January 6, 2007



Mysteries of the staircase.

Two figures in black:

The MMoCA staircase

The cityscape was found cubism:

Cityscape from the MMOCA staircase

Self portrait as a shadow:

Self-portrait as a shadow in the stairway

The transparent, huddled crowd:

The MMoCA staircase

"He told me the precise date he plans to retire."

Said Jan Crawford Greenburg. "He" is Justice Stevens. Fascinating. Am I right to interpret her use of the term "precise date" to mean that he doesn't intend to stay on until, say, his health or mental acuity declines. The use of the word "retire" should also mean that he did not say that he intends to stay on the Court until he dies. "Date" -- if used accurately -- means a specific day, month, and year. [ADDED: The general opinion in the comments is that this was just a joke. I guess my sense of humor is limited on this topic. More on what I think about Justices not retiring: here.]

The linked interview, by Howard Bashman, makes her forthcoming book sound exciting:
I was fortunate enough to talk to nine Supreme Court justices, and a lot of what I heard surprised me. Some of the conventional wisdom is just wrong, especially about Justice Thomas and his early role on the Court. When I was doing the research on his early years, my heart would literally jump up every time I came across a memo or document that was completely at odds with what people have long said about him. The book is about how the Rehnquist Court came to disappoint conservatives -- what went wrong from their point of view -- and how those perceived missteps influenced the Bush Administration's thinking on Roberts, Miers and Alito.
The book is called "Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court."

"Beady-eyed, cause-y people, more willing to take the veil."

Hmmmm.... yeah... that's kind of what I meant when I brought up that "much more brutal point" that John Roberts was too tactful to say. Thanks, Justice Scalia!

AND: Who can resist throwing Scalia's insult back at him? Only someone who already likes him.

Do I still love the new Democratic Congress?

On November 11th, a wrote a post called "Why I love the new Democratic Congress!" They were offering me a lot of money:
Democratic leaders this week vowed to make the alternative minimum tax a centerpiece of next year's budget debate, saying the levy threatens to unfairly increase tax bills for millions of middle-class families by the end of the decade.
But now:
The House voted on Friday to pull the shadowy tradition of Congressional earmarking into the daylight, requiring lawmakers to attach their names to the pet items they slip into spending or tax bills and certify that they have no financial interest in the provisions....

The vote on the new earmark measure was linked to a rule known as “pay as you go” that would prohibit the House from increasing the deficit by passing any new tax cuts or entitlement spending programs without offsetting them with spending cuts or tax increases....

[T]he rules will make it more difficult to repair the alternative minimum tax, which, thanks to inflation, penalizes millions of middle-class households as well as its original targets, the rich. Repairing the tax is estimated to cost as much as $1 trillion in lost revenue over 10 years.
Of course, I support reforming the earmarks procedure. But they just took away the tax cut they promised! The earmarks change is supposed to leave more money in the budget, so why does it provide the occasion for reneging on the AMT promise?

Who's calling you conservative?

I thought I was being annoying yesterday when I dredged up more evidence to use in my longstanding effort to convince you that I'm a political moderate, but it turned out that a lot of people got into taking the same test and comparing scores. It even got back to Andrew Sullivan, who was the one who prompted me to take the test in the first place. Sullivan now takes note of the fact that he's to the right of Glenn Reynolds and me. Sullivan has been engaged in an effort to convince people that he is conservative, and this is obviously important to him since he's titled his book "The Conservative Soul." Clearly, he was not happy at being chosen as the "Most Annoying Liberal" by Right Wing News. And it wasn't the "annoying" part at all. He didn't even mention that. Bloggers don't mind being annoying. It's kind of the point.

But Glenn Reynolds -- as far as I know -- doesn't claim to be conservative, and neither do I. We're just people who are perceived by other people as conservative, much as Andrew himself gets called liberal. And you don't have to look hard for the reason. It's all about the war. If you support the war, you get so many bonus "conservative" points that it doesn't matter what you think about anything else. And if you oppose the war, you get your bonus "liberal" points.

Now, Sullivan wants extra "conservative" credit for being "to the right of Glenn." But in order to think that means anything, you have to first accept the significance of the people who characterize Glenn as a right-winger, and then you're buying into the whole sordid matrix that gets Andrew called "liberal."

So what's the point of all this? Just blogging. Being annoying. Waiting for the "Most Annoying Centrist" contest.

"If I do discriminate, it's that I only want healthy, intelligent people."

If you accept a woman choosing her sperm donor, and if you accept a woman choosing which embryo left over from someone else's fertility treatment to have implanted, will you draw the line at the deliberate creation of an embryo from an egg and sperm donor of the woman's choice?
Before contracting for the embryos, clients can evaluate the egg and sperm donors, and can even see pictures of them as babies, children and sometimes adults....

"People have long warned we were moving toward a 'Brave New World,' " said Robert P. George of Princeton University, who serves on the President's Council on Bioethics. "This is just more evidence that we haven't been able to restrain this move towards treating human life like a commodity. This buying and selling of eggs and sperm and now embryos based on IQ points and PhDs and other traits really moves us in the direction of eugenics."...

"People can say, 'Oh, this is the new Hitler.' That's not the case," [said Jennalee Ryan of the Abraham Center of Life.] "I don't take orders. I say 'This is what I have' and send them the background. If they don't think it's right for them, they don't have to take them."...

"If I do discriminate, it's that I only want healthy, intelligent people," Ryan said. "People will say, 'You're trying to create the perfect human race.' But we've always done gene selection just by who women choose as their husbands and men choose as their wives. This is no different."
When you choose a husband or wife, you're picking the person you want to live with, not just the genetic material. If you've married, how much did you think about the quality of the genetic material you could procure for your offspring? But then, what genetic qualities would you select for your children that you wouldn't care about having in your adult companion? And are there some things you want in your spouse that you'd reject if you knew it was in that embryo you're about to have implanted?

I suppose the fact that I wrote those questions first reveals that I'm not especially concerned about this new step in reproductive technology. The cry of "eugenics" always goes up, but what are the people who raise it really worrying about? Not the return of the Nazis. It's all-too-convenient the way the Nazis pop up to assist in making the argument you already wanted to make. The real objection is to reproductive choice. Once you have disaggregated reproduction from the full human relationship between the parents, what makes you want to draw the line here? Perhaps your objection is nothing more than resentment that only rich people get to fulfill this preference. If so, who are you to intrude on their private life?

One argument against this new practice is that there are so many embryos left over from infertility treatments and that these embryos should be implanted instead. But, as noted in the article, those leftover embryos are made from the eggs of woman who: 1. is older, and 2. has a fertility problem. It still seems more charitable and unselfish to choose them, but does that make it wrong to want better? We have a sense -- don't we? -- that parenthood means an open acceptance of whatever child happens to arrive and that the desire to be selective reveals that one has not met the parenthood ideal.

January 5, 2007

Why are Americans pessimistic and optimistic simultaneously?

It's a mystery:
A new AP-AOL News Poll finds that while most Americans said 2006 was a bad year for the country, three-fourths thought it had been a good one for them and their families. Seven in 10 Americans feel good about what 2007 will bring for the country, and nearly 90 percent are optimistic about the new year for them and their families.

A Washington Post-ABC News Poll found similar sentiments about 2007. More than 60 percent of the public said it would be a good year for protecting against terrorist attacks, the state of the national economy and “the way things are going in this country.”

By contrast, more than six in 10 Americans tell pollsters the country is on the “wrong track.” Bush’s polls ratings are reaching historical lows. And most Americans don’t think the U.S. is winning in Iraq, according to a variety of surveys.
It's just human nature, isn't it? And it's not a bad thing either. You feel suspicious and critical about the government -- and you should. But then, as a healthy, balanced person, you trust things will work out all right.

"Is it possible to prepare for Intelligence tests?"

An Ask Metafilter question. The main piece of advice over there is exactly what you would expect: take practice tests. I'd add my classic piece of test-taking advice that I figured out by my own trial and error: Believe -- even if it's pure delusion -- that you're having a wonderful time taking the exam. Control your emotions. If you believe this test is going to destroy or embarrass you, you're doomed.

In which I annoy you once again with the asssertion that I'm a moderate.

I took this test -- recommended by Andrew Sullivan -- and scored a 21 on a political scale that ran from 0 (100% liberal) to 40 (100% conservative). Sullivan scored 26, by the way.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds takes the test and, like me, gets a 21. Wouldn't it be freaky if he answered all the questions the same? Eugene Volokh critiques the test -- raising many of the points we've raised in the comments here -- but he doesn't reveal his number. I guess he refused to answer the questions.

In the comments, someone recommends this quiz: the World's Smallest Political quiz. I hate to tell you, dear readers, but that one puts me squarely in the "left liberal" quadrant.

Someone else recommends the Political Compass test. I think I've done this one before, but let's just say it's time for a check up. Here's where I am on their chart:
Economic Left/Right: -0.63
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.21
Did I take this one before? Actually, I don't think I have. I was confusing this with another one with a similar format.

The folk literature of those who choose not to exercise their right to remain silent.

It's the People’s Voluntary Disclosure Form, the VDF:
For many people, the urge to explain, if not to confess, is as urgent as it was for Raskolnikov in “Crime and Punishment.”

“My name is Paul Cortez,” is the Melvillian first sentence of the V.D.F. statement handwritten by Mr. Cortez, a yoga teacher who is awaiting trial as the suspect in the fatal stabbing of a dancer in her Upper East Side apartment.

What follows is a three-page roller coaster ride of love, sex and betrayal, culminating in an alibi. On the day of the victim’s death, Mr. Cortez wrote, “I knew something was wrong, so I called back several times.” When she didn’t answer, he called clients, watched a football game with a friend, “then read a little and went to bed. The next morning about 10:30 I found out from my mom Catherine was Dead.”

The last word, “Dead,” is capitalized for emphasis.

Prosecutors love to have defendants volunteer an alibi because it shows what they call “consciousness of guilt.”...

“Everybody talks,” said Daniel J. Castleman, chief of investigations for the Manhattan district attorney. “Almost nobody doesn’t talk. And the reason for that is that people think they can either talk their way out of it or mitigate the crime. It’s human nature.”
Human nature. Without it, there'd be no crime in the first place. The defense lawyers will keep their jobs, and they will tear their hair out forever over all those confessions. Go ahead. Confess! It's good for the soul. But that's not why they're doing it -- according to Castleman. People think they can either talk their way out of it.

Sacha Baron Cohen on "Fresh Air."

Hear him speak in his real voice. It's a little startling. He discusses, among other things, how the scenes for "Borat" were planned and accomplished. The scenes had to advance the plot, but they could not be sure exactly what people would do and say. The scene in the church was pivotal, and the predicted dialogue turned out verbatim. With fundamentalists, it seems, you actually do know what they will say, for example, if you say, "No one can save me."

On many occasions, people called the police, and Cohen stayed in character as "Borat" even after the police arrived. You never know what useful footage you'll get. I guess we'll see that on the DVD.

Cohen thinks he's the victim of his own success, or so he says. He's so recognizable that he can no longer go out as a funny character and trick people. Or can he? He's saying now that he'll have to write scripted movies and work with actors, but that would be a useful message to send out if he wants to keep up the real-life tricks. He's awfully good at disappearing into his characters -- note that he studied acting and has performed in Shakespeare plays -- and, as he says, people consistently believed Borat was real. I think the tricks will go on, in some way or other.

January 4, 2007

Don't squick Oprah!

Let me just transcribe Oprah's intro to her show today:
I'm very particular about where I bathe, you know, and the soaps, and I mean, 'cause there are a lot of people that don't change their soaps when you come to their house, and so if you go in there and if you're one of them, and you go into their house and you go to bathe and there're teeny tiny hairs on them that don't belong to you. Yleh, I hate that. So I was spending that night at a friend's... uh... relative's house, okay, and the pillow, the pillow, the pillow... I don't know if things were growing in that pillow or had they made a home in that pillow, so actually, I came back and I was talking about, when was the last time that pillow was changed? And I actually called them back and said, when is the last time you changed that pillow? 30 years. How can you sleep on the same pillow for 30 years?

ADDED: Okay, I watched this show so you don't have to. Do I watch "Oprah"? No. I set the TiVo to record it a while back when Madonna was on, and it's been collecting things, like the way your disgusting pillow has been collecting dust mites. But for some reason, I clicked on today's show. I'm not simulblogging this. Let me just say that if you've got kids with stuffed animals, you should be vacuuming those toys at least once a week.... .... .... yeah, I thought so. Forget about it. Who cares? There are bacteria and other microscopic things everywhere. Forget about it! If you try to kill them, you'll only leave the nastiest ones to take over. Get on with your life! This was a show about ooh-icky! You've got better things to do with your life.

YET MORE: Oddly, part of this show was about women who let their hair grow very long. In the intro, Oprah threw in the question, "How often do you cut your hair?" The question wasn't how often do you wash your hair, but simply letting your hair grow long was treated as if it were another squicky thing. Then it turned out that they had about six women on the show who hadn't cut their hair in many years, including one who had never cut her hair. There was nothing dirty about these women. In fact, they were coming forward to get their hair cut to donate their hair for wigs for young girls who had gone bald. This subject really had nothing to do with the other, but Oprah just combined the two topics as if they were related.

The long-haired women didn't complain, of course, They were on Oprah, and they got makeovers. In the end, they came out showing off their haircuts, with Oprah exclaiming about how much better they looked. They all acted thrilled as if they had discovered how deluded they'd been. They'd been dressed up in new clothes, and they twirled around looking delighted as we heard Oprah name the various department stores that had provided the garish duds. Oprah told us they looked just great, updated. But I thought they all had looked lovely in jeans and long-sleeved tops and with hair hanging well below their waists. Yet there was Oprah telling us what to think, and she never said they'd made a sacrifice for the purpose of helping others. These were just deluded women who let their hair grow, to go along with that woman who used the same sponge for a year.

A little girl wearing one of those real-hair wigs was sent up for Oprah to embrace in the closing moments of the show, and we were left to wonder how many dust mites were in that wig, how often should you throw out your wig, and why is Oprah willing to have that thing right next to her.

It was a day spent walking...

It was a day spent walking, stopping in one café after another (grading one exam at each stop), shopping (everything in my favorite store was 36% off), and lunching at Cocoliquot. Since I was alone and since I can't very well eat and grade an exam, I cued up a podcast to keep me company:


Lunch was chestnut soup and an eggplant sandwich:


The long view:


President Bush will nominate a Muslim to represent the United States at the U.N.

ABC News reports:
[Zalmay] Khalilzad has been U.S. ambassador to Iraq since June 2005. He is the highest ranking Muslim in the U.S. government and one of the few officials at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad fluent in Arabic.

A consummate dealmaker, Khalilzad played an active role trying to push the Iraqi government toward political reconciliation. Khalilzad's efforts aliented [sic] some in the Shia-dominated Iraqi government who complained that Khalilzad was biased in favor of Iraq's Sunnis. Khalilzad is a Sunni Muslim.

"The 'Ashley Treatment,' Towards a Better Quality of Life for 'Pillow Angels.'"

Parents of a girl who will always be a baby mentally procure medical treatments that permanently limit her size and weight and prevent her from reaching puberty. Here is their blog about it. Here is the BBC.com article that took me to it:
In July 2004 Ashley began hormone treatment, through patches on the skin, that is expected to reduce her untreated height by 20% and weight by 40%.

Ashley's parents said the decision to remove their daughter's uterus and breast buds was for the girl's comfort and safety.

"Ashley has no need for her uterus since she will not be bearing children," they said, adding that the decision means she will not experience the menstrual cycle and the bleeding and discomfort commonly associated with it...

The couple emphasised their love for their daughter and said the amount of criticism their choice of treatment attracted had surprised them.

"If the concern has something to do with the girl's dignity being violated, then I have to protest by arguing that the girl lacks the cognitive capacity to experience any sense of indignity," they said.

"The oestrogen treatment is not what is grotesque here. Rather, it is the prospect of having a full-grown and fertile woman endowed with the mind of a baby."
They call her a "pillow angel" because "she is so sweet and stays right where we place her — usually on a pillow."

MORE: Here:
"This particular treatment, even if it's OK in this situation, and I think it probably is, is not a widespread solution and ignores the large social issues about caring for people with disabilities," Dr. Joel Frader, a medical ethicist at Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital, said Thursday. "As a society, we do a pretty rotten job of helping caregivers provide what's necessary for these patients."

The case involves a girl identified only as Ashley on a blog her parents created after her doctors wrote about her treatment in October's Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

George McGovern voted for Gerald Ford.

I wonder if Ford ever knew. And what exactly was it about Jimmy Carter that rubbed him the wrong way?

John Kerry sends "a Christmas card with a to-do list."

Why am I always picking on John Kerry? I don't know. I can't seem to help it. But maybe, just maybe, it's really something about him:
The senator from Massachusetts and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, sent out 75,000 Christmas cards with pictures of trees at each season. The Kerrys gushed over their "gratitude for the beauty of these trees and the life they represent."...

The card came in an odd-looking envelope, one of those with a return-mail flap and instructions to send it to . . . well, to a recycling company, so "it can be made into new carpet tile."...

We want a "world without waste . . . where every product either returns safely to the soil or becomes a new product."

So the card instructs: "1. Remove this panel and insert it along with the card into the envelope. 2. Expose adhesive strip and fold the flap over to seal the envelope. 3. Drop this mailer into any U.S. mailbox."
Of all the sanctimonious idiocy! Avoiding the production of the second envelope would save more than the recycling of the card. And that's not even counting the energy costs of driving paper mail all over the place.

Also, how come I didn't get a card?

"Harriet is one of the most beloved people here at the White House."

Said Tony Snow, announcing the departure of Harriet Miers, who captured our attention a year or so ago and then retreated into the background.

John Roberts and the "constitutional crisis" of an underpaid judiciary.

A subject I considered too boring to write about is the Chief Justice saying -- in his year-end report (PDF) -- that federal judges should be paid more. I think this issue comes up every year.

So I was surprised to see what looked like a hundred messages on the subject on the Conlawrpof email list talking about it. And now Dahlia Lithwick has this piece in Slate, taking John Roberts to task for what she thinks is his overstated language :
In his eight-page report, the chief focuses, with charts and graphs and his trademark folksy good nature, on a single issue: He and his colleagues want a raise. He starts off with a cute anecdote and warms up the crowd with some Rose Bowl references. It all looks pretty promising. Until he goes off the rails completely with some dubious analysis and wraps it all up in claims of a "constitutional crisis."...

The chief may actually be right on the merits, but his tone couldn't be more off-putting.... Nobody wants to hear about the smattering of judges who flee the federal bench because their six-figure salaries are too low....

But Roberts' worst misstep comes with the words constitutional crisis—words known to have a distinct legal meaning....

This total lack of savvy from a man who is usually pitch perfect in his dealings with both the Congress and the American public is surprising. Clearly he's upset and frustrated about the state of judicial pay, and he is attempting to advocate for his colleagues in the strongest, most dramatic terms. But he, more than most, should know that the words constitutional crisis start to lose their meaning when they are deployed in the interest of judicial pay hikes. And that the words independent judiciary—which have been stretched of late to include everything from judicial immunity from popular criticism to freedom from physical attacks—similarly begin to ring hollow when they are used to simply mean "underpaid jurists."
My first thought was: Well, he got everyone's attention for once on this recurrent, tedious issue.

He got me to go read the report. Let's look at the argument. Federal judges used to be paid significantly more than law professors at top schools. Now, it's more like half. Sure, it's still a great job, but the question is who will take it under these circumstances. Here's Roberts:
Our judiciary will not properly serve its constitutional role if it is restricted to (1) persons so wealthy that they can afford to be indifferent to the level of judicial compensation, or (2) people for whom the judicial salary represents a pay increase. Do not get me wrong–there are very good judges in both of those categories. But a judiciary drawn more and more from only those categories would not be the sort of judiciary on which we have historically depended to protect the rule of law in this country.
There is a much more brutal point that he does not make. So I will. The job means different things to different people. A power-loving ideologue would do the job for nothing. Plenty of folks would pay large sums to have the job if it were for sale. The point is, you need normal, well-balanced people to handle the responsibilities of judging, so you need to offer appropriate compensation so that normal, well-balanced people will decide to accept the work.

With the pay this far out of proportion to the comparable job of law professor, the judiciary is undermined. The federal judge's salary is, along with life tenure, one of the two safeguards for judiciary independence provided in the Constitution:
The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.
The judges might have aggressively interpreted that provision to require constant adjustments in their salary to deal with inflation, but that has not happened. Still, the principle is clear: the constitutional plan is to protect the judges from political manipulation. Congress can't attack the judges by cutting their pay, but it technically has the power to do something quite similar by constraining their pay over a long period of time. This isn't a direct attack, and it doesn't even seem meant as an attack. But it has an effect, and Roberts is right to raise the alarm about it. "Constitutional crisis" is strong language, but Roberts is defending the independence of what the Constitution designs as a co-equal branch.

The crying soldier.

The Slate front page right now is displaying this picture of a soldier crying:

This irks me. I see Jacob Weisberg -- of "Bushisms" notoriety -- has an article titled "Was Victory in Iraq Ever Possible?" It's linked at the top of the page right next to the picture.

But, to be fair, they also have a feature on Iraq war comics. It's linked third next to the picture.

What does the image of the soldier crying mean to you, and does it mean something different the way Slate has used it? I am reminded that I was lambasted recently for crying, so my perceptions about the cultural meaning of crying are distorted right now. I'm biased toward righteously justifying the expression of humanity in liquid form. But I don't like Weisberg -- that longtime Bush foe -- appropriating the soldier's tears.

IN THE COMMENTS: The answer to my question -- "What does the image of the soldier crying mean to you?" -- there are lots of answers, but we may have settled on one: "It means that the artist watched too much TV during the 70s and can't think of an original way to express himself." And YouTube comes through again:

When a blogger skips a topic you think he should be blogging about.

Do you make noise about his silence? Eugene Volokh tries to explain why you shouldn't expect a blogger to cover things that are not directly in his area of expertise. It seems that some Volokh Conspiracy readers think it means something that such a prominent lawprof blog has not followed the Duke rape case.
Look, if some of us want to take the time to develop an expertise on the Duke rape case, we'll post about it. And occasionally some of us may post non-expert comments based on some outside coverage that we found interesting; you'll generally notice that the posts are non-expert posts, and should be taken either as potentially useful pointers to others' work or as light entertainment, as the case may be. But why not appreciate the fact that we tend to post about subjects we know well? Why try to goad us into commenting about subjects that we don't know well?
Hardcore goaders can come back with outrage at the failure to be sufficiently interested in the subject to post in the nonexpert style.

Since a blog looks like a series of updates -- one on top of the previous one -- readers develop the illusion that if news happens, it should register on the blog. On a blog that allows comments, I think readers come over because they want to talk, and then they're disappointed that the blogger hasn't opened up a place to talk. You've come to think of the blog as your little coffeehouse, and you look in and see that there is no table.

Sometimes, I'll post just to set up that table. But I'd still want to have a line or two to say that is distinctive and not just a statement that I saw the news today. (Oh, boy.) But then if you do add that distinctive line or two and you're a prominent lawprof blogger, there's a decent chance it will show up quoted in MSM somewhere (with the name of your school). In that new context, people won't be able to tell that it was just an offhand remark in bloggerly style, as opposed to sober expert reflection.

Oh, the travails of a lawprof blogger!

Blogger glitch.

For some reason, clicking on comments from the main page or from the January 2007 archive page won't take you into the comments page. If you start on an archive page other than January, however, things work normally. Oddly, going along with this glitch is a change in the way the archive list is formatted. I have it set for the dates to appear like this: January 2007. But I'm currently seeing dates like this: 01/01/2007 - 01/31/2007. The wrong style for writing the dates only appears on the pages that don't work properly. This happened once before, and I think maybe just publishing a new post solves the problem. I tried going to "Settings" and changing my preference for the date formatting and republishing, but that didn't fix it. I'm hoping that publishing this will solve the problem. If you've got any ideas you'd like to share, you won't be able to put them in the comments, so search for "gmail" on this page, and you'll see how to email me.

UPDATE: I may have fixed it, not by publishing this, but by turning the dreaded word verification back on. Don't worry. I'm going to turn it off again.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Yeah, fixed. Comment away! Not necessarily here. This is a boring post now. But blogging being what it is -- a cult! -- I cannot remove this post. What is done is done. This is the past. You can't change it. Except at the bottom, with a capitalized "UPDATE" or "AND," followed by a colon. AND, it's January 4, 2007. Let's get on with the day. It's still dark, here in Madison, Wisconsin, my remote outpost in the northern central United States. The NYT has arrived, the table is still cluttered with piles of CDs I'm been unsystematically importing into my computer, and, on the other side, piles of exams I've been -- systematically! -- grading. It's trash day. I can hear the neighbor rumbling his big plastic trash bin out of its parking spot by the side of the house. I've already gone out to get the paper, but I didn't take my plastic bag of trash out yet. I'm going to make a second trip out to the curb with the trash, because I don't like putting out a plastic bag of trash when it's still dark. There are all sorts of nocturnal critters who would be only too glad to have the chance to rip that thing open and feast. They can even gnaw a hole in the outdoor trash bin -- if you put out the sort of fragrant garbage that drives them mad. Somehow, the daylight makes them behave. Does the daylight make you behave?

AND: Did I change the subject in the middle of that last update, or was that some sort of metaphor about my life in blogging? I thought I did, but now I feel like it was.

January 3, 2007

"Rehnquist expressed 'bizarre ideas and outrageous thoughts. He imagined, for example, that there was a CIA plot against him.'"

From the newly released FBI file on William H. Rehnquist:
[I]n 1986, the FBI conducted an intensive investigation into Rehnquist's dependence on Placidyl, a strong painkiller that he had taken since the early 1970s for insomnia and back pain....

The FBI's 1986 report on Rehnquist's drug dependence was not released at the time of his confirmation [as Chief Justice], though some Democratic senators wanted it made public. But it is in Rehnquist's now-public file, and it contains new details about his behavior during his weeklong hospital stay in December 1981. One physician whose name is blocked out told the FBI that Rehnquist expressed "bizarre ideas and outrageous thoughts. He imagined, for example, that there was a CIA plot against him."

The doctor said Rehnquist "had also gone to the lobby in his pajamas in order to try to escape." The doctor said Rehnquist's delirium was consistent with him suddenly stopping his apparent daily dose of 1400 milligrams of the drug -- nearly three times higher than the 500-milligram maximum recommended by physicians. The doctor said, "Any physician who prescribed it was practicing very bad medicine, bordering on malpractice."

"We wanted the Democrats to know they're back in power because of the grass roots."

Aaagghh! Now, everyone's sick of Cindy Sheehan.

"It is clear that Mrs. Clinton is far along in plotting a campaign."

Patrick Healy and Adam Nagourney have the scoop on Hillary's campaign strategy:
Mrs. Clinton told Democrats that she viewed her two strongest potential Democratic opponents as Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina. They said that she viewed Mr. Obama as her biggest obstacle to the nomination, but that she believed the threat of his candidacy will diminish as voters learn how inexperienced he is in government and foreign affairs.

Without mentioning Mr. Obama by name, Mrs. Clinton and her camp are already asserting that experience will be a key attribute for any successful candidate during difficult times — an argument that her team will no doubt make in a more aggressive way against Mr. Obama if they both jump into the race.
Inexperienced, yes, but presumably he's got people giving him a crash course in government and foreign affairs. I'm picturing, Obama o-boning up. I think he can.

So Hillary's having lots of meetings with potential supporters:
Mrs. Clinton has gone to great lengths to try to keep these meetings private. She and her aides have strongly asked Democrats not to report what has taken place there, from what she says to what she eats and where (she had the lamb at Ruth’s Chris, the Dover sole at the Four Seasons).
Love the parenthetical.
Senator Clinton told one New Hampshire Democrat that if all things were equal, she would prefer to delay the formal start of her campaign until later this year and focus instead on notching accomplishments as a prominent member of the new Democratic majority in the Senate.
"Notching accomplishments." Brilliant. The image -- "notching" -- is to the notches on a gun a cowboy made for killing people, right? Unless it's notches on a bedpost for sexual conquests. Politics is so raw, so brutal. And this time, it's going to be hardcore, in a new way we've never seen.

ADDED: In the comments, people are raising questions about how Hillary Clinton is going to claim she has so much more experience than Obama. He's held elected office longer; she's been in the Senate a tad longer. The only way she can claim significantly more experience is if being the First Lady is supposed to count (or if Bill is running for co-President). That will be an awkward argument. I'll be interested in see how she looks, trying to say that with a presidential face. A 1-term Senator promoting herself on experience and padding her resume with First Lady service? Is this how the first woman will make it to President? If it's a battle of the firsts, shouldn't we lean toward the first black President, if he is the self-made man, rather than the first woman President, if she needs to stand on the shoulders of her husband? Really, how does she come off diminishing him for inexperience?

"I see myself as a conservative, to tell you the truth."

Justice Stevens submitted to an interview on "Nightline" last night. I've got it TiVo'd, but I'll have to get to it later. Meanwhile, David Lat has some observations.

UPDATE: I'm catching up on the Stevens interview. (When they make the Jan Crawford Greenburg biopic, can they get Tina Majorino to play the lead?) Stevens seems amiable and lively, and what's he going to do but be a sweetheart about the recently departed President? But TiVo cut it off after a half hour, the first part of which was not Justice Stevens, so in the end I saw very little of him. I can, however, confirm David Lat's observation that he wore a big, fluffy bow tie and had terribly old-looking glasses.


I know it's annoying to post this so late. I need to check Retrocrush more often. But here's a cool list of the 100 Most Annoying Things of 2006. You know you want to read the whole thing.

High five! And... nice shirt.

Look at this picture, illustrating this story about the struggle to make middle school something better than a complete disaster.

Is Barack Obama's first memoir "a blueprint for negative attacks"?

"Dreams From My Father" was written 11 years ago, after Obama was approached by a publisher interested in his success at Harvard Law School. It's "not the kind of book you would ever expect a politician to write,"one GOP consultant says. I think it's a good thing if he revealed himself as a real person back before everything had to become a political calculation. (Or was it a political calculation, even then, just an unusual and sophisticated one?)
Obama writes extensively about his struggle to come to terms with being a black man whose African father returned to Kenya when he was 2, leaving him to be raised by his white Kansas-born mother and grandparents in Hawaii. He describes an identity crisis arising from his realization that his life was shaped by both a loving white family and a world that saw in him the negative stereotypes frequently ascribed to young black men. He recounts a search of self that took him from high school in Hawaii to Columbia University, and then to the streets of Chicago as a community organizer.

"We were always playing on the white man's court . . . by the white man's rules," he writes. "If the principal, or the coach, or a teacher . . . wanted to spit in your face, he could, because he had the power and you didn't. . . . The only thing you could choose was withdrawal into a smaller and smaller coil of rage.

"And the final irony: should you refuse this defeat and lash out at your captors . . . they would have a name for that too. Paranoid. Militant."
Most of the talk thus far has been about the confessions of drug use -- not just marijuana, but cocaine. I don't see him losing a lot of votes because of that. But presumably, people will now pick over the book looking for other sorts of character flaws. Is he paranoid? Militant? Anyone making such insinuations -- not Hillary, surely! -- will have to worry about what they say about the one doing the insinuating.

"Even as Google tries to hire more people faster, it wants to make sure that its employees will fit into its freewheeling culture."

Here's an article about Google's new approach to hiring:
[Google] has created an automated way to search for talent among the more than 100,000 job applications it receives each month. It is starting to ask job applicants to fill out an elaborate online survey that explores their attitudes, behavior, personality and biographical details going back to high school....

The answers are fed into a series of formulas created by Google’s mathematicians that calculate a score — from zero to 100 — meant to predict how well a person will fit into its chaotic and competitive culture....
What Googlish methods were used to come up with the questions and the formula for weighting them? They surveyed the employees they already had with various questions like "Is your work space messy or neat?" and "Are you an extrovert or an introvert?" and connected the answers to the 25 different measurements they had about each survey-taker's job performance. This gave them 2 million data points to analyze.

What did they figure out? Nothing, really, as far as I can tell. High grades in school don't guarantee success at work. Who is surprised? You can tell if a person was once both smart, goal-oriented, and hard-working. But how they're going to behave once they land the job is a different matter altogether.

The "vice president for people operations" is quoted saying: "Interviews are a terrible predictor of performance." That's not surprising either, is it? And it's a good thing too. How awful it would be if an interviewer could see into your soul.

I suppose I like the idea of a long survey that is individualized to the conditions and requirements of a particular workplace. It lets different people rise to the top and crack through the layer normally occupied by the applicants with the highest grades. But it seems as though people who want jobs will figure out ways to ace the survey, won't they? And some people are just good at surveys. Why would that make them good workers?

But maybe you think that Google has such brilliant ways of coordinating vast numbers of data points, and whatever they do will somehow -- amazingly, magically -- work.

"What the Congress Can Do for America," by Mr. Bush, the president of the United States. (A translation.)

The Wall Street Journal publishes an opinion piece by George W. Bush. In case you don't know: "Mr. Bush is the president of the United States." The piece is called "What the Congress Can Do for America/Let them say of these next two years: We used our time well." You can think up an alternate title that represents what he's really thinking. E.g.: Oh, no, I have to spend the rest of my presidency with these people!
Together, we have a chance to serve the American people by solving the complex problems that many don't expect us to tackle, let alone solve, in the partisan environment of today's Washington. To do that, however, we can't play politics as usual.
But you are going to play politics as usual, so nothing will be solved, and it will therefore be your fault.
... I am hopeful we can find common ground without compromising our principles.
I'm not compromising my principles, so good luck finding common ground.
...fight and win the war....

...not the time to raise taxes on the American people.

...balancing the budget....

Spending control will be a special new concern, but I will call you on any attempt to cut back on the war or raise taxes. Try living with that.
Our Founders believed in the wisdom of the American people to choose their leaders and provided for the concept of divided and effective government. The majority party in Congress gets to pass the bills it wants. The minority party, especially where the margins are close, has a strong say in the form bills take. And the Constitution leaves it to the president to use his judgment whether they should be signed into law.
Mmm... I love those Founders and our wonderful Constitution... and I am going to veto like mad.
...If the Congress chooses to pass bills that are simply political statements, they will have chosen stalemate.
Veto! Don't you dare try to make any political progress for yourself. It will just be an empty gesture. I'll make sure.
...come together...

January 2, 2007

"We're O.K. down here, but I've got two daughters up there. Let them know their father's O.K."

Wesley Autrey, hero.

"Her clock ticks, her life ebbs. Where is the man for her?"

That's the line that amused me the most in Richard Cohen's WaPo column pouring out sympathy for Monica Lewinsky:
Where is the guy brave enough, strong enough, admirable enough to take her as his wife, to suffer the slings and arrows of her outrageous fortune -- to say to the world (for it would be the entire world) that he loves this woman who will always be an asterisk in American history. I hope there is such a guy out there. It would be nice. It would be fair.

It would be nice, too, and fair, also, if Lewinsky were treated by the media as it would treat a man. What's astounding is the level of sexism applied to her, as if the wave of the women's movement broke over a new generation of journalists and not a drop fell on any of them.
Ack. Something about that last image.... making me think of a blue dress....

Of course, it's true, though. Lewinsky was portrayed in a sexist way. The need to rescue Clinton from impeachment made everyone forget how to take a feminist perspective. But Cohen's dreamy wish for a man to love Lewinsky isn't the least sexist thing I've ever read. I'm guessing Monica has all the boyfriends she wants. I'll bet they have lots of laughs sharing intimate gossip about the old man who transgressed to be with her. Why assume she wants to marry or marriage is some special solace that she needs? Why say her life is ebbing?

Unless Cohen's proposing, that's just weirdly melodramatic!


Some Democrats people aren't too pleased with the way Nancy Pelosi is celebrating herself:
In a three-day stretch of whirlwind events beginning on Wednesday, Mrs. Pelosi will celebrate her heritage (at the Italian Embassy), her faith (in a Roman Catholic Mass), her education (at Trinity College), her childhood (in Baltimore) and her current home (in a tribute by the singer Tony Bennett, of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” fame)....

Supporters of Mrs. Pelosi said she had every right — an obligation, even — to underscore her new role, given the historic nature of her rise to power. Thus the week is planned to project much more than an ordinary handoff of power in Congress. It is intended to leave a firm imprint of the new House leader’s style and substance on the national consciousness....
And that style would be....? Preening narcissism?

It must be really annoying to have the Ford funeral soaking up the national attention. But is anyone really tuning in for that?

Looking back on the 2004 primaries.

Back in July 2004, I reprinted some political analysis emailed by my son John Cohen. It went like this:
You wrote about how everyone watching the convention is imagining how the speeches will seem to someone else, even though it might be that none of those "someone elses" are actually watching the speeches. The same thing happened when Kerry won the primaries. Everyone was voting for him because they thought he would appeal to someone else. And those voters believed at the time that that was the politically savvy thing to do. But it was actually politically disastrous: if everyone was just voting for him because they thought someone else would like him, then NO ONE ACTUALLY LIKED HIM.

One problem is that if you're trying to choose the most "electable" person, I would imagine that you'd be likely to do it by process of elimination -- by ruling out all the candidates with obvious political liabilities. I think this is the number-one reason why Kerry won the primaries: he was the only candidate who didn't seem to have anything particularly wrong with him. Edwards was too inexperienced; Clark was a poor campaigner; Dean seemed kind of insane; Gephardt was too liberal; Lieberman was too conservative. So they choose the one candidate who has no qualities that would really make anyone hate him. The problem is that he also has no qualities that would really make anyone like him either.
Today, the interestingly named Jonathan Cohn has this analysis of the 2004 primaries in The New Republic:
The last time Democrats had to choose a nominee from a large field of candidates, in 2004, voters in the primaries said time and again that they had resolved to follow their minds rather than their hearts. Determined to beat President Bush any way they could, they picked the candidate who they believed stood the best chance of winning in the general election, rather than the candidate they liked best. And, with that in mind, they came up with reasons to reject almost every candidate.

Wesley Clark? He was too much of a political novice to win a general election. Howard Dean? Red staters could never stomach his left-wing extremism. John Edwards? More conservative voters might perceive him as too inexperienced, particularly on foreign policy. Dick Gephardt? Swing voters would associate him with the old, wasteful Democratic Party. Among the leading contenders, that left only John Kerry, who had no similarly glaring flaws. And that's a big reason (though, admittedly, not the only reason) he eventually became the nominee.

No doubt, the political flaws 2004 voters perceived in the other candidates were genuine. Dean's perceived extremism would indeed have been a hard sell down South; Clark really was prone to the stumbles you'd expect of a political rookie. Still, the calculation of voters was curiously one-sided--measuring candidates almost exclusively in terms of their flaws, rather than taking stock of their attributes, as well. It was if a Wall Street analyst sized up a company by examining its liabilities, while disregarding its assets. And the result was a predictably misguided conclusion.

If Kerry lacked the vulnerabilities of some of his rivals, he also lacked their skills. He couldn't win people over with charm or inspiration. And, while he had a bevy of nifty policy proposals, he had no grandiose, overarching message with which to sell them. So when the general campaign got tough, Kerry had no reservoir of public enthusiasm or support on which to draw.

I know what you're thinking.

Althouse, you broke your resolution!

And I say, no, I didn't. Every last word was necessary. And, ooh, there were so many sharp edges. Be careful with that thing.

Adler, Drezner, and Levy try to close the glass window on debate, and I say, Aw, come on, you're not gonna say that now.

Jonathan Adler declares that "the last words" have been spoken on a subject that I started. What are these famous last words? One is from Dan Drezner, whose post I've already linked to but who adds an update saying that this post from Jacob Levy -- which is Adler's other "last word" -- is "the last word."

Hmmm.... some people seem awfully nervous about shutting down debate... right after slamming me. That's a fascinating approach to debate! That called some movie scene to mind for me... What was it? Something I'd seen recently. Oh, yes. It was this:
McMurphy: The Chief voted. Now will you please turn on the television set?

Nurse Ratched: [she opens the glass window] Mr. McMurphy. The meeting was adjourned and the vote was closed.

McMurphy: But the vote was 10 to 8. The Chief, he's got his hand up! Look!

Nurse Ratched: No, Mr. McMurphy. When the meeting was adjourned, the vote was 9 to 9.

McMurphy: [exasperated] Aw, come on, you're not gonna say that now. You're not gonna say that now. You're gonna pull that hen-house sh*t now when the vote... the Chief just voted - it was 10 to 9. Now I want that television set turned on, right now!

[Nurse Ratched closes the glass window.]
Jonathan Adler closes the glass window. Aw, come on, you're not gonna say that now. You're gonna pull that hen-... that... c-... that rooster-house sh*t now?

You can't close the glass window in blogging. There are no last words in blogging.

So, Drezner says "Jacob Levy gets the last, definitive word." Oh, it's not only "last," it's "definitive"? It's the last, definitive, authoritative, conclusive, decisive, closing, concluding, terminal, ultimate, final thing anyone can ever, ever, ever say on the subject. Could you demonstrate a little more eagerness to cut off the debate there, Dan?

But before Nurse Drezner closes the glass window, he also has an earlier update, where he quotes me responding to him and responds to me.
Althouse responds here:
Idea geeks. Okay. Well, my experience in legal academia is that people who try to get into the idea geek zone need to get their pretensions punctured right away. The sharp lawprof types I admire always see a veneer on top of something more important, and our instinct is to peel it off. What is your love of this idea really about? That's our method.

We are here to harsh your geek zone mellow.
I confess I'm not entirely sure what "geek zone mellow" means. I think Ann is warning the blogoshere [sic] that people in love with ideas qua ideas need someone to take a pragmatist hammer and whack them upside the head every once in a while.
Note the strange situation that always goes on when I engage with academic types. I'm writing in a different mode from them. I'm not trying to model an academic writing style or demeanor. I'm writing in a way that makes the squares exclaim "You, a law professor!" I'm doing something different here.

So, Dan had written about himself as an "idea geek" and the Liberty Fund conferences as places that attract a lot of "idea geeks" who like to sit around and debate ideas in the abstract. So that would be an "idea geek zone." That's not hard, is it? Beyond that, you need to recognize the phrase "harsh your mellow." Think about what all of this means. If you love ideas so damned much, why can't you put these ideas together? Dan, if you want to respond to me and declare things to be last, definitive words, you've got to work harder at trying to understand the things that come at you from a different angle. Don't just scrunch up your face in the Althouse-doesn't-make-sense expression.

Dan continues:
All well and good. But my experience in political science -- particularly international relations -- is that a distressingly high percentage of legal academics write from such an atheoretical, normative perspective that they don't realize that underlying their legal and policy pragmatics are implicit theories that need to be exposed, prodded, probed, and (often) pierced. I might add that it is my fervent hope that legal academics keep on doing this, because it means that they will continue to provide empirical grist for my theoretical mill.
Exposed, prodded, probed, and (often) pierced. No sexual imagery there!

All he's really got is the assertion that he doesn't like pragmatism. It's too atheoretical and normative. But pragmatism is a theory, whether you like it or not. And the demand for normativity is also theoretical. That I don't write blog posts in the style of academic theorizing doesn't mean I couldn't if I wanted to. I'm a blogger, engaged in a writing project of a particular kind that is different from what you're doing and that means a lot to me. I could write a very theoretical article about what I am doing here, but that's not what I do here. Meanwhile, you're essentially stooping to namecalling. How theoretical is that?

Now, let's move on to the supposedly final authority on what I got so terribly wrong when I objected to some abstract theories that would have preserved segregation until racists had a change of heart: Jacob Levy. Jacob Levy is a political science professor at McGill University. (Here's a picture of him.) He has this to say about me:
There's a very strange...

blogspheric discussion afoot about federalism, whether and how American federalism is tainted by Jim Crow, antidiscrimination law vs. freedom of contract, and the bounds of civil discourse-- strange because somehow it's all come to center around Ann Althouse's judgments about who weirded her out at a conference, which seems not to be the most intellectually productive starting point....

Levy is another one of these academic bloggers who launch into writing about me -- taking a superior but clunky attitude -- without getting my approach to blogging. Yes, I wrote a post that was an impressionistic take on my experience in a particular social setting. Now, of course, it wasn't just an introspective me-and-my-feelings manifestation of blogginess. There were daggers in there. And I was doing something provocative. People were provoked. One thing led to another. Various humorless oafs roused themselves to throw punches at me. I take responsibility for doing all of that. It is, after all, what I do.

Levy struts:
I've got a discussion of these questions in my APSR paper, and a much more extensive follow-up in a an article that should be coming out in Social Philosophy and Policy any day now....
Oh, well, then you've got the most intellectually productive starting point. (And ending point, if we're to listen to Adler and Drezner.) You've got some articles. Wow -- the reader is suppsed to think -- unlike with Althouse, this is sure to be intellectual.

Nevermind that I've published scholarly articles on the subject of federalism for the past 20 years. Levy spells out some basic points and platitudes about federalism as if I'd never heard them before. Because, you know, I didn't put them in my blog post. (Go to the link if you want to consume Jacob's pedantry on federalism.)

He then has this about me:
Oy. I just read some more of Althouse's own posts on all this-- which are a really bizarre mix of extreme defensiveness, extreme personal vitriol, and a dramatic interest in herself and her own sense of righteousness.
Don't bother to mention that that I was responding to a vicious personal attack on me. You're a real model of fairness yourself there, Jacob.
And I then remembered the tone, and remembered where I'd heard of Ann Althouse before. (I know she's become a big-deal blogger, but she's never been on my to-read list.) She was the one who found Feministing blogger Jessica guilty of having breasts while standing in the same room as Bill Clinton.
So I'm the one with "extreme personal vitriol," when you swing wildly like that? No one reading this could begin to understand what that old controversy was really about. Shame on you, Jacob Levy, for presenting such one-sided hostility on that touchy old topic. My side of it is that Feministing is a blog that holds itself out as feminist yet spices up its webpage with numerous images of breasts, and that the blogger Levy sees fit to call only by her first name proudly posed in front of Bill Clinton, at a luncheon designed to enlist bloggers in the Clinton political agenda and lacked the feminist grit to object to what Clinton meant for feminism. Not that she "had breasts." That is the meme spread by various bloggers who felt like defending Clinton. You know, Jacob Levy, if you're such a powerful intellectual, why not put a little deep thought into this instead of just catching the meme and re-spewing it. And if you want to pontificate about the ethics of blogging and denounce me, clean up your own act.
The arguments that followed spiralled nastily quickly-- I think due to that same combination of traits. I don't know Professor Althouse-- never met her-- and I have no idea whether the persona of her blog corresponds to her character. (Blogging's not for everybody, and it can be very tricky to keep control of the tone of one's blogging.) But the blog persona seems to be consistent across the two cases, and to be... something less than admirable.
Look in a mirror, pal.

Levy prints a comment from a reader who suggests that Levy actually agreed with me about federalism. Levy bristles:
Althouse's position isn't really an anti-dogmatist one. It's dogmatism without a theory.
Levy's all: I have a theory, which is mine, a theory that is, that it is, this theory of mine, this theory that I have, that is to say, which is mine, it is mine...
She's drawn a bright line in a particular place, and those on the wrong side of it are presumed to be arguing in bad faith for malicious motives because no one could ever really hold such a view. Her bright line isn't drawn deductively, but it's a much brighter line than those that have been drawn by any of her critics. Even if I draw the federalism line kind of close to where she does, I do so on the basis of balancing considerations some of which she's preemptively declared it illegitimate to even take into account.
What is he talking about? You may well wonder. What's this bright-line dogmatism? And what are these presumptions I've supposedly made? He seems to be demanding high standards of logical reasoning, but he's engaging in pure rant here. You can't even tell what he's talking about. And even as a generalization, it's nothing even close to an accurate account of what I said. He is simply falling all over himself trying to denounce me.

And this is what Adler and Drezner think is the last word? Oh, you boys are showing all the signs of desperate denial. Let's remember what the subject is. I said that if you are devoted to an abstract theory of government that would have allowed racial segregation to persist indefinitely, then it raises the question whether the reason you like this theory so much is either that you actually desire segregation or that you are insufficiently concerned about it. Once this question arises, you need to talk about it, and the avoidance of the question makes those who have the question feel even more dissatisfaction with the theory. How does that fit with Levy's final rant? It's more strenuous avoidance of my question, with efforts at slurring me for even asking it.

Really, it's quite absurd. The problem of race is central to American law and history. If you don't want to talk about it, you have a problem. If you retreat into abstractions and go on and on about how intellectual and theoretical and logical you are, you look worse and worse to people who care about civil rights.

This is exactly what occurred at that dinner with Ron Bailey. The more intensely the self-styled theoreticians insist on avoiding the serious question about race, the more nagging the question becomes, the more you feel pulled toward blurting out what is -- I admit! -- impolite: How do I know I'm not sitting at a table with racists? How would actually sitting at a table with racists be any different from this? Assuming, of course, they were intellectual racists. With theories. Who spell out deductions for you. And for themselves. I'm sure they've gotten so sophisticated they don't even think about race at all anymore and so cannot imagine themselves as racists, who are those crass, illiterate southerners of bygone days. And this, in case you don't know, is a theory.

Meanwhile, back at the comments to Jonathan Adler's post, someone who calls himself Tom Tildrum has some words about the Levy post that Adler called "the last word":
I'm sorry; I consistently like Levy's writing and have always found him quite sensible, but this post is a trainwreck.

His seven scholarly points boil down to the conclusion that political theory has absolutely nothing substantive to offer on the question at hand (concluding that "it's a case-by-case balancing test" is not a theory).

Overall, Levy's post simply evades Althouse's point: does he believe that to oppose the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 "is not to support Jim Crow"? That's what Althouse was writing about, and the fact that the Liberty Fund's stated principles lead to opposition of *that* extension of federal power. Levy twists around this issue by changing the subject and writing instead about "the centralization of 1937," but that's so far off point as to be nearly irrelevant.

Levy does make the point that "in figuring out the balance of advantages about any particular allocation of responsibility between the states and the center, Jim Crow must loom large in the American historical memory." That point, of course, is precisely what Althouse was arguing at the Liberty Fund conference, and precisely what the libertarians there were insistently ignoring. For some reason, though, when Althouse makes Levy's own point, Levy calls her "dogmatic." Given Levy's focus only on Althouse's arguments, and not on the libertarians' pigheadedness, his analysis is hopelessly one-sided.

What's worse, Althouse is dogmatically anti-racist "without a theory"! Given Levy's own inability to articulate any coherent theoretical point about federalism and racism, this conclusion is simply risible.

Finally, Levy chastises Althouse for her personal tone, while wholly ignoring the personal nature of the Ron Bailey's attacks on her. This is borderline sexist; when a man goes after a woman in this way, Levy has nothing to say, but when a woman retaliates, he's offended.

Thus, I would hate to think that this aberrantly poor post (from a writer whom, as I said, I usually respect very much) should be taken as the last word on this subject. I think Levy needs to respond forthrightly to the real questions that Althouse has raised: can one oppose the passage of the Civil Rights Act without supporting Jim Crow, and if one's principles lead one to support Jim Crow, is that racist? Also, I think Levy needs to examine how much his own predilections and loyalties may have influenced his analysis, and he should apologize to Althouse for the slanted and patronizing tone of his post.
Yeah, really. And Adler and Drezner could apologize for linking to that and calling it "the last word."

UPDATE: Levy doesn't apologize, but, in an update to the post discussed here, he does seem to concede that he doesn't get this blog (not that he intends to start trying). In the comments, Amba gives me some classic Amba-style encouragement that I really appreciate:
Cloistered intellectual weasels vs. a street-fighting thinker, or street-thinking fighter. It really makes you see that thinking needs to be liberated from the academy to have any relevance to reality. Thanks, Ann.
It helps to have someone I admire so much see what I'm trying to do and help me keep believing in it.

About those libraries.

For some reason, both the WaPo and the NYT have front-page stories about libraries today. Is it National Library Day or something? Are libraries the first item on some annual list of things to write about on a slow news day?

The NYT article is about how libraries may like the idea but not the reality of teenagers stopping by after school:
[The Maplewood Memorial Library that], like many nationwide, strives to attract young people, even offering beading and cartooning classes, will soon be shutting them out, along with the rest of the public, at one of the busiest parts of its day.

Library employees will still be on the job, working at tasks like paperwork, filing, and answering calls and online questions.

“They almost knocked me down, and they run in and out,” said Lila Silverman, a Maplewood resident who takes her grandchildren to the library’s children’s room but called the front of the library “a disaster area” after school. “I do try to avoid those hours.”
I love the way these articles get the perfect person to quote. Lila Silverman is the Stephanie Moritz of this article. Can't you tell which side the newspaper is on when a quote like this is served up?

The WaPo story is about how libraries get rid of books nobody checks out:
Along with [classics like "The Education of Henry Adams,"] thousands of novels and nonfiction works have been eliminated from the Fairfax County collection after a new computer software program showed that no one had checked them out in at least 24 months.
So, not only are computers taking up the space where books were once shelved, computers are now telling the librarians which books to toss out. Oh, but you say, computers are also storing all the books in world and making them searchable. True enough, but computers are also changing the way we read, making it harder and harder to sit down and really read a book. You'll find that book on line and then just search for one thing inside that book and read that, that dart off to read some other snippet... like this blog post.

January 1, 2007


found necklace

It's the necklace!

found necklace

See why we couldn't find it?

And isn't it good fortune to find it on New Year's Day? Perhaps it was lost and stayed lost for the very purpose of being found on New Year's Day. And I was just saying that the 7 was lucky. Do I dare to predict a good year?

The demand for urban de-vitalization in Madison.

The NYT has an article today about the revitalization of downtown Madison, Wisconsin and the resulting clash between affluent condo residents and the restaurant and bar owners. It seems the affluent folk don't like all the aspects of the urban life they chose. There's noise, crowding, and some alcohol-related crime. Incredibly, local politicians, including Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, now want to downsize downtown and reduce the number of bars and restaurants.
Stefanie Moritz, a retired librarian, moved with her husband from Phoenix into a downtown condominium about three years ago, drawn by pedestrian-friendly streets, a university job for her husband and the community’s progressive politics.

“We decided that we definitely wanted to live downtown, so we could get rid of one of our cars, my husband could walk to work and we could enjoy the downtown experience,” Ms. Moritz said. “The reality is a little bit different.”

She said she quickly grew irritated at being awakened at 2:30 a.m., when the noisy bar crowd usually begins to make its way home, dropping empty beer cans and other trash along the way. One morning she woke to find that garbage had been torched and the flames had charred a tree.

“I want to live downtown, but I also want a decent quality of life,” Ms. Moritz said. “And I feel that that is being denied by the present level of alcohol use.”

About 18 months ago, Ms. Moritz became active in a relatively new residents’ group, Capitol Neighborhoods, which is at the forefront of the push for stricter drinking rules.
You can't move downtown and then expect the city to cater to suburban tastes like this. Downtown is downtown because of the bars and restaurants. There should be even more of them. It should be reasonably noisy, even late at night. If people are committing crimes, it's a different matter. Let the mayor and the city council find a way to enforce the laws. And send out more street cleaners. Don't attack local business and squelch the nightlife.

About those pop culture law school exam fact patterns.

I'm always basing my Civil Procedure II exam on some pop culture thing. CivPro2 here at UW covers jurisdiction and related topics, and I always need a fact pattern -- it doesn't matter what the substantive law is -- that involves a lot of people and places so I can generate some questions about who can join together in a lawsuit and where they can bring the suit and so forth.

In any given year, students could take bets on what pop culture phenomenon will turn up on the exam. If they'd done it this year, it would have been terribly easy to guess. It's "Borat." I changed the name, but basically it's a comedian traveling across the country provoking encounters... and sowing the seeds of lawsuits. It never matters whether the claims are sound or not. (I hope they're not!) I've simply got to create a controversy that has a somewhat complicated mix of people and places.

Does it add some fun to exam-taking, or is it annoying? I hope that, afterwards, it doesn't spoil the fun of the movie for the students. Ack! That was my Civil Procedure exam! I don't mean to do that.

Here's a list of a few things I've used for CivPro2 exams in the past: "The Apprentice," "The Blair Witch Project," "America's Funniest Home Videos," the Beach Boys' legal problems with Eugene Landy, "Supersize Me," "The Real World," the Cat in the Hat balloon at the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, paparazzi and the deaths of Princess Diana and Sonny Bono, stage diving at the Rave, the U.S. News law school rankings.

"Book deals for bloggers/Blogs for bloggers."

Just one paired item from the WaPo's New Year's "out and in" list. I do tend to think bloggers belong on blogs. It's all about the time-stamp-frequent-update format. (Or is it all about writing?) But the WaPo is scarcely disinterested, and I look askance at anything that could have sprung from that old MSM urge to minimize bloggers.

Checking out the rest of the list....
[out] Beatlesesque.... [in] Springsteenesque
Bleh! It's a good time to retreat into the iPod, then, or to curl up inside hyperfocused satellite radio channels. (Did you know XM and Sirius may merge?)

More from the WaPo list:
[out] Wrestling-coach voice.... [in] Mother-of-five voice
Ha. That's right under pictures of Dennis Hastert and Nancy Pelosi.


Write shorter blog posts. Blog posts will be as short as I can make them. Crisp! Honed with a sharp edge. Look out.


7's a good number. Lucky, right?


New Year!

December 31, 2006

Memoirs, cartoons, rotting fish, peevish men...

It's Audible Althouse, #76.

Indie Coffee

On New Year's Eve, and I'm reviewing the year in the life of the blog and trying to explain what the Althousian blogging really is. It's not the political/law/academic blogging those bloggers who like to take shots at me do. Oh, no! It's something else. Do you get it? Dear reader, I think you do.

Stream it right through your computer here. But those of you who really understand subscribe on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

And Happy New Year, everyone. I'm waiting out the end of the year 6, looking for the year 7, in my red shoes:

Indie Coffee

Oh, I used to be disgusted, and now I try to be amused.

The two most useful health stories of the year.

1. This one, explaining why your brain will be sharper if you stay a bit hungry. Maybe you've been trying to lose weight, but feeling that it's always important to stave off any feeling of hunger, for fear you might become weak or dim-witted. No! The opposite is true. We evolved to perform especially well when we feel the need for food. Sate yourself, and you'll be duller. Using this information, invent a better weight-loss diet.

2. And this, about how the natural sleep pattern is to have a first and second sleep, with a wakeful period in between. Until I read this piece, I regarded this as an unfortunate sort of insomnia, and knowing that it is natural and that, years ago, people used the inter-sleep period to accomplish things has completely transformed how I think about sleep.

Have some Psapp.

I've been listening to Psapp. I love when musicians play objects that are not musical instruments. Many years ago, I saw the Incredible String Band perform a song where instead of drums, they just had an old trunk. I can't remember if they kicked it or what, but it seems to have imprinted a lifelong love of music made with nonmusical objects. Psapp is perfect for me:
[T]heirs is a cosy, dusty, otherworldly realm -- a clutter of home-made toys, doll's house ephemera, somnolent cats, glinting laptops, and incalculable bric-a-brac of mysterious provenance. And that's not to mention the duo's veritable junkshop have of arcane musical instruments and "sound emitters" that range from gleaming pianos and pot-bellied ouds to children's xylophones, dusty retro guitars, farmyard noise-makers, mechanical ashtrays and squeaky rubber poultry...
(Oh, yeah, remember the "famous ashtray" in the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann"?)

Here, watch the video for Psapp's "About Fun." It's fun. Maybe you'll think it's twee. I like twee... sometimes.

"When he was the Naked Guy, he was completely sane."

The NYT Magazine has its end-of-the-year set of articles about various people who died in the past year. The one that caught my eye was the Naked Guy (Andrew Martinez):
[A]s a student at the University of California at Berkeley, Martinez... ate his meals nude. He went to parties nude. He even attended class nude....

It was easy to dismiss his behavior as a silly stunt, but to those who knew him, Martinez was guided by an endearing, if naïve, sort of undergraduate idealism. Raised in a family that refused to buy clothing with designer labels, he now argued that all clothes were a form of repression and that by not wearing them he was making people think about the coercive nature of convention. “Our purpose is to prove that people define normalcy in their own terms,” Martinez said at a “nude-in” he staged in 1992 at Berkeley, during which more than two dozen people disrobed.

The nude-in made the Naked Guy a media favorite. The feminist writer Naomi Wolf hailed Martinez for making himself “more vulnerable to the eye than women were.”
(Typical Wolfish bilge.)
[I]n the fall of 1992, the school instituted a dress code mandating that students wear clothing in public. Martinez quickly ran afoul of the rule, and after he showed up naked for a disciplinary hearing, he was expelled.
Things go very bad for Martinez after this point, and not just because the school kicked him out. The poor man, who became a media darling, really was mentally ill. He suffered for many years, and, in the end, killed himself.
Until his death, Martinez’s family and friends did their best to keep his mental illness a secret. This was at his request. “Andrew did not want people to know about his illness,” his mother said, “because then they would think he was crazy the whole time.” In his moments of lucidity, there was one thing he desperately wanted to convey: “When he was the Naked Guy,” one friend said, “he was completely sane.”
This is very sad, including the poignant way his mother and friend seem to think that if only he had been allowed to live amongst us in the nude, he would have kept it together.
Take this, brother, may it serve you well
Maybe it's nothing
What, what oh...
Maybe, even then, impervious in London
...Could be difficult thing...
It's quick like rush for peace because it's so much
Like being naked
It's alright, it's alright, it's alright, it's alright
It's alright, it's alright, it's alright, it's alright
It's alright
If, you've become naked
Block that kick, block that kick, block that kick, block that kick
Block that kick, block that kick, block that kick, block that kick
Block that kick, block that kick, block that kick, block that kick
Block that kick, block that kick, block that kick, block that nixon

The divas of neuroscience.

The NYT has a big article about Daniel Levitin, who studies the effect of music on the brain. Read the whole thing if you're interested in why people have such accurate memories of music that they can, for example, identify "Benny and the Jets" from just one note and how pop music is all about timbre. But I'm just going to highlight this part at the end:
Not all of Dr. Levitin’s idea have been easily accepted. He argues, for example, that music is an evolutionary adaptation: something that men developed as a way to demonstrate reproductive fitness. (Before you laugh, consider the sex lives of today’s male rock stars.) Music also helped social groups cohere. “Music has got to be useful for survival, or we would have gotten rid of it years ago,” he said.

But Steven Pinker, a cognitive scientist at Harvard known for his defense of evolutionary psychology, has publicly disparaged this idea. Dr. Pinker has called music “auditory cheesecake,” something pleasant but not evolutionarily nutritious. If it is a sexual signal for reproduction, then why, Dr. Pinker asked, does “a 60-year-old woman enjoy listening to classical music when she’s alone at home?” Dr. Levitin wrote an entire chapter refuting Dr. Pinker’s arguments; when I asked Dr. Pinker about Dr. Levitin’s book he said he hadn’t read it.
Hey, let's study the evolutionary psychology of scientists who label fields that don't interest them as "cheesecake" and who won't even look at the books of less prominent scholars who write whole chapters engaging with their theories.

Death TV.

The last two nights of television were Death TV.

On Friday, talking heads talked for hours about the hanging of Saddam which we could watch on-line the next day). Writes Alessandra Stanley:
The news that Mr. Hussein was indeed dead came late on Friday night, and anticlimactically after hour upon hour of creepy music, blood-colored graphics and montages of Mr. Hussein’s most infamous moments, particularly his spider hole capture in 2003, when an American military camera recorded a hairy, befuddled Mr. Hussein being prodded and poked like a vagrant being searched for lice.

As the deadline loomed, and commentators filled time with pronouncements like “the clock is ticking on Saddam Hussein,” even on-air personalities looked restless. After devoting his entire hour on CNN to the impending hanging, Larry King asked, “Is there something ghoulish about this?” Mr. King looked a little let down when he had to sign off before the execution, promising viewers, “It is really imminent now.”...

Fox was much less squeamish, pumping up the Friday night vigil with graphics that promised “The end is near!” and “Date with Death” and urging viewers to stay tuned to Fox News.
On Saturday, there was a long ceremony about Gerald Ford that sounded like the funeral as I overheard it from the next room where I was working. But the state funeral will be on Tuesday. Last night was a preliminary ceremony as the body was brought to the Capital rotunda:
Vice President Dick Cheney, who served as Mr. Ford’s chief of staff and was an honorary pallbearer, said, “Few have ever risen so high with so little guile or calculation.”...

Mr. Cheney praised his former boss for his “capacity to forgive” and for being “always a striver — never working an angle, just working.” He noted that Mr. Ford had been treated more kindly in hindsight than when he was in office, after he pardoned former President Richard M. Nixon.

“In politics, it can take a generation or more for a matter to settle, for tempers to cool,” Mr. Cheney said. “The distance of time has clarified many things about Gerald Ford. And now death has done its part to reveal this man and the president for what he was.”
Who can read that and not think he's pleading for respect for George W. Bush?

They say famous people die in threes, and the completion of this triad was James Brown. There was no night of television devoted to his funeral, though it too would have filled the screen:
Brown's body lay in an open-topped golden coffin in front of the stage at the James Brown Arena...

The legendary showman, known as the "Godfather of Soul," was dressed in a black suit and gloves with a ruby red shirt. Jewels sparkled on his lapels and the tips of his shoes....

"The whole world changed their beat because of James Brown," civil rights leader Al Sharpton said in a eulogy. "Nobody started lower and ended higher than James Brown did."

In a brief speech [Michael] Jackson, who wore a black leather jacket, black pants and sunglasses, said he'd watched Brown perform on television as a 6-year-old and was "mesmerized," deciding right then to follow in Brown's fancy footsteps.

"James Brown is my greatest inspiration," said Jackson, who has spent little time in the United States since being acquitted of child molestation charges in 2005....

In a passionate speech, comedian and activist Dick Gregory reminded the audience of the oppressive racial environment of Brown's early life rather than simply focusing on his music.

"We didn't get this (civil rights) out of the goodness of America's heart," he said. "We didn't get this because they sent the Marines in ... We got this because with love and willing to die we said, 'We gonna change it."'

"Several Democratic strategists last week urged Clinton to unleash a 'charisma offensive'..."

Is that even something she can do?