do we want to demystify and de-weird for the sake of gains in popular opinion?" asks Steve Evans, a Seattle attorney who helps run the Mormon blog "I'm all in favor of clarifying misconceptions, but eventually I am worried that we lose something vital."
Aren't all religions mysterious if you look closely? Normally, in politics, we just hold religion at a distance. We expect the candidates to have some religion but refrain from talking much about how the religion's beliefs interweave with the candidate's political thinking. But there is a move that can be made against a candidate that drags religion into the campaign and tries to stir up prejudice:
Romney got a taste of it in his 1994 attempt to unseat Edward Kennedy in the Senate.

Despite his brother's famous speech saying that a person's religion should be off-limits, Kennedy "played the Mormon card so relentlessly and cynically that even the leader of Boston Catholics, Cardinal Bernard Law, indignantly wrote that the lessons John Kennedy taught the country about a man's religion have 'been lost on President Kennedy's youngest brother, but salvaged by Mister Romney,' ''
Of course, President Kennedy said what he said because he was the one who was being attacked. He doesn't deserve special credit for taking the high road. The high road was best for him, and he might have taken the low road if it was better. But it was the high road.

December 17, 2006

Grande Conservative Blogress Diva 2007.

Ooh, were you missing the chance to vote for me on a daily basis? Well, there's a new contest in town. I concede I'm not the most conservative. But I am a diva, and I am a blogress, and I can be your blogress diva, you conservative, you.
Please note that not all nominees are conservative per se. Some are libertarian. And others, while more centrist, distinguish themselves by their iconoclasm and the manner in which they take on the silliness of certain leftists -- and conservative pretenders, i.e., those who in the words of one of our nominees, "drives liberals nuts."
You know which one is me! And you know it's a very special thing I'm doing here. And you know I know what I'm doing. The voting hasn't started yet, so rein in your enthusiasm, but pay attention.

"I'm a surfer up against two lawyers."

But it was not to be. Sorry, Ozzy. I was rooting for you. Yul, I loved you too. Congratulations.


... nose jobs!

"I am willing to step up to the plate and fight for my rights and fight for the rights of all bloggers."

"I am going to vigorously defend myself," says Perez Hilton (Mario Lavandeira). I'm not sure why he should win, but I do want him to win. Is there any reason why I shouldn't?

I JUST HAVE TO ADD: This quote of Mario's from the article:
"If the law says I am wrong, if a jury of my peers says they think my actions are wrong, then I will listen to them. But I don't think they will. Especially if they see that the person who is suing me admitted she is suing me because I am arrogant. A judge would dismiss that."

Ha ha! I love the legal theory that you win if what pushed your opponent over the line to filing suit was your arrogance.

... it's a theory borne of arrogance.

I don't know what you were doing last night.

But I was posing next to a shoe covered in nails -- a real spiked heel:

Portrait with a shoe full of nails

And lolling about on a red settee:

Portrait on the red settee

IN THE COMMENTS: I'm moved to ask "What is the difference between Bill Clinton and a stiletto spiked with nails?"

ABOUT THAT SHOE: It came from this shoe auction, a fund-raiser. Here's their most recent collection of shoes, including one by Charley Brown, who did the spiked heel pictured above.

AND: If you liked "nailed," you might like "screwed."

"'Billy Quinn'... has Dylan's mannerisms and sports a checked scarf like the one Dylan sports on the cover of his classic 'Blonde on Blonde'..."

More on Bob Dylan's legal efforts to block the movie "Factory Girl," which depicts a character who seems to be Bob Dylan and implies that he drove Edie Sedgwick to suicide. A couple of days ago, I wrote that it was "rather absurd that a public figure like Bob Dylan even cares that a fictional composite character is based in part on him." But if the character looks just like the "Blonde on Blonde" Dylan and is named Quinn -- a clear invocation of a Bob Dylan song -- then the claim that it's a composite character doesn't mean much. And the fact that the movie does depict Bob Dylan will be something that will attract attention to a movie about a woman most people don't know or care about.

Hey, would you be more or less likely to commit suicide if the songs "Just Like a Woman" and "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" were written about you? I'd be cheered up no end... even if the relationship was horrible.
Well, you look so pretty in it
Honey, can I jump on it sometime?
Yes, I just wanna see
If it's really that expensive kind
You know it balances on your head
Just like a mattress balances
On a bottle of wine
Your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
That's kind of been my favorite Bob Dylan song for more than two decades. It's surely my favorite Bob Dylan simile. I know when I think about balance, that's the image in my head.

I'm sorry. This is just too unfathomably dorky...

... to talk about.

ADDED WARNING: Do not -- do not! -- do not make the joke Time Magazine is trying to get you to make. Do not let them succeed in their attempt to use you -- to use "you" -- to go viral. And since you probably already did, please stop now. You dork!

$75 lipstick.

It makes a great gift, presuming the recipient realizes this kind of lipstick costs $75. Otherwise, it's going to be WTF, lipstick. You got me lipstick! You know, I've got half a mind to order the stuff just because it's $75. There's a reason for aggressive pricing. How "exquisitely textured" can a tube of grease be? But now, if you got it, every time you put it on, your mind would be going mmmm, $75, exquisitely textured.

Your hairdresser, your masseuse, your dental hygienist...

Do you want them talking to you the whole time? If you don't, are they supposed to have a way to figure that out, is it your job to tell them, or do you just hear them out and bitch about it later to your friends? Maybe your friends think you talk too much. Is it their job to let you know or can they just put up with it and then bitch about to their friends? Do your friends write little style pieces for the New York Times?